Leaders should experience what it is like to be one of their own customers more often – Interview with Shaun Belding

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Today’s interview is with Shaun Belding who is the CEO of The Belding Group of Companies and the author of 6 books including a new book: The Journey to WOW: The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty. Shaun joins me today to talk about The Journey To Wow, why he wrote it as a story, what we can learn from the trials and tribulations the characters go through and how we can apply that to our businesses.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Is your culture hurricane fit? – Interview with Jonathan Rowe of nCino – and is number 286 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Shaun:

  • Most customer service or experience books are written from a business’ or professional’s perspective.
  • This one is written from the customer’s perspective.
  • We have to stop trying to solve problems without understanding what the problems are. The only perspective that matters right now is the customer’s perspective.
  • The book is actually written as a story unlike many standard business book.
  • It’s similar in style to The Goal by Eli Goldratt.
  • It was written as a story because stories have greater impact, tend to be remembered for longer and can be appreciated by more people.
  • A customer’s experience is neither clinical or analytical it’s emotional.
  • There’s no point trying to identify how to improve an emotional connection without deeply examining the perspective of the customer.
  • A lot of people when they think of customer experience/service they think retail or call centres.
  • Customer experience or service is important for every business.
  • Hence the story is set at a manufacturer called Household Solutions that manufactures household appliances. They have just discovered that they deliver horrible customer experiences and it is leading them towards a slow painful death.
  • The main character’s name is Cameron Whitehall, who is a design engineer, and he is conscripted by the CEO to be the one responsible for turning the company around.
  • He knows nothing about customer experience but, eventually, he gets connected to this quirky consultant, Madelaine (Maddy), a 70-something eccentric irreverent irrepressible shopaholic.
  • Maddy takes Cameron on a trip to a department store where at every floor he watches how customers respond to flawed processes, policies, practices and people until he gets to the top floor where he learns what true wow customer experiences are and what it takes to create them.
  • The whole story is about him going through this and then understanding the importance of leadership.
  • He then takes all the lessons back to the leadership team at Household Solutions, presents them his findings to them and watches them struggle, as he did, with many of the concepts.
  • Ultimately, it’s about them becoming their own champions of customer experience.
  • If we want customers to care about us then we have to demonstrate we care about them.
  • One of Shaun’s favourite stories in the book comes when Cameron tries to get the board to see the world through their customers eyes. To do that he pulls out one of their products, hands one to each of them and puts 50 bucks on the table. He then tells them that the first person who can figure out how to contact warranty support will get the 50 dollars.
  • That little part of the story finishes with the CEO getting angry and angry and shouting at the firm’s IVR.
  • The biggest mistake that many companies, particularly the successful ones, make is to think that they have made it.
  • When you do that you are on the slippery slope to mediocrity.
  • The best companies never rest. They are restless and relentless in their pursuit of being better.
  • Executives and leaders should start by being one of their own customers. They have to get from behind their desks more and understand what life is like as one of their own customers.
  • Surveys, reports, spreadsheets. They’re just not good enough.
  • Customer focus groups are better but they’re still not good enough.
  • One unnamed CEO, that Shaun knows, from a very large company has been calling customers randomly for the last 10 years just to check in with them and to see how they, as a company, are doing.
  • The CEO now requires every vice president in the company do the same and make no fewer than five unprompted telephone calls to customers on a regular basis.
  • The CEO says it keeps him and his team grounded.
  • He also spends a full week every year working in one of their call centers, in the escalations department, talking to people that are angry and frustrated and need help.
  • He learns more in that one week than he learns in an entire year from other parts of his business.
  • Customer experience has been on corporate radars now for a number of years and Shaun hopes it doesn’t become a ‘flavour of the month’ that dies.
  • Customer experience has got so focused on measuring things.
  • We have to throw the metrics out for a bit and we have to start connecting with our customers so we better understand them.

About Shaun



Shaun BeldingShaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, a 26 year-old award-winning company that helps organizations stand out through best-in-class customer experience and dynamic leadership. Shaun is a popular keynote speaker on customer service, leadership and positive workplaces.

Shaun is the author of 6 books including a new book: The Journey to WOW: The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty and is recognised as a leading global expert on customer service, service recovery and leadership. He has worked with Fortune 100 companies, has appeared internationally on television and radio, and has been quoted in Reader’s Digest, CNN, The New York Times and London Daily Times.

Grab a copy of his new book: The Journey to WOW: The Path to Outstanding Customer Experience and Loyalty, say Hi to him on Twitter @ShaunBelding and connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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