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224: Empowering Customer Connections: Insights and Innovations in Customer Experience with Serena Chan

podcast March 12, 2024

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Serena Chan is a Research Advocate at Dovetail with a background in exploratory and UX research. She plays a pivotal role in crafting memorable experiences for customers, advocating for them within the company and partnering with people who do research to build a community and best practices at Dovetail. 

Before joining Dovetail, Serena held UX design research and product roles across various industries, including health tech, entertainment and social enterprises. Passionate about democratizing research, she champions the importance of prioritizing insights from customer-facing teams to drive the development of truly customer-centric products. 

Serena holds an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts, though her academic journey started with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Her early career spanned roles in public health, during with which she was inspired by the intersection of design thinking and global health at a transformative conference.

A poet and community gatherer, Serena leverages storytelling at work and leisure to facilitate a more deeply connected, equitable, and regenerative future for all. 



·     Now, we always like to give our guests an opportunity for them to share in their own words, a little bit about their journey.

·      Could you tell us a little bit about Dovetail and what your company does?

·     Now, as a subject matter expert in the area of customer experience, could you give us maybe two or three, I would say areas that you believe organisations need to focus on as we continue to traverse through 2024 and beyond?

· If you were to pick one organisation, what would be, let’s say two or three characteristics that they have that makes you loyal to them and keep going back over and over again?

·   Now, could you also share with our audience, what is the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?

·    Could you also share with our listeners, maybe one or two books that you have read that have had a big impact on you, it could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or even one that you’ve read recently, but it’s had a great impact on you.

·     Could you also share with us 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?

·     Now, before we wrap our episodes up, we always like to ask our guests, do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge you will tend to revert to this quote if for any reason you get derailed or you get off track, the quote kind of helps to get you back on track. Do you have one of those?



Serena’s Journey

Me: Now, we always like to give our guests an opportunity for them to share in their own words, a little bit about their journey. I know I read your bio, and it kind of gives us a quick summary of the journey that you did have to get to where you are today, but we’d love to hear from you, in your own words, how is it that you got to where you are today?


Serena shared that one of the earliest jobs she’s ever had was in customer service, customer experience. So, she thinks that’s been quite the through line in her career and why she’s also sort of excited to be here today. 

Starting from her first job in private tutoring when she was just in high school, to volunteer work and working in customer service jobs, there’s some element of being of service and working with people that she was always drawn to. And after graduating college, it led her into the world of health tech start-up and joining a customer success team for the very first time. 

And for her, that was the first opportunity to really be that bridge between hearing their customer needs, and sharing that back with their product team, helping you have that informer product roadmap and innovation and business strategy. And working in that intersection, that hub really got her quite excited. So, that’s kind of led her to continue to pursue her career from grad school to consulting and freelance work to now her work at Dovetail.


About Serena’s Company – Dovetail

Me: So, could you tell us a little bit about Dovetail and what your company does?


Serena shared that Dovetail is a leading customer insights hub, they work with lots of teams of folks, whether they’re in user research, or product management, design, innovation, whether you’re a software company, or they have some people also building physical products, some people building really large things in the world, like construction, machinery and things that are like tractors that farmers use to all kinds of software that we use in our day to day as well. 

So, they are a platform where these teams are able to really harness the insights they’re hearing from their customers, whether it’s customer interviews or survey data, things ongoing like CSAT and NPS and sentiment and have that then inform better product and decision making across the business as well. So, the work she does at Dovetail is really closely partnering with their customer teams, and coaching them in best practices from onboarding and being successful in Dovetail to how they can further grow customer centricity and the culture of that at their organizations.


Areas Organizations Need to Focus on As it Relates to Customer Experience for 2024 and Beyond

Me: Now, as a subject matter expert in the area of customer experience, could you give us maybe two or three, I would say areas that you believe organizations need to focus on as we continue to traverse through 2024 and beyond?


Serena shared that we’re all navigating so much change. And one thing that she always returned to is just talk to customers, it’s easier said than done for a lot of people. In her role, she does work with customers in the day to day, so that makes her job a lot easier. But for other people who maybe it’s not the majority of how they spend their days, it can be hard to really remember, oh, yeah, let me go and actually get in front of customers, if you can’t talk to customers, that’s kind of point one, than two like, really leverage the type of customer data you already have. So, honestly, most of the people at their company who are talking the most customers are sales, customer success and support. 

