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).


Met veel plezier keek ik deze zomer weer naar het programma ‘De Slimste Mens’. Er is iets met dit quizformat en die droogkloot Maarten van Rossum, waardoor ik blijf kijken.

De dag na de finale had ik een vraag over een verzekering. Het gesprek verliep okay, alleen wilde de medewerker aan de telefoon graag laten blijken dat hij alles heel goed snapte en ik niet. “Natuurlijk mevrouw, dat is nu eenmaal zo met deze autoverzekering. Wist u dat de premie ook hoger is doordat u in die-en-die postcode woont?” Zo ging hij door. Hij wist het allemaal beter dan ik. Hij is De Slimste, ging er door me heen.

Wie zijn toch die persona’s in het contactcenter, de figuren die we allemaal herkennen? Natuurlijk worden persona’s vaak gebruikt om klanten een gezicht te geven, maar wat als je het omdraait? Niet de klant als persona, maar de contactcentermedewerker. De eerste heb je net ontmoet: De Slimste.

Daarnaast heb je ook De Naamnoemer. “Ja mevrouw Bloem, nee mevrouw Bloem.” Met een beetje pech gooit hij of zij jouw voornaam er ook nog een paar keer tussendoor… Ik voel me dan altijd wat ongemakkelijk. Natuurlijk is het tof als iemand wéét wie ik ben, maar te vaak mijn naam over de lijn en je valt door de ik-ben-net-in-opleiding-geweest-mand.

Dan degene waar ik zelf lastig mee om kan gaan. Waar ik ontzettend de neiging krijg om dwars te liggen tijdens het gesprek: De Scriptvolger. Je ziet iemand achter de computer zitten, de ogen gaan al richting de volgende stap. Deze persona is ook altijd blij als hij of zij mij mag wijzen op het Bel-me-niet-register. Yes, het gesprek is af, weer een script voltooid!

Mijn haren gaan omhoog als ik De Afschuiver aan de lijn krijg. Dat is de agent die iemand anders in de organisatie de schuld geeft. “Ja, dan had Verkoop het beter moeten verkopen.” Of nog erger: dat hij het systeem de schuld geeft van het probleem. Vaak eindigt dit gesprek ook in een “We bellen u terug.” Tuurlijk, maar mag het iets specifieker wannéér?

Laat ik afsluiten met persona nummer vijf: De Vrolijkerd. Die er gewoon zin in heeft. De stem veert mee, je voelt door de hoorn (okay, door de ether, maar dat klinkt net iets minder) dat deze persoon voor dit vak gemaakt is. Deze medewerker geeft antwoord met een glimlach. Ik bedenk er altijd een hele mooie werkomgeving bij. Met een aardige manager die complimenten uitdeelt.

Dus als deze column een quiz zou zijn en ik de jury? Dan zou ik megabevooroordeeld zijn en afsluiten met: “De Slimste Mens is De Vrolijkste. Dank voor het lezen en tot de volgende keer!”.


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 7 november 2018

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Het is al even geleden dat ik de HEAO (internationale marketing) afrondde. Veel van wat mij daar is geleerd, ben ik kwijt. Maar wat me nog goed op het netvlies staat, zijn de 4 P’s van Kotler: Prijs, Plaats, Product en Promotie. Die zijn erin geramd en ken ik als dé marketingmix.

Al browsend op LinkedIn werd mijn blik laatst getrokken naar een bericht dat begon met de zin: ‘Gelijk de juiste prijs!!’ Met twee uitroeptekens. Dit was niet zomaar een bericht, de schrijver wilde het kracht bijzetten. Het plaatje bij de boodschap gaf verdere inkleuring met de tekst: ‘Wij zijn eerlijk over de prijs’. Dit bedrijf geeft gelijk de juiste prijs en ze zijn eerlijk over de prijs. Niet gek toch?!

De Prijs. Een P uit de marketingmix. De meeste bedrijven die zich onderscheiden met deze P gaan voor een positionering als goedkoopste. Ik weet nog dat ik op dezelfde HEAO leerde hoe de prijselasticiteit uit te rekenen. Welke prijs zijn consumenten bereid te betalen en hoe optimaliseer je je omzet? Wat is de eerlijke prijs? Een goede vraag. Is dat de prijs die je als consument wilt betalen? Of is dat de prijs die een product of dienst waard is? Een hele lastige discussie. Toen de nieuwe iPhone X uitkwam, had die een – in mijn ogen – belachelijk hoge prijs. Tot een kenner mij uitlegde wat dit apparaat allemaal kan. Dat was het toch zeker waard?

