Episode 81: Using Surprise and Delight to Transform the Customer Experience

Join us as we discuss the evolving role of the chief experience officer, a charity’s efforts to overhaul the donor experience, and a Thanksgiving treat for one bank’s customers.

Bandwidth, Barriers, and… Banksgiving? – Oh My!

[Dissecting The Experience] Discover the Critical Importance of a Chief Experience Officer in Your Company

Every company should have someone on the team who is primarily focused on the experience of the customers. Many companies have been slow to adopt this type of specific responsibility. A customer has two fundamental needs: a functional need, and an emotional need. Companies often take care of the fundamentals, but are hesitant to invest in the emotions of their customers. Kurt Schroeder, the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) for Avtex, spends all day focused on the Avtex client experience. The CXO is a newer c-suite role that is actively developing. A CXO is primarily focused on how to continue to improve and deliver a better experience for customers.

A Chief Experience Officer oversees every interaction, which may sound like a CEO position. The differentiator is that the CEO has to focus on many areas, whereas the CXO is solely focused on the customer experience alone.

So, what do I do when I get here in the morning? I think about, “What are the areas of our organization and the experience that we’re rendering to our customers, that we really need to improve and make better and create differentiation in the market?”

Kurt Schroeder, Chief Experience Office (CXO) of Avtex

Every product can be replicated. Price can only win clients for so long. Without the differentiation of customer experience, you will not stand apart from the competition. If you don’t have a Chief Experience Officer, you should strongly consider getting one as it’s crucial to have a least one member of your team who wakes up thinking about ways to improve the customer experience.

[Dissecting the Experience] Learn About How One Amazing Organization has Provided Millions with Clean Water

Our typical podcast focuses on the customer’s experience, but today we dissect a donor experience with an amazing organization called Charity: Water. Charity: Water’s Mission is bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. What sets the experience apart is that the founder of Charity: Water set out to create an organization that would overcome any trust barriers that donors typically have. One hundred percent of donations go towards their mission while private donations cover the company’s overhead cost.

I asked people what their objections were and we created a business model that would speak to those objections.

Scott Harrison, Founder of Charity: Water

Many people are skeptical of where their money is going when they make a donation to a charity. Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity: Water removed that barrier to trust. He also partnered with Google so that donors could actually see the wells they were contributing to build! Charity: Water designed an innovative way to raise funds for wells – by asking people to consider “giving up their birthday” and asking for donations in lieu of presents. This allows people to raise both public awareness and much needed funds for a great cause! By making the experience personal through stories and videos, and the incorporating videos of the actual wells that donors helped build, Charity: Water brings clean water to more than eight million people.

When you listen to your customers’ objections and build a business model that alleviates their fears, they will happily support you. While we’re at it, consider making a donation to Charity: Water today!

[Start the Conversation] Avtex: The Actual Cost of Poor Customer Experiences

It’s common knowledge that a poor customer experience is costly. Not only does it cost you the customer, but it has many additional ramifications. A poor experience can lead to a damaged reputation, unhappy employees and staffing challenges, and the inability to effectively launch new products. These may actually be more costly than the original loss of the customer’s purchase or business.

If you want to fully comprehend the impact of poor customer experiences, you should pay careful attention to:

  1. Online reviews
  2. Customer retention rates and Repeat purchase trends
  3. Social media conversations

One of the best things you can do in the time of a crisis, is to come out and confront it. People want information. Pay attention to the reviews and the conversations, and answer your customer’s concerns as quickly as you can.

Start the conversation with this question: How much are poor customer experiences impacting our bottom line?

To continue the conversation, go to: experienceconversations.com.

[Dissecting the Experience] When Surprise and Delight Creates Happier Employees and Happier Customers

What would happen to the customer experience if the company truly followed through on answering your needs completely? We saved this article for this episode for good reason! Most banks end their customer service call with a simple question: Is there anything else we can do for you today? One bank, Ally, decided to answer that question for their customers. Wishes small, like cleaning up the yard, to wishes large, like a flight to Europe, were answered! In Ally Banksgiving: When a Simple Call to Your Bank Turns Into a Big Surprise, we see clients calling in for basic customer service needs and walking out with so much more!

