Customer Data Perspectives, Ep. 8 – Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist

As a self-proclaimed “relationship” guy, Ted Rubin, speaker, social marketing strategist, and author of “Retail Relevancy,” challenges marketers to get back to basics by developing customer relationships. In this episode of Customer Data Perspectives, Rubin shares his take on improving the customer experience, what marketers get wrong about retargeting, and how partnering with customer service can lead to more connected customer journeys.

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Read the Transcript

Sacolick: Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of the Customer Data Perspectives. I am your host, Isaac Sacolick, the president of StarCIO. And I have a super guest today, here with me. Welcome Ted Rubin. He’s the author of “Retail Relevancy,” a social marketing strategist and a CMO advisor. Welcome Ted, to the show.

Rubin: Isaac, thanks so much for having me. I’ve been excited about this since we chatted a few weeks back.

Sacolick: Yeah, I mean, you’ve been on the road, and I’ve been on the road. And here we are back in our respective areas to be able to have a really intense conversation around what retailers should be doing and maybe what they shouldn’t be doing. But you wear a lot of different hats, I went to your website, I’ve looked over your book a little bit. I’ve read your blog. You’ve written a few books, you have several focus areas, tell everybody who you are so that we get a bearing on your opinions.

About Ted Rubin

Rubin: Well, let’s see, who I am – that’s really a good question. I guess, I’m still trying to figure that out. You know, I’ve reinvented myself quite a few times throughout my career, you know, but at the heart of it has always been that I’m all about relationships, you know, I have been for as long as I can remember, I learned that from my dad. And I made it my own. That belief has kind of guided everything, as I’ve matured and evolved. So I’ve also taken it, you know, beyond the what you think of as the base of relationships, your family, your friends, your colleagues, maybe even in sales, I’ve taken it to the consumer, because I just think that the relationship with your customer, your consumer is really what will drive things going forward, especially as things become so commoditized, you know, in recent times. 

Sacolick: Yeah, Ted, I mean, I completely understand two aspects of this. First, the aspect of being able to reinvent yourself. And you know, so much of what’s been happening, whether we call it Web 1.0, Web 2.0, now coming into Web 3.0, so much of the world of technology and marketing is changing. But I think you’re getting back to basics. When you say, look, you know, you’re not going to get people just to listen to you, or buy from you, or be loyal to you if you’re just throwing messaging out there and you’re throwing things out there and hoping that it all sticks. I picked out a quote from your new book “Retail Relevancy” that I think really speaks to me. And I was hoping you would talk more about it. 

“Retail relevance exists in the mind of the shopper. And unfortunately, for many brands, relevancy will vanish, as their ability to connect with the shopper is diminished.” 

That’s surprising to me. Can you elaborate on this? What should retailers do differently?

Disconnected Marketing = Lack of Relevancy

Rubin: I just want to make a comment about something you just said. That basics is a really good comment, and it’s something I’ve talked about for a long time, is that we got so wrapped up in all of our abilities to make things mechanical, and send things out en masse and do mass marketing. And we forgot what it means to develop the relationship with the customer. And I think we’re really going back there because we have the tools to do it. And it’s becoming more like that local merchant that knew you and knew your family, and always had good recommendations, because they knew if they didn’t, you’d be back the next week to say, hey, this wasn’t good for me. So I just wanted to jump in with that, because I thought it was important with what you said. 

You know, getting back to what you talked about, that quote, you know, it simply goes back to the fact that your brand is not how you view it as a marketer or as a brand. It’s about how your customer and potential customers view it. And so many brands forget tha.t I can’t believe how many don’t have customers either as part of that learning process or in the room. I can’t tell you how many agencies or brand meetings I’ve been at, where a 45-year-old guy is talking about what 22-year-old women like. And I’m like, well, where are the women in the room?

And then again, maybe you have a few women in the room, but they’re all sophisticated and well educated, not necessarily the exact market that you’re trying to sell. So you know, your relevancy at a retail brand is about your customers’ needs and how you fulfill them. And it’s becoming more and more like that every day. You know, the problem I see most often now, and this goes way deeper than how you deliver your product and service is the impression you’re making on your consumers with your marketing. 

