RICARDO SALTZ GULKO Creator of new experiences and design innovation perspectives

About Ricardo Saltz Gulko

Why do you do the things you do and why do you think the field of Customer Experience (CX) is an important one in today’s business climate?

The reason I do the things I do is because I enjoy helping companies to transform themselves, creating new business and human opportunities for growth, whilst also connecting design thinking, corporate cultural transformation, and customer experience to ensure that things are as ‘human’ as possible. The here key is to get involved and solve key human issues in personal or business life.

Some companies today are benefitting from the overused idea of ‘disruption’, allowing real innovation to happen and generating simplified solutions for both individuals and businesses - not the typical ‘copyation’ which is often mistaken for innovation. By ‘real innovation’, I refer to new services, products, solutions, and experiences in both the digital and physical worlds that serve to help improve outcomes around human experience in both the realms of B2B and B2C.

Our focus with clients such as Samsung, ThyssenKrupp, and other global players is to assist companies to become better versions of themselves. I don’t mean this conceptually but practically in their daily operations - helping them to design the right pathway toward real change and to adapt their current models in alignment with fast moving business models and challenges.

CX is about finding the right approach or designing the right strategy for the unique abilities of a given organisation. You have to design for the context of individual companies and avoid the emulation of others business models or ‘personalities’ as whoever attempts the ‘copyation’ model has a large risk of failure. In short, we design a sense of practical differentiation for our clients.

I’m skeptical about the data we obtain outside of the digital world and how we still don’t understand customer mental models, the complexity of emotions, and the things that trigger people to actually make a purchase.

What are your motivations for working in the area of innovation and customer experience?

If I had to do the same thing every day I would die of boredom; I love dynamism, learning new things, and stepping out of my comfort zones - this is what seems to energise me.

My true motivation, professionally speaking, is the idea that what brings companies to growth from point A to point B is not enough to ensure they will get to their future points C or D - especially in high technology sector and services. The business ecosystems, the competitors, the customers’ needs, their data and requirements, the tech, and all of us as individuals are going through a constant process of change. Companies, fortunately and unfortunately, have no further option, besides adaptation and constant transformation.

I know this might sound a bit clichéd, but, unbelievably, there are big global brands here in Europe, Asia, and Latin America that are struggling to get a basic digital transformation done or, even worse, to understand that this is a must.

What we want to sell doesn’t really matter anymore; what really matters is the real needs and requirements of the customer. This has led to a kind of cultural change within large corporations that makes me happy, since I see that my focus on simplification and enabling teams to really think about what they are doing is successful. In other words, I’m here to ensure that we mindfully create new solutions and ideas for better business that enhance CX and the future of work overall – the designs of today define what is possible tomorrow.

What is your core aim or purpose?

In my professional life, I hope to contribute to the day ten or twenty five years from now when we no longer talk about digital or physical experiences in terms of human-centred design - or even discuss the benefits of different methodologies, techniques, and approaches such as design thinking, services design, and business analysis; I also hope we won’t also still be discussing the human and technological need for change.

With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and the next generational phase of data-driven services and analytics, it will probably be easier to achieve a high level of high-quality, well-designed services, a constant adaptation for disruption, and a real but currently unthinkable kind of innovation that will be transformational.

My hope is that design in its multifaceted layers and levels will be a part of any company - not like today with many executives struggling to even understand what they are doing in certain companies and regions or - worse than that - failing to recognise the benefits of ‘designing well’.

What has been the most exciting advance you’ve had in your work so far?

As an executive, I’ve most enjoyed large service delivery projects with companies like Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, and others, which have all taught me a great deal. The most exciting advance was when we redirected the Samsung Electronics and Business Solutions divisions and helped them to use a negative experience of the Samsung S7 model in 2016 to pivot towards better products and services, better process, and simplified models designed to prevent flaws during the testing phases instead of when products have already reached the market.

We all learned from it and I was amazed by Samsung’s ability to change themselves and to keep moving forward with their line of products and services around the world. They analysed, learned, and enhanced themselves fast … really fast. When I work in Europe, I hardly ever see companies that share such an amazing ability to transform and change for the better so quickly.

Another exciting thing that is beginning to happen at Samsung and in other companies now in Europe is the fact that several of them started to adopt design thinking tools and techniques - not just to create products, services, and improved customer experience, but in the way they manage themselves even at the level of senior management - leaving egos out of the door and co-creating as a team in creating better experiences models.

The designs of today define what is possible tomorrow.

How did you get into the Customer Experience field?

When I lived and worked in the USA, after my MBA, I observed some undeniable facts: our customers were often paying my company hundreds of millions per year and still not receiving treatment meeting my definition of a ‘decent’ service. There was a clear lack of anything resembling a customer centric approach and instead the focus was on generating revenue and creating more opportunities to make customers pay more for new features and so on. My gut feeling told me that all this was totally wrong.

Then I came across a company called Medtronic which changed everything for me and confirmed this gut feeling. As a diabetic, I use a pump to inject insulin every day. Arriving in a new city in New Jersey, I did not know where to find a supplier for my pump – as the only producer in the world was Medtronic. So as a ‘great’ expert in ‘customer experience’, I called their headquarters instead of going through the customer service department. Long story short, I was passed to the secretary of a senior vice president who eventually said that a local representative in my city would talk to me the next day and solve my issues.

