Getting Creative With Customer Experience with Jeff Tobe

Customer experience beyond customer service is the name of the game. It differentiates great brands from the bad ones. However, it depends on how engaged your people are with what they do. “The Guru of Creativity,” professional speaker, and bestselling author Jeff Tobe talks about how identifying your business’ touchpoints and encouraging creativity in the workplace lead to better customer experience for your clients and an increase in your bottom line. Jeff also touches on the value of curiosity and how you can incorporate it into your company culture. Sure, you are busy running your business. Jeff teaches you how to develop the habit of creativity with just an hour a day.

TTL 593 | Creative Customer Experience


I’m so glad you joined us because we have the guru of creativity, Jeff Tobe. He’s the author of Coloring Outside The Lines and Anticipate: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do. We’re going to talk about creativity and it’s going to be so much fun.

Listen to the podcast here

Getting Creative With Customer Experience with Jeff Tobe

I am with Jeff Tobe. He is a certified speaking professional. Insider Magazine dubbed him The Guru of Creativity. He has a book that is amazing, Coloring Outside The Lines. He has spoken alongside some of the most amazing celebrities including Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Condoleezza Rice and Daniel Pink. You name it, this guy has done it. I’m so excited to have him here. Welcome, Jeff.

I am so excited to be here, Diane. Thanks for having me.

You’re welcome. I’ve been looking forward to this. We have topics that are similar in some respects because we’re both trying to help people be more innovative. Creativity and curiosity tie into one another. I love that you talk about that. I want to get a background on you because you’ve spoken to all the Fortune 500 companies, Microsoft, Pepsi, you name it and you’ve been a very successful speaker. I’d like to know how you got to this point. A little backstory would be great.

I’m already an old fossil in this business. I’ve been doing speaking and training and consulting for many years. I fell into it. I never grew up thinking I wanted to be a speaker. My background is in marketing and advertising. I had my own firm and then one year we won all kinds of international awards for creativity and promotion. The International Association of Award came to me and said, “No one’s ever won this many awards in a year. Would you put together a 90-minute talk for your colleagues and peers?” I said, “Sure.” Two days later, a woman from Wisconsin called me and said, “I heard you in Dallas. Would you come to Wisconsin and do this?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “What do you charge?” I said, “Charge? You get paid to talk?”

The nice thing was for the next two years, I do have to quit my day job. I had a wonderful staff and I was out doing speaking and training in the creativity and innovation world. I ended up selling my company and going into this full-time 27 years ago. It’s been a wonderful ride. I will tell you that although I speak about curiosity and creativity, I do say that you can’t be creative without being curious. I love the fact that we go hand-in-hand that way. My frustration was, I don’t know if you found this, but a few years into it I started saying yes, but what do I apply this to? It’s great to say be creative, think differently and we’ll talk about that. That’s when I started looking at applying it to work that the time to customer service. That’s where I’ve gone with it is how do you look at what you do differently and apply creative thinking to what I now call the customer experience?

That’s so interesting because I spoke at SHRM about all this and I tied a lot of this of why we need to be more curious. I talk about creativity in the process as well. It ties into innovation right now very well. Everybody’s worried about jobs and being replaced. It ties into engagement as well because if you are passionate about what you do, those are two of the hugest issues right now in the workplace. I could see why everybody’s probably hiring you like never before.

It’s been great. They’re inextricable too. When I tell somebody what I do, I talk about creative thinking as it applies to the customer experience by getting your people more engaged to what they do and closing the three areas that I focus on.

There are some great TED Talks to back up some of what you’re doing.

None of which are mine. Not yet, I’m trying.

Have you done a TED Talk? Because I missed it.

I have not. With all the training, I find that sometimes they see a professional speaker and they back off a little bit. I’m still trying, I’ll put it out to your audience that I want to do a TED Talk.

TTL 593 | Creative Customer Experience
Creative Customer Experience: Encourage creativity in your team. Open the table for new ideas and new ways of doing things and solving problems, and then take action on those suggestions.


I hope they pick you because I loved the ones I found from Sir Ken Robinson. George Land has an interesting talk that he does. Both of them talk about how we’ve educated our kids out of their creativity and how t two-year-olds are 98% creative geniuses.

I spoke to a group and I asked them. Mine are very participatory, no matter the size of the group. I said to them, when are we most creative in our lives? I expected them to say when we were kids and a guy said, “When I was dating.” That’s not what I was looking for, but it does come out when we were kids. It didn’t fall off. Where is it? It’s there inside every one of us. That’s the point I’m trying to make is everyone’s creative. It’s like a skill. We can all be athletes. Some are much better than me, but I can do something. It’s the same thing with creativity. You can develop that skill if you focused on it.

