For long-term success in business and in the industry a business is in, organizations should learn how to take care of their customers. It has to be built around customer-centricity, and customer service should stand-out. In this episode, Jesse Cole talks with customer experience and marketing guru Bryan Eisenberg, the author of the book called Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, about customer-centricity and customer service. Bryan points out that like Amazon, we have to connect with what our target audience really want in order for our business to be successful.
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Successful Marketing Through Customer-centricity With Bryan Eisenberg
Our guest is a customer experience and marketing guru. He’s the author of the bestselling book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It. He’s also a self-proclaimed baseball-obsessed. He has a great Twitter game. Bryan Eisenberg, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.
We’re going to start with baseball-obsessed because I’m fascinated with this. The baseball fans are fading these days. There are less and less. You’re obsessed. I want to start big here. Baseball has had some challenges, declines in attendance. If you were baseball and you had to think like Amazon, what would you do to try to get more people excited?
It’s funny. There were rumors twirling that Jeff Bezos was looking to buy a sports team. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but every time I give a keynote, what would you do if Jeff Bezos decided to get into your industry and your business? I’ve done this in finance, all kinds of business that already he’s come into later on. People are like, “No, he’ll never do it.” Here’s the thing. He’d do a very similar approach to what you’ve done, to be honest with you. I have a larger scale. This is part of what MLB gets wrong. If you look at Amazon Prime, which is the largest paid membership organization in the world, it’s over 100 million people. It’s the cornerstone of their thing. He’s always tried to stick with what’s never going to change and what’s important.
What has he done? My kids are addicted to Amazon Prime. That’s important because it’s not about the short-term success of creating the revenue. It’s about that long-term revenue. Each of kids can have their own Prime accounts. They’re able to set up their profiles. They do things for college students. My oldest daughter is away in college, but I’ll never forget. What turned her on so much when Amazon Prime first launched here in Austin, she was sixteen years old. She had gotten her first cell phone and she got it from the cell provider. She wasn’t going to buy a case from them.
She said, “I’m going to go. I’m going to look for one.” We had one of those crazy torrential rains here in Austin. We have 300 days of sunshine, but when it’s pouring rain, it’s pouring rain. We are not going to go out looking for cases.” I said, “Why don’t you try Amazon Prime?” She went ahead. She looked for a few things. She found a case she loved. Within an hour, it was delivered to our door. She took a picture of it on her phone, posted it on Facebook at the time and said, “This is my new best friend.” You can’t buy that level of love, that level of bonding that was created there. It’s the same thing in baseball.
There are lots of empty spaces, a lot of empty seats throughout the stadium. There are games that are much more competitive and obviously the seats sell more. Why not create a buy your ticket, bring your kids free day? It’s not the money or the ticket, but having them exposed to the game. I have a son who loves baseball. We’ll sit. We’ll watch the games together. At the end of the day, it’s not like he’s always choosing at any time to watch any game. It’s games that he likes, but if we go to a live event, he’s into it every single moment. There’s a different part of that experience and baseball is not capitalizing on it. Now, the talk about cutting out 42 minor league teams is insane.
I think of Amazon. They were a book company at first. They were selling books. Baseball has traditional baseball fans but Amazon said, “We have a different demographic.” For us, we realized baseball wasn’t who we were going to go after. We’re going to go after everyone else that wants fun, that wants a show, that’s willing to watch the players do choreographed dances and break-dancing first base coaches. We’ll still have the core people that come watch the game, the core people that buy books. It’s other than that. I wonder if baseball was Amazon or Jeff Bezos, would they start thinking who their customers are in the future, not who their current baseball fans are?
That’s part of the big problem. We hear it when we listen to the broadcast. We’re not going to name names of some of the bad broadcasters out there. They’re brilliant baseball men, but they’re beating up on the current games of talking about a launch angle swing. Every swing has a launch angle. It’s a measurement. It’s like saying, “You have a temperature.” It doesn’t mean you have a fever. We’ve got to start sparking that passion. We’ve got to start sparking the stories of the players, who they were when they were young to start appealing to the kids and their stories. It’s like, “I didn’t play until I was in ninth grade,” and start telling their stories every game.
It’s completely different. Think of connection. Amazon, which is different, they don’t have human connection, but they connected because they know you. They know what you want. They know what you’re thinking. I always say Amazon knows me better than my wife. They’re like, “You want this book.” “You’re right. I probably do.” With baseball, the players are separated. Our big goal is our players are out in front greeting the fans when they come in. They deliver roses to little girls in the crowd during the game. They’re interacting. That’s so important on how you’re having those touchpoints. That will never change. People want touchpoints. I’m fascinated with that question. I want to see your insight because it leads into the four pillars of Amazon, which you’ve talked about. It’s customer centricity, continuous optimization, culture of innovation and corporate agility. That’s what baseball should be looking at.
