Ready for Takeoff - A Story of Change: Personal and Professional

My journey to motherhood began a year ago. I chose to take some time off from my career to plan and enjoy a series of both personal and professional life changes. On the personal part, we traveled to Spain, got engaged in Hawaii, I remained fit during pregnancy with daily Pure Barre, gave back through volunteering at New York Cares, and we welcomed our new son Parker on February 22nd, 2017.

As for professional changes, I attended the Dreamforce conference and became a certified Salesforce Administrator. I completed the implementation of Salesforce Service Cloud for Shake Shack, and continue to give back professionally by helping nonprofit, Hope Over Heroin connect with people more effectively through Salesforce.

Parker is now three months and my new consulting business is born, The Pukka Panda. The Pukka Panda started a few years ago as a blog to share stories of my personal customer experiences aligned to business.  

Pŭkka is a British term for authentic or genuine - and what you get with me - a genuine smile and connection. Panda has always been a nickname of mine and a simple way for me to explain how to pronounce my name to the Starbucks barista, Randa: Panda with an ‘R’.

 The Pŭkka Panda is a new step, with many more exciting events to occur in the next few months; I will marry my true love and amazing partner in life whom provides constant joy and encouragement to me with everything - reminds me to always live in the moment. We will move into a new home here in Brooklyn and together embark on our new life journey.

 In our interactions with family, friends, co-workers and companies, we all go through similar daily changes and events. In the midst of Alexa, Siri, and the Internet of Things,  The Pukka Panda will create an effective and authentic experience with the customer at the center.

Authentic Across Your Different Devices and Connections

As a working mom, professional, and soon to be step-mom and wife - we all have different personas of how we perceive the world and interact with others. What remains consistent is the desire for a personal and authentic connection. 

Whether we are on our mobile phone dropping the kids off, waiting for a flight on a video conference call using our iPad, no matter the device - we want a simple way to connect for an effortless experience.

In the last 14 years, I have led teams in service delivery, customer service, network infrastructure, and product. I have a passion for improving the interactions with customers and the systems that support it - making them more efficient and consistent across all departments.

The Pukka Panda will provide an outside perspective to improve the processes and tools companies use to connect their business operations and customers. I will help fill the white spaces in the organizational structure when handing off between roles from sales through to customer service and billing.

The Pukka Panda brings technology and operations together to create a cohesive customer journey across all communication channels using cloud applications like Salesforce.com.

Read my professional story for more information on my past journey and experience. I look forward to helping companies improve customer interactions through a positive and authentic experience. If you know of any businesses that would benefit, please give me a call - 646.634.2114 or forward them to my contact page.

My Professional Story

I have a unique perspective from the past 14 years being part of a cloud communications startup during the birth of ‘cloud’ through two different acquisitions and changes of unified communications.

Startup Stage

In 2003, I was the first employee for Geckotech, a pioneer SaaS business phone service organization - designing business strategy, creating operational processes, and developing and implementing target product and service vision.

I managed staff across managed service delivery, help desk operations, and core infrastructure management. Playing an integral role in building the company, laid the operational and infrastructure groundwork that sold for $8M after just seven years. Executing operations in full our team earned a spot for several years on the Inc 5000 list for fastest-growing companies.

Growth Stage

In 2010, Geckotech was acquired by M5 Networks - a NY based SaaS business phone service provider. I spearheaded efforts at Geckotech LLC to integrate employees, core competencies, systems, and knowledge of the internal culture while doubling the service delivery team.

I directed 25+ employees from three teams across three locations responsible for onboarding all new clients. I worked cross-functionally to complete projects and design and implement cross-functional processes within Salesforce.com, leveraging ITIL best practices. Applying customer demand research and data, I influenced product and service offerings.

My teams helped improved initial recurring revenue install volumes by 50% and raised the new (Net Promoter Score) NPS— revamped install methodology to boost quality and speed, implemented automated campaigns for fewer customer-reactive interactions, and encouraged account teams to communicate and collaborate more productively.

Product Transformation Stage

In 2012, ShoreTel acquired M5 Networks in which I transitioned from business operations to focus on the core product - a Software as a Service voice platform.

I Worked as Agile product owner for the voice platform, consisting of 85% of the Cloud product’s recurring revenue. Led product team members, including the core ecosystem—premises, cloud and hybrid voice service, e-commerce platform, and service delivery infrastructure. My teams analyzed requirements to implement changes and create excellent customer experiences.

Presented unique service offerings, Expert Start and Jump Start, to improve quality and on-boarding speed of new clients. Launched the introductory product post-acquisition—the ShoreTel-branded phone series for the Cloud platform—which completed the end-to-end user experience.

Oversaw business requirements and worked with developers and cross-functionally from the design stage through execution for a client order management platform, serving as project lead.

Present Stage

After leaving ShoreTel, I started my entrepreneurial journey at Dreamforce and later obtained my certification. I applied Salesforce expertise to help Shake Shack improve the capabilities within the retail locations— store manager efficiency, customer interactions, and processes.

As part of the Salesforce Service Cloud implementation;

  • Reduced overhead and costs related to shipping gift cards by implementing email QR code integration to track issued cards better.
  • Replaced excessive email program that provided store information and news with a daily report dashboard using case automation rules, improving store manager efficiency and simplifying donation approval process.
  • Migrated all customers, case data, and information from Desk.com to Salesforce Service Cloud for comprehensive trend reporting.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey. Let me know how I can help your business. I can be reached at 646.634.2114 or a quick visit to the contact us page.  

Best,

Randa Green

The Pukka Panda

It's My Birthday! 4 Ways Brands Can Learn From My Tory Burch Experience

Facebook has my birthday so I assume every other retailer and their first born also has it available to make my day extra special. If they can re-target and follow me with Instagram ads using beacons after I walked into their store, then the possibilities are endless!

My birthday was just a few days ago, on December 7th. I began to receive birthday offers from stores on December 1st. Perfect timing! It made me think about how brands can take advantage of this opportunity to gain a new loyal customer or enhance the budding relationship.

“A study by Germany-based customer engagement company Hybris, conducted by Forrester Consulting, shows a gap between consumers’ expectations of personalized marketing and what marketers are delivering. The study shows that while 66 percent of marketers rate their personalization efforts as “very good” or “excellent,” only 31 percent of consumers say companies are consistently delivering personalized, cross-channel experiences.”

Based on this study and what I have experienced, I agree. Retargeting on Facebook and Instagram is standard compared to an overall personalization strategy that can deliver a birthday experience that is relevant to you, your purchase history, consistent across channels, and accessible to your employees.

Compete on experience instead of racing to the bottom of price. A birthday is the best time to make a difference. When someone is passionate about your brand and has a connection, they don’t look for the low price, they get value in other ways — like the birthday gift you send them via snail mail. I will pay more for a good quality brand that I trust.

Here is what brands need to get right in order to win the race to the top of experience. Kudos to Tory Burch for getting it right!

The Right Timing

One of the offers I received was for $10 off within the next two weeks for a service. Come on! Give me some breathing room - especially for a service that doesn’t even need to be that frequent. That offer is definitely a bigger win for the brand, not me.

I received my Tory Burch birthday email gift on December 1st with NO EXPIRATION DATE. Perfect timing!

 

The Right Offer

I recently attended the ‘Connect Shopper’ webinar hosted by Salesforce which highlights

“79% like it when they receive complementary product offers or promotions based on their purchasing histories from a retailer, indicating a desire for more personalized shopping experiences.”

In the offer content, demonstrate your personalization skills and highlight some recommendations, while also leaving the door open to purchase anything. I am a fan of the discount on total purchase as was presented in the Tory Burch offer.

The Chosen Channel

It isn’t about one channel - it is about the unified journey across all channels. As you can see from my Tory Burch birthday gift, she provides me specific instructions on how to use at the store or online. 

It is a myth that Millennials are so-called e-commerce shoppers - 23% do research in-person - higher than both Generation X and Baby Boomers! In fact, they research on every channel which means you have an opportunity to grab their attention and enhance the overall journey across all channels.

If you are communicating on several channels, save your reputation and make sure it is uniform. Another stat from the ‘Connected Shopper’ report shows 47% of shoppers feel annoyed when they receive an offer via a separate channel for the same product that they purchased in store.

If you really want to go the extra mile with the birthday gift, send it snail mail. Last year, I received a merchandise birthday and Christmas gift from Tory Burch in the mail. Apparently, I didn’t shop as much this year…

The Right Tools

Make Sure Your Employees Have Access To Information! Salesforce is a great example of a tool that provides the ability to connect to your shoppers in the right way and seamlessly across channels.

