Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Home Interviews CXBuzz Interview with Joanna Palmer, Customer Experience Client Principal at RingCentral

CXBuzz Interview with Joanna Palmer, Customer Experience Client Principal at RingCentral

Hi Joanna, tell us about yourself and your background.

Hi – I am the Customer Experience Client Principal at RingCentral. Customer Experience is my passion. I love to continually push the boundaries and improve the customer experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle — from marketing & customer acquisition through the sales and support. I am customer obsessed.

I’m also a wife, mother to 5 (mostly teenagers) and have dogs and cats at home. We are a busy, loud house! In my downtime, I enjoy boating, hiking, and the beach.

How did you start working in the customer experience space?

I went to school thinking I wanted to be a social worker and majored in Psychology. I worked as a foster care case manager for a couple years after graduating college.  While I loved the idea of improving the lives of children and families, I underestimated the toll it would take on me emotionally.  I decided to look for another career path. It was 1998 and Y2K was creeping up on us and there was a lot of activity in the telecom space. A friend of mine suggested I look at a job in the telecom space and so I made the leap and became a system design engineer – designing phone and call center systems. It’s interesting that a lot of the concepts around psychology and social work also apply to customer experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

I lead the Customer Experience consulting practice at RingCentral.  In my role, I help customers through their transformation journey – from understanding their current state to helping reimagine the customer experience and designing the roadmap and business case for achieving their new, improved customer experience.  We focus not only on the technology, but also on business process optimization and change management.

Prior to joining RingCentral, I led a CX transformation and was a RingCentral Customer. It is so fun seeing all the various challenges that companies are having today and how much opportunity we have to improve both the customer and employee experience.

How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?

That’s such a great question. Surveying is not enough to truly capture the voice of the customer.  I led the voice of the customer efforts in a previous role – surveying response rates were not a good sampling of the true voice of customer.  Typically, response rates were between 20-30% for short surveys (3 questions) and as low as 3% for longer surveys. That means you aren’t hearing the majority of the customers.  So, companies have to look at all the opportunities for data when thinking about voice of the customer.  I absolutely love leveraging interaction analytics as part of the strategy for understanding voice of the customer – especially platforms that have emotion detection built in.  This enables companies to make correlations between what is detracting from the customer experience and what is enhancing the customer experience.  It can be applied to all customer contacts which gives you better insight into the customer journey.

 

We have so much data available in the customer journey, leveraging the data to drive out customer friction and understand areas the delight is one aspect that is critical to becoming customer obsessed and understanding your customers.

What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?

As a consumer, the great customer experiences stand out just as much as the poor customer experiences.  Some recent examples I can think of companies that are providing great customer experience include:

  1. Southwest Airlines – I called in recently with a question when I was booking an airline ticket. I had encountered an issue when booking the ticket in their app.  While ideally there would be in-app messaging available, I still had a great experience when calling them.  There was no wait to speak to the agent.  The guidance from the agent was so helpful.  The initial answer to my question was not a pleasant one, but she offered valuable alternatives that ultimately saved me time & money.  This is a great example of an engaged employee that was focused on providing better customer outcomes instead of just answering the question I asked.
  2. Sam’s Club – Creating an omnichannel shopping experience that is a win-win for both the consumer and the company. They introduced scan & go which enables shoppers to scan their items in store as they are shopping and then checkout through the app. This removes the checkout line/self-checkout customer friction from the shopping experience.  This also enables additional data that the company can use to aggregate the purchase history to do further analytics and reduces the overhead of the checkers.  I think there are a lot of applications for combining digital and brick and mortar shopping experiences to use the strengths of both experiences to deepen the relationship with the consumer. I can’t wait to see additional innovation in this space.

Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?

As someone who has led transformation, here are my top 3 tips:

  1. Start with desired business outcomes when designing the future state. I spent too much time getting into details of the current day processes which slowed us down.  It’s easier said than done, but there isn’t a 1:1 correlation between current day processes and future state processes.  By designing with the end-state and business outcomes in mind, you will move much more quickly in your transformation.
  2. Change Management: Start early and communicate often at all levels of the organization. You need to ensure that you are sharing frequently with the cross-functional stakeholders.  Listen to their feedback along the way and incorporating it.
  3. Be transparent and don’t be afraid to pivot. These transformations can be difficult when you are looking at changing a way that a business operates. You don’t want to digitize legacy processes, but rather re-invent the way you operate.  You aren’t going to get it get everything right the first time.  When things aren’t working or you aren’t seeing the results you expected, pause and collaborate with the stakeholders.  Determine what pivots you need to make in order to successfully deliver the digital transformation.

What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?

It is such a fun time to be in the Customer Experience space and seeing the rapid innovation.  The #1 thing I am watching and keeping my eyes on is AI in the contact center. It’s interesting, I was recently part of a webinar panel where we surveyed the audience and only 9% had AI implemented in their contact center. AI is not just bots (and not all bots leverage AI). There are so many AI applications and I expect the use cases for AI will grow exponentially over the course of the next decade. AI is being used in Workforce Management to create more reliable forecasting and scheduling models.  It is being used in Quality Management to identify the best contacts to evaluate and even auto-evaluate or suggest what the evaluation should be. AI is being used in agent assistance tools where, based on the customer conversation, it can be a real-time coach to the agent to suggest the next best action and coaching on soft skills such as showing more empathy when it detects the customer getting frustrated. AI is also applied in contact routing to provide hyper personalization.

The other area to watch is interactive voice assistants.  Consumers want their engagements with businesses to be effortless and offer as many options as possible.  With the adoption of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s alexa, consumers are expecting that sort of engagement with companies as well. Natural language understanding will continue to evolve and expand its reach.

And finally, I think we will see more video in the customer experience — everything from personalized marketing videos to real time video support.  It is all about personalization and providing the best experience for the customer in the right channel for them.

Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?

Do I have to stick to just one book? I enjoyed Shep Hyken’s new book , I’ll Be Back – How to Get Customers to Come Back Again & Again.  Shep is a masterful storyteller and his stories about customer experience in the book are brilliant – providing memorable examples of the keys to driving customer experience.

One of my favorite books that I read a couple years ago is The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Changes Everything by Steven M.R. Covey.  This really made an impact on everything from how I interact with team members to how I interact with customers.  Trust is the foundation for teams to work more effectively together, for customers to decide to do business with your brand and to accelerate projects forward.

What is your favorite CX metric?

I really like the Customer Effort Score. How easy is it to do business with the company today? There is a strong correlation between customer effort and customer loyalty. I equate CX to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First, customers need their basic needs met. They need to be able to contact customer service and get answers to their questions.  They shouldn’t be transferred around numerous times (think of this as contact center 1.0).  hen, they need their psychological needs met – I think of these as some of the trends we are seeing today such as personalization, meeting the customer on the channel of their choice (think of this as contact center 2.0).  The top of the hierarchy is self-actualization. In the customer experience space, this as the ultimate frictionless experience – a personalized customer centric experience that includes proactive communication, AI leveraged across the customer journey to provide hyper-personalization.

About the author

Simone Somekh
Simone Somekh is a New York-based author, writer, and communications manager. He teaches Communications at Touro College.

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