Now, here’s the disconnect. I’m not referring to how you present your product or service that gained you customers. I’m not talking about the marketing that gets their attention or that makes them think oh my god, Mercedes, or oh, wow, Nike. But how your marketing drives customers away. Not through creative or the ads themselves but how you deliver it. It’s the customer experience when you’re marketing. We are banging people over the head, consumers don’t owe you their attention. And they certainly don’t owe you their permission. 

I was with Seth Godin when he wrote the original article about marketing. I was sitting across the table from him at Yoyodyne 1998. And that became an article in Fast Company, which then became his really famous book, “Permission Marketing.” You know, permission is something you earn. And it’s earned through quality content and offers, genuine interest and a deep understanding of consumer preferences and needs. And then, you know, a constant track record that builds trust, you know, keep the trust, keep the permission, you keep the customer. 

It’s not just the volume or brilliance of your content that matters. So many people think that, they guess, they hire great content, people, they create great content. But if it’s not relevant to the consumer, if it doesn’t relate to them, if it’s nothing more than a waste of your time, and a reason for the consumer to take away permission for an ongoing interaction with you, then you’re wasting your time, and we bang our customers over the head. 

How many email…How many times have you just bought a product, you sign up for an email, you know, and they ask you for your email, of course. And by the way, there’s supposed to be this box, and there usually is, and it says, do you want to receive any emails with us about blah, blah, blah, and most often you most people, I shouldn’t say that. A lot of people don’t check it, and you still get the emails. And then, you unsubscribe, and you still get the emails. And then you buy. I mean, I bought a car from Acura, literally three months ago, and I get seven to 10 emails a month asking me about buying a new car. 

You know, to me, people must come first, you know, in your growth strategies, in your marketing plans. And in every interaction you have. You know, brands seem to me, and I see it every day, they’re running headlong into brand equity destruction, through this incessant overuse of their email list and permission and incessant digital spamming. I mean, do you like retargeting? I mean, retargeting sounds great. I don’t know how much you know about it. But behind it sounds great.

Sacolick: Why don’t you explain it for everybody, because, you know, it’s a pretty wide audience on the “Customer Data Perspectives,” we have marketers, we have data specialists, we have technologists, why don’t you explain that to folks.

What Marketers Get Wrong About Retargeting

Rubin: Just to get to the simplicity of retargeting is that somebody – you write about something, you talk about something, you buy something, they try to sell you something else that’s related, or something that’s related to your conversation. And what happens is the way these products are sold or presented is they look at lift, meaning if X amount of customers buy, and then X amount of customers buy an additional product, or come back quickly and buy again, you have numbers related to that we all have that kind of data.

So using a retargeting technique, which sends out an email or another ad or something to them very quickly. And I’m really simplifying this. And now you look at your numbers and you go oh, wow, you know, now we’ve got, you know, instead of 3 percent of customers buying an additional product or buying again in a week, we’ve got 8 percent. And most of these, most of these retargeting techniques will do a test, like let’s do an A/B test, makes a lot of sense right? With the retargeting technique. Wow, we raised our, we lifted our sales by X percent, we have to pay for this service X percent. We made a difference. Wow, we made more money. That’s great. Let’s keep doing it. 

What they don’t look at is how it pisses off the customer. Okay, they don’t look at how annoyed you and I get that we just bought something. And now you come and offer me 10 percent off. I just bought the damn thing. Why didn’t you offer it to me when I was buying it? Now you want me to buy a second one that I don’t even need? It makes me wonder every day how many brand managers and more importantly, CMOs bother signing up for their own email distribution lists.

Sacolick: Ted, I totally hear what you’re saying. I mean, I remember a blog post I wrote, I don’t know if it was 10 years ago, and I was getting frustrated by all the emails that I was getting from marketers. And I said, “how good can I make my email filter appear, so I stopped getting some of these emails?” And 10 years ago, you didn’t have to be very sophisticated, you know, you look for a few keywords that everybody was using, like unsubscribe, and you’d start filtering, filtering some of these things out, and then, you know, then you had to get a little bit more sophisticated. 