I don’t know what tools Tory Burch is using; however, I was amazed by the experience on my visit during my birthday trip to the Hamptons. I was thrilled when I saw there was a Tory Sport store in East Hampton. Since the brand is fairly new and there are only a few physical stores, we just had to stop to complete my collection of golf dresses. I am right there with the 66% who prefer to touch and feel stuff in the store. My boyfriend told me to pick out something for my birthday.

Upon checkout, I remembered that I received the birthday email; however, I was having trouble locating it. While I would expect a certain level of service at my normal Tory Burch store in NYC, I was in a different store and brand - anything goes.

Since I am a fanatic about customer experience and technology, I notice when disjointed online and offline systems cause employees pain. I was not optimistic that the systems in place would enable me to use my offer. I was pleasantly surprised when the associate was able to locate MY PERSONALIZED BIRTHDAY email and code!

The Tory Burch experience is a perfect example of how brands have an opportunity to create an advocate and loyal customer through personalization. I don't purchase Tory Burch products at department stores or other distribution channels because the experience I receive direct at Tory Burch is best.

Remember that personalization is delivered by the STORE instead of the BRAND you purchase.

The distribution model adds a whole different challenge to a brand's ability to deliver a unified customer experience. I will leave that for a future discussion.

If you are not in B2C, this can still apply to you. Recognizing your main contacts birthday at the business or the company anniversary is a great complimentary strategy for B2B businesses.

What are the best offers you have received on your birthday?

Yours Truly,

Randa Green

www.thepukkapanda.com

Why You Should Shop Local & Small All Year

‘Alexa, please place order for Charmin toilet paper’.

I wait for the smile and ‘hello’... It doesn’t come.

I wait for the satisfaction of touching and feeling my new toilet paper… I don’t get it.

Okay, toilet paper is probably not the best example - you get my point.

We recently got an Amazon Echo. While it is fantastic for the daily news briefings, the weather, and newly discovered reading of audio books from our library, I am a big fan of walking into a store for close to 90% of my purchases.

With Amazon, you are getting the price, what about the value? The value of a moment. The value of seeing someone smile other than the UPS driver that drops off your shipment just to create another box to throw in the recycling.

Here are a few reasons why you should shop local and small all year, not just on Small Business Saturday.

Establish a Personal Connection

This is my favorite. When you walk in the store, they remember you. You have the opportunity for an authentic conversation and smile. They email or text you directly about sales versus being controlled by the latest AI personalization technology.

Socialize at Community Events

After you establish the personal connection, you get to experience events at the local store which benefit the community and allow you to meet more people - and get more smiles.

Exercise and Save Money

Get off your couch and take a walk to your local store. Take an adventure on the train and interact with the real world. You will be a lot closer to your 10,000 step goal.

Save money. When you are local, you can think about it and go back on your way home from work instead of buying online and forgetting to return - after not knowing the real quality that is now the reality with fast fashion.

Limit Your Choices

One of the biggest benefits of local boutiques includes curating the best products to save you time. This is one of the main reasons I am not a fan of big box stores. See more in my post Limit Choices To Increase Sales by 600%

Instant Gratification

You can touch and feel it. I am a fan of physical touch. It is my top love language. You also get to bring it home immediately. Even if Amazon Prime got it to your door in two days, you may end up with the infamous ‘We missed you’ sticker left on your door. Or it goes missing from your hallway.

 

I am not alone. Even though there is an increase in mobile shopping, the reality is people use all channels during their journey to the final purchase. See stats in the picture below for in-store preference.

 

I encourage you to embrace local direct and small stores when possible to support the community. The experience is just so much better than big box stores.

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

Use Platforms As The First Step To Your Customer Journey

In my last post, I wrote about how people have limited capacity in choices. It is hard to expect people to download your specific business or consumer application when it is much simpler for them to visit just a few and see the majority of what they need.

Instead of expecting to be one of the chosen, embrace the different platforms available to your brand category with the goal of the best experience over the evolution of consumption and brand awareness.

In the day of information overload, join the crowd on the platform - just do it better than the others.

Evolution of Customer Experience

For new businesses, it is how you get your brand attention or may be the platform that truly enables you start your own business (think Uber and Etsy). For existing businesses like Playboy which removed nudity to conform to platform rules,  it is how you adapt and stay relevant to your audience. Once the user connects to your brand, consider how you convert them with a consistent user experience, and ultimately convert them to a loyal advocate.

Let’s follow a few personal stories with three simple steps of the customer experience; connect, convert, and keep.

Brand Recognition & Relevance: Connect

As a business, the Platform is clearly a great tool to connect with customers. Conform or be left behind. For consumers, it is how you find the hottest new trends either within your career or personal interest.

Feedly is one of my favorite platforms for content consumption. I can easily read articles related to technology and UCaaS that support my role as a Product leader, about fashion trends of my interest, or those that intersect the two passions. It is my one stop shop to connect to brands and continually stay relevant.

Upon first use of Feedly, I chose categories like Business, Entrepreneurship, Tech, Inspiration, and Fashion. I became most interested in Fashion when I moved to NYC almost four years ago from Chicago. Outside of a few new brands, I mostly only knew mainstream brands with large online presence and brick and mortar stores. That is, until I was introduced to ‘The Blonde Salad’ through the Fashion section of Feedly.

Since I am one year shy of the ‘Millennial’ label, Facebook had been my choice of platforms until a few years ago when I started using Instagram more frequently. Since I learned about ‘The Blonde Salad’ on Feedly, I started to follow Chiara Ferragni. Chiara Ferragni is the woman behind ‘The Blonde Salad’. Through her blog, she has successfully built a business (TBS Crew - The Blonde Salad Crew), created a million dollar brand (Chiara Ferragni Shoe Collection), HBR first blogcase study was on her, is recognized as one of the Business Of Fashion 500influencers, and more! 

Needless to say, Chiara and her brand were successful in connecting with me through the combination of Feedly, Instagram, and Facebook.

When you continue to deliver consistent content and messaging that supports your brand image, it is the first step to convert the audience.

User Awareness: Convert

Once users are aware of your brand, it is important to deliver a consistent user experience across different platforms. It is your opportunity to convert them to a paying customer.

Chiara does exactly that - she delivers consistent and relevant content to her audience of more than 4 million followers on Instagram alone. Feedly, Facebook, and Instagram follow the same posting schedule with just the right amount of variation. She publishes a healthy balance of publicity for other brands while marketing her own shoe collection. Obviously, I have purchased a few of her shoes…

PSFK is another example of a website that delivers content across platforms consistently well. After learning about them on Feedly, reading them via Pocket on the Subway, they successfully converted me as a loyal reader when I purchased tickets to their ‘Future of Retail’ event in NYC - which was a fantastic!

Not only is consistency of content across platforms key, you absolutely must be certain that your integration works flawlessly or you will do more harm to your brand. Incorporate platform regression tests with every release to be aware of the exact user experience across platforms.

As shared in my last post, Forbes has an area to improve related to functionality - as in it doesn’t work when you transfer it from Feedly to Pocket. Due to this bug in their integration, I no longer read Forbes articles. A nice quote on your landing page is fine if it doesn’t interfere with the ability to actually read your content. On the other hand, think if it really creates value or is just noise on the page annoying the user.

Once you convert the customer from doing well in the right areas, keep up the good work to gain a loyal one.

Loyal Consumer: Keep

If you do it well enough and win their loyalty, they should prefer to go direct to your website or application. At that point, your brand can even influence complementary brands - similar to the loyal following that Salesforce and Google attract with their App Exchange.

When a consumer chooses applications and complementary products based on your brand, they are the ultimate loyal and sticky customer.  I personally don’t like malls or departments stores whether it is online or brick and mortar - way too many options. Instead, I find brands that I prefer, go direct and stick to them. I don’t see the need to buy the brand from a department store when I am happy with their personal service. Just like frequent flyer miles, being loyal to brands has its perks.

As a loyal customer, I trust the recommendations of my chosen brands; Alice & Olivia, Tory Burch, and Chiara Ferragni. While Chiara Ferragni was the only one I truly discovered on a platform vs. a visit to the store, each of them personally posts favorites on Instagram. It is a bonus when they also interact personally with you via comments. Brand referral compensation businesses like RewardStylemake that loyalty even more valuable to the brand.

Now that platforms like Instagram enable us to learn about international brands, and platforms like Farfetch do a great job sourcing them, the next problem to solve are the international shipping tariffs…

Which brands did you learn about through a platform? How did they connect, convert, and keep you as a customer?

Yours Truly,

Randa Green

For similar posts, visit www.thepukkapanda.com

How Pure Barre Is Pure Brilliant - 6 Things You Can Learn From A Great Experience

In honor of my 100th Pure Barre class at Pure Barre Brooklyn in Park Slope, I thought I would share why Pure Barre is Pure Brilliant. I am no stranger to organized classes… Gymnastics through high school, Pilates, Aerial Silks, Martial Arts, Spin, and more - excluding those I took when I was young as I can assure you I didn’t critique business structure and experience until I entered the business world.

