Jennifer Brown is an award-winning entrepreneur, dynamic speaker, diversity and inclusion expert. She is the Founder, President and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting (JBC), a strategic leadership and diversity consulting firm that coaches business leaders worldwide on critical issues of talent and workplace strategy. Brown is a passionate advocate for social equality who helps businesses foster healthier, more productive workplace cultures. Her book Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change will inspire leadership to embrace the opportunity that diversity represents and empower advocates to drive change that resonates in today’s world.
Yanique shared, I like the fact that you mentioned that it's not something that people are accustomed to and change is hard. Unfortunately, human beings don't adapt to change very readily, and I don't think it's based on the geography in terms of where you're from in the world, I think it's just general human nature. So, it would mean that you have to put yourself in a place of being uncomfortable in order to move from one stage to the next.
Jennifer agreed and stated that nobody wants to be uncomfortable, but the flip side is it makes you so much better of a leader and a better team member, better colleague and by the way better parent, better community leader, all of these. There's a reason that you open a paper today and diversities in every headline, it's everywhere because institutions are really struggling with it of all kinds for profit, nonprofit,community organizations, church leadership, so there is probably, no area of your life where you can afford to not understand and embrace this conversation and do your work, your kid could come home tomorrow and say, “Mom, I think I'm transgender.”You would be completely ill-equipped to deal with that and to be fair most parents are, it's something that is life and does not prepare you for that but at the same time don't you want to be ready? Even if you're interviewing for jobs, even if you're leading teams at a company that values diversity and you don't or you haven't paid attention to it, you've assumed it's somebody else's job to care about it, none of that is going to work for you in the long run, it's a little bit of a scare tactic but she has to use every tool she has to convince people that this is important which is really tiring and honestly kind of depressing sometimes because you're wondering how they don't get it, “Please have empathy for people that haven’t had as easy of a road as you.” It's just that and then she doesn't know why we have to ask and convince and scare, how many different techniques do we need to basically talk about something that's such a human right and is all about the dignity of everyone in this world to do their best work and to feel their sense of purpose every day.
Yanique agreed and stated, and to feel appreciated, a lot of people work in organizations and they just don't feel appreciated and I think they've lost the purpose if there was even a purpose from day one, they've definitely lost it. It comes out in the interactions that they have with customers, it comes out in how they relate to their team members sometimes unconscious of the fact that the customer is observing you in every interaction once they're standing in front of you or you’re on the phone and you ask them to hold but you didn't actually put the phone on hold, so they're hearing everything that's happening in the background.
Yanique stated, so this is definitely something that's new and of course it's definitely going to continue into another couple of years as you said people are trying to flesh out what does that mean for them based on their organization, based on where they operate in the world, based on who they are trying to target and as you said, how much sales they're trying to increase in what community and if they can connect with these people because as you stated at the beginning of our conversation, people are now buying from brands that represent the values that they hold near and dear to them and sometimes that's very hard to find and it's amazing that consumers are taking this stance because it just goes to show that the power is really in the hands of the consumer and it's going to be continuing even more, social media has given themso much power in terms of the things that they do, the comments and the feedback that they give and so it's not so much about what the brand says about themselves, but what the consumer has to say based on their experiences with the product or the service.
Jennifer agreed and stated that it goes beyond the four walls of the company, there is no such thing anymore, there's total transparency as you said, there's a lot of accountability and a lot of communities are diverse communities who are questioning - Do we want to work at a place like that? Do we want to patronize a place like that? What do they stand for? People really now want to hear what do you mean and are you walking the talk?And she’s really excited to see this accountability and the visibility that they have, they can peer into how companies do business and employees are finding their voice and really being public about it like the Google walk out of a couple months ago had 20,000 employees all over the world walking out and protesting their whole process that they handle sexual harassment claims and pay equity.They had his whole list of demands and it was really inspiring to seeing Google had to pay attention. They just had to and they've been kind of on a journey of addressing some, not all of the requests/demands that the employees had, so, we're going to see this is not going away, this accountability and it's exciting because brands have gotten away with a lot in the past, they've gotten away with unfair workplace practices, they've protected their data, they haven't been forced to admit where they're board is entirely white and male but it's never been talked about in the news before, those days are over and if you're in a company where you haven't been called out publicly, it will happen.And so, a lot of their work is actually these days about helping brands and companies make sure they're doing their work internally, and so hopefully that day never comes, hopefully they never mess up but that accountability is fierce and swift and she almost feel like we need to start teaching the art of the apology to our customers because they're going to make mistakes, they are absolutely going to and so the question is, how do you come back from a mistake? How do you apologize, own what happened, say you're learning, talk about what you're going to be recommitting to, what are you going to do differently in the future, even that as something you're prepared for, that's a new idea but she thinks it would behoove all business owners and even all managers to think about when I say the wrong word, do people trust me enough and they know that they can come to me and tell me, that's what you really want, you want to ask for that, you want to earn people's trust because by the way, you can't just one day and once only say, “Hey, can you let me know if I ever make you feel uncomfortable?”It's not a one and done. So, you've got to earn that trust that somebody then will trust you enough to be honest with you and say, “Hey, that joke you say or that saying you say or you know that you stole that person's idea in the room or assigned it to, you took it and you attributed it to somebody else or did you realize that men did 90% of the talking in that meeting?”We've got to be sensitive to these things and we just haven't been in the past and we need help to learn and so it's not just something you do need to do a lot on your own, you need to educate yourself, you need to read a lot of books about bias and team dynamics and being an inclusive leader, her book is helpful she has been told by a lot of people, she hopes it's helpful, so read these books, but they commit to making behavior change in yourself and inviting feedback and then act on that feedback, adjust, be humble be resilient, have that growth mindset which is failing forward.You know you're going to fail, it happens to all of us, we're all bias and it's hard to keep up with this, but you just have to try, that's huge points for trying.
