The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode 1 · 6 months ago

177. Empathy, Listening, and Human Centricity w/ Howard Brown


The customer is (or should be) at the center of everything a business should be focused on.

If your core values don’t involve being human-centric, which means both customer-centric and employee-centric, chances are that you'll probably get left behind the companies whose values do.

In this episode, I interview Howard Brown, Founder and CEO at, about human-centricity and prioritizing connecting with others through listening and empathy.

Howard and I talked about:

  • How to make human-centricity your core value
  • What the relationship between CX and EX is
  • What it was like to navigate’s recent rebrand
  • Why AI should stand for augmented intelligence
  • How listening and empathy create better brand experiences   

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The customer is at the center of everything a business should be focused on. So if your core value doesn't involving human centric and customer centric, chances are you'll probably be left behind. The single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn how sales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes and exceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experience podcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte high performing sales teams supported by real time guidance. That's a dynamic we all love to create in, a dynamic that's critical to revenue growth, and it's a dynamic that today's guest has been specifically dedicated to. Over the past eight plus years, he's been the founder and CEO of four companies, including ring DNA, which recently rebranded as revenue dot io. Their platform delivers aipowered guidance, insights and tools for sellers, managers and revenue leaders. They've been named a best place to work by built in La and by comparably, and one of the best privately owned companies in America by Entrepreneur magazine and a fun fact, our guest earned a master's degree in a doctorate in clinical psychology G and founded his first company while he was running a private practice. So today we're talking about revenue, dot Io and the rebrand, about revenue growth through sales enablement and about human psychology and employee experience. Howard Brown, welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you, Ethan. It's so great to be here. Yeah, looking forward to the conversation. We're going to start, Howard, where we always start, which is customer experience. When I say that, what does it mean to you? Well, I think today the Today we've moved from a product economy to a services economy to a experience economy, and the customer is at the center of everything a business should be focused on. So if your core value doesn't involve being human centric and customer centric, chances are you'll probably be left behind. I love it so concise, super powerful and I hear that language a lot. I spend a lot of time on linkedin and you see things like customer centric or human centric dial into those just a little bit further. Like when you say those, what do you mean by that? Because I think a lot of people will toss that stuff around and I don't I don't know that there's a lot of clarity or understanding or consistency or agreement on those terms. I love for you to go into because it's such a powerful choice of word, especially human centric. Yeah, well, we certainly can start at human centric, I think at the end of the day, you know, again sort of leaning on my psychological background, we're all human beings, right.

We all have certain wants and needs. We all have a need to be loved and to be understood, to be heard and listen to. Those are human needs that I think all of us feel deeply value as a core asset and a core value. I think that we talk a lot about customer experience, but at the end of the day, if we're not thinking about the employee experience, then the chances are we have a hard time delivering a great customer experience. So how do we, as employers, how do we empower our teams to have the best tools, to have the best data, to have the best training so that they can one have that job satisfaction and to be in a position where they can be enabled to provide that great customer experience, because if they're not trained, if they don't have the tools they need, they're just going to be miserable and provide a poor customer experience. If that makes sense, absolutely it does. That's a theme that emerged very quickly on the show. I think by the time this episode releases will be almost three years in, if not three years, and that theme of employee experience as a necessary precursor to customer experience came up media Lee and and I think your dial in on human centricity is exactly why that's true. We're all just people trying to do the right thing by one another for the most part, to see here, appreciate, respect and understand one another. Last question here on customer experience. Another thing that kind of emerged or that I've observed in doing this for the past few years is that the rise of customer experience and popular business conversations. You know, it's obviously not a new concept in the fundamentals of it, or not new at all, but I feel like there's been this consistency in the rise of customer experience, the rise of chief revenue officer and the rise of REB UP REV OPS generally speaking, over the past few years and they're all the theme between all of them is this alignment across the entire customer life cycle, which means the alignment specifically of the revenue or the customer teams, marketing, sales customer success, with a respectful nod to product development and other folks that support all of this. What do you think about the parallels between those three? Do you think that's a thing? You know, you're obviously a highly accomplished business professional. You've been around for a while. When you think about that observation, is CX rising up in popularity in term just in terms of how often it's spoken about? Do you see that as kin in any way to the rise of CRRO or the rise of rebops? I think it's one and the same. The the the the entire idea of collapsing the silos that exists between marketing, sales and CX has been sort of the dream for the last twenty five years of technology. I again...

