It all started with a dream

Sirte Pihlaja
CEO, Customer Experience Optimiser, Shirute

We’ve been hearing about it so much – and without a doubt for a reason – through tears, grumble and grinding of teeth, but the exceptional spring of 2020 has brought about some positive changes as well. It made us stop and think about what is truly meaningful.

During these unprecedented times, many organizations have had to re-think their purpose. We decided to develop our services through our purpose and our mindset grew only stronger. When so many people got worn out by their disappointments, “We want to make people happy” became increasingly meaningful in everything we do. I wanted to affect the current way of thinking by doing something to help others in a big way. I wanted others to see the hidden opportunities and be more positive about (working) life. I didn’t want to become one of the dissatisfied people, but instead, to make people happy in the midst of all of this!

Professionally, these past six to seven months of new and strange times brought about a positive surprise: they gave an opportunity to network virtually with international colleagues all around the world. Getting to know so many other CX professionals offered a new sense of fellowship I wanted to share with others.

It all began with a dream – to get CX professionals together on a shared cause. Little by little, I started to feel like Bob Geldof at Live Aid, when all the biggest CX stars of the world agreed to join us and collaborate in the most international event of CXPA history, the Global CX Day 2020. (

Fitting to the nature of the event, the international CX guru Ian Golding agreed to be the MC. Ian is familiar for our Finnish audience from his appearances e.g. at our CX Masterclasses. He is not just a dear personal friend, but one of the most honest and genuine of all of the “big names” in the world of CX. 

The planning and production of the virtual networking and speaker event, in collaboration with ten other countries, was made possible by the corona spring. We wanted not only to share knowledge from around the world to the participants, but additionally an understanding that your nearest colleague doesn’t have to be the one sitting next to you at your office. In fact, one can network and collaborate quite as easily with contacts from other countries, globally. After all, the most important thing in creating and developing Customer Experiences is a sense of community and common goals.


The only constant is change 

The Global CX Day 2020 was held this year with the theme ”CHANGE. Transformation. Future of CX.” The change in working life and customer behaviour were the was the main topic of conversations. We heard interesting talks on how the challenges brought about by the exceptional spring have affected organisations, how they have started to rebuild their CX and what kind of visions for the future CX leaders foresee for their own profession.

The event was opened by Shaun Smith, who coined the term Customer Experience Management, a five-time author on the topic, and previously known to our Finnish audience from the first CX Masterclass event we organised with him a few years back. Shaun asked a most relevant question: Is Customer Experience still important in the Covid-19 times? Well, we certainly think it is! Focusing on your customer relationships is now more crucial than ever, in so many ways. 

We wanted to have more relaxed talks with the international stars, instead of traditional keynote speeches. That’s why we invited a fireside chat between Prof.Dr. Phil Klaus and Christopher Brooks, and did a deep interview with the renowned CX speaker, NY Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Shep Hyken and Ian Golding. I myself interviewed the godmother of CX, one of the founders of CXPA and four-time best-seller author Jeanne Bliss. In addition, Stacy Sherman, the CEO of Doing CX Right, and Women in CX -community founder Clare Muscutt, the UK Top Female Influencer 2020, joined the event.  

The CX Rockstar himself, UK #1 CX Influencer 2020 James Dodkins, energized our day by hosting the CX Quiz Show. The winners of the quiz won Customer Experience 2, the global best-seller written in collaboration by highly experienced Customer Experience professionals, where I have written a chapter on  LEGO® Serious Play®.

On the international track, we managed to get Finland’s top speaker, the awe-inspiring Pekka Hyysalo, who told us his story about the creation of Fightback. Pekka spoke about responsibility and relentlessness through his newly released book. The Covid-19 time is not a reason to give up! Pekka received a well-deserved, virtual standing ovation for his keynote. After his talk, we had organised a networking session for the participants with the help of international facilitators driving the discussions.

Toward brave, new visions with agility, creativity and play

After the international track finished, we moved into our own country tracks. In the Finnish track, we had guest speakers Anna Tapio from Housing Fair Finland, Jussi Mantere from K Group and Salla Seppä from Nordic Business Forum.

Anna visualized tomorrow’s housing through etnography, Jussi spoke about the grocery industry using agile design to respond to consumers’ changed circumstances and supporting online grocery shopping. In my interview with Salla, she told the audience how these exceptional times have affected her role as a Customer Experience leader.

In my own keynote, I spoke about the importance of play and creativity in innovation and renewing business strategies, in addition to developing customer experience and growing your business. There is a 5-year-old inside all of us who seeks new ways to learn and evolve through play. Organizations need these little people to become their everyday heroes and save their future currently more than ever before. That is why play, creativity and fast, agile experiments should be given priority. I will tell you more about this topic in the upcoming MARK webinar this November.

CX is a shared value and the little things are the most meaningful

We also presented the annual Customer Award Finland ( as part of the event. This year, the Award was presented to the State Treasury for their online services for governmental support for companies facing financial challenges due to Covid-19.  Their services helped thousands of companies on a tight schedule, constantly keeping in mind and developing through customer feedback and user experience. They also focused on  and realised the importance of employee experience in building successful service experiences. Honorable mentions were awarded to the K Group hotline phone order services for the elderly, and to the Tax Administration for their Tax Meditation campaign. 

We’ve had over 1200 participants visit the virtual event to date. Together with the speakers, we’ve had people participate from all continents. The marketing of the event was done as an international joint effort, whereas the technical implementation, content and production was done mainly from Finland. The event’s international multi-track stream was sent live from Elisa’s Business Studio in Helsinki.

This kind of participation proves in itself that working life is truly transforming. Customer Experience is developed professionally in a vast number of companies and organizations globally. These organizations have already understood the meaning of both Customer Experience and Employee Experience for their businesses’ profitable growth and well-being. If there ever was a time to get interested in CX, it’s now!

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All Global CX Day 2020 event talks and interviews are now available to be watched for free at our event site:

Do you want to hear more about LEGO® Serious Play® and Shirute CX Play®, and especially how play and creativity can bring sustainable growth to your business? Join me at the MARK webinar on Thursday 5th November at 14:30-15:30.

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Sirte Pihlaja (Certified Customer Experience Professional, LEGO® Serious Play® Trained Facilitator) is the CEO of Shirute, the first customer experience agency in Finland. She heads the activities of the global Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) in Finland. An internationally known CX/EX expert, coach, designer and strategist, she has over 25 years of experience in advising large international corporations and brands in different industries. Sirte is known for translating customer understanding to concrete actions and results in a fast and cost-efficient way. She is especially fond of creative methodologies and regularly plays with LEGO bricks together with her clients. This year, Sirte was chosen as a TOP 150 Global Customer Experience Thought Leader.

Sirte recently wrote about LEGO® Serious Play® in her globally best-selling book Customer Experience 2, co-authored by 24 highly experienced international CX professionals (

There is a 5-year-old inside all of us who seeks new ways to learn and evolve through play. Organizations need these little people to become their everyday heroes and save their future currently more than ever before. That is why play, creativity and fast, agile experiments should be given priority.

– Sirte Pihlaja, CEO, Customer Experience Optimiser, Lego® Serious Play® Trained Facilitator


Global CX Day 2020

Do you want to learn more about the Global CX Day 2020 event? Visit our site and see it the content for free!

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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