Kevin Micalizzi: There are so many possible customer touchpoints. The question always comes up, “Who owns the overall customer experience?” I’m Kevin Micalizzi, executive producers of the Quotable Podcast, and I recently had a chance to sit down with Tiffani Bova, the global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, to talk about it. Tiffani shared a lot of the best practices around it, as well as what we should be measuring. Let’s jump in.
You and I have talked about this a few times on video. I’ve heard you talk about it in other spaces.
I really wanted an opportunity to kind of jump in and dig into who owns the customer experience. First, I am super-excited, Tiffani, to turn the microphone around and actually have you join as a guest for once.
Tiffani Bova: Awesome.
Micalizzi: Since you’ve joined us as a host many times. Tiffani, for those who don’t understand your role here at Salesforce, what exactly is it that you do?
Bova: Great question.
I have the wonderful fortune of working here at Salesforce, where they’ve really allowed me to sort of find my way in the best possible scenarios of how can I help our existing customer base be more successful using technology coupled with the right processes and people arrangements in order to get the most out of it. Really focused on that customer success.
Simultaneously, I get the opportunity to be externally facing, so really trying to drive some thought leadership and putting some thinking out from Salesforce about what we think the future of sales will be and kind of where competition and the battleground will happen as it relates to sales marketing and customer service now.
Then I get to do things that are more socially conscious, so doing things around diversity and inclusion, with Tony Prophet and his group. So I get kind of the best of both worlds, with our customers, then with the market at large, and then doing things that make a difference.
Micalizzi: That’s fantastic. Love working with Tony. He was actually a guest here at the podcast.
Tiffani, I’ve been dying to ask you, because we’ve talked about this off and on, and I’ve heard you speak about it in a number settings, who owns the customer experience? Because I think you have sales, you have marketing, you have service, and everybody’s kind of weighing in on it, and everybody owns a piece of it, but I think, at least from folks I’ve talked to on all sides of the house, they all feel that they own it and the others are just contributing to it. So I was curious, from your perspective, who owns the experience, and how should we be looking at it?
Bova: Yeah. I’m going to push back and I’m going to try to bounce as high as I can, sort of to the 40,000-foot level, and when I say push back, I mean I almost feel like that’s the wrong question.
Bova: “Who owns customer experience” puts a big onus on the word “owns.” That’s where I think our muscle memory as sales executives and marketing executives and customer service executives
We have been trained throughout our career that the way for us to show value is to have a clear set of metrics put in front of us, and we’re measured against those metrics, and that’s our performance, and that’s how companies make decisions on who should be promoted and who should get bonuses and raises and how commission plans are done, kind of all of the above.
If you keep that line of thinking when you start talking about a company who is really interested and pivoting to a customer-first, customer-centric company that is more focused on the experience a customer has with the brand, all up, then no one individually or no group individually should own it. It should be about the DNA of the company, and everyone believes in the vision that this is the kind of company we want to be, and so “who owns it” almost becomes a moot point.
Now, I put that aside for a second, because that all sounds great until it’s time for you to then get measured on performance.
Bova: Right? I push back because I think if we start with the understanding that the company has to be all in around aligning themselves towards customer-centricity, that’s kind of the first step. Then you can say, as you said, Kevin, that there are pieces of that journey [where] a customer will touch different parts of the organization.
It could be digital marketing, and then it drives them to pick up the phone and call a sales rep or have a field sales rep show up or email a sales rep. Now there’s a different touch with a different group. Then the customer chooses to purchase and purchases, and then they have something that they want to do differently or learn, or they have a problem, or they want to talk about their bill. Now they touch another group, as in customer service. Some groups are now calling themselves customer success in that role.
But you now have multiple touchpoints, each playing a very critical piece in that journey. Who is more or less responsible for that journey? Remember, I’m sort of turning it on its head and saying, if we look on what the customer thinks of each of those touchpoints, we may make different decisions than thinking about it from “what do I own” and “what can I control” in each of those touchpoints. Does that make sense?
Micalizzi: It does.
