Customer experience has a long tail, says Janelle Estes, chief insights officer at UserTesting, in her recent column, "The Long Tail Effect and What It Means for Customer Experience." She points out that customer experience builds over time and is a cumulative impression that a customer retains after multiple interactions with the company over months or years.

For example, she notes that an airline customer might use use the app to book or re-book, a kiosk to check in, and talk with a customer service rep at the gate as well as get emails or text messages updating their flight status or need to use a chat function on the website to confirm itinerary details. Plus the in-flight experience.

Janelle makes recommendations that companies take a look at four areas to address facets of the customer experience long tail. Those areas are regular health checkups of existing experience, data-driven investigations, competitive and best-in-class assessments and customer journey tracking.

Janelle offers a distinctive and refreshing voice on all matters customer experience and is also the co-author with UserTesting CEO Andy MacMillan of User Tested: How the World’s Top Companies Use Human Insight to Create Great Experiences. She is also co-host of the Human Insight Podcast. Check out her recent CMSWire columns here. And also check out our video Q&A with Janelle above from earlier this year.

This is part of our end-of-year series celebrating our top CMSWire Contributors of the Year for 2022. These are regular CMSWire Contributors whose articles this year greatly resonated with our community of professionals. These Contributors simply serve as great ambassadors of our brand in the world of marketing and customer experience.

Focus on Your Truth, Passion and Motivation

What excites you most about the space you cover?

What excites me the most about the space is the growing interest and investment in understanding customers beyond just clicks and conversions. Looking back to the start of my career, around the time of the boom, companies had built a proverbial wall between themselves and their customers with their digital presence. This led to companies completely over-indexing on the loads of data they were collecting around what people were doing, where they were clicking, where they were dropping and if they’d ever return. 

Over the last 20 years or so, many companies have realized that big data is not enough. In fact, many have woken up to the importance of understanding their customers holistically; not just through the gargantuan amount of data we have at our fingertips, but as human beings. After all, business is human, and the companies that spend time to deeply and authentically understand who their customers are and what their needs, expectations and motivations are — and deliver against those — are more likely to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace. 

As studies have shown, customers are willing to spend more with companies who provide great experiences. Yet, in order to deliver the best experience, companies must understand their customers and what they need, and you can’t get that by just looking at charts, graphs and other data exhaust.

Related Article: 5 Ways Retail Brands Can Optimize In-Store Experience During the Holidays and Beyond

What trend(s) do you think will emerge in 2023?

With rising inflation and a tough macroeconomic environment, consumer and corporate spending is likely to retract in 2023. In times of uncertainty, many look to do business with companies they know, love and trust.

For this reason, it’s important for companies to double down on the experience they provide their existing customers. Many teams chase new markets and buyers, and while this is an important part of growing a business, focusing on those efforts can cause companies to inadvertently de-prioritize their customer base. 

Also, given it’s five times more expensive to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one, investing in the existing customer base is the right move next year as budgets are under the microscope and customers are skittish.

Related Article: 3 Questions Customer Experience Professionals Should Ask About Phygital

Learning Opportunities

What's the best career advice you ever got?

The best career advice I ever got was to focus on my truth, my passion and what motivates me. When I first started thinking about my career path, I focused on the roles that had the highest salaries. After signing up for business school and studying accounting for a month or so, I realized that it didn’t spark anything in me. After switching my major from accounting to finance and then economics, I felt a bit defeated. That was when I had a conversation with a mentor of mine about focusing on what I enjoy, not how much money I could make.

After a bit of soul searching, I was fortunate to find a program at the business school I attended that focused on the intersection of design and cognitive science. The notion of creating experiences that are optimized for how people consume the world around them completely fascinated me — and still does. Finding this field, which I had no idea even existed, was the catalyst for a career that allows me to follow my passion and support my family. 

Related Article: Aiming To Be the 'Next Airbnb'? Follow These 5 Product-Development Steps

What's the best personal advice you ever got?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is all about perspective, and while it’s easy to get hooked into getting the next promotion, having a nice home or planning the perfect vacation, the key is to continually refocus your energy and attention on what you value most in life. Whether it’s family, friends, mental health, physical health or something else, prioritizing those over material things or ego-driven accomplishments is how I try to stay grounded.

Related Article: The Long Tail Effect and What It Means for Customer Experience

Tell us something about you not related to your work field of interest.

I love writing. The first thing I do every morning is journal three pages. The value of journaling is highlighted in the book, "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. It helps to unblock me. Once you clear your mind of the swirling self-talk by getting it down on paper, it helps you prioritize and stay focused on the things that really matter. Currently, I don’t have a lot of down time to write, so my morning practice helps me scratch my writing itch and be more effective in both my professional and personal life.

I also am focused on developing my daughters, ages 9 and 13, to be strong and independent females. I also enjoy sponsoring and mentoring at my company and in my industry.