I think when you’re able to do good things for both sides , they both end up winning. When you empower agents that are able and allowed to help customers, and in this particular case, really provide a surprise and delight moment, it makes their job more fun. This makes them happier, and makes them appear happier to customers.

Dan Gingiss, co-host of ExperienceThis! Show podcast

By empowering the employees, the company gave them the ability to surprise and delight the clients. The clients, so overwhelmed by the bank’s generosity, spread the story through nontraditional methods, like social media. Banks aren’t known for this behavior, so it set Ally apart from the competition.

We know that not every company has a budget to do something like this, but you can still surprise and delight your customers in meaningful ways without breaking the bank.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of our North American listeners!

Links We Referenced

Host Contact Information

Email Dan: Dan@dangingiss.com

Tweet Dan Gingiss: @DGingiss

Email Joey: JoeyC@JoeyColeman.com



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Episode Transcript

Download a transcript of the entire Episode 81 here or read it below:

Dan Gingiss: Welcome to Experience This-

Joey Coleman: Where you’ll find inspiring examples of customer experience, great stories of customer service and tips on how to make your customers love you even more.

Dan Gingiss: Always upbeat and definitely entertaining, customer retention expert Joey Coleman-

Joey Coleman: And social media expert Dan Gingiss serve as your hosts for a weekly dose of positive customer experience.

Dan Gingiss: So, hold onto your headphones, it’s time to Experience This.

Joey Coleman: Get ready for another episode of the Experience This Show.

Dan Gingiss: Join us as we discuss the evolving role of the chief experience officer, a charity’s attempt at overhauling the donor experience and a Thanksgiving treat for one bank’s customers.

Joey Coleman: Bandwidth, barriers and Banksgiving? Oh, my. Sometimes we need to get out of the recording studio and experience things in person. Get ready to feel like you’re standing right next to us as you Experience This Live.


Dan Gingiss: Well, hey. We’ve got another Experience This Live and we’re super excited, because this is the first time that Joey and I are doing an Experience This Live together. In fact, we are bringing in a third party to have a fireside chat. You see, we have located, in the wild, a real-life chief experience officer. So, we’re going to talk about this new C-suite-level role of a chief experience officer, a CXO. We’re going to learn all about it in this segment. So, we’re super excited to have Kurt Schroeder talk with us. He is the chief experience officer for Avtex Solutions, which, as you know, as loyal listeners, has been our great partner this season on the podcast.

Joey Coleman: Loving Avtex.

Dan Gingiss: What’s going on, Kurt?

Kurt Schroeder: Hey man, am I happy to be with you guys today. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Dan Gingiss: When you said, “Dan, we’ve invited in a third party.” I was thinking to myself, “It’s kind of always a party when you or I are in a conversation.” Folks, just so that you know, we had a couple of conversations with Kurt in advance of our hitting record, not only today but in previous days. Kurt’s a really fascinating guy with a unique perspective on this. As you know, loyal listeners, we don’t have interview guests. That’s not how we do things and that’s not what you’re listening to right now.

What we do try to do, is find interesting experiences and interesting perspectives, to bring them to you. We could have, let’s be candid, found a lot of different people that play a function of a CXO or a chief experience officer, but what we were excited to talk to Kurt about, is his unique perspective, not only in Avtex, right? Because they do a lot around the customer experience function with their clients, but just his role and how he sees the landscape, now and in the future. So, super excited for us to be having this conversation.

Joey Coleman: So, tell me, let’s just start with like what does a CX do? What do you do when you get to work every day, Kurt?

Kurt Schroeder: Yeah, that’s a good question and sometimes, I wonder about that myself. So, I think the primary goal of the CXO role, at least as I portray it, is, I wake up every morning and I think about, “How do we continually improve and deliver a better experience for our customers?” So, why is that even important? I’m a firm believer that we live in a world that is, that everything is about the experience. We live in the experience economy, Joseph Pine wrote about that several years ago in his book, called The Experience Economy.

