Creating Successful Relationships

by Colin Shaw on March 23, 2015

Over the years, I realized relationships in business mean everything. Whether it’s a new employer or a new Customer, the beginning of a relationship sets the standards for how the two of you will interact moving forward. With so much riding on this new relationship, it’s important that you are clear and detailed about these standards.

To that end here are 8 important tips regarding establishment of the parameters for a new business relationship:

Tip #1: Be yourself.

Too many people try to be something they aren’t. They try to be too clever or too much fun. I learned over the years people can see through it when you are putting on an act.

Tip #2: Do as you would be done by.

My mum taught me this. Treating others as you want to be treated is the first and foremost concept that applies to all relationships, business or otherwise. In a business relationship, it means you treat your contact as you would like them to treat you.

Tip #3: Be sure to give positive reinforcement to behaviors you prefer.

Many studies have shown the best way to get more of the behavior you like is to acknowledge it with positive reinforcement. Rather than blasting a subordinate, co-worker, or client with criticism when they cross you, you should instead compliment the behavior you like.

In addition to remembering to acknowledge it, be sure that you give the positive reinforcement in the moment or directly after the incident. The happy feelings associated with the exchange are likely to make a better impression in their mind, improving your chances that you will enjoy the behavior again. For example, to the employee who presented both a problem and solution with an account: “I like how you came in with a proposed solution for that problem we had with the account. It makes my job easier when I have solutions presented to me instead of just problems.”

This does not mean, however, negative feedback is never warranted. It is important to also acknowledge the problems when they occur. When you do this, however, be sure to focus on the “the behavior” and not the individual. If you attack the person instead of the behavior, you can damage the business relationship.

For example, when a Customer emails your manager about a shipping problem instead of you, you might say something like, “When emails go to my manager about shipping problems first, there is a delay before I hear about it making it take longer to fix the problem. Can you please email me directly with those complaints?“

Tip #4: Be realistic about what you expect from people.

You can’t expect a new employee, co-worker or Customer to know all the rules in the first week, and in some cases, even in the first month. You must give them time to adjust to the new system and take in the feedback they receive. If you are consistent with positive reinforcement, it will work. Don’t give up too soon.

In addition, they might have expectations as well. Be open to what they bring to the table, as it might be a great way of doing things you hadn’t considered. I always tell my team, “None of us is as clever as all of us.”

Tip #5: Be Honest.

Don’t lie. I don’t need to say any more.

Tip #6: Accept the fact you will argue.

Relationships are not always smooth sailing. Conflict resolution is all part of building a relationship. Accept the fact you will argue, but when you do make it short lived. If you are in the wrong, apologize. Discuss what caused the argument and work out how to avoid it for the future.

Tip #7: Make time for the person.

Always make time to just chat to the person. Do this without any ulterior motive.

Tip #8: Help them when they need it.

If they need help. Help them. Don’t think, “What’s in it for me?” It’s the times like this my mum would say, “You know who your friends are.” It’s funny when I have experienced hard times, the people I thought were my friends and I had a relationship with faded into the background and other people came to the fore. This is a great test of a relationship.

What are your tips for establishing the rules of your new business relationships? We’d all love to hear your insight in the comments below.

To learn more ways you can build better business relationships, register for ourAdvanced 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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawCreating Successful Relationships

“U.S. Employee Engagement Reaches Three-Year High.” Where Customer Experience and Value Delivery Are Concerned, Shouldn’t We Ask: ‘So What?’

by Michael Lowenstein on March 19, 2015

A recent article by a major employee research and engagement consulting organization led with the above headline.  They were reporting on results of their national workforce tracking poll, the highlight of which was that employee engagement had risen 1.2% between January and February, 2015 (to 32.9%) and that this new level was the highest engagement rate reported in the past three years.

