Industry Insights: Ask a CX Leader – With Jesse Lucas

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We’re joined in this edition of Industry Insights by Jesse Lucas. Founder of THE CHITCHAT blog and podcast, Jesse draws on his experience as a Digital Product Manager for big name brands – like John Lewis and Lebara – to share what he’s learned in his career.

From customers to agents, people should always be at the heart of CX. In this installment of our Ask a CX leader series, Jesse recounts his formative experiences in customer support, and how the people he has met along the way continue to guide his approach in an increasingly tech-forward industry.

Q. How did you first get into customer support, and what inspired you to stay?

I began my career with the John Lewis Partnership, starting as a Christmas temp at Waitrose in the U.K., marking my entry into customer service. My specific journey into customer support began when I took on the role of Product Manager at John Lewis, focusing on technologies utilized by customers and agents. The dynamic nature of customer support, its pace, complexity, and the sheer volume of queries, fascinated me. My role required a problem-solving mindset, something I naturally gravitate towards. 

The ever-evolving challenges within customer support kept me engaged, driving me to find creative solutions and deliver outcomes that not only enhance the customer experience but also propel the business forward.

Q. Have you ever faced a particularly difficult challenge in CX, and how did you overcome it?

Challenges in CX are a given, each unique and complex in its own right. A particularly demanding challenge was launching a Conversational Commerce initiative at John Lewis. It necessitated an increase in headcount, which, while profitable, presented significant hurdles. These included enacting considerable changes within a large organization, proving ROI, and facilitating a cultural shift from viewing customer service as a cost center to a revenue-generating one

It was an arduous journey, made possible through a team effort and a relentless focus on data and customer feedback. By meticulously engaging every stakeholder and demonstrating the undeniable value of our initiative, we managed to navigate these challenges successfully.

Q. What experience, situation, or learning has had the biggest impact on the way you look at CX?

My formative experiences in retail, particularly working in stores and interacting with thousands of customers, profoundly shaped my perspective on CX. These interactions exposed me to a broad spectrum of customer needs and preferences, instilling a customer-obsessed mindset in me. Even now, as I navigate the tech landscape, those experiences serve as a guiding light, ensuring that the solutions I develop cater to a diverse user base.

Q. Who in the customer experience and support industry do you look up to, and why?

My admiration lies with the human agents in customer support roles. Their ability to manage multiple conversations on diverse topics, navigate through countless systems simultaneously and deliver exceptional customer service under constant pressure is nothing short of remarkable. Their resilience and empathy in the face of such challenges are truly inspiring.

Q. What first sparked your interest in the area of conversational commerce and led you to start THE CHITCHAT podcast?

My entry into conversational commerce was serendipitous. An internal application at John Lewis for a Digital Product Management role introduced me to conversational commerce, a field I was previously unfamiliar with. 

My subsequent role in leading conversational commerce initiatives was a steep learning curve, transforming me from a novice to an enthusiast. My fascination with the impact of conversational commerce on customer experience and profitability led me to delve deeper into the subject. Eager to share my learnings and connect with others in the field, I founded THE CHITCHAT, initially as a blog and later as a podcast, to explore the entirety of conversational commerce and its underpinning technologies.

Q. You spearheaded the digital conversations strategy at major UK retailer John Lewis. Do you have any tips for how to drive digitization within large organizations?

Driving digitization in large organizations is a formidable task, fraught with challenges such as legacy systems and slow processes. The key to overcoming these hurdles is building strong, trust-based relationships across the organization, enabling swift movement. Understanding the technical architecture and interfaces of your digital products is crucial for avoiding future blockers. 

And finally embracing significant technological changes without hesitation; the tech landscape is rich with innovative solutions. Don't let longstanding and deeply embedded technologies deter you from exploring and adopting new cutting-edge solutions.

Q. How do you see AI and automation technology transforming CX over the next 12 months?

The transformation in CX over the next year will be significantly influenced by the channels through which consumers interact with businesses. Platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are set to revolutionize customer-business interactions. The convenience and ubiquity of these platforms, combined with evolving functionalities such as payments, are poised to redefine the landscape. 

Meta's cautious approach to integrating business services into WhatsApp, aimed at preserving the platform's user experience while opening avenues for monetization, hints at a future where interactions with companies become as seamless and integrated as chatting with friends.

Q. Which of Ultimate's Customer Service Trends 2024 most resonates with you and why?

“The hybrid approach to support automation unlocks its full potential” resonates with me the most. The fusion of generative AI and conversation design is like having a superhero team-up in the tech world, where the dynamic flexibility of gen AI joins forces with the meticulous precision of conversation design. This approach allows you to really take your initiative to the next level, provide an amazing experience and achieve what you set out to.

Q. If you had to give one piece of advice to emerging CX leaders what would it be?

Simple: focus relentlessly on your customers' problems. Solutions often get everyone excited, myself included. However, with the latest technology and advancements in AI, it's too easy to become caught up in the solutions and lose sight of what you're actually trying to solve. This approach can lead you to create a solution that doesn’t truly serve your customers, potentially wasting a lot of money and even worsening your CX. 

Become absolutely obsessed with understanding your customers' pain points, needs, and desires before you begin to work on the solution.

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