About Gustavo Imhof
Gustavo Imhof has been recognized as one of the rising stars of Customer Experience. Recently nominated a “30 Up and Coming Leaders in CX” –aged below 30, he works with leading blue chip companies and spoken to audiences across Europe and in LATAM, helping people understand the DNA of great CX strategy. He is regularly featured on a number of leading Customer Experience portals and has contributed to a number of CX thought leadership publications. Gustavo is specialized in measurement, KPIs and making your Voice of Customer actionable and embedding it within the business.
[00:06] Mary Drumond: You’re listening to Voices of Customer Experience. I’m your host, Mary Drumond, and on this podcast we shine the spotlight on individuals who are making a difference in customer experience. We also proudly bring you the very best of customer experience, behavior economics, data analytics, and design. Make sure to subscribe or follow us on social for updates. Voices of Customer Experience is brought to you by Worthix. Discover your worth at worthix.com. [00:35] MD: Gustavo Imhof has been recognized as one of the rising stars of customer experience. He was recently nominated as a 30 up and coming leader in CX aged below 30. Stavo works with the blue chip companies across Europe and Latin America, helping them understand the DNA of a great customer experience strategy. He’s regularly featured on a number of leading customer experience portals and has contributed to a number of CX thought leadership publications. He specializes in measurements, KPIs, and making voice of customer programs actionable within businesses.
[01:10] Gustavo Imhof: Hello, how are you doing?
[01:12] MD: Thank you so much for being on today. I wanted to start off the podcast by having you introduce yourself to our listeners and talk a little bit about your background and especially what your mission is with customer experience.
[01:24] GI: No problem. So I’ve been in customer experience for my entire career really, and I’ve started on the consultancy side, so helping big businesses, global businesses, really build the right kind of customer experience programs and frameworks around it and how do they actually report on customer experience to their colleagues. And I’ve then moved and been ever since on the brand side we could say and from the inside helping businesses transform their practice so that they have their processes at the service of better experiences. And that’s what I’ve been up to more recently.
[02:06] MD: Great. And what do you consider to be your mission? Like the one thing that you, if you could choose to change in the way customer experience is nowadays, what would that be?
[02:17] GI: I think what my mission has always been to go into the office and by the end of the day feel I have made things better for the customer and that’s what I’ve always wanted. I came into business, I studied business because I wanted to have that positive impact in the life of customers, so I think the one thing I would change is probably have stakeholders being less reluctant to follow the customer agenda, so it was just making everyone more involved and convinced of the importance of customer experience as a strategy. That’s probably the one thing I would change so that everyone would ever have so much faster and everyone, businesses and consumer lives will be the better off for it.
[02:59] MD: Perhaps understanding the profitability of customer experience, which is still something that’s very kind of hazy, right? In the business world where people are yet to perceive the true value, monetary value of customer experience. Right?
[03:12] GI: Yeah. That’s probably the biggest challenge that a customer experience practitioner could have actually is really being able to talk with the CFO and other stakeholders on how those changes are going to impact their bottom lines. Because for a lot of people, if you don’t tell them how this is going to relate to their bonuses, so their metrics or to the bottom line, you’re fighting a losing battle because every other department will actually be able to quantify that quite easily. So it’s an uphill battle that you need to do if you have to have a shot.
[03:47] MD: Absolutely. Well, I know for a fact, because I’ve read several of your articles on CX Network and you were recently named one of the 30 under 30 there, weren’t you?
[03:57] GI: I was, yeah.
[03:58] MD: Oh Great. Congratulations. That’s wonderful. And one of the articles that I read that I found just fascinating and it was one of the things that had me reach out to you in the first place was your take on artificial intelligence and how that’s affecting the landscape of customer experience from a practitioner’s point of view. So can you share a little bit of this point of view. I know that you got into natural language processing, machine learning, text analytics, and a couple more things. So in a nutshell basically, if you would.
[04:30] GI: Of course in a nutshell, what I was saying in that article is that nowadays technology moved so much forward with machine learning and language processing that businesses are able to create scores or metrics on the back of free form, open ended responses. So it’s kind of bringing unstructured data through some kind of structure and this is something that I’ve seen more and more providers doing and it’s great because you don’t necessarily need to rely on surveys for that because God knows survey fatigue is becoming a real thing, and it’s getting harder and harder to get responses, but you actually get great value from it. The main issue that exists with this approach that’s miles ahead of everything else is because of its complexity. So if I have a business that hasn’t done customer experience ever and he’s trying to start out and I want every one of my colleagues in contact center to get to score, and when they see their score, they actually query about how the score is built. There is nothing less robust from an agent from a colleague standpoint than being told it is calculated by a machine and that’s where I think scales still have a long life to live is because there’s an incredible simplicity about saying the customer rated you xyz on a scale of z.
