Taking Care of Your Customers: Four Pillars of CX Transformation Success with Erika Putinsky

20 min read
Taking Care of Your Customers: Four Pillars of CX Transformation Success with Erika Putinsky
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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Erika Putinsky from Mailchimp to discuss what it takes to make CX exceptionally great. So many CX leaders are currently searching for the recipe that will transform the customer journey and Erika has all of the ingredients. Tune in below to learn more from this exciting episode!

Step One – Customer Obsession

We love talking about customer obsession at Kustomer, as it’s something we believe every leader should practice as a core principle. Customer obsession isn’t just something you switch on overnight, it’s an integrated process where consistency is key. Customer obsession can look like hiring the right talent, teaching empathy to your team, or even helping customers to be self-sufficient, making their part of the experience low effort. For Erika, it means “locking arms” with the human behind the screen and being their support.

Two – Show up for your Customers

Something that Mailchimp is known for is how well they interact with their customers. They’re seen as human beings, not just a case number, and are treated with the same respect as a fellow team member. To show up means to, “listen with two ears and one mouth,” as Erika says, meaning to listen more than you speak. When we listen with empathy and patience, problems are solved much more efficiently, saving both time and money. 

Showing up also means celebrating the underdog. Oftentimes, small businesses or one-time customers are forgotten but in Erika’s eyes, each is just as important as the last. It’s about building a community. 

Number Three – Process

Instilling a solid process is crucial to making things run smoothly within a company. Having the right process can streamline customers to the best solutions with minimal friction. Erika explains:

Whenever we can create a process and then also make sure that we’re mindfully communicating it back to our customers, holy moly, they’ve got a roadmap of what’s going on or they have the ability to look around corners, which creates that comfort and really helps kind of support that customer obsession because they feel taken care of.

Four – Have a Fantastic Inner Culture

We can’t say this enough, but culture is so necessary to long-term success! Time and time again, we find that when companies have the right internal culture, customer happiness dramatically increases as an awesome after-effect. For leaders searching to create a positive work environment, Erika suggests hiring talent that enriches the team, who offer unique cultural backgrounds and experiences. Erika also hopes leaders will learn to trust their employees to make their own decisions and to check their judgment at the door when they make mistakes. After all, making mistakes is part of being human and only serves to help us learn to do better. Erika leaves listeners with one last note:

Whenever you have a chance to work at a place with an amazing culture, it’s really going to attract folks that are driven and when you’re with those teams, it’s palpable. You can feel that energy in the room whenever you’re interacting with a successful team where trust is key, empathy, curiosity, belonging. 

To learn more about transforming CX and Erika’s four pillars of success, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Taking Care of Your Customers: Four Pillars of CX Transformation Success with Erika Putinsky

Intro Voice: (00:04)

You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)

All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re gonna be talking about CX transformation and to do that, we brought on somebody I’ve been bugging her for a little while and she finally agreed to jump on. I’m so glad she did. It’s Erika Putinsky and she’s currently the Vice President of Customer Education at Mailchimp. Erika, thanks for joining. How are you?

Erika Putinsky: (00:33)

Hey, Gabe. I’m great. Thanks for being persistent and reaching out. I’m excited to be here, man.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)

Yeah, yeah. I was pleasantly persistent, not annoying. I was pleasantly persistent. Just as you see and you’ll hear in today’s show, kind of a unique role. Really, that Customer Education just jumped out to the team and I, as we were looking for some really interesting guests and I think you’ll hear today why we think Erika’s got kind of interesting background on some of the things she does in that role. I don’t mean to steal the thunder. Can you tell us just a little bit about Mailchimp and what you do over there?

Erika Putinsky: (01:10)

Sure. So I’m the, like you said, Vice President of Customer Education at Mailchimp. Pretty excited with our customer team. We are just doubling down on how we wrap around our customers. That means sort of our internal customers within the Mailchimp community and then also our external users of the product. So we really wanna make sure that we’re always making sure that folks have the right tools at the right time to be successful.

Gabe Larsen: (01:36)

I love that. Yeah. I just think that’s maybe, it’s not that unique, but it seems pretty unique. I think more of us probably need to be thinking about that – how do people kind of move through that whole journey, which we’ll get into today. So oftentimes, before we get into the meeting, I usually like to ask this question, Erika, just to put you on the spot. Outside of work, any fun hobbies, crazy things you’ve got going on, fun holiday plans, anything going on?

