The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, digital transformation, and the future. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience futurist Blake Morgan and author of the new book The Customer of the Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow's Business. The show features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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Jul 9, 2019

How does a company that has been around for more than 100 years still provide innovative and customer-focused service? For Nordstrom, it comes down to understanding customers and evolving the experience to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s SVP Customer Experience, says the brand’s goal is to make customers feel good and look their best. But what sets Nordstrom apart is how the brand meets the customer where they are. Many other companies think of themselves as channels, but Nordstrom provides a complete omnichannel experience by considering itself a brand, not a channel.

Nordstrom’s digital transformation revolves around finding ways to win with customers in a digital world. The seamless experience between channels allows customers to get the great quality they depend on from Nordstrom no matter how they shop.

However, digital transformation didn’t mean completely abandoning physical stores. Instead, Nordstrom updated its physical locations and added extra services to make the experience as convenient and easy as possible. The goal is to provide access to the brand and its products at a time and place that works for customers. Nordstrom stores are for discovery and inspiration. Jensen says 35% of online purchases begin with moment of discovery in store and around 85% of customers who shop in store started their journey in some digital capacity. The company currently operates three Nordstrom Local stores that serve as service hubs with personal stylists, online order pickup and alterations that are right in the neighborhoods where customers live and work. Nordstrom Local customers spend twice as much as customers who don’t shop at Nordstrom Local. Jensen says the convenient touchpoint becomes part of their daily lives.

Nordstrom Local and traditional Nordstrom stores also use well-trained employees as personal stylists, but the services are often augmented with AI and new technology. The Style Board function allows salespeople to curate an assortment of products for a customer, send it to their phone and then be available for a live chat. When the customer is ready to purchase, it’s as simple as shopping on The experience moves between channels in a way that makes sense for customers.

At Nordstrom, customers are in control. They choose how, when and where they shop, and Nordstrom works to provide a high-quality and personalized experience every time. The shopping journey is no longer linear, but creating a digitally driven omnichannel experience puts customers in the drivers’ seat and gives them control.

Jun 28, 2019

What’s the secret sauce to successful businesses? How do the best companies continually innovate and grow?

According to Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, there’s not one secret to success. Growth and success don’t come from just focusing on employees or building a customer-centric culture or going through a digital confirmation—it comes from a combination of all of those things and many more.

Bova created the idea of Growth IQ from her more than 20 years as a sales and marketing practitioner and academic. Her framework is designed to help companies looking to accelerate growth or recover from a growth stall.

The foundation of the Growth IQ is based on three principles:

  1. Pause and get context. Before growth can begin, practitioners and companies need to understand the context of their market. They need to know their competitors, what’s happening in the market, why they’ve won or lost in the past and their strengths as an organization. Taking time to look at the industry context creates a strong foundation instead of barreling forward without a full view of what’s happening.
  2. It’s never one thing. Growth doesn’t come from one path or action in isolation. Sustainable and meaningful growth is a combination of multiple growth paths that creates a flywheel to drive continued growth.
  3. Sequence matters. The order that companies do things in helps them have a better likelihood for success. The steps matter, but the order they are taken in is also crucial.

These growth principles are extremely important as industries change and are no longer protected from outside competition. Technology has made a huge impact on all industries, but Bova says the modern connected customer is more disruptive than new technology. That means companies need to focus on creating a customer-centric culture by putting their employees first. When the culture is right, everyone knows their roles in delivering meaningful customer experiences. That’s when real growth starts to happen.

Employees also need to be on board because everyone owns customer experience. However, Bova says someone needs to set the strategy that all employees follow. If the CEO isn’t involved in the employee first, customer-centric culture, those ideas won’t become integral to the company’s DNA.

Sustainable growth doesn’t come from just one area. It’s more than just putting employees first and creating a strong customer experience, although those definitely play large roles. The challenge is knowing where to focus first. But Bova says once a company decides, they need to stick with it and commit. True change and lasting growth is a process and don’t happen overnight. Committing to Growth IQ allows for a real impact on employees and customers, and ultimately on the bottom line. 

