The Customer Confidential Podcast

In this podcast series, Rob Markey talks to loyalty leaders about the techniques they use to keep customers coming back, and why customer loyalty is so critical to long-term success.

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Episode 236: When telecom rivals offered lower rates and bigger networks, Macquarie bet big on customer loyalty—and won.

David Tudehope, Macquarie Technology Group’s CEO, joins Rob Markey to discuss Macquarie’s competitive differentiator: a bold, customer-centric approach.

David co-founded Macquarie to prioritize exceptional customer experience over price and network quality competition. Joining David is Joseph Michelli, author of Customer Magic – The Macquarie Way, who shares a key moment about how a product launch was postponed and short-term profits were sacrificed due to customer need misalignment.

"We weren't living our purpose if we proceeded. We had to take our medicine and accept stakeholder disappointment," David recalls.

That leadership decision reinforced Macquarie's culture. Transparency and real-time feedback improved employer-customer interactions, workforce engagement, and Net Promoter Scores. Sharing real, exceptional service examples inspired employees to excel when creating memorable customer experiences.

Impressive results include exceptional shareholder returns and consistently having Australian telecom’s lowest per-customer complaint volume.

Guests: David Tudehope, CEO, Macquarie Technology Group and Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., author of Customer Magic: The Macquarie Way
Host: Rob Markey, Partner, Bain & Company

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Episode 235: In 2012, T-Mobile lost nearly two million customers. Its revenue fell precipitously. Its situation seemed hopeless. Then came a new CEO with an audacious plan and a penchant for F-bombs.

Jon Freier, president of T-Mobile’s US Consumer Group, joins host Rob Markey to share his firsthand account of the remarkable corporate turnaround. Jon describes the “Un-carrier” strategy, from its risky beginnings to its industry-reshaping impact. He shares how T-Mobile broke the mold, challenged conventions, and ultimately won over customers by putting their needs first. The company’s success has been eye-popping.

Jon shares some of T-Mobile’s biggest game-changing innovations. He lays out bets on dramatic changes to handset pricing and contract renewal terms, a daring move from high-priced “buckets” of limited data to unlimited plans, repricing international roaming, and the innovative T-Mobile Tuesdays rewards program. He also highlights the impact of the “Team of Experts” customer service model.

Guests: Jon Freier, President, T-Mobile US Consumer Group
Host: Rob Markey, Partner, Bain & Company

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Episode 234: Why do some retailers excel at creating a welcoming environment for a diverse customer base while others fall short?

Bain & Company's Naiara De León and Madison Dyal Anderson discuss their research on how companies that excel in customer advocacy and inclusion consistently outperform their peers by a staggering 10 percentage points annually.

Beyond quantifying inclusion's sizable revenue impact, they also share data from their survey of over 7,700 US consumers on the lasting negative psychological toll exclusion has on retail customers—and why one bad experience can turn someone off a brand forever.

We analyze the root of the issue: What causes consumer exclusion in the first place? We also share examples of companies’ winning inclusive strategies, from the importance of eye contact to plentiful product assortment to purposefully designed campaigns.

Guests: Naiara De León, Partner, Bain & Company and Madison Dyal Anderson, Partner, Bain & Company
Host: Rob Markey, Partner, Bain & Company

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Episode 233: What if the key to creating truly innovative products and solutions lies at least as much in uncovering the deep emotional and attitudinal needs of your customers as in mastering technology?

Eckhart Boehme, founder and managing director of Unipro Solutions, shares his approach to putting Clayton Christensen’s Jobs to Be Done framework into practical use. Eckhart demonstrates how in-depth interviews with customers and their families can reveal the underlying personal experiences, emotions, and desires that truly motivate people to seek out and purchase products or services. With these insights in hand, companies often uncover fundamentally different needs than they first anticipated, sometimes even opening up new markets or uses for their products.

We also discuss Eckhart’s Wheel of Progress model, which he designed to reveal the hidden layers of reasoning behind customer decisions. It provides a systematic way to deconstruct customer narratives and identify the jobs that are most likely to drive customer decisions along their cyclical journeys. Learn how this model segments the customer journey into phases of motivation, decision-making, and action. He brings this all to life with a compelling case study about finding a senior living place for an elderly loved one, revealing a hidden but critical job to be done: giving the elderly parent a sense of purpose.

Our conversation also lays bare some common pitfalls when applying the Jobs to Be Done framework, such as focusing too narrowly on functional jobs while missing the bigger picture of the customer's overarching goals and emotional needs.

Guest: Eckhart Boehme, Founder and Managing Director, Unipro Solutions

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Episode 232: Matt Harris, a Partner at Bain Capital Ventures who invests in technology-based companies, argues that generative AI will soon empower customers in unexpected ways. For example, he predicts that consumers will soon use AI tools to continuously discover lower loan rates, higher-yield savings accounts, or more attractive insurance policies.