Erika Putinsky: (02:05)

Yeah. Definitely. It is a little weird being in the digital world, but I love a digital detox. I love to read printed books. I often get in trouble with my family for turning off the navigation on the car and taking the long way that’s a little prettier than the swift way. But I think for me, that gives me a chance to just sort of find inspiration in weird places and then kind of string together these disparate concepts to kind of flip my thinking, but then also, man, you sometimes, the long road, you really see some cool things. So it’s worth slowing down.

Gabe Larsen: (02:43)

Yeah. I love the words: digital detox. I might have to take you up on that. So your formula is kind of printed books, no navigation, gardening, that’s kind of your go-to.

Erika Putinsky: (02:55)

That’s it. It most of the time works. I definitely get distracted sometimes, but sometimes we all fumble on those things.

Gabe Larsen: (03:03)

Right. Yeah. Sitting on these Zoom calls can be, yeah. I think you need a detox. That’s a great word. Well, let’s dive into the topic at hand. Want to hit on a little bit of this transformational idea. So as we think about your experience transforming the CX at a variety of companies, what are some of those big rocks, those big pillars that you’ve found necessary to be successful?

Erika Putinsky: (03:32)

Yeah. For me, it’s I like to think about it as four pillars. If we have three, sometimes it gets a little finicky and tips, but four gives us a strong base and foundation. So, core to everything that I do and what we’re doing at Mailchimp is, it’s about customer obsession. That means the business, but also the human that you’re working with. And that’s where education really comes in. We get that opportunity to empower folks and sort of help them be successful and teach them to be successful. And so to be that customer-obsessed, I always wanna know, like, obviously what’s your business KPIs? Like, what are you trying to do? What are your personal ones? So like, do you wanna grow in a marketing role? Do you want to, I don’t even know, run a marathon or something like that?

Erika Putinsky: (04:23)

And then we can think about and sort of frame-up what we’re doing collaboratively to help that and to help you get there. And then I always want to make sure as we’re working through this customer obsession, we’re there and then we can be an extension of your team. Like I’m in it that lock arms with you. That’s the thing. I want to be able to make sure that I can become involved in your choices that help create your success. And then that sort of wraps around that. So customer obsession, that’s –

Gabe Larsen: (04:56)

Let me pause you. Yeah. Because I got to dive into that just a little bit. Do you feel like, I love the personal KPIs. That just, we’re obviously all motivated to run our job, but we’re obviously more motivated to buy that first house or start a family, buy a boat, whatever it may be. And that does, I think that really, you tap into that, you’ve tapped into something pretty unique, I think. On the business KPIs, do you feel like sometimes people struggle to get those across? What do you find is the main thing people are trying to accomplish when you guys work with them? Just curious.

Erika Putinsky: (05:36)

I think that it’s, from a business perspective, for sure folks struggle. Oftentimes folks want to know like, within my industry, what should my KPIs be beyond selling more stuff and making sure that customers don’t churn? So how do, how can we bring our knowledge, even from Mailchimp, our knowledge with different customer sets, to help our customers understand what market success looks like? I think that that’s something that is a little bit interesting and whenever you find a company that’s open, to sort think in that way, then they’re gonna go deeper. And I think they get that chance to sort of widen their lens of success rather than what everybody already assumes success is.

Gabe Larsen: (06:29)

Yeah, and that’s one of the things I think that we had tagged Mailchimp on. It just feels like so many tech companies or companies that offer products or services, become experts at that product or service, but they don’t really become experts at maybe the stuff around it, the industry, best practices. It’s great to deliver technology, but it’s awesome, it’s even more powerful to be able to recommend what KPIs that technology should be delivering and then how to optimize to that. So I would, I’d challenge listeners to don’t just be the technology expert, be the industry expert. Be the best practice expert because I think Mailchimp is a great example of taking that to another level. Sorry, I’m tooting your own horn there, so, okay. So obsession is one. Where do you go for number two? What’s kind of that second pillar?

Erika Putinsky: (07:17)

It kind of goes to what you were saying, Gabe. It’s that effort of showing up. Obviously, in our current world, you can’t do customer visits or that kind of thing, but it’s about making an extra effort. So don’t hide behind emails. Mindfully listen to your customer’s unique experience. Like that’s it. You got to slow down. I had a mentor a while ago that would say, listen with two ears and one mouth. That’s humongous.

Gabe Larsen: (07:47)

I love that. I had a mentor, that’s kind of like an old, but yeah, his name is [inaudible]. I haven’t heard that for years. I love that one, but yeah. I mean, just click into that. I mean, it just means listen more than talk, I guess. Right?

