Ep. 6 – Interview w/ Derek Bildfell

Better Customer Experience During and After COVID

EP6-Derek Bildfell

In this episode, we take a deep dive into the world of customer experience (CX) with Derek Bildfell (Owner & Principal Consultant, Acceleration Strategy Inc. and Professor of CX Design, Centennial College). Derek elaborates on how CX can help to improve an organization’s performance, how CX will become vital to rebuilding after the pandemic, and why continuous learning is crucial for CX professionals and practitioners to play a pivotal role in what lies ahead.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • What’s the difference between Customer Experience (CX) and customer service? [2:12]
  • How does CX make an impact on businesses? From listening to your customer, building a CX program, to communicating to your employees. [6:00]
  • What’s the one CX-based initiative that businesses should execute this year? [21:38]



Christian Klepp, Derek Bildfell

Christian Klepp  00:00

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  00:00

Hi, everybody, and welcome to episode 6 of the B2B marketers and admission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp, and today I’m excited to have Derek Bildfell join me. Derek, welcome to the show.

Derek Bildfell  00:00

Hello, Christian. Thanks for having me.

Christian Klepp  00:00

All right, why don’t we just hop right to it. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do!

Derek Bildfell  00:00

So my name is Derek Bildfell. I am a long-term, highly seasoned customer experience professional. Someone say I’m a bit on the salty side for seasoning. I’ve been doing customer experience management programs for 15 years now, some of the largest in North America. And of late my company acceleration strategy has really been more focused on helping Canadian companies of a smaller size, build their capability and implement good customer experience practices. And that’s kind of the business side of my life. And personal side, I’m a father of five children and very active in all of their lives. So tend to lead a pretty active life and now in the pandemic, I have five kids at my house every weekend having a backyard Olympics. That’s a little bit about me.

Christian Klepp  01:45

Nice. Well, five kids during a lockdown that certainly does not come without its own set of challenges. That’s for sure.

Derek Bildfell  01:53

Yes, it’s tiring.

Christian Klepp  01:54

Yeah. But you mentioned something that’s really interesting, and I’d like to get into that a little bit further, if you don’t mind. Talk to us a little bit about customer experience or otherwise on a CX. And why do you believe it’s an important part of improving an organization’s overall performance?

Derek Bildfell  02:12

So start with a step back and touch here on customer experience for your listeners. So a lot of people confuse customer experience for customer service. And it’s really not like that. Customer experience is kind of more like it is quality control than it is like a division like accounting or sales. So customer experience is the concept of what is the total perception that a person has of your business? And based on that perception, what behavior will they have in working with you in the future? So the simple model of customer experience that a lot of people think of is loyalty – how likely am I to recommend and therefore how likely am I to repurchase and that’s a fairly decent proxy for customer experience.

Derek Bildfell  03:01

The challenge, though, is how do you actually manage customer experience because it cuts across your product, your support, your sales, your marketing, what your CEO says on Twitter, all those things shape my perception of the company. And what’s interesting is that the market has really figured out that there is a discipline around how do you manage the customer experience for a company to provide an optimum experience for each of your clients such that they follow the behavior you’re looking for, which again, is likely repurchase greater use of your products. So that’s kind of a nickel tour on customer experience.

Derek Bildfell  03:42

And why is this important? Well, it’s always been important and it’s getting more and more important every day. People are very tight with the control of their discretionary income. They have to have a way of making decisions and with the advent of social business. Everybody is expecting referrals in order to make their decisions when they decide on a new purchase, or to expand their business with you. They’re going to look at what has been the reputation what has been the experience that I’ve had with your company. And if I’m new to your company, what has been the experience of other people have had with your company, so that I can know whether I want to work with that. Back in the day that might have been more difficult, you might have had more difficulty finding referrals. In today’s world, you search up a business name, you can see the Google referrals over on the site. On the right hand side, you can immediately get a first impression of whether this company is doing a good job for their customers or not.

Christian Klepp  04:41

Right. Can you give an example of in the past how you’ve helped an organization, ideally in the B2B space to improve on their customer experience, and elaborate a little bit about the challenges they had and how you proactively addressed them?

Derek Bildfell  04:57

Let me help the listeners a little bit more with this customer experience / customer service argument first. So, customer service, think of that as the safety net, underneath the trapeze act. And the trapeze act is really the customer experience design. So when you come up with what experience you want to have customers have, they should be seeing a beautiful flowing trapeze act where Igor grabs Ivan and throws them up in the air and catches him. But those times at which they’re executing that customer experience and he misses, you want Igor to fall down, hit that net bounce up so beautifully go above Ivan again and be caught. So that it actually the customer service is enhancing the overall customer experience. Customer service’s job is to really facilitate the smooth path through the predefined customer experience that might help a little bit in understanding that difference.

