Aligning Customer and Employee Experience: An Interview with Bill Staikos, Medallia’s SVP of Industry Solutions

A customer and an employee talking about a product

Leading customers in times of uncertainty means businesses must recognize that customer and employee experience can create lasting value for organizations when properly managed. 

To enhance the customer and employee experience, we need first to determine what matters to customers and employees, what to prioritize, and how we can deliver more impactful value to them in the moments that matter most. It cannot just be about eliminating bad experiences, but figuring out how every interaction is linked or tied together to create more personal and positive experiences.

In this interview, Bill Staikos, Medallia’s new senior vice president of industry solutions, talks about his passion for helping organizations align customer and employee experience to create better and more cohesive experiences that drive loyalty, and ultimately, business growth. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you decide to join Medallia?

I grew up working in the service industry. My parents were small business owners. It was built into my DNA at an early age that exceptional customer experience is not only the foundation of customer loyalty and brand satisfaction but an integral part of brand commitment. But it also had to be done profitably to sustain the business.

I always knew I wanted to work with customers and help design their overall experience. I got into customer experience after reading Joe Pine’s book, The Experience Economy, in the late 1990s. 

Prior to Medallia, I worked with Freddie Mac as head of customer experience. Before that, I worked with JP Morgan as head of CX analytics & strategy for their Chase Home Lending business. I also held global positions with Credit Suisse Group AG and American Express. 

I joined Medallia for a variety of reasons: 

  • First, I was a satisfied client of theirs for five years. I always wanted to work with Medallia because they have the best people.
  • Secondly, they have the best technology, which can be democratized across the organization rather than containing it within an analytics team. There is a nuance in philosophy there that is important for me, as I have experienced first-hand the benefits of putting Medallia in the hands of operators.
  • Lastly, Medallia’s out-of-the-box integrations with key platforms like Salesforce and Adobe are best in class, which is a very important aspect of the value we provide to our clients. 

What inspired you most when you transitioned into customer experience?

When I decided to make the move, I had to ask myself: How can I contribute more? I always remember what my parents instilled in me — a mindset of constant improvement and genuinely caring for your customers. Otherwise, they won’t keep coming back if you can’t provide them with the reliable products and services customers expect.

Navigating modern customer experiences means we need to clearly understand the entire customer journey and identify whether customers have gotten off track or are at risk of not achieving their desired results. 

It is also necessary to determine whether the business outcomes or recommended solutions proposed drive better business results or achieve strategic goals.

As business partners and collaborators, we need to engage all teams and be aligned to drive successful outcomes that will result in improved brand experience, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. In other words, the more we know about our customers, the better we can successfully scale meaningful and inclusive conversation, innovate, and compete to achieve the company’s objectives.

Where are you most hoping to help Medallia drive change?

Across most organizations today, the emphasis is often on implementing change within the customer or the employee experience. Some brands do both, but this is largely on a surface level; however, customer and employee experience should never be considered separate functions. 

I want to engage our customers in this conversation by bringing these two fundamental disciplines together and having one owner for both. It is one of the top imperatives businesses must pay attention to today. 

Why should aligning customer and employee experience be a focus for the entire organization?

By bringing both customer and employee experience data together, companies can develop a more holistic view of their organization, and better understand how employees, whether customer-facing or not, are impacting the experience their customers have each day. And through data, we can validate and quantify the impact a course of action has before committing to it. 

Technology can then help us automate actions for customers and employees that help companies achieve their objectives and their customers’ objectives. Yes, we need to have a solid voice-of-customer program, and conducting surveys and collecting customer signals is part of that, but if you are not already thinking about leveraging the data better across the entire enterprise, how can you make smarter decisions? 

The most successful organizations today use automation and data to their advantage. Why? Because it is hard to be competitive in the long run without a reliable foundation and resources to back up your decision or prove them out against your long-term goals. 

What metrics do you think should measure the success of customer and employee programs or initiatives?

Metrics play an important role. The question is, how can this help the business perform better? It comes down to how you collect, interpret, and act on this data and metrics. It’s not about the metric itself. 

For example, in contact centers: Where did the journey begin? Certainly not when the customer called the agent. Did the call originate due to a poor web experience, with a person, or a physical product? Are you providing that data, in real time, to your contact center agents to best action the customer’s needs? Is the agent not versed in specific areas, or are the policies and procedures designed to limit the agent’s ability to be effective?  Those are the things I hope contact centers are looking at, not just handle time or first call resolution. 

We need to try to flip that script and look at metrics as a way that helps enhance the brand’s purpose, expands awareness, or helps solidify the brand experience. Otherwise, if you only use functionally aligned metrics as the yardstick of your business performance, the agent or customer experience will not predict the outcome you are trying to achieve. It’s important for businesses to understand how metrics are connected and how to get value from them. 

Beyond this, customer experience teams need to look at business metrics including those the executive team looks at for growth, profitability, and culture. Many times, customer experience leaders are looking at customer satisfaction or other traditional experience metrics. I would argue that the most successful teams are speaking the language of the CEO and CFO and have tied business metrics to experience metrics.

We are in the midst of a technological revolution: machine learning, bot, and artificial intelligence. How can organizations most effectively use this technology today?

The traditional way of serving customers is shifting to automation and self-service, but that doesn’t mean it will replace the human component. For example, the more sophisticated AI and bot-driven technology some contact centers use today has helped improve customer interaction and engagement. These technologies help fulfill or achieve two specific outcomes — one for agents and the other for customers.

From an agent’s perspective, the technology empowers them to do more in less time. Here are few things technology can do to improve their performance or interactions with customers:

  • Retrieve or pull up company policy quickly 
  • Real-time coaching and alerts
  • If they speak too quickly, technology can alert them to slow down
  • If they use too many negative words in their interactions with their customers, technology can capture that and alert them accordingly
  • And ultimately, it can capture customer sentiment in real time, helping agents learn how to improve the customer experience within the call

From the customer’s perspective, the company should meet their customers where they are, not where they want them to be. Some customers want an automated solution. Others want to call the contact center to resolve their issues. Yet others want both. Whatever platform customers want to engage on, businesses must be ready to provide a seamless experience across them all.

How can we consistently and proactively align customer experience’s strategic goals to achieve customer loyalty and long-term growth?

We need first to understand what is the essence and significance of a brand. A brand is a commitment that you uphold to your customers and potential customers — it is what you stand for and what you do every day. While we can promise all day, if we fail to deliver against it, it is pointless. 

For example, in the contact center, part of the brand commitment may be to deliver a differentiated service experience and help resolve customers’ inquiries on the first call. Contact center agents need to ensure that customers achieve what they called in to accomplish. There may be different policies, processes, and team goals within the organization; however, the brand experience must be well-aligned with the overall brand purpose. 

In other words, everyone should work together to deliver consistent, personalized, and proactive customer experiences on a personal and collective level. That includes breaking down department silos to meet the customer’s needs and challenges throughout their journey. 

Any last thoughts you would like to share on how organizations can drive better business value?

If you have designed the customer and employee experience well enough, then the brand value is the result of that. They are inherently linked to our brand purpose and reinforce the organizational values our customers and employees expect from us. 

How will customer and employee experience evolve in 2022? Download Medallia’s 22 Bold Predictions for the Future of Experience