Customer Experience Podcast – Big Lessons From My First 12 Guests

My goal in coaching leaders and bringing them together is to create an engaged community that learns from one another.  Fearlessly, with no holds barred.  That has been my intention behind my books, blog, speaking and work as co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. That is also behind why I have launched a customer experience podcast series – so that we can hear each other’s’ voices and celebrate in our successes and learn from our challenges.  My goal is to offer peer to peer sharing about the ins and outs of this role: what works, what doesn’t and how to stay the course and gain traction. Here we discuss the journeys and explore the roles of the most senior customer experience leaders around the world.

My podcast is called The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show because every great customer experience leader knows that a major part of this work is uniting the silos and organization to have a comprehensive view of customers’ lives.  This title is a nod to the fact that a Chief Customer Officer often becomes the ‘duct tape’ of the organization to guide the company to earn the right to customer-driven growth.   

I’m honored that we have had 12 guests in my podcast series, with the most senior leaders from the insurance, entertainment, not for profit, healthcare, automotive, library system, government, technology and car rental industries.   We will continue to add both business-to-business and business-to-consumer senior customer experience leaders each week.

Here are some great moments and pieces of advice and learning from our guests to date:

Early Customer Experience Podcast Lessons: Being Clunky, Nine-Month Arcs, And Human-Centered Design

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Martin HandClunky can be good: This is a lesson from my first episode, with Martin Hand of St. Jude. Martin has worked to enable the organization to “look at everything from the donor perspective.”  One initial effort, with little cost, was the creation of boards that depicted the current experience that donors were receiving from across the organization.  I love this example because it jives with something I often coach people on, which is “clunky is good.”  You don’t need to spend a lot to have an impact.  These very low-cost boards that were created, for example, were very powerful in showing the total St. Jude Donor experience to many for the first time.  St. Jude is a non-profit, and as Martin notes, “our mission is to save children’s lives. We want money going to the hospital. We minimize costs all the time.” There are ways to do effective CCO work without the massive budgets of market cap kings. We discuss that around 12:39.

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Margie DillonNine-Month Time Frames For Executive Buy-In: This comes from my second episode, with Margie Dillon of Liberty Mutual. This work is often about being patient, finding a lot of different ways to reach the other decision-makers — and this includes making sure they understand what Voice of the Customer means and that it’s always top of mind for them. As Margie mentions a couple of different times in this episode, nine months was her sweet spot for starting to turn around some perceptions on customer experience being owned by everyone. I call that One-Company Leadership.

The importance of Human-Centered Design: This was a lesson from my third customer experience podcast episode, with Scott Dille of Northern Trust.  Scott and his team then extended that voice of the client orientation with the help of an external team to embed human-centered design to redesign both client and partner experiences. He shares how they built what they call the “Northern Lab” which employs both ethnographic research and design and co-creation approaches to reimagine experiences grounded in customer emotions and needs. Scott explains how they successfully used this approach to begin to advance a burning platform in the wealth management business with new generations of clients and illuminates what they desire more of. Here’s a picture of the Northern Lab:

Northern Trust CXP Studio

Customer Experience Podcast Lessons: Journey-Mapping, Specifics, And Guiding Others

Journey Mapping Is Crucial: Samir Bitar of the Smithsonian, my fourth episode guest, helped build the first journey map ever for the museums. We talked about exactly how Samir worked to build that first journey map for the Smithsonian which has established the blueprint for countless innovations in the visitor experience, as well as many basic experiences that needed to be consistent from one part of the museum to the other.  Finally Samir walked us through a groundbreaking trip planning tool which Conde Nast called a game changer, which is the Smithsonian’s “Trip Planner.” Here’s a quick look at the journey map, FYI:

Visitor Journey Map

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Mark RamseyDon’t be vague on what you want to accomplish: My guest during CXWeek was Mark Ramsey of Audi. “If it’s a think tank world,” says Mark, “people won’t come along with you.” For example, Audi rolled out an iPad app to help dealers with the sales process. Before they did any coding, they walked through the app ideas with dealerships, did paper prototypes, and explored pain points. There was also a pilot program with dealers to roll out the iPad application. Everything was based on what dealers wanted, which in turn benefited customers. This is Mark’s good example of how Audi rolled something out. He also has a bad example — this work is challenging, remember — where Audi tried to roll out a new delivery system. There had been a traditional, ‘analog’ delivery system in place and his team wanted to digitize it. However, they didn’t do a good job of getting feedback from dealers on that project. “We launched a digital tool that we thought would solve all these problems, and it was an abrasive shift for ,” says Mark.

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Alison CircleThe need to guide and inspire others: In my sixth episode, I had Alison Circle from the Columbus (OH) Public Library system on as a guest. She had transitioned to CCO work from marketing work, and was very transparent in her description of her evolution from a marketer, running and able to take action, to her role as CCO – where she needed to change her approach – to guiding, enabling and inspiring fellow leaders and the organization. This is one of the most interesting and potentially challenging parts of this role that people taking it on really need to adjust to.