Derek Bildfell  05:58

So what do we do? The practice of customer experience is really a discipline that cuts across an entire business. So when you want to improve your customer experience, the most important thing you should do is ask your customers, what is your experience and take that information. We call that customer insight, understanding how the customers perceive your company, taking that and saying, Okay, if that’s how they perceive it, and we know what we want to sell to you, or we know what you want to what value we want to provide to you. Then you take that perception say let’s change the way we do things. So that we are providing our businesses or services in such a manner that the clients are getting great experience.

Derek Bildfell  06:42

So, for example, we would go in and a client would say to us, we want to understand what our customers studies. Think of us, we might build a relationship NPS model, come in and do a survey of a bunch of their customers and come back and be able to tell them: your customers that are the happiest, find that you are highly responsive, and your customers that are at the lowest likelihood to recommend you find that you make a lot of accounting errors. Those are two different thoughts. The responsiveness, one would then say, what we should do is to drive a program inside the company to make sure everybody is being more responsive and identify when they’re not how do we intercept those situations where we’re not being responsive and improve that? Flip side is we know that when we make accounting errors, we’re causing a lot of grief for our customers. So we’re going to go back and revisit the entire process of accounting and figure out we’ll use something like a journey map and say in this part of the customer experience, this part of the customer journey with us, what’s going on? How come the customer is not thrilled with this and how can we make that better, and we’ll use that to actually design what we call an intentional journey. So those are kind of the two major for us of what you do in a Customer Experience Program. In addition, there’s really quite a bit more that goes into it around how do you do communications to reinforce the journey that you are propagating inside your business, you want to communicate to your own employees to make sure that they are all consistently executing upon the journey design that you come up with. So that’s kind of a lot of theoretical semi-academic thoughts on customer experience.

Derek Bildfell  08:33

What we also do that’s really important though is, if you are trying to communicate, trying to support your customer, they need to know you’re listening and that you care before you can even start to improve their perception of you. So when we ask these surveys, rather than just ask a survey and put it in some database and analyze it once every 6 to 12 months. Every single survey that we do with a customer gets turned into some kind of an ROI driven activity in that if the customer gives a positive reinforcement that gets in the hands of that person who provided that service. So the manager might go to them and say, Hey, client ABC has said that you’re doing a great job, and that you’re really responsive and proactive and offering great ideas. That’s kind of like a mirror on that person. And he says, wow, that makes me feel good. And that’s a positive reinforcement. And he’s more likely to do that more often. How many people have ever had enough coaching? How many people come home from work at the end of the day say, well, I feel good. I’ve had a lot of good coaching from my boss. It’s not the case. So is every survey that actually provide a little coaching and the flip side is also true. We also will identify when a customer says, I’d really like Derek to be a little bit more responsive. I’d like him to come up with more ideas than instead of you, my boss coming to me and saying, hey, Derek, you need to be more responsive. I come to you and say, which just looking at this customer service situation, and they’d like to see more responsiveness more creativity from us. What could you do Derek, and then that actually puts the onus on me. And I’m thinking from a customer perspective, what they mean, which is my job, versus a criticism perspective, which is when my boss comes to me and says, you need to do something better. It fundamentally changes the speed with which you can improve the culture of your organization drives really millions of points of coaching opportunity.

Christian Klepp  10:38

Well, that’s definitely really insightful. Thanks for that. Derek. Sorry, I need to circle back and just for the benefit of the listeners who didn’t understand that term. Could you explain what NPS stands for?

Derek Bildfell  10:48

Oh, yes, of course. Thank you. So in the customer experience realm, there’s fundamentally a couple of what we call measures that people are trying to drive and they really customer Net Promoter, which we just talked about is the net promoter score. The question is, how likely are you to recommend the business and that really represents kind of an advocacy loyalty measure. There’s another measure which you will hear and it’s very appropriate to a lot of our businesses more and more appropriate as we in this COVID time, something called Customer Effort Score (CES). That question is, how easy was it for you to get done what you’d want it to on our website, fundamentally. Customer effort is the biggest driver of website, internet based business. Then there’s the rudimentary question that you’ve heard for years called customer sat (CSAT), which is good, we do what we said we would do today. You do have to think about all three of them. If you didn’t do what you said you would do, the rest of them are irrelevant. So it’s not terrible to ask any one of those three questions. There’s a time and a place for all of them.

