Defining Modern Customer Experience


April 17, 2018

by Carla Johnson

I spent last week at Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience conference in Chicago. One of the refreshing things about the work I do is being able to lift my head from my desk and spend time with really groups of people who focus on customer experience from many different angles. That’s the gift that Oracle’s event gave me.

Last year I walked away with a broader perspective of what’s coming with technology – artificial intelligence, intelligent augmentation, virtual reality – and how it all fits in the world of customer experience.

But this year, there was a greater focus on the human side of things. That’s a message I feel often gets lost in our tech-driven world but one I heard repeatedly last week. Here are the five things I took away from this year’s conference.

Be human

Somehow, our conversations about customer experience have lost the focus on the people. I love this pre-conference article from Bryan Kramer in which he says –

“…great CX adds a human component to it all, by thinking beyond the commercial aspects of your business and creating meaningful experiences for your customers. Businesses that execute HX listen to customers and respond in emotionally intelligent ways, thereby addressing the human needs or human qualities side of things. This resonates strongly with your audience and helps turn prospects into customers, customers into loyal brand advocates, and drives business growth.”

There’s so much opportunity left at the side of the road in CX because companies focus on how to get things done (technology) instead of who gets things done (people).

Stand your ground

Head Customer Experience Evangelist Des Cahill said analysts believe that CX performance will hit a wall and decline. That we’ve harvested all of the low-hanging fruit and how the tough-stuff starts, so the enterprise commitment to CX wanes. Expectations have risen and it’s harder to please people.

This is the time when legends separate themselves from the lightweights.

Instead of responding to what customers want in an experience, now’s the time to delight people in unexpected ways. That means we have to be more innovative in how we think, critical of how we deliver, and committed to sustaining what we deliver.

AI, AR and VR are the words of today, but brands have the opportunity to lead by setting expectations for tomorrow, rather than responding to the growing pressure of trying to keep up with where customers tread. It’s time to get out of reaction mode.

Forty-eight percent of CX professionals say their companies aren’t investing in digital quick enough and 55% said they fear disruption from more customer-centric organizations. But marketers are eager to lead – 65% said they were ready to drive CX innovation.

As Das shared, “It’s hard to be a hero in this ecosystem. If you don’t stay laser-focused on your customers, then guess who is…your competitors.”

Heroes make things happen. They don’t wait for the organization, the technology or the situation to be ready. Because they know they’re ready.


Charlie Herrin, executive vice president and chief customer officer with Comcast Cable shared the story of how the company has turned the company’s CX ship in a relatively short amount of time by focusing on five areas.

  1. Customer viewpoint
  2. Automation
  3. Reliability
  4. Employee empowerment
  5. Simplification

Before they had a plan, Charlie said the company had a disconnected, horribly performing mess on their hands. It took weeks to respond to someone on social media. Internal silos made it impossible to deliver a connected experience.

In the last 18 months, Comcast Cable has gone from weeks to respond on social media, to 10-15 minutes. From a hornet’s nest of technology to an integrated system. An SMS database of zero to 6 million to let people what’s going on with the products they’ve ordered. They get 80,000 surveys back from employees a month and in 2018, they call 1 million customers to hear from them directly the good, the bad and the ugly of doing business with Comcast Cable.

The plan that Charlie created for Comcast Cable was to meet customers where they are and don’t overwhelm them with other things. They rolled out a system called Timeline that gives everyone a 360-degree perspective of a customer. This helps them ensure that they’re focusing on customers, and what matters to them as people, rather than just looking at data about customers.

An incredible example of this was when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. People were desperate to connect with family and find out what conditions were. Comcast Cable knew people had lost their passwords and weren’t able to log into networks. So, they worked with providers and technologists, and in a matter of a few days, opened up their networks so people could get news to and from each other and know what was going on.

The idea to do this came from front-line employees who were servicing people in the Houston area.

“If you listen to the front line, they have all the answers. But you have to have the courage to deliver it to them,” Charlie said.

Ideas over products

I first discovered Casey Neistet in 2012 when he created the #MakeItCount video for Nike’s fuel band. If you’ve never seen this video, stop reading and watch it right now.

Casey’s a YouTube star, a vlogger and a filmmaker who had a bad customer experience with his iPod in 2003. It was the experience that he had in the process of telling the story of his situation that made him realize the power of the message. And it’s what got him excited about what happens when you connect with people and build an audience because of that message.

“I felt like I was making greatness,” he shared.

This turned into his most valuable lesson in marketing. And it’s what behind him being adamant about giving greater credence to ideas than you do products.

Rattle cages

As marketers, if we’re going to live at the front of our customers and become their champions inside our companies, then we’re going to have to shake things up. There’s no better marketer to talk about just that than Katie Martell, an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller.”

Katie talked about how brands don’t take a stand in their industry. That they call themselves thought leaders, but they refuse to put forward true leadership with what they’re thinking. Those who do are what she calls Rabble Rousers.

A Rabble Rouser is a leader who stirs up the masses; galvanized. They appeal to emotion and passion. And they’re provocative and controversial.

The business impact of Rabble Rousers is huge. They experience…

  • Recognition as an expert
  • Attract philosophically aligned buyers
  • Differentiation
  • Sharing and organic word-of-mouth exposure
  • The ability to deliver greater value to customers
  • Admiration

My favorite takeaway from Katie’s presentation is this statement: Every Rabble Rouser’s message is grounded in extraordinary truths. They say the things that nobody will say, but everybody thinks.

Build relationships

With huge conferences like Oracle Modern CX (about 3,500 people attended) it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of keynotes, sales leads and selfies.

But none of that matters if, at the end of the day, we fail to make a true human connection and build meaningful relationships. That doesn’t mean a relationship as a mean to a sale, but caring about people enough to get to know them, what matters in their world and how you can add value. In our tech-driven world, the idea of relationships is highly undervalued.

It’s what Bryan Kramer talks about with the human side of customer experience. How and why do you interact with people?

Brian Moran has done a tremendous job of putting relationships in the spotlight with the Oracle’s SMB Experts. (To be transparent, I’m a member of the Oracle SMB Experts.) Brian’s background is in publishing and he’s worked for media companies such as Entrepreneur, Inc. and The Wall Street Journal and even started his own media company, Moran Media Group. He’s won accolades and awards across the board. You don’t get to that level of success in an industry that hinges on great content married with a great experience without knowing the power of relationships.

Because, at the end of the day, what our goal should be with all that we do in customer experience is to deliver something legendary that inspires people to build deeper relationships with our brand.

Evolving our definition

Marketers, we still have a great deal of work to do before we get the customer experience right. And how we define customer experience and what our role in it will continue to change.

But as legendary tennis champion Billy Jean King said, “Champions keep playing until you get it right.”

Photo credit:Pixaby

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.