Graphic with "CX Decoded by CMSWire" written on top left, "Season 3 | Episode 9 Emotional North Star of CX Jim Tincher" on bottom left and Jim's headshot to the right.
CX Decoded Podcast
January 24, 2023

Jim Tincher on Doing B2B CX Better

In this CX Decoded podcast, Jim Tincher, founder, CEO and journey mapper-in-chief at Heart of the Customer and author of the book "Do B2B Better," discusses the importance of talking to customers after a transaction has taken place. He uses his experience as a product manager for health savings accounts to illustrate how a disconnect between the company's understanding of its customers and the actual customer experience can lead to high churn rates. He also addresses how to measure customer experience and the role of inventory in business.

In his book “Do B2B Better,” Jim highlights four actions that separate successful customer experience programs from those that don't work. These include showing how customer experience is improving financial outcomes for the organization and proactively creating a better outcome for the company. Jim also brings attention to the issue of silos within organizations and how they can lead to a disconnect between different departments and their understanding of customer experience. 

Podcast Key Takeaways: 

  • Talking to customers after a transaction has taken place is important for understanding their experience and identifying areas for improvement.
  • A disconnect between a company's understanding of their customers and the actual customer experience can lead to high churn rates.
  • Successful customer experience programs show how customer experience is improving financial outcomes for the organization and proactively creating a better outcome for the company.
  • Many organizations struggle with silos, which can lead to a disconnect between different departments and their understanding of customer experience

Episode Transcript

Dom Nicastro: Hello, we're back with another edition of CX Decoded. Season three here, Dom Nicastro, managing editor of CMSWire here with my co-host, Jennifer Torres. She is a CMSWire reporter crushing it on the CX scene. Jenn, what's going on? 

Jennifer Torres: Hey, Dom, great to be here. 

Dom: Happy to have you on again, Jenn, round two for you, did great in round one. So looking forward to this conversation. Let's get to the details on our guest. All right, our guest today is going to be author, Jim Tincher. He's a customer experience thought leader and author. He's got a lot of big customer experience ideas. So we're just going to empty the tank here. He's got his latest book out “Do B2B Better.” He's here to share a few thoughts with us today. Jim, how's it going?

Jim Tincher: Excellent. Dom, we're gonna be above freezing today in Minneapolis. So that's a good day.

Dom: Oh, you got us beat here. I'm in sunny southern New Hampshire. And we're not too bad today. Today we can breathe, and the ears are okay. So we're good, Jim. 

Jim: All right.

Learning to Think From the Customer’s Perspective

Jennifer: Well, Jim, we like to start out by getting to know our guests a little bit more. So can you tell us why you gravitated to the field of CX? And then could you share one fun fact about yourself that's not related to work?

Jim: Sure. It's actually kind of hard to answer how I got into this. Because I remember my first job out of college, I was in technical support. About a year in, I was going to visit my girlfriend, now wife, not far from you, Dom, over in Connecticut. While I was there, I went to my boss and said I'd like to visit a customer while I'm there. And he looked at me and he said, well, why? And I couldn't answer the question. I'm like, I don't know why. Isn't that what you do, is you go talk to a customer when you go somewhere else? 

Dom: They already paid us, we don't need to talk to them anymore. 

Jim: Right. And so he eventually did arrange it. And I went and visited one, but it was just to me the way you work. From there, I worked at a small business. And of course, in a small business, you have to be customer-focused from there Best Buy, again, really customer-focused, but sometimes you learn your passions when you go to a place that does not share them. 

At that point in my career, I just naively thought everybody is customer-focused. And then I went to work for a big insurance company and learned there were other models where literally nobody in marketing or product development had ever met a client. And that was okay. But it wasn't okay with me. 

And that's really where I got the bug in trying to help that organization think more from the customer's perspective. And that stayed with me since. 

Something about me not about work is that I am known in my neighborhood as Mr. Barbecue. We put on an event every year, about 100 people come over, and we do typically about 30 pounds of brisket, 20 pounds of pork shoulder and a bunch of racks of ribs. So that's the other thing I'm known for.

