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Client Experience with H&R Block: Collecting Data, Equipping the Front Line, & Getting Buy-In From All Departments

Blog by Ian Luck
November 16, 2022

Delivering a quality client experience is critical to every organization’s success. And yet, client experience is not often at the forefront of company culture or strategy. The result? Missed opportunities to reduce churn, increase referral marketing, and most importantly, generate a better bottom line.

Why do so many organizations fail to create an excellent, empathy-centered experience for their clients? In many cases, companies are missing out on valuable data collection that can help them understand their client base better. They may also fail to equip their frontline associates to deliver a great client experience. Finally, they don’t get buy-in across all departments, so that client experience remains siloed and ineffective.

This week on the Account Experience Podcast, we sat down with a company that’s doing client experience right–H&R Block, a longstanding client of CustomerGauge.

Client Experience Lives in Every Department

In practice, nearly every department–not just marketing–touches client experience.

Finance, for example, determines pricing–a key part of the client journey. Products and services determine how to meet the needs and desires of clients. Operations helps ensure that frontline associates are trained to deliver great client experience. The DIY team helps create an effective UX for clients. And finally, marketing takes the lead in brand management, helping to determine how clients view the overall organization.

The bottom line? To be effective, client experience can’t remain siloed in one department.

“It doesn't make sense for us to control everything,” says Vice President of Marketing Hilary Zaharko. “We just want to make sure that we're responsible for reporting results and helping create a master plan to guide those different departments and what they should be focusing in on.”

Collecting Data: The Driving Force Behind Effective Client Experience

To better serve clients, companies must understand what they actually respond to, what they need, and why they choose to stay or leave. That’s why collecting data is so critical to developing an effective strategy for delivering great client experience. Numbers-backed insight into satisfaction rates–such as with Net Promoter Score–can help organizations deliver a better, more targeted experience to clients.

H&R Block primarily relies on data from CustomerGauge’s Account Experience program to a) develop weekly “scorecards” for leaders, and b) create targeted email campaigns to Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. These email campaigns not only build relationships with clients, but also offer an additional opportunity for them to provide specific feedback directly to Client Experience Manager Carla Justino.

The Client Experience Council: Impacting Company Culture

To be effective, client experience must be at the forefront of company culture. Again, it can’t live in a single department, or be the responsibility of a handful of leaders or employees.

The Client Experience Council at H&R Block is a key part of making sure that client experience is discussed and valued across all departments. Including tax associates, customer service leads, frontline workers, regional directors, and vice-presidents, the Council brings together key players from across the company to share best practices and discuss potential improvements.

But one of the greatest outcomes of the Council has been a stronger emphasis on client experience overall. “There's a real awareness and passion for client experience now,” explains Carla. “It’s now on the forefront of everybody’s mind.”

Back to the Frontlines: Communicating Client Feedback to Associates

At the end of the day, the people who are really going to drive great client experience are the frontline associates working face to face with clients. It’s critical to have a strategy in place for actually relaying client feedback back to the frontlines, where employees can make actionable changes based on concrete data.

With a seasonal surge of thousands of frontline employees, H&R Block needs to be prepared pre-tax season to equip its employees with client insights. Using Account Experience’s text analytics along with manual search, Carla identified 12 common areas of improvement for client experience. She then communicated these insights to frontline employees through short, engaging videos featuring Carla herself–a fun, simple way to influence powerful change.

One example of training frontline associates on client experience is using simple analogies to convey critical concepts, like how to quote pricing.

To tackle this particular topic, Carla used the analogy of an oil change. When you take your car in for an oil change, the serviceperson might quote a baseline price of $60, and then ask you if you’d like additional services done to your car. At the end of the process, you may be paying $120–twice the original quote–but you’ll leave knowing that you received great value. Likewise, associates at H&R Block can utilize this same method to quote pricing to clients, helping them to understand added value and walk away satisfied.

Strategizing for Long-Term Impact

To truly take root, client experience requires a long-term vision and strategy that can be shared and implemented across departments. As mentioned above, buy-in is key–especially when it comes to demonstrating the impact of client experience on the bottom line.

That’s why H&R Block is committed to a three-year strategic plan to create ongoing, cross-organizational education and discussion of client experience. That includes holding “block talks” to keep specific departments keyed into what’s going on with client experience and sharing scorecards (as mentioned above) that reflect customer satisfaction and feedback.

