Success and Motivation – Connecting to your customers

I have a couple customer service sayings I tend to over use. I dont usually speak them outloud. I usually say them to myself as a reminder to always put our customers, in any business first. “Treat your customers like they own you. Because they do.” “You have to re-earn your customers business every day” and one that came from YAHOO, which I thought was brilliant. When asked what Yahoo stood for, some folks there responded “You Always Have Other Options”.

I personally think that the only way you can connect to your customers, is to put yourself in their shoes. For me personally, if I can’t be a customer of my own product, then I probably am not to do a good job running the company. When I go to a Landmark Theater, I don’t call ahead and tell them Im coming and ask for special treatment. I stand in line and pay for my ticket like everyone else. I get my popcorn and Diet Coke like everyone else. I get my seat like everyone else.

With the Mavs, I sit in a seat that is for sale to the general public, Its a great seat next to the bench, but I also make sure that I sit in the very top row behind the baskets, our $2 dollar/10 dollar seats during the season as well. Same routine. Im not surrounded by security. I dont get special anything. If the Nachos are slow and the beer is warm, I know it and the people sitting around me also let me know.

Its interesting to watch different CEOs of different companies and how they deal with the issue of making customers happy. You can tell the ones that don’t trust their products or services. They travel with big groups of people. There are advance teams to make sure everything is perfect. They bring security to places where their customers are families and kids. They protect themselves from any possible interactions, whether direct, phone or email by having secretaries filter everything, and they respond with formletters or assistants, if at all.

I dont know how they do it. I make my email available to everyone and anyone. Not only that, and more importantly, I make sure that all the customer service emails get forwarded to me. If someone is complaining, I want to know what about, and I want to get it fixed quickly. The best focus groups are your customers telling you what they think. No company is perfect, but the CEO who doesnt listen to direct feedback from customers will not take the company as far as it can go.

But it gets worse from there for CEOs that don’t communicate with their customers. There used to be a saying that happy customers might tell one person, but unhappy customers tell 20. In the internet age, one happy customer might make a note in their blog or forward an email. An unhappy customer, starts a blog, writes about how unhappy they are, takes out an ad on search engines to let people who are looking for the product know how made they are, starts an email forwarding chain asking people to boycott the product, does a Youtube video about it and games Youtube to make it one of the top 10 most viewed videos…. You get the picture.

IN this day and age, its a lot easier to proactively communicate than to react.

40 thoughts on “Success and Motivation – Connecting to your customers

  1. Mark,
    I love the NBA more then anybody else out there. I love what you have done in Dallas, for the franchise and for the city. I am actually writing this letter on behalf of another major sport, the NFL. We here in Detroit have been putting up with the constant losing of the Detroit Lions for just about 60 years, and nothing seems to be getting done about it. General Managers, Coaches, Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Coordinators have all lost their jobs here without anything positive to show for it. Unfortunatly there has always been one constant factor here in Detroit, the Ford family. The Fords have not only driven their family business into the ground but they have also introduced their “spirit” to the Lions.

    I was writing this letter to beg you to at least threaten to buy the Lion franchise from them. We have die hard fans here that would really appreciate your enthusiam and intelligence. Think about we haven’t had a winning season in YEARS and we still sell out our games, that is dedication. If you came here I know that you could turn this team around and make them one of the largest franchises in the league.

    Comment by Ben Keetle -

  2. You bring up a good point about CEOs. There seem to be two types:
    1. A CEO who has helped and is helping the business grow and he knows that his customers are the reason for it
    2. A CEO who wants to do as little as possible and still get the credit (aka compensation)

    This practice of avoiding customers also happens at many levels of the company. I know at some point sytems have to carry the bulk of the load so executives can maintain focus on the strategy, however, the most successful strategies and the most successful execution plans are founded on customer needs/desires.

    Comment by Jade Koyle -

  3. I always learned that you should have a mutual relationship. As a photographer, I have to beg for someone to pay me for photography. But in reality, they will find another to do the job instead of me, which means I actually give something of value to them. I since then have never let a client walk all over me, since I extend the same courtesy.

    Comment by Gavin -

  4. Mark-

    I met you briefly at the NATPE show a couple years back when you were on a panel, and was impressed with your accessibility. Indeed, no security, no pretensions.

