Leadership Advice And Why Equality Matters

Leadership Advice And Why Equality Matters

Doing CX Right podcast show on Spotify with host Stacy Sherman
Doing Customer Experience (CX) Right Podcast - Hosted by Stacy Sherman
Doing CX Right podcast show on iHeart Radio with host Stacy Sherman

Aug 26 is known as Women Equality Day– which serves as a reminder of the hurdles overcome by the women who’ve faced discrimination and exclusion, and other leadership challenges, thereby creating an awful company culture and workplace experiences.

Why does equality matter?

Well, for starters, when employees don’t feel valued, customers end up feeling it too. They go hand in hand.

On this podcast, you’ll hear from Catherine Sugarbroad, a woman leader and true change agent. I say this not from reading her bio but from first-hand experience, having worked together at Verizon, climbed the corporate ladder, and learned many lessons from traveling bumpy paths throughout our career.

Show Topics Include:

  • What does Equality mean, and how does it link to customer experiences?
  • Examples of inequality in the workplace.
  • Actions taken to improve situations.
  • Recommendations for company leaders and people managers to ensure a better workforce experience.
  • Advice for the next generation of women and girls for success in work and life.
  • Advice for men and boys in the workplace now and in the future.
  • One key takeaway to put into action. Don’t delay.

Press Play To WATCH Interview:


Leadership Advice and Why Equality Matters For CX

Stacy Sherman: Hello, Catherine Sugarbroad. Welcome to the Doing CX Right show.

[00:01:30] Catherine Sugarbroad: Hey Stacy, thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.

[00:01:35] Stacy Sherman: I am so excited to talk to you because we do have a history of working together and I’ve gotten to witness you as a woman leader, really making a difference. To begin, who are you, what do you do professionally?

[00:01:51] Catherine Sugarbroad: I’m a business owner now but it was a very windy road getting here.

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Catherine Sugarbroad: I actually started out in corporate as you know, Stacy. Lots of different roles. I started out in PR. Then I was in marketing and went to product. Then I carried a bag in sales and then back to product, you know, what can I say? I just, you know, really like learning new things, trying new things. And I kept getting tougher and tougher assignments.

And over the years, eventually I became I think Stacy, when you and I worked together, I was directly managing a $30 billion portfolio at Verizon. And you know, together, we played a big role in introducing digital CX practices to the B2B side of Verizon. So along the way, I think, you know, the focus on transformation was clear.

I became known as a transformational leader and in many of the roles I was actually focused on small business. What I found is that that is where my passion lies. I love small business. And eventually I decided I wanted to be a small business. And so I did leave corporate America and I now have two businesses.

One is a real estate business. The other one is a business where we make mobile applications for small businesses. So we specialize in very affordable applications for any kind of any size small business. And then as you know, Stacy, I also have a pretty unique perspective on what it is to be a woman, especially in tech and my desire to give back and support other women in their journey led me to Girls In Tech, where I’m on the board here in New York.

[00:03:29] Stacy Sherman: Why what’s your reasoning for such passion around this topic?

[00:03:33] Catherine Sugarbroad: When I first started out, I was just, I worked as hard as I could. And my work was high quality and I continue to get promoted. But as you move on in your career, it’s not just about your work. It’s also about your relationships.

It’s about your political capital and how you earn and gain that. And there’s an element to the relationships in the political environment in corporate America that sometimes women don’t really understand. And it wasn’t until much later in my career that I had the mentoring and I had the leadership training to start to understand, oh, okay.

You know, this is a man’s world and things are sort of conducted in a certain way, but I was raised as a woman. So now I have to kind of relearn how to navigate in a man’s world. And I wish I had had that kind of understanding earlier on in my career instead of later on in my career. And I so I really try to help other women earlier in their journey if I can.

[00:04:38] Stacy Sherman: Mm. What’s one fun fact that people may not know about you.

[00:04:43] Catherine Sugarbroad: Well, so I am engaged to be married to a wonderful man. We actually met at Verizon also, and he’s been just not only wonderful for me personally, to have discovered him so late in my life, I never thought I would be getting married at my age.

But he’s also been a wonderful mentor. We met in the sales arena and he is just a phenomenal sales professional. His name is Thomas Martin and I have learned a lot. He’s been incredibly helpful to me as I’ve been launching my new businesses. And hopefully we’re gonna get married in Hawaii later this year.

[00:05:21] Stacy Sherman: Oh, that is fabulous. Such good news. Love that. Well, let’s talk about, first of all, equality. When I say that word, what does it mean to you?

[00:05:33] Catherine Sugarbroad: You know, and I’m not a philosopher, I’m sure that there are people who’ve, you know, done writeups on equality and what that really means. But I think for most people

it means that everyone is given the same opportunities. And I think in order for that to happen, because everybody is different, that everybody’s qualities need to be appreciated. So women are different from men, you know, they’re are people from different ethnic backgrounds, they bring different things to the table and those things aren’t always appreciated or understood.

And I think it’s only through embracing that diversity that we will get to a place where we’re somewhat equal.

Yeah. And I want listeners to understand that being equal, feeling equal, feeling valued, absolutely transfers to the customer, to the client. They go hand in hand.

Oh, absolutely without a doubt, and we’re seeing, I mean, you can read articles everywhere where the lack of diversity in the building of technology, especially in AI has created a real bias

that’s actually dangerous and, and definitely creates negative customer and employee experiences everywhere.

[00:06:55] Stacy Sherman: Can you tell me more about that? When you say the new technologies? Is it creating more inequality?

[00:07:02] Catherine Sugarbroad: It is in the way that people are treated, because things are so much of the experience now is being given over to the digital world, right. To digital technologies. And it’s all about the experience is executed in the way that we build it. If we build it with only one perspective in mind, then when they engage with a diverse customer base or diverse employee base, the technology is gonna fail. And that’s what we’ve absolutely seen, especially with artificial intelligence where they’ve seen racist bias in artificial intelligence or they’ve seen just in terms of in a lot of science, even the way that things are measured is measured based on the male body or based on male Clinical trials and things like that. And a lot of times, women are smaller. They don’t need as much medication. Did you know that when they do crash testing for cars that they don’t have to crash test with a female body, with a female size body. They only have to crash test with the male size body.