The end goal? Create normalcy–and company-wide conversations–around client experience.

Want to hear more on how to make client experience a core value at your organization? Download Episode 24 of The Account Experience Podcast–Committing to CX at All Levels of the Organization with H&R Block.

H&R Block- Benchmarks Report

Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Account Experience Podcast. And today we have a couple of special guests. Yes, couple as in two plus Cary my co-host Cary T. Self say hello, Cary.


Hello everybody.


And today we welcome Carla Justino, she's the Client Experience Manager at H&R Block. And Hilary Zaharko Vice President of Marketing at H&R Block. Welcome ladies.


Thank you.

Glad to be here.


So we're really excited to have you on you guys have been a client full disclosure of customer gauge for a couple of years now and you guys are doing some amazing things in your program. And Carrie, I know you're a huge fan of H&R Block so we're excited about this one.


Every time I hear these two speak and the story and what they're doing, get really excited. So having both of you on today I think we've all been looking forward to this and look I wanna cut to the chase no faster and get it out of the way. 'Cause I think it's the obvious question that everyone's gonna be thinking in their head taxes really. I mean, I think that rings in the list of not so exciting things that we do, but I wanted to raise the question when he and I were pairing there was the first question that came to us. What are you guys doing with your experience program that is making this more enjoyable or better for your clients? What's the differentiator with your program?

Well, I don't know if enjoyable is a great association of taxes, but I will tell you that we certainly try to make our client experience as comfortable as possible for our clients. So one of the incentives we offer our clients during this time is cash back. So we think that that brings our clients in through our doors and there it's an incentive to get them to do taxes. And of course our staff is a huge our tax associates and experts are a huge part of this. They offer a positive experience and empathetic one to our clients. And I think that plays a huge role in our mind journey.


I, as someone who's had to do this process multiple times in my life, I'll tell you. You always thought you didn't have options. and I think we're all starting to realize there's a lot more competition and options out there. And the differentiator is how I feel when I'm in the middle of it. And when I'm done with it. And again, I'm excited about spending some time with you guys today and digging intel deeper.

Same with us, Cary. Thank you.


I'm actually a H&R Block customer. So I can definitely attest to getting my taxes done in the the H&R Block franchise or the actual locations. And it is as painless as possible for getting your taxes done. So I do wanna give you guys props and taking a step back. So Hilary, let's start with you. So you're VP of marketing at H&R Block. I'm a marketer aspiring to get there as well. So how does the experience program went in the marketing department? So this is one thing that we've always discussed in the show, where should it live? Who owns it? And you own it as a marketer. So I'm really curious, how do you come to own the experience program?

Well, I think it is a great question because where should it go? I don't have oversight or I don't oversee the frontline and our company that belongs in operations. So does clinic experience belong in the operations? We've talked about that. I don't oversee finance, thank God but they oversee all of our pricing which is a big part of our client experience. I don't oversee products and services, but the products and services that we offer play a big role in client experience. So what I do play a large role in though is, our brand and brand management and making sure that that experience is cohesive from the ads you see to the experience you have when you walk through the door. So I believe that's why a lot of people have it aligned under marketing. The other thing is that operations will tell you that the client focused and they are but they are really focused on the tax associates and the associate experience and clients are sort of secondary, which makes sense. They have thousands of employees. So marketing is a bit more removed from that and can be a bit more objective about the client experience and say, this is what we're seeing. This is what needs to be worked on. And let's not worry about somebody who's working too long or too many hours to deliver that. Then operations comes in with that perspective and you've sort of battle it out and you come to probably the right conclusion.


It's really interesting. I mean, so you're working hand in hand with operations. It sounds like to implement the program in certain areas of the business.

You have to.


Are there any other departments that kind of the experience program does kind of spill into obviously the front line but anything else that kinda comes to mind as far as you guys running this experience program?

Well, like I mentioned, finance runs pricing which is a big part of client experience products and services have their various products and how the client experiences through those. Our DIY team has a lot of UX, so how the user experiences through that. So it almost touches every single department and that's something that Carla and I are very aware of and think is important. We don't actually want to control everything. It doesn't make sense for us to control everything. We just want to make sure that we're responsible for reporting results and helping create a master plan to sort of guide those different departments and what they should be focusing in on.


