Stanford Swinton, founder of NPSx, joined us to recap his speaking engagement at XI Forum Europe 2022 in London (hosted by InMoment), and to discuss how companies can focus more on customer needs. Note: this interview has been edited for length.
Stan: First of all, attending XI was great. It was the first time in several years being back in the room with a lot of CX practitioners, since COVID. I’ve been at a number of smaller forums like the NPS Loyalty Forum recently, but having a couple hundred people trying to do the right thing by their companies and their customers all together in one big space was quite energizing.
I think a lot of folks can relate to that feeling of returning to largescale group events – it can be electric. What themes did you take away from being back together amongst so many CX colleagues?
Stan: You know, on one hand, it was very encouraging and exciting overall. There’s a lot of innovation happening, particularly in the world of CX insights and driving deeper into things like predictive customer experience - understanding what’s happening with a customer before it happens. There are also better practices emerging in areas like employee experience and customer journey management.
On the other hand, it could also be discouraging to see how little progress has been made in the discipline of customer experience over the last couple of years. So many attendees and their companies are still struggling with some of the real fundamentals: being more customer centric, knowing what & when to measure, thinking about things from the perspective of the customer rather than from the perspective of the business, just the real fundamentals.
Overall, the experience re-iterated for me how important what we’re doing at NPSx is, because we’re creating products that allow people to install and commit to these solutions very quickly. Whereas before it’s been quite cost-prohibitive and required consulting and advisory services to get done, that’s no longer the case.
Your ‘Single View of Customer’ workshop made the case for utilizing predictive AI to get a clearer picture of and accurately anticipate a wide a range of customer experiences. How did that go?
Stan: Well, I wasn’t sure going in how receptive people would be, how much it would be new vs. something people were familiar with and not as innovative. And I was quite surprised at just how new this was for most people and how much enthusiasm there was behind it.
When I asked the group, “How many people have done some of the basics around really defining customer needs in your organization?” – meaning a common definition of what your customers need, want, and why they do business with you, only 1 or 2 people in the whole room out of 50 or more people raised their hand and said, “Yeah, we think we have this today.”
That rudimentary understanding of:
What is the customer there for, and
Why do they care about you as a company and a brand
- that’s the starting point for everything to me.
How can companies get better at embracing CX fundamentals and understanding their customers?
Stan: I think most companies tend to be product-centric rather than customer-centric. So, they’ve got the hammer and they’re running around looking for the nail. There’s a good example in financial services.
If you first ask someone, “What are the needs of your customers?”, they’ll tell you things like ‘they need to get a credit card’, ‘open a bank account’, or ‘get a mortgage.’ All they’re saying is the need is for the customer to get my product. Which is not the case, right?
The real fundamental need of why a customer takes out a line of credit is because they need to or want to buy something. They don’t have the cash to do that today, and so they must therefore go get a product. The product is a necessary evil for them - they’re not there because of the product, they’re there because of the purchase that they’re trying to make. And that just completely reframes what a bank or a financial services provider can be for a company.
Because if you really understand the reason the customer is there, you know that they’re trying to fulfill a lifelong dream to buy and own a home. The mortgage is a necessary evil. What you can do [as a company] is start to provide the whole ecosystem for them around buying and owning a home. That’s the need. And, by the way, customers are willing to pay a lot of money to meet their needs and fulfill their wants. But if you only provide a little piece of it, why should they be loyal to you? If you understand their need as your product, then why should they be loyal to you? Starting with re-framing the experiences around the actual customer need in the words of the customer can be quite empowering.
“Most companies tend to be product-centric rather than customer-centric. So, they’ve got the hammer and they’re running around looking for the nail.”
- STAN SWINTON