Hi Tony, tell us about yourself, your background?
My original training was as an engineer, but I was more interested in why things fell down, as opposed to building them. It was a natural step into the insurance sector, which is data-infused, and that gave me the bug for using analytics. I spent the latter part of my career in a worldwide role for one of the major technology companies focusing on analytics and left the corporate world in 2016 to focus on mentoring, advisory, and other support roles, especially for start-ups.
I also enjoy writing. My first book in 2016 considered the use of analytics in the insurance sector, the second in 2018 about AI and the Future of Work – which will affect almost all professions and industries. The most recent in 2020 considered AI and the Future of Banking, and my fourth book will be published in 2022.
Home is near London, UK and normally I would spend about one-third of the year traveling. The rest is spent either working or writing.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
I’m not convinced that brands have yet fully recognized the strength of data from online commerce or the power of consumer reviews. Increasingly I think the focus is moving within the value chain to what we might describe as the ‘moment of truth.’ That’s when the consumer properly and fully experience the ‘brand promise,’ which is the delivery of the product or service.
But sometimes, the brand just doesn’t live up to their promise, and the consumer vents their anger and frustration through consumer reviews. I think brands overlook consumer reviews at their peril. It’s a real opportunity for the brand to gain better insight into their service delivery, product reliability, and competitive differentiators and to take remedial action where needed.
What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?
I’m a great believer in greater understanding of the customer journey. The journey recognizes the link between the customer’s experience and the understanding and management of their emotions during that time. If we can understand that emotional journey, then we are in a better position to satisfy all their needs. If we are clever, we can even influence those emotions.
Think of it in these terms. The customer travels along a virtual emotional rollercoaster during most of their purchasing decisions and throughout the delivery or fulfillment process. The highs of engaging with a positive brand and having a smooth online experience often contrast with the lows of late delivery and a poor quality product arriving on the doorstep. If we can make that rollercoaster ride as free of bumps as possible, then the ride will be more pleasurable. And it’s still quite possible to throw in a few added-value thrills along the way as well.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Sadly I think that many organizations still only pay ‘lip service’ to personalization and customer-centricity.
We often think in terms of segmentation of one, but the reality is that we are a long way from providing the degree of granularity that our customers really want and deserve. The ultimate in personalization and customer-centricity once occurred in the old-fashioned corner shop where the customer was recognized and properly greeted, and there was a level of intimacy in the relationship. Those days are long passed, but I think we are not beyond replicating them in some way, both through technology and in better-operating models.
I genuinely think that as we progress with more effective advanced analytics and AI, we’ll get closer to that improved situation. I’m a great believer in the potential for AI-infused chatbots, especially when working alongside human support. But we need to realize that it is not just a technical problem to resolve but also one which requires a greater understanding of customer behaviors. We need to have technologists sitting alongside behavioral psychologists, perhaps even just virtually in the current times.
What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?
There’s no shortage of advice about how to reduce or remove the CX Gap, such as better team working and greater empowerment. This works well within the confines of an organization but starts to fail where there are external organizations involved. I think there should be more emphasis on managing the customer experience across the entire supply chain. For example, it doesn’t matter how well the brand is recognized or promoted if the joints are poor on the self-assembly furniture, which was delivered two weeks later than promised.
I suspect constant pressure on costs and chasing profit, whilst understandable, is tending to undermine the CX journey. Zero-hour contracts might also be a factor in adding to that problem. I’m sure there’s a link between how companies treat their employees and how they treat their customers.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
2020 was a good year for catching up on long outstanding reading and even revisiting some old favorites. Yet again, I dipped into my old favorite ‘Re-Imagine’ by Tom Peters, which I always find to be provocative, entertaining, and outrageous in equal measures. Not only does he remind us that organizations need to think about going beyond solutions and provide ‘experiences,’ and also he reminds us of the emotional element of those experiences.
Tony’s predictions for the future of CX
What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?
I really hope that we take some time out to learn what has happened over the past 12 months and understand the consequences.
My guess is that we will think harder about the concept of ‘showrooming’ – where we need to inspect items physically before buying them online. And also the emotional power of the impulse purchase, which seems to satisfy a deeper craving.
I think these are fundamentally behavioral issues, so perhaps there will be a greater focus on understanding customer behavior and perhaps even how to manage it better.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I thrive on metrics. Almost any information which an organization can get from anywhere all adds to overall customer insight. There’s a big range, from NPS through to social media analytics, and each one has its own fans. I suppose the one which I like the most is that of the measurement of ‘trust.’ I’m sure that if it were more widely used then, it would gain in popularity.