A few weeks ago, the CXLife Virtual Summit brought together several customer experience thought leaders (including Stella Connect clients Brooklinen, Hubble, Harry’s, and Qalo) to discuss key learnings and industry best practices. With the holiday season fast approaching and the new year right around the corner, it’s a great time to reflect on CX trends and start thinking about priorities and planning for the coming months.
Below, we’ll dig into five key themes that came out of the conversations at the Virtual Summit:
1. Customer Experience is Cross-Functional
Throughout the summit, CX leaders came back time and again to the importance of cross-functional collaboration as a key driver of the customer experience.
In a panel on next-generation CX, Manaal F., Head of Customer Care at HelloFresh highlighted the importance of building internal cross-departmental processes to ensure you’re serving the customer at every touchpoint: “it’s all about delivering your product at the right time. That’s where working cross-functionally in this role is critical.”
Similarly, in a panel on employee experience, KC Holiday, the president and co-founder of Qalo emphasized the need for alignment across the company to ensure CX success, reminding attendees that “planning collectively is critical.” From the marketing team to sales to product, everyone should understand how their work impacts the customer experience.
Key Takeaway: Don’t let your CX team function in a silo. The data collected through customer conversations is crucial to the entire business and should inform larger strategic discussions with cross-functional teams.
2. Customer Feedback Drives Product Innovation
As the front line of customer communication, agents have access to a wealth of feedback on the full customer experience. As a result, CX has become a strategic business partner to other teams within a company, and in particular, has become instrumental to the product team.
In a panel on voice of customer, Jack Lorentzen, Customer Experience Manager at Brooklinen, and Nick Martin, CX Operations Manager at Harry’s, shared how collecting customer feedback through Stella Connect has shaped their respective product offerings.
Jack emphasized, “we’re obsessed with feedback because if we don’t know how we’re doing, we can’t get better.” As a result, feedback has informed much of Brooklinen’s product innovation and allowed them to expand into many different product lines.
Similarly at Harry’s, Nick noted, “we can look at a pretty significant amount of our product suite and talk about how the voice of the customer drove that innovation.” In fact, Harry’s foaming shave gel, post-shave balm, razor stand, grip enabled handle, and trimmer blade all came into being as a result of customer feedback.
Key Takeaway: Customer feedback is a business-critical initiative that drives product innovation, brand loyalty, and process efficiencies. Ensure that cross-functional teams have visibility into customer feedback so your team can be seen as a revenue generator as opposed to a cost center.
3. Service Recovery is More Important Than Ever
In an age of high customer expectations, resolving a negative experience can mean the difference between saving and losing a customer relationship. Service recovery is the strategy of making things right with a customer after a negative experience, and many companies are beginning to put processes in place to do this at scale.
At Harry’s, Nick shared an initiative they launched to continuously “wow” customers. “We have an initiative called the wow experience. We put the trust back in our associate’s hands by giving them a monthly budget to wow customers and we trust them to do whatever they think is right.” Taking the time to personalize the experience builds more trust than a standalone apology.
Jack at Brooklinen described a similar approach to service recovery: “the biggest principal is putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. We’re working on an initiative called Surprise and Delight, where we give budget to the agents to make things right with the customer.”
Key Takeaway: Empower your agents to go above and beyond basic issue resolution. As the main point of contact for customers, agents have the power to build meaningful relationships that drive customer loyalty and retention.
4. Hire (and Retain) the Right People
CX agents are the face of a business, so bringing on and retaining the right people is crucial to the success of the business. In a panel on the employee experience, Dylan O’Donoghue, Customer Service Operations Manager at Chewy, highlighted the key competencies he looks for in prospective agents: “willingness to collaborate and a really open mind are necessary to solve complex problems and cultivate an inclusive working environment.”
Dylan attributes his success in retaining the best talent to emotional intelligence, emphasizing that it’s crucial to listen to what’s working or not to make sure your team feels heard and understood. This helps build meaningful relationships and keeps agents long term.
According to KC Holiday, employee engagement ultimately starts at the top of the organization. “Purpose and people ultimately drives the business. Leaders should be able to clearly define the purpose because understanding how they contribute to that purpose is really meaningful.” KC emphasizes that leaders need to recognize every employee as a valuable part of the organization, beyond title or status.
When it comes to hiring, KC advises: “hire for things that cannot be taught. You can teach people a lot of things, but people with ambition, passion, loyalty, honesty, and integrity––those things matter more than some of the experience somebody has.”
Key Takeaway: Employee success is deeply linked to company values. From hiring to retention, you need a clear vision of your values and hire people who align with those values. Without this, agents won’t feel motivated by the work they’re doing.
5. Show Your Agents Appreciation
Agents are most motivated to do great work when they feel appreciated for what they do. Recognizing and rewarding hard work is critical to any high functioning CX team, especially around the holiday season rush.
KC echoes this sentiment, reminding team leaders to “understand what motivates different employees, as not everyone is motivated by the same things.”
Key Takeaway: Be sure you have systems in place to continuously recognize and reward your employees. Something as simple as a shoutout may help agents through a particularly challenging or intense period. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to boost morale.
The world of CX is constantly developing, and you don’t have to go it alone. There are a wealth of CX thought leaders and they love to share their experiences and challenges. Looking to join the conversation? Keep an eye out for local CX Connections events in your town.