Interview with Laurie Englert – Customer Experience is a Team Sport

Laurie Englert HeadshotA new digital experience can make or break success for a manufacturer.  But what do you do when you discover that many of your customers’ pain points are analog?

That’s the situation that Laurie Englert was in. And the way she answered it was by creating an environment where customer experience is everybody’s job.

Laurie is the VP of Marketing at Milestone AV, a leading manufacturer of audiovisual mounting and display solutions. She is part of the commercial team whose primary customers are the independent dealers and distributors who sell and/or install their products into schools, corporations, hotels, stadiums and basically any other commercial application.

Building a cross-functional customer experience team

Milestone’s customer experience journey began as a web project. Two years ago they began building their digital experience, and Laurie co-created a customer experience team with her VP of IT.

“Marketing is all about possibilities and divergent thinking, so partnering with IT took my brain places I didn’t usually go! Keith Hogie, our VP of IT, understands all the facets of the organization, from supply chain to finance, so he can really dive into those nitty-gritty details that move a project along very quickly. So together we have the right and the left brain working magically together.

“We kicked this project off to give our customers a better digital experience. But we quickly learned that a better digital experience required us to think about the whole experience, and that meant we also had to fix a lot of internal processes. Through journey mapping, we discovered what we lovingly call ‘Ripples & Cliffs”. Cliffs happen when we lose sight of the customer’s needs. Ripples are the churn that the cliffs create throughout the organization as a result.

“Luckily, we found that we could make things better through our broad customer experience team.  It’s not one department that leads customer experience – we all own it. We’re trying to make sure that our dealer and distributor customers have the best experience possible, whether they come in through a phone call to customer care, an online chat, a web experience or directly through the sales team. The customers should always be greeted knowing we have all his information and are ready to help.

The customer experience team has representatives throughout the company, from sales to finance. As Laurie explains, “You need champions, and we’ve identified 17 passionate people who then represent customer experience in their departments.

“Although we have 17 leaders, it’s really 17+, because the team cascades needs to others in their departments. We have built an amazing foundation of trust across this team and we are fixing things very quickly that used to seem impossible!

“For example, when reviewing the expedite process (how we get product out quickly when it shows up in the system as taking longer than a standard 1-2 lead time), we had somebody in procurement who was passionate about fixing it. At the end of a discovery meeting all he said was, ‘I got this.’ So even though he wasn’t on the core CX team, he took the lead and was able to cut the number of expedited orders from 90 a day to 50, almost a 50% improvement. Now our planners can spend more time on the orders that really need research and helps our care team, and the customer can feel confident orders aren’t getting held up.”

Personas guide the experience

“Through journey mapping, we developed personas to understand how our dealers are different, and to show their unique pain points. We can’t create the industry’s best experience by treating everybody the same. We now have framed the goals, needs, tasks and pain points of our dealers’ engineers, managers, sales people, purchasing folks and installers.

“Now, our personas are becoming part of our everyday business. We’re even recreating our customer database based on these customer personas. Then we’ll not only use that to market to them, but also to open up conversations. And to keep it top of mind internally, we’ve built an area for others around the company to absorb the information and to keep reminding us that we need to update it annually.

“This cross-functional team is helping us to roll out the personas. By involving a wide variety people in their development, they can be used throughout the company – everybody has a stake.”

Advice

What advice does Laurie offer? “First and foremost, realize it takes time to get the team to connect and trust. Don’t expect results overnight. Let the relationships grow naturally. And make sure to have cross-functional teams with every department represented.  You don’t need to have all department heads, but involve really passionate people from each area. Many people thought 17 was too many on a team, but I really needed subject matter experts from every area so for this team it was perfect.

“Then hand off control. If you try to fix everything yourself, you’ll never make progress. You have to be able to give people autonomy and purpose. Let them own it and report back to the team, rather than trying to lead everything. Let go, and let it run. And it becomes a beautiful thing.”

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