This post is a transcript from S3 E11 of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast with Mary Drumond featuring James Dodkins.
Mary Drumond: (00:05)
This is Voices of Customer Experience, a podcast where we bring you the very best thought leaders and practitioners of customer experience and its overlapping verticals such as marketing, analytics, behavioral economics, Journey Mapping, and design. Our goal is to help you be better at your job by listening to the experiences and leadership of others who like you, have dedicated their careers to improving the dialogue between companies and customers. Voices of Customer Experience podcast is brought to you by Worthix, the first and only self adaptive survey for measuring customer experience. Discover your worth at worthix.com.
James Dodkins used to be an actual real life, legitimate award winning rockstar. He toured the world and played guitar in a heavy metal band releasing albums and tearing up stages. But nowadays he's more frequently seen on the conference stage and instead of writing music, he writes books. Through training and consultancy, his company helps other companies deliver a rock star experience to their customers. So welcome back to one more episode of Voices of Customer Experience. We are in season three and today I am joined by the CX rock star himself -James Dodkins. Hi James. How are you?
James Dodkins: (01:21)
Doing good. Thank you for having me.
Thanks so much for coming on. It's great to have you. I am a fan of your material. I'm a fan of your keynote and I'm mostly a fan of your CX news segment that you have on. Is it YouTube?
It's actually, it's on Amazon prime. But it also is on youtube and Linkedin as well because I'm nice like that.
Because you just distribute it everywhere basically. Great. So tell me a little bit about, I mean for the benefit of our listeners as well, tell me how you got started because you do brand yourself as a former rock star and that somehow just kind of parachuted into the customer experience world and now you're here and you love it. So can you give us a little bit of a backstory there?
Yes, I will tell you my story. Are you sitting comfortably then? I used to be an actual real life, legitimate award winning rock star, toured around the world playing guitar in a heavy metal band. We released two albums. We were working on a third. I was in magazines quite regularly. I had video on TV. It was a pretty obscure heavy metal TV channel, but whatever it was, okay I'll take it. That all unceremoniously ended, which is a story for another day. But then I did the next logical thing after touring the world in a heavy metal band. I went and worked for an insurance company.
Sounds like the next logical step.
Exactly. Yeah. I mean what else would she do that that's the thing you do next. And basically the only reason I worked for this company, because it was the largest company closest to my house, there was no master plan. And I was selling insurance on the phone. It's a little old ladies. And after about a week and this, I was like, hmm, this obviously isn't what I want to do with the rest of my life.
MD: (02:59) Did it kill your soul? Like did it just eat you alive or was it bearable?
JD: (03:05) Um, yeah. Yeah, there was, I had a few crises. Because basically I had spent, I mean look, we released our first album when I was 17 so I spent the best years of my life traveling around the world doing pretty much whatever I wanted.
So to then get into the corporate world, it was a bit of a culture shock to me. But I am, I sucked it up in the thought I don't want to do this forever. Let's set myself a bit of a plan to progress. I was quite lucky as well as the company grew really quickly. So I got lots of opportunities to progress through the company far more than I ever would have if I were to join like a super massive company. Immediately worked my way up through the company, was convinced I was going to be CEO one day and then got made redundant, which is I think you Americans call it being downsized. I wasn't fired. I mean it's just my job didn't exist anymore. So I was like, ah, all right, what we'll do, they now in my time there we had lots of really expensive, crappy consultants come through.
So I thought I could be a really expensive, crappy consultant. So I did that. I started doing that. I'm completely wildly under qualified for it, but I was armed with a love of learning, a childlike curiosity and a boatload of confidence. So when I did hand bullshitting personally, I wouldn't say that it's, it's a case of my strength comes from being able to take quite complex ideas and package them in different ways, take lots of disparate ideas and put them together in engaging ways. But the thing is, with this, throughout my entire time in the corporate world, I had created this corporate persona for myself because the only thing I ever learned about business, it was in the music world or on TV. When you look at people on TV being in the business world, they carry briefcases and they wear suits and ties, and so I was like, well, I obviously need to do that.
