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 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.

Tot twee keer toe ben ik laatst met een geheim nummer gebeld. Vaak zijn dit verkoopgesprekken, weet ik. Als ik mijn geschiedenis na ga, dan is het van een krant of van een creditcardmaatschappij. De telefoon gaat opnieuw en als ik het geheime nummer zie, twijfel ik. Misschien is er iets gebeurd met mijn ouders of dochter. Ziekenhuis, flitst er door mijn hoofd. Dus ik neem op.

“Met Nienke Bloem.”

“Een hele GOEDE morgen. Met Carola van de creditcardmaatschappij. Spreek ik met meneer Bloem?”

“Nee”, zeg ik licht verbaasd. Hoort ze niet dat ik een vrouw ben?

“O, misschien moet ik u dan hebben”, vervolgt ze het gesprek.

“Ja, ik ben de eigenaar van de creditcard. En nu we het er toch over hebben: al de jaren dat ik klant ben, ben ik geregistreerd als meneer Bloem. Kunt u dat voor me aanpassen?”

“Helaas, ik ben van Verkoop. Dan moet u mijn collega’s van Klantenservice hebben.”

Het gesprek gaat de verkeerde kant op, dus ik vraag of ze mij dan misschien kan doorverbinden. “Ik erger me hieraan, ook aangezien u mij in uw nieuwsbrieven steeds met ‘beste Meneer Bloem’ aanschrijft.”

“Nee, doorverbinden gaat niet. U moet zelf bellen om dat recht te zetten. Maar nu ik u toch aan de telefoon heb, hoe heeft u uw reisverzekering geregeld?”

Een zucht ontsnapt en ik zeg: “Dat is prima geregeld, heeft u voor mij het telefoonnummer van uw collega’s? Dan bel ik zelf even.”

“Nee dat heb ik niet, maar het nummer kunt u vinden op onze website.”

“Goed, ik ga nu ophangen om op de website te kijken.”

“Een fijne dag, mevrouw Bloem!” en ze beëindigt het gesprek.

Zucht… Diepe zucht. Helaas heb ik haar collega’s inmiddels al twee keer gebeld en heb ik er een tweet aan gewijd. Ik ben en blijf ‘meneer Bloem’ voor dit bedrijf.

Wat mij nog het meest stoort aan dit gesprek is het zinnetje “Helaas, ik ben van Verkoop”. Wat is het toch, dat de silo waarin je verblijft ook het excuus is om mij als klant niet te helpen? Dat je mij belt om iets te verkopen, dat mag. Maar zorg dan ook dat je jouw medewerkers de mogelijkheid geeft om andere zaken op te lossen. Gebruiken ze ‘helaas, ik ben van een andere afdeling’ ook in jouw organisatie? Dan weet je wat je te doen staat om dit soort (onnodige!) irritaties te voorkomen onder jouw klanten. Anders schrijf ik er misschien zomaar nóg een stukje over.


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

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“All for fun and fun for all.” Does this appeal to you or would you rather go on a heavy metal cruise? Would you like to go on holidays with a cruise company who is really clear on what to expect? Let me take you on a cruise and learn about Customer Experience in the meantime.

The slogan “All for fun and fun for all” appealed to me and my 17-year-old daughter when we wanted to take our first cruise ever in 2016. We had some ideas that cruising was for older people, senior fellow humans, to be honest. But when I dived deeper into the world of cruises, I found out there is much more to it. From Disney cruises to heavy metal cruises, from classy to fun and party cruises. That’s what we wanted, a fun cruise, on a boat in the sun where at least we could pay a visit to the Bahamas.

The booking of the cruise, the information I received, the boarding (which was the moment I dreaded the most in the customer journey), the cabin, the logistics on the cruise ship, the trips on the islands, the employees… This cruise was a best practice when it comes to customer experience. Not only as a guest, I enjoyed it to the max. But also as a customer experience professional I couldn’t stop smiling. Cruising the Caribbean and experiencing a brilliant CX journey. It couldn’t be better.

So, let’s cruise this CX best practice. What was so brilliant? When I look at a simple (but very effective) strategy, the transformational CX model comes to mind. Companies that want to become customer centric, work on the 3 strategies of the model with determination and fun, will make customers happier, earn their loyalty, their spending and end up with raving fans.

The three strategies of the transformational CX model

  1. Brand Delivery in the Customer Journey
  2. Voice of the Customer
  3. Employee Ambassadorship

Let’s take a look at Carnival Cruises and their promise “All for fun and fun for all”. For me this is the start of all good customer experiences. No, let me correct myself, for great customer experiences. As a company or as a brand, you probably have a purpose, a mission, even a vision. But what do you want your customers to experience? Elements that are crucial here, are customer promises, or maybe even a brand promise like the one from Carnival Cruises. Because when you know what you want your customers to experience, you can start reverse engineering.

Begin with the end in mind

This is what I mean: begin with the end in mind. What do you want your customers to say, to feel, to tell their friends and family when they did business with you? If you know these words, these feelings; you know what’s needed in the customer journey to deliver these experiences daily. Where can you make a difference, what are moments for up and cross sell, what are great moments to listen, what’s needed from the employees?

So, begin with the end in mind when it comes to customer experience. At Carnival Cruises they go for Fun. They offered fun from their booking emails to their cabin experience in the towel folding. They had upsell packages at the moment of boarding “Faster to the fun”. I could board earlier than other guests, if I paid some extra dollars. What a smart way to use the brand promise, make me happy as a customer (because who likes waiting?) and increase revenue at the same time.

