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The Proven Customer Experience Formula with Jason Friedman
My guest is one of the top experts on customer experience. He’s the Founder and CEO of CXFormula. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, including Nike, Disney, Foot Locker, Bank of America and Harvard, to name a few. He’s changing the way people look at the customer journey. I am pumped to welcome the one and only Jason Friedman. Welcome, Jason.
Jesse, thanks for having me on.
I’m excited to talk obviously about your origin story. Not a lot of people know this but in college, I did theater, I did improv while I was playing baseball. That’s why I got a lot of inspiration for putting on the show at the ballpark. You have a similar and much more extravagant background. Being on the tours with some of these big bands and going on Broadway all over the country, could you share what impact that made on you in creating this experience?
I love that approach because it’s about the experience. It’s about the theater of it. I started out as a lighting designer. I light theater shows, dance, bands in your local bar and what have you. I started early on when I was eight years old in summer camp when I started doing some theater stuff. It turned into a career. I did it all through high school. I did it in college. I went out with some big bands that some people may have heard of like Peter Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac and Rush. That excitement when you have thousands of raving fans. When you go to a rock concert and they are raving fans. They are jumping up and down. They’re freaking out. They’re tattooing the band logos. They’re body surfing. They want to get more and more.
That’s an intoxicating thing to be part of. You know it because that’s what you do as well. The excitement for the team as well as the fans, it’s like everyone’s in alignment. It’s fun and exciting. I couldn’t get enough of that. I went onto some more legit theater. I toured with some Broadway shows, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, Metalomania. It was a different raving fan experience. That same thing at the end, the standing ovation as you’re watching the show unfold. Nobody’s on their phones, nobody is doing other things, they are in the moment. They are engaged in the story. They want to be there. They leave with this emotional transformation. They were moved from the time they got there to the time they left. They are a different person.
Being part of that and being able to create that and think through how do you tell the story in multi-dimensions, how to process the lights, the costumes, the music, the fog, all the elements, and the spectacle. When you put it all together in an authentic way to tell a story, it’s powerful. I had an opportunity to take that into “the real world” and do it with brands, with businesses. How do you tell their brand story to customers in a way that makes them want to go deep with that brand and become loyal followers?
Exactly what you do with the Bananas, people love that. They want to come back. They can’t wait until the next time they get to interact with you. That’s my whole background is that theater, storytelling and creating an experience in a way that moves people. There’s nothing like it. I hated the acting part of it, which is so funny. I was always the behind-the-scenes guy. When I was in college, I went to school for theater. My father was like, “You’re not going to ever make a living. You’re going to be a starving artist.” It turns out okay. The funny part was I had to take improv acting classes.
I had to do all these things that I hated. I never thought it would be a part of who I am now, what I teach, how I help brands and businesses grow exponentially. It’s all that. It’s that improv. It’s learning how to listen and how to tell a story. If businesses can learn how to do this the right way, they will not only make a lot more money. I’m not talking like a little more money, a lot more money, but they will make a bigger impact. That’s what it’s about for us entrepreneurs.
It’s similar to theater, we script out the entire experience. We have 4,000 people dancing Hey Baby. We have our players in the crowd doing roses. Everything is a part of a script. It’s about a ten-page script into a baseball game. It’s not just go and play. I’d love to go to maybe some stories of things that stuck out from touring that you took. If every single business could get standing ovations, could get fans going nuts and everyone says like, “No, you’re in the entertainment business.” Every business is in the entertainment business.You have to be in the customer’s shoes and look at things from their point of view. Click To Tweet
We’re in the entertainment and attention business. We have to earn that attention because when we don’t, we lose it. Someone else is right there. Your competition is one Google search and one click away. We need to earn that attention. Scripting like a lot of people think, “I script my experience. It’s going to be boring, dull and uninteresting.” There’s an art and a science to this. You’ve got to script it. You have opportunities for things to be spontaneous, exciting, fresh and new. That structure gives you everything that you possibly need to have amazing success. I can talk a lot about rituals and the things that you’re talking about. People look forward to coming to the games to do those things that you’ve choreographed., you’ve architected that is part of the experience. They want to be part of that ritual. It’s so important.
You took from the theater, tours and the concerts how people feel. You said they’re going nuts. They’re excited. Is there anything else tangible or some stories that stuck out that’s like, “This can be put into businesses.” Every business should take things from other industries. They shouldn’t take things from their own industry. They should go outside. Is there anything that you took and it was like, “Every business should be doing this?”
Most businesses think of customer service, for example, as problems. People call you up for customer service and support, and they’re upset. Something didn’t go right. I look at that as an opportunity for sales, for serving, not for service. Having the mindset shift around customer service, you take any other business, it doesn’t matter whether it’s going to a theme park or whatever. What does that customer feel when they come into that moment something’s wrong, something’s broken? They need to vent a little bit. They need to explain it. They need to express themselves. The number one metric that most customer service groups look at is how to reduce the time on the call, how to make it shorter, how to make it less.
