Innovation Junkies Podcast

Stacy Sherman on Customer Experience

Stacy Sherman, the founder of DoingCXRight, joins the Jeffs to share her knowledge on customer experience. They explore the “moment of truth” in customer experience, how you can add value to your business through CX, and the differences in CX between B2C and B2B companies.

Stacy Sherman:
Customer experience is new. Customer service has been around a long time, and there’s a difference.

Jeff Standridge (Intro):
This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkies Podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies Podcast.

Jeff Standridge:
Hey guys, Jeff Standridge here, and welcome to another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. How are we doing, partner?

Jeff Amerine:
I’m glad to be here, sitting here on a not sunny February day, watching the ice come down and hoping the power stays with us, but all is good. Just another day in February in the south-central US.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, kind of rough out there. We’ve got about an inch and a half of ice where I am.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. And you know what they call this in the North?

Jeff Standridge:
What’s that?

Jeff Amerine:
Every day of the week.

Jeff Standridge:
Common occurrence. Yeah.

Jeff Amerine:
Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge:
For us, there’s a run on the milk and the bread and the chili mix at the grocery stores. Right?

Jeff Amerine:
Absolutely.

Jeff Standridge:
All right. Hey, we got a great show today, Jeff. We are going to be welcoming Stacy Sherman. She’s an award-winning certified customer experience corporate leader, keynote speaker, author, podcaster, and founder of Doing CX Right. She accelerates customer loyalty, referrals, and revenue fueled by engaged employees. She’s been doing this kind of work across multiple industries for over 20 years. Stacy, it is a pleasure and an honor to have you with us today.

Stacy Sherman:
Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.

Jeff Standridge:
So yeah, now tell our listeners where you’re located.

Stacy Sherman:
I am in the garden state of New Jersey. We get a bad rap in Jersey. Don’t know why, maybe because of Snooki. Nothing to do with Snooki in my life, but yes, New Jersey.

Jeff Standridge:
How’s the weather?

Jeff Amerine:
How tired do you get of people asking you what exit you live on off the Turnpike?

Stacy Sherman:
Yeah, I actually could have just started with that, but yes, it is a common occurrence. Yes.

Jeff Amerine:
Yeah. A lot of my career, I lived in Maryland and had lots of friends from New Jersey and I know they got tired of it, but they were always pretty good-humored about the whole thing. But speaking of random musings and to get a little bit back on topic, we’d like to start before we get into the meat of the matter with the random musing. And as you reflect on your own history, what’s one leadership lesson that you can talk about from your parents that was meaningful to you?

Stacy Sherman:
Absolutely. It’s showing up even when you’re the minority in the room, and what I mean by that is my mom was one of the first women on Wall Street as an options trader. And at that time, I remember visiting her as a kid and there was no women, there really weren’t any women and nevermind petite women in the room.
So yeah, I didn’t realize then that as I do now that she was a trendsetter and the easy path would be not to go in that field at that time. But she did. She showed up and she conquered, and very successful.

Jeff Standridge:
Very good.

Jeff Amerine:
Jeff Standridge, what about you?

Jeff Standridge:
So I grew up in a blue-collar family, and when I was 13, my dad talked me into taking the money I had saved from doing odd jobs, mowing grass, hauling hay, those kinds of things, and buy a car. So I bought a 1950 model Ford car and we started restoring that together when I was 13, 13 and a half or so. And I remember one day, I was working on something on the car. I mean, we did everything to it, everything except the upholstery, we just learned how to do, including bodywork and paint.
And I was rushing around to do something. I don’t remember what it was, and my dad said, “Jeff,” actually, he said, “Jeffrey,” I was referred to as Jeffrey at the time. He said, “Jeffrey, if you don’t have time to do it right, when do you think you’re going to have time to do it over?” And that has stuck with me for what? 50 years. No, probably not 50 years, 45 years. If you don’t have time to do it right, when do you think you’re going to have time to do it over?

Jeff Amerine:
No, that’s great.

Jeff Standridge:
How about you, Jeff?

