Howard Tiersky – CEO, FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency [Digital Transformation]
Howard talks about:
· What it means to be digitally driven
· Why Executives grimace when you want to focus on CX
· How to prioritize your Digital Transformation
The person who has influenced Howard the most in the past year:
· Shep Hyken – Cult of the Customer
· Tom Goodwin – Digital Darwinism
His note to all customer service professionals:
“You are the #1 listening post to the customer, so while your first priority should be to serve the customer, please recognize that you are our CIA, FBI, Secret Service…when you learn things, figure out how that information gets back to the organization because we value the insights that you get…”
Nick Glimsdahl 0:03
Welcome to the Press 1 for Nick podcast. My name is Nick Glimsdahl. And my guest this week is Howard tear ski. Howard is the author of winning digital customers the antidote to irrelevance and CEO at from the digital transformation agency. Welcome, Howard.
Hey, Nick, thanks so much for having me.
You bet. So one question I asked every single guest at the very beginning, is what’s one thing people might not know about you?
Howard Tiersky 0:29
Hmm, something they might not know about me? I guess it depends who But well, I have five kids. Most people don’t know that. My oldest is a sophomore in college, and my youngest is in second grade. Wow. It’s a bet there’s a story behind the story. So that’s another podcast. So let’s get right into it. I mean, obviously, you’re big into digital transformation. But before we get into all of that, what does digital transformation mean to Howard? Sure. Well, you know, I think of digital transformation, and kind of two levels. And the outer level is the digital transformation of the world. You know, if you think about what’s happened in the last couple of decades, from the, you know, I remember, I moved back from LA back to New York, and I think it was 1994 1995. And the internet was this very, like an ephemeral, little tiny part of AOL, or so it seemed, at the time, something used mostly by academic institutions in the military. And in that time, since then, it’s really transformed the world transformed. And, of course, the advent of mobile devices and smartphones even more so. And it’s changed the way we shop date, do our finances, educate our kids to engage with our friends, religion, I mean, if you’d be hard-pressed to find any area of life, that digital has not had a major impact. So we live in a world, which is continuing to undergo a digital transformation. And if you’re in business, your customers have been on a customer a digital transformation journey for the last number of years. And so that’s what’s happening in the world. So then when it comes to an individual company, because so much of the work that I do is, say, working with an individual brand on how they can drive greater business success, it’s digital transformation, is really about what you need to do to change to keep up with the change in the world. Because we’ve seen so many brands over the last number of years that have that were once great brands, and are now out of business. And I think if you looked behind the story of any one of those brands, you see a common pattern. There’s always individual circumstances, the reasons why but one thing I think you’re gonna see across most of them is that they, they just failed to keep up with the changing expectations of customers over time. And one time, they were right in sync, that’s how they became so successful. But the world changed, they didn’t change fast enough, or they didn’t change the right direction, the right way. And they were no longer important like they used to be.
Nick Glimsdahl 2:58
So there’s a lot of organizations that are still still there. They’re still on that legacy technology, they’re sitting on it, and they’re saying, What if it’s not broke? don’t fix it, right? It’s if it doesn’t break, don’t fix it. And so the question I have for you, in maybe to to disprove all these guys is why is digital transformation essential?
