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The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, social customer service and content. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience strategist Blake Morgan and features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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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.

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.

Feb 28, 2018

Everyone wants to feel connected—it’s part of human nature. Whether it’s building relationships at home, in the community, or with friends, people like to feel bonded to each other. But perhaps it’s nowhere more important than at work. A connection culture in the workplace can impact customer experience and create a place where employees are engaged and excited to be.

Studies have shown that people who aren’t connected can actually get physically ill and fall into poor health, especially during times of stress. However, the opposite is also true, says Michael Lee Stallard, author of "Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work”. When employees feel connected to their supervisors or the people they work with, all the parts of their body work together so they can physically work at a higher level.

As an employer, it makes sense to want employees who are physically and mentally strong and engaged over employees who are dragging and stressed. Who would you rather have interacting with your customers?

Brands want their customers to be engaged and feel connected to the company. But it’s hard for employees to give customers what they themselves don’t have. A company won’t have energetic and enthusiastic employees who connect with customers if those employees don’t feel connected to the company.

According to Michael, there are five benefits that come from having a connection culture: employees have cognitive clarity, they give their best effort, they align their work with the organization’s goals, they communicate more, and they engage in creativity to fuel innovation. A culture of connectivity impacts everyone, and customers can feel if it is there or not. When employees are engaged and connected, they naturally want to share that with customers.

Michael tells the story of Admiral Vernon Clark, who was the Chief of Naval Operations just before 9/11. When Admiral Clark took over, the Navy was having a hard time retaining sailors because they weren’t treated well and didn’t feel connected to the organization or to each other. When he first joined the Navy, Admiral Clark had a Master Chief mentor him, which connected him to the organization and set the path for his career, and he wanted other young sailors to have a similar experience. Admiral Clark turned things around by talking to the Master Chiefs and encouraging them to mentor and train the sailors under them. It worked—by mentoring the sailors and building connections, the sailors became more engaged and connected to the Navy’s mission. In just 18 months, re-enlistment jumped from 20% to 70%. Creating a connection culture in the Navy ensured that it was ready for whatever came its way and could do its job to protect American citizens.

Similar principles are found at Costco, which is known for taking care of its employees. Because Costco is focused on doing the right thing, employees feel connected, and the company has a much higher retention rate than other retail stores. The result is employees who are happy to be there and serve customers in any way they can.

A connection culture builds long-term, sustainable performance, which creates a high-quality customer experience. When people don’t feel connected, they are only coming to work to get a paycheck, and it shows in their interactions with customers. Conversely, a connection culture helps every employee see how their role impacts the organization and makes them excited to provide a great customer experience each day.

Feb 7, 2018

Most anyone who has had a bank account for at least a few years is familiar with the traditional relationship between banks and customers—banks house the money, send the statements, and set the rules. Many people think of their bank as the “big bad wolf” who sets the terms of how money is used and comes after you with fees if you can’t manage your money correctly. It’s a necessary institution, but one that has long been feared by many customers.

Things are changing, and how we interact with banks and money is transforming into a much more customer-friendly model. Instead of being afraid of banks, customers can now work with them to conveniently meet their financial goals. One of the leaders of the movement is Zelle, a peer-to-peer payment system that allows users to instantly send money through a secure app. Zelle is actually owned by seven of the world’s largest banks with the goal of creating a consumer platform that is fast, safe, and works across banks. It’s a far cry from the old attitude of banks that only cared about how many customers they could get to open accounts. Today, banks care more about creating a good experience for customers and providing them with the tools to make banking easy and accessible.

In many cases, banks are pivoting to more advisory roles and expanding their services and relationships. The relationship between customers and banks is changing in large part because new technology allows banks to use various platforms to deliver services that are faster and more convenient for customers than they could have done in the past. Zelle and many other banking apps would not have been possible even just a few years ago, but with advances in mobile technology, it’s not only now possible but safe and convenient.

Technology also allows banks to provide more options to customers. It used to be that if customers had to do any kind of banking, their only option was to go into a physical branch and talk with a banker. Now, mobile and online banking make it much more convenient for customers to get their banking done on the go. Modern customers love to self-serve, and banking apps make that possible. Instead of having to talk to a teller to deposit a check or wire money to a friend, it can now be done with just a few clicks in an app. Of course, physical locations are still available for people who want face-to-face interactions or have more complicated issues, but just having the option to bank in a way that is convenient for each customer is a huge change in modern banking.

The evolution of money is far from over. Changing payment options will likely affect how customers make purchases. Rose Corvo, the marketing lead for Zelle, says her company’s main goal is for people to use less cash and checks and instead use instant peer-to-peer payments. As artificial intelligence grows, it will also become more of a force in the financial world. AI will be able to notice trends in a customer’s account and then initiate a conversation about how the problem can be fixed. For example, if AI notices that a customer keeps overdrawing their account, it can notify a human to call the customer or contact them directly to discuss options and other banking products to prevent future With new technology and options comes more opportunities for banks to advise their customers on how to be smarter with their money. Education is a huge goal of modern banks because educated customers are happier and more loyal to the brand. As technology advances and it becomes even easier to monitor and move money, banks will likely become a more convenient part of our lives.

Our relationship with money is changing for the better, and it will likely continue to change as technology finds more ways to put customers first.

Jan 29, 2018

It used to be that customers had one basic cell phone that they used just to call or text people, and they would contact the phone’s support center when things went wrong. Those days are long gone. Today’s customers have multiple devices that are constantly connected, and they can interact with tech companies for more than just support questions.

