People, process, and technology — all three in concert. So often, we focus on one as a leadership team instead of all three. You can have the best people and process with no technology to scale. You can have the best solution and processes with non-passionate people, and you can have the best people, best solutions, and no process to understand its effectiveness. In basic terms, you need all three.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Henriques.
Joe Henriques has been a leader and strategist in the field of marketing technology for 15 years. As President of Jahia for North America, Joe manages all aspects of growth, all customer touchpoints and their success, and product and business strategy. He engages with leading global organizations on digital transformation and its effects, focusing on developing single views of customers and flexibility for the future. Jahia’s partners rely on Joe to help prospective and current clients discover the full potential of Jahia’s products and to better understand their place as an integral part in each client’s marketing vision. Joe spent more than 11 years at Sitecore in various strategic commercial and management positions, most recently as Global Vice President, Incubation Sales and Transformation. Joe is known as a creative leader whose focus on People, Partner, and Product first has led to year over year success in employee attainment, customer goals, and his company’s overall growth.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Happy to. I have been in the technology sector for the past 15 years with a focus on providing technology to support companies around the world with digital customer experience solutions. I found this calling when I worked at a hospital network searching for how to digitize some of their very manual interactions with patients, doctors, and employees and reduce all of the mistakes that can occur with the process of pushing paper.
Within my role and as part of the process, I was introduced to the web content management industry. At that time, the market place was wide open. Every customer was looking to take control of their website experience and even look to how they can distribute information and brand awareness at scale. Like many trying to get started in a new industry and very little experience, I was introduced to the marketing technology space by carry-a-bag. Yes, I have the scars of carrying a quota, hitting the streets, and having a sales manager hitting his fist on the desk and asking me where my deals were at. All joking aside, starting in sales provided me the opportunity to learn first-hand what customers, and specifically individuals at customers’ companies, were struggling with regards to how they can start to embed technology into their daily lives to solve immediate pain, and at the same time, understand how these same technologies can be thought of as strategic solutions to drive change and growth.
Once having enough scars and showing enough success, I turned in my sales bag for the management of a P&L for a segment of the company. Here I learned how it’s about people and not just about product and go-to-market that drive companies. The more motivated and excited we as leaders can make the people who look to us for their path, the higher a company can grow.
After a few years of management, we as a company decided to become a global organization, and I saw an opportunity to move from a U.S. focused leader to a global one. I was at a point in my life where I realized that a well-rounded person needs culture diversity and a clear understanding of what differences exist within individual and strategic thinking in different parts of the world. As a global leader, I moved from driving our strategic partnerships and alliances to building out a new business and product incubation division, to managing the global operations, thus providing all aspects of the ingredients of a successful company.
At that point, I realized something very important in my life. I realize that you need to wake up each day and be excited about getting out of bed and going to work. Where I was at professionally was very comfortable, and I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel challenged. At that time, I decided to take that risk we all face at some point in our professional career and move from a very comfortable place to a new organization that was just as small, agile, and face paced; basically bring me back to my roots. I did this because I realized that I enjoyed building companies, teams, and growth from the early stages and got less excited about maintaining organizations with too many competing interests. This led to me becoming the President of North America at digital experience platform (DXP) company, Jahia.
There is so much to take from these 15 years of experience, but I think the biggest themes come back to people. Whether it’s internal stakeholders, customer stakeholders, partners, or even prospective companies, it all comes down to providing an amazing experience that aligns with making things easier for them to drive growth. At the end of the day, it’s all about growth — individual career growth, individual intellectual growth, team productivity growth, or company revenue growth; it all aligns to this. I’ve been lucky to have a career to date that has aligned to how to a help people grow.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The first mistake I made was not doing those memory exercises early on so I could remember everything. Getting old is tough. In all seriousness, the funniest mistake I made early on was I didn’t understand the company I was joining. It’s actually not a mistake but it’s a lesson learned.
My first company in the tech sector had a solid website and a product that was in the market so I assumed all was well and I would sign up to be a seller. That was my first mistake. As a young person, I never double checked on the company, its size, its customer base, funding; all the signs of a risk versus stable organization. I didn’t realize what I signed up for until I showed up to training on day one in California, arriving at a strip mall with newspaper covering the windows to block out the sun. This company was funded by two guys in their basement covering paychecks through their checkbooks. I had no idea how huge a risk this was and how generally these companies don’t make it. Ignorance is bliss until it smacks you in the face.
If I knew then what I know now, I never would have taken that role. And it would have been a huge mistake. That job catapulted me to whom and where I am today. The lesson is to take risks when you can; don’t over think it. Believe in yourself and sometimes the greatest situation you can put yourself in doesn’t necessary look great on the outside.
