#CXDay – A Tale of Two Company Celebrations

i-heart-customers-high-resHappy CX Day!  If you haven’t already planned out your CX Day, head on over to to learn all that the CXPA has planned for this celebration of those driving customer loyalty through an improved customer experience. Two Minnesota companies that are making a splash today are Wolters Kluwer and ShopHQ.  I asked their customer experience leaders about their plans, and am sharing them with you in hopes that it will give you some good ideas to use for next year. Read more

Thinking is bad

iStock_000024086772XXLargeOne impact of being in a new capability is trying to describe it. My wife doesn’t really know what I do, so how can I effectively communicate customer experience to somebody who’s never heard of it? This is a common topic among my CX friends. How do we explain what we do to others?

If they don’t give me a blank look, most folks hear customer experience and ask, “So, you work in a call center?” After stifling a groan, I go through the standard explanation that customer experience is broader than just service, and how a great customer experience often prevents the needs for a service call in the first place. I explored the difference between customer service and experience in this post about Target’s data breach.

But as my friend Mara Bain says, “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.” So I’ve been looking for a quicker way to grab somebody’s attention. Here’s what I’ve tried:

“I prevent customers from having to think.”

It’s still new, but so far it seems to make people curious enough to listen to the rest of the story. And it clearly differentiates between customer experience and service. Read more

Customer Experience is kinda like comedy

Like you, Robin Williams’ death last week was a real shock. He had a true gift to make others laugh and feel better. A true irony.

I even met him once, in a software shop in San Francisco. Thinking back to his career, he reminds me of parallels between comedy and customer experience. Let’s look at some of the ways that these two arts/sciences are similar.

Comedy is like customer experience because….

Both look really easy when done well, but take tons of work and preparation. Mediocre comedians make it up as they go. The great ones, from Robin Williams to Chris Rock, work diligently on their new material for months. They make surprise appearances in small towns to test their ideas and throw away far more material than they actually use. The best use a very diligent process to whittle down the content to a very tight program that they can then use as a baseline, and riff from there.

Customer experiences are very similar.  Poor experiences happen when you make it up as you go. Great experiences take months or years to create through diligence. You test your ideas in small venues to see if they work before going further. You throw out way more ideas than you actually use. And, just like Robin Williams makes comedy look easy in this clip, the experiences at a USAA or Trader Joe’s looks simple – like anybody can do it. Yet so few do.

Great Comedians and CX Leaders both know their audiences. By testing out their ideas in so many audiences, comedians get a good idea about what works and what doesn’t.  They target their message based on their knowledge of their audience. Similarly, customer experience leaders know their customers and target appropriately. The reason Sam’s Club is a leading experience is because they don’t confuse their offering with a Nordstrom’s or Amazon customer – they target the experience towards their audience.

Both audiences and customers are never satisfied for long. Imagine if Steve Martin kept saying “Excuuuuuuse Me!” We would quickly tire of his schtick.  That’s one of Adam Sandler’s problems – it seems like he keeps playing the same character, and audiences tire of it. Similarly, what was a great experience yesterday is table stakes today. A follow-up phone call was once special in a B2B relationship – now it’s expected. Order on web and deliver to store, as well as the opposite, were once unusual. Now it’s hard to find a major retailer without it.

Great comedians and customer experiences are depressingly rare. Just like there are so few great experiences, there was only one Robin Williams. And we’ll miss him.

When loyalty programs go too far

Is it just me, or is it getting harder and harder to pay for items?

It seems that the rise of loyalty programs has extended the checkout process in all types of activities.  I used to swipe my card, choose the fuel type, and start filling my car.  Now I swipe my card, choose credit, enter in my zip code, say no to the car wash, no to the receipt, no to the loyalty program, then choose fuel type.

You can almost picture the business cases at the corporate headquarters.  “If we just add this one more prompt, we can add on an extra 10 cents of margin per transaction.”

Now don’t get me wrong. In a low-margin business like gas stations, adding 10 cents of margin is real money.  But since my local gas station subscribes to this “let’s add 5 questions to the transaction” approach, I find myself using the one a mile away more often – just to avoid the hassle. It’s not just gas stations. Blogs (not this one!) require answering 10 questions to get white papers and retailers add loyalty questions.  How much business is lost due to hassle factor?

Jimmy Fallon had a great send-up on CVS’s checkout in the following clip. Watch it, and check whether you’re playing the same game. Read more

Are you actively interfering with your mission?

hobylogoI’ve been active in HOBY Minnesota for seven years now.  HOBY is an international program that offers annual leadership seminars to high school sophomores, challenging them to log 100 hours of community service in the following year. We have a clear vision on what we need to measure.  Whereas businesses often use revenue as a primary measurement, we focus on logged community service hours.

But as with revenue, logged hours is a trailing indicator. So how do we get a sense on how we’re doing while at the seminar?

Examples Across Fields

This isn’t just a non-profit question.  My clients struggle with this, as well.  When we build our customer experience program, how do we measure how we’re doing today, so we can predict tomorrow’s results?  And most businesses get it wrong, because they focus on what feels right.

Two quick examples: Read more

Kenneth Cole: Overpromising and Underdelivering. Are you doing the same?

Kenneth Cole WarrantyI recently ordered this Kenneth Cole bag from ebags, and I love it.  It’s a nice-looking bag, and very functional.  One of the items that convinced me that this was the perfect bag for me was the 10-year warranty, so I knew my investment was safe.

