Could You be Left Behind by The Experience Economy?

by Zhecho Dobrev on April 15, 2015

Seventeen years after the prophetic Pine & Gilmore book and HBR article “Welcome to the Experience Economy” published, we see their concepts gaining momentum. In the past, companies embracing the concept were the exception; now embracing the Experience Economy is the rule. In other words, the idea of the Experience Economy is not just for organizations like Disney, Apple, and the Rainforest Café any more. Companies are wise to make their Experience their competitive difference today.

Forbes had an interesting take on how the concept is important to all businesses, including yours. More Customers are craving an adventure. They might even desire risk. This can culminate in trying a new food truck or shopping at a new pop-up store with no reviews to support its reputation. The idea is the adventure of discovery is worth the trade off in security.

The idea of creating a sense of adventure for Customers isn’t for solely no-name, pop-up stores either. Big names like Virgin Airlines, who is focused on creating a unique flight experience (not adventurous or dangerous for goodness sakes!), embraced the concept. The Ritz Carlton in Tucson, Arizona, leverages its desert landscape and the related activities it provides to enhance their guests’ stay.

Restaurants also recognize the importance of making something more out of the dining experience. Some restaurants provide you with an option to cook the steak yourself, guided by the chef. Others give you not one dish, but three little dishes at once. There are also those who invite funny chefs to make a show for you while they cook at the same time. Consider this hilarious video from Benihana:

What about this video regarding the “new assistant” for the KLM Lost and Found service:

Man’s (and forgetful man’s especially) best friend indeed!

The Experience concept is getting so much momentum there are even Death Cafés, establishments where people drink tea, eat cake and discuss… death! It’s not just a cafe, it’s an experience! They also sell memorabilia, as Pine and Gilmore suggested/predicted in their article nearly 20 years ago.

Movie theatres don’t want to be left out, either. Vienna’s old cinemas, struggling to compete with more modern theatres, tap into retro charm to create a distinct and memorable experience only they can. In London, artisan cinemas create experiences that stimulate not only the visual and audio senses but also taste. Why? Because the best experiences engage all the senses.

Even police can create a better experience–when writing you a ticket no less!

Take for example the fate of Michael Porter’s Monitor Group. Monitor, a consulting firm that ruled the business world in the 1980s founded by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, built their business on the concept that business is a matter of defeating the competition, not making a better product or experience for Customers. We studied Michael Porter in the b-school. He believed that your best strategy was to protect yourself from your business rivals. There were five forces involved in the image to the right:porters-five-forces1

Source: “What Killed Michael Porter’s Monitor Group? The One Force That Really Matters.” 20 November 2014. Web. 29 January 2015.

The main problem was his basic strategy. It was about avoiding competition and seeking profits that were protected by barriers to entry into your industry. He was all about figuring out how to do these things without actually improving your product or service.

Porter’s strategy ruled for decades. Many of you reading this know it well. However, some things changed, and they made a big difference. A world economy took over, and the Internet changed the way we get our goods and services. As a result, barriers to entry were crushed, competitive pricing bottomed out, and Customer’s decided they would pay more for a better experience. The best product, yes, but the best experience, too. Monitor couldn’t adapt the way they consulted their clients. Not surprisingly, their Customers decided that the Monitor experience wasn’t worth it. And they filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Whether you like it or not, the Experience Economy is here. Customers want you to add value to their experience, from outdoorsy activities in the Sonoran desert to tossing a freshly grilled shrimp in your mouth! Everyone down to law enforcement is embracing the concept. If you are not, you might be in danger of being left behind the Experience Economy.


The question is are you designing processes or experiences? Will you be left behind like the Monitor group by the Experience economy?

Zhecho Dobrev is a consultant and project manager for Beyond Philosophy. He has worked with a wide array of large corporate companies. Zhecho’s expertise inludes Customer behavior analytics, Customer loyalty, complaints management, and journey mapping. He holds an MBA and Master’s degree in International Relations.

