Customer experience is more than just an exchange of goods or services. John Hightower, Co-founder and CEO of Arch + Tower, an FD company, discusses how multi-faceted the customer experience can be and how a better experience can lead to increased profits.
Arch + Tower is a consulting team specializing in customer experience, employee experience and operational excellence. Learn more: www.archandtower.com
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Untangling the Technical: Cx (Customer Experience) with Arch + Tower
This transcript was assembled by hand and may contain some errors.
It has been edited for readability.
Adelle Starr Welcome to Untangling the Technical: Frazier & Deeter’s podcast, in which we take a look at complex business issues and break them down for business executives, navigating today’s complicated and ever-changing business environment.
This is Adelle Starr, and today, I’m delighted to welcome John Hightower to the podcast. Welcome, John.
John Hightower Glad to be here. Thank you for having me, Adelle.
Adelle Thank you. John is the president of Arch + Tower, which is the newest addition to the Frazier & Deeter family of brands. We are excited to welcome him today for the first of a two-part series talking about Arch + Tower and its model, which they refer to as the Cx-Ex-Ox model.
Today, we’re going to talk about what that whole model means and how it interacts but we’re going to try to focus on the Cx part of the model, which is customer experience. So, John, let’s dive right in. Could you talk to us about what Cx-Ex-Ox means?
John Great question, Adelle. I believe where we need to start is let’s talk about the experiences we’ve all gone through. We all know this great customer experience is it could be at the Ritz-Carlton, it could be a Chick fil A, it could be at these really cool upstart companies in the tech space that really are service minded in the way that you even interact with the technology, we all know those great customer experiences. When you look at the numbers, it’s really interesting the customer experience issues that are happening is a $75 billion issue and those are numbers produced by PwC.
It’s really interesting when you dig in to most organizations, are they thinking about how they create their product or their service driven up from maybe a commodity or a good into an experience? This experience economy is something that’s hot right now. When you really focus on the customer, when you focus on your experience model for your employees and really think about operational excellence, you can see anywhere from up to a 16% bump in your profit margins and increase product and brand loyalty.
Adelle Wow, 16%. That’s pretty significant, I can’t think of anybody that would say no to that. When you think about your Cx-Ex-Ox model, could you talk a little bit about the importance of the Cx portion of that model?
John Absolutely. Just to give a general understanding of the model, we built it on some time tested, proven methodologies that our team has worked with and experienced either through our careers or some of the clients that we’ve worked with. It’s been really cool to develop this model, and the Cx is really focused on the customer experience. Traditionally, that falls on the chief marketing officer if you’re a larger business or if you’re a small business, or that mid-market could be the CEO and maybe the VP of marketing.
So, really thinking about that Cx piece, we take the perspective that it’s multifaceted. It’s not just digital, it’s not just the physical experience, how people engage your product, how people even experience your vendors or the people that help you deliver and help you serve your clients. It’s that holistic approach from start to finish. What’s it like on the website? What’s your brand promise? All the way through that experience. From the digital perspective, through that physical interaction, how are they receiving that good or service to the backend? How are the vendors performing or how is your billing team, how is your accounting team engaging with your customers? It’s a really trusting conversation to have because all those touch points add up to a great customer experience if done properly and if done with that, how do we continue to improve every day?
One of the cool quotes I heard Horst Schulze say, he said “At the Ritz, we worked on making improvements one percent across the board and if you do that, you’re going to win the game”. So, observing and learning from him has been really cool, but applying that with clients has been a joy and a pleasure.
Adelle That’s excellent, I liked what you said about how you have this total spectrum of interaction with your customers. You may think of one narrow part of it, but there are so many aspects of how you interact, especially in today’s world, which makes it a great topic for this podcast.
Can you make that a little more real by giving us some examples of what types of projects you’ve done with companies? How have you really helped them address a specific aspect of customer experience?
John Yes, I’d love to share some stories. I’m actually going to start with one that I’ve experienced. My wife and I have two beautiful daughters, and we have an art room for them in our house and we want to buy a whiteboard for them. So, we bought one from a known office supply company online and it was delivered to our home by some gentleman in a truck. When they came in our living room, which we have hardwoods, the whiteboard slipped out of their hands and scraped our hardwood floors all the way down. Now, we then got into a battle, not a physical battle, but in a conversation with the help desk at these organizations. They said, “That’s actually a third-party person.” and I experienced that frustration, that organization probably would not be getting my business again.
At the rate that we buy things, those are things that what’s the lifetime value of clients like myself? Those are things that, are organizations thinking about them? So, very passionate about that customer experience and the employee experience, because at the end of the day, how can we improve that customer experience for people when they’re engaging with their brand? It’s just the passion that I’ve seen really good things happen at some of the leading industries out there.
Then, how do we all come alongside organizations and guide them to those experiences? We do a lot of work with Chick-fil-A, we’ve done multiple projects inside of that organization. It’s been cool to see how they consistently and continually look to improve their product, their services, and helping bring various components of what we’ve learned from other clients. Just our experience has been a huge honor.
