Hi Sergio, Tell us about yourself and your background and how you got to the CX space:
I am the son of a Portuguese immigrant, born and raised in Brazil. My father is a storyteller, although he never realized that. He used to work for a private bank and I used, as a kid, to go visit him at his office and I was always amazed about the way he talked to his Customers and Employees. Always telling stories that kept people connected to his ideas, which made him a very successful person and professional. All I wanted in life was to grow to be just like him.
I grew up to become a Civil Engineer working for industries like Construction, Tobacco, and Aerospace in companies like ABB, British American Tobacco, Embraer, Bombardier, and De Havilland and for the last 20 years, I was in Customer facing positions, like Aftermarket Suppliers Management, Spare Parts Purchasing, Customer Services, Contracts, Marketing and Sales, for both products and services.
I kept, over the years, nurturing this passion for Customer Experience, when finally, I decided in 2020 to leave the corporate world to start my own business (CX Hub Smart Consulting Inc), to fulfill my childhood dream of impacting peoples lives, like my father used to do, through Experiences. To help me embark on this journey, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Management of Ontario (CIMMO) took me as their CXO (Chief Customer Experience Officer). I also wear the hat of the President & CEO of FCBB (Federation of Canadian-Brazilian Businesses).
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews – How can Brands better utilize this data to improve their Customer Experiences?
The secret of delivering great Customer Experiences is to fully understand what are the Expectations of your Customers and try to fulfill those, the best way possible. There are a few different ways of doing it. One can use empathy, to connect and learn what the Customers value and expect. Or we can use data, as data is the most abundant resource available these days, and it is coming from multiple different channels, such as surveys, e-mails, website chats, and even social media.
The best approach is to merge those two together and empathetically analyze the data being collected, to transform it into information or insights to guide the company’s actions. Companies need to understand that complaints, or Customer feedbacks, need to be responded to, or actioned. They need to be considered while interfacing with Customers, to truly address their perceptions about your brand. Taking action regarding a complaint will likely positively impact your Customers a lot more than your advertising or your price cuts.
Data, when well treated, can provide invaluable information about your Customer’ behaviors and their way of thinking, but most of all, about what they understand as value, giving the companies the perfect weapons to tackle the Customers perceived needs and wants. This is the key to success in Customer Experience. The companies which utilize true omnichannel technologies to collect data and use technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, to make sense of such data, are the ones that are thriving today and this trend will only get stronger.
Sergio’s checklist for CX strategy
In your point of view, what is the ultimate checklist for a good Customer Experience Strategy?
As far as I see it the ultimate checklist is the following one:
1) Create a robust Employee Experience Program making sure you are putting the Right People at the Right Place; 2) Put the Customer in the center of everything your company does, by means of mobilizing the Leadership and involving the entire company; 3) Use Benchmarking to understand how the Best Practices can be used in your business; 4) Review the Processes; 5) Upgrade the Tools (Tech Stack); 6) Develop your People; 7) Change the Culture to Customer Centricity; 8) Map your Customers’ Journey; 9) Listen to your Customers through as many channels as possible (Omnichannel, not only Multi-channel); 10) Understand your Customers’ Expectations; 11) Provide Fast, Simple, Convenient, End-to-End, Personalized Solutions; 12) Use as much technology as practically possible, where it makes sense to your business; 13) Make sure you never lose the Human Touch in every step of the way; 14) Put your best people in front of the Customer, representing your brand; 15) Use Empathy as a way of doing business; 16) Create an emotional connection of the Customer with your Brand, using Storytelling and Staging; 17) Use Service Recovery as a tool to transform your Customer into a Fan; 18) Always deliver Memorable Moments to your Customers, so they come back for more.
How much the role of Customer Experience changed in the social distancing era – what role the digital transformation has in this crisis?
In my opinion, the Pandemic did not bring anything new other than the social distancing itself, as everything else was already there. The Pandemic worked as a catalyst to trends that were already part of our lives in a larger or smaller scale. Having that said, companies had to pivot or reinvent themselves in a heartbeat, instead of evolving organically.
This scenario did put a few players out of the market, while others made a very competent transition to the new normal, while some are still struggling. The Customer Experience was severely impacted by Social Distancing, as it made human contact, where a lot of the Emotional Connections and Memorable Experiences lie. In the beginning, understanding this was a temporary thing and understanding the regulatory limitations, Customers accepted a much lower service level from the players in the marketplace.
Customers adapted, but guess what? Customers do not like the new Experience delivery methods. Very soon the Customers will require the same or better service levels than before. Unfortunately, the pandemic is being used as an excuse for those that were already underperforming before the pandemic and those will probably not survive when the Customers start losing their patience.
The digital transformation is what made it possible for a number of businesses to stay afloat during these unprecedented times, but now the companies will have to figure out ways to deliver the same level of satisfaction (human touch) using the new tools. Those companies cannot allow their savior to become their executioner. The beauty of this all, is that Customers will not let go the new convenient offering, but will not give up the good old ways. In other words, now is the time for the companies to broader their offering, preserving the old and adding the new. Customers will need more than before to be satisfied.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
My personal learning is that preoccupation only wastes energy and adds very little value. When there are too many things we do not control, it is a waste of energy trying to rule the unknown. We have to look back, understand our strengths and our inventory of knowledge to recombine those, to find new solutions to the problems we never saw before. It is time to fix what was broken and start by complaining, is not a start at all.
When it comes to Customer Experience, more than ever empathizing is the name of the game. Both ways. We understanding what the Customers are going through and help them find solutions and all the way around as well. As Joseph Michelli says in his latest book, we get stronger through adversity.
Last year, 2020, was the year of Webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
Being very frank, my favorite is the webinar series that I host, called “Chat with the Xperts”, as through these webinars I’ve been learning so much. I met incredible people and I had the chance of having conversations I never thought I would have. I talked to people that don’t call themselves CX Experts, but, in reality, they are, as they know the Customer Experiences from inside. We always try to bring different perspectives to usual subjects and that is quite exciting.
Learning new ways of thinking, by broadening our horizons. But I am sure you want to know about other people’s events, right? I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker or a moderator in 2 events which I loved. Not only because of the great curation of subjects, but by the online experience that was easy and engaging. Those were DX3 and Campus Party. The Experience they delivered was not as good, for me, as the presential Experiences, but they did an amazing job on trying to emulate that, fostering virtual networking.
It looks like working from home will stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
This is not an easy question to answer. Executives will, of course, have to master their capacity to handle technology, but more than that, they will have to develop the skills to manage and inspire their teams through technology. How to keep people working remotely but engaged. How to assure coordination using the digital tools made available to us. The gaps and overlaps, the mistakes and gaffes until now are forgivable, but those cannot continue indefinitely.
The Executives and leaders need to define clearly the rules of engagement as well as the applicable etiquette while using these alternative ways to mingle, meet, coordinate, execute and create within the business. However, given the extreme circumstances, including isolation, anxiety, and fear, the main concern must be with the employees’ mental health, so the executives must find ways to get closer than ever to their employees, so they can keep them assured of their value and contribution to the organization, as well as far from the likes of depression.
When it comes to Customer Experiences, there is a growing concern about how distancing may break the connections established, in person, before the pandemic. So, the Executives will have to figure out ways to deliver digital Experiences with Emotional Connections that are as strong as the ones delivered in person. Not an easy challenge, but quite exciting.
Last, but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I do not believe that any single metric can tell the whole story. I believe in a basket of metrics to compose a more complete view of the Customer satisfaction with your business. The NPS, CSAT, Churn Rate, Retention Rate, Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Effort Score, are all great, but none of them can be used as the sole source of truth. It is actually very easy to be tricked by the interpretation of what one single metric says.
I believe in using a basket with standard and market spread metrics, so you have references in the marketplace to compare your performance, but I also believe in specific, non-standard, customized metrics, adjusted to the specifics of your business and Customer base. The best metric is the one you discuss with your Customers and understands to what extent it actually translates their feelings about your business and their likelihood of coming back for more.
In my personal experience, out of the traditional ones, the one I like best is the NPS (Net Promoter Score), as it seems to me that Customers tend to more willing to express what they feel when asked whether they will recommend a product, service or experience to a friend or not. When you ask people how satisfied they are with you, it seems to me that many Customers will simply give you a 9, so they are coherent with their feeling that it was not perfect, but they will avoid giving low grades, as the next question is always “Why?” and they do not want to have this discussion, that may not be very objective.