Jun 13, 2019

Embarking on a full-scale customer experience transformation is a huge undertaking, especially for an organization as large as Cisco. The company has made huge strides recently as it evolves its customer experience to build on its existing customer-first culture. Cisco Live is the premier event for education, inspiration and making connections for technology professionals. This year had 27,000 in-person attendees and more than half a million online views of the keynotes and sessions. Cisco Live is also a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate Cisco’s ongoing customer experience transformation. It’s rare to see a large company make such bold moves on customer experience. But as Cisco Senior Vice President Ish Limkakeng says, the goal is to become the best customer experience company—period. One of the reasons for Cisco’s success is the clarity of vision from executives. According to Jason McLaurin, Managing Director, Customer Experience – Japan, the bold moves from leadership help customer teams move quickly and keep up with changing trends and demands. That laser-focus on customers starts from the top, and sharing the vision with all employees creates an energizing culture ready to make positive change. Mike Adams, Vice President, Learning at Cisco, says successful change starts when executives commit to sticking with the transformation during its ups and downs. Empathy is vital to driving customer experience. McLaurin recommends spending time in the customers’ shoes and consuming their technology. Learn what it really means to live their work for a day. Find their end goal and trace back the requirements. Customer experience should be outcome-based and driven by a strong vision of how to help customers achieve their goals. Part of helping customers reach their goals is providing useful solutions. Many of Cisco’s products have transitioned to subscription and cloud-based models in recent years. Adams says those updates change how the company engages with its customers and pushes the need to add value at every stage of the customer lifecycle. The goal is to create a friction-less renewal process because customers see the overwhelming value of the products. Limkakeng says Cisco aims to help customers realize the full value of their investments. Culture plays a huge role at Cisco. Employees are encouraged to innovate and put customers first. Customer experience is ingrained in the culture and is part of everyday life for all employees. Limkakeng also lives by the principle of explaining to employees what’s in it for them so they can see how what they do every day fits into the overall business strategy. When employees know their role in the puzzle, they are more engaged. Cisco’s customer experience transformation is one of the biggest in recent decades and can be summed up in five words: move fast and move big. Cisco is well on its way to becoming an experience leader across all industries.

Jun 13, 2019

Embarking on a full-scale customer experience transformation is a huge undertaking, especially for an organization as large as Cisco. The company has made huge strides recently as it evolves its customer experience to build on its existing customer-first culture. Cisco Live is the premier event for education, inspiration and making connections for technology professionals. This year had 27,000 in-person attendees and more than half a million online views of the keynotes and sessions. Cisco Live is also a great opportunity to showcase and celebrate Cisco’s ongoing customer experience transformation. It’s rare to see a large company make such bold moves on customer experience. But as Cisco Senior Vice President Ish Limkakeng says, the goal is to become the best customer experience company—period. One of the reasons for Cisco’s success is the clarity of vision from executives. According to Jason McLaurin, Managing Director, Customer Experience – Japan, the bold moves from leadership help customer teams move quickly and keep up with changing trends and demands. That laser-focus on customers starts from the top, and sharing the vision with all employees creates an energizing culture ready to make positive change. Mike Adams, Vice President, Learning at Cisco, says successful change starts when executives commit to sticking with the transformation during its ups and downs. Empathy is vital to driving customer experience. McLaurin recommends spending time in the customers’ shoes and consuming their technology. Learn what it really means to live their work for a day. Find their end goal and trace back the requirements. Customer experience should be outcome-based and driven by a strong vision of how to help customers achieve their goals. Part of helping customers reach their goals is providing useful solutions. Many of Cisco’s products have transitioned to subscription and cloud-based models in recent years. Adams says those updates change how the company engages with its customers and pushes the need to add value at every stage of the customer lifecycle. The goal is to create a friction-less renewal process because customers see the overwhelming value of the products. Limkakeng says Cisco aims to help customers realize the full value of their investments. Culture plays a huge role at Cisco. Employees are encouraged to innovate and put customers first. Customer experience is ingrained in the culture and is part of everyday life for all employees. Limkakeng also lives by the principle of explaining to employees what’s in it for them so they can see how what they do every day fits into the overall business strategy. When employees know their role in the puzzle, they are more engaged. Cisco’s customer experience transformation is one of the biggest in recent decades and can be summed up in five words: move fast and move big. Cisco is well on its way to becoming an experience leader across all industries.

Jun 4, 2019

Many companies think of customer service as just what happens when a customer calls with a problem, but Cisco has transformed customer experience to include the entire customer journey. According to Alvio Barrios, SVP Americas Customer Experience, the goal of customer experience is to proactively engage with customers and help maximize the value of whatever products they’re getting from Cisco.

As the market transforms, Cisco’s products and services have also transformed. The same is true with customer experience. Customers want to get to market faster and be competitive, which means Cisco must proactively help customers and find opportunities to better optimize their solutions.

