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The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, digital transformation, and the future. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience futurist Blake Morgan and author of the new book The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow's Business. The show features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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Now displaying: 2018
Nov 19, 2018

It’s a problem nearly every woman has faced: shopping for clothes and taking dozens of items into the dressing room, only to come out with just one or two items that fit. It’s a frustrating experience and one that can cause women to internalize their difficulty finding clothes that fit as something being wrong with their body.

 

But a new company is getting rid of standard sizing to create personalized, tailored clothing items designed to fit each customer’s body. Instead of standard sizes, customers can easily get clothes that fit their bodies perfectly. Every woman’s body is different, and it’s rare for someone to actually fit nicely into a standard size.

RedThread was founded by Meghan Litchfield after she realized that she wasn’t alone in her shopping frustration. Countless other women also had difficulties getting the perfect fit, especially as their bodies changed. Litchfield and her team aim to turn that frustration around to create a positive shopping experience for all women.

RedThread uses a 3D sizing model to customize fit, and the entire thing can be done from a customer’s living room. Each customer starts by taking a fit quiz so that RedThread can understand their fit preferences and what fit issues they commonly have. If pants are usually too long or too baggy in the thighs, the RedThread team takes that into account in their sizing model. Each customer is then sent a unique link, which she follows to take three photos of herself and one of an empty room. Those images create a 3D model, which pulls 15 specific measurements to get the right fit. RedThread tailors then create the item of clothing to match the size and fit preferences. The finished product is delivered to the customer’s door within a week.

So far, Litchfield says women are enjoying the experience. Aside from creating clothing pieces that women love, RedThread’s goal is to give women the convenience and ease they crave. Modern women don’t have time to search for the right clothing items and take a gamble if they will really fit. In an industry that has long stood by standardized sizing, RedThread is changing the paradigm. Litchfield wants to own the entire process, starting with how women shop to how the clothing items are sewn and delivered. So much thought is put into each piece, which guarantees a great experience. 

Instead of being stuck in a dressing room with nothing that fits, women can now be confident that their clothing will be comfortable and tailored exactly to them. RedThread shows how truly listening to customers can help meet their needs. Understanding your customer and taking the time to create a high-quality, customized product goes a long way in customer experience.

Nov 1, 2018

In a world where most of a company’s marketing and customer experience budget goes to new technology and flashy ads, it’s time to get back to the basics of word of mouth.

According to Jay Baer, co-author of the new book Talk Triggers, it’s all about talking to customers and getting to know them. From there, brands can create talk triggers. It’s a simple concept but can be incredibly effective. A talk trigger is a strategic business choice that compels conversation. In order words, what can your brand do differently that people will talk about?

Baer gives the example of Cheesecake Factory’s massive menu, which has hundreds of items and almost 6,000 words to describe them all. The menu didn’t just happen—it’s a strategic choice by Cheesecake Factory that gets people talking. Baer’s research found that 38% of Cheesecake Factory customers have talked about the menu in the last month without being asked. The novel-sized menu is a simple thing that encourages conversation and makes customers advocates for the brand.

To be effective, a talk trigger must meet four requirements: be remarkable, relevant, reasonable and repeatable. As Baer points out, this isn’t about surprise and delight and creating an amazing experience for one customer. It’s about doing something believable and unexpected that all customers can experience and talk about.

DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip cookies are a great example of a talk trigger. The simple act of giving each guest a warm chocolate chip cookie when they check into the hotel makes a huge impact of the customer experience. People talk about DoubleTree cookies all the time, which is one of the reasons why the company doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising.

Every company can create a talk trigger. Baer recommends mapping the customer journey and identifying potential touch points and triggers. From there, interview new customers, long-time customers and lost customers to get their perspectives on the brand. Use that information to create something original and unexpected. What can you do that customers don’t see coming? That’s how you get them talking.

Although data and technology play a huge role in customer experience, we can’t forget about the old standbys, including word of mouth. Taking time to understand customers and get them talking can create a memorable experience and make them loyal brand advocates.

Oct 3, 2018

In a world where older women are often expected to look and act a certain way, Chico’s is spreading a message of age positivity.

The clothing store recently launched a marketing campaign and video that shows a 58-year-old influencer asking women if they would wear their age on a t-shirt. The idea is to showcase that getting older is really just getting bolder. Chico’s “Bold” campaign has received hugely positive reviews as women embrace the idea of showcasing their boldness and experience.

In today’s world, it isn’t enough to just talk about products. Customers, especially women, care about a brand’s purpose and want a brand to stand for something they can relate to, says Chico’s CMO Shelagh Stoneham. Studies have shown that women are most comfortable with themselves when they are 60 years old, but so many messages in society go against that and say that older women shouldn’t take risks and be bold. Chico’s aims to show that women can do anything at any age and that women should dress themselves in a way that is true to them, regardless of their age. At Chico’s, aging is a badge of honor, not something that should be hidden.

In order to successfully market the message of age positivity, Chico’s dove into research to find out about its customers’ demographics and what they wanted. The majority of Chico’s customers are age 40 or older and are experiencing changing bodies. Chico’s wanted to shift the perception of its brand and showcase that women of every age can accept their bodies, be confident and show their boldness. Customers and potential customers have connected with the authenticity of the message and campaign.

Chico’s message is more than just words. The brand and its employees really believe that they are saying and walk the walk by showing their own boldness at every age. The marketing campaign is part of Chico’s larger focus on customer service. Stoneham says clothes are a form of self-expression. Chico’s focuses on delivering the most amazing customer service with its stylists who are trained to connect with customers and help them put together outfits that make them feel as beautiful, confident and comfortable on the outside as they do on the inside.

Chico’s customers are so loyal that many have built decades-long relationships with associates. Employees spend time asking questions and are trained to be sensitive to customers and deliver high-quality, personalized experiences to everyone who walks into the store. Chico’s is constantly listening to customers and finding out what they want and need. Customer feedback is added into products, marketing campaigns and the entire experience.

Chico’s shows that embracing an authentic message like age positivity and making it a hallmark of a company’s marketing can be incredibly successful. By standing for something more than just their clothes and highlighting a message that resonates with women, Chico’s is fighting ageism and connecting with customers.

Sep 26, 2018

A stock exchange might not seem like the most likely place to publish fresh social content and connect with younger generations. But then again, Nasdaq has always been ahead of its time. Nasdaq was the first electronic stock market and dates back to the 1970s. Although most people have probably heard of the company, many of them couldn’t actually tell you what Nasdaq does.

That’s where Chief Digital Officer Josh Machiz comes in. His job is to connect Nasdaq with a younger audience and tell the story of what Nasdaq actually does. With a fresh strategy and relevant content, he’s connecting with a new audience and growing the company’s brand and experience.

When Machiz joined the Nasdaq PR team in 2013, the company wasn’t doing much—if anything—with digital marketing and social media. But because Nasdaq is focused on innovation and technology, Machiz knew the company had to be able to showcase the stock market of the future digitally. A focused effort on growing social content has increased Nasdag’s followers from 20,000 to more than 3 million in just five years.

Part of the way Nasdaq is gaining traction is by focusing on the innovators who are changing tomorrow. Companies come to Nasdaq to go public on the stock exchange. As Machiz says, the company is a dream factory where dreams come true. Many of the recent companies to go public resonate with entrepreneurs at different stages of building their companies.

Nasdaq’s social content is aimed largely towards younger entrepreneurs and Millennials. These people likely aren’t the ones who will be considering taking their companies public any time soon, but it’s never too early to build a loyal audience. Younger people are very influential to older people. As today’s entrepreneurs and founders get even younger, it’s important to get in early with a consumer audience and build the next cohort of potential customers.