And then the email providers got even more sophisticated, to help you weed out spam and weed out repeat messaging. And so what are the marketers doing? Well, they have to beat through that, right, they have to find the right combination, because they know I get 30 to 300 emails a day, I’m opening maybe 10 to 20 percent of them, I may  be clicking one to 3 percent of it. And they have 10 different things they can put in front of me. So you know what, instead of trying to figure out who I am a little bit, they’re gonna send me 10 messages over three months, and hope that one of them clicks. And you know, and that’s, you see a lot of that happening. And as I said, you know, I think, you know, going back to fundamentals, going back to basics, I’m feeling that right now, I have a book that just came out a couple months ago – you know that feeling when you put a book out –  you know, you want to see it do well, you want to get it into the right people’s hands. And how are you going to do that? Well, you’re gonna go back to market your book. And now I’m a technologist by trade. Now, I’m learning the ins and outs of how to market a book, market a brand. And it really isn’t easy. You know. 

Why CMOs Should Tap Into Customer Service

Rubin: This is a very challenging job. And not only is it a challenging job, CMOs tend to take the most heat for how sales and how the business is doing, when they only have control over a certain part of the business. They don’t have control on product delivery, they don’t have -usually, here’s one of the saddest things. And I know I’m going a little bit off topic here. But most CMOs don’t have control over customer service. I mean, how ridiculous is that? I have to tell you that when I was running a CMO for certain brands, or VP of Marketing, the first people I made friends with when I joined an organization was the head of customer service. Because I’m out there saying we love you, and we want to do anything for you. And they’re like working in the queues and just dropping people off. And they have different KPIs that they have to realize, versus what we’re trying to do with building a relationship with the customer.

Sacolick: Look, I think you’re dead spot on around that. If you want clues over what’s in the mindset of a customer, why don’t you talk to the people who are always talking to customers at their lowest points and get their feedback and see what pain points they’re reporting and see how they’re behaving with that. You even have a blog post around this. I’m going to pull another quote around this. You say customer service is marketing. When else do you have the customer’s full attention there in time of need. In many organizations customer service is siloed and focused on operational KPIs. How quickly do you pick up the call? How quickly do you close the ticket, how fast do you resolve issues? What are companies really getting wrong around this around customer support? And who’s doing it well?

Customer Support and Improving Customer Experience

Rubin: Well, the way I like to express it specifically is I like to say that customer service is the only time you have 100 percent of your customers’ attention. Don’t waste that opportunity to build your brand. Now why? Why do you have 100 percent? Because they’re looking for resolution. I mean, I like to talk about so probably a lot of parents out there. You know, I had two daughters that grew up. And you know, as they become teens, it’s kind of hard to get their attention like to say the only time I really had 100 percent of my daughter’s tension is when their hand was out asking for money. 

So you know, they put their hand out,, they say they want something and now I know they are listening to every word that comes out of my mouth waiting to find out whether they’re getting the money, and if so how much. This is my chance to, as a dad, to market to them. Please drive safely. Don’t get in the car with someone that that’s been drinking, call me anytime, and I’ll come to get you. Most other times they it goes in one year at the other, but now they’re paying attention. Because I might slip in there that how much I’m giving them. And I kind of liken that to when your customers call you for customer service. 

They’re listening to every word. 

So not only are you building your brand, and I like to say a brand is what you do, a reputation is what people remember and share. Not only are you building that reputation, but you also have a chance to talk to them about your service to show them how important things are, to talk about things while you’re on the phone with them. 

Examples of Customer Service Wins Across Industries

So, you know, getting to your point of who does it well. So you know, Zappos has always gotten this right. And I think they were probably one of the first major online companies to really grasp this, and I believe they brought that mindset to Amazon when they were acquired. Now, Amazon doesn’t quite go to the extent that Zappos did, but you know, Zappos had a policy that if somebody calls in and I’ve seen this in action, I’ve been to their offices, I’ve watched their customer service teams. And this was not a setup, this is when nobody knows you’re there. And they have like, they will stay on as long as it takes for someone to feel that they’ve gotten what they need. They even have like a record up on the wall, like of the hours that customer service people have been on with someone, just because they needed someone to talk to. 

