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We begeven ons op een camping, in een huisje. En dat is niet zomaar een camping, maar zo-een die hip is en daarmee snel uitverkocht is. Het boeken vond vorig jaar november al plaats, met in het achterhoofd dat ik de hele maand juni in het buitenland zou zijn voor prachtige spreekopdrachten en CX-masterclasses. Maar ja… Daar was ineens corona. En net als iedereen, ben ik sinds half maart permanent in ons mooie Nederland.

Het goede nieuws was dat we een geweldig vakantieadres hadden gevonden. Deze camping werd door velen aanbevolen: misschien wat groot, maar supertof. Dichtbij het strand, tegen de duinen aan. Veel speelmogelijkheden voor kinderen met zand en water. De recensies waren bijna té lovend. Ik moet eerlijk zijn: ik word dan sceptisch. Ik wil eerst met eigen ogen zien of de beloftes worden waargemaakt. En hoe is het dan met de klantbeleving? Ook dat wil ik zelf aan den lijve ondervinden.

Dus. Daar gingen we. De eerste week van de bouwvak. De drukste week van het hoogseizoen in 2020. Ik moest eerst nog maar eens zien hoe deze camping die geweldige klantbeleving ging waarmaken.

We werden perfect ontvangen. Snel, vriendelijk en duidelijk. We kwamen aan in het huisje, zo mooi dat het onze verwachtingen overtrof. Met goede bedden en een perfecte ligging: tussen de duinen, met een eigen veranda en zo’n mooi tentdoek als overkapping. We waren er beduusd van.

De eerste fles wijn ging open, de kleine vertrok richting speelplek met veel zand en wij zaten vorstelijk in de relaxmodus. Eerst maar eens het boekje doornemen, met plattegrond en tips, inclusief activiteitenplanning.

De dagen daarna hadden we de leukste gesprekken met personeelsleden van de camping. Zij reden regelmatig voorbij in elektrische karretjes. We werden vrolijk begroet, we wisten dat ze Luuk, Gerard of Daan heetten en er werden kleine wensen ingelost. Zo was ik mijn yogamat vergeten en binnen een halve dag had ik er eentje in ons huisje. Elke ochtend ontvingen we een krant, begeleid door een vrolijk ‘Goedemorgen!’. In zo’n geval lukt het me niet meer om alleen ‘gast’ te zijn. Direct steekt ook mijn beroepsdeformatie de kop op. Hoe is dit geregeld? Welke processen en afspraken worden er met het personeel gemaakt? Ik kon mijn nieuwsgierigheid niet bedwingen en vroeg het Daan. Hij legde gelijk hun concept uit. Hoe zij samen, met al het personeel de laatste pagina van de brochure inkleuren. De pagina die je niet kan beschrijven, maar die je moet ervaren.

Hoe wow is dat? Niet alleen het bedenken ervan, maar dat je dit ook waarmaakt midden in het hoogseizoen. Met processen, afspraken en vooral: in concreet gedrag. Mij hebben ze als klant ingepakt. Verwend met een hele fijne vakantieklantbeleving. Chapeau camping. Chapeau personeel. Wij hebben alvast geboekt voor 2021.

 

Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 22 september 2020

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Wat vind jij? Een ja of een nee? Ik ben benieuwd. Maar voordat ik mijn opinie in de rondte strooi, neem ik je mee in een experiment.

Stel. Je wordt wakker en bent vrolijk. Je springt fris en fruitig uit je bed. Want je hebt er zin in. Je gaat vol passie aan de slag. Je loopt de keuken van de McDonalds in, groet je collega’s en start (na je handen te hebben gewassen; natuurlijk!) met een bestelling van een BigMac. Wat doe je?

  1. Je hebt dit al zo vaak gedaan, dat je niet meer naar het plaatje van deze hamburger hoeft te kijken. Maar je weet precies hoe de opbouw is. Broodje, saus, sla, tomaat, augurk, twee hamburgers, een plakje kaas en nog meer saus (voor de echte kenners, ik hoop dat ik het goed heb). Dus je bouwt de hamburger zoals die hoort, stopt hem in het doosje en hopsa; klaar om gegeten te worden.

