John Christie is the Owner and President of The Alternative Board of Eastern Kansas. His company helps entrepreneurs and business leaders achieve their strategic and personal goals through peer advisory boards and one-on-one coaching. He brings more than 30 years of experience at Fortune 500 companies in senior leadership positions in sales, operations, and marketing. His diverse experiences include the leadership of sales operations for more than 5,000 retail stores nationwide, marketing and execution initiatives for multiple distribution channels across a 12-state region, and the direction of a $500M sales operation in the Midwest. John is a recognized expert at designing, implementing, and executing award-winning customer experience initiatives, and has a passion for making a positive difference for those around him.
In this episode
John Christie of Tab Eastern Kansas makes a persuasive argument that the customer experience must be at the center of your Business DNA. You have to start with knowing what your clients want before you can deliver an experience and service that will keep them around. John warns you can't guess what your clients want and there is no substitute for one-to-one conversations with your customers. John lays out exactly how you do that and then gives 4 steps you need to follow to create an amazing customer experience.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
02:50 Why customer service is so hard to get right
03:43 What you need to know to deliver great customer service
05:58 How to find out what your customers want
08:37 You learn from every customer interaction you have
10:02 Customer service drives customer satisfaction and employee retention
13:50 A great customer experience creates a positive business ecosystem
15:10 4 primary steps to create the right customer experience for your entire business.
17:34 Learn about John. Email John at email@example.com
Centricity Introduction 0:04
Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co-founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley,
Jay Kingley 0:43
Jay Kingley co-founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to another episode of our Best Kept Secret show, where I'm happy to welcome John Christie of TAB Eastern Kansas. The Alternative Board or TAB provides peer advisory boards, one-to-one coaching workshops, and speakers to help small business owners and leaders achieve their business goals. And John is based in Kansas City. Wait for it, Kansas. John, welcome to the show.
John Christie 1:16
Jay, thank you very much. I'm thrilled to be here and look forward to this discussion.
Jay Kingley 1:21
Pleasure, you know, John, just earlier today, in fact, I have a commercial relationship with a vendor of ours, and their service was down, and I reached out to them, it took them forever for them to respond. And of course, on their website, they're indicating everything is hunky dory, 100% uptime, no issues whatsoever. I beg to differ with them, took their sweet time to get back to me. And they said, Oh, now we're up and running. And I said that's great. But why didn't you indicate that on your status board? And of course, they ignored me not a question they want to answer. Now, I'm sitting here saying What an absolutely horrible customer experience, I'm even starting to think about, maybe there has got to be an alternative. I'm not saying people are perfect. But can we at least be honest? Can we at least be transparent? And can we at least be somewhat responsive? I mean, just the basics. And I'm struck that this is not unusual when we're all sitting here with our customer hat on. So, John, my question for you is what is so hard about getting customer experience, right?
John Christie 2:49
The hardest thing starts at the very beginning j because most companies don't even realize they're in the customer service business, to begin with. And, you know, that's, that's the crazy thing when you think about it, everybody has customers. I don't care if you're a law firm, or a heating and cooling firm, you have customers you have to serve. And you have to understand how to serve them the right way. And that's, that's really where it begins. And that's where companies start to fall apart. Because they just don't realize that, and then they don't know what to do with it when they do realize it.
Jay Kingley 3:28
Right. So what are some of the things the issues that companies really need to keep in mind? When they're thinking about their customer says, were some of those key dimensions that ought to be top of mind for them?
John Christie 3:44
Yeah, well, the first thing a company needs to understand is, who actually are their customers, who come and buys from them, who returns to their place of business, to continue service with them. That's, that's the start. And a lot of people don't understand really, who their customers are, and why they buy for them, and how often they come back and what they spend, so you don't have an understanding of what the value you have there, and what the value of keeping it as opposed to going out and finding new customers.
Jay Kingley 4:20
Right. So that sort of begs the question for me, if they're going to change their perspective on customer service and, and client experience, what are the things that they you know, a company or business owner really needs to get right to deliver that customer experience that you know, they really want to deliver that maybe they're just not sure where to get started?