As the technology and mobile world changes, Samsung is also changing its attitude towards customer experience. Instead of what SVP Customer Care Michael Lawder calls the “break, fix model” where customers only came to the brand to fix their broken devices and then got on with their lives, Samsung is now focused on building lasting, meaningful relationships with its customers that go beyond the one-off service fixes. The idea is that as customers become more connected with their devices, they can also become more connected to the brand. More devices means there is more chance to build loyal Samsung customers for life.

Samsung does this by aiming for high-quality customer service through a number of channels. It recently unveiled its truck on the streets of New York City that can service customers similar to how a food truck operates. If a customer needs help setting up their device, their screen to be fixed, or just a place to charge their phone, they can come aboard the truck and get the service done for free. Samsung is also expanding its chatbot ability by using bots to efficiently direct customers to a real person who can answer their questions. Although Michael admits the technology isn’t completely there yet, the idea is that bots will be able to streamline support requests by texting customers a few questions to point them to the right human support agent. Future chatbots will be able to gather more information about customers, which will lead to more customized experiences.

Samsung’s new focus on the end-to-end customer journey means that the focus isn’t just on selling a product or fixing something when it’s broken—it’s on building relationships throughout the entire customer journey. Building relationships that solve problems and improve customers’ lives means that Samsung has to put resources into its programs. By delivering amazing experiences, studies have shown that customers invest more in the brand, which leads to a huge ROI. The internal Samsung motto for service is “Done plus one”, meaning that not only is the problem solved, but employees have the power and are encouraged to go above and beyond to delight customers and make them Samsung fans for life. It’s not just customers who are connected to the products—employees are as well. Samsung lets its employees, especially those in the service areas, use their products for personal use so they can fall in love with them and naturally want to provide amazing service. The hope is that employees will be fueled by their own passion for the brand and products and want to share that with customers.

Customers are more connected than ever before, and that connection will continue to grow with the IoT and as more devices become available. Companies like Samsung know the power of staying in touch with these connected customers to help them not only connect to their devices, but also to connect to the brand.

Jan 22, 2018

In 2017 I had a lot of great conversations with a wide variety of thought leaders. I gathered up some highlight clips from last year’s podcast interviews and put them into one podcast mashup. These clips show how customer experience can be defined and implemented, what it means for businesses in the future, and more.

The first interview I looked back on was with Mary Winfield, VP Customer Experience and Trust at Lyft. The company has to focus on two sets of customers: drivers and passengers. The entire business model is centered around making customers’ lives easier, from providing services people want and need to using technology that makes things simple and efficient. She describes the symbiotic relationship between employee experience and customer experience at Lyft.

Donna Morris is the EVP Customer and Employee Experience at Adobe. I visited the Adobe offices in San Jose, and we talked about the future of customer experience. She believes the role of customer experience is only going to grow. Digital technology will have a huge part in the future and will need to ‘emote’ as face-to-face interactions are going away. This will direct how organizations think about the customer experience and creating great experiences without the human element.

Under the direction of Adobe’s Chief Marketing Officer Ann Lewnes, the company created an attention-grabbing ad that reached out to customers and kept their attention. In this clip, Ann talks about the Adobe commercial that starts with a bank robbery and ends by showcasing digital technology and customer experience.

One of the hottest topics of 2017 was the chatbot. The next podcast interview is with singer, actress, and entrepreneur Christina Milian. Together with her business partner Josh Bocanegra, they created Persona, a tech company that builds chatbots for celebrities. Christina describes the value the chatbot brings to her brand, how it works, and how to get started when considering adding a chatbot to your company.

The future of marketing is not an easy thing to scale. Karin Timpone, CMO of Marriott International, is definitely up to the task. Marriott has a focus on Guerrilla marketing and jumps on real-time marketing opportunities via social media. One recent example was the Pokemon Go craze. Marriott’s social media team put its efforts on high octane and placed Pokémon monsters in pools knowing that guests photographed them and that they would possibly go viral. They got wind of one Pokémon Go super user and decided to sponsor him by sending him to Japan, Australia, and Europe to catch more Pokémon. Social media is a powerful way for marketing teams to engage with customers in real time, but it requires marketing to constantly have eyes and ears on the ground

Dec 30, 2017

In today’s work landscape, people aren’t limited by what corporate position they hold or what their job title is. Everyone can piece together their dream career with initiative, hard work, and a little luck. Perhaps there’s no better example of that than Jacob Morgan, a leading author, speaker, and expert on the future of work. He also happens to be married to me.

After a few disastrous jobs in the corporate world, Jacob realized he wanted the freedom to work for himself and push himself in new ways. Instead of just getting coffee for executives, he wanted to be guiding them and helping them create good environments for their employees and customers. The path from recent college grad to a successful speaker who now travels the world wasn’t easy—Jacob started out speaking for free and hustling to make his voice heard, but his career has grown and gained momentum over the last decade and put him in a position to continuously expand and grow his brand.

Jacob’s formula for success as a professional speaker and author, or really as just an entrepreneur with a voice, is to “Be everywhere all the time”. To him, building a personal brand comes down to three things: consistency, visibility, and frequency. You need to pick a topic as your expertise and be as consistent as you can with it. Instead of bouncing around and addressing a number of business-related topics, Jacob writes and speaks only about the future of work and employee experience, which has built his brand and made him the go-to expert in those areas. To be visible, Jacob says you have to be everywhere in the most seen places, which includes making podcasts, writing articles, attending conferences, and more. And frequency means doing it all the time. Between the articles, blogs, videos, and podcasts, Jacob’s content is always being published, which keeps him fresh in his viewers’ eyes; the same principle applies to anyone building a personal brand—be frequent to keep content new and fresh.

