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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
Jul 6, 2021

Even with innovations to medicines and treatments, how the pharmaceutical industry interacts with patients and customers has largely stayed the same for decades. 

But one company is breaking through the push and sell method with a large-scale digital transformation to disrupt the industry. 

Davidek Herron, Global Head of Digital at Roche Pharmaceuticals, believes that all companies can—and must—undergo digital transformations to provide value to their customers. Instead of simply doing things how they’ve always been done, companies in all industries must focus on finding gaps and adding value for their customers.

As with everything, customer experience needs to be central to digital transformation. The goal should be to provide seamless experiences and to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with the company.  

Herron recommends companies start simple by understanding who their customers are and what they need. This requires really talking to customers and being open to their feedback and suggestions. Companies must understand the feedback and data they get from customers, including how they are capturing it and what they will do with it. Herron believes companies have to be able to measure if they want to be effective. 

Once companies understand their customers, they can start to build core digital infrastructures. Knowing their customers allows companies to deliver the right messages at the right time and makes companies and customers partners instead of a one-sided sales relationship. 

Most companies understand the need for digital transformation, but many are overwhelmed at the thought of completely overhauling their organization. Herron recommends simplifying the transformation by first setting a goal and vision. He recommends under-promising and over-delivering. Leaders must set the tone and be clear about where they want the company to go. With that goal and common cause, the company can start with quick digital wins to show the value of the transformation and gain momentum for further changes. 

Herron says one of the most important things for a digital transformation is to have the right people in place. Having employees who are motivated and are willing to go the extra mile to solve problems improves morale and keeps the company moving forward. Even with all that is involved in digital transformation, finding and retaining top talent should be a priority for leaders.

If the pharmaceutical industry can change with digital transformation, all companies can change. Digital transformation doesn’t have to be complicated. Setting a vision, understanding customers and getting the right people in place can put companies on the path to lasting transformation. 

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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.  

Jun 29, 2021

When it comes to creating experiences customers remember, employees are your first line of defense. 

According to Doug Woodard, CCXO of SimpliSafe, culture is transparent to customers. To create a strong customer experience, Woodard first works to create a strong company culture and employee experience. 

How it feels to work at a company is also how it feels to be a customer there. If employees feel empowered and valued at a company, customers will also feel the same way. But if employees feel overworked and frustrated, those same feelings will come through to customers. 

Company culture has to be intentionally designed. As Woodard says, every company has a culture—either by definition or by default. Intentionally defining the culture and the values that matter to the brand gives employees perspective and common traits to exemplify in their daily interactions. Companies that don’t design their cultures run the risk of a culture falling into place, often with traits and values that don’t match where the company wants to go. 

Creating a strong culture starts by identifying the values and purpose of the brand and products. Ask yourself and your employees how you want customers to feel and how the company values can connect to customer experiences. SimpliSafe’s mission centers on helping customers make their homes safe. That feeling of reassurance and safety permeates through the company and is felt in every interaction customers have with the brand, no matter where they are on the customer journey. 

A well-defined company culture creates engaged employees. Woodard says leadership also plays a large role. Engaged leaders create engaged employees who personify the company values. Leaders need to be clear about the traits they expect from employees and set the example themselves. If you want customers to be heard and valued, employees should be treated the same way by their leaders. 

Before he joined the company, Woodard purchased a SimpliSafe system for his house and installed it himself so he could get the same experience as a customer. He called tech support and worked through issues to build empathy with customers. Now, as he interacts with employees and gets their feedback, he has a sense of reference for their role in the experience. 

Company culture is an often overlooked aspect of customer experience. But organizations with a defined mission and purpose and engaged employees not only strengthen their cultures but also create more opportunities to connect with and serve customers.

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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.  

Jun 22, 2021

How long has a customer been with the company? Who lives in their household? What future products and services might they enjoy?

The answers to all of these questions are available through master data management.  

Data is central to creating personalized customer experiences. And the future of data analytics is master data management or MDM. 

Master data management creates a centralized place for companies to store and manage customer data. Patrick Terry, SVP, Head of Enterprise Data & Analytics at Heartland Financial, says that companies must be consistent with how they use data if they want data analytics to work. But in a typical company, each department uses different systems to look at various aspects of customer data. The marketing department cares about different data than the finance department, which uses different data than the customer service department. The result is often confusion with everyone working off different sets of truths. 

Master data management analyzes how all the customer data relates to each other and then becomes the central source of truth that the entire company can pull from. Terry points out that it isn’t a single system, but rather a way to centralize and standardize data that can then be used with many different systems, from CRM to account management systems and beyond. 

Within a household, there might be two spouses with their own accounts and a teenager with an account. Master data management rolls that individual information into a household and allows the company to market both to the entire household and each individual as needed. A consistent understanding of each customer, as well as each household and customer grouping, eliminates unnecessary communication and provides a strong understanding of customers. 

Master data management is the foundation of a high-quality, personalized experience. It builds a strong understanding of customers by using accurate and updated information. By creating one source of truth, all the systems that want to reach out to customers can do so in a way that is consistent and trustworthy. 

In Terry’s world of banking, MDM helps banks become customer-centric and not account-centric. There are numerous ways customers can interact with the bank beyond just having an account, and master data management tracks the many relationships and customer preferences instead of organizing people by their accounts. 

Modern customer experiences start with strong data analytics. Going forward, personalization will become even more focused and crucial. Master data management centralizes data and allows companies to work more efficiently internally and deliver amazing personalized experiences to customers.

