About Annette Franz
Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents.
Annette was named one of “The 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter” by Business Insider and is regularly recognized by companies around the world as a top influencer in Customer Experience.
She co-hosts the weekly #CXChat on Twitter, serves as an executive officer on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), mentors other professionals in this field to help them advance their careers, and is a speaker and an avid writer; you can find her work not only on her own blog but also on Business2Community, CustomerThink, Quality Digest, APICS Magazine, and more. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP).
Annette Franz is also an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, an invitation-only community for successful business and career coaches. Members are selected based on their depth and diversity of experience.
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[00:06] Mary Drumond: You’re listening to Voices of Customer Experience. I’m your host Mary Drumond, and on this podcast we shine the spotlight on individuals who are making a difference in customer experience. We also proudly bring you the very best of customer experience, behavior economics, data analytics, and design. Make sure to subscribe or follow us on social for updates. Voices of Customer Experience is brought to you by Worthix. Discover your worth at worthix.com. [00:35] MD: Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey. She was named one of the 100 most influential tech women on twitter by Business Insider and is regularly recognized by companies around the world as a top influencer in customer experience. Annette co hosts a weekly cx chat on twitter, serves as an executive officer on the board of directors of the Customer Experience Professional Association, and is a speaker and an avid writer. You can find her work not only on her own blog, but on the Business to Community Customer Think Quality Digest, APICS magazine, and more. She is also an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council. Welcome to the show, Annette. We also have my cohost, James Conrad joining me today. Hi James.
[01:23] James Conrad: Hi Mary. Good to be here. [01:24] MD: Annette, you’ve got so much experience in customer experience. You’ve been working with this community for so long and you’ve got so much to add and one thing we were really interested in talking to you about today was employee experience and how important and how front and center this has become and the fact that all of a sudden everyone is looking at this is probably, I mean, for you it’s probably great. How long have you been talking about the importance of employee experience?
[01:52] Annette Franz: Oh my gosh. Since I started in this space. I started, I hate to say this, 26 years ago when I joined JD Power and Associates. I remember back then talking to clients about, I know we’re listening to your customers, but hey, we have got to listen to your employees too. That is so important. And the constant response that I got was, well, we want to listen to customers first, we’ll listen to employees later and here we are 26 years later. And finally these companies are starting to listen. So for me, it’s really exciting that employee experience is really starting to be put more toward the forefront.
[02:26] MD: Well, since we’re at the topic of when you got started, tell us a little bit about your journey getting to where you are today and your background and your mission for customer experience as you see it.
[02:40] AF: Oh yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s funny because somebody asked me the other day, there has to have been some catalyst for you to have gotten into this space. And I was like, no, you know, I was reading the newspaper in 1992 looking for a job. And I saw an ad for JD Power and Associates. I was like I love math and I love writing, so let’s put the two together and there’s no better way to start that as a project director at JD Power and Associates. So I was there for five years. I spent a little bit of time in the market research world, but then really most of my career in this space has been voice of the customer and working with the voice of the customer platforms for 15, 16 years and had two stints on the practitioner side, one with Mattel many years ago. And then one with Fidelity. I had worked for Touch My Dashboard doing mapping software. I’ve worked for an AI predictive analytic software and probably about a year and a half ago, and I’ve had this for me it was like ultimately I want to go out and do this on my own work on the projects that I love to do and work on the things that are meaningful to me and the way that I want to do them. And so about a year and a half ago that opportunity presented itself. And so I went out on my own, started my own consulting firm and, and here we are and I keep saying it’s the best decision ever because it’s been a lot of fun so far. It’s been a great ride.
[04:07] JC: We did want to talk and focus on employee experience today. You’ve written a lot about this. You have a lot of opinions and have given your listeners and people who read your content a lot to think about, but just sort of ahead of that. There’s something that caught me on your website. You have so much great content. Everybody should go to the website and have a look. We’ll give everyone the website at the end of the podcast, but you wrote the 10 commandments of customer experience. That was pretty bold, but it’s really interesting. Could you talk a little bit about that? What was the inspiration for that and maybe highlight some of the key things in there?
[04:44] AF: For sure. Years before that I had written the seven deadly sins. I am a recovering Catholic, so there you go. Honestly, there’s so many foundational or fundamental elements that have to be in place for a successful transformation that to me it was like if people aren’t doing this, they’re committing sins. It’s a bad thing because you’re not going to be able to transform the organization, you’re not going to be able to transform the experience. And so it was kind of like, here’s the staff, this is what has to be done and you know, and it’s evolved, you know, I wrote the 10 commandments years ago and since then in my conversations and whatnot have added to that. So there are more than 10, but I think the basics are around making sure that you’ve got executive commitment.
