Maslow Who? And What In the World is a CE?
CE is an acronym for Client Experience, and at Wheelhouse DMG, we are lucky to have a team of hard-working CE managers who facilitate successful client relationships on a daily basis.
But wait, you say, that Client Experience (CE) role sounds an awful lot like a fancy term for Account Manager. And it’s true the CE’s listen to the client, liaise between internal departments, tackle any blockers, track and massage tasks and schedules, and then boom, do it all again. True, but here at Wheelhouse, it goes way beyond that. It’s about consistently showing up with thoughtfulness, authenticity and sincere care during every client interaction – whether it’s good, or not so good.
When our CEO, Aaron Burnett, founded Wheelhouse in 2010, he had a specific vision of service in mind. That vision was built on a set of values; generosity, helpfulness, trust, stewardship, joyfulness. Aaron’s goal was that each employee, each team, and the company overall, would rely on these values as touchstones and that by doing so, we could collectively create a company culture infused with helpfulness, kindness, generosity and grace. His vision was (and is) that Wheelhouse is a place that takes exceptional care of its clients and its employees – a company that behaves with exceptional hospitality.
It was a big vision, but one without a road map. How to go about achieving a culture of hospitality? It began with defining the values, flexing those generosity muscles with employees, clients and our communities, then defining the CE role and hiring a CE team to shepherd the strategy. But it isn’t a static goal, so it continues by constantly refining that CE role, and our expression of hospitality, to achieve the experience we’re trying to create.
Imagine walking into a new café to get your morning espresso. It’s only your second time there but, to your surprise, the barista greets you by name and asks if you’d like the same order as before! How would that make you feel?
Now, imagine that you’re talking with your friends. It’s Thursday evening and the week has been a tough one for you. You wistfully tell your friends that you wish you could go out Friday night, have a great dinner and relax, but your budget is too tight right now. Friday morning, you get an email from one of those friends asking you to dinner. It’s a backyard barbecue and all the food is arranged, but can you bring some watermelon? It’s an invitation to a fun and relaxing event where you are contributing, but it’s a nominal amount. Your friends not only heard your need for companionship, but they have created an occasion where you will be able to participate without a financial hardship. How would that make you feel?
What both of these situations have in common is that something important was noticed (a name, an espresso order, a deep desire to relax and enjoy a night out) and the person who noticed cared enough to act. The effect is that the person on the receiving end of this kindness feels noticed and cared for. This is what we strive for at Wheelhouse – this is the hospitality the CE team tries to deliver – that our teammates and our clients feel known and cared for.
It’s also important to note that, although the CE teams ultimate focus and responsibility is on nurturing these experiences, people are key to excellent hospitality – all people. Had the other barista in the back made a sarcastic remark or a different friend at the BBQ been rude, the emotional experience would likely have been soured. At Wheelhouse, we lead with a commitment to be generous and helpful in every situation – not because we expect or hope for something in return but because it’s just the right thing to do. While the CE team leads the charge, all Wheelhouse employees across all teams put this into practice on a daily basis.
When thinking about how to operationalize that experience across Wheelhouse, we considered the Hierarchy of Needs from renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow. This model conceptualizes human motivation and needs from the most basic (food, water, air) to the aspirational (achieving full human potential through self-actualization). It’s often represented as a pyramid in which the foundational needs must first be met for any of the more aspirational needs to be fulfilled. The hospitality industry has looked to this pyramid to design and optimize amazing guest experiences, and we thought to do the same as we considered how to best serve and care for our clients. From small adjustments in communication to grand gestures, there are a wide range of behaviors and practices we implement to create a superlative Client Experience.
In our next few blog posts, we will explore the different hierarchical levels that we build on to reach the ultimate experience, self-actualization (or as we refer to it, ‘client fulfillment’). Each blog will explore the goals behind each level, the best practices we’ve developed, and mini case studies that best explain our approach to our Client Experience…experience.