You might think, this is weird; what does speed have to do with CX?! Let me explain and start by sharing my personal story of last month in Italy. Most of you know that I am walking a pilgrimage. The Via Francigena is my path for the next year. 1,000 kilometers by foot. A challenge that I have to take bit by bit, day by day. It will take time, but as I continue walking, putting one foot in front of the other, believing I can, dealing with all kinds of hurdles; I will get there. I call this my Slow and at this moment Strategic fundamental track. To think of life’s choices, find energy, challenge the fundamentals and grow stronger.

Besides my pilgrimage, I also had the chance to join the MilleMiglia in June. The 1,000 mile race from Brescia to Rome and back. Classic cars travel this journey in 4 days. They need a fast pace, a dedicated crew that helps if the cars break down and, of course, some encouragement along the way (that was me 😊). Roads are blocked off and a whole group of Italian carabinieri guides the group of 350 exclusive cars towards the finish. I call this the Result Driven Innovation track.

Both tracks require travel and are 1,000 kilometers or miles. But both have a different purpose. Just like we should approach customer experience management!

Tracks with different purpose and speed

Most Customer Experience Managers struggle to deliver results. Which might even result in losing CX ground in reorganization plans, or a decrease in budgets. I am not talking of proving your ROI, but in showing the organization that CX is making THAT impact, that it is lined up for. For really improving the situation of the customer in a direct way.

That is also why these two speeds are needed. Because what I see is that many CX professionals are focusing on the What and the How, the strategic fundamentals. The What: customer promises, brand promises, guiding behavior, defining design principles. The How: the way design thinking is done, building an architecture of listening through insights, creating training and guiding the organization to a consistent customer centric way of working. Yes, these are both needed! But know that Walker sees also a disconnect when it comes to what organizations and the C-Suite expect of you and customer experience management.

CEO’s want you to deliver competitive advantage and growth and profitability. Recognizing what CEOs value and what ultimately drives competitive advantage, CX professionals must do three things:

  1. Align efforts with the business outcomes CEOs want. CX professionals must connect the dots and show how CX initiatives result in concrete outcomes.
  2. Build an engaged customer-focused workforce by helping employees identify with the customer and have a voice in the customer experience.
  3. Lead innovation, coupling customary break fix activities with breakthrough initiatives.

Strategic Fundamental track

When I am looking at my theory on two speeds of Customer Experience Management, I suggest you build your CX practice around these two tracks:

  1. The Strategic Fundamental track
  2. The Result Driven innovation track

In the Strategic fundamental track, you are focusing on the long term. You define the What and the How and guide the organization towards the customer centric future. Guiding principles, storytelling, culture. Let me give you a couple of examples. In this track, you build your CX strategy (actually most of the elements out of the first discipline of the CX framework is in the strategic fundamental track). You define the future state of CX. You define the way you listen to customers and systematically engage the organization around the voice of the customer, also using metrics. You build business cases based on ROI and prove the value of CX. You define the principles of customer centric innovation, define how to prioritize best and build a customer centric culture program. You see? All elements in the What and the How, are guiding towards the customer centric transformation.

But this is not enough, you should also shift gear!

Result Driven innovation track

The Result Driven innovation track is where you show the organization that you really work on improving the lives of your customers and improve the customer experience. So, not just facilitating design thinking sprints, but also delivering prototypes, scaling up those experiments that have proven their worth. Working on closing the loops. Really calling back customers, fixing those customer issues that are broken and actually measuring the impact.

This my dear CX friend, is what most CX professionals are not doing (enough). We need to hammer on improving and delivering those results that are needed and once we do, we need to communicate our customer successes with the organization.

As Bruce Temkin so eloquently said “While CX teams need ongoing support from their executives, senior leaders are prone to doubt. CX leaders need to keep communicating the progress and success of CX efforts and demonstrate that resources are being well used and any risks are effectively managed”. What I love about this quote, is that he brings two elements together. Communicating the progress and demonstrate that resources are well used.

By only focusing on the Strategic Fundamental track, chances are you don’t have enough results to show. So, consider adding that second Result Driven innovation track to your CX portfolio. By adding specific CX projects, getting your hands dirty on these customer issues that need to be fixed.

Project #99

A great example is “Project #99” where Clint Payne CCXP won the title International Customer Experience Professional of the year in 2018. In Multichoice, a South African Telecom and Television provider, he identified 99 common customer complaints. Together with his team he created a bottom-up approach, where employees and leaders in the company were encouraged and helped to solve these often long time known issues. Feel free to read more on his approach and the campaign. What were the results? Escalated customer complaints dropped from 733 in November 2015 to 476 in Feb 2017, client churn dropped by 1.8% and self-service went up from 55% to 65%.

So, the three most important questions you have to ask yourself:

  1. Be honest to yourself, are you delivering enough direct customer results?(If no, or in doubt, continue with question number 2)
  2. What percentage of your activities is in the Strategic and what percentage is in the Result Driven track? (Are you happy with these numbers?)
  3. What can you do to improve your CX results that customers are facing and shift gear to the Result Driven track?

