CX Insight Magazine

October 2021

Transforming the Exceptional into the Predictable

By: Execs In The Know

KIA Online Community Member Spotlight: THOMAS SIEBERT

Thomas Siebert is a passionate veteran of customer experience (CX) operations, having sat on both sides at the table during his nearly three-decades-long career. Thomas’ experience spans many critical areas of the CX business, from team development to program strategy and continuous improvement. Along the way, Thomas has helped evolve the customer service and contact center operations of some of the world’s largest and most well-recognized brands including Expedia Group, Amazon.com, Starbucks, Chevron, and Vanguard.

In mid-August 2021, we connected with Thomas to learn what makes him tick and get a feel for his passions as it relates to CX.

Thomas is Director, National Customer Engagement Sales & Support Center at FinishMaster, Inc., where he deploys his knowledge and experience to help build on the company’s heritage of creating customer success.


EXECS IN THE KNOW (EITK): Thomas, you’ve been involved in the CX space for some time. Can you share what initially drew you to CX, as well as what has kept you involved?

THOMAS SIEBERT: My purpose as a strategic and operational CX leader has always been to help companies better understand their baseline customer journey, or current end-to-end state — from customer inquiry to post-transaction support. At the same time, the “future state” is often where the real fun starts, and I’m constantly fascinated with the idea of how to build a better bridge to get there. This involves strategy, architecture, design, process, communication, execution, and measurement — all things I am drawn to.

EITK: You are new to your role at FinishMaster, Inc. In your short time with the company, what have you learned about the organization’s culture and approach to CX?

THOMAS SIEBERT: Like many other large national and global enterprises, FinishMaster has a deep culture — developed over more than five decades of serving its customers. This history has resulted in a good understanding of our customer, what our customers want, need, and expect, and what works well in terms of the customer experience and treatments we provide. Although FinishMaster has a rich history of striving to be a key factor in the success of its customers, there has also been a continuous evolution over the company’s history. So, for me, the most exciting part is thinking about the future — thinking of ways to significantly improve the customer experience. This means taking out cost and friction, but also improving the FinishMaster employee experience concurrently. This is how the company moves toward its guiding star providing the best experience for each customer, as well as supporting employees and the community.

EITK: When it comes to cooking up exceptional customer care, which critical ingredients do you think most often get overlooked?

THOMAS SIEBERT: Doing the basics well, consistently, over time. Exceptional customer care is predictable. It must be. But it should also improve operations in a consistent way, from Quality Assurance (QA) to customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction, even financial performance. The triad of measurement. It’s not about the “customer” or “employee comes first.” That is too pedestrian and infers one critical party over another. Exceptional customer care is understanding the CX role today, as well as future possibilities, and how CX contributes to and compliments the overall corporate strategy. By example, the call center is not an independent box that solves customer issues. It is (and should be) an integral partner contributing to the corporate strategy vis- à-vis customer acquisition, satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value — and often complemented by real cost reductions and revenue optimization. In other words, CX plays an awesome role, although it’s sometimes easier to say than to accomplish, especially doing so consistently and predictably over time.

EITK: You have built and managed several teams over the years and have likely seen hiring requirements evolve in that time. Based on where the industry is today, how would you describe the ideal agent, both for your own program and in general?

THOMAS SIEBERT: Great question. The ideal agent is attracted to CX programs based on a portfolio of well-managed tools, coaching, and career path opportunities. Most important, they want to understand all the support mechanisms we bring to the table to enable their success, including smart hiring, training, management, policies, and agent tools (i.e., integrated telephony and CRMs, training, knowledge base, etc). I’ve always found the ideal agent to be someone who wants to join a team that helps enable their success and solve customer issues.

EITK: Employee satisfaction (ESAT) and engagement has gained a ton of attention over the past few years, especially with the recent emphasis on work-from-home (WFH). In your experience, which types of initiatives have the power to move needle the most in these areas?

THOMAS SIEBERT: The heart of ESAT is doing the basics well and consistently for the employee. That means enabling agents to do their job and do it well. Again, like all of CX, this is often easier said than done, and doing so consistently over time is key. Service employees want the tools to effectively listen to the customer needs, learn the history and profile of their customers, then find and understand the best policy and how to enact the procedures that lead to the best possible customer outcomes. Employees want to solve problems. For their part, program managers need to provide agents with the proper training, tools, coaching, and toolbox of solutions, then simply get out of the way.

EITK: What is your approach to the professional development of your frontline staff? Which resources, activities, or best practices have the biggest impact?

THOMAS SIEBERT: Professional development for frontline staff is very important, but the reality is few companies do it well. At FinishMaster, we ensure our middle management use a tailored developmental program. Critical is the development of new managers, especially given their ability to strongly influence their teams, both positively or negatively. Consider a frontline team might number fewer than 50, managers have a lot of leverage. Newly promoted managers/supervisors having a positive influence is a dynamic piece of the puzzle, and we consider this positive influence to be the start of the employee
development flywheel.

EITK: You are a strategy and operations guy, and have no doubt seen a lot of innovation and change over the years. When you look in your crystal ball, what do you see as the next big sea change coming to the industry, be it strategic, operational, technological, or otherwise?

THOMAS SIEBERT: I view the next big sea change as using technology to really understand the context of the customer need as a part of every call, chat, or social media interaction. Soon, human-assisted technology will have the ability to aid agents by identifying and helping to execute the right company policy and procedure. Today, many organizations have bits and pieces with scattered or disconnected solutions, and reporting, analytics, and insights that are spotty at best. The art and science to getting the technology right is marrying the optimal customer channel based on issue type, while also presenting customers with options (i.e., executed by self-serve, human-assisted, or a combination of the two). This approach helps make customers feel recognized, valued, and understood. Yet another case of easier said than done, and of course something that is very challenging to do well.

EITK: As a Founding Member and Gold Contributor to Execs In The Know’s “Know It All” online community, what does the community represent for you, and what value has come from your involvement?

THOMAS SIEBERT: If my FinishMaster colleagues represent a neighborhood of connections, then Executives In The Know and their KIA online community represents an entire universe. While I enjoy reading and presenting my opinions to the questions of fellow KIA members, I learn even more by reading the ideas from others. Access to the EITK KIA universe is like tapping into an unlimited real-time CX knowledge database, filled with proven experience across a wide range of programs and industry verticals. I value and cherish the many connections among fellow EITK community members. Whenever I am stuck on a challenge or need a wider range of opinions and options, and I find myself wanting to “phone-a-friend,” the first thing I always think of is my friends over on the KIA online forum.


Thank you to Thomas Siebert, Director, National Customer Engagement Sales & Support Center at FinishMaster, Inc, for his leadership, participation, and insights. To connect with Thomas, or to participate in the wider conversation, consider joining the Execs In The Know “Know It All” (KIA) Community. The KIA Community is a private, online community designed exclusively for CX Leaders at consumer-facing brands. Come learn, share, network, and engage to innovate. LEARN MORE


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