I am the first to admit, that I am not a public performer, and yet it doesn’t take to be an Oscar trophy holder to recognise that nowadays excellence in customer service is more than just a scripted process in which anyone can learning by memorising the steps and procedures after one day training. A great customer services needs people with emotional skills with attitude. This trend is not purely driven by the supply side, but also by the demand: you and I respond much better to people who can show empathy, are good story tellers and have a great smile.
I was watching Mentor on Bloomberg and following the conversation between the Jamba Juice CEO James D. White and Drybar CEO Michael Landau. As James entered first time into the Drybar salon, Michael was explaining to him how the business operates. James has an incredible experience in business having worked for Coca-Cola, Gillette and Safeway stores with expertise in brand management and marketing. Michael was reporting in a happy, passionate but measured demeanour how they struggle to cope with demand. The design of the salon limits the number of seats to eight which is not nearly enough to satisfy all those who want to buy their service. The key aspect of Drybar’s business is to offer to their customers a great experience, which is not only about having the hair done well, but make them feel as if they go to a bar where you order your service off a style menu. It’s all about the experience
Michael said they hire people carefully to make sure the best experience is created. He explained to James that the recruitment process is more like casting. Those who are hired have to have the right attitude. James acknowledged the comment and said that at Jamba Juice the staff is selected based on the idea that they are performing in front of an audience and they have to feel comfortable in that role and be good at that. The staff needs to have the right energy level.
This simple exchange of experience suddenly made me realise, that in fact this is what we want from any service, not just those that have an obvious artistic element. This is what Howard Schultz noticed when he studied thousands of coffee bars in Milan, Italy when he was really intrigued not only by the professional knowledge of the bar owners, but by their chatty, familiar and almost theatrical relationship with their customers.
We talk a lot about knowledge and competency when we evaluate a person, but we do recognise later that the ability to work in a team is important. Somebody once said that there are three questions you really need to answer when you face a job interview: can you do the job, do you want to do the job, and can you work with the team (or can the team work with you). I think this should be extended to include your clients: can they work with you?
Performance is about the ability to create a positive emotion that unlocks motives, passions and readiness to connect. This is not only about closing a monetary transaction, but an emotional deal too. It is a healing process. When your customer has a positive experience, the stress level just goes down by a notch and for that, he or she is ready to do business with you and come back at another time.
Knowledge is not enough. Performance needs to be added into the mix. This is a bit tricky, because performance cannot be learned by reading a manual. It is attached gradually through life experience. It depends on the environment you lived in when you grew up, the people in your entourage and your cultural fabric.