Insights into action: FLEETCOR’s head of customer experience
In the latest episode of MYC'D UP WITH CX LEADERS, we speak to Frank Martinez, head of customer experience at global corporate payments company FLEETCOR, about the value of having a background in customer insight - and how to turn insight into customer-centric change.
In the latest instalment of our podcast series, we are joined by Frank Martinez, head of customer experience at global corporate payments company FLEETCOR.
Frank has had many years of experience working in market research and customer insight roles at companies such as Vodafone and Nokia, and in this interview he discusses how this background has helped him lead a customer experience programme at FLEETCOR, and provides advice on how to turn customer insights into action.
The road to becoming a customer experience expert goes through insight. So not having this background would, I think, put you in a quite difficult position to do your job.
MYCUSTOMER: When we conducted a survey of customer experience leaders last year, one of the things that we asked them about was their pathway to becoming a customer experience leader. And what we found was that there's no clear pathway to CX - customer experience leaders actually come from a diverse range of backgrounds. So when we conduct these interviews, we're always quite interested to hear how our interviewees ended up in this particular role. So perhaps you could tell us about your specific pathway to becoming a head of customer experience,
FRANK MARTINEZ: You're totally right, when you say there's no real or specific road to get where you are, I think the ways to becoming a customer experience expert... it's as diverse as the experiences are. So on that basis, it's essential for customer experience professionals to go through different journeys, different pathways, and it's the relation of those different experiences that makes you the customer experiences expert you are today.
MYCUSTOMER: Before you were the head of customer experience at FLEETCOR, you were their head of customer intelligence. You also have many years of experience at Vodafone and Nokia throughout the 2000s in market research and insight roles as well. So how valuable has that experience? Has working in insight influenced the way that you lead customer experience programmes? And has it provided you with perhaps a different perspective on customer experience leadership?
FRANK MARTINEZ: The road to becoming a customer experience expert goes through insight, right. So not having this background would I think put you in a quite difficult position to do your job, because the role is based a lot on numbers. I think in my case, I'd say I'm one of the guys who started probably15/20 years ago, going through customer satisfaction. I think customer satisfaction and market research overall, is the first entry point. And slowly, slowly, progressively, we started talking about some of what it was at Nokia, we talked about consumer experience, right. So that was the first time we were introducing this concept, which was probably driven a lot by the telecom companies at the time. Because as you know, I work for different telcos. And that was a really important step in my learning process, because the experience in telecoms has got so many, let's say, disruption factors - the handset, the internet, the connection, etc, etc. So we were really, really forced to look into what could be done to make sure that the end user will have the best experience possible. But that's my journey. I think people have different journeys, but I'm really pleased to have had the opportunity to work in those industries, and learn a lot.
MYCUSTOMER: How useful has it been specifically to your current role, having spent some time as the head of customer intelligence at FLEETCOR, before you became its head of CX,
FRANK MARTINEZ: As you know, without data a customer experience would be in great difficulty. So the initial need for FLEETCOR when we had the discussions, and CX has never been sort of off the table, but the prime necessity was to ensure this stream of reporting and the stream of data was available. Data is everywhere, it is being produced as we speak now every second. But it was very, very important first step was to make sure that all the reporting - all this capability to be able to have those dashboards was the first step. And that's what I did. So naturally having initiated this or consolidated this, because there was a big amount of reporting already it was natural to move on to the second stage - which would be being the head of CX. So that involves all sort of education, the company implementation of CX, understanding what it is, what needs to happen, and the commitment that I need from my colleagues to make it all happen.
MYCUSTOMER: We hear a lot about organisations doing a very good job at collecting customer feedback and insights, but often not being so good at turning that data insight into actions. In your experience, what are the biggest barriers do you think to companies effectively using market and customer intelligence to actually improve operations?
FRANK MARTINEZ: So first of all, I wouldn't say that it's easy to pull all the data together! It's an important step that you can take, it could take a few years, or maybe can take a bit time to do it. But I probably see three different kinds of barriers. So the first one is, you know, the culture. Is the company where you are working today as a CX expert, is the company ready to have this culture and this commitment to delivering the best customer experience? It's not easy, it needs some thinking, some training, and also a lot of empathy, which is not something that comes naturally often. So that's the first one - the culture. The second one is to be able to demonstrate to the top management. So, customer experience is the best way of delivering a different proposition to customers. Customer experience is also is also in the business of making money, right? So we fully support any initiative that the corporate entity may might have, in terms of producing revenue. So having the right businesses having the right numbers, will be the only way to get the buy-in from the top management, even though they might be already converted to CX, and they know it's the right thing. But the numbers, the financials are important. Okay. And still in this area, I think there's a cost element which is very important. Because as soon as we talk about customer experience, we start talking about platform VoCs, we start talking about having probably more people on the call centre, for example, to handle calls, we talk about training, and all this has a cost and an investment in terms of man hours. So that would be the third element, which is not negligible. But definitely important. So three elements.
MYCUSTOMER: Perhaps you could give us an example, during your career of how a piece of Insight has been used to drive real customer-centric change as an organisation.
FRANK MARTINEZ: Yeah, sure, that's been a something that happened in every role. So every now and then there's something that comes up but thinking about a important change, started when I was at Mercer and we started looking into pensioners who used to contact us and it all started as ad hoc or some discussion we had about the different channels of communication we have with with our customers. And we decided to run a quick survey but to find out what were the preferred channels for customers, but also making sure that we took into consideration where they were in their retirement, the age, you know, technology, etc, etc. And although it seems obvious to conduct such a piece of research, but at the time, it wasn't so we did it and then we find out that you know, depending on the stages you were in terms of being a pensioner, so anywhere between 50 and 90, the needs for or channels and the needs for the frequency of communication and the need for having quick responses as opposed to sending a letter and waiting for an answer... gave us a great view of the different needs. So the result is that email, for example, that was one of the channels was being used, but very erratically. So we decided to have this channel, quite obvious on our websites. And almost immediately, within days, the amount of emails was multiplied by 10 or 20. Very rapidly, which means that we had to create a team that was in charge of emails, and you know, we looked into offshoring, etc. So it did create a cost, but suddenly we opened a channel. I think that was a big, big change.
MYCUSTOMER: Just on a final question and this is one that we asked all of the guests on this show... could you share perhaps one piece of advice for fellow customer experience professionals... perhaps something that you wish you'd known when you were first starting out in this field, and that might have benefited you?
FRANK MARTINEZ: I think the first one is, and we discussed that at the beginning, but your journey to becoming who you are today doesn't really matter, as long as you have a good understanding of insight analytics. But above all, I think it's all about trusting your instincts. I think many times I meet customer experience managers or senior managers, and they hesitate because they are too influenced by different factors. And and I think that's a mistake, because we need to believe in what we do and what we are. So we are in the business of interpreting human emotions. And I think there's a big part, despite what I've just said, about business cases and convincing the top management that CX is the way forward. I think we need to be able to go and preach and advocate, you know, that this is right thing, and it takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of convincing, a lot of discussion. And I think this is where it's the most beautiful part of our job, but it's also the most demanding and we shouldn't ignore this part.
After two decades of experience working as a journalist and editor covering business and technology, including over 15 years as editor of MyCustomer, Neil now works as senior content manager at skills-based workforce management platform provider Spotted Zebra. ...