Dan Gingiss, Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker

January 20, 2022
28 min

Ironically, customer success teams don’t always focus on making customers successful. What would it look like to truly maximize the value customers get out of our product?

CX speaker and writer Dan Gingiss knows that remarkable customer experiences are the best sales and marketing strategies. When customers see results from our products, they’ll stick around. And they’ll gladly tell their friends about us.

Tune in to hear the Experience Maker himself share common CX mistakes and tips for putting customers first.


- Empower every employee to own CX and take action to improve it

- The #1 source of loyalty is reducing customer effort

- Become a customer of your own company.

Things to Listen For:

[03:00] Should marketing own CX?

[05:30] Account-based experience

[07:00] Is CX a team sport or individual sport?

[08:00] Empowering every employee to take ownership of CX

[13:00] Making customers successful

[16:00] Customer success pitfalls

[19:00] Connecting with your customer

[21:00] Celebrating with your customer

[23:00] Connecting CX metrics to business metrics

[26:30] Removing barriers for your customers

[28:00] Experiencing what your customers experience

Dan Gingiss
Chief Experience Officer
The Experience Maker

Dan: We're all consumers. We all know what we like and what we don't like. What's remarkable to me is that even given that knowledge, we continue to put our own customers and our own employees through experiences that we ourselves wouldn't like doing. And so that's the thing I think that people are afraid to say.

Flourish CX, the only show helping CX leaders do one thing: empower their customers. Each episode democratizes best practices while leaving you feeling both inspired and equipped to take action. Let's get to it.

Alon: Shouldn’t we start by understanding exactly what the company actually experiences when working with your customer?

I'm Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX, and that's one of the ideas we're going to focus on. This time around I'm joined by Dan Gingiss who, after being in customer experience for 20 years, is now a customer experience speaker and coach.The guy literally wrote the book on CX. Listen in as we address everything from why Dan believes marketing should own CX to how the roles finance, legal, play when it comes to CX.

So, the first thing we ask on the show is: what would you be in your personal life or professional life if you were not this expert in the world of customer experience?

Dan: I would probably still be stuck as a marketer. I mean, that's how I came up in the world. I, uh, I grew up in marketing, started in direct mail, worked my way up to digital channels, email SEO, search and social and all that. And it really wasn't until I got to work in customer experience that I really understood the power of it and it, and it has shaped my belief that a remarkable customer experience is your best sales and marketing strategy. It just, it is so much more authentic to have our customers talking about us rather than us talking about us. And so I would probably be stuck creating more marketing campaigns, which - if I don't create another marketing campaign again, it will be too soon - but that's probably where I’d be. And nothing against marketers. I love, I love marketing and I loved being a marketer, but I love what I do now more.

Alon: So let's talk a little bit for one second about this thing, about marketing, CX, and that whole dichotomy there.Tell me if you believe this is true, or is it completely out of whack: marketing should own customer experience.

Dan: I like marketing owning CX because I think that marketing's job has really evolved into being the promisers of the experience. That's what marketing and advertising does. It tells people, ‘This is what it's going to be like to do business with us. This is how you're going to feel when you use our product.’ And that is the experience. Now what marketers haven't understood all these years is that they are often the experience before the experience.

They are usually - the first time that a customer is even aware of a brand is through marketing. And, by the way, the experience has already begun, right? Because I've already started, the customer has already started to form an opinion about the brand based on the marketing or advertising. They're funny, they're serious, they’re a stick in the mud, they're like everybody else, they’re completely different. These are things that are already being formulated even before the person becomes a customer. So to me, they work hand-in-hand.

Alon: Yeah. So our research showed that 90% of people that are in buying cycle want to experience content or something around the product on their own, and that is experience. So, if we divide the customer life-cycle into parts, no question that the pre acquisition or the demand side of it, of the buyer journey, marketing should definitely own and make sure the experience is right there. Whether it's giving me the right content, ungating forms, all of the stuff that we debate on in CMO forums day and night.

But my question to you is about experience. The user experience is unfortunately not empowered to marketers. That's what your chief experience officer and hopefully the product person thinks about user experience as a digital experience, as a self-service experience. Do you feel like there’s gaps between direction and alignment there, between these functions?

Dan: Well, if you look at certain B2C companies… I worked for Discover Card for 10 years. Now, marketing was the heartbeat of the entire organization and there was an acquisition marketing team for sure. They were in charge of bringing on new customers. There was also what we call portfolio marketing, which was the people that marketed to existing customers. And not only tried to get them to use their card in more places, but also had elements of the experience involved. It might be selecting your own card plastic, which was a real, a great personalization technique. I worked in the digital area and was responsible for digital UX and CX. That was a marketing role. 

