Podcast

Episode: 403 |
Rick Denton:
Customer Experience Excellence:
Episode
403

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Rick Denton

Customer Experience Excellence

Show Notes

Rick Denton has over a decade of experience in customer service and relations; he is now the managing principal at EX4CX, a company that helps companies increase revenue by listening to customers and creating great experiences for their customers. In this episode, Rick shares his expertise in this field and talks about his new podcast.

Rick can be contacted through LinkedIn, or his company website www.ex4cx.com. You can also listen to his podcast at cxpassport.com.

Key points include:

  • 04:52: Customer experience projects
  • 11:02: The biggest tools used in customer service
  • 14:19: The difference between customer experience and customer insights
  • 22:23: “Holy smokes” case examples

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And if you visit umbrex.com and click on the Unleashed tab, you can sign up for the weekly email where you’ll get notified every episode of this daily show, tale summary of each episode so you can figure out which ones you want to listen to. I’m really excited. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while I’m here today with my friend Rick Denton, who is the managing principal of E x for cx. I’ll let him tell you what that means. Rick is an expert on customer experience. Rick, welcome to the show.

Rick Denton 00:40
Thanks. Well, I’m really excited to be on the show today.

Will Bachman 00:42
All right, Rick. So first thing is what’s x for cx. And you told me before the show, we started recording that there’s, I’d like to hear your definition of customer experience. So let’s, let’s get those things.

Rick Denton 00:56
Yeah, so extra cx stands for execution for customer experience. And the Genesis behind it is weaving together, that outside end of a customer focus with the inside out of a process and operations focus to create great experiences for every customer every time. And that kind of gets at what we were talking about earlier. Right? So customer experience is saying that you work in customer experience, it’s almost like saying, Hey, I’m a designer. Well, are you a graphic designer? Are you an industrial designer? Do you do web design? Do you do city planning design, right. So it’s all over the map and customer experience is sort of that same way, I find that the work that I tend to focus on is helping companies and clients, listen to customers, and then act on it. And that’s that execution for customer experience idea. And creating that sense of total Voice of the Customer program so that you are actively I’ll say it again, listening to that customer, and then doing something about it too often, we see companies claim to listen or claim to be customer centric. And yet, they might listen, but they don’t do anything with it. And it is it is certainly something that’s been a lot of fun. It obviously speaks right to my heart and that I kind of like humans. And so customer experience is all about humanity. And I find it really enjoyable to help companies create that better customer experiences for the human humans that are a part of that experience. And then fundamentally also use that to help create the business financial goals that they have in mind.

Will Bachman 02:33
Now, Rick, you have a new podcast out and I’ll tell listeners that tomorrow’s episode of Unleashed we’re going to play one of Rick’s episodes, tell us about your new show what what listeners can look forward to tomorrow on on the show, or they can go right now and check out your show and subscribe. Tell us about your new podcast.

Rick Denton 02:54
Well, thanks. Well, yeah, it’s a cx passport. And it weaves together two of my loves. And that is the customer experience that I was describing. But then also travel, I have a bit of a silly tagline that I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport. And so watch this, this podcast to do just that, to have a conversation with interesting people. They might be inside of the customer experience domain, or they might just be people, humans, just like humans that I was describing earlier, who have a perspective on customer experience. And then we also weave together a little bit of a little bit of travel talk in there. Sometimes it relates to customer experience. Other times I just get to hear there was an episode that’s been recorded, be released here in a few weeks, you know, talking to somebody about what was it like to travel for an entire year and a half? And what did that look like? So it’s been a lot of fun, as you have many hundreds of episodes under your belt can attest to it’s a lot, a lot of learning. But it certainly creates a lot of interesting conversations with interesting people. And I’ve absolutely enjoyed it.

Will Bachman 03:54
I love that mix of mixing in the travel piece. Because I mean, I definitely would say that, you know, some of my most memorable meals have been while traveling. And it’s the, you know, it’s the newness of it. It’s the adventure of it. It’s new ingredients, it’s new locations, it’s new recipes, and tastes and sights and sound that all just make it more powerful, memorable. And maybe you’re working up an appetite where you’re walking around some strange city or countryside. So I’m really psyched for your show. And I’m psyched to replay one of your episodes tomorrow. So tune in for that. Or if you’re just pause this episode right now and go subscribe to cx passport on any major player of podcasts. Let’s talk a bit about your your work. Rick, tell us give us an example of one of the types of projects that you work on, you know, as customer experience.

