Sally Mildren: Human experience over customer experience, always.

Despina Singh

July 10, 20238 min read

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For quite some time now, a persistent trend has caught on across social platforms like LinkedIn. 
 
Take a guess...  

You've likely come across the phrase "Take care of your employees, and they'll take care of your business" before.  

Unhappy employees can significantly impact the customer experience. When they're feeling down, it shows in their interactions — subpar service, zero enthusiasm and a total lack of empathy. Their resentment and frustration become obvious, and customers end up with a lousy experience.  
 
That negative vibe can even go viral, dragging the whole team down and making things even worse than it already is for customers. 
 
There’s no denying recognition serves as a proactive approach, much like vaccinations. When organizations actively recognize and appreciate employees' efforts, they can prevent burnout, decrease turnover rates and improve employee retention.

Brace yourself: a 10,000-employee company stands to slash a mind-blowing $16.1 million in annual employee turnover costs by nurturing such a culture.  
 
Plus, with this positive energy and dedication, customers get amazing interactions, loads of empathy and a genuine desire to meet their needs. In short, it's a win-win for everyone.  
 
While chatting with our host Nathan Bennett in the CX-Wise podcast’s fourth episode, Sally Mildren points out:

“The underlying principles of putting human at the center of your operational and service goals apply to every industry everywhere.” 

Sally, the Boss Lady who believes there is a way to grow revenue and take care of humans in the process is the CEO of Boss Lady Consulting and Clarity PX. She says, “We’re people, people.”

She has two decades of healthcare leadership experience in marketing, community engagement, PR, customer service, customer experience and many more fields. No wonder she has created strong ROI and growth while building CX and brands for organizations, Fortune 50 companies and non-profits.

In our podcast, Sally brings up, contrary to popular belief, recognizing employees doesn't have to be a massive, million-dollar initiative that completely transforms the culture with stickers and such. A simple "thank you" can make a huge difference in showing them that you recognize all the hard work they've put in. 
 
So, how can leaders like you hit the mark? How do you take care of your people, so they take care of your business?

Let's delve into Sally's insights on cultivating a culture of gratitude, compassion and appreciation while also boosting your business's profitability. 

Table of Contents

Altering company culture calls for a movement, not a memo

Culture is like ocean current. It's all hidden beneath the surface, but you can feel its power and influence. When that current is on your side, things just flow smoothly. But when it's against you, it feels like your problems are cranked up to eleven. 

And let me tell you, for organizations trying to up their adaptability and innovation game, changing that cultural current can be the ultimate test in their transformation journey. 
 
But if you want to transform culture, it has to be a grassroots movement, not a top-down order
 
Remember: Cultural shift begins with tangible actions, not lofty mission statements or organizational structures, because true change happens with people’s active participation. So, show people the change you envision and let your actions speak louder than words.

Sally proposes a Venn diagram to describe the “magic middle” that really contributes to moving the needle on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and engagement while also driving a lot of business.

Venn diagram - Sally Mildren

It’s important to note: Culture resides within the collective hearts and habits of individuals, shaping their shared perception of "how things are done around your organization.

To ignite a movement within your organization, first, frame the issue in a way that stirs emotions and sparks action. Then, to sustain culture, you must shape it differently, considering your specific needs. In three steps:  

  • Step #1: Understand your unique challenges, align culture with strategic goals and define core values and behaviors.  

  • Step #2: Involve employees in shaping the culture, ensuring their buy-in and commitment. 

  • Step #3: Continuously assess and adapt culture to maintain alignment with the evolving brand experience. Customization is key to sustaining a strong culture. 

The economics of why companies won't invest in human-led experience

Companies often overlook investing in cultural shifts to improve customer experience for several reasons.  

One reason, according to Sally, is that CX professionals struggle to demonstrate the impact of those changes on ROI.  

An empathy-driven culture means understanding customers' needs and emotions, which leads to better experiences.  

But here's the thing: Empathy is hard to measure in financial terms. So, companies focus on tangible metrics like revenue and customer acquisition instead.  

To change that, CX professionals should link empathy initiatives with outcomes that matter, like customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. By showing clear connections between empathy and measurable results, companies can justify investing in empathy-focused cultural shifts. 
 
Some approaches and tools that can help gauge these outcomes are: Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), online reviews and ratings, social media listening tools, referral program tracking, customer surveys, etc.  

Remember: Just as doctors choose the right diagnostic tools for each patient, it's crucial to select monitoring tools that align with your specific business needs and goals. Assessing these metrics over time helps quantify the impact of empathy initiatives on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth.

