Peer Cross Training: What Is It And How Will It Improve Your Customer Experience and Employee Engagement?

Does the thought of aligning your entire company, improving your customer experience and increasing employee engagement interest you?

If so, this post is for you – I want to introduce you to peer cross-training as a way to improve alignment, customer experience and employee engagement in the next 30 days.

In this post I will outline what peer cross-training is, explain the benefits and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to host it for your company.

Receive a 7-Step Peer Cross-Training infographic to visualize the process and share with your team. Click here to get it delivered to your inbox.

But first, I want to share a few statistics on employee training and engagement that shows the positive ROI that organizations can experience when they take these concerns seriously:

  • 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their position within the first year. – Go2HR
  • Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%. – Gallup
  • 69% of employees report engagement is a problem in their organization. – Psychometrics

What is peer cross-training?

Peer cross-training is the practice of having one representative from each department host a presentation to their neighbouring departments. During these presentations the representative describes a day in the life of their team, as well as provides detailed descriptions of their motivations, challenges, measures of success/KPIs and goals.

Imagine you were to ask your marketing department:

“Can you describe what our call center agents do?” 

Would they have a detailed answer, one that adequately describes the ebbs and flows of a typical day in the department? Would they even be able to recite the service-level agreements or workforce management protocols of the call center? Or would they simply reply with:

“They answer calls from new and existing customers.”

You see, often our teams have a general idea of what their colleagues experience, but seldom do they have an in-depth understanding of what their neighbouring departments do to help customers and achieve their goals.

As a consultant, advisor and keynote speaker, my career is built on helping companies improve their customer experience and increase employee engagement. It was nearly a decade ago that I recognized that no company will ever reach their maximum potential in creating a world-class customer experience if their organization isn’t truly aligned.

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Why peer cross-training?

By appointing one member from each department (or more if you’re a large company) and asking them to build and host a presentation describing their department’s motivations and challenges, your company will experience the following benefits:

  • Employee engagement: It’s likely that your team has never hosted such an event before in their career and, if you’re hiring the right people, they will jump at the opportunity to describe what their department does to their neighbouring departments. Peer cross-training provides your team the ability to share how their department contributes to the overall success of the company.
  • Organization alignment: After hosting the workshops, each member of your company will walk away with an in-depth understanding of each department and clearly understand the end-to-end customer experience. How can you possibly achieve alignment if your departments don’t know what each other do?
  • Peer empathy: You will experience an increase in empathy after hosting peer cross-training. You will often here employees say, “I had no idea that’s what your monthly sales goals are!” or, “Oh, that’s why you need three days to complete that task.” This greater understanding only stands to benefit your employees’ intra-organizational relationships.
  • New initiatives: Sometimes asking someone who has an unbiased, unemotional opinion will lead to new, cutting-edge initiatives. Often we can become so entrenched in our day-to-day professional lives that we neglect to identify new opportunities to improve. Neighbouring departments, once they are exposed to every facet of what your team does, may be able to offer great ideas that your department can adopt.
  • Better customer experience: Your customers won’t truly experience a seamless customer experience until your company is aligned. By hosting peer cross-training, you will be one step closer to creating a fluid and frictionless customer experience for your customers.

FREE infographic that outlines the 7-Step Peer Cross-Training process. Receive it instantly by clicking here.

How to host peer cross-training?

I want to provide you with a step-by-step guide so that you can host peer cross-training for your company.

Step 1: Set goals for the initiative


How will you measure success?

When creating an initiative for your company, always outline the goals before you start building to ensure your team understands what success looks like. Your goals when hosting peer cross-training may include the following:

– Have attendees walk away with a deep understanding of other departments’ operations and customer experience. This can be measured by sending a short survey after the training sessions have been hosted.

– Improve your team’s presentation skills. The person or small team that hosts the presentations will walk away from the workshops with a newfound or improved skill set for presentations.

– Build and deploy a high-impact, medium-effort initiative within the next 30 days.

Before you go into ‘solution mode’ you must first outline the goals for your initiative.

Step 2: Outline follow-up plan


Like any initiative, you want to create a follow-up plan that will ensure the program is successful long after deployment, and in such a way that it builds off the momentum you have created. After you have hosted the workshops, I recommend that you do the following:

– Create awareness for the fact that the individuals who hosted the workshops are now the main point of contact for other departments when they have questions or commentary for the respective department

– Form an advisory council. In an earlier post I outlined how to create a Customer Advisory Board (CAB). The people who hosted the presentations will be each department’s representatives within this advisory board. This team should meet regularly; I recommend that they meet weekly or bi-weekly.

– Produce quarterly department reports, company-wide, that share each department’s initiatives and goals. By doing so, your entire company will be able to receive a snapshot of each department.

Following these three steps will increase the likelihood that the program is successful long after you host the initial peer cross-training sessions.

Step 3: Outline the education you want attendees to walk away with

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What type of knowledge from each department do you want your company to walk away with? Before you begin hosting your peer cross-training workshops you must outline exactly what you want your company to learn.

For example, you may want your entire organization to understand:
– What your sales team’s targets are
– What your service-level agreements are for your call center
– How your marketing team measures success for the content they produce

It’s highly recommended that you understand how each department contributes to the top and bottom line and communicate these metrics. Whatever is measured should be shared during peer cross-training.

Step 4: Select your single point of accountability (SPA)

 SPA 2

Who will be each department’s representative during cross-training? There are two ways to determine this. Please note that I’m not partial to either way; the choice really depends on how your company prefers to move forward with Step 4.

– Your leadership team can identify an individual from each department who would be a great fit to represent their team and offer this individual the opportunity. This person should exemplify leadership qualities and a strong desire to grow within the company. Often this person is someone that management is grooming for a leadership role or future promotion.

– You may follow a democratic approach by presenting the opportunity to each department and allow individuals to volunteer their services. After you have selected the SPA, be prepared to explain your decision to the individuals who were not selected. To ensure that your decision doesn’t negatively impact anyone’s morale, invite these individuals to help the SPA build their presentation and offer feedback.

When determining your SPA, it’s advised that the chosen person has the experience and tenure to effectively represent their department and that they feel comfortable presenting to their peers.

Michael Schneider inline

Step 5: Build presentations


Your SPAs will need time to build their presentations. Don’t ask them to do this on their own time. Instead, reserve a day to allow the peer cross-training team to get together and work in coordination to build their presentations.

I’ve hosted peer cross-training sessions with companies on-site, at their office, and even off-site at a hotel conference room. Later this year I will be hosting a peer cross-training session with a company that has rented out an entire home through Airbnb, which will host the team for the duration of the session.

The following content should be included within each presentation:

  • Department overview: What does the department do? What does a day in the life look like? How does the department measure success (i.e. KPIs, etc.)?
  • Customer success: How does the customer define success? What does the department do to achieve this success?
  • Barriers to success: What barriers does the department face in delivering a world-class experience? How does the department avoid or overcome these barriers?
  • Department collaboration: What departments do they regularly interact with? What’s the dynamic of these relationships?
  • Q&A: Reserve time for the SPA to answer any questions the audience may have.

Ensure that your SPAs are very specific. For example, you want them to communicate specific service-level agreements and key performance indicators in their presentation.

Step 6: Host presentations

presentations 2

Now that all the preparatory work has been completed, it’s time to have your SPAs host their presentations! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for scheduling presentations because each company has a different bandwidth.

For small and medium-sized companies, I recommend that the audience size for each presentation does not exceed 24 people. Presentations may be held over a few days, or longer, but don’t allow it to exceed two weeks as you may lose momentum.

For large-sized companies, it will be virtually impossible to schedule presentations due to the sheer number of people involved. In lieu of in-person presentations, consider having the SPA record videos that outline their presentation, which can then be shared system-wide.

Step 7: Debrief with team

Image of smart business people looking at their leader while he explaining something on whiteboard during seminar

As you would with any initiative or new program, you will want to debrief with your peer cross-training team after presentations have occurred. During your debrief period, it is the leadership team’s responsibility to understand the following:

  • What did the peer cross-training team enjoy about presenting to their peers?
  • Do they believe that the training material resonated with the audience?
  • Allow them to provide feedback on the process and approach that was designed to host the peer training program

You may also consider surveying the audience to understand the effectiveness of the program. I recommend using survey tools like TINYpulse or Survey Gizmo (both have free options).