That is absolutely the opposite of what you should be doing. Not to say that you should make it long, but it should be as long as it needs to be for the customer to feel great at the end of that and to feel understood. Too many businesses are trying to be interesting to their customers instead of being interested in their customers. Customer service is such a great place. It’s like when we have a customer call in, the first thing we do is let them speak, tell us what’s wrong, and we apologize because genuinely we didn’t want that to happen. We are sorry when that happens. That empathy, sympathy and understanding of them as soon as you tell them that you’re sorry. In fact, we go the distance. If it’s something that we’re embarrassed by it, we tell them, “We’re embarrassed that this happened to you. I want to do everything in my power to make this right and to help you. Would you be open to working with me right now so I can help you get what you originally wanted and maybe I can do something extra special to compensate you for your time?” They’re like, “This is great.”
You’re going into how most people feel defensive. We think about us in the business like, “I’m defensive. I’ve got to battle.” No, take your step back. Put yourself in their shoes. I’ve always said, “Nothing matters more than making people feel they matter.” When they call, do you make them feel like they matter or not? We’re going into it down the rabbit hole, but this is part of the script that we’re talking about.
As you start to take things from other industries, people talk about the difference between what they expected and what actually happened. If it’s this, what happened is great and what they expected was lower, they’re like, “That was amazing.” If what they expected was here and what they got was here, they’re like, “That sucked.” It’s that differential that makes people talk. You have to manage that differential, the experience gap. When they don’t understand what it is, as a business, we look at it from ours. It’s like, “We’re spending more money. We’re spending more time.” You have to be in their shoes. You have to look at it from their point of view. From an experience standpoint, we get defensive. It’s hard. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I remember in the very beginning, it’s embarrassing to see that you messed up. It’s hard to look in the mirror and confront those brutal facts that we screwed up. Especially for us entrepreneurs because your identity is connected to that business in such a powerful way that we take it as a thing about us.
As my journey as an entrepreneur, I have to learn that my identity was not my business. I pour it into it. I am a good person. I believe I’m going to do the right thing. As soon as we can start to shift that mindset a little bit around being of service to our customers, they want to buy more. They want to tell more people about how they were handled. I travel a lot for speaking as you do. What do you hear on the airplane? You hear the staff complaining. You hear all the customers complaining. It’s like everyone’s on this vessel. It’s like complaintville. All of a sudden, you hear somebody does something amazing, but that’s all they want to talk about. It’s our opportunity as entrepreneurs to give them great things to talk about. The things that you do with the Bananas, it’s so different. It’s so unique that they can’t help. They’re compelled to tell people about it because it’s exciting. We had a chain of sleep diagnostic centers. It was a business that I owned.
We tested people for restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and sleep apnea. It is one of the most regulated businesses. It’s uninteresting. It’s boring. You go to the doctor and they tell you’re snoring too much. You might have a heart attack because of this. You could die. You’ve got to get a sleep study. They make you go into a place that’s away from home. They connect all these wires to you. They have a camera on you watching you while you sleep. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than that for someone that has just been told they’re going to die and be in that environment. We created a completely different experience for people in every touch point, but the littlest things mean the most. Our business exploded. We sold it for quite a bit of money. We grew it to a certain point.
I want to get on some of these points. What are some of the things you did?
One thing we did is they would come and they would stay overnight. We’d have showers in the rooms for them to get in the shower, get dressed in the morning and go to work. One of the things we do when they’re in bed and they’re ready to go, we’d say to them, “Are you leaving here directly to go to work in the morning?” They said, “Yes, we are.” We’d say, “Would you like us to press your clothes for you?” They’re like, “What?” We’re like, “We don’t want you to leave, be rushing in the morning and worry about that. We’ve got a team that can take care of that for you.” They’re just like, “That’s amazing.” They would go back to their doctors, who referred them to us and say, “These people are amazing. All the attention to detail, the way they treated us,” because of that impression that they got from that.
I will tell you in the thousands of patients that we serviced, no one ever took us up on it. They were so blown away by the fact that we did it. We had an ironing board and an iron in a back room. We would press their clothes. We were happy to. We trained our staff on how to do it properly. We had nice bags made so we can put their clothes in it for them. The value of offering it, thinking of what mattered to them made them feel so cared for, understood, and they could not talk about it.
They share it. It’s reimagining what is that perfect experience. For instance, this season we’re getting a golf cart deal. We’re going to have our players pick up fans in the parking lot, bring them into the games and do golf cart karaoke where they’re singing. They’re not going to get every fan, but those people that come get an experience. After the games, we’re getting a mobile car wash company to, without telling anybody, wash a few cars and have a nice note, “Thank you for coming. Your car now is washed.” It’s those little touch points. You have to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Jason, we, can get into your framework, but this is something we started doing. We do an undercover fan and me and everyone on our staff every night we have one or two that go undercover park, experience the game, try to find a seat, eat food and go through the whole space. We have 30 pages of notes. If you’re not going undercover as a customer or as a fan of your business, how can you expect to deliver a great experience?