...three time or four time. Founder First Company I built was essentially to align sales and marketing. Today we have the compute power, we have artificial intelligence, we have the data storage. We're starting to get the mandate from the executive suite to make certain that we can deliver the best customer experience because, let's face it, as consumers, if we don't have a great customer experience, we're onto the next company, we're gone, and in a subscription based economy where it really requires companies to retain their customers for the long haul, if you're not doing that, you're not going to be able to compete. So the idea of revops, the very idea of revenue dot io, is creating an instrumenting the whole opt and optimizing the entire revenue process every step of that buyers journey understanding. What do we need to arm our sales are marketing team, are CS team with what is it that our customers need and want in that moment? How we how do we provide the most contextual experience for them and connect them with the best seller, the best piece of content, addressing their needs in the most responsive and contextual way in real time? That is the whole concept of a revenue dot ioh and that speaks directly to providing the best customer experience by enabling the various teams to have the data, the insights and the intelligence they need to meet the moment. It really is about meeting that moment. I love it, and that moments that matter concept is one that we've been talking about the whole time. To like, what are the you know, if we have to prioritize moments, and we're getting to the point now, and you just casted the vision for it, technology supported that we can support a lot more than just two moments that matter, that we can support the customer in any moment that they need or want us. So you're right there. You've already kind of given us a little bit of a preview, but I always like to ask the question approximately this way for people who aren't familiar. Tell us about revenue DOT ioh. Who is your ideal customer and what are some of the problems that you solve for them? I know you kind of already addressed it, but take that head out. Yeah, I think at our core we are really about empowering revenue teams to build better relationships and create those brand experiences that exceed our buyers and customers experiences. So we are highly focused on organizations that understand the power of the revops model, that understand that alignment with sales marketing success is what is required to...

...really provide and power high performing teams and, by virtue of having billions and billions of transactions and engagement data points and conversations, were able to extract that information across the entire buyers journey so that we're able to optimize revenue operations, sales messaging, sales engagement conversation flows. It really is about driving the best possible performance in real time so that the CX team, the sales team can meet the moment. We actually have a product that we have several patents on, called moments, and moments makes it so that any rep across your entire revenue team has essentially at seven guide that is contextually aware, that's listening into the conversations, that's on your meetings, that providing battle cards, next best actions, even what to say or what you mean should not be say. And so we built that product, we've patented the product, our customers are loving that product and it really is about meeting that moment, and so I'm super proud of what the team has built and I'm super proud of where we're going. Awesome. Just really specifically, what are some of the like? Obviously, what you all are doing applies to all kinds of businesses and industries and I don't pretty suppose that you're necessarily vertically oriented. What are some of the types of companies that are implementing this? So, for example, with moments, what are they? What are some of the businesses or industries? Not necessarily by brand name, but like you know, what types of organizations? Is there an ideal size? You know, there has to be some level of data maturity within the organization. Probably, or probably, yeah, a certain amount of sellers or a certain amount of data available. Like. What are some of the characterize a great fit, a company that's getting a lot of value from their relationship with you? We really do service companies from small and midsize all the way up to the enterprise. So companies like Amazon Web Services or Hewlett Packer Enterprise, or see that autodesk sap. These have been our customers for several years. We also have manufacturers or equipment rental companies like US Reynolds or fidelity on the financial services side. So companies of all sizes can use our products. We have a variety of products on the platform to help them optimize everything from their marketing spend and routing of calls, to their outreach and engagement, to the conversation intelligence, to the prioritization and that...

