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By: Rhoan Morgan on September 10th, 2020

What B2B Can Learn from B2C Customer Experience

In many ways, CX and Marketing are the key parts of the business tasked with thinking about the future of the business, and in particular, customer needs. Businesses that closely align these two functional areas can have a greater impact on the customer experience, and essentially a better business outcome.

This month on Revenue Rebels, join us as Rhoan Morgan sits down with Stuart Gilchriest, Director of Customer Experience and CCXP at Hertz to explore:

  • Who owns CX and where it should live within an organization
  • The role data plays in a successful CX strategy
  • Tips B2B can take from B2C CX

No time to listen? Get the full transcript below:

Rhoan Morgan (00:01):
Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Revenue Rebels, the podcast that brings marketing and sales rebels together to share their stories and thinking on all topics related to accelerating revenue, generating activities in the B2B world. On this show, we talk about the strategic vision of marketing-led customer experience that unleashes the combined power of technology, content and data. Are you ready to rebel? Let’s get into the show.

Rhoan Morgan (00:35):
Hello listeners. And welcome back to another episode of Revenue Rebels. Today’s guest is originally from the UK, as you will learn very quickly once he starts speaking. He grew up professionally as an area manager in the hospitality industry before he had the opportunity to move to Boston to study his MBA. So what’s exciting is that when he was at, he moved to Boston at studied his MBA and then actually was able to take that to pivot his career into an area that I’m personally really passionate about, which is customer experience. And he’s been working in customer experience in the travel industry for the past six years. Stuart Gilchriest is joining us today. He’s a certified customer experience professional, and he’s currently working at Hertz leading customer experience initiatives. Thanks so much for joining us today, Stuart.

Stuart Gilchriest (01:25):
Thanks for having me on, it’s a pleasure.

Rhoan Morgan (01:28):
We’ve been preparing for this a little while and getting to know you a bit beforehand. I’m really excited to be able to share your insights and what you’re learning around customer experience, especially in today’s environment. And how to really sort of keep the lights on and continue to grow initiatives even when things are maybe more challenging. One of the things that we like to kick off our shows with is the rebel segment, where our guests gets to share a little bit about their personal experience and their sort of journey professionally. So can you just take a moment to share with us a rebel act from your professional journey, your marketing journey that maybe brought together customer experience and marketing within an organization. It’s an area that we’re really passionate about. How do these two things work together? I’d love to hear if you’ve tackled that.

Stuart Gilchriest (02:22):
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, in customer experience, it’s often your job to challenge the status quo. I think, you know, being a rebel it almost kind of comes with the territory when you take a customer experience role. And, you know, for me, just like a lot of people, I just think there’s a golden opportunity when you join a new company or even you’re promoted internally into a new CX role, just to really get the lay of the land meet with some execs and peers and really just challenge why things are the way they are. So, you know, to prepare for that, what I did when I came in Hertz was really to make sure I was bringing the customer voice and their feedback into those conversations. To approach those conversations with those leaders in very much a way that was designed to try and learn and understand more about them, about what motivate them, and what’s important to them in terms of the business. But it was also an opportunity just to probe and look at some of that legacy thinking a little bit, just to understand, you know, why are things this way and actually from a customer perspective, and as someone who’s new to the business, you just have this golden opportunity to bring in some new ideas, some new thoughts, and really some new perspectives with your experiences with that particular brand.

Stuart Gilchriest (03:41):
So, you know, that’s what I was able to do. And I think that really helps you to build your reputation, to understand who the key players in the business are build those relationships and really find allies for your future work. I think that’s a really key piece when you’re coming into any new organizationYou know, but coming back to the rebels piece, I think that it’s just a great opportunity to really push back on some of those things, which are just the accepted ways of doing business. Car rental is classic for that. And it was really refreshing and enlightening to be able to come in and really just share kind of some of those customer pain points and frustrations and understand why it is that way and figure out where the opportunities to drive change actually were.

Rhoan Morgan (04:28):
You actually pointed out something that I think is really important and I’ve spent time on this myself as somebody who’s worked with a lot of marketers, they’re hyper creative people and oftentimes will come into an organization wanting to make a lot of changes, right? They’re going to see ways to improve, to make improvements, to optimize and put their stamp or their fingerprint on things. And one way of doing that is definitely being the challenger who goes in and asks those hard questions. We were talking about this a little bit ago, you’re at a company that is a century old, right? So there has to have been, you know, first of all, I think kudos to a company that is willing to take the step and recognize the importance of customer experience and how that can transform a business. Maybe can you share a little bit about, you know, the process that you went through to really bring this through the organization?