I want to say two things about that. Secretly shopping your business is important. Having not only you do it but having other people that have never been there before to get that first impression and understanding of it. There’s a whole television show Undercover Boss, which you learn so much about the business by being a customer. You have to become your own customer and go into it with that beginner’s mind, without the curse of knowledge of all the understanding of why these things are happening. Just go and experience it. The second thing is to shop for other experiences that are completely unrelated. Don’t steal things from your own industry or business, steal or model things from other industries because no matter whether you’re B2B, B2C, I don’t care what your business is.Transitions are one of the most important and overlooked opportunities in your business. Click To Tweet
P2P, it’s Person to Person. We’re interacting with human to human. Every business can utilize that. The bar is so low. That’s why you’re on that mission to do business differently. You can wow people in a way that’s powerful and profound. It changes their day. It changes the way they interact with other people. It changes the way they interact with their families, with their kids. You create this positive momentum that carries forward. You know it from your team. If you start doing this stuff with your customers, it starts inside. They start to love it, they started to get more excited and this whole viral loop happens. There’s nothing more powerful than that.
I’d like to get a little framework for the audience that doesn’t know. The framework that you use to map the journey, and I’d love some examples, some of the companies have pieced in. You can keep it confidential, but maybe mention what they’ve done. You’ve talked about starting reverse engineer and you go backward. Can you share a little bit?
Most people will start thinking about their customer experience from the first touch point. It doesn’t let you get where you need to go. I want you to start at the end. When a customer finishes, whatever that interaction, it could be a phone call, it could it be attending a game, it could be going to a workshop, it could it be downloading a PDF from your website. What do you want them to experience from that? What would they say as a result of that? We call this the ideal customer script. I want you to script out the words of the ideal testimonial that customer would give. They’re on an airplane, the old elevator pitch idea. What would that customer say after that interaction to other people?
I want you to use words that you’re not comfortable like a juicy adjective word. I want you to use metaphors. Things that they would say and know who that “avatar persona” is and use their words. One of the ways we do this is we use improv. We use role-playing. I want you to become your customer. If you were asked to play your customer in a play and you had to be onstage, the audience would believe that there are a real person up there. What would they do? How would they talk? What would they say? What would the stories be that they’d use to illustrate how amazing that experience was? Once you get that scripted, putting the steps in place that will encourage them and compel them to say those words is easy.
I do this from a legit perspective. It is manipulative for sure, but it’s for good. You’re doing the things that authentically generate that result. As you get clear on what that script is, you have the roadmap for what you need to do in that experience. You can give them the words. For example, I have an online course that has six modules of training that goes through this framework and helps you do it. I wrote the idea of customer script. It’s like, “Jason, I decided to take this course because I realized how important it was. I knew some of this already, so I wasn’t sure. I was a little on the fence at the beginning. As I went into this, you exploded my perspective on this by these three things. My team is on fire. My team is so excited about coming into work.” It was a job before, now it’s fun. It’s an experience for them as well.
I am so grateful I bought this course. Now that I know that, I want them to say that. In the module when I started talking about the team, the employee experience, I said, “I want your team to be on fire.” I start using the exact words. I’m seeding the language about it. As I teach a lesson, I explain the benefit of this lesson. Why is this going to help the employee? What is the employee going to get out of that? I’d give them the language. In the end, it’s no joke. It’s no surprise that they’re going to say exactly what I wanted them to because they had the experience, they learned the things. I’d given them the language. Now they’re going to go use that language.
It’s brilliant because how can they know what to deliver if they don’t know what they’re looking for. I thought it was for us, I always say, “You won’t believe what I saw at the games,” because I know that spreads the fun. “You wouldn’t believe this happened.” How do we create things that are so unique and different to create so much word of mouth? That knocks it for us. It makes sense. You do that and you start talking about the actual experience.
When it comes to word of mouth, every business needs it. I don’t care if you’re the biggest business or the little business. We have to give them the words. You don’t want the word of mouth to be by accident. It has to be intentional, by design, so that’s where we start. From there, we go back to the beginning. You’ll notice every business has multiple representative clients that are in there. When you write that script, you want to do it for each avatar because they’re all going to be a little bit different so that you can make sure that you cover all of them. As you start looking at the journey, you have to start at the right place when you go backward and reverse engineer. There’s a formula that I share with people. We call it A plus B equals R, Attitudes plus Behaviors equals Results.
You know the results. You scripted that reaction. In order for them to get those results, they have to do certain things. The behaviors, the things that they do in the ordinary course, each step that they go through with your business of the behaviors. The problem is in order for them to do those behaviors, you have to break the bad attitudes, the preconceived notions, the wrong, missed or unclear expectations. The fact that they’re coming into your world after having a bad day and they’re not open to it. What we do is we influence those attitudes with experiences, with gamification, with different things that are going to put them in the right mindset and the right frame to be able to get to the right behavior that’s going to get them to that result. As we start at the very beginning, most people start after someone buys.
