Jim Tincher, Founder and CEO of Heart of the Customer

February 17, 2022
29 min

You conduct the surveys, you look at the metrics, you map the journeys – and then you change to get better results next time.

Jim Tincher, Founder and CEO of the CX consulting firm Heart of the Customer, says change is what customer experience is all about. In this episode, Jim shares tactics from groups who are intentional about change management and shines light on who is best suited to take your organization in a new direction.

As the discussion unfolds, you’ll learn how to evolve along with your customers’ desires and expectations.


- Have a CX strategy to guide your decisions and stick to it 

- Invest in change management so your business can evolve with the customers’ needs 

- Let your customers choose the right experience for their problems

Things to Listen For:

[03:03] Soaring customer expectations 

[04:50] A place for high touch and self-service 

[06:37] Getting intentional about change management 

[13:07] Why time to value is critical 

[16:03] Translating customer experience into business metrics 

[20:10] Change-makers come from within an organization 

[23:48] What Jim would eradicate from the CX world 

[27:20] Jim’s CX advice to CEOs

Jim Tincher
Founder and CEO
Heart of the Customer

Jim: We conducted over 150 hours of interviews of customer experience leaders in all kinds of different organizations. We did a survey of hundreds more and one of the biggest missing elements in most customer experience programs is a deliberate approach around change management. But we'll talk to people, we’ll say, 

‘Well, tell me about change management.’ 

‘Oh, it's really important.’ 

‘Great. So what do you do?’ 

‘Oh, we do change management.’ 

‘Okay, I got that, what do you mean by that?’ 

‘Well, you know, we practice change management, best practices…’ 

‘Such as…?’ And I'll bring up, ‘Do you use ADKAR or are you more of a John Kotter fan?’

‘Well we send communications.’ 

But yet there are some programs with very deliberate areas of focus. 

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: All the journey-mapping and metrics in the world are worthless if your team isn't equipped to change. I'm Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX

Jim Tincher, Founder of the CX consulting firm Heart of the Customer, says customer experience is all about evolving your company along with your customers’ need.

In this episode, Jim breaks down the dangers of not having a deliberate approach to change management, including why employees may sabotage any information. As you listen, ask yourself: is my team open to change and am I providing the tools to make it happen? 

We always have these wonderful podcasts that ask you for 10 minutes to go through your resume and everything that people can find on LinkedIn. We're not going to do that. What we will do is ask you to please tell us something nobody knows about you which is: who and what profession would you be, if you were not this amazing guru of experiences?

Jim: Well, that's hard to say because even my first job, but I was in tech support. I was on vacation going to visit my girlfriend - now wife - and I visited a customer while I was there.

So it's always been something that's in my blood. Now, if I were to retire today, which I have no plans to, and do something different, I would probably become a barbecue chef.

Alon: Tell me more. Why? 

Jim: It's the one time in my life I’m patient. We put on an annual barbecue and we'll have 80 to 100 people there. And so I'll start the night before. I'll get the brisket on the night before, probably the pork shoulders to, you know, putting on the salt the day before that, put the rub on that, uh, morning and then put on the brisket and the pork shoulder overnight. I just love barbecue. I love making bacon, smoked cheese, and so, big fan.

Alon: Yeah, we should do this in person next time and, like, not really talk, but eat. Yeah? I'm not a barbecue fanatic though I do respect meat and I grew up in South Africa where meat and eating is just a delightful treat just like in America.

But now we must talk about experiences about customers, not just about experiences of food. Right?

Jim: [laughing] Right, excellent.

Alon: I believe actually, one thing you talked about is patience. And it's something that I think relates also to the experience that customers have, and everybody has, even in our day-to-day life. We don't have patience.

And the reason for that, I'd love to hear from you is, why do you think that the new standard is no patience? Do you see that in consumer and customers today?

Jim: Oh, a hundred percent. And it's not surprising. It's frustrating and annoying sometimes when you're trying to create experiences, but it's absolutely critical.