Closer and closer to the customer feedback is the future

Deciding how to understand or gather customer feedback is a bit like choosing lenses to admire a beautiful landscape.  

AI-powered social listening works like a wide-angle lens, capturing unsolicited feedback in real time. It gives you a broad view of the whole scene, uncovering deeper insights such as emerging trends, top contact drivers, sentiment and even customer intent. It can save the day as it also offers chances for real-time engagement to promptly respond to customer concerns. 
 
On the other hand, online survey forms are more like a zoom lens, allowing you to focus on specific aspects — such as responsiveness, overall satisfaction, professionalism, etc. — and gather targeted feedback.  
 
But just like a zoom lens, it has its limitations: 

  • No immediate engagement opportunities with customers 

  • May suffer from self-selection bias, as only customers who choose to respond are represented, potentially skewing the results 

  • Achieving a high response rate can be challenging, and low response rates may lead to skewed data  

  • Focused on predefined questions, which may limit the discovery of unexpected or unanticipated insights 

Similar to how a skilled photographer combines different lenses, using both social listening and online survey forms can paint a complete picture of customer feedback.  
 
As Sally puts it,  

“Closer and closer to the customer is future of how CX and voice of the customer are gonna operate.” 

The fundamentals of compassion-led CX

Core values are like the North Star that lights up the night sky. They're like a moral compass, pointing the way for organizations when tough decisions need to be made.  
 
Need an example? Sally shares with us her agency’s core values and how she sustains them. They have three: 

  1. Honesty: As per Sally, “Honesty is non-negotiable for us — good, bad or ugly. It’s all part of the lesson and the learning.”  

  2. Human kindness > KPIs: ClarityPX is based on the idea that people are incredibly important. Just like the sun gives energy to all living things, when we make people the focus of our work, they become more vibrant. Sally believes that this not only helps them grow personally but also leads to success in their business. By valuing individuals and giving them support, the goal is to enable them to flourish and contribute to a thriving environment. 

  3. Health: When health takes center stage, work becomes a place where both individuals and the organization thrive. “Health is an intentional priority in every sense of the word — physical, mental, spiritual, emotional,” asserts Sally, implying burnout isn’t part of their agency’s dictionary. 

On helping people grasp the impact of their work with the right tools

As we mentioned earlier, companies often neglect quantifying the contribution of CX professionals and their empathy skills to the business. However, we all know by now, the absence of ROI metrics is like navigating in the dark without a compass.  

Sally advises that the first step is to build a dashboard that illuminates the impact of individual efforts. When employees truly grasp how their work directly affects customers, the results are truly remarkable.  

So, get this: There was this experiment done by Professor Adam Grant from Wharton School. He wanted to see how fund-raisers could up their game and be more motivated. So, he had some fund-raisers meet a scholarship recipient.  

And guess what? It made a HUGE difference.  

These fund-raisers, after hearing how their work changed someone's life, were on fire. They made more calls and got bigger donations. Turns out, when you connect employees with the personal impact of their work, magic happens. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive — just make it personal!  

‘Compassionomics’: There’s ROI on compassion

Compassion isn't just a nice-to-have, it's a game-changer, and “Compassionomics” by Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli talks about that and then some. 
 
Here's a leaf from the book: In the quest of helping patients dealing with chronic pain, healthcare providers decided to try something different and added a touch of compassion to the mix. 

The healthcare providers spent more time with patients, actively listened to their concerns and showed genuine empathy. Believe it or not, it made a world of difference. 

The patients who received this compassionate intervention reported feeling better both physically and emotionally. Their pain levels decreased, and they even stuck to their treatment plans more diligently.  

Plus, they ended up making fewer trips back to the hospital. It just goes to show how a little compassion can go a long way in managing chronic pain and making patients feel truly cared for. 
 
Who should read this? Short answer: anyone who wishes to. Long answer: the book's message extends beyond healthcare and can be valuable for anyone interested in understanding the transformative power of compassion.  

Does compassion really matter?  
 
Eager to find out? Do share your takeaway from the podcast on social media (don’t forget to use #CXWISE and tag Sprinklr) or you can even send us an email directly, and we’ll send you “Compassionomics”, brimming with eye-opening stories on the compassion crisis in healthcare, all on us.
 
Tune in to the full podcast to get CX-Wiser and stay for an interesting anecdote on what can raising goats teach you about customer experience. 🤓

Hint: Should we really be angry at an unmet need of a customer or team member?  

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