The Bridge Between Vision and Reality: A Story of Change and Collaboration: David Mulholland

I recently had a powerful conversation with a fellow UX leader, and it reminded me of the constant push-and-pull between vision and reality in our organisations.

We both share a passion for driving innovation and improving customer experiences. Yet, we sometimes encounter resistance to change, rooted in a culture that prioritises short-term gains and hesitates to embrace new approaches.

The Problem:

  • Short-term Focus: Prioritising immediate results can overshadow the importance of long-term strategies and customer-centricity.
  • Fear of the Unknown: Hesitation to experiment and learn from mistakes can hinder the adoption of innovative ideas.
  • Metrics Misalignment: Difficulty in translating the value of forward-thinking initiatives into quantifiable data that aligns with traditional business metrics.

The Solution:

  • Build Common Ground: Engage stakeholders by clearly communicating the vision and demonstrating how innovative solutions directly contribute to achieving business goals.
  • Embrace Data-Driven Decision Making: Track and measure the impact of new initiatives, showcasing tangible results and demonstrating the return on investment (ROI).
  • Foster a Culture of Learning: Encourage a mindset where failure is seen as a valuable learning opportunity, paving the way for continuous improvement.
  • Cultivate Strong Alliances: Collaborate with key decision-makers and build strong relationships across departments to influence strategy and drive change.

The Takeaway:

Bridging the gap between vision and reality requires a constant effort to communicate, collaborate, and innovate. By embracing a data-driven approach, fostering a culture of learning, and building strong alliances, we can navigate challenges and drive positive change within our organisations.

What are your biggest challenges in driving innovation and change? What strategies have you found successful? Reach out for a chat!


🤯 Mastering the Omnichannel Customer Experience: My Journey to CX Mastery: David Mulholland

I just wrapped up an amazing course on Omnichannel Customer Experience Management (CXM) by Dana Mando and I’m buzzing with new insights and strategies. This course builds on my previous work in customer-centric experience design, taking my understanding of the customer journey to a whole new level.

Key Takeaways:

  • Know Your Customer Inside and Out: The course emphasised the importance of deep customer understanding, not just demographics, but their motivations, frustrations, and goals. This is the bedrock of any successful CX strategy.
  • Consistency is King: Creating a seamless customer experience across channels requires design, categorisation, terminology, and functionality to be consistent. This ensures a smooth journey for customers, no matter how they interact with your brand.
  • Technology as a CX Enabler: Technology is not just a buzzword, it’s the key to bridging gaps and enhancing customer experience. This course explored how to leverage technology to improve consistency, integrate channels, and personalise interactions.
  • Transforming Your Organisation: Building a true omnichannel experience starts internally. This course highlighted the importance of breaking down siloed departments, establishing shared KPIs, and empowering employees to work together towards a customer-centric vision.
  • The Power of Personalisation: The golden standard in CXM is achieving a Single Customer View (SCV). While complex, SCV enables personalisation, builds stronger customer relationships, and ultimately drives loyalty and retention.

I’m excited to implement these learnings in my work, creating more valuable and satisfying experiences for customers. Let me know if you’re interested in discussing CX strategies, I’d love to connect!


CX: It’s All About You (and Them): David Mulholland

In the world of business, we often get caught up in chasing the latest trends, the most sophisticated technology, and the flashiest marketing strategies. We think these are the keys to unlocking customer loyalty and driving success. But what if I told you, the most important ingredient in creating a phenomenal customer experience is something far simpler, more fundamental: you.

Yes, you, the human being behind the business. This is the core message of this blog post, inspired by a powerful lecture series on customer experience (CX). It’s not about flashy tools or fancy strategies, it’s about people:

  • Your genuine connection: Customers are willing to overlook mistakes and even pay more when they feel a real connection with the people behind a brand.
  • Your employees’ impact: Your employees are your frontline ambassadors, and their attitude and actions directly shape the customer experience.
  • Your commitment to customers: Treating customers like VIPs, understanding their needs, and going the extra mile is what truly builds loyalty.

The Human Element Can’t Be Replaced

While technology plays a vital role in today’s business landscape, it can never truly replace the power of human connection. Think about your favorite restaurant: Is it just the food, or is it also the warmth and personality of the staff?

This human touch is more crucial than ever as businesses embrace artificial intelligence and automation. AI can handle routine tasks, but it can’t replicate empathy, understanding, and the genuine desire to build relationships.

