Tech Unknown | Episode 2 | Season 2
Featuring guests Stephanie Thum, Jeannie Walters, and Mortiz Zimmerman and host Tamara McCleary
Customer experience (CX) has always played a part in gaining and retaining customers. But businesses used to have other differentiators as well, from physical location to price of the product. Now, CX is the last best hope for businesses to build ongoing relationships with customers.
But what does customer experience really mean, both for customers who demand it and businesses who are trying to meet that demand? And how can businesses use their existing data to consistently exceed customer expectations?
That’s not an idle question. Eighty percent of CEOs believe they’re delivering great customer experience. But only 8% of consumers agree. That’s a sizable gap that we have to first acknowledge, then work to close.
In this episode, our customer experience journey goes from the howling void of the experience gap, to a high-octane race track, all the way to a bustling international airport. Tamara McCleary interviews CX experts Jeannie Walters, Stephanie Thum, and SAP’s Moritz Zimmerman to get at the heart of how businesses can improve their customer experience.
Listen to learn:
How data analysis can identify CX issues and opportunities throughout an organization
How businesses can make CX part of their philosophy of operation
How to turn a data-driven insight into a human-to-human customer experience
Interested in learning more? Found out how to Make Every Moment Matter.
About Our Guests:
“You need cross-disciplinary teams of people, like a CX executive committee, to set up the strategy, to review data, to assign resources and make decisions…You need project teams to actually do things, not just look at the data, but actually do things.” Stephanie Thum
Jeannie Walters, CCXP, is a global customer experience and patient experience keynote speaker, trainer, and workshop leader with over a decade of experience. She regularly publishes on the Experience Investigators blog.
“When we think about customer experience, we think of how human everybody is and how when we have a bad customer experience, we relate to that on such a core emotional level. And data actually helps us find those moments of emotion and react to them.” Jeannie Walters
Did you miss our last episode?
Check out our previous episode with Ronald Van Loon and Richard Howells: The Secret Weapon For CX And More. Click here to listen.
Tamara: Welcome to Tech Unknown, a podcast to prepare your organization for the tech-centered future of business. I’m Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium.
Our big umbrella topic this season is data: Operational data from the inner workings of your business, plus experience data from the customer-facing side. When you can share this data across your organization — collect, process and analyze it — you can make operations more efficient, reduce costs, improve your customer service, and much, much more.
This time around we’re taking on a massive topic, one that affects every single business in any industry: Customer experience.
It’s hard to overstate just how powerful customer experience can be. It’s almost magic, the way a great experience can create value and… you know wait. speaking of experiences, allow me to show you instead of tell you. Come with me to my favorite restaurant… Sorry, Francoise. We’ll keep it down. This is a very swanky place, I just love it. The waiters are in tuxedos, and they treat you like royalty. The chandeliers are crystal, the tablecloths are linen, the plates fine china. There is even a live string quartet in the corner to set the perfect mood.
All of this ambiance does something magical: It adds value for the customer. The lighting, the music, the crisp white tablecloths and beautiful plating… these things don’t change the way the food tastes, but they all contribute to an unforgettable meal.
Of course, the quality of the food is part of the experience. The chef works a brilliant kind of magic in the kitchen. I, no amount of ambiance would keep customers coming if the food wasn’t deliciously satisfying to the pallet.
But at the heart of it, people pay a premium to dine at Le Canard because of how eating there makes them feel. And what’s more? They’re happy to do it. They leave satisfied, and not just because their bellies are full.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s Moritz Zimmerman, CTO of SAP Customer Experience, on why every modern business should be obsessed with CX.
Moritz: Experience is really the differentiator out there. We live in a world where, literally, anybody can get any kind of goods and services anywhere these days with the click of a button. So, that’s not a differentiator anymore. It used to be if you had a store in town, you could sell to this audience. But now, everybody can buy online, even if there’s no stores there.
So, it tends to be that there’s a dividing line between those companies that are doing well, that are on the winner side, and those that don’t, which is really, they deliver a fantastic experience. And you can see this in stock market performance. You can see this in customer satisfaction. You could see this like in all those kind of cases. And it’s really, that is becoming really the dividing line and the thing that matters. That’s what we call the experience economy, where really delivering a fantastic experience is the most important thing, actually, for companies now.
Tamara: Well, I’m convinced. Let’s go get some of that exceptional customer experience for OUR business! We can just pull into the drive-through of Customer Experience Mart, here….
[Static voice: Welcome to Customer Experience Mart, can I help you?]
Yes, I’ll take the ultra-grande CX combo, please, with extra positive reviews and super-sized customer loyalty. Does that come with a drink?
[Static voice: Uh, sorry, no, that’s extra.]
Well, THAT isn’t a great customer experience, is it?
[Static voice: Ummm… let me get my manager.]
Never mind. It’s clear there’s more to providing a great customer experience than just placing an order. But, like every business buzzword, CX seems to mean a lot of different things to different people, depending on who’s buying… and what’s being sold. Let’s start by breaking it down from the customer perspective and the business perspective. Here’s Jeannie Walters.