A number of factors contribute to Cisco’s customer experience transformation. It starts with a commitment from executives across the company. Customer experience impacts all functions of the company, so all executives need to be on board. Employees must also be engaged in customer experience. At Cisco, employees understand what’s happening in the industry because they’re experiencing it themselves. Part of Barrios’ job is to leverage customer focus and turn it into customer obsession to create an open, customer-first culture.

Customer experience transformation must happen fast because trends and technology are constantly changing. Cisco uses a feedback loop to listen to customers and find ways to improve its products and services so it can deliver a better experience in the future. Cisco also uses analytics and insights to find potential challenges and opportunities. Barrios says the most important thing about moving quickly is to be bold and totally committed. Challenges will arise, but a deep conviction and bold actions can help push through the trials.

Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Change takes time. Cisco celebrates the small wins and works to eliminate silos with a company-wide customer experience blueprint. Getting all employees on the same page and being honest will help everyone see success and the purpose of customer experience.

The best customer experience is proactive and comes from companies that are obsessed with their customers. Cisco shows that like the customers themselves, the experience should also be constantly transforming to provide amazing, proactive solutions.

This podcast is sponsored by Cisco.

May 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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


Apr 23, 2019

Two of the biggest buzzwords in customer experience are AI and empathy. But are the two concepts mutually exclusive, or can they be used together to create a harmonious customer experience?

Dr. Rob Walker, Vice President Decision Management at Pegasystems, believes customer-facing AI initiatives can be programed to be empathetic. However, empathy is often lacking in customer interactions. It’s difficult for customers to feel empathy from brands when they are being spammed, have to repeat themselves constantly or are forced into irrelevant conversations. The majority of modern customer interactions are driven by AI, and there is a need to add empathy to those conversations.

In order to show empathy in the customer experience, Dr. Walker says brands must make every conversation one-to-one. Many companies fall into the trap of traditional marketing and send the same message to every customer, which often ends up with customers getting multiple messages from different departments of the same company. It’s confusing and overwhelming. A one-to-one conversation focuses on the need of each individual instead of simply blasting them with the same message as everyone else.

Another important principle is to take the customer’s view. Companies need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and consider if their approach is appropriate or relevant. Just because a company can sell a customer something, should it? Understanding a customer’s circumstance can quickly build and show empathy.

Personal experiences naturally build more empathy. It’s easier for customers to see empathy from a company when they interact with the brand one on one instead of just being part of the masses. AI plays a crucial role in identifying opportunities for a personalized approach. AI allows companies to target specific customers. It can decide the most relevant approach in real time that creates the most mutual value for customers. Instead of human employees having to guess their way through a conversation, AI makes it possible for companies to be more exact in their approach.  

Combining AI and empathy to best connect with customers can require a culture shift in many companies. In a truly customer-centric organization, different departments won’t compete with each other because they want to do what is best for the customer.

Dr. Walker recommends operationalizing AI and empathy, but says that brands shouldn’t look too far out because technology and ideas are moving quickly. AI is constantly changing and could soon infer empathy. For now, it is a powerful tool in creating personalized experiences that allow for more connection between customers and brands, which naturally builds more empathy.

Apr 17, 2019

Imagine being able to stream anything anywhere without having to worry about bad signals or data limits. Soon connecting to the internet will be as commonplace as connecting to electricity. 5G has the power to unlock limitless computing and impact the entire world, including the customer experience.

Cristiano Amon is the president of Qualcomm, a company that has technology in every smartphone in the world. Amon is considered the godfather of 5G because of his work planning, advocating and creating the technology. He is passionate and optimistic about the potential of 5G to change the way we work, communicate, shop and live.

The most obvious impact of 5G will be super-fast internet, with speeds up to 10 times faster than current levels. With current 4G, customers can experience poor signal areas where they don’t have the power to stream or access the internet as quickly as they like. That trouble won’t be an issue with 5G, as everyone around the world will have guaranteed connections no matter where they are.

The impact of massively increased speeds is enormous. In recent years, even slightly faster internet speeds have allowed consumers to stream music, so they don’t need to buy CDs or download MP3s. The same buying shift will happen with 5G as consumers can stream 4K video anywhere in the world, which means they won’t need to buy DVDs or download movies.

5G will also have a huge impact on social media and allow for instantaneous connections. People will be able to share things in real time and have live conversations around the world.

Gaming could also boom with 5G and cloud-based gaming. Instead of having to purchase expensive computers to handle large games, 5G will allow consumers to play any game on any device no matter the computing power required.

