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Amy Shioji knows customer experience. She’s lived and breathed it through various roles, starting with AARP as head of customer experience strategy and later at Gannett as VP, head of customer experience and data science.
She’s now SVP, strategy and customer experience at Strategic Education, the parent company of Capella and Strayer Universities. She leads divisions, initiatives and capabilities that integrate marketing, product, operations and service to accelerate student and business success.
In that role, Shioji was the first experience officer to lead the company’s enterprise B2C engagement and retention strategy, leveraging both CX strategy and data science to drive personalized retention pathways to maximize customer lifetime value and loyalty.
Her teams are so passionate about CX, they have employees sign a digital pledge to help visually signal their commitment to representing the company’s student values in their daily interactions and decisions.
Shioji has also served the CX industry as a whole since 2019 on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), a professional association dedicated to the advancement and standards of the CX profession.
Shioji won CMSWire’s CX Leader of the Year award this fall. We caught up with Shioji on the CX Decoded Podcast to discuss the foundations of her CX strategy.
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.
Dom Nicastro: Amy, so good to talk to you again. How are you doing?
Amy Shioji: I’m great. Thank you. What a wonderful introduction. Happy to be here.
Rich Hein: We’re excited to have you here. I mean, as a person who had to read through the many award submissions, your approach was so multifaceted that I knew I wanted to have you on. I knew you’d have a lot of knowledge and expertise to share with the audience.
Just to give the audience a little background on who you are Amy. Could you share a little bit about how you got into customer experience? And what keeps you here?
Amy: Yeah, it’s interesting. Customer experience, well, I think is a more newly formed formal practice that’s being recognized. Obviously, it has a lot of tenets and things from marketing, to operations, to customer service to UX. Those are typically a lot of the roles and places where CX professionals tend to emerge from. I started from marketing. So I was working at AARP at the time in an integrated marketing function, where we were working on greater personalization and relevancy of marketing messages for our members.
And it became really clear, I think, in that process that while that was helpful, both internally as an organization for messaging efficiency and consistency, but also in terms of sort of mailbox management for our members overall, there was much more that we needed to do meaningfully in terms of better understanding, relevance of our products and services for our members and what their bigger pain points were not just what were things that we wanted to be more efficient about internally from a marketing or a functional perspective. So, I made the case to create a more comprehensive approach to how we think about engagement, overall and customer experience and started to kind of get a foothold in that at AARP and, as you say, I have been continuing to do that at various organizations ever since.
Dom: Amy, thanks for sharing your passion and why you got into this. I’d love to know more about your current organization or Strategic Education. What does it stand for, you know, who are the stakeholders, the clients and what’s it all about?
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. So we have a suite of institutions and programs and services, some of which include US-based institutions like Strayer University and Capella University. We also have a Sophia learning asset as well as we have a global footprint with Torrens University now in Australia. And we’ve got a really strong portfolio both in the US domestic market for our universities. Strayer predominantly serves undergraduate students, so we have some graduate and then Capella University focuses a lot on both undergraduate, but also masters and doctoral level students, and we certainly sort of cater to the adult learner, those that are going back to school or going to school for the first time to earn or advance their degrees.
And so it’s a really exciting place to be in my current role, as you mentioned. I lead both enterprise customer experience across all of those institutions, but also have a lens into our overall enterprise corporate strategy, which is just a really advantageous place to be in terms of how we tie our customer outcomes to a really clear organizational mission and long-term approach to our corporate strategy overall.
Dom: Yeah, that has to be super rewarding Amy in that role in that company just to help people, you know, further their education. Right?
Amy: It is. And I think there’s, there’s two parts to it. One of the things that is super rewarding, in general, when you work in customer experience, it’s always helpful because typically, you are looking sort of outside in terms of not just, what are we doing against certain metrics that drive greater retention and sales for the business, but really, what are the things that, and the signals that customers want, and want to get value out of that relationship. So that’s always a very fulfilling part of this.
But particularly it was Strategic Education and our institutions, we get to see the fruits of our labor in almost a selfish way, in terms of when we attend graduations and commencement ceremonies, when you get to see the results of people that have put forth so much effort into their degree to make their lives better to earn more income, you know, to provide for their families, it’s incredibly rewarding. And so we always encourage people, whether virtually through our virtual commencements, or being able to actually attend and volunteer our time and service at those ceremonies, it’s a huge testament to the efforts of the organization, but really the efforts of the students to persist and continue to pursue their dreams.
