Punching Your Customer’s Loyalty Ticket

The Survival Guide to Customer Experience

I wanted to reach out and share a Project I was fortunate to be part of. It is a new eBook from Sprinklr called, “The Survival Guide to Customer Experience.”


I am joined by 19 other thought leaders including Jay Baer, Frank Eliason, Annette Franz, Stan Phelps, Richard Shapiro, John Goodman, Steve Curtin, Roy Atkinson and Jeanne Bliss.
Here’s a synopsis of the eBook:
It doesn’t matter what your ads say. In today’s world, the only thing that customers care about is the EXPERIENCE. Customers want a consistent brand experience each time they interact with your brand – and they want this across all channels. But how exactly do you pull this off? Through successful CXM (Customer Experience Management).What’s CXM? CXM is the process of providing unforgettable experiences to your customers at every touchpoint – online, on the phone, on social, and in person.The reasons to invest in CXM are clear:

  • Customers are twice as likely to share a negative experience with a business than a positive one.
  • 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Interested in learning how to create a sustainable CXM initiative?

Download your complimentary copy of the ebook here.

quote-barry-daltonMy chapter in the eBook is called, “Bigger Isn’t Always Better in the Customer Business.” I hope you enjoy it.

Time Has Come for Real Integrated Customer Experience

When are we going to see true convergence of on line, digital customer experience with traditional brick and mortar in-store experience? This is such a big opportunity to create a unified, converged customer experience. Yet, it seems like digital assets are creating even more silo’d experiences for customers. Am I off base?


Ten Customer Experience Prediction Posts from 2013

UnknownYes, I know.  This is the time of year…or it was actually last month…for the flood of articles and posts predicting what will happen in the upcoming year.  In every field and endeavor, prognosticators are dusting off their crystal snowballs to give us their perspective on what we should expect in the twelve months ahead.

But I’m not much of a bold, big splash predictor kind of guy.  At the same time, I’m not one who spends a lot of time looking back or dwelling in the past, good or bad.  My approach is more observational.  I take in what I see.  And I set my agenda for what I need to do to stay on the crest of the wave; to continue to create value for those around me.

To know where you’re going, though, it is vital to understand where you’ve been.  If the path you’ve set for you or your business is in dramatic contrast to where you’ve just come from, then how you will get there will be radically different than if that path is just a straight line continuation of your current trajectory.

So, in that light, its always interesting to see how close or distant future projections came to the reality, now that that reality is in the books.  This isn’t to suggest who is any better or worse at reading the tea leaves.  But as interesting reading, here is a list in no particular order of ten of those prediction posts about customer experience and customer service from 2013.

My observation about 2013 predictions, as with most such articles, is that they were all directionally fairly accurate.  And, none of what I’ve read from late 2012/early 2013 is nearly complete.  Its all still an evolving work in process.  And at the same time, these predictions are all general and painted with a broad enough brush as to not provide any secret recipe to follow to the letter.  The hard work still remains in taking such information in as guideposts and implementing what creates value for your specific customer.

So how’d they do?

5 Reasons Why WestJet Trumps Mortons

Maybe you remember.  Or, more likely you don’t.  Unless you happen to be waist-deep in the customer experience profession and follow the variety of hashtags on the topic on twitter.  Or, you might have come across the story on Flipboard or other such aggregator app.  In any case, I’m referring to what was at the time being promoted as The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told.  The tale of how a high profile customer experience consultant and author tweeted to Morton’s Steakhouse to bring him a steak at an airport.  And…they did.

And it was a really cool story, no doubt.  But, the opinion I held two years ago, that this was not even close to the greatest customer service experience, is still my opinion today.  A great PR stunt?  Absolutely.  But, there are a multitude of reasons why it was in no way an example by which other brands could or should model their customer experience design.  Why?  Hold that thought.

Flash forward two years to last week.  Along came Westjet, a Canadian airline, to trump Morton’s and Mr Shankman in spades.  Westjet pulled off a Christmas surprise for passengers on one of its flights that was off the charts.  So, while I don’t necessarily believe Westjet earned the title of Greatest Customer Service Story either, here’s five reasons why it is so much more worthy of praise and a special place in the Customer Service Hall of Fame.

5.  Westjet’s gift was unsolicited:  Unlike the Morton’s story, nobody on that Westjet flight made any request remotely resembling what they received from the airline.  Surprise, or as my friend Stan Phelps has spent years documenting Lagniappe, has such a profound and long-lasting impact on the recipients that the financial return is equally profound.  Also, because Westjet’s gesture was unprovoked, there was almost zero downside.  If they did nothing, no foul.  If Morton’s didn’t respond, who knows what fall out could have transpired from the wrath of a disrespected social media star.

