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The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, social customer service and content. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience strategist Blake Morgan and features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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Apr 18, 2017

Today I bring you a special podcast interview with singer, actress and entrepreneur Christina Milian and her business partner Josh Bocanegra who together have built a company called Persona Bots. Persona Bots is a tech company that builds chatbots for celebrities. They've built chatbots for reality TV star Jwoww, literary film character Christian Grey, model Karrueche Tran, musician Kehlani and more. “Celebrities are the trendsetters. People want a way to speak to their fans in a way that’s real. They want their voice to be heard in a way that’s authentic,” said Milian.

Celebrities today are brands. Thanks to social media, celebrities have the ability to engage with fans directly. Though most don’t. Why? It’s not possible. With millions of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook fans, celebrities generally engage in one way conversations on social media. 

Brands have a similar conundrum. They can’t respond to the millions of social media comments they get from customers. And they’re using chatbots as a way to provide tailored and personalized interactions. Chatbots have the potential to scale and provide personalized interactions in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past.

Milian has over two million people messaging her on her bot. She says this was the fastest growth out of any social media she’s ever done. According to Milian the goal for the chatbot, built through Facebook messenger, is to keep the fans there engaging with her on Facebook messenger. She believes people don’t want to be bothered with ads. And messenger provides a direct and uninterrupted channel with the consumer, sans ads.

Celebrities And Tech

More and more we are seeing the collision of tech and celebrities. Even Ashton Kutcher has invested in 60 companies including Airbnb, Flipboard, and Change.org. The next few years will only bring more celebrities into the world of tech. It makes sense for celebrities and tech to get together considering tech brings a large platform to celebrities for them to create and share media, and celebrities bring other celebrities and fans to these platforms as well.

"Oh hey..."

When I ping Christina Milian’s chatbot on Facebook messenger, she responds “oh hey…” Her chatbot is fond of using the kiss emoji and that makes sense considering Christina’s brand. In fact in our podcast interview she mentioned much of what chatbot users ask her is if she’s single, and will she marry them. In fact her business partner mentions one unique interaction that occurred on Milian's chatvot. A girlfriend of a male chatbot user found his phone, and thought Milian was really engaging with her boyfriend through messenger, according to Bocanegra. Bocanegra says the user's girlfriend became very jealous; a testament to the power of chatbots. Some people don’t even realize it’s a machine at all.  

For now the questions are predetermined and organized by category .For example “Q&A: Get to know me on a personal level.” One of the questions the user can ask Milian is “were your parents strict growing up?” She responds “Nope. Both of my parents were really cool. They were protective though. My parents were actually young when they had me.”

As Milian builds Persona Bots and her own chatbot the variety of ways you can interact with the chatbot will grow.

Today you can view Milian's latest music, request a signed autograph, learn more about Christina’s personal life (mentioned earlier), shop for fan gear, her clothing line, or her line of wines called Viva Diva Wines. The chatbot is not perfect, however it’s one of the first I’ve seen that grants fans the ability to interact with Christina on chat, the same way one would interact with a brand.

We’ll only see these technologies grow.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author and keynote speaker. For more from Blake sign up for her weekly customer experience newsletter here.

Apr 15, 2017

One of the brightest and most recognizable accessory brands around is Vera Bradley. Its bold patterns and functional designs make it a desirable brand for purses, wallets, and more. But beyond the bright colors is a successful brand that had stood the test of time and showcases the importance of building a brand that lasts.

            No matter the industry, there is a ton of competition for customers’ attention and sales. It can be easy for companies to focus on staying ahead of the competition instead of building their own brand. However, if companies get too caught up in seeing what other organizations are doing, they run the risk of losing focus on their own brand and not building a strong customer experience. Although Vera Bradley operates in the competitive accessory space, it has managed to find its niche and focus on what it is good at—creating an experience and showcasing a special item. Vera Bradley isn’t a discount brand and typically represents a special product customers are willing to spend more money on. Because of that, co-founder Barbara Baekgaard and her team can focus on creating a great customer experience because they are confident in their brand position and aren’t distracted by comparing themselves to other stores. The lesson here can be applied to any brand: find what you are good at and use that to build a personalized and strong experience for customers. Don’t just play catchup to the competition—create something that represents your brand and what you stand for, and customers will respond to that.

            A strong brand tends to create a great customer experience, and much of that brand starts with corporate culture. With niche brands, customers want something they can count on—the experience is more than a one-time transaction, but a shopping experience that they expect to be enjoyable and lasting. Vera Bradley hires nice people as sales associates and tells them to be themselves. The result is a reputation for strong customer service because customers know they will always have a friendly and personable experience in the store. The same principle applies to customers who are shopping for more than just handbags—today’s modern shoppers tend to want an experience instead of simply a transaction. The best experiences tend to come from strong brands that have an identity that permeates through their employees and makes every step of the buying process enjoyable. Employees should be aware of the company’s brand and know the role they play in sharing the experience with everyone who comes into the store or visits the website.

            A strong brand can be a powerful tool in creating a high-quality customer experience. Although there are many things that can shake a brand, having a strong foundation that is embedded in every aspect of the organization can make a huge difference and be felt by customers at every turn.

For more from Blake Morgan sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

Apr 6, 2017

Imagine being able to instantly get recommendations for top restaurants, hotels, and attractions, no matter where you are in the world without having to talk to a human. It’s a great resource for travelers made possible by the TripAdvisor chatbot.

            Chatbots are popping up everywhere. TripAdvisor as a company tries to stay on top of new technology, but it didn’t want to create a chatbot just for the sake of making one. After considering the strategy involved, the team, led by Jeff Chow, vice president of product, decided to dip its toes into the chatbot water with a way to deliver great recommendations where and when people need them. Creating the chatbot was a learning experience with principles that can be applied to a variety of verticals. The overall goal for the chatbot was to take TripAdvisor’s leading qualities and turn then into the ultimate travel assistant on the go—perfect for planning a trip, traveling, or sharing information with friends and family. With its software, TripAdvisor wanted to use machine learning to scale the data from its many interfaces so that it could be used in different customer interactions.

