Sign up to our Newsletter

5 counter-intuitive customer service secrets

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
October 27, 2021
5 counter-intuitive customer service secrets

Jerry spoke at our Global Frontline Experience Summit 2022 in an insightful mini-talk session. Listen in above. If you missed the summit, don't worry! All of the powerful sessions are available right here.

Listen to podcast episode: 

Jerry Campbell’s frontline career credentials include both senior military and corporate positions; yet despite lived experience across those two very different environments, Jerry believes “The fundamentals of supporting a frontline team are always the same…” 

For 2 years, Jerry served as Customer Experience & Social Engagement Manager for 7-eleven stores across America. Today, he’s the Director of Consumer Service for the largest healthcare insurer in America, United Healthcare. 

Jerry shares how keeping the basics ‘healthy’ can restart your customer service heart…

Basic #1: Want to lead? Start by serving...

Ever heard the saying “We rise by lifting others?” Servant leadership is a management philosophy founded by Robert Greenleaf who teaches that a leader’s role is to serve. This is vastly different from traditional leadership where the main focus is the success of the company. A servant leader shares power; puts the needs of the employees first and develops their people for success.

Servant leadership is a philosophy Jerry believes in strongly. 

“It means understanding what employees need and want to achieve, and then giving them tools and resources to meet (their own) performance expectations,” he explains. 

Another pillar of the philosophy is sharing power. Jerry shares that when starting out in any new role, he would take frontline staff or team leaders into his exec level meetings. 

“It’s about sharing opportunities for creating and implementing new ideas across the business. This creates a culture where every voice is valued…”

Basic #2: Want great customer experience? Work on your employee experience

To Jerry, the most important thing a manager can focus on is their team.

“Imagine you’ve had a bad day. And now you have to get on the phone and talk to a customer – and they’re mad. You're not feeling good. How are you going to deliver in that kind of mindset? Now imagine your manager supports you and says ‘I understand, take a couple of minutes, get some coffee, just relax’...”

Making sure they have the answers they need by the end of each day is Jerry’s highest priority because at the end of the day, customer experience begins and ends with employee experience...

“I know there will be emails from business partners and clients, but I make sure that I answer any kind of questions from my frontline employees, my supervisors, or my leaders – every day, no matter what.”

Basic #3: Want to hold on tight to quality? You’ll need to know when to let go!

“When your new manager tells you that your team has a case backlog of four months – or over 40,000 cases – you might want to turn around and run…but there is another way. It’s a big call, and some people in the business might question your tactics, but sometimes you just gotta let it go!” explains Jerry. 

And that’s exactly what he did, announcing to his discouraged teams that “We're just going to forget those. We're going to refine our processes and we’re going to get the right technology in place. We’re not going to win any customer service points by bringing up old service complaints anyway!”

Today, the team responds to most cases in the moment, in real time, something that wouldn’t have happened if Jerry hadn’t cleared a four month backlog for a fresh start.

Basic #4: Want to build connections? Digital isn’t (always) the answer...

Jerry considers the most important attributes for frontline teams to be compassion, empathy and an ability to listen. “One of the industry’s biggest challenges is how technology is being incorporated into customer experience,” believes Jerry, cautioning that companies who rely on technology alone are doomed to fail. 

“We all love to throw technology out there as the answer. But at the end of the day, customer experience is about humanity. It's about communication and connecting. It doesn't matter how we connect – through an email or text, or on the phone – it’s about how you create real connection in the digital space and outside of it...”

One of Jerry’s favourite ‘connections’ was how 7-eleven supported babies born on July 11th; or even 11 minutes past 7. Every year, the company would send packages to random families of babies born on that day; as well as core supplies to hospitals to keep new mums and nurses going – like onesies, gifts and a coffee bar for the nurses. “On one occasion, the company even pledged a college fund for one of those babies!”

Basic #5: Want brand loyalty? Focus on quality, not quantity! 

To Jerry, building brand loyalty is simple: “You have to provide a service and meet the customer’s expectations.” 

The complication comes when you consider that not all customers have the same expectation. So how do you set a bar – and how do you raise it so high that customers would have a 7-eleven themed wedding, for example? (Hint: Be sure to tune in to the podcast to hear the full story.)

“It's got to be tailored to the individual. And that's what's hard about customer experience because everybody's expectations are different. You have to find the line between what’s acceptable and not acceptable, and then make sure the experience you provide is always above the ‘acceptable’ range.”

Jerry also shares the infamous ‘2 hour 35 minute’ call to Zappos story which exemplifies how using the right metrics can drive the right behaviours that build customer loyalty. In this case, tracking call quality, not quantity, but it’s a great reminder of how frontline experience can be hindered without the right focus…

“You need to cut through the red tape of financial gains metrics to prioritise customer experience. That builds loyalty and that's where you're going to build profitability.”

Let’s recap Jerry’s top five customer service basics:

  • Put your ego aside and practice ‘servant leadership’
  • Work on providing an awesome employee experience
  • Know when to start afresh with systems and processes
  • Make building lasting connections on and offline a top priority
  • Keep your focus on customers; not metrics  

Listen to podcast episode: 

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
Monthly Newsletters

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and don't miss out on new tools, content and other insights!