So that’s why I think the question is the right question, obviously, because “who owns it,” as you said, regardless of whose study you’re listening to, whether it’s a Gartner or a McKinsey or a Bain or a BCG or a Capgemini or anybody — it’s the chief marketing officer says they own customer experience. It’s now a new customer success organization or a chief customer officer that owns it, or sometimes sales will say that they own it. I get why the question.
I think what should be asked is, who’s responsible for the performance and what are the measurements in customer experience, and then how do we align everybody to it?
Micalizzi: Let’s take the measurement, because I’m curious. Every sales team has a quota. There’s a lot that we measure in sales right now. What do we need to be measuring differently to realign?
Bova: This is an area that I continue to learn about all the time, because I think everybody intuitively, on the sales side, understands the metrics we’ve all lived and breathed for decades, if not longer, around “what is your productivity” around calls and meetings and pipeline and pipeline progression and how many emails you respond to and kind of all those things. Top of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, and then achieving quota. All of those have to maintain themselves, because there’s no way to understand if you’ve got things going on, good or bad, in your sales team, unless you’re watching those metrics.
But what I’d say there is that, with the advancements that technology has made around customer relationship management, a lot of the journey mapping, listening tools, artificial intelligence, all these new things —a lot of that monitoring of performance metrics should be done via automation, and then only send a manager or an individual contributor sort of warning signals when something falls either below what is expected or you’re doing really well, and so it wants to recognize that you’re doing really well. But that kind of day-to-day watching those metrics, I think, from a management standpoint, needs to be lessened, which will free up managers to now spend more time looking at some of those more customer-oriented performance metrics.
Could be net promoter scores. Could be customer satisfaction surveys after a customer buys. Could be doing actual research around why customers are not buying from you and learning there. You have to free up management’s time to start to pay attention to some of these softer metrics, while the systems and automation and technology takes care of the standard status quo kinds of metrics we’ve had for a long time.
I think customer experience now has bubbled up as I think, in our state of sales research, anyway, it’s now number one across multiple lines of business. But people look at me and go, “Well, what does that mean?” I think it’s different at varying companies, but net promoter scores could be one, customer satisfaction scores, anything that’s customer-oriented.
Micalizzi: Right. I mean, I’m thinking, even in the SaaS space, product adoption. You may be selling it, but are folks actively using it?
Because if you’re not completing that entire cycle, then it’s not an effective relationship for that customer.
Bova: Yeah. The challenge there is, okay, so then who’s responsible for that? Let’s just make it easy terms and say I’m a hunter. I’ve closed new business. Now, is it still my responsibility to make sure that that customer is using whatever I’ve sold to them? If I am, then we all know it ends up distracting me from going and getting new business, and I’m always going to lean to where I’m most comfortable.
If I’m more comfortable selling and closing new business, I’m going to ignore my basic customers. If I’m more comfortable working my base and kind of farming, then I’m not going to go get new customers. So then, do you have a team that is more oriented around customer success, where their sole goal is to make sure that the customer is getting true value out of whatever it is that they purchased? If that’s the case, then the handoff between those two may be a customer experience touchpoint.
Was that seamless? If the customer isn’t using the product and the customer success manager can’t turn that around, then did sales actually sell them what they needed, or did they sell them what they didn’t need? And, so, is that a metric you watch? Going back to “Is the customer getting the most value out of the monies that they’ve spent?”
Micalizzi: I think that’s a great way of looking at it. We’ve talked about how we measure.
I’m curious, from the sales perspective, what do leaders need to be doing differently to kind of realign thinking around it? I know we talked about taking some of the reporting burden away, but I think there’s almost an entire mindset shift that has to happen here.
Bova: Yeah. I’d say one area where we tend to not focus enough, I think, is we spend a lot of time on the individual contributor. Here’s the tools. Here’s the training that they’re taking, whether it’s challenger training or spin training or whatever it might be.
Here’s the tools they’re using, Salesforce and others. Here’s what they have to do every day. Here’s their dialer. Here’s their call list sort of a lot of that stuff. Much of sales management has been promoted through the ranks and so may be used to be an individual contributor and now manages a team, so tends to have the mindset of “Well, I’m going to manage the way I was managed” and “I’m going to manage to the metrics because it’s the least path of resistance for me.”