I redefine customer and I think you have to look at your customer as somebody that decided to give you their attention. You have to move that customer line back to even pre prospect. If someone comes to my website and they opt in for a free guide, that’s a customer. They just bought that with their email address. I consider them someone that paid me in something that they felt was valuable, their intention and their time. We have to start back. Even before that, how did they get to my website? Where did they learn about me? What places did they stumble upon the message that I’m sharing that even gotten to that place? I have to be clear on what’s happening in their head. What are they thinking and expecting? How do they feel even before they meet me so that when they meet me, I can welcome them? I can walk them with the right energy, with the right messages, with the right information. A lot of businesses get stuck. First, they don’t figure it out where they ultimately want to take them, but then they start a little bit down in the journey where the client already had the first impression that you haven’t influenced.
What do they say on your website? What are they saying on reviews when they search your name? You’ve got to look at every single point on what they see because that’s their perspective of you.
What else have they learned about your subject? Depending on the sophistication of your market or the audience that’s coming to you, they may have done a lot of research and learned a lot of things from a lot of people. They may have a belief system that conflicts with what you’re trying to share. You need to understand that based on where they come in and what they learned. It’s not a perfect science. You can’t guarantee that. You can be aware of it. You can manage that. Basically, with all of these things, you’re changing people’s beliefs about what a baseball game is. They don’t know what a baseball game is until they learn from you. What they believe in baseball is old school. What you do is a completely different thing. They’re playing checkers. You’re playing chess. They’re not in the same game. The shift of beliefs and mindset around what that is so important. Those are the things that get people to become loyal brand advocates. They want to tattoo your brand on their body.Earn the audiences’ attention because when you don't, you lose it to someone else's. Click To Tweet
Let’s get into some actual experiences. We know what they want to say. We started doing the path to get them where they’re going, but you also talked about planned spontaneity. Give me some examples of some of these companies. What is that? In some companies, what have they done to create these wow experiences?
I’ll give you an example for a client that we’re working right now. I’ll leave the name out to save the surprise. They’re opening a brand-new multibillion-dollar facility. It’s a big deal in their community and frankly in the world. It’s going to have a lot of ripple effects. Part of what they want to do is bring people into areas of this facility to show them why it’s better. The thought that went into this, the approach to this, the inner workings in both of the building, the technology, the human interaction, all the elements are designed in such a way that’s life-changing. It’s a different experience. They’ve approached it from a very different point of view than any other facility of its kind that’s ever been done.
In order to do that, they wanted to bring people to a backstage behind the scenes tour before it’s open for business. That was their idea before we got involved and they said, “We want to create an experience out of this.” The first thing they wanted to do is walk people into the front door and start moving around. I’m like, “That’s what they expect. We don’t want to bring them to the front door. We want to bring them in from a different perspective than they had before and we want to bring them in a way that they have this successive rediscovery. We want them to learn things about it in a sequence that’s different than what they expect, so they pay more attention.” If something is a way someone anticipates it to be, they drown it out.
You’re sitting on the airplane, the flight attendant is like, “Put your oxygen mask.” You’re not listening to any of those safety messages. When some airlines shake it up and do something crazy, it’s out of order in a different way. Now all of a sudden, you’re paying attention. We have to do something in a different sequence that’s not anticipated so that they engage more deeply with what that experience is. Our way of doing it is we’re bringing them into a different area. It’s like a holding area like you would have at Disney World. They come into this and they have a pre-show experience. In this pre-show, it’s your normal thing like, “Welcome. We’re so excited to have you. Here are some things you’re going to learn.” All that normal, what you’d expect. All of a sudden, the entire theater starts to shake and you feel this buffeting noise. It’s a helicopter that’s landing on the helipad on top of this building. We’re saying, “There’s a code 911. Come with us and experience what’s happening from this perspective.”
We bring them through the back side of this experience. We’re showcasing all these cool things and the benefits to the people without showing them the stuff. We’re bringing them through the lens of a person that’s going to be using this facility. It’s such a different thing. Everyone that we’ve shared this works there that’s part of this has been just blown away because nobody has ever done anything like this in their space. It’s like going to Disney. It’s that thing. It’s the same stuff that we did when we were designing experiences for Disney. How do we take people through a different perspective from a different approach? I would say like, as customers come into your business, what are they expecting, the first, second and third step to be, and is there a way to reorder that? Is there a way to shift that? Is there a way to do something unexpected that is not for the sake of being unexpected, that is meaningfully unexpected, that will bring them further in, pique their curiosity and demand their attention for what you have?
