blue.png Interview With Jill Rowley

Authored by Kayla Brehm
Published on September 8, 2014

Jill Rowley is the founder and chief evangelist at #SocialSelling, her consulting company that helps business surround and engage with clients using social media. Prior to founding her consulting company, Jill oversaw the curriculum and training of Oracle’s 23,000 person strong sales force on social selling. She came to Oracle via Eloqua where she was known as the Eloqueen for her unique and charismatic selling style.

Jill and I worked together briefly at Oracle. I was one of the 23,000 people she trained and, as 1 of 450 going through Oracle’s “Sales Academy”, I got to spend a lot of time with Jill as she schooled us on #SocialSelling. It was through that contact that we knew she’d be the perfect first interview for the customer service series.

The Interview:

Graham: It’s unbelievable, even since I was with you at Oracle, you’ve blown up on all sorts of social media,Forbes, everything.

Jill: Yeah, it’s been great. I love the work that I did at Oracle, it set the stage for me to be in a credible position to launch my own company to help big companies operationalize and scale social selling.

Graham: For those unfamiliar with you, can you tell them a little bit about who you are, what you do, and what it is you’re so big on?

Jill: At heart, I’m a sales girl. I was a consultant for six years, I was an individual contributor, quota carrying sales rep for 52 quarters in software sales. I was at Salesforce and then Eloqua. At Eloqua, I was helping to create a new category, a new space, and I think I’m a natural born evangelist in the sense that I love teaching people about something that they might not already know. In this case, they may subconsciously know it, but they haven’t had that “aha” moment yet.

I’m really a sales professional who built a strong brand because of me mastering the world in which my buyer lived. People thought I was in marketing because I talked more like a marketer than a sales girl. My buyers were marketers for over a decade, so I knew the world that they lived in.

I started to get interviewed for my style, my approach, my methods around leveraging social, and my brand. Corporate Executive Board, the folks who wrote The Challenger Sale, in 2012 when they developed a curriculum for getting in early and shaping demand through pre-funnel engagement, included my profile. I just found out that they still do.

So they showcased me as an individual quota carrying sales rep getting in early and shaping demand, earning influence. That was before I decided to get in at Oracle and do social selling training at Oracle. My personal goals were to design, deploy, and drive adoption of a global social selling program. And a program isn’t just training, it’s everything that goes into a true program.

I did it at Oracle having had no experience and I think I did a pretty good job. It gave me the experience and confidence to go out and launch my own company. Now I not only get to do public speaking, which I love the most, I also get to do consulting, strategy, and I’m building a whole ecosystem of complementary tools, services, etc. that support a true social selling program.

Graham: To that point, as tech has gotten more social, many would say that it has improved customer service. Are there any customer service entities, any big companies, that jump to mind that do a good job with their customer service?

Jill: There was actually a research report put out on the top 25 social companies. It was done in conjunction with Altimeter Group and LinkedIn. It covers the top 25 socially engaged companies on LinkedIn and those who invest in employee and customer relationships. I think that list did a good job addressing companies that do well in the space such as Workday, Google, Salesforce, and Facebook.

What was interesting was that, the big thing in customer service is Zappos, everyone knows the Zappos story, but it’s because they do such a good job of serving the customer. They allow for frictionless buying. Not only frictionless buying, but if you buy something and don’t like it, they have frictionless return. They really put the customer first.

Graham: They do such a good job with that. Why is it so hard for other companies to do so as well?

Jill: I think a lot of it has to do with the change in the workforce demographic that’s driving transformation. When we look at the millennial generation, the Gen Y kids who are 18-34 right now, they are digital natives. They were born digital natives. They were born with mobile, social, highly collaborative, easy access, easy to get things done with technology and devices. I think a lot of the leadership teams of these older companies paid their dues, worked their way up, and that’s an impediment to implementing change.

Graham: That’s something that’s been discussed a lot. I’d say there’s a hindrance to change because people don’t want to rock the boat at the highest levels. Would you say you’d agree with that given your experience dealing with implementing change at an extremely high level in your previous positions?