Transforming Customer Experience

The journey to a transformative CX isn’t about mastering a bunch of techniques; it’s about building genuine human connections. It’s about:

  • Being vulnerable: Sharing your own struggles and successes to build trust and understanding.
  • Relating on a deeper level: Acknowledging the life events and emotional realities of your customers.
  • Creating a culture of caring: Prioritizing the well-being and development of your employees.

Key Takeaways for Building a Customer-Centric Culture

  • Define your ideal customers: Target those you are best equipped to serve and create a positive experience for.
  • Understand your customers deeply: Go beyond surface-level needs to uncover their true desires and challenges.
  • Align your employees: Create a culture where everyone understands and embodies the customer-centric philosophy.
  • Embrace emotional intelligence: Develop your ability to understand your own emotions and those of others.
  • Build employee loyalty: Happy employees equal happy customers.
  • Hire for emotional intelligence: Look for candidates who connect with people, build trust, and create a positive atmosphere.
  • Train effectively: Ensure your employees have the knowledge and skills to deliver a stellar customer experience.

Customer Experience: It’s All About You (and Them)

Remember, the greatest CX strategies are the ones that are built on genuine human connection. It’s about putting yourself and your employees in the shoes of your customers, understanding their needs, and creating a culture where they feel valued, appreciated, and truly cared for. The results will speak for themselves.


Level Up Your CX Game: CX Circle Melbourne Insights: David Mulholland

The energy at CX Circle Melbourne was infectious, with a shared passion for building better customer experiences. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Understanding Customer Pain Points
    Allianz’s Anna Kalinowska reminded us that truly understanding what bugs customers is critical. She shared how they conduct full-day customer immersion sessions, listening to real voices and analysing the impact of pain points.
  2. Data-Driven Insights Lead to Actionable Results
    Evan Rollins (Drumline Digital) and Ben Fettes (P&O) showcased the power of experimentation as a “guardrail” for CX optimisation. Ben shared how P&O used testing to validate CX principles, derisk design investments, and drive conversions.
  3. The Power of Storytelling
    Betashares’ Jan Uwland emphasised the importance of storytelling in CX. While data and personalisation are valuable, he argued that stories connect with customers emotionally, building trust and loyalty.
  4. Accessibility for All
    Mel O’Brien and Laura Moller from Coles stressed the importance of accessible digital experiences for all. They shared how Coles won a Disability Confidence Award and provided tips for making websites accessible.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Listen to your customers: Truly understand their pain points and how they impact their experience.
  • Embrace experimentation: Use testing to validate assumptions and make smarter decisions.
  • Prioritise your efforts: Focus on what matters most to your customers.
  • Build a customer-obsessed culture: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
  • Harness the power of storytelling: Connect with customers emotionally through engaging narratives.

CX Circle Melbourne reminded us that exceptional CX is an ongoing journey, requiring a customer-centric mindset and continuous improvement.


How Are You Harnessing AI to Enhance Efficiency?: David Mulholland

🎙️Check out my latest chat with Joe Woodham from Torii Consulting. We dived into the vibrant world of design and the thrilling evolution brought by AI in our industry.

I highlighted the need for designers to embrace a “toolbox” mentality. By familiarising ourselves with various AI tools, we can strategically choose the best one for each project, ensuring success and innovation.

I am keen to hear how you integrate AI into your design process. Got any tricks up your sleeve or lessons learned?


The Rise of AI-Human Collaboration in Customer Experience: David Mulholland

The rapid emergence of AI is transforming customer experiences (CX). By 2025, Gartner predicts 90% of customer interactions will be handled by AI. While this signals immense potential, simply implementing AI tools is insufficient to elevate CX. The path forward relies on integrating human skills and AI capabilities into collaborative “dream teams.”

My perspective stems from over a decade of experience driving CX innovation for leading brands. I’ve seen firsthand how a human-centric approach collaboration can unlock superior experiences. But this integration is not without its challenges.

The Jagged Frontier of AI

Leveraging AI for customer experience is complex. A common misstep is presuming AI’s flawless proficiency across tasks. Yet, AI’s capabilities have a “jagged frontier,” a concept from Boston Consulting Group’s research, indicating uneven and unpredictable abilities.

The jagged frontier is unseen, without a guide to forecast its highs and lows. Machines “reinvent themselves rapidly and unpredictably,” and the only method to reveal the rough edges is wide-ranging real-world testing. Don’t guess where AI will excel or fail.

