Interview Ladislau Batalha

December 2022 | Customer Experience | Interview Interview Ladislau Batalha

This is the full text of the face-to-face interview we had with Ladislau Batalha, CEO of ICXI and founder of Lab Experience, at the Grand Plaza Mövenpick.

"Customer Experience needs a holistic view across the whole customer journey" - Ladislau Batalha

Dear Ladislau, thanks for this interview. As an introduction can you tell us what you do, what’s your position and your mission.

Ladislau Batalha: Well first of all, thank you for this occasion to share my experience. For the moment I have two hats: on the one side I have my own consulting company Lab Experience, which provides consulting services, board advisory, all things related to customer care, sales, customer experience, diversity & inclusion. I help companies to be ready for this and find out what improvements they can make. I already work in this for more than 20 years and all over the world, from Brazil to the Middle East.

And secondly, I’ve been appointed CEO of the International Customer Experience Institute (ICXI) a couple of months ago. My mandate is clear: make sure that the institute has a worldwide presence and to launch a new digital standard. With ICXI, organizations or companies can achieve a certification, based on an audit done by an independent body. This is quite unique. We are the only organization in the world to do this.

Next week we will also launch the Digital Customer Experience Standard. So this means that companies and organizations can assess themselves for the general CX Standard or for the new Digital CX Standard and also become certified. This certification process is handled by an independent body: the British Standards Institution.

Thanks Ladislau, since we are talking about Customer Experience, can you also tell me what skills are important in your job.

Ladislau Batalha: Well for a long time we saw a strong focus on technology. And of course technology enables you to move faster and also offer digital experiences. So it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest trends.

But what’s most important in what I do, is the human interaction. Because everything we say on customer experience and employee experience is about one thing: people. It’s about people connecting on matters that are important to them.

In the end you can have a lot of technology and you can even ask for technology to replace some of the human interactions, but the essence remains the human part. So what I do most in my work, is to understand the human part in all of this. So putting myself in the company’s customer’s and employee’s shoes and understand why the interactions are not as simple as they should be. Because unfortunately we always tend to make things more complicated.

So my main skill is to listen, help to understand and make sure that companies can improve.

On CX they are many definitions, but what is according to you Customer Experience?

Ladislau Batalha: First of all customer experience needs to be holistic. So for me it’s about the customer’s holistic perception of their experience with a business, with a brand or with a company.

This means that customer experience is the result of every interaction that a customer has with a business: so from the website, to talking to the customer service, the product or service they

receive. All these interactions have an impact on the perception of the customer and thus on the decision making of the customer. Because the customer can decide to continue doing business with you or not. Which means that the whole end-to-end experience that you’re offering as a business will also influence the loyalty of your customer.

There are a lot of people who say that when a company interacts with a customer, it’s all about customer service. How do you see this balance between customer experience and customer service?

Ladislau Batalha: Well the point is that customer experience is holistic, it’s an end-to-end journey. Customer service on the other hand is the point where the customer needs something from the company. So if you contact the call center of a company and you ask for a query, then you get an answer. But most of the time, they don’t take into consideration the whole journey that I already had with the company.

So both are very linked, but with customer service, the customer is dealing with only one part of the customer journey.

But I must also emphasize that with the evolution of omnichannel technology, it’s possible for customers to interact according to their terms, when they want and how they want. So this also makes the customer service or customer care, more inked with the journey itself. They also need to deliver what the customer is expecting, vit the approach is different (compared to sales/marketing other departments).

And what are for you the key components of CX? What is important for a company to be able to offer a good customer experience?

Ladislau Batalha: For me there are three components in this:

First there is the discovery, secondly the engagement and thirdly you have the delivery.

Regarding the discovery, I will look at the end-to-end process of the customers I want to reach. On engagement, I need to make sure as a company that what I’m offering regarding products and services can attract and engage people/customers. And lastly, I need to deliver to my customers. What customers want is very simple: they want to feel that companies care about them, that the message is clear & simple and it’s consistent across all channels (branches, websites, customer service etc…). And, important to mention, if the company is proactive and anticipates the customer needs, this will make the delivery even more “wow” or engaging for the customer.

Nowadays we see that companies invest a lot in digital transformation, also to improve the customer experience. What are for you the best tools to create a better customer experience? Based on the three components you just explained.

Ladislau Batalha: For me you need to invest in two things: the brain and the heart. These are things that all humans have. (laughs)

Like I said before, the customer experience needs a holistic view across the whole customer journey. So a first tool that I would recommend is the customer journey mapping. I can be software or a map that you draw, from the moment a customer is aware of your brand to the moment he leaves or stays with you (and do a new purchase). By mapping these journeys you will get a better view on all the touchpoints the customer has.

Then there are companies that need segmentation of their customers, because they sell products or services that are developed for different kind of customers. So customer segmentation tools are important.