Jill: I think the issue is the why, what, and how? Why change? What do I need to change? And how do I need to do it? Until people understand why they need to change they won’t, for instance: when you take these huge older companies, they’re measured based on shareholders. That’s their customer. They don’t think that the customer is their real customer, they do things for short term shareholder value. How do you take a company that’s public, having to hit quarterly targets, and do a reset?

Graham: Fair question, another take on that is that it’s a short term benefit for long term harm.

Jill: For harm. Yes! Short term benefit for long term harm, exactly.

Graham: In my current role, that’s something we talk a lot about. 80% of companies think they do a good job with customer service. 8% of customers agree.

Jill: Yeah, talk about #disconnect.

Graham: laughs A huge disconnect.

Jill: There’s actually a book called The Effortless Experience. Have you seen this yet?

Graham: Yeah, a friend of mine sent it to me.

Jill: I was like “really?!” It basically says “don’t focus on customer delight in your call center operation.” It isn’t don’t focus on on customer delight. But in your call center, people want their problem fixed, not for you to go the extra mile, not for that accolade, not for the feeling like a hero. It was very counter intuitive to me given how I preach about being customer centered, customer centric, customer obsessed. You always should be delighting the customer.

Graham: Let me ask you this, what made you so customer conscious? You were voted the third best social seller in the world by Forbes, making you effectively one of the best customer service agents in the world. What made you that way? What’s your why?

Jill: One: I sell in a world where customers renew or don’t. When you lose a customer, you don’t just lose revenue, you lose reputation. Especially when a customer goes to the competitor and tells everyone in their network.

Two: I saw the world becoming very social. I saw early that customers not only have choice, they have voice. If you disappoint a customer, they will tell people.

Three: I genuinely care about people. I want to help people have a better career path. I want to help them have more success in what they do. I think part of it is just my personality. I genuinely care about and want to help people.

The awards we did at Eloqua were the Annual Markie Awards. The feeling I used to get when I went into Salesforce and took a deal from commit to a closed won after getting the paperwork, that was a real high. I loved moving it from commit to closed won. A lot of companies have bells that they ring when someone closes a deal. Over time, the high dulled, and I found that what I looked forward to more was popping the champagne when a customer won a Markie Award. Or even more so, an outside award with industry recognition.

Graham: That’s a great point. Why is it that, when I call a company, or when WalMart calls into a vendor, whoever that may be, why are they talking to someone who isn’t empowered and certainly isn’t trained to be empathetic or knowledgeable at dealing with business problems? Why are you in sales? You’re customer centric, you love helping people, you love customer service. Customer service seems like where you should be, especially given how much more valuable an existing customer is than a new one.

Jill: I’ve done some talking about this. I see a world where comp models are dramatically different. I actually talked about it yesterday in my session. Dorky Doug, the sales guy, gets paid the same commission check when he closes a deal no matter what. There are two types of deals, a Positive Patty, or a Negative Nancy.

A Positive Patty: a customer who is delighted, who is generating significant value, who is solving business problems, who is winning recognition inside of her organization and outside of it. She’s advocating on your behalf because your company, your product, and your sales team made her successful. Not just the sales team, the customer success team, the best practice coaches. She’s out there advocating.

Doug already got his money though, even if that sale turns into a Negative Nancy. It may have been that Doug overpromised and underdelivered. Or maybe the onboarding team made a mistake, or maybe the product broke, or maybe the training wasn’t up to par, or maybe the product was buggy. Whatever the issue may be, Doug already has that commission. We don’t have comp models set up so that people within the organization who are generating advocacy are getting rewarded for it.

Graham: To that point, you mentioned the why earlier. $83 billion annually is left on the table by US companies because of customer service, whether people stopped buying mid-transaction or just gave up on a purchase they wanted to make. On top of that $184 million annually is the swing for large companies based on customer service. What more “why” do they need? If you were CEO for a week at Comcast, given their recent coverage, what would you change?

Jill: Firstly, the profile of the hire. it starts with culture of the company: are we going to prioritize delighting our customers? Will we take a bullet for the customer, will we work tirelessly until the issue is resolved?