The Mind Body platform must have a monopoly on these classes as most of them use it as their system to enable payments and scheduling. What a great idea to allow the experts to focus on their core business! While they all use the same platform, it is the experience you have when you go to the class that makes all the difference.

Believe me, this franchise is killing it! Out of all of these places, I have not seen the level of experience in which you receive at Pure Barre. The branding, messaging, consistent approach, thoughtful motivation, guidance of technique, and attention to subconscious details through organization are all on point.

I am all for the statement ‘no pain, no gain’. Whether it is business, personal, or fitness - you need to push yourself to see the difference. There are no short cuts.

On my first visit, I walk into the front door to a welcome smile at the front desk. As typical behavior for me, I arrive early. I am pleased to see that it is not packed with people exiting the previous class. They brilliantly schedule 30 minutes between classes to avoid the mad rush of people at the switch of a class.

#1 Organization - Pay Attention To The Details

Pure Barre has an attention to detail and has everything ORGANIZED!

After I signed the waiver, purchased my Pure Barre sticky socks, they sit down with me to explain the concept of tucking your hips, how we will start with the most movement during the warmup and progress through each muscle group with tiny movements.

They conveniently sell everything you need to attend class in case you forgot, or just need to add to your wardrobe since you attend class so frequently. My forgetfulness is to blame for my sticky socks while the latter is responsible for my leggings and Pure Barre brand tops. I am hooked.

#2 Consistent - People, Classes, and Locations

After over 100 classes, every instructor CONSISTENTLY sits down with new students to explain the Pure Barre concept, introduces themselves, confirms there are no injuries which they are not aware of, and follows the routine perfectly for the remainder of the class. While consistent, they each add their own personality and flair to make the class unique.

Personality makes a difference at any business. I am drawn to personality. Even if I like a brand, I will not shop or do business with those that are rude. Just not my style.

One of the biggest reasons I continue to go day after day is that I am in pain EVERY SINGLE TIME, you work your muscles until they fatigue and shake - all in about 2-3 minutes per muscle group.

We start with 15 minute warm up for abs and weights.

#3 Emotional Connection - Understand and Motivate Your Audience

The MOTIVATION begins in the first part of class, and continues throughout as the instructors learn names and provide positive praise for technique well executed.

"This is your first big challenge. You have 90 seconds in this plank. This is your time. Take this time to set a goal for yourself. Leave everything else at the door..."

You have an option to use no weights, 2, 3, or 5. Whichever you choose, you will feel the pain when doing the technique properly. In fact, 3 pound weights never felt so heavy with small movements and ultra fatigue.

More MOTIVATION

"Only 30 more seconds until you are done with weights and can stretch your arms. You can do anything for 30 seconds. That's 10, 2, 3, 4..."

Your brain immediately grasps onto the CONSISTENCY and meaning of the count to 10 that ends each exercise and often feels like eternity.

The person at the front desk enters the room to help pick up our weights as we do an arm stretch with the stretchy tube. Another great example of ORGANIZATION and TEAMWORK.

Next we move into about 9 minutes of thigh work. Who is counting? Your thighs literally shake from the fatigue which proves that it is making a change.

"Down an inch, up an inch, now tuck and tuck. Down an inch, up an inch, now tuck, tuck deeper. Smile. It helps."

Yes. Yet another time when smiling does really help! There is a perfect balance of relaxation, pain, repetition, variation, and mental encouragement.

#4 Guidance - Provide An Opportunity To Learn

I learned during a recent ‘Breaking Down The Barre’, session which is free monthly at my Pure Barre studio, that you can literally take the class with your eyes closed since they provide such great verbal GUIDANCE.

Remember, if your customers are confused or don’t know how to use your product, it can lead to a poor experience. In addition to the free monthly class, Pure Barre does a fantastic job at correcting form during the class, and are available after class to assist. (Since they don’t schedule back to back classes, they are ORGANIZED to enable instructors to remain after class)

A big thigh stretch has never felt better! Just a few short minutes of drifting into la la land, and it is time to tone the butt. Or, commonly referred to as ‘The Pure Barre Ledge’. You know, the one that got Victoria Secret into all that trouble for screwing up their photo shop.

And, why wouldn’t the music be perfectly timed to all the exercises! Brilliant. I may have been caught dancing and singing to a few of the great tunes, but who is watching when you can take the class with your eyes closed?

"Close your eyes and let the music take you to the end..."

As we finish toning our butts and making funny faces from the pain, the instructor places the perfect quantity of BRANDED pink mats in the middle of the room to prepare for the deep abs part of class.

#5 Brilliance Indicator: Relaxation - Make Your Audience Comfortable

Pure Barre challenges me to RELAX my mind. If my mind starts drifting off to think about work or whatever else is going on, I lose my form.- and am luckily corrected by the  instructor. In order to get the most out of the workout, you need to concentrate and focus on the form.

The lights are dimmed at this point. DETAILS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

"Grab a mat and place it about 3/4 against the wall. Sit in a slouchy position so it feels like you are in front of the TV balancing a bowl of popcorn on your stomach. Now take your right leg and pull it up to your face..."

Okay. You will just need to go to a class to learn about this part. It is magic! You learn how to move your legs with your abs. I am not joking!

The music bumps up a bit for a faster pace of ab work against the wall.

"Now scooch that newly toned butt all the way back against the wall so there is nothing between your butt and the wall"

The lights are now turned completely off to encourage more RELAXATION.

"It's time for abs and cool down. Grab your matts and head to the center of the room... sit at the edge of your matt, legs out with a 3/4 length bend at the knees, toes together, heels apart, on your toes, now sit up straight and round your back to a c-curve.."

During cool down, the instructor drops of wipes for your ball and matt. Once again, a DETAIL that makes leaving class so much easier!

Class after class, instructor after instructor, my experience is the same each and every time! There is a reason I have gone to an average of about 15-20 classes per month since October… And, it may or may not be that they include a COMPETITIVE factor into the mix.

#6 Competition - Give Them Something To Win

Pure Barre incorporates COMPETITION into the program to MOTIVATE people in a different way. Twice in the past 5-6 months, there has been a sign up on the wall to post your name and put a sticker each time you attend a class.  When you hit the goal quantity of classes, you are entered to win - great prizes like an unlimited year of classes. The bonus is public recognition that you made your target.

As a reminder, here is why I am a true believer of why the Pure Barre franchise is Pure Brilliant, and you should either check it out or learn from their experience.

  1. Organization - Pay Attention To The Details
  2. Consistent - People, Classes, and Locations
  3. Emotional Connection - Understand and Motivate Your Audience
  4. Guidance - Provide An Opportunity to Learn
  5. Relaxation - Make Your Audience Comfortable
  6. Competition - Give Them Something to Win 

As a consumer, do you notice and appreciate these 6 areas?

As a business professional, how do you incorporate these tactics into your business? Do you have any plans to change processes to include them?

Yours Truly,

Randa Green

 

How Platforms Influence Our Decisions

March is the first nudity free issue of Playboy on stands. According to this article on CNN, Platforms were a key driver to that business decision.

“Every single disruptive business that's emerged in the last five years -- UberAirbnb, Twitch.tv --exploits a major business weakness -- the failure of the old guard to innovate in response to changing consumer and customer behavior. These disruptors aren't killing businesses; it's the stodgy, rigid and stubborn companies that are killing themselves.

Once you understand the disruption that's taken place in the media and publishing world and the power of social networks as a publishing platform, you'll understand that Playboy simply had no choice. Nudity was sinking its Web and magazine business.” CNN.

While physical malls and department stores have been our one stop shop for many years, cloud platforms and the endless amount of complementary integrations benefit all of us.

Limit Choices Through Platforms

In a previous post, I shared how people have a problem making choices when presented with more than 6 options. Think of the best method to limit your customer choices and position your brand across the different platform options for both businesses and consumers.

Business

For businesses, the platform is often the primary place users login daily like their cloud based CRM application. In the SaaS world, Salesforce is one of the most popular integrations. The Salesforce ecosystem and AppExchange is a great opportunity for new and established businesses to attract customers.

At ShoreTel, we have a Salesforce integration for our Connect Platform which serves both Cloud and Premises deployment models.  Businesses that use Salesforce to drive productivity with Marketing, Sales, and Service often make decisions for their phone and contact center based on the Salesforce integrations so their teams can be even more productive.

Google is another example of a platform that is a huge influence for new business development efforts and decisions for productivity tools.

For content consumption, LinkedIn is one of the top platforms used for business news


Business leaders need to consider the strategic opportunity available with existing and emerging platforms, and how to keep a consistent experience across the different communication channels.

