Episode 179 : Building that Magical Employee and Customer Journey for Success

Sarah Diegnan is ChartHop’s VP of Customer Experience, after leading implementations at Acuity Brands, Opower and Oracle, she brings operational excellence to creating and delivering a world class customer experience for all ChartHop’s customers. She is an expert in leading a customer journey, partnering with customers from the first moments of onboarding through successful execution of all account goals, making sure customers are getting the most out of CharterHop.

In addition to her SaaS experience, Sarah was a practicing structural engineer at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and worked for the commercial real estate developer, Tishman Speyer.


  • Can you share a little bit about your journey, how you got to where you are today? What catalyst got you into the customer experience journey? And just a little bit about who you are in your own words?
  • Could you tell us a little bit about your company ChartHop and what is the service or product that you provide?
  • What is your view on the customer journey through an HR lens. And how do you think EX impacts customer outcomes, the ins and outs of a customer health score?
  • Are there any emerging trends that you’ve seen in the CX space, in the employee experience space that you think organization should really be paying greater attention to or tapping into as we embark on our new year?
  • Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
  • Now could you also share with us maybe one or two books that have had a great impact on you, it could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or even one that you read quite recently, but it surely has created an impact maybe had great value in your leadership delivery and you just really would love to share it with us.
  • Could you share with our listeners what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about? Either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • In times of adversity or challenge, do you have a quote or saying that you tend to revert to, it kind of helps to get you back on track or get you back refocused if for any reason you get derailed.


Sarah’s Journey

Me: Now, we always like to give our guests an opportunity to share with us in their own words, a little bit about their journey, how you got to where you are today? What catalyst got you into the customer experience journey? And just a little bit about who you are in your own words?

Sarah shared that sometimes she likes to say that she has a bit of a meandering path to where she is today. But she thinks that’s actually something that is common amongst customer experience professionals is it takes a lot of different skill sets and she thinks you can build those at a lot of different areas. And so, she started her career as a structural engineer, was something that she always wanted to be when she was a little kid, people would ask, what do you want to do, and she wanted to design buildings, she wanted to design skyscrapers.

And so, that is what she did, she set out to do it, and she went to school, she went to engineering school, and she loved it, she really did. And she thinks architecture and buildings will always have a very, very special place in her heart. However, what she started realizing when she hit about year 4, year 5, being a structural engineer is that it’s a very narrow piece of a we’ll call it building lifecycle, very, very narrow.

And she had the fortune to work with a project manager who was representing the owner, and she really had purview of the whole project, sort of end and all the pieces coming together to build these amazing buildings. And she had lunch with her and said, “I would like to do your job, can you tell me how to do it?” And one of the first things she said was, “Well, I went to business school, because you need to learn the business side of the business or of buildings.” She was like, great. So, she did that, she went to business school and coming out of business school, she thought working in real estate development was the place for her.

She did that for a couple years, and again, realized it was still a little too narrow in a lot of ways. And living in the Bay Area, it’s really easy to get the start-up itch, you sort of look around, and tech is everywhere. And she had the fortune of literally running into a friend, running in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. And she said, “You need to talk to my sister. She is at a start-up and they’re selling commercial lighting controls and they need an engineer who understands buildings, building operators, engineers.” And she said, “You know what, I know that person, that person is me.” And that was her very first job. We called it project operations and this was a long time ago. But it was customer experience.

It was the start of customer experience, and it was sort of the start of her journey to where she is today. ChartHop is her fourth start-up and throughout her career, she’s sort of grown into taking on more and more teams and have gotten to a point today where she leads all of customer experience at ChartHop, and that includes professional services, their customer success team, their technical support team, and their account management slash renewals team.

So, sort of a crazy story how she got here, but the reality is, it’s working with customers that she loves. It’s the project management and the operational piece and she’s sort of grown that throughout the years as an engineer, as a real estate professional and now as a tech professional.

About ChartHop and What Service or Product Does ChartHop Provide?

Me: Amazing. So, Sarah, you are at a company called ChartHop and for those of our listeners that don’t know what ChartHop does, could you tell us a little bit about your company and what is the service or product that you provide?