Yanique stated, I like the fact that you made a point to the fact that the change starts with you because I find in a lot of organizations, the managers or the leaders are quick to say well they need to do so and so and they're not including themselves in the process because it all starts with them as well and as a leader or a manager, if I'm in an organization, I'm looking to see what you are doing because I'm taking lead from the behaviors that you've demonstrated, the attitudes that you've demonstrated and yes, I may have my own values but in an organization people kind of watch what's happening and they kind of conform to the culture that exists and if they do anything out of the norm, it means that they're going to stand out and because most people don't want to stand out, there kind of just going to go along with whatever is happening there, whether it's good or bad sometimes.
Jennifer agreed and stated that the best example of what Yanique is talking about is watching how many men take paternity leave or parental leave. We don't get a lot in this country, some companies are really trying to become much more generous around leave and actually going as far as requiring some employees to take leave because there's such a stigma around taking leave and particularly for men and male parents in any family configuration, it is particularlyshamed to take. Even the leave that's provided, take all of that leave, it's not viewed as a positive, you get pressure, it's spoken and unspoken pressure and men follow other men and follow what they do and they decide what the norms are based on what they see particularly senior people doing so you're right that we take our cues from everyone we watch above us in a way and we say, “Well, that's acceptable, that's not acceptable, that's a boundary I can cross or that's a boundary that I shouldn't cross.”This is why it particularly would leave and also vacation interestingly, there are some companies that are starting to require vacation because we don't take all the vacation we haveand that’s not because we don't want to take the vacation, it’s because we don’t think it's going to be okay to do. So, the norms that are communicated through behavior of others particularly senior people, we are watching, and we are then deciding, “What should I do that's not going to hurt my career in this particular culture?”So, she wouldn't encourage people to think about, it almost needs to be mandated because until such time as we can change this dynamic of pressure and peer pressure and watching these role modeling behavior happen and kind of employees not taking care of themselves and not really doing what they need to do to have a balanced life, we may need to mandate some things. She just interviewed this woman, Erica Keswin, and she really recommend her book called Bring Your Human to Work and she has so many examples of what companies are doing in this vein to encourage leave, to encourage parenting and to encourage balance and flex and literally power to the employee to really have that balance that is the theme, the theme of women's month is how do we achieve this?But remember men need balance too, we single parents need balance, people without children need balance who are caregiving, we may be doing none of those things, but we may need just balance for our time off. So, let's not be biased in terms of how we set systems up as well and assume that only one group of people needs to manage their work-life balance, but traditionally was spoken of as a sort of women's challengeand that's really changing, and she hopes it's changing. She hopes men are thinking about what they need and they're advocating for themselves, younger men, she has a lot of hopes for millennial generation to say, this is what I need and want whether that's a sabbatical, whether it's flexible work assignments and arrangements, whether it's different career opportunities and moving around a lot more often and she just hopes that employees are in the driver's seat, it's time to assume our more powerful position as you mentioned earlier.
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****Special Note: the book is available for pre-order on Amazon in order to get into the flow that way
Sarah E. Toms is an Executive Director and co-founder of Wharton Interactive where she has built award-winning EdTech teams that develop highly engaging games and simulations, which are played by tens of thousands of students globally. Her drive to modernize, transform, and democratize education led her to co-invent simpl.world, an open-source simulation framework. As an entrepreneur for more than a decade and a demonstrated thought leader in the technology field, Toms has founded companies that build global CRM, product development, productivity management, and financial systems. She is dedicated to supporting women and girls in technology through her work with the Women in Tech Summit and techgirlz.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SarahEToms.
Peter S. Fader is the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, Fader co-founded Zodiac, a predictive analytics firm that was acquired by Nike in 2018. More recently, he co-founded Theta Equity Partners, which focuses on customer-based corporate valuation. His expertise centers on topics such as customer relationship management, lifetime value of the customer, and strategies that arise from these data-driven tactics. Fader is also the author of Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage and he has been interviewed in The Wall Street Journal, APM’s “Marketplace,” NPR’s “Planet Money,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Forbes, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @FaderP.
Sarah shared that what was interesting to them was when they started writing the book they actually started to create sort of this Frankenstein, it was a combination of a simulation manual and some interesting stories and interesting content about customer centricity and how to actually put customer centric thinking into action and they brought it to their publisher and they said, “Get rid of the simulation stuff, flush out more about the book, make it a standalone piece if people want to run the simulation and read the book. That's fantastic.” But they really need something that engages folks who are working in the trenches day in day out and give them a clear guideline for how to become customer centric.
Sarah stated that at the end of the book they have a manifesto which really comes from her experience in technology and software development, where she experienced something very similar to what she’s learned now with partnering with Pete over the last four years…..five years that's happening in the marketing science world as well. And that is it, they're being inundated with all this data, there's data insights and data collection and it's becoming cheaper and easier and faster to just collect swathes and swathes of information about their customers and how they behave and what makes them buy etc. And the problem is that a lot of it is garbage and so we had something similar happen in the software development realm in the dot.com heydays where they had this tremendous capability with technology and the problem was they were really weighed down by old bureaucratic bloated software processes, she’s talking about waterfall where they had to write reams and reams of documentation and they weren't able to work leanly and be able to keep up with the technological advances in a way that was in line their our customers and their business users and what they actually wanted from the software that was being developed. And so, this sparked an idea as she was having these conversations with Pete and she said, I think what we really need for customer centricity is we need a manifesto as well. We need something that will really focus business people, it will give them just simple clarity around what is important and what they need to double down on with regards to customer centricity.
Yanique mentioned that the book is a playbook, anybody in an organization in a leadership role or non-leadership role can pick up the book and they will be able to have a guideline like step by step as to how they can really master customer centricity in their business, whether they're an organization that has customers that come in or they're an online business.
Sarah stated that the way that they've laid out the book from the playbook perspective is to really think about those different functional areas. Our goal with this to most definitely make sure that this was a cross-functional conversation. This playbook is not just for the sales person or the marketing person, this is for the data person, it's for the finance people, it's for the folks in H.R., the folks who are developing the products are indeed, this is for everybody. And it's really again pivoting and pivoting so that your customers are at the center but understanding that this heterogeneity at play within that customer base and how are you really going to focus in on what you need to do. So, when you're thinking about acquiring those customers, when you're thinking about retaining them and developing them, when you're thinking about having conversations with those in your technology team on how to tag them and track them and understand what information is actually important when it comes to figuring out who's valuable today, who will be valuable tomorrow and when I'm acquiring new customers who's more than likely going to be valuable to the organization and then taking all of those conversations and making sure that folks in your finance team understand what that means from the customer lifetime value standpoint.
Sarah shared that one of the shining examples that they use a couple of times in the book is Electronic Arts. So, Electronic Arts is really one of the most mature organizations that they've seen with regards to customer centricity. Every day as players are playing their games they are collecting data about behaviours about what they know about who's more than likely going to be a high, medium and low value customer and they're feeding that information back to the game studios, they're letting them know, “For our high value customers, did this part of the game work the way we thought it was going to, did we see this as high engagement as we were hoping and if not why not and what do we need to do to pivot in the actual game development.” They're using information about these customers with how they advertise to them. So, not just saying, “All right well, here's our advertising campaign for this game, we'll put it out there, it'll be out there for a month, three months, five months.”They're using that information about their customers to actually fine tune how they target and attract the customers that they're looking to seek.
Yanique mentioned that it is definitely a combination of many different things all in one in terms of an organization looking at how the customer is interfacing with their product or their service, the frequency of them utilizing that product or service and of course to spend.
Sarah agreed and stated that RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) is still key. RFM is a marketing technique used to determine quantitatively which customers are the best ones by examining how recently a customer has purchased (recency), how often they purchase (frequency), and how much the customer spends (monetary). To build on what Peter was saying about customer lifetime value in chapter 1, they spend some time delving into problems with CLV that they see that are common out there and mistakes that are being made with the calculation itself. So, CLV itself can be quite complex and there's lots of open source ways to leverage and create CLV calculations within your organizations. But they do spend some time going through the mistakes which should hopefully shine some light on how to be tracking and calculating CLV correctly in your organization.
