Blake Morgan: Forward Focused Episode 13

By November 5, 2019 Pypestream Digital Labs

Evan Kohn

Welcome to “Forward Focused” brought to you by Pypestream Digital Labs, a thought series on customer experience, artificial intelligence, and enterprise automation. I’m Evan Kohn from Pypestream and I’m talking with Blake Morgan. Blake is a Customer Experience Futurist. Her first book was titled More is More: How The Best Companies Go Farther and Work Harder To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences. She serves as adjunct faculty at Rutgers, and contributes to Forbes and the Harvard Business Review. Blake’s worked with companies like Ericsson, Intel, Verizon Wireless, and many more, and is the host of The Modern Customer Podcast. Listeners can also check out her weekly customer experience video series on YouTube.

Blake, great to have you with us.

Blake Morgan

Hey Evan! How is it going?

Evan Kohn

Going well, thanks. How is your day?

Blake Morgan

Well, it’s almost Halloween and my daughter has her new construction worker Halloween costume. So, I feel very relieved today that I’m totally ready for Halloween. She’s 3 years old but she loves, she loves spotting a good excavator.

Evan Kohn

Ah, fantastic! What candy will you be handing out at your house?

Blake Morgan

You know, I have to say I feel kind of conflicted about this because I hate like plastic and trash, I’m also not a huge fan of sugar. But like you don’t want to be the lame parent that’s like handing out, I don’t even know like apples or kale chips. So, I honestly want to do some like Pinterest or Googling to figure out what else I can give out to kids like except Snickers bars, because honestly, we’re still eating candy from last year, it’s kind of disgusting. So, these are my struggles today as a mom to a 3 year old.

Evan Kohn

There you go. Well Blake, I appreciate having you on the podcast, so many questions I want to dive into. First, you released the list earlier this year on Forbes titled, 100 Of The Most Customer Centric Companies where you looked at top 10’s in finance, retail, telecom, a number of industries. And there were some listed – we often hear about like USAA, Wegmans, Casper, Amazon, but some others that haven’t received as much coverage like Ximble or Tribute Hotels. Which of those 100’s stand out to you the most as just really getting at when it comes to CX?

Blake Morgan

Well, I know it’s hard, you can’t recognize everybody, so, there is that element but, I do like doing these lists because it really makes the companies – it rewards them in their behavior; like, for customer service week I released a list on the most viral moments in customer service. Where it just showed, like, average, really nice people, like, doing good work, like, I think it was Denny’s where one customer would come in every week and he had cerebral palsy and the workers at Denny’s would feed him and help him eat, just like little things. Or Trader Joe’s when a customer, their child was crying and the entire Trader Joe’s staff around them broke out into a dance and song to make the kid to stop crying. It’s just these little human moments that really add up. You know, Trader Joe’s was on the list of the top 100, I just find like if the company doesn’t seem to change that much year over year, like, I used to shop in Long Beach, California at Trader Joe’s in the 90’s, they’ve been around forever but the customer service is always just top notch. Like, if you ask an employee for help, they actually seem to want to help you. It’s just the attitude, they don’t have self help check out and the products that they have created are really, really good and authentic. So, I think a lot of these customer experience principles are just really simple. You don’t always have to be Amazon, you can just sort of be a traditional brick and mortar store but you have amazing service, like, you’re totally standing out among the crowd.
Other examples, I can call out Away Luggage because I think what they did was really innovative, just that they saw this opening in the marketplace for innovation around something so simple as a suitcase; it’s also a woman founded business, woman run business. Just think that they’re, they’re really doing a lot right with innovation, with their word of mouth and social marketing strategy, with their approach to data.

So, the list you talked about Evan, features a lot of different companies not just, like, direct-to-consumer or traditional, like, groceries stores but it’s really about the attitude and the mindset and this is what I write about in my new book, The Customer of the Future, that it’s really not about the best technology. The thing that most companies can’t get, it’s just simply mindset. It’s something that’s, like, free and seemingly invisible where employees and executives, both, like, jump up out of bed in the morning excited to serve someone, trying to earn their keep every single day. And I think a lot of companies, they just are resting on their laurels, they have gotten lazy, they don’t appreciate their customers and they make life harder on customers to make it easier on their own brand. So, it’s these hungry, thoughtful, service focused companies with the mindset. These are the companies that are earning a place in the customers’ life that will be here in 10, 20 years from now.

