How humanity drives customer experience

This is a guest post from Jay Baer — social media and content strategist and author of “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype.” See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his Convince & Convert blog.

According to Nielsen, we trust friends and family members’ recommendations 92% of the time.

We trust advertising from companies 47% of the time. We fundamentally trust humans more than companies or institutions. This is why the smartest companies don’t act as such. Instead, they operate as real people, united by a common cause under the umbrella and auspices of the collective. When companies do this — when they let the humanity of their team members take center stage — the impact on customer experience can be extraordinary.

Sometimes this humanity is just a little thing, like an employee working off-script to make your day (see my story about Delta here). In other instances, seemingly the entire corporate culture is built around putting real people out front.

Humanity-infused customer experience is what Bellhops is all about, and my recent experience with them was so remarkable, I wrote a case study about it.

Bellhops: Inserting humanity into the moving process

Founded in 2012, Bellhops is a startup company that seeks to be the Uber of moving. They have built a large network of “bellhops” — young, cheerful, strong, and male college students who will help you move whatever and whenever. The Bellhops are very carefully screened for attitude and cultural fit (similar to Zappos or Southwest, according to Keith Peterson, a former Red Bull executive who now heads the Bellhops brand).

Unlike conventional movers, Bellhops doesn’t have trucks, they just have labor. If you get your own truck, they’ll load/unload it. Or, as in my case, if you just built a new home office and need to move dozens of boxes from basement to garage and vice-versa, they are the perfect solution.

Humanity and the 11-Step Bellhops Experience

Booking Bellhops is about as difficult as ordering a pizza. Their website (and newly launched mobile app) is clean, crisp, clear, and transparent. $40/hour per Bellhop, with help available in 130+ cities — just about everywhere there is a college or university to supply the labor force.

The process is simple, with no calls or negotiations needed. You just estimate how many guys you need, and for how long. You then pay a $20 deposit via credit card to hold your reservations, and that’s it. The entire process was two minutes.

But, it’s AFTER you make your reservation that the humanity magic begins.

1. Confirmation

First, you receive a very clear and detailed confirmation email, promising that your “move captain” will be in touch to answer questions.

2. Personalized explanation video

Then, hours later you receive a personalized video that explains how the entire process works, including payment (via stored credit card), tipping (same, like Uber), and other details. Remarkable! The video is long on humanity, with straightforward production and genuine (or so it would seem) desire to help. You’ll notice that they start introducing their signature green headband look here, too. Here’s my video:

3. Another personalized video with a more detailed explanation

To make SURE you know how this will unfold, and to ramp up the humanity even further, another video was sent out featuring a different Bellhop. Here’s that video:

4. A second confirmation email, the day before

As a reminder, another confirmation email arrives, 24 hours before the move.

5. A call from the move captain, one hour prior to the move

As promised in both emails and both videos, Joshua (the move captain) called me right on schedule to double-check the time and make sure everything was ready for them. The move captain also tells you who else is on his crew, what their majors are in college, and some other fun facts about them, to make sure you’re thinking of them as people.

When was the last time you knew some fun facts about a mover? (Most of the movers I have had in my life might reveal some facts that I didn’t want to know, actually.)

6. Arrived early

I have moved quite a bit and have had a lot of movers. NEVER have I had movers show up 30 minutes early. I’m not certain if that’s part of the “blow away customer expectations” plan at Bellhops or not, and I’m sure they can’t always do it if they have back-to-back jobs, but it made quite an impression.

7. Brought my wife chocolates!

And here’s where the human-side of customer experience gets kicked into high gear, and the Bellhops experience becomes truly remarkable (worthy of remark, as I emphasized in another blog post about content marketing killing our language).

The Bellhops brought my wife chocolates, for Valentine’s Day. I’m certain this doesn’t happen to everyone, and I’ve been talking to Keith so perhaps they wanted to do something extra special for me, but that was astounding.

Note that Bellhops also decided that they would move for free any couples in their service area that were moving in together on Valentine’s Day. Awesome gesture (and smart newsjack).

8. Finished early

Movers (even Bellhops) are paid by the hour. So you would think they would be taking their time. Not these guys. They hustled all the way and finished in half the time we estimated (savings that translated into a juicy tip, as it turns out).

9. Ask for user-generated content

This is so smart. Instead of just relying on customers to possible snap a photo or share their experience in social, the Bellhops ask the customer to take a picture with them when the job is complete.

10. Humanization After the Sale

A few minutes after the Bellhops departed, I received an email asking me to confirm start/end time. Once that was handled, I received a detailed satisfaction and rating survey that asked me to review each guy individually across multiple attributes like effort, punctuality, attitude, and so forth.

Positioning the reviews as of the PERSON rather than of the COMPANY continues the humanization theme. Even tips are handled that way, as you determine how much you want to tip each person, rather than the crew as a whole.

11. Turn Customers Into Advocates

After the review process, Bellhops encourages you to share about your experiences in social media (Facebook and Twitter for now, although I think Instagram would be a natural fit for them). And, customers receive a customized promo code that gives them a 5% commission on all future moves booked using that code (my code is baer1 if you’re interested!)

You can add humanity to your customer experience

It may be difficult to build your entire company around these principles, but you CAN insert humanity into your business. We’re starting to use more video email (we use BombBomb) when connecting with clients and prospects at Convince & Convert. We make sure our customers know more about our consultants, and are in touch with them more often. I’m starting to use more video to respond to tweets, too.

Think about it.

If Bellhops can take an industry live moving — which has been the exclusive territory of cigarette-wielding, late-stage Merle Haggard and/or late-stage Iggy Pop types — and turn it into an experience you actually WANT to have, you can certainly add some of this humanity to your customer experience.

About Jay Baer

Jay Baer helps businesspeople fundamentally rethink their approach to marketing, resulting in soaring attention, increased sales, and newfound customer loyalty and advocacy. He is a hype-free social media and content strategist and speaker, and author of "Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype." Jay is the founder of Convince & Convert and host of the Social Pros podcast.

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