Enough food for the mind. In August 2021 I will continue my pilgrimage and the Strategic Fundamental track I am on. The MilleMiglia was this great adrenaline kick, and I will definitely be back in 2022 to support these fab cars and their drivers.

But for now: I am curious for your thoughts on my theory on the Two Speeds of Customer Experience Managent that are needed. Do you recognize the disconnect and the need for both speeds? Please let me know in the comments!


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! **


When I hear the title of this movie, what comes to my mind, is Clint Eastwood on a horse and the great title song with the whistle in it. A real spaghetti western which was taped long before I was even born. But I love the movie, the plot and of course the title. It is the silly season in the Netherlands. Summer holidays, and there is not much news going on, and the good thing is that many people enjoy some well-deserved time off. To recharge, to enjoy quality time with their family and to enjoy themselves basically. I hope you too or maybe you have already returned back to the office. This holiday I decided to rethink my customer experiences in the past. When looking back, what are the THREE customer experiences that I really remember, that stand out? Whether they were good, bad or ugly.

We have so many customer experiences. Actually, we have them every day. Same goes for me. Working on my laptop, browsing the web, doing groceries, having lunch at a restaurant, calling my provider, booking a ticket, I could go on and on and on. But what are the ones that really stand out, positive or negative?! In this blog my summary of the top 3 Good, Bad and Ugly since the moment I became an entrepreneur (January first, 2015) and the emotions that go with it. And I must be honest, I am not the one that is too fond on sharing the bad and ugly ones, because of the great impact I might have with my exposure. But let’s be honest, it is my duty as a customer experience pro and speaker to tell it as it is. So here they are.

The Good

Still my very best customer experience is my flight to Adelaide with Emirates. Of course, I relive it a lot, because I share the magic in my keynote ‘Great customer experiences don’t happen by accident’. But everything about it was perfect. I loved the digital information on the website, the ease of booking, the pre-flight information, the picking up by a limo to bring me to the airport, the stop over and the lounge in Dubai, the upgrade to first class, the service on the plane, the photo they made with a polaroid, the coming home, the survey I filled out and… the way they reacted on the survey. They reacted on the survey. Yes, that is what I am writing. One of the few companies that reacted on a survey I filled out. What a brilliant Customer Experience. I still remember the names of two flight attendants. Miriam and Gigi. That is what happens when customer experiences are great. I loved everything about this experience, it inspired me and it sparked joy. A lot of joy. If you want to read more, see some pictures, read my blog I wrote on it.

The Bad

This was a difficult one to pick, because I had so many bad experiences. But for the worst of them all, we have to go back three years, when I ordered a book through Amazon. That was not the issue, but the issue was that I needed it fast. So, I chose for express delivery and I would receive it in two days. I received a text message indicating at what time the package would arrive. Of course, I waited at home. You probably guess what happened. No package. So, I called and they couldn’t trace the package. From that moment I entered Purgatory, the place close to hell. Yes, that rimes to DHL, which is the company I am talking about. They promised to deliver the book three times, never came at the moment they promised, their social service on Twitter was messy, to say the least. They even explained to me their whole process in direct messages (like I care, just deliver the book) and after four days the package arrived. I had spent over three hours on the phone, no chat, but Twitter, and the crazy thing was, once I finally had the book, I still received texts to tell me when the book would be delivered. I still fume when I think about it, kind of shocked. I have learned their internal processes, their internal business lines and many people that hide behind all of the above. Brrr. The book I ordered was good though: “Must win battles” by J. Killing, Thomas Malnight and Tracey Key.

The Ugly

Well, this is where it gets really messy. The first time in my life that I had to go to court when it comes to my own customer experience. I watch customer rights programs always with an ambiguous feeling. First of all, a feisty powerful feeling that I admire the consumers that bring their issues to these programs. But secondly a nauseous feeling, one of disgust that businesses don’t help their customers and that these customers have to bring it to a tv studio to get what is rightfully theirs. I just can’t understand businesses, that won’t help customers. PERIOD. But they do exist. Listen to my story and NO, I didn’t go on national tv with it.  In 2015 I bought a car at Avi Automakelaardij, and I loved the car in an instant. But after a month I had the first issues and my local car mechanic found out that the mileage had been reversed. I contacted the car broker I bought the car from, right away. Because in Dutch law it is the obligation of the car trader to check the mileage and as a consumer, I could annul the sale, which I did. He didn’t want to help me in any way. My car got more failures, even had a motor issue in the end (no driving any more). Still the car dealer didn’t help out. So, I had to get to court to get my right. It was an awful phase in my life (what was I doing in court?!) and I still cannot believe the business owner went as far as to court, instead of helping me out. Yes, he lost the case, had to pay all costs. But no sorry, no excuse. Thinking back of it, I still feel sadness, anger and most of all the frustration of the process.