And so, their product managers and their designers, they’ll talk to customers, but they also try to go within their Dovetail workspace and pull from the interviews that they’ve already had, the customer calls their sales team has already had, the support tickets that have come through. So, if you can’t go and talk to customers immediately yourself, then draw from those who are talking to your customers day in day out, that was kind of step two. 

And then point number three is really trying to kind of complete the loop, she’s really lucky that their customers are also some of the best at giving feedback and sharing their insights and their requests, because they’re also people in the space of customer experience. And so, trying to really complete that loop and try to bring them along the journey. They’re trying to do more ways of running early beta and alpha kind of programmes to test new things. They’re building up Dovetail, they’re also trying to co design and really do more kind of participatory type of practices with their customers, bring them along the journey and have them be part of that process. 

So, really, those three steps, talk to customers, the second, talk to the people who do talk to your customers, and also leverage the existing data you do have. And then the third being kind of complete that loop and really make sure you’re integrating the feedback you’re hearing into your product and business decisions, and then share it back to your customers, because they’re always super appreciative to hear that you’re taking the feedback and how quickly they’re moving and iterating on that.


Me: Now, I heard you mention in your feedback just know in terms of the three areas that you believe organization should focus on, that you are blessed to have customers who are very willing and able to give feedback. I’m not sure if that’s cultural, but if you could maybe just give us a little insight. 

What if you are in a culture where it’s hard to collect feedback from customers?

It’s not very easy, they don’t voluntarily give it to you and even when you intentionally seek it out, it’s hard to kind of pin them down to get the information that you need from them.

What would be your best recommendation to approach if you’re in a business like that?


Serena shared that think about kind of what are those first points of contact? Is it that someone is hearing about you through some marketing channels, or maybe they’re talking to someone in the sales process, even those are important touch points and opportunities for insights, especially if you’re trying to understand your customers motivations, their desires, she thinks those are actually some really powerful touch points that we can leverage more in general. 

Of course, there are teams that go out and do proactive research, whether it’s user research or usability testing, things like that. And they tend to rely a lot on that. But there’s also so much room to lean on people in other functions as well who are talking to customers day in day out. And even if they’re not existing customers, talking to prospectives is really helpful, too. 

So, she learned a lot from sitting in with their sales team and understanding the needs and desires of their prospective customers and seeing how can they currently serve them?

Where are the gaps and opportunities? 

And then how can she bring that back to their product team, their leadership team and say, “Actually, these are the current needs we’re hearing from people, people who are interested in buying our software, or have similar visions and wanting to really grow customers centricity and these are the things they are asking for, which we may or may not have at the moment yet.” 

So, she thinks these are some other kind of creative ways to talk to people who, unless you have a completely sales process where no one’s talking to anyone, then that’s maybe on the more rare side, but you probably have someone that’s talking to your customers. 

And then also, her bias too is in the onboarding process, they have a pretty hands off approach as well, you can definitely self-serve and leverage Dovetail Academy and kind of learn at your own pace. But then they also do have a team of customer success managers, and that’s kind of where she started at Dovetail was actually in customer success. 

And they work with so many customers in the onboarding process and that’s also so much wisdom to learn what are your customers understanding, what is harder for them to understand, what are the common questions and challenges and pain points that are.  

In many ways, empowering their customer success folks to basically be like their frontline design researchers in a way, they’re the ones who are often closest to the day to day pain points, as well as their support team that their customers are facing. 

So yeah, really explore kind of what are some ways you’re already your current company is already talking to customers and try to get closer to those people sit in, sit along on their calls or watch the calls if they have that uploaded into a central place.


Characteristics of a Loyal Organization

Me: Now, Serena, as a customer, right, so I want you to kind of take yourself out of the role that you’re functioning, providing service, but more so service being provided to you. If you were to pick one organization, and it’s up to you if you’d like to share the organization, but I’m more focused on the traits or the attributes that the company has, if you were to choose one company that you really, really love? What would be, let’s say two or three characteristics that they have that makes you loyal to them and keep going back over and over again?


Serena stated that she loves this question. For her, what’s funny is actually, the farmers market came to mind, which isn’t necessarily a company in a traditional sense, it’s maybe more like a gathering place, a marketplace. But it’s a place she loves and she thinks about why she loves it. And there’s some amount of structure, you go and you know what to expect, you know what vendors are generally there but you also have options, you have a specific time and place as well. And for her, it’s also this sense of community and kind of community gathering place, that’s actually a big thing they’re working to invest in and grow at Dovetail as well as how do they actually build a gathering place for people in research and design and product to come and gather and learn from each other. And she thinks that’s a huge opportunity for a lot of companies to leverage that within their customer base. 