Now it’s me who’s curious. What are companies that are spot on when it comes to customer experience? That begin with the end in mind and shine in daily delivery? Share your best practices in companies with outstanding customer promises, so we can all learn and dive deeper into the magic behind these great customer experiences.


** Nienke Bloem is expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Trusted Advisor, Keynote Speaker and co-founder of the customer experience game. Do you want to receive regular updates? Subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz and don’t miss anything! **

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

Hoe is het met de goede voornemens? Gezonder eten, meer sporten, minder drinken of – heel hip – rigoureus opruimen? Dat is waar het bij Marie Kondo over gaat in haar boek ‘Opgeruimd!’. Flink ontspullen is wat de Japanse predikt, want een opgeruimd huis is een opgeruimd hoofd. De belangrijkste vraag bij het opruimen en weggooien is, dat je je bij alle spullen afvraagt: word ik hier blij van?

Voor mij is het opruimen van mijn werkplek het startpunt. Ik begin met de stapel verzekeringspapieren, die in mappen verdwijnen. Hierin valt mijn oog op een begeleidende brief van mijn arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering. Wel drie keer wordt de naam van het product ‘UNIM Vernieuwd 0510 AOV’ genoemd: in de onderwerpregel, de beginzin en de in de leesbeschrijving van de polis.

Deze belangrijke inkomensverzekering sloot ik twee jaar geleden af en blijkbaar was dat een UNIM Vernieuwd 0510 AOV. De brief zegt verder niet veel, maar wel vraag ik me af of ook de UNIM Verouderd AOV-polis bestaat. En waar staat UNIM voor? Om bij Marie Kondo te blijven: word ik hier blij van? Nee. Wat een onduidelijke brief, vol jargon ook. Als klant kan ik er niks mee. Je zou toch denken dat verschillende communicatiedeskundigen en juristen naar de brief hebben gekeken en ‘m correct hebben bevonden. Ik sla de polis op en de brief gaat met een grote zwaai richting oud papier.

Ook schoon ik de digitale rommel in mijn mailbox op. Daarin een ontmoeting met mijn spambox, die een schokkende 567 ongelezen berichten herbergt. Ik scan de lijst e-mails en het zijn voornamelijk nieuwsbrieven waarin producten of diensten worden aanbevolen. In alle eerlijkheid ook hier een tragische aanblik. De meeste mails beginnen nog niet eens met mijn naam en de vraag ‘Word ik hier blij van?’ valt geen enkele keer bevestigend te beantwoorden. Ik selecteer alle e-mails en met één druk op het grote rode kruis verdwijnt alles richting de digitale prullenbak. Kijk, dat ruimt lekker op, hier word ik wél blij van.

De vraag die bij mij achterblijft: Waar is de Marie Kondo van de klantcommunicatie? De man/vrouw die het leuk maakt. Die beeld in brieven brengt naast grote lappen tekst. Die algemene voorwaarden opleukt. Die zorgt dat nieuwsbrieven alleen maar verzonden worden als de klant daar blij van wordt. Joehoe, Marie Kondo van klantcommunicatie, we hebben je nodig!

Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 31 januari 2018

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It is that time of year. Especially in the Northern hemisphere, where it is the heart of winter. It is dark when you wake up and also when you return home from your office, the sun has set – if the sun has even shown her face at all during the day… Since most of the days it is raining, snowing or just so cloudy that you want to fly to the sun. Immediately.

This is what your customers are experiencing too. So this is the perfect time to step it up a little bit. Give your customers some extra love and attention. Because you don’t have to let your customers feel even bluer than they already do. This blog gives you 15 suggestions, simple but so effective:

  1. Send a birthday card to a customer who celebrates his or her birthday. Congratulate and tell them how happy you are with their relationship with your customer.
  2. Buy a 25 American Dollar Kiva card of ( and send it to a customer and share a message that you would like to pay it forward.
  3. Open the door for a customer in your store. Welcome them with a genuine HELLO.
  4. Look into complaints and pick one out that needs extra love and attention. Solve the problem sooner than you have promised and add your TLC to give the customer a good feeling.
  5. Invite a customer for a really good cup of coffee in your favorite coffee bar. Ask them for genuine feedback and listen intently.
  6. Give a customer something extra. If you work in a coffee bar, add a snack. If you work in telecom, some extra mobile data. Try to find something that you can give, which makes your customer happy.
  7. Welcome a new customer with a video you have made especially for them. A genuine welcome with a big smile.
  8. Drive down the country, buy a big bunch of flowers and visit a customer. Thank them for being a customer and have a cup of coffee together.
  9. Dive a little deeper into the lives of your customers. Find a customer with an anniversary, buy a personal gift online and send it to them.
  10. On a rainy day, bring an extra umbrella along and offer this to a customer that comes into your store soaking wet. With compliments of you and the company of course.
  11. Give a compliment to your customer. Easy, but so effective.
  12. Especially in business to business, find out about the interests of the customer and find one or more articles that are in line with these interests. Send the article(s) with some happy greetz.
  13. Go to the logistics department, bring some small gifts along and add them to customers packages that are sent out today.
  14. Find blogs that are written by your customers and leave nice comments.
  15. A more indirect suggestion, but with great effect: Buy a cake for customer service colleagues and tell them how much you appreciate them. If you want to take it up a notch, join them and listen in to customer calls.

So plenty of ideas here. But I would love it if you add to this list, the more ideas the better. Because in these gloomy January days, our customers can use some of your Tender Love and Care.

Do you want to share this message? We have made a printable version that you can download. Print it and hang it where you colleagues can see it. To spread the kindness. Thank you!

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.