What is incredible and good to bear in mind? That is that both the Bad and the Ugly happened in 2016. THREE years ago. I even wrote about them in a blog. As I have written them down now, they are what comes to mind. They are the memory of the customer experience. It is not at all factual, but colored with emotions. Like what happens in CX. What feels good, can feel even better after months or years. And what felt awful, bad or ugly, could still feel frustrating now. While writing this, I went to have a look at Plutchik’s wheel of emotion. I learned about this for the first time in the course Learn-to-Customer-Journey-Map-in-One-Day by Conexperience and I have used it a lot since. Because it helps to color in emotions even more. In this wheel, you find many emotions. Not just the happy or sad ones, but all their varieties. Good to use while journey mapping, but also for the next step in this blog.

What I would like you to do is think of your Good, Bad and Ugly customer experiences and find the two emotions per experience. For the wheel, click here. Take ten minutes, write down the Good, Bad and Ugly, as well as your emotions. This is good for you and your own business. What kind of emotions did you experience? Do you know that you might be giving these experiences to your customers and the emotions that come with them? And most important, how did you deal with your emotions? Know your customers have to deal with their emotions too and might lash out on contact center agents or store employees. A good exercise of emotions to walk in your own shoes as a customer and to get out of the traditional business context. Of course, feel free to share your stories and experiences with me in the comments. Let’s learn and grow together. And for now, I am whistling the soundtrack of the Good, the Bad and they Ugly for you. Happy and hopeful greetz from the Netherlands.


** 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.


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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… or should I say, Employee Experience? Yes, I have been wondering what the title of this blog should be and I chose the one on Customer Experience. Just because I had to choose. If you think after reading this blog, it should be the other way around. Let me know!

The 22ndof January 2019. A big day: I was going to visit Zappos. I was excited, because I had heard so much about the company,  I follow them on Instagram (@ZapposCulture) and of course read the book “Delivering Happiness”. This day I was going to see it myself. Would it be a big hit or would it be a disappointment? I had no idea, so the excitement was real.

The first impression of the building was a little bit of a downer. The building isn’t a beauty of a building, it used to be the city hall of Las Vegas. It is a building like any other and they have tried to make it look happy, with some pictures, but I am honest, the building and the square didn’t deliver any happiness to me.

A little side step: I arrived in Las Vegas two days before and I had plenty time to stroll around the city. If you ever visited the city or have seen some pictures, you know that especially the strip is kind of a crazy place. A miniature Eiffel tower, Venetian gondola’s; everything for entertainment. My hotel was on the strip and I brought some crackers and as I am trying to eat healthy, I was looking for an avocado to spread on my cracker. As I walked the strip for more than two hours, there was not avocado to be found. Yes, I could gamble, drink, eat, buy souvenirs, but no avocado there.

Let’s go back to the Zappos experience. When you enter the building, you are pleasantly surprised. The colored Lego wall, the merchandise, the wall with the company’s story; the whole atmosphere is breathing the FUN Zappos feeling. Want to have an impression?

Megan was my tour guide and we started with the history of the company. A company pride movie, some examples of wow employee experiences, like the “snowman prank” and the CEO living in a trailer. It was a set up of the real tour, where they gave me the Zappos experience. We couldn’t visit the customer service department, but I saw HR, the way the company is set up, their fitness studio (in the former prison), their restaurant and their Aquarium resting area. Really!

When we passed the square during our tour. I saw at the main square a drawing of an Avocado, saying “AvocaDO”. I giggled and told Megan, that Las Vegas was more of an AvocaNO city. I shared my experience of the hunt for an avocado and we laughed together.

As my tour ended, I had two interviews with leaders of the company. To learn more about Customer Experience strategies, about listening to customers, about how it is to work in the company. As I was starting my first interview, Megan entered the room with a little bag with two avocado’s. “For you”, as she presented them with a big smile. How about that? Putting the magic around one of their values: “Deliver WOW through service”. Easy does it with a big result. Zappos does deliver WOW.

So, a nice story, and Zappos puts its money where its mouth is. So you have a first impression. But what did I learn and what can you learn from this shoe selling company? I decided to give you a list of ideas. You can pick yourself, what is applicable. What resonates with you. And I am honest. The longer I write, the more comes to mind. So be prepared, somewhere this year, I will publish blog number two about this topic 😉

