Brittany Hodak, Customer Experience Expert and Author, on Creating Superfans for Your Agency

Every staffing agency claims to deliver white glove service and go the extra mile for their customers. But if that’s true, where are all those loyal customers? And why do so many employers treat staffing agencies like interchangeable commodities? What’s the disconnect? If your agency is finding it harder than ever to retain and grow customers despite your best efforts, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the customer experience you deliver and the steps you can take to build a stronger business.

In this episode of Avionté: Digital Edge, Chris Ryan, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for Avionté, is joined by Brittany Hodak, customer experience expert, entrepreneur, and author of the new book, Creating Superfans: How to Turn Your Customers into Lifelong Advocates. Brittany will share how rethinking customer service can transform your customers and talent into superfans – individuals who are true advocates for your agency who can help drive your business to new heights. Stay tuned as we explore practical strategies to cultivate a brand and customer experience that fosters deep loyalty and sets your agency apart in an increasingly competitive market.

Avionté: Digital Edge Brittany Hodak

This is a partial transcript of the full conversation. Listen to the podcast episode for the complete discussion.

Chris Ryan: To start things off, let’s address the elephant in the room. Most staffing agencies today are already working hard to take care of their customers. And most of them will tell you that customer service is their top priority.  

It’s not uncommon for a business leader to say we go above and beyond for our customers, and we deliver white glove service. So, where’s the disconnect? Why do the perceptions of business leaders and their actions sometimes seem to work against their desire to create loyal, referable customers? 

Brittany Hodak: It’s funny. When you ask people do you provide excellent customer service, it’s usually somewhere between 80 to 90 percent of companies that say they do. But when you ask customers, it’s usually between 20 to 30 percent of the customers of those same businesses who will tell you they are the recipients of excellent customer service. 

So, there are a few disconnects. If you say we provide excellent customer service or excellent customer experience, my next question is, says who? Are you asking your customers? Are you measuring your performance on a regular basis and collecting their feedback? 

Because if not, you don’t get to say that. Your reputation isn’t what you say you are, it’s what your customers say you are. So that’s disconnect number one.  

I think the second disconnect is, oftentimes, we benchmark ourselves against our direct competitors. Someone might think I’m doing just as well as all the other staffing companies.  

But times have changed. We are living in an experience economy and your customers aren’t just comparing you to your direct competitors. They’re comparing you to the gig economy apps. They’re comparing you to Indeed. They’re comparing you to their dentist and their doctor and the best restaurants and hotels that they’ve experienced. 

That is your competitive set. Not just the other staffing agencies. So, if you want to truly be able to say that you provide amazing experiences, you’ve got to A) ask your customers and B) be able to run with those big boys that are taking care of customers in every facet of the economy, not just your direct competitors. 

Chris Ryan: So, part of this is simply asking your customers for direct feedback and being willing to listen to it. So, in your book, you coined the term “superfan.” What exactly is a superfan and why is a superfan different from a satisfied customer?  

Brittany Hodak: The main way in which a superfan is different from a satisfied customer is amplification. These are people who aren’t just satisfied with you, they are telling their friends. So, they go from just affinity to advocacy. And I define a superfan as a customer stakeholder who is so delighted by their experience with you that they become an enthusiastic advocate.  

So, there’s three parts of that definition. The first, these are customers or stakeholders. These are people who have done business with you. They could be somebody who has been talent for your staffing agency, or it could be a company that’s used you to find talent.  

The second part, they were delighted by their experience. It wasn’t just above average. It was remarkable. Something that they would say, “Wow! That felt so easy!” or “Wow! That was great.”  

And then the third part of the definition, when they have the opportunity to advocate on your behalf, they do so. So, on the talent side, that could look like telling somebody they know that they should also apply to be talent through your agency because you’ve treated them very well. And, on the other side of the equation, it’s somebody wanting to give you more of their needs.   

So, in other words, a superfan is a customer who creates more customers, which, based on the research that you shared at the top of the show, is the kind of customer about a hundred percent of staffing agencies are looking for right now.  

Chris Ryan: So, how does your approach to cultivating superfans differ from what most agencies are doing today, and why has it found such resonance within the business community? 