And I think it came just naturally. Amazon is a big player. When suddenly you could get products delivered to you the same day, it set expectations for everybody on a number of different areas. Obviously speed, that's become really critical. Also transparency. The fact that I can find out where my packages are, it tells me that it's 10 stops away.

That's something that is translated over into the most hard-nosed B2B journeys, is that customers are now expecting that same sort of speed and visibility they get from Amazon, from Domino’s, from others, even in B2B context. You know, we talk to manufacturers, we talk to distributors, we talk to insurance companies.

We tell them: Amazon’s your competitor. Not that Amazon's going to be, you know, shipping all the medical supplies, the chemicals, whatever else, but in a customer's mind, they're evaluating you compared to what they get in their home. And Amazon's a great example of that.

Alon: We talk about this a lot at Zoomin, who sponsor this podcast, and others, we say that the standards of the direct to consumer and B2C are now in everybody's mind. A buyer in B2B is still a person.

And if we're used to, what is it at Amazon, frictionless experience? Because that's what it is. One click away to everything. And the data providing you actually knowledge about, okay, it's going to be a day delayed. We’re sorry. That is something that's very important, but then I'm going to actually try and counter this and I'd love your opinion.

So shouldn't we push everybody to do one click away, self-service for everything, just like everything in an Amazon world? Or is there still a place for this high-touch customer success person?

Jim: Oh, there certainly is a place for that. And if we look at an Amazon company, which is Zappos, you know, they’re very different touch.

If, if you have to talk to a person, I mean if you get to talk to a person at Amazon, that means they failed. Something went wrong. Yet, when we look instead at Zappos, they go out of their way to have a conversation. Zappos celebrates the, I think it's 10 hour and 45 minute phone call somebody had? To, uh, and they got the sale of shoes at the end. 

Amazon would look at that and say, ‘Wow, the cost of sales on that shoe was ridiculous. That's terrible.’ But, even though they're owned by the same corporate structure, it's a different focus. And, it's not that Amazon is the wrong approach. Obviously they're very successful. You have to understand what is it your customers want and how do you find that need?

And I am sure there are people buying shoes off Amazon because they want that effortless experience. And there are people buying other products from Zappos besides shoes, because that's the experience they want. Neither one is right or wrong. They have found a specific need, but the one thing they both do right is they have a philosophy and a strategy that they stick to. 

And that's what we find missing in a lot of companies, is there's not a specific customer experience strategy that drives all these decisions such as is everything self-service or do you have humans in the center of the experience?

Alon: So let's dig more about that. I love what you just said.

Customer experience is something that you believe everybody should be involved in and aligns to a business model,  i.e. also the product, marketing. Or is it, ‘Oh, we hired the VP of CX or the Chief Customer Officer, they'll handle it. Let's just go on and do our work.’

Jim: Well, we're hiring a VP of CX for a software company. We're doing the interviews. We're helping five people writing the job description. And one thing I made absolutely clear to all the leadership is that this person is not in charge of customer experience. This person has to help you create a better customer experience, but if you all point at this Vice President and say, 

‘Hey, the customer experience is your job.’

Then you're going to cycle through people, ‘cause that's an impossible task. The customer experience in a software company is not created in the surveys. The customer experience is created by how you develop your products. How you implement your products, how your customer success team talks to customers.

That's where the customer experience is. The role of the VP of CX is simply to bring in a strategy - [laughing] ‘simply,’ it's, it's really hard work! But, ‘I’ve done it, I did that on Monday morning, I’m all set!’ No, but it's to help establish a strategy and bring that to life throughout the organization. 

We conducted over 150 hours of interviews of customer experience leaders in all kinds of different organizations. We did a survey of hundreds more and one of the biggest missing elements in most customer experience programs is a deliberate approach around change management. But we'll talk to people, we’ll say, 

‘Well, tell me about change management.’ 

‘Oh, it's really important.’ 

‘Great. So what do you do?’ 

‘Oh, we do change management.’ 

‘Okay, I got that, what do you mean by that?’ 

