Katie Stabler, Founder and Director of Customer Experience, CULTIVATE Customer Experience by Design

Katie Stabler is the founder of CULTIVATE and a CX leader who is passionate about bringing CX to the heart of the organisation. You might know her as CXM’s top 5 CX Global Influencer of 2024, or as the co-author of the Amazon best-seller “Customer Experience 2”. But the bottom line is that Katie is an expert at helping organisations deliver outstanding customer experience through collaboration, insight and action!

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Katie shared her professional trajectory, the inspiration behind establishing CULTIVATE and its mission and vision, thoughts on gender equality and inclusion in CX, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Katie. How did you first get into customer experience, and what inspired you to stay?

Like many CX Leaders, I started my journey (way back when) in customer service. I worked in front-of-house in restaurants, behind the customer service desk in the local department store, and on the front lines in contact centers. Then after university, I spent a decade in the not-for-profit sector and although my job roles didn’t have CX in the title, I strongly believe that there isn’t a more holistically customer-centric place than a charity. Then I left my position as the Deputy CEO of a Debt Support Charity to manage the Customer Experience department for Europe’s 2nd largest Debt Collection Company, I progressed to the Director of CX for a Female Membership Organisation and finally, I founded my own consultancy in 2020.

What was the inspiration behind establishing CULTIVATE? What is its mission and vision?

I was actually made redundant, and the perfect opportunity fell into my lap. It was a role to support a start-up (private business education), helping them design and establish a new service and they wanted customer experience at the core of their design, but they wanted a consultancy style of support which meant I needed to set up a business. So, I did! I worked with that business for 12 months whilst I connected with new clients. 4 years later, CULTIVATE is an established consultancy business working globally, and we’ve never looked back.

How does investing in CX actually end up delivering more value to companies?

Oh, I could write an entire book to answer this question! Increased customer retention, reduced acquisition costs, increased advocacy, increased customer lifetime value, efficiencies, employee satisfaction, industry differentiation and improved profitability.

And that list isn’t even half of it. If your customer experience is invested in, prioritised, well designed and managed, the business benefits are wide and vast.

As a Director of CX, what customer service success metrics are most important to you and why?

Any metric is important if it can do two things:

  1. It needs to tell you something informative: If it’s just a number on a page, get rid of it.
  2. It needs to drive action: A metric should be a measurement you track for a reason, it should always be actionable either in the sense that you need to work change, to maintain or to improve.

For me, metrics should be outcome, not output based.

How has your perception of AI and automation for customer service evolved over time?

It hasn’t really. I have always seen AI as a way to enhance the experience you are able to deliver and with the ever-demonstrable progression it’s amazing to see how businesses are starting to innovatively introduce this technology.

For me the key is always to start with the people and their challenges, and bring in the technology that can help mitigate those challenges. Never start with technology first or you will likely waste resources.

What are your thoughts on gender equality and inclusion? Do you think there is a gender bias in your industry?

Well, if you look at reports from the likes of CMSWire you will see that women are underrepresented in CX Leadership positions. Which is a really interesting juxtaposition to the research which shows that in customer service roles, women are stereotyped as being more suited to emotionally laborious roles and even AI assistants with female voices are rated more highly than those with male voices.

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

I tend to lean into Servant Leadership, that is a leadership style which prioritises the needs of team members and focuses on helping them develop and grow. It’s a leadership philosophy that flips the traditional model on its head. Instead of the leader being at the top of the pyramid, I see myself as someone who supports and empowers their team to achieve success.

This is the same approach I take to consultancy, although I enter a business with experience and thought leadership, I upskill, empower and nurture teams to thrive.

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

I’d like to have known sooner, the value of relationship building. This is of course important in most roles but in CX it is significantly important. CX is no one person or one team’s responsibility and so as a CX Leader you have to nurture bonds and encourage the wider business to all head on the same journey.

What are your passions outside of work?

I LOVE cooking (with a glass of wine), I am even a UK MasterChef Quarterfinalist, you can find me in Season 12. I also enjoy reading and am an avid podcaster.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I’d like to continue hosting the UK and International CX Awards and working with businesses across the globe.

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

No trend…just be CUSTOMER OBSESSED.

If you can grow a customer-centric culture, you will be ahead of your competition.

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