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Episode 3: The Importance of Customer Obsession


In this episode, host Chris Thornton interviews President and Co-Founder, Cheryl Ferguson about Daggerwing’s experiences helping companies successfully put the customer at the center of their business. As part of their conversation, Chris and Cheryl discuss a recent Forrester case study on how Daggerwing strategically partnered with HP to create a culture of customer obsession that transformed their printing business. Cheryl also speaks on the idea that the convergence of data, personalization and design thinking is changing how entire companies are holistically managing customer experience design.


This transcript was automatically generated with artificial intelligence. It’s in the queue to go through a review with human eyes!

00;00;10;11 – 00;00;35;18

Hello and welcome to Change@Work, a podcast about the ever evolving world of work and the human behaviors that drive it. I’m Chris Thornton, principal here at Daggerwing Group. We’re consultants who take a slightly different approach to change and how we work with our clients. We’ll explore some of the things we’ve learned, what to do, what not to do, who we are as a team and as individuals.

00;00;35;20 – 00;00;59;03

Joining me today is Cheryl Ferguson. Cheryl, you are president, co-founder of Daggerwing. What does that mean? Well, I love that co-founder much better than president. Okay. So president, I think, is just, you know, a function of my of my age. I’m just, you know, the Grand Dam at the moment, you know, in the company. I think the thing I’m most proud of is co-founder.

00;00;59;11 – 00;01;17;20

It’s been 20 years is our 20 year anniversary. And it’s been, you know, quite a ride. And I just I cannot tell you how proud I am of what we created. And a, you know, especially this year where we just were named in the top 20 this year, we just had a forester said just we’re on fire. Yeah.

00;01;17;21 – 00;01;36;16

And I could not be more proud of where we are. So, so that’s how I think of myself, more like co-founder or and Enabler. Not that’s the title I like the best. I like it. One of the things that we do on Change@Work is we have to prove that you’re human. Yeah. Okay. And did you know that I worried about this one?

00;01;37;03 – 00;01;56;03

did you really? Yeah, it was really. I figure you can ask me any question about any work related subject. Yeah, but I’m not quite sure that I am human. So the super brains, that would be a great. Ah, you look me in the eyes. Yeah. Are you a robot? No, obviously I’m not all right. Not a robot.

00;01;56;04 – 00;02;27;16

Right. But I think that over the last month, I have been to our offices in Toronto, Singapore, London and New York. So I think the very act of being in every time zone and getting off planes makes you a very robotic person. And I find that it’s really helpful. Now, I’m going to try not to travel for a few weeks so I can really ground myself and remember what we really do and why we’re doing it as opposed to what time is my next flight and what time is my next call.

00;02;27;16 – 00;02;59;07

And so that I think is, you know, always a priority to avoid robotic. That’s one of the things that I learned early on in my career was I got so excited for my first trips, right? So excited, all geared up. And and then I remember my looking at automated leaders and she said, isn’t traveling glamorous? And this was while we were stuck together on a layover that we had missed our flight in the middle of somewhere.

00;02;59;12 – 00;03;29;21

Right. And so we’re stuck in this this airport together. And she said, isn’t traveling glamorous. So always I always remember that. All right. Well, when you now that you are home. Yes. Or at least close to home. Yes. In the Times. What do you do? What do you do to rejuvenate? So right now, a huge part of my life is that I am funding a whole rap music label sort of against my will.

00;03;29;26 – 00;03;50;16

Yeah, both my kids are really musical. Love it. And and honestly, I you know, that they are producing music all the time, not making any money on it. So it’s, you know, I seem to be funding. I love it, I love it. I don’t know anything about the music industry. And I’ve been like a momager. Yeah. And, you know, the investor behind the scenes.

00;03;50;16 – 00;04;16;01

And so a lot of my time, ironically, is really spent understanding the music industry, you know, cajoling, coaching, encouraging, supporting, enabling my kids to someday make it in music. And if they don’t, it’s still a whole lot of fun. And I’m meeting all kinds of people I would never meet in the course of my teens consulting, you know, life.

00;04;16;09 – 00;04;59;23

I One question we always ask What was your favorite age? My favorite age was my mid late thirties. Why? I had young kids and they were past the age of napping so I could take them to Harry Potter movies and we could go to museums on weekends. That was awesome. And it was the early days of staggering. When I say early, like before, we were like ten employee early and we were already starting to, you know, kick, you know, but compared to some of the other big consulting firms, it was a really, really exciting time to be entrepreneurial, to be a mom, to be in business.

