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Helen Yu: Forward Focused Episode 2

Jun 19, 2019

Evan Kohn: Hello and 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 today we’re talking with Helen Yu. Helen is a global customer-success executive and board advisor. Through a career spanning early stage start-ups to companies like Oracle and Adobe, her work has enabled multibillion-dollar revenue growth for a number of enterprises. Helen is a top Twitter influencer in emerging technology with a weekly reach of more than 10M. In 2019, Helen was named to the CyberSecurity Power 100 and to the Artificial Intelligence Power 100. She’s spoken at a variety of conferences, among them: SXSW, TiECon, DMS, and Money2020. Helen, great to have you with us!

Helen Yu: Evan, it’s a pleasure being here.

EK: So Helen, you’ve held a number of executive roles including Chief Customer Officer, which is a title that’s become more prominent across industries in recent years, why do you think that is?

HY: Well, now that customer experience can be shaped, measured, and reshaped digitally, meaning instantly, it has become the primary driver of differentiation. It’s crafted by sales, marketing, product, the customer success team, and alliance partners. Customer experience has also become a team effort, so you see, you need someone to lead the charge for customer driven growth, this would be the Chief Customer Officer, whose primary role is to align day-to-day activities to achieving measurable gains in strengthening customer experience. That’s why you see the rise of the Customer Success Officer.

EK: Well, so many enterprises, Helen, are navigating different forms of digital transformations and often we don’t know what’s going on exactly inside large companies beyond what is publicly released for shareholders. Curious, what’s one company you think is really nailing it when it comes to leveraging technology in a way that meaningfully upgrades the customer experience?

HY: Well, I would give some accolades to Adobe. I joined Adobe when it was well known as a creative leader in the market, they transformed into digital marketing leader in the past few years. They constantly reinvent through deep understanding of customer needs. One thing they did really well is to drink their own Kool-Aid, right? We actually implemented Adobe solution in house to get a real sense of customer experience. They have acquired 25 companies, purchased stakes in 5 companies, and divested 6 companies, many of their strategic decisions was really based on the feedback and market demand they collected from customers. So our customer success team actually worked very closely with product, sales, marketing, and partner teams to achieve common goals, which was spectacular customer experience, that’s what resulted in accelerated growth over years.

EK: Well, Adobe’s certainly grown a lot in the past few years and serves enterprises, medium sized businesses across a number of industries. Helen, what industries do you think are most ripe for disruption and where do you see emerging technologies having the most transformative effect?

HY: Yeah. there are a few industries that would be mostly disrupted in our digital economy. Number one is really the service industry, you think about the financial services, legal services, customer services, we will certainly see more intelligent conversational AI to be leveraged to enhance customer experience. That’s what Pypestream offers today. We will also see machine learning to be leveraged for fraud detection, contact analysis. And then blockchain, you know, blockchain to be leveraged for moving money through the system, also some cognitive search and analytics for providing key stakeholders with relevant information and insights in context. I’ve also seen, definitely, the NLU, machine learning, deep learning being leveraged to enhance and automate customer service.

The second industry is healthcare, if you think about the healthcare providers today they’re trying to look for ways to more opportunities for self care and preventive care. And then the combination of Internet of Things, mobile devices, and AI can really drive improvements in the collection and analysis of healthcare data. And then the third thing around healthcare is diagnostics. Many people wanted to move the diagnostics from hospitals to home, leveraging AI to screen cancer or disease with a mobile app and then with the variable devices today it makes it a possibility.

And then the third industry is more from the data protection and security perspective. The traditional solutions are based on endpoints or networks and we’ll see more shift today to data-centric solutions, protecting data in all forms, across all devices including the cloud. And then machine learning, obviously, it will be leveraged for security analytic solutions in the need of prevention.

And then the last two industries I see more disruption would be education and automotive. Think about education, you know, I personally would like to see more immersive education that’s personalized and individualized for the kids and then to better prepare us, even adults, for the future of work. In the automotive industry we are seeing, we’ve already seen more, some strides in autonomous vehicles, and then AI can certainly enhance in-car customer experiences and streamlining the manufacturing processes.

EK: Well, you’ve built quite a digital following, Helen, across social media. What advice do you have for individuals or brands to earn relevance in the public sphere? Curious too, you know, how do you go about selecting meaningful stories to share with your audience?

HY: Well, thank you for noticing that, Evan. Having served as Chief Customer Officer at a social media company, I took to it naturally. Here are some of the suggestions: number one is to figure out where it makes sense for you to be seen. What is your ideal customer profile? And then what are your areas of interest? For example, I’m interested in financial services, telecom, retail, high-tech, and travel industries and my area of expertise and interest is really around customer experience, AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, education or SPG or internet of things or 5G. And then second is to understand who the influencers are in those areas that you’re interested in and engage with them on a regular basis. And then you come up with topics you have expertise to contribute to the community, and then you also engage with your followers on the topics they are interested in learning. I actually write hand thank you notes to those in my community to recognize them everyday. In terms of content, I select the content based on what I read each week. A few of my favorites, one is Interesting Engineering, Wall Street Journal, Inside America’s Boardrooms, CIO Dive, McKinsey Classic, World Economic Forum, IoT for all, or any industry trend from Gartner or Forrester. I select content that inspires me, edifies me, and shows promise of engaging my community.

EK: Wow, well hand written notes in an increasingly digital world, that can go a long way in adding a nice personal touch, right?

HY: Yeah, absolutely.

EK: Any growth hacking tips to share with listeners?

HY: Number one is culture eats strategy for breakfast. Creating a customer experience centric organization starts from the top. Two is getting cross functional alignment with a common set of metrics in driving positive customer experiences will pay dividends. Most importantly is to balance your strategic decisions with tactical understanding of customers, that’s the key in driving lifetime value of customers and achieving higher growth.

EK: Helen, thank you for joining us today. Where can our listeners find you?

HY: Well, thank you for having me, Evan. They can find me on Twitter, my handle is yuhelenyu or they can check on my website or they can always find me through Linkedin.

EK: Great. Thanks again, Helen, listeners thank you for tuning in today. You can access more Pypestream Digital Labs content at, we hope you join us for the next Forward Focused podcast.