We talk to Global Innovation Evangelist Brian Solis about what customer experiences of the future look like and how to design them strategically.
3 themes pulled from a full year of conversations with CX leaders
Exactly one year ago, we published our very first episode of Now Brands Talk. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing leaders in sales, support, and customer experience at brands like Square, Carta, Assembled, Zendesk, and many more.
Today, we’re putting a bow around season one of this podcast, and I’d like to wrap up the year by reflecting on the main themes that came up in our 26 episodes — empathy, empowerment, and holistic CX strategy.
The first theme is the importance of empathy. This theme bubbled up the most and it doesn’t surprise me at all. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When we’re talking about the customer experience, there’s nothing more important than understanding how customers are feeling and what they want or need at any given moment. It’s this lack of empathy that produces the most frustrating CX like getting passed around from one agent to another, having to deal with a clunky chatbot that doesn’t understand anything, or being treated like royalty before you make a purchase then immediately ignored after the company has taken your money. We talked about this most recently in a conversation with Brian Solis, VP Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce.
So often as CX leaders, we are super familiar with all the technology and processes behind the scenes and we forget what the day-to-day experience is like for a real customer.
When designing a customer experience, it’s important to take a step back every so often and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It helps to ask yourself:
- What does my customer want to do?
- How might they be feeling?
- How do I want them to feel?
- What do I need to offer that takes all this into consideration?
For example, let’s say you’re an ecommerce that sells outdoor gear and a customer is shopping for hiking pants. They are browsing the selection.
- What does the customer want to do? They want to make a decision on which hiking pants to buy.
- How is the customer feeling? Confused. There are a lot of options and they all look the same, they’re not familiar with how you name your product lines, and they’re quickly becoming overwhelmed. This confusion might stand in the way of them making a purchase.
- How do I want them to feel? Guided and confident in their selection so they proceed to purchase the product.
- What do I need to do? I can set up a proactive conversational AI bot to make their life easier and reduce their effort. A chatbot can ask the customer “what are you looking for?” and a series of follow-up questions that narrow down the options, until finally the bot can make a recommendation. The customer doesn’t need to wait to talk to an agent, they get immediate, instant guidance and they don't even need to ask for it!
In the case of a product recommendation, conversational AI would be the best route for resolution. But there are other cases where the best route would be to connect a customer with an agent.
This takes us to our second theme, empowering your agents.
If you’re effectively using automation to interact with your customers, that puts a premium on the conversations that human agents are having with them. When your human team no longer has to answer low-value questions like how to reset a password, they’re suddenly available to have more and more valuable interactions with customers — conversations that drive customer loyalty, revenue, and lifetime value. So the role of a CX agent has become that much more important because these individuals are poised to have a much larger impact on the business. Many of the CX leaders we spoke to shared how they have been able to invest in their team’s professional development — listen back to our episode with Justin Gonzalez, Global Head of Customer Empowerment at Square to hear about how his team has grown and evolved alongside their automation strategy.
With this in mind, CX leaders should be striving to set up their CX agents for success. There should be a parallel effort to reduce effort for customers, as well as your human agents. Brands that improve the quality of an interaction for both the customer and the human agent will reap the benefits of happier customers and more impactful employees. Anna Skidmore, VP of Customer Care at BFA, really said it best in her episode, that driving CX forward requires a dual focus on both the customer and employee experience.
Our final theme from the year is the holistic nature of customer experience. While the term customer experience is often used synonymously with customer support, CX is actually the mandate of most teams in an organization, including Sales, Marketing, Product, and Support. Any and all interactions a customer has with your brand contribute to one unique customer experience. Customers are totally indifferent to where they are in your “customer lifecycle” or which team at your company “owns” them at a given point in time. All they care about is that each interaction they have with your brand helps them get a job done.
So it’s absolutely essential for businesses, especially enterprises with large teams, to tear down silos and work together to design a unified, cohesive, consistent experience that puts customers at the center. And this, right here, is the power of Brand. Brand strategy is critical to align department leaders on a unified customer experience, drive consistency across teams, and make sure that this holistic effort trickles down to the day-to-day work of individual contributors. Listen back to our episode with Colin Chow, Global Managing Partner at TwentyFirstCenturyBrand to hear how this plays out practically in enterprise organizations.
That’s a wrap
We named this podcast Now Brands Talk because your customers’ experience is a reflection of how your brand talks to them. We wanted to dive into that experience, into all the aspects of how your brand interacts from the perspectives of many teams including sales, marketing, brand, employee experience, and of course, support.
In each conversation, we brought a new voice to the table to discuss a unique component of the customer experience. Every time, we concluded with rich lessons and insights that leaders can start applying to their strategies today and deliver the kinds of interactions that customers are craving.
I hope you’ve enjoyed season one of Now Brands Talk. Stay tuned to YouTube or your favorite podcasting platform, or follow Ada on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to get notified when season two starts airing.
In the meantime, if you’d like to send us questions or topics to dive into, you can always reach us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much for listening and supporting the show. See you in season two!
Perri Chaikof is the Director of Customer Marketing at Ada. She was one of the first 20 employees and has grown with Ada from pre-series A to unicorn status. Perri is passionate about connecting with real people and sharing stories of brands making every customer feel like a VIP.