Our guest today is Jason Bradshaw, author of It’s All About CEX, and a customer experience expert who has helped a variety of companies grow and even save tens of millions of dollars. Companies and telecommunications and retail and media and finance and even automotive.
By the end of this episode, you’ll know how you can improve your company’s experiences with your customers and your employees, potentially to the tune of millions of dollars. Now, here is our conversation with Jason Bradshaw.
Jason Bradshaw: At 14, I decided that I wanted do something a little bit differentto achieve what I wanted at the time, which was the latest and greatest computer. I think my iPhone has more computing power than the computer I bought when I was 14.
But at 14 years of age, my original goal was just to stop having to ask mom and dad to get me everything.
I had a part time job, but that was going to take me forever to earn enough money to buy a computer. I decided that if I wanted to get that computer faster, that I would actually start my own business selling computers and telecommunication supplies. And in the very early days, it was about getting that shiny object, that new computer that I wanted.
As those that know me will understand, it became much more than that.
I started retailing renting computer and telecommunications and office supplies to local businesses well before I was 14. I think because of mom and dad’s side hustles and the various business ventures they had, I was reading small business magazines and reading books like In Pursuit of Wild by Tom Peters.
So when I set up my business, I said from the very beginning that I was going to do things differently.
“I wasn’t going to compete on price, I was going to compete on service.”
As a result of that, I somewhat fell into a lifetime career focused on customer and employee experience.
It’s been a journey that I wouldn’t change, but it all came from those really humble beginnings where all I wanted was to buy a computer that was better than the one I already had.
It’s All About CEX
Charlie Hoehn: What is the customer experience? Why did you decide it was worth writing about?
Jason Bradshaw: If you check out my LinkedIn profile, the question that usually comes after I made a statement like that is, “You worked in the government for three years, where was the customer or the employee experience in that?”
Well, when I worked for the state government here, my job was about putting the people of the state back into everything that we did. Making them front and center. And throughout my career, that has been the pillar of what I’ve done—it’s been making sure our customers and employees are front and center of conversations and all the decision making, no matter what the conversation is. I found that in every instance where I’ve done that, I’ve differentiated myself from my peers.
My team’s performance has been differentiated in positive ways, and as a result, individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of leading have been successful and their careers have grown.
The one thing that was missing throughout my journey to where I am today is not a plethora of customer experience books or books on employee engagement, but a really practical, simple guide to get started.
I’m often asked when I speak at conferences, “What do I do first?”
“How do I start getting people excited about customer employee experience?”
That’s really what led me to writing the book, I wanted to provide people with an easy to read, easy to implement guide around customer employee experience and really how the reader understands the value of the customer/employer experience.
Really simply, experience is the memory of the interactions that people have with us as leaders, as businesses. It ultimately decides whether they’re going to come back or stay with you or whether they’re going to go somewhere else.
Why Experience Matters
Charlie Hoehn: Let’s break it down for the listener—why this really matters?
Jason Bradshaw: While I worked for Target, one of the challenges that we had was disconnect between ambition and the focus that we put on customer experience. My work there was about not only defining what great looked like but working hand in hand with our store team members and our store leadership to really help them embed a different way of working.
It’s why they won a Roy Morgan Customer Service award for the first time ever in its history, because of its focus on demystifying what customer and employee experience is and making it really simple for everyone to be able to live and breathe there. In my own direct immediate leadership patch, we were able to transform the performance of our operations 10-fold without increasing the number of employees that we had.
Then we had to also mentor and work with store managers to help them embed a culture of creating a community of care that customer and employees wanted to be a part of. That led to increased sales performance for those particular sites as well.
“It all came down to just simplifying what we mean when we say experience.”
I’m not talking about a Webster’s dictionary definition at your organization when you say you’re going to deliver great experience. What are those elements that make it great for your organization? Now, it would be like going to In and Out Burger and all of a sudden, they start serving you chicken burgers when they’re not famous for that. They don’t want to be famous for that. They’ve defined what they want to be famous for from a product and experience point of view. That’s the starting point for everybody, and that’s the work that I’ve done in every organization.
How do you define experience for both your customers and employees?
Then, what does the organization need to consistently deliver on to deliver on that definition of experience?
Charlie Hoehn: Walk me through the process of figuring out how to define it for an individual organization.
Jason Bradshaw: The first thing that I’m usually faced with is that question, where do we start? My answer is you already have the information you need, and it’s called customer and employee feedback.
I haven’t met a company yet, no matter its size, that doesn’t have either a survey or some sort of listening post that they receive feedback from their customers and, quite often in the larger organizations, from their employees.
All of the answers sit within that feedback.
Now, if you’re a really small business and you might only receive feedback ad hoc from your customers through formal channels then I’d suggest that we need to do some work there. Let’s just take the assumption that you’ve got some level of customer and employee feedback today.
Well, within that feedback, there will be three to five things that your customers talk about when they’re raving about how great you were. In most cases, those three to five things will be exactly the same when a customer is really angry at the level of service you’ve provided. Why? Because they’re emotional hooks.