Consumer

For consumers, the platform is the preferred application or website to visit. FacebookInstagram, and Snapchat are the biggest social applications.

It is no surprise that influencers drive a ton of adoption. Instagram is one of the top drivers of traffic and provides an endless opportunity to creative marketing minds - from individuals to multi-million dollar businesses. The below graphic shows the power of Instagram and presence of different brands.


As a loyal user of Instagram, I enjoy following influencers and brands to compliment my love of fashion. Next time I buy something, can I claim the platform made me do it? After all, without Instagram, I would never have known about some of the brands.

Both

All platforms continue to add features that make it easier for businesses to grab the user’s attention and close the sale! They have us hooked. Just like you can easily add freemium apps that charge you later when you want more features from Salesforce  App Exchange and Google Apps, you can buy directly from our favorite personal platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

Feedly is one of my personal favorite platforms for content consumption for business and personal purposes. I can quickly read articles relevant to my career or interests in fashion in a quick and simple format. Once, I found the app Pocket, it changed my whole relationship with Feedly as they work so swiftly together.

Pocket saves the articles locally so I am able to read them during my Brooklyn to Manhattan subway commute. A consistent experience and proper integration across platforms is important to attract users to your brand. For example, I don’t read any Forbes articles since it doesn’t work with Pocket. Forbes has a quote entry page that somehow conflicts with Pocket.

These are just a small few examples to show the power of platforms. In future posts, I will go into more detail of a select few platforms and how they impact the customer experience. They are all part of the omni-channel family of communication and customer journey.

Which platforms have you or your business hooked? What drives you to use them? Have you chosen brands specifically due to the platform?

Watch for my next post on the Evolution of Customer Experience starting from the platform.

How You Benefit From Process, Trust, And Knowledge In The $335 Billion Shared Economy

This is the third and final post of a series on the shared economy, how it is similar to outsourcing, what you need to succeed, and finally my perspectives.

In the first post, I shared an intro on how the shared economy is an extension of outsourcing. Rather than outsource anything that is not your core business, the shared economy is essentially outsourcing your core business - you better do it well - or you will fail.

In the second post, I shared three things your business needs to do well to master the execution of your sharing or outsource strategy.

Now on to my personal story for how process, trust, and knowledge are applied from three different perspectives; as a business operations leader, as a member of a shared community, and as a consumer.

Business Operations Perspective

By the time we were ready to outsource our installs at Geckotech, we had established our baseline process internally. Even though the team was consistent with the defined process, the remote hands would have hiccups. Our relationship was with one vendor that managed the hundreds and thousands of partner technicians across the US.

After each install, we refined our checklist and process so we could avoid the issue in the future. As you refine your process to outsource, I suggest to build continual improvement into every process, start simple, and expect to change consistently.

We required initials to confirm areas were reviewed, provided example pictures for technicians to recreate, and NA where steps were not applicable versus leaving them blank ensured the content was not overlooked.

After we were acquired by M5 Networks, there were a lot more people to understand the process and relationship with our outsourced vendor. We went through a few more hiccups of knowledge and trust gaps.

As a solution, I planned trips to the vendor site with cross functional teams to help transfer knowledge and build trust. We produced a standard guide of expectations for each team. It was a success - The outcome was improved process, trust, and knowledge!

Shared Platform

I participate in a Shared clothing program, Closet Collective. The concept is similar to Rent The Runway or Stitch Fix; however, Closet Collective does not own the merchandise. The lenders open specific items of their closet to borrowers of the monthly service.

I started out with 10 dresses from my closet, later added 10 more items, and will continue to build my virtual closet to share with others. In fact, the top lender makes $10K per year renting out her closet.

Closet Collective has a simple process for both lenders and borrowers. The process is clearly defined from initial setup, profile and clothing posts, through monthly lending - all confirmed through thoughtful emails for each interaction.

During the initial setup, Closet Collective made a personal contact with me to establish the necessary trust required for me to feel comfortable with the process of lending my clothes to strangers. They build upon the trust monthly with consistent processes with each of my monthly rentals.

Closet Collective’s model requires very minimal training - hence a perfect opportunity for sharing or on-demand economy. I simply need to know how to print a label, put a dress in a bag, add my thank you to the pre-provided card, and drop off at the nearest USPS.

Customer Perspective

I recently ordered five different leather stickers from Anya Hindmarch from the website Farfetch. As I read, Farfetch is a platform that sells products that are sourced by independent shops around the world.

While I don’t know the back end of their systems, I can only assume they have their processes and appropriate knowledge training in place from my first experience.

By luck, I received all of them on the same day. Kudos if that was coordinated as they were all out of country. Every shipment came in a Farfetch branded box, with a Farfetch branded envelope, and a unique letter from the shop itself - which added a nice personal touch of their shop.

What companies do you think have process, trust, and knowledge nailed? Do you agree that each are important to support a consistent customer experience?

I would love to hear your input. Please give this post a thumbs up or share if you enjoyed the content. 

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

Three Tips To Master Customer Experience With Your Sharing or Outsource Strategy

In my last post, I shared an intro on how the shared economy is an extension of outsourcing. Rather than outsource anything that is not your core business, the shared economy is essentially outsourcing your core business - you better do it well.

Here are three quick tips on how to master the shared and outsource strategy.

Process

Process design, management, and continual improvement is the only way you can provide a consistent experience at scale. Design your processes to be fool-proof. Include exceptions, reference links, a contact center number to call with questions, and quality assurance.

It doesn’t have to be fancy to start. In fact, it is best to nail down the process first with paper before implementing complex systems or apps.

Trust

Establish mutual trust, respect, understand expectations, and form a good relationship with the people that participate in your shared platform. Without trust, relationships can crumble - both personal and business.

I personally feel that face to face meetings and social gatherings make the biggest impact on trust. Get to know the people in the business. Understand their perspective. It makes a huge difference.

Learn more about perspective training in previous posts on my blog: Walk In Their Shoes and Motivate Winning Teams

A few people from a partner company came to NYC from India the other week to collaborate for a project. While we had several meetings over the phone, the time we had in one week was amazing. We had the opportunity to work in the same time zone, enjoy lunch, and learn about one another.

Schedule a shared community gathering. The value to both your shared community and business will be priceless. Partner conferences are common - do the same for your shared community to establish trust.

Knowledge

You can have processes galore and trust the people. In the end, knowledge is the power to support your product or service. In a shared economy or outsource business model, you must have the framework and knowledge sources to train the people to properly support the product. Misguided expectations cause a ton of pain and cost your business money.

Build a single source of knowledge articles for everyone to reference - with a continuous feedback loop for people to contribute information when necessary. Create a training platform with a curriculum that re-enforces your processes, re-affirms trust, and aligns with your values. Without a shared place for knowledge, process will fall apart, and ultimately ruin trust with customers.

Training is one of the reasons Shyp, an on-demand delivery service app, will begin hiring the delivery drivers versus contracting. While it is likely not appropriate for all, it will be interesting to see which companies embrace the approach.

Here is another great article about the shift in contract workers to employees.Several of the business drivers are based on the worker to consumer ratio. What is right for one business may not be right for the other business. 

In my next post, I will share my perspectives; as business operations leader , a shared community member of Closet Collective, and as a customer using a shared platform.

Do you agree with the three key tips? I would love to hear your comments perspective.

Yours Truly

The Pukka Panda

The Sharing Economy: The Method To Outsource Your Core Business

I have been in the UCaaS industry for 12 years in both customer service operations and product.

The pitch for Cloud.

"Let us manage your phone system in the cloud while you focus on your business."

Other words, outsource anything that is NOT CORE to your business. You 'Share' with others in the Cloud.

The sharing economy takes it to the next level - it is the opposite - you leverage external resources TO SUPPORT YOUR CORE business model. Physical services can not leverage the cloud to reduce costs; therefore, a ‘Shared’ community driven by apps in the cloud is the perfect opportunity.

Uber, Handy, and Lyft are just a  few of the  businesses built on the sharing economy, which is expected to hit 335 billion by 2025. Whether your business is backed with millions from VC, labeled as a ‘Unicorn’ with a valuation in thebillion dollar range, or a new startup with a small piece of the market - it is your brand and your responsibility to create a consistent experience.

You must carefully plan the desired outsource or sharing resource strategy to support the best customer experience - or it will fail.  The competition is fierce, and the bar set high by the best brands. You can win with the right strategy and focus.

Some companies like Shyp, for example, are already starting to hire contractors to overcome challenges like training (hint: one of the key areas of success I highlight in my next post). It will be interesting to watch how these businesses adapt their sharing and outsource percentage of business over time.

As a business operations leader, a member of a shared community, and a consumer that is keen to a great experience, my next post will highlight three quick tips that are key to success in the sharing economy, followed by comments from each perspective.

