A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement, and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider. Ian’s first book, ‘Customer What? The honest and practical guide to Customer Experience’, was launched to critical acclaim in 2018.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
I always describe myself as a ‘Global Customer Experience Specialist’ – stressing the word specialist, as I am not a fan of the word ‘expert’! I have been involved in the field of business improvement and CX for 24 years – 17 years as a practitioner on the inside and for the last 7 years running my own consultancy. Although I live in the UK, I have worked across 40 countries and every industry you can imagine! I am married to Naomi and we have three children – Ciara (15), Caitie (14) and Jack (11)! I also have two dogs and a tortoise!
What’s the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
Customer Experience is one of the greatest ironies in the world of business today. Whilst it has only come to the forefront of strategic thinking in the last ten years or so, it has, in reality, always existed! In the global, digital economy that we exist in today, it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible for organizations to differentiate themselves on their products and services alone. It is therefore critical, that if a business is going to be able to survive – to sustain itself in the future – it must start understanding how to differentiate itself on EVERYTHING it does – the entire experience.
What’s the most significant change in terms of customer behaviors you’ve observed lately?
I am not so sure that it is a significant change, but what is becoming more and more extreme, is the significance of ease and simplicity in determining the way customers maintain relationships with companies. The easier a transaction becomes, the more likely it is a customer will continue to interact with the brand providing the experience.
Can you tell us more about your book “Customer What?”
Seeing my book come to life has become the greatest achievement of my career to date. The culmination of 24 years of personal experiences, I wanted to create something that did not just espouse theory, but that helped people understand how to turn the principles of customer experience into a tangible reality. Hearing that people are enjoying reading it is a wonderful thing. Hearing that people are being inspired to ‘do things’ as a result of reading it, it is even more important. I hope it continues to inspire practitioners around the world to believe they can make customer experience ‘live and breathe’, for many years to come!
You recently published an article about “The future of VOC (Voice of the Customer) measurement”. According to you, how can this area be improved?
Without question, if any organization aspires to become genuinely customer-centric, they must aspire to have a clear understanding of ‘the truth’, as I like to describe it. VOC measurement – in fact, any customer related measurement for that matter – is not about capturing numbers to massage egos – it is about understanding the reality of how customers are feeling about their interactions with your brand today….. and as importantly….. WHY! It is only when we live in a world where a truthful AND actionable understanding of customer perception is commonplace, that we as consumers will start to see the experiences we have started to transform for the better.
Can you tell us about the best Customer Experience you’ve ever had? And the worst one?
This is not an easy question!! Those who know me, know I have many stories of the good, the bad and the ugly of customer experience! To find out about the good, I would encourage people to read my blog! Likewise, I have written about many of my personal experiences that businesses can learn from where reality has fallen way short of my expectations!! Rather than naming any specific examples, I can categorically say that for me personally, the worst experiences I have ever had as a customer are ALL related to the airline industry!
According to you, what will be the key Customer Service trends for the next 12 months?
We will continue to see the world of digital evolve in the next twelve months. However, in 2018, too many organizations implemented digital technology for the benefit of the business, rather than the benefit of the customer experience. It is critical that we do not see technology as a way to simply replace human interaction. It is vital that technology in 2019 and beyond is used to directly improve the customer journey. Hence, I HOPE to see a greater focus in ‘Customer Journey Management’, in 2019 – a way of embedding an approach to continuously improving the customer experience for the benefit of the customer, employee, and shareholder.
What would be your top advice to deliver a remarkable Customer Experience?
Related to my previous answer – embedding an approach to Customer Journey Management is the key. Customer Experience is a science – defined by a number of skills and competencies. The most important competency of all is the ability to create a continuous, never-ending approach to understanding what the customer journey looks like today; so the journey can be measured; to identify the small number of priorities that are having the greatest effect on customer perception and commercial performance; so the priorities can be addressed – and then you do it all over again – and all over again – and all over again. Any organization that is able to adopt this systematic approach to customer experience is likely to achieve the nirvana of sustainable growth going forward!