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Season 2 Episode 4
October 3, 2023

[DECODED] Great Products Begin with Customer Service: Redefining CX Across Industries

This season on "Decoded," presented by BigCommerce, we'll delve into the intricate processes behind successful brands. Discover how they conceptualize and debut new products, set their objectives, make pivotal decisions, and foster seamless collaboration across their teams to breathe life into a new product. Ever wondered how customer service evolved from merely addressing post-purchase issues to shaping the broader, more influential customer experience? How has this shift transformed our interactions and relationships with customers? And how is customer experience becoming more proactive rather than just reactive? Dive in to uncover these insights and more. Tune in now!

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this episode sponsored by

This season on "Decoded," presented by BigCommerce, we'll delve into the intricate processes behind successful brands. Discover how they conceptualize and debut new products, set their objectives, make pivotal decisions, and foster seamless collaboration across their teams to breathe life into a new product.

Ever wondered how customer service evolved from merely addressing post-purchase issues to shaping the broader, more influential customer experience? How has this shift transformed our interactions and relationships with customers? And how is customer experience becoming more proactive rather than just reactive? Dive in to uncover these insights and more. Tune in now!

“You can’t spell retail without AI.”

  • {00:08:42} - “Ultimately we want those shops who we heavily rely on to sell our bikes to have that same passion, that same understanding about our bikes. And also to know, this is why the price point is where it's at too. They need to understand that.” - Matt
  • {00:16:03} - “All these different manufacturers were rushing to get this e-bike out on the market because they wanted to capture that right off the bat. We took five years to develop that e-bike. Five years, 25 custom molds. And then we also created six different prototypes or mules, what we call them, in order to ride them, test them, try to blow them up, and see what we can do with them. And then ultimately we started racing them to see how they work and perform on the racetrack.” - Matt
  • {00:22:06} - “How do we get people to buy something in the midst of replacing a product? That's what the AI-driven solution is for SaaS in your customer experience team. But it's not going to make your support team fanatical about the product.” - Phillip
  • {00:26:01} - “The website is the gateway, whether it be chats, whether it be calls, whether it be emails. As recently as when I started 8 to 10 years ago at Industry West, we were still taking faxes, and so it is multichannel, but it all starts and ends with the website.” - Ian
  • {00:32:28} - “Marketing is not any longer where you're just figuring out who your target demographic is and how you're going to communicate to them and then which media you're going to use. Marketing now is every single touchpoint that the consumer has. All of that needs to live under the marketing function.” - Ingrid
  • {00:42:00} - “Customer experience directly is probably not involved until we are in the prototyping stage. But I say that because everything we prototype is built with the customer service team in mind.” - Kabeer
  • {00:49:42} - “Maybe the age of AI does help you create this media with the team you already have and the insights you already have into your relationship with your customer.” - Phillip

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Phillip: [00:00:03] Welcome to Decoded, a podcast by Future Commerce brought to you by BigCommerce. I'm Phillip.

Aaron: [00:00:11] I'm Aaron.

Phillip: [00:00:12] And we are decoding this season how a product gets made in the world, how we go from concept to cart. And here in Episode 4, we're breaking down this mysterious topic that we used to call customer service but is now called customer experience because it's not a cost center. Aaron. It's a profit center, or at least that's what the SaaS marketing has told me.

Aaron: [00:00:32] That's right. Customer experience is much easier to sell apps for. It's interesting to note that it's not just an eCommerce discipline or initiative. My personal history starting off in brick and mortar retail as a teenager working for my dad and later on for larger retailers the way you think of customer service a lot of times in brick and mortar retail is when that person walks up to the counter with something in their hand to return or they have a question or they have a problem. And the interaction is very bounded and very defined by the customer's intent. They're seeking you out. They have a specific problem that they are trying to resolve, and so you service their needs in that experience. Customer experience, as a phrase I feel like, implies so much more than just answering the question when they come up to the counter and they say, "I want to swap this item for this other one," or "I want to know where something is." We think of customer experience now in digital as being a lot more proactive, I think, than just responding to the service requests.

Phillip: [00:01:33] Proactive, I think, is one way to describe it. I think the other is really understanding that there is an entire process that goes into taking, I don't know, learnings. I don't know if I love the word learnings all the time, but you take these things that you learn that you're on the front lines of receiving either feedback about the product, the price, the shipping speed, or whatever happens in eCommerce, that may cause somebody to reach out to the team. You're bringing those back into the business, hopefully, to make it better and give you more perspective on how to deliver on a promise you've made to your customer and not to let them down. When people say, "Well, we talk to our customers," what they mean is that their customers are reaching out to them and they're trying to solve issues.

Aaron: [00:02:18] Did we do a survey? Did they scan the QR code to get a free large fry at the end of the order? Right?