Het betreffende bericht op LinkedIn kwam van een keukenboer. Het kopen van mijn keukens herinner ik me nog goed. Het gedoe met onderhandelen. Dat er binnen no-time de helft van de prijs afging. ‘Nee mevrouw, lager kunnen we niet gaan.’ Dat ik dan wegliep en er toch nóg eens dertig procent afging. Een goed gevoel heb ik daar nooit aan overgehouden. Prachtige keukens, maar altijd die twijfel. Had ik wel de juiste prijs betaald?

Wat ik eerlijk vind in het LinkedIn-bericht, is dat iedereen moet wennen aan ‘Gelijk de juiste prijs’. Het personeel, dat gewend was om veel weg te geven, heeft nu ruimte voor een echt gesprek. Maar ook de klant, die eigenlijk al ‘met het mes tussen de tanden’ de keukenzaak inliep om meteen te onderhandelen over die te hoge prijs, kan nu rustig zijn wensen op tafel leggen en in gesprek gaan.

Dit specifieke keukenbedrijf slaat een mooie koers in. In mijn optiek is dit onderscheidend in deze branche, met de focus op de P van Prijs. Niet als goedkoop, maar wel als eerlijk. Toch maar eens langs, nu ik op zoek ben naar een nieuwe keuken. Ben ook wel nieuwsgierig wat de eerlijke prijs van zo’n keuken nou is.


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 26 september 2018

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Jarenlang ging ik elke zaterdagochtend naar een banketbakker. Niet zomaar een banketbakker, maar de beste bakker van de stad. Voor knapperige baguettes, kunstwerkjes van gebak en de lekkerste bonbons. Ik moest er best een stukje voor fietsen en stond voor mijn lekkernijen in een lange rij, maar dat had ik er graag voor over. Toch ben ik met dit zaterdagse ritueel gestopt. Ik scharrel tegenwoordig wat rond voor brood.

Soms neem ik brood mee als ik boodschappen doe in de supermarkt, haal ik op zaterdag mijn croissants op de markt of haal ik ’s ochtends doordeweeks heel vroeg versgebakken brood bij de warme bakker vier straten verderop. Waarom kom ik niet meer bij deze patisserie? Was het brood niet meer lekker? Waren de gebakjes bedorven?

Niks van dat alles. Er stonden altijd verschillende leuke meisjes als zaterdaghulp en dan hoopte ik dat één van hen me hielp. Soms had ik pech en werd ik geholpen door de eigenaresse van de zaak. Deze chagrijn corrigeerde me als ik de naam van een gebakje niet correct uitsprak. Of ze keek me gewoon de rij uit. Hoe vrolijk die taartjes ook naar me lonkten, terwijl ik in de rij stond rekende ik uit hoeveel klanten er voor me waren. Aan de hand van hoe snel iedereen werd geholpen duimde ik bijna dat ik niet door de grote bazin geholpen werd. Te gek voor woorden.

Totdat ik besefte dat ik met tegenzin naar deze bakker ging. Dat ze dan wel het allerlekkerste brood en gebak van de stad en misschien de regio maakten, maar dat ik geen zin meer had om haar onder ogen te komen. Dat ik dat ongemakkelijke gevoel niet meer wilde. Ik besprak dit een keer met iemand die de bakkersfamilie goed kent. Hij vertelde dit gevoel wel te herkennen. Of ik haar hier een keer op wilde aanspreken? Tja, ik heb het overwogen, maar voel me daar niet echt comfortabel bij. Ik blijf dus gewoon weg. Eén klant minder voor deze bakker.

Ik ga nu voor leuke mensen rondom brood en gebak. Mensen die er zin in hebben om me te helpen. Het brood is sindsdien wat minder knapperig. De taartjes net iets minder kunstig. Maar ik ga dus voor ‘leukst’ boven ‘lekkerst’. Service boven productkwaliteit. Natuurlijk had ik het liefst de combi gehad, maar die is even niet voorhanden.

Nu vermoed ik dat ik niet de enige ben die zulke keuzes maakt. Wat doe jij in zo’n geval?


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 1 augustus 2018

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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. **

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

Dat is toch geen taal voor een dame? Nee, dat klopt. Sorry bij voorbaat. Maar soms ontglipt het me. Komt de stoom uit mijn oren, als ik speurende ben naar het antwoord op een website. Als ik weer eens in de Frequently Asked Questions verdwaal.

FAQ is een alom geaccepteerde Engelse term in de wereld van klantbeleving. Nu snap ik dat goed, want V.G.V. – als in Veel Gestelde Vragen – klinkt wat raar. Het lijkt ook teveel op de TGV en laten we eerlijk zijn, weinig klanten ervaren hun digitale zoektocht op websites als die van een hoge snelheidstrein. Meer een ouderwets boemeltje tussen tjilitjap op de hei en flapperdieflap aan zee.

