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The last months I spoke to over twenty CX leaders and most of them were just.. ehm, how to say it…. tired. They were tired of the back to back online team meetings. The lack of seeing team members in person.

So I asked them: “How do you stay inspired?” Most of them had no answer. They did not plan anything for inspiration in their agenda’s. Yes, they were longing for holidays, but that is not what holidays are for.

I think, staying inspired is part of your JOB! That’s why I give you 12 non-CX ideas how to do that.

Books

Oh, The Places You’ll Go – Dr. Seuss
A client gave me this book as a present. And I love it. It’s packed with lots of insights and wit (and Dr. Seuss had plenty of both). With his lively illustrations, inimitable verse, and boundless optimism, Dr. Seuss reassures us that we’re not alone in the maze of life — and that we’ll reach where we need to be eventually! If you need a quick and wonderfully uplifting pick-me-up, this is your book!

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elisabeth Gilbert
Everyone can unlock Big Magic. Big Magic is about drawing out your inner creative whenever you need. This book is a love letter to the artist inside everyone of us, written in Gilbert’s conversational, no-frills, no-BS style. Whether your goal is to write a book, make a painting, or create music, Big Magic will help you accomplish it. Funny, honest, illuminating, and encouraging, it is a celebration of art on every level.

The 5 second rule – Mel Robbins
The 5 Second Rule promises to teach you how to become confident, break the habit of procrastination and self-doubt, beat fear and uncertainty, and be happier. As big of an ask as that might sound, Robbins more than delivers in this self-help book, which is built on the titular 5 second rule: the five seconds you should take every time you need to push yourself. You might enjoy her TEDx Talk on this subject as well!

Podcasts

Happier with Gretchen Rubin
She is the best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, wants you to embrace happiness—and she’s got the tools and strategies to help you do it. This engaging podcast, which she cohosts with her younger sister, Elizabeth Craft, is full of practical advice on building habits for happiness into your daily life. Down-to-earth, insightful, and humorous, this podcast will have you on your way to a happier existence in no time: https://gretchenrubin.com/podcasts/

The Life School Podcast with Brooke Castillo
She is very American, but I love her way of thinking and speaking out loud. In this podcast she takes life’s topics, opportunities and struggles and helps making sense of it all. For example, episode 375, where she challenges her listeners to do hard things. Just wat Customer Experience Management is all about… https://thelifecoachschool.com/podcast/

CX Travel Guide met Nienke Bloem
Ja, deze podcast is een Nederlandse versie en net voor de zomervakantie hebben we de 10e editie opgenomen met Kees Klink. Hoe is CX georganiseerd bij PostNL? Alle afleveringen hebben iets speciaals, dus luisteren maar. Je krijgt een kijkje achter de schermen in CX-land. https://kirkmancompany.com/podcasts/

Movies & documentaries

Forrest Gump
A golden oldie, but my all-time favorite movie. A story about a boy that would never succeeds in life. But gets the support and belief by his surroundings and just goes out to life a full and big life. The theme song “Feather Theme song” composed by Alan Silvestri still gives me goose bumps. A feel-good movie, you just want to watch to stop having ‘bad thoughts’ and get out there and do what you have to do.

Inside Out
A 2015 American computer-animated film by Pixar. A great film to learn about emotions. The film is set in the mind of a young girl named Riley, where five personified emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—try to lead her through life as she and her parents adjust to their new surroundings after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco.Maybe something to watch with your team or management colleagues. And to later ask “what emotions are our customers having at what moment in the customer journey?”

Seven days out
A documentary series on Netflix, where they film event seven days before they take place. From a Chanel fashion show to a dog show. Where I recommend you watch the episode Eleven Madison Park. As I always say “great customer experiences don’t happen by accident”, that is exactly what this business owner of the best restaurant of the world breaths. Watch is and be inspired, because it will question your vision on CX and will inspire you to spice it up.

