How to Build a Culture that Delivers Exceptional CX with Donna Cutting, Founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems

In a recent Frontline Magic Podcast, Frontline Evangelist Susanne Axelsson sits down with the highly knowledgeable Donna Cutting, Founder and CEO of Red Carpet Learning Systems. 

Donna has spent over two decades speaking, writing, and working with mission-driven leaders in a variety of fields to help them create cultures of happy, caring people who deliver red carpet customer service. Her Treat Customers Like STARS curriculum is being used throughout the United States and in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. She’s been recognized in the prestigious Global Gurus lists for both Customer Service and Organizational Culture, and has spoken to hundreds of audiences in 45 of the 50 United States. 

So, you’re in good hands. 

Susanne chats to Donna about how to build a culture where exceptional customer service thrives, the ultimate goal of any service business. 

Let’s dive into the good stuff. 

So, on a practical level, how do you actually build a culture of happy people who feel genuinely empowered to create happy customers? 

Donna says “All of these things work together. Culture, people, service…ultimately, everything boils down to people wanting to be seen and heard. Are we creating organizations where our employees feel seen and heard? And are we supporting them and providing the skills and training they need for them to make customers feel seen and heard?” 

Donna also reminds us that by doing this, we’re not just creating better workplaces, but we’re also creating a better world. 

If you ask me what my purpose is, it’s really about that. It’s about the way we treat each other, and how curious we are, and how empathetic we are, caring and respectful, it’s about creating better workplaces and in turn a better world.

Susanne goes on to ask Donna about her published books. The first two books Donna published were all about the customer, and the third narrows in on the employee. Susanne asks, why the new focus on employees? 

Donna points out that in retrospect, she really should have focussed on employees first…

Through her work, Donna would sit with employees from every level of an organization. She explains that “In these conversations, I was starting to see a pattern of frontline employees not feeling seen or heard. And I realized that in order for them to create that experience for customers, they have to feel that first. How do you get an hourly worker who’s never received a red carpet experience themselves to give it? We have to first create that experience for our employees before they can create it for our customers.”

So what does a red carpet experience actually look like for an employee? Donna breaks it down: 

  1. Inclusion, acknowledgment, and active listening for employees.
  2. Provide employees with a clear vision, not just the "what," but also the "why."
  3. Support and empower employees through skill development, coaching, and well-defined career paths.

When Susanane asks Donna what managers and organizations can do to retain their employees better, Donna says confidently: “Get to know them better. The workplace needs to move out of its head and into its heart – which goes back to people feeling seen and heard. If everyone in a management position got to know employees better, that would go so far in terms of retaining their employees.”

Where is the future of frontline work headed? Asks Susanne. 

Donna points out that although the technological revolution is in full swing, and will only continue to accelerate – human connection has never been more important. Leading through change, particularly emotional intelligence and empathy are the number one skills that a leader can have right now. 

When Susaane asks Donna for any shining examples of organizations doing this really well, Donna mentions a baseball team called the Savannah Bananas. Their whole focus is less about baseball and more about giving the fans an incredible experience. When Donna interviewed the team, she realized the incredible focus on the employee experience. She explains that the onboarding process, recognition programs and coaching was the true catalyst for world class fan experiences. The Savannah Bananas have a waiting list of 800 people wanting to work for them as a result! 

Susanne closes with a simple question; if a company wants to provide a better experience to their customers, what’s one thing they can start doing today that will make a difference? 

Donna’s answer is simple: Start listening. Both to your employees, and your customers. 

Listen to the full podcast episode here.

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