I think back to that first view of that strip mall and laugh. Thank heavens I had the guts to walk through the door.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are many people I could talk about here. I agree 100% that you don’t become successful without help. I would be nothing close to where I am today without great mentors who helped me along the way, and more importantly, having great people who I partnered with in various stages of collaboration on ideas, thoughts, and experiences.
When I first started, I thought it was important to be a leader who drove success through conflict and aggressiveness. Bring me success through fear, so to speak. At the time, this was the predominately driven culture in B2B technology companies. But through this, I would watch our president drive leadership and growth from a completely different means. He was way ahead of his time. He used empathy, relationship strength, and motivation of great culture to get 110% of everyone he connected with or was connected with his company. This put me at an introspective moment in my life to think about things very differently. I learned that people are at the center of success and they aren’t just a cog in the growth machine, but they are the growth machine. Instead of putting up a guard and being a cold, aggressively leader, I learned from him, that a big heart and family approach to teaming was the key to success.
A great example of watching this in action was his ability to bring all employees’ families together regularly and not only make sure that he connected in a personal way with each person and their significant other, but also, make sure that he personalized experiences for each person to allow for them to take a breath and enjoy their co-workers’ company. He had no issue standing on stage, leading the karaoke fun in front of hundreds of people, putting himself out there to show people that we were all equal, we were all together, and it can be fun to grow quickly, not stressfully.
He felt employee experiences were more than pay, more than 401k plans, more than a free weekly lunch. He knew that community, fun, and showing people we were in this together was the key. I have taken this as a huge learning and have attempted to leverage this lesson each day.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Yes, I was waiting for these questions to get tougher. It’s really interesting this thinking on customer service and customer experience and its importance. As a leader at a B2B technology company, I have watched the business strategy move from 100% acquisition focus of new business and customers, to the pendulum moving all the way in the other direction to customer retention, and more importantly, advocacy. In this very connected world, one vocal customer advocate is worth more than anything we can do within our sales department. So to start, the number one reason why great customer service and experience are essential is advocacy. It should be every company’s strategic goal to create an army of fans. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or how you sell or distribute your goods, it’s all about creating a large base of people and companies that sing your praises. If you can’t check this box then you are not going to grow, period.
The second reason why this is so important is company growth versus cost. It is much cheaper to grow accounts or individual buys from those who trust you than to acquire new customers. Trust is one of the most important commodities in business. Trust gives you an opportunity for people to buy more, faster, and with fewer complexities. Because you have provided a great experience and your service is provided above satisfactory levels, people will continue to buy and buy more from you. In our business, our largest deals are the second or third transaction we have with a client. It’s rarely the first. This is because we have to earn their trust through the customer experience.
The last reason is company stability. A great customer experience keeps customers using your product or services. This stability is crucial to having a successful business. Even if they never tell anyone how great you are, the ability for them to stay with you happily provides a very predictable, scalable business. Once you achieve this, companies can take some risks with experiments, new go-to-markets, acquire new market share via M&A, etc. If a company is churning customers at high volume, even if they are signing up new ones at a higher rate, they have no stability and nothing to scale from.
So the big three are advocacy, growth, and stability.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I think a few things get in the way here. One, organizations are relying on older technology or processes for a customer base that changes priorities, needs, and wants almost on a daily basis. To be honest, I know people at these companies realize that they need connected systems and solutions to drive a continuous experience. Change is hard. Companies are reliant on people, and people have responsibilities that exist in their day-to-day work life that keep the fly wheel spinning, and now to ask them to keep doing that and then completely digitally transform how they do things becomes problematic. One thing I preach to everyone who is not tired of listening to me is time is the most valuable asset we all have. There is only so much of it. I think companies battle with the tug of war of keeping the lights on and remodeling their homes, so to speak. Leaders need to take this into account and plan accordingly.
Two, companies get comfortable. They think they don’t have to have a great customer experience; they think they only need a better one than their competitor. I recall many years ago being engaged with a travel company where we were discussing customer experience and this vision of providing a delightful experience that far exceeds expectations. The leader quickly shut us down and stated that he didn’t need to provide a great experience; he just needed to make sure his experience was a bit better than a competitor. Or, that his experience was rated a bit better than the cost he was charging. That might have made logical sense 10 years ago, but disruption is everywhere. This thinking will put you out of business a decade from now because there will always be a company you never saw coming drive a solution to a problem you decided to not address because you thought you didn’t have to. People will gravitate to convenience and being surprised by a great experience. If you are focused on providing a slightly better one than your current competitor, you are in trouble. Ask Blockbuster.