*Sponsored by Informatica

Companies with a legacy foundation need to see it as a legacy to build on for creating a next-generation CX strategy based with customer data management at its core. 

A customer-centric architecture starts with the business outcomes and what the company is trying to achieve that is unique to every company. 

Master Data Management delivers an opportunity to standardize data domains such as customer, product, supplier, location – and help organizations create consistent relationships across any channel.

Learn more about how Informatica helps organizations deliver great CX with a foundation of intelligent data. Go to informatica.com/cx.

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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.  

Jun 15, 2021

COVID highlighted the need for every company to be digital. But many companies face challenges when undergoing a digital transformation. 

According to Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis Sapient, all companies need to challenge the status quo as they adopt new digital strategies and solutions. 

He says the biggest mistakes companies make happen at the start and the end of the digital transformation. 

The first mistake is not being clear on where the digital transformation starts and why. Some companies simply pick an area to transform and set the large-scale transformation in place without thinking through why they are starting in that area. Vaz recommends that companies start with something that is representative of the entire organization so that people can see how that change applies to the entire organization. But you don’t want to choose a starting project that is so big that it never gets off the ground or delivers value. 

The first project of a digital transformation sets the tone for the entire process. Companies need to think strategically and start with a project that will grow momentum and show progress without being overwhelming. 

The other common mistake comes at the end of a digital transformation. The truth is that there is no end to a true digital transformation. It is an ever-evolving journey that involves constant adaptation. Some companies think of digital transformation as a destination instead of a journey. They believe that once they’ve transformed various parts of their company, they can check off the box and move on. But the pace of change is increasing, which means digital transformations need to be continual. 

Embarking on a digital transformation and coming to terms that it is a never-ending journey can be overwhelming. Vaz uses the acronym SPEED to represent the secret sauce of digital transformation: 

S: Strategy. Start by being clear on the strategic objective and the value you’re trying to unlock. 

P: Product. Digital leaders are in constant beta mode and are always evolving their products.

E: Experience. Look for the experiences that will delight customers and employees and allow them to do something dramatically different.

E: Engineering. Don’t lose a great experience because of a lack of engineering power. Involve engineering in the overall experience.

D: Data and AI. Successful digital products and services are constantly fed by data. 

The need for digital transformation has never been greater. All companies need to rethink their digital strategies so they can continually evolve and improve.

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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.  

Jun 8, 2021

10 years ago, people used to email, call, or text their friends and family. Today, the vast majority of conversation happens via messengers. 

Business communication is set to follow the same pattern. 

According to Paul Adams, VP of Product at Intercom, messengers like WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook messenger have become the dominant way people communicate. It’s a fundamental change that is impacting the business world. 

Most companies still rely on phone and email to communicate with customers, but Adams believes the future of business communication and customer service is conversational. 

Moving away from traditional communication channels and towards messengers is a win for both companies and customers. Messengers can be scaled much more easily and cost-effectively than phone or email, and customers appreciate the convenience of self-service. 

However, Adams is quick to acknowledge that messengers aren’t the perfect fit for every situation. Messengers can be incredibly effective for simple, repetitive questions, but deeper human assistance can be needed for more complicated issues. 

Adams believes the future of support looks like a funnel with three layers:

  1. Proactive support. This includes outbound messaging to check on customers and their products and address any issues before they arise.
  2. Automated self-service support. Messengers can easily answer simple questions, such as checking on the status of an order or making a basic account change. Self-service options allow customers to get help when needed without having to wait.
  3. Human support. For more complicated issues, customers can be transferred to a human to provide personalized service. 

Although messengers are the future of business communication and customer service, Adams says it’s really about marrying the scenario to the communication channel. A messenger might not always work, just like a human isn’t the best option in every scenario. But leaning into messengers and using human support when needed can deliver seamless customer interactions and lead to strong business insights. 

In the end, successful business communication is all about staying close to customers. Messengers will see huge growth in the coming years as more companies turn to self-service options. And when those interactions help companies stay connected with customers, everyone benefits.

*Sponsored by Intercom

Intercom is a Conversational Relationship Platform that helps businesses build better customer relationships through personalized, messenger-based experiences. The company is bringing a messenger-first experience to all business-to-customer communication, powering 500 million conversations per month and connecting 4 billion end-users worldwide across its more than 30,000 customers, including Facebook, Amazon, and Lyft. 

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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.  

Jun 1, 2021

The wireless industry may be the most competitive in the world.

To attract more customers, companies are constantly working to improve their services. That means delivering seamless, convenient experiences that modern customers crave. T-Mobile’s goal is to make customers’ lives easier as it connects them to the world.  

Competing on customer experience requires a strong understanding of the effectiveness of products, services and the overall experience. And that comes down to data, says Jon Freier, EVP of Consumer Group at T-Mobile. 

There are numerous metrics to measure customer experience, but Freier looks at three main categories and activities:

  1. What is the experience like for people who aren’t T-Mobile customers and want to join?
  2. What is the experience like for existing customers who want to expand their relationship with T-Mobile?
  3. What is the experience like for existing customers when an issue pops ups? 

Measuring these three areas—joining, expanding and resolving issues—helps the company track the level of effort. Freier says T-Mobile chases and tracks anything that can measure how hard or easy it is to do those things. 

