home Customer Experience, Executive Profiles Interview with human experience and design thinking guru Rod Netterfield

Interview with human experience and design thinking guru Rod Netterfield

Rod has a fifteen plus year career working for a variety of mid-tier and large global organisations, designing, and implementing customer experience (CX) strategies. Recently, he co-founded Humind – a new CX design and consultancy collective, aimed at helping organisations to discover, design, and deliver experiences with the human in mind.

In this interview, Rod reflects on his career in CX and shares his thoughts of where CX as a discipline, is heading.

Mark Atterby (interviewer): Rod, can you provide a bit of a background to Humind and your role there?

Rod: Humind is a collective of customer and employee experience professionals, and I’m proud to be one of the founding Directors. I’m joined by two other founding Directors and a group of 6 Associate Consultants who bring a range of backgrounds, experiences, and skills.

Our collective is built from a place of friendship, trust, shared optimism, and a fascination with human experiences. Our aim is to help businesses discover, design, and deliver with the human in mind.

We offer a full range of CX consulting and coaching services. In addition, we offer a fractional CX team – meaning for a fixed number of days per month, businesses can access the full breadth of the skills and capabilities within the collective. The exact team composition is tailored to meet each business’ CX maturity, needs and budget. Some of our clients are getting just a couple of days each month, with others who opting for 15+ days a month of time. 

We believe the fractional CX team offering is unique and is a great way for small to medium-sized businesses to start or expand their in-house CX capability with access to a broad array of experts with lower overhead.

As a fractional CX team, the main difference for us is that we’re not coming in to just work on one specific project. We look to form a longer-term partnership and grow with your business.

MA: How would you summarise your career and how things over the years have led you to where you are today?

Rod: I began my working life in call centres while completing my studies, working my way from the frontline to management. I really enjoyed the energy of these environments, and the flexibility they offered to allow me to work while studying.

For the last 15 years, I’ve helped mid-tier and large global organisations to develop CX strategies and functions, uplift CX capability and improve service delivery across brands, products, and channels. I would describe myself as a CX generalist in that I have expertise right across CX strategy, insights and research, all the way through to implementation.

My success in helping organisations achieve their CX ambition is through creating momentum behind the voice of the customer, to help inform decision making and propel products, projects, initiatives, and operations forward.

When I have introduced design thinking into organisations, it has supported converting customer insight into innovative solutions. It can be a game-changer in helping teams view opportunities from the customer’s perspective and collaborate around solution development.

Design thinking mindsets and methods provide an approach to ensure that products, services, and experiences that are desirable to customers, technically feasible, financially viable and aligned to the business strategy.

MA: What has been the most important thing that you have learned during your career?

Rod: The biggest thing I’ve learned is the importance of making sure you really understand the problem you are trying to solve before jumping in to create a solution. One of my favourite quotes (often attributed to Einstein) is: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 30 minutes analysing the problem, 20 minutes planning the solution, and ten minutes executing the solution.” 

I believe that the more time and effort we spend to really understand the problem or the opportunity that’s facing us, the better equipped we are to come up with solutions, products, services, and experiences that will deliver meaningful and sustainable change and benefit.  

MA: What do you feel are the current trends or challenges impacting the way people do CX at present?

Rod: Firstly, customer needs and expectations are continually evolving. This was certainly happening before COVID-19 pandemic, but what we’re seeing now is an increasing amount of change at an accelerating rate.  In response to this, businesses need to invest time, energy, and resources to improving their capability to list to, understand and respond to these changing needs and expectations.

The uncertainty we’ve seen and felt over the last couple of years is likely to be around for a while. What we have noticed across several customer research projects is that in these uncertain times, customers are seeking values alignment with the businesses they interact with. The challenge here for businesses is to be clear about what they stand for, to be authentic in expressing this, and ensuring that what they say and what they do is aligned.

I read an article recently which expressed that CX is entering its ‘troublesome teenage years’ – this was such a great articulation of where we are as a discipline now. As CX practitioners we need to start making more deliberate choices and work out where CX adds the most value. It is my belief that we need to organise ourselves to act upon customer insights and data with greater speed and agility. We need to encourage greater and deeper co-design with our customers, employees, and partners.

In many of the conversations I’m having, there is the growing perception that CX may not be the best investment for businesses right now… this is a big challenge and concern. As practitioners we need to continue to focus on proving tangible benefit and impact to earn our place as a credible discipline. This isn’t just about moving NPS or CSAT scores but going further to demonstrate how our efforts impact bottom line outcomes.

Lastly, there’s a shortage of CX talent in the market. Businesses and their CX teams will need to ruthlessly prioritise their efforts. I don’t necessarily mean that there is a need to prioritise one big transformation. Sometimes, the unglamorous simple changes can make big differences for customers and staff. It’s about staying focused and demonstrating value.

Alternatively, businesses can seek help and source talent in other ways to progress priority initiatives, like using our fractional CX team or look within their organisation to find team members who have the right mindset for a CX role and put in place a targeted development plan to grow them into a CX role.

MA: What advice do you offer to people who are considering a career in CX?

Rod: It is an exciting time to be working in CX. There are many opportunities emerging across a wide range of roles and organisations, so it’s a great time to make your move… but my caution is that not all roles in CX are the same, and there are so many acronyms and jargon terms it can be confusing to know where to start.

Luckily, most people I’ve come across in CX are happy to offer advice and support. In addition, there are professional associations out there many which offer mentoring programs and networking events for people when they are starting out.

When you are looking to accept your first role in the CX space, finding the right manager will be critical to your success. You’re looking for a leader who will nurture you, enable you, inspire you, and find someone who you trust will set you up for your future successes.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.