Episode released on: 3. October 2022
The CX Goalkeeper had the great opportunity to interview Ilenia Vidili
LinkedIn Headline: Customer Centricity Advisor | Author of Journey to Centricity | Keynote Speaker
- 00:00 Game Start
- 00:32 Ilenia’s Introduction
- 02:27 Ilenia’s Values
- 04:22 Where does the idea from your book come from?
- 07:15 The balance between maximizing profit and humanizing business
- 11:51 Purpose & how can companies reshape their purpose to pursue customer centricity
- 17:41 Empathy
- 22:11 Is it possible to train empathy?
- 24:33 Trust
- 28:44 Ilenia’s biggest learning from the book
- 29:34 The future of Customer Experience
- 30:48 Ilenia’s book suggestion
- 31:17 Ilenia’s contact details
- 31:47 Ilenia’s Golden Nugget
and much more
Ilenia’s Contact Details:
Her book suggestion:
- Heart of Business by Hubert Joly
Ilenia’s Golden Nugget:
- Technology, products and profits come and go, but it is the purpose, mindset and soul of the business that stays. And this is also a phrase that closes my book.
“Technology, products and profits come and go, but is the purpose, mindset and soul of the business that stays. And this is also a phrase that closes my book.” Ilenia Vidili on the CX Goalkeeper PodcastTweet
#customerexperience #leadership #cxgoalkeeper #cxtransformation #podcast
Gregorio Uglioni 0:00
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the CX goalkeeper podcast. Your host, Gregorio Uglioni. Will have small discussions with experts, thought leaders and friends on customer experience, transformation, innovation and leadership. I hope you will enjoy the next episode.
Ladies and gentlemen tonight. It’s really a big, big pleasure because Ilenia Vidili together with me, Ilenia, how are you?
Ilenia Vidili 0:28
Hey, Gregorio. I’m great. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.
Gregorio Uglioni 0:32
I really say thank you very much for taking time to participate to the CX goalkeeper podcast. It’s really, really a pleasure because we had our introduction in Italian. But now we are going to speak in English, because we want that the audience can understand that. Before we deep dive in the topic that it will be clearly your book, journey to centricity. We would like to learn a bit about you. And therefore the first usual question, Ilenia, could you please introduce yourself?
Ilenia Vidili 1:00
Thank you. Well, thank you so much for reading journey to centricity is such a pleasure for me and an honor that you are, you’re reading it and you’re enjoying it. So well, as you know, and I’m originally Italian, I’m precisely from Sardinia, I grew up in a Sardinian countryside until I was 19 years old. Basically, I lived abroad for half of my life to date. That’s quite a long time, including nine years in Cambridge, UK, where I graduated, pursued my university studies, and conducted corporate marketing for some of the most successful multinationals in the world and also startups. Then in 2017, I left my corporate job to do what I do today. customer centricity advisory, Keynote, speaking and writing about customer centricity, in fact, Journey disinterest in this case. And above all, I am a daughter, a sister as citizens of the world, I’m an avid book reader, and nature and animal lover, and many, many other things.
Gregorio Uglioni 2:08
Oh, thank you very much. But I think that’s, that’s really interesting. And some that something that I never felt the first half of my animal was in Sardinia, it was an outstanding experience in the experience, really lovely places, great food and great people.
Ilenia Vidili 2:24
Gregorio Uglioni 2:27
Yes, I think that’s… there are also really nice places not far away, at least for us. And it’s a really nice place to be, perhaps to a bit deep dive more about yourself, which values drive you in life.
Ilenia Vidili 2:42
Which values drive me in life? Wow, that’s this is a really, really interesting question. Actually, do you know what the Gregorio nobody has ever asked me this question in a podcast interview, which is really interesting. So on a personal level, what I really value in life, our relationships, family, friends, so people around me, I value their genuine unity, their humility, their simplicity, their integrity, and what difference they make in the world. So a lot of these personal values are directly correlated to my work. And as you’re reading my book, I believe that you’ve probably getting the idea of what my values are in life. on a professional level, I’m very driven by bringing humanity to business. And this is translated in almost every scene I do with my work, my talks, my research, my writing my reading, my workshops, you know, connecting with my clients, and shaping what are their strategies. So I was, you know, the this was, these values were very much shaped and strongly shaped, in my view in while I was writing my book, which has really strengthened my mission, that of inspiring companies to embrace a high purpose to create value for all stakeholders, and contribute positively to society. So this is, in a nutshell, what my values are. I hope they make sense.
