When Customer Experience Becomes An Existential Experience

Last Updated May 26th, 2020

Todd Hockenberry, Inbound Organization, customer experience
 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put many things into perspective – and customer experience is among them. We’re viewing things through a new lens, and CX is no longer about the value your product or service delivers. It’s about helping each other survive.

Customer experience has become an existential experience.

And when CX turns into something so essential to maintaining the livelihood of our customers, we have to revisit its deepest foundation – relationships.

Our guest on this episode of The Customer Experience Podcast, Todd Hockenberry, is an expert at understanding how companies and customers relate.

His book, “Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles” – cowritten with our previous guest, Dan Tyre of Hubspot – focuses on internal alignment to further the strategy of customer-centricity.

And Todd believes that differentiation — now, more than ever — is rooted in customer experience.

Todd – a consultant, advisor, and coach at Top Line Results – helps B2B leaders drive growth, align with buyers, build sales and marketing strategies, and develop the mindset to grow. His book is a must-read, and once you hear some of the ideas he shares, you’ll know why.

We talk about…

How COVID-19 has transformed the definition of CX
Why CX is the ultimate differentiator
What true alignment looks like
Why customer-centricity is critical to business survival
What effective personalization means for the buying experience
How to play the long game in life and in business

 

When Customer Experience Becomes An Existential Experience

Hear the entire conversation with Todd Hockenberry on customer experience becoming an existential experience right here:

 

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Todd Hockenberry, Inbound Organization, customer experience

 
 

Full Transcript: When Customer Experience Becomes An Existential Experience

Ethan Beute:
Today, we’re talking internal alignment and inbound organizations. We’re talking mission, culture and strategy, customer eccentricity, and customer experience. Our guest is a co-author of an excellent book that speaks very directly to the entire purpose of this podcast. That Book, Inbound Organization, How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound. He’s a marketing consultant, advisor, and coach at Top Line Results. He helps B2B Leaders drive growth, align with buyers, build sales and marketing strategies, and develop the mindset to grow. Todd Hockenberry, welcome to the Customer Experience Podcast.

Todd Hockenberry:
Ethan, it’s my pleasure to be here. It’s long time coming, I’m glad to be here.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, good, good. Me too, as we were talking before we hit record, we’ve seen each other and kind of known each other for some time and it’s nice to finally connect directly and I’m looking forward to the conversation. Hey, we’re recording this in early to mid-April, it won’t release for a while but just because we can’t ignore it, you’re in Orlando. I’m in Colorado Springs, I’m just wondering what’s the coronavirus pandemic situation in Orlando, how is it affecting you or your family or your customers, like kind of what’s going on?

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, Ethan, Orlando obviously is … it’s shocking, something like 68 million people visited Orlando last year which is the most visited city in the world, which is hard to believe. That is ground to a standstill. I promise you, I would never complain about traffic ever again in my life because I was just … it was natural, “Oh, I hate traffic.” I had to wait. Traffic equals activity so I never … I guess I never really connected the dots that well to that. I just would like to complain, so I’ll never complain about that again. People are hurting right now down here. Disney is laying off, the hotels are something like one-tenth capacity when usually, they’d be at 95% capacity now. We’re losing one of the biggest tourist times of the year here.

Todd Hockenberry:
So, a lot of our friends were seeing layoffs, some being let go so that’s tough. Not sure when the hospitality in the future is going to bounce back. I think it’s going to take a little while. That’s a little tough here, locally. Personally, we’re fine. Kids are home. Got a daughter in college, she’s back so it’s nice to have everybody in the house and they can do just this learning pretty well so that’s not too bad. Clients wise, we’re doing fine. We haven’t lost any business. Our clients, we tend to do a lot of industrial and manufacturing and it’s actually pretty strong. I hope we get into a couple of my client situations later. They’re actually doing better because they’re busier because they’re dealing with mission-critical situations so there’s some urgency there.

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s kind of a mixed bag. We’ve been okay. I actually landed a couple of new clients this week and I’ll tell you why as we get going here but so far so good but yeah, we recognize, this is a pretty strange time and I think there’s a lot of difficulties that a lot of people are going to see, for sure.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, very uneven effects. I do appreciate that silver lining of more face time with my wife and my son than ever, really and my son is loving distance learning because he can do it at his own pace and he has more free time than normal. Honestly, I think as soon as any of these orders are lifted, Disney is going to be jampacked because people are probably itching and desperate to satisfy that unmet need that’s maybe being pent-up.

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, I don’t know Ethan. A lot of us have talked about that. We’re not sure what’s going to happen. I think there’s … I’m not sure I would go. I mean, I’m just being candid, I’m not sure I would go-

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, interesting, a good one, yeah.

Todd Hockenberry:
I’m not sure I would go sit in the stadium right now for a sporting event which I love or go to a concert which I love. I don’t know. I mean, not that I’m super afraid of getting it. It’s more that … I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who was carrying it and infecting other people. Again, I think we need to be reasonable about it. I think there’s some … a lot of common sense things we can do. I do think there’s going to be some hesitance to get back to normal that fast. I think it’ll come back in the fall, hopefully, over the winter maybe. Again, I won’t predict because you read everything and you’re always wrong but I do think there’s going to be pent-up demand for a lot of things.

