Listen and subscribe to our podcast:
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by James Dodkins, who is a retired heavy metal rockstar and CX expert. His experiences touring the world ignited his passion for helping businesses show up for their customers. Tune in to learn more about what it means to have a rockstar experience!
From Rockstar to CX Expert
Being a rockstar was pretty fun for James. He toured the world, released great music, and even learned about what it means to be business and customer-minded in his career. Although his touring days are over, he still speaks and writes about how being in the heavy metal scene provided him with the tools to be able to connect with businesses and people of all types. Rockstar CX is what James is known for, as he transforms company after company into “customer fanatics.” His advice is universal and any company could greatly benefit from it, no matter the product or service it provides.
“Any industry can improve by delivering rockstar customer experiences.”
So whether you’re sales, CX, tech, or anything else, a rockstar experience starts when companies focus on the customer journey and evaluate how they interact with the brand.
The Four Steps to Customer Success
James points out four steps that always enhance CX and build lasting loyalty. They are: identify, monitor, communicate, and compensate. The first step, identify, is done successfully when data is involved. Gathering accurate customer data gives leaders the insights needed to properly monitor how customers interact with their brand. Data also helps leaders to predict customer behavior and issues before they ever occur, allowing them to solve the problems without an initial complaint. Companies that wait for a customer to complain before solving a problem, are likely to lose that customer for good and it will affect all of their peers who heard their “horror story” experience.
Communication with customers is essential to building a strong relationship between them and your brand. For example, if the power goes out, the power company would be wise to either send a message or call the customer immediately and let them know they’re working on it. This reduces customer frustration and increases customer satisfaction. The next step is to compensate for whatever loss suffered because of the issues caused by the company. It doesn’t always have to be money but could be anything that makes customers feel better about their relationship with the brand.
Customers are Humans Too
Lastly, James leaves the audience with one last note for CX leaders – to think of the customer as an individual, not just a number. When customer issues are approached with an empathetic attitude and employees are equipped with the proper tools to fulfill their wishes, things will go much smoother for both agent and customer. The journey should be painless for customers and it’s important that companies evaluate how much effort customers put in to solve their problems. James explains, “Step back from what you’re doing, try and understand who your customers are at a psychographic level not a demographic level. Care more about who someone is than what someone is.”
To learn more about delivering the ultimate rockstar experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Shredding the CX Scene with Rockstar James Dodkins
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. Today, we’re going to be talking about rockstar customer experience. I think this will be an interesting one. To do that, we brought on James Dodkins. James has got an interesting background. Now, he actually was a legitimate, real life award winning rock star playing heavy metal, released albums, jumped on stages and he uses all of this unique experience to really energize and power drive that customer experience in this idea of customer experience rockstar for his clients. So, he currently runs his own show. It’s called Founder and Customer Experience Rockstar CX. So James, really appreciate you jumping on and how are you?
James Dodkins: (00:55)
I’m very good. Thank you. Thank you for having me.Thank you for inviting me on.
Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Yeah. As we were talking pre-show, customer experience sometimes can have, I don’t want to say it’s fluffy, but it can be a little boring at times. Certainly, I think you bring a slightly different perspective to it. And so I’m excited to get into that today. Can you fill in any blanks? Tell us a little about yourself and kind of maybe your background from what I missed.
James Dodkins: (01:22)
Well, I mean, you kind of covered it all, but yes, I used to be an actual real life, legitimate award winning rockstar, but now I’m not. Now I just pretend to be a rockstar. So I released albums, toured the world, had videos on TV, was in magazines. And when that all came to an end, I did the next logical thing after being an international rock god and I joined an insurance company. And I never used to tell anybody that I had a music career because it came with baggage and I thought people would have preconceived notion. I mean, they would be probably correct preconceived notions, but I just didn’t want them to have it. So I wear my way through my corporate career, no one knowing that I used to be a rock god, but then I got really bored because I was having to pretend to be someone that I wasn’t, you know, suit and tie, briefcase, being really careful what I said, to who I said, and how I said it and how I behaved and how I presented myself. And essentially I’d created this corporate version of myself. It just wasn’t me. And it was making me miserable. Lots of things sort of converged and it hit me all at once. There was a quote from a guy called Jerry Garcia from Grateful Dead. You heard of it?
