3 Examples of Change for the Better in Airlines

by Colin Shaw on March 5, 2015

There have been many great stories in the past couple of months about airlines doing what was right by their Customers. We can all learn a little about Customer centricity when we look at these examples from three major carriers in the US.

Frontier Airlines Pilot Feeds His Passengers While Stranded on Runway

Frequent travelers have all been there…sitting on the runway, hungry, thirsty, and needing to go to the lavatory but strapped in their seat, sometimes for hours. It’s unpleasant for everybody. When this scenario played out on the runway in Cheyenne, WY, for a flight bound for Denver, Captain Gerhard Brandner ordered 38 pizzas from the local Domino’s to be delivered to the plane. He said of the incident that, “It was time to take care of my passengers.”

I love this example. What a great move by the captain to make sure that the unpleasant necessary delay (a weather delay in Denver) didn’t have to be a bad experience for passengers! It is important in situations like this one that organizations don’t make excuses for a bad experience and instead focus on how they can make it more pleasant. Here is an excellent example of separating the “what,” weather delay in Denver that leaves passengers stranded on the runway in Wyoming for hours, from the “how,” having pizza delivered, so passengers don’t have to starve while they wait.

Southwest Attacks Its Late Problem Head-on with Its Customers

Southwest Airlines is a great Customer-centric airline with excellent employee engagement. What Southwest Airlines is not, at least according the US Department of Transportation, is punctual, which is clearly not a great stat when you are in the transportation game.

In a great article on Inc.com, Southwest’s senior director of operational performance Steve Hozdulick is attacking the problem to increase their on-time arrivals by 83 to 85% next year:

  • First, they are going to break it down into several steps to solve the problem instead of just making one big move and moving on to the next order of business.
  • Second, they are going to explain better “why” they were late (which was because they are updating their fleet with larger aircraft that take longer to load and unload).  Personally I hate it when you hear, “This flight is delayed because the inbound aircraft was late.” I know that! WHY was it late is always my thought…

Most importantly, however, they are honest and public about their problem. Customers don’t like to be late, but they like to be lied to even less, so this kind of honesty and open communication strengthens the relationship because Customers know that Southwest is going to tell them the truth.

JetBlue Will Automatically Check You in

There are many details (read: hassles) before you travel. There is packing, getting to the airport, taking care of all the details at work and home while you are gone, parking, confirming your hotel, and so on…I’m exhausted just typing the list. JetBlue recognizes that checking in is just one more task to add to a long list for their Customers. They decided to streamline the check-in process for their hassled travelers by automatically checking them in 24 hours before their flight, which they will then email to their passenger.

Automatic check-in is a good move because it shows that they look at the experience with an outward-in focus, much like the focus a customer has. They are walking in their customer’s shoes and seeing a place where they can improve one of their touch points to deliver a better experience. Even better is that it is a win-win situation as one of the things this allows JetBlue to do is correct any reservation or flight problems before the passenger arrives at the airport. Everyone wins here, because eliminating the discovery of these types of mistakes makes the wait lines shorter for everybody at the airport—which I’m sure we can all agree is a BIG win!

So three things that are going better in the Airline industry before. I have to say being a regular flyer there are a number of other things that need to be fixed but this is at least a start.

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker. To read more from Colin on LinkedIn, connect with him by clicking the follow button above or below. If you would like to follow Beyond Philosophy click here

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

View our books on Customer Experience here.

Colin Shaw3 Examples of Change for the Better in Airlines

Best Advice: Stop Researching Your Customers — and Do Something

by Colin Shaw on March 4, 2015

In this series, professionals share the words of wisdom that made all the difference in their lives. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #BestAdvice in the body of your post).

What is the point of doing research is you are not going to do anything with it?

Let me give you an example. It was the first few days after I had been promoted to the SVP, Customer Experience for British Telecom a number of years ago. One of my first acts was to attend a feedback session intended to give us the results of our annual customer research project ordered by my predecessors, the third or fourth year we had commissioned it in as many years.

The truth was the agency presenter’s demeanor surprised me. Her attitude was matter-of-fact, and her body language clearly read, “I don’t want to be here.” I felt as if she were advertising the fact this session was a total waste of her time. After about halfway through the presentation, I felt compelled to stop her.

“Why are you delivering this presentation like you don’t care?” I asked her, challenging her on her bad attitude.

“Don’t care?” she said, smiling as though to say that was ironic. “I don’t care?” I could instantly see that I had hit on something, and clearly it was a raw nerve. She continued, and what she said made an impact on me:

“We have been undertaking this research for you for the last three or four years. Each year we tell you that your Customers are unhappy with the service you provide and they want you to change it. Each year people sit here and nod in agreement. And then, guess what? Nothing happens! Therefore, the following year we do the same research, which tells you the same thing; the only change is it’s just got worse. Again, people nod, and nothing happens!

“So with respect, it is not that I don’t care, it is that you don’t care. You don’t care that Customer service is getting worse. What I really don’t understand is why you waste your money in doing this research if you are only going to ignore it!”

