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#InsightsIn5: Customer Experience is more than just being nice

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

Last week’s #GlobalHangout was co-hosted by Transition AMP and 4xi Global Consulting & Solutions, chaired by Jackie Cupper, and moderated by Karen Turton. Guest speaker, 4xi's Customer Experience Officer, Tony Johnson discussed how standards and processes protect your customer experience and brand standards. Here's some of his pearls of wisdom:

"I believe that everyone should work in a restaurant for a month to hone their leadership, service, and attention to detail." - Tony Johnson

My time in the retail and hospitality spaces are foundational moments for me where I learned to handle stress, take care of people, and keep things clean! And those were just the skills I learned at 16 years of age as the top tier drive-thru attendant at the Decatur, Indiana Taco Bell.

Organizations that win with customer experience have come to see that without systems, accountability, and process, there can be no sustainable CX culture.

"Friendly teams that cannot deliver quality become nice people delivering mediocrity."

The key is to see experience as an intersection of touchpoints that deliver loyalty -building guest moments – and it comes down to who, what, where, and how. We can label these People, Place, Product, and Process – and they are key drivers of customer experience. Notice that we are not talking about “service” but rather “experience”, as they are very different when it comes to scope.

PEOPLE: The leaders and team who care for customers in person, on the phone, or via chat.

PLACE: The solution for your customer’s problems.

PRODUCT: Where your team meets their guests – this could be live, virtually or via A.I.

PROCESS: How things get done safely and in a repeatable manner

When we talk about Customer Experience (CX), it considers everything that touches customers, guests, and consumers as they interact with an organization. Let’s dig in on 5 key components of leading experience. These are crucial to not only protecting your customer experience, but the overall perception of your brand:

Standards Build Consistency

Standards are seen by many as limiting, but they set up the guardrails that define the “must-haves” for any brand. When an organization has the right standards in place to delight their guests, then it becomes a matter of aligning the organization around them through training and leadership development activities. But the training must be focused on what matters most, not on the whims of all organizational constituencies or silos. Too often training becomes muddled with pet-projects and factional priorities rather than aligning what customers want with employee enablement and empowerment.

If you Ignore It, You've Endorsed It!

I had a fantastic leader when I started my journey in management. Mark was adamant that those who worked for him knew every corner of the operation so they could understand the challenges of front line employees and use their creativity to help inspire solutions.

Mark also impressed upon me that if I walked by something that did not live up to our standards, I was telling every employee that we were okay with those lapses. If we ignored a customer who appeared to need help, a dirty table of dishes, or a sticky beverage area, we were implicitly saying that it was just fine for others to do the same.

"This is valuable lesson for any leader in any industry. If you don’t wear your name badge, pick up trash, talk to customers, or respect those you interact with – good luck getting anyone on your team to do those things either."

Performance Management

All too often, organizations let underperforming employees stick around in the wrong roles much too long. That is a fact of leadership that remains a struggle for all levels of organizations. There are two key reason why:

1. It is hard to tell people they aren’t doing a good job!

2. Leaders immediately think about termination as the only alternative!

This is why regular feedback to employees is so important. Daily team conversations and monthly check-ins allow for an open communication loop that reinforces what is going well and provides coaching where improvement is needed. Every organization is primarily fueled by middle-performers (it’s just simple math) – and that requires ongoing leadership, motivation, and training.

Leaders must also think about how to move team members into alternative roles where they can find success. That will require that managers know their teams and stay connected throughout their organization. You cannot understand where a team member could potentially thrive if you don’t know them and you can’t help them find new opportunities if you stay siloed inside your particular part of the organization.

Employee Recognition

Not all performance management is about improvement. Recognition is all about calling out the great work of team members in an intentional way that inspires them to repeat the behaviors. Recognition remains an overlooked piece of leadership responsibility and has become even more challenging when you factor in the remote and virtual work streams that have been established during the pandemic. But the basics never go out of style – the best recognition is timely, specific, and intentional. Target what you want teams to repeat, do so quickly, and then call out the behavior that is earned the praise. This makes it more likely that the team member will repeat the activity in the future.

Pre-Shift Huddles are Catalysts for CX

The best pre-shift huddles I have ever witnessed came courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). When I used to fly out of Detroit Metro Airport weekly, I can remember seeing the TSA conducting team meetings during shift change. They discussed what went well and what could have been better on the last shift. They were talking about policy changes and trends in passenger flow. It was pre-shift huddle 101 and covered all the basics.

These daily meetings are crucial for any business, but particularly if you are serving customers directly in a physical storefront or contact center. Getting your team aligned each day and communicating with them in a meaningful way will keep them energized with their purpose and customer focus. They also have the added benefit of getting important information out quickly to your team without having to repeat yourself a dozen or more times.

You may have noticed that these are all driven by leadership behaviors, training, and team engagement. That is by design.

Organizations don’t often find trouble because they have lackluster brand standards – it is more often that they haven’t translated those into actionable steps or don’t validate them in an intentional manner.

There is no substitute for alignment and validation. Standards that are aligned throughout the organization are powerful – and even more powerful when leaders are visible in the business walking their dirt and coaching teams in real time.

"A checklist never improved anything – but a set of brand standards in the hands of engaged leaders with a passion for people can’t help but drive success."

Tony Johnson, Founder of Ignite Your Service Training and 4xi Customer Experience Consultant and strategist, lives in Central Florida, the hospitality capital of North America. He can help your organization create customer experience strategies and training with a future looking mindset.

Tony has extensive experience in higher education, healthcare, business and industry, restaurants, sports and entertainment, and leisure, helping organizations:

  • Map their customer journey and identify improvements

  • Create, implement, and sustain their customer experience strategies and programs

  • Create leadership development and workplace culture initiatives

  • Implement Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs

  • Create front line employee and leadership training programs

  • Connect their brand vision into operational behaviors and tactics

Come join the conversation! Investing in Your Customers for Your Future Success.

Tony Johnson has a background in hospitality and retail management – leading large and diverse teams to grow sales and delight customers over 2 decades. He served as Customer Experience Officer for 4 years with Aramark Corporation, leading their global CX strategy and deployment for their food and facilities businesses. Tony is now the owner of Ignite Your Service Training and Strategy, where he is proud to partner with 4xi Global Consulting as CXO and CX strategist. The power of the 4xi collective allows Tony’s customer centric approach to seamlessly integrate and complement the host of other experts available to help your business thrive and inspire the future of work, together.

To learn more about how Tony and 4xi can help you build your Customer Experience Journey for the future, contact Tony at


4xi Global Workplace Consulting & Solutions provides a range of services to support Corporations, Service Providers, Innovators, and Accelerators to navigate the world of work. Inspiring the future of work, together.

4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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