Dom: Speaking a passion for CX, I mean, you step out of your day-to-day role with your company, and you’re on the board of directors at the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). So you know, you have this high-level view of what people across the industry are talking about, not only in your organization, you know, you’re hearing from other like-minded folks. I would love to know some of the hot topics coming out of that association today.
Amy: Absolutely. Great question. So as you mentioned, for those who aren’t familiar with the Customer Experience Professionals Association, we’re a global membership organization, predominantly focused on advancing the standards and the profession of CX. So as you’ve probably seen, I mean, the CX profession is growing exponentially, and that’s fantastic in terms of organizations, acknowledgment and focus on the customer as a key way to drive the business forward.
So the association’s focus, amongst many things, is really to help maintain resources and community and best practices for really the evolving skills and effectiveness of CX practices across the globe. So we focus on and have lots of conversations on things like how do we further create standards of excellence as it relates to key CX competencies? Or, how do we help individuals best continue to advance in facilitating CX across whether it’s different-sized organizations, industries, different functional models, things like that? How do we continue to support the actual professional development of CX practitioners and certainly, and more recently, you know, how has at a macro level CX evolved as a practice within organizations with sort of ever changing consumer expectations and behavior due to the pandemic?
And, and it’s been mixed, I think, globally. We’ve seen through the pandemic, some organizations have leaned far more into CX, and into things like Voice of Customer (VoC) to have a way to better understand and capture that customer feedback and those changing preferences. And that’s been a big focus for a lot of organizations. And we’ve had some that have focused less on traditional CX practices where they’ve had to focus more on, you know, upfront customer acquisition. So it’s really been interesting to kind of watch, you know, thematically but also just kind of what’s happening across various industries in terms of the level of focus and commitment to customer experience through this period of time.
Rich: I was planning on talking about this later. But since we are talking about the CXPA, I know because I read your submission that you do volunteer work for them, I’m curious to know what that actually is, and how other people can get involved to volunteer and help other customer experience professionals, and why they should be doing it?
Amy: So I’m on the board of directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. And as I sort of mentioned, we really focus on sort of helping to set the overall sort of strategic agenda for where we should focus the efforts of the membership overall. And again, that’s really on everything from professional development resources for actual CX practitioners, to creating a lot of sense of community globally, for the CXPA.
We’ve recently established a number of different sort of regions. And we have lots of community-based and volunteer-led markets and communities within the CXPA. So you can go to the CXPA website and find the CX meetup groups where they meet typically on a monthly basis and have you know, guest speakers talk about challenges and approaches that are happening within different employers or companies in various regions, all of which is volunteer-led, so there’s lots of different ways to kind of both engage or volunteer your time if you’re interested in kind of hearing more about what’s going on within the CX community.
But there’s lots of other sort of volunteer opportunities and things that organization is working on in terms of creating additional playbooks and resources, and we also have what’s called the CCXP, or the certified customer experience professional, it’s a credentialing and an exam to help become a more seasoned CX professional. And so there’s a lot of efforts around preparation for the CCXP exam, what you need to be studying how you can mentor with people to kind of engage, there’s a lot of really robust resources that are available through that organization for people that are CX professionals.
But I think you bring up a good point to CX, whether you’re fortunate to work in an organization where you have an official CX practice, that’s fantastic, but in a lot of ways, it organically happens. With AARP, you’ve got someone in operations or in customer service, or in marketing that says, I want to carry the mantle of CX forward in my organization, there’s more that I think we can be doing. And it’s really helpful to have other people like marketers, people in operations that also engage in the CX conversation, because it’s going to take everybody in every department that touches the customer to influence what the overall experience is going to be in the end.
Rich: One of the reasons we have you on today’s show is because you are a practitioner, we love having practitioners on because they’re in the trenches, they’re doing this every day. We’ve had a rough last, I want to say 20 months now, going through the pandemic, I know everybody’s asking this, but I think we do need to talk about is how did the pandemic affect your team’s ability to collaborate? And what kind of shifts did you see in your own customers behavior as students? I mean, a lot of it’s online, some of it’s in-person. I’m just curious to know how they were impacted by all that.
