Monday, April 19, 2021

Does Your Brand Celebrate Customer Birthdays?

When you gather customer information or customer feedback, do you request customer birth dates? If your answer is yes, what do you do with that information? The data is highly confidential, and your organization should protect it at all costs, but since you have the data, do you celebrate customer birthdays?

Each year on my birthday, I always smile when I log into Twitter and see those familiar balloons greeting me. Each year, that greeting adds a festive start to my day.

With that in mind, how do other brands wish me a happy birthday? Like many of us who receive too many emails in our email box, I receive several with a “happy birthday” message and a ten or twenty percent discount to be applied toward a future purchase. One brand sends me a coupon for a free ice cream cone, and another sends me a coupon for free pancakes. On occasion, I receive coupons or cards via snail mail too.

Does your brand send personalized emails to customers wishing them a happy birthday? Does your brand send postcards or letters wishing customers a happy birthday via snail mail? Does your brand create a personalized web page wishing customers a happy birthday with a link from an email? Does your brand partner with an ice cream or cookie brand or a restaurant or digital storefront in order to send a coupon to customers for their birthday gift?

In this era of data breaches, I suppose the best gift – and most appropriate gift – would be for a year’s subscription to an identity monitoring service to protect my most important and confidential information. Don’t you agree?

Image Credit: Twitter.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Tips for Excellent Customer Experiences, Interactions & Feedback


When I have either positive or negative customer experiences, I often hear someone’s voice in my ear. This person talks and writes about customer touch points, customer journey maps, and customer experience (CX) marketing. Since I’m always in the mood to discuss customer experiences and ways for brands to improve the way they treat their customers, fans, and stakeholders, it’s always a good time for my friend and CX promoter Annette Franz to appear here on my Blog.

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, keynote speaker, and author. With almost 30 years in the customer experience profession, Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She started her career at J.D. Power and Associates and spent much of the next 25 years before founding CX Journey Inc. leading consulting services for the major voice of the customer (VOC) platforms, helping clients in a variety of industries. She has also worked on client-side CX strategy for Mattel, Fidelity Investments, and Compellon. You can find Annette online at her website at, on Twitter @CXJourney and @AnnetteFranz, and on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Oddly enough, the first brand that comes to mind is Delta Airlines, and I haven’t flown since March 2020, but they were the last airline I flew. The brands that have won during the pandemic have done what Delta does and has always done: people first, timely and relevant communication, and doing what’s right.

Delta was one of the first airlines to show (not just say) how they were cleaning their planes, and they are one of the only airlines that still keep the middle seat empty in a three-seat row and the aisle seat empty in planes with no middle seat. They’re still allowing passengers to change or cancel flights without a fee. And they are one of a few airlines who offer at-home covid tests to help passengers comply with requirements of proof of a negative test. They also provide passengers with a care kit that includes a mask and hand sanitizer.

Their communications are always informative and on point; updates about travel requirements, their policies, how they’re keeping passengers and employees safe, and more, are always well- received.

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a positive customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?

ANNETTE FRANZ: I’m not sold on the fact that social media (most probably think of Twitter for this) is a tool for creating a positive customer experience. Yes, it’s a communication medium, and that’s it. Otherwise, customers tend to use it as a last resort to get a brand’s attention (and everyone else’s).

Here’s what creates a great experience: take the time to listen to your customers; understand who they are as well as their needs, pain points, and problems to solve; and learn how well you’re helping them and meeting their expectations today – then take all of that and design an experience that meets their needs. A positive experience is deliberately designed to be that way. Once people are on social media to talk to a brand, it’s too late; something has already gone wrong, most of the time.

TWEET THIS: Once people are on social media to talk to a brand, it’s too late. Something has already gone wrong. –@AnnetteFranz #CX #brandexperience

QUESTION: What three things must a brand do to create a consistently exceptional customer experience?

ANNETTE FRANZ: They’ve got to ensure that the foundation is in place within their organizations to do that, so they’ve got to ensure that the culture is customer-centric. That only happens when there’s a commitment from – and alignment across – the executive team. So, number one is culture and leadership.

If customers are first, employees are more first. Brands must focus on employees and take care of them, since the employee experience drives the customer experience. Happy employees are creative, innovative, and productive, and that bleeds into the experience that customers have.