So basically all the crash testing that has been done and the safety testing that has been done really, and any claims that any auto company can make are only for male body forms. And actually when a woman gets into a car, they have no idea what’s gonna happen to her if that car gets in a crash.

[00:08:38] Stacy Sherman: That’s disturbing.

[00:08:39] Catherine Sugarbroad: Isn’t it? And there’s actually a book that was written on the data that’s out there and the gender biases and all of the data that basically drives science today and technology.

[00:08:52] Stacy Sherman: Fascinating. Well, not even to that sophistication. I remember when I was at my last company workplace and there were very few women technicians who would go and fix and repair elevators. And I remember talking to one of the technicians and she said that she couldn’t wear a ponytail because the hard hat, the way it was designed and even the uniform wasn’t meant for a woman because women aren’t really in that field. And I was like, God, that’s fascinating.

I never really thought about it. Yeah. And how many more jobs are like that where it wasn’t created for a woman.

[00:09:38] Catherine Sugarbroad: No, even simple things like, you know, just helping women when they come back to the workforce after having a child and the different things that they might have to deal with, like pumping milk or, you know, needing a little bit more flex time.

I mean, those are things that are really not necessarily difficult things for companies to offer. It’s just that, because women aren’t necessarily always in positions of power, right, to affect those policies. It just doesn’t it’s, it’s not thought of, so, I mean, it’s a simple thing, but it’s just nobody ever thought of, oh yeah can this hard hat accommodate a ponytail?

[00:10:23] Stacy Sherman: Hm. Yeah. Something so basic. You talked about how you had a lot of different roles and when we worked at Verizon together, you definitely reached a very nice high level. I imagine it wasn’t simple to get your way up there. Can you tell me about that journey and did you ever experience inequality without naming people and organizations but in general, what can we learn from it?

Yeah, I did. It wasn’t anything that you could put your finger on sometimes, right? I think sometimes women hold themselves back in a male dominated world where boys are raised to take risks, to get out there, to ask for things to it’s okay if you don’t look perfect or your shirt’s not perfectly iron and your makeup’s not on perfect. And your hair is not perfectly placed. Right? It’s all about just get out there, do something, you know? It’s okay if you’re not perfect and don’t be afraid to ask for a leg up, right. I think there’s men, boys teach other boys

[00:11:36] Catherine Sugarbroad: this, men teach other boys this, and it is something you learn from a young age. And I think the female generation today is a little bit more fierce than our generation, but when I was raised, it was all about how pretty my dress looked and being perfect and working hard.

But I didn’t value my networks. I think the way men valued their network. I was like, my work’s going to speak for itself. And I would never ask for a job or I would never, you know, ask for a leg up unless I felt like I was a hundred percent ready for it. A hundred percent qualified. And I think that as a result, you know, I missed out probably I know I did. I missed out on opportunities that I maybe could have gotten if I’d been out there earlier saying, Hey, I want that job. And I definitely missed out on getting raises. And I found this out much later on, you know, a little bit before we met Stacy, because I got an opportunity to carry a bag and get a sales job.

And I remember I had always been in staff positions. And so I didn’t really totally know how comp on the sales side worked. And so I called up a friend of mine. I’m like, okay, I’m getting ready to negotiate my salary. And he’s like, they’re gonna try to cut your base salary because your, your at risk compensation is higher.

He’s like, you’re going to wanna try to justify as much as possible why they shouldn’t cut your base salary. Right. So I’m like, okay. He’s like, but your total comp will be higher. I’m like, great. So I’m all ready to, you know, wrote down all the reasons why they shouldn’t cut my base salary, blah, blah, blah.

Get my offer. And they raised my base salary. And so I’m like, they raised my base salary, but I was all prepared for why they shouldn’t cut it. Right. So I called my friend and I said, I just got my offer and they raised my base salary and he goes, oh, Katherine, you must be really underpaid.

And so I was like, oh my God, I was that underpaid that they actually raised my base salary and they raised my bonuses and so my total comp went up. And so I didn’t really know how bad it was, but I was just happy. I was getting like a 40% increase in total comp or something that was like a crazy bump.

So I said, thank you very much. And then a couple years later, I get a call to come back to products. And now I’m transitioning back from a sales job now into a staff job. And I remember, you know, the guy who was hiring me at the time, he said, what’s it gonna take to get you over here? Right. And I said I know I’m underpaid and I just want you to fix. And they raised my salary again by like another 30%. So in the space of two jobs I think my base salary went up like 70%. So, you know, it just goes to show if you don’t ask for those raises, if you don’t ask for the legs up, if you, the promotions, the, what do I need to do to get that?

You know, I mean, we leave so much money on the table and we leave so much opportunity on the table because we just weren’t trained to ask, so that’s my story.

[00:15:01] Stacy Sherman: That’s such a great. example of speaking up, doing it at the right time, that’s everything. Having confidence and going after what you believe is fair. That’s not easy. And yet you got rewarded because of it.

[00:15:26] Catherine Sugarbroad: Yeah. I think we have to look out for each other too. I mean, one of the things that stacy when you worked with me, we had an engineering team. I don’t know if you remember on the Yahoo small business side and we made a pack, the leadership team that we were gonna pay all the entry level engineers the same, because what we noticed was that we would make an offer. And the offer was always the same for entry level. These are entry level college graduates, right? They’re all getting the same offer, but every boy for some reason he would ask for more money and we would always want them to be happy coming to work with us.

And so we would give them a little more. It might not be exactly what they asked for, but they always got a little more. And what we found is that women would just not ask. And so we literally went back and we made a deliberate decision to adjust all the women’s salaries so that they were the same, so that they were higher.

And we said, we just weren’t gonna allow that to happen. There has to be a deliberate action to counteract that, because it’s just not fair. It’s just not fair. It’s not like you’re not gonna get the same quality work out of the female as the man. Right.

