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in customer experience and online shopping, the return process for many companies has stayed the same—inconvenient and outdated.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

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