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Ten In Ten with Greg Curcio – Knox City Council

Hello! Welcome back to a very special episode of Ten in Ten, the official podcast of CX Loop

Now what makes this such a special episode you might be asking? Well this interview was so packed full of interesting stories and insights from our wonderful guest that I decided to include an extra 5 minutes of bonus content from the interview. You’re welcome.

Greg Curcio - Roamni Ten In ten CX Loop

Greg Curcio (Right)  – Director of Customer and Performance – Knox City Council and Founder of Roamni.

Our guest for the show is the amazing Greg Curcio, Director of Customer and Performance at Knox City, Founder of Roamni tour tech platform and as you’ll find out, former candy bar worker at Village cinemas Boronia.

In this episode you can hear about;

– What installing 5g towers has taught Greg about community engagement

– Why you need to be humbled by your customers from time to time

– How a jewellery shop in Istanbul lead Greg to create a Tech Start up

And much , much more.


Remember if you enjoy this episode give us a review on Spotify, or just shoot us a message on Linkedin at CX loop.

Without any further ado, Introducing Greg Curcio.

Tom:  So Greg, you’ve got over 20 years experience in CX. You’ve worked across everything from local government to banking and tech start ups. Can you tell us what you’re doing right now?


Yeah, sure. Well, thanks for having me on the program. Really appreciate it. Right now, I’m the director of customer and performance here at Knox City council. It’s an Eastern Region Council responsible for making lives of 163,000 people happier and more engaging. And my role specifically is looking after a lot of the corporate service functions outside of finance that includes strategy and planning, business improvement, transformation, community engagement, customer frontline services, technology, governance and risk.

And of course, customer experience.

Knox City council. Interview with Greg Curcio Director of Customer and Performance

Knox City Council covers the Eastern Suburbs of Metropolitan Melbourne


Tom: And so working across so many different industries over the years, what’s something which has surprised you about customer experience?

There’s a lot of similarities across the industry. One of the surprising factors for me is how much effort companies are still having to go through to convince executives and workforce and people on boards that CX is the number one priority for any organisation to build trust and to create business.

That still surprises me, I guess. So similarities in those challenges are still within each of the industries.

I think there’s been a lot of progress in that area, but that still surprises me. I think that there’s still a bit of way to go across many of the industries to make it high up there and each of the priorities of those businesses.


Tom: On the one hand, you’re overseeing customer journeys with Knox City, but then on the other hand, you’re taking people on real life journeys with Roamni, which is a tour tech company which you founded. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came to be?

Yeah, no problem!

So that’s a project that one of my friends and myself started back in 2016, 2017, and we were avid traveler’s when we were younger, don’t travel as much as I’d like to these days with, you know, gorgeous family and three little ones.

The frustration that we had that when we were traveling was that we weren’t really given the most authentic experiences or stories within that local area.

And when we did, it was usually from a local, someone who was living there for a while. And then, you know, every time we’d go back and have a wonderful discussion or chat around our travels, over a coffee or around the table or anything, it was those stories that were the most interesting, most engaging, and really taught you the most about where where you were living.

We said, Well, why is it so difficult?

Our experience was reinforced when we took a tour on a tour bus. We were in Turkey, in Istanbul, and we had driven around the streets for for about an hour. And at the end, we got shovelled into a jewellery store which was owned by the cousin of the tour guide operator.

And we were locked in there for a period of time, to make us buy whatever they wanted.

It wasn’t really an authentic experience.

I came away from that city and experience saying, well, it wasn’t really very good. But others had a completely different experience.

How do you kind of gamify this? How do you kind of bring this to life?

And we thought, “well, why don’t we create a publishing portal?” Some people can upload their stories and tell their stories and their own journeys and experiences.


Tom: What is the best CX lesson you’ve learned either from Roamni or the rest of your career?

Greg: Actually, I’m going to draw upon something that happened the last 24 hours here here at Knox City.

And for us, customer experience also includes a very important, passionate part of my team, and that is community engagement.

Community engagement is deliberate and is quite specific in the Local Government Act. It’s a local council and what that basically says is that you need to be genuine. You need to be genuine in the way that you ask for feedback about a particular building or a particular decision or a particular planning permit or whatever, whatever that is, that affects the community.

And you need to follow that up, close the loop and make sure that the community’s voices are heard. Quintessentially, that is voice of the customer work. But for this example, last 24 hours was was something that that really stuck with me.

So we have a planned 5G tower from Telstra. Telstra has asked us to put that in and this is all freely available information.

It’s on our have your say website. What eventuated was a very, very strong response for the community, particularly for those who do not believe in the benefits of 5G and actually quite the opposite.

They think it’s quite a health risk and it just so happens that in that place and in Hamilton Reserve, where this 5G tower is, we also have a kindergarten there and we’ve got quite a number of houses around there.
And we did a mail drop of a 500 meter radius and must have been a couple of hundred houses. And we had probably 25 to 30%, almost 40% response rate.