  1. Choose your values: Zappos has their ten core values and they are everywhere. Where of course their most known value is “Deliver Wow through Service”. The other nine are just as important for the employees.
  2. Hire the right employees: “It is easier to get into Harvard, than to work at Zappos” Zappos receives thousands of job applications every half year. They only want the right people to work for them. The ones that fit the company, the ones that are motivated.
  3. Take time for onboarding: new employees get a four-week onboarding and training, where they work for three weeks in the contact center. Yes, everybody. Whether you start working in IT or in Accountancy: you will start in the contact center, so you know your customers and what their lifes are about.
  4. Test if new employees get it: once a new employee has done his onboarding, at Zappos that is the moment they have to go for THE test. This test is crucial, because if you don’t score 90%, you don’t pass and are asked to leave. The test is about culture and values, computer systems and how to behave on the phone.
  5. Make new employees choose: when employees have finished their onboarding, they get the offer of a month’s salary to leave the company. Yes, you read this right. If you stay, you don’t get it. They only want people that really want to work for Zappos.
  6. 10 hour rule in the holiday season. Everybody has to help the contact center for ten hours. Everybody. EVERYBODY. Sorry to that bold, but this is magic. It is already magic when colleagues from IT would listen in some companies, Zappos takes it to the next level.
  7. Honor employees and the years they work for you: every five years you work at Zappos, you get a plate with your name on it in a certain color. First five years is blue, five to ten is red, etcetera. These nameplates hang at the desks, so you can see who works there and for how long they are with Zappos.
  8. Serendipitous Collisions: the Zappos building has ten floors and on one floor, there are drinks, on the other floor there are snacks. So people have to move to get a drink or something to eat. By doing so, they will meet people from other departments, and they hang out together.
  9. Create business money. Zappos has their own monetary system; Zollars. Yes, where dollars and Zappos meet. You can earn Zollars in several ways and spend them in their own Zappos way.
  10. Zappos Merchandise: not only can you buy Zappos merchandise as visitor, they also have their own little Zappos store for employees, varying from a t-shirt to a bicycle. Zappos branded of course: here you can spend your earned Zollars.
  11. Co-working Bonus program: employees can grant colleagues a bonus of 50 Zollars for doing nice things for each other, or if they helped out customers in a brilliant way.
  12. Department of Celebration: in case there is something to celebrate, from birthday to wedding. At Zappos they have a catalogue where you can order everything you need to celebrate. For example, you can order balloons with a card and they are delivered to the desk of the person who is celebrating.
  13. Bring fun in the IVR: when you call Zappos you get the choice to either press one to talk to a representant or two to hear the joke of the day. My goodness, I love this one.
  14. Organize fitness: at Zappos they have their own fitness studio (in the former prison, so funny) and they have also yoga and boxing classes. You earn points that you can spend in a special Zfit store.
  15. Tech Support: in the cafeteria Zappos has a special desk for technical help. You can bring your laptop there and they make sure you are on your way as soon as possible.
  16. Bring values in yearly reviews: as an employee you are asked how you score on the core values and also peers will rate you. You can pick the core values that fit you best, because you don’t have to score all ten.
  17. Stimulate change: at Zappos they have investors that help employees who have ideas in an investor board. So these investors help employees with money to grow their ideas.
  18. Help employees as entrepreneurs: at Zappos they have a class called ‘48 Hour Founders’. People can pitch (like in Sharktank) to a group and when your idea is picked, you work it out with colleagues and a business coach. In 48 hours you will grow your idea forward and pitch to the Investor Board.
  19. Teambuilding: every month employees get a budget of 50 dollars to go out and have fun. Plan it yourself and create a team and a family feeling. You can also save it a couple of months, to do something more elaborate.
  20. Family time: every quarter of a year a family movie night is organized for employees and their families. So, the focus is not only on the employees, but their families are engaged too.
  21. Measure because than you know: HR measures every quarter of a year how employees are feeling and to learn what they can do better. The insights are shared with everybody by company email. And a follow up by HR on the actions is always done.
  22. Shadowing: if an employee is curious about another role in the company, they can shadow a colleague in that role for two days, to learn what the job is about. During my tour, a colleague of the Customer Service department shadowed Megan to learn about being a tour guide.
  23. Continuous focus on customer interaction: everyone at Zappos understands that every interaction counts. That means that the focus is almost mindfully at the customer in that moment. No average call handling times or other internal metrics that can harm the connection.
  24. Quality assurance: Zappos has a dedicated team that listens to live calls to learn and give advice and suggestions to agents. The focus is on learning, improving and customer happiness.
  25. Values and the floors: where they have ten floors and ten values. They dedicated one value to every floor. This is visible and just a touch of connection.
  26. Focus on making it effortless: the managers or leads are focused on making living the core values as effortless as possible. Employees should be able to deliver on these as easy as possible.
  27. Create photo opportunities on your premises: as we are in the Instagram Era and people love taking pictures. Help them and create beautiful spots for photos. I love this place at Zappos where they have painted unicorn wings.

This is my special gift, just for YOU! I decided to create an e-zine about the biggest learnings. Know that Zappos focuses on Employee Experience to grow Customer Experience. Interesting! Download this visually attractive e-zine and pick yourself: what learnings are most applicable for your organization? What resonates with you? I am very curious which lessons inspire you most. Please feel free to send me an email with your insights!


** 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 and The Employee Experience Game.**

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

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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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“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.

When it comes to organizational transformation, this is an important and often raised question. What are the leading principles coming out of your strategy in order to transform your business model? Frank van den Brink, Chief Employee Experience Officer of ABN AMRO bank and I share our insights and opinions. We try to get our heads around this important leading question.

