Ali Lichtenstein is the Head of Customer Experience Design at Dow Jones.
Ali Lichtenstein talks about Customer Experience Design, why it is important to adopt a customer-centric viewpoint and the differences between CXD and UXD.
Nick Glimsdahl 0:07
Hello, everyone, my name is Nick Glimsdahl. And I would like to welcome you to the press one predict podcast. My guest today is Allie Lichtenstein, and Ellie is the head of customer experience design at Dow Jones. She is responsible for leading the global cx design team that designs end to end experiences for Dow Jones consumers and b2b customers. Welcome to the podcast, Allie.
Alison Lichtenstein 0:29
Thank you. So nice to be here. I appreciate it.
Nick Glimsdahl 0:32
Yeah. And before we kind of get started, you know, will you please just provide the audience a high level recap of what the Dow Jones network does?
Alison Lichtenstein 0:42
Sure. So primarily, you have a mix of consumer and b2b products, like you mentioned, on the consumer side, it’s primarily the Wall Street Journal and all the products that go into that. So this is the print paper of the apps, the website. So as well as WSJ, also Barron’s properties, and Market Watch. And on the b2b side, affectiva is one of our main products effective as a source of over 30,000 paid sources that we are then licensing to companies often used by data scientists or library researchers, we also have a slew of risk and compliance products, as well as our news wires, product that is feel filled in real time, financial data directly to companies. So they’re very much a mix of sometimes our customer is someone that is purchasing an API feed of data. Or it could be person who’s purchasing an individual subscription to The Wall Street Journal.
Nick Glimsdahl 1:47
Wow, sounds like you are a little bit busy.
Alison Lichtenstein 1:51
just a smidge, but it’s never boring, never boring.
Nick Glimsdahl 1:55
just a smidge. Were you the first person in customer experience at Dow Jones. Um,
Alison Lichtenstein 2:00
so it’s interesting. It’s really there had always been a component of people that were thinking about what are the experiences for specific products, but they existed as parts of different roles. So about five years ago, was when Dow Jones formed a standalone customer experience design team. At the time, I was actually in digital marketing and was generating subscriptions and doing digital engagement across the country, Wall Street Journal and Barron’s products. And I quite honestly didn’t know what customer experience design was. And I heard about this, it sounded really interesting. It sounded to be a lot of the things that I was told, don’t worry about that in marketing. We’re a lot of the things that customer experience worried about. And I raised my hand and said, Hey, I want to give it a try. So we formed as a team. So I was one of the first four members of that team when it started.
Nick Glimsdahl 3:00
And why shift in customer experience five years ago, where was the mindset where they’re like, aha, we need to now focus on cx
Alison Lichtenstein 3:09
sure show at the time, we had a fairly new CEO. And it was for the first time we hired a chief customer officer. And they were really looking at the business and saying, we need to grow tremendously. We need to go grow our subscription business, whether that’s on the consumer or b2b side, let’s take a step back. And instead of we had spent a lot of time building products and technologies around those products, took a step back and said, let’s just look at what customers want. And based on some work that those two people had, john, at other news corp company said, we need to have a customer group that really is going to focus on what our customers want, what do they need out of our existing products or future products? Start with that in order to really scale the business a lot bigger.
Nick Glimsdahl 3:56
And then, so what is it that you do today as the head of customer experience at Dow Jones?
Alison Lichtenstein 4:03
Yes. So I would say a big part of it is really looking at the day to day roadmap of the business saying, okay, what’s happening, you know, in the next, really, whether it’s months, six months down the road and looking at, they’re probably new products, or services or product features that we’re going to be rolling out and saying, Okay, what do we want that experience today and working with different stakeholders in the business and hearing, okay, they want to launch a new product, and my team is really responsible for saying, what exactly is this experience going to be and creating the journey for that customer, bringing together the different teams, whether it’s marketing product technology, who were creating something and saying, Okay, this is everything kind of below the surface of the iceberg that’s going to go into making that experience. And then teams go and build and design those things and it launches. And we then look and say, Okay, do we get the right experience the right kind of feedback we were expecting. I’d say the other component of it is really when we are looking at customer feedback, and we just start to see an uptick or change in something that already exists. And they’re not great experiences. And we take a look. And we really peel back and say, why is this happening? So we try to figure out, is it because of technologies is the way these customers are being service? What is it that’s contributing to this experience? How can we make it better? on a day to day standpoint, I would say a lot of my role is, we’re a very siloed company, as I think a lot of large companies are, it’s a lot of bringing different stakeholders together. And having those conversations where one team may be very much designing the technology and other teams very much focused on marketing. And we ordered the cost of the service of that. We try to bring everyone together to say, Okay, well, this is a reality, what it’s going to feel like, if you’re a customer who doesn’t know about what’s happening, all those pieces behind the scenes.
