‘Stand Out’ from the Competition – Your Guide to Create and Deliver Remarkable Experiences

Dan Gingiss is an international keynote speaker and customer experience coach who believes that a remarkable customer experience is your best marketing strategy. His 20-year professional career spanned multiple disciplines, including customer experience, marketing, social media and customer service. He held leadership positions at McDonald’s, Discover and Humana.

Dan is the author of The Experience Maker: How To Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait To Share, which was released in September 2021. And he’s also the author of Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media. He also hosts the “Experience This!” show podcast and “The Experience Maker Show.”

He earned a B.A. in Psychology and Communications from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A. in Marketing from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Questions

  • Could you share a little bit about your journey? How it is that you got to where you are today?
  • Could you share with our listeners, Dan, a little bit about this book, maybe share with us maybe three to four pillars that the book is built on? And why a company would need a tool like this to enhance our customer experience?
  • Could you maybe give us one or two examples of maybe companies that you know, that have demonstrated an immersive experience?
  • You mentioned that word of mouth is the best type of advertising for any business. How can we get our customers to the point where they want to share their experiences with us and it’s not just a mere experience?
  • Have you found that customers expectations have changed somewhat, since the pandemic? Do you find that they’re more sensitive to customer experiences, their expectations are higher? What has your experience been as a customer experience specialist in this area?
  • In this whole digital transformation space that companies are going through, how do you think we can re humanize the customer experience, even though we’re using digital to support that whole transition and make things easier for customers?
  • Can you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
  • Can you also share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or even one that you read recently, but it still had a great impact on you.
  • Can you also share with us what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now, something that you’re really excited about? It could be something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote; it kind of helps to keep you on track or get you refocus if for any reason you got derailed.

Highlights

Dan’s Journey

Dan shared that he started out in a marketing role right after college, even though he had never taken a marketing class; he was a psychology and communications, undergraduate major. And he realized once he gets into marketing, that’s basically what marketing is, it’s psychology plus communication. So, it turned out to work out pretty well. And he held that job for about four years, he really liked it. But he ended up going to business school, where he really formalized the marketing learning. And he learned that everything he had been doing had names and frameworks and all that sort of thing.

And then he spent another 15 – 16 years in corporate America, in financial services, healthcare, and eventually McDonald’s, learning all sorts of marketing channels, but also evolving into customer experience, and really falling in love with CX and its power to impact the bottom line, to obviously make customers happier. And so, the book is really a summary of everything that he’s learned, put into a simple framework that allows companies to create remarkable experiences for their customers without spending a lot of money.

“The Experience Maker, How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share” – The Pillars That The Book is Built On

Me: Amazing. So the book is really, really an awesome tool. So, for those of our listeners that are not familiar with Dan’s book, it’s The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share. So, could you share with our listeners, Dan, a little bit about this book, maybe share with us maybe three to four pillars that the book is built on? And why a company would need a tool like this to enhance our customer experience?

Dan shared that he’s a believer as a marketer, that the single best way to do marketing today is to get our customers to do it for us. And it’s called word of mouth marketing; it’s usually been considered the holy grail for marketers, and something that’s been on attainable until now.

And really, what we’re finding is that the companies that create great experiences don’t have to work so hard at marketing, because their customers are doing it for them, they’re sharing these experiences, because people like sharing positivity. We know that people share both negative experiences and positive experiences, but what they don’t share is an average experience. Nobody ever has said; “Let me tell you about the perfectly ordinary restaurant I went to last night.” That’s not something we care to share. But man, we will talk about it if it was amazing, and we will talk about it if it was terrible.

And so, the idea of the book is to teach companies, how do you create those amazing experiences and how do you create them in such a way that customers can’t help themselves, they reach into their pocket and grab their phone and take a picture and share it and say nice things about you.

So, the framework that he introduced is called WISER. And it’s so that you become wiser than the competition when it comes to customer experience. The first four letters wise stand for Witty, Immersive, Shareable, and Extraordinary, which are four different elements that help to create the kinds of experiences that are remarkable or worthy of remark, worthy of talking about.

Now you can use one of them, or you can use more than one of them. And the more that you stack them, the more powerful they are. But even just using one is going to start to change how your customers perceive the experience with you.

