Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast

Ep. 85 | Hubspots Voice of Customer Journey with Amanda Whyte


"One of the first things we had to do was go evaluate where is all of our customer feedback coming from and what's being done with it?" - Amanda Whyte


This week Amanda Whyte who leads Hubspot’s global voice of customer program joins Allison Hartsoe in the Accelerator. One of the most important questions businesses are facing today is how do you collect customer feedback? What are you doing with that data? How are you taking action on it? How do you know what to prioritize? Amanda has wrestled with all of these questions. In this podcast she shares how she brought Hubspot through their voice of the customer journey to organize and prioritize customer feedback.

Please help us spread the word about building your business’ customer equity through effective customer analytics. Rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Play, Alexa’s TuneIn, iHeartRadio or Spotify. And do tell us what you think by writing Allison at or Thanks for listening! Tell a friend! See the full transcriptView all episodes.


If you want clearer insights from your data, check out how we can help:



Ep. 86 | The Business Roundtable’s New Focus Ep. 84 | Amazon - Customer-Centric Sales Channel

Show Transcript

Allison Hartsoe: 00:01 This is the Customer Equity Accelerator. If you are a marketing executive who wants to deliver bottom-line impact by identifying and connecting with revenue generating customers, then this is the show for you. I'm your host, Allison Hartsoe, CEO of Ambition Data. Each week I bring you the leaders behind the customer-centric revolution who share their expert advice. Are you ready to accelerate? Then let's go! Welcome everybody. Today's show is about HubSpot's Voice of customer journey and to help me discuss this topic is Amanda Whyte. Amanda is the leader of the global voice of customer program at Hubspot, and if you're not familiar with Hubspot, they are a platform for inbound customer-centric marketing, sales and service. Probably a whole bunch more. Amanda, welcome to the show.

Amanda Whyte: 00:56 Thank you very much, Allison. I'm very happy to be here.

Allison Hartsoe: 00:59 Can you start by giving us just the quick positioning on HubSpot and how you got to be involved with the company?

Amanda Whyte: 01:07 Absolutely. So HubSpot is a growth platform, and we really believe in the philosophy of attracting, engaging, and delighting customers. So our software platform is tools built around all of those points. So everything from website hosting, personalized messaging, social sales pipeline, a service hub where you can engage with your customers and tickets all built on top of a free CRM. So that's Hubspot as a company. How I got started with them was I'm originally from Chicago, a Chicago girl, and I worked for a marketing agency there and moved to Europe and was actually working as a marketing manager for a mobile payments company. And I was a HubSpot customer initially. And then when HubSpot opened their Dublin office, this was their first international office. I started with them and was initially an inbound marketing consultant helping customers then eventually partners and with their actual implementation of Hubspot, but a lot of time in the customer success division and various management roles. And when HubSpot created our first-ever voice of customer team, I was really passionate about customer success, customer centricity, and really driving that voice of the customer within HubSpot. So it's the perfect role and worked out well. So, and we're just wrapping up our first year of actually having a voice of customer program at Hubspot.

Allison Hartsoe: 02:28 Oh, that's fantastic. I didn't realize it was just one year, and I have to give you Kudos. We are HubSpot users as well, but one of our employees just got this, hey, you're a HubSpot champion user aboard, which I thought was really clever in that it suddenly gave us a reason to celebrate her and what she had been doing on that platform and that tool. Most power users are not recognized in that way.

Amanda Whyte: 02:52 Oh that's so great to hear. We really believe in the advocacy part of our flywheel, our flywheel methodology being that we want to delight our customers and turn them into advocates. And our customer marketing team is a team that I partner very closely with and they're the ones that basically built that program, that champions program, and we've been working really closely with them and we have big visions for all of the ways that we can just really celebrate our customers and reward them in the ways that they want to be rewarded. And that was one of the programs that they are owning and launched this year. So I'm really glad to hear that it had an impact.

Allison Hartsoe: 03:28 It is, it's doing well. And I want to call up this concept of flywheel because this is something that I think some people understand, but maybe not everybody understands. And it was particularly well done with your CEO last year. And what was interesting is I had just interviewed Brian Eisenberg on the show, and he was talking about the Amazon effect as a flywheel. And here we see HubSpot adopting the same kind of flywheel idea. Can you talk for a minute about what is the flywheel?

Amanda Whyte: 03:55 Absolutely. So like traditionally, companies often thought about getting their customers in the funnel methodology, which is where you don't have to attract and convert customers down into your funnel. And then once they became customers, they sort of just stayed there at the bottom of your funnel. And the flywheel methodology is kind of shifting that thinking on its head and saying, actually the way we do business is not a funnel, but we know how important customers are. We know that they're much more likely to buy from us than new prospects and we know that they're much more likely to buy from us if they're happy and engaged customers. So actually we need to spend as much or more energy on our existing customers, making sure that they're happy, delighted, and using our products successfully, getting value out of it as much or more energy on that as we do getting new customers. So that's the way that HubSpot has kind of shifted his thinking. And not only do we do that for our own business, but that is the whole way that all of our tools and our platform are designed to help our customers do that as well.

Allison Hartsoe: 04:55 Yep, that makes sense. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about voice of customer because I oftentimes see in the data and analytics space, there's a lot of, if there's a sense of if I pull all the data together, if I get a customer 360 view, suddenly bills will ring, angels will sing, and all of a sudden I'll understand my customer base, what they want and what I should be providing. And usually, the piece that's missing in that is the qualitative side in addition to the quantitative side. So tell me a little bit about why voice of customer matters and why people should care more about it. More than just, Oh, it's nice to know what people say.