So you do that, you dress in a certain way, you act in a certain way. The problem was it worked. It worked pretty well. Actually this corporate persona did me very well. And the problem was I look back at what I was doing. I was thinking, Jesus Christ, who is this person? He is. It's not me. It's someone beats. It was just this, this persona had created that just wasn't me. And a few things converged with the the customer experience consultant space getting pretty saturated. It got to the point was like, well, I'm going to need to reinvent myself at some point I'm going to need to do something different. And then I heard a quote from a guy called Jerry Garcia from the grateful dead and these kinds of everything for me. And the quote is, you shouldn't be trying to be the best in the world at what you do.
You should be trying to be the only person in the world that does what you do. And that really hit home with me. And I was thinking, you know what? The only two things I've ever been good at in my entire life, were being a rock star doing this customer experience stuff. Why not put them together and see where it goes? I went to my wife who was two months pregnant at the time. I said, I've got, I've got this idea. She's like, okay, it's an idea that changed the direction of the business, change the direction of my career path. She said, yeah, what? I said, I'm just going to be myself.
She said how much money people are going to give you if you're just being yourself. James, I've met yet. So, but luckily she supported me, completely rebranded, rebranded the company, Rockstar CX three branded myself as the customer experience Rockstar. The keynote that you spoke about as well, where a plate, it's RNA and it's all musical theme of Rockstar themes. Great Fun. And yeah, that's um, that's kind of how I got to where I am today because the thing is in customer experience, there's a lot of really good content out there, fantastic content, but it's delivered in such a dry way that people just have a hard time absorbing it. Where's my content is only slightly above average. It's just delivered in a more entertaining way. So there you go.
Well, I think I've heard you say before that you try to make your keynote what would maybe be like an introduction to CX. You're not trying to create or provide the solutions that are gonna, you know, change the planet or anything. It's more an education and a basic evangelization maybe of customer experiences that it, did I get it right?
Yeah. That, I mean the, the thing is people refer to me as a thought leader quite a lot and that's really nice and everything and he's quite humbling. You refer to that. A lot of what I do is just thought reminding, okay. Just reminding people of things that they've forgotten along the way. The talk you right. It's not going to change your world. It's not going to fundamentally change the way that you approach customer experience forever. But it is going to remind you five core elements of the way that you should be looking at customer experience in a fun and entertaining way. It's more of an entertainment piece than it is an education piece. But there is education in there. So if you want, you can call it edutainment.
MD: (07:56) So let's get into those five core elements.
JD: (07:58) Oh, you got it. You made me remember that. I know them. Number one is nail the intro. Okay, so I don't want to spoil too much because if people..
or else nobody's going to pay you to go watch the keynote, right?
Right. No, because you'll just hearing the, the talk in there. You're not seeing the guitar playing and other stuff. So yeah. Now the intro, so first impressions, understanding the our first impressions don't happen where and when we think they do most of the time. You got to think, people think we'll our first impressions are in, in our call center or from a marketing. No. Our first impression is nowadays with our customers, 10 tap in from an angry tweet that someone's sent or a review or a blog or a vlog. First Impressions don't happen with the first interaction with your company. That happened a long time before that. So you need to understand where and when they happen. Once you understand that, try and engineer your first impressions to have impact, purpose, and direction. And I like to think about it like the best intros to the the best rock songs in the world. They have impact, purpose and direction. Number two, we are talking about creating super fans. All right, so when you think about super fans, you might think of Justin Bieber and his beliebers. Are you a belieber?
No, don't put me on the spot. Canadians are going to hurl tomatoes at me next time they see me. I mean he's right. Question for you. Other than Celine Dion is Justin Bieber the most famous Canadian? Ryan Reynolds. Maybe. I don't think most people know he's Canadian so it doesn't count. Yeah, but then again it might be, most people don't know RYan Reynolds is Canadian. Anyway, but look, got, you've got your believers that the nice thing about super funds when it comes to music is that they'll market, they'll advocate, they'll defend them, promote your music for free. Absolutely. For free. And so in the talk, I then go on to show company super fans who have all decided to get tattoos of the company's logos on them and they get progressively more ridiculous as we go.
