Saturday, September 25, 2021
Home Interviews CXBuzz Interview With Carlton Gajadhar, Co-founder of the Visitor Experience Forum

CXBuzz Interview With Carlton Gajadhar, Co-founder of the Visitor Experience Forum

Hi Carlton, Tell us about yourself, your background?

For the past 15 years, I have worked in the tourist attractions and events industry, specializing in developing and supporting the onsite and online visitor experience and creating a positive employee engagement experience within museums, tourist attractions, concert halls, and palaces. I’ve worked on many different projects worldwide to deliver memorable experiences for their guests and employees. I enjoy working within the industry as it’s so varied in the delivery of experiences offerings and how service design can enhance and change people’s lives. 

I’ve had some fantastic opportunities of working for some great brands worldwide, including The London Eye, The British Museum, The Shakespeare Globe. I’ve also supported brand new attractions, including The ArcelorMittal Orbit (The Slide), Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, and the Al-Salam Palace Museum in Kuwait, managing operations and visitor experience overall to ensure the highest standard is upheld throughout the whole visitor’s journey. 

When I’m not opening museums and attractions, I enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee, a little bit random sport to play but full of excitement and drama. I also have big ambitions to do MMA fighting as well, but let us see if my body can hold up as I am not as young as I use to be. 

Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience? 

This is an interesting question as we all had to adapt to a world developing new behaviors that we have personally put on hold, for example, shifting from shopping in-store and now doing the majority of this online. Many people have been using this time to audit their lives and filter out what’s important and what’s not, so this has allowed organizations to learn what the ‘new norm’ of consumer behaviors looks like. 

‘Live feedback is important as consumers are constantly changing, FAST. Personas are shifting, so organizations need to understand what is happening hour by hour, especially dealing with the public and employees. Putting a live feedback element within your venues, locations, and online can be a game-changer and vital to get a better picture of what is actually happening so you can make Better Business decisions. Using software that can project live dashboard data is essential to modern business intelligence. Using artificial intelligence to decode and make sense of big data will be the next competitive advantage and battleground. 

Consumers who care will always write a comment; this could be good or not so good, but they always do this because they want to see the organization better, but it is up to the organizations to take notice and make changes based on the feedback. Acknowledging your consumers when they do give you feedback is important in developing trust and rapport for repeat visitation to your location. The biggest challenge is that consumers will write or record on many different social media platforms about their experiences, e.g., Tictok, so if organizations don’t have eyes and ears in all areas, one comment or video may make or break your organization, and you wouldn’t even know it existed. 

‘Improve your communications’; people want to know what is happening and how to get help. There are currently too many organizations that are using technology to do their business practices better but not necessarily thinking about or actively making the customer experience better. I have been on several different phone calls with organizations to get support with a great automated system. Still, I cannot speak to someone because the automated system cannot recognize the question,n and I constantly get disconnected and cut off. This is not a great experience for anybody, so improving this interaction and showing that you care about your customers is essential to winning business.

A good example of this is to develop an intelligent ‘frequently asks questions’ on your website; this will be filled with questions that come into your organization and answered by a team, which would then be added onto this external database to which consumers can get access to with intelligent search. If more companies had this, there would be a lot less complaining and frustrations coming from consumers. 

The majority of consumers want to do most of the tasks online themselves, from booking a ticket or holiday but need to know that organizations have a good support system in place to support them when they are in need which is an area majority of organizations are still struggling to understand and put in place effectively. 

Lastly, as personas are changing and consumer behaviors are rapidly evolving to enhance targeted marketing practices, companies must ensure that they are attracting the right consumer to your brand. Customer Journey Mapping is particularly important to ensure that the overall brand experience is managed positively and adds an element of empathy mapping that shows how your customers feel about the interaction (touchpoints) with your organization. 

What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CMX (customer experience management) strategy?

‘Create an emotional connection with your customers and employees.’ As you know, consumers have so much choice and variations for the same product or service these days and would be happy to change brands in a heartbeat; I can confess I am one of them. If they believe it meets their needs at that moment in time, they will think twice and potentially jump ship to your competitor. Developing a deep emotional connection with your customers with your brand is hard work and costly, but winning new customers is even more expensive, so creating ambassadors and loyalty for your brands needs to be at the forefront of any decision-making strategy. 

We cannot argue free publicity is great when it’s positive! And your early adopters will be the ones who will push your brand if you have met all of their needs and expectations. Unfortunately, you would not know this until you do research. With the limitations of getting persona data from big companies such as Facebook and Google, organizations will now need to go back to the original drawing board and collect them themselves. 

Do you think personalization and customer-centricity will become increasingly relevant in the coming year? How so?

Yes, but I am not too sure we can reach this point any time soon. We’ve had personalization and customer-centricity on ‘CX things to do’ for a very long time. Some organizations are very good at delivering personalized experiences and treating and looking after their employees well, ensuring that they have a shared vision and mission. But different challenging factors in play hinder customer-centricity, such as shareholders who want a return on their investments, old school thinking, and frameworks used in modern-day but with the stubbornness of management not changing. This has been evident especially during the pandemic where beloved household name retail outlets have closed down because of not moving fast enough, potentially because of the top-down management mentality and the mishandling of finances. 

Organizations must adapt as quickly as possible when consumers and environmental conditions change; this is evident when the pandemic hit. Implementing customer-centricity will bring the organization into a one-team mentality with a shared vision that nobody could dispute.

This is easier said than done, as I have had conversations with colleagues and friends who are constantly frustrated that their creativity and passion are constantly put aside to meet the organization’s financial obligations.

Yes, to a certain degree, e-money is important, that’s why people go into business, but the big question is, where does the money come from? It comes from consumers, so it’s imperative to focus on your consumers’ needs than focusing on Excel sheets and pivot tables / 200-page reports on out-of-date information to make business decisions. Get to know your customers; they want to love you; you have to let them in and look after them.  

What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?

Mindsets must change on the top and the willingness for organizational change; if these elements are not available or non-negotiable, then it’s time to leave because there is no hope for that organization to implement customer experience strategies and protocols to make the organizations better for all. 

Leading by example is the best way forward, showing organizations that if they change one small process and document it, showing evidence of the improvements it has made, you’ll be a winner, if not for the organization but your personal development. You can start creating a small snowball effect of change within your organization. It only takes one person to make a change; sometimes, it will be really hard, and having the self-belief that others will follow will be tough, but people who are confident and bold will get there and succeed.

Carlton’s predictions for the future of CX

What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?

So, my three predictions on trends that are going to happen in the next coming years include: (1) leading with empathy in all areas of your business, (2)creating self-service elements to reach out to consumers who want to complete a task themself and (3) a route to personalization’s which involves partnerships and collaborations with similar value brands. 

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?

This will be a little bit geeky and extremely specific. Still, my favorite matrix in customer experience must be “waiting time,” queuing to be more specific. This comes back to my experience working in tourist attractions, ensuring that queues are short and creating experiences while visitors are waiting to experience the main event. 

About the author

Efrat Vulfsonshttps://www.prsoprano.com/
Efrat Vulfsons is the CEO & Co-Founder of PR Soprano and the editor of CXBuzz parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.

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