Hi Sandra, tell us about yourself, your background?
I started out my career working in marketing. I loved the idea that we could create experiences (from the point of building the brand through to the ‘after sales’ communications) where people’s lives would be made easier through something I was involved in. About 11 years ago, I started my own consultancy in customer experience, and in the last 5 years, I started teaching undergraduate, postgraduate,e, and I became the first Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coach in the UK. There are loads more stories, but I think that these are the highlights, really.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
The critical thing is adding value to people’s lives – it sounds easy, and it’s not, and very few brands do it. When a customer truly appreciates a brand for helping them out, that’s when there is an emotional connection, and this is what drives loyalty. Imagine if you proactively went back to a customer after they purchased something with a free item that will help them look after the goods they have bought, or an early reveal about a new product you are confident they would find helpful. Getting to know your customers and being there for them when they hadn’t thought about something has got to be the way forward.?
What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?
From my point of view, it’s got to be emotional intelligence. I am sure that many customer experience projects fail because the people running them have not fully appreciated the skills of negotiation, persuasion, and influence. They have not realized how complex humans can be with their decision-making. They have assumed that the change they have designed in their CX plans will just happen – this is not true, and the skill of emotional intelligence will help influence and persuade others so that the change will happen.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
It’s a great question. I think that personalization will continue to be popular and in demand, and people will find new ways to do this as we become better able to manage machine learning and Ai. The point about ‘customer-centricity is an interesting one. I think that the Pandemic and the emotions most of us experienced with this have meant that we might not be tolerant of brands who do not show that they care. They make us jump through hoops as we perceive that time is precious. I think that businesses that are clumsy with their communications and don’t look after their staff will more likely be publicly shamed. It just depends whether the public decides to buy differently as a consequence of this info.
What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?
If the CX Gap means the space between what companies should be doing to create an emotional connection with customers vs. what they are actually doing, I would say this: Learn enough about psychology to know how humans behave, understand how and why people (customers and your own staff) make decisions and devise your plans based on manageable steps using an approach like Agile, so people don’t have to wait to see the difference you are making. This goes without saying but listens to your customers and front line staff, which means truly listening using qualitative methods, not surveys.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
Breath by James Nestor – was a gift, and I read it over a couple of weeks which is unheard of for me. I usually take much longer. It’s an astonishing account of our species and how we have influenced everything by the way we breathe!
Sandra’s predictions for the future of CX
What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?
It’s so difficult to say. While I hope this is not true, I think that businesses will be focused on getting their staff back into offices or working out how to do the hybrid or blended thing rather than focusing on CX. For those who have made a decision on what to do and can focus on CX, I think that contact centers will continue to work out how they can use Ai to reduce call volumes so that they can focus on the contact that makes the difference, businesses might become increasingly conscious of the way they communicate with their staff and their customers, but I perceive that the real shifts will happen towards the end of 2022.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I’d like to answer this differently – I love biometrics. The idea that we are starting to tap into the human physical state to understand what is really going on is my favorite. Since I have learned more about how the brain works, I have a bit of an issue with the way surveys run, so I would say give me the physical state of someone, and we’ll find out far more than a response their conscious brain has given to represent their true feelings.