Brittany Hodak: I think one reason is because a lot of people think of customer experience and customer service as interchangeable – and they’re not. Customer service is a subset of customer experience, but everyone at your agency is in the experience department, whether they know it or not.  

I don’t care what their role is. I don’t care how they’re interfacing either with your talent or with your business partners. They could be in accounting where they rarely talk to anybody. Everyone is in the experience department. We can’t think of customer service as a subset of the company or as people who just deal with angry clients or angry workers. Everyone is, at any given time, the acting chief of experience. And so, I think that’s the first difference.  

The second thing is, with the proliferation of technology and AI, it’s never been easier for a competitor to get into any field. If you think back to a few decades ago, you could dominate an industry by being a little bit above average. And if you got started sooner, you had a competitive advantage that was going to last for decades.  

Now, anybody listening to this could say, “I’m going to start a staffing agency.” And, within a few months, be running with and competing with the big guys if they were willing to do things the right way. Because technology has just made that a reality. So, the biggest problem that many agencies face without realizing it is this idea of apathy.  

It’s customers who were satisfied enough, but not enough to say I have to work with them again.  How are we making people say this one is not like any of the others? How are we going from being seen as simply a commodity provider – somebody who did a service, filled a need, got me some people when I needed it – to a category of one. What are those touch points that differentiate us from everybody else so that it doesn’t matter who the competitors are? 

Those people making the decisions say, “No, I don’t want to work with anybody else, because I already have the best partner.”  

Chris Ryan: So, one of the things that makes the staffing industry unique from some of the other businesses that you might’ve worked with is that it’s a two-sided marketplace. On the one hand, you need to get employer customers. And, on the other hand, you have to attract and retain the right talent.  

If you don’t have the talent, the customers won’t buy from you. And if you don’t have the jobs, the talent won’t come to you. So, there’s this kind of this balancing act. How do you foster superfans on both sides of the aisle with both the talent and the employer? 

Brittany Hodak: It starts with intentionality. You have to decide that you want to do it, and then you have to design the way in which you’re going to do it. And then you have to appoint the talent. a person or multiple people within the organization, who are going to follow that plan. 

They know that they’ve got a map that they’re following that says, “I’m going to reach out to the talent after the first day on the job to see how it went. I’m going to send them a handwritten congratulations note when they get to a certain milestone, whether that’s a hundredth day with one of our employer partners, or whether that’s six months or a year with our agency.”  

Somebody has to be actively paying attention to those relationships and treating every single one of those individuals like they matter. Now, of course, you can do this at scale, but if you are intentional about showing and telling your customers on both sides how much they mean to you, it can fall off, your radar.  

And you might think, well, of course they know they matter to me. But the reality is if you aren’t actively telling them and showing them, why would they know? Why would they assume anything other than you’re just somebody that is sending them an invoice or sending them a check every month? 

Chris Ryan: It’s almost like if it’s a relationship that’s important in your life, you can’t take it for granted. So, what do you think that customers and talent expect from a staffing agency today? 

How does this relate to staffing?  How do we navigate the disparity between what a customer says they want and the actual priorities that they have?  

Brittany Hodak: It’s knowing your customer even better than they know themselves and asking them what it is that they need. 

If you haven’t surveyed your customers in a year, that’s at least six months too long, because the world is changing. Needs are changing. You’ve got to understand what it is that matters the most to all your customers and to treat every one of them as an individual, because Customer A might want something totally different from Customer B. 

So, as your firm grows, you’re going to have legacy clients who have been with you for years. You’re going to have new clients. You’re going to have a lot of different industries that you work with and serve. And each of them is going to have very specific needs. You can’t think of it as one homogenous group because it isn’t. 

So, the first thing is having those conversations to understand what they want. The second thing is asking for feedback, asking how you’re doing, because a lot of times when business owners list what they think are the most important things, those are just table stakes. 

Creating an amazing experience is no longer optional. All of the things that are services your company provides, those again, are commodity in many ways. A lot of people can do those. It’s how are you differentiating? How are you making it feel easy and delightful and fun to book labor? How are you making it simple for people to see a dashboard to track what’s going on? What are all of those touch points that you’re elevating on both sides? 