[00:16:42] Stacy Sherman: So the people that you’re on the board of, it’s women or girls

[00:16:48] Catherine Sugarbroad: Girls in tech. Yeah.

[00:16:50] Stacy Sherman: What do you tell them? I mean, they’re a new generation. They don’t have the experience that we do, and that might be good because they have a clean slate. Mm-hmm What advice do you give them?

[00:17:05] Catherine Sugarbroad: So Girls in Tech, to give you a little bit of background, they’ve founded about 15 years ago in San Francisco. A woman named Adriana Gascoigne who was tired of the bro culture in Silicon valley.

And the mission is to eliminate the gender gap in tech through professional development, connections and guidance and through jobs. Right? And so our programming includes like boot camps, hackathons conferences, mentoring programs. We do local get togethers. And we have a job board.. I mean, the idea is just to create an environment that enables our members. And our members sometimes are people that are just starting out, like earlier in their career.

What we found in the New York area is that a lot of our membership are actually people are trying to pivot. So either they weren’t in a tech role before now they wanna be in a tech role. Or what they’re realizing is that tech is everywhere now. You don’t have to be in a tech company anymore to have to be tech savvy. Right. Yeah. Or there are people like you and me, Stacy that are, you know, we’re veterans in the space and we’re looking to give back. And we’re actually in 55 cities now in 37 countries and we have over almost a hundred thousand members, I think. So, what do I tell them? You know, I mean, I think that is usually my biggest advice for women today is just be fearless. Don’t be afraid to be rejected. Don’t worry about appearing too ambitious. You know, don’t worry about looking imperfect. Don’t be afraid to ask for a leg up or that raise or for that promotion.

I think that’s where women always wanna have all their ducks in a row because that’s what we were taught, right, before they tackle something whereas boys were taught from an early age, just jump, just dive in, just go.

And so, we have to be self aware about that and encourage each other to jump in, go, go start that business. Or, you know, go ask for that. Who do you know in your network that could maybe help you get that job you want? You know, it’s like that, that’s the kind of thinking that a lot of women aren’t used to that. That’s the kind of thinking that they, they need to do more of. Right. And so that’s what I try to do, in addition to obviously all the programming that we have and trying to connect them with other role models and women who’ve been successful in technology so that they can share their stories and help give that person some confidence.

[00:19:35] Stacy Sherman: Confidence is huge. And as I have a daughter who’s gonna enter the work world when she graduates in the new year, I continue to instill in her and remind her of she’s petite like me, yet so powerful and I feel bigger than I am. And I try to remind her, like she is just so incredibly powerful.

 My question for you, because I have a son who’s in his twenties and they have also a huge impact they do as supporters.

[00:20:16] Catherine Sugarbroad: Yes. And actually that’s been in the last year or so, that has been a bigger part of my personal focus for girls in tech is getting more guys involved because they don’t understand why women don’t ask for the raise. They don’t understand why women don’t ask for the job or why they don’t leverage their networks because that’s not how they think. And so helping them understand that women sometimes just need a little extra push. Once you get them going, the quality of the output you’re going to get from them is going to be incredible, right? Because of all the things that women bring to the table, but just understanding that they can encourage women in a way that sometimes other women can’t encourage I think is important. And they’re also, like you said, they’re often in ranking positions. And so they’re, you know, you can’t just ignore men, right?

I mean, women and men have to learn to work together and women need to learn how to ask men for that leg up too, right? So yes. Yeah. So I think, I think it’s incredibly, the allyship with men is critical.

[00:21:41] Stacy Sherman: One short story that stands out to me for the men listening. I hope they’re listening. And that is when it comes to equality and conversation. I remember several times I’d be in a room and women and men, and one of the men had cursed a few times in their storytelling and he says, oh, sorry, sorry. Excuse me. And I said, you know your story is awesome. It’s the fact that you’re apologizing for cursing, cuz I’m in the room, your locker room talk, right? That you’re apologizing is what’s really making me mad. So that’s what I mean like to people, men, women, anyone. You know, be you and don’t apologize or don’t say it because that makes it worse.

[00:22:31] Catherine Sugarbroad: It does make it worse. I agree. Men have to give women their due. I mean, they’ve earned the right to be there. Right? They wouldn’t be there unless they could handle a little locker talk and we’re not like these prissy girls that, you know, stereotypes anymore. That’s one of the things that blows my mind. I mean, I think about your daughter and congratulations on your son and your daughter, and going to college and graduating and that’s super exciting and I’m sure your son is gonna be a wonderful man. I look at this next generation of men and women and they don’t have some of the same hangups that we have.

I mean, women today, they don’t have the same limitations and they’ve been raised differently. They have different role models. They have a lot more role models and men see those same role models and they’re like, yeah, women are just like, guys, you know, they’re out in the workforce and they, you know, they can be candidates for President of the United States and I think that’s making a difference to the next generation and how men will treat women and how women will think of themselves in a man’s world.

[00:23:45] Stacy Sherman: Agree and gosh, so much more, but we’re coming to the end here. So let me ask you final questions. First of all, what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received or given?

[00:23:58] Catherine Sugarbroad: There are two books that I always go back to and I’ve used them with my teams. One is Carla Harris. She wrote a book called Strategize To Win.

She also has a Ted talk, which is out there if you’ve never seen. She wears these pearls and she she’s sharing Carla’s pearls, her pearls of wisdom. And even for men or for women, I think she shares some great advice on how to get to where you want to be in your career. How to strategize to win. And one of the things that I remember that she said when I saw her speak that really resonated with me was she said, You know, a lot of women think, oh, my work will speak for me. Right. And she says, guess what?

Your work does not speak. And so she talks about some of the things that we talked about, which is, making sure you’re out there. You’re talking about your work, that you’re talking about yourself with people and that people know what you want next and that they’re giving you advice and they’re becoming a part of your career and things like that.

