Continuing the Q+A sessions with industry professionals that may inspire organisations to think and act accordingly. This week we have the former Customer Experience and Marketing Director at Metroxpress, Mie Bilberg.
1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?
Well, the marketing industry has been disrupted, just to use a well-known expression. The challenge is that somewhere in between technology and human behaviour we may have lost the clear picture of what is the role of marketing. Everything from creativity, data, insights, technology, media and communication is now under the marketing umbrella. Marketing is expected to be here, there and everywhere and the big problem is that one day, we risk eliminating the marketing role. Right now, the Chief Marketing Officer has the shortest lifespan in the management team, probably because the role is no longer clear.
2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?
There is always something I can do better, I believe in lifelong learning. I am on a mission, spreading the words of why we should listen and involve our customers. I am learning every day myself, but I believe in customer experience as a growth strategy, because I have seen it work and it makes sense in 2017 with the technology, we are lucky enough to have.
3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?
With a positive approach and evaluating what works and starting from there. We tend to focus on the negative, but I think, there is a lot more to win if we focus on the positive! To win - it takes a clear goal, a specific plan and a team who are willing to learn and navigate from the learnings.
4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?
This is because we remember feelings better than words, stories make us feel and relate. Therefore, if you want to tell me, why I should change behaviour or run after a new ambitious goal, you should start telling a story, to make me understand why this makes sense and which scenarios we are operating within.
5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customer’s perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?
Well, in a way it´s easy as the customer will not buy if it doesn’t make sense to them. The street fashion brand Zara came up with a smart and agile way of testing every time a new collection comes out. They start with a small quantity of each item and then they observe the response of their customers. If it sells well, they push the button and produce more, if not, they take it off the market. In my opinion, this is a smart way to lower the inventory and increase the sales.
6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?
Branding is about trust! We pick a brand instead of a no-name because we trust a friend more than a stranger. When the market of private labels is huge is it because we trust the store behind the private label. When speaking about employee engagement, trust is quite basic, e.g. would you feel excited and engaged if you didn´t feel trusted? You should bear in mind that trust is something which must be earned, as an employee, external consultant or brand, you are chosen because people believe they can trust you, but you still must prove that they were right in trusting you.
7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?
Customer Experience is basically about making sense for the customers. If your new app or your new shampoo add value to the customers, then you have nailed it. If not, well then you will just be another one in the line. The best products and strategies in 2017 are developed with the customer in the centre of the decision-making process, and how we do that is the biggest difference from the past. It's not new knowledge that creating great products which your customers consider useful is a good idea. But it is new, that you cannot just speed up your sales or marketing campaigns, and then eventually you will hit the targets. We have way too many options today and we don´t want to waste time on things that don’t make sense or add value to our lives. I have worked with customer experience for more than 3 years now and the reason why it´s so hard for the most people is, that it goes against our human nature, as we are born to think of ourselves first. Being customer-centric means that you must think with the mind of your customers, and this means you should spend time with them, listening and learning.
8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?
No, but an external consultant brings an extra hand, new eyes and ears and they are not limited by historical internal issues. It can be a very good idea, to have external consultants to bring new perspectives, and they also have experience from a range of other businesses and tasks which brings needed knowledge to the table. I have used external consultants to help me when we were changing from being a brand-centric company to a customer-centric business when I was working in the media business. It was a great help, as they added value, knowledge and they revealed our blind spots. So, it was not only me who had to tell people that we needed to change because no one likes that, but it is sometimes needed. Sometimes, an external consultant can bring an authority to the table which in a way an internal leader cannot.
An external consultant is a trusted advisor, therefore, we selected our consultants very carefully, because a bad consultant is a waste of time, money and leaves you behind looking like a fool!
9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?
I think the most important is the experience and speciality which an external consultant brings to the company. What value are they able to create and what is the framework of working, is it valid and realistic? And, also which resources would be required from the company's side? I personally don´t care if they work day and night, all I care about is if they take us to a better place and make it easier for us to deliver results.
10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?
It depends :)
Mie Bilberg’s blog: www.miebilberg.dk