Phillip: [00:02:24] Could be all of those things. {laughter}

Aaron: [00:02:26] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:02:27] I think the other challenge we have when talking about CX is that today the perspectives that we'll have from industry experts and people that are actually doing operations in-house at brands that touch CX every day is that eCommerce is just one sales channel in the larger multi-channel nature of a business today, and none of these brands and brand leaders that we're talking to sell purely online. And so their concept of what customer experience is is multifaceted and often differs from business to business because not all things are equal. There are no apples to apples in the way that one business conducts its marketing and its CX processes and product development to another.

Aaron: [00:03:14] Exactly. But it's funny because if you talk to any of the folks that we've talked to on this podcast and the people that you and I talk to in the course of our daily lives, I think all of them at brands would say they strive to have a unified customer experience regardless of the touchpoint. They want that brand identity to shine through brightly and mean something whether or not someone is buying on Amazon, buying at a large brick and mortar retailer, buying at a branded store through a distributor, or online through an owned digital channel. That's absolutely the aspiration. So I think it'll be interesting to talk to these people, our guests today, and hear how they view customer experience across all of those different channels and touchpoints.

Phillip: [00:03:58] And up first, I think it's really important to recognize that I think among this group of experts today that we talked to for this season of Decoded, this is the only person so far on this season who has the word customer experience in his title. Of course, we're talking about Matt Hicks, who is the Technology and Customer Experience Director at Yeti Cycles. He's going to tell us how he looks at customer experience through the lens of the fact that Yeti Cycles, a Heritage mountain biking brand that serves a number of people across different markets and market segments, how they think of retail as being an extension of customer experience.

Matt: [00:04:43] Thank you guys for having me. This is really cool. This is my first podcast that I've ever been on, so we'll see how well I do here.

Aaron: [00:04:50] I'd love to connect a little bit on a couple of things. I think one, you mentioned your dealer network or the network of shops that you have who perform, I guess, resale Yeti, I imagine. There's a retail aspect to this. You're wholesaling to them. They're selling retail, but they're also service centers who are maybe handling some of the things you were just talking about. The fixing, tuning the suspension, putting on some accessories, all the things that go into keeping the bike road-ready... Thinking about that as a channel for you guys and how you approach those partnerships, how you decide to add a new one... I was on your site looking for partners near me in Springfield, Missouri. And there actually there's a couple here, but there really aren't any for 150 miles in any direction from me, including Kansas City or St Louis and other major metro areas. And so I was just like, really? Little Springfield, Missouri has a partner with Yeti, but Kansas City and St Louis don't. I was just super interested in how you pick, how you grow, and how you decide to grow that dealer network because at some level those are your ambassadors too, and so the pace of Yeti's growth is going to be somewhat determined by the amount of partnerships that you have out in the world. So maybe talk a little bit about how you guys think of those relationships beyond as feedback for customer service, you know, warranty information. What goes into that? How do you decide to expand?

Matt: [00:06:14] Location is key for us. And that's one of the first things we kind of look at is, okay, are there any current dealers close by? We want to make sure that you're not stacking dealers on top of each other. That's not the idea is to make as much possible, you know, sell to many people as we possibly can. It has to actually be right. Another big thing is we look at say, what other high end brands are you currently selling? That's really important because we need to know that they can service our bikes as well too. You're hitting different demographics at that point to where you're saying, okay, well, if you sell lower end bikes, that's awesome. That's a different demographic than what our product is kind of positioned for. So we definitely have to take that into consideration saying, "Are you able to service and support these higher end brands? It's not cheap to have these on your floor either. Can you support that in a way?" But ultimately, it's like, how well are you going to service and actually show the Yeti brand out to folks too? And that's really important is that they understand our brand. So it is a vetting process that we have is like, "Hey, what do you know about Yeti?" That's always a question like tell us about Yeti. And that's really important to us is like, do you know the history of Yeti? Because there is so much history in this company that just people don't quite understand. And some people are ex-racers who started bike shops and it's like, "Heck yeah, we know." And those are the people we go after. It's like they understand the brand, they know how to sell it, but they also need to know our technology and be able to explain that to a consumer. And that's very, very important as well too, because our suspension platform is really, it's complex, but it's simple, but it's complex in a way. But you have to be able to understand and talk to a consumer correctly and say, "This is what it does ultimately," and that's really important for us is that they can explain the technology that's, you know, on the bike to say this is why this bike is better and this is why the price point for this bike is is higher than this bike right here because it has this, this and this and like ultimately go sit on the bike and ride it and then you'll know is kind of like a really important thing to us is like, can you get this out? Can you get this person on a trail and demo this bike? Because our demo crew here, once we have people coming back, they're all walking through the front door with a smile and they're just cracking up and say, "Holy crap, that was the best bike I've ever ridden in my life." And that's what we want to hear always. And that's ultimately what we're trying to do is give people these really great experiences. But [00:08:42] ultimately we want those shops who we heavily rely on to sell our bikes, we want them to have that same passion, that same understanding about our bikes. And also like, you know, this is why the price point is where it's at too. And they need to understand that. [00:08:56] So Yeti Cycles, we've been around since 1985, so fairly old mountain biking manufacturer. I guess one of the things a lot of people say is, "How would you describe Yeti Cycles?" We are a high performance, high end mountain biking manufacturer. We have our roots in racing. That's one of our things. So we all started off in racing and we still kind of when we design and develop, we we have racing in mind. We work with all our racers, ambassadors, and all that fun stuff, and also the way that we always say this is we build bikes that we want to ride and that's really important to us that we listen a lot to our customers and get feedback from all that, from our racers, from everybody. Ultimately, we really want to enjoy the product that we make. And we're very passionate about that product. So we put all of our money and all of our research and time into it and hard work into designing a bike that we are just going to go out and love riding. So that's a big deal for us here.