Chris Ryan: We often see a staffing agency saying, “We deliver high-touch white-glove service.” And yet we often see clients perceiving them as a commodity. How does a staffing agency relevantly and genuinely stand out in the eyes of their customers?  

Brittany Hodak: One of the best things that any staffing agency can do is call up your two or three best customers and say, if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about working with us, what would it be and why? 

And if the first answer they give you is something like, “Oh, you’d give us people for free, they may be telling you something there. They may be saying cost is an issue, but try to get to some real suggestions, because what you’ll start to do is uncover pain points that maybe you’re completely unaware of. 

Because unless you’ve been through that journey with them, there may be small points of friction that you’re not even aware of. It could be as silly as you have a lot of meetings with them and you always do them on Teams, but they are a Zoom organization. 

So that’s like a little friction point.  What are the little things that they would like for you to make just a little bit different? And if you’re not asking those questions, you’re not going to get that insight. And if you don’t have that insight, you’re not going to be able to design a more enjoyable, more intentional experience for each of those priority customers.  

Chris Ryan: So, I almost hear you saying that sometimes it’s the small details in the delivery that really make a difference.  

Brittany Hodak: It is almost always the small details. Because, in reality, a lot of the big things are the same. A lot of the larger things that you’re doing are going to be 98 percent identical to all your competitors. 

And that’s why it’s very easy for someone in the position to hire you to throw their hands up in the air and be like, “I don’t care. It’s all the same.” The way you make it different is in that 2 to 5 percent margin of the little things. And when I say little, trust me, they are actually the biggest things more often than not. 

Chris Ryan: So, let’s talk a little bit about technology. Many industries that you’ve worked with have gone through major technological change and staffing is no exception. In fact, in the world of work now, we’re seeing all sorts of new mobile applications for staffing and for talent. 

We’re getting to the point where somebody is going to be able to open their mobile phone and be able to look for work and be working an hour later. So, in light of the rapid change that we’re undergoing, how do you rethink what exceptional service means when there are significant changes in technology? And how does this perception change across different generations? 

Brittany Hodak: The generational thing is important because you very likely are going to experience people who want to do things differently than other people who might be 20 years older or younger, right? Like I do pretty much everything on my phone. My mom doesn’t do anything on her phone. She doesn’t have her credit card stored on her phone. She doesn’t order anything in apps. And there’s a great book that was written by Dr. Tony Alessandra called The Platinum Rule

And what Dr. Alessandra said is we all grew up with the golden rule: Treat others the way we want to be treated. But in business, we need to be following the platinum rule. We need to treat others the way they want to be treated, because not everyone wants to be treated the same way as we do. And even more to the point, not every customer wants to be treated exactly the same way as every other customer. 

So, what that means is that you’ve got to use technology to create different paths to the same end. You’ve got to combine high tech, but also high touch to create the highest level of impact. So that might mean offering talent the opportunity to work in different ways. 

Some of them might be on the app. Some of them might be on the website. You may be servicing a population or a community to where it’s still important to let people come apply in person or over the phone. You may have people that want to be paid differently. Maybe everybody doesn’t want to be paid weekly. Maybe some people need to be paid daily. Maybe some people would rather be paid twice a month.  

Whatever it is, to the extent that you can customize it, do it. And then the same thing on the business side. You may have to make certain accommodations where you’re doing things five different ways for five different customers. 

But, if it makes it easier for them to say, “We want to work with your staffing agency, and nobody else’s,” why would that be a sticking point? Why wouldn’t you customize something if it takes an extra 30 minutes or hour if it means you’re going to go from getting 20 percent of their business to 70 percent of their business because you’re the easiest one to work with. 

But you’re not going to know what those friction points are until you have the conversation. Until you are brave enough to say, “Hey, I know that we’re getting about 20 percent of your business right now, but we love working with you. What would it take for us to get 60 percent of your business? What would need to change for us to be the first call you make every time?”  

Chris Ryan: When staffing agencies are thinking about technology, often it’s viewed as a binary choice. We can provide high-touch, personalized service, or we can provide very efficient service through technology, but it’s less personalized.  