Amy: Yeah. So as I mentioned at the beginning, at Strategic Education, and with our institutions, for many of them, we cater to adult learners. So those individuals are going back to school to earn a degree or either start or advance their careers. And I think as we’ve all experienced over this period of time, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, we were all immediately taxed for time, right? If you were fortunate enough to have flexibility to work remotely, you were sort of setting up a makeshift office at home, many of us experienced schools and daycares being closed, people having to now care for their aging parents. So suddenly, you were far more stretched for time than you probably ever were. And this is certainly true for our working adult learners.
So I think as a testament to our organization, we did already have a CX team and practice in place. But that almost was amplified for us during the pandemic, because we worked across the organization to identify what sort of accommodations we could provide to our students, whether that was flexibility around assignments, where possible, or options for financial hardships.
I think we probably all saw this as consumers of various brands that we engage with, where you sort of saw companies reaching out and saying, hey, you know, we’re providing mortgage payment relief, or we’re eliminating excess fees. It was sort of a bittersweet moment for a lot of CX leaders, given the devastating circumstances, but also a moment to finally say, we’re focusing on customer empathy, and we’re taking unnecessary friction out of the process. And I think the big question is really, how do we continue to sustain and maintain that kind of customer-focused ethos going forward?
And within our organization, it was a similar sort of conversation, right? We said, here are some things that we think we can do to provide options for our students. So they can continue to be as successful as possible with limited time. And we also knew that communication was going to be really key both around these accommodations, but also giving them better knowledge and real-time knowledge about if we had temporary campus closures or we had various new on-site protocols and things.
So in the end, we actually ended up standing up and formalizing a student communications focus within our CX practice, to really help centralize messaging and coordinate greater communication to students during this time of need. And we’ve continued that practice forward and still have it as a key part of what we’re doing within our CX group for the organization.
Rich: So at the beginning, you mentioned that you had to work across several departments or groups, and an organization like yours, how difficult is that to do that work across all departments? I’m assuming there’s different silos with different organizations and different companies?
Amy: There is, you know, for us at Strategic Education or even thinking about one of our institutions, let’s say Capella University, for example. Customers interact with all parts of your business, usually CX improvement or CX initiatives will as well, you know, that’s why it’s really important that you do have these relationships and you understand where you need to lean in and prioritize within the business.
But that for us is working with everything from upfront, our enrollment teams. We had heard that there was issues where people were trying to request for example, their former transcripts, but those institutions were shuttered early on during the pandemic. There were obviously challenges with getting transcripts back to our institution in a timely fashion. So we had to really work through those processes with the enrollment teams.
We work with academics as it relates to what we were seeing in terms of students submissions, and attendance and assignments. We work with the operations teams quite a bit. And that’s everything from the teams that manage, you know, financial aid processing, to a lot of our advising capabilities and things. So there’s so many different sort of student support teams that are in place to support our students, and coordinating against all of those both on the academic side, and on the operational side and in the back office. There’s just a number of different places that we needed to align with.
So we ended up standing up, you know, daily, weekly meetings to really coordinate the initiatives that we were trying to drive, how we wanted to communicate them, what were all the pieces that we needed to make sure we’re well aligned, so that we would create a good process. Because I think one of the things that you really want to be careful about is providing some relief to customers. If you do that, and you promote that, you’ve got this accommodation, somebody goes to call you and says, hey, about that thing. I would like to be able to do this. And they haven’t worked out that process, right? If you ever get an offer, you see something you call someone and customer service says I don’t I don’t know what that offer is, I’ve never seen it. I don’t know what that price is. You know, that’s the worst experience you can imagine in that sort of circumstance.
So we were really thoughtful, I think, about making sure that we were very clear on what we were trying to fix and improve, and how we could make sure that we were training all of our reps, all of our student-facing teams, so that they could communicate what those process changes or what those accommodations were going to be in a way that was honored.
Dom: You said earlier, you were in marketing. And we’re going to ask you a couple questions now about specific programs that actually have these cool catchy labels on them. So I feel like you’re combining your CX chops with your marketing chops, and you’re actually doing internal marketing, to really get people convinced, you know, to buy into these programs, and they have these awesome catchy names and Rich, I’m going to turn it over to you to ask about that first one.
Rich: Yeah, Dom in your CMSWire CX Leader of the Year submission, this caught my eye, it was a quote, “Through extensive journey mapping, Voice of Customer analysis, process mapping and co creation. Amy and the CX team created a centralized experience design system as a service to drive improved experience consistency, scalability, and channel delivery. This integrated experience ecosystem called Apollo is a digital repository for journey maps, distilled insights, personas, training guides, and future state clickable prototypes.”