Nick Glimsdahl 6:14
Yeah, no, I love that. So the the main talk topic that I wanted to talk about today was to focus on the the design of customer experience or customer experience design. So what does that from your perspective, what does that mean to you?
Alison Lichtenstein 6:28
Sure. So we get this question a lot, especially when we formed as a team and people said, Hi, well, aren’t you UX? And what’s the difference? And so really looking at same customer experience being any sort of touch point, any type of perception of that a customer might have the product and the design of it being? How do we want to have a customer go through and use our product, or it could be a service or it could be just a brand in general. So I really see it as one part risk management, in a way when you are trying to create something new and say, Well, how are we going to make this the best that could possibly be, and thinking through every interaction a customer’s going to have, from the minute they might see a print ad to when the newspapers potentially delivered to them. And it’s, the bag isn’t right, and their paper gets wet. All of those things contribute to the customer experience. And we as designing those things, then figure out how do we not bleed Are any of our ways of working, if you will on to the customer.
Nick Glimsdahl 7:45
So how important is having a customer centric viewpoint or maybe putting the shoes on and walking in the shoes of the customer, and how important is that customer centric focus,
Alison Lichtenstein 8:00
I think more than ever, it is beyond essential. So if you look at I mean, I know myself as a customer, we have more choice than ever to do anything. And we have really great experiences. I always, anytime Well, not these days, but anytime I would have used an Uber, I’m in the past the idea if you would have told me 20 years ago, then instead of having to, you know, get a cab in New York and stand there and wait in the rain and whatnot, I would have a thing on my phone, and I could press a button and magically a car’s gonna appear and take me where I need to go. And I don’t need to have cash on me, the whole experience of using Uber or using Netflix or Spotify, they are just easy, simple, as clear, as you could be experiences. And they’re every year there’s more and more of them. And that’s what customers expect period from anything. So everything you do, you know, so customers aren’t looking that over the wall street journal is over, you know, 130 years old, they probably have some old systems and ways of working, that really doesn’t matter to a customer. So I think more than ever, really, regardless of what industry you’re in or what you’re doing. People are not comparing within silos of industry. They are just feeling overall when I’m human, and I wake up in the morning, how am I getting information, especially his way, you know, past few months of just wanting to cut through clutter, wanting to do the things that are easy, more than ever, customers are going to just be gravitating to the places that are easy to work with easy to do business with. And we know as a company, it just impacts the bottom line. If it’s not easy, and you’re not delivering on what a customer needs. You’re essentially it’s going to be very hard to have a business long term.
Nick Glimsdahl 9:50
Yeah, no, I would 100% agree. And it’s also there’s so many other companies that are trying to pull your customers away from you in finding Ways to drive a better experience or solving the problems quicker or getting them that product to you at a at an easier rate or overnight or whatever that looks like. But yeah, it’s you mentioned some some big hitters and being customer focus. So it’s it’s always important to stay focused, regardless of the industry in regards to the size of the company.
Alison Lichtenstein 10:21
Definitely. And you the publishing industry has certainly right. So I’ve been at Dow Jones for about 14 years, I started before we even there was an app, let’s say, you know, mobile app, which is where we’re getting so many of our customers now and thinking through what publishing looks like then versus what it looks like natural, and you have more than ever, with, you know, with Facebook, Google with BuzzFeed, there are more places for people to get information, we can say as you know, we can tell the strength of our journalism and our factual news and whatnot. But again, it needs to feel like an easy experience to just consume our content. If it’s not easy to log into the products or to get your paper delivered, it’s really hard to say, well, then you should pay for our information, if you can just go on and feel like you can get it very easily somewhere else.