It helps to figure out what stopped it. I know when I was researching curiosity, I found there are four things that keep people from being curious. I’m sure they’re very similar in creativity to some extent because there’s fear, there’s assumptions, the voice in your head, technology and environment. The environment’s a huge one with creativity. If you’re interested in doing something, if somebody doesn’t encourage you or they even discourage you because it’s not what the family are always did or whatever, how much is that impacting people’s creativity?

It’s huge. I put it a little differently because what I often find and I do a lot of one-to-one consulting with organizations long-term in customer experience. The first thing I find is that they’re talking about their culture and I’m sure you get this too. Our culture is not one that propagates creativity or promotes creativity. I cringe a little bit because I don’t think it’s about culture. The culture is the past. That’s why we have a rearview mirror in our car. It’s to appreciate what’s behind us. I say it’s not about the environment. I say it’s about the climate. Tell me about the climate right now in your organization. Climate, like outside, it’s changing all the time, but it’s malleable. Once people understand that, even though we haven’t promoted creativity, maybe we can because it’s separate from their culture. I believe like you, it’s huge and it’s amazing to me how many C-suite executives I talk to say, “We don’t have time to be creative.” That kills me.

You have time to be the next Blockbuster. That’s the problem. They want to be around and relevant. This is so important right now. I love that you talk about this because this is what we need to deal with. A lot of it is the perception of what’s important. That’s another area of which I research. It’s this perception of culture and how people interact. Whether you want to call it culture or climate or whatever it is in the workplace that allows us to understand that what we’re thinking and what other people are thinking, it’s going to be a little bit different. What may seem creative to me may not seem creative to somebody else. Do you have expectations that they have for what’s considered creative in some of these big companies? I’m curious what you see.

To backtrack a little bit, one of the things that I do right away is I define the difference between creativity and innovation. I don’t believe they’re the same thing and it takes the weight off of people’s shoulders. I look at creativity as two words. There’s create. As human beings, unlike any other beings, we create all the time. In our heads, we create things, situations. The hard part is the ivity in creativity. That’s the action and that’s innovation. You don’t look at a Zappos or a Microsoft or a Google and say, “Are they ever a creative company?” You’re looking at them and you say, “Why are they ever-innovative?” The difference is that they took a chance. There’s the old story of Edison and everybody else. It took 100 times to create a light bulb. Ninety-nine times he failed, but you don’t see those failures. That to me is creativity. Innovation is the profitable implementation of ideas. It doesn’t necessarily mean money. It just means it profits, somebody, a team or whatever that is.

We were talking about the perception of climate and culture and as you’re bringing up Edison, the perception is he did it all on his own, but think of all the patents and everything else that came together. There’s more that goes into innovation than just creativity. You can’t use them interchangeably. It’s the same thing with creativity and curiosity. They use those interchangeably a lot. They’re different. Do you see them as different?

Yeah. Creativity is a one person’s sport and innovation is a team sport. That’s the way I look at it. Once you’re creative, you got to get the team together and implement this stuff. It’s funny you talk about curiosity. When I talk about engagement, I talk about four pillars and the second pillar is curious. How do you make your team or your organization more curious? I simplify, you’re an expert in it and I just touch on it by saying it is about getting your people to step back and look at the big picture. Look at other indices, other professions who are going through the same challenges, figuring out how they solve it and bringing it back into your profession and massage it a little bit. That’s when you become creative. I think they go hand-in-hand. What do you think?

You can't be creative without being curious. Click To Tweet

What I’m trying to do is create a dialogue out there for people to recognize what’s keeping them from being creative. A lot of it could be, “Don’t come to me with problems unless you have solutions.” It could be the culture or the climate of the organization that does that. There are so many different things. There are companies that give creative time like Google was doing and all the things that they do to try it. It’s more of that creativity. What do you think of doing that? Have 20% of your day or week or whatever dedicated to being creative?

I think it’s incredible. I worked year-long with an organization down in Florida. What we ended up doing is one of the things to get their people more engaged in what they do. They didn’t frame it under being creative, but they literally only gave them an hour a week. It’s not much, but during that hour, they wanted people to think of ideas, suggestions and different ways to do things that they do out all the time. They’re slumped. These people are doing the work of three people, each one of them. At first, the employees rolled their eyes and said, one, it’s never going to happen and two, “I don’t have time for it.” They forced it on them. I got to tell you we’ve had the best results and they’ve made such great progress. It’s not just a case of suggesting new ideas, if only because people feel more engaged when they’re listened to and when they’re given the time to be more creative and curious.