Of

  1. Vandaag ga je out of the box. Je hebt iets gehoord van je manager over autonomie en je gaat deze hamburger nóg lekkerder maken. Beetje meer saus, beetje minder vlees. Want ja, dat is niet goed voor het milieu. Misschien is drie plakjes tomaat wel een goed idee. Gewoon even jouw passie erin en klaar is Klara. Hamburger in het doosje en hopsa; klaar om gegeten te worden.

Wat doe je: 1 of 2? Ik hoop scenario 1, want dat is precies wat de klant verwacht. Hopelijk wordt de hamburger met een grote glimlach aan de klant overhandigd en is het ook qua customer service op orde.

Want dat is waar de klant centraal over gaat. Over dat de klant een product of dienst in een bepaalde mate van consistentie verwacht en krijgt. Dat vergt kaders. Waar moet die consistentie voor jouw bedrijf aan voldoen? Is dit een bepaalde snelheid, kwaliteit, tone-of-voice, of opbouw van de hamburger? Ja, natuurlijk kun je net dat beetje meer geven, qua service of een extraatje. Maar de basis is die hamburger, dat product.

Dus nee. De klant centraal is niet van ons allemaal. Het fundament van de klant centraal is van die personen die het fundament ontwerpen. Dat kan het customer experience team zijn. Of bijvoorbeeld marketing, of het klantcontactcenter. Zij zetten kaders op waar je je aan kan en wil houden. En als je dan net dat beetje extra weet te geven als medewerker… Die glimlach. Die service. Die briljante BigMac. Dat echte klantcontact. Dan heb je het gemaakt. En staat de klant centraal. Daar mag je dan hartstikke trots op zijn.

 

Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 16 oktober 2019

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Maybe you know, maybe you don’t. But me wearing a blue dress when I perform and speak, has a start. I call it the birth of my personal brand. Let me share the story with you.

It was Sunday March 29th 2015. I was invited to my first Professional Speaker Association event, not only to learn, but also to speak. Imagine this: I had just quit my job 3 months earlier, was in the early days of my speaking career and the second bunch of people I spoke for, were all speakers. I was so terrified and excited at the same time, and worked vigorously to create a brilliant story. Where CX meets a speaker’s business. I did try outs, worked on my slides, and worked on my body, since I wanted to look my best. Ever.

Besides yoga I ran twice a week (I jogged to be honest). Two days before D-day, when I was running in the city of Utrecht, I sprained my calf. It hurt like crazy and the most awful part was, that I couldn’t walk. Should I cancel my PSA event? From a body’s point of view: yes. I couldn’t walk and had to keep my leg up, to give it rest. But there was no issue with my mouth and voice, so I decided to go anyway. And with crutches, I could make my way around the event.

There was just one issue. I had planned to wear a red dress, but I had blue crutches and that was not a beautiful match. So, I dug deep in my closet and found the perfect dress. A dress that matched my crutches. A blue dress. And I tailored my story more to the blue theme. I used the blue bear as a metaphor, the big blue bear that is an art work outside the Denver Convention Center. My metaphor for staying curious and yes, blue again. So, the day came, where I delivered my keynote speech. I was nervous, and yes it felt a little strange to not stand up and walk while speaking. I delivered my keynote on a barstool, but hey, I did it!

It went great and I got a big round of applause of all my new speaker friends. After my speech, a colleague of a speaker bureau came up to me and asked if I was interested in speaking for their agency. As the speaker in the blue dress.

That is where it all began. And since then, I almost always speak in a blue dress. As it has grown to be my personal brand. To be an authentic part of me doing what I love to do. Helping my customers to make the world more beautiful for their customers and employees. I get many questions about my blue dress thing and thought it would be handy to create a FAQ for you.

The FAQ of the blue dress

Do you have funny stories about you in your blue dress?

The best story of me and my blue dress, is one that happened at Schiphol Airport. I ordered a cappuccino when I was on my way to fly to London. The barista gave me my cappuccino and said; “that is one euro 60”. I looked up in amazement, because cappuccino’s in airports are normally triple that price. She saw my surprise and said: “Employee discount.” She thought I was an employee of KLM 😉. So up to now I have saved at least three euro’s doing my blue dress thing.

