My Favorite CX Podcasts

While you make listening to your customers a top priority, it also pays a great deal to tune in to the experts and pick up a thing or two from their strategies and systems. 

Here are my Top ten customer experience podcasts. I’m often asked how I keep up with the latest trends in customer experience and these podcasts are my cheat sheet. Add these ten to your podcast player and you will have a constant stream of tips to improve the experience your clients have with you. 

  1. Amazing Business Radio, an interview podcast from Shep Hyken talking to customer experience experts and other business leaders to give an answer to how success is achieved.
  1. Creating Disney Magic with Lee Cockerell sharing wisdom and experience from his time as the EVP of Operations for Walt Disney World. Lee offers lessons in leadership, management, and customer service for you to apply and create magic in your organization. 
  1. Customer Service Revolution from John DiJulius is designed to transform what customers and employees experience. John believes that, done right, customer service can be your company’s single, biggest, competitive advantage.
  1. The weekly CX Pulse by NICE talking to Customer Experience experts about trends and best practices, practical steps and innovative ways to better engage your contact center agents in your CX strategies.
  1. On the Voices of CX Podcast from, host Mary Drumond covers business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and more. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation. 
  1. Focus on the Customer Experience is a podcast from business owner Benjamin Delgrosso about taking a relationship approach rather than transactional approach with customers and employees. You can listen to my interview with Delgrosso on training for the customer experience here.
  1. In the Net Promoter System podcast, Rob Markey of Bain Alerts talks to loyalty leaders about how they’re using the Net Promoter System (NPS) to improve the customer experience and create lasting results for their organizations.
  1. In the Experience Strategy Podcast, Aransas Savas and Dave Norton, PhD are endlessly curious about what makes great customer experiences and the strategies that organizations leverage to create deep and meaningful relationships with customers.
  1. Today’s customers have the luxury of choice. The answer is simple; choose customer experience and customers will choose you. Learn how to have a great customer experience by tuning into The Modern Customer Podcast each week with Blake Morgan. 
  1. Learn about the evolving meaning of emojis in conversation, the sound of focusing on your core customers, and some innovative examples of immersive live event experiences in the Experience This! podcast with Dan Gingiss and Joey Coleman.

Now that you’ve heard about my top ten customer experience podcasts, be sure to leverage your time and listen to them on a regular basis. You never know how one of their episodes could just be the solution or perspective you’re looking for. Fast-track your way to becoming a customer experience pro! 

So, which one will you be listening to first?

How Will You Transform Your Clients?

Your clients don’t want your service offering. They want your service to be commoditized. They want it delivered as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Why? So they can spend their limited time and money on experiences that engage them personally and emotionally. (They actually want more than that, which you’ll see in a minute).

If you experientialize your service, you’ll increase the loyalty your clients have towards you. If you don’t, they’ll view you as a commodity.

I’m thinking about this today for two reasons.

First, Joe Pine was just in town delivering this message. I got a chance to spend some time with him, attend one event he spoke at and host him at an event with FiveFour. He had example piled on top of example of businesses that had wrapped an experience around their service delivery.

Second, I just had this very thing happen to me. The nature of our shifted with a client and our primary contact changed. When we recommended next steps for them, it quickly became evident that we were not aligned.

They were looking for the cheapest – the commodity – and that wasn’t us.

How do you prevent this? Understand that clients don’t want your service. They don’t even really want your experience. What they want is a transformation.

They want to be different than they were before as a result of working with you. They want a tangible, lasting result.

Your job is to identify that desired result and then guide the series of experiences that leads to the transformation. Because there can’t be a transformation without a guide. Without a coach.

As Joe pointed out, this is especially urgent if you are in the business of making people healthy, wealthy, or wise. With those services, the day is coming where your compensation will depend on achieving your clients’ desired result.

Do you know the transformation your clients desire? Not just in their business, but in the people?

If you know that – and can help them achieve it – you’ll eliminate most of the competition from those who provide a similar service. Or even those who have a remarkable experience.

If you don’t, you’ll need to transform first. And I’d like to guide you through it. Just take this quick assessment and schedule a time to discuss it with me.

The deterioration of customer experience has a new name

Here’s a new word for your business dictionary: Skimpflation. 

At first glance you might think it’s something to do with the effect of cheapskates on the economy. It’s not, but it’s an interesting concept that I’m sure there’s a word for. 