Regardless of your company’s size or industry, peer cross-training is a high-value, medium-effort initiative that can align your company, improve your customer experience and increase employee engagement. The positive results you will achieve when hosting peer cross-training far exceeds the cost of resources that the initiative requires.

Last chance. Receive a 7-Step Peer Cross-Training infographic to get started today. Delivered, for free, to your inbox instantly. Click here.

VIDEO: What is Customer Experience?

If you were to walk around your workplace tomorrow and ask five employees,

“What is customer experience?”

What would happen? Would you:

a) Receive five identical answers

b) Listen to a debate amongst your team without an aligned response

c) Have your employees staring at you blankly

It might sound elementary but you would be surprised how many companies don’t know what customer experience actually is. If that’s the case, how are they suppose to create a world-class customer experience?

In this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • A Gartner study statistic that predicts customer experience innovation
  • My personal customer experience definition
  • A real-world example of customer experience that we can all relate to

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon


How Any Company Can Increase Employee Engagement to Drive Big Results with Their Customers

*This post originally appeared on*

How does your company acquire customers?

Sales, marketing, and business development teams are provided with the internal resources needed to succeed. Companies use traditional methods, such as radio, television, and print advertising, to increase their chances of converting new customers.

But none of the aforementioned tactics are where the greatest opportunity lies. To grow our businesses, we must look internally before we try to expand externally.

As a management consultant and keynote speaker, I’m trusted by companies of all sizes to look into their strategies and find new opportunities. Whether it’s a small business, or a billion-dollar brand with international recognition, the story is often the same: they want to grow their business or increase their profitability.

After looking at their yearly plans, I tend to see the same thing – traditional programs are given a lion’s share of the company’s operating budget, which produce good results that achieve quarter-over-quarter success. However, living quarter-over-quarter isn’t an advantageous position; the greatest companies in the world build programs to secure their livelihood for the next ten years, not the next ten weeks.

When I work with a company that is trying to grow their business, I NEVER start with customer acquisition or loyalty strategies. Instead, I respectfully challenge the company to build a stronger relationship with their employees before trying to influence something that is external to their business.

But how can companies of all sizes achieve this? There are three essential ways for any company to increase employee engagement.

Efficiently survey your employees

The world’s greatest athletes ask for feedback from their coaches and mentors to better themselves and make necessary adjustments. The same approach can be taken with your employees with great results. Despite the importance of asking employees for feedback, a lot of companies don’t actually gather it. A company called Critical Metrics found that around 90% of companies believe that gathering feedback from employees is important, yet only 30% have the processes in place to actually gather this feedback.

I highly recommend surveying employees to understand what makes them tick (and what ticks them off), so that you can embrace their feedback to drive change in your organization. The word ‘survey’ can have a negative connotation for some; we picture a long, outdated, and inefficient survey that takes employees forever to complete. In this day and age you can’t survey employees like this if you want to truly understand their motivations and challenges.

Whoever is responsible for gathering the feedback must take the next steps, which include:

  • Finding trends within the data and deciding what you are going to do with it
  • Quickly delivering the results back to the entire organization, with full transparency. Don’t let this data live within the C-Suite or management team
  • Surveying employees more than once a year. You must keep your finger on the pulse of your employee culture at all times.

Create meaning over delivering money

While it would be naive to assume that employees don’t want a competitive salary or monetary incentives, if you’re hiring correctly your employees will sacrifice a higher salary for a meaningful relationship with their company or boss. The idea that employee engagement is determined by financial incentives has long been disproven. A 2012 Aon Hewitt study, for example, found that the top engagement drivers for employees are career opportunities, recognition, and organization reputation.

When I got my start at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I worked within the call centre. I was earning a fair wage, but nothing worth glamourizing. Why did I enjoy my time with the company? For me, I really liked the culture of the company and the opportunities for growth.

Companies allocate incentive budgets and bonus programs for their sales teams to achieve greater results, which has been proven to work, but these incentives don’t tend to resonate with employees for very long. Why? The incentive they receive, be it cash, iPads, or vacations, can be spent very quickly, which erases the memory of their achievement. To genuinely create stronger relationships with our employees, and achieve greater business results, we must pull at their heart strings and make them emotional.

Whether you are the CEO, a sales manager, or customer service team lead, I recommend “hacking” your leadership style to find cost-effective ways to inspire your team. My recommended strategy is to block off 30 minutes a week on your calendar and set it as a recurring, non-negotiable meeting. For example, you may choose every Tuesday from 11:30am to 12:00pm. During this time you only have one responsibility: to identify someone on your team (or within another department) and acknowledge them for a personal achievement or for helping you achieve an outcome. This conversation can be done over coffee or lunch, sticking with the theme of being cost-effective. While hosting this conversation, there are a few rules that you should apply to make it a success for both parties:

  • Keep the “business talk” to a limit
  • Get to know them as an individual and not as an employee
  • Using Simon Sinek as inspiration, understand their “why”
  • Close the loop. Ask them outright, “Can I help you?” and deliver on any promises you make

If you hire correctly, this is what will inspire your salespeople to sell more, your PR professionals to pitch more effectively, your developers to code more efficiently, or your customer service staff to deliver better service.

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Understand that employee relationships are a long-term investment

Similar to our personal relationships, building memorable relationships with our employees takes time, but will ultimately create greater business results. After all, lifelong relationships with our friends or family aren’t cemented by successfully dropping someone off at the airport one time or helping them move. Rather, it takes many instances of goodwill to build strong relationships.

Too many organizations believe employee engagement is a campaign. For it to be truly successful it must be part of the DNA of the business. In addition, it takes a champion within the organization to advocate for the strategy and rally the organization by continuously talking about the subject, not just creating an initiative that happens once.

When thinking about how your company is going to sell more, market better, or deliver better service, consider what’s happening inside your organization before you look externally. It’s not a coincidence that companies like Airbnb, Starbucks, or ZenPayroll are achieving massive success. They are successful because they hold their employee engagement in high regard, becoming admired brands in the process.

Leave a comment below. Do you think these three tactics are achievable for all companies?

If you liked this post and learned a thing or two, I guarantee you will love my FREE ebook. Download it by filling out the form below.

5 Things Your Customer Experience Strategy Needs to be Successful

If you want your customers to truly become loyal to your service or product then your customer experience needs a strategy.

This blueprint needs the same methodical thought and processes that goes into a marketing or sales strategy.

It’s common for me to open my keynote speaking engagements by asking the audience two questions, so I can gain context around where they are at in their customer experience development plans. The first question is:

“Please raise your hand if you have created a marketing plan in your career to attract new customers.”

It’s typical for at least 75% of the room to raise their hands proudly.

The second question is as follows:

“Now, raise your hand if you have ever created a customer experience plan to acquire and retain new customers.”

I would estimate that only 2 to 5% of my audience has ever raised their hand.

You see, we are beginning to understand that customer experience must be a pillar in our business to become successful. What I’m hearing executives say when I work with companies is:

“What do we do next to improve our customer experience?”

Recognizing that this is a common question for many business professionals, from around the world, I hosted a webinar on this very topic on October 6th titled “5 Things Your Customer Experience Strategy Needs to be Successful.” You can download the recording of the webinar by clicking here. With 175 professionals from around the world having registered, I knew that this was a very important topic and needed answers.

Do you want the five steps outlined in a PowerPoint presentation? Click here to sign up and receive my slide deck, free of charge.


#1 – An Operational Flag-Bearer

You’ve heard it before: the CEO of the organization must lead the company’s customer experience. Let’s look for some evidence. Richard Branson visibly advocates customer experience at Virgin, Tony Hsieh promotes the experience at Zappos and Howard Schultz proudly defends Starbucks’ efforts.

RELATED VIDEOWhy the Best CEOs Invest in Customer Experience

While these CEOs are often in the media, talking about the company’s customer experience, they usually aren’t doing the work. That is why I included the word “operational” in this point. If an organization is going to have a strategic plan, it needs a leader that will get in the trenches, lead operational teams, and work on the strategy and deployment of the program.

