How To Break Down The Barriers To A Better Customer Experience: A Q&A With CX Expert Dan Gingiss

Ursula Ringham

This is Part 3 of the series, “Transforming Your Enterprise for the Experience Economy.”

Pop quiz, enterprise business leaders: Which team or department is responsible for customer experience?

Here’s a hint: Think beyond department borders.

Sales. Customer Service. Marketing. Logistics. IT. Finance. Delivering incredible customer experiences in today’s experience economy is a team sport. Each and every area of the enterprise is customer-facing in some way, shape, or form.

Transforming operations to get every department rowing in the same customer experience direction starts with simply listening to your customers, according to expert customer experience consultant Dan Gingiss. To help you break down the experiential barriers and silos that exist within your own organization, we sat down with Dan and asked him to share his advice. Learn what he had to say below.

A Q&A with Dan Gingiss: Breaking down the barriers of experience

Q: Tell us about your career and how you became a customer experience consultant.

A: I spent more than 20 years as a marketer and have seen almost everything – big and small companies, domestic and international markets, B2C and B2B audiences, and pretty much every channel from direct mail to social media. But it was my final role at Discover Card, as head of digital customer experience, where I finally found my true passion. It was a role of firsts for me: first digital role, first customer experience role, and first time managing a social media team.

I immediately loved social media, but not for the reasons other marketers did. I loved the fact that it was (and is) the only marketing channel where customers can talk back. I found it fascinating that the company could have direct interactions with its customers somewhere besides a telephone call. I dug in with the team, and Discover quickly became one of the first leaders in social customer care. I also learned to embrace the small details involved in the customer experience and loved it when we could make seemingly minor improvements to the website experience and see satisfaction scores skyrocket.

One of my proudest career moments was Discover winning the J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Award for the first time, having finally defeated a venerable brand known for great experiences – American Express.

At the beginning of 2019, I decided to go out on my own as a keynote speaker and experience consultant because I wanted to spend every day doing the things I love and helping companies create remarkable experiences for their customers. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you strip away all of the meetings, emails, and administrative work that plagues corporate America. So far, my mantra is that I like working for The Dan better than working for The Man!

Q: How are social media and customer experience both parts of what you refer to as a “continuous cycle”? 

A: It used to be that when a customer had a bad experience with a company, the only recourse was calling customer service or telling a few friends about it. Today, customers have a much louder voice in social media, and they aren’t afraid to use it. That said, they are also doing something that most call center agents have never seen – they are complimenting brands for good experiences.

The “continuous cycle” refers to the fact that consumers have experiences with brands – good and bad – and they share them on social media. Thus, there’s really no such thing as an “offline” experience anymore. What companies do with that feedback – if they respond, how quickly they respond, and whether they are effective at resolving problems – feeds back into the customer experience and the consumer’s overall perception of the brand. For complaints, there is a real opportunity to turn brand detractors into brand advocates just by responding, showing empathy, and being helpful. For compliments, companies can reinforce the positive feelings by responding with a “thank you” and a nice note back, thereby turning brand advocates into raving fans. 

Q: Which data insights are the most important for improving the customer experience?

A: Really listening to your customer is the single best way to improve the experience. That’s more than sending out satisfaction surveys and quantitatively measuring the results; it is literally walking in the shoes of your customers to truly understand what parts of the experience are great and what needs improving. When is the last time you were a customer of your own brand?

What I’ve found working with many companies is that fixing the little pain points in the customer journey goes a long way toward higher satisfaction. Finding ways to eliminate steps, fix errors, reduce legal disclosures, and generally make things clearer and simpler will result in much happier customers. 

Then, you can focus on improvements to the experience – those things that take the experience from ordinary to extraordinary. If you’re really listening to your customers, they’ll tell you what those things are.

Q: How does technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning, or the Internet of Things enable brands to create superior customer experiences? 

A: Technology has become such a critical part of consumers’ lives that it certainly has a role to play in improving customer experience. Applications such as personalization, proactive support, and simple self-service can make customers feel understood and appreciated. Anything that saves a customer time or money is also a win!

The key is to remember that technology cannot replace human relationships, and today’s consumer – especially millennials – crave that one-to-one contact. A chatbot that simply acts as a digital IVR (Interactive Voice Response; “press 1 for billing, press 2 for payments, etc.”) will re-create the same poor experiences that customers have on the telephone. But using AI to help human agents be better at answering customer service inquiries will result in a superior customer experience.

Q: How can enterprises create a more customer-experience-driven culture?

A: Virtually every role in a corporation is customer facing, either directly or indirectly. Marketing may get a lot of the credit (or blame) for communicating with prospects and customers, but finance (i.e., invoices, fees, interest rates, payments), legal (i.e., disclosures, contracts), IT (i.e., website, mobile app, point-of sale-technology), and human resources (i.e., happy employees equals happy customers) all play big roles as well. 

This is not to say that customer experience shouldn’t be “owned” by a single team; it should so that there is constant focus on the 30,000-foot view of the customer journey, including all transitions and handoffs. But every employee should feel some responsibility and accountability for ensuring a remarkable customer experience, and every employee should feel empowered to make decisions that improve CX at little or no cost.

One important process improvement is to require every project to document where a customer is coming from (i.e., what were they doing before they arrived at this experience) and where the customer is going next. This will ensure a smooth transition between experiences along the customer journey rather than the typical choppiness that results from siloed companies focusing on only one piece of the journey at a time. 

Q: Tell us about a memorable experience you had with a brand as a customer. What made the experience so special?

A: I’ve been loving my experience with Imperfect Produce, a startup out of San Francisco that rescues “ugly” or surplus fruit and vegetables from farms that would otherwise go to a landfill and packages them up in a subscription delivery program. 

It’s great because I can pick exactly what and how much I want in my box, I can skip a box at any time, and the company individually tracks the amount of waste that I’ve prevented from going in the landfill. They have fun, witty marketing that uses fruit and vegetable puns and wacky cartoon characters, and they surprise and delight customers once they’ve achieved certain thresholds like saving 100 pounds of waste.

Creating better experiences across the enterprise

Superior customer experience is shaped by everything from your supply chain to your employee engagement to network and spend management and beyond. Each area of the enterprise needs to have a stake in the game to truly improve your customer experience and win in today’s experience economy. 

To help you create intelligent, exceptional experiences across your entire enterprise, we asked 25 futurists, technologists, and experts to share their top technologies and strategies. See what they had to say at

About Ursula Ringham

Ursula Ringham is the Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP. She manages social media and digital marketing strategy for the small and midsize business community. She was recently recognized as one of 15 Women Who Rock Social Media at Top Tech Companies. Prior to SAP, Ursula worked at Adobe and Apple in their Developer Relations organizations. She managed strategic accounts, developer programs, edited a technical journal, managed content for an entire website, and wrote and taught course curriculum. In her spare time, Ursula writes thriller novels about the insidious side of Silicon Valley.