4. Westjet wasn’t catering to a famous, influential personality:  I have no idea who made up the manifest of that Westjet flight.  But, since I haven’t seen any blog posts or tweets from any social media customer service rock stars that they were a party to it, its safe to assume that the hundred and change passengers were just regular joes trying to get from point A to point B.  As for downside, see #5 above.

3.  Westjet directly touched about a hundred or so more lives than Morton’s:  While we can argue the merits of catering to digital influencers and the positive network ripple effect that can have for a brand. there is no denying that, online or off, there is a multiplier effect at play here.  Word of mouth is undeniable.  And in a time when consumers are as cynical as ever, word of mouth from your neighbor or co-worker still carries more weight than from the dude with the Klout score of 80.  Who is going to realize a greater return on its investment?

2.  Westjet’s “stunt” required significantly greater investment in time, money and resources:  None of this post is meant in anyway as a slight against Morton’s.  I happen to be a fan.  And, what they did for Mr Shankman was awesome.  However, it was largely conceived and executed by a very savvy group of local employees at one restaurant in New Jersey.  Westjet’s gift required far-reaching resources, investment in technology (the bar code scan match of the passenger manifest was at the core of the plan), and planning and commitment from so many more people within the organization, including I assume from some very senior executives that had to put their necks on the line to pull this off.

1.  And none of what I’ve described in 5 through 2 above would be possible without a pre-existing, broad culture and commitment to delighting customers, regardless of who those customers are.  As I said in #2, while both stories are more PR stunts than anything, the breadth and reach of resources required to pull off Westjet’s stunt demonstrates the core, baseline culture required for any organization to sustain customer centricity over the long haul.


This Customer Experience Auto Be Better

UnknownOk, I couldn’t resist the pithy title to this post.  So after you’re done gagging, please read on.  Because I need some help on this one.

The last time I wrote a post on the topic of the car buying experience, was four years ago.  Probably because that was the last time I was put through this particular gauntlet.  Now, that I’ve recently had to have the bamboo jammed under my fingernails again, I was curious to see what had changed, if anything.

The article that sparked that last post told tales of customers falling victim to a multitude of car dealer scams.  Reflecting back on that last purchase I made, I wasn’t exposed to deception at that cunning a level.  However, there was the fair share of negotiation shenanigans that I had to endure. Such as the sales guy wearing a path in the carpet back and forth to the business manager’s (a.k.a. The Wizard of Oz) office with different prices.  At one point, he wrote a number on a scrap piece of paper  and told me I had to sign it in order for the business manager to know that was the number I wished to present to the man behind the curtain.  Of course, I signed nothing.  But, the the process just had a general overtone of friction and contention.  I never got the feeling that anyone was looking to make the experience enjoyable or easy.  It was like trudging through wet sand with the sharks just off the coast waiting for a wave to come and trip me up and pull me out to where they could strike.  I was on my guard. But, I never slipped.

Flash forward to last week.  I had what I thought was a simple transaction.  I was converting a lease of a car I currently had in my possession into a purchase.  Buying out the lease.  No inventory to move.  No price to negotiate as the buyout price or residual value as it’s called, was already set three years ago when I first leased the car.  In most states, this transaction is completed directly with the leasing company, over the phone and via mail.  But not in my state.  Here, this transaction has to be handled through a dealer.  But it was still simple.  Write a check.  Transfer the title.  And, be done with it.  Ah, but little did I know, there was still a few flaming spears to be hurled my way.

They weren’t big spears.  Maybe darts is a more accurate description.  Like running 100 feet past pugli stick-weilding drill sergeants.  Not painful.  But, I was going to get batted around a bit before I was allowed to emerge.  Again, the visit with the business manager.  The good thing is, I actually got to go behind the curtain and see the face this time.  The pitch for the extended warranty, the clear coat, the window etching, the leather conditioner, all the add-ons that generate profit margins that would pique the interest of the SEC if this were a hedge fund.

So, I share this to find out if I’m still the only one.  With all the information that car buyers are able to arm themselves with now, will the white flag every be waved by the industry?  Will the experience ever become “one click”?  I can buy a television that costs as much as a Bugatti (actually, no I can’t. Because I can afford it.) .  Do it on line at 2am.  And have it shipped directly to my door.  So, what still makes car buying such a battle of wits?

If you’ve had a really good, I mean truly enjoyable, car buying experience, can you share your story?  I figure I must be missing something that others know.