            The team views the chatbot as guided discovery—the questions start big and then narrow down until the task is completed and the best recommendation can be given. In order to provide the best recommendation, the bot must understand what the traveller is really looking for—after all, a restaurant recommendation in Miami will be different based on if someone is traveling for work or pleasure. Chatbots have potential to be a powerful, personalized tool. Because they can remember things users say, it can get personal and hopefully soon learn soft signals and natural conversation. That way, even if a user doesn’t explicitly ask something, a chatbot could potentially know what to recommend based on their patterns or behavior. However, getting smarter over time is a unique challenge in travel, as people’s travel preferences can change greatly depending on the purpose of their travel, which means the bot needs to be adaptable to different travel needs.

            TripAdvisor also learned that building a chatbot isn’t a one and done process—there is always room for continued growth and improvement. The company’s next focus is to increase engagement with its partner businesses to provide better recommendations to customers.

            Jeff’s best advice from the TripAdvisor experience is for other companies to be strategic with their chatbots and technology. Don't create a chatbot just for the sake of doing it, but instead think of what it can do to move your business forward. When done correctly, chatbots can create great opportunities for an organization.

Mar 27, 2017

All companies face challenges with industry disruption. No matter if you’re in healthcare, education, retail or anything else, there are sure to be changes in the industry over the coming years. However, prepared companies can use that disruption to their advantage to continue to hone their customer experience. AT&T is a good case study of staying ahead of the trends while still working to provide an excellent customer experience. The company has led the charge to the new TMT industry that represents the world we now live in—telecommunications, media, and technology—and uses industry growth and change to create an improved customer experience.

            Customer experience is more than just a singular event—it can include the time the customer spends researching product options, browsing in store or online, and the actual purchase, not to mention what happens after the sale or service. At AT&T, customer experience is known as a journey that starts when a customer joins the company for a single product like phone or internet service. With that initial relationship established, the company can work towards its goal of creating long-standing trusted relationships that cover multiple devices. According to AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie, the company allows customers to define the customer experience and relies on feedback from them to create the best experience possible.

            Great customer experience starts from the top and won’t happen if executives can’t find ways to connect new technology and offerings to what their customers are experiencing. At AT&T, every employee is in charge of staying in front of industry disruption. By staying on top of trends, the company is able to talk to customers about nearly every aspect of their lives, from their phone and internet service to entertainment and a connected home and car. Putting in the time and money beforehand allows AT&T to be very involved in its customers’ lives, just like being aware of new travel trends or computer programs can help companies in other industries know how to best serve their customers.

            Aside from being aware of trends, customer experience can be shaped by listening to feedback and seeing how your organization is viewed by customers and outside groups. AT&T does this by keeping a close eye on how it is viewed from third parties like JD Powers and the current state of its net promoter score, but other companies could use social media metrics, Yelp reviews, or call center logs to measure feedback.

            Strong leadership plays a vital role in customer experience, especially as technology and trends change across the board. Although the methods may vary, the goal of customer experience should always be the same: to surprise and delight and create a real bond with customers. Companies truly invested in the customer journey are sure to see success as their industries continue to evolve.

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

Mar 23, 2017

As the consumer world changes, businesses must adapt their strategies and marketing to best meet the needs of customers. 3 Day Blinds started nearly 40 years ago as a way to provide window coverings faster than the market norm. As the industry changed, the company slowly moved away from retail stores and now sells all of its product through at-home appointments that allow customers to see samples in their homes to get a better idea of the product. The move from retail locations to at-home consultations was a large shift for the company, but one that allowed for more personal experiences with customers and a way to better connect with them throughout the entire buying process. Now the company is one of the few remaining direct-to-consumer manufacturers in the U.S., meaning it has the power to control every aspect of the customer experience from initial contact to manufacturing and delivery. 

            3 Day Blinds has also adapted its marketing strategy to reflect customer trends. Although the big push these days is towards mobile, the company realized 70% of its appointments come through call center phone calls. Instead of spending time and money to develop mobile just because it is trendy, the company stuck with its roots and found ways to integrate marketing automation into its more traditional phone operations. With new technology, 3 Day Blinds can track what keywords drove customers to make a phone call. For example, if a customer types a search into Google and gets the results for 3 Day Blinds, the website can create a unique phone number that lets the company know what keyword resulted in the call. Call center agents are also given a list of keywords related to the customers’ search that they can use to organically steer the conversation for best results. The company was surprised to see the diversity in keyword searches and what they lead to, which further showcases the need for personalization and to understand what each customer is looking for.

For Dan Williams, chief revenue officer at 3 Day Blinds, marketing automation is all about breaking down the business to see what can be optimized to have the biggest impact. Using data gathered from at-home consultations and phone conversations provides the company with automated data about things like how often to contact customers, the optimal length of a call, information to gather or not to gather on the phone, and much more. Combining automation and call intelligence allows all employees to better understand the customer and make the most of the phone call. This not only impacts sales but also leads to increased customer satisfaction when a person can get the answers he needs quickly.

            The 3 Day Blinds experience is unlike most other consumer experiences and allows the company to be creative with its marketing and data collection. By truly understanding the customer and implementing technology and automation when appropriate, customers can have a unique and personalized experience that meets their needs.

 

 

 

 

Feb 28, 2017

How do you keep your brand on message during a changing digital landscape with a company that is more than 100 years old? That’s the question faced by Toni Clayton-Hine, CMO of the Xerox Corporation, every day. One of Toni’s main tasks is managing an evolving brand narrative to a new wave of customers as her company returns to its roots.

            As the world gets more digital, Xerox is going back to its core products and finding ways to transform its traditional copy machines into systems that manage the entire document experience, both digitally and physically. These days, it’s about more than just making copies, it’s about optimizing the movement of information and what and how information gets printed. Although the company is going back to its roots with a modern twist, the core brand of Xerox is still the same: to innovate how the world communicates, connects, and works.

            To spread the brand message, Toni relies on a team effort at Xerox. Everyone from the product designer to the tech support representative plays a role in how each customer interacts with the product, and everyone has a role to play in the customer experience. Everything the company does is about putting the customer first. Toni’s marketing team works hard to be present where the audience is present. That means connecting with them in new ways, such as social media, and making sure the information is available any place a customer wants to consume it. In today’s sometimes complicated digital landscape, Toni uses the approach of engaging with customers wherever is most comfortable to them to get the information out clearly and quickly.

            There’s also the issue of managing the message to see how well it resonates with customers. Xerox has a large focus of getting its employees out in the field to talk to people who are actually using the products, whether they are re-sellers or end customers. Combined with customer councils, feedback sessions, and surveys, it provides the company with strong feedback to make sure its messaging and methods are effective with customers and that the company isn’t over-promising but not delivering, which could be detrimental to the brand. Staying in near-constant contact with customers also allows the brand to make changes quickly as the digital landscape continues to evolve.

            Even though times are changing, the overall customer experience is still the same, especially when it comes to Xerox products. The customer experience still includes every touchpoint from early research to buying the product and actually using it. Even though the methods may change, the focus is still on engaging with the customer before, during, and after a sale. There are ways to innovate the process and the products, which Xerox does through its Park division, but the idea of sticking to the core brand and constantly engaging customers stays the same.

            The customer landscape is no doubt changing, especially due to technology and increased information. However, by sticking to core principles and looking for ways to reach customers where they already are, brands can join Xerox in having great brand messaging success.

 

 

Feb 14, 2017

Evolving technology means nearly everything about the customer experience is changing—including the role of the CMO. That’s according to Maggie Chan Jones, CMO of global software company SAP. Maggie draws on her years of industry experience to navigate the changing customer landscape. Where the buying journey used to be linear, the best marketers must now adapt to changing consumer behaviors. Marketers used to rely on the traditional marketing funnel, which moved each customer along a track until they made a purchase. However, today’s customers go in and out of different stages of the buying process, which makes understanding the customer more important than ever before. Instead of walking customers through the now-non-existent linear buying process, brands should work on engagement and building trust with the customer so that they feel comfortable making the purchase whenever they are ready.

            As the customer market becomes more complex, brands are struggling to simplify and survive. Complexity can be a drain on customers and on business resources and takes more than 10% of profits from many companies. To avoid complexity, work to simplify your processes and help customers find what they need quickly. The more options a customer has, the more time and money it takes for the company to provide them with what they want, when most times it is just a simple answer to a question. Maggie recommends using innovations and technology to solve customer problems, but to never lose sight of each person you are trying to reach. Even with the newest and best technology, your goal is still the same: to create a quality, personalized experience for each customer. No matter what happens, marketing is still about connecting with people. Before adding in technology, take a step back and consider where you want your company and customer to go. With the processes and goals in place, you can then add in the right technology to reach the end point without becoming too complex. Consider the people and the journey they will have with your brand—everything should focus on the customer and breaking down complexities to make things as simple as possible.

            Whereas CMOs used to focus largely on big-picture marketing campaigns, they will soon, if they haven’t already, take on more responsibility than ever to drive bottom-line growth. In many cases, this means having a strong understanding of changing technology and even taking over responsibilities that were traditionally held by the CIO. Machine learning, which Maggie believes is still in the early stages, has the power to lead to big analytics. To better understand the customer, CMOs must be able to decipher big data to find the right analytics to drive growth and connectivity for their company. Big data can provide amazing customer insights, but only when it is used correctly and understood. The use of digitization and big data helps brands stay relevant and in tune with their customers so that they can implement changes and programs while they are still relevant.

            Today’s customer landscape is fast-paced and ever-changing. To lead their teams to success, CMOs need to have a strong grasp of both large-scale analytics and small-scale customer engagement.

 

Jan 25, 2017

Much of the technology that’s being developed now will help us coordinate things, from employees to customers, in a much smoother way. Devin Fidler, research director at Institute For The Future, compares it to being an orchestra conductor—as we better use technology, we can more easily bring in other parts of the customer experience to create a smoother melody within our organizations.

            One of the greatest benefits of new technology is that it provides us the ability to find the resources we need much more quickly. Just like Uber can connect us with a ride or Airbnb connects millions of customers with millions of open rooms, we can also find ways to use this new technology to change our business strategy. Rethinkery Labs, for example, runs software like Upwork and Freelancer that sifts through thousands of freelancer profiles to find the exact right match for a given project, then reaches out to that person to ask if they want to be involved. Instead of people looking for work, the work is now looking for people.

            To be the most effective, Devin recommends re-thinking what you want your customer experience to look like. Because things are changing so rapidly, the experience will likely look very different to even how it did just five years ago. These new tools allow us to fundamentally change nearly everything about our customer experience and are a great opportunity to creatively look at how customers will view and interact with your company from every level. Disney Parks has done this by completely re-vamping the customer experience. Soon before a visit, guests receive interactive wristbands in the mail that can then be used at the park to get in lines, make purchases, and perform other common actions.Customers have a better, more streamlined experience in the parks because Disney was able to re-think its experience approach and take advantage of new wearable technology.

            Machine learning, or artificial intelligence, is sure to play a huge role in a forward-thinking customer experience, especially as it comes to serving customers in real time. Software like Amazon Echo allows customers to communicate with a device that coordinates all of their data on the back end to better respond to their needs; similar technology is being developed for a wide variety of other companies to help customers get things where and when they need them.

            As technology grows, so should the sharing economy, including services like Uber and Airbnb, as well as the freelancer economy. These unique and new ways of working present new issues that can be resolved with advanced technology and new applications. These new models also take advantage of digital management to find workers that are a perfect match for a specific situation and can move people easily to where they have the most value.

            Automation and new technology play a huge role in how companies run their businesses and interact with customers. As new technology arises, brands should look for ways to add them to their customer experience to create a fuller experience for employees and customers

Jan 12, 2017

Not everyone loves dealing with banks or credit card companies. Citi Global Cards and its chief customer and digital experience officer, Alice Milligan, are changing that with a customer-centric culture and plans to make the entire credit card process simpler and easier for all customers.

