Lesson from Driven to Delight – Forget the Competition, Remember Your Customers

This is a guest post from Dr. Joseph Michelli, the New York Times best-selling author. It features a story about Mercedes-Benz from his latest book, Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way

Driven to DelightI’ve long been a believer that we should spend more time building strategy to meet and exceed customer expectations, and less time devising tactics to counter the efforts of our competitors. Don’t get me wrong. Any good SWOT analysis considers the competitive set but ULTIMATELY we are in business to serve customers, not outwit the competition. It is by strengthening our relationship with our customers that we enjoy repeat business, sustained profits and referrals.

Thought leader Seth Godin also has a laser focus on customers. In fact, Seth has been known to ask a provocatively simple question: “Who are your customers?” Dismissing the usual sterile and demographic-focused answers, he challenges us all to think about customers in a more relatable way. “What do they believe? Who do they trust? Who are their friends? What do they talk about?” Imagine…knowing your customers so intimately and then catering your business to them, irrespective of what “the other guys” are doing.

By getting to know your customers in an unparalleled way, you are likely to differentiate your business and your strategy from brands that are constantly selling. Let me give you some examples of transformative processes deployed by a company for whom I have had the good fortune of consulting and about whom I have recently written a book titled Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way.

Mercedes-Benz is at the pinnacle of excellence when it comes to engineering innovation, safety and marketing, but the company’s “product-centricity” had left it somewhat lacking when it came to knowledge of what their customers wanted in a dealership experience. As such, Mercedes-Benz USA was performing at a very mediocre level on customer surveys such as those conducted by JD Power. During the process of building a “customer-obsessed” culture, leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA addressed a host of human, process, and technology-based initiatives. When it comes to “knowing their customer,” two particular initiatives are worthy of emulation, DaSH and LEAD:

DaSH – How do your customers and your employees differ? Leaders at Mercedes-Benz USA asked their employees that question and found a sizable number of the people who represented the brand hadn’t spent considerable time behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. In the absence of shared experiences, prejudices and assumptions creep-in and some staff begin to think that “anyone who buys an S-Class is all about prestige, status, or power.” DaSH changed that! DaSH stands for Drive a Star Home (the “star” is a reference to the Mercedes-Benz logo) which availed a Mercedes-Benz vehicle for brand representatives to use over multiple days. Not only did employees enjoy the safety, performance and special driving experience provided by Mercedes-Benz vehicles, they also came to understand why people (like themselves) choose to make other financial compromises in order to own a Mercedes-Benz.

LEAD – LEAD stands for Listen, Empathize, Add Value and Delight. LEAD is the anchor for skills development necessary to identify and connect with peers and customers. Everyone representing the Mercedes-Benz USA brand is trained and re-trained to listen for understanding, assess the emotional experience of customers and connect with their experience, and add value beyond the transactional level. When each of those actions are provided to a customer and when you authentically welcome customers back for your next opportunity to serve them, customers feel “known” and “delighted.”

Mercedes-Benz USA gets it!

Without shared experiences for staff and customers, and a team trained to listen, emotionally connect, and serve – what is company or brand? I guess the entire model for business would reduce itself to a commoditized game of out-pricing and out-maneuvering the competition – that doesn’t seem like a game worth playing to me! How about you?


Joseph A Michelli, PhD, CSP, is an internationally sought-after speaker, consultant, and New York Times No 1 best-selling author. You can find more information about him at www.josephmichelli.com.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Steve Cannon is the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. He is the former VP of Marketing for the brand. Two things I love about Steve,

1. He has said, “Customer experience is the new battleground

2. He has staked his legacy as CEO on customer experience.

Here’s a video of Steve at Forrester talking about investing in the DaSH program:

We Mean Business Interview – Discussing the Power of G.L.U.E. to Win Customers

During a recent trip to DC I had the opportunity to be a guest on the TV show, “We Mean Business.” The show just aired on Channel 16 on MMC-TV.

