Nate Brown, CXO at Officium Labs

October 28, 2021
22 min

Getting your whole company bought into the importance of the customer experience is no small task. Yet, it’s one that’s critical to your success. Nate Brown, CXO at Officium Labs, joins the show to share why.

From revealing his CX pet peeves to calling out inauthentic leaders, Nate doesn’t hold back. He explains how aligning your marketing, product, and CX enables a frictionless experience.

Listen to the conversation for some tough love, helpful insights, and practical ways to build a CX legacy.

- The way we serve our customers is how we grow our business.

- Align marketing, product, and CX to enhance the lives of customers.

- Your team can only give your customer what you’ve given them.

[02:00] Nate’s CX pet peeves

[04:20] Creating a sense of urgency

[05:15] Involving the entire team in CX

[07:00] Exchanging the ‘Moses Model’ for the ‘Gandalf Model’

[08:30] Aligning marketing and CX

[10:00] Connecting product and CX

[12:00] Measuring CX

[14:30] Balancing relational trust with digitalization of service

[17:50] Enhancing the self-service model

[20:00] Mapping knowledge to the customer journey

[21:30] Building a CX legacy

Nate Brown
Officium Labs

Nate: A lot of CXOs do try to do that or whatever experience leader title you have is like, okay, you know, “I'm here. I'm going to own all these pieces. Give them to me. I'm going to handle this. You all go take care of all your digital stuff and all your finance stuff and all your implementation, all your software development. You guys go do what you're good at. I'm going to handle all the customer experience things.” That is the greatest formula for disaster that you could bring inside of an organization. And I used to do that!

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: What does it really mean to be customer centric? I’m Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX and that's the topic we're exploring. To help us is Nate Brown.

He is currently the Chief Experience Officer for Official Labs and the Co-founder of CX Accelerator. Listen as he breaks down top tips for creating a success plan that focuses on the right thinking - your customer. Because in the end, it's all about their experience with their product, not yours. And while we'll go into all the above, we start the conversation with him, sharing his biggest pet peeve in the world of CX.

Nate: Something really pisses me off in the work of CX. And it'd probably be this idea that number one, CX is going away. No, it's not. This is not some buzzword fad when Joe Pine wrote The Experience Economy in like the nineties. And so much of that is just now becoming real. And it is taking hold in new ways all the time, but the root is still there.

The way we serve our customers is how we grow our business. Period. And that's an unshakable foundation that we'll have with us for many, many decades to come. Uh, another one that I just tweaks me off a little bit is this idea of people bringing in this perfect CX playbook to the table. I'm sorry. That does not exist.

I mean, this is scrappy tough, really ultra personalized work. I mean, it's a bit of a marriage of understanding. Who is this customer and what do they need? What does success look like to them? How can we ultimately guide them towards that definition of success but then the other side of it, how can we create an experience that's going to facilitate that really well.

And depending on what those products are, who these customers are, what industry you're in. I mean, there's so much in this soup that has to be stirred in that, that the idea of a perfect playbook - that needs to go.

Alon: So hold on breaking news. You're telling me that a CEO or founder can not just say to the company that we got to start being customer centric.

Everybody put that as one thing that you will be other than your resume or your LinkedIn or in your MBOs, but it's just going to happen. That's not the way to solve it?

Nate: Yeah, it takes a little more than that. You know, it does start there sometimes in terms of the awakening of, wow, we need to serve our customers well.

And sadly, there are a lot of organizations that haven't had that realization yet in terms of, we are not here for ourselves. They're driving around in a car with a dome light. And the headlights are off. They can't see where they're going. They can't see the world outside. They can't see their customers.

So turning the dome light on - that is an important thing that needs to happen. But then from there, it's the more of the scientific principles. You know, it is, it is a very artistic word. We've got to motivate people. We got to want them to care. We got to light the fire. It's established the sense of urgency as John coder would say, or else nobody's going to change because we don't change for no reason.

We have to be given a good reason to change. So we got to light the fire, but then we have to guide people towards specific mentalities, specific behaviors that line up with what customer centricity means to us - inside of our business. That's going to look different inside of every organization and that's good.

Alon: So let's dissect that. I mean, we can joke about, you know, saying it up here, but you know, you got to go to the 1000th floor and to the ground floor. So by saying, we got to do customer experience top level and then saying, oh, there's a customer experience person.

