Jim Tincher

Jim Tincher is a passionate fan of customer experience, consulting, speaking and writing about the topic at Heart of the Customer. When he’s not working on customer engagement, he’s also the President of the Fulton Neighborhood Association in southwest Minneapolis.

Customer Experience Drives 37 Consecutive Quarters of Same-Salon Growth - an Interview with Rhoda Olsen, CEO of Great Clips

Posted by: Jim Tincher Updated: January 23, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Aiming for the Heart of their CustomersOverview

I originally interviewed Rhoda Olsen to learn more about her customer experience efforts in 2011. You can read that interview here. At that point Great Clips had experienced 30 consecutive quarters of same-salon growth. That record has now been extended to 37, and the company has grown to over $1 billion in revenue.

Defining Customer Experience

Rhoda Olsen, CEO of Great Clips

Unlike some franchisors, Great Clips defines their customer as the end consumer, not the franchisee. CEO Rhoda Olsen explains, “We believe that if we don’t stay focused on that customer in the salon, the franchisee will not be successful. We define the customer experience from the time they check into the online app or walk in the door to the time they leave. Everything that happens in the wait time and what happens when they leave is part of the customer experience. The interaction with the stylist is their primary brand driver, but if somebody waited 45 minutes and been treated poorly, the stylist has to dig herself out of a hole.”

Great Clips does not have a specific customer experience group. “The entire organization is responsible for helping to drive a consistent customer experience.” Rhoda showed a Brand Delivery Document that defines their customer experience. “Every one of our executives – marketing, operations, education, even real estate, will always have this with them. Great Clips, the franchisee, down to the individual in the salon, all need to have a commitment to customer experience that defines the brand in meaningful ways for the customer. You can look at the rational items, like price and location, but really what connects customers is the emotional feelings they get in the salon throughout the customer experience. This is really focused on the feelings of comfort, freedom and connection,” Great Clips’ three brand pillars.

Measuring Customer Experience

The company does not rely on surveys. Instead, Great Clips’ Brand Delivery Document includes a scorecard with customer-focused measurements that tell them if they’re accomplishing their goals. “We define the customer experience emotionally and confirm it rationally,” Rhoda explains.

There are very few businesses where you physically touch your customers, which is what makes the emotional link even more important than in some other businesses. “Our customers want to look better and feel better without spending too much time or money.” Their metrics – items like wait time and repeat customers – helps the company understand how their franchises are delivering against those goals.

Bringing the Customer to Life for the Corporate Employees

In my previous interview I outlined Rhoda’s incredible salon visit schedule, going to 500 salons in one year. In that interview she reflected on the challenge of getting the rest of her senior staff out of the office and into the field. In reaction, her business services team creating Salon Immersion Days. “All of our staff go into the field and fully immerse themselves in a salon for a couple of days. They act as the receptionist. They’re on the floor. That’s a key part of the business that we really need to understand.”

They have also broadened their focus groups participation to get as many as possible to observe. As Rhoda explains, “That’s a way that people can listen to customers, get a sense of them. It’s almost a more intimate way of learning than being in the salon, because you’re hearing their preferences, their experience, those kinds of things.”

Creating a Customer-Focused Culture

“We don’t go into any meeting anywhere without viewing this information,” Rhoda explains, showing the Brand Delivery Document and customer scorecard. “All our manager and franchisee recognition is focused around this information, which tells us if we’re treating the customer well. We have great data to let us know whether the customer is coming back, how long they waited, whether or not we’re staffed appropriately.”

“The way you create a customer-focused culture is to make sure you’re treating your stylist right.” In the old days of overhead projectors, Rhoda used to begin meetings with a 3-line slide:

  • Treat your employees well
  • Treat your customers well
  • Then count your money

And do it in that order. “There is no way we have a franchisee who is successful without creating an incredible connection with their staff.”

Planning for 2014

Rhoda was able to share three 2014 initiatives related to the customer experience. One is to build a global customer database. When one of your value propositions is to get a great haircut no matter which location you visit, having ready information on a customer and their preferences is critical.

