Expert insights: How to drive successful CX in 2023
An interview with Dan Gingiss, top CX expert and author of “The Experience Maker.”
Customer loyalty and retention are more challenging than ever before. Today’s consumers have higher expectations and tighter budgets and aren’t afraid to switch brands to meet their needs.
Dan Gingiss, a top customer experience (CX) keynote speaker, has spent over two decades driving successful CX at companies like McDonald's and Discover. Momentive recently hosted a webinar featuring Gingiss to uncover the top 2023 CX trends. During the live Q&A, the questions poured in, and unfortunately, we couldn’t address every question asked.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Gingiss to continue the conversation on how CX leaders can create experiences that differentiate their brand and make customers want to stay.
Brittany Klokkenga: Ensuring customer experience leaders provide quality experiences—especially during economic uncertainty—is critical to building long-term customer loyalty and reducing churn. Is cultivating a customer-centric culture more crucial in 2023?
Gingiss: Yes, absolutely it is. I think the pandemic pushed forth the idea that customer experience and employee experience are critical to a company's success—and intricately related.
You've heard the expression, “happy employees equal happy customers,” but I like to think of it as more of an infinity loop. Having happier customers makes our employees' jobs easier, making them more satisfied and better at their jobs.
This idea of creating a customer-centric culture means that employees are empowered to do right by the customer, but it also means that they know what a great experience looks like. If we don't provide a great employee experience, we can’t create great customer experiences.
Klokkenga: What advice would you give to leadership to ensure every employee is involved in improving the customer experience?
Gingiss: Great customer experience ideas can come from anywhere. Being open to ideas—no matter who they come from—is how you get employees at all levels involved in creating excellent customer experiences.
Every employee is also a consumer in their real lives. They know what they like and don't like about the companies they do business with. They know what irritates them and what makes them smile.
Leaders must encourage employees to turn their perspectives around and not just be in the customer's shoes but actually be a customer. When I worked at Discover, one of the first things I did was sign up for a Discover card and go through the same application process that customers go through.
And what did I find? Some processes could be improved to remove obstacles for our customers. Ultimately, putting yourself in the customer's shoes is only possible if you become a customer of your own brand.
Klokkenga: Companies that keep a steady pulse on the voice of the customer across all touchpoints are the ones that can turn the always-evolving customer expectations into extraordinary experiences. What tips would you give CX professionals struggling to collect feedback across the customer journey and bridge the gap between marketing, sales, CX, and product?
Gingiss: Collecting feedback is a core part of any good customer experience strategy. But gathering feedback isn’t enough; you must act on the insights you garner.
Feedback comes from various solicited and unsolicited sources: formal surveys, social media posts, ratings and reviews, customer service transcriptions, and more. After you gather it, you want to be able to analyze it to come up with some conclusions.
Most of the time, that's where companies stop. But taking action on feedback separates the companies that are doing CX very well versus the ones that are trying but maybe not getting there.
Klokkenga: It’s not enough to merely collect customer feedback. Instead, CX leaders must close the loop by following up with the customer and acting on their feedback. How do you recommend collecting feedback and closing the loop so customers know their voice is heard?
Gingiss: A great example of closed-loop feedback comes from the candy company, Skittles. A few years ago, Skittles made the tragic decision to remove the lime Skittles from the classic pack and replace them with a green apple flavor. As it turns out, many people, including me, weren’t happy with this replacement.
I had a couple of interactions on Twitter to ask them when they would bring lime back. In one exchange, Skittles responded, “How about next Wednesday?” As it turns out, they listened to thousands of customers and released an exclusive limited edition lime-only package of Skittles. Additionally, Skittles reversed their past decision and got rid of the green apple and replaced it with the lime flavor.
To close the customer-feedback loop, Skittles tweeted every person who had ever tweeted them regarding the lime flavor and even released an apology video and downloadable coupons for a free bag of Skittles.
Klokkenga: When thinking about prioritizing the customer experience across the customer lifecycle, how do you determine the best place in the journey to improve first? Do you recommend prioritizing a specific journey stage or the entire journey in tandem?
Gingiss: I would start with the beginning because working simultaneously on every part of the customer experience is challenging. Those early days are also significant because people decide whether to stay, repeat purchases, or even purchase from a competitor.
In fact, after investing time, money, and energy to acquire new customers, most companies see between 20% and 70% of those customers disappear in less than 100 days.
When a prospect becomes a customer, they begin a new relationship with your brand. The first days, weeks, and months are critical to a customer’s long-term success; it’s also when business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customers might experience buyer's remorse.
Klokkenga: Many CX leaders need help to garner leadership buy-in and secure the necessary budget to drive their programs forward. What steps can customer experience professionals take to persuade leadership to invest in their short- and long-term strategic initiatives?
Gingiss: Here's the irony. If we're good at customer experience, we're good at understanding our customers' needs. But we also have to be good at understanding executives’ priorities, which means connecting our customer experience outcomes to the organization’s bottom line.
I always suggest people speak the language of the C-suite. Focus on the metrics that are dollars and cents: retention rate, lifetime value of your customer, increased sales, increased referrals, and new customers.
Don't go to your C-level executive and say, "If we invest this, then we're going to raise our Net Promoter Score® (NPS) from 70 to 75.” Instead, we have to say, "We're going to raise our NPS score from 70 to 75, and our data show by doing that, we're going to retain 10% more customers, which equates to X dollars in revenue."
Klokkenga: According to recent Momentive research, 62% of ecommerce professionals and 58% of digital marketers expect their company to focus on customer engagement this year. What advice would you give those CX professionals to ensure they’re properly aligned with customer needs and can engage with their buyers effectively?
Gingiss: I would look for every touchpoint the customer has with the organization across every channel. In a B2B space, customers will likely interact with a salesperson, but they’ll also have online touchpoints with your website or mobile app.
If you're a retailer, they will have a touchpoint where people walk into the store and a touchpoint where people go to your ecommerce site and make a purchase.
Think of every touchpoint as an opportunity to create an experience or to remove a barrier. Those little things add up to big things. Audit every engagement layer and look for opportunities to improve experiences or eliminate customer friction.
Klokkenga: What do you think CX professionals should be excited about this year and in the coming years? What do you imagine this industry is going to shape up to?
Gingiss: In 2023, most of the experiences we have as consumers or B2B buyers are average; they're ordinary. Nobody talks about typical or average experiences. What it means, though, is that the bar could be a lot higher; when we focus on stellar experiences, we can quickly stand out.
The pandemic showed people, as customers and employees, that we want to do business with companies that treat us well, respect us, and are there for us when we need them. Today’s consumers don't mind moving away from companies that don't do that.
We can quickly make it a competitive differentiator because, for the most part, our competitors could be doing a better job of it. This is the biggest business opportunity for most companies, and that excites me.
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