Customer Experience

Podcast: How brands can navigate the changing digital landscape

Juliana Holterhaus, PhD, Senior XM Scientist, is the lead consultant for Qualtrics Digital Customer Experience. In this podcast, she shares best practices for how brands can adapt their digital CX programs to meet the evolving needs of today's digital-first consumer.

Juliana was joined by Clay Warren, Head of Digital CX at Qualtrics.

Hear the full interview

Read full transcript

Here are a few takeaways from the discussion…

What are the shifts we’re seeing right now to customer experience - specifically digital?

“The digital experience matters more today really than it ever has before. It’s essential to understand the shift in online marketing, sales, communication channels, and that applies across so many industries from retail, insurance, banking, healthcare. From a consumer standpoint, it's everything from virtual events to delivered groceries to remote healthcare.

This shift is immense and it's not just a temporary phenomenon. It really is an acceleration of ongoing efforts by so many companies to potentially transform so many different areas of their business.”

How are brands responding to these shifts? Are they ready?

“It’s a mix. Some [brands] are really hitting the nail on the head in certain areas and others are having a lot more of a challenge.

Some brands were definitely more prepared than others and were able to shift very quickly. Others just got lucky with the timing of what they were already planning to deploy or implement, and a lot of the work had already been done; then it was just a matter of hitting the go button.

And there are other industries - like healthcare, that have a lot of challenges and struggles. They’ve really had to scramble, but in some areas are embracing this really just out of absolute necessity.”

Which leads us to our next question...

How can brands make sure they respond successfully?

So much of it comes down to following the path of the customer. If companies are able to do that and they're able to navigate this challenging time, customers really respect and appreciate the efforts that brands are making to meet them in the moments that are meaningful to them.”

Do customers have expectations about the digital experience?

“Absolutely. Customers actually have incredibly high expectations when it comes to digital experiences and something that brands have traditionally struggled with is meeting those expectations, especially from an emotional standpoint.

Digital tends to be a slightly emotionless or colder channel of engagement. The brands that are meeting their customers where they want to be, and that are understanding their needs and engaging in an open dialogue with them..the emotional component is really front and center.”

How can brands better deal with the “tsunami of data”?

“Automated intelligence will enable you to deploy innovative offerings at a more rapid pace, while committing to more ongoing or faster iterations.

This is where you take customer insights from the digital channel - whether it's to fuel product innovation or focus on experience optimization - and move quickly to ensure that teams have access to these insights in as close to real-time as possible.

You’ll also be able to prioritize resources and action-taking. This drives alignment with the needs of the target audience, and it better prepares organizations to respond to unexpected shifts and disruptions - something we can all relate to extremely well these days.”

What advice would you give brands looking to mature their digital CX program?

“Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Taking a [customer] journey-based approach makes a huge difference, and is how you can set up a very strong foundation in the digital space.

Understand the moments that matter from a digital perspective and then how that parlays into many of the other touchpoints that make up the larger, Omnichannel view.”



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Clay Warren (00:04):
Hi, this is Clay Warren, Head of Digital CX at Qualtrics. And I want to welcome you to a podcast series we're calling the digital playbook. In this podcast series, we'll discuss all things, digital -- digital marketing, digital analytics, digital strategy, and digital customer experience. Throughout this series, we'll invite industry experts and digital practitioners to discuss and debate these topics. Today, we're speaking with Juliana Holterhaus, Senior XM Scientist at Qualtrics. Julie currently leads consulting services for Qualtrics digital customer experience. In her role, she provides best practice consultation to some of the top global brands on their digital experience. Julie holds a PhD in decision sciences from Columbia University, in addition to being a wonderful mother to two amazing children. Welcome, Julie. Really good to have you on the podcast.

Juliana Holterhaus (00:53):
Thanks so much, Clay. I'm glad to be here today.

Clay Warren (00:57):
Julie, tell me, tell our audience about your role at Qualtrics, how you're working with brands today. Tell us about what that, what does that engagement look like?

Juliana Holterhaus (01:06):
Sure. Yeah, that sounds good. So, my role at Qualtrics is really multifaceted. I'm lucky enough to get to spend a lot of my time working with customers to help them set up strong programs of digital experience research. This involves working through best practices to set up a system of insight or a system of action, one that will really be lasting and meaningful for them. And the goal is always to inform their business decision making. I also get to spend some of my time contributing to global product and content investments, looking at things like methodology, building out maturity models that can also ultimately help our customers, spending some time on the product side of things, and also working in thought leadership channels. That sums it up, I have a great job at Qualtrics.

