In today’s work landscape, people aren’t limited by what corporate position they hold or what their job title is. Everyone can piece together their dream career with initiative, hard work, and a little luck. Perhaps there’s no better example of that than Jacob Morgan, a leading author, speaker, and expert on the future of work. He also happens to be married to me.
After a few disastrous jobs in the corporate world, Jacob realized he wanted the freedom to work for himself and push himself in new ways. Instead of just getting coffee for executives, he wanted to be guiding them and helping them create good environments for their employees and customers. The path from recent college grad to a successful speaker who now travels the world wasn’t easy—Jacob started out speaking for free and hustling to make his voice heard, but his career has grown and gained momentum over the last decade and put him in a position to continuously expand and grow his brand.
Jacob’s formula for success as a professional speaker and author, or really as just an entrepreneur with a voice, is to “Be everywhere all the time”. To him, building a personal brand comes down to three things: consistency, visibility, and frequency. You need to pick a topic as your expertise and be as consistent as you can with it. Instead of bouncing around and addressing a number of business-related topics, Jacob writes and speaks only about the future of work and employee experience, which has built his brand and made him the go-to expert in those areas. To be visible, Jacob says you have to be everywhere in the most seen places, which includes making podcasts, writing articles, attending conferences, and more. And frequency means doing it all the time. Between the articles, blogs, videos, and podcasts, Jacob’s content is always being published, which keeps him fresh in his viewers’ eyes; the same principle applies to anyone building a personal brand—be frequent to keep content new and fresh.
Building a personal brand is a continuous effort, but it can eventually open doors to new possibilities. In Jacob’s case, it has led him to writing three books and now working with his spouse where he and I can find the crossover between their respective work with employee experience and customer experience.
Between Jacob’s personal experiences working in the corporate world and his research and travels that have taken him to organizations around the world, he has become passionate about organizations building effective employee experiences, which play a huge role in the future of work. As technology grows and the workforce changes, employers need to change their mentality around work to focus less of tasks and more on people. To create a company where people want to work, executives need to be aware of the people who work there, which means getting out from behind their desks and actually interacting with employees and customers. Leaders need to start a dialogue with employees about what they like and dislike and what can be improved. Employees also need to get engaged and join the conversation—if they want to help build a human-centered organization that can withstand changes to the workplace, they need to stand up and make their voice heard.
The future of work is changing and opening doors to new opportunities for people in all industries. To prepare, employees need to build their personal brands and get involved in their organizations. If there is something you are unhappy with, follow Jacob’s example and either fix it or get out. With involvement and dedication, you can better your organization or create your own opportunities to build a career that is perfect for you.
The world is changing, and consumers are changing right alongside it. That’s the biggest takeaway from the 2018 Looking Further with Ford Trends Report. With political unrest, natural disasters, and a growing spotlight on social inequality around the world, the tone of this year’s report is much different than previous years. Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist and the lead of the report, says consumers are feeling the pace of change.
Sheryl and her team talked to 9,000 people in nine countries and identified trends that will shape how consumers think, act, and buy in 2018.
The Edge of Reason
There’s no doubt that recent global changes have affected everything we do. 75% of respondents around the world and 80% in the U.S. agreed that people are growing increasingly intolerant of opposing views. These changes can be overwhelming and can greatly contribute to the fabric of our global society, especially with such polarized opinions.
Perhaps one of the positive elements of the recent change and unrest is that people are realizing they can no longer be complacent. The vast majority of people in the survey said they are overwhelmed by the changes that are happening. But nearly 75% of those surveyed said they believe individuals can make a difference in the world. Consumers are recognizing the importance of understanding what is going on around them and taking a stand to make the world better in any way they can.
Minding the Gap
One of the biggest hot-button issues is inequality in everything from education to employment and living costs. More than 80% of adults around the world said they are concerned about the large gap between the rich and the poor. A growing number of entrepreneurs and companies are looking for creative solutions to narrow the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged.
The Compassionate Conscience
Our modern society has made it easier than ever to know what is going on around the world, which consumers feel is both good and bad. Half of all adults say following the news daily is stressful, and the majority of people surveyed said they are overwhelmed by the suffering in the world. It’s hard to escape the bad news, but people have learned to ease the pain by being compassionate. More than 75% of respondents also said that they think their actions can lead to positive change.
Mending the Mind
Lately there has been a lot more attention on the link between physical and mental health as consumers realize that they can’t have a healthy body without strong emotional well-being. An increasing number of companies and governments are starting mindfulness efforts, and employers are starting to recognize that if they want employees to be productive, they need to think about the whole picture.
Consumers have longed turned to shopping as a way to relieve stress and other emotions, but lately they have been re-thinking how effective shopping really is to bringing them happiness. For many people (66% of adults globally), the experience of shopping is more enjoyable than the actual purchase. Because of this, many leading companies are creating experiential stores to showcase the brand without actually having any products for sale.
Big data is a huge part of how companies do business, but more than three-quarters of survey respondents say they find it creepy when companies know too much about them. The recent push has been towards privacy and transparency—most consumers don’t mind that companies have some data on them, but brands need to be open about what data they have and not have too much or use it in inappropriate ways.
Technology’s Tipping Point
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, especially in areas like artificial intelligence and automation. The views on these developments are split with 52% of adults saying they think AI will do more harm than good and many people saying being inundated by new technology is overwhelming.
Instead of following the traditional path of marriage and parenthood, more consumers are staying single. In fact, half of the U.S. population is single, and there are now more single people than married people in the U.S. for the first time ever. The majority of adults surveyed around the world said they believe single people are treated differently than married people.
Big Plans for Big Cities
Cities are growing, and 75% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. To make things more efficient and showcase the potential of cities, they need to be made smarter. Nearly 90% of people around the world think cities need better transportation options, but smart cities also include creating healthier and happier places through master planning, connectivity, and numerous industries working together.
It’s a business leader’s worst nightmare—a natural disaster is headed for your area, and you need to keep your family, your customers, and your business safe. How do you manage customer communication to make sure everyone is aware of the situation and customers stay happy? That was the dilemma faced by South Carolina Federal Credit Union recently as Hurricane Irma threatened landfall. Its experience can be considered a case study of how to manage real-time customer communication in difficult times.
Customer communication is always important and plays a large role in the overall experience, but it perhaps is never more important than when companies need to share information with their customers during a time of crisis. Circumstances can change quickly, so being able to deliver accurate, quick, and concise messages is crucial.
As the hurricane neared, South Carolina Federal Credit Union had to share when it would be open and how customers could access their money and other financial services. According to Beth Jaskiewicz, Senior Vice President of Marketing, the best thing to do for a crisis is to be prepared. The credit union has a business continuity plan and started planning on how to put it into action about two weeks before Irma was scheduled to make landfall so that customers could still manage their money and wouldn’t have their financial services interrupted. The widespread plan included everything from the possibility of delays in delivering cash to ATMs to power outages and setbacks in running the business. Senior management met with the business continuity team daily to stay updated and fine-tune their plans as weather forecasts changed.
Throughout the entire process, credit union employees considered what it would be like for customers if the hurricane did hit. What would customers need to know, and what would the credit union need to do to make them feel safe and secure? During a crisis, a consistent message is key so customers didn’t feel they were getting a different story depending on the channel they are using.
