Jon Mell, Chief Customer Officer, Board Intelligence

March 31, 2022
20 min

Are you more focused on finding the best CX metric out there or finding the best CX metric for your organization?

Jon Mell, Chief Customer Officer at Board Intelligence and part time basketball coach, says you need to identify what your company wants to achieve and then zero in on the appropriate metrics to help you accomplish your goals.

“Everyone is looking for the perfect Xs and Os that guarantee a score every single time. They don't exist. Who have you got? What works for you? What's right for your team?” 

In this episode, Jon breaks down where to focus your efforts and how to work towards positive results without losing sight of the bigger picture. As you listen, you’ll learn why you should think long-term and separate what you’re doing from how you’re doing it.


- Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve by only focusing on the way you’re trying to achieve it

- Self-service can be good for both the company and the customer if you strike the right balance

- Understand what metrics are most important to your organization and discard the rest

Things to Listen For:

[03:03] The problems with “short-termism”

[04:23] Flipping the script on the “who owns CX” debate

[06:13] Separating the “what” from the “how”

[07:59] Understanding your audience

[09:35] The costs of using self-service to cut costs

[11:20] The difference between management and leadership

[14:50] Different metrics for different organizations

[18:48] Jon’s CX advice to CEOs

Jon Mell
Chief Customer Officer
Board Intelligence

Jon: Take three metrics that really matter to the organization. And I’m not talking about customer success, I’m talking about to the organization. For example, is it number of customers? Is that actually really important because you want to go mass market? Or is it actually no it's average order size, ‘cause we want to go into the enterprise, we wanna get the big fish?

And then filter down to the rest of the organization, right, to sales. That means you focus on this, right? If it’s customer has success, that means you focus on that.

VO: 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.

Ciaran: While we often debate which CX metric is the most important, wouldn't it be better to figure out which CX metric is the most important to your organization?

I'm Ciaran Doyle, the host of this episode of Flourish CX. Today, I'm talking with Jon Mell, Chief Customer Officer at Board Intelligence. Jon says a shift needs to take place in the customer experience mindset, taking it from what you're trying to achieve to how

As you listen, ask yourself, is your customer experience strategy focused on delivering the right metrics or delivering the right outcomes? And yes, there is a difference.

Ciaran: Why don't you tell us just a little bit about yourself, what you do and a little bit about your organization as well?

Jon: I’m Chief Customer Officer at Board Intelligence, and we really help boards run more effectively and more efficiently, in terms of helping them with their board packs, with like portals to help the right people access the right documents at the right time and the right place in a secure way. And also increasingly making sure that the content of those board papers allows organizations to make the best possible decision.

Ciaran: So what's something that we couldn't tell from your LinkedIn?

Jon: In a different life, I spent a lot of time coaching basketball. I'm a big basketball fan which, from your accent, I assume you know what that game is. Over here that can be quite a bit of a minority sport, but I think when you have those minority sports, the community around them is really, really strong.

Ciaran: Yeah, yeah.

Jon: I played and coached which I could do more but unfortunately, or not unfortunately, but there is a day job to be done as well.

Ciaran: Well, you must be excited about March madness coming up. 

Jon Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. 

Ciaran: Although the hours aren't so great, but at least they play during the day over here.

Jon: They do well, especially when you get to March madness, the games start earlier, right? So you might have, you know, when you get to that round 64 round of 32 , you get some games, even 10 o'clock on the East coast, so.

Ciaran: Besides, you know, basketball scheduling being too late for GMT, what are some other customer experience, rants or events… What's driving you crazy in the world of customer experience as a customer or consumer yourself?

Jon: I think sometimes it is the short-termism, right? And I mean that in two, sort of in two ways. Either from a company perspective way, where people are still, haven't quite cottoned on that the lifetime customer value for me as a client might be worth more than the monthly cost or whatever it is that we're trying to do to, to increase the customer experience.

But also I think in that, um, when individual groups or teams are looking at their own goals, uh, without really a focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. You know, we have support teams that are focused on how quickly can they close the ticket, without the context of, ‘Hang on, is this actually going to help us with our net retention rate?’

Ciaran: It's funny, it's something that's come up more and more. You know, traditionally it's been a… well it's very easy to justify support costs so like let's just do whatever we can to reduce that. The big picture seems to be a new trend. I mean, not to the extent of the whole like Zappos example of, you know, staying on the phone with a customer for 12 hours in order to pick out the right pair of shoes. Not everyone can afford to do that.

