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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: May, 2019
May 30, 2019

Imagine having a human assistant to look after your money 24/7 and proactively find ways to save more and keep your money secure. It may sound like an impossible dream, but Capital One makes the same service available for its customers with a virtual assistant named Eno.

Capital One has always been a pioneer in conversational AI. It was the first financial company to launch an Alexa skill that allowed customers to check their balance with a voice command back in 2015. In 2016, it introduced Eno as a text bot. Now, the revamped Eno is more intelligent, responds to conversational text and voice commands and even makes proactive recommendations and alerts. If you made an unusual charge that could be fraud, paid an astronomical tip that’s out of the norm or spent more in a certain area than normal one month, Eno will send you an alert. The bot not only reaches out, but also allows customers to quickly take action right within the channel instead of having to log on to a computer or call customer service.

The goal of Eno and Capital One’s dedication to conversational AI is to remove friction and have real conversations with customers. Before Eno, Capital One had an SMS fraud alert system that would text customers to confirm or deny unusual charges. However, the company realized that half of the responses weren’t confirmed or denied. Customers would respond with things other than the Y or N that the system recognized. They were interacting with the service, but not in a way that the machine recognized.

The move to conversational AI allows humans to talk as they normally would. Ken Dodelin, Capital One VP Conversational AI Product Development, says it’s a move to teaching machines to talk like humans instead of the old method of trying to have humans talk like machines, which was ineffective and frustrating for everyone involved. Eno’s conversational AI technology allows it to understand more than 99% of customer queries and responses—a major jump from 50% just a few years ago. Customer expectations are changing, and how brands design systems must also change.

Conversational AI isn’t something to take lightly. When done well, like in the case of Capital One, it can be a major component of the company’s overall strategy. Dodelin says it’s important to have humility when designing the program. Customers don’t always act how companies expect them to, which means teams have to be agile to find what best matches what customers will actually do.

Eno’s proactive approach has resonated with customers and had a very positive reaction. Eno and Capital One show the power of conversational AI to build bridges and improve the customer experience. Dodelin says that no matter the company, the goal of AI should always be to be helpful. The right technology can create extremely helpful solutions for busy customers.

May 22, 2019

Planning a vacation is often so exhausting that you need the vacation just to recover. Choosing a destination, planning the itinerary and scheduling all the details can take up a huge amount of time and energy. But a new company takes away the need for travelers to plan their own vacations and taps into the experience economy to create unique adventures.

Manifest is the brainchild of Jeff Potter, the former CEO of Frontier Airlines and Exclusive Resorts. From his decades in the travel industry, Jeff learned the importance of getting away on vacation. Millions of vacation days go unused every year, and a major reason is that people don’t have the time or desire to plan their own trips. Modern travelers are also leaning more heavily to experiential travel and want to immerse themselves into the places they travel instead of simply staying in a resort.

Manifest plans group travel expeditions throughout the U.S. Instead of long, international trips, these vacations are more manageable for people to fit into their busy schedules. Customers join a local chapter, pay the annual fee for the travel club and then can sign up for as many trips as they want. Because of Potter’s connections in the industry, the cost of private aircrafts, luxury accommodations and exclusive experiences actually ends up being close to what people would pay for booking a business class trip on their own.

Group travel also brings people together in a unique way. With Manifest’s model, the people travelling together in a group likely live in the same city and have similar interests. The specialized trips range from an upscale Sonoma wine tasting weekend to whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon. Potter calls it “tribal travel” as the groups consist of likeminded people who share a passion for experiential travel.

Manifest is built around creating amazing experiences and building trust. According to Potter, what customers want more than luxury experiences is authenticity. They want to truly experience their travel destination. Manifest plans excursions that are often off the beaten path and something travelers might not find if they were making their own arrangements.

To ensure guests are satisfied with the arrangements, Manifest customers complete a short survey when they join the travel club, which includes details about their preferences and activities. The company listens to customers to offer a wide variety of experiences to meet everyone’s needs.

In our modern world, customers tend to value experiences over things. They’re investing more in travel than ever before, and Manifest takes advantage of the need for convenience, experiences and community by creating unique, personalized travel opportunities.

