Jaakko Lempinen, Head of Customer Experience, Yle

Jaakko Lempinen is a dynamic professional with extensive experience in media, AI, analytics, and customer experience management. Known for developing and implementing digital and data-driven strategies, Jaakko leads with transformative leadership and is skilled in navigating uncertainty. His work emphasizes innovation, wholesome CX strategy, (ethical) AI application, and digital marketing. A proficient public speaker and well-networked expert, Jaakko’s strategic vision and operational excellence drive multi-service organization growth. His forward-thinking approach and deep understanding of the digital landscape positions him as a leading voice in technology and customer experience.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Jaakko shared his professional trajectory, the most favorite aspect of his role as Head of Customer Experience at Yle, the key tips for delivering great CX with a limited budget, personal hobbies and interests, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Jaakko, how did you first get into customer experience, and what inspired you to stay?

My initial foray into customer experience was during my studies in digital marketing in London between 2007 and 2009, a time when the concept of customer experience in Finland was predominantly equated with customer service. This period marked a pivotal moment in my career, as I was already immersed in the media sector. My background in service design and sales enabled me to quickly grasp the essence and transformative potential of customer experience thinking. Especially at that time, as the media world was rapidly digitizing, the need to stand out in a digital environment became paramount. The principles underlying customer experience were crucial in navigating this shift. The ability to apply these principles to drive differentiation and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty in a fast-evolving digital landscape has been a constant source of inspiration. One project that stands out as a great example involved leveraging AI and UX in a modern way  to curate personalized news notifications and artwork for every user significantly increased user engagement and retention. This project exemplified how understanding user behavior combining them to modern AI solutions can transform service delivery. This pursuit of innovative solutions to improve customer interactions has kept me engaged and motivated to continue in this field, always seeking to leverage new technologies and strategies to foster meaningful and lasting customer relationships.

What aspect about your current role brings you the most joy?

The most fulfilling aspect of my current role, particularly working at Yle, Finnis public service media, stems from the profound sense of purpose in serving the entire Finnish population. The opportunity to work for the collective benefit of all Finns and address their expectations and needs against the backdrop of PSM offering is immensely rewarding. This sense of purpose is magnified by the technological advancements, such as AI, which now enable us to design, experiment with, and steer customer experiences in ways that were once only imaginable. The ability to create hyper-personalized experiences for a diverse array of user and customer groups presents an endless wellspring of inspiration. That said, it is also important to remember that, when implementing AI in customer experience, it’s crucial to consider ethical implications, such as data privacy and bias. At Yle, we’ve established responsible guidelines for AI usage that respect user privacy and promote fairness, setting a standard for ethical AI use in media. Being one of the writers of those principals was very rewarding.  Living in what I consider to be the most fascinating era for shaping the future of media and customer experience, it’s a privilege to contribute to the materialization of this future for everyone.

As Head of Customer Experience, what customer service success metrics are most important to you and why?

As Head of Customer Experience, the key success metrics that hold paramount importance to me include Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES). These metrics provide a comprehensive view of the customer journey, reflecting not just how customers perceive their interactions with the brand but also their willingness to recommend our services and the ease with which they can achieve their goals. These insights are crucial for identifying areas of improvement and strategizing targeted interventions to enhance the overall customer experience. Ultimately, in today’s digital services, whether it’s media, SaaS, or any other user-centric platform, the level of user engagement becomes especially significant. The frequency, diversity, and intensity of service usage by people determine the vitality of the service. Measuring this engagement is what ultimately defines the service’s viability, making it a critical success metric in assessing the impact of our customer experience strategies.

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?

Bridging the gap between CX, EX, and UX necessitates a strategic alignment of organizational goals with the needs and expectations of both customers and employees. This involves fostering a culture of empathy and user-centricity, where employees are engaged and empowered to deliver superior user experiences. Integrating feedback mechanisms across all touchpoints and leveraging data analytics to gain insights into the interconnected experiences can inform targeted improvements. Additionally, investing in technology that enhances both employee efficiency and user satisfaction can create a seamless, holistic experience that benefits all stakeholders. Recently, my experience with implementing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has proven effective in achieving our critical strategic goals. OKRs facilitate a shared vision, autonomy in solution-finding, and a clear overview of progress. This approach is further supported by how AI helps us in forming a real-time understanding of our situation, ensuring all stakeholders are aligned and informed in our pursuit of excellence across CX, EX, and UX domains.

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?

In addition to the foundational metrics of Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES), organizations should pay close attention to First Contact Resolution (FCR) for operational efficiency and Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) to gauge employee engagement and satisfaction. Usability Scores are also crucial for understanding the effectiveness of user experience (UX) design. However, to truly capture the essence of a successful CX, EX, and UX strategy, organizations must delve deeper into metrics that reflect user engagement and commitment. This includes tracking user activity levels, frequency of service usage, and the diversity of interactions with the service. By monitoring these indicators, organizations can assess how integral their service has become in the daily lives of their users.

For digital platforms, specific metrics like page views vs. visits, interaction heatmaps, and user engagement rates are invaluable for a granular analysis of UX effectiveness. Yet, beyond these, the real testament to a service’s success is its ability to foster a high level of user engagement and activity. This not only signifies a well-designed and user-friendly platform but also one that resonates deeply with the needs and habits of its users, ensuring the service’s role as an indispensable part of their everyday lives. These engagement metrics, when analyzed in conjunction with traditional KPIs, offer a comprehensive overview of an organization’s performance, highlighting the direct impact of CX, EX, and UX initiatives on fostering a loyal and active user base.