Clay Warren (01:56):
That's awesome. That multifaceted role. What about that role do you enjoy most? What is most interesting to you in this unique role?

Juliana Holterhaus (02:06):
I really like getting to work with different teams internally and also with some of our really fantastic customers. I'm spending more time with customers these days, building out more mature programs, which I enjoy the problem solving aspect and getting more insight into some of the problems that they're facing, the challenges that they're looking to overcome, especially in light of our current climate.

Clay Warren (02:30):
You and I worked together. I know you are in high demand from our customers, and over the last several months because of COVID-19 and a lot of other shifts, we have seen this considerable change in consumer behavior with regards to digital. Let's talk about what shifts and trends you're seeing. You're at the forefront of working with customers on their CX programs. Tell me about the shifts you're seeing with regards to the customer experience specific to digital.

Juliana Holterhaus (03:00):
Sure. I would say, it's almost like what isn't shifting to digital these days. In many regards, 2020 is becoming -- maybe more so than any of us would like it -- a true tipping point for digital. I've recently seen this meme flying around the internet that seems to capture it pretty nicely. It's just a question that says, "Who led the digital transformation of your company?" and there are three answer options. The first is answer option A: your CEO; answer option B: your CTO; and then C is COVID-19. And COVID-19 is circled in a the giant red marker. I think that sums that up in many ways. There's no question that everything going on today is really backwardly accelerating our digital future and people are quarantined or they're choosing to stay from work from home, starting school very soon in many places. The digital experience matters more today really than it ever has been before. It's essential to understand what's happening with the shift and online marketing, sales, communication channels, That applies across so many different industries from retail, insurance, banking, healthcare. From a consumer standpoint, it's everything from virtual events to delivered groceries to remote healthcare. This shift is immense and it's not just a temporary phenomenon. It really is an acceleration of ongoing efforts by so many companies to potentially transform so many different areas of their business. I think there is some silver lining with much of this. If companies can get it right in the digital space, now they stand to be that much stronger when we're on the other side of this.

Clay Warren (04:56):
How do you see, I mean, so how have brands, how are they responding to these shifts? Are they ready for these shifts? Are there a couple of examples of brands who you're like, "man, these guys are just killing it and digital"?. Or are you sensing that brands are really just not ready?

Juliana Holterhaus (05:14):
It's a mix. There are some that were definitely more prepared than others and some that were able to shift very quickly. Some just got lucky with the timing of things in terms of what they were planning to deploy or implement, a lot of that work had already been done, and then it was just a matter of hitting the go button. I have a good example actually with automotive, which you don't normally think of for digital. There's a group out of the Boston area who was able to really just hit the gas, if you will, on a lot of the digital transformations that they already had in place, eliminating a handful of bottlenecks, being able to prioritize important moments in the customer journey from a digital standpoint, and then really facilitate everything from the browse, build out your car type of model approach, to actually delivering the car in a nearly contactless way. Those kind of examples do exist. I think that there are plenty of other industries. Obviously, you think about healthcare. There are so many different elements there -- so many challenges and struggles. I think that's an example of where we won't go back to the norm in many ways, or what pre-coronavirus times in terms of how we are interacting with medical professionals or healthcare professionals. I think that virtual visits will become that much more common, obviously depending on the ailment or checkup that's required. That's another example of an industry that I think really had to scramble, but in some areas are embracing this really just out of absolute necessity. I think so much of it comes down to following the path of the customer. If companies are able to do that and they're able to navigate this challenging time, customers really respect and appreciate the efforts that brands are making to meet them in the moments that are meaningful to them.

Juliana Holterhaus (07:23):
As much as you think about some of your basic needs, so much has changed. I personally am someone who has done digital grocery shopping for a very long time. I was just thinking the other day, I'll probably never go back to actually going to the grocery store just given how hectic things are in my life. I have a setup that I have a great experience with. I tried a whole bunch of different options in that space and it's something that I really need to have things run smoothly in my house for a variety of reasons. So anyway, all sorts of examples, I think some are really hitting the nail on the head in certain areas and others are having a lot more challenge.

Clay Warren (08:09):
You mentioned something that's really interesting. You have an expectation for the experience that you have for your digital grocery experience. Do you think that's common across most consumers? Do you think that brands understand that? Tell us a little bit about that. What your experience is with that?