Choosing the right channel to communicate with customers is important. During times of crisis, it is easy for people to get bogged down with too much information, so the most effective communication from a company involves just the basics of what customers need to know. In the case of South Carolina Federal Credit Union, this involved sending short text messages and emails with updates about when the branches would be open or closed and then directing customers to the website or social media channels for further updates. Companies should also consider who needs to know the information. During Hurricane Irma, all customers needed to know, but other crises and situations might call for smaller, more targeted groups to be notified.
Effective customer communication during a crisis really comes come to organization and collaboration. Beth recommends planning before disaster strikes and walking through various scenarios with key leaders to put a plan in place. Everyone in the organization should have a clearly defined role with a backup person in place in case something happens. Some disasters, like hurricanes, provide some sort of warning, while other crises can happen without any warning.
Crises are unexpected and can wreak havoc on companies, but having a plan in place to communicate with customers seamlessly can make all the difference and turn a potentially chaotic situation into something that is calm and organized. Staying on message and being concise can help strengthen your customer experience, even during difficult times.
Technology has changed and improved the customer experience over time, but the most recent transformation with the growth of augmented reality is sure to lead to greater change than ever before. According to Jay Samit, Independent Vice Chairman at Deloitte, augmented reality has the power to revolutionize customer experience in every industry. Our modern world has connected us with devices like smartphones, which puts a world of possibility right in our pockets. But even with smartphones we still have to search for answers. Instead of customers having to seek out information, that knowledge can now be embedded in the environment in a way that anticipate customers’ needs and helps them find solutions where they already are.
Imagine a world where you can wear glasses that look just like normal glasses but that have AR technology that can be customized to match your lifestyle and provide the most applicable information. According to Jay, these glasses are right around the corner and will make it much easier to incorporate AR. Instead of getting lost in a store, AR could light up a path on the ground to get you to the item you need. AR could also help customers see inside a resort before they book and provide glimpses into what the view and accommodation would be like or instantly translate a conversation or signs when users are traveling abroad. AR could also transform the in-store experience by having coupons or product recommendations pop up depending on where customers are in the store and what items they are looking at. Companies around the world are already implementing AR and seeing great results in customer experience. A zoo in Japan has created an augmented reality experience where visitors can use their phones to see a path show up on the streets to get them from the subway stop to the zoo. It’s a fun way to make things easier for customers instead of them wandering around until they find the zoo. Beauty counters have also seen an influx of AR-powered mirrors lately. The technology allows users to virtually try on makeup and see how it would look on their face, plus the mirror remembers what a customer has used and can recommend products based on their preferences.
Over the last few years, there has been a huge growth in customer experience online. However, AR has the power to surpass the internet and offer a better experience than customers could ever get online. Things like virtual inventories, side-by-side comparisons, and being able to see things in 360-degree views will totally change how customers shop and interact with brands. Instead of having to go into a store to try items on and ordering things online and hoping they fit, AR will allow customers to try things on virtually, see them from every angle, and easily compare them to other items.
Augmented reality is immersive learning that hits customers at a different level. It is the extra things that anticipate needs, improve problems, and make interactions with customers just a little bit better. AR is being able to get what you need when you need it and creating seamless experiences that make life easier, more efficient, or more enjoyable. The future of customer experience is strong, and it’s due largely to AR.
When customers choose a clothing brand, they take a lot of things into consideration, including price, style, availability, and brand reputation. It takes the perfect mix of fashion and function to draw in customers. But the clothes won’t sell themselves, so a strategic marketing mix is also required.
In an increasingly data-filled world, many companies rely on analytics for every customer decision. However, TechStyle Fashion Group, which operates brands like Fabletics, Just Fab, and Shoe Dazzle, has expanded beyond just data to find the right combination of strategic data and human connections to maximize its marketing efforts. The company shows that a good marketing mix involves not just data but also personalization, technology, and a strong connection with the brand.
Each of TechStyle’s brands works as a sort of subscription service—customers share data with the company and agree to visit the site on a monthly basis to see the new collections. Having detailed customer preferences, buying habits, and sizes in a huge database makes it easy for the company to create products it knows customers will buy and love. While the traditional retail model creates products it only hopes customers will purchase, brands like Fabletics use data to know exactly what customers want and sell a staggeringly high 90-95% of their products.
With so much data on their customers, it would be easy for TechStyle brands to sit back, watch the return customers flow in, and treat everyone the same. But instead the company works to authentically reach out to customers to build a strong brand connection.
When it comes to getting first-time customers, TechStyle relies on a wide variety of marketing methods. Because the brands are so data-driven, the marketing approach is also very personal. It adds to the brands’ values of working with each customer to create a great experience. Shawn Gold, TechStyle’s Corporate Marketing Officer, says that in the last year the company did around 24,000 different Facebook ads, 600 different versions of its websites, and 6,000 different emails. In many cases, the company uses existing data to find target markets and customers and then tailors the approach to best reach them.
Added to the marketing mix is a strong word of mouth referral program. TechStyle’s brands tend to have very strong net promoter scores, with customers telling their friends and family about the services. This is due to not only have a convenient service that exceeds customer expectations, but also by building a culture that puts the customer first. Prioritizing an effort to keep customer involved builds customer loyalty, which contributes back to the marketing efforts. TechStyle regularly holds focus groups and even visits the homes of its customers to see what is in their closets and how their clothes match their lifestyles. Data helps the company ask the right questions, but the answers come from the customers themselves. Showing genuine interest in customers and finding better ways to match the product with what customers really want is incredibly effective and keeps customers coming back for more. Every Fabletics employee also has to work in the store so they can talk with and really get to know the customers.
In an increasingly technical world, TechStyle doesn’t rely completely on automation. While there are some issues that are solved with machines, much of the customer service efforts are led by humans. The company has found that customer satisfaction results are more than 20% higher when humans are involved in the process because its customers love having a personal connection.
Data plays an important role, especially in the ever-changing fashion world, but it isn’t everything. Creating brand-loyal customers comes from a unique marketing mix that puts customers first and makes them central to everything the brand does.
The healthcare field is changing, and customer experience is right at the center. Gone are the days of customers feeling inconvenienced and doctors having to spend long hours to catch up on their work—today’s healthcare revolution is all about empowering customers and helping everyone get the care they need. That change means the industry is becoming more competitive, and customer experience in many cases is the deciding factor for where patients go to get care.
In the old way of thinking, doctors were central to everything. They set when appointments were available, who could be seen, and what treatments were available. However, consumers now have myriad choices of ways to get personalized care and attention, from apps to websites and concierge healthcare services, and the industry had to change. People no longer automatically go to a doctor when they are sick or need a checkup, and healthcare companies now have to compete more to bring in patients. The key factor patients are looking for is personalized care—they want someone who treats them like an individual, takes time to answer their questions, and makes it easy to be seen and get the care they need.
At the core of the new healthcare movement is service and a dedication to making a difference. According to Arra Yerganian, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer at Sutter Health, when healthcare employees realize that they all want to serve customers and improve their lives, it is easier to build a culture centered around customers. That culture can shine through in every interaction between the brand and customers. Sutter is known for its great customer service and constantly receives feedback from patients that they feel special when they interact with Sutter doctors and nurses. Arra says that isn’t a coincidence—people are trained to be that way and encouraged to tap into their natural caring abilities to create great experiences for patients.