Amanda Whyte: 05:36 Oh, absolutely. I mean this is like one of the biggest, most important questions, but I think businesses are facing today is how do you collect customer feedback and the, what are you doing with that data? How are you taking action on it, and how do you know how to prioritize it in a way that which things are the right thing was to take action on? So I think that it's just such a critical question and is really was the driving force in the creation of HubSpot VOC team. So one problem that we had at our company, I'll just share a little bit about this, was that our product teams were getting what we now refer to as a fire hose of data. They were getting different reports, analytics, ad hoc customer feedback from so many different parts of the business. And in fact, they were getting it from a lot of parts of the business but not actually the core customer success team who were on the phone with our customers every day.

Allison Hartsoe: 06:26 Isn't that crazy? I know exactly what you mean.

Amanda Whyte: 06:28 Yes. And I know that other companies are facing next, I just listened to a Webinar from gainsight in a market research firm that they had partnered with, and they had interviewed and they're calling it like the great divide between customer success and product. So I know lots of companies are kind of facing this challenge, but HubSpot, we were passing all the information to. We were doing it in such an ad hoc way that it just wasn't digestible for the teams that were making the critical decisions about where to invest and what to build and what to fix within our product. So one of the kind of key principles behind our team was that we needed to synthesize that data and help those product teams prioritize that. One of the first things we had to do was go evaluate where is all of our customer feedback coming from and what's being done with it.

Amanda Whyte: 07:10 And at Hubspot, that was a huge undertaking. But once we had accomplished that, we were really able to kind of distill it down and determine what was missing and what was there that was really great but wasn't being utilized. And we actually created something called a roadblock program where if any of our customer success reps are on the phone with a customer and a customer is raising a flag to them like, Hey, I can't do this in your product, or hey, this is really frustrating, but that's actually logged in the system, and it's pass. It's then kind of sent to the voice of customer team where we analyze that, and we look at all these roadblocks, and we pass that information then to the product in a really nice digestible way. It is a report where they can understand. They can see it broken down by the different products that we have and the different features we use. And we actually are now coding that data in the same way that we code NCS data and as the code our support data. So for the first time, we're actually kind of telling a story behind the information and giving it to the teams in a digestible way. So that's kind of brings in what you were talking about, about the qualitative and the quantitative. And then, the second.

Allison Hartsoe: 08:16 Before you go onto the second piece, I want to just circle back to one thing that you mentioned is you've got a lot of data coming in, and you wanted to understand what the teams were doing with it. How much data are we talking about? How many different streams are we talking about?

Amanda Whyte: 08:28 Oh my gosh, I actually put this together for my inbound presentation. So I actually do know this which I'm going to be talking about this exact topic at our conference coming up in September. So I'll just tell you here, let's see, we had over 40 feedback channels categorize using 32,

Allison Hartsoe: 08:45 40

Amanda Whyte: 08:46 yeah, with 30 metrics and like 20 different types of software. I owned by a lot of individuals across a lot of teams. And I say it was breaking one big heart in particular, which was mine. And when I say feedback channels, I mean these are ways that we're collecting anything that the customer is either saying to us or is like a secondary kind of usage metric as well. So we had kind of primary and secondary sources of feedback. So this is very much like a holistic view on all the ways. We were collecting customer feedback, both as I said directly and it kind of indirectly. But yeah, that was a lot to digest.

Allison Hartsoe: 09:21 So oftentimes if we have that situation in data streams we have to set literally it's called a master and a slave. Yeah. You have to say what's the source of record? Is that also what you had to do with the feedback channels? Did you have to group them in such a way to say this one's the master, this one is the supporter to that master?

Amanda Whyte: 09:38 So we haven't broken it down exactly like that, but we certainly had to prioritize. So we said like let's take the top three with the most data's coming from and where the product teams are taking the most action off of. And then, of course, we identified that gap, which was where we create a customer roadblock. So we created one new channel and then we looked at the other top channels. And so then we said, okay, how do these work together? So at HubSpot, that's mts, which is incredibly important to us. It's the data that comes through the support team. It's roadblock which we created on the voice of the customer team. And then we have another one that's called system usability score as well that the product team uses. So we kind of looked at what some of those top channels were in order to then determine, okay now we know these are like the primary sources of customer feedback, and we know that the product team digest these sources, but how can we give this information to them in a way that they understand the why and the what from each channel and how the channels work together and what to prioritize and not prioritize.

Amanda Whyte: 10:40 So the other challenge would be, okay I have this mts data, and I have this roadblocks data. I'm a product manager. Like, how do I make the decision on which thing to prioritize?

Allison Hartsoe: 10:49 Yeah, that's great. Okay. I'll circle back to some other things there in a minute, but I want to give you a chance to go back to the part that I was interrupting on the second piece.

Amanda Whyte: 10:57 Oh, it's fine. It's a perfect segue because the whole second part of our job was determining prioritization. So once we identified the best channels, where the most information was coming from and how these channels could coexist in each server purpose, the next big question was, okay, great, we're getting great information now, but how is a business do we prioritize? So one of the things that the voice of customer came is responsible for is outlining the sharp edges within our company. And so sharp edges would be defined as big points of customer pain. And these are within the customer journey. And these are often very cross-functional in nature because if one team owned them, they would probably know about them and haven't taken action on it to try to fix it. So I think the problem is with some of these sharp edges that they come up where no one team is directly responsible, there might be four or five teams that actually touch that part of the experience.