...real time coaching. So it really depends on the maturity of the organization and, to be honest, there are a lot of organizations where their data and their their text st AC are not well integrade and we are able to in a period of weeks, on board our applications and get entire teams up and running. So, rather than worrying about all the governments all the data issues, we actually normalize that data for you so that reps can be up and operational quickly and provide better results. Really Powerful. Take us back a decade or so before you founded ring DNA, now revenue doto. What were you seeing and hearing or thinking a decade back at the onset of this journey for you and the folks that were in early with you, like what were you seeing in the in the market, in the world in terms of maybe customer experience? What were you seeing then that made you say, okay, let's do this? Yeah, absolutely. So the previous two companies that I founded were very much marketing and sales engagement companies. One was in behavioral health. One was in senior care, and what was obvious for me in focusing on Legen for behavioral health, for example. I use this example quite frequently, we marketed from for everything from drug an ALCO treatment centers to eating disorder clinics to individual psychologists or psychiatrists, and we had hundreds of Web Properties that had unique pieces of content, and what we did was we marketing each of those sites and provided content around specific conditions. Well, let's give the example of a woman suffering from an eating disorder. She's on my website, she's researching, she feels a connection with the issue, she feels safe enough to pick up the phone and call that phone number to reach out for help. Well, Lo and behold, we had a contact center and unfortunately we didn't know, but we quickly found out that if you connect that woman with a man who picks up the phone, you have a ninety five percent abandonment rate. They're going to hang up the phone. They don't feel safe talking to a man. Well, we knew what website she was coming from. We have a toll free number that we can route intelligently to an agent that has the skills or in this case, has the Gen under to best be helpful to that particular person, but we were failing them. So how do we take all of the context, all of the data that we extract on our customers, on our prospects, and use that data not going to route to the right person, but and to provide that context to the individual so that they can be most helpful? That was essentially the inbound use case and then we basically mastered that. And then I get got very frustrated when I realized I can only do so much to help that sales rep improve their performance. It's... thing to provide some context, but now what? How do I provide them the training? How do I provide them the tools to be most effective? How do I make sure they're getting the training and the coaching from their managers? And that essentially was the problem. It's how do we align the marketing the sales to deliver that best customer experience that I know you talked about all the time? Yeah, how okay, that's a really great context. I can see exactly how this kind of float into where you are today and what you've already shared with US close that gap for us. Like what did you ring DNA mean to you as a name. What's changed since you founded the company? Made perhaps from a from a market standpoint and employee standpoint and or a technology standpoint? I know that's a huge question. And what provoked the rebrand from bring DNA to revenue? That Il. Yeah, I think when we started ring DNA we were very much focused on the DNA of every call. It was very, very focused on the phone calls, making sure that we understood the source of the call, we understood the content of the conversation, we understood the DNA right. So we were highly focused on that. As the market has evolved, as our products have evolved, as we've recorded hundreds of millions of conversations and extracted those conversations and essentially taken the outcomes of those conversations. And as a therapist right who studies conversations and communication, this has been a dream for me because what I've realized is by studying conversations and the outcomes of those conversations, I'm able to get insights that I wasn't able to get as a therapist. I never knew which intervention worked with a couple right. What what? What suggestions I made on how they could better communicate with one another was actually affected. With our tools, were able to not only extract the conversations and and dissect them, but also see the outcomes of every single piece of that conversation. Did Disposition Change? Did the sentiment of the buyer change? Did the outcome or the next step change? Based on what was said to me, that is we have opened up the floodgates of data and information and insights to really help people intelligently navigate relationships and communication. And so when when we started growing into the conversation intelligence fee space, which, by the way, super proud of the team. We were just named the leader in in conversation intelligence by Forster. Super Proud of that. But the idea that we can use this to essentially create and help revenue leaders,...