As a result, Matt anticipates a shift in customer-company power dynamics. Imagine, for example, an AI agent able to continuously move your deposits to the highest-yielding savings accounts or refinance your loans to the best available rates with little intervention required from you. Imagine consumer tools for interpreting medical scans and providing a diagnosis for comparison to your doctor's assessment. Generative AI could even transform the future of mental health therapy to be more effective, efficient, and streamlined.

Join us as we discuss the present and future of consumers' newfound AI-driven power and analyze where organizations and their leaders should be pointed next to remain competitive.

Guest: Matt Harris, Bain Capital Ventures

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Episode 231: Discover the engine of Earned Growth as Rob Markey and Fred Reichheld, Bain Fellow and Winning On Purpose author, hold a working session on how references and referrals significantly contribute to organic growth.

Rob and Fred unearth the pivotal role that references and referrals play in propelling Earned Growth. They answer key questions such as: How would you characterize different referral types? What are the best mechanisms for measuring and attributing value to them? How do you navigate the tricky path of fostering genuine, organic referrals at scale?

Together, they explore one of the thorniest issues in accounting for the value of referrals: How much of a new referred customers value should accrue to the referring customer versus the referred one?

Guest: Fred Reichheld, Bain Fellow

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Episode 230: Why would a world-class sports academy invest in a student center, rather than more coaches, fancy equipment, or dorms?

IMG Academy, a Florida boarding school, turns out some of the most successful college and professional athletes around. Its president, Tim Pernetti, led a massive cultural shift toward customer loyalty.

Tim says IMG Academy used to be highly focused on coaching and sports operations. To be clear, that emphasis on athletic excellence helped produce a large number of highly successful athletes. But Tim and the leadership team saw the potential to add something on top of this: a focus on serving a more comprehensive set of student-athlete needs. Today, IMG Academy leverages student-athlete input to refine its program and operations. New initiatives range from enhancing dining experiences to introducing flexible communal spaces.

Tim shares how an emphasis on employee recognition combines regular student and parent feedback to instill deep, enduring culture change.

Guest: Tim Pernetti, President, IMG Academy

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Episode 229: How can businesses transcend traditional customer service boundaries to establish new customer experience benchmarks?

Stan Swinton, Founder and General Manager of NPSx, Bain & Company, discusses how a comprehensive approach to customer experience extends beyond gathering feedback or managing customer journeys.

Stan details Bain’s NPSx framework—comparable to a restaurant star rating, he says—which offers an extensive customer-centricity analysis via 60+ dimensions and eight pillars. Stan shares how this methodology motivates companies to strive for top-tier customer satisfaction.

We also discuss the Customer Experience Roadmap and Accreditation (CXRA). Stan highlights CXRA's effectiveness in uncovering inefficiencies and enhancing customer-employee synergies.

In addition, we explore why businesses frequently restrict their customer experience initiatives to areas such as feedback management, and discuss the essential role of Customer Experience Officers in achieving genuine customer centricity. Finally, we examine the constantly changing landscape of CX benchmarks and expectations, emphasizing the importance of a flexible and adaptive approach.

Guest: Stan Swinton, Founder and General Manager of NPSx, Bain & Company

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Episode 228: How does a global medical technology company maintain customer focus while managing operational challenges during a pandemic? In this episode, Tony Ezell, executive vice president of North America and chief marketing officer for Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), explores how integrating customer feedback into your business strategy can maintain—and even enhance—customer loyalty by helping shape business strategies that are both robust and responsive to evolving customer needs.

Tony outlines how customer loyalty and adaptability are essential strategic tools in healthcare innovation. Together, we explore how BD leveraged a customer-centric approach to skillfully navigate operational continuity and customer satisfaction.

We also take a short trip down memory lane to connect the dots from our chat with Tony a decade ago, exploring the ongoing impact of customer experience and Net Promoter Systems on Tony's evolving career trajectory and leadership style.

Guest: Tony Ezell, executive vice president of North America and chief marketing officer, Becton, Dickinson and Company

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Episode 227: How does an insurance industry leader integrate a simple yet profound question—Would you do that to your mom?—to transform customer service and decision making? In this episode, Richard Watts, board member at Farmers Insurance and former sales and service president at Progressive, discusses how asking this question improves business operations. He explores how this unique approach revolutionizes customer service and sets a new industry standard for empathy and customer focus.

Richard also shares insights into how this philosophy transformed internal practices, significantly influenced customer satisfaction and loyalty, and how it continues to shape his leadership and strategic decisions. We'll also revisit Richard's journey from biology to computer science and his shift toward customer-centric innovations in insurance.

Guest: Richard Watts, board member, Farmers Insurance

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Episode 226: How do the needs of students at for-profit, mostly online colleges differ from those of typical college students? They often require financial aid, schedule flexibility, and academic support that can go far beyond the norm of traditional higher education. In this segment, we explore why graduation rates have traditionally been quite low at these colleges due to all the challenges students face. How do schools like this strike an appropriate balance of flexibility, support, and rigorous academic programs that will help their students succeed in the workforce?