[06:05] MD: Attaching a numerical value to emotions. Right?
[06:07] GI: Exactly, and it’s much more easier for them to understand because you’re saying, look, this is the question that was asked and this is how they rated you. It’s so much easier to understand than saying well they wrote some words and the machine decided this was your score. It’s so much easier to get buy in and although I think that processing that machine learning approach is incredibly powerful. It’s incredibly relevant, at least from an analysis standpoint. It’s something that needs a lot of belief from the business. It’s a leap of faith that the business needs to make if it’s not a business that’s ready for it, so there’s that. I definitely think there’s a place for it. There is a need for it, but it’s probably those that are already leading the way that will adopt that and lead even more than what they already do. If a business is lagging behind, I would probably tell them to say with a more traditional set of metrics because otherwise you’re making your journey even harder than he has to be and God knows is a perilous journey already from the get go.
[07:14] MD: Yeah. That’s actually really valuable, Gustavo, if you think of it, because we have companies that, like you said, are kind of lagging behind and only now even beginning a customer experience program within their organizations, so if the building blocks of their CX has to be artificial intelligence and machines, they might not even start to begin with because it might seem so daunting and such a big undertaking that it’s not even feasible. Is that it?
[07:42] GI: Exactly, and if you want it to go that way, you actually need to have on staff someone that is really good with machine learning or an expert statistician to actually explain to everyone how the score is calculated and how it’s actually a very robust and valid measure. It’s not an efficient allocation of resources if you’re starting your journey.
[08:04] MD: Right, and and for small to medium size businesses, even medium to large, sometimes they can’t actually allocate the funds to have that kind of qualified skill on the team, right? Because we all know that it’s not cheap to have a machine learning engineer as part of your team, much less a statistician. Right? So for a smaller company, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t do CX if they can’t afford to have a machine learning engineer on board, right?
[08:35] GI: Exactly. It’s really I see it as machine learning being that state of the art in CX, and I know you say that in the Olympics, a split second makes a difference between the gold and not even getting on the podium. I feel that this machine learning, this new generation of insights would be the split second, but if you’re not even qualifying for the Olympics, then don’t bother because you’re just shooting yourself in the foot really.
[09:05] MD: Right. Well, just a little observation. Um, it is only a matter of time before some startup, somewhere on the planet decides to make that accessible for any size of company. Right. If we think about the tendencies, and I know that you brought up a couple examples and in your articles of companies who are already doing this, maybe at a more enterprise levels, I know that Worthix, my company, we do this also at an enterprise level, but it’s not yet accessible to smaller companies, etc. But it’s a matter of time because the technology is getting there, isn’t it?
[09:41] GI: It is. Definitely. It’s a matter of time, as you said, and by the time this technology becomes more accessible, I like to think that you’d have many more businesses big, small, mediums or enterprise that will actually be ready to go through this journey because there’s only positive things to be had from a richer journey where you can, instead of waiting for 100 surveys or praying for 200 surveys to come in, just taking the whole body of unstructured feedback that we get is just the ideal place where you actually don’t need to ask for further feedback from consumers. You just get their feedback from the interactions they already have with you or what they already say online because ultimately this is what’s going to happen. There are so many businesses that are creating voice of the customer programs that fatigue will take over and it won’t necessarily disappear, but it will get harder and harder to really get high quality feedback in great quantity. So it’s bound to happen, at least for some businesses to actually get that transition to only using existing data.
[10:48] MD: Well, one thing that’s interesting is I was on a webinar the other day with Nate Brown who works at CX Accelerator and he was talking about how he was absolutely certain that survey fatigue was right around the corner. So he and a buddy went out to the streets of Nashville where he’s based and they started asking people, you know, whether they answer surveys, and one thing that he noticed is that when, when talking to millennials and gen z and gen x people were so used to the idea of answering surveys and they’re like, yeah, of course I answer surveys. How else would I communicate my needs to companies? Whereas the older generatIon, you know, baby boomers, etc. They were like, oh no, no, no, I don’t have patience for that kind of stuff. And it was a surprise for him because he realized that we still have an opportunity to get surveys right with these younger generations. We just have to not fatigue them, which is maybe something that happened to previous generations where we exploited so much, you know, these ridiculously long surveys that took up so much of a customer’s time that people are just burnt out. Whereas these new upcoming generations, they haven’t reached that saturation point yet, so if we can get it right, we might be able to overcome survey fatigue. Do you agree?