To be successful, this leader needs a customer experience background or a burning desire to learn and lead. When my customer experience career began at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I didn’t have a formal background in customer experience. However, I compensated for this lack of formal education by self-educating myself for thousands of hours, learning from other organizations and discovering best practices.

This single point of accountability (SPA) must attend industry events to learn from others and continuously educate themselves. Here is a short list of great customer experience events from around the world. 

  • The IQPC hosts several premium customer experience and customer service events around the world.
  • CXPA is a leading association for customer experience professionals, hosting events for both members and non-members.
  • You may recognize Salesforce for their massive event, Dreamforce, but did you know that they also host events focused on customer service? Check the lists of their events here.
  • Aspect, a leading contact/call centre software provider, host an event titled ACE. While the date and location have yet to be announced, be sure to keep your eyes open for when it is.
  • Frost & Sullivan host contact centre and customer experience events in cities around the world.
  • Clarabridge hosts a yearly event in London called ‘Customer Connections’ that I’ve heard great things about.

Note: I would like to put together an exhaustive list of yearly customer experience events to share with my clients and email subscribers. Please email me ( to let me know of your annual event.

RELATED POST – 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs 

The CEO doesn’t have to lead, but they do have to believe in the influence customer experience has on the success of a business. Similar to marketing, sales, or business development, customer experience needs an operating budget, and it must be respectful enough to influence positive change. Your operational leader is going to need a budget to hire her team, purchase SaaS software, and cover other operational needs like an employee engagement budget.

#2 – Vision

If I wanted to drive from Vancouver (where I’m based) to Miami, Florida, I could do one of two things:

a) Get in my car and head southeast, hoping I get there in a decent amount of time and without spending too much on gas.


b) I could build a plan before I start my trip and well before I start driving. By doing so, I will get there faster and I’ll be well-rested (because I would have planned what states I would stay overnight in a hotel), all without spending too much on gas.

Ultimately, planning and having a vision for how you’re going to accomplish something helps you actually accomplish the goal rather than flying by the seat of your pants. Building a customer experience strategy is no different – you need a plan!

To build your vision, one that will help you succeed, you must ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. What is your strategy’s definition of success?
  2. How will you measure success?
  3. Who is a part of the customer experience team?
  4. Who will do what by when?
  5. What is the operating budget?

Nearly ten years ago, when I first started my career in customer experience, I selected five companies that had a world-class focus on customer experience and I committed to studying the inner workings of their organizations. I did this because it helped me understand how a company goes from vision to execution. When building your customer experience strategy, I highly recommend selecting three companies and study everything about them: read everything you can online (i.e. research papers, articles, etc.), watch YouTube videos where their CEOs are interviewed, and even go as far as calling them and asking if you can visit their headquarters to ask questions. Even to this day, I still study as much as I did in the early days so I can understand what world-class companies are doing.

Want to learn the three companies I’m studying today? Download my PowerPoint slide deck and go to slide 18 to find out.

#3 – Alignment

Nearly all companies believe they are aligned; after all, admitting that you’re not is not something you want to showcase. Not being aligned will prevent you from having a customer experience that will rival the best. In fact, I believe it’s impossible to have an exceptional customer experience without true alignment.

I was recently working with a bank and one of their executives told me a story that showed him that his team wasn’t aligned. The story goes something like this.

His marketing team created a campaign that, on the surface, was a success. It increased the amount of savings accounts that their target customers opened with his bank by 15%. While the marketing team was literally pouring champagne, the company’s call centre was singing a different tune.

You see, the marketing team neglected to inform the call centre management team that this initiative was being created. The influx of calls, which was generated by the marketing campaign, increased call volume by 30%, which the call centre wasn’t properly staffed for.

(As an aside, call centre workforce management teams don’t receive enough recognition for the important work they do. They are the glue that holds the machine together!)

While the marketing department was celebrating, the call centre and customers, particularly the ones who had to wait for 15 to 30 minutes to get through, were regretting their efforts and misalignment.

You see, these are some of the things that can happen within ANY organization. It may have even happened to you.

To create alignment, the first step I recommend is for your company to host a Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) workshop. If you’re not familiar, a CJM session is where your company comes together (with at least one person representing each department) and collectively map out the entire customer journey. To have you think differently, break the group up into smaller teams and have every group outline each customer touch point. At the end of the session, each group should present their findings. It’s very common that this will be where you find that your team isn’t aligned, as each group outlines a different customer experience.

Note: There are many other steps that go into hosting a CJM workshop, but, for sake of brevity, I’ve highlighted a few key steps.

This session isn’t run to simply show misalignment. Rather, the purpose is to bring awareness to an opportunity that can be resolved as a team. Whether it’s your organization, or a professional sports team, company alignment matters, particularly when it comes to creating a customer experience strategy.

#4 – Measure Through Metrics

I’m a fan of Net Promoter Score (NPS) because I’ve had success with it for years! I understand there are NPS naysayers, but the ones I meet tend to have weak arguments. Do I believe that NPS is the be-all-end-all? Not at all. But I do recommend that it be integrated as part of your customer experience strategy.

RELATED POSTHow to Influence Your Boss to Adopt Net Promoter Score Without Pushback

If you’re motivated to look and feel better, you would workout and eat healthy. To measure success, you may weigh yourself or have a body fat percentage test done.

Customer experience is no different, in that you must measure your success. NPS is a great way to do so. The reasons I recommend my clients use NPS is for the following reasons:

  • It has a low barrier of deployment and doesn’t take too much effort to begin using it within your company.
  • All team members, regardless of business acumen, can understand it.
  • It’s very actionable (when you do it right).
  • It’s easy to find trends (when you categorize verbatim comments properly).

Whether you’re using NPS today or not, I would highly recommend you look into bringing it into your organization to listen to your customers’ needs, wants, and aversions better.

#5 – Invest in Education

My team built Experience Academy, my online customer experience course, for a few reasons. One of them was that we didn’t believe there was premium customer experience education available online for people around the world.

Earlier I told you that I still spend hours, roughly 2 to 4 hours each day, studying and investing in my education, even after I have achieved success.


Because my biggest concern is that I will become irrelevant to my clients and audience when I speak at an event. I don’t want to be that guy who tells the same old stories and becomes forgettable. I take pride in knowing about the latest software or companies who are customer experience leaders before my competition.

If you want your company’s customer experience strategy to be the best then you must invest in your own education. There are several affordable ways to invest in your education:

  • Read books
  • Attend conferences
  • Join LinkedIn groups and engage on social media
  • Join associations

But, by far, the best resource to invest in your education is online courses. According to Forbes, the online course market hit $57 billion in 2014 – and it’s expected to DOUBLE in 2015. Statistics like these are not why I believe in online courses though. The primary reason why I recommend using online courses to invest in your education is because, if the course is built correctly, then you are able to take action on the education. It’s often more valuable than simply reading a book because, in most cases, the course will allow you to watch videos, download resources, and take end-of-module quizzes to ensure you retained the knowledge.

Extra – Learn How to Properly Survey Your Customers

To create a customer experience strategy that will support the growth of your company and make you an admired brand you absolutely MUST have a well-thought out plan. Without a plan, you simply have a desire; regardless of how badly you want to achieve your goal, it won’t happen unless you take a methodical approach.

On November 3rd, I will be hosting another webinar titled Why Your Customers Aren’t Filling Out Your Survey (and How to Fix That). Click here to register (it’s free)! Be sure to share the link with your colleagues who you believe should attend.

You can download my PowerPoint presentation that outlines all five steps covered in this post so you can share with your colleagues. Click here to sign up.

The Executive’s Playbook: 3 Affordable Ways to Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience


Are we asking the right question?

Do you want to know the number one question I’m hearing today from executives, professionals just like you, that want to improve their company’s customer experience?

“Michel, where do we start?!”

Customer experience is a growth strategy. I firmly believe that most of us now understand this. We are now trying to determine the best foot to put forward to bring us closer to creating a customer experience that not only delights our customers, but that also helps us financially.