Sarah stated that it’s a great question, she’s happy to talk a little bit about it. So, ChartHop is really transforming the way companies think about managing and supporting their people. So, what that means is, they can take people data from all your different systems, so your HR system, your talent acquisition, system equity, and put it all in one place.

And the thing that makes ChartHop really special is that it’s not just for HR professionals, or it’s not just for the CEO, it is truly for every single person at the company, your individual contributors, all the way through to your CEO. And the reason why that’s so important is because what you’re doing is you’re creating a very transparent organization; you’re creating a one stop shop for everybody in the organization to get all the information that they need.

If you’re an individual contributor, it’s really all the information that you need to understand and navigate the organization, or someone in her role, it gives her the ability to look in one place to understand everybody in her organization, where might they be on a vesting schedule?

How long have they been at ChartHop?

What has their performance look like over the years?

And so, it’s, it’s really designed to create a transparent organization. It’s designed to make sure that leadership is making good decisions, especially when we start thinking about DEIB in the workplace. And one of the key attributes is really, it’s for everyone at a company, not just the HR team.

Views on the Customer Journey – How Does EX Impact Customer Outcomes – Ins and Outs of a Customer Health Score

Me: So, HR plays a very important role in an organization. And I’d love for you to maybe take a few minutes and discuss with us your view on the customer journey through an HR lens. And how do you think EX impacts customer outcomes, the ins and outs of a customer health score?

Sarah shared thar those are all great questions. And she thinks part of what attracted her to ChartHop was this sort of, she’ll call it intersection of HR and or employee experience and customer experience. Like most people that are listening to this podcast, if you’re managing and leading a customer experience team, it probably means that you are leading a pretty big team. When you’re talking about services in an organization, it’s human capital. If robots could do our jobs, if a health score, which she’ll get into in a minute, was just two plus two is four, we wouldn’t be here.

And so, you have to take care of your people and she thinks that’s first and foremost why EX and CX are in a lot of ways the same thing, and they influence each other. She thinks time and time again, we’ve learned that happy employees, employees that understand the mission, employees that are driven by that mission, are going to be your highest producers, and they’re going to be the most productive.

And if you think about putting that motivated, high performer on a call with your customer, that’s infectious, absolutely infectious. That motivation and that desire to drive value with the customer is going to translate every single time. And so, it is so important as CX leaders to really be thinking about that. And really thinking about how to engage your team, not just in, “Hey, these are the metrics, we need to hit as a company,” or “Hey, this is what you need to do with your customers.” But really investing time, investing professional development, and really thinking about the employee experience, because it is going to translate.

She also thinks one of the interesting things she’s been able to do at ChartHop is really work closely with head of HR and think about how the employee experience is truly also how we think about a customer journey. If you think about those magic moments for a customer journey, there’s onboarding and implementation, you have to nail that, you have to have customers coming out of that phase of the journey, and just feeling so excited and so pumped that they bought ChartHop and that they’re using ChartHop, that’s the same thing you want your employees to feel when they’re coming out of onboarding, internal onboarding, you want them to feel so excited, you want them to feel so empowered. You want them to understand what they’re doing at ChartHop.

And so, you can really see the overlap, and this is something she’s worked really closely with their head of HR at ChartHop to make sure that they are tracking together so to speak. When you start thinking about driving adoption for customer journey, that is the exact same as working with someone on your team on what their professional development is. You chart out someone’s professional development the exact same way you’re going to chart out a customer’s objective planning with you.

And so, really thinking about all of those things and making sure that they’re aligned. And one of the questions asked also was to talk a little bit about health score. She thinks health scores are absolutely fascinating. And also, just really where you get to sort of like, leave your fingerprint, your true unique fingerprint on how you think about your customer base. She mentioned this before, two plus two is four, that’s great and she’s sure all the professionals out there could put together a really, really smart mathematical equation to take you to the number of support tickets, bugs, time to launch, outcome of a use case and sort of put a number together and come out with a magic number at the other end.

But that doesn’t really capture everything that goes into customer health. It is truly an art and a science. And she thinks science is really important, it is important to calculate that number, that magic number that says, “Hey, if they’re above 80%, they’re happy, below 80% they’re yellow, below 30% they’re red.”