The “Why” of CEX

Nienke: Customer Experience is hip and happening. Sometimes people ask me if it is more a trend than a profession, but I can assure you; it isn’t. Since prize is not the way to stand out in the market, organizations choose customer experience to be the strategic differentiator. With many more disruptors coming into the marketplace, having no legacy of systems and culture, they are leading the way in this battlefield. They have designed their customer journeys from the perspective of their ideal customers, they have really thought of the needs and wants. Take for example Bloomon. The way they offer their Flowers is so customer focused. They meet your needs (fresh and beautiful flowers), make it easy (deliver weeknights, send a text to refresh water) and make it enjoyable (always a surprise what the bouquet looks like, but always more than beautiful). To really stand out in customer experience, it is key to make strategic choices. Because from the strategic angle, elements can be translated into processes, propositions, products, services, customer journeys and then: all elements of the HR cycle. So yes, read this article to learn about CX and EX from the professional and practitioner angle!

Frank: To get Customer Experience right, organisations should also start beginning to think about their Employee Experience in a more strategic way. For me employee experience should be the cornerstone of your HR strategy and transformation. The overall purpose should be to design and engineer a high value, integrated and relevant experience for all your employees. I strongly believe that when we are able to increase the employee experience, we will create a more engaged and productive workforce that helps the business to achieve their client goals. In the end if you truly believe that happy people = happy customers and vice versa, you should act on this leading principle and HR could perfectly lead this journey together with CX.

Experience driven companies will outperform their budgets, will realize higher customer loyalty and show better bottom line results. So yes there is a business case for investing in EX and subsequently a significant financial advantage for your organisation. If you have the opportunity to transition from a more “de” humanised, policy and process oriented and driven HR approach, towards a more consumarized HR function focusing on social platforms, technology and physical work space. Why not start tomorrow and let’s make HR great again!

How to kick start your CX/EX Transformation?

Nienke: The transformation is having a much slower pace as I would have expected to. Some companies are really taking the leap forward, but when I look at the experience of customers on review sites, we have still a very long way to go. I often use the metaphors taking the Transformational route the Steve Jobs or the Richard Branson way. Organizations that change in a Steve Jobs way, are really getting inside the customers wants and needs, learning about their feedback, organizing a structured voice of the customer and taking serious action on that. As Richard Branson says “Not customers come first, our employees come first” you understand that these companies focus much more on the Employee Experience. They enable their employees to service their customers in the best way, really hire for attitude and aim for high employee engagement.

Customer Experience Management is still maturing as a profession and the good thing is now results are proven and companies that have invested and chosen cx as a strategy are seeing the results. For example KPN, where they started with an NPS of -14 in 2012 and leading the customer experience transformation resulting in an NPS of +13 in the consumer market in 2017. What is hopeful is that Marketing is looking more at Service as opportunity, I just heard a CMO at a conference stating “Service is the new Sales” The rise of Employee Experience instead of HR is also something that I find interesting and a big leap forward.

Frank: The traditional HR function can learn a lot from the Customer Experience Paradigm. Since the Customer Experience practices and professionals have had a head start of roughly a decade or so, I see huge learning potential for traditional HR departments to join forces, make internal handshakes, share CX capabilities and focus of combined digital platforms to optimize both the customer and the employee journey. If we start seeing and treating all our valued employees as consumers and clients, then we should change the rules of the game and give them a different experience working within our company. Furthermore, since traditional organizational boundaries are becoming more fluid, I foresee opportunities to expand the Employee Experience proposition to external stakeholders as well. I truly believe this is the new way forward for organizations to remain relevant and create hybrid opportunities between EX and CX for the benefit of both clients and employees and preferably both if you really believe in your own products and would like to create future brand ambassadors.

So now, where to start?

Insights and thoughts around 6 leading questions:

  1. Strategy: what kind of experience would you like to deliver?
  2. Understanding: How do you create a consistent way of understanding?
  3. Experience design: How to design and improve meaningful experiences?
  4. Measurement and metrics: How to measure and report on experience?
  5. Organizational adoption: How to develop cross company accountability?
  6. Culture: How to create a culture of employee ambassadors?

1. Strategy: What kind of Experience would you like to deliver? 

Nienke: This should the fundament of all Customer Experiences. What kind of experiences do you want your customers to have? Let me explain. Many companies do have mission and vision statements, but they often lack the customer perspective or lack a real distinction.

Questions you can ask yourself when it comes to strategy

  • How do we translate our mission/vision statement to an outside in perspective?
  • What is it that we as an organization, want to stand out in and why do customers have to buy our products and services ? 
  • What promises do we want to make to your customers? Think of brand promise or service promises?
  • How do these promises translate to brand values or even employee/leadership values?