Amy, that sounds really comprehensive. Can you talk about how your team created this centralized system? And it seems obvious, but I’d love to hear how it’s bringing value to your organization.
Amy: For our institutions, and this is really I mean, true anywhere you go. But one of the key challenges, obviously, is how do we create more seamless, more cohesive experience for students across journey stages. So we talked about, you’re applying to the school with our enrollment teams, you’re working through your financial payment with our financial support teams, right, to enrolling and taking courses, and engaging with our students support resources, and faculty.
So over the years, we’ve gathered lots of artifacts, right, CX things like to your point, journey maps, Voice of Customer insights and analysis, process maps that show how all these things are connected. And also one of the sort of fundamental operating tenets of CX within our organization is that we should be a shared service resource across all parts of the organization.
So we really set out to solve how could we arm the business with all of the CX tools and insights that we have to help them make more informed decisions day-to-day around improving the most important and impactful areas of the experience today.
So what we did was we created this sort of internal centralized design system, which we call Apollo, to do just that. So it is essentially this digital repository where we sort of said, hey, across either of our institutions, let’s start with Strayer, Capella University, it may be slightly different, your journey based on the type of degree that you’re seeking, whether it’s a Master’s program, a doctoral program, or the actual program of study, but for the most part, these are the discrete sort of universal tasks or things that customers or our students need to complete with us.
So let’s very exhaustively and interactively map out current state, what are all the different steps and journeys that our students take with us throughout their time with us at the institution? And we sort of overlaid those with insights we have from Voice of Customer, so where we see the actual pain points within those different steps of the journey, and you can actually click into it and actually, we’ve embedded some of our Voice to the Customer audio, so you can actually click on actual conversations that our students are having with our support teams to hear some of those friction or some of the contexts that our students are providing us as to why certain parts of the journey may be difficult or enlightening and inspiring.
So we’ve gotten these kind of real-time journey maps, they’ve kind of embedded with these various insights that kind of help us quantify and qualify how much effort and friction is happening at those stages. We have personas, as you’ve mentioned, and then our team also has, you know, some future state clickable prototypes. So we’re not just showing you here’s the current experience, and here’s where it needs to be improved. We’ve actually, in many cases, actually, for certain key journeys said, and here’s an example, if you were to click into this about how we would perhaps go about designing a more, you know, effortless type of experience around this particular transaction. And it can be everything from a digital prototype of a new screen, or a new way that the student would interact with us, to even sort of scripting and process changes that we would recommend in terms of how we can make that interaction become more efficient, or just more customer focused and things like that.
So it’s been really, really great. It’s helpful for us to help teams align around what are the common jobs and tasks that our students are trying to complete? Where do we see the most friction in the process? How can we actually live and breathe that by clicking into these things? And I think it’s really helped to create sort of this common consistency both within and across journey stages at scale for our organization.
So it’s been for us, and where we are, as an organization, in our culture, a really helpful tool that we use to sort of mobilize around these customer experience improvements.
Rich: Yeah, I think there’s a great lesson there around the people who have to work with these customer journey maps is that you’re attaching real-time insights from actual customer support agents, and I think that that is a connection that when it’s made, it really lights a light bulb for a lot of people.
Amy: It is and I think you know, one of the things that I think can be a little bit polarizing for CX professionals are journey maps themselves. A lot of people have been in journey map sessions, you may have facilitated them yourself, you may have been part of them. And they are fun, and they are interactive, and you get lots of people front and back-end together. And they start to kind of hypothesize what is the student journey, or maybe they actually go through the front-end of trying to purchase your own product, right? And you kind of map those things. It’s always very enlightening.
But very often, what happens are those journey maps, they get photographed, you put sticky notes on everything, then they get rolled up and out of the conference room, and they go sit in the corner of some marketing person’s office, right, and they never really get used.
And so I think what we wanted to do was say, we don’t want to just check the box and say we do journey mapping but nothing really happens from that it’s a fairly static exercise, maybe it gets people a little bit inspired for the next day or week, but they’re not sort of living breathing, what this thing is.
We really do try to update those things. As we make improvements to the experience, we actually change what the journey map looks like. But we do make it available with those real time insights to your point so that people hopefully are pulling this down or looking at this, as the business says, Hey, we want to do X and Y. Here’s some business requirements, we can align against these real-time journey maps and insights to make sure and these future state prototypes that we’re redesigning the experience based on not just what the business requirements are, but what the customer need really is in that moment, too.