Howard Tiersky 3:22
Well, if you look at the brands that are successful today, whether it’s brands that are pure play digitally born brands, you know, like your Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Hulu, etc. Or some of the great pre digital brands that are doing the best today, whether that’s an apple or a Nike or a UPS, you know, etc, Disney, these are all brands, all of that are delivering an outstanding digital experience. You do not see in any significant amount brands thriving today, who have not really mastered delivering an elegant digital experience. Because for these customers, you know, I called my book winning digital customers. And sometimes people say, Well, what do you mean by digital customers. And to me, what it means is that customers today are living a lifestyle with digital at the center. And if you are not delivering a value proposition to them, that is elegant and delightful. From a digital perspective. First of all, you’re not meeting their needs. It’s very difficult to run a successful business when you’re not meeting your customers needs. But even more profoundly, you’re misaligned with their values, you’re demonstrating to them that you don’t get it. You either don’t don’t get it, which is just not appealing as a brand. Or you know, you’re you’re brand tracking studies and there’s one of those questions. Is this a brand for quote someone like me? Well, when you’re living a lifestyle with digital at the center, and a brand doesn’t seem to get digital, it doesn’t feel like this is the brand for someone like me, or even worse, and when
I do a lot of customer research, interviews and surveys and focus groups and ethnography and other things as part of my company. What we often see is that when consumers feel that your digital experience is not where they expect it to be, and let’s face it, who sets their expectations, it’s Amazon, it’s Netflix and Uber, these are where their expectations are. Very often they derive a meaning. And the meaning is that you just don’t care. You, you, you, you know, you people at Brand X use Amazon, just like they do you know, what a great customer experience is, if you’re not delivering one, you just might just must not care about them. And when customers feel that you don’t care whether that’s true or not very often not true. But when that’s the customer’s perception, that’s Death to the relationship, repeat business, you know, preference, and these are all critical things to success in business.
Nick Glimsdahl 5:48
So perception nowadays is reality.
Howard Tiersky 5:52
And I think consumer perception of a brand has a huge impact on how they behave. So I always in an era of Trump, I hate to say perception is reality, because I do think it’s important that the remember there is a reality that is real reality,
Nick Glimsdahl 6:06
to the consumer now, right? Right, as a consumer customers
Howard Tiersky 6:09
think that you don’t care about them, then that’s going to drive their behavior and you know what their behavior is reality, their perceptions may be wrong, but their behavior is what drives the business result. And your job when running a business, no matter what your job is, your job at a company is to make sure that company is delivering the business result, it’s going to equal success for the company.
Nick Glimsdahl 6:31
Yeah, so you mentioned all of these amazing organizations. And you know, you think of Disney and Zappos and Amazon, right? It’s, you don’t necessarily have to be the creme de la creme to deliver that experience. But is it a choice? Like Do they still have a choice as an organization? Or is it now more of a necessity to be digitally driven? Yeah, I think, you know, I think there’s always going to be an exception somewhere. I write in my book about my favorite restaurant in Cozumel. Cozumel, is a little island off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. And there’s this one little restaurant on the far side of the island that serves fresh fish, you know, on a little like, Jimmy Buffett, like beach shack. So you know what, maybe they don’t need to undergo digital. They’re so charming and delightful. Who cares whether they’re digital or not, right. But yeah, but is that us that your business? Probably not right? If you’re? So yes, I think it’s essential. Because if you’re not, if you’re not far along that digital curve, as we said before, you’re probably not aligned with the with the needs of your customer. And then, but you know, it’s not black or white, right? It’s a question of, well, how far do you need to go. And I think that what a lot of companies do, and a lot of the companies that are struggling today struggling with their business results today might say, we have had a digital transformation, we have an app, you know, we have a website, we just redesigned it, we just improved it. Yeah, but you know, it’s not just about having digital touchpoints. You know, you use the term digitally driven. And I talk about that, in my book,
Howard Tiersky 8:07
the way I look at the history of digital, and I’m old enough to have participated in the three major areas, there’s three major kind of phases of digital, the digital progression of history, starting back in the 90s. And the first phase was basically brochure where, you know, the first websites were all just content and information about a company. And then we moved into e commerce. And we built, you know, sites that connected to our back ends and connected to payments. So you weren’t just talking about yourself on the internet, but you could actually do business on the internet. And you know, that term, that word, I’m always interested in language, and I love that term, e commerce but the hyphen, because it really is a good description of what a lot of e commerce is, which is you take what you are already doing, you take the products you’re already selling the customers you already selling into. And you just add another way of getting it. And that was really what a lot of e commerce was for many