When asked how do you know which one is the right CRM to go with, Sarah mentioned that unfortunately there aren't any great additions to CRM yet that they've seen. In her conversations with a number of the companies that appear in the book, L.A. Dodgers is a great example, they have had to build their insights outside, so they use salesforce and they're then doing the analytics sort of outside, their tracking all of their customers in their CRM but then they're running a different algorithms etc. in other systems which is unfortunate. So, she thinks Peter would agree that a lot of the companies that he has been working with they're having to kind of roll their own if you will because there isn't a good solution out there yet.
Peter agreed and stated that that is unfortunate. They were in the process, they were creating that solution through his company Zodiac, but Nike bought that firm which was of course a wonderful outcome but now it's all under the swoosh. So, he really hopes that companies can learn from those experiences. And again, a lot of that through that they're trying to convey in the book both laying out these frameworks as well as these specific company profiles that Sarah has been referring to.
Sarah stated that just to go back to the original question there was the whole point everybody thinks, “Okay well, customer service, it's to turn ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.”This is another point in the book is really think and this was to Peter's earlier point, we've got all of these sort of ways that we engage with our customers, ways to increase CX quality, ways to increase hopefully customer loyalty but it's very rare that you take somebody from your bottom tier from a customer lifetime value standpoint and boost them all the way up to the very top. And so, rather than think that you can do that and expend a tremendous amount of energy trying to achieve that impossible dream, just look at what you're doing and understand who you're serving from a CLV standpoint. So, customer service is really for your lower value customers and the same with loyalty programs like understand that that's who you're really targeting those types of programs to.
Peter shared that he’s addicted to Twitter, but whether it's for news, sports, entertainment but also just a whole bunch of people that he follows who are always looking for the best practices of how companies are using their customer level data. So, just the million anecdotes a day some good, some appalling but it's just a great way to learn a lot of different stuff and then make up your own mind about which is good, and which is not so good but good to have that kind of broad exposure. Peter shared that he doesn’t read books anymore, Twitter is the firehose that really keeps him attached to the world.
Sarah agreed with Peter and stated that she did so much wonderful reading and thanked Peter for your amazing library and contribution to that. She mentioned at the beginning of the interview that their guiding goal with this book was to land in that cross functional space and to really try to ignite a conversation about really the organizational and cultural changes that must happen cross functionally in organizations in order for customer centricity to really take root and she stumbled on this book called The Silo effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tettand it is a fantastic book, it's one case study after another of where breaking down the siloing effect that happens in organizations where that has been good for some organizations and where it's existed, where it's been really perilous and difficult. So that's one book she most certainly recommends. The other book that she recommends is The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty by Matthew Dixon, but this gentleman has it right, you shouldn’t be trying to overdo it with every single customer, and he has written some incredible books in the CX space as well.
Yanique shared, I am familiar with Frederick Reichheld, I read a couple of years ago when I just started this business, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth, I haven’t read The Loyalty Effect but he definitely opened my mind up when I read the Ultimate Question.
Peter stated that he’s glad that Yanique made the connection. He (Fredrick Reichheld) laid out these ideas but in 1996 but it wasn’t until 5, almost 10 years later that he kind of translated them into the Net Promoter Score, this is the metric that’s going to help us identify companies that have been doing a good job at finding those customers and deepen those relationships. So, a lot of people think that Net Promoter Score just sort of appeared in the early 2000s, but it was really decades of work and thinking and just careful consideration by Fredrick and his colleagues at Bain that made that possible. And again, that revolution he thinks sparked a lot of the work that we’re doing and great admiration for the folks over there and enjoy his own collaboration with them.
When asked if there was anything is there anything, she’s working on to develop herself or her people - Sarah shared that she is. About a year ago she launched a new team at the Wharton School called Wharton Interactiveand they are building platforms to transform education. So, when you're looking at creating experiential learning in classrooms, it's expensive, it takes a long time, it's hard to change and fine-tune once you've launched experiences and really what she has discovered over the last six years being in this niche in EdTech is that platforms provide a way that forward where we can start to build truly transformational experiences for less cost and ones that we can then fine tune and learn from and so they're leveraging ultimate reality gaming,they're leveraging even smaller things like text messaging and social media patterns to really create social learning and don't democratizing that educational experience for the learners. So, a lot of the work that she has been doing with Peter in understanding and fine-tuning folks’ eyes to heterogeneity with customers, she has been starting to think about how they bring that into learning space and creating more fine-tuned and tailored experiences for the learners knowing that not everybody learns the same way. So, that she’s very excited about, very proud of you can find out more about what they're doing at www.interactive.wharton.upenn.edu.
