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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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. 


Jan 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 5, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Sponsored by UJET

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

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

Dec 29, 2020

It’s the time of year when everyone is making New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. 

What do you hope to achieve in 2021? How do you want to improve yourself and your career? 

For many of us, it’s been a complicated year and we’re looking for some change and improvement. 

But too often we fall into the trap of thinking we have to reinvent the wheel and start completely fresh. If we want to make more money, we have to start a brand new business. If we want to lose weight, we have to go on a crash diet. 

But that’s not true—you don’t have to start completely over to find success and happiness. 

Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, I follow the 5% rule. Each day, I try to be 5% better than the day before. I’m not starting over from nothing; I’m building on what I already have and trying my best to improve every day. I don’t have to start over to get healthy or build a successful business. I work with what I have and improve it piece by piece. Over time, the 5% rule ends up increasing and accelerating the changes I’m trying to make. 

2020 was a rough year. Instead of beating ourselves up when we don’t achieve our lofty goals, we need to show ourselves grace and kindness. Talk to yourself kindly and do the best you can. Instead of feeling the pressure to create this big, amazing thing over night, the 5% rule lets you try your best every day and make small, incremental improvements. 

We don’t need more rules. Instead, we need to give ourselves love and nourishment. We need to check in with ourselves emotionally to really see how we are doing and how we can grow and improve. 

Make 2021 your year, but don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Be kind to yourself. Aim to be 5% better each day and simply do your best. Over time, you’ll find you’ve reached where you want to be and become the best version of yourself.

To keep improving yourself and continue your entrepreneurial journey in 2020, be sure to check out the BYOB Podcast and our YouTube Channel for proven tips and useful advice.  

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. 


Dec 22, 2020

What’s the word of the year for customer service? 

According to business and CX expert Shep Hyken, it’s empathy. 

Hyken has years of experience in customer service and is a popular speaker and author. Like all of us, he saw the dramatic challenges businesses faced in 2020 and the pivots they had to make. Businesses and customers are adjusting to their new way of interacting and facing constant change, especially as we head into the new year.   

Here are some of Shep Hyken’s predictions for 2021: 

Customers Continue To Get Smarter

Today’s customers know what good customer service is. They experience it every day from companies like Amazon and Zappos and have come to expect and demand it from other businesses. Customers are learning from great companies and want that level of service in all their interactions. 

Customers Are Becoming Impatient

Modern customers want what they want now. They’ve gotten used to getting their shipments within hours or overnight and now want everything right away. Companies need to meet that demand with quick service and delivery. 

Customers Expect Convenience

Today’s busy customers are willing to pay for convenience. A study by Hyken found that more than 67% of consumers are willing to pay more for a convenient experience, and that number jumps to 90% if that experience includes delivery. Convenience matters and goes a long way with customers, and they are willing to pay for that convenience. 

Personalization Is Getting More Personal

Customers want an experience that is unique to them. They want and expect companies to know their preferences and experiences. Some companies are going further with micro-personalization that is tailored to each person’s unique experience with specific product recommendations and preferences, not just general genres. 

Companies Are Getting Automation Happy

Companies need a strong digital system to compete and deliver great experiences, but so many companies fall into the trap of relying too heavily on automation and not enough on the human experience. Hyken believes some companies get enamored with technology and use it to replace the human experience, which is a big mistake. The best companies create digital experiences but can seamlessly transition customers to humans if needed. There needs to be a balance between human and digital. 

Problems Can Be Predicted

In a perfect world, if a problem can be predicted, it can be solved before the customer even knows about it. The most successful companies are continually looking for potential problems big and small and then proactively solving them before customers even realize they have a problem.   

The bottom line of delivering great customer service in 2021 is simply to be nice. Customers expect convenience and personalization, but more than anything they want to interact with individuals and companies who are nice. No matter what happens in the future, kindness will always be on-trend.

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. 

Dec 15, 2020

Every year, I make predictions for what’s to come in the world of customer experience. After doing this for seven years, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting trends that really do end up influencing businesses and customers.