I love that perspective of it too. And the fact that it touches all departments that's something that, again, a lot of companies struggle with that. I think it should be put into one or two and stay there, stay in your lane I've heard recently, it's like no all lanes which is great. So Carla, in the spirit of the same question then as being that client experience manager and being a little bit closer to the day-to-day operations, what does your role look like? What does that mean to do that day-to-day?

Well, I'm definitely the voice of the customer for the organization. I know Carrie you, and I've had conversations where I think the passion that I have and Hilary knows this too. I bring passion and empathy and I've been a client of H&R Block for over 23 years. So I get it. Like, I know what it's like to be a customer and be on the other side, but I'm really the bridge. I bridge that gap between the customer and the brand. And a lot of my job is really collecting data. So by collecting that data I can then share the trends and insights and also working with cross sections of the business as Hilary was just saying. So it's my job to really whether it's product or services or learning or training it's my role to really take that data and find those trends and contentious points that our clients share with us and really deliver it to our operational units or business units to see where we can improve where we can improve there. So it's really making recommendations back to the business to say, hey our clients who are saying this, maybe we can do this. And I don't tell them how to do it. I just share the insights and the leaders will run with the execution of it. But really my job is really the just bridging that gap client to business. And I have a lot of fun with it actually.


I'm glad you brought up the passion part as somebody who's had the same role and knows it sometimes passion is what gets you to the next day. You gotta lock onto what's important and share that. So it's interesting. I know we're gonna dive into a little bit deeper and talk about your program, but, what vehicles are you using? You're talking about that voice of the customer and collecting that data and getting that information back. But I'm curious, is there any vehicles or is there any ways you're delivering this message back to the frontline to the offices that they can help their clients outlet.

So, when we talk about how do we fulfill that strategy to our business we. So what I've done is I collect by collecting my data. I create weekly scorecards for our leaders. So that's from customer gauge primarily because that's where we get the majority of our insights from. I also do a scorecard with Google Insights and with our call centers. So I take a collection of all that data and I show year to year trends. I show week over week trends as well. And with that program that's offered by customer gauge. I've also developed an email campaign to our clients. So we've taken the promoters the passives and the detractors. And we hear what they're saying. We want them to know that we're listening to them. And by doing that, I've developed this email campaign where we send a blast of emails to our promoters to say, hey, thanks we appreciate this. And this is what we're doing. I do the same with our passives and our detractors. So this is something new that we've done with the drivers or the opportunity drivers we see from customer gauge and where we can take that to another level. And another thing I really wanna mention is we have a client experience council within H&R Block. And within the council we have tax associates, we have tax pros. We have, the customer service leads where the receptionist's at which is I call it. and I know Carrie, you and I've had this discussion but they're the face of our brand. So we have frontline workers, we have leaders we have regional directors, we have, vice-presidents like Hilary on the board and are on the council. And what we do is we share best practice but it's my role to go into that client experience meeting that I lead with all of the opportunities that we have within our business to make improvements. So that's really what I do is I capitalize on that data that I get and those are vehicles that take us to the place we're trying to get.


And I think just, you mentioned you sent out an email, which is actually coincidentally the thing that we saw a customer gig and we're like Oh my God, this is so well done. It had a picture of you. I had the logo, it was a really tastefully done and put a human face to the mechanism of feedback from your clients. And I think that's, it was just such a good example of giving, your customers an update on the feedback that they gave at which was really cool.

And actually just to add to that further this email comes directly from myself. So the clients have the opportunity to reach right back out. And I've had a few responses coming through. It's not outrageous the amount of responses but we started small because we didn't want to send this email out to thousands and thousands of customers. And then that would be my entire role as responding back to these clients. So we started small, we started with a couple hundred for each sentiment. And the open rate was well over 65%. So we know the clients who are opening the emails.


That's crazy. And Hilary just taking a step back here, what has, like what kind of impact has this had on H&R Block? I mean, it sounds like you guys are doing some amazing things. You're collecting feedback, you're monitoring the brand. What's been the impact.

Well, I think from a culture point of view the impact has been that it's actually on the forefront of a lot of people's minds. So now that there's, it's being measured that there's a plan for it that we have somebody in the role of client experience that we have the client experience council which almost every department at our head office, as well as all the field members that Carla mentioned sit on, there's a real awareness and passion for it. Excuse me. So as part of our culture I feel like it's moved much more top of mind. People ask the question now or don't feel threatened when the question is asked, well how is this going to impact the client? I know this benefits our bottom line but how's it gonna impact the client? And then, we have to sort of rethink about it from, well this won't actually get good client experience. Maybe we need to do some more work on this. So I would say that's been the biggest impact I will share though is definitely still a journey. And it is not like everyone comes to the table and they're like, how are we gonna make our client's lives better every single day? There still is a little bit of tension there and a little bit of put some takes, but it is much better than it ever has been.