When you’re listening, it’s all that empathy-building. It’s all this stuff that I studied and emotional intelligence and things. It’s so important. We have somewhat similar backgrounds because I have a little bit of marketing background. I’ve taught a lot of marketing courses. I’m interested in how you work with the customer experience. You differentiate between customer service and customer experience. A lot of people get confused. Can you explain how you differentiate?

This is my pet peeve because I have so many clients saying to me, “We already have great customer service. You should see our customer service reps.” I’m going, “The problem is that if I ask anybody in any profession or business, they’re going to tell me they offer amazing customer service. Guess what? So did their competitors.” Customer service is no longer a differentiating factor in the marketplace. It’s not going anywhere. Customer service comes from the heart, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” It’s wonderful. What the organizations have to realize is it’s a giant leap to customer experience. Customer experience is the ability to step back and ask yourself, “What’s my customer’s experience from the minute they make contact with us until the minute they’re done?”

That’s not one-to-one. That’s collaboration, that’s innovation, which you want to put it that way. It is about working together, thinking about the end-to-end experience and how each person in the organization contributes to that experience. There are all kinds of benefits to experience thinking. Once people understand it, they become far more engaged because they understand their role in the customer experience. Let me backtrack. There were some of the organizations I’ve worked with, there’s a lot of people who are at the frontline contact with the customer. They’re sitting at their computer all day going, “The power of customer service.” There are people in the organization with that title, CSR, Customer Service Rep and they’re going, “That’s not my job.” That’s why this is a great excuse. People can go back and start saying, “I don’t care what you do full-time or part-time. You are part of the end-to-end experience.” People understand their role and they stand to get more engaged.

It’s so different too of how it’s changed the whole thing. I used to sell software in the ‘80s and then I later wrote a brand publishing course when I worked at Forbes Business School. We did all this work at Forbes and looked at all the different technology and vendors. I don’t know how you keep up with all that when you’re dealing with this when you’re consulting. Are you dealing with a lot of virtual experiences or face to face experiences when you’re helping them with this experience?

Both, although I find it much easier to work with an organization face-to-face or the highest technology is a telephone or a computer. Online is a little more difficult because you don’t have that emotional connection with the customer. I define customers internal and external. We have both. How do we get our internal and external customer more engaged? It is more difficult. The thing with the customer experience is that it’s emotional. If you think about the customer service as transactional, how can I help you? How can I fix this? The experience goes beyond that. I’ll give you a quick example. You go to a restaurant and you have a wonderful experience.

The food is wonderful. You made an 8:00 PM reservation. You got seated at 8:00 PM. People don’t understand, that’s part of a great experience. I don’t make a reservation at 8:00 PM to be seated at 8:30 PM, but that’s my pet peeve. Everything goes well. The manager checks on you, the food is wonderful. You have a wonderful evening. Then you go outside and you take your valet ticket to your car, you take it to the ballet guy and 55 minutes later your car arrives. Most people would say, “Is that part of my experience?” Absolutely, but it’s not part of customers service. It’s part of the overall experience. If I walked into the men’s room at that same restaurant and it’s dirty, that’s part of my experience. That’s not customer service. It’s so much broader than just customer service. The companies are “getting it.” The companies who get it are the ones that you know. You know the Zappos of the world. I don’t know if you’ve ever done business with Zappos. For me, they’re my hero.

I have. What do you think of their culture combining with Amazon’s?

The jury is out.

I think the same as Whole Foods. Some of these are known for this great thing and then Amazon takes over. What happens? I always wonder what happens there.

Yeah, exactly. It depends on how independent they can stay from the parent company but we’ll see what happens. I’m seeing in Amazon that they’re not as innovative as they used to be. It worries me a little. It’s the same with Zappos, but what can you do?

I’ve had a great experience with Zappos and some of the courses I teach, we have people talk about the companies that are great at servant leadership and some of the things. They always list some of the companies that you and I’ve talked about Southwest or some of these great experiences that go into the books. I’m always surprised that more companies don’t try to emulate, if you’re American or whatever airline, why aren’t you trying to be more like Southwest? Do you see that a lot that? Why aren’t they if they’re getting such great reviews from everybody else?

Don’t get me started on airlines. I have never had an airline client and I think it’s obvious. I even called the one, I won’t say their name, but they had the same name for faucets. I am a frequent flyer on them. I called their training department and said, “I will do this for free because I’m a customer and you need to be trained,” and they ignore me. Anyway, you’re getting me off-topic. The bottom line is that there’s a market for everybody. Think about it as McDonald’s versus your local restaurant that you love. Whatever it is, McDonald’s does very well and it’s not about the experience. It appeals to a certain segment of the population. That becomes an excuse as well. The American Airlines or Delta or United saying, “Southwest appeals to a certain population,” but here’s what happens. Let’s look at Southwest for a minute because they were very niche if you think about. They have short runs mostly. Guess what? In the Southwest, they were a discount airline. Then all of a sudden they became competitors to all these big guys. I guarantee you now there’s a lot of people that read the day they ever said, “They have a different market than us.”