MD: (10:05) Didn't a famous athlete do that with like a supreme, didn't an athlete tattoo the supreme logo on his leg?
JD: (10:08) Probably. That sounds like the sort of thing people that like Supreme would do. Stupid.
Yeah. Rule number three is about making it right. So as a story, I'll tell you this story now and it's about a time that I messed up really badly and what it was, we were off on our first headline tour of the UK. We just released our first album. It was a proper big deal for us and I decided I wanted to let you know up for my stage show a little bit. So I decided I wanted to learn how to spin my guitar. And if you've never seen someone spin their guitar kind of is what it sounds like. You throw the guitar over your shoulder and the momentum brings it back round and you catch it. The entire month before the tour I was at in my back garden surrounded by mattresses and pillows, trying to learn how to do with this.
I didn't break my God damn guitar trying to learn how to do this and basically there is a trick to it. Would you like to know what the trick is? Good. Don't do it for the next thing I got to tell you or else the story's anyway, you've just got to throw it really hard. Okay. You got to commit to it. You've got to throw it hard in the momentum, whips it right back round. It looks wicked seriously and I was like, okay, right I way to do it now. When am I going to do it in the set and our very last song was our most popular song and there was a bit like a little break down a bit before the very final bit. That was the most metal bit of the entire set and also I'm going to do, so I'm going to do an audio demonstration now.
It would have gone to spin again. So there you go. That first night I was super nervous because I know what if it goes wrong. What if I don't throw it hard enough? But of course adrenaline. Sorry, really hard whips right back round. It looks amazing. Next time I do it all the way through until the last night, which is our hometown Gig, biggest creditor, the entire tour, get to the end, then spin. I'm looking around and I'm like, what had happened was I had practiced so much and that the lever had worn away on my strap that instead they're spinning my guitar. I just threw it really hard. Remember that part. Really hard into a wall. So I was like, oh no, what do I do? I had two options. Do I run offstage crying? That was actually quite tempting. Oh, do I fix the experience in the experience? So within a split second, I ran forward and dive majestically like a swan into the crowd. They caught me, thank God. I know crowd surfed into the mosh pit. Do you know what a mosh pit is? I do. I'm a bit of a metal head myself. So for for your listeners, would you like to explain what a mosh pit is?
I'd say it's a bunch of crazy lunatics normally covered in mud mashing into each other at rock concerts.
That's, I mean that's one way to describe it. I like to say when your music is so melodic and beautiful that it makes you want to punch your friends in the face.
it inspires that kind of reaction in your fans.
Learned that from your soul. I got in there and had a great time and to this day people still tell me that that was their favorite gig of ours that they ever went to. As far as they were concerned. I became overcome with heavy metal passion through my guitar and dived in the crowd. But of course we all know what actually happened. The big part of this was all, it's all about empowerment. I didn't have to go and ask our manager to go and bring the record label to see if I had permission to dive into the crowd. I didn't have to do that because I was empowered. I knew what needed to happen to fix the experience in the experience and that's what I did. And I think we need to take more of a view like that in our companies. Learn to fix the experience in the experience. Don't wait for the complaint, fix the thing that has gone wrong before the customer even has a chance to complain. Does that make sense?
Yeah. It's like Ozzy with the bat, right? I mean you take something that you weren't necessarily expecting. We have to plan for unexpected occurrences and for you know, a breakdown in the process at some point and when it happens just make the best of it and fix it. You're absolutely right with that crazy insane rock analogy.
Yeah. Thank you. Well, I mean the most that were full stack sort of framework that you can use, which I'll share, I'll share with you now, is identify, monitor, communicate, compensate. So what that means is beforehand work to identify the things that happened in your experiences that cause dissatisfaction. You probably already got this data, whether it's through social media interactions, whether it's through feedback that you've done, whether it's through complaints, if you don't have that, go out and get it. Understand things the actually cause dissatisfaction in your experiences. Then once you know that, monitor the experience in the experience for when these things happen. Once you notice that something has happened, communicate to your customer that you know something has gone wrong and that you're on it and then compensate. It doesn't necessarily have to be a monetary compensation, but basically put it right.