‘Well, you know, we practice change management, best practice.’ 

‘Such as…?’ And I'll bring up, ‘Do you use ADKAR or are you more of a John Kotter fan?’

‘Well we send communications.’ 

But yet there are some programs with very deliberate areas of focus.

I’m working on this in my next book, so I can mention a couple of examples. At Dow, when we were working with them, they had three people assigned full-time to change management: one for employee, one for customers, and one director above them both. We know other organizations, for example Ultimate Kronos Group, they have an internal change management group that the CX team works with. They're trained on that as well. 

The great programs have a focus on change management. Surveys, while they seem to take up disproportionate amounts of time in most CX programs, Darren Byrne, he was at Wolters Kluwer, I love his model. He doesn't deal with surveys, he does not focus on surveys at all. He has a market research group that does all the surveys.

He focuses more on the change management. That is what I love to see, is that when surveys are taken out of the customer experience altogether, give it to some other group and let customer experience be about change.

Alon: So there's a lot of views you talked about here, let's dissect a few. Let's start with, uh, you know, team sports. I like talking about sports. The quarterback of CX is the CX person, as you said, but the quarterback can never play a game on their own. They probably need quite a few different positions that are all aligned to the strategy. Right? 

So for that do you see, in especially larger B2B companies, that the product is thinking about experience, user experience, first. Do you also see everybody touching the customers, all the way from finance to collection to billing?

Jim: Well, that's the way it should work. One of the big differences you see in a great customer experience versus the rest is, to your point, does finance understand how they impact the customer experience? 

Most programs that doesn't happen. They're siloed away. But when everyone in the organization understands how they impact the customer experience, that's when you have the opportunity of something truly magical, is when you take the time to do that. But most programs don’t.

Alon: So we talked about the quarterback and then having everybody understand. So it starts with understanding, maybe even changing MBOs and everybody has an initiative it aligns to,not just saying, ‘Yes, it's important,’ but aligning it. 

Regarding change management. Do you feel like digital transformation is one of the biggest piece in change management that is changing us to think customers first? Or is it setting us back? Because we’re thinking, ‘Oh, they just want digital, let's throw them another portal or another thing the IT guys are doing.’ 

What's the balance there? Of still being in front of your customer, but also letting them do things on their own?

Jim: First of all, it may, I'd say that digital transformation suffers from the same issue CX does. In fact, I think it was McKinsey report showed that 70% of digital experience work fails, primarily because of employee resistance. So change management is hard all over the place. And part of the reason is you'll find that employees are actually sabotaging the digital efforts. We find this all the time.

They want to provide that personal service, which is fantastic as long as that's what the customers want. But often customers can be better served by a digital experience. If it's designed correctly. Once the employees understand how, first of all, it's better for the customer - assuming it is, it’s not always - and second of all, it doesn't threaten that employee's job.

‘Cause that's one of the reasons for the pushbacks is the employee sees, ‘Wait a minute. If you digitize this, I don't have a job. And I bring a lot of value.’ And so there's a natural resistance point there where they want to show they’re giving value and will double down on service, even if it’s not always needed. 

We were talking to Laurie Angler, she's at Le Grande Vie, a few years ago and she was telling me how they would always have these great long conversations with a customer, talking about, ‘Hey, how's your family?’ and so on, they had these great relationships. ‘Til finally, one of the employees said, ‘I am calling because I have an issue. I really don't want to talk about grandkids right now. I want to make certain my issue is solved.’ 

And it's understanding that where the digital experience is fantastic is when customers simply want transparency and quick information. Yes, they need to be able to quickly get to a person when it's appropriate, but it's ideal to let the customer choose the right experience for the right problem.

And that's what we often miss, is we try and design one experience, but customers want to be able to choose the right touches depending what they're trying to accomplish.

Alon: That's a great point around what we all care about, a lot, of course you do, which is journey-mapping, which is a natural piece that of course in B2B becomes more sophisticated, because it's not just three touches to buy a product, but rather 27 to 30 to 50 phases of onboarding, use cases, adoption, especially metrics, usage and so forth.

