A Tale of Two (or Three?) Customer Experience Speakers

What is the heart of your customer experience?  Do you have very specific outcomes you are trying to accomplish?  Two recent opportunities to hear fellow customer experience speakers reminded me of the importance to be tight on your desired outcome and design your entire experience towards accomplishing that goal.

In the least year I have been speaking quite a bit on customer experience, so I was excited to hear two of my fellow speakers within 24 hours to compare notes.  How did they compare, and what lessons do these speakers offer for your customer experience?

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Guest Post: Your chance to help a Millennial CX Advocate

Today’s guest post is from blog reader Samantha Klein.  Samantha had a terrific customer experience that has inspired her. Read on for more details!


After being told by Apple and TekServe that I would have to pay $800 for them to repair my laptop (it accidentally drank a can of Diet Coke…), I decided to give it one more shot as I walked by a local mom & pop shop, Mike’s Tech Shop, a few blocks from my apartment. Not only did the folks at Mike’s Tech Shop fix my laptop for free after spending 15 minutes speaking with me and running diagnostics on my sick laptop, but they then proceeded to inform me that I was their 10,000th customer and proceeded to make me feel like a total celebrity!!

Inspired by this exceptional personalized customer service at a small local shop, along with my passion for constantly assessing and researching the customer experience, I decided it was time for me to take action on changing the future of retail by applying to The Millennial Train Project, a crowdfunded cross-country full of change-making Millennials.

MTP is a non-profit organization that will lead a crowd-funded transcontinental train journey this coming August to empower diverse groups of passionate, enterprising and civic-minded Millennials to advance a project that benefits, serves, and inspires others.

My mission is to help customers identify those unique retailers in different cities who provide exceptional customer service and to provide brick & mortar retailers with proof that customer service is critical to their survival and success.

I plan to visit local stores at each of the 10 stops along the journey to personally experience and then review their customer service in depth. I will post my reviews online on a website I will create,, where others will be able to read and post their own comments, reviews and opinions, much as Zagat does for restaurants, for everyone, including retailers, to share.

I need to raise a minimum of $5,000 to get my project funded, and every dollar toward that goal is greatly appreciated.

Please check out my project at the following link and help me get on board the Millennial Train!

Organization: LF USA


A Case Study in Loyalty: The Cabela’s CLUB

Cabela's Logo How do you create a world-class customer loyalty program? Focus less on providing best-in-class benefits and more on creating a great customer experience. That’s the advice of Sean Baker, the incoming CEO of Cabela’s World’s Foremost Bank and leader of the Cabela’s CLUB program.

I interviewed Sean to learn more about Cabela’s CLUB and its critical role in driving their customer experience. The lessons certainly apply to retailers as a class, but also have something to teach anybody wanting to create better relationships with customers.

CLUB Components

First, a quick background on the program. The Cabela’s CLUB is a loyalty program paired with a Visa card. It began as a partnership with a small regional bank as a way to give their best customers free gear, but in 2001 Cabela’s brought the program in-house. They are now one of only two retailers who entirely own their own bank to run their loyalty program (Nordstrom’s is the other). Read more

Does your satisfaction survey show disrespect for customers

Note: This article was originally posted in 2012. Best Buy no longer uses this survey, but this poor design is still used by companies who insist on extra-long surveys.

How do you know when a company’s on the ropes?  Some observers watch cash flow.  Others look at turnover.  Me?  I look at how a company treats its customers.  When a company’s customer experience starts to drop, it’s time to sell the stock. I’m afraid that may have happened at Best Buy, especially when I look at their new customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction surveys are critical for creating your customer experience.  A great survey puts your customer at the center of your customer experience design, allowing you to learn and improve as you go.  But this only works when you design the survey from a perspective of customer respect.  When your customer satisfaction survey design assumes your customers aren’t paying attention to the survey, then why bother?  In the past, Best Buy’s culture was centered on the customer experience. But their recent update to their customer satisfaction survey shows that at least one group thinks their customers are unworthy of respect. Read more

Best Buy’s New Store Format: Beautiful Design Limited by Store Execution Issues

Best Buy unveiled a new store format last week at its flagship location a few blocks from their corporate headquarters. I visited the store twice last week. You can find more general review at The Mama Report, including photos, as well as at the Star-Tribune. The store has opened to rave reviews, and understandably so. The new format is beautiful, and greatly increases the opportunity to play with and learn technology.

The company traditionally introduces new store concepts in 1-3 stores, evaluates them, and determines which parts (if any) to scale. There are too many changes to include in one post, including such additions as a “Solutions Central” to ask questions, educational “digital displays” teaching about products, and vignettes that allow you to see how appliances might fit into your home. I will focus on the overall look and feel, and three specific areas: Tablet Central, the 3DTV Experience, and the Magnolia Design Center. This post reviews the format, and gives advice as to which parts should be scaled.