Everyone's not bought in, come on now.

No, it's not everyone's bought in, it's just rubber hits the road it get a little more bought out sometimes.


Even in our own organization this is what we talk about. And there's this, I liked what you said also about just taking the focus off the bottom line and getting it back to the client. And that's really hard for a lot of organizations especially when you have shareholders or you have investors or you have, you're so worried about the adherence and the profitability of an organization. Everyone's always looking at bad, "did we make money?" And I think people forget that where that money is coming from and who we should be serving. And I just find this a fascinating, 'cause it's again I'll go back to my first question, like taxes we gotta do them. it's like, let's just hope someone does a good job. I'm not in trouble six months down and get a letter from the government but you guys are taking a step further and it's really sad. And you're like, how do you want this to walk? And we hear you and we wanna respond. I mean, Ian's right. That email that came through and we saw Carlos example we're all kind of like, that's brave. That's not even a good idea. That's brave to go back and do that. And I think that's kind of one of those operational things that you have put in place that we just don't, we were still buzzing and talking about now we're showing that the other like, hey, just let me just tell you what one of our customers is doing. You should do something like that. And It's like you deliver out there. And it sounds simple in theory, but I think it's a very brave thing that you guys have done with that. And, so let me ask this question for you. How do you then bring that back to the offices? So here you have this program where you you've heard sentiment, people are giving you feedback. You've put out this email says, we've heard you thank you or this is what we're working on. Reach out to me if you want then how do you bring that back into those offices? To that, to that person who's sitting there filing my taxes tonight when I sit down with them?

So I wanna start off to say, we have thousands of frat wine employees, thousands across the country. And this is during tax season because we are a seasonal business. We are open year round and we do have a lot of regular tax associates but we also have a surge in our volumes obviously and we need to staff up accordingly. So it's not always easy to deliver a message to our associates when they're starting tax season. So tax season is from February to April in a normal tax season. So when these frontline these poor associates start they're being fed information through a fire hose and we don't want to choke them with all this information. And so what we do is we start pre-season. So before that surge or that rush we already start to deliver what those trends were or what they are, what our clients have been saying about the previous tax season. And we collect all that information beforehand. One of the great things we did with some of the client information we received or client insights we received last season, we, I went through all the great text analytics that customer gauge offers. I used that platform but I use also used manual search of client comments. And the drivers also helped support this. But what I did is I identify the 12 areas of improvement where our clients were saying almost the exact same thing. So I took what those 12, what those 12 items were. So what I did is I created videos. So I created 12 tip videos that we call them client experience videos. And they're 90 to two minutes long. And it's just me talking like this. as you see me on the screen, and I'm talking about this is what our clients are telling us and this is what we can do to improve the experience. So we're delivering one tax tip video per week every Monday morning the associates get it. Our open rate for that is been extraordinary. It's been impressive to see how the engagement thus far this Monday, I delivered the second video but we also created a PDF version of that tip. So if someone isn't able to listen to it at least they can print it off and put it on their desk. And basically they're very soft skills. How do we communicate with our clients, the welcoming into our business. So we really took those opportunities and we turn them into something engaging for associates out in the field. And we feel that it's not always easy to force change but we can certainly influence it and encourage it. So I decided to use my charisma and do these videos to influence what the associates, how they feel about that experience. And just turn it around a little bit. So we don't know what the results of those videos are just yet, but we hope to see a trend in in our drivers, our contribution to the NPS score. And obviously in the comments we see from the field, so.


I'm glad you brought that up. We're gonna play that clip now. No, I'm kidding.

