Customer Experience Conversations: Nestor Portillo

In this next post in our Customer Experience Conversations series, we sat down with Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit’s speaker Nestor Portillo, Director, Social Communities and Customer Experience at Microsoft who shared his best customer experience, the importance of empathy, and how social media has affected customer experience today.
In April, TCEL will explore these topics and the all of the new realities of building brands and relationships in today’s socially driven and data abundant world. The event will shine an important lens on the power of insights and the critical need for marketers to focus on factoring emotion into the bigger equation to get a return on customer relationships. Your experience at TCEL will include three full days of high-level visionary keynote presentations and in-depth case studies illustrating linking insights & data, data measuring & mapping, design thinking, synthesize intelligence from B2B and B2C companies across verticals, disciplines and cultures to march forward with a sound total customer experience plan.
Here is what Portillo had to say:
IIR: Describe your best customer experience.
Portillo: My best customer experience was with Wells Fargo few months ago. I’m not sure if this is a common practice everywhere or not (if don’t it should), but my experience with them when deactivating my debit card (lost it) and getting a replacement was awesome.
First I will say, it was flawlessly and fast which is something that I was expecting however what really surprise me was that the whole interaction was extremely effortless on my side and once the case (card replacement) was completed, I got a print out with the name of the agent who managed my case, his manager name, their contact information, a summary of the transaction, a summary of what to expect next including timing and also a promise to follow up with me a week after which took place as promised.
What made it a different experience was the low level of effort required from my end and the high level of accountability demonstrated with the print out. You don’t always you proactively get a written commitment about what to expect and on top of that the names/phone and emails of the people accountable for make it happen.
IIR: How is empathetic leadership changing leadership in customer experience today?
Portillo: I would say it is becoming more important than ever. Companies are pushed to deliver on revenue expectations while reducing costs; this makes customer experience a key piece in the operational model to achieve these 2 goals (revenue and operational efficiency).
IIR: Why are empathy and emotion so important in when it comes to customer experience?
Portillo: In my opinion, customer experience is a combination of emotions, memories, expectations, needs fulfillment, timing and effort. All of these are important add-ons to your product or service. So, in order to deliver a great customer experience, it needs to have a high degree of empathy and emotion because the interaction goes beyond product functionality or a feature explanation. You need to engage with empathy because for customers it is no longer a transaction it is about them and their feelings that you care.
If you operate in a business that has low switching costs, then customer experience is your key differentiator or competitive advantage to drive loyalty and keep your market share. Think about cable or cellular services. They all have low switching costs, which means that the real differentiator is the customer experience.
IIR: What are the key traits of a great customer experience leader?
Portillo: I think a great customer experience leader is a person that embrace responsible innovation because customer preferences are evolving as fast as the technology evolves; is a change agent because you need the whole organization onboard and is a customer centric person because customer needs to be at the center of what processes, technology, procedures are trying to address or serve.
IIR: If your customers have a bad customer experience, how do you reconnect with them moving forward?
Portillo: It is very well known that takes years to build trust and seconds to destroy it. Keeping that in mind if your customer had an unpleasant customer experience you are now back to square one and need to rebuild trust. You can reconnect with them by acknowledging what was wrong and telling them what you are planning to do differently from now on. While this may sound easy, this requires high level of transparency and empowerment to truly change things or do things differently!  
IIR: How has the digital revolution changed the overall customer experience?
Portillo: I wouldn’t say changed, I will say changing because the digital revolution is pushing companies to embrace the concept of ‘Omni-channel’ as more and more customers want you to engage with them where they are, when they want and how they want.
Traditional inbound channels are rapidly getting replaced by mobile, social networks and lately with wearable’s devices. With the new ‘Internet of things’ where now you have a variety of devices that customer are using to connect with your company, this demands a consistent customer experience regardless the entry point and this is where the Omni-channel concept becomes more and more important.     
IIR: How do you utilize Big Data to gain the fullest possible understanding of your customers?
Portillo: Big Data is definitely a differentiator, while it is getting better defined as we speak, it is in its early stages and companies needs assess how big data may help however companies have to embrace it and get ready ASAP. It needs to become a formal business practice because it can tell you a lot about customer preferences and behaviors so you can better design the customer experience. Because of Big Data’s complexity, it requires specialized resources due to current tools are great aggregating data, trending it but you need analysts behind understanding what that trends means and how it aligns and impact your business strategy or your product.
IIR: Employee recognition can positively influence employee behaviors and cultivate a customer-centric culture. How do you recognize and motivate your employees?
Portillo: Customer satisfaction and loyalty needs to be part of the individual goals and a key component of their performance assessment. You need to tie compensation, bonuses and rewards with satisfaction and experience to achieve great customer experience.
IIR: How has social media affected customer experience?
Portillo: Social media is a megaphone for good or bad customer experiences. In fact, many customers are using social media to put pressure to the companies when their customer experience is poor or to simply ‘shame the company into a response.’ Today customers know that companies are monitoring social channels so they are using these channels to capture their attention when the customer experience is broken or to expedite a response.
But, not everything is about bad experience, there are several cases where customers use social media to praise companies for their customer experience but let’s say that this is less frequent.
IIR: How do you make the connections between experience, brand and loyalty, which together create customer expectations?
Portillo: In my opinion, brand is a promise, experience is your way to demonstrate commitment on delivering on that promise and loyalty is the customer assessment of how successful you are. I don’t think you can create customer expectations, you can identify and meet customer expectations and you need to align those three to meet or exceed their expectations  
Overall, the customer experience leader needs to make sure customer experience is part of the operational agenda and not only part of the PR agenda. If you ask companies how important customer experience is for their business strategy you will get ‘top priority’ as an answer. But, if you dig a little bit and see how many resources are allocated to ensure a quality of customer experience you may get surprised.
Want to hear more from Nestor on customer experience in person? Join him at Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit 2014 in Miami in April. To learn more about the event and register, click here:  http://bit.ly/NnARgO

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.