And, and again, Amazon’s not quite the same way. But I am a dedicated Amazon customer for many reasons. But one of them is when I do have a problem, they listen and they resolve it. And yes, like anybody else, you got to go through the process, you start out with a with it with something online and a text conversation. But you always have the opportunity to move into a call. And I just find that they are, to me, the gold standard, as far as it goes, because they are a huge company. They’re working with so many people, but, and they, you know, they, they’re public, they need to be profitable. And they get this right.

DTC Brands

You know, some of these, some DTC companies are getting it right, as well. Unfortunately, as they grow, what it seems to me is consultants, their VCs insists they hire often move them away from this great customer service, they’re giving, you know, for short-term and short-lived financial gains. You know, I believe they have other structural problems that are causing them problems, which is probably for another interview. But it’s not the customer experience. 

There are a couple of smaller companies out there, like Veestro, which makes vegan meals and “Eat Brave.” And I’ve had some really good experiences with these companies that really do it right. They, they make their website totally accessible, their subscription services. But anytime you want to pause or cancel, you’re able to do it really easily. They alert you before your next order goes out with plenty of time to go in and put it on pause, especially when it’s like food delivery services, where you might get something that you just don’t need. 

And then there’s bigger companies that are DTC, like Warby Parker that have done a remarkable job. Warby Parker’s product is not great. And I’m wearing them. Why do I wear them? Because they’re good enough. They’re good, they’re stylish. But more importantly, I get what I need, I get in the mail, I go in the store, they fix them, they do a really good job with me as a customer. And to me, that’s really what they did that was groundbreaking.


Now, you mentioned airlines, and airlines, for the most part, get it wrong. But let’s also face it and realize how difficult that business is. And I think a lot of companies don’t do a good job letting customers understand that because on the one hand, you obviously don’t want people to be uncomfortable flying, saying oh my god, this is a really hard business and make people nervous. But another hand, there’s so many moving parts, there’s there’s people who are traveling, people have families, you know, it’s a really hard business, but I appreciate how JetBlue used to handle customer service. They’re still pretty good. But they had a head of comms for many, many years named Morgan Johnson, who just did an amazing job connecting with people, he was one of the first guys to connect with people on social media. I have a great 2009 JetBlue story that again, save for another time, because it’s like it takes a while to get through, I tell it on stage a lot. 

You know, Delta does a pretty decent job too. Again, you know, as a customer, you also have to realize there is only so much certain types of companies can do for you at certain times. No plane is taking off because you’re annoyed or you’re late. Okay, what they can do well, and I find Delta does and JetBlue does really well, is keep you informed. And if you reach out via social media, they reach back. If you ask a question, you get an answer. You know, when you do that for customers, it makes them feel recognized. And to me that’s really important. 


And then I want to just mention hospitality. And I want to mention one particular brand that probably many of your customers are not that aware of because it’s a kind of I don’t know if you know, the resorts that have water parks in them, they’re called Great Wolf Resorts. And they get something right, that most hospitality companies drop the ball on dramatically. And it’s an amazing opportunity to shine. And I’m sure you’ll relate to this when you hear it but if you leave something behind that a Great Wolf Resort, you will get a call telling you left it behind and asking how you’d like it gotten back to you. 

Now, the vast majority of hospitality companies, and I’m talking about the biggest and the best, okay the Marriotts the Hiltons, they don’t say a word. You leave something that gets put in a box by the way, they don’t get rid of it most of the time unless sometimes they do. Most often it goes in a box, it goes into a room, it gets stored away with a room number on it, and nothing happens unless you call to ask about it and then 99 percent of the time, you can wait 20 minutes on hold, you finally get somebody they have to call you back. And then when you find out that they have it, there’s like no process to get it back to you. And to me, this is the best way to differentiate yourself. Imagine you get a call saying you left your you left your cord here in the room, you know, and remember, so many of these customers or business customers, they’re spending a fortune in these hotels, it’s so easy to do they have all of our information, they have our email addresses our texts our social media profiles.