Part of building a strong customer experience in healthcare is taking advantage of new technology. In many cases, innovative healthcare technology allows providers to see more patients, be more effective with their time, and provide better diagnoses and treatment options. The growth of telehealth has allowed customers to be seen virtually on their own schedules, which has been a boost to customer experience. Sutter recently partnered with Augmedix to allow doctors to wear smart glasses that can pull up a patient’s chart and notes on the screen during the appointment. The device saves doctors time of having to stay late to write notes because it is done in real time and provides a more personalized and interactive experience for patients. The growth of data has also provided more opportunities for healthcare providers to gain insights on their patients and create strategic, personalized experiences.
Arra says the key to standing out and creating a strong customer experience is to find a way to connect with patients. Instead of relying on differences in quality or expertise, the best customer experience providers lean on something that tells a unique story and builds a connection. The best organizations take risks and make unique choices to stand out.
Customer experience makes a huge difference in the healthcare space, and it is a driving factor in the new approach to the industry. By focusing on people and personalization, healthcare providers can go above and beyond to create satisfied patients.
When looking to create a high-quality customer experience, there are a lot of things that companies can do. But one of the best ways to give your company a sustainable boost is to go straight for the core and focus on culture.
The sharing economy is known for creating strong customer experiences, and Lyft is a prime example of that. Much of Lyft’s success can be attributed to its culture of caring for others. Mary Winfield, VP Customer Experience and Trust at Lyft, says that because the company has to focus on two sets of customers with its drivers and passengers, it is naturally very customer focused. The entire business model is centered around customers and making their lives easier, from providing services people want and need to using technology that makes things simple and efficient.
Customer experience starts with a strong customer-centric culture, which is set by top leadership. An organization with executives who consider customers in every decision they make will have a culture that fosters customer experience and treats everyone with respect. Culture starts from the top down; at Lyft, executives regularly drive passengers so they can truly understand the experience from both a driver’s and passenger’s point of view. That example shows other employees how important it is to stay close to the customers and understand their needs.
Culture also includes how employees are treated. A company with an inclusive culture where employees feel comfortable being themselves will likely have happier and more satisfied employees who want to contribute to the customer experience. At Lyft, being supportive of all employees is a huge part of the culture. The company has a number of employee research groups that allow people with similar lifestyles or circumstances, such as groups for women or parents, to get together to build support systems. The groups help foster connections with employees and make sure everyone can bring their whole selves to work. This is especially important at a time when other companies in the sharing economy are facing accusations of discrimination and not supporting certain types of employees. Customers want to be themselves, and they want to be around employees who are encouraged to be themselves.
Aside from support, creating a culture of caring can also be a big boost to the company. This includes caring for employees, customers, the community, and much more. Mary says that being surrounded by people who care and want to make the world a better place takes away the friction so often prevalent in workplaces. Everyone is on the same page and genuinely trying to help others, which drives customer experience. Truly caring about the customers and having that ingrained in the company makes it natural to create a strong customer experience.
Culture plays a huge role in customer experience. Brands that are centered around values like being supportive, caring, and reaching out to others tend to have a competitive advantage because customers know they will feel valued and respected by the company. With a people-centric culture, customers and employees are free to be themselves and care for each other, which can be a huge “Lyft” for the customer experience.
Nearly every company wants to better understand their customers so they can find ways to improve the customer service and build brand loyalty. But actually finding the answers and putting them into practice are two different things. Transforming customer service isn’t a quick solution, but it can lead to fantastic results when done correctly.
Customer service experts Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek consult with numerous companies each year on how to improve their customer service. Their vast experience has taught them that improving customer service is never a one-step solution. Although each organization can follow the same steps, the journey to a quality customer service is personalized for each company.
In order to truly make a change, the company has to identify what it wants to achieve. Everyone knows that customer service experience is good, but few companies actually know how it relates to their goals and strategies. One of the first steps companies need to take when redefining customer service experiences is to realize the business outcomes they want to achieve so they can connect specific aspects of the customer service experience to those goals. For example, if a company wants to build its referrals by a certain amount, it needsf to focus on creating brand loyal customers who return and are eager to refer the company to their friends. That goal could tie into the post-sale aspects of customer service experience and following up to make sure each customer is satisfied.
With goals in mind, brands need to understand what their current customer service experience is really like. Many companies think they have an idea of what customers experience and how they feel, but surveys can be deceiving. After all, the results a company gets are completely dependent on the questions it asks and can often paint a skewed picture. To accurately understand the customer journey, brands need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Jeannie notes that when she works with an organization, she completes a full customer service experience investigation, including observing how employees interact with customers, walking through the digital experience multiple times, and looking for holes in the experience that could affect customers. Getting immersed in the customer service at a human level can often provide more accurate feedback than looking at surveys.
With an idea of the current situation, companies can then consider their ideal customer service—how would things look if everything went smoothly? That goal can help guide the next steps to take to make the dream a reality.
Of course, perfect customer service can’t be created overnight and takes constant tweaking and evolution. Both Jeannie and Adam believe one of the most important parts of creating lasting change in customer service is to have leaders who understand the importance of customer service and who are on board with change. If leaders invested, even the grandest ideas can’t take root to create a lasting change.
Customer service involves many different aspects, but one of the key features is understanding the customer and what they want out of the journey. Being strategic and working through the steps to transform customer service experience can lead to positive and lasting change.
New regulations from the EU are impacting customer data around the world and causing companies to make big changes or risk getting hit with heavy fines. But instead of fearing the change and just throwing money at the problem, complying with the regulations can be thought of as an opportunity to rethink and improve the customer experience.
The General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is creating a buzz that Jeff Nicholson, VP CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems, likens to the anticipation surrounding Y2K. Essentially, the new regulation requires any company anywhere in the world that uses EU residents’ personal data to re-think their data strategy. That means that companies in the US are still affected if they have ever done anything like collect email addresses or names of people who live in the EU. If companies don’t comply with the regulations, they could be fined up to 4% of their total global revenue. Under GDPR, individual customers can approach companies to find out what personal data they have, and organizations have to provide the data to the customer. Essentially, the new rules change who owns personal data—instead of companies, the power is now in the hands of customers.
The new rules come at a time when data breaches are found every day and affect millions of people a year. People around the world are more aware of their personal data and want to find ways to protect it and know who has access to it. Companies must take safeguarding their customers’ data very seriously. If customers don’t feel their information is being protected, they will take their business elsewhere, which can lead to huge PR and financial consequences for companies.
A recent survey found that more than 90% of multinational companies consider GDPR to be a top priority, and many are allocating significant budget to solve data problems and come into compliance. The majority of large companies say they plan to spend at least a million dollars on their new data strategy.
If the money is being spent anyway, smart companies will put it to good use and do more than just put their data practices in compliance with GDPR—they will use it as an opportunity to transform customer experience and become a leader in their fields. This is a great chance for companies to combine compliance with marketing. Instead of simply just plugging a hole in the data stream, think of how you collect data and how it can be better used and targeted. Now that customers have more control over what companies have their information, irrelevant communication from companies puts those brands at risk of losing the customer. All it takes is one bad communication for the customer to opt out and have their data removed.