Amanda Whyte: 11:56 But there's customer pain generating, and there's no one feedback channel telling them this and they're not getting perfect information to go take action off of this. So what we can do with voice of customer is be responsible for the holistic picture of our overall customer experience. Look at the data from multiple feedback channels that have to be looked at individually, and then make recommendations back to the business on what the actual priorities should be based on that holistic view and based off of multiple channels. So we identified like three sharp edges that we then bring to the executive team. We get buy-in on those, and we say, hey, these are really big customer pain points like that we need to solve and we need everyone at this table buying in order to do that because it's not going to be just one team that can go in.

Allison Hartsoe: 12:44 So what would be an example of some of the sharp edges that you might've found?

Amanda Whyte: 12:47 So one of the sharp edges was the customer feedback itself. So that was the fact that we had too many channels coming from too many different places and not going into a synthesized system. So that was one of what we identified as the sharp edges. Now moving forward next year, I don't think that that will be like an actual sharp edge that will be something that we kind of just own as the VOC team is like the overall feedback channel that will be more part of our day to day and won't be actually one of the sharp edges.

Allison Hartsoe: 13:16 More maintenance.

Amanda Whyte: 13:17 Exactly. More just like our day to day job description. Like hey, we are responsible for getting as much quality actionable customer feedback into the hands of hubspoters who can then take action off of that data. Another example, it was product changingness. So what's the rate? What's the rate of change of our product that actually causes pain with our customers and versus net positive in terms of all these great new features that we're delivering. So something that we looked at with the product teams was okay, how can we go fast enough to deliver great new features but make sure that we're going slow enough that we are communicating these features with all the right education and everything that needs to go with them as well. So that was a huge focus for all of the teams in 2019, particularly because we had an outage back in the first quarter. So that really forced everyone to take a step back and say, okay, the most important thing here is that we have quality, reliable product that is available to our customers and then we have to meet certain thresholds of this before we can start moving on and building great new features.

Allison Hartsoe: 14:20 Did you call that actual product changingness? Is that what I heard?

Amanda Whyte: 14:24 Yes. That is how we refer to it because some of it is, it's not just rolling out net new features. Some of it's like fixing features we have, or maybe it was like a UI, are you at change? So it's like a mix of like design changes, new features, some setting old features and maybe just like moving where things are located. So you kind of have all of those things happening all the time. Um, with a company like Hubspot, so we have to make sure that we're doing it in the most customer-friendly way.

Allison Hartsoe: 14:51 And so the ratio is, is designed to say what volume of changes did we have and power those changes being used. Is it measuring behavior or adoption of the changes? Is that what it's after?

Amanda Whyte: 15:02 Yeah, they have multiple things that they look at, but definitely like usage of new products. They have like stability metrics, and as you said as well, they would look at maybe like the rate of change they would do user testing as well to make sure that they're really make changes in the right way. And we actually have a new product communications team. Their sole responsibility is to make sure that any new features that we roll out, that there are proper education and communication behind them. So we're always growing, and we're moving very quickly. But we want to make sure that with all the great new things for hunching, that the stability's there behind it and the communication.

Allison Hartsoe: 15:38 And so one of the things as we've been talking that's been percolating in the back of my head has to do with the kind of curve. Sometimes software development follows this interesting curve, and it's con okay. And oh, I think is how it's spelled the kind of curve and pulling this from academic memory from several years ago, but it's basically three lines, and the one line is features you have to do to maintain the product to keep it functional. And these features as you add them, don't really add any delight to your customers cause it's just functionality. The second curve are incremental functional features that customers want and are things that they might be asking for. So there's sort of what you're talking about is, have you listened to them? Are you solving the pain points and the things that they're asking for? But the third curve, which is actually a bit more exponential, has to do with the surprise and delight factor. Things I didn't know to ask for, but oh my gosh, all of a sudden that just solves a need. I couldn't articulate instead of, let's just call it not the faster horse, but the car for example. Does the voice of customer feedback that you're pulling in think about feedback in a similar way where you're looking for the difference between what are people saying and what do they actually need?

Amanda Whyte: 16:57 Yeah, absolutely. So in product development, I think there's like a lot of philosophies around building feature requests that customers might request versus like solving for the actual customer needs. And that's something that we've been working with the product teams on is to try to get them the right information to make sure that they're solving the root customer need versus just adding functionality or like something that a customer requested that actually could have been solved in a different way that would actually be even more delightful for those customers and give them even more functionality than what they originally had thought. So when we are collecting feedback, the MTS is verbatim, so that's great. Customers can put whatever they want into the NPS and with roadblock, customer's frustrated about something they can communicate that to our customer success rep, and something that's really important is that our customer success reps do really ask the right consultative type questions around what were you originally trying to accomplish? Like what is the underlying intent here? What's the goal that you're trying to achieve and make sure that they're capturing that information in what we send back to product. And we had an idea for them where customers can submit ideas, and there's some really great stuff in there, and that definitely gives us one type of data, but it doesn't,

Allison Hartsoe: 18:16 I can say I've personally done that.

