Tuesday, September 28, 2021
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CXBuzz Interview With Paul Pember – Leadership Mentor & Head of CS at London Borough of Camden

Hi Paul, tell us about yourself and your background.

I’m a Head of Customer Service within Local Government in the UK – currently leading a team of approx. 200. I started my career as an Advisor and progressed into senior management roles over the following decade. I’ve worked for four organisations in that time, across three sectors which have enabled me to experience the world from different perspectives and take the best bits from each organisation! A consequence of being a customer service leader naturally means leading large teams and lots of people, therefore I really enjoy the people leadership side of the job! I love developing teams to become high-performance through cultural change and mentoring talent so they can fulfill their potential. I’ve recently launched a ‘High performance’ mentoring program that focuses on supporting people develop their leadership muscles.

What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?

The biggest misunderstanding is assuming customer experience is just great customer service. Customer experience is deeper and wider than customer service, with many organisations, not set up or focussed on delivering an exceptional experience. This is down to them thinking awesome customer service equals awesome customer experience, which it doesn’t. This doesn’t discount or undervalue how critical customer service is, as it plays a central and starring role in the experience but it’s not the same thing.

What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?

There are quite a few things to keep an eye on right now….AI, hybrid working, and digital innovations but the main thing I’m keeping my eye on is WhatsApp as a customer service channel. Its user base is increasing year on year and I believe consumer expectations are growing for organisations to have WhatsApp capability. I believe this could eventually challenge ‘web chat’ and become an informal way to engage and communicate with customers – both inbound and outbound, which will support the pro-active capabilities organisations need to develop to truly create an easy and exceptional experience. We may even head towards a more developed ‘WhatsApp that is similar to ‘We Chat’ in China which is a multi-purpose messaging, social media and payment app. Watch this space!

What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?

This question could have a list of 50 different things, but for me the key things companies can do is to connect and engage with their customers. This is about being clear your companies purpose and what you stand for, and sharing that message with your customers. I believe consumers will continue to move away from soleless brands that are just all about profit. Newer companies like @Mission teas have an incredible story, purpose and reason to exist. They are about the planet, consumer and then profit. I think this is the best way to attract loyalty, by creating followers that believe in you.

What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?

This really depends on the sector you’re in. In sectors such as central/local government or Social Housing, then ease is the most relevant and useful due to the type of services they offer. As of today, I’m yet to meet anyone who is really satisfied with paying council tax or parking tickets. Therefore, it’s all about ease; making those unavoidable activities effortless for the customer. ‘Ease’ is often one of the biggest drivers of low satisfaction, therefore if you focus on making the experience interacting with your organisation ‘easy’, then you’ll be half-way there in achieving customer satisfaction.

How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?

This connects to my earlier point around connecting and engaging with your customers. Social Media is a chance to connect with all your customers in a more social environment, giving companies an opportunity to be more ‘human’ and show some personality. Often social media is used by your customers to flaunt your product/service or share a negative voice – therefore it’s critical for companies to interact with this and join the conversation. One quick way to better use social media is having the capability to respond to every ‘interaction’ – whether that’s liking an Instagram post or leaving a comment on Twitter.

What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?

I’ve been a little cautious on this over the previous few years. This is because I believe organisations firstly need to focus on ensuring they have the foundations in place, that will then enable AI to work effectively. I’d much rather organisations focus on removing the need to contact, by understanding root cause rather than symptom management which AI chatbots feel like. I always believe customers should have the option to speak to a person if they prefer. AI chatbots can add real value by helping customers navigate the website but this can’t replace the option for customers to speak with an actual human.

What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?

This isn’t a pandemic-friendly question 😊 – however, I recently watched interstellar at home. Looking forward to seeing the new Bond film when it’s finally released!

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

Ease is the golden one. Everyone wants an easy experience, but that has to be backed up with a solid product or service. I do believe the world is yet to uncover the golden metric…

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