Reframe Your Thinking to Design Exceptional Customer Experiences

Despite all the change we’ve seen in customer experience (CX) over the past few years, there’s still too much mired in the status quo. So, it’s no surprise that thinking differently, using agile experience design and putting customers at the center of CX orchestration were key themes at the recent Customer Experience Ecosystem: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event.

“Thinking the same for years gets you stuck in sameness,” said Cal Austin, Innovative CX Lead, Emerging Markets, at Pfizer, during his presentation. “Success leaves clues to guide our path forward, but so does failure.”

Austin proposed designing customer strategies using a learner’s mindset: frame your challenge, listen to customers, design collaboratively and experiment quickly. Many of the recommendations from other presenters echoed his advice.

Waseem Kawaf’s approach to ensuring fresh thinking when planning a CX strategy includes defining the issue or opportunity and gathering data. Then Kawaf creates alignment across teams, builds processes and implements supporting technology.

The final steps are to measure, optimize and iterate. “And embrace failure,” added Kawaf, Group VP of Digital Experience at STANLEY Security. “You’ll learn a lot more.”

For Ishraf Ahmad, Head of Clinical Product at Virta Health, addressing common CX challenges differently means proactively orchestrating customer journeys. His advice to accomplish this: Create common, agreed-upon goals and embed an agile technology team within the CX function. Then start small to figure out what competencies are needed. Most of all, get customer input.

“Validate the problem with the customer before you start on fixing something that might not need to be addressed,” said Ahmad.

Customers Tell You What They Want — If You’re Listening

Listen to your customers.

That was the most common recommendation made throughout all the sessions. This practice is essential to understanding customer expectations, preferences and motivations.

But listening isn’t just about gathering explicit feedback. It’s also about using implicit feedback gathered from the data.

“We consolidate insights across platforms,” said Kawaf, adding that STANLEY Security integrated a customer data platform with its marketing tech stack for cross-channel insights. Doing so has enabled his team to see how products are used in real time.

And the company gained insights into how to improve personalization and segmentation. All of this has made it easier to put users at the center of CX design.

“There’s no better opportunity than when a customer gives us an exact problem to solve,” added Kawaf.

This style of customer listening has had a material impact on the STANLEY Security business, he said. For example, using natural language processing and natural language understanding to identify customer intent has notably improved the phone-tree design and halved customer call time.

More Perspectives Bring Fresh Thinking

Kawaf and his team use technology to “listen” internally, too. The company launched a digital asset management system to share information and assets. It enables the team to collaboratively create more consistent and scalable experiences.

“We create siloed experiences because we all focus on our part or function, instead of collaborating with the customer at the center,” said Kawaf, adding that cross-team collaboration is how you “flip the paradigm and start with the customer.”

Other speakers echoed the need for collaboration.

“Relationships are critical for all CX initiatives; they can’t happen in a silo,” said Patrick Forsland, Senior Director, Guest Experience at the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club. “Who’s going to be involved in a service experience or service recovery? Relationships drive all of that.”

Christina Baune uses data to gain interest and drive the story while leveraging relationships for action. “Data may get the door open, but getting things done… you need to find the people with the same passion and goals,” noted Baune, Director of Digital Product at Sleep Number Corp.

Marilyn McDonald, Senior VP, Customer Interoperability at Mastercard, emphasized the value of relationships for breaking down silos. “What are the common problems, and how can we work together to solve them?” she asked.

At AARP, this is done by creating ownership. Tara Townsend, Director, Customer Experience at the company explained her team needs to make sure everyone understands its CX standards. So, it workshopped with people from other teams to examine what those CX standards look like to them. This gave Townsend’s colleagues a sense of ownership in the customer experience.

Another way to gain momentum for CX is to link its impact outcomes that matter to other areas of the business. “Prioritize moments of truth that are also pain points, and then tie them to business metrics so you know you’re spending your time working on the right things,” said McDonald.

Consumer Feedback Loop for Great CX

All this collaborative strategizing works best when customers are the center of the experience.

“CX can derail if you miss the mark on consumer needs,” said Townsend, emphasizing the need to “get consumer feedback and keep getting it.”

Find a way to see firsthand how customers interact with your brand. Then figure out how you can show that to the rest of the organization, added Eric Caron, Senior Director of Digital Experience at Caribou Coffee.

“We are the customer advocates and the guide for others to be customer centric,” he said. “We need to keep reminding our colleagues why customer experience is vital to our company’s success.”

And it’s important to really know what your customers value most, noted Kawaf of STANLEY Security. That insight is essential to making experiences effortless and end-to-end for every user.

“Consumers expect to have their needs fulfilled immediately and in an enjoyable way,” he concluded.

Adopt a Learner’s Mindset for your CX Strategy

Cal Austin, Innovative CX Lead, Emerging Markets at Pfizer recommends designing customer strategies using a learner’s mindset. Here’s his four-step approach:

Frame your challenge. Draft a challenge statement (e.g., “Our customer satisfaction is low”) and ask “Why?” Then ask, “Why else?” until you list all the issues. Identify what’s stopping you from resolving this challenge, including all obstacles. This helps you uncover what you’re really trying to solve for and prioritize your initiatives.

  1. Frame your challenge. Draft a challenge statement (e.g., “Our customer satisfaction is low”) and ask “Why?” Then ask, “Why else?” until you list all the issues. Identify what’s stopping you from resolving this challenge, including all obstacles. This helps you uncover what you’re really trying to solve for and prioritize your initiatives.
  2. Listen to your customers. Conduct interviews with five diverse users to get correct insights. Have your team listen to the interviews and look for themes that show needs and opportunities.
  3. Design collaboratively. Brainstorm to ensure each person has equal opportunity to express their ideas. Look for commonalities and themes, cluster them, and then prioritize. Make sure your team is excited about the initiatives selected — or no one else will be.
  4. Experiment quickly. Fast food giant McDonald’s used chalk and a tennis court to design and redesign its kitchen in one afternoon. Staff ran through processes to find and eliminate bottlenecks. Mock-up a wireframe and share with customers to see how — or if — they’d act as you expect them to.