Driving Insights and Action in CX

DCX Podcast #6

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Welcome to the DCX Podcast - where I interview leaders in the Customer Experience space about how digital is changing the landscape, and how you can leverage these changes for success in your business. 

In this episode, I talk with Ed Murphy, Co-Founder and President, and Beth Karawan, Co-Founder and EVP of ImprintCX. ImprintCX is an integrated marketing and customer experience services company that provides insights, consulting, and activation for the Fortune 1000. The company is powered by sophisticated analytics, deep human understanding, and design thinking to help organizations develop strategies that will keep and expand their customer base. 

7 Key Takeaways

  1. CX is the meeting point of understanding what the customer wants, what their needs are, the branding, the marketing operations, and the organizational culture, where all these things come together.

  1. What's missing is that organizations don't necessarily take a holistic view of what CX is.

  2. It's not about having understaffed CX teams. It's that silos exist within the organization.

  3. Your customer experience has to support your brand vision and your brand promise, the two go hand in hand.

  4. The CX team's role is to keep the momentum going.

  5. Too many companies have defaulted to believing that technology-based solutions are a cure-all.

  6. 64% of consumers in the US feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. (PWC)


Transcript

Mark Levy 

It’s very nice to meet you both. I was checking out what you've been doing. Sounds like you have a new firm and you're approaching the market in a certain way. So I'd love to talk with you about that. I do a lot of talking and writing about digital. So I know that that's a big piece of what you guys are looking at too is kind of the digital and human aspects of customer experience. So want to talk a bit about that.

Ed Murphy 

Oh, this is great. You know, first off thank you, Mark, for having us today. We're excited. We always love to talk about CX, especially to people that are passionate about it. There are people who do DC X but there’s no passion behind it. You know, people are really passionate about it. And a lot of it comes from this, our backgrounds, you know, our backgrounds are, are in service, and that when you do service, it's like experience is number one. So, again, thank you for having us, you know, we're here, ask us questions, more than happy to share our thoughts and our perceptions of things.

Mark Levy 

Excellent. Well, why don't we start there? Why don't we start a little bit about where you both came from and how you got into CX and a question I like to ask a lot is What do you love about CX? I guess you know, we all have passion for it, but what is it that really drives you about that?

Ed Murphy 

I'll start off. As we were just talking, I grew up in the New York metro area. Studied marketing, at Northeastern in Boston and currently reside in Florida. I don't want to deal with cold weather anymore.

But, you know, when I think about my career, how I got to where I am today with regards to customer experience, and starting ImprintCX, I spent most of my career in consumer insights, doing market research for top five global research companies. You know, everything from product testing, concept testing, attitude, and usage segmentation, a lot of customer satisfaction work, and a lot of Voice of Customer work towards the end of my life in the research world.

And one of the things that came out of that was while we deliver great research insights, at least on the customer set, and on the VOC side, our clients would say, ‘Well, what do we do with this? Now what? How do we drive change?’ And being a research company, we didn't have a consulting arm back then that's not how they were structured back then. They were purely insights.

Now fast forward to around 2010 and I met CX Guru, Lior Arussy, founder of Strativity Group, focusing purely on customer experience, employee experience, culture change, and how the brand and how the experience has to support the brand. And it opened my eyes to you know, how you take the research and actually make it actionable, the world of consulting. Which is very different than the world of consumer insights or market research. So in 2010, I was introduced to Lior and I joined his firm as the head of research. Then, eventually became COO and all those things, but what he instilled in me was, you know, the passion for CX, the personal side of customer experience, meaning it has to be personal. It has to be human. And we'll talk a little bit in a little while I know about digital and technology, but even with that, it's still a human element of what are exceptional experiences. And really, that gave me the license to say, I'm passionate. I mean, CX now is my life.

We utilize our, experience, and our research backgrounds. Now we're really about understanding the internal and the external point of view of an organization so your customers and your employees’ point of view because they have to understand both aspects of those to understand the whole experience. It really allows us to paint the full picture of what the perceptions are, of your employees and of your customers and how to align those. So that's sort of my background and got us to where we are today with ImprintCX.

Mark Levy 

So, Beth, how'd you meet this guy?