Nick Glimsdahl 11:17
Yeah, yeah. So with all of the data out there of finding ways to look at what the customers and the open rate and the subscription rate, and what channels or what products they’re using, how often they’re using them. There’s so much data out there. So how do you go about measuring the customer experience design?
Alison Lichtenstein 11:38
It’s I wish I had a magical number, I would say it really varies almost on a project by project basis. A lot of times we measure it by saying we didn’t get the volume of negative feedback, we thought we would and that’s successful. Sometimes it’s we made a change, or we made a launch or we sunset, something as we often do, and we didn’t hear anything, sometimes not hearing anything, is the best news you could possibly have. And that’s fine. Most of the times were aligned to the business. So if our engagement team is looking to announce something or a product enhancement or feature whatnot, we’re very much tied to Okay, our goal is going to be create an experience that helps increase engagement by whatever percent they’re looking for the test that they’re doing. And that’s really how we try to gauge it, we’re working. And sometimes it’s difficult because it might take our team, we spend a lot of time doing customer journey maps, we might need 20 journeys to be able to break down what we want an experience to be on something that’s a pretty minor customer change. On the other hand, sometimes a major change Well, it’s really more on the messaging and the look and feel there’s not so much of a customer journey needed. And so our time as a team sometimes is harder to to quantify, because we may be spending numerous days hours or whatnot invested in making a change to something for something else. So
Nick Glimsdahl 13:23
yeah, no, it must be tough to sometimes because it’s all about the customer’s perception. So measuring it can be subjective, right?
Alison Lichtenstein 13:31
Nick Glimsdahl 13:33
You know, um, though, the one quote that I love is the is the late Steve Jobs, he famously said, you got to start with the customer experience and work backwards toward the technology, not the other way around. And for me in the contact center space, it’s essentially to focus on the customer experience, the employee experience, the business outcomes, and then work backward toward the technology. So very similar to what Steve Jobs has said. So how do you do you use the same technique with customer experience design? Or do you use something else?
Alison Lichtenstein 14:03
We very much use that same technique. And so knowing that there, I also like the idea, I believe it’s Jeff Bezos that’s had go into a room for whatever meeting and have a chair represent the customer. And we’ve definitely tried that approach in many ways and are brought up plate a specific customer call and or put a customer quote on the wall in a room. If we’re starting from scratch and saying, Okay, this is potential, this is what the overall customer perception is. What is it that we want the customer perception to be? kind of start with that, that brainstorming laundry list of items, and then create the journey to make that happen? Which sounds a lot easier said than done? A lot of times it involves different teams trying to say, Well, my my team literally can’t build the thing to make that outcome happen. Okay, so if we can’t do that, Is there because we don’t have a budget to either have the people or the system to make that happen? What can we do that gets us as close to that as possible? Um, many times we come up, come up with things that it’s in a perfect world, we would have a way to do something. And unfortunately, we don’t, but always starting from ideally, what do we want the customer experience to be? Is that blue sky approach and better than definitely saying, alright, well, these are the capabilities we have now. And starting with All right, well, the existing technology, let’s say that we have today could go and we can make this happen. Found, if you start from that you could end up with and we’ve been in the situation, you end up with a technology or ended up putting a product out there that, ultimately is not what anyone wants to use. And therefore time money is spent on something that’s there for not used, or you then find, wow, we went out there. And we didn’t realize all these other things behind the scenes that we’re going to contribute. We’ve been in situations where we’re going to shut down certain legacy systems and roll out something new without taking a look and saying, how’s that ultimately going to impact when customers call this 800 number, if we didn’t map out and say, let’s just go through it from a customer standpoint, we would have turned something off and basically left people to fall off a cliff in certain places as well. So that’s where that risk management piece comes in. And by saying, Okay, well, a customer doesn’t realize that, oh, yeah, we retire that system. And that’s why while I’m going through this, it’s not their problem. So really thinking starting from Yeah, how is this actually going to be access? And what’s this going to? What will my experience be, is really what’s helped bring us back? Sometimes you need those showing people those those pitfalls, in order for different teams around the business, I think, to really get why we’re there in the room. And what we’re trying to do.
