Episode 058: “Do Simple Better – Success Route for Customer Loyalty” with Dan Gingiss

Dan’s 20-year career has consistently focused on delighting customers, spanning multiple disciplines including Social Media, Customer Service, Marketing, and Digital Customer Experience. Dan is the author of the new book, Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media, which is available on Amazon. He also co-hosts the Experience This! podcast, a weekly look at what’s working – and not working! – in the world of customer experience. Previously, Dan hosted the Focus on Customer Service Podcast, where he interviewed nearly four dozen brands which are renowned for outstanding customer service in Social Media, garnering tips and best practices. The podcast was named one of “The 50 Best Customer Retention Podcasts to Help You Attract, Engage and Retain Customers” by NGDATA. A frequent conference speaker, at conferences such as: Social Media Marketing World, Social Shake-Up, Corporate Social Media Summit, The Customer Service Summit, The Secret Service Summit, and more, Dan has also been named to several notable industry lists, including:

“The 30 Most Influential People in Social Customer Service” by Conversocial
“The Top 15 NPS & Customer Service Thought Leaders to Follow in 2017” by CustomerGauge

Dan has also been responsible for Social Media, digital marketing, and customer experience at several Fortune 300 brands, including being the Senior Director of Global Social Media at McDonald’s Corporation, Head of Digital Marketing at Humana and Head of Digital Customer Experience and Social Media at Discover. He played a key role in Discover winning its first J.D. Power Award for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction.” Dan also holds a B.A. in Psychology and Communications from the University of Pennsylvania, and he has an M.B.A. in Marketing and Strategy from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He resides in Chicago with his family and is an avid Cubs fan.

Interview Questions

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey
What are some tips for an organization who is now embarking on using social media as a part of their marketing tool or their marketing strategy?
What are some of the main things you have noticed over the years as being in customer care on social media? Why do you think people tend to flock to social media?
How do you stay motivated every day?
What is one online resource, website, tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
What are some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
What is the one thing in your life right now that you are really excited about – something that you are working on to develop yourself or people?
Where can our listeners find you online?
What is one quote or saying that you live by or that inspires you in times of adversity?


Dan Gingiss has been a marketer for more than 20 years and the role that really pushed him into customer experience was at Discover Card. He was recruited into a role in the digital team and asked to lead Digital Customer Experience and it was interesting to him because the guy that recruited him there who is the Chief Digital Officer noticed something about him or was able to verbalize something about him that he had not actually figured out about himself yet and he said that the reason why he wanted him to lead this with very little digital experience on his resume was that he had a unique ability to always be wearing the customer hat in almost every meeting he was in. And so, as he thought about that he was like, “Yeah, that actually is me.” He loves to put myself into the customer’s shoes and try to be the customer so that he knows what it is that he’d like to see or what he’d like to experience and that helps him to design better experiences so that was a really fun role for him because his team was leading the website and eventually the mobile app. And just to give an idea, Discover which is not even one of the biggest Credit Cards in the U.S. gets almost 50 million logins a month on their website. So, it is the key way that customers engage with their Credit Card company. And so, there’s so many opportunities to improve and develop new experiences as they do that. So that was his role. It also got him into Social Media and in Social Media as a marketer, the thing that interested him the most was that it’s the first and only Marketing Channel where people can actually talk back to you. So, every other Marketing Channel the brand gets to have a megaphone and kind of shout its message at people and people either have to listen or perhaps they can turn off or change the channel. But this is the first channel where people can talk back to and that was immediately fascinating to him because he knew that companies that engage with their customers were going to be differentiated and that in itself was a way to improve the customer experience. So, that’s kind of how he got into this and from there it’s just been something that he has been fascinated by. He has written about it, he has been podcasting about it, and it continues to be a topic that he thinks is absolutely critical for virtually every business out there.

Yanique mentioned that the whole platform of customer experience over the years clearly has changed as indicated in the introduction where Dan said before traditionally marketers would be using a megaphone and kind of shouting their messages to the customer. A big part of customer experience now especially with Social Media is that the customer now has a platform by which they can express their voice and so testimonials have become such an integral role in terms of customers making decisions. It’s no longer what you say the brand is but it’s not what your customers say the experience and the brand experience is like.