Gregorio Uglioni 4:22
It totally makes sense and only touching the first one that you mentioned, customer experience, it’s all about relationship. And therefore, we are you are in the right community in the right place to be. And we are really happy to have you in this community. Perhaps now we are going to deep dive in your book journey to centricity. And I think it’s really worth it to read it and therefore I ask please, to your audience, please pause the podcast, go to Amazon or wherever you want, buy the book and then come back because now Ilenia will share some insights, but it’s really worth it to read to read the book. And I think we should we should start, start start discussing about Journey to centricity. You are speaking about three main topics, its culture, its technology, and its humanity. This is not the priority list. But these are the three main topics, where does the idea from your book come.
Ilenia Vidili 5:19
So, within the last year of my employment as an employee, I started noticing that the gaps between companies and their stakeholders were far too wide. And that means what customers and employees wanted, was completely disconnected, basically, the opposite from what companies gave them, right. And I noticed that it was the same story for every company I worked for. And every company I’d watch from the outside. And this happened and continues to happen today. Because companies see the world from the internal perspective, with their own objectives, rather than the external perspective, that of customers, of course, in the case of customer centricity, and that factor, got stuck into my mind for a very long time, and go even stronger, were switched to work from companies for companies from as an employee, to as an external advisor. So in 2021, I thought that if we really want to close those gaps, we needed to restructure completely the business narrative. So I decided to put my views and opinions down into what today is journey to centricity. It was an extremely difficult piece of work, as you can imagine, and believe me that this book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my professional life so far, but it’s also the proudest piece of my professional life. Because I know that in my little way, I’m contributing to change what I believe is, the wrong is a wrong business narrative. So I think this is how Genex is interesting came about, it really does come from my personal values and my professional values.
Gregorio Uglioni 7:15
And I really liked it, and I really enjoyed it. Also, reading through your book, it’s not only your ideas or your thoughts, but you are really interviewing a lot of people, a lot of thought leaders, and you were able to fracture all this information, all this idea together to create such a masterpiece piece that it’s really, really interesting and can help us in the customer experience community. I think one big topic, and this is something that you were hearing at the beginning, it’s, it’s about on one side, it’s maximizing profit, this is what the most companies are still doing. And on the other side, you humanizing business? Could you please elaborate a bit on that.
Ilenia Vidili 7:56
So, you know, since centuries ago, the main purpose of a business has been, and still is actually that of maximizing profit. And which is completely fine. And the only problem with this sole focus of a business is that it becomes detrimental for everyone in everything involved. And most of the times, this is what happens. You know, if we have as an objective as a purpose, that of maximizing profit, it means that the customer gets completely forgotten or seen and only as a number, and the employee as well. And the planet, the environment in which we live, the communities, the society in which we live, gets completely forgotten, right, because, of course, we are dragging a business from the greed of that sole objective. And that’s why I wanted to, if what basically, if we want to switch make that switch from maximizing profit to human centricity, you know, to put the human being at the center, we need to have that shift in mindset, that shift in focus. And that means restructuring the whole business, basically, because having a human centric perspective, means that we are forced to improve every aspect of our business, from the quality of our decisions to our operations, and the product or service that we provide. You know, it’s just a different focus. But it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to maximize profit, we’re not going to make profit, we can definitely do both. So, when the main focus is that of human centric, in our case, customer centric, we put the customers at the center, all the decisions are taken, based on what the customer wants and how we can make the life of the customer happier. Do you know? And if we do that, if we do that, then of course, that customer will remain with us for a long term will buy from us more and more time. And this is obviously, what customers interest experience also is about in the world refers to other people. What does that mean? That means that it will maximize profits, right? So, it is really a switch in mindset, really, and I believe so I wanted to make this distinction in the book, because I believe that these days, businesses are under are under a lot of pressure for many, many different reasons, such as commoditization products, lack of relevance in highly saturated marketplaces, and especially more empowered consumers. So why should businesses bring more humanity into their strategies? Well, the reason number one is because customers require it, having the best product in the market these days is not a differentiator anymore. For today’s consumers brand customer relationship must go beyond that transaction. You know, so customers really want to talk to companies that care about them as human beings and not as wallets. And that’s why I base the book, all on customer expectations, customer needs, and, and, and values. And that’s why I believe that businesses need to do that shift, that mindset shift to from short term gain to long term gain, and creating a more deeply a deeper relationship with customers.