But today, as I was just saying, with all this advancement in technology, we should be carving half the amount of time and giving it back to actually spend time mentoring and coaching salespeople on how to do better sales calls. It isn’t necessarily, at least in my opinion, about the volume of calls anymore, where people go “Look, here’s the day. It’s dial a hundred times, make 10 meetings, do this.”
If you do it every day and you close one every day, it means you have to call 4000 people a month, and you have all that math I don’t agree with, because I think we’ve moved so far past the fact that it’s about cold just dialing for dollars and letting the system help us be more intelligent. So it’s actually less is more in this case, as long as management allows us to do that. As I just was alluding to, that I think there’s an area we’ve been ignoring, which is that middle layer between an individual contributor and the executives, which is sales management, that has the opportunity to really change the way they manage the day-to-day of their people, focus more on coaching and mentoring, letting the tools do what they’re actually capable of doing.
You’re right. This is a mindset shift, but the only way they can do it is if they’re given permission, if you will, to start to change the way they manage their teams. The only way they can do that is if they’re still delivering on the expectation of top-line sales is super black and white. You hit your numbers, you’re golden. You don’t hit your numbers, we’ve got a problem.
If you can show that people can call less, you can spend more time coaching, and you can actually continue to hit your numbers, if not even improve performance. You’re going to get the support that you need from above management to give you more of the time and resources and potentially tools and systems and sales ops and marketing, et cetera, enablement to empower you to even do more.
Micalizzi: The way I’m thinking of it is we’re at the point where we have the tools and the data to really go for quality over quantity.
Bova: Yeah. I’d say, when I meet with customers, it’s fascinating to me. My story is people who have heard me speak before I call myself a recovering seller. I sort of joke in the fact that I used to carry a bag and I ran my entire quota, retiring my quota out of a spinning round Rolodex, so I’m going to date myself, and then I graduated to a single-user version of ACT that was also powered by my swirly Rolodex, and a little bit of PostIt notes and Excel spreadsheets, et cetera.
I’ve been doing this a while, so there’s a lot of technology, quote/unquote, “fatigue” out there as it relates to individual contributing sales reps. The challenge that we have is how do we get individual contributors to believe that it is really different this time, that technology is starting to catch up to the promise in which it has shared over time?
Not that it wasn’t the truth back then. It’s that we just hadn’t caught up in so many ways. There were so many other things that had to happen simultaneously for everything to come together. I think now it is really a chance for sellers and for management within sales to step back a second and say “We just can’t keep performing and doing what we’ve always done and expect that we’re going to get those same results. Those dials we’ve always spun up” or “When we want to grow, hire more sales reps.
Every head, one more million dollars” or “another hundred thousand dollars.” “Add a head, hundred thousand. Add a head, one million.” Whatever it is. And then “If we call a hundred more people, then we get 10 more leads and we get one more deal.” While all true, if you can do more, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do more on the human side. Customers have let us know through all kinds of studies that they’re willing to have digital relationships with brands as well, as long as they’re authentic and personalized. There’s ways to do it.
You just have to start to test without completely disrupting your revenue streams in the meantime.
Micalizzi: Right. Are companies taking a segment of their sales team and attempting new approaches? How are the customers you’re interacting with trying to, as you said, not interrupt the revenue stream, but really push the envelope and find new approaches?
Bova: It’s a great question, Kevin, because here’s what I’d tell you, is that the people, the clients that I meet with, both today in my role at Salesforce and my previous role is when they go to look for different ways they can approach things.
I’m making a SWAG here guess but let’s just say it’s 90% of the time. When I give this example it’s funny. It’s probably 100%, but let’s give it 90. Let’s give it 80% of the time. When marketing wants to pilot something or when sales wants to pilot something, they always grab the top performers to do it.
You grab the top sales reps, because you go “You know what? They’re the best of the best. And if we’re going to know if this is going to work, it’ll work with them.” I actually don’t agree with that, because, regardless of what marketing tells them to do or sales leadership tells them to do, they are high performers, and they’re going to put their spin on it, whatever that means. It might be they only call 10 people, but they hit their numbers, or they email before they show up. Whatever it is that they do individually, they’re high performers.
