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Wigwam Village No. 2 - Brittany Hodak Blog

What the Wildest Place I’ve Ever Vacationed At Can Teach You About CX

“I’m either never telling anyone about this, or I’m telling everyone about this. I’m just not sure which one yet.” Those were my exact words when my husband, Jeff, and I were planning a trip to Cave City, Kentucky, and he said, “We can stay at a typical chain hotel, or we can stay at a place called Wigwam Village #2, in a concrete teepee, on a big open property with lots of other teepees. He knew before asking that I would vote teepee (obviously!). But I had so many questions. Why “Wigwam” if they are teepees? What’s the “#2” all about? Why the communal vibe? And (awkward), isn’t this somewhere between “probably” and “definitely” cultural appropriation? Should we even be doing this? I’ll get into all of that, plus some fun Americana history and — most importantly! — what this has to do with you and how you can create more superfans in your business. There are tons of lessons here. Let’s travel back in time… How would you market your business differently if there were no internet, cellphones, or home televisions? It’s hard for many of us to imagine that world, but less than a century ago, those were the realities for every business. Sure, you might be able to afford some newspaper ads or radio commercials (read live on air!) or direct-mail postcards to promote your business — you might even luck into some free publicity from a local reporter! — but a lot of your strategy looked like this: #1 – Be interesting enough for someone to stop when they walk or drive by your business. #2 – Be remarkable enough once they’re there that customers make it a point to come back and tell other people to visit, too. That’s still a solid one-two punch if you can pull it off. Some (including some named Brittany) might argue it’s the best strategy. But that first half, being interesting enough to get someone’s attention, led to some pretty novel ideas from business leaders in the pre-Internet days, especially as more Americans started buying automobiles and exploring further away from home. The Roaring ‘20s in America saw the birth of an outlandish new style of architecture, now known as mimetic architecture, where whimsical or over-the-top structures were created to mimic other items, often synonymous with whatever business was happening inside. One of the first big examples was the Brown Derby Restaurant, which opened in L.A. in 1926. Photo by Chalmers Butterfield CC BY 2.5 Five years later, a 20-foot-tall aptly-named “Big Duck” was constructed on Long Island to sell ducks and duck eggs to passersby. Photograph by Mike Peel  (CC-BY-SA-4.0. Other fun examples may come to your mind. There’s the iconic Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, several ice cream chains selling tasty treats from soft-serve-inspired buildings, and cafes shaped like coffee cups and tea kettles.  The purpose with this type of architecture, of course, is to get people’s attention. To overpower their apathy and get them to stop… and spend. Once upon a time, before Instagram feeds, the only chance you had to capture someone’s attention might be as they were driving by your little stretch of land. Betcha I Can Make You Look In the 1930s, a man from Horse Cave, Kentucky, named Frank Redford, was on a vacation in Long Beach, California. He happened across a roadside restaurant called Tee Pee Barbeque selling (wait for it…) barbeque food… from a concrete teepee. Two smaller teepees on either side of the restaurant served as restrooms. Frank, who had been interested in Native American culture since childhood, thought it was brilliant. He returned to Kentucky and, essentially, ripped off the idea. In 1933, he built a near-identical concrete teepee restaurant, selling ice cream, flanked by two smaller teepee restrooms. By 1935, despite the Great Depression, Frank’s restaurant was thriving. Horse Cave, KY, was a tourist town, and car culture was thriving. People began asking Frank, “If you were going to build teepees, why didn’t you make them motel rooms for people to sleep in?” He replied like many entrepreneurs would: “I can do that!” He eventually added six concrete teepee hotel rooms to the property. Frank named his motel “Wigwam Village” because he thought it sounded better than “Teepee Village.” With his first property thriving, he opened Wigwam Village No. 2 a few miles away in the tourist hot spot of Cave City in 1937. Armed with a design patent for the concept and concrete structure, he began franchising his idea and, soon there were seven Wigwam Villages across America, decorating Route 66 and other tourist roadways from coast to coast. Two others still exist, in San Bernardino, California, and Holbrook, Arizona. The history of the franchise is fascinating and, honestly, I could write a lot more about it. But I promised you some customer experience takeaways, so I’m going to move on. If you want to learn more about Wigwam Village No. 2, its current owners (more on them soon) put together this wonderful book. Cool History Lesson, But Get To The Experience I’ll admit, I did almost no Googling before arriving onsite. All I knew was that there were two more surviving Wigwam properties and Oprah stayed at one of them on a TV show, so I figured it was okay. When my husband and I arrived with our boys, one of the owners, Keith, met us outside. He invited us to join him on a porch for what he described as “about a 12-minute welcome orientation.” I immediately had a flashback to a timeshare presentation I’d once been duped into attending in Vegas and feared the worst. But to my surprise, our 12 minutes with Keith were a blast! In that time, he gave us a brief history of the Wigwam Village, told us why he and his business partner, Megan, decided to buy the motel as a post-Covid project (“Why not?,” essentially), and made a passionate plug for what he considers to be

