Why Women Leaders in Customer Experience Matter
For too long, the contributions of women to the field of customer experience have been overlooked and underappreciated. Yet, research shows that companies with diverse and inclusive teams, including gender diversity, outperform their peers. It’s time to recognize and celebrate the impact of women in CX, to learn from their journeys, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. By shining a light on the achievements of women in experience management and transformation, New Metrics aims to foster a more equitable and successful industry for all. Our “Women in Experience Management and Transformation” initiative recognizes the significant contributions women have made to the field. In our first webinar, our partner Maya Omeiri interviewed Ledi Lapaj, a recognized leader in CX and head of CX at Bank Al-Etihad. See the edited transcript for clarity.
Maya Omeiri: Delighted to welcome Ledi Lapaj, who has over 18 years of experience in customer experience and is the Head of Customer Experience at Bank al Etihad in Jordan. She has a reputation for excellence and is responsible for crafting and executing successful CX strategies.
Ledi Lapaj: Thank you Maya. I am very pleased to join you today! So, my professional journey started in market research, where I saw how customers perceive and interact with different companies and how organizations tune to their customers’ needs. I moved afterward into revenue-generating roles. With time, I realized that for any business to be sustainable, it must understand its customers and be in tune with them. It also needs the vision to have proper strategic management and the right people. My current position at Bank Al-Etihad, a true pioneer in customer experience, enables me to impact the company on different areas and levels and have a broader scope in CX than ever before.
Maya Omeiri: A fascinating journey and transition to CX driven by a developed skillset and passion for understanding customer needs and creating exceptional experiences.
Tools and Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles
Maya Omeiri: What was the biggest obstacle to your CX journey? What are some of the tools and strategy solutions that you have used to help you?
Ledi Lapaj: There are many hurdles that I’ve faced as a customer experience professional, not only in the company I’m at but across different businesses and professions. Often, they came in the form of inconsistent delivery, lack of customer feedback and understanding, lack of leadership, or having silos within the company. If I had to pick one obstacle, it would be silos or lack of alignment and collaboration across departments. Teams must work in a synchronized way internally to provide what the customer needs. If teams are not aligned, customers will feel it.
At my bank, we’ve used the four stages or four pillars approach to breaking down the silos: role modeling, understanding, capabilities, and the last is formal mechanisms.
1. Role modeling: Leadership buy-in is crucial because leaders interact with their expertise across departments.
2. Understanding: How we should behave and what’s the better way to act when we apply a change. We developed an internal culture and customer code with clear principles and behaviors to allow our teams to work seamlessly together.
3. Capacity: We collaborate with departments to build skills and understanding and share best practices.
4. Formal mechanisms: You have teams that have separate metrics, measurements, and success measures, and what we do is blur the lines, and we start aligning interests with shared KPIs to ensure a successful formal mechanism. We also need acknowledgment and recognition. So instead, for example, of awarding people for doing something in an isolated way, we start rewarding cross-collaboration.
Maya Omeiri: These are common challenges in many organizations looking to shift towards a customer-centric approach. It requires a multifaceted approach that involves culture change, data analysis, employee empowerment, continuous improvement, and technology adoption. Absolutely agree on the key being executive sponsorship and engagement of stakeholders across the organization.
“If I had to pick one obstacle, it would be silos or lack of alignment and collaboration across departments. Teams must work in a synchronized way internally to provide what the customer needs. If teams are not aligned, customers will feel it. ”– Ledi Lapaj
Culture-Centric Transformation in Banking
Maya Omeiri: Bank al Etihad, specifically under the leadership of an exceptional visionary, Nadia Al Saeed, is today an exemplary institution in the banking industry. You have created a customer-centric culture. Can you share any specific initiatives that were particularly successful in achieving this transformation?
Ledi Lapaj: Many CX professionals expect teams to focus on hit-and-run initiatives, like identifying and fixing pain points or performing a few automations. The way we look at it is broader in that instead of having a team that tries to fix customer pain points, and we want to transform everyone within the company. We use a six pillars framework:
1. Customer Experience strategy: it has two main parts: having a customer experience maturity model, which is a long-term one, and the second part has a clear customer experience promise to our customers.
2. Understanding: We measure customer interactions within all our channels, products, and journeys after every transaction, and we share the feedback with the stakeholders. We do that through two primary practices:
a. Small Loop, we ensure we contact every dissatisfied customer within 24 or 48 hours and resolve their problem.
b. Big Loop, we try to sort out and fix the root cause of the customer problems. We have a vast network of cross-functional teams that work on that, not just a customer service team.
3. Experience, design, improvement, and innovation: within this pillar, we have a dedicated team that works agilely. It’s cross-functional, and teams design and resolve customers’ needs using design thinking practices.
