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The Prescription for Customer Connection w/ Amy Brown



Karen Mangia

Today on Success from Anywhere, we'll meet the female founder who will help you navigate the unexpected when it's time to get in the boat and row, a leader who's charting a course toward helping humans understand humans. Please join me in welcoming to the show, Amy Brown, founder, and CEO of AuthentiCX. Welcome, Amy.


Karen Mangia

Because we talk a lot about the future of work and human-centric work, one question I like to ask every guest is, what was your first paying job? And how did that job inspire or inform your career trajectory?


Amy Brown

My very first paying job was in high school. I mowed the lawn and cleaned the bathrooms at my church. And I also did some other janitorial jobs. I loved it because manual labor allowed me to see the impact of my work instantaneously. And I learned a lot of basic skills in those types of things that served me later as I became a homeowner. I can't say that there's a clear line between that job and where I am today, but I can tell you that there was a ton of character-building in that role, especially about rolling up your sleeves and hard work and putting in sweat and effort that served me well throughout my career.


Karen Mangia

That sounds a lot like the job description or the character qualities of an entrepreneur, perhaps.


Amy Brown

Yes, absolutely.


Karen Mangia

You've been in a variety of roles. We were talking in the pre-show about your career and as an entrepreneur, how you're using all the experiences you've had, personally and professionally. What inspired you to step into the world of entrepreneurship?


Amy Brown

Yes. I'd say two core things really gave me the passion and the idea. The first was I had spent about 20 years working in the business of healthcare. As a part of that, I was responsible for leading call center operations. And as I did that, I started to gravitate around a particular problem I was seeing in that role that I just became super passionate about solving. It took me, you know, a couple of decades of experience to realize that this is a real, legitimate problem, and I think the market is ready for a solution. And so that would be kind of item number one that kind of pushed me towards entrepreneurialism.


The second one is more personal. And that is, you know, I had four children at the time that I was making the transition out of the corporate world into starting my own gig. You know, you tell your kids a lot, like, follow your dreams, get to know what you're passionate about, and then go do it. And so, I had that going on in my head, as a mom. I also was the sole source of income for my family at that time; so, I also had this counterweight to that which was stay secure, keep your employment, you're the provider and you know your insurance is tied to you. This anti-risk-taking voice on the other side of my head was kind of calling to me. I ultimately got to the conclusion that my children deserve to see an example of what sacrifice and hard work and compromise looks like. You know, it's not enough to just say you have a dream and expect it to happen. You must make sacrifices to make that happen. And so that's how I got comfortable with being uncomfortable and took the leap.


Karen Mangia

Staying safe keeps us stuck is almost what I'm hearing you say. I mean, the risk-averse approach would be to do what you've always done. We fall into that temptation as human beings all the time. I'll never forget sitting in a restaurant with you over some steamed buns and talking about your idea for what is now this business. What are some of the crossroads you've had to navigate leading an organization from literally being a party of one you to now 110 people and one of the fastest growing businesses in the area?


Amy Brown

Yes, so many milestones. One of the biggest was how fast I wanted to grow, and that decision, or that fork in the road, led me to some impactful decisions. And I remember having a conversation with you about this, because in the early days of the business, my very first goal was to bootstrap to pay my own way and to just see if my idea could sell and if I could get a couple of beta clients and if I could start to bring real value to them. And I was able to accomplish that. Within a handful of months, I had some paying clients, and I could see that the business had the potential to take off. I also could see how quickly technology was advancing and if I advanced the business at the right rate I could be where I want to be – on the leading edge of that curve and leading AI conversational AI, which is what our business does. It was that fork-in-the-road moment.


What I had never done in my life before was raise capital from a venture capital ecosystem to give me the capital needed to grow at a quicker clip. It was a real milestone to decide to go that route. And then it just opened a whole other host of decisions and milestones along the way.


It was a really important decision. And ultimately, I'm glad I made it because I believe that what we're doing is truly innovative. And I wanted to be first to market.


Karen Mangia

And congratulations on your progress with growing the business, raising capital, and thinking through that decision concerning how this will fuel your growth. You mentioned in your description of conversational AI. We have a broad audience on the Success from Anywhere podcast. What I would invite you to do is explain conversational AI in a way that my soon-to-be 100-year-old grandfather could understand.


