Ep 396: Creating Superfans with Brittany Hodak

RV (00:02):
Well friend, you are in for a treat. I’m gonna introduce you to one of our best friends in real life. This is Brittany Hodak. Our kids go to school together and we actually hang out with them and we love them. She’s also a client of ours and I am now a super fan of hers. And she has written a book called Creating Superfans, which I’m gonna go ahead on record and say this is one of my all-time favorite books, period in business. And specifically in the area of customer experience. And you could call it customer service or marketing just in general, but I would say customer experience, which is really what her expertise is. In fact, she’s the former Chief Experience officer for experience.com. She was the c e o of a company and the co-founder of a company called the Super Fan Company. She’s worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Walmart, Disney, Katie Perry, Dolly Parton. The other night I was flipping through tv. I was on watching like mainstream national television, and there’s some show about Britney Spears. And all of a sudden Britney Hodak pops on the screen and I’m like, wait, what though? What the, wait, that’s Brittany, what are you doing? Like, why is Britney in my tv? So buddy, it’s so great to have you. I cannot wait for you to share your expertise with our audience. Welcome.
BH (01:21):
Thank you so much my friend. It is always great to be here with you, and thank you for the very kind words about the book. It means a lot, and I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again and again. I could not have written this book without the support of you and AJ and the entire team at Brand Builders Group, so I’m glad I did. You proud.
RV (01:37):
Yeah, you, you totally, you, you you did me proud. And then like, one level above, you know, I endorsed the book without reading the whole thing. And then after it came out, I, I, I have read this book cover to cover, which, you know, I cannot say that about every single guest. You know, I try to like, be familiar, but like I have read it cover to cover. I absolutely love this so much that I, you know, I’m recommending you to our clients and like our keynote clients. So let’s talk about super fans. As personal brands, obviously we understand we gotta have super fans. We gotta have people loving us, sharing our content, buying our books, telling their friends. So I guess gimme the, gimme the definition of a super fan in your, in your world, and then we’ll talk about how to create ’em.
BH (02:24):
Yeah. So I define a super fan as either a customer or stakeholder who has such a great experience with you that they become an enthusiastic advocate. Mm-Hmm. So they not only wanna work with you again, but they tell their friends about you. Exactly like you just said. They make those introductions and those referrals. Essentially, a super fan is a customer who creates even more customers.
RV (02:46):
Yeah. I mean that, and that is the, you know, one of our BG mantras is the, the most powerful form of marketing in the world is a changed life. And it’s like no ad, no, no webpage, no copy. Like nothing does the job that like a customer going, you freaking rock. And all of my friends, you know, tell, they tell other friends, enthusiastic advocate is super duper clear. So let’s just jump into the super fan. I know you have the, you have a, you have a great methodology, you have a great framework. I think it’s totally applicable to what we do. Well actually, so before we do that talk, talk about the, the, the, the layer. Talk about the levels. Ta talk about the layers of I forget what you call them, but like the, the spectrum sort of, of like where customers are at.
BH (03:42):
Yeah, absolutely. So in the book, I talk about this idea of the ladder to super fandom. And you know, the more advocates you have, the fewer ads you have to buy, the easier everything gets mm-hmm. when you have people who are willing to show up and do the work for you. And that’s why it’s important to get someone to the level of being an advocate. So in the book I talk about how you do that. I know in BBB G lingo, one of the things that we talk about a lot is what is the problem you solve? What, what is it that you’re helping people with? And I always say that the problem I solve is one that’s not on a lot of people’s radars, and that’s apathy. Not a lot of people show up and say, oh, I have an apathy problem.
BH (04:17):
Like, not enough people care that I exist. But in reality, and especially with personal brands, it is so prevalent. So in the book I talk about this idea of the ladder to super fandom, and the very first rung of that ladder is apathy. But people try to skip over that. They try to start with awareness of like, I want somebody to know who I am and that I exist. But the problem is, if you don’t have a compelling enough story, if you’re not able to connect what you do, what your purpose is with the need that they have, then they’re never gonna care. It’s gonna be like the, you know, the analogy I use in the book is that carnival ladder where it’s easy to get somebody on the first step and maybe even the second step, but then they just fall over because apathy is everywhere all around you.
BH (05:01):
There’s never been more competition for our attention. There’s never been more competition for somebody to care about the thing that you do. So throughout the book, I talk about this idea of transforming from a commodity provider to a category of one, going from a transactional relationship and mindset to an experiential one where it’s about more than just your products or your services and even more than your relationships. It’s all about that experience. So the idea of the laddered super fandom, and you know, we don’t have to go through all the rungs, is, is how you take someone through each level of, okay, I know how I’m gonna overpower that apathy. Now somebody is aware of my brand. How do I get them to take an action? Now I’ve gotten them to take an action. How do I get them to adopt this? How do I make it part of their, their plan their life, once I’ve got them to adopt it?
BH (05:52):
What do I do to create affinity? And, you know, most people stop at Affinity. I talk in my book about the idea of the difference between fans and followers, or the difference between fans and super fans. And most people are like, oh, I’m in someone’s consideration set now. They’ve tried me a few times, now they like me. They’re coming back. And that’s where they stop. But if you can create someone, if you can take someone from that like, you know, affinity level of, oh, I like you, to that advocacy level of I like you and I can’t wait to tell other people about you, that amplification is what really makes things exciting, both on the personal brand side and on any business side. Because once you have those customers creating more customers for you, once your followers are telling their friends and growing your audience, it becomes really viral and, and really effective.
RV (06:43):
Mm-Hmm. . So just to walk y’all through that, right? So it’s apathy at the bottom, then awareness, then action, then adoption, then AFI, affinity, and then advocates advocacy. So at the top, and you know, I think one of the things that I, one of the points I wanted to draw out that hit me hard was to go, yeah, I think of awareness. And I think what a lot of personal brands do, and what a lot of people do, and certainly a lot of companies do, is we go, we need more people to be aware of us.
RV (07:17):
And I completely overlook as a first opportunity to go, what if instead of trying to make more people aware of me, I took the people who already know of me who have apathy and go, what if I just took the people who know of me already and made them fall in love so much that they became advocates? And I, and I just go, no one in the world is ha no one in the personal brand world is thinking about this. Everyone is going more followers, more reach. I need more people to be aware of me versus going, what if the, the few people you had freaking loved you, they would do that work for you is basically what you’re saying.
BH (08:07):
That’s basically what I’m saying. And I think that you know, there’s a quote that I love. Albert Einstein said, not everything that could be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted. And I think he was probably talking about Instagram and TikTok when he said that . But it’s applicable sort of across the board. And a mistake that I think a lot of personal brands make is exactly as you just said, it’s that more and more, more I want more followers, more people, more likes, more engagement. Instead of saying, wow, what a privilege and an honor that I have the attention of these 2000 people, or 12,000 people, or 22,000 people. And exactly as you just expressed, the question should be, how can I make their life better? How can I show up and do more for them so that they feel passionate and want to tell people like they wanna become advocates. They’re not doing it because I’m offering them some affiliate program. They’re not doing it because I’m putting an offer out there. They’re doing it because I’ve made their lives better in some way. And one of the things that I talk about throughout the book is this idea that super fandom is mutual. Superfan are created at the intersection of your story and every customer story. So if you want followers to love you, you have to love them first so that they feel it and there’s that reciprocity.
RV (09:22):
Yeah. And, and I think, you know, I if you just have ask yourself the sobering question, do I spend more of my time thinking about wishing for praying for more people to find me? Or do I spend more of my time thinking about wishing about praying about how do I serve the people who are already in front of me? I have to go embarrassingly. I go, oh my gosh, I am, I am missing the mark badly. In Adley. And I think your your, your book highlighted that in a way. So you, you, you just touched on kind of the premise of the book. The way that you become a super, you make someone a super fan is to connect your story to their story. And this is another part that hit me hard actually, because so super is an acronym and we walk through the, we walk through the steps and the s is story, right?
RV (10:16):
So we start, we start with our story. And I struggle with this because I go, why does my story matter? It feels like starting with my story feels vain, it feels arrogant, it feels self-centered. And I’m going, why don’t I just start with like, what’s in it for them? And you know, what, what do I provide? And I think your book really hit me hard in this area. So can you talk about what it means to create to, to, to, to share, start with your story, and specifically why starting there is not vain and arrogant and, you know, self-centered?
BH (10:59):
Absolutely. Well, when I say start with your story, I don’t mean lead with your story. I mean, everything has to originate from you because we are living in an experienced economy. It has never been easier for any competitor to come in and usurp anyone in any category, right? So if you are competing on commodity things, I’m the cheapest. I’m the fastest, I’m the closest to your home. I’ve been around the longest. It is very easy for someone to displace you. So when I say start with your story, what I mean is what is your superpower? What’s your origin story? What makes you better than everyone else? And you know, I’m always, I’m, I, I’m always shocked when I talk to people and I say, why are you the absolute best choice to serve your prospects and customers? And they stare at me blankly or they say something that every single one of their competitors would also say, Uhhuh, that there is absolutely no proof behind.
