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 www.cx-journey.com, on Twitter @CXJourney and @AnnetteFranz, and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/annette-franz.
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: CallCentreHelper.com.