So, what that means is, products are largely undifferentiated. There’s the time to market, to replicate and make something better and newer and faster and more attractive. That time has shrunk down to weeks, maybe months at the most. So, what makes the difference? It’s the experience that the customer has with you. So, if you don’t have someone who is thinking about that, day-in, day-out, at night, when they’re waking, when they’re sleeping, when they’re eating, then I think you’re lagging behind. You’re missing a great opportunity. So, what do I do when I get here in the morning? I think about, “What are the areas of our organization and the experience that we’re rendering to our customers, that we really need to improve and make better and create differentiation in the market?”

Dan Gingiss: I love that, because we often say on this show, the customer experience is the last true differentiator and that, as you say, competing on product is really tough, because everything can be copied. I mean, the example I love to give is, Uber completely transformed an industry and then got copied by Lyft, right? And so, everything, even brand new technology can be copied. I always say that competing on price is a loser’s game, because you just ask the local gas station with the competing gas station across the street, that you can only compete on price for so long before everybody loses. So, what’s left is the experience. So, then, what I’m thinking about is, what’s the difference then, between the chief experience officer and a CEO? I mean, you would think that you would oversee every part of the company, because as we know, customer experience is really every interaction that a customer has with you.

Kurt Schroeder: Yeah. By the way, you do not want me messing around in finance, I’ll just skip that 

Joey Coleman: Oh, so I see your street cred, Kurt, as a customer experience person was just thrown down right there. “Don’t let me look at the spreadsheets. I don’t want to do the finance.”

Kurt Schroeder: Yeah, so I think the biggest difference is just that. That is, a CEO has to be in-tune and equipped to deal with so many facets of the business. So, when push comes to shove, the CEO is going to have a focus in maybe a handful of areas. You need someone who is dedicated solely to what the customer experience looks like. Does the CEO care about that? Absolutely, and they should, but their mind is divided across so many challenges and opportunities and they need to make those decisions. You really need someone solely focused on the experience and bubbling up opportunities to improve the experience that the CEO then can make strategic decisions about.

Joey Coleman: Guys, I have a question that I think would be fun for us to riff on. I mean, you mentioned the book The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. Interestingly enough, that book celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

Kurt Schroeder: I know. That’s crazy, isn’t it?

Joey Coleman: Right? It’s shocking when you think about that, 20 years later. I mean, it will be legal next year. It’s very exciting for The Experience Economy, but what I find myself wondering is, “Why is it that so many businesses don’t have a chief experience officer?” I feel like, for the three of us and for many of our loyal listeners, we’ve already bought full-in to this concept. We understand that every organization should have someone who, as you said, and I think it’s funny, this is not at all scripted, ladies and gentlemen, but when you started out, Kurt, you said, “I wake up everyday, thinking about, ‘How do we continually improve and deliver the experience to our customers?'” That’s what we wish every employee thought, but let’s be candid; we know they don’t, but having someone in the organization that that is their primary thought, we know that all the research points to how successful that makes us. Why do you think so many companies have been slow to adopt that?

Kurt Schroeder: Well, I think there is a gap between what the research shows and what we’re practically able to believe. Here’s what I mean by that; customer experience is still kind of this squishy concept. I mean, look at when we talk to our clients about how to improve the experience, we talk about two fundamental needs that a customer has, regardless of whether it’s B to C or B to B, but two fundamental needs that a customer has in an interaction or an experience, which is they have a functional need, “What am I trying to achieve?” But, they also have an emotional need, “How do I need to feel through this?”

Well, look, I don’t want to talk about my feelings, and so, as soon as we start taking a business down the path of talking about how our customers feel, “How do they perceive us?” That is just starting to get way too squishy. So, I think we have organizations who retreat on that and are not willing to make the investment in the role, in order to really drive that and permeate it throughout the organization. So, I still think there’s a little bit of a gap between what the research shows, which is great. We know it proves it out, we know there’s financial viability in investing in customer experience, but there’s still a gap between, I call it the the the 12 inches between the heart and the mind. “In my heart, I know this is true, but in my mind I still can’t commit myself to make that investment.”