[05:48] AF: You’re not going to get very far in your transformation efforts if you don’t have executive commitment. You’re not gonna get very far either if you’re not listening and understanding your customers. I typically frame that up in three different ways, right? So understanding for me is defined as listening, surveys or other things that are not surveys (other listening polls), and then characterizing which is personas and empathy maps and really understanding who your customers are, what their pain points are, jobs they’re trying to do and all of that. And then empathize, which is journey mapping. So if you’re not doing that then you don’t really understand what your customers are and what their experience is like today. You’re never going to be able to understand what’s going well, what’s not and what needs to be improved.
[06:31] AF: And then I think one of the other sins or commandments was around you have to do something with what you hear, right? And I find so many companies who just sort of stop short. Yeah, they stop short of that. And it’s like, well what’s the point? What are you trying to do? And then obviously because we are talking about employee experience today, putting employees first or more first is one of those commandments as well. It’s so true that mployee happiness equals customer happiness and you’ve got to be looking out for your employees. You’ve got to create a great culture. That’s the foundation for really everything that happens in the organization and beyond. And so you’ve got to have a great culture and then really focus in on the employee experience and making sure that they’re heard, they’re valued, they’re developed, they’re appreciated, really understand how the work that they do matters, the impact that they have on the customer experience and beyond.
[07:35] MD: Last week, I believe, a couple episodes ago, I was speaking to Nate Brown from CX Accelerator and he’s got a great page on there called CX Primer, and he mentioned that you had contributed a lot to helping him produce the message that was on there. And one thing that he says is that there are three steps to doing customer experience right. And number one is employee experience followed by voice of customer. And then lastly, what he calls experience engineering, which I imagine would be designing the personas, customer journey mapping, and actually taking the time to sit down and design how the experience of the customer is going to be. What’s it going to be like with the company? And one thing that I feel, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that a lot of companies that when they’re like oh we’ve got to improve our customer experience, they start at experience engineering and they want to begin the process by designing the experiences of their customers. But they’re ignoring steps one and two. Do you feel like that happens with the companies that you work with?
[08:47] AF: I do. I do. And there have been companies I’ve worked with in the past, I’m working on projects with them on initiatives and we get into the workshops and the first thing they say is we want to map the future state. And it’s like, well you can’t get to the future state until you understand the current state. Again, if you don’t know what’s going well and what’s not, how are you going to design? And if you don’t understand, you don’t take the time to listen to your employees and to listen to your customers and to do that understanding piece of it, you’re really going to struggle to design. And what’s going to end up happening is it’s going to be inside out. You’re going to end up designing based on what you think you know or what you think is best. And that’s just the wrong way to go about it.
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[10:00] JC: You talked as well about a customer experience culture pyramid. And I wasn’t able to attend the Webinar in the timeframe that we have, but could you talk a little bit about that? I was intrigued and I want to know more, and I’m sure our listeners will be interested.
[10:13] AF: Absolutely. You know, the typical organization culture looks like this, right? If you think about the pyramid, it has four tiers, right? Maybe mission, vision and values maybe, and then it’s all about revenue and profits and then the next tier is customers and the last is employees, right? And that’s all wrong. It’s really the foundation is the mission, vision, values, and purpose, right? That is absolutely the foundation. We’ve got to have that time. You’ve got to start there. Not every organization has that, but I’m seeing a lot of them do, but not everyone does. And they don’t live that either, right? So even if they have that, you’ve got to live those values. We’ve got to share the purpose and make sure that everybody you hire is in alignment with that. So that’s the foundation really. And then the next thing you’ve got to have, and people might disagree with this, but you’ve got to have executive alignment, right?
[11:08] AF: Your leadership team has to be working well together. They’ve got to be living the values as well. They’ve got to be modeling the behaviors and communicating and all of that. Then the next one in that pyramid is the employee experience. So here we go, we’ve got this foundation, we’ve got the leadership in place who is going to ensure that our employees have a great experience by, you know, like things I mentioned earlier, listening to them, developing them, making sure they’re heard and valued and appreciated and all that. Then the next level of the pyramid is customer experience so we’re going up the pyramid. So the next level is customer experience because happy employees drive happy customers and if we focus on those two pieces of customer experience, now we’re saying put the people first and when we put the people first, now the top of the pyramid is your revenue and profits. So if we focus on the people, the numbers will come. A lot of companies go straight to the old management philosophy that we’re in business to maximize shareholder value. But in reality, if we focus on the people, that will happen. We’re not saying that that’s not the case anymore, that you shouldn’t focus on maximizing shareholder value, but you have to focus on these other things to get there.
