She’s been an accountant, a marketer, and even a chief people officer — all of which makes Rachael Powell particularly well qualified to be the first chief customer officer at Xero.
Headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand, Xero is a provider of cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses. It provides its applications directly to those customers, but also through a secondary sort of customer base of bookkeepers and accountants, who act as a sales channel.
To Powell, that meant a key part of her strategy since joining Xero five years ago has been to try and bring the company’s internal philosophy beyond its employees to its entire partner ecosystem.
“We’ve built this amazing culture with an underpinning of ‘belief, belong and flourish,’” Powell said during a session at HubSpot’s Inbound 2020 virtual summit last week. “We saw an opportunity to ensure that that accountant and bookkeeper channel felt like an extension of our Xero family. We wanted them to have the same sense of belief, belong and flourish to support the millions of small businesses out there.”
That has not only meant checking in regularly with bookkeepers and accountants, but providing actionable data they can use, Powell explained. In a recent pilot project, for instance, Xero began offering those kinds of firms Net Promoter Score (NPS) programs similar to what the company uses itself.
“We just felt that if the accountants and bookkeepers knew what their NPS was, that was going to help them strengthen their relationships with the multitude of small businesses that they engage with,” Powell said. “It kind of comes back to making sure we’re contributing to our core purpose.”
Internally, Powell and her team use NPS as part of what gets discussed among the senior leadership team, but it represents only one of several ways she assesses the strength of Xero’s customer relationships.
In fact, she and her team have developed a scorecard that measures five stages of the customer journey. This includes the moment they became aware of Xero to taking trial offers, consideration, acquisition and utilization. This is referred to as Journey Experience Data and Insights, or JEDI for short.
“What we were measuring (in the past) was very high-level revenue and subscription numbers, but we weren’t looking at the end of end journey in any detail,” she said. “We also look at small business confidence through brand vibrancy studies, because we know our mission is not just about selling the product but building their confidence.”
Powell said her role was purposely created to bring together disparate groups within Xero and offer a more holistic approach to CX. That means she thinks in three to five-year strategic plans and looks across four different parts of its digital platform. This includes how customers use its web site, its core accounting product, its partner ecosystem and Xero Central, a learning platform where customers can connect with their peers.
HubSpot chief customer officer Yamini Rangan, who led the discussion with Powell at Inbound, said she looked at her role in a similar way.,
“There can be situations where marketing can have its own strategy, sales has its own strategy and so on,” she said. “That leads to dissonances. That leads to sharp edges.”
Powell said those who aspire to the chief customer officer role place a high priority on the kinds of people they hire — Xero has grown from more than 1,000 to more than 3,000 during her time there — and to think laterally about career path.
“I feel like leaders are more valuable to organizations when they’re ambidextrous,” she said “It’s not always about taking the next step up, but continuing to evolve.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.