Now, more than ever, listening to the customer has been vital. Yet, companies who solely focus on one area of the customer experience are often missing a key component of that process, creating a positive and compassionate environment where employees face customers every day and shape those moments for the better.
We spoke to customer experience leader and expert Stacy Sherman to learn more about how companies can create lasting customer loyalty through an engaged workforce.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
I have been focused on customer experience and employee engagement at both big and small companies throughout my career. I currently work for Schindler Elevator Corporation and previously lead CX at Verizon. I am passionate about driving more people into the field of CX, as then we will have greater satisfaction everywhere. I live and breathe CX by day and have founded DoingCXRight, where I continue the work and practice in helping others when I am not at my day job.
What is the objective of your website and blog, DoingCXRight?
For me, it is all about doing and not talking, hence DoingCXRight. People often talk about creating a customer-centric culture, employee experiences, and driving employee engagement but don’t know how to do it. They also talk about inclusion and diversity of thought but don’t know how to do it either. Ultimately, a happy employee leads to a happy customer, so it is within the framework. A group of people who don’t know how to get into the CX field or realize they have a customer experience job that they have been doing but don’t recognize it. So that is part of my practice and framework to helping individuals and leaders to differentiate their brand. Personally and professionally.
It is really about doing and about not overusing the words “customer service” and “customer experience.” I want to help ensure that people are doing it right and not checking a box. I want to make sure that the real best practices are applied, and that is my purpose.
What advice would you give for creating original and authentic customer experiences?
I would first start with the basics:
- Hire a customer experience expert
- Institute customer experience measurements – NPS is a common one. Start there but it doesn’t end there.
- Measure employee experiences and identify their level of satisfaction because they go hand-in-hand. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they pay it forward. The customers see it and feel too.
- Institute voice of customer initiatives – where you intentionally get customer feedback across the customer journey at different moments of truth. It comes from structured surveys, for example, and unsolicited feedback from digital channels such as social media and reviews. Aggregate it all to understand what customers feel and what they’re saying to use that feedback and close the loop.
How would you advise brands to leverage digital channels and data for customer engagement?
Voice of the customer is a game-changer, and I have a good article on that. It comes from traditional channels such as contact forms on your website and social media where the conversation is happening. You need to pay attention and respond because people are watching how the brand reacts, meaning you need to have very good governance around that.
Same for ratings and reviews, as consumers, we are often reading what others say and taking it as authentic, trustworthy reviews. So you need to have a handle on that. Then you can use technology to centralize all this voice of customer feedback, including chat or customer care representatives with notes/historical data. That way, you can prioritize the most common themes to identify the areas your team can use. The magic happens when you can do something with this throughout your organization.
You are also specialized in employee engagement. Could you tell us what the main factors behind engaged and happy employees are?
So I believe it is about giving employees a voice and empowering them to do what is right for the customers, even when the boss is not looking. When developing a new product or service, it is important to go to employees and ask them for feedback, especially the frontline interacting with customers every day. Incorporate them into your process, and when they are part of it, they own it too. It allows them to feel authentically connected to the project.
Secondly, when customers give feedback and mention an employee by name, don’t ignore that. Use it to praise them and acknowledge what great looks like. Then they will do more because it is natural when we feel appreciated; when we feel gratitude, we do more. That is a simple step to use customer feedback, where they often mention the name of the person who went above and beyond to help them. Even if it is negative feedback, do not ignore that either. Use it as a coaching opportunity rather than reprimand the employee. Really mentor the individual so that they can succeed. That is how you build a culture of caring and customer-centricity.
What was the book that inspired you the most this year?
The book that I found business and CX connections to it, which I wrote about in Forbes, is called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. My article explains why these four agreements are important at this time, but I will tell you about them briefly.
- Do not make assumptions
- Do not take anything personally
- Be impeccable with your word
- Always do your best
It is powerful because, for example, number one is “Do not make assumptions”. When customers do not have any feedback or their responsiveness is bad, they will make assumptions that can tarnish your brand. To communicate to mitigate that quickly, as a leader, you owe it to your employees to communicate well. There is a lot of leadership lessons in it.
I love the fact it is about being transparent. It is asking people what do they need; there is no reason to guess. Contact customers to ask them “what’s wrong?” so that employees don’t assume, don’t misinterpret, and avoid useless arguments.
“Do not take anything personally”; we often misinterpret stories and believe they have something to do with us when they don’t. A lot is going on with people’s lives at the moment, and we can’t take things personally, so that is where I will spend one-on-one time with my staff every week. There is no cookie-cutter approach. I spend time with each one of them and as a team as well. That’s a lot of time especially when you have a big team, but it is worth it because I do not want anyone to take something personally. The same goes for me; I do not want to take anything personally in a way that they do not understand. It is important to validate beliefs.
The next one is “Be impeccable with your word”; words are powerful, and we have to use them to build people up. We need to be intentional about what we say because perception is reality. We need to know our audience as some words can be misinterpreted depending on backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, so we need to personalize our messages. From customers to employees, colleagues to bosses.
The final one is about “Always do your best”; I love this statement because we often try to deliver 100 percent, but the fact is that there is no such thing. At some point, we all experience diminishing returns.
As a leader, I support work/life balance; I am more about managing energy than a clock. Therefore, making sure my team is motivated and engaged instead of feeling burned out.
What was your most outstanding experience as a customer in 2020?
Oh, there are so many good ones, but I would say Trader Joe’s. When I arrived at the store, they cleaned my shopping cart first, hand wiping each customers’ cart for safety. Then I go into the store, and all the staff welcomes me with a “Hello.” If I need any help to find something, they don’t just tell you “Aisle 4, on the right”, they walked me to the product I am looking for. Then the assistant opens a bag or offers to find me a sample to taste and make sure that I like the product. That level of service is a “wow moment. It, of course, then makes you want to buy that product.
I went to the checkout area soon after, my daughter happened to be with me on this occasion, and my daughter said “happy holidays” to the cashier. The woman at the register, who seemed to appreciate something so simple, went over to the florist section and brought back some flowers and gave them to my daughter. When she replied, “thank you, but what for?” the cashier said, “Just for being you.” This will encourage my daughter to say it more in the future after experiencing this act of kindness.
Again, it is all those things that add up and made the journey enjoyable. Once we got home and enjoyed the products, we looked up the Trader Joe’s community on Facebook, which customers started and where they share their experiences. They use products, something that is valuable and a dream come true for the brand.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I would like to help more people get into the field of Customer Experience. I am happy for people to contact me. Furthermore, I believe that everybody has a “why?” and for me, that would be that I am on a mission to inspire people to create better experiences so that real human connections and happiness can exist. That is where I want to drive more of that and make a difference.
Originally published Jan 20, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022