Ep. 11 – Interview w/ Lynn Hunsaker

Positive Disruption in Customer Experience

EP11-Lynn Hunsaker

In this interview, we engage in a deep conversation with Lynn Hunsaker (Chief Customer Officer, ClearAction Continuum) about the world of customer experience (CX). Drawing on her many years of expertise in the field, Lynn shares her thoughts with us regarding what has changed in the CX landscape, what potential and untapped opportunities there are, as well as her recommendations about what CX professionals and practitioners need to do in order to adapt to rapidly changing dynamics.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • How organizational agility, “being nimble”, is the key to full performance. [2:42 | 4:57]
  • Lynn’s advice to fellow CX practitioners who are working with limited resources. [11:00]
  • Re-segmenting customers by their expectations instead of their roles provides real value and meaning to every functional areas in the company. [19:09]
  • The future: when brands shall become more Human to Human (H2H). [25:26]
  • How being seamless in our mindset is a super key for the new normal. [28:02]

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:



Christian Klepp, Lynn Hunsaker

Christian Klepp  0:08 

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.

Hi, everybody, and welcome to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp. And today I’m super excited to have a guest on the show from beautiful San Francisco, who is also a sought after expert in the field of Customer Experience (CX). Lynn Hunsaker. Lynn, welcome to the show.

Lynn Hunsaker  0:47 

Thanks, Christian. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Christian Klepp  0:50 

Yeah, great. Lynn, It’s really like fantastic to finally reconnect with you since we last met in May 2019 at the CXPA event here in Toronto. Back then when we were still doing, live and in person events, and during that event, you spoke at length about an interesting topic, and that was creating a CX movement within organizations. So definitely excited to have you on the show.

Lynn Hunsaker  1:17 

Absolutely. My favorite topic.

Christian Klepp  1:20 

All right, well, why don’t we get started? And can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Lynn Hunsaker  1:25 

Sure. My company is ClearAction Continuum, and it’s based on my long experience in customer experience management as well as marketing. I am past president of the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association, and I teach marketing operations at UC Santa Cruz extension right now. It’s actually marketing ops 2.0, which is not your run of the mill marketing ops. It’s actually focused on organizational adoption and accountability for marketing, as well as customer intelligence which brings in the customer experience angle. And I got my start as the voice of the customer manager in 1991. In a company wide effort at Sunoco products where I was reporting into the strategic planning group, so long history there.

Christian Klepp  2:15 

Wow, that is quite an incredible background you’ve got there and you’ve undoubtedly gained so much in terms of experience and built up the quite the network over the years from the different roles and responsibilities that you’ve had. All right. And so tell me when like, what are you working on these days that… I mean, you’re clearly a very passionate person. But what is that one particular project you’re working on at the moment that’s gotten you really like excited and motivated?

Lynn Hunsaker  2:42 

Well, we talked to a number of companies a while back, mostly directors and VPs of marketing, about the types of things that were holding them back from full performance in their teams. And what we found was they really striving toward agility. And what we mean by that not agile marketing, but rather, organizational agility, being nimble. And boy is the time right for that with this pandemic, we’re finding that being nimble is the name of the game as things shift so quickly with our customers. So we have a solution, which we call the ClearAction Value Exchange, which allows marketing teams as well as customer success and customer experience and customer service teams to learn how to be more accountable, more aligned internally and externally, and more agile and scalable as an organization as well as to use customer intelligence to help the whole enterprise to do so.

Christian Klepp  3:49 

Yeah, that’s an incredible insight. And thanks so much for bringing that up. I’m curious to know you mentioned the word agile and this certainly doesn’t mean agile marketing, but I’m curious to know what you found in terms of like how easy it would be for customers to do that, find themselves in large organizations where flexibility and agility might be a bit more of a challenge?

Lynn Hunsaker  4:12 

Well, it is always a challenge. And I’ve even found that the notion of it being easier in a small company is sometimes a misnomer. But yeah, by and large it is, but what the trick of it is, is two things.