[12:10] GI: I agree. I couldn’t agree more and I recently saw a video of someone going through the survey of an airline.
[12:25] So it was like it was ridiculous was probably all in all a 20 minute survey, but none of the questions were actually relevant to the consumer or putting them on the consumer to actually know everything about the industry and you’re just thinking this is the kind of survey that ruins everything. This is a kind of surveys that push the industry down. I was really shocked when I saw what airline it was because it’s an airline that’s actually celebrated for his experiences, but the survey messed so many things up. It was. It was just crazy. But this is a kind of survey as leading to the fatigue, while on the other hand, if you have a short, let’s say seven minutes survey maximum that truly talks to the actual experience that people have, or in other words, things that people can actually comment on. Then people go through and it’s really quick because it’s engaging because they actually can say something. If you’re actually asking your customer to try to remember something that they forgot, you know you’re going to wrong way because ultimately whatever you remember from your experience is what’s going to impact your future behavior.
[13:33] GI: You only care about those things if you want to ask about the seats on how clean it was and it’s just a hygiene factor for the consumer. If it wasn’t incredibly dirty, they won’t remember. So don’t even ask about it. Just make sure that is part of the crew’s procedures in between flights, but don’t put a burden on the consumer to do your job.
[13:56] MD: Right. So instead of asking or like nit picking the small micro aspects of the experience, focus on the experiences that were actually impactful. And the way that you can do that is through open ended questions, right?
[14:11] GI: Yeah. So I think the open ended questions are a great tool to help you understand where things stand to be memorable and that that’s great, but you always have to balance It out with obviously process owners or department owners that will want to have scores for everything. So you need to make sure that you can balance it out, but still have that consultant approach almost internal consultant approach to them saying, look, I know you want to know those 15 things, but actually, you know what, the consumer, will only care or remember about only three of them, so let’s not burden them excessively because otherwise your entire data sets will be weaker for that.
[14:51] MD: And this technology is now possible, whereas a couple years ago it wasn’t. So we have an opportunity here, right. It’s kind of a window where we can still salvage surveys, which we all know is a super important tool for voice of the customer, through technology, and through innovation. Right? And it’s at our fingertips.
[15:06] GI: Exactly. Yeah. That’s the beauty of the time we’re living in. It is going to move forward either one of two ways and the burden is on us, CX professionals, be it on the vendor or the practitioner side to make sure that we we take the right way, that we move towards shorter meaningful feedback with as much open ended as we can and as relevant for the business. Otherwise we’re just going to kill our industry one way or the other. [15:42] MD: It would be a damn shame, right? [15:44] GI: Yeah. I’d be out of a job, that’s for sure.
[15:50] MD: Voices of Customer Experience is brought to you by Worthix. If you’re interested in customer experience, behavior economics or data science, follow Worthix on social media or subscribe to our blog for the best content on the web.
[16:08] MD: Well, let me talk about one of the metrics that’s the most, maybe the most common nowadays, and you mentioned this, net promoter score in your article, and about how natural language processing and text analytics might make the actual number or the net promoter score itself irrelevant. If you’re able to analyze the text to that degree. So tell me, share a little bit of your mindset on net promoter score.
[16:37] GI: So net promoter score is a fantastic metric. The problem is that it’s been so popular that it has been drastically misused across businesses, across industries, and there are two main ways that I see it being misused. The first one is how it’s actually being asked a lot of the time. I’ve seen countless opportunities where instead of going with, “would you recommend” that the question is, well, it’s not even a question, it’s a statement that would say “would recommend company xyz” and then you actually ask people to do agree, disagree. You are already skewing the answers towards the agreement because it’s an affirmative statement. That is the first side of this issue. The other one is when you actually have staff members that say, oh, you’re going to receive a survey, please give me a 10. [17:37] GI: If I don’t get my 10, I can’t feed my family kind of situation. So yeah, you can have the strength to do the survey in itself. So this is like how it can be missed constructed, but the one where I really have a problem, and that’s where I tend to tell people to stay away from is transactional NPS because NPS has been designed as a relationship measure. So taking everything into account, all your interactions with us, how likely are you to recommend us. That’s how he’s been designed, but not for the transaction. But if let’s say the prime example is Apple. Let’s say that you are a massive Apple fan and you have five products from Apple right now and you’re one of those people that actually queue when a new iPhone is being released and let’s say that somehow you have a technical glitch on one of your products.
