Effective leadership vs customer experience : How to strike the right balance - Jeanne Bliss [Interview]

Anushka
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Effective leadership vs customer experience : How to strike the right balance - Jeanne Bliss [Interview]

About Jeanne Bliss

Jeanne Bliss is the founder and CEO of Customer Bliss. She's a leadership and customer experience adviser and keynote speaker who motivates and guides a lot of multinational organizations worldwide. She has a huge experience in leading businesses to earn business growth. She's a highly sought after keynote speaker and leadership coach. We're extremely happy and honored to have someone of her stature on our interview series today.

Sumitha Mariyam

We have the pleasure of welcoming Jeanne Bliss today to our interview series. I am Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Let’s begin with just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Sumitha

Welcome, Jeanne. We’re thrilled to have you.

Jeanne

Ah, thank you. So nice to be with you. 

Sumitha

It's our pleasure. So Jeanne, the first question I had for you is,

Tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to Customer Bliss today.

Jeanne

Oh, sure, yes, I've been doing this for 35 years. I was the very first version of a chief customer officer for five big U. S. Corporations - Lands’ End, Allstate, Microsoft, Mazda, Coldwell Banker and did that for about 25 years. So started really as a practitioner, doing the work, building out what this work is, working with the CEOs of these companies. In 2006, I published my first book called ‘Chief Customer Officer’.

Nobody had really assembled and talked about the comprehensive nature of this work in these roles. And since then I’ve published three other books. I coach Chief Customer Officer and the C-suite around the world. And I'm the co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. 

Sumitha

Wow. That's wonderful. And, focusing more on the organizations of today. 

So what is your opinion on the changing organizational cultures from customer-centric to employee-centric right now? Balancing business priorities with people's needs, how do organizations need to start crafting that journey of balance?

Jeanne

Oh, it's a great question. Well, and really, here's what you need to think about. “What's on the inside shows up on the outside”

“What's on the inside shows up on the outside”

Sumitha

Yeah.

Jeanne

And the employee experience really needs to be connected to the customer experience or customers' goals. And so what we usually do is start with really understanding customers’ goals, their lives and get very clear about our purpose. An organization without a North Star purpose, everyone's doing their own thing and you're doing your employees a disservice as well.

And so what we find is if you get really granular and clear about your higher purpose and about your customers’ goals, then it drives who you hire, how you develop them, what you need to enable them to do, when to get out of their way, how to trust them and how to enable them to rise and lead and be creative and innovative. But it needs to connect one to the other. 

Sumitha

Oh, that's a wonderful answer and that's a fresh perspective that we have there. 

So can you elaborate a little bit or can you give us a few insights on customer-driven growth for an organization?

Jeanne

Sure. Customer Experience is at its core about leadership. It's about choosing how you will grow and what you won't do to grow. But at its core is that an organization needs to be united to answer the question, "Did we keep more valuable customers than we lost? And do we know what either caused a growth or diminishment of our customer base based on how we're treating them, enabling them to achieve their goals and how we're making them feel?"

And so one of the simple things I encourage companies to do is something I call customer math or elevating the customers as the asset of your business, which is really establishing one version of the truth. That's...

“How many new customers did we bring in volume and value”.

because the volume is great but the value is very different, right? 

Now, this means uniting all of the parts of the sales organization. Everybody is selling different things. So you've got one metric that rolls up. That's great. That's how many new we brought in and that's often where companies talk and then leave the conversation. But we also need to talk about lost customers in that same month or quarter or year before annual planning. 

Sumitha

Yeah.

Jeanne

How many customers did we lose? Volume and value? Because, let's say we brought in 30 customers to be simple, but we lost 25 and the 25 we lost are very profitable customers, that are more valuable five-times, six-times, seven-times, ten-times more than the new customer. If we don't put in value, we think we’re growing, But we're not.

We're standing in place or we're going down. And then the final thing, the math is what's the net customer growth or loss? And we need to then care about the why. And that's where all of the rest of the customer leadership tools come into place to help us understand the why, to take it personally, and to shift and transform our business to earn the right to grow. 

Sumitha

Oh, that's great. And we're going through this crisis right now. The pandemic and everyone's locked inside. 

Jeanne

Yes.

Sumitha

And vendors have this crisis of if their product is not an essential product and they have customers and this is a very crucial time to maintain the customer experience and give a good experience for your customers and keep their loyalty right there. 

So how would you, what are your thoughts on that? How would you go about treating your customers, giving them a good experience at this time of uncertainty? 

Jeanne

Sure.

Don't think about selling. Think about giving and think about uniting”

So what I mean by giving is, let's say you are in the retail business. Right now, retailing, for example, is an industry that's been really hit on the bricks and mortar side, not as much on the website. But that side has been hit as well because people spending that much of shifting. 

So while you may or may not be able to push for more purchasing, what you should do instead is give them information to help them plan their way out of it, knowledge about market conditions, creative ideas and then also unite your customers to talk to each other, give the gift of networking and share. The other thing is then extending grace.

Understand where because of the contract negotiations or relationship you might have with people that they could actually be getting into a precarious position. Because what's interesting about this time is that we have a moment now to be remembered about who we are as people and how we treat people.

“What's interesting about this time is that we have a moment now to be remembered about who we are as people and how we treat people."

And what we need to decide is how people are gonna reflect and go back and determine, did we help them with their life at this moment and were we part of the solution or pain in the neck? 

Sumitha

That's absolutely right. I mean, I totally agree with that because this is the time to be kind to each other, even if you're a vendor or a customer, an employer, or employee, whichever, wherever you are. So…

Jeanne

Yeah.  

