Focus on Numbers and People to Drive a Successful Business

October 4, 2022 Mimi Torrington

manager focusing on people and congratulating them

Good customer service is table stakes, and getting it wrong will likely cost you dearly in customer churn. As a CFO, you may not think this is an area that pertains to you, but creating a delightful experience for the customer begins with an attitude that lets you focus on people that ultimately permeates the entire organization starting at the top.

April Downing is a seasoned financial and operational executive with over 20 years of experience for publicly and privately held technology, services, and consumer companies. As CFO of Khoros, April is responsible for leading Khoros’ global finance organization and supporting the company’s financial strength but also organic and inorganic growth.

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Megan: April. Thanks for joining me this.

April: Thank you Megan, for having me, I'm really excited to spend a little bit of time on this topic.

Megan: Yeah. Today we're going to be delving into the topic of customer experience these days. Good customer service is table stakes and getting it wrong will likely cost you dearly in customer churn.

As a CFO, you may not think this is an area that pertains to you, but creating a delightful experience for the customer begins with an attitude that permeates the entire organization. Starting at the top. I'm excited about this topic and learning from you April. So let's

April: get started. Great.

Megan: First, tell me about your career progression and how you got to where you are today.

April: Well, I wouldn't say it was a traditional path and I definitely learned a lot along the way. Um, when I was in college, the last thing I wanted was to be an accountant. Um, but all of my peers that were getting jobs well, they were all going to [00:01:00] the big accounting firms. I joined Pricewaterhouse. And, and then I said, I don't want to do tech.

So being from Austin, I grew up and, you know, Dell was here and it was this computer thing that I didn't understand. And I was like, oh, I don't want to do tech. Um, and after a little bit of time at Pricewaterhouse, uh, one of our, our partners said, Hey, you need to learn about software. Um, and pulled me into a client.

And I loved it. Um, and what eventually, I, I moved down from Dallas to Austin with Pricewaterhouse and went actually to go work for one of my clients, uh, which was motive. And I joined, um, initially to be the assistant controller, but from the time that I accepted the offer and when I started. They actually hired someone else into that role.

And when I joined, they said, oh, you get to be our first finance person. And I was like, but wait, that's not what I wanted to do. That's not what I was supposed to do. So I learned really early in my career to be super open to what comes your way and try [00:02:00] to make the most of it. Um, I ended up spending five years, um, at motive was an incredible experience, um, left as the CFO, um, was there when we took the company public.

Um, I then went to a company called ultra point, which was backed by Austin ventures, which is a really critical point because Austin ventures had also backed motive. And as I kind of talk about the rest of my progression of my career, you'll see a common theme that building relationships with folks in your community.

So key to enabling you to, to grow and have lots of opportunities moving forward. So ultra point was a tech company in Austin that we sold, um, and I was brought in to help sell it. Um, and after I left there, Austin ventures said, Hey, what did you go work with several of our companies. Um, we'd love to get your thoughts and your help on those.

Um, so spent some time doing. And then ended up joining one of those companies, which was Datto's group. Uh, that's a company that combined both agencies [00:03:00] and technology to grow. Um, the social impact that brands can have, um, on the consumers and their customers. That was a massive M and a muscle that we had, the exercise we bought over 10 companies around the world in one year.

Um, so as you can imagine, that's a lot of work and a lot of integration. Um, and I learned a ton doing that. Um, then I made a jump and I decided to co-found a company. So I co-founded a company named sky science, uh, where we use the power of AI. To eliminate the noise and accompany and to enable employees to focus on the information that matters.

Ultimately, we, we got some initial funding, but we couldn't keep it. Again, Austin ventures was there when I was ready. Um, I helped one of their companies sabotage and learning raise their series B, which was led by emergence capital, which was the first institutional investor in zoom. [00:04:00] So they're a very, very happy, uh, group right now, for sure with everything proliferating from zoom.

Uh, from there, I went ahead and joined, um, permanently a company called WPN. And at that point, it was less than 8,000 customers. And over the five years that I was there, we grew it to over 80,000 customers around the globe. I'm really excited that we were able to open off, open an office in Limerick, Ireland.

That was really a cultural mainstay for expanding the companies. And being able to support our customers around the globe. Um, we also raised $250 million from silver lake, and that was a transaction that literally took an entire year, uh, from start to finish to make that. I went back to sabotage learning, uh, where I'd been before to help them raise their series B uh, cause the CEO and I had remained really close friends and, um, they were having a cash burn issue.

