Some people know from a young age exactly what they want to do. They pursue a vocation with dedication and never waver from their target.
For others, it is often a matter of chance. A set of circumstances presents someone with an opportunity to take on a role that they might not otherwise have considered but which turns out to be a perfect fit. For Nate Brown, that “a-ha moment” occurred when his career path took an unexpected detour into customer service.
Upon graduating from college with a degree in business administration, Brown initially had set his sights on a position in sales and marketing. As he recalls, “I promptly got fired from that job and then was temporarily put on the help desk. It was not the job that I was hired for, but I found that I loved it and I was very good at it.” It also sparked a passion for customer service that Brown pursued afterward, landing an entry-level phone support position with PureSafety, a leading provider of online safety training. He thoroughly enjoyed the work and quickly moved into a leadership role managing the team that supported the PureSafety product at UL EHS Sustainability, a division of Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Brown had not only discovered his professional niche, he soon became intrigued with customer experience strategy. The trigger was a book titled, “The Effortless Experience,” by Matthew Dixon. “I realized that I didn’t have to wait for calls to come in,” Brown says. “Instead of waiting for customers to have a problem, I could be proactive and start designing experiences. It was an awakening. Shortly thereafter, I raised my hand and said, I want to start a true customer experience program within our division—and was given the autonomy and support to do that.
“As a volunteer committee, designing this program to become a viable part of the business has been very exciting, frustrating, wonderful and terrible,” he adds. “We spent a long time building it, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but it has been incredibly validating. I absolutely love the customer experience work.”
Today, Brown is the director of Customer Experience at UL EHS Sustainability. He has become a champion for the CX profession and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, as well as participating in weekly chats on Twitter, writing articles for industry publications (including Pipeline), and co-founding CX Accelerator, an online community and resource hub for CX professionals.
Brown’s commitment to the industry has not gone unnoticed. The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) recently acknowledged his achievements by identifying Brown as an ICMI Customer Experience Mover & Shaker, a group of emerging leaders and innovators in the customer experience and contact center space. According to ICMI, CX Movers & Shakers are “hardworking, creative individuals who are inspiring excellence, motivating peers and shaping the future of customer service.” It’s recognition that Brown’s team at UL EHS Sustainability has long since realized. “Nate has been at the head of the charge to drive change, ruthlessly pursuing process improvements that will remediate pain points for our customers,” one colleague pointed out. “Mover and Shaker? Nate is a Customer Experience Earthquake!”
Pursuing a Passion with Laser Focus
Those who are considered innovators in any industry often are driven by curiosity and a strong desire to keep learning and growing. In the contact center space, which touches so many processes and functions, it can be all too easy to overextend yourself. That was an early lesson for Brown who credits former COO of PureSafety Marshall Martin for providing life-changing advice.
“I was attempting to be good at everything so, ultimately, I wasn’t exceptional in any area,” Brown says. “[Martin] told me that, if you want to make a difference, you need to find the laser focus of an Olympic athlete. That was a huge turning point for me in terms of, not just dabbling in customer support, but realizing that I can make a difference by being extremely good in this area and putting my full heart behind it.”
He decided to isolate the areas where he could excel and focus on further honing those abilities. For Brown, that included brainstorming, problem-solving, the creative and human behavioral elements of customer experience design, and sharing what he learns with others. “Being able to speak and write about the things that I’m learning energizes me,” he says. “When I can help to educate others, that gives me life.”
Learning and Sharing Moves the Profession Forward
In a profession like CX that is new and evolving, practitioners lean on each other to learn, share and shape careers that move the industry forward. Brown points to several individuals who were instrumental in helping him to make the transition from customer service to customer experience, and to define his voice early on, including CX Journey’s Annette Franz, CX author, speaker and consultant Adam Toporek and customer service expert Jeff Toister, president of Toister Performance Solutions.
Toister describes Brown as kind and generous. “Nate has the unique ability to be both fun and serious,” Toister says. “His trademark crazy suits and positive energy naturally draw people to him. At the same time, Nate is incredibly passionate about customer experience. He’s always looking to learn something new and has worked hard to build a network of people he can learn from. He’s also generous with his time, and willing to go out of his way to help others learn and grow.”
Being recognized as an industry Mover & Shaker has been an honor as well as a humbling experience, Brown says. “It certainly is not a success of my own. I consider myself to be a receptacle for learning the great things that are happening with people around me in the industry, and then helping to call out and bring attention to some of those great things that are going on,” he says. “I love sharing the successes that I have enjoyed through my own process as a practitioner, but what really excites me is the ability to bring people together in a meaningful way so that they can learn from each other. I feel like that is already taking place through CX Accelerator, and I’m going to keep trying to find ways to make that happen.”
Serving People Well
One of Brown’s favorite talking points is the psychology behind customer experience and understanding human behavior in order to provide a positive interaction and outcome. He has discovered that audiences are highly receptive to the topic, as well.
“People are hungry to find ways to be helpful and to serve one another better, whether it’s their customers, family members or fellow employees,” he notes. “Customer experience embodies that more than any other business function. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
Brown’s advice for other up-and-coming CX professionals? “Put yourself out there in a meaningful way. Get beyond the walls of your organization,” he says. “If you want to solve problems creatively, then you have to surround yourself with creative people who have done things differently than you and who have different experiences. So plug yourself into some industry associations, communities or whatever channel makes the most sense for you and for your demographic, and learn from your peers.”