And so, if you, if you pull this back to a B2B organization, let's think about something like account-based marketing, which is all the rage with CMOs in B2B spaces. Why don't we have account-based experience? Why does the account-based marketing stop when we bring on the customer? If it's so good at bringing on customers, wouldn’t it be great at keeping customers as well? If you continue to treat me for what I need, not what every other customer needs. And so I think the skills actually are pretty transferable. It's just maybe this idea that marketers have always thought of their role as being very transactional, being about campaigns and being about, you know, a start and an end versus what customer experience is, which is a journey that never ends.

Alon: Well so let's talk about that journey. So you're raising some good things. We want to focus mostly on very B2B world, but that journey is not always owned by marketing. Is customer experience today, at most companies that you speak to a lot, a team sport, or is it usually punted to - we continue with the sports analogy - is it usually punted to one side of the team or the defender or maybe the attacker only? And everybody's like, ‘Oh, they own it, it’s not us.’

Dan: Well, I'm going to answer your question, but you said something that I need to, I need to just take a tiny bit of a, of a move over to the side here to answer, which is you mentioned customer success, which is a B2B invented term. This is where this term came. And what bothers me about the idea of customer success is that those two words together suggest that that team's role should be to make sure the customer is successful. What I have found is that that team's role is usually to upsell the customer. Now we got to get into the customer's shoes and understand folks. They don't want to spend more next year. They want to spend less next year. So your version of success and their version of success are not in alignment. So I don't even like the name of that team, unless the whole concept behind it changes. 

As to whether CX is a individual or team sport. Unfortunately, I'm going to tell you, I think it's both. And here's why: every company needs somebody that oversees the entire journey. They need somebody who can, who can sit at the 30,000 foot view and understand the beginning to the end and everything in between. And especially the transitions, because that's where we tend to lose people, the transition from the sales team to the account management team, for example, usually pretty sloppy in a B2B world. But we also have to empower our whole team to really believe that they can affect the customer experience. 

Even people who never talk to the customer have generally an outsized impact, a bigger impact than they think they do. Let's take somebody in finance who never talks to a customer. Well, that person in finance is in charge of sending out invoices. Are those invoices understandable? Are they arriving in a timely manner? Do you accept the forms of payment that I want to pay in? Those are all finance issues that are customer experience issues, but the finance guy probably doesn't think he's in customer experience. So I believe we've gotta, culturally, make everyone feel like they own customer experience and that they're empowered to do something about it. So the finance guy, if he wants to take some time to make your invoices more enjoyable to read, can you imagine somebody looking forward to receiving an invoice? Wow, that's different. Right? But the finance person could own that and could make that happen. And I've seen great examples of invoices that are, that’ll make you laugh, right? Or that'll make you smile. And what a great thing to do to somebody while you're asking them for money.

It's the same with the legal department. Legal is often looked at as this barrier, it’s the team that’s going to say no first, and that's going to stand in our way, but I have great examples in my book and other places of legal disclosures that are hilarious to read. And they're totally fine from the legal department. You can tell it's like a, a lawyer and a comedian walked into a bar and they came out with these legal disclosures. But can you imagine a scenario in which people want to read the legal stuff? Oh my goodness, that's a completely different experience. And so I do think it's both. I think you have to have someone overseeing the whole path, but we've got to change culturally to be- to get everyone to understand what you do every day impacts the customer even if you never talk to them.

Alon: So customer centricity and obsessing about the customer, terms or users, the lot, align to what you just said. And it's overused, but can't be 80% of the finance job to make customer experience a product. Maybe it's a 10%, or this one project. Are you seeing a lot of that, where you have a… maybe a cross-functional leader, maybe a CXO or CDO, or - it doesn't matter and this depends on the company - that is starting to work across the company orgs, and then it becomes something interesting to start, but it has to be in CR work?

Dan: Yes. And that's exactly why I said you need both is that the centralized function needs to empower the rest of the organization. And you're right, that finance person, if we're lucky it's going to be 10% of his job or her job. Right? But one of the things I learned in 20 plus years of corporate America is when you set goals for people and you assign percentages to them, anybody that's got more than say five goals and, you know, 20%? Anything more than that is going to get ignored.They're just going to end up focusing on the stuff that makes the biggest difference to their bottom line, to their, to their bonus or whatever it is. And so, I always recommend that you keep your goals and those allocations 20% or more, because then it's worth something.

Alon: I love it. It's like the shark tank. If it's less than 5% then I have no interest, I'm not gonna work with you.

