Sherron A. Stevens used his firsthand experience as a fast food worker to help improve customer service at the company where he worked. Now, Stevens, from Columbus, Ohio, has created Undercover Customer. Undercover Customer offers customer service consulting, on-site evaluation, and training to help companies improve the service they offer customers. And how did Stevens become an expert? He learned what customers want by being a front-line employee in the fast food industry.
He also published a book, Undercover Customer: 100 Ways to Fix Your Broken Customer Service,” a digital book featuring 100 customer service tips from the perspective of a sales associate. Stevens, a college student at the time of the launch, worked at Chick-fil-A and Donatos Pizza (a popular chain in Ohio). In his research, Stevens found that 68 percent of customers say they wont return to a place of business if they have experienced bad customer service; 7 in 10 Americans say they are willing to spend more money with companies that they believe provide excellent customer service; and it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative customer experience.
TNJ.com: I understand you came up with the idea for Undercover Customer while working as a fast food worker. What was it that really sparked the idea?
Sherron Stevens: I’ve been working as a frontline employee since the age of 16 and I’m 20 years old now. Being a frontline employee has helped me develop a bird’s eye view on why customer service fails today, what makes effective customer service training and how to engage millennials to make a difference in customer service. I’ve always felt as an “undercover customer” because everywhere I went as a customer, I was able to depict the good and bad. I wanted to start Undercover Customer as a result of my view.
TNJ.com: Why the name Undercover Customer?
S.S.: Undercover Customer gives a huge perspective on what my company offers which is a number of services to our clients. One of the services is an Undercover Customer report that we give to our clients. This report analyzes the moments of truth within the customer experience. It provides companies with a bird’s eye view on their frontline employees customer service capabilities, knowledge and how this affects the overall customer experience.
Another service is consulting. This is where we are different than any other customer service consulting firm. Typical consulting companies meet only with executive teams and then they co-create with executive teams for frontline employees, which is the big issue in corporate America. How can you create training for frontline employees without understanding their mindset? We use the Undercover Customer report as a tool to create engaging conversations with companies. This helps the clients to gain advantage on their frontline employees mindset.
We help create customer service training solutions for our clients’ frontline employees, while giving corporate a viewpoint they’ve never had. Another service we offer is speaking engagements. My company provides the opportunity to have a frontline employee speak about frontline experience, which in turn helps companies see the panoramic view of customer service in their organization.
During speaking engagements, we also answer a lot of the how-to questions in customer service training and development. Our last service is hands-on experiential training. This service allows us to work with our clients’ frontline employees directly, to help teach, coach and, ultimately, inspire them to deliver superior service.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for this year?
S.S.: Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to maximize my client list and make a bigger name for my brand. Currently, I use word of mouth marketing and networking as a way to attract clients. My 2016 goals are to build more of a brand for myself, gain new clients via Undercover Customer and really become a frontline employee advocate at a corporate level.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest challenge?
S.S.: My biggest challenge starting Undercover Customer is trying to create a brand for my company and attract new clients. I still face this problem to this day, considering I just launched my business in December of 2015.
TNJ.com: How did you fund your startup?
S.S.: I didn’t have a lot of expenses with starting my company. I had to purchase my website domain and a good friend of mine (my mentor) helped me build my website.
TNJ.com: How do you feel companies fail on customer service?
S.S.: What I think companies fail to understand about their customers is that their first customers are their employees themselves! Think about it…the definition of a customer is someone who buys or invests in something. So many companies focus on the customers outside the organization which is fantastic, however, if companies don’t show a caring attitude toward their “inner customers,” or their employees, how can they expect their employees to care for the customers? My philosophy is that customer service starts inside of an organization. If you treat employees like rock stars, they in turn will treat customers like rock stars.
TNJ.com: Tell me about the book.
S.S.: I honestly had no intention to write a book. I took a trip with my mentor and he asked me this: What are you talented at and how can you make a name for yourself using those talents?
I replied that I’ve been recognized on a consistent basis for my customer service skills and ability to deliver great service!
He then asked for proof, so I opened up my laptop and showed him all my compliments and recommendations that I’ve received from customers, managers and CEOs. He was surprised and then suggested I write a book. So I started writing and two weeks later, yes..two weeks, my book was finished! I knew this was my passion as I began developing and writing my tips in my book. My mentor just connected the dots for what my talents truly were.
TNJ.com: What are some of your long-term goals?
S.S.: My long-term goals are to build a huge brand based around Undercover Customer and create a more profitable business. I also plan to write more books on different business topics, using my frontline employee experience. Also, I want to be a keynote speaker to discuss topics revolving around entrepreneurship, business, first generation students and leadership. I want to really build a brand for Undercover Customer and build a brand “Sherron Stevens” to help inspire, engage and motivate people around the world in Business.