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The Evolving Landscape of DTC: A Q&A with SimpleTire CMO Phuong Petersen

Jesus Ramirez: Let’s kick things off! Just a little bit about me. My name is Jesus Ramirez. I’m the VP of Strategy and innovation at Tallwave. And I’m here with Phuong Peterson, CMO at SimpleTire. I’m really excited about this conversation. We’re going to cover quite a lot of topics, everything from the direct-to-consumer space, to building a great brand and customer experience, to looking at new consumer behaviors and opportunities for brands. [We’ll also discuss] what’s on the horizon – [what’s] coming down the pipeline [for Simple Tired] that we should all be excited about. So, there’s a lot to cover, but to start., you have such an amazing background. I’d love if you could share a little bit about your personal journey, your experience, and your background with us.

 

Phuong Petersen: Yeah, absolutely… [I went to] college at Hamilton College, a small liberal arts school. I love small liberal arts because I think it helps you understand all the different types of connections you can make across a lot of disciplinary disciplines. And so that was a really great background. I then jumped into finance, which is kind of odd as a marketing person, to start in finance. But finance was a really great way to start my career. I believe that it’s really important to understand the fundamentals of what makes a business model work and how you [can] make businesses profitable. After a couple of years in finance, I decided that I wanted to be the person who was like making the decisions [on] how to drive revenue and drive growth in the business versus analyzing and trying to inform the decisions.

 

So, I decided to go to business school with the intention of transitioning into marketing. I was able to go to Procter & Gamble after attending Wharton. It was such a great fundamental start… It’s the classic CPG [organization] where you learn all the [buzzwords], branding and marketing fundamentals. I [learned about] consumer insights and how you [can] use insights to drive communication and messaging strategies, but also [about] product development. How you bring all that to life in a creative idea and amplify that through a brand campaign. And then last, [I learned] how to partner with all the other people within [the] ecosystem, like retailers, to really drive growth, not just for you, but for your retailers to grow growth in the market and the category.

 

After several years at Proctor, I left because I had the opportunity to move closer to home and to my family. So, I we went to Boston and actually, looking back in the switch, it was a really odd switch, candidly. I went from CPG brand management to commercial insurance. So, jumping from CA consumer packaged goods to commercial insurance and insurance financial services industry, and then not only that, but doing B2B marketing. I didn’t realize how drastic [that] switch [was]… But it was really a great experience because it’s still taking a lot of the frameworks, I learned in brand management, [and] applying [them in a different way] … There’s a lot of richness in B2B marketing that I don’t think, as business to consumer person, you would know until you do that.

 

So, having that stint to learn B2B marketing in a very different industry kind of like made me realize there’s a lot more out there to learn in marketing and thinking about how you apply marketing tactics and strategies across different disciplines and industries. From there, I, maybe late in my career, realized, “Wow, there’s digital advertising. That’s out there! Maybe I should learn a lot more about it.” This was when DTC was starting to pick up a lot and we were testing a lot of direct-to-consumer products in the financial service industry space – the insurance space. And so, from there, I was able to get my hands dirty and go into at a startup incubator within Liberty Mutual and start learning how to do ad word campaigns. What’s SEO? How do you think about email and deliverability of email? And fortunately, I was then able to jump as COO virtually at Wayfair, which was a really nice. [It] really rounded out my skills because I [still] got to work with the business owners to understand: How do you create the brand strategy? The creative? You know, how do you think about a lifestyle brand like what we did at Birch Lane? But then also own the performance marketing side and own the ad spend efficiency and top line growth. So, a couple of years there was a really great place to really figure out how to put all the pieces together and think about that as a holistic CMO.

 

And then lastly, I joke[that] my husband’s an early adopter of SimpleTire. So, when SimpleTire was coming around, he was like, “You should take a look at this company. It’s got a lot of things going for it. You might not expect and [I] really fell in love with the founders, the culture, what they were doing and realized that it was another place to really hone in on that holistic CMO-skillset at a smaller place where you can actually build something, and then scale it. And it was right at the right time to be able to do that.

Innovation is a really important part because we know that the environment is changing constantly.

JR: That’s fantastic. Yeah. Thanks for sharing all that. I think what I find fascinating about your background is just the diversity of your roles and the well-roundedness of your roles, given all the different types of businesses that you’ve worked on. And it’s interesting because there’s certain things that are commonalities across all industries, like focusing on the customer… or the importance of brand, but then there are very, very big differences if you go, say, from B2C to B2B. So, it’s interesting that you have that experience across all of those… For those in the audience who may not be familiar with SimpleTire, can you tell us a little bit about the company?

 

PP: Yeah. SimpleTire was started in 2012 by two brothers, Andy and Josh Chalofsky who saw a new way to think about: How do we deliver [and] how do we improve the tire buying experience for the customer in a tech driven way? So, they partnered with Kenny Pratt, who’s our CTO, to think about a new business model. What they realized was customers don’t really see the selection of tires that they can get when they just go to a brick and mortar, and secondly, the range of prices you can get with that selection. And so, this was when DTC was starting to pick up. They said, “What if we can do this? Deliver this in a way for the customer that simplifies the process a little bit? So, they have selection, they have the value, they have an easier way of selecting the tires and [having them] delivered in this e-commerce way.”

 

So, the team built that model. [They] built that network of connecting all of the suppliers together, and then having an interface through e-commerce to be able to provide that for the customer. I would say, in the last couple of years to evolve that even more, it wasn’t just about providing the selection of tires and the prices, but actually then thinking about how do we provide a better customer experience in the whole tire replacement journey. Tire replacement probably isn’t the most exciting thing someone looks forward to when they have to do it. And it’s quite a daunting task, if you think about, when you realize you have to solve the problem. So, they realized not only can we actually help select tires, but how do we create convenience out of it and do it all in one solution? Recently we were able to build our network further and have installation partners join our site to be able to let the customer find a place or find the tires, select the tires, purchase tires, and book the installation and pay for all of it online, which is starting to create that convenience and the customer experience that I think is really important, especially for something like replacing tires.

 

JR: Yeah. It’s not the best experience to replace tires. And I love it. It sounds like there’s two really core aspects of what you’re building: One being the convenience factor., and then two being the transparency factor. Transparency around pricing, selection, and just [providing] information. [There’s] a certain amount of education that’s involved.