Beth Karawan 

So early on in my research career, Ed and I used to work together. And so we worked at the same research supplier way back when. It was my first job in research. And our paths diverged in very different ways. After doing consultative market research, I went on and did customer insights and brand strategy on the client side. So I worked for Kraft Foods, I worked for L'Oreal, and I worked for Canon. And then I spent a number of years doing agency strategic planning. Right at the forefront of, it was called consumer promotions at that time, but it morphed into what is now called, it's not even shopper marketing anymore, It's shopper activation. And I would actually argue that shopper marketing or shopper activation, you know, our industry is always full of whatever the new buzzword is right? Is actually very closely related to customer experience. It's just that you're looking at it from the retailer's point of view. You're not looking at it. They say it's about delivering for their customers, but really, it's about how to get customers to shop at them more often. It's not really about putting the customer at the forefront of the experience.

And so what I think is really interesting and exciting is Ed and I have, our careers diverged but our experiences are complementary. So we come at customer experience and CX with slightly different perspectives. But that's what works, right? Is that we're looking at it from slightly different perspectives and how can we bring that down to organizations to become more customer-focused?

I think the other thing that makes me really passionate about CX and also makes it a CX as an expert in a slightly different way than Ed is that at the start of COVID, I took some time off and actually was back in the world of hospitality. Before we started ImprintCX I actually worked at a local restaurant. Front of house, I was a hostess and a server, and a manager. So I've been on the front lines, just in a slightly different way for the past two years. And so that actually reignited my spark. And also, when Ed and I started talking about what we thought was missing in the marketplace and how our perspectives could be slightly different. It came directly from that. I was able to see how my background in Shopper and then most recently working in hospitality, how we could bring something new and different perspective to the marketplace. So it's very exciting to take what you know and apply it in a very different way. That's what makes it so exciting.

Mark Levy 

So you mentioned what's missing. What is it that is missing in the space today that you guys feel you can bring, especially when it comes to creating customer experience strategies?

Ed Murphy 

One of the first things that I think about is all the clients we have worked with over the years, we talked about great experiences or exceptional experiences. What does that we all define great? We all have different expectations. And when I think about what CX is, it's the meeting point of understanding what the customer wants, what their needs are, the branding, the marketing, operations, organizational culture, all these things come together. They have to come together holistically, to understand them holistically, to really understand CX, and to build the strategy.

So when we think about what's missing, that's one of the first things is that organizations don't necessarily take a holistic view of what CX really is. It's not one person. It's an organization. Every single employee has a role in what CX is, either you're an experienced creator or you're an enabler, but every employee has that role. Leadership has a role. Now, it's not leadership's role to dictate this is what we're doing. It's their role to understand it and support it and speak the language and to really encourage and to create the right culture to derive those types of experiences. So one of the things that missing is that fundamental understanding that you have to take a holistic approach to CX, that would be the first part.

The second part of that really is that fundamentally it’s about creating differentiated experiences, but it's based upon different aspects of what customers want. And think about the airlines, right? Airlines for years have been treating different customers differently. You pay more you get a first-class ticket, you get a very different service in first class than you do in coach. Now what you pay even less money, you can't bring a bag, you’re on the back of the plane. So you're paying for an expected experience. But what's the further with airlines, you know, frequent fliers? They board a plane earlier, right? In most cases they're boarding before you know, elderly or people with children go they're treated very differently.

And when we think about ImprintCX what are we trying to do? Why did we start the business? There is a fundamental experience that every company has to deliver to it has to be good. It has to be, you know, meeting those basic expectations of the customers, and everyone needs to get that baseline experience. But then when you start thinking about well, do different customers deserve or should we be getting a different experience? The short answer is yes. You think about your high-impact customers, those customers that may be the most valuable to you, but value doesn't necessarily mean money. It doesn't mean return on investment or sales. Value could be advocacy, loyalty, could be voice, there are advocates out there promoting every day through blogs. Now, how you define high impact is going to vary for every single company.  And how you define those customers that matter most is going to be different for every single client and every single company.

Mark Levy 

And are there specific processes that you take them through?

Ed Murphy 

There, there are. We have a framework that we follow. And the framework has multiple steps in it. Everything from immersion through activation, but all different components. So the methodology, we've done it over 200 times. We know that the approach works, but it's also flexible enough for clients, where we can meet them where they are in their own personal journey.

