Tips for Jewelry Customer Experience With Paul RutterLaryssa
In episode #207 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview with Paul Rutter, a celebrated customer experience expert who’s been recognized by USA Today, ABC, NBC, MarketWatch, and FOX.. Over the past three decades, Paul Rutter has managed and guided some of the largest and most luxurious cruise ships in the world, where living with his customers, clients, and coworkers is a way of life. Speaking frequently to leaders around the globe, Paul asks a singular question:
“Could YOU or YOUR company survive if you had to live and work with your customers, clients, and coworkers?”
His time on the high seas has taught him that through approaching customer service with the intent to exceed his customer’s expectations, rather than just meet them, creates higher levels of customer satisfaction, retention, loyalty, and repeat business. Perfect is the starting line, not the end goal.
He’s also the author of bestseller “You Can’t Make This Ship Up”, a hilarious look at the lessons he’s learned at sea and now applies to land-based businesses.
In this episode, we’ll be covering:
- Why should every single customer experience is critical for a business owner
- How the customer experience also positively impact team morale and help a business owner attract the best employees
- Where to start if you want to begin improving your customer experience
- …and more!
Check out the episode files as well as the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 0:08
Welcome to the Joy Joya Podcast, where “jewelry is joy” and everyone is encouraged to add more polish and sparkle to the world. With topics ranging from marketing tips to business development, best practices, and beyond, this is the go-to podcast for ambitious jewelry industry dreamers like you.
Hi, I’m your host, Laryssa Wirstiuk. Through this Podcast, I aim to empower and inspire jewelry entrepreneurs and professionals so they can thrive while adding more beauty to the world. I’m passionate about digital marketing for jewelry brands, and I’m excited to share my passion with you. As we all know, “jewelry is joy”, so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it.
This is episode 207. Today I’ll be sharing an interview with a customer experience expert, speaker, and best-selling author who’s been recognized by USA Today, ABC, NBC, MarketWatch, Fox, and more. My guest’s philosophy is that “good is no longer good enough for businesses to succeed” and that you can’t just compete on price alone; customer service is the marketing of the future. I’ll share more about my guest in just a little bit. But here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing:
- Why should every single customer experience be critical for a business owner?
- How does the customer experience also positively impact team morale and help a business owner attract the best employees?
- Where to start if you want to begin improving your customer experience.
- … And much more on top of that!
But before we get to the solid gold of this episode, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that this podcast has both an audio and video component, so you can either listen on your favorite podcast platform or watch on YouTube by searching “Joy Joya”. I love creating this content as my active service to you, my awesome listeners and viewers. And you can support the podcast for free by taking the time not only to subscribe but also to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, which helps other jewelry dreamers find it too.
I want to read my favorite review of the week. This was actually not a podcast review, but it was feedback that I got from a listener in an Instagram DM. This person said: “Thank you for the podcast, Laryssa. I always learn SO SO much and feel supported and encouraged.” Thank you, I really appreciate that! If you leave a review or even DM me on Instagram, I might read it in a future episode. So please let me know what you think about this episode, or about any other major takeaways you’ve had recently.
In this segment of the podcast, I give out my Sparkle Award for the week. During this segment, I highlight a jewelry brand that’s impressing me with its marketing. The Sparkle Award is also interactive, so you can visit SparkleAward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
This week’s Sparkle Award goes to the winner of the 2022 Halstead Grant, as well as the finalists and semi-finalists. So congrats to Octave Jewelry, which received a $7,500 cash grant, $1,000 in jewelry supplies, a trip to Prescott, Arizona, features in Halstead print publications, a detailed feedback report… and a trophy! Congrats to this brand. This is a really amazing accomplishment, and I’ve really loved following the lead-up to this announcement.
I took a peek at Octave Jewelry’s website, and I was really impressed by the intentional way that the brand describes itself. I got the sense that each piece is made carefully and lovingly by the designer. When it comes to the products, I also really enjoy seeing all the interesting combinations of materials that are being used.
Also, congrats to the finalists: Caitlin Albritton Jewelry, Stellar Metal Jewelry, and Phantasm Jewelry. And [congratulations] to all the semi-finalists. I’m going to try to read through them quickly: Katelyn Elyse Jewelry, Jennifer Metesh Studios, Earthbound Silver, 9th Generation, Benjamin Ripley Jewelry, and Mae & Lang Jewels. I wonder if any of those are listeners of the Podcast. Hello out there, if you have been acknowledged by this award, and congratulations. What a great opportunity as well as excellent exposure for creative jewelry entrepreneurs.