BH (11:53):
And what I always say back to them, because this is sort of the idea of apathy and action is, well, if you can’t tell me why you’re the best, how in the world is a prospect ever gonna be able to figure it out? If you can’t even articulate to me clearly why I should care, then how am I ever going to care? So that is what I mean when I say start with your story, not making it about you. Throughout the book, I, I try to say again and again, this is all about customer centricity. This is all about showing up to serve people, but it’s kind of like, you know, we’re recording this. I’m at the airport for anybody who is watching it, this beautiful background behind me is a B n A conference room. Like when you’re on the airplane and they say you’ve gotta put your mask on first before you assist the people with you, because you’ve gotta, like, you’ve gotta do you, you’ve gotta make sure you’re taking care of you. And it’s kind of the same thing when I say start with your story, is you can’t expect people to sign up to say, I am a super fan of this person, or I am a super fan of this offering. If you yourself haven’t done the work to say, why do I deserve a super fan? What am I doing that is better than what my competitors are doing so that I can help serve these customers and make their life better in some way?
RV (13:02):
Ah-Huh . Well, and it’s interesting, you know, the part of what hit me really hard was going, when I think of telling my story like that question, okay, just take, take me as a real life example. You go, what makes you Rory or Rory and AJ or Brand Builders Group, like what makes you the best in the world At personal branding, my mind goes to why are we better? What results have, like, what have our clients achieved? How many times have we done it? But when I read this section of your book, what really hit me was going, what makes me so qualified to do this is I viscerally to this moment can feel what it was like to be 17 years old watching a speaker on stage, going, I wanna be the speaker on stage. I remember walking through the airport seeing the book on the bookshelf going, I want my book on the bookshelf.
RV (14:03):
I want a New York Times bestselling logo on my book. And it’s like, what actually gives me the credibility is not just that we’ve done that, that we’ve helped other people do it. It’s that I wanted it so badly and I felt so far away and I felt like it was impossible. And it, it’s like, it’s the story and I never tell that story. I talk about, oh, my credentials and our exper you know, like the, the pe the clients we’ve worked with, which I don’t think is bad, but I go, I think I’m underutilizing the human part of my story a bit to go, that’s what really care they care about. Cuz other people would say that too. Well, I’ve got, I’ve got a hundred clients and I’ve helped clients do this and that and, and blah blah blah, blah blah. But there’s this emotional human bond that happens from the origin story. And I’m going, I don’t even have the origin story on my website. We don’t even have the origin story on brand builders group. And I would never even think to put it there, cuz I would think of that as like not useful to the customer un until you told me it was
BH (15:15):
Well. And it, and it is so useful. And that’s, you know, we were connected through a mutual friend John Roland. Yeah. And John Roland didn’t say to me, oh, meet this friend of mine who was like, helped a bunch of other people like you. He said, you’ve gotta meet my friends, Rory and aj. And he told me about who you are as people and, and what your origin story is and why he thinks you’re the best in the world. And I know this is something that a lot of business owners struggle with as they’re scaling because they think, well, if I tell my story then clients are only gonna wanna work with me. They’re not gonna wanna work with anybody else. Sure. But, you know, and, and there there is like a murky middle where sometimes that is true. Everybody feels those growing pains of, you know, I had the people who are used to me and now I’ve gotta tell them that they’re, they’re not gonna get as much as my time cuz the business is growing and changing.
BH (16:04):
And that’s something that I think every entrepreneur has been through. However, I would argue that telling your origin story makes it that much more important because now people are going to understand, okay, this is the person helming this company. This is the person who is not just making the decision of everyone they hire, but training them, making sure there’s an alignment, and then they’re gonna be curious about every single employee’s origin story and what attracted them to come work for you, who you are as a leader, how that plays out into everything that you’re doing. So I think that most people mis or, or underutilized misuse or under util underused their own personal origin stories because of everything you said a few minutes ago. It can feel arrogant, it can feel self-serving, it can feel very, you know, youth centric. But in reality, we learn best when we hear stories.
BH (16:56):
Our brains are hardwired to react to stories much more so than facts. I mean, there’s every single research study that’s ever looked at it has said yes, people believe stories more than facts and figures. And we trust them more, we remember them better, and that’s why they’re so effective. And when we show up and we talk about the results, or we talk about, you know, the past work or the past clients, people don’t feel that emotionally. Like very few people ever like got teary eyed or thought me too, over a spreadsheet or like a list of stats and figures. But when you can tell a story, people are like, I felt that, I felt that in my gut when I was walking through the airport and wanted that, or I felt that in my gut when I was a kid. And I said, wow, this is my calling.
BH (17:39):
So it’s so important. And in my book I talk about some of the tools that people can use, some of the exercises to really step outside of yourself and look at your story through the eyes of your customer to say, what should I be talking about? How am I able to craft this narrative of who I am and where I’ve been in a way that makes it very clear to my target customers that I can help them because I used to be right where they are now. I used to be sitting right where they were sitting
RV (18:06):
And yeah. And that, and that’s the thing, it’s not, it’s not just telling your story, it’s telling your story in a way that it, it is useful for the customer because they put themselves in the story and they go, oh my gosh, you’ve been through what I’m going through. And and I, you know, and I, and I think that’s the game changer because it’s relatability and it’s credibility and it’s all about that. Which kind of leads to the u I guess in, in the, in the super framework. So to walk us through what u’s all about.
BH (18:37):
Yeah. So in the book I say that each of these are kind of like nesting dolls, all five letters of the super framework build on the one before. And the u is understand your customer story. So I said before, super fans are created where those two worlds collide your story and theirs. And another reason that it’s helpful to start with your own story is because when you do that, you can better understand your customer story. Because when you think about who you are, what your origin story is, it helps you better understand what that customer or prospect is struggling with, what transformation that they’re looking to undergo that maybe you’ve already gone through, what reservations they might have, what they might be even unaware that they’re feeling, because it’s so deep down. So really getting clarity on your story positions you in a way to understand your customer story in a way that’s much deeper than a lot of people wanna go. And, you know, in the book, I tell the story and I’m curious, Rory, do you remember the first time you saw a teacher outside of school?
RV (19:35):
Oh yeah. I mean I, yes I do. I vividly remember that.
BH (19:38):
Yeah. It, and it did it just freak you out? Like what was your experience?
RV (19:43):
Well for this particular was one of, one of my favorite teachers. And I, I saw her at Buka Depo, like downtown, like, like 40 minutes away from where I went to high school. And it, it was, it just freaked me out. Like it just, it was like, oh, this is a completely different person. And never had dawned on me that like, this person had a completely separate life with like, friends and out out anything outside of like, the classroom.
BH (20:08):
Yeah. Well, and it’s, it’s so funny. I remember I was in first grade, the first time I saw a teacher, Ms. Beatie at the grocery store, and I was like, oh my gosh. Like, they let her leave school. And it was that same thing, that realization of like, oh, this is an actual person that has all of those things. And when I talk about understanding your customer story, one of the sort of jokes I tell in the book is a lot of people never go deeper than we all went when we were kids. You looked at a teacher and saw someone who was there to like, you know, teach you math or science for, you know, a couple hours a day or whatever it is. But if you look at your customers and say, this is a fully developed person with like a very full life who has goals, who has dreams, who has a history, who has people who people who love them, not only does that give you more empathy in the way that you think about and get to know your customer, but it also gives you more understanding about how your authority can, can matter to them, can help them.
BH (21:02):
So what I, the reason that I, I make the second step in this framework, getting to really, truly understand your customer is because a lot of people don’t ever do that work or they do it like, just on the surface. So in the book I talk about, you know, really getting, getting clear on the types of questions that matter, the types of information that are gonna help you think more critically and teach your team to serve even deeper when it comes to showing up for your customers and your future customers, or your followers and your future followers.
RV (21:33):
Yeah. Yeah. And I, and I think you know, another great marketing strategy, you know, I, I said that before about it’s a transform life. The other, another great marketing strategy is to care, is to like care about your customers and the more you like, spend time thinking about them and, and acknowledging I think who they are in real life and understanding it. And, and yeah, you’re, it’s, it’s, it’s ironic that when you start with your story, it forces you to kind of ask that question because you go, how does this story apply to them? And then it puts you in the place of thinking about where are they now? Like where, where are they now? And how can I share how I have been there and, and, and create that connection. And so you really develop a lot of passion and love and affinity and, and appreciation just for who your prospect is.