Social content is huge for attracting a younger audience and showcasing the Nasdaq brand of innovation. One of the hallmarks of Nasdaq’s efforts is the “Never Settle Show”, a weekly talk show in front of a live studio audience that’s live streamed around the world. The show is regularly recognized for its interactive nature and even won a New York Emmy. The “Never Settle Show” covers the entrepreneurial hustle and is all about removing boundaries to entrepreneurship and making it accessible to everyone. Aside from the talk show, Nasdaq also has other podcasts and shows to showcase its brand and connect with a new wave of entrepreneurs.

Live shows are popular at Nasdaq, though that hasn’t always been the case. Aside from the “Never Settle Show”, Nasdaq has also partnered with CNBC to broadcast “Squawk Box” and “Fast Money” every morning and evening from its innovative market site. Machiz hopes to increase partnerships in the future with online publications and new media outlets to expand Nasdaq’s audience. 

As technology grows and changes, Nasdaq will keep growing right alongside it. The company already has big plans to integrate AR and VR offerings into its social content and office space. Nasdaq is living proof a company in any industry can transform its brand and connect with customers on a different level with quality social content.

Sep 12, 2018

Shopping for a new couch or rug is unlike any other kind of shopping. First, customers don’t buy these kinds of household items as often they do other products, and they often don’t know what to search for. Instead of knowing the right keywords to search, buying home items is more about the visual approach and knowing what items look good in the space. A customer might want a blue rug, but they don’t know what brands or details to put into the search bar.

That’s part of the reason Wayfair, the largest online provider of home goods, relies so heavily on algorithms and analytics. The company has algorithms for managing all areas of the customer experience, from what a customer sees on targeted web ads to what delivery experience they have and how often they receive marketing emails. It’s all in an effort to better understand customers and make it easier and better to buy home items online.

Wayfair uses visual search and computer vision to add a visual element to AI. Customers can take a picture of something they see at a friend’s house or in a store, and Wayfair’s visual search finds products that look similar. It makes for a more pleasant shopping experience than trying to find the right keywords to match the look a customer is going for.

According to John Kim, Wayfair’s global head algorithms and analytics, much of the company’s success in customer experience comes from how it leverages its computer vision. Wayfair has 1,900 engineers and data scientists that are broken down into customer experience pods. One group focuses solely on how customers find what they are looking for, including things like keyword search, visual search and targeted ads. Another pod focuses solely on the buying aspect of the customer experience and makes it as seamless as possible for customers to buy what they want. Pods work together to make their aspect of customer experience the best it can be. By bringing together data scientists and engineers, the pod can not only come up with great ideas, but it also has the skillset to put them into action quickly.

Wayfair’s culture focuses on customers and analytics. No matter if an employee is in marketing or IT, they understand the importance of analytics and can speak the language. Customers are the focus of everything the company does, and it aims to move quickly and respond to customer needs.

Wayfair also uses technology as it moves towards the future. It recently partnered with Magic Leap to introduce mixed reality shopping, which allows customers to virtually see products in their homes to make sure they fit the space and style of the room before making a purchase. It brings together the best of AR and VR for an enhanced shopping experience.

AI is the future, and it has a major role to play a Wayfair. Focusing on algorithms, visual shopping and AI-powered analytics drives a successful customer experience and makes it easier for customers to find what they need online.

 

Aug 27, 2018

Some people say millennials don’t golf. That might be the case in the normal world of golf, but at Topgolf the stats show a different story. 51% of Topgolf customers are people who don’t play traditional golf. At Topgolf, customers visit for an experience away from other entertainment options they might have. According to Erik Anderson Topgolf Entertainment Group's Executive Chairman, they are competing with everyone including Netflix, bowling, music events or people who simply choose to sit at home on social media.

It used to be that golfing was reserved for older people with money. It meant spending the morning on the golf course doing 18 holes. Today, you can get the same golfing experience, but with music, lights, food and friends. Topgolf is changing how people golf and capturing the future of customer experience.

Creating Moments that Matter

Topgolf competes in the attention economy. It’s up against anything else that can capture people’s attention, and in order to stand out, the company aims to creates moments that matter.

Part of the reason for Topgolf’s success is that Erik Anderson and his team view the company as a creative company instead of a service company. It’s not just about serving customers their food or ball buckets—it’s about being creative to exceed their expectations. The goal is to create moments that matter, and employees at all levels are encouraged to be creative to do that.

Anderson tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who celebrated her birthday at Topgolf. She didn’t like the guacamole she ordered because there was too much stuff in it. Instead of just offering a refund, the chef came out to talk to the girl and made a simpler version of his recipe that she loved. The creative approach to solve the problem helped create a great experience for the girl and her family.

Customer Experience Defined

Anderson’s approach to customer experience at Topgolf has three parts:

1. Must be authentic. Topgolf is a modern take on golf, but it is still an authentic golfing experience that has been updated.
2. Creates community. The goal of Topgolf is to allow people to golf how they want to. Guests can play games, watch TV and have fun. The experience is aimed at creating community and allowing people to experience great moments together.
3. Use technology to extend the community. The experience is designed to be shareable, which is huge for younger customers who share everything. Customers are encouraged to stay in touch with the brand through social media even when they aren’t golfing.

A Culture of Trust

Those three elements work together to build a culture that celebrates creating moments that matter. Leaders trust employees to create a great experience. Employees have to learn to take on that trust and be responsible for customers.

Anderson likens it to a rowing team. Each person on the team must be precise and trust every other team member. If anyone takes a stroke off, the boat veers off course. Topgolf creates a culture where employees know their colleagues will do what they need to do. Employees trust each other and are allowed to be creative. Customers can tell the difference.

Topgolf’s approach to creating an authentic customer experience shows what things will be like in the future. Instead of focusing only on basic customer needs, brands should consider the entire experience. Be creative, think outside the box and trust your team to create great moments for customers.

Aug 7, 2018

Imagine having an expert mentor at your fingertips at all times. Someone who could answer questions, provide advice and move you in the right direction. For customer experience representatives at Allstate, that dream is a reality with Amelia, an AI-powered bot trained in the language of insurance. It’s just one way the company is using AI to power customer experience and lead the charge in a changing insurance industry.

As customer expectations have changed, Carla Zuniga, senior vice president at Allstate, has worked to modernize how the company interacts with customers. The goal is to make more out of everyday interactions with customers and to move more interactions to automated channels, including chatbots and AI-augmented human roles.

One of the major players in the AI game at Allstate is Amelia, a chatbot trained on more than 50 unique insurance topics and regulations across all 50 states. Allstate employees can quickly chat with Amelia to get concise answers about complicated insurance questions from customers. Not only does it allow customers to get the answers they need right away, but it allows employees to be ready to work much sooner by cutting down training time. Instead of having to sort through numerous articles and resources and make customers wait, representatives can now chat with Amelia while the customer is on the phone to get the most accurate information. In an industry where regulations and compliance are incredibly important, Amelia helps make sure every customer’s needs are met and are in compliance. Amelia provides the best of both worlds—the quickness and accuracy of AI mixed with the personal touch of human interaction.

Amelia handles more than 250,000 conversations each month and is used by more than 75% of Allstate call center employees. Allstate has plans to increase her workload and expand her scope to eventually interact directly with customers. Paired with other AI programs like automation and big data, Amelia has helped Allstate reduce its talk times and increase its first call resolution rates.

Zuniga believes AI will continue to grow and transform over the next five years as the technology becomes more robust. As Amelia and other AI services become more customer-facing, employees will be able to focus more on case management and the human aspects of customer experience.

No matter how the technology grows, personalization is still a key element of insurance companies. It can be easy for customers to just feel like a number when they get a new policy, file a claim or contact their insurance agent. To combat that, Allstate relies on data and creates detailed profiles of each customer. By leveraging this information and using AI to highlight trends and the most important data points, the company can help interactions feel more intimate.

As the digital transformation continues and AI changes how insurers interact with customers, innovating and staying ahead of the curve is incredibly important. Modern customers want to feel empowered and engaged, and the best insurance companies must innovate in order to stay relevant. A major part of that innovation must be centered around AI, just like what is being done at Allstate.