As I mentioned, you can visit SparkleAward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
Let’s discuss some recent news related to jewelry or marketing. Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles, and you can get the links by checking out the show notes. The first article comes from mytotalretail.com and it’s called “New Email and SMS Marketing Report Showcases Their Value to Brands”. So there’s an email marketing platform out there called Omnisend. You may even be a user of it. They’ve recently released a new report all about email and SMS. It analyzes more than 8 billion e-commerce—hold on; 8 billion; that is so much!—marketing emails and 43 million SMS messages just from the first half of 2022. So we have a decent sample size there. They pulled out some really great insights and tips for brands like yours that hopefully utilize email marketing and maybe even SMS marketing.
It’s no surprise to me, but I just wanted to confirm for you that email is still super powerful, and the data shows that. For consumers who clicked on a scheduled email campaign, 6.7% of them went on to make a purchase. Here is the part that’s even more powerful: When it comes to automated emails like a welcome email, an abandoned cart email, or a post-purchase email, the percentage of consumers clicking who go on to make a purchase soars from 6.7% to 35%. Through the first half of 2022, automated emails generated 29.1% of all email marketing orders.
Oh my goodness, that is crazy! I mean, I already knew that automated emails are extremely powerful. But to see that communicated in actual numbers based on this very large amount of email marketing sends is mind-blowing to me. The thing that’s even more mind-blowing is that automated emails only account for 1.75% of all email sends. It’s such a small percentage of emails being sent, but they are truly responsible for a large bulk of the sales conversions resulting from email. So three automated messages generate 88% of email orders, and they are: in order, cart abandonment emails, welcome series, and browse abandonment messages.
If you don’t have a welcome email, or a welcome series in place for your email marketing—and you’re listening or watching right now—and you don’t immediately put one in place, then I just don’t know what to tell you, because these numbers do not lie. This study also shows that more brands are embracing SMS marketing. That refers to text message marketing. So, through the first half of 2022, brands sent 36% more SMS than during the same period in 2021. Just like with email marketing, those automated SMS messages—the welcome SMS, the cart abandonment, the browse abandonment—performed better, conversion-wise, than promotional ones.
My main takeaway from this, plain and simple, as I said before: you need to have email automation in place; otherwise, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to get your subscribers closer to purchase. Even if you don’t have a full-blown SMS strategy in place, I would suggest starting to focus on collecting mobile numbers with email addresses so that you can slowly begin implementing this added level of messaging with your customers.
The second article comes from retaildive.com and it’s called “Marketers ramp up promotions to curb expected holiday lows, survey says”. So last week on the podcast, if you listen to that episode, I discussed what’s up with marketing for the holiday season, including the trends in holiday marketing. And I recently saw this other take from Retail Dive. So, marketers from all industries have been increasing their promotional activity this year. Nearly 32% of them say they need to spend more time engaging with customers. They’re nervous because of consistent inflation. They fear that consumers won’t be spending on holiday gifts this year. So they’re really compensating with those additional efforts and their marketing. [The article says], “Marketers are pessimistic about the potential for profits during the holidays, with 53% reporting that they will see less profit than the 2021 season.”
What do they anticipate will be the most effective when it comes to their email tactics? Well, sorry, I’m being a broken record, but email and SMS will garner the most sales. It checks out with the first article I shared today. Some ways that marketers are tackling this anxiety that they’re having about the holidays [is by] encouraging customers to shop earlier, which I mentioned in that episode about holiday marketing trends. I’ll link that in the show notes too. They’re also really emphasizing their holiday shipping deadlines to make sure that customers have a reason to order early and that they’re not potentially missing out on the opportunity to get a gift because they are delayed in their shopping. They’re also increasing their promotional activity, as I mentioned, especially with email and SMS. Finally, they are investing in paid search marketing, which may or may not be right for your brand. But that’s what other people are doing out there in the world.
My main takeaway is that I’m a broken record. Just kidding. I cannot emphasize any more, the importance of email marketing and the role it plays in ensuring that customers see your messaging and promotions not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.
The last article comes from Social Media Today, and it’s called “Pinterest Provides New Insights for Marketers”. Does Pinterest play a role in your social media strategy? Do you want it to play a role in your social media marketing strategy? Then, you should definitely know about this new update to the Pinterest Trends tool, which can help you and your marketing team gain insights into the latest trends on the platform. It can present you with opportunities and guidance around the types of content that you really should be creating.