The process marketing may have laid out or the things that sales wants them to do is not actually what happens. So it either gives you a false positive or a false negative. It didn’t work or it did work. Was it because of marketing and sales collaborating to get this, or was it the individual? I like to have a mix of high performers and medium performers to get a cross-section, so that you know whether it is the people that is making the difference or if it is really what you’re piloting.
That’s the first thing I’d say, and people kind of look at me and go, “My God, we always test it with our top performers. Then we wonder why it worked and then why it doesn’t work.”
Bova: Right, and this is usually why. The second thing that they do is that they don’t separate this group. Now, if you’re a small sales organization, you have five salespeople. You can’t carve out two and a half people. The challenge is that you’re never going to be able to pilot something with one person and see enough lift to get you to feel confident enough to transition everybody.
Unfortunately, as you start to scale is where you can start to use some of these things, or with each new sales rep you hire in, you only hire them in doing the new things you want to do and you let the current state and current sales reps continue as they are, until they start to see these new people using new tools and new processes and new systems outperforming. They naturally will start to migrate to what you want them to do.
Micalizzi: Now, are you seeing a change in how we incentivize sales in this new model? I’m not necessarily going to say “You know, Tiffani, that was a great job. You made 300 phone calls per day this week. You really got some great pipe going.” Have we shifted how we’re looking at incentivizing?
Bova: Yeah. I’d say this. I’d say this is where it gets tricky, because salespeople I remember.
I was probably one of the very first, back in 1999, 2000, 2001, to actually I ran sales service and marketing for the largest web-hosting company in the U.S. We were about four times the size of Rackspace. We were $110 million in MRR. I was a [Locus] beta client and Constant Contacts beta client. I had recurring revenue sales reps, and many of them had sold traditional onprem technology. It could be a $10,000 deal, a $100,000 deal, a million-dollar deal. Now I’m telling them, “You know, you’re selling 49 bucks a month or 50 bucks a month, and you’re going to make 6 bucks.”
They all look at me like “What?” Transitioning somebody to big dollar projects, to kind of recurring revenue, is not getting any easier. So there has to be creative ways where you can help them do that. But if you want to think further than that and say “Look, what about incentivizing them on things like [CSAT], utilization, churn, lifetime value, upsell/cross-sell”
So they bought one product. Let’s say Tiffani sells to these 10 customers and Kevin sells to these 10 customers. What’s interesting is Kevin’s customers six of them bought two or more products, where Tiffani’s only bought one. So what is Kevin doing, and how do we reward him for the fact that he’s actually selling two products right out of the gate, and Tiffani’s only selling one? Even though maybe we’d both hit the same dollar number, but you’ve done a better job at selling across a portfolio, so how do I reward you differently?
Those are the kinds of things that, if management is starting to look at performance by more things than just top-line, you start to see these other kinds of indicators and levers you can pull. One way to really get good at that is something like gamification, where you want to try to change behavior using gamification to say, instead of just making it quota-based, that you say that example I just gave
We’ve got five things to sell, and if you sell two or more, you get one 1.2 X on the first one you sold, and you get 1.5 X on the second one you sold, and if you only sell one, you get 1. So you have accelerators to try to change behavior across multiple sales. There’s ways to do it, but sales reps if there’s one thing that’s true regardless of where you are in this world and what you’re selling is when you start touching comp. plan, the world stops.
So you have to make sure that you don’t change it too often, it’s not too complicated, and third, and probably first, but third on my little list here would be you have to get them to buy in and understand where they can maximize their own performance to make money.
Micalizzi: Right. We’re also seeing a very large shift towards the account-based model of selling. I say that, and I’ll qualify it with the fact that, in many respects, sales has always been account-focused, but with the technology and the tools that are out there now, it becomes easier to scale.
I’m curious, especially from a customer lifecycle perspective, how are you seeing these changes in technology and this shift in thinking? How are you seeing it impact the relationship between sales and marketing?
Bova: I did a webinar for [USSA] a number of months back, and I called it a love letter from sales to marketing. [Laughs]
Micalizzi: I love it.
Bova: Yeah. It was really kind of about this conversation. Then I just did another webinar on account-based marketing very specifically.