So, for her, she personally as a customer really enjoy being able to just meet other people in a very casual sense and feel that sense of community, whether at a farmers market, they’re her neighbours, or as someone in like a customer experience kind of space like that similar to maybe conferences or virtual or in person meetups and events that vendors or companies may hold. So, leveraging that aspect of community, and then also having an element of discovery. There’s some things that she knows and she can rely on and there’s some elements of novelty that also keep her coming back. So, that’s what comes to mind for her.


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

When asked about online resource that she cannot live without in her business, Serena shared that she’s going to take it from a bit more of a personal approach to how she shows up in her work. And for her, it can be any kind of app, but for her, it’s like a mindfulness practice app and tool, she sees that as very much a part of her professional toolkit. 

She personally have really enjoyed the open app recently. And why she says this is because so much of the work she does is to witness and listen to their customers, to facilitate workshops, whether with customers or internally. 

And she thinks so often, especially in the start-up world we’re really quick to want to fix things and want to solve things and iterate and pivot and all of that. And that’s great, and it’s necessary and it’s important to move quickly. But if we’re not taking the moment to pause and to truly listen and understand what it is our customers are sharing with us, and also how the greater industry and world is shifting to, then we can’t do all the rest or it’ll kind of be done in a haphazard way. 

So for her, actually, her mindfulness practice, her kind of deep listening and meditation practice is a core part of how she shows up in her work and with her customers and also in holding space as she facilitates internally with her teammates as well.


Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Serena

When asked about books that have had an impact, Serena shared that she really loves Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, this is a book all about the art of creative living. And for her, it has impacted both her professional and personal lives. And really the kind of one liner from it is like, “What is creative living, it’s a life that is more driven by curiosity than by fear.” 

She thinks one of her strengths and being able to navigate a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity, especially in the start-up world, is her ability to kind of lean into curiosity, and not just operate out of reactivity or fear or all of that. 

And so, the more we’re able to flex that and lean into curiosity when we’re trying to understand our customers, lean into curiosity when there’s a workplace challenge, or a product issue that comes up, lean into curiosity in terms of crafting our own careers and lives. This is kind of how we can apply that creative energy into how we show up in the day to day. So many of the listeners are deeply creative people whether or not you identify as an artist or designer or capital C creative person, but she thinks we as humans are deeply creative and the more we can channel that kind of energy, the better we are able to show up for our customers and our businesses and our communities and for the society as a whole.


What Serena is Really Excited About Now!

When asked about something that she’s excited about, Serena shared that she recently adopted a dog so she’s newly a dog mom. He is actually napping, napping right next to me right now! And something she’s learning is you never really know how it goes when you are trying to love and care and train a rescue dog. 

He’s brought so much joy into her life, he’s brought a lot of wonderful trail runs and play and novelty and exploration. And she’s also lucky to have a dog friendly office so she brings him into work as well. And they like to joke that he’s the Chief Vibes Officer. He’s also bringing a lot of joy at work too, so in many ways, even though he is such a personal part of her life, he is also really helping her also build better bonds with her colleagues and he’ll also show up in the back of a meeting room as she’s on a customer call. 

And so, sometimes she thinks even just remembering like, we’re all humans, we are all trying our best, and people will see her dog and kind of, it just creates that kind of human connection. So, it’s been a very special time and she’s learning so much every day and celebrating all their little and big milestones as they go and that helps her remind herself of her capacity to keep growing and learning and adapting to change.


Where Can We Find Serena Online

LinkedIn – Serena Chan


Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Serena Uses 

When asked about quote that she tends to revert to, Serena shared that for her, it’s “Ride the waves.” She’s a beginner surfer herself, but someone who’s grown up swimming her whole life, so the water is a really restorative place for her but also challenging. She lives in San Francisco pretty close to Ocean Beach and these are some gnarly waves they get out there. And much with the tumultuous lives and professional worlds we live in and the changing world, sometimes all we can do is just show up and practice riding the waves and enjoying when things are calm, but also learning even when it feels stormy, we can get through it and just keep riding the waves.


Me: Well, thank you so much Serena for taking time out of your very busy schedule and coming on our podcast, sharing all of these great insights as it relates to customer experience, some of the things that you believe organizations need to be focusing on for 2024 and beyond. And of course, all the great things that your organization is doing. And we just really appreciate you taking time to share all of this great insight with us today.


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



•     Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert


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