But in 2020, no one could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic.  

It’s been a tough year. Between the pandemic, shutdowns and economic downturn, we’ve also faced environmental issues, a divisive election in the U.S., racial injustice and much more. 

These events might not seem tied to customer experience, but we don’t live or work in a  bubble—we’re affected by what happens all over the world. And we’ll definitely be feeling the effects of this year for years to come. 

With that in mind, here are my five customer experience predictions for 2021:

1 . How We Live And Work Has Forever Changed Thanks To COVID. Nearly every aspect of life and business this year was upended because of COVID. Although a vaccine is making great progress, we will be seeing the impact of the pandemic for at least the next five to ten years. Although most people want to get back to some semblance of normal life, they are hesitant to go back to how things were. 

2 . 2021: Year Of The Uncomfortable Conversation. 2020 brought about a lot of uncomfortable conversations on topics ranging from health and safety to layoffs, Black Lives Matter and supporting women and essential workers. These conversations will intensify in 2021 as individuals and companies will have to look inwardly to address these major concerns and help support underrepresented groups that have been hit especially hard this year. Customers will expect companies to take a stand and really make a difference.

3 . Putting Employees And Customers Above Profits. Many companies made huge efforts in 2020 to support their employees and customers, even if that meant their profits suffered. They invested in employee relief funds and increased benefits, while also listening to customers and providing great service. That trend will continue, and the companies that focus on people instead of profits will see great success.

4 . Ecommerce Rose Immensely And Touchless CX Makes Unignorable Leap. Companies were forced to pivot this year as stores were shut down and in-person shopping was limited. Companies across all industries have increased their e-commerce offerings. And now that customers have experienced delivery and pickup, they don’t want to go back to how things were. Touchless CX will make huge leaps in 2021 as brands work to build experiences for customers who feel vulnerable. In the coming year, brands will have to adopt digital models and creative touchless solutions.

5 . B2B Pivot. B2B companies struggled in 2020 because they depend on in-person conferences and networking that was cancelled or moved online. A number of B2B companies have already pivoted to new ways to connect with customers, and other companies must follow suit. B2B companies have to double down on customer experience through digital transformation and using thought leadership to generate leads because what worked in the past doesn’t work anymore. 

In many ways, 2020 has set the stage for CX in 2021. As we come out of a difficult year, customers are looking for ease and personalization. They want companies to adapt and make a real difference in society. These trends show just how much 2020 changed us and how we can continue to recover and evolve in 2021.

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. 

Dec 8, 2020

After a wild 2020, many companies are looking forward to 2021 and hoping to proactively engage with customers instead of reactively building or changing programs and services. 

But just because 2021 is a new year doesn’t mean 2020 is gone and forgotten. The global pandemic and unrest of the year will stick with customers for the long term and greatly influence how they interact with companies going forward. With more virtual events and interactions than ever before, customers want human connection. 

The 2021 Deloitte Global Marketing Trends Report highlights seven trends shaping customer experience and business growth in 2021: Purpose, Agility, Trust, Talent, Participation, Fusion and Human Experience. Understanding these trends can help brands drive connection and engagement. 

Although each trend is unique and stands on its own, Deloitte CMO Suzanne Kounkel says the trends also work together to support and influence each other. A company that has built strong trust will also likely have a strong sense of participation, for example, while a company lacking in trust likely won’t have as strong of customer participation or human experience. 

Of the seven trends, Kounkel says the most important may be purpose and agility. If a company or brand isn’t grounded in a purpose, it’s hard to land any of the other trends. Customers want to see the purpose of a brand and feel trust in an organization. It’s no longer just about making a purchase or doing business—it’s about building real connections with a brand, participating and believing in its greater purpose. 

Kounkel says that in a roller coaster year like 2020, it’s important for companies to have purpose as their guiding course. People need to understand why things are being done because how they are being done is changing so quickly. The purpose keeps employees, customers and organizations moving steadily towards a goal or vision, even with the turbulences of chaos and uncertainty. 

