Most organizations have employees that work directly with customers and some that don’t. But is it fair to say that non-customer facing employees don’t impact the customer experience?
Just because you’re not talking to the customer that we’ve actually sold the service to doesn’t mean that you are blocked off, and that your behavior or your attitude, your approach won’t have an effect. And so really turn it around and think, how can my behavior here have a positive effect downstream through all of these different channels?
Let’s discuss why everybody in the company has a customer on this episode of the The CX Leader Podcast.
The CX Leader Podcast is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at walkerinfo.com.
Hello everyone, I’m Pat Gibbons, I’m host of this episode of The CX Leader Podcast and as usual, thanks for listening. Now you’ve heard us say this many times, it’s never been a better time to be a CX leader, and we explore the topics and themes to help leaders like you develop great programs and deliver amazing experiences for your customers. Let’s face it, not every person is well suited to be, quote, customer facing. Whether it’s just their personality, their specific job requirements, or just their preference or personal talents, some people do better behind the scenes, and it’s easy to assume the mentality that they don’t necessarily need a customer centric focus in their work, but an organization’s employee experience can impact not only their perspective on why they do what they do for the company, but also the customer experience. Well, today I welcome AJ Schneider. AJ is president of Wheaton World Wide Moving, and we’re going to discuss the importance of creating the mentality that everyone in the company has a customer. AJ, welcome to The CX Leader Podcast.
Thank you very much for having me.
Well, it is great to have you and, uh, you know, as a, as president, I know you have a broad range of responsibilities, but I know because we’ve met and I’ve interacted with you at CXPA events and everything, you have a special, um, I think, uh, affinity for customer experience. And I know that that’s you’re kind of the chief experience, uh, person in your organization. So tell us a little bit of your background and maybe how you had a special interest in CX.
Sure. Well, um, I’ll start off by saying that it is, you know, from a business standpoint, um, I think anyone who is responsible for, uh, the bottom line should have that, uh, very keen focus on customer experience because, as you well know, it does have an impact. So for from my perspective, um, I started off, uh, as a journalist, uh, writing about business for a very long time. Um, got into, uh, the marketing communications arena and worked for various different agencies and so on. And, uh, along the way had clients in the transportation industry, particularly household goods, moving in storage, and had an opportunity to join, uh, the van line. And as part of that process, uh, I had several roles within the company, um, that were all focused on, on marketing. And then, um, uh, kind of eased into the, into the sales arena. And what I realized, um, over that time frame and, and having different vantage points within the company, that you really can’t separate the sales and marketing aspect, uh, for example, or the operational aspect or really any aspect of the company from the customer experience. And I think what happens in a lot of organizations is customer experience gets segmented off and it becomes a specific area, and that’s fine. It works very well for, for for some companies. In our case, it really had to be integrated because of the type of work that we do. And we can see a a very clear connection between when our customers have a great experience and when they don’t, and how that affects us from a financial standpoint. And so I really, over time kind of took on that, that role of being the the champion within the company to ensure that we keep that focus.
Yeah. No, it does sound like it’s essential to, to your business like yours, but. Well, tell us a little bit about Wheaton and uh, kind of the, the scope of it and whether it’s commercial, residential, you know, all those sorts of things.
Sure. Yeah. So we are among the four largest, uh, household goods moving companies in the country that specifically focus on interstate moving. So it sounds obvious, but but conversely, we don’t participate in local moving. Right. So where we kick in is, is moving from state to state, and our customers are residential customers, uh, and corporate customers as well as the military as one of our largest customers. So we’re dealing with, uh, what we call COD customers. So just people who, for whatever reason, are moving from from point A to point B, uh, to uh, employees of corporations that are moving them for, uh, corporate relo reasons, uh, new jobs, new positions, etc..
Yeah. So, um, I’m sure there are some out there saying, okay, moving. Is it really that complex? I mean, it just sounds like a truck shows up, you load up boxes and and you move. I’m kind of setting you up, but, uh, I’m sure it’s a lot more complex. What do you say to the person that that that sees it as a pretty simple operation?
Well, I’ll tell you, when I took my my first job here, I was one of those people. How hard could this possibly be? Uh, but in fact, it it is one of the most complicated businesses I’ve ever been involved with. We are in a regular route, uh, trucking company, essentially. So there’s no hub and spoke model. Um, and, you know, you’ve got people’s entire lives, uh, going into an 18 Wheeler. And the complexity comes both operationally in driving those vehicles into people’s specific neighborhoods and sort of navigating all that goes into, uh, getting there operationally, but probably more importantly and more making it more complex is the emotional component that comes along with, with having, you know, somebody’s entire, uh, world on that trailer.