Skimpflation was coined on the NPR program “Planet Money” and was the focus of this Forbes article.

The word describes the deterioration of customer service in our society.  

No doubt, you’ve noticed this trend in your own lives. It didn’t start with Covid, but the pandemic caused real labor shortages that have since caused many service-based businesses to reduce offerings. 

You don’t have to go far to see it. Where I live there are Starbuck’s that are drive-up only. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Starbuck’s is continually innovating, citing the coffee giant’s new mega-store in downtown Chicago. But today, in some locations, you can’t even sit down to drink your coffee and surf the internet.  

Plenty of other businesses have reduced the hours, or even days, they are open. Many have fewer staff when they are open. 

What does that mean for us as business leaders? 

Customer experience is more important than ever. Skimpflation irritates customers because they are getting less than they expected.  

They will go elsewhere… eventually. 

The writer in Forbes points out that simple inertia keeps consumers going back to the same companies over and over, even as the quality of the experience slides.  

“Companies that routinely engage in skimpflation count on that inertia, because instead of seeking to maximize customer loyalty, they focus on minimizing customer defections,” he wrote. “And when defection-avoidance is your goal, customer inertia is your friend. A good customer experience is no longer necessary; you just need one that isn’t so awful that it eclipses the inertia and motivates a switch to a competitor.” 

Be the business that gives customers a reason to leave your competitor and come to you. The market is just waiting for you to make the invitation. 

How do you do that? There’s an investment, to be sure. But it’s more than money. It’s mindset. It’s leadership.  

What’s the employee experience at your company? 

A big part of Skimpflation is attitude. How are you and your team approaching the challenges of the day? Are you bemoaning the lack of qualified job candidates and the laziness of the ones you have? 

That surely isn’t the path to a remarkable experience that develops customer loyalty.  

Now’s the time to examine your company culture, your development systems and how you will ensure customer success.

Reach out or book a time to chat and I’ll help grow your business from the inside out.

Is your customer experience better than an airport janitor?

Travel has been picking up again lately and so I found myself at the Sioux Falls airport a couple of hours in advance of my flight.

I’m not usually there that far ahead of time, but my wife dropped me off on the way to work and I was planning to work in the business lounge while waiting for my flight.

I also don’t usually check a bag, but I had to this time.

Thus, I found myself alone at the ticket counter without an American Airlines employee in sight.

That’s when a janitor came by pushing his cart and said, “They probably won’t be there for another 30 minutes.”

He must have seen the annoyed look on my face, so he explained why and then said that the coffee shop was open and there was a place to plug in my laptop.

I was impressed. He read the situation and gave me a solution.

But it got better.

After I had been sitting for 15 minutes working, that same janitor stopped by the coffee shop and said, “It looks like someone is at the gate now.”


I’m pretty sure that none of what he did for me was included in his job description. And I’m pretty sure he was an employee of the airport, not American Airlines, who I was waiting for.

But he clearly felt a sense of ownership that led him to take care of me, the customer.

When I teach companies how to create a remarkable customer experience, the first concept we discuss is time – time is the currency of experiences. This isn’t my concept. It comes from visionaries Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore.

It’s not your product or service that creates the experience. It’s the time your customers spend with you. Honoring the customer’s time means two things:

  1. Being efficient with their time (time well saved)
  2. Making their time valuable (time well spent)

This janitor did both. When he was first confronted with my problem, he couldn’t make the gate attendant get there any faster. But he could show me where the coffee shop was.

Then, once the attendant was at the ticket counter, he minimized my wait by letting me know of their arrival.

He honored my time.

If you want to know how well you honor your customer’s time as well as how you perform on the other four components of a remarkable customer experience, just take this short assessment.

Because, as that janitor demonstrated, every member of the team has a part to play in creating a remarkable customer experience.

Start with WHY

When we started FiveFour in early 2018, the vision of the founders was to teach everyone what had made our individual businesses successful: a remarkable customer experience.

But what we discovered is that, with our customers, most needed a step before that. They needed to start with WHY.

I was reminded of this while listening to Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek writes:

It all starts with clarity. You have to know why you do what you do. If people don’t buy what you do, the buy why you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know why you do what you do, how will anyone else?  If the leader of an organization can’t clearly articulate why they organization exists in terms beyond it’s products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know why to come to work?

