Hi Ben, Tell us about yourself and share some background about how you ended up creating your firm, CXpert.
I came out of university in 1992 with an undergraduate degree in Marketing. Soon after, I got my first job which was in a call center at a telecommunications company where I was dealing with residential customers. Back in those days, there wasn’t the focus on customer service that there is now but I still recall having hour-long conversations with customers who were lonely and just wanted someone to talk to.
I worked my way into a Marketing role within the company but after a couple of years was approached by the general manager of the division asking me to take an on-road sales position because he thought I’d be great with customers. Here I was in the role I’d studied three years for and I was being asked to give it up to go into Sales! After 24 hours of contemplation, I took the job. When your boss asks you to do something like that, you do it. I was now visiting small business customers and solving their problems with a range of telephone systems all the while developing my communication, presentation, negotiation, and influencing skills. I loved it and spent most of the next 20 years in strategic sales roles mostly in the telco industry.
After completing an MBA in 2007, I was yearning for something more. Something that would use more of my newly developed skills. In 2013, I found it. I was working at a company whose principal business was selling contact centers but they’d developed a product that integrated with their main offering that collected customer feedback via a post-call survey.
Intrigued by this product, I began to research what customer feedback could do for a company. This led me into an area that I’d never heard of before – customer experience was not a widely used term in Australia in 2013 – but the principles of which completely resonated with me. Everything I was absorbing as I delved deeper and deeper into the topic was in complete sync with my own ideas about how businesses should grow: listen to your customers, understand their needs, and then deliver to their expectations. It was a really profound time for me.
At the beginning of 2014, I left that company and opened up the doors of CXpert – a boutique customer experience consulting company. Initially, I specialized in customer insights programs but have since expanded my services to include CX strategy formulation, customer journey mapping workshops, and providing advice on employee engagement and culture. Over the years, I’ve worked with some terrific companies and completed some fascinating projects.
The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that I’ve improved the experiences that customers have with my customers. It’s really satisfying to know that you’ve played a tiny part in making someone’s life better.
How much has consumer sentiment changed in your space during 2020 and what is 2021 going to look like?
I think customer sentiment went two main ways in 2020. Some customers became less tolerant with companies because life was significantly more difficult for the majority of people. “I’ve lost my job, I’m homeschooling my kids, I’m worried about the health of my elderly parents, and you’re sending me payment reminders??”
Empathetic customers, though, became more forgiving. They understood what was going on behind the scenes as organizations were scrambling to relocate their workforces out of their offices and set them up at home and they understood that the frontline employee with whom they were dealing could quite easily have it just as bad as them if not worse.
Now in 2021, as the world gets more accustomed to living under pandemic conditions, customer sentiment will revert to what it looked like pre-COVID with one important exception. Many companies raised the bar in terms of their empathy during 2020 and customers appreciated it. I think in 2021, customers will expect the companies they buy from to continue to be more empathetic and flexible in how they interact.
Ben’s top KPIs
In your POV, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience benchmarks?
I’ve written in the past (Building A Great CX Dashboard) about the 3 categories of metrics that can be used to measure CX. Namely, perception, descriptive, and outcome metrics. The most important ones to use are the ones that are right for your organization.
No one recommends a monopoly to their friends and family so Net Promoter Score isn’t going to make any sense for such a business nor a government department. While the contact center metric Average Handling Time won’t mean a thing to a brick and mortar retailer.
The key with perception metrics is to choose one (be it CSAT, CES or NPS) and then use it systematically to constantly improve your CX. Stick with it. You may not see results immediately but by persevering with it as part of the process, you dramatically increase your chances of it being a success.
How much has the role of the CX Executive changed in the social distancing era – what role has digital transformation had in this crisis?
The answer to this question is again very dependent on business type but in general, the good CX Executives around the world spent a lot more time in 2020 trying to understand their customers’ changing needs and expectations in order to ensure they were meeting them and/or innovating so that they could.
In a contactless world, digital certainly had a much greater part to play both in terms of how customers bought and how organizations operated with so many employees working from home. Those organizations that pivoted to operating digitally better than their competitors certainly gained a huge advantage.
How is CXpert transforming the customer experience landscape?
In a micro sense, we’ve improved CX at some of Australia’s best-known brands by developing and implementing CX strategies, customer and employee insight programs, facilitating customer journey mapping workshops, and most recently we developed and delivered bespoke customer service training for the contact center agents at a superannuation fund.
On a more macro level, I’ve been told that through the advice offered in the CXpert blog, we’ve influenced and informed many CX programs in countries on every continent except (one very cold) one. I also continue to mentor CX managers from around the world and freely offer advice to others within the profession whenever asked.
Finally, I like to think that I’ve played some part in educating and inspiring the 1,392 people that are part of the Employee Experience channel which I curate content for in the CX Accelerator Slack group. If you’ve never heard of CX Accelerator, it’s a community of passionate people established by Nate Brown in 2018 devoted to developing those within the profession and assisting their success. If you have any interest in developing as a CX professional, I thoroughly recommend joining it.
What was the biggest CX lesson you learned in 2020?
That regardless of the environment, the fundamentals of customer experience management don’t change: know your customers, deliver to their needs, and meet their expectations. Do that better than your competitors and you’re a long way towards succeeding as a business.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite?
Funnily enough, I didn’t attend many webinars last year. With everything shifting online, the thought of staring at my screen for another 2 or 3 hours didn’t exactly thrill me. I did very much get into podcasts though. A few of my favorites were Julia Ahlfeldt’s excellent Decoding The Customer, Steve Pappas’ informative and entertaining Science of CX, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History which has nothing to do with CX but is super interesting all the same.
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?
Other than the advice I’d give them around working from home effectively (set up a dedicated workspace, eliminate as many distractions as you can, and maintain a positive work/life balance by switching off all work devices at the end of the workday), by not being in the office, CX Executives are missing out on a valuable opportunity to interact with other areas of their organization.
I’ve written in the past that CX Managers need to be in constant contact with all parts of the business. By working from home, they’re not getting to have those “watercooler conversations” with people from other parts of the business that can be so valuable and revealing.
So to ensure they’re staying in touch, CX Executives need to have regular catch-ups booked with all key internal stakeholders for the purpose of collecting and disseminating information. Everybody’s busy so be sure to diarise it or it won’t happen.
Ben Motteram is a customer experience expert and ICMI Top 25 Thought Leader with over 20 years’ experience in customer acquisition and retention. Through his consultancy, CXpert, he helps companies become more authentic in the way they interact with customers and employees to increase loyalty, engagement, and ultimately growth and profit. An avid golfer living in Melbourne, follow Ben on Twitter for insights on CX, customer service, and employee engagement or connect with him on LinkedIn.