Frank: If you would like to reinvent the employee journey from scratch start with zooming out to understand your full employee journey and apply reverse thinking to redefine your HR role in this journey by:

  • Deep employee research and employee needs (continuous listening) discovery through employee persona’s;
  • Taking into account the entire employee and organization ecosystem; 
  • Identify moments that matter through your full employee journey
  • Start investing in Organizational, Digital and Data capabilities in order to build, reinvent and execute employee journeys

From my experience, Employee journey design is only 20% of the work – Excellent EX delivery creates the real experience and should be on the HR agenda more often.

2. Understanding: How do you create a consistent way of understanding?

Nienke: To make it really broad, I want to think of understanding as creating an architecture of listening. To have a structured and shared understanding of customer needs and wants. Because too often organizations assume what customers want and how they perceive their interactions. This leads to interpretive design and often failing business decisions. So to overcome business blindness, a good customer understanding is necessary.

Questions to ask:

  • What are the needs and wants of our customers?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Where do they leave their feedback? Think big, both solicited by surveys, but also unsolicited like reviews. Also ask customers that didn’t have contact or maybe even left your company as a client.
  • How can we share these customer insights with our employees?

Frank: Start small and with practical used cases. Do not think too big from the start, make use of the wisdom of the crowd and include the employee perspective and input from day one. Strategy should lead to execution and execution could also go together with a new way of learning. Whether you apply agile, design thinking, lean start up methodologies is up to you, but a significant change investment in order to support the EX transformation is one of the key success factors.

3. Experience design: How to design and improve meaningful experiences? 

Frank: With an analytics team gathering and analyzing insights from all functions in the business, the EX team defined “moments that matter” in employee journeys, measuring areas of high and low impact on business performance and productivity. They used design thinking to observe and ideate opportunities to build a positive EX through various journeys, which were prototyped and tested in certain parts of the business that enabled quick feedback. We came up with the following journeys and translated those to a future EX Journey Canvas:

  • Best start – supporting candidate experience, recruiting, sourcing and onboarding
  • Let me help you – the way we are able to support and interact with our employees
  • Meaningful growth – how we enable employees to achieve a meaningful professional and personal growth through performance, learning, development
  • I owe you – the way we recognize talent and performance by also focusing on wellbeing, preparation for retirement, recognizing long time contributions, a so called total reward approach
  • Great ambassadors – building a strong alumni experience and long term oriented valuable networks

Nienke: The design is where actions really start. How to design your products and services from a customers perspective? There are many ways and journey mapping or service design are the most used at this moment. Both to design from scratch, but also to incrementally improve the sales or service journeys. Mapping the journey is the first step, but the next steps are about choosing where to improve and making the change happen. Benefit tracking, asking customers for feedback or using their insights in co-creating new moments of truth. It makes it easy to look at the phases of the customer journey from a meta perspective. Like the “I become a customer” and “I am a customer” perspective, or the acquisition and loyalty phase.

This is also the moment to act upon the customer insights you have gotten. So get back to customers who left their feedback on your surveys or react on reviews. Using these insights to make changes in your organization.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What methodology do we use to design from a customer’s perspective?
  • What phases of the customer journey do we have?
  • How to make change happen when we have mapped the journey?
  • What are the top 5 irritations of our customers and what are the top 5 compliments they give us in their feedback? And how to we continuously improve upon the feedback?\

4. Measurement and metrics: How to measure and report on experience?

Nienke: Measuring and using KPI’s gives you the right steering wheel when it comes to results and decisions. You need to know where to improve and invest when it comes to customer experience. You want to know how you are performing when it comes to your customers. So choose your KPI’s wisely. The most often used KPI’s are NPS (Net Promotor Score) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction). There is much debate about which KPI to choose. For me I suggest that you pick one and stick to it. To build your dataset, learn on the insights behind the KPI, the drivers and make sure your numbers improve. This is also where Data plays the key role. Data driven decision making, translated in the right KPI’s.

Also take a look at your reporting on these metrics and how they change over time. Tell the story why it is important. Make sure all employees know how you perform not only on EBITDA, market share but also on CX. So find a distinctive way of reporting, stay disciplined in doing it clock speed (whether it is monthly, quarterly or yearly) and make sure it is visible and people feel the sense of urgency.

Questions to ask:

  • What metrics do we use when it comes to customer experience?
  • Do we understand the interdependencies and know what drives great customer experiences?
  • Where are these metrics discussed (steerco’s, board meetings etc) and how do we take action upon them?
  • Are our reports visually attractive and tell the right story people understand?

Frank: In order to understand the needs and ambitions of our employees we need to improve our ability and willingness to listen. In the previous years we mainly listened to our employees by the use of an annual engagement survey. Where many organizations already moved away from an annual performance management approach to a more continuous dialogue between manager and employee, most organizations are still using an annual engagement survey to listen to the feedback of the employee once a year. This is slowly changing, largely due to the increasing importance of employee experience.