Dan agreed and stated that we all expect that when we go to a business’s website, that website is going to tell us great things about the business because it’s speaking, so we’re used to that. And that’s a good first step to figure out what it is we’re getting ourselves into but with almost any product or service the very next step is to figure out what other people are saying and whether that’s a ratings and reviews site or it’s looking up the company on Facebook or on Twitter. These are really important steps in the buying journey. And so, the extent to which companies can ensure that as prospects go through that buying journey they’re hearing good things about their company or if they’re hearing complaints that they’re seeing a company that cares enough to listen to those complaints and respond to them. That’s becoming really critical and he thinks the companies that are figuring it out are the ones that are getting more business because people are taking into consideration besides price and product, they’re taking into consideration the willingness of the company to engage with me if I have a problem as a as a big part of the decision.

Dan stated that when social started that’s exactly what brands did is they said, “Hey, this is another way for us to shout our message at the masses.” It’s a cheap way for us to do that especially back in the day before it became mostly a paid channel. And he thinks that they quickly figured out that this was a different kind of channel and that customers were not going to stand around for just hearing marketing messages. If you think about it, what’s amazing about Social Media is that all the power has shifted from the company to the customer, the customer at any time can unfollow a company or just not pay attention to it anymore. And as we all know when we look at our streams and Facebook and Twitter we’re seeing a lot of content. So, it’s very easy for us to just scroll past it if it’s something we’re not interested in but he does think that more and more customers as they’re evaluating companies they want to do business with are looking at their social presence to make sure that it isn’t just marketing and to make sure that when people do bring questions or complaints to their attention that that company is engaging back. It is a new world in which consumers want to have a relationship with companies and that relationship is two way and it involves being able to have a conversation with the brand. When I want to and where I want to. And so, looking on the Twitter feed or the Facebook feed to make sure that a company is willing to do that as he said he believe is becoming more and more part of the decision-making process.

Yanique mentioned that one of the things that her customers sometimes ask her and as an expert in Social Media Customer Care, she would love to hear his feedback on it. Typically, what do you think is the global standard or do you think it should be a standard based on the industry that you are in if you post complained or comment on someone’s social media page. What is a standard time within which they should get back in touch with you. Is it immediately? And when we say immediately, what do we define that as, 24 hours, an hour, 30 minutes?

Dan stated that the time to get in touch with a customer after a complaint or comment was posted does differ slightly by industry. He would say that best in class is 15 minutes or less. He doesn’t think that people expect instant yet unless they’re on a channel like a live chat. But he thinks 15 minutes or less is considered best in class. Now there are some caveats to that. If you are an international airline that operates 24 hours a day you know the expectation is that you are available 24 hours and that you’re responding quickly because your customers might be stranded in an airport having just missed a flight and they cannot wait for a response. If you are a mom and pop retail store that has one location that’s open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, there’s probably not as much expectation that you are responding 24/7. And into that kind of a company he would advise that as long as you are upfront with your customers about when you’re available and you set expectations properly it’s absolutely fine for you not to be available all the time. The challenge is that more and more consumers are evaluating every company they do business with in comparison to every other company they do business with. If you are a restaurant, you’re not necessarily being compared to another restaurant, you’re being compared to Amazon or Sprint or Comcast or whatever company. I just had a really great experience with on social media and who answered my question in 15 minutes or less. So that’s the challenge is that you don’t get to say, “Well. I’m just a small restaurant.” And so, my customers’ expectations aren’t as high because unfortunately you’re being compared to all those other companies. Now the good news is those other companies are also being compared to you. So, when he goes into a restaurant and he has a really nice waiter or waitress and the food is delicious and the overall atmosphere and experience are fantastic, the next day when he walks into the Sprint store or some other place, he is comparing that experience to what he just had at the restaurant. So, he thinks that the short answer to the question is, he has always tried it at the companies he has been at to aim for 15 minutes or less, that is best in class across all industries but certainly depending on the size of your company, the size of your customer base and your hours of operation. There’s flexibility there.

Dan stated he has an easy equation that he has in his book and for those of who don’t like math don’t worry you’re not going to be overwhelmed. The equation is that expectations plus emotions equals a willingness to share. When companies exceed customer expectations we make them happy. And unfortunately, today they’re still surprised at that because companies don’t exceed expectations very often and when we have a great experience we are more than willing as customers to share that publicly because it is still a unique thing to have a great experience. When companies only meet expectations or barely meet expectations, you created a motion that’s really blahhh, nothing and an okay experience, there’s no reason to share that. Why would anybody want to tell their friends about an OK experience. But when companies miss expectations we make customers sad or worse angry. And unfortunately, there’s a very high willingness to share there as well. So, his advice to companies is to make sure that your positive experiences outweigh your negative experiences and you will have more positive sentiment on Social Media than negative because your fans will be louder, your lovers will be louder than your haters. And that’s hard to do because especially as your business gets bigger you are going to make mistakes, you are going to miss customer expectations. But even then, you have such an opportunity in a public space like Social Media to show that you care, to show that you have empathy and to make it right. There’s countless occasions where he has seen companies turn negative detractors into positive advocates just because they are responsive and willing to help.

