Hi Sergio, tell us about yourself and your background.
Hi, I am a customer-focused senior manager with 20+ years of experience in the service environment in a multinational company and a believer in the humanization of the business. I’ve worked in the field, in direct contact with customers and technicians, at the headquarters of an Italian business unit and in Switzerland as Group Head of Customer Excellence in a company with 65,000 employees and over 400,000 customers.
I graduated in engineering, so I always look for data to support the decision-making process, but I believe that empathy with the customer plays a role in the interpretation of the data.
I am currently working at Sagres, an Italian consulting firm, as Sales, Marketing & CX Director.
How did you first start working in the CX space?
I started as a consultant helping companies get the ISO 9000 certification and then I was hired as Total Quality Manager. At that time, customer satisfaction in all companies was under the umbrella of Quality.
What are some of the common misunderstandings related to customer experience?
Customer experience (CX), in my opinion, is whatever contributes to creating our perception of a Brand. This is a very broad and comprehensive definition, much bigger than Customer Service and includes, among other things, the relationship with the salesperson, the product, and the price.
Many companies and CX practitioners exclude price in their search for customer insights and this is mainly due to the fact that in those companies, CX is just a department and is not part of the strategy of the organization. In other words, CX is just a hobby without change. Change management is the main goal of CX and Voice of the Customer activities as well as measurements like NPS, CES or CSAT are just inputs to go for change.
Have you seen any interesting new trends in eCommerce this year?
Yes. Because of the pandemic, people have significantly modified their purchasing habits. Lockdown effects like being more at home and limitations to movement, have removed all the psychological barriers to online purchasing. The industrial sectors that have benefited most are Food&Beverage, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and indirectly logistics.
Some companies did it better than others. Those that have been able to create a peer-to-peer community and focused on fostering genuine conversations to listen and learn from the community, boosted their business results.
eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?
We should participate to the conversation and monitor systematically the entire digital ecosystem. That means that just answering to reviews is not enough. Being proactive is the right attitude. Brand reputation, empathy and kindness are the reference pillars when interacting with consumers online.
What are some CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I believe in the power of unstructured data. The old never-ending survey questionnaires are dead. If we’re genuinely interested in listening our customers, we should not put boundaries or trying to influence customers’ feedback with specific questions. The rating we ask for is just a reference. We should look beyond the score. What really matters is the WHY behind that score. Asking open-ended questions like “which is the main reason for your score” is our opportunity to let the customer express his perception and emotions with his own words. It’s up to us to capture and analyze the treasure hidden in the unstructured data coming out from open-ended questions.
My way to do that in B2B is:
- Surveys by phone
- Surveys are audio-recorded
- Audio files are transcribed with Voice2Text applications
- Text is analyzed with AI-powered software solutions that generate visual reports for the management to take decisions
So many things changed in 2020. While some things are going to return to “normal,” what are new trends and habits you think will stay with us in the long term?
Less physical presence, remote working, virtual meetings. The real challenge is that, for many, the Customer Experience moved partially or totally to digital.
By the way, I think that the need for empathy will stay and to find the right balance between human and digital interaction with customers and consumers, will be the secret to pave the road to success.
Do you believe focus groups are still relevant in the era of eCommerce? Why?
Focus groups are still a valid concept, but their practical implementation, in many cases, will become remote and digital, resulting in more agile, less expensive and fast data-collection sessions. In some cases, when the interaction among participants is not a key factor, they can become a series of one-to-one online survey.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
This very much depends on the business model of the company. I use very often NPS (Net Promoter System) in B2B and think that the CES (Customer Effort Score) should be used only in limited cases, just when the brand promise is “Fast and Easy”, otherwise it can be dangerously misleading.