Jul 24, 2018

It used to be that customers went to a restaurant for dinner, enjoyed their meal, and left without a second thought. Now, digital technology is changing how restaurants connect with customers and opening the door for big advances in customer experience.

Using digital communications to improve the online and in-restaurant experience gives brands more opportunities to get to know their customers and to provide a more personalized experience.

Stephanie Perdue, CMO at TGI Fridays, compares it to fine dining restaurants that know their guests and why they are in the restaurant and then caters to the occasion, whether it’s a birthday dinner with friends or a romantic date. With the wealth of data available to restaurants today, brands can know why customers are dining and what they are looking for in an experience. Innovation is in the DNA at Fridays, and the restaurant is constantly looking for ways to evolve the brand to match customer trends and technology.

Much of the digital improvement comes from connecting disparate data points. Fridays has a wealth of data from customers, both online and in-store, but the challenge is connecting the data and providing it to servers to create real-time, tailored experiences. Imagine if the data could show that a certain customer always purchases a certain type of cocktail, was celebrating a friend’s birthday and prefers to be seated in a booth. The server could take the information and deliver an amazing experience to help Fridays stand out from other restaurants. The company is currently testing a variety of technology to turn that dream into a reality.

Data also extends to rewards programs. Fridays was a pioneer for restaurant loyalty programs and is constantly evolving its approach to meet customers needs. By using data and digital technology, Fridays is able to connect customer data for its rewards customers to provide personalized offers and recommendations. Instead of the traditional “earn and burn” program, Perdue says the company is looking to use the rewards program to provide more opportunities to engage with customers. Even something as simple as giving a rewards customer offers for items they already buy can be incredibly effective. If a customer always buys appetizers but never dessert, offering a deal on appetizers is much more effective than a once-size-fits-all offer on dessert.

A big trend for TGI Fridays has been using digital to grow its to-go and at-home dining options. Data has shown that customers want great food from their favorite restaurants without actually having to go sit and wait in the restaurant. TGI Fridays invested heavily in its delivery and to-go ordering business and doubled it in the last six months. Digital is a communication point that makes traditionally brick-and-mortar restaurants accessible for at-home customers.

Expanding the to-go service not only opens the door to a wave of new guests, but it also allows the restaurant to understand the needs of its customers and track their trends and purchases. Perdue says it is important to be where the customers are. Fridays allows customers to place orders via Facebook, GM OnStar or Amazon Alexa, which makes it convenient to order great food from wherever they are.

Going forward, the biggest trends in the constantly evolving restaurant industry will be using data to connect the online and in-restaurant experiences and engaging customers after they dine. Taking advantage of digital trends and technology can help restaurants like TGI Fridays stay ahead of the curve.

Jul 17, 2018

Business leaders and executives would all agree that today’s customer experience has to be personalized, convenient, fast and right every time. But how many of them actually know what the experience is like for their customers? Are they aware of hold times, connection delays or other issues?

Customer experience is one of the defining characteristics of today’s brands. But too many brands measure things reactively instead of taking advantage of technology to proactively understand and address issues. The majority of brands rely on surveys and find out about issues after the fact instead of using technology to prevent issues and catch them before they grow.

Alok Kulkarni, CEO of Cyara, a cloud-based solution that looks at customer experience from the outside in, says it is important for executives and CX leaders to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to really understand the experience. If they wouldn’t want to go through something themselves, they shouldn’t make their customers do it. By using an early warning system to find integration breakpoints and system flaws, companies can take a proactive approach to solve problems before the customer experience is impacted. Rather than relying on employee feedback and stories that are hard to substantiate, a digital CX solution allows brands to perform systemic audits to get data about issues and potential pitfalls.

Kulkarni shares the example of a large bank that launched a new call recording solution for customers just before the entire team left on Christmas vacation. When the vice president of customer care returned after the holidays, expecting to hear how well the solution was working, he was surprised that more than half of call center agents reported that customers couldn’t hear them on the phone. Customers were frustrated, and the bank’s net promoter score took a nosedive. The entire team had to come back from vacation early to address the issue, which could have easily been prevented with an early detection system that showed the audio wasn’t going through. Instead of having to play catchup and solve the problem later, CX technology could have pointed out the issue before the system went live. 

Digital is also a powerful tool in customer experience monitoring. Monitoring from the outside is like a canary in a coal mine compared to finding out what happened after the event when it is too late to solve the problem. NPS and customer satisfaction scores are useful in tracking customer experience, but they don’t tell the whole story and are rear-facing instead of proactively seeking digital feedback in real time. The new metric is operational customer experience, or OCX, which objectively tracks scores for things like call success rates, connection times and hold times.

 This is just the beginning—customer experience technology will continue to play a huge role in the future. Kulkarni expects an explosion of AI that will lead to more conversational bots. Customers are expecting more human-like conversations through technology, and a conversational AI boom is right around the corner.

A connected digital journey that seamlessly takes customers from an AI bot to an actual human can help provide timely responses. Kulkarni predicts that connected journeys will be a key battleground in the future of customer experience. An omnichannel strategy allows companies to use digital to solve customer problems on their first contact with the organization.

As experience becomes more important than product or even price, brands need to make customer experience their top priority. In today’s battleground, brands need to arm themselves with a digital solution that puts customers first.

This podcast is sponsored by Cyara. If you would like to sponsor a podcast please contact our team blake@blakemichellemorgan.com.

 

Jul 11, 2018

When you think of great stories, you probably think of things you connected with emotionally. Sweeping images and great characters and locations instead of rational content and lists of facts.

That concept is followed by Tourism Australia, where Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Ronson says companies shouldn’t be overly rational with customers. It’s a common trap for many brands to over-explain things to customers. Consumers are surrounded by so much noise in today’s busy world—the best way to cut through the noise and make an emotional connection is to ignore being rational. Ronson says the best storytelling is grounded in what people know, but then moves forward. People can’t connect emotionally to a list of facts. After all, an emotional connection, not a rational explanation, is what drives us to change our behavior.

Tourism Australia followed that idea with its Super Bowl commercial that re-created a fake Crocodile Dundee movie trailer with Chris Hemsworth and Danny McBride. By tapping into a sense of nostalgia and fun, it was able to relate with customers on a different level and build an emotional connection with Australia.

Instead of embarking on a massive campaign, Ronson and her team focused on quality over quantity and decided to do fewer things but to make them more compelling and really reach out to customers to create an emotional connection. The main idea was fewer, bigger, better. It’s a stark contrast from many marketing efforts that aim to be louder and flashier than the competition, but it paid off for Tourism Australia and made their commercial the most watched from the Super Bowl.

In order to be effective storytellers, Ronson also says that organizations need to look at who they are targeting. The most effective organizations target their audience based on attitudes and behaviors instead of demographics. Attitude is a much better indicator of consumer behavior, which is why Tourism Australia focuses on high-value global travelers instead of one particular demographic.

Focusing on attitudes and behaviors helps marketers better understand changing customer trends. Today’s customers want genuine, unique experiences. They want to be able to connect with people around the world, especially as they travel. Part of the reason Ronson believes the Super Bowl commercial was so effective was because it highlighted the down-to-earth and welcoming nature of the Australian people instead of just listing reasons Australia is a good place to visit.

No matter the story we tell, Ronson sums it up correctly by saying we’re all human. There is always something that connects us emotionally, and it’s up to marketers and storytellers to find out what that is.

Jul 5, 2018

When it comes to understanding customer satisfaction, it’s best to go straight to the source: the customers themselves. Perhaps no one does that better than the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a research groups that looks at more than four dozen industries to find out what customers are buying and how satisfied they are with their experiences.

ACSI’s data covers all major consumer industries. With data from the last 20-plus years, the organization can see how trends and technology impact overall customer satisfaction. The biggest trend in retail for 2018 is the continued growth of online retailers and the struggle of traditional big-box retailers, said ACSI Managing Director David VanAmburg.

