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    • Please join me in welcoming Liliana Petrova of The Petrova Experience for a Cake Panel. This panel is open for questions.

      About Liliana: Liliana Petrova, CCXP is a visionary and a proven leader in the field of customer experience and innovation. Ms. Petrova pioneered a new customer-centric culture, energizing the more than 15,000 JetBlue employees with her vision. She has been recognized for her JFK Lobby redesign and facial recognition program with awards from Future Travel Experience and Popular Science. Ms. Petrova is committed to creating seamless, successful experiences for customers and delivering greater value for brands. In 2019, she founded an international customer experience consulting firm that helps brands improve their customer experience. To elevate the industry, her firm, The Petrova Experience, manages a digital membership for customer experience professionals to grow their CX careers and stay up-to-date with CX news and trends. Liliana lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

      Welcome Liliana!

    • My first job in the United States was in the casino industry: I fell in love with customer service and the service industry in general in casinos. Up until that point, in Bulgaria, the level of service and customization in terms of how we spoke to customers took so much training and behind-the-scenes work that I was mesmerized. And that’s quite unique.

      The first part of my career I didn’t talk about my experience in casinos, because I didn’t think it was something to brag about, that there was stigma there. But I’ve realized that was a unique experience that helped me fall in love with service.

      When I came to New York to come to school and spend my life as a student, I had to go into a more serious industry of economics and finance, but I always missed the human touch - finance is more of recording what happened, you’re a history teller, rather than making the story.

      So I went to school for economics and finance, and I was lonely, missing home, so I thought I would go home, but I found a very hospitable and friendly company across the street from my college where I got a job in their financial planning group. I started my career in Keyspan Energy - now they are called National Grid - but when we were there, we had that classic charismatic leader, a very friendly place to go to work. After a few years, I wanted to grow, to go into forecasting, I started thinking about grad school. I started to feel too narrow in Brooklyn, and was ready for bigger challenges, so I went to Royal Bank of Canada, where I met the biggest teacher in my career, and I joined the liquidity group, which was another financial group in the banking world.

      The timing I had was pretty phenomenal. I went there in June 2007, and by the time 2008 came with the financial crisis, I’d ramped up enough in the company to have credibility. The story of the financial crisis we all know impacted us, and I had firsthand experience, being on the liquidity team. We had this joke that up until the liquidity crisis that nobody knew what liquidity was, and then we became the most sought-after team. I started to attend more senior meetings, it was an amazing experience, and learning. For the first time, I saw the first female leader at Royal Bank of Canada who was the only woman in the room, command the room. She was very impressive.

    • While I was at Royal Bank of Canada, I attended NYU. And that was one of the biggest elevators in my career. When I went into NYU, I felt like a fish without my water. And then I got there, the first day, I found my soulmates. I’m still friends with all the people from NYU! We are really close. It was one of the things, NYU was the perfect fit, but I would say that people should listen to their hearts when they choose their schools. I had the choice between Columbia and NYU, a classic choice in NYC when you get to that level, and those are 2 unique personalities. Go where you belong. Don’t let academia drive that choice. Because when you find the right people, specifically in an MBA program, you will naturally leverage the network much more. It’s not going to feel like networking, you’ll feel like you have your friends.

      So I went to NYU, I joined for Microfinance - they said you had to know what you wanted going into the program. And what I found quickly was that I could not save the world, so that kind of broke my heart - I wanted to do Microfinance, I was fascinated by the field. And around that time, the seed of happiness got into me - that what you do needs to be what you love doing. And finance, while I did it well, was not the love of my life. But it was a hard horizon to change to marketing or customer experience. It felt unachievable. So when I was finishing my program, one thing I was keeping in check was “No matter what I do after, I will give myself a few years of having a job to make me happy.

      So the story of how I got the Jetblue job is quite interesting and funny: I was about to graduate, and everyone except me had an offer to go down pre-defined paths of the MBA - investment banking, strategy, data jobs. I kept saying “I don’t want to travel all the time, I want to do something where I can see the impact, and not feel like a cog in the system.” 

      So my friend made me go to this one event for a recruiter, and I promised to take 3 cards before I left, to justify attending. So I had 2 cards, I had a glass of wine, and then I see a woman who looks my age, who asks what I’m doing here, and I started talking about who I am, how I came all the way from Bulgaria, how I want to have impact, and how it’s difficult to find jobs with heart. And she said “Oh my God, you’re a great culture fit for my company!” And I looked at her, and got all pale, because she was a recruiter, not a student! And she said she was recruiting for JetBlue Airways. I said “I don’t know what I can contribute.” She said “You can contribute a lot, just leave it up to me to find a way to get you in.”

