The inaugural International Customer Experience Awards is taking place this November 20 in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.
The gala event will reward the world’s most customer-centric businesses and organisations, that will be judged by an expert panel of key global CX industry figures.
Among these judges are the 2018 International Customer Experience Awards Ambassadors, each representing his or her country at what will be the planet’s biggest ever celebration of CX. In this ongoing series, CXM World is publishing exclusive interviews with – and opinion articles from – the Ambassadors, as the event draws near.
For more information on entering the awards, click here.
Ambassador: Stefan Osthaus
Occupation: Founder and Managing Director of experience5
Hi Stefan, tell us a little about your professional background, and what drew you towards the concept of Customer Experience
For the past five years I’ve been the founder and head of an experience company called experience5. We’re based out of Germany and help large multinational organisations to introduce or improve experience programs, either for customers or employees, but ideally holistically for both audiences at the same time.
Prior to finding experience5, I worked for Symantec, the fourth largest software company in the world, mainly known for their internet security products. There I was, in the end, the worldwide Vice President for Customer Experience, for Employee Experience, as well as customer support.
This was a match made in heaven, because not only was I responsible for the Customer Experience for 120 million customers, but also for the Employee Experience of 20,000 employees, 6500 of which reported to my organisation, so it’s the perfect environment to develop the concept for success, test it in your own environment under your own control, and as a result we were able to drive up our Net Promotor Score by 30 in less than five years.
You’re a judge and Ambassador at the ICXAs – what themes do you hope to see in this year’s presentations?
When I look at where CX programmes succeed and where they fail, most often I’m really keen to look out for how the champions in these areas have overcome the typical pitfalls.
Let me give an example: in Voice of Customer (VoC) programmes, you collect feedback from customers through interviews and observational measurement. We call this data.
From data, you go to insights by having very skilful analysts crunch the data and come up with causalities and correlations, and tell you what we can learn from it.
After going from data to insight, the third step is the most important one – to action.
Data to insight to action means from what we’ve now learned we are concluding actions for improvement for our customers – for internal processes leading to more efficiencies, less customer effort, and higher product quality.
What I’ve seen in my consulting practise is that this last step, from insight to action, seems to be the most difficult for many organisations.
It might be a lack of governance that means no-one’s looking at the insights in a structured way; it might be the presence of distractions like the introduction of a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, the acquisition of a company, a budget cut – whatever it is there’s always something going on – reasons that prevent companies from reacting on the inside, which they generate from the VoC programme, and to see best practise in that field will be particularly heartwarming, interesting, and worth sharing.
What aspects of Customer Experience are popular among businesses/organisations in your region?
When we look at the Customer Experience ecosystem in Europe and beyond, we can see that companies in the USA and the UK seem to have a few years of advancement over companies in western Europe, including in Germany.
On the other hand, I see that the larger German organisations – companies we work with at experience 5 – as well as companies in the rest of western Europe are very determined to catch up.
There seems to be two models of introducing programmes for customer centricity: one is the turnkey solution brought from one of the large consultancies, and the second one is building a CX programme out of your own resources, with maybe strategic advice from industry experts like experience5.
What I can see is a tendency towards the second model, because companies seem to quite rightfully believe that building programmes out of their own resources might be slower, but in a more stable and organic way it leads to more sustainable results.
So I would say that the speed at which companies in western Europe catch up with the UK and US might be slow, but I’m really optimistic that it’s going to be really sustainable, because the growth is organic and based on their own resources.
What areas of CX could be improved in Germany?
The stereotype for German companies is that they’re very often technology and engineering driven. That is true to a certain degree.
I think the German business mentality is that companies here like to be efficient in their processes, sophisticated in their engineering, and reliable in their quality and customer service. Building on that, you can now add Customer Experience.
Improving even further is going to boost companies in Germany to an interesting position, where they can build on their traditional strength by adding customer centricity. I expect this is going to be a very successful winning model.
An area where Germany – probably like the UK – is lagging behind the United States, is the whole area of patient experience and the health sector. With a highly privatised health sector in the US, we see some excellent work done there. If I won the lottery tomorrow and didn’t need to work anymore for pay, I would do pro-bono work in the German or UK health sectors for patient experience, because I think here whatever you touch will turn into wonderful improvements for patients and their families.
What does the future hold in terms of CX? Can you offer any predictions, based on your experience, for the coming years?
I think that Customer Experience will be the plant that has to grow in the light of too much sun and too much rain: sun being the need to catch up and companies really wanting to implement a structured way to become more customer-centric; rain being the amount of distractions that make organisations defer CX.
I very often hear from companies: “We are currently in the process of doing this big project and because of that we can’t worry about Customer Experience at the moment.”
So, I think with the economy becoming more and more dynamic, these distractions will become more plentiful.
On the other hand, the need to become more customer-centric in what companies do will also increase. So here you are, the tiny little plant of CX: too much sun, too much rain – we will see how big and how wonderful this flower will grow to be.