A book review and author interview by Yvonne DiVita
No, not THAT Jonathan Tisch... although I wouldn't mind an interview with him. Anybody know him?
The Jonathan Tisch I'm writing about has a new book out called Chocolates on the Pillow Aren't Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience . When I was approached with a request to join a blogging book tour about this book, how could I resist? Before going into my short review of this book, I'd like to cite and compliment the other book tour bloggers:
Over at Customers Rock! the author shares some sites he believes embrace the idea of transparency:
Brand Experience Lab reminds us that we need to treat customers with respect, ala Jon's book.
The Engaging Brand Blog reminds us that customers are reinventing the customer experience. Podcast to follow, her blog says.
Grokdotcom has a podcast already. I'm so jealous! We attempted to get Jon for a podcast but his schedule and ours did not mesh. Perhaps next time.
You'll love Vacant Ready's post on this book. Jon has some interesting things to say there about social media. (what a really cool guy he is!)
Today is my turn. You can also click in to Experience the Message for his take on the interview, tour, and book. He's up on today's schedule, also.
Disclaimer: When I was contacted by my friends at Fleishman-Hillard to participate in this book tour, I couldn't resist, for two reasons. One - Rachelle has always been fair to me, and two - it's a book tour. I love books! Now that my turn is here, and I have had a chance to review those who blogged before me, and look at those who will blog after me, I'm truly thrilled to be in such good company.
Before doing this interview today, I did join in with some fellow bloggers pointing out the error of their ways to PR firms, agencies, and those that pitch the blogger community. In all honesty, Fleishman-Hillard was the main purpose of that rant - NOT for the things I do with them, and with Peter and Rachelle, but for a fairly stupid thing one of their junior (I think) employees did. I have heard from my contacts and both are apologetic. THEY get it. THEY never send me information that isn't relevant.
So, while I do believe the PR world needs help working with bloggers, even Fleishman-Hillar, apparently... I'm very happy with Rachelle and Peter. And, they have openly expressed their dismay at what occurred this week.
Well, now... I've taken a long time to get to Jonathan... but HERE he is. There is insight to be gained from this talk, and his other interviews. Gather them together and ask yourself, "How can I be as good as Jonathan Tisch - and offer my clients, customers, and vendors more than chocolates on their pillow?"
Yvonne: I love your title, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough, but the subtitle is less than inspirational, “Reinventing the customer experience.” Truth is, customers are reinventing that experience – and brands are welcome to come along for the ride, if they choose. You talked about a number of familiar brands – ones I’ve read about in other books, also. But, I’m interested in hearing stories of small companies that understand the customer-relationship. Do you have any favorites in that category, which you can share?
Jonathan: Restaurants that depend on the community for their business are certainly a perfect example of small businesses that succeed by superb customer service, as it is incumbent upon the restauranteur to understand who their guests are. Many people enjoy being regulars at a particular restaurant. These customers are a testament to restaurants that have successfully embraced the notion of customer service.
For example, the terminology “Power Breakfast” was birthed by my father, some 30 years ago, at the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. Many powerful individuals – business leaders, government leaders, philanthropists and others – come to the Regency on a daily basis to accomplish their business. Because we know how important the “Power Breakfast” really is, we go to great strides to make our guests feel especially comfortable so that they can accomplish their goals for that particular meal.
In terms of companies that are starting to expand, take a look at some of the online grocery providers, such as Fresh Direct here in New York. They have taken technology and customer service to the next level – with the click of a mouse you can do something as perfunctory as grocery shopping.
Additionally, a few of the big companies who have experienced brand extensions – Apple with its retail stores, for example – have redefined turning customer transactions into experiences.
Yvonne: In Chapter 7, you talk about “The Challenge of Transparency.” Your statement in this chapter, “Don’t launch a transparency program until you’re ready to live up to your customer promises,” is fantastic! We bloggers are all about transparency – so we often say. Yet, many of us hide who we are or invent personas to represent ourselves. Do you think that’s bad? How transparent should we be? (we bloggers and we ‘business’ leaders?)
Jonathan: In this post 9/11 world in which we live, safety, security and transparency have become paramount to the customer. They want to know that they are doing business with a company they can trust and with a company they can respect. The quid pro quo in these transactions is that the companies respect the customer, as well.
The notion of bloggers and the power that they hold in their words are one that will really have a material impact on business as we go forward. Questions of transparency – or the lack thereof – in the blogging community are important. At times things will be said, claims will be made, and examples will be given that are incorrect or untrue. If there’s no ability for recourse for the company or service that has been wronged, the resulting situation can be very detrimental and one that would be tough to correct.
