Steven Van Belleghem is a customer experience enthusiast with a mission to inspire companies to become more customer centric. He’s dedicated his 23-year career to understanding customer behavior and translating that into insights for companies. He’s written five books (working on a 6th!), speaks on this topic around the world, and shares content on social media to ensure people have access to this vital information. In addition, he’s started customer experience related businesses, become an investor in a customer experience start up, is on the Board of several Belgian companies, and is a part time professor.
Steven will be joining us in Toronto to present the keynote at the HSMAI Marketing Strategy Conference. He will address the global trends and evolving customers that hotel marketers are grappling with today and leave you with recommendations for your marketing efforts. His message is relevant to everyone who is excited about helping customers in a fantastic way.
He recently shared his insights with HSMAI staff.
Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
One misunderstanding of customer experience is that it is the same as customer service. Many people see it as solving problems as efficiently as possible and believe if they do, then that is good customer experience. Customer experience is much broader than that – it gives people the feeling that they matter, that they’re special. In every interaction, we can create a fantastic customer experience. I like to take a strategic point of view. Customer experience involves every division of organization, and every employee could be an ambassador that makes customers feel great.
Successful Customer Experience Goes Beyond the Product
One example I can share of a company excelling at customer experience is from the real estate industry – this company builds student housing. Most companies in this industry just make sure that they build safe, nice rooms and then rent them out. This company decided to do more, to be a partner in life with the students. They help give them a successful start of their careers. They organize services around the student houses, including a mental health coach available 24/7, offer a variety of free classes on important life skills that you don’t get in university classes – job applications, soup making, drivers license, investing in crypto, etc. It’s fantastic because they don’t just think about the product but go beyond. They become a partner in life with customers creating a positive change.
Effective empathy – not just empathy, that’s too vague in the business world – is important for a great customer experience. Effective empathy is a combination of fast feedback loops combined with fast action loops – you don’t wait months or excuses not to act upon data. Successful companies combine fast feedback and fast action – I’m super excited about this topic!
AI and the Customer Experience
Today we are talking too much about productivity gains of AI and how it will change how we work. I like to think about how people will use it to make decisions. How will people book hotels for instance – will it still be the website of hotel or a third-party platform or via an AI assistant? We will tell AI where we are going, what our family is like, and what we want in a hotel. We don’t want to see endless lists and sponsored links, I want to see something relevant to me. If I get a personalized recommendation, that will influence me. We need to ask what brands will get through AI filter and which will be blocked? What decisions do we need to make today to make sure we get through that system? That’s for me the most interesting thing about AI and customer experience.