Hi Musa, tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a CX practitioner and strategist whose purpose in life is to make people’s lives better. I help midsize to enterprise companies deliver a better experience through a set of practices in design, analytics, measurement, operations, and culture.
Before establishing Xperiente, I was at Genesys, running the global NPS & CX design practice. Before that, I was in product & strategy, where I designed and introduced award-winning frontline applications and established a UX practice.
In 2018, I was recognized with an Impact Award by the Customer Experience Professional Association (CXPA) for my leadership in driving customer experience efforts for Genesys.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
In the past few years, the meaning of customer experience has become diluted through overuse. It’s now synonymous with surveys, customer service, customer support, customer success, sales and marketing, and who knows what else.
Customer experience is actually the perception customers have of an organization, which has been formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, channels, people, and processes over time.
Even though everything we do in the business is customer experience because it’s driven by customer perception, a customer experience practice must be defined as a set of disciplines in the areas of experience design, operations, customer data analytics and insights, metric management, and organization culture & behavior.
It’s important to differentiate customer experience from Customer Experience Management, which has been driven by technology companies who want to blur the lines, much as they did two decades when introducing CRM. CRM alone couldn’t deliver the promised experiences, and neither can Customer Experience Management without the support of a good CX practice.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
Here are some of the companies, products, and agencies that I’m watching because I believe they will bring CX to the next level of maturity.
- Thematic: This startup offers AI/ML for feedback analytics. I have used its technology, and it has a great potential
- Engati: This chatbot startup offers transformative customer engagement.
- Delighted and CustomerGauge: These both are survey and feedback tools that make it easier to collect customer input.
- Genesys Cloud: it isn’t because I used to work there, but I think Genesys Cloud is a complete omnichannel solution that has the potential to expand outside the contact center business to marketing and sales.
And here are some of the names that I am tracking that focus on design and service design.
- Smaply: This is journey mapping software, and what I love about it is that it connects all journeys and sub-journeys and makes it easier to manage them across the organization.
- LiveWork Studio, Bridgeable, and Forjd (Accenture Interactive): Three of these agencies focus on designing new services and customer experiences.
I also track Al, analytics, IoT, and predictive companies that can bring the CX practice to a whole new level.
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
Companies have to work on two parallel tracks: downstream after-sales delivery and also their upstream brand promise, product quality, and cultural DNA.
Two points I want to highlight that are critical to addressing upstream.
Setting the right expectation early in the relationship with the customer will drive a better experience; I am talking about delivering on the brand promise. What does the company stand for, and what are customers expecting from the company?
Does the organization’s cultural DNA fit with the brand promise? You can say you want to be the Apple of your product and services, but it’s not going to happen because the company culture is not Apple’s culture.
When it comes to the downstream after-sales delivery, this is where strong customer relationships are built through personalized experiences.
Four elements must be connected and work in harmony to win customers’ hearts while making the company profitable:
- Trust: Building a relationship for the long haul on mutual understanding and transparency.
- Anticipate: Using systems and practices that let companies know their customers so well they can proactively communicate and anticipate customer wants and needs.
- Empathy: Empowering employees to take the extra steps to satisfy customer emotions and feelings and bring issues or challenges to resolution.
- Easy: Making it convenient for customers to do business with
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
Each metric has a purpose, but some provide further insight based on where it sits in the metric hierarchy.
- CSAT: measures customer satisfaction with a specific event, interaction, or product, and it is a transactional metric.
- CES: measures customer effort, and it is specific to the service or support event, and it is a transactional metric that drives point action, but it does not tell you what caused the customer to expend effort.
- NPS: measures the likelihood of a customer recommending your services and product; it is a strategic metric used to measure a relationship or benchmark that compares you with your competitors.
The most important question is what the company does with the metric. Before measuring or deploying a new metric, the organization must be clear about the purpose of the metric, what they want to accomplish, and what system they are designed to drive actions. I have found that the NPS System is one of the most practical systems for operationalizing customer feedback.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
Social media provides a two-way communication channel that enables personalized engagement if it’s used right. I am not talking about advertising and promotions; I am talking about allowing customers and brands to engage in a meaningful conversation and build loyalty around it.
Customer-centric organizations empower their employees to engage with customers on social media, for support to address customer issues, for product and design to get customer feedback, and for all to respond to customer input with empathy and understanding. The goal is to cultivate trust and relationships between companies and their customers.
Delivering personalized experiences in social media comes naturally when the companies recognize that their employees are the brand ambassadors and allow them to have personal communication with customers and not a legal script that they have to follow.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
In my experience, chatbots have ways to go before they evolve beyond using a knowledge base and FAQ structure and offer a natural conversation flow.
I don’t blame this on the chatbot and AI technology which is just becoming mainstream even though it’s been around for a while. Organizations must define the use cases and scenarios they want to offer to their customers and build a comprehensive understanding of how their customers interact with them. Plus, they must figure out how to ensure that customers have convenient access to speak to a live person when needed; the experience must be blended and can’t rely on the only chatbot.
We have seen how Interactive Voice Response (IVR) became an anti-CX with its frustrating infinite menu loop, and chatbots are walking the same path right now.
Senior management’s objective is to deploy chatbots to cut costs instead of enhancing the experience. That is why they don’t spend time understanding and defining what the customer wants to solve without understanding the real cost to their brands of the negative impact this creates.
My advice to management is do your homework and define the use cases and scenarios that matter to customers.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
There were two movies I liked this year: Hamilton, since I didn’t have the chance to see it on Broadway, and a documentary called Coded Bias. This movie is about the bias in AI and algorithms and very relevant for understanding the implications of advanced technology.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I don’t have a favorite metric; I like to use the right metric at the right time at the right place to generate insight on what I can take action on. But to answer your question, I am warming up to Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) which gives me a better view of how the business is managing their customers.