Hi Alexis, tell us about yourself and your background.
My name is Alexis Wolfman, I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, forty something years ago. I’ve lived in Canada for the past 12 and have a beautiful family. My interests are quite broad but pretty standard. Besides my knack for tech stuff, I channel my creative side in the kitchen and with my oven. I also have a particular love for great espresso and the ceremonies around it. I’m a fan of football (aka soccer) as per my Argentinian DNA dictates, playing and watching alike.
My professional background is in Electronics and Computer Sciences. I’ve worked since a very young age to become financially independent; from selling used magazines at the doorsteps of my house to being a DJ at private parties and clubs. All that helped me build a strong entrepreneurial drive while building my academic foundation.
With an over 25 years long career I was fortunate enough to travel the world, learn from and interact with amazing people and their cultures. Starting with a purely technical profile, I naturally drifted into leadership and coordination roles within my teams. I was always attracted to being a sort of “hub”, connecting stakeholders and making things happen. I am a problem solver and I have an innate skill for translating needs into tangible solutions. I love zooming in and out, from holistic views to laser focused attention to detail.
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
I believe it was due to my relentless crave for learning more and becoming better at what I do. Being better to me translated into better outcomes, delivering more value. As the Head of Technology in a couple of start-ups, I detected that there was a huge void in engineering-driven organizations between the latest and greatest tech and the actual need of the market and its participants (customers).
Technology for technology’s sake is useless if it doesn’t make business sense. With that in mind, I accepted a new professional challenge at a young company with few million in sales but with huge problems to keep up with their customers’ demands, which was closely related to their Products’ life cycle and specifically Product Development.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I’m in charge now of the Technology Department of a Company that manufactures and distributes tableware products for the Hospitality industry and retail. The interesting challenge in terms of CX is that we handle both B2B and B2C lines of business and those two require totally different approaches.
At this moment we don’t do in-house Product Development, but still I pay tremendous attention to Customer Experience from every possible angle. From the technological products with which our customers interact, like the website, CRM, and different marketplaces, to our approach to digital marketing strategy and execution. Moreover, there’s a factor often neglected and that’s the “internal customer experience”. It’s crucial for the success of an organization that the internal tools and processes are intuitive and enjoyable as much as possible. The more friction is removed from daily activities, the more engaged the person will be and the more efficient their work will be.
We are really “Customer Experience Centric” let’s call it. Our brand is about experience, so we are constantly trying to up our game in that realm.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
Well, I guess I will not re-invent the wheel here. There are tons of methods and techniques. I believe that is not only about listening and understanding, it’s about finding ways that use that information to add value to your proposition. To be ahead of the game. Fast and cheap iterations of the “Test, Measure, Learn” trifecta is what gives you actual information. Asking directly is most of the cases misleading because customers don’t know what they don’t know. They may believe they need something, but they need something else. Sometimes you need to provide a prototype for them to unlock their real need.
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
One company worth to read about is Spotify and other one is Atlassian if we are talking Software, but others like Amazon or Costco are perfect examples of operations that are built upon the philosophy of helping their customers have their job done, whatever that is.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
I don’t know if I can provide tips, but I can say that any initiative that is not strongly rooted by clear, achievable, and measurable goals is doomed to fail. One of the bases for motivation is purpose, and for any transformation of any kind, if the people involved are not motivated or there’s no sense of ownership, the project will be a waste of time and money and what’s worse – internal credibility.
Also crucial for a digital transformation to succeed, is to have a clear picture of what is the problem you are trying to solve and if that is aligned with the global objective of the business. That includes to be sure about your audience and their own ways of working. For example, when one can think that email or a phone app is ubiquitous, it could be the case that your customers are Chefs that are all day in a hell-hot kitchen with rare access to their phones and computers, so most probably you will have to find other ways to help them place their orders in effective and efficient ways, instead of making their lives more difficult.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
Probably I read these before last summer but still will mention them. I loved Jobs to be Done by Stephen Wunker, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and Inspired by Marty Cagan.
What is your favorite CX metric?
I don’t know if I have a favorite one. The usual ones are always around NPS, CSAT, AHT or churn rate, but it is important to understand that certain KPIs can sometimes be just vanity metrics, or what is worse, they can be deceiving.
Statistics are amazing but need to be handled properly and within the right contexts, under rigorous control, and taken at the right moment. I prefer to select the metric that is right for me and my eco-system. The ones that describe better if I am delivering value to my customers or not and how well I do it. One example I usually give for a “bad” metric is when companies measure the number of calls per hour taken by a call center or the average call time. Those can be enticing metrics for the VP Operations but in reality, you may have your agents answering and putting customers on hold to keep numbers high, or have them release their calls quickly without solving the customer problem leading to a disgusting experience for them.
In short, your metrics (ALL) must be aligned and add to your business goals and values, the rest is just confetti.