Archive for the ‘Customer Experience’ category

Posting Your Promises

September 7, 2011

by Mike Wittenstein*, Customer Experience Designer | Customer Experience Strategist | Experience Design Firm

Brands that post their promises usually keep them. Their customers hold them to it.

lululemon is a specialty retailer of apparel and equipment for ‘sweaty pursuits’ (think yoga, dance, etc.). The brand depends on its employees to connect with their customers.

The feeling when you walk into the store (I visited the Mall of America location for Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit) is calm and relaxing, organized and vivacious. From the well-arranged merchandise to the brightly colored accents, feng shui design touches, and rolling racks that allow for free yoga classes on Saturday mornings; this store is 100% on brand.

One of the things I liked best was that the company prominently posted its manifesto on-line and its employees’ promises (to themselves) throughout the store.

When people’s work becomes a way to achieve what they’re passionate about, great things can happen–like a great customer experience. When you connect with people on their ‘Why?’ (what’s important and what drives them) instead of only on their ‘What?’ (what you want to sell them), there’s a natural attraction customers feel and an easier connection with employees.

Having a great experience usually means your customers are happy. When your customers are happy, your shareholders get happy too. How do you think lululemon’s shareholders feel about the company’s sales per square foot number coming in at US $1,731, just behind Coach and Tiffany? See the listing here.

Here’s lululemon’s manifesto:

As a direct marketer, you can see what your client sometimes can’t. You are the one who imagines a new campaign from start to finish. Help your clients get the most out of their campaigns by encouraging them to make authentic promises that matter to customers. Next, give them every opportunity to keep those promises—by carefully checking copy, by prototyping offer redemptions, sign-ups, and other processes, and by going to their stores or places of business (offer in hand) to see if one channel knows what the other one is doing!

Direct marketing is the front door to a great experience!

*Mike Wittenstein is a 20+ year marketing veteran with hundreds of assignments under his belt. He knows how to design experiences that win customers’ hearts on the front lines—and earn shareholder approval on the bottom line at the same time.

As a customer experience designer at Storyminers, Mike shops each business as a customer and works in it as an employee. Then, he helps his retail, healthcare, hospitality, and other service clients design the kind of experience their customers will appreciate and rave about.

Mike is the former Global Services e-Visionary at IBM and co-founder of GALILEO, one of the country’s first interactive agencies. He is an honors graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Florida. He lives in Atlanta, speaks four languages, and travels globally as a speaker, facilitator, designer, and consultant.

Mike Wittenstein

Managing Principal





Home Depot Latest iPhone App

May 9, 2011

by Mike Wittenstein, Customer Experience Designer and Speaker at Mike Wittenstein

To kick of the new year at our January meeting, Customer Experience Designer Mike Wittenstein revealed some of the secrets the world’s best brands use in crafting their customer experiences. If you missed it, you can see the full presentation or a four-minute highlights video.

Mike believes that companies should be best at what their customers want most. And that customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate a business. Getting customers and shareholders to rave is what Mike does best.

In this month’s newsletter, Mike tackles how technology can improve the shopping experience. “Direct Marketing should be considered as a part of every single app on the web,” according to Wittenstein. He’ll review Home Depot’s latest iPhone app and show you what makes itit tick, what makes users click, and what makes the cash register ring.

Quick Summary

The Home Depot app not only makes shopping easy, it makes customers better shoppers with its built-in tools that help avoid those annoying extra trips to the store. 


The Home Depot app is one of the only apps that actually makes shoppers better. It has free tools for measuring, estimating materials, and even knowing exactly the right nut and bolt size for projects. It’s an app that truly enhances the customer experience!

The opening screens are simple and easy-to-read. Click on the double right arrow (it’s not easy if you have a big finger) to extend the lower menu options. (Most of these are self-explanatory and won’t be reviewed here.)

The killer app in Home Depot’s app is under the first menu choice “Find Nut and Bolt Size Quickly”. Just put any size nut on the screen (carefully, without scratching), then use the slider bar to adjust the on-screen image to match the size of the real nut lying on top of it. There’s a handy “Save Results” button in case you’re specifying several sizes.

There’s a thread measurement tool as well. It works in the same way. Lay the bolt on top of the screen, then use the slider bar to adjust the zig-zag line to match the thread pattern of the real bolt lying on the screen.