If a team doesn’t know WHY it’s important to have a great experience for their customers, teaching them WHAT to do has far less of an impact.

That’s why the Define the Culture is the first of the four steps in my 4D Transformation Method and Design the Experience is the second. We have to start with WHY.

Sinek perfectly describes the type of business we most frequently deal with:

When organizations are small, WHAT they do and WHY they do it are in close parallel. Born out of the personality of the founder, it is relatively easy for early employees to “get it.“ Clarity of why is understood because the source of passion is near – in fact it’s physically comes to work every day. In most small businesses all the employees are all crammed into the same room and socialize together. Simply being around a charismatic founder allows that feeling of being a part of something special to flourish.

But, as Sinek writes, For companies of any size, success is the greatest challenge. When businesses grow and employees are no longer around the leader all day, every day, the WHY can get fuzzy and disengagement creeps in.

The answer is almost always to rearticulate the WHY. Sinek writes:

Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention…the WHY from every individual or organization comes from the past. It is born out of the upbringing or experience of an individual or small group.

And in our experience, that rediscovered WHY always includes something that was done for the customer, which perfectly sets the stage for focusing on customer experience.

How’s the WHY of your business? Has it gotten a little fuzzy? Take my assessment to find out and then chat with me about how to rediscover your WHY.

Asking (and answering) the Ultimate Question

In the Ultimate Question, Fred Reichheld tells the story of Intuit, describing a problem that FiveFour regularly helps businesses solve. Co-founder Scott Cook had built a successful company on the mission “To make the customer feel so good about the product they’ll go and tell five friends to buy it.”

When the company was in the start-up phase, the employees learned how to fulfill that mission by observing Cook’s passion for taking care of the customer. “They could all hear him working the service phones himself, talking to customers. They could see him taking part in Intuit’s famous “follow-me-home” program, where employees asked customers if they could watch them set up the software in order to note any problems.”

But growth in the number of employees and locations made learning by following the leader impossible and “Cook was hearing more complaints [from customers] than in the past. Some market-share numbers were slipping. For lack of a good system of measurement and for the lack of the accountability that accurate measurement creates – the company seemed to be losing sight of exactly what had made it great: its relationships with its customers.”

To solve the problem, Cook started measuring customer loyalty through our favorite measurement tool: the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which asks the Ultimate Question: “How likely is it that you would recommend Company X to a friend or colleague?” Respondents score their likelihood on a scale from 1-10, with those answering 9-10 classified as promoters, 7 or 8 passives and 6 or less detractors. Your NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from your percentage of supporters. A positive number means you have more supporters than detractors.

While measurement is an important first step, measurement alone won’t solve the problem that Cook faced at Intuit. The challenge that leaders of growing companies face is how to scale the culture and customer experience that led to the growth to begin with.

That’s what FiveFour calls the battle for better business. We help companies capture that original vision for their culture and how the customer is cared for. But the next step is maybe the most important and what really differentiates FiveFour: we create a customized, ongoing system of learning and development that, over time, transforms the business through increased employee engagement and continuous learning.

Do you resonate with that description of Intuit? Are you noticing more customer complaints and employee disengagement? Take our assessment of your customer experience and we’ll give you some tips you can use to improve your employee and customer experience.

Want to get started measuring your NPS and eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score)? Just email me and I will give you access to our free, online course showing you how to implement both.

Intuit was profitable and growing at the time they addressed these flaws in their employee and customer experience. But they saw that those flaws were starting to impact their growth. What happened after they addressed them? They now have an NPS of 45 and a market cap of $82 billion, which isn’t bad.

Paying attention pays off by creating raving fans

(This is one of our weekly FiveFour emails. Sign up to receive these here).

I heard a story recently that’s a real-life demonstration of the principles we follow at FiveFour.

It’s a coffee story, which got me interested right away.

Mmmmmm, coffee.

Susie Patrick owns the Breadsmith stores in Sioux Falls.

Mmmmmm, bread.

And while Susie runs a fine operation in her own right, this isn’t a story about her, though she is a prime character.

Susie stops at the Scooters Coffee at 33rd Street and Minnesota Ave. every morning for a latte. Recently, she ordered two, hers and one for an employee.

