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Ask a Customer Experience Expert: Annette Franz (CX Journey)

We continue our CX Expert series with Annette Franz – Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and author of the blog CX Journey. Annette has been voted #45 of The 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter by Business Insider, Top 10 of 2014 Top 50 Most Active Influencers in Customer Experience by MindTouch, and is a top contributor in Customer Experience and Leadership for CustomerThink and Business2Community.

Annette FranzHi Annette, can you tell us how you got into CX and why you find the space so interesting?

I guess I’ve thought about a great customer experience all my life. I grew up on a farm, where we raised and sold livestock, which comes with its own lessons around delivering a great experience for your neighbors and your customers, knowing full well that if you do things right, they’ll come back for more. If not, they’ll go elsewhere; their options are not limited.

I was raised in a family with a strong work ethic. I started working in retail jobs when I was 16 and took that work ethic with me then – and every day since then. With that work ethic came a strong sense of doing what’s right and doing the right thing, being kind and respectful, and treating others the way you’d want to be treated were you in their shoes.

I didn’t originally set out on my career path with a mission to evangelize about improving – or to help improve – the customer experience, but I’m happy that that’s the field in which I’ve landed. My career really started to take shape in the early 1990s, when I joined J.D. Power and Associates. I’ve been working on the vendor side of the business since then (except for a year-long stint working at Mattel and my latest role, which is on the CX team at Fidelity Investments), working with clients to listen to the voice of the customer and to transform the voice into action and improvement as well as leading and developing teams of consultants to do the same.

Recently we’ve seen a massive increase in the importance of CX – why do you think that is?

I think – or at least, I hope – that it’s because companies are starting to get it: that the purpose of a business is to create and to nurture a customer, not to maximize shareholder value; shareholder value will come if, and only if, you’re able to help customers meet their needs, all the while delivering a great customer experience.

The fact that customers are more informed and are much more quickly able to share their impressions of doing business with the organization – and, especially, with others – has likely also lit a fire under some.

What do you think will be the main CX trends this year?

I’m not big on trends or predictions. But if I had to talk about trends, they would be follow-ons to your previous question. With more companies starting to get it, and so many still in the early stages of CX maturity, I think the trends this year are more about getting the basics/fundamental necessities right or about re-evaluating why improvements or progress seems stagnant. I talk about those fundamental necessities in my post, The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Experience. Get these seven things in place, and then we can talk about some exciting trends in the future.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give a business trying to improve their customer experience?

Focus on the employee experience first. Without employees, you have no customer experience. Make sure your employees are happy, satisfied, and engaged and have the tools, resources, and training needed to do the job you expect them to do.

How important is customer feedback as a component of customer experience?

Customer feedback is probably one of the most critical components of customer experience improvement initiatives. I’ve said many times that you can’t transform something you don’t understand. Listening to customers and learning about what they are trying to do, what their intended outcomes are, and how well they are able to do the job or achieve the outcomes are so important to improving the customer experience. Understanding customers and the current state of the customer experience is a precursor to redesigning the experience.

Which CX metrics do you think are the most important?

Oh my, the metrics debate. There are two that I prefer: customer satisfaction and customer effort. Understanding how a company performs against the customer’s expectations is what satisfaction is all about (Performance – Expectations = Satisfaction). If the company’s not meeting those expectations, then they know they need to fix something (the item rated low in satisfaction). Making it easy for customers to do business with the company is key to both customer and business success.

Who do you think needs to own CX in a company?

Ultimately, the CEO is the owner; without his or her commitment to focusing on the customer and the customer experience, it won’t matter who owns and oversees the day to day. Beyond the CEO, the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is often the one to operationalize the customer experience strategy. The CCO role, however, is typically seen in larger organizations. In smaller organizations, we might see ownership land with the head of Marketing; sometimes there’s a VP of Customer Experience. Regardless, there also needs to be some governance structure in place that ensures oversight and execution of the customer experience strategy.

Which companies today do you think have great CX? Why?

I could name the companies that always get recognized for delivering a great customer experience, like The Ritz-Carlton, Zappos, Amazon, USAA, and more. There’s a company I’d like to mention that’s not one of the “usual suspects:” Barry-Wehmiller. Their CEO is Bob Chapman, and he leads a company that has a culture of “everyone matters.” His philosophy is “people matter, employees matter, culture matters – then and only then can you deliver a great customer experience.” Amen to that.

Connect with Annette:  Google+ | @annettefranz | @cxjourney | LinkedIn | Facebook | CX Journey


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