So for the first six months before I got there, [00:05:00] they had burned over 10 million in cash. Um, and that just wasn't working for the business models. Within the first quarter, we got that burn down to almost break even. And then within a little after six months, we were actually cashflow positive and that positioned the company to be able to sell to a private equity firm, Francisco partners.

Then I get in decided to make a jump back into the craziness of co-founding a company. Um, and this time. Interesting timing. So I co-founded a company called supply drop, which uses the power of AI to change the way that consumers get their everyday essentials. Think toilet, paper, paper, towels, trash bags.

We co-founded the company in 2019 ahead of the pandemic. Um, so it was crazy times when everyone was fighting for toilet paper in the grocery store aisles. Uh, our customer and subscriptions were just going through the roof. So we had to [00:06:00] limit our signups every day, um, because we couldn't handle the onslaught of customers.

Um, that was a very, um, interesting time to be both managing demands. And supply. Um, and ultimately what happened is with the supply chain issues that we had, um, we unfortunately had to close down because we couldn't reliably get the products we needed. We weren't big enough and we couldn't compete with the big folks, but I feel really good that for, um, over a year and a half, we, we took care of a ton of Austinites for, um, getting the things that they needed, um, during that time.

Uh, and so I recently left substance. You know, shut it off supply drop earlier this year. And I immediately jumped in within three days of doing that and enjoying the chorus team. Um, as the CFO, really excited to be working with a Vista equity partners company. Um, so overall raised about half a billion dollars for private [00:07:00] and public.

Um, companies taking a company public has completed over 20 acquisitions, open offices in over a dozen countries. And I will tell you, what did I learn along the way, run towards the hard stuff? Um, it, it may not be the easiest path, but it sure does create some exciting outcomes.

Megan: Yeah. I mean, you've had some amazing experience and I, and I love your point about relationships because you never know where.

Uh, relationship or even a conversation is going to

April: lead. Totally agree. Totally agree.

Megan: So are there any particular stories or moves that stand out in your mind as turning points as you look back.

April: Yeah. You know, they probably see there's, there's three main things. Um, first was when I was at motive and the company was going to go public, our COO approached me and said, Hey, I think you should be our VP of investor relations.

I was like, I don't know anything about investor relations. And he said, oh, [00:08:00] you'll, you'll do fine. You'll do fine. Um, so I jumped in and I had very uncomfortable. Um, but what I learned is to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and that was a huge growth opportunity for me. Um, the second one was, you know, especially for all the listeners who are aspiring to be a CFO, R a CFO, you know, that that first CFO gig is so hard to get.

And, um, we were in a situation where the company was restating its earnings. Um, we had, uh, shareholder lawsuits coming. It was a really turbulent time for the company and a lot of the executives have been. And Tom Meredith, who was a CFO for Dell then was on our, I was chair of our audit committee. Tom Meredith came to me and said, April, we want you to be the CFO and take us through these really challenging times.

[00:09:00] And it was totally unexpected. It came out of nowhere. And I think what I learned there is don't be concerned about getting your next role, be concerned about earning. The opportunity to be presented with it. Um, so that was a really good growth point for me. And I'd say the last one is just co-founding two AI companies.

Um, I, I absolutely learned it's okay to fail. You just gotta learn from it. Um, I had to kind of put aside my ego a little bit. Um, you know, the first one I was like, oh, it can't fail. Can't fail. It's gonna, it's going to represent me so poorly. And then when they did the second one, I was like, you know what?

It's okay to fail. And I'm, I'm just going to take a lot of the learnings from that just to make myself better.

Megan: Love your courage and. And the way you look at things like failing's not, it's not always a bad thing. I think those are the moments that we learn the most.

April: I totally agree. I think it's uncomfortable at the moment, but you know what?

You've got to look back on it with

Megan: positivity. Yup. So tell us about Comoros [00:10:00] a bit about their history, their mission, and what it is that.

April: Absolutely. So of course, as a software and services company that provides a digital first customer engagement platform, um, more than 2000 of the world's top brands, um, including one third of the fortune 100 are our customers.

Of course, our mission is to empower brands, to truly connect with their consumers. No matter the channel, um, to create customers for life. Uh, chorus is a brand was really only established in 2019. Um, and that was posed to the merger of two industry, leading companies and social engagement, space spreads best and lithium.