Please follow Zhecho on Twitter @Zhecho_BeyondP

Zhecho DobrevCould You be Left Behind by The Experience Economy?

8 Ways to Tell Whether Your CEO Supports You

by Colin Shaw on April 14, 2015

Getting the CEO’s support for any initiative is vital, but how do you tell whether his or her commitment is genuine? Over the 13 years I worked on Customer Experience, I learned the tell-tale signs of authentic commitment. Here is my check list of ways to see if your CEO is committed to your initiative.

How to Check the Commitment of Your CEO:

  1. Count the number of times the CEO mentions Customers in any communication. If you don’t hear your CEO talking, emailing, or meeting about Customers, he or she isn’t focused on them. In all fairness, there are only so many hours in a day and the CEO does have responsibilities. However, if you can convince the CEO his or her responsibilities are part of what affects the Customer’s Experience, it will weave into the culture of the organization and the decisions the CEO makes for it.
  2. Keep track of how much time is devoted to Customer issues in meetings.When a one-hour meeting spends five minutes or less on Customer issues and the other 55 minutes on sales, marketing, product development, and operations (with no mention of Customers at all), then it’s not a priority.
  3. Compare the amount of time your CEO reviews Customer feedback to the time he or she reviews spreadsheets. Most organizations have some channel that feeds Customer comments back to their organization. If these comments are never viewed or shared with the C-suite, it’s because they don’t want to hear about it.
  4. Examine the CEO’s schedule to see what he or she values. I like the phrase, “You are your schedule.” What you have on your schedule reveals what you think you need to devote your time to. If you don’t see Customers there, they didn’t make the cut.
  5. Ask yourself, does the Customer Care Center receive accolades publically? Many times Customer service employees are treated like second-class citizens. Sales get all the accolades or even marketing for the latest campaign. Consider the past few Atta-boy (or Atta-girl) messages you heard at your organization. When was the last time it highlighted the work of the call center or Customer care reps? If you can’t recall, it’s because they aren’t considered drivers of the company’s success.
  6. Notice whether he or she only talks to you about processes. Is your CEO process-obsessed, which is about efficiency, or does he or she talk about the Customer experience? There is a big difference between the two. Many think your job is to fix the process so Customers are happier, but the process is only a part of their experience. If they don’t recognize that, you must have to educate them on what the Customer Experience entails.
  7. Note which type of KPIs are tied to Incentives. What gets incented gets done. Many times Customer Experience is a goal, but it isn’t tied into incentives for performance. Until it is, it’s a nice-to-have, not a got-to-have concept.
  8. Examine whether you have any authority to go along with your responsibility. If you don’t have authority, this is a halfway house that shows the lack of commitment by the CEO. He or she wants change and you are responsible, but you have no authority to make change happen. My advice? Look around for another job. In my experience you will spend your time hitting your head against a brick wall. Everyone is happy doing strategy work and talking about concepts, but when it comes to actions they run a mile. I have found everyone is happy until you ask them to do something.

Not everyone understands what Customer Experience is, how deep it goes, and what affects it. They might think it means the Customer has a great experience with the organization, but often that’s where their understanding stops. They aren’t aware of how the Customers feel both consciously and subconsciously about the experience is a huge influence on whether they think it’s “great,” nor do they realize how company-centered, operational processes can create negative feelings. This lack of understanding can create a situation where words say one thing, and actions say something else.

The Chief Customer Officer has a unique position, often battling across silos. They are a C-level executive with all the prestige that letter provides. However, they are also the champions of Customer Experience, which is a concept of which CEOs are not always in support, even if they think they are.

What are some other ways to tell if the CEO is on board with your agenda? I’d love to hear your signs in the comments below.

To learn more ways you can detect buy in on your Customer Experience Agenda, register for our Advanced Customer Experience Management (CEM) CertificationCourse 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 Shaw8 Ways to Tell Whether Your CEO Supports You

Do You Master The Power of Storytelling?

by Zhecho Dobrev on April 10, 2015

Stories are a fascinating subject.