I do think I good thing that Carla does is for instance, if it's around pricing, like, we have training that says make sure you always quote the client upfront. And I think that's a good piece of training, but let's get into the nuances of how do you deliver that in a way that's a much better client experience. So she has an analogy that she uses about when you go to the mechanic and the mechanic says, okay it's gonna cost you 60 bucks through oil change. And then they go into your car and they say, "do you want me to check your air filter? Do you want me to do this? Do you want me to top up your windshield wiper fluid? Do you wanna do this? Do you wanna do that?" And so it you say yes, and you're feeling like, you're getting all these additional things that they're doing. 'Cause they're telling you what they're doing. And at the end they go over everything that they did. Here's what I did for you. I've improved your car XYZ. And now your bill is $120, which is not the 60 you were quoted, but you were upsold the whole way and you feel really good about how much care you had put into it. So really kind of breaking it down and using analogies that some of our tax associates understand, and then how do they can deliver the same type of price quote. That's just one example. But I think that that's what she's done a really good job of.


This reminds me of a, we just talked to ZoomInfo a couple of weeks ago and the episode name was training to retaining. And I love your example because it takes feedback directly from customers and you guys are forming a training program around that feedback to hopefully impact the drivers which is it's just so well done. Again, I wanna compliment you guys that is hard to do, especially for a company of H&R Block candidate size, but it's, I know it's gonna have an impact because training and I'm sure Carrie's gonna pipe in here. Training is one of the most impactful things you can do at an organization especially when you have a ton of frontline employees. Carrie, what are your thoughts on that?


Well, and I have actually seen a couple of these. I did get a peek at it, and it's just so inspirational because as someone who's A done it but B trying to help other companies find channels. And I think we always think we have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to impact change and really what Carla has done so beautifully here is she's put herself on a two minute video. And I know I made that sound a lot easier than it was Carla. So I don't wanna understand how much, how hard of work it was but she took real feedback from real drivers. She ranked them and said, "these are the things that can make enough of a difference that can help our business." And it might not make the difference the first time they come in, maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But that they'll leave with that in their mind. They'll know there's no other place to build next year or let's say, do get a run into an issue in September. And I need extra help. I remembered the help I got there and I'll come back to that. And it's a things that I think a lot of companies just assume we're just hiring good people. They should know how to do this already. They should know how to do this. And your customers are screaming. They're not doing this. And it's just really refreshing to have someone who gets on who's excited and passionate about it and delivers real advice that I can apply immediately to. Got this vision. No offense marketers on this podcast but it's not this long term mission or goal. It's right now I can grab my head around it and do something with that. And that's why I love it so much.

Starbucks does a great job of that. They really train down to the nuances of the customer experience and how to do that. They do a wonderful job with that. Anyone who is found to get a vanilla latte in the morning and you feel you're greeted, it's enthusiastic. I worked at Starbucks when I was much younger. And they, that was drilled into you. Didn't feel like greeting you're still like, "hi, how's it going?"


There's a joke in the Northeast about like the difference between going to a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts where literally Starbucks is like, "Hey good morning, here's your coffee?" And Dunkin donuts is like, "what do you want again? Like."

Why are you here?


It's like the complete opposite, but it makes a difference. It really, really does. And when you take that seriously people remember the feeling you give them when they enter your store or you know what I mean? It's impact.

That's so much about clinic experience. There are, I think we try from our perspective to take things that are tangible but you're really trying to teach and train on intangible things. And so how you make those actionable is where the work is and it doesn't work for everyone and it's not a perfect system but I think at least you can say, well, we got 80% of people improving at the other 20% are just grumpy.

And one of the things that I do wanna all those 12 tips are soft skills and we don't talk about, selling products or we don't talk about a process in itself. We talk about the human soft skills. And I think the experience is so emotional for a lot of people, especially with taxes, they could owe a lot of money. They could get a lot of money back in. It's how we make them feel. And I think we really wanted to communicate the importance of the human feeling of it, and unfortunately for me by fault empathy is very, it's strong for me. And I'm sensitive to that, but I think just infusing a little bit of that into the client experience. And that's what those tips are about is, how do we make someone feel important and taken care of? And it's not just about a transaction and this is where Hilary is grand. She says, "it's not about the transaction." We need to transform that experience. And that's part of our strategy is to actually transform it. And I think it's so important to say, for all of the years I've been in client experiences we need to infuse that soft skill and that empathy and that passion in our experiences in our journey with our client. And I think if we remove that empathy out we see terrible results and it's about, taking the kindness and the humane side of things back into that experience. And that's what excites me is trying to infuse that within the business recommendations that we do have. And that's what the 12 tips are. It's very much the soft skills of it.