An organization’s purpose has to start at the top. Kounkel believes most organizations have a purpose, but many companies fall flat because their purpose isn’t embedded or understood in a way that helps the company move forward. She recommends organizations and leaders perform a soul-searching exercise to determine their purpose. Be pragmatic and dogmatic, but do it quickly, because customers expect companies to have strong purposes that resonate in everything they do. 

Agility is also a powerful trend going into 2021. The year 2020 showed just how crucial agility is as companies were forced to pivot quickly with little warning. COVID has changed customer expectations, and consumers now expect brands to be more agile than ever before. Now, as we work through the pandemic, brands are starting to get back to doing what they want to do. For months we spent time doing what we had to do, but the agility now in place gives brands more freedom to get back to what they and their customers actually want to do. 

A new year brings a new slate. Customers want more connection than ever, and companies that tap into these seven trends can make that happen. Start with a sense of purpose and build those strong connections that will last into the future.

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. 

Dec 1, 2020

2020 has been a strange year. Many people coped with the loneliness and uncertainty of lockdowns and quarantines by adding a furry friend to the family. Pet ownership is way up because of the pandemic and has caused the pet industry to pivot and adapt. 

As the number of customers has greatly increased, the pet industry has also had to deal with pandemic restrictions and changing health regulations. The only way to survive has been to stay close to customers, adopt digital solutions and pivot. 

Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital, said that although the way of doing business is now different, the company’s focus is still on building connections with pets and keeping its associates healthy while they continue to give care. 

As an essential business, Banfield Hospitals has stayed open throughout the pandemic, but the store had to create new measures to keep associates, pets and clients safe. One of its major changes was introducing curbside dropoff for pets. Instead of owners walking their pets into the store, they now drop them off at the curb where a Banfield associate takes the pet into the hospital to perform the procedure and then brings them back when they are done. To help customers feel comfortable leaving their pets, Banfield built on its trustworthy reputation and increased its communication so that customers are still involved in every step of the process. 

One of the most crucial aspects of pivoting during COVID has been digital transformation. Banfield was already working on a digital transformation, but it was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. Now, clients can schedule services and access their pet’s records online. Everything can be done through an online portal or app to remove concerns and make clients’ lives easier and simpler. 

The move to digital transformation helps both clients and associates, which then leads to a better experience for the pets. Instead of being weighed down by paperwork, Banfield associates can upload notes digitally to keep owners in the loop. Banfield is also working towards a green initiative to email all paperwork and receipts instead of printing hard copies. 

Garish believes Banfield’s digital transformation has been effective because it is rooted in empathy. In his mind, strategy without empathy is wasted. To create the most effective digital transformation, Banfield encourages and facilitates conversations with its clients and its associates. 

Digital transformation didn’t come about because it was a trend or an idea executives had—it came from listening to customers and having true two-way conversations. Banfield aims to be part of its clients’ lifestyles, even during a pandemic, but that can’t happen without real dialogue. Those conversations have continued during the pandemic as Banfield keeps in continual communication with its clients and associates about what is and isn’t working and how care can be improved. 

Garish doesn’t see the pandemic pivot as temporary. He believes changes made in the last nine months will forever change the company and industry and re-affirm the need to put customers at the center of everything. Instead of a standardized path, customers want individual attention. 

The pandemic won’t last forever, but the lasting effects of increased pet ownership will definitely stick around, and Banfield will be there every step of the way.

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. 

Nov 24, 2020

What has been the biggest shift in customer experience in recent years? 

It’s not the COVID-19 pandemic, though that has certainly played a large role. According to NICE inContact CEO Paul Jarman, the biggest change has been the democratization of opinion. Customers have more of a voice than ever before, which has forced companies to focus on experience. Brands learned that they have to provide an experience that individuals are excited about and will share with family and friends in order to gain customers. As Jarman says, the push towards customer experience has given more power to consumers in voice and choice. 