Nick Glimsdahl 17:00
Yeah, yeah, sometimes it’s really tough to get buy in when it comes to customer experience, or even the design of customer experience, because they don’t see the overall holistic approach. And and their role in that. So maybe, inside of Dow Jones, how are you communicating customer experience throughout all these different channels? So let’s say it’s a legacy technology, and you’re saying, Hey, we need to improve the customer experience he gets based off of what we’ve seen, and the journey maps that we’ve gone through, we know that technology in this specific instance, is the issue. You know, explaining that to the the head of that department, sometimes can be difficult,
Alison Lichtenstein 17:43
definitely can be difficult. I think a lot of it is around just storytelling. Spent a lot of time just thinking through, you know, as you mentioned, there’s millions of data points and more so than ever. We have so many ways people are getting information and just thinking through how do we make it real for people, we found you’re making journey maps are more of a an empathy map, if you will, that either incorporates the customer call to be able to, at different points in the journey call out literally what the customer is experiencing and feeling. As well as having the point of view from agents who may have spoken to that person really bringing in exactly what happened and showing off and or showing it visually. So trying to have those journey maps where you can show and this is where the person hit a dead end and didn’t know what to do. And this was as a result trying to tell that story either with the you know, the audio visual component of it has been effective. I think the most real thing when executives can hear a really unfortunate call it really brings it to life in a way that is very visceral, and people listen to it. So I found that really to be the best way to get buy in for things.
Nick Glimsdahl 19:07
Yeah, no, I I would 100% agree it’s the storytime is is a central and customer experience. So you mentioned that customer experience design or the department started about five years ago. How has that department evolved inside of Dow Jones throughout those five years.
Alison Lichtenstein 19:25
So when we started it was strictly on the consumer products for the first year and a half and even with that we really started with WSJ being biggest percentage of our customers. So from after at that point, we didn’t move into the b2b products and a lot of where we started was literally just saying, you know, we want to just create customer journeys of let’s say, it’s first even let’s create a life cycle. Certainly on the b2b side, it’s what it Where does it start? Is it sales driven? Is it is there is there lead genuine, what is happening. So we spent a lot of time the first few years really just creating baseline journeys. Once that work is more or less done, the more recently it’s been around kind of consulting on as we’re making changes as because we’re continually kind of growing, evolving the business. It’s okay, we are getting involved with we’re making this change. And we’re going to come in and take a look at, okay, this is what the experience should be and your call just a lot of sanity checks, just hearing your we’re switching from we have a loyalty program while we’re switching from one fulfillments of some sort of loyalty to peace to another vendor. Okay, just looking at it and reviewing end to end asking a million questions. Thinking not only what kind of customer asked what kind of customer service agent need to answer so that we’re really thinking through what will there be any pitfalls there. So I’d say you know, long story short moving from a creating baseline journeys to really being more consulting on the business.
Nick Glimsdahl 21:11
You mentioned, at the beginning asked the question about measuring customer experience. And it’s a it’s a tough question to answer. So I’m going to give you a harder question to answer. So with that information, how are you? Can you measure an ROI? in customer experience design?
Alison Lichtenstein 21:31
We’ve done a bit around return on experience. So trying to quantify if we start with an experience being at a and we change it to be how much our customers then more likely to stay with us if they move from A to B? And or are they less likely to contact us because they had a better experience? We’ve been able to do that, in bits and pieces, not always, I would say because again, sometimes we find ourselves in a position, we’re spending a lot of time as a team kind of thinking through and designing these experiences. And sometimes the desired outcome is just that the customer doesn’t notice a change or that we don’t get feedback. So it’s hard to know, well, how bad Could something have been? Had we not taking a look at it. So it’s not a definite but we in bits and pieces of the business, we are trying as best we can to try to make sure we’re always aligned to whatever the business is trying to do. Trying to figure out what are the key drivers around the business of how we’re growing and making sure that we’re constantly looking at those experiences. And then as a team, because we’re a small team, making sure that we’re investing our timing right areas.
