Nadji Tehrani, founder of Technology Marketing Corp., the parent company of CUSTOMER magazine, and Steve Brubaker (News - Alert), chief of staff at InfoCision, recently set out to publish a book. That effort resulted in the tome “Taking Your Customer CareTM to the Next Level”. CUSTOMER spoke with Brubaker to learn more about how the book – and the relationship between its authors – came about, and what readers can learn from it.
You said you’ve always wanted to write a book. Why? And why did you and Nadji pick the subject that you did for this effort?
Brubaker: I enjoy sharing from my personal experience. Throughout my 30-year career at InfoCision (News - Alert), I have written articles and delivered presentations for industry conferences and publications around the world. InfoCision provides solutions for companies to communicate effectively with their customers, and we represent a virtual who’s who of national brand name organizations.
A few years back, I was invited to write a chapter titled Ethics and Professionalism in the book “Direct Marketing in Action: Cutting Edge Strategies for Finding and Keeping the Best Customers”. The book, published by Praeger, did quite well and was recognized as a finalist for The American Marketing Association’s prestigious Berry Book Award in 2008.
That opportunity gave me the desire to continue writing, but I decided to take the initiative seriously this past winter. Nadji Tehrani and I were visiting at TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) event in Miami and discussing some of the unpleasant customer experiences we have personally encountered. We realized that few companies were consistently delivering the complete package of Customer CareTM. The title for our book, “Taking Your Customer CareTM to the Next Level”, came from that discussion.
How and when did you and Nadji meet?
Brubaker: Mr. Tehrani and I met at TMC’s (News - Alert) first customer trade show, TBT 1986, in Atlanta. I had only been with InfoCision for one year, so the chance to see the incredible industry we are a part of was captivating. Nadji is a founding father of the industry, and I was eager to learn from him and gain industry insight that played a significant role in beginning my career. In the decades since, we’ve continued to work together, and as a result I’m happy to say we have become good friends.
What was your process for co-authoring this book?
Brubaker: It was interesting that once we decided to write a book the concepts just flowed. Let’s face it, we’ve been in the business a long time and have much insight to share! We collaborated together, compared notes and thoughts via regular phone calls, as well as personal meetings. We believe that defining a clear process for companies to follow in improving their Customer CareTM will deliver long-term positive impact.
What do you mean when you talk about taking customer service to the next level?
Brubaker: Companies will spend billions of dollars this year on customer relationship technologies and customer experience is a hot topic, yet there are very few organizations truly delivering what we define as next-level Customer CareTM. Businesses will reap significant financial benefit from dedicating more resources to retain the customers they already have, rather than focusing only on new customer acquisition. They can do that by going the extra mile to elevate the customer experience. Our new book, “Taking Your Customer CareTM to the Next Level”, explains how to effectively achieve success and improved ROI.
What do you see as the most common mistake companies make with customer service?
Brubaker: Many organizations become tripped up in various failure points including hiring and training the right people, and executing at the management level. The most common issue involves not taking the steps necessary to correct customer pain points. Customers have a wide- ranging voice in today’s market to potentially share damaging stories to thousands via social media.
What is the biggest challenge of delivering next-level customer service?
Brubaker: Once companies know what to do, the biggest challenge is executing consistently across the enterprise. When customers hear your organization brand name, you need them to associate it with excellence. In the book we outline a process to achieve the highest levels of service, which we call next-level Customer CareTM.
Several news stories were circulating awhile back that reported several of the companies with the worst customer service nonetheless were doing very well financially. So is delivering next-level customer service really all that important?
Brubaker: That is a great question and one that we address further in the book. The important point is to focus not just on financial success in the short term, but the long-term viability of a brand with a loyal customer following. A company may do well financially in the short term without excellent customer service; however, when you consider the impact loyal customers and repeat business have on corporate financial success, those who make the investment in next-level Customer CareTM will benefit from a greater ROI in the long term.
What was your worst customer experience? What was your best customer experience?
Brubaker: Everyone I speak with can share a long list of unpleasant customer experiences, while the list of incredible interactions is more limited. In the book, Nadji and I share our most compelling examples and hope our readers will find much value comparing their own experiences. We share these to develop a dialog across the industry to encourage a more customer-centric focus. Those companies that deliver on their promises to customers will win in an increasingly competitive environment.
What is InfoCision doing to take customer service to the next level?
Brubaker: At InfoCision, customer service is the highest priority and as such we maintain the highest in quality standards that require a rigorous process including employee selection, training, management, coaching, and development. We call our agents communicators and consider them our greatest asset and brand differentiator. As such, we ensure our team is expertly trained to communicate, particularly using their listening skills to pay close attention to specific details and engage positively with customers. The foundation of our success is continual process improvement. This means we are routinely monitoring customer feedback and implementing changes to incrementally improve Customer CareTM as brand ambassadors for our clients.
When and where can readers find your book?
Edited by Maurice Nagle