      I didn’t think much of it, because that’s how it goes around MBA recruiting time, but a month later, they called me in for an interview - I got a demotion, I went into HR, and that was considered career suicide in the MBA world!  Unfortunately, HR is not seen from the finance perspective as being what you do with an MBA. But the VP of JetBlue said that I was going to help build JetBlue up to be a world-class travel company.

      So I started at JetBlue, I spent 1.5 years doing people strategy work, thinking about pay structures, labor negotiations with flight attendants, and then from there I spent a year in the finance group, overseeing the operations and the airports, so I made a deal with the VP of finance to allow me to travel to find savings, so during that year, I learned everything about airports - I pushed a plane, cleaned a plane, I flew a plane in a simulator, you name it, I
      did it! I did find the money for the VP, and from there, I got noticed by the marketing and commercial groups (sales and marketing) and moved into marketing, where they gave me a cross-role between marketing and strategy. So for example, when we opened Cuba, we had to decide where to fly from to Cuba, in terms of sequence, how often, all these things. I also took over strategically the marketing campaigns to think about which times you advertise what geographies we fly to, international marketing strategy, thinking about how we spend our marketing budgets. And also being able to explain this to all the marketing teams. And then I managed sales and marketing just for LATAM in an interim fashion, which helped me get the job to become a customer experience director, under the leader who is now the President for
      JetBlue Airways.

    • For me, it’s to pack light. I learned in the airline industry to never pack a lot. And I also learned how to travel without checking in a bag, and I can tell you it’s the most liberating experience. You can do it, I promise! With services like AirBNB, you can access so much along the way. And it saves you so much hassle.

      And Global Entry, I think it’s the best investment any traveler can make. It’s life-changing! For internal flights, when you do TSA Pre-Check, you really don’t wait in line, depending on airport. It can really save you a lot of time. If you are like me, and a forever-efficient traveler, you can show up an hour before your flight to get through in time. And for international travel, you combine those two pieces of advice, it’s unbelievable - you walk out of the airport, with Global Entry you don’t have to wait, and without checking a bag, you just go home!

    • At Jetblue, your focus was on continually improving and supporting customer experience. Can you tell us a bit more about what went into that process?

    • Of course! Well, the way to improve experience is really listening to your customers. That’s the first step. Understanding what your customers value, and what they consider a pain point, and what they consider as something that’s a pain point but you’ll be forgiven for not providing it, so you can prioritize.

      In Jetblue, we had a very robust system and methodology of collecting and providing feedback to our teams. So that included understanding this first, mapping it out, and then designing programming around the biggest pain points. During my tenure, we were focusing on the airport experience, because at that point, we still had fairly young planes, our flight attendants provided exceptional service, so once our customers were onboard, with wifi and TVs, there was very little to complain about. But the airport experience itself was coming back as suboptimal. TSA we could not control, but there was a lot to be desired about the checkin experience. So for me, I went to learn how to design airport lobbies, what technology is involved in checkin experience, and then literally designing an efficient experience for our customers in the lobby.

      We launched with JFK, and now it’s the standard for JetBlue. This seamless journey in the airport was what our focus was on. So once we redesigned lobbies, then we did the boarding experience. It’s a bottleneck, you have to process people, so designing exceptional customer experience is layered - you have to understand how to process things faster, to make this sleek design to make things more pleasant. And then there’s a layer of “nice to have” that can allow people to save time. For example, we allow people to self-checkin, so they skip a step. And those are things that more tenured travelers value.

    • It’s to shape the future of food, that’s the mission. And the Association is about helping makers of food and buyers of food and the overall ecosystem of specialty food producers grow and learn and experience their own potential to the fullest. It’s such a cool environment and community, it’s unbelievable!

      So each day was different. You always start with listening: I always say if you’re not out in the field, listening to your customer, you can’t hear your customers. Once a month, I would travel, find members, meet with them, and learn what their challenges and needs are.

      What makes a maker like an architect that quit her job to make the jam that’s been in her family do what she does? Versus a former DJ and skater making kimchi? I met people who are making DIY beer kits. All these people are all diverse, but they all have the same passion - to express themselves through food. So it was another level of purpose again. They were looking for very tangible ways of feeling their purpose.

      So what their needs were, most of the time, was access to information, at the right time, in the right format, to understand best practices. This may sound intuitive, but it’s hard to deliver, because the members were so disparate and so diverse. So the job was a lot about synthesizing this, building systems and intuitive systems delivered online, and even defining the ratio of online to offline so members could stay engaged with us.

    • This is a great question. My philosophy is, again, I always would say to my leadership team in JetBlue that I’m definitely a JetBlue person in that sense: we believe, I believe, that if you treat your employees right, they will treat your customers right. If they treat your customers right, then the investors will get happy as well.