Having a technical ability to listen better and more continuously to our employees is one thing, using it on a daily or weekly basis is another. Basically it is about understanding and threating your employees as you treat your customer. HR should position itself more as the employee marketer. We need to better understand the different groups of employees, their needs and the opportunities to increase their employee experience and their performance. This requires a different mindset. A mindset that is built on curiosity to understand our employee’s needs, the ability to identify and act on employee leads, the ability to work with tools and data and the ability to turn the employee feedback into usage. Basically a willingness to understand and learn.

At the moment we are in the middle of defining our Employee Experience Index / Employee Net Promotor Score (eNPS) supported by continuous listening tooling, with a clear focus on creating the right employee data, putting in place the right technical capabilities and data quality & governance. If you would like to know more about this topic, please read my article together with Patrick Coolen on “How HR is hitting the second wall”.

5. Organisational Adoption: How to develop cross company accountability?

Nienke: The question I often get is, how is customer experience organized? That is a fascinating question, because I see many different ways of how it is organized and placed. It could be as a staff team, one tier below the CEO. Or as a team in marketing, where the focus is often with a Sales lens. There is not one good or bad way of organizing, as long as the scope and budget are aligned. To have real impact, it is of importance, utmost importance, that it is in tier minus one or two and belief of the C-Suite. When looking at the impact of Customer Experience and the size of the teams, it is interesting to see the ways they find to influence. In agile organizations customer experience is often introduced in epics or story points. Also leading principles find their way into the CX domain. Interesting developments where methodologies align. We also see steering committees where the most important customer decisions are taken or veto rights for the VP customer experience, maybe a little old fashioned, but it works.

Questions to ask:

  • How to make sure customers and their needs/wants are embedded in our change process?
  • Who is responsible for the KPI’s we have defined for customer experience?
  • Where in our organization is Customer Experience organized?
  • Is the budget in fte and money, aligned with the scope of the CX team?

Frank: My biggest challenge of today is: How to offer our employees a great employee experience in a purpose-led and value-driven organization. In order use this as a leading principle and shape our future of work we need a definition of happiness…. whereas I pretty much fancy the definition on happiness = (equals) reality – expectations.

When an employee experiences a WOW, you are giving them a pleasant surprise. You are exceeding their expectations. You are addressing their needs thoughtfully and in unexpected ways. It is an expression of your authentic interest in the person who needs your services, not just in the transaction. It is about making enduring personal emotional connections with empathy, generosity, and gratitude. It is about awareness of common human concerns that make a difference to each customer. It is about truth, it is about meaning, it is about details that cannot only be measured by KPIs.

In today’s ultra-competitive markets, enduring businesses call for enduring employee relationships and relations. How can you deliver products and services with a WOW Employee Experience built into them? You must make the WOW Employee Experience part of the product/service design, and that requires a continuous culture and happiness decision-making context, not only once for purposes of definition, but as a foundation for day to day operations and mind set of HR colleagues.

I defined “wow” experiences as “unique, emotionally engaging interactions that go beyond expectations and are readily recounted.”

Key elements of What is WOW

  • A pleasant surprise, thoughtfully and in unexpected ways. 
  • Addressing their needs: basic product and service needs, transactional needs and emotional needs
  • Personal emotional connections awareness of common human concerns 
  • It is about truth and meaning
  • It is about details that cannot be measured by KPIs.

6. Culture: How to create a culture of employee ambassadors? 

Do all of the above and employees will value the employee journey and experiences more than ever!!!

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, as Peter Drucker said. This is the same with customer experience. The employees deliver the customer experiences in the offline world and they are the ones who design and execute all inside the company and in the digital environment. To impact, I suggest this is where Employee Experience (HR) and CX colleagues should team up. To hire the right employees, onboard them with real customer focus and make sure the customer is present in the training and development calendar.

Where to start when it comes to culture. Make sure you have your customer promises (compass, manifesto) and translate them to the values of your company. So everybody know what they have to live up to, what to and also what not to do. This is of course not only for employees, but even more evident for the leadership. Make sure they interact with customers and customer facing employees in a regular manner. Nienke: I just talked to a CFO of a B2B company and he admitted he had never spoken face to face with a customer in the 16 years he worked for the company.

Reward and celebrate target behaviour and make the customer visible in the business. Whether it is in the boardroom in reports or in the canteen where photo’s and quotes are place on the wall. This where it comes to finding creative ways that work. That make customer experience come to life and cultures grow into customer centric ones.

The experience paradigm: Our conclusion?!

In the end it is a mirror. Happy people equals Happy Customers and vice versa Happy Clients equals Happy Employees. Both start from the same strategic perspective, the same methodologies but with a different audience.

Yes CX is ahead. So EX professionals contact your CX colleagues in your organizations to learn the tools and tricks and join hands to get a serious position on the strategic agenda. For CX professionals join hands with your HR or EX professionals, because they can be the leverage to stand out when it comes to the employee side of the experience. This is where all human interactions take place. We are very interested in your thoughts and insights on this paradigm. We invite you to share these with us! Share your thoughts and stories on this paradigm with us.