TTL 593 | Creative Customer Experience
Creative Customer Experience: Company culture comes from the top management and filters down to the employees.


In Arizona, all I hear is Southwest Airlines. Harley Davidson is big here, a lot of those that you write and talk about. What was interesting at Southwest is I don’t like the experience of getting onboard in the cattle call that they do. I’ve asked them about that and it would cost so much to change it at this point. That’s why they haven’t.

Here’s the funny thing. I went on a Delta flight from JFK and they’ve got the same lineup thing. They’ve got the same cues now.

Yeah, they have but you have assigned seats.

I get that. I love Southwest. Let me ask you a question, Diane. When you talk about curiosity and I talk about creativity, you’ve done work internationally, correct?

I have.

Do you think there’s a difference in North America thinking when it comes to curiosity versus any other area in the world?

There’s research out there, we’re more curious than China but less curious than Germany. I find some of the different research fascinating. It’s almost like personality assessments. I don’t think you can put them into a box. Southwest is so different than Delta or United is different than Delta or whatever. I’m working with the Netherlands right now. They’re very interested in the curiosity index. It’s different based on every company I’ve talked to. It’s like leadership. The culture comes from the top. If you have somebody at the top who embraces the value of curiosity, it filters down. Is that what your experience has been?

It’s funny because when I focused on creativity, yes, that was my experience. Once I went to customer experience, I find it very different in the western hemisphere versus Eastern hemisphere. I say this haltingly because I may get in trouble. I think people in Eastern cultures are far more curious about the customer experience than North America alone. I don’t know why people roll their eyes when it comes to customer experience. They go, “Yeah, customer experience,” but they don’t understand it. It truly can affect their bottom line. I can prove to an organization that they can stop relying on external sales. If they focused on getting their people more engaged, it can increase their bottom line. That’s the toughest sale over here. I was curious how you found it.

As we were talking about this, it reminds me of an advertising class I taught. We’re talking about the different cultures and what I found fascinating is when I have students upload examples of advertising in different areas of the world, of what flies in different areas versus in the United States. There was one class I teach where I have them upload what they find as disturbing ads that don’t seem very disturbing and other cultures. I can think of one, it was an Asian advertisement where she takes the workman working in our house and puts him in her washing machine and pulls him out. He goes in as one ethnic group and he comes out cleaner as a different ethnic group. I watched this stuff. How does that fly in another country? It’s horrible. Do you run into any of that type of thing where they think something’s great in another area and you go, “I can’t believe that they know?”

Absolutely. I do a lot of work in the Middle East and even within the Middle East, depending on what country you’re in, there are certain limits to what they’ll do to get people engaged. In my case, not in advertising, but absolutely. I tell organizations we’re back to curiosity. Part of curiosity is doing research on what’s working in other parts of the world as well and bring it into our world. I always say, my whole thing is coloring outside the lines. I always say there’s a warning that comes with coloring outside the lines. It’s okay to color outside the lines as long as you don’t fall off the page. The edge of the page in the United States is probably different than it is in Canada than it is in the UK. That’s where I’m always trying to check with creativity. Where is your edge of the page? It is how conservative are you when it comes to being creative?

That’s so great because that ties into what I been researching on perception. I don’t think a lot of people look at what they’re doing is perceived by others in other cultures. You need to. This is a big part of empathy. Are they able to empathize any better here in the United States or in other cultures do you think? Is empathy hard for everybody when you’re out there?

I hadn’t thought about empathy. I would say that it’s not difficult in the States. I am a Canadian so I can speak for Canada as well. Although my dad said I defected many years ago, but anyway. North America in general is fairly empathetic. Europe is very empathetic. Again, I go back to there are conservative cultures who are less empathetic and that’s a huge part I agree with creativity and customer experience.

I think so too. I love that you brought up coloring outside the lines because your book is amazing. You have something in it, a theory that’s called the Harvey Principle. What’s the Harvey principle?

I do. I’ll ask you a question. Did you ever see the movie Harvey with Jimmy Stewart? I watched this movie as a kid and I took it at face value. It’s a very entertaining movie. For those that haven’t seen it, Jimmy Stewart’s character is the only one who can see this 6-foot white invisible rabbit that is named Harvey. Even if you haven’t seen the movie at the beginning of the movie, they want to commit Jimmy Stewart’s character to a mental institution. He’s obviously crazy. He’s the only one who can see this white rabbit that he’s named Harvey. Fast forward years ago, I rent the movie to watch with my daughters and talk about a perspective, their perception. I talk a lot about perspective.