John Christie 4:47
Yeah, well, the starting point, as I was mentioning, is understanding who your customers are, why they come and visit you why they do business with you understand what they want in terms of have an experience. Some customers, depending on your business, they just may want fast, efficient service and get their stuff and leave. Others it's a deeper conversation. It's exploration of needs, and wants, and really dive into it. But you've got to understand what they want before you can start to deliver a great experience. And that's, that's where it starts. And business owners can do this. It's a, it's a very simple task to begin to understand who really are my customers?
Jay Kingley 5:34
Right? So pretty obvious question, perhaps. But you talked about different types of businesses, customers having different expectations of their experience? If you are the business owner, how do you even find out? What is it that your customers are expecting from you? What is that baseline that you can then work to deliver over and above so that you can actually delight the customers? How do you find out?
John Christie 6:04
Well, you know, this, this may seem like a real simple solution, because it is. The first thing you can do is talk to your customers and ask them. Now, of course, there are plenty of firms out there that you can pay some money to. And they can go out and do deep research and give you a nice big file of who your customer customers are and why they buy from you. But I was just talking to a business owner recently and just suggested, once you pick up the phone, and call one customer a day, and at the end of the month, you will talk to 30 of your 20 of your customers. At the end of the year, you'll have to talk to more than 200 customers. And I'll tell you at that point, you're going to know who they are, why they buy from you, why they stay with you, and what else they'd like from you. And as a baseline, you just can't get anything better than that.
Jay Kingley 7:01
I think as a business owner, having, if you will, a detailed research report that you alluded to, is wonderful. But I don't think it would have that context. I don't think it would you would be grounded, to really understand what the data is showing, if you haven't even taking that first basic step to actually talk to some Yeah, and I don't think you can delegate that. I think if it's your business, you've got to put yourself out there. And you've got to really hear it directly from the people that are keeping you in business.
John Christie 7:39
Yeah, no doubt. And we look, we've all gotten reports and charts that you look at and your eyes, go crosswise about, you know, five minutes into it. There's just nothing that replaces talking to an actual customer. Because, believe me, when you ask them, what more can I do for you? They will tell you. If you ask them, have we messed up? They'll tell you. And if you ask them, What do you really think of me? And here's a really important one, would you refer your family and friends to me? They will absolutely tell you everything you need to know. Now you're hearing it from the horse's mouth. And you can really understand what's meaningful to them.
Jay Kingley 8:24
And John, in your experience, how often when the business owner starts to have those conversations, are they going to say, Wow, I really learned something that I didn't fully appreciate versus learn nothing new. They told me exactly what I already knew.
John Christie 8:45
This is not a stretch at all, you will learn something on every single interaction. There's just it's almost a guaranteed every single time you talk to a customer, somebody is going to tell you something a little bit different. They're going to say it a little bit a different way, and you're going to learn something, and more importantly, you're going to learn how they think. So you can start to adapt your business to what your customers want and how they think and it's, it's just critically important and you'll learn something every single time you talk to them.
Jay Kingley 9:20
You know, it just reminds me of that old expression about the dangers of breathing your own exhaust. You got to get out of your bubble. You got to start talking to the people that are keeping you in business and there's just as you say, there is no substitute and you are guaranteed to learn, which leads John to my next question for you. If business owners adopt, what you're advocating here, and I think it makes just tremendous sense that they do. Let's talk about how their business benefits from really understanding what their customer expectations are and then making the changes to their business into their service delivery model in the whole customer experience journey?
John Christie 10:10
Yeah, sure. So let's start with a real easy and obvious one. That is to increase your customer satisfaction, right. And it doesn't matter what your baseline is, every basis point of increase in customer satisfaction is going to be meaningful to your business. Maybe it's meaningful in terms of additional revenue, maybe it's beneficial in terms of reduction in churn. So acquisition costs go down because you're keeping people longer. It improves your brand image, the brand equity, you can reduce marketing expenses. And here's a big one that is often overlooked. Every time customer satisfaction goes up, employee satisfaction goes up as well. And retention costs go down. And you know what's going on in today's world, employee retention is more important now than it's ever been.