I'm especially intrigued by Sarah's approach to education, I do think it's something that will definitely impact customer experience in the long term. When I think about my daughter who is 13 years old and some of the challenges that they have in schools, trying to get through to these children with the information that they're trying to simulate. I find that we're teaching children in 2019, but we're using methods that were applicable in 1975 and it's clearly not reaching the audience that we're trying to reach now, they just need to be stimulated in a higher way. And so, I hope some of the work that you are doing, it materializes that it can stretch to different parts of the world like Jamaica. Because I don't know what it's like in the USA, I'm sure you probably have you greater exposure to better opportunities, but here, I can see that the methodology that they are using is definitely not as impactful and I think based on what you are saying if hopefully that can become more widespread in the long term these children who will become business owners or employees in organizations that we’re all going to have to be customers of it would be great for them to have that experience from early, Yanique mentioned.
Sarah shared that she has a 10-year-old son, she also has 3 teenage daughters and we're not just teaching the same way we did in the 1970s, we're teaching the same way we did in the 1900s, so there is a lot of work to be done in moving the needle and with a lot of pride.They're doing some amazing work at the Wharton School and it's with great partners like Peter Fader who are willing to take the leap and who are also pushing and challenging teams like hers to think outside the box and bring something new to the table for the learners.
Sarah shared listeners can find her at –
Linkedin – Sarah Toms
Twitter – @SarahEToms
When asked if there is a possibility for the playbook to be developed into an online course, Peter shared that he has some older online courses that are more about the kind of original aspirational, definitional, motivational stuff. The best thing that they have is the new customer centricity simulation, that really brought them together.
Sarah shared that they've got the existing simulation, it's usually played in teams and usually played with faculty or teachers who are facilitating the experience and so they've got that experience. Her team is also starting to work on a steam-based game, so folks who are interested in learning can just go to steam and they'll be able to download a single player game from that marketplace. And then she also has designs to work with Peter on creating something in the alternate reality gaming space on their arc platform and that will be a massive online offering, hopefully not too far down the road from now.
Karen Millsap, the CEO (Chief Empathy Officer) of Egency and Founder of The Groflo, began her career in human resources and talent acquisition where she led countless training, new process, and change initiatives. At a young age, she suddenly became a widow when her husband was tragically murdered which completely changed the trajectory of her life. After experiencing a domino effect of other losses, she became acutely aware of the overall lack of support in our society for grieving people. We are all connected through our struggles, from the death of loved ones, to life-altering illnesses, divorce, even job loss. This realization ignited Karen's desire to turn her pain into purpose and pay it forward to help others.
Egency is a leadership development and training firm that helps organizations create a human-centric culture with compassion and empathy. The Groflo is a community that shares mental + emotional growth tips and positive lifestyle inspiration.
Karen's client list includes NBC’s Golf Channel, Hubspot, Universal Studio Resorts, Sprint and many more! Her work has been featured in Forbes, SHRM Magazine, on Good Morning America, MSNBC, and many others! She's also a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington's THRIVE Global community. Karen is a TEDx keynote speaker who inspires audiences to embrace compassion and empathy to help alleviate other’s suffering by becoming advocates for their own adversaries.
She received her undergraduate degree in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, California.