Customer service is transactional; customer experience is emotional. Click To Tweet

For some reason, I watched that movie from a whole different perspective because I started to question whether or not he was the crazy one. Maybe it was everybody who couldn’t see Harvey, who was crazy. I dubbed this theory in the book. It’s called the Harvey Principle, but the bottom line is this. It’s learning to see invisible opportunities where everyone else sees only visible limitations. I’ll say it a different way. It’s learning to see invisible opportunities where everyone else goes, “It can’t be done.” Everyone else says, “We tried that four years ago before you got here, it doesn’t work.” Everyone else says, “You can’t do that in this profession,” to me that’s where the opportunities lie. That’s the Harvey Principle.

Do you think Steve jobs was seeing a Harvey?

Let’s talk about Steve. It’s funny you say that because I just obtained the rights to show clips from a never seen before amazing TV interview with Steve Jobs. He was between jobs. He was already kicked out of Apple. He had started NeXT Computers, but he was eighteen months away from going back to rescue Apple, believe it or not, from bankruptcy which most people don’t know. It was such a unique perspective because he had no clue what he was going to do in the future. This guy not only colored outside the lines. I know a lot of people have seen movies and read books and have opinions about Steve Jobs as do I. He was not a great family guy, but his ability to look at things from a different perspective to me was awesome. That’s how he did what he did. Steve Jobs told his MAC team and this would be curiosity in a way, “Go out and steal ideas, but only steal them if you can make them better.” Something in that resonates with me. I don’t know what it is.

I love the not reinventing the wheel and making it your thing idea behind that. I was reading a book about this on what you’re talking about. I’m reading a lot about board membership and they talk about the board member who went out and got Steve to come back from NeXT when Apple was about to go bankrupt. They credit this board of directors’ guy for being instrumental because Steve didn’t want to come back. I think he said he didn’t come back right at first because he said, “Don’t pay me. I want a jet to be able to take me in to travel so I don’t have to do that.” He didn’t want it to be the CEO at first.

Nope. He also started Pixar Pictures. He would have to decide, “Do I stay with Pixar,” a dream of his, “or do I go back to Apple?” It’s very interesting.

He made the right choice. We talked about him and a lot of my classes of whether he was ethical or whether would you want to work for him? Does he have emotional intelligence? I even asked Daniel Goleman that when he was on my show because I’m always fascinated. He’s such an interesting character. Some people say there were two Steve Jobs, the guy that was there the first time versus the guy who was there the second time who was more humbled. Some of them will say that you could say he had empathy. He was able to understand what made people feel the way they did, but he used it against them in a way. He did it in a manipulative way to get the best out of people though.

I’ve got to add that there are three Steve Jobs. There was before, this is when he came back and then when he found out he was sick and the last few years of his life he had empathy. It’s sad that it takes that sometimes in people to bring out empathy or those feelings of an emotional compass as you say.

I think it’s great that he embraced them writing about the bad stuff. He probably wouldn’t have done that had it he wasn’t dying. Your newest book, Anticipate: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do, it’s something he focused on, don’t you think?

Absolutely. Steve Jobs used to say, when it came to the experience, there was a great clip of him. If everyone wants to see it online, for the first time when he’s back, he’s addressing all of Apple. His whole talk starts with the end in mind. Let’s not create a product and then decide how to market it and sell it. Let’s figure out the experience we want for the customer and then let’s work backwards and develop that product that will give them that experience. That to me is mind-blowing as my kids would say. That’s because that’s not the way we think. We have a widget or we have a product that we go out and try and market and sell it and give a great experience. What if we’d started the other way? It’s something to think about.

Stephen Covey talked to him about that. Every time I started to write about perception, a lot of Stephen Covey’s quotes about being proactive, begin with the end in mind type of thinking it is timeless and we’re seeing that’s so important. A lot of people could benefit from reading The 7 Habits again.

Absolutely. Another book that I’m reading, it’s already old, is Tools Of Titans by Tim Ferriss. It’s wonderful book and he’s interviewing a lot of titans in the industry. You’ll notice that a lot of the more successful organizations have great perception or perspective.

Tell me about your Anticipate book, Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do. What’s your main focus on that? I’m curious about that because you say that to every interaction with our customer cannot not be an experience.

Every interaction with our customer is an experience. The question becomes how random or how managed the experience you’re offering. The more managed the experience, the better the outcome for the customer. The example I use is Starbucks. Probably one of the most managed retail experiences you will ever have and you may not even realize it. They’re required to, they’re not asked to grind coffee every x amount of minutes. Why? It’s because of two things. It’s because of the smell and the sound. They were the first food company to prove scientifically that the combination of that sound and smell makes you think of one word and the word is fresh.

