Meet Kristyn DeRaffele, ModSquad’s New VP of People Operations

There’s been a positive vibe coming from our newest operations center in Austin, Texas, but the buzz has reached a fever pitch with the arrival of our new Vice President of People Operations, Kristyn DeRaffele. Kristyn will be responsible for helping to nurture and grow the Mod community along with the company’s employee base worldwide. She brings with her more than two decades of experience working with culture-rich companies in growth mode, making her the perfect match for ModSquad.

When she’s not making plans to grow and foster our global team of Mods, Kristyn can typically be found spending time in Austin with her husband, two daughters, and their pooch at their lakeside house — or out on the water. Kristyn’s an avid runner, which gives her the stamina to keep up with her kids. She’ll need that energy to keep up with ModSquad’s amazing network of 10,000+ Mods!

What brought you to ModSquad?

When I learned about the job, I thought it was exactly what I was looking for. I have a little bit of an untraditional background. I spent 14 years in a traditional Vice President of HR role at The Sak. It literally started out in a San Francisco garage, and we blew up to a $100 million-plus brand with offices all over the world. In addition to tried-and-true HR functions, I took a deep dive into culture development, leadership, and management. We succeeded in those three areas doing some fun and innovative things.

Later in my career, after moving to Austin, I was introduced to a CEO in the direct selling space. She created a disruptive business, Stella and Dot, which combines fashion, technology, and direct selling through independent contractors. I was brought in to grow everything for these independent contractors — from recruiting and training to retention, leadership, and development plans — and the company exploded. We went from 5,000 to over 40,000 independent contractors, and from about $30 million in sales to just under $200 million in two and a half years. So that started this other side to my career, where I spent a lot of time focused on ways to retain, motivate, grow, and lead independent contractors.

I believe ModSquad is so ahead of the curve of this new workforce. I’ve read that by 2020, 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be engaged in some sort of side independent business. And ModSquad has been leading that for a long time with its ModSourcing approach.

What sets ModSquad’s team apart?

The people at ModSquad are truly innovators — pioneers — in this workforce phenomenon of the flexible future, which is not going away. Any study about Millennials shows that it’s here to stay. I love the conversations I’ve had with people here. People are just so proactive. You feel that they have a sense of ownership in having to get it done. Everybody’s committed to that vision of what you’ve built, committed to the culture here, and to one another. I feel there’s true teamwork in this dispersed scenario of a workforce, which is great. It’s a huge strength.

Years back, we were promised a future where everyone would work remotely, but we’re not there yet. Why do many companies feel resistant to that movement, and how is ModSquad proving them wrong?

Well, change is scary. There are two issues. First, employers want their staff working within the confines of their office walls because there’s this undiscussed sense that they want to know that their employees are showing up and doing the work. Perhaps the bigger issue is collaboration. Companies rely on collaboration and learning for growth and innovation. So how do you grow, lead, and collaborate with a dispersed, remote workforce?

It starts with hiring the right people and by fundamentally believing in the mission. And [ModSquad Founder and CEO] Amy [Pritchard] obviously does. You have to step back and be very specific about your culture and about the type of people who will thrive in that environment, because while it’s a fit for some, it’s not for everyone.

Then you have to implement the right communication and engagement strategies and determine the training and tools needed to successfully teach and foster an innovative workforce. ModSquad gets it.

How does ModSquad fit into the Austin scene?

It’s a great fit. There’s so much opportunity here. The vibe in Austin is progressive, because it’s a college town. We talk a lot about “Keep Austin Weird,” and there’s definitely a pride here and a vibe of doing things a little differently, and I think that really fits with ModSquad.

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

I’m excited to help ModSquad continue to scale, innovate, and grow. What the company has done is amazing, so it’s really about how to take ModSourcing to the next level. We want to continue to attract the best pool of independent contractors to work as Mods in order to deliver client results. To do that, we can utilize workforce planning tools to analyze the talent pool, which informs your recruiting and engagement strategies. One thing to remember about an independent workforce is that they’re entrepreneurs; they’re excited about this opportunity for a reason. They want to work independently as Mods. I always say, it’s about being in business for yourself, not by yourself.