Dom: Are you also a sides guy too? Do you prepare the sides or does someone else do that.

Jim: The neighbors. I'll bring sides a little occasionally I'll make these killer baked beans that have no health whatsoever in them, but they're really delicious.

Dom: Yeah, Jim, I did like hamburgers and hotdogs for Fourth of July. And that was my first time as a homeowner doing that. And I retired after that. I am happy to be a guest rather than a host for the rest of my life because it's a little bit of work.

Jim: Well, but with brisket, the nice thing is you have hours and hours where you just wait and drink a beer.

Related Article: Are You Creating the Best B2B Buyer Customer Experience?

Why CX Professionals Need to Talk to Customers

Dom: Right? That's actually a good process. Jim, let's get into this. I'm gonna start with a question based off something you said in your little intro here. And I think it's fascinating. And we're hearing this more and more Jenn and I, the more people we talked to in CX circles. You said, you're going to talk to a customer and your colleague said why? 

I want you to answer that. Why should we talk more to customers after the fact you know, they're already in the system? They've already paid their bills for the month or the year, whatever subscription, one-time product. So many people say we need to talk to customers more you need to get in front of them one-on-one to actually understand what's going on, and not just sit back and let it ride. So why talk more to customers?

Jim: Well, that's exactly the question I got back when I said we need to spend more time talking to customers, feedback came, well, why, we’re customers so we know what customers want. At the time I was leading, I started as product manager for health savings accounts, and eventually created a CX role to help the organization really adopt the customer view. And the answer came back that well, yes, we are customers. We're the world's most oddball customers. Ever. I don't know if any of you have health savings accounts. 

Dom: Yes. 

Jim: So, Dom. We thought about health savings accounts eight-to-10 hours a day. I'm sure you do the same, right?

Dom: Oh, yeah. So it's top of mind for me when as soon as I wake up, hey, how much is in there? 

Jim: Well, you know, that's the thing is that it sets up a disconnect because our research shows that customers didn't think about HSAs for eight-to-10 hours a year. And we were building the products we wanted to buy. As a result, we led the nation in sales. We also led the nation in churn, and not just in sheer numbers, but in the percentage of customers, 9% of customers every year canceled their accounts. We're number one, we rock in losing customers. That's how I started to get people to listen more is by tying into the business problem.

4 Actions That Are Change-Makers in the CX World

Jennifer: Jim, in your book, “Do B2B Better,” You say most CX problems can't show impact? But most isn't all. So can you tell us about what you can say about the programs that do work, and a bit about the people you label as change-makers and hopefuls?

Jim: You bet. We identified four actions that really separate them, because we did over 200 hours of interviews, surveyed hundreds more. And most programs are hopeful. They're doing good work, but they don't know if it matters. And so let's start with the first one, which is to actually show how you're improving financial outcomes for the organization. And that's where it begins, for example, showing how you're improving net revenue retention, showing proactively how you are creating a better outcome for the company. 

And the number one scariest part about that is to start with a conversation with finance. 

Dom: Scary? How do you do that? 

Jim: Most don't know the answer. So I remember one person who was interviewed, the first three questions we'd ask is, if I were to ask you whether customer experience is getting better or worse, how would you answer it? If I were to ask your CEO? How would he or she answer that? And for both, the answer is usually surveys. 

And then I would ask, how would your favorite finance person answer that question? As you would guess I got crickets — silence. And one person finally said, well, Jim, you're assuming I know somebody from finance? Oh, yeah, you got me on that assumption, that was a pure assumption that you had met somebody from finance in your organization. But it turned out to be a bad assumption for many. Most customer experience organizations are essentially saving their own silos, looking at their data surveys and defining success by those surveys getting better. They don't talk money.