About some valuable sources:

During the last year we are inspired by many highly appreciated thought leaders whom we spoke to, worked with or followed on social media and blogs on the topic of Customer Experience and Employee Experience. Again with the risk of leaving out relevant influencers, in which case we apologize, we like to mention the following people; Bruce Temkin CCXP , Jaap Wilms CCXPBlake MorganIan Golding CCXPJeanne Bliss CCXPKathy van der Laar CCXPBarbara van Duin CCXPEric Vercouteren (KPN), Jacob MorganMark LevyDavid GreenElliot Nelson (KennedyFitch), Sanne Welzen (Deloitte), Roy Klaassen (Kirkman Company).


There is so much going on when it comes to customer experience. I see brilliant initiatives, professionals, strategies, projects and transformations going on at my clients and I read all your stories on LinkedIn. It makes me smile and as a CX colleague, it makes me proud. We are all on our way to deliver great customer experiences to our clients, or have the urge to do so in a better way. In contact centers, social media teams, HR, employee experience and of course customer experience teams.

Did you know that you can get international recognition for what you are doing? I think you should try and win an International Customer Experience Award!

Why enter the awards? I give you 9 reasons why you have to give it a GO

Your entry:

1. You reflect on what is your success and your strategy behind it

2. You really get to the point and feel your pride on your journey

On the day itself:

3. You get to present your success strategy in front of international CX professionals

4. You battle with peers and learn from their entries

After the awards:

5. You get a huge applause from your peers if you win

6. Get international recognition for all your efforts and CX brilliance

7. As a winner: share the pride within your organization and celebrate success

8. As a winner: use it in your marketing that you excel in your category

9. Get a benchmark feedback report how the judges ranked you (BONUS)

You see, there are so many reasons and maybe you can even add some mor… Even if you don’t win, you’ll experience a fantastic event and you’ll learn a lot from your peers of course!

With all the categories you can win (19 in total), there must be a category for you, your department or your company. First I thought I didn’t have to list them, but I have talked about it with many of you and the categories are not known enough for the first edition of the International CX. SO here we go:

All 19 categories in which you can WIN an award

  1. Customer-Centric Culture – That is sustained across the entire organisation with all employees, systems, processes and that puts the customer at the heart of everything that is done
  2. Best Customer Experience Strategy – A customer experience strategy that demonstrated a tangible shift in direction and that lead to positive business results
  3. Business Change or Transformation – A Significant Customer Experience focus that led to sustainable change or transformation of the organization
  4. Customer Insight & Feedback – An active programme to listen to customers (multi-channel), to create feedback opportunities, & effectively use customer insights to make high impact changes to products, services, processes and the overall customer experience
  5. Customer Complaints – focuses on how businesses manage consumer complaints
  6. Best Measurement in Customer Experience – That demonstrates the use of key CX metrics to bring a greater customer focus to tracking, analysing and effectively measuring initiatives
  7. Best Multi/Omni-Channel Customer Experience – A customer focus on delivering a consistent and persistent customer experience across all channels when interacting with your company
  8. Most Effective Customer Experience in Social Media – Demonstrate the effective use of individual or mixed social media channels to build active relationships that fully engage customers – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+
  9. Contact Centre – A contact center transformation project demonstrating great customer experience and making it easier for customers to do business with you
  10. Client Relationship Management – Designed and implemented new and effective techniques to enhance the customer experience through better customer relationship management (CRM)
  11. Best Use of Mobile – Using phone, tablet and other mobility devices to deliver an exceptional customer experience
  12. Digital Transformation – The profound transformation of business and organizational activities. A focus on processes, competencies and models to significantly enhance customer and employee experiences that fully use changes and opportunities available in a mix of digital technologies
  13. Best Digital Strategy – That implemented an effective digital strategy that lead to positive customer engagement and improved business results
  14. Diversity & inclusion – That has diversity and inclusion at the heart of its business, providing outstanding support and opportunities to everyone equally
  15. Employer of the Year – Engaged and highly Motivated Employees, High Staff Retention Rates, Human Resource Initiatives, Personnel Development Initiatives
  16. Employee Empowerment – A Strategy designed to enhance the employee experience, demonstrate corporate wellbeing and linking employee engagement and empowerment to the heart of the business
  17. Customer Experience Professional – Who has identified & responded to an opportunity resulting in influencing the organization to shift and significantly impact the overall customer experience
  18. Customer Experience Team – A team that has identified & responded to an opportunity resulting in significant impact on customer experience and the organization
  19. Customer Experience Leadership – A leader whose influence, communication, passion and focus has significantly impacted the adoption of a more customer focused culture and transformation empowering their organization or community

I really hope I have motivated you to GO for it. To aim high and imagine yourself the 15th of November on stage in Amsterdam, winning an International Customer Experience Award. Click here for more info on the awards and how to enter. Or if you have questions, please leave them as a comment and I will answer them. Hope to meet you in November!


** 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 read her blogs or learn more about her? Visit her website or subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz. **

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