Monday, July 23, 2018

Tips to Help Your Brand Focus on the #CustomerExperience

I recently met Nate Brown through a #CustServ TweetChat on Twitter led by Marsha Collier, Roy Atkinson, and Greg Ortbach. As fellow fans of customer service and excellent customer experiences, I invited Nate to appear on my blog in a Q&A. Highlights of our conversation follow below a quick introduction.

Nate Brown is the Co-Founder of CX Accelerator. While customer service is his primary expertise, Nate leverages experience in professional services, marketing, and sales to connect dots and solve the big problems. From authoring and leading a Customer Experience program to journey mapping to managing a complex contact center, Nate is always learning new things and sharing with the CX community. Join the CX community at and follow Nate on Twitter @CustomerIsFirst.

QUESTION: How do you define customer experience (CX)?
NATE BROWN: My absolute favorite definition is from Forrester: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” One of my favorite attributes of Customer Experience is that it’s both scientific and artistic: Scientific in the sense that it’s made up of repeatable steps and behaviors, and artistic in the sense that you are dealing with human emotions as the measure for success. 

TWEET THIS: Customer Experience is both scientific and artistic: Scientific in the sense that it’s made up of repeatable steps and behaviors, and artistic in the sense that you are dealing with human emotions as the measure for success. ~@CustomerIsFirst

QUESTION: How do you define customer experience marketing (CEM)?
NATE BROWN: To me, Customer Experience Marketing is when the whole organization works together to create excellent and CONSISTENT experiences across every touchpoint. There is a major positive impact on loyalty when customers feel as though they are dealing with a strong, uniform brand. This illusion is shattered when finance works one way, customer support speaks one way, sales team does their thing, and all the while, none of it is consistent with the “brand voice.” CEM results when marketing works together with the organization to develop the brand voice, and all employees make it a priority to become fluent.

TWEET THIS: Customer Experience Marketing is when the whole organization works together to create excellent and CONSISTENT experiences across every touchpoint. ~@CustomerIsFirst

QUESTION: What brand stands apart from its competitors by its understanding of providing a quality customer experience, and why?
NATE BROWN: That’s easy: Carvana. You can read complete details at

Heres the story: Having recently purchased a car through Carvana, I’m a huge believer in the experience they’ve created. They’ve eliminated all the classic frustrations of buying a vehicle. By combining a remarkable digital experience on the front end to pick your car, a generally effort-free process to do your paperwork, and a magical vending machine to pick the car up, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. They are an incredible example of how intelligent CX design can turn an industry on its head.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite customer experiences?
NATE BROWN: Firehouse Subs, Tennessee Wildlife and Resource Agency, and B&H Photography.

Firehouse Subs: I sent a simple tweet complimenting one of their young workers for his customer service skill. Next thing I know, I have a box of awesome Firehouse swag and a very kind personalized note from the brand’s marketing team.

Tennessee Wildlife and Resource Agency: I was sitting on the side of a river and wanted to do some fishing but realized I didn’t have a license yet. I sent a tweet to TWRA on a Saturday morning. They responded almost immediately with a self-service option for me to purchase my license right on the spot. I had my line in the water within minutes. Social support for the win!

B&H Photography: I took a second to fill out a survey based on my digital purchasing experience. They responded back in a wonderful and personal manner, letting me know how much they appreciated my time and feedback. I was blown away to get a response at all, and shocked to get something so meaningful!

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a quality customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?
NATE BROWN: If we are going with just platform in general, I would go with PHONE. Because I’m old school. I just love a good conversation. If I have to choose a social platform, however, I would go with Twitter. It’s visible enough to get immediate attention, and flexible enough to correspond over direct message with a “chat channel” feel. Sadly, my social support experiences have still been very hit-or-miss. In many cases my request for support is entirely ignored.

TWEET THIS: Twitter is the best social platform for creating a quality customer experience because it's visible enough to get immediate attention, and flexible enough to correspond over direct message with a “chat channel” feel. ~@CustomerIsFirst

QUESTION: Your pinned tweet on Twitter says, “At the end of the day, #CustomerExperience is people being intentional about making other people’s life easier and better.” Can you explain this further?
NATE BROWN: It’s going back to the concept that CX is both an art and a science. It’s easy to get lost in the science of it all and focus on Net Promoter Scores and customer satisfaction levels. What really matters, however, is if you have positively impacted someone’s life through a better experience. Seek out the positive stories and celebrate them!

My gratitude and appreciation to Nate for sharing his insights!

Image Credit: Concept thanks to Nate Brown.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

How Do You Communicate with Your Fans?

Recently, I visited a local automotive museum because I had planned to attend an advertised truck show. The automotive museum was not the famous one on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles that resembles a red race track. It was a small museum in a Los Angeles suburb. The problem happened when I entered the museum: I was told that the truck show planned for the day of my visit had been canceled.

