Reflections on Medallia Experience '19
This summer, OGC had the opportunity to sponsor the Medallia Experience Conference, where CX enthusiasts from every industry gathered to discuss the future of successful customer experience. Taking place at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego, the conference was both lively and educational, featuring talks from Lindsey Vonn, an Olympian skier and author, to Leslie Stretch, Medallia’s CEO. The three-day conference was also introduced with successful client stories from Adobe, Hilton, IBM, Bank of America, Harley Davidson, and others, emphasizing how integral happy end-customers are to a thriving business.
The topics that resonated with me most included the shift from traditional surveys to extracting insights from social media, the importance of Athena, Medallia’s new AI tool that can predict actionable insights, and integrating the voice of the employee with the new Medallia Conversations apps. A pervasive theme, which I felt embodied the sentiment of the entire conference, was the future. With such a rapidly changing landscape of customer experience, how can companies adapt quickly and effectively to retain customer loyalty, attract new customers, and maintain a competitive edge? How can businesses embrace the influence of social media to their advantage? Workshops and talks aimed to answer these types of questions and others, leaving conference attendees satisfied, hopeful for the future, and eager to learn more.
Our booth was located in The Hub, an open space where conference attendees learned about Medallia’s new features and their sponsors and listened to short talks about topics ranging from empowering Medallia users on web and mobile platforms, to building an experience footprint for every customer. It was at the Hub that we had the pleasure of greeting new faces from companies such as Visa, Nike, Lowe’s, Walmart, Staples, Capital One, Marriott, and more.
Outside The Hub, attendees were welcome to visit workshops and talks given from Medallians, their sponsors, and the clients themselves. One workshop, hosted by OGC Global’s founder and CEO Or Gorsky, tackled the B2B response rate challenge, exploring key strategies to address this puzzling issue. Attendees were encouraged to offer insights and ideas of their own within five key areas impacting response rates, with the end-goal of creating a unique solution suited to an individual B2B program. A Text Analytics workshop, on the other hand, taught clients how to discover important themes within customer feedback to create Text Analytics search topics that most effectively quantify the impact of those themes, prioritizing key improvement areas.
While each workshop or talk had meaningful takeaways, the most encouraging talk for me was Orlando Ashford’s keynote about shaping organizational culture: How Authentic Leadership Leads to a Better Guest Experience. Ashford’s approach as President of Holland America Line was a major shift from his predecessors. He gave a short anecdote about entering an elevator on one of his first days on the job, and the two women in the elevator suddenly whispered to one another and became quiet. This interaction made him question how to change the work culture of fear in the face of upper management. He wanted to break the barrier between the ranks, promoting the exchange of ideas and empowering employees from every level of the organization to speak up and share constructive feedback.
Ashford continued to tell another story about authenticity, taking us back to a time where he lived in Turkey and was preparing to host a dinner party with his wife. Before the meal, they prepared small-talk topics to speak about over dinner, or as he described it, “we memorized the weather patterns.” He and his wife agreed, though, that three topics should be avoided at all costs: politics, race, and religion. Once his guests arrived, one of the first comments that was made to him took him by surprise: “so, tell me about that Jesus guy that you like so much.” Despite his initial hesitance, Ashford embraced the conversation, and it became one of the most meaningful and rich interactions he’s ever had. He continues to stay in touch with that friend to this day.
None of these anecdotes would be relevant, however, if there was no correlation with a positive impact on customer experience. These interactions prompted Ashford to reconstruct how Holland America Line organizes itself internally. He took it upon himself to begin a dramatic shift towards cultivating more authentic interactions within the workplace, listening to each employee’s valued experience. He not only encourages others to challenge themselves to be more open and honest, he expects the same of himself. During a work retreat, he noticed he wasn’t even able to honestly answer the Ice Breaker question about his favorite movie. Only then did he realize how difficult it is to be truly authentic and real.
This organizational transformation resulted in record-breaking employee engagement, revenue numbers, and NPS scores. Once the voice of the employee was valued as much as the voice of the customer, not only did internal dialogue improve, the customer voice was finally heard to the fullest extent. In the conference’s opening keynote, Krish Mantripragada spoke about encouraging employees to leave feedback and suggestions on the Medallia app based upon their day-to-day experiences with customers. This novel approach to improving the customer experience relies on the simple fact that employees that actually interact with customers know best. Not only do they see the customer experience on a daily basis, those employees also leave the most significant impact on customer experience.
When businesses begin an authentic dialogue and encourage employees to give feedback, customer experience is captured more holistically and effectively. Employees also feel valued and happier at work, leading to more positive interactions with customers. Ashford’s speech highlighted an important, though often overlooked, truth in our industry: the voice of the employee counts just as much as the voice of the customer. Successful integration of this philosophy is the future of customer experience.
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Leeann Ozer, Business Analyst