Debbie Szumylo | Faces of Customer Experience

Faces of Customer Experience: Debbie Szumylo

Meet Debbie Szumylo!

Debbie SzumyloDebbie specializes in helping organizations balance employee engagement, customer experience & business results. She has consulted and coached financial institution executives on improving the experience they delivered at the branch level.

Debbie has dedicated countless hours to research that leads to understanding the customer and employee experience – and in turn, helping define those experiences and strategies that matter most to customers and employees. She is a tireless champion for improving the customer experience.

False Dichotomy

We know that the answer is often somewhere in between, but the fun of this section is that you have to pick just one!

Paper < Plastic

Personalization < Privacy

 In-Store Shopping > Online Shopping 

Transactional > Relational

 Mac > PC

Customer Service > Customer Experience 

 Captain Kirk > Dr. Spock

Talk > Text

Dog < Cat

Movie Theater > In-Home Rental 

Tell Us More About Yourself…

What was your first job and what did you learn about customer service in it?

The first job I ever had was as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool. I learned very quickly that my customers’ encompassed more than just the local kids who patronized the pool. Their parents and the members of the community were also my customers. I was mistaken to believe that if the kids were swimming, happy and safe, everything was good. I didn’t realize that the parents and the community wanted more from me. As stakeholders, they were my customers too, whether or not they themselves actually used the swimming pool.

Tell us how one outside influence impacted your customer service or customer experience thinking. (For ex. book, movie, sporting event, relationship, travel)

I took a communications class in college with one of most sought after professors on campus. It was a crazy, but significant experience. One particular evening, he had us pair up. We were studying listening. The professor’s claim was that no one really knew how to truly listen. He challenged us to just “be” with our partner. What in the world did he mean by “be”? Believe me, we were all asking as well.

We stood face-to-face and simply looked into our partner’s eyes. The idea? You can only truly listen (and hear) someone if all the other “noise” is gone and you focus on that other person with your whole self. It was unnerving, intense, but amazing.

To this day, I am always asking myself “what did he or she not say that they really meant?” and “what might I have missed that was critical in that exchange?” My way of listening was deeply affected and plays right into my professional passion.

In your own personal experience, has customer service gotten better or worse in the past five years?

I don’t know that I could say it’s gone one way or the other. I do think, there is much, much more awareness around customer service. However, I still believe many companies and businesses think they do a good job at customer service, but I’d be willing to bet their customers disagree. I believe that businesses and customers are on parallel journeys to the ideal customer experience, but still very disconnected. They each view one another differently than how they think they are perceived.


> I consider it a bad customer experience when I am placed on hold for more than 3 minutes.

> In five years, the most important social media channel for customer service will be perhaps not a channel, but what we know as our phone will be the medium for EVERYTHING.

> The best book I read in the last twelve months was I can’t pick. I’ve worn out two Kindles. :).

You can further connect with Debbie Szumylo on Twitter.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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