If you’re leading customer experience work within an organization, one of the keys to success is to listen to others. Whether you’ve been doing this work for years or are just starting, listening and gaining feedback has to be an ongoing part of the process. The CX leaders who have been guests on my podcast, always stress the importance of maintaining relationships with internal and external stakeholders in order to advance the work.
In today’s podcast episode, you’ll hear from six customer experience leaders in the B2B industry who share advice about the things they know now, that they wish they knew before they started their work. When it came to these particular CX experts, I noticed a common theme — realize that customer experience implementation isn’t just a program, it’s a cultural shift that requires patience and understanding. Take the time to learn how all of the various departments and leaders will be impacted by the overhaul. You’ll need allies as you continue to spearhead an organizational transformation.
What do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
Invest Deeply in Listening to Your Customers
CXO Career Trajectory in Tech, with Lexi Reese
Lexi Reese is the Chief Operating Officer at Gusto, a B2B company that offers fully integrated online HR services to handle payroll, benefits and more. In this episode, Lexi talks about her passion for supporting small business owners:
- You have to be okay with being bad in the service of being great. Dissatisfaction is a predictable outcome when anyone tries to be great at everything. Be wary of generalized average customer satisfaction scores or generalized average Net Promoter Scores.
- Invest deeply in listening to your customers, both programmatically and personally, and design your solution with a target in mind. Be excellent for that set of people. Don’t be afraid if a set of people you’re not designed for doesn’t like your service, and don’t penalize your CX advocates for getting bad scores in whatever metric for those people, because your product and service is not designed for them.
- Listening to the customer never stops. Get on the phone, handle escalations, shadow someone.
- Hire stunning and diverse colleagues that have aligned values, motivations, and skillsets. There’s no amount of training that could prepare us to tell every employee about the all of the situations they’re going to face with customers so you need to hire bright people with “light behind their eyes” who can solve problems.
- Engineer solutions with the customer mind. If we get a question 10 times, we make sure that we don’t get it the 11th because the product has been fixed. Or, the answer is self-discoverable through an incredible content experience so the customer can find it on their own. We train our teams to respond with the right tone and manner.
Implementing a Customer Success Strategy is a Cultural Transformation
Leading Customer Success in a B2B Business with Jose Vergara
Jose Vergara is the Chief Customer Officer at McKesson Medical Imaging, and in our conversation, Jose and I talk about what customer success and customer experience means for a CCO, and how to create a customer success driven movement:
- Customers don’t necessarily know what they need and it’s a journey to help them discover that in terms of measuring success.
- Not everybody in the company will understand customer success because it’s a buzz word. Don’t assume that just by talking about customer success that people will understand it. You need to do a lot of hand-holding and showing people what the added value that you’re generating really is.
- Implementing a customer success strategy is not a program, it’s a cultural transformation. It’s changing the way the company thinks, constantly demonstrating that it works, showing the value of it, and doing this over and over again. It’s not simple.
Move out of Focused Thinking into Broad Visualizations
Brainshark B2B Chief Customer Officer Diane Gordon
CCO of Brainshark, Diane Gordon, and I talk about the skill development necessary to grow into a customer-facing role — and how that professional journey into CX can really start from anywhere:
- I wish that I really understood that it’s not enough for customers to just be happy.
- I wish I understood earlier that things related to customer satisfaction and good experience can’t just be the job of the customer care team. I spent a lot of time early in my career thinking if customers are happy and everyone in my group is treating customers well, then we’re good, but it wasn’t true.
- Having the whole company and different departments understand how customers measure value is important. You have to move out of the very focused thinking into a broader way of visualizing things.
- When I was first starting out, there weren’t as many books and conferences, but now we have more resources that I wish I had access to this earlier. We have a community now that we didn’t have before, which is great.
Don’t Forget About the Employee Experience
Business to Business Customer Experience Leadership with Tabitha Dunn
Tabitha Dunn is the vice president of customer experience at SAP Concur and on the Board of Directors for the CXPA. In this episode, Tabitha and I have a great conversation about how to improve customer experience within a B2B organization:
- There’s a lot of work around building an intentional customer experience; I can’t discount that. But doing this work is so rewarding and should be the focus from day one.
- The culture and communication part of CX tends to get left on the table. So, there has to be a thoughtfulness of making sure that you do an effective job of communicating to customers that they’re heard, we care, and we’re acting on what we learn from them. This also has to be done for employees. We need to be able to say, we know you see this pain too, and we have people working on this.
- It’s great to have mentors, it’s good to know there’s help. Customer experience is a wonderful career and there’s a lot of people out there who want to help and you should take advantage of it.
Show Examples of Success Early On
Transform Your B2B Company From a Product-Centric Cuture to Customer-Centric Culture with Sami Nuwar
In this episode, I chat with Sami Nuwar, the vice president of customer experience transformation at American Bath Group. In our conversation, we talk about his newly established customer experience role and how he’s been able to transform the culture at ABG from being product-driven to being customer-driven:
- There was a lot of low hanging fruit in terms of process, discipline and regular basic stuff that we should have been doing for years that we haven’t done. I would have advised leadership to get things done by a basic block and tackle structure. It’s so important to get your internal house in order on basic stuff, and document everything.
- You have to fix cracks in the foundation of your operations. Yes, you can spend some money on new tools, but keep things simple in the beginning. When you work on the basics, the rest will follow. Fix the cracks in the foundation – it will not be sexy in the beginning.
- Make sure that leadership buys-in to support you with what you need. I’m an army of three people and still don’t think we have enough resources. If you’re taking the dive into CX, strike the bargain with your leadership. Start with a data analyst, someone who’s comfortable with process improvement, and a partner who can help with a listening post. Also, have someone who is extremely adept and likes to communicate. These are key to driving cultural change.
- Market “hope” to the organization and show examples of success as early as possible. Celebrate the good things people are doing to encourage success further down the line.
Shut up and Listen
What’s the Key to a Strong CX Foundation? Be Obsessed with Your Customers
Tamar Cohen is the head of US customer experience at Zoetis, a leader and provider in animal health services, and talks to me about how she has worked to define Zoetis as a customer obsessed company that focuses on how all of their services will benefit the customer base:
- You can come in with a preconceived idea and plan for all of the quick wins that you think you’re going to have and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. I realize now that I came in with best intentions on what I thought the organization needed, but having the ability to sit down, shut up, and listen is critical.
- Have conversations with customers and colleagues to help establish a legitimacy of the work. It’s a conversation and participation to establish a relationship. This way, it doesn’t seem as if you’re coming in with a hammer to just change the work. Listen, understand before you just start acting on things.
- In a B2B company, it’s critical to understand the culture of the relationship between the sales rep and customer. Bring everyone in as a part of the story to assuage skepticism about the work. I realized, these are my partners and they’ll tell me more than I can ever get from reading surveys and analytics. This is where the true enhancements and go-forward strategies come from.
Hungry for more wisdom? Check out these previous posts with more advice from CX leaders featured on my podcast: 6 CCOs Share Lessons They’ve Learned During Their CX Journey, 7 Leaders in Finance and Tech Share What They Wish They Knew Before Embarking on Their CX Journey
What are some things you wish you knew before instituting a CX transformation within your organization?
Note from Jeanne: I want to let you know that we’ve welcomed a sponsor for our show, Customerville. Until now, I have been paying for all of the expenses of the show myself. I love doing these for you – but they cost quite a bundle. This partnership ensures that I can continue these shows that you’ve shared such positive feedback on. Thanks so much to Customervillle! Enjoy the show!