Freier believes companies are moving past traditional metrics like CSAT and NPS and towards measuring the level of effort. T-Mobile considers and tracks the level of efforts for customers to join, expand and resolve issues. That includes tracking if the experience is hard or easy, how long it takes and even how many clicks it takes to join or resolve issues digitally. If the current experience takes 25 clicks to solve an issue, Freier wants his team to get it down to 20 clicks. And then once it’s down to 20 clicks, the goal is to simplify it down to 15 clicks. Simplifying the product and customer experience puts more power in customers’ hands with self-service options. 

The goal of all companies, regardless of industry, should be to make customers’ lives easier. Tracking the level of effort to join, grow and solve problems can help all companies better understand their customers and continually improve the experience.

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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.  

May 25, 2021

When Kate Johnson became president of Microsoft US four years ago, the stock price was at $44. Today, it’s around $260. 

What’s the reason for the immense growth? Continual digital transformation and a commitment to change. At Microsoft, Johnson is a powerful change agent who works with CEO Satya Nadella and other executives to set the company on a fast track to the future. 

Johnson believes that companies can have all of the ingredients for success, including a strong mission and employee experience. But if they don’t have a culture that enables change, their success will be temporary. 

Lasting success comes from a culture that enables and promotes change and that is continually evolving and looking towards the future. 

But change doesn’t just come from culture; it comes from people. Leaders working for change will find that their people fall into three buckets:

  1. The people who adore change and are all in.
  2. The people who hate change and try to block it.
  3. The people who are on the fence and trying to figure out which group to join. 

Johnson says that great change leaders listen to all three groups but specialize in helping the people on the fence join the supporters. When that happens, roughly two-thirds of people will be supportive of change, which helps leaders reach critical mass for the change they are trying to achieve. 

Being a change agent requires a variety of skills, including the courage to muscle through negative feedback and figure out which signals are real and which are just noise. Change agents have to be great listeners and be both real and pragmatic. Even with the challenges, Johnson says it is the most fulfilling job imaginable. 

Johnson’s favorite problems to solve are the complex challenges that are steeped in people. She says that’s where the best and most impactful change occurs. But working with people means working with their egos. One of Johnson’s proven ways of calming egos is simply asking people, “Tell me more.” The simple sentence helps people realize she is listening and allows them to share their viewpoint calmly and without ego. It doesn’t mean she always agrees with the other side, but it helps her better understand people and make progress.

Microsoft’s digital transformation has brought about many changes, but Johnson says the main focus has been changes related to customers. She believes that if the company is going to obsess over one thing, it needs to be customers. 

Customer-centric leaders need to be change agents. By understanding people, cutting through ego and obsessing over customers, leaders can make lasting and impactful change within their organizations.

*Sponsored by Wix Answers

It's been a year of change for businesses. What’s making this period most challenging is the lack of clarity. But, that’s also where there’s an opportunity to stand out by building trust in your relationships with your customers with agile communication.

Wix Answers takes a new approach to customer support by helping you adapt quickly to know exactly what your customer needs and when they need it.

Go and see for yourself today at WixAnswers.com.

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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.  

May 18, 2021

At the height of the COVID pandemic in spring 2020, toilet paper and hand sanitizer were the hottest items on store shelves. The search for these essential items grew to a fever pitch, with customers lining up for hours and scouring the internet to get their hands on these hot commodities. 

As demand skyrocketed and shelves cleared, many states and retailers put price gouging regulations into effect. 

But those efforts to help consumers may have actually led to more COVID cases and deaths. 

Gavin Roberts, assistant professor of economics at Weber State University, studied the impacts of price gouging regulation during the pandemic. 

Typically, price gouging regulation is put in place by state governments during localized public emergencies. Roberts gave the example of a hurricane, which may only affect one or two states. In that case, the affected states may enact price gouging regulation, which says that retailers can’t increase the price for essential items, such as gas, toilet paper and hotel rooms, beyond a certain percentage of increase or what some states call an “exorbitant increase”. 

But the COVID pandemic affected the entire world, leading to widespread price gouging regulations like we’ve never seen. Economists widely believe that price gouging regulations cause shortages, which was definitely the case during COVID. Price gouging regulation limits what companies want to sell. If companies can’t make much money, they aren’t as motivated to sell their products, which leads to a shortage of items. Roberts observed that customers increased their internet searches for items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, which follows the pattern of price gouging regulation. When goods are in shortage, people search for them more. 

But the widespread COVID pandemic took things one step further. When customers couldn’t find what they needed online, they searched in person. Price gouging led to a shortage of products and customers rushing to brick-and-mortar stores, right during the push for virus mitigation efforts and a need to stay at home. Roberts’ research shows the rush of customers to stores to buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer led to a wider spread of COVID cases and deaths. 

Price gouging regulation is often put in place so that low-income individuals don’t get priced out of essential items. But Roberts believes price gouging regulation isn’t an effective measure in supporting low-income families. We need to take the next step to think about if the policy actually helps those in need. Going forward, he wants companies and governments to carefully consider if the policies and regulations they put in place actually help the people they are intended to or if they cause more harm than good. 

The early days of the COVID pandemic were unlike anything we’ve ever seen, largely due to the lack of essential items like toilet paper. The pandemic has caused us to re-evaluate many practices and policies, including price gouging regulation.

*Sponsored by Wix Answers

It's been a year of change for businesses. What’s making this period most challenging is the lack of clarity. But, that’s also where there’s an opportunity to stand out by building trust in your relationships with your customers with agile communication.