Todd Hockenberry:
I think there’s opportunities for people to think about how to experience things like Disney in a different way and those are the opportunities that I think are going to change the way people look at entertainment for sure and lots of other industries that see opportunity at this.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, there is going to be … A lot of models will change and I’m sure Disney is already hard at work on that, right? The movie theaters, for example, we won’t spend too much time on this, but the movie theaters, for example, decided to take whatever is going to continue to be like a first-round release and figure out how to release it straight to homes and charge differently for it and all of that. So, business models will change to meet whatever opportunity is available. Let’s get into it properly. I always like to start because I’m talking with people with a wide variety of experience here on the show and wide variety of perspectives and areas of expertise and so I’d love to know from you, Todd, when I say customer experience, what does that mean to you?

Todd Hockenberry:
Actually, it has changed in the last three weeks for me, to be honest with you. Customer experience used to mean, when we wrote the book Inbound Organization with my good friend Dan Tyre, it meant kind of the sum total of expectations of all touchpoints along the process, from marketing through sales, through delivery, training, onboarding, service, whatever you want to call it. That’s still the case. I still think customer experience is extraordinary valuable but I think the customer experience has changed for me in this, that there’s … as opposed to just talking about getting value from a product or a service, it’s almost become this existential thing now where, it’s like, can you help me survive?

Todd Hockenberry:
Can you help me get through this next six months? Can you help my business keep customers … not necessarily even get new customers, just keep the ones I have and maintain my business? Can I stay above water? That’s what we’re seeing and I think it’s a different level of understanding your customer, putting yourself in their shoes, betting empathetic and really developing a value proposition that makes sense, that can hold up to difficult times like now. I think there’s another layer on there that wasn’t there a month ago, at least for most companies in the US. If you are sending emails right now for example to your contact list, your prospect list, I am unsubscribing at a record pace lately from email.

Todd Hockenberry:
Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it and on the other hand, though, I’ve got one client here in Orlando, that deals with stored fuel, which is a really nice, fun, obscure thing to do, but if you’re a hospital or you’re a government agency, you’re cranking up generators that haven’t been used for months or years and you’ve got tanks full of fuel that have … could potentially have issues, so they’ve all of a sudden, become really valuable to making sure that field hospital you’re setting up or the emergency prep workers that need to be out in the field working hard have fuel to power up their vehicles or power up these generators.

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, what they did was, instead of sending the same old COVID-19 email that everybody is sending, they sent this out. They said, “We know you’re busy right now, we know you have issues and we know you’re starting up these generators and using the stored fuel. We will come on-site for you free. We will test your fuel and make sure it works and it’s good and it doesn’t have contamination like bacteria or water in it, just to make sure you don’t lose any time, getting your operations up to speed, no strings attached. Just tell us. We’ll show up and test your fuel.” Guess what, the phone was ringing, “Come on up, we need your help,” and so the experience was being empathetic, understanding, helpful, mission-critical, giving away something for free all sound like good inbound things, right, but knowing when to do it.

Todd Hockenberry:
Knowing who to do that for. Again, I think it’s just deepening. For me, this idea of customer experience is deepening in this time because the companies that don’t do it well or aren’t thinking about me or being helpful first, I’m going to remember and I’m not going to be happy about it when things settled down.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, I feel like a theme there is true partnership, a true exchange of value, not just the extraction of a credit card number or the return of an invoice paid but a true partnership and a long term relationship. It’s really interesting, the idea of the broader circumstance, really kind of fundamentally shifting or adding an important new layer to your perspective because customer experience was an important theme in inbound organization. I’d like to spend another minute on it, specifically around your thoughts on it being the most important or maybe the ultimate differentiator. Do you think that is true and if so, why?

Todd Hockenberry:
Absolutely, absolutely. It hasn’t changed that sense, right? I mean, products are … there’s parity. I can buy anything that I want and I can buy it from all over the world. I can buy it from 100 different vendors, right? This is why your customer experience starts with the phone call or the message or the email, right, or if you don’t have chat today, right? I’m asking … tell my clients, get chat right now. Get it today if you don’t have it. If you can’t staff it, outsource it to somebody that can pick up the phone or answer those and talk to people immediately. Don’t let them go find five other options in two minutes with a search. Don’t let them do it.

Todd Hockenberry:
Be there in every possible way you can be there. So, it is still the core differentiator because again, product, pricing, you don’t have differentiation on your product and your designs aren’t that great, and your software is not all that better than the 17 other options I can buy. It just isn’t and you have to create differentiation and in different ways. You can do it on a branding level but you can create branding around your company mission and your vision and who you are and think about like Nike with Colin Kaepernick, super controversial but they did it for a reason because they knew their core audience that would resonate with them, right?

