2. Delivering a Good Customer Experience | Lawrence Levinson

Slide Ep. 2: Interview with Lawrence Levinson

Delivering a Good Customer Experience

EP2-Lawrence Levinson

On the second episode of “B2B Marketers on a Mission”, we had a chat with Customer Experience (CX) expert Lawrence Levinson, who is the VP of Product at Pulse Profile Analytics and the new Toronto Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). In this interview, Lawrence talks to us about the importance of CX, and when implemented the right way, how it can be instrumental to improving the overall performance of organizations.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Why CX is such an important part of an organization regardless of the size or the industry? [08:56]
  • How B2B marketers and digital entrepreneurs can use/apply CX principles to improve the overall performance of their businesses [12:34]
  • How to facilitate difficult conversations during internal CX audit and deal with internal politics around it [16:46 /18:23]

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Lawrence Levinson

Christian Klepp  00:08

Hi, and welcome to the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp, and one of the founders of EINBLICK Consulting. Our goal is to share inspirational stories, tips and insights from B2B marketers, digital entrepreneurs, and industry experts that will help you to think differently, succeed and scale your business.

Christian Klepp  00:30

Hi, everybody, and welcome to episode 2 of the B2B Marketers on the Mission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp. And today I’m delighted to have Lawrence Levinson join me. Lawrence, first of all, congratulations on becoming the new Toronto Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. And welcome to the show.

Lawrence Levinson  00:47

Thank you so much, Christian. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Christian Klepp  00:51

All right, well, let’s get things started. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Lawrence Levinson  00:57

All right. Well, I’ve spent the last 20 years in large multinational billion dollar companies leading growth initiatives in sales, business development, customer experience, marketing and loyalty. In banking, consumer packaged goods and tick are testing inspection and certification. Weeks ago, I took the plunge into entrepreneurship. I’m working now mostly with clients in the SaaS space. And I’m super excited about a product we just launched from Pulse.app, which provides a beautifully visualized data and drives decision making for customer and personal development. Really, to a level that’s unparalleled in the industry. It’s what I’ve been searching for too many years. We’ve talked about it before. Throughout my career, I’ve seen and admittedly been a part of strategic direction setting based on gut feel assumptions and subjective influences that more often than not fell flat. And now, I’m strong proponent of really leveraging data sets to steer the course, both internally and externally, for customers and employees alike.

Christian Klepp  02:10

Wow, that is quite the list. And I’m also glad to hear that you’ve taken the leap of faith into an entrepreneurship.

Lawrence Levinson  02:17

Thank you.

Christian Klepp  02:18

All right. Well, Lawrence, let’s take a short stroll down memory lane here if you’ll permit me and simply by asking, what would you consider your most memorable work experience that you would say has had a significant impact on your career?

Lawrence Levinson  02:36

Good question. Going way back, my very first career boss when I was at Mars Inc, was a woman by the name of Hilary Watson. After a month of drinking from a firehose in that new industry for me, setting up policies and processes for a new customer service department in a contact center environment. Hillary called me to see how things were going. I was stressed and overwhelmed with so many moving parts and not enough time to piece them all together before we launched. We barely knew each other at the time. And what she said to me next stuck with me forever was “Lawrence, just checking in to see how you’re doing. As your direct manager, I see myself as and feel my job is really to make sure that you have everything you need, the right tools, the right environment, to succeed and remove any obstacles that are preventing you from accomplishing your goals. You have everything you need, is there anything that I can help you with?” Now, this may not sound so radical to everyone in 2020 with countless books and podcasts and workshops, seminars and servant leadership all around us and flooding our feeds. But in 2003, I had never imagined a relationship like this with a boss. Certainly had never had the privilege of working in one. And forever looked at inspiring teams in a new light as a result of that conversation.

Christian Klepp  04:11

That certainly is an inspiring story. And to your point, it’s it’s extremely important to have somebody that helps, that helps you, support you and mentors you through your, through your career, especially at that stage. To your point, that’s a given in 2020. But back then, I wouldn’t say it was unheard of, but it was a it was very rare.

Lawrence Levinson  04:41

Exactly, and certainly, certainly something I’d never seen or heard before at the time.

Christian Klepp  04:48

So which leads me to my next question, and it’s basically about why or how important do you think it is to have mentors around you as you’re starting out. You’re in your career or in fact, continuously developing and building up your career.