Jay Kingley 11:08
Now, I think that that's really insightful. A big driver of the customer experience is everyone in your organization, who has any touch the face to face, or online, email, video, anyone in your company that's touching customers is going to have a material impact on the customer experience. And what I'm hearing is correct me if I'm wrong, there's this feedback loop. When customers are happy, when they're expressing their joy, what you're doing for them, then as an employee, you feel much better about what you do, it lifts your performance. But likewise, as you as an employee up your game, as you are really representing the brand of that employer of that business, as you up your game, customers are going to be more satisfied, and you get this positive feedback loop. So it seems to me that we really have a system here. And it's based on getting mutually reinforcing positive reinforcement on both ends of that spectrum. Fair?
John Christie 12:18
No doubt. And look, we've all experienced this, right? You've walked into, let's just say use a retail store as an example. And there's just a vibe you feel where everybody is positive, it's energetic, it's a friendly atmosphere, and you feel good, the second you walk in there, and guess what else you do? You buy, and you buy more, and you return. And that's part of this whole, you just said it's a whole circle, where it starts at the very top and permeates throughout the organization, that customer experience, customer service is important. It's what we are going to do as a firm. And it's what I like to call it's part of our business DNA, that we just serve our customers with a smile, and we take care of their problems. And when you do that, your benefit, your business will absolutely benefit.
Jay Kingley 13:15
Now, we just talked about the business. But I don't want to leave out the business owner, the person who's going to be making the decisions if he will write the checks and receive the lion's share of the benefit from this enhancement of customer experience. So from an emotional standpoint, when a business owner, he sees that his business is getting it right. How's that going to make him or her feel about what it is that they're doing?
John Christie 13:46
Yeah, well, you know, your feelings and your emotions drive everything, right? They drive your decision making they drive your judgment. And when you feel better about the business, you make better decisions, typically. Now, what's great about this whole ecosystem of driving a great customers experience is it makes everything around the business better. And it puts a business leader business owners mind at ease. So they can focus on growing the business making the business better, whatever it is they want to focus on. And they don't have to worry about a bunch of angry customers. And the emotional toll that it takes on a business leader to be always dealing with people who are mad. It just presses down on you're literally on your soul every single day. When that's lifted, and customers are happy. Employees are happy. You can go focus on more important things in your business that makes a huge difference.
Jay Kingley 14:51
Most soul sucking versus spirit lifting.
John Christie 14:55
Seems like an easy one right?
Jay Kingley 14:57
Pretty easy choice there. So very compelling argument, John, that you're making about how you have to incorporate the customer experience as part of the quote, your phrase, your business DNA. So that really leads me to the next part of our discussion, which is alright, I'm persuaded John, what is it that I should be doing to make this happen? Yeah, well,
John Christie 15:22
So it's a, it's a, really, there's a lot to it. But there are three primary steps, we already covered one of them, which is, you got to understand who your customers are, you know, who they are, where they are, what they want, what they think of you. Right? That's, that's step one. The second step is you do a good old fashioned SWOT analysis, my strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats, and you figure out where the gaps are. So now I've understood what my customers want, where I am, I know where this gap is. Now my third step is, I create a plan that addresses those gaps, and go and execute. And it's really about as simple as that. Now, I'll probably add a fourth, very important step, which is continually review, revise and repeat. Because it's not linear progression in this, it's not just doing it one way and last forever, you've got to change with demands of the customer. So you got to continually look at this, revise, make changes and move on.
Jay Kingley 16:33
I don't know about anybody else, I'm inspired. Let's get at how each of us can improve the experience of our customers. We will be right back to learn a bit more about John and tap.
