Digital Reimagined

Understanding the Customer Experience (feat. David Muhammad and Michael Pullen)

David and Michael talk about knowing who your customers and users are, and the importance of understanding the customer experience in your digital transformation.

Understanding the Customer Experience (feat. David Muhammad and Michael Pullen)


Lisette Diamant: 0:00
Welcome to Digital Reimagined, a podcast packed with insights from Apex Systems, a world class technology services leader working to reimagine value for our clients. We’ll bring you the voices of industry experts to showcase our proven solutions that span across digital innovation, modern enterprise and workforce mobilization. On today’s episode of Digital Reimagined, I have two guests here in the virtual recording studio to talk about the customer experience. Welcome, David Mohammad, Director of Digital Solutions at Apex Systems.

David Muhammad: 0:38
Hey Lisette, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Lisette Diamant: 0:40
Of course. wonderful to have you. And Michael Pullen, Practice Director of Digital Business Transformations. Great to have you back.

Michael Pullen: 0:46
Thank you. Excited to be here.

Lisette Diamant: 0:48
Wonderful. To kick off with the topic. I’d love to just start with a simple question. How would you define the customer? David, can you kick us off?

David Muhammad: 0:57
How do I define the customer? So- the end user, whether it’s internal or external. Folks that are engaging with your various touch points and stay in your funnel. That’s the customer.

Lisette Diamant: 1:07
Touching on the difference between user and customer experience, where’s the overlap? And how do you find that these areas differ?

David Muhammad: 1:14
Well, user experience is the experience that a user has inside your product. So it is really about the aesthetic feel of that experience, and also the fidelity that the user extrapolates out of the experience. And so that’s UX. It’s really about the user and the product itself, that relationship. CX, customer experience, is really about extrapolating insights all the way through the customer journey, as they are investigating, verifying, committing, setting up, using, fixing, preferring, and then becoming an advocate for your experience. And then distributing that data throughout your organization, so that the various functional areas within your organization are able to make more informed decisions on how to approach customers moving forward and how to respond to customers in real time as well. So there is overlap there, there’s synergy there, but they are disparate functions and skill sets.

Lisette Diamant: 2:07
Sure, sure. So what would you say are some important considerations in having a customer centric strategy that is so rooted in the culture of your organization?

Michael Pullen: 2:17
Many of the organizations we’re encountering are still oriented around their technologies, as opposed to the customer. And one of the things that, using the term customer obsession, it allows for people, if we’re trying to get an organization to be more nimble, more agile and responsive to their customers, then they need to be able to make the decisions where the team is delivering in a short enough timeframe in the context of the customer that they’re trying to deliver that product or service for. The whole feedback loop of getting the customer information into the organization so decisions can be made effectively and efficiently, is missing. And so when we get that in there, it not only helps them make better decisions, but they’re able to respond in a better way, because they have the context of how the customer lives their life and experiences their organization as a whole.

David Muhammad: 3:16
Brilliant, brilliant, I just want to build on that. Michael’s spot on. Organizations need to be more creative and not as hard wired, because the world’s changing so ra pidly and digital strategy and transformative strategies and approaches should be disruptive, in a constant state of evolution. And culturally, to your initial question Lisette, is empathy. So organizations have to empathize with their customers. And this all starts with research, and then looking at it from a human centered perspective. So culturally, design thinking, which is centered around empathy for users and customers, really kind of becomes one of the foundational pieces. And then that empathy helps you to define and ideate and prototype the right way. But culturally, it all starts with empathizing with your customers and your users.

Lisette Diamant: 4:00
So just thinking back to people, process, technology, and echoing off of what Michael had said, certainly the technology will continue to morph, continue to change to be faster, better, more adaptable, but it still all centers back into the people, right? So building on this a little further, can you expand a little bit more on the tie of how humans are still very much the same?

David Muhammad: 4:22
Well, people are into relationships. That’s really the social currency of our lives. And so when you think about preceding generations, like Baby Boomers in particular, who were a great generation, or even the Greatest generation, the guys that fought World War Two and built our modern civilization in the 20s and 30s when it comes to infrastructure, they were really passive as it related to the relationship that they had with brands and experiences. And as technology continued to burgeon through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, then kind of hitting the high point around consumer technology in the 80’s, I think we live in a post-modern world now, a post-technology world now, where the relationships are really driving what technology will do or not do next. So I think we’re in this post-modern world. And in this world, users – Millennials and Gen Z-ers – are a lot more active. So there’s a full gamut of inputs, that organizations and brands have to future-proof against today that they just didn’t have to consider in the 20th century, it just was outside of their awareness. The real key is how close can you get to your customers? And how much can you care about them? That’s really the key to future-proofing. It’s less about technology, and more about empathizing.

