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CXBuzz Interview With Joseph Michelli

Hi Joseph, tell us about yourself, your background?

I am an extremely fortunate person who received my master’s and doctorate from the University of Southern California. As a Certified Customer Experience Professional, I get to assist companies worldwide on customer-centric journeys. I profile the best practices from some of the companies with which I’ve worked in Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Nielson BookScan, and New York Times #1 bestselling books.

My latest book is Stronger Through Adversity: World-Class Leaders Share Pandemic-Tested Lessons on Thriving During the Toughest Challenges. Before that, I wrote:

  • The Airbnb Way: 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging
  • Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way
  • Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customer, Your Products, and Your People, 
  • The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire Engage and WOW,
  • Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System,
  • The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
  • The MindChamps Way: How to Turn an Idea into a Global Movement, and
  •  When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace about the “World-Famous” Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

Additionally, I hold the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA) and am a member of the Authors Guild.  I serve as an editorial board member for the Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) and am on the founders’ council of CustomerExperienceOne. I also received the Asian Brand Excellence Award and consistently rank as one of the Top 5 thought leaders in Customer Service by Global Gurus.

Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?  

Undeniably, online commerce exploded across the globe.  In my home country (the US), we saw a 44% increase in e-Commerce in 2020.  That equals 861 billion (USD).  As online reviews increased, measures of customer engagement (e.g., Net Promoter Score™ – NPS) declined.  Brands that leveraged all available voice-of-customer (VOC) approaches and closed both internal and external feedback loops thrived in 2020 and are positioned well for post-pandemic success.   They reached out to customers by phone, email, text, and pulse surveys.  They used AI to exam trends and predict emergent customer needs.  They closed the internal loop by taking the feedback to cross-functional teams that created process and product solutions.  They also closed the outer loop by updating the customers who provided input.

What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?

There are so many “must-have” elements to CXM, but I will answer from a high level.  Leaders must understand CXM is not a department, an initiative, or a software tool.  Rather CXM is a tireless and unending journey with extraordinary payoffs.  A sustained commitment to CXM strategy culminates in easier customer acquisition, increased retention, more referrals, broader cross-sell, and lasting growth.

Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?

Absolutely! Here’s an example of what is happening behind the scenes at high-profile CX brands. I have a unique perspective on Starbucks (having written two books about Starbucks – The Starbucks Experience & Leading the Starbucks Way). Starbucks has a long history of creating personalized, customer-centric experiences.  Currently, Starbucks is investing heavily in personalization technologies.  In a recent earnings call, the company’s CEO Kevin Johnson shared, “Our work in AI is providing Starbucks the underlying predictive models, enabling us to fuel the great human reconnection by freeing up partners to do what they do best, connect with customers and deliver a world-class customer experience…. Elevating the customer experience is another fundamental business driving initiative underlying the growth at scale agenda and perhaps the most important of all of our priorities.”

What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?

Here are five steps:

  1. Define how you want customers to feel in every interaction
  2. Hire and train people to deliver your desired experience
  3. Deploy formal and informal voice of customer listening posts (direct conversations and surveys)
  4. Use the information received from customer listening to elevate your current offerings and to anticipate future needs, and
  5. Develop processes to turn your most loyal customers into online and offline referral sources

While it’s easy to list these steps, each one poses great operational challenges.  Often my clients look for outside partners who can help them navigate these opportunities with maximum efficiency.

What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?

The book Humankind: A Hopeful History, written by Rutger Bregman and released in January of 2020, is a compelling treatise on how humans overcome crises and cooperate to serve the greater good.  It is a great companion to the book I wrote last year titled Stronger Through Adversity.

Joseph’s predictions for the future of CX

What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?

In addition to personalization and online commerce mentioned above, I believe 2020 will be a year where customers will want experiences that:

  • Are as effortless as possible
  • Focus on health, cleanliness, and hygiene
  • Are cashless
  • Create “back to the basics” value (family bundles, appealing discount offers), and
  • Reward loyalty

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?

While I love the Net Promoter Score for benchmarking loyalty and tracking a company’s CX progress, I also like to ask about customer effort (Customer Effort Score – CES).   From a pure KPI perspective, I advocate measuring customer retention, customer lifetime value, and the percentage of new customers who come from referrals.

About the author

Efrat Vulfsonshttps://www.prsoprano.com/
Efrat Vulfsons is the CEO & Co-Founder of PR Soprano and the editor of CXBuzz parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.

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