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Featured-Blog-Image-for-Customer-Experience-But-Make-It-All-About-Cicadas

Customer Experience, But Make It All About Cicadas

If you’re reading this in the Midwest or southern United States, I bet I can sum up your Memorial Day Weekend in one word: Cicadas. They’re everywhere. Literally trillions of them. This weekend, they invaded pool parties, barbeques, and car races. Here in Franklin, TN they served as a really great barometer for measuring hail!  I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that very few people looked at cicadas this weekend and thought, “What customer experience lessons could I learn from you, humble insect?” But I did (yeah, I know, I’m a geek) and now I’m sharing the lessons with YOU!  Trust me, they’re good. And, while the cicadas will be gone in a few weeks, these perennial lessons will keep winning you customers long after the (deafening) buzz dies down.  Lesson #1: Consistency and Predictability Periodic cicadas have a very predictable lifecycle, emerging every 13 or 17 years. We know they’re coming… like clockwork! In fact, scientists predict it decades or centuries in advance. Ya gotta admit… the consistency is admirable! Your takeaway Customers value knowing what to expect from a brand or partner. There’s nothing more annoying than an unpredictable experience. If a customer loves you once and gets “meh” vibes the second time, you may not get a third chance. Consistency is key! Establish clear standards and maintain consistency (documented SOPs for all employees help!) in service and experience to build trust. Elizabeth Arden once said, “Repetition makes reputation, and reputation makes customers.” Lesson #2: Creating a Memorable Impact When broods of periodic cicadas emerge, they make a significant and memorable impact, thanks in part to their loud mating calls. Male cicadas frequently reach a level of 120db — that’s as loud as a rock concert and, as many of us have witnessed firsthand, loud enough to trigger a decibel warning on smart watches. 🙉 Despite their infrequent appearances, they leave a lasting impression. I bet you even know someone who has ordered this shirt because the impact of this “cicada season” has been so memorable. Your takeaway Focus on creating memorable customer experiences that leave a positive and lasting impression. Even if you’re in an industry like real estate or wedding planning where your customers may not have the opportunity to return to you for years (or ever, hopefully!), you can still create the type of experience that they will remember. Be intentional about architecting impactful moments into your customers’ experiences, so they’ll want to tell their friends and colleagues about it.  Lesson #3: Resilience and Adaptation Did you know there are more than 3,000 species of cicadas? It’s true. They live on every continent except Antarctica. Cicadas have adapted to survive underground for long periods of time and then thrive above ground. It’s a unique approach, even among the insect world. Their lifecycle is a testament to their resilience and adaptability.  Your takeaway Innovate before you have to, and don’t be afraid to try an unorthodox approach to improve your business. Pay attention to the market conditions and the evolving expectations of your customers so you can proactively address challenges and ensure sustained growth. Lesson #4: Building Anticipation  The long wait for cicadas’ emergence builds anticipation and excitement among people. And — let’s be honest — fear, anxiety, and a general sense of ick among others. But even the best products and services aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay!  Your takeaway Creating anticipation for new product launches, updates, and special promotions can significantly boost customer engagement and enthusiasm. By building hype and excitement through teasers, sneak peeks, and countdowns, you keep your audience eagerly looking forward to what’s next. These tactics not only enhance customer interest and participation, but can also foster a sense of community and loyalty around your brand. Lesson #5: Community Engagement Whether we like it or not, the emergence of the cicadas is a community event. It’s a shared experience by everyone in the region reminding us that we’re all in this together. As a social species, we enjoy feeling like we’re a part of something. There’s a certain comfort in feeling that we belong — or, when things are rough, there’s a comfort in knowing that we’re not alone. Your takeaway One of the quickest ways to get people to talk about your business is by making them feel something. Otherwise, it’s just a transaction. One great way to get customers to feel is by creating opportunities for them to engage with friends.  Whether it’s with an IRL community event (shout out to my local Chick-Fil-A for the best Monday Night Family Nights!) or social media interactions, make your business relevant to where your customers’ lives are happening. There’s a good chance you’ll enhance their experience and likely generate some word-of-mouth referrals (read: new customers) while you’re at it. Something I say often is that superfans are created at the intersection of your story and every customer’s story. You’ve got to make your thing relevant to their life. Apathy dies when you can make someone think or laugh or smile or feel some other kind of connection with you.  People sometimes ask me, “How do I do that?” This entire email was crafted as a (very literal) example. I drew a connection between cicadas (something many people are experiencing right now) to customer experience (my favorite topic).  Now, it’s your turn! What’s something your customers are thinking/feeling/experiencing right now? How do you make YOUR THING relevant to that? Need a cheat code? Try asking ChatGPT. It gave me some ideas for this email and will very likely help you, too.