I was taken aback by her outburst, but could understand her frustration and her passion. More importantly, she was right. We didn’t care. We just did the research, because we were a big company and that’s what big companies do. It was another box ticked. It just shows the lack of Customer Centricity of the organization.

I thought about that conversation many times over the next couple of years. I used it as motivation to change this behavior for my company. My new role was to take action, not just read reports and listen to presentations about what we should do.

Taking action in a large company, however, isn’t a simple task. The internal challenges we all face can be daunting and could be very demotivating for my team. As with many companies, despite having an internal company value that said, “We put Customers first,” that was not the case. The reality was that senior executives were more concerned about keeping expenses low and cutting costs than improving the Customer Experience. Even though they said all the right things when push came to shove, it was always cost cutting that took priority over improving the Customer Experience.

However, here is the insight: It is about how you position things. Like the old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I quickly learned trying to make a case for change based on improving the Customers’ Experience wasn’t going to work, especially if it cost money. I had to change the way I thought and positioned things.

After failing more than once in my efforts to persuade them to invest in the Experience, I finally realized that presenting my Customer Experience changes under the cost-savings banner was the way to win over my senior executive team. How could we save costs AND improve the Customer Experience? The trick was to consider all the costs that the company incurred through this poor service, including management’s time in dealing with complaints etc.

My team and I quickly discovered that poor service costs money. We discovered huge savings could be made by eliminating poor service. Every case we presented lead with the information on how we could save costs and, “Oh, by the way, improve the Customer Experience as well.”

Eureka! It worked. I am proud to say that once we took action we had some great results. The truth was the market was crying out for the types of changes the research was telling us we needed, and the results we achieved by making these changes were worth the effort.

Research is excellent, important, and critical to making a strong plan. But understanding the situation is only half the battle. The other half of the battle, the most important one, in fact, is to get people to take action on the research. In other words, to stop analyzing and start acting.

So the question I have for you is: Is it time for you to stop analyzing and start acting?



Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success” is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level. This book focuses on what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your Customer Experience and the vital role of the conscious and subconscious experience with real-world examples. It became available today, for only $9.99! Read more here.

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawBest Advice: Stop Researching Your Customers — and Do Something

What Can We Learn from Restaurants and Casinos?

by Colin Shaw on February 24, 2015

95% or a person’s processing power is the subconscious experience.  Knowing this percentage, how can you harness the incredible power of the Customers’ subconscious mind to create a positive experience?

Let’s look at two industries have embraced this and see what we can learn from them: Restaurants and Casinos.

What these industries do to create a positive experience for their diners or players show us the importance of designing a deliberate subconscious experience for your customers, whomever they might be.

The Business of Dining Out

Restaurants are adept at getting their customers to relax and enjoy their dinners. They consider all the details of the experience to present their guests with the best possible outcome for their meal. Here are a few examples:

  • They set the mood right at the start. When you arrive, the host greets you. They will check your coat (if applicable for the venue), ask you if you have a reservation, direct you to the bar to get a cocktail while they “prepare your table,” and make you feel welcome and important. This process helps their guests relax and enjoy their status as guests.
  • The soundtrack matters. According to experts, guests feel more affluent when they listen to classical music. Many restaurants choose a classical soundtrack to help diners feel wealthier than they are. Then, they are more likely to order what looks good instead of what fits their budget. On the other hand, pop music reduces the average spend by customers in a restaurant by as much as 10%.
  • There is a method to the menu. In an article on businessinsider.com, I learned the psychology of presenting a menu that is meant to increase the amount of money a Customer spends on dinner. From the lack of dollar signs next to how the amounts listed to the prominent placement of high priced items to make the rest appear like a bargain by comparison, careful thought has gone into each aspect of the menu. Every inch of them designed to make diners forget they are spending money.
  • Clear them off and clear them out. In high turnover dining experiences, like chain restaurants, waiters are instructed to clear away the empties quickly. Not only does this improve the experience for guests to enjoy a clean table, but it also helps signal that their experience is ending.

Many of these experience details help diners enjoy their meal without worrying about the check. As you can see, however, they also benefit the establishment. They help Customers spend more and have a great time so that they want to come back. They also know when to leave…so the restaurant can seat someone else who is waiting.

There is a Reason They Call it “Lost Wages!”