Delivering Great Customer Service is About Understanding Pain Points

Sacolick: I mean, you know, what bothers me about those examples is that I am a business traveler, and I have left things behind. And I can totally get why Great Wolf does this well. I mean, they got a lot of parents, they’re young kids, it happens a lot, that something gets left behind them, a kid leaves their teddy bear behind, you know, fell behind the bed or something like that, the parent doesn’t know about it now, they’re freaking out. And so what’s interesting about that story is, it’s obviously a big problem. They’ve heard about it. And they found a scalable way to do this in such a way that you’re telling their story here about it.

Rubin: And imagine, every other chain could be doing this.

Sacolick: Every other chain, I think the message is, are you looking for these pain points? Yes, right? Because there’ll be different with Zappos and Warby, they’re similar to my stories with LL Bean. You know, they sell a differentiating product on the margin, but they’re highly personalized. And I know if I go to an LL Bean, and the zipper broke on a on a knapsack that I bought 20 years ago, they’ll either fix it, or they’ll give me a new one. Right. And same thing with the shoelaces. I mean, they do a lot of things like that. They understand lifelong customer value where we have choices, right?

Rubin: I love your point, I love pain points. Isaac, that’s perfect. You know, because those are the things where you can really make a difference for people and truly stand out and not be just the commodity provider that so many have become.

Using Data To Connect with Customers – Where’s the Balance?

Sacolick: Yep. So you’re using the word commodity. And we’re talking about, you know, how do we look at the vast series of issues that, you know, the majority of your customers are facing, and then potentially turn it around, not only resolve the issue for them, but potentially, you know, make them happy about the service that they got, potentially even upsell them. So much I think that goes behind figuring out how to do this well, is around data. But you said something interesting to me a few weeks ago, you said, you know, companies can’t just rely on data, they’re losing touch with customers, you know, what should customers do, and maybe not do, with data? You know, how do you not lose touch with customers, but then also get closer to customers when I need it, when I’m doing it at scale to figure out what problems to really focus on?

Rubin: Well, my business partner, my business partner, his name is John Andrews. And by the way, he was the co-author of “Retail Relevancy,” and he was actually your retail geek. I’m kind of the relationship guy. But we like to say that marketing will truly win when humans control the machines, instead of machines controlling the humans. And, you know, we say that because it makes an impression, and it sounds good. But it really means something is that too many of these machines, you set them and forget them, you personalize something – by it automatically drops in somebody’s name. There’s nothing else personalized about it. I mean, it’s clear that that most of these are the same for everything. You’re not you’re using the data, but you’re using an on mass, you’re looking at numbers you’re steering towards, like the percentages that are more, you know, too many make it all about the numbers and conversions that there’s so much info out there about how customers really think that’s being ignored. A perfect example, is your last question about customer service.

Why are more customer service teams, and I think you mentioned this in one of your comments, why aren’t more of them sharing feedback with marketing and operations? I mean, again, I mentioned that I not only made friends with that a marketing, but I also opened up the avenue of communication. I wanted to know what their people were hearing. I mean, they’re hearing back to your term. They’re hearing the pain points of customers. And so few customer service teams really share that information with marketing. And I say operations too, because I know what you’re talking about marketing. But operations is important because and it’s important to marketing because if your product isn’t getting delivered correctly, it’s not being manufactured correctly, if the problems aren’t being fixed, you know, marketing can sell a crappy product. There’s only so much they can do and they also, they can sell the product that’s good. But if customer service isn’t good, what’s going to happen to resale? What’s gonna happen? 

Sacolick: Or field operations, or an outbound sales group? I mean,  anybody who’s in that role, talking to a prospect or talking to an existing customer, I mean, we talk about customer service. Part of the issue used to be technology, right? You know, customer service had its technology and marketing had its 9,700 technologies, if you believe Scott Brinker, or at least 120 of them, and operations had a whole new set of technologies, and I was the CIO. And I had a miniscule budget to bring all this data together and bring workflow together. Part of it used to be a technology issue, right? But now, you know, there’s technologies like CDP technologies, like integration technologies, like workflow technologies and collaboration – they’ll bring the data together, if there’s a will. But we still need to get people interested in having that conversation, right, I’m not going to go talk to customer service, about shaving a minute off their call time or about, you know, how to increase their call volumes, or how to just improve customer satisfaction rates, which would all be really good things I’m saying, which of the, you know, 900,000 customers that are going through our system every day, Which one percent should I really be paying attention to? And that’s a really different question, right? 