These two features are cool for people who love tools. Not only do they enhance the customer experience, they save business and customer costs at the same time. Nuts and bolts are one of the slowest moving, lowest margin items in a typical Home Depot store. They take up an entire aisle and require a full-time person. That’s pretty expensive when the average ticket for consumers is probably just a few dollars. Using this app, customers can feel confident they will get the right pieces and right dimensions without having to make multiple trips to the store due to trial-and-error.

The second button on the home screen “Step Up With a New Walk-Behind Mower” is seasonal. This section relies on simple yet info-packed product descriptions to help customers explore options and get clearer on their needs. The most valuable feature is the opportunity to see the product in action through a video.

Under the Shop tab, the category and product listings are long. Too long. But when you consider that this taxonomy has been vetted over tens of millions of transactions, it makes sense. There’s really no other way to do it without employing advanced contextual algorithms like Autonomy’s.

It takes patience and a strong general knowledge of construction to get down to a product level description if you don’t just type in your search. For example, it took nine (9) taps on the screen to get to a special kind of clamp. (Granted, this is a worse case scenario based on picking categories with the most remaining items.)

The Toolbox tab includes free utilities (usually $0.99 to $4.99 each on Apple’s app store) for measuring and specifying components (like nuts and bolts) and materials (like paint, wallpaper, etc.)

A handy converter tools translates English measures to metric for area, length, mass, temperature, and volume.

There’s even a built-in tape measure. Well, you have to measure one thing first—your foot. Tapping on the screen once for each step helps you estimate short distances.

The shopping features are well thought out and make shopping for construction projects with many parts easy.

What’s Good

  • The toolkit is awesome, truly best-in-class.
  • The interface strikes a good balance between quantity of information and the ease of finding it.
  • Shopping functionality is tightly integrated.
  • Video help is a great value add.
  • Live chat help and Twitter help are built in.

What’s Not So Good

  • It takes too many steps to drill down for certain items.
  • Some of the videos could do more showing, not just telling.

What I Would Do

  • Offer a Spanish language option.
  • Tie pro accounts to past purchases to speed the finding process.
  • Allow customers to specify the project they are working on (as an option) up front. Search ahead algorithms could speed searching, remind shoppers of go-with items to save them time (e.g. nuts and bolts), and recommend related items.
  • Add a share-a-picture-with-an-expert capability to make it easier for pros in the field (or consumers at home) to get on-screen help to diagnose a problem or get the right part. This feature might make the call center more helpful—and more profitable.
  • Offer an app overview (like Hyundai does for its flagship Equus vehicle) to encourage more usage.

About the Company

The Home Depot, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, operates approximately 2,244 home improvement retail stores in four countries. It trades on the NYSE under the symbol HD.

About Mike Wittenstein

Mike helps business leaders around the world differentiate their brands by dramatically improving their customer experiences. As a customer experience designer, Mike shops each business as a consumer and works in it as an employees. Then, he designs the kind of experiences customers notice, remember, and rave about. With two decades of experience and hundreds of assignments under his belt, Mike knows how to design experiences that win customers’ hearts on the front lines—and earn shareholder approval on the bottom line. Based in Atlanta, Mike works globally.

Sneak Preview: The New Focus on the Customer Experience

January 6, 2011

The President of Atlanta’s DMA chapter, Aubyn Thomas, interviews our speaker for the January luncheon: Mike Wittenstein. ( Mike is a noted authority on the customer experience and shares his views on emerging trends and realities that we all need to be aware of as we kick off the New Year.

Thomas: Mike, as a thought leader in the customer experience space, how is the way we service our customers in tomorrow’s world going to be different from what we have experienced in the past?

Wittenstein: It’s going to be better. Much better. As empowered consumers (B2C) and buyers (B2B) demand more, businesses will go beyond simply improving messages and tweaking touchpoints to fundamentally redesigning their businesses around the needs of their customers. Until now, most businesses have tried to get customer interactions to create value for them. From 2011 onward, the smart money is on those firms that engineer themselves to create value for customers. These are the challenger brands I’m watching and interested in because they will be the best prepared to meet customers’ ever-changing needs.