Here is the conversation with Steve Dorfman from Driven to Excel:

Here are some of things we talked about:

  1. G.L.U.E. What does it stand for and how was it inspired?
  2. “GLUE” experience of a Target customer…
  3. You have another great story about Panera Bread …
  4. For those business owners who might be wondering, does this translate into dollars or is it just good will? Are the results quantifiable?
  5. Tell us about the role that employee engagement plays in all of this.
  6. What about the frontline employee who’d rather not give a little extra to that “rude” customer?
  7. You say that what we see as common sense is not always common practice. Why is that?
  8. You say that it’s all about reaching the hearts of our customers. Where does one begin, when it comes to developing this type of culture?
  9. Do you have a favorite interview question that helps to find a culture fit?
  10. Your background is in marketing – when and why did you pivot and niche?
  11. You say that nobody meets customer expectations?
  12. Some leaders are still of the belief that their employees should feel lucky just to have a job. What would you like to say to those leaders?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is Daniel Pink on We Mean Business talking about his most recent book, To Sell is Human. I just mentioned Dan in my latest blog post in Forbes about purpose.

Want a Job at Google? Why it’s Almost Ten Times Harder Than Getting into Harvard

This post by Stan Phelps was originally featured on Forbes:

It’s almost ten times harder to get a job at Google than it is to get into Harvard.  With more than two million applicants a year, it seems like everyone wants to work at the search giant. Is it because it was crowned the “Happiest Company in America”?  In 2011, CareerBliss.com ranked Google No. 1 after more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews from more than 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

Getting a job at Google is equivalent to running the gauntlet. They have the reputation of  having a tough application process. Just how hard it is to land a job at Google? Here’s an inside look courtesy of Staff.com:

Credit: Staff.com

Credit: Staff.com

You don’t become the happiest company by mistake. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Let’s explore 15 reasons why:

1. Dollars and Sense. With billions of dollars in revenue every year, Google pays some some the highest average salaries in the tech industry.

2. On Purpose.  Google has always pursued a noble cause. The company conducts business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Here is Founder Larry Page talking about both purpose and the theory of abundance:

We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company … Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.

3. Caring. No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment for employees. Actions speak louder than mere words. Why is caring so important to the company? According to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock:

“It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t.  And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.”

4. Creative Outlet. Google allows its employees the option to use up to 20% of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20% time program. Last year Quartz reported that 20% time had been abolished, but Google responded saying it’s very much alive and kicking.

5. A Voice. The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes . According to a post by Diana Ransom:

Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. “It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,” she says. “Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.

6. Benefits Beyond the Grave. There is a Google Perk that extends into the afterlife. Should a U.S. Googler pass away while working for Google, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their nearly 40,000 employees qualify.

7. Modern Family. Google gives employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is shouldering the burden of paying this tax by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple.

8. Bathrooms. Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around. These Japanese imports offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference.

9. Kingpin. The company knows how to roll. Google has a bowling alley for employees.

10. Training & Development. Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles and conflict resolution, among others.

11. Wellness. The Googleplex has some interesting lap pools. The outdoor mini-poolsare like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head.

12. Team Building. Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around.

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(Photo credit: Marcin Wichary)

13. Collaborative Space. According to Jonathan Strickland:

Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product.

Google Campus

Google Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. Food & Beverage. Is the way to an employee’s heart through their stomach? One of the most oft-cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place, which takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead. Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks.

15. Openness and Transparency. One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Google is the poster child for my second book, What’s Your Green Goldfish. The book explores the 15 ways to drive employee engagement and reinforce culture. Here an overview via Slideshare:

The Impact of The Hollywood Model on the Social Age Workplace

Guest post by co-author of “A World Gone Social” Ted Coiné:

Social Age employment is an entirely different animal from what we all grew up with: the Industrial Age myth of lifetime employment within very large corporations.

Specifically, we call that myth the “40-40-40 Plan” where we as employees work 40 hours a week for 40 years to retire at 40% pay through a pension. The reality is however, that model only really lasted from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. Yet we still seem to think that is the way life works. We are wrong. Dead wrong.