            With so much disruption in the banking world, the focus is definitely on digital and mobile. Citi Global Cards customer experience team members spend a lot of time with customers to make them central throughout the entire strategy. The team focuses on three main areas: how to make it simpler for customers to interact with the company, how to make customers’ lives easier, and how to take away anxiety or pain from customers. Based on detailed research, they realized the three most important things to modern customers:

  1. Ensuring the bank or credit card company is upfront about experience.
  2. Giving customers the tools to be in control of their own banking so they feel empowered and are less skeptical.
  3. Privacy and security. Making sure customers know the company stands behind them and can be trusted with their personal information.

From those key areas, the company discovered how important time is to customers—everyone is busy and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time banking, but they still want the security and convenience. Understanding the customer has been a driving force for improving customer experience—when they realized a main concern of customers was to stop any charges on their card after it was lost or stolen, the company introduced Citi Quick Lock that allows users to quickly lock their card from a mobile app while they look for it. Citi has also been working to empower customers by giving them the tools they need right at their fingertips; at the start of 2016, the company had one-third of its functions available on its mobile app, but by the end of the year it was up to 75% of functions with the rest rolling out soon.

            Citi Global Cards continues to strive to enhance the customer experience by finding new ways to meet customer needs and solve their problems. This includes anything from gamification and rewards programs to developing the messaging and phone systems so that customers can contact the company however they wish and get a quick result no matter which method they use. Alice and her team also keep a strong pulse on the industry by talking to thoughtleaders, going to trade shows, reading, and putting the latest technology and thinking into action in ways that will help their customers.

            The customer experience is more than just putting things in the hands of customers. It’s listening to them and incorporating their convenience and wishes in every step of the process. That’s why customer experience is part of everyone’s job and responsibility across the company, regardless of what department they are in.

            Credit cards and banking might not be areas where customers love to spend their time, but improving the customer experience can lead to great results of satisfied customers.

 

Jan 3, 2017

Collaboration and feedback are two hallmarks of great customer experience, and both are on display at Salesforce. The company’s IdeaExchange is a place for thousands of customers and end users gather to share their feedback and suggestions about the popular software, and it has been wildly successful as it celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

            As IdeaExchange has grown over the years, it has become a very strategic part of how Salesforce runs product management, according to Mike Rosenbaum, EVP of CRM. There are more than 66,000 ideas on the exchange and millions of votes from people expressing their support of certain suggestions. Spirited users even start campaigns to build enthusiasm for their ideas. The suggestions cover everything from design to efficiency and are taken into consideration by the Salesforce team. Mike estimates that one-third of a product management team’s thinking is influence by IdeaExchange. One of the most unique features of the exchange is that it isn’t simply a one-sided suggestion box—it allows customers and employees the chance to start a dialogue and work through issues together. Employees are encouraged to check the site daily for updates and to respond to suggestions. Each suggestion has an associated feed, which allows users to collaborate. Often times, the results from IdeaExchange come more from the collaboration and brainstorming than they do from the initial idea.

            Aside from helping the company hone its product, IdeaExchange also greatly helps the customer experience. It gives customers a chance to voice their opinions and really feel like they are being listened to. Salesforce prides itself on having the strongest community of professionals in enterprise software, and it empowers customers to help the company come up with advances and solutions to programs. Salesforce has spent years developing a community of trailblazers—the people who are known in their individual organizations as Salesforce experts. These trailblazers are a huge asset to the company with their advanced knowledge and feedback. As they interact with product management teams, they can feel better about investing so much of their career into the software.

            IdeaExchange has led to a number of major upgrades for the program. One that was seemingly simple was the suggestion to offer more than three columns in the dashboard display, which quickly became one of the most discussed suggestions. When the upgrade to unlimited columns was announced, Salesforce customers cheered knowing they impacted the change. That change would never have happened without IdeaExchange.

            IdeaExchange benefits both customers and the company by connecting them and building a strong, two-way relationship where customers feel valued. By engaging customers and leaders, Salesforce hopes to be an example to other companies looking to increase customer engagement.

 

 

Dec 27, 2016

Customer experience and the contact center landscape are already in the process of changing dramatically, and change will continue to happen for years to come, according to Ian Jacobs, a senior analyst at Forrester. One of the biggest impacts on contact centers has been the growth of self-service technology. Instead of calling a company with every question, customers now have a variety of resources available to assist them, including chatbots, mobile apps, customer forums, social media, and more. According to Ian, there are two main takeaways from the growth of this technology:

  1. Customers are using self-service technology more, which means that calls coming into contact centers are things that a customer can’t answer on their own. Contact center agents are answering more difficult questions than they have before.
  2. Because customers almost always try to self serve before they call a contact center, traditional contact centers are now escalation channels. Customers calling in are often frustrated because their previous attempts to find answers have been unsuccessful. Agents are handling more difficult situations and are starting at a disadvantage versus where they were even just a few years ago.

 

In response to many of these developments, a growing number of companies are turning towards a concierge approach to customer service. Instead of the traditional tiered approach where simple questions were answered quickly and the more difficult questions were passed on to the experts, many contact centers are following the example of hotel concierges by giving agents the power to follow any question through from start to finish. The concierge approach allows questions to be answered more thoroughly and quickly with better human interaction and is a better fit for more complicated, high-touch customer questions, like what most contact centers are receiving these days. Empowering agents also elevates them in the company and makes them more likely to provide a better customer experience when they are more invested in the company and its customers.

The face of customer service and shopping is definitely changing. As technology continues to grow, companies will be forced to innovate with new ideas to provide a better customer experience. For companies considering adopting new customer service technologies, Ian’s best advice is to start small by testing one area of the technology before expanding it to more applications.

Self-service technology has changed the face of customer experience and can be a great resource for many basic customer questions. By embracing technology and continuing to improve all aspects of the customer experience, companies can see continued growth and success.