Aaron: [00:09:56] I always love talking to brands who are on BigCommerce who have that kind of passion for their product. You know your audience and your customers because you are your own audience and customers in a lot of respects. That must simplify a lot of the sort of brand meetings that you have where sometimes companies are like, "Well, who are we speaking to? Who is buying this stuff?" And you guys have that nailed. You mentioned was it 85, I think, was that when Yeti was founded? You're technically an elder millennial as a brand. So congratulations it's the best demographic or so I hear. So the Internet kind of showed up for all of us elder millennials at about the right time too when we were making that transition, I think, into adulthood. It became an actual business. So a lot of us, I think, grew up... Yeti, I think no exception to that. I'm super curious though, because I was going through the Yeti website prior to this call. The history aspect of the stories that you tell really stood out to me and I'm super curious. It's obvious that Yeti started with enthusiasts, started with people who were out there racing high performance bikes, to your point. How does that translate to digital for Yeti at this point? What's the Yeti Cycles sort of digital journey? Because you have a very offline product. In fact, people probably get your bikes to get away from the Internet, I'm guessing. How do you connect a product that is used predominantly offline by a passionate group of people and speak to them though, when they are sitting in front of a screen? How does that interaction work?

Matt: [00:11:26] Honestly, it's the first time I've ever heard of an elder millennial, so I'm going to embrace that as being an elder millennial and saying that it's pretty cool to be in that genre. I'm no longer a millennial, I'm now an elder millennial. Makes you feel aged here, so thank you for that. But the way that we kind of get our product out on the digital sense is that we've gone through a lot of renditions. We've always had some really highly talented people here. We don't really just go out and, you know, get as many people as we can. Our interview process is really key and we want to make sure they fit in with the culture here. And that's really important to us that our culture and we have this cool internal like guess it was very party, very racing, very get out there and go ride. We had to grow up a little bit, but it's all still there. We still have a lot of good times here, so we definitely had to with all the new, I'm going to age myself being the elder one, with all the new social media platforms coming out, the TikToks, the Instagrams, Facebooks, which has been around for a while, we actually had to kind of pivot that way. A lot of it was online. We started off online. Actually, you can go back and find some of our old versions of our website. And I went back and looked at it. I'm like, "Wow, this is crazy." And and our detail was there back then, which is cool, but we had to go and talk a different way to consumers and that's where the social media played in. But a lot of times it's word of mouth. We're a well known brand out in Colorado and we're gaining ground. We've had some insane racers that have raced for Yeti, and that's another good way we've gotten this publicity and kind of that word of mouth is like, oh, these people are riding bikes. I didn't even know they used to ride for Yeti a lot of times. So we got some really famous ex-racers and current racers that were on our platform before. So pretty dang cool. So it's a lot of word of mouth, a lot of just being out on the trail. So it's not necessarily always digital. Now it's turning into digital. People it's always not the greatest thing on their phones, on the trails. Hopefully they're stopped and they're, you know, showing off and taking cool pictures with themselves and their bikes. But a lot of it is we initiate the conversation on the trails with people, and that's a big deal for us and doing demos out with people and just kind of talking with everybody. That's super important for us to really connect with with everybody. And then we say, "Hey, go check us out online. Go look at Instagram." Our mail list isn't enormous by any means, but we want to really be specific in the people that we're talking to, and that is your elder millennial. And also you have people who we call them, you know, the dirt bag riders, right? Who, you know, their life is mountain biking. They might have a $2,000 car that they got used, but they have a $10,000 bike on top of that car and they're possibly sleeping in that car, but they're riding all over the place with it. So completely different types of audiences that we're working with there. So you got to talk in different ways to them for sure.

Phillip: [00:14:32] So product development happens, I'm sure, years in advance. Let's talk a little bit about those pieces and the kind of planning in the business that has to come about so that the right product is in front of the right customer at the right time. You have to look into the future a bit, right?