Revenue Masters, put buyers at the center of their strategy and arm every one of their sellers with innovative tech, innovative technology and they can over index on data to make decisions. That to me is incredible and exciting. And then as we start to started to get into emails and SMS and every bit of communication and engagement, we realize that if we could help them essentially create a unique workflow and gain actionable insights across the entire buying process. We can, one help them with forecasting, to we can help them with optimizing the journey, we can help with training and education. To me, is the entire revenue process and revenue dot I, though, was just that perfect fit. We instrument revenue and guide improve performance across billions of transactions and we help teams improve, and so it was. It was just obvious, it was logical. We probably should have done it a couple of years earlier, but rebrand is a lot of focus, a lot of attention and I'm I'm glad we did it now and I'm glad it's it's out there in the market place. Yeah, congratulations and well done. It makes perfect sense and I love that you were able, and I appreciate that you're able to share that story. I feel like we've really tied a lot of it together here. One of the things that I've heard in listening to you here so far is that you're putting the seller in the place of relationship builder, communicator, you know, direct kind of human to human engagement piece, and you're putting automation, artificial intelligence and other tools in support of that human being so that they can do what they do best and let the machines do what they do best. Another kind of huge question. So go wherever you want a did I characterize that consistent with the way that you see that relationship? And then be share anything you would like about the proper relationship between sales reps, sales managers, other team members, to degree you want to bring them in, automation and AI like. How do you see that relationship today and what do you think the appropriate relationship is going forward? Or did I already characterize it with that hung set up to the question? Well, you certainly characterize quite a bit of it. I've been studying artificial intelligence for many years now. I'm in no way an expert whatsoever, but what I realize for many years people have been so afraid of AI replacing jobs, and automation certainly has replaced people and automation will continue to replace people. But what it's hopefully teaching us is that we have to focus our skills, are training, our education around those elements...

...that make us unique in being a human being. Right. And so if we harness AI and machine learning rather than artificial intelligence, we think about it as augmented intelligence, which is, how do we use this technology to be more human, to get rid of the task that are mundane, that suck up our time and energy in our life really and utilize it to do the things that really matter, connecting one on one with each other, bringing that creativity, that problem solving in a human, a human way, because at the end of the day, sure, we're selling products and services, but we're selling a vision, right, we're selling a vision of what a better manager looks like, a better husband. I have more time to be there, to be present, to coach my team's to understand what really motivates them, to connect with them. That's what we're selling, a better version of ourselves. And so I believe that if we harness this intelligence, if we take the data across that entire buyers journey, marketing, sales, success, support and the teams are able to coalesce and truly work to better that buyer customer experience, then that transparency, that openness, that working together as a team to deliver better results will equate to then next generation of successful companies and sales and revenue leaders. Yeah, it makes me wonder about how a if enough companies are doing enough investment in training and development and then be are they doing that proper split between? Yes, we need to train on the tools, in the systems, in the processes, but we need to train on what's going to keep you employable, you know, for years to come. which leads me to a just a kind of a real absolutely directly related question, but a unique one relative to our conversation so far, which is like is listening? Can you explain for people the role of listening and maybe how important it is, and maybe even a couple tips to be a better listener? So I believe that listening is foundational to that human experience. Right, we hear a lot about empathy and we hear a lot about it in the sales process. And what is empathy? Well, a lot of people use the example of living in someone else's shoes. It's it. I understand what it's like to live in their shoes. But what's really interesting is there is a division, I believe, between empathy and sympathy. Empathy, I have to really understand your situation. I need to ask a lot of open ended questions, I need to mirror what it is you're experiencing. You need to...

...make sure that you and I are connected and that I truly get what you're going through. So I have to ask a series of open ended questions with follow up questions in order for me to be empathetic. A mistake we make is assuming we know the situation that person's in. Right. It's I'm going to I'm going to take a pattern of situations and I'm basically going to throw that at you and say, Hey, I know a bunch of sales leaders. They have the same problem, so this must be your problem. That is an empathic failure. That is me projecting on you what I think you're experiencing. The way to avoid that is to learn how to ask really great questions, to listen to the answers and not have the next question formulated until they get there. You're in a great interviewer. My experience today with you is it's deep, it's rich, it's thoughtful. It's because you're asking great questions and I'm assuming you don't have a list of questions that are just standard, but we're sort of flowing. That makes me feel heard, that makes me feel listen to, that helps me engage with you. It's so same skills that we need to be students of life, to be students of others, to connect with others. So listening and empathy our core to the human condition and their core to what we need to generate that better customer experience, that better brand experience. First, thank you so much for that positive feedback. I really appreciated this. Hosting. This has been one of the most fun and and satisfying and enlightening things that I've done in my entire career, and I'm not a young person. For those of you who have not gone to Bombombcom podcast and watch any of the video clips, I'm not a young person and I really appreciate that positive feedback and I'm really glad I ask that question. I love the way they went at it. Let's take this in turn, because you introduced employee experience to open the conversation, or near the open of it. We've already leaned a little bit into and you've referenced your background and Clinical Psychology. Talk about your own experience as a leader in a manager what are some and I already mentioned off the top, the accolades that your organization is received as a great place to work? What are some of the things that you've learned in founding and leading multiple companies in terms of connecting, communicating, listening, etc. How do you, as a leader of these organizations, set the tone and some way establish your influence the culture through the behavior that you're modeling? What are some of the philosophies that you've developed for yourself to have arrived here eight, nine years into the ring DNA Revenue Deo Journey, having achieved the success that you have, having earned some of the awards that you have. Is a great place to work. Just take...