If restaurants are trying to get you to spend more and enjoy your experience, casinos are going for every last penny and tempting you into coming back for more.  There is a reason they call Las Vegas, “Lost Wages!” As I have written before, casinos’ methods  do not restrict your free will, but they certainly limit your options while you are there. Let’s look at the business of making sure the house always wins:

  • It’s designed to keep you there. Literally. There are purposely no clocks, anywhere, no watches on employees and no windows so you can see what time of day it is. Casinos are designed to make players forget about their other commitments and lose themselves in the pursuit of winning. Also, essential services like bathrooms and cashing out your chips are deep in the heart of the casino, so you pass more machines on your way. And forget about finding your way back; casinos are designed to be difficult to find your way out.
  • They make it comfortable for you. There are drinks passing by from attractive waitresses. The lighting is dim and homey. All around you are happy sounds and dings that indicate that people are winning (although mostly they aren’t). Casinos know that as long as your needs are met, you will stay there, parting with more and more of your hard-earned cash.
  • They always make sure you win just enough. Listverse.com explains that Casinos make sure that you always feel like you are close to hitting it big. Machines are rigged to give you little wins along the way and always be just one cherry off the jackpot. Every game in the casino employs this near win strategy. The idea is that they give them a taste of the victory, but never fully satisfy it. People think if they just play a little longer…well, you can see how it goes from there.

So what does this mean to my Customer Experience?

In both of these examples of restaurants and casinos, there is great care and planning that goes into the experience for the guests. Every detail, from how the prices are listed in the menu to how bright the light is in the Sports Book, has been considered to give the proper psychological cues to the Customers. Restaurants and casinos are using their Customers subconscious minds to help them enjoy themselves and the experience they are having. In the process, the business gets more of their money.

Your industry has a unique set of subconscious clues; you just have to recognize them.  As Professor Ryan Hamilton will be going though is our upcoming training event, “Examining Consumer Psychology: How to Influence Customer Decisions,” these types of theories and their implications can have a profound influence on consumer behavior. Understanding these indicators are key to influencing the Customer behavior in your experience.

Whether you are a bank, a supermarket or a telecom, there is a psychology to your experience that can be designed to provide a better experience for your customers. Finding these clues is essential to creating a Customer Experience that will surprise and delight your customers. Chances are right now, those clues have not been deliberately addressed in your experience, which as we often say leaves them up to chance.

If there is one thing we can all learn from casinos is that they leave nothing up to chance. That is why the house always wins, and players keep coming back for more.

Do you know the psychological cues in your experience? I would be interested to hear about these in your comments below.

For more Customer Experience concepts, register for our Advanced Customer Experience Management (CEM) Certification Course beginning on April 20thadvanced CEM

Please click here to learn more.


If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker. To read more from Colin on LinkedIn, connect with him by clicking the follow button above or below. If you would like to follow Beyond Philosophy click here.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawWhat Can We Learn from Restaurants and Casinos?

Why Men & Women Remember Things Differently

by Colin Shaw on February 17, 2015

A study of over 3000 people discovered that men and women have yet another difference: the way they process emotions. According to researchers, this means that they remember different things about an experience. Knowing that the memory of the experience is what makes a Customer return, every organization should adapt their experience to appeal differently to the gender of the Customer.

The Journal of Neuroscience published a study last month that showed women were more likely to remember an emotional image than men. Participating in four different trials, the participants, 3,398 in all, were asked to look at pictures, some of which were designed to be neutral while other were designed to evoke emotional responses. The researchers discovered women responded more to the emotional images (particularly the negative ones) than the men and were able to recall them better when tested later.

Lead researcher, Dr. Annette Milnik said of the study on PsyBlog.com, “This would suggest that Gender-dependent differences in emotional processing and memory are due to different mechanisms.

Most of us don’t need a study to tell us there are differences between men and women. I do want to be very clear, I am not saying that this is because of nature or nurture, it could be either, it could be both. I say this because in the past, when I have raised the issue of the differences between the sexes, some people called me a misogynist for even suggesting there is a difference. I would like to state for the record that I do not think the differences make the sexes unequal in any way. What I am trying to deal with is the reality of today that for whatever reason there are differences. Given that this means when you are designing an emotionally engaging experience for your Customers, you could consider to have a male and a female version of it, if that is appropriate.

When you think about it, this already happens in experiences today. There are men and women’s clothing stores, and they have different designs. There are magazines that target men and those that target women. Who hasn’t noticed that the Lifetime channel has a slightly different tone in its presentation than FX? There are experiences designed all the time that are gender specific. So why not in a Customer Experience as well?

According to the study, women responded with more brain stimulation when they looked at emotionally provocative images. Different parts of their brain were activated then the men in the study. Because of this, they had a stronger emotional response to the image and were able to recall it better later. To me, this says that if your experience is targeting women, you should use more images that evoke the emotion you want your Customers to feel during your experience. If it targets both men and women, just remember that the women will respond more to the emotionally-charged images than the men will.

I wrote a post a while ago exploring why the memory of your experience is more important than the actual experience you had. It is at this point where the emotions you felt during the experience play an important part. You don’t come back to an organization again because of the experience you had, but for the experience you remember you had.

With the importance of memory of an experience in mind, one of the concepts we teach our clients is the Peak End Rule. The Peak End Rule is that people judge their experience by how they felt at its most intense moment and the end of it, and they forget the other parts over time. For this reason in our Advanced Customer Experience Management Certification course, we teach our clients it is important to make the intense moment positive and near the end of their Customer Experience to create the best possible memory that brings Customers back.