Related Article: Using B2B Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business

Breaking Down the Silos in Customer Experience

Dom: And Jim speaking of silos, I mean, that's one of our editorial calendar themes this month, January 2023, customer experience leadership fixing the persistent silo problem. So tell us about how some of those silos happen in customer experience and what CX leaders can do to break through them?

Jim: Well, one of the ironies is a lot of our role in CX is to break down the silos of the rest of the organization. But so many customer experience programs set up their own silos by talking their own language and measuring success in their own way. There is no other department inside organizations whose primary metrics are survey-based. Everybody else talks the language of data, and specifically financial data. And we talk in surveys. 

Now, when I give a keynote, one of the questions I'll ask people is to submit to be a CEO and say you have two project opportunities in front of you. The first one will improve your Net Promoter Score by 20 points. That's pretty good. The second one will guarantee a million dollars in cost savings. Well, who's gonna get the money? Every time the million dollars, the cost savings, get the money. But let's say instead, you came in there and said, I've got a project that through a better customer experience will result in $3 million of retention savings and $2 million in cross-sell opportunities. And I've had finance validate that. 

Well, now you're in a much better position to get the money because you're talking the language of the business. You're not assuming higher Net Promoter Score is going to accomplish something. It doesn't always, but you're actually tying into behaviors. In fact, just one sentence to wrap up the whole book. It would be that hopeful programs, which are most of them, talk about sentiment, change-makers, they analyze and change behaviors. And it's all about the behaviors. If you want to have more impact. You want to break down the silos, talk about behaviors, because that's what matters.

The Importance of Measuring Emotions in CX?

Dom: You mentioned surveys, Jim, I think they're a necessary part. They're helpful. They get a lot of vendors out there who are doing great things with survey management and gleaning that data. I mean, we have our own surveys that we put out such as our State of Digital Customer Experience Report, we certainly use them that's all in a previous podcast here, what can CX do better with these, though? 

I mean, because I think there are some surveys that just don't get at the heart of what the customer is really thinking like, for instance, a call center agent, did your agent solve this problem? And if the answer's no, that's great and everything, yeah, they didn't solve the problem, they could have been a great ambassador for the brand, even if they didn't solve the actual problem, like the phone isn't fixed. But I think these agents should be rewarded better and measured better. So what I'm getting at is what's a good survey? What are some of the flaws in surveys that CX leaders use as crutches too much?

Jim: Well, the first question is, does your survey actually measure anything that matters? One of the misconceptions that seems to be, is that in customer experience, our goal is the customer has to move their mouse a little bit to the right. That's not our goal, but that's what we're measuring. But instead, it's to look at what are we trying to understand — behaviors. And how do your surveys predict those behaviors. 

And the second finding I had the first action, of course, was tying it to finances and the second one was measuring an emotional North Star. Because emotions are incredibly powerful — emotions predict behaviors. And one of the findings I had that surprised me was this notion of measuring emotions. 

Roxie Strohmenger, she is with UKG, a software company, and she measures confidence. She actually measures eight emotions, and she can show how increased confidence improves retention, improves upsell and decreases cost to serve. 

Nancy Flowers from Hagerty [now at Voya], works with Roxie and focuses on happiness. And they found Net Promoter Score does predict retention and cross-sell. But happiness predicts Net Promoter Score. And so looking at surveys, it's identifying what emotions matter in your experience through quantitative research. And then updating your surveys to measure emotions. It's far more powerful than Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction, customer ease. Emotions are a key for effective surveys.

Related Article: 3 Questions B2B Marketers Should Ask About the Dark Funnel in 2023

How to Measure Customer Confidence

Dom: Confidence. That intrigues me how do you actually — what literally do you do — if you're a customer experience person to measure confidence? Like what do you ask, how confident are you? Or how do you actually get that done?

Jim: Well, the step before what you're asking is first to identify through data, what emotions matter. And so you look at what is a loyal customer, who's a less loyal customer, who is the customer that is less costly to serve and more costly to serve. And then you ask them a battery of emotion questions to determine what emotions matter. In this case, confidence. Once you have that it is just, which emotions do you feel while working with our company? 