On the Scene at Dreamforce 2017

The Dreamforce conference hosted annually by the folks at Salesforce is always a highly anticipated event, and 2017 was no different. In addition to attendance from major global companies like Facebook and Adidas, Dreamforce 2017 saw such celebrity guests as Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Obama, and of course, ModSquad’s VP Finance, David Wohlwend.

The event kicked off with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s keynote address, which focused on two interconnected themes. The first focused on the idea that “We are all trailblazers,” a concept with which we couldn’t agree more. Anyone with a vision and the drive to pursue it can be a trailblazer, and that’s exactly the mindset that we subscribe to here at ModSquad. For the last 10 years, we’ve blazed the trail in outsourced digital engagement with a team of 10,000+ Mods across the globe, offering on-demand services called ModSourcing.

The second theme focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution currently underway and the changes its innovation is continuing to drive. Benioff pointed out that as technology rapidly evolves, so does the customer experience, primarily that:

  1. Customer expectations are changing
  2. More products are being enhanced by data and intelligence
  3. Companies must undergo a digital transformation to adapt to these shifts.

Benioff’s message resonated with us, as we see it playing out every day in the work we do for our clients. Across all aspects of customer service, social media, and community management, we see how customers’ expectations are evolving and how service must adapt to meet them. For some of our clients, the necessary digital transformation Benioff spoke to is exactly why they’ve partnered with us.

On Tuesday, our VP Finance David Wohlwend joined Sage Intacct’s David Appel and Salesforce CPQ’s Joachim Klein on a panel titled “Scale Revenue Operations in Cloud & Subscription.” David shared why ModSquad migrated to an integrated SaaS-based finance solution to increase efficiency and visibility within finance and across departments. By moving to Sage Intacct, which integrates with Salesforce, we are able to manage sales and finances with greater consistency, efficiency, and detail. It also helps us to easily scale as the company continues to deliver strong growth.

While the finance side of the business may not be as riveting as some other Dreamforce talks, it’s quite literally what keeps the lights on. It was an honor to have ModSquad be a part of Dreamforce 2017, and we’re excited to continue blazing the trail for digital customer engagement.

The Great Burger War of 2017

Back in the 1980s, fast-food titans McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s battled it out with TV ads vying for the affection of fans of quick-n-easy dining. Today, it’s the tech giants — Google, Apple, and Microsoft — who are embroiled in a modern-day burger war of their own. So it’s little wonder that Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced the reprioritization of his to-do list. Simmering near the top: a rapid response to the growing discontent over the correct way to assemble an emoji cheeseburger.

While tech companies determine their own graphic representation of the symbols known as emojis, they still must pass mustard… er, muster, with the Unicode Consortium, which sets the standard for all emojis. This is why many emojis looks so different across various platforms. It’s a task that they take seriously. Google was recently coerced into redesigning every emoji in the Android universe, which still didn’t please everyone. Even Apple continues to roll out new offerings to the emojiverse. But as the following Tweet handily illustrates, they all seem to differ on the proper way to assemble a cheeseburger.

Not to be left out of this compelling discourse, Snapchat went on to troll Apple and Google with their version of the burger emoji: burger AR lenses.

Upon inspection, it appears Snapchat has decreed that burgers shall be assembled thusly: lettuce, burger, tomatoes, cheese, burger. But Shake Shack’s Culinary Director Mark Rosati disagrees with that placement, backing Apple’s position that the cheese should be placed atop the burger patty. Wendy’s, as is their wont, joined in with a clever, snarky take on the matter. Burger King, despite promising customers to “have it your way,” put their foot down and tweeted their burger blueprint, which also places cheese atop the meat.

