Get up close and personal with … Blake Morgan

Blake Morgan is a leader in customer experience. She is a keynote speaker and customer experience futurist and author of two books including the new "The Customer Of The Future: 10 Guiding Principles For Winning Tomorrow's Business" (HarperCollins). Her first book was "More is More: How The Best Companies Work Harder And Go Farther To Create Knock Your Socks Off Customer Experiences."

She has worked with Comcast, Allstate, Genentech, Accor Hotels, Accenture, Adobe, Parker Hannifin, Ericsson, Verizon, Omron and more. Blake is a guest lecturer at Columbia University as well as adjunct faculty at the Rutgers executive education MBA program. Blake contributes to Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and Hemispheres Magazine.

She is the host of The Modern Customer Podcast and a weekly customer experience video series on YouTube. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, daughter and their two dogs. For bookings email her or call 347 907 0968.

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To view the full interview, please click the video below 👇

Release date: August 6, 2019

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We ‘r’ Future: Well, welcome to another We R Future Talk Series. Today we are joined by Blake Morgan and I'm very excited for her to share her experience, especially in the customer experience side of things and also talk a little bit about her book and how she got to where she is now. So please Blake would you like to start by introducing who you are, what are you doing and how did you get to where you are now.

Blake: I would love to. Well Petra, thank you so much for having me on your show. Basically I've been in the Customer Experience space for over 10 years and I became interested in the topic purely by chance working in New York City for a conference company. I worked in Customer Service as an Executive for a Fortune 500 company and didn't like that too much but loved the thought leadership around this really growing space of Customer Experience. And so I fell in love with it really and about five years ago focused purely on thought leadership around it with my Forbes column, I have a podcast show called The Modern Customer and I bring my message to audiences all around the world by doing keynote speeches. And even I believe you're in Australia I've been to Melbourne twice to do speeches and Sydney. So yes, so it's all about Customer Experience. It's all about thought leadership and I really was in the right place at the right time to become so lucky to be able to talk about this wonderful subject.

We ‘r’ Future: And why Customer Experience? Why has it become so important especially over the last few years? 

Blake: We've become so commoditized with our products and services. So basically you go to the grocery store, let's say you're in Melbourne Australia where you live, how many different types of bread are there? Like a hundred types of bread on the Shelf. It's all very confusing and how does one Bread Company differentiate their product? And so really it's about experience. So the only way now to make people remember you is to focus on providing this elevated customer experience and you can do that in two ways. You can make people's lives easier and better and you can make them feel special. And so if you want to differentiate among a sea of sameness, you have to just differentiate on experience. And companies know that but when it comes to executing on customer experience, they fall flat all too often.

We ‘r’ Future: And would you say it comes down to a like of branding or like of being clear on the venues or simply like of not knowing that customer experience is the part that differentiates them from others?

Blake: I think there's a lack of a mission and vision where the brand is truly aligned with the actual experience of the customer. I think most companies really have no idea what the actual experience is like of the person who buys their product. They don't spend time in what is called Micro Journeys. They don't spend time walking through the website, making sure all of their channels are seamless for both employees and customers. Because one of the common missteps is that companies are set up in such a siloed manner, this is not a new business challenge I'm telling you about. But because of digital transformation and the new customer preference of shopping where they want, when they want, connectivity. So communicating when they want, where they want, it has forced these companies to provide more seamless technology driven experiences, but they're really struggling to do so. And some companies have gone through a digital transformation and come out on the other side, but it takes a really long time. Like for example Best Buy is a company based here in the United States, their stock dipped at the beginning of their digital transformation, but after seven years they're seeing steady growth. Similar to Target, another retailer. Not to be confused with Target Australia, which I learned is a completely different company. They kind of ripped off the same Brand and name of the American Target, no offense to Australians. But the point is digital transformation is something that many companies are starting to dip their toe in but research shows that most Executives just don't feel ready and they know the threat of disruption is on the horizon, but they're not organized and set up to get started to clean up the mess inside the organization which can be felt on the outside of the organization. 

We ‘r’ Future: And why do you think that companies & Executives are not ready for the transformation? Is it a lack of skill set or is it a lack of the growth mindset? Is it fear of losing something that they've held on for so long? What is the reason? 

