What’s the secret to creating frictionless and delightful customer experiences? In this interview with Sandip Gupta, a self-proclaimed “Accidental Customer Experience Professional,” he shares insights, experiences, and talks about the importance of empathy, innovation, creativity, and problem-solving in customer experience transformation.
Can you tell us about your journey? How did you start working with CX?
I have had quite a journey in my professional career. It started back in 2014 when I joined a consulting organization as a business analyst and consultant. At that time, I was pursuing my master’s and had a keen interest in business analysis and analytics. BA is a discipline focused on identifying business needs, and problem-solving and it is a means to bridge the gap between the development team and business, facilitating effective communication.
When I landed this opportunity, I was ecstatic. It felt like the perfect fit for me, and I enjoyed helping clients understand the product and deliver applications tailored to their needs. We had a process in place to capture clients’ feedback and suggestions in an agile ecosystem.
Initially, it was just a job for me, something I liked but didn’t fully comprehend as a whole industry. It was only later that I realized the significance of continuous feedback and its impact on customer experience. After about 1.5 years, I transitioned to a company that focused solely on customer experience. I often refer to myself as an “Accidental Customer Experience Professional” because I hadn’t initially intended to enter this field. However, joining that company marked the beginning of my journey in the CX space, solidifying my belief in its importance.
Now, after nine years, I find myself working as a customer experience transformation specialist in a senior management role within a tech organization. Since the beginning of my CX journey, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Fortune 500 companies, explore the CX space, learn new skill sets, and fully understand the human experience. This journey has been truly enriching, allowing me to make a positive impact on customers’ lives by addressing their needs and making their interactions with brands more seamless and delightful.
What do you see as the main challenges for CX nowadays from your experience working with customers but also from your research as a “CX nerd”?
One common challenge is finding the right balance between digital experiences and human interaction. In today’s digital age, brands are focused on creating seamless digital experiences, but they often overlook the importance of human touch and interactions. While we can implement various processes and tools to assist customers, human interaction is irreplaceable. Brands sometimes fail to strike the right balance between digital and human elements, which affects the overall customer experience.
Moreover, having effective channels of communication with customers is crucial. Customers no longer want to be limited to phone calls; they expect options like SMS, WhatsApp, and other digital platforms. Brands should offer multiple channels for interaction based on customers’ preferences. Unfortunately, some brands struggle to deliver a consistent and seamless experience across different platforms, creating inconsistencies that impact customer satisfaction.
Additionally, the concept of employee experience has gained importance lately. Organizations are realizing the value of the employee experience. Employees play a crucial role in brand promise, and t should be valued as we focus on our customers. Acknowledging and prioritizing employee experience is a critical aspect that many organizations are still grappling with.
“Employee Experience ∝ Customer Experience “
Employee experience is directly connected to customer experience, so if. brands can keep their employees happy, they will go above and beyond to keep customers happy.
Furthermore, data management has become a significant challenge. The amount of data available today is staggering compared to a few years ago. With various channels and interactions, data has exploded exponentially. However, it is not enough for brands to collect vast amounts of data through surveys and other means. The real challenge lies in taking meaningful action based on that data. Many brands struggle to effectively utilize the data they possess, hindering their ability to improve and meet customer expectations.
You mentioned data management and analysis as one of the main challenges for CX nowadays. In your opinion, what would be the best approach for companies to utilize their existing data to better understand and deliver increased value to their customers?
Many companies focus on data collection but fail to leverage it effectively. My suggestion is to start by “analyzing the data you already have”. By understanding customer sentiments and pain points, companies can revamp their processes, and create personas, empathy maps, and journey maps to enhance the customer experience.
However, I acknowledge that implementing change and transforming the organization’s mindset can be a significant challenge. Overcoming resistance to change and making process improvements are key steps in utilizing the ample amount of data collected. It is crucial to take action rather than just collecting data without any tangible results. When organizations have already vast amounts of data, I strongly recommend that they stop collecting feedback and reassess their approach, seeking guidance from CX leaders and conducting workshops to inject a customer-centric mindset and strategize action plans throughout the organization.
What do you see as the biggest technology trends in CX? What kinds of tools CX leaders can use to effectively gather data for implementing strategies that drive ROI?
