357: Thomas Hollmann, Customer Experience Education
Get ready for crack the customer code your audio guidebook for creating incredible customer journeys. So Adam, I think you have a specific connection to our guest today. Is that accurate? Yes. And no, I don't know our guest personally, I've not met him. But I actually did the program at the university where he is a professor so happy certificate in customer experience. And I got many years ago from Arizona state university's center for services leadership. And it's a really interesting program for one thing it is one of the few, and I mean truly few programs in an academic environment about specifically customer experiences almost nothing else. Like it right now. I hope that's changing. I don't know if it is. I was going to say that's changing, and I stopped myself because based on our conversation, I'm not sure I can say that. But it is pretty interesting to think that there's this world that we haven't really explored from an academic perspective when it has so much to do with the success of business, and you look at kind of how those how academia and business intersect in so many different areas like the Harvard Business Review and all the studies that come out from all those different business programs, but customer experience is still kind of an island that hasn't been touched in that same way. So I think it's a really interesting discussion something we haven't really talked about a lot here. So I'm thrilled that Dr Holman was able to meet with us and share a little bit of insight not only about what's happening academia, but how that translates to the to the real world. Okay. I'm gonna get all sorts of hate mail over that. But the. You know, the business side of things and what that means for everybody. No, it's fine haters gonna hate genie. That's what they say. Bulk is valid point. It's a valid not with our guest professor home because he very much is from both worlds. Right. As a Mississippi, and you find that a lot more in the business world. Yeah. There's a lot less of the distinction or the gap. I'll say between sort of academic theory and real world reality in the business world is a lot more Ross over the academia, interacts better. I think in the business fear than it does maybe in the social sciences, and then some other fields. So I think you find lots of it. But there is always that concern. Right. And I think one of the things it's evidence of that is just the very thing. We're going to talk about in this episode. The fact that we've all talk. About customer experience for how long now and how much focus do we put on? We have an entire podcast your careers or dedicated to it. And academia is barely touched the stop, right. It's just very slow and catching up to where the actual market is. So I think you know, dot your home and brings up some great points really explored that force. And then talks a lot about, you know, some of the things he's learned in some the knowledge that they have there in that program. So I think we should get into it. Well, let me share a little bit about our guest. Dr Thomas Homan is a clinical associate professor of marketing and the executive director of the center for services leadership at Arizona State University. Thomas's work experience spans four countries and over ten years in fortune one hundred companies including black and decker Xerox and as an executive at Sun Life financial his research interests include services, science with a focus on BBC service analytics and release. Ship marketing with a particular interest in relationship outcomes. His research has appeared in the journal of the academy of marketing science the journal of business and industrial marketing and several leading marketing and services conferences, he has received research grants and awards and Thomas has consulted with a range of fortune five hundred firms and he received awards for his teaching at Arizona State University. And at NC state Thomas earn a PHD in marketing from Arizona State University. Dr Thomas home, and thank you so much for being with us today. I'm really excited about our conversation. Jews on what for inviting me on your show. I'm looking forward to optimization. Well, I am super excited. I was super cited when Alicia reached out to me because I am a graduate of the very program. Your report of the leader of the center for services leadership at Arizona State University. Actually did get the certificate customer experience from there. It was a fantastic experience. And I can't wait for. To give us some behind the scenes and talk a little bit about service and experience here. So the first question, I have is what do you think the role is of higher education in the world of customer experience today as I think it's a very important role in. It's it's a key role in that higher education can provide on the state companies and the employees at all levels with the knowledge and tools to really be good in excellent at customer service at any customer facing role and one of the opportunities for that is of course to take a program like the one Youth Day, can there's a multitude of avenues to pursue. And we can maybe talk about some of those. But I think that's a key role for us as academics as the education field to play is to help people gain the tools knowledge to be better at what you do in in the broader academic world. Do you think that customer experiences represented? Well, or that it I mean to Jeanine we've talked about this it feels like to us that academia's obviously, not where you're at. But overall academia's lagging behind the marketplace that everyone is focused on not everyone, but most people are focused on customer experience. Now, if nothing else at least to give it lip service and doesn't seem like academia's catching up, what's your view of the whole landscape? Why it's an interesting landscape, and it's something that isn't true only for the whole topic of customer experience. But there oughta speaking while I always compared to when I talk to industry and in the center, we do that a law when I talked to industry, I feel like the Marty MC fly in back to the future. Like, I step out in its nineteen eighty-five because industry is struggling with and looking at totally different topics than the ones that we do when we go economic conferences and totally different levels as well. So that's where we they kademi or