Hi Simon, tell us about yourself, your background, and how you got to the CX space?
I’ve been a product manager for eight years, six of those years in e-commerce. I’ve been in the CX space throughout that entire time. I believe a good product manager envisions an end-to-end customer experience when developing a product or service and verifies that the product or service experience delights customers along every step of the customer’s journey.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Consumer reviews are a good data source for your Voice of Customer program. Taken together with your own website feedback forms, feedback collected from your contact center, and your website analytics platform, you can paint a very holistic picture of your customer’s journey. Consumer reviews, specifically, provide good insight on the friction points your customers experience after they choose to transact with you (e.g., how you handle shipping carrier delays, your returns process, the capacity to which your customer service team can help the customer, etc.).
In your POV, what is the ultimate checklist for a good customer experience strategy?
I think a CX checklist depends on the type of customer you are servicing, the most competitive value propositions you and your company can provide with your product/service when solving your customer’s problem, how you ensure the promise of those value props are kept once your customer has decided to do business with you, and a strong feedback loop so you know which areas of your product/service need to improve. At CarParts.com, we’re focused on connecting our customers with the parts they need to get back on the road as quickly as possible, which ties into every facet of our CX checklist :
- Site speed – How quickly does our website load on 3G and 4G speeds?
- The landing experience – How can we clearly and concisely convey our value props when a customer lands on our website? (i.e., guaranteed fitment, secure checkout, fast shipping, easy returns process)
- The product discovery experience – How do we guide a customer from hundreds of thousands of different SKUs to the exact product the customer needs in a fast and user-friendly way? (i.e., easy-to-use vehicle selector, state-of-the-art search engine, clear navigation trees, product options)
- The transaction experience – How do we allow customers to transact in whichever method they find most secure? (i.e., our own checkout, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay)
- The post-purchase experience – How do we ensure that we meet the promises we’ve made to our customers? (i.e., opening more distribution centers to get even closer to the customer, providing customers with a 90-day return policy, a self-service return portal, and a well-staffed customer service team that can help our customer if they get stuck anywhere along the way)
Define/Measure/Analyze/Improve/Control – The great thing about your CX roadmap is that you can always find opportunities to further improve your customers’ experience. They may not tell you how to do things right, but they can tell you what is wrong. Defining the vital few problems, measuring the baseline, and creating solutions that enhance your customer’s experience is a great way to get ahead of your competition.
How much has the role of customer experience changed in the social distancing era? What role has digital transformation had in this crisis?
The role of customer experience has not fundamentally changed. Companies should continue to solve customer problems and delight customers to the best of their ability. But the platform and the delivery method for a good customer experience have changed. The era of social distancing has accelerated digital adoption by 5 years, according to McKinsey. Of those consumers that were forced to transact digitally in 2020, either to maintain or not completely disrupt their lifestyle, 75% indicated that they would continue to use digital channels even when COVID and social distancing restrictions go away. That means that companies that have not figured out how to provide exceptional customer experiences in a digital format could start to see negative returns, even as things go back to “normal.”
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?
I think the biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is that a long-term strategy that is based on what is valuable today, 10 years from now, or even 50 years from now, remains a robust strategy even during times of crisis. CarParts.com has been a pure-play e-commerce business, so we were well-positioned to capitalize on the accelerated digital adoption. But being a website storefront is not called out at all in our strategy. We put our energy into providing our customers the right part, at the right time, and at the right place. Whether that is through our flagship website, over the phone, email, SMS, chat, Facebook messenger, your local parts store, or any other channel that has yet to be developed, the CarParts.com team will be working on crafting an omnichannel experience for our customers wherever they are.
2020 was the year of webinars and online events. What was your favorite one?
Chrome Dev Summit. It’s very interesting to see how the world wide web is evolving over time. It’s inspiring to see so many creative people turn a type 0 civilization phone line into a valuable tool that can help so many people in almost every area of their life.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should executives gear up to the changing times?
Centralizing and securing your organization’s communication and process flows into some digital format is an immediate action item. But I think more than that; executives need to be keeping an eye on the burnout that may be building up across their teams. Keeping your team motivated and engaged in a remote environment through non-work- related digital events, having more (or less) one-on-ones, blocking out time for pure working sessions, and providing resources to your team on maintaining a healthy work-life balance are a few ways to tackle this challenge. Our company has implemented several initiatives to promote work-life balance and bring employees together virtually, including a meditation program, mental health & wellness reimbursement program, quarterly virtual events (e.g., most recently, a live virtual concert in partnership with Sofar Sounds), and giving employees half-day Fridays and the last Friday of each month off to disconnect, recharge, and spend time with loved ones.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I think NPS is a great foundational metric for monitoring your customer experience. It can provide insight into changes in your customer lifetime value and conversion rates. But for me, nothing beats talking to your customers.