Put yourself in the customer’s position and create an experience that matches what you would want to experience working with a company in your line of business.
This can be as simple as this example: one of my pet peeves is when I’m on the phone with a vendor or service provider and the person I’m speaking with complains that their computer is going too slowly and that’s delaying the conversation. So in my company, I’m willing to invest more to ensure our computers and internet speeds are always top notch, so that we never confront this issue when working with a client.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Deutschman.
Matt Deutschman is the owner of Doubletake Promotional Marketing, a company that specializes in custom branded promotional products for colleges and universities, advertising/marketing agencies, professional services firms and the finance industry. Matt founded Doubletake in 2010 and is fourth generation in his family in the promotional marketing industry, previously working for his dad in the family business. He also has a background in journalism, which provides the framework for his unique ability to ask insightful questions and tell his clients’ stories. Matt is married and has two children (4 and 2), and has recently published his first children’s book.
Matt is passionate about forging a work/life balance that allows him to spend as much time with his wife and kids as possible, while also building a great company with a tight-knit team and an elite level of service and professionalism. Doubletake has grown in sales every year since its inception, and Matt spends most of his afternoons running around with his kids, soaking up the joy of fatherhood. His interest in children’s book writing stems from his fond experiences reading to his kids.
The backbone of what makes Doubletake Promotional Marketing successful is their creativity and focus on marketing strategy in their work with clients, coupled with an industry-leading track record of reliable delivery and superb communication. Doubletake works with organizations to turn clients into referral sources, employees into brand advocates, and recruits into team members. With every project, Doubletake strives to “Make Them Look Twice.”
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?
Though I’m fourth generation in my family in the promotional products industry, I never in a million years thought I’d be in this line of work. I always wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember, and I studied journalism in college. Upon graduating with a degree in magazine journalism, I worked a few freelance writing jobs but soured on the journalism industry and was looking for something more full-time while I figured out my next step.
My dad had recently moved his factory, a promotional products business founded by my grandfather and great-grandfather in 1935, to a new location and needed some help in his office, so I joined him in the fall of 2008. I loved working alongside my dad and learned a lot about the industry, but I didn’t enjoy sitting behind a desk all day doing paperwork. One day I was looking out the window in my dad’s office at the strip mall next door and said to my dad, “I bet I can make at least one sale if I talked to the owners of each of those five stores.” My dad encouraged me to give sales a shot and hooked me up with a friend and customer of his who was a distributor in the promotional products industry.
I started working part-time as a sales rep driving around my hometown in New York knocking on doors of businesses trying to cold call and sell promotional products. I didn’t see much traction until I really put effort into developing my professional network and creating genuine relationships with other business owners. This helped me generate referrals and when this system showed promise I decided to start my own company in April 2010.
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?
Well, I think the entire period of time I spent cold calling in person was a funny mistake that I learned from, but one instance stands out to me in particular: my first actual sales call. I used to go to a local restaurant that would put out business cards of local businesses on display, and I’d grab one of each business card and cold call them all to try to sell them promotional products. One individual, the owner of a flooring company, actually expressed interest and we set up a meeting. He told me to stop by a restaurant where he was going to be having lunch one day to discuss his marketing. I packed up a bunch of product samples and met him at the restaurant.
I had never been in an actual sales meeting before and I was so nervous. I remember it was pouring outside and I didn’t want to get all my samples wet on my way into the restaurant, so I figured I’d leave them in the car and just have an organic conversation with him and see where it goes. Within the first two minutes of our conversation, he asked for some product ideas and to see some samples. I grabbed my umbrella, ran back out to my car and grabbed a couple of samples I thought would interest him and jogged back into the restaurant. He wasn’t interested, but asked if I had any other ideas. So I ran back out to my car and grabbed a few more things. By this point I was soaked, out of breath, and desperate for him to like something I was showing him. He wasn’t too intrigued, and I could detect his thinly veiled smirk at my performance and appearance.
I’ve come a long way from that experience, but the biggest lessons I learned are to always enter a meeting prepared and ready to show anything I might plan to introduce to a potential client, and more importantly, to be more of a leader in the conversation and ask good questions to deeply understand a client strategically rather than just showing products.
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?
Without him knowing it, Dan Mazzaro, owner of Aldan Press Printing & Graphics in Bardonia, NY, was a big mentor for me when I was first getting started in running my business. He and I have referred a lot of business to one another over the years due to the natural intersections of our industries so I’ve had a front-row seat to see how he treats his clients and his employees. I’ve always respected how he treats all his clients like family, and how his leadership translates to his employees also cultivating those close relationships with their customers. I remember once asking him for advice on a project for which I was choosing between two different greeting cards he was going to print for my client. One option was something he had in stock and would have been a lot easier and faster, and the other option would have had to be made custom at more expense and labor to him. Without hesitating, he just told me, “Do whatever is best for the customer.” His can-do attitude and customer-first mentality helped shape my customer service focus for my company.
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?
We can all say that we provide “excellent customer service.” But at the end of the day, good customer service is really just a minimum requirement to remain in business. It’s important to identify specific aspects of customer service that would be pain points for customers, and develop appropriate methods for ensuring the customer has an excellent experience.
For example, we are in a deadline-driven industry and we also find ourselves in a position where our reputation and our accountability to our clients is dependent on the performance of our suppliers. At Doubletake we have two specific philosophies on problem resolution as a result of those realities.
First, anyone can cause a problem; it’s how you solve it that’s important. This mentality keeps us solutions-focused, and also helps us urge our suppliers to remain solution-focused in how we communicate with them so that we’re all working together as a team to create the best outcome for our client. We’ve learned that successfully solving a problem for a client can actually create an even stronger relationship than if a project just went according to plan.
