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Experience Points featuring CX leader and entrepreneur, Amanda Kwok

Avtex Chief Experience Officer, Kurt Schroeder sat down with VP of Marketing, John Seeds to discuss key takeaways, and share what stood out about how to create exceptional experiences for customers. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss how tacos and brand loyalty relate, the benefit of eliminating customer effort, and understanding employee satisfaction.

Fake or Fact

[Kurt] That was a good one. I liked a lot of the things that came out of that. I love the idea of how they're trying to inject the brand personality into everything they do. And those were good stories. I have never gotten an offer letter that had the suggestion or the correlation between my salary and tacos but I think we should figure out how to blend that in at Avtex for our offer letters?

[John] I think that's a great suggestion because I think everything in CX is made better by a correlation to tacos. So the more we can incorporate that into even our SOWs, how does that relate to tacos? I think that just advances everything.

[Kurt] If we're going down the taco trail, I had to figure out some alliteration there to keep it going but, I mean, even the value that we provide to our clients in terms of improving their CX. And what does that mean to them? We could equate it to the number of additional tacos that they'll be able to purchase for their employee lunches.

[John] Well, we're onto something there. But when we think about some of the points that they were bringing into the conversation around back-office responsibility for thinking about the customer - responsibility isn't necessarily a word I think the back office folks traditionally would own in terms of the customer. But there is that indirect interaction with the customer through the work product that's coming out, so what really is the importance of that to be thinking about holistically across the organization?

[Kurt] I think there's a couple of things that come to mind. One is about creating connections across divisions and the culture of experience. How do you successfully embed customer experience into the mundane, even into things like invoicing or billing? Some of those things that may not necessarily be viewed as experiences, but really are. They're part of the overall experience that companies provide their clients.

One of the things that we do with our clients is ask the question, "What do you want to be known for?" And we press into that by saying, "What do you want to be known for when you're invoicing your client?" If you think about the different touchpoints, either directly with the customer or indirectly supporting it, I think asking the question of, "What do you want to be known for? What do you want customers to comment on?" will help for taking that mundane and making it real. Do we want to be known for a clearly stated, easily understood invoice? Do we want to be known for making things as effortless as possible, even in interactions with what might be considered back office, in the trenches minutia?

[John] I think that that's right. I think you've made a couple of interesting points I want to call out real quick, just to make sure that folks can hone in on these particular points. You used the word embedded. You used the word embedded customer experience into the thinking of these departments. And I think that one of the things that we've seen as we continue to work with clients is that embedded is actually on the mature end of the spectrum. We have our CX maturity model that we deploy and assess organizations on, and they're trying to achieve embedded.

I think that one of the key points there is that that's the vision. There are incremental steps to take. I want to make sure people understand that there are smaller, incremental ways to get there that can be honed in on and actualized to continue to elevate the experience and your maturity in being able to deliver an experience so that you can try to achieve that embedded state.

And the second thing you hit on that I think is really important is the vision piece and having a north star. Having a codified point that everybody understands what we're going for as an organization in order to make strides there. So those are a couple of points that I thought were really important about that.

[Kurt] One last comment, and that’s this: Gardner did a study that said this year in 2021, spending on CX will surpass spending on price and product as key brand differentiators. To me, it was interesting at the end of the conversation, they talked about when you saw the different little call-outs on the side of your offer letter, which is a legal document, how did that make you feel? And she talked about, "Well, I got excited about joining the brand." I think it's important to understand that the spend on CX is really just as important, if not more important in your brand development than some of the more traditional areas that you would normally spend on.

[John] Yeah, I completely agree. And I think that it's that attachment value that you get. The value of having somebody be more attached emotionally to your brand, which is going to lead to more loyalty, which leads to more revenue at the end of the day.

[Kurt] Yeah. So at the end of the day, CX is brand building.

[John] It is brand building. And it's also tacos, as we've learned today.

What Happened?

[Kurt] First of all, I'm not a coffee drinker so I have a hard time understanding it but what I do understand is the importance of an effortless experience. It spoke volumes on how much Amazon is continually striving to look at the journey of the customer, of their consumers, from the time that an order is placed to the time that there's an issue with the product to the time that they need to return that, how hard Amazon is looking at that journey and saying, "Where is the consumer making effort?"

The idea that they looked at the boxing up experience, they looked at that journey and said, "Gosh, that's a frustration point that you just can't sometimes even get it packaged up right. And so I got an idea. How about we just let people bring it back to UPS. It doesn't even have to be in a box and we're going to take it back." I think that elimination of effort is amazing.

[John] That's a great point because there's two things in that. One is that creating effortless experiences doesn't necessarily have to revolve around striving for the effortless part. It can be about removing friction at first, right? You start by removing friction and then you can think a little bit differently, because what happened is after they removed enough friction in the process of returns, they were able to ask that question of like, "Well, who wants to put stuff back in a box?"

Because that's a paradigm everybody's lived with forever. And you're not going to start with changing the whole paradigm of the customer experience, but they indoctrinated people far enough along this ride of convenience around returns to go a step further and be able to think outside of the box and really innovate on that experience to take effortless to a new level.

[Kurt] That’s why when we do our journey mapping with clients, one of the key components of the journey map is to look at overall customer effort, and we tie that to the journey. So, we can visualize where is there a great deal of effort and where's the effort less? And then really look at and correspond, does that become a pain point for the consumer? The importance of mapping effort into your journey maps can really help uncover those opportunities where you can reduce effort and try to eliminate friction.