I’m a big Disney fan. I’ve had Lee Cockerell on the show and talked to some other people with Disney as well. It’s amazing when you think about the attention to detail. They make the line experiences interesting. You come around this corner and you see this. You’re going on the ride. Every attention to detail is so huge. You’re going to be thinking like, whatever’s normal, do the exact opposite. That’s our premise of how we do things. What if fans came in on a slide? What if we have an entrance through the locker room? It’s different things like that. Every business should think like that. Is there any unique experience with Disney that you could share?
I’ll give you an example. With Disney, if you look at it from a customer perspective, 80% of their time is spent in line, not in the attraction. This is what most businesses would be like, “Just deal with the lines later.” That’s a unique difference. They’re cognizant on the fact that the majority of your time is spent in these lines. There’s nothing you can do about that as part of the experience. We have to make it be an experience in and of itself. A lot of the steps in some of the attractions that they have are queuing. It’s a holding while we’re waiting for the next group to finish, so they tell stories, they have movies, they have interactivity because we have to keep you engaged or we’re going to lose you.
As you think about it, when we talk about our business and I use theater again in this, the idea of the transition. Transitions are one of the most important and overlooked opportunities in your business. You lose people in the transitions. You create raving fans and loyalists when you do transitions right. For example, in theater, we do tech rehearsals. We’ll do a stage show. We have all the actors on stage that they’re in a costume. We get out of the light set right. We make sure that all of the prompts are there and everything’s good. We have actors. Without acting out the scene and they’re just standing there. We say, “Go to the next spot.” They go to the next spot, we set the lights, and we made sure everything’s good.
We go back to the previous spot and we say, “We want to run the scene change, go from cue to cue.” It’s in those scene changes where lights have to change, sets have to move, props have to change, constants have to happen. Actors have to come from the changing rooms and dressing rooms into these other places. The orchestra may need to play and all of that has to happen in as quick a time as they can and be part of the story so that we don’t lose the audience. They don’t start checking their phones. They don’t do all this. Those transitions are magnificent when they’re done well. In theater, we obsess over the transitions. In business, we ignore or don’t even realize they’re transitions.
If you want a ninja tip, the thing that I would focus on in your business is, have you figured out all the touch points, figure out all the steps, figure out what you want to do in those steps? The actors rehearse the scene and they get it right but look at the journey from one step to the next step. What is that? That’s the line at Disney. It’s the scene changes in a theater. It’s all the different pieces. It could be the handoff from sales to operations in your business. It could be whatever it happens to be. Look at it both from the outside for the customer, but also look at it from your employee experience because the transitions and employees, the role clarity, the way things move, it’s different when you can focus on that.
There’s an amazing study done by the BBC. They looked at the best teams and who did the best work. What they found was that news crews, theater troops, people that were in the show business had the best teams. They could show up out of nowhere, immediately accomplished a task and get it done. As we’re growing our business, our clients used to say that about us too. In theater, we have this role clarity. If you’re an actor and your cast know your lines, you know your movements, you know what you do. They might have an understanding that also knows that they know everything about that. You know about the interactions because we rehearsed those handoffs. We rehearsed those bits. When you can get to that level of clarity in your business with the roles that people play and what their responsibilities are, it translates directly to the customer experience. The transitions are better. The experience of the clients are off the charts better.
In theater, sometimes they’ll bring an actor into the crowd during the transition. What’s fun for our games, we do all our promotions in between innings. Our transitions are what people look forward to, and the game was a slow part. It got thinking like lines. If there was a line, not just a figurative line. Any type of waiting that people have, what are you doing? We developed a character called DJ Peels on Wheels, and it’s a mobile DJ on a Segway that’s going to be going around the stadium, doing requests, playing music in line with people to add to the fun and the experience. It’s those little things. It’s expect the unexpected. People don’t expect that. Part of my transition is to expect the unexpected. We’re going to do our first game, Jason, if you’re mentally prepared for this. Truth and dare, which one would you like first?People talk about the difference between what they expected and what actually happened. Click To Tweet
Let’s go with the truth.
You live this brand, the experiences. What is holding you back from delivering these amazing customer experiences, either in your previous business or now? I think every person saying, “This is a lot. How am I going to do this?” What held you back?
Originally what held me back was the belief and the complexity of it. “There are so many moving parts that how would I get it all right?” The paralysis of so much crept in and in the very beginning. That was what held me back in the beginning. It didn’t hold me back for long because I was reminded by a mentor of mine of what I was so amazing in the theater. I was taking this big complex script, breaking it up into all of its little parts, focus on one at a time and make that good. Go ahead and see if you can make the transitions better. What I would say the lesson to maybe be learned from that would be, don’t try and do everything. Pick the magical moments, pick the memorable moment, pick all the moment that you think could have a big impact. Do one and make it a little better. You’ll see the ripple effect of that and you can go from there.