The consulting organization went on to conclude from these findings that “Recent trends suggest that improvements in engagement coincide with improvement in unemployment and underemployment.”, with the bottom line statement that “A decline in the percentage of unemployed and underemployed Americans may have some influence on the percentage of engaged workers.  As the job market becomes more competitive, it is possible that companies are putting more effort into engaging their current workers.”  At best, this conclusion feels like a major s-t-r-e-t-c-h of correlation analysis results.

This same organization believes that “Employee engagement is a leading indicator of future business success….”; and, to the degree that engagement level can impact staff turnover and productivity, both key contributors to profitability, this is a fair statement.  However, when this organization, and others in the employee engagement research, training and consultation space, makes claims that engagement, in and of itself, contributes to customer value and loyalty behavior, two important questions need to be asked.  Those question are: 1)  Really? and, 2) Where’s the consistent proof for individual companies?

Just as satisfaction has little proven connection to customer behavior, employee engagement was not designed to drive customer behavior.  To build on this statement, let’s begin by looking at the results of satisfaction on downstream customer action.  Beyond extremely macro connection to sales, customer satisfaction (as expressed through the ACSI) has been shown to have little direct connection to purchase behavior, to the tune of 0.0% to 0.1% correlation.  Many companies are still measuring customer sat in hopes that learning about its drivers will help build customer loyalty, but satisfaction isn’t contemporary regarding decision-making or reflective of what is going on in the customer’s real, emotional world.

‘Employee engagement’ has many meanings and interpretations, but relatively little of it has to do, by conceptual definition, specifically with impact on customer behavior.  Thorough analysis conducted by The Conference Board in 2006 showed that, among twelve leading engagement research companies, twenty-six key drivers of engagement could be identified, of which eight were common to all:

            –   Trust and integrity – How well do managers communicate and ‘walk the talk‘?

            –   Nature of the job – Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

            –   Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Do

employees understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?

            –   Career growth opportunities – Are there opportunities for growth within the


            –   Pride about the company – How much self-esteem do the employees feel by being

associated with their company?

            –   Coworkers/team members – How much influence do they exert on the employee’s

level of engagement?

            –   Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee’s


            –   Relationship with one’s manager – Does the employee value relationship(s) with

manager(s), and is there trust and credibility between the levels?

Typically, there is little or no mention/inclusion of ‘customer’ or ‘customer focus’ elements either in measurement or analysis of employee engagement.  Though customer experience, and resultant behavior, is impacted by engagement, it is more tangential and inferential than purposeful in nature.

As noted, employee engagement can impact corporate profitability at the macro level (as much as three to four times higher for top-scoring engagement companies compared to those on the bottom half of companies using this measure); and that’s one of the really valuable results it provides.  A major 2012 collaborative secondary research effort, Engage for Success, by the University of Bath School of Management and Marks and Spencer in the U.K. concluded, as we’ve seen with other research into the benefits of employee engagement:   “As well as performance and productivity, employee engagement impacts positively on levels of absenteeism, on retention, and on levels of innovation….”

Where customer behavior changes are reported as a result of employee engagement, they were (like satisfaction’s impact on customer behavior) also at macro and rather weak tea, incidental levels:  “An earlier (2006) Gallup report that examined over 23,000 business units showed that companies with engagement levels in the top quartile averaged 12% higher customer advocacy than those in the bottom quartile.”  Like the “So what?” question, the consistent financial impact of engagement on individual companies and their customers, i.e. on a micro level, needs to be addressed, understood and reported.

Now, we come to employee ambassadorship and how it builds on the useful alignment and productivity represented by engagement.  Employee ambassadorship, or employee brand ambassadorship, has direct connections to – yet is distinctive from – both employee satisfaction and employee engagement.  Its impact on customer behavior can be, and has been, proven at the individual company level.  As a research framework, and method for understanding employee behavior, its overarching objective is to identify the most active and positive (and inactive and negative) level of employee commitment to the company’s product and service value promise, to the company itself, and to optimizing the customer experience.  The ambassadorship thesis, with its component elements, can be displayed as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 9.45.04 AM