The second initiative is to deploy additional iPads into salons to assist with checking customers in and out, and the third was to better integrate promotions into their social media channels and their app. This will allow them to react to local conditions. For example, if it’s a rainy day and business is slow, they will be able to identify customers who are due for their haircut and offer a promotion.

Driving a Customer Experience Culture Change – Interview with Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Prime Therapeutics

Posted by: Jim Tincher Updated: January 22, 2014 - 1:12 PM

Aiming for the Heart of their CustomersOverview

Prime Therapeutics (Prime) manages pharmacy benefits for health plans, employers, and government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. Prime is collectively owned by 13 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans, and Ingrid is the chief customer experience officer, a role she took in 2012 after serving as the customer experience officer at CIGNA.

Defining Customer ExperienceIngrid Lindberberg

“Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a company has with its customers. From who you are as a firm, to your mission, value and purpose, all the way through to how you price your products. It’s about what you bring to the market, and how you talk about yourself, whether in the public relations world or how you answer the phone. It’s the sum of everything you do.”

Differentiating Customer Service from Customer Experience

“Customer service is about 5-6 percent of the customer experience. The only time service really matters regarding the long-term loyalty of a customer is when it goes wrong. I’ve studied this in a number of industries, and the de minimis impact of service has remained the same – until something goes wrong. Financial services, employee benefits, payroll and health care, these are all referred to as negative service industries. You don’t want to have a relationship with these companies – you just hire them for when something goes wrong. The only time you call your payroll company is when you don’t get paid.”

I asked Ingrid whether Prime’s efforts are to reduce the call or welcome it. “In this industry more than any other, the preferred communication channel is still paper and phone. It’s paper for trust and phone for conversation. When I got into health care, I thought it was all about ‘educate, educate, educate.’ But because it’s thought of as a negative service industry, people have no desire to learn about this. So, we encourage the use of phone. My goal is that when people call Prime, we can actually have an educational conversation instead of just solving the problem.”


Ingrid has a strong opinion about the ideal measurement. “I’m a follower of the original Forrester methodology. We don’t measure enjoyability, but we do measure ease of use and helpfulness of information. We know that those two pieces are the biggest drivers of loyalty in health care and pharmacy benefit services.”

“Ease of use is critical. When we make it harder for people to get the medicine they need, I know they’re going to be upset. That’s just such a one-to-one correlation. I’m not a fan of over-complicating – the simple answer is always the best answer and drives the best results.”

Driving Cultural Change

“I need to be able to insert customer experience designers who live, breathe, and understand our customers into every design process for every product and process we have. I bring the voice of the customer into all of a company’s processes using that team. Our customer experience designers sit at every table, whether it’s a new product launch, a new line of business launch, or a process redesign. They are the ones who represent the customer in that process, and have, in a lot of cases, the final vote on whether we do something.”

“I’m really proud of our mission statement. It’s one of the first things we did when I got here. ‘To help people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well.’ That’s the question my designers ask at each juncture, and it’s how we make decisions. It begins every customer experience conversation.”

“It all starts with your purpose and having a strong advocate in the CEO. Unless you have a CEO who has a vision to make customer experience be a differentiator, you’re never going to get anywhere. That culture starts at the top. I’m lucky as all get-out that I have a CEO who is on a level I’ve never seen before, because he understands how important customer experience is to how we show up in the marketplace.”

“I’m a huge believer in tying customer experience to compensation. Every single employee at Prime has 25 percent of their annual incentive program tied to our ease of use and helpfulness of information metrics. That’s how you change culture.”

Her advice to others? “Get your CEO on board, or just stop. Because if you don’t have your CEO on board, you’ll never get anywhere. You might get little tiny wins, but that will never get you where you need to go.”