Second, we never communicate a problem to a client without first doing the work necessary to develop a solution. Now, this is not to say that we withhold bad news from a client. Quite the contrary, what this means is that we never want the customer to feel as though they’re just being told bad news; we want the customer experience to be such that even when problems do arise, they’re confident that we’re already working on the solution. If an easily resolved problem arises, we often will execute the solution without ever sharing with our client that there was a problem in the first place, even if it means additional cost and time spent by us. We never want to add unnecessary stress and anxiety to our client if it can be avoided.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, 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?
I believe it all starts from the most basic level of training. All employees, regardless of role within an organization, need to understand what service the company is providing, who the customer is, what their pain points are, how the company is providing a solution to those pain points, and most importantly, what the employee’s role is in enabling the company to achieve that mission. When the employee doesn’t understand how they fit into the puzzle, they have no buy-in, no ownership in the mission of providing a great experience for the customer, and thus no motivation.
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 do think that competition helps companies strive to improve in all areas, including customer experience. Other factors such as price-sensitivity can also help drive companies to improve in this area. If a company wants to have the luxury of not just trying to be the lowest price option, it had better provide value in other ways to justify the customer paying a premium.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We help a lot of clients with branded holiday gifts for their clients and staff. A couple of years ago one of our clients shared a thank you note they received from one of their clients to whom they had sent a gift, and their recipient said that in all their years in business receiving gifts from vendors and service providers, this was by far the best gift they’ve ever received.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Two more of this client’s gift recipients were so “Wowed” by the gift they received that they asked for our contact information so they could put together a similar client appreciation program for their clients! This has led to two additional clients for us, and in one of those instances the same scenario repeated itself, leading to another referral and new client for us!
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Put yourself in the customer’s position and create an experience that matches what you would want to experience working with a company in your line of business.
This can be as simple as this example: one of my pet peeves is when I’m on the phone with a vendor or service provider and the person I’m speaking with complains that their computer is going too slowly and that’s delaying the conversation. So in my company, I’m willing to invest more to ensure our computers and internet speeds are always top-notch, so that we never confront this issue when working with a client.
2) In training of all employees, include background on the client expectation and experience.
On the first day of onboarding at Doubletake, we don’t even discuss the tasks associated with the employee’s job description. First, I extensively show a team member samples of our work, thorough descriptions of our projects, our clients, and why they enjoy working with us in particular. Only then do I show the team member how their work fits into the overall picture of servicing these client needs. This helps every member of our team recognize how crucial even the most menial tasks are to the overall output our company creates, and ensures that there’s never any disconnect between the employee’s work every day, and the ultimate mission of the company.
3) Identify specific customer pain points and develop plans to provide stellar service in these instances.
It’s not enough to simply say, “We provide great customer service,” or “The customer is always right.” As I mentioned earlier, we are in a deadline-driven business and our ability to deliver for our clients depends on the performance of our supplier partners, so we have recognized some of the specific upshots of those factors and developed specific principles that dictate how we create a positive customer experience in the face of problems that may arise. If, for instance, you run an online retail business, it is important to develop specific ways to handle inventory shortages, shipping delays or website tech issues that may otherwise create lapses between customer experience and customer expectations.
4) Empower staff to solve problems and entrust them with leeway to make decisions for the betterment of the customer experience.
This again goes back to training and there obviously need to be limitations, but if a customer service rep, account manager, or whomever is in direct communication with the customer, is able to quickly and sufficiently resolve an issue for a customer it can give the customer a much more favorable experience of the company than a drawn-out process that adheres more to “policy” than the overarching principle of doing what is right.
5) Evaluate the customer experience: ask customers for feedback, and occasionally use a third party to obtain customer feedback.
We routinely ask our clients some informal questions to ensure they’re happy with our service and find out what, if anything, we can be doing better. I also periodically check in with clients who are working exclusively with another member of my team to ensure they’re having a good experience with that team member.
About five years ago we went through a rebrand process and one component was to have a third party branding consultant interview several of our clients to learn about what they look for in a vendor in our industry, why they chose us, why they enjoy working with us, and what we could do differently to improve their experience. The fact that these clients were speaking with a third party and not directly to us enabled them to be more honest and open, in my opinion, and the feedback we derived from this process was invaluable. I highly recommend it.
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?
Satisfied customers are always the best source of referrals to new opportunities. How to tap into this can vary depending on the relationship and the industry because some have restrictions on referral incentives, exclusivity, client information sharing, etc. But the best thing to remember is that the exact moment when you deliver the “Wow!” experience, is the exact moment when your “stock” is at an all-time high with the customer, so that is the best time to ask for a referral, introduce a referral incentive program, ask for a positive review, or otherwise mention ways the customer can help you grow your business. The tendency may be to wait until the dust settles from a project or reach back out a pre-determined time period post-sale, but don’t wait! Leverage the positivity you’ve built at the moment the customer is most willing and eager to help you since you just helped them.
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. :-)
Guided by my faith in God, I lead my business with the principle of integrity. Most simplistically, this means we aim to do what is right in all situations, to all those with whom we come in contact. While we always aim to DO what is right, this does NOT mean “the customer is always right.” There’s an important distinction. If the customer’s demand puts us in a position where I must ask something unreasonable of an employee or we must treat our supplier with disrespect, it is not the right thing to do. This guiding principle of trying to shine God’s light to my employees, our clients, our suppliers, and all those with whom we come in contact, is a movement that is not unique to me but one I am proud to be part of.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!