Industry Insights: Ask a CX Leader — With Brittany Hodak

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In this installment of Industry Insights, award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience expert Brittany Hodak speaks about how to create loyal fans for your brand.

Retaining customers (especially in this economy) is essential, but creating superfans that are not only loyal customers, but also advocates for your brand’s products or services is invaluable. That’s why we spoke to the expert on creating “superfans”, Brittany Hodak, all about how to drive loyalty from customers and agents alike, what trends she’s seeing in customer support this year, and more.

Q. How did you first get into customer support, and what inspires you to stay?

I fell in love with taking care of customers watching my dad. He worked as a restaurant manager and then as the customer service manager of a car dealership. He was the most customer-centric leader I’ve ever met, and I learned so much by watching him! Too many companies forget that their customers are they only reason they’re in business.

Q. Your work revolves around the idea of creating "superfans" — can you explain what you mean by this, and tell us more about how you developed your approach to CX?

I define a “superfan” as a customer whose experience with you is so good that they come back and tell their friends. Put simply, superfans are customers who create more customers. You create superfans by creating the kinds of experiences people want to have again and again. The experience your customers have with your brand is the most competitive advantage you have at your disposal.

Before I started speaking and writing full time, I worked for several record companies and then launched my own entertainment startup, where I had the honor of working with amazing talents and brands including Dolly Parton, Luke Bryan, Scotty McCreery, Walmart, the Grand Ole Opry, the CMA, and many more. What I began to realize over time is that the same principles artists and brands use to create “superfans” can be applied to non-entertainment businesses. I became obsessed with the idea of creating a framework any business owner could follow to feel that same “rockstar status” usually reserved for entertainers.

Q. 88% of customers consider experience to be as important as products or services. What can CS leaders do to keep improving customer experience in these economically uncertain times?

Keep talking to customers! Ask for feedback and act on it. We’re living in a world where it is SO EASY to collect feedback — both structured and unstructured — and then act on it. It’s also critical to make sure feedback from CS employees is being considered in the boardroom.

"Too often decisions are made by people who aren’t on the front lines, talking to customers and really understanding their needs. I’m a huge advocate for a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer to advocate for customers (and CS employees!) in executive meetings."

Q. Looking back, have you ever faced a challenge that changed the way you look at CX and how did you overcome it?

Once I was part of a team that was undergoing a difficult migration. Customers were unhappy, but there was nothing I, or anyone else, could do about it. That experience taught me the importance of over-communicating, even if it’s just to say “We’re sorry, we don’t know anything yet,” and owning up to failure instead of deflecting criticism.

Even though I wasn’t an engineer or a CS rep, I did dozens and dozens of Zoom calls where I was, essentially, the face of failure. That experience taught me that sometimes a customer just wants someone to vent to. Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Everyone is ultimately representing the company, whether they’re directly responsible for a broken promise or not.

Q. Employee experience has been closely linked to customer satisfaction. How can brands utilize modern tools and technologies to improve employee experience?

Digital Employee Experience (DEX) is a key component of the modern employee experience. When remote employees feel disconnected from their companies or frustrated with ineffective tools, they’re more likely to lose motivation and disengage. Having the right tools and programs in place can enable better collaboration, flexibility, and productivity. Plus, one of the easiest ways to show your employees you care about them is by trying to make their jobs as easy as possible. By prioritizing a strong digital employee experience, you’re showing your employees that you value their time and want to ensure an efficient and stress-free environment for them.

Q. Could you share some of your top tips for retaining loyal customers?

You’ve got to show your customers that you care about them. Superfandom is a two-way street.

If you want your customers to love you, you’ve got to love them back. Period. But it can’t stop once you’ve made the sale.

Always treat repeat customers at least as well as you treat those first-time customers you’re courting so aggressively. Make the second experience, and all that follow it, just as magical as the first and your customers will come back again.

Q. Speaking to aspiring CX leaders out there, what advice would you give them that you wish you’d known yourself?

Everything is experience! Every email, every DM, every phone call… all of it. CX isn’t just a department or an idea — it’s every interaction every employee has with every customer. The “small stuff” isn’t small. Just like you can be miserable because of a tiny splinter or a toothache, even if the rest of your body feels perfect, one “small” problem can derail everything else about a customer’s experience with your brand.

Q. What is the one trend in CX that every organization should be implementing?

An omnichannel customer experience. Customers want to interact with businesses on their terms, and they rarely take a “chronological” journey on just one platform anymore. When all of your channels are sharing data, customers can enjoy one seamless experience instead of multiple disjointed experiences.

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