Customer Experience

The Lost Art of Making Change

Posted on January 28, 2015. Filed under: Customer Experience | Tags: |

When did we lose the ability to count change? When we began enjoying automated checkout? When self-checkout appeared? I’m not sure, but it’s now a lost art…or nearly so.

I went back to my hometown over the Christmas holiday and I found that, in fact, in a small Nebraska farming community, the art of counting change lives on. I bought a dozen eggs for my mom one afternoon in Larry’s Market, a two-lane grocery store. My bill was a whopping $2.46 and when I handed the cashier my $5 bill, she promptly made change and counted it back to me. And she didn’t just say, “Here’s $2.54″…no, she counted up from $2.46 to $5.00! I couldn’t believe it! And I smiled, not just for the moment, but for hours, days, and now a month later.

That’s the impact a great customer experience can have. Something as simple as counting my change back made me, as a customer, feel really special. It was a connection…back to simpler days and a time when checking out at the grocery store was more than a transaction; it was an interaction.

Make the connection with your customers. It often takes just a bit more effort to show you care and make a big impact…one that can last not just for the moment, but for hours, days, months, even years.

Thank you to the phenomenal people in Larry’s Market for keeping the art of making change, and a great customer experience, alive!

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Business Etiquette in the Age of Texting

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Brand Promise, Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

I’m giving a presentation on business etiquette to a professional society in a couple of weeks. I think I have a decent handle on business etiquette, but did some research to get the latest and greatest. There are some pretty interesting pieces of information out there, things like, “You can talk about politics, as long as you don’t attack a particular side, but you should never, ever swear.” I don’t know about you, but I think we’re better off if both are off limits!

One piece of advice I really like, though, is that true business etiquette isn’t a bunch of rules, but rather a genuine regard for those around us, be they prospects, customers, or colleagues. Don’t you hate it when a provider’s employee bashes another employee or group of employees? I’m thinking about our cable provider at home…when we had a technical problem and had to call someone out multiple times to fix it. Inevitably the person working on the issue would tell us that the previous repair people didn’t know what they were doing. That frustrated me on a multitude of levels! Or how about this one? I read about a guy who had called his bank and asked too many questions; the bank had a policy that a maximum of three questions could be asked per phone call. When he went to the bank and complained, he was told that all could be resolved if he just understood the rules. Apparently it was his fault, not the bank’s. (I wonder whose fault it was when he moved his accounts to a different bank?)

It’s pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t. For those of us responsible for sales and the customer experience, it could look something like this. Once the agreement is drawn up and sent over, the offering bears no resemblance to what was presented by the salesperson due to a desire to “just get a sale.” Or it could look more like this. The account manager has no idea what the customer purchased because there’s been no handoff of information. Just two scenarios, and there could be many others, but you get the picture. It’s still pretty obvious when there’s a genuine regard for someone else…and when there isn’t.

So in this age of texting, when addressing an envelope is nearly a lost art, when email is often misunderstood as communication, and when automated prompts answer our phone calls more often than people, dare your brand to be different. Dare to have a genuine regard for those around you. Let’s all show a little love to our prospects, customers, and colleagues. Let’s stop worrying so much about business etiquette rules and simply care…a lot!


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Are You Proud of What You Sell?

Posted on May 16, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Uncategorized |

Are you proud of what you sell? Whether you are a salesperson, a marketer, or an account rep, you’re in the business of selling. Perhaps you sell a product, maybe a service, or even ideas internally in your organization. Regardless of what you sell, it’s important to believe in it.

People can sense a lack of authenticity faster than a case of rotten eggs. If you try to put on an artificial show of enthusiasm for your buyers, they will know it immediately and will respond accordingly by walking – or running – away. You’ve seen the ones who don’t believe. The ones who simply talk, talk, and talk – much as if they are trying to convince themselves of what they’re saying. It’s pretty difficult to sell something you don’t believe in…and even more difficult to engage and develop clients after the sale.

If you aren’t excited about what you sell how do you expect to influence others to buy it? And if you don’t believe it in, why in the world would you spend a good part of your waking hours trying to sell it to others? How demotivating that must be!

Are you proud of what you sell? If your honest answer is “no,” it will be difficult to succeed. Instead, first go find something to sell that you do believe in. You’ll immediately put yourself in a better place to succeed.

Here’s to success!


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Sportsmanship – An Amazing Video

Posted on April 7, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits |

I received this link from a friend of mine and had to pass it on. In a world too often filled with competition, back-stabbing, and bickering, we sometimes get a glimpse of true heart and character…and in situations that catch us by surprise. I hope this story inspires you as much as it did me. Take a peek.

Game Winning Homerun Turns Tragic – Inspiring Display of Sportsmanship

Have a superb day and let your best heart and character shine!



