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Ask a Customer Experience Expert: Mike Wittenstein

For the first in our series of Customer Experience Expert interviews, Kampyle reached out to Mike Wittenstein – a top-ranked thought leader, popular international conference speaker and founder of Storyminers. In our interview we discuss emerging trends, the continued rise of CX, and Mike’s favorite companies for CX:

Can you tell us how you got into CX and why you find the space so interesting?

In 1999, I was working as a thought leader and practice leader at IBM. Steve Haeckel (the guy who taught me systems thinking applied to enterprise design) introduced me to Lou Carbone (the guy who helped me fall in love with customer experience). Together, we worked on the wireless drive-thru experience for McDonald’s. Lou taught me how to ‘read’ a business by reading its clues. Steve taught me how to design a business to be adaptive to its customers’ needs. Powerful combination! Why do I find the space so interesting? Because CX gives us the opportunity to use customer experience as a company’s strategy, to differentiate its brand, and to bring greater value to customers and to shareholders at the same time.

Recently we’ve seen a massive increase in the importance of CX – why do you think that is?

Because it works. Many practitioners have had successes which leads more professionals to step up and try CX out. What makes CX work, in my opinion, is that a robust CX methodology is capable of tying all the loose ends of a business together. Most individual departments are set up to optimize what’s in their own silos—not to look across different areas of the business and make the overall experience better for the customer.  CX takes the overarching view—the customer’s view if you will—and attempts to bend the company’s operations to the customer’s will. It’s a healthy effort for everyone involved and the outcomes can be very positive.

What do you think will be the main CX trends this year?

I’d like to answer a different question. What new CX trend do you see emerging this year? 2016 will be the year that technology will (finally) let us put humans first again. Predictive analytics (using past behavior to guesstimate future behavior, then serve up interesting options) will get attention. Brands that employ predictive analytics to serve their customers will leap ahead of those that adopt the technology just to sell more. After all, customers prefer buying experiences over selling experiences.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give a business trying to improve their customer experience?

Shop your own business in every channel and get to know your customers and employees by having real, face-to-face conversations with them. Let what you see and hear influence your thinking and guide you to a new definition of what’s ‘right’ for your brand. You may be surprised at how doing things for others (instead of to them) makes all the difference in the world to the bottom line.

How important is customer feedback as a component of customer experience?

Of course, it’s extremely important. One caution, however. Make sure you don’t end up following your numbers. By that I mean – don’t let your numbers lead the design of your customer experiences. Numbers are just measures of things that we know how to measure, but they don’t typically tell the full story. Not everything that matters to customers can be measured and not everything we measure matters to them! Have at least one customer value creation metric in your measurement mix to stay connected to what your customers care about most. You might consider adding a measure that captures your employees sentiments because great customer experiences come from great employee experiences 😉

Which CX metrics do you think are the most important?

My absolute favorite is customer value creation. It measures how much value a company creates for their clients. The actual measure can be whatever customers value most: cost, time, or effort savings, emotional outcomes, personal transformation, level of excitement, or accolades from friends and family. Customer value creation is not a widely talked about concept (yet) but I believe it to be the missing link when it comes to prioritizing projects.

Who do you think needs to own CX in a company?

Marketing. Here’s why.

Which companies today do you think have great CX? Why?

I’m a big fan of PIRCH because it was purpose-built as an experience before it became a store. I also love Discount Tire because they’ve nailed it when it comes to delivering high value at low cost (the holy grail of most CX design efforts).

Mike is the founder of Storyminers, an innovative Atlanta firm that helps retail and other service brands to envision their ideal customer experience and bring it to life. Read more at mikewittenstein.com and check out mikewittenstein.com/blog for Mike’s blog on CX, design and customer engagement. 

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