sometimes falling short in helping industry employs, just everybody. That's that's also for any organization nonprofit or government to just see what is already existing than take it in apply that without doing a good job of that. We're we're in our center here. We're trying to do a better job at that. While that is certainly something that has needed. Well, and the funny part, I don't know if it's funny. Ha ha, but I guess ironic because that I know a lot of people who are in higher education who are struggling a little bit with attracting the right kind of student body they want because the realizing they need to up their own game in what we would call customer experience in student experience. Right like students have totally different expectations than they did ten years ago. They are looking for a really well rounded experience in higher Ed and a lot of the organizations in higher education that had something that worked for literally hundreds of years like it worked for a long time. Suddenly have to kind of wake up and realize that they are competing in this market just like everybody else. So are you seeing that as well as far as creating customer experience around higher educations? We have certainly here original stage universe. Versity, but also elsewhere in the country where talked to my colleagues we have seen that students or much more educated fun, pardon the pun but much more about engagement. They really looking for that draw experience. They wanna have things that they can apply, but they also want to understand they want to be challenged on beore truly a different generation than I would say certainly twenty years ago, but even just ten years ago. So this group is always say they have to settings zero and two hundred and wanna dial into that two hundred wanna figure out how to get how to get them excited engaged in. Now, that's something that I worked on my classes all the time. But it is really interesting challenge whereas ten fifteen years ago, you would have you know, the normal setting. So that usually sit under thirty to fifty in the get up to eighty or ninety these students now, it's it's really extreme. And they are just sitting there anything up in wonder what's going on in that head right now, they're super aged just just just really driving my own performance in the classroom into a different level of by just demanding and asking it's really it's really I was always at one hundred the night before the exam or the night before the paper was due. The pros. So here's a question talking about customer experience in academia. Your PHD is specifically in what I have a PHD in marketing with a focus on service. Science service is okay. So that's interesting. What what I've looked at. We actually tried to catalog is years ago sort of the experience programs out there, and there are so few and it's grown. It seems like a lot of the people teaching what few experience programs there are coming over from marketing at this point. Do you see a lot of sort of people that came out of customer experience? Roles in business coming into these positions either as adjuncts or or trying to be more traditional get masters in PHD's. What what are you seeing as the marketplace starts to the academic? Marketplace starts to embrace this idea of customer experience. It's a raid to time. I think to be thinking about it, certainly. Companies have started to understand at least many of them understanding quite a bit. Now that the customer experience is key in his really the center of what needs to be focused on the needs to understood and universities are little behind the her of there. But there's a lot of students in my classes and the master's level plazas that are actually at university since always kinda fun to talk them a little bit about how they are trying to take what they learn in Microsystem our forces here now they're trying to take that into their institutions and tried to really drive that understanding and knowledge about the customer and the customer experience into their institution. And there's tool said that the really powerful in that are really making a difference. I'll give you one which is the blueprinting which which is hard off. What you went through at him talk from blueprinting and the blueprinting tool is always in our executive education seminars. One of the highlights for people that they just jump on in fling on just run right back to the organization with and say, hey, this is a great tool. We wanna use it right now. And just that ability to just take some of that knowledge in some of the tools and immediately applied I think that's key. I I'm one of those people I love service blueprinting, I think it's awesome. So I totally get why why people gravitate to it because it works. And it's so like approachable, but one of the warning Thomas you have entered the hill. One of the things that I think you would agree based on all of the background that you have in both industry. And academia is that the idea of creating the right culture for service is super important. And so I'm wondering you probably have some opinions or observations right now about what do you think of good service culture is and what do the best organizations do to achieve their the old adage is that culture eats strategy for breakfast that that's very and I've seen that in my industry works as well. As the economy true of trillion Verdy repeatedly, the idea of culture is sort of in the academy and really weird one. When we talk about culture will be read articles about culture, it's all these on terms for us like artifacts. It's and thinks that nobody talks about in the normal language like what is an hour defending Zack. So when you add missions of culture in textbooks in is not clear to me if I didn't know what they're talking about. I would note afterwards. It's just really weird. The symbols all kinds of things they talk about that don't make sense on. So I go back to industry experience. They're on something that when I was working in new street on that I struggled with in that then fought a very simple idea or simple solution to and the way. I look at culture has that culture is simply the way we work that this all it is so Elvis spent if I'm on a whiteboard, I write down WWW, and it's it's not a euro L for online. But it's the way we work. What culture has about to what are we doing? And if a customer comes with this problem