In a competitive marketplace, every company sinks or swims based on how well they know their customers. To truly stand apart, you need every single employee to build a deep and informed understanding of the customer experience.
So, what role does L&D have to play in building this customer-centric culture? And how can L&D leaders bring people together to learn from each other about what their customers need?
I’m always interested in hearing about fresh approaches to building a greater focus on the customer experience. That’s why it was such a delight to speak to Jay Kreshel, Senior Training Manager at AppZen, about his TouchPoints framework for increasing customer centricity and driving greater employee satisfaction.
Jay had a great deal of expertise to share–read on to discover more.
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Jay began our discussion by telling me about AppZen’s desire to become more client-centric, and how L&D supports that focus.
“We’re an AI platform for finance teams,” he says. “We’re out there doing the work that the finance teams really shouldn’t be doing. We have solutions that automate spend and offer insights for teams that are trying to reduce spend, comply with policies and streamline their processes.”
“From our CEO down, one of the things we really focus on is customer centricity. We really want to make sure we understand what our customers are doing. Once we understand the customer lifecycle and know what the value of our customers are, we can better serve them.”
But as Jay says, it’s not just AppZen’s customer-facing teams that need to build the products and services for their customers–it’s the whole organization.
“The challenge that we had was: how do we get every team to be as customer-centric as our customer-facing teams? How do we get them to really walk in the shoes of our customers, and to see and feel the pains that our customers go through when using our products?”
So, what role does L&D have in helping those teams become more customer-centric? Jay talked me through his three-step framework.
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For Jay, the L&D team leads this focus by following the customer through their entire journey with AppZen.
“I was having a conversation with the CEO,” explains Jay. “We derived this program we called TouchPoints, which is an awesome thing. It’s a framework to help us make sure that every employee in the company from top to bottom understands the life cycle of the customer.”
“We’re building a structure where we can talk to the customer, listen to live calls, bring in special guests, cherry pick recordings, and drive discussions and analysis about the customers, for the customers, with the customers.”
As Jay explains, this involves three key steps.
“We created these cross-functional groups, which we call TouchPoints teams. We would have an executive in the room alongside a data scientist or engineer or support rep or marketing person – six to ten employees at a time – and we took them in for one week at a time.”
Jay explains that these teams each cleared their calendars and spent a full week shadowing the calls made to customers.
“Imagine you’re an engineer listening to your customer success manager talk to a customer, and you hear them say: ‘Well, I don’t know, our engineering team must not have paid attention when they did this particular piece.’ That can tell you so much. Listening to your customer success manager having to defend your work to a customer is really impactful.”
Listening to your customer success manager having to defend your work to a customer is really impactful.
Next up, the account executive or customer success manager will debrief with the TouchPoints team and offer their guidance and support to identify areas for improvement.
“After the call would end,” Jay says, “we bring the AE or the implementation person into the room and spend the next half hour debriefing that call. We’re asking questions like: ‘What were you thinking when you said this? Why did you have to defend this work? What could we have done differently?’”
After the call would end, we bring the AE or or the implementation person into the room and spend the next half hour debriefing.
Finally, each TouchPoints team presents back to the organization and answers three ‘lessons learned’ questions.
“That team became a bonded unit of people,” says Jay. “Each team would build a presentation that they would share at the end of week all hands meetings. We would set this team up in front of the company and they would deliver a presentation.”
Jay adds that the teams will be asked what they learned, what the company can do differently, and how the people in the TouchPoints teams will adjust their actions. As he explains, this is already leading to useful new insights for AppZen.
“One of the things we learned is that it would be great if the data scientist leads held office hours for the customers and for support teams to come and talk to the engineers to understand more about our technology. It’s a simple step, but it’s powerful.”
AppZen’s three-step TouchPoints framework demonstrates many of the advantages of Collaborative Learning in practice. By connecting teams together from different business units, AppZen can use collective expertise to drive a greater customer focus, capitalizing on each employee’s skills, experience, and customer knowledge.
That team became a bonded unit of people. Each team would build a presentation that they would share at the end of week all hands meetings
After outlining his framework, Jay shared how the program has helped to boost customer centricity at AppZen.
“Employee satisfaction is probably the highest and most valuable metric,” says Jay. “We’ve really created a connection between our employees. They have created these teams, and so now we have better connections between our support team and the data scientists, or the implementation team and the sales organization–so that cross pollination is a big success.”
Along with improving the relationship between executives and other participants, Jay says that building a stronger company culture is probably the highest outcome of the program.
“This program is part of the culture now. We gave away a sweatshirt for participants, and when you walk down the hall and you’re wearing that piece of swag that says ‘TouchPoints’ on it, you know that you’re part of that fraternity of people who have been through it.”
“The data scientist team has heard from customers now,” Jay adds. “They feel what the customers are doing. Now, when a support engineer calls them up and tells them about a customer complaint, they won’t push them to the side and say, ‘yeah, yeah, talk to Product.’ Instead, they say, ‘yes, you need this right now.’ That’s the impact we’re making.”
The data scientist team has heard from customers now. They feel what the customers are doing.
Thanks again to Jay for kindly sharing AppZen’s TouchPoints journey with us!
If you’re looking for more expert insights on driving greater customer centricity, check out our 5 expert customer education steps, as well as our interview with Loc Nguyen of Bluescape Software on how to achieve better partner enablement through customer education.
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