Dan Gingiss: Oh yeah, I think another aspect to this, Kurt, and it’s funny, because I actually just wrote a blog post for [inaudible 00:09:48] about this very topic, is that some companies, instead of having a CXO, are putting customer experience underneath marketing. So, you have a CMO or chief marketing officer that is also in charge of experience. I make the point in the article that I think either model can work, as long as, as Kurt says, that you have somebody with whom the buck stops, so that the experience has to land somewhere. The challenge, with it being under a marketing person, is that that person may or may not be trained in customer experience, because they may be classically trained as a marketer, right?

Having been a marketer for 20 years, there’s a ton of overlap between marketing and experience, but let’s face it, marketers are often most focused on acquiring new customers, or helping sales acquire new customers. I think that the CXO has to really turn inward and say, “All right, we’ve got all these existing customers, how do we keep them happy, keep them loyal, fix the leaky bucket that we know we have on the back end with customers leaving?” Again, being focused on that every day.

Kurt Schroeder: Yeah, I mean, it’s a good observation. When we talk to clients and even when we look at ourselves internally, when someone says, “Well, what’s the purpose of rendering a customer experience?” And I said, “Well, it’s real simple. It should cover the landscape of, ‘Find more, win more, keep more and do more customers.'” So, as we think about the entirety of the journey that a customer has with you, it’s really along those four key things that you want as measurable outputs. Or, as the customer, are you are you winning your fair share? The customer experience that is rendered during the sales experience is very, very important.

We talked about the erosion, the loser’s game on price. You know what? If you’re not providing a differentiated experience from the beginning, then price is going to be the only decision-maker. So, we kind of look at those four areas and so, to your point about where it resides, who has purview, who has knowledge, who has oversight in those four areas that can really drive an impact to the business? Many times, in addition to marketing, we see the CX role really incubating out of customer service as well. So, I think between marketing and customer service, that’s where we see it really residing in most organizations, if it hasn’t been already elevated to a C-suite position.

Joey Coleman: Well, I think you bring up an excellent point, Kurt. I don’t want to turn our Experience This Live segment into an agree-to-disagree between Dan and I, but there are two things that I think are at play here. One of the challenges I personally have with having the chief experience officer or whoever’s in charge of experience report to the head of marketing or the head of customer service or the head of sales, is, to me, we can only be responsible for so many things. When the head of marketing or the head of sales, or even the head of customer service goes into a board meeting or a C-suite meeting with the other executives that are responsible for the different functionalities of the business, I think it’s going to be very difficult to champion marketing and customer experience in the same conversation, because there are times when those two things are in conflict. That’s just the reality.

So, I think having someone who’s solely responsible for that is really key, but, as a segue to why I think it hasn’t adopted thus far, is it’s adding another person to the C-suite. In many ways, to your point, Kurt, this person has at least involvement, if not oversight over sales, over marketing, over operations, over ongoing retention. We can see where it can get involved with things like compliance or finance. I mean, there are multiple aspects of the business that it touches and my gut instinct, I could be wrong, is that many organizations aren’t looking to have another vote at the table, right?

They already feel, when they go into their C-suite meetings that, “Oh, well, I’m in marketing and I’m constantly battling sales for attention or dollars. Or, “The blame is always being cast from customer service back onto marketing and I don’t want to have someone else that can kind of accuse me of not taking care of the customer or not doing my job or my spend or my allocation of resources properly.” So, I think there’s almost like a human condition, philosophical conversation here. If everyone feels like they’re responsible for customer experience, which I imagine, the three of us would agree that everyone plays a role, but if everyone feels like they’re responsible for it, lots of times, it means no one’s actually responsible for it.

Kurt Schroeder: I agree with that, and I think the other caveat that I would make onto that, it also depends on the organization’s DNA and how they grew up. Other words, if it’s an organization that was extremely product-centric from the beginning, then I’m not going to have a C position sitting at the table, because that’s not what we’re known for. So, it takes time. It takes some external disruption to really cause them to think about, “What do we want to be known for in the future and how does customer experience come into play?” The organizations that we see putting a C-level position in charge of customer experience are the organizations who have made the decision, or who have had the original DNA of the organization, based on a customer experience value proposition. They see the importance of it. So, it depends also a little bit on, what is the DNA of the organization? And whether they value that role sitting at the big table.