First of all, you need to be aligned with customers, and how do you do that? By using customer intelligence to understand what your customers actually are striving toward? What their realities are, what their expectations are. And you educate all roles in terms of what their handoffs and decision making lens should be, to be in alignment. So the use of customer intelligence in that way.

And then secondly, to think ahead of the curve, right in terms of what customers are needing, and be ahead in terms of use of that customer intelligence. So really does try to revolve around customer intelligence. And in some ways, large organization has many advantages, with so many resources at hand, and alliances and other relationships. So any case, large and small, being more nimble for the market really requires a different use of our customer intelligence.

Christian Klepp  5:37 

Right. And those are some really great points that you brought up. And in fact, if I may say so, I believe that where somebody like yourself adds value to the equation is that you assume the role… actually, you have multiple roles in that equation, if I’m not mistaken. Because one is that you are also an enabler and a facilitator, but at the same time, you’re also like, something of a navigator because you’re helping the organization to get aligned and you’re helping them to navigate through these changes that they need to make in order to stay on top of their game.

Lynn Hunsaker  6:07 

Hundred percent.

Christian Klepp  6:11 

Exactly. Lynn, like many organizations and businesses, you’re probably ushered in 2020 with plans to expand and grow your business and then and then the pandemic happened. So, talk to us about what has changed for you. I mean, knowing full well that a big part of your business is already online, but there have been undoubtedly some changes in the past couple of months nonetheless. So what has changed for you and what are your current focus, things that you’re focusing on and your priorities for your business?

Lynn Hunsaker  6:47 

All right, so I went into this a bit bullish, because we do have a track record of all kinds of solutions online and remotely. So that is not really new to us. What we also realized early on was the need to re-segment our customers. And also fine tune our messaging so that there was higher relevance because the tolerance level is less than it used to be. So those were big endeavors to improve our website and our messaging and our lists clean up and all of that.

What I didn’t anticipate was so much online fatigue. So that has really taken a toll quite unexpectedly, especially with our target audience, which is marketing, customer service, customer success and customer experience. In these particular groups, we’re called on to provide customer intelligence, to redo their events. We’re in person now, make them online or totally overhaul what they were doing. Get involved in quite a number of things, including the social justice inclusiveness, equity and diversity. So I think that the toll on this group has been quite immense.

In some cases, they’ve had some cutbacks, it’s been very painful. In other cases, they’re just going bonkers, right? So with growth, unanticipated and expanding their ranks remotely, hiring a lot of people without ever having actually met them in person. So that’s pretty interesting and a lot of demands on them. So that is had kind of a whiplash on us. But what we’re looking forward to is a renewed interest in the use of customer intelligence and how firms are really hungering for it right now.

Christian Klepp  9:08 

Those are some really interesting observations that you mentioned. And back to your point that you were talking about found yourself having to re-segment your customers. Could you expand on that a little bit or give us an example?

Lynn Hunsaker  9:22 

Well, of course, people in retail and hospitality are having a harder time than others. And so being cognizant of that, and being aware of certain sectors that are growing faster and maybe needing additional help, or having additional bandwidth to accommodate resources. It’s just a different lens, we started out 2020 with.

Christian Klepp  9:56 

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 who will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.

A lot of organizations and businesses have put their CX initiatives on hold due to the pandemic or have reduced their budgets considerably until further notice. And I know for a fact, talking to a couple of people in the space over here in Canada, and that was definitely the case, or has been the case for the past couple of months. So and I would imagine it would be pretty much the same over in the United States. So what kind of advice have you been giving your clients and partners so during this period, considering that many of them are working with limited resources?

Lynn Hunsaker  11:00 

Right, the first thing that came to mind when all this was happening is if you have been in an analytic role or doing things on a narrow basis, then you might be more at risk than if you’ve been doing things on a broader basis and more actioned, more actioning.. So that’s where your value is going to be seen now, I believe, and your customer experience initiatives should not be put on hold for sure.