[18:28] GI: You need to return it and you call support and somehow that person actually supporting you on that day isn’t in the best of moods. They had some personal issues. They are rude and they talk down to you. Whatever reason, you don’t get the outcome you want. You feel very negatively about this one experience and then you get your survey. How likely are you to recommend Apple and you think, well, it’s true that today wasn’t brilliant, but I will still buy every single product that it creates, so if they do a leash for my dog. This survey doesn’t bring any value to the company because it’s hiding. You have such a strong hallow that is going to hide the results and that’s why I tend to say to people you can measure NPS, be my guest, but do it right and keep it away from transactional feedback. Do not ever use it as a KPI or as a source of your analytics.
[19:32] MD: And do you think that like maybe an alternative like customer satisfaction would be a better alternative as a transactional metric? [19:40] GI: Definitely, but then it goes on what mission your business is trying to achieve because ultimately we’re talking about metrics but because we’re not actually measuring the experience itself, because it’s something quite intangible and tricky to actually measure, we’re using a proxy measure. We are hoping that one of those metrics can be a decent proxy to what we want to achieve, so you need to kind of take a step back and look at what is the objective that your business wants to do, what is the goal experience, and some metrics will work better for some companies rather than others. So if we take, for example, customer effort is great if you’re in one of those industries where people interact with you because they have to. So utilities for example, or insurance, those are industries that you just are begging for the contact to be as short as possible so that you can continue with your life. Customer efforts for those interactions is fantastic.
[20:38] MD: It’s for everyday tasks, daily tasks.
[20:42] GI: Everything that’s a hassle in itself. Sure, but on the other hand, if you are Disneyland or you are Build a Bear and you actually go to them. Build a Bear is the prime example and say how effortless was experience and you’re thinking, well, I have like six or seven steps to go through to have my own bear made for me. So it wasn’t effortless, but guess what? They don’t care. They want that experience. They want that engagement and effort. Even though there was effort. So for them it would more be a matter of meeting expectation, satisfaction, delight, but finding another question to actually meets it. So it’s more a matter of time. Well spent than efforts.
[21:28] MD: Yeah. That was I was going to bring up, Joe Pine and his concept of time well spent versus time well saved. And in this case, because there are some situations that can absolutely spare you time and they will be expensive and you’d be willing to pay that price to save time. Whereas other times, all you want is for time to go by slowly, right? When you’re enjoying your experience and then it doesn’t matter if it takes a long time or if there are several steps or if there’s maybe an effort. You’re actually going for that experience.
[22:04] GI: Yeah, that’s exactly how. If you think about Disney parks, it is time well spent because you are queuing for 30 minutes upwards, but immersing yourself in the universe, immersing yourself in Toy Story, in Star Wars while you’re queuing so you’re not even realizing that you’re queuing. You want to move forward to see the rest of the story, not necessarily to get into rides and that that’s why it’s so important to make sure that you get the right proxy because if you are in a time well saved industry or transaction and you’re trying to measure the opposite, then yes, you’ll have a number, you’ll have a metric, a KPI, but it’s not really aligned to what you’re trying to measure. So from a statistical, from a research standpoint it is not actually a valid measure. You’re not going to have any valid results on the back of that because you’re not actually measuring what you’re trying to measure.
[23:00] MD: Let me get into customer journeys really quick. How important is the customer journey for customer experience do you feel? Is it something that they’re absolutely kind of, it’s a necessary process, design thinking, taking the time to sit down and establish what the path of the consumer is, what are the steps that they’re going to take a establishing a touchpoints to have voice of customer surveys. Do you find this relevant? And I ask you this because I have spoken to a couple of thought leaders who think that it’s unnecessary that all you have to do is, is observe holistically what the customer is going through and put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic or you know to their reality and that’s enough.
[23:51] GI: How do you feel? Well, my answer is in two parts. The first one is the journey mapping and journey design is the next level up. The next evolution from process design. Because process design just think on how can the different silos in my business actually somehow magically work together to deliver this output to get the customer from point a to point b, but it’s not rare for those kind of processes not to even mention the word customer at all whatsoever. So thinking the journey mapping approach, the journey design approach, now make sure that you get to process so the next level and prevent failures before they actually happen at the design stage. So that’s one way I feel it is very valuable. The other one is that the voice of the customer is fantastic. It gives you an incredible depth in terms of of insight in some of strategic direction in terms of understanding where you miss out, but there’s nothing that’s more compelling than going through a journey that was simply messed up.