According to a 2010 American Express study, Americans are willing to spend 9% more with companies that provide excellent service. The same study showed that 91% of customers believe that customer service is important, but only 24% actually feel

they get the service they deserve. It’s no wonder that brands with better customer experiences are outperforming their competitors. The opportunity to win in the marketplace by differentiating your business around customer experience is wide open.

Thomas: As companies increase their focus on service capabilities, what benefits are they seeing from your perspective?

Wittenstein: Companies that wholeheartedly focus on the customer experience usually enjoy these benefits:

• Reduced churn among customers and employees

• More predictable revenue

• Less advertising expense

• Lower new customer acquisition costs

• Noticeably better internal alignment

• More unsolicited referrals

• Greater brand awareness

These aren’t generally the ones the financial analysts focus on, however these are some of the factors that help create value for customers. In my opinion, they are the ones that should be watched like a hawk because each one carries both a top-line and a bottom-line benefit.

Thomas: Tell me more about top-line and bottom-line.

Wittenstein: Companies that focus on delivering better experiences usually operate more profitably than others in their category. Properly designed, a better experience can both increase revenue and decrease costs at the same time – in a way that is sustainable. Great experiences don’t just happen and PowerPoint presentations alone can’t make them a reality! They occur when all functions of the operation align with one another to achieve the outcomes your customers seek. Good customer experience design starts with understanding what your customers care about most. Understanding which promises are most important to your customers, then aligning your organization to make and keep them, is the leader’s most important role. When what the customers want most is what the business does best, the ‘rising tide effect’ kicks in and everyone benefits.

Thomas: As direct marketers, we place great emphasis on the dialog that we have with our customers – in both the B2B and the B2C realms. How should we think about our marketing efforts as experience drivers and how can marketing strategy affect our brand’s service delivery?

Wittenstein: Marketing makes promises for the business to keep. Without a tight connection between the two, customer frustration or churn ensues. In my opinion, it’s important for:

  • Marketing and operations to be tightly connected
  • Marketing to focus on telling the experience story, not just citing benefits
  • Marketers to remember that the experience can start at any touch point, including media, advertising, sales messages, etc. Each of them and all of them need to be considered part of the buying experience

It’s important to think about the aspects of service excellence and to remember that marketing programs provide support for the brand. The best customer experience designs find the right promises to make and the practical and profitable ways to

keep them. Customer Experience Design achieves results that other methodologies can’t because it:

  • Successfully ties the brand to the business
  • Shows how front line staff, supported by operations, can profitably deliver a superior experience
  • Details what’s important in experience delivery without removing the magic of surprise and great service

Thomas: What are some of the things that best-in-class companies are doing in customer experience design today?

Wittenstein: First, they Sweat The Details. Great brands capture the present design in enough detail to connect the customer touch points with the behind-the-scenes operations that support them. Together with leaders and customer-facing

teams, they consider which of these touch points are the most important (cause the greatest effect, are the most memorable, define the brand, are the most story-worthy, etc), while maintaining focus on what is operationally effective.

They also Make The Commitment. Nothing is more critical to your company’s success than the ability to deliver superior customer experiences – time after

time. Those experiences don’t just happen. They come about when enlightened companies, seeking a sustainable competitive advantage, decide that they will engineer every facet of their business to align with their customers’ reasons for buying. When customers turn into enthusiastic advocates, the companies that serve them enter the ranks of some of the world’s most enviable brands.

About Mike Wittenstein

Our guest speaker for the January 20 event:

mike wittenstein picture

Mike Wittenstein helps his clients increase sales, gain market dominance, and discover unexpected revenue streams by differentiating their brands with memorable and profitable customer experiences. As an interactive agency leader, e-Visionary at IBM, interim CXO, and now as a speaker, Mike has guided hundreds of companies to adjust their front-line experience for bottom-line results including established brands like McDonalds, IBM, Kinko’s, Best Buy, and Air Canada and challenger brands such as Alternative Apparel, SOHO Office, iPay Technologies, and Jim Ellis. He is a catalyst for aligning management, marketing, people, and technology to deliver great customer and employee experiences. Mike runs his company, Storyminers, from Atlanta and works globally. He is an honors graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Florida. He speaks four languages.

Come and join us for an exciting event on January 20, 2011 as we kick off the 2011 season!

Registration available on