Todd Hockenberry:
They were strengthening their brand with their core audience. Me, I’m not their core audience. They have annoyed me but they didn’t care because I wasn’t their core buyer. Think about what they’re selling. Tennis shoes. Really? Is there any real differentiation in tennis shoes? I doubt it. I mean, maybe at the high level, if you’re an Olympic athlete or you’re a … for a guy like me, I’m just walking around the neighborhood with my dogs, there’s no differentiation, it’s shoes. So, the reality is, for the vast majority of companies, you have to create this experience that’s fundamentally different than your competition because there’s no other way to differentiate.

Ethan Beute:
Just a follow up there, do you feel like brand experience and customer experience are synonymous? Really your response triggered that question for me. Some people see them as synonymous. Some people see them differently.

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s a semantic argument, Ethan, if you ask me.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah.

Todd Hockenberry:
If you say, branding is this, it’s your logo and swoosh, your content, right? It’s all the same. It’s all one thing. We match it up in our heads and when you walk into an Apple store, you get a certain sense. Is that branding? Of course it is. They’re telling you something about who they are and what they want to communicate who you are, right? That’s real branding, right? When it’s telling … when they’re telling you who you are or they’re resonating or reflecting what you are you want to be, your aspirations and then they tie it into the rest of those touchpoints, the order process, this is one that kills me. Do you make it easy to give me money or do I put up barriers to paying me, right?

Todd Hockenberry:
Make it easy for me to buy? Is your service good? Is your … again, your email campaigns, your marketing, all of this matter? Your salespeople. If your marketing and sales deliver one experience and then your service people deliver another again, you’re wrecking it, right? It all matters. It’s all brand. It’s all customer experience. You can define it any way you want but I think that’s it. It’s the sum total of all those things but I don’t care what your logo looks like or how nice your story is. If you don’t get back to me, if you don’t answer my question, if you don’t help me, you ruined it and I don’t care about any of that stuff.

Ethan Beute:
Right, or disconnects, break it, friction will grind it down or send me away. All of that. I don’t know that this is semantics but I would love to do a little passage here where I just asked you to give thoughts on other related words that occurred often in inbound organization and are often kind of up for grabs or different people define them or think about them differently, and I guess I’ll start with alignment just to go to your sales and marketing or delivering one thing and CS delivering another, you’ve got to disconnect. So, alignment again is one of the kind of themes of the show especially across those three organizations, all in service of the customer. So, when I say alignment, does that mean anything in particular to you?

Todd Hockenberry:
Candidly, Ethan, when I say that word myself, I want to slap myself. I feel like it brings hollow in my head. It feels like I’m sounding like salt when I use it so I try not to. Really, it’s about communication. It’s about teamwork. It’s about making sure everybody is on the same page. I just threw you three more cliches so forgive me, but the point of alignment is we ruin these words by overusing them so much and if you sell, well, we need to have marketing and sales aligned. Everybody would say, “Well, of course, we do,” but the reality is what does that mean? Where does the rubber hit the road there where it actually means something to the people that are in those departments?

Todd Hockenberry:
I think alignment is critical but the key alignment, I think, the point we try to make in the book was interdepartmental or interdepartmental either is important in terms of alignment, but the real alignment is the CEO, leader, founder down. I was at a company that everybody would know their name, it was a national publishing grant. We had a meeting with about 100 of their people in the room. The CEO was sitting there, all their senior leaders, all their marketing and sales managers were there. I asked them, I said, “What’s the mission of this company?” I said, “Can anybody tell me the mission of the company,” about 100 people, I knew what I was going to get and the only person in the room that raised their hand, who raised their hand, what do you think Ethan?

Ethan Beute:
The CMO.

Todd Hockenberry:
CEO.

Ethan Beute:
Okay.

Todd Hockenberry:
The CEO rose because he wrote it.

Ethan Beute:
Okay.

Todd Hockenberry:
No one else in the room knew it, could cite it, could relate to it. That’s alignment. You call whatever you want. That’s a disconnect. That’s where the leadership says one thing and the team says another and what happened was, there was a huge disconnect between what the CEO said and what their sales team said. I’ll give you one example of the misalignment. They had this kind of a classic software sales process, you’ve got a BDR, you’ve got account executives and you’ve got customer success. The BDR was kind of a light BDR role. It was just to try to get that initial appointment, it wasn’t actually adding a whole lot of value. So, I said to the CEO, I said, “Well, would you take a call from somebody that asked these kind of questions just to set an appointment?”

Todd Hockenberry:
“Do you like that when you set up an initial appointment and you talk to somebody that doesn’t actually add any value and you never talk to again?” He’s like, “No, I hate that process.” I was like, “Well, why are you doing it? You got a room full of people over here doing that.” That to me is alignment and that’s where I see the big disconnects, right? Sales and marketing needs to be aligned but right now, the top-down, that’s the alignment, I really go after with the clients that I work with right now.

Ethan Beute:
Interesting, probably a hot area and a really good example, and it reminded me too, I think you all had a … You and Dan had a passage on the golden rule of marketing, which is, as you already said, why is your team doing something that you absolutely hate yourself? All right, how about customer-centricity?

