Customer centric change is a matter of having a long breath: changing behavior and engaging colleagues won't happen in just a month. It is a demanding process, both from you as the initiator, facilitator or leader, as well as from the people you want to engage in the change. Adding FUN to your CHANGE program is a brilliant idea, since it will boost morale and will be distinctive from other programs.

Here are my five tips on how to add more fun to your CX change program and achieve your goals at the same time:

  1. Create an overarching appealing storyline
    Too many CX strategies are linear, corporate schmorporate (sorry for my language). They don't give any excitement and fun and don't create any arousal while you share it. So, what about adding an appealing story line? Using sports, movie scripts, heroes, best practices and all kind of other stories. I still love Project #99 that Clint Payne CCXP started in 2016. He wanted to improve the current customer experience of Multichoice, a South African Telecom and Television provider and created an overarching storyline where he challenged the organization to fix 99 current customer and employee issues. Project #99 is a great tagline that gives context to the change.
  2. Set an appealing BHAG
    How about aiming for the moon when it comes to your CX or change program? How about truly going for an ambitious quantitative and qualitative goal. The example of Project #99, is already a perfect one - fixing 99 issues in one year. But I have more examples for you. What do you think of this one? In three years, you and your company are best in class in Customer Experience, your NPS is at a certain number (the quantitative part). And that the CEO of your company will share the story of how the organization changed in the last three years to a true customer centric company in the Financial Times or HBR? These kind of moonshots a.k.a. BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) work. They add fun and excitement to change.
  3. Celebrate and celebrate milestones
    Too often we just keep going after we delivered a success. But how about turning your BHAG into a couple of milestones that can be celebrated? Or put the spotlight on those that did a fabulous job? Who showed customer centric leadership or is there a team that fixed a big customer issue? My suggestion is that you make sure you have a collection of fun gifts. How about branded t-shirts, water bottles, pens or tailored virtual backgrounds and give those recognition? Have those that did well have lunch with a senior leader. Take them on an inspiration trip, to another customer centric organization or to an amusement park.
  4. Create challenges and visualize them
    What happened in project #99 is that the CX team created challenges and that employees and leaders adopted those challenges. Working on short term projects (don't try to implement a CRM system with this one ????) that have high energy and are supported by senior leadership, they work magic. By making sure the change is pleasant (rather than painful, although it may feel painful at first), it creates a feeling of hope (rather than fear) and it creates a feeling of identity with others who are doing the same. Make sure you visualize the journey of the challenge, so others also understand what they are doing. Have those fun and vibrant visuals (like a logo of your team or project) all around the organization. Both offline and online. Yes, this might require some guerilla marketing actions and you might bump into some conflicts with the communication and facility departments of your organization. But remember: no guts, no glory!
  5. Use fun in your interventions
    Too many workshops are just functional: learning the new behavior by the customer manifesto and delivering on the new brand values. Workshops are important and it is up to you to add fun to them. Some examples.
    1. Create a CX quiz, where you quiz around NPS topics, add some fun CX facts (like from what date was the first complaint) and of course you have a winner.
    2. Play the CX game, this is a fun CX workshop (dressed up as a board game), where the questions and assignments are tailored to your organizations context. The feedback we always hear is: "this was FUN!"
    3. Add persona re-enactment to your customer journey workshop. Bring artifacts like scarves, sports gear, glasses, hats and whatever. Transform your participants of the workshop into customers. My experience is that participants will be a bit hesitant upon starting, but once they get going, everybody will have the most of fun!

You see, there's a lot of things you can do and organize in order to add FUN to CHANGE. And I strongly recommend you do so! Create big or small fun and know it will give you and your colleagues the energy you need to keep the change going. I am curious how you feel about these suggestions. And if you have any other suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

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Every month we send our CX Greetz. CX Greetz is the name of my monthly CX newsletter, and it's based on how I always finish my emails using "happy greetz" instead of "best regards" or something else you might use. While we send it to my community of more than 2,200 interested people, we also get many out-of-office replies.

Some make me frown: "I'm not in the office right now, when I return, all emails will be deleted, so please send it again at date X". Some make me laugh: "I'm busy watching Christmas movies, catch you later", and some just make me cringe "I'm on holidays for the next three weeks, but if you really want to get hold of me, please send me a text".

No. No. No. Of course you're seemingly very helpful, but you are not very helpful to you. Let's get into the situation: a colleague decides he needs you for something very important. He texts you and asks for your help and references an email he sent you.

You are at the beach with your spouse and maybe even with your kids. It's sunny, you're drinking a cocktail and the sushi will be brought out in twenty minutes. Your phone makes the texting sound and: "Hello, this is work!" Just when you were meant to enjoy some mental and physical relaxation.