Great, so we have a stoplight. But what is the customer saying to you on the phone? What is the customer bringing to you in your weekly calls?

What is the customer saying during quarterly business reviews?

That’s going to be a different level of understanding of how happy that customer is.

And one example that she gives a lot to her team is just thinking through if you have a customer who is really excited about working with you on beta features, or alpha features, and it’s like, “Hey, I want to be there, I want to test it with you.” Then if you’re basing their health solely on sort of like number of bugs, it’s not going to look pretty.

But if that customer is signing up for it, and excited about it, then there’s a different overlay that you need to put on that customer. And so, she really truly thinks it’s an art and a science of how you think about health score.

And again, just to sort of come full circle, it’s the same exact thing with employees.

You can’t just look at one dimension, humans are multi dimension, and you have to look at a lot of different factors to really assess. Is this person a flight risk or are you going to keep them for another couple of years. And so, it’s really thinking about things both from just a pure human perspective and from a numbers.

Me: Brilliant, awesome, thank you for sharing all of that Sarah, great insights and nuggets as it relates to HR customer experience, the health score, integrating all of that looking at the human dimension is so, so important if you really want to create a strong culture.

Trends Emerging in 2023 as it Relates to Customer Experience and Employee Experience

Me: Now, you’ve been in the customer experience space for quite some time. And I just wanted to know, as we exit one calendar year and jump into another, are there any emerging trends that you’ve seen in the CX space, in the employee experience space that you think organizations should really be paying greater attention to or tapping into as we embark on our new year?

Sarah shared that this is such a great question. And something she’s been definitely thinking a lot about, especially as she’s sure most people are doing this too, going into planning, going into next year’s fiscal planning. She thinks it’s a couple of things. And she’s used this word before, and so she doesn’t want to overuse it, but it’s relevant, is transparency.

If she thinks about the CX organization and just employees in general, they’re sort of demanding, she thinks that’s the right word. They’re demanding more transparency.

We’ve seen a lot about pay transparency and really posting pay scales. And that ripples through all parts of the organization, it’s not just pay, it’s truly transparency in who reports to who and what are people working on and what deals are closing. And so, she thinks that’s a really big trend that folks need to take a step back and make sure that they’re being as transparent as possible with their employees.

She thinks that also leads true because of the remote environment. She knows a lot of companies ChartHop is one of them, they’re still remote and so really focusing on transparency to her also means focusing on communication, sort of overly communicating with your employees, making sure they truly understand what we’re all doing right, what direction are we pointed at, what is our mission? What should we be thinking about day in and day out.

And she thinks that that actually also is something that she’s thinking about with their customers. Transparency with their customers looks a little bit different but it’s something that she’s continuing to see and think about.

Every one again, this goes back to sort of the human nature, like humans have different ways of learning and that is something that she’s hearing customers really sort of demand again, use that word demand from us right now, as customer success professionals is customers want to learn how they want to learn.

And what she means by that is she actually truly spoke to a customer this morning, that was like, “Hey, your CSMs are great. But I sort of want to figure some of the stuff out myself. I want to read a help article.” She has other customers say to her, “I want more videos. I want more in app communication.”

And she sort of feels like all of that is about communication, all of that is about transparency, all of that is about sort of meeting people where they are. And so, she thinks that’s a big trend to be thinking about as you’re thinking through your customer journey for your specific product is all the different ways to communicate with your customer. And a not be annoying.

So not to be annoying, but just sort of meet the customer where they’re at, like, “Hey, if you want to read something, here’s the link to the doc, if you want to see a step by step video, here’s driving to you’re learning centre.” And so, that’s a big trend that she’s seeing right now is customers really wanting to choose their path and sort of choose how they want to learn about your product.

Me: It’s interesting you said that because I actually attended a Customer Success Conference in Washington in October, and I sat in a session where they spoke about community and more organizations building out their community pages on their websites where if you do have an issue, you don’t actually have to get in touch with the company because the community can help you because other people have had similar issues, and I thought that was so brilliant that if we could really get more of that.

When I think about my own devices, like even my Apple computer or my phone, if there’s something wrong or something I’m not sure about, I automatically go to Google. And usually, Google populates based on the SEO, the Apple community comes up like in the first two or three resolution options that Google provides you with and 9 out of 10 times someone else has had that issue, and the answer is right there waiting for you. So, I totally get when they say they want to have the opportunity to be able to fix it on their own.

