Hi Tony, tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a lifelong operator starting in hospitality, retail, and restaurants. I’ve led teams of over 500 at a single site and regional teams of thousands. Most recently, I was the customer experience officer at Aramark before leaving to start to Ignite Your Service Training and Consulting. I also serve as the customer experience officer in residence at 4xi Global Consulting.
How did you first start working in the CX space?
I have been leading teams to deliver great hospitality for decades but started as the CXO for Aramark in 2016. Over the last 10 years, I’ve written 3 books on customer experience and spoken to over 20,000 team members on leadership, customer experience, and business excellence.
What are some of the common misunderstandings related to customer experience?
Some believe that customer service and experience are the same thing. They are related, but not the same. CX is about more than being nice. Great service (aka hospitality) is a part of great experience – but experience encompasses safety, quality, simplicity, and inclusivity – along with hospitality. It is the sum total of everything that touches a guest or customer during their time in your business.
Have you seen any interesting new trends in eCommerce this year?
We’ve all seen the trend toward delivery, pick up, and self-service. The interesting part is how well customers took to these things. And that many of them will stick long after the pandemic is over. Customers have found that being able to grab take-out easily and find their answers online is now a part of their lives – proving that we were heading there anyway, but this has accelerated the process. I think customer adaptability is always amazing – when you give them a compelling reason to change and the tools to solve problems.
eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?
This is really the same solution that organizations need to adopt for all VOC data. They need to use it to improve. Organizations are lucky to be receiving feedback in the form of reviews, as getting customers to fill out standard surveys becomes more difficult every year. Any feedback that customers are willing to share should be analyzed and then put into action as appropriate. It isn’t enough to collect the data – it has to be used to guide decision-making. Based on my time running CX and coaching teams across the globe, this is the biggest tactical CX mistake that businesses make.
What are some CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I am watching the travel business very closely to see how they respond coming out of the pandemic. There will be fits and starts along the way, and the best organizations will remain agile and imaginative to meet customer demand. I’m watching American Airlines, Disney, and Hilton – they are my go-to organizations personally. Hence, as I interact with them from a customer perspective, it will be interesting to watch them respond. Also, everything around mobile is so interesting as the tech evolves to consumer demand and business needs.
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?
I think traditions were established around take-out food ordering. I remember when the pandemic started, my family started a weekend tradition of movies at home with take-out food we picked up from a local restaurant. That seems to have stuck with us – and it goes beyond the standard pizza and hibachi. I think we can also depend on mobile ordering and delivery to continue to be a part of our culture. I think the other item that has changed is the workplace – what will it look like going forward? The commercial real estate market will need to adapt to the flexible team structure that doubtless will continue into the future.
Do you believe focus groups are still relevant in the era of eCommerce? Why?
Well, what is a focus group but a chance to hear customers in real-time, measure reactions, and ask follow-ups as needed. This ability to really dig into the customer base will remain invaluable as organizations continue to look for the best way to evaluate their business from the outside in. The short answer is yes, it will remain relevant, but the longer answer will be around the mechanism by which results are captured. I am a bit of a throwback here – I facilitate employee and customer focus groups as a part of my work, and I think they never go out of style.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Sales. Isn’t that everyone’s favorite metric? But I also look to customer retention. I spent a lot of years working directly with clients in the hospitality and leisure spaces – keeping clients was so much more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. You’ll get a lot of Net Promoter and Customer Effort Score answers – and they are important. But if a CX leader wants to keep credibility with the C-Suite, they need to grow the top line and retain customers.