Affordable Care Needs To Be Accountable Care


Another installment in the examination of healthcare through the customer experience lens from Amber Thompson and John McCabe.

Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become a reality to employers, consumers, and insurers, many are still wondering “what is the real impact to me?”  The good news is now all Americans (employed or not, sick or well) qualify for an affordable health plan as Insurers can no longer deny medical coverage based on health status.  In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau published an article informing us that 49.8 million Americans were without health insurance. While this is an important step in achieving equality across all citizens, unilaterally providing comprehensive coverage will also help battle chronic plagues and cost drains on the system- namely using the emergency department as primary care and over-utilization of resources (diagnostics and tests, repeat admissions, frequent ER flyers).  As a result of changes forced by reform, our patient population can now be viewed more holistically. While Physicians are still focused on providing the best care possible, it is important to remember that services can now be provided to a much larger audience. With millions of consumers now eligible for insurance coverage, healthcare and ancillary service providers are faced with a new challenge- sheer volume. To avoid the old model of providing care based solely on utilization and not on quality, we need to use this opportunity to reinvent how patients are treated by the system.

One way to accomplish this goal is to provide services based on preference and convenience. If we take a page from the education industry, transformation and innovation can be driven by consumer preference, where it seems unlikely on the surface. Academic institutions have been listening to consumers.  And as a result, we now have many virtual learning options.  Many find that the virtual classroom provides easy and convenient access to higher education while providing students the same services as the traditional classroom setting.  But most importantly, the education industry created alternative options based on what consumers wanted.  And in turn, increased the amount of adult learners by 30% over the last five years.  According to a study “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011”, more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during the Fall of 2010.

Healthcare continues to transform delivery models.  But it’s important to remember that the patient is the most important factor in meaningful care delivery. When we provide the patient and their families’ convenient options, the ability to access Healthcare Providers in real-time to help navigate comprehensive care maps, the integrated care team model becomes much more attainable.  The Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) concept definitely works in bringing many providers to the patient.  But we have to make sure these options are as convenient for patients and their extended support system as they are for the Healthcare Providers.

Now that we have the ability to treat more people due to ACA, let’s make sure we take full advantage of the opportunity to drive long-term change that benefits everyone- better utilized resources (equitable consumption), reduce waste due to unnecessary tests and procedures (lower cost), and healthcare as an attractive and financially attainable career choice (create access). It’s certainly going to be a long and winding road, but it’s also an exciting time to be a part of this industry.

Brushing Up On Customer Experience

imgresSince the last post went up here exploring some of the opportunities healthcare providers have to think more about the customer experience, I’ve had my eyes wide open for some examples of healthcare practitioners that get it.  And, presto!  I found one!

I took my kids to the dentist last week.  This was the first time I had been available to take them on their semi-annual visit.  And there I found a customer experience wonderland.  This dentist, who’s practice is dedicated to kids, has created an environment where no detail has been overlooked.  And every little detail is designed towards a very targeted customer base.

It’s clear that this healthcare professional started with a deep understanding of who she intended to serve.  And, as any parent could attest, this shouldn’t have been a terribly hard process.  There are a few foundational things about kids we all know to be true.  One.  Not too many kids have life-size Fatheads of their dentists on their bedroom walls.  So, getting a young one to the dentist’s office, and then once there, having them not run out the door as soon as they sit down in the chair, requires some creativity. Two.  Nobody, young or old, likes to wait in a doctor’s waiting room.  Nor, do any of us like to sit in that chair any longer than we have to.  And, what ever can be done to distract us from what’s happening in that chair is a blessing.

This dentist understands she exists because of her patients.  She is here to serve her patients.  And her patients’ parents have choices.  I’m also guessing that she didn’t figure all this out, and design such an amazing office experience on her own.  This business clearly has the finger prints of a collaboration with other really smart folks.  But, the dentist, the HCP, had the vision and recognition that, in the end, healthcare delivery is about as personal and emotional a business as there is.

If a store that sells stuffed animals has been able to reinvent retail by taking the time and effort to design a warm emotional and personalized experience, while outperforming its rivals financially, don’t you think we should expect at least that from those with whom we trust our lives?

Why Isn’t Healthcare Concerned With Convenience?

I’m thrilled to launch a new collaboration with two outstanding colleagues Amber Thompson and John McCabe.  Healthcare as an industry is in the midst of a massive upheaval.  Amber and John have graciously agreed to bring their unique perspective on the convergence of healthcare and the customer experience here in their corner called “Two Minute Musings”.  I’m looking forward to these posts generating some great discussion from great minds on the subject.  So, to kick things off, here is Amber and John’s inaugural contribution.

