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Experience Points featuring the founder of Fans First Entertainment and owner of the Savannah Bananas, Jesse Cole

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 Jesse Cole. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss the impact of customer reviews, empowering your employees, and observational research.

Fake or Fact

[Kurt] So everywhere you go, you're being asked for a review.

[John] It's obviously ingrained into the workforce, but there's some compensation tied to that on the other side as well.

[Kurt] There is, and, gosh, you experience it with Uber, and quite frankly, even with the airlines you fly. I remember on a flight I was on before COVID, I happened to be sitting next to a Delta pilot. And I just asked him why when the flight landed, the pilot would stand in the doorway to the cockpit and tell everyone, "Thank you for flying Delta." And he said that as pilots, they get to read all of the reviews on every flight that they captain. And Delta had determined from the reviews, that one of the things that creates a positive review is when the captain extends a sincere thank you to the passengers.

[John] Interesting. Is there any risk there in terms of how you're compensating people from a review and five star and rating perspective? Or do we think that that actually does drive behavior in terms of thinking about the service, the whole interaction with the customer?

[Kurt] That's a really good question. I think just like in anything, it can be a little bit of a double-edged sword. If you're tying comp or tying performance bonuses to it, of course, you're going to raise awareness. But then that also opens up the door for trying to gain the system.

I think we live in the experience economy. Part of that is not only the experience that I have with a brand but then the participation of reviews that take place. And so, I think reviews are important. We know from research that people trust reviews more than they do marketing right now.

[John] I think that it goes back to one of the standards that we talk about in customer experience, which is authenticity. You have to be authentic. And I think one of the themes that I'm noticing here as we go through these episodes and talk about these different experiences, is that there is nobody better at spotting, in a technical term that I like, phony-baloney behavior, than a customer.

We're so attuned to when things are a little so that authentic part really comes through. And it goes back to people asking for reviews. Are you being authentic, or are you just trying to make sure that I'm getting you comped appropriately?

[Kurt] I think in the case of the Savannah Bananas, there are people that are attached to that brand, there are people that are attached to that experience. And so when they take the time to give you a review, it's because they're attached to that brand. And so those reviews are extremely powerful.

Jesse was talking about the idea that before you respond to something, let's wait 30 minutes, or an hour, and see if our brand advocates step in and on our behalf a little bit. You start cultivating this brand advocacy on your behalf, so you're not having to defend yourself or explain yourself at every turn.

I think one of the most important things to understand is that if people are dissatisfied, most of them just go away quietly. I think we have some statistics that say 91% of the people won't tell you about it, they'll just go away. And so the importance of reviews is that you can extrapolate for every bad review you've gotten, there are probably 10 people that had the same experience, had the same concerns, and didn't say anything.

[John] It's interesting as you look at this, they talked about trying to capture reviews in a moment of elation with your brand. Well, I think that's great to get and solicit positive reviews, but as we also saw in the episode, the negative reviews are helpful for extrapolating out what problems you need to go fix to decrease the friction in the experience with your brand.

But when you think about who's reviewing, it's on either side of the spectrum. You're going to leave a review when you had a great experience or a really negative one that you want somebody to fix. You’re not just leaving the brand, you're loyal enough that you're giving them a chance to fix it.

But what about that middle section? That's still a valuable subset of experiences that has some learning. So what are some things that folks can do to engage those everyday customers, who aren't leaving super positive or super negative reviews?

[Kurt] It’s a good question. If you're thinking about Net Promoter Score, it's not the detractors and it's not the promoters, it's the people that are ambivalent.

One way is to incentivize it a little bit. So if you know that you've got a person or a people group that isn't necessarily writing reviews, maybe they're mediocre on the brand or the experience, incentivize them. Reach out, do a little bit of research beyond the reviews.

But we should never think that reviews are the sole source of the voice of the customer. This is one component of a good voice of customer program. And I think you use the voice of the customer to go after those that maybe haven't had that either highly positive, emotional experience or negative, emotional experience, to make sure you're getting feedback that's well.

What Happened?

[Kurt] I don't know about you, but I buy most of my stuff off the clearance rack. So I related to that story, but I've never had someone call around because my size wasn't on the clearance rack. That was a remarkable experience that he had.

[John] No, I can guarantee that most of us haven't had that experience with the clearance rack at all.

[Kurt] I think that raises a really interesting point, which is the clearance rack is usually tucked back in the corner of the store. No one points you to it. It's really not remarkable at all. Sometimes you don't even get attention when you're milling around the clearance rack. But it brings up a good concept, which is we should try to make remarkable moments, even at the clearance rack, in other words, in the ordinary, the things that really aren't that special. That's when there are opportunities to be remarkable and create an experience that's going to be remembered.

[John] I think that the empowered employee is a huge component of that because it's the empowered employee that really owns those ordinary moments. And I think ordinary is even too lame of a plane. It's everyday moments, I'll call them, with the clients. That's really where our client-facing personnel are engaging. And so how do you elevate that? And I think one of the interesting points that they talked about and that Jesse brought up is that everyone needs to be a part of that.

Sometimes we talk about CX and creating interesting moments and things like that that are either curated by an org or by a single person. And it can't be hero ball all the time. You can't have just a couple of people that are creating all these powerful moments because then there's going to be burnout on the employee side, and it's going to be inconsistent from the brand side. I love that concept of everybody contributing in an ordinary moment to make it extraordinary.

