Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert

March 17, 2022
27 min

“Dozens or hundreds or even thousands of decisions that you make in your business every single day contribute to what we have decided to call ‘the customer experience.’”

Jay Baer is a customer experience expert and advisor, best selling CX author, and in-demand keynote speaker. According to Jay, when it comes to CX, actions speak much louder than words. And yet, so many companies claim to be ‘customer obsessed’ right up to the moment they have to take action.

In this episode, Jay breaks down why companies should take a granular approach to CX. As you listen, you’ll learn how to understand your customer’s expectations so you can exceed them.

You’ll learn:

- Saying you’re customer-first is not enough, your decisions have to reflect that.

- Answering customer questions fast is good, making sure they never have to ask them is better.

- CX is about understanding your customer’s expectations so you can exceed them.

Listen For:

[04:21] What CX element businesses don’t have a strategy for, but should

[07:37] Customer experience is about action, not philosophy

[10:28] CX is everyone’s job

[12:53] Why B2B companies haven’t perfected self-service

[16:16] Answering questions before they’re asked

[19:02] A chronically underutilized metric

[21:12] Finding the correlation between CX and lifetime value

[22:34] Jay’s CX advice to CEOs

Jay Baer
Convince & Convert

Jay: Customer experience, we talk about it in business all the time as if it is a thing, as if it is a knob that you can twist or a switch that you can flick and it's not. Customer experience isn't a thing - it's literally all of the things, right? Customer experience is how we make our customers feel. That's it. 

But those feelings are dictated entirely by customer expectations. So it’s all about the delta between what customers think will happen and what actually happens.

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: Billions of dollars are being poured into customer experience annually. So why is customer satisfaction at an all time low? I'm Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX.

My guest, Jay Baer, is an inspirational Customer Experience Officer, best-selling CX author and certified tequila sommelier. Believe it or not, he mixes the last qualification with his work as well. Jay says the key to customer satisfaction is understanding their expectations, which of course are constantly changing.

The other problem is every company says that they are customer-focused, but they are not backing those words up with choices that allow them to meet and exceed ever-rising customer expectations. As you listen to our conversation, ask yourself how well you understand what your customers are looking for. But first, a little tequila talk.

Most podcasts and interviews give you five minutes to just read your LinkedIn profile and resume, which people can do on their own. I'm going to ask the reverse: who and what would you be if you were not this guru, exceptional understanding person of everything, marketing customer experience and everything around the customer itself? Who would you be?

Jay: A long time ago, before I was a marketing and customer experience author and expert, I was a political consultant and I managed political campaigns, but discovered that that's kind of a dirty business. So, got out of it and got into this. 

In the future. If I wasn't doing this, I would either be a standup comedian, but I don't actually really have the courage to do it. I may have the skills, but I don't have the courage.

But what I really would like to be is an owner of a tequila bar. I am a certified tequila sommelier. And so I spend as much time as I can teaching people about fine tequilas. That's probably not a commercially viable career for me, especially living in a relatively small town. But if I got to pick, that's what I’d do.

Alon: Okay, now you blew my mind there. Now, if I could combine all three, if you were like a tequila serving expert who enjoys that fun, has fun in comedy and puts it into politics… I think the world would be much better.

Jay: I think I could get elected to anything with that platform, right? Free tequila for all and nothing but laughs.

Alon: Democratize tequila to every person. Uh, I mean maybe that's one way to fight COVID but who knows? 

Jay: Exactly!

Alon: By the way, but from every time I've heard you speak and uh, our different engagements along the years, you do like the light side and the funny side.

So I do think you are a comedian at heart. Not in order just to make people laugh, but you integrate that well. So I don't think you have that scary element, but maybe being in front of a stage with a microphone is pretty scary on its own.

Jay: Well, it's different, right? So I do a lot of MC work. But stand up comedy where it's like, I have a routine and I'm gonna make you laugh for six to 60 minutes. That to me is hard. The number of laughs that they bake into an hour. It's a lot more than sixty, right? So they try to do three or four laughs per minute. I'm funny, but I'm not that funny. That's a different level of funny.

Alon: You’re George, but you’re not Jerry. Okay, I get it.

Jay: Well said, exactly, you nailed it!

Alon: Even though George blows my mind, but it's a different story. We could talk about Seinfeld all day long. 

