Have you ever recommended a brand to a friend because you knew you could rely on them? Are there websites you return to time and again – even though you can buy the same products elsewhere – simply because the online checkout is easy to use? Lasting impressions like this don’t come around by chance. We spoke to GWG’s own Lucinda Mansour, a generous young leader with boundless energy and a passion for people, about how customer experience design and strategy can shape customer perceptions and create lasting connections.
Tell us a little about your background and your role at GWG, Lucinda. How did you get here?
My path to becoming the Customer Experience Coordinator at GWG is anything but straight and narrow, which is a really nice way to relate to what ‘customer experience’ is all about, actually! Originally, I’m from Forster, just up the coast here in New South Wales. I grew up working with my dad in a small family business, which is where my passion for helping people and having a real focus on ‘the customer’ comes from – it was drilled into me from a young age! Later on, I did what a lot of small town people do; I spread my wings and went to uni. In fact, I studied something completely different to what I’m doing now, as many millennials do.
I studied a Bachelor of Environmental Management at UNSW in Sydney, and landed a fantastic graduate role with the Department of Agriculture and Water in Canberra afterwards. I really enjoyed my studies and the graduate role was an awesome experience; I worked predominantly in environmental policy, but also spent the first year of my role rotating through different divisions in the department. I had a stint in HR, and also spent some time in stakeholder engagement and communications. The six months I spent in that kind of work really allowed me to recognise that what I love best is working with people. So when it came time to move to Newcastle with my partner – who is a doctor – I was really looking to take the transferable skills I’d developed in my studies and professional experience, and apply them to a people-focused role.
A friend of mine recommended I reach out to GWG, so I came in and had a chat about what I’d trained in, what skills I had, and where I’d like to go, hoping they might have some placement leads for me. Then they smiled and said “Well, we’ve actually got a job going here if you want it!”. It was amazing – it was so funny how it all worked out! It’s one of those things that you’d never plan, but it just all fell into place. So I took up a role here in administration, and then as the business grew and the team saw my energy and passion for customers, they supported me to seek further qualifications in customer experience at RMIT and now I’m full time in customer experience here at GWG! It’s been a little convoluted, but we’re here now and I’m so grateful for every opportunity along the way! My role here is ensuring that GWG’s customers are looked after at every stage of their journey with us; that we’re always finding new ways to care for them and engage them in ways that surprise and delight.
So what is Customer Experience? Can you share some key theories and practices with us?
Customer experience (CX) is all about the perception that a customer has about your company or brand. That perception can shift and change at all stages of their journey with you – whether that be before they engage with your service or buy your product, during the engagement itself, and afterwards as well. As a practice, CX is all about anticipating the mindsets, needs and desires of your customers in a variety of contexts, and then taking action to influence their perception at each step of their journey. We have so much choice as consumers now. When you go to buy a product or service, it’s a very saturated market; whether you’re online or in-store, there’s just so much information coming at you. So what really always stands out to consumers, to differentiate from the thousands of other companies out there, is how they feel about a company or brand. And that feeling usually comes down to the way a business sets up their customer service and experience.
In terms of theories and practice, there’s a few things to keep in mind when you approach CX design and strategy. The first is that it’s not a process or a framework that allows you to deliver a project and wipe your hands of it. It’s not ‘set and forget’ and that’s it, it’s done! Customer experience is something that you always have to be constantly reviewing – measuring results, improving, measuring again. It’s about constant iteration! The second thing is to go into it with a clear end-goal in mind. Like Lewis Carroll said: “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” To work out which road is the most effective, or which one leads you to the results that are most helpful to your business at that point in time, it is critical to define upfront what you’re trying to achieve. And equally you need to be clear on how you’re going to measure success. So knowing your end goal and working backwards from there is the key. And finally, any customer experience initiative will benefit from a really clear understanding of your business offering and what value it can bring to your customers. When you find that sweet spot where what you can offer your customer aligns with their needs and desires – you’re on your way to great CX!
In the end, there’s no one right definition of success; every company and business out there will have a different understanding of what success and what customer experience means to them. And that’s okay. It really comes down to personalising that strategy for your business and how your customers experience your services and products.
Why has CX become a key focus for marketing, tech and customer service teams?
In this digital age, you can’t even open your phone briefly without ads popping up on every page you’re looking at, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook or other platforms. And you know what? I just think it can get so overwhelming to be amongst all that noise as a consumer. What really breaks through that constant barrage of information for the consumer is when you provide opportunities for them to have a personalised experience with your company. It’s all about those moments as a consumer where you feel really special, and CX is how you get that cut-through. So that’s why CX is such a key focus for many businesses, and sits comfortably among the expertise that many marketing, tech and customer service teams already have, particularly in digital spaces.