Since you have a strong sense of responsibility, you open your emails and you're reading the email your colleague sent (and now you are at it, you’re also reading all other emails) and you answer the question. Your spouse asks what you are doing, you complain about colleagues that are incapable of doing their work and somehow the atmosphere and energy have changed.

Believe me, holidays are holidays. You have to be clear: when you are away, you are away. Make sure that colleagues can manage whatever needs to be managed and when you are back, you'll be really back. Because the minute you start responding to emails and text messages, people will think you are available and you have created your own misery.

Create a clear out of office reply, mentioning who people can contact in your absence, because you are out of office. Now it is up to you to trust your colleagues to manage your requests. And to change your voicemail and your WhatsApp profile text.

Thinking back to my experience and how I brought my laptop on the first trip. As I was helping some clients and I was answering emails, they thought I would also answer the questions that arose from that email. This led me to open my laptop every night, checking emails and not only that, having work thoughts linger in my mind. As I also use WhatsApp in a business context, I changed my profile text to “Walking a pilgrim’s path -> date X”. When people did text me, I sent them a request to send an email instead and advised them that my assistant would manage it, since I was out on my pilgrimage. And everybody understood!

We human beings need mental rest. Time away from the office, like holidays, or what I have been doing, walking a pilgrim’s path. These moments are perfect for a mental reset. To create the ideal setting, you need to be clear to the outside world. Create boundaries and set the scene. Holidays are holidays. Not even a bit work, not one email.

During the later parts of my pilgrimage, I didn’t bring my laptop, but I also instructed my team in a better way. “Please manage all emails and customer requests yourselves. I believe in you and when I am back, I will be completely sane and fully energized to get all work done again”. It created clarity for all. Mental rest for me and because of the trust of me in them, they felt that the company was in their safe hands.

Trust me. Clarity and acting on it, will pave the way. When you're out of the office, you really are!

This blog is from my latest book 'CX is a pilgrimage - 50 strategies to spice up your leadership'. The book will be published at the end of September 2022.

Seven lessons from this not-so-good customer experience...

This is an interesting topic: how to personalize occasions such as birthdays, wedding days and anniversaries? It all starts with understanding your customer. What are their expectations?

I had a good conversation with my friend Raymond Brunyanszki, the business owner of Camden Harbor Inn in the US. A Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant, where luxury and personal attention are key to keeping guests coming back. He told me that they ask their customers for special days. They found a way to systematize expectations and then translate these into solutions in operations.

This is what I would suggest the CX leader of the Waldorf Astoria:

  1. Determine in the CX strategy how important special moments and tailoring to guest needs actually are. In my opinion, in luxury, it is extremely important. Because good food or a great spa, can only be topped by personal attention. So clarity in strategy is key.
  2. Ask guests when booking if there are any special days or wishes. So that the staff knows this in advance. This way, they can anticipate these moments and organise some memorable experiences at these moments.
  3. Make sure the CRM system recognises these special days. I am a Hilton Honors member and they know my date of birth. So on the day itself, the system could have given a certain mention, that at least during check out, the employee would have seen it was my birthday and could have congratulated me.
  4. Make sure you have some branded gifts and a manuscript ready, detailing what to do when. Enable gifting! This way, staff members can easily grab a gift and a notecard from the shelf and present it to the customer. Branded, because if the customer shares a photo on social media, it is also great marketing for you as an organisation.
  5. Train your staff in picking up on signs, when special moments occur. Make them alert.
  6. In the morning, add special moments in the start up huddles at the operation teams. Do we have guests with special moments, who need a little extra attention today? If there is attention in the team and maybe even some gamification is added, it becomes a sport to exceed the guests' expectations.
  7. What if you missed the mark? It happens. Don't just ask at check-out, "Did you have a pleasant stay?" Almost everyone says yes, and you won't get valuable information that way. Instead, ask "What could we have done better, that would have made your stay even more enjoyable?" That is genuine curiosity and helps you truly learn where to improve as an organization.

So, enough to be learned here. And... maybe you see even more CX pro suggestions. Please share!

For my 50th birthday, I booked a room for two nights at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome. Because I wanted to treat myself, but also because I wanted to make my 50th birthday a special experience. It is a very large hotel, so I had even given myself an upgrade to the Imperial Floor. Bigger rooms, a special lounge with drinks and snacks, but also - I thought - more personal attention.

Was it a fancy hotel? YES.

Did it have a great spa? YES.

Did it have a great outdoor swimming pool with fluffy towels? YES.

Did it have an outstanding breakfast? YES.