Jeff Amerine:
That’s great. Yeah. My dad was a career command pilot in the Air Force, a three-war veteran. And he grew up on a wheat farm in Kansas, lots of life lessons. And his history is one and someday maybe I’ll write about, but one of the things that was really compelling, he used to tell me is if you want to do well at leadership, you have to realize you’re always on parade. And all the people that you work with and work for are watching you. So set a good example, because it matters. It matters a lot.

Jeff Standridge:
Man, we could do an entire episode on just those three leadership lessons, right?

Jeff Amerine:
I think so.

Jeff Standridge:
And Stacy, we’ll talk about your blog a little bit later, but you actually wrote a blog topic on the 10 lessons from growing up with a Wall Street mom. So I encourage all of our listeners to go read that, so we’ll talk about where they can find that a little bit later.

Stacy Sherman:
Sounds good.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. So tell us about you. Customer experience. Talk about what customer experience is, what it is to you, what it is maybe in the industry and how you go about it. And obviously a little bit about you leading up to that.

Stacy Sherman:
Yes. So I’ve been in corporate for a very long time. Small companies, big companies, and customer experience is new. Customer service has been around a long time. And there’s a difference. I’ll go into that, but to say that my background has always been in sales and marketing and I fell into CX, CX customer experience. So when you think about customer experience, it is the journey that customers go on and interact with brands. It’s how they learn, become aware of a company. It’s the buying experience. It’s how they get and use the products or service.
So there’s all these micro-moments, how they pay their bill, and how they get help, the get help is the customer service as we traditionally know it to be. So any moment in that journey, if any point is hard, difficult, unsatisfactory, customers will leave and they will tell others.
So I am passionate about and have taken the time to do and learn and practice how to actually know that you’re delighting your customers at those micro-moments. How do you measure it? How do you drive a culture where employees feel that they own the customer experience from back office to frontline? That’s where my career has gone. And the principles, the framework is the same across companies and industries. It’s just personalized. That’s the difference. That make sense?

Jeff Amerine:
It does. I mean, you said something pretty instructive there that was like, how do you start with or drive culture in a company that values customer experience and puts that customer journey front and center? Sometimes, that requires transformation. So how do you really do that?

Stacy Sherman:
Great question. You’re right. It requires change management. It requires resilience because many times, companies are very focused on process, internal ways, internal decisions. So customer experience is about outside in, thereby, you have to have the champions, the leaders, executives at the top, who are really focused on putting the customer first and driving employee engagement.
It starts at the top, but then also it’s the bottom-up too, top-down, bottom-up, and everything in between. And there are obviously a lot of ways to do that. I’ll give you one example. So the executives at the top have to make sure that the customer experience topics are at every meeting agenda, and it has to be a conversation. Bringing customer feedback to the meetings and all talking about what did the customers say? What’s a pain point? And action planning process, process, and humanizing business is what I like to say. It’s got to be part of every agenda. So when that happens, then everybody is really marching to the same tune.

Jeff Standridge:
So talking about these touchpoints with your customers, I remember years ago reading a book by Jan Carlson, I believe it was, Scandinavian Airlines, where he called them moments of truth. And he literally went through the organization and counted the interactions that people had with Scandinavian Airlines and the opportunity to either wow them or frustrate them, and referred to those as “moments of truth.” Have you ever come across that in your work?

Stacy Sherman:
Every single day. That’s actually the point of customer experience, where it is about the different points of interaction with a brand, and really digging deep into the customer feelings, the customer satisfaction, the level of effort. So to make it real, for example, if I’m trying to buy on a company website, I give my credit card and it declines, the form for some reason, that is going to be an example where I may not try again. I just leave. I don’t even tell you. That’s a moment of truth.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, yeah. No, you’re right. And I’ve had those experiences. I use a very common online payment platform, how’s that? And there’s one particular person that I pay to do some work for me who’s out of the country, and every single time I attempt to pay them, I get a declined and I have to go enter a code and what have you. Now, that’s where a potential for a good customer experience, my credit card company, doing an anti-fraud warning for me to have to punch in a code and actually retry the transaction again, but that opportunity to delight me or to wow me has turned to a frustration for me, because they don’t remember that I’m paying this person. And every single time I pay them, I have to go through this decline process.