years. This is just another way, instead of coming to the store, or instead of calling the call center, you could order it on our website. Well, that’s great, you know, that’s convenient for the customer. And that reduces cost. But it’s not really a major transformation. It’s more of an incremental enhancement and improvement. It’s an alternate channel to buy tickets for a show or whatever you may want to do. But if you look at the companies that are really thriving in this digital age, they’re mostly doing much more. You know, you look at something like Uber. This is a company that could not have existed without the world of digital. This is not just a traditional car service company that allows you to call a car via an app. And if you look across all the companies that are doing the best they are what I call digitally driven meaning the fundamental core of their value proposition and way of operating is fully leaning on the digital world. You know Airbnb is essentially nothing more than a digital platform. You know, this is the largest hospitality company in the world. And they don’t own any hotels as my friend and great author Tom Goodwin often says. So I think this is the next stage of transformation from e commerce, to being a truly digitally driven company. And a lot of brands are still in e commerce. And it shows in their results. That’s all you can get beneficial results, e commerce, I’m not against e commerce. But if you’re a car rental company, and you’re doing business the same way you’ve done for 40 years, the only thing is you can also take a reservation from your website. That’s good. But look at someone like Zipcar who comes up with a completely new mindset around rental cars, you can park them wherever you want, you can find where there’s a car near, you can walk up to it, you can open it with your phone, you can get it and you can drive away, that is a digitally driven manifestation of the concept of a rental car.
Nick Glimsdahl 10:56
There’s so much to to, to walk through on that. And so I I’d love to spend some time on that maybe at another time. But there’s, you know, even going back to the, the Hutton Cozumel people are trying to get away from Digital probably in that moment, it’s not necessarily a digital need. But majority of the organizations in the world still need to be focused on being digitally driven, and listening to the customers and what their preferred channel is because you mentioned to the different channels, most organizations inside customer service for consumers that call into customer service, are calling me either because it’s a fire, or because that the issue didn’t solve in their first channel. And that information didn’t move contextually to that next channel. And that is just another reason people need to continue to focus on the consumer to improve that digital experience.
Howard Tiersky 11:53
Yeah, I think that’s right. And I think what we really need to be doing, given how much digital changes the way we interact with the customer, we need to be rethinking our entire customer journey, not just the digital portion, but everything and ask the question, well, when and where do we want to talk to the customer? When and where does the customer want to talk to us? I mean, there’s no question. First of all, I always say, you know, kind of jokingly say, in this digital age, your customer doesn’t want to talk to you. By and large, your customer would prefer something quicker and simpler than actually getting on the phone and talking to somebody in a call center. Most of the time, and that’s typically cheaper for the company. So when when, so make sure you’re good at that. However, having said that, there are moments when it really makes sense to be speaking to the customer. One of the companies that we’re doing work with with is AAA that does roadside assistance. And depending on what’s wrong with your car, and what situation you’re in, you know, if I’m sitting at home, and I walk out and realize I have a flat, and then go back in and I push a button on an app and I say someone needs to come change my tire, that’s fine. If I’m you know, it’s three in the morning, and my car breaks down in a bad neighborhood and I’m on the side of the road, and I’m I’m scared and I don’t know what to do, you know, I kind of want to speak to human being at that moment, and just have somebody who can reassure me and so that I can stress to them the importance that someone get here quickly, etc. So there are times when customers do want to talk to you, it’s a minority of times, and there are also times when you may really want to speak to your customer, because you can more effectively sell to them or upsell to them. So I think it’s about looking at the customer journey and figuring out what what are the optimal touch points at each stage of the game. And, and then you know, you made a key point, recognize that in many other times when the customer is reaching out to you, it’s because their preferred mode of interaction failed. And you know, so it’s gonna happen for lots of reasons, and nothing’s perfect. And in this world, things are constantly changing. And customer’s needs are changing, technologies are changing, you know, new versions of iOS are coming out. So these can break all the time. And what you want to make sure then that you’ve done is you’ve got a really tight connection between your customer service organization and those people that are running the customer journey and the digital experience so that when you get those signals coming into your direct, you know, call center chat, you know, your direct customer service organization, they’re getting routed to the right people who can say, Okay, wait a minute, this indication of a problem obviously helped the customer. And now but let’s let’s find out why this is happening and fix it right away. Yeah, so
Nick Glimsdahl 14:20
we’ve talked about what the heck is digital transformation, we talked about? Why is digital transformation essential? So how do you prioritize it?