So, let's go a little bit into the Flourish elements, here. We usually start with giving you a little bit of power and something to change the world. And if you could say, ‘This really ticks me off,’ like, ‘I don't understand why people are focused on it…’

It's either a three letter acronym. Let's talk about marketing, it's MQL. I'm tired of MQL, but in the world of experiences and customer value and health, what are people too stuck on and cannot get rid of that is actually not the top priority?

Jay: I wrote a whole book about this. And despite the fact that I sold a lot of books and talked to a lot of people about it, it's still a challenge.

And it really does tie back to customer experience is that businesses, uniformly, undervalue word of mouth. In terms of the actual impact it has on the success of their enterprise. What's weird about that is that if you ask a business, ‘Is word of mouth important to you?’ They will always say yes. Nobody ever says ‘No, we don't care.’

And then the next question is, ‘Cool. So what are you doing to make sure you have high volumes of positive word of mouth?’ And the answer is, ‘Well, we just kind of try and do our job better,’ right? There's literally no strategy for it. They completely wing it and hope for the best and word of mouth has always been and still is the best way to grow any business.

And yet we are very laissez-faire about it. And that continues to, to bother me.

Alon: So let's divide that into two follow-ups. One, is it no owner? Is that the main cause? 

And two, is it lack of understanding of really the value and how to actually track the value? Because everything is data?

Jay: Yeah. I think it's a couple of things.

One is… business leaders have been convinced, incorrectly, for 50 years, that competency creates conversation. That if you run a good business and you don't have a lot of operational friction for customers in the provision of your goods and services, that customers will naturally spread the word, but that's not actually how human beings behave.

Somehow we forget, when we're in our business clothes, how actual people think and feel. Like I've never said, ‘Hey, let me tell you about this experience I had last night. It was perfectly adequate.’ That's not a story, right? We only talk about things that are outside our frame of expectation and competency is really important, right?

Competency is what reduces churn and keeps your customers. But people don't talk about competent. They talk about different or unusual or unexpected. And so that kind of fundamental misunderstanding of why people tell stories proactively keeps word of mouth suppressed. 

And then I think the second part about word of mouth is that businesses sort of believe that it's witchcraft or voodoo, that you can't have a strategy. You can't measure it, you can't impact it, or that somehow it, it operates separate from the customer experience. And it's a marketing tactic, which has very, very deep customer experience elements, just like any other. And it doesn't need to be thought of as some kind of crystal ball exercise. Of course you can do it. You just need to make a plan.

Alon: For sure. So, you touched upon something that's one of the themes that we talk about a lot in the world of content, success, value, everything around the customers. One of it is ownership and data. So those are two big, big topics. Let's start with the first one then. 

So there's a lot of talk about the, not just CX as a term, but who actually owns the customer, who makes sure in the company that they have the great experience across all touch points. From your website all the way to the advocacy program or even the collections on the bill. Is their one owner, or do you believe the experience and the customer health has to be a team sport?

Jay: Well, both is my answer. It has to be a team sport because every decision made by every person in your organization has an impact on customer satisfaction and the customer experience starting with the interactions that those team members have with one another, right? 

You cannot have a great CX without great EX - employee experience. You cannot divorce those two. So everybody is involved in customer experience, but ultimately you do need to have a high-level executive owner because customer experience is not about philosophy.

It's about action. I've been doing this for 30 years and I've never in my entire career, worked with a business who said, ‘You know what, Jay, we don't really care about customer experience.’ 100% of companies say they care. 

Okay, you say you care about customer experience. Would you trade revenue for an easier process? Would you add frontline agents to reduce handle tim? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So everybody's for customers and is customer-first, in theory. But when it comes down to actually day-to-day decision-making then, ‘Oh, I don't know about that. I don't know if we can afford that.’

So you've got to have somebody in charge in the organization and ideally somebody who very much has the trust and the ear of the CEO, because that person is going to have to make a compelling business case that customer experience is an investment that will pay off long-term. Customer experience investments almost never pay off short-term.

And so you've got to have somebody in that organization with enough power, frankly, who can make the business case that this is worthy of implementation because we are going to reap the rewards eventually, if not tomorrow.

Alon: Okay. I love what you said. Yeah. There's a few things. 

So one thing would be always the challenge. Okay. There's this person who's in charge, hopefully a very strong executive that has some teams, likely success, support and a CX team report to them - fantastic. But the rest of us marketers, finance, product with UX and other teams also need to be part of this customer obsessed overused term that people use.

