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Justin Reilly

Onsite at the Artificial Intelligence for Customer Experience Summit, we spoke to Justin Reilly, Former Head of Customer Experience Innovation at Verizon on the landscape ahead for digital customer experiences and how vital it is to remain laser focused on being customer centric. 

Could you name two tips for perfecting the digital customer experience for connected customers

Justin: “My first tip would be just build better stuff. The bar is set so high in a lot of industries where it’s frankly simpler to build product. [You need to remember] you are feeding into your customer’s last best experience. You have to look at different industries and ask: ‘What is the best in class?’

“Secondly, I would say brands do a really terrible job, and I put myself in this camp, of actually understanding what their customers want. Hardly anyone ever actually goes and sits with the mother of five for instance.

“One of the things I [championed and implemented] at Verizon was bringing customers to sit with our C-level folks.

Customer centric

“I remember distinctly one mother said: ‘Look, I have five kids, six if you count my husband, and I’m currently with a competitor of Verizon. You think that giving me an extra $100 a month US or free HBO or NFL packages will help me switch, but that’s not it.’

“She added: ‘What I want is for you to show up at my house, take all my boxes from my current provider and make sure that I have the same features when I switch to you guys. I’m the decision maker in this family and if I get this package wrong there's upheaval, there's anarchy in my house.’

“Her point was: just build a product that breaks up with my provider for me. And no one in the room, some of the smartest people in the world, had come up with a switching product.

“So we built a switching product that went as far as the lawyers would let us go, and it’s been phenomenal. If you actually analyse the metrics of building it, it’s cheaper than building a product with discounts and all these things that we think customers want when they [in fact don’t.]

“Deep, personal research into what your customers want is often very time consuming, but if you get that right once a year [that can make a major difference].

What is the most costly mistake that businesses can make regarding digital experiences for those connected customers?

Justin: The most costly mistake? Thinking that all of your consumers are just like you.

“[In my session earlier,] I was talking about building diverse teams and that’s probably the single most important thing. If you have a non-diverse team building products, you're going to build products for one certain demographic.

“There's a lot of voice assistants out right now that fall down when used in a room full of noisy children, because no Mums were involved in building the product. Guys like me built that product for themselves and in their Brooklyn apartment with no kids.

“It might be a really great product, but it just doesn’t serve enough of your base to be useful and valuable [on mass].”

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What lies ahead for 2019 looking at the digital experience management?

Justin: “I would say 2019 and 2020 are going to see a lot of really terrible chatbot and voice assistant experiences.

“A good example is when everyone was raving about smart refrigerators that can audibly tell users they are out of milk. But, I could easily open the door and see that I’m out of milk. I’m not going to pay an extra US$5,000 for that feature.

“[Products like talking refrigerators] miss the core value of the object itself. What do people use refrigerators for? [Yes for storing food, but also] they use it for family schedules, telling stories and leaving notes for loved ones. Technology should follow the grain of what the object is originally used for.

“Turning a refrigerator into a hub of communication for a family trying to manage their life together seems like a more interesting experiment than ‘Am I out of milk?’.

“But I think we’re going to go through the ‘Am I out of milk?’ era for a couple more years. It’s probably the exercise that a lot of brands have to go through: hire the talent, figure out how to build stuff the right way, get it wrong, work on their mistakes and move on. The trouble is [in the meantime] as consumers we’re left thinking: ‘We know what we want, please just deliver what we need.”

Finally, what's been your biggest learning in your career so far looking at customer experience?

Justin: “The only thing that matters is building teams - hiring the talent and getting those people to work better together to build better stuff for other humans. I’ve seen a lot of really terrible strategies, but a lot of really great execution. And I’ve seen a lot of really poor execution with a lot of great strategies. And execution will beat strategy every single time.

“The biggest mistake I made early on in my career is I thought that everyone worked like me.

“I had to learn in my career when building teams, that there are many different types of workers, they work in different ways, they learn in different ways and they communicate in different ways. So not forcing folks into one mode or one model.”

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