Matt: [00:14:47] A lot of people think try to figure out where do these ideas come from? Are they just following trends? What are they doing? I can give you a really good example of our e-bike. E-bikes blew up, right? You're seeing them all over the place now. And [00:15:03] people were rushing all these different manufacturers were rushing to get this e-bike out on the market because they wanted to capture that right off the bat. We took five years to develop that e-bike. We were one of the last brands to actually bring out an e-bike. So we did five years. Let me think about this. Five years, 25 custom molds. So when you do a bike, you have to get these custom molds and those molds are expensive. Let me start off with that. There's nothing cheap about creating these molds and how much development has to go into it. And then we also created six different prototypes or mules, what we call them, in order to ride them, test them, try to blow them up, and see what we can do with them. And then ultimately we started racing them to see how they work and perform on the racetrack.  [00:15:49]And that's really key for us to be able to see how this stuff works. So I'm fortunate enough to work with the research and development and engineering team and get to kind of sit next to them. I don't do that stuff, thank God, But I definitely get to hear what they're doing and how they're developing this stuff. It would blow your mind how much engineering goes into these bikes. It blows my mind and you think about it as like a high performance car, right? You just don't think that much about it's like, "Oh, it's just a bike." It is way more than that. And if you go onto our website, that's kind of how we try to explain it and show that story that there's way more to just coming up with an idea and saying, all right, here's your bike, doing one mold, one test drive. Okay, let's send it out to the market. It's nothing like that. So yeah, it's pretty cool. It's a cool process to see.

Aaron: [00:16:39] That's awesome. So you've got a whole R&D group then that's, I guess, on the other side of the wall that you just pointed to, maybe down the hall.

Matt: [00:16:46] Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron: [00:16:47] So they're always thinking about what the next frame is going to be, what the next style is going to be. And then it sounds like you have a pretty robust process for sort of testing the prototypes, prototyping out, testing, refining, testing, and refining until you're ready to take it to market. Like you just said, it took you five years to come out with an e-bike. That's why. You've got so much testing that goes into it. With the R&D group, do they decide on their own like, they wake up and like, "You know what? Time for a new bike." Or is there a calendar? What's driving them? What gets them started? What starts the process?

Matt: [00:17:31] How it works is we get feedback from customers. We get feedback from racers. We have a new racer or a new style of rider that comes to us and talks to us. We're like, "Wow, this is pretty cool." So Reed Boggs is an ambassador of ours or actually, he's on our team. He does freestyle riding. So we developed a dirt jumper specifically for him. He was coming back. He was first on our SB165, which was a little bit more of a freestyle bike. And then we wanted to take it to another level and we designed a dirt jumper for him. One of our top racers in the world right now... He's winning right now. He's an Enduro World Series racer. He is absolutely crushing it. He's just a beast of a racer. His name is Richie Rude. He came from a downhill background. That's where he started. And then he got into the Enduro circuit with us, and then he's like, "You know what? I want to try out downhill again." And came to us and talked to us about I'm like, "We'll put together a downhill bike for you. So that was a whole nother nut job of a bike that was just turned out to be absolutely amazing. But ultimately it's coming from these different sources. Our owners will come in, Chris and Hoog will say they come up with some ideas like, "Why don't we try this? Why don't we try a lighter bike? Why don't we try this type of bike?" It all starts from different teams that we have here and we all get together. We're not a huge corporate company. We have meetings and we go and have beers and drinks and all the time together and just sit and brainstorm like, "Oh man, wouldn't it be awesome to have this?" And that's where a lot of these ideas come out from. And like, "Oh man, I really want to ride this bike." And so like, again, what I was saying before is we design bikes that we want to ride and that's where it comes from, is like one of us internally might have an idea and we're like, "Oh, let's do it." And so then the engineering team is like, "Oh man, okay, that's going to take some time, but let's get after it." And then they start planning it all out. So it's pretty cool. It's pretty cool to see. Every year we do something called the Yeti Gathering and basically we pick somewhere remote out in Colorado and we invite our core customers to come and party with us for three days. And what we do is we pick out this epic bike ride and then we all go and ride together and then we party together at night and we have a few beers maybe, and just some drinks. And we all kind of get together, hang out. The customers are mingling with all of our staff and we get a lot of feedback directly from that. So we'll talk to people like, "Oh, it'd be awesome if you could do this." And that's not only bikes too. We also sell apparel. We actually have invested a lot of time and money into our apparel line. We want to have as good of apparel as we do our bikes. So we're putting a lot of effort into that as well too, so that gathering is a blast. And if any Yeti riders are out there and they're listening to this, I would say, please come to a gathering and party with us. You will not regret it and you'll be back year after year after year for it.