Jeannie: Hi, it’s Jeannie Walters. And I am the CEO of Experience Investigators. I’m also a keynote speaker, trainer, and workshop leader and a LinkedIn learning instructor for many customer experience courses.
CRM, customer relationship management, customer experience management tools, those are great. That is not customer experience. Customer experience is actually what the customer experiences. And so the only way to really understand that is to look at it from that customer perspective. So saying that you have a robust CRM program is not enough to say that you have a robust and really powerful customer experience for your customers.
Tamara: That makes sense for the customer side – but how do businesses go about driving great customer experience? Stephanie Thum says you can’t do it a la carte.
Stephanie: This is Stephanie Thum, I’m a certified customer experience professional. I’m the founder of a company called Practical CX. And I have about 15 years of experience as a practitioner and a consultant in the field and practice of customer experience.
Customer experience is a business discipline or it’s a way of doing things. It’s really a mindset. And it’s an approach that you interweave into the fabric of your company culture. And customer experience actually carries with it a range of competencies and skills that you need to operationalize into every corner of your business. That is to say, CX is not an add-on to your business.
Tamara: And there’s the problem. If we think of customer experience as this thing we can just graft onto the top of the business, we’re likely not delivering it as well as we think we are. That leaves businesses and customers on opposite sides of… The customer experience gap!
Moritz: I think 93% of company CEO’s, when you ask them, “Do you think your business is delivering a great experience?” they would say, “Hell yeah, of course.” Now, if you ask the customers on the other side, then only 8% would agree. So that’s this gap between self-perception and then all the perception from a customer’s perspective. And hence, that’s the experience gap where there’s a lot to improve, and listening to what your customers really want, and acting on that.
Tamara: So how do we get across the experience gap? If only we had… oh, I don’t know…. wings? Or at least an energy drink that makes you FEEL like you have wings?
Moritz: So, a great example is our customer, Red Bull. Most customers might know them from the energy drinks. But they’re also, now, a pretty big media company. They sponsor a lot of action sports, from all kinds of crazy things. You know, there was this one athlete that jumped from space down to the Earth that was filmed. They do crazy airline races, where airplanes fly under bridges. They do Formula 1, and many other extreme action sports as well. But they also have, for example, a lot of web properties, for example, online stores and so on. So, they use personalization to really get to an understanding of what I’m interested in as a consumer.
So I might be interested in airplanes flying under bridges, I might like Formula 1, but the guy jumping out of space, really not what I’m into. And then they use that to really understand my interest by my behavior of what I watch on their website, for example. And then they optimize the following experience, how they engage with me when it comes to invitations to events, when it comes to going to their merchandising store.
Which is important because nowadays, the screen we all use the most is the smallest screen we have, which is our phone. You don’t have that much real estate there and I don’t want to see 40 different things. I don’t have the time to click through all that. So if they can, like, literally optimize the experience to what I’m interested in right now, that can be really a good service to me and then make my experience more enjoyable.
Tamara: At the heart of it, then, it takes smart use of data to drive a great customer experience. It’s that combination of experience data and operational data, consolidated on a platform, to generate insight.
Moritz: Yeah. So, the O data, the operational data, has been around for a long, long time already. And then if you try to analyze that through this is intelligence and so on, and it’s always been about the “what.” You know, what was going on.
Tamara: For example, let’s say you have a fashion company and you’re seeing a spike in return rates for a specific product. That’s the operation side – you’re noticing a trend going above normal levels. But the big question, the WHY? That’s the experience.
Moritz: That’s the experience, that, “How was the experience?” And then maybe, this case, it turns out that customers didn’t like the fit. Maybe the product turned out to be a little bit smaller than you think with the regular sizing.
And if you correlate these two things, then you realize, “Okay, first of all, was this a one-off or did you see a pattern? Did it happen multiple times?” And then you can draw a conclusion from that, which is, you can then, for example, optimize your product description in your web store, and say, “Look, this product actually ends up on the smaller side in the fit. So that’s one example. And of course, it involves a lot of technology underneath. Like, for example, key learning to analyze the customer’s response, that, you know, there’s a fit issue, you know, correlating the data, is this an abnormal thing or is it just an exception? And then giving business users the tools to visualize that reaction on whether they’ve discovered something that’s worthwhile.
So building out a place like a customer data platform to collect that data and make sense of it, harmonize it, and then use it to drive a better experience, I think is a key strategy that we’re seeing, that enterprises are adopting these days.
Tamara: Of course, the final piece here is not just identifying a problem or opportunity. Technology is incredibly good at helping you spot these intervention points, like Moritz says. But the data isn’t going to create the experience all by itself. That’s why we have to talk about the process and the people involved, too. Here’s Stephanie again:
Stephanie: To really win in the experience economy, specifically, I recommend customer experience governance. Governance is not sexy. It’s really hard work. It demands a rhythm and cadence to be successful. You need cross-disciplinary teams of people, like a CX executive committee, to set up the strategy, to review data, to assign resources, and make decisions. And you need an operations review committee, for example, as part of your governance structure to review data and ensure that you’re doing what you need to do to identify the root causes of some of the problems that the data may be showing you that you’re having. You need project teams to actually do things, not just look at the data, but actually do things.