Dec 20, 2016

It used to take customers a lot of effort to shop around—they had to drive from store to store to compare prices and spend time looking up reviews in books, magazines, and websites. These days, the power has returned to the customers—they can comparison shop, find reviews, and even purchase a competitor’s product from their smart phone while still standing in your store. If your company is operating under the old assumptions that customers don’t have any power, you are set up to fail, according to Harley Manning, vice president and research director at Forrester. To be successful these days, companies must go through a CX transformation by stepping back and looking at how they operate and then finding ways to engage and empower customers. With CX transformation, companies shift their focus to looking outwards and make customers the center of their business.

            New technology and social networks provide more ways to create a personalized experience for customers. However, to really have customers at the center of your business, you need to know exactly what they want. Companies can no longer simply start a program or roll out robotic personalization in an attempt to appease customers. Instead of thinking of something to personalize because it will create a great experience, companies should focus on creating a great experience and using personalization as one way to reach that goal. Taking the time to truly understand the customer and to know exactly what they want can help align their needs with the goals of your company.

            A major factor in making the transformation successful is getting executives on board. To be effective, executives must be fully engaged and aware of what is happening in their organization. Harley tells the story of a CEO who went undercover to his various stores. At one location, he noticed lots of people were walking out of the store without buying anything and had to walk past an employee smoking outside as they left the store. That employee turned out to be the store manager, who was leaving a bad image in the customers’ minds. By being present and aware, the CEO was able to take ownership of the situation and address the issue from the root cause by improving the hiring and training processes.

            However, many executives tend to dismiss customer experience thinking that it doesn’t directly affect their bottom line. In order to get on board with CX transformation and improving customer experience, executives need to see the direct relationship between increased customer experience and a customer’s likelihood to stay with the company, purchase more products, and recommend it to a friend. By putting money and statistics behind customer experience, executives are more likely to see how creating a strong customer experience can have a monetary reward for a company.

            Customer experience really comes down to putting the customer first and making their needs the center of the company. By getting everyone on board and staying aware of what is happening both inside and outside the company, you can start to enjoy the fruits of CX transformation and a strong customer experience.

Dec 12, 2016

The customer experience is far greater than just what a customer sees when they come into a store or visit a website. According to Peter Horst, former CMO of the Hershey Company, is a person can see it, touch it, hear it, or smell it, then it’s part of the customer experience. From marketing to strategy and everything in between, the customer experience is the totality of the efforts of nearly every branch of an organization. With a clearly defined customer experience ideal, all areas of the company can work to deliver on the goal.

            One of the first steps in creating a strong customer experience is to clearly define and understand the target customer. The levers and methods of customer experience vary greatly across companies and industries, especially when comparing B2B and B2C operations, but a clear understanding of the customer is always central to success. It can be tempting for companies to want to reach everyone with their product, but customer experience starts with a targeted core group of customers before expanding to other groups. With a cohesive target audience in mind, companies can then get a clear picture of their customers’ lives, including discovering what they are purchasing and consuming, why they are purchasing certain items, what they want those products to do, and more. The numbers behind sales and customers are important and can come from a variety of sources, but to truly understand a customer, you also need to connect with them emotionally and unite the quantitative data with qualitative understanding.

            Putting that customer understanding into practice can be a little tricky, especially at Hershey where direct interaction with customers is limited. Hershey sells the majority of its products to retail stores, who then sell it to customers, which means Hershey often can’t see who is ultimately buying the product and how they are using it. However, as more data becomes available, the company is able to connect the dots to see how various forms of media consumption and marketing drive end results.

            No matter if you are selling directly to customers or going through other retailers, the ultimate goal is still the same: to have a high-quality customer experience as the end goal of every aspect of the business. This is often done as various departments work together for the overall goal of the company. At Hershey, a command center that connected the PR team with customer service representatives allowed the company to monitor what people were saying about Hershey is real time and then connect that with customer service insights for a complete view of what is coming in from various sources.

            Customer experience should be the North Star for a company and the guiding force that connects everything about a brand. With a targeted effort and customer understanding, brands in all industries can make that happen.

 

 

 

Dec 6, 2016

As technology grows and customers gain power to play a bigger role in their shopping and purchasing experiences, businesses must also join in the digital transformation.

            According to Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, companies need to invest in a CRM (customer relationship management) platform to have a full, 360-degree view of their customers. Without understanding the evolving customer experience, companies won’t be able to stay connected to customers and compete. In today’s technology-driven world, especially as more companies adopt CRMs, the competitive landscape is defined by customer experience. Anything a company can do to improve that experience, including tapping into new technology resources, can make a huge difference to customers and profits.

            Vala narrowed it down to three keys brands can use in their digital transformations. The first is personalization—customers want a great experience that meets their needs and answers their questions. Similar to how technology like Spotify knows what music a customer likes, the future of business applications will involve other smart programs that can better understand the customers and create an accurate and personal experience based on their history and preferences. The second digital transformation key is immediacy. The growth of mobile has put everything at our fingertips and made customers demand everything quickly and accurately. Companies must take advantage of CRM technology to be able to monitor customer experience in nearly real time and to be accessible and helpful to customers at any moment on any channel. The third key is intelligence. According to Vala, artificial intelligence is the definitive technology for the 21st century, and we’re just at the beginning of realizing what it can do. Without accurate AI, brands can’t achieve mass personalization at scale.

            Digital transformations transition to the brick-and-mortar experience, as well. The lines between a company’s digital and on-site presence are blurring—what really matters to customers is that there is consistency in their experience. A customer should be able to have a very similar experience no matter if they are shopping in person or in store. To ensure that happens, companies should take advantage of digital opportunities within the store and the ability of many programs to unite a customer’s interactions in store and online.

            Each customer has a digital path they take on their journey to making a purchase or interacting with a company. Understanding that path is key to creating the ideal customer experience and competing on value and experience. By taking advantage of new CRM software and other digital resources, companies can transform the customer experience and take it to the next, forward-thinking level.

 

 

 

Nov 29, 2016

What began as an entertainment experience has turned into an innovative way for people to have fun and make memories together. Dave and Buster’s was formed when friends Dave, who ran an arcade, and Buster, who ran a restaurant on the same street, noticed customers going back and forth between their establishments on any given evening. They took a risk to open the first combined food, drink, and arcade establishment and have had great success. Part of the reason for Dave and Buster’s strong growth and reputation is its focus on customer experience. According to president and COO Dolf Berle, Dave and Buster’s is focused on providing an entertaining environment where people can have fun with friends, family, and colleagues and take a break from the stress of everyday life.