Stuart Gilchriest (05:30):
Yeah, absolutely. It really, for me, it starts with digging in to that customer feedback. Both the qualitative feedback that we’re getting and also the quantitative feedback. You know, hopefully you’re coming into an organization where that already exists. If not, there’s definitely some groundwork to lay first. But assuming that that information is there, I think it’s super important if you are coming in challenging the status quo and coming in with lot of ideas that you’re actually just not shooting from the hip, but you’re really basing those based on customer insights. That you’ve already got a good understanding of what matters to customers and what adds value to customers, because then you’re able to go ahead and prioritize some of those things. That way you avoid those kinds of fantasy projects where you come in, because we all see the world through our own eyes, right?

It’s super important that if you are coming in challenging the status quo and coming in with a lot of ideas that you’re actually just not shooting from the hip, but you’re really basing those, based on customer insights.

Stuart Gilchriest (06:22):
We all assume that our experience with the brand is exactly the same as everybody else’s. And when you’ve got, you know, thousands and thousands of customers, every single day, it’s wrong to assume that yours is the only experience that matters. So you really have to come in with that humility and understanding, and really that, you know, you’ve got to get knee deep in the data and what your customers are saying, and then you can bring that to life. And then in those conversations, you have that credibility when you’re meeting with your senior leaders who perhaps don’t have the time to really sift through all that information in as much detail. You have that credibility to say, like I’ve been through a lot of the comments and a lot of the things I see are X, Y, and Zed. How do we think about driving that change? How do we think about creating a better experience for our customers? So, you know, having that data and that insight to share before you go into those conversations, I think is the critical part of changing people’s minds and really proving that you’re serious. And you know, that you know what you’re talking about.

Rhoan Morgan (07:24):
Music to my ears, and I love that we are starting this segment talking about having the real data, having those insights that are based on both qualitative and quantitative measures. I think you’re absolutely right. It’s easy to go into a situation and say, “well, this is sort of what my gut tells me,” one of my least favorite sentences, unless your gut is also backed up by data, then, you know, great bring it on. Couldn’t agree more. And we talk about that a lot too. You know, how do you, can you go into an executive meeting and really sort of help those light bulbs go off and you have to go in with that foundation, which is going to build the credibility in what you’re trying to do.

Rhoan Morgan (08:10):
Maybe can you share a couple of the outcomes that you’ve seen or examples of successes? I know you’ve been there now a couple of years. What would you say sort of you are most proud of in terms of the process you’ve gone through so far?

Stuart Gilchriest (08:25):
Yeah, sure. I think one of the, one of the key roles, I think in CX, at least in our company and a lot of different companies, obviously we’re B2C, but you can apply this in the B2B space as well is, you know, CX really has to be that glue that brings, you know, the marketers who are kind of making promises to potential customers and the, in our case, the operators who actually deliver that experience, but even in a B2B environment that may be onboarding teams and account managers, and just bringing those two teams really closely together. Because I think if we’re making a promise that we aren’t able to keep and isn’t founded in reality, then that’s where bad experiences happen and customer service issues come in. So that was really our approach really from day one. And one of the outcomes that came from that was a really collaborative session that we had with the marketing leadership team around brand strategy and CX strategy.

CX really has to be that glue that brings the marketers who are kind of making promises to potential customers and, in our case, the operators who actually deliver that experience, but even in a B2B environment that may be onboarding teams and account managers, and just bringing those two teams really closely together.

Stuart Gilchriest (09:18):
In my mind, those two things are certainly different, but they should live on the same page of the same document, they should be referenced equally. And people should have a really good understanding of how they play together at that high level. So that was definitely something that we were able to achieve in that first year. And then since then we’ve seen improved customer retention on a very consistent basis. We were very proud to be awarded the JD Power Award for customer satisfaction in car rental last year, and really anticipating the results being released this year as well. And I think probably the least tangible, but one of the most important outcomes that we had from that work was that, CX is really an embedded role now. We’re seen as much more than just the survey teamwhich is certainly a part of it, but there’s so much more to it than that. Really we’re asked for our input when it comes to key decisions, key marketing campaigns and when people want to know more about their customers, they’re coming to us to ask what our insights might be and for us to help tell that story for them.