PP: Yeah, absolutely. So, when you think about what we’ve done, we’ve been doing a lot of consumer research recently, and when someone understands that they have a problem – that they actually have to replace their tires – you start asking yourself locked questions. And one of the things I think is convenient with online is that you actually could: One, do it at your own pace. So, if you’re not ready to tackle it today, you can take your time to do it. Versus when you go to a brick and mortar, you might feel a little more pressure to make those decisions quicker. So, you can take your time to figure out how you want to solve the problem. You can research a lot of information online, the way you [want] to research it… You can find the right shop for you that might be closest to you. You might find the right availability of the tire that you’re looking for. You might not even know what tire size you should have for your vehicle, which is actually the first part of the process, which is a little daunting, itself. And, so, having the ability to do it online, I think helps lower the [customer’s] anxiety a little bit, because they’re able to control the experience more.

 

JR: One thing that’s interesting is that SimpleTire is a part of this growing trend of companies that are moving from what I would say is sort of a traditional retail sales model to a DTC model. We’re seeing this with mattresses, appliances, even cars. Right? And, and so I’m curious, what are some of the unique aspects and challenges of a DTC model [are] that may not exist in traditional model?

 

PP: You mentioned the several categories and even on, you know, virtually from Wayfair, furniture was another big one, as well, because a lot of people like to see it in-person and touch it and understand the dimensions. And so, the first thing I think you think about in terms of going from traditional to DTC is that it’s just a new process. We’re so used to going into a store and looking at things, right? So, the idea of just starting a whole process, it’s a new habit or new routine that you have to figure out how to tackle. So, that’s the first challenge. And when you have something unfamiliar, the question then [is how do you try] to make it more familiar so [that] it’s not so daunting.

 

For example, like I mentioned on, on SimpleTire, we actually just released our simple snap feature… It’s really difficult to find your tire size, you don’t even know what a tire size is. You’re trying to figure out where it is on your tire. So, we actually created a product where you can take a picture of your tire that will identify your tire size, and then ultimately you could just upload a picture, and we’ll get your tire recommendations. What I love about that feature is that everyone knows how to take a picture on their cell phone, right? So, you just have to point your phone and take a picture where all the numbers are on the tire. Then it will just automatically tell you what the right tire sizes [and surface what] the recommendations we [suggest you] think about for your vehicle.

 

It’s taking something familiar that you’re used to, and trying to make it a little easier and simpler to adopt the new process… So, trying to figure out how to connect certain familiar steps to [your process] in a way to be able to help grease the wheels when trying to [drive adoption of] a new habit or a new routine.

 

I think the second piece is [that] there’s a lot of anxiety around a new process. One of the things we learned in our process was when you have multiple players in the experience – like the installer, us, and the customer – there is this question of, “Do I know if all of it is going to happen seamlessly?” We found communication [to be] really important [in order] to lower that anxiety so that everyone’s on the same page and [being] brought along for the [same] ride… Communication [as] part of the customer experience is really important to alleviate some of the anxiety that people might have [about] a new experience, [whether it’s] doing something online, like buying tires or mattresses or a house or whatever it is nowadays.

 

Also read: How to Holistically Map the Customer Journey

Communication as part of the customer experience is really important to alleviate some of the anxiety that people might have about a new experience.

JR: That’s interesting – this notion of the anxiety. Maybe not knowing the full picture. One of the things that I was thinking about is when you’re making a decision about something like tires, what if something goes wrong? That’s probably inevitably one of the questions that people are thinking about in this experience. And so, there’s ways I imagine to mitigate that upfront, so that those things aren’t a concern. Right?

 

PP: Exactly. So, you know, obviously like easy returns is the way. What I love – to your point – about some of the experiences I’ve had: How do you think about connecting the dots on what you experienced in your current role? You know, when I was at CPG, you always think about the product itself. What are all the different components that [can] make the toothpaste experience better? What’s the basic function of toothpaste? What do you want the experience to be when people are actually brushing their teeth and [done brushing their teeth]? For example, the experience of your [teeth being whiter]. There’s all these things and components you think about from a product experience.

 

It’s very similar when you think about the overall DTC experience. How do you have all those pieces fit together to make an overall seamless experience that someone doesn’t even think about? So, you know, those worries or anxieties of, “Will the installer know that I’m supposed to show up?” for example. How do you make sure… they don’t have to have those questions? The other piece, too, [is], ‘What happens if I don’t really like the tires? What do I do with them?” You just have to think about all the different components that you’d need to build an entire process and product [around] to make sure it [delivers] the experience that you would want to experience as a customer.

 

JR: Yeah, that’s great. It’s an interesting challenge to try to anticipate some of those challenges along the way and address them early on. One thing that I really appreciate that you mentioned, and it sounds like this was very intentional from get go, is that SimpleTire is really trying not just to build a great business – and certainly it is – but also trying to build a great brand. A recognized brand that has lasting power and is recognizable. And so obviously, you know a lot about building great brands with your experience at P&G and Wayfair and Liberty Mutual. How do you think about building great brands, and not just great products or even great businesses? What’s the difference between the two and what are some of those components that you need to focus on early on?

PP: It’s interesting because there’s the three components we talked about: There is brand, product, and business, and they’re actually tied closely together in very different ways. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to dissect that a little bit. When you think about a brand, the brand starts off with the product, right? So, when you think about the brand, it’s tied to a specific product. And what you try to do as a brand is elevate the brand into something a little more than just functional benefits of a product, but actually elevate it more to make an emotional connection with the customer around a certain higher order benefit, or even something like your brand vision. And so, I think that’s the aspiration of a lot of brands: How do you get a person who associates your brand with a certain product that you might have at the beginning… Obviously you have to deliver the product benefit – it has to be consistent in what the brand is going to stand for, so there’s some consistency there that you have to make sure is there. But ultimately, how do you elevate the whole experience or the idea of the brand a little higher or more so that you create that emotional connection? I think that takes time, it takes – from a product point of view – it takes not just thinking about the product experience, but actually all the experiences after or before the product, so you kind of have to think about this halo effect of what the experiences is. It’s not when you actually use the product, but it’s before, it’s after, it’s when you see the product on shelf. And then, what’s interesting about the business side of it, the business model enables some of that product or customer experience then to elevate the brand.