And finally, customer understanding. It’s the cornerstone of customer-centricity. It’s all about taking the time to get into your customers’ hearts and minds to learn more about them, their needs, their pain points, and the problems they are trying to solve.

QUESTION: Bill Gates has a famous quote, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” What does that quote mean to you?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Unhappy customers share feedback about their experiences. Brands must listen and take to heart what they hear. They need to fix it. Unhappy customers share this feedback because they want brands to succeed, and with that success must come a better experience, or they’ll walk. Feedback really is the greatest gift that a brand can get.

TWEET THIS: Feedback really is the greatest gift that a brand can get. –@AnnetteFranz #CX #brandexperience

QUESTION: Jeff Bezos has a famous quote, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” What does that quote mean to you?

ANNETTE FRANZ: I’ll quote the closing paragraph of my book to answer this question. The last chapter is an open letter to CEOs. It closes like this:

I've got news for you, and it's really the bottom line: It's all about the customer! It's all for the customer. Everything you do. Everything you create. Every process. Every product or service. If you don't infuse the customer into your business and into everything you do, then I don't know why you're in business. It's not to maximize shareholder value. That's an outcome. But the means to get there is to relentlessly focus on the customer, day in and day out. When a great experience with your company becomes the customer's new normal, everyone, including your shareholders, will be happy. If you need a little reality check, pause for a moment, and imagine your business with no customers.

QUESTION: Which five customer experience books should everyone read while staying safe inside during the pandemic?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Well, of course, it goes without saying that one of those books has to be mine, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business). Others that I would recommend include Hal Rosentbluth’s The Customer Comes Second; Bob Chapman’s Everybody Matters; Dave Gray’s Gamestorming; and an oldie but goodie: Heskett & Sasser’s The Service Profit Chain.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite brand, and does customer experience make it stand out?

ANNETTE FRANZ: One of my favorite brands is Starbucks. The experience really is what makes it stand out. Every interaction, every channel – it’s just easy. The baristas are always friendly, cheerful, patient, and happy to help. The product and the selection are good. It’s an all-around “this is how it should be done” type of brand.

My thanks to Annette for appearing here on my Blog and for sharing useful take-aways for all brands to improve their customer experiences.

Check out Annette’s Previous Appearances on my Blog:

Fall Back to Reading with 12 Thought-Provoking Business Books - Including a Review of Annette's Book

Sharing Secrets about Customer Experience Marketing

Customer Service Is Not Something to Drive Around

Image Credit:

Monday, April 12, 2021

How Can Leaders Become Architects of Unbeatable Brands?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is Julie Winkle Giulioni, who I met several years ago after I read her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. We recently had a discussion about leadership and its connection to the employee experience and the overall brand experience. Highlights of our conversation follow Julie's introduction.

Julie Winkle Giulioni is a guardian of growth, defender of development, and promoter of potential in today’s workplace. She’s the co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 speakers, Julie offers memorable and actionable live and virtual keynotes and presentations and is a regular contributor to numerous business publications and is working on her second book (to be released in 2022 by ATD Press.) Visit her website at and her LinkedIn profile at, and connect on Twitter at @Julie_WG.

QUESTION: What traits are most important to be a good leader, and why?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here are six traits:
(1) Humility: The most effective leaders I know are the most humble. They don’t demonstrate bravado, or demand attention, or insist upon being the smartest person in the room. They value, appreciate and spotlight the gifts of others, allowing the team to get the credit and shine.
(2) Emotional intelligence: Leadership is built upon a foundation of relationships. The ability to practice self- and other- awareness, navigate the emotional contours of the workplace, and demonstrate empathy are core competencies.
(3) Perspective: In today’s world where long-term might be next quarter or even next week, it’s easy to get caught up sort-term thinking. But highly effective leaders can hold a bigger picture view which allows them to
(4) Understand how today’s mistakes (when we learn from them) can produce tomorrow’s results.
(5) View relationships as a longer-term strategy – and invest in them accordingly.
(6) Practice patience, knowing that some things simply take time.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: This is a very timely question. My team and I are working on a training project for a client. It’s focused on the skills needed within the organization to elevate the customer experience. Someone recently asked me, ‘I thought you were all about leadership… so why would you take on a project like this?’ The is a very thin line between the customer experience and the employee experience. When employees are respected, motivated, and satisfied, they engage with customers in a way that leaves them feeling respected, motivated, and satisfied – which leads to loyalty. Executive leaders who understand this – and who prioritize an exceptional employee experience – become the architects of an unbeatable brand.

