“Loyalty is about keeping promises you’ve made and exceeding them.”
Olga Guseva is an international customer experience strategy and customer-centric culture transformation specialist, previously named ‘CX Leader of the Year’. She is also a published author, co-authoring two Amazon bestsellers and is an accredited CX trainer and judge for international CX awards.
ultimate.ai: Did you pick your career or did the career pick you?
Olga: Well, I guess this is like a marriage – two parties are involved and it’s mutual. I started my career in Marketing, and was fully in love with it, but gradually realized that marketing is not telling the whole story. There’s a saying among marketers: “Marketing has done its job when a customer opens the door and calls the company by name”. This could be very true, but then comes the question – what happens to the customer afterwards, when the door is already opened? Who is taking care of the customer’s expectations, needs and desires.?
And let’s agree this following scenario happens quite often: “If you are an exciting new client, press 1 and our brilliant account manager will be in touch with you immediately. If you are a boring old client, stay on the line, and someone will eventually pick up the phone”. This happens quite often across industries and countries – because we are good at attracting new customers, but much weaker in serving the existing ones and fulfilling the promises marketing have made. So, after this realization came to me, I understood that I needed to look beyond marketing into all stages of interaction between the client and the company – that’s the only way the customer will be happy to come back. Loyalty is not about flashy cards or bonuses – it’s about keeping the promises you’ve made and exceeding them. That’s how I ended up in CX.
What were the challenges you faced and lessons learnt as you progressed through the ranks in your career in CS/CX?
Ian Golding, my teacher and mentor who is a customer experience consultant and industry thought leader, loves saying that “CX is a lonely profession”. This happens because almost all projects are done not only with your own hands – but also the hands of various people across different departments – finance, IT, operations. And this means constant “selling” of the CX idea across the entire organization – starting from CEO to line staff. You always have to influence, to convince, and to explain. And you need to have authority supported by bullet-proof data, otherwise everyone is busy with their own tasks and no one is interested to have more work than he/she currently has. That is probably the hardest task – convincing others to “buy” the idea of CX. And the lesson learnt? Start from the head of the company, make decision-makers your allies, and then it starts to roll out. Also, it is important to speak the language people are used to speaking – finance people don’t hear when you say “love”, “customer happiness”, “empathy”. If you want to be heard, you need to say “ROI”, “budget”, “risks”. If you talk to business development managers, you should be saying “sustainable growth”, “competitive advantage” – that’s the way to be heard and understood.
How has CS/CX changed in the last few years/decades, and what are the biggest trends in the industry today and moving forward?
Well, CX has transformed in the last year dramatically… During the pandemic, many companies have realized that customer loyalty is true gold. Those who have trust from their customers were better able to adapt, survive and prosper, while others have realized that the time is now – it is not too late.
I see a number of changes. First, there’s more attention to CX – globally. This is what I have observed as a CXPA member and a consultant/speaker who works a lot with various companies across industries, and locally in Russia as well. Companies have realized there’s no point in investing into marketing if they don’t know how to keep customers happy, and many companies are rushing to start their own “CX transformation”.
Another visible trend is that there has been more focus on ROI. Businesses now have less money to waste: they need to be very careful in planning their scarce resources and selecting only those CX initiatives that are really important for the customers. That means more attention on CX, but also more responsibility for us.
Finally, it’s the deeper penetration of technologies. You can’t be efficient, unless you are a really small mom-and-pop business, without technology to help you serve customers, collect and process data, store information, communicate insights and sell to customers. Personalization is not about doing everything manually, but about using tech wisely to serve the needs of the customers, free up capacity from routine operations and devote more resources to improve meaningful communication with customers.
Finally, time and ease is becoming the new currency. Customers have less and less time, and they value their free time more and more. We should respect this need and make everything possible to save customers’ time and refrain from “excessive”, unnecessary service and actions that eat up their time. Technologies and self-service are here to help and the idea to apply them is simple – the more of our customers' time we save, the more our customers will love us.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue leadership roles in CS/CX?
I think CX is a profession that fits females greatly. At the end of the day, it really is about CARE. Caring about your customers – the same way you would about your kids, parents or spouse. It is about thinking ahead, predicting needs, listening attentively, hugging when it hurts, supporting when it is difficult and being proud with someone else’s success. If you know how to care about people – you have a good fit. Having said that, this profession does require a distinctive set of skills that are best described by CXPA and its six core competencies, which require an ability to see the big picture, ability to work with and process data, and ability to make changes.
Creating a customer-centric culture
Creating a CX strategy
Working with CX metrics
Listening to the customer
Ability to create a desired customer experience
Ability to implement changes
These are distinctive competencies that need specific knowledge and experience. For anyone who would like to learn more, I happily recommend the Customer Experience Masterclass, delivered by CXPA Recognized Trainers across the globe, including myself, to get this knowledge from first-hand.
As an Awards Judge at CS/CX competitions, have you observed any trends over the years in terms of submissions to the competition?
For me a distinct trend of this year is a shift from showing off “bells and whistles” to having a systematic approach to customer experience – more and more companies are building systems to cater to CX, a foundation of implementing successful CX. Each specific action can be quite ordinary, but together they build a powerful platform that can really transform customer experience.
Also, another trend I see is a real shift from a product-centric approach (“We have created this cool thing, let’s figure out how can it fit to our customers”) to a customer-centric approach (“Here is the need of the customer, let’s think what can be a solution”) – This could not have made me any happier, because this is the way it really should be.
You’ve co-authored a Customer Experience book that is an Amazon Bestseller - can you share with us more details about this?
Well, as of now, I have participated in writing two editions of Customer Experience – Customer Experience I and Customer Experience II, and both of them have made it to Amazon bestsellers. My chapter in the first book is devoted to Spiral Dynamics as a tool to understand the evolution of customer experience in a company. It is a simple and exciting way to understand where you are now in your relationship with customers and what are the next steps. I am confident this is a tool every company can use, whatever its size or industry.
The chapter in the second book is devoted to a very exciting and actual topic – customer-centric culture. I share with the readers a practical tool that is called the Market Responsiveness Index or MRI in short, which can make customer-centric culture measurable and manageable – exactly what so many businesses need. Again, every company of any size can benefit from using this philosophy, that’s why I thought it is really worth sharing this knowledge in the book, and I invite you to read it and share your views – let’s discuss!
Olga Guseva will be speaking at our upcoming Customer Experience Webinar titled “Women Leading the Way: Customer Service Trends 2021” on 24 March 2021, 18:45 CET, alongside a panel of accomplished women leaders in the industry. Register for this FREE webinar to hear her talk.
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