CXO 3-Year Anniversary Chat Panel Discussion

Today I joined a panel of other customer experience professionals for a discussion about the digital customer experience. When available, I’ll link to the full discussion, but until then, here are the questions and some of my responses.

Intro: Brian has been designing customer experiences online & offline for 12 years, 7 at a church & 5 running a small business. Most recently, Brian is the founder/CEO of tech startup @WeDo, a collaboration platform for wedding planning, launching this summer.

  1. How do you utilize digital channels to engage and re-engage connected customers?

    1. Digital is like beer. It is the cause and cure for most of a company’s customer experience problems. #cxo

    2. The beauty and curse of digital is its omnipresence in the lives of our customers.

    3. We use SoMe more to maintain relationships than building new ones. We use email primarily to drive new and repeat business.

    4. At @WeDo we’re building a platform that will take business/customer engagement to the next level, collaboration.

  2. Can digital channels be used to deepen customer relationships?

    1. The beauty of SoMe is the ability to present, with permission, in between F2F business. Deepens relationships, drives referrals.

    2. Be careful. The difference between listening and eavesdropping is presence and permission. Listen, but don’t eaves drop.
  3. How can you ensure digital customer feedback is collected in real time and utilized across all touch points?

    1. There’s an assumption in this question that you need/want to. That’s a business decision. Having said that …

    2. If by feedback we mean user inputs, we can use real-time inputs such as location and history to inform dynamic outputs.

    3. Real-time user feedback data can be used for creating dynamic experiences.
  4. What must businesses do to ensure relevant content, offerings and solutions for digital channels?

    1. Know the culture and user approach to every channel utilized.

  5. How can businesses seamlessly integrate digital with other channels to enhance customer experience?

    1. Seamlessly integrating digital is a way of thinking. Digital channels answer “where & how” not “why.”

    2. We need to stop thinking in channels. Our customers don’t, so why should we? Customers are channel agnostic.

  6. Where does big data fit in the digital customer experience equation?

    1. (1/2) If experiences are created by intentionally manipulating an environment to achieve a desired outcome…

    2. (2/2) #BigData gives us personalized insight that allows for individualized environments to drive specific outcomes.

  7. What is the role of IT in digital customer experience strategies?

    1. The role of IT is to build platforms that let the technology get out of the way of the desired experience.

  8. Which organizations are succeeding with digital experiences and what can we learn from them?

    1. There’s a restaurant here in #MKE, @ajbombers, that has done a fantastic job using Twitter to make fans instead of patrons.

    2. They use it for interacting with fans who are both in the restaurant or just conversing with or mentioning with them.

  9. With the proliferation of digital channels, what does the customer experience of 2020 look like?

    1. By 2020, seamless mobile experiences should be the baseline from which personalized experiences are built.

    2. By 2024, that baseline should be shifting to predictive experiences.

The Future is in the Palm of Your Hand

It’s no secret that mobile is taking over everything digital, but what are the numbers? What does that take over look like? Vala Afshar and Ali Kafel of ExtremeNetworks have compiled this amazing deck of stats. Each stat is referenced with a link at the bottom of each slide.

Customer Experience is the Currency of Loyalty

Experience is the currency of loyalty. Your business “earns” loyalty credits when you provide good, great, and remarkable experiences for your customers. The more you do that, the more loyalty you get. You “spend” loyalty credits with bad experiences, whether your fault or not.

This concept turns the entire idea of loyalty programs on its head. In reality, customers aren’t the ones earning points. You are.

One Tip for More Effective Email Marketing

The Rule of One.

We have found that our best open and response rates are when the email is focused on a single topic and limited to one paragraph. One topic. One paragraph. One action. No piggybacking. Half of your recipients are seeing that email for the first time on a smartphone. Small screen. Short attention span. Grab their attention with a relevant, compelling subject line, then deliver your personable, bite-sized message with one clear Call To Action.



