“Many, if not most organizations around the world are measuring the customer experience badly!”
Survey Sparrow, the maker of widely celebrated online survey software, was recently fortunate enough to chat with Ian Golding, one of the most respected voices in the Customer Experience (CX) industry. Today, we have the opportunity to pick Ian’s brain about what goes into designing an effective CX campaign. So let’s jump in!
SurveySparrow: Hi Ian and thanks for taking time out of your day to chat with our readers about your experience in the world of CX. Our readers are fascinated with things that have to do with customer experience strategy so we’re excited to have the opportunity to discuss the subject with you. Throughout your 15 + years in the sector, you’ve worked across multiple industries and have shared your knowledge of customer experience around the world. Today you’re considered a thought-leader on the subject of CX. But I’m sure your journey to get where you are today hasn’t been easy. Why don’t we kick-start the interview by talking about your experience in CX during your early days in the industry?
Ian: Not that I want to make myself appear older than I would like, but I have actually been involved in this field for almost 25 years in one way or another!! I actually started my career in process improvement – not necessarily recognizing at that time the inextricable link between process improvement and customer experience.
The key turning point in my career happened in the late nineties when I started working at GE. In those days, General Electric was still one of the largest companies in the world, and one of the most customer-centric – largely due to being led by Jack Welch for over 20 years. From the very beginning, I was taken at how this enormous global organization was committed to doing what was right for the customer, not just the business. It made so much sense to me – and the rest, as they say, is history.
However, as you suggest, it has not been easy. Having worked as an employee across financial services, outsourcing, food, service and retail, the majority of my employed career felt like I was ‘pushing water uphill’. Leaving GE exposed me to a world that did not share the same philosophy as Jack Welch – a world that very much believed in making money first; people (customers and employees) came a distant second.
However, whether the businesses I worked in liked it or not, I existed to do what was right and as a result, over my 17 years as an employee, I had to become incredibly resilient, courageous and persistent in getting the customer and employee voice heard. Much of the time, I felt I was completely mad…the only person who wanted to do what was right – but the last 8 years as an independent CX specialist has taught me that I was not mad at all!!!
I now consider myself to be very lucky….very lucky to be able to practice my vocation – this is not a job to me – and I do everything in my power to enable professionals all around the world to practice their vocation too.
“The most robust way to measure CX would see an organization capturing, listening to and acting on three VOICES or measurement. VOC (voice of the customer); VOE (voice of the employee); and VOP (voice of the process).”
SurveySparrow: Let’s talk more about the topic of “measurement” for a moment. For many businesses and entrepreneurs, the idea of measuring “experience” seems too subjective and abstract. For many, it’s easier to measure more objective KPIs like sales, expenses, CAC, MRR, LTV or the many other easier to measure business metrics. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are measurement-driven people but are scared off by the seeming immeasurability of “experience”?
Ian: In my opinion, measurement is the most important competency of all when it comes to the subject of CX. Regrettably though, many, if not most organizations around the world are measuring the customer experience badly! It would take too long to explain why, in granular detail during this interview, so rather than focus on what organizations are getting wrong, let me focus on what they SHOULD be measuring in an ideal world.
The most robust way to measure CX would see an organization capturing, listening to and acting on three VOICES or measurement. VOC (voice of the customer); VOE (voice of the employee); and VOP (voice of the process).
Most organizations are measuring some form of VOC. Just because they are measuring it, does not mean they are measuring it well. Far fewer organizations are measuring VOE. Hardly any are measuring VOP. VOC represents the external perception of an organization’s ability to deliver the customer journey – VOE and VOP represent the internal perception.
CX is a ‘fact-based methodology’ – the primary objective of measurement is to identify the small number of priorities having the greatest detrimental effect on customer perception and financial performance. The secondary objective is to get a number! Too many organizations are obsessed with getting a number first, often to massage ego’s, rather than understanding what it is they need to focus on to improve customer perception!
My advice to those who need to understand more about measurement is simple – education, education, education – acquire knowledge as quickly as you can on the subject of CX measurement best practice!
SurveySparrow: You are the CEO and founder of the company Customer Experience Consultancy. The firm was founded back in 2012, but prior to that you mostly served as a consultant for other CX organizations. What made you decide to start your own customer experience company?
Ian: I was actually permanently employed by a variety of corporate organizations for 17 years before going out on my own. The reason I did was because I decided I wanted to help as many organizations as possible – not just one I happened to work for.
As someone who is quite risk-averse, it was not an easy decision for me to make, but it is one that I do not regret for a single second. Since becoming independent, I have worked in 43 countries around the world with organizations from almost every industry you can imagine!
SurveySparrow: What are some of your biggest hurdles you’ve faced while growing the company and how have you managed to overcome them?
Ian: Belief – starting your own business is a risky and scary experience – it is easy to panic and do things that go against your principles. It is also scary as no-one knows who you are – creating awareness of the fact that you exist and are able to help people is critical. However, it is important to do what you think is right – and if you make a mistake, learn from it.
I have made many mistakes, but the thing I have never compromised is my principle of developing long term relationships. Always keep your promises, never end an engagement with a crossed word. The long term relationships are what sustain you indefinitely.