How many blue dresses do you have?

It is more than four years ago and since then, my collection of blue dresses has grown. Every time I walk into a department store or boutique, my Blue-dress-radar starts immediately. I am always on the lookout for a new edition to add to my blue dress collection 😊. In my closet, I have designers’ dresses, La-Dresses, a ball gown, sleeveless dresses, V-neck dresses, short and longer dresses. I just counted them for you, and I dare to share that I have 17 blue dresses in the colors cobalt/royal blue.

Do you have any other color dresses?

Yes I have other colors, but I must admit, my blue collection takes half of my closet. I treasure my royal blue ones, but I also have a collection of darker blue. And of course, other shades, some with flowers. But know that I almost never wear them when I deliver a presentation or when I teach a masterclass: those moments I’ll stick to my vivid blue ones. O well, I give you an idea what my wardrobe looks like.

Do you ever wear trousers?

Yes, I do. When I go to the gym I always wear trousers. That is twice a week. And that is enough for me… I have some jeans in my closet. But I rarely wear them. I love the simplicity of a dress. One piece, no hassle and I look feminine instantly.

Do you ever speak in another colored dress?

Especially when I speak abroad, I bring two dresses of different colors. The blue one and most often an orange or red one. The reason I do this, is because when the stage is all blue, me in my blue dress will fade away against the background. And I don’t want that. So sometimes I have to decide to let the personal brand go and choose for client delivery. A logical choice, because when you can’t see the speaker that well, I have not done a great job.

Did you ever go to Denver and see the blue bear for yourself?

Yes, I did. You have to know, that in 2015 when I started with the blue bear in my stories, I made a pledge to myself that I wanted to see that blue bear with my own eyes. In 2016 I went to a training of a speaker colleague to learn all about marketing and sales for speakers. In DENVER. Yiha! So, I got to meet the blue bear, the immense art work that is almost 13 meters high.

Do you also have a blue car, blue nails, blue everything?

No. I just wear a blue dress. That is my image, my personal brand. In my logo I have blue as a color, but that is about it. I don’t want to be a blue lady and identify with Smurfette, although I really think she is adorable. So, just a blue dress. Now you know everything about the origin of that!

 

** Nienke Bloem is an expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Keynote Speaker, teacher of the 2 day CX Masterclass to prepare you for the CCXP exam and she is co-founder of the customer experience game. Do you want to read her blogs or learn more about her? Visit her website or subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz. **

 

** Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

… why you are getting it all wrong when it comes to the visual revolution

We are in the age of the visual revolution. Sorry? What? Yes, visuals are the bomb. Not just a little bit, but all over the place. Where Instagram is growing like crazy, YouTube is the second largest search engine and even LinkedIn is growing when it comes to images and video.

A real big chance for everybody. Not only telling how good your products and services are, but also showing it with images. Because images speak louder than words; right?

Let’s dive a little deeper where it tends to get ugly when it comes to visuals.

Let’s go on a cruise

This April I went on a cruise. In 2016 we cruised with Carnival Cruises, which was a big eye opener and fun and brilliant customer experience (on which I blogged). So in 2019 we wanted to push it a little, go on a longer cruise and see more islands. We changed to Celebrity Cruises, because their ships were newer, the destinations fitted and the whole look and feel of the website, matched with what I was longing for.

This is where it all went wrong. Please take a look on their website: I am curious what you see and what impression you get? Well I got the impression of modern luxury (which is also what they promise, as one of the guest relations officers told me) and the website shows guests like me.

The Stereotype Exercise

Now, let’s do a small exercise that I learned at Disney Institute. The Stereotype exercise. When you think of cruising and the typical customer. What things come to mind? Before I type any further, you could pick up pen and paper, but you can also keep reading. I will join you in your mind.

When I stereotype cruising and their guests, I think of an older population, a little grey-haired to be honest. Pensioners, who love jewelry and play bridge. They are grandparents, children moved out of the home. Who want to experience luxury and comfort and want to dine with captain Stubing (little joke).

