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ICX Interview: Victoria Wells

As the Digital Marketing Manager for P.F. Chang’s, Victoria Wells plans and executes digital strategies around customer engagement. We met Victoria at last summer’s ICX Summit and were struck by her passion for excellence in customer experience.

As we developed her session for the ICX Symposium Phoenix, it became very clear that she and P.F. Chang’s bring a ton of value to brands who are navigating the sometimes stormy sees of innovation. What follows is an interview with her that will shed light on passion and intelligence that makes her and P.F. Chang’s such a success.

The ICX Symposium Phoenix takes place February 15-16 at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes and features a lineup of speakers who will help B2C brands chart their course to better customer engagement by understanding the ROI of immersive experiences. Dinner and a cocktail reception on the evening of the 15th provides ample opportunity for networking with brands, suppliers and symposium presenters.

 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

I am a psychologist at heart, a technologist by brain, and a marketer in personality. I love to work with people and be effective, and moving through obstacles is fun and challenging. As the Digital Marketing Manager, I work with our ad agency and technology partners to identify and execute comprehensive marketing and guest experience strategies.

Along with the VP of Digital & Interactive and our Social Manager, we envision the immersive guest engagement experience and execute on that strategy. We are nimble and flexible, and we pay attention to our guests and to industry trends to keep the vision fresh and up to date.

 

Your session is titled “Making the integrated CX journey seamless, from buy-in to implementation.” Why is it important for brands to hear this message?

In my opinion, “immersion” isn’t one initiative. It’s a series of many initiatives, most of which are dependent on still more initiatives. That said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the execution of a comprehensive vision, and it can be hard to stay positive and focused when one thing (or multiple things) hits a road block.

We’ve overcome many obstacles on our path to the optimal digital guest experience, and other brands can probably relate to the struggles we’ve encountered. We can share what’s worked and what hasn’t, and hopefully, attendees can use that information to be successful in their organizations.

 

So. How do you define “immersive experience”?

ICX Symposium PhoenixAn immersive experience is emotional and memorable, and you leave the experience feeling differently. You feel as if you are part of the experience as opposed to just a visitor.

Immersion isn’t all about the technology; it is the brand experience as a whole. We want our guests to feel valuable and connected to who we are as a brand. From awareness, to consideration and commitment, we want the guest to have an emotional reaction to what we provide from a technology perspective.

When you think of P.F. Chang’s, we want you to think of the crave-able food, exemplary service, beautiful environment, and the technology that enables you to invite your friends, view customized menu options and suggestions, allows you to pay when you’re ready, and helps you to decide how you would like your dining experience to be executed. We want you to feel transported to a place where you and your friends and family can relax and enjoy Asian cuisine and think of P.F. Chang’s as a unique experience, not just another generic place to grab dinner.

 

Why should brands try to create immersive experiences?

Every brand has competition, and consumers are more savvy and selective than ever before. With so many options to choose from, brands have to set themselves apart. Price is one way to do it, but there can only be one price leader, right?

In order to be successful, brands have to identify what they are good at and what makes them truly different, then create an experience around that uniqueness that engages customers emotionally and makes them want to come back for more.

 

Great brands create emotional bonds with their customers. What, in your opinion, keeps most brands from creating these kinds of connections? What are they lacking that the great brands have? Does it have more to do with product, or is it execution?

Emotional bonds are difficult for some brands to create with customers because they require the human quotient. Creative advertising can create an emotion, but without the accompanying human interaction, the initial emotional response can fall flat over time.

In my opinion, great brands have employees that are passionate about the brand and share that with everyone they come in contact with. When you think of your favorite restaurants, you think of the food, the environment, and the service. A good server will leave you satisfied. A great server will leave you excited. The product itself has to be great – our food must be delicious. The people with whom you interact with at the restaurant (the execution) are the ones who will make the experience emotional.

 

What excites you about creating better customer experiences?

I want our guests to think that P.F. Chang’s is not just a special occasion destination. I want them to realize that there is so much more to the story.

I really enjoy sitting in our restaurants and watching guests interact with tablets and technology initiatives that we are testing. Meeting our digital users in their homes or at our office and finding out what they like, what excites them, and what they want from one of their favorite restaurants…and then creating a strategy based on that information and executing it – that’s exciting!

The knowledge that I helped transform the perceptions and experiences of our guests, and that I contributed to the success of our brand is what keeps me motivated when things are difficult.

 

What is one bad habit many brands have, when it comes to CX, that you’d love to change?

One bad habit that I’ve noticed is brands not field testing technology before it goes system wide, or getting feedback from guests on that technology, and making adjustments until the technology is RIGHT. You can always tell when something wasn’t tested and was likely a boardroom or home office mandate.

The technology needs to be a part of the brand and elevate or enhance the experience, not merely provide a function or exist because “everyone else has it.”

 

How do you see the practice of experience design evolving over the next few years?

Experience design is an art, and as the people who were born after the Internet move into experience designer roles, I think they will change how we look at technology. These people I’m referring to only know a digital world, and I think they are capable of envisioning more unique and creative possibilities.

I would look to see different software solutions that allow us to understand every thought and reaction to experience design so that we can customize our brands to provide exactly what our guests want.

 

What are some innovative uses of technology you’ve seen in the creating of great customer experiences? What made them special?

One customer experience that stands out for me was a retail store that had a digital scanner that took a 360 view of you, and then “tried” different clothes on you virtually. It was executed well and fun to use, and the sales person was knowledgeable and excited about how the technology added value. The human quotient in this interaction made the experience emotional and memorable.

 

What’s the first name that pops into your mind when I ask, “Who delivers a great customer experience?” Why them?

Spiga Cucina, a local restaurant in Scottsdale. The people there know your name, the environment is beautiful and the food is perfectly executed every time. They have executed the restaurant immersion exceptionally well, and I can see where the integration of technology could really enhance the guest experience for their restaurant.

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Click here to learn more about how to attend or sponsor the ICX Symposium Phoenix.

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