CX Interview Series with Mary Drumond

December 17, 2020
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We believe that the knowledge you need should find you. Knowing how hard that is to do for ourselves, we ventured out to try to help you with this challenge. When it comes to CX, that means bringing insights from the best and brightest CX professionals around the globe and bringing some of the knowledge they so diligently and admirably have built over the years.

On this episode, we welcome Mary Drumond, CMO of Worthix, who brings her experience as a top CX consultant as well as entrepreneur to debate aggressive (ROI-drive) vs. defensive (efficiency-driven) CX strategies. You won't want to miss this incredible discussion!

We hope you enjoy reading the following interview and take just as many actionable lessons from Mary as we did. :)

Listen to the full podcast here:


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Read the full transcript of the conversation below:

Chattermill: Hi, Mary. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Mary Drumond: I'm going to start off by saying thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure and always a joy to be able to come on and share a little bit of the knowledge that I've accumulated over the years. So I'm really happy to be here. And I hope that I can offer at least a little bit of insight into some of those struggles that people have been facing.

Chattermill: Thank you. So, let's start with the big question straight away. Let's not hold anything back. What does customer centricity mean to you? It's a loaded concept. It's very ambiguous. A lot of the times everyone has a different definition, and we find it fascinating to understand how the experts in the industry think about this concept.

Mary: Sure. It’s interesting that everybody kind of has their own interpretation, but I think that that's because the market is so different around the globe. And when you look at it, it's really hard to give a solid, single definition. You know, the customer experience, professional associations, they have created like some specific standards as to what customer experience and customer centricity is.

But I truly believe that the reason there is so much… not conflict, but so many different versions, so many different explanations as to what it is, is truly because it's a reflection of everyone's particular, specific needs and struggles and barriers that we go through in our specific industries.

So, for me, it means putting the customer first or literally in the center of everything that you do, but that has several nuances. You know, you can look at it as a whole, like you can look at the whole customer journey from beginning to end or the loop of it because it never does really end. You can look at the experiences a specific moment, but I don't necessarily agree with that.

I feel that the experience is very strongly related to the overall perception. The customers have with them, any interactions of your brand. So, whether it's in pre-purchase or during the purchase throughout their lifespan, or even post-purchase, or once their direct relationship with you is done, there are still ways that you're interacting with that customer. And they're still perceiving the movement that your brand is putting out there. So, it really has to do with the perception, it has to do with the feelings that are created from, how they see and interpret what you're putting out there, whether it's through your actions or through your message or through anything else.

Chattermill: Absolutely. It's something that never ends. Great, this kind of connects to the next question, which is the hardship of actually building this customer centric culture, right? So, how does a company go about it - first building and then maintaining that culture, and hopefully scaling it throughout the years?

Mary: I am not an expert in creating or implementing customer experience programs in organizations. There are close friends of mine who are. I would strongly recommend looking into material and blog and the books of Annette Franz and that friends runs a company called CX Journey. She has worked for 20 years in this industry. And she has it all figured out. So, you know, right there, that's my number one suggestion, go check it out. I've got a certain attachment towards her stuff because she is able to look at things not only from the angle of customer experience, but employee experience as well, which is all part, it composes the entire experience. If you think about it, employees are also somewhat customers of an organization, right? So, including that variable in there, but I would say, that one of the first steps that an organization has to do is understand and map out their customer journey. Ian Golding who's based in the UK is a brilliant consultant who is really well known. For building customer journey maps inside organizations, he's got a book called Customer What? That book is a blueprint to creating and mapping out your customer's journey. And that is probably the starting point for me. It's as an organization, getting together to understand everything your customer goes through from. Pre-purchase all the way into that post purchase stage when their interactions with you supposedly end and taking that path of empathy where you're truly walking in your customer's shoes, but not only from an inside out perspective where you're sitting there with a bunch of internal executives or internal minds, doing your best to be empathetic.

The truth is that nobody has a better understanding of their journey than the customer itself. So, bringing the customer in and including the customer in that journey mapping is a really, really important step. So, I would suggest that when mapping out your customer journey, you do your best to create a rough draft, but then bring your customer in whether it's through a qualitative interview, where you sit down and ask them one on one questions, or if you don't have the option of bringing your customer and then sending them a survey to try to understand what their pains are in each stage and each interaction in each touch point, because lots of times, as a company, we've got our own biases. We created those experiences. We created those touch points, and we think we're doing really well. And we ended up being extremely blind towards certain aspects of the experience that only the customer knows. If you're a global company, you're going to have to do separate journey maps for each separate geography, each separate culture, because this changes the way the customer interacts with.