What this new research indicates to me is that women are likely to feel the emotions of an experience in a different and more stimulating way, so their emotional peak has the potential of being more intense. Also, it could change how they remember the experience over their male counterparts. Adjusting your experience to appeal to this quality might help create better memories for your female Customers and create more loyalty in that base.

So how would these gender-specific experiences work or look? It’s not like you can set up doors with the triangle and circle on them and have each of the sexes enter through the appropriate door. Nor am I suggesting that one of the experiences is in blue and the other in pink. But perhaps if you are designing an Experience for a target, be sure that you take into account what gender you are targeting and design the experience around their strengths. If your experience targets both sexes, as many do, then you might design options within the experience that accommodate the different genders appropriately.

What do you think? Should there be gender specific Customer Experience designs? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

For more concepts like the Peak End Rule and other important Customer Experience concepts, register for our Advanced Customer Experience Management (CEM) Certification Course beginning on April 20th.

Please click here to learn more.

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawWhy Men & Women Remember Things Differently

Now Revealed and Proven: (The True Marketing Value of) Return on Word of Mouth

by Michael Lowenstein on February 16, 2015

I’m grateful to my colleague, Richard Vanderveer, for making readers of his blog aware of an insightful report – Return on Word of Mouth, or WOM/ROI – recently issued by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  As a long-time believer in the power of word-of-mouth and brand favorability in b2b and b2c marketing, he  deserves a sincere thank you for bringing this insightful piece of work to everyone’s attention.

The project was sponsored by some big names – AT&T, Pepsico, Weight Watchers, Intuit, Discovery Communications, Ogilvy, etc – and it addressed several of marketing’s most contemporary and important questions:

  • How can WOM be measured on a consistent basis?
  • How can the business impact, or WOM/ROI, be determined?
  • How does WOM/ROI vary by business category?
  • What is the optimal role of online and offline WOM marketing?

Study objectives also addressed fundamental issues:

  • How much of sales, or other tangible objectives, is driven by WOM?
  • How does WOM amplify and cascade marketing initiatives?
  • How do offline WOM and online WOM compare?
  • What are best approaches for measuring WOM effectiveness?
  • How does paid advertising compare to WOM in driving results?

The report chronicles a detailed and extensive data collection and analysis effort (using structured equation modeling), where over two years of results were generated.  Among key findings:

  • In categories studied (telecom, personal care, software, TV programming, FMCG), WOM directly drove 13% of sales, compared to 20%-30% of sales from paid marketing
  • Two-thirds of WOM business impact is from offline WOM (based on WOM data provided by Keller Fay Group’s Talk Track and online WOM data provided by Converseon).  Note:  These findings are consistent with earlier research generated by Nielsen, Keller Fay Group, and the author
  • WOM directly and indirectly drives business performance:  It propels, and also
  • amplifies, offline and online media, as well as search and website visits, which then impact business performance.
  • About two-thirds of WOM’s impact is direct, and one-third amplifies paid media (by about 15%)

And, the study found that WOM’s effect on attitudes and behaviors occurs with much greater speed than traditional media:  85% to 95% of online WOM and 65% to 80% of offline WOM impact occurs within the first two weeks. By comparison, only 30% to 60% of TV’s impact occurs over the first two weeks.   Another key finding was, rather astoninshingly, that an offline WOM impression drives at least five times more sales than a paid advertising impression.

With respect to WOM measurement guidelines, it is important to understand the volume and sentiment (positive, neutral, negative) of informal consumer communication, utilize multivariate techniques for evaluation (structured equation modeling or discriminant function analysis), and look at the drivers of this behavior.  WOM is at least as important as other inputs to optimize KPIs.

Word of mouth has long been proven to be a significant component of, and contributor to, downstream customer advocacy and brand bonding, which we at Beyond Philosophy believe is a direct outcome of customer experience.  Arguably, advocacy is the most current, real-world and actionable method for assessing the downstream impact of customer-supplier interactions (http://customerthink.com/is-there-a-single-most-actionable-contemporary-and-real-world-metric-for-managing-optimizing-and-leveraging-customer-experience-and-behavior/).   Now, thanks to WOMMA, marketers can be assured that the brand-related word of mouth which comes from customers has real, positive, and valuable marketing ROI for any of their programs.

Michael LowensteinNow Revealed and Proven: (The True Marketing Value of) Return on Word of Mouth

McDonald’s Super Bowl Ad: I’m Lovin’ It

by Colin Shaw on February 12, 2015

All in all, this was a bad year of Super Bowl ads. The only one I liked was McDonald’s. Their ad campaign, “Give Lovin’, Get Lovin’” is a great idea.

Here is the ad in case you missed it.

Through February 14th, 2015, Customers at the restaurant will be randomly selected to owe a new form of payment. Instead of cash or credit, they want their Customers to pay with lovin’, a play obviously off McDonald’s tagline, “I’m Lovin’ it.” In the ad, we witness people asked to dance, to fist pump the cashier, for a son to call his mom and tell her he loves her, and a mom to tell her son something she loves about him, among other acts of love. Not only is this campaign a play on our emotions, but it is also setting up the idea that eating at their restaurant is a happy experience.