Brian Mayer is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Anna Mayer Photography. Based in Milwaukee, WI and San Jose, CA, Anna Mayer is a nationally recognized child and family photographer known for her signature fun, fresh, relationship-driven style and her amazing wall galleries.

Is JCPenny your favorite store?

Just a few thoughts, randomly shared.

A couple weeks ago I was in the Twin Cities for a wedding and needed to get a couple of last-minute clothing items for three of my kids.  After unsuccessful trips to a handful of stores I found myself at the JC Penny at Rosedale Mall. Although I hadn’t been in one in years, I had heard about some of the changes that were being made.  Not only did we receive fantastic service in the children’s department,  I found a vest for myself. This is noteworthy because not only was I not shopping for a vest, but I have never owned a vest. Surprisingly, it suited me well.  At least that’s what my wife said 🙂 Although the vest wasn’t on sale, I didn’t feel like the retail price was inflated. I was happy to pay the price on the tag.  The store still seemed a little dated, but I could tell they were headed in the right direction.  I know major change takes time.

Fast forward 2 weeks.

I was recounting this experience and decided to do a bit of research.

I was just watching Ron Johnson’s presentation to JCP investors a year ago announcing his bold new plan for reinventing Penny’s. I didn’t intend to watch the whole thing, but he was so compelling, I really just couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t even begin to review the 90 minute presentation, but a handful of ideas jumped out at me.  His main contention was that, among other things, JCP (and department stores as a whole) has been abusing their customers with their dishonest pricing strategy and a preponderance of  promotions and that customers see right through it all.  A major change was needed.  Sure, he had charts of data proving his points (a necessary detail for investors), but at the heart of his message was the customer experience . Here are a few quotes…

“the customer knows the right price”

“to think you can fool a customer is just crazy”

“every time we [discount], we’re not discounting our product; we’re discounting our brand”

“if you don’t trust your customer, that’s a major gap before you even get her in the door”

I don’t know if I entirely agree with his pricing/promotion premise for the industry, but his statements about trusting customers is spot on. Other retailers such as Kohl’s have been very successful with the promotional model without sacrificing the customer relationship. I think JCP just did it poorly.  While every retailer might not need to go to the extremes Johnson lays out for Penny’s, I think for them, it’s probably the right move; they’ve eroded a lot of trust.

It worked on me.

He also mentioned one other goal. Simple, but lofty – “we want to be your favorite store.”

I love the use of the word favorite.

It’s emotional. It’s exclusive.  It’s relational. It’s familiar. It’s experiential.

It’s personal.

This is very much a long term strategy (4 years as planned), as all customer experience driven initiatives are. Unfortunately, wall street judges companies by short term performance.  So a year later, with their stock price half of what it was a year ago and revenues expected to be down about 28%, Johnson is going to be taking some heat.  He’s either going to shift the strategy to placate shareholders, or he’ll double down and remind investors that the yellow brick road of transformation leads through a valley before reaching the next peak.

I hope he does the latter.

On this one-year anniversary, what has been your experience at JCPenny?

Is it now your favorite store?


Your company needs a Customer Experience Director

Just as your company needs leadership in each of its core functional areas, the current competitive business environment demands that your company have a leader responsible for and dedicated to ensuring a consistent, optimal customer experience. You need a Customer Experience Director (CXD).

So what exactly does a CXD do?

The CXD is a leadership role that acts as an ambassador for a customer-centric CEO insuring that all customer touch points maintain alignment with a strategically optimized, intentional customer experience. Although each of the following areas would typically maintain existing reporting structures, the CXD would work with them to implement, maintain, and continually improve the overall customer experience strategy.

