Hi Jim, tell us about yourself and your background.
I have been working in customer service and customer experience for over 25 years
with my focus being primarily on CX for the past 15 years. My first customer service role
was as a frontline supervisor in the small business services office in Washington, D.C. for
what was then Bell Atlantic, but is now Verizon. I like to say I supported the customer
journey before it was ever called that, since we managed the entire customer life cycle. I
have a strong affinity for seeking out ways to operationalize the voice of the customer to
drive continuous improvement. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to
architect and implement customer experience programs across multiple companies and
How did you first start working in the CX space?
I eventually found my way to a pure CX role at America Online (AOL). That was where I really started to understand the power of CX to drive culture and continuous improvement. It was also where I realized that good CX is about much more than good metrics. My most significant CX practitioner experience came at Asurion, where I led the global customer experience program for nearly 7 years. In that role, I was able to leverage my customer service and operations experience and use the customer voice to help drive a frictionless experience. I am currently a CX Strategist — leveraging my CX experience to enable our clients to get the most value from our platform and services. We help our clients to use the customer and employee voice to drive business objectives. We call this “Solving for X.” What it really means is we help our clients get measurable value from their programs through a combination of platform capabilities and strategic services.
What are some of the common misunderstandings related to customer experience?
I think one of the most common misunderstandings related to customer experience is that strong scores on a survey mean you have a successful customer experience. Numbers and scores are extremely important to set baselines and measure improvement. But, the real learnings come from the insights gained by actually listening to customers’ and employees’ stories. Another common misunderstanding is surveys are dying as a tool to capture insights. While it is true that there are many sources of CX data — social media, call center transcripts, web captures, employee roundtables are just a few — there is still a need to capture the experience in the customer’s own voice, both at the time they transact and on a periodic basis to understand their loyalty to the brand.
Have you seen any interesting new trends in eCommerce this year?
InMoment sourced a market pulse survey earlier this year to better understand the digital customer experience across multiple industries in Canada and the US. We discovered three themes from our research: a. Digital is more than a trend: Top-of-the-line-digital experiences are no longer a nice-to-have. They are table stakes when it comes to competing for customer loyalty. b. If you aren’t optimizing digital experiences, you’re falling behind: Consumers expect digital experiences from their favorite brands, and they expect them to be easy, convenient, and to have plenty of innovative options. c. Blended experiences are on the rise: The line between in-store and digital experiences is becoming blurred. Consumers expect in-store experiences to have more digital elements and vice-versa in the future.
eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?
It is an understatement to say that the world changed — digitally — over the past 18 months. When you combine the true need customers have had to transact digitally with the organic increase in these customers sharing their thoughts (through reviews and social media posts), there is a huge opportunity for companies to tap into their customers as free consultants to improve their products, services and experiences. In addition to using product reviews and social media posts to improve the experience, there are also great opportunities to drive new advocacy when the experience is great and customers talk about it.
What are some CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I, of course, am extremely excited about InMoment! We have a framework that combines the best of tech innovation with an incredible team of Ph.D.s, data scientists, and CX practitioners to help our clients reach their most ambitious goals. The solutions I am watching are those that look beyond just one channel for feedback — solutions that look beyond just the customer voice to the employee voice. I also think that it will take more than just a “one size fits all” approach to solve business problems. The CX companies that take the time to really get to know their clients will be best positioned to help them succeed. Here too, I can speak to my personal experience when I say that this is exactly how we position ourselves to our current and prospective clients.
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?
Coming out of our Digital Market Survey, and in spending time speaking with our current and prospective clients, we do not believe that there will be a return to normal. “Normal” as we knew it is gone. Whereas customers were willing to give companies some leeway in how they delivered a digital / ecommerce experience during the height of the pandemic, that is no longer the case. Companies will have to continually innovate and make it easy for customers to do business with them. Or, they will take their business to another company that can do it better. Getting the hybrid experience of in person interaction and digital interactions will have to continually evolve to become more and more friction-free. What we see in retail is an evolution of fulfillment processes including BOPIS, curbside pickup, home delivery or some hybrid of all of these. We see advances in innovation for telehealth, online wellness, etc. The bottom line is that there is an ongoing race to innovation — and it may be a race where the lead changes many times before there are any winners.
Do you believe focus groups are still relevant in the era of eCommerce? Why?
I believe that capturing the voice of the customer is an omnichannel exercise. There is no way for a company to truly understand their customers without listening to them on many levels and through many channels. In a former life, we did annual focus group sessions for 2-3 weeks every year to make sure that we were not letting our biases of what we thought was best for our customers to be the sole guiding principle. Just as I said that surveys are not going away, I would put face to face (or digital) focus groups in the same category. There just is no way to get a human centered assessment of the products and services companies provide without hearing it from the source.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Of course, I have to hedge and say that it does depend on what business objective you are trying to improve through creating a metric and measuring against it. But, that being said, I personally am a big fan of Customer Level of Effort. As an “ops guy” at heart, I believe that if we make it easy to do business with us, overall satisfaction and loyalty will follow. And, nearly every interaction with a customer does involve some sort of effort, so the level of effort metric just fits.