We'll bring in a Director of CX.. Or, I love this one - the Chief Customer Officer is now going to be called the Chief Experience Officer. Check, we solved the problem. It's more than that. So do you believe customer experience should be a team sport and that every team should have invested interest plus a KPI, slash, something that they are in charge of for CX?

And if so, how do you feel about that?

Nate: Well, I am the CXO of Officium Labs. So I do have that special title, which I do love because I get to, I get to manage the experience internally for our people, as well as thinking about the experience for our customers and the brand experience. I have a big part in marketing.

So I'm getting to bring these different elements together, which I feel like is the work of a true CXO. I'm so happy about the scope of work that I get to do inside of a really fun and exciting company like officium. Uh, but as far as this idea of it being a team sport, it's absolutely not something that this work can be done either alone or on behalf of the organization. And I feel like a lot of CXOs do try to do that or whatever experience leader title you have is like, okay, you know,

“I'm here.I'm going to own all these pieces. Give them to me. I'm going to handle this. You all go take care of all your digital stuff and all your finance stuff and all your implementation, all your software development. You guys go do what you're good at. I'm going to handle all the customer experience things.” That is the greatest formula for disaster that you could bring inside of an organization.

And I used to do that when I was a young experience leader. I made that mistake of, “okay, I'm the best at this. Everybody gives me all the experience stuff. I gotta, I gotta earn this.” I was hungry to prove myself as an experience leader. And I did that organization a huge disservice.

I've started calling that the Moses model of CX or it's coming down off Mount Sinai with my golden tablets, a voice of customer data and slamming them down inside of all the people, the organization. “Look, how much you suck, you know, look how badly we're serving our customers. We got to do better.”

And this, this is, you know, no nobody's motivated by that and it's not my place to do that. You know, the voice of the customer gets to be the voice of the customer. And, and it's my job to rally people together to understand that voice of the customer and make sense of it, and then bring people closer to it in terms of how they can make that better.

And so that's more of the Gandalf model of CX, or you're bringing the fellowship together with the elves and the dwarfs and the hobbits and galvanizing them together under one quest, which is to enhance the lives of the customer. When you all understand what that looks like and you do it together, incredible things can be.

Alon: So let's dissect that a bit before we go into the elements of self service and digital. So if there's a customer life cycle to do great customer experiences, you got to probably dissect the lifecycle of the customer. First of all, starts in marketing, in awareness, right?

If a customer comes to your website or a customer is looking for product content or even knowledge about you, it should be easily accessible. Clear and available, right? That's an experience that's not owned by the customer success team, right?.

Nate: No. And that's, I feel like marketing and CX are coming together so much that the lines are being blurred.

And it's because of what you just said, Alon. The expectations happen in that awareness stage. The idea of who your company is and what it stands for. It's formed in that awareness stage, which is oftentimes coined to be marketing.

Alon: Our research has shown this, that 90% of people that want to acquire a product. If they're not seeing product content and the right information on their own before acquisition, that might not even talk to you

Nate: Yeah. That's going to become a friction point at best. I mean, you're probably never going to get to do business with them. But if you do, then you're setting them up to fail because they believe there's something that you're not because your CX is not aligned to your marketing. You set an expectation, you put a promise out into the world that you can't consistently deliver on.

So these two things need to come together greatly in terms of the expectations you're setting the brand promise that you're putting out into the world and your ability to execute on that really well, very consistently. That is one work, and that is the work of CX.

Alon: And what I love about that. So let's take it down the life cycle.

So now they're starting to learn about your product and want to test it. Whether they want to play with it as a trial, or they want to actually come and see a POC or be in it, maybe even they became a customer. And a lot of times I think product leaders talk that UX is what I do, but CX is like, that's not us.

That's customer success support. It's the product, uh, information that marketing can control or documentation. If customer experience and journeys and best onboarding and flowing is not product - led, my personal belief is that something's left on the table. What do you think about the product being part of CX?

Nate: Yeah that's a really interesting way to say it. I mean, you can obviously go overboard with that way of thinking. And, and product controls all. And, you know, I love Jeanne bliss. You might've read Chief Customer Officer 2.0, and she talks about the power core and how many organizations have a sales power core.

