Top CMSWire Contributors 2023: Spotlight on Nichole Hinton
This is part of our end-of-year series celebrating our top CMSWire Contributors of the Year for 2023. These are regular CMSWire Contributors whose articles this year greatly resonated with our community of professionals. These Contributors simply serve as great ambassadors of our brand in the world of marketing and customer experience.
- Cultural insights vital. Nichole Hinton emphasizes cultural intelligence for enriching CX, balancing technology with human-centric strategies.
- Feedback engagement key. Effective management of customer feedback, especially negative reviews, enhances CX and brand loyalty.
- Adaptability crucial for CX. CX professionals must evolve with changing consumer needs and technologies, maintaining a balance between human touch and tech efficiency.
Renowned for her dynamic speaking style and mentoring skills, Nichole Hinton has earned a stellar reputation as a top contributor to CMSWire in 2023. With over two decades of rich experience in the tech industry, Nichole has collaborated with some of the world’s most prominent tech leaders, tackling complex challenges in sales, marketing, CX and operations.
She also likes to travel and have fun. That’s good for us at CMSWire because not all those experiences are great, and there are plenty of customer experience lessons to be had.
Nichole’s recent article, “Cultural Intelligence and CX: Lessons for Better CX From Around the World,” reflects her exceptional expertise and global perspective. This piece isn’t just an academic analysis; it’s about personal experiences and professional insights. She explores the delicate balance between technology and human interaction in customer service, emphasizing the significance of cultural intelligence in shaping memorable customer experiences.
Her work is characterized by a deep understanding of the intricate relationship between technology and human elements in CX. Nichole brings to the forefront the importance of human-led service, as exemplified in her observations from Seychelles and Dubai. Her insights on how technology, when used judiciously, can enhance rather than overshadow human interaction, are spot-on.
Nichole’s contributions go beyond mere theory. She provides actionable lessons drawn from her extensive travels and interactions across diverse cultures. Her writing is a testament to her belief in the power of human connection and cultural intelligence in crafting exceptional customer experiences.
As a thought leader in CX and operations, Nichole Hinton continues to inspire and guide professionals in the industry. Her work is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to navigate the complex world of customer experience in the digital era.
Q&A With Nichole Hinton
Human-Centric CX: Merging Culture with Tech
From your article on cultural intelligence, what are some key strategies businesses can adopt to improve their CX by incorporating cultural insights?
There are three key strategies that, I feel, are easy for businesses to adopt:
- Human-centricity needs to be a focus while AI picks up speed. Humans are what create and empower organizations, and when empowered properly, will propel a company into future, positive success. The only way to get there is to create a culture of pride and belonging — something that starts with the leader and those they hire to support them. This strategy was illustrated by my experience with the Seychellois and how tech was present in their lives, but they actively put humans first, both in the hospitality industry, as well as within their own community, which evoked a deep sense of pride for their country.
- While we focus more and more on the digitized customer journey, we need to ensure there’s a “human touch” component as well. Just as with my EX strategy above, the human-centric approach to a customer journey, which may or may not be intertwined with a digitized one, is key to recurring revenue. Period. If you do not have a journey that involves QBRs, EBRs, other routine check-ins that involve humans, then you’re missing out on future dollars.
- Make technology a team member, not an entire team. As I mentioned in the Dubai section of that article, the city makes technology a part of the experience, but not the entire experience. They continue to understand that humans power this world, first and foremost.
Authentic CX: Engaging Customer Feedback Effectively
In your discussion about better supporting customer reviews, what are the top ways companies can authentically engage with customer feedback, especially negative reviews, to enhance their CX?
I always love this question because there’s so much that can be done, here. I liken this to a “goldilocks” approach, in terms of a good, better and best approach:
- Good: You get a negative survey response on a public platform — you publicly address it with an apology, an ask (i.e., may we please contact you directly to resolve), and what will be done with the feedback to improve the experience.
- Better: You get a negative survey response (public or not), you perform the above tasks, but then you actively address the issue by routing it to the right leaders and ensuring there is resolution.
- Best: A strategy is in place to handle all feedback — positive or negative — in which the above are performed, but also cultivated and grouped into themes/similar feedback, and actively addressed with new policies, journey changes, training, etc. And, depending on how the feedback was cultivated, the CEO addresses the changes that have been made in a communication to its customers — video being best.