If a superior customer experience has worked for companies like Starbucks and ZenPayroll Gusto can it also work for your organization? Of course!

[bctt tweet=”Customer experience isn’t agnostic to a specific industry or size of company. It’s for every company!”]

But first we need to reevaluate how we are spending our operating budgets.

I see it every day: companies from around the world claim to be customer-centric, but their operations don’t show it. If they are truly customer-focused then why is their call centre understaffed? Why are customers waiting on-hold for 60 minutes to speak to an employee? Why aren’t their social media channels monitored 24/7 like their phone lines are?

Ready to start learning right away? Learn 28 strategies for improving your company’s customer experience today by reading my free ebook. Download it for free by clicking here.

I believe we would rather invest in traditional marketing before we invest in improving our customer experience for two key reasons.

Marketing is tangible

We can touch print marketing. We can see television ads. We can hear radio campaigns.

Being able to touch, see, or hear our investments provides us with a sense of immediacy and allows us to show our boss that, yes, we did manage to create value out of our operating budget. After all, I don’t disagree with traditional marketing. I still believe it can help your business; I just think there is a time and place for it. That time and place isn’t before improving your customer experience.

If you’ve ever invested in improving your customer experience (for example, by hiring someone to facilitate training for your frontline employees), you know that the ROI isn’t instantaneous. Often, you can’t touch, see, or hear the immediate impact of hiring an exceptional trainer for your team, other than your employees saying that the training was valuable. But, for the executive who is able to think long-term, you know that an investment in the development of people is always a winning bet.

Is it all we know how to do?

This reason is unfortunate. I know of companies that neglect to improve their customer experience because they don’t know where to start.

A recent conversation I had with a Vice President who works for a large, recognizable company humbly said:

“What keeps me up at night is that I don’t have the answers to improve our customer experience.”

He had recently attended a conference and all the rage, at the event, was to invest heavily in social media. While I won’t argue that a social media strategy isn’t important (it’s terribly important), it might not be the greatest priority for his company.

To create a world-class customer experience, we must be willing to let our guard down and admit that we don’t have the answers and need help.

This is why I’m writing this post.

After studying and being a practitioner of customer experience for nearly ten years, I believe I know the first three steps to improve a company’s customer experience.

Before I get to that, let’s review the research my team compiled after surveying 1,000 entrepreneurs and executives from small, medium, and large-sized companies from industries such as manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and professional services. I encourage you to share these statistics with your team.

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We asked these executives five questions.

  1. How do you define customer experience?
  2. How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?
  3. Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?
  4. How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?
  5. What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?

The results were both shocking and optimistic.

How do you define customer experience?

cx defined
Only 3% of the executives we surveyed were accurately able to explain what customer experience is, according to our definition. This took us by surprise. How are we supposed to begin to improve something if we don’t know what it is? That’s like an untrained mechanic trying to fix a car when he has no experience.

Our definition of customer experience goes like this:

“Customer experience is the design of the interactions your customers have with you from beginning to end.”

It emcompasses everything. From the moment they recognize they have a need or desire to purchase your service or product, to receiving your customer survey after the purchase has taken place, and everything in between.

How important is a superior customer experience to the success of your company?

CX importance

74% of executives we surveyed said that customer experience was “very important.” After all, whether it’s in your personal or professional life, isn’t taking care of people “very important”?

These responses told us what we already knew: that we tend to understand that customer experience must be a top priority.

Does your organization have a customer experience strategy?

CX strategyOur hearts sunk a little bit after reviewing the data for this question – we may have even cried a little bit.

82% of responded said “no.”


While it hurt to hear this, it did validate what we believed was true. As I mentioned earlier in the post, and our data confirmed, we, as executives, know that customer experience is important. What we don’t know is where to start, which, in turn, leaves us without a strategy.

How likely are you to invest to improve your customer experience within the next 12 months?

CX investmentI was more optimistic after seeing the responses to this question. 78% of executives replied, “very likely”! You see, we know that we need to do so, we just need some guidance along the way. The business world doesn’t need another marketer or salesperson; it desperately needs more customer experience professionals. Together, we will make our businesses stronger. We must be willing to take action and not simply acknowledge this need from the sidelines.

What would you be more likely to invest in to improve your organization’s customer experience?

For this question, I provided respondents with three options:

  1. Train better
  2. Hire effectively
  3. Survey customers efficiently

The results were as follows:

CX improvement

I’ve met some executives that want to run straight to surveying their customers. I would never say that is a bad idea. However, I do believe that there are some other subtle refinements that can be made to improve your customer experience first. Actually, there are three affordable ways to do so.


Want to become a customer experience pro? Download my free ebook and learn 28 tangible strategies for improving your company’s customer experience today. Quickly access your free download by clicking here.


And now, what you came here for.

Based on my experience with coaching companies of all sizes, across many industries, there are three ways for a company to improve their customer experience (almost instantly).

Michael Schneider inline

Affordable Strategy #1 – Build a Bulletproof Hiring Strategy

Here’s an exercise for you to complete. Locate the hiring template your company uses to host interviews. Take the questions and copy and paste them into Google. After clicking search, if you are able to find the answer to your question, guess what your candidate is doing 24 hours before their interview with you?

We must make the way we hire bulletproof and make it difficult to earn employment with our company. If we are going to trust our employees to deliver a world-class customer experience that will grow our business or department, we must ensure that we are inviting the right candidates into our business, similar to how we meticulously analyze who will attend our wedding or housewarming party.

Stop asking the predictable questions like:

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Instead, consider asking these two questions:

“How would you explain the difference between customer service and customer experience?” and “What is the temperature of the sun?”

To understand why I recommend asking these two questions, email me at and I will tell you.

For those who may be asking themselves:

“I want to improve my company’s customer experience, but where do I start?”

The answer is clear: you must start by evaluating the way you are hiring customer-focused employees before you pursue anything else.

Affordable Strategy #2 – Training Isn’t Expensive; Bad Training is Expensive

I charge clients in the five-figures to host training programs. I command a high price because the value of the training I provide exceeds the cost of hiring me.

In 2014, I was hired by an auto group that owns four franchises (Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagen, and Scion) to host customer-focused training for an entire year. What did this make me think?

“This company gets it!”

The company got it right from when they made the decision to have every single employee on their payroll go through the same training. The training wasn’t only reserved for their receptionists or customer service team. We welcomed sales staff, the finance team, technicians, general managers… everyone! They understood what I preach: in order to deliver a seamless customer experience, every department must receive the same education.

[bctt tweet=”Customer experience training isn’t only reserved for customer-facing employees.”]

My first job, if you were to exclude the paper route I had when I was seven years old, was at McDonald’s, which has a fantastic training program. They taught me to be efficient, be friendly, and to make eye contact with customers. While these training tactics are still important today, they can’t be the only thing we teach our employees to do.

Our employees, the people who will speak to more customers in one day than the CEO will in an entire year, must be the most educated people in our business.

Take a moment to review your current training program. What type of material does it include? If it doesn’t include the following two pieces of content, then you have an opportunity to improve.

  • What is organic growth?

Organic growth is defined as the revenue that a company earns through referrals and repeat purchases from existing customers. Ask any CFO about the importance of organic growth to the bottom line. She will tell you that organic growth is vitally important to the success of the business because the cost of acquiring these customers is low, if anything at all. You see, if a customer returns or refers a friend or family member to your business, you didn’t have to spend any money on traditional or digital marketing to acquire that new, highly profitable customer.

Organic growth is powered by customer experience. Sure, your product might be fantastic, but if your customer experience is subpar then the success of your business will be in jeopardy. Imagine if Apple had the same great products but was supported by poorly trained Apple Geniuses in their stores. They might not be the most valuable company in the world, as they are now. It’s the Apple Geniuses that provide that memorable customer experience.

Your employees must understand that it’s their efforts that contribute to the success of the bottom line through organic growth.

  • The Three Customer Personality Types

You know that your employees can’t deliver the same type of customer service to every customer, right?