Product wise, it was all very good.

But did the hotel pay any personal attention to my 50th birthday? NO.

It was a disappointment. One of my friends from the Netherlands had arranged for a bottle of prosecco, a box of chocolates and a personal note to be delivered to my room on my last night as a 49-year-old. I also mentioned my birthday in the lounge (because I know that most CRM systems fail). But on the morning of my 50th birthday, there was nothing from the hotel to congratulate me. Not in my room, not at breakfast, not in the lounge, not at check-out. Nothing at all. Even though they could have known....

I started wondering. Did five-star luxury hotels become commodity? I don't know, but I do know that if you are a luxury brand that promises a certain level of personal service, this is a big failure. I also shared this story on Linkedin, where many agreed that the hotel missed the mark. But also, some mentioned a possible culture gap. Probably true for Italian birthdays, but the guests at the Waldorf (that I saw) were mostly Americans or English-speaking guests. And I know how important birthdays are for American guests! Even more than for me as a Dutchy.

The interesting thing was that when I checked out, the employee asked if my stay had been pleasant. And it had been, so I indicated that too. This is also where they fell short in asking for feedback. (Be sure to read the CX lens blog where I share my suggestion for them!) And... I didn't receive a survey. So the Waldorf staff can only read about my experience on LinkedIn now (or in this blog).

Why did I post this on LinkedIn? Not because I wanted to get this solved. Because if I had wanted to, I would have called the hotel, or sent a 'complaint'. No, it's more a question for us as CX professionals. What do you do with these special days? Especially in leisure industry. Or was I, as a guest, expecting too much? I posted this message to share, to learn and to get the conversation going.

So, go over to the next blog, to see the point of view from a CX professional lens!

As CX professionals, we often send out customer surveys. Or maybe we don't even send them, but we use the content for metrics or for customer quotes. Or to learn where to improve in our customer journeys.

I know that many CX professionals are not responsible for closing the loop. Which is a pity, because it is actually a very important topic. You can truly impact the customer experience and make a difference in your customers life. This is where too many companies go wrong. So, if you get it right, you diversify from the rest.

Lessons to learn and actions to take:

A. The strategic lens:

  1. Responsibility. Find out who is responsible for closing the loop. If no one is responsible, make sure you arrange the conversation and responsibility.
  2. Leadership commitment. Align leadership on the topic. Do they find it acceptable that you don’t react to surveys or reviews? Let them trip over the truth, so they find out themselves how your company is handling feedback. This way you create the buy in you need.
  3. Future experiences. Determine how closing the loop fits your company’s strategic goals and how you want to act accordingly. Are there certain segments of customers you do want to respond to or not? Do you focus on bringing detractors to neutrals, or neutrals to promoters? Bring the strategic lens and have those valuable conversations.
  4. Business case: Yes, you must calculate what it will cost, to start handling the feedback. Or maybe start a pilot to see what the impact is, so you can calculate the ROI later.

B. The tactical lens:

  1. Why - Describe clearly why you are doing what you are doing. This way you can explain to the team members how closing the loop fits into the company's strategy. What the benefits are. What went wrong in the past. How this will help towards the future.
  2. Who - Who is actually going to act on the feedback? Is it the web care team, or the contact center? Plan time and have a conversation with Work Force Management if appropriate. The who is often ignored. But also think of the who in customers. Is it the zeros and ones you come back to? Or the neutrals? Or just the people who complain? Make it very specific.
  3. What - Describe what to do. Maybe a little script is needed. Always apologize, fix the problem, and do something extra. What can your colleagues do as a little gift? Help them out, by giving the framework on what is expected. Arrange the logging in the CRM system.
  4. When - Do you call the customer the day after the feedback? Do you do that in the morning? How many times do you try? But also, do you need to report on progress? Describe all, so you get it right in the long run.

C. The operational lens:

a. This is just about doing it. Calling customers. Fixing problems. Celebrating successes. Getting others involved.

I suggest you think big and start small. Choose a pilot project. Experiment. That will lead up to your big success in the long run.

At the ferry service they gave it their primary focus (I checked afterwards). They had training how to handle feedback and made a little game out of it. They took pride in solving issues and getting back to customers. They arranged it and acted on it. As a customer I felt it. Now it is up to you to do the same

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This blog is about an old customer experience. It is more than 2 years old, and I remember it like it was yesterday. So, here we go.

As my mom lives on the island of Texel, we take the ferry to the island often. I am even a ferry shareholder. One of the shareholder benefits, is a special pass with five credits every year to take your car for free. On the 1st of January, the credits are automatically transferred to the pass, so easy peasy.