Welcome to the Social Age

a world gone social book

In the Social Age, we’re already walking away from that shattered paradigm by the millions. And at least in a healthy economy, this can be a good thing for all concerned.

Instead of thinking of employment in terms of working one’s way up a corporate hierarchy, what we’re already seeing what we refer to in A World Gone Social as the “nano” business unit: small, self-forming teams of professionals who come together for a project, get the work done, then disassemble, individuals moving singly or in small groups to the next project.

Rather than lifetime employment within a large bureaucracy, nano means lifetime self-employment – very similar to the way work has been done in the movie industry for decades.

The Hollywood Model

Ever stick around at a movie to watch the closing credits? See all those names scrolling by? There’s a good reason for that…

Hundreds of team members come together for several months, or even years, to make the movies we watch. Then the film is “in the can”—and the teams who made the film are done, too. While the director, cinematographer, and members of the cast may go on to work together several more times, the crew for this particular film disassembles just as fast as it formed; individuals and small teams go off to their next project.

The Hollywood model—even when making blockbusters with budgets of $300 million—is all about nano.

What About Legacy Corporations?

How about our legacy enterprises? Can they do the same?

Can they assemble large project teams from individuals and small groups, create something for the enterprise to sell, and then disassemble just as fast? Can each team member move nimbly to the next project, with a new creative force driven by different passions; different motivations?

Nano Has Already Begun

Actually, we’re already well on our way there.

If you look at the history of the corporation, what you saw for much of the early years was the drive to employ every possible job function in-house. But as early as the 1970s, this acquisitive urge began to diminish, and the fringe role of consultants became more commonplace.

Look at how most companies operate today. Walk the halls of most workplaces, and it’s often hard to tell who is a full-time employee and who’s a contractor, a consultant, an intern, or an outsourced service provider. Where once the megacorporation existed, today numerous individuals and companies come together to get work done.

Is it so hard to extrapolate, to follow this trend to one possible conclusion, which is the existence of thousands of small companies, or at least independent business units, where once there was one?

Think about what that means—what needs to happen, to make that happen.

This workplace revolution would require a culture-wide entrepreneurial mindset. A way of thinking we haven’t seen since cottage weavers were forced to walk away from the loom. A way of doing business not witnessed since the farmer walked off his land to find factory work in the city.

Can we do it?

The Social Age is still very new. But as we see more and more organizations – from the smallest non-profit to the largest corporation embrace nano – and the Hollywood working model – we are optimistic!

Ted CoineAbout the Author: Ted Coiné is the Chairman and Founder of SwitchandShift.com, which works with leadership to focus on the human side of business, and he is host of The Human Side TV, where he interviews the most fascinating minds in business each week. One of the most influential business experts on the Web, Ted has been top-ranked by Forbes, Inc., SAP Business Innovation, and Huffington Post as a top mind in the fields of business leadership, customer experience, and social media. Ted is a three-time CEO and a popular keynote speaker with over 350,000 followers on Twitter – and growing rapidly.

Together with Mark Babbitt, they released their book A World Gone Social on September 22, 2014.

Editor’s Note: I received an advanced copy of A World Gone Social. I was proud to share the following review on Amazon:

We are living in a great time of change. There are two types of people in this world: those who thrive by adapting and those that get swept away by change. Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt provide a playbook on how to drive engagement. They’ll teach you how to leverage the collective creativity and passion from within your organization. Read A World Gone Social and you’ll be prepared to lead in the new social age.

TD Bank Canada Leverages the Awesome Power of Thank You

This post was originally featured here on Forbes:

It was a good Friday for both employees and customers of TD Bank. [TD stands for Toronto Dominion] Last month over 20,000 TD employees across Canada distributed green envelopes containing a $20 bill to every customer in more than 1,100 TD branches. In addition, thousands of others using TD phone and online banking service were informed that they would receive a deposit directly into their accounts. A total of 30,000 customers were surprised and delighted.