I like this idea, even if I don’t love the company that is doing it. In the past year, they have had some bad press that associates negative feelings with their brand.

With this ad, they are associating happy feelings with their brand name. By creating an experience that is fun for their Customers, they are creating happy memories of the experience for those Customers. As I have written before, the memory of the experience is what brings Customers back.

This ad does, however, set an expectation and to be effective branding, it needs to deliver on the expectations it sets. How many people will this happen with? It has to be enough that we hear of it personally, otherwise people will just call it a gimmick.  For it to be effective in creating a happy brand association, it should fall in with the idea of 6 degrees of separation, a theory we are all connected in six steps or less. For me to believe this is genuine, I need to hear one of my friends, or one of their friends have experienced this.

Last week, I posted about what to look for in the Super Bowl Ads. McDonald’s did a great job at meeting Tjaco Walvis three laws of branding in the ad to stimulate the four Ps (Place, Price, Promotion, and Product). By showing us regular people, they made it relevant to us; McDonald’s is a commonplace restaurant to which most of us have access. It was also coherent, in that it played upon their tagline, “I’m Lovin’ It,” with which most of us are familiar. Finally, it had a richness because the emotional connection it made to us by the honest reactions we witnessed from the participants chosen for the ad. These candid, genuine reactions stimulated a lot of areas across the brain.

I know based on social media chatter that my next statement will be unpopular, but I didn’t like the Budweiser ad. I thought they built up a lot of expectation on what a great ad they would show, and this commercial didn’t live up to it. I felt it didn’t do a great job of connecting the three laws of branding either. Puppies are cute, and Clydesdales are iconic for the brand, but I don’t feel like it had relevance, richness or coherence that is needed to create a great Super Bowl ad.

When it comes to branding, it is important that you create a positive and deliberate emotional connection between your product or service and your potential Customers. Many of the Super Bowl ads strove to do that, a few succeeded while others fell flat. However, lauded and anticipated as the ads are, the real successful ads will be the ones that create a lasting positive memory for us. Time will tell who the real winners of the Super Bowl Ads will be this year.

All in all, the McDonald’s Ad set the stage for being a great ad. If they do a good job of delivering the expectation they created with it, then I guess when it comes to this Super Bowl ad, I’m lovin’ it.

Which Super Bowl ad do you think did a great job? I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments below.

Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success”is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level. This book focuses on what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your Customer Experience and the vital role of the conscious and subconscious experience with real-world examples. It became available today, for only $9.99!

Read more here.


If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawMcDonald’s Super Bowl Ad: I’m Lovin’ It

You Must Do THIS at Your Job Interview

by Colin Shaw on February 10, 2015

First impressions count. When you start a job interview one of the first things you will do is shake your prospective employer’s hand. What impression will they get of you by doing this? Handshakes can indicate many things.

The strength of a handshake conveys a lot of information. From a firm to a limp handshake, each intensity communicates pertinent conscious and subconscious clues about your personality. It doesn’t take an expert to interpret these clues either. Anyone can tell you that a limp handshake is not a great first impression.

Handshakes can also symbolize important information. For example, at the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in mid-November, the importance of handshakes took center stage. From a reluctant handshake between the prime minister of Japan and the Chinese president to the choreographed approach of Barrack Obama, handshakes became an important demonstration of the power of body language.

An article in The Economist describes the significance of both handshakes. In the case of Japan, the handshake between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping signified the triumph of diplomacy over conflict regarding a disputed island ownership between the two countries. Also, the article describes how President Barack Obama’s approach from the left gave him a “defensive position” toward the photographers. They compared his approach across the stage to the Chinese President to a metaphor for Obama’s paying tribute to his host.

Handshakes are a form of body language, and body language is an important part of the interview, too. From your handshake to your shaking hands, your body language is also sending signals for good or ill. Fidgeting, eye contact, the position of your hands above or below the table are all details communicating clues about you to the interviewer. Sometimes without either of you realizing it, as body language often has subconscious interpretation.

Body language is something we talk a lot with our clients about when we consult them on Customer Experience. How your team presents itself to customers can become an extension of your brand. At Beyond Philosophy, we often refer to these as White Coat Moments.

A White Coat Moment is defined as a person’s appearance helps others determine that person’s ability and personality. The name refers to the famous Milgram Study where participants administered what they thought were lethal shocks to a fellow participant when prompted by the authority in the “white lab coat.” Grim origins of the term aside, the white coat moment, has evolved to represent the branding moments of an experience. Examples of these moments could be how a Ritz Carlton employee responds with, “My pleasure,” to guests’ requests, or the subconscious reaction we have when we see the blue shirt worn by the Apple Genius at their retail store.