or with this question, or if we internally if we have a snowstorm what we do do we all just home and say, oh, well, you know, too bad customers or do we get out? Do we get? Out our on the wonderful little cups of coffee in hockey in something stay overnight and try to figure out how to make our customers. Hold again. With a whatever it is that they are struggling with because of power might be out or maybe they don't have access to their financials or whatever it is. So how do we react to situations circumstances? That's really what culture is all about. So how do we work with each other with customers, and that that's that's much simpler than the whole notion of symbols and artifacts. What can you do? Well, the important thing that I found it that works is is storytelling. Just tell the stories off the customer associate that went through the snow deliver a package or tell a story of the customer support group that stayed in the office for three days overnight because everybody was snowed in still wanna be reachable to customers. You know, those stories in telling them, that's really the. Most powerful way of getting a culture come alive and to communicate to anybody old or new organization. What does this? We're trying to do. I like that definition of the way we work and I'm glad that's that's what you were doing instead of writing WWW for worldwide web 'cause your students would make little. Well, you know, it's interesting. Let's talk a little bit about customer success. This is like a term and buzzword that don't even think existed ten years ago. Now, we talk about it a lot and particularly in service based industries sorts of software. Those industries and talk about the value of customer says what what's the idea of excess wise it valuable, and how can organizations use it as a framework. Yes, we have in our sent one of the things we do is. We have to make sense of what I'm saying next step back a couple of yards. Here talked about the Sandra. So we're bringing together condemning in industry practitioners. So we've got a fifty member firms that those companies organizations and over eighty faculty and one of the things that we're doing with in that network is we have something. Called community of practice. So in that community of practice re bring together, a subset of that group and talk about specific topics. We have one actually on customer success that we launched last year on based on the demand from our member saying, hey, they are all looking at this. What is this? Does this apply to my industry to my company in trying to understand what it means? And from there we've had a great event at one of our member firms here, and we have written white paper on that. So so that's me stepping back a few yards and coming back now to to look at customer success with you the different issues for us. Very simple customer success is when customers achieve their goals using our product or service, all it is and in that sense, how some success very old. So is the new topic? It's a new topic impart because I think the company's organizations are starting to really not just mentally. Also just emotionally understand how critical their customer success is to them. Being a successful firm. Now customers don't really want to buy anything. They buy things because they have something they want to accomplish. That's the jobs to be done perspective or the Gulf only because the have that goal. Do they actually come to us in bio things whether it's a Cup of coffee or it's a flight or it's Eucation they have adults that they want to accomplish. And without hours say, my classes, you know. It's really simple. If you have no pastor, you have no firm, you don't exist. So if you if you're looking at it from that perspective, then you will have no customer, if you don't help them meet their goals, whatever those are in so customer success should be at the centre off every business much. Just the software as a service weighed all as a term start. But really every business any business anywhere, any organization, nonprofits, whatever you are is all about the customer succeeding with what they want. It is that's the golden ticket that people still can't seem to get some. I can grant's in and they all look at me like dove. Well, I'm sorry. With all that you've seen because you've had both impressive corporate and roles in academia, I'm really interested in what you see for the future here because I think we've been I feel like customer experience in general is kind of reaching that point where people are like, yes, it's actually thing that we should care about after we've been talking about for twenty thirty years now, in some cases, and there are you know, dedicated resources there are titles at companies now that are all about the customer experience. So what do we need to tell people about leading in the future in order to really compete? What do leaders need to do differently in the future them what they're doing today? All the woman it listen to you. So start. Now, we're talking. Yeah. Without a customer. There is no firm in the pulpits are starting to really understand that how central the customers in central their for the customer experiences and how to then figure out how to improve that not understand. That is the challenge for them. And there are break tools, the blueprint blueprinting. We've talked about this one on. There's another tool that we use our activity -cation seminars. Paul the gap model GAAP, just you know, gap, from the gap the gap model, and that is another fantastic tools. Many more. We have we have dozens of tools we go through and that we have developed in the academy. Many of them haven't really filtered into business practice to the level that economics things they should buy. That's on the Demings. That's because we haven't done the a great job of translating those tool. So that's number one really to look at all these tools that have already been created and demand tools. Ask questions say here's something that. My business is struggling with. Let's partner on something. It could be as simple as a folk Paul too old professor and saying, hey, remember me from you know, twenty years ago when I was sitting there, and I get those emails and phone calls from my students. I have an open door policy with him. And you know, just talking about, hey, I'm struggling with XYZ is there's something that you can point to just