Erika Putinsky: (08:01)

It does. And it means, listen and watch like see what people’s reactions are. Even like with your situation, you went back in the way back machine and thought about the person that helped you sort of become the human that you are. That’s great. That’s a connection that really helps sort of deepening the way we could work together in the future. So then I know, hey, that resonates with you. So I’m going to double down on something like that.

Gabe Larsen: (08:31)

Yeah. Fun. So that second one is to show up. But it does, with the digital world, it’s so much harder but it sounds like you’ve got any other kind of little tips on that? How you show up because it does, I think a lot of us felt like we could go up and bug people in the office, but times have changed, obviously.

Erika Putinsky: (08:48)

It’s true. Yeah. But I think that it’s, to be able to watch those reactions, but also with a digital thing and maybe it’s my slant toward a digital detox, it’s also knowing like when it’s time to like celebrate, let’s give a high five and we’re going to call it. Like, hey, I need to go see a tree, not my computer screen for a little bit. And I think that folks appreciate that too, to be able to say, “Okay, we’ve done this cool thing. I’m going to give you the gift of time. Here are 10 minutes to go do something unplanned.” So I think that that sort of circles back around, but sort of in that show up, I definitely wanted to underscore, and this is something that I love about being at Mailchimp is this focus about empowering the underdog.

Erika Putinsky: (09:43)

And then for me, I always like to take whatever the phrase is and kind of think about it, look at the other side of it. And so that underdog, it’s not always just a small business. It might be a new person starting their career in a large corporation. It might be a large corporation that we think has it all together, but once you kind of peel back the onion, they’re not so organized. So suddenly they are an underdog. So I think that’s sort of fun within the feed there.

Gabe Larsen: (10:16)

I mean, that is the, I walk around my world and just that last part, it seems like some, oh my goodness, these guys, they haven’t figured out. And those people haven’t figured out. And once you peel back the onion, I’m always, I’m not surprised because look, we’re all human, but man, we’re all struggling. We all don’t know what we’re doing at times. We all need, we’re all the underdog, I guess, to your point.

Erika Putinsky: (10:41)

It’s true. It’s true.

Gabe Larsen: (10:42)

To your point. So, okay. I like that one. So show up, especially the click-off. That digital detox. There’s something about winning, celebrating, and then taking a little breather. Go hug a tree. You didn’t say hug a tree, but yeah. Go see a tree. It brings a whole new name, a whole new meaning to tree huggers. I love that. Okay. So that’s number two. Show up. Where do you go for number three?

Erika Putinsky: (11:11)

I think for me, process. It’s a lovely word. It’s something that I definitely, from getting things done perspective, I love to have a process figure out. How can it be scalable? How can we build, measure, learn, but then also be humble to step backward and say, “Whoa, that process doesn’t work right now.” Or maybe, “It doesn’t need to be as complicated as I’m making it,” but whenever we can create a process and then also make sure that we’re mindfully communicating it back to our customers, holy moly, they’ve got a roadmap of what’s going on or they have the ability to look around corners, which creates that comfort and really helps kind of support that customer obsession because they feel taken care of.

Gabe Larsen: (12:08)

Yeah. It seems like in our world of CX, and I’ve just, I don’t want to but I I’ve heard it more from our audience. We put out this kind of thing to try to get some feedback from the audience. And one thing that came back really big was just, sometimes in CX, things get fluffy. They lack that process. They lack that structure and that iterative thing you kind of said. What did you say? Build, measure, learn, it almost is like iterative. You build it. You measure it. You learn, then you go build it again and then you measure it and learn, and then you’re like, okay, I got to iterate again. And how do you kind of continue to just optimize, iterate, iterate, because in our world, I think the more process you can get, people are a big part of it, but boy, the backbone of it is you take a good process, you add people to it, you got something that’s scalable. Right? Okay. So one, two. So the first one, I’m trying to kind of remember, the first one is an obsession. The second is showing up. Three is more around process. Okay. So we’re on four. Where do you go for number four? Last but not least here.

Erika Putinsky: (13:16)

This is it. I mean, for me, this is the thing that kind of wraps around it all. And it’s making sure that you’ve got a great internal culture. I referenced a couple of mentors and then the work at Mailchimp and whenever you have a chance to work at a place with an amazing culture, it’s really going to attract folks that are driven and when you’re with those teams, it’s palpable. You can feel that energy in the room whenever you’re interacting with a successful team where trust is key, empathy, curiosity, belonging. And then you give folks sort of the room to be successful. I think that’s something that’s sometimes overlooked in cultures where, okay, that’s cool. You made a mistake. Let’s learn from it. Let’s move on. But you had a chance to make a mistake because I trust you and I’m an empathetic leader and I get it. It’s scary sometimes to fail, but you have to if you’re a curious human being.