I got in the bag, and discovered it was actually a lifetime warranty – even better!  That was, until I actually read the warranty.  Can anybody tell me what use a warranty is if it doesn’t cover normal wear and tear?  At least it wasn’t hidden in legalese – they very clearly tell me “We don’t cover jack. Good luck.”

Overpromised and Underdelivered

How many times does this happen?  You come up with a way to differentiate your offering that perfectly fits your brand.  But then your company backs off, turning your substantive offering into marketing fluff (I apologize to my marketing friends).

It’s easy to see how this might have happened.  A staff member suggests you can gain market share by creating a lifetime warranty to highlight the quality construction in the product.  Then somebody gets concerned about the costs of supporting such a warranty, and throws in language to gut it. It’s certainly not the first time this has happened. But how customer-centric is such a warranty? And how much would the company actually spend to stand behind their product?

What’s ironic is that a true lifetime warranty would perfectly fit the Kenneth Cole brand. But I guess that even in the best brands have a hard time truly focusing on their customers.

Logitech: Sometimes Automation isn’t Your Friend

I received this email today.  While this is a B2C example, I think we can all see the risks inherent to any of our businesses.  I did not edit this email at all, outside of deleting the reference number.

Hi Jim,
This is <agent first name>, from The Logitech Customer Care Team.
How’s everything going, Jim?  We have sent a response and we haven’t heard back anything from you. We just want to make sure that we were able to address your concerns before the system automatically tag your case as closed.
Is there anything else I can help you with? If your issue has not been resolved, please do not hesitate to update me.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to visit our website at  or reply to this e-mail.
This is your support reference number: [reference number].
Thank you for choosing Logitech and have a wonderful day.
Sincerely Yours,
<agent first name>
Logitech Customer Care Inc.

Now, this wasn’t the most personal email I’ve ever received.  Especially since this is the third time I have received this exact email from a tech!

Scripts are useful, and they help ensure consistent service.  But over-reliance on them really doesn’t help. Using the exact same message coming three times shows you are inauthentic, let alone signing off as <agent first name>!

Have a great holiday weekend!

<customer experience blogger>

Sometimes, Customer Experience is Hard

Rite-Aid Wellness Discount for Snickers

I’m on my annual sabbatical to Maine, where my family spends a week at the cabin then a week exploring the coast.  I have seen a number of questionable customer experiences here, but two stand out.

First, a visit to Rite-Aid, the regional pharmacy chain.  Like many retailers, Rite-Aid has a loyalty card – in their case, it is named a Wellness+ card.  So far, so good.  Except that they apparently their governance is lacking, since last week the loyalty discount is applied to Snickers!

Rite-Aid_WellnessIf you call your program a Wellness+ card, you need to have the discipline to apply it to items that actually improve wellness.  I realize this could fall under the +, but that’s taking it a bit far.

The second item: It was my birthday yesterday, and the local radio station sent an email wishing me a happy birthday, including a promotion.  Again, nothing wrong with that – except the email was addressed to “FirstName!”

Kool 108 Email

Sending a birthday message is a great way to build customer intimacy.  But only if you do it right.  This message is the opposite of intimacy.

You need to take the time to test your messages – and don’t send them until they’re right.

Your takeaway:  We all have loyalty programs that are designed to improve our customer experience.  But if you do not have the discipline to think through the implications and test them, they can actually detract from, rather than add to, your customer experience.

Two Customer Experiences Gone Wrong – LinkedIn, Arby’s

LinkedIn Invitation

Two national companies have created lessons for all of us.

First, from LinkedIn

#1:  I received the email on the right from LinkedIn today. I don’t actually know anything about the LinkedIn Contacts feature yet.  It’s probably really good.  But can’t they be more selective in choosing a contact to display? Since it’s unlikely I’ll use LinkedIn as “an opportunity to say hello” to my wife!

They probably did not deliberately select somebody with my same last name, but they should definitely weed out contacts who do.

The lesson:  It’s impossible to think through every possible result of your campaigns, but do you test them thoroughly before launching?  Had LinkedIn sent this email to all employees first, they would have found this problem before going live to customers.  Do you test before launch?

Next, from Arby’s

#2: Have you bought something at the Arby’s drive-through recently?  A polite woman’s voice comes on asking if you want to order whatever product they’re promoting.  You say “No thanks,” and the conversation continues in a very different voice.  Apparently, Arby’s uses an actress to pre-record the offer to start the conversation, then uses an employee from there on.

My local McDonald’s also tested this idea, but abandoned it quickly.  Who could think this is a good idea?  If the lift gained from the actress’s invitation so great that it makes up for the jarring experience that follows? My favorite is when the accent-neutral actress’s invitation is followed by a Hispanic man asking if I want curly fries with my order.

The lesson: While most of us don’t have a drive-through, do you create a similar jarring customer experience when we conduct the inevitable hand-offs?  More importantly, do you take the time to personally walk through your customer experience?  Because one walk-through should be all it takes to realize this is a mistake.

Customer Experience Irony

I attended a webinar today titled Understanding the Voice of the Customer: How to Effectively Gather and Leverage Customer Insight from Multiple Channels to Enhance the Customer Experience. I’m obviously all about both Voice of the Customer and the Customer Experience. But they immediately lost me when the presentation began with:

UnderstandingVOC-FirstPage Read more