Q&A: Maurice Fitzgerald, former VP of Customer Experience at Hewlett-Packard

By: | 04 May 2016

1605 Maurice Fitzgerald QA AW Blog-01

Maurice Fitzgerald retired this year from his role as VP of Customer Experience at Hewlett-Packard, but he has no intention of letting his passion for CX burn out.

He recently joined Rob Markey (co-author of The Ultimate Question 2.0) to record a podcast on how he relates great CX to a successful marriage, and kindly gave up some time to answer my questions:

Tell us a little about yourself:

I was born in Cork, and my family moved to the US when I was 9. I suppose it was because we could not handle the mandatory Guinness quota. I finished school back in Ireland, and graduated in Industrial Engineering in Galway. Since then, I worked in the USA, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Scotland and the Netherlands, before moving to Switzerland 27 years ago. Six months later I met my Swiss wife, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And how about your Customer Experience career? How did you get started?

After my stint as quality manager for Wrangler for France, the Benelux and Italy, I went away from quality and CX until 2006.

At the time I was Chief of Staff for HP Europe, Middle East and Africa. I went to my boss and said “Customer Experience is being done totally wrongly here. This is how it should be done…” Three minutes later he said “OK, you’re now in charge for everything except PCs and printers.” You should always be careful what you ask for, I suppose.

Four years ago I moved to a corporate software job, and took that responsibility to the worldwide level.

What inspired your passion for CX?

I worked for the Wrangler jeans before my long career in high tech.

When I was working in France, my boss was one of a number of people who claim to have simultaneously invented stone-washing. While the US-based HQ was convinced we were just destroying the jeans, I decided to interview a bunch of large Parisian boutiques to see what they wanted. Both the corporate HQ and I had our own very different ideas about what they would say. We were all wrong. What they wanted was quite different and unexpected.

Ever since then, I make no assumptions about what customers find important, and always ask them. They will often surprise you.

I found some of your statements surprising. How about “detractors don’t leave” – do you really think that to be true?

It is not universally true by any means.

Detractors are the ones who leave your company when there are no switching costs and it is easy to find an alternative. If you find a worm in your salad at Burger King, you can go to your local McDonalds instead, without any hassle.

It is different in a subscription business or a situation where you have made substantial investments to implement some technology. In these situations, Detractors escalate and get attention. Passives get forgotten and eventually leave. I did not understand why until the couples metaphor came into my head on Valentine’s day.

Yourself and Rob both laughed when you mentioned a company reporting an NPS score of 92. Is it that impossible?

It is not possible to get a score of 92 without cheating in some way.

There is only one type of NPS survey that is useful for competitive comparisons: a double-blind survey, usually done for you by a third party. It is quite easy to source data for all big competitors in an industry. Getting data on small companies can cost quite a bit.

There are entire industries with negative overall NPS scores, such as cable TV. In high tech, you are doing well at +30. Nobody is at 92 in any industry. People reporting a 92 are using a different type of survey, or cheating in the way a lot of car sales people do – I once experienced an Audi sales person explicitly asking for a 10 (on a zero to 10 scale) telling me that his pay depended on it.

You mentioned that you’d like to record another podcast…

I am a fan of Rob’s podcasts and have noticed that nobody ever asks him questions. He and Fred Reichheld are the NPS authorities and I would like to put him on the spot. I hope I can get Rob to agree.

If you’d like to listen to Maurice’s podcast, you can download it from iTunes or stream it from the NPS site, and you can connect with Maurice via his LinkedIn page.