But what does customer empowerment look like in the midst of a global pandemic? Worldwide shutdowns and restrictions changed how companies do business and interact with their customers. It placed a larger emphasis on digital interactions and mobile service. And even after the pandemic is over, digital will still play a large role in customer experience, especially in the contact center. 

As companies navigate the new world with COVID-19, they need to know how things have changed and how those changes will impact the future. 

NICE inContact’s 2020 Benchmark surveyed contact center leaders across the country to get a sense of how customer experience has changed this year and where it is going in the future. Here are four main takeaways to lead CX into 2021: 

1 . A dramatic move to the cloud.

After years of the technology growing and becoming more reliable, companies are now realizing that it is easier to be agile and innovative in the cloud. Nice InContact’s survey found that 66% of contact center decision-makers plan to accelerate their move to the cloud because of the pandemic. Cloud-based CX technology allows for seamless service and a consistent experience across all channels. 

2 . Significant increase in digital channels.

Customers have gone digital, with 62% of contact centers reporting more digital interactions since COVID started. Even after the pandemic is over, customers will still expect to be able to communicate with companies digitally. Jarman says one of the main difficulties of companies going digital is that they have multiple systems that don’t work together. The push from COVID to interact with customers digitally shows the importance of a single unified system to simplify the digital experience for both contact centers agents and customers.

3 . More mobile apps.

Customers want to communicate with companies through mobile apps. Mobile apps saw the biggest growth in contact centers from 2019, increasing by 8% to 56% of companies using apps to communicate with customers. Mobile apps are especially important for younger consumers and Gen Z, who expect brands to interact with them in private social messaging apps. Effective mobile apps allow customers to contact a brand whenever it’s convenient for them. 

4 . Room for improvement for chatbots.

Chatbots have long been billed as the future of customer service, especially in contact centers, but many customers haven’t found chatbots to be reliable enough to use. Although many customers prefer self-service options like chatbots over other channels like talking to a human on the phone, 90% of CX practitioners believe chatbots need to get smarter before customers will be willing to use them regularly. Even with all of the digital growth in contact centers, the number of companies using chatbots stayed constant from 2019 at 46%. 

Customer experience is more strategic than ever before. Understanding changes helps companies build effective strategies as they allow contact centers to have more creativity and power to get things done. Jarman believes customer experience now needs to be the key focus for every company, but the good news is that the sky's the limit. With creativity and technology, brands can create powerful digital solutions that are boundless. 


This week's podcast is sponsored by NICE inContact

NICE inContact works with organizations of all sizes to create extraordinary and trustworthy customer experiences that create deeper brand loyalty and relationships that last.

With NICE inContact CXone, the industry’s most complete cloud customer experience platform, the company combines best-in-class Customer Analytics, Omnichannel Routing, Workforce Optimization, Automation and Artificial Intelligence, all on an Open Cloud Foundation to help any company transform every single customer interaction.


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

Nov 17, 2020

How do you create an experience around an all-natural vodka that shows its history and sustainability? Learn to tell a good story. 

Belvedere Vodka has long been known for its great quality and super-premium product, but only recently has the company began to focus on its historic roots and sustainable efforts. Sharing the story adds to the experience and helps customers feel more connected to the brand. 

Shifting To Storytelling

Instead of simply rattling off talking points and qualities of its all-natural vodka, Belvedere turns to the power of storytelling. As customers are transported to the 110-year-old distillery where the vodka is made and learn the process of turning simple ingredients into amazing spirits, they build a connection with the brand that can’t come in any other way. 

Though the shift to storytelling has been in the works for a while, the pandemic has played a role in changing what customers are looking for. According to president and CEO Rodney Williams, luxury products like Belvedere Vodka are now less about exclusivity and more about the values the brand stands for. Customers are now more aware of the power of nature, what they’re eating and where it comes from. The focus on simple, wholesome ingredients is important to them. 