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Jay Kingley 17:47
Welcome back, everyone. Now I'd like to find out a little bit more about John. John, I want to start with you TAB. What are the pain points that you're addressing for your target market? And why do they need you to get rid of that pain? Yeah,
John Christie 18:07
Well, the first pain point, this is a big one. And it's time, I hear that from business owners more than anything, I just don't have time. And I have no balance between work and life. And this is not what I got into and owning my own business to do. But I'm working all the time. So we help balance out your time, help balance out your professional and personal goals. So you achieve what you started to do now leads into a second very important thing, and that is an accountability partner. You know, you've heard that old saying of it's lonely at the top. And business owners know that better than anybody, because it is their business. And they typically don't have anybody to turn to. And that's where someone like me can lend a hand and have somebody that they can turn to for advice, just to talk about things and most importantly, hold them accountable to making their goals and doing the things that they know. We'll help their business grow and thrive and profit and move on. And those are the big ones. Your personal, professional accountability.
Jay Kingley 19:23
I want to understand next, John, what is it that makes you great at what you do and just as a lead in to make sure that our audience really understands why this is such a critical issue. Because if you don't understand what makes someone great at what they do, then everybody's going to sound the same. And when they sound the same, then they're going to come across as average. And how many of you folks out there when you're looking to work with a vendor or with a third party looking to hire average? No one and if you are providing the service, the last thing you want to do is come across as average cuz then the only thing that separates you out is price. And that is not where we want to be playing. So at the end of the day, we all want to work with the best that we possibly can given the constraints of our budget. So John, what is the answer for you?
John Christie 20:16
Well, the answer is, is this and it, it may sound simple and straightforward. It's a, it's a little deeper than that. But what I do well, is I ask great questions. And I listen very well, and build upon that. And that seems real simple. But it's really not. And you get to the point of asking questions, what that does, is you really start to pinpoint what is the real issue? What is really going on? And where do you really need help? I do not have all the answers. I am not an expert at everything. But what I am good at is asking questions, getting down to the pinpoint, listening for the answers, and then working together with people to find a solution.
Jay Kingley 21:08
I encourage everybody, go onto LinkedIn. Look up, John, and I think you'll be impressed at what he has achieved to date. In his career, of course, best is yet to come. But there, John, is my question to you. What would you say is the one or two sort of biggest things that have happened to you, whether it be professionally or personally that would explain why you're now running the TAB group for eastern Kansas?
John Christie 21:41
Yeah, that's a that's a great question, I reflect back on all my experiences. And what I've done, there's a couple things that stand out. One of them is, I worked for a very large corporation at Fortune 10 company. And one of my roles was Chief of Staff for the president of the company. And what that meant was, is I had to work with so many different people at so many different levels, all with different agendas, and different things that they wanted to get done. And I had to put them all together, so that the company works the way we wanted it to work, right. And what I learned is what I just mentioned, how to ask great questions, how to listen, how to be patient with people, and how to really search for solutions. That's something that has been a really, really big part of what I've learned, and where my growth is, is cross functional leadership and working with a bunch of different people.
Jay Kingley 22:50
John, I think, enlightened a lot of us not just on the importance of customer experience, I think we all understand and you know, that's not the new, but the right way to think about it, how to incorporate it into your DNA and why it's so critical that you do so. So I am sure we've got a lot of people that are going to want to reach out to you to continue that discussion. Also, understand a bit more about those benefits that you talked about that being part of a TAB group. So what is the best way for people to reach out and continue that conversation?
John Christie 23:26
Yeah, Jay, the best way is just good old fashioned email. You can reach me at JohnChristie@tabeasternkansas.caom. Or you can go to my LinkedIn page, which is just John Christie-tab and search me up and drop me a note I would love to talk to you and help you help you discover the things you're looking for.
Jay Kingley 23:49
Excellent. And to make it easy for everybody. We will drop John's contact information into the shownotes. And if you're watching on video, you'll see that appear on during the video at this point in time. So John, outstanding, informative, dare I say even a little bit entertaining and the conversation I want to thank you for being a guest on The Best Kept Secret show and to my audience. Let's continue to crush it out there. Until next time.