The Intersection of Customer Experience, Business & Tech

 

Interview with Mike Wittenstein, Founder of Storyminers as seen on the Digital Customer Experience website 

Tips from an Expert in design thinking, customer experience and the power of story

Is there a difference between customer experience and digital customer experience anymore?

Customer Experience used to focus on what happened in the real world and Digital Customer Experience used to focus on what happened online. As if you could have one without the other. Now, no business can afford not to emphasize both. Ideally, each business should focus on harmony and efficiency between the two (which comes from thinking of them as ‘one’ experience).

What does that mean at the individual role level? Experience designers must consider the entire experience (end to end for customers and employees, regardless of channel) Strategists and marketers need to align communications, support, automated marketing, and metrics to the way customers glide through the business. That may mean adapting the way the business works to what customers expect. Leaders should consciously and continuously emphasize that “regular” and “digital” customer experiences are the same. Eliminating incentives based on different channels (e.g. on-line and in-store sales) and adding new ones that emphasize the combined experience (e.g. engagement level per interaction) are also part of the executive’s customer-centered mandate.

Mobile is commonplace now. How can you differentiate yourselves?

Differentiation always comes from a combination of adding value, being memorable, and meeting unmet needs earlier than your competitors. It’s no different with mobile. To differentiate your brand’s mobile experience, look to incorporate convenience-adding, time-saving, and value-creating options to your service without adding complexity, cost, or increasing frustration levels.

One of the best ways to figure out what that is, is to ask some of your real customers this question: “What are some of your favorite features from other companies’ apps and how would you adapt them for us?” This style of deeper questioning gets beneath the surface and helps people think about their unmet needs. Those yet-to-be-articulated needs are the hardest to identify – and the most valuable ones!

In your opinion which industry is leading the way for organizational Customer-Centric Culture? Why?

Cultural comparisons are more valuable than industry comparisons to answer this question. Organizations based on more open dialogue, the freedom to raise issues without reprise, flatter hierarchical structures, customer representation at internal meetings, and unscripted opportunities to interact with one’s peers are, in my opinion, the ones that do the best at initiating and sustaining changes to the customer experience. There are examples of this kind of openness in most industries.

What is the most common mistake companies make with their brands when it comes to digital customer experience?

This one’s easy. Organizations of all types forget to translate their brand attributes and personality to a digital world. As an example, consider a company that offers ‘fast and friendly’ service. It’s one thing to declare “We’re fast and friendly” online. However, just having or displaying the words doesn’t matter as much as actions do. So, in this example, ‘fast and friendly’ needs to translate to fast-and-friendly interfaces, clarity on inventory and delivery times, access to resolution for problems in multiple channels (chat bots, tech support, phone support, or field service requests).

One of the keys to making sure your organization’s experience is consistent across channels (traditional and digital) is to ensure that the experience ‘feels’ the same regardless of touch point. If you’re a ‘fast-and-friendly’ business, friendly should show up in communications, in the interfaces, within the confirmation windows, on the paper bills, in the phone scripts, etc.

What are your top tips for companies looking to create an exceptional customer experience?

Don’t rest on your laurels. Just because you’re doing well or have a great reputation, you don’t get a free pass to relax. In business, things are changing faster than ever. Most people consider technology to be the big disrupter. When it comes to customer experiences, I find customers and their changing needs and desires to be the big disrupter. You can’t stop learning (especially about tech and trends), and you can’t stop being curious about your current and future customers (especially about how they like to receive information, exchange value, get service, and share your story).

To be specific, any company that expects to thrive in the next five years should designate several learners in the machine learning and artificial intelligence spaces. These enabling technologies are provoking change not only in what businesses can do but in how they should serve their customers.

To be even more specific, including more employees in the customer experience dialogue is a smart move. Lunch-and-learn conversations, vendor fairs, senior exec/junior exec knowledge exchange programs, and other simple-to-implement programs can help elevate the emphasis on customer experience throughout any company.

To learn more about customer experience including mobile, omnichannel & customer-centric culture, attend the 4th Customer Experience Strategies Summit in Chicago, IL September 19-20, 2017.

Use code #Story20 for a 20% discount.

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About the Author:

Since 1998, as IBM’s eVisionary, he has been designing and developing experiences that differentiate brands and deliver bottom-line results. Mike has worked on over 700 client engagements in 26 countries. He understands first-hand the value of properly translating across cultures. As a facilitator, Mike has been used as a board-level facilitator by LeasePlan (Europe and Mexico), Habasit, TELUS (Canada), PartnerTech (now Scanfil), Meeting Planners International, the Institute of Management Consultants and other organizations to develop strategy, articulate vision/direction, and encourage alignment. Mike founded StoryMiners, one of the world’s first experience design consulting agencies, in 2002. The firm is known for its ability to find the essence of a company, brand, or service and translate it into a compelling experience that helps clients shape their futures. The value of his work is estimated at over $1.6 billion in sales won, expenses cut, and brand value added. Mike is the world’s only working speaker, consultant, and experience designer to have earned the top designations in his chosen fields (CSP, CMC, CCXP). Mike earned his MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He works in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and gets by in Russian ;-)