First, Pinterest has added some new trend shortcuts to the main page, which will make it easier to find key information on the latest trends happening in the app. If you’re an advertiser on Pinterest, then you’ll be able to see things like trends your audience loves, trends by demographics, and seasonal trends.
My main takeaway about this: This sounds awesome! Not only could the Trends insights help you make better use of the platform and be a better advertiser, but it could also help you potentially find key insights about your target customer, which you could apply in all your marketing. I love that! For more information about any of these articles, check out the links provided in the show notes.
As I mentioned earlier, my guest today is a celebrated customer experience expert. Over the past three decades, Paul Rutter has managed and guided some of the largest and most luxurious cruise ships in the world, where living with his customers, clients, and coworkers is just a way of life. Speaking frequently to leaders around the globe, Paul asks a singular question: “Could YOU or YOUR company survive if you had to live and work with your customers, clients, and coworkers?”
His time on the high seas has taught him that approaching customer service with the intent to exceed his customers’ expectations rather than just meeting them creates higher levels of customer satisfaction, retention, loyalty, and repeat business. Perfect is the starting line and not the end goal. Paul’s also the author of the best-seller, You Can’t Make This Ship Up, a hilarious look at the lessons he’s learned at sea that now apply to land-based businesses just like yours. Without further delay, let’s get to my interview with Paul.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:10
Thanks, Paul, so much for coming on the podcast. I’m so excited because of your very interesting background and experience. I think you’re just the perfect guest to serve my audience.
Paul Rutter 15:21
Well, thank you for the invitation, Laryssa. I really appreciate it.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:25
Please tell our listeners and viewers: How have you been able to really hone in on your expertise in customer experience and customer service over the 40-plus years that you’ve spent in the hospitality, travel, and cruise industries?
Paul Rutter 15:42
Well, you just said it right there: hospitality, travel, and cruise industries. The cruise industry is very unique in the fact that we’re one of the very few industries anywhere in the world where we actually live with our customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a very unique dynamic. We have to have policies, procedures, and, really, principles in place to deal with this. Because if there’s a problem—and let’s be honest, every business, no matter what the business is, experiences problems—[it’s about] how you handle those problems, how quickly you solve those problems. If you make sure those problems don’t happen in the future, then your customers will remain loyal to you. That’s really the end goal.
Paul Rutter 16:26
By living with our customers, we understand how important it is to take care of things the first time and not let little small inconveniences become big things—[such as] if customers feel they’re [being] ignored, or they’re not being paid attention to, or if they’re not being listened to. We know that in our industry, if we don’t get it right, they’re going to be at the front desk in 20 minutes saying, “Hey, you told me you’d take care of this!” So, we know that they’re just around the corner. Our customers are anywhere. They’re in the restaurants that we visit. They might be in the lounge that we go [to]. They’re in the theater where I introduce the shows every night, so they know me as the cruise and entertainment director on board. I’m the liaison between the company and our customers. We have to make sure everything is right in that respect.
Paul Rutter 17:17
If you add to that dynamic, we also live with our coworkers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So if you can imagine the people you work with at an office—at the end of the day [here], you all don’t go to your homes across town. You might be a roommate of the person that you just worked with. They live with you because most of the crew members are two to a cabin, like a college dorm really. But they have their own bathroom, a small refrigerator, and a TV. It’s not the biggest space in the world; we are on a cruise ship and space is very important. So, you add those two dynamics together: Living with your customers and living with your coworkers.
Paul Rutter 18:00
That’s the first question I always ask a land-based business: Could you or your company survive if you had to live with your customers, your clients, and your coworkers? When I ask that question, eyes tend to light up, and they go: “Oh, wow, I never thought of it that way. That’s a very unique dynamic.”
Paul Rutter 18:22
Now, I’m sure some of your listeners have taken a cruise. Can I ask, have you taken a cruise before?
Laryssa Wirstiuk 18:29
I have taken a cruise before. Yes.
Paul Rutter 18:32
Okay, so you understand what I’m talking about, how crew members live on board. You see your waiter at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You see your stateroom attendant throughout the entire day and throughout the entire cruise. You understand the importance of those relationships that you need to build.
Paul Rutter 18:52
We have found out that it’s the little things that people remember. We have one saying on board our ship, and it should be the saying that all of your listeners have in business, and that is: “We want to create an exceptional experience that exceeds expectations before the cruise is over. That way, we know our guests will book their next cruise before this current cruise is over.” That’s our goal, and that should be the goal of every land-based business; to know that you’ve created such a wonderful experience that there is no way that they’re going to somebody else if they’re less expensive or if they’re closer. You have built such trust and a relationship with your customers that they’re not going anywhere.