4. Measurement: we make sure we translate the customer feedback into measurements that allow us to measure their journeys continuously. We use these metrics, such as KPIs and OKRs, as objectives and key results in our teams’ performances.
5. Organizational adoption: the main aim behind this pillar is to ensure alignment in the way teams interact with each other and the way they collaborate. It’s closely related to the objectives and key results.
6. Culture: Having a customer-centric culture is crucial. Teams should work together with a customer-first culture to deliver.
Maya Omeiri: so well covered. It is crucial to have a holistic approach that includes both cultural and structural changes.
Maya Omeiri: Looking ahead toward the next couple of years, what emerging technologies do you believe will significantly impact our industry?
Ledi Lapaj: Emerging technologies offer exciting opportunities to improve customer experiences. Companies that adopt them successfully will likely gain a competitive advantage and survive in the marketplace. These technologies include:
1. Artificial Intelligence AI: it is the main driver for innovation in the customer experience field because it helps with personalization. It will become even more sophisticated with time, allowing us to automate more complex tasks and provide hyper-personalized experiences.
2. Internet of Things: IoT sensors can monitor customer behavior and preferences, which we can use to personalize experiences.
3. Augmented and virtual reality: they create immersive experiences that allow customers to interact with products and services in new and exciting ways. For example, we can use them to create virtual showrooms where customers can see how products will look in the comfort of their homes.
4. Voice assistants: they will become increasingly common, offering new ways for customers to interact with brands. These tools will centralize the interaction with the customer.
5. Blockchain: it is expected to impact security and trust significantly. It can help create a more secure and transparent system like customer data management.
6. Human-centered design: it focuses on creating products and services designed around customer needs. The approach is becoming popular in CX and will be even more widely adopted.
Future Proofing in Banking and Other Sectors
Maya Omeiri: What advice do you have for future-proof the banks and other sectors?
Ledi Lapaj: A team within a company can probably not offer much and cannot make much of an impact or change if they work in silos. It will need collaboration, not only internally with other departments and units but also externally. The most critical areas to focus on to ensure success through customer-centric efforts are:
1. Openness: openness to partners and external collaborators. Finding the right partners and being continuously open to new ways of doing business and improving help trigger new, much more efficient ways of working.
2. Leadership: to ensure a sustainable and customer-centric business, leadership needs to put effort into actions continuously and support and back up customer-centric initiatives and efforts.
3. People: leadership and executives should nurture and enhance cultural programs.
4. Focus on the customer-centric effort: we must continuously innovate and invest in customer-centric efforts.
Maya Omeiri: You’ve been in the industry for over the last two decades; what significant trends have you noticed?
Ledi Lapaj: When I started in customer experience, I remember it used to be one size fits all. Today the reality is different due to many changes:
1. Personalization: One of the significant changes over the past two decades has been personalization. We’re moving towards hyper-personalization, delivering experiences and tailoring them for every customer.
2. Omnichannel: Twenty years ago, banks only had branches or a company only had a contact center. Today, omnichannel experience is crucial for organizations’ survival as many channels are available for customer interaction.
3. Emotional connection: Customers now have so many options to choose from, and it’s so easy to move across them, so companies must invest much more in emotional connection through continuous feedback.
4. Technology adoption: There have been many new technologies, and many more are coming in the form of AI chatbots and virtual assistants, and companies need to adapt quickly.
Women in Leadership
Maya Omeiri: As a successful woman, what advice would you give other women who aspire to leadership roles like yours?
Ledi Lapaj: There is much room for women to improve and reach their full potential. To be impactful, women need to:
1. Develop skills and knowledge: they must stay up-to-date and develop their skills and knowledge. They should deeply understand industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.
2. Build a solid network: joining and learning from professionals in the industry within and outside the company is crucial.
3. Adapt to change: use change to increase our skills rather than becoming insecure.
4. Develop leadership skills: you need leadership skills to be impactful and drive transformation.
5. Be a lifelong learner and be confident: once you have the skills, connections, will, and drive for change, advocate for yourself, your team, and your company. It would help if you were bold and fearless in taking risks.
6. Be a coach, mentor, and supporter: that means adding value to others. It gives me great pleasure and purpose to share and support any professional or team to realize their potential.
“At New Metrics, we are keen and prominent advocates of women and driving initiatives that support women in transformation and success in the industry.”– Maya Omeiri
Maya Omeiri: Couldn’t agree more on the importance of building a unique skillset, receiving mentoring, and networking as crucial elements in fostering confidence along women.
At New Metrics, we have launched this empowering network for women, bringing leaders who are role models in this industry, and we encourage all women to use the platform for knowledge and deeper connections.
We hope this discussion provided valuable insights and practical strategies for our audience in experience management.