00;04;59;23 – 00;05;17;04

Like all those things. It was a you know, it was not a lot of sleep, but it sure felt like having it all. It was great. So one of the things that I know we’re seeing more and more come to us, clients coming to us asking for help is how do they put the customer at the center of what they do?

00;05;17;04 – 00;05;39;15

And that seems like something that organizations should be doing naturally, but they don’t always maintain that focus on the customer. What’s your perspective? So I would say probably every CEO of every big company on the planet, you know, either says we need to put the customer at the center of our business or they believe they’ve already done it.

00;05;39;17 – 00;05;58;14

And then I would push back and say, there’s always room to do that better. And, you know, companies, they’re really struggling about what does that mean? How do you really put the customer, you know, at the center? So we’ve been at this for 20 years, 20 years ago, we work with some companies and we created what today is called the customer Journey Map.

00;05;58;14 – 00;06;22;16

We call it the Customer Bill of Rights. And so how do we help like siloed organizations, people at all levels, leaders top down, bottom up, how do we really help them take customer insights and put it into how they make decisions, how they do business? Even at times when they’re cost cutting? When it comes to cost cutting, how do they do that?

00;06;22;19 – 00;06;36;23

Well, that’s a really great thing because what you’ll see is companies will be in the middle of like a customer centric transformation and really focusing on putting the customer at the center. And then, you know, they get some bad financial results and they’re like, okay, well, we’re going to switch gears. We’re really just going to focus on efficiency.

00;06;36;28 – 00;07;00;04

And when that happens, everybody entrenches back into their silos. So what we just learned in a case study that Forrester just published with HP is that, you know what? It’s possible to be customer centric and cost cut manage costs at the same time. And I think Forrester was so fascinated by it that they did one of their rare case studies about the work that HP Enforcer did together.

00;07;00;04 – 00;07;17;21

It was great. So we’ll include a link to that case study in the show notes. So just look down at your podcast app and you’ll see a link to that case study for you to download. So not just limited to HP, but thinking about the many clients that we work with. What makes for a good customer centric transformation.

00;07;17;24 – 00;07;42;01

So there’s I’d say there’s probably, you know, three major ingredients. So number one is executive alignment. So we typically, you know, we’ll do, you know, you know, coming up with a customer journey and customer vision and getting all the executives aligned to what does that actually mean for my business? Like, what do we actually have to change to be able to, you know, deliver what the customer wants?

00;07;42;01 – 00;08;01;22

You really need that top down, right? So the second is bottom up. How do you empower and enable everyday employees every day to make sure that they’re making decisions, that they know exactly what criteria to use to make decisions? So they’re going to sell products, they’re going to save money. They’re going to be they’re always going to keep the customer in mind.

00;08;01;22 – 00;08;26;03

They’re never going to compromise the customer experience. So the third would be like a management layer in the middle, because people need to be encouraged, enabled and coached. And we’ve seen this with a lot of our examples is that you can’t just show up and say, have a town hall and say, Hey, we have a whole new customer first orientation and then say, Here’s your tools, here’s your processes, here’s a journey map, go for it.

00;08;26;08 – 00;08;49;14

This is where culture change and customer centric transformation come together. You have to have a culture of customer obsession, and you have to have what we find like a PMO or a committee or a team in the middle that works with different business groups to really sort of push them to, you know, you can solve business problems by thinking about the customer’s needs.

00;08;49;21 – 00;09;08;26

Solving customer problems is how we solve business problems. And you create this proof of concept and you have a groundswell. Yes, thank you. Because I think we can think about that. And that sounds good, but how does it actually come to life? I’ll give you an example. Some companies, they really want to say this is a process and they want to roll it out to everybody all at one time.

00;09;08;28 – 00;09;38;10

What we found with with some clients getting in small, but with HP, again, we did 202 different projects with different business groups all around the world. And you know, one by one where we’re showing them how do you use a customer journey, customer centric orientation to solve a business problem? Yeah, sell more of this product, attract more of this kind of a customer, and you get this sort of what you get is we need people to both be aware.