Nick Glimsdahl 22:56
If I were to introduce you to somebody who is a just accepted a role for the head of customer experiences on at a at a different company, what advice would you give them? Hmm.
Alison Lichtenstein 23:11
Um, the first thing I would just say, listen and get to know your customers as much as humanly possible, and talk to and try to meet every, as many stakeholders in the in the business as possible. Even someone who may think Well, there’s this person, and maybe it’s someone who works in finance and processes, invoices, and you’re thinking, well, there’s not going to be a customer impact, every single thing that’s done, it could be the person that’s setting up chairs and auditorium for team meetings, everything that’s done, really does ultimately, I think, have a customer impact. So trying to really meet the different teams trying to find out what keeps people awake, keeps people up at night. I think that was a big bit of trying to understand what are the business’s barriers and then trying to then see, well, what are the customers barriers, sometimes they’re not aligned at all. And that is always really interesting. So trying to bring all those things together, learning as much as possible. And shadowing customer service agents is just invaluable. When I have anyone new on my team who starts or anyone I need that is new to Dow Jones. Like you need to listen to customer calls. It’s really the only way to truly understand especially when it’s a customer who is not one that you can identify with. I mean, on the b2b side, I’m not a market researcher. It’s hard or I don’t you know, not looking up. companies that have sanctions that I can’t do business with but trying to understand what those customer needs are, are just, it’s the only way you can be in a customer shoes. So doing that as much as possible and listening actively listening or just invaluable.
Nick Glimsdahl 25:01
Yeah, that’s some great, great advice. You know, kind of going back to Amazon, I know, a bunch of other companies do it also. But all of their executives have to spend a day inside their call center to listen to what the customers are saying in their pain points, and then listening to the employees tied to the customer service rep and saying, What went wrong? How do I how can we improve as an organization? And I just taking that information is so invaluable? So how often are you guys asking for customer feedback on the design, without maybe you mentioned sending people inside the call center, which I believe is so awesome, but taking other feedback and doing something with it.
Alison Lichtenstein 25:42
So on a really are the customer service reporting team on a weekly basis puts out Voice of the Customer reporting, and really anyone across the business can take a look at verbatim customer comments. What we launched about a year ago was was we made customer service pop ups where we our customer service center in the US is based in Princeton, New Jersey are most of the execs and marketing and product teams are in our New York office, we brought teams of agents from Princeton to the New York office and literally set up a call center in the office. And we started doing that once a quarter and let people sign up for 30 minutes session. So anyone could come in, and you’d sit down and you’d sit with an agent. And you would literally be watching what an agent was doing and following their screens and asking them questions and then listening to a customer calls. So that was and then we rolled that out in different offices globally. So that was really effective. Obviously, COVID came and we’re not all in the same location anymore. So we’re thinking through doing that virtually. But that really has been, I would say the biggest way that we’ve been able to get people to really understand exactly what customers and the customer service teams are experiencing.
Nick Glimsdahl 27:04
That’s really neat. At the very beginning, you had mentioned that an apartment or an employee or leadership said, aren’t you guys just user experience? Like what what is the difference? So maybe clear that up on explaining the difference between customer experience design and user experience design?
Alison Lichtenstein 27:23
Sure. So I always if I really on a high level way Look at it is if we were if customers were arriving on an order form, UX team would be very much looking at what’s the design of this page? How were the form fields laid laid out? What’s the wireframe? Are there dropdowns? Or radio buttons? Is everything on the page optimized? And or? And then user research team looking at Okay, are customers able to complete certain actions on that page? I would say we stay away from how does the page look? We’re not graphic designers are art designers in any way. we’re most concerned with? What was a person experiencing before they got to this page? Did this order page, get their payoff of what they were expecting? Where are they going after? And if they have a problem? What are they going to do? So I’m really we’re not just digital, I always like to make that point out there too. So again, if someone biggest reason why anybody contacts us, in our call centers, because they didn’t get the Wall Street Journal newspaper, there’s still a million people in the US get a newspaper, six days a week, which is always hard for people to believe. So yeah, that may not be how people are purchasing. But thinking through what happened, why did the paper come at eight instead of seven and trying to understand those things. We work extremely closely with the UX team, because, again, customers are customers. And we know if they’re they’ve heard something in the research, it’s likely something that we’ve also heard in the call center as well. We share a lot of information, as well as like the customer service reporting team. And then we have a intelligence team, which is more traditional market research really bringing all that together super important. But we are unlike UX, we’re not doing wireframes or making any of the design recommendations.