Jon: Well, a lot of the customers don't want that either, right? 

Ciaran: Yeah, that’s true. So let's talk about customer experience. So who, in your opinion, who owns customer experience?

Jon: That's interesting. You see this question asked a lot and endless debates on LinkedIn or on communities and it's either: is it the customer experience team? Is it everyone? Is it the CEO?

I would kind of flip it around and look at it through a different lens. So. If you ask the question, ‘Who owns the employee experience in a company?’, clearly HR has some oversight on the individual, on the employee experience, that’s what they’re there to do. At the same time, line managers and leaders ultimately also have responsibility for the employee experience at their own place.

It doesn't matter if they're in products, sales, marketing, they have a responsibility of that with HR. And I kind of see the same with customer experience. So, yes, it is everyone's job. The customer team, however you’re structured, the customer team, the customer experience team has the overall ownership of setting the agenda.

But at the end of the day, every organ, every group in the team needs to have that focus on how they interact with customers. Some it will be directly, some it’ll be indirectly. If you're a developer, do you still have an impact on the customer, through you through your work and what you do and how you take customer requirements into your process?

So I, I look at it that way. It can get into a bit of a gotcha question or a bit of, you know, people taking stance on who owns it. But if I think about it the other way around, it's a bit like the employee experience. Yes, HR owns it, but at the same time, every line manager takes responsibility for it. 

Ciaran: So how do you… I guess, I have two questions there: who leads that and how do they drive that mindset in all these other groups when they're not necessarily measured, at least directly, on customer experience?

Jon: Yeah, the key is directly, right? And I think yeah, we can get onto metrics, but I think it's important that you separate the what you're trying to achieve from the how. Right? 

So if you take sales, right? So sales, you're measured on delivering a sales number. The how you do it, are you more likely to obtain that sales number if your interactions with the customer are highly customer focused and customer centric, if your contracts are easy to understand, if you're easy to do business with, if your invoicing is correct? All that is going to actually make an impact and make a difference. But you wouldn't want it to necessarily turn that into a metric that you pay a sales rep on.

You're going to pay them on whether they hit that number or whatnot. So I think we need to do a better job of separating out the what from the, from the how. And I think that the customer team definitely has a role to play in helping people see the wood from the trees and by example, and be an exemplar in what and how they need to do it.

I'm privileged to be in a chief customer officer role, where I'm at a peer level with the sales leader, with the marketing leader, et cetera, et cetera, with the product leader, et cetera, et cetera. So it is a conversation that you're able to have. I think it's far more difficult when customer success is buried several layers down in the organization under sales or support.

Ciaran: Yeah. And I think the other instance I've seen is where customer experience is only at the top level. And they have to sort of cobble together groups to do an individual project. So it's not sort of everyone going in the same direction. It's these sort of special teams that then get disbanded and all that momentum is lost.

Jon: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Ciaran: Talking about self service. How important is self service sort of in this overall customer experience? Can you have a good customer experience without self service?

Jon: Without self service? I think you can. I'm not sure if you can scale it. I think self-service is great where it's appropriate. Right?

And I think you've got to think about, what are the tasks that you're going to put into a self-service flow?  And then also, what's your audience? In a previous life we had highly technical customers, so we were selling to developers, prime target for self-service, and they are very technically astute. So a lot of the tasks and the roles can be done when you're in a self-service environment.

If you're selling to people who don't have the same level of technical expertise, because they're not developers, you’re selling to senior business executives, well then it’s more about, what are the tasks that they want and appreciate being able to do by themselves? Versus, you know, I think it was Apple’s example, you're actually going to increase your brand value and the customer experience because they want to engage with us.

Or, whether it was sort of actually, I don't want to get, I know exactly what I want, I know exactly what I need. Let me click that button, click that button, click that button and get on with it. So I think you need to think about the tasks and then you need to think about the audience that you have as well. And when you get that right, I think it can be exceptionally powerful.

Ciaran: So I guess the question is, how do you balance? Because, like we talked about at the beginning, self service in a, sort of, from the company perspective is a great way to save money, save resources, offload some of the workload to the customer while also giving customers, in certain situations, what they want.

So how do you find that right mix?

