A workshop with speaker and author Dan Gingiss
To showcase excellence in customer experience (CX) at Edify, we were delighted to be joined by Dan Gingiss, industry guru, speaker, and author of his just-published book The Experience Maker. We hosted a CX workshop to get his insights from over 20 years working with customers in corporate America - and to reflect on what matters right now, in creating a standout experience for people interacting with your business.
One thing which has changed over that 20-year period is how easy it is for customers to share their experiences with your brand, thanks to the explosive growth of personal online networks and the expansion of the virtual water-cooler across spatial boundaries. We’re all influencers when it comes to brand reputation, but we need to be given stories to share. Dan explains it like this:
“We share our experiences at both ends of the spectrum. We share positive experiences because we’re so excited about them, and we share very negative experiences because we’re so mad, and we’ve just got to share… Let me tell you about the perfectly average restaurant I went to last night, said nobody, ever.
As a quick poll in the workshop confirmed, we’re all more inclined to share bad experiences than good ones, simply because they often seem like they’re more memorable and impactful. But perhaps the real truth is that truly excellent interactions with brands are simply RARE. In a sea of sameness, where most brands do ‘OK’ in a boring way, a really memorable and shareable encounter is a unicorn.
This leaves an enormous window of opportunity where brands in any industry can effectively differentiate themselves using Dan’s proprietary WISER framework, comprising:
Humor is not universal and can backfire, nor is it part of every brand’s persona. But wit can be expressed linguistically, by being clever and creative, to stand out from a background of boredom and create connections on multiple levels.
Dan challenged our workshop participants to think creatively about this, especially if it’s not an intrinsic part of their category definition. A dentist who is funny creates warmth and reassurance, whereas industrial signage with a clever headline makes you look twice. “A lot of you would tell me, honestly, that you work in a boring industry. I hear it all the time. But it doesn't have to be boring; you absolutely can still be witty and, in the process, stand out from the crowd.”
A great experience needs to be consistent, and this is where a lot of brands can fall down, particularly as they grow. Omnichannel conversations are great, but what happens when you have to deal with a different department? Strive to immerse your customers in a unified and distinctive experience at every point in their journey (yes, even post-sale), and they’ll know what to think and say about you afterward.
Immersion is a multisensory experience, one which creates powerful memories, and all the different touchpoints reinforce one another. Dan told us about a bookshop in Taiwan, which creates a unique experience for customers by plunging them into darkness as they walk in from a sunny high street:
“The only lights are these little pin lights that sit over each and every individual book, giving the impression that they're floating on the shelf. In fact, when I first saw this picture, I thought it was a scene out of a Harry Potter movie. What they found is that by turning off the lights, they've gotten their customers to actually spend more time and give more attention to each book title. People stand in front of the books, they pick them up, they look at them. They analyze them, they even visit different genres within the store than they might have come in thinking about .... They're an incredibly successful retailer because they decided to create an immersive experience for their customers.”
Brands who get this right become destinations and experiences in their own right, places that people want to flock to, and naturally become:
We all have an inner storyteller to which a great experience can appeal, but it requires a delicate touch. You need to invite the customer in to co-create their own story, or, as Dan put it, “if you have to tell someone it's a selfie spot, it probably isn't. Because the whole idea of a selfie is that it's spontaneous.”
When every brand wants you tagging them, you have to go the extra mile for people to bother - but it’s worth it. Dan gave another great example of a restaurant that turned a meal out with his family into an instantly shareable experience:
“I took my son to Fleming’s Steakhouse for his 15th birthday and was surprised when we walked in and the maitre d’ handed him a birthday card hand signed by the entire staff. Pretty impressive,” Dan reflected. “What was really interesting was that it actually set up this expectation, this anticipation during dinner, even among my kids, that something was going to happen after the meal was over ... Well, Fleming's did not disappoint. They came out with a box of four handmade chocolates on a plate with Happy Birthday spelled out in cocoa powder and a sparkler, because a sparkler is so much cooler than a candle. [We all grabbed our phones to take a picture.] It's amazing, right?”
This steakhouse had no idea this celebration would be viewed in a workshop on brand experiences, in addition to all the social traction it received in the moment, but that just goes to show the serendipitous karma that sharing potential creates. So, Dan challenged us all to think about where we could deploy a sparkler instead of a predictable candle to make our customers feel special.
Because the second-to-last element of standout CX is to make things...
We can all throw a budget at awesome touches, and sometimes that’s the way to go. But other times, flashes of thoughtfulness have effectiveness way beyond the material investment - such as motion-activated under-the-bed nightlights in a hotel that stop you from tripping over in the dark, or wonderful music on hold that almost makes you disappointed when your call is connected.
But the most memorable and impactful messaging example Dan shared was literal ‘writing on the wall’ in a restroom, at a children’s hospital no less - a location every parent knows is a combined home of fear, hope, dread, and anxiety, where you see those you love most in the world in pain you are helpless to fix. A friend of Dan’s had this uplifting experience:
“On the way out [before my son’s surgery], I go into the restroom, and wash my hands ... I look up, and I see [a message written] on the mirror, “hang in there, Dad”. And it just felt like the perfect time. Somebody put their hand on my shoulder and was supporting me. Someone I didn't know thought about me, they thought about my experience, and what I was going through in the first moment of the entire day when I could be vulnerable just within myself. I just thought that it was such a thoughtful exercise that somebody went through to figure out where the perfect touchpoint to put a hand on my shoulder was.”
A message on a mirror? Not a big material investment. But what a huge return.
Memorable, relatable, high-impact customer experiences are not always about fireworks; they’re about humanity, emotion, vulnerability, and connection. A true desire to serve, and the simple actions which suggest themselves when you really consider things from the customer’s perspective, is all it really takes.
Once you’ve gotten WISE about designing your CX, don’t forget that a critical component of every interaction with customers is to be:
Last but certainly not least, brands must be readily available and responsive at all times to ensure the CX they deliver is one that leaves a lasting - and positive - impression. When customers need help, brands need to be there. It shows them (and everyone else who’s watching) that you care.
And while it may be easy to ignore positive word-of-mouth patrons share online, this is a mistake. Don’t ignore customers’ compliments just because they don’t command a response. If you do, chances are they’ll probably stop talking about you, which is the best free marketing there is.
So, whether a customer is launching a complaint on Twitter or simply sharing a positive experience they had on Google reviews, you should be quick to respond to both and seize the opportunity to create a customer for life. Here are a few of Dan’s tips for ensuring responsiveness:
- Serve the customer on their channel of choice, not the channel of your choice. (Ahem, omnichannel.)
- Set expectations about when your customer service teams will be able to respond and how long it usually takes.
- Don’t be afraid of complaints, because they’re often the key to identifying hidden pain points or unintended barriers.
This is also where we come in. Edify makes it easy to serve every customer on every channel faster than ever before, seamlessly blending self-service options with live assistance and displaying the entire customer journey in one window. We arm brands with the tools their agents need to serve customers more efficiently and maximize joy - all with a single piece of software.
To learn more about Edify's all-in-one enterprise communications solution, check out our brochure. And to dive deeper into Dan’s WISER framework, sign up for his free 10-day CX challenge; you’ll receive tips each day to help you get WISER than your competition.