Um, those companies had been around for about 20 years. So while chorus is a brand is new. All of the expertise we have and the experience that we have with our customers driving great engagement is, is over two decades. Um, and whether it's powering the largest B to B community with Microsoft, um, to [00:11:00] supporting Southwest airlines analysis and response to over 1 million Twitter mentions per week, um, to powering over 500 million daily interactions around the globe, choruses is the enterprise solution to ensure that brands can maximize the value of every single interaction they have with their customers.

Uh, we were just awarded the leader and Forrester's wave of social sweets. Huge recognition there that we're so very proud of. Um, and one thing that's near and dear to my heart from a company perspective is more than half of our executive leadership team are females. Um, and a third of our team, um, come from underrepresented minority groups.

So I believe, you know, diversity, which we have a whole talk on diversity. I believe that diversity really breeds, um, the best outcomes. And I love to see that we live that every day for.

Megan: Yeah, definitely agree. Differing opinions. Um, I mean, I always come to the best results. [00:12:00]

April: So what are your

Megan: proudest accomplishments since joining Cora?

April: Oh, gosh. Uh, the first one may sound silly, but for those folks who are listening, um, that have had to start a company in this, you know, this time of not being able to be with folks and have to be fully remote, I will have to say as surviving onboarding remotely, um, it's I tell folks all the time, you know, When you start a job, it takes three months before you really know what you're doing.

I think that, you know, total a hundred percent remote onboarding. I think it's twice that I just, you don't have the context and the ability to tap someone on the shoulder and ask them questions. You don't get the opportunity to hear overhear conversations. So, you know, Megan, I'll tell ya. It's, it's really tough.

And for all the folks who have, who have tackled that kudos to you, cause cause it's a challenge. Um, the second thing I would say. We learning a new [00:13:00] company and market, um, you know, in, in my career, I've never done the same type of company twice. You know, there's definitely folks who feel like CFOs need to have expertise, deep expertise with multiple companies within an industry.

I'm actually the contrary to that, I believe that having experience across a lot of industries, lots of different sizes gives you that ability to bring different experiences and perspectives to bear. So it's been really exciting, um, getting to learn about chorus and. Which is just such a hot space right now.

Um, and then the last one is really about, um, building again, coming back to the relationships and probably not surprising that, um, from a strength finders perspective, uh, relater is my number one strength. So you'll probably hear me talk about relationships over and over again, but, um, building trust.

Within the organization that I'm not what I call SCF. No, [00:14:00] you know, we have so many CFOs who feel like they have to be the know, um, in the room. They, they have to be the red light at the end. I don't believe that. I believe that. Um, if you invited. And learning what is happening in the business. You invest in building relationships across the business.

You have an outward mindset. I think that you can come to the table and be that green light. You get involved early, you help things go, right? So that you can be the guest and not the CF. No. So just changing that mindset within a company, um, does take quite a bit of time. And, um, with our workforce growing as fast as it is, we've grown over 25% just in the last year.

Um, around our 11 offices, you know, it's, I get that opportunity every day to, to start to earn the trust of each employee within chorus.

Megan: So turning to our topic and speaking from personal experience, it seems like customers have to put more effort than ever into solving their own [00:15:00] problems, whether it's having to call multiple times or maybe use multiple channels.

But why do you think this is? It seems to be a relatively. Oh, maybe not recent, but it feels like it's getting worse. Yeah,

April: I totally hear you. You know, these days, those brands have a strong digital presence and are active on so many channels. You know, it's web chat, it's mobile messaging. It's branded micro-communities texts, social.

I know when I'm in a, in a buying process. Ask questions using the chat function on a brand's website or visit their branded community to learn from other customers or after I'm a customer. I may get a text from the brand about my order, or perhaps an email with a link to a shipping, um, shipping information.

Um, and if things aren't going right, well, I may publicly post something on Twitter or Facebook. To get the brand's attention. So there's so many channels and brands today are just not set up to aggregate what they're learning from or engaging with their customers on courses. [00:16:00] Platform provides, um, an opportunity to, to not just listen and engage and support consumers.

But to really learn from them. Um, no matter the channel and we use machine learning and AI to drive that cohesive and efficient experience. So we take a lot of the data we learn from it so that we can provide the best experience possible. And, you know, I always have to ask myself why can't a brand, know who I am.