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s the only way you can survive today, right? Again, if your product isn’t … you can’t differentiate on product or pricing or your promotion strategy are in those classic marketing things, right, you’ve got to understand them better than they … and oftentimes understand themselves. This is why today, right now, I hear a lot of salespeople doing this in the middle of this mess. They’re making a phone call or they’re sending an email out and saying, “How can we help?” That sounds like a good question. That sounds nice. Sounds like I’m being customer-centric. “Oh, I want to help you,” which we should but that’s wrong.

Todd Hockenberry:
Don’t make them think you should know how you help them and start with that. Say, immediately, “I can help you do this, this and this. When can we start or how do you want to get moving?” Don’t ask them how you can help them because that’s like basically saying, “Well, what keeps you up at night,” which just makes you want to go to sleep, right?

Ethan Beute:
Right.

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s not a good question.

Ethan Beute:
It’s an assignment, you’re essentially leveraging an assignment onto the customer or prospect.

Todd Hockenberry:
Do my job for me, make my life easy and so I don’t have to think. So, your job is to know them better than they know themselves and the why you should know them better than they know themselves is you should be talking to 20, 30, 50, 100 other people just like that. This is the classic persona work, right? You should know and you should have a broader base in many ways of understanding because you’re working with more people just like that and you should be able to go in and say, “Hey, we’re working with these other 50 companies and they’re seeing this, do you have this issue or can we help you with that issue?” That’s a whole different … that’s a very simplistic way to do it but you got to understand the point.

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s if you’re not thinking that way in a very deep profound way, then you’re going to miss it and I did a coaching call with about 15 salespeople earlier this week. It was a company I’d done a sales meeting within February right before the travel stuff all stopped and it was a follow-up call with them to just follow up on some of the things we talked about in the sales meeting. I said to them, I said, “How’s things going?” They’re like, “Oh, you know, there’s not much going on. Our guys are slow. You know, we’re not mission-critical.” I said, “Well, okay, who needs what you do that is mission-critical?” This is 15 salespeople, the sales manager, and the marketing manager, silenced like they hadn’t thought of them.

Todd Hockenberry:
Are you kidding me? You’re three weeks into a pandemic and you haven’t … nobody has thought about how you could help people that are really struggling right now. I was stunned. I was like, “Get off this phone call and go figure that out, right now, that’s your number one assignment.” So, it’s just, we’re used to thinking product, we’re used to thinking service, we’re used to thinking software. It is hard, it’s still hard to get out of your own head and think about customers and I would give this test to your audience and I would say, “If you think you’re customer-centered,” and 90% of companies are going to say they are but if you ask 90% of those companies or if you ask those companies, customers, like something like 10% are going to say they’re actually customer-centric.

Todd Hockenberry:
Look at your website. This is my platinum test. Look at your website, who is it for, who is talking to, is it about you, or is it about them? That’s the test. If you’re thinking website is about them and you put it together in a way that helps … show them how you can help their business then you’re probably more customer-centric than most but that’s usually the test. Again, I’m in industrial manufacturing, a lot of B2B stuff, so there’s still a lot of people that don’t do that very well at all and it’s an easy one for me oftentimes, but I still think it’s a good test.

Ethan Beute:
I think it’s a good test too and in that answer there, as you’re talking about this difference between here are three ways I can help you right now versus how can I help you right now, it reminded me of, I’ve had a couple … prior to joining BombBomb, I ran marketing inside local television stations and we had a lot of … we were consulted often and the value for the consultant was exactly what you … The value I received was exactly as you described, which is they’re not just talking to me as the marketing director at this local TV station and like making up solutions for me on the spot. They’re traveling to 30 or 40 other clients in between our last visit and bringing back the collected problems, opportunities, perspectives and really understood what I was up against and had stories that could help me see my own work differently.

Ethan Beute:
It’s just a totally different mindset and so, I love this idea of a BDR or really anyone listening but the BDR just because that’s the seat you were talking from there, really being very intentional and conscientious about all of the conversations you’re having, what you’re picking up, the subtleties in addition to kind of like the big obvious macro things, things that are true of the persona as written down on paper and things that maybe add some coloring or shading that are more interesting to what’s written down on the persona piece of paper, and using that to be of real value to the people that you’re reaching out to.

Todd Hockenberry:
You mentioned TV there. I’m going to … Everybody in our space, in our world, the digital inbound world, we all say certain things. The sales process is 57% over before people call us salespeople. I don’t believe that. I wrote it. It’s in the book. I wouldn’t write it again today. They also say traditional media is dead. I would argue with that too. I just went through a campaign with one of our clients in Illinois and they wanted to reach people that were building owners. They sold roofs, okay. So, the best way to reach people for roofs was not paid ads, it wasn’t inbound marketing, it wasn’t content, it wasn’t social media. It was advertising on Cubs games because they were all Cubs fans.