Rick Denton 04:52
Yes, so, we talked about kind of a recent one. There’s there’s several stories out there but one of the recent clients And what was most satisfied about that, let me set the stage a little bit is that this was a client that already had the customer at their heart, they knew they wanted to do right by the customer, they felt like that they could do better by the customer, they just needed someone to sort of help guide them on what that meant. And that’s where focusing on that total Voice of the Customer approach really cemented for them. So this was, I don’t want to call them a new company, but they haven’t been in business for decades. And what they needed to get more seasoned at was how do they establish this program where they can systematically listen to the customer, and then act upon it. And what was particularly satisfying is that this is a a type of business where the customers relationship with the company is about a three to five year relationship. But at any moment, the customer can leave. And that’s sort of true of a lot of the the brand and customer relationships is that there’s not this legal requirement that they stay with you be that a SaaS product, or it could be a retail product, or it could be a financial services product. And what they realized was, if customer stayed with him for over three months, 90 days, then they’d stay with him for the life of the program. And the customer would get the full benefit of the program, right? This isn’t just about squeezing extracting value from the customer. It’s about providing value to the customer. And they needed a better way of knowing why are we seeing this cancellation in the first 90 days? What are the factors behind it? What is it that in this early Customer Success period? Where are we falling short on the customer’s expectation? So going in and helping them one just ascertain, hey, what does your current state of customer experience Voice of the Customer look like? And then what can we do to listen to those customers in those first 90 days understand what it is, and then come up with some very simple solutions to help address those customers needs. And I’ll speak of one. And it’s a lot of companies. And you may have felt this as a customer, sometimes there’s a lot of energy that a company puts into getting you to sign up as a customer. And then once you signed up, sometimes you feel ghosted. And that’s what a lot of these customers were feeling is that great, you spent all this energy to create an environment where I wanted to join your company, and then I didn’t hear from you for six months. So yeah, after three months, I’m done. You’re silent, I’m out. And so we created some modes on how we can reach out to the customer in a way that that customer wanted to be reached out to how can we provide information to them that’s relevant to them at that point, to create that stickiness of that relationship? But all that comes back to fundamentally, Hey, are you listening to the customer? And then what are you doing about it? So you may hear me repeat that phrase a lot. But that listening act is so important to customer experience and getting that right.

Will Bachman 07:41
When we started, you mentioned that sort of like asking, saying someone is a designer, that there’s lots of different varieties of it, when we have the broad term, sort of someone who works on customer experience, walk us through a bit of a taxonomy of the different parts of customer experience or the different, you know, stages. So one of the sounds like is, you know, voice of the customer or understanding, you know, the customer’s perspective. But what are the the full range of functions that that customer experience includes?

Rick Denton 08:18
I’m going to probably fall short for giving you the full range, because describing that might actually go beyond even the areas that I know because just as unique as individual customers are so is probably the approach to customer experience. With that caveat in place, though, I think a lot of the the areas that people think of when they think of customer experience overall, I described some of the the human elements, the voice of the customer. And then the customer says culture is another big one that I think there’s some good stories we can talk about there. But another area of customer experience is that UX, that user experience side of it. So how does the user’s digital experience, their web experience, their app experience, whatever that might look like? What does that look like? Because those product teams, the product teams that are getting it right, really have the customer at the heart of their design, so that customer centered design or design led thinking all of those areas, that’s where you see a lot of that customer experience influence in the technology space. And then another area that you hear that’s related to the customer experience world is customer success, or customer service. And it’s funny, I will you and I were talking about this, I was just on a call with somebody earlier this morning. And we actually had a chuckle about how there’s a lot of effort in the customer experience world invested in finding definitions and creating boundaries while you’re a customer success person. I’m a customer experience person, those sorts of things, when really fundamentally we’re just trying to deliver an ideal outcome for the customer. So even I’m kind of chuckling when I mentioned customer success as a discipline inside of customer experience. But those are areas that are focused on Hey, the sale has been made. How do we create a successful relationship between the customer and the brand or the product that they, they have purchased. And that’s where Customer Success sets. And then Customer service is what many of us actually think customer experiences are thought customer services. And that is, okay, I’ve received a product or I’m engaging with a brand. What are the service elements that I need? So is in the retail store, when we’re back in retail stores? How am I engaging with the store associate or when I call into a call center? And when I engage on a chat or in social media? What is my what is the customer service element of customer experience? And how does that improve my overall relationship with the brand?

