Customer Experience

Six “Zerbsisms” For Voice of the Customer Success

Advice from a fearless leader in UMB’s quest to create the Unparalleled Customer Experience using Voice of the Customer.



Trusted Experience Management Partners

Dawn Zerbs’ official title at UMB Bank is SVP, Customer Experience Strategist. Unofficially, however, she is an evangelist, advocate, persuader, experimenter, and a fearless leader in UMB’s quest to create the Unparalleled Customer Experience. Last week Dawn joined us for a webinar to share her six “Zerbsisms” on how to launch a successful Voice of the Customer program.

The full recording can be accessed upon request, and it’s worth listening to just to hear Dawn’s passion for the power of customer feedback. But here’s a recap of Dawn’s six “Zerbsisms.”


As Dawn shared, when beginning to look for a partner to join you on the customer experience transformation journey, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options - there are consultants, strategists, technology, design firms, coaches, and the list goes on. Dawn’s advice is to be clear on where you are on the journey before you make a choice. Everyone will promise you the world, it’s important to know what YOU need.


It’s easy to invest in software to help you listen; it’s much harder to get people to hear with their hearts. As Dawn said, “Don’t be fooled by the nod.” Make sure you’re doing the hard work up front so everyone is clear on the purpose and power of customer feedback.


For anyone who doesn’t have the internal alignment or the resources needed to launch a full-scale Voice of the Customer program – this advice is a relief – get started with what you have. Dawn encourages customer experience leaders to seek out the pockets of customer voice that already exist in the organization, be it the call center or the website, and start there. The goal, as Dawn eloquently put it, is to get your hands on feedback that will help shift thinking, “From the mechanic to the humanic.”


More great advice for leader’s feeling overwhelmed by enormity of customer experience change – don’t try to do it yourself. Dawn offered one specific example of how she recruited front-line associates to co-create the process of following up on customer feedback. In the past when a program of this size launched, associates would be given templates and step-by-step instructions. Instead, Dawn had them take the lead and then gathered associate feedback on what was working and what wasn’t. You don’t need to do it all yourself. Recruit the village.


On a similar note, Dawn reminded everyone to not get hung up on perfection. Dawn shared her desire to have a perfect ROI model, but when you’re dealing with something as messy as human feedback – this is tough. “Voice of the Customer is part art and part science,” Dawn said. In her experience, what has worked is having enough science to win the right to speak about the “softer” aspects of customer experience work.


That said, the art part of the work is powerful stuff. Dawn recommends using customer stories whenever possible. Don’t try to lead with numbers alone, use stories to guide the change. Dawn shared one specific example from her experience. UMB has incredibly loyal customers – many of them have been with the bank 15 plus years. What they didn’t know, however, was how much pride these customers take in their loyalty and how personally they took it when UMB didn’t recognize them for it. By sharing these stories, Dawn got others in the organization excited about how they could make these very special customers feel valued, cared for, and appreciated by UMB.

Dawn closed with the reminder to stay curious and enjoy the journey. Transforming the customer experience doesn’t happen overnight, the good news is – it’s a fun ride. Dawn ended her “Zerbsisms” with the following quote from Simon Sinek, “We crave explanations for most everything, but innovation and progress happen when we allow ourselves to embrace uncertainty.”

~Janessa Lantz

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