Hi Jon, tell us about yourself and your background and how you got to the CX space?
I spent the first decade of my career at one of the world’s largest corporations, General Electric. When a business gets to be that size, CX by necessity becomes a numbers game. Expanding on that thought, you use artificial measurements like Net Promoter Score (NPS) or brand sentiment because you’re too far removed from many of the customer experiences to actually measure important touchpoints. It becomes a very macroenvironmental exercise.
I left that company for a much smaller but dynamic brand called Big Ass Fans. In addition to a memorable name, it really found success marketing directly to businesses and consumers and handling every part of the customer experience. It was eye-opening, and I knew that was the way businesses of the future would be organized. After leading the company to a landmark sale in 2017, I co-founded my own direct-to-consumer (DTC) cleaning products company called Truman’s.
From day one, we made certain customer experience was central to the way we organized the business. Our product design, packaging, online experience, customer support, etc. were all thoughtfully designed around the promise of a frictionless (and even enjoyable!) customer experience.
To sum up, it’s been a journey of experimentation and learning, but I can’t imagine aligning myself with a business today which didn’t prioritize the customer experience.
How can brands better utilize consumer reviews
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Reviews are certainly one part of the equation, but I have what could be a somewhat unique perspective on them, especially as a DTC brand. Customer reviews on a first-party marketplace are losing trust with consumers as more and more brands “filter out” the negative reviews. Things like user-generated content (UGC), media reviews (which can be paid, so also potentially misleading), referrals, and other forms of social proof are becoming equally important both for brands and for consumers.
As far as leveraging the data from reviews, companies would be better served by properly tracking, labeling, and evaluating customer support tickets. Only a small % of customers are willing to leave reviews, and they tend to be the superfans or the major detractors. Every brand will have those. What you want to get right is all of the little things that often prompt a customer support interaction – a damaged or lost shipment, a fulfillment error, confusion with the product, etc. These are the critical insights that won’t always show up in reviews.
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
I’m leery of sharing a prescriptive checklist because I think each brand is going to have a different set of needs (tools, processes, etc.). Rather, I would recommend setting up structural guardrails that allow a company to institutionalize CX. For example, what are the things you’ll want to measure longitudinally? Make sure there are systems in place to catch outliers.
Culturally, leaders need to also be engaged in CX. If you haven’t ordered, installed, used, consumed, etc. the product the way a consumer would, you’re probably missing some obvious areas for improvement. Also, talk to your customers! They aren’t obscure, theoretical figures in the business! Minding the pitfalls of small sample sizes, set aside time to interact with customers regularly, then check to see if the feedback you received is consistent with what others are hearing or seeing in the data.
How much has the role of customer experience changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
From personal experience, the traits and skills that made a CX support representative successful “in real life” translate really well to digital spaces. Process, empathy, problem-solving…these are universally necessary qualities for a positive CX regardless of the medium.
Of course, computer skills are more necessary now than ever, but fortunately, so many of the tools closely mirror the interfaces of social networks people use every day. And of course, properly managed data creates a positive feedback loop. On the disadvantaged side of digital CX, interpersonal communications are much more challenging when body language and tone are lost.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
Omnichannel isn’t just a sales strategy, it’s a CX one. Be where your customers are, meaning offer customer service via social messenger platforms, email, contact forms, live chat, SMS, etc. Customer expectations are changing from “long-winded automated phone menu” to “when and where I want to connect.” Smart brands will adapt.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events; what was your favorite one?
I participated in a virtual wine tasting and networking event. Truly unique, special and memorable.
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?
The practice of “management by walking around” will die. Leaders and managers need to be more intentional with organizational design, professional development, and culture building. Human resources leaders are going to have a bigger voice at the table. Again, smart brands will adapt.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Revenue per customer who has interacted with support vs revenue per customer who has not interacted with support. If you’re doing it well, customer support should drive loyalty.