Stacy Sherman:
Exactly.

Jeff Standridge:
So good intentions, what do they say? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. They
have great intentions.

Jeff Amerine:
No, Jeff, you’re exactly right on that. And that sort of friction that occurs will tend to give you an inclination not to use that platform. A good example of a positive experience is there’s a company that allows fractionalized residential real estate investing called Arrived Homes, based in Seattle. They make it extremely easy to part with your money to invest. I mean, they’ve got all the controls and there’s all the security, but it’s just so easy to buy fractional interest in homes when they come available.
There’s not a lot of annoying process you have to go through. It’s very few clicks. It’s very easy to e-sign documents. It just works, and it’s remarkable, your inclination to actually use a platform like that and to have good feelings about it is so much higher when that friction is low in the customer experience. It’s really, really a true point.

Stacy Sherman:
Which is why it’s important that people institute measurements into their CX practice. NPS, net promoter score, is a very common one, not the only one. You have to dig deep into how easy or difficult is it to work with your brand? To get help when they need? And it’s those micro-moments you’re talking about really matter with ease of use. So NPS is not it alone.

Jeff Standridge:
So talk about some of the others. What are some of the others?

Stacy Sherman:
Yeah, so we’ll focus on what I was just mentioning, which is level of effort and effort score. It’s one of my favorites. So it’s digging into how easy or difficult, and that drives the why an NPS score maybe it, because if it is so difficult to do business with a brand, if it is so difficult to pay or to use a product as an example, then they’re not going to recommend a brand, which is the NPS question. So they’re very closely linked and it’s much more tangible level of effort. If you do it right, you could really fix the friction and make it better.

Jeff Amerine:
Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now, and please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And, don’t forget to share us on social media.

Jeff Standridge:
So talk to us if you will about the differences in CX in a B2C company versus a B2B company because you do both. You work a lot in B2B, but you also do CX work in the B2C space. So tell us a little bit about some of the differences you see, and anything that you think would be relevant in that regard.

Stacy Sherman:
So there are differences, but I want to say the most core important fact, that’s the same. People. Whether the human is a customer who’s buying an iPhone, which is the B2C, or a customer who is making a decision about a health plan for their employees, so B2B, you’re dealing with people and humans.
At the end of the day, it’s really about walking in your customer’s shoes, the human shoes, and really mapping out what is the desired experience, how will they learn about the offer? How will they buy? In B2B, it’s probably more… especially if it’s an expensive item, it’s probably going to be a salesperson coming out and talking to the customer. In healthcare, for example, buying an insurance plan for the employees, it’s probably going to be a salesperson speaking to the HR department and helping them make a very important buying decision versus buying something online, a consumer good, e-commerce is very common.

Jeff Standridge:
Gotcha.

Stacy Sherman:
So the channels are different, but the key is putting yourself in that human’s shoes, design the experience. And then here’s where the magic happens, in B2B or B2C. You have to design the experience and then you have to go to your end-user, your end buyer, your personas who you designed for, and validate that what you designed actually meets their needs.

Jeff Standridge:
So at the end of the day, something we tell our clients, at the end of the day, people buy from people. Doesn’t matter whether they’re B2B, B2C, B2B2C, or what have you. People are buying from people and they generally buy from people they know, like, trust, and have a good experience with.

Stacy Sherman:
Trust is tremendous, and trust can be built. It’s not always possible to be in person. That is ideal. We know that human touch pre-COVID, post-COVID, that doesn’t change, but we know that we’re getting more sophisticated and even being on camera here, I feel like I know you because we’re seeing each other. So we can leverage technology to build trust, but it comes from the people.

Jeff Amerine:
Are there some particular brands or enterprises that you could talk about that do this particularly well, ones that you’ve studied or you see they’ve got it just right, they have it figured out? What are some good examples?