It is the 5th of January and me and my car are at the ferry’s check in. I give my shareholder pass to the clerk and she says “Sorry, no credits left.” I am a little bewildered and start the conversation that something must have gone wrong. It is the 5th of January, so it is almost impossible to have used up all my credits. There is no willingness to help, no empathy. I should go to the Teso office, which is only open during weekdays. And that is exactly when I am not on the island of Texel. But that was my problem. Not hers. She makes me buy a ticket and I am not happy. To say the least.

I cannot remember exactly how I got in touch with TESO. Maybe I sent an e-mail. But I received a survey from the ferry services and I gave them my feedback. Expecting nothing from it to be honest, since 99% of companies don’t handle on feedback. In CX terminology: they don’t closing the loop.

The next day the phone rings. It is a number from Texel, since I recognize the area code. A colleague of the TESO Ferry Services asks me for my experience. What happened, how did it make me feel, what do I see as a solution?

She apologized for what had happened. What I really loved, is that she didn’t blackguard her colleague, but she said it wasn’t the right reaction. She was going to solve the matter. Of course, I didn’t have to come into the office. If I could send a recent photo of myself (there is picture on the shareholder pass) by email, she would arrange a new pass. Which would be sent to my house with the credits on it.

Two days later my pass arrives in the mail. With a sincere apology and with a little present. Four tokens for free coffee and apple pie for me and my family when we take the next ferry. What a way to create a perfect moment for me. I can show off to my family with a treat and TESO is put in the spotlight because they are rockstars when it comes to closing the loop. Problem solved, bad emotions taken away and a sweet reminder that this company understands how to make customers happy.

From this blog, I have distilled a number of CX lessons. Curious? Read them here!

Sometimes you read a book that hits you with the hammer on the head. That makes you think: I want to remind myself of these words again and again. And I should reread this book occasionally, no yearly! The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath is such a book. It’s very valuable for both your professional and personal life. To put it more precisely, this book is a must read for every CX professional.

Four elements

The Power of Moments is about powerful moments: a meaningful moment contains one of the next four elements:

  • A moment of elevation
  • It lets people get insights themselves
  • It makes you proud or
  • You make a meaningful connection

Of course, a powerful moment can have more than one of the above elements and even all four.

But why should you read this book? I think it can benefit you in four ways.

1. For customers: create meaningful moments in your customer journey

By implementing milestones in customer journeys, organizations make a real connection with their (positively surprised) customers. That’s what it’s all about: making meaningful connections with your customers and deliver business value. The best way to do it, is to have your colleagues read this book as well and brainstorm on where in the customer journey you can create these meaningful moments. It’s a great way to improve your customer journeys and you can be certain of loyal customer ambassadors. There’s a serious task here for every CX professional!

2. For your transformation projects: insights will support your change process

If we want to change the way we work, for example in customer experience, we all know that we cannot change our behavior and culture in just one day. This takes time. What this book The Power of Moments clarifies is that you cannot change people at once, but by creating meaningful moments in your transformation projects, you can surely encourage people to other behavior. If you can make people trip over the truth themselves, if their work or contribution to the company makes them pride. Take time to show them you care, as this really helps you to make a meaningful connection.

3. For your team: celebrate your team's successes

If there’s one way to create team spirit, it is by creating meaningful moments. Think of ways to celebrate your team’s successes. Don’t forget to put a team member in the spotlight when he or she has done an excellent job, or just when it’s someone’s birthday. This doesn’t mean a lot of extra work, but take time to really notice people, to have a good conversation. In short: by showing them you care you create a lot of goodwill.

4. For yourself: your personal relationships will improve

It goes without saying that taking time to create meaningful moments in your personal life will deepen your relationships with other people. Or create them for yourself, like my pilgrimage for my 50th birthday. And every human being needs meaningful connections, that’s what makes our lives memorable and worthy. But also, outside your own personal ‘bubble’: make time to greet people, smile to people you pass. You can create connections everywhere.

If we all do our best to create meaningful moments, we would have happy and loyal customers and employees. Not only that I’m also sure we would make this planet a nicer place to live in.

Do you like to read inspiring articles and books about Customer Experience? Then subscribe to my monthly CX Greetz, where I share many CX experiences, inspiration and lessons with you.

If you are a customer who books a large number of tickets, you are probably a B2B customer. But in this case, I was not. Still, in such a case, you want to feel a bit special. I book 13 tickets! That must be a good deal for the company, right? Better than 1 plane ticket, right?!
I didn't feel a thing about this whole transaction. It was difficult, process-oriented and I even felt unclear. Because, do I have the tickets or not! There is no portal where I can see if my booking was successful.