I think that that book is a great book. I’ve shared it with my teams before and I highly recommend it. The other one, which is really great for transformation, especially in a lot of CX journeys are about transformation as you know, Stacy. So another book that I bring in with more transformational type of audiences and CX audiences is a book called Switch.

How to change when change is hard. And it tells you not just how to drive transformation, but also potentially changing yourself. And the key is all about getting your rational brain and your emotional brain in sync. Those are the two books that I highly recommend to anybody who’s like in our line of business, or just looking for great leadership advice.

[00:25:56] Stacy Sherman: I wrote those down. I’m going look those up. So thank you for that. Fabulous. And if I had CEOs leaders, entrepreneurs In my room right now, what’s the one takeaway you want them to remember?

[00:26:09] Catherine Sugarbroad: Focusing on diversity and inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do. I would remind them that it’s good for business too.

Right. It increases the talent pool. And we all know there’s a big talent shortage out there. It improves employee satisfaction and strengthens the customer orientation. You know, we talked about how diversity is critical to ensuring that our technology is not biased, like artificial intelligence and also McKinsey did some research that showed that there was a high correlation between financial out performance for companies that were gender diverse and those that were less gender diverse. And so there’s clear research that shows that a focus on diversity is good for business. And I think, unfortunately I wish I could say that where we’ve gotten to today is because it was the right thing.

I think it’s clearly because it was good for business. Nothing in this space happens without intention. And so if you need help on what to do next, there are lots of organizations that you can team up with that would be happy to team up with you. Girls In Tech obviously is one. If you reach out to me anytime.

There’s women in technology, international girls who code, black girls who code, built by girls, breakthrough tech. I mean, depending on what you’re trying to achieve I can recommend an organization, so there’s lots of us out there. And we can help you.

[00:27:42] Stacy Sherman: Love that. Thank you for the great advice.

And last speaking of advice, if you could go back in time to your younger 20 year old self based on what you know now that you didn’t know, then what would you tell younger catherine?

[00:27:57] Catherine Sugarbroad: I would say don’t worry about being perfect and don’t be afraid to ask for that leg up. Absolutely.

[00:28:04] Stacy Sherman: I am so grateful that I get to share the gift of you with my audience, and where’s the best way to connect with you?

[00:28:12] Catherine Sugarbroad: On LinkedIn. I’m pretty active as you know, Stacy. So feel free to reach out to me with a direct message. You can comment on one of my posts. Would love to hear from you.

[00:28:25] Stacy Sherman: Wonderful. Well, thank you. And may the next generation have it easier than we did and we’re part of the movement. So it’s all good.

[00:28:36] Catherine Sugarbroad: Thank you, Stacy.

About Catherine Sugarbroad 

Catherine is the Chief Revenue Officer and Founder of sWorks.io, a New York based technology start up committed to solving the small business app-building puzzle. Using their disruptive low-code App Builder platform, sWorks.io delivers high-quality, beautiful apps at unbelievable prices and speed. Catherine’s deep expertise in the small business market was instrumental in helping sWorks.io establish rapid customer and revenue growth in their first year.

Prior to starting up her own company, Catherine was a driving force for the development of innovative solutions for Small & Medium Business at Verizon, a portfolio generating over $30B annually. Catherine’s leadership career spans 20 years across significant leadership positions overseeing Sales, Operations, Marketing, and Product Management in the tech and communications.

She’s passionate about giving back to the industry through executive mentoring and as an Advisory Board Member for Silicon Valley startup, Adentro (formerly Zenreach). She is also a Board Member of Girls in Tech NY, a nonprofit organization committed to building the diverse and inclusive tech workforce the world needs.

Catherine is also a charismatic key note speaker who enjoys connecting with her audiences on a number of topics including understanding the small business mindset and the power of human connection in customer interactions.

A native of Canada, and a US Citizen, Catherine speaks French and English. She earned a Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Psychology from The University of London, Goldsmith’s College and a double Master’s degree in Management & Administrative Science as well as Business Administration (MBA) from The University of Texas at Dallas.

Connect on LinkedIn.

About Stacy Sherman: Founder of Doing CX Right®‬

An award-winning certified marketing and customer experience (CX) corporate executive, speaker, author, and podcaster, known for DoingCXRight®. She created a Heart & Science™ framework that accelerates customer loyalty, referrals, and revenue, fueled by engaged employees and customer service representatives. Stacy’s been in the trenches improving experiences as a brand differentiator for 20+ years, working at companies of all sizes and industries, like Liveops, Schindler elevator, Verizon, Martha Steward Craft, AT&T++.   Stacy is on a mission to help people DOING, not just TALKING about CX, so real human connections & happiness exist. Continue reading bio >here.

Breakthrough Approaches to Managing Customer Risk

Breakthrough Approaches to Managing Customer Risk

Doing CX Right podcast show on Spotify with host Stacy Sherman
Doing Customer Experience (CX) Right Podcast - Hosted by Stacy Sherman
Doing CX Right podcast show on iHeart Radio with host Stacy Sherman

Your surest path to lasting business growth is by getting a handle on customer risk BEFORE it’s too late. There is a series of steps to reduce churn and prevent bad customer reviews, which entails leveraging operational data and aligning teams around what really matters to customers.

Listen to Stacy Sherman and Richard Owen, Founder, and CEO at OCX Cognition, and co-creator of the NPS system, discuss topics that Richard claims people have not been doing right yet can shift approaches now for better business outcomes.

Show Topics Include:

  • What does customer risk mean?
  • What can leaders do to minimize or eliminate churn and unwanted outcomes?
  • What are the links between operational data, customer perception, and team alignment?
  • Why is the Net Promoter System (NPS) controversial?
  • Richards’s advice on how to apply NPS the right way and “win on purpose,” as Fred Reichheld reveals in episode 45 and also Rob Markey in episode 2.
  • Convincing tactics to pitch executives for increased investment in CX programs versus a common ineffective approach.
  • How to design better surveys and leverage technology to predict buyer behaviors
  • The best leadership advice received and given.
  • One key takeaway for people to apply wherever they work.  