We see it on some of the development side. We’re definitely seeing it there. Where we struggle is in the traditional game. The commissioner thinks by innovating with strike zones and innovating with the time clock of pitchers that he’s making the game better. That’s not what’s doing it. The problem is it’s a disorganized industry in many ways. Most of the owners unfortunately are so disconnected from their fans especially Major League clubs that it’s a shame that when you go into the minor league system or independent ball, you see owners who are part of their communities, even big leagues. We grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I was ten minutes from the Brooklyn Cyclones. My son had great memories of meeting coaches, meeting the players and even meeting the owner that you don’t get in most of the organizations. It may be part of what’s fueled his passion because it’s about connecting with people. It’s not just a sport.Start thinking who your customers are going to be in the future, not just your current audience or fans. Click To Tweet
I want to go connecting with people, customer-centricity. It’s so simple, so obvious, but so many companies are challenged with this and how do they make the customers the center of their universe? I’d love to share stories with Amazon, maybe some others that emphasize this point that we can take away.
The problem most companies have with trying to understand who their customer is, is they don’t take the time to understand them. Let’s take it from an abstract point. The reason Amazon got so good compared to every other retailer is that they spent most of their focus collecting data about their customers. It sounds evil but it’s not. Who are their customers? What do they do? What do they want to do? What do they wish for? What do they share with friends? That information is incredibly valuable. I remember sitting in a workshop we were doing and I was talking to a guy who does pest control. I said to him, “What do you do?” They have guaranteed that once they spray, nothing shows up for a year because they do a completely different job than everyone else. They are almost like the Amazon pest control down in Florida. They’ll go into the crawl spaces. They’ll block holes and all the things to keep all the barriers there.
I said, “What happens if you go into someone’s house and a few weeks later they spot some insect and they call you?” “We send somebody back out to check on them and see how it went.” I said, “That’s great.” Do you know who knows more about people and what they like more than anyone else? It’s the person who’s in every single crawl space inside these customers’ homes. They know whether they’re wine lovers. They know whether they’re sports lovers. They know every detail because they’re inside your closets. They know what you’re passionate about. Where are you capturing the data about what they know about their customers? I don’t want it to sound like spying. It’s the same way that we would develop relationships with our neighbors. They see you every single day. They get to know you.
I told him, “If you went to this person’s house,” and we picked a particular person in the workshop, “and you wanted to try to get them on the phone to apologize, you’ll never speak to him again.” That’s not his style. If you went to his house, you know he loves wine. When that bug guy comes, have them bring a nice bottle of wine and give him a little bit of a budget to fix it. It’s about operationalizing that so that they know their customers. It’s not, “Let me give you a plain gift certificate or something.” That’s not going to wow them, that’s not going to make them excited about what they’re doing. It starts with the data. It starts with understanding with your team. There is a core group who loves the game of baseball. You can deliver that, but people are looking for a great experience in your town. You gave them one. That’s what’s so critical.
It’s a focus on fun, but we know we can test things and say, “Are people laughing? How are they acting? When we go up in the crowd and do this, what’re the reactions?” We’re gauging that and saying, “Move on to the next one,” because we’re looking on how do they feel, how did they respond? Whenever I’m in Savannah, I go to Sunshine Café. I’ve ordered the same thing for the last few years. When I come in, they already start making it. They know I’m there. I’m bringing my son. They always have his water ready for him. Paying attention and it’s listening carefully, it’s what matters most. I always go there because they make me feel comfortable.
Let’s take a step back, paying attention and optimization and all of these things are an illustration about caring about your customers. It has to start fundamentally from your core beliefs. If it doesn’t start from your beliefs, it’s what Simon Sinek talked about, starting with why. When you listen to that famous speech he did, it’s not the ‘why,’ it’s how many times you use the word belief. If you take a look at something like Amazon, Jeff Bezos’s initial quote was, “The single most important thing is to focus obsessively on the customer.” Here’s the important part. This tells you his belief. “Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.” That tells you a ton about what his beliefs were. If you look at Walmart and we talked about in the book, Sam Walton had a core set of beliefs about retail. It drove Walmart’s growth for years. Now you look at where Walmart is and you look at those beliefs and you could see they’ve gotten disconnected.
What was Sam Walton’s?
He had ten core tenets. I’m going to share with you a couple of them. The more controversial ones, how about we stick with those? Share your profits with your associates and treat them like your partners. I don’t quite think they’re doing that anymore. Blaze your own path. They’re pretty much trying to copy Amazon. They’re still good at controlling their expenses better than competition. They’re excellent at that. Sam Walton believes you need to exceed your customer’s expectations. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you walked into a Walmart and they exceeded your customer expectations?
It doesn’t happen much.
Here’s another one, appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Let us cut out jobs so that they can benefit from it. It’s a problem and it’s gotten completely disconnected.
Jeff Bezos has a belief statement, what he stands for. Obviously, Sam Walton had it when they were growing. You advise everyone to set up your belief statements. Is it 1 sentence, 5, 10? Give some examples. Some have 30.
It totally depends. My friend, Ryan Deiss from Digital Marketer, he’s got a whole great video. I encourage people to go listen to what he talks about. One of my favorite examples I’m talking about in the book is Ken Goodrich from Goettl Heating and Air Conditioning because it’s such a perfect example of how any business could be so remarkable and innovate with something that costs nothing. Ken Goodrich, as soon as growing up, his dad was also in the HVAC business, worked on Goettl Air Conditioning and eventually he bought the company. Ken learned two things from his dad.