Lawrence Levinson  05:06

Having mentors in your life is not just a nice to have but an absolute necessity for anyone looking to grow and develop their careers and in life, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And it really takes a true mentor to help bring awareness to the areas that we need to work on. I’m a big sports fan, and R.A. Dickey, an amazing knuckleballer, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets really nails this point in his book throwing strikes, if you haven’t read it, pick it up. It’s a phenomenal read. He says something in there along the lines of so many of us practice what we are good at because it makes us feel good. But champions have self-awareness. They identify what they need to improve upon and diligently pursued turning weaknesses into strengths. So to that point, if you don’t have a mentor, seek one out, you’ll be amazed at how giving people are with their time, when they know you’re serious about the process, and that’s the key, you need to respect it and honor it, and work with mentors that will challenge you to look at the darker sides of yourself in your own behavior and your own habits and develop those into strengths.

Christian Klepp  06:22

Excellent. And I think to what you said earlier about, like, turning weaknesses into strengths, that’s just such a crucial component in that overall picture, like as you as you progress in your career.

Lawrence Levinson  06:38

This is not easy work.

Christian Klepp  06:39

Not at all. It’s quite a steep climb up the mountain, if I may use that expression.

Lawrence Levinson  06:47

Absolutely.

Christian Klepp  06:48

So Lawrence, you’re a certified customer experience professional, and you’ve been that for many years and you’re also an active member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association or CXPA here in Toronto. Now, for the benefit of our listeners who are not familiar with this terminology. Why don’t you just walk us through what CX is and how that differs from other disciplines such as marketing, for example

Lawrence Levinson  07:14

Have a great question. CXPA is a value driven, nonprofit organization, in my own view drives connectedness through diversity and thought, authenticity and championing best practices for the sake of the entire industry. And to your point and question, the industry doesn’t simply refer to pure customer experience or a pure data science, your marketing sales or strategy. What I love so much about CXPA is the membership comes from all walks of life, sectors, industries, countries cultures. It really lives those values by bringing so many perspectives together with a common vision of making each other better. At the most fundamental level, that’s what we’re doing. We’re helping each other be better for ourselves, for our customers, for our employees, and for the communities we all sit in and serve. And I can’t think of a better vision than that.

Christian Klepp  08:17

Excellent. To your point about like, members coming from all walks of life, would it be fair to say that CX is a quite a versatile discipline, because it needs to be applicable across different industry segments across different functions and so forth.

Lawrence Levinson  08:36

100%, and we will get deeper into that.

Christian Klepp  08:40

Yeah, we will for sure. So, let’s expand on CX here a little bit Lawrence. In your professional opinion, why do you think CX is such an important part of an organization regardless of the size or the industry?

Lawrence Levinson  08:56

Because CX focuses decision makers on what truly matters to their customers and their employees, it takes a human centered approach to problem solving. And in doing so, it fosters a culture of truly innovative continuous improvement. Right? That’s the engine that keeps CX going. What worked yesterday, as COVID has clearly shown us all, won’t get us through, or even allow us to continue thriving tomorrow. The bar needs to continually be raised in the quality of the products and services that we offer. And well established CX programs provide that proper data input to show what that bar looks like.

Christian Klepp  09:42

Right, exactly. I’m glad you brought up the topic of COVID. But we’re gonna go back to that in a second, but maybe we can talk a little bit more about like some examples, for instance, how you’ve successfully implemented or using CX in your own line of work?

Lawrence Levinson  10:02

I’ll put it this way, CX has been the catalyst, pretty much to my work and inspiration throughout my entire career. The Walt Disney had it, do what you do so well that they want to come back again and again and bring all their friends, is the philosophy that I’ve always approached all my initiatives with, whether it was sales, business development, marketing, any of the programs I’ve worked on. That said, I think what you want to get to here is a little more of a formalized context. So I’ve been amazed at how powerful in person workshops have been at literally transforming culture and it takes time and it’s slow and you need to be patient. But the ability to do that is phenomenal. And whether in customer journey mapping sessions, or simply turning on the CX lines across an organization. It’s a very powerful process. I’ve also been totally amazed at how effective “close the loop” programs can be, listening posts, and mystery shopping audit. When combined with the right data sets, all of these tools and programs provide your organization with the information you need to make the changes that will matter most to your customers, to your employees and ultimately to your stakeholders.