Juliana Holterhaus (08:29):
Absolutely. I think that customers actually have incredibly high expectations when it comes to digital experiences and that's actually something that I think brands have traditionally struggled with is meeting those expectations, especially from an emotional standpoint. Inherently, digital tends to be a slightly emotionless or colder channel of engagement. The brands that are meeting their customers where they want to be, and that are understanding their needs and having engagement in an open dialogue with them, the emotional component is really front and center there. Of course you have things around effort and ease of engagement, but at the end of the day, if there is not an emotional component established, it's unlikely that the customer is going to come back time and time again.

Clay Warren (09:24):
So can you tell us --I'm really interested to understand because I've heard this question before -- I was working with a financial services institution. They were really intrigued by this idea of measuring emotion. One of the examples they said is "I need to understand emotionally how we're helping them be more successful financially." Are there other examples of how brands should be measuring or thinking about emotion with their customers and digital?

Juliana Holterhaus (09:51):
Yeah, that's a great question. I think that just having a handful of very straightforward questions, looking at and understanding how the customer feels after that particular instance. There are a handful of key metrics that we focus on. Things like customer satisfaction, ease of use, likelihood to return. CSAT is kind of the most standard way of getting at your general satisfaction or experience, but asking customers specifically how they feel can also be quite helpful. It also feels a little less survey-like, it can be very easy in terms of how you're making the request for feedback. That goes a long way just to understand at a baseline level what that interaction is like. Then, once you have that in place, you can do a little bit more of a deep dive into some of the nuances or the key drivers that are contributing to that emotional experience or not.

Clay Warren (10:48):
That's super interesting. I've been thinking about too with regards to, you mentioned, we don't think these digital trends are going to, we think we accelerated in digital and we're not going to go back to this old normal, I guess we could call it of where we're so dependent on location-based businesses. You mentioned that you've been doing digital grocery shopping for years. I'm somebody who hasn't. And yet my experiences has been quite positive as well, where I'm like, you know, why do I need to go into a grocery store? Like I don't find that experience super fulfilling for me. So I'm someone like you, I'll probably continue to do my shopping digitally and we're also accustomed to buying other things digitally. Let's talk about the future now of digital customer experience. I often hear words such as agile CX or automation. What are your thoughts on those topics and what it means to have an agile CX program?

Juliana Holterhaus (00:32):
All right. So it's worth noting that we've identified a set of current and emerging practices that are really helpful for brands to consider when they're contemplating accelerating their digital transformation, or maybe just trying to get started right away. Um, and there actually are five more reviewing, um, recent blog posts that we released. Um, but I think it's worth talking about two of them. Um, the first is this idea of automated intelligence. So the full concept of, you know, in today's current climate, there is such a short shelf life on insights. I actually think you've said that yourself in the past by and companies really have to enable the system that can pivot based on data. So as to respond to the actual dynamics in the marketplace. So this whole idea of automated intelligence is why many companies are able to deploy innovative offerings at a more rapid pace, um, while committing to more ongoing or faster iterations.

Juliana Holterhaus (01:29):
So it's really the combination of analytics and visualizations that need to be faster and more accessible. Um, and given the volume of data produced in the digital environment, I often talk about, um, the idea of a tsunami of data, which is something Deloitte speaks about pretty commonly or pretty frequently, um, this whole idea of the tsunami of data. It really needs to be automated and predictive while providing focus areas, um, for the prioritization of resources and action taking. So that kind of approach, it just drives alignment with the needs of the target audience. And it also better prepares organizations to respond to unexpected shifts and disruptions, which is actually, you know, something we can all relate to extremely well these days. Um, so just being able to

Clay Warren (02:35):
No, that's great. I have a good example. I wanted to, sorry for jumping in, I love this example of stitch fix, um, you know, and stitch fix. I think they're masters at this, uh, just an innovative brand of how they measure in real time and collecting just millions of signals on, on what customers, what clothes customers are looking at, what styles, what combination of styles, and it just

Speaker 3 (03:00):
Drives innovation in their, in their company. And when, you know, when customers ask me and they're like, who do you think of when I think of like digital, how they're using digital to really capture customer insights. I just think of a brand like stitch fix and exactly what you just mentioned. Like they need real time signals and it's not just behavioral signals, but it's also verbatim feedback and other experienced signals to just understand how they can innovate their product offering. So that really resonates with me.

