by Xavier Quenaudon & Megan Nicollerat
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of Burke’s resident Customer Experience experts (and favorite Frenchman), Xavier Quenaudon, to learn more about the CX space. With a 25+ year career in Customer Experience, Xavier knows how important and powerful a reliable measure of Customer Satisfaction (or Customer Experience) is to any organization. As the role of Customer Experience expands and the impact of it increases (mainly on an organization’s bottom line), it’s become increasingly vital to have an understanding of this influential space. With the undivided attention of a tenured CX professional with a wealth of knowledge in this fascinating space, I hit him with some hard (and fun!) questions.
With a 25+ year career in Customer Experience, you clearly have to have a passion for the topic. What attracted you to this field in the first place?
I’d say the concept of seeking customer feedback for driving improvement and better performance was something that always and intuitively made sense to me – as I strongly believe that in the end, we as consumers all benefit from those improvements. In fact, I’d like to think that when partnering with my clients, I’m not only helping them ensure they deliver better services in a more cost-efficient way, but also helping their customers (businesses and/or consumers) enjoy a better and more rewarding experience all around. And at some point, we are all consumers!
So, a lot can change over two decades. What are the main changes you’ve seen in Customer Engagement over this period? Has anything remained the same?
I would say the components of Customer Engagement are the same, however, the execution and prioritization of these components have changed.
For instance, in the 1990s, data was often scarce, and nearly always expensive. Today, there’s no end to how much data one can collect – and it’s relatively inexpensive, almost too inexpensive I would argue. It feels as if many companies are over-surveying their customers simply “because they can” not necessarily because they need to. As a result, I’m personally concerned that response rates will continue to decrease, and potentially the quality of the data too, as customers are overwhelmed with survey requests. This is an area where the CX profession should and can do a better job at channeling the temptation to collect data after every single interaction – regardless of its relative importance in the Customer Experience – and instead be more savvy in identifying where and when such feedback is truly beneficial and worth the investment.
What are your thoughts on the abundance of data nowadays – is it too much?
Well, the abundance of non-survey data is a positive evolution! Here I’m referring to what we call “hard” data such as profitability, purchase patterns, or other behavioral data at the customer level. Other Information about survey respondents is also included, such as their interactions with various channels, characteristics of the products or services they purchase, and so on. And then, there’s all the unstructured data which client-side companies capture through call centers, surveys, feedback loops, social media, etc.
This presents the CX profession with many opportunities to generate truly deep insights and develop great stories, without having to go back to customers and capture more survey data… And, I think we’re still only scratching the surface here, particularly in terms of text analytics, as most organizations continue to struggle with understanding how to make the most of this very rich and abundant data.
What about the speed of CX these days? I’m assuming it’s tri-fold compared to when you started in this space.
Yes! The speed at which Customer Experience research is fed back to client organizations, and who receives it has changed significantly! This too poses a challenge, as organizations run the risk of over-reacting to anecdotal feedback. The key here is the need to strike the right balance between speed, quality, and relevance of the data. For instance, most companies today have or are in the process of implementing a closed-loop process. While connecting with customers who have an unresolved issue or are particularly dissatisfied is a good practice, it is equally (if not more) important to ensure that significant changes are NOT implemented based on the feedback of a few disgruntled individuals. Rather, we need to make sure this type of information is filtered back to the relevant process owner, and used to compile a list of the issues brought up by customers to eventually identify improvement initiatives that will have an optimal impact on ROI. So while 25 years ago, open-ended comments were viewed as a secondary and “anecdotal” source of feedback, and used mainly to complement and illustrative quantitative findings, today we see instances where that hierarchy is reversed. I think this is a good example of the CX profession struggling to find the right balance in how they use their various inputs wisely.
Who is typically involved in the overall Customer Experience?
Well today, one could argue customer experience is everyone’s business! Related to this is the sheer number of employees who are now involved, at some level, in Customer Engagement programs – mostly as an outcome of the development of online reporting platforms and closed-loop systems. This is a great development, but it needs to be supported by the proper training, systems and procedures. Without these things, there is a real chance that a well-meaning initiative will have unintended, negative consequences. In addition, it needs to be championed by leadership, and the company needs to be centered and focused around customer and employee engagement programs.
What would you say is the most significance change between CX then and now?
The main and most impactful difference is not at the operational level, but rather at a strategic level. It’s the recognition in C-suites that Customer Loyalty is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s a must-have. It’s the key to differentiation in a world where most competitors offer the same products and services at the same price. Oftentimes, the only way to win is through the delivery of an experience that is flawless, easy, and personalized, yet not intrusive. In the early 90s, when I met with a CEO of a potential client organization, the question I most often faced was: “Why should I pay attention to Customer Satisfaction? And how much will that cost me?”
Today, the question I hear most is: “How can we be more customer centric to deliver a better Customer Experience?” This shift in the C-suite frame of mind has led to the development of Customer Experience departments, headed by CX leaders that report to the C level, which was unheard of 10 years ago! While this is obviously a very positive development, the one downside I sometimes see is that these functions often reside in the “Contact Center/Call Center” world. This is too limiting, and more significantly, a sign that the organization has not fully embraced or does not fully comprehend the significance of a Customer Experience strategy.
With a passion for everything and anything Customer Experience, Burke SVP Xavier Quenaudon partners with companies seeking to take their CX program to the next level, by pushing them to advance their customer research, learning, and insights; making the most of the data that they have; and driving cultural and operational changes that impact Customer Loyalty and engagement.
As Marketing Manager, Megan Nicollerat oversees all of Burke’s marketing initiatives and works closely with multiple departments at Burke to increase her knowledge and expertise on research techniques.