Hi Bill, tell us about yourself and share some background. How did you get to the CX space?
My parents were business owners, and I grew up in the service industry, so from an early age I learned what it meant to provide excellent service to your customer and the impact that had on your business. I think that is why I have been in the customer experience space for nearly my entire career. My first job was at JPMorgan as a fixed income analyst. I love the analytical work and the client connectivity but didn’t like the job itself. I went into market research-based consulting and that evolved more into core CX roles and leadership opportunities, including insights and analytics, design, and CX culture. For my entire 25-year career, I have always been in financial services. The breadth and diversity of clients, from retail to institutional, makes for a lot of complex knots to untangle.
How much has the consumer sentiment changed in the banking space during 2020 and what is 2021 going to look like?
I’m not sure sentiment in the banking space has changed as much as sentiment about products, services, and technology that has changed. This, in turn, impacts how people feel about financial services. With the global pandemic, an acceleration to digitization occurred, so 2020 was the year that made the gap between those increasing market share and those losing it more pronounced. I think you are going to see more of that in 2021, including more focus on security given how many more people are transacting online.
Bill’s checklist for CX strategy
In your POV, what is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
Great question! There are six core elements to a CX strategy: insights, design, technology, operations, data, and culture. This is one of the most important things a CX team, new or more mature, should develop, communicate and operationalize. It’s important to note that your strategy elements should all be grounded in insights or an understanding of who your customers are. Think of personas and how they engage your business. Think of journeys and how they feel about that engagement, what their expectations are and which other companies they engage with that are similar to yours. How do they feel about those companies? The insight will be the basis for all other dimensions in your strategy, and the others will help you drive CX maturity and growth.
How much has the role of the Head of CX changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?
I think the core aspects of the work and the toolkit have not changed. What has changed dramatically is the output. For example, because customer needs have changed dramatically in the last year, asking the same old questions in a survey or highlighting the same tasks in a usability lab will not get you the insight you need to drive better design. So, what you need ask and the learnings associated with that have changed. Moreover, how you’re solving customer problems, or supporting them more broadly, has changed. For example, my cable provider now offers short videos on how to solve common problems vs. requiring a technician to come to my home, which I don’t want anymore.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
I’m not sure it’s something I learned. More likely it’s something that was reinforced, and that is: your team and your partners are everything. You need a team that can flex quickly, have the skills to think differently, and the resolve to stay focused. And you need partners that can flex as equally and the resolve to work through any complexity. I am blessed to have both where I am at Freddie Mac. I think 2021 is a good time to reflect on this and see where you have some opportunity to improve your team through training, coaching, or upgrading talent.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?
I launched a podcast in 2020 called Be Customer Led, so that is my favorite. Perhaps I am a bit biased there! There were a few events I was lucky to present at in 2020 and I would like to highlight them. One is the Omnichannel Digital Summit, run by GDS Group. They had an amazing digital platform that essentially recreated an in-person experience with a moderator and faces in the crowd. I highly recommend it. The second was the Fall 2020 CXM Best Practices Symposium. It was run on a platform called Whova, which offered an app for attendees and speakers to engage. It was really well done.
It looks like from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should Executives gear up to the changing times?
This is a great question, and one of the most important of our time. Executives need to focus on a solution that meets their employees’ needs and defines a new normal that helps their employees thrive, both professionally and personally, all while delivering against business objectives. It’s an important balance to find. The organizations that empower their employees to find solutions that are compatible with their needs and meet their objectives will see higher attraction and retention of top talent. The organizations that require all of their employees to return to the office and don’t take the time to understand that needs and wants will see employees leave. Much like the work we do on the customer experience side to understand needs, companies need to apply the same tools to their workforce to improve the employee experience, which will lead to greater engagement.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I don’t have just one. I think teams should have one, but whether that is customer satisfaction, customer effort, net promoter score, or some other anchor metric is not the important point. The key thing to highlight is that you understand the drivers behind the anchor metric, the journey metrics that lead up to those drivers, and the metrics that give you insight into customer expectations in those journey stages and activities. Moreover, these metrics need to be integrated with sentiment, behavioral and financial data so you can ACT on these metrics. So don’t get stuck on what metric you’re going to use. Focus on what you’re going to change as a result of that metric or metrics.
Bill Staikos leads Customer Experience for Freddie Mac’s Single-Family division. His background includes Insights, Data/Analytics, Design, Transformation, AI/ML, and Customer-led Culture.
Bill hosts the weekly podcast, Be Customer Led, with listeners spanning over +50 countries; he is also co-founder of Monday Mentor Meetup, a LinkedIn group dedicated to helping CX & EX practitioners accelerate their careers.