Brick-and-mortar stores have been struggling for quite some time, especially as online stores like Amazon and Walmart continue to grow. However, the struggle has been bigger in the past year compared to the previous three to four years. It’s even harder for specialty mall stores like Gap to find their footing with customers. Customers just aren’t shopping in malls as much anymore, which means many of these stores have had to focus on their online presence.

A great example of that is Nordstrom, which is doing better than many other department stores. Nordstrom saw that the industry was changing a few years ago and pivoted to expand its web presence. The idea is to be where the customers are. Nordstrom realized many of its customers prefer shopping online, so it put more effort into its online experience. VanAmburg says one of the keys to a strong web shopping experience is navigation. It should be intuitive for customers to find what they want. There also has to be logistics to match—even a great website doesn’t create satisfied customers if the items or sizes they want aren’t in stock.

For modern customers, efficiency and convenience is crucial. That’s one of the reasons that supermarkets and drug stores are doing better than they were a year ago. As Amazon moves into the space with its Whole Foods acquisition, supermarkets have improved their marketing and found ways to offer competitive convenience. Even small changes to the look and flow of the store can improve efficiency and overall customer satisfaction. ACSI’s data has found that efficiency is the most important quality to customers. In a world where Amazon offers two-day shipping and instant in-store checkout, stores have to come up with creative ways to compete.

In order to get customer data that is useful, stores must focus on the entire customer experience. ACSI regularly asks customers about all of the elements of the shopping experience, from overall satisfaction to their expectations, prices, store location, employees, and merchandise. Customer satisfaction doesn’t some from one single area, but is the totality of the entire experience. Stores can use the same metrics to track their own internal progress and that of the competition.

Today’s world is data-driven, and customer satisfaction is no exception. In order to best serve customers and compete with the retail giants, stores across all industries need to understand customers and what they are looking for. With the help of ACSI and other internal data, retailers can stay ahead of the competition.

Jun 27, 2018

It’s a situation many people have found themselves in. As a young professional who was throwing herself into her career, Lori Wright looked around one day and realized the person she had become was not who she really was. She was so focused on building a great career that she neglected every other area of her life, from working through family vacations to not seeing friends or taking care of her personal well-being.

In what Wright calls a “catastrophic burnout moment”, she called her boss and quit a job she loved.

Wright, now the GM of Microsoft 365, uses that experience to help find balance in her life as a busy mom, executive and community member. One of her biggest life lessons is that working women can’t have it all and must make trade-offs.

Women are under a lot of pressure to be perfect in everything they do. Scrolling through Instagram or flipping through a magazine showcases women who seem to do everything perfectly—great careers, clean houses, well-behaved children, a strong marriage, community involvement, fit bodies and much more. But Wright wants women to realize that the idea of being perfect at everything is an illusion. No one is doing everything perfectly every day, and a big part of self care is giving yourself a break and realizing you can’t do it all.

The key is finding balance and trading off. Wright recommends laying out all of your responsibilities and then identifying the critical moments in each area. It could be that being at your kids’ soccer games or school pickup is critical for your family responsibilities and being at board meetings or employee trainings is critical for your work responsibilities. Critical moments are different for each person.

Be deliberate with your time and make sure that you show up for the important moments. As Wright says, once you leave college, you never get straight A’s in life. Instead, make the moments you need to get an A in for the day a priority. One day you may get an A in work and community involvement and a C in family responsibilities, but it balances out when you get an A in family and a B in work another day. What matters is that you’re there for the important work moments and the important family moments, as well as moments that are important in other areas. Time is finite, and accepting that there are trade-offs can be powerful in your work-life integration and overall success.

Wright also says it is important to help others along the way, especially other women. Every woman has a magic wand she can use to help someone and make another woman’s life easier. As we work to be more deliberate with our time, we can be honest and open about what else matters in our lives. Instead of only keeping work things at work and family things at home, we can bridge the gap and create more trusting relationships.

 

Wright sums it up with her advice to her younger self: enjoy the journey. Even with the trade-offs and challenges, there is joy in every day. Take the pressure off yourself to do everything perfectly and instead look around and enjoy the view.

Jun 20, 2018

Business leaders, contact center employees and sales associates interact with customers every day and are faced with requests, questions and a wide variety of complaints and issues. The customer experience largely comes down to how they respond—is it with a rote reply or a personalized reaction?

Jeanne Bliss, president of CustomerBliss, bestselling author and a pioneer in the CX field, wants leaders and employees to pause before responding and remember the human side of customer interactions. Her new book asks the question, “Would you do that to your mother?”

The idea is simple—we take good care of the people we care about, whether it’s our mother, sibling or a close friend. In many situations, there is a difference in how we treat customers and how we treat our loved ones. But every customer we interact with is someone’s mother, sibling or friend and should be treated with the same humanity and respect.

Bliss says the work of customer experience can get unnecessarily complicated. By pausing and evaluating the situation before taking action, practitioners can connect in a more human way instead of being stuck in a sea of processes and regulations. After all, customer experience comes down to connecting with people, not just sticking to a rule book.

An example Bliss cites in her book is Vail Resorts, which outlawed phrases like “Our policy is”, “Not my job” and “I don’t know.” The company gave its employees freedom to deliver the experience of a lifetime to its customers and provided the training and trust to go along with it.

If your mother called in with a warrantee claim three days after the warrantee expired, you wouldn’t give her a lesson in your company’s warrantee policy—you would simply take the claim and make an exception. The same should be true with other customers. If a long-standing customer calls with a warrantee claim just after the warrantee expires, take care of them like you would your mother. If not, you put that customer relationship at risk and open the door for them to go to a competitor.

One of the reasons people often overlook the humanity of customer experience is that there is a lack of trust in many organizations. When leaders don’t trust employees, it leads to a poor experience that drives away employees and customers. We should trust employees and trust customers, just like we trust our mothers and other loved ones.

Bliss also shares the example of Cleveland Clinic, which realized more than a decade ago that it just wasn’t pleasing customers. The organization implemented rules that meant that no employee, no matter if they were a doctor or worked in the gift shop, was allowed to pass a customer requesting help. It also made all employees caregivers and gave them training and permission to stop and help every customer and patient they saw. The company got rid of silos for a more holistic approach to customer experience. You wouldn’t leave your mother in the hallway of a hospital, so why would you do that to a customer?

Customer experience is all about humanity. More than profits or growth, it really comes down to connecting with customers and meeting their needs. As we build and strengthen relationships, the growth and profits come naturally. As Bliss says, we need to add humanity to customer experience and really ask ourselves, “Would I do that to my mother?”

 

Jun 14, 2018

The world of small business insurance has always been riddled with hoops to jump through. Instead of spending valuable time growing their businesses, entrepreneurs are forced to waste time on the arduous process of finding insurance. In many cases, these people end up just purchasing a policy to be done instead of being confident that they made the right decision for their business.

Next Insurance is on a mission to reinvent insurance for small business, and it centers around updating the customer experience. When Next Insurance entered the market two years ago, it realized that the insurance experience was universally unpleasant across all small business industries. According to COO Sofya Pogreb, there was lots of room for improvement.

One of the biggest paint points was simply the amount of time the entire insurance-buying process took. Oftentimes, small business owners only had a few days before they needed to have a policy in place, but it took weeks of dense paperwork to make a purchase.

Next Insurance turned that on its head by removing most of the humans from the application process and leveraging AI and machine learning technology. As Pogreb said, the vast majority of customers don’t actually want to talk with a human if they can have a better experience working with a machine. Instead of weeks of paperwork, most Next Insurance customers can buy a policy in 5 to 10 minutes, and 93% of them never talk to a human. The company has agents available for customers who prefer human interaction, but the vast majority of customers simply want speed and accuracy, which is provided with the the help of strong AI algorithms.