Three things to go do

Museum
Yes. Go to a museum. Just as I did; you could see this in the video. Be inspired by great exhibitions, paintings, sculptures. By the way museums make you feel, the way they present stories. Buy artifacts in the museum shop and use these in your CX practice. Go with a leader or your team. Have a discussion later of what can be used in your CX practice or in your story telling. Don’t forget to take pictures of what inspired you: always good to use in presentations later.

Library
Every city has a library. You know that great building full of books? In the city of Utrecht they just opened a new central library and it is just gorgeous. The atmosphere makes me feel calm instantly and I just like to take books out of shelves. Sometimes having a question in mind and having fate answer it. I once did a Random Book Club session with Marieke van Dam and was amazed what inspiration you can get out of ANY book. Yes, you can search for business, management or CX books. But also try soul searching, biology, or even children’s books. So much fun to just spend an hour or two in your library. Or one in a different city 😉. I promise you, inspiration guaranteed!

Take a guided walking tour in any city
It is fabulous to go to a city and book a guided walking tour. I remember a walking tour I did in 2020 in Amsterdam. My tour guide was one of the best bakers of the Netherlands. He told me so much about the city, the buildings, but also his life. He even took me behind the scenes in the Waldorf Astoria and told me how to make the best croquets. What a fabulous experience! A guided tour always brings you new insights. And never forget to listen how guides share their stories. They know their facts, but the really good ones know how to deliver their stories and make them stick. They make sure you see the city through their eyes and you will remember elements of their stories, because they framed them. Just like a good CX Story should be. Like I can never pass the Vijzelgracht, without going for a croquet and saying hi! to Cees.

I went out on a 3-day inspiration adventure myself. I recorded a video in which I tell you about this inspiration adventure and in which I give you ideas how to stay inspired. My best suggestion is to plan inspiration time in your agenda. REALLY! Enjoy the ideas and let me know what worked for you.

 

The latest years I have seen many organizations that worked with CX Ambassadors. So many roles, and so many variations of domain of impact. For example, to implement customer improvements, or to be NPS ambassadors from all teams to make sure the metric and the thought behind it stays alive, or to build a culture of customer centric behavior, or to translate the brand values into daily work. As I have seen so many and some were a success and some just died a silent death (yes, that is a risk), I decided to deduct the nine elements of success.

1. Have common goals that link to the strategy of the organization

When people join an ambassador program, they want to understand how they contribute and what is the WHY of the program. It is the role from the CX team to give clarity on this element of belonging and contribution. Especially the strategy element is important, as people will be asked in their teams and their surroundings what their role as an ambassador is. Also make sure they can translate their work into the strategy and the goals of the Ambassador program. As a CX team you have to be able to answer the question: “When is our CX Ambassador program a success and how does it contribute to the success of the organization?” Because if you can’t, your ambassadors most definitely can’t either.

2. Make sure the ambassadors have time to act

It depends whether Ambassadors are chosen by management or whether they can volunteer to join your CX Ambassador program. One of the hurdles I often see, is that of time. People get their ambassador role on top of their daily work. Especially when working in the frontline, with operational roles, you need to be aware that chances are they promise a lot but are more likely to be scheduled to be doing their regular job. I have seen programs where people got 20 percent of their time to work in the ambassador program; make sure this is planned in the WFM and help your ambassadors to own this new role. Enable them to have conversations with their team members and management. But also, you have to have conversations with the leadership, to emphasize the importance of the Ambassador program and the time people need.

3. Choose ambassadors wisely

Who should be the ambassadors? A very interesting question. Should they be picked by management, is that the modus operandi in your organization? Or could you have a kind of an audition program, where employees get to do interviews and really show why they are a good match? I hope you get to have a say in the selection process and have a diverse group of ambassadors. Especially at the start, make sure you get colleagues that have belief in Customer Experience, that have the right energy, that are curious and that are at crucial positions in the company. Later in time, you can choose to also engage the opponents. Especially when you have the first results in, this will convince them, and it gives you the authority that you can engage all. And of course, make the Ambassador team a diverse one, both on background, gender, roles and global footprint (when applicable).

