Meet Lior Arussy,
Considered as one of the world’s leading influencers on Customer Experience and Strategy Execution. Lior Arussy is an author, visionary, consultant, and creative change agent.
What sets him apart is that he not only talks about the change but also makes it happen. His customer strategy methodologies have been successfully put into practice in over 200 corporate transformations, worldwide.
Lior has helped many of the world’s top brands achieve unprecedented goals in customer satisfaction, growth, and profitability. Among these are Mercedes-Benz, Johnson & Johnson, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Thomson Reuters, HSBC, E.ON, FedEx, SAP, and the University of Pennsylvania, to name a few.
CallCenterHosting interacted with Lior Arussy to understand his methodologies and customer experience strategies. In this blog, we are sharing Lior’s enriching and valuable answers.
Read this blog till the end to get a plethora of insights in addition to practical examples and approaches to customer service.
1. How would you define your customer experience journey? And what is that one thing in customer service that remains unchanged over the years?
Lior: I started my journey as an executive at HP, responsible for eBanking implementations. This was the first generation of online banking. It was a revolutionary concept in 1997 and required a great deal of thinking about how to engage with consumers that didn’t trust the internet with their finances.
From there, I moved to NICE and was appointed as their CM and Head of Contact Center Business Unit. It was there that we launched the first customer experience software solutions and promoted it globally.
My most recent stop on the journey was starting the Strativity Group, which became a global leader in helping the brands elevate their customer experience and use it as a form of differentiation and customer loyalty driver. We did work in 21 countries and had offices in New York, Sydney, Toronto, and London.
It is a true privilege to see how organizations that were born as product-centric are shifting into a customer-centricity ecosystem and delivering true value to the customers. Together we conducted over 500 transformations touching over 1.5 million employees and over 700 million customers.
Customer service, at its core, is about solving problems for people. I do believe that this core principle remains the same.
The tools for delivering customer service may have evolved. Still, the mission to see the individual and solve his or her problem most humanly way remains the core of customer service.
2. In one of your talks, you said that “the way we define excellence is the one that is holding us from delivering it.” So why do you think that “the way one perceives excellence” affects “the way one delivers customer service”?
Lior: In my research that I conducted for one of my books, “Excellence Every Day,” we asked people to identify a person that symbolizes excellence for them. We then asked them other questions about excellence.
During the research, we found it fascinating that most people associated excellence with greater than life personas. It could have been Michael Jordan or Mother Teresa or Winston Churchill. They defined excellence as a larger than life activity, full of sacrifices.
We then noticed that people who associated excellence with those bigger than life personalities also didn’t see themselves as worthy of achieving excellence. That is when we realized that the main issue was the definition.
When you define excellence as Michael Phelps, the multiple Olympic medalists in swimming, you actually exclude yourself from the possibility of achieving it. In your mind, you associate excellence with people and achievements that you do not believe you can obtain, and therefore, you don’t even start. That is the catch here.
Those who defined excellence in more accessible ways we’re able to reach theirs. Their mindset was “Michael Jordan, bless his heart, he took his excellence potential to the max, now it is my turn,” they included themselves in the possibility of excellence and therefore were more primed to achieve it.
If you want to achieve your excellence potential, you need to start by including yourself in the definition.
3. How do you define the “Win-Win” concept for the businesses?
Lior: Win-Win is the state when both sides are ending up with a sense of satisfaction and achievement in a relationship. And none of the sides feels as they were taken advantage of.
It can be achieved only when both sides are willing to sacrifice something to obtain some benefits. If there is no mutual respect and understanding of each other’s position and a willingness to sacrifice, then there is no way to achieve a win-win.
Let me provide you with an example.
Let’s say a customer is seeking to purchase a sofa. She has her eye on a sofa costing $5000, but her budget is only $3000. She is trying to negotiate her way down, without willing to give anything in return. That is not a win-win situation. That is trying to take advantage of the seller’s desperation.