Now there's a way to do it. Is it an MBO related, compensation related? Is there a way to translate what they do into showing their KPI will be affected, because not everything you do just like you said… for example, if you enable people to find the product answers that they need, and that the content that you have, like Zoomin does then, is that really impacting myself as a marketer?

No, it's impacting less support, but how do I tie it back to me? That's the challenge I see, because it has to be tied to your day-to-day, to your conversation. What do you think?

Jay: Yeah, it absolutely is a challenge. And that's one of the things I speak about a lot is, is the fact that customer experience is everyone's job. Not just those who actually touch customers or communicate to customers or work with customers.

I mean, when you think about most organizations, especially organizations of size, the percentage of team members who are actually customer-facing in any conceivable way is really small. And so it can be hard as a leader to say, ‘Hey, we've gotta be more customer-focused. We've got to be more customer obsessed,’ when a minority of your team actually deals with customers ever. 

And that's why this idea of how you work with one another and tying that back to customer experience, I think is such an important part of this story, right? That if we're on the same team and you Slack me and say, ‘Hey, I need this thing.’

The longer it takes me to get back to you, that impacts the customer experience eventually. Right? It's just making people understand that relationship. Uh, I think that part is, is really important. But. This is why the notion of self-service and customer enablement is so critical, because the very best way to satisfy and meet, or in some cases exceed, customer expectations, is to just get out of the way, just let the customers do it themselves, right?

I mean, this is why we don't pump our own gas. Like it's just easier to do it yourself. And of course there's a tremendous amount of, of research on this. Some from Zoomin, some from other people that indicates that like look, generally speaking, if you can build a system where the customer can DIY it, they will actually prefer that and rightfully so.

Alon: Of course, a topic that I care about passionately. 

So, let's talk about this self-serving notion. If that's the case and we believe that by default, if I could press click and do something on my own frictionless, seamless, Netflix, Amazon experience, then we would, and we all know that as human beings. 

But why is the B2B experience all the way from finding just a simple answer to understanding a little bit about a technical doc, or even just about understanding something about myself. What am I doing? What's my value? What's my revenue? What's my ROI? Why is it so not perfect in B2B? What's the challenge?

Jay: I think it's two things. One, B2B believe they're a lot more complicated than they are. A lot of B2B organizations that would say something along these lines, ‘Well, sure. We want to have a fully-enabled customer knowledge base, but you know what? Our products and services are so complicated. There's so many options that we couldn't possibly put all of this out there for customers. They're going to need help to find the right document. They're going to need questions answered, et cetera.’ Which is total crap. Right? That's just a, you know, a bias about your own complexity, which builds you up psychologically. 

The second thing is that B2B customer relationships have historically largely been rooted in face-to-face or at least telephonic interaction. Right? You, you think about, hey, we're going to go to your office and sit in your conference room and talk about our products and services.

And then we're going to meet at the annual trade show. You know, it's a very heavy, sales-led culture, in many cases, B2B. And in heavy sales-led cultures, it typically yields a bias towards customized, bespoke, one-on-one interactions, but that's got to change, right? 

Irrespective of sort of post-purchase customer knowledge with things like Zoomin, I mean, the, the new data from Gartner that, that says that approximately half of millennial B2B buyers want a completely seller-free experience. So, while buying the product, I don't want to talk to a salesperson. That is not additive to my experience. It detracts from my experience. 

And when I talk about those stats with B2B leaders, it totally freaks them out because they've built this whole empire based on theoretical sales skills. And when you say, ‘Well, guess what? Half your customers don't even want a salesperson at all, that forces a real fundamental reexamination of how you go to market and everything else.

Alon: Yeah, the customer journey has to be mapped for the customer first, not the product, not the onboarding. It's like, there is no linear path anymore. Let me dictate the path. 

And that's why one of the things that I think we talk about a lot is five years ago, you said, ‘Oh, we want great experience and we want our customers to have everything they need. We need to scale and double our CSMs and get more people because we gotta give them people, people, people.’ 

Today, the expectation is, ‘I don't want to talk to a person.’ Just like in service. Like first of all, why am I having a problem? I’m already a little bit upset at you. Let me find it - anticipate my need versus telling me to ask what I want. 

So what do you think is the way for leaders to try to do this? And I mean, it has to start with marketing, like the whole, the life cycle, marketing, product, success, advocacy. Is it across everything? Is it a mentality change? Or is it a leadership change? What do you think?