Number one, if you’ve got an HVAC unit, you’ve got to make sure that every single screw in that unit is completely tightened because any little vibration will eventually cause damage to the electronics. His second thing is as he’s growing up, his dad had him hold the flashlight for him as he worked. He goes ahead and gives away flashlights. I want to focus on this idea that he believed that every screw needs to be tightened. That’s great, but as a typical customer, and this is how he bridged that gap to customer-centricity is, how do you go about making sure the customer knows that you value those things? This is where he set up a big differentiator when he went ahead and he started doing red screws.
If you look at a typical HVAC unit, they are using silver screws or chrome-colored screws. When he says, “If we went ahead and we started doing bright red screws, everybody in the organization would know including the customer which screws were changed and which weren’t changed.” If someone came to your house right now and changed crews in your air conditioner, would you know it? There’s no way. If all screws all of a sudden are a bright red, could you tell? They’d stand out and that’s the whole point. That screw has become a symbol essentially of everything they do. It allows them to be customer-centric and lets the customer know, “I took care of every detail of that HVAC.” Basically, it’s their big innovation. How much does a red crew cost compared to other crews? Nothing. It allows them to have continuous optimization because the technicians know only to look for bright red screws. If any of the screws are there, they know they have to work on that part of the air conditioner.
It all started the belief statement. A lot of people have a mission. They have a vision. They have core beliefs. I’m guessing this has to start with the founder.
It has to start with the founder.
What’s a good exercise to do that? We have our beliefs. We have things that we’re adamant about, but we haven’t made them concrete to everyone. What’s a good way to start with that?
I’ll invite everybody to pop on to Instagram. One of the things we did is a good friend of mine here in town I’ve been mentoring is a chiropractor by the name of Dr. Matt Delgado. He started chiro practice a few years ago here in Austin. He moved from the Seattle area. He moved here with less than $2,000. He was renting space from a chiropractor. Now, he’s got a beautiful office that he set up and has pictures of it on Instagram. You can go look up Dr. Matt Delgado or Lifespring Chiropractic.
One of the things he’s done is we started him listing what were his core belief statements and creating a list of them. We knew one of them that was key because every review that he ever had beforehand mentioned how great a listener he was. He felt like people deserve to be listened to when they go to a doctor. It started there. We knew customers notice that one, but what were the other ones? He took them, got them all written down. We fine-tuned them. We tweaked them up, condensed them, did a little copywriting on them and worked on them as well. If you walk right into his office, you see right in the front office, right as you walk in by the reception what they believe in. He also designed it in such a way where certain words pop out in a 3D. What’s cool about it is you see patients taking pictures of it and sharing it on social media.
Especially if they’re unique and different. If you say, “We believe in integrity, we believe in trust. We believe in that.” They have to stand out. They have to be different. For us, we’ve been guided solely by fans first. Everything we think about is fans first. You need to go a little more detailed. This is a great exercise. I love that. We’re going to do some games in a little bit, Bryan, so get mentally prepared. Some of these may be challenging for you so we’re going to see. The first one, before we get into a game, the culture of innovation. I want to go into that because obviously that’s speaking my language as we’re trying to make baseball fun, reinvent the game and be different. I don’t know if you mentioned this book, but about Jeff Bezos, there’s the future article that he makes. If he wants to launch something, they have to write a future piece of almost like a press release. It’s like, “Innovate.” How does someone do that? The companies you’ve worked with would be the best example.Caring about your customers has to start fundamentally from your core beliefs. Click To Tweet
The key here is truly understanding two key parts. I noticed you’ve done a great job especially at one of them. The second one is the one that people don’t necessarily pay as much attention to. There are only two things that influence what we call persuasive momentum, what will pull people either closer or further away from you? It’s like friction. In your business, if there’s friction, find a way to innovate around it. If people are complaining about the cost of food, can you find a way to make food affordable? I know you have those all-you-can-eat plans. That’s a simple way.
The second one is what motivates them. This is the part that’s a lot harder. What we do is we start with creating the personas of our customers, who are the people who are coming into our business and doing a deep dive and understanding who they are. There’s a whole technique that we use behind creating a persona so that they’re much more credible. It would almost be like, “What would you do if you saw Tony Soprano walk into your gates? If you know exactly who he is, how do you behave around him? What if you had George and Jerry from Seinfeld walking?
You would know you want to be fun. You want to join in on the fun with them.
You might even ask George if he wanted to come down and take a few hats because you know a little bit about his story and that fun video of him teaching. There are some great things that you can do around that. What we do is create a narrative around that persona. We need to start creating a narrative and an ideal narrative of what that experience would look like. We start from the end. This is the most important part. Like Jeff Bezos starting with a press release, we need to start what’s going to leave every single one of your customers giving you a five-star review and would tell them to join the next week.
From an Amazon standpoint, obviously the future press release if they’re launching a new product, but what else?
What you end up doing is finding all of the different points. With Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong, what will go wrong? Once you start identifying those, you start mapping them going from the endpoint forward, what are the alternatives to make sure that failure point doesn’t exist? Where is there a point where we could add surprise and delight to create more word of mouth? Those are the two balance points.