Body language is an important part of these white coat moments, particularly for your Customer Experience. Little things from eye contact to posture can convey signals to the Customer. If you don’t consider the signals sent by body language in your Customer Experience design and related training of your team, these signals might be the wrong ones.

Two organizations that understand this are Apple and Disney. In a past post, we have looked at how Apple trains their employees how to stand and gives them specific language to use when responding to customer objections. At Disney, they also define the white coat moments of their experience in detail as well. Moreover, they assess their employees by their body language. For example, if a Disney employee is caught leaning against the wall rather than standing straight, they will be marked down in the mystery shopping survey.

If we learned anything from the APEC summit last year, it is that there is meaning in everything we see from body language. Even something as benign as a handshake can have implications intended or otherwise. Body language also influences the Customer Experience, intended or otherwise as well.

Every impression you make at an interview counts. Be sure that you consider how your handshake and other body language signals become white coat moments for your interview experience–and make sure that you are sending out the right ones! You never know…you might handshake your way into a better job.

What handshake do you have? Firm, medium, soft or limp?

Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience: Short Stories of Remarkable Practices that Ensure Success”is designed to help organizations take their Customer Experience to the next level. This book focuses on what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your Customer Experience and the vital role of the conscious and subconscious experience with real-world examples. It’s  available today, for only $9.99! Read more here.


If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawYou Must Do THIS at Your Job Interview

Making Optimal Customer Experience A Focus of Your Company’s (And Your) Thinking and Doing: The Case for Foundation and Advanced CEM Training

by Michael Lowenstein on February 5, 2015

Many b2b and b2c companies offer antiseptic, commoditized, vanilla experiences for customers.  These are almost guaranteed not to be memorable, not to be talked about (unless neutrally or negatively), and not creating outside-in advocacy and value creation.  Some, through culture, discipline, and purpose have succeeded in creating consistent, positive experiences which are appealing to customers and which customers consider worthy of passing along through informal conversation and recommendation.

Most brands and corporations get by on transactional approaches to customer relationships.  These might include customer service speed, occasional price promotions, merchandising gimmicks, new product offerings, and the like.  In most instances, the customers see no brand ‘personality’ or brand-to-brand differentiation, and their experience of the brand is one-dimensional, easily capable of replacement.   Moreover, the customer has no personal investment in choosing, and staying with, one brand or supplier over another.

Beyond simply selling a product or service, these ‘experiential brands’ connect with their customers.  They understand that delivering on the tangible and functional elements of value are just table stakes, but by identifying & leveraging the ‘hidden drivers’ and understanding the vital role the conscious and subconscious plays within the experience. The importance of knowing what it takes to evoke the best emotions from your customer experience and creating an emotionally-based relationship with customers are keys to leveraging loyalty, advocacy, and brand-bonding behavior. Colin Shaw’s newly launched eBook; ‘Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience’ is an excellent resource to discover more on this subject.

These companies, and their employees, are also invariably quite disciplined and well-trained in the why’s and how’s of customer experience.  Every aspect of a company’s offering – customer service, advertising, packaging, billing, products, etc. – are all thought out for consistency. They market, and create experiences, within the branded vision.  IKEA might get away with selling super-expensive furniture, but they don’t.  Starbucks might make more money selling Pepsi, but they don’t.  Southwest Airlines could offer first-class seating, but they don’t.  Every function delivering experience is ‘closed-loop’, maintaining balance between customer expectations and what is actually executed.

Exemplars of branded customer experience also understand that there is a ‘journey’ for customers in relationships with preferred companies.  It begins with awareness, how the brand is introduced, i.e. the promise.  Then, promise and created expectations must at least equal real-world touchpoint results (such as through service), initially and over time, with a minimum of disappointment.  Finally, it requires that the brand’s image, its personality if you will, is sustained and reinforced.  Advanced companies map and plan this out, recognizing that experiences are actually a form of branding architecture, brought to life through excellent engineering.

How do individuals and organizations achieve what we describe as a “natural” or obsessive state of customer-centricity where:

  • Emotional and rational customer needs/expectations are well understood throughout the enterprise
  • All employees have the responsibility of providing customer value
  • Customer loyalty behavior is a paramount enterprise goal
  • Optimal customer relationships are a key priority
  • Personalized, seamless interactions are delivered across all channels

We believe, and have demonstrated for our clients, that focused instruction and certification in contemporary customer experience methods can go far in making employees and companies world-class.  Our training programs, facilitated by leading authorities, include:

Foundation Customer Experience Management

  • Core concepts of customer experience and experience management
  • Seven key customer experience questions
  • Often overlooked: the emotional and subconscious experience
  • Concepts of customer experience psychology
  • Setting the customer experience strategy and designing programs
  • Becoming customer-centric:  moving from naïve to natural, reactive to obsessive
  • Customizing the techniques for your organization

Advanced Customer Experience Management

  • Committing to customer experience:  applying the concepts
  • Building and running a customer experience program
  • Employee engagement and ambassadorship: linking to customer behavior
  • Customer advocacy and brand bonding measurement
  • Behavioral economics and customer experience
  • Customer perception and decision-making psychology
  • Delivering the omni-channel experience
  • Customer segmentation and micro-segmentation
  • Putting the customer experience elements together

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To learn more, here is the link to our array of available training programs, with details as to content, costs, and timing:  http://beyondphilosophy.com/training-courses/  We invite your participation in these important and valuable certification courses.