But now is the time for action. Now is the time to take your customer intelligence and weave it in with what people are doing. Make it part of what they access in preparation for their QBRs, for their staff meetings, for their meetings with customers, for whatever they’re doing. Find ways to provide them with customer intelligence. That’s relevant them, this can be the best way that you can ensure your longevity, grow your career, and certainly have an impact on today’s progress in your company, and in our economy as a whole.

Christian Klepp  12:15 

That’s pretty solid advice, I would say. And you brought up an interesting point about customer intelligence, which also leads me to my next question. So at a virtual coffee chat of the CXPA in Toronto, which was held in July, there were several topics that were being discussed. But one of the things we talked at length about was how organizations and businesses can stay close to customers in times of crises using research. And so research and data analytics and so forth. So in your professional opinion, why do you believe that that’s so important and what type of opportunities could scaling customer research presented CX professionals so that’s to say like, conducting market research during the pandemic instead of just completely putting initiatives of that nature on hold?

Lynn Hunsaker  13:07 

Well, I think that there’s always been a fair amount of almost free voice of the Customer available to us, which I call customer-initiated voice of the customer. There’s plenty of company-initiated VOC that we also have not made full use of. So I would look to see how we could expand the use of what we already have available to us. Now for the customer-initiated, you actually need to be using text mining, voice mining, various technologies or techniques, which you could even do old school with spreadsheets and what not, if it came down to that.

But, for example, when customers call your contact center, or customer success, they’re usually pressing some kind of challenge that they ran into. They were saying I was trying to do X. But Y happened. And now Z is my consequence. Wow, that is rich, usually don’t get that level of information from other types of company initiated voice of the customer. This represents a huge opportunity to understand customers more deeply. And to find those nuggets that we can make available to legal and procurement and HR and engineering and the whole gamut of functional areas, so that they all have their piece of information that helps them to make their decisions more in accordance with what customers are really sensitive to. So that’s one thing.

Yes, as far as other research, I think that if we change our questions on the company initiated surveys and such, to less about how do you rate me? Would you recommend me? Did I do well, instead change those questions to what are you trying to get done? What’s most important to you? How well are we contributing to that? What should we stop doing? What should we start doing? Maybe the questions would be more qualitative. And therefore, okay, use those technologies that I just mentioned, to sort through that and make them quantitative or actionable. But frankly, the prescriptive comments are more actionable than numbers anyway, I think that the big trick is to let go for a time of this natural VOC fixation on trends, and instead, create new trends. But because we are a new times and the trend data is maybe not as important as just getting things right for customers. This represents a huge opportunity to understand customers from a different angle.

Christian Klepp  16:10 

Great observations of insights and thanks again for sharing that. And you brought up a point, which I believe is so valid in terms of customer experience, because clearly the pandemic has caused a massive disruption to global economies, to different industries and various segments of the economy. But in terms of like CX, it’s also allowed us to take a step back and review existing methodologies that have been practiced for such a long time. And find a way to not necessarily disrupt but continuously innovate and improve the way that we are. Say, for example, with regard to this question, how can we improve the way that we conduct market research – if behavior of the customers has changed in the past couple of months. Maybe that will also influence, for example, the personas that we’ve created and the customer, the customer journeys that we have. And those have probably also been disrupted as a result of this crisis. So how can we iterate those to adjust them and make them more relevant to the current period and also moving forward? Because, even when things do roll back to normal, there would have still been some things that have probably permanently changed.

Lynn Hunsaker  17:32 

Absolutely. So with regard to customer journeys, I think it’s a real opportunity to dig down deeper in terms of what are the behind the scenes things that customers are doing in their decision making process and their use of our solution. We tend to get kind of wrapped around the axle in customer journeys, as I’ve as I’ve observed them in terms of what we are doing and the touch points we have and where we have that opportunity to upsell and cross sell and whatever. I think what really need to do is learn a little bit more about not only where they touch us, but what are they doing behind the scenes where what are they doing when they’re not touching us, but it does relate to their decision making process, in purchasing or repurchasing, as well as the use of our product and service. We can probably learn quite a lot from that, that can inform some innovations, some ways to improve ease of business, maybe even some ways of improving ease of work. And I really think that ease of business and ease of work should be our mantras for the decade of 2020.

