Talking Customer Loyalty and Remote Work with Chris Koehler, CMO of Box

Kendall Pennington

In this episode, Joe sits down with Chris Koehler, CMO at Box, to talk about how the modern workplace is affecting B2B companies the most, how we can leverage technology with the human layover on top, and how data analytics have powered sales support teams. He takes us through how Box transferred their healthy office culture to a remote culture in only one week and how video is the new normal for authentic connections.


How Chris Got Here

Chris is currently the CEO of Box, a cloud content management software, where he has been working for about two years. 

Before Box, he had spent ten years at Adobe, totaling about fifteen years in marketing experience, in a series of roles that have given him perspective into just about every insight of modern marketing. His positions have ranged from customer success to product to sales. 


Doubling Down on Customer Experience

At Adobe, a colleague of Joe and Chris had a mantra that “customer experience is even more important than product.” Formerly a radical opinion within the SaaS space, it is becoming more and more widely accepted.

Chris says that there is a shift happening within B2B companies, where more enterprise companies are putting far more effort into overall customer experience from end-to-end, which is crucial in encouraging long-term engagement. “It’s all about experience now, not just the concrete features.”

Recently, Chris’s main focus has been on how to create an empowering self-service experience, which is easier said than done for a B2B software company. The goal for Chris is to have the product so coupled with their website, that the discovery to onboarding experience is as intuitive and seamless as possible.

Effectively using the data gained from customer feedback is a leading contributor to how Box’s self-service platform was and is being designed. Customer feedback is an invaluable and oftentimes not-nearly-utilized-enough tool.


Shifting to Remote

Luckily with Box already being a “cloud-first” enterprise, the physical logistics of transferring to a remote-first working environment might have been a bit easier than for most companies. Having a healthy in-office culture and credibility with their employees was also an important factor in a smooth transition. But there were still a lot of norms that had to be adjusted.

“How do you recreate the culture?”

For Chris, part of this meant pivoting the company's regular headquarter Friday lunch presentations to an online experience. He has seen participation go through the roof due to this experience now being globally accessible. 

Chris has also seen overall employee productivity go up. He attributes part of this to each individual having access to their own screen when it comes to video meetings being a great equalizer.


Tips and Tricks

Communication is always important as a leader, but in times of great uncertainty, it’s important to over-communicate. In-person interactions often leave room for verbal ambiguity given a more discernible context, but in an entirely remote situation, it’s important to set clear expectations and make as minimal assumptions as possible.

Chris says the second most important thing is to have empathy for coworkers during this time.  It’s less obvious what people are going through when they’re working entirely remotely, so be as flexible as possible. That’s been critically important to the Box team’s success in the pandemic.

He says the team also spent a lot of time discussing prioritization and focus. “How can we keep the wellness of our customers front and center?”

Maintaining core values is important when things don’t go as planned, as customers lose trust when a company does not follow the mantras that it originally claimed.

Chris says that there is a hierarchy of needs from a business perspective, and companies can break down and prioritize what needs to be done by utilizing this mindset; addressing the most basic of needs first.


Marketing Moving Forward 

“The modern workplace will have some form of a hybrid model.” Chris pictures open-space collaboration hubs where for a few days a week employees can meet up in a cool and comfortable environment to strategize and communicate with their coworkers, and then perhaps more focused work done at home the other days.  Companies that don’t allow for this flexibility will likely be at a disadvantage, as employees will start expecting this as a part of their professional lifestyle.

One of the greatest challenges for marketers specifically will be recreating the magic of in-person events and conferences.

Marketers have to think about the evolution of digital events, and how formerly major and expensive conferences can transform or be replicated in an entirely digital form. Morphing in-person events into a quality remote experience is not an easy task and differentiation will also become much harder. Chris is intrigued to see how these conferences move forward in the future.

Listen to the episode here.

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