Yanique stated that Dan mentioned one very important word that she thinks is critical to achieving customer experience and building loyalty. And that’s empathy. And asked if he could just share with us what are his views on empathy and why is it even necessary in our customer service environment regardless of the industry that you’re in?

Dan stated that it goes back to what he was describing before is the ability to step into the customer’s shoes. He thinks that very often companies create products and services and even worse processes that they haven’t actually as consumers gone through themselves. So, they make a lot of sense to the company but as a consumer you’re stuck going through a process that is difficult or time consuming or doesn’t make sense. And when you have a complaint, what you want is somebody to listen to you and to believe your complaint and to be willing to help and all of that kind of gets wrapped up into empathy and the best customer service agents are the ones that are able to step into a customer’s shoes, understand that they’re frustrated and be willing to try to help them. When people ask him what kind of people you look for in Social Customer Care. He always says you want to look for the customer service qualities first among which empathy is one of the top things to look for because you can teach almost anybody how to do Social Media. It’s very difficult to teach empathy and it’s very difficult to teach someone to be great at customer service, to want to solve customer problems, to be willing to listen, to be willing to remain objective and not get emotional when a customer is upset. These are things that are really tough to teach and they’re kind of innate in people. But when you find those people that are good at that you can teach them Twitter and Facebook, that’s pretty easy. He believes that empathy is one of those things that customers are looking for when they’re frustrated and when they find it, it eases their frustration and again can make them actually turn the negative experience into a positive one.

Yanique reiterated by saying you take the same approach that you would take to employ someone that you are putting face to face in front of your customer with the right attitude. And then you can teach them the technical skills but that same characteristic that you’re looking for in that individual that’s who you’re going to put in front of your Social Media as well.

Dan agreed stated that when you’ve got people answering in Social Media they are the face of your brand. The other thing he advise for social agents in particular is to make sure that they’re good writers which is something that you don’t need necessarily in a phone agent but when you see companies responding to customers and there are spelling and grammar errors that’s a reflection on the company and so the people that you select for this really important role, they’ve got to be good writers, they have to be able to show empathy and patience and caring and a willingness to solve problems because all of that is reflective of your brand.

Yanique stated that the book actually covers a lot of the areas that Dan speaks to. She is encouraging listeners that are going to have the opportunity to listen to this podcast. This book was actually written by Dan and Jay Baer wrote the foreword to the book. Jay Baer was a past guest on our podcast couple months back so you can always archive one of those podcast episodes and listen to Jay. But it’s important and just wanted to emphasize to our listeners that this is an awesome book. It focuses on a lot of areas and questions that Dan may not be able to fully answer in this podcast, he’s only touching on little areas but he goes deeper in the actual book Winning at Social Customer Care. So, she would encourage all of you and have the opportunity to listen to this episode to head on over to Amazon and purchase this book because this could be your winning tool for 2018.

Dan stated that he stays motivated because he thinks that customer experience is still in its infancy. He thinks we’ve been talking about it now for a couple of years as being important and you see all the surveys that say that CEOs and CMOs know that it’s a key thing to focus on. But he still thinks we’re not quite at the point where customer experience is going and thinks that it will be the last true differentiator among brands. Think that the industries that compete on price find out very quickly that that’s a very tough way to make money. And we know that most products and services can be copied in some way. And so, the real distinction that companies have is the way they treat their customers and that is very difficult to copy because it is made up usually of human interactions. And so, he has talked before about hiring the right people and having the right front line, that’s very difficult to copy and that’s what motivates him because he looks around and his podcast is all about great experiences that he and his co-host have had with different companies or that their listeners have had with different companies but it is amazing just waking up every day and living your life and interacting with brands. It is amazing how few of those there still are, as often as we’ve been talking about customer experience and Yanique has this great podcast and other people are talking about it, it is amazing still how many companies don’t get it or aren’t executing on it. So, to him that just means opportunity and he thinks that a day is coming where all companies are going to have to prioritize it and that will be exciting because as customers, that is going to make our lives a lot easier.