That leads me to step two, which is designing your personas. You have to have your personas mapped out to build your journey. You might want to do those two steps together, build your personas, understand who your customer is, what their pains are, what their goals are. Most importantly, what their needs are because as an organization, if you want to sell to a customer. Then you have to be able to provide the solution to their need. Any purchase journey starts with that need.

Once you've designed the journey, you understand all of those pains you, then that's a perfect moment to bring in either a really good consultant. Or if you don't have that option in your organization, do a lot of studying into different ways to design your customer's time, and creating experiences that cause a positive, emotional connection with whatever it is that you're doing, whether it's selling a product or providing them with a service. In customer experience that we can get into in a moment, but understanding what sort of like services you provide to your customer.

Joe Pine is another author out there and he wrote a book like 20, some years ago now, called The Experience Economy. And this was one of the first things that introduced the concept of customer experience. And one of the things that he explores is being able to understand whether you're providing a time well saved service or a time well spent. So just to break that down for a second and kind of give the listeners a deeper understanding of what that means.

When you are a time well saved organization, your job is to make sure your customer is going through their experience as quick and as effortlessly as possible in order to gain back valuable time that they can then use doing the things that they love. So, you know, think of Amazon, which makes it as easy as possible for you to get in and get out. What you create is an absolutely predictable experience where the customer puts the least amount of effort and the least amount of time. And they gain the most benefit in return. Right? There are several companies out there that have this model. And once you understand it really well, you understand that it's not necessary to be delighting your customers at every turn. What they're, what your customers are looking for is a predictable and effort was experienced.

Now, if you are in the industry of time well spent, then what happens is you are actually slowing down time because you're providing people with memories. You're a memory builder. And this is especially true for the hospitality industry - or any industry that works in entertaining or events or anything that people do for leisure, for fun. In these industries, you have to understand that your job is to create memories that people carry with them for the rest of their lives. And then it's crucial that you design that experience in a way that you're creating positive memories. Then we can get into like all these different psychological heuristics and understand how we can design the experience so that are peak memorable moments or understanding how, if you create a wonderful experience towards the end of their journey, then you're positively shaped the entire thing. There are multiple ways of designing this time so that you're creating memories is, and I would recommend to anybody who works in CX, that they read the book. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and understanding the concept of the peak end rule, to really get a deep understanding of human behavior and how we can shape that by designing time. So, I know I said a lot and I know that I read recommended like three books in the middle. You might want to add that.

Chattermill: What are the issues when building and maintaining a customer centric culture internally? Like within the organization itself or external externally via the customers themselves, like getting the necessary insights to build that customer centric culture the right way.

Mary: I think that there are two things that you have to take into consideration. You will always have internal obstacles and being NCX means that you're going to have to constantly be champion the champion of the customer inside your organization. That's what your job is. Right. And if you are, you have that job in the first place, it's because at some moment the company understood the importance of having someone in that role.

You have to lean into it. I don't think that in this day and age companies are going to be like, “Oh, let's shut down our customer experience”. Cause that's not important anymore. I don't really think that's the case. So, if you've been given a customer experience role inside an organization and the company knows that you're important, that it doesn't mean you're not going to struggle. That doesn't mean you're not going to have to fight for it. And it doesn't mean that at times the company isn't going to make decisions that aren't going to make you or the customer happy.

Customer experience professionals, we're fighting so hard to just get the customer to be noticed by the organization. I believe that when we are conducting the right type of voice of customer programs, bringing in the right type of feedback directly from our customer's mouth and being able to properly process that information in the right way that will arm us with the tools necessary in order to fight for projects and programs that make our customers happy. What we can't do any longer is have voice of customer surveys and programs that all they do is get empty information that we already have, or simply present the organization with an empty number. I consider that to be a big mistake. There are a lot of organizations out there that are guilty of their entire customer experience program boiling down to a number and they end up disregarding the most important moment of the voice of customer survey which is the feedback itself. And that ends up happening because it's difficult to process feedback. It's difficult to be able to find actionable information in that sea of customer data. There's good technology out there. Nowadays, that's able to provide companies with a way to filter that information, whether it's through natural language processing or some really cool artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms that are able to filter down.

My company, Worthix, is able to extract impact, which is probably the most important feature in any feedback that you can gather. So, what we do is provide your organization, not only with frequency, “Hey, your customers are complaining about X all the time.” The truth is that lots of times what customers complain about the most isn't actually positively or affect or negatively affect their decision.