Dom: Speaking of cool names. This is another example in CX, you call it your Customer Promise. Again, Rich, if I had something like Reader Promise work, my articles would be flawless, I tell you that. So Amy, could you tell our listeners more about that Customer Promise work?
Rich, we talked to so many CX practitioners, this is magical, to get employees to buy in to customer experience with a program called Customer Promise. Amy, I’d love to know more about it.
Rich: And just to follow up on Dom’s point, I think that this is really essential is connecting team members to the work that they do. And I think that this is really incredible stuff you guys are doing.
Amy: Yeah, well, I’d love to talk about it’s one of my favorite areas, because it’s just so impactful foundationally to how the organization needs to show up.
So we’ve always we’ve long held a company value around being student-centric, obviously being the institutions that we are, but we wanted to put a little bit more structure and consistency around that. So if you were to ask employees, what does it mean to be student-centric, it’s often interpreted and internalized differently, right? So you might have frontline employees who say, well, obviously I’m student-centric, I’m working with students every single day answering questions supporting them. And you may have people, you know, in the back office or in it who don’t work with students directly, but say, well, as an extension of working at this organization, I am student-centric because we serve students as our overall customers.
And so there was just a lot of variation in terms of how people internalized what students-centric meant as a behavior. And so we came up with this Customer Promise, and what we tried to do was we recruited students and we asked to them to describe the last interaction they had with the institution and how we made them feel. And then we asked, you know, what should the experience feel like as you’re engaging in these various tasks or journeys as part of your education.
And a lot of the things that came out were things like, because we talked about the constant challenge of time and time management for adult learners, obviously, one of the key tenets was, it’s important that you value my time, right? And that you’re dependable in terms of following up on promises made and so aligned to this same idea of creating a vision for great CX through these tools like Apollo, we developed a framework for saying, let’s take that core value of being student-centric and let’s give it a little bit more flavor. Let’s translate that to what it actually should feel like from the words of our students, and create internal behaviors and metrics aligned to those student expectations.
So we did a number of workshops with employees across the company and said, OK, if a student says they want us to value their time, what does that translate to, for someone that is student-facing, versus maybe someone in IT or in product? And what was really interesting is we basically asked them to workshop this themselves, and you had great people and in these IT and product organization saying, hey, well value, my time for a student could mean something like allowing them to save their progress more frequently in their assignments. Or maybe we put a progress bar on an assignment or something, so that you know, when you know, you have 20 minutes, but you’re getting into something you don’t know if that’s something is going to take you 45 minutes, let’s say a survey or something, it’s really helpful to set expectation of how much time this task is going to take you.
And so we saw just really great ideas from all of our teams, both front and back-end that said, hey, I’m going to translate values, my time into these sorts of behaviors, or these sorts of product features. And here’s how we can bring this to life in the work that we do.
And then we had an employee sign a pledge, a digital sort of pledge wall, that’s a part of that Apollo repository that we talked about, to sort of visually signal their commitment to representing the company’s student values in their daily interactions and decisions.
And it was just a really, we’ve seen great reception, both in terms of getting commitment to the pledge, but also just really engaging sessions with all these teams to say, here’s the promise, what does it mean to you? Here’s what it means to the student. How do you see yourself showing up differently? How does this influence our product roadmap? How does this influence our customer service standards and things like that, that we need to be doing better, and it really has been a way that’s helped sort of culturally let that student-centric value take hold and feel owned and honed a little bit more across all parts of the organization.
Rich: So it may sound like you have a lot of sessions and programs. I know, you’re also dealing with a lot of students and courses and portals and websites. It sounds like a lot to keep consistent and to keep focus. So I’m curious to know what part design thinking plays in all of the things that you do?
Dom: Great question.
Amy: It is a big part of what we do. And one of the things I’m most fortunate for in terms of the just, the rockstar team that we have within the CX group at Strategic Education, is a lot of our folks come from sort of a design thinking type of background. So within Apollo, you keep hearing me reference, but within this, we have a lot of these because we want it to be more self service, right? We do have a lot of facilitation guides.
So things that you can download and pull down that would sort of say like, here’s the actual design thinkers toolkit, right? What does design thinking even mean? It’s a framework for how you solve problems, right? It’s ways in which you need to think about really diagnosing the problem that you’re trying to solve, first and foremost, and then how you think about that for more than outside-in lens.