Customer Experience Podcast: How Do You Break Down Barriers And Become A Great Place To Work?

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Curtis KnopfRemove the distance between you and your customers: This was a customer experience podcast lesson from Episode 7, with Curtis Kopf of Premara Blue Cross. One of the major things we discuss is Curtis’ process of actually talking to customers — both actual customers and customer-facing employees. Curtis also called customer centers and used the website — as well as having his team do those things. Without that context and first-hand knowledge, it’s very hard to understand the pain points. “It’s such a simple concept,” Curtis says, “but one of the simplest things we can do is simply remove the distance between us and our customers.” In his current role — an insurance company — this is more powerful than in previous roles, because customers oftentimes don’t fully understand insurance.


Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Aisling HassellHow do you make your office a great place to work? We all spend a ton of time working. In most cases, it’s probably more than we spend with our family and friends. In Episode 8, I spoke with Aisling Hassell, who is the global head of CX at Airbnb. Many events — including a happy hour every Thursday at the Airbnb office pub (yes, there is one) in Dublin — and more formal events, including “Air Shares.” At “Air Shares,” employees share one of their major skill sets with the rest of the staff — i.e. making a great dessert, etc. It helps the teams to grow and understand each other. Airbnb also spends a good deal of time on career progression, calling them “Flight Plans.” Within any specific area of customer experience, your “Flight Plan” helps you determine what elements you need to be successful — and/or how you can switch tracks and focus somewhere else. Aisling’s team were the pioneers of “Flight Plans” due to being one of the first areas of Airbnb to scale.

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Parrish ArturiYou’re not aiming for successful campaigns. You want systemic change: In Episode 9, I spoke with Parrish Arturi from Fidelity Investments. When you’re building customer experience across a business, oftentimes there can be a focus on campaigns. This is only logical, because campaigns are a logical series of tasks, logistical checkpoints, and deliverables — and typically those make people in each silo feel more comfortable. To do customer experience work right, however, the focus has to be way more than just campaigns. You’re aiming for systemic change around how you think of and drive your business forward. It isn’t a one-off campaign and then onto the next one. It’s a real change, and as we all know from personal and professional endeavors, change is very hard. Parrish and I discussed this in detail.

Learning From Failure, Launching Experiences, And Where To Begin

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Nick FrunziLearn from failure: Failure happens to all of us, and this was clear in Episode 10 with Nick Frunzi of Esri. Nick tells a story in this episode about a larger client that Esri had. A payment from them was improperly coded — and as a result of automation and a workflow series of factors, their account was essentially shut off. “The repercussions rumbled through the organization,” he notes, and finally the CIO kicked it over to him to deal with. Once he understood what had happened, he had to go back to other executives and execution-level teams and explain to them that this is NOT who Esri is or wants to be. They were, in effect, creating emotional pain for a customer. Having always been a customer-focused company, could they really allow technology to shift that philosophy for them? It was a crucial moment in the evolution of his work at Esri. As we’ve discussed with other CCOs, there’s a major balance between ‘high-tech’ and ‘high-touch.’

Launch an experience, not necessarily a product: Lesley Mottla of M.Geni — formerly of Zipcar — was my guest in my most recent episode, and she made an important distinction between what exactly a company launches. It’s an experience. It’s not a product, per se.

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Lesley MottlaThe important lesson here is about priority-setting, which many companies are unfortunately not very good at. It’s especially relevant for start-ups because they’re under so much pressure to begin acquiring customers, growing revenue, and the like. To launch an experience, you need to prioritize (a) what the experience is and then (b) how the day-to-day actions of your employees can support the growth of that experience. If you’re immediately diving into silo’ed task work and surveys and the like, chances are your start-up will not last very long. It’s about understanding goals, tying priorities to goals, and tying the day-to-day business to those priorities. Everything needs to be rooted in the experience of the customer.

Beginning to understand the work that needs to be done: When you first assume this mantle of CCO or customer-facing work with expectations of quick growth, it can be daunting. In my most recent episode, with Natalie Schneider of Anthem, we talked about these early stages.

Customer Experience Podcast Jeanne Bliss Natalie SchneiderEarly on, Natalie and her team understood the need to pivot from traditional B2B to B2C; by some estimates, 70 percent of their future growth was going to come from consumer choice options. The problem? B2B organizations tend to be very ingrained around specific sets of processes, and those processes need to be a bit different for B2C. As Natalie says early on here, “Everything needed work.”

They settled on four focal points:

  • Where does the organization get the most scale? (i.e. where can the most customers be reached?)
  • How does the organization perform against those touch points?
  • How important are they really to their customers?
  • Where are they with regard to their competitors?

Those four questions, done in a data-driven way, drove everything the team did from there on out. The goal was united focus, as opposed to everyone branching out on their own.

Overall customer experience podcast thoughts: I’ve had a lot of fun doing this customer experience podcast so far, and I hope you like it. You can subscribe on this page through iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. I hope you check out a future one. New ones debut every Tuesday around 10-11am ET. If you have any questions or would like to recommend a guest, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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