Given this is the Tuesday leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., I would like to speak about customer experience from the perspective of being grateful. Not a dissertation about customer experience strategy, customer feedback loop and Outer Loop. Rather I’m going to speak about it from a personal perspective.
September 2023 marked my twenty-fifth year in the field of Customer Experience. It has undergone many slow evolutions and fast changes in that time. When I first started out, most of the survey responses came through mail and telephone. To innovate we would select a few cities to gather up a few customers and talk about ideas in a focus group. Today we will collect responses primarily from mail and telephone – at least from email and mobile telephones (still not sure many people use them to have conversations any more).
My first role involved solving a problem of scalability, data was collected, analyzed and pushed into templates that were printed and mailed out to each stakeholder. The process took weeks and involved quite a bit of manual quality checks and – as I described it – one or two trees with every report distribution. I was also fortunate enough to be an early adopter of a new thing at the time called the World Wide Web.
Being a part of the internet evolving Customer Experience from an expensive measurement tool that only the largest companies could operationalize to a broader set of tools to enhance the ways we serve customers and give greater control to the frontline teams. For years, mentioning “faster, better, and cheaper” would result in the retort of “you can have two of those, but not all three.”
This sentiment is still true in micro-journeys, but ultimately over twenty-five years all three have become true in the Customer Experience space. Driven by technology, I have been able to see data move from getting into the hands of stakeholders in a timeline that has moved from weeks or months to real-time. The tools have also enabled our customers to be able to quickly visualize and filter data to get a better understanding of what customers are saying about their journey and what actions they can take. Technology has also made it affordable to many – not all the great tools are going to be inexpensive, but there is no reason that every company that has more than a handful of customers shouldn’t have some way of understanding their experience. Probably the only thing lacking at this point is an entire frontline team that understands multivariate statistics and their application to business operations. Then again, most companies do not even have one individual like that in their organization – which has put me in high demand amongst both clients and the companies I have worked for over the years.
It may surprise some that with all that I have witnessed and accomplished over the years, I nearly gave it all up four years ago. I was very fortunate to work on the services side of the business, but with a role that allowed me to connect it to technology – in fact all the technology providers in the Customer Experience space and beyond. I felt I had done it all and saw progress slowing in the companies I had been working for at the time. While I was young, I was ready to retire, and perhaps just become an operations management consultant, something that I had intended to focus on many years ago. I wanted to be able to connect the dots between data and action for companies that struggled to do that. It had been one of the favorite parts of my job, but it usually got overshadowed by developing implementation plans for clients, managing teams that were in high demand and explaining why we needed to invest more in emerging technologies without ever getting those investments. I yearned for something more exciting and fast paced, something with hustle.
Four years ago, I attended QuestionPro XDay 2019. It was their first such event. During that time, I got to meet some people that would become my colleagues. I still needed a little time to think about things – along with making my move to Hawaii – so it was a few months later that I joined. It is one of the things I am most grateful for in the past few years. We work in a fast-paced environment, collaborate globally, innovate continuously and challenge ourselves to do more. I frequently tell people that I work harder and more than I did when I was planning to leave the industry four years ago, but that I enjoy it so much more than I ever did back then. People talk about a workplace as a “family”, but that usually is just talk. Really, most workplaces are like a professional sports team – they don’t all have to get along, but if they do their jobs, they succeed. The “family” metaphor is often overused.
Four years ago, I started a new journey in Customer Experience on the technology side. Four weeks ago, we gathered together in Austin, TX for XDay 2023. I feel even more energized and grateful that I took on this challenge. During this event, we had the opportunity to meet with clients and each other (since all of us work remotely). Some I had met previously, with others it was my first time. Many of my colleagues have posted about the event since it happened and their gratitude for such a great experience at the event. Some of our clients have even sent notes of thanks and – of course – we asked for feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive. This picture above is of my QuestionPro family – and I am grateful for all of them – those in the picture and those around the world, many of whom I have yet to meet.
I am grateful for Customer Experience, because I have been able to work with the Dream Team that is more like a family instead of a professional sports team. I am grateful for this wonderful group of people. They all work hard for our clients and for each other, and I want to wish all of them a Happy Thanksgiving.
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