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

I would love your feedback. Please comment with your thoughts.

What You Can Learn From A Difficult NYC Bike Ride

My first biking memory is being excited that my mom gave me a brand new red ten speed.  As I passed the police station on my first ride, I crashed straight into a red brick sign and destroyed the handle bars.

It wasn’t dissimilar from many other experiences falling on my head in gymnastics, several trips to the emergency room, and tearing a ligament jumping over an NYC puddle in 4 inch wedges.

I ALWAYS get back up - and for the most part laugh it off. Falls are both physical and mental. It is how you deal with them.

Here is what I learned about myself as an adult re-learning how to ride a bike with the clip-on shoes my boyfriend bought me promptly after I got my new Trek road bike.

It was time for my first bike ride with the new shoes to go over to his place in Astoria after work one day.

Area To Improve #1: Take Your Time

Of course I wanted to get there as quickly as possible or I may decide to take an Uber vs take on this challenge. I rushed to attach the cleats to my shoes.

Area To Improve #2: Ask For Help

If I took the time to ask for help at the bike shop that was on the way, I could have saved myself from a few bruises that day.

I walked my bike across the street to face the right direction and fell sideways literally within a few pedals.

A nice couple helps pull me up while my feet were still stuck to the pedals. When I am upright, I explain to them that it is my first time trying these shoes. We share a laugh as they had experience biking and proceed with guidance for ‘twisting’ out of the pedal before they set me free for the rest of the ride.

Area To Improve #3: Practice

I admit. I failed to listen to the guidance to practice. I only tried to remove my feet a handful of times. Apparently, that wasn’t enough. I was just ready to get going, so I did.

Strength #1: Open To New Adventures

On the side of strengths, I am not afraid to new adventures. I took on a new challenge even though I was scared.

I continue across Midtown with no issue until I had to stop at a red light on 8th Ave and 50th street. I gracefully fall over to the side promptly after I stopped.

The gentlemen on his bike next to me reaches his hand over to try to help me up unsuccessfully since I am glued to the pedals.

Another couple step in to help; however, when I tell them it is my first time using clip-on shoes, they just think I am crazy to learn in NYC rush hour.

Strength #2: Authenticity And Grace Defeats Judgement

I confirmed during the bike ride that I am definitely okay with being authentic - not phased by others judgement.  I truly looked silly each time I fell. I could have been embarrassed, concerned, or afraid to let others help me.

Strength #3: Plan B

I realize that I should be a bit more careful and could potentially hurt myself. I decide to leave one foot unclipped so I can put it down - and not fall. My plan b was successful for the rest of the bike ride across Midtown, along 2nd Avenue, over the Queensboro bridge and through Queens.  

I was excited and relieved to arrive at my destination -  frustrated, annoyed, and felt silly for having so much difficulty. On top of it all, I had to get back on the stupid bike in the morning before work and do it all over again.

After I share my horror story with my boyfriend and he looks at my shoes, I learn that I didn’t attach the cleats tightly enough so they just swiveled. Next time I try something new, I need to take my time, ask for help, and practice. Perhaps, then I will have a better first time experience.

Strength #4: Get Back On Your Feet

While I could have decided to ditch the whole effort after the first fall outside my apartment, a few bruises won’t stop me towards a goal.

I got back on my bike and rode the next morning with my boyfriend into the city. Even with my cleats on tight with his help, I continued to take a couple more falls that same week.

The scariest was the time I fell under a truck next to Central Park. Luckily, I got one foot out in time to get up on my own - with a doozy of a bruise on my bum.

That was one of several bruises that first week weaving in and out of traffic in the city. I was able to use the ‘roadkill’ bruises on my legs as an icebreaker in a product roadmap presentation.

Practice Pays Off

I am pleased to report that my continued practice has paid off. I successfully finished a century ride one month after I got the bike with only one fall. I still need to practice changing gears before tackling a big hill.

I rode across Iowa during Ragbrai last year which was over 400 miles in 6 days. No falls.

Finally, I completed the Timberman 70.3 half Ironman a few weeks later the summer of 2014. And, lucky for me, I didn’t fall or get a flat tire because I need to learn and practice how to change a tire. A race is NOT a time you can ask for help.

Thanks to my bike ride, I learned and confirmed some valuable things about myself.

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

 

 

How Uniqlo Will Show Your Body Temperature Rise In The Mirror And More

What You Can Learn From The PSFK Future of Retail

I attended the PSFK Future of Retail event last week in NYC. 

Even though the event had a focus on the retail industry, all 10 pillars can equally be applied in different industries. In the end, it comes down to understanding the human behavior of psychology and choice, the importance of communities and relationships, and how you use it to create engaging and personalized experiences in person and across different channels.

The speakers at the NYC event last week were all fantastic. The stories were the perfect complement to the pillars. I had read a few articles about MikMak prior to the event; however, it was much more helpful to hear the story behind the brand from the founder, Rachel Tipograph. It is a perfect example of how a brand can eliminate obstacles.

Here are the 10 pillars with key trends and brand examples shared by PSFK - along with a few of my comments.

1. Create Confidence

  • PSFK Examples: The Pirch, Sephora
  • PSFK Key Trends: Product Immersion, Guided Recommendations

I am a big fan of Uniqlo. Their Heattech apparel is a Winter necessity for layering. They now have smart mirrors to validate the technology and create confidence for customers in the stores. To learn more about strategies that contribute to online shopper confidence, check out this article.

2. Perfect Partnership

  • PSFK Examples: Virgin Hotels x Gap, Insta Cart x All Recipes
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cross-Channel Rewards, Additive Experiences

During the event, PSFK shared the partnership where you can have a Gap wardrobe delivered to your Virgin Hotels room. Westin and New Balance partnered together to help travelers keep their commitment to a healthy lifestyle with exercise. No more excuses for skipping that workout.

3. Optimize Ownership

  • PSFK Examples: Patagonia, GoEnjoy
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cultivated Expertise, Always-On Support

Salesforce.com is a great example of a company that optimizes ownership. Salesforce.com Service Cloud enables companies to deliver a superior support experience. The Salesforce.com app exchange provides clients with integration options galore to complement the platform. Customers get the most value with products they understand. Salesforce.com new training platform Trailheads cultivates experts with gamification and badges. The best part, it’s free!

4. Democratize Access

  • PSFK Examples: StitchFix, Rebecca Minkoff
  • PSFK Key Trends: Customer Concierges, Aspirational Experiences

Customer concierges and aspirational experiences were two key trends highlighted. Stitch Fix and Trunk Club are just two examples of businesses that promote your very own ‘personal shopper’ that curates items specific for you. If you prefer the aspirational experiences, econsultancy.com talks about 3 examples of brands experimenting with virtual reality.

Finally, for your next trip, book a stay at a Marriott to experience the first  ever VRoom Service. Samsung and Marriott partner to  bring virtual reality to your room.

5. Eliminate Obstacles

  • PSFK Examples: Starbucks, Hointer & Macys, MikMak
  • PSFK Key Trends: Anywhere Purchase Platforms, Shop Ahead, One-Click Transactions

Eliminating purchase obstacles is a pretty popular one. How can you make it an effortless experience for the shopper? Amazon one click purchase is downright dangerous!

You know the feeling of seeing the slip from UPS or Fedex when you missed a shipment? The people at Shyp relate to that feeling as well as the need to keep up with the nomads that move every year (I bet a lot of college and city dwellers fit into that category). Shyp just announced that it will eliminates addresses. When you use the app to ship, you only need to know the username of the recipient.

We all know the hardest part about online shopping is the fear that it will not fit. Unless you are familiar with the brand and sizing, you may not be willing to drop the cash or credit for the item. Fear no more, Try is a new service that partners with brands so you can try the clothes on prior to the purchase. Bloomingdales, Barneys, J Crew, Reformation, Topshop, and Zara are just a few on the list of the retailers.

6. Promote Transparency

  • PSFK Examples: Amazon Elements
  • PSFK Key Trends: Storied Products, Reciprocal Relationships

People want to know the origin of the product. Where was it made? Was it fair trade? There is a story about the lifecycle of each garment - for both the materials and the process. We should understand the impact it has on the environment, and the quality. Zady is establishing a new standard with its clothing line. They are educating consumers about the product, people, and planet. Sustainability is not only important for the food we consume, it is in the clothing we wear.

7. Encourage Advocacy

  • PSFK Examples: Sony, Chevrolet x Whatsapp
  • PSFK Key Trends: Shopper-Led Exchange, Crowd Buy-In

In the world of social media and influencers, it is no wonder there is a focus to encourage advocacy. Every brand should build this into their DNA. In one of my blog posts, I shared how you can learn from Bonobos and master customer advocacy with three simple tips. For additional tips, this article on ways to identify potential brand champions, is also a good one.