One of the biggest holdups for traditional insurance companies is the fragmentation of the value chain. The agents interacting with the customers might not understand their small business industry, and the data of what customers want and need isn’t getting to the back end and product development. Without a flow of data, the product and customer experience aren’t optimized to best meet the needs of customers.

Insurance essentially comes down to three main decisions: the underwriting decision, or if a company will sell insurance to a customer; the rating decision of how much the policy will cost; and the claims adjudication decision, which decides if the claim is covered and for how much. Traditional insurance companies use humans for each of these decisions, which is often why things take so long, instead of using data to make the process more efficient.

Next Insurance enables data to move through entire entire value chain to better understand the customer. Data is updated in real-time so product developers and those focused on customer acquisition can know what is and isn’t working with customers on everything from pricing to coverage.

Next Insurance is also leading the charge in how it handles claims, which Pogreb calls the moment of truth in insurance. One of the biggest frustrations for customers filing a claim, only to realize that their policy doesn’t actually cover what they thought it did. Next Insurance focused on transparency with customers so that they know from the beginning what is and isn’t covered.

According to Pogreb, there’s a revolution coming to the insurance industry in customer experience and product quality. Next Insurance and a growing wave of insurtech startups are leading the charge, but soon all companies will have to transform their customer experience and product offerings.

May 30, 2018

Is your company running from the future or preparing for it?

Nearly every business leader knows the the future of work and technology will bring huge changes, but very few of them are actually doing anything about it. Companies that invest now to become future ready will be the ones that lead and withstand upcoming changes instead of getting disrupted and being pulled in multiple directions.

Wunderman Global CMO Jamie Gutfreund and her team recently undertook a major research project and discovered a large disconnect between companies seeing problems and actually solving them. Most people see change as an obstacle instead of an opportunity. And while Gutfreund agrees that you can’t predict the future, it is definitely possible and wise to prepare for it.

One of the main keys to becoming future ready is to be constantly evolving. As technology changes, it opens new doors for how brands connect with customers. Brands that are preparing for the future pay attention to new technology and find new, innovative ways to share their messages and connect with customers. It’s easier said than done, however. The research by Wunderman found that while the majority of brands say they are future focused, 70% of business leaders said they can’t sacrifice short-term gains for long-term goals.

The important thing to remember is that digital transformation and new technology isn’t just a trend. It’s a long-term game and a powerful tool for forward-thinking companies to have in their tool belts. Digital transformation isn’t a quick fix but rather something that needs to happen over time.

However, digital tools don’t matter if the messaging isn’t there. Gutfreund says that the most successful companies are the ones that have set themselves up to receive feedback from employees, customers, competitors and industry leaders. These companies can hear what is going on and put it into context of what their brand stands for.

Companies that are future ready can’t operate in a silo. They have to be exposed to what is going on with their customers and across all industries. Instead of simply competing against other companies in the same industry, technology and customer experience have made it so that all brands are competing against each other. Customers compare every interaction with a brand to their best brand interactions, regardless of if that means a bank or airline is getting compared to Netflix or Amazon. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make listening and customer experience a key focus moving forward.

Wunderman’s research also uncovered the idea of wantedness. Today’s customers have all the power. Instead of brands seeking loyal customers, they need to pivot and serve their customers as loyal brands. The vast majority of customers will only consider using brands that show they are interested and care about their customers. Customers want to feel wanted, and it’s up to brands to give them that special treatment.

So much of the buzz in the consumer world is around transparency and low levels of trust. Brands that can show they are invested in incorporating feedback and new technology and actually want to serve their customers will not only be ready for the future but will be the ones leading it.

May 24, 2018

A huge change is coming to Europe, and most businesses aren’t ready.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, goes into effect May 25, and with it comes a power shift that allows customers more access to their personal data than ever before.

Customer data has long been thought of as a business asset. However, under GDPR, customers are now taking back ownership of their information and the power that comes with it. They can now choose what information companies have and delete their information from a company’s database for any reason. Companies that don’t comply with the new regulations run the risk of being fined up to millions of dollars.

However, the majority of businesses aren’t prepared for the new legislation. According to Jeff Nicholson, VP CRM of Pegasystems, most companies didn’t realize the impact GDPR would have until it was too late. That leaves companies scrambling to come up with a data solution that meets the guidelines of transparency while also preparing for a potential wave of customer data requests.

A new survey from Pegasystems found that 82% of EU residents plan to use their new rights to view, limit or erase their personal information that companies have on file. That means that not only will companies have to field the requests and share the information they have on each customer, they will also potentially lose customer data if customers request to erase their data. Companies also should handle the request in a way to adds to their customer experience.

Nicholson says it’s more a question of when, not if, the requests will come in. Companies must plan for large numbers of customers asking to see and potentially remove their data. GDPR doesn’t grant exceptions if there are too many requests for a company to handle in time, so all brands must be prepared for large volumes.

Nicholson says the best thing companies can do to be GDPR ready is to be proactive. The power and data shift is coming, and companies that ignore it or don’t plan accordingly run the serious risk of being blindsided by data requests and changes. Being transparent and creating reliable processes for customer data allows proactive brands the chance to build relationships with customers and gain a competitive advantage.

It all comes down to trust and transparency. Customers want to know they can trust companies to take care of their personal information and not sell it or use it inappropriately. Companies that can demonstrate customer trust will be much more successful than unprepared companies inundated with customer deletion requests.

One of the biggest downsides of customers electing to have their data erased is that it can no longer be used for data analytics. Losing data means companies won’t be as connected to customers or have as many insights into their preferences and habits. One of the most vulnerable industries with these changes is retail, which relies heavily on customer data for personalized recommendations and marketing. Companies need to learn to do more with less data to still provide a high-quality, personalized experience.

GDPR is a huge shift in the EU, and it has the potential to expand to other parts of the world, including the U.S. According to Nicholson, the implementation day of May 25 isn’t the finish line but rather the starting line to a long road of customer data changes. Companies that are proactive and GDPR ready will set the tone and can weather the shifting consumer landscape.

May 14, 2018

There are often two camps when it comes to customer experience: those who think automation and technology is the future, and those who think humans will still perform every task. However, perhaps the most likely scenario is one championed by David Clarke, Global CxO & Experience Consulting Leader, Digital Principal at PwC, who believes future success in customer experience comes from a combination of people plus technology.

One of David’s first suggestions to companies and one that he is constantly using in his own work is for companies to consider if they are transactional or transformational. Transactional companies treat their customers like numbers and are just there to get the job done, while transformational companies aim to really change their customers’ lives by providing a quality product or service and a great experience to go along with it. Although technology is a powerful tool for customer experience, relying on robots can quickly turn a company into a transactional company where customers only interact with the brand to make a purchase and move on. However, if things are too people-heavy, a company can lose efficiency.

The key is to find the balance between technology and people. David advises that changes don’t have to be massive. Brands don’t need to rush out and buy the latest automated technology, but should instead start with the technology they already have on hand. Small changes can create momentum. The journey to customer experience is never over, but taking small steps helps things grow and keeps the company moving to continual success. As David says, lots of good steps amplify each other and keep you moving in the right direction.

Technology can not only open new doors with customers but also connect with the second half of the equation: human employees. PwC focuses on mentoring associates to give them the individual tools they need to succeed. Transformational companies move easily between industries, and a lot of that comes from moving employees between disciplines. PwC focuses on building the right team for each project, which often involves bringing together employees from different departments. The goal is to find the right people to work together to extract the best from each person. Technology can help, but the work of a cohesive and diverse team of humans can’t be replaced.

This approach to the future of customer experience is reflected in a new report from PwC. One of the key takeaways from that report is that customers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a better experience. This statistic shows the power of customer experience—after all, not many other investments or marketing campaigns lead to a 16% price premium. The survey also found that 42% of people would pay more for a warm welcome, which is something that can’t be done by a robot.