Howard Tiersky 14:31
Yeah, well, the work that we do, and in my book winning digital customers, I talk about that process of first, understanding the customer doing customer research to make sure you understand where their greatest points of pain are. Because the best opportunity to differentiate any business is to do a better job of solving customer pain, either do a more thorough job of solving the pain you’re solving today, or solve additional pain that you weren’t already solving. And, you know, I mentioned Uber earlier. You know, I think Uber is a great example of that. were, you know, when I think about the pain of a taxicab in New York City, one of the big points of pain if you just said to me what At what point pain you have associated the taxi cab, I would have said, Well, I never know what I’m gonna get when I can go out on the street. And sometimes they’re right there. But sometimes it takes me 15 minutes to hail a cab. And that’s a major point of pain. And obviously, Uber has done a great job of making it much more predictable to know when you’re gonna be able to get a car. And that’s clearly articulated point of pain. But they’ve solved other points of pain for me, that I didn’t even realize were points of pain. For example, if you’d have asked me, you know, if I had any pain associated with the fact that when I get in a cab, and it takes me someplace, then before I can get out of the cab, I have to take the 30 seconds and pay the cab,
Unknown Speaker 15:43
I never really
Howard Tiersky 15:43
would have I was never sitting there upset about it. But once you experienced Uber, the car slows to a stop and the moment that car stopped, you just get out and go on to your next thing. Now all of a sudden, if I do happen to get in a yellow cab, and I get where I’m going, I’m every second that I’m sitting there, I’m feeling like I’m here, let me out of this damn cab, you know, I shouldn’t have to deal with it. So the point is that, um, first of all, sometimes it’s about figuring out what’s the pain you can solve, the customer doesn’t even really see themselves. And then what’s great is once you do solve it, that every one of your competitors looks like the perceived pain that your competitors have increased. So, you know, you asked me how to prioritize, I think the number one way that I like to prioritize is to say, Well, how much pain whatever thing you might do a new feature in the app, new piece of content, whatever it is, how much pain does it solve, or another word for that would be fiction, inconvenience, things like that. And then measuring how much pain? Well, there’s a few ways you can measure it, you can measure by the severity of the pain, some things are only a minor inconvenience, some things are horrible. And you could also measure by how many people are affected. Because you may have a problem like, you know, when your elevators break down, it takes a long time for the repairman to come. But they don’t break down that often. So it affects certain people occasionally. Whereas if your elevators give you one of those static shocks every time you push the button that’s affecting every single person who gets in the elevator. So clearly, it gets more points for the frequency. And then lastly, of course, like any kind of prioritization, all those things kind of affect, what’s the impact of any given thing you can do? How much pain is it going to solve? And how many people is it going to affect? And then the other side of the equation is always level of effort. You know, is this a major massively expensive, time consuming transformation? Or is this just changing the word in a button on a webpage, which is usually pretty simple to do. So when you look at those various variables, then you can do some scoring. And in fact, one of the tools that I give out for free with the book is a is an Excel spreadsheet in Google Doc, that we use this for this very purpose just to help take lists of ideas that you may come up with, for that potential future state journey, and prioritize them along these different dimensions. And then, you know, sort them, so you can at least see which ones seem to be scoring the highest. Yeah, there’s,
Nick Glimsdahl 17:54
I appreciate that breakdown. I think that’s very beneficial to a lot of the listeners who are trying to figure out what to do next. So let’s say that you have buy in from the C suite, where we’re, you’re in there talking and somebody’s like, Alright, we’re moving forward. We have marching orders, we have our objectives, we know what success looks like. And then you get to everybody else, the next 5000 10,000 20,000 employees. How do you overcome that organization resistance to change? Because everybody’s like, Oh, that’s just one more thing that I got to figure out and put on my list, or I got to learn how to do this new technique or new training a new process or new technology?