4. Give guidance and build a system of support and clear governance

Ambassadors need support to fulfill their role. Often their roles have an evangelist and activist element which has impact on the organizational status quo. This means they have to work on customer change and different behavior. That isn’t easy, so help your ambassadors with the resistance they will encounter. Create FAQ’s with the most asked questions and answers they might give. Help them with tools and interventions so they can really act on their role. It is also important that you help them telling the story, especially when the evangelist element is fundamental. Practice the change story together. Give them customer stories, video clips, customer verbatims, that they can use in their change roles. I often see communities with a shared platform, where all resources can be found. Make sure you are the activator and stimulator of this platform.

5. Share and reward success

Some ambassadors hit the jackpot and some won’t. It is very important to deep dive the elements that enhance success. What really works is to put the people in the spotlight that are nailing it. That are really creating customer impact, that raise metrics, that change the customer status quo. I have seen Awards for the CX Ambassador of the year, which is kind of formal. But I have also seen stories highlighted on the intranet and Yammer communities where CX heroes were celebrated. Make sure you put the spotlight on their success, but also on the journey towards success. Share the honest truth and give them the praise they deserve. And… if your ambassador program is a true success, give yourself the right platform and go for a CX award yourself or with the team. Whether at the Global Insights Exchange of the CXPA or the International CX Awards. This can give you the internal authority, praise of colleagues and often an internal leadership boost.

6. Get together in real life

This might be difficult in global programs, but it is of true importance that Ambassadors know each other. So they know their peers, so they can have conversations when stuck, or to build on capabilities. I often see Zoom calls, Skype meetings and yes, these are practical. But when you really want success, claim budget for real life get togethers. Enhance learning, networking and a real foundation of CX belief when you see each other. What I have also seen, is that when Ambassadors have to make a real effort to travel, they are even more connected to the program later. When you finish a person to person event, make sure you give the colleagues shiny certificates or other status symbols they can take to their offices. To show off and have a physical reminder of their ambassador status.

7. Involve leaders

Somehow, I have seen most CX Ambassador programs that only have team members from operational roles. Where are the leaders, where is the management? It can’t be that they are too busy… So, when you start and choose the ambassador team, make sure you have the option to also pick leaders. If that is not the case, make sure you engage leaders in a different way. Communicate regularly about the Ambassador program and mention their teams when they deliver results. But also have conversations when the Ambassadors fall short and they indicate they don’t get the time they need. These conversations might be tricky, but this is the only road to go. Especially when you feel some leaders don’t support the program. If I can give you one most important suggestion it is: include the CEO. Make sure he/she expresses the importance, shows up in a real life meetup, or in a Zoom. That he/she asks questions in meetings how the participation of the Ambassador program is going.

8. Have ‘who takes over’ conversations and an on-boarding program

People will leave teams, get new roles, get sick or might even leave the company. To have continuity, you need to think of this at the beginning. Especially when people are selected and start: be honest and ask what will happen when they eventually are not there. For whatever reason. Do they have somebody that can replace them, do they have a next in line idea? It is a good conversation to have, since this also shows your sincerity and serious approach to the Ambassador program. When they stop, give them a fond farewell, a big thank you. Also give the new ambassadors a warm welcome. Make sure you have a welcome/onboarding procedure. That is crystal clear on expectations. That helps you and the ambassador to start of in the best way.

9. When the vibe is down, stop or show stamina and refresh

The good thing at the start of a CX Ambassador program is that everybody is fully energized. Starting new things just has a good vibe. The lights are all green, the program has power, maybe even an own logo. You have somebody who is responsible for the selection, communication and the meetups. And then… after a year the vibe might be down. The participation is less. Other priorities might come up. What to do? This should already have been taken care of in the startup. To raise the ‘what if questions’ and the mitigating actions. But it will happen. This is the moment where you have two choices. Either you stop the program. With a real celebration of the success, a big thank you to all participants. Or this is the moment your endurance comes in. Where you show stamina. Continuity is key and you have to stick to the rhythm of communication. Make time in your agenda to prepare meetings, to tape video’s, to share stories. And when the vibe is really down: refresh. Give the program a boost with a new logo. With a new story line, maybe even a new face of the CX team.