5G goes hand in hand with the growth of AI. Because of 5G’s fast speeds, everyone will essentially be constantly connected to the cloud. Al and machine learning can also build faster connections and flag activities that aren’t normal. Amon says that with this growth comes the need for more protection of our digital selves on par with how we protect our physical selves.

What does this mean for the customer experience? Everything is changing. Consumers will be able to connect with brands in real time and will expect faster service and responses. Connectivity will impact innovation and allow products to come to market more quickly. Brands will also have more data on their customers to provide uniquely personalized experiences just when customers needs them. The world will get smaller as connectivity increases.

Unlike today’s wireless technology that is primarily used in the wireless industry, 5G will touch all industries in both B2B and B2C. 5G will become part of the critical infrastructure and change manufacturing, IoT, healthcare and so many more industries.

Amon says that consumers who like their smartphones today will be very happy once 5G is up and running. Companies will need to match that love and excitement with service and experiences that leverage the power of 5G.


Apr 3, 2019

Digital transformation is all about using technology to better solve customer problems. But a new report from global telecommunications company Telstra found that many U.S. companies lean too heavily on the technology side and don’t focus enough on the people behind the decisions.

According to Nicholas Collins, Telstra President for the Americas, digital transformation loses its effectiveness if companies forget about people. Brands need to continually evolve their businesses as technology and customer needs change. Instead of chasing technology, companies need to focus on what they want to be for their customers.

“Technology alone is not a silver bullet for digital transformation. While investing in the right technology is crucial, placing too much importance on the role and performance of technology in digital transformation is a barrier to success,” Collins said.

There are huge opportunities for companies that have yet to start a digital transformation. Collins says it starts with a top-down commitment from leadership. Companies need to strategically decide what they want to achieve through digital transformation. From there, they should assemble the right teams to bring those goals to life. The foundation of successful digital transformation is people, especially through strong leadership and culture. Telstra’s study found that focusing too much on technology can lead to stalled progress and a lack of measurable outcomes.

It’s easy for companies to get caught up in the technology behind the transformation, but the most effective digital transformation simplifies how people work so they can be engaged and better serve customers. As businesses grow, they often add new products and services that only add to the complexity of the company. Collins recommends that companies regularly take stock of their offerings and processes and find ways to simplify. Work back from the customer and what the brand is trying to achieve and then streamline or simplify as much as possible relating to the customer experience.

Digital transformation really comes down to using technology to simplify and streamline how a brand operates interacts with customers. Collins recommends involving the employees who are closest to the customers because they can often provide insights that people who don’t regularly interact with customers might not see.

Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. No matter where companies are on that journey, there is still plenty of opportunity to grow and develop. But in order to be successful, companies have to think about people and not just technology.


Mar 21, 2019

It may have the word “medical” in the title, but by all accounts, The American Medical Association is actually a media company seeing the fruits of its digital transformation. In the last 18 months, association membership has grown by more than three times, thanks largely to a new digital approach.

The AMA helps physicians in their quest to improve patient care. A large part of that is creating quality content from medical experts, including white papers and other documents. But that content is ineffective if it isn’t meaningful to members or easily accessible.  

Digital transformation is a business buzzword, but it can be scary to people. Instead, Todd Unger, chief experience officer and SVP physician engagement at the AMA, likes to start with the business of basics, such as identifying the audience, the company’s growth goals and what digital platforms will help the brand perform on a bigger scale. The digital solutions for one group might not be what another group needs. In order to be effective, companies must segment their audience and tailor their approach for reaching out to certain types of people.

Unger came to the medical world with a background in e-commerce and horse racing. His fresh perspective helped him see areas that could easily be improved. One of the best ways to build momentum for a digital transformation is to start with the low-hanging fruit. For the AMA, it was as simple as adding a button to its homepage that people could click to join the organization. Those simple changes can make a big difference to the overall experience, but it often takes someone with fresh eyes to find those simple solutions.

Unger’s best advice is to start small, move fast and get quick wins. Digital transformation can be scary and overwhelming, but quick wins from low-hanging fruit can provide positive momentum. Success can also show people who are hesitant about the need for a digital transformation just how powerful digital tools can be.

With that fresh perspective comes the need for a cohesive team. Unger says many companies have problems with digital transformations because the responsibility of digital marketing is split across multiple departments, which takes away accountability and makes it hard to get results. Within a few months of starting the digital transformation, the AMA brought its digital marketing teams together to one cohesive unit and immediately saw faster progress.