Other organizations have a product power core. Others have an IT power core, especially with digital transformation and data being owned by IT. And that power core can represent a failure point in your CX strategy. If it has too much control and doesn't understand how to ultimately bring people together to enhance the lives of customers. If it becomes too much about itself,

you're turning the dome light on in the car. You lost, your headlights out, to see what's going on in the world and how you can serve your customers better. So you don't want a power core that is overly powerful and/or is tuned out to the capabilities of CX. But a product led power core with the mentality that CX can bring an understanding that customer centricity in the power thereof, that that is a dynamic and wonderful combination when it happens.

But there are a few true product leaders who have the visionary capability to develop and guide the life cycle of a successful product and launch that product, maintain it, evolve it over time. And also truly understand experienced design principles. So you got to have one of those individuals, one of these rare individuals, who's humble enough to understand that they don't know everything and to trust and give up some ownership and give some responsibility to other individuals like a great UX designer, like a great services leader, like, like a great development leader. All of which, individually, have CX built in them.

Alon: Let’s talk a little bit about metrics and measurement. I'm going to be provocative as nearly always and say customer experience is still something that people are challenged with, especially founders, CEOs, and boards. Because there's not one metric that defines how good your customer experience is. How do you solve that?

Nate: That is going to change with, with different contexts. I am definitely an advocate for a metrics dashboard. I don't think there's a single magic number, but there is going to be a combination of numbers that represent the reality of your customers. Are you making their lives better and easier?

So, I mean that. And then also, are we inside of the business doing this in the best way possible, the most efficient way possible. And so there's going to be a combination of some things and customer effort score is a tremendous part of that. And also ease of business score. Because, generally speaking, across different industries, we know one thing: customers value their time - generally, even more than their money. And if we're honoring them and respecting them as, as the corporate executive board made so clear in The Effortless Experience years ago, then we know that that's going to be a loyalty driver. That is very clear. We know that to be the case.

In fact, I checked in on this because it was actually 2011, since the CEB put that book out. I put out a poll on LinkedIn recently. I think you might've engaged with it, Alon. And it was just asking, what is the main loyalty driver for you, as a customer, putting your customer hat on?

And I did  relationship with the business.I did price value. I did consistent service and I did like the missions and values of the organization. And 71% of people said consistent service. I didn't even say good service. I just put consistent service. And people selected that one in droves because knowing that they're going to be taken care of when there's a problem and that the company is going to stand behind the products and services that they're putting out, that's, that's a representation of a great relationship. That they care about their customers and that we can trust our time and our money and our energy that we're putting in.

We're going to get some value back out of that.

Alon: Talking about it as a trust thing. So of course trust is the key. Doesn't matter if you're a services company or software company. But if you're studying mostly products and you're looking at the trust factor, you can put a CSM, a support person, a term, and maybe a leader for every user.

Oh, that's not scalable. That's not a model. That's unit economics gone through the roof and it doesn't make sense. On the other hand, you can say we are the no touch company. Everybody just gets content, product answers for them all day. You find 80% of your content, 40% good luck. How do you balance the trust factor with the purpose of driving digitization of self-service? Which we all want as people. And we all strive for as companies. But you've got to find the balance. So what's the approach there for driving great experiences and loyalty.

Nate: That's a great question. I think Matt Dixon knocks us out of the park with his brilliant article, Reinventing Customer Service. It's a case study on T-Mobile and what they did to develop trust and personalization to their different demographics of customers.

They basically set up little families or tribes of customer service units. It was like a self-sustaining unit of 50 people. And most of those individuals were representatives, technical representatives that could resolve problems, but inside of each one of those little tribes was like a knowledge curation person and somebody that was more of an escalation handler and a couple of those then you had more of your supervisor type of role. And you had a couple other, very strategic roles peppered in to this small family that was delivering support to a specific group of customers, geographically.

So that group of customers got to know this group of support. That was ultimately delivering value to them. That group was autonomous to figure out some ways that they could personalize that experience out to this group of customers that would make sense for them and their needs, their desires, their definition of success, their vernacular, the way they like to term things and communication ultimately.

And so by having that knowledge curation type of resource in there, you can be personalizing and enhancing the self-service capabilities of this family, this tribe, as they're getting better and smarter on, on ways to serve their customers. By having the representatives directly involved in channeling things through this knowledge curation expert, enhancing the knowledge every day and in real time.

