Hi Adam, tell us about yourself and share some background. How did you get to the CX space?
I’m a third-generation entrepreneur and grew up in family businesses where being customer-centric was a core ethic, even if the term didn’t exist. As I opened my own businesses in later life, I began to see how crucial customer experience was to business success and how so much of what I had learned in my two business degrees did not support this thinking.
I started blogging about the topic, and people ended up listening. Eventually, that led to a book, training, and keynote speaking. Now, I’ve been in the CS/CX space directly for a decade.
You are also a Co-Host on the “Crack the Customer Code” podcast, can you tell us about it?
Crack the Customer Code is so much fun! My partner, Jeannie Walters, and I are now at almost 450 episodes and are privileged to be consistently recognized as one of the top customer experience podcasts in the world. The podcast is highly focused on great conversations about customer experience and related topics. We have incredible guests and make sure to mix in serious, actionable information with entertaining banter. In fact, our Bourbon Summit episode that caps off each season is always one of our most popular!
Adam’s checklist for CX strategy
In your POV, what is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
In my book, Be Your Customer’s Hero, I break down three elements of Hero-Class® customer experience: 1) meet and whatever possible exceed expectations, 2) provide a hassle-free frictionless experience, and 3) do both of the above consistently. Since I published HERO, I’ve added another layer, which is that everything in the customer journey should be focused on generating positive emotions and preventing negative emotions.
How much has the role of the CX executive changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
Those questions are both connected and very different. The main change for the role of the CX executive is trying to figure out what the future looks like and to create a good strategic plan. How will the landscape change in six months or a year? Will our channel mix change? The resources we have to work with? How quickly can we pivot in the face of new challenges?
Obviously, digital transformation has been huge. Digital transformation has been a profit enhancer for those companies who had primarily digital experiences entering the pandemic and a lifesaver for those who were able to pivot and find a way to use digital to deliver their goods, services, and experiences.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
I’m not sure it was a new lesson, but it was a lesson that was driven home for me last year. Understanding and centering your experience around customer emotion is the ultimate competitive advantage. We saw companies, who were themselves struggling, still respond with empathy and customer-first policies and attitudes. One of the best examples I can think of is Delta Airlines; Ed Bastian’s leadership during the pandemic has been nothing short of textbook.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?
I can’t say that I have one favorite; however, I can tell you what all of my favorites had in common: they were events that tried to do something different, whether it was the format or the topic. The already noisy and content-soaked world got even noisier and more content soaked within weeks after the pandemic began. The events I most enjoyed participating in were the ones that went out of their way to cut through the noise and create great audience experiences.
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?
CX executives need to reorient around having a distributed workforce. This means reviewing employee policies, benefits, communication, management, and of course, workload. In these uncertain and stressful times, employees need the same empathy that customers do.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Profit. I’m serious. While not every transaction needs to be profitable, customer experience, on the whole, must be executed profitably. The traditional CX metrics – NPS, CSAT, CES, and a host of contact center and efficiency metrics – are nothing more than indicators. All they can do is point a finger at something you’re doing well or something you could be doing better so that you can investigate it, analyze it and improve it. The metrics that point your team or your organization in the right direction to improve your experience are the best ones for you to use.
Adam Toporek is an internationally-recognized customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and customer service trainer who helps organizations transform their relationships with their customers through better strategy, training, and communication. He is the author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog, the co-host of the “Crack the Customer Code” podcast, and the creator of multiple virtual training courses on customer service and experience. Adam is regularly ranked as a top customer experience thought leader and has been cited in Entrepreneur, Forbes, and over 200 other media.