To continue purchasing from you or not, and that's why we exist as an organization to tell companies whether or not the product or service they're providing their customers is worth it. Right? So, that's what we measure with our Worhix Index. And we've got all these cool algorithms that are able to measure, not only which feedback the customers have from you, but how each experience is truly shaping their decision to buy from you or not.So, what that does is it attaches a monetary value to the experience. And I think through all that's one of the most important things that a customer experience professional can do right now is be able to report to their executive board or to their board of investors or to their shareholders. “Hey, this is actually costing us money and here's the amount right here.” And if we're able to sway this experience so that it's positive, this will result in this much more money for our organization, or, “Hey, what we're doing right here, even though it seems like something that makes sense for the company, it's actually costing us this much in churn customers that will no longer have recurring purchases with us because this experience sucks able to create that tangibility. Customer positive customer experience equals more money. And being able to prove that to decision makers in your organization nowadays is crucial.

Chattermill: I find it so interesting, this angle that you took of playing defense right before you play offence - before focusing on growing your top line growth via a CX store via CX program, protecting your company and making them more efficient using CX. Well, this brings us to the question about tools, which is not always the easiest thing to deal with, right. To find the right tools, to cover the problems that we're having, how to look at them, how to filter through them. There are so many out there. How do you think about that search and that selection process for core CX professionals?

Mary: I think that there are a lot of really great tools out there. Countless of them. And there are focused on specific moments of the customer's journey or specific touch points. For example, customer service or companies that have, e-commerce or something like that, where they're able to reach out and communicate with their customers during the interaction. That's a really important moment. And being able to filter all that information and that data properly in order to gain insight on what the struggles are or what the pains are. In real time as they're happening is really, really valuable. So there's tons of really, really cool technology that does that.

There's also really cool stuff built for customer service centers, like call centers, where customers service reps on the phone are equipped with tools to properly filter information and have them scale up to the right individuals. So, I think that like the most important thing to understand, first of all, is your touch points, how can you engage your customers, meet them, where they are so that they have the least amount of effort giving their feedback to you.

One thing that happens really, really often is that companies end up doing a lot of. Email surveys that are really, really, really time consuming, really, really, really high effort. And a lot of people have survey fatigue where they're just traumatized from giving survey responses and getting absolutely nothing back.

So, they just don't do them anymore. And the truth is the people that do actually understand the importance of surveys and they follow through with that survey experience to try to give their feedback and try to get the company to improve on their processes. They end up. Encountering survey is that are 20, 30 questions long. I've heard of surveys that take almost two hours to complete. We can't do that to customers. You know, when customers decide to give us the gift of feedback - because it is a gift - there's no way that we look and can look at it. Otherwise, we have to be able to be as respectful as possible with that gift by not only taking up the least amount of time.

But also extracting the most amount of information in that transaction. So we don't have to keep hitting up customers again and again, and again, to give us their opinion, like put yourself in the customer's shoes as customers, we encounter this situation all the time.

Chattermill: I love the point of feedback as a gift. I think there isn't a better way to describe it, right? So being able to not only be respectful of time, but in that least amount of time extract, the most amount of insight is really, really important.

Mary: And then once you have that insight, make sure you use it. I mean, there's nothing more fresh straining then giving feedback and then not having to experience change at all. You know, so, and it is wasteful. It's not good for anybody because it's expensive to conduct surveys. It's not cheap. And then you got all that information and you're absolutely sitting on it. But you can't really find anything that's actionable enough to be able to scale up to leadership, to be able to build some sort of strategy on then, then you just wasted all of that feedback. So be intentional about the feedback that you're collecting. Make sure that when you ask customers for their feedback, whether it's in the middle of the transaction, whether it's post-transaction, whether it's in the touch points along the way that you're concise, you're precise, you're respectful of their time. And once you collect that insight, make sure you're going to do something about it. And you're going to use it to build a better strategy for your customers. I think that all of those things are really important. So when companies out there are considering tools, make sure you're hiring a tool, that'll allow you to do these things and not just give you a whole bunch of empty feedback. That's going to be an endless Excel sheet that you're never going to read, and you're never going to get to any impact. And you're never going to be able to build any strategy out of it, because all you'll have, that'll be simple and actionable, are empty numbers. So one hundred percent, make you get some technology that's actually worth the effort that you're putting your customers through.

We talked about bringing the customer in to partake in this with you. There are a lot of tech companies, especially apps and, you know, mobile apps that bring the customer in very, very early on. Um, and another recommendation that I would say, and this, you know, very much to the area of user experience - creating a minimum viable product, whether it's for your application or whether it's for your product or for your services, starting with something that's more elementary and building alongside the customer to begin with.