Belvedere’s success comes in turning its ingredients into a story. It’s one thing to list all-natural ingredients and say your brand is simple and wholesome—it’s another to show the power of your ingredients and what they can become.

Highlighting Sustainability

Belvedere’s new campaign, “Made With Nature” showcases the brand’s history of combining simple ingredients from nature into extraordinary vodka.  

Belvedere has been sustainable and all-natural since before it was a major issue for consumers. For the past eight years, Belvedere has hosted the Raw Spirits Summit to bring together scientists and farmers to study cutting-edge techniques around sustainable agriculture. The company has been able to build on its past efforts in a time when sustainability is top of mind for many customers. 

Williams says “Made With Nature” comes at a time where consumers are increasingly ready to listen to brands that embrace a natural philosophy and are working towards meaningful change. The world cares about sustainability now more than ever before. 

Using Stories To Build Experience

To start storytelling, Williams said the company looked at the brand’s DNA and discovered the long commitment to craftsmanship and sustainability. The brand has always been committed to quality and craft, but it hasn’t told the story directly before. Sharing that story resonates with younger consumers, who care about brands that are natural and have solid sustainability credentials. 

But sharing a brand story will land flat if it isn’t rooted into authenticity. Just like with their ingredients, customers also want realness in their stories and connections with brands. 

In today’s world, stories behind brands are what has lasting value to consumers. Customers are looking to build real relationships with brands and understand where they come from and what makes them tick. Focusing on authentic storytelling allows brands to connect with customers on a new level and build an amazing experience. 

Every brand has a story. If told well, that story can create an amazing customer experience. Like Belvedere Vodka shows, communicating your company’s DNA can make for a fascinating story and build a strong experience.

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. 

Nov 10, 2020

The backbone of a strong customer experience is feedback. And it’s never been more important than it is now. 

According to Tom Hale, president of SurveyMonkey, digital surveys and feedback have seen tremendous growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. With companies forced into new ways of doing business and interacting with their customers, feedback has never been more crucial. Surveys allow companies to check their progress and see what needs to be improved, especially at a time when so many things are new and changing. 

New research from SurveyMonkey found that 87% of CX professionals say customer feedback is more important now than it was before COVID. Customer experience and feedback has taken a higher priority because of the pandemic, and Hale doesn’t think it will ever change back. 

The struggle then becomes how to get the most effective and useful feedback. In order to get great feedback, companies must know how to create a great survey.

Here are five tips to creating the perfect customer survey:

  1. Start with NPS. Hales says the gold standard for customer feedback is a question about NPS (Net Promoter Score), which is an accurate way of measuring how likely customers are to recommend the company. A high NPS means customers are generally quite satisfied with the experience. Start the survey by asking, “Would you recommend this product/service to a friend?” and allow customers to rate their response on a scale from 0-10. 
  2. Leave space for open responses. Great surveys combine numerical answers and free responses. When asking about NPS, follow it up with an open text box to encourage customers to elaborate on why they would or wouldn’t recommend the company. Open responses can be used to elaborate on nearly any question and add more depth to the survey responses. 
  3. Think through the entire experience. The perfect customer survey isn’t just about the questions—it’s about the entire experience. Hale shared his own example of when he bought a new treadmill and received the follow-up survey just after it was delivered when he was in the thick of assembling the complicated machine. Too many companies ask for feedback at the wrong time. Hale’s response would have been very different if he had received the survey a few days later after he had time to assemble and try the treadmill instead of receiving it when he was distracted and stressed.
  4. Make it easy for customers to respond. Think through the entire experience of when a customer will receive the survey, how long it will take them to complete and how they will feel when they’re completing the survey. Customers are much less likely to respond to feedback requests that are too complicated or have too much friction, such as when they receive a printed receipt with a long survey link they have to type in themselves. Great, accurate customer feedback comes when it is easy for customers to give responses. As Hale says, much of designing the experience is the communication around the experience, including how you ask the questions.
  5. Give surveys throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Successful customer feedback doesn’t just come after a customer has made a purchase. SurveyMonkey surveys its own customers at all parts of the lifecycle to have metrics and feedback about the entire experience from start to finish. The surveys look slightly different based on where they are given in the customer journey, but the information pinpoints areas for improvement and helps prioritize what needs to be changed first. 