8. Cultivate Community

  • PSFK Examples: Bjornborg, Audi
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cultural Hubs, Collaborative Marketplaces

More brands are creating methods for customers to be a part of the community or featured on the website when they tag social media pictures like #revolveme for Revolve Clothing. During Spring Break this year, American Eagle had the world’s largest unretouched selfie in Miami as part of its ‘Love Your Real Selfie’ campaign.

Second hand store, Vestiaire Collection launched #theonethatgotaway campaign. They invite users to post a story about the piece of clothing that they saw - and never purchased. The hope is that one of the other 4 million users has that piece of clothing to sell.

All the links on Stylinity are shoppable. It is a collaborative community for brands and individuals that love to take a selfie. Stylinity has a StylePerks program that awards people when someone makes a purchase from their selfie.

9. Recognize & Personalize

  • PSFK Examples: Walgreens, Moda Operandi
  • PSFK Key Trends: 360-Degree Service, Predictive Assistance

People expect personalization. There is no reason why we should receive emails that are irrelevant to us. Brands need to have a clear analytics strategy to understand the customer and the appropriate actions. HBR recently did a good article on selecting an analytics vendor. Brands should also think about how they will leverage data across all channels to help drive the right degree of personalization for when and how to connect with each customer.

10. Deliver Delight

  • PSFK Example: Kenneth Cole
  • PSFK Key Trend: Insider Exclusives

Alice & Olivia and Tory Burch are two of my favorite brands. It is dangerous that they are just a few short blocks from one another. Not only do I love their style, both Stacey Bendet and Tory Burch are a true inspiration for building successful empires. As a frequent shopper, I get to enjoy pre-sale events and receive gifts in the mail during the holiday. Last year, I was so delighted when I opened a perfectly packaged copy of the Tory Burch Color book. And just a few weeks ago, Alice & Olivia delighted me with two free tickets to the Meatpacking Open Market kickoff event. Sometimes, you can also simply create the illusion of exclusivity as shared in this article.

I am excited to see the future of retail and how brands will balance the technology with the personalization. Even though I love technology, my loyalty is always with those that I can have a personal connection. Here is a post inspired by my experience with Alice & Olivia - a brand with authentic personality.

What do you think about the 10 pillars in the PSFK Future of Retail?

Yours Truly,

Randa Green

3 Trends In Retail Customer Engagement

As a consumer, we have access to everything on demand, with a touch of our fingertips. Each channel plays an important part of the overall customer journey. Even though we can get same day delivery by Amazon or the luxury brand Net-A-Porter, studies show that 71% of respondents would prefer to shop in a physical Amazon store vs. online.  

While I am passionate about the omni-channel experience and how brands can maintain consistency across channels, I will focus on how brands can best engage when customers choose to go in the store.

Customer Engagement

Retail is no different than the standard business conference, Bar Mitzvah, holiday party, or wedding. We have the desire to interact with friends, meet new people, and share those experiences with our groups of ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ on Facebook and LinkedIn. We are busy bees in a world of constant movement that crave the opportunity to relax and be at ease with an effortless experience.

Here are three trends in retail that are your next big tickets to success when it comes to in-person customer engagement.

Social

Photo-Booth’s Create A Memorable Experience

Connect with your customers by providing them with a way to create memories with friends. At parties, there are photo booths for guests to have a memento from the event - select stores provide the same opportunity to share your experience across social media. Whether it is at Steve Madden with my dog,  or being photo bombed by a group of girls at Uniqlo in NYC during the St. Patrick’s day parade, I will remember those experiences brands. Retail shops with less budget and space for bulky photo booths can create the same social atmosphere with displays curated specifically for selfies - free marketing at your service.

In-Store Collaborations Are A Win For All

Another great way that retail stores encourage social interaction is through events and collaborations. I recall a time at Desigual when they had a makeup artist, mini gift bags,  drinks , a DJ, and a catwalk to showcase looks put together by the stylists. I am confident that Saturday afternoon was the most I ever spent on one visit to Desigual - and as a bonus had my makeup professionally done for the evening.

Not only does the store generate a lot of foot traffic by the signs outside, it keeps customers in the store longer to spend more money, and is a fantastic way to promote other brands, stylists, and artists. Customers who were acquired through word-of-mouth have a 37 percent higher retention rate. (McKinsey) Think about how you will develop your  influencer marketing platform.

Neighborhood Events Support The Community

Finally, make it even more social by gathering other stores in the area. Alice & Olivia was kind to provide me with two complimentary tickets for a kick-off party  for Meat Packing Open Market . It was a concert with food and drinks for a weekend of  in-store events and discounts from retail stores and restaurants in the area. Who doesn’t love an opportunity to invite a friend and share a fun evening!

Technology

Smart Target Discounts Save Customer Time

When you attend industry conferences, you often have access to an app designed specifically to simplify the attendees experience and avoid carrying schedules and paper ads that end up in the trash. The same concept exists at different levels for in-store shopping experiences from basic to smart and targeted discounts. While clipping coupons from the Sunday paper is one of my favorite past times, it is delightful that technology is here to help us along the shopping journey. We will see even more with emerging technologies such as iBeacons and near-field communication.

Interactive Displays Educate Customers

The shift in e-commerce  brands opening physical stores or ‘Clicks to Bricks’  brands are leading the path with the most efficient ways to integrate their back-office inventory systems, CRM, and more into the showroom like experience. As stores remove paper displays and tear down signs, they open valuable space for LCD monitors and iPads that complement the back-office systems and create an interactive method to engage shoppers. Stores can be creative with uses for those devices - for example, display information on the monitor based on interactive hangers (IH), show latest Pinterest pins of favorites for social proof, integrate with your customer support via web video or chat, or simply let them browse your website.

Mobile Checkout Completes Customer Experience

Have you ever wanted to purchase a product from a store only to find the line so long that you leave? You save a few bucks at the expense of a poor experience at the store. You may or may not return, to purchase the product or anytime, based on the loyalty of the particular brand. Apple and other brands that have mobile kiosks make it effortless to complete your purchase. For some established brands, integration to back-office systems may be an issue - expect that to change in the near future. The endless amounts of apps for devices do make it easy for new brands to start pure mobile - in this case, they have the advantage.

Food & Drink

A Restaurant or Cafe Creates A More Social Atmosphere

Most parties are centered around the food and drink. Obviously, food and drinks are a great way to encourage customers to stick around the store longer to shop. While restaurants in stores are not a new thing, they are popping up more frequently. It is a great way to lure people into the store. I recently chose a new morning stop for my bagel with cream cheese and jelly (the cafe at Urban Outfitters in Herald Square). I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty fresh raspberry jam vs. the type at the cafe just one block down Broadway. After two days of breakfast, it was time to try the lunch - only to find myself casually looking in the store when the line was too long. I held back from the photo booth - at least during that visit!

Everyone Loves Free Stuff

Opening a full restaurant or cafe is a big hit to the bottom line for most small shops. Even for large retail chains, you may only see them in the hotspot locations like 5th avenue in NYC or Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Shops that are small or have a tight budget can choose to provide free bites and drinks to guests on select days - just remember to be consistent with clients and days of the week. You bet customers will shop while they sip a free drink.

These were just a few examples of how you can engage customers through social, technology, and food. Think about how you can include them into your plans. Be creative, and most of all, be authentic and have fun along the way. In future posts, I will dig deeper into these topics - with technology being the primary focus.

I would love to hear your comments. As a customer, what are your favorite trends you see in retail stores?

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

 

 

Be Consistent For Smooth Sailing Customer Experience

In my last post, I shared a few stories about my first experiences. Not only do I love to try new places for the first time, learn new subjects, challenge myself with activities like the Tough Mudder - it is great to experience new products and services.

As a business leader, you are the champion for a great customer experience!

Whether your first interaction with a customer is face-to-face, through technology, or as a reference - it is your first and best opportunity to connect. Once you connect, you are positioned to convert them as a new customer, and finally keep providing them a great experience - just like you did the first time!

In my experience as a consumer and customer service operations leader, consistency is a key factor to consider when you create your business strategy, develop processes, and choose technologies. Here is a story that truly opened my eyes to the importance of consistency.

The Story of Consistency

Starts with a great first experience. To Connect, Convert,

It all started with the first visit and a hand-written thank you note. I was hooked as a loyal customer for 6+ years until I moved from Chicago to NYC. Rashida is not only an influential female entrepreneur that I look up to, she is a friend. We both have a passion for customer experience and would often share business stories - even if beauty and hosted VoIP are different industries, human behavior and requirements are the same.

And Keep Your Customers!