Rhoan Morgan (10:27):
I think that’s huge and could not agree more that it has to be embedded into every aspect of a business. And one of the challenges that we see is that it’s a bit siloed, you know, where you own this part of the customer’s experience or journey, if that’s marketing or sales or customer support product operations. And once you can sort of infuse that throughout every team and team member, which it sounds like, I think that’s been a big focus for you. It is, you know, the results and the return on your efforts is 10 times, a hundred times what you could, which you could expect otherwise. So in the example that you were just talking about, you know, I want to just shift over to talk about teams a little bit, because you started to share that you were working with some of the marketing leaders and bringing together brand strategy and CX strategy. Can you share a bit about the teams and the other stakeholders that you were able to bring together to start to pull this throughout the entire organization? So who, and maybe is it a team or an organization within Hertz that was surprising? Tell us a story about, about that.

Stuart Gilchriest (11:41):
Yeah, of course. Yeah. The fun thing for me with any customer experience work is you get to just engage with pretty much everyone in the business. The program and the idea behind it is about really lifting other people up, driving that cultural change and helping them to be successful. So, we sit within marketing in Hertz. But as I mentioned earlier, the operations team for us, the frontline men and women who go above and beyond for our customers every single day, was really the team that we knew was critical to engage. And we continually seek their engagement on a lot of these things, because we know that whatever we write down on a nice PowerPoint deck doesn’t really mean anything, unless it means something to our staff and our great kind of people out there in the field who go in every day and just do amazing things for our customers.

Stuart Gilchriest (12:36):
So in terms of surprises, I wouldn’t say that that was necessarily a surprise, but it was definitely hard work, right. I think, you know, with anyone who is dealing with customers day in day out, it can be a real challenge, I think sometimes to step back and see a bigger picture. And that’s really what we continually help them to do. Whether that’s people on the phones, in a customer service role, whether it’s people in our locations. It’s really kind of crucial that we are providing that insight that helps people step back just a little bit and understand, okay, this is the big picture beyond this customer who’s right in front of me today. These are the trends we’re seeing. This is what the real pain points and sticking points for customers are. So that was definitely something that was really important to us, how we went about doing that was really just democratizing the insights.

Stuart Gilchriest (13:27):
I think sometimes you hear about democratizing data, but for us, it was really about sharing those insights and making sure that as many people as possible had access to those to really understand what was going on. And when we get it right for people, what are the key things that they value in that experience? And when it doesn’t go so well, where are the opportunities that we can improve? I think that has really encouraged our entire frontline team and really our entire organization to think about those customer problems as they are today. And I’ll tell you, you know, a couple of years into this role, we get so much more input and creative solutions coming from other teams than we used to because people are now thinking about customer problems and how we can solve them. So, you know, that’s a key part of the catalyst part of the customer experience role, in my opinion.

Rhoan Morgan (14:17):
You know, I was just reading an article not too long ago about the correlation or the connection between employee experience and customer experience. And it sounds like that’s obviously been forefront for you guys where ensuring that if you’ve got employees who themselves are having a fantastic experience who are really plugged into an organization and who get the greater purpose of, you know, what’s coming out of the PowerPoint, essentially, what does it really mean to them? Then they’re able to really provide something, you know, sort of at a next level for their customers that they’re working with every day, be that on the phone in person, that sort of thing. Is that something that you guys thought about?

Stuart Gilchriest (15:06):
Yeah, absolutely. And look, I’ll say it’s a marathon, not a sprint, right. I think we’ve always got more that we can be doing there. It’s not as something as simple as, Oh, we’ve checked that box. Let’s move on. But our leadership starting with our CEO all the way down are just so focused on the employee experience and how we can make that better for our employees. We still got a lot of work to do, but we are making a lot of progress and we’re able to celebrate those wins. I mentioned that customer satisfaction award, you know, there was a huge kind of campaign following that for a couple of months where, you know, the award was kind of toured around the country and our teams got to touch it, post photos, those kinds of things, and just sharing the pride that we all had in, in receiving that. And frankly, they earned that award. As a customer experience team we may point out some things where we can improve, but it’s the people on the front lines who do that. And again, in any business, there are people who are interacting with customers who really do the hard yards. And it’s so important as a CX program to recognize the impact that you can have, not just on the customer, but on your employees who will then ultimately have a great impact on your customer too.