Stacy Sherman:
I would say I’ll stay away from the obvious, like Apple, for example. Though there is one thing I do want to highlight about Apple, that people might not think about, but it’s part of the experience that anybody can do. And that is after you buy and get your product, there’s a pivotal moment that people don’t think about, which is they give you a half-hour session to train you on your new product. So you schedule 30 minutes on your new product, and then you set up a time, and they call you.
That’s value-add. And I want people to think about what can you do in your business like that is not an extra cost? Yes, maybe it’s built into the cost originally, but that aside, there is value-add in that buying, and that whole experience of onboarding. So just want to bring that out because anybody can do that.

Jeff Standridge:
While we’re on the Apple conversation, there’s this concept that we use with a lot of our clients called customer discovery, where you discover their needs or you anticipate the unmet needs or the business problem that they want to solve, and then you do some customer discovery there to validate that you’ve actually identified the right problem. Separate from Apple, that builds things before we even know we need them.
I believe it was Ford that said the famous phrase, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” So talk a little bit about this concept of market research to discover needs versus what Apple does, to build innovative things before we even know we need them.

Stacy Sherman:
Absolutely. It is a must, no matter what your company is, no matter what your brand is. So as an example, I worked at Verizon, my prior job in product development. I was customer experience, a leadership role within new product development, and what that means is that as products were getting developed in a very agile way, we infused CX into the process so that we would launch with quality over speed.
So I would take the prototypes, even before a prototype, we would do concept validation with the personas, the potential buyers. Do you see a need for this? What value do you see, do you feel? Would you be willing to pay for this value? Then we’d go into prototype testing and feedback. And this iterative stage before huge investments into the new product, and that’s where you’re able to make sure that you’re really building for what customers want. And by the way, I caution people, employee feedback is really good, but it cannot replace customer feedback.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. That’s great. Very good. So-

Jeff Amerine:
As you try to build an organization that values customer experience, how do you really attract and retain great leadership that’s going to make that a priority? I mean, talk about it. We all know there’s this war on talent. How do you find the right people to be in the organization?

Stacy Sherman:
I think finding isn’t the hard part, because there’s a lot of people out there looking. The harder part is asking the right questions in the interview process to make sure that you’re really hiring the right people. That’s where companies fall short, and that’s low-hanging fruit, quite honestly.

Jeff Standridge:
What are some of the questions you think we’re missing the boat on that you make sure that you build into the interview process or encourage your clients to?

Stacy Sherman:
There’s a lot of them, but I’ll pick one. You need to really test for communication skills.  Because customer experience is about getting the basics right. And the basics is communication, meaning that a lot of times, especially in supply chain challenges right now, customers are waiting for a response. They want to feel like they haven’t been forgotten. So if a sales rep doesn’t have the answers, are they still picking up the phone? Are they still telling the customer, “I got your back. I don’t have the answer right now,” or are they silent because they don’t know how to handle the situation? And you need to identify that upfront.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. It’s about just expectation management. If they expect you to call them at noon tomorrow, call them at noon tomorrow even if you don’t have the answer to say, “I’m closer, but I need a little more time.”

Stacy Sherman:
Yes. So you need to really test for how well does your candidate deliver on the promise? What are examples that they can demonstrate on that, and test for it without really leading them to that probing question.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, I’m curious. We are reading and Jeff mentioned the war on talent, this concept of the Great Resignation, where people are choosing to step away from their jobs and might even take lower pay for better quality of life or more amenities or what have you. Are you seeing HR and organizational development departments begin to move into the customer experience world, thinking of their employees as customers and begin to deploy some of your thoughts and practices there?

Stacy Sherman:
Yes and no. There’s opportunity for more. There’s opportunity for more partnership, there’s opportunity for… and I’m talking about across brands and different people I talk to.

Jeff Standridge:
Sure.

Stacy Sherman:
Not one-sided view, one company per se. But overall, in my own research, there’s an opportunity when HR does exit interviews to work with your customer experience leaders and collaborate on… Both sides care about employee engagement. There’s a bit of a different angle where HR is about benefits, and can you work from home or not? CX is about how do you get employees engaged to deliver customer excellence, and they go hand-in-hand. So there needs to be a real close partnership, and there’s such a thing as an internal NPS score, and there’s a customer NPS score. How well are those being married, and problem solved for?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, I could see an entire practice around leadership, of exposing leaders in companies to CX principles, to think about walking a mile in their employee’s shoes, and are they an easy place to work? Are they a desirable place to work? Is the experience at the level that it needs to be? So I was just thinking about it in that regard.

