New Kobie Marketing President: A Brand’s Only Differentiator Is The CX It Offers

Ingrid Lindberg, a veteran customer experience leader, was named president of Kobie Marketing in June.

Kobie Marketing, a global leader in loyalty and rewards initiatives design, management, and consulting, hired Lindberg because of her extensive C-suite level experience designing and executing enterprise customer experience initiatives for Fortune 500 companies, including Cigna, American Express, Pillsbury, and Pier 1 Imports. Lindberg will lead the direction and delivery of Kobie's services and technology solutions across teams, HR and Marketing and Communications, to drive the growth strategy and leadership development for Kobie. Lindberg will also work to expand and enhance the company’s service offerings.

Lindberg talked to Loyalty360 about this new and exciting challenge.

Customer experience is growing exponentially as a key differentiator among brands. How do you view the current state of CX and where do you see it headed?
Lindberg: I’m a firm believer that the only differentiator that a brand has is the customer experience it offers. Customer experience as a practice, however, is still in its early phases. In 2007, I was named Customer Experience Officer at Cigna. I was the only person in the country with that title. Now, as of August 2017, when you search LinkedIn for people with the words “customer experience” in their title, it returns over 12.5 million results. Want another view of the rise of customer experience? We’ve seen a three-time increase in that phrase being searched since I took the job at Cigna in 2007.

The issue we’ve run into, though, is that because it is a new practice, many are making it up as they go along. We’re seeing people rebrand themselves as customer experience experts. We’re seeing title swaps. And frankly, we’re seeing many CEOs get really frustrated with the lack of progress. I liken customer experience to e-commerce boom in the 90s/early 00s. Anyone could say that they’d done e-commerce, even if they’d only drawn a user flow on graph paper or Visio (I know, I’m guilty of it).

And now, many moons later, we have people who are experts in very specific spots within digital. No more one size fits all. No more generalists. We’ve gotten much smarter about what someone needs to do well to be qualified for specific jobs. I think we’re at that spot in CX–or at least the tipping point of it. You can design. Or you can analyze the voice of the customer. Or you can make communications more customer friendly. Very rarely can one person do it all and do it well. This is the meaning behind having specific niche specialists, which Kobie (where I am now), does really well.

You have a record of disruptive innovation. How will this experience help impact your new position at Kobie?
Lindberg: I was super excited to come to Kobie because of the deep loyalty knowledge here. I’ve always said that loyalty was a result of a brand providing a consistent and easy-to-use customer experience. With my deep CX expertise and Kobie’s deep loyalty expertise, we’re positioned to do some really interesting things that can help our clients in ways we have only begun to discover. The way I look at it is we’ve been in the age of the customer for a while now, and customers bring disruption. Why not find more ways to help our clients navigate the massive disruption that is affecting every industry?

What would you say loyalty marketers are doing well regarding CX and where do the challenges lie?
Lindberg: Marketing is not customer experience design. I believe that the more marketers understand that they are a piece of the entire customer experience–and NOT the only piece of it–the more impact they can have. We’re getting better and better at personalized, real time, relevant information. We’re getting really excited about more channels and more interactions and more data. I think that the biggest challenges ahead are threefold:

#1) Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The rise of access to information, and a machine’s ability to determine when to push it is only accelerating. I’m afraid we’ll lose common sense if we aren’t careful.

#2) Choosing which channels/partners to pursue. We’ve all seen it. There’s a new company popping up every day, creating hundreds (if not thousands) of options for marketers to talk to people. The Martech 5000 is overwhelming. Choosing is hard.

#3) In person. I think we’re getting close to forgetting that relationships are between people. Person to person. We need to remember that although technology drives ease and can disrupt, people inherently trust and create relationships with other people. The face of your company is important. Don’t forget that.

Employee engagement is a critical piece for all companies, but some execute this better than others. How crucial is employee engagement and creating a customer-centric environment that permeates the company?
Lindberg: No culture, no customer. I’m a firm believer and have been able to prove it time and time again, that a customer-centric culture is the first stepping stone to creating a customer-centric company. A company culture is made up of two things: DNA of the firm and the people who work there. Those two forces combine to make up your company’s culture. The DNA is who you are. Are you fun loving? Are you scrappy? Are you dog-eat-dog? These are all parts of your DNA.

Because we are drawn to people like us, companies tend to perpetuate their current DNA. I don’t think you can change your DNA completely, but you can hack it a bit. You can work around the edges to drive change. You have to first embrace the DNA you have to create culture change. And your people do too–they have to be asked to join the change. I create tribes of “CX Peeps” everywhere I go. Those are the people who, regardless of tenure, are excited to be a part of the future culture. Those people are your superstars. They are the ones who will help get an entire employee population on board and excited about the future of the company.

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