Amy Brown

What I would say to your 100-year-old grandfather is if you've ever had to call a one 800 Number to talk to customer service, you've likely heard a recording, speaking to you at the beginning of that call that says this call may be recorded for quality and monitoring purposes. At AuthentiCX we collect and gather all those recorded conversations from call centers that work in the healthcare industry. Think of hospitals and healthcare systems, pharmacies, and health insurance. We take in their recorded customer conversations, and we listen to them using computer ears for hot topics, themes, things that are driving customers crazy, and things that are causing wasted time and effort. And then we help those companies who are our clients understand how they can improve their overall customer experience. By doing that, they will improve their business results and business outcomes.


Karen Mangia

What I'm hearing you say is that everyone listening could in a way be the beneficiary of an improved experience in the healthcare world because of what you do.


Amy Brown

That's exactly right. And you know, why healthcare? Because in the United States, it's a pretty messed up system. It's the most expensive in the world, from an administrative cost perspective, and our health outcomes aren't that great compared to other wealthy countries. And so why not start with healthcare conversations? It's something we're passionate about here.


Karen Mangia

One of the challenges with customer experience or customer listening is that we often think we need one more survey and that will do the trick. What's so genius about your approach is working with what you already have and hearing from your customers in a different way.


I'm curious, many of the people listening to the show lead some kind of organizational change. And I'm guessing you're showing up with feedback that people may not always want to hear, or they may want to contradict. I mean, the human part of us says, it's healthcare. I'm working so hard to help people lead healthier lives. And now, you show up with statistically significant data that shows them otherwise, how do you navigate those egos in the room? That's a challenge we can all relate to.


Amy Brown

Yes, you're so insightful. And you're correct. One of the very earliest lessons I had to learn the hard way is that clients feel very exposed by the data that we're shining a light on. Now, it's kind of a head-scratcher because we are using their data from their customer conversations that are hosted by their call center representatives or their chatbots within their contact center. But they've really not had access to listening at scale before. And we come in and shine a big bright light on that conversational data. So how do we navigate it?


Well, we've learned a lot about how to prepare the leadership team for what they're going to hear. And one of the most important things is making sure that their culture and the attendees that are in the Insight session that we're presenting at are prepared to receive the information in a way that is productive and not pointing blame at any one area.


We also have learned that you can't dispute something that you hear with your own ears, that is your literal customer’s voice. We marry visualization data, charts, graphs, those types of things, with call clips from their contact center, taken from the actual conversations that are coming into our platform. When they hear it directly from the mouths of their own customers, they can't unhear it, they can't dispute it. You know, it's not us interpreting the information for them, it's literally their customer. So that has been a helpful tool for us.


The last thing I would say is whenever you're taking a data source, like your own customer voices, I have never had an engagement with a client where you don't find beautiful stories in that data source. Stories that will inspire, stories that will shine a light on the good people that work at the organization who truly care. And when you balance the negative feedback with the positive, you get a much more receptive response.


Karen Mangia

What you're saying is a powerful insight. When we as human beings hear the sentence, I would like to give you some feedback, we somehow default to believing that is negative, right? We start to brace ourselves and get defensive, whether this is a one-on-one with your manager, a performance review, or customer feedback. What I like about what you're saying is, these tools have the power to shine a light on and reinforce what you're doing well. Who's doing it? Well, what you need to keep doing. This isn't always about what you need to change or improve.


Amy Brown

Exactly. And it goes beyond just the call center operations. People are talking about the product and services, your digital front door, your website, your marketing; they're talking about all those things. We've found that even customer service interactions have value for marketing and strategy in sales. It's amazing and human conversations, just how much gets shared in an unsolicited and therefore authentic way.


Karen Mangia

You reminded me of an executive I worked with for years who would say what I want to know from our customer feedback data is who is telling us that they love us and is not spending like they do because I'll go put sales teams out to call on those people and spend more time with them. It can illuminate sales opportunities as well, not just create a new operational portfolio, if things are going 100%.


Something else that stuck with me from an earlier conversation. And I referenced it in the show opening about getting in the boat and rowing. You described something to meet called the Eddy Effect and the context in what you are doing and in the work that you're building. Tell us what the Eddy effect is and why is it relevant to all of us?