In practice, this frontier resembles a trek up a mountain—smooth paths occasionally, but abrupt cliffs and limitations at other times. An AI chatbot, for instance, may efficiently manage common customer service FAQs, yet stumble with nuanced complaints requiring human discretion.

This uneven landscape acts as a skill equaliser due to its variability in where it will assist agents.

Productivity can jump 43% for less proficient agents versus 25% for top performers. Like other tech, AI enhances overall capability while diminishing elite skill advantages. This could mean a significant change in how we do business in service centres.

Research has shown employees using ChatGPT outperformed those who did not by a lot.  On every dimension.

Employees using AI finished 12% more tasks on average.  Completed tasks 25% more quickly.  Produced 40% higher quality results.

Scale this over a business with 300 employees, for the cost of ChatGPT Enterprise and Office 365 Copilot, you are effectively supercharging your business through the investment of the equivalent of one new employee, creating another 30 new employee’s worth of productivity.

Unpredictability makes AI incorporation into customer experience strategies challenging. Teams struggle to predict AI’s success or failure points accurately. In my personal use of ChatGPT to create a strategy, it was hopeless at creating the strategy no matter how good my prompting was. At times it had hallucinations where it sounds convincing but was incorrect.

Yet when I prompted it to provide the steps, I needed to create the strategy, which I implemented in part with assistance of the AI for the tasks it might be quicker to do, and with careful curation, that strategy was created in record speed at a quality which I needed it to be at.

The takeaway? You have to build the ability and the confidence to effectively guide your way through this frontier through sustained, real-world usage.

You must inherently have the skill to create a CX strategy or a design or a focus group plan before you can work with AI to make it more efficient for you to perform that role.

Collaboration and governance can smooth the jagged edges over time.

Strategies for Human-AI Collaboration

As we journey across the challenging and uneven frontier of AI capabilities, our path leads us to the exploration of strategies for fostering productive and ethical collaboration.

In product design, AI offers an opportunity to take on repetitive design tasks, ‘freeing designers to focus on higher level vision and problem finding.’ By delegating rote work like creating plans, desktop research and writing copy, designers can spend more time on imagination and innovation.

Navigating this jagged landscape of collaboration, two intriguing models have emerged – the Centaurs and the Cyborgs.

The Centaur model advocates a clear division of labour. Humans are entrusted with tasks that call for judgement and decision-making, while AI is assigned data-intensive work where it outperforms humans. This model is evident in customer support systems where AI chatbots efficiently handle high-volume queries, seamlessly escalating complex issues to empathetic human agents for resolution.

In contrast, the Cyborg model entails a fluid back-and-forth between human and machine on each task. Humans kick-start the process, AI generates options, and humans then refine the output. This approach, which I’ve personally used while writing with ChatGPT, pre-empts the over-reliance on AI by ensuring human oversight and direction.

However, the AI journey isn’t without its pitfalls. Solely relying on AI can lull humans into complacency and passive over trust.

To counter this, vigilance against overreliance is essential. The temptation of automation’s convenience must be balanced with continual human reinforcement. AI should be seen as a tool to elevate human potential, not subsume or replace it.

The key lies in proactive integration versus passive reaction. We must consciously shape AI as a collaborator that augments human strengths, not merely as an automated replacement.

Some of the promising developments (or so I thought) I’ve seen which create this AI & Human collaboration is using ChatGPT Vision where you can provide an image and it will interpret it.  Using this you can upload a wireframe and ask it to do a number of tasks, from providing accessibility advice, to asking for UX feedback and even developing the code in the framework of your choice.  Now the generation of code – that is a wild prospect.  And this is jagged frontier.  Sure, it can do it, but should you?

Well as research has shown it’s not quite there yet.

GPT-4 Discovers 26% of UX Issues at an 80% error rate: 1/8 Is Harmful, and 7/8 Is a Waste of Time

In Summary: ChatGPT-4 Is Not (Yet) Useful for UX Auditing

It’s up to you as expert navigators to craft that path and act as a Cyborg or whether it’s worth implementing AI tools or AI automation so you can divide the labour as a Centaur.

The path forward is not one where AI stands alone at the heights, with humans relegated to the sidelines. Instead, it’s about finding common ground where both humans and AI can be integrated into an elite team.

Responsible Implementation

AI system as a novice employee

Think of an AI system as a novice employee – it requires extensive coaching and management!