  • Commitment to company – Commitment to, and being positive about, the company (through personal satisfaction, fulfillment, and an expression of pride), and to being a contributing, loyal, and fully aligned, member of the culture
  • Commitment to value proposition – Commitment to, and alignment with, the mission and goals of the company, as expressed through perceived excellence (benefits and solutions) provided by products and/or services
  • Commitment to customers – Full commitment (by all employees and the enterprise)to understanding customer needs, and to performing in a manner which provides customers with optimal experiences and relationships, as well as delivering the highest level of product and/or service value

Ambassadorship is linked to the key productivity and empowerment elements of employee satisfaction, engagement, and alignment research, and related training and operating approaches.  However, it more directly contributes to business results, experience optimization, and value delivery because its key concept is building customer bonds through direct and indirect employee interaction.  As companies strive to become more customer-centric in all things they do, we believe that the emphasis on building strong employee ambassadorship will  continue to increase as a core objective.

‘Happy people give you happy customers’, is the foundation insight that now drives many employee engagement initiatives including our founder, Colin Shaw, who lived by this when he was SVP of Customer Experience & leading 3,500 people. Now he will be presenting a FREE webinar “Employee Engagement & Ambassadorship, Optimizing Their Impact on the Customer Experience”, Michel Lowenstein. Register here.

Michael Lowenstein“U.S. Employee Engagement Reaches Three-Year High.” Where Customer Experience and Value Delivery Are Concerned, Shouldn’t We Ask: ‘So What?’

Case Study: Increase Your Sales by 47% by Doing This…

by Colin Shaw on March 18, 2015

How can you increase your sales by 47%? It’s all in the packaging.

Gressingham Foods, a pre-packaged food company in the UK, wanted to change their brand image at the store. They were declining as a brand and wanted their image to project “premium but accessible.”

They hired Elmwood, a design firm that took a good look at their packaging and came up with a strategy to help them stand out. Because their competitors’ packaging was largely rectangular, Elmwood rounded the corners on Gressingham’s packages, differentiating them from the other products. They also changed the color to a warmer shade of yellow on black (a high contrast color combination known for being noticeable). The result of their changes was a 47% increase in sales with no additional marketing support.

The director of Elmwood, the design firm responsible for the changes, said this:

This is about recognizing the emotions you want to trigger and create, to make the brand stick with consumers.

Part of the reason the food packaging industry is already so entrenched in using the subconscious is because so many of the decisions we make in the store are subconscious. Appealing to the subconscious any way you can in the highly competitive supermarket aisle requires more than just appealing to the rational thought processes of shoppers.

Your subconscious is a major player in the choices you make every day. We have written a great deal about this in my new eBook Unlocking the Hidden Customer Experience. Researchers are discovering more about how the subconscious helps you choose one product over another. The science of packaging is using these subconscious influences to alter our behavior.

It’s all about Neuromarketing, which is a type of marketing growing in popularity because it uses research to determine how a consumer’s brain responds to stimuli. According to an article on Adweek last summer, it is gaining favor but still most marketers are appealing to the rational side of their Customers. But one industry where marketers are fully embracing the effects of subconscious stimuli is the supermarket.

The idea a package influences a buying decision is not a new one. Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book from 2007, Blink, introduced this concept in detail. To summarize Gladwell, your mind sees a product on the shelf in a store and makes a decision about its quality, contents, and value in well…a blink. One famous quote from Gladwell explains how marketers use this fact to help you make a decision about their product:

Testers for 7-Up consistently found consumers would report more lemon flavor in their product if they added 15% more yellow coloring TO THE PACKAGE.

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

When you point it out after the fact, of course, the rational part of us thinks, “Well, that’s ridiculous. The color of the soda package has nothing at all to do with the taste of the soda.” And we would be right…except that our brain thinks it does. These influences are happening to the subconscious mind, which in turn responds emotionally and moves us toward a decision.

Package design triggered a specific memory. We often talk about White Coat Moments, which means how something looks creates an automatic response in us subconsciously.