Jon: I think if you start from a perspective of, this is going to be good for the company and that's your focus, right? You're going to cut corners. Or you’re gonna screw it up. And I think that there's often, as well, with customer success, the mentality… It's not a it's not a zero sum game, right?

Things can be good for the customer and be good for the company. So if we are providing ways for the customers to be able to do things without going through a call center, without having to wait for their account manager, without having to xyz, then we can make that a positive experience for the customer. And it's a cheaper way of doing it, within an organization.

That's ideal in terms of place to start. But if you start thinking, ‘Hey, let's push this out to customers where they have no choice but they have to, purely because we don't want to spend the money to do it,’ I think again, I think that goes back to your short termism, right? Are you going to increase churn rates?

Are you then going to increase calls into your support desk? Because they're trying to use your self service tools and if you're trying to save money, did you really invest in those self service tools to the extent that you had to? So you might think that in the short term you're saving money in column A, but you actually might be losing more money in column B and column C. 

Which I think is when you have to think about, you know back to my point, why do we think this is a good thing to do for the customer? And is it something that can, we can also make a drive and help us scale as a business?

Ciaran: So to make this change, is this more of like an organizational maturity change that needs to be had? Or is it a different way of looking at metrics that's more holistic than your traditional first call resolution, average handle time?

Jon: Yeah. Well, I think it's still the same, right? I think you need an organizational maturity in order to be able to have a more holistic look at the metrics. It's kinda like the difference between management and leadership, right? If you’re, if you think your job is to look at those first time to resolution metrics and bang your fist on the table and say, ‘This isn't good enough, that number needs to be lower.’

Well, a bot can do that, right? I don't actually need a human - talk about self-service, right? I can actually eliminate that management role because I don't need a person to do that. But if it's more about what actually drives thinking about, okay, so as I said earlier, separating the what we measure from how we go about doing it?

And I think a big challenge in a lot of organizations is they kind of say, ‘Right, we wanna achieve X and if we wanna achieve X, we gotta do ABC.’ And they micromanage ABC. They don't look at X, they just micromanage ABC. And that then leads to people gaming the system. It leads to people just overly focusing on secondary metrics and not looking at the, not keeping the big thing the big thing.

So, for example, I haven't been brave enough to try this yet. I saw a presentation at Gainsight conference, where they were so concerned about churn that they put - and I can't remember which company it was - but they put the support team on the churn metric. So they didn't mention anything to do with tickets because actually all we care about in business is we’ve got too many customers leaving and we need to stop that from happening.

So let's put the support team on the churn metric. That's what we actually care about. Then the manager could work out, okay, I need you to do these things. You know, the how, that lets us stay focused on what we're trying to do here, which is stop customers from churning.

Ciaran: That's interesting. I was actually speaking with someone a month or so ago, and they were saying how they put the sales team sort of tied to customer success.

So if they were selling something that basically couldn't be implemented or was different than the actual product, like the actual success of the customer 12 months in was tied to, I don't know if it was a clawback, but you know, impacted the salesforce.

Jon: I've seen it where they hold back a certain portion of the commission check, which is paid 12 months afterwards to make sure that the customer is actually using it and happy.

Ciaran: I don’t know if these are the sort of outliers or if this is… I'm hearing it more, so it feels like a new trend, but it's also a very small focus group.

Jon: I think as well, I think what's happened in customer success is there’s all these metrics kind of being bandied around, around C-SAT, NPS, churn. 

The industry seems to be coalescing around net retention revenue as being the metric and that's what investors are looking at. So that's what I'm looking at is, well, if that's, if that's what we want to achieve, let's make that the metric for as much of the team is as we can. And then also we need to look at training and development support, right?

How do we make sure that we're focusing on net retention revenue? And less on, how many QBRs you did? How many referrals your customer, what their NPS score is. Those might be how metrics that you sort of help the team with. But you don’t metric and over micromanage on that front because you're taking your eyes off the main thing, the main thing is net retention revenue, so let's focus and drive on that.

Ciaran: Two questions. One, do you think there are any metrics that we don't need anymore that are just sort of distracting people? And do you think there's any metrics that they're necessary, but they have more weight than they necessarily should? 

Jon: I think different organizations are at different stages. So the reason net retention revenue works, it blends, right? It blends the requirement to keep customers with expansion. And if C-SAT isn’t high, they’re not going to buy them, they are going to leave. So it kind of rolls everything into, into one.

