Customer Experience University - Winning Loyalty & Engagement One Customer at a Time

New York Times #1 bestselling author, Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., shares customer experience, leadership, and business insights from Mercedes-Benz, Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton, Zappos, Pike Place Fish, and many more.

At The Michelli Experience, we help front-line employees, managers, and senior leaders deliver relevant and engaging service experiences. To that end, we provide keynote and workshop presentations, short-term and extended consulting services, and bestselling books to meet your needs.

Risk can come in the form of stretch opportunities or interpersonal sharing. In all cases, we need to proactively leave our comfort zones to grow and spark innovation. Volunteering for a new assignment, increasing appropriate, personal disclosure, and reaching out to others for collaboration, all require a courageous stretch.

Think of a project or task that would force you to grow. How would you approach "volunteering" for the new possibility?

My guest this week is Joe Pine. Joe and his partner James H. Gilmore re-released in hardcover The Experience Economy: Competing for Customer Time, Attention, and Money featuring an all-new Preview to their best-selling 1999 book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. The book demonstrates how goods and services are no longer enough; what companies must offer today are experiences – memorable events that engage each customer in an inherently personal way.

Joe Pine has addressed the World Economic Forum, the original TED conference, and the Consumer Electronics Show. A former Visiting Scholar with the MIT Design Lab, he is currently a Lecturer with the Columbia University School of Professional Studies and has also taught at Penn State, Duke Corporate Education, the University of Minnesota, UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management, and the Harvard Design School. He serves on the editorial boards of Strategy & Leadership and Strategic Direction and is a Senior Fellow with both the Design Futures Council and the European Centre for the Experience Economy, which he co-founded.

Joe is co-founder of Strategic Horizons which offers the tools, experiences, and education to explore and master today’s economic marketplace. For more information, visit

Originally broadcast as a video live stream on July 1, 2021.

Professor Burke is an organizational psychologist who began studying the characteristics of high potential individuals and high-performance teams. In 2017, Professor Burke released his ground-breaking book, aptly title Learning Agility, Dr. Burke, along with partners at the Center for Creative Leadership, assessed hundreds of leaders to determine the behaviors needed to adapt and maximize leadership potential.

Dr. Burke defines learning agility as a set of skills for dealing with new experiences flexibly and rapidly. These skills involve trying new behavior, getting feedback on those attempts, and making quick adjustments, so new learning occurs when there is no clear path to success.

How has your learning agility affected your impact as an individual contributor or leader in your organization?

Dr. Dweck is a Stanford University professor of personality, social, and developmental psychology. Her work looks at how beliefs shape individual differences, and her book Mindset -The New Psychology of Success is a must-read for anyone trying to drive personal or organizational change. Mindset offers insights on how belief systems foster or hinder growth and development. The good news from Carol Dweck’s work is that fixed mindsets don’t have to stay fixed. Like all behavioral change, the first step in transformation requires an honest assessment of the areas where your mindset is fixed. The next step involves a calculation of the risks that come from staying stuck and the benefits of growth. With honest self-assessment and a reason to change, the next step is to craft a plan that challenges underlying assumptions or breaks through those beliefs that keep you stuck. How would you rate your organization on a 10-point scale, with one being completely fixed and ten being completely growth-oriented? In what areas is your organization stuck, and in what areas are you growing?

Given the complexity of business, specialization is a natural and powerful force. Often in larger organizations, the research and development department owns much of the innovation. For example, a customer experience leader might enlist the services of their agile team to gather input, create a minimally viable solution, and iterate product or service improvements. In that case, it's easy to conclude innovation is NOT your area.

I’m convinced all of us can and should nurture our innate creative skills. As such, I often ask my clients to think beyond easy solutions by asking questions like "What else might you do?" or "Let's assume that option isn't available – now what?" As my clients internalize those types of questions, they hardwire creative inquiry and idea hunting into their company culture.

What excellent customer service ideas or innovations have come from people other than those tasked to generate them?

In A Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger suggests that clarity is essential for communication but can be limiting when it comes to ideation. In essence, when we don't embrace the multi-faceted nature of problems we often rush to simple and incomplete solutions (typically selecting the first logical solution that comes to mind). Similarly, Roger believes that errors "are a sign that you are diverging from the well-traveled path" since an error can be "a stepping-stone to some new idea you might not have otherwise discovered." He goes onto suggest that you must "strengthen your 'risk muscle.' Everyone has one, but you have to exercise it, or else it will atrophy. Make it a point to take at least one risk every twenty-four hours." Routinely, I help leadership teams enter a playful and safe ideation space before we tackle serious customer experience challenges. In what ways do you and your team embrace ambiguity?

In 1983, while pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, I got a creative nudge from the book A Whack on the Side of the Head – How You Can Be More Creative. The book's author, Roger von Oech (who received his Ph.D. from Stanford in the history of ideas and creativity), offered keen insights which were foundational to professor Carol Dweck's work on growth mindset and professor Warner Burke's research on learning agility. Since customer experience elevation requires flexibility, creativity, and adaptivity, this series of posts will cover the work of Drs. von Oech, Dweck, and Burke and will start with three of von Oech's ten mental locks, which he says are hazardous to creative thinking.

This week’s guest is Dr. Byron L. Ernest. Dr. Ernest is the Director of Educator Development & Partnerships at Noble Education Initiative and is charged with developing teacher leadership and certification programs as well as college and university partnerships. Dr. Ernest developed NEI’s 3-D Leadership Program. The 3-D Leadership Program is designed to discover great talent within participating schools and develop this talent to become the next generation of great teachers and leaders. Dr. Ernest is an avid blogger, with his thoughts on education and leadership being found at Additionally, he tweets often on matters of education and leadership. Dr. Ernest can be followed on Twitter at @ByronErnest.

Originally live streamed on May 27, 2021.

Recently, I have been asked to highlight companies that demonstrate breakthrough (CX) customer experience innovation. So, before I launch into another series, I'll highlight a world-class CX leader named Zameer Kassam Fine Jewelry. As you may know, the Manhattan-based jeweler serves upscale clients across the globe who are looking for custom-designed jewelry, especially engagement rings or other items that celebrate a milestone. The CX superpower for Zameer Kassam is storytelling. How are you helping your customer create the story they will share about your product or service?

Fairly early in my career, I was fortunate to happen upon customer value theories and research conducted by Professors Sheth, Newman, and Gross. In their book, Consumption Values and Market Choices – Theory and Application, these authors reviewed more than 200 studies on customer value. The book is a rich resource on what drives customer choice, ways to inquire about customer value and data analytic approaches to consumer preferences. I will highlight the core tenets of the theory expressed and tested by these researchers and outline five types of consumer value.


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