Some customers react differently to certain conversations, while others have different definitions of a successful customer experience. You’ve probably overheard a conversation that one of your employees was having with a customer. He may have said:

“Hi, terrific weather we’re having, don’t you think?” and the customer abruptly said, “Yes,” and didn’t engage further.

If this same question was asked to another customer, one who is willingly converse with employees in off-topic conversation, then perhaps that conversation may have been more successful and meaningful.

The three customer personality types are:

  1. The Director – this customer has shorter conversations, is direct with their desires, won’t willingly engage in off-topic conversations, and appreciates efficiency.
  2. The Socializer – this customer loves engaging in off-topic conversations, can be easier to build rapport with, and appreciates employees who will take the time to ask them about their day before conducting business.
  3. The Passive – this customer may seem guarded, unwilling to divulge much information about their motivations in doing business with you, and seem unenthusiastic. But, keep in mind, that this personality type may be doing this as a way to not be sold to.

Review your training program today and see if you can implement these tactics to improve your training program tomorrow!

Affordable Strategy #3 – Does Your Employee Engagement Strategy Create Meaning?

If you’re hiring correctly, and getting the right people into your organization, then they don’t always want to be recognized through money or electronics, like free TVs or iPads.

Don’t get me wrong, your employees do need money to secure their livelihoods, but if they are focused on growing within your company then they will sacrifice a small wage increase to have a stronger relationship with the organization.

Some of the best ways to keep your employees engaged and have them continuously delivering a memorable customer experience doesn’t involve money or incentives. As a practitioner, someone who takes what he knows and applies it, I have found that the following two strategies work exceptionally well.

  • Lunch & Learns

Your employees want to learn. Some of them may want to grow a business of their own one day, while others may want to rise through the ranks of your organization. Whatever their motivation is, help expedite their growth by providing them with education. Lunch & Learns are monthly, 60 to 90 minute workshops hosted by the organization around specific topics. For example, the Lunch & Learn in September may be focused on digital marketing, hosted by a marketing manager within your company. The following month, your finance team may host a workshop on how to read financial statements.

Not everyone is going to volunteer their time to attend Lunch & Learns, but that’s not the goal. Pay specific attention to the ones who do reserve their time and attend because they are your rising stars. These individuals will be the ones who may replace you as the next leaders.

  • 30 Minute Recognition Sessions

Every executive should reserve 30 minutes a week on their calendar as recurring meetings that don’t get cancelled. During this time your only responsibility is to find an employee, in your department or a neighbouring department, and thank them for their service to the company.

The reason that you are recognizing them could be for a number of reasons:

  • An outstanding accomplishment (i.e. delivering amazing customer service or setting a sales record)
  • Helping your department with a special project
  • A work anniversary

During this 30 minutes, take the employee out for coffee or lunch (keeping with the theme of affordability), but limit the amount of ‘business talk’ that takes place. Of course, you want to outline why you have invited them for lunch, but then turn the conversation over to them. Get to know them an individuals, not as an employee. Ask them questions about their passions outside of work and what their hobbies are. You will find that the employee will willingly share information with you once you begin talking about what makes them excited.

At the end of the conversation, ask this:

“What can I do to help you grow within the company?”

Record what they respond with and deliver on it!

I want to hear from you…

We know that customer experience is important. It’s not going to become unimportant… ever! Part of the reason why we don’t know what to do next to improve our company’s customer experience is because business school never taught us how to develop customer experience management strategies.

Knowing this, my team and I set out to build an online course we called Experience Academy. We didn’t feel that the business world has been given the opportunity to learn the strategies that go into building a world-class customer experience, so we built a six module online certification course. You can learn your first eight lessons, for free, by clicking here.

I believe this post has given you some things to think about and look into (i.e. hiring, training, employee recognition).

Do you agree with my three suggested strategies?

Is there a better way?

Have I missed something?


Let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget! You can also download my FREE ebook, “28 Actionable Strategies to Grow Any Company Through Customer Experience,” to learn other unique tips to improve your company’s customer experience.

Why You Can’t Convince Your CEO to Focus on Your Customers

Have you ever had to convince your CEO or department leader of the importance of customer experience?

How about having to justify the investment in designing, developing, and deploying your company’s customer experience?

If you have said “yes” to either of these questions, I have some good news! But I also have a bit of bad news.

Good News

The good news is that your skillset, as a customer experience management pro, is in short supply. The business world doesn’t need more marketers or PR people. We desperately need more people, like you, who know how to audit and improve an organization’s customer experience to increase customer loyalty and retention (among other things).

My clients, and the professionals I speak to, are all beginning to recruit for Customer Experience Managers, all the way up to the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). These individuals will be given the resources they need, just like Marketing and PR receive, to contribute to the success of the business. This isn’t me looking through rose-tinted glasses. The forward-thinking organizations, who are making the connection between customer experience and growth before it’s too late, are the ones recruiting for these positions.

Just last week, I was in Philadelphia keynoting an executive conference (watch full keynote here), when someone in the audience asked me during Q&A,

“My company is hiring for a Customer Experience Manager right now. Where do we find this person?”

I first asked him how it’s been going so far. He responded with,

“Not well.”

You see, if you need to hire a salesperson, there is an abundance of those and we know where to find them.

Customer Experience professionals are unicorns. We’ve heard of them, but where do we find them? Do they even exist? This post wasn’t reserved to teach you where to find a Customer Experience Manager or CCO. But, if you want to know, email me directly and I will tell you.

If you’ve built a career in customer experience management, or aspire to, then you will be highly coveted by companies of all sizes and industries very soon.

Bad News

And now for the bad news. Your CEO probably isn’t customer-centric. If so, your motivation and efforts will likely go unnoticed or without regard.

You might be thinking,

“But, Michel, I will convince her…”

My response to you, every time, will be,

“It’s going to be very difficult.”

I’m not a pessimist.

I have been there before and it’s nearly impossible. You see, you’re not trying to convince; you are asking them to fundamentally change the way they view business. Your CEO or department head may have been operating a certain way for 10, 20, or even 30 years. Do you really think your 30 minute “pitch” is going to erase their memory of what makes sense to themselves? It’s similar to how you can’t teach a jerk to genuinely be nice and compassionate.

As an employee, I had to convince, beg, and plead. Remember, I’ve been in your shoes before – fighting for what’s right for the customer. While I did gain some traction and momentum, the investment in helping the organization become more customer-centric paled in comparison to what marketing, PR, and business development received. But, have faith that this is going to change. I’m not suggesting that all marketing budgets are going to go to customer experience-related initiatives; that would be silly to think that. What will happen is that marketers are going to go from a “spray and pray” mentality to a “give and nurture” mentality, which will ultimately improve the customer experience. They are going to need you, the customer experience leader, to make this happen because marketers are just beginning to understand customer experience. Someone who I believe understands the intersection between marketing and customer experience is Augie Ray.

As a consultant, I meet with companies all the time that want to become more customer-focused – both small and large companies, across many different industries. I’m happy to report that the majority of the people I meet “get it” and I don’t need to do any convincing. For me, it’s all about helping them understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies to improve their customer experience. You will get there too.

The CEO Conundrum 

Why is it that some CEOs won’t become customer-centric? Or, even worse, why will they say they are when truly, deep down, they aren’t? Well, let me add on to what I have already mentioned.

I believe most CEOs prefer to be ego-centric rather than customer-centric. Let’s admit it: we all have an ego that either fills a void in ourselves or drives us to inflate our personal brand. I do it. You do it. We ALL do it in one form or another.

Let’s take two real-life examples and examine them together.

Example #1 – The Ego-Centric CEO

Your company is pitched by a media company that promises to secure them coverage in all the top newspapers in your country. Each profile will include a headshot of the CEO, a story about recent news, and it will be distributed to millions of people.

Your high school sweetheart is going to see it. Your best friend is going to see it. Your former boss, who fired you, is going to see it. Everyone is going to see how successful you’ve become. The enthusiasm and excitement of this gets us swept off our feet and we quickly secure the $100,000 investment with the media company. Plus, it’s something tangible – something we can touch and see, which makes us feel nice. It’s something that we can mount on our wall after it’s been published, so that all of our office visitors can see it. Once again, we want to show off how successful we are.

