Adam Toporek is an entrepreneur who specializes in helping companies achieve remarkable customer service. He has written a number of books on Customer Experience and regularly presents keynotes and provides training for companies looking to maximize their potential. In this interview, he delves into the CX World and gives us his thoughts on the future of the industry.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
As a third generation entrepreneur who grew up in and around small business, I was exposed to both the excitement and challenge of entrepreneurial life at a very young age. Eventually, I started my own businesses, which included spending over a decade in retail and franchising.
Now, I help other organizations improve their customer experience through training, keynote speeches, and strategic advisory.
One of the most important things that this background has done is give me a real-world lens through which to view customer experience. When I work with an organization, I always make sure to remember that they are most likely operating without enough budget, staff, or time and that the strategies I share have to be effective in the face of these real-world constraints.
What’s the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
With the exception of a handful of industries where organizations have protected market positions, we live in a hyper-competitive and ever-shifting business landscape. For most organizations, customer experience is the greatest source of potential competitive differentiation and advantage available to them.
For organizations who do not want to compete on price, who don’t want to engage in a race to the bottom, customer experience is how they can create profitable, long-term relationships with customers. Customer experience is how they can win.
What’s the most significant change in terms of customer behaviors you’ve observed lately?
The greatest changes in customers over the past few years have been their demand for immediacy and their diminished patience with organizations. Customers are being increasingly rewired to expect immediate gratification, whether this be through the immediacy of online interaction, the on-demand nature of streaming entertainment, or the blinding speed of services like Amazon.
Customers do not tolerate delays like they used to, and they certainly do not tolerate hassle. Understanding customer hassle and working to eliminate it is a crucial distinction for any organization in today’s environment.
You wrote “The Ultimate Starter Guide to Employee Empowerment”. According to you, how does employee empowerment contribute to better customer experience?
Employee empowerment is a great win-win-win of customer experience. It makes the customers’ experiences better, it makes the employees’ jobs easier, and it maximizes productivity and profitability for leadership.
Let’s look at the dynamic we just discussed in the previous question. Customers today are less tolerant of hassle and delay. Well, what is one of the most powerful aspects of empowering employees? The employees’ ability to solve customer issues in real time.
By being able to solve more issues on the spot, your team can reduce customer hassle, reduce their own frustration, and, most importantly, prevent escalation.
Can you tell us about the best Customer Experience you’ve ever had? And the worst one?
It’s hard to characterize any one experience as the best, but I will tell you about one of the top ones.
My wife and I were going to the mountains of North Carolina for her birthday. We had mentioned her birthday a few months before but not made a big deal about it. The hotel actually remembered it and created a surprise for her when we entered the room. You can read or listen to the story here and here.
Talking about the worst experience I’ve had is more difficult, as I don’t like to call out companies. However, I’ll tell you a really bad one I had right before the New Year.
Our personal insurance agent called us on December 31st, a day when everyone is checked out and trying to relax, and asked my wife if we wanted to accelerate the payment on our policy, to pay it early. The account is on auto-payment, so it is set up to charge automatically on a schedule. Yet, this agent literally called us at home, interrupted our day, to ask if we wanted to pay early. I should note that this was for a personal account, so there was no business or tax benefit to paying early.
This was a terrible customer experience because it was all about her. I walked in the room right as my wife was hanging up the phone. She told me what happened and then asked, “Why would she do that?” I knew immediately. “She’s trying to make her numbers for the year,” I said.
This was truly a terrible customer experience because it was all about the company and the agent, and not the customer. There was no context for it, and it was completely self-interested on the part of the agent and company.
According to you, what will be the key Customer Service trends for the next 12 months?
I’d say the two biggest customer trends for the coming year will be artificial intelligence and personalization.
On the technology side, artificial intelligence will continue to improve at a mind-boggling rate. We will see it truly start to play a real part in customer-facing interactions. The technology is still in its infancy, but I think we are all going to marvel at how far it advances in just the next twelve months.
Personalization has been a trend for many years and will continue to be one in 2019. Many organizations are doing an incredible job using data to understand customers and it is raising the expectations of customers across the board. Customers will demand more and more personalized experiences, even at the expense of privacy.
What would be your top advice to deliver a remarkable Customer Experience?
My top advice to deliver a remarkable customer experience is to create an emotional connection with customers. In the end, we are creatures of emotion, and nothing can impact customer loyalty quite like creating a positive emotional bond with customers.
Do you have any special projects for 2019? (new book, guide, keynote planned, etc.)
Thank you for asking. Our biggest project for the beginning of the year will be the release of a virtual customer service certification course. This course will allow organizations to get their team certified as having fundamental customer service skills. The curriculum will be based on my book, Be Your Customers’ Hero, and will include a number of newer strategies we’ve been developing over the past few years as well.
Of course, I will continue to engage with audiences across the country as a keynote speaker and customer service trainer, and finally, we will also be releasing a lot more content this year, particularly video. I encourage everyone to subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure they get all of the latest videos.