I immediately did what anyone would do in today's mobile device era. I pulled my smartphone out of my purse, found the museum's website, and showed the receptionist the museum's site's homepage. The homepage mentioned the truck show, the date of my visit, the times, and even included a PDF flyer.

What did the receptionist say upon seeing the site's homepage? He said, "I see the information on the homepage, but we removed it from the EVENTS page about two months ago." Did I hear correctly? The events page on the website was correct, but the homepage was incorrect? Who made the decision to update the sub page without updating the homepage?

This error caused me to ponder how big brands communicate with their customers, fans, and other key stakeholders. There should be emails when events are canceled. There should be big yellow stickers placed strategically "above the fold" (aka, near the top) of websites. Depending on the size of the brands, the stickers with the updates should be placed on every page of a website - not just the events or news page. Depending on the size of the brand, a press release may be appropriate. And lastly, all social media platforms used by the brand should promote any event changes. In this case, the social sites used by the museum were quiet about the cancellation of the truck show.

While the receptionist apologized for the inconvenience, and I still was able to see some classic cars, I was disappointed that I missed the truck show. What should the automotive museum have done? Should it have given me a free ticket for another special event? Or should it have offered to drive me around the block in a 1940's-era Packard, like the one used in the Rose Parade?

What would your brand have done?

Monday, July 16, 2018

To Lead or To Manage, That is the Question?

I would like to re-introduce John Baldoni to my blog. I met John on Twitter in 2009, and over the last nine years, I've gained incredible insights as a result of his Twitter feed, blog posts, e-newsletters, videos, and books. A review of one of his books appeared on my blog back in 2014, and you can read the review by clicking here. Recently, John and I had a conversation about leadership, and highlights follow below his bio.

John Baldoni is an internationally-recognized leadership educator and executive coach, and speaks throughout North America and Europe. He’s the author of more than a dozen books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership, Lead with Purpose, Lead Your Boss, and The Leader’s Pocket Guide; and his 13 books have been translated into 10 languages. John writes regularly for and produces a video coaching series for SmartBrief. Visit and connect on Twitter @JohnBaldoni.

QUESTION: What are the key differences between the roles of management and leadership?
JOHN BALDONI: Check out the image for a useful visual explanation.

QUESTION: What is the most memorable thing you learned from a boss, and how has that lesson shaped your career?
JOHN BALDONI: The job is not finished until we do a debrief. This is the principle behind the After Action Review which our military has been practicing since the time of the Civil War. In fact, there is a library of sorts at the U.S. Army War College that is a collection of “lessons learned.” During a review, you will learn what you did right, what you did wrong, and what you can do better the next time.

QUESTION: One of my bosses told me that I should “lower my expectations” of the employees I supervised. How would you have responded to that directive?
JOHN BALDONI: Get a new boss. You get what you put into your leadership. Consider what you are working with. Focus on creating conditions for people to succeed. Set expectations. Provide resources and support. Challenge and coach. Those who respond will succeed; those who do not may not be right for your team.

QUESTION: How can leaders maintain a digital footprint (i.e., use social media) while simultaneously setting a positive example?
JOHN BALDONI: Technology is neutral. As the novelist Phillip K. Dick reminds us, it’s what people do with technology that can be nefarious. Visit your people face to face. Make them feel that you are interested in them. How? Listen, listen, listen. Some of the finest senior leaders I know visit people where they work, even when it means traveling. Know the kaizen principle of “gemba” — where the work is done.

Nothing makes an executive look smaller than using social media to air grievances, particularly ad hominem attacks. Not only do they make the executive look petty and weak, they tarnish the reputation of the organization from which they work. Be smart. Don’t use social media to gripe. Use it to converse.

QUESTION: What is your favorite leadership quote?
JOHN BALDONI: Here’s one from Abraham Lincoln: 

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live in it so that his place will be proud of him.”

My gratitude and appreciation to John for re-appearing on my Blog and sharing his timeless leadership insights!

Image Credit: John Baldoni.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Learn How to Transform Difficult Customers into Brand Advocates

Seven years ago, I met Marilyn Suttle on Twitter and was intrigued by the title of her book, “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan." After I read the book, I shared a review here on my Blog, and here's the link. I also included my favorite story from the book in a recent post entitled, "Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from Five Amazing Brand Experiences?," and here's the link. Based on Marilyn's amazing insights, I've invited her to participate in a Q&A, and highlights follow her bio below.

Marilyn Suttle is an international customer service speaker and best-selling author based in Metro Detroit. She works with leaders and teams that want to attract and retain customers, inspire employee engagement, and create strong connected relationships. For 20 years, she has trained thousands on relationship-strengthening communication and success strategies. Her clients have won industry awards, raised customer satisfaction levels, and achieved lasting results in reducing stress and experiencing greater success and self-fulfillment.