TTL 593 | Creative Customer Experience
Creative Customer Experience: Touch points are opportunities to influence customer experience. Identify them and tweak them to provide a better customer experience.


We automatically think it’s fresh coffee. This is managing the experience. The other thing is the combination of that sound and smell will also get you to pay four times the amount for a cup of coffee you would over McDonald’s. That perception, as you like as you say, is that it’s fresher. In their company stores, you’ll never sit in one of those overstuffed chairs that are ripped or torn. Why? Because they can lose their store if their furniture is worn. That’s all managed experiences. The book Anticipate truly is about what I mentioned, with the end in mind. Let’s anticipate what our customers need, what their wants are and figure out how do we wow them, how do we give them elements of surprise. I won’t get into too much detail, but we came up with a ten-point customer framework. It’s ten steps to designing and implementing the ideal customer experience but the focus is on touchpoints.

Let me quickly define touchpoint as I do. A touchpoint is any opportunity we have to influence the customer experience. In a workshop setting or training session, what I have people do is I ask them, what are your touchpoints in any given day? It’s exercise. I can share this exercise with your audience. It’s so simple. You have a flip chart. You have to have the definition. A touchpoint is any opportunity we have to influence the customer experience. Ask your team, ask all your organization, what our touchpoints? At first it’s like pulling teeth, but you’re going to hear things.

“It’s the email we sent, it’s a meeting we have. It’s our website. It’s a business card I hand somebody,” but I get them to think even beyond that because if I go into your office and as I said, the men’s room is dirty, that’s a touchpoint. If I can’t find a parking spot at your location, that’s a touchpoint. You list all the touchpoints and then you take a break and tell your people, “There are markers up here. I want you to come up and put a checkmark beside the top five priority touchpoints for the organization or the team and then bite your tongue.” Engagement comes from the bottom up. It doesn’t come from the top down. You come back and you’ll see that they pick their top five.

Then you say to them, who owns these five touchpoints? Somebody has their own touchpoints. I did a workshop with a country club in Greensboro, North Carolina. They came up with the number one touchpoint where it was parking for them. I guess when they have an event, they don’t have enough parking spots. People are parking on the street and getting tickets. I said, “Who owns parking?” They all looked at each other like, “I don’t own it. Do you own it?” Somebody has to own the touchpoint and when they do, ask them, how can we tweak or make better this one little touchpoint called parking? If you do that with all five, people own it. They get more engaged and they figure out what they can do to tweak the touchpoint. If it’s good with all five, it would completely change the external experience. I know you asked me, but that’s the basis of the book.

You brought up so many great things. I’m thinking of going back to the coffee. When I was a real estate agent, they had us bake cookies when you have people coming in. You had to do that. My dad would have freaked out if he had been alive to know how much coffee costs. As a kid, it was like $0.10. His head would spin. I’m thinking he wouldn’t be able to handle this. I loved that you said, how we can make X, Y, Z better basically. Disney did a great job of that in their laundry division when they had a problem with turnover and disengagement. All they did was ask them, how can we make your job better? Why aren’t more companies asking those questions and don’t we need to develop curiosity and ask those questions?

You got it in good. Here’s the challenge. What I find is most companies are asking us questions. How do we make your job better? What’s happened is somebody made a suggestion and they never acted on it or somebody made a suggestion and they felt like a fool for making it. It goes back to the climate, I’m sorry to say or the culture. That’s where you have to work first and make sure that people feel. This exercise that I’m saying delves down into touchpoints first, which makes it very personal because you don’t own parking, I do. What can I do to tweak it? Not to make my job better, but to make it better for the customer. I’m going to get more engaged because now I’ve suggested the idea that we build a multilevel parking lot or whatever it is or a parking garage. If we can do that, then I now own it and I feel responsible or accountable for that touchpoint. There’s the rub. People don’t feel accountable for their touchpoints.

That’s so interesting and when you’re talking about climate or culture at the top, if they don’t buy into the need for all these changes or didn’t look into all of this, I guess they’re not hiring you to begin with if they don’t.

I wouldn’t say that I’ll get hired for a division or a team and I’m working with them and find out that senior management doesn’t even buy into this. Why am I here?

Can you change it?

I can change it if the management of that team and they brought me on, so hopefully, they’d have the buy-in. You’ll often see the frontline workers sitting in that audience between being trained, they’re rolling their eyes because they know that the management is paying lip service to it. I prefer to go in and work with senior management first, make sure they understand what I’m about to do and I get buy-in. I’ll devote an entire day to work with them first to make sure. I will tell a group that I’m here. They wouldn’t have brought me in if they didn’t buy into this. Let’s get that out of the way right away.