[12:28] JC: Well, I always thought that the end was profit and revenue, but the means are the levers that we can pull from. It’s kind of like if we do all the things before and get the right alignment and get the right focus on our employees and customers, then we will achieve great profit and revenue. [12:48] AF: Absolutely. That’s a great way of putting it. Absolutely. [12:52] MD: You spoke of executive leadership. Do you find that it’s hard to find executives that are onboard with customer experience programs? I mean not the idea of customer experience because sure, everybody agrees with that, but then this gritty steps.
[13:08] AF: Yes, exactly. Yeah absolutely. You’re spot on. It’s hard to find somebody who doesn’t agree with it. Yeah, we have to have a great customer experience, but when it comes right down to it and put your money where your mouth is, it’s a whole different story. It’s still a challenge for all of us out there.
[13:27] MD: Has anyone, have you, come up with a secret sauce? I mean, this might sound silly, but it’s like, you know, how to convince your boss to get onboard the CX program in three steps. Have you come up with a formula or at least guidelines that people can use because there’s no way we can improve, ultimately customer experience, but firstly employee experience if you don’t have the decision makers on board.[14:00] AF: Exactly. And the way that I like to say it is that once you have executive commitment, you will get the resources and those resources are financial, human capital, time, whatever it is, you will get that. But the executives have to be on board. So yes, I typically like to say that in order to get that commitment, you’ve got to do two things. You have to appeal to the left side of the brain and you have to appeal to the right side of the brain. So you’ve got to appeal to the head and the heart basically. Left is the numbers and analytical. Right is the creative and emotional and whatnot. And so the creative emotional side is telling customer stories.
[14:37] AF: And this is where I like to bring in journey mapping. I had a journey mapping session years ago where a CEO sat in on sessions and not the whole thing, but what he saw was eyeopening enough for him that he committed the resources to the team to get the work started because he was like, wow, this is what we put our customers through. So telling the stories of your customers, whether that’s through journey mapping or it’s the verbatims that you get in your feedback or it’s doing immersion programs or however it is that you’re going to tell the story of the customer and the customer pain. And then the other side is really the number side, right? This is what every CEO, every executive likes to see and everybody grumbles when we say this but ROI. So we’ve got to improve the business value, what’s in it for the business.
[15:27] AF: And so we just have to start a skunk works project and start to listen to customers and do something with that. And if you could start to show the impact from those little projects, then you can go and build your business case from there and show your executives, hey listen, this is what we did. And I worked for an insurance company years ago as well where we did that and they had quite the story to tell about the at risk customers that they saved to be able to get the resources that they needed from their executive team. So it works, it really does, but you have to appeal to both sides of their brain.
[16:09] MD: So let’s say we do that. It works. Executive team is on board. Now it’s time to get down to business. Where do we start?
[16:20] AF: Yes. So typically when I’m working with clients, I have this five phased approach. That first phase is really about this, about getting the executive commitment. Then it’s about we look at making sure that the values, the vision, mission, vision and values are in place typically like to get feedback from employees and customers at this point just to kind of get a baseline, so it might be doing interviews or it might be looking at existing survey data or feedback, whether it’s social channel or whatever it is. What do you already know about your customers and your experience and what the issues are. And at this point too, we’ll set up a governance structure to provide oversight for assigning the teams and the champions and everyone in the organization who’s going to be involved in this transformation. And then from there we go into the heavy lifting.
[17:09] AF: This next phase is all about understanding. It’s all about, as I mentioned earlier listening, characterizing, and empathizing, so it’s surveys and personas and journey mapping and these can happen simultaneously, employees and customers. So anything that I mentioned in this process is going to pertain to both the employee experience and the customer experience. And then from there, once we’ve done that, we go and we take a look at what we’ve got now, what have we heard and how do we implement that and we start to build the blueprints for where we’re headed. And then once we’ve built those blueprints and we start to implement changes, and I’m talking to a very high level here because we could talk for an hour just about this process, but once you’ve implemented those changes, then there’s communication and training and onboarding and incorporating all of this into orientation and onboarding and all of these different programs internally and then communications to customers externally to let them know how their feedback’s been used and new experiences on all of that.
[18:13] AF: So it’s really a continuous improvement process. You’re going right back to the beginning and making sure that nothing has changed, but all of that is really like a two to four year process until it becomes your new normal. It’s no longer, hey, we’re working on this. Transformation is now under the normal way of doing this.