 

If you don’t have a sustainable business model, if you’re not allocating the right resources, then you’re never going to be able to build a better product, build a better customer experience, and then build – and ultimately spend money – to build the brand. So, the business model itself… you have to have the unit economics right for the business model to be able to fund and grow and nurture the product, the customer experience, and then the brand. And lastly, what I think is really exciting… The business and the products evolve over time. It’s not like it’s static. So, then the question is, how the brand stretches equity and grows as the business grows and as the products grow. So, I use an example, like Amazon. It started off as just an online retailer of books. It probably was just associated, at one point, with books. But then, as the business model grew, as it stretched its equity, now it stands for something completely different than books.

 

That takes time, but that’s where I think there’s a challenge for brand builders, because what you’re trying to do is create consistency [in] what people think of your brand, but [at the same time], your business is stretching and growing. So, how do you ensure you keep the consistency, but [are still able to] push [the brand] in places and ways that you know your business model or your expansion of product lines [are going] into. And then ultimately, how do you elevate it in a way [that] it’s not even just about the products, but it’s about an emotional connection? [For example,] Apple with innovation, Nike with ‘Just do it,’ or [their ethos of] perseverance and powering through things. Those brands have a lot of equity that they’ve been able to stretch and build over time.

 

Also read: Disrupting the Status Quo With a Travel App

You have to have the unit economics right for the business model to be able to fund and grow and nurture the product, the customer experience, and then the brand.

JR: I think one of the things that that resonates is this clarity of message that you need to have around your values, your vision, and how the brand needs to represent something other than the product itself. The product or the service really becomes a manifold, like one of the manifestations of the brand. You see this over and over. I think a really good example of this is Disney and Disney+. They came out and, you know, they have theme parks and, all of a sudden, they launch a subscription service, and it immediately takes off because what people are buying is the brand, and not necessarily the product or the service.

 

PP: And it’s the experience that the brand elevates in those different ways that they are able to do it. It’s pretty incredible… With kids too. Now that I have kids, I think about certain brands like Legos. They have such a higher order brand, in terms of creativity, imagination, education, but they’re able to – to your point – have it manifest through these great products that kids are always wanting… It’s their way to express themselves. That took years. So, it’s pretty amazing how a collection of leaders is able to keep the ship steered in certain direction, but then [also] add an element to evolve with generations. It’s really impressive.

 

JR: That’s awesome. So, I’m going to shift a little bit… The way your model works, there [are] actually three parties involved. You have to take into consideration your customers, obviously, but you also have your suppliers and now you have your installation partners. So, in essence, you have a multi-sided marketplace here, and I imagine that you have to keep them all happy. What unique challenges does this represent? How do you provide value and a great experience for all of them simultaneously?

 

PP: Yeah. What I really love about my role is that my role doesn’t just own brand and performance marketing, but actually when it’s merchandising. [That includes] channel strategy, pricing, and promotion. So, it really is like thinking about, how do you partner with all these different people, and have all those components work together to make it a win-win relationship with them? The nice part is [that] we all have the same goal in mind. [For example], suppliers [want] to make sure they deliver the right tire to the customer, right? And installers want to us and the customer to have an amazing experience, and vice versa. What I love about SimpleTire is when we think about our brand purpose, it’s how do you take something complex and make it simple that doesn’t just resonate with the customer, [but] actually resonates with our suppliers.

 

So, how do you think about your brand, not just on like what’s forward-facing with the consumer, but how do we make sure our brand is expressed through all of our partners, as well? How do we simplify and make it easier for our partners to work with us? [That] is actually a really important part of our brand. And having a similar brand purpose and promise to all of our partners, including our customers, I think really helps us be able to just make sure that we’re all embodying the same spirit across all three [touchpoints]. With that said, how it manifests itself is just a little different [when it comes to] how we think about working with our suppliers and what simplification in working with us means for [our suppliers], our installers, and our customers.

JR: Yeah. I love that. Your brand values have to resonate with all three parties. You don’t have different ones for each. It’s one that resonates across all three. I think that’s fantastic. With this idea of having installation partners, if you think about the entire customer experience that that you’re involved in from the very beginning where it’s thinking about or researching, or even just recognizing that you need to replace your tires all the way through to doing the actual installation. Like you said, there’s probably several steps after that to just stay top of mind, and to continue to deliver an amazing experience, but there are parts of that process and that journey that you’re not in complete control of. When you pass off a customer to an installation partner, you don’t have e as tight as tight of control, as you do say, [with] the online experience. How do you drive a really consistent and cohesive brand experience across channels or parts of the experience that you may not own entirely?

 

PP: That’s a great question. And I think a lot of DTC brands in our situation probably have the same challenges. I think the first thing is really ensuring that, again, we all have the same goal. We want the customer experience to be great. Obviously, the installers want the customer to have a great experience because we just gave them a lead. They got a new customer, that they might have not had in the past. So, clearly, they have [an] opportunity. We’ve heard this from installers, they appreciate it. They’re like, “You just gave us lead. It’s our job to do a really good job.” Then we can help. We can have that customer experience and make it a win-win for both. Ultimately, they want to see if they can maintain that relationship with the customer in the future.

 

So, understanding what we both bring to the table, what we have this common goal for, I think is important. And then the second piece is… It goes back to my B2B days. It’s really about relationships and making sure that the installation partners and ourselves, they see that we are in a partnership with them. How do we actually drive more value for them on our site? How do we make sure their digital presence is better? How do we make sure that we are representing their shop in a way that they want – [providing information that] they want the customer [to know, whether] they specialize in certain services, et cetera. We’re actually working very closely right now to evolve that experience further and make sure that we’re doing that work… I think that’s a really important part of the overall experience, and also just being a good partner to them to make sure that we have that end-to-end relationship.

Your brand values have to resonate with all three parties. You don't have different ones for each consumer. You brand values must that resonates across all of them.