I’ve seen companies hire people and they do give it lip service. They don’t do anything. They just say, “It looks good if we hire somebody to come in and talk about DiSC or give emotional intelligence tests,” or whatever it is, but t’s a one-day thing. People go, “I’m a D,” I stand in this corner and then let’s change the cards of what your card says.

We usually start with a product, then go out and try to market and sell with good experience. What if we start the other way? Click To Tweet

I’ve done this for many years, so I do get it.

I love all of a lot of this stuff because I wrote about it in one of my books about all the different personality assessments. I think that they’re important to bring out what my preferences are, what yours are. It helps me have more empathy and understand you, but then if you only do one day of that, it is not enough. How do you get them to continually build on what you help them learn?

This was my biggest frustration when I wasn’t a speaker, trainer or consultant. I hear somebody say, “This was wonderful. How do I apply it to what I do every day?” I can only speak for Jeff Tobe, but built into my fee is follow up. I won’t do it as a one day or two days or whatever it is. I believe that somewhere around 21 days, I know it’s 21 days to make, break or change a habit, but somewhere around three weeks later I need to regroup. I don’t care if it’s virtual and I want to find out how they’re implementing it. I want to spend time talking about some other ways they can do it. There’s always that follow-up piece, which I think is essential. I tell organizations it’s non-negotiable. It’s included in my fee. I’m not going to charge you more. I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody say no. It is important and I find that the point where I find if it’s working if it’s not working. I can then go back to the organization and say, “They need some follow up some more training,” and it may not even be me. I will suggest somebody else in a certain area. It just drives it home.

If you’re trying to make them be a more creative culture, what kinds of things do you follow up on that? What should they be doing? What advice are you giving them so that you’re following up in 28 days? What tasks are they doing?

Mine is very specific, so I won’t leave them without tasks. It’s easier because we’ve done this exercise. I know who owns the touchpoints. The other thing I set up in an organization when I’m doing long-term training is I’ll set up an engagement task force. Now, I have volunteers from all areas of the organization. I don’t want them to be senior management in any case. I want to meet and talk about ways and simple things we can do in the organization to get people more engaged. I’ll be checking up with them over the course of the year if that’s the case or if it’s a one-day training and I follow up, I’m asking them, how have you used it? What have you found? I use this a little differently and I’m sure you do as well. It’s not just about knowing yourself, it’s also about now when I talk to a customer or I have interaction, I want to know who it is I’m working with so I can work with them in a way in which they need to be worked with. Maybe not a way in which I’ve always worked with them. I want to know success stories and failures. It’s a debrief more than anything.

I think knowing what you are is pretty easy to know. A lot of that stuff is to understand what the other people need. I got the most out of DiSC and Myers-Briggs, all of those were good for that. I even worked for a company that gave us management by strengths, color tests. We had to put our results on our cubicle. I was green, which was an extrovert, so they knew if they talked to me that I never shut up. If you talk to the reds, they might hurt your feelings because they might cut you off. It was helpful in some ways though for me. I don’t know if I’d go around making people put their personality types on their cubicles, but understanding what it is that everybody needs from their perspective helps build empathy. It’s like when we teach, we don’t teach everybody in a visual way or an auditory way because of different kinds of learning and different ways of perceiving. All of this stuff that you do is important. The hard thing though is that everybody’s out there trying to talk about culture. Everybody’s out there talking about engagement and doing a lot of the things that you and I do. When you go to talk to leaders, are they like, “We’ve heard this before?” How do you differentiate yourself as a consultant?

I go back to what I said before. I can literally prove to them that increasing engagement and bettering the customer experience will have an effect on their bottom line. It’s been proven over and over again, and I got to tell you, that hits home for them. It’s still about profits. I’m going to make this investment and this training. I won’t guarantee that it will, but I can show them how it has a lot of other organizations. That’s what differentiates me. I happen to have a system that they can use hopefully to increase their bottom line besides just going on in external sales.

You do have to use your sales experience to understand when you’re talking to these guys that you can’t talk features. You got to talk benefits, bottom line, productivity, that type of thing. All the advice you give is so important. Do you have anyone last piece of advice that you want to give to maybe leap from customer service to customer experience or anything else we’ve talked about?

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Yeah, there’s lots. What’s one piece of advice? I would say, push the envelope. I have a feeling that we’re going to agree on this. Wherever you feel comfortable, that’s not where you should be. In business now, you have to start feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable. Those organizations that promote that climate, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to make suggestions and it’s okay to fail. Those are the ones who are going to survive going forward. My piece of advice is to stop looking in your rearview mirrors, look to your windshield to see what’s coming down the road ahead of you in your industry or your profession.