Digging deep into this escalating feud, ModSquad has discovered that it was the McDonald’s India Twitter account that set off the firestorm, with this tweet:

Perhaps we should consider that McDonald’s, decades ago, shared their blueprint for the Big Mac in an enduring jingle that still occupies valuable cranial real estate in Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers everywhere:

While the commercial itself seems to mix up the order of lettuce and cheese, we’ll take their word for it.

As social media experts, we’re well aware of the importance of emojis and want to see things return to normal. Let’s face it — after starring in a disappointing movie and now sparking a global imbroglio, it’s hard to imagine that things could get much worse for our poor little emoji. Or could it? Oh, poo.

ModSquad’s Extra Life Marathon: A Weekend to Remember

This past weekend, on November 4-5, ModSquad stood together and made a difference.

Extra Life is a marathon video-gaming session in which enthusiasts from around the world join forces to play games and raise some charitable funds in the process.

As you’ve probably seen on the ModSquad blog, this was our fourth year raising money for Children’s Miracle Network and our local UC Davis Children’s Hospital. It’s an organization that’s near and dear to our hearts, some of us even having first-hand experience.

So while others see a group of fun-loving gamers coming together to raise money for a good cause, we also focus on the bigger picture. Our efforts over the weekend, Extra Life tells us, raised enough funds to support chemotherapy treatment or a heart monitor for a child. We’re humbled by the thought that our team members and all of ModSquad’s supporters were able to do something so wonderful, simply by doing what we love.

And there was certainly plenty of love to go ‘round this weekend! Good friends, favorite games, and friendly competition kept things interesting and helped our team ward off their greatest challenge–the allure of sleep! Check out how it all went down.

At our Sacramento, California operations center, the team got together to kick off the 24-hour marathon.

Players settled in and got cozy in front of their screens…

Even as night fell, enthusiasm never waned!

But still, pizza delivery always helps.

Heading east, the folks in the Austin, Texas operations center created a party-like atmosphere. Note the presence of pizza there as well. We’re sensing a theme.

Continuing east, let’s check in on the ModSquad contingent in Clarksville, Tennessee. Local Mods were rooted not only by family and friends, but by our four-legged buddies as well!

Even many times zones across the Atlantic, our Derry operations center got into the swing of things and blasted away some baddies, all in the name of charity.

Those following along on Twitch saw many other games throughout the event, with players switching things up every hour. If you tuned in, you’d see our fearless players taking on all challengers, at all hours.

Were you following the action? Here’s one happy participant playing on the team and fundraising on her own. Thanks for your support, Mary!

In the end, this year’s participants and supporters came together and showed how people can channel their passion into an even greater cause. If you missed your chance, it’s not too late to contribute to this most worthy cause. We’re happy that so many members of the ModSquad community came out to play games, eat pizza, and cheer others on to make a difference. For that, we’re most grateful — and we can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Now, time to sleep.

ModSquad Plays Games for Good During the Extra Life Marathon

We love supporting great causes, and Extra Life is an event especially close to our hearts. Each year around this time, we join together for this worldwide 24-hour video game marathon that raises money to help sick and injured children. This weekend, November 4–5, we are excited to be joining this popular fundraising event once again and livestreaming the fun as our Mods and operations centers collaborate around the world.

Now in its tenth year, Extra Life brings together more than 100,000 members of the gaming community to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the vital work they do for the children in their care. While the event helps shine a light on the CMN and all the good they do, the event could not successfully exist without donations.

$5, $25, $100 — any and all donation support helps! The donation website for ModSquad’s efforts is open, and if you’re willing and able, we ask that you help us raise funds for this important cause. 100% of your gift will go directly to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and as a few of our Mods can tell you, it will make a world of difference.

Tune in this Saturday, November 4, starting at 8 a.m. PT to cheer us on. Our live feeds will cover four different locations across the U.S. and Northern Ireland (Sacramento, Austin, Tennessee, and Derry), and we will have Mods from around the world logging in to compete and play with us. We hope you can join us — with your help and encouragement, we can reach our goal!