Paul Rutter 19:41
Studies have shown that people will pay more if they know they’re going to get an exceptional experience. That’s what you need to do: Create an exceptional experience that exceeds expectations.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 19:53
You made so many good points there. I just want to unpack a lot of them. But before I get to that, I think that—
Paul Rutter 19:59
I tend to talk too much. Sorry.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:04
Not at all. There are so many gems of wisdom in there. I think that you probably get asked this a lot. But I’m curious, and I’m sure the listeners and viewers are curious [as well]. What’s one of the craziest stories that you’ve had as a cruise director on a ship? And that’s the more voyeuristic part. But the more important part is, what did you and your team actually do to address a really extreme issue with a customer?
Paul Rutter 20:35
There are a number of examples I can give you. But let me take a very simple one. Sometimes, we have guests who come on board our ship who are already very angry. It could be that they flew from LA to Miami to get on a cruise and the airline lost their luggage; we don’t know where it is. They’re now going to take a seven-day cruise with no luggage. They’re not happy. But we’ve inherited that problem; we have to deal with it. The airline isn’t going to deal with it. So what can we do to make that a win-win or the best possible situation under the circumstances? We just can’t ignore it. We can’t throw up our hands and say: “Sorry, nothing we can do, your luggage isn’t here. What do you want us to do?”
Paul Rutter 21:27
We’ve done things because we know this happens periodically. We have toiletries and spare clothes, and we’ve gone out and gotten fresh underwear and socks. There are ladies who have donated dresses that we keep. If there’s a formal night coming up or a dressy night, we have tuxedos on board. We work with the airlines so that we’re tracking their luggage for them because we’re in the middle of the ocean and communications aren’t what they are on land. We might send them to one of our specialty restaurants just to take their minds off the fact that they don’t have luggage.
Paul Rutter 22:08
It could be that their luggage shows up at the first port of call, and it’s only been a couple of days without luggage, and things are okay. Sometimes it’s the whole cruise without luggage. Sometimes there’s medication in there that they haven’t kept with them, or their cameras, or things they need or want for the week, obviously. So we need to let them know that we take this seriously and that we’re on top of it. We give them regular updates; we are communicating with them.
Paul Rutter 22:40
I can’t tell you and your listeners, your viewers, how important effective communication is so that they know—even if it’s every hour, you give them an update—that you’re working on it and that we’re doing our part to try and make this as good of a situation as possible. Now I should tell you, we’ve had extremes on board. We’ve had passengers come on board who’ve lost their luggage. They could care less. [They say]: “Who cares! Where’s the bar? Let me have a good time, I’m here to have a great time.” [Yet], there are people on the other end of the extreme. They come on board with lost luggage and [say]: “It’s the worst thing in the world; this cruise is ruined.” They’re not going to have a good time. So we have to deal with all those sets of expectations sometimes.
Paul Rutter 23:27
I will say to your listeners and viewers that attitude is so important when you deal with these things. You need to assess from your customer what sort of attitude they have, which should reflect on your manner as well. But we’ve had things [like] lost luggage where it’s a problem that we didn’t cause in the first place, but we have to deal with it because we’re at the end of the line for them. So that’s one example of the things that we have to deal with.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 24:00
Yes, I could see a similar situation happening in the jewelry industry as well. I mean, there are a lot of consumers. Just like with cruise ships [and] going on a cruise, buying a piece of fine jewelry isn’t an everyday thing. Maybe it’s once a year, maybe it’s once every few years. So it’s a really special experience, something you look forward to. And it’s very likely in jewelry that maybe you had a bad experience in the past or a mistrustful interaction with another jeweler, and the person is coming to that new experience with all of this baggage. So instead of the business being judgmental about that or coming to their own conclusions, [it’s about] what you said, treating every situation individually and listening and trying to really understand before making judgments about that customer’s experience.