Full Disclosure

I worked for Best Buy for six years through 2008, and still love the brand. My last three years I designed interactive experiences such as those featured in this store. Several are clearly descendants of projects I led. This makes me more familiar with the issues than most. Read more

The Second Key to Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience: Engage the Entire Team on the Opportunity

Once you know what matters, the next step is to get everybody involved.

I have been speaking about this topic quite a bit lately, and one exercise I have is for participants to identify five recent projects or programs their company has developed to improve your customer experience. These could be new products, pricing changes, sales training programs – any new idea. Go ahead and do this, as well. Write down five new projects your company is implementing:

  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________
  4. ______________________________
  5. ______________________________

Now that you have this list (you did do the exercise, didn’t you?), let’s look at your projects. Whether you work for a 50 or 50,000-person company, a good rule of thumb is that 90% of your company’s employees are individual contributors. So if your company is doing well at this key, 4-½ of these ideas should come from front-line employees. Brave readers: comment on how well you did!

Of the hundreds of attendees in my talks, how many had at least three ideas come from an individual contributor?


None came from a company of more than ten people. Only about half had even one idea come from a front-line employee.

We can do better. Companies pay consultants to tell them what to do, when they have dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of passionate employees who know far more about their customers. We need to do cast a wider net. Read more

Innovating Through Your Front-Line Staff Speech

I’ve been speaking quite a bit lately – four times in the last week and a half – so I haven’t been able to complete the second half of my blog post “Experiment Your Way to Growth.” But you can see me speak about it below.  I come on at 2:44 into it.

The second half should be out next week!

Targeting Your Service Recovery to Avoid the “Hail Mary”

Last week I visited a company in St. Louis who put me up in a Hampton Inn. Hampton Inn isn’t at the top of my hotel list, but it isn’t on the bottom, either. It’s a fine hotel, with a hot tub mercifully free of screaming kids. But as I was getting ready for the day I found my hot water disappearing, and had to shave without any hot water at all.

I was mildly annoyed, but that was all. As I stopped by the front desk for another purpose, I waited (and waited!) for the manager who was on the phone. Finally, I gave up and sought out another staff member, asked my question, and casually asked whether they knew they were out of hot water. In my mind, the conversation was over. No big deal.

I was running late, so sat down for a quick breakfast. The manager then sought me out, apologized for being on the phone, then quickly mentioned they were comping my room, saying “We want you to come back here.”

Great service recovery, you might think. But was it?

Service Recovery is Crucial

Few activities impact a hotel (or indeed, any service company) more than service recovery. Beldona’s and Prasad’s study of hotels in Orlando found that poor service recovery was actually more damaging than having no service recovery at all.

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Three Customer Experience Surveying Principles

The Heart of the Matter

We need to create a standard for customer satisfaction surveys. In this post, I propose the following Customer Experience Surveying Principles:

      1. Make it short;

      2. If you ask it, use it;

      3. Never ask a question when a query will do.


A few weeks ago I met with another consultant offering customer satisfaction surveys, although as only a small part of his business. The conversation turned to methodology when he said “I just like to put together a few questions, and get something out there quickly.”

When I showed shock at his cavalier approach, he argued, “What you have to realize is that these companies are not in the business of doing customer satisfaction surveys. They just don’t want to spend much time thinking about it.”

I was offended at the remark, but held my tongue. What I wanted to say was “They’re not in the business of doing accounting, either. Do you suggest they do a similar half-a** job of that, too?” I simply could not believe he argued for such a deliberately casual and careless approach towards a customer-facing effort.

Unfortunately, he is not alone in this disregard towards interrupting customers. Why else do we find so many terrible surveys? He is casually regarding two pillars that I hold dear: My customers and my brand. How you treat the first directly impacts how they see the second. But apparently this viewpoint is unique.

How else do you explain JC Penney’s satisfaction survey question: “Please select the number 2 for this question.” I get it – they want to validate the scientific accuracy of the response. But what does this say about their opinion of their customers? “We don’t think you’re paying attention, so we’re going to ask a question that shows our low opinion of you.”

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Review of The Ultimate Question 2.0

The Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven WorldThe Ultimate Question 2.0 (Revised and Expanded Edition): How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World by Fred Reichheld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

NPS – opinions vary as to whether it’s the “best” way of measuring your customer engagement. The problem is that the industry is looking for a measurement that works for any industry or company. And such a tool does not exist.

Nevertheless, NPS is a good measurement, and Reichheld lays out how to be successful with the program.

The important thing that the author notes is that NPS does not stand for Net Promoter Score, but Net Promoter System. And it’s this System that is critical. In fact, if you replaced the measurement with Satisfaction, Engagement, Ownership, or your favorite home-brewed system, your business will still see significant growth if you apply the disciplines he outlines in his book.

A good book to get you started with NPS or any system. Highly recommended.

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