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Personalizing Customer Experience – An Interview with Jeanne Bliss

Sterling Sweeney

Last Updated:  

18 October 2023

4 min read

CX is everywhere, but there continues to be confusion about what it is and the commitment it takes and the reason to make the commitment.

SurveySparrow, the maker of the internet’s favourite online survey software, was recently fortunate enough to chat with Jeanne Bliss, one of the most respected voices in the Customer Experience (CX) industry. Today, we’ll have the opportunity to pick Jeanne’s brain about what goes into designing an effective CX campaign. So let’s jump in!

SurveySparrow: First of all, we want to thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with our audience today about the topic of customer experience. Many of our readers will know you because you’re one of the most authoritative voices on the topic of CX. You’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the world including Microsoft, Mazda and Coldwell Banker to help them define and refine their own customer experience strategies. But like most influencers, where you are today isn’t where you started out. So let’s talk a little bit more about where you started. What propelled you into this niche and what would you say are the three biggest steps that you have made that have brought you to where you are today?

Jeanne: I started off as a kid whose Dad had a Buster Brown shoe store.  He taught me about humanity in business. Then I had the great privilege to join Lands’ End in their early stages and stayed with them during the ten years of their most powerful growth. 

We thought of ourselves as direct merchants and had a set of principles for how we would and would not grow, and I had a role in guiding that growth. Gary Comer the founder brought me to be the first version of a CX leader and referred me as the “conscience” of the company as we grew. Without that experience, I would not have the career I have today.  In my new website about to launch, you can learn all about my journey here:

SurveySparrow: CX is becoming an increasingly discussed topic. New job titles are being created around it (i.e. happiness expert), big blogs are being written about it, Ted talks are being produced on the topic and banks and VCs are even starting to look at CX metrics as investment indicators. But you’ve been in the industry before it started really heating up. You wrote your book “Chief Customer Officer : Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action” back in 2006. Tell us about what major changes you’ve seen in the CX space from 2006 to now?

 Jeanne: You are right, “CX” is everywhere, but there continues to be confusion about what it is and the commitment it takes and the reason to make the commitment. 

It is about becoming an elevated company that fuses people – customers, employees and partners to you.

I’ve been doing this work since 1983, essentially when I joined Lands’ End as noted above.  Now it has a label. The real work is beyond tactics however, it is about leaders guiding a company toward enabling customers to achieve their goals. And putting employees in a position to deliver value. 

It is about building in sustainable approaches to run the business in that manner. As many of these efforts often get wind in their sails, the focus is on the mechanics that can be executed as projects. And that is where so much of the “CX” efforts and talk is now.  But to truly elevate a company and become a beloved brand and organization, one needs to have certain aspects sorted out; like why the organization exists and how it wants to be remembered. 

 Then the company must be built to deliver THAT.  I think there will be an inflexion point in this work where the very truly committed companies who go the distance to do the work will come to realize this and those that put in the hard work both operationally, culturally and with their leadership will achieve this place.  

SurveySparrow: I love your focus on making CX personal by making the entire concept less abstract by using our love for our mothers as a way for us to understand the importance of CX. I watched your keynote “Would You Do That To Your Mother” and I checked out your work over on your #makeyourmomproud movement page. I love this approach to help you drive home the importance of CX. This strategy of personalizing CX seems to be helping you do your job better. Tell us a little bit more about this strategy and how it’s helping you teach people about customer experience.

 Jeanne: The “Would You Do that to Your Mother” book is meant to simplify what it means to live the life of a customer.  In the book, I identify the 32 things that impact all of us – whether in a b-b or b-c business. Then give case studies, a “mom lens” to evaluate your own approach in your company and an action plan to make changes. 

I really wanted to give people a lift-off from this work and make the work personal. The best companies really do think of and talk about their customers and partners as people trying to achieve goals. “Mom” is a simple way to take our work personally.

SurveySparrow: Allow me to switch gears and ask a technical question on the topic of the customer journey. Now a big mistake that many people make is they make assumptions about what their customer journey looks like. Now our users are a step ahead because they are using technological tools to get customer feedback along the way. This means they are not guesting. However, in your experience, what are some best practices in relation to gathering feedback?

 Jeanne: Customers are giving you feedback every day in their behaviours; what did they buy, return, abandon in your SAAS processes, how many times did they reach out and also when they are calling or tweeting or contacting you.  All of this information can be gathered and organized – but it needs to be collected and organized in unison in common categorization across the company. If not, multiple buckets of data and presentations will get people’s heads spinning and send them off in separate tactics by silo. 

I am also a great believer in ethnography and almost archaeological “dig” approaches where we talk to customers about their goals and needs and not about the processes. And we watch them try to achieve actions or goals.

Experience innovation and elevating your place will come from understanding their lives – not just from validating what you are currently doing.  That, to me, is the cycle that sometimes gives companies a false positive or impacts their ability to move past simply incremental fixes to things – and not become truly admired and indispensable in peoples’ lives.

Thank you for joining us today Jeanne. We really appreciate you sharing your insights and knowledge with our blog audience.

To our readers, if you’d like to follow Jeanne you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter


Sterling Sweeney

Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the founder of WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency which is a platform designed to help SaaS companies scale.

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