Thank you for your support — we will see you online!

Matt Hostler
Account Manager and Extra Life Organizer

ModSquad Takes Manhattan at Zendesk’s Relate Live

ModSquad team members from across the United States and Europe converged to exhibit at last week’s Relate Live event in New York City. Held by Zendesk, the conference is a gathering of more than 1,000 customer service professionals. We were pleased to be a sponsor of the whirlwind event, which saw Zendesk partners and customers come together to meet, join workshops and training sessions, and attend talks by such featured speakers as Shark Tank’s Daymond John, The Kindness Diaries’ Leon Logothetis, and author Jon Ronson.

Zendesk Founder and CEO Mikkel Svane kicked off the event with a look at the new era of customer relationships. “Customer service is simple,” he said. “It’s about investing in relationships. It’s about doing what’s right for the customer. That’s the end of the story.” One method to do right by the customer is working to provide them with the best experience possible. Most people find it easier to contact a support line during off hours than during business hours, when they’re at work, reasoned Svane. Similarly, if customers are using newer methods of communication, like Facebook’s Messenger app, it’s worth making the effort to be available to them where they already are. It’s a concept that’s been exemplified here at ModSquad — rather than using inherited behaviors, like forcing customers to get in touch with a dated, offshore call center during business hours, we adapt to our customers and follow their lead on the communications channels they prefer. “Rethinking these processes is really healthy for the customer,” noted Svane.

Trust was a recurring theme throughout the weekend. In these turbulent times filled with headlines about fake news and violations of trust, our cynicism and skepticism can carry over into other areas, such as customers’ interactions with businesses. And while technology can take us far in overcoming the trust gap, it’s humans who get you the rest of the way. By building great relationships and simplifying experiences for customers, vendors can make significant progress toward regaining the customer’s trust.

Even the conference’s rundown of recent trends and predictions for 2018 involved matters of trust. Alongside new technologies, which promise to make the customer support journey more cutting-edge than ever before, was the basic human element of trust. We’re no longer working for the people, attendees were told; we’re working with the people. It’s our job to empower customers with the information they need to make choices that reflect their values. We’ll be blogging more about this vital topic in the weeks ahead.

Another highlight was meeting the whip-smart and ambitious representatives of start-up companies showcasing their products and services at Relate Live. Like many of them, we at ModSquad work closely with Zendesk and its users to build out robust support-desk systems, streamline user processes, and maximize each Zendesk instance. We’ll get more in-depth into the offerings and trends we saw at the show in an upcoming post.

To make the most of our time in New York, ModSquad hosted a festive gathering of clients that we dubbed “ModSquad Takes Manhattan.” It was a true delight getting to chat with so many smart, fun-loving, and genuinely interesting folks. We all had such a great time that we blew past our end time by nearly four hours. Our NY-area clients certainly proved how the Big Apple got its reputation as the city that never sleeps!

Thanks to everyone who came to visit us at Relate Live and during our evening celebration. We’ll be back again soon — trust us!

Mod of the Month – October 2017

Something’s brewing… In fact, it’s here now! The friendly spirits of the ModSquad team have prepared their ghostly surprise, and he’s Mod-nificent; we are excited to congratulate Daniel Pointer as October 2017’s Mod of the Month!

Daniel’s journey with ModSquad began in November 2015, and he quickly developed into a strong asset for many of his Project Managers and teams. Being the speed reader and detail-oriented Mod that he is, Daniel provides quick and accurate customer support as well as social moderation for various clients ranging from gaming to television. No matter the challenge or task at hand, he has the proven ability to resolve any customer issue that comes his way.

For Daniel, the most important part of his day is ensuring clear communication with clients and customers, whether that means making extra time to explain troubleshooting instructions step by step, or reassuring customers that he is always available to help them.

Nothing makes my day better than being able to fully resolve someone’s issue.

