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#ModernDataMasters: Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist and Author

What is your background and what was your route into Customer Experience Management and Evangelism?

I have been focused on customer experience for more than ten years now. I started with my own podcast in 2009 called Customer Creation with Blake Landau my maiden name. I was simply fascinated by customer relationship management, and how it largely had to do with human behavior, and how brands made people feel. I worked at that company for five years and later worked for Intel as a customer service executive – helping to launch their social customer service strategy for Twitter and other channels. I started writing for Forbes in 2014 and I realized I wanted to have a keynote speaking career and focus on thought leadership customer experience full-time as my husband already had been doing successfully for many years. I love being my own boss, and I love the opportunity to bring my message of customer experience to audiences all over the world whether that’s through keynote speeches, my podcast show The Modern Customer, or my YouTube channel. I am now coming out with my second book with HarperCollins called The Customer Of The Future: 10 Guiding Principles For Winning Tomorrow’s Business.

The D.O.M.O.R.E. philosophy of your first book is an acronym about how to create amazing customer experiences. To what extent is this ability dependent on having high quality, mastered customer data available to a business in a timely fashion?

The DOMORE framework includes all areas of customer experience, and data plays a huge role in that. The basic idea is to be thoughtful and empathetic when thinking about the customer experience. But you can’t do more for customers if you don’t understand them and know how to use data. The “M” in DOMORE is for modernizes with technology. Modern technology is an absolute requirement to be a data master.

Tech is shown to be a huge differentiator for employees and customers. It only takes one bad experience to alienate employees and customers. In many cases, those bad experiences come down to faulty technology and a lack of data. On the flip side, companies that use technology to provide amazing, data-driven experiences have great success. Research from Adobe found that businesses that invest in technology transformations and focus on experience have an average annual revenue growth rate of 15% compared to 11% for other companies. Those investments in customer data and technology clearly pay off.

Many companies that are continually recognized for their amazing customer experiences have mastered customer data. Companies like Google and Uber use algorithms to find patterns in their customers’ behavior and then leverage that data to provide personalized experiences.

Customer experience is often the deciding factor in where a customer does business. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, customers want products and services that are tailored to their needs. Personalized, amazing experiences are based in data.

An area of modern data management that you comment on frequently is AI and ML – what do/should these specific technologies deliver for organisations that adopt them in terms of the customer experience?

AI and ML are the future of customer experience. Brands won’t be able to compete without them. AI and ML provide a stronger understanding of customers while also automating many of the mundane processes and interactions. The result is employees who have more time to build quality relationships with customers and customers who can quickly and conveniently get the service they need.

AI can be used to get rid of the frustrating aspects of the customer journey. For example, no one enjoys filling out insurance claims. Next Insurance understood the pain point and created a model that uses AI to power the claims process with nearly 100% accuracy. The process is much simpler and more hands-off for customers, and employees can then answer questions and provide advice instead of just filling out forms. American Express uses machine learning to track potential fraud in real time and flag transactions that don’t fit with a customer’s usual spending. The company can then alert customers right away instead of waiting until it’s too late. Machine learning also helps brands remember what customers like. Starbucks does this with its mobile app that remembers customers drink orders and makes it easy to order personalized favorites on the go.

What are your top 3 tips or resources to share for aspiring modern data masters?

1. Think through the entire customer journey. When does the customer interact with your brand? Where are the pain points and areas for improvement? The customer journey is so much more than just when they’re in your store or on your website making a purchase. Think about how the customer will fare in every scenario. Put yourself in their shoes and walk through every step of the buying journey, from initial research to post-purchase service.

2. Stay in the loop. Data is constantly changing and adding new resources. I subscribe to email newsletters from thought leaders, including Bernard Marr’s updates on technology, AI and data. Read white papers and articles on data-related topics to get comfortable with the changes that are happening. I’ve written articles on technology transformations and chatbots that can be great resources.

3. Remember that more is more. Too many businesses try to get by with doing the bare minimum. Modern customers expect and deserve so much more. Work harder, build relationships and invest in your customers.

How do the needs of a business that is focused on digital transformation or customer experience change in terms of the types of people that they hire; the skill sets those people need to have and the processes around which their businesses run?

A customer-centric business must hire people who believe the same way. I often advise companies to first create a customer-focused or digitally driven culture and then find people who are a good fit. A lot of skills can be taught, but empathy and an eagerness to serve customers comes naturally for many people. Those are the people you want on your team.

Skillsets for the digital future are constantly changing. The top skill employees need to have is to be innovative and learn how to learn. Technology is constantly evolving, but if companies that stay ahead of the curve can be the ones leading the changes instead of being disrupted by competitors. Be innovative and creative. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope and do things that have never been done before. Creativity creates memorable solutions, and they often don’t have to be expensive or complicated. Sometimes the simplest innovations are right in front of you. Innovation is especially powerful when paired with data. The best companies and employees truly understand their customers and use data to establish their strategy and priorities moving forward.