Rubin: It is. And you know, you mentioned the technology’s here today, but I find it’s not being used in so many places. I mean, then and I’m talking I’m not just talking about small companies. I’m talking about very sophisticated companies with huge money and budgets, how many times you call up and you give your account number and they transfer you give your account number again, what is that all about? It’s 2022. Every, every bank – American Express, we’re talking about companies that are showing record profits. Again, we’re not showing companies that are struggling, or having a hard time, there’s just a look, it’s a bit don’t get me wrong, I don’t do technology, it’s a big job. And I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s all there. And it’s so frustrating to a customer, when you’ve got to do this again and again. And you know, again, even when you know what happens, you keep thinking, okay, they must have fixed this by now. Like, I’m not gonna have to give that account number to them again. And you do. And to me, that’s also part of the customer experience. And I also like your point about field operations, people, those are also people, it’s so easy, they’re all carrying devices now. There’s no reason that they can’t be giving feedback about their service calls about all the different things they’re doing. And then again, have the mechanisms and the data people who can bring that together and make it valuable to marketing and operations.

Sacolick: Yeah, it’s a trickiness. You know, like you said, the biggest companies have the budgets to do all this. And, you know,  like I said, the technology has improved significantly. I could put a CDP and that’s gonna bring all my tech data together, I could put machine learning in, that’s gonna give me some way to analyze the data. I’m in the camp, just to be clear, I’m in the camp that machine learning is going to augment humans, I don’t believe it’s going to take over. And we’re going to see things like instantly figure out how to do all the marketing campaigns, all the language around it, who to reach with what, you want an example of that, let’s go look at the hype that was put around chatbots. And how often do you really want to go to talk to a chatbot when you’re really having a problem? 

Right, that chat bot does not have enough context, that a good customer service rep with a good screen with a lot of good data with good intuition is going to ask a question about, you know, where are you and what  kind of problem you’re having today? Right? A lot of context in that question, you know, what part of the world you’re in? What’s the weather look like? What kind of crisis is going on? A machine isn’t ready to handle all that crisis. And, you know, we’re talking about getting back to basics, right? Things that good companies are doing and have been doing for the last decade. I also want to think and project out a few years ahead, right? We went from print and retail to web, right? 

And maybe web analog to mobile experiences. And now we’re starting to talk about Web 3.0, and Metaverse, and that’s going to come down the road and create a whole other line of disruption. And you know, I have some opinions around that. But you shared a post that was intriguing to me. And he said brands don’t have a clue where the Metaverse is, or how they’re actually going to be part of it. So let’s talk the  next two-year horizon. Let’s not talk about when like VR is mainstream and the cloud handles, you know, 1,000s of people talking about a Metaverse. Let’s talk about what should brands be thinking about in the next few years with all this hype around Metaverse, Web 3.0 augmented, virtual reality. Are the things they can do now to improve what they’re doing with customers?

What Will Customer Experience in the Metaverse Look Like?

Rubin: Well, look, I stand by that, you know, I mean that that quote, that you gave. They’re waiting for someone to tell them and, and they’re talking about it, and they’re investing in it. But that is the same as what they did in the 90s. And the internet in 2007, to 2010 was social media. Each time, the players came along and took the reins, leading us by the news. And hopefully this time, we’re actually going to become part of the solution and say, this would, whether it’s a brand, or it’s a consumer, it’s a brand saying, you know, this is what we need. And this is what really makes us relate better to our customers. And then a customer saying, this is really what I want. I’m tired of, you know, algorithms and things following me around the web, you know, I think what brands really need to do is they need to investigate, they need to learn, they need to test. And, I mean, there’s a lot of companies out there doing it, but most importantly, they’ve got to educate themselves. And look, I am learning about this. And I spent a lot of time, I’ve really gotten into audiobooks, because like all of us, I It helps me multitask, you know, and when I’m working out or riding my bike, or walking, or whatever, I can get so much more done than sitting down and reading a book. But I’m trying to learn about this and trying to understand, you know, all these new technologies. And I think that the brands need to start integrating themselves into the conversation, not just waiting for someone to develop something and say, here it is, and here’s our universe, here’s what you can get into, you know, it’s not rocket science, the learning part, you know. 