The crazy reality right now is that many people, in their own way, want their lives eased by whatever it is they are purchasing, or whoever they are interacting with for a specific reason. If they aren’t getting the exact outcome they want, they tend to overhype the negative until they get it. It causes us CX professionals, as well as anyone in a customer-facing role, to be hypervigilant about how they interact with the customer and this means having a solid strategy in place, even if they never use it.
Small Biz CX: Competing with Amazon’s Influence
Your article on how Amazon Prime has created expectations for other businesses touched on a crucial aspect of modern CX. How should smaller businesses adapt their CX strategies to compete with giants like Amazon?
I still live this with my husband’s business every day. There’s no “magic bullet” for this as every small business is at a different level of operation from the next however, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this “Willy Wonka, Verruca Salt ‘I want it now’“ behavior:
- Be extremely clear in your shipping, handling, and return policies (or anything that has a delivery timeline associated with it). We recently rebuilt my husband’s site and now, “Shipping and Returns” is sitting clearly on his main menu with more robust policies, so that anyone wanting to argue these kinds of issues is redirected to what they agreed to by purchasing. We also went so far as to incorporate some of this language, where applicable, in product descriptions, so that if there is an item that will take longer, they know that up front.
- Find the right balance with pricing and whether to include free shipping (if applicable). This is such a tricky thing to do as free shipping can kill a small business. With shipping prices rising but the cost of the product not really doing so, the profit margins shrink. Things like having a minimum order price for free shipping or taking the manufacturer’s price and slashing it by even 5%, by showing the dollar difference saved, tends to prompt people to order more. Regardless of type of business, people want to see cost savings, even if it’s a mind trick to the business.
- If anything else, have a great support team that can respond to customer’s comments and questions. While this is where AI would usually be a good tool for customers to find information, small businesses do not have that luxury all of the time. Sometimes, the best defense is humans that can provide quick (and kind) interactions that make the customer feel like a VIP. What has set my husband’s business apart from his competitors is his relentless need to respond to each and every customer personally — something that single-handedly grew his business.
Global CX: Adapting to Diverse Cultural Norms
Given the global nature of businesses today, how can companies effectively adapt their CX strategies to cater to diverse cultural expectations without losing their brand identity?
I recently had a client that is a large international organization, and it was interesting to see how their CX strategy operated. Like most Western culture organizations, they had developed a unified strategy on how to be all-inclusive with humans. This meant more diverse/inclusive advertising, marketing, and customer service.
However, within the Eastern culture, as well as some segments of Middle Eastern culture, their strategy had to be different in order to resonate with those client bases. I believe this is where many organizations are starting to see challenges arise with customers in those regions.
If you’re a global brand, there is simply no way to have a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, either hire teams in those regions to support translating your brand into something that aligns with those cultural norms or do the leg work to understand how you can translate your brand appropriately.
CX Professionals: Adapting to Evolving Consumer Needs
In light of evolving platforms and consumer behaviors, how do you see the role of customer experience professionals changing in the next few years?
As I’ve always said, the CX role is extremely diverse and it requires someone who understands business from the inside, out, as well as the mind of the average customer. We are the bridge that connects teams to customers, customers to teams, and teams to teams, to ensure the output to the customer is of the utmost quality. Yes, CX professionals should be tech savvy — they need to be. There are a lot of amazing technologies that allow us to be more agile in this profession, especially since our focus is on humans, which, as demands continue to increase, will require more and more time on that front.
The biggest piece of advice I give people these days is to put on your CX hat in any old experience you’ve been in as a customer. Ask yourself what you liked about the experience, what you didn’t like, and how you would have approached it differently for yourself. My “CX eyes” are constantly on, helping me to take my own experiences and translate them into new ways to approach CX for others.
Tell us something about Nichole Hinton outside of your professional world (though we do feel like we know a lot already!)?
Well, as my new name already suggests, I married my best friend this year! We are also set to move to North Carolina at the end of December for a change of pace and lifestyle — one we are very excited about!
Nichole Hinton’s 2023 Articles
EX and CX Lessons: How One Cruise Line Sank
Cultural Intelligence and CX: Lessons for Better CX From Around the World
What Does Instagram’s Threads Mean for Customer Experience Professionals?
3 Ways to Better Support Customer Reviews
How Amazon Prime Created a Bad Customer Experience for Everyone Else
23 Minutes, 4 Seconds, 1 Canceled Subscription, 1 Poor Customer Experience