I want to see what your thoughts are on this. I thought it was interesting he initially said, "Hey, we called the manufacturer." But it wasn't the manufacturer that came through for me, it was Amazon. To me, I think there's a missed opportunity for that customer to create an attachment to the coffee maker manufacturer's brand versus Amazon. It was the Amazon experience that they talked about. So I feel like there's a missed opportunity when for manufacturers, for when the customer calls you and makes contact with you with for an issue, that's an opportunity for you to step into that and take ownership because it was your product that failed, not Amazon's. Do you think there was a missed opportunity to provide an experience there on behalf of that manufacturer?

[John]: Yeah. And this is a scenario that can be applicable across a number of disciplines, even in the B2B world, when you have systems integrators or other service delivery working on behalf of a manufacturer. And understanding that relationship with the customer is maybe not always direct one-to-one and that there are different players involved. I think you're right. I think that what happened is that they gave value in their products away to Amazon by not being able to step into that experience.

I can say that with a little bit of confidence because I have personally discovered new brands on Amazon and explored the manufacturer directly. That's an opportunity to add more accessories or upgrades or service plans or whatever the upsell and the loyalty is, can really launch off of that.

But if you don't take advantage of it, then you're giving that away to Amazon, and you're giving away a key value point in the experience economy. And we talk about this all the time is that if a key brand differentiator is the experience, and you're giving that part away, then you're just relying on price, product, and to your point availability. And if your main thing is through a distribution channel, then it's just commoditized and people are going to move on to the next.

[Kurt] Absolutely, but I think it's a good lesson learned that just says in that touchpoint, you have an opportunity to step in and differentiate yourself with the consumer and embed your brand with them just as powerful as the Amazon brand is embedded.

Think Fast

[John] I think that it's fascinating because, the stats point about people being positive about being able to work from home means remote work has been a positive impact on the community. One of the things that I think is going to happen and is happening now in some ways, is that remote work is going to be an integral part of the employee experience moving forward. Whether you think that everybody's going to go back to the office or everybody's going to stay at home how does the spectrum of remote work factor into the conversation around the employee experience?

[Kurt] What we've learned from this is to not be afraid of remote work. And let's not be afraid of having people work from home if they can't. Clearly there are some jobs that you can't do that. You need to be physically there because you're physically touching things that you need to interact with. From a knowledge worker perspective, let's not be afraid of that just because you've always had people in an office. Let's not be afraid to let people choose where they're going to be most productive.

We just did a conference session for a consortium of large credit unions. Some of the research we did said that, they saw agent productivity improvement up to 28% when they sent all the agents home during COVID. That's it. In contact centers, that's a huge number. And their employee satisfaction also went up. There is a tie that's measurable between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. When your employees are satisfied and happy, the tone of their voice, their enthusiasm behind helping the customer is going to be off the charts. And so then that's going to translate also to improved customer experience. And quite frankly, that's why, when we do our journey mapping, we're measuring what the customer is feeling in that visualization, but we're also measuring employee effort, as well as employee sentiment.

[John] I'm glad you brought up the point around employee effort and employee satisfaction, correlated to the tools that the organization gives them to be able to do their job. And I've experienced this viscerally with my own teams when they get frustrated. Like, "You're asking us to do one thing, and the toolbox you're giving us just doesn't get us there." Understanding that idea as a critical part of adapting to this from an organizational level. There's a lot of cultural impacts and there's community and connection internally and collaboration that has to happen. But it's also about making sure that you're pivoting your organization to be able to handle the types of work that are necessary to continue to serve the customer in these scenarios.

[Kurt] I think you bring up a good point, from a tool perspective. Some tools are disjointed. They're not connected, which creates additional work. Some of the tools, can be extremely helpful in collaboration. I know that we've been using a variety of collaborative tools with our clients. Some of our clients then come to us and say, "Hey, can you teach us how to use that particular collaboration tool that you were using?" And so there's a lot of really good tools out there to maintain that level of collaboration when your teams are working at home.

[John] We do a lot of work with contact centers who can be the lifeline to organizations through their customer base. And really that tip of the spear in terms of contact. And we had clients calling us saying that they couldn't communicate with their customers because people had to literally log into a desktop that was plugged in at the office. And we're sitting here thinking, it's 2020. Why can't you access that stuff remotely? We had a bulk effort in it and a lot of conversations with clients that happened early on about just getting remote access to their employees and their frontline staff that were now at home.

And how do you make that change in the connection to be able to utilize new cloud technologies to access anywhere? I think it's a point well taken around internal collaboration and external communications with both clients and each other internally.

[Kurt] I wish I had the buzzer because the new normal has to go away sometime. And we just... when do we just call it normal?

[John] I thought about that the other day, and it's just going to be one of those things where we look back and we're like, "Wait, when did we come out of this thing?" It's not going to be a precipitous event. It's just going to be like, "Oh, okay, we're here now."

[Kurt] Yes. And I think that's an important part, even in managing the employee experience, is to make sure that from a leadership perspective, you're managing expectations on is the work at home permanent, or is it temporary? Really think hard about bringing people, back into the office, if that productivity remains. If employee experience is high and their wellness is better, that’s all good indicators that suggest that's going to then lead to a better customer experience as well.