Evan Kohn

And you mentioned those viral moments, it’s so fascinating to see what type of events lead to those, I think you also wrote about Spirit Airlines, a passenger playing rock, paper, scissors through the window of the plane with the employee on the tarmac, and that went viral, I think it was like what $2 million views? Can these types of moments be architected or do they really to need to come out organically from just having happy employees?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, I don’t think they can be architected, I think that they come, they come from organic, authentic human interaction. Where your employees don’t feel afraid to be at work every day, they don’t feel nervous that they’re going to get in trouble for just seeing an opportunity to help someone and doing it. Like, Capital One has this culture of kindness and one example is an agent named Tanya and she gets a call one day into the call center from a customer that has just been dumped by her fiancé and her name is Christine. And Christine is crying because she was dumped and her credit card was declined when she went to buy new furniture because of course she had to move out. So, Tanya just saw this pathetic situation that she felt so sorry, her heart ached for this customer Christine. So, she said of course I’m going to fix your credit card issue but you clearly you need to relax, you need to have some fun, you need to remember what life is all about and I’m sending you on vacation. And she not only sent Christine on vacation for free but she also sent a bouquet of flowers to Christine ex’s house to make it look like she just was so sought after now that she is single. And this story, it was all over the business press, it earned the two a spot on the Ellen show to be reunited – Tanya and Christine. Capital One could not have bought this type of publicity. It only happens because that culture of kindness is operationalized. It’s so much more about what you don’t measure as much as what you measure in the contact center, so clearly the agent Tanya is not being measured by how long she’s on the phone with the customer. She’s clearly given a certain amount of money to spend on a customer when a customer is in trouble. There’s more stories like this coming out of Capital One. You cannot force these types of moments. It happens when you allow your employees to be human beings, you empower them and you don’t treat customers service as a call center but you understand that it is absolutely a marketing opportunity to be there for people for at the point of need.

But too many businesses, you know, they’re just like, they’re really not, they don’t have their eyes open. It’s like they go to work and forget that we’re all human beings and we need to create experiences that are thoughtful and that is what helps you win in business. It’s not about shareholder value, it’s not about transactions, and it’s really just being about human being and doing the right thing.

Evan Kohn

Well, you know as well as anyone, Blake, that the data out there is really quite clear in terms of why executives should invest in high quality customer experience for their companies. You know, Bain says companies with a customer experience mindset increased revenue; Gartner says a good majority of companies compete squarely on the basis of the customer experience. I think it was Price Waterhouse Cooper says a vast majority of customers say a good experience is key to influencing their brand loyalties. And the same types of compelling stats are out there around the employee experience as it ties to CX. So, I must ask why are so many companies still struggling with low net promoter scores, low customer satisfaction and a limited appetite for upgrading CX?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, I think that the problem is actually at the top. I used to work at a company where it was a Fortune 100 tech company and they used to say when things go wrong don’t look up. Like don’t look to leadership to help you but I believe that most of these issues start at the top, that today requires transformational leadership.

And most companies just don’t have it and they don’t develop leaders to be employee focused nor do they develop leaders to be customer focused. They simply hire great people and they just hope that these great new hires will save the company. We got a new CEO, he or she’s going to turn the company around but really we need to operationalize leadership development to create a culture, develop leaders and train them so they are a part of our culture rather than just hiring people and hoping they figure it out. And so the best companies have amazing culture, they have got the mindset, but the third thing they have is this leadership development strategy where they’re training everyone from the CEO on down to be customer and employee focused and they don’t leave it up to chance.

Evan Kohn

You highlighted different strategies and tactics for brands that they can undertake. You mentioned Quantis being one that provides an array of complementary services. Santander having work cafes in their branches, DPD in Germany offering live tracking via their mobile app for package delivery. So what are some best practices in this realm that could apply to virtually to any CX executive?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, something I hear from Chief Customer Officers or Chief Experience Officers, even like CTO’s, the CTO of Sephora did this – they go on listening tours when they start. They really don’t take a new job and just start talking; they are not traditionally there to be the extrovert in the house. They come in, they’re quiet; they meet with all the business people. They are in the trenches, they are on the ground in the factory floor, they are listening and they are watching being really like introverts. So, just listen and gather information, understand where the gaps are, understand how they can help solve the problems. I think that today every business and every person would really benefit from being more of a listener rather than a talker. I think that it’s really a humble approach to business to understand that you are always a student and that by listening, especially those customer facing employees, they will tell you everything you need to know about fixing your business. But if you don’t listen you could get in real trouble.

Like, I wrote an article about – there are so many red flags that have been waved by customer facing employees that saw something that was really going to hurt the business. And often they were ignored, like the canary in the coal mine, they go into the coal mine to see if its safe, and they said: “Hey, we got a problem” and they were ignored and then that issue caused billions of dollars in cost to a company because they didn’t listen to the customer facing employees. So again the modern approach, it’s about listening. If you join a new company or if you have been there for a while you should be going on listening tours all the time. Going to the contact centers, sit on the phones. Even Jeff Bezos at Amazon, he and his executives do this every year, where they sit on the call center, at least once or twice a year, and they take calls from the customers and I don’t think people ever know they are getting Jeff Bezos on their phone to help them with their issue. You know, you can even email Jeff directly and he will forward your customer issue to the right person. And I went up to Amazon actually last year and met with executives and toured the company and it’s really clear that this listening approach, you know it’s the entire mindset of the entire company, like everyone, it’s almost like everyone works in the contact center, nobody is above serving a customer and it’s really all they talk about is customer experience.