Gabe Larsen: (14:21)

Yeah. This one seems like, especially in the current environment, it’s what are they calling it? The great resignation, resignation migration, something like that. People are leaving and coming and yeah. I just don’t think people put up with that, quote-unquote, crap anymore, you know? But it’s easier said than done. What are some of those things, I mean, to create that amazing culture, you touched on a little bit, but any other tips for leaders to rise above the stuff on this one? This is a tough one.

Erika Putinsky: (14:56)

Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s kind of, whenever you said the great resignation, I like to think about it as more of like a great recalibration. I think we’re all starting to think about like what the heck is important to me? And so as a leader, like I’ve got to take the long road, I guess, like I said, I’ve referenced at the top of the call and not just tell folks what to do, but give them chance to be curious. Give them the chance to know, “Hey, I trust you. You’re here for a reason. You get it.” We’re all trying to build, in my current world, we’re all trying to build this incredible educational opportunity. You’re smart. I worked hard to get folks from various cultural backgrounds to be here. So we’re sparking new solutions and we’ve got that chance to like, not only think outside of the box, but really just shred the box and do cool things. So you’ve got to be able to step back as a leader. You’ve gotta be able to be humble and then you’ve got to be able to have that kind of ability and grace for yourself to know you’re not going to knock it out of the park every single time but you’re trying.

Gabe Larsen: (16:15)

Yeah. The thing that matters so much to me is, I’m thinking about my own team. I don’t know how well I do this, but is that maybe empathy fits into it a little bit, but yeah. I like when people, my manager, my leader, seems like they care about me as a person. You talked about kind of individual goals up above in the customer journey, but I just, life is so short. I just, I don’t want to work for punks or I don’t want to work for, if somebody’s telling me what to do, I think you kind of mentioned, but it’s like, I spend enough time with these people. I don’t need them to like, take it easy on me. That’s not what I’m saying. But it’s like, I got my problems. I’ve got my life, I’ve got my situation and if your manager cares about you as a person, I just feel like that’s a great place to start. One-piece on that, just to think about. Okay. So that’s a lot to, that’s a lot. I love the four points. Just in review again, it’s customer obsession. It’s kind of that show-up, the process and then this, I’ll just bucket it under kind of culture if I heard it right. A lot that we covered in our short session today. In summary, a lot of us are thinking about transformation. All these CX leaders, we all want kind of the same thing. Get better, more customers, more employee engagement. What would you leave them with? Any thoughts there?

Erika Putinsky: (17:38)

I think, important to remember is, whenever you’re thinking about why you’re focused on customer education. Outside of the help center, we always want our folks to be able to get their jobs done and that kind of thing. But whenever you’re truly working with an education model where folks can come in and sort of go outside of the how-to, but get the why behind what they’re doing, then you’re creating evangelists, not just customers, suddenly those folks have ownership in your product. They’re going to give you better feedback. They’re going to let you know, “Hey, okay, I can do this thing, but I want to do this other thing with it.” And then you have that chance to have just a thriving community of users that are there because they do want to get things done, but they love the product. They feel engaged in the process and they’re gonna stick around.

Gabe Larsen: (18:37)

The why. That is true. And I think if anybody’s done it, I think Mailchimp’s been able to build that kind of community. You guys have some real strong followers. Maybe that’s best, what’s the word? Followers. So kudos. You’re definitely doing something right over there. Erika, thanks so much for joining. A really fun talk track today. Some things for me, even to think about as I think about culture, et cetera, this in particular, as we move into 2022. I’m deep in thought, but let’s wrap. If someone wants to get in touch with you, continue this dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Erika Putinsky: (19:17)

Sure. Definitely feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I am for sure willing to have a chat or take a telephone call and go on a walk and just –

Gabe Larsen: (19:29)

I can attest to that.

Erika Putinsky: (19:31)

[Inaudible] I’m definitely here to help and I’d love to hear what y’all have to say. I think we’re all just smarter and better together and let’s have some good exchanges.

Gabe Larsen: (19:45)

Awesome. All right. Well, Erika, again, thanks so much for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Erika Putinsky: (19:49)

Gabe, I appreciate you. Thanks so much.

Exit Voice: (19:57)

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