To achieve a win-win, she needs to trade something back to reach her desired budget. She can accept a different sofa. She can offer to provide free social media advocacy in return for a discount. She needs to see the sellers’ viewpoint and include it in the negotiation. Most importantly, she needs to make sure the other side is equally as happy as she is in the completion of the relationship.
Any relationship that does not reach a win-win state is ultimately a transaction in which one side took advantage of the other side. It will not last.
4. Most of the businesses tend to underestimate the power of happy and dedicated employees. According to you, how can the companies keep their employees engaged and willing to provide great customer service, both at the same time?
This is a touchy issue. It actually goes deeper than not recognizing the importance of happy employees as a condition for exceptional customer experience. I would venture to say that most organizations think their employees are happy and fail to recognize their disengagement issues.
In a study that we conducted among auto dealerships, we concluded that those dealerships who were in the top 25% of employee engagement, were three times more likely to hit the top customer satisfaction scores and were 56% more profitable! They were selling the same cars as other employees but were 56% more profitable. The main difference was not the product. It was the people.
The main issue, as I stated before, was that employers believe that employees’ engagement is already in place. They always share the same stories of a few hero employees and extrapolate from it that everyone else is at the same level of engagement.
There is plenty we can say about how to increase employee engagement. I would focus on one critical, but often neglected factor: first-line managers. They are the key to success in employee engagement, and they are often not equipped to engage employees, motivate, coach, and reward. My suggestion will be to invest in the managers first and measure them on their ability to engage and retain their teams.
5. “The right customers do not enjoy the value they didn’t pay for.” So how do you defy the popular notion that says, “Customer is always right?”
This cliche needs to be buried in the graveyard of business concepts fallacies. Every company and product has certain customers who will be a match for their value and price and others who will not.
By trying to sell to everyone, we dilute the value and create a lot of mismatches between companies and customers. Because companies are chasing market share and not profitability, they end up with desperate marketing campaigns that bring unmatched customers to their customer’s pool. That’s when the problem starts.
By focusing on profitability instead of market share, you will target the right customers and then treat them like kings. It’s the right customers that are right. The wrong customers belong to your competitors.
Only by engaging with profitable customers, you will be able to provide customers with the level of experience that they will expect. And you will create a true win-win.
6. How important is it for businesses to deliver personalized customer service?
To answer this question, I want to distinguish between fake personalization and real personalization. If you fake it, don’t bother personalizing. The customer is not stupid and will not be impressed by your artificial efforts.
Fake personalization is the attempt to mention the customer name as many times during a call but not offering anything unique to the customer’s conditions and loyalty. It’s a mere packaging of generic service and offers in pseudo personalized wrapping.
Real personalization is recognizing the customer’s loyalty, spent advocacy, and rewarding the customer with customized offers that acknowledge that loyalty. Now, this is the ultimate personalization when the customer knows that you don’t just view them as a wallet but as a human being.
This is not just important; it, in fact, in the future. If you fail to do it, expect customers to view your product as a commodity in which they will always seek the lowest price, and refuse to pay a premium.
7. Can you share an inspiring or humorous incident that probably changed your perception towards customer experience, to a little or some extent?
We conducted a nationwide customer experience training for Mercedes Benz. Following one of our programs to deliver exceptional customer experience, a client called one of their dealerships and asked to bring his vehicle for service. He asked for a loaner car while his car will be served, and the service advisor confirmed that he would provide one.
“I would like a Mercedes Benz S class, as the loaner,” the customer said
Now there are no S class vehicles available as loaners because they are very expensive and are available for sale only.
“Why do you need an S class?” the service advisor asked. Instead of just saying no, he opted to understand the human story behind the request, just as we taught him.
“I was diagnosed with cancer, and I have a hospital appointment tomorrow. I wanted a stable vehicle, so it will not hurt me during the 3 hours trip to the hospital,” the customer responded.
As a result, the service advisor not only found an S Class for the customer; he personally drove the customer to the hospital. He waited for him for several hours until the customer finished his cancer treatment.
