3 must-haves to make CX fly

Sirte Pihlaja
CEO, Customer Experience Optimiser

Lessons from the Flying Finns

At the CXPA European Insight Exchange, I was honoured to be recognized with the CXPA Extra Mile Award for the dedication to furthering Customer Experience competence. Why is CX and CXPA such a big thing in Finland? Three key drivers explain our success.

It was the first time that this award was granted in Europe. What made me respect this prize even more, was receiving it along with Ian Golding, a CX legend. But the award really belongs to the people who made our events fly, the Finnish CX community.

The Customer Experience Professionals Association (www.cxpa.org) organized its first all-European meeting for CX experts in London at the end of March. The seminar was packed with lively chatter of all things CX both during and between the sessions. The best part of the Insight Exchange was, for many, the roundtable presentations and conversations during the networking parts.

It was really interesting to hear so many new thoughts and opinions on the subject that we all hold so dear. We also seem to share many of the challenges, even though some organisations and countries are more advanced than others. For this very reason, I find it extremely important that events such as this are organized, so that people can meet and learn and get inspiration from each other. When you pack a room full of CX enthusiasts, everyone is sure to bring great ideas back home.

The keynote speech by Johanna Jäkälä, VP Brand, Marketing & Customer Loyalty from Finnair, sure made ideas fly. She described how the Helsinki-based airline builds unique Nordic flying experiences through data-driven service design. The approach has been a great success, and it shows even on the company’s stock price: it has recently skyrocketed to a totally new level. Listening to customers has truly paid off for Finnair.


Why is CX(PA) such a big thing in Finland?

Several fellow CX professionals attending the event all asked me the same question: why is Customer Experience and CXPA such a big thing in Finland?

So why is it? I must admit I hadn’t really stopped to think about that myself, too busy seeing after that our local events come to life.  But it was a really good point, which made me want to analyse the success we’ve enjoyed during the past 3 years. How come there is so much buzz about CX in our country? And what is it that we do to draw so many people to each event?

On the 5th anniversary of the CXPA organisation, it is a perfect time to reflect on the past to be able to plan for the future. Three key elements come to my mind, when I analyse how we made CX fly in Finland. Each of them can be applied whenever you are trying to develop your CX:

1. It all boils down to purpose, and what really matters to you.

When you are passionate about CX, it shows. Furthermore, that can-do attitude and mindset trickles down to everything you do. Ever since I was invited as a Founding Member to Boston, where CX professionals met in 2010, under the idea that was to become the CXPA, I’d been eagerly waiting for the go-ahead to launch our local CX activities in my home country.

Finally, in 2013, we launched CXPA Finland (www.cxpa.fi) together with Ilona Kousa. CXPA Finland was introduced on the CX Day, celebrated globally in all CXPA member countries (www.cxday.org). At that time, we were still what you would call CX evangelists, and filling up an auditorium with like-minded people was considered a mega-success. Best of all, the attendees thought likewise of their event experience. The reputation has stuck with us.

Our idea and purpose for building up CXPA in Finland was to share the ends and means needed to create great customer experiences. We wanted to share this knowledge with everyone in customer related jobs, so that they could develop their competences to better serve their customers, and differentiate through CX.

One of our initial goals was  – and still is – nothing less than helping bring Finland out of the economic slump, with a little help from our friends in CX. I truly believe that to change the culture, you need a compelling purpose that you believe in. We sure had one at hand, and wanted to spread the idea.

2. Do it so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.

CXPA Finland has been attracting people ever since with wonderful speakers and well-organised events. This has resulted in participants recommending us to their friends and colleagues, and a very engaged crowd, who really wants to meet and learn from each other.

This seems to be also a more general contemporary phenomenon, and it plays to our advantage: Finns want to meet in real life events, not just in the digital realm. They want to experience and meet to get inspired and energized. And what better way to do that than spend this time with CX colleagues, who yearn to hear more and share their own stories. When the setting is just right, people will be ready to rock together. And they will come back for more.

3. Take time to measure and evolve.

Our continued success is, to a large extent, based on us practicing what we preach. We have been measuring the CX of our events ever since the beginning, many times even in real-time. We have also done our best to act on the feedback we have received.

For example, we are now looking into organising new types of CXPA gatherings, so we can support the often-articulated need to network more. This constant evolving of our events is really important to us, but some of the things we would love to do take time to put into practice, and money of course.

We are now at a crossroads. We want to take the CXPA in Finland to the next level, and maybe help CXPA develop internationally, while we are at it. Therefore, we are looking for new people to our team to help develop this community, and need partners to help us grow. We have also re-structured our team roles, and are looking forward to realizing many new things we have planned for this year.

When we put our hearts to it, who knows, the buzz in Finland may be heard all over the world.


Sirte Pihlaja is the CEO, Customer Experience Optimiser of the first customer experience agency in Finland. She is also heading the activities of the international Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) in Finland. In Shirute, Sirte helps her clients to create great customer experiences through creative ways.

Want to know more?

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Additional information:

Head of CXPA Finland Sirte Pihlaja, tel. (050) 5700 190

The Global #1 Best-Selling Business Book Customer Experience 2 Is a Shiny Example of the ‘New Normal’

Customer Experience 2 tops the charts as the #1 best selling book on Amazon e.g. in the “Customer Service” and “Consumer Behaviour” categories in multiple countries (USA, UK, Canada and France, etc), making the co-authors Best Selling Authors on three continents. Sirte Pihlaja, the CEO of Shirute, is a Finnish CX/EX expert, who has been evangelising CX all over the world during the last 25+ years. Her passion is using creative methodologies in creating great CX and EX. That is why she wrote about customer-centric culture and on the Role of Play in Business.


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