A few more customers were in store (or in branch) for a much bigger surprise. TD placed a special ATM in their respective branches. According to the Examiner, a TD spokesperson stated “over a dozen customers across Canada received a special customer thanking experience at their local branch through the Automated Thanking Machine (TM), such as trips, experiences, RESP contributions etc.” These experiences were captured in this heartwarming YouTube video entitled,  Sometimes you just want to say thank you #TDThanksYou

Since its release, the video has received over 10 million views. It has also went viral on Facebook. This post by IJReview has been shared over 200,000 times.

“A thank you can change someone’s day, so that’s why we have been surprising our customers across Canada, to say ‘TD Thanks You,” said Tim Hockey, President and CEO, TD Canada Trust. “We know Canadians have a lot of choice when it comes to where they bank, and we wanted to say that we appreciate that they continue to choose TD.”

TD employees greet customers with a surprise thank-you appreciation event and hand out a green envelope containing $20 to each customer - a small gift to say "Thank You." (Credit: CNW Group/TD Canada Trust)

The “little extra” is the norm at TD Bank. TD is the sixth largest bank in North America. In addition to providing great service, TD Bank differentiates itself through convenience.

They are a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer. Jim Donofrio contributed to the Project and pointed out this school of purple goldfish from TD:

– Open 7 days a week in an effort to be America’s Most Customer Friendly bank

– Green pens with the TD Bank logo. They can be found everywhere… from a local restaurant to a large scale charity event.

– Penny Arcade. The first thing you see when you walk through the door.  Change your pennies into dollars for free.

– No barriers between you and the tellers within the bank. This promotes a friendly atmosphere.

– Green lollipops for the kids and dog biscuits for Rover. Everyone leaves with a smile on their face and a wagging tail.

There is tremendous power in the simple act of saying thank you and gifting. Demonstrating warmth and competence by doing the little extra pays dividends. Cited in the book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish, a study published in the International Journal of Marketing Studies revealed that greeting and gifting before purchase could increase consumer spending by 46%. Here is a summary of the findings by authors H.H. Friedman and Ahmed Rahman:

An experiment was conducted in a restaurant to determine the effects of a small gift upon entry and greeting customers with a thank you for their patronage. Two types of gifts were used: a cup of yogurt and an inexpensive key chain. The authors found that providing a gift upon entry into a store had an impact on how much was spent, on the performance rating, and on how strongly the establishment would be recommended. This study did not find any differences between gifts: a gift of a cup of yogurt had the same impact as a key chain. The difference in amount spent between the group that was not greeted or given a gift and the group that was greeted and given a cup of yogurt was 46.4%, a considerable amount. The authors conclude that retailers should greet customers who enter their stores and, if possible, provide a small gift.

Are you leveraging the power of the gift? Like TD Bank, perhaps its time to say “thank you.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra added for good measure) – Here is Tim Hockey and a bunch of other TD Bankers participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Nice job laying down the gauntlet for the other Canadian banks:

Stan Phelps is a popular keynote speaker, bestselling author and experience architect. Connect with him on Twitter @9inchmarketing.

Customer Experience in Pharma is About Winning the Hearts of Customers

This post was originally published on eye for pharma by Deirdre Coleman on May 1st:

In the new value-based health economy, pharma companies must understand the characteristics of next-generation consumers, who want to take increasing control of their own treatment, to become co-pilots rather than passengers in drug purchase and usage decisions.

Credit: Starbucks.com

Credit: Starbucks.com

“To build an enduring, sustainable, long-term business and consumer brand, it’s not about fancy marketing, it’s about establishing a very powerful and an unusual emotional relationship with the customer” – Howard Shultz, Starbucks

The next generation of consumers is reshaping the pharmaceutical industry much as they have transformed other industry sectors. Customers want their preferences and behaviors understood and acted upon, constantly demanding more and actively communicating dissatisfaction if their needs aren’t met. As consumers take on more risk and responsibility in their healthcare, they’re migrating from a passive recipient to a joint participant in drug purchase and usage decisions. They have edged ahead in terms of their demands and expectations and traditional pharma marketing efforts are ill-equipped to address their needs and values. In the future, medication will increasingly be designed to appeal to a particular segment’s preferences, rather than everyone’s symptoms. How can you encourage people to have as great an affinity for their favorite brand of medication as they do for their favorite brand of car? What can you do—beyond the pill itself—to encourage people to pick your brand?