Will Bachman 10:41
Talk to me about the different tools that are used in the whole world of customer experience. So I imagine one of them is just interviews, sort of a voice of the customer interview. Another one might be mapping out a customer journey. But there’s probably a much broader range than that, talk to me about some of the tools that you often turn to,

Rick Denton 11:02
yeah, you’ve described, what I would say are the two biggest, right, if you started and stopped there, you would, you would have kind of like you need your screwdriver and your hammer in your toolbox. But there’s a whole lot of other things you could cut in there. But you get your screwdriver, your hammer, you can do most of your repairs. And that same thing. So journey mapping and understanding the relationship with the customer, from pre customer, to whether they are as a customer, and then you know, in some situations post customer and how you renew that relationship with them. I think tools to one of the things that’s important, I do want to kind of talk about YouTube and interviews. But a voice of the customer tool is incredibly important. And now a lot of folks think voice of the customer is the tool. So these survey tools that exist and there’s a whole suite of brands from the big brands to small, upstart players that are out there will

Will Bachman 11:51
talk to me about some of those, like, what are some of the what are some of the big players that Yeah, you should be aware of.

Rick Denton 11:58
So medallion Qualtrics, I think are the two biggest players that are out there, right? Those are the big names that folks almost always turn to when they when I think of voice, the customer tools, they have an incredible suite of how they can capture the customer’s voice. And notice I keep saying customers voice rather than surveys or that kinds of surveys are vitally important. But there’s other mechanisms. There’s video interviews, there’s social media intake, there are listening to the calls, or the chats that come into your customer contact center and discerning customer emotion and customer sentiment from their battalion Qualtrics do a great job of that. Right, then there’s some to say small I think technically smaller is the correct word. But it i’m not saying necessarily under indexed on the capabilities. But there’s a great company that I know out of Turkey called alternative CX, that has a phenomenal tool in that regard. And then another company that I know Hello customer out of Belgium that has a really great suite of taking that customer input in. And then all of what I just described, if you just take the customer input in great, that’s nifty, but it’s then going back to listen and act. What do you do with it? And the do with it, these tools really help unlock them the analytics perspective. So those analytics will help you discern what are the overarching themes that exist in the customer verbatim. Both the promoters and the detractors. What are you what are perhaps different external factors. So my goodness, on Tuesdays, we are incredibly disappointing all of our customers what’s happening on Tuesdays? There are there’s also another kind of a tool out there that I’m finding it interesting, it’s I don’t want to say it’s an upstart, it’s been out for a while, but m res EMR AYS. This really gets into kind of emotional sentiment, really almost in an AI ish way, getting at what is the customer feeling and thinking based off of the voice that they’re providing to you. So that kind of suite of tools that I’m describing, to me, those voice, the customer tools are absolutely foundational, it’s it’s almost impossible, I’ll say almost almost impossible to run a true listen and act total voice the customer program without a tool in place.

Will Bachman 14:12
What’s the difference between customer experience and customer and customer insights?

Rick Denton 14:19
You’re taking me back to the definition discussion that I had earlier. But I’d say customer insights is a piece of developing customer experience. So if we’re talking about an organizational group, customer insights is about understanding what the customer is thinking, understanding how the customer might behave, predicting how the customer might act in the future. That’s a vital importance of creating customer experience. But if you just stopped at customer insights, then you would really know a lot about your customer, but you wouldn’t have done a lot about your customer. And so customer insights helps influence the creation of a great customer experience.