Unger’s team tests everything to drive growth. Even something as simple as an email template needs to be tested repeatedly to prove that it can effectively meet customers’ needs. Testing helps digital teams move to making fact-based decisions instead of relying on their opinions.

In the end, digital transformation comes down to trust. Are you communicating and connecting with customers in a clear way that builds trust? Digital solutions can drive growth and create meaningful relationships with customers. As Unger says, there’s never been a more exciting time to be in marketing. And it all starts with digital.


Mar 7, 2019

Most people consider customer experience the ultimate goal for companies and marketers, but according to marketing professor Peter Fader, customer experience isn’t for everyone.

It’s no secret that modern customers are all unique. They have different preferences and also different value for brands. As Fader says, not all customers are created equal. Some will be loyal to the brand and purchase every new product, while others will only purchase items on sale and could dabble in other brands. While both types of people are customers, it’s definitely more worthwhile for the brand to invest in the loyal customer who makes bigger purchases. When it comes to customer acquisition and retention, brands should focus on quality, not quantity. 10 brand-loyal customers who recommend the product to friends and make repeat purchases are better than 20 customers who only purchase when it’s cheap and convenient.

Today’s customers realize they aren’t always treated the same as all other customers. Some customers get VIP treatment and special offers, while many others don’t. Customers understand the difference and realize that companies are simply rewarding customers that deserve it a little more.

That’s where customer experience comes in. Different customers have different kinds of relationships with brands. Fader uses the example of Stitch Fix, which offers a completely different box of clothes to each customer to create a one-of-a-kind experience. As technology and personalization continues to improve, Fader says that customized approach will become the rule more than the exception.

In order to best grow and nurture a relationship with customers, brands need to understand what tactics are most effective, and it’s not the same for every customer. Some customers might respond well to a rewards program, while others may resonate more with customer experience. Companies can’t pick one tactic and think it’s the best thing for all customers all time. A large-scale customer experience campaign might only move the needle for some customers in some circumstances instead of being the ideal solution for every customer. Fader says the best brands use a variety of tactics because they understand their customers and the value they provide.

Customer experience is still crucial to brands and can have a tremendous impact in creating loyal, long-term customers. However, as companies try to connect with customers, the key is to understand their value and preferences and build relationships in the way that best works for each person.

Check out a great talk from Peter Fader at Google here.

Feb 13, 2019

Digital transformation is everywhere these days. But the idea of updating everything about how a company works and interacts with customers can be overwhelming. Comcast’s recent digital transformation shows that moving strategically and focusing on solutions customers love and employees champion can lead to great results.

Comcast has made a major push in the last few years to get to a level where customers love the brand. The goal of the company’s digital transformation was to solve traditional problems with technology and create an easy and consistent experience for customers.

Digital transformation is possible, even at large companies with standard processes. Scott McAllister, SVP Digital Transformation, narrowed the digital transformation down to four steps that proved incredibly successful for Comcast:

  1. Get senior level support. McAllister says it’s vital to have support from the CEO and other executives. At Comcast, the CEO was on board from the beginning. All executives in the company make two customer calls a month to discover customer pain points. Those calls showed leaders the importance of creating simple digital solutions for customers.
  2. Set clear objectives. Comcast started the journey with what it called a North Star metric: the percentage of customers who interact with the brand digitally. Tracking that single metric would show the success of the digital transformation. The number started in the low 60s% and is now up to the high 70s%.
  3. Get everyone in the company involved. It’s important to engage at each level of the organization to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Comcast invited employees from all levels and divisions of the company to have a voice in the new digital experience. Involving everyone gave all employees buy-in and helped create digital products that represented all viewpoints.
  4. Create an initial focus on certain transactions. An entire digital transformation can be overwhelming, but McAllister recommends starting with the lowest-hanging fruit. For Comcast, that was bill pay. Figuring out how to transform the interaction and move bill pay to digital set the stage for the rest of the transformation. By solving one problem, the company could move more easily to other areas.

Digital transformation is vital in today’s world to build customers who love the products and won’t go anywhere else. Digital solutions offer amazing opportunities to meet customer needs and deliver an experience that goes above and beyond.

Comcast shows that involving everyone in the digital transformation creates internal champions and helps manage change. Although there will be bumps in the road, following these four basic steps to a digital transformation can keep your company on top of trends and first in customers’ minds.  


Jan 31, 2019

You’ve probably experienced this familiar scene: going to the doctor, having to wait to be seen in a sterile office, feeling rushed through the entire appointment and finally going home without feeling much better. It’s no wonder healthcare is one of the top five hated industries in the world.