When I think about Amazon, I think about speed. I think about how quick they are to do things. I think about their selection. Jeff Bezos tells the things that won’t change in the next couple of years, which is fascinating. Obviously, they’d been doing tons of innovation, but what are the ones that we’re feeling?
The biggest one right now has everything to do with Alexa and what they did with voice to the point where Microsoft basically canceled their Cortana app. That’s one of the first signals that Amazon is so far ahead on their dataset voice and what they’re doing. The truth of the matter is keyboards and mice and all that, they’re awkward devices to interact with unless you’re in a busy setting. Otherwise, voice is a much more natural interphase.
Their end in mind for Amazon is?
There will be voice in your car. There will be voice in your refrigerator, oven, cooktop. You’ll be able to say, “Can you preheat the oven to 350 degrees?” It’s done for you.
How can they take care of their customers in a faster, more convenient, easier way? That’s what led to Alexa led to voice. Start with the end in mind. That’s so key. Where do you want to go? It makes it easier to reverse engineer from there. We’re going to our first game.
The same thing holds true in developing elite baseball players or assets. One of the examples, my friend, Bobby Tewksbary, he’s found in any hitter who’s hit above 100-mile exit velo, off the bat, has had a squeeze at least 125 pounds on the dynamometer. My son is a big strong kid but couldn’t quite get to the above-90 level. He was squeezing about 60, 65. We bought him these TheraBand exercise balls on top of all the working out he’s doing. All he does is whenever he’s bored, he just squeezes the balls. Tim Dillard told us about these in a dugout. We bought them. He said he has them in his car. He has them in his bag. He uses them all the time. He started squeezing it. In a month and a half later, he broke 90 exit velo because we know that’s what the pros can do and that he has to be able to do that. That helped us chart that grip strength was an important factor in terms of getting him there.
Reverse-engineer everything. It’s truth and dare, which one do you like?
I’ll go for the truth.
What has been one of the biggest things that have been holding you back in your success whether it’s working with companies, customer experience or business in general?
It depends on how you define success. My brother and I have had ample opportunities to have way more financial success than we’ve had now. The first time somebody wanted to acquire our agency, we turned them down because the relationships we had with our staff and making sure they were taken care of was way more important. It’s probably a little bit of a factor of not having the time to do a lot of other businesses. I’ve been focused very much on making sure my son is ready for his high school ball and being around and present for my family. For me, I’m very successful because I have the ability to have that time to spend with him and not worry about financial resources. Certainly, if I didn’t even have to worry about that, it’s creating a more successful business.
For the dare, this is an old-fashioned sing-off we do at the stadium, Bryan. If you or your son, your family come to the game, we will have 4,000 people sing-off against each other, 2,000 in one grandstand, 2,000 in another grandstand. When the song stops, you have to finish that song lyric.
I wish my wife was here because she’s the one who remembers all the lyrics. I’m awful with the lyrics.
I’m going to trust you, this is a popular song from the ‘80s. It fits our theme here of always being there for the customers. Here we go. Be ready when it stops. “I want to tell you how I’m feeling. I’ve got to make you understand.”
“Never going to give you up,” I don’t remember the rest of it. I told you I’m awful with lyrics.The single most important thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. You need to exceed your customer's expectations. Click To Tweet
That was it. Never going to give you up, never going to let you down. You nailed it. I’m staying with that theme because I feel like Amazon and these companies you work with will never let their customers go. They’re going to keep going. They’ll never going to let them down. I’ll give you an eight on that because you got the lyrics, but it wasn’t a full song. We’ll keep moving from there. We talked about earlier, word of mouth techniques because again, if you’re there for your customers, they’re doing the marketing. It’s funny, Amazon, you don’t think too much about the advertising they’re doing, even though there’s some out there. Everyone’s saying, “I go to Amazon.” Word of mouth is everything. Give us some of the techniques.
There are three main factors behind word of mouth. It is structural, something with the way that it’s built or designed that makes you talk about it. If someone gives you directions and say, “Do you know that big barn over there with a bright yellow painting? That’s where you’re going to want to make that left turn.” It’s something along that. We’ve seen that one the first time we saw the first iPod when it was the touch screen. Those things made people talk because of the way it was designed, how sleek it looked and all of that.
The second one is kinetic. This is something that you obviously become a master at. It’s the movement. It’s the energy of things going on. It’s the show that you’re doing. The sing-off you’re creating. You’re creating an environment that people have to talk about. It’s like Pike’s fish market. People are throwing fish. You’ve got to talk about it. The third one is generosity. Generosity is you go into the restaurant and they put fresh bread right away for you or they give you a free dessert to try or something like that. Those kinds of things make you stand out. It’s like the baker’s dozen, the thirteen instead of twelve. The last one is tribal. It’s a connection to my team or affiliation. It’s very easy for people to talk about their favorite player or their favorite teams and they bond immediately to it. Anytime you can create any trial like that, you could also get people looking for people similar to them and their targets. That’s what social media has been built on essentially. It looks like the anti-tribe.
To go back, you got design, energy, generosity and tribal. Give an Amazon example or an example of a company you work with that dominate in this game.