    In an age where cookie cutter approaches to EVERYTHING – from education to how to run companies to mass media to food to GOVERNMENT – are destroying our humanity, quality of life and creativity, your post is a clarion call.

    Bravo, and keep on keepin’ on.

    Comment by jp -

  5. Okay this is a few days old but thought I’d comment. I’m 42 so I am old enough to remember the days of service, when you went into any store and people were there to help you. 25 yrs or so ago I worked in a hardware store, two of the guys had been there 40 years each. Those guys knew what they were selling, new how to help people, and put their best forward each day.

    It seems like nowdays, the only places you get “service” are high end specialty shops.

    Good for you Mark on working the “regular” guy angle. We’re the ones who pay the bills, and we’re the ones who remember how we are treated.

    Sure you put bums in the seats with your season ticket holders, but it is the other customers who fill up your arenas.

    If I’m ever in the Dallas area I’ll be sure to take in a Mavericks game.

    Comment by Guelphdad -

  6. seems to make complete sense. you actually seem very down-to-earth here on your blog. i think i might have gotten a messed up impression of you because of your on-court antics—which i do think probably get more attention than they deserve, but also, i don’t think many other people can get away with a lot of behavior you display at the games. so in that sense i do believe you get a bit of special treatment—for better or for worse.

    i mean, could you imagine if all your customers acted like you when they were unsatisfied? i’d think you’d have a major problem on your hands!

    Comment by David Brotsky -

  7. A couple of great quotes relating to customers that I constantly repeat to myself:

    “A customer is anyone who can say No”

    &

    “The best CEO’s truly understand how their customer experiences the product or service that they offer”

    Comment by Brian Cassell -

  8. What does this say about our political leaders?

    Comment by ElButro -

  9. Agree with most of what you say, but have a comment about game presentation. I don’t see why “humble” Billy has to yell and scream so much. I have stopped going to Mav gamed strictly because of how loud everything is. I love BB and have gone to many games over the years, but now I just watch it on TV. I’ve been to several other cities and they aren’t near as loud. I’m tired of going home with a headache. John

    Comment by John -

  10. I totally agree with you Mark. Tourists feel great when they go to Japan because Japanese people treat the customers as the king. Unfortunately there are also some ppl from the management level often overlook the importance of customer feedbacks. These ppl often think too much of their qualifications and only trust their own judgements. They do not think the opinions of the relatively uneducated ppl are as important. However, I personally feel that the mouths of the less educated ppl tend to be more powerful in creating greater public resonance.
    I guess the success of Maverick today comes from a wise boss.
    I love Maverick!!! Love Nowitzki!!

    Comment by Mango -

  11. “When I go to a Landmark Theater, I don’t call ahead and tell them Im coming and ask for special treatment. I stand in line and pay for my ticket like everyone else. I get my popcorn and Diet Coke like everyone else. I get my seat like everyone else.”

    Have you viewed a film at the ArcLight yet?

    Comment by JM -

  12. Mark, I think you have a great understanding of what it takes to take to a whole ‘nother level (to quote the MadTV skit). I’m glad someone with the means and ability is really pushing things forward. I’d be nice to be in a situation like that. Just gotta find my niche.

    Comment by Matt Gruber -

  13. Mark… Great points! That’s why you are where you are. Surely at times I dont like your rants and acts but nevertheless gotta give you the dues when you are so well deserved! I always tell myself ” Treat your cosutmers the way I want to be treated”!!
    Thanks Mark!

    Comment by Bruce Ma -

  14. Mark,
    As usual, your insights are right on the money. In particular, I love your statement “if I can’t be a customer of my own product, then I probably am not to do a good job running the company”.

    To your point: I’ve been in the sports/fitness dietary supplement business for over 20-years, and as our market has grown, many companies have been bought and then brought in hot shot CEO’s from other industries to run the show. Almost always the NEWCO fails with management that is from another industry. Why? Well, for the most part, our industry offers products and services so our customers can make a body transformation, and or improve their level of health and fitness through exercise. As you could predict, outsiders who may have never had to struggle to change their body composition, embraced fitness on some level, or found the dedication to transform their own body, can never, EVER get the true customer experience.

    Consequently, most, if not all of the customer interaction and educational support that is need to help maintain each consumer is KILLED in the name of cost cutting. In the end, many companies with a loyal consumer base, lose the very essence that allowed them to grow…

    Luckily, my business is predicated on bringing high touch customer tools and support to the companies who lose their way.