            To be successful, Dave and Buster’s is constantly innovating, and it uses metrics to stay on top of customer experience. Using a program called InMoment, Dave and Buster’s tracks a comprehensive array of metrics on everything from a customer’s experience at the bar to their likelihood to return to the arcade. The ultimate goal of the metrics is to gauge customer satisfaction and a customer’s intent to recommend Dave and Buster’s to friends. To get quality results, Dave and Buster’s adds incentives to its survey invitations, usually in the form of a free appetizer or a reduced game card on a person’s next visit. It gets more than 50 surveys per store each week and then combines those metrics to get an overall look at the company.

            Dave and Buster’s looks at trends in the metrics as a way to measure and improve the customer experience. Dolf himself looks at the metrics on a weekly basis to see if guest satisfaction is building over time and if there is any variability between different areas of the establishment that can help him know where to focus the company’s strategic efforts. 

Dave and Buster’s has found that customers who have a better experience have more interactions with the staff, which fuels its corporate culture of fun. From its early days, Dave and Buster’s has focused on making employees an integral part of the customer experience—if the staff is involved and treated better, they are more likely to create a better experience for guests. To put that into action, employees go through a lot of training to help them feel like an important part of the corporate family. Employees also use the metrics provided by InMoment to see where they can improve and how they can better the guest experience.

            As Dave and Buster’s continues to lead the way for innovative entertainment, its focus will always stay on making sure customers have great experiences. With the help of a strong, metrics-driven measurement system, the company will always know exactly where it stands.

 

 

 

 

Nov 21, 2016

Machine learning is a powerful way to access information about your customers in order to personalize the experience to meet their needs. James Staten, chief strategy officer for Microsoft Cloud, works with customers around the world and knows the importance of having a complete picture of how and when customers interact (or don’t interact) with a brand.

            Instead of simply sorting customers into basic groups, machine learning can access huge data sets through the cloud, including data your company might not collect itself, such as social media analytics and information from retailers. The cloud allows users to aggregate huge amounts of data to give instant insights and predictive analysis.

            European soccer team Real Madrid uses these tools to create an amazing customer experience. The team uses machine learning to analyze everyone who comes to their website or connects with them on social media and breaks them into sub-groups. For example, some people are fans of a particular player rather than the whole team, so that sub-group gets messages about player news, uniforms, and appearances. Fans who have never been to a game get information on how to watch the games online and can even get product recommendations based on what team gear they have purchased previously. By breaking their fans into micro-markets, Real Madrid can provide personal experiences to each fan that best meets their needs.

            Another of Microsoft’s cloud clients is a clothing company that uses machine learning to understand how and where customers are buying clothes. The company then uses that data to personalize recommendations and outreach, and the results have been amazing—many targeted customers say they are very impressed with their personalized recommendations.

            Machine learning opens up a new world of customer experience potential. Some brands are even leading the charge of cognitive analytics, which use facial recognition software and security cameras to detect who a customer is when they walk into a store. The system can then provide customer service and sales recommendations to associates in the store.

            However, cloud technology isn’t without its challenges. At the top of the list is dealing with multiple sources of data and turning it into formats that can be analyzed by the right technology. Data needs to be tested for reliability, and not using enough data can lead to incorrect conclusions. However, as machine learning grows and more companies adopt the practice, the challenges should subside.

            If you’re interested in using machine learning, James recommends considering if you have as much information as you can get about your customers. If not, gather data sets from inside and outside the company. Consider also what decisions your company makes that aren’t data driven and try to incorporate data into everything you do. Lastly, think about what you want to know next—there’s likely a machine learning and analytics solution to any problem.

            With innovative technology like the cloud and machine learning, the entire customer experience can be transformed to create a personalized approach with amazing results.

 

Nov 16, 2016

With more than 20 million customers a year, Bridgestone Tires is well verse in customer interactions. The world’s largest tire and rubber company operates more than 2,000 retail stores around the world, as well as an extensive commercial tire business. So how does the company stay on top of the ever-changing world of customer experience, especially with so many customers involved?

            For Phillip Dobbs, CMO of Bridgestone Americas Tires Operations, it starts with knowing the customer. Since tires are something everyone needs at some point, Bridgestone customers fall into numerous personas and can be focused on anything from price to safety. Departments within the organization share their insights and research so everyone, especially marketing, can best understand the customer.

Two of the main areas where Bridgestone focuses on the customer experience are in the store and via social media. Most customer interactions happen in a retail location, so the focus is on creating an experience that answers customers’ questions and is helpful and enjoyable. The customer experience is even a major consideration as marketing function when bring new products to market. Each retail store is given the power to make decisions when working with dissatisfied customers and can generally solve a problem as it sees fit, within the general guidelines of the company. As a whole, Bridgestone has a guarantee to make things right as quickly as possible.

            And although Bridgestone tries for a great customer experience every time, it doesn’t always happen, especially with so many customers. Instead of writing a letter to the CEO like people used to do, customers now take to social media to address their concerns and bad experiences. Bridgestone contracts with a service provider to monitor social media for any potential issues, which it then addresses itself or notifies the proper store or department. In one example, the social media monitoring company saw a tweet from an unhappy customer who was sitting in a Bridgestone waiting area. The company was able to call the store directly and let the manager know about the unhappy customer. The manager came out to talk to the customer and update her on the progress of her service, which greatly improved her experience. As we get immersed in emails and social media, we often lose sight of personal communication, which can be one of the most valuable customer service skills. Bridgestone also takes a proactive marketing approach on social media, especially when it comes to building brand loyalty and partnering with other organizations.

            At Bridgestone, maintaining loyal customers and developing new customers is a constant discussion. To do this, the company stays focused on the future of the customer experience and the role technology can play. By being strategic in which systems and technologies it uses, the company can maintain a great customer experience in the most efficient ways possible.