Amanda Whyte: 18:19 It's great. It's a great way for our customers to interact with us and we're really looking at kind of making that even more interactive next year. But that only gives us one type of data which is that really like feature level, the surface level data where we really need to understand the customer pain too. So two ways. Then the product team could get that would be one to do. Okay. Hey, we've got a lot of customers requesting this one particular feature. Let's do an in-depth user research study into what it is that they're trying to do and what they want that feature to accomplish. So that's one way, particularly of maybe something had a lot of votes on and then the other way is what I had previously described, which is they're frustrated maybe with the product that it does do something or it doesn't do something the way they want it and then they can explain that pain and the customer success team can get to the root of it and then share that information through our roadblocks.

Allison Hartsoe: 19:10 So when you're trying to get customer success reps to mine for information about what they're trying to accomplish, what the customer's goal is that they're trying to achieve, does that mean that the voice of customer information you're collecting needs to be almost like the recording of the call or the transcript? Are you going to that level of depth to try to hear and analyze or are the reps summarizing it in a certain way?

Amanda Whyte: 19:33 I mean it's so interesting that you ask that because right now where you, and this isn't something I would have to like know that much about until I got really deep into this role and right now we're asking the customer success rep to categorize wherein the product or in the overall experience the customer has. Maybe it's a billing or like a legal issue. Now, where is the pain and then to describe the issue. But we were partnering with folks on our machine learning team who were actually thank us because what we wanted to do was to pull all this feedback together and categorize it in ways like usability and stability and functionality, business problem. We want to be able to categorize that feedback and do it not having to do that manually. So we're working with our machine learning team, and they were saying that actually models can pull more information out from a completely free text response providing that customer success rep ask those deep questions and put as much information as possible into it. And that was every drop-down field that we asked the customer success rep to fill that so that that then by these, they're free texts to respond. So that was a really cool learning that I had just from working with the incredibly smart folks that are machine learning and product teams. And the reason we were talking to them in the first place is so that we could get smarter and faster about the way that we pushed the customer feedback back to the rest of the organization.

Allison Hartsoe: 20:53 Yeah, I just, I really want to underscore that because I've seen this in call centers before where the call center welp will automatically pick the first and easiest subject to categorize something on and people are in a hurry, and they're trying to just get that put that task done. But what you're talking about with machine learning is what it is inevitably really good at doing, which is categorizing and the free text response I think is something you can't underestimate getting the context of that, the full context versus the like a game of telephone where you're asking the rep to categorize for you, but everyone has a slightly different way of thinking about it. I think that's a great advantage for you

Amanda Whyte: 21:28 And I was just having a conversation with Bill Ward who's on our board and she was saying too that you always just, even as data is getting so incredible and all the things that we can do with it, you can never substitute the experience of actually being in person with customers, learning from them, whether it's in town hall or follow them home field trip, whatever it is that you always have to supplement the data. Even that really rich, rich, rich texts, open response type data. You still have to supplement that with talking to your customers and meeting them in person and spending time with them to truly understand what it is that can delight them and to make them kind of happy. So if that's the other piece that I want to score, like we're talking about all this data, which is so important and so crucial that you have right as a company, but then you've really just also have to supplement it with spending time talking to customers.

Allison Hartsoe: 22:19 Yeah, I can't emphasize that enough because it is, it's something that I see the leaders doing. A while ago we had a speaker from the San Francisco Giants, and he was talking about, this was at our customer-centricity conference years ago, and he was talking about how they always open up the executive meetings with a comment from their customers, from their fans, and they always pick a positive and a negative comment, which becomes food for thought for how they're going to go about solving for these different problems. Now, I mean, I'm sure they're getting a lot of different streams in the way they pick those comments. I'm not sure how they find one that is particularly powerful. But the question I wanted to ask you is, are you also finding that these voice of customer experiences, whether it's talking to the customer directly or whether it's reading the quotes verbatim, are they penetrating the organization and helping the organization start to take action on data?

Amanda Whyte: 23:16 I believe 100% in that, another function of our role is to what we call putting the customer at the heart of everything at HubSpot. So one of the, that would be part of the mission statement of our team. And so one of the things that we do is we've actually started to open up the executive level staff meetings with customer interviews, sometimes in person, sometimes over zoom. So going that step further instead of just a quote or we're actually bringing the customer in there. So depending on maybe what the specific topic or the theme of the meeting is, we'll bring customers in that have a lot to say about it. And we have someone from our user research team do the interviewing, and she's really incredible because she really gets to the heart of things. But we don't like pre coach these customers to like tell the executives what we want them to hear. We're really open with having them just share what's on their mind around a particular topic. And that has been so crucial for what I would call it, like setting this age of the minds and hearts of the executive team so that then when you go and discuss and debate the priorities and the tactics that you want to implement, they're doing it from the customer's perspective cause you've just put the customer there. So that's one way in which we're literally putting customers at the executive level staff meetings. But,

Allison Hartsoe: 24:34 that's great. That's a fantastic suggestion. In fact, I haven't heard of anyone else that's doing that with a live customer interview. Who Does? That's a great move.

Amanda Whyte: 24:42 Yeah, it's really done. Been very successful so far this year and it's something we definitely are going to continue doing. So yeah, that would be a recommendation would be open up those staff meetings and get customers actually in there to talk and don't coach them and try to make it be about like what you want it to be about. Let them talk. And then another thing we're doing is that anytime myself or someone from my team are having conversations with customers or if we have customer interviews if we always are pushing that out on our internal Wiki. So we're sharing information as much as possible. And I know our user experience team that lives on the product team do that as well cause we have that internal knowledge sharing system, which we use the Wiki, the confluence Wiki. That's a great way as well. So like if somebody goes and does a customer visit that they could just like write everything up from that visit and then tag all the relevant people in it and it starts discussion and debate.