Evan Kohn

And the correlation between, you know, employee experience and how a company treats their customers, you’ve given props to companies like Lloyds Bank for achieving this. What are the key ingredients to building a stellar employee experience?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, so actually Evan, my husband wrote a book called the Employee Experience Advantage by Jacob Morgan. And he did a research study on a 252 companies and what he found is that the companies that invested in employee experience were 4.2 times more profitable than companies that did not. And he found that companies invested in 3 areas which included culture, technology and physical space. And so if you want to start investing in customer experience the way to do that, first you can buy Jacob’s book Employee Experience Advantage, but invest in the three areas of culture, technology and physical space.

Evan Kohn

That’s terrific. Well, I will check out that book, that’s great. And before we wrap, couple of more questions. What would you say to an executive who has inherited a mandate to turn around the CX for a brand that has either struggled with customer relations in the past or has just become maybe complacent, you know, what can they do to make CX a competitive advantage. Is it looking to the brands that you called out and modeling what they have seen those other companies do successfully or does it really need to be unique to that brand voice and a tailored strategy for that specific company?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, I would say the first thing after you realize is you’re only going to be as strong as the resources and support you have like, like I said you can’t expect one person to be tasked with turning around customer experience for an entire company, it’s ridiculous. So I think that by sometimes companies are making this mistake. They promote or hire a Chief Experience or Customer Officer and it’s all kind of smoke and mirrors. And they want to wipe their hands like, “Oh! We are done”. Which is crazy so I think that’s actually a huge mistake a lot of companies are making is appointing or hiring – I feel sorry for these Chief Customer Officers who really have no, like budget or authority or influence. And they’re sort of there to provide lip service to customer experience.

But if you actually are supported by the CEO to go and create an experience program. I would first encourage you to think about experience across the business – like I once worked at this corporation and they had a customer experience group but honestly they did event production, like, I didn’t even know what they did and I worked in customer service and we never interacted. It was very weird. I think we have to be thoughtful about experiences that something sits with your teams, it sits with your managers, you can’t say that customer experience lives in your contact center, that doesn’t make any sense because we know that experience is shaped by leadership development, by product design, do you have a feedback loop, looping feedback back to the engineers to improve the product and so experience is somewhat complicated. But again don’t simply hire one person and think that they are going to be able to just solve this issue, it’s really a mindset and I believe that when the CEO is involved and research actually supports this that, when a CEO is involved and is a customer champion, these programs really get a lot more, they are a lot more successful than when CEO just hires somebody “Okay, you deal with this.”

Evan Kohn

And Blake, with your new book The Customer of the Future, what does the future of the customer experience look like and what trends do you see in the impacts particularly the next year but also in the years ahead?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, I think in the next year actually what I’m seeing which is very cool is a greater focus on corporate responsibility that the companies – the reason for being for a company is not just to make shareholder profits that companies need to be leaders when it comes to other bigger issues, environmental issues, social issues. And there is actually a great OpEd in the New York Times yesterday by Marc Bennioff that really called on his peers to be contributors to the community to not just focus on profit, and that – you know, I shared the article and what I said with it is that companies need to have a soul. Like, if you’re a company that doesn’t have a soul, that exists purely to make profits, like, that type of company won’t exist in the future because truly today’s millennials and young people demand more from companies and I don’t think it’s sustainable for companies to just focus on profits, it’s not sustainable for the planet and clearly, you know, the governments are not able to solve some of these major issues. Corporations’ can and they can make life better for their communities and they can make money too and that’s a beautiful thing.

Evan Kohn

We’ll leave it there, Blake Morgan, thank you for joining us. Where can our listeners find you?

Blake Morgan

Yeah, love to meet some of your listeners. Come over to my website blakemichellemorgan.com, you can sign up for my weekly newsletter where you’ll find all the corners of the internet where I write and speak and do my own podcast show, so again, blakemichellemorgan.com. I would love to connect with you.

Evan Kohn

Fantastic. Well, thank you again, Blake. Listeners thank you for tuning in. You can access more Pypestream Digital Labs content at Pypestream.com/insights. We hope you join us for the next Forward Focused podcast.

 

Check out Episode 12 of Forward Focused here and don’t forget to subscribe!

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