Dan Gingiss: Well, yeah, and speaking of the DNA, I think one of the things I wanted to chat about, is this idea that the CXO having this purview, this oversight of the entire customer journey, it seems like the role might be put in an uncomfortable position, quite often, of having to tell other people within the organization that their experienced sucks, right? Or that something’s wrong with it, or that we need to fix something. I’m wondering, especially as this role has continued to evolve over time, what’s the best way for it to interact with the rest of the company, so that you don’t have everybody else, I don’t know, worried when the CXO calls them, because it must mean that they’re doing something wrong?

Kurt Schroeder: Yeah, “I’m from the IRS. I’m here to help.”

Dan Gingiss: Exactly.

Joey Coleman: That’s so true. So true.

Kurt Schroeder: We don’t want to create that model. So, what I’ve seen is two models that I think most organizations play into. Bear with the analogy here. So, in a previous life, in a distant galaxy a long, long time ago, I worked for this organization called GE-

Joey Coleman: You folks might have heard of that organization. Yeah, well, once or somewhere along the road, I might’ve heard of them.

Kurt Schroeder: So, I’m a recovering Six Sigma Black Belt. So, I go to meetings and-

Dan Gingiss: Joey’s a recovering lawyer, so this is great.

Joey Coleman: I am, I am. Kurt, first step is admitting you have a problem, I like it.

Kurt Schroeder: That’s exactly right. So, let’s not quit the conversation because I’m bringing Six Sigma into this, but organizations that really adopted Six Sigma strongly, what they did is, they said, “Look, we’re going to have a set of black belts. Everyone is going to be a green belt. Other thing, Six Sigma’s going to be a competency within our organization.” Then, they usually had a senior level position, sometimes at the C-suite as a chief quality officer, who then would permeate that competency in the organization. So, it became a part of the DNA that just said, “Look, this is how we do our process improvement projects and how we continually improve and create efficiency in the organization.”

What I’m suggesting is, that’s not a bad model, as we think about CX. I think, as an example, journey mapping should be a core competency within every function in the organization. If you touch the customer or you’re supporting someone that touches the customer, you should really understand how to do a journey map, what are the inputs to that, because it helps create empathy and empathy is so important in moving towards designing a better future state, a better experience. So, the organizations that we see that are really doing well are looking at this as a core competency, not a function.

They’re looking at the role of the CXO to drive that competency throughout the organization. So, instead of getting the call from the CX person and then, “Well, we want to talk to you about the experience you’re providing.” It actually becomes more permeated through the organization, becomes embedded into their DNA and how they view working with the customer and providing the experience.

Joey Coleman: I feel like that scene from Jerry Maguire. Kurt, you had me at empathy. I totally agree and I love that idea of journey mapping being a core competency, so true. Well, as we had a feeling, leading into this conversation, the three of us could talk for hours and hours about this, but to me, the big takeaway is, if you don’t have a chief experience officer in your organization, you need to get one. You need to have someone who, like Kurt Schroeder, our chief experience officer at Avtex Solution and our guest for our fireside chat conversation today, you need to have somebody who wakes up in the morning and thinks about, “How do we continually improve and deliver the experience for our customers? How do we find more customers, win more customers, keep more customers and do more for those customers?” Think about the experience, every step of the way. Kurt, thanks so much for joining us for the conversation and being part of the Experience This Live.

Kurt Schroeder: Thank you. It was a pleasure being here.


Joey Coleman: Sometimes, a remarkable experience deserves deeper investigation. We dive into the nitty gritty of customer interactions and dissect how and why they happen. Join us while we’re Dissecting the Experience.

Dan Gingiss: Usually, when we talk about dissecting the experience, it’s a customer experience that we’re referring to. This segment’s going to be a little different, because we’re going to talk about a major nonprofit and the incredible donor experience it provides its supporters. charity: water ‘s mission is to provide fresh, clean drinking water to rural communities throughout the world, that previously did not have access to it. charity: water ‘s founder, the amazing Scott Harrison, not only recognizes this as a critical health and economic crisis, he also set out to literally change how charities work.