It’s important. We’re back to foresight again and being proactive. That’s so important. Right now it’s going to be interesting to see what technology does tell the jobs and all the things. There’s never been a time that we need help with all this more than now. Isn’t it that 85% or 95% of the Fortune 500 companies that were around are gone? It’s such a huge issue that if leaders don’t buy-in from the top, they’re not going to be here. What you’re talking about is so important to so many people. I love everything that you talk about. I knew this was going to be fun, but can you tell everybody how they can find you?

My website is You talk about how technology is changing our world, I launched my online certification in customer experience. You can become an associate in customer experience. It’s a six-week course. If people are interested, it’s at Finally, I also say my email is If your audience has questions or comments, please email me. I’m available.

That’s six weeks. That had to be a lot of work to put together.

I thought I would do it in a month and it took me eight months to put together.

I did a half-day certification course and that too me six weeks.

It’s only six modules and somebody could do it all in one day if they wanted to, but I suggest they space them up. There are assessments after each module. It’s asynchronistic, which means I’m involved with every single one who goes to the course as far as commenting and conversations back and forth. It’s not just a cookie-cutter thing. I’m excited about it.

I got to give you a credit cause that’s a lot of work and everything you do is important and I hope everybody takes some time to check out your site. Thank you so much for being on the show, Jeff. This was so much fun.

It is my privilege. Thank you, Diane.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank Jeff for being my guest. He is a great speaker. He’s such an interesting consultant. You can see why he’s shared the stage with some of the best of the best. He’s got great ideas and I would love to get consultants on the show to pick their brains about what they do to help with engagement and creativity. I loved how you said that you have to have curiosity as the spark to creativity. All the creativity experts I’ve ever spoken to have agreed that curiosity is the beginning for a lot of these issues. It’s such an important part of the process to be innovative, creative, engaged and everything that we were talking about on this show. I’d love to see all the new creative ideas that I’ve seen. I’ve worked on a lot of boards and different, industries and education and an AI and all the different things that I’m seeing. It all comes back to asking questions and developing that sense of creativity.

What we talked about on the show is important about how we have to have leadership buy into the need for this innovative type of thinking for creative type thinking. That starts with asking questions and letting people explore different areas. A lot of people don’t ask questions because they have fear of looking bad or maybe the culture has not encouraged people to ask questions and I think that’s problematic. I know I’ve got a lot of consultants that are giving the Curiosity Code Index to organizations because they’re very interested in helping open up that dialogue of the questions and letting people get an idea of what are the things that are holding them back. Those four things that I found in my research are fear, assumptions, technology and environment are what hold people back from being curious.

TTL 593 | Creative Customer Experience
Creative Customer Experience: Increasing engagement and bettering customer experience will have a positive effect on your bottom line.


If we have a culture where everybody’s agreeing and nobody’s asking questions, that’s not a good sign. You’re going to end up being a Blockbuster or Kodak or one of those examples, the case studies that we talk about so much in the courses I teach, we have to be able to ask questions. We have to let people feel that it’s okay not to go along with status quo thinking. Status quo thinking is not going to work now that we know what’s going to happen with technology taking over jobs and people being aligned in new things. Wouldn’t it be great to align people to things that are in line with what they would probably find most interesting? That’s why I find all the work that people like Jeff, what they do out there is so important for the cultures and organizations. I hope you take the time to check out his site. He’s got great content. His books are wonderful. I love that he brought Harvey into his work. I haven’t thought of that and I had to read that in school before I’d even seen Jimmy Stewart playing it. It was something that a lot of people could get some great advice from Jeff and a lot of the consultants on this show.

Take a look at to see any of the past episodes that you might’ve missed. If you need any more information about Cracking The Curiosity Code book, the Curiosity Code Assessment, or becoming CCI-certified to give the Curiosity Code Index, that’s all at Please feel free to contact me for any consulting or speaking or training or any of the information other than the show because the show is there too. I want to make sure you check out the site. We got all kinds of information for you and I’m happy to answer any questions. Thank you for this show. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

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About Jeff Tobe

TTL 593 | Creative Customer ExperienceCertified Speaking Professional, Jeff Tobe’s credentials are impressive.  Insider Magazine dubbed him “The Guru of Creativity” and readers of Convention & Meetings Magazine chose him as one of their favorite speakers along with other celebrities including Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Condoleezza Rice and Daniel Pink.

He is a creativity and customer experience expert, professional speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to increase their bottom line by changing their customer experience and retaining great talent.

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