Christian Klepp  11:58

Thanks for that. So before I asked my next question, Derek, let me share some statistics with you that were published by Forbes in September 2019. The article had an exhaustive amount of data, but I’m just gonna highlight 3 of them, or it’s like so basically three points. So, point number 1 is 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in the revenue, and that’s according to research that was conducted by Dimension Data. So, then point number 2, 73% of companies with above average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors. And that was according to a study done by the Temkin Group. And the last point, at least in the United States, customers who switch companies due to poor service cost American companies, a total of $1.6 trillion dollars and that’s it according to a research done by Accenture. So why am I highlighting all of this data? So even with those statistics, why do you think like during this ongoing pandemic, a lot of organizations in the B2B space, have put a stop to their CX activities and are treating it as non-essential? And, most importantly, what role do you believe CX professionals and practitioners have in changing this mindset?

Derek Bildfell  13:31

So, these are extreme times, obviously, there are companies that were 12 weeks ago, we’re not even thinking they might be at risk, and we’re about to hire another thousand people. So it’s kind of hard to just say give a blanket statement, but fundamentally, in times of extreme stress, it’s actually the number one marketing recommendation is to get closer to your customers. This comes from the Harvard Business Press analysis of how to how to survive a recession. And the number one thing you do is you understand your customers better because the cost of losing customers is much greater in a time when we have sinking ships versus rising waters. So those companies that are truly committed to customer experience actually will oftentimes invest more during this period. I know that when we were working with TD Bank and the 2008 crisis hit, we were actually more active doing research and making sure we understood the changing attitudes because right now the attitudes are changing. It’s especially important to be listening to your customers and asking them about: Okay, what do you expect in the future? I know the past was the past, but what do we have to do in the future to serve you well? What’s the experience that you want to have that kind of thing and you will see that you will see a huge resurgence in customer experience oriented activities in the latter half of this of this economic cycle of call it that we’re going through with the pandemic. So the ones who stopped probably are not very mature in their usage and application of customer experience, or they’re also absolutely stopping everything. They’re stopping sales, they’re stopping production, they’re stopping their business. Anything is discretionary is putting on hold. So that has been extreme. In this case. I’ve never seen that in a market before when we’ve seen it. Now, our clients actually did something interesting and that we actually did a triage activity and said, Okay, we’re going to have to cut back. But is there anything that is particularly relevant that we should keep up, that will make a difference during this period. And so in the case of our real estate organizations where they have thousands of rental units, and maybe we don’t do as much research on the on the day to day on the kind of relationship stuff. But we still need to make sure maintenance is maintained. Because that actually causes a lot of stress and in the rental experience, so we kept the process in place to say, are we doing well on maintenance, is everything being done. So we kept that running because that needs to be done. And we used that, we injected a question into that one survey to add a little bit more understanding of what people were perceiving in the COVID space within that survey process. So, what we wanted to do there is maintain at least some level of touch point with our customers, which is what you should do, but still be consistent with the rest of the sensitive to the rest of the organization that was making cuts left, right and center.

Christian Klepp  16:49

Right. That’s great. Thanks, Derek.

Christian Klepp  16:53

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.eliblick.co for more information.

Christian Klepp  17:22

I think it would be fair to say like based on what you’ve been saying, explaining in the past couple of minutes, that it’s also important for organizations to identify opportunities where, everybody else just sees adversity and problems, right. So there’s a bit of a, they need to have some kind of this mindset of adaptability, how they can probably pivot their business a bit to thrive during this difficult period.

Derek Bildfell  17:54

Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, the trick to effective and improve customer experience design is to have good customer insights, to be aware of what your customers are thinking. And you can try to glean it by watching social media, but why not their customers, your customers, just ask them is what I’ve always said, right to be too complex and create algorithms of data you’re watching over the world. So you’re gonna reach out and ask them, because if they’re customers, and you’ve been providing value to them, they want you to survive, they want to help you thrive. So at this point in time, there’s nothing wrong with the best thing to do is to step back and say, how do we redesign and apply best best design practices? And best design practices? Say what is the customer value? What do they want? What do they want in the future? So what we are doing with a lot of people right now, is we’ll be going out right away with the slightly changed surveys asking us a set of questions around. How are we doing? What can we do better? What would you like to see in the future, then you aggregate all that information so that you have a reliable assessment of what the customers think they want. And then what we recommend you do is rapid prototyping of ideas, especially if you don’t really know and I don’t really know what we’re gonna have to do in the future. gotta try things. So there’s a practice of rapid prototyping where you come up with a design and you say, that seems feasible. It seems like something the customer would want, and it seems like something that would be profitable for us to do. So. Barring anything else. Let’s try that. Try small way, see what you can learn. And circle back come back on that. It’s basically a process called Human Centered Design. IDEO is the company that really has some great documentation on how to implement rapid design through that process. You see examples of that, you see how, the grocery stores tried one way of doing their lineups. And then they that didn’t quite work, they tried a different way. Everybody is experimenting, and you’re seeing it in the market. And you’re seeing, when you watch it, you’re gonna be seeing people trying things, asking customers about it. And so let’s try this. Let’s try that. So that’s really one of the best ways you can do to change your pivot right away. Obviously, the obvious other one, of course, is you do know that you’re going to have to be incredibly high integrity organizations, highly localized organizations are going to probably experience more rapid uptick then than those that are nameless, faceless corporations.