Gabe Larsen: (02:33)
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I know the band. Absolutely.
James Dodkins: (02:39)
Well, nor am I. I think that music’s kind of crap but the quote is good and it’s one that’s changed my life and who knows, maybe it may change some of your listeners’ lives too. And the quote is “Don’t be the best in the world at what you do, be the only person in the world that does what you do.” And I was like, woah. I realized all of a sudden, I’ve got this really cool past that when people did find out about it, they were fascinated by it. They wanted to know more, they thought it was really cool. I’m trying to do this thing in the world where I’m trying to increase the knowledge of customer experience and the effectiveness of customer experience and trying to spread it around the world. Why not see if I can put these two things together to help amplify, for want of a better word, that message and spread it out there. And I’m quite embarrassed. I didn’t realize it earlier, but there are so many parallels between putting on a good show to your fans and delivering a good customer experience to your customers. And literally from that point forward, I haven’t looked back. And the nice thing is about it is I don’t have to pretend to be anybody other than who I am. I’m just me being my authentic self. The dumb thing is as well, I said to my wife, I’ve got this idea, I’m going to change the company. I’m going to take us into the 21st century, I’m going to revolutionize what we’re doing. She’s like, “Oh this is exciting, Tell me.” I was like, “I’m just going to be myself.” She was like, “Eh, I don’t really like you being yourself around the house. I don’t think people are going to give you money for that.” But she was wrong.
James Dodkins: (04:14)
And here we are today.
Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
No kidding. Big change.
James Dodkins: (04:19)
So, I hit the road. I wrote a musical keynote talk, which is called “Rules for Rockstars,” which works in any industry because any industry can improve by delivering rockstar customer experiences, I play guitar in the talk, there’s tour stories and musical examples, and people seem to like it. So I’m having a great time right now.
Gabe Larsen: (04:39)
I love it and I know there’s other content that you do out there, but the live rock star keynote sounds like that might be fun to check out. So, let’s get into this idea of rockstar customer experience. Maybe you can elaborate a little bit on some of the key principles that you’ve found to really drive that “rockstar experience” that you’re talking about. Maybe start at the top.
James Dodkins: (05:02)
Well, I mean, there is no top really because for every company and in every unique situation, there would be a first place to start. But there’s various concepts that people — we try and explain and try and get people to think about when it comes to delivering a rockstar customer experience. And one of them, which we were talking about beforehand, which is proactive experience recovery or PXR. And this is the idea and practice of not waiting for complaints. It’s the practice of fixing an experience in the experience. So if I — let me give you the old sort of — I don’t know if it’s an analogy or a simile or it’s essentially a story that will put this into perspective. Let’s say that you’re in a bar, you’re walking through the bar and you walk past the person and they’re carrying four bottles of beer and you bump into them and they spill the beers. Okay. That’s the scenario. There are four ways in which you can go about dealing with that situation. And number one, which is what most companies would do in this situation is they would run away to the other side of the bar and hope that the person never comes after them.
Gabe Larsen: (06:15)
James Dodkins: (06:15)
So they’d run off and hope they never have to deal with that conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (06:19)
James Dodkins: (06:19)
The problem is the majority of the time, the person won’t come after them. And then the person’s in the corner of the bar going “I got away with it.” The problem is that person’s now telling everyone else in the bar what jerk you are. So that really does start to affect first impressions. And remember that one customer’s bad experience can quickly become thousands of potential customers, bad first impression. And number two, you run away. But that person does come after you and that person taps you on the shoulder, but then you turn around and go; “Actually, when you entered the bar, you agreed to a set of terms and conditions whereby if the bar was over an 80% occupancy rate, bear spillage was a possibility. And either way, you were carrying over the recommended load limit of beers, therefore any drink replacement liability falls on your shoulders. Thank you, bye.”