Breakthrough Approaches To Managing Customer Risk

Stacy Sherman: Hello, Richard Owen. Welcome to the Doing CX Right show.

[00:00:14] Richard Owen: Oh, thanks for the invitation. It’s good to be here.

[00:00:17] Stacy Sherman: Yes, we met many years ago and I believe it was because you had a lot of focus on customer experience measurements and NPS. And I was intrigued by how much you were driving that conversation. So I thought here we are, years later, I started a podcast, and who better to have and invite than someone who’s been doing this for years?

So glad you’re here.

[00:00:47] Richard Owen: Thanks. Well, that makes me feel old, but, nevertheless, I’ll take it as just experienced.

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[00:00:53] Stacy Sherman: are definitely experienced. Yes. So tell my audience a bit of who you are, what you do professionally.

[00:01:02] Richard Owen: Sure. So, uh, I’m the founder and CEO of a technology company called OCX Cognition. And our business is build, bring the next generation of technology, particularly machine learning, to understanding customer experience drivers, operational data NPS.

So puts simply, we’re predicting NPS performance across the entire customer journey, as opposed to, uh, relying completely on surveys. And this is after getting on some 20 years in the CX industry. I was the CEO of SAP metrics, which was the company that co-created the whole net promoter score methodology in 2003.

And I think probably, uh, is one of the companies responsible for popularizing it. So we developed a lot of the material around NPS and so very much, uh, you know, from a previous generation of technology that relied on surveying, I’ve now moved on to what I hope to be I think the sort of next generation of technology.

[00:02:06] Stacy Sherman: What’s your why? Why do you care so much about all this?

[00:02:11] Richard Owen: Uh, you know, I think that when it comes down to it, there are very few legitimate business strategies that companies can adopt to be successful. And customer experience has always appealed to me because it had a couple of really exciting ideas behind it. One was, I thought it was a morally solid way to think about building companies.

And I think that’s very appealing for a lot of people, right. There are lots of ways to create businesses. You can create a literal monopoly and exploit people. And you do it very well. If you can accomplish that from a business perspective, or you can find a way to grow companies through delighting customers.

And that seemed to me to be a more morally attractive way of doing business. And in my previous experience, I was a general manager of, business units at Dell Computer Corporation. I built part of the company there. And even though I wasn’t directly involved in CX, it seemed to me like that was intrinsic to business growth.

And that’s really the second part of why. Ultimately at the end of the day, I do think customer experience has the potential to be, uh, highly integrated into company’s growth strategies. And I say potential because I have to say, I don’t think that potential’s realized very often. I think the industry has somewhat gone off the rails over the last decade.

But I think that there is a very solid basis for believing that CX can be a good business strategy if executed well.

[00:03:39] Stacy Sherman: I agree. Yes. Now something more personal. What is something that people don’t know about you? Maybe a fun fact.

[00:03:50] Richard Owen: Well, it’s a good question as to which people wouldn’t know this, but, probably the fun fact is I’m a huge supporter of Liverpool football club, which if you are in any way connected with English football

or soccer, as we say here who probably has, has some meaning, and especially for someone in my generation, because, and again, Stacy’s may mean nothing to you, but I grew up at a time when Liverpool was, um, the dominant team in Europe was one of the most successful clubs, uh, in the history of the sport.

And then for a large part of my life, they were less successful. And they only just realized that same level of success in the last couple of years. So particularly big time for those of us, who’ve been waiting for half our adult lives to see this come around again.

[00:04:38] Stacy Sherman: Love it. So let’s get into some topics here that you know a lot about, and this is something that every company.

will care about, and that is risk. How do you minimize risk? How do you get ahead of it before it’s too late where customers say I’m done. Goodbye.

[00:05:01] Richard Owen: Yeah. So this is a particularly relevant topic for just about anyone who’s in business to business today, because one of the big transitions that we’ve seen over the last decade is a fundamental shift from thinking of customers as sort of transactions, to thinking of them as lifetime value type relationships.

And some of that’s been driven by transitions and subscription type models. Certainly that’s been a big factor in the software industry, but I think it’s also spilled over into telecommunications, financial services. We’re now used to thinking of customers as an annuity stream. And in fact, our economic models don’t work

if we’re not really successful at maximizing that long term annuity stream. So associated with that, annuity is the risk of loss. You know, customers no longer stay sold. You don’t go and sell a deal to someone, take the money. And that’s it. You are now in a business where we all care about retention.

And when you care about retention, then you’re concerned about the risk of loss of customers. Now for most people running large B2B companies, they’re managing a portfolio of accounts and they recognize a few key facts. The first one is that within a portfolio there’s vastly differing levels of risk.

And so some accounts might be for entirely logical reasons, very loyal. Some might be for entirely illogical reasons, uh, very loyal or very disloyal and likely to churn. And that’s something that the CX industry has traditionally thought we had a good beat on when we use measures like NPS, but that’s really pretty insufficient if you think about it, because time is a very significant variable here.

If you find out about a customer leaving too late, two things happen. One, the likelihood you’ll be able to recover that account drops very substantially. Secondly, even if there’s a possibility, the cost to mitigate that problem increases quite dramatically. So time is a very, very significant factor. If you can find out about risk earlier in the cycle, you have both more time to affect change and recover, but you have a much lower cost.

So, many people managing B2B portfolios have become almost obsessed with this idea of how do I get an early warning system? How do I better understand the health of accounts? Because there’s such relevant financial impact associated with it. Now, honestly, historically companies have tried two things.

They’ve tried measuring it through metrics like NPS and surveying. And they’ve tried asking their teams. Now, let me talk about, first of all, the, the benefits of asking your employees what they think. At this point, the data suggests that asking people what they think about the health of their accounts is so error prone, you’d almost be better off betting against your team.

And, that’s quite logical if you think about it. First of all, the people on your staff may not be talking to the right people at the account. They bring their own biases. Uh, they tend to actually have a real hard time understanding risk in an analytics sense. So when they’re talking to customers, they perceive a customer who is congenial as being loyal, or they talk about topics that are comfortable topics.

