How do you engage customer-facing employees to deliver customer excellence every day? I had the opportunity to join Mary Drumond on the “Voices Of CX“ podcast to discuss proven techniques to build a customer-centric culture, and why it’s important for business success. Achieving customer excellence doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. It requires ongoing practice and execution of best practices, which you’ll learn from our conversation.
Considering all the CX superstars Mary has interviewed, I’m honored to have been a guest on the show. Thank you again Mary Drumond.
Introduction: (00:05) Stacy Sherman is known for her expertise in designing and implementing successful customer-centric programs that differentiate B2B and B2C brands beyond price. She’s currently Head of Customer Experience and Employee Engagement at Schindler Elevator Corporation where she’s contributing to year by year revenue growth and portfolio protection. Other than CX, Stacy has led digital marketing and website conversion optimization for reputable brands of all sizes and budgets, including Verizon wireless, AT&T, Martha Stewart, ADP, Wilton, and more.
Mary Drumond: (01:32) Today I am joined by Stacy Sherman, who has been doing a great job not only in the market but also on her personal blog. Talking about customer experience, exploring all the different nuances.Thanks so much for coming, Stacy. I’m so glad to have you on.
Stacy Sherman: (01:34) Thank you so much.
MD: (01:36) I wanted to start off just introducing you to our listeners and having you talk a little bit about not only how you got started, but what really motivates you in customer experience. What keeps you practicing customer experience every day?
SS: (01:50) My answer to that is I started observing my life and experiences as a consumer. Over time, I paid attention more and more to what companies are doing well, where am I feeling frustrated and what could companies do better? I fell into the customer experience field when I worked at Verizon years ago. That job ignited my CX passion and learned first hand how customer experience overtakes product and price as a brand differentiator.
MD: (02:43) Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we see it happening every single day. That’s something that we talk about all the time. Getting back to the earlier days in your career, I know you’ve worked at a lot of big companies, but at the time that you worked at these companies, was CX already defined as a practice or was it something that kind of slowly took shape?
SS: (03:02) Absolutely was an evolution. I would say customer service has been around a very long time, but the reality is customer service is just one piece of CX, of customer experience. And I notice people will say customer service interchangeably for customer experience, and I actually correct them because customer service is more around the Get Help stage of the journey, and it’s much bigger than that. So the answer is, customer service has been around a long time. But the whole concept about VOC, Voice of Customer and CX, customer experience are very new. And that’s what I think the world is understanding and adopting more.
MD: (03:50) There are a lot of competencies that have always been kind of separate and people confuse all the time. There’s customer service, there’s customer success, there’s customer support… It’s kind of endless. Do you think that all of these ways that the company touches the customer somehow, do you think they should fall under customer experience or do you think they should be independent?
SS: (04:15) Good question. I believe that they can be independent in the way that if you think about a customer journey and how customer learns, buys, gets set up, uses the product, bill and pay, get help. All of those stages are different departments of a company. So I wouldn’t say they all should report under a CX organization, but in fact everything needs to be linked and they need to be very closely tied together from marketing, from finance to how people pay and get help and portals and all that. The right culture is where they’re not siloed and they’re working together because it is a customer journey that matters.
MD: (05:04) Do you think that user experience, when it comes especially to sites and apps of course, how much of that ends up affecting the experience as a whole and maybe being a determiner of that metric?
SS: (05:21) Yeah, I cannot stress this enough that usability, user experience in pre launch phases is a must and it’s an irritative process. So it has to be done prelaunch, pilot phases, post-launch, when you scale it. And I want to emphasize that not only is it good to do with employee feedback, but real customers, and I’ve been in places where managers will want customer feedback, but they’ll use employees instead of customers. And nothing frustrates me more because they’re both important but you can’t use employees to speak for customers. You have to go to the customer.
MD: (06:04) Oh, of course. I mean, first of all, you’ve got a lot of bias in there.
SS: (06:08) Yes.
MD: (06:08) People that understand how the company works on the inside, but by being empathetic with the company, you’re less empathetic with the customer maybe.
MD: (06:51) Yeah, usability tests are fascinating to me because sometimes you’ll get something that’s entirely unexpected, that you, from your perspective, you not being in the customer’s shoes, even if you try, there are still a little bits and pieces that you really don’t understand. The other day internally we had a usability test and the one thing that customers kept bringing up was an aspect that no one in the company had considered, and that’s pretty amazing because everyone in the company was sharing the same objectives and the same goals and where therefore maybe had their focus in the wrong place and the customers don’t share that focus. They’ve got their own point of view. They’ve got their own agenda, they’ve got their own problems they’re trying to solve. So looking at things from their point of view and having that participation I think is crucial.
SS: (07:39) Yeah, I agree. And I will tell you that I worked for an organization in the past where user testing and customer experience lived within new product development, which to me is brilliant because rather than invest and produce products and throw them out the door and hope somebody wants them, it was infusing the customer perspective early on. What a difference that makes.
MD: (08:07) Yeah, absolutely. We have a lot of cases of customers of our company Worthix that use our VOC in the development stage and what ends up happening is it the customer builds the product alongside the brand. So every step of the way you’re, you’re reaching out for that feedback and you’re building something that’s truly customer-centric. You’re building a customer-centric product because they’re right there collaborating alongside you with feedback every step of the way.
SS: (08:34) Yes, I love it.
MD: (08:35) And how do you see this happening in maybe a company like the company that you work in now? Which is Schindler, do you think that it’s possible to have that same collaboration, that same customer-centric mindset in the development process?
SS: (08:49) Yeah, absolutely. I mean obviously it’s elevators and escalators.
MD: (08:55) Yeah, I mean revolutionizing the escalator is a bit trickier.
SS: (08:59) It is but honestly there’s so much with IOT technology happening and new features and modernization that it absolutely applies and it’s important that we understand those property owners and all those buyers and customers, what they want, what they need and build to it, and Schindler’s doing so much, especially as the technology is exponentially increasing. The company’s really, really doing a good job around this.
MD: (09:32) In this case, this is a unique case because you work customer experience inside an organization that sells to other companies. So who are you considering your target? Is it the final customer, the person who’s going to be using that equipment on a daily basis or the companies that are purchasing from you and providing that to their visitors, to their users, to the people that visit their venues and locations?
SS: (09:58) Yeah, I would say it’s the latter. However, we’re always also considering the rider experience and at the end of the day it’s about their safety and yeah, I mean there’s so much behind it, but all of the above.
MD: (10:42) Now, let me ask you something tricky. If we get a company here that doesn’t do either customer experience or employee experience, they’re like ground zero. Where should they start, with the employee experience or the customer experience?
SS: (10:56) That is tricky. I mean…
MD: (11:00) Is it like a chicken and the egg situation?
SS: (11:03) It is, because as you know, happy employee, happy customer. But you know I’ve been on teams where you do have someone who literally owns Voice of Employee and then you have people who own Voice of Customer and it rolls up into one team. I do believe that’s a very good setup because then all those linkages happen naturally. But from my perspective, if I had to pick one, I would say the outside-in; start with the customer and go from there.
MD: (11:36) Also, if the company is getting started from the inception, you can just sort of create that mindset with your employees, right? And like build it from the ground up where from day one, you focus on the customer. And by doing that, hopefully that mentality will kind of work internally as well, I dunno.
SS: (11:54) Well, well but the important thing is helping employees understand how they matter in the process and if you will really get their engagement and understanding the why, why does customer experience matter, then they’re more likely to deliver on that excellence and those expectations. So yeah, it just becomes communication, that is just the most important thing, to really drive it home.
MD: (12:25) Now in your experience, there’s a topic that I’ve been discussing a lot this season, which is customer loyalty. So all of this stuff that we talked about until now really helps the customer become a customer in the first place. Once they’re sold, there’s a second step, which is to keep them coming back, to keep them loyal. When you have a subscription model, et cetera, you’re hoping that they don’t churn, but when you don’t and you’ve got one time purchases, how do you keep customers coming back for more? How do you keep them with your brand and not with the millions of other competitors out there? Or even more importantly, how do you keep your company safe from disruption? So all of these things kind of involved customer loyalty, which is my favorite topic of the moment. I know that you’ve written about this, I know that you feel passionate about this, so dive in with me really quick. What do you think is the very best way to ensure customer loyalty?
SS: (13:22) There’s a lot of answers, but the first one that comes up for me is keep your promise. Trust you can’t gain it back very easily. So I continue to write and speak about the importance of trust, transparency, humanizing the experience. Communication really helps with that. It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re an online company or offline. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Because customers remember that. And I think that is, the top brands, why they’re the top brands cause they keep their promise and customers know it.
MD: (14:03) I’ve also read you talking about reducing effort and how that helps loyalty as well.
SS: (14:08) Yes, absolutely. When it takes a high level of effort, let’s say to get help, when you need it. If it is so difficult, I don’t care how easy it was to buy the product and get it set up, but you get stuck and if you can’t get help, if any part of the journey is a pain point, it absolutely can affect whether they stay or leave and tell others.
MD: (14:34) I mean, I can’t even begin to recall how many times I’ve abandoned something in a cart on an eCommerce website because the form wasn’t working when I’m trying to submit payment. And there’s nowhere that you can go to say, Hey, I just want to buy this stuff in the form doesn’t work. And sometimes it’s really simple elements that, if we have no way of solving that or if we don’t feel like we’ve got an immediate channel that can help assist us through that problem, that’s it.
SS: (15:02) Yes. I think level of effort is such an important metric that I don’t care if you’re a product or a service company, level of effort of getting help when you need it, level of effort of, if you think about Apple, how easy it is to just take your phone out of the box and start using it. You know, it’s gotta be easy. Otherwise people don’t have patience, they don’t have time, they have different technical skills. And I think that is a big, big part of customer satisfaction and continued loyalty.
MD: (15:37) You brought up Apple right now and and it just reminds me, ’cause I’ve been in the Apple world for so long that I don’t even remember what it was like anymore. But I remember my first iPhone, I was really surprised that I didn’t have to charge it up before using it. It already came with charge and it might seem like nowadays it’s the most normal thing in the universe, but I remember a time where you had to plug your phone in and leave it like plugged in for 12 hours or something like that before the first use.
SS: (16:11) And how about how bad when you open the Apple box, there’s no directions in there. Think about that. Everything else we’ve always bought came with a booklet. So you know, how do other companies replicate to make it so easy no matter where they are in that customer journey? Those are the companies that win.
MD: (16:34) But how do you get there? I mean, when you have a product, it seems like it’s, I’m not going to say easier because I have no idea how much time and effort goes into designing these products, but it’s different than when you have a service, right? When you have a service, it’s the customer service that can’t really fail. Right?
SS: (16:51) True. However, there’s things that we can do as an example, when you buy a product, or service, I should say, what’s that customer onboarding experience like? Do you know who you go to for help? Do you have the training if you need it? It is a different tactic than a product, but absolutely making it easy to get started and set up and know who to call for help, all of that. It’s the same principles.
MD: (17:22) And where do you think that surprise and delight comes in where you’re working on reducing effort and you’re trying to make that effortless experience, right?
SS: (17:30) Yes. For me it’s all around wow moments and I talk about this a lot because people have a perception that it has to be something big or some big technology and no, like, I know this sounds mundane, but Uber picked me up recently. The guy got out of his car, he greeted me, he helped me with my heavy luggage and put it into the trunk and then we got in the car and had a nice conversation. The next time I took an Uber, the person did not do any of that. They didn’t help me and get out of his car and I lifted the luggage myself. You take it for granted, but like that was a wow moment that created a delightful experience for me beyond before we even started the trip.
MD: (18:45) We’ve got a local restaurant here close by, did I go to with my family all the time and the manager of that restaurant is a great guy, Leo. He’s wonderful and he really goes above and beyond to make sure that everyone is happy with their restaurant experience. And one day I went in with the family and he brought us a free dessert and it was great. We were like, wow, Leo, that’s so wonderful. Thank you so much. And it really felt special. And then the next time we went, we also got a free dessert. And then we’re like, Oh, you don’t have to do this all the time, but thanks. Third time we didn’t want the dessert and the dessert came anyway. So now this guy is stuck sending us desserts every time we go back to the restaurant. So for us we’re like, Oh no, we’ve created a problem. We’ve created a monster here because Leo, he’s worried that now he has to give us a dessert every time. We’re worried that we’re going to go and we’re going to get that dessert even if we don’t want it. And it’s created this weird surprise and delight limbo where we don’t want the delight, but now what do you do?
SS: (19:55) I’ve got to eat it because he went out of his way.
MD: (19:57) I know, and you have to be polite and grateful, but we just want to tell him, stop sending the dessert, please, you know. And so we were sitting down thinking, okay, Leo’s great and it’s so great that he had the power to do this for us. But did this one thing, of him sending dessert, did that increase our loyalty? Does it make us come back here or would we come back regardless because we’ve got a consistently good experience here? And it got me thinking, what is it that truly generates my loyalty to that restaurant? And ultimately the conclusion was, even though Leo trying so hard, it made us feel very nice towards Leo, it didn’t really change our relationship of loyalty with that restaurant. What did is the quality of the dishes and that consistency of delivering a good experience.
SS: (20:49) Yeah. I was going to say the fundamentals have to be there, right? A good product, a good food. You know all of that, the environment, the atmosphere, absolutely. That dessert is not going to be itself the reason you continue to go. But it certainly is a reason that you’ll tell others about it as you’re telling me, and that’s what happens when a good experience comes. So new customers come because of the story. You feel good. It’s all about feelings and emotions and those do make a difference. I want to add one more thing because I had a restaurant experience and there was a great lesson from it. The waiter spilled something on my jacket and what I loved was not only because he did something to rectify it, dry cleaning, a reimbursement, you know that that obviously was certainly nice. What I really liked in observing it is that the employee, in that case, the waiter, while he did go to his manager to confirm some things he could do, but he really felt ownership and empowered, is what I mean, to make a difference. And I don’t know that companies do enough of that. Part of that is culture and allowing employees to create wow moments because they want to.
MD: (22:07) Yeah. Because what ends up happening is that sometimes when a company does something to delight their customers, they create an expectation and when that expectation isn’t fulfilled, if the company can’t fulfill that expectation, then it becomes disappointment, which generates a bad experience. Right?
SS: (22:24) Yeah. Backfires.
MD: (22:25) Right. So I think about that. I remember reading on your blog, Doing CX Right about granola. You order some really nice granola and it really touched you that there was a handwritten note in there. And I have a similar experience with Chewy, the dog food delivery. Every once in awhile I’ll get these super random postcards in the mail asking me about my dog Poppy and how she’s doing and you know, wishing her well, et cetera. It’s a process, but it’s a random process. So somehow it’s built into their internal processes, but it doesn’t happen all the time. And when it does happen, it is, it is delightful.
SS: (23:04) Well, you’re bringing up a very important point, which is I noticed that delight comes also from personalization. So that handwritten note that said To Stacy, and to you, naming your dog, that’s personalization. And I think that companies are still figuring out how to Excel at that for so many years.
MD: (23:28) Yeah, I was going to say, I mean it’s been a while since email campaigns started adding variables, right?
SS: (23:35) Yeah. I mean, if you think about like when I was at a telecommunications company, we’d make sure that if you’re an iPhone user and we know who you are, we’re not showing you Android products. So knowing who the customer is, I think that feeds into the delight and I think customers are starting to expect it with big data and all that’s happening there.
MD: (23:59) There are also a lot more, like you said, a lot more elaborate ways to create personalization. But again, like once the customer feels like they’ve been personalized in a sense, doesn’t it lose the magic? And isn’t that why that handwritten card is still authentic because it couldn’t have been a system.
SS: (24:17) Absolutely. It was not a card that came in the fulfillment box that was like auto-generated or a standardized letter. Like I really felt somebody, some manager, leader, someone, cared to take a few minutes to appreciate me and yeah, very powerful.
MD: (24:36) And how do you do that on digital? Where you don’t have that kind of interaction?
SS: (24:40) Yeah, it is harder. But as an example, if I buy on an eCommerce site and let’s see, I take advantage of pickup in-store, then the person that is giving me my product needs to know who I am and they can personalize the experience when I walk in the door. So there are ways to humanize it, it just takes creativity and leveraging data, that’s what it’s about.
MD: (25:11) Great. Well to wrap up, tell me about the project that you have on your blog and on your site, Doing CX Right.
SS: (25:18) Yeah. So I started that a couple years ago just because I saw a lot of people didn’t really understand what is customer experience, why does it matter, what’s the hype? And so I wanted to build a community as this was starting to boom and really take shape and matter in companies. So I did it at first to really connect with likeminded people and then it really opened up so many doors, like meeting you and authors and other people and there’s a community that’s really interested in sharing and collaborating and getting smarter together. So that was really my reason for starting it and continuing it. And I believe that as I’m learning what people are thinking about and wanna to know about, including myself in my own role, it’s given me so much insight into a lot of answers and sharing, which is gratifying.
MD: (26:17) That’s wonderful. So what is your main objective with this? Is it to help others who are getting involved in this? Is it mentorship? Is it just exchanging of, I dunno, expertise? What’s your main goal?
SS: (26:31) Honestly, it’s evolving. I’m still figuring it out. What’s happening is it’s a platform that’s bringing me in different directions. So I don’t know the destination, but I’m really having fun with the journey.
MD: (26:45) That’s awesome. So if our listeners want to find it, it’s doingCXright.com, right?
SS: (26:52) Yes. Thank you.
MD: (26:53) And all over social media?
SS: (26:56) Exactly.
MD: (26:57) Great. So if you want to find Stacy on Twitter, LinkedIn, it’s, it’s just your name. Are you a big LinkedIn user or Twitter is the place to find you?
SS: (27:07) No, it’s both. It really is both because LinkedIn definitely has a very business audience. But Twitter, I just try to be a little bit, share a little bit more creativity on Twitter and more free floating, but both obviously.
MD: (27:23) Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for coming on today, Stacy. We really appreciate it.
SS: (27:27) Thank you very much.
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*All views are Stacys & do not reflect opinions of or imply endorsement of employers or other organizations.