Please understand this: I believe in all sorts of marketing – both traditional and digital. What I don’t agree with is spending countless amounts of resources trying to inflate our brands and acquire customers when our customer experience has been neglected, and we don’t have the resources required to retain those same customers we may have acquired through marketing strategies.

I’m going to be optimistic and assume that your marketing strategy went off without a hitch. Now comes the time to calculate the ROI. After your campaign, you saw an increase in revenue. Fantastic! But how can we definitively know that it’s because of our media efforts that our revenue spiked? Our frontline employees and salespeople aren’t even asking your customers,

“How did you hear about us?”

It amazes me how many companies aren’t asking this question to understand where they are acquiring their customers from – both offline and online. Can we be so sure that this spike in revenue can’t be attributed to other initiatives that we created last quarter?

This CEO understands marketing, he has been doing it for decades with results, but he doesn’t understand customer experience. I mean, he knows what it means, and he might even understand the value, but like many others he doesn’t understand how to design, develop, and deploy strategies. He might not even know where to start. After all, business school didn’t teach him.

Example #2 – The Customer-Centric CEO

This CEO keeps her ear to the street, and I don’t mean that she’s aware of that Lil’ Wayne track that just leaked. I mean that she regularly speaks to her customers and employees and understands their motivations and challenges. The CEO of Tangerine Bank, Peter Aceto, is a master black belt at doing this, which is why he’s admired.

Through conversation with her employees, this CEO recognizes that her customers aren’t happy. She “y-jacks” (listens to live calls) and hears, verbatim, what her customers are saying about their aversions to doing business with her company. She says to herself,

“Holy crap! We aren’t as good as we think we are.”

With this motivation, she speaks with her executive team to understand why this is happening. They conclude,

“Team, we have a customer retention problem. For all these years we have been focused on customer acquisition, and don’t have the resources to actually serve our customers after they have purchased.”

One solution to this problem is to build a formal Complaint Resolution System that will resolve all customer complaints within one business day. The outcome of such a system will be an increase in customer retention.

Now this is where most CEOs will stop their investment or decide to “put it off for a while.” You see, I can’t promise you when your financial ROI will come to surface. It might come in the same quarter. It might take 6 months. It might even take a year.

Don’t you plan on being in business for the next twelve months? Why not make the investment now? Personally, as a consumer, aren’t you loyal to companies who resolve all complaints within one business day? Don’t you become increasingly frustrated with companies that neglect their customers.

Let’s say the same amount of $100,000 is invested to build or buy software to increase customer retention and have all complaints resolved within one business day. Your frontline employees are also given world-class training to ensure they know how to effectively speak to customers. As I’ve said before,

“Your frontline employees must be the smartest people in the room. We must put others before ourselves if we truly want to become successful.”

For the ego-centric CEO, this isn’t a glamorous investment. It’s not tangible. It’s not sexy.

But, believe me, this will grow your business for the next 100 years far better than any media campaign ever will.

[bctt tweet=”A 5% increase in customer retention can equate to a 75% increase in profits – Bain & Co. @michelfalcon”]

Last year, I wrote a post about 4 Non-Negotiable Traits of Customer-Focused CEOs that was shared a few hundred times.

The traits include:

  • They support their management team with a respectable operating budget
  • They think long-term
  • They genuinely want to engage with customers
  • They believe that good enough is no longer good enough

How many of these traits does your current CEO or department leader possess? Here’s a hint: they need to have all of them. One can’t live without the other.

If your CEO doesn’t naturally possess customer-centric qualities, does that mean all hope is lost? Not necessarily. I know I said earlier that it’s nearly impossible to fundamentally change the way an executive thinks, but I have seen it happen with clients, speaking at executive forums, and in the media. The thing to remember is that they must come to these realizations on their own first and not be “pitched” on the idea. As soon as they fundamentally understand the value of designing, developing, and deploying customer experience initiatives, that is the optimal time to approach her with new systems and processes.

I want to hear from you.

What is your single biggest challenge in getting your company to focus more on your customers? Email me at and let me know.

How to Design an Effortless Customer Experience that Your Customers Will Obsess Over

How is your company making your customer experience effortless for your customers?

What features, products, or systems are you creating to make doing business with your company as easy as ordering a pizza from Domino’s?

A few years ago, it was mentioned that customer experience was the new battleground for businesses. Today, I believe the fight to gain a competitive advantage isn’t directly related to our competition; rather, it’s an internal competition to make our own experience as effortless as possible for our customers.

I believe that customer experience has already survived three eras, and we are currently living in the fourth. I call this the 4 Eras of Customer Experience.

Pre-Internet Era

As a millennial entrepreneur, I am not personally familiar with operating a business within this era because I grew up with the internet. However, my grandfather’s principles taught me what it was like to successfully grow a business that your customers obsess over.

Prior to the adoption of the Internet, the primary way you grew a business was by genuinely serving your customers; you couldn’t fake being genuine. I’m paraphrasing him here, but Gary Vaynerchuk said it well when he noted that, through this genuine care, entrepreneurs were better business people than we are today. I agree.

Internet Adoption Era

When the Internet became a recognized tool for helping businesses increase customer leads, I believe it made us disingenuous. We viewed the Internet as a means of acquiring 5, 50, even 500 new customers through campaigns that were, in comparison to original practices, almost instantaneous.

Because of the success of our online programs and campaigns, we invested more into inorganic customer acquisition strategies. Where did this investment come from? We diverted our investments away from our customer retention and customer service programs to “double down” on inorganic strategies. This is the era when some companies viewed their contact centre as a “cost centre.” That notion, today, is laughable.

Social Media Evolution Era

When Sally Johnson, your loyal customer of 20 years, complained during the Internet Adoption era, companies had little motivation, and few resources, to retain her. Why would they? They had the opportunity to replace her by spending a few dollars on a PPC program.

With the evolution of social media, Sally Johnson actually had a platform to tell 2,000 of her friends about her concerns, rather than simply telling her closest friends while playing bridge. Social media exposed companies to greater scrutiny. I believe the airline industry took it on the chin the hardest during this era.

Technology Revolution Era

Today’s greatest opportunity for businesses of all sizes, across all industries, is to leverage the technology available to them to make their experience effortless. How I define effortless, in the context of customer experience is,

An effortless customer experience is one that is extremely efficient, seamlessly allowing customers to achieve their desired outcome with greater speed and precision.

Think of the companies around you that are doing this to create billion dollar brands, yet didn’t even exist five years ago. Shyp’s experience is effortless. The banking industry developed photo cheque depositing through mobile apps. The co-founder of Uber is working on Operator, currently in stealth mode, because his team recognizes that consumers don’t want to lift a finger unless they have to.

The common theme with these experiences is that it makes their customers more efficient. For me, if you save me time and make me more efficient, you are improving my life. This is what will make me loyal to your brand. My great grandparents lived within the Industrial Revolution. One day, we will be able to tell our children that we lived within the Technology Revolution Era.

Last week, when I needed to pick up my dry cleaning, I realized there were a lot of steps to this seemingly simple process: I had to get into my car, drive 15 minutes each way, and pay for the service with my debit card. That’s a pretty rudimentary experience. This experience will soon become an effortless experience. If I want my dry cleaning picked up, I will double tap an app on my phone, a self-driving car, powered by Google or Uber, will be directed to the address of the dry cleaner, and the employee will take my cloths and place them in the driverless car. When the car arrives, it will park in my driveway and, because I have a “smart home”, which will be operated by Nest or a comparable company, the driverless car will be able to ring my door bell. I will then get off my couch, open the car door, and take my clothing. No money exchanged (though, keep in mind, I will pay a premium for this service because I value my time). No headaches. An effortless experience will be created.

So, this begs a question.

[bctt tweet=”What is your company doing to make your customer experience effortless? “]

It’s very easy for companies to say, “We are an innovative company because…” But what is, in reality, is a refinement of the current process. Innovation is creating a revolutionary experience that the world has never seen before.

To create an effortless customer experience, that will fundamentally change an industry, you must include three key traits.