I like this post from Bruce Kasanoff. He shares with us the story of a skiing excursion he took with his client 20 years ago. He presents it as a story, an exciting one, to “show you—rather than tell you—how memory works.” He goes on to explain how stories are an essential way to lead others, raise money or sell an idea or product. I couldn’t agree with him more on this point.

We’ve seen that stories are powerful and can make executives move. Stories often have the power to get executives to do something—without having to bother with “fill a business case template and go through the company process of prioritizing ideas for the next budget year blah blah….” You know, all the stuff that gets in the way of getting things done!

Why do stories elicit this response? Unlike “data & stats” that people can argue about for days and contribute to death by analysis, stories appeal to the right brain. It is as the Canadian Neurologist Donald Calne said:

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

I’m sure we can all agree action trumps conclusions when it comes to Customer Experience.

To make a decision, we often need to feel an emotion. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people recovering from brain injuries, in which only the part of their brain impaired was where emotions were generated. The result was in practice they found it very difficult to make decisions about where to live, what to eat, etc.

Stories could be the means to inject emotion into decision-making. A study from Princeton University, where a speaker would tell a story to a listener found “when the two people communicate, neural activity over wide regions of their brains becomes almost synchronous, with the listener’s brain activity patterns mirroring those sweeping through the speaker’s brain, albeit with a short lag of about one second.” So by telling a story you can portray the emotions from the story to the audience and make them empathetic to the Customer. In other words, you can make executives feel the same way as Customers.

This clip by Paul Zak explains how this works:

For this reason, as “evangelists” of CX inside the organization, Customer Experience professionals need to use stories.

Stories can also “sell”. Here’s a story credited with $2 billion of revenue. I am sure many of you reading this would rather be the president than the middle manager. If only you could have read this letter, huh?

So what makes a great story? According to Kasanoff, it needs to evoke emotion, spark mental images, be shocking and visual, it should tell a story, and it should exaggerate. Author Roger Dooley, consultant and entrepreneur, lists other attributes, including how you deliver the story (with pauses and pacing and what not), the imagery you create, as well as including realistic associations that have a universal understanding to name a few. You probably have a few tricks for story telling up your sleeve as well.

In our work with companies we often hear an anecdote, a story that circulates the organization by word of mouth and portrays the importance of CX. We heard such stories from FedEx, Orange, Caterpillar, and others we have worked with over the years. We use them all the time to illustrate for others the importance of what we are trying to achieve, and also to inspire them to commit fully to the principles we are teaching them.

As the CX champion in your organization, don’t forget the power of stories when you are trying to affect change. Using a powerful story might be the difference between getting assigned to a committee for death by analysis or getting swift action to accomplish your goal.

If you have great stories that led to change, we’ll be interested to hear them. Please share your STORIES in the comments below.

Zhecho Dobrev is a Senior Consultant at Beyond Philosophy. He has worked with a wide array of large corporate companies. Zhecho’s expertise inludes Customer behavior analytics, Customer loyalty, complaints management, and journey mapping. He holds an MBA and Master’s degree in International Relations.

Please follow Zhecho on Twitter @Zhecho_BeyondP


Zhecho DobrevDo You Master The Power of Storytelling?

At A Fork In the Road: As a Customer Relationship Driver, Where Is Branch Banking Headed?

by Michael Lowenstein on March 31, 2015

Baseball great Yogi Berra has been quoted as saying “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  He also said “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”  Both quotes seem to apply to what is currently transpiring with retail branch banking, and where it seems to be trending.

Banks can’t quite make up their minds about what branches are supposed to be.  Are they technology centers, with increased reliance on self-service devices, speed, and with minimal customer interface?  Are they central, and primary, points of contact and interaction, where well-trained branch staff can build relationships and long-term value?  Are they both?  Are they neither?