The biggest challenge for me, and I hear this from a lot of my clients and colleagues. Customer experience can be so massive. The beauty of it is if you pick one thing, you’ll see rapid results to the things you do. There’s like instant gratification, which for us entrepreneurs is pretty exciting. We all want it bigger, better, faster, and if I had to be truthful about what holds me back is lack of clarity. My business has grown and changed. We had a big business. We sold over nine figures, $150 million in revenues and what have you. We sold that business. I exited it. I was on a noncompete for five years. I’m doing this again because it’s important. I know that this is what transforms businesses.
It’s the lens that I use to grow businesses and scale businesses. It’s so important. I’m not clear personally on exactly where I want that to go. It was before. As I do things, it’s a little bit more haphazard than strategic. I would say that for me, that is probably the biggest thing that holds them back in being clear. I knew what we wanted. We wanted a big company. We wanted to work with the best brands. We wanted to be the number one group in brand activation experiences. I want to help entrepreneurs grow their business and scale their business through the lens of the customer experience. The challenge with that is it’s a little fuzzy. I don’t think that I put all the pieces in place and I could or maybe I should to get to that place.
I’m tremendously impressed. It’s one of the most in-depth truth I’ve ever seen, Jason, so you absolutely killed it. You’ve talked about clarity. Brendon Burchard in high performers interviewed thousands. He said the number one thing of high performers are constantly seeking clarity, so it makes sense. You’re not getting away from the dare. This is a game we have at our ballpark. Normally, we have 2,000 people singing against 2,000 people. It’s called sing in the blank. We start a song and as soon as it finishes, you have to finish that song later. This actually fits your theme about all business is show business or putting on a show. It’s fitting your theme. Here we go. “Do you want to go? Where it’s covered in all the colored lights. Where the runaways are running the night. Impossible comes true, it’s taking over you.”
I don’t know.
This is the Greatest Show. It is from The Greatest Showman. It was a tough one. Have you seen the movie?
I have not seen the movie.
It’s all worth it. I’m a big PT Barnum fan. I’ve read everything but it’s about putting on a show. He gets it. How does someone bring this into their team? As we’re doing this with our team, we know it’s been a challenge to get buy-in. How do you teach people to say, “We know experience is important. We got it. We want to do it?” They come back fired up. What happens?
First of all, the most common problem I see with this is that what you define for your experience, they don’t have context for. The best story I have for this is we are working in electronics retail. It’s like a Best Buy. It was a local electronics store in New Jersey and had eight locations. They claim to be the Nordstrom of consumer electronics. They wanted to have that high touch, high class. You buy a pair of shoes, anything wrong, we’ll take them back. You bring us a head of lettuce and we’ll take it back. That experience. As they brought me in to work with their management team, they had 30 people in the room and they introduced me as the guy that’s going to help them transform their experience. I was listening to this whole meeting before I got up and he started the Nordstrom. I get up there and you see everyone’s glazed over and said, “A quick question, show your hands. How many people here have ever been in a Nordstrom?” One hand went up.
The words didn’t have context. As you think about what that experience is if you start to define it, make sure that there’s context. The stories that illustrate the key values. It’s not just words, it’s meaningful stories. How do you show this experience in action and start to capture these customer stories and employee stories of exceeding and meeting those values and those things? Number one is the context for your employees. Number two is a shared vision. One of the things that helped my company catapult. We were stuck in a couple of million in revenue and then we were like a rocket ship when you took off. One of the key pieces of that was sharing a vision. I had a vision. I knew what I wanted to go. I brought in all of our leadership team. We started talking about what this business could be. I have them cocreate the vision with me, so it became our vision, not my vision.
When they owned that vision and they were part of creating what it was and adding all the extra things that made it a more detailed, more clear, more exciting, they owned it. Whether or not they owned the business or not is irrelevant. As an entrepreneur, I would say to you like, “Do an exercise with your team and you bring all them in is fine, but have them develop and co-create that vision with you because then they will have a sense of ownership.” The third thing is, people do what you pay them to do, and things that get measured get done. Compensation should be tied to the results that you want.
I don’t mean financial results. You can pay people based on profits or revenues and give them bonuses and all that. My experience of doing that in most roles in the business is that if I incentivize people on the profits of the business, they’ll cut corners to make us more money. If I tell them on sales, they’ll reduce prices to get more sales in the door. I’m incentivizing the wrong behaviors in most of those cases. What I do is I look at, “What are the behaviors that I believe will get me more sales and profits, but I know will create rating client fans?” I give them bonuses based on that. For example, in our sleep center, we had this thing called The Rock Star Awards. We literally had like little index card size things all around the place.
You could trip over them. It had a little thing that explains like, “We want you to catch our team in the act of doing great things.” If anyone does something that wows you or you think is great, let us know. If you think there’s anything that we can improve, also let us know. Our employees were bonused by getting more and more rock star awards turned in by the clients. There was a competition amongst everyone, so the employee to have the most rock star over each month got a bonus. I don’t remember the amount, maybe $250 or $500. The entire team got a certain amount and aggregate, everybody got one. They were competing. They were cooperating as well. It created this unbelievable thing. Those cards ended up becoming testimonials. They ended up becoming things that we gave to referring doctors’ offices to show them how great we took care of their customers, and they sent us all of their business. Whatever those behaviors are, even with salespeople, it might be on having repeat client meetings.