Amanda Whyte: 25:34 But I do really think it's important to not waste like a single moment of the time that you've spent with a customer by just keeping that information to yourself or giving it to a couple of people. Like the more, we can expose it to the entire organization, the better because more people have eyes on it. And I think the diversity and perspective are so crucial. Like I say, okay, my job is voice of the customer, but really it's all of our jobs. And so that's another kind of goal of our team is to just get everyone in the company thinking with that customer-first mindset into always be thinking like, okay, how can I take customer feedback and customer data and then make my decision? And so the kind of internal advocacy and you know that's a huge part of what we do as well.

Allison Hartsoe: 26:15 So there's one thing you've been talking about that we haven't really pressed on. That's a really key concept for customer-centric thinking, and that is the idea that all customers are not created equal. In many cases, as we've been talking, we're using the word customer and almost a generic term, you know, putting the customer at the heart of everything, valuing the customer, talking to the customer. But what I think that does is it creates a system where you're just awash with opportunities. And so the question is, how do you use data to sort out where the signal is and where the noise is in all of that customer feedback.

Amanda Whyte: 26:51 Yeah. This is something I've been thinking about, which is that okay, once you get all of this great data in one place or you can at least hand a nice report or some really nice information over to the different teams that are going to be making decisions off of it. I think that's really important to caveat there is that like data is not the decision itself, and you do run a risk of becoming overly reliant on data to a point where you want to answer all your questions in data before you can make a decision. So I think that's something that our team is going to be partnering with other folks within the organization on is like, Hey, we can give you information on this customer segment that's feeling this pain, and we can give you information over here that we're hearing from this type of user.

Amanda Whyte: 27:36 And we can give you maybe some estimated financial impacts that go along with them. But sometimes you're going to have to make the choice over how you're going to solve. Is it for a few customers, but it's a really mission-critical pain point for them? Or are we going to solve for more customers? But it's only a mildly irritating pain. So like the general managers of our products and then the folks on those product teams like are gonna have to make those decisions. And of course, they'll do it in conjunction with their stakeholders. But I think that's something where with the customers is so important. We want to be able to get that voice in that mindset there. And we certainly want to be able to provide accurate customer data to people as they're making those decisions. But at the end of the day, the data isn't the decision. We still have to be able to make some hard calls sometimes, and there's going to be trade-offs in any business. I Dunno if that answers your question.

Allison Hartsoe: 28:25 It does. And I think it's really interesting because oftentimes when we use customer lifetime value, we're thinking about how to make a decision or how to group customers according to the financial impact. And while I think that matters and that is one way to find the signal, what you've called out I think is a really interesting point about do you solve for more customers in a minor pain versus small number of customers in a major pain, assuming that that pain translates to financial impact in basically the same way. That is an area where I think people don't realize once they start pulling the voice of customer data together that they'll have to make certain calls, certain decisions about what matters. And that's where the strategy of the executive team becomes important.

Amanda Whyte: 29:10 Absolutely.

Allison Hartsoe: 29:10 And so this seems to be an area that if we think about the customer-centric maturity curve, it sounds like HubSpot is in the center of the curve but very rapidly pushing towards innovation, which is one of the leadership areas. And would it be fair to say that once you get your voice of customer data in and understood and you're using it that it becomes a ripe source of what kind of innovation you want to do?

Amanda Whyte: 29:38 Yes, absolutely. When I think of HubSpot on that curve 100% we are like me, in voice customer, I want to do.

Amanda Whyte: 29:46 But of course everything takes time. Right? And so I think what we've absolutely looked at right now is a lot of what do we know? What do you know today? Any, you analyze your sources of feedback, you distill it down, you prioritize, you make tough decisions, and you make some customer to first decisions and that's amazing. And we, I think we've done a really good job of that this year. But I think then there's this whole other world of what don't we know, you know, and what's out there in terms of like innovation and customer. I come back to that customer need discussion we were having earlier customer pains. Where are the customer pain that no matter what your feedback channels are telling you, it's not going to give you the information about how to innovate for them? But let's say that you started to do field trips to customers.

Amanda Whyte: 30:29 You started to do town halls with customers where they started to share more of like the anecdotal ways that they use your software and then what is it the folks at our companies start to get ideas around how to help solve these customer pain points like maybe outside of our product, the way it exists today outside of listing our 2020 roadmap. And they started to get really creative and innovative because they're really listening to the customer in their own environment and in the ways that they're using that they're actually trying to solve their business problems. So I think that that is absolutely like the next wave or phase of how you can bring voice of customer to your company and not just reactive but proactive. And I think that HubSpot has, we've outlined how we'd like to do that in Dharmesh customer code. Have you seen that?

Allison Hartsoe: 31:20 I have. I saw it last year after the conference. I think that's when they pushed it out.

Amanda Whyte: 31:24 At inbound? Yeah. So HubSpot has created these like ten tenants or principles of what we're saying every company should do in order to like truly be a customer-centric company. And so those would be like our guiding principles of what we would like to get to. So we're not there on every single one, but what we're doing is holding ourselves accountable to that. So, okay, great. We've analyzed this customer data. We take action, reactive action, but what about proactive action? Nobody's banging down our door telling us x, Y, Z that they want this. But we know from customer research the truly be customer-centric, that if we take this step, then that's the right thing for our customers. And that might be a very expensive thing to do, or maybe it's a very risky thing from a company perspective, but that would be the job with the customers to say, hey, we think that if we really push ourselves towards, I don't know this tenant that is the right thing for our customers and it's actually going to yield so much more benefit longterm. Here's how we think it's gonna do that. And like let's all take this jump together. So I think it's really important to have aspirational, like guiding principles as well.