The best companies not only respect and safeguard customer information but also use it to create open lines of communication that really help the customer. With all the data available, companies have the potential to create targeted outreach that meets the needs of every individual customer. This can be done a number of ways, but Jeff recommends getting people from across the company, especially from compliance and marketing, involved. Investing in the right technology to monitor, track, and safeguard customer data is also incredibly important. Being transparent with the customer information you have can also build a better relationship with customers. Many people are wary about who has their personal data, and they will likely be more trusting of companies that can show where they gathered the data, what they are using it for, and who has access to it. Data plays a huge role in customer experience, and being able to monitor and target it better can lead to better relationships between companies and customers.
GDPR is changing how companies handle customer data, but it is much more than just a compliance issue. In order to lead the new data conversation, companies should use the opportunity to re-think their customer experience and find new, relevant ways to reach out to customers.
The majority of customer interaction today happens on the phone, but that isn’t the way most customers prefer to communicate or the most effective way for brands to interact with customers. Phones can be frustrating, email can feel like spam, and in-person communication can be inconsistent. Instead, a growing number of brands are turning to chatbots via Facebook Messenger to add value to the customer experience in a way that is easier than ever and preferred by the companies and the customers.
When Facebook opened the Messenger platform in 2016, it had a good idea of what the technology could do for companies, but Kemal El Moujahid, product manager at Facebook, said the team was surprised by the creativity of how brands around the world were using the chatbot function. Instead of relying on traditional methods like blanket sales offers and mass communication, bots provide opportunities for real-time, personalized communication that can meet the needs of customers right where they are. Brands can easily tailor the needs of the bot to showcase their message and products and reach out to customers in an accessible and useful way.
In order to be successful in building the customer experience, brands need to be clear about what they want their bots to do. A bot that is designed to bring customers into the store will perform differently than a bot that is designed to provide product recommendations and education. Brands need to understand how customers are using the bot and how it can play the most effective role in the customer journey. An example of this comes from Sephora, which uses its Facebook bot to educate its customers about its products and offerings—its bot can provide personalized makeup recommendations and allows customers to find stores and book beauty treatments. Sephora’s customers have a much better experience when they understand the products they are looking for, which is where the bot can help.
Because bot communication is more natural and casual, it adds a personal feel to a brand and helps create a life-long relationship between the customer and the business throughout the entire customer journey. Bots can be used to bring in new customers and to build on existing relationships. McDonalds restaurants in Brazil print codes that link to their Facebook bot—when customers access the bot, they get added benefits and build a stronger relationship with the brand that gets them to come back to the store.
A huge draw for bots is their convenience. Instead of having to download a new app or program, bots are instantly available to the millions of users already connected to Facebook Messenger around the world. Bots can be developed and updated fairly quickly and inexpensively, which means companies can make changes to quickly best meet the needs of their customers. As the customer journey evolves, so too can the bot’s performance.
Bots will continue to play a major role as the customer experience grows and becomes more personalized. Bots gather lots of information to distill it down to the most relevant information for customers, allowing for better personalization at scale. The days of spending hours on the phone to answer questions are done—today’s customers are all about using bots for questions, service, and product information. As brands around the world can attest, Facebook makes it easier than ever to build customer relationships via bots.
Verizon Wireless is known for trying new, innovative things to expand its business and reach new customers. In the competitive mobile space, it takes a concerted effort to build the customer experience. Verizon Wireless recently took it a step further when it brought in Scott Zimmer to serve in a new position as its Chief Customer Experience Officer. According to Scott, customer experience definitely creates a competitive advantage over other companies. Verizon’s goal is to go above and beyond to build brand loyalty and brand love so that customers prefer the company for reasons beyond it just having the best price. Its perspective and practices can help companies in all industries.
Verizon views the customer experience as a complete journey, from a prospective customer looking into the company to actually making a purchase to then using the service and having a continued great experience. With interactions happening online, in person, in the app, and on the phone, the company aims to make every interaction consistent with the Verizon brand. One new way it is doing that is through its new concept store in San Francisco. The next-gen retail store concept adds emotion and humanity to a technology service and is another opportunity for Verizon to build relationships with customers. Scott says that the retail store experience can be used by other companies and industries that can apply their products and services in a tangible space. For Verizon, that means creating a coffee shop-esque space that shows off its products, including virtual reality headsets that customers can test.
Scott brings together experience in the business and customer spaces and states that every company should be thinking of business and customer strategies in tandem. If a company only focuses on business, it won’t have customers, but if it only focuses on customers, it won’t have business. To truly create a unique customer experience, brands need to build emotional connections while still showcasing their products and driving sales.
The keys to a great customer experience include having a corporate culture that reflects customer values and leaders who set the tone for a customer focus. In order to provide a consistent experience that meets the customer where they, Scott and his team involve every employee to connect the dots of the entire customer journey. Every detail impacts customer service, and making it a priority in everything the company does can lead to great success, especially in an industry as competitive as wireless. Verizon is an example of the benefits that come from prioritizing customer experience and investing the resources to put customers first.
When it comes to building strong relationships and experiences, organizations are often faced with a difficult choice: do they focus on employees or on customers? Like many companies, Adobe had two groups working parallel to each other—one focused on reaching out to employees and the other on building experiences for customers. But then Adobe realized that the two audiences actually worked together, and Adobe’s leadership combined customer experience and employee experience under the direction of Donna Morris, EVP Customer and Employee Experience.
People have always been Adobe’s core asset, and that focus is part of the reason the company has seen such rapid growth. For years Adobe focused on being a great company to work for and building a strong employee experience. But at the end of the day, customers actually drive the business, so the company adjusted its focus to be as great to work with as it is to work for. The two ideas go hand in hand—satisfied and engaged employees are more likely to give their best effort and represent the brand well, while satisfied customers are happier and easier to work with. Central to the idea of bringing employees and customers together is to focus on people and make them the core of the organization’s culture and strategy.
Although they are similar, uniting the focus on these two groups isn’t something that can happen overnight. In order to be truly successful, there must be a cultural change that emphasizes the importance of employees and customers. Employees need to understand the metrics of how customer experience and satisfaction are gauged and know what the company’s goals are to improve the scores. Each person should see how his or her role plays into the larger customer experience.
With a changed mindset, companies can evaluate their processes to see how employee and customer experience can be connected. According to Donna, many organizations will be surprised by how easily their core mechanisms can be aligned to streamline the experience model, especially if employees are using the same products and becoming customers themselves. Adobe does this by using employees as advocates for its customers’ needs. Any employee can report an issue about the software or service quickly and easily, which means that issues can be resolved as soon as they are spotted instead of waiting for customers to find issues and go through the entire reporting process themselves. Employee compensation at Adobe is also tied to customer experience, which drives a greater incentive to put the customer first. Regularly checking in with employees through engagement surveys provides the company with periodic updates to see where it is improving and where it can continue to grow. It also helps measure how connected employees feel to the customers and creates opportunities for feedback.
One of the keys to building a strong customer and employee experience is to focus on the long-term relationship with each group. Instead of simply getting a customer to make a sale or pushing an employee to hit their quarterly goals, organizations should look for ways to build lasting relationships that keep customers and employees satisfied and coming back for more. An often overlooked aspect of building relationships is focusing on empathy and understanding where people come from. When leaders and organizations focus on emotions, they can foster better employee and customer bonds.