Todd Hockenberry:
I went there, I visited, I was in Southern Illinois driving around and I can’t tell you how many people I saw that had Chicago Cubs logos on their barns or on their outbuildings, right? A lot of rural area. I was like, “I get it now, these guys are all Cubs fans. They watch baseball. That’s how you reach them,” right? There is not one salesperson, there’s not one … I guarantee there’s not one TV ad salesperson out there that connects the dots and says, “Maybe you sell roofs. Okay, we can help you grow your business by selling ad time.” All they do is they think they sell ad time. What they’re really selling his eyeballs for people who own buildings in rural areas, right?

Todd Hockenberry:
Who needs that, who owns farms, small towns, right? Connect the dots there. Now, you’re thinking customer-centric and now, all of a sudden, you can even make television ads seem like they’re valuable.

Ethan Beute:
Right, and they can be, right, for the right person at the right price for the … that’s obviously not a small commitment, financial commitment, right? So, if you can land one of those deals, there’s a high return on it so if you run a whole bunch of ads at a high cost, it might not work in some situations but it may in others. So, the declaration of depth of all kinds of things is usually a comedy routine, the way I read it and it’s usually to the case that it does turn out to be true, it’s usually a decade or two too early and in general, it’s a both-and, rather than an either-or. That’s done, this is starting. It’s usually a both-and.

Todd Hockenberry:
There’s no question certain types of traditional media are nowhere near as effective as they have been in the past. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that.

Ethan Beute:
And/or they’re overpriced, right? They might still be valuable just not at that price point.

Todd Hockenberry:
Right, but it’s … My buddy Dan Tyre always says the riches are in the niches and if you can niche out an audience that watches this type of television then great, you can use that or radio, right? There’s still places but you’ve got to know, you’ve got to know who your persona is. This mass media thing, where if we’re going to hit everybody with the same message, that doesn’t work. If you can get down to the niche and you can get down to the persona and the target audience, then … I’m always agnostic when it comes to tactics, I could care less what the tactics are. I want to know what works, I want to know what my client wants to … what my client or what their audience is actually going to consume, that’s what I’m going to use.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, it’s good. There’s no reason to throw anything out without figuring out the goal and some of the various ways you can get there. Okay, last one here in this little passage and then I’ve got some quotes from the book for you.

Todd Hockenberry:
All right.

Ethan Beute:
I’ll take it a little bit back into your book, to get the ideas and maybe a speed round style. The last word that I would love your thoughts on is personalization.

Todd Hockenberry:
Yeah, the personalization is … Again, it’s heading for the market of one, where this personalization tokens and emails are nice. Those kind of things are … that’s not personalization, right? Real personalization is going to happen when I can pick the customer experience I want, that I can go along the buying path I choose. Now again, in consumer products and things like software, like what you do, it’s easier to do than it is in something say, like a large piece of capital equipment but even so, there’s multiple, new ways to sell or to consume, even things like capital equipment that didn’t exist 10 years ago or even five years ago.

Todd Hockenberry:
So, I’m going to be able to pick my experience. I’m going to be able to pick the pacing that I want to go, I want to do face to face meetings or I want to do Zoom meetings or I want to do chat communication. I want to do phone communication. I’m going to pick the way I want to engage with you and I’m going to personalize the process. It doesn’t mean again buyers won’t need help. I think the idea that Inbound is about eliminating salespeople is an erroneous one and I think Inbound has got a little bit of a bad rep in certain circles because of it. Salespeople are more important when it comes to inbound, right? Inbound to me is that you get to be found when they look or when they need you but when they find you, then you are an expert and you guide them through the process.

Todd Hockenberry:
They may not know how to go from point A to point B. They don’t know how to get all the stakeholders internally aligned. They don’t know how to evaluate all the different options or the competitors. Your job as a salesperson is to help them do that. No one article, no one thing is going to solve that for a complex sale. If you’ve got a transactional sale, fine, you could probably be 100% inbound, go digital, ads, never talk to a human being. If you’re over here on the curve, in complexity, it’s going to be far less inbound and way more kind of traditional sales where you think about like network solutions for software, for companies or again, I mentioned Capital Equipment which is what I handle a lot, right?

Todd Hockenberry:
There’s a lot of moving parts there. People may research, say a million-dollar laser system online but they’re not going to buy it because they saw a blog post or watched a video.

Ethan Beute:
If your white paper was amazing, where do I sign?

Todd Hockenberry:
It’s not going to happen. You got to get engineering involved, plant management, the electrical guys, the production guys, the product guys, there’s a bunch of stakeholders. So, that’s not inbound, right? Inbound is going to affect that, the ideas of inbound should influence that process. Sharing content, helping for free, self-service content. Again, being helpful first. All the principles we talked about are still there but it’s still going to be very complex sale. It’s going to take a long time. It’s going to have a lot of stakeholders, right? There’s still a huge opportunity for salespeople to act like they’re inbound and apply it to those complex situations which is what I love to do. That’s my thing that I like to work on. I don’t like the transactional so much, I like the complex one.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. The one thing I really appreciate about what you did with personalization, there’s so many people think of it where you started, which is my emails or my messaging but you took it immediately to the experience level of how can we make this experience personalized. All right, so Inbound Organization, I love the book. I actually had Dan on the show and talked about it. I’m excited to have you. I tried to do this as a lightning round with Dan and you can predict how that worked out and folks can hear about Episode 40. So, I’m going to try similar, and so just give me like your quick response to … when I give you a line from the book that you authored, just give me a couple thoughts on it.