Wix Answers takes a new approach to customer support by helping you adapt quickly to know exactly what your customer needs and when they need it.

Go and see for yourself today at WixAnswers.com.

_______________

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.  

May 11, 2021

Of all the industries to break into, the beverage space is among the most difficult. The hyper-competitive market and domination from big brands make it incredibly challenging for entrepreneurs to get their products on shelves. But Jordan Schenck has experience and grit on her side. 

As the former Head of Global Consumer Marketing at Impossible Foods, Schenck knows how to build a plant-based food brand. She spent nearly four years traveling the world and talking to people about their relationship with plants and played a huge role in the growth of the plant-based trend. She used that experience to co-found Sunwink, a wellness company focused on plant-based drinks. 

Schenck says the beverage section is the only area of the grocery store consumers use multiple times daily. It’s a space with hyper-consumption that’s also super high-touch. But Schenck says there’s not much on the shelf that is actually good--it’s dominated by soda and products with ingredients that may claim to be good but actually aren’t that healthy. Schenck and her co-founder started Sunwink because they were excited to be in a high-velocity space and also have the opportunity to make statements and do creative work. 

Building such an innovative brand in a competitive industry starts with knowing customers. The Sunwink founders spent a year sampling its many variations in grocery stores. They had to understand what works with flavors, which audiences organically opted in and who would be their easy-win customers. It took grit and determination to show up at grocery stores and convince them to demo the drinks and maybe sell one product on the shelf. 

That work paid off. When Sunwink launched, Schenck said it was amazing the amount of nascent demand for a product that is not only beautiful on the outside but also beautiful on the inside. 

As the company started to scale online, they did a lot of surveying and constantly asked customers what they wanted to see and what was and wasn’t working. Although Sunwink initially launched primarily in grocery retail, it split soon after the pandemic started and grew in the DTC space. It’s rare to find a DTC beverage company, especially because of the high shipping costs, but Sunwink saw 14x growth on the channel and found creative solutions to lower shipping costs. E-commerce quickly became the primary revenue driver during the pandemic and created a huge community through email and social media. 

As Sunwink grows, Schenck aims to spread the plant-based message and show a wider view of wellness. She defines wellness as having your cake and eating plants too. Sunwink is vocal about the fact that wellness isn’t about perfection and how incredible your yoga backbend is—it’s about your journey as an individual to find wholeness. Yes, you can have the cocktail and the donut and drink plants. Schenck says it’s about the little moments of taking care of yourself. 

Schenck hopes to continue Sunwink’s success and build a brand around plant-powered wellness. Her goal is to create a brand that has cultural resonance about caring for your body and caring for your planet. She’s breaking down barriers as a female entrepreneur and showing the power of plants for total wellness. 

*Sponsored by Wix Answers

It's been a year of change for businesses. What’s making this period most challenging is the lack of clarity. But, that’s also where there’s an opportunity to stand out by building trust in your relationships with your customers with agile communication.

Wix Answers takes a new approach to customer support by helping you adapt quickly to know exactly what your customer needs and when they need it.

Go and see for yourself today at WixAnswers.com.

_______________

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.  

May 4, 2021

It’s something all customers have faced: they have a problem or question, but the only way to resolve it is to wait on hold with the contact center or fill out a contact request form. The process is long and frustrating. 

Modern customers want another approach to solving their problems. Knowledge management is a way to connect the dots and keep communication lines open with customers. Instead of companies holding all the answers, knowledge management shares resources like articles and self-service portals so customers can solve their own issues and provides a platform for communication across all channels.  

Naomi Rozenfeld, VP of Revenue at Wix Answers, says effective knowledge management is all about meeting customers where they are. 

Up until recently, knowledge management was difficult for many companies to talk about. Rozenfeld narrows it down to two main challenges: a lack of executive support within the company and technology limitations with support divided into silos that created a fragmented experience for customers and employees. 

But over the past year, COVID has accelerated the need for self-service knowledge management. As the world was shutting down, companies realized that customers still needed support. Instead of waiting and reacting to customer issues and questions, companies need to proactively answer customer questions and provide resources. 

Customers want to be in control of their service. Rozenfeld says knowledge management is now a need, not a want. She believes that what’s going to win business over for future transactions is how quickly a company can resolve an issue or how easy it is for customers to resolve their own issues. 

Rozenfeld calls it the iceberg effect, or the idea that for every one person who opens a ticket or contacts the care team, there are nine people who don’t. That 90% of customers who don’t get in touch leave frustrated. Effective knowledge management provides resources and helps all customers, especially the vast majority who don’t want to have to spend time reaching out to a company. 

Effective knowledge management starts by addressing the two main challenges. Rozenfeld says companies must have an executive sponsor to understand the impact on revenue and the company. CX managers and change agents need to make sure leaders understand why they need to invest in the tools to enable customers to solve problems on their own. 

The second challenge is around technology. Companies need to stop looking at support through silos. Rozenfeld says silos and unconnected channels create gaps for customers to fall. But when channels are tied together and speaking the same language, the customer only has one entry point. It doesn’t matter where they started or how they communicate with the brand. Customer interactions are simplified and the agent can see the entire path instead of only having a view of one part of the problem.

Knowledge management is on its way to becoming a cornerstone of the modern customer experience. Meeting customers where they are and proactively providing great service creates empowered and satisfied customers. 