Gregorio Uglioni 11:51
It totally makes sense. And I think that’s, that’s the target not only airing financial returns in the short term, but in the long term. And I think, and this is what I really enjoy reading both through your book, you are speaking about the let’s say, I phrase it like the starting point, a company needs a purpose. And I think there is how do you define a purpose? And how can companies redefine reshape their purpose that they can go to this customer centricity?
Ilenia Vidili 12:23
So the way I see it is, how a company makes a positive impact on people’s lives. And the world that leaving purpose is deeply isn’t is a deep and intrinsic connection to the brand. And what he stands for, this is how I see it, and he really must go beyond what they sell. So the main product of the business right? In that sector, the core of the brand driving everything he does. It’s not something that we add on or something that comes and goes based on the budget we have, for example, you know, so very often I see means that meaningless purpose statements such as improving people’s lives in in every day, but what does it actually mean if it’s not executed? So what are we actually doing to improve our customers wise? Do you know what I mean? So my view of company purpose is very aligned with Michel Porter’s and Mike Kramer, professors of how other business call with a concept of shared value. So creating shared value is a shift from the traditional mindset that a company can either do good, or make a profit to a business model that can generate sustainable profit long term profit, while also adding value to the world. And I don’t mean donating some of the resources, some of the money to charity, for example, that’s called Corporate Social Responsibility, which is still very important to do. But I mean, taking on board the interest of all stakeholders and adding value to them. I mean, taking into account two dates, social and environmental problems, help tackle these problems and contribute positively to create a fair and sustainable world. While strengthening competitive growth, we can do both. If we care about the environment, if we care about our customers, then we are forced to improve the product and service that we provide. Right? And in that little purpose that we have. If we take a co2 issue, for example, then we are forced to optimize what is the product to optimize whereas the relationship with our farmers, for example, you know, to optimize the relationship with the environment that we live and in that case for this Apple with our co2 emissions and etc. So it really comes from what is our own objective? What are we actually doing? You know, so I always suggest to my clients to start from a societal issue that they truly believe in tackling and in helping to get rid off, let’s say, and and start from there. And in here is where I link back to the constant that we can do both make a profit and being a stakeholder company. I’ve seen many companies, successful companies that are for profit companies, while they are also a stakeholder company. So it’s more than doable is just a mindset shift from short term gain to a long term game.
Gregorio Uglioni 15:57
And it totally makes sense. And I really liked the example that you have in your book about this coffee brand, sharing their view, it’s one of your clients, you can name it, no problem at all. And I really like because they’re really sharing or to the step they went through to create a to achieve that. And there, you prove that it’s possible, and therefore, I really liked this, you explain something, and then you have the example that proves that it’s possible, and therefore I really enjoy your book.
Ilenia Vidili 16:27
Thank you very much. That’s really nice to hear. It’s, it’s really rewarding when I when I when I hear on my my readers feedback, you know. So I think we are encountering a time of deep uncertainty in the business worlds and in the world in general. And I think companies can do much more to help tackle these, these societal issues. And there’s uncertainty rather than focusing on pursuing their self interest and their short term gains. And also another another reason why I believe companies should have a higher purpose is because customers and employees requirements, right? Would you work for a company that’s interest? is only that of maximizing profit? Or would you rather work for a company that have a deeper purpose, for example, that’s focused on helping society on helping their community on helping you as an employee to grow? So that’s the difference which one would you rather go for? I mean, to me is the brainer, you know, it’s a no brainer.
Gregorio Uglioni 17:41
I think nowadays with what everything is happening around the world, it’s clear that that’s the second option that you are offering, because I want to create also value for other people, also, with this podcast, sharing this this discussion, and bring others to learn to find out what it’s important, what it’s relevant. And I think it totally makes sense. You’re often speaking also about humanity. And if we speak about humanity, it’s the big topic about empathy. And you are also sharing quite a lot of great example in in your books. Could you please elaborate a bit on that?
