Mark Smith is the President of Kitewheel. With over 20 years of global experience in Marketing Applications and Analytical CRM, Mark is a leader in building, growing and managing successful companies. Currently in “innovation mode” as the President of Kitewheel, Mark is focused on helping marketing agencies deliver better customer engagement through solutions that unify the “logic” layer of today’s customer-facing technology for their large brand clients.
Mark’s journey into customer behaviour and experience started early in his career. Shortly after achieving his Ph.D. in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Edinburgh, Mark founded Quadstone – the first data mining company to focus explicitly on the analytics of customer behaviour. In the years that followed, Mark moved to Boston to build the US business and oversaw revolutionary analytic progress at clients including T-Mobile, Dell, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity. His leadership role expanded to global sale, marketing and product teams that led to a series of 3 successful M&A transactions over the last 10 years.
- Mark can you share a little bit about your journey? How you got to where you are today, what is Kitewheel and what do they do?
- What are some key performance indicators that you would need to watch in the business as it relates to the data analytics in order to ensure that you can predict behaviour or at least nudge them as you had suggested on what they would need to do next or what they would need to be reminded of.
- We hear a lot also about an Omni-channel experience. An Omni-channel means that everything is connected, as you were suggesting just now. Could you give us an example of a company that you know, whether maybe you’ve worked with as a service provider, or a company that you are a customer of theirs? And maybe they haven’t mastered it, they’ve come very close to mastering an Omni-channel experience?
- Who should own customer experience in a company?
- Could you share with us if you have a website, app, tool, anything that you absolutely can’t live without in your business? What’s the one thing that you use in your business that you can’t live without? It could be a tool, it could be a website, it could be an app.
- Could you share with us maybe one or two books that have had biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or maybe even one you read recently, but it still has had a great impact on you.
- Could you share with us maybe one thing that you’re working on in your life right now, something that you’re really excited about? It could be something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
- Where can listeners find you online if they wanted to connect with you even more?
- Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge you’ll tend to revert to this quote or saying, it kind of helps to refocus you or just get you back on that path to whatever goal you are working on originally.
Mark shared that he’s the President of Kitewheel, they are a company that helps deliver great experiences to the customers of typically large organizations, by helping them manage the journeys that their customers are on. He has been doing this for a long time now, over 20 years he has been helping organizations understand the behaviour of customers from a kind of an analytic perspective. And at Kitewheel, they’ve kind of tuned that and moved more into the orchestration area, as they call it, which is helping businesses actually make a difference to the customer by changing the process, and helping the customer along their journey, so that they have the best possible experience.
Me: So customer journey mapping and customer orchestration. Those are kind of big terminologies in the customer experience space, for those members of our audience that may not necessarily know what that entails, could you break down for us what that is in the simplest possible terms, maybe give us an example of what it means to a business to understand that process?
Mark shared that journey mapping is certainly something that’s been around for quite some time in the customer experience area, that the whole process of designing out the steps that a customer goes through on their journey, journey has become very popular, particularly the last few years, because organizations see it as a way managing that journey, is a way of kind of being somewhat in control of the experience and try and allows the business to do the best possible job of delivering a great experience.
- And so organizations are trying to understand so what is the journey?
- And what ways do customers interact with my business?
- Which channels do they use?
- What things do they look for on different channels?
- And when do they use them?
- And what order did they do things?
Too many businesses are very kind of focused on things from their perspective. And they would like customers to do things in a certain order, but it’s all really about the customer, and they do things their way. And different customers do things in different ways and so they’re often on different journeys, and organizations trying to map those out.
What Kitewheel is focused on is actually using the data inside organizations to do what they call journey analytics.
So not just theoretically, what do we think the customer journey is, but actually using the data from all these digital tools that we now have, and all these channels systems that record everything that happens, let’s take those and start to analyze what’s the real journey that the customers are on and let’s visualize that so that the business can really understand not just what they think the customers doing or not just what the customers say they’re doing through feedback surveys. But actually, what are they doing in terms of real behaviour.
Let’s look at that. And that’s journey analytics. And that journey analytics then gives you a frame, once you can see what the customers are really doing and you understand what makes them happy and or unhappy, then you can start to orchestrate, which is the process of actually changing things for the customer, helping them along their journey, nudging them this way, nudging them that way, reminding them of something they need to do. And that all helps them get to their end goal of getting a question answered, getting a customer service issue dealt with, buying a product, whatever it may be. If we can help get them there more smoothly, quickly, easily, the customer is going to regard that as a great experience and be very happy.
Key Performance Indicators in the Business to Predict Behaviour on What to Do Next
Me: What are some key performance indicators that you would need to watch the business as it relates to the data analytics in order to ensure that you can predict behaviour or at least nudge them as you had suggested on what they would need to do next or what they would need to be reminded of.
Mark shared that that’s a great point. And what the organizations often have to do here is develop a small number of new performance indicators that are connected to journeys.
Lots of businesses today, they track things by channel or by product or by business unit and they know how many people visit the website, they know how many people open emails, they know how many people call the call centre, they know how many people say they’re a net promoter and how many people complain.
But few organizations have tied all of that together to understand it as a connected experience and understand it as a journey.
And the key new metrics that need to be developed are how many customers are going down different journeys and what is the overall satisfaction of customers who go down these different experiences.
