July 23, 2021

Turning Employees into Chief Experience Officers

Logo for Cengage's Be Customer Obsessed Week

By Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager for U.S. Higher Education, Cengage

Chief Experience Officers (CXOs) have existed in the corporate world for some time, but the position in higher education is new but growing, according to Higher Ed Dive. The outlet recently profiled the CXO of Quinnipiac University who has spent three decades living in dorms – now that is dedication to understanding the customer experience! Kidding aside, the piece drives home how important it is to “put yourself in your customer’s shoes” and something we do regularly at Cengage, however rather than one CXO, we have many.

This month Cengage Higher Ed held its annual “Testathon.” The name is a bit of misnomer because it’s not really about finding bugs in our digital platforms (that’s done earlier in the software development process), but about giving customer-facing and non-customer facing employees the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the customer experience. More than 500 employees from across the organization participated - including Product, Technology, Sales and Support as well as those that aren’t responsible for building products, like Finance, HR, Legal and Communications.

Many of the Testathon participants have never before logged into the digital platform they are testing, but they have to learn how to do that, as well as how to complete different activities just as a customer would (as a student and instructor) – i.e. copy a course, create an assignment, change an assignment due date, submit an assignment, reorder modules, etc. And do it all live on Zoom while in different breakout rooms. It’s not all fun and games, testers have to log any bugs, ideas for improvement and of course positive feedback as well. The groups then come together to discuss what they learned and share feedback. Our product and technology teams review that feedback to inform fixes or changes needed.

Beyond just helping improve the product experience for our customers, the Testathon is also an opportunity for our support staff to meet and talk with the colleagues responsible for conceiving of and developing new functionality and what value it was intended to bring the customer. It also gives customer-facing employees early visibility into what's coming.

This year, our Testathon was held during our “Be Customer Obsessed” week (known just as BCO week at Cengage) to bring increased focus on the importance of supporting customers through Fall Rush.  BCO Week gives all employees an opportunity to hear from colleagues (at different levels) from across different parts of the business – Who are their customers? What are their pain points? How are we working to solve them?

All of these activities bring to life our ethos principles of “putting learning first” and “doing more together,” and level us up to deliver on our goals of providing easy, quality solutions for our customers backed by the best service.

How do you put yourself in your customer’s shoes?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.