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Last week, 120 experience leaders in innovation, insights, customer operations and digital transformation gathered for the Chief Customer Officer Summit at the Park Hyatt Melbourne to discuss the state of customer experience (CX). The standout theme across the sessions was one that is human and real: build better empathy with people. According to many of the speakers, creating empathy within your organization for employees and customers will guide you on a path to create better customer experiences.

Here are 10 practical takeaways from leading chief customer officers (CCOs) and customer experience (CX) leaders in Australia:

1. Practice mindful leadership.

"CX can’t happen unless the employee experience is there," said Cassandra Goodman, general manager, experience transformation, Australian Unity. "Leadership matters. It’s how you show up. If we’re being the best version of ourselves and showing up, taking care of ourselves, then employees strive, then customers thrive." Mindful leadership is about managing change, staying resilient and inspiring growth to create happier employees and better workplace ecosystems, which leads to improved productivity.

2. Improve the change fitness of leadership and the organization.

Great employee experience requires great leadership, and great leadership recognizes the link between employee and customer experience. These were key themes shared by Vanessa Stewart, head of customer experience from LION, and Lisa Pogonoski, chief customer officer of BT Financial.

Today, employees are inundated with constant restructures, innovations, change, new processes and requests to keep learning. This "change fatigue" directly impacts the experiences they shape for customers. Leaders should focus on improving the "change fitness" of managers at every level, helping them change themselves first, then lead in motivating change across their teams.

3. Uncover patterns in mindset.

Understanding mindsets is about understanding why people do what they do, continuously uncovering patterns of thought and creating value to meet those needs. Helen Lea, chief employee experience officer of MYOB, leads a team that designs solutions and experiences that matter. Her team focuses on human-centered design, collective listening and co-creation processes that uncover insight into employee and customer mindsets. Lea’s main message: uncover the why and start there.

4. Build customer intimacy.

According to Trent Mankelow, chief customer officer of Trade Me, building intimacy with customers is about making customer problems visible in dramatized ways, making customer stories a habitat and experiencing a “day in the life” of customers. Mankelow advocates for the customer by encouraging executives and staff to "trip over the truth" of customer experience. For example, he gets people in his team to experience Trade Me’s registration process firsthand, entertaining staff with YouTube videos of customer complaints and taking staff on field trips to see customers in their habitats.

For BT Financial's Pogonski, it's all about ensuring that her people are connected with purpose of the company. She said it’s important to connect customer issues with situations that are more personal to employees. For instance, she might say, “what if it was your mom’s money?”

If you’re a CCO, there are important questions you need to answer: How intimate is the business with customers? How can you create a culture of customer intimacy?

5. Create empathy through storytelling.

Understanding customers starts with empathy, and empathy for the customer is amplified through storytelling. CX leaders at Momentum Energy, TradeMe, Lion and WorkCover Queensland reiterated the importance of getting to know your customers, building relationships with them and identifying the stories that matter most to them. Stories that provide contextual insight and understanding of the customer are more important than point-in-time metrics like NPS, according to speakers.

6. Scale a culture of human-centered design.

Many speakers reiterated the importance of human-centered design (HCD). When combined with agile methods, HCD facilitates experimentation in the organization, enhances efficiency and improves commercial impact.

Jane Curtain, general manager of CX service design at Telstra, and Ayela Thilo, director of customer experience, health insurance at Bupa, shared that they are creating organization-wide HCD courses and training programs for employees with third-party party accreditation. Other speakers encouraged CX leaders to enable their workforce to own the customer experience by scaling a culture of HCD.

7. Don’t fail fast—experiment often.

To improve innovation, double your experiments. For Transurban, a Top 20 company on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that manages urban toll road networks in Australia and the U.S., experimenting often is critical because once innovations go to market, they need to be accurate and effective. Through experimentation, trialing and constant dynamic testing with 1000 customers over 5 months, a small innovation at Transurban grew over time, which eventually led to the launch of LinktGo, an app innovation that covers all toll roads in Australia.

8. Drive insight-led innovation.

“In order to be effective at innovation, you need to be successful in customer insight,” said Chris Jackson, general manager of customer experience at Transurban. The company generates continuous customer insight through multiple Voice of the Customer initiatives, including immersion sessions, customer segmentation, journey mapping, customer panel and user testing. While not always easy, ground your innovation processes in customer insight is critical, said Jackson.

9. Let what you know guide you.

You’re not going to lose a customer over a good experience, but you’ll definitely lose one over poor experiences. Many speakers said it’s important to use what you know about your customers and use that insight to prioritize the experiences that matter.

Momentum Energy, for instance, knows that energy bills for customers are typically higher after Christmas, and customers are often surprised by the increase in their bills. Given this information, Fiona Preston, general manager of retail customer operations at Momentum, and her team created a payment plan option to address this customer pain proactively.

10. Make the influence of insights a KPI.

Stop thinking in CSAT as NPS as your key measurement. Rather, the speakers recommended thinking about metrics that have business impact. Dutta Satadip, global head of customer operations at Pinterest, challenged attendees to measure the influence of insight in a more meaningful way. Researchers should determine what their key measures of impact, said Satadip.

Resources of experience leaders

We compiled a list of resources mentioned by CCOs and experience leaders at the Chief Customer Officer Summit.

Cassandra Goodman, general manager, experience transformation, Australian Unity

Chris Jackson, general manager, customer experience, Transurban

  • Learn from the world’s best customer-centric leader: Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

Jane Curtain, general manager, CX service design, Telstra

Trent Mankelow, chief customer officer, Trade Me

Christina Carras, chief customer officer, WorkCover Queensland

More CX leadership resources:

As these takeaways show, chief customer officers and experience teams need to really understand their customer personas, learn patterns of how customer evolve and use higher quality insight faster. At Vision Critical, we believe that the key to achieving all of this is by building customer relationships at scale. Check out our customer stories featuring ABC, Telstra and LinkedIn to learn more.

Leaders of change

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