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  • Writer's pictureIvaylo Yorgov

10 CX Inspirations from photography / part 2

In a previous post, I offered 5 things CX managers can learn from great photographers. Here’s the short version of it:

  1. Robert Capa: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. In CX words: become and stay intimate with your customers.

  2. Ansel Adams: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” In CX words: your execution might be technically perfect, but it’s spiritless unless you have a philosophy to guide it.

  3. Bruce Barnbaum: “There are two aspects of good composition that are of prime importance. The concept of a unified thought is one; simplicity is the other.” In CX words: a brilliant CX is nice and easy.

  4. “f/8 and be there” In CX words: it’s OK if the execution is not perfect as long as you are there for your customers and this is visible from everything that you do.

  5. Walker Evans: “Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something.” In CX words: be passionate about knowing your customers and make the most of everything that’s at your disposal to do it.


Looking to offer one more dose of inspiration to CX managers, here are further 5 things great photographers know:

6. “Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” Joe McNally

A lot of the amateur photographers, me included, would walk on the streets, take a shot of something they like and move on with their day. Now, this may yield some interesting results from time to time, but is surely not a process you want to follow if you are to take excellent pictures. What you’d do instead is wait, observe, stare, as Walker Evans says.

The point Joe McNally is making is a vital one, as many photo opportunities have been missed because the photographer didn’t stay until the end or was too quick to pack. What a great photographer would do is explore, explore, and explore some more the event or the location they are in. Why? To ensure that we make the most of serendipity, of the unexpected, of the unplanned for. A lot of the iconic photos benefit from this, and the way to invite these moments into our photos is to stay until the end.

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I find this to be a very useful reminder for what is a crucial principle in customer experience management – you are never done. CX is not a one-time, ad hoc project that we complete, put in practice, and forget about. Instead, customer experience is brought to live every day and is as good as what you can create today, with every customer interaction that exists – from the TV advertisements or online banner to the after-sales survey, it all makes a difference and we need to be there.

And then the second point is, it’s absolutely vital to chat with your customers. This may sound obvious but I never ceased to be surprised how few people actually take the time to talk to customers, and I mean really talk to them instead of chasing a KPI for ending the call. It is only in these genuine conversations that we can dig deeper and put yourself in your customers’ context. It is only when we show the attention and care that real people show for each other that we start knowing our customers. Don’t let the person go without having deeply understood how they feel.

7. “The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.” Robert Mapplethorpe

I have never seen a great photographer who cannot, without hesitation, give you the names of 4-5-6 photographers who influenced them or whom they admired at some point. They devour other people’s work for it is a source of learning in the beginning and of inspiration later on. That’s also why great photographers own hundreds of photo books and love to meet and exchange ideas.

Are we, as CX professionals, doing this enough? I think not. I think too few of us deliberately try to expand their knowledge of what the competitors, or better yet – companies from other fields, are doing. Yes, we all know the great examples – Apple, Uber, AirBnB, and the rest; they are great for a reason and it’s worth learning from them. But there is so much more out there, so many small companies that deliver fantastic customer experience that we be inspired by. I’m afraid we often time resemble arm-chair specialists stuck in our data and not seeing a real human being using our services and product (trying to unpack some products definitely make me think that no one in the company actually tried it themselves – otherwise they would have known it’s close to impossible to do without a hammer and a knife!)

8. “It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” Alfred Eisenstaedt

I’ll keep this point very visual because Alfred Eisenstaedt is one of my all-time favourite photographers and I want to offer you an opportunity to enjoy his works. You might not know the name, but that’s the guy who took this photo (fun fact about it – that kiss isn’t consensual).

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He’s also the person behind the camera of what some have called the happiest photo of all times (double that!):

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And it is again Eisenstaedt who took one of the saddest photos I’ve seen (yep, Hiroshima).

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If someone who can take these photos tells you that clicking the shutter is less important than clicking with people, that must mean something right?

9. “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Ansel Adams

A common misconception about photography is that you look at what’s out there, point the camera and take the photo. Admittedly, that is indeed what sometimes happens and it can lead to positive results. But, as Chuck Close succinctly put it, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

That is essentially what Ansel Adams is saying – you work with your eyes and feet, you explore your subject, you dig deep, you wait for the right lighting conditions, you move around to check the background and how it interacts with the foreground, you kneel and you clutch and you lie down and get up straight. You notice what life gives you and you try to make the most out of it; you work with what you have.

Is it not the same with CX? No elements to deliver the perfect CX will ever be in place but every time you think that you might also think that many people have been in the same locations as Ansel Adams yet he took the photos that we admire today, not them. All because he had the patience, the eye, the desire to extract these last 10% of the scene that turn a decent photo into an iconic one. Orchestrating and organizing what you have at your disposal can be more powerful than creating something from scratch. Discipline is freedom.

10. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Henri Cartier-Bresson

Coming from Cartier-Bresson, this becomes one of the most reassuring statements for any young photographers. We often times see only the end product of any work, be it photography, painting, music, CX, cooking, or sports for example, and it looks like the masterpieces and achievements we admire came to life easily. They didn’t. Any great success or experience is built on countless hours of hard work and mistakes.

What is slightly hidden from sight in what Cartier-Bresson is saying is the importance of learning; and I’m afraid we often times underestimate the significance of it and/or we just don’t do it properly. Let’s be honest about it – watching two videos today or reading a book is just not going to cut to the chase. Telling your contact center people once to do something is not going to be enough. What I strongly believe is that we need much more deliberate efforts; we need to shape the environment so that people can perform at their best; and we need relentless focus on the end goal. Yes, we will fail 10,000 times and that’s OK; the question is how are we going to use these – are we going to learn from them or are we going “let a good crisis go to waste”?

My best wishes for a great day ahead!

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