Gabe Larsen: (07:05)
That’s totally true.
James Dodkins: (07:09)
So you basically read them the terms and conditions.
Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
Yeah aw man. I’ve heard those terms and conditions before. Screw you, right?
James Dodkins: (07:16)
Well, now the guy really thinks you’re a jerk and might threaten to punch you in the face. Number three, after the guy has threatened to punch you in the face, you turn around and go, “Yeah, sorry. I was only — Yeah, of course. Of course. I’ll replace the beers. Of course I’ll replace the beers.” And he still thinks you’re a jerk because you didn’t offer to do it in the first place and he had to threaten to punch you in the face to do it. Now, that is what most companies get to when the customer kicks up enough of a fuss that you think are the business equivalent of being punched in the face. You go, “Oh, okay. Right. We’ll put it right. We’ll give you a gift basket or a voucher or something just please go away and stop talking to us.”
James Dodkins: (07:53)
Or, number four, the way we would all most likely act in real life but least slightly acting in the business world is we would immediately turn around, we would immediately apologize and we would immediately offer to replace the beers without the person having to ask. I think we need to take that mindset in business a lot more. We need to be understanding the things that cause dissatisfaction in our experiences. We need to be monitoring the experiences to notice when these things happen. We need to be communicating to the customers when these things happen that we know something has gone wrong and then we need to be putting it right. So there’s a little framework for that. Do you want to hear the little framework?
Gabe Larsen: (08:27)
Please, please, because I think this setup is awesome. Right? It kind of — that’s something, you’re right, we can all relate to. Right? We spill a drink, we’re in a bar. It’s funny, sometimes those things make so much more sense, but when we put it in business, it’s like, we just can’t replicate it. So yeah. Give us the framework of how you can think through that.
James Dodkins: (08:44)
Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s a bit of a side. That is the large majority of the work I do is coming up with stupid stories that highlight business things that make you go, “Ah!” Because in the scientific world, I’m what’s known as an idiot. So in order to understand quite complex concepts, you sometimes need to distill them down into like the simplest method of understanding possible and use stories. So, in my quest for trying to, in a vain attempt to understand these complex business issues, I’ve managed to come up with some cool little stories that help other people understand it too. But anyway, so the four step framework for only four steps, only four, is identify, monitor, communicate, compensate. You want to spend some time to identify the things in your experiences that cause dissatisfaction. You probably already got the data for this. You probably don’t really need to do very much legwork with that. So identify the things that essentially piss your customers off. Then monitor the experience in the experience, while it’s happening, during the experience. Not afterwards, but during the experience to notice when these things happen.
Gabe Larsen: (10:01)
James Dodkins: (10:02)
When you’ve noticed something has happened, it’s not good enough just to go, ” Oh, we’ve noticed something has happened.” You need to actually act on it. You need to proactively communicate to the customer to let them know that you know something has gone wrong. And many times this will be before the customer even knows something has gone wrong.
Gabe Larsen: (10:18)
James Dodkins: (10:20)
Sometimes you’re letting them know something has gone wrong that maybe they wouldn’t have even noticed who knows, but you’re doing the right thing. So you are proactively communicating to them, saying, “look, this thing has gone wrong. We know it has gone wrong and we’re running and we’re fixing.” And then, compensate. So put it right. And it doesn’t have to be a monetary compensation, but some sort of gesture goes a long way towards changing how a person feels about a particular situation, only when they don’t have to ask for it. It’s when it’s a voluntary gesture. When you’re saying, “Hey, look, I know this thing has happened. We’ve noticed this thing has happened. Don’t worry about it. We’re on it and as an apology, we’ve credited your account with X.” The deal with this is, joking aside, only 4% of dissatisfied customers will complain. And the larger majority of the rest will vote with their feet. They’ll just leave and go somewhere else. If you are only fixing problems for the 4% of people that complain you are missing a massive opportunity. So that is the essential concept of PXR, proactive experience.