When we think about how goods and services are developed, used, and sold in today’s world, it seems the healthcare industry is lagging behind in terms of delivering a happy customer experience. Think about it: we have open-source ecommerce available in every sector except healthcare- but healthcare constitutes almost 18% of our GDP annually.

Let’s look at the standard office visit today- we make the appointment based on the physician’s’ schedule, wait an average of 45 minutes in the waiting room for 15 minutes of fame, pay & check out, go to the pharmacy and wait for medications (and pay again). Remember this experience is compounded by the fact that you already feel awful and probably had to miss work for this appointment. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way because the healthcare system has the ability to treat us like consumers. Retailers understand the fundamental producer-consumer relationship: if consumers want to buy a product or service, producers will make sure we can do so with as little barriers as possible.

Now think about the average customer experience- when we want to “windowshop” on amazon, zappo’s, ebay, we can do so from anywhere at any time. Retailers don’t force us out of our way, but rather make sure we are able to spend money everywhere, all the time. Thanks to technology and forward-thinking retailers, we can attain instant gratification during lunch, on a train, or even during a chemotherapy session.

Granted- retail exchanges and complex healthcare interactions are not the same thing. However, we can look at portions of each experience in an “apples to apples” manner. Understanding how healthcare insurance and co-pays currently work is key to breaking the dependency on face to face physician-patient engagement.  Today doctors are compensated based on the patient’s type of insurance, census volumes, and based on the overall health of the aggregated patient population in a specific region. Theoretically, patients are better controlled if they have more regular access to their providers, both in person and virtually.

Now picture this scenario: *Sickpatient wakes up with a fever and feels awful. He logs onto his doctor’s virtual treatment room and signs into the secure portal. After reporting the need for treatment, he can self-select symptoms from a variety of options that run against an algorithm while waiting for the physician or nurse to engage in live chat. He can be on the couch, get diagnosed, obtain a prescription and pay for it all via one of the many e-pay systems available. Granted, *Sickpatient is sick either way, but in this scenario the healthcare system treated him like a consumer and has impacted his life in a much less intrusive manner. If the demand is there, healthcare providers will have to get on board. This is how consumer-driven markets evolve.

Through the Lens of a Social Customer

[The following is a guest post by my friend and colleague John McCabe.  John gives an honest, no fluff look into how consumers really view brands and the experiences they deliver to their consumers.  We should all listen closely.]

imagesSo, I am sitting here thinking about my daily customer experience & interactions. What is it that I like? What do I dislike that will completely turn me off from your brand?

  1. First, I am a social consumer.  In other words I love being social. For example, when I begin a search to contact a company, there are some things that immediately get me “hooked”.  If the company offers me multiple options aimed at my convenience, I am intrigued, excited, and genuinely grateful that they understand that not everyone operates on a 9 to 5 schedule.   If I can contact a brand 24 x 7 by a live person answering the phone (yes, I do occasionally make phone calls) and the representative answering the phone is able to resolve my issue, I will make it a point to give that company more business.  In addition, if I can Tweet, text, IM, share, your company has it figured out.  Also, I will tell my  friends and family about your company and provide a very positive post on a host of various social platforms.  To all of those companies that allow me to interact with you on a 24-hour basis, I deeply thank you!
  2. To those companies who are the opposite of that which I described above, as a conscientious consumer, I will conversely post my feelings on a host of social platforms. Remember that old adage “a happy customer tells a friend, but an angry customer tells everyone?”

To those of you confused brands, the ones who do not understand or are unwilling to change, I will choose not deal with you. In fact, I hope brands understand that they are serving me (and all consumers).  That I drive their success or failure.  And, that I will tell people via multiple channels about my experience.  Companies with antiquated customer service operations, offered between the convenient hours of 9 – 5 pm will not survive in a social market.

The genesis of this post was an interaction I recently had with a local produce market.  The store is open 24-hrs.  But their customer service was not.  I was perplexed by this situation.  If you’re going to be sell 24-hours, why not service your customers 24-hours? I was so baffled I won’t go back.  To be fair, I did speak to someone behind the so-called customer service counter. But they couldn’t resolve my issue.  Let us not mention their poor attitude and shock when I asked a question regarding organic products.  In response to my inquiry was a feeble “that is a separate & outside vendor, you would have to express your concerns with them”.  Let’s remember that when we choose to sell services and products, we are also responsible for all experience integration points.  In short, consumers are not difficult to please.  It just takes some understanding of the buyer’s journey in one’s respective market.