Allison Hartsoe: 32:30 I think what I love that you did there, and it just kind of went by in a flash, was you pinned it to the financial data, but just briefly in the idea that, okay, we've listened to our customers, we're thinking about what we should do proactively, but we're not just willy nilly trying to just throw stuff out there. We're really trying to think about which customer groups are in need of different things and how that affects the bottom line. So even though you may not be calculating or matching CLV to different product innovations directly, it sounds like you're still looking for that financial component to help sort out the signal and the noise.

Amanda Whyte: 33:06 Absolutely. I mean every business decision, whether it's a customer-centered business decision or not, you're going to weigh the pros and the cons, and you're going to take a look at it from a financial investment risk-reward perspective. And so I think the challenge with some customer-friendly or customer-centric decisions are that they tend to be the ones that have more initial upfront costs but longer-term benefits. So the more that we can paint that picture and give as much as possible of estimated financial impacts of the longer-term benefit, the more likely we are going to get the go-ahead from the company on those. So I think it's a balance and everyone, I have felt we all want to be making the customer first decisions all the time. But of course, you have to balance that with keeping the businesses.

Allison Hartsoe: 33:53 So a lot of public companies wrestle with that issue because Wall Street's constantly pushing for certain metrics every quarter and it becomes very difficult for them to say, hold your horses Wall Street, we're going to go this direction because we feel like it's best for the company. Amazon, of course, being a great example of a company that has been able to do that. Have you found that there's a certain nuance to adding longterm thinking to the company versus the short term thinking?

Amanda Whyte: 34:20 I think when you are public, there's definitely more of a lens on every kind of move that you make and it can potentially hinder a company's ability to make those types of big investments. But I do believe that if you can justify that if you can tell the story behind it in a way that makes sense and that people understand that yes, growth is incredibly important, but so as longevity and that comes from customer retention. And so I don't think that the street is blind to that and I think it just has to be explained in a way that makes sense to your own in your own shareholder.

Allison Hartsoe: 34:53 And the voice of customer really supports that.

Amanda Whyte: 34:56 Absolutely. We would. Anything that we're HubSpot would be wanting to make a decision like that I'm sure would be supported with customer data to say this is the direction that our customers want to go and that we believe that this is the right thing longterm.

Allison Hartsoe: 35:08 Yeah, very much so. So you mentioned you have the inbound conference coming up. I want to circle back to that and talk a little bit about, and I don't know if it's in your presentation or not, but when people think about listening to your story and understanding what they could do to bring voice of customer in, is there a series of steps or a way that they should think about bringing voice of customer in? Perhaps things they could learn from you about what to do or what not to do?

Amanda Whyte: 35:34 Sure, and I'm very open to learning from others as well. So I would absolutely caveat this with like, hey, this is Hubspot journey, and we're really happy to share with like how we've created a VOC program. But a lot of it has also been from looking at how other companies structure theirs, and so I'm really a big fan of knowledge sharing around this subject. But just a little bit, how we would recommend to create the program is, I think the first thing, and I have kind of lumps steps one and two together, is that you have to assess the customer centricity of your company culture. And I think it's like when you have to do that deep dive to say it's more than just, Oh yeah, of course, we're customer first and look at how are your compensation models, are they tied to only met new sales or is there any tied to retention and customer retention?

Amanda Whyte: 36:21 How are you motivating people inside of your company to actually solve for the customer instead of just solved for the next dollar coming in the door? Do you have to really assess the customer centricity of your culture and if it's not where it needs to be, then step two is to create that movement. And I do believe that that does need to come from the top down. People need to believe that their leaders are setting up a mission that they can believe in and that everyone can buy into and people really need to get on board because, from a behavioral perspective, people aren't going to change just because you tell them to. You would want to get to that underlying motivation behind why they do their work, and so it's really important that you actually create that culture change within the company. Then the next step would be to evaluate all the places that you're collecting customer feedback today.

Amanda Whyte: 37:05 So like start with that. Where are you collecting it and sometimes it's an unexpected thing, so you think, oh we have this channel, this channel, this channel, but who is talking to your customers? When are we talking to them and like where are they recording that data? All of that has to be included, which is why I think it earlier when I shared how many channels we have, it sounded quite severe, but it was just all these different places that our customers were sharing information with us. And then you have to take the next step, which is step four and determine and prioritize insights from that data. So now that you've collected all the information, you've got it at least into one place, then how do you synthesize it and prioritize those insights? So then once you have that, I think it's for us, and like a company as big as Hubspot, it was really important to take step five, which was established some quick wins for any big initiatives that we were outlined. So some of the stuff that we established was like felt so needy that it could take a long time to implement and I think you can lose momentum. You get some quick wins along the way. So I think it's really important to identify the low hanging fruit for your customers. What are one to two things that you can knock out today that are going to improve your customer's experience with your company?

Allison Hartsoe: 38:16 Are there specific examples that you found like this particular area is really a great place where we can get a quick hit?