Paul Rutter 24:52
Again, compassion and empathy are so important. And just sticking with your example, of course, we sell jewelry on board our ships in the gift shop. In the Caribbean, of course, [it’s] very well known for great jewelry buys there as well. Sometimes things go wrong. So, will the cruise line stand behind what they sell you on board? Will they also stand behind the jewelry stores that are on these islands that we know? The cruise line knows and the jewelry store knows that you’re not coming back next week if there’s a problem. It’s not like you can just get in your car and come here next week. They have to have policies, procedures, and principles in place to make sure that they keep this customer happy because it’s the customer who’s going to go on social media and say: “Oh, this place in St. Thomas… ” or “This ship took care of everything; they were great, no problems”; and, “I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them in the future.” But, they’ll also go on if there’s a problem, as your listeners and viewers know. They will say all the bad things that happened if the problem is not rectified in a timely manner.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 26:03
Definitely. So, I believe I saw—I think it was on your website and I’m totally going to butcher it—your philosophy around customer experience is something like “more than perfect” or something along those lines. Can you refresh my memory, Paul?
Paul Rutter 26:18
Your memory is excellent. There you go. I have what’s called a “more than perfect model.” If we have time, I’ll tell you a short story about where it all comes from, because people always ask me about the crazy stories that happen on board. And there are some crazy stories that have happened on board.
Paul Rutter 26:38
But this happened a long time ago. We were sailing out of Rome out of Civitavecchia, which is the port city of Rome. We were doing 10-day cruises to the Mediterranean. We had an overnight in Egypt. This was before the uprising—2010 maybe [or] 2011. When you go to Egypt, of course, you go to the pyramids. Well, we have tours from the ship where a thousand of our guests go on board buses and go to the pyramids. There are a lot of people going to the pyramids at one time because there are thousands of people on our ship, and then there might be another ship in. So on one trip, there was a customer that came up to me, a guest on board, who said that she had booked a trip to the pyramids online with a private tour guide. She’s going by herself. Did I know this company? The answer was no, I didn’t. But I said: “When you come back to the ship, let me know how it goes. I’m interested. I have family coming.” So I saw her a few days later. She raved about the guide; she raved about the trip. It was actually less expensive than what we were selling on board our ship, and it was very private. There weren’t thousands of people there at the same time.
Paul Rutter 27:55
So I wrote to this tour guide—she had his card—and I said: “I’m Paul. I’m the cruise director on board the ship. My family’s coming in a few months. We’d like to book you on a private tour.” [They replied], “Oh, yes, Mr. Paul, of course, we’re going to do this.” And they gave what I consider to be a perfect tour. We went to the pyramids when nobody was there. We went to restaurants. We had dinner on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the pyramids with a light show. He took us to stores that only he knew about. It was just a perfect tour.
Paul Rutter 28:29
Just so you know, the port city is Alexandria. Of course, Cairo is where the pyramids are. It’s a three-hour bus ride, so it’s a long day. It’s three hours there, all day in Egypt, in Cairo at the pyramids, and then three hours back. Because it’s an overnight there, people get back at 3:00–4:00 in the morning sometimes. So it was a perfect tour. We left at midnight. We came back at 3:00 in the morning.
Paul Rutter 28:56
About six months later, I had more family and friends that were sailing with me. Of course, they wanted to go to the pyramids. I contacted—his name was Yasser—the guide to set up the tour. I did not go this time because I had just gone, so I set it up with Yasser. I said: “Yasser, whatever you do, just give them the same tour. It was perfect.” He said: “No, no, Mr. Paul. This tour will be more than perfect! More than perfect!” I went, “Yes, okay, whatever. Just make sure they get the same thing I got because I’ve been telling them all about this wonderful tour.”
Paul Rutter 29:30
As it turned out, when they came back the next day, they were raving. They were crazy. They did the exact same things that we did. But, at midnight, when they were about to come back to the ship, Yasser had a surprise for them. He said, “I’ve arranged for a one-hour cruise down the Nile River on this boat that I’ve chartered. Are you interested in going down the Nile River at midnight for an hour?” Of course, they said, “Yes, we want to go; we’re here in Egypt!” So, they actually did something more than we did. And he kept his promise. It was more than perfect, because I thought we had the perfect tour. He went above and beyond; he did something a little bit extra that wasn’t expected to make it more than perfect.
Paul Rutter 30:16
So that’s where this whole customer service model began, where you start with perfect as the starting line and then go from there. Being perfect isn’t the finish line; it should be the starting line for how you treat your customers because you cannot compete on price alone anymore. The pandemic has told us [in essence]: a lower price is always a click away. So you have to compete on service and experience because that’s what people remember. I always say in the cruise industry: “We’re not in the cruise industry, we’re not in the travel industry, we’re in the industry of creating memories,” because that’s what people remember. That’s what they will buy on next. They buy on emotion. So, if it’s a great experience, they’ll remember that emotion and will buy from you again.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:07
Oh, wow! First of all, I love where you got the name for the model. And that tour sounds so amazing! I want to go on this more-than-perfect tour. Also, you said, “We’re not in the cruise industry… we’re in the industry of making memories.” I think the jewelry industry is right there with the cruise industry. It’s less about the product sometimes and more about the emotion and the sentimentality behind the product for sure.