[18:33] JC: One of the challenges that we’ve seen in talking to clients sometimes is you know you have a group at the center that’s absolutely on board, but you sort of stretch that all the way down to the part time employee in the store or the hotel or the airline and how do you get that person to feel empowered, to take action, to be on board. Do you have any suggestions or some cases that you’ve seen or companies that you have seen that have done a really good job at empowering those frontline employees and getting them sort of in sync and aligned with where the organization is trying to go?
[19:11] AF: Yeah. I think there’s two things that I would say. The first one is know your audience, right? So different things motivate different people. I think the biggest part of that is communication. It’s huge and and keeping them up to date, whether it’s the people who are full time or part time or out in the field or you know, whoever they are. Communication is huge. Regular updates, quick wins, sharing successes, all of that so people can start to see that, oh, this is working, this is real. It’s not just the flavor of the month or anything like that. So I would say, again, know your audience too in terms of how they are best motivated or how they’re most inspired and those kinds of things. And the other piece of that that I would say is hook onto those core values. And once you’ve defined those core values, you’re going to use that to hire, fire, promote, etc. So there are going to be times when somebody is just not a fit for the culture and they just, they don’t get it, they don’t want to get it. And then it’s time to have a hard conversation. But once you’ve got your core value set and you’re living and breathing them, you will likely not hire people who won’t be a part of the team. [20:28] MD: It starts at the hiring process, right? Getting that right fit. Maybe investing a little bit more time in hiring the right people and ultimately that’ll transform into good employee experience and customer culture. Right? [20:46] AF: Exactly.
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[21:09] JC: Annette, do you also see, we talk a lot about voice of the customer. Do you also see a critical part of this is voice of the employee as well and having a mechanism in place where employees can feedback about their engagement and their experience?
[21:24] AF: Absolutely. You’ve got to be listening to your employees. Now here’s a caveat. You’ve actually got to be doing something with it, and that’s the problem that I’ve seen more often than not is that companies are listening or will listen, but then they don’t do anything with it or they survey them too much. You know, every quarter or twice a year and pulses here and there and again, either don’t do anything with it or it’s just like I’m giving my feedback so often that you haven’t changed anything. I’m just going repeat what I put in last quarter’s survey. So it is a critical piece of this. Absolutely.
[22:03] JC: Sometimes I wonder about these surveys, is it really about some executive having a number on a scorecard to show and then people feeling like they’re being heard, but the reality is if you don’t take action, it’s almost this facade we’re listening to you, but the reality is if actions don’t come from that, then would be more detrimental. [22:17] MD: And that works both ways. It works for voice of customer as well, right? It’s exactly the same dynamic. [22:27] Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. So when I talk to people about this, I do. I usually say I probably will say customer because we’re talking customer experience, but everything I say applies to the employee and it applies first.
[22:40] MD: Continuing on the subject of empowering the front line. If we step into the role of the decision makers and the executive suite for a moment, and you have great examples of companies that I say are the leaders of the new experience economy and companies that are doing a really good job. So Amazon of course is one of them. You’ve got Zappos, you hear great stories, your great stories about Southwest and my personal favorite is chewy.com and the frontline employees that are actually dealing with the customers. You’ve got so much power to right on the spot, make or break the experience and the reason they have this is because the company gives that to them. From an executive standpoint, how much power should we give these frontline employees to that degree, right? Because I mean I can put myself in that and say okay, well if I empower this guy to make decisions about money or something that can actually be harmful to the company or whatever because that person is representing and speaking for the company at that point, how much is too much? What’s the right amount of power to give these employees and how could you make it so that by feeling like they have the power to make decisions, they become better evangelists of the brand?
[23:59] AF: So I’m going to just go back real quick to the core values because the beauty of the core values is when everybody knows what those core values are, they help employees understand what’s right and what’s wrong – what behaviors are acceptable and what’s not. And when everything’s framed around those four values and the guiding principles along with those core values, then it’s easier to, especially when we hire and fire and promote based on the core values too, then it’s easier to open up and empower them and give them a little bit more freedom to do these things. So the companies that you named and I’ll add, you know, like Ritz Carlton and you gave a good list there of companies who have clearly defined core values. They are hiring and firing based on those and they have given their employees the freedom to do what you’re talking about.
[24:56] AF: So Southwest, I mean, they have so much to the employees, I flew Southwest every other week. And I love reading their magazine and the stories that people write in about what employees have done for them to save their trip or they have dug through the trash to find something. There’s nobody standing over the employee saying, go do that. They took it upon themselves to do that. So again, it’s rooted in their core values. I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. The other thing is two examples, I’ll give you two examples. I don’t remember which company this was. It was a million dollar mistake that an employee made, and I don’t know if this is a myth out there or an urban legend.