Customer Experience is a Partnership – Interview with Robin Schribman, VP of Customer Insight and Customer Experience, Thomson Reuters

Posted by: Jim Tincher Updated: January 21, 2014 - 1:18 PM

Aiming for the Heart of their Customers

This is the fifth in our Aiming for the Hearts of their Customers interview series, with seven Minnesota customer experience leaders sharing their strategy for the coming year. In this article, we catch up with Robin Schribman, VP of Customer Insight and Customer Experience at Thomson Reuters.


Robin SchribmanThomson Reuters is a global B2B information, software and news company, with customer experience roles within each of their professional business units. Robin’s role, in the Global Brand Marketing Group is to focus on customer experience and insight that includes content creation, guidelines and integration efforts.  She has specific responsibilities for customer insight in the financial and risk business.

Robin’s role was created two years ago to build consistency across the organization. Much of her effort is leading efforts, saying, “If we are to be a customer-first organization, what does that look like, and how do we bring that to life for our 60,000+ employees?”    The role is deeply rooted in customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

Starting Quickly

To jumpstart this effort she put together their first annual customer experience workshop with 90+ employees across all divisions. The workshop included not just those with customer experience in their title, but also marketing and brand, sales, help desk and services. They spent the day discussing goals and objectives, governance, best practices, and system enablement.

As she says, “We spent a lot of time talking about how you take customer experience and make it end-to-end. Our customer experience is closely attached to our brand. What do we want to stand for? What is our mission, vision and purpose? And how do we live that every day within our employee base and our customers? The bigger question becomes; are we delighting our customers at every touch point?

“From my standpoint, it’s not only the touch points, but it’s building the bridges between them in all the ways our employees interact with our customers. Even the people who feel they aren’t connected to the customer are.”

2013 Successes

Robin shared three major accomplishments in 2013. The first was the workshop, but also the ongoing sharing of best practices that came out of it. “The ability for all parts of the business to meet monthly and share challenges and best practices – given our time constraints and the natural tendency for each unit to focus on their own business, that’s not always the easy thing to do.”

A second success was to create a shared approach to customer satisfaction. Historically, each division had their own approach. While this worked well for each division, it made it difficult to compare results – particularly when businesses are customers of multiple divisions. Robin led the effort to create a consistent method of measuring and reporting customer insights, including a common customer relationship score.

A third focus was to insure customer driven decisions and driving actions that would have the most value to our business and our customers. “Getting the commitment to sending so many people to the workshop and agreement to the central loyalty and satisfaction reporting could never have been done without executive commitment to customer experience. They’ve created roles where people are actually responsible for delivering against customer experience.”   In some cases separate CE boards have been established in the business units.

Planning for 2014

Looking to 2014, Robin told me, “We want to understand our professional customer better than anybody else. We did a study in 2012 of 4500 professionals in 7 countries in all the industries we serve. We’ll talk about part 2 – how do we continue to understand the professionals we serve better than anybody else? What motivates them? What innovation will have the most value? It’s all tied into the experience that creates true partnerships.”

“The second thing we’re going to do is to talk about the connections. I call them bridges, but they’re the connections between touch points. We need to identify across the organization where we need to repair those bridges and/or build new ones.  This includes employee engagement and clarity of purpose”

Customer Experience Advice

Robin had the following advice to anybody new to a customer experience leadership role: “This is a listening and a partnership role with a sincere commitment to understanding and living within the customer’s world. You need to be passionate about your customer and your brand. If you’re not, it’s probably not a good role.  And if you think that you will ever be finished or stay the same, be prepared for a surprise. Being flexible and driving for real behavioral change is essential.

“I also believe that when you focus efforts on each touch point and internally between touch points the experience we want our customers to have will come to life.   It is the consistency and commitment that matters.   Don’t sit in your office.  Visit your customers, get out with your business partners.”

Her final advice was to remember why customer experience matters. “When you’re in a business, there are times when you’re insulated within that business, and to remain curious and customer-focused you need people who are committed to bringing that voice of the customer into your organization. Building the bridges between departments, business units and divisions, that is truly connected to your brand and revenue goals. Without that you can become very myopic and very product-focused. It matters now more than ever to think about that and how you’re going to be a part of your customer’s life and work.”