And somehow the real issues never get unearthed. So if an employee, if a customer success manager or an account manager comes and says, this account’s in great shape, it creates two problems for you. The first is they may be completely wrong. And secondly, because they’ve said the account’s in good shape, you tend not to focus on that account.

So you’re actually getting a complete misdirect. And so this whole notion that we can go around just asking opinions and get any kind of reasonable risk assessment is just mathematically completely incorrect. And in fact is more dangerous than frankly not asking. The other technique. People use more objectively is they’ve used surveys.

Let’s survey our customers. Let’s ask them whether they’re promoters, passives or detractors. And of course that’s become immensely popular and most companies do that in some degree or another, but that has a few really significant fatal flaws. First of all, as survey response rates drop, especially in B2B, it’s becoming obvious that the data you’re collecting is not particularly indicative of the health of your customers.

You can’t just extrapolate from the accounts that respond to the rest of the account base that mathematically doesn’t work. Furthermore, the people who are responding in B2B might not be the right people. So you might be getting wrong information. And finally, even if you’re lucky enough to get a really good group of responses, your data is almost inevitably way, way out of date, because you can at most get data twice a year.

And that means for most of the year you’re in the dark. So ultimately risk can only be addressed by an objective timely way of calculating essentially the performance of customers. And that I think is where we’re all striving to move forward. I think we’re trying to dispense with the guess work, dispense with the surveys and move to models where we can be much more timely.

Uh, we can buy our customers chance to respond challenges by alerting them as to risk.

[00:10:24] Stacy Sherman: So, wow. You said a lot of good information. I think one of the important pieces to this big puzzle is what we call close the loop. And I believe a lot of times companies are good at asking questions.

Maybe they’re not asking the right questions. Maybe they’re not asking it in the right order. That’s a different topic. Different day. Because we know it’s a science and art to the whole feedback process, but also, I have been in many companies, and I imagine you’ve seen this too, that people ask questions, they check the box that they are customer centric, and then there’s no actual, what are you doing with the insights? Who’s involved?

And what did you tell the customer you did? What’s your view on that?

[00:11:24] Richard Owen: Well, I think first of all, if you’d have asked me a decade ago, I would’ve said that the biggest issue was twofold. One was yes, closing the loop companies were asking customers questions and they weren’t following up. And that was a fundamental poor execution of surveying.

And that was a problem 10 years ago. It was actually a problem 15 years ago when original net promoter methodology sort of got really developed in the early parts of the twenties. Closed loop was one of the core ingredients. And at the time we were on a sort of mission to tell people. Don’t ask questions

you don’t, you don’t want to essentially hear the answer to and follow up and close the loop. So it’s a longstanding problem and it’s contributed to the deterioration of response rates and surveys, cuz customers don’t think you’ll do anything with it. There was also a more fundamental strategic dilemma, which was companies weren’t doing anything at a macro level with the data.

So even this strategic analysis of customer experience, wasn’t being acted upon. And that was really because the data wasn’t good enough in some ways. Executive teams were being presented by quite facile analysis, very poor quality data. And they were saying, I don’t believe you. I don’t think this is actionable.

I don’t think it’s significant. And that came about as a consequence of some poor journey design, poor survey design, a very traditional kind of research orientation, rather than operational analysis. So a whole bunch of bad practice led to data that was unconvincing, and that was another problem. I think those are frankly problems now that are, should have been solved by most companies a long time ago.

And companies now need to be asking more significant questions. Like for example, forget closing the loop on a select series of survey questions. How do I target action at accounts where I have the highest risk relative to reward. So if I look at my portfolio of business and customers, I have finite resources.

I can’t afford to essentially go into every single customer and proactively address problems. That’s economically unviable. I have to be able to map my customer base out and understand where the problems are. Suggesting that companies close the loop as a primary strategy biases them towards survey respondents.

So, they’re basically saying we’re gonna allocate resource to people who respond to surveys, which is not a logical resource allocation ignore customers who don’t respond, which could be the biggest problem, uh, and apply those sort of financial and economic logic to why they would respond. So I think at the end of the day, we have to do a complete rethink of this.

We have to get to a more fundamental understanding of the health of our customer base. And, we have to be able to direct resources in a much more efficient way and a much more targeted fashion. And so, I think close loop was a great innovation 20 years ago. I think it was an idea that made a lot of sense for 10 years.

Uh, I think a lot of companies still didn’t adopt it to your point. And I think that was a real shame, a real failing on their part. But I think today, honestly companies should have even moved on from that. And we should be thinking much more analytically about where to put our resource.

[00:14:48] Stacy Sherman: So on that note about resources, one of the challenges that people talk to me about is they say, I know customer experience is important. That is not of question anymore, but the challenges to get the leadership buy-in, to get money, to buy the tools and platforms and support, right. Proving that return on investment. What do you tell people who are struggling to show the value. It’s different than for example, in eCommerce. You have a very clear sale online or at your store. There’s a cash register, there’s cash or, credit card. But with CX it’s a bit more difficult.

So clearly there’s reducing churn. Tell me what your view is when people feel stuck. I want to get money to invest. What do I do?

[00:15:50] Richard Owen: Right. So, first of all, let’s let’s acknowledge legitimately customer experience over the last 20 years has been resource deprived compared to equivalent initiatives. We actually ran research to the effect of understanding how

parallels between say digital transformation, you call, call a program, digital transformation, how it gets funded, call it CX and how it gets funded. And even if you essentially put identical programs under two different titles, executives want to invest in digital transformation, they don’t want to invest in customer experience programs.

So the customer experience programs have, I think, a poor record of attracting dollars. And my reaction to people who say this from the practitioner perspective is I think the first thing we’re to do is take a look at what we’re actually doing. Because a lot of the programs that I see that aren’t getting funded, shouldn’t be funded.