Although customer and employee experience are similar, organizations can’t just apply a one-size-fits-all solution. One of Adobe’s biggest challenges and opportunities is providing the right experience for its wide array of customers. With more than 100 different products, the company’s customers range from individuals to large global corporations, and each group has a different set of needs. Adobe hopes individual customers can be entirely self-directed and get great service and answers without contacting the company. On the opposite end of the spectrum are large companies, where Adobe is considered a thought partner and who require more interaction to understand and address their concerns. In order to best meet the needs of customers at varying levels, employees need to receive the right training and be aware of the service required for each type of product. Putting that in motion means that employees must understand the products and their customers and feel comfortable and supported in the workplace to deliver quality service.
As customer experience and employee experience both become a larger focus at organizations, it seems only natural that they will grow together. Both of these experiences are connected and should be constantly evolving based on the trends, technology, and needs of both groups. By focusing on the connected experience of employees and customers, organizations don’t need to put one group ahead of the other and can enjoy a cohesive experience with a strong people-centric culture.
Disclosure: Adobe is a client of Blake Morgan’s speaking business.
Imagine a city where people travel seamlessly on their way to and from work, new technology is integrated into everyday life, the air is clean of pollution, and people feel safe and welcome. It may sound too good to be true, but for a number of entrepreneurs and engineers, it’s a reality they are working towards every day.
Ford is leading the charge to bring together all kinds of thinkers and creators to consider the future city—a place where new technology is used and executed smoothly in a way that is useful for the people and sustainable for the environment. From city planners to scientists and engineers, people from across nearly every discipline are involved in the conversation. In order to make the future city a real possibility, everyone must be involved and on board.
There are a number of things to consider when creating the city of the future, including transportation, logistics, weather, safety, and much more. One area that is a central focus for many companies, including Ford, is transportation. Cities of the future over the next 20-100 years can’t rely on cars because it will lead to too much congestion and pollution. Instead, these thinkers are considering new ways to move people around that harness the power of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies. Ford is doing it through its recent acquisition of Chariot Shuttle—a micro-transit company that operates vans that can hold up to 14 passengers. These vans operate throughout cities to get passengers where they need to go, but the routes are entirely crowd-sourced, meaning that if enough people need to travel to or from a certain spot, the routes can be changed to accommodate their needs.
There’s no doubt that people love the convenience of living in cities. In fact, cities are expected to grow by 60% by 2030. Now it’s up to the city managers, local leader, engineers, entrepreneurs, and more to turn those cities into sustainable entities. Creating the city of the future requires thinking outside the box—building more freeways won’t fix LA’s notoriously bad traffic, for example, so the conversation has moved to creative alternatives with public transportation. As the number of options available for public and shared transportation grows, cities need to better understand the trends and what is happening so they can continually improve the systems.
Creating the city of the future is both a daunting and exciting challenge, and it all starts with a conversation across industries and expertise. With resources, new technology, and a collection of creative ideas, the city of the future might be here sooner than we think.
Online shopping and new technology has changed how customers interact with brands and make purchases, and it has had a huge effect on the customer experience. Knowing who your customer is and what they expect from your company is huge, especially when it comes to understanding why customers shop online. How customer experience is put into action changes based on the type of company and industry and what customers need to best have their needs met. However, there are always core similarities; Dr. Volker Hildebrand, Global Vice President at SAP Hybris and author of “The Customer Experience Edge”, has narrowed customer experience down to four fundamental principles: convenience, speed, relevance, and reliability. Companies that have the best customer experiences do a great job with at least three of the pillars.
Customer experience is a holistic experience, and being able to offer a personalized approach for each customer can give your company a big advantage over the competition. Although companies may have internal silos, customers don’t see that and want a cohesive experience. Volker cites the example of a bank that was having difficulty getting customers to sign up for online banking. When it realized employees in the branches didn’t have any incentive to refer customers online and that the two entities were being run separately, it made changes to unite the branch and online experience and combine the metrics. Customers don’t care about what’s going on behind the scenes as long as they can have a quality and convenient experience, so companies need to take down silos for a unified experience.
The internet has made the customer journey start way before the customer actually buys a product or steps into the store. Now, customers are doing their research to find out what products are best, and they expect to be able to find all the answers they need quickly and easily. If a company can’t provide those answers, either through a chatbot, online community, or human, they risk losing that customer to a brand that can provide the answers. Thinking about things from the customer’s perspective and making sure all the information is accurate and easily available can start the customer experience off on the right foot.
One disruptive aspect of online shopping that is changing business models is subscription services. These days, customers can have subscriptions for everything from rental cars to toilet paper. Subscription models offer customers the convenience of not having to worry about ordering something, and they often come with discounts. However, using a subscription model means customer experience is more important than ever. In these cases, the experience and service is really what makes the difference—you’re no longer selling a product, you’re providing a service. Making customer experience an integral part of everything the company does, especially online, can drive growth and customer satisfaction.
The key to customer experience is finding a way to stand out and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes to provide a cohesive experience from end to end, no matter if it is online or in store.
Every company wants a magic elixir that makes employees happier, profits higher, and the outlook rosier. According to leading business strategist Charlene Li, that secret sauce is growth. When a company is focused on growing, customers and employees are excited and enjoy an upward spiral. But in order to grow, companies need to be willing to take risks and go outside their comfort zones. Growth and meeting customers needs need to play a critical part in an organization’s strategy.
Companies that take risks tend to have better customer experiences. Think about it—customers will more naturally want to shop from a brand that is new and finding the best ways to meet their needs instead of a company that is stuck in the past and hasn’t updated its products or practices in decades. In order to take calculated risks, companies must build the growth mindset into their company under the direction of top leadership. The speed of change depends on the industry, but companies should strive to keep up with the fastest moving customers they serve. For fast-paced tech companies, that could mean new initiatives every few months, while other manufacturing companies might take a big risk every few years—it all comes down to what your customers want and expect from your service.
Part of growing is always finding customer solutions before customers even know that’s what they need. Charlene points to the example of T-Mobile, which talked to a number of customers about their mobile experiences. A common thread was that cell customers hated their carriers, no matter who that carrier was. They didn’t like being chained to a contract and limited in what they could do. With that in mind, T-Mobile took the risk to create the Un-Carrier strategy that has been successful for the company. If T-Mobile didn’t have a growth mindset and a strategy of listening to customers and thinking about the future, they would have missed out on a huge way to set themselves apart from the competition.
Customer experience is also affected by how companies are organized. In many cases, it can be helpful to have a single person serve as the Chief Omnichannel Officer to bring together the various call centers and customer technologies. This is especially important early on in a company’s customer experience maturity when one person needs to hold the organization’s hand and set the tone for interacting with customers. As things grow and develop and the strategy becomes more engrained in the organization, that person can act more like an organizer to bring together all of the aspects of customer experience instead of being expressly in charge of every detail. No matter the size of the company, everyone needs to have a customer-centric mindset that helps them do their part to create a strong customer experience.
Understanding where your company is today and where it needs to be in the future can help set a strategy that encourages customer interaction. Charlene suggests creating a customer advisory board and inviting customers to be open and honest and what the company can do better in its customer interactions. Staying one step ahead of the competition and always keeping an eye on the customer can lead to tremendous growth and success, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of being distracted by things that don’t really matter, companies need to create strong strategies to guide their actions and meet those unseen customer needs.
There’s never been a more exciting or more challenging time to be a marketer. Customer expectations are changing by the minute, meaning marketers have to be on the ball to keep up with new ideas. How can they help their companies grow while still keeping their brand current and relevant?
According to Sally Jenkins, CMO of Informatica, the key is to understand the customers and always be looking forward to a new opportunity. Sally shared her experiences leading a recent rebrand at Informatica. Rebranding is about much more than just changing the logo—it is a chance to make sure messages and goals match what customers want and expect. While a full rebrand doesn’t need to happen on a regular basis, companies should constantly be testing their messages with customers and honing their communication in an ever-changing world.
The first step of a rebrand is to understand what customers are saying about the company. This can be done with surveys, events, or break-out sessions to get a better understanding of what customers feel about your company and where they are in the customer journey. This information gathering should be open and honest—it acts as the basis for your updated brand, so information that isn’t completely accurate could lead to ineffective results and a brand that isn’t truly aligned with what customers are looking for. The end goal of the first stage of rebranding is a complete understanding of where customers are and where your company can take them.
From there, companies need to synthesize the information and combine it with other data to find a way to translate what the customers want to the company’s messages, look, and feel. This is where the brand identity is created and when the visual aspects of the brand are connected to goals and vision of the company.
Sally stresses the importance of first launching your new brand internally with employees. By thinking about employees as your first customers, you can help employees realize how to use the company’s values in the decisions they make at work every day. Once the employees are on board and understand the updated brand, the messages can be spread to external customers for a cohesive customer experience.
Rebranding is something that needs to be thought about on a regular basis and continuously adjusted as the needs of the company and its customers change with new technology and ideas. One of the best ways to do this is to use data for predictive analytics. Combining the science of data with the art of marketing helps CMOs and their teams stay on top of trends and lead the charge for innovation. In the ever-changing marketing world, data helps companies make informed decisions about effective ways to reach customers.
To truly keep up with innovation and growth, companies should always be proactive and find ways to disrupt the status quo. In a world where customers where define your brand no matter what, it’s up to the marketers to take charge and help set the narrative the reflects your true brand.
Digital disruption is inevitable, especially as new technology emerges at a rapid pace. But instead of being disrupted, it’s up to companies and leaders to take charge and become the disrupters themselves.
According to Michael Sutcliff, CEO of Accenture Digital, the future of customer experience is all digital and focuses on personalization. However, creating a plan on a whiteboard and actually putting into into action at scale in the real world are two very different things. In order for a digital strategy to truly be effective, companies must be able to adapt their digital technologies and learn more about their customers’ intentions over time. Preparing to be disrupted isn’t something that happens overnight—companies must work at it and plan to adapt their strategy.
Many of the companies that struggle with digital disruption are those that don’t want to put the work in or don’t know where to start to move towards the digital space. Some companies put lots of effort into the front end of customer experience without realizing the changes that need to be put into the back end and the supply side. Creating a strong digital customer experience is both an art and a science that requires work and planning on all sides. Instead of relying on legacy technologies like outdated call centers, many organizations don’t realize the importance and potential of a digital customer model that can be much more efficient and interactive.
In the digital space, disruption can come from any other industry, not just those that are right around your company. Consider the example of Airbnb: it paid attention to customers to realize what they really want is an experience. The company then partnered with other brands, such as transportation or ticketing companies, to take advantage of their technology and create a package for Airbnb customers that gives them everything they need for a great experience. Airbnb wasn’t disrupted by other industries but was able to leverage their technology to disrupt Airbnb’s current model and create something more efficient and successful.
But no matter how much technology is added, customer experience will always be human centered. Technology is simply the supporting tool to create a good experience for a human, whether that is the customer or an employee. The best digital strategy can’t create a strong experience if the human skills and connections aren’t there. Companies should work to truly understand customer intentions instead of just caring about how much money each customer earns for the company. Customers can quickly see when a brand doesn’t truly care about or understand them. New digital technologies provide companies the opportunity to greatly improve their customer understanding and interactions—companies that don’t keep up or lead the pack of disruption will quickly fall behind companies that are embracing disruption.
Digital disruption has the potential to fundamentally change how an organization does business and interacts with customers—but it’s up to the company to take charge and lead the change.
Steve Hirsch has perhaps one of the most daunting data jobs in the world. As chief data officer at the Intercontinental Exchange and NYSE, his team is faced with massive amounts of data that relate to financial markets around the world, and it all has to be safe, accurate, and usable. It’s a big job, and one that has evolved over recent years with changes and new technology.
One of the biggest changes has been the growth of artificial intelligence, but Steve says we are using the term AI too much and often applying it to technology that doesn’t actually involve artificial intelligence. Steve cites the example of Apple’s Siri, which appears to be AI but is actually just programmed to answer questions in a certain way without taking insights from around and making her own conclusion, which is what actual AI would do.
Automation is playing a large role in the trading spaces, as some exchanges have replaced human traders with computer-based trading machines that use algorithms to find the best deals. Because so much of what happens in finance is driven by models and technology, the industry has faced a number of changes in the past years and decades. To be successful and keep information secure, data experts in the field need to stay informed and on top of the latest trends.
In the data-driven financial world, the Intercontinental Exchange is always looking for ways to incorporate new technology, whether that means building it themselves or going through a good vendor. The main goal of the Intercontinental Exchange is to provide financial data to traders, investors, and academics. That means making sure customers have the information they need to manage their own risks and providing a trusted environment and network that is secure enough for customers to do their required work. The same principles apply to any tech-based business: the goal is always to keep customers’ data safe and secure and provide them the resources to get the job done.
Data, especially related to finances, is particularly prone to volatility. To be successful, organizations need to be prepared for volatility. It shouldn’t be feared, but rather thought of as a way to test that the team has done their jobs properly. Anything from changes in the market to political events, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters can have a big effect on the industry. These events can’t be predicted, so constantly managing data and making sure it is always secure and accurate is incredibly important.
For people wanting to get into the data space, Steve says there are lots of opportunities. Some of the biggest demand now, especially for organizations that analyze massive amounts of data, is for data scientists and data engineers who can understand data and algorithms to make business decisions.
The financial markets affect us all, and having the right data drives smart decisions to keep the markets thriving. Your organization doesn’t have to be as big as the NYSE to take advantage of data—by staying on top of tech trends and avoiding being disrupted with volatile actions, any organization can work towards success.
Things in the world of customer experience are constantly changing, and the CIO is no exception. Instead of simply sitting back and waiting for things to happen, today’s CIO plays a more proactive role in finding forward-thinking solutions for the company. That’s according to Jason Richard, CIO of Lucky Brand. While the old CIO position may have been limited to the technology side of the business, Jason is involved in many facets of the organization as he looks for ways things can run more smoothly, be more efficient, and leverage new technology. This is incredibly important in customer experience as modern customers demand a consistent, tech-based experience. Even something as seemingly simple as offering free WiFi in stores can utilize new technology and greatly improve the customer experience.