Yeah, yeah, I’m curious about that. There’s got to be, in many cases, um, people moving because they got transferred. I mean, there’s yeah, some are I’m sure excited about a move, and some are like, I wasn’t expecting this. Yeah. Tell me more about that.
Yeah. Well, and, you know, it’s interesting because people move for all kinds of different reasons. Some not so good, you know, divorce, uh, death, the illness, those kinds of things. Uh, and you’re right, some people are moving because they’ve got a new job and they’re excited about it. But but universally, there is not one person in the history of the world that has ever said, I’m really looking forward to the process of moving. When they say they’re excited about moving, what they mean is they’re excited about when they get to where they’re going.
They get settled in right there. Settled, right.
Yeah. It’s it’s not the it’s not the in-between part. It’s not the…
I get that. Yeah. Yeah.
So so um, that’s knowing that ahead of time, um, uh, triggers a bunch of, if you’re going to do it well, triggers a bunch of different, um, attitudes and processes and, and thoughtfulness that, you know, perhaps you don’t necessarily have to have in a lot of other types of businesses. Um, but it’s really an emotional, uh, endeavor from, from beginning to end in our business.
Yeah. Yeah. So I know in the experience field, we talk a lot about the human experience. Now, I think if most people on the surface looked at your business, they would not look at it as a necessarily a human experience. Sounds like it is, though.
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s it and it’s surprising every time because I think what happens is I think that people, our customers don’t expect it necessarily to to be that. But once you get into it and you know they’re in that that pre stage process where they’re downsizing their home, they’re making the decision about what’s going to go, what’s going to stay, what you know what’s going to get sold at auction, whatever the case may be. Um I think that’s when their the emotional piece starts kicking in and, and that’s important for a number of reasons other than the obvious, what I can tell you is that customers, when they get into that mindset between you and me, uh, they become more difficult, frankly. Right? I mean, in the sense that now all those emotions are pouring out, um, maybe they’re going to focus in on little things that didn’t go quite right, that they may not have focused on if they weren’t in that emotional kind of space.
Um, you know, you and I might overlook, uh, an interaction that we have about our cell phone service or, you know, something of that nature. Um, they’re not going to overlook that as as part of this process.
Well, and it, uh, it strikes me, too, that in, in many business relationships that we have as customers, you know, it’s there’s some sort of repetition to it. Well, if this didn’t go that well, well, next month I’m doing it again or, you know, I’m shopping there again. I had a bad experience at the grocery, but I’ll go back and give them another. That’s that’s not the same situation. It’s not like you’re building loyalty because they’re going to, you know, come back next week. Right?
Exactly. We do not in our business do not have the luxury of of frequency of purchase. And you know, I always when I describe this to people, I use the example of a coffee chain. Right? If if your coffee wasn’t quite right this morning, that company has a variety of options to improve the experience immediately. They could, uh, pour out the coffee and say, let me make that again for you. They could say, I’m going to give you a coupon so that next time you’re in, you can have a free cup of coffee. Um, you know, any number of things, uh, could could happen. We’ll give you extra points if there’s a loyalty program in in place, whatever the case might be. We simply don’t have that. And so, um, what our, uh, approach is that our loyalty program is, in fact, the customer experience. It’s they’re they’re completely intertwined, inextricably intertwined. And so if our customer, we only get one shot at it, and, and and that shot is, is during the actual process. So if a customer, um, is not having a good experience the way that that affects I mean, you could make the argument that if they’re not going to move again for another 9 or 11 years, which is about the average, uh, user of an interstate moving service, um, you could make the argument. Well, all right, so what difference does that make?
But as you all know, I think the danger there is not so much in the dissatisfaction of of the customer in front of you. It’s what damage are they going to do to your reputation with all of your, uh, prospective customers moving forward? And so if you if we don’t get it right that first time for that customer, it really has a pretty damaging effect moving forward.
Yeah. So, you know, we kind of set this up as, uh, you know, there are people in your organization, I’m sure, that are dealing directly with the customer. And then there’s a lot of behind the scenes, uh, people involved as well. And it sounds like you have kind of a unique way of kind of looking at those employee interactions. So tell us about that.
