Customer Experience, CX

Building Bridges Between Business Goals and Customer Needs

Paul Jongeward is a Customer Experience Strategy Consultant at ThinkMaker based in Minneapolis. Paul uses CX to complement his brand, digital and content marketing consultancy by helping his clients think about their customer’s journey and the touchpoints leading up to a sale. Focusing on the customer experience, Paul builds bridges between his clients’ business goals and customer needs.

Tell me about your work as a customer experience strategy consultant.

In the late 90s early 2000s, I started working with clients to help them with brand strategy and positioning their brands to differentiate themselves. I felt like it was getting harder and harder as markets became more competitive to stand out. I realized at that time that customer experience is a huge opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves.

A lot of business strategy now is moving toward what we call experience brands. Leadership in successful companies are looking at customer experience as a key priority of how they’re going to succeed. From a marketing standpoint, experience is a big opportunity, especially in companies where the sales process takes a long time. In my work with health care, education and financial services companies their prospective customers often take weeks and many interactions before they decide to make a purchase.  As the marketing organization is trying to build relationships with those people and draw them closer to becoming customers, it’s all about the experience.  That’s the space that I play in. I’ve been working with marketing organizations to create differentiated experiences that draw customers in and build relationships even before a sale is made.

What are your biggest challenges when working with clients?

The ability to measure the impact of customer experience especially in companies that are operating under an outdated strategy. Companies that are trying to generate leads with classic methods and then somebody like me comes in and says “no, we have to make an effort to improve the experience, we have to invest in customer experience.” What I’m advising is that they need to spend money on experienced strategist and designers, and they need to become better at measuring the impact of our work. In a lot of spaces that can be challenging. A lot of the clients that I work with are not set up to measure experience and to assign a value to it.

Another challenge is short-term thinking! Short-term thinking doesn’t lend itself very well to experience strategy. Experience strategy tends to take a longer view that builds something that has more meaning and impact but might not have an immediate impact on the bottom line.

How do you measure experience or what are some of the tools that you use to measure?

There are certainly indexes that organizations like Forrester have that can help a larger organization to measure customer experience on a broader level. The company needs to invest in that because it takes resources just to acquire.

We can also measure and benchmark things like brand perception and brand preference. We can put an experience into place and measure the difference in brand perception over time. That takes time to collect and process and it certainly isn’t a month-to-month sort of decision-making tool.

Then there are also UX measurements that can be done on a specific web page, web experience or mobile experience. We can measure the impact of how well somebody was able to accomplish a task pre and post design change. I find in my work partnering with good UX researchers, we can collect a lot of qualitative information that can help us understand how our customers are perceiving their experiences if we just talk to them on an ongoing basis. Too many organizations fail to do simple things like talk to their customers on a regular basis. It’s really baffling to me why more organizations aren’t doing it on a regular basis.

What are a few things that make your approach with clients unique?

I think one of the things that I’ve been able to do that has helped me to be successful is how I develop and communicate strategy. The unique thing I do is really tell a story about the strategy and how it will improve outcomes. I’m trying to articulate it in a way that people can understand, for those who don’t necessarily live and breathe the work that we do on a daily basis, they need to understand why it matters and how our work can help them achieve their business goals. I try to approach my work as a strategist, as a storyteller. I think that’s been very effective.

I really try to step back and view problems from a broad perspective to understand what the business is trying to do and then from that point we can talk about empathy for our customer and their problems. Then present a story around how we could solve those problems.

Who do you follow or what have you been reading lately that’s made an impact in your work?

Recently I’ve had opportunities to work with design thinking. I’ve been really interested in learning how people are using those methodologies, learning how people are using the tools and executing on design thinking. I’ve read Tim Brown’s book, “Change by Design” which was meaningful from more of a philosophical standpoint. I just read “Sprint” which was very methodical, very prescriptive. The guys from Google Venture Labs basically laid out a very detailed program, literally every hour in a five-day sprint is mapped out for you. I’ve been really interested in tactical, prescriptive methods for creating experiences, prototyping, validating prototypes so the Sprint book was great.

I liked the “The Field Guide to Human Centered Design” which has lots of ideas on prototyping and user research from a broad standpoint and one of my favorite UX strategy books is called “UX Strategy” by Jaime Levy, which was really, really helpful and interesting.

What trends do you see emerging for 2018?

I’m excited that this space is becoming more important to business leaders. I think from a trend perspective we’re going to see more measurement of experience, more understanding of the impact that it has and we’re going to see more business leaders in big organizations asking good questions and seeking out partners who can help lead these initiatives.

I also see more educational opportunities being available. In the old days, a lot of us came from different backgrounds and converged on the space, really pioneering the industry. A lot of smart people doing a lot of great work with no formal training, just figuring it out as they went along. Today, I see more boot camps being offered and also traditional education universities are offering classes, so I think you’re getting more business leaders being interested in training being offered to employees. Certainly, consumers demanding more is a recipe for a lot of cool stuff in the next few years.

 

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At Handrail, we believe conducting user research is a critical part of creating a successful product or service. So we interviewed UX professionals from various industries and in different phases of growth in order to gather insights and strategic advice. And now we want to share those interviews with you!

 

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