Todd Hockenberry:
You got it.

Ethan Beute:
From the open, you don’t want to find people who fit the culture. You want to find people who add to it.

Todd Hockenberry:
That’s real diversity if you ask me.

Ethan Beute:
Great.

Todd Hockenberry:
You said short answers, I gave you one phrase. Yeah.

Ethan Beute:
Okay.

Todd Hockenberry:
I want to see diversity of opinions and ideas and thought processes and the way they look at the world, that’s really going to drive your culture, right? Frame it up, give them framework for people to work in, give them the guardrails and let them run.

Ethan Beute:
I love it and that is like a really nice add to the additive piece there at the end. Okay, from the … regarding content, the value people get from your content is related to the amount of thought you put into it.

Todd Hockenberry:
Great quote from, I think it was David McCullough, one of my favorite historians. I love historical writing. He said, writing is thinking and I love that quote because you have to think first. Anybody can write anybody can put things down on paper but to real writing, which is content is about … really about what your message is and so, it really requires you to think and that gets back to all the other things we were just talking about, customer centricity, empathetic, put yourself on their shoes.

Ethan Beute:
Right and that’s probably one of the reasons we see so much bad content. If your sales reps are still using a traditional sales playbook, you may be frustrating your prospects and customers.

Todd Hockenberry:
My goodness, when’s the last time you got a cold call, Ethan? I’m going to watch-

Ethan Beute:
Unfortunately, my phone is nowhere but I get tons of cold emails and tons of cold LinkedIn messages.

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, we all hate the cold emails, right? So, somebody is running that playbook and they don’t work but my favorite is the cold calls. I love cold calls. I answer them because I want to hear what people are being taught and they’re being taught this, “Hello, is this Todd?” My answer is this, I say, “What’s the name on your call sheet?” They stopped and they go, what? They say, “Well, how are you today?” I said, “You don’t really care.” That’s my answer. They have no response. They’re done. It’s like, that’s somebody who’s running a traditional playbook. They put a bunch of people in a room and said, “Follow the script,” and you’re annoying me by calling me number one and then you’re annoying me twice by saying what my name is, which you already know and second of all, you don’t care how I am.

Todd Hockenberry:
You’re wasting my time again. Get to the point, have a value proposition and be able to communicate it quickly. If I’m interested, I’ll say, “That’s interesting, tell me more.” I don’t even let you get there if you run that old playbook and so many people still run those old garbage playbooks. That’s why I bring it up.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. I appreciate the passion there too. Okay, so kind of sales service here. Your service organization is more important than your sales organization when it comes to generating net new customers.

Todd Hockenberry:
Yup. Well, again, we live in the … I just interviewed Mark Schaefer who just came up with a fabulous book, Marketing Rebellion. Check out his book, and he talked about this a lot, and David Meerman Scott’s new book, Fanocracy also talks about this a lot. Your customer’s ratings reviews, they become your best salespeople because people trust third-party generated content. So, if your service people aren’t taking care of them, your third party content stinks, your ratings are bad so therefore you’re not getting them, the net new customers, it’s that simple. Your service people may better take care of them because those customers should be your best salespeople.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. You’ll love this quote from just a recently released episode with Ed Breault, the CMO at a digital asset management company called Aprimo and he told me when I interviewed him on the show, that he had two mantras for 2020 and I’ll just give you one of them and his is … the customer is the new marketer and he’s just trying to take this in and kind of operationalize it in some kind of a new, more developed way. Okay, service, for most modern buyers self-service is excellent service.

Todd Hockenberry:
We work 24/7, all kind of weird hours and times, right? If I’m going to your website and I want to see how to solve a problem or get some certain information, I want to be able to get that quickly. Again, if it gets more complex, I want to be able to find the right person and have that connected to that person quickly, don’t put me in the … here’s another old playbook, “Please listen to all these options,” because their menus recently changed and you have to listen to this foolish menu or the other one is, “This is being recorded for quality purposes.” Give me a break. You could see what our purpose is. It’s not quality purposes. So, again, those are the old playbooks and those are killing self-service. It makes me want to just scream when I hear those, see those things.

Todd Hockenberry:
Make it easy for me to get to the people I want, right? Use the classic website navigation idea that you should have everything within three clicks, right? Is every service touchpoint you offer the equivalent of three clicks away from the answer? Shoot for something like that.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Another nice practical rule here that you’ve offered. Last one and this was from the close, we are all connected and no one can succeed alone.

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, that’s more poignant than ever right now in the middle of this mess. Yeah, we have to … Yeah, this is a tough time and I think that the companies that understand how to be human and be understanding and empathetic and not self-serving are the ones that win and I will tell you another one, I’m going to go out on a limb here on this one and the companies that treat their employees right through this process are going to be the ones that win. Number one, your employees do the exact same thing we just talked about with customers. Employees tell other people how it is to work for you and if you treated them poorly if you let them go, if you … at the first opportunity, you cut a bunch of your people, that’s going to be online, it’s going to be on things like Glassdoor.

