Hi Michael, tell us about yourself and your background.
I started my career working in traditional advertising. I quickly transitioned into direct marketing and then followed the evolution of this discipline into data-based marketing. I worked for a number of years both as a consultant and at an agency leading the development of customer retention programs. It was this work that led me to work in customer experience. It was a natural transition from a retention program (where we tell customers how important they are and customize communications) to ensuring clients are delivering the kind of experiences to their customers that were appropriate to the importance and status the brand bestowed on these customers via those retention programs.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
I feel like there is a lot of confusion within and outside of the practice about what exactly makes up this discipline of CX. Over the past few years, we see companies include “Customer Experience” in every title or function – which is great! I love the focus on experience and believe it is extremely important.
As a practitioner, I feel like we need to refine our terminology and to start distinguishing between Customer Experience Management (CXM or XM or HXM) and other functions which need to aware of the CX but who focus day to day on other priorities.
Case in point: Today, most companies view the Customer Success function as part of the CX function. I see those 2 things as related but different. In my view, CS is all about working with customers to ensure they get the full potential value from their purchases. CX is all about ensuring all the experiences customers have with the full journey (discovery, trial, purchase, adoption/usage, renewal) are seamless, effortless, efficient, etc. In my view, these 2 things are related but different.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I am keenly interested in AI and ML and the developments in that newer tech. I think the potential for a system to recognize and manage each individual in their experience is exciting. I see that tech leading to the proliferation of AI-based “concierges,” which can guide customers through their desired journey towards the desired outcomes. There is exciting work going on in areas like autonomous vehicles that I think can be re-purposed to help manage customer journeys.
If the AI can be taught to look at the road and all the other traffic and stimuli going on and keep the car on course and out of harm’s way, why wouldn’t this same capability be able to see what a customer is attempting to do and guide this customer on their journey with a brand?
Michael’s tips for improved customer loyalty
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
I think the single most impactful thing a company can do is to continually assess and manage the experience. And within that effort, I think more companies need to be much more transparent. I am a firm believer in experience follows expectations. If you manage my expectations, you manage the kind of experience I have. Transparency is key to managing expectations.
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
I am a huge advocate that CES is a much more meaningful metric than the others. Studies show that in most cases, consumers want an easy experience. They want to get what they want when they want it. As a CXM practitioner, Effort helps us most clearly understand what needs to be worked on. I do think the other metrics have their place and are important. As a practitioner CXM, I favor CES.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
By respecting privacy. This question could also be asked, “how can companies better use communities?” because that is how I view social media. It is a series of communities. So first, respect each customer’s view of whether they want a company to intrude on their community/social media (respect privacy). Apple has taken a leadership step in how they have crafted their newest OS to make it much more difficult for advertisers to intrude unless and until customers give permission.
This is a trend I believe will only gain momentum (despite what Facebook wants). If the customer gives permission for that company to be part of that community, then that company has an obligation to respect the purpose of that community and limit itself to operating/communicating within that purpose. Once invited inside, there are rich opportunities to craft messages/offers which are gleaned from the information available within the community (and around the purpose of the community). So, what companies can/should do to ensure they get invited to be a part of customers’ communities is to respect privacy and ensure they are relevant.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
I believe this technology is still very immature but has great potential. My own experience with bots is not good. They either don’t understand what I am trying to do, and so they become an irritation instead of a help, or they have very limited capability, and I find myself in the queue to speak to an agent anyway. The most effective use of bots is actually not as a visible agent to customers but as a tool to help agents service support calls. However, as I mentioned in the question above about new solutions (#3), there are exciting advances being worked on that will make bots a much more useful customer-facing tool.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
I really enjoyed the movie Old Guard on Netflix.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Ease of doing business. As I described above, I think the keys to the CX kingdom are all about making it easy. I don’t see that customers want “WOW!” as much as they want easy. My favorite and most illuminating 3 question post-interaction survey is, “1. What were you trying to do in this transaction? (dropdown menu of choices). 2. On a scale of 1-7(7=incredibly easy), how easy was it? (radial buttons 1-7); 3. What could we do to make it better? (free text).