Rhoan Morgan (16:14):
Fantastic! I love that you guys were touring that around and letting them take pictures and touch it. To touch the award, it makes it so much more real. And in the sort of remote world that we live in, it’s funny because our team is 100% remote. I used to say they were a hundred percent virtual, but then I realized that sounds a little bit strange. But we went 100% remote probably two years ago. And we had a lot of these awards in our office and I’m like, gosh, now what do we do? Just, you know, send a picture of an award, you know, I mean, so it’s a little bit less exciting. And so I love that you did a tour with us. That’s really important. It’s really important. Okay. So let’s shift a little bit and talk, dive actually a bit more into customer experience.

Rhoan Morgan (17:03):
And as we go through this, I do want to actually talk about too what B2B can learn from B2C. Because I know that’s been, that’s been primarily your space is the consumer space, but we’ll definitely get there. I’m excited to talk with you about that. As a company, at DemandLab, our work has been in helping clients use their technology, use their data and then, get great content to push out through the technology, to their audiences. And it’s, you know, for us, we have seen over the years, a lot of that technology is starting to really move into the customer experience space, specifically in B2B. That’s our area. We’re starting to think about this much more deeply our clients as a marketing-led customer experience. As you said, you’re embedded within the marketing organization and we’re seeing more and more thought leaders and analysts say, Oh, marketing’s going to own the customer experience.

Rhoan Morgan (18:03):
And I always think to myself, I mean and I think I said this in one of my last podcasts, hasn’t this always been the case? But to some extent, no, it hasn’t. And we see this as a time where marketing’s role is really getting even more elevated due to technology, due to new skill development and that sort of thing to sort of be the customer champion, the real journey creator and experience innovator. But then I think you touched on something else that I’ve been thinking a lot about, which is that it is a customer led experience, right? So the organizations are becoming the facilitator. You know, really working to serve up that frictionless, very satisfying, ultimately buying experience. And that’s our work, that’s our goal. So that’s sort of how we’re thinking about it. And I would really love for you to expand on, if you can, you know, from your experience, and I know you’ve been in, you’ve been in this space for, for years now. Who has owned the customer experience within an organization, has it always been marketing or are there other folks out there that, you know, are playing an important role and how has that changed over time?

Stuart Gilchriest (19:16):
Yeah, definitely. And I, you know, the short, simple answer is, and it’s a little bit cliche, but it’s true that everyone owns the customer experience, right? It’s not and shouldn’t be left to one team to really drive performance in that particular area because everybody has to take some ownership of it. In terms of where customer experience experiences as a function sits, I’ve seen it done many different ways. There’s pros and cons for all of them. But I’ve seen CX living within a customer service organization before. And the downside of that is that you tend to be very reactive because you’re reacting to the calls, emails, complaints that you may be getting. Obviously with Hertz, we sit within marketing and I think we do a pretty good job of this, but the risk is that you can then be focused too much on the other way, which is on those enhancements and not really fixing the things that are broken today.

It’s true that everyone owns the customer experience, right? It’s not and shouldn’t be left to one team to really drive performance in that particular area because everybody has to take some ownership.

Stuart Gilchriest (20:10):
I’ve seen it live in operations, certainly in my days in hospitality, operations tended to own the CX work. And then you tend to end up with a lot of score chasing, for example. So you know, there’s a lot of different ways of doing it. In my opinion, an independent customer experience function is probably the way to go, but ultimately I think it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you want incremental change, I think that’s less important to be independent. If you’re going for a full overhaul of the experience, then that independence really helps. The one thing I would say on that kind of independent model, the reporting directly to the CEO is you really need a strong leader for that. You need someone who knows the business, who is savvy in the boardroom and can really navigate those challenges because it isn’t a truly established function yet. It isn’t taught in every business school across the country. So there is work to do, even at that executive level to educate on the impact and value that a customer experience function can have. But in many ways it actually doesn’t matter too much where you sit within an organization, it matters a lot more about who you’re engaging with and what you’re doing. But there are a lot of different ways and every company should probably treat it differently based on what’s right for them.