Building a personal brand is a continuous effort, but it can eventually open doors to new possibilities. In Jacob’s case, it has led him to writing three books and now working with his spouse where he and I can find the crossover between their respective work with employee experience and customer experience.

Between Jacob’s personal experiences working in the corporate world and his research and travels that have taken him to organizations around the world, he has become passionate about organizations building effective employee experiences, which play a huge role in the future of work. As technology grows and the workforce changes, employers need to change their mentality around work to focus less of tasks and more on people. To create a company where people want to work, executives need to be aware of the people who work there, which means getting out from behind their desks and actually interacting with employees and customers. Leaders need to start a dialogue with employees about what they like and dislike and what can be improved. Employees also need to get engaged and join the conversation—if they want to help build a human-centered organization that can withstand changes to the workplace, they need to stand up and make their voice heard.

The future of work is changing and opening doors to new opportunities for people in all industries. To prepare, employees need to build their personal brands and get involved in their organizations. If there is something you are unhappy with, follow Jacob’s example and either fix it or get out. With involvement and dedication, you can better your organization or create your own opportunities to build a career that is perfect for you.

Dec 21, 2017

The world is changing, and consumers are changing right alongside it. That’s the biggest takeaway from the 2018 Looking Further with Ford Trends Report. With political unrest, natural disasters, and a growing spotlight on social inequality around the world, the tone of this year’s report is much different than previous years. Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist and the lead of the report, says consumers are feeling the pace of change.

Sheryl and her team talked to 9,000 people in nine countries and identified trends that will shape how consumers think, act, and buy in 2018.

The Edge of Reason

There’s no doubt that recent global changes have affected everything we do. 75% of respondents around the world and 80% in the U.S. agreed that people are growing increasingly intolerant of opposing views. These changes can be overwhelming and can greatly contribute to the fabric of our global society, especially with such polarized opinions.

Activist Awakening

Perhaps one of the positive elements of the recent change and unrest is that people are realizing they can no longer be complacent. The vast majority of people in the survey said they are overwhelmed by the changes that are happening. But nearly 75% of those surveyed said they believe individuals can make a difference in the world. Consumers are recognizing the importance of understanding what is going on around them and taking a stand to make the world better in any way they can.

Minding the Gap

One of the biggest hot-button issues is inequality in everything from education to employment and living costs. More than 80% of adults around the world said they are concerned about the large gap between the rich and the poor. A growing number of entrepreneurs and companies are looking for creative solutions to narrow the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged.

The Compassionate Conscience

Our modern society has made it easier than ever to know what is going on around the world, which consumers feel is both good and bad. Half of all adults say following the news daily is stressful, and the majority of people surveyed said they are overwhelmed by the suffering in the world. It’s hard to escape the bad news, but people have learned to ease the pain by being compassionate. More than 75% of respondents also said that they think their actions can lead to positive change.

Mending the Mind

Lately there has been a lot more attention on the link between physical and mental health as consumers realize that they can’t have a healthy body without strong emotional well-being. An increasing number of companies and governments are starting mindfulness efforts, and employers are starting to recognize that if they want employees to be productive, they need to think about the whole picture.

Retail Therapy

Consumers have longed turned to shopping as a way to relieve stress and other emotions, but lately they have been re-thinking how effective shopping really is to bringing them happiness. For many people (66% of adults globally), the experience of shopping is more enjoyable than the actual purchase. Because of this, many leading companies are creating experiential stores to showcase the brand without actually having any products for sale.

Helplessly Exposed

Big data is a huge part of how companies do business, but more than three-quarters of survey respondents say they find it creepy when companies know too much about them. The recent push has been towards privacy and transparency—most consumers don’t mind that companies have some data on them, but brands need to be open about what data they have and not have too much or use it in inappropriate ways.

Technology’s Tipping Point

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, especially in areas like artificial intelligence and automation. The views on these developments are split with 52% of adults saying they think AI will do more harm than good and many people saying being inundated by new technology is overwhelming.

Singled Out

Instead of following the traditional path of marriage and parenthood, more consumers are staying single. In fact, half of the U.S. population is single, and there are now more single people than married people in the U.S. for the first time ever. The majority of adults surveyed around the world said they believe single people are treated differently than married people.

Big Plans for Big Cities

Cities are growing, and 75% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. To make things more efficient and showcase the potential of cities, they need to be made smarter. Nearly 90% of people around the world think cities need better transportation options, but smart cities also include creating healthier and happier places through master planning, connectivity, and numerous industries working together.

Dec 13, 2017

It’s a business leader’s worst nightmare—a natural disaster is headed for your area, and you need to keep your family, your customers, and your business safe. How do you manage customer communication to make sure everyone is aware of the situation and customers stay happy? That was the dilemma faced by South Carolina Federal Credit Union recently as Hurricane Irma threatened landfall. Its experience can be considered a case study of how to manage real-time customer communication in difficult times.

Customer communication is always important and plays a large role in the overall experience, but it perhaps is never more important than when companies need to share information with their customers during a time of crisis. Circumstances can change quickly, so being able to deliver accurate, quick, and concise messages is crucial.

As the hurricane neared, South Carolina Federal Credit Union had to share when it would be open and how customers could access their money and other financial services. According to Beth Jaskiewicz, Senior Vice President of Marketing, the best thing to do for a crisis is to be prepared. The credit union has a business continuity plan and started planning on how to put it into action about two weeks before Irma was scheduled to make landfall so that customers could still manage their money and wouldn’t have their financial services interrupted. The widespread plan included everything from the possibility of delays in delivering cash to ATMs to power outages and setbacks in running the business. Senior management met with the business continuity team daily to stay updated and fine-tune their plans as weather forecasts changed.