Sarah shared that she loves that. She thinks community is so important. She also thinks that that’s where you get really cool thought Leadership. You get folks that are using your product in ways that you had no idea, you’re like, wow, she would get on the phone with customers and be like, “Wow, that was super clever. I never thought about doing it that way.” And so, she loves the concept of a community, and we can all learn from our peers in so many ways. She loves that.

App, Website or Tool that Sarah Absolutely Can’t Live Without in Her Business

When asked about an online resource that she can’t live without in her business, Sarah stated that that’s such a great question. So, first and foremost, she do have to say it is that again, she mentioned this a couple moments ago is that part of her job description is leading a large team, it’s just always what it’s like in a customer experience organization. So, to be totally true, ChartHop has really changed how she manage teams. And so, she’d say that’s tool number one. Even at some point, if she were to leave, she would definitely advocate for that platform. It helps her navigate so many things with her team that it’s so important.

She thinks number two, is video conferencing. She knows that there is Zoom fatigue in the world, she truly appreciates it, and she feels it. But being face to face with your customer is priceless. It is so hard to pick up on tone in an email, it’s so hard to really convey what you’re trying to say without having that face to face and with so much less travel, that is so critical. You have to put a face to a name, that’s how you build relationships and build rapport.

And then the last one she’s going to say, which goes back to her very nerdy engineering days because she at her core, she is an engineer is really Excel or Google Sheets. She uses Excel all the time, it’s what she needs to run her business.

Me: Brilliant, brilliant Excel is a very powerful tool.

Sarah agreed absolutely, people don’t get as jazzed about it, but she does, it’s truly her go to.

Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Sarah

When asked about books that have had an impact, Sarah shared that she has one in mind that she read probably about 8 years ago, and she recently reread it, because their CEO loves it as well. And so, he had all the executive team read it, it’s called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, the title of it is so great. It’s by Patrick Lencioni. It’s so great, because it’s transferable both from a leadership team perspective, but also from a CX perspective.

And so, what she means by that is, the whole concept of the book is that there is a first team, and your first team is not who you think it is, a lot of people think that your first team are the people that report to you. And the concept is that that’s not actually true. Your first team are your peers in the organization and the reason why it’s your peers is because together you are a matrix. You’re a matrix organization, and together, you all need to work to reach the ultimate company goal, not your own goal, it’s not like “How does Sara reach her goals across customer experience?” No, no, no, it’s how do we, as an executive team work together to reach our goals as a company?

And so, it’s really this concept of you have to have a common goal number one, and like, your team goal can’t outshine the common goal. And the reason why she likes it for customer experience, as well and it’s something that she drives with her leadership team, is they are a matrix environment, they have four separate teams that report to her, but together, these four teams need to work together for the one common goal of creating the absolute best customer experience for their customers.

And so, if that is what we’re keeping in mind, if truly every single day we show up and say our goal is to provide the best customer experience to our customers, then the right thing to do is very easy, or who does what becomes very clear. And so, it’s a book that really resonates with her, and she recommends, it’s a very quick read. And she recommends it as both a CX professional, but also just as you’re continuing to sort of move up the ladder as you think about working across teams as well sort of cross functionally, it’s an absolute great read.

Me: Very nice. So, we’ll definitely have the link to that book in the show notes of this episode. While you were explaining what the book was about in summary, especially the example you gave off, one person’s goal should not outshine the overall goal of the company. I thought of football, I guess because we’re in World Cup season now. And I said to myself, one person’s goal cannot outshine the overall team’s goal, which is to win the game.

Sarah agreed, exactly. So, she coaches her two boys’ soccer team. They call it Soccer, Football. There are some really great football soccer commercials happening now by the way.

And it’s so true, it’s something that she really talks to the kids about from a young age, both when you score a goal and when the team scores against you, it’s not the goalie’s fault, it went through every single player before it got to the goalie. And same concept, the person who scores it touched a lot of feet before it got to that person that eventually put the ball on the back of the net. So, you are exactly right. She is a sports nerd. Same concept, so she loves it.