But I've worked in some organizations where we've just got customers leaving. Right. We've abandoned them. We haven't looked after and we haven't been, we need to stop the bleeding. I then worked at organizations where actually, no, that's not the problem. The problem is we're not expanding the client base enough.

They buy from us once and they never buy from us again. And so I think organizations need to think about what, what is it, what's your company trying to do? What's your company trying to achieve? If you're trying to get your ARR signings up as high as you possibly can for evaluation for an exit in a year. Then maybe you don’t worry about churn so much. 

If you've got investors who have done this many, many times before, and they know that actually the churn rate has to be at a certain point, then you will focus on churn. So I think it's important that organizations think about what's important to them, focus on those metrics and kind of discard the rest.

So I would kind of, be worried to say, oh, don't worry about NPS anymore because there might be some organizations here, but actually MPS is important to you. But I think what, the important thing is, tech bringing metrics that really matter to the organization. And I'm not talking about customer success, I’m talking about to the organization. 

For example, is it number of customers> Is that actually really important because you want to go mass market? Or is it actually, no, it’s average order size, ‘cause we want to go into enterprise, we want to get the big fish? And then filter down to the rest of the organization, right? The sales, that means you focus on this, right? For customer success, that means you focus on that, right? 

Marketing need to be doing this because we're after this ideal customer profile, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Keep the metrics down to two or three. But everyone knows and sees how they flow back up to the overall company objectives and what you're trying to do. 

So unfortunately it's not as simple as oh a C-SAT is out, NPS is in, which I think everyone wants to look at that. If we go back to basketball, it’s like when I started coaching I, and everyone… everyone’s looking for the perfect X and Os that will guarantee a perfect score every single time. Doesn’t exist.

Who’ve you got? What works for you? What's right for your team?

Ciaran: And I think the blended metric keeps coming up more and more, but even within, everyone wants, oh, what are the three metrics? Like what are the three metrics that make the perfect metric and, uh, yeah, I think it's not going to happen. 

So two more questions. It takes a certain level of self-awareness in order to say, ‘we're not just going to measure NPS anymore, we need to blend it.’ And again, look at the big picture. How prevalent do you think that is?

Jon: Customer service is still not fully understood and defined, embraced as in the same way that a sales profession is. Right. Everyone knows what sales is, and there’s different types, right? And so there's a nervousness as well.

I think, especially in sort of tough economic times, there’s a nervousness around, i’ve gotta put these metrics on the board, because if I don't have metrics, my team will be the first one to be hit when cuts are made, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And I think that pressure can sort of push people towards the wrong, you know, the secondary metrics.

Those are the ones that get gamed. Those are the ones that don't actually need you to the right, the right outcomes in the end. So I think, unfortunately it is, and you see this in like your Flourish community, you see this kind of in the community with people trying to elevate the discussion away from those secondary metrics.

Ciaran: A lot of what you were talking about is like, it does take some leadership change or leadership mindset change. So what is something that people are afraid to tell a CEO, a COO about this sort of new world order that maybe they need to hear?

Jon: So I think let's circle back to the staff, right? I think it's that short-termism that in a recurring revenue organization, in a recurring revenue business, you have to look at a more longer term than you would in a traditional one-time charge software business. 

And I think that by focusing on that blended metric, we're talking about, by looking at net retention revenue, that is the lifeblood of the business. I sort of think that when I was looking at this and vesting my career on customer success, I kind of felt bad, 

Sales drive signings. But customer success drives revenue and the two are different in a recurring business. And that's been always how I've anchored my conversations about budget. This is the team that's actually going to convert the promise of the signings into actual dollars, pounds.

Ciaran: Jon, anything you want to share with the audience before we close?

Jon: Again, thank you for inviting me. This community, the Flourish community, is really good for me in terms of just connecting with like-minded people. And then also having that environment to be able to share ideas in quote unquote, a safe space, and just hearing the different experiences that people have and you speak with people who are big companies, small companies, just getting started, experienced on hypergrowth, trying to stop churn from bleeding, all these kind of different priorities and experiences, which for a lot of the melting pot has been a really valuable resource of learning for me. 

Ciaran: Well thank you for sharing your story with us today, and if you want to see Jon join us at the next Flourish CX.

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

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