What was fun about it is I did a little exercise where I walked up to a marketer and I said, “Let me ask you, how do you define a marketing qualified lead, and how do you define a sales qualified lead?” Then I asked a sales rep, “How do you define a sales qualified lead and a marketing qualified lead?” Lo and behold, they did not agree.
Micalizzi: Oh, of course not.
Bova: First thing we need to do is agree on what is a qualified lead, what is a qualified account, and what are the plays, if you will what plays are we going to use in our account-based marketing activities?
Who is responsible for what? What do I get when I get a lead that I’m supposed to call down on ABM, or maybe there is some automation and digital that’s happening, and then I take it over as a sales rep let’s say as the first-touch human being. What information am I going to get, and what’s my next action, and how can that whole thing be very seamless and make it easier for me and more effective and efficient for me than if I had just called them on my own?
If you can move the customer along from a marketing perspective, through that funnel, and then I touch it, and there are certain things I need to do, I think account-based marketing right now if you’re still dialing a hundred a day and it isn’t account-based marketing in its concept, and it really is you’re just calling away and shooting in the dark of “I’ve got 10,000 names. I’m just going to start dialing,” at a minimum, you need to start focusing your sales organization, or even as an individual contributor, like which kinds of customers and what’s the right value prop and what’s the right message.
I think account-based marketing finally is a way in which sales and marketing can come together, only if they agree on definitions, on roles, on responsibility, on expectations, and what they need to do, each of them, and always revisiting what’s working and not working, so it’s constantly this fine-tuning engine between the two.
But I would say that account-based marketing should also now include customer service, because there’s a stat out of Gartner that says that some 25%, I think, of CRM quotes in the next couple of years will actually come out of customer service, which means account-based marketing, upsell/cross-sell, may actually happen out of the customer success, customer service organization and not out of sales. So account-based marketing is not exclusively reserved for marketing or for sales or for service.
It needs to be a philosophy of we’re going to be targeting customers when we want to communicate with them, either to sell them or to market to them or to communicate with them in some way.
Micalizzi: You’re really structuring around the entire customer lifecycle. We’re calling it account-based, but in many ways, it’s customer-based marketing sales service. We’re treating it as one entity and one entire lifecycle.
Bova: Yeah. An individual customer it was this really great pizza brand that delivers to households, and they have for a long time. Now they’re starting to do it with autonomous vehicles and drones, kind of cool, but let’s go back to just the household and the pizza. But if you think about account-based marketing, would that address be the account? Right? So 123 Smith Street is the account for that pizza place.
But the truth is that there’s three different customers or four different customers in that account, because Mom likes vegetarian, Dad likes meat-lovers, you know, the kids like cheese pizzas, so you’ve got three different pizzas in one, quote/unquote, “account,” which means you have three different customers. That’s why that customer-based marketing is very different, because put in a business sense. You might have account company A-B-C. The chief of marketing is a customer, head of sales, head of finance, the CIO, the IT manager, HR, supply chain, whomever. Each of those are customers.
If you’re saying account-based marketing, so you’re just going to go to the top account, you know what I mean, like the account name what about the customers in there? So you’re right, Kevin. I think it is really customer-based marketing and could be per account, but if you just focus at the highest level of the account, you’re going to miss the subtleties like that pizza example I gave, because you may just send them meat-lover advertisements and specials and coupons, which means Mom won’t order it.
Micalizzi: Totally understood.
I think we often find people targeting maybe too high in the organization, or let’s say you’re selling a SaaS technology and exclusively focusing on IT, but not getting your marketing buyin or not getting sales buyin and not having them as part of the process, so definitely understood. I want to make sure we carve out some time for the reps who are listening in, who maybe are in organizations that haven’t embraced this full customer lifecycle and really working together on improving the customer experience across the board.
What can individual reps be doing right now to either help shift the thinking within their company or at least better aligning what they’re doing personally?
Bova: Yeah. For me, sales reps have very little control over much.
Bova: We don’t control what we’re paid or what accounts we call or what territory is ours, pretty much what technology we use, what PowerPoints we use, our company all those things are decided for us, but the one thing we can control is our behavior in front of a customer.