Michael Pullen: 5:33
It’s interesting, because I think the other thing that you said there that just popped into my mind when you talk about the past and coming into the present day with relationships, one aspect of the past was to treat customers as a marketing segment. You just group a whole bunch of people together and you say, “oh, they’re all like, this is what we’re giving them.” Right? And I think one of the differences we’re in the midst of right now with the relationship that forces organizations to think about, is everybody’s experience is individual. You can’t actually look at the world and say, “they’re all the same.” And so the organizations that are engaging with each of their customers as individuals and adapting to their needs are the ones that we see out there more and more as the leaders that we think of around delivering the best experiences you have with products and services.

Lisette Diamant: 6:34
Sure, sure. Where have we seen this innovative work happening at some of our client engagements?

Michael Pullen: 6:40
So we have several examples and what we’ve been seeing along the way now is that even for the business transformation, we’re having organizations pivot themselves to look at the customer experience through a particular business unit and follow that experience throughout the whole organization, and then align their organization in that fashion. Now, when you go down and talk with each team that’s delivering, they know exactly who their customer is, what their customer is thinking, how they approach their world, and they’re getting much closer to receiving and delivering the value and then getting feedback on that value that they’re delivering on a regular basis, because the organization has pivoted itself towards that experience. And so we’re finding that across multiple companies, that when they’re doing their transformation, even the internal organizational transformation pieces, that alignment becomes very important moving forward and meeting that customer’s needs.

David Muhammad: 7:43
Sure, a lot of my work over the last 18 months or so has been really UX and product design centric. So there’s a large financial institution on the West Coast that we had the opportunity to engage through some strategic development consulting, managed services, and then also standing up a team within their in-house studio, which then became the tip of the tip of the innovation sphere. And started off with current state analysis and then a desired future state, and then creating the roadmap on what it would take to stand up this group, and then what the communications design plan would look like to feed a line of sight back into the C-suite. And so the takeaway from the C-suite was then to, in Phase 2, create this strategy, design, and insights organization that was cross-disciplinary, and we’re in the process of standing that group up now, which will continue the evolution. But really implementing this experience virtuous cycle, which enables the organization and the people using their experiences to be moving along the journey at the same time,

Lisette Diamant: 8:47
Michael, I’d love for you to leave us with a final thought for our listeners,

Michael Pullen: 8:50
The thing that jumps into my mind that I tried to work with each of the clients that we have, is that the organization as a whole really needs to understand their customer better. They need to understand the customer, not relayed by somebody else, they really need to get a sense of the customer from being able to observe customers themselves. Getting the person delivering closer to the customer is very important for them to be able to make better decisions.

Lisette Diamant: 9:20
Thank you so much, Michael. And David, I’d love for you to leave our listeners with a thought as well.

David Muhammad: 9:24
So Michael really touched on customers really well. But I think this self awareness piece among organizations is critical as well. So as we’re going and doing strategy, where we should really be carefully helping organizations identify whether they are a digital novice, or a learner, or a striver, or a leader, or they’re best in class. So really helping organizations identify where they are in their current state, and then from there developing strategies and frameworks and approaches that will help them evolve.

Lisette Diamant: 9:51
Absolutely. You know, I think the most important takeaway we can have is really starting to engage where the customer is and orienting with where we’re at. Thank you again for coming in today. Wonderful to have you, David.

David Muhammad: 10:02
Thank you. Thank you.

Lisette Diamant: 10:03
And great to have you, Michael, as well.

Michael Pullen: 10:05
All right, thank you very much Lisette!

Lisette Diamant: 10:06
Stay tuned for another episode of Digital Reimagined coming next Monday. Please be sure to subscribe to Digital Reimagined wherever you listen to podcasts. We’ll be sharing out a new episode every Monday. To learn more about Apex Systems’ offerings, visit us at You’ll find our podcast here, along with success stories, articles, news and trends. Digital Reimagined is a podcast brought to you by Apex Systems, produced by Taylor Hawkins. The music you heard was Do Ba Do by Otis Galloway.

Leave a Reply