Our experience in 2016 was really different. Carnival is known for their fun and they attract a young crowd. That is also what their website shows when it comes to visuals. Now let’s switch back to Celebrity. When I glance at their visuals on the website or their Instagram, I see people like me. Young, okay, this is debatable 😉, but between 40 and 55. Young, right?! A young crowd who enjoys life, who likes to explore and have new adventures. This is what they market, this is what they sell on their website.

Different expectations

So imagine entering the boarding area in Fort Lauderdale, where the first impression was… An old peoples home. The stereotype we just imagined. Yes, we saw canes, walking racks and wheelchairs. That is not any issue, but I booked this holiday with a different expectation. Praise the lord there were younger people aboard, but they were scarce. And that was a real pity for my daughter of twenty, who I brought along. Yes, we had a great holiday, but thinking back of the Carnival Cruise and the fun we had with most of the guests; I wish we booked with them.

During the cruise, we shared tables with many people and for example had a chat with a couple (in their 70s) who were on their tenth cruise with Celebrity. Yes, they admitted Celebrity is known for a little older crowd. That is what they liked and why they came back. Again and again. And we had many more chats like that.

Disappointment

The fourth day of the cruise, I decided to have a conversation with guest relations. Because it somehow itched that the cruise was marketed in a way, which wasn’t delivered. I explained my disappointment and the lady behind the desk spoke these words “Yes, we have an older population on board. If you would have liked a younger cruise, you should have booked Royal Caribbean.” What?! Really?!

While I am writing this, I feel the same emotions again. Those of frustration and disappointment. You sell me a cruise with a certain expectation, I book online, I have to let you know who I travel with (a twenty-year-old), you give no advice and then a little twat behind the desk tells me this. My oh my.

Where did it go wrong from an organizational customer experience point of view?

Honor your clients

I think the marketeers of Celebrity Cruises are all pretty young and hip. Chances are they hire other hip website builders, travelers and influencers to create visuals and tell stories. Probably the board wants to rejuvenate their passengers. Marketing most certainly works with personas, but I don’t think the older traveler is in there. They aim for young, as shows their website and Instagram.

Now comes the truth and nothing but the truth. Be happy with your clients. Give them the credits they deserve. Because these older guests are filling your pockets. Make sure you show reality in your visuals. Not just polishing it up with models and stock photo’s you use now. Show your real customers in your visuals. Give them the place they deserve on your website, Instagram and Facebook.

Because what happened with me, is not an N=1 (just one traveler) situation. We had a conversation with over ten other young guests, and they had the same experience as we had. They were also not coming back on Celebrity. At least not in the next twenty years 😉, as at that age we fit their age group in a better way.

My dear marketeers, when you show pictures that are too far from the truth, you are the reason why customers get disappointed. Guest relations can’t fix it down the line. They can only fix it with some extra’s, but you are two steps behind.

Be real

Does this only happen in the travel industry? NO. This is the hard truth in many areas of visual marketing. For example, have a look at websites of golf courses. The pictures are beautiful. The sun is rising. Greens look so green. Bunkers are all raked meticulously. And the most surprising thing; almost never do you see any people golfing. It could be a very young and slim couple, but most often these golf courses are photographed at moments of total ‘nobodyness’.

Reality is different. Most golf courses host many flights of golfers. There are PEOPLE on a golf course. Not models, but people like me, my mom and dad. Normal people.

Of course, you want to look your best on a website. You want to show things on a sunny day. Literally and metaphorically. But don’t overdo it. Make sure it looks great, but also real. Because if you don’t: reality will hit and create disappointment down the line.

So, my plea is: do the reality check. Take a look at your website and other social channels where you use visuals like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Are you telling the truth, or should you take it down a notch? Me and my fellow customers would appreciate the real story. Thank you.

 

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Disney – we all know the brand, and I have visited their theme parks several times. Both in Paris as well as in Orlando. But how do they consistently deliver their Disney Magic? This year I decided to invest in myself and learn more and follow one of Disney Insitute’s couses. A separate company, dedicated to spreading Disney’s knowledge through training and advice.

I followed a One-Day course at Anaheim, the Disneyland location. The very first location of all Disney parks, where Walt Disney himself had his vision and where he put it in practice.

