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The Modern Customer Podcast

Go behind the scenes with customer experience leader Blake Morgan to explore the secrets of the world’s most customer-centric companies. Blake is one of the world’s top keynote speakers, authority on customer experience and the bestselling author of “The Customer Of The Future” The Modern Customer reaches thousands of people each week conveying a message of how we make people feel - in business and in life - matters. Her weekly show explores how businesses can make customers’ lives easier and better, featuring experts that provide simple, tangible advice you can immediately apply at your own organization. Today’s customers have the luxury of choice. The answer is simple; choose customer experience and customers will choose you. Learn how to put a stake in the ground on customer experience by tuning into The Modern Customer Podcast each week with Blake Morgan.
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Now displaying: 2021
Feb 23, 2021

It’s a common experience for online shoppers: an item arrives in the mail, either doesn’t fit or is no longer needed and now must be returned. 

But the process of making the return is cumbersome and requires printing shipping labels, packaging the item, making a trip to the post office and then waiting up to a few weeks to get the refund. 

With all the advancements in customer experience and online shopping, the return process for many companies has stayed the same—inconvenient and outdated. 

But an innovative approach to returns improves both the customer experience and sustainability. 

David Sobie is co-founder and CEO of Happy Returns, a company that partners with DTC and e-commerce brands to provide streamlined return practices. When a customer needs to return an item from a Happy Returns partner, they start the return online and get a QR code and directions to one of 2,600 drop-off locations around the country. Customers bring their items to the Happy Returns return bar, drop them off without worrying about packaging and get a receipt and an instant refund. That part of the process greatly improves the customer experience. 

But Happy Returns’ real work is just beginning. The drop-off centers collect items from dozens of brands and then ship them together in reusable totes to a Happy Returns regional processing hub. There, the items are sorted by store and then bulk shipped back to each merchant to re-sell or use how they want. 

The entire process is a win for everyone involved. Customers get a much smoother and faster return experience, e-commerce brands save on return shipping by sending items back in bulk and the reusable totes save the environment from an influx of cardboard and packaging materials. 

Sobie had the idea for Happy Returns years ago, but it wasn’t until the partnership of Kohl’s accepting Amazon returns that people came around to the idea and saw what was possible. The idea has taken off recently due to the huge increase in online shopping (and returns) during the pandemic. 

This modern approach to the return process shows the importance of prioritizing customers in all aspects of the customer experience, from start to finish. Sobie says that to be successful, companies must have physical and digital systems working together for cohesive software and logistics. 

This innovative approach to returns should spread to other companies and showcase the creative ways brands can improve their customer experience and reduce friction.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

Feb 16, 2021

E-commerce has seen tremendous growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But with so many customers going online, it’s never been more important for brands to make their products visible. 

According to Sarah Hofstetter, President of Profitero, search is the hottest and most important topic in the e-commerce world right now. When customers shop in stores, they tend to browse until something catches their eye. But when customers shop online at places like Amazon, they already have a brand or category they are looking for. Instead of just seeing what’s out there, customers come to buy with an exact purpose and search for a specific brand or type of item. How a product shows up in the search results can make or break a potential sale.  

But Hofstetter says it’s more than just showing up high in search results. Companies also need to ensure they have ratings and reviews to back up their standing. They also have to actually have the items in stock that customers are searching for.  

Succeeding in e-commerce and search comes down to being able to understand and leverage data and analytics. Marketers and customer service leaders need to know not only how their own products are showing up in search, but also how their competitors approach e-commerce, including what sales they are running and where they land in the search results.  

Hofstetter says investing in data analytics for search is crucial to a company’s success. The pandemic has shown the huge growth potential for e-commerce, and even after customers are comfortable shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, a large number will stick with the convenience of shopping online.

Ignoring the potential of search and analytics could leave brands in the dust. E-commerce and data leaders need to show their leaders and executives the impact of inaction and translate it into terms they understand. Hofstetter recommends putting the impact of search into financial terms for the CFO, operational terms for the COO and corresponding language for each type of team or leader. 

Search may be an often-overlooked aspect of e-commerce, but it is truly the lifeblood of gathering customers and making sales. Without a strong understanding of search data analytics, brands won’t be able to survive the new e-commerce frontier.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

 

Feb 9, 2021

Before Amazon became one of the world’s largest retailers, it was simply an online bookstore shipping items within the U.S. 

But even in its early days, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had a vision to build earth’s most customer-centric company. 

That mentality still holds strong today and is a driving force behind Amazon’s continual success. 