...that on however you would like. Where are some of your guiding philosophies or practices or things that you've taught to other leaders that you have led in some of these organizations? It's a great question and it's one that I'm consistently looking at and and thinking about. So, first of all, I'm I try and be as transparent as possible. I make mistakes every day. I make mistakes as a CEO. Will I make mistakes as a father, as a husband, as a dog owner? Certainly as an employee? I make mistakes all the time and I try to be as transparent and open and honest about that. Human Condition. Right, we can make mistakes. and not to feel ashamed or embarrassed at them, but to own those mistakes and to be aware and also to communicate that I make those mistakes, because I think it's critical to look in the mirror at oneself and create a culture where people can make mistakes and fail, like I want people to take risks and fail quickly, like it's okay to fail. Matter of fact, let's celebrate failure because it means that you're trying, you're being creative, you're taking those risks. I'd like to lead with sort of openness and honesty and and how I'm flawed because, again, we're human center. We're constantly learning. Right like, we look in the mirror, we try to dream big, we champion ever every voice. Those are our values and if we're not living those values, if we're not talking about those values, if we're not modeling those values, they fall flat. People get disappointed, people get upset, people are they'll feel like they're not part of something bigger, that they're not part of a team that's moving in the right direction. A lot of the Times I liken it to parenting. So I could tell my kids a lot of stuff, but they're watching and they're listening and that's how they learned. In the same way, if I'm not being transparent, if I'm not being humble, if I'm not being modest, if I'm not sharing my failures, they're watching that. So it doesn't matter what values I put on a wall or throw up on a slide deck, I have to embody those and I make those mistakes all the time. Some days I have great days, some days I don't. I try and surround myself with people who will call me out, who will make me better. That's what I've learned, amongst other things. Yeah, really good. It's honesty is the foundation for everything, and then the ability to communicate it well, this idea that demonstrated behavior is more important than spoken words. So much good stuff in there. That's why, by the way, as a listener, you have a thirty or a sixty second back button so you can go back and hear that again. One quick follow up there. It's just talking with my friend Blaine about he just joined an early stage company and he was asking me about mission and values here at bombomb and you know what their evolution was? Did they, you know, stick from...

Day One? What role do they play Jeffy thoughts, because you because you mentioned some of your values and I know it's I ask a lot of big questions, but can you quickly just basically describe how you arrived at the values of the organization? Was it a collaborative thing? Did they stick from you know, these now eight years old, or did they evolve over time? It's such an important question and it's very timely. So as part of this rebrand we didn't just rebrand the name. We stepped back and we looked at the entire organization said, okay, let's look at what is our what are our core values? What is the mission? Is it still relevant? Is it still core to who we are? I mean we talked about that being human centric. Our mission is we're on a mission to unlock human potential. That's the mission of our company and we believe that we can do that across the entire revenue team. was that our mission to begin with? No, it wasn't. We had values and we had a mission. But those as we've grown, as I've matured, as my leadership team has matured, we've all weighed and we took time. I went away for a week and ran a values exercise by myself and then I came and I spent time with the team and we reflected and we spent time on this. Last week we had a sales summit where we literally had a sharing circle where we took each of the values and we talked about what it meant to US individually. We talked about the idea that we look in the mirror. Is a value. What is that mean? What's difficult about that? A lot of people talked about giving and getting feedback and how difficult it is to actually give feedback as opposed to get it, but how important it is for our own personal and professional development. So it's not just about throwing those values up and sort of hoping they stick. It's a it's really an exercise throughout the organization of saying Hey, is this what we care about, is this what we want? Does this rang true? And if it doesn't, there are definitely other companies that people can go to where the values aligned to their personal values. But these are ours and we want to wear them proudly and we want to hire for them and we want to evolve with them. So No, they worked our values to begin with, but we looked in the mirror and we decided is it time to make some changes, and we did the bold step of a name change. We change the mission, we have poor. It's just needs to be refreshed, just like anything. Yeah, I can tell by the passion with which you describe that whole thing that where you all landed with this is just true to who you are and you just had to create the time and space to get to provide some reflection and articulate it. And I got to tell you, if you're at an organization that wants to unlock human potential and you can't like connect with that, I struggle. Ours is to rehumanize...