Rhoan Morgan (21:23):
Yeah. I agree. Yeah. You know, when, when we’re talking about it, we are probably a little bias I’ll admit. As we think about this going, you know, sort of falling under marketing and the reason for that is that marketing has really been, I think always been the discipline with sort of the most holistic view of the customer. The most sort of customer facing function that does sit at the executive table with the CMO and you know, that sort of level marketing leadership. And they’ve got some of the capabilities to really respond to the customer experience. And I love that you’ve kind of listed out some of the risks of having this in other departments, but I absolutely agree with you. This is a unique decision that has to be sort of determined by what your goals are and what your company is all about. Before Hertz, was your customer experience team based under marketing, or was it within another, I think you said operations actually.

Stuart Gilchriest (22:28):
In various different kind of lives has been in different places. Right? So in hospitality, it was very much under operations. And as you mentioned in the intro there, as a regional leader for some restaurant companies back in the UK, it was very much our responsibility as regional leaders to be driving that performance and finding ways to improve it. As I say, a lot of operators generally focus on metrics and what can we do to improve the metrics. And sometimes that really misses the point of a good CX program and a good voice of customer program, right? It’s as much around learning and understanding what customer needs and pain points are rather than trying to get a better score of. Obviously you hope that you get that if you fix some of the problems, but that shouldn’t be the method of improving the experience necessarily.

Stuart Gilchriest (23:18):
And then in my last role it actually lived in customer service. And again, that’s where you tend to see a little bit more of that kind of reactive focus on those customer issues as they come up today, which can then blinker you to, how is the customer evolving? How are the needs evolving? And how can we make sure that we are delivering a product and a service that really works well for them, not just today, but in the future as well. So, yeah, there’s definitely pros and cons of each and I haven’t really seen it done perfectly in any way, but I think it depends as much around leadership and the key players on the team being able to get out there and do the work as opposed to which function you sit within.

Rhoan Morgan (24:03):
I totally agree. I love that. When we started to talk about this, I was really excited to hear from your perspective, what you think B2B can take from the B2C customer experience work and the groundwork that’s been laid. I sort of think customer experience has been around for a long time. Everybody should and has already sort of been thinking about it. Now in the B2B world, we’re starting to see more and more people talk about it and sort of finally get it. I have some great examples that I will not share on the podcast, but one day I’m sure we can talk through that. It’s fun to share some of these stories of how B2B companies were like, Oh no, our audience doesn’t care about that sort of thing. And I’m like yea but, they’re actually, just they’re people too. And in fact, they’re experiencing that right now with Zappos and Amazon and Hertz and you know, all of these. So they do actually want that. They don’t become a different type of human when they’re buying from you as a business buyer. So what would you say, I guess are some of your top tips that a B2B company could take from the experience of B2C and, maybe either just think about and process, or actually even apply right away.

Stuart Gilchriest (25:24):
Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a lot of similarities, obviously some key differences, but there’s a lot of similarities between, you know, B2C CX and then B2B CX. I think the first of those is that a recognition that it’s really about the entire journey and as a CX team, you’re trying to join up those different teams that interact with the customer at different stages of the lifecycle. The tendency can be for those teams to look at their siloed interactions without considering that entire life cycle, and the journey within it. I think another thing is a recognition that the brand promise that a company is putting out, and in a B2B world, the promises that the sales team are making need to be grounded in a lot of reality, because otherwise you’re going to wind up with some broken brand promises that really lead to customer frustration and churn once they’re on board, right?

Stuart Gilchriest (26:19):
If you over promise and under deliver, that’s a recipe, whether it’s B2B, B2C or any, any other variant, for customer dissatisfaction ,for a lot of churn, reduced retention, all of those things that come with that. And as the CX team, I think it’s our role to tell the story of what that looks like when it goes wrong, to help people understand how they can put it. Right. Other things I’d throw into this is, you know, I think as marketers, sometimes we believe that just because we say it’s true, then it will be true. Particularly when we’re putting messages out there for our customers, in terms of, you know, we believe that we as company X are all about this, that, and the other. And actually that doesn’t mean that customers will buy that. That doesn’t mean that when you ask customers how their perceptions of your brand are, that doesn’t mean they’re gonna repeat those exact three things that you think that you are, right.

If you over promise and under deliver, that’s a recipe, whether it’s B2B, B2C or any other variant, for customer dissatisfaction, for a lot of churn, reduced retention, and all of those things that come with that.

Stuart Gilchriest (27:14):
So just because you say to potential prospects, you may be looking to bring in that you are the company with the best service or the best software or the best product or whatever it is that you’re promising, just because you say that’s the case doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s true. And it’s really important to ha