10 Leadership Strategies To ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’ Your Way To Success

10 Leadership Strategies To ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’ Your Way To Success

Leadership article originally published in Forbes, Sept 2020

Happy employees fuel happy customers. This statement may sound strange but it is true and dependent on great leadership. They go hand in hand. When employees feel included, valued, and appreciated, they often go above and beyond to deliver excellence.

A common question is how can leaders create a customer-centric culture with engaged, motivated employees?

I find the answer is through authentic leaders who apply a “crawl, walk, run” approach.

 

The Meaning Of ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’

Life is a journey. You cannot go from 0% to 100% goal attainment automatically or overnight. Success comes from setting mini goals and appreciating each milestone conquered. This applies not only to elevating a company culture but also to starting a new business, switching careers, relocating homes, and other big shifts that take time to evolve. I’ve seen people fail because they run at full speed before learning and implementing the basics first.

My mentor, and someone I’m grateful to call my friend, Dan Lynn, is the one who taught me about the “crawl, walk, run” approach and to never give up — even when I’ve nearly reached my goal and had to take many steps back in order to move forward again.

So, here are some best practices I’ve learned to make this approach most effective and, through it, create an authentic, customer-centric culture for my team.

 

10 Leadership Best Practices To Follow

1. Strive for quality over speed. Set realistic timelines and establish small goals as they collectively have big impacts.

2. Expect the unexpected. Obstacles will occur and are unavoidable. Don’t let them stop you from being a change agent and moving mountains. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

3. Surround yourself with passionate, authentic people. Hire and retain them. Attitude is contagious.

4. Celebrate small wins. Don’t wait for the end results. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

5. Stay creative and open-minded as ideas come at unanticipated times and from unexpected places. Some of my best ideas were written on the back of napkins during meals at restaurants.

6. Prioritize and hold yourself accountable. Not every idea or project can be number one. Break down tasks and categorize each activity by “now,” “soon” and “later.” This can help you to stay focussed and minimize stress.

7. Be OK with starting over or with what feels like going backward. Sometimes you’ll start walking or running, but then you might have to revert to the crawling stage because of unpredictable circumstances. Trust the process. A setback often pivots us in a better direction. We just don’t understand why at the moment.

8. Focus on relationships and strengthen your network. Lean on your allies. It often takes a village for change to happen. Make every day count and show appreciation to everyone who helps deliver your mission.

9. Take the leap. “Just do it,” as Nike says. But do it in a methodical way. I’m a fan of testing concepts and implementing pilot programs. Once you’ve proven success, then continue at a faster rate and scale what works.

10. Ignore the naysayers and live your passion while remembering to pace yourself (crawl before walking, and walk before running). Don’t accelerate too fast, or you’ll miss important steps that are essential to achieving long-term goals.

Change is not easy, even when it is your own choice. It takes resilience, patience, endurance, and trust in the journey, and that journey can be a slow process. Remember not to get ahead of yourself and that small actions often have huge impacts.

Get more leadership tips in my other article about “The Four Agreements.” I write about a famous book explaining how being impeccable with your words, avoiding assumptions, not taking anything personally and doing your best ultimately contribute to better leadership, especially in CX. You will attract the right people and relationships, which may include profitable customers, too

20 Ways To Celebrate Customer Experience CX Day

20 Ways To Celebrate Customer Experience CX Day

What makes customers and employees loyal to brands? Why do some companies thrive during challenging times while others go out of business? There are many answers to this question, but one that is common across all industries relates to company culture. How brands make people feel directly impacts short and long-term success.

Creating a customer-centric culture does not happen automatically or overnight. It requires an engaged workforce and an executive champion at the top who reinforces the importance of customer experiences. They must motivate employees and hold them accountable to put customers first.

Stacy Sherman Advice About DoingCXRight and Customer Experience Best Practices

The Power Of Intention

To increase employee engagement, I brought the idea of celebrating CX Day to my workplace, Schindler Elevator Corp, in 2019. I presented my plan and got Executive buy-in and budget to make my vision a reality.  Taking time out for CX Day is a terrific way to drive awareness about the importance of customer experience and thank employees for their dedication to delighting customers. It is also an excellent time to publicize to customers about the actions you are taking to deliver best-in-class experiences all year long. That’s exactly what we did in a big way!

As you can see from the video, CX Day was a massive celebration across five continents. Despite a pandemic, we celebrated even more in 2020. Now, CX Day has turned into “CX Week” at Schindler and has officially become an annual tradition.

 

Press Play to Watch & Feel The Impact of our CX Day. Also, turn up your volume to hear the song as it says so much!

Key Takeaway:

 

YOU can create anything you put your mind to. If you want a customer-centric culture, you can make it happen with the right team. It takes a village yet when you have the right support, MAGIC HAPPENS! It’s exactly what earned us wonderful recognition!

20 Ways To Elevate YOUR Company Culture & Keep CX Momentum Going  

  1. Measure customer satisfaction and related metrics like Net Promoter (NPS) and celebrate positive scores. Send cake and balloons to top-performing sales offices and those with Y/Y improvements.
  2. Recognize employees when customers mention their names in surveys, social media, and other sources of feedback.
  3. Distribute a CEO video email message thanking employees for creating passionate promoters.
  4. Send customer thank you notes and token gifts of appreciation.
  5. Conduct fireside chats (informal yet structured discussion between a moderator and a guest.) It’s an excellent way to engage customers, and CX experts and provide relevant content that keeps people interested in your brand.
  6. Enable people to recognize each other. Gamify experiences. Tie prizes to customer value.
  7. Buy lunch for people resolving customer issues daily, i.e., call center reps.
  8. Offer a bonus or day off to those who routinely demonstrate customer excellence.
  9. Offer CX swag, like banners, balloons, stickers, buttons, shirts.
  10. Provide training – empathy, customer listening, closing the loop, design-thinking, journey mapping, and more. Certification is also valuable. (Learn more about my University experience & get a discount >here too)
  11. Post photos of activities on the intranet & social media channels for the world to see.
  12. Host “thank you” events for your customers. Showing appreciation goes a long way.
  13. Create a room in your office to share CX projects and progress, so everyone stays informed. For remote teams, leverage platforms for collaboration and knowledge sharing.
  14. Highlight CX examples at meetings and have employees talk about best practices. Employees want to hear from their peers more than Headquarters staff.
  15. Lead a contest that involves both customers and employees.
  16. Encourage employees to join webinars. Create your own or give them a list of online events as there are many offered, especially in October on CX Day.
  17. Hang posters throughout company locations and employee offices. The more people see reminders about delighting customers, the higher likelihood they are to take action.
  18. Plan activities with different departments in your organization—leverage CX Day as a way to strengthen internal relationships and break traditional silos.
  19. Use the day for branding opportunities. Partner with your marketing / PR team to design assets highlighting admiration for customers.
  20. Use hashtag #CXDay on social media to help everyone find and amplify your involvement. Post before, during, and after CX Day.

Final Words about CX Day & Leadership  

  • Small acts of kindness go a long way. “People may forget what you said or did, but never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
  • Employees are your heroes. If they don’t feel important, your customers will feel it.
  • Don’t wait for formal end of year reviews. If you do not appreciate employees throughout the year, your competitors will. They’re searching for exceptional talent.
  • Don’t overthink it. Thank employees everywhere, i.e., meetings, cafeteria, parking lot.
  • Be sincere. “96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way of improving employee retention.” (Forbes)

Remember: Happy Employees = Happy Customers.

Consider the facts:

“Engaged teams generate 21% more profit than their disengaged counterparts.  (Gallop))

“Employers who increase their workers’ engagement by just 10% can boost profits by $2,400 per employee every year.” (Recruit Loop)

When people are satisfied with their job, have good communication with their superiors, and their colleagues, and set clear goals, they are motivated to achieve great results. And they often do. According to Gallup’s engagement statistics, teams that work in companies that nurture a high-engagement culture reward those companies with higher productivity, better customer engagement, better employee retention, and a 21% increase in profitability.” (Gallop)

If you only take away one point, it would be this:

Everyone owns the customer experience, not just one individual or department.

CX starts with YOU❣️

Stacy Sherman Leads Customer Experience CX Day
CX Leadership Lessons From “The Four Agreements”

CX Leadership Lessons From “The Four Agreements”

Leadership Article Originally Featured in Forbes  August 3, 2020

 

Many self-help books drive positive changes and personal growth. My all-time favorite is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. While listening to the audiobook, I had an epiphany as to why the book affects me more than any other. It reinforces how I live my life personally and correlates to my profession in the customer experience (CX) field.

From Ruiz’s four fundamental principles, I’ve drawn lessons on leadership, humanizing business, and creating satisfying experiences. I encourage you to read the agreements and apply the leadership principles to your life.

 

Agreement 1: Do Not Make Assumptions

We are all guilty of projecting what we think onto others. When we do not know all the facts, or when communication is unclear or nonexistent, it is human nature to make assumptions that are often wrong.

Misinterpretation is especially true when people email and text each other and inevitably insert their own beliefs about what the other person is thinking. Unfortunately, we tend to make assumptions that are negative and unsupportive.

From this first agreement, I believe we can apply three key lessons for improving customer experience:

• Pick up the phone. By doing so, you can avoid misinterpretation and useless arguments. Call your customers so they are not left guessing when there will be a resolution to their problems. Silence is not an option. Communication with your employees and customers helps avoid false assumptions and preserves relationships.

• Be transparent. People expect the facts even when the news is not what they want to hear. Communicate often and truthfully — it goes a long way.

• Ask customers what they need. There is no reason to guess. Interview and survey people, and incorporate their feedback into your product development process early on. Leverage voice of the customer (VoC) insights not only in go-to-market phases, but also in post-launch stages because customer expectations continue to change.

 

Agreement 2:  Do Not Take Anything Personally

People often misinterpret stories and believe they have something to do with them when that is not the case. As Miguel explains, when you take something personally, you “take ownership” of that thought. Comments from the communicator are their own perceptions of reality, and we must acknowledge that it’s not because of us.

There are three things leaders can do to ensure this lesson takes hold:

• Spend one-to-one time with your staff every week. No excuses. Make the time so that individuals know that they matter and are understood. The more satisfied and engaged employees feel, the greater the chance they will deliver customer excellence, even when their boss is not looking.

• Facilitate employee communication training. Formal education is good, but I also recommend informal tactics too. Something I am doing with my team that is proving to be incredibly valuable is leading a book club. We first read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and then The Four Agreements. I encourage you to do the same with your teams and co-workers and hold each other accountable to follow the golden rules.

• Validate your beliefs. Ask people if you understand what they said correctly. You may be surprised how often you miss part of what others are saying. Many disagreements and misunderstandings are avoidable by communicating what one thinks they heard rather than making assumptions.

 

Agreement 3:  Be Impeccable With Your Word

What you say and how you verbalize your thoughts matter. Ruiz explains that “impeccable with your word means you don’t use your words to speak ill of yourself or others.” The basic principle is to never spread bad gossip about others and stop entertaining negative thoughts, as your attitude is contagious.

The author provides an example of a “black magic box.” If you tell an employee that they are not smart enough to be a leader, the individual will often believe it to be true and have long-term deflated confidence.

To improve how we verbalize our thoughts as leaders, here are three steps to take:

• Use your words to build people up. Express appreciation to your teams and co-workers. Celebrate their successes, and when mistakes happen, use those situations as coaching opportunities. How well your message is received depends on how well you deliver it. The words matter.

• Be intentional with what you say. Perception is a reality. Be mindful of what you say to influence others.

• Know your audience. Some words will be misinterpreted depending on backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Craft personalized messages — a fundamental practice for sales and marketing leaders.

 

Agreement 4:  Always Do Your Best

I love this statement because we often try to deliver more than 100%. The fact is, there is no such thing. At some point, we experience diminishing returns. As Ruiz states, “Stick to doing your best and your personal improvements and transformations will become an obvious consequence.”

When doing our best, it’s important that leaders take two things into account:

• Support work-life balance. As company leaders, recognize people who are doing their best, and encourage them to stay motivated but not get burned out.

• Manage more than your time. I find that successful people tend to be organized and great at time management. Likewise, they excel at managing their energy. Know your limits. Run the marathon. Go after your dreams, but know what you can handle. Your best is often good enough, so give yourself a break.

 

In Summary:

I encourage you to read or listen to The Four Agreements and apply these leadership lessons daily. Being impeccable with your words, avoiding assumptions, not taking anything personally, and doing your best ultimately contribute to better leadership, especially in CX. You will attract the right people and relationships, which may include profitable customers, too.

 

Which is your favorite agreement? Please comment below as I’m interested to hear your views.

 

Note: This article received MVP award by CEU judges.

 

Stacy Sherman receives MVP award by Customer Experience   Update for DoingCXRight Four Agreements Leadership article

 

CX Leadership & Overcoming Diversity Challenges

CX Leadership & Overcoming Diversity Challenges

There’s an increasing amount of conversations about diversity and inclusion, and I love it! It’s actually possible that the next generation, including my own daughter, will have exponentially more opportunities to share their voice without judgments and have leadership positions across all industries.

Earlier in 2019, I was interviewed by my employer, Schindler Elevator Corporation, where there’s a low percentage of women working at the global company. There’s not much diversity in the industry, not just at Schindler. As you can imagine, it is challenging to be a woman leader where there are few females. Yet, I joined the organization believing that I could be a change agent and continue to help create a culture where employees feel valued and included. While this interview was originally published last year, it’s still relevant, and even more so right now.

MY GOAL FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE:

1. TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WOMEN, TO BUILD THEIR SKILLS & FOCUS ON A BOOMING CAREER LIKE (CX) CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

CX is not a fad. It’s here to stay and reputable companies are seeking expertise. Voxpro interviewed five women leaders who talk about the need for females in high-level customer-focused roles. I couldn’t agree more, and recommend reading the informative articles: “Why We Need More Women Leaders in CX.”

2. TO INSPIRE MORE THOUGHT DIVERSITY AND ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO PURSUE THEIR PASSIONS NO MATTER WHAT!

I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years working in large and small companies. I know first hand the challenges in pursuing a career while balancing parenthood. I am elated that more companies are committed to creating a culture where women matter and employee diversity is valued. I’m also grateful for many men who have supported women and have made a big difference in my life. (I wish that I could clone you.) Below is a recap from my interview in honor of International Women’s History Month. I hope it serves as inspiration for all my readers.

INTERVIEW RECAP: 

(Originally published in March 2019. Updated in 2020).

Stacy Sherman Diversity & Inclusion Leader

Q: (Schindler) EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR ROLE.

A: (Stacy) I’m the Head of Customer Experience (CX), leading a team to deliver great customer experiences fueled by motivated, engaged employees. My role includes establishing & implementing innovative Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives that provide a deep understanding of how customers interact & feel across all touchpoints. I’m also leveraging data, including Voice of Employee (VOE) feedback, to enhance customer journeys, and collaborating with cross-team to “close the loop” resulting in record-high customer Net Promoter (NPS) scores.

Q: (Schindler) WHY IS GENDER EQUALITY IMPORTANT?

A: (Stacy) Gender equality is important because all people deserve access to the same resources and opportunities. If two individuals with similar skills &  education apply for the same job or promotion, there should be no difference in the evaluation process. Unfortunately, equality has not been the case over time and I’ve witnessed this. I am very glad there is now a cultural shift so that my kids benefit in positive ways.

Q: (Schindler) WHAT HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

A: (Stacy) I have overcome “inclusion” situations in past workplaces. For example, there’s been a multitude of times that I was not invited to all-male meetings, even when my level or related positions were in the room and topics pertained to my job. I’ve overcome challenges by communicating tactfully with people and articulating the value I bring, so they’d understand my perspective and need for inclusion. While self-advocacy is not easy, it is essential and a contributing factor for success. 

Q: (Schindler) WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN ASPIRING TO GET ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS?

A: (Stacy) I encourage everyone, especially women, to communicate openly and honestly, and deal with uncomfortable situations head-on versus an avoidance approach. Be impeccable with your words and choose the right moments to contribute. You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them accordingly. Also, always be learning and advancing your skills through formal and informal education. I obtained my MBA years ago but continue to get certifications from prestigious institutions to sustain my position as a credible thought leader.

Q: (Schindler) WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST PIVOTAL PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR CAREER?

A: (Stacy) There will ALWAYS be obstacles. Know what you can control and focus your time and effort on those things. People often say “No” without even thinking about situations, but there IS a path to “Yes!” Be creative and figure it out!

Q: (Schindler) DO YOU HAVE A FEMALE ROLE MODEL THAT HELPED YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

A: (Stacy) Executive Director Stacey Aaron-Domanico from my former job at Verizon, taught me about leadership and authenticity through her actions and words. We are still connected, and she inspires me to be amazing and genuine in everything I do.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT DIVERSITY & INCLUSION IN THE WORKPLACE?

10 Effective Ways To Make Big & Small Changes In Life

10 Effective Ways To Make Big & Small Changes In Life

Article Originally Published in Forbes, 3/2020.

Have you ever done something so drastically different that you surprised yourself and others?  That describes me, and I’ve learned a lot about habits and leadership from an experience. I’m sharing my story to inspire and motivate you to create positive changes by DOING, not talking about your goals. Doing creates confidence and ultimately greater happiness. The more satisfied we feel, the better we can contribute at work and at home. 

My journey began on December 23, 2019. While eating dinner with my family, I turned on a Netflix documentary called What the Health. I was fascinated by the show that I watched The Game Changers right after that. I was intrigued by the stories of those who had switched to a plant-based diet and no longer suffered from stomachaches, which I’ve endured since childhood. So, I decided to begin my own experiment having never made such a drastic change before. Within a few weeks, I felt positive impacts from my new whole foods lifestyle.

While I enjoyed my food journey for many months, it slowly ended as vegan life became too hard to keep up when my college kids returned home due to Covid19. I’ve maintained healthy habits and most importantly, proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. You can too.

Whether you are facing a big change (like working from home during a pandemic) or a small change (like starting an exercise routine), your mental mindset matters a lot.

 

How To Make Changes For Personal & Professional Growth:

 

1. Just do it.

Don’t hem and haw when faced with change. As Nike says, just do it. Hesitation often leads to doing things the same old way and expecting a different result. Make the decision to start. If you’re unhappy, then give yourself permission to modify or stop what you’re doing without any guilt. There’s no one right or wrong way to do anything. Make your own path and do so with purpose.

2. There will be a lot of naysayers. Tune out the noise.

Everyone has opinions, and they often don’t hold back. That’s OK, but surround yourself with like-minded people. It makes the journey more enjoyable.

3. Look for opportunities that support your change.

I didn’t realize how many plant-based food options there would be in restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Even fast food and chain restaurants are catering to vegetarians and vegans. Starbucks recently announced that it’s adding oat milk to its menu in 1,300 stores.

As I discussed in a recent article, personalizing the customer experience is a smart business strategy to differentiate your brand. In the context of change, this also reinforces my point. When you commit yourself to making a change and keep your eyes open, you’ll see many opportunities all around you.

4. Small changes often have big impacts.

I’ve found that when we overthink or overcomplicate a task, it leads to accomplishing nothing. So, break down tasks in the pursuit of change. Remember that every action counts. If you only have 30 minutes to exercise instead of your usual hour, for example, commit to it for half an hour rather than pushing it off for another day — or never.

5. Be the master of your own fate.

There’s an inspiring line in the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I first heard this quote in the movie Invictus, which my friend had recommended to me and I now recommend to others.

You control your destiny. The choices you make today impact tomorrow. Build your self-confidence and believe you can make positive changes. That’s when you will do the unimaginable. Morgan Freeman talks about this in more detail.

6. Be mindful — and reap the positive benefits.

Since switching my food choices, I am more mindful when shopping, cooking and eating. I now read labels, which I had never done before. I’m tasting so many new foods and trying restaurants I’d never had thought about. My diet requires me to get more creative, and that makes life more fun. So slow down and enjoy the little things about the change you’re making. I’ve found that being mindful about positive change amplifies happiness.

7. Find (and maintain) a support network.

When making a change, communicate to your friends and family that you need their support. Leverage communities on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms — there is so much knowledge-sharing to go around. Find a partner and hold each other accountable.

8. Move forward from fear.

With any new habit, it’s normal to feel doubtful and fearful of the unknown. Recognize that it’s OK to feel that way but move forward without letting it hold you back. You’ll be glad you did. If you need inspiration, I recommend reading Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

9. Recognize that change is not easy, but self-control is empowering.

Conquering anything challenging, whether it’s a new diet or exercise plan, or a new job or project can feel overwhelming when you first get started. Practice does make perfect and becomes rewarding. Be intentional and focused on your purpose by reminding yourself of the “why” behind the change every day.

10. Everyone has stories. Listen and adapt to what works for you.

As human beings, we’re all experiencing life in different ways. Take the time to ask questions and share your experience. Read books. Listen to podcasts and TEDx Talks. You may be surprised when something you already know resonates in a whole new way. Epiphanies happen when least expected.

What changes have you made and how has it affected your perspective? Which tip above resonates with you most, and what would you add to the list?

Let’s Talk CX – Interview Series

Let’s Talk CX – Interview Series

My passionate customer success friend, Cary Munk, asked to interview me for a special CX project he’s working on. Of course, when there’s an opportunity to talk about customer experience, employee engagement, and building a best-in-class company culture, I’m all in.

While this interview video is not available yet to view, I’m sharing some of our conversations as a preview of several CX talks to come. I am confident you’ll learn something from the series. If there’s a specific CX topic you want to hear more about, please let me know as the “voice of my readers” matters a lot.

Customer Experience (CX) Interview:

 

CARY: Today, I’m delighted to interview Stacy Sherman, who is the head of CX, Employee Engagement, and Culture Transformation at Schindler Elevator Corporation, USA division. (Formerly at Verizon.) Stacy’s is dedicated to HUMANIZING business and challenging the status quo to maximize satisfaction globally. Stacy is a featured guest on CX podcasts, contributing writer to Forbes and other publications, and also a writer of a popular blog, DoingCXRight®‬. Glad to have Stacy, who humanizes the workplace and believes that brands who create a memorable experience for customers are the ones that win in the long run. On a personal note, Stacy continues to amaze me with her thoughtfulness and knowledge and is someone who I continuously learn from. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

STACY:  Thank you for the great introduction. I’m glad to be here.

CARY:  Stacy, so who are you when you’re not at your day job?  What are your personal interests?

STACY:  My most favorite role in life is being a Mom of two kids. Other than that, I have a full-time job, and when I’m not at work, I’m still CX focused. It may sound cliché, but I really walk the talk as I’m Doing CX Right at night and weekends. In general, I am fascinated about the heart and science of CX and continue my studies to deliver great experiences in impactful ways. When I’m not at work, I love to travel the world, notice it, write about it, speak about it. It’s just part of me. You can read a great example of this from my vacation in Anguilla. I interviewed staff members who created Wow Moments for me and other customers. I was intrigued by how much they owned the customer experience even if it wasn’t their direct department. From the interviews, I noticed they all had one thing in common, which is a love of their job. It proves an important point that happy employees fuel happy customers all around the globe. Anyway, to the original question, I’m reading about CX, listening to podcasts, and Ted talks in my spare time. What I’m trying to say is that my hobbies all tie back to CX since it’s my passion.

CARY: That’s amazing. So, you’re the same person at work and at home.

STACY: Yes. You have to be because if you’re going to do what I call humanize business, you have to be human and real all the time. It’s not scripted.

CARY:  That’s true. Not everyone can say that. It makes you unique.  Let’s start from the beginning. What was your background and how did you pivot into CX?

STACY: It’s an interesting story and I imagine everybody you talk to will have some fascinating background.  My career began in sales and marketing at AT&T after college. In a way you can say that is a CX job as it’s customer focused. Back then, the word CX didn’t exist but the basic principles of delighting customers did. I had to meet customer needs and expectations in those roles or I would never have made my sales objectives. The true practice of CX and methodologies came when I was at Verizon. I remember the day my boss threw me a ball. He said that my responsibilities are expanding and I’ll be leading Customer Experience (CX) and Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives. I had no idea what that meant and later learned that he didn’t either. We both intuitively knew that customer experience would grow in importance and that my career depended on my figuring it out. That’s exactly what I did by learning all about getting customer feedback, measuring customer satisfaction, using insight to drive improvements and so much more. The long answer to your question, Cary, is I literally fell into the CX field, and never stopped since I “caught the ball.”

CARY: You really grabbed onto that ball.

STACY: Yes, I did. I had to run forward and sideways, and figure it out with minimal support. While I felt uncertain at the time, I’m grateful that my old boss trusted me to learn and excel as CX as it quickly became a booming field, and experts are in high demand. Every company needs to focus on customer experience to gain a competitive edge. My one advice is if you want to differentiate your brand, start with your employees first. They can make or break a company’s reputation.

CARY: I know that you have worked at companies that provide omnichannel experiences. How does CX apply?

STACY: Most of my jobs included omnichannel (online and offline) experience. It’s an important topic because for brands to succeed, they must make it really easy for customers to learn about products and services, buy without difficulties and get help when they need it. When working at Verizon, the team and I deployed “Buy Online, Pick Up At Store” on the eCommerce website. The launch was a success however, through listening to customer feedback, we learned that there were improvement opportunities. When customers went to their local retail store, they had to wait on a line to pick-up their purchased device and became increasingly frustrated about the wait time. By leveraging “voice of customer” (VOC) data, we were able to identify the challenges and improve the pickup experience. For example, we established separate lines for people visiting the store based on whether they already paid and picking up an order versus people coming to shop and purchase in person. We were also able to provide personalized service to those who already bought since we knew who they were in advance of arrival. My point is that buying online and picking up in-store became its own experience. Companies who operate and serve customers in digital and non-digital ways need to account for the entire customer journey. It must be a holistic approach and seamless to customers as that’s when they will likely purchase again and tell others to buy too.

CARY:  Your story makes a lot of sense. You were listening to customers and getting their feedback to make positive changes to enhance customer experiences.

STACY: Correct. If we had not asked customers about their purchase and pick up experiences, we might not have known about their pain points to improve them. So, I can’t emphasize it enough. Ask customers about their level of satisfaction, sentiments, and level of effort when interacting with your brand. Get feedback and then do something with it. That’s when the magic happens.

CARY: So true. You have worked at a variety of companies and industries; from consumer brands to telecom and mobility, what would be one takeaway that CX practitioners can apply no matter where they work?

STACY:  I have so much to say, but I’ll sum it up. Regardless of industry, start with your greatest assets which are your employees. Actively listen, empathize, and provide great experiences for them because the more employees are happy, the more your customers will be too. CX and EX go hand in hand.

CARY:  Sounds like you are referring to creating a customer-centric culture.

STACY: Yes. The best leaders and brands focus on employee satisfaction AT ALL LEVELS of the organization so that everyone feels empowered and owns CX. Culture starts at the top with an executive champion, yet it also requires a bottoms up approach. I recommend deploying a formal education program within companies. The more that internal teams know about why and how to deliver customer excellence, the greater chance they will be change agents and transform the business. CX trained employees will more often do the right thing for customers, even when their boss isn’t looking. Choosing the right CX program is essential as there are a lot out there, but not all are reputable. Learn about my class experience and recommended universities. I’m happy to share details of the course and what I learned. Likewise, you’ll find valuable resources and articles on my blog to gain practical tips to apply now whereever you work.

CARY: You speak about having buy-in from the top, creating a culture with employee recognition and empathy, and differentiating brands through CX. I’ve been thinking about how CX has been around for many years. Why do you think it’s such a hot topic now more than ever?

STACY:  In the past, companies could compete on price alone, but now, in a hyper-competitive environment, that’s changed. Think about Starbucks for example. There are many places to get a cup of coffee. I shop at Starbucks NOT because I enjoy paying triple the cost versus my local .99 cent coffee place. I am a loyal Starbucks customer because of the experience they provide. From the moment I walk into the store, people greet me by name. Employees intentionally make an effort to know their reoccurring customers. I also appreciate how they handle mistakes when they happen. Employees fix issues with no questions asked. They’ll even go up and beyond to ensure I like something I’m ordering for the first time by providing me a taste before purchasing it. I’m noticing more local cafes are doing this, and I love it. Brands are also getting more sophisticated with their apps and saving customers time before entering the store. That’s where user experience (UX) becomes an essential factor in choosing which brands to buy from. I can go on and on about this. I’ll sum up by saying experiences matter especially when competitive companies are relatively the same price. Read my Forbes article about what coffee shops can teach brands about customer experience.

CARY:  I’ve had a similar Starbucks experience. From the moment I walk in and smell the aroma to when I walk out with a cup of cappuccino.

STACY:  The physical experience is a part of the customer journey.  People immediately judge brands from their first moment when walking into a Doctor’s office, restaurant, etc. We could talk for hours about first impressions and onboarding experiences. Perhaps in the future.

CARY:  So true. Let’s end on inspiring our audience with something positive that we we’ll look back upon as we are going through an uncertain and unprecedented time. One of my takeaways is humorous. Yesterday, I opened the door to my bedroom and there’s a woman on the floor doing yoga… with a video screen of twenty other people doing yoga.  It looked like a yoga studio with a mat, blocks, candles and it took me a few seconds to realize… oh, that’s my girlfriend. And on a personal note, we had planned on moving in together later this year when my daughter starts college. This experience has brought us closer and enhanced our relationship. Stacy, what’s your rainbow?  What are you going to remember when you look back?

STACY: I love this question. I did something that I may never have done if it hadn’t been for Covid19. When the pandemic first started, I contacted about thirty people around the world to learn how they are staying content and productive while socially distancing. Every story I heard was better than the next. One guy in Italy was learning how to bake all kinds of homemade bread. Another guy was creating YouTube lessons with his son to teach children how to play basketball. I captured all the different stories and created an article from the lessons shared. It quickly went viral globally. It’s one of my most favorites because it inspired others at a time when people feel like they’re going against gravity. So to your question about “what’s my rainbow,” my answer is it is all the amazing connections and conversations from my article interviews. Their collective answers are what I’ll remember most.

CARY: That’s inspiring and a good place to wrap-up. Thank you for finding time to chat. For anyone reading this, where can they find you?

Stacy:  My website is DOINGCXRIGHT. You’ll see my contact information, articles, podcasts, and customer experience best practices. Thank you for the time together today, Cary. Bottom line: I’m on a mission to help connect people and inspire great authentic experiences to increase satisfaction. I hope people will join me on the journey. Together, we can make a difference!

CARY: Thank you Stacy. Have a great day.

STACY: You too.

If you want to know more about Cary Munk, connect with him on LinkedIn. And, if you want more information or CX coaching from me, Stacy Sherman, please email me at Stacy@DoingCXRight.com. I’m happy to help the community because together, we can create better experiences for all.

Wishing you much success in the world of CX.