“My plan is to triple our complaints.”

At last year’s Yellowship, New York Times bestselling author Jay Baer told a story that I loved:

Erin was hired to improve the customer experience at her new employer’s bakery and cafe chain. She started by calling a meeting with the company’s senior management team. Erin told them, “My plan is to triple the number of complaints we get.” This was counterintuitive, but her logic was sound. Erin knew there were many areas where the company was not capturing its customers’ sentiments. She would focus on nudging customers to share their satisfaction—or lack of it—more often. She added these nudges all the way through the customer interaction chain. She put them on the website, social media, signage, receipts, email, and so on. They regularly featured this sentiment: “We want to be the greatest chain of bakeries and cafes in the world, but we need your help to get there. Please let us know exactly how your experience was today. We’re listening however you want to talk to us.”

This naturally resulted in more complaints being filed—three times as many! But it also gave the company a more accurate view of its current strengths and weaknesses. Erin blended this aggregated information with her judgment to make decisions about what to keep doing, what to stop doing, and what to start doing. From there, she measured the results. In no time, the slew of complaints began to go away.

Jay finished Erin’s story with this: “To get fewer complaints, we must first get more complaints.”

Erin looked at customer feedback as a potential gift—a way to shine a light on what she and her teammates might be missing. With this insight, she helped the company create better customer experiences.

Whether we represent a company, team, or ourselves, knowing where we are strong and where we are weak is a gift. As companies and teams, we can make more time to ask the hard questions—the ones that help us understand where we currently thrive and where we might have room to improve. As individuals, we can use our square squads to help us get there. The important thing is to get there.

When I reflect on lessons like this, I get excited for Yellowship 2019. I hope you can join us for it in October.


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