Throughout the entire process, credit union employees considered what it would be like for customers if the hurricane did hit. What would customers need to know, and what would the credit union need to do to make them feel safe and secure? During a crisis, a consistent message is key so customers didn’t feel they were getting a different story depending on the channel they are using.

Choosing the right channel to communicate with customers is important. During times of crisis, it is easy for people to get bogged down with too much information, so the most effective communication from a company involves just the basics of what customers need to know. In the case of South Carolina Federal Credit Union, this involved sending short text messages and emails with updates about when the branches would be open or closed and then directing customers to the website or social media channels for further updates. Companies should also consider who needs to know the information. During Hurricane Irma, all customers needed to know, but other crises and situations might call for smaller, more targeted groups to be notified.

Effective customer communication during a crisis really comes come to organization and collaboration. Beth recommends planning before disaster strikes and walking through various scenarios with key leaders to put a plan in place. Everyone in the organization should have a clearly defined role with a backup person in place in case something happens. Some disasters, like hurricanes, provide some sort of warning, while other crises can happen without any warning.

Crises are unexpected and can wreak havoc on companies, but having a plan in place to communicate with customers seamlessly can make all the difference and turn a potentially chaotic situation into something that is calm and organized. Staying on message and being concise can help strengthen your customer experience, even during difficult times.

Nov 30, 2017

Technology has changed and improved the customer experience over time, but the most recent transformation with the growth of augmented reality is sure to lead to greater change than ever before. According to Jay Samit, Independent Vice Chairman at Deloitte, augmented reality has the power to revolutionize customer experience in every industry. Our modern world has connected us with devices like smartphones, which puts a world of possibility right in our pockets. But even with smartphones we still have to search for answers. Instead of customers having to seek out information, that knowledge can now be embedded in the environment in a way that anticipate customers’ needs and helps them find solutions where they already are.

Imagine a world where you can wear glasses that look just like normal glasses but that have AR technology that can be customized to match your lifestyle and provide the most applicable information. According to Jay, these glasses are right around the corner and will make it much easier to incorporate AR. Instead of getting lost in a store, AR could light up a path on the ground to get you to the item you need. AR could also help customers see inside a resort before they book and provide glimpses into what the view and accommodation would be like or instantly translate a conversation or signs when users are traveling abroad. AR could also transform the in-store experience by having coupons or product recommendations pop up depending on where customers are in the store and what items they are looking at. Companies around the world are already implementing AR and seeing great results in customer experience. A zoo in Japan has created an augmented reality experience where visitors can use their phones to see a path show up on the streets to get them from the subway stop to the zoo. It’s a fun way to make things easier for customers instead of them wandering around until they find the zoo. Beauty counters have also seen an influx of AR-powered mirrors lately. The technology allows users to virtually try on makeup and see how it would look on their face, plus the mirror remembers what a customer has used and can recommend products based on their preferences.

Over the last few years, there has been a huge growth in customer experience online. However, AR has the power to surpass the internet and offer a better experience than customers could ever get online. Things like virtual inventories, side-by-side comparisons, and being able to see things in 360-degree views will totally change how customers shop and interact with brands. Instead of having to go into a store to try items on and ordering things online and hoping they fit, AR will allow customers to try things on virtually, see them from every angle, and easily compare them to other items.

Augmented reality is immersive learning that hits customers at a different level. It is the extra things that anticipate needs, improve problems, and make interactions with customers just a little bit better. AR is being able to get what you need when you need it and creating seamless experiences that make life easier, more efficient, or more enjoyable. The future of customer experience is strong, and it’s due largely to AR.

Nov 17, 2017

When customers choose a clothing brand, they take a lot of things into consideration, including price, style, availability, and brand reputation. It takes the perfect mix of fashion and function to draw in customers. But the clothes won’t sell themselves, so a strategic marketing mix is also required.

In an increasingly data-filled world, many companies rely on analytics for every customer decision. However, TechStyle Fashion Group, which operates brands like Fabletics, Just Fab, and Shoe Dazzle, has expanded beyond just data to find the right combination of strategic data and human connections to maximize its marketing efforts. The company shows that a good marketing mix involves not just data but also personalization, technology, and a strong connection with the brand.

Each of TechStyle’s brands works as a sort of subscription service—customers share data with the company and agree to visit the site on a monthly basis to see the new collections. Having detailed customer preferences, buying habits, and sizes in a huge database makes it easy for the company to create products it knows customers will buy and love. While the traditional retail model creates products it only hopes customers will purchase, brands like Fabletics use data to know exactly what customers want and sell a staggeringly high 90-95% of their products.

With so much data on their customers, it would be easy for TechStyle brands to sit back, watch the return customers flow in, and treat everyone the same. But instead the company works to authentically reach out to customers to build a strong brand connection.

When it comes to getting first-time customers, TechStyle relies on a wide variety of marketing methods. Because the brands are so data-driven, the marketing approach is also very personal. It adds to the brands’ values of working with each customer to create a great experience. Shawn Gold, TechStyle’s Corporate Marketing Officer, says that in the last year the company did around 24,000 different Facebook ads, 600 different versions of its websites, and 6,000 different emails. In many cases, the company uses existing data to find target markets and customers and then tailors the approach to best reach them.