TWEET THIS: Executive leaders who prioritize an exceptional employee experience become the architects of an unbeatable brand. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: In a post on my Blog, I shared six amazing brand experiences. Do you have any to add?

(Blog post referenced: Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 6 Amazing #BrandExperiences

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here’s one: Imperfect Foods. Who wouldn’t resonate with the mission of reducing food waste? This organization has found a way to make sure of overages and ugly produce with weekly home deliveries. During the height of the pandemic, they not only figured out how to continue to predictably serve a growing customer base… they expanded into more items, reducing the need for traditional grocery shopping at a time when this was challenging for many. Their marketing is fun, friendly, and genuinely helpful with a bit of a Trader Joe’s vibe. I love the routine reporting in which they calculate how my purchases have made a difference in terms of carbon, water use, and waste. And if there’s ever an issue, it’s immediately and effortlessly addressed. All of which make Imperfect Foods a pretty perfect brand in my book.

QUESTION: In one of your posts on your Blog, you wrote about employee resignation. "Given the investment made in employee development, many leaders are beginning to re-think how they help people exit. A warmer departure, friendlier handshake, and positive post-exit contact builds a better employment brand/employer brand. But it also leaves the door open for good talent to return." How can employers understand that having an exit strategy should be part of the onboarding process and that employer branding is important?

(Blog post referenced: Rethinking Your Response When an Employee Resigns

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Increasingly, there an understanding that we must attend to and be intentional around the entire employee lifecycle. Employee expectations are high; and competition for top talent is always fierce. So, structuring the relationship from day one based upon transparency, respect, clarity, candid communication, and growth creates an employee experience that encourages retention, distinguishes an employment brand, and establishes a network of alumni (employees who left but who take with them positive feelings.) And the possibilities associated with that are enormous.

Here are three take-aways for employers:
(1) Get to know employees – really know them. Understand their motivation, aspirations, and what really matters to them. This is the only way to ensure an experience that will engage and retain them.
(2) Make a commitment to ongoing learning and development. ‘Lack of growth’ is the #1 reason employees give for leaving a role or organization. Take that reason off the table by ensuring that learning is ever-present. This doesn’t require workshops or courses (although they’re good too). Some of the most relevant and powerful development comes from in-role challenges, assignments, and activities.
(3) Offer meaningful work. People want to feel like they are making a contribution and a difference.  Even mundane tasks can be infused with a sense of purpose when you take the time to help employees understand how their work connects with the customer, mission, and big picture.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you? 

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: That’s a great line. And it relates back to an earlier answer. The most effective leaders I know are the ones who enable excellence. Sometimes, that looks like blocking and tackling. Other times, it means standing back while others step forward. But in all cases, the team’s win is a leader’s greatest success.

TWEET THIS: The team’s win is a leader’s greatest success. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Julie for sharing her inspiring perspective about leadership and its impact on the employee experience. 

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Leaders: Do You Have Different Skill Sets Than Your Team?


Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring leadership and marketing experts. A new connection with a shared passion for leadership from New York is Coach Jim Johnson, and I'm thrilled to welcome him to my blog in a Q&A. Jim’s website is; and his handles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are @coachjimjohnson. Highlights of our conversation about leadership follow a brief introduction.

Based on what transpired in a few short moments in early 2006, Coach Jim Johnson is now an authority on the subject of realizing your dreams. In his many public-speaking appearances, the New York resident relates his role in a basketball game that got Hollywood calling. He also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, delivering his talks with a heartfelt style that has brought audiences to their feet.

Coach Johnson has developed winning high-school basketball teams for 30 years, taking over three losing varsity programs and turning them into winners in short periods of time. Of his 407 career victories, one in particular will surely never be duplicated. On Feb. 15, 2006, Coach Johnson made the kindhearted gesture of inserting his autistic manager, Jason McElwain, now known to the world as J-Mac into Greece Athena High School’s final home game, which the Trojans won 79-43. J-Mac scored 20 points in just over four minutes, including six three-point baskets, to become an instant national celebrity. Coach Johnson, also, was featured in major news outlets around the country.

QUESTION: What three traits are most important to be a good leader, and why? 