No one I've already purchased no other I've reached out with questions or issues before. Like why can't they have that holistic view? Well, with a platform like chorus, they actually can brands just need to invest in that to drive the customer experience that we all all want. Um, I also believe that brands are not investing in, in, in, or permitting some less traditional channels to solve our problems.

Um, you know, how many times have you gone to a brand sponsored community to get your questions answered? Or share something you'd like to see from a brand there's so many of them out there that we're just not [00:17:00] even aware of. Now, some of the brands are doing it really, really well. Um, chorus powers, Spotify, community, where subscribers can actually share what they, what features they want and then vote on them.

And then they get to see where does it sit in? Um, Spotify is Q for actually developing that, um, or Samsung phones. Again, we power their 12.7 million member community. Where they enable answers, not just to come from Samsung, but from other community members. Um, and a lot of times those are even better and more in depth, um, experiences for those folks seeking answers.

SMS or texting's becoming more and more of a pervasive channel, which is great for people like me that don't want to sit and want to watch a chat channel or, or even worse, like do not get me on the phone. Um, and I'm not the only one we recently did a survey and 80% of responders. I really would prefer to not make a phone call, uh, to resolve an [00:18:00] issue or a question.

So, you know, I think conversations on digital channels, they're asynchronous customers can engage in real time on their own terms. And that really improves, you know, convenience, satisfaction, scalability drives a really great customer experience. I hear you. I think there's, um, there's lots of different noise out there.

There's lots of different ways we can engage. It's really, the brands need to bring all that together to a cohesive experience to drive a really great.

Megan: And what does a great customer experience look like? And what's the impact when companies don't get it, right? Yeah.

April: Well, the best experience, um, is, is absolutely one that's personalized and efficient.

And, and sometimes that means alleviating the need for a consumer to talk to some of the company and not just on the phone, but even on chat or anything else, like the best customer support experience as well. Doesn't have to happen. So can you actually alleviate the need for, for that to reach out? [00:19:00] Um, but really it's, it's making sure that.

Consumers have the ability to choose the channel they want to engage in and again, want it to be personalized and efficient. I'll give you two examples that literally just happened in the last two weeks. Um, my husband and I were going to be traveling to visit our daughter, um, at college at Auburn. And because the drive is really long, we have to stop along.

So we, we typically have stopped in this little town called new Iberia, Louisiana, and stayed with this at these lovely people's little bed and breakfast. And I literally can just pick up my phone. I text the owner and I say, Hey, here's the dates that I'm coming. She immediately responds. She's super helpful with, oh, Hey, we also opened up, there's a new restaurant here and I can just quickly Venmo her, um, for my night stay so fast.

So efficient. And it's a delightful experience. Now this time we had our dogs with us. So we were trying a new route, which [00:20:00] included us, trying to book at a west end, where we actually eventually stayed, um, in Jackson, Mississippi. So I was going to book online and it said that they allowed a dog. Um, but we have to.

So I couldn't book online. So I called the 800 reservation. Ask the person on there. Hey, is there a ring available? Can I book for two dogs? Guy said, I don't know. You're going to have to call the hotel, hung up with him called the hotel hotel people. Absolutely. We love dogs. You can have as many as you need.

Okay. So then I try to book online, but it's not taking my rewards number for some reason. So I have to call the 800 number again. I get on I'm. Looking at, at the very end, she says, oh, do you have a rewards number? Yes, I give it to her. Oh, it's not working. Okay, don't worry about the rewards number. Oh, I have to redo the reservation because I already put it in and it won't accept it.

So now I can't get it through. So in the end I ended up actually booking with the Western how [00:21:00] to delightful stay, but I will tell you those are two totally different experiences and we all know which one is the better one. So great customer service is personalized. It's authentic. Um, it, it leads to repeat customers.

You know what the idea of me just texting I've stayed at the place in new Iberia multiple times. Um, and when folks, when brands try to automate too much, um, they lose that, that personalization and they absolutely lose the channel. To delight the customer. Um, and for costs, the cost of brands is extensive.

Um, we did a survey that said that fewer and one in four customers said, they'd forgive a poor customer experience, even if they previously. Emotionally connected to the brand. And over half of the folks said that after a customer service experience failed to solve their problem, they never want to interact or make a purchase from that brand again.

So [00:22:00] definitely really costly missteps.

Megan: And do you, do you think it's easier for big companies or small? It seems like it'd be easier for smaller companies to delight the customer then big companies, but maybe it doesn't make a difference.