Prior to joining ModSquad, Daniel gained invaluable customer service experience while assistant-managing a gas station and working from home on digital content projects for multiple clients. He later attended school to become a surgical technologist, and when he wasn’t in class, Daniel spent some of his time working as a Customer Support Mod with ModSquad. It wasn’t long after becoming a permanent surgical technologist that Daniel realized fostering client success and customer satisfaction was where his passion truly lied — so he became a full-time Mod.

My proudest moment is pretty much every day when I log into work. I am so proud to be part of an amazing company with terrific people working together as one.

Outside of work, you’re sure to find Daniel in the gaming scene playing The Elder Scrolls Online, Ark, or Dishonored 2. He also enjoys the company of his two cats, Luna and Apollo, while catching up on TV shows and horror films. Looks like October is your kind of month, Daniel!

Not only do his fellow Mods value his work, Project Managers eagerly have to wait in line for Daniel to finish a project so they can scoop him up next.

“What’s brilliant about Daniel is his uncanny ability to raise questions about the big picture that lead to improvement. He benefits our clients and team in ways that are unparalleled by our competition. He thinks big and outside of the box! Heck, he’ll even create a different box for you if you need it, he’s that good!

“Not only that, but Daniel’s positive can-do attitude towards challenge is unbeatable. He does a wonderful job for our clients, has their best interests at heart, and makes what we do even more fun. As many, I am emotionally invested in our clients; Daniel proves on a daily basis that he shares the same passion.”
—Kenny Peebles, Project Manager

“Daniel came in at the eleventh hour on a project I was helping with, and he was a total rock star. He grasped the workflows quickly, picked up lots of hours, and went above and beyond to make sure things were being taken care of.

“I really believe Daniel is an asset to any team he joins, and I always reach out to him when I have a new project coming in. Of course, he’s never available because everyone snatches him up immediately when he is!”
—Danielle Ditto, Project Manager

“I’ve had Daniel on several of my projects, and he is a real stand-up Mod. He’s super reliable and picks up new concepts and feedback quickly. On my ever-changing social projects, he’s able to to adapt to new scenarios and tasks, and he shows up bright and early each morning with a positive outlook and fresh enthusiasm. He’s even quick to help other Mods whenever they have questions — such a team player!

“Daniel was also with me through the launch of a particularly tough project and totally maintained his cool; he truly deserves the Mod of the Month title.”
—Geneva Hopwood, Project Manager

Learning Life Skills Through Customer Service

At some point in our lives, most of us have worked some sort of customer service job, be it retail, call center, tech support, or otherwise. What we may not have realized at the time is that those jobs were teaching us skills we would use elsewhere in life.

As our Mods know, customer service is not only about responding to emails and tweets or helping customers; it’s also about the skills you take away from it that you can apply to your everyday life. In addition to learning to work with new tools, troubleshoot specific technical issues, or process a product return, customer service roles teach you essential life skills like empathy, patience, how to stay organized and calm under pressure, problem solving and analysis, and so much more.

Empathy

There’s a fantastic explanation by scholar Brené Brown on the difference between empathy and sympathy, and why the former is so much more powerful when it comes to helping others.

As Brown explains, empathy creates a connection with someone who’s having a problem, while sympathy tries to put a silver lining around their problem. When you work in customer service, empathy is essential to helping others, even in situations where you can’t necessarily solve their issue.

“In previous positions, I have been told to never say ‘sorry,’ because it implies liability. At ModSquad, I have learned that ‘sorry’ is not a dirty word. I am encouraged to empathize more readily and express that I am sorry for the experience our customer has had, even if our client is not to blame.

“I have learned that people sometimes need to be heard more than they need to be “handled”. Learning that empathizing is a tangible method of support has helped me to help those I can and hear those I can’t. A skill that is invaluable to me, every day!”
—Joe Moore, Mod

As Brown attests, exercising empathy is difficult. Withholding judgment and seeing things from someone else’s perspective is tough. But you know what’s tougher? Naming a situation in life – a relationship, a business decision, anything – that wasn’t made better by empathizing with others.