Blake: It's mostly the focus of the senior team, the Board, the c-level executives. I can assure you, if the Board and the CEO say, hey Customer Experience is our number one priority, get it together, then all of the rest of the c-suite will follow and then their reports will follow and it will go trickle down throughout the organization. But companies don't have this alignment, this vision often from the C level Executives. When you think about it, a CEO is usually brought in for a few years at a time and they're brought in to make the company money which makes the Board happy, which drives a stock price up. So if the company is doing well, quarter-to-quarter everybody's happy. But in order to make these long-term Investments and Customer Experience, we can't only be thinking quarter to quarter. We have to think about these long-term relationships, Investments that could take years to pay off. I believe most CEOs and most Senior Executives are just not willing to look bad and be misunderstood in the short-term. Companies that do this well are often companies with founder CEOs, where the CEO is actually the founder of the company and feels comfortable making decisions that could be misunderstood by Wall Street, by the community in order to provide the most value to the customer and to the employees. And examples of this are companies like Apple, of course the CEO is no longer, you know Steve Jobs, but I mean that was a great example. We also have Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Reed Hastings of Netflix, Spotify is another example. Even Capital One, a Bank here in the US that's only like 30 something years old, but they managed so much money and continue to grow at such an exponential rate that no other company, no other bank has the same type of focus on Innovation because we have this founder CEO that really is not concerned with being misunderstood or seen as kind of weird by the Board. 

We ‘r’ Future: Yes. Sure. And what would be an advice or a recommendation from your side for companies who are quite traditional? Maybe a new CEO has just been appointed, wants to make a difference, wants to make a change, but not sure where to start. What do we need to take in consideration for this different transformation?

Blake: You have to start by being an excellent listener and that's what I hear again and again from c-level Executives who are new to their role. Who even I heard recently I met the Chief Experience Officer of Cisco who is newly appointed and she told me, I went to their event Cisco Live and I asked her, what is the first thing you did? She has a huge responsibility. Cisco just reorganized the company to focus on Customer Experience and now rebranded their Services Group to be the Customer Experience Group. So they actually have a Customer Experience team of 27,000 employees. Pretty shocking if you think about it. And what Maria Martinez, the Chief Experience Officer said is that she just did a listening tour where she really paid attention to the needs of the business and that's the way to be a great problem solver. To be creative is to just really start listening and I hear this again and again, I also heard it when I was interviewing the Chief Technology Officer of Sephora, the retailer for my book, The Customer of the Future. He told me, "You know Blake, when I first started here, I don't know anything about Cosmetics. I've never worked in makeup, but I just really wanted to listen and understand the needs of the business. And so I went also on this listening spree to not have a traditional technology office which often can be, thou shall follow attitude, where the CTO makes all the decisions in a vacuum, dictates what needs to be done." He wanted a more collaborative office where he had a good relationship with the other leaders at Sephora and he did that and they have also been through a digital transformation. Another retailer that has been incredibly successful after going through these transformations.

We ‘r’ Future: I love this approach of listening first before you put anything out there and take the focus away from what you think is best, but actually seeing and listening what is best, what your customers are saying. So that's obviously a skill set in demand or relevant for those future roles and focusing on the customer experience. Where or what are the skill sets do you see are relevant for the future of work and roles in the future of work? 

Blake: The future of work is about being an open minded curious person that isn't afraid of Technology, of things like robotic process automation, AI and machine learning because these are the tools that we will be using in the future and they will help us. They will help make our lives easier as employees to remove all the tedious work that we have to do so we can focus on high level experiences for our employees and our customers. And I think to succeed tomorrow we can't be afraid, we have to be curious and interested in these new technologies that will change the landscape of the world. But we need smart thoughtful people making big decisions for our companies that consider Humanity, that consider the employee, that consider the customer because what I see right now on the ground in Customer Experience is so many companies use technology in the wrong way. They're using technology to create space between their brands and their customers. For example, let's say you're in Australia, you go to the store and you do self checkout. Often it's clunky, it doesn't work, there are problems with it, so a lot of these Technologies are released too early, too soon and they start simply just make the customer now do the work.

Because you might have self checkout that works well, but the customer now has to bag her own groceries at the store which can be tedious and annoying. So it's about thinking really thoughtfully about the technology that we use in our strategy when it comes to employee experience, when it comes to customer experience. It's not just about, oh everybody is creating a chatbot so we should do it too. But being thoughtful about what is the experience actually like for the person on the receiving end of what we're offering.

We ‘r’ Future: Yes, and I mean, I see that you are obviously also passionate about education and the future generation. You're also teaching at Universities. Which advice would you give experienced professionals to up skill and learn those new skills, but also for students and up and coming professionals to get ahead and stay relevant in this ever changing environment?

Blake: I would say that the best thing you can do is invest in yourself by exposing yourself to new people, ideas, organizations. I admit that my whole life I followed my passion which was writing and I thought I would have a traditional journalism job. I moved to New York City, I was going to be a big fashion or culture critic and be just like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City. Well, the world had another vision in store for me because there were no journalism jobs. By the time I left school we started to see online content becoming bigger and bigger and so I ended up moving into online content but always following my passion of writing. So really pay attention to what you're interested in. Go do internships, expose yourself to people who are doing things that you think look interesting even if it's not maybe exactly what you had in store. I think that's another important thing for young people today. You don't always get what you think you want, but it could lead you to something better. Like in my life when I was given jobs, I often didn't want the job. Like I was working in Customer Service, I never wanted to work in Customer Service. I thought maybe it was beneath me but I did it to get experience working in a big Corporation. It led me to this path I have now of being an author and a speaker because I have a niche that a lot of other people don't have. They've never worked in Customer Service and so it led me to Customer Experience. So the point is expose yourself to other people and things, be curious, follow your passions and you might not get what you think you want, but eventually just keep following these open doors, it will lead you somewhere. So just have faith to keep going.

We ‘r’ Future: I couldn't agree more because we can obviously learn from books but until we have done something and experienced it outside we just don't know. You can only do so much desk research, but you never know if it's the right fit for you until you've actually tried and experienced it. What about more experienced professionals who have been, you know in the industry maybe for 10, 20, 30 plus years, have always been interested or maybe have just been put into roles by chance and they feel it's not the right thing for them anymore? What advice would you give them to see if another career might be a better opportunity but also another chance to transform the organization based on their Vision? Where do we start?  

Blake: Okay Petra, so this is a loaded two part question. So you asked me about maybe an older person that wants to change careers first, but you also asked me about a person working in an organization that wants to make change or do something different. Is that right? 

We ‘r’ Future: Exactly. Any kind of change when we see it's just not the right fit. Let's do something different. Where do we start? 

Blake: I would say for an older person, I'm going to answer this in two parts because that's the way I have organized it in my brain and I want your listeners to understand what I'm saying. So the first part is, if you're an older person that is tired of your job, maybe that's a wakeup call. It's time to make a change. That's good information for you. Think about some of the things that people have asked you to do over the years that maybe you've done just for family or friends or a colleague at work asked to help with something and pay attention to that because those are other skill sets that might be useful in an actual job or career, and meditate about it. Think about it, go for long walks, write in your Journal, spend time with yourself. Maybe the spiritual side to think, well what is it that lights you up that engages you. It doesn't have to be your passion, but it's something that you can do and you can sell because you have to be able, we live in a capitalist Society. You have to be able to sell a product or service so don't take a risk without being thoughtful about what it is you think is in demand that you could sell but take some time to really think about, well what are your best skills and your traits. What are things people have asked you to do? Write it down in a journal. I said, I'm a big fan of meditation, long walks, exercise and personally that is where I get my best ideas, my most creative ideas, is when I'm walking my dogs, when I'm not in front of my computer. And the second piece is, if you're an older, actually if you're a younger, I think it's still relevant. If you want to change your organization, you can change your organization but it is hard and my advice for people ask me this question is to go out and find advocates. People who share your values, who see your vision and get it. Don't pay attention to the naysayers. Ignore negativity. Don't engage with it. Onward and upward. But if for some reason at your company it's extremely negative, it's a toxic culture, you really don't feel camaraderie there, you don't have any advocates and you have the opportunity to go elsewhere, I would. Because sometimes companies are so toxic, they're never going to change. The culture is never going to change. The company doesn't care about Innovation. I would say jump ship and go somewhere else even if you aren't sure, just start interviewing to expose yourself and see that what you have in front of you, you're not stuck with. There are better environments out there and you deserve that. Because what I found Petra, is that often customer-centric companies are also employee centric. So that means if you're working for a company that is not employee centric, that doesn't value innovation and creativity, you should know that the customer experience is probably also pretty bad. 

We ‘r’ Future: I just wanted to--

Blake: And that's my advice for those two different scenarios and groups.

We ‘r’ Future: I love these answers and to be honest I couldn't agree anymore, especially these days where you know, Australia and probably it's a worldwide situation that we're facing. We've got a talent shortage for those up-and-coming skill sets and talents are, you know, they've got the choice where they're going. So an employer brand, a compelling employer brand is becoming more and more important. And I wanted to ask, what is your take on the parallel between the customer experience and the employee experience? And you already answered it like perfectly.

Blake: You know, it's really about employer brand. In my book, in my marketing chapter, I wrote about how now all of your employees are extensions of your brand. How do they act online? How do they act offline in the real world? And so that means it's so important that we hire not just for skill set, but we hire emotionally into intuitive intelligent people. People that we can trust. Because employees are extensions of your brand and some of the best companies, they have this view that everyone works in Customer Service at the company. No matter who you are talking to as a customer, that employee should be an extension of the brand because the customer doesn't care who you are and what your title is. Their experience of your brand is impacted by the person they engage with. So employer branding is really important. Today the CMO needs to consider that even hiring and up skilling and training can be part of what they do because everyone is an extension of the brand at the company and that is marketing. 

We ‘r’ Future: Absolutely. And in your book you give some examples on how best companies work hard and go further to create this knock off your socks customer experiences. Could you maybe share one or two of those experiences that really make an impact? 

Blake: Absolutely. That's my first book. It's called, More Is More, because really it is more. The book talks about some of the best companies today that are focusing on Customer Experience. Capital One is a company I love to talk about, because they have such a strong culture and what they do really well is empower their people. So I love to tell the story of a customer named Tanya, she was dumped by her fiancé, an agent at Capital One gave Tanya, basically a bunch of free money to go on vacation because she could tell that this customer was just so broken hearted and upset because she was dumped. She said go on vacation and have a great time. The story ended up being picked up by The Ellen Show, which gets hundreds of millions of views and that's not the only example of Capital One, of these standout customer experiences. They come from their culture. Their culture of trust, which you really can't buy. It has to be established by the founders. Again, founder CEO at Capital One. And they have to trust and empower their agents to do the right thing for the customer. If you think about it Petra your experience as a customer, you probably don't have interactions like this very often, where an agent says, you know what Petra I see you, I hear you, I want to send you on vacation because you seem so bummed out and I want to make your day better. I want to make you smile. Nobody says that. We treat our employees like robots and they treat our customers like robots. So I like to say that we're so afraid of robots taking over the world and taking our jobs, well we already treat our employees like robots. We give them scripts, we time how long they spend in the bathroom, in a Call Center environment because we're so obsessed with productivity. It's really a very inhuman way to run a business. Capital One takes the opposite approach and they're bringing Humanity back into a Bank.

We ‘r’ Future: Yes, such a great example and you know, I couldn't agree more. How can you get the best out of people and their most creative side if you put them into a box and don't let them breathe or think on their own. So it was a great example. So where do you see the future of Customer Experience and employee experience heading to?

Blake: Technology is such a big deal today in everything that we do. So, I think that some of the most customer focused companies, they happen to be technology first companies too. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, these are companies that use every technology in their power to make the customers life easier and better. And so technology is not everything, but in my opinion some of the most customer focused companies are not afraid to use technology and every weapon they have in their arsenal to impact the customer to think, what is the kind of customers life actually like, every single day and how can we simply lighten the load to make their life less stressful? For example, Spotify is a wonderful music streaming service. I rarely have to change the song manually because of their AI algorithm. They know my past listening preferences and they're using that to drive a better future experience for me. So it's all about personalization. It's about leveraging data to consider what would actually make that customer's life easier and better, and not being afraid of technology and using it as a tool. But again, the technology isn't great if you don't have thoughtful people that are leading the customer and employee strategies that understand what it is to be a human being and how can we create experiences for other people that they actually want?

We ‘r’ Future: I really, really love your mission and where you're going to take the whole Customer Experience, Employee Experience and to take on this. What is next for you Blake and where can everyone find and connect with you? 

Blake: Well, my book is coming out, The Customer of the Future, in October. So I would love people to pick up a copy of my book, Customer of the Future, and visit me at my website, and I really enjoy talking with you Petra and I want to thank you and your listeners for taking the time. 

We ‘r’ Future: Thank you so much. 



Blake Morgan

Blake Morgan

Connect with Blake to continue the conversation


Blake Morgan talks about Customer Experience, People & Technology.

Blake Morgan talks about Customer Experience, People & Technology.

“Culture is the secret sauce for some of today’s most innovative & competitive companies” - Blake Morgan

“Culture is the secret sauce for some of today’s most innovative & competitive companies” - Blake Morgan