[25:41] AF: But the executive over that employee was like, well, you know, that was a million dollar lesson is what it was rather than to fire him. To have an executive like that is awesome. Right on the flip side, you know, there are several hotel chains that allow their employees -Ritz Carlton is one of them – $2,000 a day. You go and do what’s right for your customer, for the guests. And it’s not that they’re going to do that every day and they’re not going to spend $2,000, but to know that they have the ability to do that and they will just go and go that extra mile for the guests because they have the freedom and the ability to do that. And again going back and rooting it in the core values and making sure they know what behaviors are right and wrong.
[26:28] MD: Yeah. I love talking about Chewy because I’m a Chewy customer and I mean they probably don’t even know I exist, but I love them so much. And there is somebody that works there in Florida that knows exactly who I am and this person sends me postcards, and she reaches out. And the other day I had a silly problem on the app where I couldn’t create an automatic renewal, like an automatic shipment, and I just wrote them a note saying, “Hey, I’m having a problem with automatic shipment. I’ve tried quite a few times. It’s getting frustrating.” And they wrote me back five minutes later saying, I’m so sorry you had the trouble. Let me make it worth your while. I’m giving you 10 percent off and here’s a step by step. If you have any more problems, here’s my number, call me and we’ll go through this together. That is not something that I get from other companies. This is something that Chewy alone gives me so I don’t care if I can find dog food 15 or 20 percent less at other stores. I am not getting that kind of treatment from anyone other than Chewy. And that’s what makes me stay with them. But this is because of an employee, and the employee can only do that because probably the founders and the heart and soul of Chewy have this mentality. Now how do we pass that on to, I mean that, that example of the $2,000 that they can spend. That was a great example. That was exactly what I was looking for. You know, like how can you pass this on? How can you tell employees exactly how much liberty they do have? Like, okay, you can do this, but you can’t do that. Are there well defined rules that you see happen?
[28:13] AF: I’ll go back to the core values, right. That’s exactly what that is rooted in. Absolutely. Yeah. And when they go through, and Ritz Carlton has, and I forget what they’re called, but there’s this whole gold standard that you can go to their website and you can see all of it. It is the Ritz Carlton Way and that’s what, when you are brought on board as an employee there, you are indoctrinated into all of that, so it’s a pretty amazing thing that they do and obviously, they treat their employees well and they treat their customers well. [28:44] MD: So it boils down to training? [28:46] AF: Yeah. Yeah. Going back to employee experience, you know, it starts at the beginning. It starts when you go through orientation and onboarding, and how you’re brought into the organization is huge. That’s day one, day two and if that’s messed up, it really does set the set the tone and the foundation for what the experience is going to be like and empowering the employees, and again with the employee knowing what is right and what’s wrong [29:15] JC: Do you see a relationship, it feels also like there’s some trust here between the company and the employee to have good judgment and to sort of deliver against these mission and values. Have you seen in the work that you’ve done that you find if employees have that sort of relationship and feel empowered that they not only can deliver a better experience for the customer but also that they feel more engaged with the organization? [29:44] AF: Yeah absolutely. The bottom line is, is that at least I feel this way. We’re all adults. I don’t want to go to work and have somebody who’s constantly looking over my shoulder telling me what to do and how to do it and all that, like you hired me for a reason, and I bring value to the organization and yeah, give me some guidelines and set me free and let me go and do what I need to do and allow the employees to take ownership of and an accountability. So I think that’s the bottom line.
[30:16] MD: Awesome. Annette, if anyone who’s listening wants to continue to hear more from you or even get in touch with you to work with your consulting services, how can they do that? I have a website, cx-journey.com and all my contact information is there. I’m also very active on twitter @annettefranz. And I’m happy to connect with folks on LinkedIn as well. You know, my mantra and my mission, going back to question that was asked earlier, my mission we knew we’re going to get around is really to, you know, a spread the word and be help people. I Love Helping People and I love coaching and teaching and really spreading the word is as good as I’ve mentioned. My blog is as prolific, right? So, so our loved doing that. So always happy to connect.
[31:36] MD: Thank you for listening to Voices of Customer Experience. If you’d like to hear more or get a full podcast summary, visit the episode details page or go to blog.worthix.com/podcasts. This episode of Voices of Customer Experience was hosted and produced by Mary Drumond, cohosted by James Conrad, and edited by Nic Gomes.