The report also found that customers will walk away after one bad experience, and that the cost of earning them back is very high. In our connected society, customers have lots of sources of information and chances to judge companies, so brands need to always be focusing on customer experience and earning customer loyalty.

The future of customer experience isn’t about replacing people with technology. New technology only amplifies the human experience. More than half of customers surveyed said brands have lost their human touch. In order to make the most of customer experience, brands should focus on finding ways to complement the human experience with automation. Instead of simply becoming robot-controlled commodities, companies need to build the connection between people and technology to differentiate themselves.

Innovative companies stay ahead of the curve and are constantly moving forward. As David says, moving to the future of customer experience isn’t something you do once and are done with—it is a constant movement of small steps and regular innovation to find the next thing to please customers. There is always change, and that change comes from combining people and technology.

 

 

May 8, 2018

In a world filled with uncertainty, helping everyday Americans gain financial security has never been more important. That’s been the goal of Prudential Financial since it was founded in 1875, but the company has changed its methods with the times and is now leading the charge for innovation.

One of the big players in that charge is Chief Customer Officer Naveen Agarwal, who views his role as connecting the dots of every customer interaction. Naveen says the biggest challenge in customer experience, especially in the financial services industry, is that it is often organized by product because of how the business is managed internally. This creates a fractured experience for customers, who often have completely different interactions depending on if they are talking to someone in banking versus someone in the credit card department. Naveen’s goal is to connect the entire ecosystem and not let management silos define the customer experience.

Technology and data play a huge role in breaking down those silos. Before Naveen could create a customer-focused strategy, he had to look at the data to understand customers. Prudential’s more than 300 websites and 40 call centers provided plenty of data about why customers were connecting with the brand and where they were in the customer journey. With a base understanding, the team could then improve those interactions with technology.

In the financial world, customers work with either fast money or slow money. Fast money includes things that are done quickly, like account maintenance and credit card applications. Prudential is good at helping customers pay their money faster. On the other hand, slow money involves long-term things like investments and retirement. In these areas, people tend to be very uninformed and overwhelmed. Prudential saw a gap in the customer journey where people were avoiding these big decisions because they simply didn’t know enough. As a result, it created an online content library with resources broken down by subject to help people learn how to manage their money.

This is especially important for people who are left as beneficiaries of their loved ones’ accounts. Prudential’s goal is to educate customers in their times of need, and it does that with an innovative survivor center with content specifically tailored to people dealing with the financial aftermath of the loss of a loved one.

Even with more than 20 million customers across the globe, Prudential still aims to create personalized experiences. By tracking customer behavior, the company can understand each customer’s preferences and stage of life. The goal is that no matter how a customer interacts with the brand, Prudential employees always discuss each customer’s individual needs. In many cases it opens up needs and questions customers didn’t even know they had.

AI and machine learning have played a large role in transforming Prudential’s core values for modern customers. Prudential is one of the best examples of putting AI into action in a way that truly transforms the customer experience. It used to be that applying for life insurance required multiple meetings, tons of paperwork, and invasive tests, which was a drain on the company and its customers. The entire process could take up to 10 weeks before customers were properly assessed for their risk. Prudential moved to AI to turn the basic information provided by customers on their initial life insurance applications into an algorithm to predict risk. The model is 93% accurate and can produce a policy in two days instead of two months. As a result, the number of customers buying life insurance has shifted.

As Prudential moves towards the future, it will continue to put customers first and use the best data-driven technology. Customer-focused executives and team members should understand technology and customer needs because everything they do has a deep layer of technology. Prudential shows that even a long-standing brand can transform itself to serve customers with innovative data and technology.

May 1, 2018

In a world where many customers just feel like dollar signs or voices on the phone, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world promises its customers they will be able to see the whites of its employees’ eyes. No matter the issue, there will always be someone there so closely involved in the situation that customers will know who they are and feel their presence.

It’s a powerful identity that Gary Adey, Commercial & Operations Director, Group Enterprise at Vodafone, has created for his team. Called Red Line, it’s an effort that showcases the importance of trust, ownership, and empathy in customer experience, especially when it comes to the operations team. Whenever a customer issue crosses the Red Line, the team owns it until it is resolved.

The Red Line identity is something that employees can connect with and that makes them proud to work for Vodafone. They then use that identity to drive positive interactions with their commercial and enterprise customers around the world.

Vodafone went through a transformation three years ago when it realized it needed to create a strong customer experience to match the high-quality network in which it had invested so much money. The company set a goal to be the customer experience leader in every market it operates in—a tall order considering Vodafone’s 500 million customers in 26 countries, including both consumer and enterprise customers.

Gary’s operations team plays a unique role in customer experience that isn’t seen in many other companies. At Vodafone, operations is an important piece of the culture that aims to create the optimum mix between people, technology, and process. Operations is directly connected to digital transformation and customer experience.

One way Vodafone drives customer experience is by focusing more on structure than on rules. Employees don’t have strict rules they have to follow; instead, they are given a structure and the autonomy to act within that structure to provide the customer what they need. Gary wants his employees to be empowered and passionate and not to be held back by rules or things they don’t have authority to do. Vodafone knows the importance of investing in customer experience, especially considering that it takes 12 positive customer interactions to undo the damage of one negative interaction. Investing in creating positive interactions from the beginning is more cost effective than risking a bad experience and having to fix it later.

This is especially important considering the wide range of interactions employees have with customers. On the consumer side, customers have questions about things like their bills, coverage, and upgrades. Vodafone has digitized many of those interactions so customers can engage digitally through the app for a more efficient and seamless interaction. On the enterprise side, the operations team supports large multinational customers who may have issues with their infrastructure that impacts everything about their business. Employees have to be ready to address a broad catalog of customer experience issues.

In the competitive telecommunications world, Vodafone sees customer experience as a sustainable differentiator that helps it stand out from the competition. It is easy to see the correlation between strong NPS and company growth. The company is focused on building trust with its long-term customers.

Vodafone’s operations team also stays on top of new technology and innovations. As trends and technology change, the company wants to be able to provide the best service and options to its customers, including an innovative program around the changing role of the retail store. This is particularly important in the enterprise space where many of Vodafone’s customers are going through their own digital transformations. By using new technology, Vodafone can have more data to create personalized experiences that can be scaled across countries and segments.

Operations plays a pivotal role in customer experience, as shown at Vodafone. By creating a team that owns the customer experience and is passionate about serving customers the best it can, operations can become the heart of any customer experienced-focused company.

 

Apr 23, 2018

Most CEOs don’t clean bathrooms, report to entry-level employees, or stop by stores just to chat with customers. Then again, Larry Sutton isn’t most CEOs.

Larry has turned RNR Tire Express into the fastest-growing tire franchise in the country with a humble and self-deprecating attitude. Larry doesn’t see himself as the head of the company; in fact, he’s actually turned the entire structure upside down. RNR uses an inverted version of the traditional pyramid hierarchy system. Larry reports to other executives, who report to regional managers, who then report to store managers and employees. As Larry says, the people who are doing the actual work are often the ones who have the best answers; if he wants to find out what kind of trucks to buy, he’s going to ask the manager who works with trucks all day instead of an executive who is removed from the actual work. It’s all in an effort to create a serve spirit instead of a service spirit. The CEO reports to everyone else because it is his job to serve them. That culture trickles down to customers, who can see a difference.

A serving attitude permeates RNR in how employees are treated. Larry believes that employees won’t be willing to serve customers fully until they are served and valued. That comes from working with them as a person instead of just an employee. Managers and executives help employees develop life skills so they can be the best husbands, wives, fathers, sons, neighbors, etc. they can be. RNR is a company full of changed lives in the business of changing lives. Focusing on employees and changing their lives spreads to customers and helps the company change their lives, as well.