Dan: Totally right. Great, great metaphor. Yeah, I know.

Alon: So every customer being happy, delighted, healthy, successful…  throw another five words if you want. You could just give them five people to manage them, whether an SMB or an enterprise and B2B, doesn't matter, you give them three customer success people, you give them a field marketer, you give them a support person, but that's not a very scalable model. And also, customer experience should be about what the customers prefer to do. Ease of business is, sometimes, ‘Don't talk to me, I'm good. Leave me alone.’ Right? So where's the balance there? And then, do you see companies trying to go to these terms of no touch, low-touch, high-touch? Are they trying to balance both, but with an experience mindset, or is it with a cost mindset first?

Dan: You know, I'm going to give you an analogy as well. I just finished reading a book about, uh, speaking, cause I am a, I'm a keynote speaker. It's what, uh, it's a lot of my business and this book was all about essentially how to convert a speech into more speeches, how to get people to jump up in the audience and come to you after you speak and say, I got to hire you for my company. And I'll kind of save people the time of reading the whole book. Basically what it said was write a better speech. Okay? 

And so at the end of the day, if our product is not delivering what we said it was going to then our customer isn't successful. So it's not about the number of people we're assigning. It's about if your product is supposed to generate more revenue for me, it's a simple question. Is it generating more revenue for me? If yes, I'm going to keep paying for it and I'm going to be happy to pay for it. And I'm going to be a happy customer. If you promised me more revenue and it's not generating more revenue, it doesn't matter how many people you give me. I'm not happy with the product itself. And so, to me, the starting point with a customer success team is: is the customer getting the most out of our product or service? And are they getting the results that we have promised them? 

Now I understand, I've been into B2B long enough, that we've also gotten pretty good at not promising specific results because results may vary. But at the end of the day, your system or product, or SAS software, whatever it is, is creating some benefit. It’s saving time. It's reducing costs. It's increasing revenue. Whatever. If you want your customers to be successful, you gotta make sure that it is actually doing that for them. And then talking to them about doing more becomes such an easier conversation because they already feel like what they're doing with you is worth it. And so often, because customer success is gold only on upsells or cross-sells, the customer hasn't even gotten a chance to get the value out of the core product before we're asking them to spend more.

And again, that's not understanding the customer's point of view, which is, ‘Wait a second, I don't want to spend more. I'm on a budget here, too. I want to spend less.’ And so that's where I would start with success, is: is it fair for us to say that what we promised in our marketing, in everything up ‘til now, is actually being delivered to the customer? And if you can't say yes with that, then you've got a lot more work to do before you have earned the right to go ask for more money.

Alon: Oh yeah, I mean like, to ask for upsell a minimum requirement of the company is the customer is somewhat happy and sees some value. Otherwise it's not, it's not an upsell, that’s a retention conversation, actually. Where experience matters.

Dan: It is, except we all know that inertia is really strong. And so, lots of times, companies sign deals with software companies.They barely use it, but they pay every year and it just, it goes into a black hole and, hey, for the company, for the B2B company, that's great for the SAS company. That's wonderful, but it's not going to grow. It's just going to be there until somebody, some finance guy asks, ‘What the heck are we still paying for this thing for?’ So I think it is about, you know, we should want all of our customers to be successful in the literal definition of success. And then not only are they going to want to buy more from us, but I think even more importantly, they're going to want to tell other people, or they're going to be willing to tell other people. 

I think also in a, you know, a related mistake that B2Bs use, is there always, so many companies are struggling to get testimonials and case studies and all that. Well, you know what, if you're providing an amazing service and providing great results, it won't be hard to get testimonials. People will be thrilled to talk about it, but the problem is we're often going into that, asking for that testimonial before the customer has actually seen the success that we've promised.

Alon: For sure. It's, you talked about, um, the level of service. Service doesn't have to be, again, that you talk to them five times a day and you ask them how they're doing. You can have tons of digital content, tons of digital signals and information and give people great experiences in the product, outside the product, content, documentation. Right? Do you believe that’s something that - everything you should know about your customer, the more you can, the better you can actually serve them? Is that something that you see?

Dan: Absolutely. And proactive service is so incredibly valuable when you can pull it off. One of the stories I tell in my book, The Experience Maker, is about Duke Energy, which is a monopoly.

It's a utility and it's a monopoly. So customers do not have a choice but to use them. What they've done is they have invested in proactive service, particularly on social media, in which they post when a storm is coming and they tell people: ‘You may lose power, but if you lose power, don't worry. We're on the case.’ They even have a guy whose title is Storm Director, and they create this content throughout the storm, giving people proactive updates. And you know what happens? People don't call customer service because they already know that their utility company is on it. And they've built this trust with them.