RV (22:24):
And just like, there’s such an authentic connection that I feel like suddenly it shows up in your marketing, whether, whether it’s a podcast episode or whether it’s a video or it’s, it’s even an advertisement or a website as they go, they feel that, they feel that, like, you actually give a crap about me. You actually know something about what it’s like to be me. And I think, I think that’s super powerful. So what about the p Okay, so s so start with your story. Understand the customer story. The p this is, this is, this one’s clutch
BH (22:58):
Personalized. Mm. So p is personalized and you know, again, there’s all kinds of stats and, and, and figures. And McKenzie study just came out a, a couple weeks ago that said 71% of customers now expect personalization from everyone they give money to. So they don’t wanna be treated like just another customer, just another number, just another order. So in the book I talk about the need to balance the high tech with the high touch. Hmm. So what can you automate? What can you systematize, what can you get set up to help drive personal interactions at scale? While also, and this is the key part, freeing up more of your team’s time or your own time to find opportunities to do those high-touch things that can’t be automated. Because it’s all about the human attention, the human interaction being in tune to someone’s need to show up for them in a way that’s going to exceed their expectations.
RV (23:56):
Mm-Hmm. . Yeah. One, one of the things about this, do you have a great, I I’m pretty sure this is one of like your pillar points or a pullout quote that’s in there, which is like, if you are giving somebody something with your logo on it, that is an ad, not a gift. And like that is so true. And like there are
BH (24:14):
People who like, are ready to fight me over that. Yes, that is a very polarizing opinion, but I’m like, you would never like Rory, we’re friends. I would never buy you a gift and write my name on the bottom of it to be like, just wanna make sure when you’re using this cooler out by your pool, you don’t forget it’s from me. Like, we would never do that in real life. And yet in business people are like, how many logos can I slap on this? What can I do? Which is fine. Like, I’m not anti swag. I just believe that it has a place and that place is, has an ad, not a gift.
RV (24:44):
Right? And it’s not, it doesn’t make anyone feel special when, I mean, the, the, the way, the another extreme example of it, I was like, imagine if I sent you a picture of me , like, like happy birthday. Not a picture of us, not a picture of you. If I just was like, happy birthday Brittany, here’s a picture of me. Like, that would be so weird. But that’s what we do all the time with like, here’s my business, here’s my logo. It’s like, that’s not, it’s not a, it’s not a gift. It should be the opposite, right? If anything, I should be sending you a gift which has your logo on it, or it’s, it’s a picture of you. Or it’s like, if I sent you a picture of you and your kids you know, now all of a sudden it’s personalized. It’s still as simple, it’s not as easy to pull off es especially when you say personal interactions at scale. That’s, that I think is, is the aspiration because personal interactions sort of like by definition, kind of feel like they work against doing them at scale. And, and one of the points I loved, which you made cuz you know, we’re huge on automation and, and multiplying time and like all that sort of stuff is that the purpose of automation is not to dehumanize the business, it’s to basically take care of all the mundane, to create more margin so that your people can, can do more personalizations that basically how you are saying it.
BH (26:14):
Yeah. That’s, I a hundred percent agree with that. And it’s looking for ways, like, as you said, let’s see somebody who’s listening to this and you are you work in real estate a way to make a decision once and scale. It might be every time I sell someone a new home, I’m going to get them a welcome mat with a picture of their family, or I’m going to get them a garden flag with a picture of their family, or I’m going to take their listing photo and turn it into a puzzle for them. And knowing that you have a vendor who can do those things very easily and have someone on your team who knows, like, okay, before closing day, I’ve gotta go on every family’s Facebook page and like, pull a picture that I really love and get that made into a like, welcome to your new home at a b c Apple Street or, you know, 1 23 Apple Street, whatever to create that for them. So there still oftentimes is, is a human element involved, but you’re, what you’re doing is you are eliminating that process of, ugh, let me think about exactly what to do for this person and how I’m gonna make it. Because you already made the decision, you made one decision that you can repeat a thousand times instead of making a thousand individual decisions.
RV (27:23):
Yeah, yeah. Another thing is, I mean, anything with their family seems like low-hanging fruit there mm-hmm. because it’s like, okay, that’s good. Anything with their business is also kind of like low-hanging fruit. I think the other, the other one is any, anything of their interests, right? But that requires you to actually care enough to know what sports teams do they like, what movies do they watch? Who’s their favorite musician? Like what, where do they eat? Like tho those kinds of things. But it is my, you know, my mom used to say Mar used to sell Mary Kay, you know, that. But one of the things that Mary Kay used to say is she would say the magic is not the, the expensive of the gift. The magic is a $5 gift with a $50 bow, meaning it’s the presentation of the gift and what you build around. And I think this is kind of similar to where you could go. It doesn’t, it doesn’t even have to be expensive. The fact that it’s personal is worth way more to them than the fact that it’s expensive or how much it costs. Oh,
BH (28:30):
Absolutely. It’s the fact that they took the time to do it. And you know, we both know like when you get something that Jasper or Leah made for you, it’s not about, you know, how expensive that thing is. It’s, wow, I’m going to love this and keep it forever because my kids made it for me and they put love into it. So it’s that idea of showing someone that you spent time thinking about them, you spent time, you gave them the gift of your attention and your care and whatever it is that, that, that materialized into in the form of a gift.
RV (28:59):
Totally. Totally. So I know that, I know you’ve got multiple mini phases in this, and again, y’all, the, so the book’s called Creating Super Fans Brittany Hodak, of course is who we’re talking to here. The the e is another one that is simple, not easy but another like game changing thing that you go, man, if you adopt this into your culture, it works. Like this actually works. So what’s, walk us through the e
BH (29:28):
Yeah, all of these are simple, not easy. And that’s, and that’s why I wanted to put them in a framework that would be easy to remember. You know, the idea of, oh, being super, you know, it sounds like something you could almost easily dismiss, but if you do these things consistently, they absolutely will lead to huge growth. You will have more earned revenue, you will have more earned customers, you’ll have people who are coming back more quickly and spending more money with you. The e stands for exceed expectations. And this is probably my favorite pillar in the book just because I’m so passionate about something that I call intentional experience design, which is really looking at every single touchpoint through the eyes of your customers and saying, is this making their experience better, worse, or not having an impact on it? And many of our experiences as customers are what I call net neutrals.
BH (30:16):
They’re like, nothing burgers, we forget about them as soon as we encounter them. And then occasionally there are those net negatives that are annoying or, you know, cause us to, you know, grumble a little bit. And then very, very rarely there are those positive things. What I encourage people to do is to, you know, using the, the system that I lay on in the book to look at every interaction and teach everyone on your team that they are the chief experience officer. They are the ones who can turn those neutral interactions into positive ones by using intentionality, by using that customer centricity to say, how can I elevate this otherwise like, forgettable moment into something that’s going to be meaningful? How can I show someone that we care more by going a little bit above and beyond? And if you can do that, not only are you like quite literally making the world a better place because you’re improving people’s days, their, you know, their minutes, their, their interactions, but you’re also giving people those things that are friend j bear calls talk triggers.
BH (31:18):
You’re giving somebody something that they want to tell somebody about, whether that’s online or inline at the grocery store. You’re not gonna believe what this person on the phone just did, or you’re not gonna believe how, you know, this person did this thing that just helped me. And it’s, and it can be, it’s almost always the little things like, this doesn’t have to be big grand gestures. It’s, you know, a week ago I had a bunch of balloons at Publix, so it was my husband’s birthday party and the, the person who was working the door said, here, let me help you out to your car with those. And I said, no, no, no, it’s okay. And he said, no, I, I know a trick. I’ve loaded balloons a lot, I’m gonna, I’m gonna help you make sure that you, that you get these in. And the trick, by the way was to put a piece of paper on top of the balloon and then that they, like, there’s like less static and they go in. But so those interesting little things that you can do to exceed someone’s expectation in the moment and training everyone on your team to look for those opportunities to exceed their expectations.
RV (32:13):
Mm-Hmm. , so I love the, I I love that. And it’s like you know, I think when you go, okay, what what are those things, generally speaking, you’re talking about, you know, just little, they’re just little things you can do mm-hmm. , but I think the element of surprise is really the, is really the thing here is really going, okay, what’s, what’s the thing I can do for them that would be a surprise, right? There’s some, like, they ex they expect whatever, but how do I do you know, something for them that like, they just, like you’re saying, it’s, it’s, it’s, their expectation is what they’re expecting. So it’s what what is the unexpected, do you have any other like, little tips to, for, you know, how do you train your team? Like your assistant or your, it might be your program manager or like your certainly your customer service team, like who’s fielding calls to go, here’s what you do to create that moment.