Those people who arrived, were incredibly passionate, some of them were quite angry and I stood back and I said, well, this is what it’s all about.

Standing in front of a crowd who are passionate about their local area, about something that’s going to affect their lives, and being able to take their feedback, provide that into a council report, and ensure that their voices are heard and appropriately deliberated on in council chambers. That to me is a privilege to be able to to to see that.

Knox City Council - 5G Towers, Interview WIth Greg Curcio

Fronting a crowd of passionate people in the community and listening to their concerns shows real empathy and builds trust – Greg Curcio


And, of course, very honoured for that to be in a role as able to do to have those processes and be able to help facilitate that feedback for the things that are very passionate in a community into a decision making process. And and that’s, I think, the power of local government and the importance of civic and community engagement.

Is it through that, irrespective of what the outcome will be at the end of May? We’ve built up a relationship and trust with those customers. And and that will that will put us in good stead.


Tom: And it does make me wonder whether you’ve noticed people have become much more passionately engaged with their communities since COVID. There is this sort of that conspiracy element that goes on. But it does at least still show that people want to be involved with their community and have their voices heard.

Greg: Absolutely. I think community engagement is increasing.

A lot more people are getting involved in their local area and local decisions. And that means that the more people involved, the better the diversity of those discussions and we are able to come up with better outcomes for the community.

My role isn’t to dispute one person’s opinion versus the other. My role is to make sure that everyone’s heard and that those voices are represented in the reports that we make to council as part of that.

So that’s why customer experience, community engagement and getting it included and being inclusive of those comments through these decision making processes is vitally important to establish trust within the community. So they come back and give you more. And the more that that happens, the better the decisions are going to be made and the better experiences people are going to have with their local councils.


Tom: What’s something you think people often get wrong in customer experience?

Greg: I think assuming that the experience should be the way that it should be, based on limited engagement and feedback from people.

I’ve seen a lot of great ideas once they go to market that just don’t work.. It doesn’t work because either the engagement or the voice of the customer just hasn’t been taken into account early enough in the design process.

Second is resting on your laurels. I suppose once you do have success with a service or product, not having the courage to go back out there and and and reevaluating that. So I give a really good example of this in local government is that every four years we have a community and a council plan, which is a great strategic piece of work that is done at the start of every council of time.

We help facilitate that. We have a very heavily engaged voice of the customer program.
At the start of that, we then put forward a four year program of work and then to me, I think the industry still pours a bit of concrete over that plan and said, we’re going to deliver that program for the next four years. And and there’s this kind of cultural element which is deeply ingrained in people’s passion to deliver that plan, because that’s what they want to do.

They want to deliver for the community, and that’s where they we all get value from.

But I would flip that around to say that, you know, two years into that plan, are those ideas are still relevant? Are those ideas still needed from the community?

The hardest cultural element is sometimes that we face is to look at your own plan and say, Well, actually, maybe that’s not as relevant today than it was two years ago, and I’m okay with that because the community needs something or they want something different.

Maybe the sentiments change, maybe the external effect is it very different than two years ago? So so there’s the voice and the engagement at the start to get the design right, but also at the end of it, actually to revisit that and not be afraid to to actually go back to the original design and say, you know what?

Maybe that is not as relevant today as it was a couple of years ago.


Tom: Absolutely. I can see how that could be a very frustrating thing and something that takes a lot of humility to say, okay, not as relevant as it was once we’ve got to go back and do it again.

Greg: And I have made that mistake before. We made that mistake with Roamni as well. Had great market pick up at the start. We iterated, we reiterated, but we never really fundamentally went back to that original value. Now that we have a little bit too late now, now we have to pivot and think of something else. I think I’m probably way too proud to not do that sooner.


Tom: Well, hey, it takes humility to admit that. Tell me, what is your definition of good CX?

Constantly engaging with your community, your stakeholders, your customers and being genuine in the way that you take the feedback on board and adapting it. That’s one thing.

And then I’m going to completely contradict myself and say that sometimes. Sometimes you need to  “just get it into production.”

Just get it in there and see what people can do and think and apply it within and test it.

Work with the community. Don’t be afraid of the people not using it. In actual fact, you should go to the people who aren’t using it and say “well that why isn’t this suitable for you and things like that.

Upfront engagement, get the product or service out there to market as quickly as you can in the most simplest form and then move on from there.

And again that humility. You’ve got a bunch of hypotheses that you’re going out to the market with and if they prove incorrect just eat that humble pie and go, you know it was wrong. Let’s try it again. Let’s do something else.


Tom: You mentioned the voice of the customer earlier on. I believe you’re you’re also doing a talk about voice of the customer at The Customer Show.

Greg: Yes, I am.

The Customer Show - Greg Curcio

You can catch Greg at the Customer Show on May 4th


Tom: I was wondering what do you think is the best way to embed the voice of the customer into your organisation?

Greg: Oh, I’d need another hour to talk about this. VOC is one of my passions as well!