Secondly: what is the employee like? Is it someone who is empathetic, listens, has attention to detail, is patient? That profile is necessary.

Thirdly: proper training. They need the right tools, systems, processes, and information to successfully correct customer issues and they have to be empowered to follow through.

A good example is Uber. I was in Seattle. I requested an UberX. I was out in Kirkland and was told that it was 15 minutes. I took a screenshot of it because i’ve had issues with Uber before. I was sitting there, and went to check on when it would be there, and it disappeared. I had a flight to catch, and it was the last one out, and I needed to get home.

So i went to call another car, there was no Uber X available, so I had to call black car for double the money. I don’t need a black car, I just want a car that gets me where i’m trying to go. So I end up spending double the money and now I’m at risk of missing my flight.

So I’m in this black car, and I get an email from Uber charging me $5 for canceling my UberX. I emailed them back right away and explained that I hadn’t cancelled it and not only that, but that I’m also at risk of missing my flight. And I want the delta between the UberX and the Uber Black because I didn’t want to take an Uber Black. And if I miss my flight I'm’ going to want a whole lot more from you.

She emails me the next day asking for more information so I sent her my screenshot of the UberX en route. She refunded the five bucks and the difference between the Uber Black and the UberX. And I was happy. She was empowered to help me, the customer.

There was no back and forth and no hiding behind policies, and because of that empowerment I still tell everyone how great Uber is and I continue to take Uber knowing that not every service is perfect but that when they do screw up, they make it right.

Graham: Given that customer service and sales are essentially extensions of each other, and you mentioned this earlier, would you advocate changing the way those two systems work so that it’s continuous? Even if you don't deal with the same person directly, you’re dealing with the same level of employee, as opposed to the dramatic drop off that currently leads to tons of revenue flying out of the bottom of the funnel at the end of the experience.

Jill: I think that sales and customer service people are different, but I think the world is changing. I talk all the time about meeting the modern buyer. People don’t want to engage with sales until they absolutely have to because they don’t want to be sold to. Wouldn’t you rather engage with a subject matter expert? A best practice consultant? A success coach? Wouldn't you rather buy from one of those people than a salesperson?


Graham: What we’ve found at is that people are more willing to talk to us when we’re interested in hearing about their situation, what they’re using, what they want, what they don’t, than trying to sell them something. That’s something that a lot of organizations preach, but not many put into practice. At a large company like an Oracle or an IBM, they teach you to do those things, but they have quotas and they have numbers so if you’re not selling it gets to a point where you’re told to sell. There’s a tremendous disinclination to change, and a tremendous fear of rocking the boat. A lot of these companies are hiring smart kids, talking about social selling, and then not letting them do it. Which is a pity because that works. Tweeting, LinkedIn, content driven engagement works, but most large sales organizations have call metrics that make that impossible.

Jill: Yes, exactly! As far as what does, you’re starting with live chat. Do you think that live chat is new, or are you just coming at it from a different perspective?

Graham: Customer expectation for online chat is changing, and the industry response to that has been slow. 71% of customers expect a live chat window that they initiate to be responded to within 5 minutes. Oftentimes that doesn't happen. There’s a limit to how much we can change with just the software,but we can absolutely put the people using our software in the best position possible to meet that expectation.

Jill: So you guys are focused not just on the software but also on the why?

Graham: We’re focused on the why. For me, it’s a cultural thing. I think customer service, marketing, and sales needs to be on the same playing field because they’re all part of the customer loop.

Jill: I totally agree. That old school sales guy, nobody likes. Nobody ever did and now they don’t have to. The old school sales guy and old school service rep couldn’t be more different.

As companies look at customer lifetime value and the roles and responsibilities and skills of the customer success personnel, things will change. You asked if the sales rep should have more responsibilities, well at Eloqua, we had a customer bill of rights that we all signed, and I still carry it with me today. It says that:

You have a right to context, a roadmap to success, and knowing where you are on that roadmap. Consistency, to have your voice heard and responded to across all communication channels. To feel confident that Eloqua is working on your behalf with information you already provided in the pre-sales processes. Clarity, knowing who at Eloqua manages your relationship and what resources are available to you.Understand fully how Eloqua is contributing to your organization and to you. Continuity, understanding Eloqua’s vision and understanding the long term benefit to you and your company. Access a community of tens of thousands of peers at any time.