Make it seamless

For the majority of industries, there shouldn’t be a reason to make a phone call to order a product or service. Take the appropriately named Seamless food delivery app. Why would I want to spend five minutes on the phone ordering when I could simply tap my phone a few times and voila!

As a consumer, you don’t want to have to work to make a purchase. We value our time and, if we are providing a solution that is more efficient, we will pay a premium for it – similar to how we pay a premium for Seamless. I recently read this great article about how Millennials don’t want to have to call into a customer service line, and would rather find a solution for themselves. Rather than having to search for a solution, I will become more loyal to an app or company that creates the solution for me.

Provide immediacy

I recently surveyed 100 customers, from several different age demographics, and found that what we want most is immediacy. Netflix gives us the gift of immediacy by being able to accomplish a task, like watching a movie, immediately. Remember when we had to drive to Blockbuster and hope that our favourite movie was in-stock? That experience now gives me the chills.

As I was writing this post I made myself a protein shake. As I opened my pantry, I realized that I was almost out of protein powder. I thought to myself,

“Why should I have to go to the nearest retailer and buy directly from them? That could take me up to 30 minutes!” I wish I could simply take a picture of my pantry and send the picture to my nearest retailer, who would then deliver my products to me within one business day. I would pay $10 for that service, any day, because saving 30 minutes of my time is worth more than $10 to me.

Invent needs

Innovation isn’t about creating an experience your customers want. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that, if Henry Ford asked us what we wanted before the car was invented, we would have said “faster horses.”

As Jeff Bezos says, “You must invent on behalf of your customers.” This is what innovation is all about, at its most pure form.

Creating an experience your customers need is difficult because your customers don’t know what they need until you present it to them. I didn’t know that I needed a scroll wheel on my music player to enhance my user experience before the iPod was invented.

We spend a lot of resources – time and money – on marketing to increase our brand awareness and grow our business. Why do we continuously neglect that the greatest way to grow a business is organically, by creating an effortless experience that is innovative and worth talking about?

You will lose your business if your company doesn’t create an effortless experience within the next five years. There are people out there, myself included, that are putting industries under a microscope and looking for ways to disrupt the status quo by leveraging technology and customer experience.

Is your company prepared for this inevitable change?

Did you like this post? You might also like my 28 Traits of Customer Experience Titans ebook. Sign up below. It’s FREE!

The Parallels Between Customer Experience and a Rolls Royce

Has your company designed your customer experience in a similar fashion to how you mapped out this year’s marketing efforts?

In 2013, BC Business, a leading business publication in Vancouver, published a study that my team and I had produced.

The study revealed that 87% of executives believed that their company was delivering an exceptional customer experience. However, only 12% of their customers agreed that they provided a strong customer experience.

How can there be such a large disconnect between your perspective and what your customers themselves perceive? I believe the answer is simple: most companies lack the strategic approach necessary to build, design, and deploy their customer experience efforts.

We don’t take the same methodical approach to customer experience as we do to marketing. As a marketing team, we collectively build campaigns, determine what type of digital and traditional programs we will use to deploy them, and allocate the portion of the budget that each will receive.

Customer experience needs the same methodical approach to be successful. However, customer experience doesn’t live within a single department like marketing does. To build a successful end-to-end customer experience program, you must include every single department within the company, from Marketing and PR to Operations and IT. Heck, even Accounts Payable has a role in delivering a seamless customer experience that will help make you an admired brand.

I’m often asked,

“If you want to improve your customer experience, where should you start?”

I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as many companies have unique challenges. A great starting point is to host a customer journey mapping workshop with your Customer Advisory Board. My friend, Annette Franz, is the best in the world at doing this.

Building your customer experience plan is like designing a Rolls Royce. For the assembly of the car, a Rolls Royce is nearly all handmade; everything is tailor-made and personalized, from every single stitch down to the last screw. To build this machine, individuals from different areas of the business must seamlessly work together to bring this vehicle to life. The cost of the product speaks for itself.

Today, companies still believe that customer experience is customer service. They associate customer experience with more training. You can’t improve the customer experience simply by providing more training, although that is an element of it. Rather, it’s a structural design across all platforms and touchpoints.

RELATED: This is the difference between customer experience and customer service (video)

MF-banner-ad-blog-gofourth-final (1)

Companies such as Ritz-Carlton and Disney have methodically designed their customer experience, just like building a luxury car, and charge a premium for it. Customer experience pays!

If you want to improve your end-to-end customer experience, you must receive the same amount of attention and, dare I say, budget as your PR and marketing functions do. It’s insane to me that companies pay thousands of dollars to hire  PR or digital marketing agencies to create awareness of a service or product, when it will likely fail their customers because the experience hasn’t been designed to retain new customers.

As I mentioned in this post and this one, we love to invest in marketing because it’s tangible. Not only can we can see, hear, and touch it, but we would also rather be ego-centric than customer-centric.

I get it. We like to do things that are high profile, like run Super Bowl ads or create flashy billboards. Customer retention isn’t as sexy, on the surface, as being able to show your friends how successful your company has become by profiling your logo on page 37 of a magazine or buying radio ads for them all to hear.

But if your company is going to last for the next 100 years, you must get your entire company aligned behind customer experience: design your program and strategically deploy the same experience you would want if you were the end customer of your business.

Have you checked out Experience Academy? My team and I have built a six module online certification course that gives your company the education and tangible assets (templates, blueprints, proven strategies, infographics, videos) to continuously improve your customer and employee experience. 

5 Traits of Customer-Focused Companies

How do you personally define a customer-focused company?

I’m not talking about a company that claims to be customer-focused but one that genuinely obsesses over improving their customer experience.

Year after year, we hear of companies of all sizes wanting to focus more on their customer experience. While some actually use the appropriate resources to be more connected to their customers, others continue to give lip-service to it. After all, it’s very easy to say you are customer-focused when, in reality, you’re not.

For nearly a decade, I’ve studied the operations of companies across dozens of industries to make sense of it all. I believe that genuine customer-centric companies exhibit the following five traits.

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The CEO is the Flag Bearer

No customer experience program will be sustainable if your CEO isn’t your greatest flag bearer. I’ve seen it time and time again, an executive claims to be customer-focused but when push comes to shove they allow sales and marketing to reign supreme.

I’m a HUGE fan of Westjet airlines, based in Canada, for several reasons. A key reason why I’m bullish on their success is because of their leader, CEO, Gregg Saretsky. I’m a fan of his because he has humanized the way he leads his team. Perhaps, it’s because he use to be a flight attendant before his climb to being the CEO of the second largest airlines in Canada. I have a friend who works at Westjet’s HQ who speak very admirably of him. I mean, it’s very rare for me to go to a party and have someone talk to me about their CEO for 30 minutes, while I drink my scotch, but this happened to be earlier this year when one of his team members did so. The CEO, entrepreneur or business leader within your company can’t just wake up one day and care about the company’s customers. They must have it within their DNA as a person because caring about strangers isn’t something that comes natural to most of us.

It’s very easy to gain media attention and claim to be customer-focused but does your organization continue these efforts at the end of the quarter when you must hit your numbers? Does your company sacrifice the customer experience to save the numbers?

You Must be Willing to Think Long-Term

An organization must understand that if customer experience is going to be at the core of their company then they must be patient.The ROI of customer experience doesn’t develop overnight and is a long term play.

Your customer experience is a collection of events your customer experiences when doing business with you from beginning to end. For example, if you go to a movie theatre, the experience may begin with you visiting their mobile website to see what movies are playing. When you arrive at the theatre, you will purchase your ticket, visit the bathroom and buy popcorn at the concession stand. Even before you have watched the movie you already have experienced four customer touchpoints that involves marketing, operations and sales departments. To be able to recreate or refine your customer experience you must include all departments. This takes time. For some companies, this won’t ever happen because of silos that exist within the organization.

See also: How Customer Experience Will Crush Your Company’s Silos 

Now, think about how long it takes to develop a marketing campaign, a part of your business that is given a far larger budget than your customer experience efforts. I believe traditional marketing, such as radio, tv and print, has trained us to be impatient because we can have a marketing campaign up and running in a month or two. If you work with an agency, you can have your radio campaign aired in no time. If you’re a small business, you can have your direct-mail sent out next month.