It’s a phrase derived from the famous Milgram study from the 1960s where participants were encouraged to administer fatal shocks to another participant at the urging of an experiment proctor in a white lab coat. The person in the coat, however, was not a scientist or doctor, but just an actor with a memorized script. The participants didn’t know this, however, so they took his word as authority (because he was wearing the coat) and gave the person electric shocks marked “XXX!”

The White Coat Moment packaging creates in the individual varies to some degree but has enough of a uniformity that certain design elements evoke the same responses from individuals. Curving lines indicate comfort. Steam on a soup package reminds us of feeling cozy. Yellow on the soda package makes it taste lemonier.

Using the subconscious to build a brand is a great way to help create positive emotions with your Customers. It can also be a way to differentiate your brand in a new way. The subconscious can alter our behavior. Why not alter the behavior of your Customers to choose your product over the competitors?

What packaging do you like or hate? I would be interested to hear in your comments below.

To learn more ways you can use the subconscious to evoke the positive emotions you want from your Customer Experience, 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 offour bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawCase Study: Increase Your Sales by 47% by Doing This…

7 Signs of Decline for the CX Movement in 2015

by Colin Shaw on March 16, 2015

Customer Experience continued to be a dominant business issue throughout the world in 2014.  We get many inquiries for our services globally. I worked with clients in more countries than ever before last year, including China, India, and Saudi Arabia to name a few.  They are all  working to improve their Customer Experience. I can say with confidence the Customer Experience concept is now a worldwide phenomenon.

It is great to see but I also see problems, some of which I have written about before. My concern is the focus on improving the Customer Experience is in danger of heading the same way as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), into failure if it’s not careful. I see seven signs of failure for CX that  I saw with CRM, represented in common statements I hear, including:

“This IT system, will solve all my problems.”

IT systems are part of the reason many Customer Experiences are poor but only part of the reason. The big IT companies are coercing organizations to believe all they have to do is buy an IT system and their Customer Experience will improve by magic. We all know organizations made huge investments in CRM IT systems and expected the world to change overnight. When the world didn’t change, it sullied the name of CRM.

“Of course I know what the Customer Experience is about!”

An increasing number of people have a superficial understanding of what a Customer Experience is, like CRM. As the saying goes “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” Customer Experience is about human behavior and Customer’s emotions. You need to understand experience psychology. As with anything else, you need to understand what you are doing to make a difference.

“What is the one thing I can do that would improve the Customer Experience?”

It is naive to think there is one thing to do that will improve the Customer Experience. People who think this is the case don’t understand the subject. It is human nature to want a quick fix, but there is no “silver bullet” that will solve your Customer Experience problems.

“Everyone else is doing Customer Experience, so we should, too.”

You may feel the need to jump on the bandwagon, but that is not a reason to focus on improving your Customer Experience. Make sure you understand where the bandwagon is going, decide whether you want to go there, and commit to the journey. Improving the Customer Experience is hard work. If you are not prepared to do it, don’t even start. You’ll do more harm than good.

“I work in Customer Experience.”

Are you sure?  Or have you just rebadged your job that you’ve been doing for the last ten years? Rebadging jobs, projects, and functions and calling them Customer Experience doesn’t mean you will magically change things. To change things you need to do something different!

“We have mapped our processes to improve the Customer Experience.”

There is a big difference between experience and a process. Organizations obsess themselves with processes and fail to see the difference between the experience and a process. A process is what you want the customer to do. Allow me to let you in on a secret: Customers do not always do what you want them to do, and if you force them to submit to your process, this can cause a poor experience.

“Our Senior Executives rolled out a new slogan about our Customer Experience.”

Too many senior execs decide to improve Customer Experience, without knowing what their organization needs to do to change their current experience. Too many are looking for a quick fix; too many fail to lead. Customer Experience is a way of life, a cultural change, and a commitment needed from the heart as well as the head. It is not a slogan.