Amanda Whyte: 38:22 Yeah. So for example, like one, we had done some repackaging in little, it's for us as like, this is very specific to Hubspot, but we had done some repackaging and one of the new packages you had required like a subscription fee to do as to have certain functionality in workflows. And we heard back from customers that that was really frustrating for them and we were able to transfer that information to the product and they looked at it and were able to make a change to the way that we had packaged that. So that's like very Hubspot specific, but I think it's just a matter of taking a look at your data and saying like, okay, this one is small, but it's.

Amanda Whyte: 38:58 By a thousand paper cuts. If you got any paper cuts, like they're gonna leave, even if there wasn't one big thing that you did. So I think identifying something really small is fine too. You just have to say, okay, we're going to knock out a couple of these. And then another one, another quick one was also to start to get the customer in the boardroom, get the customer into places that we could be hearing them as well. So that could be a step that people could take.

Allison Hartsoe: 39:21 I am so pleased to hear you mentioned that as a quick win.

Amanda Whyte: 39:24 Yeah, that doesn't take a lot of time and planning like you can figure out what are the next habits you're covering at your executive-level meeting and identify a customer that has something to say about those topics and bring them into the first 15 minutes. We actually do like a full half-hour interview with them, and then we leave another half an hour purely for discussion where they can ask the customer any questions that they want and then we only pick the second half of the meeting to get into like the agenda topics related to it. So we really actually place as much importance on the customer conversation as we do on the agenda.

Allison Hartsoe: 39:55 Wow. That's a significant investment in time. It's not just a 10 minutes of what do you think? It sounds like a fairly robust interview. Great. Great.

Amanda Whyte: 40:03 It is. It is. Okay. So then we had to prioritize and take action on the top three priorities. So step six would be like, okay, make some hard decisions. Some people call that like a draw the line exercise. I'm sure from that customer data there are 20 amazingly important things that you could do, but you have to make. Prioritizing things is the most challenging thing in business, but it's the only thing that's going to keep you actually taking action and moving forward versus trying to do them all at the same time. So figure out what those top three are, we call them sharp edges, the calm boulders, call them whatever you want, and make sure that those are the things that you are going to solve for your customers this year. And then step seven and eight really go right along with that, which is make sure you establish KPIs for this top three initiatives, like what are the metrics that are in place or need to be put in place to determine whether or not you succeeded in clearing the boulders or clearing the sharp edges and if possible, change and necessary change compensation to match those KPIs.

Amanda Whyte: 40:57 So make sure people are actually motivated to try to fix the things that you've outlined.

Allison Hartsoe: 41:01 That part about the incentive and the incentive alignment, that is one of those places that I don't think people necessarily get right out of the gate. Do you find that sometimes you think you've changed the incentive correctly and then you have to go back and go, oh, that created this other issue, so we need to change it again?

Amanda Whyte: 41:16 Oh yeah. I mean, sure, that happens all the time. Like you don't have to get things perfect every time, but the important thing is that you're going to, I mean you have to be careful when you're changing compensation in terms of like you don't just like do that on a whim, but you can like we update our models every year to make sure that we're having all the right inputs and outputs, so it's really important that you're doing that on a regular basis. A great example of that actually is at Barclays Bank. They got in some serious trouble where they had to pay out millions and millions in compensation for selling that credit card insurance. So they had to do a complete overhaul in terms of how they were going to do a culture change at their company. And so they changed to a value-based incentive model instead of a performance-based incentives model where they actually, when deals come in, they look at, and this isn't like one division and the company, they looked at the projected longevity of the deal and did it have the right like did it have a high deal score in terms of did it have all of the factors of quality exactly that would need to be present for longevity or for lifetime value.

Amanda Whyte: 42:23 And they actually gave deal scores, and they did the bonus structure built around that versus an initial sales price. And I believe they also have a good deal desk where their own sales team does quality control of that. So it's not like another team coming in to police them. But if there's a goal model there that where they actually look after the quality of their own deals within the sales org, which I think is pretty awesome.

Allison Hartsoe: 42:43 Yeah, that is awesome. And that's a great point on all KPIs. And I sometimes call it measuring the distance between furniture. You can measure something like I can tell the difference distance between furniture, but that doesn't tell me what kind of interior design I need for my house. So what you measure in terms of quality I think it is almost more important than the fact that you just have a measure.

Amanda Whyte: 43:05 Absolutely. And figuring out how to measure that quality I think is the hard thing for companies. You have to figure out what are all those factors that make the customer stay. Like why do they stay with you? And then is it possible to operationalize that back on the front end when you're doing the initial sale. So it's something to look at. So then step nine would be just communication and evangelizing. So we talked earlier in the podcast about the role of the VOC team to evangelize the customer within the Org. So communicating progress on, you know, maybe the status of the sharp edge project, communicating any feedback from customers besides even through the channels like I talked about sharing on the Wiki and closing the loop both with your own internal folks and then the customers themselves on their feedback is just so incredibly important.

Allison Hartsoe: 43:48 When you share feedback from customers internally, do you put the segment that they're part of as well?

Amanda Whyte: 43:54 Oh, yes. So we would share like a customer profile in terms of like what products they would have or type of users that they are like marketing versus sales versus service stuff because I think that that helps give context to the feedback.

Allison Hartsoe: 44:05 Exactly. Is there a step 10 too?