Colin Bryar joined Amazon in 1998, just four years after it was founded. Of his 12 years on the Amazon leadership team, he spent two of them working as Bezos’ Chief of Staff, where he had an inside view of what it takes to build a customer-centric company. 

The early days of Amazon weren’t smooth sailing, but instead of focusing on stock price or what the press was saying, Bezos encouraged his employees to look at customer experience data. Focusing too much on stock price was a roller coaster—it could go up 30% one month and make you feel 30% smarter, but then drop 30% the next month and make you feel 30% dumber. Instead, the mentality at Amazon was to stay focused on the customer. Employees knew that if they did right with the customer, things would work out.

 From the company’s beginning, customers came first. Bryar tells the story of how the customer service experience became even more customer-centric. 

All leaders at Amazon spend a few days every two years in the contact center, listening to calls, responding emails and eventually answering phone calls. On one occasion, Bryar and Bezos were listening in on a call from a customer who had received damaged lawn furniture. The call center agent asked for the product number, and as the customer was looking for it, looked at Bezos and Bryar and guessed exactly which product it was of the millions Amazon sold. The agent was right and explained that they had received multiple calls about that particular set arriving damaged—clearly, there was an issue with the packaging. 

Amazon’s typical process for that type of issue was to have the call center agent file a report, which would then be forwarded to the feedback manager for that area. But with the calls coming so spread out, it would be difficult for the manager to notice a pattern and take action to solve the problem. 

Instead, Amazon took a page from Toyota’s book to create an Andon Cord. In manufacturing, anyone on the assembly line can pull the cord if they detect a problem. Bezos created a virtual Andon Cord for the call center. If a customer service agent notices multiple calls for the same item, they can press a big red button that immediately removes the option to buy that product on Amazon. Bryar explains that it is better for customers to not be able to buy something no matter how painful the revenue loss is for Amazon than to send a defective product and have to deal with it later. Once the issue is addressed, the product is able to be sold on Amazon. 

The idea of the contact center Andon Cord seems simple, but it shows how Amazon is working to operational excellence, even in its early years. 

Bryar believes that focusing on customers, especially the example set by Jeff Bezos, is what has propelled Amazon to such great success. The company shows that no matter the industry or size, putting customers first always pays off.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

Feb 2, 2021

Nearly a year into the global pandemic, what modern customers are looking for in the brands they interact with has permanently changed. 

At the top of the list of customer priorities are health and safety. 

Research from Volvo and Harris Poll found that COVID has altered the mindsets of consumers. In an unpredictable world, customers are looking for stability from brands they know and trust, which often translates into safety. 

Despite economic uncertainty, Volvo has seen growth and success during the pandemic. According to Jim Nichols, Head of Product, Technology & Brand Communications at Volvo Cars, that’s because people know they can count on the company and its dedication to safety and stability. 

In light of COVID, the consumer definition of safety has expanded to be much broader than it was before. Instead of just avoiding accidents, safety now includes giving people their own space away from the germs of others and mitigating an accident to not only reduce the risk but to decrease the severity. 

Volvo’s research also found that consumers are now less likely to want to show off their luxury, largely out of respect for people who haven’t fared as well during the pandemic. Although many consumers want to invest in luxury products that prioritize health and safety, they don’t want to be viewed as opulent or over the top. Brands like Volvo that offer understated luxury combined with safety have seen strong growth in recent months. 

Understanding that modern customers are prioritizing health and safety without wanting to look luxurious is only half the battle. Companies then need to take that information and apply it to the customer experience to deliver products customers want in a way that makes their lives safer and less complicated. 

These measures can be large or small and often involve giving customers options to take care of things from home and without having to put their personal health at risk. Nichols says Volvo ramped up pilot testing for its valet service that has technicians pick up cars from a customer’s home or work, perform the maintenance and then return the car the same day. The customer doesn’t have to change their schedule or sit in a waiting room around other people. These solutions are always valuable to customers, but especially at a time when many people are concerned about their overall health and wellbeing. 

Even after the pandemic subsides, the changed consumer mindset will linger. In light of COVID, modern customers want health and safety and are willing to prioritize that over other factors. Brands that can deliver health and safety in ways that make customers’ lives less complicated will continue to see success.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

Jan 26, 2021

Everyone who has sat through an irrelevant or bloated meeting knows the pain it can cause. Meetings that are too long, have too many people or wander from point to point can be counterproductive and put a drain on creativity.  

And somehow, during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are finding themselves in more meetings than ever before. 