Paul Rutter 31:35
People remember when they get that specific piece of jewelry. Was it for an anniversary or a birthday? They remember, “Oh, we went to this restaurant.” Those are the memories that you’re creating. It all plays a big part in wanting to do business again with that same producer.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:54
What are some of the positive results you’ve seen from land-based businesses that have started to put greater emphasis on customer experience and maybe even adopted this more-than-perfect model? Do you have any specific examples you can share?
Paul Rutter 32:12
Well, one thing. I think it’s maybe a silly example, but for me, I’ve noticed that if I go into a store—we have Publix grocery stores. I’m not sure what you have out there, but our big grocery stores are Publix. So if you go into Publix and say, “Oh, can you tell me where the mustard is?” They’re not going to say “aisle nine.” They’re going to say, “Come on, let me show you.” They actually take you there themselves to show you where the mustard is. The first time that ever happened to me, I went: “Oh, wow, that’s great service. Okay.” Now it seems to be happening more and more and more people are getting into this customer service model, and they know how important service is. But it’s the little things that people remember.
Paul Rutter 33:02
For instance, we try to have our waiters remember people’s names or our stateroom attendants. People like to hear the sound of their names. So if you have a regular customer, if the customer knows that you know their name and that they’re establishing a relationship with you, that’s extremely important. So, as an example, if a guest goes into our dining room and orders iced tea for dinner, every night there will be a glass of iced tea waiting for them. They don’t have to order it a second time, a third time, or a fourth time. The waiter should remember that that guest likes iced tea and [should make sure] that they see that there’s a glass of iced tea waiting for them. It’s something so small, but that’s what creates the memories that you remember the next time.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 33:51
That’s a great point. And I really liked what you said about the name. I recently was in a jewelry store getting some jewelry repaired, and it was my first time there. They didn’t know me; I didn’t know them. But I was writing out the ticket for the repair so I can pick it up, and the man there looked at my name, and he said, “Okay, Laryssa, we’ll have your jewelry ready for you tomorrow.” And I don’t know, I really felt something like trust. I’m like: “Okay, I’m in good hands. This will be fine.” Because I get nervous about trying new businesses sometimes. For some reason, it really reassured me that I was going to be taken care of.
Paul Rutter 34:29
There you go. That’s all it took was him saying your name.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 34:32
So, you mentioned at the beginning, not just to have this customer experience model actually for your customers, but to think about it also in terms of your team members and internally. So, what does that have to do with your employees, perhaps?
Paul Rutter 34:50
I’m very big on what I call “empowering your employees”—not having people on the frontline come get your permission for everything. It’s that employees want to be part of the solution; they don’t want to be part of the problem. They want to know that they’re being listened to because it’s your frontline employees, the people who deal with your customers every day, who probably know more about your customers than you might as an owner if you’re in the back or if you’re not there all the time. I’m really big on empowering your employees and listening to their ideas.
Paul Rutter 35:29
I think Gallup does a poll every year—don’t quote me on this—70% of employees don’t look forward to going to work every day. You want to make your place of business someplace where your employees do look forward to going to work every day. They want to be part of the solution. Empower your employees.
Paul Rutter 35:51
To give you an example: Many years ago, if somebody had a problem on a cruise ship, let’s say with a shore excursion, they took a tour ashore, and if they didn’t like it for whatever reason, our front desk was instructed to give them the business card of the people ashore. “Oh, we’re so sorry you didn’t have a good tour. Please call this number when you get home and they’ll help you.”
Paul Rutter 36:18
Well, first of all, the people are upset; they had a bad tour. Now they’re going to remain upset for the rest of the cruise because we didn’t take care of their problem right away. We gave them a number to call, and we put the onus on them to do the work. We don’t want our customers [to be] upset for the rest of the cruise. Then they’re going to go home, they’re going to call the number, and the people in the office will listen to them. Then, the people in the office will come back to us and say, “Okay, what happened? We need details.” We then have to go through it all—time—going back and forth. In the end, what happens? The office refunds some of their money. We could have done that right there when they were standing in front of us.
