Vanessa Milan, Head of Voice of the Customer, Cambridge University Press & Assessment

Vanessa Milan is a passionate Voice of the Customer manager and a natural advocate for customers, skilled at engaging internal stakeholders to strategically improve the customer experience across the organisation. She is a self-starter and multi-disciplinary person who leads the development and execution of the Voice of the Customer programme, strategy and governance across various departments at Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Vanessa shared her professional trajectory, the most favorite aspect of her current role, personal leadership philosophy, hobbies and interests, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Vanessa. Please tell us about your background and areas of expertise.

I was born in Italy, and I moved to England 20 years ago. I have always yearned to make a mark on the world, inspired by my studies in literature and languages. When I started working in England, I developed a sense of urgency for helping our customers by translating their needs into business requirements. I then moved on to marketing, social media and events, project coordination, employer marketing, recruitment and finally, all the previous dots joined into Voice of the Customer and customer experience, which I am very passionate about and has become my area of expertise, my career purpose, my why.

What part of your current role do you enjoy the most?

What I enjoy the most is the variety of my job, ranging from culture change, cross-functional collaborations, investigating root causes and figuring out process improvements and, unbeknownst to me, even data analysis.

In your experience, how can organizations effectively bridge the gap between customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), and user experience (UX) to create a holistic approach that benefits all stakeholders?

In my experience, I’ve learned that to bridge the gap between customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX) and user experience (UX), it is key to listen to customers, employees and users and to close the loop using one methodology, technology and metric to break down siloes in these three areas.

As a customer experience expert, what key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics do you recommend organizations should track to gauge the effectiveness of their CX, EX, and UX initiatives?

I recommend using NPS and eNPS and to link financial data with CX and UX data to prioritize high revenue customer/user segments to have the highest impact on innovation and revenue. Indeed, 80% of revenue comes from 20% of customers, so it makes sense to prioritise areas that will deliver the biggest benefit.

How do you see the role of technology, specifically data analytics and AI, in shaping the future of customer experience? Are there any specific tools or platforms that you believe are essential for organizations to adopt?

Adopting the right technology to implement your Voice of the Customer programme is key for its success, followed by the use of data analytics and AI to extrapolate actionable insights that are easy to understand by the business. It is important to choose tools and technologies developed by companies that walk the talk and listen to their customers and develop with them. In the market there are some excellent providers, I particularly enjoy working with CustomerGauge for their ethos, methodology and innovative approach to Account Experience and the Bain & Co. NPS X 3rd wave of customer experience.

What is your leadership style, and how do you foster a culture of collaboration and excellence within the team?

My leadership style is ENFP and to foster a culture of collaboration and excellence I listen to my colleagues, and I ask them how I can help them support their CX goals and their career goals. I then challenge them to think outside of the box to improve internal processes, policies and to identify training needs that will help them improve their experience as employees as well as our customer experience.

Looking back now, what is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

Reflecting on the start of my career, I wish I had known about Lean Six Sigma, as it was my introduction to listening to the voices of customers, aiming to reduce waste and streamline processes to enhance customer experience.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside work, my passions are travelling, visiting places near and far, learning about history and art to better understand other fellow human beings’ visions of the world. I also love nature, geography and geology. I recently visited Iceland, and it was fascinating to see how nature constantly shapes the landscape and how it also shaped Icelandic culture and language. Last Sunday, I went on a walking tour in Cambridge near where I live. It was exciting to learn about the scientific discoveries made at the Cavendish laboratory and to see the Eagle pub where scientists announced the discovery of DNA in 1953, as well as the inscriptions in the ceiling made of wax candles, petrol lighters, and lipstick by Allied airmen during WWII.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In five years, I see myself as a CX director who keeps learning and influencing the organisation to include CX in any improvement initiatives, to foster innovation and to truly become customer obsessed.

Can you share some tips or best practices for organizations looking to foster a culture of learning and innovation within their teams?

In my experience, embedding Lean Six Sigma in an organisation is key to keeping learning, improving and innovating. However, celebrating, recognising and rewarding the right behaviours are as important as training people to identify root cause analysis and take action to improve.

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