General Episode Overview
Tabitha Dunn is a perennial customer experience leader who developed her passion for this work on the fundamentals of process and quality at the master of the genre at the time, Xerox. She then advanced through a variety of vertical industries, each time honing her skills. In our conversation we discuss how specifically one goes about improving business to business customer experience.
Some Background On Tabitha’s Career
She was initially working for Xerox during a time when Harvard Business Review was profiling their need for a seismic business shift. That became, among other things, a Lean Six Sigma program. Tabitha eventually became a green belt and left that job after five years. After time at Philips Medical Systems, she went on to Citrix for six and a half years — she even notes that some work I was doing in the field of CX at the time inspired that job to be created. (Love it when that happens.) Citrix did some great work at that time on predictive analytics and intentional customer experience, as a side note. Tabitha was a big part of that.
She eventually was “lured away” by Concur a few years ago; she’s been there since November 2014 as VP of Customer Experience. Concur is also a SaaS company. They take companies of all sizes and stages beyond automation to a completely connected spend management solution encompassing travel, expense, invoice, compliance and risk. This is huge in business to business customer experience. People travel all the time and need processes for all of it.
Her Initial Steps At Concur
“The last major toolkit before Concur I got was doing a lot of design thinking work at Citrix,” she admits. “There’s never any shortage of things to learn in this work.”
When she started at Concur, the CMO was essentially the CCO. They had been doing some journey mapping and had a champion, but admittedly most of the organization called it “customer thing.” The company did have content and was using NPS. Tabitha got to enter with two employees. So she began with some resources, although they were spartan.
First question she asked: What experience do we actually want customers to have?
Process to do that: Interviewed 50+ people, at different levels, across the first month. Three questions were:
- How do you describe the customer experience?
- What do you feel doesn’t work well and why?
- What should we hold sacred?
On the first question, out of 50+ people, she got 50+ different answers. That’s actually fairly common.
Important distinction here: Oftentimes in the early stages of CCO work, it’s all Excel spreadsheets and ROI equations and “create a 10-step plan.” That can work, but often doesn’t work as effectively towards customer-driven growth.
What Came Of All This?
All the discussions, customer calls, data sets, etc. were combined and the executive team had to be aligned. Each one had to give a short description of the intended customer experience. As you might predict, every response was different; they were all contextual to the silo that person ran.
Tabitha wanted to “ladder up” the customer experience strategy to the brand promise. This is a much stronger play than playing Whack-A-Mole with the broken elements.
“I wanted to make the executives a partner to the work,” she says, “and wanted them to sign off on saying this is the desired customer experience.”
Concur’s main focus is on the word “effortless.” The expense reports should write itself. The whole customer experience should be effortless. So that was the baseline. Everything had to come from there.
Every company has big rocks that need to be priorities — and might be broken. Tabitha identified the “big rocks” related to CX, and then she asked the leadership team these questions:
- The data says this. Do you agree?
- The qualitative analysis says that. What do you think?
- What do you see in your division?
Sometimes these discussions can get pretty broad, and attempt to “boil the ocean.” It’s best to narrow the focus on the big rocks, because that will drive priority better. More priority means people down the chain have a better understanding of their role and execution needs.
Business to business customer experience and service segmentation
For a long time, Concur was approaching small businesses and huge enterprise companies in the same way from a service standpoint. There was a psychological reason for this, of course: business to business customer experience is often about “the body slam,” or B2B becoming the hero. Those discussions need to be changed and people need to be convinced of a newer, more modern role.
Tabitha spent a lot of time with her team working out service principles. These principles were designed to help people relate to their job better, but it’s impossible for a leadership team sit in a room for 40+ hours and design principles. She brought in middle ranks of leaders to help with the service principles setting, with the idea that both sides needed to “walk the walk.” Eventually this plan was kicked up to leadership team members associated with service delivery, and some behaviors were modified at each level. (Buzzwords were often removed.)
One principle that came out of this was “own the solution.” Initially people had pitched “own the problem.” It felt too negative, so it got changed. It might seem semantic, but it’s a huge connection back to the end user of B2B customer experience.
Other important element to add here: Being a CCO should be less about “Add this to the road map, plz” and more checking your ego at the door and asking “How/when should I help?”
The Pay It Forward Question
“What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN?” Here’s where Tabitha went:
- Work to build an intentional CX experience: It’s extremely rewarding and powerful, and should be the aim from Day 1.
- The culture/communication part of CX is often left on the table: Don’t let this happen. Metrics! Dashboards! Those are great. But we need more thoughtfulness around the employee journey. (And the customer journey.) Tabitha actually has a person on her team dedicated exclusively to this.