Hi Annie, tell us about yourself and your background and how you got to the CX space?
Hi! I’m currently serving as Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Decoded Strategies. I started my career in the nonprofit and social impact sector, founding and running several nonprofits geared towards enhancing education opportunities for underrepresented communities. It was happenstance that I found my way to the tech CX space when I joined NationBuilder, a mission-driven software company that enabled me to continue working with social impact organizations but pivot into the world of startups. I learned very quickly how much overlap there is between B2B CX and nonprofit member engagement and realized CX is where I was meant to be. Since then, I’ve served in V and C level Operations and Customer Experience positions across B2B tech, startup, and consulting industries.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Any opportunity to gather direct feedback from customers is gold, especially when online commerce and Saas business is robust. I often see NPS, CSAT, and customer feedback surveys implemented at companies as a lip service; but to build a robust and thriving customer experience, it’s essential to take advantage of customer feedback and consumer reviews to better understand how they can make customer lives better. Now, one of the best things I’ve learned from working alongside product teams is that, though all customer feedback is relevant, not all customer feedback should be implemented. Stick to the roadmap you’ve built, but be open to new ideas if customers are willing to share thoughts and feedback with you. It’s the role of a CX organization to ensure customers know you value their feedback, and provide them with the guidance needed to enhance their experience (even if you’re not going to build that one feature everyone wants!).
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
I recently published an article on the 5 Essential Actions to Increase Customer Retention which goes into detail about how important retention strategies are to your overall customer experience program. A great customer experience is one that enhances, encourages, and evokes the greatest value your customer can get out of your product or service with the least amount of friction in the process.
How much has the role of customer experience changed in the social distancing era – what role did digital transformation have in this crisis?
I don’t think the role of customer experience has changed in the social distancing area, but the focus of customer experience professionals globally has shifted given the drastic changes in societal norms. For example, many customer experience professionals likely spent the entirety of 2020 focusing exclusively on retention; not so much focus on new sales or expansion. Similarly, there was a shift in software and product-led organizations to provide more strategic guidance to customers who might be suffering as a result of the pandemic and giving additional coaching, tactics, and support to customers who needed it.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
It’s a tactical one, but the value of providing discounts, free periods or special offers can go far in establishing customer loyalty and retention in the long-run. In most cases across recurring revenue businesses, it’s worth it to comp a free period for your customer in lieu of churning them. If your business is booming and new sales and revenue are streaming in, it might be tempting to say no when a customer asks for a special billing circumstance. But in 2020, an existing customer base became, in a lot of cases, the only foundation for business growth. In these circumstances, looking for opportunities to retain every customer, even if it means a temporary loss, is essential.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events; what was your favorite one?
I have always been a big fan of StoryBrand, specifically their live workshops helping businesses build clear and powerful brand language. They had to pivot away from their traditional large Nashville-hosted conferences, and instead build an online workshop to meet the needs of hundreds. They did an incredible job with high production quality, excellent content, and facilitation that enabled relationship building with other participants, even from Zoom!
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
We need to ditch a lot of our preconceived notions about how the corporate world should act. I’ve long been a fan of 15five, both the product and their thought leadership on leading in today’s world. As we shift to primarily working from home, there needs to be the acceptance that a traditional 8-6 workday is no longer realistic, and that a great manager should trust their employees to get work done in the way they will most thrive. Executives who display empathy, a real interest in the lives of their team, and flexibility will make the best transitions to remote leadership.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Logo churn. I know, I know- it’s weird to call logo to churn a “favorite” metric! But I think it’s a really important metric in a CX organization in particular that sometimes gets overlooked. Often at the executive level, we focus on revenue retention or MRR churn, which is essential to gauge the health of a recurring revenue business. But understanding the count of your customers, how many of them have stayed, how many are leaving, can unlock some powerful actions, strategies, and tactics to be sure that churn number keeps going down over time!