And so we’ve created a lot of templates and facilitator guides, for teams so that if they are doing their strategic planning session, or they’re pulling together, hey, what’s our new quarterly roadmap for how we’re going to do course development, or what features we’re going to improve within our virtual campus environment or any of those things. They can use these approaches for how they do that brainstorming really effectively within this tool and within this framework. We also have people on our team that are trained in this that where we have you know, the bandwidth, we like to sometimes facilitate these conversations cross functionally with organizations and serve as sort of that facilitator role.
And what’s been really great is we’ve been able to take pictures and include artifacts of design thinking facilitated sessions that we’ve done for the organization, and also capture those in Apollo so that people are seeing examples of here’s how design thinking has shown up and actually changed the process.
And so we like to capture those kinds of things to remind people that it’s not just a nice to have, it really is a framework and a methodology that helps you get much crisper in what you’re solving for, and making sure that there’s customer value in that process. As you’re trying to design for solutions.
Rich: You mentioned a couple of things. One is that you feel like your team is a rockstar CX team. And the other thing you mentioned that I thought was interesting is that a number of them come from a background in design thinking, can you share, like what your team looks like, and you know how you go about choosing the people who are on your team.
Amy: Our team, the way that the CX team is structured, we have a couple different areas. We have both some market research market insights folks, we have a newer area where we focus a lot on that customer feedback and customer insights. We have the experience design group, so this is really the group that owns that Apollo solution that we’ve been talking about, where we’ve got a lot of folks that have a mix of sort of design, thinking, marketing and UX type of background that build these prototypes and create the sort of foundational design resources for the organization.
And then as I mentioned earlier, more recently, we have a student communications arm of the CX group. So they really work cross functionally to make sure that we are capturing and communicating effectively with our students across all of our various channels and in sort of an omnichannel way, because we know that communication and setting expectation with your customer is a huge part of the perception of the experience that you have with with any institution or any brand that you’re working with, in terms of how we pick them.
I would say I’m actually really fortunate that we had a lot of fantastic resources within the organization that have these backgrounds. But as I mentioned, they come from UX, they come from marketing, we’ve had folks come from sort of market research and operations. So we really have a good cross section of backgrounds and where people came. As we look for new opportunities I mentioned within the CXPA. They have a certification called the CCXP, or the certified customer experience professional, we’ve really been leaning into that in terms of people that can demonstrate proficiency and working knowledge for the overall framework that is CX that includes a lot of these capabilities that we’ve been talking about. So that’s some of the ways that we look for outstanding talent on the team going forward.
Dom: Amy, we’re getting close to the end here. A couple more questions. You know, we talked about Voice of the Customer already. And I think our listeners, the people come to our website, the people who come to our conferences, CX practitioners, they’re constantly wanting to know how to better collect customer data, better manage it and make it actionable, bottom line. So with your Voice of the Customer program, is there one method that rises above the rest in terms of the value of it brings?
Amy: Couple things when you’re considering Voice of Customer even just starting out with with CX. Voice of Customer programs and capabilities are super helpful in both helping you actually practically gather more feedback, you know, if the organization is prepared to use it, and measurement, I think a lot of people will ask me, you know, yes, we could stand up a Voice of Customer program. Whether we actually move with a platform or a vendor, or we just sort of aggregate a lot of the surveys and other data that we have. But we feel like we already kind of know what our biggest pain points are. And anecdotally, you might write like, it’s probably not a secret where the biggest pain points exist within your organization.
But often I have found that companies don’t have a way to qualify or quantify how often it happens, you know, to which customers and at what cost to the business. And often this is what helps organizations start to have CX really land for them, in terms of a way to quantify the impact of the experience, either based on volume or you know, which can be used to calculate cost to serve, or customer’s propensity to a trip or things like that.
So I think for us, what VoC has done broadly is both to help us, as I say, quantify the amount of effort associated with certain transactions. But I think even more importantly, it’s helped us create a more comprehensive way that we measure the quality of our student experience. And you know, we didn’t traditionally have a very consistent way of how we measured the student experience in the past.
And so we worked with a digital marketing agency, a company called Blend360, on creating this new framework for how we measure the more comprehensive dimensions of our student experience. And so that was everything from academic experience to the faculty experience, the advising and financial aid experiences. And it was really helpful Voice of Customer as a platform and as a tool set. And that helped us to really quantify how we measure the experience against those different journeys and those different dimensions.