As more customers take their shopping online, the CIO plays a large role in making sure customers have a consistent experience no matter where they are shopping and that they don’t see any barriers between shopping location. In Lucky’s case, customers could be on the website, in a dedicated Lucky store, or at a partner department store, so Jason and his team ensure the technology is the same and that employees can provide customers with the products they need. This includes making sure the company has the best technology to track inventory, accept payments, and communicate with customers. If a customer purchased a product online but wanted to return it in store, as is very common in today’s world, the company needs to have the right technology to make that transaction possible. Without proper systems and employee training, customers could be left with a frustrating situation and no way to change it. The CIO’s job is to deliver on capabilities to make the customer experience great.
The role of the CIO has already changed, and it will continue to evolve as technology and the customer experience changes. The focus going forward isn’t simply on making sure computers work and the lights stay on, but rather on delivering on ROI and using technology to make a strategic impact in the company. CIOs can’t sit back and wait for other business leaders to come to them with needs of the organization—they must get enough pull behind them that they can innovate and proactively put the right technology in place to drive the organization forward and build a strong customer relationship. In order to do that, CIOs need to be aware of their business, the industry, and the latest technology.
In a world filled with evolving technology, customers expect a strong tech-based experience. The CIO can implement changes to greatly improve the customer experience and stay ahead of the technology curve.
Today’s customers want to interact with brands in a way that is easy and convenient. For most people, that means self service because they can control when and how they get the information they need instead of waiting on hold and potentially wasting their time. When it comes to self service, there’s possibly no better technology than a chatbot. Wells Fargo recently tested the waters by creating its first chatbot, and the lessons learned can be applied to companies in any industry.
One of the biggest draws for a chatbot is that offers self service with a conversational interface, according to Kimarie Matthews, Senior Vice President of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels Social Care & Capabilities. Customers can easily find the answers to their questions by using a conversational style instead of having to type or search for an answer, but they also have the value-added human service if that better meets their needs. Chatbot technology opens the door to offer a higher level of customer experience and connect with customers in a new way.
The Wells Fargo chatbot includes answers to basic questions about account balance or recent transactions, which are what most customers use the chatbot for. There are also other features that customers have yet to discover, like diving deeper into spending trends and potential account offers, and Kimarie says the company is discussing how to let customers know about the additional features that can help their banking and savings goals.
Where should companies start if they want to build a chatbot? Kimarie says it doesn’t have to be a grand effort—simply start with a task that customers need and that the chatbot can do very well. Things can grow naturally from there once customers realize the value of the chatbot. For Wells Fargo, that meant delivering an easier way for customers to keep track of their account balances, but other companies can find tasks to simplify for their customers with a chatbot. The important thing is to tweak the chatbot in real time and constantly make adjustments to improve the customer interactions instead of sitting back and waiting for feedback.
Chatbots are a powerful customer experience tool and one that will continue to evolve as technology changes. Although issues around security and privacy still remain and will need to continually be addressed, the foundation is set and the resources are there for companies to take advantage of chatbots. It all comes down to ease—building a chatbot is relatively easy for businesses with resources like Facebook, and using chatbots can make things easier for customers. Although chatbots will never replace human interaction, they are a great resource for expanding how brands and customers connect.
It used to be that customer experience took place in person or when a customer called a support line; however, the interactions of today’s modern customer are much more digital, meaning there is a huge need for a technology stack to drive a strong customer experience.
According to David Rowley, CTO of IAC Publishing Labs, customer-driven technology can make a huge difference within an organization, but it also needs to be thought through so that it is strategic and efficient. Many companies build with themselves in mind instead of their customers, but forward-thinking organizations with the best customer experiences put themselves in the shoes of the customer and think about how their customers interact with the brand. By breaking down the interaction into every touch point, companies can focus on the technology that will best meet the needs of the customer and the goals of the company.
The key to a strong technology stack is to make a seamless experience for the customer. Although internally things might be divided amongst various teams and apps, the customer should be able to have the same experience no matter if they are communicating with a brand on social media, browsing products online, or calling in with a question after making a purchase. Many companies focus solely on the discovery phase of the customer journey when customers are choosing which product to buy and doing their research. While that part is incredibly important and is often what drives customer growth, it shouldn’t be prioritized at the expense of the later customer stages. After a customer has purchased a product or chosen a service, they can be turned into powerful brand advocates and have the potential to build a strong relationship with the brand. These customers can turn into a valuable tool for referrals and expanding a brand’s message, but oftentimes the step is forgotten.
Along each step of the customer journey, there should be systems in place that build connections between the brand and the customer and offer a personalized experience that customers will want to share. In order to be truly effective, brands need to combine systems of engagement, or the things they use to interact with customers, with systems of record, or the back-office programs that track customer information. Tying these systems together is critical to monitor and stay on top of the modern customer experience.
One of the biggest challenges of the modern customer experience is integrating technology stacks that will last as technology changes and evolves. The key is to focus on the problem you are trying to solve and to understand how customers want to interact with the brand. Some brands have success going through a single stack provider, while others like to piece together services from a number of vendors; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather each company needs to do what is best for their strategy.
The key to staying ahead of the modern customer experience is understanding technology and how the right stack can help companies better understand and interact with customers.
Anyone who says it’s a man’s world clearly hasn’t seen the impact women can have on customer experience. As more women flock to customer experience roles and opportunities and bring their unique perspectives and skillsets, it’s becoming clearer that women are in a unique position to lead customer experience.
According to Denise Lee Yohn, a brand-building expert with more than 25 years experience, women have unique points of view that lend themselves well to customer experience. Among those is the natural ability to be empathetic, which is especially important because customer experience really boils down to understanding the customer and what they want. Women can also stand out in a field of men, which gives them more opportunities to shine and share new ideas. As diversity and inclusion becomes a bigger focus at many organizations, not having women involved in customer experience makes companies seem out of touch. After all, women are half of the customer base, so leaving them out of the decision-making process could be disastrous.
I interviewed Denise Lee Yohn on the modern customer podcast. Listen to it here.
That’s not to say that women don’t face challenges in the customer experience space. Some women have to battle with being stereotyped, and not being thought of as credible. Many women suffer from imposter syndrome, at least as they move up in the leadership ranks. That means they don't feel as powerful as they seem and they must fake it until they make it. Society often tells women even in 2017 that their worth is based on their looks, rather than their mind and their work. When you look at the top of politics, of corporations, and even of keynote speaker line-ups, we still mostly see men. Where are the women? We are here, but we face many hurdles uphill, but must support each other in our effort to create more opportunities for women.
Along with personal challenges, inside of corporate America there are challenges women face internally at companies. In many organizations, customer experience is divided across multiple departments, meaning that to truly make an impact, a woman has to be able to influence beyond her scope to people in other areas, and many organizations aren’t currently set up for women to do that. In order to be most effective, many women rely on their content to override the prejudices and use a more logical and analytical approach when discussing customer experience with men.
According to Denise, customer experience is very connected with employee experience—if employees don’t understand or aren’t motivated to deliver a good customer experience, it is much more likely that they won’t. The most successful companies develop an internal culture that is aligned with their brand that then connects that to the customer experience by linking what customers need to what employees need. When employees are treated well and feel valued and connected to the brand, they are much more likely to share those experiences with customers. This strategy seems to work well with women, who often naturally like to make connections between groups and people.