There was something about walking into her studio that was refreshing. The entire experience was so effortless. As a subscription service, there was no hassle with payment upon arrival. While you waited; you sat in comfortable sofa and chairs, enjoyed your favorite mini soda, a variety of candy options, and movies with Audrey Hepburn to match the posters of the icon on the walls.

One day, she shared her perspective of consistency in customer experience with me. We subconsciously expect to receive consistent experiences in all of our interactions. As she explained it to me, I easily connected the dots of consistency in my visits with her over the years. One simple example was how she mixed the same 10 songs into the music playlists.

It can be the littlest detail like your hair dresser not using a familiar product or tool with no explanation. While it may not stop you from a return visit, it will likely leave a void as if something is missing. Ever since this conversation with Rashida, I always notice the impact of consistency as a consumer and business leader. I am so excited that Rashida is sharing her expertise to help others build brand identity strategy

Be Consistent

In the journey to connect, convert, and keep loyal customers - here are three key areas of consistency to consider. Establish initial trust during the first interaction and continue to provide the same across all channels, to each customer, and through the entire journey.

Across All Communication Channels

Customers want a choice in how they connect with your business. Be consistent in your communications across all channels. If you have different departments managing social media feeds than handling email and phone calls, using the same knowledge base to provide responses to customers will help them be consistent. Invest in tools to keep those teams aware of different channel interactions. Salesforce is just one option. Don’t blow a great first impression from the amazing store personality with lack of response via email or Twitter.

When Dealing With Different Customers

Customers share stories about their experiences, especially over social media. With so many choices available, recommendations from trusted sources are always welcome as a consumer - and for your business. Influencers… Document best practices for consistent interaction when customers deal with different roles across the organization. No one wants to hear praises about an experience with an amazing salesperson only to be shattered by a complete disaster with a different one. Next thing you know, there is a heated argument between best friends over a bad recommendation.

For Each Interaction

Consistency during each interaction with a customer can impacts his/her loyalty. Imagine that you have an effortless experience the first few times you visit a new store - you are greeted with a smile, offered the beverage of your choice (which should be consistent), and enjoy the familiar music. As you learn to expect the same treatment over time, of course you are surprised if you enter the store and feel as if you are in a different world! What happened? Is there new management? You decide to give them the benefit of the doubt - it must have been an off day…  While the tolerance for  variations in  customer experience will vary,  don’t test the waters when you have the power to manage the consistency.

What are your thoughts on consistency as a customer? How do you handle consistency with customers at your business?

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

 

Learn Through Frequent First Time Experiences

There is something about the first experience that we don’t forget. Whether it is the first trophy, kiss, gymnastics competition, 'The First Time', or when we first learn what it feels like to be hurt - from peers, co-workers, someone we love… it shapes who we are as individuals…  The first time we experience something, we are the most vulnerable; hopefully open to learn and embrace the opportunities the world has to offer.

I personally love to try new things, embrace challenges, meet new friends, and welcome opportunities to learn and grow. Here are two recent events that remind me of the significance of first experiences.

Being Vulnerable

During a recent business trip to California, I watched ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ starring Audrey Hepburn - a personal fashion icon of mine. I am refreshed by her carefree attitude, authenticity, and positive outlook on life. She and her neighbor take a day of adventure in NYC to experience a day of ‘firsts’ - being vulnerable to both new things and about one another.  Wondering why I don’t do this more frequently, I texted my boyfriend the idea as soon as I landed…

To my surprise, Friday of that week, he planned an evening of first experiences for me in NYC; running 5 miles of interval training on a Friday evening (I typically like to run in the mornings…), walking across the Brooklyn Bridge (I had only biked), dinner at a new restaurant, and the top of the Empire State Building. I truly felt like a little kid in a candy store with the world to explore and learn - and luckily the world is a big place.

 Times Square and Bryant Park from the top of The Empire State building

Times Square and Bryant Park from the top of The Empire State building

Tough or Rewarding - It Is Your Choice

I signed up for my first Tough Mudder a few weeks ago for Saturday, August 15th. I didn’t really know the details until I watched videos a few days later… I just expected some mud, monkey bars, ropes; however, the Electroshock Therapy 2.0 particularly worried me a bit. I was secretly hoping I would nail the Funkey Monkey 2.0 with my background as a certified child monkey.

 As you can see on my face, the electric shock was not my favorite. At least it was the last obstacle. It was just a really weird feeling since you could feel it throughout your entire body.

As you can see on my face, the electric shock was not my favorite. At least it was the last obstacle. It was just a really weird feeling since you could feel it throughout your entire body.

Fast forward to past our team carpool from Brooklyn, Def Leppard jam on the school bus ride to the location, and coordinated ‘warm-up area’, it was finally our turn to be TOUGH! When we arrived at the start line, we were told to kneel down for a pep talk from Sean Corvelle, the MIC guy for Tough Mudder. During his speech, he emphasized the power of teamwork and positivity, shared Tough Mudder stories, and highlighted the importance of trying new things. 

 I am pleased to report that I successfully completed the Funkey Monkey! The monkey bars were always my favorite on the playground. Even today, I become a kid again at any playground that has monkey bars or anything to climb.

I am pleased to report that I successfully completed the Funkey Monkey! The monkey bars were always my favorite on the playground. Even today, I become a kid again at any playground that has monkey bars or anything to climb.

Sean said, "Try to do something for the first time at least once a week."

Done! The Tough Mudder was not only a great first experience, I am now inspired to try take Sean’s advice.

Whether the first experience is tough or rewarding, I encourage you to be open and think positively. You have the choice to create your own adventure, learn from each challenge, and create endless opportunities for yourself and others.

I look forward to sharing new first experiences with you all. I would love to hear about your first experiences.

Yours Truly

The Pukka Panda


A Challenge Is Your Opportunity To Create A Winning Solution

I don’t accept no for an answer. There is always a way to find a solution to achieve the desired objective. Think differently. Ask the next question. While It may not be the easiest path, there is a a way to get where you need.

Fortunately, my life is filled with family, friends, and business leaders that have taught me you can achieve anything with the right approach. I am always up for a challenge, which is well known to those people… especially my mother when challenging me to cross the adult rings at the lake at age 6, to climb a tree, or recently to swing on a vine in Puerto Rico.

When there is a challenge to overcome...

I recently watched ‘Moneyball’ - a great story of challenges and the motivation to win. In ‘Moneyball’, they are challenged by the lowest budget for baseball. How do you win with no budget to buy the best players? After losing their top player, Billy, the General Manager pleads for additional money as his first approach. Being told ‘no’, he tries his next option to buy a sub-par player from another team. When Billy hears ‘no’ again influenced by a recent Yale Economics graduate, he takes the opportunity to dig deeper with this individual and learn more about why he won’t give up this player. Sold on this new method using analytics to redefine what makes a winning player, there is an opportunity to get the right team of players to win the game.

It is not about one player, it’s about the team...

Billy is motivated to create a winning team and hires the Yale graduate to help him find those players. While Billy is motivated, his initial method to execute on the new analytic approach is a failure - the team loses 15+ straight games with the three new players, while giving him a bad name. Billy was determined, yet was trying to win with a strategy in a vacuum of two people, without properly communicating the tactics to the rest of the team.

And leading through personal connection and individual motivation.

After a tarnished reputation from failure to deliver using the new technique, it hits Billy personally when his daughter expresses her fear of him losing his job and moving away. At that point, there was something that hit home and he became a leader.

Before, he was unattached to the players on the team - not riding on the plane with them or visiting them in the locker room. There was no personal connection. He was not being a leader.

Billy took the time to meet with each person individually, to understand them, to learn what they needed to feel motivated. Sure enough, the team wins the next 20 straight games to beat the record.

In the end, they did not win the World Series; however, Billy grew as an individual and learned what was important. He was offered the highest General Manager position and refused it to stay with his team. It wasn’t about the money, it was about how he felt - accomplished - appreciated. In the story, he made a difference in the game with other teams adopting the strategy in future years.

Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of ‘no’, use it as an opportunity to help provide an alternative solution or think differently to achieve the objective. I would love to hear your story about creating an opportunity out of a challenge.

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda

Authentic Personality - The Best Way To Win & Keep Customers

For those of you that have seen Pretty Woman, it is clear that the first shopping scene is not how we win new customers or keep existing ones in any business type.

When you receive poor customer service...

A few weeks ago, while shopping, I was shocked with the lack of personality and rude nature of the store associates. While it was not exactly like the scene from Pretty Woman, it quickly reminded me of the importance of personal connections to your choice with whom you do business and interact.

Do you choose to continue giving them your business...

In a previous post, I shared three ways to create customer advocates. A company or brand can have an amazing effortless experience and quality product; however, when it does not score well in the personal connection category, it is a show stopper.