...the planet and functionally we do it by rehumanizing business communication. And it's like, okay, I get it if there are things about this organization that maybe you don't want to be a part of, but the mission and values I struggle go with because they're just like, there're a lot like yours and they you just got me all fired up about what you are doing. I'm excited for you. I know you're super busy, so I'm going to let you go. We've got a couple more questions for you, but for those of you listening, of course you're listening to Howard Brown, founder and CEO of multiple companies, including Revenue Dot I. Oh, if you've enjoyed this so far, I think you'll also enjoy episode one hundred and twenty eight with John Miller, who is the founder and an executive at multiple companies in his career, including Marquetto Engageo and demand base. That one we were talking about not a rebrand of the organization but their evolution toward account based experience, what they were calling abx. That was one hundred and twenty eight with John Miller or, more recently, one hundred and sixty seven. I had three executives for one company on the same interview, which is the first time I've had three guests on one show, C O Brandy Star Cro Roley Keenan and CTO Mike Geller of Tegrida. They do a lot of consulting on text AC, on revops, on aligning these revenue and customer teams in some ways that we've been talking about here in this conversations, as one hundred and twenty eight with John Miller, one hundred and sixty seven with the TEGRETA executive team. And before I let you go, Howard I love for you to do two things for us. One is to think or mention someone who's had a positive impact on your life or your career, and then to give a nod or a shout out to a company or brand that you personally appreciate for the experience that they deliver for you as a customer. I have a father who's very ill right now and has made such an impact on my life. He's he taught me about perseverance, he taught me about putting in a day of hard work and what that means. Talk to me about integrity and and and what it means to be a valuable member of society, and so I love you, Dad. Thank you for sharing that. In any family is privilege to have a member that could be spoken of in that way, and I feel like I'm denigrating it by he's been asking about a company, but if one of those is top of mine, I'd welcome that to yeah, I think I've really learned a lot from Amazon over the past ten, fifteen years. They've really charted the path and the whole idea of we're priming people for a better experience and getting what I want when I want it. I've learned a lot from them as an organization. Awesome, and I don't know if you did it intentionally, but that's a nice way to work. In the word prime. How can someone connect with you or revenue dot I? Of they enjoyed this conversation. Who I'm certainly on Linkedin, Howard Brown, or please go to revenue dot io and reach out to me. Love to connect. Awesome. Well done on the rebrand. Thank you so much for everything you brought here.

Your passion and your sincerity are palpable for folks that can who are listening, we have video clips that we that we put up for every episode. Just go to bombobcom slash podcast. You can see Howard and see the way that he's expressing a lot of these sincere and exciting ideas. I appreciate your vision, I appreciate your time and I thank you for spending it with us. Ethan, thank you so much for making this really enjoyable for me as well. The digital, virtual and online spaces where we work every day are noisier and more polluted than ever, and the problem is only getting worse. At risk or relationships and revenue. Join bombombs. Steve Passanelli and Ethan Bud along with eleven other experts in sales, marketing, customer experience, emotional intelligence, leadership and other disciplines, to learn a new way to break through the noise and pollution. Human centered communication a new book out now on Fast Company press. Learn more by visiting Bombombcom book or search human centered communication wherever you buy books. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Remember the single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and tactics by subscribing right now in your favorite podcast player or visit Bombombcom podcasts.

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