Evolving customer expectations can seem like either a never-ending battle or your greatest opportunity to corner the market. Hear Insight’s Senior Vice President of Services Mike Gaumond talk about what it takes to win the hearts and minds of consumers – from the millennial generation to the next generation.
Note: Complete audio transcript found after author info.
Published July 20, 2016
Announcer: You’re listening to Technomics, connecting you to insights on digital transformation and the marketplace with your hosts: Robyn Itule and Jeremy Nelson. The hosts' opinions are their own. Enjoy the show!
Robyn Itule: Last year we had this wild and crazy idea that we should just start talking about technology. That there were these amazing things happening with the economy because of technology and these amazing things happening in technology because of the economies that were forming around it. So, we sort of did a whole ripped-from-the-headlines pilot season with Technomics.
Jeremy Nelson: Very traditional podcasting if you will.
Robyn Itule: I like to think we were inspired by news greats like Walter Cronkite and, I should trail off right here because we were clearly not inspired by those great news men. We were just trying to capture a moment.
Jeremy Nelson: Just having a conversation.
Robyn Itule: And that was important. I feel like we had a moment in time, but realized that that moment in time needed to point in a different direction, needed to be headed out towards a different horizon. I think we found it.
Jeremy Nelson: I think so too.
Robyn Itule: That’s why I’m really excited about this season of Technomics.
Jeremy Nelson: I love the season part of that. One of my favorite, as we talk about technology, one of my biggest consumptions of technology is around Netflix.
Robyn Itule: Are you a binge watcher?
Jeremy Nelson: I am a huge binge watcher.
Robyn Itule: So the hope then, is of course, that people will binge listen to this new seasonal approach to Technomics, where we’re going to talk about customer engagement this season.
Jeremy Nelson: That’s what it’s all about. At the end of the day, if you’re not engaging your customers, you’re probably not thriving.
Robyn Itule: Probably not thriving, but also probably struggling to figure out what your purpose is, and if you haven’t found that, you certainly aren’t going to find the technologies to get you there. And I think that listeners are going to find that there are so many exciting avenues, and that there really is a core approach with how to get to excellent customer engagement through technologies.
Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely. Every company has something new to learn about the way they engage their clients. Because you might be engaging them in ways you never even thought of. I think that’s something that we’re looking to cover and hopefully help expand our listeners, as far as some unique ways about thinking about their client experience and their engagement model. And some food for thought as far as other ways to use technology to enable that further.
Robyn Itule: So speaking of customer engagement, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Insight Senior Vice President of Services, Mike Gaumond. And you could not be there because, in fact, you were engaging with a client at that specific time.
Jeremy Nelson: I was.
Robyn Itule: So it is something that is near and dear to our heart and our practices. But Mike really sets this up really, really well. And the interview that follows really sets the tone for everything that we talk about with customer engagement, which is looking for the approach that’s right for your business and for your customers, and how technology can be an enabler of that, not just the thing.
Jeremy Nelson: The thing, exactly. And I think its interesting that we have Mike Gaumond, who’s going to be the one kinda spear heading this and kicking off the episodic nature of the new Technomics podcast. Especially around client conversation, because here at Insight, as the leader of all services, it’s clear to see that this is a model that we have embraced as an organization to help empower our clients through the use of technology, by engaging them through our services arm. So this will be a great, great conversation.
Robyn Itule: I’ll ruin it for you, its fantastic and so with that…
Jeremy Nelson: Spoiler alert.
Robyn Itule: [Chuckles] Twist! When we come back, Mike Gaumond is going to join us here in the studio where we talk about customer experience and its ever growing importance to your brand and your company.
Robyn Itule: And now a word from our sponsor. Engaging your customers with modern technology requires a modern platform and infrastructure. Enter Microsoft Azure.
Jeremy Nelson: All right, I have to stop you right there, Robyn. Is it AZ-ure or Az-URE.
Robyn Itule: You know we had this conversation in Season One. And I believe what we landed on is, it is about the color, which is in fact AZ-ure.
Jeremy Nelson: Awesome, I’m glad that’s finally put to rest.
Robyn Itule: Although now I’ve said it so many times I feel like I’m saying it weird.
Jeremy Nelson: It’s like spoon.