Do you see the journey-mapping around the customers best time to health or time to value is something that is being adopted now by software and non-software companies? And if so, is it helping making customers happier or is it still more employee centric versus customer centric?

Jim: Oh, there's a lot in that. Let me start with, you use one of my favorite metrics, which is time to value. In B2B, we typically find the most important journey is that onboarding journey. Could be implementation, installation, it varies a little bit by industry, but that's the most critical one. We did a journey-mapping project - we have a case study on this - with Brainshark, which is a sales enablement software company.

And coming in, they were looking at metrics such as: how many customers are using the software? Are they buying additional licenses? These are great. The obvious long term is retention they're looking for, but as a result of our work they recognized the most important metric was time to value. And so when you're able to tie in the customers' needs to the business needs such as that. That's when you start to enable that change management.

In this case, customers are frustrated if they don't know how to use the software right away. And that's not unique to Brainshark, that's true of almost every software company we work with, that time to value is a metric ‘cause customers don't come to you because they want to be onboarded.

They come to you because they want to buy, they want to use. And so the more time you take to get up to speed, then that's more frustrating to customers. So how do you quickly enable them to get there? We worked with a distributor and we found that the killer metric, we often look for a killer metric which is one business metric that indicates the success of the journey, for them it was a time to value of 14 days. 

If they were not fully up and running after 14 days, they had substantially worse ongoing results than if it could be done within that. If they were onboarded fully, all the financial pieces are in place. They've got orders. They've gotten to deliver in the 14 days. Then these customers went on to buy more and more of the distributor, to add on additional categories, become a loyal customer. 

But if it went 15 days or longer, then they started getting frustrated and they might still use them for that one product that came onboard. But they never learn to use them for more products. They never get that great share of wallet because the onboarding was so ineffective and that onboarding has impact for years in the future.

Alon: The whole idea of understanding what value means. Do you believe that there is a little bit of oversimplifying that, like CX metrics. There is no time to value you can buy off the shelf and just implement it for your company. Right? It's pretty specific. 

So do you feel like that's a point of interest that most leadership that focuses on customer health, customer value, needs help with, or do they have any internal help, like customer success ops, revenue operations. How do they get there? It's not off the shelf, right?

Jim: Oh, not at all. And that was one of the things that really shocked me when we did this research. I also had a chance to shadow some programs, I've mentioned three of them here -  UKG, the Ultimate Kronos Group, Dow and Wolters Kluwer -  and one thing that was different from these great programs than the rest was that they didn't just stick with a survey score. Because I know your CEO says he or she cares about the net promoter score. I think they care much more about what your CFO says.

And so what these great programs did is they translated customer experience into business metrics. First of all on success such as, for example, creating customer lifetime value. If you can use that, that will show whether you're having impact on customer experience. Different entities have different things, net dollar retention, annualized recurring revenue, it varies, but finding that one business metric your CEO cares about. But also your operations group. Well, they care somewhat about customer lifetime value. They also care more about specific operational metrics or behavioral metrics. And these great programs also translate the customer experience into those metrics and they were able to show. 

So, Jen Zamora who leads customer experience at Dow, one of my favorite statements of hers is that when she talks to another leader, is that: ‘an improved customer experience will make it easier for you to accomplish your goals.’ Well, Jen first takes time to figure out what those goals are. And they're usually not a survey score, they actually almost never are.

And they aren't always even financial outcomes. It might be more about inventory turn. And so she takes the time to translate and to attach customer experience, to turning of inventory, or other metrics. And that's the magical work. The survey still matters. But she's able to show that when the survey gets better, these operational metrics get better as well, which then translates to a financial outcome.

That's the great work. And we've changed our business in the last couple of years, after doing this research, to help companies go beyond the map - maps are important as a starting point - but to start translating that into the operational and behavioral metrics that the organization cares about.

Alon: So we'll talk about these two things, I think it's a great conversation. 