It almost sounds like you need to be prepared to provide both types of services side by side based on whatever your talent or whatever your customer is telling you. 

Brittany Hodak: You absolutely need to provide both. And it’s never a binary choice, because what the best technology does is free up more of your human capital time to do the things that can’t yet be automated. Because you’re able to press a button and do something that previously might’ve taken you 10 or 15 minutes, you’ve now just reclaimed 10 or 15 minutes as an employee to do something that can’t yet be automated, whether that’s on the talent side or the customer side. 

I’m a professional speaker. I work with a lot of different speakers’ bureaus, and there is one speaker bureau that I like better than all of the others because of how easy they make everything. It’s click a button here to accept this date. Click a button here to sign this contract. 

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not getting text messages and phone calls and emails from the agents, because I am. But unlike other speakers’ bureaus, where it might be seven emails back and forth, and then they’re sending me a calendar invite, and then maybe something’s wrong on that calendar invite, so they’re doing it again. It’s literally click a button and there’s a template with all the information in a way that I can see it that is exactly the same every single time.  

It is so much easier because what they’re doing is eliminating the chaos that can be introduced when you have lots of human interaction. They’re automating it at that point of contact. So little things that maybe aren’t even on your radar because you’re only experiencing it on your side. But those little things can sometimes make such a big difference in the way they think about your company and how they feel when they think about engaging with your company. 

Chris Ryan: And it also sounds like that speaker bureau that you just referenced; they’re treating your time with respect.   

Brittany Hodak: Absolutely. It’s about how you honor the time, and also the emotional energy, of your customers.   

Chris Ryan: So, let’s talk about brand awareness. If you’re a staffing agency and you want to strengthen your brand presence, what are some of the ways that you can do that through social media and marketing platforms? How do you strengthen your brand?  

Brittany Hodak: Well, the first way you strengthen your brand is by stripping out thinking about social media and digital platforms, because your brand is your brand, and it has to be the same everywhere. You need omni-channel branding. So, no matter when or how somebody is interacting or engaging with you, they can identify in their brain what you’re all about. And in my book, Creating Superfans, I use the acronym SUPER to talk about what you need to do to create superfans. 

And the S, which is probably the most important, stands for start with your story, which is essentially, why do you exist? How are you making the world different and better because your business is in it? Why would things be less awesome if people were forced to work with your competitors because you were no longer around?  

You’ve got to have that clear north star that’s driving everything you and your team members do. That’s the first step, and if you don’t have that, no amount of clever social media campaigns or redesigned logos or clever ad copy is going to matter all that much because it’s going to exist in a silo. 

It’s like building a house on sand. You’ve got to have a great foundation. So, start with your story. Start with your differentiator.  Why someone would be crazy to choose anyone else but you. And then once you have that, and once everyone on your team is aligned around that message, then you can start thinking about, how do I tell this story in a way that’s going to be both compelling and appropriate for whatever the channel is? 

Sometimes that’s going to be digital, sometimes that’s going to be analog. But the where doesn’t matter. It’s the why and the who that matter.  

Chris Ryan: It sounds like you really have to think of your entire company as your marketing department and that you’re always giving off brand vibes no matter what it is you’re doing or where you’re doing it.  

Brittany Hodak: One hundred percent! I know several times I’ve walked into a store and left without buying anything because of how I experienced somebody in that store. Everyone is in the experience department and everyone on your team is shaping the perception that both your current and prospective customers have about your entire business. 

Chris Ryan: So, let’s apply this to marketing of a staffing agency. If you’re a traditional staffing agency leader and you are trying to create superfans and to rethink the way you project your brand into the marketplace, how do you successfully market? And how do you know that your marketing efforts are on track?  

How do you know that your marketing team is asking the right questions? And that you’re getting the truth from your customers and your job candidates? 

Brittany Hodak: I think the first thing is deciding what success looks like. How are you going to know if you’re successful if you don’t know what it’s going to take for you to know that you’re successful? So, the first thing is identifying what those KPIs are. A really great one is EGR or Earned Growth Rate, which is essentially the 3.0 version of a net promoter score. 