Aaron: [00:20:40] The energy level and passion from Matt talking about the products was so palpable on our call. The enthusiasm and care that he and clearly the rest of Yeti have for their customers. But it's just an extension of the fact that they're all great enthusiasts for their products and when we hear the word customer service, we think of like another department. We think of like a desk that you walk to, like I was talking about earlier. And yet I feel from listening to Matt that if you are building the products for yourself, customer experience is just internalized instead of externalized. It's not a separate department. It's not somebody else's responsibility to take care of. It's the brand's responsibility.

Phillip: [00:21:24] Everybody's responsibility.

Aaron: [00:21:26] Yeah, you treat your customers the way you would want to be treated because you are your customer. Talk about empathy.

Phillip: [00:21:33] The thing is that SaaS alone can't give you the same kind of empathy necessarily. Can't give you that same kind of fervor that Matt has for his customer because he is his customer. SaaS can only automate the responses that you had, say a ticket that was opened years ago that tends to lead to a favorable outcome, like, I don't know, turning your customer service center into a profit center. [00:22:06] How do we get people to buy something in the midst of replacing a product? That's what the AI-driven solution is for SaaS in your customer experience team. But it's not going to make your support team fanatical about the product. [00:22:21]

Aaron: [00:22:21] No, and nor will it make your customers fanatical about the product if they weren't already. I think to build that kind of loyalty and to build that kind of fan base requires offline touchpoints, which is one of the reasons why I think once the... Can I say in this post-pandemic world, I cringe at the phrase now just because I've heard it so many times, but we've seen such a rush back to in-person. Because we do crave, as much as we may want to digitize the experiences because it scales easier, people, all of us as authentic human beings, want to have one on one interactions with other human beings, and there is no substitute for that.

Phillip: [00:23:06] One person who knows a lot about that is our repeated guest, Ian Leslie, who's a CMO over at Industry West. And he has a really fine point that he puts on this idea of customer experience is that there's an expectation at their price point with the type of product that they're selling, that there will be a human connection before, during, and after the purchase. And so let's listen to a little bit of Ian's perspective and how it bridges and blurs this line between B2B and B2C and how they just make an expectation and set the expectation that there's going to be a human touch.

Ian: [00:23:46] So I think a lot particularly on the B2B side or the trade side, a lot of the customer experience still has the expectation of needing to go through a customer rep or through a sales rep, and even we still see the questions like, "Is there a sales rep for my region? As if like, just a very old school, I'm going to show up with encyclopedias at your door, and here's my sales rep for the Northeast. We don't do that. We're a round robin where call comes in, rep takes call. But we're in a bit of an old school vertical when it comes to that. So we do build, we try to build great experiences on the eCommerce side. We're actually in the process of retheming yet again. And ultimately the website is the front door. Everything is through the website. Now only I'd say 20 on any given month you're talking 20 to 40% of actual transactions are occurring, well, I'd say cash is coming in via the website. Our transaction volume is actually higher on the website than the sales rep, but it's a lower AOV as opposed to our sales reps doing more of the trade business and the website doing more of the consumer business. But that being said, [00:25:01] the website is the gateway, whether it be chats, whether it be calls, whether it be emails. As recently as when I started 8 to 10 years ago at Industry West, we were still taking faxes, and so it's yeah, it is multichannel, but it all starts and ends with the website. [00:25:20] We have a truck right now that is driving around Manhattan skinned with Industry West promotion creative on it and it's sending them to the website and then they're going to either chat with Rocco or they're going to pick up the phone and call and get Brian and that'll start the process. But yeah. So I mean, it's interesting because you want to drive as much web commerce and web sales as possible because it's the most efficient, but with the clear understanding that still, I think, as long as I'm here, it's going to be a majority offline that actually drives the sale. Our Founder, Jordan England and I were slacking this morning and that actually came up. It was just like, the answer is yes. The answer is always yes. And so that's job one at customer experience. The customer's always right. For Industry West we're an aspirational brand. We like to term ourselves an aspirational but accessible brand. So we're not Restoration Hardware, we're not Wayfair. [00:26:27] We're definitely in a little bit of a middle ground there in terms of furniture and our price point. But with that aspirational nudge and that aspirational experience, the customer experience has to be there as well. So our expectations with our clients is a good customer experience on the website, excellent responsiveness in terms of whether it be chat or calls or emails, etcetera. [00:26:53] And that goes all the way from the consumer side, someone buying, you know, an end table, an ottoman, a sofa to someone who is buying 100, 200 chairs for a restaurant or a hotel or a larger project. So [00:27:13] we definitely cradle to grave, want to provide the utmost in terms of customer experience, and never, never leave a customer on red, as the kids say. [00:27:24]

Aaron: [00:28:25] Well, Phillip, I think after hearing from Yeti Cycles and from Industry West, they both identify as aspirational brands to their customers, which is a great place to be, right? You have so many advocates for your brand. You can build a community around your brand in a way that can be challenging for more commoditized offerings. I think where that brand identity again comes through in every interaction and the customer experience, it's the customer experience of aspiring to own the product that begins very, very early in the overall cycle. And I think it speaks to the idea that your customer experience is part of your overall brand marketing, maybe your brand positioning.

Phillip: [00:29:13] Yeah, we actually had that same conversation with Ingrid Milman Cordy over at Nestle Health Science about their perspective, something I'd never heard before about this idea that customer service is part of marketing. Customer service helps to create better experiences for the customer before the purchase. But I would almost even extend that further backward to say that for both Industry West and Yeti, aspirational products become aspirational because there is a segment of the marketplace that creates its own demand because it's a product that you see that other people have that you want.

Aaron: [00:29:56] You believe there's a brand promise behind those products. You believe that you will be the best version of yourself by owning that product and that there's a commitment the brand is making to you that's going to extend after you've given them your money, which I don't think we can say for all of the things that we buy on a daily basis.

Phillip: [00:30:13] Oh, sure. And they become inherently shareable experiences, right? I have something really beautiful or something really exciting as say, a mountain bike. There are things that I'm more willing to share. And I think that the same could be said of great customer experience transactions. When you have a problem that was resolved or you have a question that was answered quickly or you got really great advice on the use of a product, especially for things that are around health concerns, like what Nestlé Health Science often addresses, when you have a great experience there about something that you deeply care about emotionally, you're more willing to share that which becomes its own form of marketing. And I don't know that you can encourage those sorts of things directly with software, but software definitely plays a role in the way that you both deliver the message quickly and efficiently to the customer, but also follow up and talk to them I think on a more human level in the future. So maybe customer experience and customer service is part of marketing after all. Let's hear from Ingrid as she tells us how she thinks about customer service at Nestlé Health Science.

Aaron: [00:31:34] You've got a customer service team, let's say. Most brands do. Might be big, might be small. Maybe it's a variety of roles spread out across, you know, a lot of different touchpoints in the organization. When do you bring those folks into the conversation, into the maybe either the product design or into the actual go-to-market planning to get their feedback on what you just said, how to incorporate that into the overall strategy?

Ingrid: [00:32:01] Yeah, no, for sure. So this is hitting on a principle that I have to begin with, which is just organizationally all of those consumer-facing teams and functions need to live within the marketing function, and so not every organization has it that way. And I know I'm getting a raised eyebrow sort of look from you. Well, because [00:32:28] marketing is not any longer where you're just figuring out who your target demographic is and how you're going to communicate to them and then which media you're going to use. That's your traditional way of looking at marketing. Marketing now is every single touchpoint that the consumer has marketing is responsible for. So whether that's your DTC business, whether that's digital media, whether that's your in-store messaging, whether that's customer service, all of that. All of that needs to live under the marketing function, [00:33:08] and so once you have that consolidated and clear and that principle is in place, it's much easier to then have the marketing team and the marketing leader be involved at the very beginning of those conversations with product, because then you're not bringing in different levels of different people and you also have a really clear sense of how you're going to go to market with the product and even before the product is created.

Aaron: [00:33:36] I like it. Very bold. That's good stuff. I wrote down as you were talking, customer experience is marketing. Customer success is marketing. Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:33:43] Sure. Yes. I would say if you are thinking about the customer experience after the purchase, literally after the purchase, you're already six months late to the prom. And what I mean by that is even when you are thinking about a new product that you're going to offer, we already have to start thinking about what that retention flow is going to look like and how we're going to also be able to meet those two goals, which I would assume is getting new customers with this new product, but also re-engaging your existing customers. And frankly, that is different. The actions and the way that you're going to go to market with those two goals is very different. And when you're not thinking about that at the onset of introducing a product, because let's be honest, every single time we introduce a new product and a go-to-market strategy for that product, it's very rare that we're thinking about it in that duality framework. And I really think that the times where we did think about it like, what are the new customers and how do we need to introduce this to the market and how do we do that differently but still cohesively to our existing customers? And that's something that needs to live in your go-to-market strategy, it even needs to live in your product development strategy. And so that is what I would say is don't think about that retention and what happens after you've acquired the customer and they've made the transaction. At that point, you're already behind the times. And they both have very different KPIs and they have different ways to engage with them. You'll probably have a more robust email strategy or SMS strategy or a loyalty program strategy for one set of customers versus different messaging and different channels probably, and different ways of activating those campaigns to the new customers. And I just think that more often than not, that duality is not demonstrated. And frankly, there needs to be different budgets allocated, so you need to have a different budget for your new customers versus... Sorry, this is daggers in the heart of most marketing directors who are already struggling to meet their budgets. But no, truly, I think this is part of the front game. So that would be my biggest piece of advice there is just thinking about it in the upfront.

Aaron: [00:36:23] Phillip, we just heard from Ingrid, and I thought it was a pretty bold statement of hers that customer service should be in the marketing organization. I think we both agree that's a perspective we've not heard. But it makes so much sense when we think about what we've heard from the other guests on this episode about how they view customer experience as part of the overall brand proposition and how that has to inform everything from the value proposition of the brand, the product design, the marketing to the ideal customer, and then of course, the whole support of the journey and post-purchase touchpoints along the way. Thinking back, we talked to Kabeer at Burrow earlier in the season, and he had told a story about a challenge that Burrow had, and listening to Kabeer's story, what I heard was the customer experience of the new line that they were wanting to launch, the existing customers that they had were not the right people to be talking to, to understand how to position and price their new line because they were deliberately trying to target a brand new audience who wasn't already familiar with the brand and they were relying on familiarity with the brand to set the price level for the new furniture line. And I think a little bit about how that ties in beautifully with what Ingrid was just talking about, the marketing and the research, for your prospective new customer. Those aren't people that you have a quantified set of survey responses and recorded interactions to go look at. You have to think about that almost in terms of marketing, right?

Phillip: [00:38:18] Yeah, I think so. And it's funny because when we had that conversation with Ingrid, I sort of cocked my head a bit and said, "Is that right?" But actually now thinking about it it's just it's such a shorthand way of saying that customer experience is involved in every facet of the business, even from the concept of the product forward. Kabeer actually validates that later on in our conversation in talking about how early is too early to have customer service involved. He gave us one contrasting example of talking to customer service or customer experience early on in the process, and it sort of giving them some false sense of diligence that they've given into the launch of a new product. Today, Kabeer talked about when to involve them while it's in the prototyping stage because the prototyping stage or the creation of a product does have sort of the human component, not necessarily the market segment and how you market the product, but in the way that the product is built to head off potential friction points specifically around the assembly and the portability of the furniture. So to your point, I think that's correct. I think that the impact of CX in a business is felt across the whole organization in the buyer journey from awareness all the way to purchase and repurchase and loyalty. But let's listen to Kabeer and talk about how he contrasts that experience of when to involve customer service.

Kabeer: [00:39:56] When we launched our second or third seating collection, the first one was Nomad, the second one was Rain, and the third one, was Field. Again, you know, gone through our principles, our processes, having surveyed customers and talked to them, we were very sure in our process, we were very sure in our design, we were very sure in our production. And this was supposed to be, in general, a net new ad of customers. It was going to appeal to a different set of customers that we didn't already have, so we assumed we would see increase in top line revenue. Very simple goal. We launched the product and it just didn't take off. It was a first for us where we've launched something and it just did not have the desired effect that we thought it would. That was surprising to everyone because we had followed what we thought was a recipe for success up until then, and you ask how the measurement went wrong there. I think we were looking at the wrong thing, which is we were looking at it in a vacuum, like did it succeed or not by looking at top line numbers? What we didn't really look at because we were still nascent is how is this priced compared to everything else that we're offering. We were offering a net new product that had no real brand behind it. Our other two collections were pretty mature, had a large audience, they had reviews, they had press around it. And so anyone coming to site saw this new product that was priced higher, didn't really have any social proof or backing behind it. And literally, like a flip of a switch when we worked on margin and reduced prices to be more competitive with the others, we saw that top line slowly go up. It is now one of the most successful products we have. But I think again, we just were very nascent in how we measured things and didn't really put things into context with the other parts of the business.  [00:56:10]Customer experience directly is probably not involved until we are in the prototyping stage. But I say that because everything we prototype is built with the customer service team in mind. [00:56:23] How easy is it going to be for our eventual customers to think through how a product gets put together, how we can expand and what kind of questions our CX team will receive once this product is at our customer's door? Once we get the prototype, that is when our customer service team gets to basically tear down the product, break it, and suggest improvements. And at that point, we also provide them with sort of what are the list of materials, how it comes together, and where it's made. That is the information that we then arm them with both online and offline. Another piece of the furniture industry where customer experience is heavily involved and this is where most NPS scores take a nosedive is the product getting to the customer. Where my order? Especially difficult in furniture because most people have to deal with trucks. Service providers that are third party contracted from a furniture manufacturer who is selling through a distributor. So you are many, many levels away from who is making your product to who is delivering your product. To that end, we make sure the technology we have really empowers both the customers and our customer experience agents. Our products, as said maybe a million times, are modular. So each item ships in multiple boxes. At any moment in time, not only does the customer know where every box is and what part it has, but so does our customer service team. So there's never a question of like, where is the order? We're also very, very specific about estimating when things ship, unlike most furniture manufacturers.

Phillip: [00:58:06] Well, Aaron, you know what we haven't heard about yet?

Aaron: [00:58:10] What haven't we heard about yet?

Phillip: [00:58:12] We haven't heard about AI yet.