I know you guys said you just started I didn't wanna bring this up 'cause I do have a little bit of insight information here but you might not have been able to see the impact yet on let's say surveys or sales or statistics but you have started to get some feedback. Is that right Carla? It's like, you've got some responses from what you sent out already from what I heard?

So we've, I've received associates I've had several associates respond to me. I've had some leaders out in the field, good or bad. They're sharing some information more good than bad but I'm getting some great feedback. And these tax experts they're saying, "Hey I watched your video. This is great. Can you add this tip in for the next round of tips, right?" And it's like, and they're great ideas. Like it's generating a lot of conversation. I think it's something new for the organization and I love the engagement good or bad. Like I do like it. Like I think it's a good place to start. And I think if we can make that part of the culture where we can share these great ideas and then share them abroad, like it's a great idea.


I think visibility was two in the organization. So creating buy-in for the program internally and just going back to the marketing piece and having the experience program live under marketing usually marketers, not to toot our own horns but are some of the better ones that internal marketing because we have to do that. We have to spread the, what we're sending out for campaigns and what we're doing and all that stuff. So, I mean it is really interesting that we have both of you on the call because I feel like between Hilary and as the VP of marketing and Carla you're the experience manager running the day-to-day you can spread your reach of that program pretty far in that tip example you just gave is a great way of kind of making sure everybody knows these are the tips that we get or do you, and do you call it the fact that it's directly from customer feedback? 'Cause that's really interesting too or is it?

We do.


It's really cool.

No and I think it's important for tax associates to know that, it's just not us sitting in an ivory tower coming up. This is really the voice of the client and what they are saying about us. And it's not all bad. In fact, our top four drivers that we are seeking to improve are also the ones that when we do well are the ones that we just excel at. So sometimes it's doing just more of what we're good at.. It's not always correcting behavior. Sometimes it's just doubling down on what's working.


Absolutely and that's I think where you see the real impacts on the business too if you're double down on what you're good at you usually do see a big jump in, your bottom line because that's what your strong at that has a huge impact. So Carrie, just back to the video tip, this is I would say one of the better best practices we've seen from podcasts guests. Would you not agree with that?


No, again I don't wanna undersell the work that went into it but the simplicity of saying, we're getting this feedback here. Here's a tip around that. It kind is full circle. It's literally dropping that voice of that customer into someone's lab where they can make a change or to celebrate something they're already good at. I think some of these people read this and go, "well I'm already doing that and it works." So Carla is talking about it. And I think it's a double down but I think it's practical. It's something that anyone could do. Listen, four of us are on cameras right now. It's something that's very real time that we can do it. Doesn't have to have a super high production quality although Carla's did, but we can deliver these.

We're also a second home. So this is the only way we can get it done. No other options.


Exactly, but they connected. And I think...

For sure.


It works like, and I think people get frozen in their tracks because they think it's either a lot of money a lot of effort or people will receive it. And I think it's the opposite. I think you have an army of people out there who believe in that vision and what you guys are working on. So I think the front is the easiest group to actually impact. And buy into, I think it's the department sometimes that we work horizontally from our peers we're getting buy in from them sometimes a little 'cause they're on their track and we're on our traps. And I guess that's the transition. I mean, that's the question I've really love to ask. I don't wanna throw any departments out of the blast sparing thing, but I mean how are you using your program to impact sideways and these other departments. Is there some things Hilary that you're doing to say, "look I wanna share this with you. share this with you, here's some insights." What does that look like at your level?

So I think one of the things that helps with understanding right from the beginning is there is someone as I mentioned from almost each department on our client experience council. So then they're playing, an important role in the company, part of their sort of job description for that those couple of years that they're on it. And they're coming to meetings and seeing firsthand, what are we talking about? Why is this important and getting that feedback. They're also listening then to tax associates to the front front desk workers, to the franchisees and they're hearing directly from them about, well that's not gonna work because of this. So I think that that awareness building helps right away. The second thing is, is that Carla and I wrote a three-year strategic plan of how we want to help transform client experience in our organization. And we shared that with the executive team and then we built it in step with operations and then so making sure they were on board before we started sharing it around. And then we shared it with the executive team as I mentioned, and then Carla did what we call block talks. So they're about an hour, every six weeks at a different person from different departments goes on and talks about to wide audience about what they're working on. And so she shared her strategy on that as well. And it's not a one and done I wish I could tell you, we shared that last year. You don't remember, it's not. It's an ongoing education with various departments as to what we're doing and the impact that is having. And then Carla had really mentioned she does the scorecard and she shares that out with various departments who are, impacted maybe less regularly with some of the programs that we have, because we might take three months till we get enough feedback that warrants a scorecard on some of those programs. But with the operations team that goes out every single week, it goes, president is CC'd on it. So he sees that. So it's really those three areas kind of help just create a normalcy around client experience to have those conversations.