Christian Klepp  11:23

Absolutely, Lawrence, and unfortunately, in-person strategy sessions under the current circumstances are not really possible. But we’ve adopted and we’re switching to having them virtually. Zooms, I think, one of the platforms that top platforms that comes to mind and we just have to find ways to do brainstorming sessions in a digital way.

Lawrence Levinson  11:49

Put this way, what I thought not to be possible or couldn’t see, the light at the end of the tunnel on 3-4 months ago on how he would facilitate things like journey mapping, virtually. Fast forward to today, we’ve now done successfully we’ve grown engagement, we have great next steps and actions that have collided them. So absolutely, it’s possible.

Christian Klepp  12:15

So given what you just said about CX? How do you think that like B2B marketers and digital entrepreneurs can use or apply these CX principles to improve the overall performance of their businesses?

Lawrence Levinson  12:34

100%! whether we want to admit it or not, human behavior still drives business and by consequence, performance. So CX principles apply equally well in the B2B context as they wouldn’t be in B2C. That said, B2B models, especially in service industries, in my opinion, can be more complex in nature, as in B2B environments, decision makers have both their organizational objectives in mind, as well as their own agendas, their own goals, their own desires. In these environments as well, metrics like customer lifetime value and churn rates, and all of these things that are fundamental pieces of these programs become harder to isolate. In service environments, where recurring subscription models or contract exclusivity models often don’t apply. But at the end of the day, consciously or, probably more often, unconsciously, emotions still drive everything we all do. And whether it’s rational, or again, often irrational, these factors apply equally well in a B2B environment. Right? The principle of authenticity that I talked about before the CXPA value applies really strongly here because most businesses will stick with a supplier through thick and thin as long as they truly feel. And that’s what I mean, when I say feel, this is where the emotions come in, that you are invested in their success and will be there whenever they need it.

Christian Klepp  14:10

That’s absolutely right. To a point that was raised in the virtual event I attended yesterday, a lot of companies now whether they find themselves in the B2B or B2C space are going through different stages as the rest of the world and basically the stages are “react, pivot, survive and thrive”. So it’s almost like you’re treating it similar to an organism where it’s going through us where the organization or the business is going through a certain life cycle. I think it’s the responsibility of not just CX practitioners, but people who are business owners who have pivotal roles or fundamental, important roles in the organization to ensure that the businesses go through each stage. Maybe not seamlessly, but that they’re doing their best to continuously improve through these unprecedented times.

Lawrence Levinson  15:08

Yes. And to the earlier point systematically and again with more patience than you realize you would ever need.

Christian Klepp  15:16

Yes, indeed

Christian Klepp  15:18

Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.

Christian Klepp  15:48

Which leads me to my next question because a crucial part of implementing a successful CX strategy includes initiating audits or getting organizations to audit themselves. And what I mean by that is basically, they conduct an analysis of what they’re currently doing that’s working and successful. And reviewing areas that require improvement. But then they also continuously find ways to become better. Now more than ever, I think that these steps seem to be highly relevant, and also very necessary. But we all know that that’s easier said than done. And it clearly calls for organizations to have difficult conversations. So just from your own experience have you dealt with that in the past? And how have you helped to facilitate these conversations, because they’re definitely not easy.

Lawrence Levinson  16:46

Yeah, so I think I touched on it a little bit earlier when I mentioned mystery shopping audits, as in my opinion, one of the most powerful tools that people often forget about in their CX toolkit because it allows you and your teams and your organization to truly see. And again, I’ll say ‘feel’, this emotional component is so important. What a customer does when they walk into your business when they engage with you on the phone or via your live chat, or open a package that was mailed to them, right? You can look at closed loop VOC programs and data from listening posts. And yes, that absolutely will give you inputs to validate against but where the rubber really hits the road is once you’ve seen it with your own eyes and you’ve felt it with your own emotions when you unbox an experience that was produced by your organization and go through all five of your senses are in that moment in the shoes of the customer in a way that you’ll just never get in a boardroom if you don’t go through that process.

