Info

The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, social customer service and content. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience strategist Blake Morgan and features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
RSS Feed
The Modern Customer Podcast
2019
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2018
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2017
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January


2015
December
November
October
September
August


Categories

All Episodes
Archives
Categories
Now displaying: March, 2018
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.

Mar 12, 2018

Not many companies end up highlighted on The Ellen Show, but that’s exactly what happened for Capital One, and it can all be credited back to the company’s customer-centric culture.

After her fiancé broke up with her and she moved out, a Capital One customer’s card was flagged for fraud when she ordered furniture sent to her new address. The customer called and explained the situation to contact center employee Tonya, who gave her 4,500 miles for a vacation after her rough breakup and even sent her flowers. The story went viral, but according to Doug Woodard, SVP Customer Operations at Capital One, things like that happen regularly.

At Capital One, a customer-centric culture starts with trust. Executives work to create an environment where they can trust employees, which gives employees freedom to help customers in whatever way best meets their needs. All employees are encouraged to look for ways to build a connection with customers. Doug considers it his job to care for those people who care for the customers. He aims to support the customer-facing associates and empower them to serve customers.

Capital One is so successful with its culture because it starts at the top. From the C-level down to entry level employees, customers are an integral part of the DNA of the company. A customer-centered culture means that customer experience doesn’t just fall on one department—it is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. Everyone has a responsibility to understand customer feedback and make improvements to customer experiences. At Capital One, that happens as leaders invest time in getting closer to customers by going to the call center, reading customer feedback, and sharing that information with their employees, no matter what department they are in. Employees are recognized publicly when they are a hero to customers, which reinforces the customer-first culture.

According to Doug, a customer-centric culture is also built on transparency. Companies have to mean what they say and say what they mean. Culture is transparent to customers, and they can quickly see through words that aren’t backed by action. A customer can easily feel if the employee they are working with hates their job because it will naturally come out in the employee’s attitude. Humility and accountability are also vitally important. It takes humility to really listen to customers and be willing to do what they are asking and listen to their feedback.

Framing is also key to a strong culture. Employees need to see how their work affects customers and the difference they can make. At Capital One, employees know they aren’t just answering the phones at a credit card company, they are helping people with their financial lives. Everything rests on building that sense of purpose, from training and accountability to the quality of the experiences. Identifying the metrics that will measure customer-facing actions can also drive culture and action. It might be tracking NPS or other metrics, but having something to measure makes people accountable and forces them to follow through so the actions are rooted in the culture.

Much of what builds a customer-centered culture starts with the mindset of the leaders and employees. As demonstrated by Capital One, having an attitude of serving customers can permeate the entire organization and lead to great success.

Mar 6, 2018

Culture has come to the forefront of many business leaders’ minds lately due to attention around issues like sexual harassment and diversity. The problem is that most leaders don’t know how to cultivate a corporate culture that is lively and sustainable, or else they are going about it the wrong way.

Denise Lee Yohn, author of the book Fusion: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, says the thing most companies are doing wrong is thinking there is one just kind of culture they need to create. Many leaders see companies with great cultures and feel they need to imitate them exactly to create cultures that are warm and fuzzy with lots of perks for employees. That’s not the case. What really makes a strong culture is something that represents the brand’s mission and values. Yes, it should be a nice place to work, but the companies with the best results create cultures that are unique and represent who they want to be as an organization.

Instead of thinking as culture the same way as everyone else, leaders should find something that represents their brand and encourages employees to produce the results the company needs them to. That doesn’t always mean perks—as Denise points out, perks are just the tactics many leaders focus on instead of addressing the underlying foundation and strategy that makes a successful culture. Great snacks or a free gym might make employees happy, but it usually doesn’t truly engage them, and the appeal could soon wear off. True culture is long-lasting and goes beyond just nice things in the office.

Companies should be confident in their culture and own it. It’s misleading when a company misrepresents its culture, only for employees and customers to find out that things aren’t really how they seem to be. Organizations need to have an internal culture and outward identity that are aligned so they are authentic in all they do.

Intentional cultures start from the top with an executive team that takes responsibility. Culture isn’t built on its own, but rather requires a concerted and deliberate effort. The CEO and his or her team should think about things like the organization’s purpose, core values, and unique attributes. Those ideas can drive culture and allow the company to create something fresh that stands out from everyone else. A good culture is sustainable and creates a competitive advantage.

Denise shares MGM’s cultural transformation as a good example of how to create a strong culture that engages employees. MGM used to be thought of as an average Las Vegas hotel and casino, but the company wanted to transform into an experience-based brand. All of the company’s employees had to get on board with the transformation, so MGM brought in a training team to work with all 177,000 employees in person. Starting with leaders and working through the various departments, everyone was trained on the new culture so they could embrace the new brand identity. MGM wanted each employee to “be the show” and realize his or her place in creating a show for guests. Investing time in reaching out to all employees helped MGM change its brand and its internal culture into a place where employees feel valued and know they are contributing to something bigger. As a result, MGM has seen an internal transformation and financial gains.

Culture is vitally important to a brand’s success. It is strategic and something leaders should be focused on and very involved with. Instead of focusing on tactics that don’t work, Denise encourages companies to decide that makes them different and build a culture strategically. Creating a unique and sustainable culture can truly turn a business into a strong and successful company.

Internal cultures start from the top with an executive team that takes responsibility. Culture isn’t built on its own, but rather requires a concerted and deliberate effort. The CEO and his or her team should think about things like the organization’s purpose, core values, and unique attributes. Those ideas can drive culture and allow the company to create something fresh that stands out from everyone else. A good culture is sustainable and creates a competitive advantage.

Denise shares MGM’s cultural transformation as a good example of how to create a strong culture that engages employees. MGM used to be thought of as an average Las Vegas hotel and casino, but the company wanted to transform into an experience-based brand. All of the company’s employees had to get on board with the transformation, so MGM brought in a training team to work with all 177,000 employees in person. Starting with leaders and working through the various departments, everyone was trained on the new culture so they could embrace the new brand identity. MGM wanted each employee to “be the show” and realize his or her place in creating a show for guests. Investing time in reaching out to all employees helped MGM change its brand and its internal culture into a place where employees feel valued and know they are contributing to something bigger. As a result, MGM has seen an internal transformation and financial gains.

Culture is vitally important to a brand’s success. It is strategic and something leaders should be focused on and very involved with. Instead of focusing on tactics that don’t work, Denise encourages companies to decide that makes them different and build a culture strategically. Creating a unique and sustainable culture can truly turn a business into a strong and successful company.

1