The programs just are so badly set up and run that frankly, senior executives legitimately shouldn’t be sticking any money behind them. And I think that’s because CX leaders sometimes think this is a moral crusade. I should be given money to make custom experience work in my company because it’s the right thing to do.

And I don’t have to necessarily be great at this. I don’t have to figure out how to make an analytic case. Somehow executive teams are just not getting it. They don’t understand. And I rarely find that to be the case and not to say by the way, Stacy, that there aren’t some executive teams that just don’t get it.

I’m saying that a lot of times CX practitioners are presenting very weak arguments for why they should get funded at higher levels. And that’s usually associated with two major problems. The first is that they have successfully positioned their CX program as a survey program and survey programs

don’t get funded. So if you compare survey programs as a source of data with say, oh, wow, frankly, machine learning programs or digital transformation or other data science programs, they are underfunded because surveys are very weak data set, and so executives don’t care about survey data like they care about other types of data, operational data, for example, in the business.

So, a lot of CX programs won’t be funded because they’re basically glorified survey programs and that’s a very poor positioning for those programs. The second problem is that a lot of instances that they’re not making any logical analytic connection between business objectives and CX program outcomes.

So, with all due respect, especially somebody who’s been in the NPS industry for 20 years going and saying, we’re going to improve our NPS isn’t a sufficient argument for investment. Not only is it not credible because you’ve got to make a lot of connections between measurement and natural outcomes, but also because a lot of the programs that are being set up don’t understand how NPS is then going to link to financial outcomes in a useful analytic fashion.

And so they’re set up as sort of a research program in their own right. They’re not connecting to business outcomes. Now, if you want to go step further, Stacy, I would say that this is a skills deficiency within the CX community. I think that too many CX leaders are basically coming from the wrong

developmental path personally. And so they’re struggling to make the case to line management. Let me draw a contrast here. So, some of the best CX leaders in the world come out of line management positions. They had a function in sales, had a function in marketing, maybe quality, manufacturing.

They did a tour of duty at let’s call it the sharp end of the stick. And for those people, they instinctively understand how business outcomes are related to analytics and data. And, also the fundamental of accountability within companies. I think that for a lot of CX professionals who come out of say research roles, that universe of quarterly targets hitting results every month, motivating sales guys, finding ways to keep management off your back as you hit a quarterly P and L number is a very strange universe.

It’s not the universe they live in. And so they struggle to talk to that universe. And I think that is the acquirable skill. I think we can teach CX professionals to bridge the gap to leadership, and communicate successfully and make a case for CX, but many of them haven’t learned that skill and haven’t been taught it.

And so they’re going in with a pitch that’s very uncompelling and they think that just a moral argument’s going to get them what they want. So this is a huge issue for the CX community and a lot of programs I see frankly shouldn’t be funded because the program’s not good enough, or is a good program, but the CX management has no idea how to make the argument to line management.

They speaking a totally different language. It’s like completely different level of business literacy. So those are the challenges, what I would say, and I know this won’t make too many friends, but I think starting from a perspective that, oh, senior leadership just doesn’t get it is a very poor place to start.

I think we in the CX community probably are to start looking ourselves first and maybe we don’t get it.

[00:21:22] Stacy Sherman: Hmm. That is powerful. I do believe that if we are intentional in helping people understand how they have a CX job, in different organizations, frontline, back office, then people are adopting best practices.

They are incorporating the customer in everything they do. And, I agree it’s an education. It’s a mindset. It’s teaching. It’s informing. Certainly it helps. For myself, I’ve always been in sales and marketing. I fell into CX and to me, it all blends.

[00:22:06] stacy sherman overdub: So for me, it was easy, but for others who are, let’s say in finance, in legal, in project management, it does take sitting down with the everyone and saying, here’s how you impact. And then, you see the change in the company happen.

[00:22:28] Richard Owen: Yeah, I would agree with that statement. I mean, I think there’s a significance or cultural education piece, but let’s boil it down to basics in some ways. Do the way we measure customer experience

connect at the board and CEO level, because if that’s important, then we’ll get people’s attention. If the Board of Directors cares about measurement of customer equity customer, you know, if you take Don Pepper’s universe of customer equity, you know, or the NPS universe of measuring that way, whichever way you want to do things.

If the board cares about this notion that there’s value in understanding the customer and they hold the leadership team accountable for that measure, then you will get ramifications across the company. It will trickle down through the company. If that’s absence of the senior level, then you’re not gonna get anywhere.

I mean, candidly look, NPS is a vanity metric for a lot of companies. They’re doing it because at some level they like the idea of measuring customers, because it makes for a, you know, maybe it’s a good piece in the annual report. Customers are the center of our universe. We love our customers. It’s all about customers.

And so they kind of put NPS program together and they’ll do some superficial measurement and they’ll announce it’s a vanity metric. For others, it’s a PR opportunity. They think that they’re gonna have a very high NPS and they want to go off and tell everybody it’s the case. And they’re not really interested in improving it.

They’re probably not really interested in even measuring it correctly. If anything, they’re only interested if it tells good PR stories. So you get some pretty badly manipulated data in that regards. And a lot of companies announcing 80 point NPSs are just wrong. They don’t have an 80 point NPS. So there’s vanity metrics.

There’s downright manipulation, there’s PR. And then there’s the case where there is a level of conviction amongst the board and the management team that the long term interest of shareholders are best served by building this customer asset as a company. And that conviction turns into measurement

that’s done sincerely because if it matters, it’s gonna be measured correctly and then it turns into accountability. The organization is held accountable for that performance. And these are the basic ingredients. And I hate to boil that down something so simple, but the end of the day, the presence of those criteria results in very serious investment and very serious execution around customer experience.

The absence of those criteria results absolute rubbish. It’s all gonna go nowhere. So, the first question we should ask is number one, are we actually trying to execute CX because we’re accountable for it or are we playing at executing CX because we think it’ll make a nice press release. People who are in the former camp I think will be responsive to logical arguments.

Employees will be responsive to, as you put at education and enlightenment. Enlightenment sounds dark. It sounds far too euphemistic, but let’s just say in the illumination of the reality of the business is gonna work. Companies that are playing at NPS or playing at customer experience.