This story reminds me that it is all about power in the hands of people. If we choose to deliver an exceptional experience, we will.
We often forget that tools and technologies are a means to an end. Behind them, there are people. Customers, employees, human beings with needs, and aspirations. This is a people business using tools. Not the other way around.
8. Are you working on a new project or venture that you would like to share with us?
I recently completed my last book, Next is Now! which deals with the pains and challenges of organizations to adapt to change. The book presents a five steps approach to change resilience, which is the new competitive advantage. I defined change resilience as the speed and scope of an individual or an organization to adapt to change.
Additionally, I am working on a workshop to assist organizations in developing their authentic narrative—a new tool to engage employees and connect them to the promise and the mission.
Here is the look of his latest book:
9. Artificial intelligence and chatbots have kind of taken over the human workforce. So how can the companies utilize these technologies to their maximum potential?
Artificial Intelligence is the next step in automating and digitizing customer service. It enables faster access to answers and provides aggregated wisdom relevant to customer’s requests.
They are relevant in certain times when customers are seeking a faster response, for example. They will fail when customers are requesting customized responses to an unusual situation.
My best advice is to leave it to the customer to choose when they wish to have an AI-based response and when they are seeking a human intervention. As long as we are keeping the customer in the driver seat of what experience they want, AI will be an incredible asset moving forward.
10. According to you, what is the only sustainable competitive advantage, and what is the key for the businesses to stand apart from their competitors?
The only sustainable competitive advantage is people’s imagination and their change resilience to adapt or create those new ideas. We have seen giant brands disappear because they were too in love with their perceived competitive assets.
Kodak is a legendary example since their own engineer developed digital photography, but instead of sticking to the future, they were dragged by their current assets and let them dictate their future. And the rest is history.
Every company will have a hit product sometime. That is not sustainable. That is one good plan that worked. To sustainably thrive, we must keep our imagination active and develop the willingness and capacity to implement it even at the expense of our current success.
This is true with people as well. The responsibility to continue and imagine the future and not let the present hold us back is on each and every one of us. In my book, Next Is Now! I detailed that problem, which is that we define ourselves by the tools and processes we use and get attached to them.
Worse yet, we believe they are the future. This attachment blinds us. The future belongs to those who define themselves by the impact they create on people and the world and free their minds to seek new, more effective tools and technologies to achieve that impact.
11. Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, businesses have been facing revenue losses and discontinuity in growth. So, what can be a revival plan for these businesses, without compromising on customer service?
The answer will be different for different businesses. Clearly, hotels and airlines are hurt differently than closed stores who opt to open soon. But several guidelines might be useful-
- Think about thriving, not surviving. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it is true. Everyone got a punch in the face. Your competitors as well. It is those who will plan to think to thrive and prepare for it that will maximize the opportunity.
- Focus on what does not change – humanity. We are people, and we will find a way.
- Create hope among your employees and customers. Covid19 hit a certain percentage of people, but the fear of it hit 100% of all of us. We need to overcome this fear.
- Assume your customers have changed as a result of Covid19 and adapt your products, services, and priced accordingly.
- Understanding your customers, especially during these times is extremely crucial, do not assume they will come back the same way as before the pandemic.
- Don’t get desperate and reduce your value through heavy discounting. Think long term, if you can afford it, and establish a profitable way back
Reconsider your unprofitable customers. Maybe this is an opportunity to refocus your efforts on profitable customers only.
12. What advice would you give to people from call center business, in these times of crisis?
Keep in mind that all your customers are experiencing this depressing situation. Therefore, authentically use compassion and empathy in abundance. This is the time to serve and not to sell.
For call center managers, work with your employees to strengthen them and help them spread hope. It’s a new skill they need to acquire and use.
We hope you found this interview enriching and valuable. Don’t forget to apply these logical insights into your business approach. We will be back soon with more exciting and engaging expert opinions.
Till then, stay tuned and check out this space to explore more stuff on customer experience and customer service.
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