Another important one is customer feedback: we need to collect and understand what the customer really needs. We’ve seen in the last years that the sentiment analysis is super important: why are people happy or unhappy with your company? What is making them act and behave like this.

And finally, everything that is related to the collection of data (especially now we have multichannel engagements) and reporting & analysis. Today we have more access to data than before, but most of the times we don’t use these data. So you need to take advantage of it.

I just want to go deeper on the data part. What are for you the main KPIs to consider for CX measurement?

Ladislau Batalha: Well, what is good when you define something like customer experience and it becomes a worldwide practice, then there are metrics and best practices that are developed.

And there are some metrics that are internationally used for this, like the Net Promotor Score (NPS), customer journey touchpoints, customer churn rate, CSAT, customer complaints and the Customer Effort Score (CES). These six metrics are according to me the most important ones.

Nowadays we see that the customer journey has become more and more digital, sometimes up to 90% of the customer journey is digital. How can companies use all these (customer) data to develop a better Customer Experience or better CX strategies.

Ladislau Batalha: For me there is no magic recipe. It’s up to management to understand what data they need to collect and then analyze the data and turn it into actions. That’s why it’s very important that Customer Experience gets the support from the board or C-level within a company. Because if you want to define a strategy for something that is as holistic as customer experience, you can’t leave it to one person in one department. That person will definitely have its role, but the strategy needs to come from the board. So it’s a top to bottom approach.

So for the customer data, you need to define what each department will deliver to get to a better Customer Experience strategy.

Earlier in the interview you talked about the International Customer Experience Institute (ICXI) and several countries you work with. Do you sometimes see cultural differences with regards to CX? For instance, we are here now in the UAE – do you see differences in CX compared to Europe, Japan, or other parts of the world?

Ladislau Batalha: That’s a very good question, we also need to take this into consideration. Last week I was interviewing the CEO of a large BPO (Business Process Outsourcer, Ed.) and I asked her if there was a multinational customer experience. And the conclusion was that the basis is the same: so most of the concepts, tools, beliefs, practices etc…are equal in different countries. But because we are talking about people, human interactions and customer data we do see some local differences. For instance, if you go to Brazil there are some data privacy restrictions imposed by law. The same goes for the data protection laws in Europe. This can also have an impact on the delivery of your CX program. In some countries they don’t have the same level of technology/digital transformation as in other countries. And in some countries, you have cultural differences. If we take the UAE for instance, where we have a lot of nationalities, you need to finetune your customer experience a bit differently than in countries that don’t have these differences, or one language or one nationality.

So you are saying that here in the UAE, with different nationalities in one place, you need to find a customer experience strategy that is consistent for everyone.

Ladislau Batalha: Yes, and that’s why customer experience programs also need to have segmentations. Because you’re dealing with different people with particular needs and backgrounds. So companies here need to be a bit more agnostic when they develop CX programs, and they also need to segment, to deliver better experiences. But most of the times, the CX basics stay the same.

Given your extensive experience Ladislau, do you have some good innovative examples of great customer experience?

Ladislau Batalha: Yes, and I always use two great ones.

Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Zappos in Las Vegas (US) ( is an American online shoe and clothing retailer, Ed.). It’s one of the best examples I’ve ever seen, because they have an extreme focus to customer experience. For instance, the agents or CSRs (customer service representatives, Ed.) have a lot of engagement with the customers. The company even gives the employees the power to go the extra mile: for example, an agent can send flowers to a customer or can replace an order. They even have a budget to do so. A couple of years ago Zappos also made it possible to order a pair of shoes in different sizes, because a lot of people have different sizes of feet. This is what I call amazing customer experience because it emphasizes on the customer’s needs.

Another good example but from the hospitality sector, is Ritz-Carlton (Ritz-Carlton is an American multinational company that operates the luxury hotel chain of the same name, Ed.). They empower their agents to go the ‘extra mile’. They also have a budget to improve the customer experience. There’s this well-known example of a guest that had forgotten his PC charger in the hotel and it wasn’t found. So the agent ordered one and sent it to the customer.

Here in the UAE there is also a good example, it’s a company called Cafu and they deliver petrol to your car. They have trucks all over the country and just by using the Cafu App you can ask them to come and fill up your car. You just need to keep your fuel cap open and then the truck comes to fill up your car, you get an alert on your app, you pay and that’s it. And they even can wash your car if you want. Of course, during the pandemic, their business boomed a lot.

Great examples! It also shows that if you empower people to take ownership of the CX process, you can get the overall customer satisfaction to a much higher level.

A next question: each year we get lists of new hot trends in Customer Experience. Can you tell me what are for you the top three trends today?

Ladislau Batalha: You’re absolutely right, every year we come with new things, but for me it is 3 + 3. There are three trends that are already known but not finished yet. So they will get better and better in the next couple of years.