*Sponsored by Wix Answers

It's been a year of change for businesses. What’s making this period most challenging is the lack of clarity. But, that’s also where there’s an opportunity to stand out by building trust in your relationships with your customers with agile communication.

Wix Answers takes a new approach to customer support by helping you adapt quickly to know exactly what your customer needs and when they need it.

Go and see for yourself today at WixAnswers.com.

_______________

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.  

Apr 27, 2021

In a sea of celebrity brands, how can a company stand out and attract customers? 

It comes down to being passionate, innovative and empathetic. 

Many celebrities are only involved with their brands as far as simply putting their name on a product, but Bruno Mars’ rum brand SelvaRey is different. He spent three years redesigning the SelvaRey packaging to create a stylish and eye-catching bottle and is passionate about the brand and its products. 

That passion and innovation extends to the entire team and is what attracted CMO Brielle Caruso to the brand. 

Caruso joined the company six months ago, making her the first female Asian American CMO in the U.S. wine and spirits industry. Caruso has helped build numerous brands and knows what it takes to stand out. 

Marketing is really about communicating and building relationships. Caruso believes communication means everything and that brilliant communicators must have strong observational awareness. It’s impossible to be a great marketer without being a great listener. At SelvaRey, that means listening to customers and understanding the context of what they are looking for. In her career, it means actively listening to her team members and building real connections.

Over the past six months, SelvaRey has launched four new products, some of which sold out in days. Part of Caruso’s job has been to educate customers about rum and break down stereotypes and showcase the wide range of products. Listening to customers led the brand to release products at different entry points.  

Marketers are often taught that it’s all about themselves—about sharing their message and pushing their products. But Caruso believes that people who step back and listen, not to respond but to understand and add empathy, become better leaders. 

With that empathy and listening comes humility. Caruso says it’s important to be grounded, which she does by writing down her goals and gratitudes. Especially after a difficult year, she believes it’s important to reach out to people and check in on them instead of assuming everyone is fine. Building those relationships and being humble helps marketers stay focused and grounded, which only adds to their success. In a world full of ego and self-promotion, truly caring about other people can help you stand out. 

Many women in male-dominated industries face the challenge of being the only woman in the room. But Caruso has learned that her unique assets are valuable and important and that she needs to speak up to represent female customers. Women drink alcohol, so companies can’t just have men creating the strategic goals and marketing. They need a woman’s insight and will listen to the women in the room, even if there’s only one. Caruso believes companies need to push for employees and marketers who are representative of the population who is using the product. 

Standing out in the marketing world isn’t always about being the flashiest. It comes down to being passionate, innovative and empathetic. The loudest campaigns may catch customers’ eyes, but lasting success comes to the companies and marketers that know how to build relationships and stay grounded. SelvaRey shows that strong communication can build a winning brand. 

*Sponsored by Pegasystems #PegaWorld 

It’s almost time for PegaWorld iNspire, the annual conference from Pegasystems. Join them online for free on May 4 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time to learn how the world’s most impactful companies are driving digital transformation. They’ll have compelling keynotes, demos, and case studies in a highly interactive virtual format and a few surprises as well. Go to www.pegaworld.com to register for free and check out the full agenda. I’ve attended the last several PegaWorlds in person, and virtual, and I can’t recommend it enough, so go register today! That’s www.pegaworld.com.

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.  

Apr 20, 2021

Saying 2020 was a rocky year may be the ultimate understatement. But after the turmoil and uncertainty, customers, brands and investors want to know what the economy looks like in 2021. 

According to Fox Business Network’s Charles Payne, there’s reason to be extremely optimistic. 

In 2021, consumer savings are near record highs. That, combined with government stimulus money, means that there is a lot of money and the ability to spend it once consumer confidence levels pick up.  

Part of the reason to expect economic growth in 2021 is the concept of revenge shopping or revenge travel as the pandemic starts to subside. After more than a year of shutdowns and quarantines, customers are eager to spend money, have experiences and travel. Payne predicts that customers will want to make up for lost time, which will be great for the economy. 

Although there has been tremendous job loss and countless businesses closing during the pandemic, new business applications have gone through the roof in recent months. The fact that people are confident enough to start businesses is a good sign for the economy, and consumers will likely give a special effort to support small businesses, at least initially. Small businesses are poised for success, and the economy needs them to thrive. But Payne points out that these businesses don’t exist in a vacuum, and uncertainty and actions taken towards big businesses could potentially hurt smaller businesses. For new small businesses to thrive, they need continued customer support.  

The growth of the economy is also tied to the growth of construction and real estate. Over the last year, we’ve seen a growing exodus from expensive cities to less expensive suburbs. Just a few years ago, consumers wanted to rent everything instead of owning, but in today’s world, customers want the control and confidence that comes from owning things, especially homeownership. To rebound after the pandemic exodus, Payne says cities will have to reinvent themselves and become experience hubs. That growth and change could foster new business growth as consumers look to make up for lost experiences. 

The economy is certainly changing in 2021, but overall, things are looking up. With consumers eager to spend, small businesses on the rise and a change and reinvention for cities and suburbs, this year will have a lasting impact on the economy—for the positive.

*Sponsored by Pegasystems #PegaWorld 

It’s almost time for PegaWorld iNspire, the annual conference from Pegasystems. Join them online for free on May 4 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time to learn how the world’s most impactful companies are driving digital transformation. They’ll have compelling keynotes, demos, and case studies in a highly interactive virtual format and a few surprises as well. Go to www.pegaworld.com to register for free and check out the full agenda. I’ve attended the last several PegaWorlds in person, and virtual, and I can’t recommend it enough, so go register today! That’s www.pegaworld.com.