JR: Yeah, absolutely. And it sounds like there is a continuous process to learn, not just about the needs and the pain points of your customers, but then also the pain points and needs of your partners, and continuously evolving the experience and the functionality and the things that they need to be successful. You’re supporting, in essence, an ecosystem and you have to be continuously evolving the value that you’re providing to each side of that ecosystem continuously. So that’s fantastic. You know, one of the things, and I think you mentioned this, which I liked, this notion of values-based alignment, and almost like driving an emotional outcome, or aligning on an emotional outcome that you’re driving for your consumer, as well… I want to get one last question, and then I think we’re going to switch over to question Q&A… As you continue to evolve SimpleTire: The brand, you’re offering. How do you think about creating other parts or other products, or involving other products and making other products available – is that part of the roadmap, or how do you think about that? What comes next? What do you offer as a part of this platform?

 

PP: Yeah, I think it always starts with customer and consumer research. So, I think innovation is a really important part because we know that the environment’s changing constantly. And so, you want to really be up to speed with what the consumer [is] thinking today, what are their needs today? And then hopefully understand the pain points, [or] even predict what could be their needs in the future. And so, I think every brand is constantly in that innovation cycle. Again, it starts with the research. And so, for us, I think we’ll continue to start thinking about that and figuring out what are the pain points that customers have even with our current online experience. Maybe there might be some pain points or in the future what are ancillary experiences they might have and be able to do that. So, more to come, but we’re just continuing to try to figure that out for the customer.

 

JR: Yeah. That’s great. Well, I think we’re going to switch over to a Q&A, so there’s a couple of questions that are coming in. One of them is, what’s it been like to join a brand-new company in the middle of a pandemic?

 

PP: There’s a lot of people that I’ve met have done this. I think on my team, several two or three people have joined, as well, during the pandemic. We were growing so quickly as a company. And so, it’s really interesting. I would say one: You realize it’s pretty seamless in some ways to get up to speed with technology now. Honestly, it sounds weird to say, “Oh, you just shut one computer down from one company, and then you open up a computer and then you’re at the next company.” It’s not as seamless. It can seem seamless like that. But I would say the hardest part is really connecting with team members and trying to connect, particularly with our leadership team… and then my team members.

 

And so that’s probably the hardest part. We joke. We’re like, “We haven’t even met each other in person, and it’s been a year!” … I think the nice part though, I will say is, making sure you take the time to make that connection and meet people. Get to know people and try to create those bonds. So, you try to do happy hours, you try to do all of these new, innovative ways of connecting and bonding through virtual games. For example, we just had a virtual game night, our whole company, last night for St. Patty’s Day. And I think that’s been helpful to do that. But you still have to figure out how to create comradery, I think, even though you don’t see each other. It’s just a little more difficult.

 

Also read: Customer Experience Trends Driving the Hospitality Industry

JR: Yeah. One thing that’s been interesting is the need to be intentional about all the communications or the onboarding. Just continuously creating these moments where you can have informal get-togethers, and things like that. You have to be very intentional about it. One other question: How you think about what comes next, and this is either [trends] in the DTC space or just the marketing space, in general?

 

PP: Yeah. It’s a great question. You have to make time for it. Sit down and think – that’s the hardest part. You’re online, you’re trying to just get things going, and then you’re like, maybe I should take a moment to sit down and think more broadly and next year [or] a couple of years out. So, I actually have to do it. I think about it actually now in a couple of ways. One, on the marketing end: There’s this whole – as a marketing person [and] having a passion for marketing – there’s this whole space of like, how do I learn? How do I think about the future trends of marketing, like digital advertising and marketing? How do I think about content? How do I think about digital content strategy end-to-end? How do we learn more about it? So, from a functional point of view, there’s this whole space of how do I think years out? And then there’s this business-sense [related to] the tire industry? How do I think about the trends and marketplaces and entire industry? How do I think long-term? So, it’s exciting, but it’s actually kind of like, how do I? And then, how do I put the pieces together and think [about how they intersect]? It is difficult to do because it does require you to get outside what you do normally, day to day, and actually have that external thinking, an external viewpoint. You have to be curious and passionate about what you’re reading and doing to be able to think about what’s next and taking the time to do that.

 

Whether it’s a lot of content – reading or subscribing to a lot of things – and then meeting a lot of different people. Keeping the connections, you’ve [made in the past is so important]. I can’t tell you how many people I now tap into [from within] my own network that I haven’t maybe talked to in several years, but hey, they’re in a different space or different places. It’s like, “Hey, let’s just connect so I can hear what you’re up to, and what you’re thinking about.” Those are actually really important, as well, to make the connection and to get that perspective from someone else. To see what they’re seeing and thinking.

 

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News

Tallwave Named to CIOReview’s 2021 Most Promising Customer Experience Management Companies

Read the original article published on CIOReview

 

CIOReview, March 2021 – Today, businesses are designing their organizations to maximize their customers’ experience. However, their efforts often fall flat as siloed systems within their organization block the flow of vital information between different departments. Without internal collaboration and alignment, companies are unable to meet rapidly changing customer needs. Enter: Tallwave. A Customer Experience Design Company, Tallwave combines a data-centric approach to understanding human behavior, first-hand qualitative and quantitative customer research, proprietary technology, as well as user-centered design and marketing expertise to create and implement exceptional customer experiences. Whether it’s branding, product design, content strategy, or customer acquisition and retention, Tallwave is a one-stop-shop that creates unparalleled experiences that ultimately wins the hearts and minds of their clients’ customers. “From employees to end-users, Tallwave analyzes the thoughts and experience of every customer to provide a holistic CX strategy,” says Jeff Pruitt, CEO of Tallwave.

 

While other companies work in a reactive state and, therefore, only optimize singular components of their client’s existing CX at a time, Tallwave approaches their work through a holistic lens. Relying on data to drive surface-to-core roadmaps and achieve cross-functional alignment, they identify key moments of friction and opportunity at each stage of the customer’s journey, and use those insights to craft cohesive and intuitive experiences at every touchpoint. This whole-picture method enables them to design agile work streams for continuous momentum and growth.

While other companies work in a reactive state and, therefore, only optimize singular components of their client’s existing CX at a time, Tallwave approaches their work through a holistic lens.

Leveraging their proprietary, proven solutions Tallwave is able to help clients improve customer acquisition while decreasing customer acquisition cost; increase customer engagement; grow market share; decrease customer churn; expand into new markets; and develop new products and services to meet the evolving needs of their clients’ customers.