Marilyn’s advice has been featured on TV news and in print/online media including U.S. News and World Report, Psychology Today, and Inc. Magazine. She co-authored the book, “Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan,” which is currently in print in both English and Chinese. Her latest book is in a category of one, “Color Their World,” which is the first customer service activity book that is also an adult coloring book – and it has become a bestseller in the United States, Canada and Germany. You can find Marilyn on Twitter @MarilynSuttle, at her website (, and on LinkedIn (  

QUESTION: What appeals to you about Customer Experience Marketing (CEM)?
MARILYN SUTTLE: What appeals to me most about CEM is the focus on what customers want most – to be truly served, not sold to. I’m happy to see brands taking this relationship strengthening approach. Simply put, CEM is the practice of engaging customers with responsive interactions that earn long-term brand loyalty. Even though it takes a strong effort to design processes that track and respond to customers’ preferences and expectations, when done well, it results in vocal advocates. Forrester’s Customer Experience (CX) Index reports that while 73% of companies consider it a priority to improve the customer experience, only 1% deliver an excellent customer experience. When you put the customer experience at the forefront of your marketing decisions, you stand out among the crowd and differentiate yourself.

QUESTION: How do you measure customer experience success?
MARILYN SUTTLE: It takes a big picture view to get it right. Case in point, after having an amazing customer experience at a retail store, I jumped at the chance to give positive feedback by calling the phone number at the bottom of my receipt. The survey (designed to thoroughly capture my customer experience) was excruciating. After eight long minutes of misery, my enthusiasm toward the brand soured. Bottom line: Don’t turn your customer experience measurement tool into a torture device.

So, what measurements work well? The answer is…it depends.

There’s the well-known Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), which is a simple “were you satisfied?” type of question.

Then there are productivity metrics, like Average Speed of Answer and Average Handling Time.

The Customer Effort Score (CES), for example, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” is another type of metric that identifies areas where improvements can be made.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is yet another well-known measurement is used to determine the percentage of customers who would recommend your company to their family and friends, based on a question like this, “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend us?”

A common problem with metrics is that, when you make adjustments to accommodate one score, it can have unintended consequences on others. For example, a success in shortening the length of a call can cause oversights and leave customers highly dissatisfied.    

A useful measure of customer experience is to track customer support needs per year. That includes support needs with self-service, chat, Interactive Voice Response, email, etc. Document a customer’s typical experience to identify pain points and moments of truth. Then, draw on your employees to find ways to improve processes.

Bottom line, choose your measurement approach with care to ensure that the ones you pick don’t have a damaging effect on your other key performance indicators.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite story about a bad customer experience turnaround?
MARILYN SUTTLE: This story comes from an interview I conducted with PRS Guitars, a manufacturer of high-end instruments that are played by rock stars, coveted by collectors, and enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world. It was featured in “Who’s Your Gladys?” a best-selling customer service book I co-authored a few years back.

An irate customer called Shawn Nuthall, the manager of customer service at Paul Reed Smith Guitars. The customer had purchased a PRS guitar from an online dealer, and when he pulled it out of the shipping box, he discovered a six-inch scratch on the case. The angry customer was sure that the scratch was caused by the long staples that were used to seal the packaging. The online dealer would not take responsibility for the damage, insisting that the case was in perfect condition when it was shipped out.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Shawn, took the most immediate approach to resolving his customer’s issue. He said, ‘‘What’s your address? I’ll send you out a new case.’’ Relieved, the customer asked, “What do you want me to do with the damaged case?’’ Shawn replied, ‘‘Maybe you can pay it forward and help out a kid who needs a case. If not, consider it a backup, and when you go to your next gig, take the beat-up case.’’

The customer was shocked. Has asked, ‘‘That’s it? You’re just going to send me a case?’’ Shawn didn’t see a reason to put his customer to any further trouble. ‘‘He had a problem, and I took care of it. If I have a problem with a product, I want to call the company and have it handled quickly. It doesn’t serve me to give people the runaround. If someone calls with a problem and I can make that problem go away painlessly, why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the philosophy of companies that expect you to make 10 different phone calls and talk to 20 different people.’’ Shawn’s approach turned his angry customer into a fan, and soon afterward, Paul Reed Smith himself received a glowing letter about this guitarist’s extreme satisfaction with Shawn and with PRS.

QUESTION: What two brands stand out as examples of good customer experience marketing, and why?
MARILYN SUTTLE: While a whole book can be written on the topic, I’ll share a successful feature from two companies that excel at CEM.
Amazon does an amazing job of creating positive customer experiences through Amazon Prime. Once a customer becomes a member, they tend to return regularly and try new offerings. Amazon gives a free 30-day membership to try out Prime – long enough to get the customer (myself included) hooked on free two-day delivery, streaming movies, and other perks. The “frequently bought together” feature and the Amazon Wish List feature make it easy for customers to enjoy community involvement and ease of finding desired gifts for family and friends. This is just a snapshot of how they make the customer experience even more valued.