And so what we usually do is pick a list of six or eight. That's what Roxie at UKG does, we stole it from her, she knows it. It's OK. But that's the approach we use. And we find we work with a different software company. And we can see that when customers are confident, behaviors are different than when they're frustrated. Now sounds obvious, right? Clearly, you behave differently as a frustrated customer than as a confident customer. But nobody measures it. 

And that's a big mission of ours — to actually measure emotion. So in this case, tell me what experience, pick a list of six or eight, you feel while working with CMSWire. Now I'm sure they're all positive. But you want to measure that. So let's say instead, we're a traditional customer experience leader, and you go to your product manager, you could say, Net Promoter Score for customers of your product, 23 versus 57 for the rest of organization. That's interesting. Not much more. 

But you could say, while overall, 50% of our customers are confident only 20% of your customers are. Worse 25% of our overall customers are frustrated, but 73% of your customers are frustrated. Which report would you rather give? And which would you rather receive? I'd much rather talk about emotions because they're tied to behaviors.

Dom: They sure are. A good indicator of what's coming next from that customer, for sure.

Jim: But yeah, almost everybody I know in customer experience talks about the importance of emotions. We get that, we do. I only know of six organizations in the country that measure emotions. So it's a huge opportunity.

Dom: Yeah, we're people we like things, we hate things we get upset, get angry. And we show that on calls. But right, if you're not measuring that, right, literally measuring it you just have someone yelling at a call center agent. And what does that tell you? When it comes up in the performance review —  like that the customer sounded angry — like what's that going to do? A literal measurement sounds like a better approach.

Jim: At our conference, Ricdardo Porte from Dow was reporting on how they measured experience. And he had a question from a challenging stakeholder, which is what's the role of inventory in my business, and what does customer experience have to say about it?

And it bleeds a little bit into our third action, which is to bring in the behavioral, operational and financial data into the analysis. And he laid out his approach to answering that question, which involves a combination of operational data when they call in what is the Available-to-Promise, it's an SAP metric, how that led to a change in confidence while ordering a survey metric based on emotions, which then impact future ordering behavior and behavioral data, and therefore future EBIT, a financial piece of data, and I'll use all of them combined to answer that question, which is that a decrease in inventory today over a certain threshold will actually impact multiple future quarters of EBIT? 

Incredible analysis that most in customer experience aren't even thinking about — through combining the financial outcome, action number one, the emotional North Star, action number two, and what we call the customer ecosystem data: behavioral descriptive, financial and operational data, which is actually number three in the book.

Related Article: What B2B Buyers Want, and Ways to Align Your Customer Journeys

Understanding the CX Loyalty Flywheel

Jennifer: Jim, you have a visual in your book that you refer to as the CX Loyalty Flywheel? Can you tell us a bit about this? And we were speaking about emotions? Can you tell us how emotions accelerate it? 

Jim: Sure, the flywheel itself is pretty straightforward. It is that  step one —  we invest in a customer experience improvement. Step two, that customer experience improves, follows. Step three customers become more emotionally engaged, so that step four, they buy more, stay longer, interact, and less expensive ways that they deserve. And step five, the company gets stronger. So there's more money to go to step one again and repeat the whole thing. 

Jennifer: OK.

Jim:. Now, when I  share that at the conference, the overwhelming reaction is — duh. You know, we all believe that or we wouldn't be in customer experience. We believe that when we invest in customer experience, it gets better, customers get more emotionally engaged, the company gets stronger. What's the secret, though, is how it's measured. 

And so what we found is that the financial data that shows that establishes the flywheel by showing how it all works. Step two, the emotions accelerate the flywheel in that they help customers to get more engaged faster, because you're measuring it, so you're able to improve financial results faster. And so it accelerates that flywheel. By identifying it do customers actually become emotionally engaged with your organization? 

