This week, I talked to the noteworthy Nicholas Zeisler!
Nicholas has been running his own consulting company, Zeisler Consulting, for the last 15 years, and has been in leadership for more than 20 years altogether.
Hi Nicholas! Thanks so much for joining me today. So, where did it all begin for you?
I started as a Lean Six Sigma process engineer. I was recruited to become a CX Director because the VP who hired me wanted to use these process improvement skills for (what to me seemed) a revolutionary purpose: To improve Customers’ experience, not simply reduce resource use… How could I refuse?
What was your background in process improvement? How did you get noticed?
Well, that speaks to my actual start, before CX in fact. I was an Operations Research analyst in the Air Force where I learned about improving business processes…applying analytics to make things run better and more efficiently. Then it was on to project management and eventually Six Sigma and Process Engineering.
A mentor took me under her wing and introduced me to the world of consulting and working for myself. She actually recruited me during one of our shared ventures back into internal corporate work. A few years later and I was back again, working for another team in the same company. I guess it’s been a series of out- and then back into corporate work alternating with consulting, with each period teaching me more about what was to come. All along it was meeting new people and learning from their experiences and inputs. Building relationships as I went.
So how were those early months? What did you find difficult?
The transition to leadership at the executive level was out of the blue to be sure! Along with the great freedom of being given free rein, came not knowing even where to start! It was thrilling and scary, but it was a blast.
But not without lessons learned. I’ve got a philosophy as an educator about teaching and consulting: I have to be equal parts fearless and humble. I think when I first started in that leadership role I lost a lot of my fearlessness. I was pretty overwhelmed with my new responsibilities. As a result concentrated more than I should have on what I thought I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to act in a role like that (which of course, led to being less humble, you can imagine…suddenly I’m someone special with a title and all that). Once I let that all go and concentrated instead of what the job was that needed to be done, the air cleared, and I was able to concentrate on hiring a team and building a CX organization from the ground up based on a framework that I still use with clients today.
Now you’ve built the experience, let’s talk about great leadership. What makes for a great leader?
Curiosity. Without a doubt, no hesitation… it goes for practitioners AND their leaders.
I think that’s really important in life in general, actually! It’s a great driver for growth, and growth is the path to success, right? How do you measure success, though?
For CX, I measure it through how we drive the overall company’s strategic metrics. Metrics are vital. Customer Service and Experience teams constantly need to make the case for our existence. The only way to do that is to prove to your business that you’re delivering against their corporate goals. That’s why our goals need to be aligned with an overall corporate strategy. If all CX means is “hey, we really love our customers and will do anything for them,” that’s a recipe for misalignment. You can’t just throw the kitchen sink at your customers and expect that to work… you need to be emphasizing your company’s strategic brand promise through your customers’ experiences.
Have there been any tough lessons along the way?
The thing I’ve found hardest to learn is when it’s time to leave. I’m also a senior officer in the Air Force and we have a philosophy there that you have to build and inspire your team in such a way that you can walk away and things won’t fall apart. What they don’t tell you about that is how hard that is because you come to prize your team.
As a consultant, how do you work on your personal growth?
I’m always reading, and always writing. That, and the video podcast that I’m going to start hosting soon!
We’re all customer professionals, but we’re all also customers. What’s the best experience you’ve had as a customer?
Am I the only one who’s finding that cable/internet companies are getting better? I’m not going to say best… but it’s a stark improvement from their (historically well-earned) lousy reputation. That could be the turn-around of the century.
There’s the old saying in CX that you’re not just competing against your industry peers: your Customers are also comparing their experiences with you against great new offerings like Uber and Lyft, like Zappos and Amazon, and like more established CX leaders like Southwest Airlines and Ritz-Carlton. I usually append that with how easy, on the other hand, it can also be to stand out against experiences we all dread: The DMV, maybe standing in line at the bank. I used to include the cable companies in there. Nowadays, that comparison isn’t as easy to make.
By contrast, the worst would be hard to describe without changing the names of the not-so-innocent. But yes, it’s an airline!
I have to ask – what’s your email sign-off?
My standard salutation is always “Thanks” to show gratitude for someone having taken the time to read my ramblings. Gratitude is a lost sentiment in a big way these days.
Thanks, Nicholas! I’m very grateful for you time and ramblings!
Watch this space for another awesome CS Leadership story, coming soon!