Hi Jim, tell us about yourself and share some background about “Heart of the Customer” (and its founding story)
After working for both small and large companies, I found myself frustrated by how little interest there was internally at the time in hearing from actual customers. There was too much emphasis on what each company thought customers cared about and too little effort spent actually engaging with customers themselves to determine what they needed. So I struck out on my own to empower companies to rectify that and to help them reap the benefits of doing so.
How much has the consumer sentiments changed in your space during 2020, and how will 2021 look?
I think because of the hardships and challenges we’ve all faced over the past year, ease is more important than ever to customers (since the pandemic has greatly increased their cognitive loads). There’s also been a shift in customer priorities in some sectors. Buyers are being more deliberate about aligning their spending with their values – even if it means paying higher prices.
Jim’s top KPIs
In your POV, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience benchmarks?
You’re right that it’s critical to identify the right KPIs, but there is no one “magical” KPI that works for everyone. Big B2C companies can often tie survey scores to revenue, but the rest of us need to find more granular ways to show impact. Our interviews with over one hundred CX leaders have discovered that the best find specific ways to show impact, such as share of wallet, order velocity, reducing churn, or reducing the cost to serve.
When making your case to the C-suite, the most important thing is that you’re monitoring and measuring a concrete business outcome, not intangibles, such as “loyalty” or “satisfaction,” that are captured by surveys and may, or may not, impact the bottom line. To get leadership interested and onboard, you need hard data about financial results.
In our work, we link these with a “killer metric,” one internal KPI, which allows the company to align around the same vision. But exactly what that is will vary from company to company and industry to industry.
How much has the CEO’s role changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
Like the saying goes, “We may not be in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm.” The pandemic has humanized company leadership in very unexpected ways because it’s impacted all of our lives, from executives to hourly workers. Zoom has let us into our CEOs’ private residences, where we see them in casual wear, getting interrupted during meetings by their pets or kids. But at that same time, without the casual daily interactions provided by a physical office environment, leadership also needs to devise new ways to support team members and foster connection. Greater reliance on digital tools presents both opportunities and challenges for this simultaneous increase and decrease in organizational intimacy.
How is Heart of the Customer transforming the customer experience landscape?
At Heart of the Customer, we focus on showing that meeting customers’ needs is good for business – not just in theory but indefinite, quantifiable ways. Driving emotional outcomes isn’t just about making customers happy – though that’s certainly important for any business. It’s about how when you invest and act strategically; your CX program can be even more valuable than product development for producing tangible, sustainable financial benefits and growth. At Heart of the Customer, all of our team members and processes are focused on this end result.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
Early in 2020, before the pandemic, we embarked on an ambitious research project to capture the state of CX as a discipline and gather hard data about what works and doesn’t work in the real world. We engaged with hundreds of CX professionals throughout the year and, in the end, we’re able to compile a pretty comprehensive picture of what sets successful CX programs apart from the rest of the pack. It was a learning experience but also reinforced what we’ve known for a long time: Most CX programs aren’t showing results because of misguided priorities or lack of organizational support, but CX done right dramatically improves business outcomes.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
The transition to virtual events was tricky, but it’s really admirable the way the industry rose to the challenge! For external events, I’d have to say that I particularly enjoyed my hosting duties at the CXS ’20 conference last fall, which was put on by Canada’s Strategy Institute. More personally, I enjoyed being able to have guests who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to make it because of scheduling difficulties and expenses. For example, I was able to interview Jen Zamora from Dow about how she can tie financial outcomes to building an enjoyable experience.
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?
Like I mentioned earlier, fostering ties in a virtual environment is challenging, whether you’re talking about employees or customers. To succeed, you have to double down on building emotional connections. This is how you keep workers productive and engaged and customers loyal and happy.