The Customer Experience Director unifies …


  • Strategy, collateral, events, website user experience, retail environment/process, analytics, PR

Relationship/brand management

  • CRM system, social media presence, customer analytics, Net Promoter implementation


  • Customer process flow, product/service user experience, product design, production elements that are related to the customer experience, product use and maintenance collateral


  • Inside/Outside Sales staff, retail associates, call center, and other customer facing roles

Post-sale (Service/Support)

  • Call center, service/support techs, website, and other customer facing roles

Business Support Departments (Acct, HR, IT, Legal)

  • Billing and collection methods
  • Customer-centric employee culture development
  • Any customer facing tools or systems
  • Doing legal through a customer focus rather than through a litigious focus whenever possible.


This is by no means exhaustive. If you are a CX professional and would like to add to this, simply add your thoughts or contribute dialog in the comments below.

Recipe for a Customer Experience Manager

Recipe for a Customer Experience Manager

and the text version for google: 🙂

Customer Experience Manager

Prep time: Years  |  Bake time: Continually  |  Yield: Raving Fans & Higher Revenue


2 pt Marketer
2 pts Sales/Support Rep
2 pts Strategist
1 pt Web Designer
1 pt Analyst
1 pt Collaborator
2 pts Artist
1 pt Creative Problem Solver


  1. Combine all ingredients with a passion for the ultimate customer experience and the mindset of an owner.
  2. Sprinkle creativity and business acumen to taste.
  3. Bake continually as needed.
  4. Garnish with a stylish hat.
  5. Serve with pride.

CAUTION: May result in higher than anticipated sales and cost savings

Head for Rent

When times are tough, some people donate plasma. Others, sell kidneys.  Some, in desperation, even sell their souls. For me, plasma donation doesn’t pay enough, somebody stole one of my kidneys (a long story that ends in an ice-filled bathtub), and my soul is already held by the IRS as collateral.  In light of this and the need to feed my children,

I have decided to rent out my head.

Yes. My head is for rent. All of it. Although not very attractive, large or noticeable, it is quite useful. I considered making ad space available on it , but since my head is often covered by my trademark hat*, I’m thinking that’s not the best strategy.  With that off the table, that leaves my eyes, ears, nose, brain, and mouth. Although available separately these parts tend to function best as a whole.  I highly recommend the full head.

My eyes are available to help you take a fresh look at your business from a new perspective (perhaps your customers’). As a manager or business owner, it can be really tough to change your perspective.  You have the “curse of knowledge.” It’s tough to un-know something to help you take a fresh look at your business.  I can do that for you and put it in terms you can understand.

My ears are available to help you listen to the people who make your business what it is–your customers, potential customers, and employees. Whether through interviewing, surveying, or engaging on social media channels, I can help you listen with new ears.

My nose is available to help you sniff out trouble. You may need a process tweak (or overhaul), some new tech tools, or a new way to manage information. You may need to deal with customer or employee issues. I can help you find the stinky parts of your business that are holding you back.

My brain is available to help you solve problems and craft strategy. Creative problem solving is in my blood (included at no extra charge), and I eat and breathe strategy of all kinds (mouth and nose required). I can help you design a customer experience strategy that encompasses everything from marketing, through operations, to customer service.

My mouth is available to help you spread the word.  Whether through website management, sales and marketing, or public speaking, I can help you communicate your brand in a fresh, new way.

All of this, of course, comes at a price.  

To me, my head is priceless.  I don’t know what I’ll do without it. For me to give up use of my own head for my own purposes requires a great deal of sacrifice. Not only have I grown quite attached to it, but I’ve spent many years developing it.  My eyesight is sharp; my ears are keen; my nose, large; my mouth, loud; and my brain, growing.

My head, whether in part or in its entirety (recommended) can be rented on an hourly, monthly, project, or semi-permanent basis.  Please inquire for hourly, monthly, or project rates. If you’d like the use of my head on a full-time basis in your company, make me an offer I can’t refuse.**


* Under no circumstances is the hat for rent or included. It’s mine. Hands off.
** Threatening, Godfather-ish, headless-horse-type offers will not be considered.