Will Bachman 15:00
So let’s say that we have some people that are saying, okay, I want to be a customer experience consultant. What are the types of projects that a customer experience consultant might do? So I imagine one of them, I’ll start us off, one of them might be, oh, our retention is down, we need to figure out what’s going on and improve customer retention. So maybe maybe that’s a project, what are some other project types? Or challenge that one? If, if I’m off base on on my first step,

Rick Denton 15:32
now you’re spot on there you are absolutely spot on. So customer retention, customer churn, how do we reduce that? And that is, clearly you’re hearing sort of my influence my experience my bias, I approach that by talking about a total Voice of the Customer program. Another, though another threat of that. And so that is a type of project going in understanding how do you listen the customer today? And then what are the programs that you want to do to act upon that kind of what we talked about earlier? Another area that I’m seeing a lot more of which is encouraging to me, is this culture element of it. So we hear plenty of people talking about EQ, we hear plenty of people talking about empathy, and plenty of people talking about how can we connect with our customers in such a way that it helps us organically create great experiences. And that’s that customer obsessed culture type piece of work? And so going in, that’s getting it more hearts and minds type work. And so how do you hire it? Let’s say I’m going into consulting for a company for that. How do you hire for the type of customer experience customer focused and customer centricity? How do you coach? How do you performance management to that, but then also, in a more exciting sort of way? How do you celebrate How do you inspire your organization, one of the things that I found particularly helpful in in projects where you’re trying to create that customer obsessed culture is bring the customer, well, if you can physically do it, great, but bring the customers story into your company, it is amazing how emotional, the impact of story can be on an organization. So creating that customer obsessed culture, a lot of times comes from that. I mean, you think about a home equity business that sounds pretty sterile, right? Go out, get loan, get get to get funding for whatever you need, the emotion that we were able to unlock at a prior experience that I had, by using customer story helped really change how that organization approach their entire view towards the customer. So they talked about, you know, it used to be I worked in folders in a day. And now they talked about how many families they helped in a day, there’s a beautiful story of someone who was able to use Home Equity, to unlock a particular medical treatment for a family member who didn’t have the opportunity to have that medical treatment without this. Those are the kinds of stories that help create that customer obsessed culture now may have deviated a little bit from the question that you said. But those are the kinds of projects, those are the kind of areas where I’ve seen seen some real impact with companies. I’ll give you a third one will and that is it going back to that UX? Yes. Sometimes companies are saying, Hey, we just want to improve kind of our overall customer experience when it comes to our digital space. So how can we improve our product? How can we improve how we represent ourselves externally to the customer? And that is another area that folks who are saying, Yeah, I want to do the CX consulting thing. That’s another area that has plenty of fertile ground for companies to help improve their product and their their UX

Will Bachman 18:31
as well. Okay. And then I imagine there’d be I mean, just logically, I imagine that’d be some things like, customer acquisition, like, Is there some problem with the customer experience right up front, when they’re testing a project, Prop, the product, or, you know, maybe being able to have a higher level of customer experience, so that you can charge a higher price, right. And there’s, there’s, there’s b2b as well, you could talk to Billy and talk to me about b2b a little bit as well as how b2b customer experience.

Rick Denton 19:09
So you’ll, you’ll hear a recurring theme of mine, and it’s the humanity aspect of it. And I have actually written a blog about this. And b2b is fundamentally, the first B is the collection of your humans. And the second B is the collection of their human. So fundamentally, you’re still dealing with a human to human interaction. It’s just more of a collective type, environment. And so it still comes down to the same fundamentals of how are you listening to your customer, even if your customer is a B, and that business is still a collection of humans? And what is it that you’re doing to advance those humans needs their wishes or desires where it gets a little difference in b2b is, if you think in a b2b situation, the customer that is they’re spending, quote their money on There needs in a b2b situation, you might have someone let’s say it’s a supply manager or it’s some other type. Well, their needs aren’t necessarily they need your product supply to them their needs are, I want to do something so well in my company that I get promoted, I get a raise, I get accolades inside my company. And so how are you? Helping them advance their missions inside? That business relationship is where it gets a little different than b2c? But fundamentally, it’s still understanding what are the needs, the wants, the behaviors, the emotions of the humans on the other side of that b2b equation? What do you like what you said? Sorry, what? Sorry? Well, I do like what you said about customer acquisition. And that is incredibly important, I tend not to think about it, because it’s overall just part of the overall customer experience suite. But when you talk about conversion, and when you talk about how when customers enter your sales funnel, what is the experience, I’ll give you something that’s a little bit related, but slightly different. Customer Experience often can also be talked about in candidate experience. Now this is clearly a big departure from the the overall customer experience. The company spent a lot of good companies spend a lot of time thinking about what is their candidate experience thinking that funnel? So it talent inbound to their company, recruit, how are they creating a great experience for the candidate, which then in turn, highlights? What is likely to be there employee experience, which then that opens up another thread, obviously, of employee experience, because you can’t create a better customer experience than you do an employee experience. So this whole swath of, of what experience and experience management, customer experience, employee experience candidate experience, there’s a lot of fertile ground out there. So going back to what you said about somebody who is interested in that business, there’s a lot of areas to explore, and a lot of areas to to bring some impact.