Exceeding Expectations

According to best-selling author, keynote speaker and customer experience architect, Stan Phelps, putting the emphasis on customer engagement and lifetime value rather than acquisition is key to future commercial growth. “I founded 9 Inch marketing in 2009 and our philosophy is focused on the value of customer experience as a competitive differentiator and the importance of employee engagement in building a strong corporate culture. For far too long, the overwhelming majority of marketing has fixated on the eyes and ears of the prospect. Not enough has been focused on creating experiences for current customers that drive referrals and create advocates. Great customer experience is about being so remarkable that people can’t help but talk about you; that if you absolutely delight someone – they will not only come back, but they’ll bring their friends. To me, you are never meeting consumers’ expectations you are either exceeding them or you are disappointing them. In a world where 60-80% of customers describe their customer satisfaction as satisfied or very satisfied before going on to defect to other brands, ‘meeting expectations’ is no longer an option. Behavioral psychologists have long argued that only 30% of human decisions and behaviors are actually driven by rational considerations. This means that more than 70% of consumer loyalty and spending decisions are based on emotional factors. Three primary drivers of engagement are personalization, relevancy and superior customer experience.”

Insight Cultivates Connection

Pharmaceutical companies can go beyond the one-way mirror in analyzing consumers, delving into their behavior and motivations. Patients are benchmarketing their healthcare experiences against their experiences with Amazon, Starbucks and JetBlue. Pharma companies will need to face the reality that the bar is set very high in terms of peoples’ expectations of personalisation, convenience and service”.

Many pharmaceutical and life sciences companies have relied on traditional techniques of using demographics such as gender, insurance status, age, and health condition to segment the types of patients best suited for their products. But too often that approach to customer segmentation misses individual attitudes and behaviors, resulting in an incomplete picture of the consumer. “Pharmaceutical companies can go beyond the one-way mirror in analyzing consumers, delving into their behavior and motivations. Patients are benchmarketing their healthcare experiences against their experiences with Amazon, Starbucks and JetBlue. Pharma companies will need to face the reality that the bar is set very high in terms of peoples’ expectations of personalisation, convenience and service. Patients live in a world where they can do everything (banking, shopping) over the phone, where they get pinged on their mobile when their order is ready. That’s elevating the bar for the entire healthcare industry. Patients don’t always act rationally and they may not make their healthcare decisions based on best outcomes – take for example Cleveland clinic. The chief factor determining people’s selection of a hospital was patients’experience (41%), followed by physician’s decision (21%), reputation (20%) and location (18%). Patients are making decisions everyday to change healthcare providers and facilities based on the information they hear from friends, family, online and in their community.  Very quickly, a hospital or practice can become “known” for providing a certain level of patient experience, either good or bad. Consumers want their medication experience to be personalized and meaningful. If theirexpectations are met, they’re more likely to follow the proper course of treatment for longer. Whether a consumer is starting a new therapy, managing a chronic condition, or juggling multiple treatments, evaluating their needs throughout the patient journey is critical to delivering experiences that resonate with the patient”, remarks Phelps.

Customer Experience: 5 Things that Lead to an Exceptional Customer Experience

Companies don’t emotionally engage with their customers – people do. Marketing needs to become more about employees and customers and how to connect more and less about quarterly reporting and campaigns. Companies that have engaged employees grow up to three times faster than others with a company with less engaged employees.”

1)     Employees First

“I would argue that putting the employees first, customers second and shareholders last is a winning formula for any organization looking to succeed. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals, resulting in the use of discretionary effort. Satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers. Because satisfied employees care more, they are more productive, give better service, and even stay in their jobs longer. All of that leads to happier customers, who buy more and refer more often, which drives sales and profits higher, finally resulting in an increase in stock price. Companies don’t emotionally engage with their customers – people do. Marketing needs to become more about employees and customers and how to connect more and less about quarterly reporting and campaigns. Companies that have engaged employees grow up to three times faster than others with a company with less engaged employees. Employee engagement can be a competitive differentiator. Becoming a best place to work soon attracts the best customers.”