Beth Karawan 

To jump off from where Ed said, it's about meeting them where they are. Sometimes, our clients have a lot of information, but they don't know what to do with it. So they have the voice of the customer, they have NPS, they have even the voice of employee and they have a lot of information, and they don't know what it all means. So sometimes it even starts with doing a data immersion with our clients to say, okay, you've amassed all of this data, you've amassed all this information, here's what we're seeing is the common thread and the common themes and the insights out of all of this.

Also just as many times we have clients who are like, who have heard CX as the bright shiny object, right? They're like, ‘I need a CX program. I need you to create a CX program for me.’ And you start to ask those discovery questions of how much do they know how, and it turns out they know absolutely nothing. So you're literally starting at square one of working with them to get that information. So sometimes it's, we can jump all the way to ahead to Okay, great. You've done all this. Here, let's work with you to figure out what you need to do next, and who are these high-impact customers. But sometimes it's starting at square one of like, do you even have any understanding of who your customers are at all? So that's why we have like any good company, we have a framework. We have methodologies that we turn to, but it's every solution that we bring to a client is customized because it's really about meeting them where they are.

Mark Levy 

It's very challenging, once you’ve set things up, to really get root cause analysis to understand what the actions are that you should take, like you said, there's lots of data out there but it's sometimes it's hard to analyze it. So what do you propose for companies that are in that situation?

Ed Murphy 

Yeah, one of the things, most organizations are still very siloed. So we talk about journey mapping. You mentioned. Some companies do it. Some companies do it great. They have them, they use them. Lots of companies don't really understand what a journey map is. And when we do our journey mapping, one of the things that we always see is that the lights go, the headlights, the bulb over the head goes off and it's like, oh, wow, we have 40 or 50 different touch points with our customers, and how one touch point is connected to the next touch point. And the experience I have there impacts my perception of the experience there. They finally realize what it all means and how it comes together.

It's funny because we work with lots of clients who say, ‘We have tons of data.’ Great. Let's go through the data. We look at it like okay, but do you have anything at a touchpoint level? Do you have anything about the specific interactions? No, we don't, we have lots of data. We can evaluate things that are very high level. But to really get at well what is happening at this specific interaction, they have no clue. They don't have data at that micro level. So one of the things we do is with our journey mapping, and we do our journey mapping, and we come up with all the different interactions. And then we go into doing consumer research, customer research, and the research that we do what's called an Experience Impact Assessment. What it is, is a research approach that quantifies the importance of the different customer touchpoints that drive loyalty and advocacy.

Okay, so what touchpoints are most important to your customers? How well are you delivering, what's important to them, and how well are you delivering? Where did that experience gap at a touch point level? One of the things that make our approach unique is we take those same types of questions and ask them to employees. So we ask employees, what do you think is important as a customer, and how would you think we the organization are delivering to that expectation the customer has? And it's those sets of gaps that now help us understand well, What are those moments your truth from a customer perspective? Either, what's most important to them? Or where we have a big gap because we're not meeting their basic expectations? Same thing on the employee side. So, is their alignment between what the employee thinks is important? And what the customer says is important? And do our employees believe we're delivering to the same expectation that our customers are saying?

Mark Levy 

Do you see that the companies that you work with and just companies, in general, are understaffed when it comes to customer experience?

Beth Karawan 

I think your question if I could take your question and not exactly disagree with you, but just provide a slightly different perspective? Which is, that assumes that there is a team that is solely focused on CX. And when you say that they're understaffed, right, that assumes that there's a team. And our perspective is it's actually the entire organization's responsibility for CX. And when Ed talked before about silos, that is actually the bigger problem. It's not about having understaffed CX teams. It's that silos exist within the organization. And people within each of those silos don't understand the impact that they're having on their coworkers and where each of them fit in within the customer journey. So that is actually the bigger issue.

Or to take it one step further. It really speaks to what Ed was speaking about before in terms of what is your CX strategy. Doing an NPS tracker, doing voice of customer, that is not CX strategy. Those are programs, that's research, those are point-in-time measurements. That's not a strategy. It's about getting everybody within the organization, from the top down, and even those people within the organization who maybe aren't those frontline workers, to understand that everybody has a role to play like Ed said, you are either directly responsible for delivering an experience or something that you do within your organization enables that other person to deliver a customer experience. And so that's the bigger issue, is getting everybody to understand that they're part of the CX team because it's everybody's responsibility.