Amy Brown

Yes. The Eddy Effect came from a phenomenon that happens in nature. The listeners that have ever been on a river likely have experienced an eddy. You know, when you think about river water flowing, the current flow is smoothest and fastest down the middle, but on the sides of the river, that's where trees and boulders are more likely to fall and obstruct the current. When there is an obstruction of the current, it creates this counter-current effect, which kind of looks like a little swirling whirlpool in the water. Things can get stuck there. And I remember in the early days of AuthentiCX, going home one evening and saying to my husband, there's this phenomenon we're seeing in the data. Customers are having to call or email back repeatedly, just to solve the same problem because there's been some sort of disruption in their customer journey. And he said, “Well, that sounds like a river eddy.” And so that's where the name for the Eddy Effect came from.


Today, the Eddy Effect is not only an AI algorithm that is literally going in listening for customers who are stuck in their journey, but we also have created a metric for our clients to use to track their Eddy Effect rate – how much it is costing them. And you know, their North Star metric these days is how do I get my Eddy Effect rate from being 25% of my inbound customer conversations down to below 10%?


Karen Mangia

When I hear you talk about that, what shows up for me is using technology to go from reactive to proactive. This is how you start to anticipate what's coming. I like that you can measure this effect.


We were talking about your mission to help humans understand humans, and you're describing to us a combination, using some very progressive technology to do that, and bringing human voices into the conversation. One of the big debates when we talk about anything that involves conversational intelligence is the importance of context along your way to help humans better understand humans and you're using machines to do it. How do we solve this challenge of context?


Amy Brown

Absolutely. We have a core principle that goes into everything we do. We have four of them. But the very first one is context is everything. And that's because it's not enough to have a word cloud telling you all the words people use to know why they use them. As a leader, you must be able to understand the root cause and the why behind your data points. And so, we spend a lot of time in our product designing not only some kind of quantifiable metrics, but then the qualitative data that wraps around that quantified metric that helps give the nuance and the understanding. And that's why data visualizations are coupled with customer voices; customer voices serve as the illustration to the data point. And it's that deep understanding of the context of a situation that allows leaders to be so much better informed, and therefore develop responses to what they've heard that are more likely to have the business result they're looking for.



Karen Mangia

When you work with businesses and think forward to how they're going to use the feedback that they gather, what are some of the biggest challenges? I mean, I think we all face this – we think we know who our customers are and then we get some data or hear their voices that indicates we may not know these customers as well as we think. How do people start planning to better use the feedback they're getting because your customer is trying to have a conversation with you?


Amy Brown

One of the first things we do is listen for the Eddy Effect because most of our clients want to know what is creating friction in our journey. So, we want to know how big is the friction experience? And then what are the root causes of that friction? They want to quantify it. Quantifying prevalence helps them know how to prioritize and where to start.


And so usually we're saying, realize that 30% of your customers are stuck. And the root reason for that is your billing processes are causing them to cycle back with you repeatedly. We then couple that quantitative data with voice data and qualitative story, helping the leaders to facilitate a corporate listening program where cross-functional teams are coming together, listening to these interactions together, and understanding how that ties to the quantified metric. They start creating response plans, whether that's redrawing their journey map, making some changes to their website, making some changes to their communication materials, or retraining the call center agents.


Then they just keep listening. They want to see that over time the issue with that friction point is trending downward. It can be overwhelming to know where to start as there are all kinds of feedback and conversational data is almost infinite in terms of the use cases of it. So, it is important to prioritize and have a plan so that you are productive along the way.


Karen Mangia

We can all relate to the friction experience. It could be trying to return something, something that's simple, where you call and then you're on the chat. And it's this ongoing challenge.


Something I heard you say that's very powerful is that if you want to speak the language of your customers, literally, listen to your customers. They're communicating to you using a certain language. They're communicating questions, issues, and topics that you may not know to ask about in any other way when you engage with them. Along those lines, what are some of the best questions we could all be asking our customers right now?


Amy Brown

I think one of the things that customers want to express in these interactions is how easy or not easy it is to do business with them. We focus on the healthcare sector, but we often hear healthcare consumers saying how confusing it is, and how lost they feel. They are not sure what to do next. They often don't understand the language being spoken by the business. The business representatives assume that everybody is educated in the terminology of healthcare, and they're not. Asking customers how easy it is to do business with us It's a great question. And they're probably already telling you in one form or another when they're contacting you in the first place.


Karen Mangia

And a question I like to use to take that a step further. In the Listen Up book, I call it the genius question. It’s, “What would this look like if it were easier?” In other words, I invite you to co-create a series of solutions with us that you would be willing to try or essentially say you might be seeing things that we're not seeing. Help us. Let's do this together. We're open to it. Let's go on this journey together.