You might find it helpful to imagine it as your sidekick, whatever works!

Like any new hire, AI will need extensive training and feedback to learn the nuances of its job responsibilities appropriately.

Left to its own devices, an AI novice may fall back on simplistic or repetitive solutions without considering diversity of approach. It lacks the breadth of experience that human colleagues bring. For this reason, direct management is so critical as models advance in capability.

Just as we would develop a training plan for an entry-level employee, proactively establishing governance over increasingly sophisticated AI is key. It prevents novice mistakes from spiralling out of control.

By providing robust oversight and opportunities for learning, AI and its human coworkers can thrive in resilient partnership. Regular performance reviews identify errors for correction, while outcomes-based audits reinforce the desired standards of service.

With the rate of AI’s learning curve, reactive approaches will not cut it. Training AI “new hires” demands aggressive leadership from the start. By viewing evolving systems as perpetual novices, we can successfully coach them into collaborators that enhance our expertise.

Break down your tasks

“How can we efficiently incorporate AI into our workflow?” The answer lies within a three-fold strategy coined as the ‘Me, Us, and AI’ approach. Take your tasks. Break them down into smaller chunks that it takes for you to fulfil that task.

Let’s illustrate this with a task central to product design – conceptualising a new product. Instead of offloading the entire task to AI, we begin by breaking it down into manageable portions. The first step might involve the AI conducting extensive market research, identifying consumer needs, and pinpointing gaps in the current market.

The designer could then generate initial concept sketches of a product that addresses the identified needs. To ensure we have a wide array of choices, we would task the AI to create three distinct design variations. Perhaps we’d like the design to be tailored to appeal to our target audiences, so we could use AI to create those options.

By dividing larger tasks into smaller, precise ones, we make it easier for the AI to work effectively. This approach enhances the quality of results, allowing us to focus on specific areas rather than spreading our efforts too thinly and settling for average outcomes. These detailed, high-quality outputs serve as a robust foundation for us to refine and build upon.

The ‘Me, Us, and AI’ process is a continuous strategy, applicable to various tasks within product design. Over time, we’ll discover more tasks that can transition from the ‘Me’ column (tasks done by humans) to the ‘AI’ column (tasks AI can handle). Some of these tasks may even fall into the ‘Us’ column, where humans and AI collaborate, harnessing the strengths of both.

Integrating AI into your workflow in this manner allows for increased focus on the creative and strategic aspects of your job – the aspects that truly drive value. AI becomes a valuable team member, enabling us to work smarter and innovate faster.

Develop in-house expertise

This leads to the next point: develop in-house AI expertise alongside adoption.

This function is called AI Operations – AI Operations is the use of AI to augment your work or business operations.

AI Ops involves developing and deploying AI-powered systems, copilots, and workflows to help us with our work. The goal of AI Ops is to augment people and teams; to elevate humans into defining and delegating the work. People will manage the execution of tasks instead of doing everything themselves, and work alongside AI systems where appropriate.

What does this team look like? Someone that knows about AI, understands automation, can use tools like Zapier and has a service and process design capability.  This enables this team to move through internal and customer facing teams, helping them handoff their mundane tasks and help them become collaborate with AI as ‘cyborgs’ on all their complex tasks.

Together, these cross-functional experts can work to integrate AI systems so that they create resilient partnerships. By investing in knowledgeable oversight from the earliest stages, we can help ensure the responsible development and deployment of the basics and be prepared for more advanced AI models.

Start small, scale carefully

It would be a good idea to start small with mundane tasks versus higher risk creative ones when implementing AI. Running controlled pilots along the way. Scale thoughtfully based on developing expertise. As capabilities improve, tackle more complex challenges while maintaining human oversight.

Build out an AI roadmap so you are building out your AI strategy in a planned way.

ChatGPT makes it possible for non-experts to easily build AI applications like chatbots by generating the required components (dialogue, etc.)

Provide lots of context in prompts, ask for multiple options, and iterate. Build a library of effective prompts. Watch out for AI overpromising – it can’t yet fully replace user research with real customers. It can’t replace developers.  It can’t replace designers.  But it can enhance their expertise.

CX Strategy

AI enables more personalised and frictionless customer experiences (CX) in several key areas.

First, customer journey analytics powered by AI can pinpoint specific pain points and improvement opportunities. This provides actionable insights versus just overall satisfaction scores.

