The Keys to Building an Unforgettable Customer ExperienceAt Working Strategies, LLC we work with our SMB and enterprise Clients to ideate, craft, launch, refine and scale truly Customer focused loyalty and marketing communication programs – all designed to establish a genuine relationship between the consumer and the brand.

That’s where I come in. My international background in sales, social/digital/word of mouth marketing, CX/UX management, strategy work and relationship management allows me to relate to almost all of my Customer’s situations and strategy opportunities, regardless of industry or product. My goal is to differentiate my Clients in the market by helping them develop and hone their voice in the ‘new’ world.

“The worst Customer to loose is the one who just walks away and never tells you what you did wrong.”

On a personal note, I have an amazing 2 year old, recently moved from TriBeCa to Austin, TX and love burgers, bourbon and travel.

In today’s interview with Manuel you will learn:

  • How to gain credibility with your consumers and build a trustworthy brand.
  • Why your brand needs to be more proactive and less reactive to build an unforgettable customer experience.
  • What your brand needs to do along with their loyalty program for success.
  • How you can get your customers who have great experiences to spread the word.
  • How loyalty initiatives can improve your PR.
  • Why gamification needs to be part of your brand’s strategy.


The Keys to Build an Unforgettable Customer Experience: Manuel Christoffel Founder @ Working Strategies


KELLY: Hi everyone, so I’m Kelly and I’m the VP of business development of Social and Loyal. And today, we’re here with…


MANUEL: Manuel Christoffel, I run Working Strategies which is a boutique-niche consulting and strategy firm. Specializing in small-medium businesses as well as some larger corporate clients, in social media, brand identity, but predominately also loyalty initiatives, and long-term customer satisfaction which, seamlessly then again ties in to loyalty.


KELLY: Getting started here, I’d love to hear a bit of who are the clients that you work with, what are you seeing and what are the main problems that you’re attacking?


MANUEL: Sure, so most of my clients are actually competing with each other so I have a lot of NDAs. I’m just going to say they’re in the financial sector, they’re in the hospitality and then the travel sector. Also a couple of airlines which obviously really have hit the news.

My big surprise here when I really think about this is that shopping is at the very core. It is the very transactional sort of experience. Companies, like Amazon, have done an amazing job just making it seamless and as little time-consuming as possible. Which is, – I’m a Prime customer, addicting.

Amazon’s customer service is extremely reactive, when something goes wrong, it takes a long time and it’s very frustrating to get things resolved. So that to me is sort of the day-to-day but when I think about truly experiential shopping like a family vacation, a honeymoon, even if it shows where I do a city excursion. Where do you stay? What do other people say about these different hotels? Were they very close to you? So obviously, word of mouth, what customers like and what they’ve said is extremely important.

One of the things a former CEO of mine used to say and obviously a lot of people will say nowadays ‘You are who the customers say who you are’. It doesn’t matter, looking at a very popular soft drink company that thought they just nailed an advertising campaign, it was about the political climate. And the customers told them ‘no you haven’t nailed it at all’, politely put. But it’s not what customers wanted, and I think it highlights the huge gap between a marketing department that may focus on sound bites or trending hashtags and the real customers, the emotions that come into play when you consider something as trivial as a soft drink. And a lot of these companies just focus on the best possible picture, the biggest lie their marketing department can legally get away with, and of course avoid as much negativity as possible.

With airlines, I feel it’s extremely transactional in that, ‘Hey here’s a nice destination picture’ but oh wait, we decreased the space between the seats even more. No-one says that until you sit in this chair and you’re like, oh well, dang it, what’s my alternative, what’s my choice now. Nothing, I’m literally trapped for the next ten hours. So, that’s where I feel companies can’t really change their product because they’re a for-profit organization, they have a board, they have a leadership that’s tied to performance metrics.

