Hi Sebastian, tell us about yourself and your background.
My name is Sebastian, and I’m a Customer Experience Manager and Marketing Expert in the global automotive and product development industry. I work as a CX Manager for the RLE INTERNATIONAL Group, and I’m advising every level of the organization with a customer-centric view. I also take part in executing the developed strategies with the help of our global team to ensure we follow best practices and create unique customer experiences along the way. Personally, I’m passionate about technology, consumer electronics, and digital art forms, so that helps a lot too!
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
It was a natural progression for me. I’ve been working in Marketing for years already. However, as our company and markets shifted more aggressively 2-3 years back, the need became clear to have a more holistic view of customers, their demands, and digitalization. Since I already had a pretty good grasp of our global processes and marketing efforts, I took the chance to focus my attention on the entire experience while building new services and products around it.
What do you think the top priority should be for a company that wants to improve its customer experience?
Brutal honesty. Customer experience relies heavily on data, so you need a lot of it, ideally from each customer touchpoint. You have to create transparency for the entire journey, look at each data point, and think about where the key benefit for the customer lies in that exact step. You have to be willing to look at it and make sure everything aligns with your goals. Many companies have legacy processes or people doing the same job for years on end. It doesn’t mean they do a bad job, but you have to honestly look at all these steps and processes and optimize them whenever possible or valuable for the customer. As a customer experience manager, I want customers to be happy, come back often and stay with us – so, without being honest to yourself and creating a transparent pipeline of data, you won’t be able to succeed with that.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
Well, there are many ways to do it, depending on where you stand on your journey. However, the first step should be to care enough to find out. The second step would be to figure out how to make it measurable. The third step should be to make a case for the management on the impacts on the business and why it is an excellent idea to pursue a better customer experience. Depending on the company’s size, the starting point could be as easy as sending out a customer survey, measuring something like the NPS or CSAT, and having customer lifetime management in place with a team of marketers and customer experiences managers. I’d also highly recommend talking to your sales department because they are usually the closest to the customers daily and should gather that information in a CRM, which would also be an excellent way to start.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
In my experience, you need C-Level involvement and sponsorship, a tight group of change-willing digital champions (ideally cross-functional) and a well-planned budget with enough room for software licenses, creative/onboarding/training sessions – furthermore, patience and stamina. Another valuable insight is that digitalization doesn’t need to be driven by the IT department. It’s an excellent strategy to bring people into the project who are not tech-savvy, to involve them and have the right communication plan ready for potential arguments or FAQs along the process. It’s much easier to include people from the start to make sure you cater to their needs – also, customer experience, but from an internal view.
What are some CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
Some of the companies and solutions that I’m keeping an eye on are HubSpot, Adobe, Zendesk, and Accenture. There are countless options and solutions on the market, and I believe in finding the right solutions for your case and try as many out as you can. I enjoy companies that take a holistic approach. Besides delivering the right tools, I also provide the processes and knowledge to enable their customers to go above and beyond and allow seamless integration of existing tools. One thing that is still under the radar is context-sensitive marketing and audio to enrich experiences. Voice assistants and AI bots are still beginning, and the automation of processes and expertise will continue to become more professional each day.
What are some of your tips for people who want to work in the CX sphere?
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Go out and talk to customers, employees, build questionnaires, talk to agencies and companies, broaden your network and try to work with people high up in a company to learn that helicopter view. Customer experience and customer journey design are a lot like conducting an orchestra. You have a big band of people and instruments that usually follow a given piece of music, but your job is to make sure that each customer can have an optimized version of the concert. For example, some need it to be slower; others want to hear the violins the loudest, and so on. Of course, it helps if you already have an analytic or marketing background, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s crucial to bring out the truth, create honest and transparent information. The first step you can take is to set up a questionnaire with customers or employees on any given process and try to improve it through their feedback. That would be a simple task that can benefit all sides, and you can do it as an intern or as a manager.
So many things changed in 2020. While some things are going to return to “normal,” what are new trends and habits you think will stay with us in the long term?
Here are some trends that are here to stay: hybrid working spaces, casual online meetings and browser-based creative tools. The potential savings of having less office space with the same number of employees is immense. Also, your talent pool will dramatically increase when “office location” is no longer an issue. People will work remotely and require only a few days a month for socializing or space away from their homes, so why rent a whole building if you can have much smaller and more flexible spaces in the heart of any city?
Casual meetings will become more common since the classic “watercooler” conversation won’t occur anymore, or at least not that frequently. Especially for new employees, the onboarding experience will be much more critical based on the tools they use to create attachment, even without physical events.
Browser-based tools like Miro are the future for collaboration, especially for cross-functional teams and cross-company teams. Unfortunately, most tools in the G Suite or Microsoft 365 are limited mainly by access and the IT governance of each company. Browser-based tools are less restricting and easier to set up without any IT involvement. I’m not saying, do this without their supervision or support, but most tools outside the big company standards can develop much faster and solve multiple problems. It’s better to learn these tools and their uses, and once the big companies follow, you already mastered the art of using such a tool somewhere else.
eCommerce boomed in 2020, and consumers started leaving more product reviews online. How can we make the most out of this momentum?
Reward people for their feedback more aggressively. As we grow each year in digital sales and new record heights of consumers purchasing digitally-only, honest reviews are the best way to keep your brand trustworthy. Try to engage as much as you can with positive reviewers, influencers, and people who can positively impact your brand. Engage also with the opposing sides and create learnings and improve processes. Again, be honest. Some people are just angry and need to vent, but most people will be more than happy to change their reviews once you took the time to fix their experience.
People have the choice, and the market entry barriers are intense, but still, people will follow well-designed and human customer experiences. So you might invest a bit more here and there, but you will be able to harvest that positivity for a long time.
What is your favorite CX metric? Why?
Employee Engagement / VoE (Voice of Employees).
Wait, what? Yes, I believe that the most important CX metric should be your employee satisfaction. It doesn’t matter which business you are in, from staffing to project work or eCommerce; the happier and the more engaged your employees are, the better they will take of their customers. Just think about that, if your employees are happy and they don’t have to worry about any of their needs, they can focus on their customers, both internally and externally.
Apart from that, wherever you are, the NPS is a good starting point to find out who and why people love your product or service and why they are willing to give you a recommendation.