Strategically applying AI to high-friction touchpoints first is recommended. Chatbots, for example, can automate simple inquiries and deflect these from agents. Tools like DialogFlow CX create natural conversational experiences for customers.

Knowledge sharing platforms leveraging AI enhance expertise among service center employees. These systems can provide relevant information to agents in real-time during customer interactions.

Backend workflow automation is another high-impact area. Intelligent process automation can streamline tedious paperwork, appointment booking, and other workflows. This saves agents time and gives them capacity to focus on higher value interactions.

AI also enables more personalized CX by powering detailed customer segmentation and tailored messaging. Training programs utilising AI can efficiently tailor learning to each individual employee’s strengths and development needs.

Finally, AI-powered CX analytics tools are invaluable for generating actionable insights. Rather than just providing data, platforms like Dovetail analyse vast amounts of CX data and highlight key improvement opportunities.

Thoughtfully integrating AI across these areas can make customer and employee experiences markedly more personalised and frictionless.

Adopting AI isn’t about achieving perfection. It’s about “improving outcomes” and empowering your teams to provide ever-better customer experiences.


CX Connect 2023: David Mulholland

It was fantastic to speak at Customer Connect 23 about the interplay between AI and human strengths. Happy to connect with you all to share further insights of this revolution.


AI & Design: David Mulholland

As AI continues to advance, it’s natural to wonder what jobs will be left for humans in the future. However, there are certain design jobs that AI won’t be able to do for a while. These jobs require a level of empathy and human understanding that machines simply can’t replicate.

For example, AI won’t be able to reframe problems in a way that allows for different ways of thinking or create insights about user behaviour that can only be gained through human observation. AI won’t be able to empathise with users to truly understand their motivations and frustrations or make informed aesthetic choices based on taste and elegance.

AI won’t be able to manage other designers and stakeholders or evangelise design solutions within an organisation. It won’t be able to design conceptual models based on research findings or understand user journeys in a way that takes into account the nuances of human behaviour.

In short, there are certain design jobs that require a level of human understanding and empathy that machines simply can’t replicate. As designers, it’s important to understand the unique value we bring to the table and continue to hone our skills in these areas. AI may be able to assist us in some ways, but it won’t be able to replace us entirely.


AI Challenge for Product Design: David Mulholland

Recent studies have shown that the technological revolution driven by large language models, such as ChatGPT, is changing the landscape of the job market. As a result, many professions are at risk of being automated or supplemented by artificial intelligence, including product design.

However, this doesn’t mean that product designers should give up on their careers. On the contrary, we should take this opportunity to embrace new technologies and develop new skills that will help us stay relevant in the tech sector.

One way to do this is to focus on the human-centered aspects of product design, which are less likely to be automated. This means developing a deep understanding of user needs, behaviours, and motivations, and using that knowledge to create products that are not only functional and efficient but also engaging and enjoyable to use.

Another way to stay relevant is to become proficient in emerging technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing. Product designers should consider learning to code using GPT and become technically proficient in systems, which can help them design better products that integrate these technologies seamlessly.

Furthermore, we must also develop strong communication and collaboration skills, as teamwork and effective communication will be essential in a world where humans and machines work together.

The rise of large language models and AI is a challenge for product designers, but it’s also an opportunity to innovate and create products that truly make a difference in people’s lives. Let’s embrace this challenge and work together to shape the future of product design.


Flybuys Offers in the Coles App: David Mulholland

Fantastic to work with our friends at Coles and the Flybuys App team to make this a reality. This is a terrific integrated loyalty experience for our members who shop at Coles. I’m proud to be involved in this successful release.

Case Study

A problem was poised: ‘How can Coles Group integrate better with Flybuys’.

What resulted was several months of detailed joint discovery, creating a shared vision and defining a roadmap on how we get there.

The shared discovery had an output of several concepts. We then prioritised and sliced these up, defined a shared delivery model, and started work, consisting of days of workshops, weeks of planning and months of hard work across both organisations.

Working alongside a spectacular cross functional team consisting of Coles and Flybuys team members. We proudly released Flybuys Offers in the Coles App. This functionality enables customers to view, activate and hide Flybuys offers without leaving the Coles App ecosystem.

This is a big win for customers, who can now seamlessly access value Supermarket and Fuel offers when they need them, particularly in a tough economic environment.

Very proud to have delivered this feature alongside some absolute superstars, ultimately making a difference in the everyday lives of our customers.

If you haven’t downloaded the Coles App, check it out:
App Store: