Innovation in creating and managing the customer experience has quickly become the top priority for many marketers. Milad Elmir, ChannelNet’s new Chief Experience Officer (CXO), explains the marketing industry shift and shares why customer experience is so important. In a short interview, Elmir hits on the key factors you need to deliver a great customer experience.

Milad Elmir-chief experience officer-CXO

Milad Elmir, Chief Experience Officer

So, can we start out by asking, what is a Chief Experience Officer? What does a CXO do?

Elmir: I’ve heard it described that the CXO is a sort of curator of the relationship between a brand and a customer. In other words, a CXO is responsible for making sure that all brand touch points, whether emotional and/or rational, informational and/or transactional, online and/or offline meet—or better yet, exceed the customer’s expectations along the full continuum of the customer’s journey.

Did you have an ‘aha’ moment that you can share? What attracted you to the role/or career path of CXO?

Elmir: I don’t think there was ever a single event but rather a collection of moments. In many ways, the role emerged as a reaction of certain thought leaders on the scene to the seismic developments and innovations in technology and media. Looking back at it, disruptive market conditions led to the emergence of digital channels, mobile, social, personalization, etc. and this led to an exponential expansion of customer choice, which in turn led to a compounded increase in customer demands and expectations. As a creative director and business consultant, my professional growth and development closely tracked with these larger shifts in the industry. In many ways, having developed in the midst of it, it was very natural for me to think along the new way of interactions, relationships, and experience rather than the old paradigm of top-down messaging. That way of thinking just seemed natural to me. One way or another, I have spent the last 20 years of my career working with inter-disciplinary teams driving to create the best customer experiences I can. Great customer experiences don’t just happen, they are designed.

How do you define customer experience?

Elmir: The customer experience is the cumulative or sum total of all interactions a customer has with a particular brand or organization over the life of the customer’s relationship with that brand or organization. The operative word here is ‘relationship.’ Key to great customer experience design is the understanding that the customer and the organization are in a relationship, with all that entails in terms of both the rational as well as emotional perception that a customer has with that brand or organization.

At ChannelNet we take an insight-driven approach to understanding the customer. We ask ourselves who the client’s customer is and ultimately what are they looking for at various points along the continuum from attraction, to awareness, to discovery, to cultivation, advocacy, purchase and retention.

Do you think people confuse customer experience with user experience? How are they different?

Elmir: Yes, absolutely… and I can totally see how easily people will get them mixed up. Here’s a simple way to think about it. Think of User Experience (UX) as the sum of all the interactions that people have with your product and the subsequent experience that they are receiving from each and every interaction. As a digital solutions company, we often measure UX in terms of time to complete a task, clicks to completion, etc.

CX, or Customer Experience, takes a more over-arching approach… as such, it encompasses the interactions people have with the overall brand. Another way to think about it is that UX is a subset of CX in the same fashion your product is a subset of your brand. CX might be measured in larger more business-focused terms, such as overall satisfaction and the likelihood to use and/or recommend a brand to others.

Both UX and CX play mission-critical roles in the success of your business endeavors, whether it’s a particular experience on your website, the overall perception of your brand or various measures of customer satisfaction. The trick is to shift the business paradigm in the direction of customer-centricity. In other words, put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

When it comes to delivering a great customer experience, what do you think is the biggest challenge for most brands?

Elmir: Delivering great customer experience hinges on a shift toward an empathy/insight-based model of thinking about the customer and their relationship to your brand. This approach is easier said than done, as it requires an enterprise-wide model approach in order to properly ‘operationalize’ the fundamental components of it. Most organizations still struggle with who owns the customer experience and operate along a traditional siloed model that is not conducive to the new relationship paradigm.  The new relationship paradigm requires that the barriers or silos are broken in the interest of across-the-board understanding and advocacy for the customer.

What is the number one thing brands with retail outlets can do to improve their customer experience?

Elmir: It all starts with insight–understanding your customers: Who are they? What do they want? Where, when and how? Once you have that insight, everything is possible; you can create a 1 to 1 connection with that customer, optimize all your channels and marshal technology and good relationship management principles to connect with that customer in a personalized and highly targeted fashion that leaves them heard, serviced and ultimately satisfied. Good relationship marketing offers the smart retailer the ability to lead the customer to the right offering. This translates into great customer experiences… and happier customers.

Do you have a favorite book or business resource that you recommend reading? Why do you like it?

Thank You Economy Book CoverElmir: On the topic of the customer experience, I would recommend Gary Vaynerchuk’s, The Thank You Economy, as it takes a view well above any single platform to address the larger concept of customer-centricity.

Another great one that has a prominent spot in my business library is The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, a great analysis of technology innovation and its role in the success and failure of companies.