Forbes Features CX Perspectives from Erin Lynch, Hero Digital’s Chief Creative Officer


Forbes has featured perspectives from Erin Lynch, Hero Digital’s Chief Creative Officer, in a recent article titled: Generational Differences Make For Some Tough CX Decisions–Where Should Companies Invest?

In this article, Erin Lynch and Gary Drenik, a Forbes contributor covering consumer-centric insights, discuss what brands should prioritize to keep up with unique demands across generations. Read their full conversation below.

Companies of all sizes are often tasked with the difficult decision of where to invest budgets to enhance customer experiences and ensure brand quality. On one hand, younger customers may be in favor of chatbots when seeking support, but on the other, older customers may demand to speak with a real person. The same goes for purchasing, returns, and all aspects of the customer journey.

In many respects, brands are being pulled in different directions by each generation. This begs the question: How can companies narrow their focus and be sure they are making the correct digital bets when it comes to their customer experience?

I sat down with Erin Lynch, Chief Creative Officer at Hero Digital, a leading customer experience digital transformation company, to discuss what brands should be prioritizing when it comes to building digital platforms in order to keep up with the unique demands across generations.

Gary Drenik: It’s no secret that the customer experience landscape has evolved in recent years. How have brands reacted?

Erin Lynch: In recent years, we’ve seen the customer experience change dramatically, but we are just now beginning to truly understand how these changes have impacted brands and their customers. One thing has become very clear: contextual relevance is vital to not only meet the expectations of today’s consumer but also secure their attention in an increasingly noisy world.

Digital products and emerging tech that unite the customer’s entire experience are essential given the level of connection they facilitate across all touchpoints. Today’s consumer is savvy and understands when they are being duped. Brands have reacted to the demand for personalization and relevance by investing in AI and machine learning tools that understand the needs and wants of their customers and can help brands create a more human-like experience in a digital environment.

Drenik: What tools and features have emerged in the last year that you’ve seen customers enjoy – are there any digital tools that haven’t really worked out/delivered their intended benefit?

Lynch: Numerous digital tools and features have emerged in the last year; some have had a lasting effect while others have not. The pandemic forced brands to quickly develop digital-first strategies to engage with their customers, but now that we are wrapping up 2022, we are realizing which ones provide the most value to the customer.

In 2020 and 2021, when customer service was at an all-time low and wait times were at an all-time high, we saw the emergence of conversational AI and live chat solutions to provide a human-like support system in order to better serve the modern digital customer. And now this is one tool that will not disappear anytime soon. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, 54% of consumers state that a live agent is an Important/Very Important service when shopping online.

In addition, we have seen tools that have been around for years without a large amount of adoption, such as QR codes and biometric access, now gain popularity and are part of many mainstream customer experiences.

Since digital preferences are evolving so quickly, there is no clear answer for why certain digital tools continue to grow while others, such as the rapid decline of crypto, seem to fall fast. It is also worth noting how the metaverse has largely underperformed expectations and according to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey data, 46.5% have heard of it but don’t know what it is. However, it is still in its infancy, and too soon to understand the roles the metaverse will play in the customer journey.

Drenik: Generational differences could be a tough challenge to mitigate. For example, younger customers may be in favor of chatbots when seeking support, but on the other hand, older customers may demand they speak with a real person. How do you choose?

Lynch: You should not have to choose. While different generations have different preferences, companies that offer best-in-class customer experiences offer a variety of experiences, putting the power in the hands of the customer. The first step is understanding your customer and their unique preferences and being authentic while doing it. What are their motivations, what are the obstacles that might stand in the way of achieving their goals, and what are the innate behaviors that you could tap into to better support them? People are smart. And more importantly, your customers need to feel heard, supported, and valued. To do this, you need to be where your customers are. You need to be interacting with them in real time, in an authentic voice (not business jargon and buzzwords) and proving that you’re listening. Use the research and behavioral segmentation you have, and target your content to prove that you remember, value, and are listening to your customers. Key off of your segments’ motivators. Give your consumers control; learn from them; listen and constantly optimize your personalization program around that customer-fueled data.

Drenik: How can businesses better leverage existing customer data to inform their investment decisions?

Lynch: To meet (and exceed) exponentially rising customer expectations brands must think about what value they will provide to the customer in exchange for their data. This can be achieved through the articulation of clear use cases for the data at the outset, as well as a prioritized roadmap for creating personalized experiences for the customers from that data. The key is understanding and articulating what you want to do with the data then prioritizing, building it, and ultimately delivering it.

With a renewed strategy that’s focused on first-party data, brands will find they are better able to cultivate a 1:1 relationship with their customers. But data for the sake of data won’t move the needle of your business effectively; throwing money at technology investments will not help a company achieve its intended results. Rather, a company needs to set out on its data journey with a clear hypothesis related to a problem they’re trying to solve.

In today’s landscape, the fastest way to utilize data quickly and add new capabilities is often to bring partners and tech into the ecosystem rather than trying to build everything from scratch.

Lastly, with loyalty programs gaining popularity with 60.9% adoption nationwide, these programs are the key to building a customer-obsessed data strategy and using your first-party data to truly know your customer.

Drenik: In your own words, how can companies narrow their focus and be sure they are making the correct digital bets when it comes to their customer experience?

Lynch: Brands need to be customer obsessed. Understanding their customer’s habits, hangouts, and behaviors both inside and outside of the brand category. Listen to what they say and sometimes more importantly what they don’t say, and they will tell you where to make the correct digital bets. Human truth lies at the heart of every beautiful customer experience. In a world full of distractions, embracing these foundational truths is the key to creating moments that positively impact people’s lives. At Hero, we have our Truth and Beauty Index which allows us to help our clients discover what matters most to their customers. Across all industries, we are able to uncover the hidden attributes that drive both brand choice and brand advocacy. With this, we can place the customer at the center of any digital strategy. In the end, successful customer experience outcomes come from making the right choices for your business based on what matters most to your customers.

Drenik: Erin, thank you for your input on this subject. The customer experience continues to rapidly evolve, and your advice on where brands need to narrow in their focus for the best return possible is very insightful. The data in front of us clearly shows one similar pattern across generations – they interact with digital features – proving that brands must invest in their platforms now.

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