CMSWire Contributor of 2019, Melissa Henley: "The idea of making better technology to enable us to be better people – and to provide the best futures for the most people – inspires me."

Melissa Henley sees customer experience not only as an opportunity to improve customer relationships, but as a chance to fundamentally transform how businesses work. In her monthly column, she tackles the challenges businesses going through these transformations face, placing the focus firmly on culture over technology and noting the critical role employee experience plays in these efforts. 

As director of the newly formed customer experience team at Laserfiche, Melissa leads communications and customer engagement programs as well as acts as celebrator-in-chief of all customer victories, large and small.  

'Great Software Comes From a Diversity of Perspectives'

What's your proudest accomplishment — personal or professional — from 2019?

While Laserfiche has always had an obsessive focus on delighting customers, the customer experience team is only a year old. It’s been an exciting challenge to essentially run a start-up within an established organization and build new processes and procedures, as well as bring in new technology, to further improve our customer journey and deepen customer relationships. In 2019, my team rolled out a net promoter scoring (NPS) program; built a formal customer onboarding program; and standardized customer education across in-person and online platforms, to name just a few of our major initiatives. 

What gives you hope in the tech world today?

Kate O’Neill wrote "The Tech Humanist Manifesto" in 2017, and it still gives me hope. The idea of making better technology to enable us to be better people — and to provide the best futures for the most people — inspires me.  

Which of the articles you wrote for CMSWire this year was your favorite and why?

"3 Ways to Change Company Culture to Support Digital Transformation." Building a customer experience (CX) discipline is an opportunity to enable digital transformation, but it’s also a challenge for leaders. The number one challenge you have to overcome to improve (or build) a CX program isn’t new software, it’s your culture. The way your employees interact with your customers is one of the most crucial drivers of your customer experience. When customers need assistance, do employees go the extra mile? Do customers feel like their concerns are heard, and that they’re an important part of driving your organization or product into the future? Or do they feel like their only value to your organization is to the bottom line? 

Managing the culture shifts around digital transformation is challenging but ultimately rewarding. Particularly for organizations that have seen success and for employees that have been a part of it, it’s hard to stop and ask “why?” But without asking the hard questions — and being willing to answer honestly and change based on those answers — digital transformation will never succeed, no matter how much money you throw at it. 

If you could wake up tomorrow and be an expert in one thing, what would it be and why?

Outside of work, I’m a distance runner. I also take Orangetheory class five to six times a week. So selfishly I’d say I’d love to be an expert at running. But since running isn’t that useful to my day-to-day job, I’d choose to be an expert at focus, which I think is key to productivity — and building better relationships. 

What is your favorite part of the work you do?

As head of our customer experience team, I spend a majority of my time talking to our customers and partners about their challenges, their successes and their hopes for the future. It inspires me to hear how our software is enabling them to drive better outcomes for their employees, partners and customers, and I love bringing their feedback to our product teams to inform development. 

Every time I receive an email from a customer excited about a workflow or form they’ve built that has changed their organization, sharing an idea, showing me pictures of their kids in Laserfiche gear, the videos they’ve made and the communities they’ve built in their organizations, or even just sharing personal news about promotions or personal accomplishments, it makes me proud of the customer community we’ve built and nurtured. The fact that our customers know we care about their victories and we want to celebrate them, and that we truly value their input, is by far the most rewarding part of my work. 

What's an important story you'll be tracking in 2020?

In 2020, I’m going to be keeping my eye on how CX leaders will prioritize skills like active listening, empathy and emotional intelligence in hiring, training and empowering employees. On that same note, I’m also thinking about how employee experience (EX) plays a part in the success of digital transformation. On the technology side, I’m going to be looking at how AI and machine learning-fueled digital transformation will change CX and EX initiatives.  

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field today?

If you’re interested in technology, don’t let lack of experience hold you back! Great software comes from a diversity in perspectives because users have a diversity of perspectives. With technology, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only considering how well individual features work, rather than the overall experience. I would encourage anyone — especially women — interested in a career in technology not to overlook the skills that a liberal arts education gives you. Besides developing critical thinking skills, training in the liberal arts helps you develop a big picture view and communication skills that will serve you well when making decisions about customers and their needs.