April: You know, I think that's a great question and I think it depends so much on.

Um, what does that engagement look like? Right. It's how much can you drive the personalization through automation? It's really hard. Um, but as a larger company, I do have the ability to invest more in a customer engagement platform. Like we've been talking about that can enable me to have a really efficient, low touch, but high impact.

Um, Customer experience. I think really, really small brands like the mom and the pop, you know, where I can just text them and they can just scroll through and look at my texts. Oh yeah, that's easy. Everything's right there. But I think in between it gets really hard. So I actually think that kind of in-between size of brands, probably the hardest for them to be able to deliver on [00:23:00] that.

Megan: Yeah, it seems like there's more data out there than ever, but it's disjointed in most

April: organizations. There's definitely silos within organizations that don't help this go. Right.

Megan: And you talked about delighting the customer. So what role does culture play in that?

April: You know, culture is really critical and empowering, um, a delight, the customer experience.

And it's not just the employees that are directly engaging with customers. Do you have a lot of times people think. Oh, customer delight just sits with the support team or the customer experience team. It actually permit has to permeate through the entire organization. And I'd say there's probably five principles for creating a culture of delighting the customer within a company.

Um, one is deliver on the brand promise. To empower your people three embrace empathy for do what you say you're going to do and, and five. [00:24:00] No, what matters? So, so just a couple more words on, on each of those. Brand promises. We see them every day, you know, Walmarts save money, live better, or FedEx's, your package will get there overnight, guaranteed, or BMW is the ultimate driving machine.

And we hear these brand promises and we expect that when we engage with that brand or with their product or their service that they actually deliver on that promise. Um, I think the second thing. You have to give your employees more autonomy and flexibility to do the right thing for the customer in the moment.

Um, you know, I've seen support organizations where there's such tight controls on how much credit you can give to it, to a customer. And they have to escalate it as a customer and engaging with the brand and not just do the right thing. Right? So whether it's a month free on a subscription or saying, Hey, we're going to replace, we'll send you a replacement overnight for free.

You have to empower and encourage your employees [00:25:00] to do the right thing. Um, you know, I, I share a lot, um, with our employees about. Empathy and having an outward mindset, having that word mindset is not thinking about what's on your list to do, or the things that are impacting you. It's about having a better appreciation of how others are impacted, you know, perception is someone else's reality and training your employees to appreciate what someone else may be going through.

Uh, I think is really important, you know? You could be engaging with someone within, you know, an internal customer or an external customer. Um, and you could be sharing some information and they're getting hot and heavy and they're just not there. What, what you may not know is, Hey, maybe, maybe they just had their car got hit that morning.

Right. So there, all of us are elements of what's happening to us, not just in that moment. Um, and so I think that outward mindset, that empathy, um, is so critical and, [00:26:00] and making sure that folks know it's okay. And it's appropriate to say, I'm sorry. I think those things can really go a long way. Um, and then the fourth one about do what you say you're going to do again, this applies to every employee.

And the only way that we can build trust is by knowing that we can rely on folks. And, you know, a great example is, you know, within, uh, a tech company is, let's say there's an engineering. They're supposed to get a release, fix out, um, to get a customer service functioning, right. Again, but instead of doing it right when they said they were, they pushed out, cause they figure out, oh my gosh, we need to do some more testing before we do this.

Well, they did the right thing. And saying, oh, we need to test this more. So it doesn't have negative consequences, but, but then they didn't communicate that to the customer's account manager. And then the customer's account manager didn't communicate to the customer. The customer just says, oh, they just didn't deliver it.

You know, they didn't do what they said they were going to do. [00:27:00] I can't rely on them. I don't trust them. So I think that, that, it's not just about. Um, do what you say you're going to do, make sure that you understand, how did, how do you communicate that down the line? Um, and then the last one, you know, we've talked about personalization a little bit, um, and I shared with, you know, kind of know what matters now, what matters really know it's about know thy customer.

Um, you need to understand what matters to them and why. Um, AI has been a massive acceleration. For aggregating and analyzing data from thousands of customer interactions. You talked, Megan, just a moment about that yourself. Gosh, there's so much data. Um, what our brains doing with it. You know, this is an area where we can actually use the power of all of that with AI on top to say.