Let’s start it here. In Be Like Amazon, there’s a chapter that we talk about Chapel Dulcinea. The first building that my mentor and good friend, Roy Williams, co-author of the book, built on the 31-acre campus in the Hill Country, Austin was a free wedding chapel. There are 8,000 weddings a year. People come from Tokyo, Germany, all over the world to have their wedding done because of this beautiful chapel that they built there. Bridal Magazine has listed it as one of the top ten spots. It’s a sheer marvel. They built it not for anything else, but to give back because of their value of commitment. Roy and his high school sweetheart, they’ve been married forever. It’s a beautiful sentiment of what they’ve done and what he believes in.
They have this free space. They have a little area that you can go ahead and hold a little party if you want to. There’s nothing to it. There’s a place for the bride to get dressed and the groom to get dressed. It did end up turning into a business for them because people kept asking them for more things. It’s turned into a business where they have a hall where people can rent it out for parties and stuff like that. It all started because they wanted to be generous and offer a place for people who couldn’t afford to get married at a great location to have a free great location to get married at Chapel Dulcinea. I don’t think you’d get a better example of generosity. That’s about as big as you go.
It makes me think if you have a brick and mortar retail space, you have to know what’s something that you can offer that won’t hurt your core business? We have a stadium here and we’re thinking like what could people do that we can say not during our games, those are all sold out, but an opportunity to come out. That’s a nice touch.
I’m going to tie that beautifully because coming back to Dr. Matt Delgado, We talked about his belief statements, but he realized that the tribe of his customers was young athletes, trainers and all of that. When you go to Instagram, you can see this new space with a beautiful mural on the side painted in there, a great open area where people can come in. What he realized is his success has been completely due to the community. He says, “What can we do to open up that space for the community?” They’ve had health talks. They’ve had meet and greets where people can come in and chat and stuff like that. They’ve also done community yoga events.
They’re using that space when he’s not using it. There’s a business networking event that happens in that space because it’s not his space. It’s the community’s space when you start thinking about that. People are sharing that. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s got big pictures of him and his partner on their windows in one of the busiest streets in Austin with a little speech bottles on there also talking. It’s another way to trigger word of mouth and be outstanding. I would give you a great story that ties into what you’re doing. A few years ago, when I drove back from Brooklyn after my mom passed to bring her car back with my son, Sammy, I want to make sure that he was going to come with me. It was a difficult trip for obvious reasons. How can I turn it into something positive for him? We would do this long drive back from New York to Austin, Texas and we said, “We’re going to make it a baseball trip.” We went ahead and we went to Yankee Stadium. We went to Phillies, Kansas City and St. Louis.
In St. Louis, my friend, Pete Krainik introduced me to the CMO of the St. Louis Cardinals. He gave us field access passes. He gave us access passes to the lounge, which was great because it was 140 degrees that day. Being in the lounge was a wonderful thing. He started talking to us about the Cardinal way, about how they have all the high school teams who come and play there. Once you play in that environment, you become a lifelong fan. It’s the same thing. It’s like, “What kind of lightings can you do?” My friend, Dave Kerpen, I don’t know if you know Dave, but he got married at the stadium of the Brooklyn Cyclones because he’s such a Mets fan. There are all kinds of opportunities. What if you held certain Little League tournaments at a stadium or Sandlot games? Take it to the next extreme.
That’s why I’m thinking about opening it up where kids can come out and play and be a part of it. It’s very interesting. My staffs are probably like, “Jesse, what’s happening now?” There’s a huge level of generosity. Everyone thinks, “How can I make money?” You’re bringing them into your world. You’re the guide. What do you think they’re telling? “I went and I played at Grayson Stadium.”
The video that they take of it and the pictures that they take of it. There’s so much that you could do. Could you have one kitchen open to serve concessions?
Obviously we have a stadium, but what are those things that are behind the scenes that are cool about your business that you can show them? That’s an opportunity there. Not everyone gets to see what you see and what those things are that you can provide to make it fun. I want to keep rolling here, Bryan. I said you have a great Twitter game. You are very strong on Twitter with a lot of retweets, a lot of shares. You’re putting a lot of things out there. I want the deets about the tweet. You wrote, “Focus in on the metrics that matter to your customer.” It’s a very simple piece. It was shared from a podcast, but mostly I’m guessing we have metrics that we focus on that aren’t about our customer. Give us examples of that because that’s so fascinating.
It’s one of my favorite stories of all time. My brother was sitting at a client’s office in the Bay Area. They’re a high-end jeweler. We’re talking and we’re chatting. He’s trying to understand a little bit more about their business. At one point, he started talking about their lead generation efforts. People come to the website and they contact them and they’re interested in such and such watch. They’re interested in such and such piece of jewelry, whatever it was. He asked him, “How long does it take usually to get back to the customers?” We try to get back within a day. My brother files it because there are other topics. They go through it.