And there are a lot of them, uh, you know, look, frankly, you’re never gonna persuade that group of management to do anything.

[00:25:52] Stacy Sherman: Yes. And I do also want to make it clear that it’s not just big companies with Board of Directors. This is even small businesses where, what we’re talking about here and minimizing risk of losing customers and losing employees too, that this applies to every business.

Yes. So want to make sure that anyone listening, doesn’t just say, ah, that doesn’t apply to me because it does.

[00:26:25] Richard Owen: Well, I think that’s a great point and look small businesses in some ways I always find instinctively get this a lot easier than larger companies because they have less to fall back on. You know, one of the most interesting things about being in tech startups and I’ve been doing software startups for 20 years is that they don’t exist unless they offer a differential

better value to customers, right? They have everything against them. They’re tiny. They have less capital than big companies. They have fewer human resources. They have no brand, right. Everything’s against you. So how do you thrive and grow? Well, you do that because you’re bringing something you unique, innovative, and usually massively appealing to customers to the market.

And so most startups instinctively understand that they have to delight customers to be successful. It’s just, and, and this is true for small companies as well. The challenge is more amongst incumbent, large companies who have a lot of assets to fall back on and brand to fall back on. And that unfortunately makes you lazy.

Right. I mean we talk about disruption in the age of digital transformation, right? And I’m throwing buzzwords out left right and center. But, what we’re really talking about when we talk about disruption is we’re talking about established companies that have been able to make a lot of money through doing things traditional ways, suddenly facing competition from new entrants and reeking havoc on their business models.

And the new entrance are usually doing that out of innovation around customers. That’s because the established companies, you know, are unresponsive. How is it possible today that we have so much innovation in retail banking? I mean, it’s an industry that shouldn’t be easy to disrupt. Huge asset bases, lots of government regulation.

Well, the bigger the banks get often the harder they found it to be in touch with the reality of their customers and innovative new entrance have better understood customer. And identified gaps in the capabilities of large banks and they filled those gaps and that’s what’s established small and new entrance. You know, today FinTech companies, so-called FinTech companies that essentially startups have cumulatively higher market capitalization than the large money center banks.

In other words, the markets think that these startups, these small companies with no advantages in the marketplace are worth more than the big money center banks. And I I think if you examine each one case by case at the origin of every one of those stories is a story of better serving customers. Is a story of identifying weakness.

And, you know, obviously we love to talk about blockbuster versus Netflix, but that story plays out time and time and time again with new entrants. So I think small companies get this more instinctively, and I think it’s more part of their culture.

[00:29:30] Stacy Sherman: Wow. So much more we could talk about, but we are coming to the end.

So I’m going to ask you two final questions. One is more of a personal question and the other is professional advice. So, starting with the professional. If I had CEOs, many leaders in my room right now, what is the one thing you would tell them? One thing you want them to know?

[00:29:59] Richard Owen: I would say that your long term shareholder value is going to be highly correlated to the value of your customer equity. And, if you want to have a share price that’s substantially higher five years from now, you’re going to have to understand what that customer equity is, how it’s valued and how you can improve it.

[00:30:22] Stacy Sherman: Well said. Now last one is if you could go back in time and give advice to your younger self, let’s say 20 year old Richard, based on what you know now that you didn’t know, then what would it be?

[00:30:41] Richard Owen: I would say take more care of your hair because you’re not going to have it forever.

[00:30:48] Stacy Sherman: I

like that.

[00:30:49] Richard Owen: I think personally that’s probably actually the best advice I could give myself.

But, I think professionally, I would say that like a lot of people earlier in the career, I was probably more highly strung than I needed to be. And I think for all of us, and I think Covid’s kind of, I know we don’t wanna talk about COVID, but I think it’s taught us a few life lessons.

And I think that we should all be more balanced in our approach. These things are marathons, not sprints. And I think we have to take care of ourselves more and, you know, dig in for the long haul. So. You know, all joking about my hair, because I don’t think there was frankly, anything I could have done about that.

I think the advice would be think more carefully about your health and think more carefully about how you’re going to be around for the long run.

[00:31:40] Stacy Sherman: Love that. And I’m going to definitely play that for my two young adults. Uh, my college kids and young adults, so it’s great advice.

Well, this is a bragging moment, as we say goodbye, where can people find you, learn more about you because I know they will want to and I’ll add any links to the show notes.

[00:32:01] Richard Owen: So the, the business is at OCX Cognition.com, and I’m on LinkedIn, which is a great way to connect.

[00:32:10] Stacy Sherman: Excellent. Well, thank you for sharing your wisdom. I feel like we could have talked for many more hours and I appreciate you.

[00:32:19] Richard Owen: Of course. Well, thanks for putting this together, Stacy. It’s great.

Take care. Have a wonderful day.

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About Richard Owen: Founder & CEO of CXO Cognition

Richard is one of the best-known thought leaders in the Customer Experience industry. While CEO at Satmetrix, his team led the development of the Net Promoter Score methodology with Fred Reichheld, which created the most widely used approach to measuring customer experience in the world. Together with Dr Laura Brooks, he co-authored “Answering the ultimate question” which quickly became the “how to” guide for NPS practitioners. Learn more at www.ocxcognition.com.

Learn more on Richard’s Company website  Connect with him on LinkedIn.

About Stacy Sherman: Founder of Doing CX Right®‬

An award-winning certified marketing and customer experience (CX) corporate executive, speaker, author, and podcaster, known for DoingCXRight®. She created a Heart & Science™ framework that accelerates customer loyalty, referrals, and revenue, fueled by engaged employees and customer service representatives. Stacy’s been in the trenches improving experiences as a brand differentiator for 20+ years, working at companies of all sizes and industries, like Liveops, Schindler elevator, Verizon, Martha Steward Craft, AT&T++.   Stacy is on a mission to help people DOING, not just TALKING about CX, so real human connections & happiness exist. Continue reading bio >here.