Creating a great customer experience for agents AND consumers – an interview with Lisa Hoene, VP of Brand and Marketing Services, Allianz Life

Posted by: Jim Tincher Updated: January 20, 2014 - 3:37 PM

Aiming for the Heart of their CustomersThis is the fourth in our Aiming for the Hearts of their Customers interview series, with seven Minnesota customer experience leaders sharing their strategy for the coming year. In this article, we catch up with Lisa Hoene, the VP of Brand and Marketing Services for Allianz Life.

Lisa Hoene


Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life) helps Americans achieve their retirement income and protection goals with a variety of annuities and life insurance products sold through independent financial professionals. As a leading provider of fixed index annuities, Allianz Life is part of Allianz SE, a global leader in the financial services industry.

Defining Customer Experience

“Our brand is the essence of our customer experience – everything grows out of our vision and mission. In my role I focus on how we bring our brand to life for our financial professionals and policy holders.”

A challenge for many B2B2C companies is defining the “customer” in the experience. As Lisa says, “We have a long history of thinking of the financial professional as our customer. We haven’t been as good at recognizing and focusing on the policyholder experience and the impact on Allianz Life and the financial professional. We’ve gone through a journey to define who our customer is, and ultimately realized that it is an ‘and’ not an ‘or’.   As we build our customer experience we need to keep in mind both the financial professional and the end customer.

“Part of our customer experience journey is identifying the moments that matter for both the financial professional and the customer. What are the moments for the financial professional that drive that customer experience, and vice versa, and what can we improve?”

Starting with Employee Engagement

“We have strong employee engagement – one of the ‘Best Places to Work’ from Fortune, one of the Twin Cities Best Places to Work, one of the Healthiest Places to Work, and Allianz Life was just named one of the ‘Top 10 Coolest Places to Work’. This is a great foundation for our customer experience strategy. We are really lucky to have that kind of engagement to build on.”

Bringing Customers to Life

“Our Corporate Communications team has been critical to this. Customer stories have been an ongoing focus, whether it’s interviews or videos with financial professionals, customers, or a recent story about one of our service representatives sharing how she helped a customer who was in a really difficult situation. The story showed how she went above and beyond. It showed how employee engagement leads to a better customer experience. It was very touching. It helped everybody understand how each person delivers on the promise of our brand.

2013 Successes

“We tackled some really complex enhancements to customer materials, such as annual account statements. It took a lot of cross organizational collaboration. Since we’re such a highly-regulated industry, a lot of thinking went into this, and what are the impacts of each change. We’re also building out the framework for our digital experience. We can’t call it a success yet, because it will come to life in 2014, but I’m very excited about the future enhancements it will enable.”

2014 Focus

“In 2014 there are two major focus areas: Quality and Culture. We’re making significant investments in improved quality, including technology investments and process improvements. Quality is a key part of our customer experience, and our teams really get that.

“The other focus is continued culture change. We’re creating two customer advocate teams. One team will be housed within our Enterprise Operations department. There is strong commitment to improving the customer experience among the Enterprise Operations leadership and team.  The other area is Marketing. We want to continue to innovate, understanding what products consumers need, and how we can help financial professionals not only bring those products to their customers, but continue to provide valuable service throughout the life of the products. We’re increasing our focus on developing insights that will help us build and distribute consumer-inspired products.

“Part of the culture change is to get more out of our voice of customer and voice of distribution capabilities. We’ve built listening posts in the business to bring in information, but we need a stronger framework to apply that information, make decisions and act. So we’re building a repeatable process for sharing what we gather, especially with the advocacy groups.

“The customer experience management is responsible for managing all of this, keeping the strategy fresh, facilitating the advocacy groups, feeding information and decisions up to our senior leadership steering committee.

“We want to understand even more about the moments that matter for our policy holders. What are the things Allianz Life is doing well, and what are the gaps that financial professionals and customers care about, where fixing them makes them more loyal to us?