And that was really powerful, because if you use a metric like Net Promoter Score, for example, in a lot of organizations do it is really helpful, but it’s more of a relationship-level metric. People don’t really know what moves the needle on it. A lot of teams don’t feel particularly accountable to it because they don’t really understand how it’s calculated. We were kind of able to create this really weighted and indexed quality score that looks at all dimensions of the overall experience, which just drives greater ownership and accountability for the score across our organization.
So for us, it’s a long way of saying Voice of Customer really helped us quantify what we needed to focus on within each of our different areas, but also create metrics and measures around those so that people felt some degree of accountability and responsibility to a CX metric that didn’t just feel like something that lived out there, that you measured once a year, but that nobody really fully understood or, or was bought into.
Rich: You mentioned solidifying data. And it brings up a topic that I believe is passionate to you, because you I know you work within your organization around culture. One of the things on CMSWire, and our sister site Reworked that we’re very interested in, is the connection between customer experience and employee experience. And I know you’ve worked across dials to kind of improve both of those. And could you talk a little bit about that?
Amy: Absolutely. Yeah. So we talked about a little bit about the customer promise, you know, that is both something that we facilitate across the organization. And as I mentioned, that’s a huge culture carrier.
But also, we’re in the process of working with HR to kind of incorporate this, what is CX, what does CX mean to the organization introduce the customer promise as sort of a module within new employee onboarding, because it’s both really important early on, to establish what it means to work in a customer-focused or a student-focused organization, and to start to kind of engage that ethos with your employees very early. So we’re excited about starting to see some of that come through.
We’ve also worked with HR and others to think about recognition and reward programs. We talked about being student-centric, was inherently one of our core company values. But how do we celebrate that? How do we recognize that and those that are going above and beyond? And so since we’ve been able to do some of these recognition things, since we’ve done some of these bigger sort of customer promise facilitated sessions, we’ve introduced Apollo and we regularly send that out to the organization and encourage people to go in and look at certain things. I mean, all of those things, I think, have really helped, along with some of our very omnichannel Voice of Customer capabilities to help people have a greater appreciation for, just the depth of how much work is happening in service to the customer.
And as a result of that, you know, we’ve seen some really promising results in terms of improvement to the organizations. We do something, sort of an organizational health score, where we measure sort of the overall health of the organization against various dimensions and we have one of those dimensions around customer focus. And that’s one that we’ve seen some really great gains on over the last couple of years as we’ve continued to drive the customer agenda forward.
Dom: All right, Amy, we are super close to the end. And we are going to finish with a brief little speed round where I mentioned something, and you give me literally like a 20-second answer on each of these.
So here it is. Are you ready?
Dom: Okay, AR and VR.
Amy: I would say we are looking at that in terms of how we can enhance the student experience in the classroom and figuring out ways that we can try to engage through greater AR.
Dom: Artificial intelligence.
Amy: This is a big area for us. So we have virtual assistants already that continue to support our students. We’ve seen huge adoption to them. And really high satisfaction.
Amy: Big area I think we talked about it, you can’t really be in the business of CX without thinking about it from an omnichannel perspective. So from marketing operations, all of our channels, we are big into all things omnichannel.
Dom: Hybrid events.
Amy: Yes. Very exciting. Yes. So as I mentioned, through the pandemic, we’ve had to get really creative with virtual commencements, and virtual residency programs, things like that. So yes, huge kudos to the innovation that’s happening around hybrid events in our organization.
Dom: And finally, remote work.
Amy: Yes, we have institutions across the globe. So we’ve always had remote work be a big part of our operating norm. That said, we do have a number of physical school campuses that are open to support our students, but remote work is a big part of our operating culture.
Rich: Well, Amy, we’ve reached the end of the podcast. Before we go, though, I’d like to give you an opportunity to share where our listeners can follow you and learn more about you.
Amy: Yeah, well, that’s a good question. I’m on LinkedIn, obviously, where everybody is. I also post a lot of CX stories and pieces on Medium. But really where I think you’ll find me the most is on on the CXPA site. So if you go to the Customer Experience Professionals Association, we each have a page and a lot of our content and our pieces are listed there.
Rich: So great to have you on the show today. Thank you for sharing all your perspective and knowledge. And also thank you to all those people out there listening to the podcast. We’ll be back with episode four. Thanks, everyone.