Christian Klepp  17:51

That’s excellent. It seems like what you’re also implying is, an essential component of having these conversations in order to initiate this improvement is also reliant on data from the market, and especially data that’s pertaining to particular insights that are drawn from customers. Am I right for that?

Lawrence Levinson  18:23

Absolutely. And as a former sales professional, so now, narrowing the lens to sales, business development, so often, and this is the underbelly of the world of business development. You’re in front of customers, you have feedback on where your organization needs to be better. You bring it back to feed it back to the organization, and this is one of the messenger gets shot. Right? Operations groups don’t want to hear it. It turns into politics between sales and operation, or sales and service, or service and sales versus operations. All these type of divisions come up as opposed to in these programs you end up with here’s data directly from a customer telling us X, Y, or Z, showing us exactly where we’re failing them. From there exactly what we need to do to regain their trust. It removes the politics and just gives you objective pure data.

Christian Klepp  19:23

Yeah that’s really what it is, at the end of the day. You go to the market, you conduct the research, you conduct the analysis, you extract those insights, and then you go back to the, to the organization and say: “Okay, well, this is what the markets told us.” So you look at it from a more subjective perspective, as opposed to like turning it into something political, which, of course, we all go to great lengths to hopefully prevent.

Lawrence Levinson  19:56

Yep. Again, human behavior, right?

Christian Klepp  19:59

Yes. Absolutely. All right, for obvious reasons, and you touched on it previously, and I did say we’ve gone back to it. Much attention has obviously been given to the current situation that the world is confronted with. We’re not trying to dismiss it, or play it down. It is a very serious crisis of an unprecedented scale. At the moment, business is not business as usual. It’s some very far from it. Right? But I think it’s also important to focus on what’s happening right now, from a more constructive perspective, because, yes, we are going through a pandemic. There are some real problems, people losing their jobs, cash flow, and so forth. But the pandemic will pass. We will bounce back. Now, that being said, I think it’s also imperative for us to have those conversations and prepare for what we are actually going to come back to. Right? So in your opinion, seeing the current state of global affairs, what potential do you think there is for B2B marketers, entrepreneurs or organizations at large, to use this current time to re-assess to analyze, and to improve their CX and how can we continue to innovate and find ways to deliver exceptional CX despite some of the current constraints?

Lawrence Levinson  21:43

So I said it earlier. I think it came up a few times, but it all starts with being authentic and being sincere and focusing on the fundamentals of providing solutions, whatever we’re selling, whatever We have to offer the end of the day, we’re providing solutions at a time where there are more problems right now than there have ever been. So you need to focus on those fundamentals, but do it with emotional intelligence. This is where so many organizations are missing the boat, if you reflect back to March, when COVID first hit, and all of our inboxes were flooded with emails from companies, you didn’t even realize you’re on a list for, saying, hey, Christian, we really care about you and all this kind of, totally non emotionally intelligent language that fast forward two months later, and we were on a call yesterday where someone referred to a local hardware store, sending them an apology letter and it was just a bla bla bla bla bla bla bla was all they heard, right? Because there was nothing that personalized, there was nothing that was sincere, authentic, that they connected with. People are frustrated right now. People are tired. In many ways they’re less patient than ever. Right? Seven seconds on a website, someone’s gone. If you know they want to, they want to digest your content and the wheels spinning or anything, they’re gonna wait seven seconds. So that’s probably an old stat, one minute on hold, waiting to get in touch with someone in a Customer Service Group, and they’ll just hang up. There are billions of dollars of items sitting in virtual shopping carts right now across the world. Because the forums were too cumbersome. Just push people to the edge there, forget it, I’m not gonna buy and I just leave right. So communication is king right now. The tone, the frequency and the format of what we convey to each other matters more right now than any time in recent history. But at the same time, authenticity and relevance to the audience has never been more scrutinized. So to your point, when you see so many organizations rolling out these kind of one size fits all messaging. They’re just totally flat with collateral damage, right? And the organizations that are thriving and these new dynamics understand that they need to truly walk the talk and actually live their core values, right? With the utmost integrity, and health and safety, both physical and mental are now critical priorities where they may have not been in the past. They always should have been, but they’re finally at the forefront. And doing the right thing is no longer a catch phrase reserved for vision boards, and has become table stakes for customers and employees choose to align themselves with and I think, to your question, this is what not everyone realizes is customers and employees have a choice. And everyone will be judged right now, on what their actions were. All throughout these last weeks.