When to start an CX Ambassador program

Ambassador programs are just tha bomb. Yes, I am an enthusiast and I have seen some great examples where the organization was engaged by the success of the program. You don’t start an Ambassador program when you just started the CX team. It is something to start when you have grown a little more mature. When the fundamentals are there: a CX team, a clear CX Strategy and of course the budget.

Your learnings

I am so curious for your learnings. I have two questions:

  1. What are fundamentals that you have encountered in your CX Ambassador program that really created success, that are your success factors?
  2. Please be in contact when you have a great Ambassador story. As I am writing the CX Travel Guide in English, I am looking for international stories and I would love to learn from yours and share your story.

So, please share your insights and comments and of course, feel free to like, love and share this post.

 

>>> Nienke Bloem CCXP is an expert in Customer Experience, 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! **

 

“How do you stay inspired, Nienke?”

“What companies do you want to visit and learn from their CX secrets?”

“Where do you get new material for your speeches and masterclasses?”

Three random questions I got from CX peers and personal friends. Very valid questions, because I am a teacher to others, inspire others, get them to act. But occasionally my material also needs to be refreshed.

The inspiration is out there in daily life. That’s what I often blog about, but I also have to stay ahead. Bring best practices to my business to help others. So that was the WHY behind my CX study trip.

In this YouTube video I explain the Why and How of the trip and give you the insights how you could organize it yourself 😊. Because, let me be honest with you, it was pretty easy to organize. Just book time in your agenda, make sure you have the money (not cheap, and I will let you know afterwards if it was worth it) and just DO it.

If you want to follow me with my learnings, subscribe to my Youtube channel or join my monthly CX greetz list. I’ll send you a short informative and fun newsletter once a month to help you grow your CX leadership, subscribe here.

And…. this year I’ll start with an inspirational BANG. I am traveling to the USA to follow a course at the Disney Institute and continue my American CX adventure with a tour at Zappos behind the scenes and two interviews with executives. I am so looking forward to broaden my horizon. To see with my own eyes how these two brilliant examples organize Customer Experience.

The thing I hear often is that fellow Customer Experience Professionals work hard. They are focused on realizing their customer centric transformation, improving NPS and CES (or other customer metrics, but that is another blog post 😊) and engaging the organization. You might also recognize  that as you are working hard, it can make you feel alone.

Yes, you are the only person responsible for CX within your company (or together with your team). You are the expert and your non CX-colleagues expect you to inspire them when it comes to customers. So how do you stay inspired? You probably have your own “Go-To-Inspirational-Places” and in this blog I’ll share mine: 25 suggestions to find CX inspirations, stories, news, facts and figures.

CX People to follow on Twitter

I decided to copy their Twitter biography’s. Nice and to the point.

  1. Colin Shaw: Customer Experience Thought Leader | Recognized by LinkedIn as World’s Top Business Influencer | CEO, Beyond Philosophy CX Consultancy | Author | Podcast Host
  2. Rik Vera: International Keynote Speaker. Agitator. Connector. Experimenter. Networkifier (if it wasn’t a word, it is now). Writer.
  3. Blake Morgan:  #CustomerExperience #futurist, author, speaker, @HarvardBiz@Forbes columnist, podcast host, mama. Married to @JacobM. Visit me.