The root of the perfect customer survey is customer-centricity. When a company has a culture of being customer-centric, it comes through in their entire experience, including asking for feedback. When companies truly care for their customers and design experiences around them, it shows in useful feedback that guides the customer experience and improves all aspects of the journey.

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. 

Nov 3, 2020

If you’ve been to one of Shake Shack’s 300-plus locations around the world, chances are you’ve had to wait in line. The restaurant draws a crowd with its fresh ingredients and elevated take on fast food. The entire brand is built around great food and great service, and it’s a hit with customers.  

Shake Shack stands out because of its fine dining-inspired approach to burgers and fries. The restaurant uses real ingredients, fresh flavors, and great chefs to make food to order. The wait might be a little longer, but customers don’t mind standing in line to get amazing food. 

According to CMO Jay Livingston, delivering a strong customer experience has been part of Shake Shack’s brand since the beginning. The company doesn’t just want to use the fine-dining approach in its food, it also wants to use fine dining to inspire its experience. The company aims to provide great hospitality and an elevated guest experience. Employees offer personalized service and customize each meal instead of simply rushing to put food on the plate. 

Employees at all levels give their best to customers, no matter where they work or how busy they are. Every Shake Shack employee spends their first five days at the company working all the stations in a restaurant, including prepping the food, manning the grill, and working the cash register. Livingston says it instills in employees, even those who don’t work in the actual restaurants, the work that goes into delivering fine dining food to customers quickly and hammers home the brand promise. 

Shake Shack uses customer experience to build its brand by being transparent and authentic in every interaction it has with customers. The company is moving to become more data-driven to better understand guests and test ideas more quickly. 

That hasn’t changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Shake Shack has been forced to speed up the buildout of its digital products. Customers can now order online or through the app for pickup and delivery as a way to expand the experience to what customers need most. It even rolled out a DIY burger kit so customers can make their favorite Shake Shack burgers at home and will unveil drive-thrus in 2021—all in the name of delivering great food just how customers want it. 

Shake Shack has a strong online presence and regularly collaborates with top chefs on its social channels to show their process for making food. The collaborations give guests a behind-the-scenes look into how the food is developed and cooked. The goal isn’t to sell hamburgers, it’s to connect with guests on a deeper level and involve them in the many sides of Shake Shack. 

Customer experience is the foundation of Shake Shack’s brand. Continually developing CX and relating it back to the major brand promises of elevated food and service has helped Shake Shack see incredible growth.

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.

Oct 27, 2020

For years, experts have talked about millennials and looked towards the future of Generation Z, the generation to follow. But Gen Z is now here and already having a massive impact, both as employees and as consumers. Marketers need to understand Gen Z to realize its full impact and to separate the truth from long held myths.  

Generational researcher Jason Dorsey is an expert on all things Gen Z. He studies generational behavior so that leaders, marketers, employers and others can understand the differences between each generation. But he warns against putting generations in boxes. The wide range of ages and life experiences means that within a generation are multiple different groups. However, generations offer powerful clues that can drive trust and help marketers create valuable experiences by bringing them one step closer to understanding their consumers.  

Contrary to what many people think, Gen Z isn’t made up entirely of teenagers. The group is growing up, so that the oldest members are now approaching their mid-20s. Gen Z is the fastest growing generation in the workforce. 

Most people view Gen Z as the next wave of millennials, but Dorsey’s research shows that Gen Z is actually very different. He calls Gen Z a throwback generation that actually has more in common with baby boomers than millennials. Gen Z is one of the most frugal generations. They are more likely to use coupons and find deals than their millennial predecessors. They want to graduate college without debt and tend to care more about their workplace benefits. A large number of Gen Z is even already saving for retirement. Dorsey’s research also found that Gen Z will soon leapfrog some millennials in the workforce, creating a strange combination of generations and ideologies. 