Christian Klepp  24:58

I really could not agree with you more. And I think I’d like to expand a little bit on what you’ve been talking about these past couple of minutes. Because it’s incredibly interesting that we’ve seen, to your point. A lot of companies and a lot of brands, both in the B2B and B2C space, rising up to the occasion, pivoting their business, doing a great job of communicating internally and externally what they’re currently doing to address the crisis and also what their what they’re going to do moving forward. So that being said, I think it would also be safe to assume that customers’ expectations have now increased and that they’re now actually expecting more from companies.

Lawrence Levinson  25:46

Hundred percent.

Christian Klepp  25:48

Okay, great. So Lawrence, tell me in your professional opinion, what do you believe it’s the new normal that we will be returning to?

Lawrence Levinson  25:57

I think the new normal in many ways. Will be one where we all need to step up and do the right thing. Right and affect everyone, every company will need to make Jeanne Bliss proud. When she asks, would you do that to your mother? Companies that look for backhanded ways to add revenue streams to their bottom lines, through unbundling fees and unfair cancellation or refund policies, right. We’ve seen these all over the headlines. Woman up through social media, companies that are doing that kind of stuff right now. They’ll win some battles right now. And they’ll say, Okay, we held on to certain percentages of the top line, but they’re ultimately going to lose the war. Because I said it before every organization will be judged and they’re continuing to be judged right. This isn’t over, and how they’re handling themselves during this crisis, and what they prioritize during the crisis, and truthfully those who treat their customers and employees with the respect they deserve, with proper health and safety measures in place, they will thrive. And so, honestly, that’s the new normal, bring it on.

Christian Klepp  27:17

Exactly. So I mean once again to the point that you’ve been driving home for the duration of our discussion. It’s bringing the customer back to the center of everything, to all the endeavors of an organization. Any other piece of advice or thoughts that you’d like to leave our listeners with? Lawrence.

Lawrence Levinson  27:48

You touched on it before, but I’ll say it again, find mentors. Volunteer in as many ways as you can, join local associations and network, network, network. Challenge yourself to look at your weaknesses, and your most seemingly unattractive qualities, and face them with compassion, but develop them into strength. I’d say leverage data in ways that you never have before, to benchmark against, to establish targets and to understand your audience better. And be honest with what it tells you, be strategic and be flexible, because the needs of course correct. And evolve is going to be a constant. To get personal, don’t make excuses. We have all an absolutely outstanding talent to share with the world. Own it. And remember, happiness is not from the absence of stress or anxiety, but from the satisfaction of rising up against it, and finding opportunities in the chaos. So, we’re in a very chaotic time, there’s gonna be tons of opportunity. If innovation comes out of chaos, just think of the level of creativity at the entrepreneurial level that’s happening right now that we’re going to see, we’re going to look back on 2025 10 years from now, and it’s just going to be unbelievable. What amazing ideas come out of this time. But we are all stuck at home. So stay active, listen to tons of music, meditate, and most importantly, have fun, connect with people like Christian, and I guarantee you won’t be sorry you did.

Christian Klepp  29:34

You’re too kind but thank you. Finding inspiration, where others only see adversity. And in fact, to your point, which was also brought up in several webinars that I’ve attended recently. Innovation and entrepreneurship thrives in times of adversity. I’m not trying to say this from an opportunistic point of view, but they try to see the potential where other people doom and gloom. So, Lawrence, this has been a very thought provoking session. So thank you so much for coming on and sharing. So what’s the best way for people out there to connect with you?

Lawrence Levinson  30:11

You can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me on Twitter. If anyone wants to reach out via email, you can reach me at llevinson@pulse.app as well. And I’m happy to engage. We touched on a lot of stuff today. So anything you’re interested in, drop me a line and I will get back to you.

Christian Klepp  30:33

Beautiful, Lawrence, thank you so much for your time. And I really appreciate it.

Lawrence Levinson  30:39

Thank you for the opportunity Christian and keep doing what you guys are doing. You’re doing a great job.

Christian Klepp  30:44

Thank you. So take care of be safe and continue your good work and the good fight with CX.

Lawrence Levinson  30:49

Same to you.

Christian Klepp  30:54

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast to learn more about what we do here EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.