00;09;38;10 – 00;10;05;08

We need them to believe they believed in it. They believed that being customer centric was a path to business success, not something extra. We’re going to do an extra cost, a nice to have a platitude, right CEO puts into an end report. Well, and also I think one of the things and I want your opinion on this, but one of the things that I’ve seen more and more is that leaders are doing the best they can with what they have.

00;10;05;08 – 00;10;27;04

And when we ask them to do something new, you know, the old way used to be, here’s your PowerPoint presentation. Now you know how to behave. Go go forth and do good. And everybody’s saying, I don’t even know what this means, right? Don’t try to force change with a PowerPoint transformation. Then we started doing more engagement to really help them understand and where I see things going.

00;10;27;04 – 00;10;48;24

And I want to see if you agree or not, is that getting rolling up our sleeves and helping them start to do not doing it for them, but helping them start to implement that change in a very practical way, making it not theoretical, but making a media and now so that they can see the immediate benefit of it.

00;10;48;26 – 00;11;05;26

They get comfortable with a new way of thinking, new way of operating, and they start to see the benefit that makes it much easier for them to move forward. Are you seeing the same thing or something different? Absolutely. So it is a lot of rolling up your sleeves because people have to get to that belief stage. Yeah. And how do they do it?

00;11;05;29 – 00;11;27;08

Give you an example, right? We have a client and they wanted to compete against Apple right away. And so God bless. Exactly. So that, you know, the old way might have been, you know, to say to the ad agency, okay, you got to do a better ad than Apple. But instead we went to them and we had we worked with them and said, let’s look at the customer journey.

00;11;27;11 – 00;11;52;08

Let’s look at what customers need and what their motivations are and see if we can find vulnerabilities. And we found them and we helped them design not just marketing campaigns, but an overall experience that really let their target audience, at very least target audience, notice that this product had things that the Apple one didn’t, and they exceeded sales by 8% within three months.

00;11;52;10 – 00;12;16;00

my gosh. So now did we let that happen in a vacuum? No. Did we evangelize it and tell everybody? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Proof of concept. So we’re always working with clients. If you’re going to roll your sleeves up, pick something that not only you know, if it works, it’s great for business, but it’s also a great story that convinces the rest of the organization to get on board.

00;12;16;05 – 00;12;38;26

Because you’re right, it is more it is more work. And I think it is absolutely. Companies are already feeling like like we know that one thing that’s true is that customers are changing faster than businesses. That can be depressing and, you know, sort of, you know, take away hope. People feel like they’re on that hamster wheel and they’re never going to catch up.

00;12;38;29 – 00;12;59;26

And so we try and work with them to say, this is a way for you to stay at pace with your customers. This is a way for you to not sort of feel so crushed by the rapid pace of change of your customers so that you’re staying on par with them. Who’s the typical customer for this? And then who are you working with on a regular basis on the client side?

00;13;00;04 – 00;13;28;19

So so again, it’s almost like three levels, right? So first of all, it’s almost always a C-suite mandate to be more customer centric. Sometimes it is about sometimes it’s actually digital transformation or marketing transformation, but it’s still about putting the customer at the center of the business. So could be CEO, could be co, could be CMO. So it’s a C-suite level or it could be, you know, we’ve worked with people that are leading major divisions of like divisions of the company product wise or geographic wise.

00;13;28;19 – 00;13;57;09

So someone very senior that has the authority to sort of demand transformation. Next is a layer. We usually have a great sponsor whose job is transformation or their temporary job. They’re the sponsor, they’re charged with this. So, you know, and there may be nervous this could be a career killer. Yeah, that’s special assignment. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They are really, you know, we like I just love how they dig in and they learn change and they make it happen.

00;13;57;11 – 00;14;20;00

And the third level is we do tend to work with small teams. We work with, you know, small teams, small division, cross-functional groups, growth councils like these, you know, really at the front lines, at the grassroots level, like helping them to see it, to create proof of concepts, to, you know, implement something to make sure they feel like they are co-creating or they have the tools that they need.

00;14;20;05 – 00;14;39;20

And it’s working with all of those levels. That’s how we’ve gotten a lot of the success that we have that’s gotten recognition. And I know when we go in and do case studies for clients, they’re sort of fascinate it at how we got all these levels of the company to work together. Yeah. So as companies incorporate the customer centricity into their business, what’s next?