Ruth Veloria is the chief strategy officer and customer officer at the University of Phoenix. She is on a mission to help more of the school’s students successfully overcome challenges so they can complete their studies and reap the rewards of their education. Ruth and the team at University of Phoenix have spent over a decade working to improve student retention and success rates.

In this episode, roughly a decade after Ruth first joined Rob on the podcast, she shares how the University of Phoenix has achieved a remarkable increase in student retention rates, from 64% to 74%. They now graduate over a third more students than they did 10 years ago. Ruth discusses how the Net Promoter System helped fuel the university’s deep commitment to learning from and acting on student feedback. She describes academic policies that are empathetic vs unempathetic, and how data analysis and feedback have been used to enhance student experience and to support policy and process change.

Guest: Ruth Veloria, chief strategy officer and customer officer, University of Phoenix

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Episode 225: How do high-quality NPS benchmarks unlock strategic priorities and initiatives? What if your NPS data seems highly counterintuitive? For example, what if Detractors seem to be more loyal than Promoters?

Host Rob Markey and Jason Barro, a partner at Bain & Company and the leader of Bain's NPS Prism benchmarking service, unpack this situation in the airline industry. It’s an illustration of how Net Promoter Score benchmark data might be misleading when not all customers have the freedom to choose, revealing the nuanced understanding required to transform raw data into strategic business insights.

Jason and Rob use this example to explore some of the ways a sophisticated knowledge of how customers buy, the choices they have available, and how a market’s competitive dynamics inform the interpretation of customer loyalty benchmarks like NPS.

Guest: Jason Barro, Partner at Bain & Company and Founder of NPS Prism

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Episode 224: From reshaping the playful culture of a global toy company to cracking the customer-centricity code in the financial services behemoth Zurich Insurance, how did Conny Kalcher manage the leap?

Conny Kalcher, the group chief customer officer at Zurich Insurance, has a rich history of pioneering customer-centric transformations. Conny introduced a swath of fresh perspectives and approaches to the more traditional environment of Zurich Insurance. She did this not long after retiring from a rewarding career at LEGO, where she helped a customer-centric transformation. Her influence transcends the boundaries of any one company, partly a result of her active participation in Bain's NPS Loyalty Forum, where she has made large contributions to the ongoing Net Promoter System movement. For context to today’s discussion, you might want to listen to her conversation with Rob Markey in episode 55, Brick by Brick.

In this episode, Rob and Conny delve into her remarkable journey from the playful and imaginative domain of toys to the structured and staid sphere of the insurance business. Conny's customer engagement methodology breaks industry molds. She draws parallels and contrasts between her long career in an organization selling toys made of stackable bricks and her new role in a complex global behemoth selling insurance policies and managing financial and operational risk. Conny’s anecdotes reveal that most of the principles behind understanding and catering to customer needs are universal, regardless of the specific type of customer or product. As Conny reminisces about her time in the toy industry, she sheds light on how the lessons learned there acted as a catalyst for nurturing a customer-first culture at Zurich Insurance. It illustrates how a keen understanding of customer sentiments can be a game-changer in any industry.

Guest: Conny Kalcher, group chief customer officer at Zurich Insurance

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Episode 223: Host Rob Markey welcomes Mark Slatin, CEO of EmpoweredCX, to dissect the intricate dynamics of trust within customer experiences. Drawing insights from real-world examples, they explore the role of product and service quality in establishing trust, the impact of reliability and consistency in decision making, and the potential pitfalls of self-orientation. Delving deeper into the Trust Equation and explaining its different facets, Mark underscores the necessity of understanding the customer’s journey and perspective. They address the challenges of reliability, targeted marketing implications, customer vs. company centricity, the art of meaningful recommendations, and more. And they explore how to balance customer needs with shareholder expectations. Mark also provides an analytical perspective on the integral components of trust in a business landscape.

In this show, Rob and Mark discuss the Trust Equation, which you can learn more about here and here.

Guest: Mark Slatin, CEO of EmpoweredCX

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Episode 222: In this episode, we launch our new show name: The Customer Confidential Podcast. We chose it after seeking lots of listener and guest input and believe that the new name better reflects the show’s mission—namely, to delve into untold stories of customer and industry transformations, sharing the journeys of both well-known and unsung heroes of customer centricity. We also seek out deep conversations with the thought leaders who inspire the best practitioners.

Also, in this episode, which also marks our 10th anniversary, host Rob Markey welcomes back frequent guest (and Rob’s longtime mentor) Fred Reichheld, Bain fellow and founder of Bain's Loyalty practice. Rob and Fred trace the evolution of Fred’s earned growth rate concept from its roots in Fred’s early work on customer retention at Bain. They unravel the intricacies of customer-centric metrics and how they have changed. They note the impact of genuine referrals vs. those that are bought and differentiate between earned and purchased growth. Importantly, they acknowledge and explore challenges in quantifying earned growth and how some companies have begun to tackle them successfully.

Guest: Fred Reichheld, Bain fellow, founder of Bain’s Loyalty practice, and author of Winning on Purpose: The Unbeatable Strategy of Loving Customers

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