According to Steven Rogelberg, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance, the problem isn’t that there are too many meetings, it’s that there are too many bad meetings. He suggests taking a science-based approach to break free from boring meetings and embrace meetings that encourage innovation and creativity. 

Here are just six of Rogelberg’s tips to running a better meeting. 

  1. Use silence. Research has found that silent brainstorming in meetings generates twice as many ideas as vocal group brainstorming, and the ideas tend to be more creative. Don’t feel like you have to fill every meeting with endless talking. Lean into silence on occasion to build engagement.
  2. Be sensitive to the role as a facilitator. As the person leading a meeting, your job isn’t to dominate, but rather to build inclusion and an environment where people can collaborate and get results.
  3. Create a thoughtful agenda. When structuring your agenda, put the most pressing items first. If the meeting runs long or you don’t have a chance to get to everything, at least you addressed the most important issues. Ask for input from attendees about what agenda items should be addressed.
  4. Build an agenda around questions. Instead of building an agenda around a set of topics to discuss, frame the agenda as a set of questions to be answered. This approach creates different thinking and gives you a better idea of who to invite who can best answer the questions. When the questions have been answered, the meeting is over.
  5. Run a pre-mortem. Many companies use post-mortems to follow up on meetings and what can be improved for next time. But Rogelberg suggests taking a few minutes before a meeting for a pre-mortem. Ask yourself what could go wrong, then make adjustments to prevent those things from happening. This quick thought exercise can completely change a meeting.
  6. Start with positivity. Leaders set the tone for the meeting. When you start with positivity and optimism, it creates the same collective mentality for attendees. Take time at the beginning of the meeting to set collective expectations so everyone knows their role. 

Meetings will forever be part of the business world—especially now, when people are separated and working from home. But they don’t have to be boring! With a few simple adjustments, you can lead meetings that get results and encourage creativity and innovation.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

Jan 19, 2021

It seems nearly every company today has a loyalty program, but the meaning of loyalty itself is often still a mystery. 

Customer loyalty in 2021 looks different than it has in the past and even than how many companies view it. 

According to Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of loyalty marketing and technology company Kobie, loyalty is more than just how a customer behaves. A customer who regularly purchases from the same company can appear loyal, but what matters more than the transaction is their emotional loyalty, or how they feel about a brand. 

Hechtkopf breaks emotional loyalty into three areas: status, habit and reciprocity. Measuring customers in those three areas, combined with behavioral data, provides companies with the best view of loyalty. That data can be used to drive better personalization and engagement. 

Focusing on emotional loyalty goes against how many companies have traditionally viewed loyalty. In the past, loyalty was all about transactions, and the goal of a loyalty program was to get customers to the next purchase. 

In 2021, however, loyalty is more than just transactional. Modern brands have to think about the emotional drivers of loyalty. Instead of focusing on just their most loyal customers, Hechtkopf says the best programs cast a wider net to reach out to all customers and then use tiers and gamification to segment customers. These brands build relationships and foster loyalty through more than just points and perks. 

Like many aspects of customer experience, loyalty programs have faced changes and challenges during the pandemic. With supply chain strain and economic uncertainty, customers are more willing to try new brands instead of their trusted favorites. Hechtkopf says that brands that have established loyalty programs have seen the most success because they have been able to leverage their programs as their businesses have pivoted. Instead of focusing solely on transactions, these brands have been able to embrace pandemic trends and outperform the competition while still delivering a personalized experience that meets customers’ needs. 

The companies that think about loyalty not as a program but as an outcome and enterprise strategy have the most success. Hechtkopf says the companies with the best loyalty programs have executives who realize that loyalty is crucial as more than just a transactional program. To tap into modern customer loyalty, brands need to ensure their loyalty strategy aligns with their brand strategy. 

Customer loyalty programs can be powerful drivers for relationships and revenue. But modern companies have to think about loyalty as a state of mind instead of just a program.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

 

Jan 12, 2021

For many people, the days of going to the bank to make a deposit or cash a check are gone forever. Like in many industries, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a major shift away from in-person banking interactions towards digital services. 

The challenge now becomes how to pivot to best serve contactless customers. 

According to Holly O’Neill, Chief Client Care Executive at Bank of America, the switch to digital solutions was already in play for the company. The pandemic simply moved up the timeline. 

Bank of America’s strategy has always been to deliver world-class service in a way that is convenient and easy both in person and virtually. That high-tech, high-touch approach was tailor-made for the current pandemic. 