“You want to be unforgettable. You want to be remembered during this time as the kind of company that cared and helped you”. 

Sumitha

Yeah, that's wonderful. And I think that's what the world needs to hear right now. 

So, we have the gig economy rising and we have a lot of gig workers for all sorts of jobs, right now. So how do you think the rise in the gig economy and a lot of gig workers working for a lot of organizations, for a multitude of designations, how do you think this is going to affect the customer experience that organizations offer? 

Jeanne

Well, what's interesting is every organization has had to accelerate, creating a gig economy kind of workforce right? Where they're not paid as gig economy workers but they're calling on apps and tools and remote learning and remote communication. And so what's happening in a good way, but in a crazy way, is that it's accelerating the acceptance, the understanding and the appreciation of that distance and that we can still and can and should be able to build a great bond with people, even though they're not in the same building with us. 

So I think that it is a boon to it now, for the gig economy workers who were on the front lines, such as drivers or grocery store people or delivery people. We have to take care of those people. We have to make sure they're safe and we're communicating with them as well as celebrating the technological advancement that we're seeing to connect us. 

Sumitha

Yes. 

So when we talk about technology, how much do you think technology can be involved? And we have artificial intelligence right now. So what is that right balance between human intelligence and the artificial intelligence part if it to give the right customer experience out?

Jeanne

Well, high tech and high touch need to be blended.

“High tech and high touch need to be blended."

Often we get really excited about the stuff. Mobile, when Mobil became the thing, everybody would create the Mobil experience on its own. Well, customers don't have a Mobil experience with you. They certainly don't have an AI experience with you.

The whole point of AI, for example, is to build in respect by knowing your customers, by understanding their preferences, by delivering things that are relevant. But if you don't have a frame around that, which is what are their goals that you need to deliver a relevant experience on in the first place, you're gonna be shit shooting out all kinds of ideas and tactics that are going to look like, wow, we're really into AI. 

But when the customer goes back and reflects, they're gonna ask, did you help me with my goal? Not how good were you with your AI, right? We get all excited about the cool things we're learning. So it really needs to be connected. High tech needs to enable high touch. And that means we need to start back with our purpose, customers’ goals, and how they blend.

That means, how do we have to operationalize? What people do we hire? What tools do we give them? How do we import data and information and intelligence to let them make their decision smarter? 

For example, on the front line, if we hire the right people, then we should be able to trust them with customer lifetime value. If you're trusting the customers with customer lifetime value or attitudinal things that we're learning about AI, then you've also got to trust them to make it to call at the moment based on what they know versus policy cupping them into a box of rules that may make sense in general but don't make sense for this one customer. It could have them packing. 

Sumitha

So you think it's a fine balance of all these little aspects that have to come together and make a good experience.

Jeanne

Yeah, it really does. I mean, you do need to make sure that you're starting with the life and understanding the goals and that your company is united. So many of these things also get dissected and each part of the organization is working separately. And when you're working separately, you're putting the monkey on your customers’ back to be the one who connects all the dots. 

Sumitha

Yeah, that's right. And let’s shift the focus to another area now. 

And I just wanted to get a few insights on what you think are the most important qualities that a leader should exhibit, say, let's bring it down to the top three qualities that you would like to. 

Jeanne 

Sure, I think that they really need to be very clear and have true clarity of purpose for their organization and be a beacon on an ongoing basis with everything they talk about, to guide and let people take that on it is their own and have created their own lens. So the clarity and the continuity of that are important.

They need to trust their people and enable people to bring the best version of themselves to work. And that means recognizing that if we hire the right people, our job is to enable them to rise. And then they need to really be a great developer of the leaders of their organizations so that this becomes a significant and spreading part of how we grow the business. 

So...  

"There's a congruence of heart and habit".

but also a united leadership team that really sounds like they are connected. that has a common vision and then it spreads throughout the organization. That's how transformation occurs. That's really how companies rise above the competition. 

Sumitha

Yeah. So for all your answers, I get this idea of whatever we do for customer experience or employees experience or say for good leadership, the most important thing is to put your heart out there and be passionate about it. And I…

Jeanne

Absolutely. Be passionate. But you do need to be pragmatic as well, cause you're growing a business. This is about business growth. But I agree. What we're seeing is humanity now, especially now, leaders are finding that great humanity muscle, and it's been wonderful to watch. 

Sumitha

Yeah. That's absolutely right. 

And Jeanne, just to kind of wrap up the whole interview process. If you have any important soundbites that you would like to leave our audience.

Jeanne

I think it's that we have a moment right now to become unforgettable in the story of our customers' lives. So decide. Decide the attributes that you want your customers to describe you as people.

“Decide the attributes that you want your customers to describe you as people."

Are you trustworthy? Are you caring? Are you giving? Whatever it is, then you have to build that into your operating model. Make sure that how you operate earns you the right to that story, that definition, and to the growth that comes from the admiration for companies who behave in that manner. 

Sumitha

Yeah, wonderful. Thank you so much for that. And Jeanne, it was a pleasure talking to you. I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us. It has been such an enriching learning experience for me personally and I'm sure it'll surely be for our viewers too. Let’s keep in touch and you have a healthy and safe time ahead of you. Thank you and have a great day.

Jeanne

You're welcome. And there's so much information on my website customerbliss.com where you can get all of this and many tools and lots of support to help you through this time. So thank you, everybody, please stay safe.

Sumitha

Yes. Buh-bye.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

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