Great Customer Experiences don’t happen by accident

If I am YOUR customer tomorrow, can you guarantee me that I will be a happy customer? Let’s say you can give me a 99% guarantee? No? 90% perhaps? Or maybe you don’t know? Before I give you insights on how to go about this, let me take you on a cruise…

The cruise I made in 2016 was the perfect example of how Customer Experience should be organized. Everything fell into place. Effective (meeting needs), easy and enjoyable. These 3 words, that are the basics for the Customer Experience Pyramid of Forrester, help to identify if experiences are making customers happy and if they are creating loyalty.

When looking at my customer journey with Carnival – as a Customer Experience Expert – I can identify 3 phases in the journey: Pre-Travel, Travel and Post Travel.

In the Pre-Travel phase, I was browsing the web for the cruise as their prospective guest, together with my 18 year old daughter. 2 elements were essential. Date of travel and destination (we wanted to visit the Bahamas). After googling my way around the cruise world, I found a perfect cruise with Carnival. But would we really like that? At that moment I was surprised as a CX pro. They had a distinguishing Customer Promise: “Fun for all, all for Fun”. What a great way of distinguishing themselves. Their reviews resonated with that. I had a peek at and the reviews were realistic and enthusiastic. So, we booked. They even seduced us to upgrade our booking to a Spa Suite. Giving as extra perks and a balcony. And off we went..

The thing I dreaded most of the travel was boarding. Just imagine 3000 travelers wanting to get on board of this immense cruise ship at the same time. Help! But Carnival realized that could be moment of pain. They acknowledged my fear by offering me a special boarding slot. When we arrived at the terminal, everything was organized, planned and there was a quiet atmosphere. With my professional eye I noticed the VIP deck, for frequent travelers who were loyal Carnival customers. And I also learned from my neighbor that they bought a special package: “Faster to the Fun”. Wow, hands up for Carnival, creating an upsell in this moment of pain and turning it into a ‘Must Have’ for me. Yes, next time I travel with Carnival, I will buy this package. Boarding was easy peasy. No hustle at all. And the travel was brilliant. Everything a cruise in the Caribbean should be!

When we left the Carnival Splendor, they sent us a review form and of course I filled it out. Being an enthusiastic person, I had booked all trips to the 4 islands we visited (they made it easy for me, getting booking done on my TV set in the cabin, YES, incredible, isn’t it?!) and they gave me the joy of spending. Investing in memories forever. I shared my story on Facebook and my daughter shared the whole cruise through Snapchat. What does that matter? Think of several of her friends now asking their parents to also go on a cruise with Carnival… Carnival created a mental contract with me. By crafting these special memories, they are my favorite if we go on a cruise again. Besides, how about me sharing this information with you through this blog. What do you think of that; being an Ambassador and an Advocate at the same time.

How can you replicate what Carnival did with me? You should work on the 3 pillars of the Transformational Customer Experience Framework (in co-creating with Ian Golding) .

1.      Voice of the Customer

Listen to your customers. Through NPS or CSAT and most definitely through Reviews. Make sure you know what your customers See, Hear and Feel while being a customer with you. Learn about your customers. Not only during sales, but also after sales. Make sure you get your feedback and then… ACT. Reach out to your customers. Call them, fix hiccups and start improving broken experiences. Fix those processes, train your employees. Take action and take the lead. That is what the Voice of the Customer pillar is about.

2.      Brand delivery in the customer journey

This has 2 elements. First of all Branding. What is your branding about? Is it distinguishing in the market place; are you any different from your competitors? Make sure you know what you promise to your customer. Where Carnival was all about fun, they knew how to put it into practice. Which takes me to step 2: Identify those moments of pain and moments of truth. At which moments in the customer journey do you have to be there? What are the dilemmas of your customers? Take these moments into account and look at your processes through the eyes/ears/hearts of your customer. Make your communication explicit and consistent in all channels and at all touchpoints. Make sure the customer experiences are planned and organized.

3.      Employee Ambassadorship

Now you are listening to your customers, you know how you distinguish yourself in the marketplace and you know what type of experience you would like to be delivered in the customer journey. It is up to your employees to deliver on that promise. There are 2 elements to this. They need to have the KNOWLEDGE; they need to  know what to deliver, what and when and they have to be trained and skilled. And most important, the second element of Employee Ambassadorship: MOTIVATION. They need to be engaged with your organization and your brand.

Great Customer Experiences don’t happen by accident. They are planned and organized and staff is able to deliver. When you work systematically on these 3 pillars of the framework, you will be successful. It is a long term perspective and more of a transformation than pure change. Leadership is necessary and support from the C-suite is essential. And it can be done. And if you don’t believe me, go on a cruise with for example Carnival, maybe we should go together with a group of CX professionals. Learn from the best in class just as I have experienced.