Nick Glimsdahl 29:21
Yeah, that that that does not sound like my cup of tea on the UX side. I’ll let somebody smart that has expertise, complete them. But so I wrap up every podcast with two questions. The first question is, is what book or person has influenced you the most in the past year? And then the second question is, if you could leave a note to all the customer service and all the customer experience professionals, and it would reach everybody, what would it say?
Alison Lichtenstein 29:49
I love those questions. So you know, I will say for the Booker person I had wife two answers was really too hard to come down with. So I would say person, so Smitha Palais, who was the Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer at Dow Jones, she left the company a few months ago. She’s at Zendesk now. But she was everything that I would hope to someday be in a C level executive, I had the opportunity to speak about diversity and inclusion and just had one of those, I’m just going to reach out to her personally and see if I could run a question past her. And she made time to meet with me numerous times, literally, to just let me pick her brain, she gives me direction gives me tough love, and really personally helped me tell my story, and maybe gave me the confidence to say, okay, people do want to hear a personal story. And this is a good way to kind of craft what you need to do in just 30 minutes. And so she personally was really, really helpful. And also made me realize how much diversity and inclusion, especially now more than ever, really impacts the customer experience and impacts the employee experience, how much it’s all inter woven. So it was a great personal and professional learning experience working with her from a book standpoint, so um, I had the pleasure I read the I’m a big Beastie Boys fan and read the autobiography fairly recently, because I had also seen the documentary and I just love hearing what I think similar to customer experience, you know, things look really easy on the outside some time, when you peel it back, and you learn about what, like this particular group had to go through in order to make a big and kind of, there is no clear linear path in anything. They had a lot of starts and stops and hiccups along the way and just made them more human and found that really interesting.
Nick Glimsdahl 31:54
And then, yep, second question is, if you could leave a note to all the customer service and customer experience professionals, and it would reach everybody, what would it say?
Alison Lichtenstein 32:03
I would say, I would really say that. Let me think how I would phrase this exactly. I would say team, you’re the most important team in this business. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently view. Our products or services are only as good as the experiences our customers have. You are the ones that are helping them to use it to answer questions. It’s essential, essential, what our agents are able to do every day. So I would boil that down into something simple that says you’re appreciated every day and you’re the most important to me to this business.
Nick Glimsdahl 32:43
Yeah, that’s some great advice. What is the best way for somebody to get ahold of you? And they want to learn more? Or, you know, they liked what you said around customer experience design and maybe wanting to pick your brain on that something else? Can they connect with you on LinkedIn? Or what’s the best way to get hold? Yeah,
Alison Lichtenstein 33:01
definitely. Winton is best. I love connecting with people I would love to. I love to be challenged. If someone’s heard anything I’ve said and has advice or has a different way they’ve managed to tackle it or have questions. I’m, I love learning from others. So I really look forward to connecting with as many of you as possible. And yes, I’m the only le Lichtenstein in customer experience that I know of on LinkedIn.
Nick Glimsdahl 33:31
That is awesome. And I’ll tag you on social. We put this live, so you have access to alley alley. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure and to learn more about customer experience design and what you guys are doing and the success that you had a Dow Jones so I really appreciate it.
Alison Lichtenstein 33:50
Sure. Thanks so much for having me. This has been great.
The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.
Nick’s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:
- Customer service & customer experience leaders
- A hostage negotiator
- Award-winning authors
- Home Depot’s Senior Director of Customer Care
- Former VP of Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Lyft’s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
- Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:
- What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
- If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?
You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.
If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.