Gabe Larsen: (11:23)
I like the four steps. Where do you feel like people go — I mean, you’ve talked to people a lot. Is it the identify? Is it the compensate? Where do they typically go awry on this? Is there certain places or is it just all the steps are a little difficult for companies to kind of jump onto?
James Dodkins: (11:40)
So the first two, a lot of companies already do. Okay. But it’s for the wrong reason. And they don’t take that next step. A Telco company will see that they’re not getting any coverage in a certain place, or a train company will know that their trains are going to be late or an airline will know they’re going to land late. So they monitor it and they know it’s happened. Some will communicate, but some will just sit on it. They’ll just kind of wait for the complaint. They’re like, “Well, look, if people don’t complain, then we’ll have no problem.” And that’s shortsighted at the end of the day, because like understanding that 96% of people that are dissatisfied, won’t actually complain; only taking the 4% that do complain as everyone that’s dissatisfied because surely if they were dissatisfied, they would complain. That’s a stupid way to look at it. And so a lot of companies they’ll know something has gone wrong, but they don’t want to reach out whether it’s, they’re scared of the backlash, whether they don’t want to spend the money, whether — there’s various reasons. The first two, a lot of companies already do. It’s the last two where people stumble.
Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
Yeah. Fascinating. It’s probably right. Right? I mean, a lot of people that can fix the — they can find the problem, but actually doing something about it gets a little more difficult. Okay. So I like this idea of proactive experience recovery. Got it. Four steps, PXR. Another thing you and I talked a little bit about was this idea of this team structure, like teams are not often aligned or able to — they’re not in a structure that actually enables them to be successful. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? What, what does that mean and how do you kind of go about that?
James Dodkins: (13:24)
Yeah I do. Well, I mean, this is quite a — we’re going to get deep now. So if you think of any organization in the 21st century and you think of that org chart or the fancy word OrganiGram. What shape is it?
Gabe Larsen: (13:41)
It’s always, well let’s see. It’s usually diagram. It’s higher — It’s, what is it? It’s top down.
James Dodkins: (13:47)
The CEO at the top.
Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
Top down, kind of scrolls down. What shape is that? Some sort of a top down diagram.
James Dodkins: (13:56)
It’s a triangle, essentially.
Gabe Larsen: (13:57)
That’s right. It’s a triangle. Yeah. Fair point. Yep. You got it.
James Dodkins: (14:00)
So you’ve got the CEO at the top all the way down to the lowly minions at the bottom.
Gabe Larsen: (14:05)
Yeah the losers at the bottom.
James Dodkins: (14:06)
The losers. We organize our businesses around that, that’s what we use. That’s our blueprint for how we run our business. Now, where that came from, that’s an interesting story. So there’s a guy called Adam Smith. He’s actually on the back of our British 20 pound notes. He went into a pin factory in Scotland. And when I say pin factory, that literally is what they made. They made pins for tailoring. And he was looking at what they would — he was, he was an economist. He was a social economist. And he was looking at how they did work. And he realized that their output was largely dependent on who was working on any given day and how skilled those particular individuals were. So one day you get loads of really good pin makers in. They made loads of pins. Other days you get some really crappy pin makers and you’d make hardly any pins. And he thought, wouldn’t it be a really cool idea rather than doing it this way, we actually split up the process of making the pin, train people very well to just do one part of that process and then they just get very good at doing that and see what that does. And that was the division of labor. And he wrote about it in a book called Wealth of Nations. So supposedly he increased output by 24000% by doing that. By getting a person to say, “look, your only job now is sharpening pins. Your only job now is packaging pins. Your only job now is a wire extruder”. I don’t really know all the steps of making the pins.
Gabe Larsen: (15:35)
You fooled me.
James Dodkins: (15:39)
Well, thank you. Trained everybody up just to do one specific part of the process really, really well. Don’t ask any questions about anything else you don’t need to know about anything else. All you need to do is do this one thing over and over and over again, really, really well. This was a massive departure away from traditional craftsmanship where let’s say, I don’t know, you’re making a chair that the woodsmen, the carpenter would find a tree, cut down the tree, take the tree back to the workshop, do all the things you need to do to a tree to turn it into a chair, sell the chair, service it. They would do everything. They would own the process and the experience from start to finish. And this was like the opposite of that. This was a case of the person that was sharpening the pin had no idea what else was going on because they didn’t need to. And then of course you had departments form around this. And then you had the CEO at the top. It was like the chief pin maker, the person who knew the most about making pins and they made all the really important decisions. And that essentially created the organigram, the business chart that we use today, that pyramid.