Larry follows the Yes CEO mentality and has a goal to say yes more often than he says no. When an employee or franchise owner has an idea for something new, Larry almost always lets them try it, even if he doesn’t think it will work. The idea will either be a great success or serve as a learning experience for the employee and teach them more than if Larry had just shot the idea down in the first place. As long as it doesn’t hurt the brand, employees are free to try a lot of different things to create unique solutions to help customers.

Serving is at the heart of everything RNR Tire Express does. The goal is not to provide service, but to serve people. Multiple times a year RNR hosts events for employees and their families to connect and share the culture of the company. It costs a lot of money to put on events and offer rewards, but Larry believes it is worth it to serve employees. In an effort to build the culture of service, Larry has even turned down potential franchises who just didn’t fit the RNR culture.

Another way Larry stands out from the typical CEO is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows his employees and can connect with them on a personal and self-deprecating level. When he stops by the stores, he often checks to see if the bathrooms are clean. If they aren’t, he quietly grabs a mop and gets to work.

Larry also isn’t afraid to get feedback. It all comes back to the attitude of humility. He realizes that getting tires isn’t a pleasant experience for most people, so he welcomes new ideas of how to improve the experience. As Larry visits RNR franchises, he talks to customers in the waiting rooms about what could make their experiences better. When one customer suggested free Uber rides, four franchises started testing the idea. Other franchises are trying free pickup and delivery and mobile tire installation, and all franchises offer free refreshments and charging stations.

Larry truly believes that investing in customer experience pays off by creating an environment where people want to work and customers want to do business. His unique approach is working—RNR Tire Express has grown to a $130 million business since it started franchising in 2003. Thinking outside the box and serving with humility can make a big difference for companies across all industries, and it starts at the top.

Apr 12, 2018

When it comes to customer experience, many companies often overlook an important group of customers: their employees. According to Melanie Foley, EVP, Chief Talent and Enterprise Services Officer at Liberty Mutual, seeing employees as customers is key to creating a great experience. Just like customers can choose to buy your product or not, employees can choose to work for your company or not. Creating a culture of employee engagement helps drive a strong customer experience because employees are excited and prepared to interact with customers.

Treating employees as customers starts with the hiring process and delivering on the promises made in interviews. At Liberty Mutual, there is a large focus on developing engagement and loyalty by creating a culture that inspires employees to want to do the best they can for their customers. When companies provide an enjoyable atmosphere and make it easy for employees to do their jobs with the right technology and efficient processes, employees come to work because they want to, not just because they have to. There’s a definite difference between employees who are engaged and passionate about the work versus employees who are just there for the paycheck, and customers can sense that difference.

Treating employees like customers can also be measured. Liberty Mutual uses NPS to measure customer satisfaction and will soon be rolling out eNPS, or employee net promoter score, to all 50,000 of its employees around the world.

Strong companies anticipate and meet their customers’ needs, and the same needs to be done for employees. Liberty Mutual does this by encouraging empathy, dignity, and respect for everyone—customers and employees alike. Insurance can be a stressful business, and employees are often communicating and working with customers after they have had a devastating loss and are working to fix things. Although it has been a difficult and costly few years for the insurance industry, Melanie encourages companies to not nickel and dime their employees. Employees need to feel valued and won’t want to take care of customers if they feel the company is cutting corners on its customer and employee experience to save a few bucks.

The pace of change is increasing rapidly, especially in insurance. Strong companies are forward-thinking and try to get ahead of change. One of the best ways this can happen is by making sure all employees have change leadership capabilities and feel prepared to face change in their individual roles. Change can often lead to anxiety, so providing a space where employees can practice mindfulness is key. Liberty Mutual recently switched from a traditional wellness program for employees to a more all-encompassing well-being program that also encourages mindfulness, breathing, and taking time to calm down and reset.

In order to create a strong employee experience, leaders must be willing to have difficult conversations. Companies should be transparent and create spaces to talk honestly about important issues that are facing employees, especially with regards to themes like gender representation and making sure women are treated equally. Tools like employee resource groups and other discussion avenues can be powerful in making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Every company exists to serve a customer, whether that customer is someone buying the product or an employee. Engaged employees make engaged customers. By focusing on building trust, innovation, and loyalty with employees, everyone in the organization, including customers, will feel engaged and satisfied.

Apr 2, 2018

When an insurance claim is filed, it means there has likely been an accident or some damage to a person’s car, home, or business. Understandably, most people aren’t thrilled to have to go through the claims process. However, customer experience is still vitally important in the insurance industry and can make the journey more pleasant for everyone involved.

According to Alex Glanz, global insurance practice lead at Medallia, the insurance industry is similar to other subscription businesses—customers pay in advance and feel the value of their purchase later. Customers use insurance all the time. Although they likely aren’t frequently filing claims, having the peace of mind that they are protected no matter what happens will improve the quality of life of a customer.   

In the insurance world, there is a natural tension between saving money and helping customers. Insurers want to provide a great customer experience and follow through on their promises, but they also want to manage claims efficiently and effectively, which can often be at odds with each other. Sometimes to create a good customer experience the claim needs to take longer to process, but that costs more money, just like making detailed estimates can hurt customer experience. In general, the better the experience, the higher the cost. The balancing act for insurance companies is to create fair outcomes while managing costs to best serve customers.

In order to do that, insurers should think about things from the customer’s perspective. This week’s guest on the Modern Customer Podcast - Alex Glanz - recommends using data to understand the customer journey and see the points where the company’s actions aren’t meeting the customer’s expectations and using those as areas for improvement. Truly providing a great customer experience comes from having a customer-focused culture. According to Alex, everyone in the company must be focused on customer experience. It needs to start with the C-Suite and spread through the entire company. The best companies democratize their data and get it into the hands of people who can take action. When everyone engages around customer experience, customers are satisfied and loyal to the company.

Alex preaches the importance of moving past operational customer experience, which takes a research-based approach, and instead focusing on an agile, emotional response. Many companies fall into the trap of doing research about customer experience, coming up with a strategy, and slowly rolling it out in controlled segments. However, the best customer experience responds to the needs of customers and is more flexible. Real customer experience grows as it is part of a company’s day-to-day operations and a living piece of what every employee does.

The goal of customer experience for a brand should be to remove friction, and that goal is critical in the insurance industry. As customers file claims during difficult times, companies should be looking for ways to make the process smoother and help make customers’ lives easier, not more difficult. Improving customer experience helps lower costs, which keeps things in balance. Although the insurance customer journey might be unlike that of any other industry, customer experience is still a vital part of the insurance process and can be developed by knowing and understanding customers.

 Disclosure: This is a podcast and post sponsored by Medallia

Mar 28, 2018

Zappos is considered a leader when it comes to customer experience, but it hasn’t always been that way. When Rob Siefker, now the Senior Director of Customer Loyalty, started representing the company at conferences years ago, he estimates only 10% of people had heard of Zappos. Now that number is around 99%, and the company has become a model of how to create a customer-obsessed culture. However, the road to Zappos’ success wasn’t without hiccups.

Zappos has been an evolving company from the start. When Rob started in 2004, he was working as a temp in the call center on a job that was only expected to last a few days. That didn’t end up being the case, and he has grown with the company over the last 14 years. As Zappos has grown, one thing that has stayed the same has been the company’s customer-obsessed mindset. Although customer trends, expectations, and technology have changed, Zappos has been able to stay true to its brand and respond to a changing environment.

One of the biggest changes for Zappos occurred when the company shifted to a Holacracy model in 2013. Instead of using the traditional top-down organizational system, Zappos wanted to encourage innovation and empower employees by flattening the structure and distributing power. Zappos is now a leader in Holacracy, and it has been a great fit for the company, but it there were challenges along the way. There were a lot of unknowns with the initial transition, especially because no company of Zappos’ size had ever tried Holacracy before. One of the things Rob said the company didn’t anticipate was how to process the natural tensions that come with change. The new system was a bit disorienting at first, simply because it was something employees had never experienced before. Some of the early growing pains could have perhaps been mitigated if leaders had better anticipated the challenges and taught employees how to use the new system to instigate change.