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A Day in the Life…

Posted on April 5, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Customer Focus, Differentiated Messaging |

We see it on TV, in magazines, even on the web. “A Day in the Life…” Whether the focus in on the president, business executives, celebrities, teachers, Olympic hopefuls, Miss America, or some other interesting character…you name it, we seem to be obsessed with a day in the life of those we don’t know.

But are we obsessed with knowing what a day in the life of our customer looks like? I’d venture a guess to say few of us are. I find it interesting that we care so much about the lives of people we’ll never touch and yet ignore the lives of our customers who we may touch every single day. Instead, we tend to assume what that day looks like. And you know the risk with the tendency to assume.

So if you want to improve your ability to be relevant to your customers, what are you to do about it? Here’s a thought: find out what a day in the life of your customer looks like. You can shadow them, much like reporters do with those people whose lives we read about…but that might get kind of weird in some situations. For instance, if you’re a dentist, your patients may not get all excited about having you follow them around, watching what they eat, how often they brush their teeth, how often they “forget” to floss.  A viable alternative might be to ask them. Focus groups and traditional customer research are great for this, as are intentional conversations. Ask your customers what a day in their lives are like. Actively listen, ask questions, be present in the conversation, and you’ll be amazed at how much insight you gain.

Having these conversations will help you understand the critical objectives of your customers and the challenges that keep them from reaching their objectives. That allows you to develop and position solutions that address the pain points and message in the sweet spot – that area where your customers have needs that you can address with differentiated solutions.

You can assume all you want, create personas until your brain bursts, and dream the loftiest dreams, but until you are obsessed with a day in the life of your customers, you will be guessing at the solutions and messaging that are relevant to them. But once you get a picture of a day in their life, you’ll be able to focus on them with pinpoint accuracy. And though “a day in the life” of your customers may not be TV-ready, what you find will be pretty interesting and exciting for your business.


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The Magic of Roy’s

Posted on April 1, 2011. Filed under: Brand Promise, Customer Experience, Practical Branding |

My husband, Don, has a penchant for Roy’s Restaurant – Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. His penchant is so great that he has a goal to visit all 33 locations across the US. We had the pleasure of meeting RoyYamaguchi, world-renowned chef and founder of Roy’s, last fall during a visit to Hawaii.  He and his team members have been intrigued about Don’s quest, as he’s the first person they’ve met with such a goal. As such, this quest has given rise to a “challenge of the restaurants” since he reached number 15.

A couple months ago, I was with Don when we visited Roy’s number 29 and 30, and we were treated to phenomenal customer experiences both evenings. I have to tell you the stories.

I should start this by telling you that Bryson Keens, Managing Partner of the Roy’s in Baltimore, has become a champion of my husband’s quest and now calls each Roy’s prior to Don’s visit to let them know they have a Roy’s aficionado coming. Whatever he says to his colleagues tends to bring out the absolute best creativity in them. So, the first night, we dined at Roy’s in Bonita Springs (#29), Sondra Hon, the Managing Partner there, came to greet us and get to know us. We received a special appetizer, compliments of Sondra, and gifts of two beautiful martini glasses and Hawaiian motif USB drives. We were treated like royalty the entire evening and felt like we were dining with good friends all around us.

The second evening, we visited the Roy’s in Naples (#30). Upon arrival, we were seated at the “seen and be seen” table, which was reserved for us and overlooked the entire restaurant. We began talking to the Managing Partner, David Lamarca, who graciously came to welcome us. Jerry, our waiter, was anxiously watching us and when we finally stopped chatting, he immediately came over and said Chef Eric (Delano) was waiting for us with a special appetizer. We thought the appetizer was prepared and waiting in the kitchen. But no, indeed Chef Eric was waiting to come out and create this appetizertableside for us. What a treat to watch him prepare seared tuna, lobster bisque, and marinated mushrooms as he described the ingredients and the preparation of each. We had a lovely conversation with him until he had to return to the kitchen! Following a fabulous meal and glass of wine, Jerry brought out dessert for us – Roy’s molten chocolate cake. Our tab, to our amazement, was nearly zero as the restaurant had provided most of our dinner with their compliments. Before the evening was over another waiter, Carlos, stopped by just to say hi and thanks for the loyalty. Carlos wasn’t our waiter; he simply saw a special experience and made a decision to “up” the ante a bit. More martini glasses (we now have a set of four), a photograph for posterity, and we were sent home very full and very happy.