This, for Eloqua, was a culture thing.

Graham: Through my time with Oracle and now, I’ve come to view customer service, sales, and marketing as the customer experience loop.

Jill: Yes.

Graham: Generally, marketing and sales are really strong. You have good people, they’re highly educated, highly trained, and companies are dumping a ton of money into them. Box spent $171 million in sales and marketing last year. The other side of that is customer service, where you can tie off that end and keep revenue in. And so much of it comes pouring out. Companies spend all of this money setting up a funnel and getting this water to go down the hose and then there’s nothing for it to land in at the bottom. Culturally that doesn’t make sense to me.

Jill: Agreed. There’s this mentality that once you ring the bell, and get that money to buy a new pair of shoes, or a car, or whatever, that the job is done. Companies are over-rewarding for closing deals and under-compensating for the relationship.

We have to see a change in comp models. Comp drives behavior, especially in sales. If someone is paid the same amount to close a good deal or a bad one, then it won’t matter. Sales reps don’t use other companies’ customers, or even their own customers, to understand how a solution is experienced.

We’re long overdue for massive overhaul of the customer lifetime experience. Having the right people in each of the phases, all rowing towards the same goal, which should be advocacy. It used to be that marketing’s end goal was a lead, and they’d generate a lead and toss it to sales, and sales end goal was a contract, and they’d sign the contract and toss it to service. And service - their end goal was to stop the hemorrhage.

Graham: You referenced this earlier in your experiences with Salesforce. Having been all over the industry, consulting, and selling, what do you find makes a good total customer experience? What differentiates the great from the pedestrian?

Jill: It starts with a company culture of customer-centricity and customer obsession. The tone has to be set at the top that we’re here to do what’s right for the customer. I honestly think it starts with culture, and everything comes from there. The job roles and responsibilities, the skills that you hire for or train, the resources that you allocate all stem from culture.

Graham: You talk a lot about reverse mentoring. How can you reverse mentor companies into having the right culture, into being customer focused, into caring about customer service?

Jill: You show them that it will impact what they care about. What they care about is revenue and profitability. To compliment that, showing them the shift in the workforce demographic is key, because those people aren’t only your employees, but also your future customers. Helping them understand that Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s want to work for companies that have purpose beyond profit.

Showing them that this is how the world is changing. Towards the collaborative economy, and showing them that that model doesn’t mean that they can’t have a financially successful company. You have to show proof points of companies that are succeeding in the new world with a new model. Not startups with no legacy and no baggage. Old, established companies who have said that the way we’ve been doing things isn’t the way we can do things in the future.

Graham: That’s a good point. Your ABC’s were a staple at Oracle and still are in your current role. For those unfamiliar, ABC with Jill means “always be connecting.” Is it possible for teams to implement the ABC’s with their teams and their customers, whether or not their customers are businesses or individuals.

Jill: There’s enough information out there to get the why, there’s enough information out there to get the what, and there’s enough information out there to get the how. I say this all the time, my mentors include Arianna HuffingtonSheryl SandbergMarissa MayerBeth Comstock the SVP and CMO of  General Electric. They have no idea they’re my mentors, but I listen to what they publish, I listen to podcasts, I watch live presentations being streamed, I read blog posts. They’re my mentors. The information is out there. Sure you can do it better and faster if you get outside expert help from someone like a Jill Rowley to help you drive that, but I wouldn’t use budget as an excuse for not doing that because there is so much information out there.

Graham: I want to be respectful of your time so let’s wrap it up with a softball question: Who or what in your life provides great customer service?

Jill: My husband. laughs

Graham: That’s probably the best possible answer. Jill, thank you so much for being with us. For those of you who didn’t catch it at the beginning, Jill Rowley is a social selling evangelist and she’s currently running her own consulting company on social selling. Jill, thank you so much.

Jill: Cheers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Thoughts on the interview? Let us know in the comments or @helpdotcom.


More Posts