The whole day was well organized, starting very early with breakfast at 7:30 AM. From the moment I entered the training room, the Disney touch was there, including plenty of Mickey shaped confetti on the table. There was a workbook for all participants and a refillable Disney water bottle.

This program was focused on how to consistently deliver quality service to your clients, based on your own brand. This is exactly how I envisage my A.C.E. Strategy that I speak and write about:

Authentic experiences from your unique brand perspective, consistently delivered during the customer journey, by Employee Ambassadors who understand and can deliver the service to customers.

It was fabulous to see how Disney puts that into practice and together with 47 other participants, I learned all about this at Disney Institute. Besides the theoretical part, we also went into the park itself (although short) to see and experience the theory ourselves (also known as a Customer Safari).

I have written about ten pages full of insights, quotes and memorable stories. As you are probably not waiting for all of my notes, here are the three major insights I got from the course:

1. Purpose over Task

At Disney everybody is educated by the spirit of Walt Disney and learns about the common purpose of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere”  in short “Creating Happiness for Others”

It was interesting to learn the origin of this purpose, with a big role of new person to me: Van France, Founder and Professor Emeritus of Disney Universities. What was even more interesting, was that in the Disney Philosophy, every employee has the freedom to create happiness for guests. That means that in a service moment, where the guidelines are clear for a specific task, there is room to make an exception. The employee may decide to follow his/her gut and go for happiness instead. To be “off task” and “on purpose”.

They gave an example about a girl called Alice who visited the park. The Disney employee asked why she was sad, as she had a birthday pin on. So she told them that yes, it was her birthday, but all her friends had to cancel, because of illness and other appointments. But she decided to go to Disney anyway. The employee did all she could to create a special moment in a restaurant, where characters of Alice in Wonderland (see the alignment 😊) were present and celebrated with her. Because, in Disney there are always friends and a birthday should always be celebrated.

Should the member of staff do this all the time? No. But was it appropriate at this moment and she had every reason to be “off task” (which was providing service at an attraction) and “on purpose” to go out of her way and arrange a perfect birthday celebration for Alice. Of course, Alice still visits Disney often, made new friends, and is an ambassador forever.

So the lesson here is: What is the purpose of your company and which are situations where your employees go the extra mile? Do you have such brilliant stories within your company; those everlasting customer stories that make you feel proud and cause a smile on everybody’s face?

2. Prioritize Quality Standards

When I am visiting companies, I am always interested in what they want to deliver to their customers. Often, we are creating a customer compass or a customer charter. With three to five (up to seven, but that is exceptional) customer promises or brand values that are specific for the brand and that align all employees towards the same customer experiences.

In Disney they have four Quality Standards, also known as “The Four Keys”. Courtesy, Safety, Show and Efficiency. A very interesting assignment during the course, was to prioritize these four keys. Because, in the way Disney teaches their employees, they need to know what is important to make consistent decisions. So each of these standards is equally important (don’t ever say the fourth is least important… 😉), but there is a logical Disney order. And that is

  1. Safety
  2. Courtesy
  3. Show
  4. Efficiency

This sounds so logical to apply a prioritization, but I have never done it this way. So from now on, prioritization will be added as an option to the Nienke Bloem CX toolkit.

3. Seriously organize your service recovery

Things can go wrong. Even at Disney things go wrong, but they make it their task to recover what needs to be recovered. I like the description: “Service Recovery is an event that occurs when the customer’s expectations are not met.”

For Disney it is important to pursue the relationship with the customer, which has great impact on their view of service recovery, or as I see it named in companies’ “Complaints” procedures. At Disney they don’t want to just resolve the issue, but they want to reconciliate the relationship.

Because guests are likely to care just as much – if not more – about how they are treated following the service failure as they care about the outcome of a service recovery itself.

So what Disney has done is to put processes and systems in place on service recovery. Of course they also have the outer loop and are continuously improving their operations and systems, but as they pursue the same consistency in service recovery as in their daily service, they have thought about everything.

On this topic we had a guest speaker who told so many compelling service recovery stories, that really proved that Disney has this under control. And she closed off with the following: “Things can go wrong, they might not be our fault, but they are our problem.”

The ownership of service issues, of things that went wrong, that is where Disney steps up and makes the difference.

