In our latest series of interviews we’ve set out to truly understand customer experience, to establish where it is now, and find out where it will go next.
This week we’re speaking to Adrian Swinscoe, a CX consultant who has been growing and developing customer-focused businesses for 20 years. He has previously worked with Shell, FT, and The Economist Group, and is author of the Amazon bestseller "How to Wow."
Hi Adrian, tells us about yourself and how you got involved in the world of CX.
I started working for myself in 2004. However, after a few years doing some great projects and general consulting, I started to see how things were developing on the internet regarding needing to establish your own identity and ‘footprint’ -- so to do that I started thinking about what I could write about.
I really got going with that when I figured out that I should write about something I didn’t like and wanted to change. That led me to bad customer service. It’s something everyone relates to and nobody likes.
So I started interviewing experts and writing about how it could change. My first book was published in 2010 and, as interest in CX grew, my blog gained popularity and I started writing for Forbes. My most recent book (How to Wow) came out in 2016 and became an Amazon bestseller.
I’m not from a contact center environment or strictly marketing environment, so I get to look at CX more systematically and ask “Why does that make sense? How does that work?”
What have been the most significant advances in CX in previous years?
The biggest change from 2010 to 2016 has to be the advent of technology and the explosion of channels.
Most large organizations are serving their customers over 9 different channels and that number is set to grow to 11 in the next 12-18 months.
The problem is, about 70% of businesses say they only have 1-2 of those channels connected to each other. There’s a lack of communication and collaboration across each one.
The prospect is always there but it feels like we’re distracted like the magpies or the dogs in the cartoon UP. There’s “shiny object syndrome” because it’s possibly more interesting, more sexy, easier to pitch the new tech rather than doing the basics brilliantly.
If you think about the research that comes out and talks to customers, I don’t think more shiny objects is the best way to establish trust. Customers like and value reliability and consistency.
The main challenges around CX can seem obvious at the moment. What do you think is the most under-acknowledged challenge that brands are facing?
The things that have really stood out are the people who have really thought about their strategy. Adding more tech is not a strategy.
You have to decide how you’ll use service or experience as a way to differentiate yourself.
How do you regard the balance between interrupting customer experience and ensuring customers get the help they need – e.g. pop-ups online/assistants offline?
I think when you get some of these pop-ups, it shows a lack of confidence of what they want to be. It strikes me as being slightly desperate when people are trying to push customers so hard to convert.
I heard P&G had just reduced their digital marketing budget by 140m dollars in the summer and their sales went up. So maybe the strategy is don’t piss people off.
What are the best examples of innovation in customer experience that you have seen?
The usual suspects prevail. They keep getting things right. It’s almost ingrained for them now. The thing I find interesting is when people talk about good or bad experiences, they invariably talk about human beings. Almost never, has anybody ever praised the importance of a chatbot for delivering exceptional customer experience.
That's not to say the tech won’t keep advancing -- but I’m really interested in how we can use technology to enable our service and enable our people, and allow us to be the best versions of ourselves.
How do we use tech to eliminate the mundane elements that are boring and repetitive and empower people who really want to do a good job, regardless of how qualified they are?
How do we give them the tools to be the rock stars that they are?
How do you see CX growing and evolving in the next 5 years?
We will see the biggest noise around AI, as well as automation through things like IoT. We’ll also see a lot of VR and AR elements coming into play.
I’d like to hope that the people winning at CX start to understand it isn’t a discipline or a department or a specialism -- it’s a way of doing things and is connected to everything.
From structure to how you balance human/tech to how you reward and incentivize staff or even design the employee experience to help people flourish.
This is going to require a new leadership mentality, less bureaucracy and more facilitation.