But One Medical is out to change people’s negative perceptions of healthcare by focusing on the patient experience and making it something people actually enjoy. It’s part of the growing trend to the consumerization of healthcare. According to CMO Doug Sweeny, One Medical thinks through the entire patient experience from start to finish to make visiting the doctor enjoyable. Instead of waiting weeks to get an appointment, patients can use an app to book a same-day appointment or virtually visit with a provider after hours. From the moment a patient walks in, the feel of the office is different. The modern style and calming décor is a stark contrast from typical waiting rooms. There aren’t phones at the front desk, which means receptionists can actually greet patients and talk with them instead of being distracted by a phone call. Appointments start on time, with the average wait time of just 30-60 seconds.

The experience continues throughout the appointment. One Medical has automated much of the paperwork processes to allow healthcare providers to do what they love most—care for patients. They can take the time to build real relationships and meet the needs of each patient. Studies have shown that having a strong relationship with a doctor adds value to members and prevents things like urgent care visits.

Aside from typical healthcare services, One Medical also offers services that patients really want, like mental health coaching, weight management classes, sports medicine, physical therapy and much more. The purpose is to help members meet their health goals instead of only seeing them when they’re sick. The company has partnered with large hospitals across the country to offer advanced specialist care to its patients.

One Medical also works to engage with its employees by allowing them to focus on what matters most: patients. Instead of getting paid based on how many patients they see, all One Medical doctors are salary based.

The entire experience is drastically different from the typical healthcare environment and could revolutionize the industry. One Medical remembers what many other healthcare companies don’t: that patients are people. Visiting the doctor can be an enjoyable experience. Like in other industries, consumers can take their business elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied, so healthcare companies need to understand changing consumerization trends to create a positive and personal experience.

Healthcare is changing, and companies like One Medical that focus on patients and relationships will be the ones paving the way.  


Jan 7, 2019

Customer experience is a major focus of the B2C world, but it’s also vitally important for B2B companies. As B2B customers become more digitally savvy, companies need to focus on digital transformation to ensure high-quality customer experiences.

According to Dushyant Mohanty, global head of transformation at Tata Consultancy Services, that means moving from being product-centric to being customer-centric. Mohanty helps companies around the world transform to meet the needs of modern customers. He is an expert in B2B manufacturing, energy and financial services.

When creating a transformational customer experience journey, B2B companies should put themselves in the shoes of their customers to see if they are getting an immersive solution that meets their needs, or if the company’s offerings are outdated. An immersive omnichannel experience includes all types of outreach and technology. In order to make it happen, Mohanty says companies often have to include people who aren’t typically part of the buying experience. Involving these people earlier in the process can help companies get a more accurate view of their customers and help create a cohesive experience with everyone on the same page.

In a digital transformation, the customer experience needs to be customized and in real time. That means adjusting as needed and using the correct customer persona. Just like how modern customers expect customization in their B2C experiences, they also want it in their B2B interactions.

In theory, this new approach to B2B customer experience is relatively simple. Putting it into practice, however, can be quite challenging. Mohanty says executives need to first pinpoint the reason for the transformation. Is it to drive top-line revenue, or is it to establish their market share? Knowing the reason for shifting to a customer-centric company can help drive strategy.

Once a company understands its incentive for changing, it should look at its current contracts to see what customers are asking for. An effective customer experience means that the company is responding to customers’ needs. The contracts can tell the true story of if that’s actually happening.

Mohanty points out that a digital transformation is more than just updating a few processes. For many companies, it’s a complete overhaul of their approach to service and customer experience. Small changes will only get small results. To make a real change, executives need to take a step back and look at things objectively to see if they are reaching customers and achieving their goals. The underlying technology structure has a huge impact on customer experience, as does the data strategy. Start with these as a foundation to customer experience.

In the end, it really comes down to having a growth mindset. B2B companies that can embrace digital transformation for customer experience are the ones that don’t simply do what’s always been done but instead look for new solutions to meet customers’ needs.

Just like in the B2C world, B2B companies need to always be evaluating their approach to customer experience to stay on top of new trends and technologies. A digital transformation can help companies become more customer-centric to guide their customers through the changing digital world.

Nov 19, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

Nov 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Aug 27, 2018

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

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

Creating Moments that Matter

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

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

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

Customer Experience Defined

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

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

A Culture of Trust

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

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

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

Aug 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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