Wouldn’t you know it, the espresso machine was down. The staff at Scooters offered a cold drink but hot espresso wasn’t going to happen for another 20 minutes or so.

Susie, though appreciative, declined any substitute.

Inside the small shop, Travis Rhoades was working diligently to get the espresso flowing. Travis isn’t just a repairman, he’s also the franchise owner of the nine — soon to be ten — Scooters locations in the Sioux Falls area.

The Scooters staff noted the customer didn’t order anything else.

Travis asked if they knew the customer’s name. They did not.

“It’s the Breadsmith Lady,” one employee said. “She gets a latte every day.”

That was a signal to Travis. As the owner, he’s been able to grow his business due to a commitment to his customers. He trains staff to observe customer behaviors in order to pick up on small cues.

“It’s how to engage in a meaningful conversation in 30 seconds,” he says.

Even in the drive-up.

Window stickers, hats, sports bags in the seat – they are all openings for conversation that can lead to actionable information.

It might be a quick “Go Vikings” written on the side of the coffee cup.

It might be remembering their kids play on a traveling soccer team and they are always trying to get out of town.

It might be that lady who works at Breadsmith. Or, as it turns out, owns them.

Travis noticed the opportunity, not just to shore up a customer relationship, but to model that behavior for the team.

So, once the espresso machine was back up and working, he whipped up a couple lattes and drove down 33rd Street to the Breadsmith store with a special delivery.

He still didn’t know her name until we connected the dots and told him.

“I just know her as the Breadsmith Lady,” he says.

Susie was thrilled to get the delivery and to learn she’s got a nickname.

“It’s a testament to his crew that he recognized me and my drink,” Susie says. “It’s customer service you don’t normally see anymore. I hope that people refer to our service at Breadsmith the way I was treated.”

You can find different customer experience touchpoints in this story. But the one that struck immediately is Surprise.

Yes, it was surprise for Susie to get lattes delivered. But that’s not the lesson.

What’s important to focus on is the culture, the intentional strategies that Scooters reinforces. They pay attention to customers as individuals, so that they can personalize the experience.

Travis says he’s always looking for opportunities to reward and demonstrate the customer-centric behavior. They are intentional about who they hire. And he preaches common sense over policies and procedure.

“It’s not the Breadsmith Lady’s fault that our machine is down.”

It would have been easy to write it off as just another face in another car in a stream of cars every morning.

That’s not what they did.

Because what goes better together than coffee and bread in the morning?

Passing the $10 million plateau

Ready, Fire, Aim started as a retreat serial entrepreneur Michael Masterson led for other entrepreneurs. He wanted to impart the lessons he had learned from a 30-year career starting and running several multi-million-dollar businesses. Later developed and expanded as a book, the subtitle states his objective; teaching the reader to take a business from “Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat.”

The two biggest ideas in the book are the importance of action (thus, the book title) and that going from zero to $100 million encompasses four distinct stages in the life of a company. Having read the Five Second Rule, 10X, and many other books, I knew the first point well. It’s the second that I will focus on.

According to Masterson, each of the four stages of a business has different problems, challenges, and opportunities and requires different skills from the entrepreneur running the company. The stages are:

  1. Infancy ($0-1 million in revenue)
  2. Childhood ($1-10 million)
  3. Adolescence ($10 million to $50 million)
  4. Adulthood ($50 million to $100 million and beyond)

The stage that was the most interesting to me (because it faces many of the challenges my company, FiveFour, solves for business leaders at this level) is adolescence. Once a company grows to or near $10 million, the growth almost always comes with a new set of challenges.

At this size, there is at least one or two levels of management between the founder/CEO and the front-line workers who engage with the company’s customers. Those employees do not have the benefit that existed in the first two phases of business growth – proximity to the founder/CEO. Companies that reach $10 million in revenue usually do so because the founder/CEO built a culture around taking care of the customer. With multiple levels of management, they no longer talk directly to every employee and are unable to directly impart their culture and expectations of how the customer should be cared for.

The way this usually shows up in a company is through disgruntled customers. Masterson writes: “The most important disconnect has to do with the priority you had established to make sure every customer would be handled with the utmost of care and consideration.” The business is in need of a transformation. A transformation from focusing almost exclusively on customer acquisition to one that now focuses equally on customer retention. Masterson calls it customer service, but were he writing today rather than the mid-2000’s, he would likely recognize that the customer experience is even more important.