Three, it’s generally difficult for forward thinking, strategic minded people to get projects off the ground. It’s much easier to get approval to change your email server technology because a person or group makes a presentation on how much money this will save. The CFO gives a thumbs up because of cost savings, the easiest path for change. It’s a lot harder to get a company to invest in a plan that changes how you operate and how technology and people intersect to provide a better customer experience. This is because it generally costs more. For some companies, that additional cost is hard to stomach when they have difficulties determining the increased value, sales, retention, etc. that comes along with it. I have been in board meetings where proposals like this come up and the same question emerges, “Those ROI calculations you are showing, they are just assumptions, right?” We all know that it has to get done but it’s hard to sell within organizations. I think the issue stems from not making the right case. Instead of just looking at growth, people have to make the case of what the world looks like five years from now if they don’t do this. What will the competition look like?
Long story short, because it’s hard (but required).
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Absolutely, 100%! That is the trump card to getting things done. If you can point to a competitor doing it better, getting better reviews, using technologies to solve customer experience, touting customer success stories in their campaigns, it will quickly get the executive teams’ attention. The issue is that you will always be a follower and not a leader in your space. For some, that’s ok. It’s fine being a laggard, but for others, it is a big miss for very high growth potential.
If you feel that you have the best product or capability in the market and you are not trying to lead in customer service and/or experience, you are missing a huge growth opportunity. I have seen too many companies with an amazing product but with a singular focus on sales and not customer experience grow at a clip that makes everyone happy. But when you look back, you see that the 50% growth YoY should have been 150%. They should have owned the market instead of just being a big player in it. Honestly, those companies become so unstable a decade later, because they have a customer base that isn’t really happy.
Another external pressure would be the loss of customers, especially large ones at a high rate. This is the doomsday scenario. Customers leaving for your competitors definitely wakes up executive teams and board directors and kick-starts investments into customer experience and high touch customer service. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s too late.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Most recently, we were engaged with one of our longtime customers, over seven years with us, who hired a new leader to drive the strategic direction of digital. Because we had a very strong relationship with several people at this customer and believed that we have provided an experience of support and guidance, it wasn’t a situation where alarm bells went off like so many other vendors. Alarm bells go off with new leaders because new leaders mean change in strategy, direction, and technology.
Because we had a strong relationship, we came into our first meeting as consultants, not as a vendor. Within 15 minutes, we were having discussions about how we can handle other projects and programs at the company instead of defending our placement there. More importantly, we moved to a relationship of not just Customer Success to Company, but to Executive to Executive match making between those who handle the same function for their individual companies. In the past few weeks alone, our head of digital and this new leader have been trading insights, helpful tips, and strategies on things that don’t really have anything to do with us and our offerings. That’s a valued customer experience.
This level of service, partnership, and relationship is where the new Wow! is going. It’s not about buying expensive dinners with great wine, though I miss those days of seeing people, it’s about being a trusted ally and partner to help hand hold companies through these complex decisions or paths that they are taking. The customer experience is about being there and providing value, not just reactive support.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
The simplest thing to point at is the value we have provided and the trust we created with Wow! experience that has driven that customer to increase their commitment with us three fold in 12 months. This is easiest to point at, but to me, this isn’t the most impressive. We have also received an advocate who is willing to speak with others in their market about how we have helped them. The ripple effect is not a vendor like us telling a story but the characters in the stories telling it themselves. Who would you be more inclined to look to for a service or product — a sales person at that company who tells you it’s great or your friend? Or better yet, your competitor says it’s great. The true ripple effects of customer experience are again building out waves of advocates.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
Here are my top five in no particular order:
- Know your customer — It’s important to take time to understand your customer’s market, approach, and business strategy if you are to provide a great customer experience. When we engage with a healthcare client of ours, it’s important for us to understand where they are at with their digital maturity, what they are looking to accomplish in the short term and long term, and most importantly, speak to them via our industry experience in that segment. For example, we are speaking with a healthcare organization about how they can take more ownership of their website and use it to better market to their community. Taking that as an entry point, we engaged with use case discussions and quickly leveraged our experiences in the market to uncover opportunities for better patient engagement for their coordination of care and transition of care. That was, quite frankly, more strategic and more important than their website. To have those conversations and discussions, we needed to know them first.
- Know individual pain and needs — a personalized approach to help. Not just knowing pains and needs at the company level, but on the individual level, is probably the most important. People make decisions; people are advocates, not companies. There needs to be a mandate to understand each one of your customers’ sphere of influence as it relates to the impact of your product and service. Too often we rely on a cookie-cutter approach to experiences based on the industry instead of the individual tasked with using or interacting with us. Even more important is not limiting yourself to one person. Draw a circle and jot down the people you know and the departments affected by your technology and see if they match. A good example of this is, at a past company, we thought we had the strongest relationship with a customer. We had an advocate who actually went on stage with our CEO at a national conference and spoke so highly of us. We thought everything was great. A few months later, we had an independent organization run a voice of the customer program that went out to the entire customer sphere to get us the 360 degree health view of a few customers, including this one. The results were shocking. We received the poorest reviews from this customer. The users didn’t like our product, the executives didn’t understand the value, the developers were not satisfied with the support operation. They were classified as a risk customer to leave us. We had no idea. Know your individuals.