So, on the flip side, I empathize with the challenges that a lot of these executives and marketing managers and in-flight crew and housing staff, everybody has a boss, so to speak. But I do believe you can be a lot more elegant and a lot more truthful about packaging it. In the process of doing so, creating a journey that not only will not disillusion your customer but it may tie them in and incline them to come back to you because at least they know you lie the least. So, if I’m pragmatic, I’m just going be okay with it, versus some of the other products and some of the other companies out there. And that’s sort of my mission to evangelize that.


KELLY: You mentioned the idea of a lot of companies, especially in customer support, being very reactive. Many times people, their experience with the brand won’t even happen until maybe they have a problem. Would a way of being pro-active in addition to being truthful be something like loyalty platforms? Especially now that you’re talking about the hospitality industry I think that almost all of them have some sort of rewards program. And there’s been a lot of controversy in redeeming these points. Where do you think the most room for improvement lies, especially within hospitality? And in regards to loyalty, is it the answer to being more pro-active in terms of customer experience?


MANUEL: Yes and no. I’ll see that because I have top status with a couple of very large global chains, I travel a lot. I had a very recent experience, a fifth wedding anniversary and we decided, instead of trying to go back to French Polynesia like we did for our honeymoon, let’s go to Sea World with our little two-year-old.

We picked a very well-known hotel chain. We know all the pros and the cons, just as we just talked about right. Biggest pro, it’s right across the street from Sea World. And we’re top-status and this place is half empty. This should be, in theory, a customer experience walk in the park. But it wasn’t. No, they said we upgraded you, and we insist you wait until this room is ready in about two hours from now. But, just give me the room I booked. I appreciate the upgrade, but now you’re forcing me to wait. Just give me my original room that I’ve paid for, but now I’m fighting with you.

This is kind of like what a first-class passenger in a plane will say, if they treat me like this at the top of the food chain, what is it like for somebody who doesn’t spend 190 nights with these people, who don’t spend x amount of dollars with these people?

The loyalty program is the very foundation that I believe will empower these people to do nice things, so it’s a part of, in my opinion, a brand promise or brand philosophy. Where you say so every customer matters period. However, our more loyal customers don’t necessarily matter more but they have more perks, because they spend more time with us, they spend more money with us. I‘m very transparent about that.

I believe loyalty is sort of the icing on the cake. Not only do you have a chance for one sale, but you have an opportunity for future sales, and you have an opportunity to have these people essentially be your freelance marketing department. These people will now be your brand ambassadors. And I can tell you, I have a DVR, you probably have a DVR, maybe your cable cutter, show me the number of TV ads on Super Bowl Sunday. Probably none, so whatever new product is up there, if it doesn’t hit me on social or my friends don’t tell me about it, there’s a good chance I may not know about it.

The idea is that there is a philosophy behind just embracing variety and embracing different opinions. Not just trying to please one person because we have one gold star super platinum diamond customer in the hotel and everybody else is just blue level of whatever. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to ignore the other 99.9%. That person gets a free drink. But we want to get everybody else to go up there too, because I would much rather give everybody in this hotel a free drink, rather than after acquiring new customers every single time, and more importantly why I have a 30-40% turnover on what I would consider newly acquired customers.

Loyalty is honestly the key to not having a lot of turnover, having more stability, and that in turn will give you a lot more insight, a lot more data saying what do my customers like. The data and analytics, the holy grail of every marketer these days, now I can start targeting people with emails. I have a whole folder of marketing emails, and it’s ridiculous the amount I get. But if it’s more tailored to me, I’m more inclined to be interested.


KELLY: We’ve seen that, 84% of people who have a positive experience are willing to make a referral but in the end, only 29% ever do. So, what would you say are the keys to capturing and increasing referrals? How do you close that gap between those two percents?


MANUEL: I have two answers for you. One is the sort of correct answer to implement if I’m advising a corporate client, the other answer is the more personal one, because I’m also a shopper.