“I always strive to put myself in the customer’s shoes. How would I feel if this happened to me? What can I do to help them, make them happy, and keep them coming back, while still making sure I follow the client’s policies and procedures? It can be a tricky balance, and not all customers can be made happy. But the customers who do leave happy make it worth it.”
—Laura Leonard, Mod

Patience

Working in customer service also teaches patience. When a frustrated customer has run out of patience, it can be tough to have it yourself. When a new issue arises, especially a technical one, a solution is not always available immediately; agents have to not only be patient themselves while a solution is created, but they also have to help keep customers patient.

“As a customer service representative, working with unhappy customers can be very trying at times. Every project I have been on thus far with ModSquad has reinforced my patience and understanding, skills I apply to most aspects of my life.”
—Caterina Schenck, Mod

When the pressure of high ticket volume, upset customers, and unresolved issues stack up, it can be a challenge to stay calm. Working in customer service teaches you that getting overwhelmed results in disorganized behavior and lowers the quality of your work (not to mention the stress it puts on you personally). By facing the challenges they do on a daily basis, customer service agents learn how to stay calm under pressure: focus on one thing at a time, trust your abilities, and don’t stress over the small things.

Problem Solving and Analysis

We all encounter problems and challenges on a daily basis. Just like in customer service, the best solution is not always obvious, and it takes thorough analysis of many factors to make a smart decision. This is especially true for those working in technical support. When “have you tried turning it off and on again?” doesn’t work, support agents have to make sure they’re asking the right questions to get the information they need from customers. This also requires honing one’s communication skills, specifically the ability to translate from “tech-speak” to language everyday customers can understand.

In all areas of customer service, being able to solve problems also means actively listening to exactly what a customer is saying without making assumptions as to what they need.

If I’ve learned anything working in customer service, it’s to listen. Actively, wholeheartedly listen! Our customers are all individuals with unique stories and interests, each experiencing unique issues. The only way to understand how we can help, is to listen to what they’re telling us.”
—Jenny Young, Project Manager

And Many More…

Logistically, customer service work also teaches things like organization and time management, not to mention the specific product knowledge and industry awareness you gain based on the companies you work for. Customer support team supervisors and managers develop leadership skills they can apply throughout their careers and mentorship skills they can use to help friends and family.

Here at ModSquad, we know that working hard to keep our clients and customers happy also helps us develop skills we can take with us through our lives and careers. What skills have you learned through working in customer service? Share with us in the comments — we’d love to hear about your experiences.

Get to Know Your Customers Every Day

Did you know that the third Thursday of every quarter is “Get to Know Your Customers Day”? It’s a day for companies of all sizes to show greater appreciation for their customers and find ways to serve them better. This quarterly holiday is a welcome reminder, especially to those caught up in the day-to-day nonstop nature of customer service, to take a step back and consider ways to improve.

Here at ModSquad, we think it’s important to be in the know about your customers every day and to constantly ask yourself whether you’re meeting, and even exceeding, the needs of your customers. Doing so doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you can start today with these four activities:

1. Get Reports from the Front Line

Your customer service team is likely already delivering reports of call and ticket volume, handle time, first contact resolution percentages, and more. In order to get to know your customers, think beyond performance metrics. What are the top issues? What customer complaints are starting to trend, and which are their ongoing gripes?

Establish communication paths that allow your front-line agents to speak on behalf of customers and raise the questions and concerns they receive frequently. Not only will this ensure customer feedback makes its way to those who can do something about it, but it will also help your support agents feel empowered, leading to greater enthusiasm (which, in turn, leads to better service).

2. Leverage Social Media Analytics

You don’t need fancy social media tools to find out the who/what/where of your social media community (although robust analytics tools can definitely help, depending how deep you want to go). All the main social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube — provide free analytics about your audience. Among the metrics you can analyze across these platforms are demographic data like age, gender, location, and language; platforms like Facebook and Instagram will also tell you when your followers are most active on each platform.