Joey Coleman: This is such a great story, Dan. You and I, I know, have been involved in many nonprofits over the years and I know we’ve also both heard Scott speak and we’ve both also specifically contributed to charity: water in the past. As I recall, someone did a little something with charity: water for their birthday this past year, do you remember?

Dan Gingiss: I did and I was proud to raise almost $1,800 for this wonderful organization, but let’s come back to that. Scott Harrison recognized that people generally don’t trust charities, so he did two huge things to combat that. First, he said, and I’m quoting, “I asked people what their objections were and we created a business model that would speak to those objections.” Unquote. Talk about leveraging the voice of the customer. That led to the second piece, which was his goal to ensure that 100% of all donations would go toward building wells throughout the world to provide fresh water. How did he end up covering his overhead? By ingeniously asking wealthy benefactors and celebrities to pay to support the business. He literally set up two bank accounts, one to cover operational expenses and the other to build the wells.

Joey Coleman: This is absolutely brilliant. It removes the trust barrier almost entirely, because people really worry about where their money is going, when they’re donating to nonprofits and charity causes and whether it will actually be spent on the initiative that they think they’re donating towards, as opposed to all the administrative fees. But, Scott didn’t stop there. He went on to partner with Google to display all of the wells that charity: water has built on an interactive map, so that donors can continuously track their water output. His team is also amazing at marketing and tying all of these things together.

Dan Gingiss: Yes, and that’s where I wanted to come back to my birthday. So, charity: water does an amazing job of storytelling, so donors can actually see the impact of their donations. Regular emails detail success stories from around the world. Videos show some of the poorest communities in the world literally seeing fresh water for the first time in their lives and bursting into tears of joy. The videos can be quite emotional, but the organization also came up with the idea of having people donate their birthdays to provide water. That’s exactly what I did last year. I asked my friends and family to donate to charity: water in lieu of getting me a gift for my birthday. 35 people stepped up to donate almost $1,800. Thousands of people aged five to 95 have done this, with some raising only a few dollars and others raising into the six figures.

Joey Coleman: All told, charity: water has raised more than $300 million, thanks to the generosity of more than a million people around the world. This has allowed them to bring clean drinking water to more than 29,000 villages serving more than 8.4 million people. I mean, folks, this is massive scale, but something I’d like to riff on briefly about my experience donating to Dan’s birthday. This was several months ago, and about two weeks ago, I received an email from charity: water saying that the funds had been deployed to the field. Now, the ironic thing, and please don’t take this wrong, Dan, I had donated to a number of causes over the last year. When I first got the email, I was like, “Wait a second, when did I donate to charity: water? Oh, I donated for Dan’s birthday.”

So, it kind of had a double hit, in the sense that it made me feel positive about my donation to charity: water and they said, “Look, here’s where we’re building the wells.” I was able to see exactly the progress they’re making, but it also made me remember my good friend Dan Gingiss and think positively about his birthday. Now, usually, in our very busy lives, the only time we think about somebody’s birthday is right around their birthday, either the day of their birthday or, if it’s somebody who’s really close to you, maybe the week or two weeks before. I thought this was really cool, that it brought me back into connection with my friend and that that reminder was made by the nonprofit that I’d supported.

Dan Gingiss: Yeah, I think that’s great and that’s part of what makes them so good at marketing. I mean, one of the objections that Scott heard from people, in terms of why they didn’t donate to charity, had to do with them not believing that their money actually went to a worthy cause. That people believe that it goes to the overhead or it pays giant salaries of the CEOs, et cetera. So, he’s made it a special mission to make sure that donors get to follow along and see their impact. Not just the impact around the world, but often, depending on what project you donate to, the impact of a specific community that your money has supported. So, I know, Joey, you got an email and I got an email recently about one community in Africa and there’s a story, there’s videos, there’s statistics about the amount of water that’s being pumped. It really gives you this feeling that the money you contributed made a difference. I think that is is absolutely huge.