BH (33:18):
Yeah, so that’s a great question. A lot of it is planning ahead so that you can be more present in the moment to look for those little things. Hmm. Of, you know, oh, they’ve got a kid with them, I’m gonna offer them a sticker. Or they’ve got, they’ve got a lot of bags, I’m gonna make sure somebody’s helping them carry them like the, the, the human things. In the book I talk about this idea of intentional experience design, which is how do I bring more intentionality to every part of the experience? Because one of the, one of the things that I talk about again and again in this book is your customers are going to have expectations that constantly rise because they’re not just comparing their experience working with you to the best experience they’ve had with your competitors. They’re comparing it to the best experiences you’ve had anywhere.
BH (34:07):
So you need to constantly be looking at even your experiences that you have as a customer with, with other parties around you to say, how can I make this better? And this is not in the book cuz it just happened a few weeks ago, but we were out at a Mexican restaurant after a baseball game one day and the kids were hungry because it was a little bit late. And I was like, oh, we’ll just go to a Mexican restaurant so we can like, feed them fast. They’ll at least be chip and salsa. And the waitress came to take our order and Cato, my five and a half year old said, excuse me, did you know a lot of restaurants have apps and if you had an app, we could have ordered our tacos on the way here and you could bring me tacos right now .
BH (34:43):
And like, he wasn’t even trying to be a jerk, he was just like, it was in his mind it was like so inefficient that he’s like, why do you have to have a person come ask me what I want to eat? Like someone has already solved this problem. So knowing that your customer expect your customer’s expectations are always going to be getting higher. So looking in that moment, it’s, it’s about how can I serve them quicker? How can I serve them in a way that goes above and beyond their expectations? Like I know I always when I check into a hotel, I notice when somebody goes above and beyond, obviously there’s a couple brands who give you cookies, but if you go to a Margaritaville resort, they offer you a rum punch. A lot of times when you check into a Marriott resort, they have like a wheel that you can spin if you’re a part of the Bonvoy club to like earn bonus points. So just those little touchpoints a above and beyond of am I offering someone a water? Am I offering someone a piece of candy? Am I showing them that I’m happy to have them here? And I don’t think of them as just another customer. I think of them as a person whose life I can improve because we’re, you know, connected in this moment.
RV (35:45):
Yeah. And, and you know, I think you nailed it with it’s going, how do I stay? You have to be, the real magic is being present in the moment to be going, what can I do to make this moment better? Like, magical for them versus scrambling to just meet their expectations or because your brain is off somewhere else, cuz something else fell apart. So like a lot of it is is caught up in, in, in the, the planning. So Brittany, I know we, I know we have the r which, you know, we can wrap up quickly, but before we do that, where do you want people to go if they want to connect with you and learn more what you’re about and you know, get the book, et cetera?
BH (36:27):
Well, my website is britney hodak.com and I hope everyone checks out the book. It’s available everywhere books are sold, including on Amazon as a hard cover and an audiobook and an ebook. But if you go to Britney hodak.song, excuse me, my ho my own name is hard for me to say, apparently if you go to britney hodak.com/gift, you can download the first four chapters of the book totally free because I want everyone to get the framework that they can use to start creating super fans in their own personal brand and business right now. So britney hodak.com/gift.
RV (37:03):
Cool. Very, very cool. Well send us out here. What about the r Yeah, yeah, tell us about the r We don’t, we, we don’t wanna leave everybody hanging too much, but you know, so you got start with so, so super, the acronym, start with your story, understand your customer story, personalize, exceed expectations, and
BH (37:25):
RV (37:26):
BH (37:27):
Repeat. That’s it. I wish customer actually, I I don’t wish customer experience will set it and forget it. I know a lot of people do. I actually love the idea of constantly looking for ways to exceed expectations. But in the fifth pillar, I talk all about the systems and processes that you can use. Another great, great quote, this one’s from Elizabeth Arden. You know, sorry, I know you’re, you’re very Mary Kay loyal, but this is a good quote. Regardless of your preference for, for makeup brands, Elizabeth Arden said, repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers. So it’s about showing up and doing this again and again, transaction after transaction, interaction after interaction because you become what you do.
RV (38:09):
Yeah, yeah. Which, you know, the other surprising bonus of this is you go, oh, it’s not even five steps, it’s four steps, and then I just do ’em over and over again.
BH (38:19):
It is, it’s 20% easier than I promise. So hopefully I exceed your expectations with four things to remember instead of five. Yeah.
RV (38:26):
Well, and frankly, like, if you get the story part right and you really understand who your customer is, and then you repeat a lot of this is about personalizing and exceeding expectations, and you go, all right, those are like two things that I gotta do is, is like, just go, how do I set everything up to be in this moment serving on people, loving on them at a level that’s higher than what they’re used to seeing? And what a great way to be an awesome person and you know, create superfans and drive and make more income in the process. So Brittany, you’re the best. Thank you so much for this friend. Everybody go get the book Creating Superfans. I’m a, I’m a huge believer. I’m a huge fan. We make our whole company read it, adopting it as part of our culture. It’s a big part of, of what we see as the next level for us at, at Brand Milds Group. And anyways, friend, keep kicking butt out there. We’re cheering for you.
BH (39:17):
Thanks buddy. I appreciate it. I’ll talk to you soon.

Ep 259: What You Need to Know About How CSX is Changing with Brittany Hodak

AJV (00:07):
Hey, everybody. Welcome to the influential personal brand podcast. This is one of your co-hosts AJ Vaden here, and I am genuinely so happy. I’m so excited to have the amazing Brittany Hodak on the show today. She’s a personal friend, but she’s also someone that we go to for customer experience, training and advice. So we, we’ve got some shared personal and professional lives, which I’m so happy to merge those together for everyone on the show today. And let me just give you a little bit of background. But before I, I wanna tell you why you need to stay tuned for this entire episode is like there are two things that propelled me to COER Brittany to come onto the show today. And the first one is the fundamental belief that every single person in your company is in charge of customers experience, rather that is service or sales or marketing as like everyone, to anyone who touches your customers, which should be anyone and everyone at some point they are in charge of experience, which means this is an important conversation to be had for every single person, no matter what your job is, what your role is, what your company is, what industry you’re in.
AJV (01:22):
If you sell things to people, this is an episode that you need to listen to. So stay tuned for that. The second thing is this merging trend of how we’re seeing the marketing departments merge with customer service and experience. And this is happening in huge companies all across the world. And we wanna talk about why, like, what is the impact on customer service and customer experience on sales and hyper specifically on marketing. So stay tuned for that. So now let me give you just a little bit of a highlight of the all inspiring, all, all inspiring. If I can talk today of Brittany Hodak. So Brittany is an award-winning entrepreneur. And so speaker who has delivered keynotes across the world to organizations, including American express and the United nations, right? Like what, that’s amazing. She’s also published more than 350 articles for different media outlets, including Forbes ad week success magazine.
AJV (02:20):
She’s been on NBC, CBS, CNN, CBC. I mean, the list goes on and on. She also is the author of an upcoming book that we’re gonna get a little bit of sneak peek insider perspective on that’s gonna come out in about a year from now. But you know, she literally has done fan engagement for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Disney, Amazon Walmart, and then my favorite Dolly Parton. Right. So you kinda had me at Dolly Parton, so I could go on and on talking about your accolades and your awesomeness both professionally and personally. But at this point we’ll actually start the conversation. So Brittany, welcome to the show.
BH (03:00):
Yay. Thank you so much, AJ. That was so kind, I am thrilled to be here for the record. It was very easy for you to coach me to come on the show because I am a long time listener. And when you asked me, I was like yeah, that sounds fun. We should do it. So thank you for having me. I’m excited to you know, take some of the conversations that we usually have without a microphone and have them in front of a microphone.
AJV (03:24):
Yeah, I am honestly, I’m so excited. And for everyone listening, I actually asked Brittany to come and help us at brand builders group. And she and I had a, a multi-hour session just a couple of weeks. So talking about customer service and experience, and it was one of the things that it was like, oh my gosh, these are the things that every single person on the planet needs to hear. And so let’s start, let’s just start a little bit of, how did you get to where you are? Like, how did you merge from being where you are like being where you were to this real true expert, but not just an expert is something you’re truly passionate about. And it literally does just bubble out of you that way around customer experience and service that like, how did you get into this? Like where did this all start?
BH (04:08):
Well, you know, I think a lot of it started during my childhood because my dad was the most passionate customer service proponent of any anyone I ever met. And he when I was really young, he managed a restaurant and I used to love to go and sit in the restaurant and just see the way everybody who came in knew him. And he was so happy to talk to people and he didn’t mind being up front or in the back. Like all of his employees loved him and the customers loved him. And, you know, he would tell me stories about like some of the crazy things that would happen. And then when I was a little older, he was in charge of customer service at a car dealership and I thought everything was so fascinating the way, you know, he would talk to me about like the referral things that they were doing and retention plays and all of these things.