How much of your growth are you earning versus paying for? Meaning how much of your revenue is coming from repeat and referred customers versus customers that aren’t repeat or referred, which means you likely paid for those either through your advertising, marketing campaigns that you’re doing, whatever? 

So, that number should be growing. Looking at how much share of the pie you’re getting from your current customers, and how that’s changing year over year. The first thing you have to do is identify what is success. Because if you don’t know that, if you don’t know what numbers you need to be looking at on a dashboard to see the needle moving up or down, then that’s a problem. 

The second thing is aligning everyone on your team around those KPIs. This is the success benchmark. This is what we’re measuring. This is what we must do. How does the message match what it is that you’re trying to do? How are you trying to move the needle? And if you’ve got seven different people who are all saying seven different things, that’s a problem. 

It goes back to understanding your unique selling proposition on both sides. What you are saying to the people that are trying to decide if they should just keep doing Uber Eats or Instacart is going to be different from the companies that you’re trying to get either in the door for the first time or a larger percentage of their staffing needs that you can be filling. 

Having conversations with both audiences that you’re serving to understand what matters to them, what they want, what they would wave a magic wand and could do. And then asking yourself, what’s the most compelling way I can tell this message in each of these places – whether that’s the way your website looks, your app looks, your social media, the content that you’re creating for newsletters or blogs, and then also any direct mail or direct outreach that you’re doing.  

Chris Ryan: As we talk about earned growth, and let’s say we’re starting to build our base of highly referenceable customers who are superfans, how does that ultimately contribute to revenue growth and new customers? Is the growth coming from the marketing of your existing customers? What does it look like?  

Brittany Hodak: It absolutely should be. If you’re not already asking your best customers for referrals, that’s a huge potential source of new revenue that you can tap into. 

So have those conversations with your existing customers and say, “We love helping your business. And a few years ago, it was so hard for us to get enough labor to meet the demand. But right now, we’ve actually got a surplus. We’re in a really great spot. So, what we’re looking for are more great customers. So, if you know anybody who isn’t using us right now, but could potentially benefit from some of the things that we’ve done for you, I would really appreciate an introduction.  

Then make it easy for them to do that. You’ve got to write the email; you’ve got to have the things ready so that when they say yes, they can send it on. You’ve got to make it super simple for them to want to pull the trigger to make either a referral or an introduction on your behalf. 

Those are the kinds of introductions that are going to make it very easy for you to close that new business because now you’re not just one of the options. You are somebody who has come highly recommended from a trusted source. You are a category of one.  

Chris Ryan: Some of our listeners might think, “Gee, creating superfans and rethinking and focusing on building our brand is going to be expensive. And my marketing budget is going to be going up at a time when I’m trying to manage my costs.” Is your approach more expensive or is it just different?   

Brittany Hodak: I always say that you cannot buy superfans. No amount of money in the world is going to make someone love you for the right reasons. The best marketing doesn’t cost. Let’s say you’ve got someone who’s been working through your agency at a job in a restaurant. 

You find out that they’ve got a preschooler. You order a Melissa and Doug food play set for that preschooler with a handwritten note that says, “Hey, thought you might want to do some of the same stuff that mommy does at work every day. We love having her on our team!” Whatever it is, that $12 that you’re spending is going to mean more and connect deeper than any amount of something that wasn’t wrapped in an intentional gift. So, the best marketing absolutely does not cost anything or costs very little. It’s about saying, “Hey, you, as a human matter to me, and I’m giving you this token to show that.” 


Brittany Hodak
Customer Experience Expert and Author

Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. She founded and scaled an entertainment startup to eight figures before exiting, and she is the former Chief Experience Officer of



Christopher Ryan
Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Avionté

Christopher Ryan leads the Strategy and Marketing functions for Avionté. He brings more than three decades of consulting, thought leadership, and corporate experience in Human Capital Management.

About Avionté Digital Edge

Modern technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s also what’s fueling the gig economy which has dramatically changed employment practices. So, what does that mean for staffing and contingent work? In our Avionté Digital Edge podcast series, we will speak directly with industry experts to explore topics and trends related to the digital transformation of staffing and temporary employment in the US workforce.

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