Robyn Itule: We digress. The important message that you need to take away from this sponsorship is that with Azure, you can build faster, move quicker, and empower your organization to reach new heights. If you contact an Insight specialist, they can help you find out how implementing Azure will open up a new realm of possibility.
Jeremy Nelson: Now let's get back to our interview with Mike Gaumond.
Robyn Itule: Hey Mike, how's it going?
Mike Gaumond: I'm doing great Robyn, how are you?
Robyn Itule: I'm doing really well. I'm excited for our conversation today. Its pretty special to me, to you, to just about everybody because everybody is a consumer in this day and age. And we all really care about being engaged. So customer engagement should be a pretty interesting series of chats we're gonna have on Technomics.
Mike Gaumond: I'm excited about it and any company that's not thinking about how they engage with their customers is probably not thinking about how they solve the right things they should be.
Robyn Itule: So why are we all talking about customer engagement?
Mike Gaumond: Well, I think two simple reasons. First, every business exists to serve their customers and if you're not doing a great job of serving your customers, you won't serve any of the other relevant stakeholders, whether that's your shareholders or your workforce or your community. So we exist to serve our customers as companies in general. And then secondly, what's probably most interesting is that the way companies serve their customers is changing dramatically and has in the past five years and will probably change at an equal pace for the next five years.
Robyn Itule: What's one of the biggest changes that you're seeing in this conversation? How are people shifting their paradigms around customer engagement?
Mike Gaumond: I think companies used to have a pretty narrow definition of customer engagement. So there was a point in time where they were thinking of, "I'm trying to get a purchase order. I'm trying to send them an invoice. Or I'm trying to do something with my customer." And they had a pretty narrow definition about it. And there's a term that I believe originated in retail called Omnichannel. And the notion of Omnichannel, kind of more broadly, is that you have to think about your customer across a couple of different spectrums. One spectrum is where are they in the engagement process with you? So are they doing research and trying to make a decision if they should be a customer of yours or not? Are they trying to purchase a product or service from you? Are they already using a product or service from you? And so you can think of a whole life cycle across which you engage with a customer and you have to think across that span. And then in today's world you have to think about, “Is that customer at my facility or am I at my customer's facility? Are they at home? Are they on the go? Where are they when I'm interacting with them?” Because that's not a given anymore either. And the notion of Omnichannel and that it originated in retail is, "How do I create a really consistent and really compelling and consistent with my brand experience for those customers wherever they are physically and wherever they are in that a life-cycle of the journey with you as a company.
Robyn Itule: I think there's a lot of different channels that really confuse people too in that whole Omnichannel experience right? I mean you've got this entire proliferation of ways that you can reach consumers. How are businesses taking a look at all of those new channels and discerning which are the ones that they need to get to and quickly?
Mike Gaumond: So I think that's a great question. I have a lot of clients that are asking questions like that. Should I develop a mobile application for my customer base? Should I use IOT with my customers? What role should cloud play? How should I use social media, as you just alluded to. Where should I apply technology to better engage with my customers? And that's a great question, but you really need to flip it around and ask it the complete other direction. Which is, "What's relevant to my customer?" Social media, depending on what business you're in and who your customer is, different forms of social media, different platforms in social media, may or may not be applicable. Whether or not you need a mobile application may vary tremendously across industries or across who the buyer persona is. So it's not about which technologies should I use, but I would argue that you should start with your customer and look at that spectrum that I alluded to earlier and say, "What are all the touch points I have with customers." And I would encourage you to talk to your customers and find out what are they doing, what do they like the most, what are the best experiences they've had that you might be able to apply to how you interact with them. I would also talk to people who aren't your customers. And ask them why they've chosen not to be your customer. Maybe it was a conscious decision, maybe they just picked somebody else and they didn't know about you. And I would also look for former customers and ask them why they left. And there may be lessons if you take all those and put them together and you'll figure out where across that life cycle journey and where across their locations you may not have engaged with them in a way you could have. And then that will tell you if a mobile application is relevant or if analytics is the answer for you or what technology you should apply.
Robyn Itule: Boy, the answers to some of that could be pretty shocking right? I mean if you suddenly discover that your entire or majority of your customer base is not in the location where you have been spending time and energy and resources. That requires some real soul searching to move in the right direction and quite a bit of courage to maybe make a change when the data or the qualitative analytics tell you, "Yeah you've got Millennials in your view, you're gonna have to really rethink what you're going to do here.”