Nov 8, 2016

Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Express Canada, knows the importance of customer experience. As a leader of more than 6,000 employees, her goal is to help them deliver the best possible customer service solutions. Meeting customer expectations wins business, but exceeding expectations leads to customer loyalty, which is the ultimate goal of FedEx Canada, even in the changing world of customer experience.

There have no doubt been changes in how we work, especially in the shipping business, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is still the customer experience. To stay on top on current trends and new technology, companies need to be constantly aware of the customer experience they are providing. It can be tempting to implement new tactics quickly, such as apps and mobile programs, but if they don’t match or exceed the current customer experience, they should go back to the drawing board. The growth of e-commerce and social media has greatly changed how many customers interact with brands due to their increased amount of online shopping and the ability to get goods around the world. Brands who embrace customer experience, like FedEx Canada, know that customers want to communicate with companies in their method of choice, which is why many companies have seen huge growth in chatting and other online communication.

One of the reasons FedEx Canada has been so successful in exceeding customer expectations is because of their corporate culture. Lisa spends much of her time interacting with employees because she believes a good leader has to get out from behind the desk and burn shoe leather. Many of her best ideas come from interacting with employees and going out on sales calls with customers. Employees are more likely to be motivated to build customer loyalty and have a great experience when they are invested in the company and feel valued. Because FedEx Canada employees feel they are part of the team through trust and respect, they deliver on impeccable service to customers. FedEx Canada gives every employee a “toolbox” they can use to give employees a great experience. Building off the culture is an internal program called the Purple Promise. Posters cover the company’s call centers reminding employees to make every FedEx experience outstanding for the customers as a way to build loyalty.

            Companies that are successful at evolving with the customer experience spend a lot of time and resources measuring their success because they know they live and die by the customer experience. At FedEx Canada, that involves periodically gathering employee representatives from all areas of the customer experience and talking about what can be done in each area to improve the process. Those meetings help management see the entire process and empower employees to do whatever it takes to please the customer.

            Lisa proudly tells the story of an employee who responded to a call from a customer whose package had been lost with special baby formula. When the employee saw the package was in transit but that the customer needed it right away, she called health food stores in the area until she found the formula, then purchased it on her own credit card and arranged for expedited delivery to the customer’s home that evening.

            By empowering employees and making the customer experience a vital part of your corporate culture, you can be prepared for industry changes and continue to create exemplary customer experiences.

 

 

 

 

Nov 3, 2016

The consumer experience is transforming, and technology is at the center of it all. One company leading the way is health insurance provider Humana. There are a lot of options to focus on with the customer experience, but according to Geeta Wilson, director of customer experience at Humana, the company looks for where it can make the biggest impact first—by using technology to deliver a better experience to the customers. Humana breaks down its interactions with customers into two categories: assisted and unassisted. Assisted service is when a person needs help to answer their question or perform their task. This is usually done on a phone call or via a chat experience. Unassisted service is when a customer can get the answers they need without any intervention from a customer service representative. To streamline the process and help customers to have a good experience on their own terms, Humana is turning to artificial intelligence. The new Ask Humana tool helps customers get the answers they need by using an online tool similar to a live chat. However, instead of chatting with a human, customers are communicating with a machine that uses trends and previous knowledge to provide the right answers. One area where artificial intelligence tends to lack is with emotional connectivity. Humana has been working on building a better emotional experience by mimicking the connectivity customers have when talking to and chatting with real customer service representatives. There are a number of challenges involved with artificial intelligence, including making sure the information is updated and accurate, that the experience meets customer satisfaction levels, and that the program meets the company’s success metrics. What sets Humana apart in its quest to better the human experience is its approach. The company is focused on finding solutions through rapid experimentation to test their hypotheses. Once a hypothesis is found true, they continue to build on it. Humana starts broad to go narrow by framing the problem, making sure the team has a strong understanding of it, and then framing an experiment to test a solution for the problem. Because artificial intelligence is such an unknown area, the company is in uncharted territory and works to lay out the assumptions and let the results speak. To prove the technology, Humana relies on a number of metrics, including a unique emotional score. Because customers make 70% of their decisions with an emotional response, Humana uses a CPS-style approach to measuring emotion in AI interaction. The company has found that as emotional metrics improve, so do their other success metrics like overall satisfaction and the length of the call. As technology continues to develop, the customer experience will evolve out of necessity. Geeta predicts that advanced machines will be able to analyze data quickly, providing for improved automated processes and customized interactions with customers. Artificial intelligence is just one way that is happening.with customers. Artificial intelligence is just one way that is happening.

Oct 11, 2016

Kerry Bodine believes that happy customers lead to happy shareholders. Her book, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, helps business leaders understand the financial benefits of great customer experiences—and how their organizations must change in order to deliver them.

In 2014, she founded Kerry Bodine & Co., a customer experience consultancy focused on customer journey mapping and experience design. She’s also a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and private corporate events around the world.

Kerry’s ideas, analysis, and opinions have appeared on sites like The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, USA Today, and Advertising Age. She contributes a regular column to Touchpoint, the journal published by the global Service Design Network.

Kerry spent seven years with the customer experience practice at Forrester Research. As vice president and principal analyst, she led Forrester’s research on customer experience design and innovation. She was also the creative force behind the customer experience ecosystem, a framework that helps companies diagnose and fix customer problems at their roots.

In previous roles, Kerry managed consumer research teams; guided the design of websites, mobile apps, and branded social networks; designed interfaces for robots and wearable devices; and, in 1995, developed a Web-based social shopping prototype for AT&T Bell Labs. In addition to her design background, she has completed stints as both a management consultant and an advertising executive.

Kerry holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.

Oct 3, 2016

There's a lot you might not know about ACE Hardware - for example did you know the world's largest Ace Hardware store is in Indonesia and is 160K square feet? This global company—known as #TheHelpfulPlace—has focus on service you can’t ignore. The service focus in addition to specialty items and authentic 1:1 experiences is their best weapon against competitors such as Amazon. The company is much bigger than you might realize – it has 85,000 employees and over 4800 stores.