I would say the first thing is always make sure that you have the customer’s best interest in mind. Even if you have to turn around and go back into your organization and fight for your customer, it will go a long way for you.
The first thing is just always show up with sort of your best self, which means be prepared, know the industry or the vertical, constantly be learning about new ways and new approaches and try things and find your rhythm and find what works for you and create your own style of doing things that is successful. Then, when you find your strengths, double down, and when you find your weaknesses, which we all have them, either find a way to compensate it from the strength side, but I’m not so sure about spending time in trying to make your weaknesses strengths versus finding your strengths and doubling down there. So that’s the first thing, just from a behavior standpoint.
Secondarily, hopefully, your managers are starting to mentor you more, but you can go to your managers and actually ask and say “Look, I want to try something new. I want to try a different way to go after account-based marketing” or “customer-based marketing” or “I want to try this little campaign” or “I want to not call a hundred people. I want to just test out using this new technology and maybe only call 50.” Your manager is going to give you that rope and that leash, as long as you keep delivering.
If you have a manager that’s supportive and will allow you to sort of try to find your way while working within the guardrails, obviously, of the company, focusing you on something, and if you can perform, all the better. Be willing to try new things and go and ask if you can try new things or ways in which you can improve.
If your managers are just not willing to let you do that and you feel like your strength is maybe not just as an example, dialing a hundred people a day, that you’re much better at the relationship and you want to call just 20 and really work those relationships. It may not be the right place for you, if it is really just about you have to call the hundred a day, because they’ll eventually let you go anyway, because you’re not meeting their metric. You always want to make sure that you go to management, you ask if they’d be willing to let you try new things, and then try new things, even maybe without asking, once again, as long as you stay within the rails of what you can do with the business.
As long as you’re delivering performance, it’s surprising where managers might micromanage you until you start performing, and then they move on to someone else. [Laughs] If you can perform and find your way, all the better.
Micalizzi: Excellent. I want to ask you my lightning round question. If you could take all your current knowledge and experience and go back in time to share one thing with yourself at the start of your career, what advance would you give?
Bova: That’s a good one, because I was absolutely difficult to manage.
Bova: Probably no surprise there. I changed jobs every 18 months when I was a seller, so I had a reputation of being a hopper, but I wouldn’t change that, because I wouldn’t have learned everything I learned had I not hopped. I used technology fairly early. I played on my strengths and leveraged people for my weakness. Hmm. What would I do differently?
I think I know what I would be. I would probably start my first 90 days, since I did change jobs quite often I would start my 90 days differently than I did. I think I made it much more difficult for myself by trying to hit the ground so fast when I got to a new place. I actually wrote a blog about this sort of the first 90 days. As I was writing that blog, what was funny was I said to myself, “I didn’t listen to this advice. It’s great advice, although I didn’t do it.” So I’d probably say that.
I’d say the first 90 days can set the tone for your relationship internally with the internal stakeholders, whether it’s finance, whether it’s support, whether it’s your marketing team. While we as sellers tend to be very extroverted and very type A and we sort of like to deliver results and that’s how we measure our value to businesses, sometimes people can’t absorb all that energy so fast.
I would say take a breath in that first 90 days and really listen and learn and not just carry forward with everything you learned before, but be willing to learn something new.
Micalizzi: Excellent. We can include a link to that blog post in the show notes.
Bova: All right. Yeah. Just know I didn’t follow it.
Bova: It’s really good advice. It’s super good advice. I think it was in hindsight. The other thing would be not to take it all so seriously. I think I’m sort of in the third chapter of my career.
When I look back on the things that used to get me pretty worked up, they don’t get me that worked up anymore. So just take a breath, and things always seem to find their way and unfold, if you’re just willing to be patient.
Micalizzi: Yeah. Be mindful as you do it.
Micalizzi: Tiffani, thank you so much for carving out time and for flipping the microphone around with me today.
Bova: Oh, yeah. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been looking forward to joining the Quotable Podcast on this side.
Kevin, you’ve just done a great job of just building just solid content, so I think everybody has an opportunity to learn something on all these podcasts that is just invaluable. There’s nothing like getting a little burst of motivation every day or every week.
Micalizzi: Thank you so much, Tiffani.