At some point, there’s a break. He decides to go on his phone and he goes to the Prime Now app. He orders a bunch of things and has it delivered in the middle of their meeting. They show up 30 minutes later, opens up a bag full of stuff and he says to them, “Your customers can get all of these things from their phone to their house in under half an hour. Don’t you think they expect to be called back in less than half an hour?” It’s obvious and simple. All we had them start focusing on as an initial test is, how many of your leads can you respond to in under half an hour? Also, we broke it afterward. That was a success too. It was under 5 minutes and under 30 with the new benchmarks. It’s a huge success. It would account for millions of dollars in sales for them. That’s what mattered to the customer. They’re looking at a couple of websites. They contact you. They’re going to contact you before others. People get them on the phone right away. That time to response matters to them. The time to get into your bathroom matters to the ladies that you’re seeing. If you’re not measuring it, you’re in trouble.
We do undercover fans. Everyone on our staff goes undercover one night. Even myself take the yellow tuxedo off. When we go undercover, one of the things is we keep track of every line. We’ll stand in line. We look at our phone. We check the time on how long it takes us. The first games when we did this all-inclusive model, we had no idea how to do it. The lines were two-plus hours to get food. We had no clue. We got better and better. Now, our goal is everything to be under five minutes. Five minutes with 4,000 people is a challenge. That’s what we’re measuring. You mentioned there are other experience checkpoints like how long does it take to find your store hours on your website? The average time spent in checkout, to return a voicemail. These experience checkpoints are so fascinating that every single company should have these. Share it a little bit more about this because it’s important.
How long does it take to find a parking spot? I have a funny story, I’ll never forget this, when we moved to Austin. The first summer, we went back to New York to stay with my mom and she had two family houses. We stayed downstairs, my wife, myself and our youngest kid. The two oldest stayed with my mom. It’s about 10:00 PM. The cool thing about New York is you can find any store open about any hour. My wife says, “I’m going to go to the supermarket now and get some things in case the kids have some things for breakfast in the morning.” She goes to the supermarket. She drives around a lot and can’t find a single thing. Finally, she leaves the parking lot. There’s a parking lot on the roof. She decides to go up there and finally found something. She does her shopping, gets back in here. She buys little things, gets on the line and it’s a 45-minute line to check out. She comes home and she realizes, “Maybe I’ve already taken it for granted.” Every single time we go to a store here in Austin, there are a gazillion parking spots because there are tons of rooms so that’s never an issue.
She goes ahead and there are never more than 2 or 3 people on the line ahead of her unless it’s Walmart. That’s a different story. They have 100 cash registers, but only three people working. If we go to Whole Foods or local H-E-B, there’s almost never a big line. I know you’re also from the Northeast. One of the biggest things is that people think people from the Northeast are not nice. No, we’re just as nice as the people in the South. It’s just that we’re unfortunately scrambling to find more time because we’re wasting it on so many other things. It’s not even how long it takes you to find a spot. What does the parking lot look like? Is it dirty? Are there broken things under? Is there garbage on the floor? Is it not well-lit? Those are all checkpoints. When I go and I look at a business, it’s one of the first things I’ll notice is what does that look like? What does the bathroom look like? It tells me everything about their business.
It’s such a great starting point to audit your experience, how long it takes whether it’s parking, whether it’s waiting in a waiting room. People who are waiting in a waiting room is huge. Every little piece is absolutely huge. You talk about some of your favorite companies and you mentioned a few offline, the Lifespring Chiropractic and Torchy’s Tacos. I want to know what makes these companies some of your favorites. I love companies that are doing things differently.
You’re going to have to make a trip to Austin because there’s one location that’s become the spot. I take all the baseball coaches come to town to Torchy’s. Everybody raves about it. It’s interesting, I saw the CEO on one of those finance shows. I didn’t realize he had a name for the category. He calls it craft casual. Here’s the problem. How many restaurants have you seen in the last few years that have copied the Chipotle model?Customer-centricity is so simple and obvious, but so many companies are challenged with this. Click To Tweet
They think that’s innovative. No, it was innovative when Chipotle did it. It’s not innovative when you do it. It’s got a fit for the right model. What they do is every taco has an interesting combinations of flavors. They’re made for you fresh on the spot. They’ve got secret menu. There are all kinds of things. They’ve got some of the names for these tacos, the Independent, the Democrat, the Republic, Dirty Sanchez. Their tagline is, “Damn good tacos.” The Trailer Park, Brush Fire, The Tipsy Chick. What’s in The Tipsy Chick? It’s marinated and grilled chicken breasts, spinach, grilled corn, green chilies and cheddar cheese with Chipotle sauce on a flour tortilla with a side of bacon, burger and marmalade.
I’ll give you something that sounds super simple, but they’ve made it exceptional. Fried avocado, by the way, is a great taco. Fried avocados, refined pinto beans, Pico de Gallo, lettuce and cheddar cheese with poblano sauce on a corn tortilla. You can get every taco trashy, which means they put queso on it. It started from a food truck. Now they’ve got locations all over Austin. They’re planning to grow out of here. Austin has been great at developing a whole bunch of these kinds of businesses over the last few years.
What they’re doing, Bryan, to go back to the readers, they’re making the ordering experience fun by what you say, by what you order, by looking at it. It gives you excitement, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to try that. That name is fun. I’m going to say the Dirty Sanchez out loud.” I like whatever it is.
They create tribal elements by having the secret menu.