Adelle That’s great. What do you think is coming up next? We have a true expert here on customer experience, what do you think is the next thing in Cx?
John Well, there’s tons of conversations around technology and there’s really cool things going on with bots and machine learning and AI. I do believe there’s a really cool place for that. I’m brand loyal to an air carrier, and when I call to the Help Desk on the app, it informs me on wait times and it says, “Hey, can I give you a call back?” and that way I’m not stuck on the whole line for hours on end. They give me a call back and it makes it extremely convenient for me to go along with my day. When they answer that call back, they know my name. They’ve gotten that information from the app. It’s a really cool experience, so I love technology. Really cool things are happening in the space.
We’re actually partnering with a company called Qualtrics around data and the really interesting concepts that can happen when you look at data holistically through the customer experience. How are they engaging digitally? How are they engaging with your employees? How are your employees engaging with them and pulling data back to understand that piece? We’re partnered with them to do some really interesting concepts. That being said, technology has its place.
But, in my personal view and what we’ve seen, is sometimes technology becomes the crutch that people lean on and the pendulum swings back to, does technology need to enable your employees to have better customer conversations? Does technology need to help you improve how you’re serving your customers? How you’re improving your product? How you’re improving your service model? That’s what I think, is that next generation of customer experience is coming back to some of the tried and true principles, but just leveraging some of the cool technology plays that are out there.
Adelle That’s a great point, I think there’s some people that think there is a technology magic wand that will somehow take place of the human element, and the reality is the human element is always going to be a huge aspect of performance. How do you wrap customer experience and operational excellence? It seems like those two things are are pretty codependent, how does that work?
John Operational excellence is a term that we built out from the continuous improvement culture that we’ve seen in organizations. We want a way to kind of brand ourselves, and with this operational excellence and continuous improvement, what does that mean for the customer experience? When you’re continuously improving, you’re consistently listening, you’re consistently engaging and you’re consistently figuring out what your client’s needs are. We encourage organizations to get close to the customer. Let’s understand what do they really want and what are those unsaid felt needs? What are those communicated felt needs that they’re wanting to see from your organization? What is that empathetic listening that your organization’s undertaking?
We do a lot of work with the design thinking methodology that came out of the Stanford Design School, and that first part of that entire process is empathy. How do you bring empathy into the organization internally? Then, how do you enable the people internally, your employees, to go out and have those conversations externally with your clients? They’re going to give you great information.
Now, you’ve got to sift through that and maybe compare it against some research that your organization is doing. We’re a big fan of research and your decision-making process. When you pull those two together, you really start to understand, how can we best serve our clients and then bring that in your product or service, whatever it may be. So, that’s how you bring operational excellence into the customer experience equation.
Adelle That’s excellent. I really liked what you said about empathetic listening, I think that’s just a huge concept for companies to embrace. What kind of companies does Arch + Tower typically work with?
John We’ve had a huge honor to work with organizations that are large; over that $10 billion threshold. We’ve done great work in the midmarket, which I thoroughly enjoy working with the midmarket clients because the C Suite traditionally has a incredible desire to improve, increase profitability, decrease risk. How do we come alongside and help them apply principles across the spectrum? Startups are fascinating to work with, you get to do some really cool, fun things and ourselves being an upstart three years of age and experiencing what it means to grit and grind, we love working with those thirsty entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to do things.
So, we’ve worked across a spectrum of organizations, a couple of case studies we worked with a company out of South Florida that is scaling in the healthcare space. It’s about a billion-dollar organization and they’re taking their care model to an underserved market and they’re treating the people that are underserved with white glove service. It’s breaking models and it’s changing healthcare for this group, it’s really cool they asked us to come alongside and create a way to scale their culture for their employees. When their employees are talking to the patients, the patient experience increases, and that’s a really tough challenge.
Working with folks in the healthcare space, there’s a lot of technical jargon. How do we create consistency so those patients feel better? That was a really fun client to work with and I’m excited to continue to watch that organization grow. To working with a startup that has a few locations, they’re in the franchising space where they want to scale up and create more value for the holdings that they have, so how are we packaging up their systems and their organizational DNA? Maybe they have an exit and maybe they have an opportunity for private equity coming in. These are really cool projects you can do with startups, it’s been an honor to have worked with such great companies.
Adelle Well, I want to thank you for joining us today. If there are listeners who want to learn more about Arch + Tower, how can they learn more?
John They can go to our website, archandtower.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn underneath the same name and I believe what we can do is we’re going to put a link in the episode description that will give you an asset where we work with organizations on their Cx, Ex and Ox and you’ll see questions in each one of those spectrums that maybe you can take to your organization and engage conversations at different levels in the organization. We’re excited to be able to give that away and hopefully that creates value for our listeners.
Adelle It’s been great having you on the podcast today, I’m looking forward to next time we dive into the second element of employee experience. Thank you, again, for leading us through a very complex topic. To our listeners, thank you for joining the podcast today.