Yanique mentioned that it’s interesting that Dan said that because we are all customers regardless of the businesses that we interface with or the lives that we lead but a lot of the challenges that we face in life that contribute to our stress level being high which leads to chronic illnesses. It really boils down to the interactions and the relationships that we have with people and a lot of it boils down to the services experiences that we have, how we treat each other, how we respond to each other. If more organizations could make an effort to understand how important this is to their business it would actually improve the quality of life not just in the business but generally how we relate to each other in the world, it would improve the world overall.

Dan agreed and said that Jay Baer was on a previous podcast and Jay wrote a terrific book called Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer and one of the key takeaways there that he loves is that people who complain about your company, complain because they care. The ones we need to be worried about are the ones that have already picked up and moved to our competition. But the ones that are complaining actually care about our brand and want us to be better. And again, there’s a sort of a human nature to that that if we’re just willing to listen and hear out a customer that has a complaint more often than not we’re going to realize that that complaints are valid and that that customer might actually be suggesting ways for our experience to be even better. And as long as we’re open minded about that we shouldn’t be afraid of complaints, in fact we should welcome them because it’s feedback and feedbacks a gift whether you are a company or an individual, getting honest feedback is a real gift. It’s what we do with it that matters and he totally agrees, if we had fewer bad experiences with companies we’d probably all be happier as a population.

Dan shared a tool that he cannot live without and stated that he’s going to probably choose the obvious one and go with Twitter and the reason is as much as Twitter has struggled as a public company, he thinks that Twitter is still the place to listen to what your customers are saying about both you and your competition and companies that are not paying attention on Twitter to the conversation about your industry, about your company or your competitors are just missing so much rich data that can help you improve your business. He thinks he’s two angles and both of which he talks about in the book. One is identifying the pain points that your customers are having with you and fixing them. It’s one thing to respond within 15 minutes and help that individual customer but you need to take it to the next level and actually fix the underlying problem so that you don’t have repeat complaints that actually will end up saving you money because your customer service expenses will go down. The other thing though is that there’s so much opportunity to grow your business with new products and new innovations that are suggested by your customers. One of his favorite examples is the company Otterbox which makes cases for mobile phones and just from listening on Twitter they figured out that a lot of their customers were bringing their phones into the shower of all places in order to listen to music and this was a use case that they had not considered previously. So, they took this information and the data and they brought it back to their R and D (Research and Development) team and they ended up creating their first ever waterproof case which turned out to be one of their best sellers. And that doesn’t happen if they’re not listening to the conversation on Twitter so to him that is the absolute must have. If you’re not paying attention get onto Twitter, you don’t even have to tweet if you don’t want to. You just have to create some lists, follow some people and listen to what’s going on to what the conversation is about and you will learn a ton.

Yanique mentioned that she is an Otterbox user, she didn’t know they had a water proof case, that’s awesome. Listening as Dan said is so important and it’s not just about going on Twitter and hearing information or looking at what’s there but actually using that information, providing it to the people in the business that can actually do something with that information. So, it’s good that they listened, they took it back and the team actually did something by creating a product that customers actually wanted because a lot of times in a business your customers are telling you what they want, it’s just if you’re really listening to what they want or are you just giving them what you think they want.

Dan shared a few of the books that have had a big impact on him and stated he would go with two of them. And one of them is going to bring back his friend Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer was a book that he thinks was a real turning point because Jay for most of his career had been a marketing expert. In fact, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer his earlier book is also one of his favorite books and he shifted over to the customer service realm and Dan looked at Hug Your Haters as and Jay actually sort of wrote this in the foreword to his book is that Hug Your Haters really outlines the why of why it is that we have to engage with customers in Social Media and in all other channels and then his book tried to be a follow on to kind of say here’s the how into the social media space specifically but he thinks Hug Your Haters is an absolute must read. He’s got great examples from lots of different companies in there. And then another book that he’s a huge fan of is called They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan who is a wonderful guy. Marcus is the single best speaker he has ever seen in public at a conference and his book really talks to making sure that your company is the source of the best information about your product, service, industry anywhere on the planet. And he tells a wonderful story about his own company which was a swimming pool installation company and how he turned his website into the number one swimming pool website in the world in terms of people asking questions about installing swimming pools into their backyards and his company is just this little company on the East Coast of the U.S. It doesn’t even service the world but it has become the go to resource and that book is really important because it shows the overlap between marketing and customer service and he thinks that there is a huge overlap there. He talks a lot about the sales process and how having all of this information will draw in prospects but it also can be used for servicing perspective because the more we can get our customers to self-serve with great content the less they have to call us and frankly create expense in a call center. And so, he thinks that book is a terrific one as well that he would highly recommend.