I've worked for companies on the flip side of that, where the website is down and they don't want to tell anybody about it because then people would know. So what you want then instead is for them to come to your website and discover for themselves that it's down, which is a much worse experience than just a simple post that says: ‘Hey, we know our website's down, we're working on it, we'll get it back as soon as we can.’ And then an update to say it's back up. People really appreciate that kind of proactive communication. 

Now, you also mentioned knowing your customer and another tip that I want to throw out for your listeners is knowing your customer can come in a lot of different ways. Salespeople are really good at this, right? They go onto LinkedIn and they say, ‘Oh, he went to this school or he likes this sports team’, or they look for something to glom onto. But once people become customers we stop doing that. Now, especially in the last two years when we've been engaging with people virtually, we've actually learned a lot more about people than we ever got to because we see kids running through the screen. We see significant others. We see pets, we see backgrounds. So, you know, I saw somebody, uh, I got on a call with somebody in the background was uh, a Michael Jordan jersey. And so I broke out my story about how I once delivered a pizza to Michael Jordan (true story). And now all of a sudden we've got this connection together that we wouldn't have had otherwise.

So, if you hear a dog barking in your next zoom meeting with a client, how about during the holiday season, instead of sending them some chachki that's got your brand name on them, why don't you send a gift for the dog? And you will absolutely connect with this person because, hey, the best way to somebody's heart is through their kids or their dog, right? Or their pets. And so these are ways that we can connect with people on a much more human level. And then, first of all, that's going to smooth over when things do go wrong, inevitably go wrong. But it's also going to make them feel better about doing business with you, because they're gonna know that you care about them and that you've got their back.

Alon: I think the word trust is extremely important. When you get trust and then you drive towards the light or, in other terms, when you, like, really let somebody be happier. If you lose trust? It doesn't matter if you're a B2B enterprise, another three year license for something very big, people are people at the end of the day and experiences comes from the people-world not from the software-world. So I think that’s important.

Dan: Absolutely. And related to that, what I think salespeople have to understand, and I've been on the other side of this, I was a buyer. I was the recipient of hundreds of sales pitches. But what salespeople sometimes don't understand is that when a new customer signs a contract, sales people go and they ring a bell, or they go into a Slack channel or they high five each other, they all celebrate. The person they're not celebrating with though, is the customer. The customer, the guest of honor, is not invited to the celebration. 

Meanwhile, the customer who's just signed this contract, you know what's going through their head? ‘Man. I hope I don't get fired over this. I hope this is the right decision. I hope I chose the right company. I hope they deliver what they promise.’ They're already having buyer's remorse or at least fear of buyer's remorse. The thing to do at  that very moment, virtually or in person, is to put your arm around them and say, ‘You just made the best career decision. And we are going to do this together. We got your back. Your success is our success.’ And now all of a sudden your brand new customer is like, ‘Oh, I just made a great decision and I feel really good about this.’ You have the power to change how they're feeling about it. Again, understand that human element of, look, there's generally some fear there. About, ‘Did I make the right decision?’, especially if I've gone through a long RFP and, you know, there's three or four vendors and I could've picked somebody else, but I didn't, I went with this person…

Alon: People are people after all, we should be there for them. Two more segments on this podcast that we do. One of them is about measurement and this is a problematic one because there's a lot. But what are the ones that you should measure? What are the ones that really tell you a bad experience of your customers in B2B mainly, but also B2C?

Dan: To me, the best measurements are not CX-specific. They are actual business metrics. It's also the best way to get an executive's attention, is speak their language. Right? So how is CX driving revenue? How is it saving costs? How is it increasing retention? How is it increasing referrals? These are all things that executives care about. And yeah, we have to look at certain CX metrics. Let's take NPS, for example, net promoter score. Right? So net promoter score is going to tell you how you're doing at one moment in time, but it is not going to tell you why. And so what a lot of people, the mistake that they make is they report on NPS and when NPS goes up, we all high five each other, pat each other on the back, talk about how great we are. When NPS goes down we blame the pandemic or the weather or anything else we can blame because we really have no idea why it went down. And the reality is, is that that doesn't do anything, that doesn't help you grow the business. 

Now, if we can connect an increase in NPS to an increase in customer retention, and we know the lifetime value of a customer and so we know that if they stay with us another three years versus not, we know what that's worth. Now we can put a dollar amount on this, and that's when you're going to get your funding and your resources and your, and your executive support, because you go to your leadership and you say, ’Hey, this is causing us to keep more customers. And by the way, those customers that we keep, they're spending more and they're referring more. So they're helping us bring on more new customers as well. Thus, their lifetime value is actually higher than we ever imagined.’ Now you're speaking in executives’ language.