I think that it's a genius concept and, you know, since Worthix is a startup and we've been through several, you know, acceleration programs and all that, something that you learn really early on, and it's very popular in tech because not only is it cheaper, it's also a lot more intelligent to, to mold your product as you gain feedback.

If you're lucky enough to have a product that has early traction, make sure that you provide that customer with a way to interact very closely with you early on and build their feedback into your product or service.I think that if you have a B2B product, it ends up being even better because the person on the other side is interested in your service improving. So, when you build alongside them, that means that you're creating a product that's almost tailored to their needs.

Chattermill: Definitely, I think that's tremendous insight for our audience. Thank you so much, Mary. Now just getting more personal and understanding you as a professional. It'll be lovely to talk about your learning and how you keep ahead of the curve and always evolving.

Mary: I’m really fascinated with cognitive behavior, consumer behavior. Anything that has to do with the psychological aspect of marketing is fascinating to me. So, a book that I find absolutely amazing is Predictably Irrational by Daniel Ariely, who is a professor of psychology, wrote an amazing book about understanding customer behavior or human behavior and how that applies to the everyday life of a consumers in that marketing angle. And then another book is called. Drive by Daniel H Pink. I love Dan Pink. I've seen him speak on multiple occasions. Another book is Hooked. Now there's been a lot of talk recently over the issues with extremely addictive technology. And how we can curb that. So Nir Ayal wrote hooked a couple of years ago, and then he followed it up with a second book called the Indistractable, which was a way for users to hone addictive technology. So instead of having the technology controlling you, how to flip that game.I don't normally only read CX books because it's part of my field, but what I end up recommending the most is truly books that go into that and marketing, psychology.

But when it comes to customer experience, Ian Golding's book, Customer What?, was probably the most useful books that I've used, because it really is a blueprint. I have a soft spot for books that say, step one to that, step two, do that. It becomes a guide. Instead of having to interpret things. It just gives you a roadmap for you to implement. And if you're going to blindly implement any one strategy, I strongly suggest that it'd be, and Golding's because the man is brilliant.

On our blog, on Worthix website, we have our personal reading lists that I recommend for people interested in CX.

Now when it comes to podcasts, being a podcaster myself, I recommend mine (laughs).  Others I love are for example, Dan Gingiss. His podcast, The Experience, which he hosts it with Joey Coleman, and what they do is they try to give a really positive, they show the positive aspect of customer experience. And I think that's really great. Jeannie Walters also has a podcast that I think is absolutely genius. Walters for me is, is one of the most brilliant women in customer experience. I adore her and the insights that she has into the customer model. And she's so much experience in so many resources working in her favor.

Another person in customer experience that tends to be really popular and has a really great podcast and is extremely accessible, is Jean Bliss. What she does on her show is she invites customer experience officers and people who work as CX leaders onto her show to talk about what they're doing. So, what you get is really hands on the practitioner angle of how people are practicing customer experience in their organization. And for me, that is absolutely brilliant because listening to thought leaders and authors is one thing where you get that almost declared knowledge on the subject but getting the practical knowledge of people who are in the trenches and having to deal with it every day, and the struggles and the pains and the things that they overcome is essential to anyone working in customer experience. So in that regard, I would absolutely recommend Jean Bliss.

Chattermill: Thank you so much, Mary. Yeah, it was literally a whole arsenal for CX professionals to understand the concepts as well as apply them. Now, we’d loved to learn more about Mary as well. Like how you ended up where you are today. What initially peaked your interest in CX and what were the key inflection points in your career until now? Think it would be great for our younger audience to understand how you evolved into the industry and how they can also maybe resonate and help them through difficult times that they must be facing.

Mary: Well, you know what? My career actually started off in teaching. I was a teacher for 10 years. I started off when I was still in school and I ended up starting a business. And one of the things that being a teacher gives you is a lot of empathy. It kind of forces you to put yourself in the learner's shoe, who’s opposite to you in that moment and, and, and try to meet them where at with their needs and their frustrations, especially in something like learning a second language that really triggers a lot of insecurities and other aspects of the human psyche that are really challenging. You know, some people really struggle learning a second language. So, I think that was a really good start in a career of being empathetic.

When I moved into marketing, I really had to dive headfirst into customer experience. Because I wasn't supposed to be in customer experience at all, it ended up, you know, I tell people this story and it's curious because until this day I still don't consider myself a CX expert.