Added to the marketing mix is a strong word of mouth referral program. TechStyle’s brands tend to have very strong net promoter scores, with customers telling their friends and family about the services. This is due to not only have a convenient service that exceeds customer expectations, but also by building a culture that puts the customer first. Prioritizing an effort to keep customer involved builds customer loyalty, which contributes back to the marketing efforts. TechStyle regularly holds focus groups and even visits the homes of its customers to see what is in their closets and how their clothes match their lifestyles. Data helps the company ask the right questions, but the answers come from the customers themselves. Showing genuine interest in customers and finding better ways to match the product with what customers really want is incredibly effective and keeps customers coming back for more. Every Fabletics employee also has to work in the store so they can talk with and really get to know the customers.

In an increasingly technical world, TechStyle doesn’t rely completely on automation. While there are some issues that are solved with machines, much of the customer service efforts are led by humans. The company has found that customer satisfaction results are more than 20% higher when humans are involved in the process because its customers love having a personal connection.

Data plays an important role, especially in the ever-changing fashion world, but it isn’t everything. Creating brand-loyal customers comes from a unique marketing mix that puts customers first and makes them central to everything the brand does.

Nov 9, 2017

The healthcare field is changing, and customer experience is right at the center. Gone are the days of customers feeling inconvenienced and doctors having to spend long hours to catch up on their work—today’s healthcare revolution is all about empowering customers and helping everyone get the care they need. That change means the industry is becoming more competitive, and customer experience in many cases is the deciding factor for where patients go to get care.

In the old way of thinking, doctors were central to everything. They set when appointments were available, who could be seen, and what treatments were available. However, consumers now have myriad choices of ways to get personalized care and attention, from apps to websites and concierge healthcare services, and the industry had to change. People no longer automatically go to a doctor when they are sick or need a checkup, and healthcare companies now have to compete more to bring in patients. The key factor patients are looking for is personalized care—they want someone who treats them like an individual, takes time to answer their questions, and makes it easy to be seen and get the care they need.

At the core of the new healthcare movement is service and a dedication to making a difference. According to Arra Yerganian, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer at Sutter Health, when healthcare employees realize that they all want to serve customers and improve their lives, it is easier to build a culture centered around customers. That culture can shine through in every interaction between the brand and customers. Sutter is known for its great customer service and constantly receives feedback from patients that they feel special when they interact with Sutter doctors and nurses. Arra says that isn’t a coincidence—people are trained to be that way and encouraged to tap into their natural caring abilities to create great experiences for patients.

Part of building a strong customer experience in healthcare is taking advantage of new technology. In many cases, innovative healthcare technology allows providers to see more patients, be more effective with their time, and provide better diagnoses and treatment options. The growth of telehealth has allowed customers to be seen virtually on their own schedules, which has been a boost to customer experience. Sutter recently partnered with Augmedix to allow doctors to wear smart glasses that can pull up a patient’s chart and notes on the screen during the appointment. The device saves doctors time of having to stay late to write notes because it is done in real time and provides a more personalized and interactive experience for patients. The growth of data has also provided more opportunities for healthcare providers to gain insights on their patients and create strategic, personalized experiences.

Arra says the key to standing out and creating a strong customer experience is to find a way to connect with patients. Instead of relying on differences in quality or expertise, the best customer experience providers lean on something that tells a unique story and builds a connection. The best organizations take risks and make unique choices to stand out.

            Customer experience makes a huge difference in the healthcare space, and it is a driving factor in the new approach to the industry. By focusing on people and personalization, healthcare providers can go above and beyond to create satisfied patients.

Nov 1, 2017

When looking to create a high-quality customer experience, there are a lot of things that companies can do. But one of the best ways to give your company a sustainable boost is to go straight for the core and focus on culture.

The sharing economy is known for creating strong customer experiences, and Lyft is a prime example of that. Much of Lyft’s success can be attributed to its culture of caring for others. Mary Winfield, VP Customer Experience and Trust at Lyft, says that because the company has to focus on two sets of customers with its drivers and passengers, it is naturally very customer focused. The entire business model is centered around customers and making their lives easier, from providing services people want and need to using technology that makes things simple and efficient.

Customer experience starts with a strong customer-centric culture, which is set by top leadership. An organization with executives who consider customers in every decision they make will have a culture that fosters customer experience and treats everyone with respect. Culture starts from the top down; at Lyft, executives regularly drive passengers so they can truly understand the experience from both a driver’s and passenger’s point of view. That example shows other employees how important it is to stay close to the customers and understand their needs.

Culture also includes how employees are treated. A company with an inclusive culture where employees feel comfortable being themselves will likely have happier and more satisfied employees who want to contribute to the customer experience. At Lyft, being supportive of all employees is a huge part of the culture. The company has a number of employee research groups that allow people with similar lifestyles or circumstances, such as groups for women or parents, to get together to build support systems. The groups help foster connections with employees and make sure everyone can bring their whole selves to work. This is especially important at a time when other companies in the sharing economy are facing accusations of discrimination and not supporting certain types of employees. Customers want to be themselves, and they want to be around employees who are encouraged to be themselves.

Aside from support, creating a culture of caring can also be a big boost to the company. This includes caring for employees, customers, the community, and much more. Mary says that being surrounded by people who care and want to make the world a better place takes away the friction so often prevalent in workplaces. Everyone is on the same page and genuinely trying to help others, which drives customer experience. Truly caring about the customers and having that ingrained in the company makes it natural to create a strong customer experience.

Culture plays a huge role in customer experience. Brands that are centered around values like being supportive, caring, and reaching out to others tend to have a competitive advantage because customers know they will feel valued and respected by the company. With a people-centric culture, customers and employees are free to be themselves and care for each other, which can be a huge “Lyft” for the customer experience.

 

 

Oct 25, 2017

Nearly every company wants to better understand their customers so they can find ways to improve the customer service and build brand loyalty. But actually finding the answers and putting them into practice are two different things. Transforming customer service isn’t a quick solution, but it can lead to fantastic results when done correctly.

            Customer service experts Jeannie Walters and Adam Toporek consult with numerous companies each year on how to improve their customer service. Their vast experience has taught them that improving customer service is never a one-step solution. Although each organization can follow the same steps, the journey to a quality customer service is personalized for each company.

            In order to truly make a change, the company has to identify what it wants to achieve. Everyone knows that customer service experience is good, but few companies actually know how it relates to their goals and strategies. One of the first steps companies need to take when redefining customer service experiences is to realize the business outcomes they want to achieve so they can connect specific aspects of the customer service experience to those goals. For example, if a company wants to build its referrals by a certain amount, it needsf to focus on creating brand loyal customers who return and are eager to refer the company to their friends. That goal could tie into the post-sale aspects of customer service experience and following up to make sure each customer is satisfied.

            With goals in mind, brands need to understand what their current customer service experience is really like. Many companies think they have an idea of what customers experience and how they feel, but surveys can be deceiving. After all, the results a company gets are completely dependent on the questions it asks and can often paint a skewed picture. To accurately understand the customer journey, brands need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Jeannie notes that when she works with an organization, she completes a full customer service experience investigation, including observing how employees interact with customers, walking through the digital experience multiple times, and looking for holes in the experience that could affect customers. Getting immersed in the customer service at a human level can often provide more accurate feedback than looking at surveys.

            With an idea of the current situation, companies can then consider their ideal customer service—how would things look if everything went smoothly? That goal can help guide the next steps to take to make the dream a reality.

            Of course, perfect customer service can’t be created overnight and takes constant tweaking and evolution. Both Jeannie and Adam believe one of the most important parts of creating lasting change in customer service is to have leaders who understand the importance of customer service and who are on board with change. If leaders invested, even the grandest ideas can’t take root to create a lasting change.

            Customer service involves many different aspects, but one of the key features is understanding the customer and what they want out of the journey. Being strategic and working through the steps to transform customer service experience can lead to positive and lasting change.

Oct 16, 2017

New regulations from the EU are impacting customer data around the world and causing companies to make big changes or risk getting hit with heavy fines. But instead of fearing the change and just throwing money at the problem, complying with the regulations can be thought of as an opportunity to rethink and improve the customer experience.

            The General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is creating a buzz that Jeff Nicholson, VP CRM Product Marketing at Pegasystems, likens to the anticipation surrounding Y2K. Essentially, the new regulation requires any company anywhere in the world that uses EU residents’ personal data to re-think their data strategy. That means that companies in the US are still affected if they have ever done anything like collect email addresses or names of people who live in the EU. If companies don’t comply with the regulations, they could be fined up to 4% of their total global revenue. Under GDPR, individual customers can approach companies to find out what personal data they have, and organizations have to provide the data to the customer. Essentially, the new rules change who owns personal data—instead of companies, the power is now in the hands of customers.

            The new rules come at a time when data breaches are found every day and affect millions of people a year. People around the world are more aware of their personal data and want to find ways to protect it and know who has access to it. Companies must take safeguarding their customers’ data very seriously. If customers don’t feel their information is being protected, they will take their business elsewhere, which can lead to huge PR and financial consequences for companies.

            A recent survey found that more than 90% of multinational companies consider GDPR to be a top priority, and many are allocating significant budget to solve data problems and come into compliance. The majority of large companies say they plan to spend at least a million dollars on their new data strategy.

            If the money is being spent anyway, smart companies will put it to good use and do more than just put their data practices in compliance with GDPR—they will use it as an opportunity to transform customer experience and become a leader in their fields. This is a great chance for companies to combine compliance with marketing. Instead of simply just plugging a hole in the data stream, think of how you collect data and how it can be better used and targeted. Now that customers have more control over what companies have their information, irrelevant communication from companies puts those brands at risk of losing the customer. All it takes is one bad communication for the customer to opt out and have their data removed.

            The best companies not only respect and safeguard customer information but also use it to create open lines of communication that really help the customer. With all the data available, companies have the potential to create targeted outreach that meets the needs of every individual customer. This can be done a number of ways, but Jeff recommends getting people from across the company, especially from compliance and marketing, involved. Investing in the right technology to monitor, track, and safeguard customer data is also incredibly important. Being transparent with the customer information you have can also build a better relationship with customers. Many people are wary about who has their personal data, and they will likely be more trusting of companies that can show where they gathered the data, what they are using it for, and who has access to it. Data plays a huge role in customer experience, and being able to monitor and target it better can lead to better relationships between companies and customers.

            GDPR is changing how companies handle customer data, but it is much more than just a compliance issue. In order to lead the new data conversation, companies should use the opportunity to re-think their customer experience and find new, relevant ways to reach out to customers.

 

 

Oct 11, 2017

The majority of customer interaction today happens on the phone, but that isn’t the way most customers prefer to communicate or the most effective way for brands to interact with customers. Phones can be frustrating, email can feel like spam, and in-person communication can be inconsistent. Instead, a growing number of brands are turning to chatbots via Facebook Messenger to add value to the customer experience in a way that is easier than ever and preferred by the companies and the customers.