The surveys as being a point in time, but not really about the entire behavior of the customer. That gives you the challenges of, I want to know everything about my customer, right? How do I collect all the signals? A survey is a part of it. Usage is a part of it.

Are they looking at knowledge base? Are they looking at videos? There must be more leading data indicators to help you understand the state of every customer.

Jim: Well, there definitely are. Our research shows that one out of four programs are change makers and the change makers are doing exactly what you're talking about.

Unfortunately, it means three quarters aren't. So we had Roxie Strominger, she's a VP of customer experience strategy at Ultimate Kroners Group, on a webinar last month. And to your specific point, she talked about, they measure confidence with the survey metrics. When a customer is more confident, they're actually more likely to use the self-service and the tools.

They're more likely to go out to the community. So they first measure confidence and they see that confidence translates to behaviors and those behaviors of using the knowledge portal elsewhere. First of all, customers usually get the problems fixed more quickly. Second of all, it costs less to serve that client.

Alon: Surveys are easy of course, to accomplish because there's tools for it. And you can just implement them. 

Do you think that the over-reliance on surveys versus everything you said before, which is the leading indicators, the product knowledge, the adoption. It's not off the shelf. It's not easy. You need help from the IT department, business applications, maybe as we said, web ops, customer experience ops, all that. 

Is that one of the hurdles of achieving a great data based and journey-mapping mechanism for self-service so that you know which customer’s healthy?

Jim: Oh yeah. And it ties into one of the probably more frustrating outcomes of our research, which is we look at the change makers.

Odds are they didn't come from the outside to run CX. They were already in the organization running operations, running sales. So they're involved, they already learned how the business works and how to drive change. And now they bring in customer experience as a new way to show that change. But one of the things that - customer experience is what's called a wicked learning environment, which means that what you learn at one company often doesn't translate to a second company.

And so you get in these cognitive entrenchments where this is what worked in the past and it's not working. And I've been there. I went from Best Buy to United Health Group. And what worked at Best Buy definitely did not work at United Health Group. And I failed a lot because I never learned how to do that.

So what we found is that if you do need to bring in somebody from the outside, it's really great if they have a background in consulting, because they've been forced to work in all kinds of different environments. They've been forced to learn in different wicked learning environments. So now they have that broad base that they can use to apply to your organization.

Now, again, a lot of my clients hate that finding because they're in customer experience and they believe they can do the work anywhere. And there are always individuals who can, but most of the other people that we interviewed that were change makers had been in the company for 10, 20 years, learned how the company works and now, and so back to your point earlier, they understand what are the behaviors of a successful customer versus unsuccessful customer.

So now let's measure that. They understand who was really critical to get on board in order to get the right measurements and the right change. And they already know those people. And so they have a huge head start.

Alon: For sure. Bringing in a change manager from the outside needs to know how to have know-how.

If you don't have the tribal knowledge and internal pool, at least have the ability to know how to do that in large organizations. Because as we said, customer experience or customer first, or customer obsessed or whatever you want to use, transformation has to be cross-functional. It is not the quarterback doing it on his own.

Jim: In fact, I would, I would quibble a little bit with your choice of analogies. I would say they're more the coach. They're not running it, they're helping those who are running it. They're coaching them, helping them along.

Alon: That's actually true, because they're not really doing- IT is doing some of the work, other departments, support is doing change. 

Do you believe the CX leader should report into a CCO, should report on the digital or IT, should be on its own reporting to CEO?

Jim: They need to report to the power center. And so two of the folks in our interviews, it was funny. One moved from the COO to the chief customer officer, the other moved from the chief customer officer to the COO.

And both of them said how much better it was. You know, the opposite movement and both said it's a lot better here because in their organizations, the chief customer officer or operations were the right people. It just varies by, where is the power in your organization?

Alon: Executive endorsement is extremely important to any change and any change needs to affect everybody, so leadership happens.