I consider myself a really good speaker in the sense of I ask the right questions and I asked the right questions because I do my research. So what started off as a marketing hack? Because it absolutely was, it was a marketing hack. We decided to make a podcast and in order to make a podcast, we had to have some people on the show. We had to have CX professionals on there. So I started knocking on doors and randomly asking people if they could come on the show and surprisingly, they said, yes. And then once they said, yes, I was committed. And I was like, Oh shit. Now, I have this person coming on my podcast and I don't know what to do. How do I ask the right questions? And the only way to right ask the right questions, I think was to read all of their material, watch all their talks and do as much research as I could in order to extract the right questions. The questions that I thought my listeners. Would want a need to hear. So again, it was an exercise in empathy because in this case I wasn't empathizing with the customers. I was empathizing with the listener and to do so. I also had to emphasize size with my guests and understand which topics would make them feel not only the most comfortable but giving them a platform to share their message with the world out there. So, what ended up happening is every time I had a new guest, I had to study and research more, and ultimately, after a while, I was like, damn, I know a lot about this subject. And I knew so much about the subject that I started expanding into other overlapping areas, because I wanted to understand more about what shaped the human behavior.So, the year that I started the podcast, I read 50 books in a single year and it was sheer survival. If I didn't read that, I felt like I was going to fail. You know, so it really was about trying to be the best so that I could. Value the time that my guests were giving me asking the right questions and honoring the time that the listeners were giving me as well to be able to give them actionable information.

It's very similar to the, the idea of the survey with ditch we were talking about and just making sure you're precise, making sure that there are times to being used efficiently.

I think that's a customer centric mentality, but if you're thinking of the guests on your podcast as your customers, if you're thinking about the listeners of your podcast as your customers, if you think of the readers of your blog and you're putting yourself in their shoes and you're able to translate whatever it is that you're doing into their reality and be able to feature a little bit of everything for everyone out there.

Chattermill: Definitely. And it's a huge lesson for us. I learned so much right now with you.

Mary: If I can share one last message listeners and with everything, it would be that in the same way that when we produce content, we have to meet customers where they are. We also have to be able to understand how quickly the market changes. So, it's not only in, you know, shifting maybe from eBooks into video format or video classes, or whether it's now doing podcasts instead of doing other things…because that's how people are getting their information to extend the same thing to our customers. We have to understand how quickly the market shifts.

If there's anything that 2020 has taught us is that change can happen a lot more quickly than we expect. I was watching an interview with Brian Solis, who's a great CX speaker as well, and he was talking about e-commerce and how during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had 10 year’s worth of growth in e-commerce over a 90-day period. Now that's amazing. And it didn't only happen for e-commerce and retail. It happened for every single aspect of the market and nobody saw it coming. And at this moment, companies are scrambling so hard with their strategy because most of the time companies are basing their strategic decision making on past data. But the past data that we have right now is useless because it isn't at all a reflection of the present and the future of consumers anywhere on the line, the globe. So, keeping your eye on the future and not in the past, and you can do that when collecting feedback as well. If you're able to find a way to listen to the customer on a consistent basis, being respectful of their time, being respectful of their feedback. You need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse and constantly be aware of the changes that are happening in their lives because customers see change coming before the company does. Sometimes we're so focused on our internal issues and our processes that we forget to look around us. We forget to look in front of us at what's coming.

So, one thing for sure is that the customer always knows before we do and we can ask them, they give us. The space to ask them where they're looking, where they're going, where their tendencies are shifting. So that's something that's really important for customer experience. Our job is to provide the companies that we work for with insight of where the customer is going and not on where they've been because in the market we live in today, the past doesn't matter, it's all about the present and the future. That's my last bit of feedback for the listeners today.

Chattermill: Amazing Mary. I couldn't agree more. It is a new paradigm and you jotted down very specific ways where companies can behave nowadays to prepare for it and to benefit from it alongside their customers. So, I can only say thank you so much for the time, the attention, the depth of insights that you're sharing with us, the recommendations for me, and for the audience that are all learning from you.

Mary: Thank you so much again, thank you, João. Thanks for the opportunity. I really, really, truly hope that all of your listeners and your viewers leave today having gained a little bit more knowledge. If you learned at least one little thing, the teacher in me will be extremely satisfied and happy.

Chattermill: I’m absolutely sure we’ve all learned loads of things from you today, Mary! Thanks so much!

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix and host of the Voices of CX Podcast where she has interviewed some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges and innovation in CX. Mary’s goal is to broaden the reach of Customer Experience, connecting it to Marketing, Business, Design-thinking, Data science, Statistics and Behavioral Economics. She moved to Atlanta in 2016 after Worthix relocated its headquarters from San Francisco.

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