We had the pleasure of speaking with Todd Unger who is the Chief Experience Officer at American Medical Association to talk all things CX: his journey into the CX world, where his role falls within the organization, how he’s been able to achieve executive level support, how he’s creating value, and his pieces of advice for others in the profession.
Some highlights from the interview are included. You can also listen to the full episode below or find the show on all podcast platforms and subscribe.
Mike (West Monroe): What led to where you are now?
Todd (AMA): I’ve had three major steps, started my pre-internet career at Procter & Gamble and Leo Burnett where I learned consumer marketing, advertising, positioning, and segmentation. From there, the internet was invented and I went to AOL where I started digital product and programming running a bunch of different sides and mostly in the New York media world. I learned a lot about content development across TV and print and how to maximize the value of that content to drive audience. My final stop before AMA was with Daily Racing Form which led to digital commerce and was all about customer acquisition and content marketing. Those three things I’m building here.
It’s about establishing one organization that has the consumer marketing orientation of P&G, digital publishing expertise of the New York Times or Washington Post, and an eCommerce platform like Amazon. Having all three of those working in tandem is the most exciting thing about customer experience right now — where marketing, technology, product, commerce, and content all come together in a new way that’s not really been experienced before.
Mike: As an executive that focuses on improving experiences for physician members, you have quite a bit of reach in the day to day operations to be able to improve the experience vs an organization where it is more a center of excellence or a smaller group that tries to gain influence.
Todd: It’s a “buck stops here” position for the digital age. I can’t emphasize enough when you are talking about experience at this standpoint, you are talking about the nexus marketing, technology, product, content, and commerce. The person at the other end of your experience doesn’t differentiate between each of those areas. All they know is the experience they are having with you. There is not a great roadmap for customer experience in an organization like ours where we aren’t touching someone live every day or finding the magical moment. It’s largely digital experience created somewhat from scratch for the majority. That’s been the fun of figuring it out, how you weave all those things together into something.
Mike: Based on what you’ve seen from other companies on their CX efforts, where would you say you are today? How far along are you in that journey to become physician or customer-centric? Where would you put yourselves?
Todd: Right in the middle. We’ve been in the first and second gear the last two year’s and it’s astonishing how much we’ve gotten done so quickly to push us through the early stages of customer experience. Now we are in third gear, the infrastructure is built, the strategy is clear to everyone, and folks are on board. I wouldn’t say I ever experienced a lot of resistance in this organization, but now people see the data and boy are they believers. We still have quite a job cut out for us, but a lot of the foundation has been laid.
Mike: It’s great that you are seeing success and are able to articulate the value to stakeholders within the organization. We know this can be challenging for many CX leaders. What’s going well in being able to articulate that value your organization is driving? What’s resonating the most with executives?
Todd: Data speaks for itself. I look at other organizations that have CX efforts going on and how they are organized. A lot of times I see CX on the side and not necessarily tied into the operations. That’s a harder place to be. It’s part of our operations, whether it’s product and development, testing that goes into marketing communications, or any kind of new initiative. It’s not a new idea — you have to have something that people really want and you have to pay a lot of attention to every step along the way to your customer will interact with your brand…For me, it started with results.
I don’t intend to use fancy words like “digital transformation” or “customer experience”, you just show what you can do if you change A to B. If that delivers a 40% better result, you start to see those things pile up and accumulate. You teach people how to do that so it becomes engrained in their everyday experience. I told my team, “Every one of you is a leader. Every person in our group, I want you to come in every day and get the job done, but along the way figure out how to innovate and a deliver a better experience to the person on the other end.” For us, nothing succeeds like success to be cliche, people love results.
Mike: There have been some key lessons learned that you’ve bubbled up that have helped your journey. Are there any other pieces of advice that you have for CX leaders facing similar challenges, especially as they are getting started?
Todd: How you position the work you are doing. There are words that scare people, “digital transformation”, “customer experience”, they can sound soft or intimidating and very expensive. We see customer experience leaders as actually brass tax — getting down to it, make changes, show those results, and merchandise those improvements in terms of what they yield for business results that are tied to the strategy of the organization, not a side activity that’s out there making customers happy.
To me, it’s about results, and about growth. If you can position yourself as a person who’s going to drive growth, people are going to listen to you. Along the way, the faster and quicker you can develop some wins and get those under your belt and turn your organization into one that appreciates data, testing, and iteration, results will feed on themselves.