I think, Ian brought up the tips being a really great piece of feedback for people to take and use, but this council idea and it's even gives us more vocabulary. We're constantly saying, now what are you gonna do with all that feedback? How are you gonna to get it to everyone in the organization? And when I heard you guys talk about this last year and the council and just who's represented above it what a way to bring everybody literally together, share that message and then talk about things. So let me ask this, is this like a guiding counselor? Do they make big business decisions? Do they go back to your departments? Say you're trying to roll something out. Are they like your...

They're a guiding council for sure.


Guiding council, okay.

It's funny because sometimes we've had a couple of people who've been on the council for it's been around for about three years. So we thought sometimes there's a little bit of apathy and we thought, you know what we're gonna shake it up because we've had some of these people for a while and we need some fresh blood on this council to make sure that A people have an opportunity to rotate through sort of a prestigious council in our company and B we get fresh ideas. And so Carla sent out like, "Hey guys, a couple of you" individually, she did it very in a very lovely Carla way and let them know that did they wanna kind of stay on because they've been on for quite a while and maybe it was time for something new. And again, she said it much nicer than I did. People were really upset. They were like, "I need at least a year's notice before I can leave this council." Like, I love this. Like, it's great. So we're like, okay. People really love it. All right, we just, we are gonna set some terms but we'll do it more officially. And we'll give you a 12 month notice. This is your last term.


You just picked her because you go to ask anyone for extra time or extra advert there they're resistant. And then on top of that, it's like I've heard it got my own job and whatever the case may be, it's like and you have the complete opposite happening here. It's just kind of like, "no, I don't wanna give this up. Are you kidding me?" I love it.

It's a soup. It's really engaging. And it's a great meeting. Like I feel a lot of energy in there and there's one thing we all have in common. And that's the passion for the client's journey, like there isn't anybody on that council. I think we're up to 18 people, Hilary. I think it's about 18. And each one of them represents a different business unit and level, right? So we get everyone's insight and I we cannot make decisions without those key players. And I think everyone just loves the energy of it and they can actually be part of making a decision or running a pilot or a market test. We need everybody's insights or it's not gonna work.


What a great way to get buy-in. I mean, that's genius. It definitely, you could see how you can get that feedback in, go to the council and kind of impact the overall departments. I think that's a great way to do it for sure.

It's working so far so.


So let's look to the future, right? So you guys have been doing this program for a couple of years now. You're getting amazing feedback. You're taking that feedback, creating the training videos, doing a bunch of different things to not only impact the front line, but the business itself. Where do you guys wanna go with this in the next couple of years?

So we and Carrie already knows this because we've already started conversations about the benefits of closing the loop. And we all know being in client experience the number one or the golden rule, they say if you're gonna ask the client you better be prepared to do something about it. And I just feel the volume of responses that we do get from our clients. It's what we really struggle with right now is closing the loop with every single client at the volumes that we do see. And we just really wanna understand what that benefit looks like. If we do close the loop how is that gonna affect our top? Our profits, our retention, our loyalty. There's so many things we really wanna look at and that's part of it. So I will say this on this podcast if anyone who's listening can tell me their success stories on closing the loop, please reach out. But I really, we already do close the loop with Google. So all of those reviews are responded to we're starting to see our peak. I personally respond to those Google reviews and, we have some method to the madness on how we manage it. But, we have seen an increase in our Google ratings as well. So we wanna see where that takes us. Our NPS is on the opposite as well. I think we already had a really good NPS to start with. So there's some really good things. We also wanna create a client experience playbook and that's one of the things we are working on and it's part of our strategy, but it's really a tool we need to have for our field leaders to say, Hey if you see this in the field or you see these trends or the client is saying this or your results are this, here's the next step. Here's what we're gonna do to help you. And we wanna offer all these resources and tools to our frontline associates leaders and our district managers to be able to have the tools at their fingertips to be able to support some of the decisions they make out there and just to handle some performance management or whatever that looks like. But it's a tool we feel is gonna empower the field as well. So really two things is closing the loop and the the client experience playbook. Those are the two things we really wanna work on moving forward.