Todd Hockenberry:
They’re going to tell their friends, it’s going to hurt you. Frankly, if I know personally, if I know you treated your employees that way, I’m not coming back because now is the time when we need to pull together and say, I’m going to do a little extra for my employees, I’m going to take care of them. I’m going to ask more of them maybe but I’m also going to take care. Companies that do that should be the ones that win and they rightfully should be recognized for doing it.

Ethan Beute:
So good and we often talk about the employee experience as a necessary precursor of an excellent customer experience and it’s really interesting to think about, up to this point, we’ll see how it all shakes out but especially in kind of competitive industries and hard to find talent, you have to market your organization essentially and create employee experiences and build into the employee the same way you need to go to market for your customers.

Todd Hockenberry:
Customers and employees to me are like breathing and eating. You got to do both. They’re not the same. They’re both critical. You can’t live without them.

Ethan Beute:
Right.

Todd Hockenberry:
So, it’s not a matter of one or the other or first or second. They’re both important.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah but I think historically, we’ve probably taken the employee relationship for granted, whereas the customer is always been in the conversation. All right. Before we go to a couple of fun closing elements, I would love … I know you think about it and talk a lot about mindset. So, I just love for you to kind of tee it up nice and easy for me. Hit it wherever you want to go. Why is mindset so important and what’s maybe a mindset tip that people listening can take away?

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, I guess the mindset piece that’s so critical is, it ultimately comes back as to why you’re there. Are you there for yourself? If you’re the leader of a business or you’re a leader of a group or a division or even a team, are you there for yourself? Are you there for your ego? Are you there for your own monetary gain? Are you there for your own career? Are you there for whatever selfish reason you can think of or are you there to contribute to other people? I think this is just a fundamental human thing, right? There’s givers and takers. The givers will win, the takers will be found out and the world that we’re living in now and the world that we’re moving forward to, the people that care about others first, that put others ahead of themselves, these are not new ideas, Ethan.

Todd Hockenberry:
These go way back and the people that think of others first and put the success of other people first will be the ones that do well and frankly, it’s just the right way to live. Again, all this stuff that’s going on right now, I think the mindset of people first over profits … I mean, you got to have profits. I know, I get it but there’s a time and there’s a place and there’s a way to grow business in a way that also grows people and is helpful to people both inside the company and out. That’s the mindset leaders have to have and it’s hard when it’s a survival question, right, “Oh, it’s me versus them,” but they’re surviving and then, surviving.

Todd Hockenberry:
So, I think I’d go back to classical literature. This is even marketing stuff, right? I’m going back to … without getting too philosophical with you, I’d go back to kind of classic literature about why we’re here, think about what our purposes here and very rarely is it going to be to make money. So, find that core purpose, tie back into that. People that really understand that and live that are going to be the ones that I think are going to see the most success.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. That’s fantastic. I encourage folks to hit the bounce back on it and especially with those open questions, be honest with yourself, as I was trying … as I was following along with your questions for myself is like, “Yeah, a little bit. Yeah, a little bit. I mean, I definitely have selfish motivations and that’s okay.” I just need to be aware of them and to think about, how I’m making my decisions and what my real motivations are as feelings become, thoughts become to actions and that’s just beautiful. I’m really encouraged by your future.

Todd Hockenberry:
Thank you.

Ethan Beute:
I hope it comes to pass.

Todd Hockenberry:
I live it every day. I’ve been very blessed and I’ve had a … we just pass 11 years with our business, Top Line Results and it’s my wife and I. So, it’s a joy everyday to work together and I just love it. I love working with her and work with my daughters in my business and lots of great people. So, we’re helping each other and we’re trying to help our clients as best we can and we just do that. The more we do that, the more successful we are. When I start thinking about money or trying to think about closing the big deal, that’s when I don’t get them.

Ethan Beute:
Interesting. It’s so good and I just think it’s just so fundamentally attractive. I think that’s how you attract good team members. Obviously, yours have some level of commitment just baked in by the fact that some of them are your family members. I do think good attracts good like attracts like and it builds on itself. So, that’s awesome, I love it. I’m so glad I asked that. So, for folks who enjoyed this conversation of course, I had Todd’s co-author, Dan Tyre on episode 40 of this podcast. That one was called the biggest transformation in prospecting in 30 years. We ended up talking a lot about video and simple videos, places, some of our typed out text.

Ethan Beute:
Then, a couple episodes later, I have Sangram Vajre who’s the co-founder and chief evangelist at Terminus and we talked about five ways internal alignment can elevate your customer experience. So, we were a bit more inward-facing. We were a little bit more culture and process and alignment oriented in that conversation so you’ll enjoy those too. So, Todd, this is great. I’m so glad we’re able to spend time together. I have a few more things though before I let you go. I always like … because relationships are our number one core value among five. I like to give you the chance to think or mention someone who’s had a positive impact on your life or your career.