The R in WISER then becomes about being Responsive. And when people are talking about us, especially on social media, we’ve got to be part of that conversation. After all, if somebody gives us a compliment, we ignore them in real life, that’s pretty rude. They don’t think really highly of us and yet brands do that all the time in social media, where customers are complimenting them, but the brand is nowhere to be found.

Me: So, one of the things I really liked about the section on Witty, so you kind of explained that a little bit for us, you indicated that it wasn’t so much about being humorous, because not many brands can carry off humour, depending on what their brand, reputation or image is. But more so, being very clever and creative in the messaging that you put across. And there was one that really caught my eye in the book when I was reading; the gas station one where it said customer service is priceless and I thought that was really cool. Because at a gas station, typically, rates are not necessarily the best. So, that kind of caught my eye like if I did see two gas stations, as you suggested in the book and said customer service is priceless, I probably would go to the one that said that versus the one that didn’t have anything that would have caught my eye. That was really cool.

Dan shared that one of the ideas there is that competing on price is a loser’s game, and all you got to do is talk to that gas station owner because he’s got his competitor right across the street selling a very similar product for the exact same price. So, competing on price isn’t going to work for him. Now competing on product is also difficult because they’re both selling gas and inside their stores, they’re both selling basically the same convenience items. So, what’s left is customer experience and if this particular gas station can differentiate based on the service that you’re going to get, that is a reason to choose one over the other one across the street.

Example of Companies that Have Demonstrated an Immersive Experience

Me: So, the next part of your book talks about delivering an experience that is immersive. Could you maybe give us one or two examples of maybe companies that you know, that have demonstrated an immersive experience?

Dan shared that immersive is really about the continuity of the experience and creating something that is consistent and fluid in the customer’s eyes. And that’s difficult as companies get bigger because they tend to have silos and everyone in each silo is responsible for one part of the experience, but nobody’s responsible for connecting those experiences together.

So the poor customer ends up with this very choppy experience moving from part to part in your company. So, one of the examples that he shared in the book is about a company called Imperfect Produce. And they’re a company that takes strangely shaped and sized fruit and vegetables that don’t meet the cosmetic standards of a grocery store. And they box them into a subscription service that you can get a box every week at your doorstep.

And what they do is play on this idea that their fruits and vegetables sometimes look funny, they’re sometimes too big or too small, or they’re dented, or they’re just shaped weirdly. And so, they actually lean into that and they have these characters that appear throughout the experience that are these vegetables and they have googly eyes.

And you see these characters in their marketing, on the box, really throughout the experience. The other thing that they really lean into is this idea that by buying their fruits and vegetables, which otherwise would have gone into the landfill, you’re doing a good thing, you’re saving waste from going to the landfill, you’re saving water and CO2 because of the farmers not having to replant so often and they track this on the website.

So, every time he goes in to pick his fruits and vegetables, he’s reminded of how much he has saved from the landfill and he noticed the other day he just crossed 1200 pounds of produce that he’s gotten since he’s been a customer. And these are the kinds of things that keep people coming back for more because of the immersive nature of them; he’s much more tied into this brand than he would have been if they weren’t immersive.

Me: It’s almost like you feel like you’re a part of their journey in whatever they’re doing and because of that, it’s much more difficult for you to walk away from them. And now it becomes a real relationship, because there’s value being given on both ends of the spectrum.

How to Get Customers to Share Their Experiences With Us

Me: Now, you also mentioned that your experiences must be shareable. And I remember you used this word in the book, where you said customers have like a “Meh” experience, which is, I guess, just a mediocre one. I guess if we were to compare it to NPS, it would be like persons who scored seven and eight, because they’re not really wowed, but they’re not disappointed either, so they’re kind of in the middle. So, what I really wanted to ask was, we have customers who we want to share our experiences and you mentioned that word of mouth is the best type of advertising for any business. “How can we get our customers to the point where they want to share their experiences with us and it’s not just a “Meh” experience?”

Dan shared that the best example that he thinks really epitomizes this is the story that he tells in the book of taking his son for his birthday to a restaurant called Fleming Steakhouse.

And they walk into the restaurant, he had already told them ahead of time that it was his son’s birthday, and the Maître d’ hands him a birthday card that is signed by the staff. And he was pretty impressed with that, he had not seen that before.

And they’re sitting in eating our dinner and the discussion turns to and this may just happen in families where dad is a customer experience guy. But the discussion turns to his daughter actually brought up and said, “Hey, if they brought us a birthday card, I’ll bet they’re going to do something pretty special at the end of the meal.”