Joey Coleman: It also doesn’t feel like the typical nonprofit output report. So often, when I’ve been involved in nonprofits in the past, when they share how your dollars have gone to work, what it ends up being is something that, it just reads really dry. It doesn’t read as being nearly as compelling as the ask was. As we mentioned earlier, charity: water’s team is filled with some brilliant marketers and they have a great design aesthetic. So, when I got this email, I remember very specifically stopping and reading the email and clicking through to the links to watch the video and being reminded that, “Oh, this was a small contribution on my part, that is having an enormous impact on the other side of the world, with this village that now has a well that previously had no access to clean drinking water.”

Dan Gingiss: So, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with my business?” I think the applicable takeaway here is to listen to your potential customer base, ask them what they like and don’t like, so you can, as Scott said, build a business model based on those objections. Then, keep communicating with customers, to let them know about their or your progress. This could be on a project that you’re working on together, if it’s a B2B arrangement or the status of their order, if you are a retailer. Please, if you are able, consider going to charitywater.org and supporting this incredibly worthy cause.


Joey Coleman: Sometimes, all it takes is a single question to get your company thinking about an improved customer experience. Here’s an idea for how you can Start the Conversation.

Dan Gingiss: This week’s Start the Conversation topic is; the actual cost of poor customer experiences. It’s common knowledge that poor customer experiences can cost businesses financially, both in terms of lost customers and prospects, as well as in the loss of repeat transactions. Poor customer experiences can cost a business far beyond the dollars and cents however. They can also lead to a damaged reputation, unhappy employees and staffing challenges, and the inability to effectively launch new products. Certainly, the monetary costs of poor experiences is a driving force for many leaders, but these other factors are just as important, as they can lead to a cascading financial impact.

Joey Coleman: In order to gauge the impact of poor customer experiences, organizations need to pay attention to online reviews, customer retention rates, repeat purchase trends and social media conversations.

Dan Gingiss: I would add to that, that they need to pay attention to the news media and the coverage thereof, and also the importance of responding in a crisis. I’ve written about this quite a bit, that when a crisis is happening, one of the things that people are seeking the most is information. They want their fears to be relieved, they want to understand that you have the situation under control. Too often, companies in the middle of a crisis burrow themselves in their office and hide out, hoping the crisis goes away, rather than coming out in public and confronting it, which I think is a really big mistake.

Joey Coleman: Now, for this week’s question about the actual cost of poor customer experiences. How much are poor customer experiences impacting our bottom line? We encourage you to start the conversation within your own organization and then continue it with Avtex, at experienceconversations.com. That’s the website experienceconversations.com … 


Joey Coleman:  Sometimes, a remarkable experience deserves deeper investigation. We dive into the nitty gritty of customer interactions and dissect how and why they happen. Join us while we’re Dissecting the Experience.

Dan Gingiss: I found this amazing story about Ally Bank that is almost a year old, but I purposely waited to share it in this episode. Nearly every customer service call ends with the same question, or some variation. “Is there anything else I can do to help you today?” Ally decided to find out what would happen if they actually granted whatever requests the customer said next, after that question. According to a story on its website, Ally says that, and I quote, “On a day we dubbed Banksgiving, we gave thanks to our customers by fully delivering on that basic question and surprising unsuspecting customers with whatever they needed.” Unquote. Now, do you see why I waited until this episode?

Joey Coleman: Uh-huh (affirmative) very sneaky, Dan, because it ’tis the season for giving thanks. I heard about this story too and I agreed that it is absolutely awesome. So, on Banksgiving, customer service agents surprised unsuspecting customers who had called in, by asking that standard question and then actually fulfilling the results. There were simple needs, like help with fall yard cleanup and a holiday visit to see the family and larger requests that could touch the lives of many, many people. They granted wishes big and small, from $25 gift cards to $55,000 to help a customer who helps others.

