Name: Laurie Englert
Position: VP of Customer Experience
Company: Milestone AV Technologies
SCN: What is your position, and what does it entail? What are your responsibilities?
Laurie Englert: I run the customer experience team, which includes customer marketing and engagement, digital experience, sales insights and operations, customer intelligence and data, and customer care. I like to say that I run the ecosystem of our customer experience efforts. I’m fortunate to have incredible directors and managers that run the day-to-day activities of each of these teams. It’s pretty incredible when you can align the initiatives of these groups to focus on improving the customer experience. You get the right people from across the organization in the room and you can fix pretty much any customer issue pretty quickly—everything from improving internal processes to providing services to make our customers’ jobs easier.
SCN: How long have you been at this position?
LE: Prior to this role, I ran marketing for the commercial side of our business, specifically the Chief Brand. I was employee number 85 when the business was just Chief! Now we have six brands across the business: Chief, Da-Lite, Vaddio, Projecta, Sanus, and EchoGear.
I focus my attention on the commercial side of the business while my counterpart, Greg Andrews, focuses on the consumer. But because I run customer experience, we do interact with customers on both the commercial and consumer side. In 2012, my partner in crime Derek Derks and I set out to interview our integrator customers to find out what new services they’d like us to provide. Did we need another tool as cool as MountFinder, new online training courses, different resources, or something shiny and new that we haven’t thought about yet? After interviewing about 150 customers around the country, the message was loud and clear: ”Do what you do; just do it better.”
Basically, we needed to make a move into the digital world. Customers were asking for 24/7 access to all their transactions, they wanted one account number for all brands so they could order all brands on one PO, they wanted to see their dealer price next to products on the website—they were looking for an Amazon-like digital experience and that was no small undertaking! So after working with a talented, cross-functional team of professionals in operations, marketing, finance, product management, etc. around the company for two years, we launched milestone.com. It was at that point we decided that this wasn’t just a project. Customer experience was a way we needed to operate the business going forward. So in 2014 we decided to put together an official customer experience team—a team that wakes up every day thinking about improving the customer experience.
SCN: How has your background prepared you for your new role?
LE: In my eyes, customer experience is an extension of marketing, just at a larger scale. We’ve always spent a lot of time trying to understand our customers’ needs, pain points, and desires so we could provide them with the right materials in a format they wanted to consume. With customer experience, you just take it to a whole new level. It’s not just marketing; it’s the whole experience from the time they sign up, to specifying products, to ordering products, to after-sale support.
But really, I love the people thing. Trying to solve customer problems is super fun! We use an innovation framework called design thinking. Having that in my toolkit has really helped me focus on empathy. I never mind hearing about the areas in which we fall short. If we don’t hear it, we can’t fix it. So we dig down to five levels of “whys” to get to the root of the problem, and then we work to fix it. My mom used to always say I asked way too many questions, so I think this role was meant to be for me!
SCN: What are your short- and long-term goals?
LE: Our short-term goals come from a few areas: We update our customer journey map every 18-24 months. So again, this can be anything from pre-sale to post-sale experiences. After a series of customer interviews and observations, this map highlights areas where we need to improve. So these customer “cliffs,” as we call them, become our continuous improvement initiatives for any given year. We also administer transactional surveys through our customer care team—so a quick seven questions after an interaction with customer care helps us ensure that an issue doesn’t go unaddressed and allows us to react quickly. We use these to decrease the amount of effort a customer has to exert, as well as train our customer care team on areas that seem to be confusing or problematic.
Our long-term goals revolve around continually driving toward an omni-channel experience. That means we are continually building the integration between channels internally on the back end, so a customer can have the same experience regardless of how they get in contact with us. From their desktop to a call into customer care, to an in-person meeting with a sales representative, all the information should be accessible to teams so a customer can get what they need fast and move on with their day. When we were doing our interviews one customer said to me, “The best manufacturer is one I never need to call, because they make it that easy.” I would say that’s our long-term goal.
SCN: What is the greatest challenge that you face?
LE: The greatest challenge is how fast technology and expectations are changing. In a world of instant gratification, customers expect everything immediately. And there’s new start-ups popping up all the time that are disrupting the way we do things. I’m no different. If I have to repeat my order information to a customer care rep because the online experience wasn’t working, I’m irritated. We build our experience on expensive platforms hoping to get ROI on both the technology and time. But it’s changing so fast, the investments just become larger and larger in order to keep up. So we have to be very focused on our customers’ priorities.
SCN: Where do you see your market heading?
LE: AV is an exciting industry. If you think about it, we touch so many lives and transform spaces that we didn’t even dream of doing years ago. I see some great movement in getting away from selling products and instead helping end users discover the best solutions for their needs. “How do we make the best meeting experience ever?” is where we need to start the conversation. Not, “Here’s my portfolio of products, pick one.”
Customer experience is a mindset. You have to step back and try and figure out what problem your customer is trying to solve and then help them realize their vision through your portfolio. I see many of our industry partners and customers moving in this direction. It’s pretty cool stuff!
SCN: Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from Milestone?
LE: Being recently acquired by Legrand, we see a whole new opportunity to provide our customers with a much broader portfolio of products and services to help them solve their customer’s biggest pain points. It’s an exciting time for us—stay tuned!