Aaron: [00:58:14] Oh my God. And you can't spell retail without AI.

Phillip: [00:58:18] {laughter} I've heard someone say that before. That's very good. I might have tweeted that just a little bit ago. Yeah. You can't spell retail without AI. A lot of the productization of customer experience as a facet of eCommerce has been utilizing AI or has used the words AI or machine learning in recent years. And that is because there's a repetitive nature that you can certainly learn from of the types of interactions you have with a customer. The types of responses that usually elicit a positive outcome. So there's a lot to be learned in CX from AI, but how do you think AI will impact CX, Aaron?

Aaron: [00:59:01] It's interesting. I think we're definitely in a post-chatbot world. I mean, we've had that sort of very walled off version of customer service. I think we've all gone through the experience of there's an error on a website, you're given an error number and then you're told to paste it into an interaction with a chatbot so you can resolve, and then the chatbot will of course not know what to do with the error. Like we've been there, we've done the like, what's your return policy? That's all very quantifiable, but that's, I think if we've learned anything from everyone we've spoken with in this episode is that that is the thinnest, lowest calorie version of customer experience out there. And it's what's AI going to do for the rest of customer experience? And I'm interested in personalization and negotiation a little bit as possible places for AI, basically assisted selling and assisted selling in a way that feels authentic to the brand and not simply like a third party app that you paid for. And it's the way in which a company might tailor offers to a customer or tailor messaging to a customer that's brand new to the website, brand new to the brand versus how you might position and price a repeat visitor. This has been around for a while.

Phillip: [01:00:30] Oh yeah. And you don't necessarily need AI or machine learning or neural networks to give you that sort of insight. I think people actually have done this for years in scripts and playbooks. I come from the the old age of eCommerce where they had actual binders that would lead you through a playbook of how to deal with certain types of issues and in certain types of businesses. So let's say if that's the service aspect, how does CX become proactive instead of just reactive? Because we think a lot of at least the SaaSification of CX is still just trying to respond to an ecosystem that was very ticket-based and issue resolution centric. What are the types of things that we can consider to be proactive?

Aaron: [01:01:28] I think educational content is a big piece there. I've been a little bit of a kick lately with various generative AI learning programs and things like that, where the experience is sort of automatically curated based on what you show an interest in and the time you spend answering questions. And your answers can prompt different forking paths kind of in the overall interaction. That kind of thing is really interesting. If I'm Yeti or if I'm Industry West or any kind of high consideration merchant, maybe there's an opportunity there to showcase both visually and through text other people using the product based on things that I know about you, the visitor, in a way that feels very organic and feels very specific to me. And in addition to training me on how I should use the product, I think a little bit about I think Matt talked about this, which is I buy the bike and something goes wrong with it, and I don't know necessarily that it's a simple fix and I have a negative experience now with the brand because of my own ignorance. He didn't say it that way, but I'll paraphrase a little bit and think about how generative AI could be used to proactively head things like that off at the pass, so to speak, in the overall brand journey in a way that like I said, feels organic and is actually useful to the person on the receiving end of it.

Phillip: [01:03:01] And some of those things may not even be necessarily just like I think we tend to think of these things like, Oh, it's the chatbot that is responding to an issue in the moment. To be proactive, maybe some of this is, well, what's part of the marketing communications and sort of onboarding workflows? What are the kinds of pieces of short-form media and content that could be created that head off some of these friction points at the pass?

Aaron: [01:03:27] Absolutely.

Phillip: [01:03:28] So that maybe you don't need to launch an entire campaign of influencers or UGC-centered content that's creating this content for you, outsourcing it to an agency. It sounds very tough and expensive and a big distraction. Hey, [01:03:42] maybe the age of AI does help you create this media with the team you already have and the insights you already have into your relationship with your customer. [01:03:51]

Aaron: [01:03:51] Absolutely. And extending that even past eCommerce I was just reading a story today about Amazon adding their just walk out technology, the RFID scanning to new stores, stadiums, grocery stores, adding it so it's no longer just the grocery piece. I think we've all kind of encountered maybe in various places, and I think about what retail looks like if there are no associates, how does the brand then communicate with someone who just came in to self-checkout, right? Is generative AI possibly some kind of tool that could be used to have a live like interaction around that particular brand's product with someone where there's no human in the room to have that interaction with? Is there a proxy? Could AI be an effective proxy for the brand?

Phillip: [01:04:35] I'm glad to have gone through this. I think this is a great way to frame up the absence of an obvious conversation these days in the eCommerce ecosystem. Thank you for listening to this episode of Decoded by Future Commerce, presented this season in partnership with BigCommerce. If you want to find more episodes of this podcast and other Future Commerce properties, visit us at Thanks so much for listening to Decoded. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce podcast properties at You can also subscribe to our newsletter, which comes out three times a week at

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