Okay. What are the things that are moving the needle? What are the things that, um, our customers are chatting about, um, and survey and focus groups, um, I think are still a bit overlooked even in this day, and it's not just [00:28:00] about cataloging that data. It's about, okay, then how do I action on it? So I think you have to be able to take, you know, what are they saying?

And then say, okay, what are we going to do about it? Um, but honestly, Probably the most important thing to delighting the customer is actually creating a rewarding experience. You know, every employee wants to be challenged, to learn and grow empowered, to make a positive impact. They want to positively be positively engaged with others.

Uh, they want to be rewarded for performance, want to be aligned to a company's values, mission and goals, and they want to be supported by their manager. Um, I'm a firm believer that if you take care of your employee, They'll take care of your customer and in the end, that's in the best interest of your shareholders.

Megan: Yeah, to your point about empathy. I read something in the last two weeks about the pandemic causing people to be more spatially stressed out than ever and leading to tantrums. So [00:29:00] I imagine that all of, all of this as harder in this kind of an environment. Yeah.

April: I agree. I saw the article about the number of incidences on planes.

Yeah. Like, oh my God. There really is a dramatic impact on people's psyche right now. And, and just understanding, and as you said, having empathy in that outward mindset of how can I appreciate better? What that person's going through? I think. Hopefully help a little bit.

Megan: So as a CFO, do you believe that there's a distinction between external and internal customers?

April: Yeah. You know, I, I talked to briefly mentioned a moment ago. You know, this kind of goes back to creating a culture of customer delight. Please have to be able to rely on one another, to be able to support. Our external customers. You know, I think about customer support team, um, is a customer of the account management team and the engineering team, you know, sales is a customer of the marketing team and [00:30:00] the accounts receivable team and marketing is a customer of the product team and the customer experience team.

Everyone has to rely on one another to create a really incredible experience. And so I have an expectation and in every company, I'm not that we treat our internal customers in the exact same way. We would want to treat our external ones.

Megan: And to that point, how can businesses create this type of culture of delighting customers?

And how much is it influenced by leadership?

April: Yeah. You know, culture definitely plays a big part in that, but culture cannot exist without leadership. You know, one of the things that, um, I think is important distinction is people talk about. Um, what, what is the culture and what are the values of a business?

And I think it's really important first to say values don't change, but those are core and fundamental to, to accompany, but culture can [00:31:00] change and it should change as you bring in new talent that makes that's a creative to the culture. It broadens up your, your aperture of understanding, but leadership really has to help be the mainstay of driving that, that perspective of delight.

Um, and I believe that that's only possible through a cohesive leadership team and engaged employees talk just a moment ago about what does it take to have engaged employees, but for our leadership team, They really need to be providing clarity, alignment and accountability, clarity. How do I make sure that people know what success looks.

Um, alignment is how do people buy into that? Um, this is where most companies fail. They believe that just because I tell you something and because I hold you accountable that you're aligned with it and you're going to go make it happen. So brands need to spend more time and companies need to spend more time on making sure there's alignment.

[00:32:00] People understand again, how they contribute into that. And then accountability is, is so critical, um, to make this a reality. But the best accountability is actually peer based. You know, I, I am way more impacted by my peer saying, Hey, You didn't do what you say you're going to do, or, Hey, I relied on you for this and this is the impact it had on me.

That is way more effective to me then something, something from up above. So I think it's important for us to know that, you know, leadership teams, again, direct clarity, alignment, and accountability. Um, I also think it's incumbent upon leadership team. To leverage people's superpowers and be open to ways in which employees can contribute in different ways.

So, you know, my superpowers are going to be very different from someone else's and it may mean that I'm not being a hundred percent successful in my current role, you know? Right. Well right person, right company, right time that all those things have to work. [00:33:00] But if you focus more on what does that person superpower and you lean into that that will create the most engaged and happy employee ever.

You know, everyone is volunteering to be at their role every day. So why can't we lean in and help them be the best that they are again. That drives the, the internal customer delight that drives the external customer delight. Um, and then the last thing I would say about the role of leadership and the culture of delighting customers is having transparency.

But with education, I'm never a fan of people saying, oh, we're so transparent. Just because yes, share some information. Doesn't mean you're being transparent. You have to give context data. Um, around all of that so that people can understand what you're sharing, why does it matter and what do they then go take and do with that?

So that can drive things like, um, you know, a customer [00:34:00] calling in and a support person understanding better. Hey, it's really expensive. If I lose this customer, I need to retain them. Being able to educate your teams, I think is another critical part of a leadership role. Yeah. That's

Megan: such a great point. And um, so how, how measurable is the impact of customer delight and is it possible for companies to increase it without necessarily raising their customer service operating?