Let me give a really practical example, and I think this one usually plays out in many organizations, especially in service businesses.
“In my book I call it know the product, know the process.”
If you look at your customer feedback, I can almost guarantee that in every organization, I’ll have customers going, “Bob was so helpful, he knew so much about (insert product or service), he really made it easy for me to get the benefit of the product.”
Inversely, you’ll have customers going, “I found more information about the product online than your sales associate had. It was like I had to sell it to myself,” and in that data set, what you see is knowledge is absolutely a differentiator. That is one of the factors that you would need to have as a pillar of your experience journey, that you’re going to focus on knowledge to help your customer’s and employees.
Knowledge from a product and services training perspective, knowledge from a perspective of helping your team members, not necessarily remembering everything but call on the knowledge when they need it so they can turn that knowledge into insights to help the customer.
Throughout your customer and employee feedback, you’ll have those elements. If it only appears in the positive and it doesn’t appear on the negative, then I would part that to the side just for a moment.
I’d be looking for the three to five areas that really resonate for those really delighted customers and the alternatives.
I call them experience principles. I suggest you should have three to five of them because that’s really easy number for people to remember and really easy to focus on and embed in your organization.
Charlie Hoehn: What next?
Jason Bradshaw: There’s a step before that, and the step before that is defining that experience. What fundamentally do you want to be famous for, from an experience point of view?
Do you want to be famous like FedEx for absolutely getting the product, the item there shipped overnight, or do you want to be known as the best value or the most convenient?
What does that term experience mean and then how can you consistently deliver on that promise?
Charlie Hoehn: A quick question about that point is if another company’s already famous for that, should you steer clear of it or does it matter?
Jason Bradshaw: You know, the taxi industry was famous for picking people up and dropping them at a destination, and came along Lyft and Uber and others. I would say, you shouldn’t steer clear of it but you should understand what’s going to be your differentiator. What’s going to make you different to your competitors so that people want to talk about you, that people want to do business with you?
I think there’s another step, or there’s a question that you need to ask yourself. That is, why are we going to care about experience? Because improving the lives of our customers and employees takes a change in the way that your organization operates or that you or your team operate.
“That change is not necessarily an easily one.”
If your company’s been around for a long time, you will have ingrained cultures and ways of working that need to change, and those changes will take some time to embed. So you first have to understand your why for being focused on customer employee experience, so that when you’re faced with that question that is perhaps not aligned to the why, you can bring everyone’s focus back to customer and employee experience.
This is why we’re doing it. That’s why we need to make a decision today that’s focused on that as supposed to some short term win.
We see time and time again, organizations that get focused on the short term win at the cost of the customer. That for me is essential for understanding why you are going to focus on experience so that you can as a leadership team commit to it and keep refocusing your thinking back on that why so you can continually move forward in this journey.
I keep mentioning the term organization or company, but you can be absolutely obsessed about the experience of customers and employees yourself. You don’t have to wait for the company that you work for to get on board with being obsessed about customer/employee experience.
You yourself, as an individual, no matter what your job is, can become obsessed about the experience that you deliver, so that in your own career and your own personal brand you are famous for being someone that your colleagues want to do business with or that your customers that you serve want to come back to. So if you are a sales associate, customers just want to do business with you, not with anyone at the business.
Common Questions About Customer Experience
Charlie Hoehn: What are some of the things that companies say, and what do you say back to them?
Jason Bradshaw: How can I measure the impact of this? How is it going to change my financials? What is the return on investment?
It can be hard to measure the benefit of being nice to customers or being nice to employees. There is nowhere on the balance sheet on the asset statement of the company where we talk about being nice to customers or employees. You could argue good will, but we don’t have that customer niceness line as an asset. Or an employee engagement line as an asset.
So usually there’s this desire that they want to do something for customer employee experience because they fundamentally know it is the right thing to do. They’re conflicted with the commercial realities that it’s going to cost money potentially to improve the experience that there is not going to be necessarily an immediate uplift in the financial performance.
That is why I believe that all of our efforts as customer/employee experience professionals need to have a commercial reality to them.
So don’t walk into the board room and ask for $10 million to spend on a day to hug each other, because that is not going to shift the needle. It might feel great for the day, but it is not going to shift the needle.
“The work that you do should be commercially sensible.”
You should be able to make the links between the impacts of your work and the commercial outcomes of the business.
Thankfully, companies like Forrester Research have done regular studies on the return on investment of transforming to become a customer experience focused organization. If I take the big box retailers as an example, a one percent improvement in customer experience will make you about $244 million more in retail in that industry. Now we just recently heard that Sears filed for a chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and they are going to close 130-odd stores.
Imagine if Sears decided to take their unfair share of that 1% increase in customer experience.
So their unfair share potentially of that $244 million—because nowhere does Forrest or any other organization say, “You can only improve by 1%.” No one is stopping you to improve more. So I am sure that Sears would have benefited from, as would others, even a portion of that $244 million in additional revenue.