The blogging community can, and does, have a very positive impact when the words are in fact truthful. Done in a fair and upfront manner, bloggers can absolutely add to the level of transparency online.
Yvonne: On to “The New Art of Customization,” Chapter 8… You say, “…consumers hunger for something different – for opportunities to enjoy experiences that are individualized and designed just for them.” That’s a big task to undertake, don’t you think? I help people market to women online – and one thing I tell them is, “Market to us as a group – we’re all connected in one way or another. But, approach us individually.” Are you and I talking about the same thing, here?
Jonathan: Yes. It comes from the results of the structure of our world – mass customization has become so important. Yes, it’s true that you can speak to a group and touch an individual. You have to break through the noise, clutter and frequency, and connect with the customer on an individual level to create a unique experience.
Yvonne: Your stories about the book tour for The Power of We are outstanding! As a publisher, I found myself nodding my head, even as I laughed out loud at what happened to you. That section of the book was especially entertaining…while also teaching me something. One thing I learned is that good storytelling is the cornerstone to good writing. Even business writing. I hope you’ll someday write a book of stories – about your world experiences. Will you?
Jonathan: One of the golden rules of the hotel industry is that we don’t talk. We have to protect the privacy of our guests and have to respect what goes on in hotels. That being said, there are many experiences I’ve had that are public and would be happy to relate – once I find the time to write another book!
The notion of storytelling is one that is important and also is relevant to ensuring that your customers really understand what your product or service is all about. By keeping a sense of humor, by leaning toward creativity and not taking yourself too seriously, the message can then be interpreted by your customers that you offer a product that they’re really going to appreciate.
Yvonne: Let’s talk technology. Can’t escape it so we might as well address it head-on. On p. 178, Chapter10, “High-Tech Goes High-Touch” you say, “The world hasn’t gotten any smaller or simpler. But electronic technology is creating the possibility of a new kind of intimacy.” And, further on, “In a remarkable way, then, a new generation of technology is beginning to reverse what used to be seen as the unavoidable effects of technology; impersonality, standardization, and alienation.” Wow! That is just so true! And, being true… can you give any insight into why more of your generation (and mine) don’t ‘get it’? Why are so many existing companies still resisting the value of social media, new technological advances – i.e. Second Life, and the ability to connect, in new and better ways, with their customers??
Jonathan: Clearly we are in the midst of a tech revolution as it relates to how we do business, purchase products and use services. However, I still go back to the old saying that as more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes, the ways to do business online and use of mass media continue to evolve, but the importance of customer service remains.
There is still a need for good service offered by individuals who care. You can look at the Web to understand the new generations’ requirements and demands, but you can never get away from the notion of turning customers into lifelong guests, which is paramount.
Yvonne: My last question references the new publishing model you wrote about, of which I’m a part. I run a print-on-demand publishing company. We do all the same things ‘real’ publishing companies do, and more. We help our authors succeed by teaching them to blog. In Chapter 12 of your book, “Your Best, and a Little Bit More,” your first Big Aha is, “Your most loyal customers are looking for new ways to connect with you.” That is in reference to books and publishing, but isn’t it true across the board?
Aren’t we ALL looking for new ways to connect? Ways to communicate, whether in a book, a blog, via email, by phone, or through the net? We still crave that connection to the human condition – and really do want more than chocolate on our pillows. We want a human voice at 12 midnight; we want the recognition that we matter; we want to know that someone is listening.
The difference between the 20th century us and the 21st century us is noted in another of the Aha’s in that chapter, “New forms of communication can be used to create deeper, more continuous streams of information between you and your customers.” In your opinion, what’s going to happen to leaders who don’t get it?
Jonathan: As our means and needs to communicate continue to evolve – and as they are impacted more and more by technology – I believe that it will always come back to how we treat people. It’s about hospitality. It’s about respect.
The basics of hospitality haven’t changed since the first person checked into a hotel 1,000 years ago. We still want to make sure the customer is comfortable, fully able to succeed in their goal, be it business or leisure, and get full value for the dollar. We must always treat people with respect. We must always listen to the customer. And while this is certainly true for those of us in the hospitality business, it is equally true for business leaders across the board.
Yvonne: I couldn't agree more with Jonathan's statement that the more things change, the more they remain the same. I say it all the time - that people are still people, and people are the ones you do business with. Read Jonathan's book and learn how other companies are doing this fantastic job of providing far more than chocolates on a pillow - and then, make sure you do the same.
I can guarantee that your lady customers demand it.