Karen shared that unfortunately, this knowledge and this passion came from the tragedy when her husband Richard was killed and at the time she was working in Human Resources and recruiting for a national home building company. So, her background up to that point had been in HR but touched in different pieces of recruiting and training and leadership development and all of that good stuff. So, after her husband passed, when she transitioned back to the workplace, she found that there was just this huge disconnect between the expectations of corporate America and humans, what we are capable of doing and how we process in the midst of such a delicate time. And so, when she experienced this firsthand, her immediate response was, “How can I use this to help other people?”Now, part of it was helping individuals because we definitely need help in navigating grief. It's such a complex journey and it doesn't look the same for everybody, but we also need help interacting with people who are going through their own grief journey. And so, that's where her heart was initially led, although there were one off individuals, who she was helping along the way, she really honed in on creating workshops or training and leadership development tools that would help people to manage grief in the workplace. So, her company, they develop The Four Pillars of Practical Empathy and those are Awareness, Communication, Support, and Productivity. And so, as she started down that journey of talking about grief in the workplace, there was a lot of resistance as you can imagine. First of all, people don't want to admit that there's this elephant in the room, everybody is going through something, grief is a universal human experience. The biggest myth about grief is that we think it only occurs because of a death, but it actually comes from different losses or changes. It could be from becoming a caregiver to an elderly parent or finding out that somebody in your family or even yourself is diagnosed with a terminal illness, there's so many different things. But again, it comes because of a change or a loss when we expect things to be different or better or more and it just doesn't turn out that way. So, as she started to just kind of break down all of these barriers and these myths that are surrounded with grief, again, corporate America was not really receptive because by saying you want grief training would be admitting that you have a problem because brief is kind of looked at it as a problem. And so, she recognized this resistance and most of what she was teaching was really surrounded around compassion and empathy in the workplace. So, she decided to just adjust slightly and instead of leading with the problem, she led now with the solution which is compassion and empathy. And as she was pulling different resources and research articles and studies and all of this that just helps us to create a basic framework for human interaction in the workplace. As she was pulling that, she recognizes, well, it still touches on grief in the workplace because if we are operating with compassion and empathy on a day to day basis, that's mastery preparation for the time of crisis. We're already connecting in this space that's just really vulnerable, we've established trust and respect through kindness, so when somebody does hit a tough life situation, which inevitably happens to all of us, then at least your work family is prepared to walk through those tough times with you and handle that because you guys have already established this kind of workplace. So, it's been a journey to get to this point but she’s super grateful that she learned all that she did throughout this journey because it's helped her to serve her clients at a whole new level, not just the basic leadership development, it really is taking it up a notch.
Yanique shared, I like the fact that you've mentioned that you started to lead with the solution, and you focus on empathy and compassion. And one of the things that we have identified in the whole client or customer experiences, people are driven by how they feel, their emotions play an integral part. I think even more than the intellectual because the emotion drives how the intellectual will respond.
When asked about empathy, Karen shared yes and no to Yanique’s statement. Yes, it is something that can be learned, but no, it's not something that people are only inheriting that ability through a learned environment. That's not the case. People are born with empathy. There are people who are born with a lack of empathy. As a matter of fact, there's a chemical in the front part of our brain, in our amygdala that triggers our emotions and so you could live and be raised in a very compassionate home, but you were born kind of without feelings, you don't get too riled round up but that doesn't mean that you didn't have an environment that included feelings and emotions and conversations around that, it really is how we're born. But even if people are born without or with a lack of, maybe they don't have a lot of empathy, you still can adopt behaviors and skills and habits that bring empathy into conversations and interactions so that way the person who you are interacting with feels valued. And so, empathy is really being able to feel and understand another person's emotions and respond with care. So again, that feeling part may not be natural for some people, but you can try to understand where they're coming from and respond in an empathic way. So that's how it looks and so as it pertains to their customer experience, you may not be able to completely resonate with where this customer is coming from. And she gave you an example, it's a personal example. She bought a new car at the end of last year and the sales team, they weren't that great but she needed to get out of her car, it had 140,000 miles on it, it was just not safe anymore. Karen said she was kind of in a rush to get into the car and didn't do her due diligence on a few things that she noticed within 24 hours of driving off the lot. So, she immediately contacted the sales team, they were not very responsive. So, then she looked online for customer service team, they were not very responsive. So, being the person that she, she’s just saying, well this isn't okay. So, she’s going to do her due diligence. She contacted the corporate office to say, “Listen, there are a couple of defects and this is actually not safe. So, I just purchased this car and we need to figure out a resolution.”Now up the chain of command, the customer service sucked, it was terrible. And she was telling them like the rear-view camera is not working, that is a safety issue. If she runs over a kid, do you think they're going to say, “Oops, that's our bad, we should have responded quickly to that email.”No, she’s going to be the one who is dealing with the legal ramifications. So, she’s pushing forward and say, no, this is not okay. She felt like there was a disconnect between kind of the first level of customer service and then once you get to the executive office, once she got to the executive office and there was an individual who was assigned to work with her, he followed up, he was patient on the phone, he made sure that the service manager they got her in touch with was timely in his response. He kept Karen in the loop, even if there was going to be a waiting period, he communicated that to her and what he did that was different than the first level of customer service was he empathized with the fact that we have a single mom here who has made a very large investment and she’s not saying she got anything fancy, but when you purchase a car, lease a car, that's an investment, you are putting your credit on the line and all of that. So, it's not something to be taken lightly and so because of his understanding of where she was coming from and her position and her worry and concern, he made sure that he saw it all the way through. Where on the front end, that didn't happen. Now what did he do differently than the first people who may be answered a call or answered an email? He didn't do much in the practical sense, except for the fact that he took his time to patiently understand where she was coming from and communicate in a way that made her feel like she was being heard, that her purchase was valued, her position as a customer was valued and he wanted to make sure that we found a resolution, he responded with care. So, it didn't take him much, but just the way that he was on top of it made a world of difference because she was ready to just blast this company, don't ever buy from them and that's not her character. But she felt like they did not care that we had such a major issue and it was only because, and she told him on their last call, she said, “It is only because of you and how you resolved this, that I feel satisfied.”The first three months of this process, which she didn't mention, it took a long time to get to that point, but the first three months was treacherous and because of this one person who showed compassion, who interacted with empathy and who made sure that a resolution was done in a caring way, she felt like, “Okay, I'm okay. I could come back and buy another car from them.”She knows that sounds bad because it was such a crazy, but he did resolve it with empathy.