Internal processes should be as seamless as possible. Too many companies get caught up in their own silos where each department works independently. It creates a lot of wasted resources and repeated work and can create a nightmare experience for customers. Break down those silos to unite the company under a central goal. Groups and departments should be working together to accomplish goals instead of fighting against each other without communicating. Breaking down silos also means providing the right resources and information to all employees, especially those front-line workers who interact with customers every day. Amazon does this with its AI flywheel that isn’t housed in a single department or office but is instead part of the entire company. Each department works on a different application, but they all share information and resources to create a cohesive experience both internally and externally.

What trends or changes or emerging technology do you predict that organisations will need to recognise and harness in order to keep up with customer expectations in the next few years?

AI and predictive analytics will be crucial. Customers want companies to not only have a great understanding of their preferences and history, but also to use that data to provide amazing personalized experiences. The best companies will anticipate customers’ needs and come up with creative solutions. They’ll solve issues that customers don’t even know they have and will make customers’ lives easier by thinking for them. Imagine you have a birthday or special occasion coming up and need to find a gift. In the future, customer-centric companies will know your needs and provide product recommendations without you having to even search. The same is true with other life changes. Brands will have such a strong understanding of their customers that they can predict their wants and needs.

Keeping up with customers will be challenging but incredibly important. We’ve seen massive changes in what customers want and expect in recent years, and that will only continue to grow as Millennials and Gen Z become even more powerful leaders and decision-makers. My new book is called The Customer of the Future and covers 10 guidelines of how to use emerging technologies to connect with modern customers.

Personal Questions – please answer at least one, preferably both:

o It looks like you have a busy life with a husband, one child and two dogs as well, so what do you like to do outside of work to relax? Or what, in theory would you do if you had any time to yourself?!

I carve a lot of personal time for myself into my week. I exercise 5 days a week and every day I meditate and walk my dogs. My husband and I take a lot of time to relax, even if we are still brainstorming about our jobs, our companies or our life in general. We sit in our jacuzzi and talk many days or nights. We really enjoy great entertainment and now we are binge watching Game Of Thrones in the evenings after we read our daughter books and put her to bed. On the weekends we like to have fun so we’ll take our daughter swimming at the pool, go to the beach or the park, and go for pizza and ice cream. Don’t get me wrong, being a working parent is very tiring, but it is rewarding. But for me self-care and mindfulness has always been extremely important so no matter how much I have going on I make time for the stuff that leaves me feeling relaxed. I don’t take many meetings and I rarely give up a work-out for a call. Health is my number one priority over work. I do have a team that helps me, so delegating work allows me to also focus on the strategy for my business, or other things I need to take care of. Even when I travel I make it as pleasant as possible. I listen to beautiful music on the airplane or podcasts, I exercise at the hotel gym, eat as healthy as I can, and meditate before any speech or event that requires my participation. I facetime my daughter from the airport so she can enjoy the trip to and see the airplanes which she enjoys and it feels like I am still with her throughout her day with dad.

o Which 3 people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner and what would be on the menu?

That’s a really hard question because there are so many I would love to talk with – I love talking to other people to learn life’s toughest lessons and try and avoid them myself by learning from others.

I am very much in the moment and right now I am really inspired by Mel Robbins and that would be a fun dinner. She is the most in-demand female speaker on the planet and she keeps it together even with her rigorous schedule and three children. She is a total boss.

I think Reese Witherspoon is also a very interesting person. She worked her way up to producing and directing her own shows, getting books about women’s stories opted for an HBO series such as “Big Little Lies” which follows a group of women and their stories. We don’t hear enough about women’s stories, especially mothers on television and movies. I am always caught off guard when I find a story like she has created with Big Little Lies, talking about issues we don’t normally see on mainstream television, like domestic violence – from the perspective of the female leads. We need more female leads in tv and movies, written and directed by women.

And I’d love to invite Beyonce to dinner, because I want to know what it’s like to be Beyonce. I can’t imagine how people who are icons or celebrities manage being in the spotlight like she is. Since I was a younger woman and saw Beyonce perform live was I was captivated by Beyonce’s strength. Her voice and presence in pop culture are important. She sends a message of authenticity, strength and power that resonates with me.

What would be on the menu?

Dinner would be grass-fed steak and organic vegetables and salads. Hot sourdough bread with butter made locally in San Francisco, and wine from Sonoma or Napa not far from where I live. Dessert would be coconut cream pie because it’s my absolute favorite. Can you tell I love to eat?