Hi Eric, tell us about yourself and your background and how you got to the digital transformation space?
I started off while in college as an entrepreneur and had 3 successful companies before starting to put my talents to work for others. As a former business owner, I wore every hat so I looked at which hat I enjoyed must or fit the best and knew it was planning, forecasting, and supply chain. So, I took those skills and turned them into an intrapreneur environment and helped organizations transform and thrive from within. I have spent over 20 years now with large and small organizations from various industries as director and other senior roles and leading transformation projects. I am currently with the Institute of Business Forecasting (IBF.org), a membership organization focused on the growth of our field, as a Thought Leader and just released my new book Predictive Analytics for Business Forecasting and now am a frequent speaker at forums and write numerous articles in publications, peer-reviewed journals, magazines, and newspapers.
Online commerce was booming in 2020; how did it affect brands’ supply management strategy? – What should be the primary focus for brands this year?
This was changing the environment before 2020, but with COVID-19 it has just escalated the migration of consumers to online shopping. I have referred to this as the Amazon Effect for supply chains and it has become a major disruption for forecasting, logistics, and inventory management. As a result, demand planning and supply chain is very different to how it was just a few years ago. With e-commerce comes e-planning and if you are already not planning differently – you will be. To adapt, many need to reinvent themselves and their supply chains and digital transformation and the customer experience will be at the forefront. To do this they will need to go from internal mindset, focusing on shipments and cost, to external mindset that looks at consumer behavior and service.
Eric’s checklist for CX strategy
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
With the migration of consumers from brick-and-mortar to online commerce there is a growing need for engagement and connection. I would put at the top of my checklist that focus. Companies typically encounter customers on multiple channels: physical, phone or email, and digitally online. Up until now, most probably prioritized efficiency — transitioning human interactions where possible to digital or automated ones. The irony now that more is going digital, we may need top\ focus back on taking the digital experience and making it feel more physical with more actual human interactions. Now putting on my supply chain hat, the other things I would add to my checklist is service and even more importantly doing what you say you will do. Yes, it is important to build a strategy to go from order to shipping within 72 hours. Yes, it is good to have a strategy for post-sales follow-ups and engagement. But what I have found is most important is doing what you say. Working with one company that was a make-to-order environment that was migrating to online commerce we found people did not mind if they had to wait a week if we still delivered when we said it would and followed through with what we said we would do. Ultimately transparency and communication are key.
How much has the CEO’s role changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
When you are at the top, the only way to rise is to lift others up. It is the CEO’s responsibility to set an overall strategy and help enable a culture that rises up others. In the era of social distancing, it just makes that responsibility more challenging. Digital transformation is and should be an enabler to an organization to work better and more efficiently. It should provide the platforms, tools, and processes to help people grow. We can add to this now many digital transformations will also address socialization and collaboration as well to help bridge some of the gaps that social distancing has created.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
Communication and transparency. This is end to end and what I see as the biggest lesson companies that are thriving learned. When I say end to end, what I mean is internally of course, you must have different functions operating off the same page. You must have honest conversations about what sales are or are not doing and what constraints exist and what you are capable of delivering. But more than all of that it is absolutely as important to be honest and transparent externally as well. The companies that are getting through this better are having tough but honest conversations sometimes with their customers. They are being more transparent than they have ever been on what and why of their capabilities and responses. What we have seen is that everyone is going through the same pandemic and are more understanding and it benefits everyone to communicate and be transparent – it is not only appreciated but what we have seen rewarded.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
This is a tough question, with so many online events in 2020. Working as a public speaker and for an organization that organizes multiple events a year, 2020 was quite the change. One of the biggest changes I saw was prior to 2020 when we had live events there was a week and that event is what you did that week. You had a travel day there and travel day back. When you were at the event that is all you did. Not necessarily my favorite but most unique experience for online events in 2020 is when I attended and spoke at 3 events in 1 week in Brazil, Australia, and Canada – and never left my home office. I hope this is not the new norm but it was a good experience and great events.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should CX Executives gear up to the changing times?
Although I despise the term “new norm” and hope we can begin to see glimmers of the old world we lived in way back in 2019, I am also a realist. And I believe CX Executives that succeed and emerge stronger are realist as well. To gear up for what is to come we must first face the reality that we do not fully know what is to come and step up to acknowledge the challenges. Second, realize the new normal where you know it does exist (e.g., a large number of consumers will stay with online commerce) and reconfigure their offerings according to the current needs of the business. Finally have an honest conversation within your organization – most likely this current crisis has uncovered some gaps and issues in your current experience that you should address now and improve.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
With my background and role, I will most likely come to this from a different angle. Specific to customer-facing I would say Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Represents the value of a customer to your business over the entire length of your relationship with that customer. From my experience, the cost of a new customer far outweighs the retention of an existing one which makes this metric even more important. Also, much of what I do is use analytics to target and predict, and actually influence behavior so for us, this becomes our scorecard as well.