SurveySparrow: Let’s talk more about your achievements. You are the first person to become an Authorized Resource and Training Provider for the CCXP accreditation. This role requires you to train and mentor CX professionals of all levels and in various places around the world. When working with early-stage CX professionals, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see them making (with either their approach, tools used, methods, assumptions, etc)?
Ian: Another good question – and all the mistakes I see people making are ones I have made myself in the past! Let me summarise the key ones:
- Too much passion! – Passion, enthusiasm and also evangelism are all common traits of CX professionals – however, it is not uncommon for passion to be used against a CX professional by those who do not share the same view. It is why we must as a profession base our arguments on fact as much as possible so that we can not be accused of being ‘over-emotional’ in getting our point across.
- Too impatient – CX transformation is not a race – if we try to push organizations who are not ready, too hard, too quickly, it can be very damaging. We need to be patient and work at the pace an organization can accommodate.
- Too uncollaborative – CX is a collaborative methodology – it requires CX Professionals to be the ultimate diplomats, bringing people from across departments, functions, and teams together to help deliver the experience together. Even if we have CX in our job title, it does NOT mean that the experience is ours!!
SurveySparrow: Experience isn’t a static thing. The preferences of customers are fickle and ever-changing. How do CX professionals build systems and models to take these changes into consideration?
Ian: The perennial challenge for the CX profession is to educate organizations to understand that CX is a continuous, never-ending thing. Much of the time, there is still a belief that CX is a project or initiative – which it isn’t. The adoption and embedding of a CX Framework is the primary method for the CX profession to ensure that the focus on CX remains indefinite.
Combining this with strong CX Governance – so that accountability ids are also understood, provides an organization with the best chance for sustaining their focus on the experience in the long term. CX is a long term business strategy – the benefit of sustainable growth comes from the long term commitment to focus on it!
SurveySparrow: Let’s talk a little bit about the placement of user feedback opportunities. The users of our online survey tools use our technology to gather feedback in order to make better business decisions. Businesses are always interacting with their users, but those interactions often take place in multiple departments, or at haphazard times. How do you suggest companies approach the placement of their user feedback tools? At a basic level, where should these touchpoints or feedback opportunities be placed? Is there such a thing as too much feedback?
Ian: Yes – there is definitely a thing as too much feedback. The biggest mistake companies are making is that they are failing to consider the act of capturing feedback as a touchpoint in the customer journey in its own right – which it is. To best understand how to engage with customers in a way that will encourage them to participate in any feedback initiative, an organization MUST determine how to design their feedback mechanism to fit into their customers’ journey.
SurveySparrow: For smaller companies out there that are already spread thin, what “low hanging fruit” experience enhancement opportunities do you often see exist for fairly quick experience improvement wins?
Ian: The best way for me to answer this question is to encourage the identification and elimination of ‘randomness’. If you know that your customers are often contacting you about the same problems and issues – problems and issues that do not happen all the time, but are common – that demonstrates that your customers are having ‘random’ experiences – sometimes they work, sometimes they do not. Every one of those repeatable issues you can resolve so it does not happen again will not only lead to the random experience being eliminated, in doing so, you are likely to SAVE a significant amount of operational cost.
SurveySparrow: You published your first book entitled “Customer What?” in 2018. Now that the book is in the hands of readers what are some of the biggest takeaways that you see your readers benefiting from? Is there a section or a particular subject within the book that seems to have really resonated with your audience?
Ian: You would have to ask my readers for the most accurate answer to this question! However, what people regularly tell me is written in the subtitle – ‘the honest and practical guide to customer experience’. I wanted people to read the book and be inspired sufficiently to go and do stuff! And my readers tell me, that actually happens!
I love nothing more than having readers send me pictures of their books with scribblings all over them, bits of paper and sticky notes sticking out everywhere. The practicality of the book is what I wanted – that appears to have worked!
SurveySparrow: What are your predictions for the customer engagement sector in the coming years? Do you see any trend or technology that could potentially disrupt the CX space in the near future?
Ian: Organisations will continue to be disrupted – of that there is no doubt. The continuing advancement of technology will be at the core of that disruption. I believe that we will continue to see new, smaller, more adaptable companies coming into all sectors, making life increasingly difficult for legacy operators who are bogged down with the complexity of systems and processes that are very difficult to change.
However, whilst technology advancements are critically important, they must be at the expense of human interaction where it is needed. The thing that customers are most likely to remember about their experience with an organization – and will continue to do – is the way that organizations PEOPLE made them feel. Understanding how to balance technology and people’s interaction in the future will be key.
SurveySparrow: Lastly, Imagine that you could clone yourself and that a younger version of you was just starting in the CX space today. What three pieces of advice would your more- experienced self give your less-experienced self on the topic of CX today?
Ian: Don’t think that you can do everything!! I find it very difficult to say no to people who want guidance and help – but there are only 24 hours in a day!! I am still the most unstructured person I know – working ridiculous hours and putting my mind and body under severe pressure. If I could start again, I would do so with a much more structured and pragmatic approach. That being said, whilst my diary is disorganized chaos, I would not change what I do for all the money in the world!!
Thank you for joining us today Ian. We really appreciate you sharing your insights and knowledge with our blog audience.