Being CCO Of A Privately-Held Company, With Nick Frunzi [CB10]

Privately-Held Company CCO Work

Episode Overview

Esri Logo, a privately-held companyIn this, the 10th episode of the Human Duct Tape Show podcast (we made double digits!), I talk with Nick Frunzi. Nick is the CCO of Esri, which is the second-largest privately-held technology company in the US. This creates a new set of challenges for the CCO role — in publicly-held and traded companies, many executive decision-making concepts are beholden to share price and investor relationships. Many CCOs in those types of companies need to move their leadership away from an over-focus on quarterly metrics and surveys, but they often need to use share price as a motivating factor. In a privately-held company, that motivation is stripped away to an extent. Already a customer-focused company, Esri’s greatest challenge was moving to embedding a set of repeatable competencies inside the business.  If you feel like this is something your company could use, or if you work in a privately-held company, this podcast offers a great deal of actionable advice.

About Nick Frunzi

Nick is the Chief Customer Officer at Esri, leading cross-divisional and cross-functional teams to transform the customer experience for Esri’s global customer base. After many years in discrete customer roles, Nick realized the power that CX leadership could have in uniting entire organizations with one vision to make a customer successful.Nick Frunzi

Combining his lifelong appreciation and passion for good architectural, industrial and web design with the principles of CX allows him to lead teams that make complex ideas and processes holistic, yet simple and straightforward. When Nick is not driving Esri’s CX future you can find him on a racetrack, on skis, or in his grove farming avocados and limes.

You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn, as well.

The Improperly-Coded Payment

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.’

Wiring For Customer Experience

The customer is important? Yes. That should go without saying. The next level is enabling people — i.e. your employees — to enact change that benefits the customers. “I want to give people the authority to make a customer’s life better,” Nick notes. He classifies this as “air cover,” whereby if something goes sideways, he has the back of his entire team. “That’s the most powerful enabler that we’ve seen at this company,” he says.

Digging Into The Data

Esri is lucky to have very low customer turnover. As a result, there was a tendency at some points in their history not to dig deep on those customers who were leaving. I call this “customers voting with their feet,” i.e. heading for the exits. This often happens in companies where the leadership team and decision-makers are too beholden to survey results. Surveys don’t paint the entire picture. You need to dig deeper into the data — and by that I mean (and Nick means) both good and bad. Customers will leave you, and you need to find out why, what you could have done better, where patterns are emerging, etc. If you’re only doing 1-5 and 1-10 surveys and reporting out net results, that’s not enough.

Evolving The Business

As you evolve your business with an eye towards customer experience, you also need to evolve other situations, processes, and people-facing strategies. Nothing evolves in a vacuum. You can’t just say you’re “now customer-focused.” By saying that and trying to live that, a lot of other aspects of your business also need to evolve. In a privately-held company, where one family may have run the show for decades and people become accustomed to specific ways of doing the work, this evolution can be a challenge. But it has to happen.

“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”

This is the pay-it forward question we end each interview with. Nick’s insights:

  • Internal communication is crucial: You have to be always selling the CCO work and methodology internally.
  • Be more communicative of your activity: This doesn’t have to mean bragging about your accomplishments, but companies are big, complex organisms. Not everyone knows everything that’s happened. If something was systemically changed, sell it. Get it in front of people.
  • Market hope: Give people permission to achieve and market the hope aspects of the work.

A new episode is arriving next Tuesday, June 28. 

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