Will Bachman 21:59
Tell me about any cases, you can recall of some finding that you had that was really surprising to your clients, you know, some some would that something that you learn from their customers that when they you told the clients like this is what customers are experiencing? Gladly. I can’t Holy smokes. We got to fix that right away.

Rick Denton 22:20
Well, there’s two stories that came to mind really quickly one’s a bit of a twist on what you said, let me go with the the straight line answer there. And that is, you know, there was a situation that I’ve got to try to decouple how I say this, because I can’t talk about the specifics of it. But imagine that you’re delivering a particular service. And that service also requires a third party to deliver a portion of that service. And the company that was responsible for the overall delivery of service, you know, thought, okay, we’re doing a great job, we’re doing just fine, we are doing what we need to do. But then when we actually listened to the customers, the customers were at livid about the way this third party elements of the service delivery was being provided. And I wish I could be more specific, I can’t, but the way that was being provided was something that officially the main company, couldn’t control that from a regulation perspective, they weren’t allowed to really control that. And so before getting the voice of the customer, they were very hands off, hey, we can’t talk about it. We can’t do anything in that space. Sorry, that’s, that’s something untouchable. Instead, by listening to the customer, they were able then to bring that info back to themselves. They’re like, Oh, my gosh, this is what’s destroying our overall perception of customer experience. And then they provided that same voice of the customer to that third party. And that third party then had their same eyes opened, and were able to improve that. And so that was a bit of a surprise from an insight perspective, that it was this third party that was absolutely destroying their overall experience, because they had taken such a a space of ignoring it. If I could answer that with a bit of a departure, a bit of a twist, Well, sure. I’m going to talk about employee experience a little bit. And we were listening to call and we could talk about call listening as being one of the most valuable tools by the way of just listening to calls. And we were listening to a call once and it went a little bit like this. And someone had called in and said, hey, look, I’m really sorry, I needed to get you those documents. I know you’ve been telling me I had to get those documents to you by Friday. But my uncle just passed away. And we were dealing with the funeral associated with that and just you know, I was really close to him. And I’m just sorry, but I’ll try to get the documents as quickly as I can. And silence on the phone. And the agent said, Alright, well you just get those documents just by Tuesday. We’ll be fine. All of us. I mean Yeah, I wish I wish we’re on video here. We just gassed, oh my gosh, how can this person do that and we knew this person was falling off company, we knew that this was this, this agent was not a bad person, they weren’t mean they weren’t cold. And so over time, you know, any call that you bring them into a conversation like, Hey, hey, what happened. And the agent said, we all trained me that I had to be professional, right. And the insight just went off in our heads, oh my gosh, somehow we have trained an entire suite of agents to be air close here, professional. But we’ve told them, the professional does not being human, that you can’t be human and professional at the same time. And so that was an example of an insight that blew our minds and blew a client’s mind of Wait a second, we have created this army of robots, because we said they had to be professional, when really, we need to teach them how to be empathetic or allow them to get teach, allow them to be empathetic, allow them to be the humans that they are on the phone and build those beautiful connections with with them, with their customers. And that unlocked a significant like that specific, we almost talk about that story as the muse of our customer obsessed culture journey that we went on, that unlock a lot of what we were trying to do in the creation of that customer obsessed culture.