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.  

 

Apr 13, 2021

Technology doesn’t stop during a pandemic. 

Because of that, VMware needs to stay connected to customers and showcase its multi-cloud technology. 

But in the B2B industry, which is traditionally driven by in-person events and marketing, building relationships and growing leads virtually poses a challenge.   

VMware CMO Carol Carpenter stepped into her role in the middle of the COVID pandemic and had to quickly move to virtual marketing. Although there have been challenges, she says B2B marketing during a pandemic has also had some positive impacts. 

The root of Carpenter’s marketing approach is communication and data. She aims to over-communicate, both to her team of more than 700 people and to customers and prospects. Her team also relies heavily on data—especially during the pandemic—to track its progress and tailor experiences and marketing campaigns that resonate with customers. Carpenter says being able to understand a customer’s needs, thoughts and values is crucial. 

As marketing shifted online, Carpenter’s team unleashed its creativity. Using communication and data as a foundation, it moved traditionally in-person events to virtual venues. VMware has hosted events like chocolate tastings, whisky tastings and concerts with famous musicians. As a bonus, customers and prospects are able to include their families, which adds to the relationship-building. 

Moving online has allowed B2B marketers to better engage their prospects and clients. In the physical world, a company can track who attended a dinner and event. But it can be difficult to know if the person was actually engaged or interested in the product. 

When things move online, however, companies can track who participated, what they looked at, who they talked to and what they talked about. It provides a much fuller picture of what each person did at the event and allows marketers to follow up with specific questions and comments. 

Although in-person events have paused, Carpenter says B2B marketers still have incredible opportunities to build relationships when they focus on communication, data and creativity. 

COVID has brought challenges for all industries, especially B2B, but marketers around the industry and at VMware are finding the positive, pivoting and keeping their companies moving forward.

*Sponsored by Pegasystems #PegaWorld 

It’s almost time for PegaWorld iNspire, the annual conference from Pegasystems. Join them online for free on May 4 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time to learn how the world’s most impactful companies are driving digital transformation. They’ll have compelling keynotes, demos, and case studies in a highly interactive virtual format and a few surprises as well. Go to www.pegaworld.com to register for free and check out the full agenda. I’ve attended the last several PegaWorlds in person, and virtual, and I can’t recommend it enough, so go register today! That’s www.pegaworld.com.

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.  

Apr 6, 2021

Loyalty programs are an important part of many brands’ customer engagement strategies, but yesterday’s loyalty programs won’t necessarily be successful today. 

According to Francis Hondal, President of Loyalty & Engagement at Mastercard, the recent growth of tech, digital commerce and data have redefined opportunities for brands to serve their customers in the way they expect to be served. Those opportunities have changed even more over the last year with the global COVID pandemic. 

One of the biggest trends coming out of COVID is the un-calendarized year, meaning that everything has shifted from when it normally occurs. Things like sports seasons, events and travel are now happening on a different schedule than years past. In response, Hondal says brands need to focus on providing flexibility to their customers. The best loyalty programs adapt to meet customers’ current needs and offer them flexibility and choices. 

Hondal gives the example of an airline that changed its rewards program to allow customers to use their airline loyalty points to buy groceries and support local businesses. With fewer people traveling, it was a way for the airline to stay connected to customers and for customers to meet their everyday spending needs with their existing points. 

Customers crave optionality. They don’t want to be boxed into using a loyalty program in one certain way. Customers are hesitant to be stuck with just one way of doing things now that they’ve seen just how much the world and their personal situation can change. When brands are flexible, it drives long-term engagement and continues to make the company relevant, even during uncertain and chaotic times. 

There are different ways of engaging with customers than typical rewards programs. Flexibility and newness are hot right now, and brands that can tap into those trends can build real connections with their customers. 

Hondal says creating an amazing loyalty program starts by understanding consumers, both new and existing. Companies need to use data and have a strong data management system in place so they can stay on top of changing customer demands and trends. She says one of the most important pieces of delivering a seamless customer experience is connecting the dots within the company so that customers have a consistent experience and don’t have to repeat themselves. 

In this COVID and post-COVID world of loyalty programs, brands need to focus on contextual connections with customers and connecting with people when it matters most. By truly understanding customers and knowing what they need and when they need it, brands can stay relevant and offer options and flexibility. 

Loyalty programs aren’t what they used to be, especially after COVID. By leveraging data and focusing on flexibility and optionality, brands can create and strengthen bonds with loyal customers for years to come.

*Sponsored by Pegasystems #PegaWorld 

It’s almost time for PegaWorld iNspire, the annual conference from Pegasystems. Join them online for free on May 4 from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time to learn how the world’s most impactful companies are driving digital transformation. They’ll have compelling keynotes, demos, and case studies in a highly interactive virtual format and a few surprises as well. Go to www.pegaworld.com to register for free and check out the full agenda. I’ve attended the last several PegaWorlds in person, and virtual, and I can’t recommend it enough, so go register today! That’s www.pegaworld.com.

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.  

 

Mar 30, 2021

The beauty world is full of customers who love to experiment with new products, watch makeup tutorials and spend time finding the best items. 

But what about customers who care about their skin and beauty but don’t want to spend the time finding and trying new products on their own? 