Some sort of monetary compensation does go a long way. Yeah. Towards changing how someone feels about a given situation. Or it could be free tickets or it could be a refund or whatever, but just put it right. So identify the things that caused their satisfaction. Monitor the experience for when they happen, when may happen. Communicate to the customer that you know it's happened in Iran. Yeah. And then put it right.
MD: (15:25) Oh, that's great. So what step was that?
JD: (15:28) That was rule number three. Make it right. Rule number four is make it clear.
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Right. So making it look, customers misunderstand the things a lot, don't they? You got to think why that is. Like we make the products or services or if we don't make them directly, we get training on them. Somebody shouted out to me, one, James, we give them instruction manuals, all right, but they don't always read them. And he's just the same with music. If you don't read the lyrics along with the song, it leaves the song open to misinterpretation. You can hear the words the way they weren't supposed to be heard, and you can misinterpret the song. I know I do this all the time. Unfortunately I can't give you the examples, but there is now a whole example in my keynote of lyrics that I have miss heard over the years and because you can't hear them now and you can't make your own judgment, I'll just tell you. They're hilarious.
MD: (16:49) Oh yeah. Oh my sister does this all the time. She never actually learned the words to any songs. She just makes them up as they go sometimes makes the songs better. I got to say it's fantastic.
So yeah, you can't ever know. There's videos online of that segment of the talking. People want to go and watch. He's understanding that when customers realize that they have misunderstood something about your products or services, they don't blame themselves. They blame you. It's just like when I realize I'm singing the wrong words, I never blamed myself. I blamed the artist and the artists record the song, and they listened back to the song and they hear it the way it should be because they've written the song. But of course, unless the funds are reading the lyrics, they're not going to hear it in the same way. They're not necessarily going to get that. So you've really got to make things as simple and as easy as humanly possible. Well, don't be surprised when your customers think that you've said something or promise something that you have.
And then there's rule number five, which is let teams rock. Okay, so "let" is a handy acronym. Hello. After working with hundreds of high performing teams all around the world, I've come to the realization that the quickest way to get teams to rock is to let teams rock. And the acronym is listen, empower, trust to listen to their thoughts and their ideas and their concerns. Empower them to act on those things and then trust that they will make the right decision for the business. But at this point in the keynote, what I do is I stop it. And I think, I think you know what, it will be better just to show you how powerful teamwork can be. I split the crowd up into little sections and they all learn different beats. Then they do it together and some clap, and some stamp and some click, etc. And then I play guitar with the Crayon, they become part of my band and then everyone cheers and lifted me up on their shoulders and that's the end of the talk.
I would love to see that keynote because I've been to a lot of conferences and got to say, James, at some point in the day you just want to fall asleep because even though the content might be super duper like important or relevant or insightful, you know how many talks have you heard? Like if you go to an event that has multiple tracks and you're walking back and forth and you're just learning all this stuff and your brain is crammed with information, you're getting cognitive overload like big time. So sometimes just breaking that cycle and having something different that, like you said, is entertaining but educational at the same time and just kind of jolts you out of that rhythm of like the monotone that's been going on and on. Amazing. I love it.
Cool. Thank you. Well, I mean that, that is the point though, is the idea behind the creation of it is it's less informational, more inspirational. It's what is that thing at the end of the day that gives you a kick up the ass and makes you think, whoa, okay that said, let's get out there and do this stuff. Usually conference organizers put it before a drinks reception. Don't know why. So that's actually sometimes what we do is we drag the drinks reception into the talk. I don't care if this, that they with bears and stuff that makes it even more rock star.
Right. More metal and more interactive probably. I mean you probably have, you know, people get more excited and stuff. So what are some other initiatives that you work on aside from this keynote? What are some other projects that you've been working on?
