“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.”
-Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
Resilience and agility. The two most-spoken aspects of the business arena today. Companies that have survived the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can confirm one thing: at the heart of their operations is incredible customer experience.
Yet, this can not be the only approach to guarantee success. Entrepreneurs will do everything they can to serve their customers with top-notch service until externalities make it a challenge.
So, what can you do to maintain a strong relationship with your customers? It boils down to one thing: make efforts and keep trying. The dedication you show will definitely be rewarding in the long run.
Your customers appreciate your attempts to keep them happy and that is what ensures success.
However, this drives us to an interminable question of how to achieve top-grade customer experience? How to improve our customer interactions? What do experts think about customer experience?
We talked about customer experience strategies and much more in our recent interview with Tiffany Carpenter—a thought leader and keynote speaker. She has spent 2 decades transforming customer experience for businesses across their sales, service, and marketing operations.
Currently, she guides organisations on the application of advanced analytics and AI to harness customer insights and deliver a highly-personalised service. In addition to being a member of the CMO council, she is the co-founder of Griswold, a boutique fitness concept that delivers personalised fitness programs based on data and analytics.
Here’s what she thinks of the contemporary CX approach and how businesses can guarantee a seamless customer journey.
Q1. What made you choose the field of CX?
I started out my career advising organisations on how to optimise their contact centres to balance customer service while optimising operating costs and profitability.
Back then, the contact centre was a growing channel and digital channels didn’t exist as a means of customer interaction. Websites were brochureware and phones weren’t smart. My career in CX has been a progression as the Internet, social media and smartphones empowered the customers; organisations needed to respond by adopting a more outside-in approach.
Q2. How would you define a good customer experience?
A good customer experience is the sum of every interaction that brands have had with their consumers across their entire relationship. It’s the way a customer feels and their emotive sentiment attached to the brand—both during and after all these interactions—and it’s the basis on which many consumers decide to keep transacting with a brand.
Consumers today have increasing expectations and more choices than ever before. To that end, a good customer experience not only meets expectations but exceeds them to make customers want to come back.
Q3. What’s the best way to ensure a seamless customer experience?
Consumers don’t think in channels and they don’t care that your organisation might have complex processes and siloed business units. They see one brand and expect a seamless and consistent experience regardless of how, when and where they choose to interact.
To ensure a seamless experience, organisations need an always-on approach to data and analytics which continuously monitor customer behaviour and pick-up customer insights. This always-on approach must also process and analyse all these signals and act on the insights in a timely way—often in real-time.
For most organisations, this means moving beyond the use of analytics just for reporting and business intelligence and investing in real-time analytics and automated decisions. It’s the only way to pick-up individual customer signals within the noise of data and to create personalised responses in real-time, regardless of the channel.
Q4. How would you define your journey as a customer experience expert?
It’s a personal learning process—a journey that will never end as the only constant is change. Knowing that the work I do is driving change for the better of an organisation, employees, and customers are very rewarding.
Q5. What are some of the best CX tips that you’ve offered? How do you feel when your customers achieve success with your aid?
Whether your goal is to fundamentally transform the customer experience or to improve it at the margins, your CX strategy needs to be clearly understood by the rest of the organisation. I recommend that companies start by defining their vision as a set of statements. These guidelines can act as guiding principles which will drive the behaviour of the entire organisation.
Next up, you need to understand your customers and identify the gap between their expectations and their actual experiences. Gathering data is the starting point but it’s important to ensure you are asking the right questions of the data. Check if you are only asking the “what” and “how” questions but that you are also asking the important “who” and “why” questions. Who are my customers as individuals? Why do they behave as they do?
My final tip would be to avoid waiting on lengthy IT projects and big-budget programmes to build a single customer view and instead prioritise action today using the data you have available right now.
Q6. How do you think inspiring keynote speaker performances help businesses deliver superior customer experience?
Keynote speakers bring an outside perspective and can share industry trends and tips as well as real-life experiences. An inspiring CX keynote speaker can get everyone involved, share the vision of customer experience, help audience members step into their customer shoes and energise the entire organisation to get on board and play their part in driving customer experience towards the future goal.
Q7. Please share an instance where a company successfully went the extra mile for their customers.
Covid-19 created an unexpected and extreme set of customer challenges for every organisation. Despite this, brands across every industry have risen to the occasion. Many of them have acted decisively and quickly to make tremendous transformations in the customer experience, breaking down traditional barriers to change and find new ways of working more effectively and efficiently.
In fact, research by SAS Software and 3Gem reveals that a quarter (25%) of customers surveyed noted an improvement in the customer experience during the lockdown.
The pandemic and resulting recession are pushing customers to the brink both financially and mentally and I have been heartened by so many organisations, from large well-known brands to small family businesses that have stepped up to support their customers and communities, through the crisis, winning customer loyalty in the process.
Q8. Tell us about your journey of becoming the co-founder of Griswold Studios.
Health and fitness are fundamental to our quality of life and regardless of your age, there’s strong evidence that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. But the business model in the gym industry relies on aggressively selling memberships, not on customer outcomes.
How many people do you know who pay an annual gym membership and turned up once or maybe twice per year? It can also be quite an intimidating experience for many. As an avid health and fitness enthusiasts, my husband and I determined to shake up the model. We have built a boutique fitness studio, focused on customer outcomes, specialised experiences, a sense of community and inclusion, and flexible participation.
Our business model is built on customer experience from the moment a customer walks in the door to the moment they leave. We started with our customers’ wants and needs and worked backwards in designing our space and offerings.
We’ve hired employees who are committed to our CX vision and delivering successful customer outcomes for every member. The best thing is, I have been able to establish and grow a business with my husband, whilst balancing my full-time role at Head of Customer Experience Solutions at SAS Software, the global analytics, and artificial intelligence leader.
Q9. In the two decades of your career, there has been much advancement in AI and related technology. What do you think of using these advanced technologies in delivering CX?
Everywhere you look today you can see Artificial intelligence is making our lives easier. Smart speakers and smart appliances are infiltrating our homes, whilst businesses are transforming and automating legacy processes. At the same time, organisations everywhere are looking to compete on CX, and AI has an important role to play in turning customer data into insights and delivering the type of real-time, individualised experiences that customers have come to expect.
Over the next few years, organisations will increasingly harness the power of machine learning to predict customer needs and automate highly personalised experiences at scale. Self-learning algorithms will determine the best next action for each individual customer, from product recommendations and customer service right through to delivering personalised pricing and offers. AI is already being adopted faster than the arrival of the internet and it’s delivering hyper-personalised customer experiences across almost every industry today.
Q10. Are you working on a new book? If yes, can you tell us what we can look forward to?
I do have a book in the works. It’s still in its early stages, but I’m planning to provide practical advice to help executives understand the promise of AI with concrete examples, and how it can be used to compete on customer experience. Luckily, I’m able to draw on the experience of my company SAS Software, a leader in this space. I’ve been interviewing colleagues and customers to bring together a wide range of views, experiences, and practical examples.
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