And I gotta tell you, and you know, you said something about two years and be prepared, because when it happens, it will be faster than the last transition. Things are happening a lot faster than they did in the past. And I think the Metaverse and Web 3.0 is going to be upon us before we know it. I think that they’re a combination of the two again, please, I am far from an expert. I’m a relationship guy, and a marketing guy, kind of looking at what’s happening here. And I’m trying to understand it myself. But I think Web 3.0 and the metaverse kind of come together and integrate. Metaverse is kind of a place that things happen. That’s  can be augmented, are augmented or have to do with different types of environments. Where as Web 3.0 is our ability to control our own data, bringing things together, not being bombarded with the marketing that we were talking about before and being banged over our heads. Having more control about how companies reach out and connect with us. 

But I think most importantly, back to what I said, we  to companies got to test they got to learn, they got to try things, they’ve got to not jump in with both feet. Because right now I don’t think you really know where those two feet should go. But I love seeing some of the companies that are trying things. I love seeing, you know, things that like some of these companies are doing with NFTs or you know, they’re buying land or they’re doing advertising in certain Metaverses. Is is it going to be multiple? Is it going to be one? Is it going to be all different places? Is one company going to control it? Or are individuals are going to control it? I don’t know. But I think companies have to start  learning about it and I think they need to encourage their employees to learn about these things on their own. 

Sacolick: I think you’re giving you the perfect answer, right? Get involved and get learning on it. You know, the same thing happened every time in the early stages, this new media came out. And what do we do? We took what worked in the old media and dumped it in the new media. So we took print and threw it up on web pages, we took web pages, we tried to squeeze it into our mobile device. And what’s going to happen, you know, the technology is still fairly primitive, right? It’s still fairly primitive. When you put up the VRs on, you’re walking into one of these shopping experiences and seeing these avatars bouncing around. And like, you know, I think I’d rather just go to the website, or I think I’d rather just go into the store to go see all this. But you know, we don’t know, if it’s two years or five or 10 years. We know there’s going to be a tipping point in there, where the technology is going to be accessible, where consumers are going to start making their choices around things. And the one thing that the Metaverse is going to have to do differently and better, iIt’s going to be around data, right? If we take the same universe, single experience or fractional experiences that work in web and mobile and just kind of throw it up there on Metaverse, well, you know, it’s too slow and too cumbersome for me to do all this work to see the same thing that you’re seeing. You know, you and I have different tastes, we probably both like books, we probably both like retail, just looking around your surroundings over there. I love judging the customer service and the customer experience. But I’m going to do it very differently from a technology lens than from your marketer and relationship building lens. And that’s what makes it all great. But when you put up that experience, you’re going to need to know something about me, maybe something about what I’m trying to learn and accomplish. And if not, you want to use these experiences to learn a little bit about me at the same time.

Rubin: A hundred percent. Now truth be told, I’m a bit of a cynic. I think in the end it’s going to be, it’s just going to be you know, different environment, same people running it, same kind of thing. I really like you know, a lot of the so-called experts are up on stage now talking about how you can control your own data. We can’t control our own data. And we don’t have that ability yet. And I’m not sure we ever will because I don’t think the powers that be or the companies that are running these things or are investing in it really want to let us control our own data.

Sacolick: I agree with that. I mean, we’ve lumped together Metaverse and Web 3.0, we talked about them in the same sort of angle, but they’re really two different things. We’re just hoping Metaverse becomes what we aspire Web 3.0 to be. But there’s no incentives for big companies to really push for Web 3.0. There’s actually a lot of incentives for the big tech companies to push Metaverse, right, they’re gonna go sell a whole bunch of new random platforms.