Christian Klepp  18:51 

Absolutely I couldn’t agree with you more, I mean ease of business and ease of work, and the if I may throw in a third one which is on identifying gaps. And using or leveraging these gaps and turning them into opportunities that we probably wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t going through a crisis.

Lynn Hunsaker  19:09 

Yes. And there are some examples of companies doing that. Maybe not that I can call on right off. But certainly, this is a time for thinking differently. I think when it comes to personas, it’s an opportunity to rethink how we’re doing that, because we normally will segment our customers based on somewhat arbitrary categories. But also usage that type of category, but at the end of the day, it’s not really increasing people’s usage or a lot of these categories we use for segmentation… getting those right that earns us new business. What it really boils down to is quite simple: customer experience success as well as business success is about delivering realities to customers that meet or exceed their expectations. People have historically been a bit nervous or uncomfortable with basing their business on customers’ expectations. But good grief, we certainly have shifting expectations now. And the winners are the ones who are able to navigate that, right? So, what I found is in experimenting with some different segmentation methods, if you really look at customer comments over a period, especially if you have the rich variety of sources of customer comments, you can identify some common threads that naturally pop out across the end and journey for a group of customers, and then another group. And I would just remove all pre-defined labels, any kind of preconceived notions and just look at stuff blankly, just look at stuff purely.

And I found that you can identify 2 or 3 key threads that then can be characterized as a persona across the journey in terms of what are the “moments of truth” or those points where customers can just abandon the relationship, or engage in negative word of mouth, or otherwise increase their enthusiasm for the brand. And communicate those very simple, few personas to all organizations in the company.

That’s what’s missing right now in Marketing and Customer Experience as far as becoming an agile organization – is we aren’t finding a simple way to characterize our customer base in 2 or 3 personas that aren’t role-based, but are rather expectations-based. And as such, the persona, the nature of what customers care about, and the description of the consequences to them, becomes really meaningful to every functional area, regardless where you sit in the company. There’s something they can borrow from that to bring into their everyday decisions, as well as their strategic planning, which, of course, right now and in the timeline of the year, for most companies is quite a critical opportunity. So anyone who’s curious about how to do this, I welcome them to contact me. That’d help me quite a lot.

And I think that it’s really groundbreaking and serves as the basis for so much more progress and customer experience management. I think also with these surveys, if you’re asking people about themselves, you won’t have response rate issues. People will talk about what they’re trying to do and what they would like more what they would like less. They just don’t like to degrade somebody else. And I think every manager would acknowledge that doing performance reviews is like the least favorite part of a manager’s job. And yet, we kind of asked our customers to do that. Whereas if we turned it around, and let them talk about what they’re trying to do, and then just translate that into meaningful actionable trends and sentiment and well, comparison of expectations and reality that could be very welcomed across our enterprises as useful to them in aligning with customers.

Christian Klepp  24:21 

While those insights were gold, Lynn. I really hope that the listeners were taking notes as you were talking in the past couple of minutes. But you brought up the point of which totally resonates with me about how expectations within organizations are also based on preconceived notions. And this will probably now more than ever be the time to like, have a look at those preconceived notions and just get rid of them, iterate them, because so much has changed in terms of regardless of which spectrum of customer experience you’re looking at, then it might not even make sense to have those expectations anymore?

Lynn Hunsaker  25:02 

That’s true. It’s an opportunity to reset in good ways. And I think that if we’re looking at a glass half full, we can find the wherewithal to do that.

Christian Klepp  25:16 

Indeed. So, Lynn, how do you think this pandemic has altered customer experience and how to push CX practitioners to improve as well as prepare for the future?

Lynn Hunsaker  25:26 

Right, I think that customers have first of all experience that brands can be human to human. We got a taste of that really clearly, in April and May of 2020 in particular. Things became much more complicated as things opened in the summer. And we had also a lot of protests and I think that many organizations just really had to also kind of pound the pavement to keep things running. So feels like a lot of that H to H, human to human progress that we saw on April in May, has kind of faded to a large extent. I would like to see that comes back that that bounces back as a key facet of most organizations.