    What you mentioned really cannot be seen in a spreadsheet, and is certainly missed by the bean counters…

    What you do within your businesses is commendable, but moreover, I am sure allows you to look in the mirror with a sense of real accomplishment…

    Vince Andrich

    Comment by Vince Andrich -

  15. “If someone is complaining, I want to know what about, and I want to get it fixed quickly. The best focus groups are your customers telling you what they think.”

    I heard you make these comments in an interview years ago while I was still in the Navy. It was something I always did as I went up the ranks, really wasn’t with the status quo and I hadn’t put it into words until that moment. When I heard you say those comments, I went full speed ahead and it has gotten me to places and meeting people that I wouldn’t have expected. Great post,Mark.

    Comment by Gary -

  16. I’ll read between the lines here and assume you’re talking about David Stern. I couldn’t agree more with your feelings. I have been watching the NBA since I was in diapers. I grew up watching Magic and Bird eventually becoming a Jazz (John Stockton) fan and now I root religiously for the Mavs.

    My torment has always been the officiating. I understand there are issues. Its a difficult job. Things happen quickly. Emotion is involved. But ZERO progress has been made. If anything, they’ve gone backwards.

    I sucked it up when the Jazz lost on a last second shot by Jordon when he pushed off on Byron Russel. I sucked it up when the Mavs lost to the Heat in one of the worst officiated series in history.

    Fine. People make mistakes. But please give us some evidence that you’re trying to do something about it. Players complaining about the officiating, while annoying, isn’t the issue. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand watching this crap.

    The NBA should be grateful kids are skipping college. If they didn’t there’s no way I would watch these games.

    Help me David Stern, help me!!! I love the NBA but you’re driving me nuts. Please show us what you’re doing to fix the problem. Not what you’re doing to make it less obvious. We’re smarter than that. Give us some credit. PLEASE!!!

    Comment by Aaron -

  17. Great post, Mark. I admire the way you interact with you fans. This also tells me that you listen to you fans. That is one important thing you must do with your customers is listen. I know there is company policy you must follow but one thing I am forever greatly to the company I work for is that it gives us ownership of the situation when our customer gives us the opportunity to provide him with our services. One phrase I always live by is “Do what is best for the customer with your company’s interest in mind”. This assures everyone the result will be a positive one.

    Thx. and peace to all!!

    Comment by JB -

  18. Re-read this paragraph….

    “Its interesting to watch different CEOs of different companies and how they deal with the issue of making customers happy. You can tell the ones that don’t trust their products or services. They travel with big groups of people. There are advance teams to make sure everything is perfect. They bring security to places where their customers are families and kids. They protect themselves from any possible interactions, whether direct, phone or email by having secretaries filter everything, and they respond with formletters or assistants, if at all.”

    Now think of your politicians.. Are they traveling by themselves?

    Comment by PSC -

  19. Mark,

    Your ideas sound just like Bill Veeck’s, where he found that knowledge of the game and the business was found in inverse proportion to the price of the ticket.

    Comment by Scott -

  20. I gotta say that I agree with you, hey and to anyone who would think otherwise, I think owning a b-ball team is good proof.

    http://www.gentletip.com

    http://www.gentletip.com

    http://www.gentletip.com

    http://www.gentletip.com

    Comment by GentleTip.com -

  21. Mark
    the walls between management and customers are coming down…the problem is that truth can sometimes REALLY hurt.

    I have worked for over 20 years in the business world and 3 years ago, struck out on my own. I am reasonably successful, but I don’t overextend things – overpromise and underperform and you run the risk of being DEAD MEAT.

    The fact is that most beancounters at companies overlook the most important thing that a company can produce – which of course is a customer.

    I applaud your efforts and sincerity.

    Comment by Michael -

  22. Mark,
    I couldn’t agree with you more… and this kind of thing really applies to almost ANY business you try and run. I have worked in large corporate America, and it just leaves me dumbfounded how not only the CEO but the CFO, CTO, COO, just don’t have a friggin CLUE as to how their customer’s perceive them… simply because they haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. Keep sitting with the fans, and eating popcorn from the counter like the rest of us… and you’ll not only hang on to your cash, but probably gain a little more to boot. I just wish I worked for a company that had a CEO more like you… and less like the ones with the advanced team.