Gabe Larsen: (16:44)
James Dodkins: (16:44)
But the thing is he wrote about it in Wealth of Nations. Do you know when that was published? It’s a long shot. You probably don’t.
Gabe Larsen: (16:51)
James Dodkins: (16:55)
Gabe Larsen: (16:55)
James Dodkins: (16:57)
Yeah, so I’m not a mathematician, but that’s a long time ago. And we are still modeling our businesses today on a pin factory from Scotland back in the day. And supposedly, it was even mentioned in the declaration of independence as cited as their model for economic growth because he did pretty well. People started doing that and in the manufacturing world, when they were making stuff, it worked really, really well. But of course, things have evolved. Things are different. We are now more of a service economy than a manufacturing economy. When you try and apply a manufacturing mindset to service experiences, it just doesn’t really work. So the problem with this is it’s created an environment and a culture where the majority of people think that the customer is not their job because they look at this chart and they say, “Well, I’m nowhere near the customer.” I mean, the customer is not even on the chart, which is, that’s another conversation for another day. But they say, “Well, I’m nowhere near customer services or any customer facing things. The customer’s not my job.” We’ve created this. The thing is this chart doesn’t exist. It’s not real. It’s just a drawing on a piece of paper. It’s a collective hallucination. We’re all just agreeing it exists, but it doesn’t. If we start thinking about it, it wouldn’t exist. So every single piece of work you’ve ever done, every single software you’ve ever used, every single project you’ve ever run, every single solution you’ve ever implemented has been based on a blueprint that doesn’t exist. That’s not real. This is like the red pill moment in the matrix. I should have warned you, but it doesn’t exist. The only reason we think that way is because of the way we draw the charts. I think we need to draw the chart in a different way. I think we need to think more like a soccer team or if you want to use the correct word football. So I’m talking about, you know, the football you play with your feet.
Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
Right, right, right, right.
James Dodkins: (18:50)
So I think we need to think like a football team. And so there’s three basic questions you’ve got to ask when you start thinking like that. Who is the customer? So for a football team, soccer team, who is the customer?
Gabe Larsen: (19:03)
It’s probably the fans right? I mean, it’s the fans, isn’t it?
James Dodkins: (19:07)
Yeah the fans. So they come and watch the team play. So the experience of watching the team play, what is their successful outcome from that experience?
Gabe Larsen: (19:16)
James Dodkins: (19:17)
See the team win.
Gabe Larsen: (19:18)
James Dodkins: (19:19)
So win the game. And then the next question is, well, what do we need to measure to know whether we’ve delivered that success or not? And it’s simple, the score. So you understand, okay, this is who my customer is, this is a successful outcome, and this is how we’re going to measure the delivery of that successful outcome. Now, as a bit of an aside, you can measure many things in a football game. You can measure how many passes, how many tackles, how many yards run, how many corners, how many throw ins, anything, all right. But no analysis of that data would ever tell you whether you’ve delivered that customer success or not. The only thing that would tell you whether you’ve delivered customer successes is in the analysis of the score. It’s like a lot less when it comes to metrics, but it’s a lot more meaningful. But anyway, so, okay, we understand this now. We understand this is what we need to achieve. It’s the manager’s job in a football team to put a team together with different skills and different core competencies; strikers, midfielders, defenders, who are best suited to deliver that success, who are best suited to win the game. We don’t do that in business. We don’t say who’s the customer, what’s the successful outcome. How are we going to measure it? Okay. Let’s put a team together with different skills and different core competencies who are best to deliver that successful outcome, who are best to deliver this experience. We put all of the defenders out. We put all of the goalkeepers out. We put all of the strikers out. If you were watching a soccer game and the manager put just 11 defenders on the field, you’d be like, “hang on a second. What? That doesn’t even make any sense.” But that’s what we do in business because we’re not focusing on the successful customer outcome. We’re focusing on charts. We’re focusing on what’s easiest for us to manage rather than what is most successful for the customer.