2)    Driving Loyalty & Retention

“Traditional marketing is all about building awareness for products and brands. The emphasis is on getting new customers, and very little attention is paid to retaining existing customers. The way to accomplish “more” is through added-value. It works by giving customers unexpected extras. Those extras improve the brand, drive loyalty, and promote referrals. Referrals are key. Referred customers are four times more valuable than customers acquired by other means. Why? A referred customer spends twice the amount of money and refers twice the number of customers than non-referred customers do. Unless you spend a lot of time in Louisiana, you likely haven’t heard the term ‘lagniappe.’ But this Creole aphorism has the power to transform your business. Defined as “the gift” or “to give more,” lagniappe represents the potential to turn customers into your largest sales force by exceeding expectations. According Gartner research, decreasing customer churn by just five percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 125 percent. The reason is that it’s expensive to get new customers—it’s much easier and more sustainable to keep your current customers happy and sell them more products or services.”

3)    Outside-In Approach

“Really think about what’s important to the customers, and how you can make those things great in terms of delivery. Whether stretching beyond the bounds of segmentation and demographics or increasing the focus on behavioral insights, the industry must find a way to tap into its customers’ nuanced lives to offer an enhanced personalized experience. Patients want personalized care and real-time feedback. They want to be treated as active participants in their care and treatment and they are demanding convenient, cost-effective solutions.”

4)    Give Little Unexpected Extras (G.L.U.E.)

what's your purple goldfish“Shifting your focus away from awareness and acquisition towards the customer experience and retention is a mindset change that pays dividends. My book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish is based on the Purple Goldfish Project, a crowd sourcing effort that collected over 1,001 examples of signature added value. if you are not willing to differentiate yourself by creating valuable experiences or little touches that do ‘above and beyond’ for your customer, you will languish in the sea of sameness. Creating small unexpected extras can go a long way to increasing retention, promoting loyalty and generating positive word of mouth.”

5)    Handling Mistakes

“Mistakes are part of doing business. How you handle the fumble determines whether or not you will recover the ball (or business). Showing a little empathy and a willingness to go the distance can make all the difference.  Johnson and Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol tampering crisis is an example of how to get it right. The company immediately alerted consumers across the nation, via the media, not to consume any type of Tylenol product. They told consumers not to resume using the product until the extent of the tampering could be determined. Johnson & Johnson, along with stopping the production and advertising of Tylenol, recalled all Tylenol capsules from the market. The recall included over 30 million bottles of Tylenol, with a retail value of more than 100 million dollars. They offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that had already been purchased. It was estimated that millions of bottles of Tylenol capsules were in consumers homes at the time. Although this proposition cost Johnson & Johnson millions more dollars, and there may not have been a single drop of cyanide in any of the capsules they replaced, the company made this choice on their own initiative in order to preserve their reputation. Their ethical approach and their commitment in putting humans above profits made a heroic event out of a catastrophic event.”

Empowered patients are wanting – and taking – more control. The focus on customers’ experiences will require seamless collaboration between healthcare providers, pharmacists, insurers and pharmaceutical companies and a choice of treatment options. Customers are reacting with increasingly high expectations of the industry shaped by experiences in other sectors.The pharmaceutical industry’s challenge is to create similarly meaningful experiences across the patient journey. The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via the Internet allows every customer to build and expect a relationship with your business, rather than just touchpoints. Engagement and an emotional connection will make a customer relationship the driving force for loyalty and differentiation. Is it time to get emotional?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Empathy in healthcare is key. Seeing things through your patients eyes and being aware of their thoughts and feelings. This is a MUST SEE video by the Cleveland Clinic. “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes . . . hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?”