Will Bachman 26:19
Well, interesting, compelling moment of insight, like the death of your loved one is duly noted. Yeah,

Rick Denton 26:30
that might have been even colder in the sky. But it was I mean, it was a grassland, and we were clutching our pearls were gasping at the table, people are falling out of chairs, because it was really so shocking. But it’s an example of to have, don’t just assume that the employee is a bad mother, thank goodness, we knew the person. And it wasn’t, I sincerely would say this was not the employees fault. This was the company’s fault for not equipping, and training and permitting and empowering the agent to be the human that that agent was.

Will Bachman 26:58
Yeah. You know, and I guess another aspect of the whole customer experience is leaving, leaving the company. Like if you’re trying to cancel a subscription. That’s a, you know, that’s important. Boy, I mean, some some companies like I recently canceled my subscription with Wall Street Journal, right? I love the journal, it’s great. But I just had taken this bow cam, I’m not reading the news for a while. So I cancelled it. And they just really make it difficult. You everything else you can do online, you can subscribe online. But if you want to cancel, you have to call in to a person during business hours and like wait on hold and then say, Yeah, I want to cancel, you know, you could obviously easily do it online, but they’re trying to get you to, you know, not cancel, which maybe is good in the short term for them, where it makes people, you know, stay on for another couple months. But it also teaches people like don’t ever subscribe again, don’t ever re subscribe because you’re gonna have to go through this pain again, where if they made it really painless, this just pause and then to restart. It might be better for them longer term. So I don’t know if your thoughts there about just sort of making people’s last interaction with you a positive one, rather than friction filled.

Rick Denton 28:08
I was just listening to a podcast two days ago. Prof. g? Oh, yeah. feser garaje. Right. Yeah, well, his his podcast, and it’s not a customer assurance podcast, but it happened to have a call in about NPS. And one of the things that he was talking about in this call in section was the last moments of the relationship between the customer and the brand, or whatever that relationship is, are the ones that over index, the influence and the customer’s perception of that brand. And so in your case, the cancel story, but even talked about how airports are the the entrance and the exit for many people for a region or people coming from country to country, or think about the hotel check in or checkout experience or, you know, airlines, we won’t talk about that they’re not really bastions of customer experience, but that same thing, it’s the last moment that really cement what your perception of the overall brand was. And so take your cancel example, same exact thing. Why would I if you had a decade’s long positive relationship with the Wall Street Journal? Why would I try to please in that by trapping you and making you fight to get out of this relationship? in it, whereas what I could do is make it as customer friendly as possible. Thank you for your valued interaction with us. Whether it’s Wall Street Journal, whatever that relationship with the brand is, provide a reason why, you know, come back any time what that might look like, keep you in some sort of outreach kind of component and make it this positive relationship that you walk away from the wall street journal going, gosh, yeah, it wasn’t the right thing for me then, but I share like them and six months from now, when you want to access that type of information again, you’ll be very warm to going back then whereas now you are telling the story that tells me you’re probably not going back to them anytime soon. Even if you had a compelling need to get that kind of information, you probably source it somewhere else. those last moments are surprisingly impactful. And it’s such an old school way of thinking, to say, yeah, I’m gonna try to chain somebody to my company. What’s the value in that? If they don’t love you enough to stay chaining them’s not going to improve that relationship anymore.

Will Bachman 30:16
If you love someone set them free. So, Rick, this has been a great conversation. Tell us where we can find out more about you and your firm online.

Rick Denton 30:28
Yeah, head over to E x four, the number four cx.com execution for customer experience comm or if you want to just access the podcast straight up, it’s cx passport calm. And check out the site and get a little sense of the approach to execution for customer experience. And of course, we

Will Bachman 30:47
We will include those links in the show notes. And Rick, I hope that you’ve had a good experience on this show. It was great having you.

Rick Denton 30:54
My last five minutes were wonderful. Well, thank you. I have a positive impression of the brand. Alright, thanks

Will Bachman 31:00
a lot. great having you, reg. Bye

Rick Denton 31:01
bye.

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