Mark Levy 

And then do you find that the challenge is at the top?

Beth Karawan 

I actually think it's at mid-level. That is the most problematic because I think in a lot of organizations, you get senior leadership who are, sometimes again, they see a bright shiny object and they see you know, they hear CX and they want to develop into CX strategy and whatever. But some of them are very earnest and honest and really understand how important this is to their organization and really are the champions. And then you have the people who are those frontline workers who were more directly responsible. I think what I've seen is it's that mid-level layer of employees who don't really understand where they fit and, and what their role is to play and how much impact they actually have and how much impact they actually can have if they can get on board and see why this is so important.

Mark Levy 

So is it education, is it change management? Is it, you're shaking your heads, it's all of this.

Ed Murphy 

But here's the thing, you know, I agree with Beth. But when you look across lots of different organizations, it's going to vary. What Beth said is true for those where leadership understands it and they're behind it, it's the education, its the instilling of the value of CX, the vision of what CX means.

Just be honest, you know, your customer experience has to support your brand vision and your brand promise, the two go hand they go hand in hand. And most organizations don't have a CX vision. You ask people what does customer experience mean? I’m going to get 20 different answers. But then how could you be delivering to some defined experience for what you want your brand to be? So that's the education. There's a lot of employee alignment education that has to get done. That's one piece of it.

But the other piece for you know, probably an equal amount of organizations is leadership is misaligned. They all think they want something different. They all don't have an understanding of what CX is, or they have different priorities. So it really runs the gamut. But it's either going to be middle management, the employees if they're not educated, there's no definition of what CX is, the value behind it, what their role is.

Mark Levy 

I think it comes down to consistent prioritization and funding. Both of resources of technology, development, analytics, and feedback. It is an extensive investment. And it's not an overnight process and that requires consistently continued momentum. And I think I think that's the challenge. You know, as the world comes at you as a business leader, to maintain that, yes, in the end, if I don't serve my customer, if I don't deliver on the promise that I'm selling, I'm not going to have a business.

Ed Murphy 

And sort of for me, that's the role that the CX team plays. It's more than just that, but their role is to keep the momentum going. As the head of CX, it's really your job to ensure that leadership and the decisions being made in the direction the company is going take the customer experience into account. And that's where you get governance models and all those other things where most organizations don't do them. But they actually do work if you set them up, and you follow them. But as soon as you get one executive that doesn't want to do it, it starts to fall apart.

Mark Levy 

So, I focus on digital a lot. I've been in that space for a long time. I've built a lot of digital experiences for companies, and I do see value in automation, in being more proactive and enabling self-service as part of the customer experience. You and your team say we should put a higher value on human experience. Can you talk a bit about that?

Ed Murphy 

Sure. You know, our belief, my belief, too many companies really have defaulted to believing that technology-based solutions are a cure-all. They're not a cure-all. That implementing technology, is going to fix all of our CX problems. That's not going to happen. I recently read a report from PWC. And it said 64% of consumers in the US feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

Now let's take a step back and think about what technology does. It has the potential to really have a significant role in enhancing customer experience. It's not the cure-all, but it has a job, a really important job to enhance the experience, but only if the technology is designed, really if it's fused with humans. The two have to be fused together and can't just be technology based. It just can't be human-based. The two have to complement one another.

If you think back, think back over time. What was the original sort of customer service platforms? Well, it was about recognition. Oh, this is Mark? Here’s Mark’s account number. Here's his phone number. And some basic information about Mark. Right. Fast forward now to today, those programs were designed to capture that recognition information, they're not designed for personalization. They have no memory. They need to have recognition and then memory. And this is where the human part starts to come into this fusion. Because if you're designing a platform to be solely a technology solution or have the experience be solely technology-based. It's been designed by people, people make mistakes, Technology, if you have a complex issue you have to address, the technology is down. How many times have you know have you tried to change an airline ticket on your app, and you can't do it you have to call somebody and you're going through the whole process again, you know, or you want to call and I was just doing something the other day and want to call and change my address. I could check my account. I could do all these other things, but I can't change my address on the platform. So I got to find a phone number to actually talk to somebody. It’s that transition between technology and human in that the technology is a great tool in that it will allow us a speedier, more efficient process for many of the basic service elements. Once you get started getting past these basic service elements or when something goes wrong, you have to introduce that human element.