My argument is this: you will never be customer-focused if you don’t practice patience. Customer experience WILL grow your business, however, you must be in it for the long haul.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says it best,

“We are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

What he means is that he will invest to improve Amazon’s customer experience even if the ROI is 12-24 months away.

Are we going to argue with his success?

Understand Creating Micro Customer Experiences is Worth the Investment

When I was invited to speak at Tangerine Bank’s executive retreat earlier this year, I introduced them to what I call micro customer experiences. How I define a micro customer experience is a small, subtle, memorable and affordable gesture that will resonate with your customers for years.

Starbucks understands micro customer experiences by writing your name on your cup. A local small business practices micro customer experiences by writing their customers hand written cards that include personalized messages.

When I introduce this concept to my clients or audience, I can always plan on someone asking,

“How do you scale this?”

The answer to this question is quite simple: How much do you care? If you care enough you will find the resources or workflow to scale it.

I’m sure the Starbucks operations team questioned how this would scale as I guess it adds 3-5 seconds to each customer interaction. For the most part, they were able to figure it out.

A small business owner may think,

“I can’t afford to pay someone to write hand written cards to every customer!”

You can afford to pay someone to do this! After all, don’t you spend 5-15% of your top-line revenue on marketing? You can allocate a percentage of your marketing spend and reinvest it into becoming memorable, which will bring you organic revenue through repeat business and referrals.

For a company to be successful in 2015, customer experience and marketing teams must work together to improve the customer experience and increase customer acquisition through organic marketing such as word of mouth.


Recognize that Customer Experience is Marketing

Take a moment to answer this question to yourself before you move forward.

What comes to mind when you see Zappos’ logo?

Do you think of their customer experience or what font they used?

Do you smile because of the call centre employee you spoke to when you ordered your pair of sandals, or do you think of what hue of blue was used to create the footprint in their logo?

Forward-thinking marketing pros understand that customer experience is marketing. You may have heard this before, and agree or disagree, whatever your opinion is, allow me to help you think differently.

The Next Web, one of my favourite tech and business websites, published a post titled, “Why I’d Rather Email than Pay for Ads.” If you have a moment to read it, please do. The columnist explains that as an entrepreneur, she’d rather focus on building a double opt-in email list  to provide value to her community by producing exceptional content; we know this to be content marketing. Before she pushes a ‘buy from me’ email she first provides value through content on several different occasions, and then asks for a sale.

Seth Godin refers to this approach of marketing as “permission marketing.” Gary Vaynerchuk, wrote an entire book on this approach called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Providing valuable content to make your customers smarter or more efficient can also be considered customer experience. If you can educate your customers through the content you create, isn’t that providing a better customer experience?

One of my clients, one of Vancouver’s largest auto dealership groups, is doubling down on their content marketing this year to better educate their customers on their industry. The auto industry has a massive opportunity to make their customers smarter. Personally, I don’t know much about my SUV other than that the right pedal is for go, the left pedal is to stop and that my SiriusXM radio has more than one pre-recorded hip hop channel. As a consumer, when I receive an email from them about “5 Things Your Car Needs to Prepare for Winter” I will read it and become a smarter customer. For me, this is a better customer experience than seeing one of their competitors ads on the back of the bus.

See also: How Zendesk, ZenPayroll and Tangerine Bank Make Their Customers Smarter, Efficient and Successful

Content marketing is powered by producing educational content that enriches your customer’s lives. 

Does your marketing team understand that customer experience is marketing? If not, please share this post with them.

You Must Continuously Invest in Employee Experience

I come from a very traditional family, and I still go to my family home once a week to have dinner with my parents and sister. A few weeks ago, my father admitted that he doesn’t fully understand what I do. He knows my subject but didn’t understand what steps I take when I consult for a company to improve their customer experience.

I began to explain to him that I first audit the company’s employee experience. Where do they recruit their employees? What questions do they ask during the interview process? What’s their on-boarding experience like? How do they motivate and reward their team?

I chose to explain this to him first because it’s what I do with my clients. It’s typical for me to receive an email from an entrepreneur or executive who says,

“Help us increase our customer loyalty.”

I never start with the customer. Ever!

The most successful companies understand to be successful you must: find great people, give them the tools and education they need to succeed and then get out of the way to allow them to navigate the customer experience.

The other day, I read this Business Insider article about Nordstrom’s. The article explains “how Nordstrom’s became the most successful retailer.” The number one reason was because of their dedication to customer service. Within this point, the columnist outlines that they hire “nice, capable people.”

This is exactly why I always start with the employee experience. How on earth are you suppose to deliver a memorable customer experience, one that your customers obsess over, if you don’t have the right team to push your effort forward? Company’s that are customer-focused first become employee-focused.

Does your company focus on your employee experience to improve the customer experience?

We make business complicated.

Business is as hard as we want to make it for ourselves. Many of you are familiar with my story about how I learned my greatest business practices from my grandfather and his fish market in Lima, Peru. If we truly want to be successful, we must be able to take a step back, analyze what is not working in our business or department and trim the fat. After you have done so, review these five traits and ask yourself if you are truly customer-focused.

Now, here’s a tough question. What one trait is the most important to become customer-focused? Tweet me @michelfalcon to tell me your answer.

4 Customer Experience Pitfalls Within the Franchise Industry

I’ve spent years studying the franchise business model; it’s complex. Ensuring that you have a seamless customer experience across the entire brand is key to success.

One of the primary reasons that someone may invest in buying a franchise is because of it’s proven operating systems. If you follow the established blueprint created by the franchisor you can reap the financial benefits. This attracts professionals to the franchise business model, however, it’s not as simple as it may seem.

With my customer experience and franchise background, I have recognized many customer experience operating pitfalls. However, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls. If you are able to secure the following four areas within your franchise model, you will increase the likelihood of your success.

Consistency across the board

For the franchisor, one of the biggest opportunities and threats is the consistency of the customer experience across the entire brand. Customers expect consistency. It’s what builds ‘customer trust.’ If you buy a pizza from Domino’s you expect the same level of service in Vancouver, Canada as you would in Sydney, Australia. If the customer experience is fragmented then the customer’s loyalty is in jeopardy.

I can do it better

I’ve witnessed franchisees who believe that they can do it better, which goes against why they bought into the model in the first place. I recognize that entrepreneurs are always going to try to “hack” their way to success but their motivation may actually hurt their performance. Part of the reason the world’s greatest franchise systems work is because their customer experience strategies are proven. If you’re going to “colour outside the lines” you must ensure that what makes sense to you, as the entrepreneur, may not make sense for the customer experience.

Your focus on HR is poor

I believe you must hire your employees exactly like you would plan a wedding (if we want your customer experience to be superior). Think about how meticulous you become when you are deciding who will be invited to your wedding. You analyze from many different angles on who will attend; that’s how you need to behave when you are going to welcome individuals into your business.

“When hiring in either our franchise or the sales centre we hire for personality first. Our business has the systems and training in place to support people. This allows us the freedom to hire regardless of skill set, for our frontline roles and ensures we can deliver a fantastic customer experience. Skill set allows your employees to check the service delivered box, their personality will deliver the WOW” says Rhys Green, Operations Manager (Sales Centre) – 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

Related: 4 Customer Service Questions You Must Ask When Hiring Customer Service Employees

One poor hire can spoil the bunch and threaten the customer experience that is delivered to customers. And despite all of the HR strategies and resources that you provide to franchisees, your customer experience may still be at risk.

Not having world-class training

My first job was working at McDonald’s when I was thirteen years old. The training that I received was impeccable. The exceptional training that I received enabled me to contribute to the success of the franchise from day one. Simply having training systems that are created by the franchisor may not effectively impact your employees. An effective training program is part of a superior onboarding experience for your new hires and employees. If you deliver a world-class experience to your employees they will do the same for your customers. It’s that simple.

Buying into a franchise system is a fantastic way to experience entrepreneurial success. However, ensuring that everything you do contributes to the success of the franchisor’s customer experience, will yield more success in the long run.

What are your thoughts? What are some other pitfalls?

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