At a time when banks are closing branch locations at a record pace (over 1,400 in 2014, with Bank of America, alone, closing more than 140) that is likely to continue, the need for the services they offer remains pretty much the same.  The largest banks appear to be all about building branch relationships through technology.  And, we’re seeing a new term for the branch experience:  ‘shadow banking’.  One industry consultant said that the new, high-tech branches are aimed at three customer personas:  busy, gadget-centric millennials, Gen X soccer moms, and baby boomers who own small businesses.

Not many actual “bankers” are involved in this new concept; and, going forward, customers are more likely to be dealing with a self-service electronic avatar than with a teller or a financial service representative, and they’ll have ATMs with access through smart phones and palm scan or thumbprint identification.  And, if the branch avatar isn’t functioning properly, sophisticated software will identify the issue and switch the customer to a live professional.  Reflecting this sea change, another industry expert was quoted as saying:  “The majority of transactions are now processed electronically, reducing the need for physical branches.  This does not mean that bank branches will go the way of video stores or carriage shops, however.  Branches allow for direct contact with individuals and businesses important for the sales of financial services.  However, legacy branch networks are unlikely to be changing as quickly as their clients’ use of electronic versus paper financial transactions.”

The big banks are claiming that saving the money historically allocated to managing a chain of local retail financial units, and investing more in marketing through electronic media and high-tech service will offset the truncation of branch networks.  They are looking to improve their branch models as customer behaviors, and needs, change.

Smaller regional banks, like Umpqua, Republic, and Metro (in the United Kingdom) have increased the focus on generating relationships through memorable, emotional branch experiences:

Portland, Oregon-based Umpqua Bank has created a branch banking experience that is more like the local Starbucks.  Or, like staying at a Ritz-Carlton, shopping at an Apple store, or flying Southwest Airlines.  It is a concept that they began several decades ago, and it is built on a successful recipe of community service and employee-empowered customer service.  The concept even has a name:  the Neighborhood Store.

Umpqua understands that the employee, knowledge, and technology go hand-in-hand in hand.  Branch staff are both well-trained and equipped with high tech devices (they have “mobile concierges”, with iPads and headsets) for making customer inquiries and transactions go smoothly and efficiently.  What really sets Umpqua apart, though, is that they really put ‘community’ in community banking.  Branches are purposely designed to serve as gathering and event spaces, hosting things like movie nights, yoga classes, small business expositions, and art exhibits.

As an Umpqua SVP was quoted stating in a recent magazine article:  “Finances are challenging enough  –  why are bank branches formal and intimidating?   Why does banking have to be a chore?  Why can’t banking be an enjoyable experience?”  Umpqua has created that enjoyable experience, making customers comfortable in attractive spaces, and interacting with empowered staff looking to build a meaningful relationship. And, beyond design and comfort, relationship-building and being trusted advisors to their customers is mostly about culture.  That’s where Umpqua excels.

Some of the larger institutions, like TD Bank for example, are not directly following the shadow banking, local branch-closing mantra seen with many of the other bigs: but they are also reframing the customer’s branch experience to be more like Umpqua Bank, that is they’re making visits about personal, individualized, “human” interactions:

Like Metro and Republic have recognized, another emerging branch banking trend is that they are also beginning to think about how the next generation of customers, who are even more tech-savvy and less institutionally-oriented than millennials, will use their branches.  Teens and pre-teens have grown up with digital, mobile social connections and apps.  They are, as a consequence, early adopters of new tech devices, and their life priorities are different from those of their parents, and unique to this age group.  As quoted by Tyler Sherman, a 16 year-old high school student from Belair, MD (and newly minted driver): “The future is technology, and you can take that to the bank”

So, which vision of the branch will win out going forward?  Once again, Yogi Berra has the best predictions and perspectives to offer:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.” and “If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”

Michael LowensteinAt A Fork In the Road: As a Customer Relationship Driver, Where Is Branch Banking Headed?

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

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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