00;14;39;25 – 00;15;03;03

Well, you’re really seeing because of data and personalization and things that are happening in marketing, that it’s going to be transformative for the whole business, right? So I think marketing itself and we’re working on marketing transformation with a lot of really big companies and you’re going from what’s the brand, what’s the campaign to how do we think about the entire connected customer journey?

00;15;03;05 – 00;15;26;24

So, you know, customers, you know, where are they on that journey? How do we accelerate them through that journey? And that has historically been something that marketing owns, but soon the whole company owns that. Yeah, because how you develop products, how you develop your logistics, every aspect of what you do can influence every single touchpoint, how you push people through the customer journey and what that experience is.

00;15;26;26 – 00;15;55;25

Every single company has to be good at experience, design in everything they do. So the convergence of data, personalization, technology, design, thinking, all of these things that I think are really inside digital transformation and marketing transformation are business transformation and customer transformation. It’s all becoming one thing and CEOs see it, the big leaders see it. And you know, it’s our job to go in and connect all those dots.

00;15;55;26 – 00;16;13;01

Yeah. You know, one of the things that I’m seeing is marketing can’t do it alone, right? And not that they ever thought that they could, but they certainly felt like they had to be the they needed to be driving more than anyone else. And it’s certainly easier to get there faster with the whole organization coming along with you as well.

00;16;13;04 – 00;16;38;22

How are you seeing that translate into internal behaviors, internal processes? So the you know, the number one change that has to happen there is at the top is at the, you know, silo level. Yeah. So there you know, there’s only one customer. There’s only one customer. True. So you need at the C-suite level for there to be alignment on everyone’s responsibilities and accountabilities in managing the customer.

00;16;38;28 – 00;17;07;01

Because you’re right, the CMO often has far more responsibility without the authority to actually impact, you know, all the aspects that impact customer experience. So that’s changing. Marketing also has the tougher job because, you know, marketing is an all day, every day, always on thing, every single day. You have to, you know, sell the donuts. Like you cannot stop the campaigns going out the door so they don’t have time to stop and transform, which we sometimes see with other divisions.

00;17;07;08 – 00;17;34;17

They can, you know, take a couple months to do it. That’s right. Yeah. So that’s another reason why it has to be a little bit more company wide, you know, And that’s another reason why sometimes you need the people that are doing the marketing and doing the digital can’t always be the people that are doing the change. You sometimes need to create separate entities temporarily PMOS or task forces or something like that to drive it through the organization and yeah, and then hand it back to them and let them manage that internally.

00;17;34;19 – 00;18;01;29

We’ve had some really good success using that approach. No. Sheryl Chris, I work as part of your organization. We just want say thank you for creating that. Well, thank you so much for I was I was in a it was in a taxi a week ago. Okay. In Singapore, on our way to a Vietnamese dinner with one of our code one our team members.

00;18;01;29 – 00;18;23;14

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And she was telling me about how much she loves working for Natalie and I almost wanted to, to weep. So I think that is that’s the best reward. So it’s not just that we’ve created a company that the world is recognizing the best reward is that we have all these great people that want to be here and amazes me that we have all these great people that want to be here.

00;18;23;14 – 00;18;43;14

Yeah, I’m super grateful for that. Pretty great. So, you know, so that’s my after 20 years, that’s the best, best, best part of the whole thing. Thank you, Cheryl and Chris. Join us next time for Change@Work.

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Chris Thornton is a Senior Principal and member of the global leadership team at Daggerwing Group. In his role, Chris serves as a source of strategic counsel for Senior Executives with client firms, advising them on how to help clients achieve Executive alignment, transform their cultures and equip and enable people managers to lead and embed change. An expert in the people side of change with both client-side and consulting experience, Chris has worked with leading companies including Nestlé, Pfizer, and GE Aviation to do change right and make it stick. He is also an active speaker on business transformation, a driver of innovation in Daggerwing’s breadth of change consulting services, and the host of Daggerwing Group’s podcast, Change@Work. Chris and his wife were featured in the New York Times for their love of pie.
Cheryl is the CEO & Co-Founder of Daggerwing Group – taking great pride in helping clients break the cycle of change management failure to see their transformation visions realized. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has worked globally on the people side of business transformation challenges ranging from corporate customer-centricity shifts and talent strategies to enterprise-wide culture change and the introduction of new operating models. She has deep specialization in helping marketing leaders at Fortune 500 firms transform the role of marketers and modernize marketing practices and capabilities.