As a customer and business girl, I keep a running list of the things which get my goat; from poor user experiences, to policies which have no logic to support what they regulate.
Toasty the Goat, Vida and Patriot
If you’re not familiar with the idiom of “getting someone’s goat”, historically it’s been attributed to when a goat companion was taken from a racehorse’s stall on the evening before a race, leaving the horse so distressed, they lost the race.
Personally, when I see a business or brand “getting someone’s goat” or my own for that matter, I tend to leap into action rather than lose the race.
Perhaps it explains why I was drawn to a career as a customer and brand advocate. Twenty-three years ago, I was a young racehorse in a new corporate culture. My role was to lead the development and successful launch of VictoriasSecret.com (with a lot of other really smart people). I remember sitting at lunch with my boss Dan, an SVP and head of Strategic Planning, and our Chief Legal Counsel (who also happened to be a Rabbi), I was fired up about the project, protecting the brand and making sure whatever we did had the customer’s needs at the forefront – after all, it was in my dream job and came with a tremendous responsibility. Dan listened to my impassioned rant about something not being exactly right when he took the opportunity to share with our lunch companion that I was like a Prophet – advocating for the customer to have an ideal experience.
Having been raised culturally Catholic, the only concept I had for a Prophet was loosely connected to a prophecy, which didn’t make much sense. Clearly, I didn’t understand the lesson Dan was trying to impart, but I decided it was good that he valued my “fighting for the customer’s interests” and let the matter be.
When I sat down to think about starting What Gets Your Goat as a platform for /ASK, I thought of Dan and how he always supported me in fighting for the good of the customer and decided to fess-up to my naïveté regarding the use of the word Prophet some years back. Dan has always been a great teacher and storyteller, he responded immediately --
“I think I called you a Prophet and the context for that is the model of Jewish community leadership which consisted (back in the day) of the King, the Priests, and the Prophets. The King's domain was the civil society (i.e., setting laws, making civil judgements, setting taxes, raising an army for defense, etc...) The Priests' domain was the spiritual needs of the community: managing the Temple, ensuring proper celebration of the holy days and feast days, and attending to judgements of religious law.
The Prophet's domain? In short, it was to tell the King and the Priests that they could and should do better. That should tell you why there are relatively few of them relative to the number of Kings and Priests. Not a safe job, and only those who proved truly valuable and right survived to tell the tale. When I thought of your role at Limited and elsewhere, I thought of you as a Prophet of customer centricity. You spoke truth to power, took the risks, and occasionally paid the price for truth-telling. I still think of you that way. You are/were willing to pay the price for telling it like you saw it. And, most often, you saw it correctly even if many did not want to hear the truth.”
I am grateful Dan never tried to rein me in, and for his support to speak the customer’s experience with honesty and conviction, although I’m sure on more than one occasion he wished I would have taken a softer approach. Dan’s management style included fatherly advice, tinged with a hint of sarcasm especially when I’d show up in his office after having ruffled some feathers - “AMB you didn’t think you might have offended them when you told them?”
Perhaps if I’d fully understood the story of the Prophet, I might have backed off a little. However, the seasoning of twenty years has taught me to temper the bluntness of truth-telling a bit. I still have an innate desire to advocate on behalf of customers and it’s nearly impossible to not call things out when I see them so clearly.
I love asking customers what they think of a brand, what could be better and what the brand did well. I’ve found listening with the ability to translate needs and desires, has the potential to increase understanding, create moments of synchronicity and reduce the chasm between brands and their customers. Of course, with frequent moments of synchronicity, customer satisfaction goes up and we head in the direction of loyalty.
Dan was right, over the years, not everyone wanted to hear the truth, but I found those who had the ability to listen objectively to what the customer had to share grew and leaders seized opportunities which could ultimately be reflected in their bottom line, but there is still more work to be done.
My entire career has been in the digital space, from launching online banking (1996) to bras (1998) and two decades of selling fashion and shoes online, the consumer imperative has changed very little (meet my needs, provide good service, appreciate me), yet many brands and businesses struggle to deliver the experiences customers want.
What Gets Your Goat, will explore the customer experience, raw and unfiltered. In pursuit of an authentic understanding of how customers experience brands and services,
we will celebrate great experiences and question why customers still have unmet needs – especially in the digital space. After all, we’ve been trading online for more than twenty-five years. We should be pretty good at delivering customers the experiences they seek by now. Right?
To be continued …