[Kurt] You can tell the Savannah Bananas have that culture because there are things that just flew off the tip of his tongue because you know that he repeats them on a daily basis. And two of them I thought were really interesting. One was, "Go the distance." We talk about this a lot, there are two important things in an experience. There is the functional need that the customer has, and then there is the emotional need. So just because you've met the functional need doesn't mean you're done. Go the distance, and meet the emotional need. Create a feeling that's going to be memorable.

And then the other one is the freedom to do the right thing. Pretty wide guardrails to do the right thing, to create and elicit a positive emotion. And I thought those two things were really important that he brought out, and you can tell it's just a part of their culture.

[John] I think that's an interesting thing that we can all take away is when there's an interaction, great. The problem was solved if there was a problem. But I think you were joking around before, a high five is free. But everybody likes a high five. So it's how did you feel? How would I have felt about that interaction? And what would I have wanted as a human being? Because at the end of the day, I keep coming back to this, experiences are all about human connections.

That feeling piece is really what he leans into. How are we making people feel? I think from a business lens it's important because sometimes it becomes dissociated with what the bottom line is and the dollars and cents of why we're here, et cetera. But at the end of the day, people make decisions on emotion.

[Kurt] They absolutely do. And I understand they're in the entertainment space, but I thought it was fascinating that they have created such a well-known experience, such an appreciated experience, that they don't spend anything in marketing anymore, but yet they're sold out. Think about that transition where the experience speaks for itself. You go through word-of-mouth. People are anticipating what it's going to be like and can't wait to get there.

They've created a culture, and that culture, what he talks about, is fans first. And he asks the team, "All right, where do we create a fans-first moment, a remarkable moment?" Which I think just penetrates that message into the culture even more, where it's not like, well, where did you serve the customer to their expectation? It's How'd you make them feel? I thought that was extremely powerful.

[John] When he was telling that story, I could visualize myself in the post-game huddle having that conversation with him and the team. He just exudes that type of character and leadership. So I'm curious, has that been something that we've done for clients or that you've seen? Or is this almost this role-play of, how do we take an ordinary moment and flip it and have people from the organization call out ideas that could have really changed the feel of that experience?

[Kurt] We do that in a couple of ways. We're big students and proponents and practitioners of design thinking. And part of the activities that we do in design thinking are aimed at creating empathy towards the consumer situation. We walk our clients through that, and many times it's role play. Many times it's other tools or techniques that we'll use to help them create empathy. So then they can solve for how do they want that their customer, their consumer, to feel.

Think Fast

[John] I think after spending time hearing directly from Jesse, we see why that experience permeates the Savannah Bananas. I now want to go to Savannah and go to a bananas game. That seems like the first post COVID activity that I'm going to take my family to.

[Kurt] Why wouldn't it be? I just want to go to be able to say I saw the Savannah Bananas.

[John] Well, you’ve got to walk away with a t-shirt that says, "I've Banana'd in Savannah," or something like that.

Anyways, I think that the topic of conversation, particularly around taking yourself out of your role and just looking at what the experience is from a different perspective is extremely powerful. They talked about a number of ways to do that, but it really speaks to a broader theme of observational research about what we're doing with our client, right?

[Kurt] It absolutely does, John. I think one of the things that we do consistently with our clients is perform observational research for them, and quite frankly, teach them how to do observational research. I keep coming back to this theme of if you're going to improve the experience if you're really going to create a remarkable moment, if you're going to really pay attention to how the customer, the consumer feels, then you have to have empathy. Without empathy... I mean, he told the story of a pothole. As soon as he said that, we can all immediately relate. We all have empathy because we've all hit potholes before, and we know how you swear underneath your breath and you cross everything that you've got to hope that it didn't just misalign your wheels dent your rims?

We immediately had empathy towards that, and so that's the purpose of observational research and every organization can do observational research. It doesn't matter whether it's digital, there are ways to observe just about every experience regardless of the industry. What you gain from those observations is just so powerful, because it uncovers things that you really don't see or don't understand, or more than that, you don't get from surveys or in-depth interviews.

[John] Yeah. I think that you made an interesting point, especially in the world we live in where everything is remote and distant digital, we install and work with technologies every that allow for the consumption of experiences and curated in a way that can lend towards analysis and observation. There is, to your point, really no reason to not be doing it, right?

I know we've touched on it before, but I want to call it out: inaction is our biggest enemy in terms of improving the experience. You can't sit here and look at the end to end and just say, "Okay, we're going to wait until we get it all planned out and then go execute." There are iterative ways, and observational research is a great step in that direction of finding some of those small ways to improve.

[Kurt] I think the other thing that they brought up or at least started to touch on was, what about the employee experience? How does that affect the customer experience? I think there were a couple of things there.

One, I really liked his comment about making sure people get out of their roles because most organizations can get extremely siloed. A lot of times, we will suggest to our clients to really think hard about what should be a function or what should be a department versus a competency, and challenge them to think about how they have organized around the customer.

What have you organized around a specific customer segment and really thought about how do we deliver the best possible experience to that segment? What used to be departments or functions become competencies in that orientation towards the customer. So, it's a little bit of a twist on traditional thinking, but it becomes extremely powerful, because then it focuses on everybody. Jesse talked about this. It focuses everybody on that customer experience and really kind of turns up the awareness of delivering a great experience.

[John] Yeah. I think the interesting part of that paradigm shift in thinking about how you structure your org is the forced integration internally, which is going to create a seamless experience externally. The more we can integrate our people and processes and technologies internally and let the data and analysis flow freely and competencies work together, the better that that end-user experience is going to be.