ACE Hardware as of 2016 has been ranked by J.D. Power as the highest in customer satisfaction with home improvement for ten years straight. Their CEO John Venhuizen talked to me in this Modern Customer Podcast about what makes them so successful. Whether it’s trusting the locally owned Ace businesses to cater to their local communities or a less than in your face approach to social media marketing, the company maintains a service-oriented approach throughout. Listen to this podcast with ACE Hardware's CEO to learn:

What’s the CEOs role in shaping customer experiences

How does ACE Hardware remain competitive against Amazon

What is ACE Hardware’s approach to social customer service

Sep 27, 2016

Dan Roam will always be your most interesting dinner party guest, not just because he will explain complicated topics to you on the back of a napkin. For years he has been espousing the benefits of communicating through simple images. He broke ground with this bestselling book Back Of The Napkin, and has recently released a new book called Draw To Win: A Crash Course On How To Lead, Sell and Innovate With Your Visual Mind. In the book Roam provides the tools necessary to thrive visually, using step-by-step diagrams and easy-to-master lessons that will make you an expert in communication and creativity. Think this isn’t relevant for customer experience professionals? Think again! Simplifying content for customers should be priority number one for every brand. Gone are the days when customers had the attention span for long wordy documents explaining terms of service, how-to content, or self-help guides. Learn from Roam what you can be doing to improve your customer communication through images. An internationally bestselling author and the founder of the Napkin Academy, the world’s first online visual-thinking training program, Roam has helped leaders at Microsoft, Boeing, eBay, Kraft, The US Navy, Senate and many more solve complex problems with simple pictures. You won’t want to miss this episode of The Modern Customer Podcast.

 

More About Our Sponsor Plantronics:

Plantronics offers one of the industry's most complete families of corded and wireless products for unified communications. Widely recognized for their sound quality, reliability and comfort, Plantronics' audio solutions help companies extend the benefits of IP communications throughout the extended enterprise, fostering better business communication and efficiency regardless of where professionals are working.
https://www.plantronics.com/us/company/

Sep 20, 2016

How important is it to organize your data around your customer? It turns out that variation in customer demographics can be a powerful thing, and you want to make sure you are taking that diversity of customer into account when building customer programs. Today on the Modern Customer Podcast Zoher Karu ebay’s Chief Data Officer talks about the importance treating different customers differently. He recommends integrating different internal and external data elements together and explains the art and science behind understanding customers. At eBay Karu believes every customer is different and your customer strategy should reflect that. Learn more in this episode of The Modern Customer Podcast.  

Zoher Karu is Vice President and Chief Data Officer at eBay where he works to drive more personal and relevant experiences on eBay Marketplace properties. Prior to joining eBay, Zoher served as Vice President of Marketing Analytics and Insight at Sears, leading efforts to drive customer behavior, loyalty and growth, both in-store and on-line. Zoher holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. 

More About Our Sponsor Plantronics:

Plantronics offers one of the industry's most complete families of corded and wireless products for unified communications. Widely recognized for their sound quality, reliability and comfort, Plantronics' audio solutions help companies extend the benefits of IP communications throughout the extended enterprise, fostering better business communication and efficiency regardless of where professionals are working.
https://www.plantronics.com/us/company

Sep 12, 2016

Peter Strebel serves as chief marketing officer and senior vice president of sales responsible for creating and driving innovative branding, communications, marketing and business development strategies to increase awareness, capture market share and build revenue for the brand. Strebel stewards Omni’s centers of excellence including revenue management, global sales, e-commerce, customer loyalty, reservations and call center, branding, advertising, communications, web and digital marketing and market research. Previously, Strebel was the senior vice

president of operations and oversaw the development of brand-wide property standards, guest rooms and other operational areas for the brand’s growing convention collection and resort portfolio. He also worked directly to support Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, Omni Nashville Hotel, Omni Parker House, Omni Berkshire Place, The Omni Homestead Resort and The Omni Grove Park Inn.

A long-term Omni veteran, Strebel rejoined Omni in 2009 as area managing director and general manager of the Omni Berkshire Place. In his role as area managing director, he oversaw all marketing, sales and operational aspects of Omni properties in the Northeast. During his previous tenure at Omni, he had a successful 10-year career in sales and marketing positions of increasing responsibility, ultimately leading to his appointment as vice president of sales and marketing.

What You Will Learn In This Podcast:

  • How Omni Hotels differentiates itself with so many disruptions coming to hospitality How customer experience is defined at Omni Hotels
  • Who drives customer experience at Omni Hotels
  • How is customer service organized at Omni Hotels

More About Our Sponsor Plantronics:

Plantronics offers one of the industry's most complete families of corded and wireless products for unified communications. Widely recognized for their sound quality, reliability and comfort, Plantronics' audio solutions help companies extend the benefits of IP communications throughout the extended enterprise, fostering better business communication and efficiency regardless of where professionals are working.
https://www.plantronics.com/us/company/

Sep 6, 2016

The role of the Chief Customer Officer is not an age-old role. It’s a unique new role that’s set up differently at every organization. One example comes from MetLife who has seasoned industry executive Claire Burns running customer strategy. Burns serves as the Chief Customer Officer for MetLife which covers 110 million customers and 65K employees. The global company has an extensive and diverse product and distribution channels. Burns leads transformational change – tasked with shifting from a product centric corporate strategy to a customer centric corporate strategy. Burns, reporting to the CMO, has a “matrixed” managed team of 50 change agents around the world who are responsible for implementing these customer-centric programs.  Burns’ task is aligning the entire company around the customer. She helps the company decide what kinds of products they need to create. Burns also evaluated what services are going well and what ones aren’t. She ensures the company is treating its customers as an asset—helping the broader organization gain clarity with their priorities and ensure they align.

More About Our Sponsor Plantronics:

Plantronics offers one of the industry's most complete families of corded and wireless products for unified communications. Widely recognized for their sound quality, reliability and comfort, Plantronics' audio solutions help companies extend the benefits of IP communications throughout the extended enterprise, fostering better business communication and efficiency regardless of where professionals are working.
https://www.plantronics.com/us/company/

 

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