Southwest Airlines does a creative little extra for a passenger

Southwest AirlinesMy good friend Keith Green of Synergy sent me a creative example this week. He was flying Southwest Airlines from Liberty in Newark to Midway in Chicago.

Here’s what happened in Keith’s words,

Southwest birthday cake“The flight attendant came on near the end of flight, called out passenger out by name asked him to ring his call bell. He did and the flight attendant explained that they knew it was his birthday. She then asked everyone to turn on their call buttons, lighting them up as candles and asked we all sing happy birthday. After we did we all turned off our call buttons to “blow out” the candles. They then delivered a bottle of champagne to the guy. Nice touch.”


According to VP of Airport Affairs, Bob Montgomery, “Southwest’s employees have fun on the job.” He believes that is among the reasons for the airline’s financial success.

“Because of our great people and the culture that we have here, they just simply work harder and more effectively. It’s impossible to put a number on the benefit that that gives us.”

Bringing Your Personality to Work

Southwest encourages employees to bring their personality to work. They also empower them to make decisions that put the customer first. Here are a handful of examples of how they’ve stepped up in the past:

southwest-love1. Holding a plane for a passenger going to see their dying grandson.

2. Recognizing the artistic efforts of a young passenger.

3. Stepping up to help a customer with a special need with JOY.

4. Party with a purpose.

5. A flight attendant rapping pre-flight instructions.

According to Dr. Fathi El-NadiSouthwest‘s relaxed culture can be traced back to unconventional CEO Herb Kelleher. Kelleher encouraged informality and wanted staff to have fun at their jobs. Employees were valued, with Kelleher acknowledging births, marriages and deaths by notes and cards. Staff were encouraged to pitch in and help out, especially at check-in, giving Southwest turnaround times less than half the industry average.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Southwest is a Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer. They’ve also shown up as an example of a customer-centric organization in this slideshare:

Does your company love you enough to deal with your dirty laundry?

nextjump_logo_blackEmployees at Next Jump in New York City are routinely asked the following question,

“How can we make things better for you to be happier at home or at work?”

Once a response shows up a couple of times, the company looks into the viability of the suggestion. A few years ago employees complained about the need to do their laundry on the weekends. It turns out that an afternoon every other weekend was wasted in laundromats around the city.

Founder Charlie Kim looked into the possibility and decided to offer wash and fold as an employee benefit. According to the Next Jump website:

laundrybagEmployees can drop off their laundry bag in the office on Fridays every week. Their laundry is washed, dried and folded over the weekend and can be picked up the following Monday. This program ensures maximum “strategic disengagement” for the employees. Instead of spending hours doing laundry every weekend, employees can have more time to rest and relax, ready to be energized for next week.

Next Jump came up with the motto: 

“My company gets my laundry, I get my weekends back.”

green-goldfish-15-ways-to-drive-engagement-300x248Next Jump also has a number of other (green goldfish) programs that work to reinforce the desired culture. Like Google, they hit on all cylinders whether its the Basics like recruiting, onboarding, food / beverage, space, wellness, modern family, time-away, Belonging like transparency, team building, recognition, flexibility, retirement and Building like training, pay it forward and empowerment.

I had the privilege of hearing Matt Tenney speak at a couple recent events. Matt is a thought leader around the topics of servant leadership and corporate culture. Here is Matt talking about Next Jump as part of a keynote. In addition to the laundry, Matt touches on Code for a Cause, The Avenger Award and Office Bedrooms and the amount of applicants at Next Jump:

ServeToBeGreatMatt is also the author of the upcoming May 5th Wiley release, “Serve to Be Great.”

TAKEAWAY – Take a cue from Next Jump, routinely ask your employees how you can better serve their needs at home or at work. Because happy engaged employees create happy enthused customers.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want to take a look inside Next Jump? Here’s a quick video by the folks at Wistia:

EXTRA, EXTRA March Newsletter – The Mardi Gras Edition


Greetings on Fat Tuesday. That’s the literal translation of “Mardi Gras.” Today caps the celebrations in New Orleans, the final day of revelry before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
At midnight tonight the bars close and the police will clear out the French Quarter. Another year of Mardi Gras will be in the books.
The colors in my trilogy are a direct reference to the official colors of Mardi Gras. The three colors were selected in 1892. Purple  stands for justice, Green for faith, and Gold for power.