 

To do this, they bring stakeholders together to participate in fast-paced, collaborative workshops and help develop integrated workstreams to drive critical, cross-functional outcomes. As a result, silos are broken down and cross-functional alignment on goals and metrics needed to gauge regular progress are established.

 

The Tallwave team marries this work with full digital intelligence on customers and the market to develop strategic plans, and helps to execute many of the workstreams, which often include user testing, rapid prototyping, product developing, acquisition marketing, rebranding, program managing, redesigning employee experiences to better deliver on customer experiences, and more.

 

Recently, one of Tallwave’s biggest clients – a leading global credit card company – saw the demographics of their core customers changing. The benefits and service offerings they desired, especially as it related to travel, were shifting, as well. The client needed to innovate and deliver improved digital-first travel experiences to prevent customers from abandoning the brand. The answer? Developing an omnichannel travel booking experience that allowed travelers to book itineraries, make changes and add personally curated plans through a travel consultant or on their own through several mediums. In order to do so, Tallwave worked with travel consultants, and unpacked the systems and processes that were responsible for delivering the current experience. From there, they outlined the necessary future state by pulling in consumer insights on what benefits and experiences were appealing to this new demographic. By combining all these insights and breaking up the work into different workstreams, Tallwave was able to deliver a seamless experience by working from the inside out.

Also read: Creating a contemporary experience for a strong, timeless brand

 

This agile and adaptable mindset helped Tallwave to navigate and thrive through the pandemic, as well. A thoughtful action plan maintained employee retention and grew the core business. They also underwent a strategic rebrand effort themselves that helped galvanize the team and set a new course for the company’s future. “COVID-19 helped us understand the human experience more deeply and provide more value to clients,” says Pruitt. This drove the ethos behind their new rebrand, revitalized company values, and customer experience design strategies: To always employ an approach that incorporates the heart, the mind and the matter and put empathy for humans at the core. “We look forward to the inspiration that comes from being with one another, but we also look forward to embracing the human value of being able to work in a place where one can get great work done,” ends Pruitt.

Want to learn more about our work? Send us a message via our contact form 

Categories
News

Tallwave Takes Texas: Meet the Dallas Team

As a customer experience design company, our people are essential to creating and delivering remarkable solutions for everyone we work with.

 

We know that doing big things requires people who get it – people who are told they can’t change things and then go ahead and change them anyway. People who embrace a maverick attitude, who challenge convention, and think beyond the ask. These are the kinds of people that affect positive change and growth for our company and clients, and the kinds of mavericks we’re loading our new Dallas office with.

 

Meet the Tallwavers helping us serve the Dallas market on the ground. And if you’re in the area, schedule a virtual or socially distanced coffee with them by emailing Dallas@Tallwave.com or dropping us a note here. They’re ready to help you create unstoppable momentum and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

 

Learn more about our Dallas expansion here

Matthew Kiesel, Senior Consultant

Matthew Kiesel Tallwave bio

A highly-motivated management consultant and client development professional, Matthew joined the Tallwave team with 14 years of experience with aviation finances, joint ventures, merger and acquisition integrations, sales and distribution, revenue management, and loyalty programs. Working previously at Sabre, a travel technology company focused on airline software and service, as well as American Airlines and United Airlines, Matthew is Tallwave’s travel expert. A Texas-native, Matthew is a Texas Christian University graduate and self-proclaimed “rowdy Horned Frog football fan.”

3 Questions with Matthew

  • What’s your favorite thing about Dallas?  Dallas has all the benefits of a big city, but still maintains a small town feel. I love that Dallas has everything a world class city should offer: an amazing restaurant scene, sports teams, museums, and fun activities. Yet you can easily run into friends around town, and the attitude of the people mimics the charm of small town Texas.
  • What expertise and specialities do you bring to the Tallwave team? My background prior to Tallwave is in management consulting and corporate finance, specifically in the travel industry. Coming to Tallwave I’m hoping to share my financial acumen and experience in strategy development with our team and clients. Blending my formal consulting experience with Tallwave’s pursuit of “thoughtful rigor” and “maverick attitude” should benefit our client engagements.
  • What experiences of the future are you most excited about? I can’t wait back to get back to travel — both personally and professionally. Prior to the pandemic, I was traveling around the world for about 2/3 of the year for client engagements. Additionally, I love seeing and exploring new countries on my own time. As the world reopens, I am excited to get back on the road. Additionally, I’ve yet to meet any of my Tallwave clients in person. So extending my client relationships beyond Zoom is a top goal for the near future.

Check out our work: Distrupting the Status Quo With a Travel App

Dannette Urquhart, Consultant

With experience in account management, retail, and technology, Danette brings passion and a proven track record for building and retaining customer relationships that grow businesses and increase sales to the Tallwave team and Dallas market. A Dallas-native, Dannette yells her Texas pride loud and proud. An undergrad alumni of the University of North Texas, she is now pursuing her MBA at Southern Methodist University, and is a devoted Cowboys and Texas Rangers fan.

3 Questions with Dannette

  • What’s your favorite thing about Dallas? Dallas is home. It’s where I’m from. I particularly love the patio dining and drinking scene, the summertime poolside fun, and participating in the football at AT&T stadium or one of our many cool sports bars. Most importantly – the people are great.
  • Why did you become a Consultant? Because I love strategizing and creating solutions for clients by developing relationships. I get to be creative and push boundaries in a way that makes businesses better. Plus, I get bored easily, so I appreciate that every client and account is different, and brings with it it’s own unique challenges.
  • What’s your personal and professional life motto? KEEP GOING! There’s no such thing as failure, only learning opportunities. Those opportunities build strength and character that make you better and enable you to help others.

Brooke Weidenbaker, Senior Digital Intel Strategist

Brooke Weidenbaker - Meet Team Tallwave

Brooke is a business and marketing professional with experience in both agency and client-side communications and analytics across multiple industries including, technology, retail, CPG, auto, financial services, education, and more. Prior to joining the Tallwave team, Brooke was the Lead Retention Operations Consultant for AT&T, and Director of Analytics for both Rockfish and Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, Originally from Kansas, she lived in Texas for 10 years; now she splits her time with her two rescue dogs between Los Angeles and Dallas.

3 Questions with Brooke

  • What’s your favorite thing about Dallas? I moved to Dallas in 2011 and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Dallas has so much to offer, a booming economy, delicious food, amazing art all throughout the city, and a variety of entertainment options including sporting events! I think my favorite thing about Dallas though is the people I’ve met. Growing up in middle America people were always very friendly but in Dallas, the southern hospitality really makes newcomers feel welcome!
  • Why did you become a Senior Strategist? My career has taken many turns throughout the years. I started in Finance and Telecom, then shifted to Marketing after I realized I wanted a balance between numbers and people! After graduating from TCU with my MBA, I entered the agency world. I also grew up in an entrepreneurial family and have owned my own small retail business on the side for the past five years. I really enjoy working as a Strategist at Tallwave because it presents the opportunity to creatively solve business problems for a variety of clients across multiple industries. No day is ever the same!
  • How do you employ empathy and creativity into your job? In my mind, both are vital to success and working well as a team! So much of our work at Tallwave is collaborative, therefore, having empathy for not only our team members but also our clients is imperative. We have a great team at Tallwave, we all care about each other personally and professionally and are available to help each other out when things get overwhelming. As a Strategist, I have the opportunity to creatively shape deliverables on a daily basis. That is part of the fun of it. Charting the path forward!

Check out our work: Upleveling a product that’s all about great service

Brian Hambrick, Senior Strategist

A 6th generation Texan, Brian comes to Tallwave from Dallas where he built his career working in various Strategy and Planning roles at Advertising Agencies such as Deutsch, Tracylocke and the Integer group. Brian brings over 12 years of experience in research, strategy, and planning and has worked across a wide range of clients in the CPG, Hospitality, Food, Retail, Automotive and Telco industries. Most recently Brian worked at Cici’s Pizza as the Director of Innovation helping the brand develop new pizza flavors and transition from a traditional media approach to a digital first media approach.

Interested in joining the Dallas team? We’re hiring! Check out our open positions here

Categories
News

Continuing Our Growth Story By Joining the Dallas Market

Momentum is movement. Momentum is change. For our clients, we aim to create positive momentum in the form of improving their customer experience, growing their business, or disrupting their marketplace.

 

For Tallwavers, positive momentum can be found in the ways we push ourselves to grow – personally and professionally.

 

Momentum never stops. It evolves with every experience we have.

 

Now, we’re adding to our growth story by bringing our customer experience design services to Dallas’s robust business and tech ecosystem.

 

Read the official press release

Proprietary processes, tools, and tailored services enable Tallwave to deliver repeatable and actionable outcomes for clients.

What does Tallwave uniquely bring to the Dallas market?

Our empathetic and client-first attitude. We partner with stakeholders and change makers within companies to help them achieve the results and ROI they need to exceed expectations and defined KPIs.

 

Additionally, we bring a team of diverse designers, researchers, brand developers, marketers and strategizers who break down barriers to accelerate growth and deliver unparalleled customer experiences. By utilizing human-centric design practices, Tallwavers aim to win the hearts and minds of our clients’ customers. They lean into their own personal and professional experiences to challenge convention and offer fresh perspectives to drive fast results.

 

Lastly, the expansion brings “The Tallwave Way” to the Dallas market. Our proprietary processes, tools, and tailored services enable us to deliver data-backed repeatable and actionable outcomes for clients. Our guiding principles – to lead with empathy, curiosity, and humility – and heart, mind, matter ethos enable us to creatively solve for specific needs.

 

Also read: Tallwave Takes Texas: Meet the Dallas Team

The Tallwave Way

How does Tallwave’s expansion into Dallas benefit current and future employees?

Tallwave is a fast-growing company, so we’re always looking to add great people to the team who think beyond the ask and possess a growth mindset. Although we offer remote work and flexible office hours to all employees, we believe it’s still important to provide a safe space where employees can go to focus, connect, and work together, as needed. It also presents a promise of even more room for growth as our Dallas office and other geographies grow.

View open positions

What else should business leaders in the Dallas market know?

Companies are often wrestling with one of three situations – they’re looking to grow market share, they’re looking to disrupt their market, or they’re trying to stave off disruption. We have integrated solutions specifically designed to help these situations.

Interested in seeing some of our work?

Check out the case studies below:

Are you in Dallas? We’d love to grab coffee, virtually or socially distanced. Email us at Dallas@Tallwave.com or send us a message via our contact form.

Categories
Strategy

How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experience

But what is a customer experience map?

 

It’s a visual timeline that illustrates and examines a customer’s entire experiences with a brand, identifying every behavior, interaction, and touchpoint across a variety of channels. Unlike a customer journey map – which only outlines touch points involved from exposure to sale (and sometimes post-sale) – customer experience (CX) maps dive deeper, evaluating omnichannel experiences and internal processes and workflows to illuminate who and what customers interact with, pain points that arise, and moments of truth that are ripe for innovation and improvement.

Overview of the Customer Experience:

  • Start with the customer perspective. Utilize a mix of qualitative and quantitative data (methods below) to map key touch points
  • Map the internal stakeholder journey, including people, processes, systems, via a service blueprint
  • Combine the maps to begin comparing and contrasting the data and employee expectations versus consumer feedback
  • Identify gaps and opportunities, assess impact of innovation and prioritize for the future

While collecting customer feedback through both qualitative and quantitative (also known as moderated and observational) techniques is key (think web analytics, customer surveys, customer marketing data, customer recordings and interviews, industry research, etc.), it’s also equally important to map your internal stakeholder’s (aka, employee’s) journey, detailing moments they believe to be most important in an end user’s experience (this is often referred to as service blueprinting).

 

Once both maps are completed, they can be compared and contrasted to uncover discrepancies in the customer and internal experience. Pinpointing moments of friction illuminates root causes of customer experience breakdowns that create incredible drag on company retention and growth. Only by taking this holistic approach can you truly start to cultivate next-level strategies for improved customer experiences.