Howard Tiersky 18:35
Yeah. Well, I think that it’s a very good question. And I think the first thing is to anticipate it is to expect you know, sometimes when you’re a change agent, and when you’re a somebody who’s enthusiastic about driving transformation, you can get to the point where that transformation seems so obviously good to you so exciting, that you fail to anticipate that a lot of people may not be so excited about it. I remember, for example, working for one large property and casualty insurance company doing like auto insurance and home insurance. And we were we were replacing the policy quoting system, the thing that you’d use if you went into the agent, and they would ask you all these questions about your car and your driving record, they would give you a press, the new system we built was a web based system, the old only replacing was a green screen system, you know, one of those old things where you have to memorize all kinds of crazy, yeah, all the F keys were used, you know, you needed to know all these weird commands. And so it just seemed like, well, they these people must be just waiting for us to save them from this horrible system. You know, kind of like, you know, I don’t know, you hear about the mindset of Christian missionaries coming to Africa saying we’ve brought religion to save you. And then they realized that the people there they weren’t, they weren’t waiting to be saved, you know? Well, similarly, we built this much easier to use system that used Of course, obviously, a mouse and menus and buttons instead of crazy keyboard commands you’d have to learn well, first of all, What we realized when we went to roll it out is these people already learned the green screen system. And in fact, they’d spent years learning the green screen system, that was part of their value, they couldn’t be fired. Because if someone wanted to replace them, it would take years to train someone else to use this obscure system. So the idea of replacing it with something fresh and fun and easy to use was not appealing to them at all. And, you know, honestly, initially, we failed to anticipate this at all, we just thought everybody would heralded as a much easier system, wouldn’t you. So the first thing is to anticipate it and research some of the people that you’re going to be asking to embrace what you’re what you’re what you’re proposing. To understand what parts of it they’re likely to resist. In that particular case, what was funny was, ultimately, we discovered one little feature of this new system that everybody did love. And they did embrace because it solved a point of pain they had because they didn’t have a point of pain, that learning the system was too hard, because they’d already learned it. But this one of the relatively small features, this new system was that you could print an insurance card in your office, you didn’t have to tell the customer after they sign up for insurance, oh, it will be mailed to you. And you know, three to seven days. And that one thing, which we had never thought of as being like the star of the show, it was just one feature, when you tell them that they’re like, Oh, I want the new system. That was all it took. But we had to go through the process of trying to figure that out and understand, it wasn’t the things that the features and aspects of the transformation that we thought were most important. So understanding what to lead with, to understand. And it might not be the same for all different groups, by the way. So if you’re, if you’re looking at this large sea of people, people in the call center may have a different mindset than the people on the manufacturing floor versus the people in marketing, etc. In a way, it’s like any kind of marketing or communication. Understand your audience. That’s one step.
Nick Glimsdahl 21:55
Yeah, it’s understanding your audience. It’s listening to them when they actually speak back to you. And then taking that and saying, based off of what you said, and what I think your objectives might be, maybe already have these potential objectives based off of the title, and say, here’s some of the things that we’ve heard in the past. And here’s how we’ve gone through these and are these beneficial to you? And they’re gonna say, yea or nay. But you continue to have to listen to them on that journey. And it sounds so simple to be able to print cars internally, what made them flip the switch and say, Aha, I need that now. And it was probably something real, like, well, that’s just a nice to have, is that really a want.