Disney offers its best customers a little extra magic

On designated days, one of the Walt Disney World theme parks opens an hour early and two hours later. These times are called Disney’s extra magic hours. The added golden goldfish is for Disney Resort guests only.

Extra Magic Hours with Disney Characters
Extra Magic Hours with Disney Characters

Here’s a park guest interacting with Disney characters during an extra magic hour >>>

These resort guests are Disney’s best customers. They spend all their time on the property. Not only do they spend considerably more, but they stay longer and come back more often. The extra magic hours is just one of a handful of extra Disney benefits of staying on property:

  1. Skip the hassle of baggage claim! Resort Guests enjoy complimentary transportation for them and their bags between Orlando International Airport and the Disney Resort hotels, then back again at the end of their vacation.
  2. Stay close to the action. Resort guests can leverage complimentary transportation like monorails, ferryboats and motorcoaches.  As well as complimentary Theme Park parking for guests who are driving.
  3. Many shopping purchases can be delivered straight to the guests Disney Resort hotel so that you don’t miss a minute of fun!
  4. Guests have the option of having meals and snacks included with their vacation package.
  5. A variety of hotel options with extras. Hotels where you can splash down a pool slide to hotels where you can watch a movie under the stars…even hotels with Disney Character Dining.

TAKEAWAY: Disney says these little extras help guests stay close to the “heart of the magic.” How can you create special touches like Disney does? How are you making the experience memorable for your best customers? What’s Your Golden Goldfish?


I’ll be making stops this month in Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego.
March 6 – NC State / Alpha Kappa Psi (Raleigh)
March 9 / 10 – MENG Board Meeting (Chicago)
March 12 – FENG (Raleigh)
March 18 to 20 – Next Gen CX Conference (San Diego)
March 19 – MENG San Diego Keynote (La Jolla)
March 27 – TECNA CEO Retreat (Durham)
One event I’m looking forward to is Next Gen Customer Experience in San Diego. Launched in 2011, Next Gen brings together senior level customer experience executives across all industries to discuss the latest CX strategies across all channels and touch points. I’ll be moderating a panel on NPS on 3/20 at the event.

B2B Examples

Without exception, every time I speak about the Purple Goldfish I’m asked, “So – what if I work in B2B. How does it translate?”
The same principles apply. Here is a slideshare with some of the best B2B examples:


Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s a fun recap of the Oscars. Straight from the Triangle, it’s from the same folks who brought you “My Christmas Jammies“:

Oscars with the Holderness Family - #dayaftervideo
Oscars with the Holderness Family – #dayaftervideo

Free eBook Purple Goldfish 2/27, Free eBook Green Goldfish 2/28 #high5 #rwhrma

I have the honor of speaking at two awesome conferences in Raleigh this week.

High Five ConferenceThe first is High Five. The conference sponsored by the Triangle AMA is focused on the intersection of marketing and creative. Do yourself a favor and check out the hashtag #High5 on Twitter and Instagram. You can also check out a cool content hub designed by Arik Abel for the event. It’s on a platform called Everest Live. Awesome content from thought leaders such as Joseph Jaffe, Rohit Bhargava, Lane Becker, Spike Jones and Jeni Herberger.

Today I’ll be speaking about the importance of retention. I’ll be highlighting some of the findings from my first book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish – 12 Ways to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth. You can download the book for free until midnight PST on 2/27 by clicking here.

Here’s a preview:

strategic hr summit logo horizontalTomorrow the topic is employee engagement at the Raleigh Wake HRMA Strategic HR Summit. I’ll be sharing insights from my second book, What’s Your Green Goldfish – 15 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement and Reinforce Culture. You can download the book for free on Amazon all day on Friday, 2/28 until midnight PST by clicking here.

Here is a preview of Green:

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s some etiquette on how to give a High Five: