The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, digital transformation, and the future. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience futurist Blake Morgan and author of the new book The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow's Business. The show features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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Dec 23, 2015

Kevan Gammage is senior manager for MailChimp’s social and Pro support teams. After joining MailChimp’s support team as an agent in 2013, he now helps manages the company’s overall support strategy and shapes the way agents communicate with Pro customers and users through social channels every day.

Dec 14, 2015

We're at a crossroads in education. There is an increasing gap between the skills that are in demand in the workforce, and modern day education. It simply is not making the cut. Even though the education system today is largely an old machine, sometimes you come upon stories that give you hope. Enter Paulina Raguimov, a young creative gamer who at the age of 16 applied for an internship at JumpStart--a well-known game company--got the internship and ended up pitching a concept for a new game to the CEO, and getting that game produced. Now at the age of 20 Raguimov continues to do cutting edge work at JumpStart and finds time in her busy schedule to mentor younger people as well. Raguimov took the road less travelled by skipping college (so far) and wants to provide information and resources to others like her in school who don't know exactly what they wanted to be when they grow up. Raguimov has generated a lot of attention already with features in TechCrunch and Huffington Post. I have met Paulina Raguimov many times and am happy to have had the opportunity to share her story with Forbes listeners.

What You Will Learn In This Podcast:

  • Learn how a young person can navigate the waters of tech and seek gateway opportunities early on
  • Learn about why young girls benefit from going into gaming
  • Hear tips from Raguimov on how to generate opportunities with tech companies

For more on Paulina Raguimov follow her on Twitter @PollyRag or LinkedIn here. 

Dec 7, 2015

Darren Pleasance leads the Global Customer Acquisitions team for Google, dedicated to driving Google's growth in the global SMB space across a diverse set of countries and industries. In this capacity,he’s responsible for guiding Sales, Marketing, Market Intelligence and Support teams globally to attract small and mid-sized businesses to Google's many services. His goal is to make businesses aware of how Google's services can help them succeed and to provide the highest quality on-boarding experience in the industry. In his previous role as a leader in McKinsey and Company's North American Marketing & Sales Practice, and the founder and co-leader of McKinsey's global Small- and Medium-sized Business (SMB) practice, he specialized in helping senior executives in their efforts to build high-performing sales, marketing, and support channels for serving SMB customers. He serves on the board of the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California and on the board of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Nov 30, 2015

In 2006 I was working at a conference company and I wanted to book Brian Solis as a speaker because he was the foremost thought leader on the topic of social media. Almost ten years later and Solis continues to be on the forefront of digital innovation.

Solis, the Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group has recently published his new book X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. He joined me for the Modern Customer Podcast to share more of his ideas and inspirations for his book.

Solis says companies that compete on an experiential level can charge higher prices, generate and retain more customers and overall outperform companies that focus on shareholder value.

Solis says we live in a time where there’s a confluence of technology and innovation that has an effect on societies. The idea of a brand is not what it used to be. Today’s brand is created and strengthened by visuals, images and business infrastructures. Additionally the modern brand now becomes a piece of someone else.

In the podcast Solis also says we’re becoming an accidentally narcissistic society – a brand has to be relevant, understand who the consumer is and who that consumer wants to be. A brand has to become a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Experiences according to Solis are the new brand.

Today we need experience architects not brand architects. Solis says a brand is measured in what he calls “expressions,” not impressions.

Why is Apple the most innovative brand in the world? According to Solis it’s because Apple thinks strategically about experience architecture. Companies today need to think about experience architecture at every point across the organization just like Apple does. 

However the problem today is companies get caught up in quarterly pressures—it takes disruption or an influential change agent to make the case to do something different.

Very few companies are thinking and acting about what Solis calls the “x” factor.

If companies don’t innovate, they risk their business. For example Uber took the taxi industry because the taxi industry stopped innovating (or never really did). They stopped competing for relevance. Measuring success by impressions, conversions, sales, projections and revenue destroys the customer experience.

To add insult to injury Solis says we use technology to get further and further from people. The biggest opportunity for innovation looks at how we fight for relevance.

One example is Airbnb. Solis shares the story of Brian Chesky who read a book by Walt Disney and was influenced by the idea of storyboarding. Chesky brought in a Pixar artist to lead Airbnb through a storyboarding process to understand the different types of Airbnb hosts. He looked at different customer profiles as well. They took all the data from the customer and the host side and found friction—room for improvement. They then storyboarded out a new story—one for hosts and one for customers. Airbnb came up with their new logo, new positioning in the market and built a new community for their hosts (including an entire conference specifically for hosts too). We know how the story with Airbnb unfolds—they’ve achieved massive success.

From Solis’ interview it’s clear that by understanding the customer experience your brand can accelerate customer acquisition and retention.

Don’t miss our podcast where you hear from Solis what gives company the “x” factor! 

Follow @BrianSolis on Twitter


Nov 20, 2015

You might be surprised to hear that this week on Playboy’s website you won’t find nudes, but rather an article reading “Real Men Make Their Own Thanksgiving Pie Crust.” You will no longer find articles tweeted from their website with the hashtag #NSFW (meaning not safe for work). Playboy is now entirely safe for work. Playboy has been on a transformative “journey” for two years and recently announced something that hit the front page of the New York Times, the removal of nudity from the magazine

This week’s Modern Customer Podcast guest is SVP of Marketing and Digital Media at Playboy Robin Zucker.

Under Zucker’s leadership the magazine has achieved tremendous growth with the highly coveted millennial demographic. Playboy had a social audience of 11 million users when Zucker joined. They saw they were reaching a younger audience—and that audience was engaged. The Playboy digital team thought about their future strategy and considered the notion that nudity no longer had a role in the direction of the magazine. They started a discussion with the Playboy leadership board December 2013, and in August 2014 they launched as “a safe for work” lifestyle site. They had five million unique visitors in July 2014 and by December 2015 had 20 million unique visitors. They average in now at 16 million users a month. This brand turnaround and staggering growth is not easily achieved. 

If you’re interested in engaging millennials with lifestyle content, the Playboy case study is one you’ll want to hear about. In January 2014 the average age of the Playboy audience member was 47 but by August 2015 the average age was 30 years old. Additionally Playboy’s social media presence grew from 11m to 29m. 

The reason Playboy decided to pull nudes was they talked to consumers and advertisers and realized nudity was just a distraction for them. Nudity is provocative but not the same level as it was in 1953. There’s no shortage of nudity today around the web from a digital perspective. They realized this and broke from their long-standing tradition of nudity. 

As a sidenote did you know Playboy magazine was the seed for many things such as the film Hurt Locker? The film was inspired an article about one of the bomb experts, Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver entitled, “The Man in the Bomb Suit,” published in September 2005. You might be surprised to learn that in the past Playboy has published famous author of fiction Margaret Atwood. Learn more about Playboy’s digital journey in this week’s Modern Customer Podcast.

More about podcast guest Robin Zucker:

As Playboy's Senior Vice President Marketing of Digital Media, Robin leads the marketing for this iconic brand’s newly launched digital media properties. Playboy recently earned the recognition of Top 15 Social Brand. Before joining Playboy Robin led and created digital marketing strategy for leaders in the digital space demonstrating a proven track record of working on emerging digital platforms and translating them into meaningful business results. At Yahoo!, Robin was the Head of Social Marketing. During her tenure she built out social marketing as a key marketing channel for the Yahoo’s digital marketing mix. She worked across the teams on products and properties to integrate social strategies. In addition, while at Yahoo!, she held several roles to build advertiser and publisher relationships, with direct impact on multi-million dollar revenue streams. Robin started her digital career at Netscape where she built foundation for a multi-million dollar per year advertising business. Robin received her MBA from The Anderson School at University of California, Los Angeles. She has been recognized by the Internet Advertising Bureau with a Service Excellence Award for their Paid, Owned, Earned Media initiative. Robin lives in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California with her family.

Robin Zucker on Twitter and Instagram.

For more content and customer experience content stay in touch with Blake Morgan weekly via her newsletter.

Nov 13, 2015

Customer service will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about how to improve your products and services. This is the beauty of customer data—but more importantly how are you acting on that customer data? On-demand parking and valet services company Luxe Valet is an example of a cool new company that makes customer data a priority. They actually do something with it. They are also interesting because they are so committed to the customer experience they see the value in having more influence over their contract employees and the experience those employees deliver to customers. They’ve given their contractors full time status. This is a big deal in a time where many companies such as Uber and Lyft are still dealing with the courts over whether they have to give their contract employees the benefits that full time employees get.

This week’s Modern Customer podcast guest is Eva Khoo Senior Director of Operations of Luxe Valet. For Khoo it’s about being able to really train and focus on the customer experience. One of the ways Luxe Valet enhances this is a required valet shift, where everyone from corporate headquarters has to act as a valet themselves.

Luxe Valet raised 25 million in two rounds from 36 investors. Khoo was part of that process and she remarks that investors want to know “is your service solving a problem and how big is that problem?”

Commuting is a big problem. According to the National Household Travel Survey, US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics almost 76% of commuters drive alone to work and 18 million of those commuters are driving from the suburb to the city. More than three million commuters drive almost an hour or more to work each way every day. That’s without looking for parking—and if you’ve ever driven into San Francisco (like I have) you know what a nightmare that is.

Luxe Valet has partnered with parking lots all over cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Austin and New York. It’s good for the customer and good for the flow of traffic.

From a customer experience perspective Luxe’s story is compelling because of their detailed attention to the customer experience. As a result they have a very high customer loyalty rate with the average customer using their service twice a week.

Luxe tracks customer issues and focuses on root causes to solve the feedback loop with customers. They use Salesforce’s and have a continuous feedback loop with their internal product team. This means they are actually taking customer issues back to internal employees such as engineers to fix any problems. Many companies do not do this—it sets Luxe apart and drives their product quality.

Luxe has a strong customer engagement strategy making it very easy for customers to get in touch with them. Customers within the Luxe app can call, text, tweet (or other social media) or email support. Podcast guest Khoo says Luxe wants engagement to be as absolutely easy as possible for customers.