CX on Youtube, I promise you this will be growing the next years

  1. ShepTV by Shep Hyken. You are welcomed by the Cab Story. A classic when it comes to customer experience. He is the big name in the USA when it comes to customer experience and customer service.
  2. Steven van Belleghem. My Belgian inspirator when it comes to customers the day after tomorrow and the writer of the book When digital becomes human. The channel is about customer centricity in a digital world. Updates on the latest trends in digital marketing, customer service, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…), conversation management, robotics, etc.
  3. BrandLove by Chantel Botha. I have not met her in person yet, but she is an inspiration on CX from South Africa. Love the video’s on Journey Mapping, so start following her Youtube Channel

CX Podcasts

  1. Rockstar CX by James Dodkins. For me a newcomer in CX, but he really rocks it! Has his own weekly Rockstar CX podcast and with all the big names when it comes to customer experience.
  2. Online Marketing Made Easy. The podcast of Amy Porterfield which I listen weekly. Not really CX, but all about Online Marketing. Over how to use online tools, build lists, motivate yourself as an entrepreneur. An inspirational woman with a voice I love to listen to.
  3. Forrester’s what it means. For me Forrester is together with Temkin Group the place where I go for research information. And Forrester has a brilliant podcast, so start listening NOW. If you want to start anywhere, start with the episode of December 20thwhere they talk on ROI and financial modeling. Very relevant topic!

CX Blogs

  1. Experience Matters. The blog by Bruce Temkin and his colleagues. I love the combination of vision and facts. Go to this blog site and register for their newsletter to stay inspired. Many of their visuals are free to use (but always with a reference, of course!)
  2. My Customer. Brilliant reads, much more often than once a week, on everything related to customers. Journeys, sales, loyalty. The WHOLE deal. Get a broader view and be inspired.
  3. Take their breath away. Where Chip Bell and John Patterson write on how customer service really makes the difference when it comes to customer experience. Read their post of December 11thwhere they suggest you create a great service exit. Spot on.

CX Books with best practices

13.  Ritz Carlton and the New Gold Standard by Joseph Michelli, 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. It is a golden oldie, but still very relevant. Go read.

  1. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. Yes this one is mentioned all the time, but if somehow you missed it. Please read it. And I am visiting Zappos in January, so I need to reread it myself.
  2. The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli, Five principles for turning ordinary into extraordinary and of course the Starbucks story.

Cx Books you have to read

  1. Would you do that to your mother by Jeanne Bliss introduces the Make Mom Proud standard. I love her writing, easy to understand situations and solutions. A very entertaining read.
  2. Customer What? by Ian Golding. I could have mentioned him among the people to follow and twitter and the blogs, but I think his books needs to be mentioned here. Practical and a good guide when it comes to CX.
  3. The subtle art of not giving a f#ck by Mark Manson. It has NOTHING to do with CX, but is has EVERYTHING to do with CX. How can you be a happier CX leader, a better person? How to not lose your energy on people or tasks that are not important for you. I laughed and got many Aha’s.

CX Events to visit

  1. International CX Awards. The second edition will be on November 21st in Amsterdam. Register if you want to send in a case and compete against other CX professionals/teams/initiatives or join as a judge. It was a blast in 2018, so be warned for 2019 😊
  2. CXPA Meetings. Brilliant peer sharing of CX professionals all over the world. Be welcome in Amsterdam, the next is on January 17th in Amsterdam and the European Insight Exchange will take place on March 13th and 14th in Dublin.
  3. Customer Experience Event. The yearly event by N3wstrategy. The event is all Dutch and a brilliant day to be inspired and meet your local CX peers. This year on March 21st in Rotterdam.

One CX Course I recommend

  1. CX Masterclass This two day masterclass is tha bomb! is what our participants say. Delivered in the Netherlands by Jaap Wilms and me (in English) and in Belgium (in Dutch) with Els Dhaeze. We prepare you for the CCXP exam and help you in becoming an even better CX leader. There are four dates in 2019 and the first option of March 7thand 8th has only a few spaces left.

People to follow or connect on Linkedin

(yes, all four are women I love to read from and work with)

  1. Evelien van Damme and Karolien van der Ouderaa: these ladies are active, fun and experts when it comes to Customer Experience. Both senior consultants with Kirkman Company and taking the lead in Customer Experience transformations. Keep an eye on their cactuses.
  2. Kathy van de Laar: as partner of EarlyBirdge she blogs and shares posts of colleagues to bridge the gap between you and your customer. She was the first CCXP in the Netherlands and a fabulous inspiration
  3. Babs Asselbergs: she writes shorts blogs on customer experience, opens your eyes and wants to give you a different perspective. She is co-founder of BlommaBerg and the Customer Expeirence Game and I think she is a consistent contributor on Linkedin.

So now you know how I stay inspired. Next to these sources, I also get a lot of inspiration in daily life. Where I let businesses surprise me with their brilliant and more often awful customer experiences as a customer. My o my, how many lessons can be learned from that?

And…. this year I start with an inspirational BANG. I am traveling to the USA to follow a course at the Disney Institute and continue my American CX adventure with a tour at Zappos behind the scenes and two interviews with executives. I am so looking forward to broaden my horizon. To see with my own eyes how these two brilliant examples organize Customer Experience. So, I have two calls to action for you.

  1. If you want to follow me and my CX escapades: make sure you get my monthly CX Greetz by Nienke Bloem. Just register here.
  2. Share your source, of your own blog/vlog/profile. Where do you get your inspiration? Please share and add your source, so we can all learn and stay inspired to make customer experience work.

Yes, you are a CX Professional. Or you are curious to learn more about Customer Experience. You want to extend your knowledge. Learn the theory behind elements of CX, want to learn from peers, want to grow as a leader? That is where you have to act. It’s important to keep awarding yourself with learning experiences. How to grow and learn? There are several ways and I thought, I give you my ideas.

1. Read Blogs

There are many blogs out there but I want to share 2 of the ones I read.

  1. Ian Goldings blogs. They are sharp, they are witty and they make you think.
  2. Temkin Group blogs and CX Insights. These blogs share research and often the thoughts of Bruce Temkin. He is a visionary CX Leader who speaks the CX truth.

2. Read CX Books

We can talk hours about CX books and there are so many out there. What are the books that I read and I recommend? Two that are basics and you probably know, but nevertheless.

  1. Outside In. For me this is the bible of CX. The 6 pillars of a sound CX framework, great stories from Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine from Forrester, one of the leaders in CX research.
  2. Delivering Happiness. A fun read, the story of Tony Hsieh how he started Zappos. Being an entrepreneur and proving their brand promise was the differentiator.

3. Visit CX events

Yes, try to visit some marvelous CX events, at least one a year, either by vendors or by CX peer groups. You get to hear best practices, meet peers and enjoy a couple of days with likeminded spirits.

  1. CXPA Insights Exchange. The Flagship event for the CXPA this year the 8th and 9th of May in New Orleans. Top of the bill CX, insights, networking and fun. Also keep an eye out for our local Dutch chapter, we are hosting fab events too.
  2. CX Forum by Forrester. This is a high end CX Event, where you get to meet the CX Leaders. The C suite and brilliant speakers and content.
  3. Multichannel event. For my Dutch readers, the yearly event hosted by BMC Media, the 18th and 19th of April 2018. A 2-day event with everything there, about customers and customer experience.

4. CX Education

How to grow as a leader? How to put CX into practice? Different kind of schooling and CX training is out there. I have picked two, face to face learning, since I believe that peer learning is an important element to grow as a CX Leader.

  1. Masterclass Customer Experience and Omnichannel Management, at Nyenrode business university. A 4-day program in Dutch, starts again in October.
  2. Masterclass Customer Experience. Our own CX Masterclass. A 2-day full focus Masterclass, tailored around the 6 pillars of the CX framework. Where we combine theory and practice and prepare you for the CCXP exam. Next Masterclass 7 & 8th of June.

Just some ideas to keep on learning. To stay inspired. To enjoy new learning experiences. Do you have other suggestions? Please let me know so we’ll all keep on learning. Including me! Thank YOU.