My question for you, is how are service recovery processes organized in your company? Do you have the same drive for service recovery and do people take ownership? Is the How(the way) just as important or maybe even more so than the What (the solution)? If you can answer: “Yes!”, hurray for you, as you joined Disney in customer obsession. If you have to answer: “No”, you’ve got work to do!

These were my three major insights and I will take them along and incorporate them in my consulting, writing, presenting and teaching practices. So, you can expect more on Disney and my findings in the common months.

Disney rocks! They want to differentiate themselves from the market. They are a premium brand and strive for consistent delivery of their four quality standards every day. I want to challenge you to go the Disney way. Is there one of these three insights, that spark your imagination and make you ambitious enough to step up the customer experience in your company? Reach out to me or please share in the comments which of the three insights it is for you, so I also learn which appeals the most.

 

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“Goedemorgen mevrouw, heeft u zin om met ons naar Nederland te vliegen?” Een grote glimlach op zijn gezicht verraadt dat hij er lol in heeft. Zijn vrouwelijke collega achter hem, kijkt met een strak gezicht naar een punt ergens 20 centimeter boven mijn hoofd en negeert mijn ‘Goedemorgen deze morgen’. Terwijl ik mijn stoel – 2F – opzoek, zie ik een derde stewardess die vooral druk bezig is met het organiseren van bagage. Want daar hebben wij als reizigers weinig kaas van gegeten, zegt haar gezichtsuitdrukking.

Voor het opstijgen krijgen we de uitleg over de veiligheidsprocedure. Glimlachend zie ik de blije eikel twee rijen voor me. Hij voert zijn routine uit, met veel energie en oogcontact met de verschillende passagiers. Van veiligheidsgordel tot zwemvest, hem krijgen ze vandaag niet uit zijn goede humeur. Achter hem staat de purser van de vlucht haar riedeltje op te dreunen. Ze zucht er nog net niet bij, maar deze norse kastanje heeft er duidelijk weinig zin in.

We vliegen weg en al snel is het tijd voor de hapjes en drankjes. Bij deze maatschappij betaal je voor je eten en drinken en ineens besef ik dat mijn portemonnee in het bagagerek boven mijn hoofd ligt. Toch wil ik een noedelsoep (guilty pleasure, ik geef het toe). De blije eikel neemt de bestelling aan, zegt dat dit ook één van zijn favorieten is en geeft de norse kastanje de opdracht om een ‘noedelsoep voor de knappe mevrouw op 2F’ te maken. Vervolgens beken ik dat mijn portemonnee nog boven me ligt. “Geen enkel probleem mevrouw, dat kan de beste overkomen”, zegt hij enthousiast. De norse kastanje zucht hoorbaar en draait zich om naar het keukentje om mijn noedelsoep te maken. Mijn rugzak komt tevoorschijn, hij maakt nog een grap dat roze ook zijn favoriete kleur is en alle rijen lachen ondertussen mee.

Wat heeft deze man een pret in zijn werk, echt geweldig. Ik weet zeker dat dit de tweede vlucht van zijn werkdag is en dat hij meer dan vroeg zijn bed uit is gekomen. Net als de norse kastanje trouwens, die er ondertussen echt geen zin meer in heeft. De noedelsoep is ze vergeten, en als ik ernaar vraag snauwt ze nog net niet terug.

Twee maanden en vier vluchten met andere airlines verder, herinner ik me nog steeds die ene vlucht, met de puffende purser en de aanstekelijke energie van de vrolijke steward. Die blije eikel die iedereen en dus ook mij een goed gevoel gaf. Dankjewel en ik hoop dat ik snel weer met jou mag vliegen.

 

Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 28 maart 2018

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More and more, I come to the conclusion that this is the missing link in many businesses and a must have when it comes to customer experience. The need for clear promises to customers. To see if this is an issue in your company, please try to answer these questions:

  • How does your company or brand stand out in comparison with your competitors? What is really distinguishing your company when it comes to the offering to your customers?
  • What do you promise your customers when they do business with you? What can they really expect from the product?
  • What kind of service promises do you make to customers? What do you want your customers to experience in which channels?