These are known as casual consumers. They want to try new things but are often overwhelmed or don’t have time for the number of products on the market. 

Most beauty companies market to serious consumers, making casual consumers an unserved market, says Ali Edgerton, Birchbox U.S. President. Birchbox was founded in 2010 as a way to provide casual consumers great products without them having to find and experiment on their own. Birchbox was the first subscription box—an incredible accomplishment when considering the thousands of subscription boxes now on the market. 

The innovative concept is relatively simple: each month, consumers receive a box with five deluxe-sized samples of beauty products picked just for them. The model works well for casual consumers who want to try new things and get the right products for their hair, skincare and makeup routines, but who don’t want to sort through products on their own. Birchbox has grown into a multi-faceted platform that allows consumers to subscribe for monthly products or simply buy products from the online storefront. 

Birchbox meets the modern customer where she is by creating a multi-channel experience that relies heavily on data and personalization. When users first subscribe, they answer a series of questions to set up their profile. Birchbox compares that data to how casual consumers relate to the beauty industry to put personalized items in each box. Customers also have the option to choose a few items on their own. 

Data continues after the box has been delivered with a robust review system that allows customers to give feedback for each item and gives Birchbox a better understanding of what is and isn’t working for each customer. As Birchbox collects more data, it provides an increasingly personalized experience. 

Birchbox also stays on top of trends that appeal to casual beauty consumers and puts together curated packages separate from subscription boxes. These products are designed to help casual consumers tap into new beauty trends and get everything they need in one place. One of the most popular recent discovery kits includes everything consumers need to fight maskne, or acne caused by constant mask-wearing. Casual consumers would likely be overwhelmed trying to find the best products on their own, so Birchbox makes it easy for them to get everything in one click. And the strategy is working—the kits are in constant demand and are flying off the shelves. 

Edgerton says Birchbox uses data to create a picture of what customers want and need. Her greatest satisfaction comes from introducing something to a customer who didn’t know they needed it. 

Relying on data to provide personalized experiences and meet customers where they are is a large part of the reason for Birchbox’s success. It hopes to continue its innovative approach to beauty and retail as it sets the example for other subscription models.  

To try Birchbox for yourself, Edgerton is giving The Modern Customer Podcast listeners a discount with code VIP50.

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.  

Mar 23, 2021

Running the largest adventure park company in the country comes with challenges—especially during a global pandemic.

There’s no playbook for this type of scenario. But Michael Browning, founder and CEO of Urban Air, knows that speed and innovation always win, which fueled his strategy to react to information quickly as it came in.

Reacting with speed allowed Urban Air to not only survive the pandemic but to thrive and find new ways to expand and grow. 

Browning encourages his franchisees and staff to stay close to customers and get their feedback. Although the indoor trampoline and adventure parks are aimed at kids, the company views moms as the customers and kids as the users. 

When states started opening back up, many customers weren’t sure what was safe. Urban Air surveyed moms to ask what they wanted for their kids’ activities. The more than 3 million responses helped establish health and safety guidelines for an Urban Air environment where moms felt comfortable bringing their kids.

Browning took it one step further. Three hours after a visit to Urban Air, the company followed up with the parents asking if the location met their expectations about cleanliness and safety. Most moms said it definitely did. Urban Air then asked moms to shoot a short video of their experience and put it on YouTube. The company got hundreds of videos of parents sharing their authentic reactions and experiences, which was powerful in encouraging other families to return to the adventure park. 

Feedback has been crucial to keeping Urban Air going during the pandemic. It also led to one of the company’s biggest pivots.

While visiting with neighbors at an outdoor happy hour early in the pandemic, Browning heard frustration from parents about kids doing remote school. That frustration led to the creation of the Urban Air Learn and Fly Program, which opened up Urban Air locations for kids to do their virtual schooling with the help of certified teachers. The program was successful in Browning’s home state of Texas until students went back to in-person school.

Again, Urban Air pivoted to meet a need. Browning learned that many parents were unsatisfied with after-school programs and overwhelmed with having their kids home while they worked. The Urban Air After School Program was born. Every day, busses pick kids up from school and take them to Urban Air locations, where they do their homework with supervision and have a chance to play until their parents pick them up after work. The program is being tested in Texas and will roll out to Urban Air locations across the country this fall, making it one of the biggest after-school programs in the country.

And that incredible growth came from pivoting during a challenging time.

Experiential retail is the future of customer experience, but it comes with unique challenges, especially during a pandemic. Urban Air shows that the key to surviving and thriving at any time—not just during COVID—is to listen to customers, invite their feedback and then find ways to pivot to best meet their needs.

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.  

Mar 16, 2021

A year ago, most of us were speaking in meetings full of team members or giving presentations to rooms full of people. 

But those faces have now changed to boxes on a screen, and our messages have moved from in-person to virtual. 

Being an effective communicator is a challenge on its own, but doing it virtually adds even more complications. According to Matt Abrahams, co-founder and principal at Bold Echo Communications Solutions, virtual communication only accentuates the challenges we’ve always had with public speaking. He says being an effective virtual communicator requires overcoming three challenges:

  1. Getting and holding attention
  2. Being clear and concise
  3. Maintaining engagement 

Attention is the most precious commodity in the world today. When people aren’t in the same room as the speaker, it’s much easier for them to get distracted. It’s up to speakers to hold their attention. 

Many of these challenges can be addressed by focusing on your audience. Abrahams says too many people are fixated on what they want to say instead of thinking about what would be valuable to their audience. He says speaking without focusing on the audience is like writing a love letter and addressing it To Whom It May Concern. 

