Building the Framework for an Exceptional Customer Experience


As part of the Kin + Carta global Connective, AmazeRealise and Solstice recently united to bring together 60+ customer experience (CX) leaders from both sides of the Atlantic for our third installment of the ‘Your CX is Broken’ event series. 

Hosted in Chicago, this executive briefing featured prominent speakers from Google, Northwestern Mutual, HCSC (BCBSIL), SpotHero, and the Chicago Cubs. While representing various industries, across various disciplines, each presenter had one belief in common: Great CX starts with your people. 

From influencing change to recognizing moments of impact, here are 5 executive takeaways for delivering better customer experiences:

1. Involve and empower for better engagement

With competitors just a click away, organizations need an engaged and energized workforce―one that can win the loyalty of today’s time-pressed consumers through consistent, personalized service.   

As customer experience becomes more tightly integrated with corporate strategy, the most pressing challenge for business leaders is prioritizing the focus, formulating a plan of action and determining how and where to get started. The first step is to think systematically about the transformation effort and understand that engagement requires that all employees understand their role and impact on the customer experience. 

Juliane Pearson, Director of Customer Experience at HCSC, touched this very topic. “My goal is that somebody who is even writing that one little piece of code on our claims processing system understands how important that is to a member getting care and a provider getting paid,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges for any organization is to create an environment where people feel as though they can influence and make change happen. Kelly Manthey, CEO at Solstice, began the afternoon by talking about a recent customer experience incident at an amusement park. ”It was the culture within the company that ultimately made their customer experience a winning proposition,” she said. “What could have been a frustrating incident turned into an inspiring one — that’s how we win.”   

2. Challenge and explore new perspectives

As part of the TED-Style talk, Elizabeth Docel, Global Curriculum Manager at Google, noted the importance of being able to see different points of view. As an avid puzzle player, one of her favorite things about the hobby is that it challenges your way of thinking. 

The process of understanding how each piece fits into place requires much of the same efforts as understanding our customer's experiences, she said. It requires you to look at the puzzle and its pieces from all directions ― sometimes physically turning the table around to see different perspectives. “So the question is, how do we improve our team to most effectively understand what the customer experience is? How do we teach our team to puzzle?” she asked. 

Elizabeth left the audience with a challenge: to explore a new customer perspective every day. By exploring other perspectives and putting yourself in various customer's shoes, you have the ability to see things differently,  create new ideas and develop cutting-edge insights. At the end of the day, what the customer feels towards businesses and products is what propels business decisions. Understanding each customer’s viewpoint enables us to understand how the puzzle can begin to come together.

3. Inspire and reward desired behaviors

Employees will typically do what is measured and celebrated. Recognizing and rewarding employees for doing the right thing helps reinforce the behaviors we expect. Chris Barnes, Director of Customer Experience at AmazeRealise, emphasized the importance of keeping this human element top of mind. 

“Your company’s customer experiences are being delivered by people who are trying to do their job based on a set of rules, and unless you help them, you are going to create your own pain points,” he said. “If you give them the wrong incentive you will end up with the wrong outcome.”

Steven Inman, VP of Technology with the Chicago Cubs, also touched on how their organization rewards its employees with something they call ‘a marquis moment’.  He went on to explain the impact it has had on the company’s culture, saying, “Just being able to give that token of appreciation that they can use and get something valuable to them, that's really been a huge success factor.”

Customer journeys are unique and need to be constructed around company goals, this also applies to internal incentives and culture. For more best practice tips, download the Customer Experience Challenge white paper here.

4. Understand the pivotal moments of impact

There are aspects of the customer journey that only you as a business can own, and that is where you have the most opportunity.

Vivek Bedi, VP of Digital Products at Northwestern Mutual, discussed the importance of becoming passionate about the moments that influence and shape customer perceptions. “You have to think about the experience from the customer’s lens,” he said. “You have to identify the customer’s pivotal emotional moments and watch where they stumble.” Bedi used examples such as inquiring customers to take surveys and joining in hangouts. He also stressed the importance of empathy — understanding your customers in order to build the most meaningful experience.  

According to Robert Reilly, VP of Customer Experience at SpotHero, their biggest moment of impact is when something goes wrong.  He explained that, “Every time we screw up parking, or somebody screws up parking, it's often, most of the time, not on us,” he said. “Yet we’ll give you all your money back and give you another five bucks just to make sure you feel good about it.” Robert credited this model as to why SpotHero succeeds in the parking industry.

5. Prepare for change 

After hearing diverse and wide-ranging perspectives, one thing is clear: customer experiences are constantly evolving. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to be ready to adapt and pivot at a moment’s notice. Keep in mind, however, that great customer experiences are based on the entire relationship you have with your customer ― not just the first impression. It’s important to be constantly looking at the wider, holistic journey.  

There are no shortcuts to creating emotional connections with customers. It requires motivated, empowered employees who are committed to delivering superior service. Like any transformation effort, challenges and barriers are inevitable. Rather than trying to change that, consider what is technically possible, understand the cost-benefit tradeoffs, and then assemble the necessary resources to bring the initiative to life. 

The good news is the time and effort you make to improve the customer experience will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.