In the US, you often get a slice of cake and a candle when it’s your birthday, and it’s a very nice gesture, it’s just that every restaurant does it, so it doesn’t necessarily stand out.

And sure enough, Fleming’s did not disappoint, they came out with a box of handmade chocolates that was sitting on a plate, where Happy Birthday was spelled out in cocoa powder. And instead of a candle, they had a sparkler and the sparkler is so much cooler than a candle.

Now, there are four people at the table and without being told to and without coordinating, everybody immediately grabbed for their phones. And they took a picture of this dessert.

And the parent shared it to Facebook, and the kids shared it to Snapchat or Instagram, and just like that, Fleming’s had four different shares of an experience at their restaurant, all because they decided that a slice of cake and a candle while a nice gesture, is just not going to stand out enough for people to want to share it.

Now, he’ll bet that box of chocolates and the sparkler doesn’t cost them much more, it might even be around the same price. But the idea is that it’s so completely different and it stands out in such a way that people can’t help themselves, they want to take a picture of it.

And so, he uses that as a metaphor for companies to think about, “Where do you have a candle that you could turn into a sparkler?” Because that’s the difference, that’s what makes it shareable.

Me: That’s amazing. That was really out of the box thinking that that restaurant did for your son. And you’re right; every restaurant does just give a cake and a candle so if you’re doing something different then I guess that’s where the extraordinary in your wise acronym comes in because that experience was definitely extra ordinary, it was definitely out of the ordinary.

Dan stated that extraordinary just means a little bit better than ordinary, it doesn’t have to be a private firework show and a Beyonce’ concert, that’s extraordinary too.

But nobody has that kind of budget to do. And so, it’s just about figuring out somewhere in your journey, where let’s say you’re doing something the same way that your competitors do it, that’s a pretty good bet that that’s an average experience, because your competitors are not delivering extraordinary experiences most of the time. So if you’re doing it like everybody else is doing it, do it differently. And that’s a great way to go from ordinary to extraordinary, make it stand out by being a little bit different and that is another element that causes people to want to talk about it.

Since the Pandemic, Do You Find That Customers Are More Sensitive to Customer Experiences?

Me: So Dan, a big part of customer experience now, I know it has definitely changed a lot. I know a lot of customers are paying so much more attention to it now since we’re all going through this global pandemic. But have you found that customers expectations have changed somewhat, since the pandemic? Do you find that they’re more sensitive to customer experiences, their expectations are higher? What has your experience been as a customer experience specialist in this area?

Dan stated absolutely. He thinks we as customers really took note, especially early on in the pandemic, of which companies were there for us when we really needed them, and which companies weren’t.

And the truth is, is that a lot of companies did a very nice job at especially at the beginning of the pandemic, responding, reacting, and innovating. And then other companies really did not a good job of this. And basically checked the box, and didn’t particularly do anything different.

So, an example of that is when the pandemic first started, most of us got a lot of emails from companies that were telling us about their enhanced cleaning procedures. And he loved that everybody called them enhanced cleaning procedures, they weren’t ever better or improved, or anything other than the word enhanced because somebody started using the word enhance, and then everybody else copied that word.

And they also sent us, at least in the US, they would send us to the CDC website, which is the Center for Disease Control, he’s sure other countries have a similar organization. And what he found was that all these emails basically said the same thing, they were totally uncreative, unremarkable.

And then I got an email from his investment broker Charles Schwab and their email didn’t say anything about cleaning procedures, or the CDC website. Instead, their email said, “We understand that you must be very nervous about a volatile stock market. And so, we want to make sure that you know all of these tools and benefits that you have available to you that you can use to help you through this difficult time.”

And for him, that was exactly what he needed from his investment firm. He didn’t care about their cleaning procedure, that wasn’t important to him. But he certainly cared about a volatile stock market. So that’s the difference between companies that cared, and that were really trying to deliver what customers needed at this difficult time, versus what everybody else was doing. And so, that is something that customers remember and they’ve seen lots and lots of customers switch brands during the pandemic, because they realized that the company they were doing business with just wasn’t going to be delivering the experience that they wanted.