BH (04:57):
And like simultaneously, because he cared so much customer experience and customer service, anytime he was like wronged by any store, we were like forbid to ever go there again, which I remember as a kid was like, so frustrating. There was this one time in the summer I was probably like six or seven and, but he was the yard and the lawnmower broke and he was like, I’m gonna go get a new lawnmower. And, you know, we grew up in a small town. There weren’t a lot of places. But he went to the mall and tried to buy a lawnmower at Sears. And they were like, well, we don’t have any, like, you’ll have to come back in week. And he was like, but I see it right there on the floor. And they were like, oh, but we can’t sell you that one, cuz it’s assembled.
BH (05:42):
And he was like, right, but you have an assembly charge. So like, why can’t I have this lawnmower today? And then you can just like make another one when you get the other ones in. And they were like, yeah, sorry, we can’t do that. And so my dad got so mad, like when we left, he was like, we’re never shopping at seas again. He’s like, I’m not even gonna take my craftsman tools back when they break. And I was like, what do you mean we’re not gonna shop at Sears? Like where am I gonna get like clothes? Like what do you mean? But he, you know, there were probably like seven or eight brands over the years that were on like the do not buy, do not support lists either like retail or D TOC stuff. So I, anyway, he was so passionate about this idea of putting the customer at the center of everything you do and making sure that everyone on your team knows that the only reason you are there is because of the customer.
BH (06:30):
So every decision you make should be in the service of customers. And you know, I think I sort of like absorbed all of that without even realizing it. I always wanted to work in entertainment. I worked in the music and entertainment industry for like the first 15 years of my career. And as I started doing more and more brand staff, I realized that there’s this huge intersection of those two worlds and that the same things that make people love an artist or an entertainer are the things that make people loyal to a brand or a retailer. And, you know, it’s all about building that affinity and getting to that point where people wanna be advocates. And that’s where I really had this aha moment of if I can bring some of these principles, I understand from entertainment into the customer experience world to make people realize that customer experience can be fun and sexy and cool, then you know, that will serve a lot of people.
AJV (07:23):
Oh my gosh. I love that. And I, so, so I am curious. So and maybe this is a little bit of, what’s gonna be coming in your upcoming book, creating super fans, which is coming out a year from now, roughly give or take a little bit. But, and so I’m curious, like in your opinion, what makes people fall in love with entertainers?
BH (07:43):
I am so glad you asked this question. So I always say super fans are created at the intersection of your story and every customer story. And so I’ll never forget the first time I met Taylor swift, she was like 16 or 17. I was like in my early twenties, I was working at a record a company and I’d flown to Nashville where I live now. But at the time I lived in New York, I flew to Nashville for an award show and it was the very first award she ever got. And she was actually at the show with an artist who I knew because I’d worked at his label in college. So we were all at this after party together. And I was just, you know, talking to her about like the marketing that she was doing, because at the time she was really innovative with MySpace in particular, but like social media in general.
BH (08:27):
And so I was talking to her about, you know, all these things that she was doing, which of course came very natural to her cuz she was a teenager and she said something to me that hit me like a lightning bolt. And I thought it was like the most brilliant, some of the business side of the music business that I’ve ever heard an artist articulate. And she said, my dream is to sell a million records. And I know that if I’m gonna sell a million records, I have to make a million people care enough about me to want to buy my music. And so she was spending her time like paying it forward, like showing her fans that she cared about them even before. In some instances they were like showing that they cared about her. And I remember are like turning to my friend who I brought to the party with me.
BH (09:17):
And I, you know, after like we were talking I was like, that girl is gonna be a superstar. Like she is gonna be one of the biggest artists on the planet if she keeps this mentality and keeps this attitude. And I think one of the biggest common denominators that you see between the artists who, you know, sort of come in fast and hot and then dizzle out and the ones that have that longevity are the ones who really take the time to invest, invest in their fans. Like the ones who have that fan centric attitude. And the same is true of brands. Like the brands that are most customer-centric are the one who stand a test of time because people aren’t constantly looking for the next thing.
AJV (10:01):
Oh my gosh, that’s so good. And I love that. It’s like, I know I’ll sell a million records once. I know that there’s a million people out there who care enough about me to support me. And it’s like, that is so true of business and of companies and of business brands. And so, and I would say it’s like, it’s not that companies don’t know that they just don’t know how to do it. Or maybe they even know how to do it. They just can’t seem to execute it. So I have two questions on this. OK. One, how do companies do this? Right? Like give us like a couple of insider tips on how do we become the type of company that really is customer centric, customer focused while also battling the realities of trying to turn a profit and pay our employees and all the necessary things that have to happen. So that’s my first question. And then the second one I want you to be noodling around is like what’s, what’s the company to be watching who just does this exceptionally well that maybe we don’t know about. So those are my two things, so let’s start there.
BH (11:01):
Okay. Awesome. I love it. So the first one oh my gosh. I’ve already forgotten the first part of your question. It was
AJV (11:09):
So a couple I was
BH (11:10):
So concentrating on not forgetting the second one that I forgot the first one,
AJV (11:13):
A couple of tips on how do we actually do this? How do we become? Oh
BH (11:17):
Yes. Okay. Thank you. Yes. So, you know, one tip is to really be honest with yourself about where you’re at right now, because if you ask a hundred CEOs, are you customer-centric, you know, 99 of ’em are gonna say yes and the other one wasn’t listening. But if you add ask customers of those same hundred companies or employees of those same hundred companies, you’re gonna, you know, get wildly different results. So the first thing is to really understand what being customer-centric means and it means putting the needs of your customers first and there will be conflict. There will be times where you have to make a decision between, am I putting profit first or am I putting the customer first? And those are the moments, those moments where you’re being tested, where you have to have the resolve to say, we are doing what’s right for customer.
BH (12:13):
We are going to make things right for this customer. And if you can do that, if you can model that for all of your employees to follow, not only is your customer experience going to improve, but your employee experience is going to prove improve. You’re going to see the improved loyalty and advocacy on both sides inside the company and outside the company. But the thing where, again, a lot of people like don’t wanna hear this message at the top of the company, but in the middle of the company, people are like shouting this from the rooftops. It has to start at the top. And to your point at the beginning of the show, one piece of advice that I have is don’t try to have your chief customer officer or your chief experience officer operating in a silo. They need to have as much of a voice as anyone at the company, across every single department, actually a client of mine like five or six weeks ago was talking to me.
BH (13:11):
And this was somebody I’d worked with for keynotes before and, and worked with them on a consulting project now. And they’re adding the title of chief customer officer for the first time, which is great. Like it’s a wonderful step forward for this company. They’ve got like 50,000 employees across the world. And the CEO said to me, you know, I really can’t handle another direct report. I think I’m gonna have the CCO report to the chief revenue officer. Do you think that’s a good idea? And I said, yeah, it’s a great idea. If you want to send a literal message to your customers and employees, that customers are less important than revenue, because that’s what you do. When you have a CCO who reports to the CRO, whoever at your company is going to be the flag bear and the champion four, your customers has to have a seat at every table in every conversation because their insights are going to inform, not just sales, not just marketing, not just customer service, not just product design, all of it, everything from start to finish, because if you don’t make those decisions with your customers and my you’re going to pay the price long term, you’re either going to lose the customer’s trust.
BH (14:20):
You’re going to lose their business completely. Or what I think is like one of the most underrated threats to every business that nobody really talks about is apathy. Like people are just gonna not care. They’re either not gonna care in the first place or going to stop caring. If you aren’t putting the needs of every single customer at the forefront of every decision that you make.
AJV (14:43):
Oh, solid. That’s really such a great reminder that, that you told me the exact same thing. You’re like, whoever is going to lead customer experience, customer care. They have to report to you. It’s like, it’s gotta be that level of importance. And so I’m curious when it comes to this topic of customer-centric like, are there a few things, one thing, two thing, three things that people could do to go, Hey, I know if I know I’m being customer-centric if we’re doing this.
BH (15:14):
Yeah. So one real thing that you can do is, you know, I, I was having a conversation with ear with somebody earlier today and we were talking about how so many companies try so hard, especially like as they grow and grow to come up with a policy for everything so that when people start the onboarding and training and enablement process is almost about stripping them of everything they’ve brought into the job rather than amplifying those unique talents that you hired them for. So instead of saying, I trust you, here’s generally like here are core values. Here are guiding and principles. Here are our customer promise and here are some general things to help you with, you know, frequently asked questions or frequent concerns. But instead companies, especially with their customer service and customer support teams are scripting everything out saying, do exactly this. Do exactly that.