How to Create a Customer Experience Map

As you venture into making your own customer experience map, here are some things to watch out for:

 

  1. Don’t get stuck in the surface. Make sure that you’re driving to the core and really trying to identify the root cause of experience friction points or issues.
  2. Ensure you take an interdisciplinary approach. It’s important not to be siloed in this thinking.
  3. Don’t just take qualitative notes. When interacting with customers, take a multi-faceted approach. You want to ultimately be able to map your qualitative data with quantitative data. Incomplete data can lead to poor decision-making.
  4. Don’t get too bogged down in the details. Come up for air and focus on the biggest areas of opportunities for improvement. It’s all about prioritization. Lots of companies try to solve or map everything, when in reality – sure, you need to challenge your data and ensure you have a complete view – but you also have to prioritize as you go. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

To get started, you must first acknowledge that every touch point is interconnected and feeds into a customer’s perspective and sentiment towards your brand as a whole. The exercise must be authentic. Your goal is to understand your brand’s latent needs and to uncover opportunities that exist due to changing market dynamics, customer expectations and technology breakthroughs.

 

Then, you must allocate one person or team to see the exercise through to completion. Typically speaking, customer experience mapping should be co-created with an external party. Research done solely in-house can be blanketed by unconscious bias, thus muddling results and growth opportunities. Plus, it’s important stakeholders surveyed throughout feel comfortable expressing their true and honest opinions in a confidential and removed setting.

 

Once that’s done, it’s time to get to work.

Step 1: Define your goals, scope, and personas

Your team must first align on goals. Conduct a half-day session with the key internal stakeholders across a number of teams to define business and user goals and pinpoint what you want to learn, what you’re hoping to uncover, where you want to drive focus, and how you plan to quantify and validate insights uncovered.

 

Then, define the personas you want to explore with during the experience mapping exercise. Many businesses have numerous consumer groups. While you can (and eventually should) map the experience and expectations of all of them, you’ll want to identify who they are first. Key details like age, marital status, occupation, daily activities, needs, wants, hobbies, internet behaviors, social media interactions, etc. are all a great starting place. Remember the 80/20 rule and prioritize which groups you’re going to start with. These are your primary personas.

 

Now that you have them identified, you’ll want to start the mapping exercise by capturing existing hypotheses about your customers and their experience. Be sure to capture their needs and emotions felt throughout all of their experiences with your brand. Some key questions to remember here:

 

  • What is driving their buying behavior? Why are they interacting with your business?
  • Where do they interact with your brand (before and after purchase)?
  • How many steps do they go through to purchase?
  • How do they feel as they decide to purchase? Is there a touchpoint after they purchase?
  • How do they interact with your brand after they’re a customer? etc.

Next, decide which part of your experience you want to map. In an ideal world, you’d map the entire experience over the tenure of a customer’s relationship with your brand, but that’s likely not doable in your first few sessions. To get started, break experience mapping into segments. Do you want to map the onboarding or registration process? The purchasing journey? Gauge the interactions your brand has with customers once they’ve already bought in? .

 

Also read: Understanding the Buyer’s Journey to Drive Targeted Campaigns

If you’re stuck – simply try to pinpoint where you think there is the most pain, friction, or confusion in your customer journey. Whether it’s the first, tenth or fiftieth exchange, one bad experience can greatly increase risk of customer churn. A customer who is dissatisfied with an experience will tell between 9-15 people about it* (and that number increases quickly if they take their negative review to social platforms!).

Step two: Evaluate from within

Holistically mapping out your current end-to-end customer experience requires that you evaluate every touchpoint from the surface to the core. That means, you must first evaluate your own people, processes, and systems that impact and touch the customer experience in any way (many organizations refer to this as service blueprinting).

By doing this, you can uncover deep rooted issues or discrepancies between what internal stakeholders and external customers deem important. This is a critical step in effecting meaningful change to your customer experience. But be mindful to avoid these common pitfalls as you execute:

 

  • Getting bogged down in the internal perspective: Make sure all focus efforts are on pain point identification as it relates to the customer or your ability to deliver to the customer. This isn’t an exercise solely dedicated to internal frustrations – if you’re wanting to improve the employee experience, that’s a true service blueprinting exercise. For holistic customer experience mapping, you want to make sure your focus is on pain points that have a line of sight to your end users.
  • Settling for the surface answers: Push to go beyond and really discover the root cause or root opportunities present in your current experience.
  • Missing the opportunity to loop in interdisciplinary perspectives: Often, the connection between business units – especially ones that have overlapping activities related to the customer experience – is where you’ll uncover the greatest opportunities for improvement. Every company has handoffs. It’s important to consider them all.
  • Hinder real discussions from happening between stakeholders: Bringing people together can be massively beneficial. This is an opportunity to create alignment. By bringing teams together to work towards one common goal and share their individual team’s hurdles, your teams will naturally discover micro-solves that can be executed immediately, and contribute to the macro-solution.

Now, to get a revitalized understanding of your business’ performance and efficiency, conduct workshops with internal stakeholders – this can include customer service and sales reps, researchers, customer experience specialists, marketing leads, product owners, designs and more. These service blueprinting workshops should include a few important exercises:

 

  1. Hypothesize and map out internal interpretation of the customer’s journey. Be sure to identify each phase and define customer interaction points.
  2. Map out the people, process and systems that are in play at each of those key interaction points.
  3. Capture what internal stakeholders say about those key interactions (qualitative). Simple things like definitions of words, or what they want customers to feel after that interaction can all be important in understanding the internal impact on your CX.
  4. Articulate underlying assumptions and beliefs around language commonly used to describe KPIs and company-wide goals. This will help identify and deconstruct misunderstandings between teams and enable a fresh start where everyone is on the same page and working from a consistent understanding.

At the end of the workshop, you should be able to identify each phase in the customer’s experience, who and what they interact with within your organization, and how you meet their needs along the way.

 

Keep in mind, for some companies, a workshop is all that is needed to gather internal perspective. On the other hand, sometimes workshops are just the starting place and then require deeper dives with specific departments, business units, or individual role types to further precipitate areas where exploration is needed. So, once your workshop is completed, identify whether or not you need to go deeper, and, if so, what types of roles, departments or business units you need to go deeper with.

 

Continue to conduct stakeholder interviews until you feel confident that you’ve really mapped out the impact those areas have on the internal customer journey or end customer experience.

 

Need an example? Let’s talk about articulating underlying assumptions. Healthcare organizations often use the word “encounters” as a measurement for improving patient engagement. However, when we’ve asked organizational team members to define the term, no one in the room has the same definition or knows how to explain it. If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement like “encounters” differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success. The solution? Get it on paper (or a whiteboard or shared digital document)! When you put something down in writing and rally around a common definition, you can identify optimal procedures to measure it. This will ultimately contribute to agreeance and alignment necessary for not only standing up successful marketing programs, but proving ROI.