Yeah. So I would say about, um, five years ago, um, we were kind of going through our first round of reengineering, um, our customer experience and the process that we were employing to ensure that the customer had the best experience all the way through. Um, and as part of that, the the key piece of that is our what we call our move management, uh, group. Uh, and these are the people who are assigned to a specific customer to kind of hold their hand through the entire process. Um, so there’s a series of, of contacts for, you know, like an introductory call, uh, specific interactions along the way at different milestones, you know, packing and loading and delivery and so on. Um, and we were adding and subtracting and trying to really fine tune that process. And what we realized was that, in fact, the people on the ground who were delivering the actual experience were also directly affected by our actions and behavior here at the corporate office. And that got a, you know, kind of got us thinking about, you know, hey, maybe we ought to expand our thought process as we build out this move management, um, framework, uh, to include a larger group of people. Because what we are finding is that it’s really a, uh, you know, one experience internally built on another, built on another until you get all the way to the person who’s actually in front of the customer.
And so what we decided to do was to create a program, um, uh, that we’ve since trained everybody in the building on. Everyone’s been through it here. Um, when you come on board, you go through the program. Every executive has been through it. Uh, it was called our service ready program. And as part of that training, um, what we tried to make very clear was if you happen to be in, in our revenue accounting department, the interaction that you have with our moving agent, let’s say in Alabama, um, has has an effect on the way that that agent in Alabama is going to treat their customer. So if that agent isn’t getting paid quickly, if that agent is having a difficult interaction with one of our folks about some missing paperwork or something like that, they then maybe get a bad attitude, turn around, and now they’re not happy talking to the customer who’s actually paying for our service. Collectively, we all benefit from that, right? And so, um, if you if you picture that in this big matrix of customers and service providers within, and if we can improve each one of those interactions, it really sort of the rising tide lifts all boats. It really had a great effect or it has had a great effect, um, on the end user, on the actual paying customer.
So, so really the effort, a very intentional one, was to as much as possible, draw kind of a straight line from every individual to how they connect to the customer. Is that a fair way to to put it?
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And and to and to remind folks that you can’t just maybe said conversely, just because you’re not talking to the customer that we’ve actually sold the service to doesn’t mean that you are kind of blocked off and that your behavior or your attitude, your approach, just because you’re segmented away, doesn’t mean that that won’t have an effect. And so really turn it around and think, how can my behavior here have a positive effect downstream through all of these different channels.
Yeah. How how did you roll that out?
So it took a while okay. And it was a little painful frankly. Um, but um, as we created the service ready program, we, we thought that it was really important to, as I mentioned earlier, to, to make sure that the executive team and the management team, um, was kind of walking the, the, the walk, uh, so we all went through it first. And, you know, we made some tweaks along the way and said, you know, maybe a little bit more of this, a little less of that, whatever the case is. Uh, and then, um, we over a series of, of months rolled it out to the, all the folks at the corporate office and it was, I would say, um, fairly well received. It was a combination of lecture and um, uh, workbook, uh, kind of training and, uh, with visual tools and so on that folks could take back to their desks as, as reminders. Um, and we focused on, uh, I’m looking at my, my, uh, sign here as I’m talking to you, we, we focused on four key areas, uh, respect, solutions, simplicity and responsibility. And so everything all these interactions that we’re talking about fit into one of those categories.
And I won’t bore you with the details, but but we kind of pounded it into them and said, hey, um, everything that you do, you need to be cognizant of, of, of what you’re doing and who the customer is and how, you know, you’re providing a respectful solution or a simplistic solution or, you know, a responsible solution, etc.. The problem that we quickly ran into was that, you know, our corporate, we only have 150 or so employees in the corporate office. And by definition, all the folks here are not, you know, we’re not lifting furniture or loading trucks or any of those kinds of things. We’re not salespeople. We’re not selling to the customer. And so what we did here could only have a limited effect because we weren’t those other people, and so we had to find a way to then roll that out to the agency network. We have about 400 agents around the country.
Uh, who, by the way, um, part of what makes our business so complicated is that these are not companies that we own. They’re affiliated with us. Right. And so I can’t force them to to do anything.
Interesting. Yeah. How did, uh, how did the buy in take place on that?
It was surprisingly good. Um, I would say that that the uptake, you know, again, we we offered it not as a, as a mandatory program they had to go through, but a voluntary one where we tried to explain what we thought the benefits were going to be for the entire network. And we got a really good response. And, and so we, we took that show on the road, um, and did some regional training sessions around the country. We did them here in Indianapolis and had folks come in, um, as, uh, as training sessions. And I would say overall, it was well received. The last thing I’ll say about, about the training piece is, and I would say the stage that we’re in now, which is also difficult, is that, you know, training is great, but there has to be follow up and follow through, because as humans, you know, if you don’t use it, you lose it kind of thing. Right? And so we’re now trying to figure out ways, how can we how can we get back out there and re-energize and, and do the continuous learning, um, based on the original concept.
Sure. And you would deal with turnover and there’s new people in that haven’t been through the program?