To deliver great customer experiences, you have to begin with the end in mind

What do you want your customers to experience? Were you able to answer at least 2 of the questions above? No? Now it is time to pay attention. I like to use airlines and cruises as examples. Let’s start with airlines.

Two complete opposites when it comes to flying. RyanAir and Emirates. When diving deeper into Ryanair, they have the brand promise “Low fares, made simple”. Everything they do is translated from this branding principle. The blue and yellow returns everywhere, on their website, banners, even in their planes. As a customer, you know what to expect. The low cost airline in Europe.

When looking at Emirates, they have the brand promise “Comfort and attention to detail you can rely on whenever you travel.” A whole different ball game from a branding perspective and you know what you can expect. Attention to detail, from the greeting in the plane, to the chauffeur service when you fly business class. They focus on a different customer, a different segment as does Ryanair.

Let’s also look at the cruise examples

I have picked three.Carnival is the cruise company I traveled with in 2016. They promise you “Fun for all and all for fun”. Knowing this, it makes it much easier to translate it into actions. Into moments in the customer journey where fun can be delivered. Also where there are possibilities for up and cross sell.

In the cruise business, there are more and another distinguishing brands. One of them is Disney Cruises. As soon as I write it down, you will know. This is all about Mickey and Minnie. As I have been browsing the web, it is still not crystal clear what their brand promise is, but it all comes down to “Creating happiness through magical experiences”.Focusing on families, on entertaining people who love the character experience.

Taking it down a different road is the Monsters of Rock cruise. Yes, a cruise that travels only once a year, fully booked with hard rock fans. No family vacation, but a real niche in the cruising industry. Customers that love hard rock and heavy partying are taking this cruise. So a clear branding, which also easily translates in entertainment, food and beverages. Take a look at their website and browse the FAQ. Their brand identity, has been translated in the way the questions are asked. As would their customers. I love question #9. Not “What kind of food is on board?”. No, it is all aligned with their Hard Rock image “Am I going to starve on board?”.

The key in all these examples, is that it’s about choosing. Who are we to our customers?

Brand promise, customer promises; what is the difference?

Some companies have a brand promise, like Carnival Cruises. Another example I like is KLM. They don’t have a brand promise, but they have customer promises. When looking on their website, you’ll find WHY to fly with KLM. They promise: 1. Direct flights around the globe, 2. Favorable flight schedules, 3. Typo? No charge, 4. Weather in your way? We got your back, 5. 24 hours to cancel, 6. Fly more, benefit more.

See the photo for a clip of the website. Where I especially like the promise “Typo? No charge”. It’s a very specific promise, where they explain: “Booked flights on klm.com and discovered a spelling mistake in the name on your ticket? We don’t charge you for being human. Just contact us via social media to correct your name. Please make sure to have it corrected at least 24 hours before check-in of your first flight starts.”

What I like about this customer promise, is that it addresses a fear that customers have. It reassures customers and takes care of them.

Now it comes back to you. What kind of promises do you make to your customers, or do you want to make to your customers? A promise on the highest level: a brand promise? Or rather customer promises that focus on elements in the customer journey?

What are crucial elements when it comes to choosing brand and/or customer promises?

There’s no easy answer here. But let’s try. When reading the blog of Bruce Jones (Disney Institute), I am attracted to the four elements he claims a brand promise must have from a customers perspective. The four things customers are looking for in a brand promise to be:

  • Important – Customers have expectations regarding the fair exchange of value. In exchange for their money and time, they rightfully expect something meaningful in return. The brand promise must convey what matters most to your customers.
  • Credible – Customers must believe that what you’re promising is possible and deliverable. It has never been good policy to “over-promise” and “under-deliver.”
  • Exclusive – No organization can be successful at trying to be everything for everybody. Find your niche, and carve out a unique space to “own” in the mind of your customer.
  • Differentiating – The brand promise must truly set you apart from your competitors and be based on legitimate differentiators.

I am curious. Do you dare to set yourself and your business apart from other businesses and stand out with an Important, Credible, Exclusive and Differentiating brand promise? Please let me know where you struggle in your company to stand out with your brand promise and maybe I can help you out. Let’s help each other in creating these Great Customer Experiences.

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 www.cruisecritic.com 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.