Hi Shep, let’s start by hearing a bit about yourself and how you became involved in CX.
My speciality is customer service and experience expertise - there’s a big difference between the two. ‘Service’ used to mean ‘experience’, but one day someone decided customer experience goes beyond the experience and instead includes every interaction people had with a company, from product design to packaging.
I believe the majority of customer experience is still related to the service the client receives. Even if part of this is automated, they are still experiencing an interaction with the company that goes beyond the product they’re buying.
Take Amazon for example, and think about their customer journey map which is exquisite from start to end. Experiencing one click ordering over first time ordering is worth the time it takes setting up, you can track your delivery from start to finish and products always arrive well packaged and in good condition.
It is paramount to look at every step of this journey and check for any loopholes.
What do you think have been the most significant CX advances in recent years?
I think an interesting change we’re seeing right now is customer service getting mixed with the operations department. Let’s look at an airline for example: if the employees are charming but its airplanes never show up on time, what are the chances of you using that service again?
Alternatively, if the plane is always on time but the people treat you badly, you end up in the same position. Companies are realizing their operational KPIs are going have to be mixed into the service side, because one can’t function without the other.
What do you think is the most under-acknowledged challenge that brands are facing in this area?
Most companies believe that a huge percentage of people, like 80%+, feel like service and experience are important places to focus on in the next few years - that is wrong.
The problem is that ‘rockstar companies’ have educated the customers to the point where their expectations are growing faster and higher than ever, and brands can’t keep up with them anymore.
This will catch up eventually, but companies who are wondering why their customer service efforts aren’t delivering any results - the problem is rooted in their clients’ expectations.
But what's interesting is if you look at the customer satisfaction scores, they’re increasing. It’s just not increasing enough.
What are the best examples of innovation in customer experience that you have seen?
Every innovative company right now is attempting to achieve one overall key result: a more convenient experience.
The goal is to reduce friction as much as possible. A good example of this is Uber, an $8bn disruptor which has massively rattled the industry with their tech. Look at Addison Lee, London’s premier car service provider, they have innovated themselves by adding some of the similar technology and they’re eating other traditional providers for lunch.
Another great example is 1-800-Flowers, which has created GWYN: Gifts When You Need. It’s like a Siri for flowers which uses AI to ask you different sets of questions and then gives you personal gift suggestions based on your answers.
This is quite a simple but effective one too. Companies are using YouTube to enhance their CX and it’s working really well. I bought a ping pong table recently, but the instructions were in German - luckily the brand had set up a YouTube tutorial in English on how to build it and it was very simple for me to follow the video to get my table setup.
How do you regard the struggle around interrupting customer experience and ensuring customers get the help they need – e.g. pop-ups online/assistants offline?
Companies have to acknowledge that their customers differ a lot - some might need your support, some might know exactly what they’re after. A good salesperson is going to recognize this and know how to approach somebody. That’s why it’s important that backend technology gives staff access to additional information about who comes into their stores.
Another common mistake is for store staff to ask “Can I help you?”, which will only yield a simple yes or no as a reply. Instead they should be asking “What can I help you find today?”.
What advice would you offer to traditional brands looking to leverage their online presence?
You must identify what your service and vision are. If you’re an onsite, brick-and-mortar retailer with a great reputation for a service experience and you decide to go online you have to ask yourself whether this will be inline with the experience you create in store.
You need to play to your strengths. Stay congruent to what you want your customer to know you for. If a client can’t identify what you’re great at, you’re going to be lost in mediocrity.
Where do you see CX growing and evolving in the next 5x years?
The customer is dictating of what they want. Companies that succeed will create an easier and frictionless experience. Amazon are a great example of doing everything right because they create the easiest possible way to do business with them and that's what it’s all about.
AI is going to be strong. It's happening already -- you’re going to see AI not just as a chatbot that supports the customer, but also as a service which delivers client data to the employees, facilitating a better CX.