You know, I think it’s interesting because I think there’s lessons here far beyond your industry. There’s so many industries have some sort of chain of command or supply chain, um, as we know, whether it’s technology or manufacturing, where they have partners and agents and representatives that aren’t, you know, they don’t have that much control over them, but you want them to be part of your brand. They are the ones that are often delivering your service. And that is in many cases the brand. Right?
Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And and I think it’s I think in order to get people on board, um, I think it’s important that you educate them not just on the, the what, but also the, the why. Right. And let’s face it, if you are a small business owner, by the way, I should point out we we here we’re an ESOP company. So every employee here is an owner technically. And so it’s in everyone’s best interest if the company, um, does better, then each individual also does better because they own a part of the company. And so I think to to be able to say to the, to the folks you’re trying to get on board, hey, here’s, here’s the direct effect that improved customer, uh, experience and satisfaction can have, um, here’s the bottom line effect that it can have and that affects you directly. I think that’s really important. And I think that helped us tremendously. Our measurement, and I will say it is a bit difficult to, to measure, um, you know, anytime you’re, you’re getting into that. Somewhat ethereal area of of how a customer is perceiving you. But what we chose to do was use our NPS scores as a compass as to how well we were doing. And in fact, what we were able to see over the last five years is that our NPS scores have have significantly improved. And most interestingly, I would say improved during our our busiest time of the year. So typically our NPS scores will dip a little bit during the summer, which is our most our busiest time simply because of the huge volume that’s coming through the system. We’ve actually seen improvements during the summer, and I can’t give 100% credit. I can’t say for sure, but I would draw a careful correlation between, uh, the service ready training that we provided and, and our uptick in NPS scores.
It makes total sense. And, uh, that’s wonderful to hear that again, as CX leaders, we’re always trying not not just to operationally run a program and gather the feedback, but to see that it’s making some impact. So that must be really gratifying for you as well.
Oh, it has been it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.
Yeah. I’m curious how you promoted it, uh, throughout the company. And, you know, you’ve talked a little bit about how you’ve done the trainings and things. I know you referenced. You were looking at your sign there. Are you the only one with the sign, or does everybody have a sign or?
Well, so, so when when we rolled it out, I commissioned, uh, a series of posters that are now, uh, littered throughout the building. You cannot you cannot turn a corner without running into one of these signs, um, that outlines these four pillars, um, that, that I was talking about earlier. And, uh, you know, I joke about it, but I do think that it’s helpful to have a visual reference for folks that, you know, it changes hard. Right? And so if they’ve been operating one way and now you’re, you’re saying, well, I want you to keep doing that, but I also need you to do this, this and this. That way they don’t have to think about it as much. You know, they they’re triggered by what they see on that poster. And I think that’s helpful. And I should point out too, that, I mean. Are rolling out the program was was met with some skepticism. Right? Is this going to be a flavor of the day kind of thing? Was this going to be, um, how does this really benefit me? Or why should I do this kind of thing? And I think some of the visual tools and the and the reminders and so on, I think were, were helpful at, at getting through that.
Yeah. I wondered if there were naysayers or, you know, some people that said, hey, look, man, if I just do my thing, you know, it’s somebody else’s problem if they’re not, you know, acknowledging my reports or whatever, I’m sure you had some of that, but, you know, some mental reminders and, uh, key people, uh, endorsing it, I’m sure, you know, that brings people along.
It sure does. And and, you know, you won’t you won’t capture everybody, you know, and and that’s okay. Um, but I do think that, um, you know, the age old things that we, we know from marketing and advertising and so on, they work. So repetition, frequency, um, you know, those types of, of of principles, those types of, of approaches really do, uh, help.
So I’m curious, uh, at the beginning of the interview, you mentioned a little bit about the different audiences that you have. Um, you know, residential, commercial, uh, military. Is there a particular group that is unique or more difficult to serve or that has been a particular focus for the organization?
Yeah, actually, we have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort growing our business with the older adult market and specifically these if you think, you know, baby boomers, maybe a little bit younger, uh, end of the baby boomer generation all the way up through, you know, 80, 85 year olds, something like that. Um, we a significant part of our business pie is now when we look at our, our demographics is within that group. And what’s interesting about that group is that while overall the, the, the statistics show that mobility in the United States is actually on the downturn and has been for a very long time pre-COVID and all that kind of stuff. Um, but this particular group is actually very mobile. In their later years, they’re moving closer to their children. Their adult children see their grandchildren. Um, they’re moving into and out of, um, uh, senior living communities, those kinds of things. And what makes this a particularly challenging target audience is that it requires working with them, requires a special level of of patience. There’s a lot of operational difficulties with it. In other words, just as a quick example, where in a in a, I’ll call it a regular move, we might put boxes on the floor for the customer to then unpack at their leisure after the movers are gone. Um, with an older adult, uh, customer, you want to put as much at waist level, you know, on a counter, because they have more difficulty.