If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success.

Step 3: Hone in on the end users

Now it’s time to look beyond the internal perspective and focus the lens on your customers. This requires the most time and could take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years to complete, depending on your scope.

 

Before you get start, there are a few tips to consider that will help you avoid common pitfalls at this stage:

 

  • Ensure you get to the real root cause of pain or opportunity and don’t get caught in optimizing for the surface level. As with other phases, this requires that you push beyond the surface of what users tell you qualitatively. A great way to do this, no matter what process you use, is to ask “Why?” three to five times. Once a user shares an observation that seems important, ask why. Then ask why again, and again. Many companies gather initial observations and never get to the true root cause, therefore they’re stuck treating only symptoms of problems.
  • Don’t rest on qualitative data. Instead, pair it with quantitative data. Find ways to objectively measure what is happening to your user’s experience at key milestones throughout the journey. We often do this by merging qualitative data with surveys or other analytical data (think customer CRMs, google analytics, website data, or MPS data).
  • Avoid intuition as your primary method of gathering user experience. Qualitative techniques we often employ include interviews, focus groups and ride alongs.
  • Give yourself time to really hone in on the user experience. Many companies never gather this information, at all; instead, they architect their journey based on internal perspective and move forward. It’s always important and useful to get real, quality feedback from end users.
  • Don’t forget that your customer base is diverse. Get feedback from multiple personas as you go.

Also read: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data in CX Design: Everything You Need to Know

 

During this phase, you and your team should use qualitative and quantitative techniques (learn more about that here) to obtain real customer feedback by guiding them through each phase of the outlined journey to validate their needs, wants, and experiences. 0 By sitting down with real customers, you’re able to explore their goals and needs respective to your product, services, and/or digital presence. In the end, you’ll be able to expose valuable insights that can drive future focus. Often, this phase identifies opportunities for re-engagement. While your goals may be more specific, it is still important to see the full picture before drawing any conclusions about your overall customer experience. At this stage, compiling as much information as possible is key.

 

Need an example? Sometimes this phase can give rise to specific problems, including the root cause of customer conversions. One of our clients – a leading nation-wide insurer group of automobiles, homes and small businesses – was seeing a dip in quote yields and overall conversion rates. After doing a deep data dive – using both qualitative and quantitative techniques – we discovered the majority of drop offs were occurring moments before clicking the, “I’m ready to complete my quote” button. Why would users go through the trouble of filling out 99% of the form, only to abandon the process right before getting the information they originally sought? The answer was buried in the messaging.

By speaking to customers, we discovered the last question in their quote-request form – one that asked the user if they’d like to enter information to receive additional insurance quotes – was causing feelings of exhaustion and frustration for potential customers. Instead of marking “No,” and continuing on, they simply bounced away from the site – and, likely, with no intention to return. This not only illuminated the main pain point, but allowed us to execute focused competitive analyses to get inspiration from competitors, develop potential solutions, test them, and then launch the solution/s to the market.

Step 4: Review, analyze, and map it out

It’s time to start putting the puzzle pieces together.

 

With an integrated team spanning a variety of disciplines (including research, business innovation, experience design, and consulting), review the customers’ experience data from every angle. Doing this will provide a more holistic view necessary for creating a more robust and useful map.

 

Conduct another workshop to synthesize and compare data from internal and external perspectives on your customer experience.

 

Starting with the qualitative data, use tools like an an affinity map to clearly identify where your customers’ needs are being met – and where they’re not. This should expose service gaps and highlight opportunities.

 

Next, test the customer feedback against the internal perspectives map previously created. More often than not, it will reveal discrepancies between what internal teams believe is important, versus what customers really assign value to. This visual approach, while also displaying challenges within the current experience, will make achieving cross-functional alignment around future plans easier.

 

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences to Improve Customer Experiences

 

Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to test and, as you do, update your journey map.

Lastly, to pinpoint exact moments of friction and/or leverage in yoru customer experience, pair the quantitative data – which analyzes customer sentiment and perspective at every stage and interaction – with your new qualitative understanding of the user experience. By overlaying these data points – like a customers likelihood to renew – you’ll be able to pinpoint specific moments that drive loyalty or churn and their financial impacts.

 

At this point, now all that’s left is to prioritize the areas of opportunity and roadmap short- and long-term focuses to improve business workflow. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to conduct ongoing testing and, as you do, update your experience map.

 

Need an example? A major broadband communications company who had been in the business of delivering entertainment and connection companies and companions long before the internet existed was struggling with gradual increases of customer dissatisfaction and churn. Month over month, the company’s acquisition and retention numbers decreased. Thei business and market share was at risk. By pairing quantitative sentiment with our qualitative understanding and visually mapping both, we were able to pinpoint the main points of friction that we needed to solve for: Severe client and market variability, inconsistent structure and resources a reactive servicing model, disparate systems and processes, a need for continued product training, and shifting client expectations. To summarize, the experience being delivered was afflicted with challenges and creating volatility throughout the journey, ultimately contributing to churn.

By outlining the specific issues, we were able to build a path forward to develop a proactive and consultative CX that focused on the most essential needs, including:

 

  • Elevating the customer care solution to create a repeatable experience that promotes consistency while preserving autonomy
  • Simplifying the employee experience to reduce friction by streamlining backend systems and processes
  • Modernizing client interactions with omnichannel and digital-forward experience
  • Invest in delivering an experience that is predictably proactive and drives consultative value
  • Clearly demonstrating the ongoing value of partnering with a customer care solution

Pinpointing the needs and developing solutions enabled us to become part of the client’s strategy, not just a one-off tractic. Next, we built a roadmap that encompassed recommended initiatives, identified workstreams, defined what success would look like and outlined how the work would enable continual program evolution.

The Bottom Line

By consistently completing the customer experience mapping exercise (don’t set it and forget it!), you can empower your team to problem solve from a data-driven perspective and establish plans for future CX initiatives and investments.

 

At the end of the day, customer experience mapping is about connecting with your customer, and deeply understanding and empathizing with their needs and wants. If your company can prioritize solving customer’s problems as the world evolves, you’ll set yourself up for unstoppable momentum.