There are taxi companies today that are thriving in the United States. Now I think of my good friend, Scott McCain. I read the book called 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry, where he talks about a taxi operator in Jacksonville, Florida.
Now Terry, the taxi driver has built a mobility empire. He’s got limousines and traditional taxi services and shuttle services and he’s built that despite entrance of Uber and Lyft.
Yet on the flip-side, we have taxi drivers, yellow cab drivers blaming their downfall on the disruptors, on Uber and Lyft. Well yet again, no one stopped the cab driver giving the best experience they possibly could. That’s why people like Terry in Jacksonville, Florida, are killing it—because they focused on the experience of the people they interact with.
Customer Experience Champions
Charlie Hoehn: Do we know of customer experience champions based on stores we’ve been into or companies we’ve interacted with, are there clear examples of this?
Jason Bradshaw: I would suggest that organizations that have a community of champions probably or at least the champions are probably invisible to you the customer, and that’s okay because the community of champions is all about creating a coalition of the willing within the organization because as I said depending on the organization but the effort required and the focus that’s required over the long term on customer/employee experience.
“It’s not something you change overnight.”
So the community of champions is that coalition of the willing who are going to help the organization. They are the early adopters. They are the ones that intuitively get that this stuff matters and they are going to be in every part of your organization championing that they keep the customer-employee at the heart. They’re a little bit like the internal mirror.
When you’ve got George sitting in accounting and he’s part of the coalition of the willing and someone says:
“We can just put an extra 2% in this product because the number of the customers that we lose won’t matter because the upside is there,” well he holds up the so-called mirror and says, “But is this the right thing to do to our customers and for our business long term?”
Mary is being asked to wrap up that call in 90 seconds. Well then Mary holds up the mirror to that supervisor and says, “But if my customer needs 95 seconds, isn’t that the right thing to do?”
So these are individuals that not necessarily pioneers and going out by themselves but you can call on as the CX/EX leader in your business to share ideas, to gain ideas from, to communicate the programs that are happening and lead from the front within our own teams.
Working with Jason Bradshaw
Charlie Hoehn: You mentioned Target at the beginning, but of the organizations you’ve worked with, any profound results you want to share?
Jason Bradshaw: I’d love to share a story about a time that I worked for one of Australia’s largest telecommunications companies. For privacy reasons I won’t say which. I’ve worked for two, so leave our listeners guessing. But while I worked for that organization, I received a call, an alarming call from a colleague in sales asking me to engage with them and their client, a large government organization, about their experience with the company.
Now this client spent upwards of $50 million a year with us, and from a product perspective, they were delighted. The product performed as we had described, or potentially even a little bit better.
But what they weren’t happy with was the service that they are receiving from our company. Two years into a five year contract, they were willing to pay the exit cost to go elsewhere. Now this client wasn’t my client. It wasn’t serviced by my teams. But as I mentioned you’ve got to start from within.
Are you going to be famous for delivering an outstanding experience? And certainly that is what my team’s reputation was. So I got this call saying, “Can you come and help us with this client?” So you do what you do to help your colleagues out.
I jumped on a plane, we went to a meeting, and I just sat there and listened to the client’s experience. I made no commitments, just listened and I went away. I had the ability to agree with the client that I would come back within a week with what we would do to turn things around.
And we went back to that client a week later and proposed some changes and those changes fundamentally weren’t about wholesale reorganizations of how we’ve served that customer. It was about listening to the customer and fixing their pain points.
By doing that, and of course by consistently delivering on the new promise that we have made to that customer, not only did that $50 million client not leave us, but their business with us grew to over $90 million over the next three years.
All because we decided that they were too important to lose just because of a service experience.
It didn’t cost us any more money to serve them in a way that actually met or exceeded their requirements. We weren’t serving them fundamentally different to how we would serve other clients. We just got consistent at getting it right, making it simple, delivering on their needs—and through that we were not only able to save the business but to grow the account to almost double.
And in every organization I’ve worked at, there’s example of where you can increase your revenue through experience without throwing more money at it. You know, that is also something that people often think about—“Oh I must need an extra 30 or 40 people.” Well maybe you do, but adding my experience, you usually don’t.
Charlie Hoehn: Wow. That’s an incredible story. I mean your subtitle for your book could be “How I earned $40 million by listening.”
Jason Bradshaw: Maybe that’s the second book.
Charlie Hoehn: Well this has been awesome Jason. I’ve got a couple more questions for you. The first one is what is the best way for our listeners to either get in touch with you or follow you online?
Jason Bradshaw: Yeah, sure. So on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, it’s simply @jasonsbradshaw. You’ll be able to find me there or you can reach out to me on email really simply at [email protected].
Charlie Hoehn: Excellent and the final question is give our listeners a challenge. What is the one thing they can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Jason Bradshaw: That’s a great question, because in the closing chapter of the book, I say get stuff done, some wins on the board.
I really believe that you’ve got to be action-oriented to start moving the customer/employee experience. So my challenge to every listener is to grab a piece of paper and grab a blank card and send a customer and an employee a thank you note for either their business or for doing a great job.