Okay, and Carla's right. Looking at closing the loop, which from a theoretical point of view is an absolutely wonderful thing to do. But if we ask our district managers to go in and close thousands and thousands of tickets, what is the benefit? So does that mean that they spent all that time and energy? And so their retention went up? Well, wonderful that makes sense. What happens if they went in and did all of that and nothing happened, clients didn't care, clients never saw the feedback. So that's where we're wrestling with is, what is it theoretically an excellent idea. How does that, what is the practical application of that? Before we go and ask people to undertake a lot of work because we have our NPS is. Like our Google reviews are much more manageable. Our NPS, we have hundreds of thousands.


I'm saying this from a genuine place though. There's two people who can configure that out and show the value. I think it's you too and think about what you've already done in three years. I mean, the build-out of, getting that counsel in place, tips to the field you already have a semi-closed loop in the email that you're putting out there. So, I mean, you already starting to take some of those steps and you're seeing some of those results. And I think continuing to make those connections I think you guys know what you need to do now. It's waiting for tax season to end so you can start doing them. But you're getting over that little hump. But again, I'm just love hearing your story and it's because it's one of these industries where we think why is service important? Why is the experience important? How does it impact the bottom line? And I think you guys are connecting those dots with some really great ideas too.


And I think the loop is one of those things. You're right. You guys are dealing with large volume, right? Hundreds of thousands of responses. But I think if like, we've always told our clients that if you closed the loop and you tie it to like a referral activity of some kind you will get additional business out of it. Customers will remember it. I know it's, we've done some research with MIT that ties it to retention gains, but I get it. It's a big commitment on your side but we're not gonna jump into that.

Yes, we'll probably do like a proof of concept and then we'll take a smaller segment and try it that way first before we go guns blazing with everything.


Exactly, we're really curious. What about you Hilary, anything big on your horizon for the experience program in 2021 and beyond?

We have some internal digital transformation that we're doing that I really want client experience to play a larger role in, as we think towards the future. And I know that digital transformation is what every company is going through but making sure that that client experience doesn't get lost in the voice of the client, doesn't get lost in that. And it's not all, I think it's really important that our associates benefit from it, but, there also needs to be a benefit from that as well. And what does that look like and how is that being considered as they develop it?


I think we've a lot of our clients are wrapping the experience into a digital transformation as well. So that's definitely very, very popular, but it's also for good reason because you don't wanna shift your a lot of your business processes without losing sight of the customer. So I think that's definitely a smart way to go. Carrie, any closing thoughts?


No, I again, I'm so happy to have two hearts above them. 'Cause, I crushed on you guys all the time and how you're doing it. And so if anyone's listening and not watching, look for a clip, you'll see the heart and what I'm talking about. But yeah, I think you guys hit a couple of things. I mean the passion, I mean the end of the day are you passionate about the client, the person that you're doing this all for and what you guys have not lost sight of is who's doing it. And you guys are really empowering that frontline. And it's just it really is inspirational. I think if you guys have a day where you're just feeling down or a little beat up, or is this having an impact? No, that it is. It really is making a difference and...

We just choose to come on this show and feel good about it. You're doing a great job, Cary.


Every week at this time...

It's definitely those days we get down on it.


But we're a fan for a reason and we don't hit anybody on here. So we love these stories and it's look we all learn from it. Carla scream for help. So call to action guys, let's rally together and create this community and get some help. But in the same token in the same breath you guys have a lot of inspiration for us too. And we'll, we're gonna carry that forward also.


I definitely echo that. We're super impressed by everything we see from you guys. Again, that email kicked off this whole conversation. 'Cause we were just blown away by that. So we're glad we got you guys on this thing, Carla and Hilary, thank you so much for joining us on the Account Experience Podcast. Thank you to everybody for listening and we'll talk to you soon.

Thanks Ian, Carrie. Thanks guys.

Thanks you, thanks guys.

Okay take care.


Thanks, bye.

About the Author

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Ian Luck
Ian has been in the CX market for over a decade evangelizing best-practices and strategies for increasing the ROI of customer programs. He loves a loud guitar, a thick non-fiction book, and a beach day with his family. You can catch him around the north shore of Boston, MA.
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