Amy Brown

That's a great question. It is genius.


Karen Mangia

When I think about one of the core skills – perhaps it's a critical success factor for you and for your team and for other people who listen to customers – It's about storytelling. And that's an area that we all work to improve in big and small ways, whether we're in sales or have a podcast, or we're trying to convince our boss to give us the promotion or the budget or whatever that looks like. What is some of your best coaching about how to tell a compelling story that leads someone to take an action, ideally, the action you'd like them to take?


Amy Brown

We have a role here at AuthentiCX called Insights Storyteller. That role is designed to help create impactful data-backed stories for clients. Those roles also teach clients how to do their own data-backed storytelling for themselves. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that as receivers of data every day, the most memorable data points are ones that not only trigger our cognitive brain, but also that trigger our amygdala or our lizard brain. That's where the emotion center of the brain is. And when you trigger emotion, that is where memories are formed.


So, one of the reasons why we are so passionate about combining data visualizations is that businesspeople are used to charts, graphs, trend lines, etc. When you couple those with the voice where you can hear tone, you can hear an emotion and start to feel empathy. It's the combination of those things that trigger both parts of our brain. That is what appeals to both our business sense as well as the emotional side of our brains. And once you have that, it's very hard to not act because you've now been impacted on multiple levels, and you won't forget it.


Karen Mangia

That reminds me of a story. When I worked at Cisco, the technology company, our CEO at the time was John Chambers, a fantastic public speaker. And as you were sharing that story, what came to my mind is him saying multiple times that half of the world lives on less than $2 a day. When you hear that you feel compelled to do something about it. It captures you intellectually. It captures your heart.


I think what you just shared there is so powerful – how do we match a voice we can hear with the supporting data? I'm not only responding emotionally – this is good for our clients, good for business. This serves a higher purpose.


With your experience, as an entrepreneur to date, what is a piece of advice or wisdom that you would like to give to aspiring or current entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that are listening to the show?


Amy Brown

One of the things that has carried me through hard times and good times is just listening to my own inner voice and always giving it a place. The more you grow, or the more you're making progress in the world, the more voices come into the mix. You know, in my world, I started as a company of one, and there I just always had my own thoughts to deal with. But as we grew I got a board of investors, employees, advisors, consultants, and clients. The voices just exponentially grow.


The times when maybe I have ignored my own inner voice have been times when I've made mistakes. The times when I made sure to create time and space to listen for what felt truly authentic to me and what was going to make me feel like I was being true to the mission are when I can look back and I can say I'm really glad I made that decision. So, making space and time for your voice to be heard and understood and staying true to that is critically important to maintaining the stamina needed to weather all the storms of entrepreneurship.


Karen Mangia

Imagine that you and I bump into each other at the water cooler. (People say they miss this from not being at the office all the time together.) To conclude, I like to sort of recreate that experience by doing a lightning round of five quick questions so the listeners can get to know you a little bit more on a personal level. Just say the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?


Amy Brown

Yes.


Karen Mangia

What time of day do you do your best creative work?


Amy Brown

In the morning.


Karen Mangia

You're the second entrepreneur that has said that on the show. Speaking of time, if you had 25 hours in every day instead of 24 hours, what would you do with your extra hour?


Amy Brown

Play with my kids.


Karen Mangia

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?


Amy Brown

Pizza.


Karen Mangia

Do you have a favorite topping?


Amy Brown

I like a combo of mushrooms and pepperoni.


Karen Mangia

Now imagine the zombie apocalypse is coming. Who are the three people you want on your team?


Amy Brown

Well, my husband has been incredible. So, for sure, him. Oh gosh, I have a fantastic team now. But if the sky's the limit on this one, Steve Jobs. Oprah Winfrey.


Karen Mangia

There's a well-rounded team right there. And how can our listeners stay more connected with what you're doing and discovering?


Amy Brown

Sure, yes, I'd invite you to check out our website, it's AuthentiCX.com. Think of the word authentic and then add an X at the end: AuthentiCX.com. You can get all our contact information there.


Karen Mangia

Thank you to Amy Brown, founder and CEO of AuthentiCX, for joining us today on Success from Anywhere because success is not a destination. Success is not a location. Success is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Thanks for listening.


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