The representative called me next morning and instead of asking me to repeat my problems she mentioned all the details I’d shared with the secretary. This was already impressive but, because I didn’t yet have my health insurance organised, they sent me a free four a month supply of everything I needed. When I got it in the next day, they also helped me to find a doctor, giving me three great options to choose from.

What really impressed me is the fact that she personalised the experience, even moreso than any analytics and customer insight data can do today in our digital world. She told me that a certain doctor of the three was Jewish - not that somebody’s religion really matters to me - and the simple fact that she observed my name and background amazed me; a highly personalised experience back in 2005 and without any data analytics. In the following days, I began to reflect and determined that I must work to change all the experiences we deliver for our customers around the world.

Where do you think there are gaps in our current research on the nature of customer and employee value? What are we missing?

I’m skeptical about the data we obtain outside of the digital world and how we still don’t understand customer mental models, the complexity of emotions, and the things that trigger people to actually make a purchase. This is a necessary area of study but I don’t see many discussions about it – even though many new studies into this field have emerged over the last few years.

Another is the clear gap between customer experience measurement and connecting the right metrics with KPIs and company results at all levels of an organisation. This is a gap which needs much more study and should be addressed and improved significantly since top executives still struggle to get it right or even comprehend.

We are not just designing emotional connections, creating loyalty, or repeatable business with our customers but we are also designing the future of work - transforming our less progressive outcomes into more progressive ones.

How do you develop the right kind of knowledge about CX, services, and design?

A couple of key things work for me:

  • Reading books and blogs.
  • Workshops, courses, and conferences.
  • Asking people that know better than me for advice.
  • Sharing ideas with the nearly five thousand members our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  • Learning by doing.

What’s do you think is the biggest misconception about innovation?

I love this question! In my view, people in CX and design often use ‘innovation’ as a buzzword – however, I would argue that we need to be more nuanced and that there are actually between eight and fifteen basic kinds of innovation: to simply ‘copy’ something, make a ‘better’ part, or write ‘better’ software than your competitor – who you took the idea from in the first place - or even to make a process better, faster, and more simplified – can never be considered to truly be real innovation. Maybe we could call this kind of thing an 'enhancement' as this is more honest and fair towards the real innovator, developer, or designer.

Things that didn’t exist before but now do - like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, SAP, Tencent, Baidu, Keyence, or Facebook are all examples of real innovation. On the contrary though, design thinkers, designers, CX experts, and executives today often only serve to change the tip of the iceberg and then claim to have uncovered a greatly innovative solution.

One typical example of misuse can be found in Brazil, which is a great economy that transforms things and claims to have some sort of outstanding innovation. Sadly, however, in several of these cases it is merely a greatly inventive example of ‘copyation’ or the adaption of something from abroad. This happens also in communities of services designers, doers, and design thinkers; I wish we would stick to using ‘innovation’ for cases of the real deal.

How important is an understanding of the organisational context behind the things that we design?

It is impossible to offer solutions for something we don’t understand. Having a clear understanding of business basics and the context of a given situation is the only way you can create, envision, or co-create the future of a company. Design thinking helps in several areas but is ultimately a creative tool of leverage for innovation and business transformation. Of course, we can also use design thinking to decode situations with the right data.

Design thinking is a continuous learning experience arising out of a need to obtain and apply insights to evolve towards dynamic and changing goals. If you wish to use design as a transformational tool for change, you cannot get things done accurately without understanding the background first. You also need to see where the company wants to go and what exactly is triggering the need for change in the first place.

What will change the nature of how we work?

The way we simplify our organisations today, the evolution of technology, and the AI evolution, are all examples of the factors that will impact the future of the way we work. I hope one day we will be able to use design thinking as tool to generate and understand the ‘future’ perspectives and perceptions of our reality.

We are not just designing emotional connections, creating loyalty, or repeatable business with our customers but we are also designing the future of work - transforming our less progressive outcomes into more progressive ones.

The ultimate goal is to create a simplified model that will generate better working environments that are great to be part of, whilst also facilitating and instigating more creativity and truly innovative ideas for our customers, partners, and employees leading to further engagement and growth.

What’s next for Ricardo Saltz Gulko?

I’m co-founding the European Customer Experience Association with an amazing team of global leaders and executives that will help individuals and corporate members to improve their organisations and levels of expertise.

We kindly invite readers to help us shape the future of Customer Experience Design through this initiative which aims to create a strong community of innovators, creators, and human beings.

Our mission is to create a strong, engaged, and collaborative community to help Europe and other regions in our multicultural global village to improve and deliver much better customer experiences. Connect with us on the Eglobalis webpage and we will keep you informed. Alternatively, connect with me on social media.

Last but not least, my book connecting CX, design, and growth is coming out in early 2019.

Original article source: http://designdecode.org/article.php?p=ricardo-saltz-gulko

Author: Ricardo Saltz Gulko - MBA, PMP, ITIL, CCXP Customer Experience & Success, Professional Services, Chief of Innovation & Transformation, Global Speaker & Strategist