Yanique stated, so it's more about listening to what the person is saying to you, understanding where they're coming from and why this is a pain point for them. And as you said, responding in a way that, “Oh well, no big deal.”Instead in a way that, “I understand where you're coming from and what can we do to make it better?” Because it would seem from the first level of customer service that they were more concerned about making the sale and less about providing after sales support to you.
Karen agreed and stated that it doesn't take a lot of time, it doesn't even take a lot of effort, you are on the exact same call with the exact same person and literally your tone can change, and your active listening skills can change the trajectory of that outcome. You just have to decide while you were in the midst of that, “How am I going to show up for this person? Am I going to be caring or am I going to be short and curt? Am I going to listen or am I just thinking about the next thing that I need to get done? Or Am I be grudgingly going through the motions?”Either way you have a choice and the energy level is the same.
Yanique shared, so they've lost a family member and seeing that I experienced at similar situation last year, what I looked for in people who showed compassion were people who came, they were just there, they were there to support me, it’s simple things like just coming over and sitting and talking just to have the companionship at that point in time because you don't want it to be alone because it's an experience of trauma and being alone, your mind wanders all over the place and you feel more lonely. So, you kind of just want somebody to be there and you want them to know that you want them to be there without you having to tell them, I want you to be there.
Karen agreed and stated that she’s going to ask Yanique for another example but pausing there for a second. That is another example of how it does not take much for you to just show up for somebody, does it? She remembered at my husband's funeral, Karen looked, and she saw at least 20 people from her office who were there, and that just made her feel so supported because you're right. When we go through a major loss like that, somebody close to us, somebody within our inner family, our intermediate family, then we usually go to this place of isolation in our minds because you get on this emotional rollercoaster and there's so many complex feelings, it's hard to keep up with those thoughts. So, you really feel emotionally and mentally drained and so when you have people around you, as you mentioned, they help you to stay connected to life, so you're not just completely caught up in your head, you're not isolating yourself and end up on this negative thought cycle and start spiraling downward but you have somebody who's just present. And she had somebody, her name was Jamie, she actually mentioned her in her Ted Talk because she mean this, she would just show up and just lay on the floor with her or lay in her bed or they would like walk around Target, she is one of her closest friends and she told Karen later after hearing Karen’s Ted Talk, so this was four years after this happened, but she said, “I admitted to my husband almost every night when I came home. I don't know if I'm doing enough, I don't know what else I'm supposed to do.”So, for four years as she is relishing this friendship and it anchored in her mind is something to teach other people, just show up. She didn't even realize that it had made an impact on her healing journey, it made a huge impact. So, you're right, she always tells people, we all need a Jamie. So that's good. So, the first thing is show up, be present but what's something else that you can do for a colleague?
Yanique shared that when she lost her dad last year, it was also important, and I guess that would link back to being present. To assist me with anything, low hanging fruits that would distract me or make me feel not supported.
Karen shared that the difference there is, is that what they did was they stepped in to respond to your basic needs because it could have been like handling bills, it could have been like handling other logistics that when you're in that mental fog, you don't really have the capacity to do so. And so, if you have people who you trust, who are near you, this could be different for colleagues. For colleagues showing up and responding to basic needs is like making sure you have food. Creating a food calendar or just saying, “Hey, it's okay if you need to take longer than five days.”because usually that's the bereavement period, it’s like five days for somebody in your intermediate family but they can say, “You know what? I know you have this project going on, I'll help you with that. What's your client's name? Let me step in, just give me a couple of details and I'll go into the system and I'll figure out the rest. But you don't worry about it.”That's responding to a basic need that's helping them to keep their life afloat and that is putting compassion into action.
Yanique asked, what do you think about situations when someone shares with you for example, that they had a tragedy and they’re going through grief like a death for example. And the person responds and says, I know exactly what you're going through because I find that grief is different for everyone and you may lose someone, and you respond in a different way. It impacts you in a different way and I may lose someone, and it may not impact me in that way, or it might impact me worse or less. Do you think it's a safe to say, I know exactly what you're going through? How do you know?