May 14, 2019

Digital transformation can have numerous goals, from saving money to improving customer satisfaction. But at Sprint, the goal is to empower both internal and external customers to do what they want, where they want, when they want. Rob Roy and this team called The Hive take a unique approach to finding creative technology solutions that meet the needs of customers and employees.

Digital transformation at Sprint is a reverse cultural transformation. It means embracing new ideas and working across the company to build long-term, sustainable products. A major focus of the digital transformation is internal, with the philosophy that if employees have the tools they need to succeed in the digital world, it will spread to customers. Roy often brings on digital natives with fresh ideas to his team. They also partner with startups and other entrepreneurs who have fresh perspectives on the future of digital.

In order to build a successful digital transformation that is accepted within the company, Roy says that it’s important to ask two questions:

  1. What is the direction of the company, and how does digital transformation align with those goals?
  2. What is the customer saying? What are their main pain points?

Combining the answers to those questions can help companies prioritize the areas that are the highest need and that will have the biggest impact. Sprint uses customer feedback, analytics and real interactions with sales representatives to set its digital transformation priorities. After all, digital transformation isn’t effective if it isn’t accepted by employees and goes against the goals of the company.

Instead of simply building digital products and hoping for the best, the team at Sprint gets input from employees and customers on what matters to them. Members of the digital transformation team flew to platinum care centers and sat with top care representatives for weeks to listen to their calls and understand how agents go about their days and work with their systems. Seeing the technology in action helped identify pain points and ways new technology could improve the efficiency and work of the representatives. The team then built a program called AI Agent Assist that is tailored to how representatives actually interact with customers. Many companies get pushback on new technology because the systems aren’t intuitive and require too much change, but Sprint’s new programs are familiar to employees because they played a role in designing them. Instead of working in an isolated box, Roy says it’s important for teams to work shoulder to shoulder across the organization.

For Sprint’s digital transformation, it’s important to embrace new ideas and create an innovative environment. Roy and his team spend hours every week thinking through processes. They experiment with new technology, brainstorm with outside thought leaders and surround themselves with people who want to press beyond the norm.

Staying close to customers and embracing new ideas has helped Sprint’s slightly unconventional digital transformation lead to amazing results that are driving future ideas.

 

May 1, 2019

Are loyalty programs worth the cost? According to research by Citi, the answer is a resounding yes. As the company transformed its rewards program and analyzed customer preferences, it found that modern customers are more loyal and valuable when they participate in a loyalty program with a great experience.

Mary Hines, Head of Customer Engagement and Innovation at Citi Cards, aims to deliver a seamless experience across all customer touch points. Customer loyalty programs are critical, especially in the retail and financial services spaces. What started in the 1980s for airlines and was often viewed as an unnecessary expense is actually a powerful way to engage with customers. Citi surveyed 1,000 consumers and found that 89% are more loyal to businesses where they are a rewards member. Citi customers who redeem their points spend twice as much as customers who don’t redeem their points. That engagement and loyalty can make a huge contribution to customer retention and the bottom line.

However, not all loyalty programs are created equal. When Hines started with Citi in 2012, customers had to call the company or use a website to redeem their points. Now, the vast majority of customers redeem their points through a mobile app for intuitive and convenient access to their rewards. Citi’s research also found that 83% of consumers are more likely to participate in a loyalty program if they can access the program easily from their mobile phone. That number jumps to 94% for millennials.

In many ways, customer loyalty programs reflect customer experience as a whole. Customers want resources that are accessible and applicable. They don’t want to go out of their way or jump through hoops to access a loyalty program. They also want personalized offers. Citi’s survey found that 95% of customers who are enrolled in loyalty programs are more likely to engage if they can get personalized offers. Hines has made a push to partner Citi with other popular retailers so that customers can easily redeem their rewards points right where they already shop, including Amazon, Best Buy and 1-800-FLOWERS. Rewards redemption also varies around the world based on culture and customer preferences.

Customer engagement has a huge impact on loyalty. Providing a seamless and forward-thinking rewards program that is driven by digital can create a band of loyal customers who provide incredible value to a brand. Engaging with customers and getting more of their loyalty drives the bottom line and creates a company that customers are proud to be a part of.

 

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