Juliana Holterhaus (03:26):
Yeah, exactly. There's another good example of that. You just reminded me of, um, with sprint actually, where they were able to, they deploy their digital CX program, uh, and they were able to identify their top 10 operational and experience variables that really at the end of the day, allowed them to predict a potential card abandonment with very high accuracy. Um, and it was those insights that helped the brand to identify, um, their at risk customers and then provide support at that key moment of truth to ultimately encourage conversion. Uh, so they had some pretty meaningful, um, results with that kind of approach that was largely, um, you know, in the kind of fell under the umbrella of automated intelligence.

Speaker 3 (04:14):
Awesome. Um, I'm just thinking about there, there are brands who are just nailing it, we've mentioned a couple of them, you know, Sprint's doing some really good things. We feel like stitch fix is doing a good things. Uh, do you feel like overall, are you sensing our brands? We're a brand, what are the gaps brands have our brands? We know brands are measuring. Everyone has data. Um, we, we actually here now and I think you've said it before, like there's almost too much data or there's an overabundance of data. What do you feel like brands are missing? Do you feel like brands are measuring the right things about their CX?

Juliana Holterhaus (04:45):
Yeah, well, I think there's just been such a reliance on digital analytics and the past and all of the promises that have been made in terms of, you know, things like bounce rates, time spent on site conversions pages viewed. It's so easy to get lost in all of the numbers there. Um, the whole idea of a comprehensive CX program, especially focused like through the digital lens is being able to understand the why and the how, and, um, more of the human factor that's really driving those behaviors. So I think that that's one of the things that brands have struggled with for a long time, is that digital analytics in general and sort of over promised, there's been such an emphasis in the past 20 plus years. Um, you know, the whole idea of digital transformation. It's often like it's too much with some of those numbers. It's obviously hugely important. You can't make any meaningful decisions without those operational metrics, but you have to be able to understand, um, what's actually driving those numbers and that's where the experience data provides a much more meaningful view of, of the actual situation.

Speaker 3 (06:01):
Awesome. No, I think you're spot on. Um, so Julia, if there's one lasting piece of advice before, before we let you go, that you could give our audience regarding how brands can mature their digital CX program, what would it be?

Juliana Holterhaus (06:16):
Yeah, it's I was thinking a bit about that. I feel like so much of it. We all have our own digital interactions every day with different brands. Some that we're constantly coming back to others are just one off encounters and we decided we're never going to come back again. I always encourage our customer. Is there anyone I'm talking to about this to really think about their own digital interactions? You know, the ones that are working, the ones that feel seamless or easy, the ones that resonate or meet your specific need in that moment. Um, and what is it about the brand's voice coming through? Um, that's really based on the interaction, what will make you a loyal customer or somebody to even recommend that experience? Um, that kind of exercise, I think really helps brands pinpoint the moments of truth within their own digital experience.

Juliana Holterhaus (07:09):
Uh, if you just think put yourself in your customer's shoes, uh, you can of course do the same thing on the flip side to consider an experience that was very ineffective or frustrating and where you, you know, we're doing a lot of reach clicking with your mouse or on your phone. So I think having that kind of journey type of mindset, where you're understanding the moments that are, that do matter from a digital perspective and then how that parlays into many of the other touch points that exist, um, even in an AR very digital digitized world these days, there are of course other touch points that make up the larger, um, Omni channel view. So I think taking that journey based approach makes a huge difference, um, and is really how you can set up a very strong foundation for a program of research in the digital space.

Speaker 3 (08:06):
Julie, super insightful. Thank you for coming on today. Uh, you certainly outlined the playbook for how brands can be successful in developing their own digital CX expertise. So thank you to be here. Yeah. And if you want to talk about anything you heard on the, on the podcast today, or how Qualtrics can help your business customer experience, please feel free to email me@claywarrenatqualtrics.com or visit our website, qualtrics.com for more information.

Clay Warren

As Head of Digital CX, Clay Warren leads the product and marketing strategy for the Qualtrics CustomerXM for Digital solution. In his career, he has enjoyed both a depth and diversity of experience spanning disciplines including digital marketing strategy, media, analytics, and product marketing. Prior to Qualtrics, Clay led the go-to-market strategy for Adobe Analytics. Prior to Adobe, he built digital marketing strategies for Microsoft and for global brands at digital agency, Razorfish.

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