Christian Klepp  20:41

Right. Exactly. Yeah, so the next question has a strong correlation to the points that we’ve been discussing over the past couple of minutes, but and you’ve rightly alluded to it, things are really far from what you can consider businesses as usual. And there’s been a lot of talk about reopening the economy. We’re not quite there yet and Ontario, they’ve reopened them, I’ll be in stages. But I think it’s fair to conclude that CX is clearly going to be an important part of rebuilding after COVID-19. With everything that’s going to happen moving forward, moving forward. Um, so given the current situation, if you were to execute one CX based initiative within this year, what would that initiative be and why would you recommend that one in particular?

Derek Bildfell  21:38

So I’m gonna say a little bit of it depends, and you’re gonna slap my hand for cheating on the question here. But the reality is, it kind of depends where you were going in. If you were, if you already had a good customer experience program, some kind of a continuous feed of information about your customers, through a good NPS like program or something like that, I would make a minor adjustment to the question so that you get a little bit more feedback, probably step up your… do a special, higher velocity question right away, you’re probably going to get a better response rate than usual. If you ask the right opening question, and then use that to rethink your service offerings, your relationship, what we call the intended experience. But the real thing that you want to do is probably, you would get a very big bang for your buck in the second half of this year, if you actually executed a journey, a customer journey mapping process. Because right now, everybody’s expectations are changing and everybody’s customer journeys are changing, which means you probably have to redesign your journey anyway. When we call it customer journey mapping what we’re talking about is coming up with an initial design of what you think the experience should be, taking customers from their perspective and having them walk that experience with you, and be able to see from them. Where are the highs and lows in that experience? And how can you redesign the experience before you even roll it out? So whether it be how you now do an online order, how you do online pickup, how do you do online consultation, everything I do is consultation in my business. I’ve had to redesign all of the consultation processes that I use. So I’m trying things, I’ll send them out to you. I’ll send them out to my clients. And I’ll say, let’s try this. Let me know if this works. And if it doesn’t work, I go back to them and say, that’s not working quite that well. And they go yeah, you’re right. I didn’t like that. Let’s try something else. Yeah, clients will be what we call very co-creative. And so you want to go… your approach right now should be to engage a few critical, supportive clients to co-create the future for you. Right. And that will be probably your most effective tool. And whether you use journey mapping or whether you use a greater acceleration of your NPS program, both of them are capable to do it. Fundamentally, co-creation is the way that a few people are going to come out way ahead on this thing.

Christian Klepp  24:22

Right. And I think you really hit the nail on the head there. Derek, I mean these are obviously unprecedented times and CX practitioners, they have to reassess what they need to do, looking ahead and probably have to, I wouldn’t say no, reinvent the wheel is not the right word, but like, reinvent the way that they’re doing things.

Derek Bildfell  24:44

So I kind of call it as reimagining what, you’re still providing value, the values, your business still gonna be the same. I still have to train and implement NPS programs for my clients. But I’m probably not going to have a run through of 30 people in a room listening to me anymore, probably not going to be sitting beside my clients, showing them how the products and tools that we use work. So I’ve had to get very, very good with zoom and with various remote tools and digital tools. So yeah, that’s the digital tools. That’s for sure.

Christian Klepp  25:20

Right. Exactly. All right. Well, besides being an accomplished CX professional, you’re also a professor of CX design at Centennial College here in Toronto. And I think you’re one of the best examples that I know of someone who’s pivoted their business and migrated a lot of your courses online. Right. And you’ve recently also launched your CX accelerator masterclass. So, why don’t you tell us a bit about that?