Um, uh, getting close to the floor, you know, those kinds of things. Yeah. So, so the training to do that properly, the training around that kind of stuff is requires a lot more, um, intensity. And that’s where I think, um, the service ready concept that we’ve talked about has been tremendously helpful, um, in really training folks to, um, have that level of patience to understand the customer better and to see how what the, uh, the movers do at the first end of the move is going to affect the last part of the move positively or negatively. So, um, again, I come back to it’s important for folks to understand why they’re, they’re doing things. Um, this is a perfect example because it’s that extra training. And by the way, we’ve spun off now we have we have what we call silver certification, which specifically trains. They get a certificate that says they’ve passed certain programs, the training programs to work with the older adult market. But but showing them, hey, you, we have a revenue interest in working with this group. And in order to work with this group, we need to do X, Y, and Z. So it’s worked out very well. Uh, from that perspective.
Yeah, that’s that’s interesting because, uh, yeah, all kinds of details that you wouldn’t necessarily think about. But it, it also not only does is it just when you talk about the Y, the Y is not I got to get their stuff into their house. It’s I got to help them deal with, you know, this time of their life. And um, again, it makes it a much more human experience, doesn’t it?
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. For sure.
Well, we’ve, uh, come to that point that, uh, we ask for you to give us one more tip, and that is our take home value. So, uh, AJ Schneider, what is your take home value from our lesson today?
All right, well, this is going to sound a little corny, but I promise you that that it helps. So actually, I’m going to reference another company, um, in my tip to then explain why we have done it here. Um, depending on where you live in the country, um, what you, you may or may not be familiar with the restaurant chain Chick Fil A, and if you are familiar with Chick fil A, you will note that in general, they are able to provide one of the best customer experiences that you can have at a fast food chain. And it is marked in particular. Um, everyone who goes to Chick fil A will know this their employees, in response to you saying, as a customer, thank you very much for my my meal. They say my pleasure. It’s baked into their culture. It is reflexive. At this point. Every employee does that. Um, in the drive through, at the counter, you name it. Um, when we were going through our process of the service ready program and training people that there’s more than one customer, right? It could be, you know, the in-office employee, it could be an agent of ours. The revenue accounting department claims whatever it is. Um, we wanted to have that same kind of rallying cry.
Uh, my pleasure was already taken by Chick fil A, so we came up with happy to help. And again, we talked about. A little bit of change resistance because it felt a little corny to folks right at first, but once it got rolling, you could walk throughout the building and you would hear people respond to each other, happy to help, happy to help. You would see it in email sign offs. Um, you know, thanks for doing that. You write back, happy to help. They even got to they even got came up with abbreviations. Uh H2H, you know, uh, to to have it help was barely too long. But the tip in all of this is that while it’s a little corny, having that rallying point when you’re trying to effect change a particularly of this nature, having that rallying cry where where everybody sort of bonds over that phrase, um, is, I think, extremely helpful. And, uh, you would be surprised at the difference that, that, that makes. So my tip would be, um, whatever you’re happy to help or my pleasure is in your organization wrapping something like that around the change initiative that you are are trying to achieve. I think, uh, could do wonders.
Well, corny or not, I think that’s a great tip. And I think it’s just amazing how those things can catch on and just have a big impact on, uh, on the culture. So it’s a it’s a great suggestion. AJ Schneider is president of Wheaton World Wide Moving. AJ, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast. And if any of our listeners would like to continue the conversation with you or get a few more tips or run, run another mantra statement by you, uh, could they reach out to you? Is LinkedIn probably the best method?
That would be great. I would be, uh, be happy to field questions.
All right. And if you want to talk about anything you heard on this podcast or how Walker can help you with your business’ customer experience program, feel free to email us at email@example.com. Remember to give The CX Leader Podcast a rating through your podcast service and give us a review, because your feedback will help us improve the show and deliver the best possible value to you, our listeners. Check out our website cxleaderpodcast.com. You can subscribe to the show. You can find all of our previous 297 episodes. Uh, you can find our podcast series, our Quick Tip editions, a link to our blog which we update regularly, and contact information so you can let us know how we’re doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker. We’re an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success, and you can read more about us at walkerinfo.com. Thank you for listening and remember, it is a great time to be a CX leader. We’ll see you next time.