I typically choose to shop at a few of my favorite brands since I know the product quality, prefer the setup of the stores, and they fit well into my personal style. An authentic personality in interactions with favorite brands and business relations is key.

Or, do business with brands and people you enjoy... 

One of my favorite stores is Alice & Olivia. From the very first time I entered the store a few years ago, I was welcomed with smiles and authentic personalities. They grabbed my attention, kept me in the store with their friendliness, and it didn’t hurt that I felt as if the brand was made for me. While I love the brand, I am also specifically loyal to that same store I entered over three years ago. Personal connection is strong!

People choose to do business with brands and people they like. Your sales and account management teams are critical to the success and personal relationships with customers. That is not enough in the agile nature of the workforce. To maintain a strong loyalty bond, you need to keep employees engaged and happy, while you also provide a consistent message to customers via all communication channels (web, mobile, chat, phone, etc). It is equally important to create a good connection from both the brand and the individuals which communicate directly with those same customers.

Here are a few tips that come to mind which create an authentic personal connection that will help your company attract and keep customers. These tips may be altered to align with the applicable communication channel.

  • Be Approachable

  • Smile Bright

  • Show Your Personality

  • Be Free Of Judgments

Whether you use technology automation or human connection as your source of personal connection, delight your customers and include positive communication, tone, with personality to match your brand.

I know what I prefer. What about you?

Take a moment to think of the brands in your personal and professional life that you talk about most. How do they connect with your personally?

Yours Truly,

THE PUKKA PANDA

 

How To Get Full Attention From Your Audience

"Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages. However, communication is effective only when the message is understood and when it stimulates action or encourages the receiver to think in new ways." (Courtland L. Bovée, John V. Thill, and Barbara E. Schatzman, Business Communication Essentials. Pearson, 2004)

As we are buried in endless communication from every channel, we need to bypass information overload and help our audience capture and lock into their memory?

In the beginning, its simple…

Being the first employee for a startup, I designed and implemented the operational processes used with the systems to support the voice SaaS business. At Geckotech, I led the teams responsible for implementation, customer service, and the data center infrastructure. Since we were all located within one office, communicating change was simple - and it occurred frequently. A combination of email communication, weekly training sessions, and management of defined metrics was a great recipe for success.

Once business grow into more than one location, the recipe needs to adapt. In fact, using an application called RescueTime  to understand productivity by application use, I noticed that my email usage went from 5 hours a week to 15 hours a week when managing teams across different locations!

When you grow, it becomes a challenge...

When M5 Networks acquired Geckotech, I transitioned to oversee business process and the service delivery teams which span across several locations. As a growing business implementing new technology and systems, it was a careful challenge to communicate change effectively and continue to maintain top NPS scores. Technology and systems will only have the expected impact when the people and change process are managed properly.

Emails, meetings, Powerpoint decks posted on Salesforce.com chatter, and knowledge base articles didn’t seem to be enough to effectively communicate the information required to both the impacted teams and the rest of the company. After all, everyone else is using the same communication channels. Rewind back to the comment about information overload... As a company, we adopted quarterly change sprints so make change consistent. Even with a corporate movement, there is room for creativity.

It’s time to disrupt the norm…

I can almost guarantee your message will be the only one in the restroom. Just like we need to take some time away from our smartphone and technology at times, we also need a ‘bio’ break!

I found the ‘sacred’ place a great way to capture everyone’s attention and generate some funny emails from those who were shocked by the placement. Here are some tips that I learned along the way through positive and constructive feedback which I used to iterate into the weekly posts.

Now, it is your turn!

Here are some tips on how to make your “Flush” most effective:

The Content 

Keep it simple with key messages and bullets

Repeat message from other communication channels

Provide online knowledge base source to access details

Use as a source to compliment individuals

Execution is Key

Choose an ambassador at each site to post in all stalls (and remind them to be careful when entering the opposite sex restroom...) 

Post it at the right place on the stall door AND standing height for men

Consistently provide new material and announce via email or meeting

Email a PDF version to remote workers separately (While worth a shot, I doubt they will post it at home) 

What do you think? Give it a try. I would love to hear the feedback and results.

Yours Truly,

THE PUKKA PANDA

Curious about Information Overload? Check out this article from Forbes.

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Compliment A Stranger Challenge - It's Free & Full of Smiles

Are you up for a challenge that requires you to pay attention to your surroundings, get outside of your work bubble, and look up from your smartphone?

Add one or two compliments to your daily activity to help brighten three days and beyond.

There is something different about a compliment from someone other than friends and family. It seems more genuine, it takes a bit of guts, and is just a great surprise.

Smile #1 Scenario: Complete Stranger - Give a compliment to a complete stranger each day. It makes your commute to and from work more enjoyable than playing 2048.

I was shopping the other day at one of my favorite places for jeans, GStar. Imagine that... As I was waiting for an Uber to return to Brooklyn, this gentlemen passes by on his bike, smiles, and says 'nice trousers'. I returned the smile and had a little giggle to myself about the word trouser which I don’t hear often.

5 minutes goes by... The same gentlemen passes by me on his bike, smiles, and again says 'nice trousers'. I return the smile for the second time. My Uber arrived so I am not sure if he would have passed by a third time. While he may not remember it, I still smile when I think of this interaction. That simple act of kindness produced 4 smiles on that day and continues to increase.

Smile #2 Scenario: Colleague - Give positive feedback or a compliment about work to a colleague with whom you don't typically interact.

While it is generally nice to provide compliments about style, positive feedback regarding his/her work is well received. About a year and a half ago, for a large conference, there was a colleague whom executed planning the event brilliantly. At that time, I had only a few interactions with her; however, I really thought she should hear of mine and others appreciation for making it simple. I sent a nice email to express that appreciation. In person is the ideal and likely most impactful.

Over the past year and a half, we have become close friends and frequently interact. About a month ago, she told me that she still remembers that email I sent. She shared about the planning experience and that I made her day! Guess what, she made my day, too - and the thought that a simple gesture can make someone smile and continue to bring smiles to our days, is amazing.

I would love to hear your stories about how you feel after giving or receiving compliments. Are you up for the challenge to help make our days brighter?

Yours Truly

the pukka panda

Master Customer Advocacy With These 3 Tips

Create Customer Advocates

The Masters tournament and my favorite golf pants are the inspiration for this post. I have been a loyal Bonobos customer and advocate since they first started making the best men’s trousers by eliminating the ‘Khaki Diaper Butt’.  I thank them for all women. Bonobos doesn’t even make women’s clothing; however, they did kindly take my feedback from years ago and started a brand for women, Ayr.

You may have heard of Net Promoter Score as a method to track success of service. NPS (Net Promoter Score) asks one question:  How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague?

Since keeping a customer is much easier than obtaining a new one, a good NPS is important for the growing amount of SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and anything else you can think of to put in front of ‘as a service.’

I am much more than a promoter of Bonobos and several other of my favorite brands and services which I am sure to talk about in future posts.

Bonobos has quality brand positioning and e-commerce strategy. They are leaders in the ‘clicks to bricks’ trend with their guide-shops, and execute their strategy flawlessly.

Bonobos has the three critical keys to success figured out. If you can do well in the following three things, you will create customer advocates in any industry.

Effortless Experience

Customers want to have an effortless experience so they can get on with their day.

Every interaction I have had with Bonobos has been effortless. The real test for a company is when there is a difficult situation. When the Bonobos website was overloaded on Cyber Monday a few years ago, they provided a simple email form that would notify customers once the site was available. As a customer, it was effortless. On top of that, they ended up extending the sale to make it up. I bet they won several new customer advocates!

Uber and Nordstrom are two others that provide an effortless experience. Read ‘The Effortless Experience’ to learn more about how you can build loyalty. 

Quality Product

People want to have a consistent experience and know what to expect of your product or service. Bonobos has a quality style and brand. The product must be designed for the specific purpose that creates value for the individual.

Since today’s post was inspired by the Masters tournament, it makes sense to highlight the detail golf score-card that is creatively included inside the Bonobos pants. It is such a nice touch along with the ankle zipper.

In a service business, it is important to have similar quality standards within your software while your service is reliable and available when expected.

Personal Connection

Everyone likes a personal connection.

In the past, Bonobos allowed customers to submit name entries for their pants. It was a great way for them to connect with their customers personally.

Alternatively, you can provide choices to target different types of customers. While Bonobos started out strictly in e-commerce, they recently have opened guide shops in key markets to create a personal shopping channel for customers which prefer a physical store.

Restaurant chains create closer connections through providing different menu options in geographic markets. Whether it is through personal shopping, geographic differentiation, or use of technology and social media, there are endless options to be creative with personal connections.

What do you think? Would you advocate for a company that provides an Effortless Experience, has a Quality Product or Service, and creates a Personal Connection?

Yours Truly,

ThePukkaPanda