Karen shared that she thinks that this is another uncomfortable yet common response because it's true, it's a common response only because people feel uncomfortable and they're just kind of like, “Ah, what do I say?”And it just comes out so naturally and that's not really what they mean. They're not saying, I know exactly what you're going through because somebody has said that to her and she’s like, “Oh, your husband's been murdered. I didn't know that that happened to you.” And not to even downplay it, because some people will compare losses, they'll say, “Oh, well I went through a divorce and so I know how that feels.”Again, no, you don't know how it feels, but their heart is in the right place. So, the first thing she would say is if you're on the receiving end of that comment is to give that person a little bit of grace because at least they're trying to be there. Do not take offense to that and kind of see through their words to see their heart and their intentions and their heart and their intentions is to comfort you in the moment. But Karen’s advice to the person who wants to say that and guess what? Karen has said that to people before in a different light. And before all of this happened, before she became more aware of some of the myths that we use to comfort people. But if you are about to say that, hold your tongue real quick and then just think about saying something along these lines.
Again, “I don't know what you're going through, but I went through a situation and I know that pain is real. I know that those hard times can come in waves. I know that sometimes it can just feel really consuming and so if you feel anything that is just so painful and it feels hard for you to manage, you can come talk to me. I don't know what you're going through, but I know what pain feels like and I'm willing to just be here for you.”
It's authentic in the sense that she can relate to your pain even though she hasn’t experienced the same loss. And here's the thing, two siblings could lose the same parent and feel completely different about it. So, imagine the differences of somebody who says, “Oh, I went through a divorce too.”or “Yeah, I also had a miscarriage.”or “Oh, when my mom was sick.”We compare them but there's so many different factors that make that situation so different and unique, but at least being able to relate through the pain, Karen thinks that's the authentic place to be.
“I can't imagine what you have gone through, but I see who you are today and I see that you are a fighter, I see that you are a survivor and even if those pains are still being held with you, which I'm sure that they are, I can only imagine that they are. There is something in you that is not giving up and I admire that in you.”
That is truth. That is absolute truth. It does not diminish the pain that they have experienced, but it is uplifting them to say, I have seen that you did not give up. And I applaud you for that. But it is okay if you're still feeling and battling all of the wounds, the emotional wounds and mental wounds that you carry with you, but it's still, it uplifts them and it builds them up and that's at the end of the day, what we should be doing for each other is to build one another up so we feel safe, so we feel protected.
An example of this is, uh, one of her clients from Sprint, this gentleman is the general manager of one of their four business units, and they have been the number one team for the last 15 years straight. Fifteen years they have consistently outperformed the rest of the company and when she met him, she asked him to come onto her podcast, Invest Humanand she said, we just need to talk about what this is and he said, one word, “Kindness.”It is all about how you treat your people. Now when she goes into organizations, she breaks this down through like communication, interactions, conflict resolution, like how do we bring it into that. But it really all has to do with kindness because when you treat people well, then employees become more enthusiastic about their work and if they are enthusiastic about their work, what happens to their performance, it improves. What happens to the customer experience because of the person that they're interacting with. It’s like again a no brainer, it should be a no brainer, but she thinks what the shift that's happening is that people just kind of need permission and they need that framework because for so long we've lived in this space of kind of being robotic at work and only expecting or evaluating someone's performance and not opening up the experience, the actual employee experience.
Yanique shared that the interpersonal skills, the soft skills, showing kindness and ensuring that you exercise empathy and compassion, those are definitely characteristics and traits that as a leader will take you much further than any technical competence.
Yanique then stated, that seems to be a popular app. I've actually downloaded it on my phone, but I haven't clicked on it because things have been so busy. But I had a guest that was on our podcast and maybe two, three weeks ago and that was one of his recommendations. I find it interesting that shortly after, I'm getting the same recommendation, so that app must be really good. So, I think today I'm going to make sure I click on the app since it's on the phone and I haven't actually used it yet to see what it's all about. I have no problems falling asleep though but sometimes I do get distracted, like I'm doing something, and I start thinking about something else and I jump from one thing to the next. So, if Headspace can help me to refocus at times, that would be wonderful.
Karen stated that she thinks that it definitely, what she liked about it most was in the free version, it teaches you where some people just embark on this meditation journey and you're like, “Ah, how do I do this? I'm falling asleep. No, wait, I can't stop these thoughts.”There are so many barriers and she liked how in the free version it actually teaches you some of the techniques that are helpful.