The following Q&A offers executive insights from Revel Systems Chief Customer Officer on operating a customer-centric business.
Leslie Leaf has won numerous business awards, broken glass ceilings, exceeded business goals, and proven herself over and over in her career. But her real talent is with people. As Revel’s Chief Customer Officer, Leslie has put in her 10,000 (and then some) hours in business management. She’s the global leader of Revel’s Customer Success organization.
Throughout her career, and especially in her time at Revel, Leslie has worked tirelessly to leverage customer-focused programs to increase business growth and revenue while reducing costs.
I had the chance to sit down with Leslie and hear her best advice for how customer focus can help a business go from good to great. Check out the valuable lessons she shared:
Q: How do you keep your customers at the center of your business model?
A: You have to ask yourself why you’re in the business that you’re in. No matter what your business is, no matter what you sell or what service you provide, it’s about helping the customers. For example, when it comes to making decisions here at Revel, I’m constantly asking myself if what we’re doing and the choices we’re making are the right things for our customers, first and foremost. It often requires us to go that extra mile. It’s not always about an efficiency model, but it is always about making sure you’re looking after the business and the customers.
Questions I ask myself often are “How will that impact our customers,” and “What is the outcome of this decision?” When making decisions, I look at the entire process, every angle, from end to end.
Q: What is the biggest indicator that a new customer will become a returning customer?
A: As far as tactical efforts go, I fully believe in surveys. It’s important to get feedback from customers in order to see what they’re feeling, thinking, and needing. I’m a big believer in asking questions, especially probing and open-ended ones. I train my Support team at Revel to ask questions in order to solve problems and provide solutions. I constantly encourage open and honest feedback because, as I always say, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s a problem. But if you’re going to ask the questions, you have to be open to the feedback you’re going to get. That requires that you check your ego at the door.
I also highly recommend and believe in using loyalty programs to find out who your loyal customers are and then rewarding them. It’s vital to reward and recognize your repeat customers in order to build a lasting relationship with them.
Q: How can a modern-day business achieve authenticity when there is so much competition and noise in the same space?
A: The phrase “fake it til you make it” is just partly true. It does take some time to get established and to figure out the details of running a business, but you need to have a driving passion behind it from the get-go. That means you have to stand behind what you’re selling. In order to stay genuine, you have to stick to your brand and focus on getting really, really good at one thing. You do that by finding your niche and then specializing in it. You also need to remain open to feedback and continually seek to find what your areas of improvement are so you can strive for progress every single day.
Q: What would your one piece of advice be for a business looking to build genuine customer growth (for both new and established businesses)?
A: My one piece of advice is to focus on going from good to great. Again, this means finding your niche, your bread and butter. Once you’ve determined your specialty, you have to work relentlessly to fine-tune it and to become the very best at it that you can be.
This is what will give you that brand recognition that’s so valuable to businesses. Ask yourself “What do you deliver and how do you become the best at it?” Master the fundamentals first before you try to get fancy or overly complicated. Go back to the basics. I believe in the K.I.S.S. principal—Keep It Simple, Stupid. One of Revel’s company pillars is “simplicity” because it truly is something to build your business on. Don’t boil the ocean. Too much diversity in your offering causes distraction. Find your niche, stick to the plan, and focus on that every single day.
Q: As a leader, how do you get your employees to also prioritize customer focus?
A: I’ve found that happy employees means happy customers. If you do what’s right for your employees, that will trickle down and end up being what’s right for your customers, too. They say the customer comes first, but I think there’s a step before that—your employees need to be a priority and then your customers will be taken care of as well.
It’s really important to make sure your employees understand your mission. This will help them find pride in the company they work for and stand behind its values and purpose. Again, it all comes back to being passionate about what you do. That kind of energy is contagious.
Also, just as it’s important to encourage feedback from customers, it’s important to encourage it from your employees. Don’t stifle people’s opinions. Your next great business idea might just be from one of your employees. But you’ll never find out if you don’t encourage people to share their ideas and thoughts in a productive and supportive way.
Q: What’s the most resonant lesson you’ve learned from your career in customer service, and ultimately, leadership?
A: Stick to your brand. You aren’t selling a product, you’re selling an experience. It’s all about how people feel about going to your business. For example, I love Auntie Anne’s pretzels. I travel a lot for work, and without fail, I always, always, always look for an Auntie Anne’s as soon as I get to the terminal. Are there other great pretzel places out there? Maybe. But I don’t know because I’m so loyal to Auntie Anne’s. And that loyalty stems from when I was growing up and going back to school shopping with my mom. It was a happy experience then and going to their stand is still a happy experience for me. And because they’re one of Revel’s top customers now, I have even more reason to indulge – icing on the pretzel.
Q: What are some interesting facts about you?
Connect with Leslie in person at Revelry 2019. Attendees won't want to miss her session on The Revel Customer Commitment!