That’s very similar with the In-N-Out burger and their secret menu as well. I want to go to flip the script here, Bryan. You’re now the host of Business Done Differently. You can ask me one question.
When you first went to the all you can eat, it was too long. What systems did you have to put in place in order to get it back down to five minutes?
The first thing that we did is we got help. We don’t know everything we’re doing. We’re not a food business. I’ll say that our food is good. It’s not the best food in the world, but what we focus on is being the best in the show, which we want to create the best show in all of sports. We got help. We looked into a food consultant that’s done huge stadiums, huge arenas, came in and he audited, watched. There was one subtle thing that he shared. He goes, “If you move the drinks in front, that will make it a lot faster because people will fill their hands with drinks and then they won’t try to get three burgers, for dogs and slow everything down.”
We made one change there and we said, “We need to have more food prepared earlier and every day we got better and better. We got help and then we started testing. When do we need to have food ready here? What’s the system? How are we moving it? Where is it going? Can we have stanchions set up? Can we have another station out in front where the people first get in, they go to that. We went from one big station to now four stations that they all can get food with stanchions and we are constantly guiding people. We have people guiding, “There’s an opening here. There’s an opening here.” We have 4,000 people getting an all-inclusive every single night. That’s it. Every night, it’s 4,000 so now it’s five minutes.
The thing for us was it wasn’t overnight, it was continual optimization as you would say. Now we’re still thinking how we can get better because we want to make sure our food is perfectly warm at the right temperature when they’re getting it. We still got ways to go, but I’ve got a huge shout to our director of operations. This is pretty interesting. He was an intern when we started, 22-years-old, overseeing it and trying to figure it out. We got help one day but then it was him. We had a little bit of outside help from a restaurant. It was great. Jonathan took it over. Now he’s 26 years old, a director of operations and he runs it. We give the opportunity for young people to be empowered to make decisions. It was cool to see.
That is the number one flaw that you could see right away if a business is not customer-centered. If I go to somebody and if they can’t make a decision to solve my problem, the organization is not customer-centric. It’s why 80% of executives believe they are customer-centric, but only 8% of customers believe they are.
It’s a great statistic. It’s so important. Every single person should never say, “Let me talk to my manager.” That should never be a conversation. It’s not in our vocabulary. Take care of even it will cost us a little money. Give them some extra food, take care of them and fix it.
I’m going to give you one more because I want to follow up on this. My friend, Alan Stein, shared a quote. It came from an Inc. Magazine study. They asked the executives what percentage of their employees could name the company’s three top priorities. I know how you do your meetings and all that. I’ve listened to a lot of your videos that your team could name your top priorities, no question. I have zero doubt about that. What percent of executives said, “My team could identify the top three priorities?”
They’d probably said something high, 70%?
It’s 64%. When your researchers conducted a survey of the employees, what was the actual number?
It’s less than ten.
It’s 2%. We talked about priorities and beliefs. You believe in a fan first. Your organization knows the things that you’re working on every day because you’re doing these meetings. Tell us a little bit more about how you run those to make sure. Because where so many organizations fall apart in being customer center is that the front-end employees don’t know what matters to their bosses, to the founders. That’s incredible.
We had one. We do a state of the vision. Every single six months, we do a state of the vision with the big priorities, what’s going on and go through where we are and a complete update of it. For us, it’s right now a vision, bring fans first to the world. We’re very clear we’re doing that with our team and we’re doing it by teaching fans first with businesses all over the country so they can bring it to their organizations. We give a full update of where we are on the team the next future, and where we are with taking this, with workshops, with speaking, with bringing companies here. It’s constantly sharing that. Every Snapchat we have weekly, we open with recognizing people for doing things that are fans first. We have an email chain and a Basecamp channel that’s everything about fans first.
It’s our fans first best email chain ever. Every day has been 3 or 4. We recognize each other for doing things that are fans first and fans first moments. It’s talked about constantly, that’s what’s recognized, what are we fans first? We have a profit share every quarter. The biggest metric is fans first. They rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 with five being they create epic fans first story that’s going to live in our company’s culture and DNA for many years. They did some amazing fans first moments that are going to be shared and they grade themselves. That’s how they’re rewarded.
They’re sharing stories of how they’re fans first.Starting with the end in mind is key to figuring out where you want to go. Click To Tweet
Everyone has core beliefs, but do you have stories that back up those beliefs?
I love this because it reminds me of the example of everybody wants to have the customer experience of like Disney. It’s what customers are expecting. They expect that level of customer service. They expect the communications of Zappos. They expect the speed and efficiency of Amazon. They expect the seamlessness of Nuberg. Five minutes is not Uber-like yet. You’re working on trying to meet that expectation. One of the things that Disney and Ritz-Carlton are so well-known for is every single morning they share a story of how they serve their guests, how great women and great men serve their guests. What you’re telling people is we need, as organizations, to talk about how we’re taking care of our customers because if we’re not, we’re not ever going to be truly customer-centric.
Amazon, they’re customer-obsessed. You have to be that. For us, it’s fans-obsessed. The second level we talk about like for us, it’s not just B2B, B2C. We want to be F2F, fan to fan. We want our employees to be the biggest fans. We want our customers to be our biggest fans. We want to bond over being fans of doing the same thing and being on a movement to have fun and care for people more. When you bring that together, you bond as a fan. I know you’re probably Yankees or Mets and I’m Red Sox. We won’t get in there but that’s what it is. You bond when you’re a fan of something. You could talk about. You connect on it. That’s so important.
