Hi Nicole, tell us about yourself and your background. How did you get to the CX space?
I began my career at NOP in 1997 as a Graduate Trainee in the automotive team and worked my way up to Associate Director. Since then, I have had other roles including Head of Custom Research, and Research Director, gaining experience across a variety of sectors including automotive, financial, not-for-profit, travel, tourism and leisure, and healthcare.
I am passionate about finding visually creative ways of displaying data and bringing the customer, and their voice, to life. I relish telling ‘stories’ imaginatively and succinctly to be able to provide insightful interpretation and deliver solutions to business challenges.
I specialize in customer experience and voice of the customer research, helping clients understand their customers and use that knowledge to drive change.
When I started out in research, ‘CX’ wasn’t really a thing. NPS hadn’t even been invented! It was all about the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI), certainly in the automotive space, where I spent the first 10 years of my career. During my career, CX has evolved into a more holistic, and I think useful, measure.
What I like about Customer experience measurement is that it is more than gauging customer satisfaction or listening to the Voice of the Customer. Customer experience is about understanding their journey at each touchpoint or interaction with your brand, your product or your service, and across every channel. It’s about analyzing and interpreting what your customers are saying, telling stories about them, uncovering their key drivers, and delivering insight. It’s about using that insight to recommend improvements by creating actions and setting priorities. And this helps companies to drive change in order to become customer-centric.
Online commerce was booming in 2020; how did it affect the CX research space? – What should be the main focus for brands this year?
The Digital transformation that companies have had to embrace has simply accelerated, what would have been a slower progression, the adoption of techniques that previously were less mainstream. It has arguably led to more innovative ways to engage with customers.
It’s worth remembering that not all customers are the same; there are the digitally savvy, those who want personal communication, and some who really do not need or want any human interaction at all. However, what they all have in common is a desire to ‘get a job done’. Brands that enable the customer to achieve their objective easily and reduce the ‘effort’ of doing business with them, will be the most successful and have more loyal customers.
The biggest challenge for brands this year will be predicting and readjusting to the new norm and trying to understand precisely what that will mean. Customers themselves probably do not know what they do or do not want, so 2021 is the opportunity for brands to really re-evaluate their understanding of customers; find out the challenges they face; has there been any ‘shift’ in segmentation, attitude, or behavior?
Now, more than ever, customer insight will help brands drive their strategy for the next 3 to 5 years.
Nicole’s checklist for CX strategy
In your POV – What is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
I think a good start point is to ask the following questions:
- How well do you understand your customer and the ‘job they are trying to do’ at any point in their interactions with you?
- Is the entire business aligned to minimizing the effort it takes a customer to do business with you?
- Have you identified and removed pain points, and are you focusing on the gain points?
- What are you ‘promising’ a customer and do you actually live up to that promise?
- Are you delegating as much authority as possible to any agent who interacts with a customer, so that they can make decisions so they can ‘get the job done’ first time around?
- Does everyone in your business ‘care’ about the customer? Do they really understand the customer and how their role has an impact?
- If you are measuring a customer’s experience is it just a tracking metric, or do you really get actionable insight?
- Would you be a customer of your company? In not, why not? If so, also why?
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
Expect the unexpected! Adapt rapidly, don’t dwell, focus on what’s in front of you not what’s behind you. And keep learning! Our generation has probably seen the biggest seismic shift economically, emotionally, personally, or businesswise, and we need to embrace the new norm that will inevitably settle.
UGC (user-generated content) data is booming and it accounts for the majority of the online data. In your POV, how should brands leverage UGC data like consumer reviews to drive actions?
It is a very valuable source of information but, if viewed in isolation, may not give the entire picture. From the work we have done with brands, the challenge with a simple score and a verbatim, which is often how such content is curated, is that a lot of right data can be missing; it can highlight the positives or the issues, but not always the reason why or how to act.
It is good to have access to a specific tool, but you would never change a plug with a hammer, unless of course you are fed up with it, so blending UGC with other tools into a collective toolkit will drive deeper understanding and the ability to act confidently.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
I do like a fireside chat. They seem to be all the rage at the moment, and I think a less formal approach to webinars and online events is the way forward.
However, my favorite virtual event was an enlightening interview with Mr. Fred Reichheld, Bain Fellow & Creator of the Net Promoter® system to hear about his revolution of NPS. And despite the success and wide adoption of NPS, he still advocates it is not about the score, but whether the customer was delighted or not and why. A lesson we should all bear in mind.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future; how should CX Executives gear up to the changing times?
Check-in with, rather than check up on people. Stay visible through technology: within teams, across teams, and from leaders to frontline staff. (Our company messaging and calling tool has a ‘Live video feed’ button – I think that’s taking it too far!)
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I do not actually have a favorite. They all serve a purpose and if you ask the same customer different versions, they invariably correlate very closely. What is more important than the metric, is the insight you take from the underlying data. Too often companies focus on a number but don’t actually understand what it’s telling them, why, or how to respond. To make any metric work best for the business, those involved need to understand it, how it is influenced, albeit without losing sight of the ultimate goal: the customer is more important than the score.