This e-commerce company sells home goods. It attracts customers with tech-savvy visual marketing designed in a way that aids customers in finding what they want and discovering what then didn’t even know they wanted. Images of fully-decorated rooms help viewers discover their style preferences. When a customer clicks or taps on the little tags connected to furniture and accessories in a photo, for example, rugs, lamps, or chairs, it automatically brings up the price, details, and reviews of the item. This one feature goes a long way in creating a satisfying customer experience.

QUESTION: Do you think every business should have a Customer Experience Officer (CXO)? Why or why not, and what should the person’s background be?
MARILYN SUTTLE: Companies committed to growth benefit by having a Customer Experience Officer to drive higher levels of customer satisfaction and improve bottom line impact. It’s an integral role for maintaining customer-focused alignment through every decision. They are the catalyst for internal collaboration cross-company to maintain a corporate culture of excellence.

The background requirements for a CXO role vary greatly. Try this: Do a LinkedIn search by filling in the title field with “Customer Experience Officer” and start reading. You’ll find that no two professionals seem to have the same list of experiences. What they do have in common, though, is strong leadership skills, and the charisma and credibility needed to enroll key leaders throughout the company in prioritizing and collaborating on customer experience.

My gratitude and appreciation to Marilyn for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her insights about the very important specialty known as customer experience marketing and its alignment with creating brand advocates.

Image Credit: Marilyn Suttle.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tips to Develop Your Leadership Legacy

I introduced my network to Doug Dickerson, a leadership expert, trainer, and author back in 2010 when I shared a review of his book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Here's the link for a quick recap ( 

Doug has more than 30 years of experience in various leadership positions, and he strives to inspire others to become better equipped as leaders. You can find Doug on Twitter @DougDickersonSC, on his Blog ( and on his author page on Amazon (

Doug and I recently spoke about leadership priorities and legacies, and how technology has changed leadership. Highlights of our conversation follow below.

QUESTION: You appeared on my Blog back in 2010, and here’s one memorable line I shared from your book, “If you are going to leave a strong legacy as a leader, people must be your priority.” How can new leaders learn the importance of this priority?
DOUG DICKERSON: The legacy you leave as a leader is not something you hear too many people talking about. This is so mostly because we are only thinking about today. How much time do we really devote to thinking about the kind of legacy we will leave as a leader?

That aside, if we are going to leave a strong legacy as a leader, you will need to do a few things. First, begin to think about it. Be intentional. A simple rule of leadership says that "success calls for a successor," and so a leader must be thinking about his or her line of succession if that is in play. Secondly, a strong legacy will always involve others. When you make people a priority by serving them, listening to them, empowering and adding value to them, you are well on your way to leaving a legacy worth emulating.

QUESTION: What have you learned from leaders you’ve encountered in your career?
DOUG DICKERSON: I've had many good and bad leaders to learn from. I've served along leaders who were demoralizing and along side those who inspired and encouraged me greatly. What I've learned is how to process and incorporate the good things, and let go of the bad. I learned that whether the examples of leadership in my career were positive or negative, I had to develop my own path and decide for myself what kind of leader I wanted to be. I had good and bad examples as well as really good examples to draw from. You can learn from both.

QUESTION: How is technology changing leadership?
DOUG DICKERSON: Technology has drastically changed leadership. We have more leadership material at our disposal now than ever before. This is encouraging on many levels and the opportunities for one's growth and development are limitless. Technology can open up a whole new world to aspiring leaders and that can be good, but at the end of the day, I still prefer holding a book and turning the pages.

QUESTION: One of Walt Disney’s leadership tips was, “Never stop asking questions.” What are your three timeless leadership tips?
DOUG DICKERSON: Here are my three:

1. It's not about you.
2. You don't need a title to be a leader.
3. Sometimes you just defy the critics and ignore the "experts" and just do what is in your heart.
QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes you recently shared on Twitter was: “If your vision is not known internally, then it will be of no value to anyone externally. If your team is clueless, then so are your customers.” Can you elaborate a bit?
DOUG DICKERSON: This is simple in concept, but not always easy in practice. The bottom line is that you have to constantly put the vision before your people. If your people do not know the vision, their "why" and what their role is in the big picture of things, then they will not perform at levels you desire. The best advocates for any business are the people who work there, and if they are clueless as to the mission and vision, then that will come across to the customer. If the people in the organization have no "buy-in," why would you expect the customer to? By contrast, if the employee is excited about what he or she does, then it will show in the excellence of his or her attitude - and that is contagious.


My gratitude and appreciation to Doug for re-appearing on my Blog and sharing his timeless leadership insights!

Image Credit: