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.

The Returns From Investing In your Customer Experience

The Returns From Investing In your Customer Experience

Over the years, we often hear “the customer is always right.” While “always” may not really be the case, companies are going out of their way to please customers to fuel business growth. This is especially true during Covid19 where social distancing is required and creating customer happiness is harder. Many companies have recently paused their business or shut down because customers stopped buying. On the contrary, many other brands are thriving because they’ve pivoted their business to online, and leveraging data to better meet customer expectations. (Read more about companies who’ve transitioned their strategies and lessons learned.)

Using customer insights to drive business decisions gives companies a competitive edge. While I have my own views on how to collect customer data and use the information to influence product development, market messaging, website design, and more, I became interested to hear from a financial leader to gain additional perspective. I connected with Howie Bick, the Founder of the Analyst Handbook to discuss the financial value of investing in customer experience. The following is a summary of our conversations:

(more…)

How To Humanize Business While Going Digital During COVID-19

How To Humanize Business While Going Digital During COVID-19

As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve continued my journey talking to people around the world to understand how are they coping, staying calm, and productive in business. So many people have had to become digitally savvy overnight and employees are under pressure to pivot online very quickly. Event planning companies are a perfect example of having to shift strategies for business continuity. Those who adapt rapidly while sustaining customer satisfaction are the ones most likely to succeed in 2020 and beyond. 

Meet Vuk Vukannovic

 

Stacy-Sherman-interviews-Vuk-Vukananovic about Customer Experiences During a Pandemic

Vuk is a Customer Relationship Executive at Awards International, where he coordinates Masterclasses and different events focussed on CX, EX, Complaint Handling, Digital Experience, Business Excellence, and more across different business sectors. When not at work, Vuk is finishing his studies in Business Economics and preparing his bachelor thesis on “The Importance of Transparency in Business Awards.”

INTERVIEW SUMMARY:

Stacy: How is Awards International pivoting its business during Covid-19? What advice do you have for others?

VUK: “This situation has definitely caused health and economic issues on a global scale. People don’t feel comfortable going to a supermarket for groceries or going to a pharmacy to get what they need, let alone attend a 500 people event. Therefore, we are in the final stage of switching all in-person events to online experiences. The plan is for our next four awards to be online from finalists’ presentations to awards ceremonies. It will be interesting to see how it affects 2021 business plans. We’ll all learn a lot from this year’s events. My advice to others is to adjust their short-term plans to the situation. Be innovative, seek advice, and help. Do not forget about long term goals.

Stacy: How is technology enabling you to humanize business?

VUK: “Thanks to technology, we’re not out of business. We are still launching events successfully. They’re all online, and not pre-recorded. Participants from around the world are able to ask the trainers questions and share opinions in real-time. We’re partnering with our IT team closely for platform testing and ensuring clients have a good digital experience from beginning to end. Technology is also helping us record each session, which we send to participants within 48 hours. We also leverage digital platforms for the awards scoring and evaluation process. While we relied on the software before the coronavirus outbreak, it is especially important in times like now to sustain our operations.”

Stacy: What’s your greatest business challenge now?

VUK: “There’s so much changing every day. We have gone from utter despair to hope and despair again, then back to hope. We have written 4 new business plans in two weeks, depending on what the outlook is. While it’s hard to predict the future, the shift to an online awards program has been fun. Despite abrupt changes, we’re doing things we wanted to do a while ago. Now, we can and have to do them! There’s a lot of details to care for in the short term, and we need a good communication plan. It is extremely important that we walk our customers through the entire process and satisfy (even exceed) their expectations. Since we are an international company and the pandemic is not the same everywhere, we need to stay updated to what’s happening across different countries and continuously consult with our partners. It’s all about sharing and learning.”

Stacy: What are ways you’re keeping work teams engaged and satisfied to deliver customer excellence?  

VUK: “Over the past few weeks, people have been talking now more than ever before about empathy and care for others. I agree that everything starts with talking and planning, but how many of them actually achieve what they intended? The first words our CEO said at the moment the virus began spreading in the UK is that anyone who wants to work from home is free to do so. The possibility of choice is always appreciated and it greatly influences employee happiness. We have a daily 30-minute video team meetings during which we share experiences and advice on how to approach customers and meet their needs. I also want to mention that we started a marketing campaign called “We connect people” in which we publish our previous and existing customers’ articles on Customer Experience Magazine free of charge. We started to offer affiliate opportunities to our CX Judges too.

Learn about Vuk Vukanovic on LinkedIn & visit Awards International website for a list of events and masterclasses.

Read more interviews of people pivoting their business without sacrificing customer experiences during Covid19.

 

Learn how a Doctor transitioned his NY psychiatric practice from in-person therapy to ONLINE in ONE WEEK! We spoke about how technology has helped him pivot while still humanizing business, and more.

HOW ARE YOU PIVOTING YOUR BUSINESS DURING COVAD-19 WITHOUT IMPACTING CX? 

How To Shift Your Strategy Without Hindering CX

How To Shift Your Strategy Without Hindering CX

The coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we live. It’s impacting people very differently, which fascinates me. I decided to take my passion for understanding and studying human behaviors to the next level for a greater purpose. As the pandemic spreads, I’ve been interviewing people around the world to learn about their experiences and strategy to cope, stay calm, and productive. My goal for publishing a collection of stories is to spread great ideas and inspire others to achieve happiness at a time we need it most.

My first article was about silver linings and what people are personally accomplishing that they may not have if the pandemic never happened. My second article was more business strategy focussed, which featured a Doctor who transitioned his NY psychiatric practice from in-person therapy to ONLINE in ONE WEEK! We spoke about how technology has helped him pivot while still humanizing business, and much more.

Today, I’m featuring another successful entrepreneur who is surviving the economic downturn by shifting his strategy while sustaining a customer-first company culture.

(more…)

How To Quickly Pivot To An Online Business Without Sacrificing CX

How To Quickly Pivot To An Online Business Without Sacrificing CX

Since the coronavirus outbreak started, companies have had to shift their strategies to keep their employees and customers safe. Business owners and managers are making difficult decisions and acting fast to adapt to the current unpredictable and challenging time.

I’ve been curious about how leaders are implementing changes without negatively affecting their staff and customer experiences. I interviewed several people across different industries who are known for HUMANIZING BUSINESS. My goal is to provide helpful tips for people migrating to an online business, remote workforce, and other ways of operating in a new environment. The following is my first article of a series.

Meet Dr. Grant Brenner

Board-Certified physician-psychiatrist, entrepreneur, author, teacher, speaker, and not-for-profit board member

Dr. Brenner is the principal and co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry, an NYC-based group practice. He has been featured in a variety of top-ranked psychology resources and media as a thought leader and contributor. With almost 20 years in private practice, Dr. Brenner developed a creative, results-driven approach to help his patients understand themselves, identify and breakdown limiting patterns, and realize their most fulfilling and complete potential. It is his personal mission to help others, and through this, change the world for the better.

1. How did you transition to an online business so fast? What advice do you have for others who want to do the same? 

GRANT: We were already equipped in terms of software and the expectation that we wanted to incorporate telepsychiatry into our practice in the future. The element of serendipity combined with general preparedness gave us the technological resources required to make the switch. Two other factors were important. First, we were already using real-time messaging to coordinate workflow and enhance team communication. It was easy to extend this tool to a work-from-home environment. Second, we established a culture of regular team meetings to improve performance on a rolling basis, as our company is in start-up mode. This allowed our staff to feel comfortable with the level of trial-and-error required to make the shift, as our company has been going through ongoing reinvention for the last couple of years anyway.

2. How is technology helping you to humanize business?

GRANT: While we believe that there’s no substitute for person-to-person interactions, our ability to communicate to all customers on our digital platform enables us to send meaningful and pragmatic messages daily throughout the Covid-19 discovery phase as New Yorkers were realizing more drastic adaptations would be necessary.
Technology alone is not sufficient. We make use of good risk communication practices, focusing on supportive, understandable messages based on quality information. Clear and useful instructions, reassurance about continuity of service, and on-demand assistance allows us to connect personally with the majority of our clientele. Even though we made heavier use of direct messaging given the difficulty in playing “phone tag” to have a synchronous conversation, most people nowadays experience a strong sense of messaging using asynchronous communication. Our messaging system feels like texting but has the security needed for a mental healthcare environment.

3. What’s your greatest challenge in continuing to humanize business?

GRANT: For us, patients interact with both administrative staff as well as clinicians. Especially because we are a psychiatric group, this can create an “intimacy divide.” We have to pay attention to the perceived split between caring and business and make sure that the patient journey is compassionate at every step. This is an area we continue to work on, so that clinicians support the office practices, and administrative staff supports the healing environment. 
Creating policies that support the patient experience while also respecting the needs of the business can be challenging, especially when financial issues are as murky as they tend to be with commercial insurance companies. Patients already feel like they are getting the short end of the stick from their insurance plans. We’re in the same boat but are often seen as an extension of a broken system than standing side-by-side with patients. We sometimes catch the heat from disgruntled patients when we’re in the same predicament. We encourage patients to advocate with their insurance companies because that often gets more done than our solo efforts on behalf of patients.

4. What’re your next steps to ensure customer (patient) satisfaction?

GRANT: We are focusing on tightening up the communication process, getting greater subscription to our messaging platforms, and continuing to provide effective messages and patient care. We are looking to expand our services to meet the needs of the current environment, and partner with other service providers to enhance access to a range of services.
We want to offer value to patients beyond useful medication management and are training our staff to offer targeted interventions over the next few months. This is also part of a larger wellness-oriented initiative to lead with “positive psychiatry“.

We believe that in addition to warm, useful, and clear communications early on in patient engagement, offering effective care and therapeutic interventions based on compassion and resilience-building are the best way to build patient satisfaction. There is no substitute for effective treatment. We are in the process of integrating evidence-based tools to track progress and provide actionable feedback for patients to get the most value from working with us.

5. What are some ways you are or plan to keep employees engaged and satisfied to deliver customer excellence?

GRANT: We are serious about taking care of our employees, now more than ever. We encouraged employees to work-from-home ahead of the curve, for example. We have been providing staff development on a regular basis, flexible vacation policies, on-the-job mentoring while expanding employee benefits. Because our leaders are clinicians immersed in direct patient care, coming from integrative, wellness and trauma-informed perspectives, we deeply understand that the well-being of ALL the people involved is critical. Patients, clinicians, administrative staff — if the community is healthy, the customer experience will be robust.

Learn more about Dr. Grant Brenner on LinkedIn, his blog, and website.

What’s YOUR experience in pivoting to an online business during Covid-19? Share your comments below.

Diane Magers – CCXP Insights. Innovation. Impact.

Diane Magers – CCXP Insights. Innovation. Impact.

I met Diane Magers a few years ago and was immediately impressed by her passion to promote the field of Customer Experience in the world. As interim CEO for the Customer Experience Professionals Association, Diane speaks and conducts workshops all over the world to help transform CX strategy into action. Diane earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a Masters of Business Administration. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and holds certifications in Voice of Customer, Customer Experience Management, Net Promoter Score and CX Design and Innovation.

Diane is a passionate, experienced Customer Experience executive, change agent and sherpa for new and developing customer obsessed leaders. She believes that brands who win choose to focus on the human and emotional elements of business. I hope you enjoy reading Diane’s take on everything CX as much as I did having a coffee chat with her. Continue Reading →