Mike Gomes Interview

Mike Gomes, Chief Experience Officer, Cortland

Tell us a little about your background in CX. How did you get started in Customer Experience?
I learned about what it takes to design and deliver a great guest experience during my two decades with Disney Parks and Resorts. I worked side by side with talented people from a wide array of disciplines; all of whom committed to setting the benchmark and delivering the absolute best guest experience each and every time. From there I had a wonderful opportunity to help Arthur Blank and his values-driven organization create the world class Mercedes-Benz Stadium and deliver outstanding gameday experiences for fans of both the Atlanta Falcons as well as the newly formed and super-successful Atlanta United soccer club. Most recently I’ve moved into an entirely new industry with Atlanta-based Cortland, a multifamily real estate investment, development, and operations company. It’s the first CXO position in the industry as Cortland is committed to the resident experience as part of its ambitious growth plans both domestically and internationally.

How would you define Customer Experience?
CX is about designing your products and services in a holistic manner around your customer in such a way that they create positive emotional connections between the customer and the company with each interaction.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in providing excellent customer experiences?
Oftentimes it’s about the organizational design that creates silos that hamper the ability to create a truly holistic customer experience. As one of my executive leaders at Disney used to say, “our guests want to consumer our theme park experience, but sometimes we make them consume our org chart.” What he meant was that despite everyone’s best efforts to create a world class guest experience, organizational structures often resulted in blind spots that in turn led to friction in the experience that could have been avoided. All organizational functions, capabilities, incentives, and brand efforts must be aligned around the customer in order to deliver excellent customer experiences.

What advice would you give to professionals looking to get into the customer experience field? (e.g. Field of study, How do they get experience?)
I’m not sure there is a clear path to get into the customer experience field. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, all organizational functions need to be aligned around the customer experience because everyone plays a role in the design and delivery of the experience in some way. I’ve found that two key areas most directly involved in the customer experience seem to be Marketing and Operations. Marketing not only represents the voice of the customer and administers/monitors feedback channels, but it also often has responsibility for virtual interaction channels such as a company’s website and mobile app. Operations is another key function because as I learned time and time again, Operations is where the rubber hits the road in terms of the direct interaction with customers day-in and day-out. So getting experience with one or both of these functions would seem to position someone well to play a broader role in customer experience.

What are some things that you feel will have the biggest impact on customer experiences in the next 5 years?
The on-demand expectations of customers increase daily. They want 24/7 access via the channels they prefer, so that’s causing companies to have to offer more touchpoints and availability thru a growing number of channels. And when companies such as Amazon go from delivering a product in 5-8 days, to 2 days, to mere hours, then you should expect that customer subconsciously are expecting that near-instantaneous result with other companies as well. Personalization is a must as customers will go where they feel valued and appreciated. And if you don’t have the systems and processes to deliver personalized interactions across all channels, then those customers may take their business elsewhere. Finally, there’s been a lot of talk of big data and automation, but when combined they have the opportunity to anticipate issues before they occur and provide even more heightened levels of personalization.

Do you have a favorite quote to share regarding CX?
Do you have a favorite quote to share regarding CX? “No one person owns the customer experience, but someone always owns the moment.” I attribute this to Tom Boyles, a former SVP with Disney who led CRM efforts for the Parks and Resorts division. It goes to my earlier point that it takes the entire organization to deliver excellent customer experiences and not merely a person or department who may be charged with customer experience responsibilities.

Any final words of wisdom or advice related to CX?
When looking for inspiration on CX for your own company, I encourage you to look outside of your own industry. Of course it’s important to observe and pay attention to your competition, but don’t stop there. Look at what other companies may be doing across various touchpoints and consider ways you might be able to adapt those opportunities into something that will benefit your own customer experience.

Out of curiosity, what are your favorite hobbies?
All-around sports fan including lifelong, multi-generational Red Sox fan; craft beer enthusiast; American Revolution student; Dave Matthews Band and live music fan