Yanique mentioned that she liked the fact that he linked marketing and customer experience because she thinks there is a lot of organizations that have these departments and the departments aren’t even speaking to each other so they’re collecting, doing their own thing but they are operating in silos and she’s not sure if marketing has recognized that what they’re doing connects directly to what the customer is experiencing and of course whatever it is that the customer is experiencing needs to filter back into what marketing is doing on their end to ensure that they’re actually meeting the customers’ needs, that’s powerful and that’s like a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) that a lot of organizations that light bulb has not gone off in their business as yet for them to recognize that those departments really should be working in tandem with each other.

Dan agreed and stated that how many of us has gone on to a website and have been greeted with an obnoxious pop up ad from the marketing department, the problem is those ads tends to work which is why companies do it but they work at the expense of annoying the 90% of customers that don’t click on it and that’s frustrating and marketers have to be way more aware of the overall customer experience and their contribution to the customer experience than they are today and he believes that silo busting is going to continue to be a theme in 2018 with companies, the ones that are figuring out to get silos integrated with each other instead of separate are going make great strides towards improving the entire customer journey.

Dan stated that right now he is thinking about what’s next for him and his career and looking at whether he wants to continue speaking and writing and kind of making a go at it independently or whether he wants to continue working at big companies. He sort of had this rare combination over the last few years because most of the folks that are speaking in podcasting and writing books are doing it independently or they run their own consultancies versus working for big brands. He has been trying to do both for a while and he’s really trying to think inward now and figure out what makes him happiest and what he wants to do next, that’s probably what’s on his mind right now and as we turn into 2018 and he’s excited for whatever lies in the future.

Dan shared listeners can find him at –

Twitter – @dgingiss

LinkedIn – @dangingiss


Dan shared that a quote he leans one that he talks about in the book. When he was introduced it was mentioned that he is an avid Cubs fan and the manager of the Chicago Cubs name’s Joe Madden and Joe has all of these great sayings and great quotes that are meant to be about baseball but Dan actually thinks that when Joe retires from baseball, he’s going to become a business consultant because almost everything he teaches his players is very applicable to business. His favorite one of his is, “Do simple better.” He loves that because it in itself is very simple, it’s three words. When he’s talking about baseball, he’s talking about making sure that you always run out a play or the simple ground battle or the short stop that those are not the ones you make errors on. But in real life and business it’s such a good mantra to live by because so many companies make things overly complicated for customers and if you can figure out how to do simple better, generally you’re going to get to a much better outcome for both the customer and the business. When he struggles at work with some sort of complexity or the legal department wants this or government regulation wants this or the PR department is asking for something, again, it’s about putting that customer hat on and saying, “What’s the simplest route for our customer? How do we make it as simple as possible and do simple better?” There are some great examples in the book and elsewhere about this. One quick one that he gives which is one of his favorites and talks about in the book about this company that does conference calls servicing and we’ve all been on conference calls where we’re waiting on hold and we listen to this awful music and this one particular company hired a guy who actually now works for Facebook to record a song with his guitar called “I’m on hold” and he would encourage listeners to go to YouTube and look it up by Alex Cornell, this song is absolutely amazing and as you’re listening this song, it’s just this nice guy strumming a guitar, and you find yourself realizing you don’t want the person on the other line to actually join the call because you want to listen to the music instead and that is doing simple better, that’s taking a very simple experience of waiting on hold and making it memorable and remarkable instead of either annoying or unremarkable. He thinks that when companies can find opportunities to do that at every step of the journey, you really make things much better for your customers and you can really change the whole perception of dealing with you as a company.

Yanique agreed and stated that even though it’s just three basic words, it’s not so much the words but it’s the meaning and the purpose that’s in the depth of those words that you really should extrapolate and try to inject into the DNA of your employees so that they can really function from that mindset because you’re right, sometimes things are very simple and we find the most complicated and complex routes to frustrate the poor customers who kind of want to get in and out in the shortest possible time whether it be online, face to face, over the phone, “It’s just a simple question I want answered” and somehow it’s just a very discombobulate way that the organization has put in place for this. If we could really start with that in mind, do simple better, it will definitely improve the quality of all of our lives.


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