When Facebook opened the Messenger platform in 2016, it had a good idea of what the technology could do for companies, but Kemal El Moujahid, product manager at Facebook, said the team was surprised by the creativity of how brands around the world were using the chatbot function. Instead of relying on traditional methods like blanket sales offers and mass communication, bots provide opportunities for real-time, personalized communication that can meet the needs of customers right where they are. Brands can easily tailor the needs of the bot to showcase their message and products and reach out to customers in an accessible and useful way.

In order to be successful in building the customer experience, brands need to be clear about what they want their bots to do. A bot that is designed to bring customers into the store will perform differently than a bot that is designed to provide product recommendations and education. Brands need to understand how customers are using the bot and how it can play the most effective role in the customer journey. An example of this comes from Sephora, which uses its Facebook bot to educate its customers about its products and offerings—its bot can provide personalized makeup recommendations and allows customers to find stores and book beauty treatments. Sephora’s customers have a much better experience when they understand the products they are looking for, which is where the bot can help.

Because bot communication is more natural and casual, it adds a personal feel to a brand and helps create a life-long relationship between the customer and the business throughout the entire customer journey. Bots can be used to bring in new customers and to build on existing relationships. McDonalds restaurants in Brazil print codes that link to their Facebook bot—when customers access the bot, they get added benefits and build a stronger relationship with the brand that gets them to come back to the store.

A huge draw for bots is their convenience. Instead of having to download a new app or program, bots are instantly available to the millions of users already connected to Facebook Messenger around the world. Bots can be developed and updated fairly quickly and inexpensively, which means companies can make changes to quickly best meet the needs of their customers. As the customer journey evolves, so too can the bot’s performance.

            Bots will continue to play a major role as the customer experience grows and becomes more personalized. Bots gather lots of information to distill it down to the most relevant information for customers, allowing for better personalization at scale. The days of spending hours on the phone to answer questions are done—today’s customers are all about using bots for questions, service, and product information. As brands around the world can attest, Facebook makes it easier than ever to build customer relationships via bots.

Oct 2, 2017

Verizon Wireless is known for trying new, innovative things to expand its business and reach new customers. In the competitive mobile space, it takes a concerted effort to build the customer experience. Verizon Wireless recently took it a step further when it brought in Scott Zimmer to serve in a new position as its Chief Customer Experience Officer. According to Scott, customer experience definitely creates a competitive advantage over other companies. Verizon’s goal is to go above and beyond to build brand loyalty and brand love so that customers prefer the company for reasons beyond it just having the best price. Its perspective and practices can help companies in all industries.

            Verizon views the customer experience as a complete journey, from a prospective customer looking into the company to actually making a purchase to then using the service and having a continued great experience. With interactions happening online, in person, in the app, and on the phone, the company aims to make every interaction consistent with the Verizon brand. One new way it is doing that is through its new concept store in San Francisco. The next-gen retail store concept adds emotion and humanity to a technology service and is another opportunity for Verizon to build relationships with customers. Scott says that the retail store experience can be used by other companies and industries that can apply their products and services in a tangible space. For Verizon, that means creating a coffee shop-esque space that shows off its products, including virtual reality headsets that customers can test.

            Scott brings together experience in the business and customer spaces and states that every company should be thinking of business and customer strategies in tandem. If a company only focuses on business, it won’t have customers, but if it only focuses on customers, it won’t have business. To truly create a unique customer experience, brands need to build emotional connections while still showcasing their products and driving sales.

            The keys to a great customer experience include having a corporate culture that reflects customer values and leaders who set the tone for a customer focus. In order to provide a consistent experience that meets the customer where they, Scott and his team involve every employee to connect the dots of the entire customer journey. Every detail impacts customer service, and making it a priority in everything the company does can lead to great success, especially in an industry as competitive as wireless. Verizon is an example of the benefits that come from prioritizing customer experience and investing the resources to put customers first.

 

Sep 26, 2017

When it comes to building strong relationships and experiences, organizations are often faced with a difficult choice: do they focus on employees or on customers? Like many companies, Adobe had two groups working parallel to each other—one focused on reaching out to employees and the other on building experiences for customers. But then Adobe realized that the two audiences actually worked together, and Adobe’s leadership combined customer experience and employee experience under the direction of Donna Morris, EVP Customer and Employee Experience.

People have always been Adobe’s core asset, and that focus is part of the reason the company has seen such rapid growth. For years Adobe focused on being a great company to work for and building a strong employee experience. But at the end of the day, customers actually drive the business, so the company adjusted its focus to be as great to work with as it is to work for. The two ideas go hand in hand—satisfied and engaged employees are more likely to give their best effort and represent the brand well, while satisfied customers are happier and easier to work with. Central to the idea of bringing employees and customers together is to focus on people and make them the core of the organization’s culture and strategy.

Although they are similar, uniting the focus on these two groups isn’t something that can happen overnight. In order to be truly successful, there must be a cultural change that emphasizes the importance of employees and customers. Employees need to understand the metrics of how customer experience and satisfaction are gauged and know what the company’s goals are to improve the scores. Each person should see how his or her role plays into the larger customer experience.

With a changed mindset, companies can evaluate their processes to see how employee and customer experience can be connected. According to Donna, many organizations will be surprised by how easily their core mechanisms can be aligned to streamline the experience model, especially if employees are using the same products and becoming customers themselves. Adobe does this by using employees as advocates for its customers’ needs. Any employee can report an issue about the software or service quickly and easily, which means that issues can be resolved as soon as they are spotted instead of waiting for customers to find issues and go through the entire reporting process themselves. Employee compensation at Adobe is also tied to customer experience, which drives a greater incentive to put the customer first. Regularly checking in with employees through engagement surveys provides the company with periodic updates to see where it is improving and where it can continue to grow. It also helps measure how connected employees feel to the customers and creates opportunities for feedback.

