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CXBuzz Interview With Annette Franz Founder & CEO of CX Journey

Hi Annette. Tell us about yourself, and share some background about CX Journey (and its founding story)

I don’t have an exciting story about how my career to the path that it did. I basically fell into this customer experience profession when I started at J.D. Power and Associates almost 30 years ago. My love of math and writing made for the perfect combination for the classic market researcher. What we were doing made total sense to me. I enjoyed working with companies to improve their businesses and, ultimately, the customer experience in order to grow and thrive.

After J.D. Power and Associates, I spent the next 25 years in various roles on both the client and vendor side, including market research, head of consulting or professional services for four different VOC technology companies, marketing, and head of customer experience. 

In early 2017, I founded CX Journey Inc., which is a customer experience strategy consulting firm. I focus on coaching and consulting engagements in which I work with clients on CX strategy from soup to nuts, especially starting with leadership, culture, and customer and employee understanding. I am also a keynote speaker and an author, writing content not only for clients but for my own blog. Plus, I published my first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business) in September 2019.

In your POV, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience?

I think we can measure success (or a great experience) for customers by looking at and understanding whether they achieved their job to be done or solved the problem they were trying to solve. I like CSAT, Customer Effort Score (or Ease of Doing Business), and Expectations Met as a few ways that businesses can measure (or customers can tell them) how well they performed against expectations about the experience. 

I think metrics like retention, recurring revenue, share of wallet, and customer lifetime value are KPIs that the business can track as a proxy for the customer experience. But it’s also important to note that there may be reasons that the customer stays or buys more that may be outside of the experience, i.e., the business is a monopoly or the only option in town. Those reasons are important to uncover.

What role has digital transformation had in this crisis?

Digital has played a huge role during the crisis. If you’re not online, you don’t exist. And I don’t believe that will change or return back to where things were before. McKinsey said last year that, in 2020, digital transformations advanced five years in a matter of eight weeks. Remember that digital transformation is about the culture, the people, the operating model. Businesses had to transform – or die.

But it’s not necessarily all good. Now we’re hearing of brands having issues as a result of that rush. 

The problem is that digital is very much about the customer – the customer is at the center of the digital experience. Not sure that in those eight weeks, as noted by McKinsey, that companies ran their digital transformations that they considered the culture, the people, the operating model, the customer! It was a matter of just getting everyone and everything online. The end. 

And proof of that is that the experience is questionable for many customers today. They tolerated digital and omnichannel issues early on, but there has been plenty of time to fix the issues, like siloed channel experiences, but they are still happening. Brands still have issues recognizing customers from one channel to the next: different channels, different experience.

How is CX Journey transforming the customer experience landscape? 

I work with clients to develop their CX strategies. The basis for that is leadership commitment and alignment, as well as a customer-centric culture. From there, the work moves into customer and employee understanding and reimaging and redesigning a better experience for the future.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

All we’ve got is time. And our health. And I’m grateful for both.2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?  

I spoke at a lot of online events in 2020! I don’t know that I can pick a favorite.

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should CX executives gear up to the changing times?

I was recently asked a similar question. I’m not sure that the two (working from home and CX executives gearing up for the change) are related, but I’ll focus on the latter.

Customer experience professionals need to have such a vast array of leadership skills and abilities – always. As a matter of fact, these professionals must be leaders in every sense of the word when it comes to customer experience: model, reinforce, teach, coach, mentor, advise, support, etc. They’ve got to be trainers, educators, influencers, problem solvers, change managers, change agents, evangelists, listeners, analyzers, assessors, auditors, planners, coordinators, collaborators, advisors, coaches, entrepreneurs, innovators, communicators, designers, researchers, project managers, strategists, and critical thinkers.

Thinking about the skills that became even more critical in the last year, without a doubt, change management sits high on the list. Along with that goes strategic thinking, empathy, communication, motivation, flexibility, and agility. It’s no surprise that being able to adapt and change is critical to success during a crisis, and those leaders and professionals who employed those skills found themselves, their teams, and their organizations surviving and thriving in the last year.

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