BH (16:10):
Do exactly that. They’re giving these, you know, hundred page manuals of policies to employees saying like only say this in an email or make sure you follow the script exactly on a phone call. And then they’re wondering why not only are customers not happy, but employees aren’t happy and they’re, you know, leaving their jobs at rates. We haven’t seen in almost a hundred years. And I think a lot of it is because when you don’t equip every individual employee with the power to make something right, the way they see fit in that instance, within a certain larger set of parameters, you’re basically asking your people to be robots. And so one of the like interesting things about customer experience is like, you will never have better customer experience externally than your employee experience internally. Like an unhappy employee is never, ever gonna show up in a good way for a customer. And so again, this all has to be modeled from the top. And that’s why it’s so important, not just to hire for customers to interest, to make sure that everybody on your team, regardless of the position they’re in actually does care about customers and, and making their lives better. But to not train that out of people, because you’re so worried about having them fit the perfect mold of, you know, a BDR on your team.
AJV (17:34):
Oh, that’s good. And it’s like, and it, I think that’s the tendency, cuz I think as a business owner we’re typically, it’s like, well it’s like, is this how I would do it? Or you know, so that’s why I think so many people, you know, it’s like I come from a very corporate consulting background. I was like, I was paid for a living to like build scripts and like make sure they follow these process and these procedures. And this is what you say on a sales call and da, da, da, da. And it’s like kind of like coming back of like, no, you need a, a set of parameters, these larger guidelines, but goodness gracious. Don’t strip the humanity out of people, just teacher people, how to love people and how to have good conversations and then know what’s acceptable and what’s not
BH (18:13):
Exactly a hundred percent. And if you study some of the most innovative companies, that’s exactly what they tell their people. They say, this is the promise that we’re going to uphold to our customers. Your job is to make sure that we live up to that. And then, you know, of course you have to give them parameters of, of course you have to say, you know, use your best judgment within these guidelines. But when you don’t allow people to solve problems, as they see fit, it doesn’t feel like a personal solution to the customer. It just feels like, you know, I’m in another PO or another order and you like, you know, rubber stamped, the same solution that you do to everybody else versus where there are those opportunities for a customer to forge like a true connection with your company because of something that that employee did.
AJV (19:04):
Yeah. And again, it comes back to human connection, human relationship, right. It’s like saying back to this Taylor swift thing, it’s like people I have to get people to care enough about me. Right. And it’s like, yeah, you gotta do the same for our customers. So, okay. So before I get to this like model company example that I’m so curious to hear who you think it is. I wanna also talk about this like concept is like how we create this experience and how we prevent it from being siloed. Right. So what are some tips around making sure that customer experience doesn’t get siloed to just a customer service department, but it’s like, there’s huge trends. And it’s like, like one of our very close friends just merged with a huge company. That’s basically saying no marketing and customer experience are now the same. And there’s this trend of merging customer experience and customer service in, within marketing and I’m going well, that’s breaking down some serious barriers and silos of going no there’s synonymous to us. And so how do you, how do you do that?
BH (20:10):
Yeah. Well, that’s a great question. And I think a lot of that is of course the evolution of the fact that traditional marketing going back, like pre-social media and perhaps even pre-internet was all about intent. So it’s like the marketing department, you know, existed to create leads for the sales department and then maybe do like trade shows and stuff that were sort of like that, you know, bottom of funnel activity. And I think as social media really exploded and businesses were like, we don’t know what to do with this. Like who, who do we give it to? What do we do marketing. They can handle it. Right. They’re the ones who work with people to make like logos and stuff. Yeah, yeah. Do our social media pages. And so what you’ve seen is kind of this just like, you know, attrition of like marketing gets a little more, gets a little more, gets a little more, but you’re right.
BH (20:59):
Like experience. Now the customer experience, I feel like is having like a real moment right now. Like people are writing books about it to including you’re truly creating super fans in stores January 20, 23. But you know, it’s like people are talking about it on podcasts. And I think that a lot of C-suite executives are sort of just like changing their title from chief marketing officer to chief experience officer or chief marketing, an experience officer. But it’s gotta go beyond the marketing department and even like the marketing and the customer service department. Because as I said, like, everyone in your company is part of the experience department, whether they know it or not. And if you don’t have clear guidelines to teach them what the model is, you’re gonna, it’s gonna be like, you know, some people are great and some people are terrible because it’s gonna be just the variance from person to person.
BH (21:55):
And so you’ve really gotta remember that. I like to say that experience is everything. Meaning CX is, you know, the biggest factor for brand loyalty, more than two thirds of brand loyalty is driven by CX, which is more than price and product combined. So experience is everything in this economy that we’re living in right now. But the inverse of that is true as well. Everything is experience every touch point, every message. And some of those are gonna be controlled by marketing. And some aren’t somebody said to me a couple of months ago, you know, you never see a skinny per running on a treadmill. It’s only fat people. People who are in shape always run outside. You know, who said that to me, the guy delivering my new treadmill. And I was like, I kind of like, didn’t say anything, cuz I, you know, I wasn’t like expecting the guy who had just like loved this treadmill upstairs to I have that hot take. And I like, I don’t know what kind of response he was waiting for, but I was just kind of trying to decide if he was, you know, maybe kidding or not. And he goes, oh, I bet you got a big husband’s your husband fat.
AJV (23:02):
That’s awesome.
BH (23:04):
And then he went on to tell me like how you never see somebody who’s in shape running on a treadmill. And he runs side 30 miles every single week. And like that’s the only way to run and the best way to run. And I was like,
AJV (23:16):
As he’s delivering a treadmill.
BH (23:18):
Yeah, exactly. And I was like, so do you work for an Nordic track or are you like a third party delivery? And he goes, no, no, no. I work at the company. I’ve been there a few years. I could get a treadmill for so cheap. I don’t even want one.
AJV (23:29):
Oh, got a real advocate. Real advocate he’s doing.
BH (23:33):
Yeah. So every single person at your company is part of the experience department and every decision needs to be approached with that customer in mind. Another like totally crazy story. So I switched vets about a year ago after going to the same vet for more than four years for my dogs. And the reason I switched vets is because the message on the answering service changed. So like camp appointments online, you have to call and you never get a receptionist. It’s like, you know, a phone tray. So I swear the, this is the message. Thank you for calling the name of the place. For hours in location, press one, to get a refill, press two for cremation and euthanasia, press three, press four, to schedule an appointment. And then it was like, press zero for the receptionist. And the first time I heard that, like I hung up cuz I was like, that had to be wrong. And I called back again and I was like, Nope, they’re asking me to press three for cremation in euthanasia before I even get the opportunity to like schedule an appointment or talk to the receptionist. And I was like, I, I, I need a new vet. Like, well, cause I had so many questions as a customer were right. I was like, how many pets are they having euthanized that they like put that so high up in their
AJV (24:52):
Priority list.
BH (24:52):
Yeah. Like I, I don’t understand. And then, you know, and I mentioned it to my husband and he was like, do you think maybe you’re overreacting? Like, you know, maybe it’s like not that big video. It is a little weird, like maybe just say something to them. And I was like, you know, I don’t wanna say anything because the vet either a like signed off on this, which tells me that there’s some judgment issues or B wasn’t a part of this and has no idea that like this is happening, which is also scary, right? Like both of those are bad and I’m entrusting the care of my pets who can’t talk to me to somebody. I wanna make sure that it’s the right person because you know, as sustain goes the way you do anything is the way you do everything. And so I switched pets just because of that. Cuz I was like, well, there’s like a serious either lack of judgment or you know, like mismanagement of priorities going on on here. So everything is experienced. And that’s why, whether it’s like the former head of marketing or somebody else, you need to make sure that you’ve got visibility and influence across every part of the company. Because only when all of those come into alignment, can you truly shine and truly showcase your uniqueness as a company?
AJV (26:08):
Yeah. I love that. And it’s like, you know, and it’s interesting as like so many of the people listening are, you know, building personal brands and they maybe are a part of an organization or they’re running their own organization. And so as we, as we kind of relate this to a personal brand, right? So you’re a speaker author consultant. For, for anyone who’s out there who maybe doesn’t have a team of people and they’re like, okay, well I don’t have departments or teams to do this. Like how do you, so as a, you know, entrepreneur speaker, author consultant, like how do you do this for yourself as a personal brand, without a team.
BH (26:45):
That is a great question. I think the first way is to approach it as if you did have a team because the concepts are the same, whether you are one person or a thousand people. I had somebody a very nice man named Perry who came to fix sink last week, my sink was leaking. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I called the insurance like the home company and they’re like, okay, we’ll send somebody. And so this guy, Perry came out, he fixed my sink. This Friday afternoon, my four year old was like yelling, trying to get his attention to show him some star wars toy. The dog was barking. The baby woke up for his nap because the dog was barking. And he was like at crying upstairs. And you know, I was like apologizing for all of this chaos.