Me: That just popped in my mind a while ago, I was like wow, it’s such a simple statement. But it’s so profound and you everybody kind of has that mindset in an organization, I think the employee and the customer experience can be phenomenal.

What Sarah is Really Excited About Now!

When asked about something she’s really excited about, Sarah shared that that’s a really great question. So, she’ll give two answers. Personally, what she’s working on, she’s a member of an organization, it’s a women’s networking organization. And they meet once a month with a peer group, is actually interesting, this is now becoming a theme, a peer group. So, other women who are at her same level and sort of going through sort of the same things and they’re all in the same macro environment.

And so, even if maybe some of them are not customer experience professionals, they’re marketing professionals, most are in the start-up environment. But it’s something that she’s really embracing. And each month they meet and we all bring to the table something that they’re facing or something that they’re thinking about or challenge that they’re going through with the company, and really working on being reflective, that is something that she’s working on is, when you are in it every day with customers, you sort of create this world where you’re sort of go, go, go, go go.

And she thinks that a little bit more reflection is always really good. And so, that is something that professionally she’s working on is sort of taking those, it’s only two hours once a month, but really taking the time to reflect like, sort of prepare for those meetings and sort of reflect on herself.

And then for her team, this might sound a little funny, but she’s actually right now, hiring a new leader for the for the customer success team. And she’s so excited to partner with this new leader because the customer success managers at ChartHop are absolutely phenomenal, truly phenomenal. And she’s excited to get a leader in seat that is really going to work with them, both from a professional development standpoint, and also just a process perspective but really dive in and take that team to the next level. And so, that’s really her focus is just finding and hiring such an amazing leader for an amazing team.

Where Can We Find Sarah Online

LinkedIn – Sarah Diegnan

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Sarah Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that she tends to revert to, Sarah stated yes, that’s a good one. One of the things she thinks about is, and the folks out there listening, and the customer experience org can sort of relate to this is that some days you show up and you have a list of things to do and none of those things get done. Because at the end of the day, we are going to follow the lead of our customers, and so, if a customer needs to talk to her, she’s going to drop everything to talk to that customer and she’s sure every single person that’s listening does the same exact thing.

And so, in the moments when she’s thinking to herself, “Wow, I am buried. Like, how am I going to get all of this done?”She goes back to something that her mom would always say to her, “It’ll all get done, Sarah, it will all get done.” And it’s something that she thinks about a lot. How it all gets done is sort of in the background, it’s truly just believing in yourself, and believing that you’re going to figure it out and having that confidence that as her mom would say, “It’s all going get done, Sarah, it’s all going to get done.”

Me: Thank you so much for sharing Sarah, for taking time out of your very busy schedule to hop on this podcast, have this great conversation, give our listeners greater insights as to what they can do, what they can improve on, what are some of the emerging trends that you’ve seen, the fact that we need to be more transparent, we need to be more collaborative. Some of the different applications that you’ve used and are continuing to use to enhance your work that you do daily to improve your productivity as well as to get your job done. And of course, working towards the overall goal which is to create that magical experience for your customers at ChartHop.

Please connect with us on Twitter @navigatingcx and also join our Private Facebook Community – Navigating the Customer Experience and listen to our FB Lives weekly with a new guest

Grab the Freebie on Our Website – TOP 10 Online Business Resources for Small Business Owners


The ABC’s of a Fantastic Customer Experience

Do you want to pivot your online customer experience and build loyalty – get a copy of “The ABC’s of a Fantastic Customer Experience.”

The ABC’s of a Fantastic Customer Experience provides 26 easy to follow steps and techniques that helps your business to achieve success and build brand loyalty.

This Guide to Limitless, Happy and Loyal Customers will help you to strengthen your service delivery, enhance your knowledge and appreciation of the customer experience and provide tips and practical strategies that you can start implementing immediately!

This book will develop your customer service skills and sharpen your attention to detail when serving others.

Master your customer experience and develop those knock your socks off techniques that will lead to lifetime customers. Your customers will only want to work with your business and it will be your brand differentiator. It will lead to recruiters to seek you out by providing practical examples on how to deliver a winning customer service experience!


More Posts

Send Us A Message

Download my top 10 Online business resources