We should touch on how important this is to social media because even though I’ve never been to one of your games, seeing the videos, seeing what you’re sharing on Instagram, seeing what you shared on YouTube, my son and I can’t wait to come out and see what you guys are doing because we know it’s that great. We’re right near the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliates of the Astros. They do a great job and they try to make sure that people meet full-time employees on a regular basis. The leadership team there, we’ve met with many of them. My son, Sam, had them on his Play Ball Kid Podcast, both the GM and president. They are owned by the Ryans and they do it for all the right reasons.
The baseball there is an exceptional environment. Sadly, it’s not everywhere. It’s not in every business. There’s so much we can learn from each other. I keep saying, “What’s happening in baseball?” If you look at a professional level, what we see with the Dodgers, the Astros and the Yankees is basically the same thing we’ve seen in retail and business with Amazon. They’ve been quick to adopt and be perceptive about their customers, look at that data and find ways to continuously improve what they’re doing.
Is there anything else that we can take away? Obviously, your book has done so well. Is there anything else that we can say, “We can learn from them or learn from a company and create even more raving fans?”
You said it well. It’s taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Find a little boring detail. When you come to Austin, I’ll make sure you visit with Dr. Matt and we’ll have a great experience. If you’ve never had a chiropractic, he does it differently. I’d want you to make sure that you go visit his bathroom.
Tell me about his bathroom.
I’m not going to tell you about it. We’re going to leave it out there. The point is it’s about creating something different than you’d expect from the bathroom at the chiropractor’s office.
I’ll finish some rapid-fire here. Question time, if you want better answers in business, you’ve got to ask better questions. You work with lots of different clients. What are some of the best questions you’re asking them?
It varies by the customer and by the client that we’re working with. My brother and I tend to be known for working with a lot of very big businesses. We work with companies like Google, HP, GE and NBC Universal, but we love working with the lemonade stands. We love working with the owner operating companies, the people whose hearts, souls and lives have been in business, why did they start their business? There’s so much about their belief system in there that they’ve probably forgotten why you set out to start doing business.
What’s a great service experience you had or something that stands out and you’re like, “Wow?”
I don’t get out much during the last few months.
This is a question so many people have difficulty answering because service isn’t standing out as much as it should.
Besides the ones I’ve already told you, I can definitely give you a whole bunch of bad examples. It’s hard to come up with the ones that have been exceptional. I’ve had a whole bunch of experiences with Prime Now. We order a lot from them, my groceries from them all the time. Trader Joe’s is another great one. They do a fantastic job. I was in there shopping. One of my cold bags was broken and the cashier went, grabbed one off the shelf, ripped off the tag and said, “Here you go.” They take care of you. I spent $300 a week there. What’s the bag going to cost? Nothing, but I keep going back every single week because I know that they’re taking care of me. If my strawberries went bad too early, they’d give me another case. In the long-term, that one box of strawberries, that one cold bag means nothing because I’m spending hundreds of dollars every single week for years and years.
It’s long-term fans over short-term profits. That’s what it’s about. Final four, what’s one thing that you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
When we first started in our industry, everybody was talking about traffic and eyeballs and we were the only ones to say, “No, we need to focus on sales and conversions.” There was nobody else talking about that when we first started in 1985, when we started clients. By 1998, we started our first agency. While everyone was doing SEO, we were doing what we called experience optimization, conversion optimization. We chose what everyone else wasn’t doing.
If you were to give advice to someone younger, let’s say even your son going into high school. When he leaves college potentially, what’s one piece of advice to stand out in either business, in life, what would you tell him?
Be kind. You can never go wrong with kindness.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It comes down to mostly one of my favorite quotes from my mentor, Roy Williams. The price of clarity is the risk of insult. You have to be willing to say it as it is. Even when people don’t want to hear it, it reminds me of a time when my brother and I were at a client’s office and we were talking about all the metrics they track and all these different things. They come to us with a binder of all these things and we start asking questions about, “What do you know about why they purchased these courses?” They had no answers. My brother grabbed this big binder and he walked over to the corner of the room where the trash pile was and he dropped it. He said, “All of this is worthless if you can’t answer these questions.” He was clear. He made the point. They changed their business from that point on what they measured because they understood that they didn’t have the clarity. They thought they were being metrics-driven.
Final question, Bryan, how do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who’s helped a lot of businesses and individuals become better. I wear the bracelet every single day, “Be better today than you were yesterday.” It’s been my motto for many years since I started in the optimization world. It’s something I tried to teach my son to have the same focus especially as an athlete. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, it only matters what you’re going to work hard to do now and what are you going to do tomorrow. Focus in on constantly being better.
Often, it comes down to how do you make people feel? You’ve done a great job. You’ve shared some great tools. I’m glad we’ve connected. It started on Twitter, baseball, back and forth. You gave some great wisdom. I appreciate you and thanks for being on the show.
Thank you. It’s my pleasure.