Hi Valerie, tell us about yourself and your background.
I started out with an education (MBA) in Finance and Marketing thinking product management, but the downturn in the economy set me into technology. Starting at ATT, I learned how technology and marketing /sales could mesh and with the basis of my “psychology meets technology” bent and advent of the internet a whole new realm of opportunity unfolded.
As a partner at Peppers and Rogers — the founders of 1to1 marketing — I furthered my ability to use marketing automation, customer databases and segmentation (statistical) as the foundation for trustworthy and interesting messaging, offers, campaigns and customer support.
That has been my hallmark for the past 20 years in my own practice as well as in developing our Customer Experience Management Software, SuiteCX.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I wear two hats — I lead a professional services company, East Bay Group, that helps companies develop strategies that are customer-focused and then execute on them. This takes many forms from highly strategic planning through tactical database driven execution plans across all the relevant channels.
The second hat is as a founder and CEO of SuiteCX, a software suite of tools designed to pull in Voice of the Customer, Employee, Company – actionable data – behavioral insights and ethnographic and quantitative information into a lifecycle and segment driven visualization. Then, it collects findings, recommendations as well as key junctures (MOTs/Pain Points) to enable companies to rectify areas of pain in their relationships.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
Companies should reach deeper than stopping at highly curated, simple VOC surveys and NPS to really listen to the opportunity (and issues) that their customers are providing. Listening at each phase of the relationship across channels (and other operational silos) and looking holistically at the entire experience would help them become more able to develop products/services and deliver them in the most effective and customer focused manner.
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
I just had a fabulous experience with L.L.Bean. They are truly both customer centric and enabled to be so. In planning for a trip, I ordered a pair of pants from them that I really liked. I went back to order more and found that they were backordered – guess that others liked them a lot too!. I received a timely email from them noting the backorder and it gave me several choices. I decided to call the contact center (after browsing the info online to see if other similar products were available). The contact center immediately recognized me from my number and the rep reiterated the choices on the email and when I shared that I needed them for an upcoming trip she then added another idea. She offered to check the inventory of all of their stores to see if one might be in stock. She swiftly did so and found the product at one of her stores. Since it was early, the store was closed. She sent them a note about the need and said that they would contact me when they opened. I thought ‘yea right’. We closed off with me not canceling the order as I still wanted the product.
To my surprise, right at the store opening I received a call back! The sales person had already pulled the garment. He validated it with me and asked if I would like it shipped directly. He added that he would do that for free as I had gone through the trouble to contact the company. He had all my account info in front of him and validated that.
He asked if I wanted to keep or cancel the original order and I let it stand. Loved the product – loved the customer service and the true omni-channel, so they made an extra sale! In retail this is pretty unique, especially for a company in business as long as they have been!
Other customer focused companies include Toyota, Xanterra (hospitality), Cornerstone Building Supplies (construction) and Dexcom (Continuous Glucose monitoring) all of which have robust CX programs in place that are beyond the survey/NPS rut.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes. What are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Understand your customers! We are feeling creatures who can think not digital devices. Not everyone wants a 100% digital relationship especially when they have special needs or issues. Forcing everyone into a mobile/digital experience results in most cases with a level of disenfranchisement that only makes the brand less important than the product. Doing your homework to understand who your best and most profitable customers are as well as those downstream from that is critical to make sure that your transformation benefits them and enables you to add value in the relationship by the means and channels that they want to be served by.
What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
It seems that others are thinking the same way and I see that there is a resurgence of Contact Centers that enable value added services. The big providers – especially BPO’s are stepping up to provide better understanding of WHY interactions are happening and how to improve them. More people are using tools that help map experiences and melding them with data (response) from companies like BryterCX and Pointillist as well.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
I am always reading and re-reading interesting books. Don’t Make Me Think is a great one and I am looking forward to the 4th Edition of Customer Experience Management by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers as well.
If you haven’t read Being Digital and the One to One Future again with its context for today you are missing some gems as well as a review of Edward Tufte’s awesome set of books around how to visualize data.
What is your favorite CX metric?
There are so many that should be evaluated – if you make me pick one, well two, it is the level of customer effort required to do a ‘job’ or ‘activity’ as it can be analyzed in so many useful ways. The other is retention – so many companies focus only on acquisition where they let all that effort slip through their fingers in actually keeping those customers.