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Experience Points featuring Author, Speaker and CXO Brittany Hodak

Avtex Chief Experience Officer, Kurt Schroeder sat down with VP of Marketing, John Seeds to discuss key takeaways from this episode of Experience Points with Brittany Hodak. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss viewing the customer journey as cyclical, companies that crushed CX during COVID and Chick-fil-A's relationship with the customer experience.

Fake or Fact

[John] I think that the topic today is an interesting one because I actually spent a lot of time over the weekend going through and unsubscribing from a lot of newsletters. It wasn't necessarily because any of them individually were invaluable to me. I just was ending my day with 40 emails in my personal email of just that day's promotions. I think that that's an interesting thing that some of these newsletters or these emails have turned into is, "Hey, what are we going to promote to you today?" Rather than figuring out what's valuable to me and my time and continuing to educate me and pull me along and into a relationship with that brand.

[Kurt] I think one of the points they made was this idea that every touchpoint in the journey is an opportunity to create an experience and that experience aligns to your brand promise, including, what many people think is the last step of the experience, being when you hit unsubscribe or you cancel the subscription that Brittany was talking about. I think we need to change our thinking.

Many times when we think about journey mapping, we visualize it as a linear process, it's really a cyclical process. That unsubscribe is just another data point. It's another interaction point that you can express your brand in a positive way. If you do that, that helps cycle through that relationship in a way that'll bring them back perhaps. Let's not think about it as the end of the journey and, therefore, we don't care. But let's think about it as a step in the journey that's more cyclical than it is linear.

[John] It's almost reframing the journey. I talk about this when I wax eloquent about customer experience. I talk about the biggie of experiences. The biggie customer experience is talking about the totality of everything. But within that, there are individually crafted experiences.

You think about a theme park. Going to the theme park, your whole day was an experience. Going to get the tickets. Standing in line. Getting the drinks. Those are all individual experiences that make up that broader thing. I think the same thing is true about the journey. These journeys have these individual journeys within that.

If you look at it that way, or the cyclical way that you're thinking about things, it reframes the unsubscribe process to be not like, "Oh, I got to save that person from leaving," but, "Hey, how can I make an impact? And how can I actually use that as a building experience for the brand, even though they are leaving?" It reframes it in an interesting way that allows some freedom almost for how we communicate with customers.

[Kurt] I think the other point that was well made is that Brittany talked about how many times we get these communications from organizations we work with. It's signed as this generic company, or the customer service team, or what have you. We're designed to be in a relationship. We thrive on relationships as people. I think it's okay to have a person express their own brand as a part of the company itself and create that relationship, create that connection. My daughter and I are working on perhaps getting a house for her. I'm coaching her through the mortgage process. I was impressed with the mortgage loan officer. The first thing he did is introduce himself and give us his backstory. It creates that connection. I think that's important, even if it's a connection on presumably the way out.

[John] It's really putting humanity into the brand. I think that that's critically important to the overall journey.

What Happened?

[Kurt] I really like this one, because I appreciated her comment about there are some times during COVID where there were some poor experiences, but I would argue that there are some companies that, man, just crushed it during COVID and did really, really well. You know? I'm a diamond flyer with Delta, they really stepped up and maintained my status. They got really flexible on flight changes, reducing or eliminating fees altogether. They became extremely flexible during COVID.

So, I think what this kind of highlights to me is that there's this idea of choices that organizations make every day, choices to either provide a great experience, or choices to rigorously and adamantly adhere to their policies. So, there are macro choices, like what Delta did, and then there are micro choices that take place every time you have an interaction with a customer that might be outside of the lines that you've established.

[John] I think that the interesting thing, as we look and reflect on the pandemic, is that it forced companies to lean into those choices and it forced them to choose. But what happened was that there was this external pressure on you as an organization to choose what your customers meant to you. So, if you hadn't have done the foundational work, if you don't have a true north star, if you hadn't thought about the way that you want to interact with your customers, you revert to policies and guidelines to make the decisions for your organization rather than humanizing those interactions and letting the customer lead the way and be that shining beacon.