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Chuck E. Cheese Incident: Exposing Flaws in the NPS Survey

The Chuck E. Cheese Incident: Exposing Flaws in The NPS Survey

Last week, I posted a LinkedIn rant about what *not* to do when collecting customer feedback. TLDR: I went to Chuck E. Cheese for my son’s 4th birthday party.  Three days later, I was asked to rate my party host… with a perfect 10. And if they were not worth a perfect score, I should notify the manager on duty. 🤦 Among the many things wrong with this email (including a broken link and claiming that I was at a Welasco, TX location), Chuck E. Cheese went against the most important rule when it comes to customer feedback… NEVER ask your customers to give you a perfect rating. Look, I really like Chuck E. Cheese. Call it nostalgia, call it being basic… It’s a fun time, and I go there a lot. But this is an egregious example of a CX team using terrible tactics to artificially inflate their numbers. You know what’s worse than NOT having a voice of customer program? Having one where you actively try to bake the numbers. Shame on Chuck E.’s team here. It makes the feedback useless, and it robs employees (and executives) of opportunities to learn and get better. It’s not just Chuck E. Cheese, though. So many companies are relying on NPS surveys to measure their customer experience. (You know, the ones that say, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that you would recommend [brand/product] to a friend or colleague?”). NPS Surveys are my least favorite way to measure customer satisfaction for a few reasons: It’s asking people about a hypothetical future action, instead of the “here and now.” The NPS survey asks respondents to rate their likelihood of recommending a company to others in the future. However, this is a hypothetical scenario that may not accurately reflect what customers actually do. While promoters (those giving high scores) are assumed to be loyal and likely to recommend a company, research suggests that this correlation isn’t always strong. The NPS survey doesn’t capture the specific reasons behind a customer’s score. Maybe I LOVE my new couch from Wayfair, but the six-month delay and delivery fiasco make me not want to recommend the company to a friend. This oversimplified question fails to capture the complexity of customer sentiment and doesn’t provide actionable insight. In this case, Wayfair may misattribute my low score to the quality of the couch instead of to the warehouse disaster, which can lead to even more problems. It’s the easiest type of survey to “game.” In some cases, executives may become overly fixated on the NPS, treating it as the ultimate goal rather than using it as a tool to gain insights and drive improvements in customer experience.  Metrics like NPS provide a simple numerical representation of customer sentiment, which can be appealing to executives looking for quick indicators of success. This is especially concerning for companies who tie incentives and bonuses to metrics like NPS. However, focusing solely on the score without digging into the underlying factors driving it can lead to a shallow understanding of the customer experience. I’m often asked, “How do I raise my NPS scores?” Like, way more often than I’m asked, “How do I improve important parts of my CX to earn more repeat and referral business?” Rigging a scale to say someone weighs 10 pounds less does not make them healthier —but diet and exercise do.  Every CX measurement tool has its pros and cons, but I prefer CSAT, or Customer Satisfaction Score, to NPS when measuring moments, like a birthday party. A CSAT score measures customer satisfaction with a specific product, service, or experience. The phrasing of the question may vary from company to company, but the answer system is always consistent. Here’s an example I received this week: The CSAT is a more effective way to measure CX for many reasons: Asking your customers for feedback is SO important… but it only works if you’re doing it for the right reasons (to improve customer outcomes) and in the right way (collecting honest feedback, not gaming the system to hit internal benchmarks). When’s the last time you asked your customers what they think? If it’s been a while, there’s no better time than the present!

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Are you creating superfans or just customers?

Did you know that feeling unappreciated is the number-one reason customers switch service providers? Learn how to avoid common customer-service mistakes with my free ebook, The Superfan W.A.V.E.