Michael LowensteinMaking Optimal Customer Experience A Focus of Your Company’s (And Your) Thinking and Doing: The Case for Foundation and Advanced CEM Training

Subconscious Clues That Call People to Action

by Colin Shaw on February 3, 2015

Decisions, decisions…we make them all the time about all kinds of things, and many times without even thinking about it. Sometimes, however, decisions take a lot of thinking, after which we may have our doubts about whether we made the right one. Helping your Customers make a decision is an important element in your Customer Experience design.

The Consequence of Choice

Choices have consequences both good and bad. All of us want to make the right choices for ourselves, but few of us believe that we have every time.

What about when you are choosing something more mundane, like bread or shaving foam? There are so many options that it can delay a decision. This delay is a consequence caused by the Paradox of Choice, first introduced to us by Barry Schwartz in his book of the same name in 2004, and then later in his TED talk. In summary, Schwartz tells us:

“Autonomy and Freedom of Choice are critical to our well-being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

Zhecho Dobrev, one of our consultants published his musings on this concept. Dobrev asserts that most consumers say they want more choices, but they really want just enough choices. Like the famous discerning fictional heroine Goldilocks, consumers want an amount of choices that is just right.

How Subconscious Clues Improve Calls to Action in Websites

All channels for your Customers make up your Customer Experience, including websites. By paying attention to the subconscious ways you help your customers make a choice they are happy with, you create a win win for everyone involved.

Michael Aagaard on Contentverve.com points out all the statistical changes they were able to observe by tweaking the call to action buttons (CTA) on websites. He explains how success rate increase when you position the message and appearance of the button in terms that benefit the consumer.

One example that caught my attention was a 213% increase in conversion when the copy changed from “Get your membership” to “Find your gym & get membership.” As Aagaard points out, which gym a person joins is often driven by where the gym is. So, the company added the words “Find your gym.” When you frame the CTA in terms that let the Customer know what he or she is getting by pressing it, it is far more helpful at getting them to make a decision to move forward in the process.

There are ten other examples given in the article. Of course, these examples are about the subconscious experience as none of these things make sense. Regardless, the article statistically shows that they had an effect.

What about Call to Action in the Retail Experience?

Strategy for CTA buttons is all well and good for the online experience, but what about retail experience and the CTAs that help consumers make decisions there? Surely the manager of the aforementioned market won’t leave you facing umpteen brands of shaving foam to muddle through on your own.

They don’t. Engaging the subconscious shopper is a skill supermarkets are always perfecting. The idea is that most of us are on autopilot when we go to the store, going for the items we came for and walking by the items we didn’t.

So supermarkets work to get our attention by where they put products, signs and color they use to grab our attention, and positioning end cap items to feature a particular item. Some markets even use scents to get us to notice different foods in the store. In fact, the importance of where things are in the store and on what shelf is so important that some retailers are recording behavior of their customers to get a better idea of how to maximize their purchases.

Other retailers are using different methods to get us to act:

  • Fry’s Electronics, a chain of discount electronics stores in the US, puts a plethora of small purchases like batteries, universal cables, photo cards, candy and drinks along their line corral to facilitate the impulse buy at the end of the shopping trip.
  • The large flagship rides at Disney often empty into a store that is stocked with the merchandise from that particular film, capitalizing on the good feelings associated with the characters and the ride experience their guests have just had.
  • Apple has an Apple Store app that allows you to buy merchandise with your Apple ID so you can get what you want without getting help or waiting for assistance, facilitating the convenience element some of their customers demand.

When you are designing your customer experience, finding a balance between “not enough choices to be happy with any of them” and “too many choices to choose any of them” can be a challenge. When you find that Goldilocks sweet spot, however, it is Customer Experience gold.

Finding this sweet spot can be easier, however if you design a deliberate subconscious experience that helps them decide. By helping position the choice for your customer, you can help them take action that drives them toward an experience outcome that leaves them happy and pleased.

What call to action techniques have you seen work for you? I would be interested in your comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, you might be interested in the following blogs:

Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX


Aagaard, Michael. “10 Call-to-Action Case Studies with Takeaways & Examples from Real Button Tests.” Contentverve.com. 25 March 2013. Web. 4 September 2014. < http://contentverve.com/10-call-to-action-case-studies-examples-from-button-tests/>

Colin ShawSubconscious Clues That Call People to Action

What Consumers Say vs. Mean vs. Do: Toward Understanding the Emotional and Subconscious Drivers of Behavior

by Michael Lowenstein on February 3, 2015

Seemingly forever, marketers and researchers have been trying to identify stable and predictable links between what consumers say about product and service experiences, what they mean, i.e. the emotional and unconscious underpinnings about what they really think and believe, and what they do in terms of actual decision-making and actions in the marketplace.