Before preparing a speech or presentation, take time to reflect on who your audience is and what they need to hear. Once you understand your audience, you can structure your message to be clear and concise. Abrahams recommends structuring your communication to answer three simple questions:

  1. What? Say what it is.
  2. So What? Share why it’s important.
  3. Now What? Teach what you can do with that information.

Understanding the audience and following a structure creates a speech that is clear, concise and on message. People are much more likely to pay attention to clear content that applies to them. Doing the work upfront to understand your audience and structure your presentation can help overcome all three of the virtual communication challenges. 

Storytelling is also a valuable tool, especially for virtual communication. People connect with and remember stories far more than they remember statistics. Abrahams recommends having a goal for your story and telling it in six words. If you can convey your key point in six words, it can be your starting point for crafting a larger story. The best way to become a great storyteller is to practice and listen to other great storytellers.   

Even after the pandemic has subsided, virtual communication is here to stay. Abrahams believes that in the future we’ll see a hybrid approach with both in-person and virtual speeches and presentations. Being a successful communicator in the future will require these strong virtual communication skills.

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.  

Mar 9, 2021

Just weeks after Sarah Steinhardt had her first baby, she had to make a quick run to the store to get more diapers. On a New York City street corner, diapers in hand, she started crying. It was at that moment she realized how fortunate she was to be able to quickly get the necessities for her baby when mothers around the country didn’t have the same ability. 

That experience led Steinhardt to create Welcome Baby USA, a nonprofit focused on providing at-risk and low-income mothers with the essentials for their baby’s first month of life. Welcome Baby partners with clinics and hospitals across the country to provide boxes with diapers, newborn clothes, a baby carrier, and other essentials that these women would likely not be able to otherwise afford. Mothers receive the boxes during their third trimester so they have everything they need to bring a baby home. 

Steinhardt’s career started in broadcast journalism, which opened her eyes to the countless people and stories around the world. In many instances, these mothers and babies don’t have a voice and need advocates to support them and share their stories. Steinhardt says the Welcome Baby box is meant to alleviate stress for mothers who can’t afford necessities and hopefully gives the baby a level playing field in their first month of life that they can move from.  

But building and scaling a nonprofit hasn’t been easy, especially during a global pandemic when children face more needs than ever before. When she started Welcome Baby more than two years ago, Steinhardt and her co-founder packaged the boxes in their homes and hand-delivered them to local hospitals and clinics. As the organization grew, it partnered with a company to source, pack, and ship the boxes. But in the early days of the pandemic when supply chains were in chaos, it was nearly impossible to find some of the most important parts of the boxes, like thermometers. Steinhardt said she had to re-think logistics, but the new thinking and partnerships allowed Welcome Baby to scale and grow during a difficult year. 

New motherhood can be incredibly isolating, especially for mothers who don’t have basic necessities for their children. Steinhardt hopes her organization can take away some of the stress of having a baby by providing much-needed supplies. Her story shows how women can support each other and make a difference during the most vulnerable and important times in life.  

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. 

Mar 2, 2021

2020 changed the world in many ways, including a renewed push for racial justice and equality in the United States. That demand must now be echoed in how companies brand and market their products. 

With increased calls for racial justice, Kirstyn Nimmo saw how she could bring her marketing expertise and experiences as a Black woman to help brands act authentically and impact racial equality. Nimmo founded Good Worx and consults numerous big brands on social causes. 

Branding in the era of racial justice brings unique challenges, but also new opportunities to connect with customers and make meaningful changes.

A recent example of the need for inclusive branding comes from Aunt Jemima. The company, which is owned by Quaker Oats and PepsiCo, has received complaints for years about its branding and inclusion of a racist stereotype on its packaging. Those complaints grew in 2020 to calls for Aunt Jemima to change its name. Quaker Oats and PepsiCo responded by essentially erasing the history and changing the name to the Pearl Milling Company. Instead of engaging in a conversation with its customers and members of the Black community, it appears the company erased any reference to Black culture from its product.

Nimmo acknowledges that this is a complex issue, but also says that PepsiCo missed the mark. Although there was complicated history around Aunt Jemima, it was also Black representation on a popular product, which is important.

Rather than engaging in conversations with the Black community to understand the history and its significance, many companies take the easy route to delete issues. PepsiCo had the opportunity to evolve into a new brand identity that could have highlighted the Black community and its roots instead of just covering it up.

People don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but in this era of racial justice, those uncomfortable conversations need to happen.

Nimmo has three tips for branding in the era of racial justice:

  1. Be open to feedback from consumers. Brands need to create channels for feedback and listen to what customers have to say. Use the feedback as a way to connect with people on a deeper level and learn from their experiences.
  2. Take accountability for what is being called out. Too many brands only change once they face extreme public pressure. Brands need to be brave and acknowledge their past and see how they can change. Instead of ignoring the problem or trying to erase it, brands need to be accountable for their past actions.
  3. Reverse the harm. Brands should do whatever is needed to realize how their actions have harmed people. Nimmo says brands need to reverse the harm by swinging the pendulum the other way to create equity and equality.

This new era of racial justice is more than a passing phase—it is a lasting push for equality. Brands need to realize the importance of the current issues and listen to their customers from all backgrounds to successfully lead representation and change.

Links to further resources mentioned in the show: 

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 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. 

 

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