Hi Scott, tell us about yourself, your background?
I spent two decades helping businesses communicate with customers in the Customer Communications Management software industry. While not explicitly a Customer Experience role, I’ve worked in software product management to make it easier for businesses to make their customer communications more effective. This included working with developers to bring innovations inaccessible documents, omnichannel design, and customer journey mapping to market. Along the way, the software I’ve product managed has made several trillion communication-related customer experiences for banks, insurers, telcos, utilities, and other industries in over 100 countries.
I took a hard shift to CX in 2018, when I joined the CXPA and was invited to the Rutgers University CX Certificate Program’s technology board of advisors. I also developed and taught a CX module in the Rutgers CX certificate program. I am convinced that CX improvements are available at every level of an organization. Quadient’s customers created a trillion communications annually, and each communication is a customer experience.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Customer reviews are amazing ways to encourage new purchases and encourage loyalty. The use of customer reviews goes far beyond just the stars and text. Brands who understand this power will mine these reviews for stories. These stories should make their way beyond the marketing/CX teams, reaching people in support, service, sales, product, and even legal. They will notice trends and opportunities to enhance positive aspects of reviews, as well as removing frustration. Turning reviews into stories that drive the business model is the key to surpassing the CX delivery of your competitors.
Myself and my colleagues at Quadient like to lead by example. We recently updated our main cloud dashboard to prominently feature key usage statistics that we learned our competitors obscured. We learned this from competitive customer reviews that expressed frustration with a lack of transparency in billing. The frustration in these competitive reviews moved through Customer Support for confirmation, Marketing for a cross-check, Product Management for business modeling, and finally, R&D for implementation. It went from a negative competitive review trend to a CX-boosting feature in under six months.
What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?
I always ask companies to watch out for two mentalities in their organization. One group of people says things like, “it takes money to make money.” This side is measured on short-term ROI and has an easier time accessing budget. The other perspective makes decisions that “do more with less.” Every company hires and manages for each of these groups, but synergy is critical.
If different groups’ thinking diverges too much, empathy is lost. Ultimately, they will create huge quality shifts in customer experiences as they hit their KPIs. The “takes money to make money” will continually increase expectations to get a sale. The “do more with less” people will continually reduce post-sale CX in the name of efficiency. Bring harmony to these groups with collaborative KPIs instead of the “us versus them” KPIs that are prevalent in most organizations. Your business can achieve both goals without creating a CX discrepancy after the sale.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Absolutely. Customer-centricity has made its way into most industries, as companies that pay attention to customers in any industry raise the CX bar for your industry. I am looking closely at how companies cover the spaces between channels. As customers cross borders within your business, they may experience problems. Think of the border between customer and prospect. Are there different systems? Are these systems well integrated? Can your support people see enough information to help a customer without exacerbating any issues?
Looking at the borders within your organization is the best way to discover how customers get lost and frustrated. If a customer raises an issue on one channel, it’s important to follow them to other channels. In fact, with some of today’s Customer Journey Orchestration (CJO) offerings, you can even predict and respond proactively. This takes a candid internal assessment to understand how any channel silos can be destroyed.
What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?
The best way to eliminate the CX gap is to admit you have one. If you think you don’t have a CX gap… Well, you’re wrong. There is always a gap that can be closed, and you can always do more. Within your business, a variety of departments with a variety of perspectives need to harmonize on customer experience. This means understanding the impact of their work on the customer, as well as on other departments. Often, CX problems are traceable to a team meeting a KPI but not understanding an unintended consequence that another team experiences. So, interdepartmental communication about how each team’s work impacts others, as well as customers, is a great place to look for opportunities to eliminate a CX gap.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
Hands down, it was “The Invincible Company” by Alexander Osterwalder et al. It’s not a CX book per se, but it is a blueprint for pivot thinking. A lot of business books tell you what to do in a “one size fits all” methodology, which just won’t work for most businesses. “The Invincible Company” opens with a way to categorize your current model, shifts to show tools to model your desired future state, and then shows how to pivot from your specific starting point to your desired endpoint. This is great because it helps to model the pivot, as pivots are what make companies invincible. This book has more sticky note flags than any other book I’ve read.
In terms of CX, this is handy because once you categorize your current and future states, it offers a formula to get to where you want to be from where you are. It’s prescriptive but relevant. As a bonus, there are some cool skull graphics, which make any business book cooler.
Scott’s predictions for the future of CX
What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?
I predict there will be a lot of CX backlash against some of the business models that underpin a lot of SaaS-based software solutions that starred in 2020. In 2020, businesses signed up for new SaaS-based solutions to support WFH programs, create workarounds to support remote employees, and quickly respond to some major changes. They lacked time and resources in the decision process, and their ability to scrutinize their choices was hindered by the pandemic.
As the crisis calms down and the first year’s automatic renewals kicked in, there will be more pressure for transparency on the billing metrics. There is an undercurrent of unsatisfied customers that feel trapped by some services they added during the pandemic. Maybe some price increases hit without transparency, upcharges were unexpectedly applied, or some annual usage allotments were met much earlier than expected. I expect to see this play out in the form of customer reviews dropping stars compared to 2020, when a five-star review for “rapid response” is downgraded to 3 stars for “unexpected upcharges” in a few areas of the industry. You can fool reviewers for one year, but not for two.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I’m a third-party hosted “propensity to recommend” fan for certain, especially when you can separate the long term from the past 12 months to see improvement relative to all time. I like that it’s not hosted and verified by the company, which keeps the KPI fox out of the henhouse. For us, Gartner’s Peer Insights is the favorite because reviewers are verified, there are detailed questions for me to ponder, and there are simple conclusions for a quick overview.
All companies strive to improve while customer expectations are rising. Customers are reasonable, and the propensity to recommend applies their thinking to the overall interaction best. In general, I like balance. Some reviews catch good people on a bad day. Some programs apply a lot of positivity pressure that nullifies the results.