Customer service representatives, it was based on a thank you email being sent in. It’s like when a customer service person finishes with a client, if the client takes an extra minute out of their day to send a quick thank you. My receptionist in my big company, her title was The Director of First Impressions. This woman got paid over six figures as a “receptionist” because she was the ambassador. She touched every single person that contact our business. When people came to visit us, she would greet them, welcome them with a smile and make them be taken care of. She didn’t just answer the phone. When she answered the phone, she would know who was calling from Corey. She would hear their voice. She knew what project they were working on. She knew what team members they would probably want to speak to. She wouldn’t make that experience so seamless, effortless and pleasant that my clients could not help but to call me, leave me a voicemail, send me emails, send me text messages saying, “This is unbelievable. Where did you get this person? I can’t believe this.” Her incentives were based on clients feeling that they’re being welcomed home, that they’re a part of the family.
It was based on them to recognize it. It’s like a rock star award. It’s a thank you email. It potentially could be social media mentioned. It was incentivized by your customers. They’re the ones writing the tax.
It’s incentivized by the fact that employee can directly influence their personal revenue. It’s like a waiter or a waitress or a server at a restaurant, they have an immediate ability to transform how much money they’re going to make that day, the way that they serve to someone. The food can be bad, they could still get a gigantic tip. They have control. I believe if we’re going to empower our teams to create a great experience, we have to give them the tools, the training, the language, and also the ability to control their own destiny and give them some rewards for things that they can directly control away from other decisions that can be made in the company. Every time I’ve done that, we’ve had massive success.
Darren Ross from the Magic Castle Hotel said, “We incentivize stories. We don’t incentivize sales.” We want the fans first moments. I’ve been grilling you. I’m giving you the chance to grill me. It’s flip the script. You’re the host of Business Done Differently. You can ask one question.
I’ve been learning a lot about what you are doing. I’m curious and you’ve probably shared this story. I may have gotten it in someplace. You have a pretty successful business. You’re doing amazing things. You’ve got raving fans. What is driving you to keep going to that next level, to keep doing the innovations that you’re doing, to keep thinking about making it bigger? Most business owners, they get something working. They create a great experience, but they don’t keep evolving it.
The name of our company is actually Fans First Entertainment. Our mission is fans first, entertain always. Our biggest fans are our own people. I believe people deserve to be treated better. They deserve to be cared for. They deserve fun. The way they’re getting at sporting events and companies is wrong. We have a mission to bring this to the world and to spread it. We’ve sold all our games here but take the show on the road. Start bringing people. This energy, this fun and caring for people that goes in personally as an only child. My parents were divorced and I wanted to feel that love. People deserve that. We’re on that mission to take that to the world.
It’s caring. It’s fun. It’s making people feel good and being different. A lot of people be their whole self. The reality is that’s our vision. If we’re a co-visionist, how do we bring these fans first to the world and bring it in a way that people walk out and say, “I feel good. I lost myself. I escaped. I had fun?” We’ve heard from so many families that we brought them together, that they weren’t even talking with their mother or father. He hasn’t talked with his mother. They came to the game. They sat together. They had time in their lives. That’s what it comes down to.
I love that you’re not being satisfied with what’s working. You’re pushing the envelope. You’re going bigger. For all of us, that’s a lesson that we can all learn. Don’t get complacent. Don’t just get it satisfied with that. Keep pushing that envelope. I see a lot of people get nervous like, “Someone can copy me and they’ll knock me off.” If you’re always innovating, you’re always taking it to the next level. You’ve got a monopoly on how you do that. Thank you for that.
I usually get silly questions like, “Where does the tax come from?” You got deep, which I like. What is one thing that you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
The one thing that I’ve done is I’ve taken my background in theater and I brought it into every aspect of my business. It was hard for me at first because I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid that they think it was stupid, dumb or girly. I didn’t even see it as something that I could do. Someone brought it up to me and I resisted and I prodded. I had this one moment, another mentor said to me, “The thing that everybody loves about you when you’re in a meeting, when you’re onstage when you’re doing this, is that theater background and it’s what we do as a business here. Why don’t you share it? Why don’t you just embrace it and accept it?” It was becoming more comfortable with my roots and who I was and sharing that because it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about how it can help other people. That shift was when I started focusing on others and how I can help them and be impactful. It all snapped into sharp focus.
If you’re going to give advice to your kids when they’re going off college, maybe not into the real world, what advice would you give them?