Amanda Whyte: 44:07 Yeah, for step 10 I just have like create the cadence for getting customers feedback to all areas of the business. So like I know they're kind of similar where it's like to hear very you're communicating your progress, you're getting back to customers. But I think sometimes is just like, I think you have that on your curve. Right? And I think, I don't know if you call it operationalizing it, how do you have this built into the day to day? So for example, like we're a year into VOC, and it's been amazing. We have like a lot of great wins that we can share in terms of things we've done for our customers. But how do we make sure this isn't just a one and done type of project, that this is actually operationalized and built into the day to day workstream of all the employees. So I think that piece is important.

Allison Hartsoe: 44:50 That is really hard. And I think it gets back to change the fact that when you're making a change, it's a series of small hits over and over and over again until the new normal is established. And oftentimes think of that in terms of years, you know, people get these programs, they want to have them set up, they want to have performance. And how many years did it take you to kind of move in this direction?

Amanda Whyte: 45:09 I think we're, as I said, we've already created, we have, we've had been looking at NPS and we've had always said solve for the customer and Hubspot is a company that has always cared about our customers. So we didn't have to necessarily do that turn on its head cultureship like Barclays did. And we have a really incredible product insights team and UX team, but we're a year into the official, you know, releases not even a year into the voice of the customer program. And we've made incredible progress. I think as I said, I'd love to be doing everything now because this is, I live this day in and day out and breathe this, but it takes time to get these things implemented. But we were able to do all of this within three quarters. So we're a pretty big company. So I think it's definitely possible to get started and to accomplish at least half if not more of these tasks within your first year at this. And it's okay. It's okay that it takes time. Like you're making a customer-first decision. That's the most important thing. So every step you're taking to move towards that, that's great. And that's going to yield that benefit for your company and create longevity in your customer base. So if you are starting somewhere is better than starting nowhere, and smaller steps are better than not taking any at all.

Allison Hartsoe: 46:17 Well said. Well said. Well, this has been a great 10 step process. Is there an 11th step?

Amanda Whyte: 46:24 No, the 11 step is to have fun. Get customer first. Maybe come see me at inbound. I'm going to be talking about voice of customer at our inbound conference the first week in September, and yeah, that's,

Allison Hartsoe: 46:38, so what are the dates for inbound and then if people want to reach you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?

Amanda Whyte: 46:43 Yeah, so inbound is September 3rd to the sixth in Boston, and then that's our annual conference with the huge deal. We've got some amazing speakers this year, and as I mentioned, I'll be talking on voice of customer, and all things voice the customer, and yeah, I'm happy enough to give my email if anyone wants to reach out to kind of discuss this topic. And that's just, and my last name is spelled w. H. Y. T. E. Yeah. That's where that comes from. And the other thing I should say too is that even though I'm American, I live in Ireland, I'm based in our Dublin office and voice of customers, our first purely international team. So it can be done, and it's really important to always be thinking about your global customer as you're thinking customer first, not just your North American ones. So that's that one last little last question that I'll throw out there.

Allison Hartsoe: 47:34 Well, it sounds like you've made great progress, Amanda. Thank you for sharing all of the insights, especially that well-structured hitlist at the end. I know the people who catch your session at inbound are going to get a real treat because I see many companies struggle with us and not able to get it off the ground. And you've hit on many themes that are really what all the successful companies do. So way to go and congratulations on your very fast progress.

Amanda Whyte: 47:59 Oh, thank you very much. And Yeah, looking forward to just having more people talking about what is customer centricity and customer equity and having companies move towards this and their models. It's something I'm really passionate about so thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Allison Hartsoe: 48:14 As always, links to everything we discussed including the inbound link and I'll look for the presentation from Dharmesh last year that we can link to as well. Those will all be at thank you for joining us today. Amanda. Remember when you use your data effectively, you can build customer equity. It is not magic. It's just a very specific journey that you can follow to get results. Thank you for joining today's show. This is your host, Allison Hartsoe, and I have two gifts for you. First, I've written a guide for the customer centric Cmo, which contains some of the best ideas from this podcast, and you can receive it right now. Simply text, ambitiondata, one word to, three, one, nine, nine, six, (31996) and after you get that white paper, you'll have the option for the second gift, which is to receive The Signal. Once a month. I put together a list of three to five things I've seen that represent customer equity signal not noise, and believe me, there's a lot of noise out there. Things I include could be smart tools. I've run across, articles I've shared cool statistics, or people and companies I think are making amazing progress as they build customer equity. I hope you enjoy the CMO guide and The Signal. See you next week on the Customer Equity Accelerator.

Key Concepts: Customer Lifetime Value, Marketing, Digital Data, Customer Centricity, Long-Term Customer Value, Marketing Leaders, Analytics, Creativity, Product Development, Audience Research

Who Should Listen: CAOs, CCOs, CSOs, CDOs, Digital Marketers, Business Analysts, C-suite professionals, Entrepreneurs, eCommerce, Data Scientists, Analysts, CMOs, Customer Insights Leaders, CX Analysts, Data Services Leaders, Data Insights Leaders, SVPs or VPs of Marketing or Digital Marketing, SVPs or VPs of Customer Success, Customer Advocates, Product Managers, Product Developers

Podcast Updates

Sign up to be notified when each week's episode is released.




Recommended Episodes


Ep. 62: Cultivating Customers with Prof. Elea Feit at Drexel



Ep. 54: 2019 Predictions Show Financial Impact from Marketing with Dan McCarthy



Ep. 43: The Customer Revolution is Here with Allison Hartsoe



Ep. 42: Intersection of CX and CLV with Ehow Chen


Listen to the Customer Equity Accelerator Podcast




Available on itunes  



Listen on Google Play Music