The leader accomplishes this transformation by a focus on operations and training, communicating the vision, joint ventures and hiring stars and superstars. He’s dead-on with that list, but a few of his methods are decidedly lacking. For example, to communicate the vision he advocates writing a monthly memo. To solve this communication gap that he has so accurately identified takes much more than a written letter once a month.

And it’s behind that small defect that my larger problem with the book arises. Those memos worked for him and a client of his. That’s 98% of what you get in this book: his personal experience as an entrepreneur. Masterson has no time for theory. The only time I can remember him quoting an organizational theorist was to disagree with him.

That’s not a debilitating problem and it doesn’t erase the good that comes from the book. After all, Masterson wrote it to impart what he learned from his entrepreneurial journey. But it is a limitation that the reader should be aware of. This book is just one source – a good one, but just one – and will need to be supplemented with other resources especially the further we get from the day it was written.

What you do won’t do it

My friend Shareef Mahdavi just released a new book, Beyond Bedside Manner: Insights on Perfecting the Patient Experience. To be precise, the book has 57 insights and any one of them could transform a medical clinic all by itself. If you work in healthcare, you must read this.

One of my favorite insights is Defining Excellence, where Shareef is making the excellent point that what you do as a doctor can’t be a point of differentiation. That’s expected. Here’s the excerpt:

Your outcomes are expected in the same manner that your expertise is assumed (like that of the airplane pilot). While this can be difficult to reckon with for surgeons who have dedicated their career to excellent outcomes, technological innovation in medicine has begun to level the playing field when it comes to outcomes. Software-driven diagnostics as well as surgical tools are designed to reduce surgical variability, meaning there’s usually another doctor out there in your community who can promise similar results to yours.

If you’ve been able to distinguish your practice based on surgical results, that’s great. But as excellent outcomes are expected to begin with, this competitive advantage will only dissipate with time. Unfortunately, outcomes are gradually becoming a hygiene factor, a marketing term describing an element that is noticed only if it’s missing or something goes wrong.

I see this same sentiment in almost every industry we deal with. They will say (or at least think): “Sure, customer experience is important for coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, etc. But people come to me for the thing I do. Customer experience is nice, but what people want from me is a particular outcome.” No, the outcome is expected. The way your differentiate yourself is through the customer experience.

The medical community has been among the slowest to acknowledge this and the ones most in need of it. One of the best examples of this was the Propublica study of Yelp medical reviews a few years ago. Here’s the main takeaway:

Indeed, doctors and health professionals everywhere could learn a valuable lesson from the archives of Yelp: Your officious personality or brusque office staff can sink your reputation even if your professional skills are just fine.

In other words, your medical outcomes aren’t enough to generate a good online review, if the experience isn’t up to the patient’s expectation. This is what our training with Experience Economy authors Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore talks about:

A remarkable experience doesn’t come from what you do, but how you do what you do. Because what you do won’t do it any longer.

That’s just one of 57 insights that you’ll get from Shareef’s book. The other 56 are equally good and worth reading.

Pandemic as Portal

In the FT yesterday, novelist Arundhati Roy wrote:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

Roy was primarily talking about her native India, hoping that the mishandling of the pandemic by the country’s political leaders would become a portal to a better world. I know little of Indian politics, but my experience in American politics has left me less than hopeful that the end result of COVID-19 will be meaningful government change.

What is undeniable though is that consumers will change and force businesses to change with them. Something of this scale and duration will leave its mark, changing attitudes and behaviors long after it’s worst is behind us.

The challenge for businesses will be determining which consumer changes due to COVID-19 are temporary and which are permanent. Restaurants, who have quickly ramped up takeout and delivery, may find that consumers prefer this new way of doing things. Likewise for auto dealers who started picking up their customer’s vehicles and dropping them off after service.

What about telemedicine and other increases in video communication? Will consumers after the pandemic prefer talking to a nurse on Zoom rather than visiting a busy clinic surrounded by other sick people? How about the meeting with my financial advisor? Will I prefer Facetime to a drive across town, especially in the winter?

Consumers have changed in many obvious ways during the global pandemic. Which changes are likely to stay and which will go away once commerce starts flowing again?

Remember that today’s customer experience innovations become tomorrow’s baseline expectations. Start preparing for those expectations today.