Jodi Harouche Of Multimedia Plus: 5 Things a Business Should Do to Create a Wow! Customer Experience
An Interview With Orlando Zayas
Treat people how they want to be treated. Train your leadership teams to emulate your brand values, pay attention to the store dynamics.
As a part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jodi Harouche.
Jodi helps drive MMP’s patented communications technology through creative programs that are fueled by purpose, engagement, and data, while mitigating challenges and uncovering opportunities. She measures success by long-term client relationships and has built a company that is known for its sense of community and support. Recognized as an industry thought leader, Jodi has been a guest speaker for both the NRF and Magic trade shows.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started working in retail at a local children’s clothing store when I was 15 years old. Reflecting on the four years I worked there, I learned what “customer centric” really meant. Think busy moms with two-three kids and back-to-school shopping on a Saturday! Later I worked for a trendy fashion brand as head of sales for their showrooms in New York and Los Angeles.
Later, two years after my husband, David, started his business, Multimedia Plus, I traded in my high-powered sales job at a fashion showroom for motherhood. But I missed working and realized that I could use my skills to help grow the business. I started toting our baby to the office to help out. Before long, I became fully ensconced in the business, using my sales expertise and my creativity to take the company’s services to the next level. Fast forward to a 20-year career at Multimedia Plus specializing in training and communication for major brands through our app-based platform, INCITE.
It has all been very exciting and interesting. At every stage of my career, I really tried to understand the customer experience from branding to interacting with the product.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At the children’s clothing store that I mentioned earlier, we had a HUGE wall of folded merchandise, every color, every size and it was ALWAYS a mess. I would cringe every time a customer would go near it knowing I worked so hard to fold it perfectly. I would literally run across the store and say to the customer “Let me get that” or “What size do you need” in an annoyed tone.
Now I chuckle when I think about it, but it’s important to remember that you should never vent your frustrations to the customer. They are looking for an enjoyable experience, even in a chaotic environment. You should want to make the experience as easy and effortless for the customer. Always be the professional.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful to so many people, that it would be hard to name just one. Two women gave me my first job in the garment district as an office manager / receptionist. It was quickly realized that I was not good at this job. Instead of firing me, they moved me into a sales role where I excelled. They cared about me as a young person just starting out. They knew I was a “good hire” in the wrong role. I continued working for them for the next three years and became a top producer.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Today’s customers want more than just a nice store, they want to shop in an environment with nice people, especially now. A smile and positive attitude resonate more with a customer than a bargain. We have all had times either in a store, online, or when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user.
If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
As a business leader it is important to remember your frontline employee are literally the key to unlock an exceptional customer experience. In addition to the instore experience, that personal interaction will continue to influence the customer perception.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
I don’t think it’s competition, I think it’s core values. Companies that treat employees with respect, offer them careers, and invest in their associates accordingly, have better customer service standards.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Anytime I go to a meeting, whether it’s a demo or a working session, I always bring “treats.” Sometimes it’s coffee or individually packages nuts but my personal favorite to bring are beautiful macarons. They are unexpected and delicious. It’s like when you go into a store, and they see your caring shopping bags and offer to hold them so you can shop more comfortably or offer a bottle of water. Sometimes the littlest things are a “WOW.”
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Yes, it did have long-term ripple effects. I don’t really have one story to share, but it’s the general excitement that people have knowing that Multimedia Plus has arrived for a meeting with creative ideas, a product that makes a difference to staff and the bottom-line, all with a thoughtful touch.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Treat people how they want to be treated. Train your leadership teams to emulate your brand values, pay attention to the store dynamics.
- Offer training that on-boards consistently and continuously helps the employee develop new skills.
- Ensure your sales team are experts on product(s) and “happenings”.
- Reward and recognize to enforce positive behaviors.
- Coach and mentor, remember they were hired for a reason. Find those qualities and help them shine through.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
The most basic things offer the most impactful. Smile and have positive open body language. Say “hello” or “welcome.” Be aware of the signals a customer is giving you. Are they in a hurry, on the phone, just browsing with a friend? Cater your approach to fit their needs, not yours.
My particular expertise is in retail, so I’d like to ask a question about that. Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Your strongest and weakest asset for both is your people! Empower them to be your greatest differentiator and your most powerful “weapon.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In a way it’s a movement that’s been started and is growing. Our son started a 501(c)(3) called JZips for children undergoing cancer treatment. JZips are functional zipper shirts that make accessing medical ports fast and easy. The shirts feature kid friendly designs and bring a small sense of fun and normalcy to the situation. We used our understanding and knowledge or retail and customer experience to support his work. There are some great brands that have taken note and have been supportive. We hope this idea also triggers more young people to follow their dreams and make a difference.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!