Well, I mean currently what I'm working on is I'm putting together the coaching groups at the moment. There's a reason behind that. I get asked for coaching and mentorship quite a lot, and it's usually from people all over the world and it's really nice and everything, but with the best will in the world, I can't conscious be everywhere in the world I'd like to be. I had an idea that kind of struck me, well, I could put together online groups for coaching and this, there's two core benefits to this. Number one is the coaching you'll get from me, which I'm sure has unlimited value to everyone, but the second part is putting together groups of people with different backgrounds from different industries that focus on problems in different ways to solve problems in different ways that look at ideas in different ways. They can come together a lot.
I'm not interested in creating a community. There's loads of communities out there. Most of them are crap, to be honest with you. Most of them just fall of people trying to sell stuff to you. Well, we're trying to self promote. There's very little engagement. This is true. There are some that aren't like that. So if there's anybody that's got one of these, it's now getting super offended and you can just class or whatever, but there are some out there that are basically a waste of time. What I want to do is I don't want to create a community. I want to create a family that'll families or people that encourage each other, that inspire each other, that you know, can hold each other accountable, that celebrate the wins together, that commiserate the losses together, that come together on a regular basis and help each other work through those problems. So that that's really what I'm working on at the moment.
And you claim to be an accidental number one bestselling author?
I don't claim to be. It's true. I'm very proud of that accident. Yeah. Do you want to know the story behind that? Funnily enough, there's a story. There's a story when everything with him. Basically I was putting together a presentation for a company I was working with around employee engagement. It got turned into a bit of a monster and I thought fuck us, there's, there's a lot of stuff here. Someone could turn this into a book. Who Do I know who does that? Oh yeah. Me. So I turned it into a book, so that's, that was the accidental part of it. I wrote the book by accident. People seem to like it, and it became a number one bestseller in four different categories on Amazon, which is pretty neat. It's called "136 Ideas for Rockstar Employee Engagement" through the word rock star in there cause it's on brand. Literally it is what the title says. It is 136 different ideas that you can implement immediately to improve employee engagement. But yeah, the book doesn't try and convince you that employee engagement is good. There's no statistics about an engaged workforce or anything like that. This is for people that already know that employee engagement is a good thing and just want some ideas. Just want to be able to dip in and dip out and go, oh, I'm gonna try this. Oh, that's a good idea. I'm going to try that.
So it's, it's almost like more of a playbook of, you know, here are things that you can do or here are ways that internally you can improve your processes or something like that. Just almost a brainstorm of different ways to improve it.
JD: (22:48) Yeah. And there are pictures too.
MD: (22:51) Well, you know what? Lots of times those books tend to be the most successful. And on the blog that I edit, it's the same thing. Our most successful posts sometimes are posts that for me, I'm not really attached to the message behind them, but it's just practical ways to make a change inside your organization. And people tend to really identify and really appreciate that. So it's understandable that it became an accidental best seller.
Speaker 4: (23:13)
Yeah. I think that's it. I mean, lots of people consume information in lots of different ways. I personally am not the sort of person that's going to sit down and read a 300 page book. I just can't do it. I'm the sort of person that would like a book like this. It was kind of written for people like me. They just want to pick it up and get really cool ideas from it. You want to know and interesting fact about the though, can you guess why it's 136 ideas?
Speaker 3: (23:39)
Nope. I have no idea of other think It's something to do with rock I'm going to guess.
Nah, that's when I got bored. Okay. Could you just stopped like basically I was like, I wrote enough. What do you need to be like a nice round number. But then after awhile I was like, oh I think I did. I think I'm done this all do.
Yeah. Initially, were you trying to get to 200 or were you just going to write as many as you could possibly get out?
Well, initially it was either going to be 99, 100 or 101 cause I've got a nice ring to it. But then I had more and I was like, oh maybe I could do 199 because that's got a nice ring to it. And then I didn't have as many as I thought I did.
Well there's another thing that you do, which is this week in CX and I'm a huge fan of that because I think it's hilarious, almost as hilarious as this podcast episode is going to be. But how did that start? How did you get the idea for the format and how's that working out?