Mike Gaumond: Yeah I mean a couple great examples. One is if your customer base is heavily skewed towards or has a predominant proportion of Millennials. So this is a generation that has grown up using technology in completely different ways across their entire life than prior generations. And they bring that expectation of how they've grown up using technology, including for personal reasons for social media or interacting with their friends or buying something online though Amazon. And they expect the same kind of experience when they interact with you as a company. And if you can't deliver that kind of experience, they will go somewhere that can. Another interesting example, you talked about the fact that your customer may not be in the place you think they are right? So retail for the vast majority of the history of the retail world, which is literally thousands of years, starting with little carts in villages somewhere in the Middle East. It was about getting people in that last three feet. What do you have that's on the aisle that's right for them that they can pick, and they can choose. And then can you get the price right and complete the deal with them? That's totally transformed and not a day goes by that you don't read about a major, major retailer who's in the news right now, sadly Sports Authority right? Great store, I love it. They're closing all of their stores. And if you look at retail what the smart ones have figured out is that yes it matters what happens when they're in the store, but its equally important, if not today more important, what happens when they're not in the store. So how do I engage with my customers when they're not in the store? And if you're not thinking about that, you're asking the wrong questions.
Robyn Itule: Mike I'm really enjoying this conversation and we need to take a short break, so let's come back right after this.
Robyn Itule: Jeremy do you ever feel like you have a hard time figuring out what the most important technology news is on a weekly basis?
Jeremy Nelson: Always, I never seem to know where to go.
Robyn Itule: There's so much of it.
Jeremy Nelson: So much.
Robyn Itule: Fortunately for people like you, there is The Script. Which is one of our newsletters that's about the news, best practices, and current trends in technology. We have scoured the web and we've looked for only the most important things. So if, like Jeremy, you need a concise, valuable, way to get the most out of the technology headlines, visit www.insight.com to subscribe to The Script. They're IT headlines worth repeating.
Robyn Itule: So I was laughing a little bit there when you were putting into perspective, this very stark perspective, of the fact that really the retail philosophy hasn't changed for millennia. And then look at the last 10 years. So getting up to speed with the kinds of technology and infrastructure that have to be in place simply to capture a market, let alone delight a market, I mean that's a huge hill to climb.
Mike Gaumond: Its not limited to retail either.
Robyn Itule: I was gonna say, is anyone excluded from this?
Mike Gaumond: No, I mean look at the business we're in. Insight, we sell technology to our clients and we deliver solutions and services around that. And what's really fascinating is if you spun the clock back about probably 10 years ago or so, you would find that the vast majority of customers made a decision while they were in communication with our salesperson. Now what we're finding, and what the data shows us, is that 70-75% of the decision is made by our customers before they engage with a person at our company. So they're doing research and comparisons and reading analyst reports and going online and looking at specifications and doing all sorts of things that we used to do with them, they're doing it themselves.
Robyn Itule: And think about the implications of that because its not just in that transaction category where the technology has to be. If you're talking about somebody trying to do research. The average human attention span is about 8 seconds long. So digesting huge papers is not a great reality unless you're really vested in the topic. From our perspective on the marketing side, we really want to be scaled up to be able to offer huge amounts of video, huge amounts of audio. So we want to be able to host all of that and we want to go to the resources who can help us do that effectively so we can reach our customers effectively across any channel. But that is from end to end on the entire experience and it better come all the way back around and keep being great.
Mike Gaumond: Well and to your point, that means it has to be personalized right? You can't just blast this out to a zillion people and see who it sticks with. A lot of what we're seeing around customer engagement is how do you personalize it and tailor whatever your engagement is to the individual or to the company that you're dealing with? It has to be convenient. So convenience is a huge driver in today's world. Whether we're in our business or personal roles as customers, we're incredibly busy, we're all besieged with email and social media and meetings and all of those kinds of things. So when I want to interact with a company, it needs to be really convenient. Which means in a way that works for me and an efficient and quick and don't waste my time. You pointed out attention span. Videos and podcasts and all those things should be crisp and to the point and on mark. Or they're just going to get ignored. And how do you personalize it and make it engaging without it becoming the stalker. Right where people get turned off by it.
Robyn Itule: Few people are doing that great.
Mike Gaumond: It gets a little creepy today.