Rubin: It’s another place to sell advertising, you know, true. Things come together Web 3.0, Metaverse, the real verse, I don’t think we’re going to be in one place, it’s going to be things combining and coming together. Again, I’m not technologically skilled enough to really explain that or understand it myself. 

But again, look, in the end that data is so important to companies and them running, I just don’t see them giving up access to it. But on the other side, if we as consumers, if we as the people, if people starting the new companies – I’ve been doing some work with a company called Peer and a guy by the name of Tony Tran, who’s the founder. And you know, their goal, whether they’ll end up changing as they grow. But their goal is to make this run by the people. And to bring a Web 3.0 and a Metaverse experience that allows us to say what we want to be involved in what we want to give up what we don’t, whether that will happen or not, I guess it remains to be seen.

What is Your ‘Easier Button’ for Customer Experience?

Sacolick: So Ted, that’s a great entry into my final question for you. You and I have some common agreement about how far data can go. You know, and I’m trying to stretch it one way and say let’s make it work better for us. And you’re saying let’s get back to basics, and make sure that we can really service customers well, with or without the data, right, you know, go back to intuitions, go back to working with direct one-on-one interactions and make sure you take advantage of every customer touch point that you can create for yourself. What’s the easier button right? How do we bring these two worlds together, where I can use my data to competitive advantage, but still have this great relationship with the customer?

Rubin: Look, I don’t know if there’s an easy button, but the button I would like is that I can I can merge human and and and machine is that I get as a human as a customer service person can, can jump into some kind of an app or technology that allows me to quickly view things about the person that I’m talking to, and trying to help and know things about them and have a quick view of it right in front of my screen. So that I know them. I know that they have three kids, I know the things they’ve bought. And I just don’t think that’s really available. And more importantly, look, I know all companies right now having trouble hiring we have this whole challenge of, and I think part of it is that we don’t train people enough we look to companies look to get by quicker, they look to pay less money. I think our customer service needs to be a key part of our organization. And I would love the tools at my fingertips to do it. Or at least to train somebody to do that when they’re able. I’d love it for myself. I mean, before I get on a call now I gotta go to LinkedIn, I gotta go to Facebook, I want to know I say look people in the eye digitally. I want to know something about them. I want to know – I wish there was one place that I could pull it all up and there still isn’t.

Sacolick: I just got my catchphrase for this episode – look people in the eye digitally. And I love that because when I call my customer support rep or I email them in, I won’t use a chatbot and I’m a technologist. I’m a CIO. I’m an influencer. And I’m asking them a problem, about their SaaS product, the first thing that rep should be able to see is my LinkedIn profile, that I’m an ex-CIO, that I write for a bunch of magazines, and have the intuition maybe we should get somebody in level two support who’s very technical to talk to this person, because asking them to reset their browser or reset their computer they probably have done that already.

Rubin: I was looking behind. I wrote a book called “How to Look People in the Eye Digitally.”

Sacolick: Oh, look at that. 

Rubin: And for me, it goes back to what we learned as kids I mean,  you know, my dad would say if you’re with somebody looking at my mom would say going on my one of my first dates, make sure you look at her know, look at everybody walking in the room, pay attention. For me digitally, people just don’t take advantage of that because there’s so much information that you can learn about somebody, just by your fingers. I mean, by going to different apps and looking at different places and using Google, but that should be at the fingertips especially if customer service people. I’d like it easily at mine.

Sacolick: Fascinating conversation about how to get in touch with your customer, becoming super relevant to them, using data where possible, but not letting it overwhelm the conversation and believing that machine learning and data can take over what you need to provide a great experience. Be good to people and look at them through a digital eye. Great conversation today with you, Ted on the Customer Data {erspectives. Thank you, everybody for joining us. And I look forward to seeing you at future episodes. Have a great day. 

Want more Customer Data Perspectives? Check out our latest episodes here.

Isaac Sacolick
Isaac Sacolick
Isaac Sacolick is the President of StarCIO, where he guides clients on succeeding with data and technology while executing smarter, faster, safer, and more innovative transformation programs. Isaac is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology, and has written over seven hundred articles as a contributing editor at InfoWorld, Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other publications.
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