Looking at this process with my CX-glasses on, I have four ideas how to improve:

  1. Step into the shoes of your customer.
    Try booking a group ticket yourself. See how long it takes to get an offer. Experience the waiting time on the phone. Print out the offer and the contract. See how ugly it looks. Find the differences between what is written in the contract and in the e-mail.
  2. Make a shortlist of simple improvements and let a dedicated team pick it up.
    Especially the contract and communication. Add the 'warm customer feeling'. Give me, the customer, the feeling that you are happy with this 13-ticket deal. And see where you can remove ambiguities and add clarity.
  3. Align with other processes that customers are familiar with.
    Align with the convenience of individual processes, especially when it comes to booking an individual ticket. Align the terms and conditions as well. Why do I have more flexibility as an individual than a customer who has booked 13 tickets? Align and design the future. Think about the digital channels, especially if you have problems with waiting times in your customer contact centre.
  4. Share in the organisation, when it comes to customer-centred change.
    I would share this kind of example in the organisation. In the Group Ticket team, these contracts and practices are the norm. People have been working like this for years. They have 'The Curse of Knowledge'. But if you are a customer, like me, who is completely new to this, you feel trapped in the internal jargon and processes. So sharing the need for change and continuing to question daily routines is necessary for shaping a successful future when it comes to changing culture.

This is really about process improvement, but from the lens of the customer. So not just Business Process Redesign, but really stepping into my shoes (that of your ideal customer) and helping me. Customer Journey mapping is the perfect way to do this. Did you know that my colleague Barbara van Duin has a great course to learn this. I took the course myself and recommend it.

I hope everything will work out with the tickets and that my friends, daughter and mother will fly to Bologna on 20 May! Time to experience La Dolce Vita. And then the experience with the group ticket booking will probably be completely forgotten.

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I will turn 50 this year. Then comes the question. How do you want to celebrate? I am walking 1000 kilometres to Rome this year and will celebrate on 17 May in St Peter's Square with my husband. But there was also a little voice in my head that I would really like to celebrate with my girlfriends. Something really crazy for once. Extravagant. So... I invited all my girlfriends, my daughter and my mother for a weekend in Italy. I rented a beautiful villa above Verona and arranged for good food, drink and a bike ride through the rolling hills.

Now I did not want to be a travel agent, so I asked all the ladies to pay (and arrange) the ticket themselves. However, it soon became clear that the prices were quite different. One friend was quoted 221 euros and the other 271. In order not to get any lopsided faces, I offered to arrange a group ticket.

So I went to the website on Saturday morning and went through a number of fields. Where do you want to go, what time, with how many people, etcetera etcetera. When I pressed 'Enter' after the last field, I was promised that I would receive an offer within a day.

You can feel it. I got nothing. And I felt the fear, that because of delays on this line, the tickets would only get more expensive. So I started calling, but I couldn't get through. So I waited.

After four days the offer came. And what a quotation it was. Four choices, while I had very clearly indicated what I wanted. 13 tickets and at very specific times to and from Bologna. Within 10 minutes I responded with what I wanted and then I got a kind of contract.

One for which you really have to have been at the Ticketacademie. I also suspect that this is from an AS400 system, when I look at the font. But anyway. A lot of attention to the cancellation conditions, terms and dates. All in text. Four pages full.

It also says when I have to provide a passenger list. Now that is nice, that clarity. But what should a passenger list contain? Only names, or also dates of birth? Or also identity card numbers? I have searched online for what this list should contain, but I cannot find it. What a lack of clarity... Especially because it is so different from how I book an individual ticket. Simply, nicely online, very clear and as it turns out. For a much better price too.

When I agree, I run into a contradiction. The contract says that I have to sign and email it. But the accompanying e-mail says that the payment confirms the reservation. So there is no need to e-mail it. Oh well, just to be sure I sign, scan and confirm. Better safe than sorry. And then I make the first payment. I have to mention "Tigre" and the contract number with the payment. But should I or should I not add the 'A' mentioned in the letter? Or also the '1/1' which is behind it. Oh help. I have paid and hope that this will go well.

So, I don't see the added value of this group booking option. Maybe if you are an event agency and have this kind of software yourself. But I really feel lost as an individual. I will soon have 13 tickets, but I am dependent on an e-mail address that you just have to hope will respond. And a department that I have not been able to reach by phone so far.

Fortunately, it is KLM and I trust that all will be well. It is the big blue bird after all. Which reminds me of the slogan of that other organisation that I associate with blue. We can't make it more fun, but we can make it easier. Well, they should take a look at that here too!

From this blog, I have distilled a number of CX lessons. Curious? Read them here!