Ilenia Vidili 18:16
Sure. Yes. Um, so empathy, as we know, means understanding the customer perspective. So feeling that experience what it’s like to be a customer of your company, for example, as if you’re leaving their experience. And then using that perspective in our problem solving and decision making. So it’s a critical, critical component to developing and building a customer centric culture, or because it enables customer perspective taking, right remember when I talked about the perspective of a company’s that they usually see the world from the internal perspective from the functions and operations and objectives and etc. But they totally forget the customer perspective. So if we are able to be more empathetic, if we’re able to have more empathy in in grading and organization, we will be able to understand much more about our customers. Now, the problem is that empathy is seen as a feminine thing or wishy washy kind of soft skill, you know, so leaders don’t really care much about it, or don’t put it in there, excuse me, have or don’t put empathy as one of their priorities in their board agenda. So I I’ve seen what I’ve seen in in companies is that as leaders rise in the rank of their organizations, they become increasingly disconnected from customers. So executives, leaders and senior managers have never spoken to their customers, but they are trying to make decisions in their best interest. And that’s, I mean, it’s a paradox, how can you possibly understand your customers and their experiences, if you’re not interacting with them, you’re not listening to them. So that is customer empathy needs to be baked into the day to day organizational breach rules. But in order to do that, we need to start from the leadership, because if we don’t role model, that skill to our employees, and then and then those employees transparently to customers, how can we make it happen? It will never happen, right? So in order to do that, how can we do it, we need to have this empathic, sorry, empathetic, empathic, or Gosh, empathic behavior with their teams, such as asking questions, What would our customers think about this before making decisions, right? So those frontliners, for example, they should be asked, What do you think? Or how do you think we can improve the relationship with our customers? What do you think? What would our customers think about this? You know, if we want to lead with empathy, we must understand that it’s not just a soft skill, but it’s a critical quality that we need in organizations today. And I believe that as much as we invest in technologies in new software’s, and in many other initiatives that are critical for the business, we should invest in empathy. So training, the our empathy, muscles, and our in, sorry, yeah, empathy muscles, to, to increase that understanding of customers to increase that empathy in our teams, in our leadership, and of customers. That’s what I believe we should
Gregorio Uglioni 22:11
Is it possible to train empathy? Or do you have any suggestion how to do that?
Ilenia Vidili 22:19
So of course, it’s possible because we, as human beings, we have our mirror neurons, they’re called, you know, in these mirror neurons is where empathy sits, basically, it can be developed from there. How can we do it the same way that we train our aerobic muscles, you know, our aerobic capacities, we can train our mirror neurons to believe and and see more and be more empathetic. So what we can do, we can obviously, for example, the other day, I was listening to a an interview, about an H. Schultz, Starbucks CEO, if you remember. And he said that in 40 years of running the business during every Monday meeting, board, board meeting, they had to empty chairs, as a metaphor for employees and customers. And the if they wanted to shape a new strategy, for example, the first thing they would do, would be to ask themselves with this strategy, make our customers happy with the strategy, make our employees happy, you know, and that is putting yourself in the customers and employees shoes. That is basically what it means to be more empathetic, right? to understanding the author’s perspective. So another way that it can be done that we can develop this empathy muscle is by spending more time with customers, obviously, listening to them and spending more time with them. So that employees can shape that understanding of customers. And another way of doing this is to physically design the actual experiences so that employees see what customers feel. And I have a lot of examples in my book, if you remember about this and how companies are actually doing in developing their empathy muscle.
Gregorio Uglioni 24:33
Thank you very much. It times is flying. But I still want to ask some some questions. And one one thing one thing that I think it’s extremely relevant, and I really liked from your book, it’s, it’s a topic around trust. It’s because between two human beings I can understand and it’s easy for everybody to understand how to create trust, but how is it possible possible to trust an organization that is continuously changing the board is continuously changing? What’s your view on that?