1. Omnichannel: has been a buzzword for many years, but only know it’s getting possible. So that independently of the channel you get the same experience. But if I look in my daily life, some companies are still struggling with it. The other day I had difficulties with the app of my bank, then I called to the customer service and there they said that I should do it on their website. So I had to use three different channels. And although the service agent was capable to help me out, she had to divert me to the website. So this needs to change, if we want to have a real omnichannel experience.

2. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning: I still see that most investments go to RPA (Robotic Process Automation, Ed.) and small technological approaches, but the deep usage of both

technologies is still far away. Last year I did a survey of more than 3,000 BPOs, and they recognize it’s an important trend, but they will not invest in it next year.

3. Human Centricity: Something we’ve seen during the pandemic is that companies invested a lot of money in diverting customers to selfcare, but then they found out that the customer satisfaction was going down. What they’ve forgotten is the most important part: the human centricity. In the past CX has been too much driven by technology and consultancy, but now you need to go back and design customer experiences based on human centricity. So you will need to change some of the journeys that were mapped and maybe some of the tools that are used.

So these are for me the big trends that are already in place, but still need some work on them. To that you can add some new trends like:

4. Total Experience: which is combining the customer experience and the employee experience. Making sure that both are aligned. We still see employees working with blue screens in the contact center or using Excel sheets with customer data, while the customers have a state-of-the-art user experience. This also means that the customer and the employee are sharing the same journey.

5. Hyper personalisation: knowing your customer and treating him like he’s the only one.

6. Metaverse: it still the beginning but I think that it will change the game and play a very important role. Here in the UAE we already see some companies that are delivering their services through the metaverse. I will be a huge trend in the next years.

We see that a lot of companies don’t have a dedicated customer experience role. So how can a business evaluate their maturity level in CX?

Ladislau Batalha: Well for those companies it’s important to start with what they have. Maybe they don’t have a complete CX strategy but at least they have some measurements as CSAT and NPS. And from there on they need to work upwards: e.g. for CSAT, try to figure out why customers are not happy and identify the root causes, it can be people, processes, tools….

But of course, there are also assessments that cover all the components of a CX strategy and that can help you to define your maturity. And this is what we want to achieve with the ICXI institute. In our CX Standard we have 100s of points where you can measure yourself at. You do the maturity assessment, we do a GAP analysis, you know which improvements need to be made, you design your journey towards improvement and at the end you can obtain a certification of CX maturity. And its very important to know that CX is not a game that you play once, it needs to be a consistent practice that you always need to maintain and improve.

You also talked about combining employee & customer experience to get to this total experience. What are your key tips for building a customer centric culture within a company? We know that a big part of the customer journey has become digital, but you still need people to execute the strategy within a company.

Ladislau Batalha: For me u human centric approach, that puts together the customers and the employees, is key. Because we are all customers and most people are employees to, so you need to facilitate interactions. Make it easy for your employees to connect with customers or to get the feedback from the customers. And also link the company culture to your customer outcomes, because whatever you are doing will have an impact on the delivery to your customers.

We also need to talk about the Voice of the Customer, which gives you an outside-in view of how your customers see your company. What is according to you the best way to gain this customer feedback?

Ladislau Batalha: We are coming back to the data collection I talked about. It’s very important to have systems & technology in place which helps you to proactively collect the data. The customers are already in their journey, they give you a lot of signals and feedback through their actions and this without even speaking with you. For example: a telecom client that watches video at home, will give a lot of information to the provider just by zapping from one channel to another. So companies can take this information to proactively approach the customer and improve the customer journeys.

On the other hand you also need to ask the customer directly what he thinks of your service: through customer feedback or surveys.

If you combine these two: customer data and direct feedback , you get a full understanding of the customer’s needs and what he’s expecting from your company.

We know that customer experience is a huge differentiator, but we see that a lot of companies find it hard to start with a CX strategy. What do you say to these companies and organizations that think that CX is too hard to implement?

Ladislau Batalha: Well, last week I saw this report from Forrester about CX, and one of the most concerning conclusions was that 1 in 5 CX programs will disappear in the next year because companies struggle to see the benefits/ROI of CX. So companies struggle to see the results of CX, because they are applying CX in a light way, there’s no CX team in place, there’s no definition of an end-to-end customer journey. So then it’s difficult for companies to see the benefits.

But on the other hand, the Forrester researchers also said that 1 in 10 companies did these necessary investments and they are getting more budget to keep the customer experience at a high level.

So if companies don’t see a clear ROI of CX as an investment, they will cut the budgets.

My conclusion is that companies need a team that manages and measures the customer experience, they also need to get a complete view of the customer journey and you need to do it in a consistent way. This will help us to improve the customer experience in the longer term.

Share your thoughts in the comments ! 

Frederic De Vrieze

Written By: Frederic De Vrieze