There is an intersection between customer experience with a product or service, internal reaction to that experience, informal peer-to-peer communication about the experience, and downstream customer decision-making.  It occurs in the personal emotional and subconscious distillation of that experience in forming the customer’s behavior.  This may sound a little technical and psychological for some, but reckoning with the meaning of emotional and subconscious response to experiences has important ramifications in the marketing world.  It can mean knowing what customers really want

Some experiences are pleasurable in the subconscious, some are painful, some are superficial, some go deep.  They can create sensations and feelings that can be a challenge to articulate, but which causes people to take action.  Translating these subconscious emotions and feelings is the ‘holy grail’ of customer journey design.

As behavioral scientists report with frequency, workings of the subconscious mind , and understanding it, is the key to identifying the driving force behind actions.  Learning, judgment, and a liberal amount of illogic and irrationality enters into the subconscious.  Some actions take place as a result of the conscious, analytical and logical, but much of it comes from a deeper realm.  Scientists also tell us that, governed by the subconscious, humans can foresee and envision behavioral outcomes, and this is important to marketers.

My colleague Colin Shaw often points out that, though Disney theme park vacationers and visitors often say they want salads and other healthy foods for themselves and their families, what they really want, and buy, are hot dogs and hamburgers.  If Disney only followed what customers said, they’d focus on salad; and this would diminish the overall park experience, potentially leading to churn.

In another  example, an IBM consumer study revealed that, while 43% of consumers said they preferred the “browse, click, and purchase experience”, that is shopping online and picking-up in the store.  However, only 29% reported using online shopping for their most recent store purchase.  The reasons for this say-do gap have to do with trust and assurance issues – the need for on-demand customized promotions both online and in store, knowing beforehand that the desired product is in-stock prior to making a trip to the store, ability to have personalized communication with a retailer when online, etc.  In other words, consumers want the digital experience to be seamless, irrespective of touchpoint or technology  used.  Understanding, and narrowing or eliminating, that say-mean-do gap gets us into the subconscious response to digital retail experiences.

Knowing what consumers really want, i.e. what they mean when they say something, and how they will act and communicate to others, can be extremely impactful.  Cracking the ‘code’ enables marketers to interpret and translate the difference between consumer-stated  comments, complaints, and concerns and what they mean in terms of behavior.  Here are a few

  • “Your product/service should be more like your competitor’s” really means they like your product/service but they prefer what the competitor offers
  • “I think your product/service concept is great” really means that a first impression is positive but may not lead to positive experience and action
  • “I’d like to have this product/service feature” really means that they likely have fundamental issues with a product or service, and that a better understanding of why customers want this feature, and/or would they prefer an alternative
  • “I regularly use your product/service” really means that, because memory is selective,  they recall having used the product/service (at least once) in the past
  • “I really like your product/service” really means that they don’t love the product/service and that it needs to be improved
  • “I’d pay more for this service” really means that, when push comes to shove, they wouldn’t, believing that they deserve more value for the same price
  • “I’d be glad to recommend your product/service” really means that that any such recommendation could range from bland and passive, or even negative, to active and enthusiastic

Consumer recommendation deserves special treatment in assessing results of the say-mean-do gap.  Very often, claims of correlation between what customers say, mean, and do with respect to positive, neutral, or negative recommendation leaves out the actual causes, or levers, of emotional and unconscious processing.

As an example, in customer research, actionability of the one-number recommendation score question has been challenged by some practitioners, as have other elements of the research.  Among the issues, the question asks “Would you recommend…” rather than “Will you recommend…” or “Have you recommended…”  The latter two variations are considered superior since, in the case of the first variation, the question calls for customers to have greater emotional and subconscious certainty; and, in the case of the second variation, there is actual evidence of having taken action, i.e. actually behaved.

There are many more problems with putting too much emphasis on stated potential recommendation and referral, and taking them as surrogates for actual meaning and intended or real action.  One of these problems is that if other information is available about customer behavior, as it often is through targeted emotional driver research, the over-focus on a single number suggests that these more in-depth insights will receive less consideration and relevance.  For example, if a company discovers that it has a high incidence of unresolved customer complaints, a situation certainly jammed with emotional and subconscious feelings, that serious loyalty-leveraging situation can get  low priority, and might even be brushed aside, as executives seek to create ever-higher positive recommendation levels.

Again, knowing what customers really want and what they’ll really do, often despite what they say they’d do, can be critical to a business  So as my British friends would say, “Mind The Gap.”  What they mean is “Be Careful Not to Get Your Foot Caught In The Open Space.  It’ll Hurt.

Michael LowensteinWhat Consumers Say vs. Mean vs. Do: Toward Understanding the Emotional and Subconscious Drivers of Behavior