Robyn Itule: Yes it does. But that really presents an interesting point though that my expectations as a customer are such that I want Amazon to have already figured that out. To map their digital marketing strategy and their advertising by and get it to a point where its like, “Oh she already bought that, we should stop serving that ad now, we're just going to annoy her.” And get somehow that technology has not become manifest. So what are some companies that really are doing a good job, by and large, allowing for some of the unreasonable expectations that I and other Millennials probably have?
Mike Gaumond: You know I think its interesting. One experience I've had, Marriott hotels. So I travel a lot, I'm a Marriott gold member, so this isn't a paid commercial announcement for Marriott. But I stay at their hotel properties a lot. And they do some things really, really well. So they know who I am, they know my profile. They know what kind of rooms I like. I'm staying at one in a couple weeks and I just called them and asked them to tweak a few things which they did no problem, very easily for me. But, the most amazing experience I ever had with them which was really, really great. My wife and I went to Paris to celebrate our anniversary about 18 months ago.
Robyn Itule: Congratulations.
Mike Gaumond: Thank you.
Robyn Itule: On the destination and the long commitment together.
Mike Gaumond: Thank you on both. And we went and checked into Marriott Renaissance Hotel. We had never stayed there before. In fact, I had never been to Paris even though I've traveled all over the world. And we checked into the hotel and got into the room. The room was nice, the hotel staff was fantastic. The gentleman that checked us in, about two hours later we went back downstairs. We were gonna go out and get some dinner, and he said, "You know I'm just not really thrilled with the room that you have. I'm gonna take care of that. Is it okay if we move your stuff while you're having dinner?" I said sure. So we came back and they had moved us to the top floor, view of the Arc de Triumph and the Effiel Tower, a balcony on the front, no extra charge. And it was just because they knew I was a valued customer of theirs. I didn't ask for it, I didn't complain about the room. We weren't planning to spend the bulk of our time in the room, we wanted to see Paris. But it was just a phenomenal experience where they do something based on knowing me. Who I am as their customer that really I'll remember for a long time.
Robyn Itule: They used their data to make your experience delightful. I mean that is très magnifique (very magnificent).
Mike Gaumond: C'est vrai (Its true).
Robyn Itule: So you know that's a little bit of bravery there though to go out and make a change for a customer based on something that you think they will enjoy. And that's a risk that a lot of companies run when they're trying to be innovative with technology and especially in a rapidly moving environment. So what are some of the risks that businesses run when they try and keep pace or stay ahead of those trends by having a really aggressive customer engagement strategy?
Mike Gaumond: I think aggressive might be the key word right? When they get too aggressive with it, its that fine line being personalized, knowing me, knowing how I make decisions, versus annoying me or staking me. And frankly kind of somewhere crossing the line between “You're being helpful and you're being annoying.” So I think that is the downfall here. And I'd say a second pitfall is avoid the technology trap. We talked about this at the beginning. It's not about, "I gotta have a mobile app because a whole bunch of people have a mobile app for my customers." That may or may not be relevant for your customer base. They may or may not want to, or it may or may not be valuable to them to engage with you through a mobile application. So its really about understanding your customers and how to engage more with than saying, "I gotta do something with technology. A, B, or C." Don't be a hammer out looking for a nail.
Robyn Itule: I like that analogy. Well there's gonna be a lot of conversation that helps us to really fill out this season because there's so many interesting avenues that we can start to follow from data and analytics, to intelligent applications, and the Internet of Things. There's just a lot to cover here, and we have a lot of really talented people who are going to be joining us. And to cap it all off, we're gonna have an opportunity to chat with you again a little bit later to talk about how some of this customer engagement strategy can actually come to life. And I'm really looking forward to that conversation too.
Mike Gaumond: I'm really excited about it as well. We've got a bunch of really exciting examples about how customers in a variety of industries have done some really innovative things to transform how they engage with their customers. So I look forward to it.
Robyn Itule: We have a lot more exciting conversations around customer engagement coming at us this season and we hope you'll continue to listen. And for this episode, we're so grateful to Mr. Mike Gaumond who's our Senior Vice President of Services at Insight. We really appreciate your time sir.
Mike Gaumond: Thank you Robyn, I appreciate yours as well.
Robyn Itule: Thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes, you can download the podcasts from iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And for more stories on intelligent technology, visit www.insight.com.