BH (27:27):
And he’s like, no, no, no, it’s totally fine. And then so he like finished with a sink and he stood up and he points up on top of him. And like, this is so embarrassing. He like points above his head. And he is like, what am I looking at here? And I was like a dirty light fixture. And he’s like, yeah, like what’s going, went on with this light fixture. And I was like, I don’t know. It’s just like, you know, I always have little helpers and it hasn’t been a priority. And the reality is like, we have a tall ceiling and it’s like a expensive, like big glass, light fixture. That’s like a two person job for like for me and my husband. Right. Like somebody has to like, hold the ladder and then like you pass the thing down. So you’re not like climbing down the ladder with a, whatever.
BH (28:04):
He is like, give me a ladder. I’m gonna clean this for you. And I was like, absolutely not. Like you came to fix my sink. Like you do not need to do this. And he was like, my mom always taught me that if I can make something better, I’m not allowed to leave it the way that I found it, go get me a ladder or I’m gonna go in your garage and look for it myself. And I was like, oh my gosh. So he proceeded to not just like climb a ladder, it take down this gross light fixture. That for some reason is like where every moth in America goes to die. He like dumped out the dead bugs, used the dish washing soap to like clean it out, dry it, got it. Sparkling clean. Showed it to me saying like, how does this look?
BH (28:40):
And I was like amazing brand new climb back up the ladder, like reconnect all the pieces. And as I’m like thanking him profusely, he’s like, it’s nothing. This is what I do. Like I’m here for you. So who do you think I’m gonna call the next time I have a plumbing issue, right? Am I gonna go through the home warranty company and like take you over? They give me no, of course not. I’m gonna call Perry and say, Perry, I need your help come over. And as a preneur, the same rules apply. The biggest threat to your business is apathy. A lot of times I work with small business owners and they say, I’ve got this huge awareness problem. Not enough people know who I am or what I do. And in reality, when I dig in, it’s like, plenty of people know you don’t have an awareness problem.
BH (29:22):
You have an apathy problem. Plenty of people know, they just don’t because you haven’t given them a reason to you. Haven’t found a way to connect your story to theirs in a way that makes them not see you as a commodity provider, but view you as a category of one to be like, you know what? I found it. Cause you know what, like the truth is like a lot of people are lazy. Like once you get a solution, like I’m not ever gonna look for another Perry, I don’t need to. I found my Perry. Right? So what the easiest thing until now has been to just call the home warranty company or like get out my phone and Google, whatever I need and pick the first person with good reviews. But then once you have a person like you don’t ever have to look for a person again. So for solopreneurs to approach it by saying, what special or unique gifts do I have? What can I do to connect my story to a customer story in a way that makes them like, not even be able to dream of ever replacing me because they know that even if they can find somebody else to fix a scene, they’re not gonna find somebody who gives your home the love and attention that you do.
AJV (30:26):
Oh, that’s so good. And it’s such a great reminder of like this. Isn’t just customer experience advice. This is business advice, right? This is like, this should just like bleed through and the business and say, okay, I have one more question for you. And I promise I’m paying attention to the clock. Cuz I’m sensitive to everyone’s time, yours time and everyone who is listening it’s for those of us who do have teams, right? So maybe it’s one team member. Maybe it’s a hundred, maybe it’s a thousand, maybe it’s 50,000. How do you train this? Or do you hire for it? So it’s like, how do you instill this culture? Cuz that’s really what it is. This is a culture. This is a belief system and add, how do you get that ingrained outside of you? So how do you transfer this?
BH (31:08):
Love, love, love this question. Yes. Sometimes hiring a consultant does help because then you have somebody who isn’t afraid to say the hard things, right? You have somebody who isn’t having to like walk on eggshells or you know, doesn’t know the whole background of, you know, what led things to be this way. Part of it is hiring for it. And it’s so funny. Like sometimes I’ll just look at job descriptions from big companies either that I’m working with or just like for fun on LinkedIn. And it’s so funny how many people will be hiring for customer facing and the word customer never appears in the job description like at all. And it might say revenue or profit or leads like a hundred times, right? It’s an exaggeration, but sometimes it’s like a dozen times and it doesn’t say customer and I believe that you can improve like 95% of job postings, adding the words to serve customers by.
BH (32:07):
And then just like whatever it said, right? Like cuz that is ultimately the job is to serve customers. And so yes, training your recruiters and your HR team to ask questions about customer centricity, as part of the interview process is important, but you have to set the standard. You have to have a model to say, this is who we are. This is what we believe in. And everyone on our team is like playing from the same playbook and to do that, to infuse the DNA of your company and your unique story into a way that all of your team members, you know, love and can, can embody it such a powerful thing. And like Chick-fil-A does a great job of this and you know, everybody everybody knows, you know about Chick-fil-A’s commitment to service, but what’s really interesting. And this is a actually something Macy said earlier today when she and I were talking is like restaurants all over America right now are closing their dining rooms or they’re changing their hours, like two or three of the restaurants near me.
BH (33:08):
Don’t even open now until noon. And they close at six because they’re like, you know, we can’t get staff, we can’t find workers. Or there’s these signs saying starting pay $17 an hour, but Chick-fil-A have any problems with their staffers. And about two weeks ago I was going through the chick fo Chick-fil-A drive through line, which like I do a lot. And I heard one of the girls say to another girl, those people at taco bell could never do what we do. And the other girl was like, yeah, you’re right. And so I, and the car was like, you’re right. Like they couldn’t. And they were both like so embarrassed. Like they definitely were not saying it for me to hear. And they were so embarrassed and apologizing and I was like, no own it. Like they couldn’t. And it’s not just like, it’s not a people problem. It’s a process problem. And if you put a good person into a system with bad processes, the bad processes are going to win every single time. Those two same roles probably would not even be doing the same if they were the ones at taco bell because they haven’t been trained. They haven’t been told it hasn’t been ingrained into them. That service is what you’re selling, not chicken sandwiches. So
AJV (34:15):
Y’all need to write that down service is what you’re selling. Right. That is so powerful and such a great reminder because I agree. It’s like, I don’t have like, there’s no staffing issues that any Chick-fil-A that we live in Nashville, there’s a lot of them. There’s no issues. And it’s like one of our favorite pizza joints. It’s like, they don’t even have an open dining room. Like to that point. It’s like it’s. Yeah. And to that, it’s like, it’s interesting cuz we keep asking we’re all the people and well, is it a people problem or is it a process problem? Right. That’s a really good distinction. So, okay. Last question back to this one I’ve I’ve given you like ample time to like subconsciously think about this. So a couple, one or two company examples that you think are doing this extraordinarily well that maybe people wouldn’t recognize or know. I know a lot of people talk about Disney and they talk about like all like Ritz Carlton, but are there any like, you know, kind of undercover giants that are really doing a great job at this that we could look to for an example?
BH (35:17):
Well, I’ll give you one undercover, giant, and then I’ll give you another like under the radar when, so the undercover giant, I would say is Warby Parker. And I have been a Warby Parker super fan for years now. Neil, the founder and I did a bunch of stuff together for Forbes back in the day. And you know, I just love their glasses. What I love most about word we partner now is you can get your eyes checked online and it’s so easy. You just take your phone and your laptop and it’s you feel like you’re playing a video game and you get your prescription. And it’s amazing. And the reason that I know this is because the last time that I went to try to order glasses and my prescription was expired, it was expired by like two weeks. And I called the eye doctor and said, you know, can you like do me a solid?
BH (36:04):
And she was like, no, you have to come back in. And I was eight months pregnant. Anna was during COVID. But like when you’re pregnant, your vision can change. So I was like, can you please just like extend it? Like I don’t understand. And she was like, no, I can’t. So anyway, like regardless of what you do, if you think people can’t replicate it online, like they will figure it out. Like I literally got my eyes checked online and now it’s like, I’ll go in probably like once every five years to, you know, check for glaucoma or whatever you get. But like everything can be replicated digitally. And I know where like just at the top of the hour. But the last one that I’ll give you is a company called arm more and it’s arm more style is the web, the, the, or URL, the URL arm more do style.
BH (36:44):
And it’s like a clothing subscription service similar to rent the runway. But what I love about them is that you can send them an email and say, Hey, I’ve got XYZ event coming up. And a real person will style clothes for you. Like it’s not an algorithm. It’s a real person who will email back and forth with you, send you pictures, ask for ideas, and then you get your clothes. When you get your clothes in the mail, they’re always tied up like very pretty packaged with like twin and paper. And then they make these like paper mache, dresses like not paper mache, origami like an origami dress out of like a really cool decorated sheet of paper. And I always look forward to getting them because I I’ve got a four year old. Who’s always like having fun playing with like the little like origami dress, but it’s just such a great personal touch. It’s like everything rent. The runway was like 10 years ago. And now our Mars, like getting a bunch of market shares. So underestimate the power of a personal touch, never underestimate the opportunity to connect your story with your customers story by showing them what that, what matters to them matters to you.