James Dodkins: (21:07)
And the thing is we will then target people for the success of their departments rather than for the success of the customer. So imagine, right, in a football team, their target is to win the game. Yes, they have lots of other things that they have to do, and they have different skills and different core competencies. But overall, they work together as a team to win the game. But imagine if I said, okay, defenders, you’re going to get paid based on how many tackles you make. Chances are what they would do is pass the ball to the opposition strikers, to give them the best chance of getting more tackles. Well, that’s not aligned towards delivery of success. If I said to the midfielders, you’re going to get paid for how many passes you make. They’d just stand in a circle and pass to each other.
James Dodkins: (21:47)
Well, that’s not aligned to the customer’s success. Strikers, if we said to the strikers, “Hey guys, you’re going to get paid on how many shots you take.” No matter where they were on the field, as soon as they got the ball, they’d take a shot. That’s not aligned towards that delivery of customer success. What we do is we get these people together and say “Yes, there are different things you have to do, but the ultimate goal is to win the game.” We need to do that in business. We need to understand who the customer is, what their successful outcome is, how are we going to measure the delivery of it, and then put teams together, different skills and different core competencies who are best suited to deliver that success. Don’t organize by skill set, organized by ability to deliver customer success. Sorry I ranted for a little there but [inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (22:28)
No, you’re fine. I mean, I think that’s, I think you hit a couple of real powerful points, right? I mean, the Adam Smith thing is fascinating. But whatever it is, I mean, ultimately we’ve been focusing on stuff that is not customer driven. It’s skills driven or cost driven or structure driven. And then we question why that structure doesn’t deliver the outcomes we want. Well, we didn’t organize it that way. We didn’t define the outcomes and then build around that. And so, wow. That one may take, to really build and design a function around customer experience rather than traditional concepts of structure and org charts and things like that. I don’t think we’re ready for that, man. I mean, that would take some time. I mean, there’s some modern companies who have really, I think, built their whole company around the customer experience. There’s some older companies like Disney, it’s all about that journey. But, you’re right a lot of us are probably still operating in 1776. Interesting. Well, James, it sounds like there’s probably another thousand things we could talk about, but let’s wrap for the moment we might have to bring you back on. In summary as you think about “rockstar experience,” what would you leave for the group as people try to kind of up-level themselves and get a little bit more proud, a little better in what they do as far as delivering that type of quote unquote “rockstar experience?”
James Dodkins: (23:56)
Well, again, I’d just say step back from what you’re doing, try and understand who your customers are at a psychographic level not a demographic level. Care more about who someone is than what someone is, understand what their successful outcome is, understand how you’re going to measure the delivery of it, and then align everything you’re doing towards the delivery of these successful outcomes for your customers at a simple level. If you can start doing that, you’re going to be miles ahead of your competitors.
Gabe Larsen: (24:20)
Yeah. Yeah. Amen man. Amen. If someone wants to get a hold of you, learn a little bit more about rockstar customer experience, where do they go?
James Dodkins: (24:27)
Go to Jamesdodkins.com. J-A-M-E-S D-O-D-K-I-N-S.com. That’s weird, I never usually have to spell my first name. It’s usually, like when you’re on the phone, like signing up for something, you gotta spell your last name. I don’t usually have to spell my first —
Gabe Larsen: (24:45)
Yeah, James Dodkins.
James Dodkins: (24:46)
[inaudible] J A M E S D O D K I N S.com. Go there, you can find out some information about my musical keynote. If you’ve got an event coming up that you would like to be unforgettable, then hit me up.
Gabe Larsen: (24:58)
I love it and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So James, thanks again for joining. For the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.
James Dodkins: (25:06)
You too, my dude. Thank you for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
Exit Voice: (25:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.