Why is CX important within recruitment?
In recruitment, we’re not selling a physical product. We are selling people, essentially! So people are our product; but they are also our customers. So there’s a rich tapestry going on in recruitment where you’re selling to a customer who is your client, but you’re also dealing with customers who are your candidates, who are also your product…and later down the track that ‘candidate-customer’ may well become a ‘client-customer’! So customer experience is incredibly important in the recruitment space, because people are the core of our business. We want to ensure we are delivering the best services we can at every step of the journey with our candidates, our clients, our contractors – whoever uses our services is a customer to us.
What is GWG’s CX approach?
There’s a couple of CX components here at GWG that we really try to embed in every aspect of what we do. The biggest one is finding ways to continually be proactive in customer experience, design and strategy. It’s all well and good to have great customer service, but customer service is traditionally very reactive to a customer’s requests or needs. So what we really try to do is find ways we can look at things from that level above, so we can anticipate what our customers want before they tell us; maybe even before they’re aware of it themselves. There’s a number of things we’ve implemented in relation to this over the past couple of years since I’ve been in this role that have been really exciting. Things like holding regular ‘think tanks’ with customers, whether they be clients or candidates or other customer groups. In fact, I’m running a think tank with a candidate group right now, which is so awesome, and we can learn so much that way. There is so much value in talking to people and finding out what they want before they even use you! So that’s a big thing for us, being as proactive as we can.
What we also do here at GWG that might feel a little different for our customers from other recruitment firms is that we’re very agile in tailoring our customer experience to the individual customer. We consider their needs, what their journey looks like, what their context is, all of that. And that really comes from talking to people. And that’s the biggest thing that I can’t stress enough about customer experience – so much of what businesses measure is driven by digital data collection and other metrics, which really helps you learn a lot about who your customers are and what they’re doing, what they’re buying and when. But what you don’t always understand is why customers do something. And I think that’s where it comes back to just talking to people, having conversations and finding out the context behind their actions, or the feelings and emotions at certain points in time, and then figuring out what we can do or design to be better for them. So that’s a key part of our approach; just talking to people.
What’s one unexpected thing you have learnt in the role?
One thing that was unexpected to me working in customer experience is the sheer breadth of ways you can tackle a project in this space! As an example, we rely on a number of tools to help map customer experiences and analyse points for improvement. There’s tools like customer journey maps, customer personas, that sort of thing. But what I’ve learnt is that there’s a million and one ways you could not only create but also choose to use a customer journey map! There’s a million and one ways you can look at analysing that map and so many different focus points you could narrow in on. So for me the unexpected thing has been coming to terms with there not being just one answer, method or solution; which is a great challenge for someone like me with an analytical mind who has always loved just knowing ‘this is right’! So from that I’ve learned so much about myself and staying agile and always changing and adjusting. It’s so important to really be attuned to what’s going on with your business, what are your business goals, what are your customer goals, and so on. And that’s where it comes back to constant iterations, constantly measuring results and improving. So it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone but helped me discover so much more.
What advice do you have for aspiring CX professionals?
Be authentic! In customer experience, more than anything, it’s so important to be authentic, be empathetic, be able to talk to people – there is so much value in human connections. People will naturally open up and respond to you more when they see that what you’re bringing to them is genuine. And also to also keep in mind that great experiences are individual. So whoever you’re dealing with, just know that what you might like isn’t necessarily what they might like. It’s so important to always keep talking to customers, keep them in the front of your minds and understand that you might need a tailored approach as you go.
What do you do in your spare time?
Aside from Netflix, which is a great way to switch off, I really love dancing! I do a Samba class once a week, which is so much fun and really does ‘feed my soul’, as cliche as that may sound. I just love that energy! I also love to get out into nature, taking walks among the trees or by the sea and looking outwards. Nature is just the most refreshing thing.
What’s the best advice you have ever received
I always come back to a simple philosophy instilled in me by my parents and that is to treat others as you would want to be treated. That approach speaks volumes for customer experience as well, because you do have to think that way. Aside from that, I’ve also always have been told that life’s short, live every day, don’t take anything for granted and be grateful for your happiness.
Keep an eye on the GWG blog for all the latest local employment news and advice. And if you need assistance with recruitment or outplacement, don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out how we can help.