[Kurt] I think the other thing that comes into play is you have these macro choices. What are we going to do during COVID? Then you have these micro choices that, quite frankly, your employees are having to make every day, day in and day out. This word empowerment is kind of coming back into style, which I think is a good thing, to be able to provide your employees with some pretty broad guardrails to make things right. As Brittany said, it doesn't have to be the Ritz Carlton. It doesn't have to be you have $2,000. But, gosh, give them some leeway to make some decisions on the fly because their gut instinct may be extremely beneficial in providing a great experience in creating a lifelong customer.

[John] One of the interesting points that I think that Brittany made is that that employee experience shows people how they should interact with the customer. So, when you think about what that means, I reflect on my two young sons and the importance of modeling and, how really a lot of their learning and what they do in the world is based on modeling, interpreting, and following the behavior that you do as a parent. So, I think the same thing needs to be thought of in the corporate world in terms of how the leadership and organizations top-down and at different departments model what they talk about when they talk about the customer, where they put the customer in terms of priority, it's going to trickle down, and then that's going to in turn really impact the people who are dealing with the customer day-to-day.

[Kurt] Yeah, I think that's right. You keep saying this, bringing humanity back into the situation. So, bring humanity back into how we make decisions for the good of the customer within some pretty broad guardrails that will still make the business successful as well.

Think Fast

[Kurt] Anytime you talk about customer experience someone will always bring up Chick-fil-A. It's bound to happen. It's no longer a question.

[John] I mean, they've created an experience at the drive-through, that everybody knows what it's like to go to a Chick-fil-A, and you're not concerned that the line's long. You're not concerned at the amount of people running around the parking lot, because you know that they've got it down, and they understand what it takes to move people through that line.

What's interesting to me is they talked about speed, but one of the nuances that I picked up on around the survey is that there were seven different measurements that defined the best drive-through experience. They dominated six of them. They're not just focused on the operational metrics of quality or speed, they're thinking about it more holistically to craft an experience through a drive-through, that when somebody says, "Oh. You want to go to Chick-fil-A," that none of the other people are like, "Oh. I don't want to sit in that line."

[Kurt] I'm sure that we could probably write a book entitled, Everything I Needed to Know About Customer Experience, I Learned at Chick-fil-A. I mean, you've heard stories about, where if it's raining out, and they see a person getting out of the car, they're out there with an umbrella helping them in, so they don't get wet, but I think that the key with all this is what's important. That is, not only do they do brilliance in the basics, but they provide the experience in context. In the story that Brittany had told, where you hear those loud kids, screaming in the background, the person's in tune enough to say, "Oh man. Forget the Diet Dr. Pepper, you need a milkshake." That's understanding the experience in context. The same thing with the story about going out, if it's raining. I mean, no one wants to walk into a restaurant sopping wet, right?

It's delivering the experience in the context that the customer is experiencing it. When we think about journey design, we do a lot of journey design, not based on the ideal situation, but based on a linear instance. It really is good to say, "Not every customer is going to follow that." There are going to be different contextual nuances that you're going to need to take into consideration when you're delivering the experience and being true to your brand.

[John] When we think about this survey, which I find interesting, it is about the brilliance in the basics. You can't move on from that to have an elevated experience if you aren't doing some of those brilliance in the basics things. It has to be a gradual thing. I find it fascinating to think through the gradual evolution of this experience that Chick-fil-A has created because it didn't start here. They didn't start by having people halfway out in the street. They had to build there over time, but they didn't stop at, "Yep. People are getting their sandwiches. Check." Right? They thought about, "Okay. Well, how are people getting their sandwiches? What does it feel like to get a sandwich at a drive-through?" I just love the thinking that resonates through some of the experiences that we're witnessing.

[Kurt] Well, Chick-fil-A is not the only one, obviously, that does that. But having organizations continually thinking about the context of the customer experience can really help improve it overall.