Ilenia Vidili 25:04
So let’s start from the fact that when consumers buy our products or services, they make that decision based on trust. And trust is created on whether companies are able or not to keep their promises. Right. So I buy this product, I don’t I’ve never heard of this company, I’ve never heard of this product, but I trust what you are telling me in the advertisements in the marketing in the brochure, and your website, and and everything, right. Consumers want to do business with companies that they trust. And that trust is created, as you say, I use the the, the verb earned for the time, in a long term. So organizations have two currencies, money and trust, the currency of money, as we know is measurable and it can be exchanged with products and services that we provide. Then every organization in the world that has another type of currency, trust, if money is a currency of transactions, trust is a currency of interactions. So in this case, customers interact with brands all the time. And so to answer this question, to answer your question, How can companies earn trust? Now, let’s let’s start from from this misconception that is very common in the business world, that a company can build trust. And that implies that a company is in control. Instead, companies can earn trust from their customers. And that is done over and over, in a very, very long time. So there are four traits that I believe and trust are the I believe trust is earn. So two of them are emotional based, soft traits, integrity. So this is about the customer bunnies, are they aligned? And the brand values? Are they aligned? And in other words, is your company promise aligned with with these actions, you know? So that is the purpose if you say that your products are healthy, and you know, if you say that this is X societal issue that you’re trying to tackle, but then it’s not true. That is not integrity does greenwashing, you know, second, emotional base traits is empathy. And as we said earlier, and this involves walking in someone’s shoes, and understanding their emotions, and understanding their perspective. Now, the rationally based hard traits, and these are very much shaped on the product side, basically, first one is competence, which answers the question, can this company helped me? Is it capable? Does it have the skills to do what he says it can do? Does this product satisfy satisfy my needs kind of kind of thing? You know? And then the second one is reliability, which depends on two things, responsiveness. So does the company shows up on time and answer questions? Are you there? You know, are you helping me in a way, and consistency of behavior over time? So how consistent are you with your behaviors? So that’s how I believe trust is end. But it’s a strategy that is obviously needs to be nurtured and done over time for a very long time. Because once it’s broken, that’s a very difficult situation to be in.
Gregorio Uglioni 28:44
Thank you very much. I really enjoyed the discussion. But we are coming to an end of this game. And I wanted to ask you some some questions. Still some question. What’s your biggest learning from the book?
Ilenia Vidili 28:56
Right. So the biggest learning that I want my readers to take away from journey to Centricity can be summarized in one word: change. And that means change outdated product mentalities, change, the narrow focus on short term is change the excesses, the excessive tech optimization, which are all liabilities for the customer centric culture that we want to create. So the these is the the biggest learning as you come to the end of the book that will come even more clear.
Gregorio Uglioni 29:34
Thank you very much. And as is a seat customer experience, so great. And the question that I always ask is closing our eyes. We are 10 years from now and what we’re speaking about and customer experience.
Ilenia Vidili 29:49
So I believe that Well, I would like to see customer experience, more human, you know, and that links back to my I in personal values, I’d like to see customer experience started from a deeper purpose. I’d like to see companies be more human and have a more deep relationship with our customers on a more empathic, and transport fee and more humanized way. I’d like to see a balance between optimization of technology and optimization of customer interactions, you know, and I’d like to see a culture in which employees feel safe enough to feel valued, and feel valued in the way that they want, and they can interact with their customers. That’s the way I’d like to see customer experience in 10 years.
Gregorio Uglioni 30:48
I think not only you, all of us, thank you very much for this for this summary. And now really, in the last minutes of the game, is there a book that you would like to suggest to do this next to your?
Ilenia Vidili 31:03
Yeah, so there was a book that really, I really liked, and is the heart of business by Hubert Joly, former CEO of Best Buy, I really, really enjoyed this book.
Gregorio Uglioni 31:17
Thank you very much. And if somebody would like to contact you, what’s the best way?
Ilenia Vidili 31:23
So I’m quite active on LinkedIn. So listeners can follow me on there. And or get in touch with me via my website. ileniavidili.com.
Gregorio Uglioni 31:33
Thank you very much. And we will put all this information also in the show notes. And now we are really coming to the last question is Alinea golden nugget, it’s something that we discussed, or something new that you would leave to the audience.
Ilenia Vidili 31:47
Right, golden nugget, I’d like to say that technology, products and profits come and go, but is the purpose, mindset and soul of the business that stays. And this is also a phrase that closes my book, basically,
Gregorio Uglioni 32:07
thank you very much. Outstanding, outstanding reminder, we can learn something. And I think we learned a lot. Therefore, thank you very much Ilenia for your time. Please stay with me and also to the audience. Thank you very much. It was a great pleasure to have Ilenia. Please give us your feedback buy Ilenia’s book “journey to centricity”. And let’s keep in touch because feedback helps us to grow and to get better. Thank you very much. Bye bye.
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