Jay: Probably both. I think on the leadership change side, that's almost settled doctrine. The new research from Salesforce indicates that 80% of global brands are set up so that marketing is in charge of CX. I don't know that that’s ideal, in my estimation, I say that as a, as somebody who's got a lot of marketing experience. But I think that fight has been fought. So if we accept the premise that marketing is going to be in charge, typically, I think we have to understand that really we're at a point where marketing is just part of CX. Marketing is sort of the first piece of the customer journey.

Most of the time a prospective customer is going to learn about your business because of some kind of marketing execution. Right? So if you think about all marketing is, quote unquote, as a discipline is “top funnel customer interaction”? Well, then you just say, all right, if marketing is the first piece then the second piece has got to be more customer educated, sort of that middle part.

And then we get into customer support and making that easier as well. So the other part about it is philosophical, as you mentioned. And the way I think about this, the way I talked to business leaders about it, is I use Amazon's example. So Amazon has this philosophy in the organization. And again, it's only a philosophy because it's not truly practical in execution, but their philosophy is: we should never have to answer the same question twice.

If we get a question from a customer two times, then we have failed to address those questions. And so their idea is if we keep getting questions, that's our failure. We need to allow the customer to self-educate better. So that question never gets to us. And I love that idea. So many businesses, and you touched on it say, well, the best road to success is just answer questions faster or better.

Well, that's better than the alternative. That's better than not answering, but the better approach is: make sure customers never have to ask the question! Right? That's the better situation because once somebody is asking you a question, by definition, they have some uncertainty in their head and probably some measure of frustration.

So you've already set yourself up to fail typically, right? And that's why customer satisfaction is so low. Despite the fact that we've spent, I don't know what billions of dollars on this over the last 20 years? This blows me away. As of right now, as we're having this conversation, the American customer service index, the ACSI, is the lowest it's ever been in recorded history, meaning that American consumers believe that customer service today is worse than ever.

And how much money have we invested in improving customer service and it's made zero difference? So we're doing something wrong.

Alon: This is great. The feedback loop is probably not something people think about, which is what you talked about, the Amazon example. Its repeatability should be something that you automate.

If you have some, somebody is telling you that you didn't know, oh, don't automate it by adding another FAQ document that nobody finds. Search isn't the solution. Avoiding search is the solution by ensuring that the content and the answer or even just the thing that you're looking for, what doesn't matter what it is, is in your path that you going, any path that you go. And that's, I love that, like, this is a very good thing to talk about this Amazon mentality, but it has to go all the way back to the entire life cycle.

The question I have around measurement now is: It has to be measured. So, do you believe that self-service or success of customer journeys or whatever you look at, making it seamless, making it easy for the customers, or otherwise known as experience, is there a metric that does that? Like CES or whatever you choose. And if so, do people look at it high enough and make it like a top five KPI?

Jay: Well, no, they almost never make it a top five KPI unless it's something like net promoter score, which is very useful, but measures a different thing. Propensity to promote is not the same as customer experience. Super important, don't get me wrong, but it's not quite the same measure. 

I really like customer effort score as a metric that when customers have any kind of inquiry that you ask them, ‘How easy or hard was it to solve your problem or get your answer?’ To me that's a much better metric and one that is chronically underutilized in business and what I'd like to see adopted more universally.

Alon: Have you seen from your experience, in B2B mainly, but also B2C but there it’s more complex, that there is a standard of this one metric that people say, like, to rate your experience? Or is it usually a soup and a customization for every business to understand here's what customer value is? Because value is the end result.

Jay: I think value is the better way to go. I find the “rate your experience” tools to be very blunt objects, right? Cause it's one to five rate your experience. Like there's a lot of, even one to 10, there's a lot of nuance in there. So I would prefer indices that, that allow for a little bit more open-ended customer commentary, as well as maybe some supporting metrics as well.

I know everybody wants one number because it's easier to have a dashboard and it’s easier to manage against. I get that. But I would much rather ask customers three or four questions than one, as long as the asking of those questions doesn't, ironically, impede the experience.

Alon: The whole idea on value… the unfortunate thing is thinking about, you know, marketing is quite simple. Who cares about leads? In the end it’s about pipeline and revenue.

It's always pipeline and revenue. In the world of customer first or CX or whatever you want to call it, if value is the end result that customer is not an objective value. Doesn't mean X. Every company value is different and different to measure and different signals. So I feel like there is still work to be done there on understanding what does value mean in a more standardization approach. I don't know if you've had any discussions on that.