So fantastic questions. So last year my video content was all focused on interviewing people, right? Which is a great thing to do by the way, which you know, cause you're doing it. And it was a, I was interviewed, all the, all the top guys in the CX trying to pick their brains, get really practical tips on how to improve customer experience. But it got to the point where I needed to put more of myself into the content. I was highlighting more of them than I was myself, and so I'd create this video content strategy for 2019 where I was going to be doing probably like long form videos, about half an hour that were more in depth, had lots of different elements in them and literally the night before it was supposed to go live. I changed my mind and thought, oh, I'm not going to do that anymore. I think that's stupid now and thought, oh, I could do it like one of those American late night talk show things.
I could do like that. That'd be easier. It'll take less time. Literally all I've got to do is find stuff that's happened and take the piss out of it. I can find and I'm very good at taking the piss out of the things. That's kind of where that came from. No, the crazy thing was I made that decision literally the night before it was supposed to go out, so the next day I spent 18 hours writing and recording and editing the first episode so I could get it out on that day because it would have messed up my flow otherwise and I did it first episodes awful. Don't watch that one.
But yes it's, it's, it's gone down really well. Again, it's one of those things where you're not going to learn very much. You're not going to hear a strategy of how you can approach your voice of the customer in an intro. Nothing like that. It's just the case of here is some customer type stuff that's happened and some jokes about it. That's basically, it's a bit of lighthearted relief comes out every Sunday. It's now an Amazon Prime show in the UK at the moment, so if you are a prime member in the UK, you can watch it on Amazon, but you can also watch it on YouTube and LinkedIn because I put them there as well, which is probably the wrong thing to do cause I don't own any money off of that.
Well I think that at least it's really good for distribution because I watch it on LinkedIn.
Yeah, there you go. I think that's the way, again, he said I didn't make the show for any sort of financial gain is just, it's a video content strategy. It gives me stuff to make video content on every week. It's been really good from a profile as well, to be honest with you, like getting serious for a second. People are watching it every week. People are subscribing to it. I'm getting tens of thousands of views. I think I'm close to across YouTube and LinkedIn for the year so far over a hundred thousand views. And again that's, that's not big boy state is, that's not, but in the customer experience world.
It is for a customer experience once it's a tiny, it's a tiny industry.
Yeah. So I'm, I'm happy with that. I'm quite proud of that and what I like is that people understand the concept. They're not going to, well I didn't learn anything of that I can use on my NPS program, the they're looking at it and go, look, I get, what he's doing here is he's given us some information about telling me the news from the customer experience world and making it lighthearted and fun. People are responding well to that, which is great and I'm really enjoying doing it. In fact, I've got to do an episode, I've got to write it this evening, film it tomorrow. So if you've got any ideas, I'll take them.
I mean I'll give you a suggestion. I have a CX news thing that goes out at a daily basis. You can go on there and get some ideas for your weekend. I know. Sign up for that. I write it on medium so you know it's the exact same idea behind yours. I write it very like easygoing and kind of lighthearted as well. But my idea was if you, you know, want to be in the know of the CX world and you know, you can, we just want to know what's going on. You don't want to necessarily have to read through all the news or try to find, dig up things and, and you don't want to seem ignorant in your place of work. Then followed the CX news and I'll keep you updated. And if you're too lazy to do even that, then I'll send you a newsletter at the end of the month and I'll condense it all.
Perfect, I will gladly steal from you.
Feel free to absolutely debt information from my curated CX news. I mean, there's enough news to go around. Definitely. Well, Nikon, you're going to save me a bunch of times now, right? So anyway, James, thank you so much for being here today and talking to us and explaining your work and what you do for me. I'm inspired by you and I, you know, I'd love for, for our listeners to be inspired as well, and hopefully we'll all catch you on a circuit somewhere giving a keynote for me. Crazy exciting. I'll go up there and shake your hand and be a part of your, your rock show.
MD: (29:10) Perfect. That'd be really cool.
MD: (29:12) Right. Thank you so much. Have a good one.
JD: (29:16) All right. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for joining us on one more episode of Voices of Customer Experience. This podcast is hosted and produced by Mary Drumond, edited and co-produced by Nic Gomez and Steve Berry. This podcast was brought to you by Worthix. Discover your worth at worthix.com.