Re-Humanize The Customer Experience Even Through Using Digital to Support that Whole Transition and Make Things Easier for Customers

Me: Amazing. So, that’s definitely some other ways that our customers’ expectations have changed. I think also Dan, since the pandemic, I get that digital transformation is super important and it definitely makes life that much easier for the customer and can create that effortless experience for them and seamless experience, especially seeing that you may not want to physically go to the business place. But I get a lot of questions from time to time from companies asking me questions like; “Do you think human beings are going to become obsolete totally in the whole realm of customer experience? And of course, my answer is always no. But in this whole digital transformation space that companies are going through, how do you think we can re humanize the customer experience, even though we’re using digital to support that whole transition and make things easier for customers?

Dan shared that he totally agrees with Yanique, humans aren’t going anywhere, we’re not going to be replaced by robots.

And the reality is that customers today crave human interaction and the pandemic actually exacerbated that, especially the time that we were all stuck in our homes for so long, we wanted human interaction.

And so, there’s a time and a place for both human engagement and technology engagement within the customer journey. There are times where we just want to self serve, and we just want to go online and see our balance or pay a bill or whatever and we don’t want anybody to bother us, we just want to do it ourselves.

And then there are other times where we really need to talk to someone because we have a problem that we don’t think we can solve by ourselves or that might have too many layers to it. And so, we don’t, at that point, want to talk to a computer, we want to talk to a person.

And he thinks that companies that are getting it right are figuring out when do we deliver self service and when do we deliver human service. But those two things are always going to exist; one is not going to replace another.

App, Website or Tool that Dan Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Dan shared that he would say right now it’s actually LinkedIn and the reason for that is just that it is the place where he network, where he share content, where he consume other people’s content. And where he meets people that want to do business with him. And he thinks that is the space right now online that he can’t do without.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Dan

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Dan shared that one of his favorites is They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan. It’s a marketing book and it teaches you how to create content around the questions that your customers ask you, or that your prospects ask you. And so, although it’s a marketing book, it actually takes a lot of customer experience themes into it and he thinks it was one of the most valuable books that he has read, and has used in his own business and actually has used with clients as well.

Another one that he would pick, he’s going to go with one of Jay Baer’s books, because he loves him as well. He really loved Utility, but he’s going to go with Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. And much like his (Dan) first book, being about social media, customer service, this is really a book that tells you to embrace complaints, and to learn from them and to treat them as gifts, because they can help you not only be responsive to customers, and maybe turn them from detractors to advocates, but also to go back to your business and find what’s actually wrong and try to fix it for other people. So, Hug Your Haters is another one that definitely changed how he thinks about things.

What Dan is Really Excited About Now!

When asked about something that he’s really excited about, Dan stated that you’re asking a guy that just spent nine months launching a book; he’s now kind of just coming off of that. But he’ll say that he’s super excited to be back speaking on stages in person. He had two keynotes this week in two different cities, it was so nice to be with people again, yes, everybody’s being safe and wearing a mask where appropriate. But there’s just something as the speaker to talking to people in real life and seeing their eyes and seeing their reactions and hearing them laugh and clap and what have you that just doesn’t happen on Zoom or in digital channels. And so, that’s something he’s really excited about is the fact that live events are coming back and are back in some places. And he really looks forward to doing a lot more of those in 2022.

Me: That’s brilliant, love that. So simple. And pre pandemic, we probably would have taken these very simple things for granted. I’m sure we never would have imagined a time when we were locked up in our homes and everything had to be digital. So now, as you said, we’re getting back out there, and we’re still being safe. But you really appreciate the very simple things in life that as I would say, we may have taken for granted; we wouldn’t have realized how important or how valuable those kinds of experiences are.

Where Can We Find Dan Online

Website – https://dangingiss.com/

LinkedIn – Dan Gingiss

Twitter – @dgingiss

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Dan Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Dan shared that this quote, believe it or not comes from a fortune cookie. He got this fortune that he was so excited about and he taped it up on to his camera right behind his laptop screen.

So, since the camera is always facing him, he can always see this. And it says, “Never mind tomorrow. Today is the day.” And he loves that because there are days where we want to procrastinate, or there are days where we just don’t have the energy. And he likes reminding himself that today’s the day and today is the day that he can move his business forward, he can help a customer out, he can do something nice for somebody, and you never know what tomorrow brings, or even if tomorrow brings and so that’s a quote that’s definitely stuck with him for a while.

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