Taking in some of those knowledge centered support principles, KCS principles with that idea of like flag it or fix it, but then really, really bringing that to bear in real time. And in this family type environment, that there's a magic that is there, where this group got to know each other and they're providing really great support, not only to the customers, but to each other.

And it becomes a strong family, this delivering service. And then the customers feel that. They feel the good vibe and the energy of that support that's being given to them from this group of people that likes and respects one another. And that is personalizing the support to them and enhancing the self service capabilities.

There's so much great things that happen in that model.

Alon: That's fantastic. I mean, that's a cohort that can then learn from each other and share and opting in, which is, I love that example. I’m trying also to also understand how do you do that for like in general for everybody? How do you take that approach?

And self-service first approach, is that possible even today?

Nate: It does require a really good capable tool set on the back end and a great culture to be able to back this up. You, you have to trust people to take things that they're learning and to be able to make some changes in the self-service environment, to the knowledge core that exists. Inside of Officium we like to call it knowledge core. And we've really combined the elements of training, quality, and knowledge management into this holistic process and mentality. And then you kind of have to, to think about it that way, because those things speak so much to one another. As we learn things from quality, in terms of detracting situations, things that our customers don't love, and get good insights into those friction points, things that they searched for and couldn’t find.

Areas where the knowledge was not of high quality. And there's great metrics that we can have around those, those friction points. We have to then bring those to bear and understand how can we together. Not just one person, one knowledge manager, that's too much. They can't keep up with the burden of this.

But if people are collaborating, working together inside of a good accessible knowledge curation environment, then intelligence flows through. I mean, eight by eight had some great data recently where they said that the average representative spends between 30 minutes and two hours every day, looking for information that's trapped inside of a person.

Think about the burnout that causes, the frustration that causes, both to that agent and to the customer. So when we can fix that problem and make knowledge flow through well and have people with the ability to educate one another through a self service capability, that is the lifeblood of your customer service department.

Alon: Yeah, for sure. It's a knowledge information without that in data. How else can we actually make decisions and improve things? We looked at like all the journeys and all the gaps in B2B specifically. And bottom line is 52% of self-service that goes into tickets and ask for inquiries, just for information and knowledge could have been solved by it. People said if I had it in front of me, the right information, I did not need to go to support. Think about the sheer cost and frustration. So that's why I’m a believer in self-service is not a standalone - throw it to the IT team to get a portal, but rather like map the journeys, think about the customers, get the content and then understand why are people actually looking for something, not just give it to them whenever they are.

Nate: More and more, I've been calling agents and representatives. I've been calling them knowledge curators 'cause I believe that's more and more the future of customer service is just taking wisdom from one another, from your customers, from the product, and you are curating intelligence. You are curating knowledge in a way that can be easily accessible for your customers.

In some situations, they're going to need to talk to you to best access that knowledge, but in probably 90 to 95% of the situations, you can represent that knowledge very well and very effectively through a self-service channel. You just got to do the work to make that happen.

Alon: Mapping content to the customer journey. What a great idea. If you can go to any and every executive or CEO or founder or COO in the world and tell them something that's probably the CX leader or the multiple CX hat wearers in the company are afraid or would love for them to understand, instead of communicating it every day, what would you tell them

that would be very beneficial to people to try to drive CX? Which is a very hard thing.

Nate: You business leader, you are wrapping a gift that is being given every day to your people. That there's something inside of a box and you, and you're wrapping this paper around it, that needs to be an authentic gift.

If you're wrapping up a piece of crap and using vernacular and acting like you care about customers, acting like this stuff matters to you. And then you're turning around and slashing this and laying this off, and your behaviors do not demonstrate the reality of your words, that you care about your customers and care about your people, then your gift is trash. And your people, to use a Denise Leonism, they only have the gift that you've given them to give to the customer. That's all I've got is what you've given to them. So think about that gift that you're giving every day. Is it authentic first? Does the wrapping paper match the inside?

And second, is it something that you can be proud of? Is it the type of experience that you want your people to be able to give to your customers? Because if it's not, then CX absolutely starts with you. And it's time to look in the mirror and understand, am I creating a customer centric culture through my actions, through my behaviors and through my words, through the way that I'm building up and admonishing this group of people? Am I making something happen here that I will be proud of in terms of the customer legacy that I'm building?

And if, if not, it's time to have some tough conversations with yourself.

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

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