Mark Levy 

But I think companies are trying to balance the economics of maintaining call centers, outsourced call centers, whatever it might be. It's all a cost and providing a level of service that enables, I think we've seen a lot of it just since you know the pandemic, just a desire to get access to whatever I need to 24/7. Now there are going to be those moments of truth, those things that are more difficult, but a lot of it can be automated. I do agree with you that the human element, empathy, understanding, the context is still missing. But I do think over time, AI will be able to help with that, again for certain experiences or transactions. I still think there's a need for the digital experience within to support the customer the agents so that they have a better understanding, that they had to have that context that they know that you were just on the site for 20 minutes.

Ed Murphy 

Exactly it that it's the usual between the two.

Beth Karawan 

There are certain things that can be done almost 100% digitally or DIY and the technology can be done completely on your own. But when it's come to that last resort of ‘I can't figure this out.’ And also technology is intended to make things easier and more efficient. But that's another issue too, right is that if you automatically default to a technological solution that doesn't work or isn't as intuitive that's another issue too is if it doesn't work or isn't as intuitive to your customers as they think it can be or should be. There’s still, at least a human element in that it, is the technical solid technological solution that you've designed, does it best meet the needs and as user-friendly and efficient for your customers as you seem to think that it is?

So something as simple as, we had a client who was turning over their customer service wanted to turn their customer service completely over to AI chatbots, 100%. Even though they knew going into it they were already having significant issues with the platform and very large customer dissatisfaction with that element of the experience. But you know, they were fully invested in this, it was going to save them a lot of money. But even getting to the AI chatbot, it wasn't designed in a way that was intuitive for customers to interact with it to even get their most basic questions answered.

Mark Levy 

I think the investment is well made in investing in the technology to automate a lot of this out so that you can focus on those key moments that are important to have a human engaged. But you just don't know that unless you build the systems and get the analytics and have that information and data so that you can make those decisions.

Beth Karawan 

Well, that's why if an organization is going to embark on some sort of technology transformation, the best time actually is if you're going to think about where technology fits a role in that customer journey, doing any sort of CX work to understand customer journey and technology transformation. It's the perfect synergy to do both of those things in parallel. Because again, that's where you have the opportunity at the outset to understand how these work together. Not in parallel, and not in silo. Right. It's the perfect opportunity for an organization to fuse both of these things together at the same time rather than treating them as two separate and distinct work streams.

Ed Murphy 

Far too often we see organizations where that’ve either done or are doing a digital transformation and it is purely a digital exercise. And is not include other areas of the organization other than, you know an understanding of how you use a tool, not necessarily how the tool is being used by others outside to support it gives. We worked with a client where the digital firm that was doing the transformation was actually taking a lead on the CX component. And, not saying that not every digital company in CX has to be a CX expert, but it's sort of like, well if they're the digital team, are they focusing on the digital experience or a holistic experience? Because if all the focus is on the digital, then you're missing this whole other aspect of customer experience that needs to be fused together to make it actually more beneficial for the customer.

Mark Levy 

Yeah, and I think that's where some of the silos still exist. Call centers are call centers, operational. They have their own teams who are developing their solutions or their tools and bringing their technologies and then you've got a digital team that's out there building the website and the apps and the conversational AI, but they all have to work together. And because that is the journey.

Ed Murphy 

Exactly yeah. Again, we're not saying that everything has to be human-based, but that transition from digital to human needs to be seamless and as easy as changing a phone number or changing your address online.

Mark Levy 

Yeah. Well, this has been really great to speak to both of you. I appreciate the time and your insights and feedback.

Ed Murphy 

Thank you for the opportunity. For any of your listeners, we're more than happy to have conversations about customer experience. I mean, just to share knowledge and learn what others are doing. So yeah, this is great. Thank you.

Beth Karawan 

Thanks for the time today. We really appreciate it.

Mark Levy 

Thank you both.