Data has brought to light recurring issues and opportunities for Luxe. For example sometimes they’ll release a product and they use data to uncover early issues with the product. They use this data to make the offering more fluid and intuitive. They use data to understand what drives customer service volumes. So many companies skip the step of looking at high volumes on specific FAQs and asking themselves what they could proactively do to make that volume go down.

Luxe also uses data for ideation. For example Luxe noticed customers wanted to leave their cars in the city overnight because they wanted to do things like go to happy hour on a Thursday and take the train home (especially if they’d been drinking). Luxe figured that out and as a result came up with a service that drives the car all the way home for the customer—so the customer can enjoy a a cocktail out with friends and get home safely (Luxe also donates money regularly to Mothers Against Drunk Driving - MADD).

If you’ve read my previous columns you know I believe customer experience in the sharing economy as a whole can be challenging. Customer experience is incredibly varied with companies like Uber, Airbnb or Instacart.

According to Khoo customer experience is especially challenging in the world of the sharing economy—but more specifically on-demand services--because you’re dealing with issues in real-time and you’re “held to the same standards as everyone else.” Also your window of customer engagement has shrunk. Luxe doesn’t look at customers as “just transactions.” According to Khoo they are in it for the long haul and empower their team to make every customer experience a delightful one.

Now they offer car washing and gas refueling and Khoo believes there is a lot of potential in the future to expand in the on-demand space. At the end of the day Luxe Valet can impact urban planning—parking lots take up valuable real estate.

Khoo is inspired by Jack Welch who says that winning is the company’s social responsibility. Winning and making the company successful is Khoo’s goal for Luxe.

More about podcast guest Eva Khoo:

Eva Khoo is the Senior Director of Operations for Luxe, an on-demand parking and valet services app headquartered in San Francisco. In her role, Eva manages the company’s nationwide operations, overseeing live ops, logistics and customer support.

Prior to Luxe, Eva was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs where she advised companies within the firm’s Technology, Media, and Telecom practice. Her primary responsibilities included the execution of M&A and financing transactions for software and networking companies. She also worked at Peninsula Capital Management, an investment fund headquartered in San Francisco.

Eva holds an MBA from The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and a BA from University of California, Berkeley.

Follow her on Twitter at @EvaKhoo.

Check out the Luxe app here.


Nov 8, 2015

I can personally imagine a world where I can get anything whenever I want it. Can't you? In 2015 we've seen a proliferation of successful on-demand companies whether it’s Shoes of Prey where you can design and order your own shoes or Blue Apron that delivers pre-determined ingredients so a consumer can make themselves the perfect meal.

Even airports realize on-demand and no fuss services makes for happy customers and big profits. For example recently on a layover at Newark International Airport I ordered a turkey wrap from an ipad and only interacted with a person who wanted to see the proof that I had paid--they then handed me my wrap. The entire Newark International Airport is littered with ipads. It's eerie that there are very few humans actually working at the restaurants at all. But it's a taste of the future. In fact being able to order what we want when we want it is the future of consumerism. Today it's becoming easier than ever to get our preferences delivered to us directly whether we're at a fast food restaurant at an airport, or even at work or at home.

I can personally imagine a world where I can get anything whenever I want it. Can't you? In 2015 we've seen a proliferation of successful on-demand companies whether it’s Shoes of Prey where you can design and order your own shoes or Blue Apron that delivers pre-determined ingredients so a consumer can make themselves the perfect meal.

Even airports realize on-demand and no fuss services makes for happy customers and big profits. For example recently on a layover at Newark International Airport I ordered a turkey wrap from an ipad and only interacted with a person who wanted to see the proof that I had paid--they then handed me my wrap. The entire Newark International Airport is littered with ipads. It's eerie that there are very few humans actually working at the restaurants at all. But it's a taste of the future. In fact being able to order what we want when we want it is the future of consumerism. Today it's becoming easier than ever to get our preferences delivered to us directly whether we're at a fast food restaurant at an airport, or even at work or at home.

Devaraj Southworth 01

Earlier this year in her “Internet Trends” report, American venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst Mary Meeker highlighted various “just-in-time” companies, mostly from the sharing economy, however there is a growing interest in on-demand companies of all kinds—even liquor. Mary Meeker cites a few reasons why on-demand services have taken off in the last few years that include, “smartphone adoption, mobile payment platforms and social authentication." Additionally the way millennials prefer to work--and the on-demand work suits millennials.  The same report argues that changes in connectivity and commerce impacts the ways people can work, but it’s still early in the game.

So now we have a proliferation of social networks, we have a proliferation of content sites, but we don’t have a ton of brands that marry both. How about companies that bring back-stories to whatever it is they help you create?

There is a large maker movement happening today where people want to create their own stuff. Just because we can get anything pre-packaged or set up doesn’t mean we (especially millennials) like it that way. While some in the “Maker Movement” might be only referring to 3d printing or tools to make technology and robots, it also speaks to a growing interest in returning to creating all kinds of stuff--at home. These stories and content build community and create a direct connection to whatever it is you build-with the ingredients provided to you by the on-demand company. I won’t go so far as to call this a “back to the land” movement but I will say people are interested in doing things that come with a story—that have special meaning—that takes a certain amount of personal effort.  According to TIME Magazine there are approximately 135 million U.S. adults who are makers, and the overall market for 3D printing products and various maker services hit $2.2 billion in 2012. That number is expected to reach $6 billion by 2017 and $8.41 billion by 2020. In a sense the on-demand market can be seen as parallel to the idea of the maker movement. Some of the smartest companies are not only building a following with an on-demand product and services model, they’re also building wildly imaginative stories that accompany these ingredients. They're empowering consumers to create their own imaginative things.

For example, it’s possible that for my next cocktail party I will go on Pinterest, find a recipe I like and then head to the store to buy the various liquors, juices and sodas. However, what if you could find the recipe and have the alcohol delivered to you? What if that recipe was created by your favorite mixologist? This is precisely why the new on-demand liquor company Thirstie has had a ton of early success.

On-Demand Services For Millennials Are About Much More Than Speed

Devaraj Southworth--CEO of on-demand alcohol company Thirstie--believes catering to the millennial is about much more than speed of delivery. With Thirstie it’s about engaging the customer on a higher level, not speed. For Thirstie it’s about educating the consumer on what the product is about. What can you make at home with the product?

They’ve put emphasis on not just a marketing platform to deliver the consumer the bottles of alcohol ordered in under an hour, but they focus on the content and community part of it. They launched The Craft on their main website—an editorial platform, in June 2015. The time spent on the Thirstie site went from 20 seconds to 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Clearly the millennial wants to learn about what they can make and what they can do on a hyper local level.

According to Southworth, Thirstie believes in educating the consumer at the right time and the right place. In studies conducted by the company consumers want to feel “in the know” about trends. For example a trendy mixologist at a restaurant in Harlem, born in Australia--that was a producer of an amazing tequila--might guest post on their content site The Craft. Then the company Thirstie will deliver all the ingredients so readers can replicate the same cocktail recipe from that mixologist. Thirstie said adding recipes to their app increased engagement by 70 percent.

Thirstie is growing 35 percent month over month. According to Southworth they "don’t want to be in 100 cities with 1000 retail partners—they’re moving slowly in a thoughtful way."

Listen to our podcast for more from Devaraj Southworth.

More about Devaraj Southworth:

Devaraj Southworth is the CEO and Co-Founder of Thirstie, a leading national on-demand liquor, wine, and beer delivery company with a content driven commerce platform. Devaraj has been a leader in business, online media and mobile technology for close to 20 years, and is a serial entrepreneur with a number of successful ventures to his name.

Prior to Thirstie, Devaraj built a digital agency to over $10M in sales, sold the Creative Services BU to an Inc. 500 Company, was a VP of Mobile Strategy for Amex, and is a former Deloitte and Accenture Strategy consultant. Devaraj studied Organizational Psychology and Investigative Journalism at Ohio Wesleyan.

Oct 30, 2015

According to Tim Joyce, Chief Innovation Officer of Xerox Customer Care, business success stories during the past 100 years were primarily about products. He says that now we're moving towards a world where success and value propositions will be based on service. Of course we'll still need products, but he says our purchases will be more about the services wrapped around them. Consumers will be permanently connected to sophisticated help desks that watch and anticipate customer needs.

Joyce believes that technology in the future will make customer’s lives much better—and he doesn’t see technology replacing humans. Much like the people who at IBM run Watson, he believes technology will enhance the customer’s experience. Technology will eventually even prevent customers from having to contact customer care at all. Perhaps our products will talk to us and fix themselves for us.

He says human agents will still be in the mix but their role will be very different from what it is today. People who run customer experience will still manage the brand's customer care architecture, drawing upon trends highlighted by their virtual counterpart, to maintain the feedback loop and action the necessary changes to better serve customers and better reflect the values of the brand. It'll be their job to ensure their virtual counterpart behaves and evolves appropriately, so that every customer experience is seamless. In this podcast we talk about this and much more.

More about podcast guest Tim Joyce:

Tim Joyce is the Chief Innovation Officer for Xerox Customer Care.

Tim believes that the relationship between consumers and brands will change radically as artificial intelligence systems roll out. In this rapidly changing landscape, innovators will thrive and laggards will suffer.

Tim was educated in Oxford and Durham where he studied Computing and Mathematics. In the early days of the web, he was an ecommerce specialist, pioneering online shopping in the UK. At Xerox he has lead software development, solutions, product and research functions, and now heads innovation. He is a strong believer in -- and has published several papers on -- Agile and Lean, and brings these disciplines to every engagement. Tim is passionate about building innovative software products and solutions that deliver a fantastic user experience. He lives on the Jurassic Coast in Poole, U.K., with his wife Jenny and 3 girls. In his spare time, he enjoys sailing, cycling and playing chess.

More posts from Tim Joyce:

Five Products with Embedded Customer Care

Seats Plus Software: The New Model For Customer Care

Oct 23, 2015

Today customers want products and services when and where they want them. Not only is timing and delivery key, but customers want to design their own experiences. Customers want the comfort and ease of ordering things via the web, but they want the option to create something that is specific to their tastes. 

That said, Shoes Of Prey, a website where you can order your own shoes, is becoming one of the hottest new trends. Partnered now with Nordstrom, Shoes Of Prey creates an in-store retail experience so customers can touch and feel the various fabrics and try on different looks, but the entire process is done via the web. It can be said the sharing economy has been so successful not just because of the diverse and authentic offerings, but also the ease with which you can order something on demand. Retail stores have complicated inventory processes. They can’t figure out a way to plan for variation in products or services. We’re used to on-demand software, we order books effortlessly on Amazon that are instantly downloaded to our device, but the idea of mass custom made products has yet to take off. People got very excited by the idea of 3d printers where you could print your own plastic figurine, chocolate or even custom limb—but this trend has slowed down. After all how many people have 3d printers in their homes? Not many.

Today Shoes Of Prey is limited to women’s shoes, however you can imagine how a company like Shoes of Prey would expand its on-demand services. Today the company that can bring the most tailored authentic products and experiences to the masses will win. These are the experiences today’s consumers seek. This week on the modern customer podcast we feature Jodi Fox Co-founder and Chief Evangelist at - the world's first website where women can design their own shoes.

Started just 4 years ago, Shoes of Prey broke even at 2 months, hit multi-million dollar revenue in under 2 years and today is a global multi-million dollar enterprise. She’s also co-founder of - an online optical fashion store focused on the Australian market.

Jodie's creativity and passion is directed into guiding both companies product and communications. She was Telstra's 2011 business woman of the year for private and corporate, one of the top 30 most influential women in Australian retail 2014, one of the top 10 Australian female entrepreneurs for 2014 and a finalist for the 2014 InStyle Audi Woman of Style awards.

She is a banking and finance lawyer by trade who explored the world of advertising before starting her own businesses.

Oct 15, 2015

national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is a network of four art museums), Beatrice Burrows, Digital Marketing Officer for Tate, and Robin Zucker, the SVP of Digital for Playboy.

The panel focused on four areas that include:

  • Omni Channel Advertising
  • Challenges in Creating Content for Different Demographics
  • Social Media Challenges
  • How the Rise of Digital Mobile Marketing Effect Consumer Behavior


What happens when you bring together a publisher, a museum institution and a consultant? A lot of talk about engaging customer experiences, content strategy and stand-out social media examples. At the Los Angeles based Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in September Playboy, Tate and I met to do a panel on "Engaging Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives."

The panelists were: Maria Pavlou the Digital Communications Officer for Tate (the Tate is an institution that houses the United Kingdom's national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is a network of four art museums), Beatrice Burrows, Digital Marketing Officer for Tate, and Robin Zucker, the SVP of Digital for Playboy.

The panel focused on four areas that include:

  • Omni Channel Advertising
  • Challenges in Creating Content for Different Demographics
  • Social Media Challenges
  • How the Rise of Digital Mobile Marketing Effect Consumer Behavior

We talked at length about how important experiences are when marketing to millennials. For example did you know that 3 in four millennials would prefer to purchase an experience over buying a product? In the panel we also address the difficulty of social media marketing and how to do it well. We provide fun examples of really good content strategies in addition to drawing from our own companies. For example we discuss this GoPro video campaign - a fantastic example of how to inspire and engage.

Tate is doing some very cutting edge work to engage their audiences. Did you know they encourage people to take selfies with the art? They are doing fantastic work with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook--and soon Snapchat.

Playboy Magazine is an established brand with a growing digital footprint. Did you know Playboy Magazine is an esteemed literary publication having been the seed for many things such as the film Hurt Locker? The film was inspired an article about one of the bomb experts, Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver entitled, "The Man in the Bomb Suit", published in September 2005. Playboy has also published Margaret Atwood one of my all-time favorite literary geniuses. Playboy is a lifestyle brand and publisher that recently made news announcing it will no longer feature nudes in its publication. 

I personally thoroughly enjoyed moderating this panel and I hope you enjoy listening. Please see the player for the modern customer podcast below.

Check out our panel in this podcast audio.

Oct 9, 2015

While every department needs a strong leader within the company, it can be said that customer experience needs an exceptionally strong leader. The reason being it’s not always intuitive for companies to invest in strong customer experience programs. Much of the budget goes to marketing or product or sales. That said, on the modern customer podcast this week we feature customer experience leader Leyla Seka.

You might know the name Seka because she was a key influence on Marc Benioff’s decision to make equal pay for women a priority at Salesforce, a Fortune 500 company. She was integral to the Women’s Leadership Summit this year at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference. Whether it’s conveying Dolly Parton’s lessons about customer service or talking about empathy, Seka has a fresh and imaginative perspective on business that’s infectious. In this podcast we hear leading ideas on modern customer experience, an exclusive look into Seka’s views on career and much much more.

Seka is a leader in the customer experience industry serving as SVP and General Manager of, Salesforce's all-in-one customer service app for fast-growing companies such as Yelp, SnapChat, Munchery, Bonobos, Dot & Bo and Luxe Valet. connects agents with email, phone calls and social channels. Salesforce had an immense impact on the way companies interact with customers, specifically how companies store and manage that customer data. Gone are the days where everyone in the company doesn’t have the opportunity to touch that customer interaction, and collaborate around it. plays a key role in the customer service side of customer experience.

More about Leyla Seka

Prior to her role as General Manager and Senior Vice President, Salesforce Seka was responsible for building and growing the Salesforce AppExchange, the world’s leading business apps marketplace. In her eight years at Salesforce, Seka has held a variety of positions across product management, product marketing and business operations helping to build a scalable infrastructure to support the company’s business. Prior to Salesforce, Seka worked in product management and marketing organizations at Primavera Systems (acquired by Oracle), Evolve Software, Vivant and Eutron SPA. Seka also spent two years in West Africa as a Peace Corps officer in Mali. Seka holds a BA in International Relations and French from the University of California at Davis and a MBA from the Masagung School of Management at the University of San Francisco.


Oct 1, 2015

Since 1987 the share on consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending has increased 70%. Additionally 3 in 4 millennials would rather buy an experience than a product. All of that is good news for StubHub an online marketplace owned by eBay, which provides services for buyers and sellers of tickets for sports, concerts, theater and other live entertainment events. The events industry is a social industry, meaning customers that attend events are often tweeting or Facebooking. Randy Rubingh runs customer service for StubHub and built the social customer service strategy.

The reality about social media is many companies fall into it the same way. A tweet was sent to the CEO or a PR flare-up happened. For StubHub there were misconceptions about what StubHub was. They were accused of being "scalpers" which StubHub is not. In order to clear these misconceptions StubHub started engaging on social media. StubHub took the opportunity to explain what StubHub’s role was. Today they make it a priority to be there where their customers are.

He says at StubHub customer service has a strong partnership with marketing in order to run social media well. Marketing uses Facebook for promotions and--like many other companies--customer service responds to all mentions of StubHub on the web. Depending on the engagement, customer service will step in and store that interaction in their CRM (Siebel). When I interviewed Rubingh on the podcast he said that StubHub believes social media training is more about calibration than it is hardcore scripting. The calibration process includes a review of all the interactions. He says he took smart seasoned agents—and trained them on their tool that tracks and categorizes the mentions (Lithium). The agents then respond. Rubingh believes that on social media a customer service script is not helpful.

StubHub gets about 50K mentions of StubHub, but the number StubHub responds to is only about 5% of those social media interactions. They manually categorize the sentiment.

Rubingh (@rrubingh) is the Senior Director of Customer Service for StubHub and the author of “Call Center Rocket Science”.  Randy has more than 25 years’ experience building, managing, and leading customer support organizations. He has led service organizations ranging from small start-ups with as few as five agents to leading a five-site, international customer service organization with thousands of agents. During the course of his career he has managed over 20 million incoming phone calls.

Learn more about staffing, contact centers, customer service and how to create a killer contact center culture at StubHub in this podcast.

Sep 23, 2015

Can you imagine a bank that’s customer service agents create rapport with customers, so much so that they will learn intimate information about the customer and act on it? For example a customer service agent might talk with the customer about literature and then send them an actual book in the mail. This is not strange for ATB Financial, formerly known as Alberta Treasury Brand Financial—this bank is not your average contact center. Benchmarking itself with companies like Starbucks and Apple, ATB Financial decided to do something different when it comes to the freedom they give their contact center agents. This week's Modern Customer Podcast guest is ATB Financial’s Dwayne Calder, director, customer care and operations. Leveraging call recording to replace “hand written customer signatures” with verbal consent, the company reduced customer effort and elevated the customer experience. With a focus on supporting its customer experience process design, ATB Financial employs speech analytics to translate voice of the customer data into actionable improvements by using customer conversations and frontline team members to identify root cause of customer challenges. ATB Financial is a unique bank with a compelling customer engagement story. Tune into this week's Modern Customer Podcast to hear more.

Sep 18, 2015

It's counter-intuitive to most business practices to bring your customer in at the highest levels of the company to improve the company. However the members of the Chief Customer Officer Council are familiar with not only how to do this, but the many benefits of creating a seat for the customer right next to the other c-suite executives. Curtis Bingham, Founder and Executive Director of the Chief Customer Officer Council knows this well. He's this week's guest on The Modern Customer Podcast.

In this podcast Bingham talks about how the Chief Customer Officer Council presents a collective crystal ball that tells where the customer is going and how can we chart a path to meet the customer there. Today customer experience is a known differentiator but it wasn't always that way. If we think about differentiators over time, it used to be who had the fastest cheapest product, then it was logistics such as who could deliver the product or service the fastest and most cost effective, then customer service became a known differentiator--though some companies still don't understand this concept. Now it’s about moving beyond the experience to see who is willing to engage customers and co-design and co-develop products with them?

The Chief Customer Officer drives customer strategy at the highest levels of the company. The Chief Customer Officer is uniquely accountable for customers, like the CEO is uniquely accountable for shareholder value and the CFO is responsible for performance in financial markets. There’s a handful of objectives shared by all chief customer officers. One objective is to drive profitable customer behavior. How do we aquire the most valuable customers? How do we drive customer engagement and loyalty? How do we create a customer-centric culture? The responsibilities of the chief customer officer varies by job-type. Some chief customer officers have line authority which is officially sanctioned authority to issue orders to subordinates (small and mid-size companies this is popular), large companies focus more on retention. At the larger companies they might own the call center or professional services if they have line authority, or in some cases they’re a staff function. They’re there to improve processes across all the business units. There are common accountabilities of chief customer officers such as how they’re involved in customer issue escalation and resolutions. For the first year the chief customer officer is in the role they’re dealing with customer issues. They’re focused on gaps between desired customer experiences and actual customer experiences. The chief customer officer is focused on metrics and analyses. The chief customer officer unfortunately spends a lot of time proving their value which is a shame because they’re not able to do as much for the customer. They're busy playing politics. During the recession the chief customer officer was the first high level officer to get cut--unfortunately for these companies. The chief customer officer is also focused on deriving value from every customer segment, and determining what type of relationship you want to have with your key customers, and what do they want from you. They spend a lot of time addressing customer needs, and balancing those customer needs with the requirements of the business.  The average tenure of the chief customer officer is thirty months. However it can take three or even five years to clearly demonstrate the value of the company. Short-termism hurts customers and the business. Wall Street loves it, but it’s hard to change customer attitudes in one quarter. It’s important to define customer engagement.

Curtis Bingham says if you talk to marketing agencies, they define customer engagement as when you interrupt the customer's flow with a pop up on the customer's screen—the agency puts something in the way of the customer's workflow to post the company message. Customer engagement as Curtis Bingham and the chief customer officers of his council define it, it’s the willingness of the customer to devote discretionary time to the company for mutual benefit. What is the number of activities the customer participates in?

To learn more about the collective crystal ball of the chief customer officer council--and other secrets about the CCO role, tune in to this podcast.

Sep 15, 2015

Not every company's Chief Customer Officer has the same scope. For example at DoubleDutch, Chief Customer Officer Annie Tsai manages both the customer service and sales teams.

In this podcast Chief Customer Officer Annie Tsai talks about her secret sauce to leading customer engagement for such a fast growth company with a unique stakeholder audience. She's a great example of how to lead when you're clientele is both B2B and B2C. She talks about how brands are making an effort to engage with customers via social media, and how DoubleDutch is adding a personal touch to community engagement (for not just B2B clients).

Annie's work day starts around 5am. In our podcast she opens up to talk more about what it's like to have an exciting and demanding career and a young child at home. Annie is passionate about mentoring others and has solid advice on not only customer engagement but career advice for newbies to customer engagement.

More about Annie Tsai

Annie is a customer experience focused executive with a "jack of all trades" mentality. She’s known as a balanced strategic and operational leader that loves to roll up her sleeves and get down to business. She’s also a published author and industry speaker. Prior to DoubleDutch she was Chief Customer Officer at Demandforce, an Intuit company where she oversaw customer success during DemandForce’s fastest period of growth. While at Demandforce, Annie transformed the way their customers used technology and social tools, building trust and community around the Demandforce product. At DoubleDutch, she spearheads a similar paradigm shift, increasing not only application adoption and utilization, but event return on investment for customers as well.

DoubleDutch provides mobile applications and performance analytics for events, conferences, and trade shows for more than 1,000 customers including SAP, UBM, and Urban Land Institute. Founded in 2011, DoubleDutch was recently named to Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing private companies, AlwaysOn’s Global 250 best-of-breed private companies in SaaS and Enterprise, and Forbes’ list of 10 hot companies to work for in San Francisco. DoubleDutch is based in the Mission District of San Francisco with regional offices in Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, and Portland. DoubleDutch has raised almost 80 million dollars since its inception in 2011.

Show note correction: Annie Tsai will be speaking at Frost & Sullivan this year but not Gartner

For more customer experience content from Blake Morgan sign up for the Customer Experience Weekly here.

Sep 7, 2015

Your brand is no longer defined by one marketing message but rather the daily interactions customers have with the brand. Brands today realize in an effort to differentiate with customer experience they need to go above and beyond with service.

You can't talk about customer service without talking about the technology that's driven customer service for the last thirty years. Namely, customer relationship management (CRM) technology. According to Davy Kestens, CEO of Sparkcentral and this week's podcast guest for The Modern Customer, there are multiple misconceptions about the CRM space.

CRM has become sales process optimization or automation software. Companies looking to leverage customer data for other reasons find themselves in a lurch. For many large enterprises CRM is the place where data gets dumped. With the repeated dumping of data, many large companies find their customer data unusable.

The CRM space has bloated itself with many players with varying use cases. According to Kestens today's CRM is not living up to its expectations. This is why it takes so long to get help with you contact the contact center of a company. While you are on hold the agent is flipping through 15 different tabs.

Kestens predicts in the future brands will be engaging in a battle of customer experience. But today's brands are a long way from there.

Podcast guest Davy Kestens was called the next Aaron Levie by Forbes Magazine. Today his company SparkCentral has a clientele featuring the world’s largest brands including Delta, T-Mobile, Uber, Lyft, Lululemn, Dropbox, Arby’s and Emirates. Listen to our podcast to learn more about what he is doing to pioneer a new era of customer engagement.

Disclosure: Sparkcentral is a client of Blake Morgan's company Flight Digital.

Aug 30, 2015

If you haven’t noticed GoDaddy has gone through a transformation in the last few years. GoDaddy leadership talk candidly about how their prior brand strategy generated a lot of attention but alienated a lot of their customers. GoDaddy realized most of its customers were actually female small business owners. GoDaddy’s new CEO Blake Irving has worked hard to shift its strategy to “represent them [women] proudly.” Today GoDaddy has many strong female leaders running the company including Barb Rechterman, Chief Customer Officer. GoDaddy has become a more customer-centric company. I know because I personally am a customer. Now when you call their call center a voice says “need customer support? We love helping customers.” Chief Customer Officer Barb has been instrumental in overhauling GoDaddy’s customer experience. Barb is not just a customer advocate she’s also a dynamic person outside of work who rides Harley motorcycles and trains her horses in her spare time.

Aug 24, 2015

Did you know that Chief Customer Officers are the human duct tape of the organization? Chief Customer Officers are one of the fastest growing roles within organizations today. The Chief Customer Officer reports to the CEO and is responsible for the end to end customer experience. While the Chief Customer Officer is a highly influential role within the company, you don't have to be a C-level officer within the company to impact change around the customer experience. But you do need to understand how to be a strong relationship builder, according to Jeanne Bliss. If you're trying to build influence at your company how do you go about getting meetings with people such as the CFO--and why would you want to do that at all? Bliss has some ideas around how you can do this well. 

Bliss is an author, speaker and consultant. She's recently published Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How To Build Your Customer Driven Growth Engine (Wiley)Bliss has real-world experience having held senior customer strategy roles at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Mazda, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporation. She is the President of consulting firm Customer Bliss, she’s the author of two other books including her first Chief Customer Officer (Josey-Bass) and I Love You More Than My Dog: Five Decisions That Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty In Good Times and Bad (Penguin Group). She’s an experienced practitioner and thought leader who doesn’t sugar coat the facts. 

Aug 16, 2015

Why don’t more companies understand if they get the “right” things “right” with customer experience success will come? Making money is not the goal but it’s the result when the company keeps the customer in mind. All companies today are in a foot race. Unless the company is obsessively trying to make the customer happy, the company risks losing.

My latest podcast guest is Augie Ray, Director of VOC Customer Experience Action for a Fortune 100 financial services company. Augie writes frequently about customer experience. He recently wrote a post (that we discuss in this podcast) about how too many companies treat customer experience as a program and not a purpose--something to be assigned to a couple of employees while the rest of the company goes about its business improving efficiency, acquisition and margins. Augie--citing Forrester--says only 25% of CX professionals say their companies’ customer experience programs actually improve customer experience. He also shares a study indicating that 81% of organizations have seen their Customer Experience Management (CXM) initiatives fail in the last three years.

Augie Ray doesn’t believe everyone in the company is a marketer, nor are they a salesperson. But he does believe everyone in the company should be focused on customer experience. Companies like Uber and Nest understand the power of customer experience and are reaping the benefits. In this podcast not only do we talk about customer experience case studies, we also take a deep dive into a discussion of ROI.

Leaders often want to know of the ROI of a customer experience program. But what is the ROI of doing nothing? Even if you do nothing for the customer experience it will still cost you. There is an impact to not fixing what is broken about your customer experience. Examples of the negative ROI of doing nothing include loss of market share, the cost of ceasing to innovate, and the risk of not differentiating yourself from the competition. Short-sighted management and quarterly demands of "the street" are getting in the way of a clear vision--and hurting customer experience. In this podcast we talk about social customer care, why most companies are still struggling with call volume (and make it the customer's problem) and other major customer service fails.


Aug 4, 2015

Fragmented customer experiences have made it challenging for customer experience professionals looking to leverage big data. Have you ever bought a pair of shoes online and then it follows you for a few months? This is the challenge with personalization today. Personalization hasn’t delivered relevance and hasn’t given us a different approach. What’s supposed to be personalized is still mass marketing; and with that mass customer experiences. According to Lisa Arthur, CMO of Teradata Applications personalization is not making the cut. Social media has forever changed the customer-company relationship. Many companies today lack a customer experience strategy. Companies today need to tear down siloes and untangle that data hairball—for the sake of customer experience. That means departments working collaboratively with their sister organizations—consolidating different data pieces. Customer service will need IT, and the rest of the company. In this podcast we not only address the plight of modern day customer service but we also talk about how recent data breaches (think Ashley Madison) have changed attitudes about privacy.   


Aug 3, 2015


It has been said that women do not support each other in the workplace because they are competing for a few positions at the top. While this might all just be in women's heads, in reality in sports inequality happens every day. The Ironman championship is another venue where inequality happens every year.  There are an unequal number of opportunities for women and men in the Ironman championship.

Women are told to #leanin in business but if our sports organizations still create unequal opportunities for women isn't that sending mixed messages? As a society do we truly believe men and women should have equal opportunities?


My guest on this week’s Modern Customer podcast is Ironman champion Sara Gross. Not only is Sara an Ironman champion but she also has a PhD- she completed her dissertation was about women's history. Today we talk about what the Ironman can teach us about leadership development and equality for women competing in sports.

In this podcast Sara and I talk about mental toughness and what it takes for women to not only be successful in sports, but also in their careers. Sara and I talk about confidence, the benefits of how “nobody really cares,” and how to start investing in yourself.