We were lucky enough to sit down with Marc Riesenberg ahead of the Chief Customer Officer USA event he will be speaking at in January.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your current role
I started out as a visual designer, mostly focused on the web (as most of us were in the late 90s), but also involved in branding and communications. I was quickly pushed into web architecture (UX and IA), leading the development of a $3M e-commerce site. My next role, now at Bridgeport Education, broadened my scope, looking more at the overall brand, developing out strategy, voice, and values. At Bridgepoint I was given many opportunities to grow, taking on new and exciting challenges within marketing. One piece that had always bothered me was our department’s lack of control over the experience after we gain a customer, so eventually (after some maneuvering) I was able to take on that role. I was able to build out the CX department from scratch, defining our role as a value-add for the organization: reducing costs and increasing revenue through customer conversions and retention. After 17 years in San Diego, my wife and I decided we were sick of the constant warm weather so we relocated to Seattle. I am now heading up Marketing (and unofficially Product and CX) for Coding With Kids.
What is the biggest challenge you face within your role today and how are you looking to tackle it?
Moving into a new company always has its challenges as you try to get your bearings, but this one has some unique challenges for me as the first person in the company’s 4-year history with any marketing, CX, UX, or creative experience. This presents me with a 4-year-deep way of doing things that is missing many of the foundations that will scale as the company grows. Stopping everything to rebuild is not a viable option, so I have to work to find the small wins that move us in the right direction. Working with the rest of the business to determine which changes we should work on first and how much impact they will have is the first step.
In what ways are you working with your business to help drive value and insights driven decision making? And in which business area, function or metric, has your team made the biggest impact?
First, introducing new KPIs and properly defining existing ones. Often I am probing at the way things are done and measured, partially so I can best understand them, and partially to question if we are measuring what is truly important and what is actually driving the business. As of today, I’m in the middle of my third week here, so not a lot of impact at CwK yet, but at Bridgepoint we made major strides in improving the on-boarding process for new students. This increased customer retention during a critical time in the customer lifecycle, providing a big lift in lifetime value.
In what ways have you notice a fundamental shift towards a more customer focused culture within your organization?
At first I was seen as the outsider coming into a department telling them how terrible they were at treating the customer and adding work to their already packed schedules. Asking them to change how they do things and track new measurements (especially ones that they were not being graded on) did not win me any new friends. Even going in with a “I’m here to help you look good” attitude did not help. But once the changes began to correlate to increased KPIs that they were graded on, the calls and emails asking for help started pouring in.
What strategies do you employ for keeping current in a technological environment which is rapidly changing and developing. How do you determine what technology to invest in, and how can you stay current without tonnes of investment?
Taking time out to go through my social media feeds, find new sources of information, and look at sites and publications outside my industry (Wired has been great for this) is extremely helpful. Not only do I get exposed to new technologies, but new ways of looking at things. Also, I used to ignore most of the vendor sales calls I received, but I found that a few minute investment might turn into a great education source. Even if it’s not something I can invest in now, it might be something I would work towards or give me an idea on how to better utilize our existing systems and/or processes.
When it comes to recruitment, what approach do you take to attract and keep the best talent? What do you feel they value? And in what ways do you partner with outside entities such as academia to help you in this endeavor?
I am a firm believer that you should always be looking to hire your eventual replacement. While they will need to perform the job at hand, understanding their thinking process (mostly how well they understand system dynamics and think holistically) shows me how well (or not) they can think strategically and provide more value than just performing their tasks. Mindless drones are more trouble than they are worth. You are paid to think.
In what ways do you feel that the type of talent you are looking for within your teams has evolved over the past two years?
More and more I’m looking for people that can do proper data analysis. Too many are focused on just reporting the data and don’t provide any insight.
How do you see demand for particular skill sets changing in the future? And what impact do you feel this will have on your business and the industry as a whole?
Some sort of coding background (to establish the fundamental benefits that a coding skillset provides) and the above mentioned data analysis will become more and more necessary in non-coding and non-data analysis roles.
Do you participate in any open data or philanthropic initiatives, either personally or professionally? What are your views on resource sharing and in what ways do you think it can help further the industry and shape the world in which we live?
I’ve been out of it since I moved, but I had been involved in young professional mentoring programs. I feel that resource/data sharing can be beneficial, but in the private sector it’s a tricky line to walk between weakening your market position and helping to “rise all ships.”
Marc Riesenberg, Marketing Director, Coding with Kids
Want to hear more from Marc Riesenberg? Join Chief Customer Officer USA, the most interactive discussion conference for CX leaders in America. Marc will be speaking on Using data and analytics to your overall business advantage during the Customer & Data Analytics Focus Day. For more information, visit our website.