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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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Now displaying: November, 2015
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 Desk.com 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 www.Thirstie.com—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.
 

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