    All the best,
    .b

    Comment by Bill -

  23. “You can tell the ones that don’t trust their products or services. They travel with big groups of people. There are advance teams to make sure everything is perfect. They bring security to places where their customers are families and kids. They protect themselves from any possible interactions, whether direct, phone or email by having secretaries filter everything, and they respond with formletters or assistants, if at all.”

    Sounds like every public appearance of one CEO I can think of… George W. Bush

    Comment by zOOm -

  24. Mark,

    While I agree with everything you say a good focus group would be to listen to people that work for you as well. Many C Level folks take there own people for granted.

    Comment by Ari -

  25. I think its all about getting your hands dirty as well. Leaders always lead from the front, and the best leaders have mastered each level of operation before them, in turn completely understanding the inner workings of the operation. I think it would be great to see the GM, Owners, Coaches, Players etc calling customers asking if they would like to buy tickets, sponsorships etc. That way they can understand and appreciate the inner workings of their business.

    Comment by Matt A. -

  26. Great Post. Another class of people, almost as important as the customers are your employees. I like to treat them as customers as well. *Real* (paying) customers can tell when an employee hates their job. Employees are a reflection of the organization and you can’t simply pay someone to pretend to be happy.

    If treated properly, employees can be your best salesmen.

    Comment by Damon Henry -

  27. I learned this lesson when I was working for a large(ish) hotel chain. Our CEO would fly into town, everyone would be on their best behavior, Food and Beverage would be brought up (planned out in advance of course), an assistant would check in/out for him and and he wouldn’t leave the room (except if he went somewhere else).

    He talked a lot about making every guest feel important and giving them a great experience but never had to sit in a long check-in line, wait 10 minutes for an elevator or happened to get a nasty smelling room. From his viewpoint, the hotel ran like a swiss clock (to me it was closer to a sundial).

    Comment by Chris -

  28. Aw man! I wish I’d had a boss like you!

    The one side of the equation those ‘other’ CEOs don’t understand well is that it makes it harder on their staff to do their own jobs well if the CEO is detached…

    Rock on dude.

    Comment by Daniela Ryan -

  29. When I was rising up through the ranks of the company I now lead, some of my superiors said I should let go of the customers, you dont need to talk to them as much as you did before, you have other duties. I had one who gave me the opposite advice and it rings true today. As I develop staff into potential managers or managers into potential senior executives I tell them always keep contact with customers.

    Our main objective now is to be proactive to anticipate potential problems. Every single staff member lets me know about any potential for dissatisfaction and I address it right away with the customer. Its funny how one call can go a long way from turning a dissatisfied customer into a very happy customer. Tackling the issue before it festers and becomes too late is the main reason for our continued growth, success, and unparalleled customer service satisfaction.

    Mark you are right on about customer satisfaction the only other advice I would include is be proactive rather than reactive.

    Robert

    Comment by Robert -

  30. great point made about filtering justifiable complaints from rotten apples with axes to grind.

    i’m learning that perception is more important than reality and it’s manipulation of perception that is the most proactive thing a firm exec can do. the internet is an excellent tool for this and large firms have the cash to expertly manipulate public perception, AS LONG AS THE FIRM HAS THE RESOURCES AND ACUMEN TO BACK UP THE TALK.

    I can think of countless products that I’ve greatly enjoyed using that I would not have purchased had I paid heed to internet buzz. Awesome products. So often we’re not talking about reality when the internet comes into play – it’s perception.

    Also, I should add, the service industry has a boatload of additional issues to attend to that are often beyond your control which i guess i haven’t really addressed. However, separating the really pertinent complaints from the whine-fest that is the internet is critically important. And a proactive approach is paramount.

    Comment by blyx -

  31. Great post. This is just another reason why you have been successful. The funny thing is that a biz school prof will write a 250 page book discussing what you nailed in a few paragraphs. You’d think this mind-set was just common sense and best practices for every company. Unfortunately it is not.

    Comment by Kevin -

  32. I wish we could bottle up your passion, and also include your perspective with that, to then distribute to any “opportunities” that come up where service is not what it should be. Thanks for passing along your experience.

    Now, I’m going to go get my Chap Stick.

    Comment by Toby Getsch -

  33. It’s nice to see that there are CEOs of some companies that are willing to get the real facts about how their customers are treated by experiencing it for themselves.

    Comment by Chuck -

  34. Brilliant. As a long-time customer advocate and Manager of Customer Support and Quality I couldn’t agree more.

    I remember years ago when I had a complaint against a privately owned Radio Shack Retail Store I called information and got a number to some “Chairman’s Customer Advocacy” board, or something like that. I told them my complaint and an hour ow two later Charles Tandy himself called be back to tell him how they were going to make things right. Six months later I was managing a Radio Shack store, and did so for several years. I like the attitude of SR MGT.

    As a Customer Support Manager I often called customers right after a new software release – better I call them and heard about bugs than waiting for them to call me.

    Keep bloggin’

    Rob

    Comment by Rob La Gesse -

  35. If I was a CEO I would ask my customers what they like
    about the company or product and what they dislike as well.
    I think the reason most CEO’s do not do this is they have too
    much pride and ego.

    They want all the credit and none of the blame..

    They want the customers $$ but not the responsibilities of a long term relationship with the customer.

    I wish I could forward mark’s post to my CEO..

    However, he would take it as a personal jab. Sigh..

    I truly want to help, but my ideas and advice just go in one ear & out the other..

    Comment by matt -

  36. Keeping customers happy is a big part of my business and it’s nice to hear that an individual like yourself puts forth the effort even in such a large industry.

    Comment by Micah Soelberg -

  37. I couldn’t agree more w/your notes Mark….You HAVE to earn the customer’s trust everyday. Here’s an interesting story of terrible customer service.

    Today, I spent 1:26:18″ to try and resolve an issue w/my internet connection (ComCast who sold to TimeWarner recently in Dallas area). I went from 1st level support assured there’s no network outage, to 2nd level support to 3rd level support to 2nd level support again only to be told that I need to have a technician come over to my house tomorrow Wednesday between 11-2pm. The last person who had to make the booking was 1st line support, I was assured by 2nd level support that she’d stay on the line and talk to 1st level guy prior to establishing call. The usual music played, only I was on the phone waiting for 45 minutes!!!! The call got answered by “accident” as another customer got dropped off, I suddenly heard the guy say another name and then “oops! they got disconnected”!

    I pay $99 per month for HDTV + 6MPBs Cable internet and this is the customer service they give. Of course I knew there was outage in the area and there was nothing wrong w/my set-up I live in triplex and we have 3 x DSL/WiFi from same company yet none worked. I was just curious to see how incompetent they are.

    At the end of the ordeal I asked to talk to Customer Service and make a complaint. When I did get through, the lady gave me the FCC number LOL instead of their own Customer Service.But wait, the terrible service continues.. Call again, speak to a lady she said we’ll reimburse you for one day of service!!!! I ask to talk to her supervisor Joanna. She’s arrogant and after I tell her the story and ask where to write a complaint she says “You have to check http://www.timewarnercable.com” and to my response that I don’t have friggin internet somehow you must have the address is “sorry I don’t”…

    Now, I am sitting at Starbucks using WiFi and log in to RR.COM (RoadRunner service that we’re supposedly migrating too and it shows RED service interruption in Dallas since yesterday night).

    I even threatened to disconnect my service and the reply was “let me put you through our disconnection department”.!!! It’s very obvious if I’ll ever use their products or services in the future…. 1h and 30 minutes to be played around like an idiot is indeed a joke….

    Comment by SM -

  38. Guy Kawasaki (former apple evangelist) had a good marketing saying in one of his books, which he attributed to someone else:

    “If you make dog food, make sure you eat your own dog food.”

    Pretty much sums up what you explained in this blog post.

    Comment by Bob Wilson -

  39. completely agree… great companies usually have great customer service, especially in retail. It’s a lot less expensive to retain an existing customer than to attract a new one.
    Great CEO’s and upper management routinely spend time handling customer service calls and emails.
    b

    Comment by bobby orbach -

  40. Completely agree with what you are saying, but there’s an unfortunate side to this as well—it means that one crackpot with a grudge and too much time on his/her hands can help taint your reputation in a way that isn’t necessarily fair. Inevitably as an owner you end up having to deal with squeaky wheels who might not even be in the right, just so they don’t make you the target of their venom.

    But, to your point, the harder you work, the fewer people who will target you and the greater the chance that one dissatisfied customer can’t bring down the good reputation you’ve built through your many other interactions with other, satisfied customers.

    Comment by Adam Jusko -

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