Howard Tiersky 22:38
Right? for them. It was the key thing. And there are many other answers to that question. By the way, in my book, I spend like a whole half of a chapter talking about 10 different ways to overcome resistance to change everything from using storytelling to inspire people, to giving people a role in the decision making. So they feel that something’s not put upon them, but something that they get to participate in. So I won’t try to go into every one of those reasons here. But um, as a shameless plug for my book, I guess I’ll say, there’s a lot of content in the book specifically about overcoming resistance to change because it is a major hurdle to transformation.
Nick Glimsdahl 23:11
Yeah. And just to touch on that, I would highly recommend it. It’s it’s winning digital consumers, or customers the antidote to irrelevance. And I think it’s a solid, solid read, highly recommend you take a peek, I’ll put it in the show notes. And when I post it online, so I asked every everybody, any one of my guests two questions. And the first question is, is what book or person in customer service or customer experience has influenced you the most in the past year? And then second one is if you can leave a note all the customer service professionals out there, it’s going to hit everybody’s desk Monday at 8am. What would it say?
Howard Tiersky 23:45
Well, on the first one, I guess to to come to mind to me leaving so many great people writing and thought leaders around these issues. But I would say Shep hyken, many people are probably familiar with him call to the customer. And he’s written so many great books and such a great speaker and actually has a new book coming out called I’ll be back. I highly recommend you check out
Nick Glimsdahl 24:03
it check out that promo video with him in the leather jacket with the sunglasses on. It’s
Howard Tiersky 24:07
so funny. I just saw that today. It’s funny. You mentioned it. Yes, absolutely. So definitely that. And I mentioned earlier. So I mentioned again, Tom Goodwin wrote a fantastic book called Digital Darwinism really, really interesting and goes in very much to the issue of change. So I would recommend those two books if I can cheat and give you two answers for one question. And as far as a note to leave to everyone in customer service,
Unknown Speaker 24:33
Unknown Speaker 24:35
it would be
Howard Tiersky 24:39
you are number one listening post to the customer. So please, while your first priority should be to serve the customer. Please recognize that you are CIA, FBI, Secret Service, marker, you are all of that. So when you learn things and as you learn things Figure out how that information gets back into the rest of the organization because we need to know we value the insights that you get from your interaction with the customers, and we need to know them. Because that can help us make the whole experience better, not just what you do in a call center.
Nick Glimsdahl 25:16
Well said, Howard, what’s the best way for my listeners to connect with you?
Howard Tiersky 25:21
Well, if they’re interested in learning more about my book, and in fact, if you’d like to read the first chapter for free, you can go to winning digital customers comm read more about the book and in fact, download and read the first chapter. And if you’re interested in learning more about me, I do have a podcast also called winning digital customers and a live cast on LinkedIn twice a week. And the best place to find me is on LinkedIn. Actually, that’s where I’m most active. And you can find me by searching for how to ski but I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and all the usual places and now clubhouse. my newest toys, is creating rooms on clubhouse. So I’m still figuring out how to make that work. But that’s my new platform.
Nick Glimsdahl 25:54
So you just get on AOL with your 500 free hours and you’ll find him somewhere on the internet.
Howard Tiersky 26:00
Exactly. Just how are you use the CD ROM.
Nick Glimsdahl 26:05
Make sure you wipe it too before the scratches. I hate to have that happen. Yeah. So Howard, appreciate your time. Man. I love what you’re doing. I love the book, and I recommend everybody going in and snagging that and gleaning all the information that I did.
Howard Tiersky 26:19
Awesome. Thanks, Nick. Thanks for having me.
The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.
Nick’s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:
- Customer service & customer experience leaders
- A hostage negotiator
- Award-winning authors
- Home Depot’s Senior Director of Customer Care
- Former VP of Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Lyft’s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
- Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:
- What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
- If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?
You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.
If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.