Stacy Sherman:
Absolutely. There’s opportunity.

Jeff Standridge:
Sure, got it.

Jeff Amerine:
Stacy, I’d also be interested in your take on something Jack Welsh wrote about and the classic book he wrote, Straight From The Gut, and it was about his leadership experiences at GE. He said that the best people that were customer-facing, and he was talking specifically about sales organizations, they tended to look for people that scored high on the empathy scale, that we’re very empathetic.
I mean, what’s your take on that? And I know it’s sometimes difficult to assign traits to what you’re looking for, but what’s your take on empathy as it relates to customer experience?

Stacy Sherman:
Empathy is one of those that I was mentioning before, you need to test for when you’re hiring people. It is a must. It’s no longer a nice quality. It’s a have to behavior that is essential, because people are more impatient. They are less forgiving. They are quick to judge and make changes than ever before.
So if a customer service rep for example doesn’t sound like they’re really understanding the customer’s story, but rather sound like they’re checking a box and going through this call script, the customer’s going to feel it and likely make a judgment call, a perception just on that one call, even if they love the product and potentially leave.

Jeff Standridge:
Yep.

Jeff Amerine:
Have to be authentic, right?

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. So, as we start to… We could talk to you all day long and dig into this more and more, but for our listeners, as we start to land the plane here, cross-industry, cross-company size, cross-B2B/B2C, give us a couple of what you would call actionable tips. If we’ve piqued the interest of a leader out there of an organization, large or small, what are a couple of actionable tips that you would give them to take the next steps forward when it comes to customer experience?

Stacy Sherman:
Yeah. So let’s just get the basics right. One, you need an executive, a champion at the top who ensures that CX is a top priority shared by every organization, every department. If you’re finance, if you’re HR, if you’re legal, everybody has a customer experience job, even if it’s not in your title. And if you don’t understand how or why, call me, because I’ll explain to you.
Secondly, people are motivated by money. Businesses are in business to make money. People work, hopefully, because they love what they do, but we also know that you spend your hours, as my friend Stacy Aaron says, your heart beats at work because you are trying to afford experiences for your family. So make sure that customer experience is on everybody’s objectives, and I hate to say this out loud because it’s very debatable, but tie performance objectives, your payout, to how well the company delivers customer excellence. Because if not, people are not going to prioritize the customer pain points, they’re going to focus on other key performance indicators and CX drives loyalty. CX drives revenue growth. So, it’s all linked. So I would say make sure that you’re driving that performance, and connect it to customer satisfaction. It’s not the only way.

Jeff Standridge:
Very good.

Stacy Sherman:
Money’s not the only way, but certainly a factor.

Jeff Standridge:
Yeah, yeah. So tell our listeners where they can find you.

Stacy Sherman:
DoingCXRight.com. I have a podcast, I have a blog, mentoring people in my off-hours. I have a full-time corporate job. So time is limited, but when I have a capacity, I’m mentoring people so that they can differentiate their brand personally as a leader and differentiate their company with CX at the forefront and so much more.

Jeff Standridge:
Good. Yeah, absolutely. So DoingCXRight.com, and I encourage you guys to take a look at that blog, 10 Lessons From Growing Up With a Wall Street Mom, I believe that was last summer, this past summer that you wrote that blog. So, look that one up and read it. It’s a great read. Jeff, anything you would add?

Jeff Amerine:
No, I just wanted to thank Stacy for coming on. If you help the customers win, your company will win and you as an individual will win, and it’s a great message. We’re really glad to have you on.

Stacy Sherman:
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Jeff Standridge:
This has been another episode of the Innovation Junkies Podcast. Thank you for joining.

Jeff Amerine (Outro):
Hey, folks. This is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies Podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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