[25:01] GI: Those businesses that actually look at those horrendous horror stories that they have experiences they deliver to consumers and actually able to reply to their stakeholders so they actually understands how their processes affect the consumers are those that will have a greater shot at actually transforming those processes. Because there’s a difference between saying 10 percent of our consumers thought that this process is really not up to par. To actually taking one of those really painful experiences and show to them that the process that they designed as being five steps actually took 25 steps for some kind of mishap that’s really bringing it to life and it will always depend on the business itself. It will always depend on individual business, stakeholders, how engaged they are, how bought in they are, but ultimately there is nothing more powerful than bringing the journey to life and really walking people through the interaction they had with us, with that company so that you really understand how many times we mess up and how much of an impact that can have. I feel it’s indispensable really. I think it’s key if you really want to engage your business in that transformative journey.
[26:16] MD: That’s really interesting because this is the first time that someone has mentioned this aspect of customer journey mapping and I find it to be fascinating because you’re right, it is a great way to get the entire organization to rally around a common goal and it’s very tangible and you can bring everybody into a room and say, this is the customer journey map here. Here is where this customer’s reality touches this department, that department and the following department. And this is how much each department in the company is actually affecting this customer’s reality.
[26:48] GI: Yeah. The beauty of it is that you end up shifting normally the focus on the pain points and you start to realize that those pain points don’t tend to be anyone’s fault, but is rather a handover that hasn’t been done correctly or designed correctly or one action that affects another operation without knowing. So more often than not, it’s not that someone’s process is broken. Just that somehow is not well connected to another process and the journey map is a great way of showing it. I mean if you just think of an ecommerce website for example, there is nothing more powerful than actually showing someone that wants to check out that wants to pay for a product and they have however hundreds of dollars on their cart and they can’t and just trying 15 different ways to actually go through the payment and you go through the frustration with the person and this talks directly to the to the teams because obviously it money that they should have had if the processes were lean and it’s just, it’s just the best example you can have is really showing them look because of disconnect that we had because of those glitches, we lost money or we really made a massive first for the customer that didn’t even have to. It’s just really understanding the impact that you have and those journeys or screen recordings, if it’s online, are very powerful to bring people around and give them the incentive to act because no other department will be able to do that. No other team will be able to go through that journey with them. That’s something that’s unique to customer experience as a discipline, but somehow we don’t use it as much as we should.
[28:32] MD: Yeah. So if we were to summarize this entire episode and all the things that we discussed into actionable bullet points for our listeners, starting off with the idea that technology has come here to improve our lives, how would you summarize this for our listeners?
[28:46] GI: The main takeaways that I’ve had throughout my career is that technology is an enabler, but it’s not going to do the job on its own. You need the people on board. You need people to actually buy into it if you want it to be great. Otherwise it’s just a shiny piece of equipment. And the other point is on that discussion that we had on the metrics, you need to have clarity on what is it that you want to measure. Have clarity on what your company’s mission, goal, target vision, whatever you want to call it. You need to have an understanding of that and then through the understanding of this thing, you understand what kind of experience would actually drive that result and once you know what kind of experience drives as a result, what will be a suitable metric. If NPS is the right metric, then go for it, but don’t go for NPS because everyone talks about it. It is the worst way of deciding for something because every business is so different, and I haven’t seen two businesses yet the have the identical same CX team. So adapt your metric to your company. That is the best learning I’ve had over the years.
[30:00] MD: Wonderful. Gustavo, if our listeners want to keep touch, keep in touch with you or follow you and your publications and read your articles, how can they do that?
[30:09] GI: So I am mostly active on LinkedIn, or I have my own website where I share articles and upcoming speaking engagement that I have add it’s cx ahead.com.
[30:24] MD: Wonderful. And I recommend that to our listeners. I’ve read, I think all of Gustavo’s articles and I’m fascinated by the stuff that you put out and the way that you express that. So I’ll be sure to add that information to the episode details for whoever wants to go straight to that site can just click there. And I’m also connected with Gustavo on social media. Well thank you so much for coming on here today. it’s been a pleasure. And I hope to have you again sometime on the show talking about your experience and your new accomplishments and customer experience.
[30:58] GI: Let’s do that. Thank you very much for having me. It was a blast. Thank you.
[31:06] MD: Thank you for listening to Voices of Customer Experience. If you’d like to hear more or get a full podcast summary, visit the episode details page or go to blog.worthix.com/podcasts. This episode of Voices of Customer Experience was hosted and produced by Mary Drumond, cohosted by James Conrad, and edited by Nic Gomes.