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?

Technology, particularly data analytics and AI, is set to revolutionize customer experience by enabling personalized, predictive, and efficient service delivery. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can offer round-the-clock customer support, while analytics tools can provide deep insights into customer behavior and preferences. Essential tools for organizations include CRM platforms with AI capabilities for personalized marketing, analytics software for real-time customer data analysis, and AI-driven feedback tools to continuously enhance CX. Adopting these technologies is crucial for organizations to stay ahead in delivering experiences that meet the rapidly evolving expectations of customers.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that mentioning any specific AI technology might render the information obsolete upon publication, given the swift pace of development in this field. The crucial message I want to convey is that companies must genuinely start rethinking their business models in an AI-powered society. As digital twins increasingly undertake tasks like information retrieval on behalf of individuals, organizations need to address these emerging demands. Additionally, creating real-time, hyper-personalized experiences is costly. Businesses must rigorously evaluate what enhancements in customer experience they can afford versus what they are capable of providing, given the inevitable future considerations of balancing ambition with financial viability.

Particularly at this moment, I would advise thoroughly exploring generative AI technologies. Starting with a foundational language model and building a specific, smaller language model on top of it to natively handle the unique aspects of one’s business domain is crucial. Getting a grasp on this technology as soon as possible is paramount. This approach not only positions organizations to lead in personalized and efficient service delivery but also prepares them to adapt their business models to the transformative capabilities of AI, ensuring they remain competitive and relevant in the face of continuous technological evolution.

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

Reflecting on my career, I wish I had appreciated earlier the importance of fostering a strong internal culture focused on customer-centricity. Understanding that delivering exceptional customer experiences starts with an engaged and motivated team would have accelerated my efforts in aligning organizational practices and mindsets towards customer-first strategies from the outset. Additionally, I wish I had delved into behavioral economics, such as nudging, change management, and organizational culture sooner. Ultimately, working with people involves recognizing that everyone is different, and it’s more productive to focus on how an organization can evolve to become even more value-generating rather than spending too much time trying to understand individual behaviors. Embracing these disciplines early on would have enriched my approach to driving meaningful and impactful changes within any organization.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, my passions are multifaceted, extending from exploring the latest advancements in digital technology and AI to engaging with the global professional community for sharing insights and learning. I enjoy outdoor activities that challenge me physically and mentally, providing a much-needed balance to my professional endeavors. However, being a father to two young children has inherently shifted my interests towards spending quality time with my family, learning and growing together in various environments. This aspect of my life is an endless treasure trove of lessons about life and living. Additionally, music, with Coldplay leading the charge, playing instruments, and immersing myself in culture enrich my life beyond measure. These elements, combined, fuel my creativity and innovation, both professionally in customer experience strategy and in my personal growth and fulfillment.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I envision myself continuing to lead and innovate in the field of customer experience, both on an internal and a global level, where I can leverage my expertise to drive transformative changes across multiple markets. My goal is to remain at the forefront of integrating digital technologies with customer experience strategies, contributing to setting industry standards and best practices while mentoring the next generation of CX professionals.

What are your tips for delivering great CX with a limited budget?

Having worked in companies with vastly different budgets, I’ve learned that customer-centric thinking is paramount, especially in identifying core needs and expectations. For example, from my previous experiences where funds were often limited yet ambitions high, such as aiming to dominate SEO visibility for a brand in specific keywords, the key was quickly understanding customer needs around the topic more thoroughly and differently than competitors. This allowed us to focus our efforts on a very narrow area, ultimately leading to our rise to the top of search engine rankings for the entire subject matter. This teaches us that by focusing and remembering that if one person has accomplished something, another can do it better, substantial improvements in CX can be achieved without significant financial investments.

Delivering great CX on a limited budget is indeed possible by focusing on understanding and prioritizing the customer’s most significant pain points and leveraging cost-effective digital tools to address them. Investing in employee training to enhance the quality of customer interactions, utilizing social media platforms for engagement and feedback, and adopting open-source or low-cost technology solutions for data analytics and customer support are practical steps. These strategies can yield substantial improvements in CX, demonstrating that a customer-first approach, combined with strategic focus and creative problem-solving, can overcome financial constraints.

What is the one trend or approach in CX that every organization should be implementing?

Personalization stands out as an essential trend for organizations aiming to excel in customer experience (CX). In today’s digital age, customers have come to expect services and communications that are tailored to their individual preferences and behaviors. Utilizing data analytics and AI to deliver personalized experiences at scale can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, setting an organization apart from its competitors.

The commitment generated through hyper-personalization, where a brand can meet each customer’s needs and expectations in the most suitable manner while considering the company’s own cost needs, is pivotal. Achieving this level of personalization is a long journey for many, but it promises the greatest rewards in the long run. This approach not only meets the immediate expectations of today’s consumers but also builds a foundation for sustained loyalty and differentiation in a competitive market. By focusing on hyper-personalization, organizations can ensure that their brand resonates deeply with their customers, creating a unique value proposition that is difficult for competitors to replicate.

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