And it’s so funny. I always go back to the most recent example that you’re dealing with right now.

We have a lot of projects being delivered here at Council and not just the ones that are out there that you can say, you know, pavilions or sporting equipment sporting.

But we have a lot of operational projects internally as well or changes to services that we want to provide our customers. I think the challenge and the need for the voice of the customer to be embedded is within your design and delivery processes.

It’s not something you do separately. It’s actually part of the way that you design, the way that you work as a team, the way that you use that voice of the customer to help you to inform yourself.

We’ve done that quite deliberately because of the need for us to do it, is part of deliberative engagement, which is also an extension of the IOC.

It’s part of the report writing. I’m getting quite technical here, but if you don’t embed it within your company’s overall decision making framework, then it ain’t ever really going to make a difference.

And I think local government is one of those places where it’s a fantastic place to commit yourself to that. Because you do have to go back out to the community and say, look, this is what you told me. Here is what we’ve changed in the budget or product or service. This is what and this is how it impacts you.

If you don’t do that very well, you get a lot of complaints and the publicly elected officials are the ones that are really interested to make sure that happens. So we make a concerted effort as part of the decision making process to engage the IOC as well as community engagement. Feedback is part of the decision making process.

But here’s the challenge how do you do that at scale?

How do you train that consistency across your leadership team and how has that been delivered and trusted within each of those projects?

That takes time and so we are investing here at Knox, training around voice of the customer.

It’s a big investment which we’re making. We think it’s important in the way that we we can democratise that process. To ensure that the customers know while we are making decisions.


Tom: You mentioned before the interview we were chatting and you said you were a part of building the CX team at City of Stonnington. I was wondering what sort of people do you look for when you’re building a CX Team?.

Greg: The people I look for need to have this innate attitude around helping people. Because essentially CX is about helping people to make things easier.

That level of empathy that you need to listen and to analyze that and to act on it. That’s number one.

Number two has to be very strong in data and insights and to draw patterns and themes from a whole raft of different inputs and sources.

So that it creates a story, a narrative, and it can create those insights so that you can act and lead that acting and action across the organisation. And the third is exactly that leadership, those leadership capabilities and being able to nudge people in the right direction, but not overtly. It’s got to be with a sense of doing it together.

And I think those are the attributes that I look for, honestly. I, you know, if you’ve got some degrees around CX and they’ve studied it. That’s that’s fine.

But it’s got to be couched in a very practical leadership and behavior, analytical and empathetic way. That’s what I look for. If you’ve got those qualities then, you know that they’re going to get along well with their colleagues and peers.

That’s just the way that they do their job.

Greg Curcio - City of Stonnington

Greg with his team at City of Stonnington – 2022


Tom: Yeah, it’s interesting that you bring up degrees as well, because I think out of all the CX leaders that I’ve interviewed so far, None of them started out out studying CX. It’s all just been a natural extension of who they are and they just found their place within it.

It’s interesting. My, my first job was working at a cinema village cinemas actually here at Knox in Boronia. And, you know, I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed 14, 15 year old. Cleaning cinemas, ripping tickets and serving at the candy bar. And, you know, I’ve got to say that that was a really good founding experience for me. Dealing with customer complaints and serving people on time with a smile on your face and listening to people’s issues.

So yeah, I think naturally I think we do gravitate to some of these things. Because I think people do want to help each other out.

It’s the thing taking the next step around dealing with conflict and different opinions. How you synthesise that within an organisation to get the best outcome. That in itself is a skill and can be taught.

But I think I think everyone can can be great at six. I think some people underestimate themselves.


We’re on to our last question here. Can you finish this sentence for me? The future of CX is….?

Greg: Now

It’s now or it’s not something that is going to be coming. It’s now.

A lot of things are happening in the news around around products that are bursting bursting into the mainstream. You know, we’ve heard about a lot of them previously, but, you know, they’ve hit the mainstream.

Now you’ve got the fourth gen Chat GPT, which can do phenomenal things. But, you know, there’s there’s a lot of chatter around what is the future of work?

And what is the role of humans in doing these jobs?

AI can’t replicate emotional intelligence.

I don’t believe you can replicate empathy.

You can’t AI looking at someone in the eyes and and telling them that you’re listening to them and helping them through a problem and finding them a solution.

If you’re not concentrating on those capabilities today and you’re only focusing on the technical stuff, you’re at risk of that piece of technical work being taken over by an A.I.

But the actual value add as humans is on the CX side

That community engagement, building relationships, building that empathetic understanding of a person’s needs and a problem to solve. So that’s why now we’ve got to do it now. From board level all the way down to the person who’s answered the phones or picked up a shovel.

Tom: Thank you for listening to this extra special episode of ten in ten. I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

If you want to read bonus material or connect with Greg then check out the full interview transcript at cxloop.com.au

And if you think you’d be a good guest or you just want to say hello, you can reach out to my email; tom@ft-group.com.au
or linkedin.

Bye for now

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