Tamara: Actually doing the things! What a concept, right? But actually getting it done takes strong leadership. Jeannie, who do you think should be in charge of customer experience? Where are they on the org chart?
Jeannie: I like to think of a fictional creature, like a wizard.
No. Really, it has to come from the top, and I know that’s such a cliché answer, but it’s so true. The CEO and the C-level has to believe in this as just a way of doing business. Because if you basically give somebody a crown and say, “You’re the king of CX in this organization,” but you give them no power, you give them no accountability, you don’t empower them to tell other groups what to do, then there’s no way they can actually lead CX. CX is not separate. It’s not finite. It’s something that should be woven through the entire organization DNA. And so the only way to do that is if you’re really living it at the top by both example and accountability.
Tamara: Okay, let’s bring it all together, then. When you have an organizational commitment to customer experience, AND the technology to collect and activate data, AND you’re ready to act on the insights you’re getting out of the data… what does it all look like when it really takes flight?
Here we are in the Philadelphia International Airport to talk about how one airline is driving better customer experience… yawn… woof, I could use a cup of coffee.
[Voice: Here you go!]
Thanks, what do I owe you?
[Voice: Free of charge, courtesy of JetBlue]
Well, thank you. Wait a minute…Moritz, what was that about?
Moritz: There’s this company called JetBlue Airlines in the U.S. And they measured customer feedback through qualitative surveys, but also through things like the promoter score. And they found that in the Philadelphia metro area, in their airports there, there was dissatisfaction on the passengers’ side … for early morning flights, that there were no offers around coffee or drinks. And that’s kinda like… when I want an early morning flight, the most important thing, other than making it on time to the plane, is where do I get a coffee? Yeah? It wakes me up. And so then, there was nothing open. Flights were just too early for shops to be open. So then they reacted on that.
Tamara: Okay, but how did they figure out that was the problem? I mean, besides coming down to the airport and seeing people yawning…
Moritz: They use Qualtrics for reaching out to their customers. Like getting sort of like their opinion on, and then basically localizing that with their operator. That’s the experience data, the X data, and then they correlate that with their operational data they have. Let’s say, the flight departure times, for example in this case, to make it very simple. And then realizing that, “We have an issue around early morning flights in that area.” And then you double-click on that, and figure out, “What can we do?”
They basically put out a small fence and, you know, handed out juice and coffee, and really drove a significant increase in customer satisfaction. It’s those little things, if you do it right, that really create loyalty on your customer base. And then no wonder that JetBlue is probably one of the airlines that U.S. travelers love the most.
Tamara: See that, to me, is a perfect example of a customer experience story. It started with collecting and observing data, but it ends with someone handing me a hot cup of coffee. All stories should end that way, by the way. But it’s a worthwhile reminder that customer experience can be data-driven without being robotic and impersonal. Do you not agree, Jeannie?
Jeannie: I think that when we talk about data, we often think about it as this hard, cold math-driven thing, and people kind of shy away from that. And when we think about customer experience, we think of how human everybody is, and how, when we have a bad customer experience, we relate to that on such a core emotional level. And data actually helps us find those moments of emotion and react to them. However, we have to actually know what we’re looking for. We have to understand our customers enough so that we can really apply what we learn from the data in the right moments on their journey. That’s where you can see the magic happen. That’s where, when you walk into a restaurant and they recognize you – even though you haven’t been there a while – but they know that on your reservation you said it was your anniversary, and they treat you really well. Those little moments, yes, that’s driven by data, but it’s fulfilled by humans, and we have to remember that.
Tamara:And that, to me, is the number one takeaway. If I made a movie trailer for customer experience, it might go something like this…
Driven by technology. Fueled by data. Powered by people. Coming soon to a leading business near you: Customer experience. By humans. For humans.
Modern businesses can’t rely on their geographical location, or a totally unique product, or even the lowest price to get customers to choose them. It all comes down to which business can provide the best experience.
Let’s go back to Le Canard Affame to bring it all home.
Le Canard doesn’t have happy hour specials and they don’t have the best prices. They don’t even try to compete on price. In fact, there are no prices on the menu! They don’t specialize in exotic or unusual food, either. No, what really sets Le Canard Affame above its competitors is good food paired with exceptional experiences
In fact, a recent survey from asked 15,000 people about customer experience. Over half said they would PAY MORE for a better experience. And 3/4ths said a good experience is key to developing brand loyalty.
In other words, when you use your X and O data to power consistently exceptional customer experience, you can make people feel respected, understood, seen and valued, and they’ll keep coming back. And more likely than not, they’ll bring some friends along.
Thanks for listening to Tech Unknown. You can find transcripts and more at The Digitalist, that’s digitalistmag.com. And make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. I’m Tamara McCleary, and until next time: Stay sharp, stay curious, and keep exploring the unknown.
Read more: digitalistmag.com