I am pleased to have helped, in some way, to shape a new industry with our books, research and client work since 2002. I see dangers on the horizon we should all try to avoid. I don’t want to see Customer Experience go the same way as CRM. Let’s make sure we work together to avoid them for the benefit of the Customer. Customers deserve better.


advanced CEMFor more 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 Shaw7 Signs of Decline for the CX Movement in 2015

Are you Irrational: 7 Questions to See If You Are Irrational?

by Colin Shaw on March 12, 2015

I love watching what people, and Customers do. We human’s think we are so clever and sophisticated and yet much of what we do is totally irrational. When I am reviewing an organization’s experience I am on the look out for this type of irrational behavior as this will give me many clues on how to make it much better.

What do I mean by irrational behavior? Well, here are 7 things that are irrational. If you have ever done these then I am sorry to say you need to join our club or irrational people. Have you ever done the following?

  1. Pushed a button on an elevator several times when you really know it won’t make the elevator come any faster?
  2. Have you ever clicked your mouse or trackpad several times when your computer hangs up even though you know it won’t make the hourglass or color wheel go away any faster and might make the situation worse?
  3. Have you ever tried to fix an appliance by striking it with the side of your fist, like the character Fonzie in Happy Days?
  4. Have you ever abandoned an online chat because it was taking too long so you could sit on hold for five minutes or more with a call center.
  5. Have you ever gone to a store because it had many options, but then left without buying anything because you couldn’t choose between all the options that were available?
  6. Have you ever yelled at an inanimate object because it was frustrating you?
  7. Have you ever got three quotes for a service and thought. I don’t want the most expensive, I don’t want the cheapest, I’ll go for the one in the middle….

I can’t speak for you, but I have done all these things.

Observing human behavior is much more fascinating, endearing, and even alarming. What it isn’t is rational, at least not all the time.

Ze Frank has this to say about being human.

I am sure that you raised your hand a few times during this presentation. I know I did. Your Customers would raise their hands during this TED talk also. Much of what Frank is talking about are feelings and the irrational things we do as a result of them.

If We Know This, Why Do We Ignore it?

Humans are irrational. We do things that make absolutely no sense even when we know they aren’t going to work. Our feelings in these moments drive our actions and overrule the rational thinking that knows it won’t work.

What baffles me, then is why some organizations choose to ignore feelings and how they affect the behavior of their Customers. It happens, though, every day. Right now, I could say, “Raise your hand if you have ever ignored the emotional engagement your organization creates with your Customers” and most organizations would have their hand in the air.

So if Customers aren’t rational all the time, why would you only concentrate on the rational part of the experience? That’s an easy answer though. Most companies know how to fix a process, optimizing it for maximum efficiency and profitability. Looking at how something works and eliminating redundancies is part and parcel of good operations, after all. So fixing the Customer journey from a process level is a no-brainer and easy to sell to the C-Suite.

Emotions on the other hand are perceived as being far less predictable. Controlling how Customers feel in your process seems like an effort in futility and hard to assign value to at a corporate level. So instead of addressing emotions, Customer feelings are ignored with the hopes that an efficient and effective process will be good enough. When it comes to the emotional journey during this new and improved process, most organizations cross their fingers and hope for the best.

In my SlideShare presentation, “Customer Are Irrational, Stop Fighting it,” I define the customer experience as:

A Customer Experience is an interaction between and organization and a customer as perceived through a Customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organizations rational performance, the senses stimulated and emotions evoked and intuitively measured against Customer expectations across all moments of contact.

Then I show this:

Heart Stone

More than 50% of a Customer Experience is reliant on feelings, both conscious and subconscious. That’s a lot of heart-shaped rock under the water, isn’t it?

It’s Time to Stop Agreeing and Start Acting

We know that designing a rational and conscious process for Customer Experience is only part of the job, and that we need to take it to the next level. We know how little of the actual experience we are addressing by doing this. The question is, will we all change our behavior and start addressing the emotional parts of the Customer Experience? Will we address the submerged portion depicted in this photo? When can we stop agreeing and start acting?

There are many things we do that are irrational. We all know that we are irrational beings. What we need now is more action to address irrationality in Customer Experience design to include how it makes our Customers feel.

