Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Home Interviews CXBuzz Interview with Eric Smuda, Principal, CX Strategy & Enablement at InMoment

CXBuzz Interview with Eric Smuda, Principal, CX Strategy & Enablement at InMoment

Hi Eric, tell us about yourself and your background

I’ve had a 25-year career leading or consulting on Voice of the Customer and Customer Experience functions.  I’ve led global programs in the high-tech space with Compaq and HP as well as the travel and hospitality industry with Avis Budget Group and Hertz. I also had my own consulting company for a while and worked with global brands in the financial software, technology, and telecom industries. Currently I am at InMoment in a CX consulting role.

How did you start working in the customer experience space?

I have always been passionate about customers and believed that taking care of them is the best way to guarantee future success for a company. I started in a market research role, but quickly started specializing in customer satisfaction and experience voice of the customer efforts. I got hired by Compaq in the mid-90s and I have essentially been doing customer experience work ever since.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?

While my title says CX Strategy and Enablement, I am a pre- and post-sales CX consultant for InMoment’s clients. My role is really three-fold: 1) to bring my practitioner experience into the company to help our sales team better define a prospect’s needs and expectations and shape a better proposal; 2) to work with our clients post-sale to ensure they are getting the most value from our technology and strategic advisory capabilities by helping them understand and organize to take action on their customers’ feedback and to link it back to an ROI for their organization; and 3) provide thought leadership internally and externally on how to deliver better customer experiences.

How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?

There are two ways companies can better listen to and understand their customers. First, recognize that more feedback comes in unstructured form rather than structured in surveys. So, take advantage of the feedback that comes into your call centers, chat channel, social media, etc. And second, companies need to do a better job of breaking down their data silos. In nearly all companies, those data sources I mentioned sit in separate places in the organization, and they are not integrated or combined in ways that can be analyzed together.

What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?

I’ll give you four that aren’t the traditional ones that come to mind immediately, like Nordstrom’s and Disney. They are Amazon, Vanguard, Intuit and Costco. There are three reasons they are great: 1) They know who they are and what they can deliver; 2) they put the customer at the center of everything; 3) they are constantly learning and iterating.

Amazon has their 14 cultural values and they truly live them every day. They are not just a plaque on the wall. They have changed the way the world sees customer experience and have forced other companies and industries to change because they have raised the bar on customer expectations. I often tell the companies I work for and with that customer expectations are always changing, and those changing expectations are usually coming from outside your industry.

Think about Costco: They are a warehouse with concrete floors and open beam ceilings and goods stacked floor to ceiling. But they know who they are, and they deliver on their value proposition consistently. And their customers are raving fans.

Vanguard has put the customer truly at the center of everything they do, from the executive boardroom to the front lines. They do not make a decision in that company without thinking about the impact on the customer.

I used to work with Intuit as a consultant. They were great at failing fast and learning and iterating very quickly. New products often had negative NPS scores, but by V2 or V3, they had improved their NPS on that product 40, 60, even 80 points.

Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes. What are your tips on a successful digital transformation?

Thorsten Dirks, who was the CEO of Telefonica Germany in 2015, said “If you digitize a [crappy] process, you’ll end up with a [crappy] digital process.” I love this quote. Too many companies are trying to digitize their current processes or ways of doing business and this is flawed thinking. There is nothing that irritates me as a CX person more than hearing someone say: “This is the way we have always done things.” So what? Why are you doing it that way? How does the customer or employee benefit from it?

So, my tips for successful digital transformation are to ignore what you do today and start with the customer. What is their real need or which of their problems are you trying to solve?  What would the ideal process look like to deliver that?

Get your customers involved; do some co-creation; and do some user experience (UX) testing. There are too many bad digital experiences out there that are way too cumbersome. Think about what the easiest way is to accomplish a task. Think about the Google search engine. It is ONE text box. Type anything in there and more likely than not you find your answer or solve your need within seconds. But then you have to think about how those digital processes interact with your physical processes and how information gets shared across those channels seamlessly.

What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?

When I was leading CX in the travel industry, the single most difficult question to answer was from the CEO: “Where should we place our bets to improve the customer experience?” Data was siloed all over the company. Social media data told me one thing; call center data told a different story; surveys of travelers told the story another way. It was very difficult to consolidate the data, analyze it, and answer the CEO’s question. It ended up being more judgment than science.

So, I look for tools that help integrate multiple sources of information and analyze it to help me tell a story. I also look for tools that can analyze unstructured data because so much more feedback comes in this form than in the form of surveys.

The timing of this interview is interesting because InMoment recently purchased a company called Lexalytics that can help do just that. It is a company I had considered when I was at Hertz.  Their solution uses natural language processing, machine learning and visualization tools to digest and analyze extremely large data sets. It helps our clients understand: who is talking, what they’re talking about, how they feel, and why they feel that way. That is critical to having the intelligence to improve a company’s customer experience.

Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?

I’m reading a couple right now, but not quite ready to recommend them, so let me give you a few of my favorites:

Would You Do That to Your Mother by Jeanne Bliss.  Very practical advice for how to think about your customer experience

Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  Effectively reinforces how to think about data and to challenge assumptions

Rules of the Red Rubber Ball by Kevin Carroll. This is about finding your passion and chasing it.

What is your favorite CX metric?

The best CX metrics are business outcomes related to customer acquisition, retention, growth and cost to serve.  My favorite is retention.  We all have seen the statistics about how much cheaper it is to keep a customer than to find a new one.  Keeping a customer leads to increases in lifetime value as well as allows you to potentially reduce your sales and marketing expenses.

About the author

Simone Somekh
Simone Somekh is a New York-based author, writer, and communications manager. He teaches Communications at Touro College.

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