So, great story you say, but what are the take-aways? Consider these three:

  1. If you’ve never been to a Roy’s, you need to go – fabulous food, amazing atmosphere, and wonderful people.
  2. Each Managing Partner and Chef Partner we’ve met (and we’ve met quite few) lives the Roy’s brand. We see how Roy’s managers and chefs emulate the spirit he personally brings to his conversations and, obviously, his career. For example, how fun is the rivalry Bryson Keens has evoked among the partners based on his enthusiasm over Don’s quest?
  3. Living the brand through the customer experience goes beyond the Managing and Chef Partners to every employee. Carlos took it upon himself to come over to us, even though he wasn’t our waiter. He’s not the first Roy’s waiter or hostess to do that…they all make us feel special.

Feeling special, feeling valued…isn’t that what we want our customers to feel? But in the throes of the workday, how many of us make the intentional decision to do that? It’s easy to forget. But remember, what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience. Roy’s gets it and has made the decision to make customers feel valued.

Don will make it all the Roy’s restaurants…and honestly, we can’t wait to see what’s in store at each one along the way!

Wouldn’t it be great if your customers felt the same way?


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Create Memories Through Experience

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits, Practical Branding | Tags: |

Think back to one of your most vivid memories – perhaps it’s a perfect powder ski day…perhaps a special birthday…perhaps something else. If I asked you to describe the memory, I bet you could pull out the most amazing details to describe it.

Here’s one from me. It was about at least seven years ago…and it was a ski day. It was snowing hard, really hard. The sky wasn’t blue or gray – it was white. I love skiing on really sunny days and extremely snowy days – terrible conditions really challenge me and I get psyched! The snow was pelting my face, the powder was about 10” deep – right at the top of my ski boot – and it was difficult to see very far. It was silent…my skis made no noise at all as they cut through the white stuff. And I was focused. It takes some decent concentration to ski in that much powder, but I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I fall, at least it won’t hurt!” I even have a picture ingrained in my mind of the view (or lack thereof) coming down the mountain, a racecourse on my right, unable to see much farther than 20 feet ahead, and on this is overlaid the thrilling feeling of the challenge.

Do you have a memory like that – a memory about which you can pull up clear details, no matter how long ago it occurred? Most likely, that memory is associated with an experience.  That’s because experiences trigger brain memory and emotions.  And, important in business, experiences, memory, and emotions influence opinions, and opinions often define brands in our world today.

Think about those brands that really stand out for you. Is it because of the product delivered or is it because of the experience that surrounds that product…the way it makes you feel? Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Disney are all nationally recognized as providers of stellar customer experiences. But that level of experience can happen in an everyday world as well. For me, they are provided by my dentist, by one of the checkers at my local grocery store, and by my Apple store.  Those everyday brands are defined more for me by the experience I receive than by the service or product I buy. I’m not discounting function – it has its place – but the experience is what I remember.

When you think about it, the union of what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience.  And that experience triggers memory and emotion, which then serve to define your brand in your customers’ minds.  In this way, emotion and experience play important roles in defining your brand in the marketplace today. Are you focusing on what your customers see, hear, and touch, and how they interact with you? Think about your memories and pay attention to the type of details you vividly recall.

You want to be remembered? Try making memories through experience.


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Why Did Groupon Do It?

Posted on March 16, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Differentiated Messaging | Tags: , , , |

Two months after the Super Bowl, people are still talking about the Groupon commercials. If you happen to be one of the few people in this country that didn’t see them, the most controversial ad featured Timothy Hutton highlighting the plight of the Tibetan people – and then suddenly noting that they “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” which Groupon users can get for a great price.

The commercials unleashed immediate backlash on social media websites. People called the commercials “disgusting,” “tacky,” and “vulgar.” What’s really odd about this whole thing is that Groupon actually intended the ads to tell viewers about their “Save the Money,” website, a philanthropic campaign to raise money for a group of organizations, including The Tibetan Fund. But no one, including me, ever got that message. Why was it missing?

Groupon’s CEO wrote on the company website that the intent was to “poke fun at themselves,” not to trivialize the causes. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Groupon blew millions of dollars creating the ads, hiring celebrities, and buying airtime to, in the opinion of millions of viewers, poke fun at the problems of others.

So what did it do for their brand?  The jury is still out.  Some say the ads were a complete gaffe and put a huge dent in the brand, evidenced by untold throngs of people opting out of their email marketing (including the person to whom I was talking two days ago).  Others say the fact that people want to save money these days supersedes bad taste.  And still others say that Groupon got exactly what they wanted – brand recognition for months, whether positive or negative.

The opinions vary, but what doesn’t vary is the fact that Groupon’s Super Bowl ads were not consistent with the brand it had built over the past two years. The company grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site,, which is focused on doing good.  Groupon had built its reputation through word of mouth and limited online advertising. It was, in essence, “grass roots grown.” Focused on doing good and grass roots grown – not exactly what the commercials relayed, do you think?