For a woman to break into the customer experience space, she must embrace her differences and channel that unique perspective into something that can contribute to the company. Being deliberate about your career and the skills needed to succeed can make a big difference.
It may be an uphill battle, but women are making great progress in the customer experience space and proving they can connect with customers and drive results in a new way.
Denise Lee Yohn is a fabulous speaker and thought leader and I had a wonderful time interviewing her for my show. She is an important voice to follow.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, speaker and author of the book More Is More. Sign up for her newsletter here.
Sheryl Connelly is the in-house futurist for Ford Motor Company. You might be surprised to know she doesn’t ever talk about cars.
As futurist she says she often finds herself “in the role of the polite contrarian.” If you listen to Sheryl, she’s a wealth of knowledge about self-driving cars, to shifting gender roles, to how and why companies need to work on building trust with consumers.
Her job involves playing the role of contrarian. At Ford she spends time asking her colleagues about their own assumptions around their work. And this is the role of the futurist, to pose possibilities and various scenarios around the future and what could be. Technology has sped up the rate of change and this is why the role of the futurist is more important than ever.
“The reason we have so many futurists today is we have so much change happening so quickly. I need to put in the opposite vision just so you can entertain it," said Cheryl.
Futurist As Storyteller
Part of being a futurist is painting possible pictures of future scenarios. This role is part researcher, statistician but more importantly storyteller. As a storyteller you have the potential to tell an optimistic story of the future or a negative one. Sheryl said in our podcast, “If you’re an optimist you have rose colored glasses. That includes economic growth, prosperity, improved quality for masses, education for all, disease and suffering eradicated. But you always have to compare it to the exact opposite.”
Sheryl is an optimist but does her best to stay neutral. She said, “It’s much easier to imagine the many ways to things can go right than go wrong. The end game isn’t to see who wins, but to see how expansive you can get with your thinking.”
Sheryl is very measured when she speaks about the future, even self-driving cars. When I asked her in our interview what impact the media hype has on the work at Ford around self-driving cars she said, "The media hype doesn’t drive what Ford is doing. Ford has been working on autonomous vehicles for decades. The really big obstacle is the other stakeholders, barriers or hurdles. [For example] How do you resolve issues surrounding insurance, legislation, data privacy, protocol, partnerships with cities, infrastructures, public and private collaboration in place to monetize the infrastructure?" She added, "who should be in those discussions?"
Self Driving Cars - The West Isn't Ready
According to Ford the West isn't ready for self driving cars. The reason might surprise you. Ford did research in eight different countries around self-driving cars. What they found was 84% of people in India and 78% of people in China said they would drive self-driving cars. While in the US only 40% of people said they were ready for self-driving cars, and an even lower number for the UK. Sheryl said, "We didn’t ask why, but our theory is that China and India have the most egregious congestion takes place, unimaginable for westerners to comprehend. In Beijing the average daily commute can be five hours a day. This isn’t an infrastructure problem since in Beijing they have a highway 50 lanes wide. They suffered a traffic jam that lasted 12 days long." She believes that this is why in China an India people are ready for self-driving cars. You also have more fatalities because of cars.
However the West is a different story. According to Sheryl in the West the car is an extension of personal identity – the car symbolizes freedom and independence. It’s hard to give that up. She noted that autonomous vehicles could add to gridlock.
In the podcast we talk about the 2017 Predicting The Future Report released by Ford. The research talks about building customer trust, the rising role of women in society and sustainability.
The Rising Role Of Women
We talk extensively in the podcast about the rising influence of women and Sheryl talks about how she presents these ideas to various teams at Ford. She said, “The rising influence of women is something we pay attention to.” She illustrates to her team members who the rising influence of women impacts society in a variety of ways. “Let me show you how that’s playing out in education, budget planning, board membership and company performance. Let me tell you what women are telling us about our cars. Let me tell you how women are responsible for 80% of household decision making. Let’s look to other arenas for insights that might change the trajectory of our conversation,” said Sheryl.
Sheryl is very unique in her role as in-house futurist. You won’t want to miss our conversation on the modern customer podcast.
For more from Blake M
There’s no doubt that technology is changing faster than ever before. At the heart of that in the business setting is marketing, which is becoming a driving force behind putting that new technology into action to reach out to customers and make sure a company is communicating in the right way. One of the biggest changes in the tech and marketing world is artificial intelligence, which will play a major role in the coming years.
According to Morag Lucey, the CMO of Avaya, a modern CMO needs to understand all the intricacies of modern technology, including AI. That’s because new technology changes the way marketers do their jobs—in order to truly be effective, they must really understand which technology is the most relevant and how it works. AI wasn’t even on the radar of many marketers just a few years ago, and now it is one of the fastest-growing technologies. Staying on top of things is vital. The new generation in marketing means that the paradigm has shifted and now marketing is responsible for a larger portion of the pipeline. Technology requires companies to continually transform—what Avaya started out doing 100 years ago is now obsolete, meaning the company has had to transform and pivot many times since it was founded. Marketers are key in helping their company transform and in understanding how to change a company’s identity through technology.
Marketing really comes down to communication and making sure you are interacting with customers in the best way. As technology becomes more integral, the CMO, CIO, customer experience officer, and others all play a part in ensuring that the customer experience is seamless. Much of this will happen through machine learning and taking advantage of robots and AI to communicate with customers quickly and efficiently.
One of Morag’s biggest concerns with changing technology is how it affects the skillsets of employees. The entire discipline of marketing is changing, meaning it is more important than ever to have strong talent in an organization. Investing in employees to ensure they have the skills they need for the future is absolutely critical. Artificial intelligence will play a major role in marketing, which means having employees who can understand the process and visualize how to combine human interaction with machine learning will be huge.
As for the future of marketing, Morag predicts that marketing will be the top revenue generator for companies within five years, meaning that now is the time to get a firm grasp on technology and how it can transform a company. AI and other technology is transforming how companies operate and market themselves. Leveraging that technology can make all the difference in a successful company that avoids getting disrupted.
It’s an age-old marketing question: do you focus on all our customers or only target those who are most likely to drive results? According to Dr. Peter Fader, marketing professor at Wharton, and Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist for Salesforce, the answer is simple: customer centricity.
The idea behind customer centricity is to recognize that not all customers are created equal. Building on the differences in the customer base can be much more effective than simply using a blanket approach for all customers. By focusing on top customers and surrounding them with product recommendations and extra services, they can have an excellent experience and keep coming back for more. That’s not to say that middle and lower-tier customers should be forgotten—effort should still be put into finding the right messages and products to appeal to them, but the focus should be on targeting the right products and messages to each customer group individually.
In order to truly utilize customer centricity, a company should have a good idea of its brand and why it appeals to customers. Using the vast amount of data now available, teams can see what the customers bring to the brand and what the brand brings to the customers. By understanding what drives a customer to use your product or service, you can better appeal to their needs and know how to reach out to them in the future. Much of that comes from building a strong brand that customers feel they can trust. When customers feel they can connect with a brand, they are more inclined to repeat their business, especially when that strong brand messaging is combined with product recommendations they can trust and use.
Companies that best practice customer centricity make it an integral part of their brand and make a focus on the customer a hallmark of their work and culture. Customer experience is just one part of customer centricity, and companies that can build their brands, reach out to the right customers, and leverage metrics will be able to create a loyal customer base and drive great success.