When I started my career in automotive engineering, one of the first things I noticed was how abysmal the industry was at customer service. I can’t tell you how many times I witnessed astonishing amounts of time and money being spent on the latest and greatest technology and tools. At the same time, management spent almost no resources on figuring out how to improve the quality of our customers’ experience.
Bridging the disconnect between WHAT a design & engineering company could deliver and HOW they went about delivering it was actually my main reason for starting Inertia. Since founding Inertia, we’ve spent 15 years building a culture where we focus just as much on creating exceptional customer experiences as we do on designing amazing products. In fact, I often use an adapted version of Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of Zappos shoe empire) famous quote to underscore this.
Tony built Zappos on the foundation of extraordinary customer service, and his famous turn of phrase to accentuate this fact was: ”We’re a customer service company that happens to sell shoes.”
Our version of Tony’s quote, that I often share when I’m presenting Inertia’s capabilities to prospects is: “We’re a customer service company that just happens to design and manufacture products.”
Our not-so-secret ingredient that helps us stay laser focussed on delivering great customer experiences actually starts with how we manage ourselves internally. Maintaining a regular, transparent and structured rhythm of communication is a crucial part of this. I’ve put together a few images to share some of the finer details around how we practice our communication with each other and our clients.
By the way, I use the word practice deliberately. There isn’t anything particularly flashy or complex about our methods. It’s more about having the discipline to continuously keep improving how and what we communicate to each other and our clients.
> Structured, Regular Customer Updates
Our customers receive regular, structured updates with what they need to know about upcoming project milestones and priorities along with any challenges that need to be addressed and accomplishments worthy of highlighting. Here’s an example of the front page of the report.
> 5 Minute Morning Team Meeting
Each morning at 9:33 am the meeting boss (we take turns being the boss) calls everyone into a circle. We each share any news, wins, as well as any roadblocks or challenges that we we might need help with. What you’re witnessing here is the team in mid-cheer, which is the last thing that happens before the team meeting ends. Full Disclosure: For this shot, I did mention to the team that I needed a picture for the blog, which led to some some ultra “enthusiastic” reactions (make special note of Gareth, third from the left).
> 5 Minute Scrum Meeting
Lately the product teams have been working within the agile framework for managing their projects. Every morning, the product teams gather around the big monitor to review their previous day’s accomplishments, plan for the coming day, discuss any roadblocks and review the sprint backlog.
> Weekly Team Meeting
Each week we get together to share some personal and business wins, recognize people if they’ve “lived our values”, review company quality and financial performance metrics, present on a short training topic and give the floor over to a team member to share something of personal interest for show and tell. To give you an idea of how the meeting is structured, here are the slides that set the agenda each week.
> Company Value Cards
There’s a total of ten cards, and each one relates back to one of Inertia’s ten core values. When one member of the team has noticed another colleague doing something that reflects one of these values, they acknowledge them publicly by presenting them with a core value card. The card also has space on the back for a personal note. It’s a voluntary exercise but it’s pretty unusual for a weekly meeting to go by without a card (or several) being presented.
> Delivering Exceptional Customer Experiences Starts With How We Serve Each Other
I don’t believe there is one formula to follow for delivering exceptional customer experiences. However, as I mentioned earlier in the post, setting the bar high for how we communicate internally has a huge impact on how our customers experience working with us.