Spent some time with AMEX, and we launched a Four Square partnership. Essentially, you check in to somewhere and if you tie your credit card to this at the point of check in then you can get $10 off a $100 purchase. That turns into tweeting programs, that turns into Facebook programs, that turns into website features, and whatnot. But the idea is to activate your customers if you will, at the point of purchase. The challenge is, on the flip side, that kind of means you may have 10 people behind you because it’s lunch time and you are the only cashier at the clothing store. And now nobody has a store card or a store loyalty program.

Obviously, your company has put the five stops of activation, try to capture people, try to activate them, at the moment they are ready. If you guys just follow us on Twitter right now, there’s a chance that you could win something. Or, once a week we look at every new Twitter follower and one person gets a $100 shopping coupon or 15% off their next purchase.

Making it easy, gamifying the experience I believe is especially valuable for the more mobile generation who can’t even shower without their phones in their hands. You need to incentivize them fairly and not only look at how much they’re putting on your brand’s credit card but how much they are spending in cash too. On the flip side, you don’t want a program that everybody signs up for and then they only come in to shop your deals, that doesn’t do you any good.


KELLY: Loyalty to a deal.


MANUEL: Loyalty to a deal, exactly right. Which takes me to Costco. If Sam’s Club has something a lot cheaper it may be worth getting a $50 membership at Sam’s Club. Not that I’m advocating one over the other. So, I do believe gamification and activation on the spot is valuable, but as I said earlier, it’s the first step of many.

Restaurant chains and stores will run a lot of appreciation deals such as on specific days all children eat for free. For some families, its an economic necessity, for others its an incentive to go. That’s the one day that you do group play with your entire neighborhood and you go out with the little rug rats because you know you’re not going to pay for them. Everybody saves $10. But it’s also a reason to kind of bring communities together.

That could’ve come from a need of saying look, for some reason every Thursday from three to seven we’re completely empty. We’re almost losing money cause we’re paying rent, electricity our staff is there and there’s not enough customers, how do we fill this gap? So, it could be a corporate necessity that started the loyalty enhancing initiative, which in hand helps to improve your PR.

With Toms, when you buy one pair of shoes you give another pair to someone in need but of course my question always is, how much cheaper would these shoes be if I didn’t give one? Would you not maybe just be better off just donating say, like if you save 50% just donate 30%? Would that not be better off in the long term? But that’s they math geek in me. It makes consumers feel good and it is part of their long-term strategy.


KELLY: So, if you had to sum it up and give these brands one big piece of advice that you wish everyone would just take to create those long-term relationships what would it be?


MANUEL: Mystery shop your own products. I’m not talking about Undercover Boss, I’m literally talking about putting on a mustache and fly coach in the crappiest, cheapest seat you have, from one of your most notorious airports to another, on a red-eye, and tell me if you think you have the best industry experience. Go check in to the most notorious hotels at peak time and see what room you get, how you experience these things.

We call it dogfooding, there’s a lot of semi-interesting phrases around it, but the challenge is anytime a leader tells his team to dog-food it, he tells me two things – one, you’re going to have a biased crew, that may have built something that only pilfered them in the first place. Why don’t you go out and just pretend you are not you, you don’t have your wallet, you don’t have your name, you don’t have anything else that may come to you. Ask your new employees, see what they find in the very front line and the newest people in the organization tend to have the most feedback and the most questions.

And that’s what I’m experiencing now in the consulting side of things, where inside companies, my reputation always has been I’m extremely tenacious and I find every single hole or loophole. But on the flip side of things, basically my cup is always half-empty. It’s frowned upon inside the company to be negative against your own product. Because no, we hired you, we pay your bills, you have to be positive. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean 5 million customers will hate it. Let’s just say that’s not always right. So, having that humility to want to listen to that feedback, but then also the ability to experience that and see what that is like, I believe will change a lot.


KELLY: So getting that unbiased journey, through the whole customer’s journey there looks like it can provide a lot of valuable insight. That’s amazing advice and I think we’ll kind of wrap it up there so thank you so much for your time and I think this has been a lot of value for everyone listening and reading.


If you’d like more information you can contact Manuel through his website.



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