Recently, our director of digital experience, Leesa Wytock, spoke with CX-perience about how to acquire, retain and monetize users in the crowded CX market. This article originally appeared on CX-perience

What are the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to digital customer experience? What are differentiators you recognize in a successful CX strategy?

From my perspective, the top three issues are:

1. Technological deficiency:

Sadly, many companies still lack technology that meets consumer expectations. Today’s consumer (regardless of age or tech-savviness) has the expectation that their digital interactions will be clear, beautiful and useful.

2. Technology overload:

On the flip side, some companies making a mad dash to be more “digital” have created overwrought systems that are actually incredibly complex, do too much and don’t actually solve a core customer need.

3. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach:

As customers (and people) we want to interact with a brand in our own way. The sooner companies can create a personalized experience that still allows for self-service, the sooner they’ll cut down on customer complaints and get meaningful data from their users.

The biggest differentiator for a brand’s CX strategy—particularly when it comes to technology—is to be human. It’s critical that brands do not forget the humanity aspect. If you ask people about their awesome customer service experiences, more often than not there was a lovely human as part of it. So that humanity must be woven into every touchpoint. That means empathy, a friendly tone, jargon-free communications and remembering that the customer is always bringing an emotion to an interaction. Brands that recognize this will deliver a great experience.

Which innovative trends do you recognize in CX nowadays?

I’ve noticed that brands are being a bit more proactive in their customer experience approach. They’re reaching out or connecting even when something hasn’t gone wrong, instead of just reacting to a negative customer experience. This approach can go a long way in building the “benefit of the doubt” when something does (inevitably) go awry.

I’ve also seen some delightful and useful onboarding and profile-building digital experiences. It’s as if every touchpoint has been thought through and is an opportunity to deliver on the brand—from the tone of voice, to the way things move and interact. Rockets of Awesome does a great job of this. This kind of stuff makes me the most excited, because the difference between good and great is in the tiny moments.

How do you prepare for a new feature launch or a new CX strategy and how do you make sure you stand apart from competitors?

I try not to focus on outdoing the competition because then you just focus on incremental improvements. At Siegel+Gale, we do a deep competitive audit when we start a project, but we also look at best practices out of category for ambition—the industries or products that do stellar CX—and then we determine how we can take those moments and make them relevant to our client’s challenge. I like to think of it as that moment when you say: “Why can’t this be more like___?” It’s a healthy mix of immersion and inspiration at the start, but I think a strong art and science approach helps us not get lost in the weeds.

We are flooded with buzzwords lately—VR, customer-centric, bots. Where do you think the CX world is heading? 

I think data is going to continue to be a massive trend for CX. However, companies need to really do something with that data and not use sloppy statistics. There’s a danger of companies replacing people with data trails. When the models are built for efficiency alone, we lose the human and emotional element that is a strong undercurrent of any CX.

And if the big companies can’t pivot and match the CX of disruptor brands, they’ll lose. Customers are getting more and more comfortable leaving the big traditional names and going somewhere smaller that has their needs at heart (think Netflix over CBS All Access).

Let us in on some of your secrets…where do you look for innovation, inspiration and revolutionary ideas?

Look to the fringes. I try to stay away from reading up on other agencies and their work, but instead look to the “fringes of movements” in society—i.e. culture hackers that are doing something slightly different from the norm. And then I try to connect the dots between various fringe and traditional communities and create a weird, beautiful hybrid of those ideas (OK, mostly weird). I always say, if the New York Times has covered it in the Sunday Style section, its moment has passed.

Also, I find the best way to do great work is to get away from work, tuck a problem I’m trying to crack way back in my mind and really focus on whatever I’m doing at the moment. More often than not, something clicks, dots get connected and I’ve solved a work problem while being far from my desk (win-win!).

Leesa Wytock is director of digital experience at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @leesawytock