Rob suggests that other companies that move to Holacracy or make any sort of big structural change should recognize that people will likely have a hard time with a significant change and will need time to adjust. Rob recommends involving employees from the beginning of the process and answering their questions right away so they can see how the change will affect them before it actually takes place. Zappos considered its employees when moving to Holacracy and trained them on the new system, but it also wanted to move quickly, and there were areas where it could have been better to slow down and make sure everyone had a firm understanding of the new principles.

However, the challenges of moving to a new system only solidified Zappos’ customer-first culture, and the company came out stronger. Zappos Insights is a consulting arm where Rob and other employees mentor other customer service companies on running contact centers and putting customers first. The key thing for these companies to remember is that every business is different and there isn’t one single playbook for success.

Zappos has grown and evolved over the last decade, and it will continue to evolve as demands and technology change. However, Rob says that the focus always has been and always will be on building an emotional connection between customers and the brand. The company will continue to elevate its customer experience in new ways, including its Zappos Adaptive program that curates products for people who have disabilities or limitations that makes it harder for them to put on clothes and shoes. Zappos aims to provide better service to an underrepresented customer group and to all customers.

Although it hasn’t always been a smooth road, Zappos’ ability to focus on customers and empower employees has allowed the company to take risks and come out stronger and smarter than ever before. Although every business is different, every company can learn from Zappos’ customer-focused culture.

Mar 20, 2018

Many businesses know the importance of becoming “experience-led” and went to get there, but knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Adobe recently created a new customer Experience Index after surveying more than 1,500 people across the country. The results show powerful insights into the minds of customers and show areas where companies are excelling with customer experience and where they can improve.

 

Delight Me, Know Me + Respect Me, Speak in One Voice, Keep Technology Apparent

According to Tamara Gaffney, Strategic Insights Engagement Group Director at Adobe, the general findings of the study break down into four tenets of experience that businesses should have. The four include: Delight Me, Know Me + Respect Me, Speak in One Voice, and Keep Technology Apparent. These are general themes outlining where companies or industries as a whole can improve. Some companies are doing better than others.

One of the biggest complaints from customers across all industries falls under the tenet of Speak in One Voice. Many customer frustrations arise from brands not following through on promises and not being genuine about what they said they were going to do. Issues also arise when there are hidden fees or the brand isn’t transparent.

 

Experience Makers and Experience Breakers

Adobe classified certain actions as Experience Makers and Experience Breakers. Making the customer feel tricked is an Experience Breaker. Tamara said it is extremely hard for companies to speak in one voice, especially with all the communication channels that are available these days. In order to cut through the clutter and provide a consistent message and experience, companies need to break down data silos and focus on integrating internally so they can present a united and consistent front to customers.

 

Companies Can’t Rely On Data Alone

Data and technology also play a huge role in the modern customer experience, though Tamara emphasized that companies can’t just rely on data alone. Survey respondents said they were delighted with new tech offerings, especially when it comes to helping brands create personalized experiences. In the technology section, the highest scores were for the importance of personal service, but the lowest scores were for preferring to interact with a human over a computer. Essentially, consumers understand that there are times when it is easier and better to interact with a computer and times where a human can provide better service. When getting a basic answer or filing a form, consumers like to interact with computers for fast service, but when it comes to getting personalized recommendations or answering more complicated questions, humans do a better job. Customers like to have options of how to get the best service.

 

Millennials Are The Most Demanding Generation

Another theme throughout the survey related to customer feelings and expectations from different generations. The most demanding generation is Millennials aged 25-34, most likely because they are becoming much heavier consumers. Younger consumers age 18-24 are more aligned with the older generations when it comes to what they expect from brands. However, just because customers aren’t complaining doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy—consumers aged 50 and older are less likely to complain, but it’s often because they’ve given up, not because they really are happier with the experience. The key takeaway from this data is not to assume that quiet customers are happy and to work on creating a great experience for customers of all ages.

 

Use Surprise And Delight For Mundane Everyday Customer Interactions

There’s also a lot of talk in the customer experience world about the importance of surprise and delight. According to the survey, most companies are doing a fairly good job of surprising and delighting customers, but there is still room for growth. To most effectively surprise and delight, brands should focus on the things customers do most often. A surprise and delight experience for something they do once a year is nice, but it’s more impactful to put that effort into building a surprise and delight experience on something customers do more regularly.

 

If You Don’t Measure It You Can’t Improve It

Tamara advises all companies to measure how they are doing with customer experience. Although Net Promoter Score is widely used and helps measure customer satisfaction, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Companies that want to become experience-led need to use more detailed data by creating surveys, talking to customers, and looking on social media. They need to understand their own Experience Makers and Experience Breakers and invest resources into strengthening those areas.

 

Address Your Biggest Challenge Area First

Even the most experience-led businesses can’t do everything at once. As the data shows, there are areas where companies are excelling at customer experience, and there are also areas with potential for growth. The key is for each company to figure out and address the biggest challenge areas and then put an emphasis on surprising and delighting customers at the biggest opportunities. A strategic and informed approach to customer experience can change how brands interact with customers.

 

Disclosure: Adobe is a former client of Blake Morgan’s.

Mar 19, 2018

There’s no doubt that customer experience is changing. Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects is that it is changing so quickly. In order to keep up with the rate of change and ensure customers’ needs are met, companies need to embrace a new wave of technology.

In many cases, customer experience is only as good as a company’s data and communication system. Think of how we communicate: we use text, chat, email, phone, and more. If that’s how customers talk, it’s also how companies should listen. Yet many times communication is lacking and actually contributes to a bad customer experience.

Bryan Martin, Chairman and CTO at 8x8, likes to think of business communication in terms of waves. The first wave was on-premise and hardware-based with heavy infrastructure. Companies likely had a different vendor for each aspect of their communication and data storage, which meant things were disjointed and inefficient. In the second wave, point solutions moved to the cloud, which didn’t really solve any problems except for making the solutions less expensive. We’re now in the third wave, which is transforming how businesses operate, store data, and communicate with customers. In the third wave, companies have a single enterprise cloud solution that covers all customer and employee interactions. The single platform enables communication while also engaging with customers and storing data for the entire company to access. Taking advantage of the third wave helps companies accelerate their businesses, gain more revenue, and see higher NPS scores. According to Bryan, the third wave will continue to grow as more people realize that all communications need to be connected.

Using different tools creates silos within an organization. If the contact center uses one program to manage its phone calls and the digital team uses another program to manage social outreach and customer data, everything falls into different categories and can’t be connected to create a consistent customer experience. Imagine the frustration for customers who can’t have their issues solved right away and for employees who don’t have the tools they need to best meet customers’ needs. Those problems are fixed with a unified enterprise system.

Contact center agents are always on the front line of communicating with customers. However, these agents aren’t effective at their jobs if they don’t have real-time access to other parts of the company. For too long contact centers have been their own islands without any connection to a common corporate directory or shared information. However, by connecting the entire organization to the same cloud-based data system, contact center agents can not only be aware of the context of their calls and better serve customers, they can play a vital role in driving customer experience and increasing sales.

There are lots of different channels companies use to communicate with customers, but technology is the glue that holds it all together. With the vast amount of data available today, companies should be able to understand and process customer needs in real time and know the history and context of each customer interaction. With the help of connected technology, the entire organization can be constantly improving.

Many companies think that changing their system and moving to the third wave is complicated and expensive. However, companies like 8x8 provide a variety of simple options. Investing in a unified engagement system has a high ROI as it accelerates business and improves customer experience.

In today’s world, technology is a vital part of customer experience. As Bryan says, the data scientist plays as important a role in customer experience as does the contact center agent. Taking advantage of technology and breaking down silos to create a unified, data-driven system allows companies to put customers first and drive their own business towards the future.

 

Disclosure: This is a podcast and post sponsored by 8x8.

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