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Q&A with Steven Van Belleghem

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Steven Van Belleghem, Global Keynote Speaker, Co-founder and Board member @nexxworks

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

Throughout my entire career, I have dedicated my efforts to enhancing the customer experience. This journey began in an academic setting at Vlerick Business School, continued with 12 years of experience in commercial marketing research at Human8 (formerly InSites Consulting), and has now spanned over a decade of running my own inspirational businesses. I proudly consider myself a passionate advocate for customer experience, and my primary goal is to generate and disseminate ideas on this subject. I achieve this through various avenues, including authoring six management books, engaging with my audience on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and delivering global keynote presentations.

What are the highlights of the key digital innovation trends for 2022? Can you give us some major examples?

The most significant trend in 2023 and beyond is artificial intelligence (AI). Ever since the advent of ChatGPT, AI has gained prominence in the business world, with more companies than ever utilizing it to enhance their customer service. However, the challenge extends beyond mere efficiency. While it's evident that AI can greatly improve the efficiency of customer service, the real opportunity lies in thinking beyond this aspect.

The key question to ask oneself is how to harness AI to create the ultimate personalized experience for clients; this will be the true game-changer. I envision a future where each of us has personal assistants catering to different aspects of our lives, such as a personal mental coach, a personal finance manager, a personal assistant, or even a personal teacher.

Those who can comprehend how to deliver value to customers through this innovative technology will inevitably become indispensable partners in their customers' lives.

Based on your experiences, what are the impactful trends in digital innovation that are becoming more important in the context of 2023?

I must emphasize this point: AI represents THE trend of our time. It stands as the most significant transformation in customer relations since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. AI's potential extends to improving various facets of our customer relationships. Reactive interactions will evolve into interactions faster than real-time; basic name-based personalization will transition into hyper-personalization. Furthermore, services like personal coaching and personal support, currently considered super convenient, will seamlessly integrate and automate, becoming virtually invisible. I would recommend companies to think beyond efficiency. Today there is a big focus on using AI to reduce costs and to increase productivity, which is fine, but let’s think beyond that. What if you could create completely new value opportunities for customers. What if you create personal assistants for your service. Like apps changed the way we interacted with companies, personal agents/assistants could have the same potential.

In your opinion, how can they create high value for organizations?

While I'm enthusiastic about AI, I don't believe it will serve as the ultimate differentiator for organizations. Technology quickly becomes a commodity, and we adapt to it rapidly, rendering the initial "wow" factor commonplace. The true distinguishing factor will be an organization's customer culture. The ability to provide extraordinary assistance and service remains an exceptional trait, a rarity. As a result, it will continue to stand as the most crucial differentiator in the coming decade. My advice is to focus on the drivers that create a positive customer culture. It’s about implementing 100 small positive changes for customers instead of doing 3 or 4 big strategic projects. With 100 small projects, more people are involved and the results come faster, which create a different vibe in the organization + customers really feel the difference. Usually 100 small changes have direct impact on the customer whereas the 3 big projects are very often still internally focused.

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