Not only treatment of customers but how they manage their business overall and I suppose the ongoing strain on employees will be one of the driving forces toward that. Also, of course, digitalization has become much more blatantly glaring in places where there are gaps both in customers access to information and to products, as well as the running of businesses and approval processes and all kinds of things that have hit snags.

With the work from home movement, I also believe that customers are going to demand that we I believe that customers are going to demand that we hold on to a lot of this and that we never turn back to the old way. So while many companies will struggle with maintaining a new normal, and they want to go back to the old normal, I believe that the ones who are more progressive are the ones who are going to be the winners in the last decade of 2020s.

Christian Klepp  27:41 

Yeah, indeed. It’s interesting speaking of new normal, which leads me to my next question. This has been a buzzword that’s been floating around for a couple of months now. So from your own interpretation, what do you think is this new or this next normal that we’re going to be returning to?  probably more digital?

Lynn Hunsaker  28:02 

Yes, more digital but also more human. I think that the more digital we become the more realization we have that it’s not enough to do digital, we have to be digital, meaning that we’re striving to be seamless in our electronic conveyance of information and services. But we also have to be seamless in our interactions internally, having more shared vision, more collaboration, more seamlessness in the way that we approach our projects. I think that’s a real big opportunity for anyone when you’re assigning somebody, something that they should be working on.

The first thing that should come to mind for the person taking that assignment is where else in the company has this type of thing, then done. Who else can about this, what can I do to learn from anything relevant? And what can I do to help others learn from what I’m doing? And as we approach our assignments in that way, we can prevent silos instead of creating yet more silos. So silo-smoothing is really the ultimate endeavor of digitalization, I believe, but silo-smoothing needs to happen on so many dimensions and every study that I’ve seen, McKinsey and others, talking about digitalization, roadblocks or hiccups that organizations have faced talk about the importance of culture. And culture is nothing more than a group’s way of thinking and doing and therefore, being digital. Being seamless in our mindset is a super key for the new normal.

Christian Klepp  29:59 

Absolutely. I’m totally with you on that one. Well, Lynn has been so fantastic. Did you have any other like thoughts or advice that you’d like to leave the listeners with before we wrap up?

Lynn Hunsaker  30:11 

Well, I think in order for people to take on these new mindsets, it’s important for them to learn new techniques in small bites. Instead of taking people to training that lasts so long. And frankly, nobody can afford it nowadays, with all the demands we have at home as well. So learning in small bits, how to think differently how to use techniques that may have been proven elsewhere, but might not have ever been really applied in marketing and customer experience, customer success, customer intelligence roles. This is really a big opportunity to move our professions forward and to be at the forefront where we need to be to influence our whole company to be more nimble, to be more in line internally and externally. So that’s where I’m glad to have the ClearAction Value Exchange as that resource that can help them to do that.

Christian Klepp  31:15 

And it seems to be such an interesting combination of if you brought up these points throughout the discussion about like processes, methodology, coupled with technology, but also at the same time, mindset, right? Because there is there’s going to be human to human interaction throughout this entire cycle and throughout these different processes.

Lynn Hunsaker  31:41 

That’s right. Our mental models need to be more transparent to one another, like what is the basis for our decisions, and I think that the basis for our decisions is undergoing some evolution. So that makes it even more important as we don’t have the physical cues, vocal and visual communication but we were remote communication that makes it all the more important to be transparent with one another.

Christian Klepp  32:11 

Absolutely. And Lynn, thank you so much for coming on and sharing, what’s the best way for people out there to connect with you?

Lynn Hunsaker  32:20 

Well, you can always find me on LinkedIn, Lynn Hunsaker, or contact me at success@clearaction.com

Christian Klepp  32:30 

Fantastic, Lynn, this has been such an excellent, motivating and eye opening conversation. So thank you so much for your time. Take care, be safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Lynn Hunsaker  32:41 

Thanks, Christian.

Christian Klepp  32:42 

Thanks. Bye for now.

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


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