Hi Germán, tell us about yourself and your background.
My name is Germán Mendívil, I am originally from Spain, but I have been living in Belgium since 2007. I studied Telecommunications Engineering and I started working for Cisco as a graduate engineer in 2007. My first role in Cisco was as a Customer Support Engineer in the renown Technical Assistance Center (TAC), supporting Enterprise Networking and Collaboration technologies. After achieving the Routing & Switching Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification and an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA), I moved in 2013 to the EMEAR Partner Organization as a Partner Enablement leader for Collaboration, Software and Internet of Things (IoT). In 2019 I had the wonderful opportunity to join the Customer Experience organization as a Senior Customer Delivery Manager for the EMEAR North region (Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nordics, Baltics).
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
Back in 2017 I started getting intrigued by the world of Customer Project Management, which is one of the main areas in Cisco’s Customer Experience organization. I found it fascinating to leverage my technical skills with actual customer needs, understanding and contributing to our customers’ digitization journeys. I started shadowing a senior project manager in Sweden, but I immediately realized that I wanted to own a project myself. I was offered the opportunity to lead a project in Luxembourg, with a large storage provider for the most important financial institutions. It was a first step, a stretch assignment on top of my role as the EMEAR Partner Enablement leader for Collaboration and IoT. The experience was so positive that I was offered another project in Finland, then another project in Spain, I achieved the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and I successfully landed a new role as a Customer Delivery Leader, where I manage a team of 12 project managers delivering professional services with customers from the EMEAR North region.
What do you think the top priority should be for a company that wants to improve its customer experience?
Each customer has a different digitization journey but all of them appreciate help coming from technology experts that understand their environment, challenges, and opportunities. We generally assume that companies have a clear digitization strategy and know what they need to successfully implement it, but with technology changing so rapidly, that is not often the case. Companies who want to develop a strong customer experience must spend time with their customers to listen, learn about their customers and their industry, produce tailored proposals, in many cases unsolicited proposals, to help their customers develop their digitization strategy.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
Each customer is different and a “one-size fits all” strategy won’t work well. Companies should spend a significant amount of time to understand each of their customers, specialize vertically on the industries where their customers operate, become the trusted advisor for their customers in their domains of expertise. Companies won’t succeed by pushing their solutions to their customers. This effort must be recognized as an investment, it won’t bring quick results, but in the long term it will develop a trusted and fruitful relationship.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Every customer Digital Transformation is a journey and not a destination. There is no milestone or date when a particular company can claim that they have just finished their digital transformation. Technology changes rapidly, new paradigms radically replace current models and current skills quickly become obsolete. For companies to succeed in their Digital Transformation journeys, they need to become agile, curious about all the new technologies and methodologies that could be helpful in their respective journeys, they should not be afraid to test new ideas and adopt a continuous learning mindset. The good news is that any company can start their journey today due to the fast pace of change. Just hop on and enjoy the ride!
What are some CX companies and solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I am currently interested in Cloud (I am preparing for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner), Agile Project Management methodologies (I recently achieved the SAFe Agilist certification, and I am planning to achieve the Certified Scrum Master certification) and Cyber Security (I recently achieved the ISC2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner certification). I always combine technical education with opportunities to apply the new skills on actual customer projects. On a side note, I am also interested in crypto currencies and blockchain. I wish I had more hours in the day to learn even more!
What are some of your tips for people who want to work in the CX sphere?
Customer experience is the area where theory and practice meet. If you are a technical expert, it is a great opportunity to apply your technical skills by helping customers with developing and executing their strategies. If you have a customer facing role, you have the chance to become a trusted advisor for your customers and make a positive impact towards achieving their objectives.
CX might seem daunting at first, as you are seen as the technical expert by your customers, and at the same time, your customers expect you to understand them very well, almost as if you were one of their employees or colleagues. I suggest starting step by step, listening to the customer, learning something new about their objectives or their industry every time you engage with them. Also make sure that you keep your technical skills as broad, detailed and updated as possible in your domains of expertise or explore new domains, always trying to connect your new skills with your customer objectives.
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?
The impact of the pandemic has been generally negative, especially in terms of people that got ill and, in many cases, unfortunately passed away. However, we have also experienced some positive changes such as the wider adoption of remote work, the drastic reduction in business travel and as a result, the opportunity to spend more time with our families. Most of us have realized that working with global customers and colleagues, and attending industry events remotely is possible. While many of us want to see each other physically again, I expect that we will be more selective in terms of business travel, and we will value more our family time. Most industry events will be offered in a hybrid manner from now on, for which some people will attend physically, and others will attend virtually. Hybrid work, working from home or rather, working from anywhere, will become more common. I still foresee significant changes to be made on tax regulations, employee insurance, impact on real estate prices in expensive cities versus the countryside or summer residencies, demand for better connectivity in rural areas.
eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?
Customers are now well informed before they proceed with their online and physical purchases. Nevertheless, customers do not have too much time to investigate in their busy lives, so they need quick access to good information. Product reviews are an essential tool to make purchasing decisions, especially in those fields outside our domains of expertise. At the same time, customers are demanding high quality, comprehensive and objective online product reviews. Companies can benefit from capturing objective feedback from their customers and encouraging detail but easy to understand reviews of their products and services. On the one hand, it helps companies improve their products and services. On the other hand, it helps their customers make purchasing decisions faster, oftentimes with a low or zero customer touch and large scale.
What is your favorite CX metric? Why?
I am not a big fan of long lists of CX metrics and scorecards, as they tend to distract us away from our customers and they can potentially encourage wrong behaviors to influence those metrics internally in order to ‘look good’. If I have to choose my favorite CX metric, I choose “value added,” allowing each customer to define ‘value’ from their own perspective of our mutual engagement, then agree with the customer on how to measure it and how often. It goes beyond traditional ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys in a scale of 0 to 5 or short-term revenue metrics. If a customer feels that we are adding extraordinary value, they will renew their services and buy additional products or services.