Alon: So, basically, what you're saying is connect all the CX metrics to a business metric and then make sure once you get the value proposition, then you can push and, and then you're also going to get more budget, more funding and that’s great?

Dan: Yeah, the analogy I always look at - because I spent time managing social media in three different companies - and social media folks, especially the folks that grow up in social media, they love reporting on what we call vanity metrics. ‘Oh, we have this many followers and we got this many likes and we got this many retweets.’ Well, who cares? If it didn't, if it didn't link back to business, it doesn't matter that we got that many likes or retweets. 

But, if you can tell me how many people clicked on our link on our Facebook post and came to our website and bought something? Now you've got a business metric that I care about or that you know, that an executive cares about. So I use that analogy because I think CX people kind of fall into the same trap where, ‘Hey, well, as long as NPS is going up, everything must be fine.’ Um, well, it tells you how you're doing, but it doesn't tell you why. And you gotta make that link back to the bottom line.

Alon: One more thing where, we want to ask, well, it's actually one and a half, so I’m cheating is: if I give you like this magic, I don’t know, fairy dust, magic power, the wand, the axe, whatever your tool of choice will be. What would you take and eradicate from the world of customer-related, not going to say what. What misconceptions, three letter acronym or term really you don't like and people use it badly?

Dan: That's a really interesting question. I think I'm going to broadly say customer barriers. And what I mean by that is, you know there's a great stat that I quoted in my book that the number one source of loyalty for customers is reducing customer effort. In other words, just make it simple for them. And I think that so often we put barriers in front of customers and barriers have all sorts of looks. Sometimes it's just using language that we know our customers don't understand. We use acronyms, we use industry terms, jargon, stuff that we say around the office that our customers have no idea what we're talking about. Or we have something on our platform or our website that takes four steps to accomplish when it should take one step to accomplish, or it should be accomplished automatically without us having to do anything. It gets back to that proactive service. 

So… I continue to be disappointed at how complex so many businesses have made themselves. And I don't think it's necessary. I've actually been talking with a lot of sales teams in the B2B space and training them on how to talk about their own product. Because you ask them, ‘Well, what does your product do?’ And then out comes eight minutes of non-stop description, where you're basically solving every problem I've ever had in my life. Well, I don't buy that. But if you could summarize for me in eight words instead of eight minutes, what it is you do, well then I can start asking questions and I can build a rapport with you. So simple, simple, simple is the answer. And so what I want to fight against is complexity and barriers.

Alon: The KISS word is very important: keep it simple, and you know what the last S stands for, this is the PG 13 podcast so you know. The last one is very cool. And this one, I like a lot. As somebody who comes in and helps customers, I'm also an advisor to companies. We are given sometimes the power that internal people that report up to an executive or an executive point of view, the CEO and the board, can't always use. We can have an objective or even a provocative view. What would you do and tell a CEO, a founder, especially in a tech company, software company, that sometimes their support, success, experience, marketing leaders are either afraid or not feeling empowered to tell them that they should know that will help the company going forward.

Dan: It’s easy: become a customer of your own company. Go through everything that you make your customers go through. And if you want bonus points, become an employee of your own company, too. The executive’s got an administrative assistant that does all the expense reports for them and all the paperwork. Meanwhile, all of their employees don't have that and are going through some archaic expense report system that they can't stand. 

It's the same with customers. I always tell people, go through your forgotten password process because it sucks. I guarantee you. Every forgotten password process sucks. So, if executives are willing to really get in there with their customers and employees and experience what they're experiencing… Look, we're all consumers. We all know what we like and what we don't like. What's remarkable to me is that even given that knowledge, we continue to put our own customers and our own employees through experiences that we ourselves wouldn't like doing. And so that's the thing I think that people are afraid to say. 

I worked at a company once where all of the executives had a VIP customer service line so that when they called about their own product, they went right to a supervisor. Well, that's great for you, but then you never know what an actual customer goes through. And so I would much rather that person call the main number, talk to the same person that's going to answer the phone when little old me calls and say, ‘Man, that's a terrible experience. We should fix that.’

Alon: Start by understanding, drink your own Kool-Aid, champagne, I'm not going to say eat your own dog food, but I did. Start with that. Understand the entire life-cycle and the customer experience across it all. And then you can actually help and be a sponsor for those teams and do it. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Flourish CX. To learn more, head over to zoominsoftware.com/podcasts and follow along wherever you get your audio.

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