Derek Bildfell  25:48

Yeah, thank you, Christian. The interesting thing what we were just talking about with digital tools, all the tools, they’re just tools, you still have to have good discipline. I can’t build a house. Just because I buy a bigger hammer, I still have to have really good core disciplines. So we have always taught our own clients quite a bit about customer experience in the process of implementing. And we recently decided to take all of those lessons and tools and package them into a really nice masterclass to say, look, you Christians have been given the mantle inside your company to improve the customer experience. You know it’s going to be important. You can see it’s going to be important based on anything you read in the in the press right now. What we’re trying to do is we go to class, it’s about 10-12 weeks long various. We change based on how intense certain conversations go. But the fundamental goal is to improve the career possibility of the people running customer experience. We’re going to provide you the discipline and the tools to understand what it is you need to do overall context over the next three years. Not over the next 6 months, because it’s really customer experience, it is a longer term benefit, you have to commit to it longer term. And a lot of people make a lot of mistakes up front, because they don’t know enough. And so what I’m what we’re trying to do is accelerate the speed with which you have a fundamental grasp of all the disciplines of customer experience. And we help you at the end of that we provide this plan that says, Okay, here’s the things that you will do in your company to improve your customer experience. So not only do you get a really good improvement in the discipline training, but you actually also get a good plan for moving forward. So that’s what we’re trying to do with that program. We were originally about to launch it as a face to face course in March of this year, and we switched rapidly to an online program and it’s actually been a real joy. We’ve had some great feedback from customers. One of them said that it’s like 24 hour course. And he said so far there hasn’t been a minute where I haven’t been completely completed attention to the screen. So you seem to figure that one out.

Christian Klepp  28:05

Well, that’s great. Well, speaking of feedback, I’d like to talk about a bit more about that. Because it seems that your masterclass has been receiving great feedback. And I think that was even one person that claimed that the CX masterclass was the highlight of our week.

Derek Bildfell  28:23

I think that’s the best compliment I’ve ever had for a business relationship. She’s paying me to teach her customer experience. And she says it’s the highlight of her week. So I hope that means it’s good. I hope it doesn’t mean she has a terrible rest of the week.

Christian Klepp  28:39

Well, you must have done something. That’s for sure. Derek, in your professional opinion, we’ve been we’ve been talking about the, we’ve been talking about the young, we’ve touched on the ongoing pandemic a little bit and about, what CX practitioners should be doing and about the economy reopening and in your professional opinion, what do you believe? Is this new normal, but everyone is talking about that we are going to be returning to?

Derek Bildfell  29:06

I think the new normal is something we’re going to have to invent I’m afraid. I don’t think anyone can. I mean, we can guess what the trends are going to be. And we can guess that it’s going to revert back to the ward the norm so we’re not going to be in this level of extreme situation for forever for much longer. You can see people that are reverting to the norm right now where we’re trying to be, we’re trying to have some normalcy but there are some things that will obviously permanently shift. The choice of bicycles like is I was thinking about this morning, but bicycles are sold out. Is that going to continue in Toronto when it gets cold? Are we all going to come back to taking the TTC again? So, I think it’s going to be a reinvention and a real change. My hope is that the elevated level of empathy and consider it to extend iteration toward each other continues. I think that would be, a nice positive that comes out of this. And probably we can see massive economic shifts such as the shift to moving out of downtown, greater expansion geographic, people will be able to afford a higher quality of life because they won’t have to spend an hour a day on the subway each way getting to work. Well, those things should all be very good for society in general. And there’ll be great efficiencies born as so that will happen and those things that we really do need to have more face to face on will probably become more valuable. I’m a big fan of face to face teaching, I need to see people when I’m doing the teaching. So I’m really hoping that we can at least have some of our classes back face to face by by the end of the year. Those things will become a premium. Going out for restaurants will probably become a bigger premium, more expensive activity.

Christian Klepp  31:09

Derek, this has been a really interesting and insightful session. So thanks so much for coming on and sharing. I guess I would say the last question that I have for you as well, what’s the best way for people out there to connect with you? And more importantly, how can they enroll in your masterclass?

Derek Bildfell  31:25

Oh, I should have been ready for that one, shouldn’t I? So connecting with me on LinkedIn is always easy. Like, says, my name is hard to spell though. So you probably never remember. I’m also very active in the Toronto Customer Experience Professionals Association. So I always engage with on all of those activities. So if you’ve never looked into that, it’s you can look up the CXPA or send me a note and I’ll give you an introduction there. For the class. I think the easiest way at this point is we have a brochure search on LinkedIn, our website is you go to our website and click on about and you would see the details of the class. You can register there, learn more about it, that’s a good thing to do. Go read up on it, learn it. It’s great class, we cover a lot of broad range of discussion items. But either of those are just normal as everybody else. If we’re in business, we try to make ourselves easy to get ahold to be connected with.

Christian Klepp  32:28

Fantastic. All right, Derek, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it. So take care. Be safe and talk soon.

Christian Klepp  32:40

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.eliblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.


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