I would love to read below in the comments of the irrational things that you do in your day-to-day life.

For more 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 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

Colin ShawAre you Irrational: 7 Questions to See If You Are Irrational?

6 Steps to a Great Apology

by Colin Shaw on March 10, 2015

Everyone makes mistakes. You charged for the wrong plan on a Customer’s mobile bill or sent an ‘Extra Small’ instead of a Medium on the Jacket a Customer ordered online. More serious mistakes could be that as a Doctor, you misdiagnosed a life threatening condition that results in serious consequences for your patient and his or her loved ones. We all make mistakes. What should you do when this happens?

When you make a mistake, it’s best to admit it and apologize immediately.

The 6 Steps to a Good Apology

So how do you recover from a mistake with your customers? The answer is best summarized in an article I read by Kerry O’Malley, called, “The Right Way to Admit You Made a Mistake in Business.” She gives us all a great list that includes:

  1. Act quickly. Sooner is always better than later.
  2. Apologize in person. It means more when you are physically present.
  3. Explain what happened. Give them the facts of the situation and avoid blame.
  4. Show how you are going to avoid the problem in the future. Mistakes are nothing if not opportunities in disguise.
  5. Apologize. Use the actual words, “I’m sorry.”
  6. Make restitution. If possible and appropriate, so what you can do to make it right. Be careful here, however, because sometime you can unwittingly do too much to compensate, which can undermine future loyalty.

The only other addition I might add to the list is for you to express how you feel about the mistake. Acknowledging your emotions is key to communicating with your customer. By being honest about how you feel about the mistake, you create a personal relationship that contributes to the Customer’s feelings of being important and “cared for.” The only time I would caution against this tactic is if you don’t feel like you are to blame and are have bitter feelings about the situation. As I have written before, these feelings will make the apology seem insincere and will lead to nothing good.

The strategy above works great for most businesses to business and business to customer relationships. It’s honest; it’s proactive, and it’s the best you can do in the situation. Most of all, it offers an opportunity for your customer to decide what to do and strengthens the relationship between you…most of the time anyway.

Why it’s Important to Apologize Even When it’s Difficult

The act of apologizing is difficult for some people because it makes them feel vulnerable. Feeling open can be scary and can drive some people to hide from the situation, avoiding the customer or client to avoid the feelings of vulnerability. While avoidance might or might not result in bad consequences for a business relationship (although I am certain that it will only be bad), it can have terrible repercussions on a medical career. had an excellent article on why some patients don’t sue their doctors, even when they have a good case. To summarize the article, patients who sue are the ones where the doctor avoids them, denying them both an explanation and assurance that the problem will get fixed for the future. As you read before, these are both important parts of an apology in the above list. According to the article, many patients pursue litigation when denied these answers. Their goal, in many cases, is to get these answers, not to punish the physician. In many cases, an honest conversation between the physician and the patient or their family results in them not filing a lawsuit against the doctor to blame.

What is true no matter what the mistake and what the consequences, is that all of us realize that people all make mistakes. No one likes the consequences of their mistakes. No one relishes the thought of calling the client they have let down or the customer that is rightfully frustrated and explain that they are the one that is responsible. I can’t even imagine how a surgeon or doctor must feel when they realize their mistake resulted in a patient’s death.

Being proactive, however, with honesty is the best policy, no matter how distasteful it is. Most people can forgive a person for making a mistake. Few people, however, can forgive a person from blaming others, denying responsibility or covering up their errors. These actions create an emotional response that will not drive value for anyone concerned and will destroy trust in the Customer relationship.

Elton John said, “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” In many ways, he is right. Difficult or not, it’s the right word when you made a mistake, followed by the other words that apply to the list for a good apology. Honesty is the best policy, and the only policy that gives you a chance for Customer retention.

What do you do when you make a mistake? I’d be interested to hear your insight in the comments below.

advanced CEMFor more 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 best-selling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX

Colin Shaw6 Steps to a Great Apology

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, 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, 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. 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, “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