April: Yeah. We talked earlier about the high percentage of customers that would abandon a brand after bad experience over 50%, you know, it's, it's wild. It's, it's scary, right? It's almost like you can't afford to get this wrong. Um, and today. Brands are spending $1.3 trillion on support calls each and every year.

Um, and you know, over 80% of support is over the phone, [00:35:00] which we mentioned earlier is a less than ideal channel from. Consider now that chat is five to 10 X, more efficient for both the consumer and the company. Um, and that chat has a higher customer satisfaction. Now, if you include a bot in that interaction, The efficiency is even better and the customer experience is even greater.

So yes, there's absolutely measurable ROI for driving a great customer experience with you got to have the right tools and for supporting that omni-channel engagement with prospects and customers. Um, but it's not just about the customer service operating costs. Um, There's definitely a revenue operations for your business that can be expanded upon, um, with having the right kind of engagement.

Um, and the chorus for us, we really want to get beyond the, our company has [00:36:00] mentioned in this conversation to the root of the cause. Like, why does. Feel the way they feel. Um, and how do we increase their loyalty? Because loyalty again, when you think about like rev ops loyalty is a really big part of driving, a great customer experience and a great return for our brand.

Megan: And I know maybe we've touched on this a bit, but you mentioned rev ops. So do you believe that brands are moving towards a more holistic view of customer engagement and support?

April: Yeah. Uh, you know, as we discussed earlier, you know, consumers are demanding. An omni-channel support model. Um, and they expect that the brands they buy from will have a better appreciation of who they are and what the previous engagements are that they had.

Um, and the ability of a brand to deliver on a unified experience to the customer journey is, is critical. Um, from, you know, as a buyer, from a discovery to purchase, to getting support from the brand, to being an advocate for the. [00:37:00] That whole customer journey benefits from a better understanding of customers and being able to meet them where they are.

And, and this leads not only the higher customer satisfaction, like we just talked about, but to higher LTV or lifetime value of a customer, I've got, you know, increased customer retention, lower rates of returns and exchanges. Higher repeat purchases, you know, all of these things that can drive really, um, tangible return and revenue for a brand.

And, you know, additionally, given 86% of buyers say, they'll pay more for better customer experience. There's a direct correlation of support, quality to sales, and a great example of a brand that's getting it right. Um, is Athletica. So Athletica is a customer of ours, um, and they built a community with chorus that focuses on content for their [00:38:00] customers, and really focuses more even on their loyalty program.

Participants at Athletico realize that 50% of their sales. Are from these loyalty members and they spend two X what others consumers do on their merchandise. So of course it makes so much sense for them to create an experience that's focused on retaining and growing those types of customers. Great for the customer engagement, but also great for the top end bottom line for Athletica.

Megan: Yeah. And, um, I mean, as, as we look at customer experience, if you get it wrong, you're not only likely to lose that customer, but that customer is probably going to be very vocal and, and, you know, companies might lose the opportunity to service other customers because. One customer's experience was terrible.


April: exactly right. You know, you think about, um, advocacy and detractors, you know, it's, it's really hard to drive someone to be an advocate where they're [00:39:00] speaking out in the public about you and being advocate for your brand. The tractors are way easier to get, you know, they're they happen all the time.

And when they, you know, think about when you go and look at a brand's reviews, If there are 10 reviews and eight of them are awesome, but two of them are scathing. I don't know about you, but for me, I pretty much just pass on along. I'm like, Ooh. Yeah, those bad experiences I'll pass.

Megan: Yeah. I mean, ratings, these days are so important.

I can't remember when I've made a decision, even like going out to a restaurant and I'm looking at the

April: ratings I am right there with you. And if there's only three people who've reviewed it. Uh, Nope.

Megan: Um, so lastly, as a CFO, what's keeping you up at night.

April: Oh, you know, I it's ensuring we're focused on the right things and creating a great employee experience.

You know, as I said, people are volunteering to be here every [00:40:00] day at chorus and, and I want to make sure that they have the opportunity to have a really fulfilling, um, Uh, fulfilling time with chorus is participation is also critical, right? Like it, and that's not just about saying what you're going to do, but saying that things you aren't going to do, which Ooh.