      So the customer service and retention, to me, the philosophy is: think of your employees as your customers. And treat them as customers. Deliver. Solve their problems. Listen to their problems. Respect their problems. Invest in technical solutions for them. And they will love you, and become your brand ambassadors. Unfortunately it’s not adopted a lot, but it is the key, to not just customer service and retention, but also exceptional experience.

      When I was interviewed about the JetBlue lobby redesign, our designers were sending us assets at 2:30 AM in the morning - because JetBlue cared about him! When an employee forms a real connection with their employer, then the employer’s strategy / roadmap becomes a mission for the employee. And when the employee feels connected to and respected by their leader, then there’s another layer of motivation beyond engagement - they are proud to be there, they are engaged. That kind of pride being a representation of the brand only comes when the brand takes care of their employees in a very authentic way.

    • Sure! I wrote a whole article about this. So my tagline is: In pursuit of customer happiness. A few people asked me during my design process, “If you say pursue, that feels like It’s not done yet?” I got a lot of criticism on that. But I kept it, because I do believe, and maybe that’s what drives me, that we can all do better.

      Travel experiences can be better. Student experiences can be better. I would really love to spend my time doing this the rest of my career. I want to help brands bring better experiences
      in this world. Because I know customers will reward brands with this effort, as well. And at the core of my motivation, I wanted to do what I love doing - building cultures that are customer-centric, that build those relationships with employees, and I think there’s enough out there to do. The company I’m building is founded on these principles of culture, design, and technology, together in a union that creates exceptional customer experiences. 

    • Yes! Please visit my website: going back to that whole mission / motivation that I have, I’m building a membership portal that will have resources for customer experience novices, professionals at all levels, there will be a digital customer experience library as well where I’ll share all the books I’ve read and what level you should read it at and why, what’s good or bad. But if you don’t want to become a member, my favorite book for anyone who wants to start is
      "Outside In" by Harley Manning. It was my bible in the beginning. It walks you through the foundations of what customer experience is in a very nice way. And there’s the Customer Experience Association - CXPA - and they offer resources, webinars, as well as a certification - CCXP. And if you’re in the New York area, I’m the lead for the CXPA here in New York. We have various events coming up, where you can come and meet people. Our list is a healthy mix between people entering the industry, vendors offering solutions, and more experienced people, so for a novice, it would be great to join. 

    • Thank you for the question @United78 ! When things go wrong for/with the clients the first thing to do is show genuine empathy, acknowledge the problem, and try your best to solve it. The key here is genuine. A canned email saying we are sorry for the inconvenience is not enough any more. When things go wrong brands need to get personal. That usually costs money and tends to be inefficient. But that is also when brands can turn a "Detractor" into a "Promoter" on a NPS survey. 54% of customers who spent more than $100 would remain loyal to a brand if their problems were addressed well. That number goes to 70% for purchases of $1-$5. So the business case is there.

      Back to your question of what companies should not do (in order of priority):

      1) Not have channels for customer support (my personal favorite is the partially available support Mon - Fri 10am to 6pm or something like that). Solution: Prioritize retention of customers and invest more in customer support from the get go.

      2) Have channels, but they are only digital and the response rate is slow. Or it is fast, but the first email the customer gets is to ask for more information to find the account (happened to me just two days ago). Solution: Invest in the tools and systems of customer support. Do not cut that money from the budget. Enable your people to solve problems by listening to their needs.

      3) Be cheap. What do I mean by that? I called Spectrum a few months ago to tell them that the engineer who installed my cable did not take care of the DVR set up. The support center refused to take care of the cost of bringing the technician back. I still do not have DVR. They saved probably $50 on the return visit. My DVR was probably going to be ~12 a month. By next month they would have been making money off of me. But they are not going to know. Know what to spend on and what not to and be generous in the moments of disruption since these are the vulnerable moments for customers. These are the moments they WILL remember. Sometimes you can make a bigger impression and form a deeper connection (read loyalty) with a customer when there IS a problem.

      What companies should do:

      1) Companies should incorporate disruptions in their customer experience strategies and roadmaps and invest proper dollars in that part of the customer journey. When I was in JetBlue I spent a whole year making the case for disruption management, I still believe in it and in the long term value it builds with customers.

      2) Companies should have hospitality training for the customer support centers that equip agents with the right techniques to manage through the tough days. When people are trained in empathy and know they are supported internally they can give more to the customer in need. In JetBlue we also allowed our support center to make judgement calls in the moment and do the right thing for the customer without a supervisor approval. Trust your people and they will not fail you.

      Thank you again for the question!