Gen Z is more likely to trust an influencer or someone like them over someone with advanced degrees. And because they’ve grown up with technology and smartphones, Gen Z values social media and the news it provides, but realizes it creates many mental health triggers. 

Gen Z doesn’t remember 9/11, which was the generational defining event for millennials. Gen Z doesn’t know life before 9/11, and their lives aren’t shaped by the changes that happened after the event. Gen Z doesn’t represent change because this is all they’ve ever known. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic will be the generational defining event for Gen Z and impact their mindset moving forward. 

So what does this mean for marketers? Understanding that Gen Z isn’t simply millennials 2.0 is an important differentiation. Gen Z values different things than millennials and has different priorities. They also aren’t the teenagers many have long considered Gen Z to be. Gen Z will have a tremendous impact on the workforce and the economy going forward as they become the most powerful generation. 

Understanding generations gives marketers clues and tools to know their consumers. With this understanding of generational cues, marketers can create more personalized experiences that best target this influential group.

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.


Oct 20, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, pharmaceutical companies around the world are rushing to develop a vaccine to COVID-19. In an industry that typically takes years to create, test and market new drugs, the incredible time crunch for the COVID vaccine is pushing companies to their limits. 

But it’s not just pharmaceutical companies that are in the race to create a vaccine. There are also companies helping behind the scenes with digital transformation. NECI and its president Tom Ramundo are working with pharmaceutical companies to create a digital stack so they can bring their product to market much more quickly. 

Digital transformation and industrial automation greatly speed up the testing process by using data and predictive analytics to see how a vaccine performs in trial. Ramundo says that many of the companies working to create a COVID vaccine were born to be digital companies. They are taking the digital fingerprint of the protein that makes up the virus and utilizing it to develop their product. When working on a project that changes the timeline from months and years to days and weeks, companies must be digitally enabled. Without a digital transformation, companies couldn’t come close to creating a COVID vaccine in record time. 

Companies don’t need to be finding the cure to a global pandemic to undergo a digital transformation. Ramundo says it’s critical for every company, no matter the industry, to adopt digital solutions to improve their processes and become more efficient. 

Ramundo’s work on the COVID vaccine has highlighted three digital transformation trends: 

  1. It’s not all about technology. Digital transformation centers around digital tools and capabilities, but the people are equally important. Without passionate people, a digital transformation can fall flat. Ramundo says the COVID team at NECI all volunteered to work on the project because they are passionate about the cause, which helps things move even faster.
  2. Leadership must be engaged. Everyone has to be on board for a successful digital transformation. Starting from the top, leaders and executives must be engaged and lead the cause. Leaders also need to develop a plan for employee buy-in to get everyone on board and show the value of the changes. Digital transformation includes everyone, from IT to HR, finance and beyond.
  3. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Digital transformation is about smart, integrated technology, but at the end of the day, it has to solve problems. A digital solution that is flashy but doesn’t actually improve the company is a waste. What are the problems you are trying to solve? Ramundo recommends starting small, achieving business results and then repeating the process on other problems. 

Digital transformation is paving the way for a COVID vaccine to be introduced in record time. It can have an equally transformative effect on companies that focus on strategy and tie the digital offerings back to their business goals.

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.

Oct 14, 2020

Most companies and consumers know they should fight against climate change and want to make a difference, they just don’t know how. 

With carbon emissions increasing across the globe, it can feel overwhelming to make a difference. Companies don’t know how to start or even if their efforts will pay off and actually have an impact. 

Austin Whitman is founder and CEO of Climate Neutral, a non-profit organization that makes it simple for companies to track and offset their carbon emissions and certifies companies that are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions. The goal is to provide companies a turn-key addition to their sustainability work and to start conversations with consumers about climate change. 