Covid increased the need for companies, including Bank of America, to undergo a digital transformation or speed up their timeline. O’Neill defines digital transformation as making things easy for clients by putting everything they need right at their fingertips. The goal is to make the mobile and online experience so intuitive that clients don’t need to go anywhere else because they have all the information they need right in front of them. And the ultimate goal is to have an experience that is so intuitive it answers questions before customers ask them. 

With a banking digital transformation, financial centers serve as a hub for advice and guidance instead of transactions. Everything else, like making deposits and checking balances, can be done virtually. 

Pivoting to reach contactless customers means understanding their needs and what they are really looking for. Bank of America leaned into its robust feedback program, which it rolled out a few years ago and has been crucial to understanding constantly changing customer needs. 

Each year, Bank of America sends out tens of millions of customer surveys. That information is collected in almost real-time and then sent to bank managers and the employees who are interacting with clients every day. Through a dashboard, these employees can daily changes in customer sentiment and feedback and then help customers in the most applicable ways. That feedback data is used to personalize the experience to give each customer exactly what matters to them, not to their neighbor. 

O’Neill says the real winners will be the companies that customize the experience for their clients. That customization comes from leveraging feedback data to pivot and quickly make changes as needed. 

The feedback data represents a wide range of customers, making it reliable and usable. Bank of America made a conscious effort to keep the surveys short and simple and deliver them through the mobile app, which has led to a high response rate. 

Although the pandemic has brought a major pivot to serve contactless customers, the digital transformation is far from over. O’Neill views building out and improving digital solutions as a continued evolution that will forever be a part of Bank of America. And as it continues to listen to feedback, personalize and deliver seamless digital solutions, the bank will be prepared to meet customers’ needs, even long after the pandemic.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

Jan 5, 2021

It’s a common situation for customers: spending time on a company’s app or website and then having to call customer service for help. Even after spending time searching online, the customer still has to wait on hold, log in or prove their identity and then re-explain the situation and wait to get connected to the right person. 

In recent years, many aspects of customer experience have been modernized and streamlined, such as the growth of chatbots and AI. However, even with these advancements, most customer interactions have stayed stagnant and without context. 

But that won’t be able to continue for long. Modern customers realize the potential of their data and are increasingly becoming frustrated with companies that don’t offer intuitive and connected experiences. Especially in industries like banking, healthcare and hospitality, customers can easily take their business elsewhere if they have a bad experience. 

According to Vasili Triant, COO of UJET, customers may start with a brand because of the product or price, but they stay because of the experience. 

He says the future of modern customer interactions involves channel blending or meeting customers where they are within a brand’s app. Instead of pushing customers out of the app or website when they need to contact the brand, this modern approach stays within the app to seamlessly pass information to human agents. How a customer uses an app or how they search online provides rich data about their preferences, but brands are throwing that information away when they essentially make customers start over with each interaction. 

This approach not only saves the customer time by not requiring them to re-authenticate and then re-explain their situation, but it also makes it easier for brands to personalize the experience. If a customer is looking at a website in English, they shouldn’t have to choose a language on the phone, just like a customer who has already authenticated in the app shouldn’t have to do it again on the phone. 

According to Triant, leveraging in-app communication adds a vital aspect that is often missing from customer interactions: context. When a customer calls a company, the agent typically doesn’t have much information about why they could be calling. But by connecting with customers through channels they already use and leveraging that data, agents automatically have context around the interaction and can more easily provide the right solution. Very few brands contextualize their customer experience, but as personalization and the need for convenience grows, customers will come to expect it. 

In the smartphone era, customers do nearly everything on their phones. They want and expect a seamless transition from self-service to being able to contact a brand. The companies that can take the step towards modernizing their experiences and offer context around the interaction will lead the way in personalization and customer loyalty. This approach to customer interactions is the future, and companies need to get on board to deliver strong, modern experiences.

*Sponsored by UJET

UJET is the world’s first and only cloud contact center platform for smartphone era CX. By modernizing digital and in-app experiences, UJET unifies the enterprise brand experience across sales, marketing, and support, eliminating the frustration of channel switching between voice, digital, and self-service for consumers. Offering unsurpassed resiliency and the flexibility to deploy across leading public cloud infrastructures, UJET powers the world’s largest elastic CCaaS tenant at up to 22,000 agents globally and is trusted by innovative, customer-centric enterprises like Instacart, Turo, Wag!, and Atom Tickets to intelligently orchestrate predictive, contextual, conversational customer experiences. 

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker, and author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her new course here. For regular updates on customer experience, sign up for her weekly newsletter here. 

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