One of the keys to building a strong customer and employee experience is to focus on the long-term relationship with each group. Instead of simply getting a customer to make a sale or pushing an employee to hit their quarterly goals, organizations should look for ways to build lasting relationships that keep customers and employees satisfied and coming back for more. An often overlooked aspect of building relationships is focusing on empathy and understanding where people come from. When leaders and organizations focus on emotions, they can foster better employee and customer bonds.

Although customer and employee experience are similar, organizations can’t just apply a one-size-fits-all solution. One of Adobe’s biggest challenges and opportunities is providing the right experience for its wide array of customers. With more than 100 different products, the company’s customers range from individuals to large global corporations, and each group has a different set of needs. Adobe hopes individual customers can be entirely self-directed and get great service and answers without contacting the company. On the opposite end of the spectrum are large companies, where Adobe is considered a thought partner and who require more interaction to understand and address their concerns. In order to best meet the needs of customers at varying levels, employees need to receive the right training and be aware of the service required for each type of product. Putting that in motion means that employees must understand the products and their customers and feel comfortable and supported in the workplace to deliver quality service.

As customer experience and employee experience both become a larger focus at organizations, it seems only natural that they will grow together. Both of these experiences are connected and should be constantly evolving based on the trends, technology, and needs of both groups. By focusing on the connected experience of employees and customers, organizations don’t need to put one group ahead of the other and can enjoy a cohesive experience with a strong people-centric culture.

 

 

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

Sep 18, 2017

Imagine a city where people travel seamlessly on their way to and from work, new technology is integrated into everyday life, the air is clean of pollution, and people feel safe and welcome. It may sound too good to be true, but for a number of entrepreneurs and engineers, it’s a reality they are working towards every day.

            Ford is leading the charge to bring together all kinds of thinkers and creators to consider the future city—a place where new technology is used and executed smoothly in a way that is useful for the people and sustainable for the environment. From city planners to scientists and engineers, people from across nearly every discipline are involved in the conversation. In order to make the future city a real possibility, everyone must be involved and on board.

            There are a number of things to consider when creating the city of the future, including transportation, logistics, weather, safety, and much more. One area that is a central focus for many companies, including Ford, is transportation. Cities of the future over the next 20-100 years can’t rely on cars because it will lead to too much congestion and pollution. Instead, these thinkers are considering new ways to move people around that harness the power of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies. Ford is doing it through its recent acquisition of Chariot Shuttle—a micro-transit company that operates vans that can hold up to 14 passengers. These vans operate throughout cities to get passengers where they need to go, but the routes are entirely crowd-sourced, meaning that if enough people need to travel to or from a certain spot, the routes can be changed to accommodate their needs.

            There’s no doubt that people love the convenience of living in cities. In fact, cities are expected to grow by 60% by 2030. Now it’s up to the city managers, local leader, engineers, entrepreneurs, and more to turn those cities into sustainable entities. Creating the city of the future requires thinking outside the box—building more freeways won’t fix LA’s notoriously bad traffic, for example, so the conversation has moved to creative alternatives with public transportation. As the number of options available for public and shared transportation grows, cities need to better understand the trends and what is happening so they can continually improve the systems.

            Creating the city of the future is both a daunting and exciting challenge, and it all starts with a conversation across industries and expertise. With resources, new technology, and a collection of creative ideas, the city of the future might be here sooner than we think.

 

 

 

Sep 12, 2017

Online shopping and new technology has changed how customers interact with brands and make purchases, and it has had a huge effect on the customer experience. Knowing who your customer is and what they expect from your company is huge, especially when it comes to understanding why customers shop online. How customer experience is put into action changes based on the type of company and industry and what customers need to best have their needs met. However, there are always core similarities; Dr. Volker Hildebrand, Global Vice President at SAP Hybris and author of “The Customer Experience Edge”, has narrowed customer experience down to four fundamental principles: convenience, speed, relevance, and reliability. Companies that have the best customer experiences do a great job with at least three of the pillars.

            Customer experience is a holistic experience, and being able to offer a personalized approach for each customer can give your company a big advantage over the competition. Although companies may have internal silos, customers don’t see that and want a cohesive experience. Volker cites the example of a bank that was having difficulty getting customers to sign up for online banking. When it realized employees in the branches didn’t have any incentive to refer customers online and that the two entities were being run separately, it made changes to unite the branch and online experience and combine the metrics. Customers don’t care about what’s going on behind the scenes as long as they can have a quality and convenient experience, so companies need to take down silos for a unified experience.

            The internet has made the customer journey start way before the customer actually buys a product or steps into the store. Now, customers are doing their research to find out what products are best, and they expect to be able to find all the answers they need quickly and easily. If a company can’t provide those answers, either through a chatbot, online community, or human, they risk losing that customer to a brand that can provide the answers. Thinking about things from the customer’s perspective and making sure all the information is accurate and easily available can start the customer experience off on the right foot.

            One disruptive aspect of online shopping that is changing business models is subscription services. These days, customers can have subscriptions for everything from rental cars to toilet paper. Subscription models offer customers the convenience of not having to worry about ordering something, and they often come with discounts. However, using a subscription model means customer experience is more important than ever. In these cases, the experience and service is really what makes the difference—you’re no longer selling a product, you’re providing a service. Making customer experience an integral part of everything the company does, especially online, can drive growth and customer satisfaction.

            The key to customer experience is finding a way to stand out and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes to provide a cohesive experience from end to end, no matter if it is online or in store.

 

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