Whitman believes that the fight against carbon emissions is improved when companies involve customers in their eco-friendly initiatives. Not only does it empower customers, but it also creates a powerful partnership for good. Here are three ways to connect with customers on climate change:

  1. Make it simple for customers to make a difference. Modern consumers are overwhelmed by choices. Many consumers want to make responsible choices but simply don’t know how. Climate Neutral makes it easy for customers to purchase the most eco-friendly products. Companies that have gone through the certification process can put a label on their products to show customers their products are fighting against climate change. When customers are faced with options of products to buy, they can simply choose the product with the Climate Neutral symbol and know they are making the best choice. The goal of companies should always be to make customers’ lives easier, especially when it comes to making sustainable choices.
  2. Show customers change is possible. Whitman says it’s powerful when brands engage with their customers on climate change. Brands need to show consumers that fighting against climate change can lead to real results. Show customers that brands can still deliver high-quality items while reducing their carbon emissions. Focus on what’s achievable. Many consumers are hesitant to make eco-friendly purchases because they don’t want to change from their favorite products or dramatically alter their lives. But when brands showcase that progress can happen without taking away products and quality customers enjoy, it can lead to real change.
  3. Offer optimistic solutions. Instead of using scare tactics to engage customers in the fight against climate change, brands should stay hopeful and optimistic. The key is to start a conversation and provide solutions instead of just highlighting the problems. Many consumers feel they’re on their own to make the best decisions to limit their carbon footprints. Show them that it’s a collaboration between brands and customers and that together, we can all make progress. 

Climate change is a real problem for our world, but customers and companies can make a positive difference when they work together. Climate Neutral shows organizations that it’s possible to take a real stand against carbon emissions. When brands involve their customers in the conversation and action, the movement becomes even more powerful.

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.


Oct 7, 2020

After months of quarantine and isolation, consumers are slowly starting to adjust to a new life with COVID-19. As stores reopen and re-adjust, they are faced with customers who are drastically different than they were just six month ago. According to Walter Robb, former co-CEO of Whole Foods, in order to transition and move forward, stores must re-build consumer trust. 

Moving forward in the pandemic starts by understanding what customers are thinking and feeling. Robb’s current company, S2G Ventures, recently published a report about the future of food in the age of COVID and uncovered many changes to customers’ mindsets. Today’s customers are out of their pre-COVID rhythm and are trying to find and settle into new routines while wrapping their heads around all the changes. Customers are adjusting and adapting by doing more things at home, leaning on different experiences and connecting with friends and brands digitally. 

Amidst all these changes, what customers really want is trust. They want the safety, security and transparency of trusting the companies they do business with. That includes things like knowing where their food comes from and understanding the manufacturing process for their clothes and home items. 

According to Robb, today’s retailers are at a tipping point: with a new generation of shoppers and a new world situation, companies have to contribute to solutions—they can’t just sit back. Retailers must actively work to build consumer trust by being transparent and authentic. 

Robb says retailers can re-earn trust and loyalty through three key principles:

  1. Act with integrity in every interaction. Customers interact with brands in a number of ways, from apps to in-store experiences and new digital platforms. Each interaction is a chance for a brand to re-earn trust and loyalty. Lasting trust comes from consistent actions. Customers have to know what to expect and that they will get great service every time they interact with the brand. Building trust doesn’t require huge actions—it’s the simple, everyday interactions that make a difference when they are authentic and consistent.
  2. Be willing to serve customers. Some customers say they want to be served in certain ways, such as grocery customers saying they want to pick up items in store or have certain things delivered. It’s up to brands to develop the capabilities to serve customers how and when they want to be served. Brands earn trust when they listen to customers and are willing to meet their needs.
  3. Use data to understand customers. Most customers are willing to share their personal information with a brand if it leads to more personalized experiences. Modern customers expect companies to know who they are and act according to their individual preferences. Brands can’t build unique experiences and establish trust if they don’t know their customers. 

COVID has changed how customers think and act, and retailers need to respond accordingly. To build trust, brands must understand modern customers and find ways to rebuild trust every day.

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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