- Meet your customer where they want to be met. Once this is known, then you have the basis to engage with individuals on their terms with the knowledge you have. The world has changed, and with that, your sphere has changed in the way they want to interact with you. Digital technology is probably the best solution for a leader to invest in to achieve this. Shameless plug — this is what Jahia’s technology does. We provide a basis for personalized, individual experience management through data integration.
-We have a customer today that realized that instead of changing their website or putting a ton of money into marketing campaigns, they made the decision to rethink their customer portal, developer portal, partner portal, learning management solutions, and mobile app tools. They saw that their biggest bang for their investment was their customer experience. They had the foresight to not just look at marketing as a demand generation group but also a customer experience group and challenged them to change how customers interact with their brand and provide not only a self-service experience for convenience but a high touch model based on the data that has been exchanged to provide value and insights to each individual. They knew if they didn’t make this investment first, what was the point of adding new customers to a poor experience.
- People, process, and technology — all three in concert. So often, we focus on one as a leadership team instead of all three. You can have the best people and process with no technology to scale. You can have the best solution and processes with non-passionate people, and you can have the best people, best solutions, and no process to understand its effectiveness. In basic terms, you need all three.
-At Jahia, we have had great technology and people for years but it wasn’t until we added the right people, added the correct processes, and even supplemented some of our stack within our internal technologies that we really hit the ground running. Looking back at Jahia and our ability to grow and succeed and cringe at the delay, we looked at focusing on a plan that delivered all three of these things in unison. I am happy to report that we have achieved this foundation, and we are really rolling now.
- Buy in from bottom up and top down or it doesn’t work. The customer experience mandate needs to be passionately driven from the leaders of the company, while at the same time, the culture needs to feed it from the bottom up. Every employee at your company needs to always question, “How will this affect our customers?” This needs to be the question on every virtual whiteboard, in every footer on your PowerPoint decks, and in every email. From a top down standpoint, leaders need to walk the walk from a customer experience standpoint as well. They need to lead by example by making sure that time in every week is carved out to meet with customers, and not just the executives, but all stakeholders at your customers to get real feedback. Taking that feedback and making sure that the customer voice is heard through actions is critical.
This is how Jahia works. This is what we do as a company. I am so proud of that fact. We work at it every day.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
This is the brass ring as we talked about. Wow customer experiences drive advocacy to a larger group. This is the new currency in the customer experience driven world. So, how do you cash in that currency?
First, advocacy needs to be set up in a win-win scenario. Not saying that you pay people for being an advocate, but they need to understand that you value their support and promotion. Customers that aren’t putting together advocacy programs are doing a disservice to themselves. Further on the win-win scenario, you need to design programs and opportunities for advocates to further drive their own individual brand as they tell your story. You must ask yourself, “Am I providing an opportunity for their advocates to better themselves when they are absolutely helping me?” By leveraging the success you have had together, they are given the opportunity to grow their network or even become a thought leader in the space.
Second, you need to deliver on customer experience at every single touch point, including the client acquisition. Companies need to understand that when people recommend your company or service they are putting their reputation on the line. If you don’t make good on the recommendations then it reflects poorly on their brand and they will cease to be a helping hand to you. You probably won’t notice either so it will be hard to find out you have an issue until it’s too late. This goes back to living the customer experience mandate via every single employee at your company and every single digital touch point in which your prospects, partners, customers, and employees interact.
Last, and probably the most important, make it easy. Give your customers an easy way to speak to others. Provide them with speaking opportunities, draft content for them, build networks they can take part in, and bring them into communities in which they normally wouldn’t be. Make it simple for them, as well as transparent.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We live in such unusual times right now where there is so much we can do, so much we can influence, and so much in which we can help each other, I don’t even know where to start. That’s the issue where I would like to contribute. How do we make the little things we could do help people and society if done at scale? On an individual level, things seem very hard to change, but as a community, together we can accomplish. I think people get paralyzed about the big things that they don’t do, forgetting that the little acts of kindness when put together with hundreds of thousands of others really help this world. Let’s create movements that focus on the little things, together to make a big difference.
Outside of Jahia and our customer experience vision, I am passionate about educating our children. To me, if every single child received an amazing education, we would be in such a better place. But that feels huge, very complicated, and paralyzing. What little thing can we do such as everyone donating a few dollars in their community to provide not just computers but interactive learning software for every child to blow past expectations? Can leaders provide free web-based masterclass recordings to educate? Can we build a program to do this at a grassroots level so that it’s so easy for people to contribute that it becomes a no brainer. It’s like what we discussed with customers being advocates. We need to make it super easy if we want real adoption and participation.
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that I am not the future of this world. My children and everyone’s children are, and if we can make those investments as a society to invest our time there, we just might get the same ROI as we would in investing in our customer experience.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!