Yeah, on this show, Jim, we also give you some magic power to give you a one or two moments in life that you can change the world. If we give you, like, the fairy dust or the axe or the magic wand, if you're a Harry Potter fan like my son is. 

So I'm going to give you a magic power to eradicate from the world a misconception, something that you think people are too stuck on that people think, ‘Oh, CX? It's this,’ or ‘Customer service? It’s this.’ What would it be? What would you take out of this world if you could?

Jim: Well, this is going to feel a little sad because I love the book, but I would eradicate the book Effortless Experiences. 

Alon: Tell me why. 

Jim: It's a great book. I mean, I love it. I read it and fantastic. And it talks about, you may remember, that reducing effort creates better loyalty than creating a wow, than improving net promoter score.

Great. What everybody forgets is that they analyzed the customer service environment. They only talked to customers who were calling in with an issue. Now if I'm a, say, a store owner, retail store owner, and my point of sale is down, I want you to fix it as soon as possible. Yes, I want to be effortless, I want it resolved immediately.

In the service environment an effortless experience is absolutely critical, but I have different needs in the rest of my customer journey that everybody forgets and they all rush to effortless experiences. And if we look at research, I have seen zero research that says an effortless experience is the best predictor of loyalty. And let's remember, we're not doing this for service score. We're doing this to create loyalty. 

We can look at our research, whether they look at our client's research, they all say the exact same thing. All of these places look at effort and they look at emotional outcomes. And all five showed that emotional outcomes are a better predictor of loyalty than an effortless experience. But nobody's written a book with a nice little phrase like ‘effortless experience’ that’s got people looking at that.

I guess I need to do that. It's not my next book, but maybe the book after that will be about that. The heart of loyalty is an emotional connection that you feel, especially in B2B, you feel your customer has your back. And here I'm going to bring up Jen’s data at Dow again. They measure effectiveness, ease and enjoyability.

And when I first met with Jen, she said, ‘Now my goal,’ we're working on the complaint's journey. She said, ‘My goal is to create a complaint's journey that's enjoyable.’
I said, ‘Jen, I think I heard you wrong? Affect the ease-’
‘No, no, enjoyable.’ Because if you look at their data, they have the data. When customers say it's effective, behaviors don't change.

When customers say it's easy, behaviors don't change. But when customers say that Dow creates an enjoyable experience with them, then those customers’ behaviors change. Dow becomes less of a vendor and more of a partner. And these companies that say that Dow is enjoyable to work with, they order more products, they're more flexible on price, and they're far more likely to partner with Dow to create new-to-the-world products. And that's what we should all be aiming for, those kinds of outcomes. And you don't get there sheerly by reducing effort.

Alon: I love it. I think it's a very important distinction that if we go a few minutes back in our conversation, that just pushing everybody to a self-service route, without understanding what's a fit for purpose journey, what is the problem, you got to be fit for purpose and purpose can be something that is not just, ‘Oh, that was easy.’ It's not like the staples button. Right? 

One more thing that we do before we wrap the show is we give you additional magic power. This is like super, super power. And as somebody who's, uh, talks to a lot of experts and, like myself, talks to other CEOs is, how would you give them something that they, maybe the VPCX the VP support are not always comfortable telling them?

What is, what do you think is something important for these leaders to know when they are trying to improve the customer experience?

Jim: That is that you're doing it wrongly. And why say that is that most customer experience programs are focused on a survey score and more importantly, in a B2B organization, average B2B organization, 90% of employees have never met a customer in-person. And yet they're designing those experiences for people they've never met. And if you want to really understand the experience, it's not just about a survey. 

Xerox, in their turnaround, they took their top 500 customers and assigned an executive to each one. And said, ‘Get out there and learn what these customers want.’ IBM, same story. They took their top, I don't know if it was 50 or 100 customers? And they signed an executive to each customer and said, ‘Get out and understand what these customers need.’ 

Customer experience is not about surveys. It’s not about your CX group. It's when your entire organization understands in their gut what customers really need, and that doesn't happen from reading a PowerPoint.

Alon: 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.

recent episodes