Now the book is called “Do B2B Better.” And I primarily use B2B examples in the book, but it applies to any kind of business. Anytime you're working with customers, those customers have emotions. Yes, even business customers. And so by being able to track that, and show those emotions, you can help your organization react faster.

Related Article: Is Your Culture Creating a Great Customer Experience?

The Emotions of B2B Customers

Dom: A lot of emotions in business customers, let me tell you that. I mean, there's a lot at stake, I go buy a Snickers bar, Jim, and give it to my wife, if she doesn't like it, my job isn't on the line. Right? But if I'm buying a semiconductor, and that product didn't work, and I didn't do my research well enough, my job is on the line. So you bet there's emotions in B2B for sure.

Jim: Oh 100%. But most of us seem to think that when you go to work, you leave your emotions at the door. But no, they're right there and exactly right. Because in our consumer world, we rarely make decisions that impact the rest of our lives. But at work we do.

Dom: Yeah, I feel for our B2B sales team. You know, we're a B2B company, right? So you hear the stories all the time from sales folks and B2B. You don't have to just market, and provide great customer experience to one person, this is like you have to win over multiple people inside a division of that company. 

Like that is work. To me, that is a lot of massaging a lot of data and knowing who is going to pull the trigger on that sale. That is such a challenge these days to find the right person. I mean, you might have a yes from someone in that organization. And then two weeks later, it's a no because someone else turned their head, you know, I feel for the salespeople.

Jim: Oh, yeah, Gartner just came out with some research that shows the combination that affects the B2B sales journey is a combination of confidence and trust. You can argue whether trust is an emotion, but it's certainly an emotional outcome. But their research found that there are the two central emotions in the sales process. But again, very few organizations are measuring it. Dow does. UKG does. Hagerty does and a handful of others, but not very many.

Considering Customer Experience Ecosystem Data

Dom: Let's move on to something else you talk about a lot, Jim. And that's the customer ecosystem data. So customer ecosystem data. This sounds like a lot of buzzwords that I've heard in my eight years and you’ve combined them all into one. Hey, let's do something, Jim says, and let's just throw customers in with ecosystem and data — nah, I'm only playing with you. I'm sure it's interesting. What you got?

Jim: Well, that's when we look at how most customer experience teams measure the journey, it's all through surveys, or maybe speech or text analytics. But what blew me away when I was doing these interviews is the power of the business data, which I'm calling customer ecosystem data, by building into your analysis, the customers, first of all descriptive data, is this a new or returning customer, is one of our biggest ones, is that one only using this one product, global, local, regional, all descriptive data. 

Next, is behavioral data, which is a form of Voice of the Customer — are they using our digital tools? Are they using our analog tools? Are they calling the sales rep when there's a problem? Are they following certain channels? Are they escalating the behavioral data, the operational data uptime for our products? Do we deliver products on time? 

And then lastly, the financial outcome of that? I was talking with a health insurance organization a while back and they said we use Net Promoter Score — so great. Does it matter? So what do you mean? I mean, well do members who give you a higher score, do they stay longer? I don't know. Well, okay, but so why do you measure Net Promoter Score? Well, we bonus on it. Oh, so you have a metric. You don't know if it predicts anything of interest to your business. But you give bonuses based on the metric moving?

Dom: I'm gonna work for that company. Because I'm gonna have my mother call and say, I certainly recommend Dominic's company. Boom, there you go, money in my wallet.

Jim: Well, Dom, you don't have to try very hard because almost every company I know behaves in that way. How many companies have actually validated that customers with a higher Net Promoter Score behave differently?

Jennifer: Well, Jim, you believe that understanding how your organization measures value and connecting your customer experience program to those outcomes is crucial. Can you explain this a bit more?

Jim: Sure. And it's wrapping up those first three actions together. It's looking at so let's go back to the example of a health insurance organization. Health insurance doesn’t have many opportunities to upsell you. It's pretty much retention and cost of server. There are two key variables. Most people in health insurance organizations talk about a Net Promoter Score, and executives are focused on completely different things. Yeah, they care if they're bonused on it. But they're caring more about retention. They care about steerage getting people to use, for example, less expensive pharmaceuticals. They care about getting people to stop using the emergency room, but instead use urgent care and move people from urgent care to primary care. 

If you're a customer experience leader and a health insurance organization, you need to talk about that. And how does your work help people to stop using the emergency room? How are you helping engage members so that they're willing to listen to your communications about using generic pharmaceuticals? 

If you're instead working for a manufacturer, your company cares about customers ordering within lead time, they care about order velocity, they care about how many different products they order, and they care about innovation? Can you show your work is leading to customers to do any of those things? Because that's how you get your executives to care. And that's the fourth of the four actions: using deliberate change management. Understanding what it is your internal stakeholders care about, in talking about that, and showing them how customer experience helps them be more successful.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience

Gleaning Actionable Items From Customer Emotions

Dom: Yeah, so many good talking points in this Jim getting close to the end here. I want to do some wrap-up with emotions. I think there were some great talking points about the emotions part of CX. So when you're looking at the big picture there, managing customer emotions and gleaning something from it, getting some actionable outcomes from a customer's emotions. What are the steps to get there? How can organizations use emotions to really drive better customer experience outcomes? That's conclusion question number one, go ahead.

Jim: Great. First thing is it's a little counterintuitive. First determine through data, not surveys, who your best customers are and who your opportunity customers are. Then ask them a survey question asking about a bunch of different emotions and do qualitative research. First, understand what the emotions are, and then use a survey asking about these and see what emotions your best customers are feeling versus the rest? What's different about them? 

Once you identify that, now start updating your dashboard, start updating your surveys to reflect these emotions. And go to your experience design group and focus on these emotions — if it's confidence look at how you could activate confidence along the journey — if it's happiness like for Hagerty, focus on how to create more happiness. And that's what it eventually comes to — designing for that experience. We're not designing for a Net Promoter Score because I don't know how you design for that. We're designing for happiness or trust or confidence.

Dom: And conclusion question number two, what would you say customer experience leaders need to do "more of "— "less of"? In the "less" department I'm sensing that customer surveys might be in the less of — are we oversurveying you think?

Jim: I can't speak to oversurveying, I don't know that we are. We're underutilizing the data. We are talking about surveys too much. Surveys have a definite role. But we need to use the data more, we need to be talking about what the organization cares about, which is operational and behavioral and financial data — and less about survey outcomes. The great customer experience programs from our research, and surveys are simply another piece of data that fits with all the rest they use to analyze what's really happening in the journey. So in the “less of” — stop talking about surveys, go and use them — in the “more of” start talking about what your executives care about, which is what's going to get them promoted. And I guarantee that I'm going to get promoted because your survey scores went up.

Dom: Awesome. Well, there's a lot to digest here. Lots to unpack. I hope everyone got a few nuggets out of this. I sure did. Jenn, did you get any nuggets out of this?

Jennifer: I definitely got nuggets. 

Dom: Oh, good. That's good for us. Because she's a reporter, Jim, she's gonna crank out the content, gave her five story ideas. This is all good. Jim, we do like to let our guests before they go, give a little plug for themselves. Let folks know where they can follow you, get more information about your book and thought leadership.

Dom: All right. Well, I'm big on LinkedIn where I spend most of my time. I think I have a Twitter account. I don't use it. But LinkedIn is the place to go to find me. And you can get the book at as it links to different retailers. Again, it's not just for B2B. I did that because it's the less used market, but it's good for anybody and helps you understand how you can drive growth through game-changing customer experience.

Dom: Excellent. Jim Tincher, thanks for joining us here on CX Decoded and sharing your wisdom on CX thought leadership. We thank you so much for coming. We hope you have a good rest of the year as we're recording this and a good start to 2023 when this publishes, thank you so much.

Jennifer: Thanks, Jim.

Jim: Thank you, really appreciate it.

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