I’ve been asked this question a lot. I had a few different answers. If I were to summarize all of it into one thing, it is more about being thoughtful about who they want to show up as in the world. It’s not that we talk a lot about because my kids are young. There’s all this crazy stuff that happens in school and in life with them, and the way these other kids are showing up. They try and copy some of the behaviors that they see that are so not how they were raised. They don’t feel comfortable doing it. They feel they need to because they see other people doing it. Having them own a little bit more about who they are, how they want to show up and how they want people to think about them is something important. We’re trying to communicate that. I hope we’re doing a good job. Don’t be afraid to be different, be yourself.
You’ve mentioned a lot of mentors. I’ve heard you’ve had a coach. You work with Dan Sullivan and some great people. Is there some advice that stands out for you?
There are a lot of things. Let me give you two or maybe three. The first one is that clarity equals energy. As I talked about the fact that I have not moved forward in getting the best experience I could’ve because I don’t have that absolute clarity. Whenever you get back clarity, the energy is infectious. I found that whenever I’m in that place, there was a lot of clarity in some of it. That’s Dan Sullivan, an amazing coach, an awesome man who changed my life. Probably the second thing is about this idea of you have to put your oxygen mask on before you help somebody else. It might’ve been Joe Polish. He talks about this. He had a $1 million racehorse and you do everything for it. You take care of it. You feed it. You make sure it gets enough sleep. You exercise it properly and do everything to protect that. We as entrepreneurs, we’re the $1 million racehorses, and we don’t do that.
My final question is how do you want to be remembered?
I did an exercise where you write your own eulogy. It’s a whole changing experience because you get this clarity around that. For me, I want to be recognized as someone who was a loving father to my children, someone who was a good partner to his spouse and to his business partners, and someone who contributed their knowledge, their wisdom. I want to leave my kids the knowledge of how to go out there, make more money and be able to contribute to whatever. I don’t want to just give them the trophy. I want to help other people with that. That’s why I spent so much time working with entrepreneurs. I want to take some of the lessons that I learned, fought hard to learn to fail miserably and got beat up. I want to share some of that, so other people don’t necessarily have to go through the same things, and be of service to other people.
That’s what lights me up. That’s what makes me feel good. Making people feel better, the customer experience, having people have a better experience is so important. From a kid, my best friend in the world who’s also my business partner. We’ve been working together since we were five-years-old as friends in school and what have you. We had this joke in high school, we were going to start a business called Making it Better because we used to see how screwed up different businesses were. How they treat their customers? We didn’t know the word customer experience. We don’t understand any of that, but we kept trying to solve these problems that we saw or stopping businesses from making customers happy, for making more money. That’s what we like to do. We’d like to help businesses grow, make their customers happy, make their employees happy and have a better existence here.
You were making an impact. You were a rock star in the show. If we had our customers, our audience voting, they’d give you the rock star award for this.
I want the rock star award. Send in the votes people.
You’re doing very important work that needs to be done. I’d love our audience to find out more. Where can they learn more about what you’re doing?
I’d love to share more. If you go to CXFormula.com, there’s a cool PDF on there. Just grab it. It’s how to wow your customers. It’s got some cool stuff in there. Feel free to email me [email protected]. I’m happy to help anybody. I’m here to serve. Jesse, thank you so much for inviting me to be on here. What you’re doing is so amazing. I’m so inspired. I know it’s sold out, but maybe you’ll bring me in and slide me in somewhere so I can see your game.
Thanks a lot, Jason.
- Lee Cockerell – Previous episode
- Fans First Entertainment
- Dan Sullivan
- [email protected]
About Jason Friedman
Jason Friedman, founder and CEO of CXFormula, LLC., helps fast-growing, entrepreneurial companies gain an unfair advantage over their competition through the art and science of designing their “customer experience journey.”
Jason has increased his clients’ same store sales over 400%, raised over $6 Billion USD for endowments and propelled client loyalty, profits, referrals, team commitment and engagement. He was named Ernst and Young’s NJ Entrepreneur of the Year for business services and his largest company was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies for three consecutive years.
His past clients have ranged from Fortune 100’s to solopreneurs in industries as diverse as retail, hospitality, financial services, higher education and online services and information products, and has included major brands and institutions such as Foot Locker, Adidas, Nike, W Hotels, Universal Studios, Disney, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Fidelity, Harvard University and Stanford University.
In 2008, Jason sold his first company for over 8-figures. He has started and successfully exited businesses in various industries including: advertising/marketing, education, food/beverage, healthcare and software/technology.
Jason’s passion for crafting exceptional customer experiences was born in entertainment. Jason’s career began working as a lighting designer/director/technician and roadie for various music groups including Carlos Vives, Juan Gabriel, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel and Rush.
Jason then worked on various theatrical productions in local and regional theatres throughout the US and traveled nationally and internationally with the Broadway tours of Jesus Christ Superstar (starring Ted Neeley), Fiddler on the Roof (starring Theodore Bikel) and La Mancha (starring Robert Goulet).
As an expert in experiential marketing, live events and brand activation, Jason works with clients via private consulting, small group workshops, live events and online training.