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, we’ve been talking about Dan Tyre from HubSpot. I’ll mention Dan because I learned so much from him. We’re working on a book together. He is just such a universally consistently positive, uplifting person. I told you, I just had a conversation … I had a conversation with Dan and another person this morning. He spent the first three minutes telling the other person how great I was. I said, “There’s only one other person in the world that does as my mom and she doesn’t even do it as much as dad.” So, and he’s part of … there is a bigger piece there. The companies I appreciate, HubSpot who’s connected … where Dan works is also one I really appreciate, having worked with them for over 10 years.

Todd Hockenberry:
Seeing their response to this situation and how they’ve come out with new products and I can see some things on the back and how they’re really trying to take care of customers and do the right thing. That’s impressive and he’s a big part of that. So, the company in person are big ones. There’s lots of other ones but Dan has been a special friend and mentor and a coach and just a lot of things. So, it was a great opportunity to write a book with him because we got to spend a lot of time together, and so Dan was a big influence on me for sure.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome, and I really enjoyed it. I guess I should have recorded it. We were talking a little bit about how that project came together between the two of you and that’s a pleasure. What you offer there, what a great example of leading by giving, spending three minutes propping you up like, for no particular reason except that he likes to give credit where it’s due. So, besides HubSpot, do you maybe want to give mention to a company that you really appreciate or enjoy or respect for the experience they that they deliver for you as a customer?

Todd Hockenberry:
This is going to be kind of odd. My doctor who’s-

Ethan Beute:
I’m excited already.

Todd Hockenberry:
Nobody … and I know my doctor but they have … First of all, they already figured out how to set up appointments correctly. Give me a portal online to get all my information in one place. They figured out … I don’t know how they did it. It’s a miracle. They figured out how to actually get me into the office when I was scheduled. I don’t know how they do it. I think they actually learned how to keep a schedule. What a concept, right? So I was already thrilled like I get there, I give the information. I’m in the office, I’m in the room within a minute or two, like never sit there, it’s great. Everything is digital. I don’t have paperwork, any prescriptions, or whatever.

Todd Hockenberry:
All automatically goes to the pharmacy. It’s all set up super easy. Then, and in this mayhem, they went to telemedicine and now we’re doing, you can do these kinds of things. Luckily I haven’t had any reason to but they immediately switched to telemedicine like that. So, that to me is a small business that is flexible and is thinking about their customers. Thinking about the concerns I might have in a time of uncertainty and giving me options and really great ways to connect. I think that’s the message for any company. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or a giant company. Now is the time to pivot and really think about what those other people want and those are the people … Those are the companies that are going to really … I’m going to remember. We’re all going to remember,

Ethan Beute:
Great, powerful story there. That’s all customer experience and like exceeding expectations, I mean, it’s shocking how low that expectation was of like, “If my appointment is at 2, am I going to get in at 2:30 or 2:45 or whatever.” That’s a very low expectation but the idea that no one beats it rarely beats it except for this team.

Todd Hockenberry:
Here’s my favorite. You go into the doctor’s office or the dentist or whoever and they say, “If you miss an appointment, we’re going to charge you $30, right?” Yet, I’ll sit there for an hour. My rate is higher than $30 an hour, you’re going to give me … pay me for my hour you wasted, heck no.

Ethan Beute:
Right? I will say, just so you can feel some kinship, Sharon Toerek who is an attorney, marketing law attorney, intellectual property attorney, I had her on. We talked about things that your marketing team is doing that may be illegal and she took the opportunity to prop up her dentist office. The language there was around a concierge-style service from her dentist office. So, I’ve only heard that I’ve asked this with dozens and dozens of people, maybe more than 70. So, I’ve only had one other answer quite like yours. For folks that enjoy this conversation, Todd, if they want to follow up with you or Top Line Results or the manufacturing show that you host or Inbound Organization, where are some places you would send people if they enjoyed this conversation?

Todd Hockenberry:
Well, thanks for offering. The easiest place to find all that is at our website, top-line-results.com or you can just google Todd Hockenberry. I’m on … you’ll find, pull up a bunch of stuff. I’m on LinkedIn. I’d love to connect with you there and I do a podcast called the Manufacturing Show and it’s really focused on the industrial and manufacturing world. I would love you to check that out as well, and there’s also a site for the book, inboundorganization.com, lots of info there too.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. Todd, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I absolutely love the book. I really appreciate your approach to work and to life and I appreciate you sharing it here on The Customer Experience Podcast.

Todd Hockenberry:
Ethan, my pleasure. Thank you for allowing me to be on the show.

Ethan Beute:
Cool. Have a good afternoon.

Todd Hockenberry:
Bye.

 
 

Video Highlights: When Customer Experience Becomes An Existential Experience

Check out the top five video highlights from the discussion with Todd below…

 

1. How COVID-19 Has Changed CX

 

 

2. Customer Experience as Your Differentiator

 

 

3. Thoughts on Internal Alignment

 

 

4. Thoughts on Customer-Centricity

 

 

5. Thoughts on Personalization and the Buying Experience

 
 

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Todd Hockenberry, Inbound Organization, customer experience

 

 

Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.