looking for that knowledge base looking for those tools. So that certainly one thing, and then the other thing is I think from from asks from the academics, we have a job to do on number one, the translational the tools that already exist. But number two really the future off services or the future off word is a topic. That has also come up in the last year or two very strongly in people are always somewhat freaking out because they think the rotor robots take everything and gonna be reduced to sitting by a pool. Goals and drinking my ties it's gonna be so bad. But you know. The robot Butler. That's what I'm looking for Taylor, actually. Really really take off because like two or three years. Now, she was so hopeful that she will not need to learn how to drive because she thought the self driving cars have arrived by the time. She would need that. And it's not looking that's not gonna happen in time so fees unhappy, but you're at all. Let her let her know that every generation is disappointed by the promise of the Jetsons flying cars, right wet, whereas my point. Know whether the with role to play to help with that transition. So on a robots all of that is due come on come in very different way than the two extreme scenarios that always people talk about one is that everything will be just fine without us wondering and worrying about anything it'll just work out because it's always worked out while that's not how it works. The other side of it is the you you can watch going back to terminate. I guess all these wonderful movies. That were the roads are taking everything over is gonna be really a horrible situation for us. That's that. I don't think we'll come to pass while there's this middle ground this middle Brown where if we can find the right path with the tools knowledge phase kind of innovation. We need to move forward. In a way that we have another great transition. We had the transition from ninety five percent of people working in. In agriculture in the fields to you know, where we are. Now that transition so where those ninety two percent that are now not in the field anymore. Where are they now while they all have great opportunities jobs wonderful services that we've come up with? And I think we can do that again. And that's a role for the academy that me here at the center for services leadership a really driving right now is to figure out what that path forward. I think the beauty of what you just said is that I'm probably that. I meet the description of the person who's like, it's all going to work out. It's always worked out and Adam meets the description of Skynet is taking over. Just just assuming that machines will evolve differently than us and not come self aware. That's. So yes, so we will get there. I think there's a beautiful compromise somewhere. So I appreciate the way you put that. But this whole thing is so interesting. I'm sure you are seeing so many cool things throughout what you do. And who you teach and what you're sharing with different organizations. So this has been really really enlightening. So thank you so much for joining us today. And if people do want to know about the center, or you what's the best way for them to leak out and find you. These interval services leadership in Arizona State University. That's a lot of things to type in the easiest way is if you go to your engine and type in ASU as space C S L. So it was on university center Servizi ship AS UCS L. We will come up right up there. I on your search engine that will be easiest way to find us into pumped us here. Okay. That's perfect 'em. We will as always make sure that's in our show notes. So that's an easy way for everybody to find it as well. But this was really great. Thank you for all the work you doing and here's to the robots not taking over completely except I'm pretty excited about the robot Butler idea. So. Thank you having me on your show. Thanks so much. We'll exciting to think about what will be next in this arena his net atom with what will we be teaching in the future? How will we how will we combine this idea of what actually happens in business with customer experience, and how to really translate that back to academe and vice versa because based on all the research and the tools that they're developing. How can we use that better in our work as well? So I think this is like brave new world stuff even though it's been around for while. Well, it's not just that. I think it's also the ability of academia to prepare tomorrow's workforce. Right. I mean, that's how you how do you go into customer experience? If you're an we've talked about this. I think it's been a long time since we really covered the topic. I think that's if you're going into marketing, right? You go. You do your you get your marketing degree, and then you go to your couple years paean, Jay or whatever. Right and Brian than you. Yeah. Go to affirm go out on your own whatever it may be. There is a sort of obvious path customer. Experience doesn't have that path. And that may be good in some ways. But it's also I think challenging is a lot of learning curve in customer experience. So I think the more. This trickles down or trickles up. What to look at it? I think the better it will be. I totally agree. And I think that I I really appreciate it. What Thomas had to say about a lot of the ways that they are listening to students and their students are running back to their organizations and sharing the knowledge that they have to and that's that's what's going to work. That's how we're all going to win. So yeah, it was kind of fun. It was kind of fun to think about this in a different way. And to really crack the academic code if you will. Yeah. We really schooled everybody. Oh, there is. Jaydee ticks away. Well, thank you all for studying with us at crack the customer code. Crack because we're code is a proud member of cease we radio so be sure to check out all the great business content at C, suite radio dot com and C suite TV dot com. We so appreciate you being here with us. I'm Jeannie Walters, and you can learn more about me and our journey mapping programs CX, training and speaking at experience investigators dot com. About important, and you can learn more about the Mike. Keynote speeches are customer service in training, and our strategic advisory at customers that step dot com until next time to kill yourself and take care of your customers.