Lesley Mottla was part of the senior leadership team that helped build Zipcar, a disruptive force in its industry. Now she has a customer experience leadership role at M.Gemi, where she’s trying to help disrupt the luxury shoe market. M.Gemi is a start-up and Zipcar was a start-up at the time, so we spend a good portion of this episode discussing customer experience lessons for start-up businesses. How can you actually use customer experience design and innovation as a new business, and how can you make sure it’s pointed in the direction of disrupting existing players in the market? I actually have done case studies on Lesley’s Zipcar success in my books; here’s a summary.
Passionate about understanding customers and translating insights into integrated end-to-end experiences that consistently meet and exceed expectations, Lesley has helped deliver delight and engagement while impacting loyalty metrics such as retention, conversion, referrals, spend, and cost to serve.
She’s also effective at forging strong relationships across the organization – highly collaborative and participatory to help create a company culture where people and teams excel, while having a great time working together toward a common mission and goals.
You can find her on LinkedIn here.
Defining the product
Lesley talks about her time at Zipcar in the context of “the product” actually being the experience. This was helped by her CEO understanding the need for a holistic view of the customer. In a start-up context, realizing that your ‘product’ is truly the ‘experience’ people have is crucially important. It may sound like just a change in words, but it makes a major difference.
How do you launch an experience?
The 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.
How to hire for your team
“The people we hire need to be focused on relationship-building,” says Lesley. “A lot of people will say they’re focused on customers and yet, when the phone rings, they don’t answer the phone. You need people who are naturally not afraid of engaging with customers, whether it’s positive interaction or negative interaction.” Lesley tries to put potential hires into real-world situations and contexts, including some ‘tricky’ ones, to see how they’d react.
Faster and faster and faster … and united?
The start-up mentality can move really fast, and if you don’t set some parameters and priorities, it can quickly become silo-by-silo, heads-down, disjointed-for-the-customer work. A CCO should be forcing (yes, forcing) conversations to occur around customer experience and leadership team unity. Customer feedback from Day 1 is important, and M.Gemi reviews customer feedback every Monday in a leadership team meeting. Making it part of the regular business conversation is essential.
Customer experience lessons: The start-up playbook
How do you embed customer experience in your start-up?
- Show — in an easy and digestible form — what the customer experience will look like (to help others on the core team visualize the approach)
- Provide context and names for critical parts of the customer journey so that vocabulary is standardized
- Have conversations with key players all around the company so they understand your priority queue and how it intersects with theirs
- Layer on top of the business objectives to increase relevance to the other silos and bring everyone together on the same page
- Get a read from the customer and/or customer feedback — if you’re not in business yet, get feedback from potential customers
- Don’t boil the ocean.
“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”
This is my “pay-it forward” question that every guest answers. Lesley approached it this way:
- Always try to find the allies in your organization.
- Use these allies to preach your cause.
Hopefully you enjoyed this episode. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll actually be running down the customer experience lessons I’ve learned from doing the first dozen or so episodes of the podcast. That should be out later this week, so look for it on this site or via my social channels.
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