Customer experience is a compilation of what your prospects and customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you.  In this case, what Groupon’s prospects and customers saw and heard were in direct opposition to what the supposed “intent,” according to Groupon’s CEO, was. Who missed that dichotomy while the ads were being created? Where was the testing that would have quickly told them the ads were off-brand?

Messages, whether they are communicated verbally, in writing, or in interactions, are important – they can support or devalue your brand. They are worth paying attention to because although a brand takes hundreds of right moves to build, it can be damaged – or destroyed – by one bad move.

Time will tell what Groupon learned from their first foray into the big time. Don’t wait to learn the hard way – take the time and action to ensure your brand is strengthened by what you say and do.



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The Two Most Powerful Words…

Posted on February 18, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience |

…in the English language just may be an old-fashioned “Thank You.”

Every individual wants to be appreciated. In the world of your customers, they want to be appreciated for the investment they are making. Most people make a concious decision of how to spend money, regardless of whether that money reflects their personal funds or a corporate budget. When they choose to spend it with you, it makes sense to show appreciation. So how do you do that? Try saying “Thank you.”

It’s not that we don’t hear the words very often. We actually hear them quite frequently. But how many times do they carry any sincerity? Most times, at best they’re simply part of a script or received via a mass-generated email or direct mail. Arguably, at worst, there’s nothing at all.

You’ve all been there…from the grocery store checkout line to the last professional services person you hired. How’d you feel when no appreciation was expressed? Did it faze you? Maybe, maybe not.  Perhaps you don’t even remember it. But can you remember a time when you were thanked with authenticity? I bet you do. And I bet it felt pretty darn good.That’s differentiation! So much differentiation that “thank you” can become a competitive advantage for you.

So how are you going to thank your customers this year? How are you going to differentiate your thank you from those of everyone else? It doesn’t require a load of money, but it does take intentional thought and action. You can be creative or you can make it as simple as looking your customer in the eye, pausing a second, smiling, and saying, “Thank you” and truly meaning it. It’s a powerful way to differentiate your company, your customer experience, and create advocates for your business. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Make your thank you reflect your brand – you can be creative, quirky, or classic. Whatever direction you go, your thank you provides another opportunity to strengthen your brand – don’t waste the opportunity.
  2. Be timely – when you give an impromtu thanks for a particular action, give it within 48 hours of the action that prompted it for highest impact. But even after 48 hours, it’s still better than no thanks at all.
  3. Be authentic – One of my pet peeves is receiving a mass, pre-printed thank you. The appreciation faction I feel is less than zero. However you choose to show your thanks, make sure it’s authentic. Customers can smell insincerity a mile away.
  4. Say thank you for complaints – Most customer won’t tell you if you’ve messed up, they simply will be silent and vote with their wallets (and that vote won’t be for you). So when a client gives you constructive feedback, thank them as their feedback will help you improve your business. The criticism may hurt at first, but will benefit you long-term. And it also gives you the opportunity to potentially turn a bad situation into a good one!
  5. Don’t underestimate the value of a handwritten note – Most companies opt for “gifts” that can be quickly and easily sent, but never underestimate the impact that a handwritten note will have. In today’s world of electronic everything, a handwritten note breaks through the noise and stands out.

Go ahead, get powerful and get a competitive advantage with two amazing words: THANK YOU!


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News Travels Fast These Days

Posted on February 11, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience | Tags: , , , , , |

90% of online consumers worldwide trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust consumer opinions posted online.

Source: Neilson

A pretty sobering statement. But as a user of products and services, would you say the same thing?

And what does that mean for you and your business? It means you’d better have your act together! Word of mouth is becoming more and more important. Word of mouth is also becoming more and more global, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, and other online review avenues.

Certainly core product and service is important – and I’m not discounting that. But I’ve been searching online reviews and it seems to me that people expect the product or service to work…that’s no longer the issue. That’s more the cost of being at the table in the market. Rather, people now comment on how they were treated, whether their voicemails were returned on time, whether anyone followed up with them, how they were made to feel, and the quality of the interactions they had. You might remember David Carroll, the gentleman who wrote a song a few years back when United Airlines damaged his guitar and refused to pay for it. The site housing the song had 720,000 hits within four days. News travels fast these days.

Now combine that with the statement at the top of the post. Today, individuals trust recommendations from others they perceive to be peers, whether they know them or not, far more than they trust something a statement a business makes about itself, its products, or its services.

Bottom line, your customers can quickly and powerfully point prospects away from you – or toward you.

So there’s really not a better day to start focusing on the customer experience. Make sure what your customers see, hear, touch, and how they interact with you reflect the reputation you want in the market.

People listen to other people. Create advocates that will use their recommendations, in person, in print, and online, to be advocates for you.


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