Dus daar ging ik. Op reis in de FAQ. Even snel tussendoor een antwoord krijgen op een vraag die ik had: hoe ik mijn abonnement kon omzetten. De informatie die ik kreeg, begreep ik niet. Ook had ik het gevoel dat dit antwoord niet over mijn vraag en probleem ging. Natuurlijk zocht ik door, klikte ik driftig verder en na een paar minuten – ja, ik ben soms ongeduldig en ik ben niet de enige klant – besloot ik te bellen. Misschien was dit de shortcut die ik nodig had, want in mijn eentje kwam ik er niet uit. Het voelde als een zwaktebod. Het liefst had ik natuurlijk zélf het antwoord gevonden. Ook het bedrijf had liever niet dat ik belde. Niet alleen probeerden ze hun telefoonnummer te verstoppen (maar ik ben een meester-googeler, HA!), tevens liet de medewerkster dit duidelijk merken aan de telefoon. In no-time vond ze het antwoord en ze snapte niet dat ik daar al klikkende zelf niet was gekomen. Het had ook in de Mijn-omgeving gekund, vertelde ze me.

Als je mij kwijtraakt in jouw eigen FAQ, dan is dat toch niet míjn schuld? Te vaak zie ik dat de flow vanuit een intern perspectief is opgezet. Of dat er woorden in staan die ik als klant niet gebruik. Of dat ik iets wil dat online niet mag. Zoals een abonnement opzeggen. Dat kan alleen tijdens kantooruren en per telefoon. Die FAQ blijft een mysterie voor mij. Als ik het op zijn Hollands uitspreek, dan zeggen we ook EF, EE, KIOE. Maar dan zouden er toch puntjes tussen moeten? Wat trouwens weinig bedrijven doen. Voor mij blijft het gewoon de FAQ. Als je het fonetisch bekijkt lijkt het verdacht veel op F#CK. Ik kan er helaas niks anders van maken.


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 30 mei 2018

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Bij het boeken van het uiteindelijk gekozen hotel in Maastricht, kreeg ik van de foto’s op direct een vrolijk gevoel. Dat eerste sentiment van ‘Ja, daar wil ik slapen’ is voor mij wel een cruciale, of het nu een overnachting voor werk of privé is. Alleen al de plaatjes zetten de positieve toon, en de reviews van andere gasten (of zal ik logés zeggen, maar daarover straks meer) waren ook al laaiend enthousiast. Het hotel in kwestie scoort een 8,4 en klanten roemen het ontbijt, de schone kamers en het gratis kopje welkomstsoep. Al verder lezend in de reviews kwam ik ook het ‘Slaapmutsje’ tegen. Dit maakte me – helemaal als customer experience professional – erg nieuwsgierig . Wat doen ze daar zo slim?

Bij een korte verkenning op de eigen website van het hotel, kwam ik deze zin tegen: ‘Bij ons kom je logeren, niet overnachten’. Daar viel voor mij het kwartje: dat is het onderscheidend vermogen van dit logement. Niet een 13-in-een-dozijn hotel, maar een hotel met eigen identiteit. Ze hebben dan ook geen hotelkamers, maar logeerkamers. ‘Bij ons wordt de gastvrijheid zo echt als thuis of bij vrienden. Je krijgt 4 sterren en je betaalt voor 3 sterren. De vierde ster is gratis, met complimenten van de zaak.’ Gaaf hè?! Dat is toch wat je wil als klant? Tenminste, als je de klant in hun doelgroep bent, en toevallig ben ik dat. Dus, ik boekte dit hotel en verheugde me op mijn verblijf.

Bij de aankomst in de hotellobby, die hier niet lobby maar woonkamer heet, voelde ik me ook meteen thuis. Mooie banken en stoelen, maar weer net niet te chique. Veel hout, bloemen en vriendelijke receptionistes, en natuurlijk dat kopje welkomstsoep: mosterdsoep vanavond. Om 21 uur mochten we ook het slaapmutsje nemen, laten we het een ‘slok van het huis’ noemen. Ik werd er vrolijk van. Ik liep een rondje door de woonkamer en mijn oog viel op een aquarium vol goudvissen. Daarop een bordje met de tekst ‘Een vis als logé op je kamer? Dat kan! Voor € 3,50 krijg je gezelschap van onze goudvis.’ Mijn glimlach werd groter en groter. Wat ontzettend slim van dit hotel. Ze hebben het logéconcept omgezet naar een cross-sell-kans. En dan ook nog één die mij een goed gevoel geeft.

Een moment in mijn klantreis, om niet snel te vergeten. Dank lieve Blub, het was een onvergetelijke logeerpartij. Ik kom snel weer!


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 25 april 2018

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s also look at the cruise examples

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

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

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

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

Brand promise, customer promises; what is the difference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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