And those are, those are often more hard, hard calls to make. Um, so when I think about in the end, um, you know, I meet with my team. I do skip levels. Uh, I do coffee talks around the whole company. I really want to ensure that employees can say yes to these questions. Am I learning and growing? Am I empowered to have a positive impact?

Um, am I enjoying my role? My team that I work with, I'm enjoying my, am I enjoying chorus being part of that? Do I have a plan for the future? And do I feel supported by my manager? If we can create the right employee experience, if we can create really engaged [00:41:00] folks. Um, and you can do that with a cohesive leadership team.

Companies can accomplish anything that lies ahead. And so that's what I really try to spend most of my time on.

Megan: Yeah. Sounds like an amazing place to work.

April: It is. It is. I feel very, very fortunate to be part of it. April.

Megan: Thank you so much for being my guests.

April: Megan. I really appreciate your time and thank you for all that you do for the community.

You know, the content that you put out there is so helpful. So I encourage folks if this is the first podcast that they're hearing, definitely go explore the other content. I found it really helpful for me to gain better perspective and learn from us. Well, thank

Megan: you so much for that. And, um, I really enjoyed speaking with you and hearing about your experiences and all of the resulting insights.

And I appreciate you taking the time to be here with us today, and I wish you and chorus all the

April: best. Thank you, Megan. Yup. To all of our

Megan: listeners, [00:42:00] please tune in next week and until then take care. All right, that's

April: a wrap. Awesome. Thanks, Megan. I have a quick question. Um, for the, um, it was Athleta, um, example, I think you were saying Athletica that their brand name is Athleta.

I don't know Megan, is it easier to rerecord that portion or, um, what would be like the best route for that?

Megan: Can we just get a recording of April saying Athleta and

April: swap it out? Yeah. Okay, cool. That works.

Megan: So we're still recording, right? So want to say, say Athleta we'll we'll swap it

April: out. Athleta, Athleta,

Megan: Athleta.[00:43:00]

Yeah, I'll just instruct them to swap that out when they go through and edit. Awesome.

April: Cool. I will stop recording.

In this episode, we discuss what leads to a successful customer experience, the role of culture and leadership in delighting customers, why a CFO needs to focus on a positive employee experience and more interesting topics.

Growing Companies and Building Brands - Focus on Your People

leadership team focused on growing company and peoples' careers

Khoros is a software and services company that provides a digital-first customer engagement platform for more than 2000 of the world's top brands, including one-third of the fortune 100.
As CFO of Khoros, April also focuses on operational excellence and a positive employee experience. Her proudest accomplishments at Khoros include adapting successfully to onboarding remotely, learning a new company and market, and developing a culture of building trust across the business.

''I think that diversity breeds the best outcomes. And I love to see that we live for that every day. I believe that having experience across many industries, lots of different sizes gives you the ability to bring different experiences and perspectives to hear,'' Downing said.

Personalized and Efficient Customer Experience

A great customer experience sometimes means alleviating the need for a consumer to talk to the company. It's also making sure that consumers can choose the channel they want to engage in, not just through the phone. The customer experience needs to be personalized and authentic. When brands try to automate too much, they lose the personalization element and the chance to delight the customer.

Besides, consumers are demanding. They expect brands to have a better appreciation of who they are and their previous engagements. The ability of a brand to deliver a unified experience to the customer journey is critical.

''I think conversations on digital channels are asynchronous. Customers can engage in real-time on their terms. And that improves convenience, satisfaction, scalability, and drives a great customer experience. There are lots of different ways we can engage. The brands need to bring all that together to a cohesive experience to offer a great customer experience,'' Downing said.

Delighting the Customer Is a Matter of Culture and Leadership

Leadership should focus on people

Culture is critical and empowering in delighting the customer. There are five principles for creating a culture of delighting the customer experience within a company. One, deliver on the brand promise. Two, empower your people. Three, embrace empathy. Four, do what you say you're going to do. Five, know what matters.

April also highlights the link between internal and external customers. She states that organizations should treat the internal customer in the same way they treat the external ones. Even though culture plays a significant role in delighting the customer, leadership has to be the mainstay of driving that perspective of delight. April believes that that's possible through a cohesive leadership team and engaged employees. But the leadership team needs to provide clarity, alignment, and accountability.

''I'm a firm believer that if you take care of your employees, they'll take care of your customers, and in the end, that's in the best interest of your shareholders,'' Downing said.

For more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player!

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