AJV (37:51):
Ugh, this has been such an inspiring conversation. If not for anyone else for me. Great.
BH (37:58):
AJV (38:00):
I like clearly, if it’s gonna help me, it’s gonna help someone, but these are just such great reminders. And I think back to, you know, I said that as soon as you said, like, remember what you’re selling a service. It’s like, yeah, like, don’t forget, like you got in, you got into this to serve people or whatever it, your businesses it’s, you’re working with people. So whether it’s a product or a service or whatever, it’s like, don’t forget the people, right. People over profits. I love this. This was so good. So just a couple of quick things for everyone who’s listening. I wanna make sure that you know where to connect with Brittany. And as she mentioned, her book creating super fans is coming out January, 2023. So you got a while before it comes out, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting content from Brittany right now. And she has put together a really cool mini course, a little video series for you guys. So if you want to go to Brittany hodak.com for live you can get access to that mini course. And of course, we’ll put this link in the show notes, but again, that’s Brittany ho.com/live. And then Brittany, if where would you say is like, if do you have a preferred social site for people to go and find you,
BH (39:11):
My preferred social site is whatever your preferred social site is. I always tell people you should be active on all of them. Yes. You wouldn’t be active on all of them because you never want somebody to be like, oh, I would love to follow her if except I’m not on tick. Well, I have a TikTok account, but I don’t post anything. Cause I’m like way too old. My
AJV (39:31):
Pretty much TikTok.
BH (39:32):
Yeah. Yeah. But I do have, I do have my handle. So like you can send me a message. I don’t even know if you can send messages on TikTok, but if you can, you can send me, you can send me a message there. Yeah, I know I’m super
AJV (39:43):
Old, but everywhere. It’s at Britney hodak.com at Britney Hodak yes.
BH (39:48):
Everywhere is at Britney Hodak and at video course you mentioned is totally free. So check it out. It’s Britney hodak.com/live. It’s a five, five day video course delivered via email. And it’s designed for everybody on your team. So if you’re somebody listening right now and you’re like, Ugh, I would love for my team to get a little bit more of this and think a little bit more about customers. Just let ’em sign up for the course. It’s totally free. It’s five days of training and there’s not even like an upsell at the end. Like it’s literally just like, I want you to care more about your customers and, and here’s how, and then the upsell will come in January when I’m like, Hey, sorry you buying my book. Cause you should buy my book.
AJV (40:22):
Very good. It’s just infiltrate with value. And eventually people want, actually want more. This has been so awesome. Thank you for being on the show. Everyone. Thank you for listening. We’ll catch you next time on the influential personal brand.
Speaker 3 (40:41):
Hey, brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch or anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand builders, group.com/pod call and builders group.com/podcall. We hope to talk to you soon.
AJV (41:28):
All right, y’all this, isn’t the recap on the just had with Brit Hodak on creating amazing customer experience, not just service but experience. So these are a couple of my key takeaways and just great reminders. And I love this so much because to me it is universal and is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal brand or a CEO or a frontline employee, or if you’re in customer service or sales or whatever it is you’re doing this applies to you. So here are my highlights in this universal fashion when it comes to customer experience is one, I think I said this like five times in the interview, but I’m gonna say it again here too, is that remember what you’re selling is service and I is so important and it’s so easy to get caught up in building systems and processes and building manuals and writing scripts and you know, building project management systems and email campaigns and all this stuff.
AJV (42:26):
When at the end of the day people just need to know that you care. And it’s really hard to tell if someone cares in an email or a text, right? And I’ll be the first one to say, it’s like one of the number one things that we’re trying to change at our company at brand builders group right now is we are a call first company right now, if your preference is email, we will correspond an email, but we want to talk to you. We wanna actually have a real conversation and a real a real relat up of like, tell me where you are. What are you going through? How can we help? Not just fill out this survey and maybe someone will look at it one day. It’s like, it’s a call first culture. And a lot of that started from some work that our company did with Britney in preparation for starting 2022.
AJV (43:11):
And we basically said, it’s like, our business has gotten too automated. So how do we rein infiltrate back that human connection? And again, it’s like, people don’t remember all the things that happened. They may not remember what you said or what you did, but people do remember how you made them feel right. And people care to know that care about them. So remember what you’re selling is service. And as long as you can make someone feel cared for and feel heard that’s a win, right? It’s I would much whether I would much rather win the relationship than win the sale. And that’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, and it’s going, sometimes I choose to lose the battle so that we can make progress in this overall war of, yeah, we’re not gonna be a fit for everyone.
AJV (44:03):
And we have to figure out like within parameters, what makes sense for the customer, right? And it’s like, and how do we also not like go under and we can still pay our bills, but we do have to remember, it’s like we got in this to serve people, just like you did whatever it is that you’re selling whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s like you got into this probably to help someone and somewhere along the way, we forget how to put people first and how to keep people first. And so if you can just like one key takeaway is just remember what you’re selling is service. I thought that was amazing. Such a good reminder for me. So hopefully it is for you too. The second thing that, that was so impactful is this reminder that building a, a business building a brand, which I was same thing cannot happen in silos.
AJV (44:50):
And man, is it easy to get caught up in silos? Because communication and collaboration take a lot of work and emotional energy and physical energy and meetings and all the things, right? It’s like, that’s actually a lot of work to do that, to break down silos and go, no, like these are universal culture components that we share. And so how do we transfer culture from the personal brand or the owner or the entrepreneur or the department head down to every single person who touches anything that you do it’s that customer experience is universal. And I think her Nordic track example is so important of at some point along the way the, the mission or the message what we do at order track got lost. And for someone who is actually delivering this piece of equipment into your home to go, I mean, I never see skinny people running on these and I run outside, must have a fat husband, like, wow, just imagine if you do have any staff, people it’s like, are they sold?
AJV (46:00):
Are they bought into what you do as much as you are? And would they actually encourage you, like encourage your customers, not to work with you and not to buy what you offer inadvertently by just not sharing this like, culture of like, this is why this product exists. This is why this company started. Like, this is the story. All right. And just back to that, it’s like, there’s gotta be a story. And I love that Taylor swift example. It’s like, I have to figure out how to get at least a million people to care about me. If I’m ever gonna wanna sell a million records. Right. We gotta do the same thing as companies, right? It’s like we have to care about our customers in order for them to care about us. And so how are we doing that? And how do we create this culture at every single level and every department at every position.
AJV (46:50):
And there’s a great upside. For most of us, you who are running small businesses or building personal brands is we don’t have to worry about the masses. We’re not trying to infiltrate a thousand different people to get on board with our culture. We’re dealing with one or five or 10 or maybe 20, right? And so there’s a lot of power, but it still takes the same amount of work. Right. We have to transfer that emotion, transfer that mission transfer the way that we wanna have people treated and then have other people treat them the same way. So again, it’s like customer experience is universal and that goes for your vendors too. So remember it’s like, if they represent you that counts for them too. So number one, remember what you’re selling as service. Number two customer experience is universal. And then the third thing, which I kind of led to a little bit is this concept of how do you get people to care about you?
AJV (47:45):
Well, number one, you care about them somewhat simple. So then I ask yourself, and I don’t have the answer for you for this. This is a rhetorical question I’m asking. But ask yourself, how do I care about my customers? How do I make sure that these people know that they’re cared for? How do I, as a entrepreneur, a personal brand, a business owner, an executive, whatever, how do I show my customers that I care about them? And I think that’s gonna look really different. And I think you gotta first ask with what does our, what do our customers want from us? And that may start with simply asking them, cause I think everyone values different types of service differently. Like I know for me, like one of my personal core values when it comes to working with other companies is responsiveness. Like even with my own team, it’s like, I hold responsiveness, like above the bar in terms of importance.
AJV (48:43):
Like to me, it’s like, if you are responsive to me, I’m important to you. And if you are not, I am not. And so when it takes other companies and vendors and suppliers, days or weeks to get back to me, well, I’m not important to you. So I might as well start looking because somebody else can, will prioritize me. I just have to go find who they are. So may not be that for you. So what it is, what is it for your customers, right? And then you gotta figure out what it is. And then how do you put protocols in place guidelines to allow for, for that to happen whatever it is in your culture and your company and your environment. So again, just ask yourself as like, how do we let our customers know that we care about them and not just our customers, but our perspective customers as well. So again, if you didn’t listen to it, go listen to the entire episode. It was so good. Go check out her video course, Brittany ho com slash live. It’s a free five video video course. Go check it out and get inundated with how to create super fans out of your customers. We’ll see you next time on the influential personal brand.