By understanding who your audience is on social media and when they’re active, you can make informed decisions about the type of content you post, how to schedule your social media support agents, and whether to offer multilingual support. You can also use these insights to hone your marketing strategies and the products or services you offer.

3. Create Content that Encourages Customers to Express Themselves

People love to share about themselves. Use your website and social media, as well as surveys and contests, to encourage customers to express themselves in ways that can inform your brand strategy. Deciding which colors to release your next product in? Ask your social media community to vote for their favorites. Not only will you gain insight into their preferences, but they will feel more connected to the product by having a voice in its development.

There are a lot of ways to incorporate customer feedback across your social media channels, from highlighting aspects of your followers, to creating engaging questions, polls and surveys, call-to-actions, contests, and providing incentives. The same goes for your website — there’s a lot you can learn about a current or potential customer by offering them a coupon in exchange for their opinion. We’re happy to help design a strategy that works for your brand.

4. Go Out of Your Way to Request Feedback

Don’t wait for the complaints to come in to realize it’s time to make changes. Instead, build feedback channels into your existing processes, so customers always feel like their opinions are welcome and heard. Use tools like email, follow-up satisfaction surveys, and social media to find out what your customers like and dislike about your brand and the support experience, and what they’d like to see from you in the future.

Consider using Facebook Live or hosting a Twitter Q&A as ways to connect with your customers on a personal level. Encourage supervisors and managers to follow up personally with customers who rate their experience as less than satisfactory, and empower them to make decisions around conciliatory gifts that can help retain customers.

Once per quarter is a great start to making sure you’re taking regular stock of who your customers are and what they want. From there, consider building in a process for monthly and weekly reports, and perhaps even daily or shift-based reports for very busy support teams. While it may seem difficult to make the time to create those reports, the insights you will gain as a result will be worth it in the long run.

 

Visions of Retail’s Future from Shoptalk Europe

I’ve just returned from the inaugural Shoptalk Europe conference in Copenhagen, where retailers, brand representatives, and vendors rubbed shoulders and compared notes on what they believe the future holds for the retail and e-tail industries.

Over the course of the event, seminars covered such topics as consumer behaviour, analytics, and ecommerce trends. In addition to gaining insights from the show’s featured experts, we also heard from those who visited the ModSquad booth. Even with a myriad of differing opinions and predictions, one theme recurred: The biggest challenge facing retailers and brand owners is the evolution of cutting-edge strategies to help them to serve the ever-increasing sophistication of their customers.

Technology vendors at the show presented solutions for augmented reality, big data customer analytics, near-field communication proximity beacons, intelligent ad servers, artificial intelligence, bots, frictionless payments… the list goes on and on. It could be argued that these toys will give us the answers, but only if they’re in service of the right question: What is it customers want? Smarter people than me posed the interesting viewpoint that the selling of the future to retail customers needs to focus on the experience and not the product. This approach is around us today. Think of the ads from a certain “fruit” company that show how you can snap awesome photographs which just happen to have been taken using a smartphone. There needs to be a move away from the product as the end goal and toward the experience that the product supports.

Once the strategy for the experience has been developed, you can weave together the product, the team, and the whizz-bang technology to create that end goal. As an extreme example, Harrods CEO Michael Ward stated in an interview that zero technology was used in the famed department store’s buying process. He relies on the best and brightest buyers to make the right decisions. Of course, they use technology to track the success of their buying decisions, but they do not use any analysis of what sold well last year to drive that decision-making. So for the foreseeable future, humans continue to play a major role in making sure that the customer experience is the best available. That’s been our viewpoint for the past decade as well, with our Mods providing clients with top-notch customer support, moderation, social media, and community management.

Many thanks to Anil and the gang for putting on the show. We look forward to our next Shoptalk exhibit in Las Vegas, March 2018.

Clive Jefferies
VP, Sales