Dan Gingiss: There’s a terrific video that Ally put together that we will share in the show notes, at www.experiencethisshow.com, but I think this story is really great for two reasons. It’s a great example of a true surprise and delight moment for Ally’s customers, it’s also, though, a fun and empowering activity for Ally’s customer service agents. I think that when you’re able to do good things for both sides of the equation, both sides end up winning. When you have empowered agents that are able and allowed to help customers, and in this particular case, really provide a surprise and delight moment, it makes their job more fun, which makes them happier and makes them appear happier to customers. Of course, the customers got a real surprise, because they answered a question that is usually a rhetorical question, and in this particular case, it turned out to be real.

Joey Coleman: You know, Dan, when I was a kid, one of the lessons that I remember my dad really trying to instill in us, was that you need to remember that people love helping other people. That it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to ask for things. That’s what came up for me when we were talking about this story. I remember years ago, it used to be when you flew, you went to the airport, they printed out your ticket and they assigned your seat when you were checking in your luggage. There weren’t apps, you didn’t log in online. I realize I’m dating myself here a little, folks, but one of the things I adopted early on when I was traveling a lot is, when they asked me whether I would want a window seat or an aisle seat, I would always say, “I’d love an aisle seat in first class, if it’s available.”

The agent would kind of look up, realize what I had just asked, because it caught them off guard, I’m on a coach ticket, I’m asking for a first class seat. I kid you not, 80% of the time, they would smile and print out the first class seat. Now, that wouldn’t happen today, most likely, but the point I’m making is, when we give our employees the opportunity to exercise their own discretion for what type of things they reward and when they reward them, that’s how you create a culture of customer experience.

I also love the fact that in this story, Ally Bank, I mean, let’s be candid, banks aren’t notorious for giving away money. They’re not notorious for giving away prizes, or if they do, they’re usually, “Hey, everybody who opens a checking account gets a free toaster.” You know? It’s a kind of standard for everyone, as opposed to personalized. As we’ve talked about before, the personalization of the gift turns it into a surprise and delight moment that the customer will talk about. I know the customers that received these type of gifts from Ally Bank talked about it on social media. They talked about it in irregular media, this actually became a story because of the generosity of the bank.

Dan Gingiss: Yeah, I think there’s also a learning on the other side, which is for the customer. I’m going to quote my dad here, who loves to say, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” I think that’s sort of the summary of the story with you and the first class tickets. In this particular case, what I think is so interesting, is that the customers actually did have to ask for something. I mean, most of the time, when someone says, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” It’s like, “No thanks. Have a great day.” Somehow, they elicited from customers, “No, really, is there anything else I can do for you today?” My guess is that this one guy said, “Well, I could really use $55,000, to help the soup kitchen that I run.” Then, the agent says, “Okay, done.” The guy had to have fallen out of his chair.

Joey Coleman: Right, right. Well, and probably didn’t believe it in the beginning. Was like, “Yeah, yeah. Right, sure.” Almost, the trust would run the other way then, right? Because the perception is, “Well, if you say you’re going to do it, are you really going to do it?” And then, when they did, I imagine it was magical.

Dan Gingiss: Yes, but this whole idea of, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” Is important, because sometimes, when you do find an employee of a company who is empowered and who is sort of willing to play ball with you, you can get a lot, as long as you’re willing to ask for it. Some people are too sheepish to even ask for it.

Joey Coleman: I also love that we’ve now had the chance to reference both of our dads and the things they used to say when we were growing up.

Dan Gingiss: Exactly.

Joey Coleman: So, good job, dads.

Dan Gingiss: Thank you, dads. Yep. So, the takeaway here is that not every company has the budget to do something like this, but you can still surprise and delight your customers or clients in meaningful ways, without breaking the bank. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our North American listeners, we give thanks for you.

Joey Coleman: Wow. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Experience This.

Dan Gingiss: We know there are tons of podcasts to listen to, magazines and books to read, reality TV to watch. We don’t take for granted that you’ve decided to spend some quality time listening to the two of us.

Joey Coleman: We hope you enjoyed our discussions, and if you do, we’d love to hear about it. Come on over to experiencethisshow.com and let us know what segments you enjoyed, what new segments you’d like to hear. This show is all about experience. We want you to be part of the Experience This Show.

Dan Gingiss: Thanks again for your time and we’ll see you next week for more-

Joey Coleman: Experience-

Dan Gingiss: This.

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