Customer experience is a process that involves various elements, such as customer interactions, data, and outcomes. When it comes to technology trends in CX, there are several key areas, including data management, survey building, communication channels, and reporting. They all come together to provide a comprehensive view of the customer journey. They allow businesses to understand their performance, track metrics, and make informed decisions at different levels, from the CEO seeking an overview of the entire business to regional managers assessing regional performance. The ultimate goal is to holistically support the end-to-end customer journey and deliver the brand promise.
What is your typical workflow when you start working with a new client?
When starting with a new client, the process usually begins with workshops and meetings involving the point of contact or C-suite executives. If the client already recognizes that they have a problem, so it’s important for us to understand their specific challenges. I typically engage in conversations with these individuals to gain insight into their perspectives and the challenges they are facing. This level of understanding is crucial because it helps us delve deeper into the actual problem.
To fully comprehend the challenges and pain points, we also talk to frontline agents. Sometimes, if we don’t gather enough information initially, we communicate with these individuals to gain a more comprehensive understanding and build a problem statement.
The challenges can vary, but it’s essential to determine which challenge is most critical for the client, particularly one that may be affecting their brand promise. Therefore, we first need to understand their brand promise and then prioritize addressing the challenge that is hindering the customer experience.
After identifying the key challenge, we begin the process of creating or digging deeper to develop suitable solutions. However, it’s important to note that there are rarely definitive, one-size-fits-all solutions in the field of customer experience. Each industry and brand have their own ecosystem and variables that impact their business. Due to their unique circumstances, what works for one brand may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, we create multiple solutions and test them to find the optimal one.
What opportunities do you perceive in the rapidly evolving field of AI? Specifically in CX, can you share any ideas or concepts that you believe will undergo significant changes with the advancement of AI in the future?
I have mixed feelings about AI. The reason behind my ambivalence is because of how organizations are currently envisioning and using it. I believe that AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact, but it cannot fully replace human touch and interactions. Human interaction is an essential element that cannot be removed from any process.
In my understanding, AI should serve as a support system to enhance our processes and interactions with customers. While there are areas where automation can be beneficial, such as quickly analyzing and responding to customer queries based on historical context, human involvement is still necessary. Approximately 40% of people may be content connecting with chatbots, but 50% prefer human interaction. No technology can entirely replace or replicate the value of human connection, feeling, and empathy
There are ways AI can assist us in this industry, such as personalization and predictive analysis for future trends. Additionally, voice-based interactions can play a role. For instance, I attended an RFP where a tool accurately predicted customer sentiment in real time through chat-based communication. This allowed for adjusting the tone and delivering a better customer experience. It was an impressive customer sentiment-driven solution.
Other AI applications, like natural language fraud detection, can contribute to process accuracy and quality. However, these remain secondary and supportive of our ultimate goal of delivering on our brand promise. Human interaction is irreplaceable, so I firmly believe in its importance.
What advice would you give to your younger self or someone starting their career in CX, knowing what you know now? How can they make the most of their career in CX?
The crux of CX and customer service is empathy. Many young professionals are drawn to CX because it’s a trending field with high pay, on average. However, people often fail to understand the true essence of CX, which is having empathy for customers.
To excel in this career, it is crucial to value empathy and to develop it as a natural part of your interactions with customers. Understanding customers’ needs and emotions is paramount to serving them effectively. Additionally, active listening and comprehension are essential skills for CX professionals. Many fail to meet customer expectations because they don’t truly listen to them. Patience, attentive listening, and understanding their pain points are crucial aspects of the role.
Another important aspect is being open to feedback. This can be challenging for many professionals, including myself when I was starting out. Learning to value feedback as a “gift” is essential for personal growth and improvement.
Lastly, always strive to improve yourself by embracing feedback and learning from others. Openness to change is very important in this field as it leads to personal and professional development.
Mastering these skills and principles will enhance your understanding of customers, enable you to deliver on brand promises, and build trust. Ultimately, the goal of CX is to create moments of joy and satisfaction for customers, where they feel happy with the product or service provided. Remember as a Customer Experience practitioner, you have a great responsibility, playing the role of a navigator or guide for your organizing helping them to build strong relationships with people around you and deliver great experiences.