“Our goal is to be the most producer- and customer-centric life insurance company in the U.S. That’s a big goal, but our leadership is signed up for it. We won’t be there in 2014, but we’re on that journey, and I’m confident we’ll get there by building on our strengths.”

Interview with Ghita Worcester, Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs and Marketing, UCare

Posted by: Jim Tincher Updated: January 16, 2014 - 1:19 PM

Aiming for the Heart of their Customers


Imagine leading a customer experience program serving a very diverse population that speaks dozens of languages, has many members new to this country, and many on medical assistance, struggling to raise a family without a stable home. And you’re doing this as a non-profit. That’s the challenge UCare faced when they began formalizing their customer experience program in 2013.

Ghita Worcester, Senior VP of Public Affairs and Marketing, UCare

UCare is a health plan primarily serving members through government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and other government assistance programs. Ghita Worcester is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing at UCare, one of two executive sponsors of their customer experience program.

Ghita explains UCare’s customer experience strategy: “We focus on the whole continuum – not just how members feel when they work with our customer service teams, but how they feel when they work with us operationally, from our clinical services, all the way through to whether they felt they were treated fairly when they went to a provider or a hospital. And the provider’s experience with the plan includes how the member comes to them.”

Serving a Diverse Population

Ghita explained how their varied population impacted their customer experience work. “Close to 100,000 members [of UCare’s 300,000+ population] are in Medicare Advantage and are over 65 years old. They have different needs – They are used to high-touch interactions. They want to be on the phone longer, some are hard of hearing.  Then you have members on our Medicaid program, including many families with children, who may not have a regular phone number. They might call you from a neighbor’s house or somebody else’s phone number. So when they call, we need to make the conversation as comprehensive as possible.”

“We also work with an incredible number of languages.  We’ve learned that a larger part of the experience comes from members’ cultural beliefs and how they were treated in their previous country’s healthcare system. For example, when our Hmong membership grew significantly, we realized the critical role culture has on how this population interacts with us and the health care system. We partnered with Stratis Health to develop Culture Care Connection, a website with information on the different beliefs and backgrounds of key populations in Minnesota. This site helps our providers learn more about our diverse membership. At UCare we believe that to deliver the experience we want to provide, we need to understand where our members and providers are at better than anyone else.

Bringing the Member to Life

I asked Ghita how they bring these varied populations to life for their over 700 employees. “We do a lot of training, as you would expect, including corporate events that feature the providers and agencies that directly serve members from various backgrounds and ethnicities.  Staff in our customer and clinical services teams receives additional cultural competency training, and the Chief Medical Officer and I co-chair the Diversity and Cultural Competence Committee where we really look into the difference in outcomes by populations. For example, we examine if populations are experiencing high or low birth rates? Why or why not? This helps us to target our efforts where they are most needed.”

In late 2013, Ghita led efforts to launch an internal website called “We are UCare” which highlights the day-to-day life or work of a member, a provider and a small team of UCare staff. Each profile includes a picture and summary of what each audience enjoys about life/work and the challenges they face. Ghita noted, “We are UCare provides an opportunity for all of UCare to connect with the people we come to work to serve each day. For staff that have limited to no direct contact with members and providers, this is a very important platform. By putting real names with faces and their stories, it creates a stronger connection to our mission and our goal to provide the best experience in our market.”

Planning for 2014

UCare will move into the commercial marketplace as part of MNsure.  Ghita notes, “Working with this new membership will be a learning experience for us.”

In addition, they are continuing to learn about the best way to communicate with members. “We do a lot of outbound phone calls to members, and we’re trying to determine whether these are the best ways to reach members. We just did a pilot using text messaging with pregnant women about their post-partum visits, and we’re just starting to get those results back. The best way to communicate varies widely for the different segments of our membership. We’re always learning something new.”

“We’re expecting to grow to over 400,000 members in the next year. As we do that, we will keep our eye on our member experience to ensure it continues to be engaging for all of our members.


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