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Here are my three:
(1) Know your who and why. Effective leaders know who they are and their why. They are clear about their personal mission statement and live it consistently. My personal mission is: To be an outstanding role model who makes a positive difference in the world by helping others make their dreams come true. People will follow leaders that have clarity of their personal mission and live it consistently.

(2) Great leaders build trust with their team. I believe effective leaders have a plan on how to build trust with their team members. In our trust plan: the leader must tell the truth, be authentic and admit when they are wrong, and consistently catch team members doing things right and praising them.

(3) Good leaders are servant leaders. They lead by example, consistently growing themselves and serving their team by developing team members to become great leaders.

TWEET THIS: People will follow leaders that have clarity of their personal mission and live it consistently. –@coachjimjohnson #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: To be the number one brand ambassador: the leader must share the team mission consistently. The leader must consistently live the mission and communicate clearly and often to his/her team members so they know the mission and buy into it.

QUESTION: I love your list of what to tell your younger self. Your advice included: hire coaches, regularly meet with like-minded people, find your "Why" right now, develop a personal financial plan, adopt a cause, develop a service mindset, and educate yourself for your family's interests and hobbies. Which of these do you consider to be the most important, and why?

(Here’s the blog title and link: What Would I Tell My Younger Self?  

COACH JIM JOHNSON: What I believe is most important is to continue to grow and improve yourself so that you can effectively serve other people well. (Effective leaders have an intentional personal growth plan.) My personal growth plan is to feed my mind through various ways for at least 70 minutes each day. A few examples: I read for at least 15-30 minutes every day (My goal is to read a book per week), listen to audio programs when I drive and go for a walk, attend conferences, and be part of mastermind groups.

QUESTION: You wrote an excellent post about leading during times of crisis (something every leader should read during the Covid-19 pandemic). Of the many pieces of advice you included, which do you consider the most important, and why?

(Here’s the blog title and link: During a Crisis, Leaders Need to Step Up

COACH JIM JOHNSON: I believe the most important advice during a time of crisis is that you must be authentic, so you keep the trust high among your team. Your team will suffer if trust fades.

QUESTION: You wrote about an interesting role with the title of a Chief Reminding Officer (CRO). Can you elaborate on the importance of this role?

(Here’s the blog title and link: Do Your Team Members Know Where They Stand?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Outstanding leaders are great communicators. They are consistently reminding their team members about the mission and their core values. Great leaders also are terrific listeners. They are curious and ask many questions of their team. As Ken Blanchard said: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. I would also include lunch and dinner!

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Effective leaders hire team members that are smarter and have different skill sets from the leader. Great leaders build trust with their team and learn from their team. They empower their team members to excel in their roles without micromanaging.

TWEET THIS: Effective leaders hire team members that are smarter and have different skill sets from the leader. –@coachjimjohnson #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Jim for sharing his inspiring perspective about leadership and the employee experience.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Does Your Brand Recognize April Fool’s Day?


While you never want to speak condescendingly to your customers, stakeholders, and fans in marketing campaigns or advertising, April Fool’s Day presents a unique marketing opportunity to have some unexpected fun.

Think back to the early morning of April first of the year 2010. Search engine giant Google replaced its multi-colored “Google” logo on its homepage with the word “Topeka” of Topeka, Kansas fame.

On that day, instead of saying “Google It” in order to search for desired information, users were forced to say “Topeka It.” Upon first glance, users were stunned, but they soon realized that the change was a joke – once they remembered what the date was: April Fool’s Day!

In case you forget the details surrounding that incident, the Kansas capital city unofficially changed its name to Google as part of an effort to convince the search engine giant to select it as a test site for its planned super-fast, fiber-optic network.

So, what about your brand? Does your brand name have a similar sounding food, vegetable, fruit, dessert, bug, city, or another word that you could add to a clever marketing campaign to surprise your customers on April Fool’s Day?

Is there a restaurant or retail or digital storefront that presents a compelling partnership opportunity for April Fool’s Day?

Is there a sports team that shares the same mascot or animal as your brand that you could integrate into your marketing on April Fool’s Day?

Whatever you do, don’t let April Fool’s Day pass by without creating a clever marketing campaign. Especially during the current covid era, a little brand humor can go a long way – and may even be remembered for many years just like the Google-Topeka joke.

Image Credit: Keep Calm app.