Paul Rutter 37:00
Maybe we [should] give them 25% back or 50% back because maybe one part of the tour they didn’t like, but they did everything else that we explained in the tour. So we would say okay, 50% return and we [would] send them chocolate-covered strawberries to their room that night or a bottle of wine or something that doesn’t cost us very much money. Now they’re over the moon. Now they go home and tell their friends, “Well, yes, we had a problem, but they took care of it right away.” That saves us time and money, and again, it makes more for a loyal customer.
Paul Rutter 37:37
I would encourage all of your listeners and viewers to empower your employees up to a certain amount. Let’s say your frontline employees, you give them up to $100. Anything under $100, they can fix it right away. If it’s $100 to $500, yes, you need permission from a supervisor. Okay, get that permission and get back right away. Anything over $500, yes, you go to the Vice President or whoever is next in line. You have that in place so that your employees don’t feel, “Oh, sorry, this cost $10, but I have to go get permission from my supervisor.” Empower your employees; make them feel part of the solution. Have meetings, have masterminds, and sit down and listen to them on what their best solutions are. Have a best practices book so that other people can learn from other people’s mistakes, problems, or circumstances, and just take it from there.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 38:30
Those are all really great ideas. I love them. So the jewelry business owner wants to kind of start auditing their customer experience and look for ways or opportunities that they can improve it. Where would you suggest that they begin with that process?
Paul Rutter 38:47
I love talking about feedback because it’s very crucial in the cruise industry. I don’t know if you remember from your cruise, but at the end of every cruise we hand out surveys to people. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, we’d hand out paper surveys in their staterooms on the last day, and they would fill out the survey. How was the food? How was the service? Were people friendly? We would get feedback every week. Now we email out the surveys. We’re with the times. Everybody gets an email with a link to the survey, and they have a week to fill it out. So feedback is very important to us. When your customers give you feedback, you really need to look at it as a gift, because people usually don’t take the time to tell you when something is wrong. They will usually just walk out the door and go to your competition if they’re not happy about something. So if they do take the time to give you feedback, then you really need to listen.
Paul Rutter 39:44
Now, feedback can be one-off or whatever, because we get feedback after every cruise. Let’s say Susie gets a rudeness comment: “Oh, I went to bingo and Susie was rude to me.” I will talk to Susie about it and see what happened. It could be just one customer or one guest [who] misunderstood something, and we forget about it. But if Susie gets rudeness comments every single week for a month, then I know that I have a situation that I need to take care of. That’s where feedback is really important—if you get the same type of feedback week after week after week.
Paul Rutter 40:21
So your listeners may be [wondering], “Okay, how do I get feedback?” Well, the easy answer is to ask them; ask them how their experience was. Either you can do it in person, or you can send them a follow-up email. There are many companies out there that offer these surveys: Survey Monkey, Medallia—many of these types of businesses will send these emails to your customers. The best kind of feedback you can get is if you send a handwritten note. I’m a big believer in handwritten notes. The reason why I’m a believer in it is because nobody does it anymore. It’s so nice to get an actual letter in the mail from somebody that you know that somebody took three, four, or five minutes to say: “Thank you for coming into our store. Please let us know if there is anything we could do to make your experience more enjoyable.” You sign it and you send it. People will keep that.
Paul Rutter 41:19
I have one friend who is a musician. He dealt with a music company online. The owner would put a little small pack of jelly beans in whatever he bought from them. If it was guitar strings or whatever, he’d put a little pack of jellybeans in to say: “Oh, thank you. We really appreciate you doing business with us.” Just little thank yous like that. So people will take the time to answer surveys.
Paul Rutter 41:47
As part of the more-than-perfect survey model that we talked about earlier, the very last goal is to have your customers as your raving brand ambassadors. You want your customers to do all your marketing for you and all your sales. It’s free, and people listen to their families, their friends, and their neighbors.
Paul Rutter 42:05
There’s this website [called] Nextdoor. Are you familiar with the Nextdoor website? It’s communities of neighbors that [share recommendations]. [For example]: “Oh, I need an electrician”; “Oh, I just use Bob, he’s great!”; “I need a roofer”; “I need” whatever. People trust recommendations from their families, their friends, and their neighbors. So the goal is to have your customers and your employees be your raving brand ambassadors.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 42:32
Yes, that’s a great point. I think to add to the survey tip as well [would be] to also check if you have a Yelp profile, a Google business profile, or other places where customers can leave public reviews. Make sure you’re regularly looking there to reply to reviews that people leave—whether they’re good or bad—because I noticed a lot of businesses kind of neglect those pages. Then if I personally, as a consumer, see a bad review that’s kind of sitting there and no one seemed to respond to it, that’s a huge red flag to me that that business doesn’t really care.
Paul Rutter 43:11
I absolutely agree with you 100%. I do the same thing. If I see that [and then I say]: “Oh, we’re sorry, you didn’t have a good experience. Call me at this number” or “DM me personally,” [or write to me at this] email address. Then yes, it absolutely is good. It looks like they’re trying to create that relationship. It’s all about creating relationships.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 43:31
Absolutely. So, Paul, I want to hear a little bit about your book. Can you tell our listeners and viewers, if they were to check out your book, what would they find there? How could they benefit from reading it?
Paul Rutter 43:43
Well, thank you so much for bringing it up. I actually have two books. The first one came out about four years ago. It’s called Repeat Business, Inc: The Business of Staying in Business. It’s very easy; 50 tips and strategies any business can do today to keep their customers coming back tomorrow. Each chapter is two or three pages. It’s 50 different tips about why customer service is so important, what your customers are looking for, what your employees are looking for, and what you, as an owner or business executive, need to do. So that was about four years ago. Then the one that I just published is called You Can’t Make This Ship Up. It’s [about] crazy stories that happen on board and what land-based businesses can learn from them. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever fine books are sold.
Paul Rutter 44:37
People have always said, “You must have crazy stories on board.” The truth is, yes, we do. Every crew member always says: “One of these days I’m going to write a book. One of these days.” Well, unfortunately, with the pandemic, we had two years off. No cruise ships were sailing, so we had time to do it. So that’s what I did over the pandemic, [which] was to put these crazy stories together of weddings that go wrong… I can tell you all about our clothing-optional cruise where I had a ship full of naked people on board. I mean, what you can learn, people can learn about… Luckily, I was not naked. I got to keep my clothes on. But these are the types of people on cruises that we deal with: charter cruises, music cruises, sports cruises, and alternate lifestyle cruises. [It’s about] crazy things that happen and what land-based businesses can learn from them. We have a section at the end of each chapter called “Ship to Shore” and what they can take away from what we dealt with on board.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 45:40
I love that. So what else should our listeners and viewers know about you and what you’re doing? What else do you have on the horizon?
Paul Rutter 45:48
I’ve been in the cruise industry—sorry to say this—[since] before you were born. For over 40 years I’ve been in the cruise industry. Before The Love Boat was even on TV I was working on boarding my cruise ship back in the 70s.
Paul Rutter 46:07
I’ll give you one quick story. The only reason I got this job and why I was in the cruise industry is because I took my dog for a walk. I was in Connecticut. Winter was setting in and I took my dog for a walk. I ran into the principal of the high school I went to which was right across the street. The principal knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who was looking for somebody to work on a cruise ship. They had just put a few slot machines on board and needed somebody to be a cashier. If I hadn’t taken my dog for a walk on that particular day at that particular time, I wouldn’t have run into the high school principal. I mean, it’s just crazy things like that. I’m a big believer in fate.
Paul Rutter 46:49
I’m coming to the end of my cruise ship tenure, but I’m [still] a big cruise enthusiast. I have all sorts of things. I do some professional speaking. I work with land-based businesses on how they can improve the experience. Because as we talked about this entire time, it’s all about creating experiences, and that’s what we do on board.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:12
I love that. It sounds like you were truly called to the industry and to speak on customer experience, and it seems like you’re so passionate about the topic. So I love that you’re sharing that gift with others.
Paul Rutter 47:23
Thank you. I’m very grateful. I’ve been extremely lucky to get paid to travel all over the world.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:30
Thanks for coming on the podcast, Paul. I really appreciate your time and wisdom, and I know my listeners and viewers will love it as well!
Paul Rutter 47:38
Thanks! If anybody wants to reach out, I’m at PaulRutterSpeaks.com. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, whatever. So I hope they’ll check it out.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:55
What did you think of my interview with Paul? To learn more about him, visit PaulRutterSpeaks.com. You can also always email me, Laryssa, [at] email@example.com. If you loved this podcast, please share it with a friend who’d appreciate it. And don’t forget to subscribe as well as leave a review on Apple Podcasts. To purchase a signed copy of my book, Jewelry Marketing Joy, visit JoyJoya.com/book for more information.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 48:26
Thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information about working with Joy Joya, visit JoyJoya.com, where you can sign up to download our free eBooks about various topics in jewelry marketing.