Jay: Yeah. I mean, it's very difficult to measure. Well, I mean, you have to make some kind of correlation between CX and customer lifetime value. We know that happier customers stay longer and tell other people and that creates more revenue.

Well, like we get, like how could that not be true? You have to actually do some pretty meaningful work inside your own organization to actually figure out what that correlation is, right, mathematically? So if our customer effort score, for example, goes up by 10%, what's the revenue impact on that six, 12, 18 months down the road.

I don't see a lot of brands doing that work. And even in B2B where it's actually easier to track, like the thing about B2B is yeah, it's a complicated sale in many cases, but you at least have paperwork. It's not like selling licorice, right, where somebody goes into a gas station and there used to be 10 packs of licorice there and now there’s seven.

Or you want to talk about having a challenge tying CX back to revenue. So B2B has it easier. It's just I find most people don't actually do the work to say, ‘All right, Let's actually sort this out in our CRM’ and then figure out what the actual revenue impact is, or really more of the profit impact over a long-term, partially because nobody's in charge of it in many cases.

Alon: The last thing we do on the show is usually enable you to have not just magic power, but really like fairy dust or the ax or whatever you want to call it to change the world. And this is an important one because a lot of times we don't lift our head and think strategically. 

What would you tell a CEO or founder of - doesn't matter what company, but probably more of a B2B, large tech company - that they should know about the world of customer value and customer experience and get ready for that they make it more successful, that not many people tell them?

Jay: I would tell them that customer experience doesn't actually exist. There's no such thing. Customer experience, we talk about it in business all the time as if it is a thing, as if it is a knob that you can twist or a switch that you can flick and it's not. Customer experience isn't a thing - it's literally all of the things, right? Customer experience is how we make our customers feel. That's it. 

But those feelings are dictated entirely by customer expectations. So it’s all about the delta between what customers think will happen and what actually happens. But that’s dozens or hundreds or even thousands of decisions that you make in your business every single day, contribute to what we have decided to call “the customer experience”.

But all it is is a nickname. It's not actually a thing. It doesn't exist. And so the problem with customer experience, and there's tons of studies on this, is that approximately three in four customer experience initiatives fail to produce any ROI. And again, customer satisfaction is lower than it's ever been.

So we're wasting money. And the reason that happens is that when we think about CX, we think about it as too big, right? We're like, ‘Well, we gotta be customer focused,’ and it's like this philosophical conversation. No. You've got to think small to be better at CX. You've got to make very specific choices to change the way you exceed customer expectations.

So first you've got to really know what your customer expectations are, and they've changed a ton in the last 18 months. So if you've not done any customer expectation research in the last two years, you have no idea what you're talking about. Uh, because they've totally changed. And second, you've got to say not, ‘Let's be customer focused,’ but, ‘Hey, how can we make it easier for customers in this scenario to get their question answered?’

It's gotta be granular, not philosophical. That's the biggest problem right now. And that's what I would tell executives. And that's what I do tell executives every day.

Alon: I love it. Excellent. The whole thing about the perception gap, you got to go look at that. What's the difference between what customers expect, which obviously has gone high because of everything they're doing in the day-to-day B2C app world versus the B2B world.

And as you said in this episode, it's not that difficult or complex. Yes, there's tons of work, but don't make it too complex and over-complex, just go look at it holistically and do the data feedback loop and it’s all gonna work out.

Jay: Yeah, just do specific things better. And it's funny, you talked about the B2B versus B2C.

That is so critical right now. There was a time and, and it wasn't that long ago, where customers would give you a pass, maybe like, ‘Hey, you know what? I'm not super happy, but yeah. You know what? That's a pretty good experience for a B2B company,’ or, ‘That's a pretty good experiences, experience for a financial services company,’ or a hospital or whatever they would take into account your industry.

Uh, and grade on a curve and they don't do that anymore. They don't care. You don't get credit because you're in B2B. They're like, ‘Hey, if I can click this once and there shows up my house, why does it take 14 steps to do the same thing over here?’ They just don't care anymore. And that's an area where B2B is waking up, but needs to move even faster in my estimation.

Alon: I love it. I, we always know that the consumer world is ahead of the business world, but now it's too much ahead. It's time to catch up. There is no - excuse management isn't the focus, it's catch-up management.

Jay: Excuse management. I love that. That, that should be a book title. I like that one.

Alon: Jay. Thank you so much, the Flourish community, having had you on the show, is much better and learned a lot. So did I. Thanks again.

Jay: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

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

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