Hi Nic, tell us about yourself and your background?
I’ve been a multidisciplinary problem-solver over my 25-year career in both start-ups and global corporates where I’ve mostly been responsible for profit and loss and revenue generation, leveraging know-how from academic qualifications and professional experiences in technical, business, start-up, and corporate realms.
That journey started with the customer or potential customer when I took my very first role in sales and has remained the same ever since.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
That might depend very much on your definition or interpretation of customer experience and where you see the responsibilities for creating the desired outcomes laying as well as where the experience begins and ends.
Whilst many would say that CX is more often a marketing responsibility, few would agree on its definition.
However, if you look to current trends there is notably more awareness and focus on customer-centricity and the customer journey which implies, and rightly so, that a customer travels through more than one part of an organization and using more than one channel which invariably involves technology somewhere along the way. Therefore it makes sense that CX is not just a marketing responsibility, it’s a responsibility of the entire business if it truly wants to create worthwhile experiences that have the desired outcome.
Let me give you an example. I’ve been a customer with a prominent mobile provider for many years and the experience has been relatively good or at least no cause to change. They launched a new fiber-to-the-home broadband product and the entire experience of receiving the product, determining its shortcomings, and dealing with the teams and systems responsible for handling my account and resolving the problems was so poor that I nearly took away all my business from them.
Experiences are ultimately where promises get felt, so if you make a promise on the front end, you must deliver it through to the back end and beyond.
It seems at times that organizations interpret CX as doing the least to keep a customer and that’s not a good experience at all. It must get driven across the entire organization from the board down and that’s easier said than done for some companies.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
There are lots, however, even though I’m a technology aficionado I’ll be the first to say that getting the basics right first is much more important and is the source of most problems. It’s hard to fathom that even with the advancements we’ve seen customers still have to deal with automated phone systems that can’t direct calls correctly, websites that don’t give customers the information or ability to purchase the product they need or call center systems that leave staff without the ability to act or with comms equipment that makes talking to people more difficult. It gets worse when you start introducing more automation using systems like AI and it’s why so many of these types of advanced projects ultimately fail to deliver.
CX isn’t a solution or some product you can buy that will solve all your problems. As I said in my previous answer it’s a way of operating the business and you’ve got to get that right first before you put technology in place. Technology often gets in the way of actually delivering the experience or outcome needed.
By taking a more holistic approach, one that creates the right strategies, ways of operating and delivering, and use of systems that are underpinned or facilitated by technology that will help organizations to be excited about serving customers and creating sustainable growth.
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
Understand your customers’ needs as they evolve through the entire journey from buyer to owner and over the customer’s lifetime and map that to how your business operates in meeting those needs. Ask yourself, are you meeting customer needs, and would your customers want that as their experience?
I’ll give you another quick example. Even before the Covid 19 pandemic, high street retailers have been struggling to match the convenience, service, and price offered by online counterparts. Buyers haven’t gone away, they’ve just moved to a different experience which has suited them better. So few major retailers have understood this and introduced effective e-commerce solutions successfully and they are now disappearing from the high street in the UK.
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
All of these metrics can be useful in determining customer satisfaction levels depending on the context. However, as my first story demonstrates the customer experience and therefore their satisfaction can be damaged easily and quickly and by different parts of an organization. Use what is most relevant and in the right places and don’t overburden customers with too much detail as it may result in a distorted representation.
If you look closely at how the questions are structure you’ll see that some metrics are more qualitative and others more quantitative so by combining them you may get better insights.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
Personalized communications have always generated higher response rates as far back as the direct mail days and before print. People like to see and hear their name and I’m sometimes guilty of forgetting that myself. The more personalized and relevant, the better the response. Good communication always has been and still is, about people.
Any medium, digital or otherwise, should make use of personalization where it’s appropriate, not just social media. The great thing about social media is that it can often be close to real-time communication making it more conversational and thus the need for personalization and customer-centricity becomes greater.
If you have an audience on social media you can involve them in your journey and they can involve you in theirs. A customer-centric audience is also far more likely to respond and to stay engaged which improves loyalty and retention again.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
I wouldn’t be surprised to see AI being impacted by yet another “AI winter” where attention and investment in the technology rises and falls as quickly as the realization that it fails to deliver on the promises which many organizations bought into.
My personal experience with these customer support bots has been poor and I’ve yet to experience a single bot that could help me. Right now they are a distraction for most customers and an inconvenience.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
I can’t give one and I’m assuming we’re including 2020 here so as a Brit I’ll start with “The Gentleman” then suggest “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and finally “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”.
Last but not least, what is your favourite CX metric?
Any metric that helps you determine how well your organisation is solving for human needs around a purpose.