And the data is all there, it’s just a matter of connecting it together so you could see it as a connected journey. And then say, customers would go down this journey, they’re much happier than customers who go down this different journey, let’s align the right customers with the right journey.
Today, most companies can only control those things, channel by channel, or activity by activity, interaction by interaction. And the best results come from moving on to a connected experience of lots of interactions or across lots of channels.
Mastering the Omni-Channel Experience
Me: We hear a lot also about an Omni-Channel experience. An Omni-Channel means that everything is connected, as you were suggesting just now. Could you give us an example of a company that you know, whether maybe you’ve worked with as a service provider, or a company that you are a customer of theirs? And maybe they haven’t mastered it, they’ve come very close to mastering an Omni-Channel experience?
Mark shared that the Omni-Channel concept, it’s supposed to mean, all channels, all possible channels. The idea being that we as customers can make any choice we want, we as customers can one day go online to get a product, another day walk into a store, another day phone up, shouldn’t really matter, we should get the same level of experience, have access to the same products regardless of where we choose, or how we choose to do business.
And the great companies are able to connect those channels together so that it’s seamless. And no matter what the customer chooses, as they move from potentially one channel to another, it’s a seamless experience for them, that’s what we all would regard as a great experience that if he’s on the website looking at something, can’t find an answer to his question, so he calls for help, it’s always great when your call goes through the customer service person talking to you knows why you’re there.
And you can say, you’re calling because of a problem with your bill, because those channels have been connected and they know that he was just on the website with a billing problem, and therefore can help him instantly with that problem.Mark Smith
And so, that ability to connect those channels is where the kind of leading organizations are going, he had a great expert, you asked me for a specific example.
And he had a great experience just recently, he and his wife bought some new furniture from a company called Floyd who are an American manufacturer based in Detroit. And like everybody these days, like most people these days, they bought their furniture online, sitting at home, because they can’t go anywhere. And they’ve done a fantastic job of making that a super kind of connected, highly branded experience. So, they half did the order on a mobile phone and then moved to a laptop.
But that went through, they instantly got confirmation and they got handed to a shipping company and actually there was something that had to be made and then handed to a shipping company.
But that was completely seamless, they had communications coming from both the shippers as well as the manufacturer.
But they were totally connected, each one knew what the other one was doing.
And they gave them advance notice of when the delivery was going to be arrived exactly on time.
They then phoned to check it was all correct, send them a survey following it.
Just everything works so smoothly, despite the fact that they were two different companies involved and like four different channels.
And when those things work well like that, what happens?
You tell everybody about it, and that’s what we’re all looking for. We all want businesses promoted by advocates who think we do a great job. And here he is, doing exactly that because it was a great experience.Mark Smith
Who Should Own Customer Experience in a Company
Me: So we are in that era now, as you said, people are way more aware of customer experience, there’s clearly a lot more attention given to it. A lot of organizations maybe 10, 15 years ago that never used to allocate a budget towards customer experience definitely by force, the customer has forced them to realize the direct correlation between having customers and their bottom line, they certainly realize that they need to give some emphasis to customer experience. But who should own customer experience in a company?
Mark stated that this is a great question. And it really has changed dramatically, just in the last one or two years.
Because he thinks it’s raised up significantly who owns customer experience, certainly, in the forward thinking businesses, the ones that are approaching customer experience the right way, they have realized that it’s suddenly become this huge differentiator for the business from the competition.
In the old days, customer experience was seen as more a lower level thing in the business, it was a problem solving issue resolution thing, it was like the customer complaints department.Mark Smith
And now, the real forward thinking organization see it, “No, customer experience is actually about the whole business, in a way, it’s what our brand is, this is the core message we give out to the market is the kind of experience we deliver.” And it’s the number one thing people look for to differentiate one company from another. So it has to span the whole business.
And so, we see a lot of big CX initiatives now lead from the board level, real C level executives, and more and more companies are hiring Chief Experience Officers or Chief Customer Officers, who are going to take this customer centric view and drive experience as a connected thing across the typical three big divisions of sales, marketing, and service.
And oftentimes, customer experience was just in the service department but he thinks the real thinkers are bringing it up to be across all of them because every one of those communications, whether it comes from marketing, or customer service, or loyalty, or wherever, they’re all part of the experience that the business delivers. So connecting them requires a top level very senior person to really lead this new generation of CX initiative.
Me: Amazing, thank you so much for sharing Mark. I did a training session earlier today with a financial organization. I’m here in Jamaica, actually. Are you in the States or in the UK?
Mark shared that he is in the States. He lives just outside Boston but his accent does come from the UK originally.
Me: Yes, it’s still very strong. So one of the things that came up in the training session earlier today, and it’s actually a great pet peeve of mine is sales and customer service, I strongly believe work hand in hand. And I find that a lot of companies that have sales representatives, they’re extremely eager and enthusiastic and just on it to get the business, that first sale, but then to get me to buy again, or to follow up to ensure that I’m okay with the product or the service, whatever it may be, whether it’s tangible or intangible, that’s where they fail.
Is it something that needs to be psychological from a sales perspective for it to be merged with customer experience that they don’t just look on it as a one-time sale.
I get it, you have a target, you need to earn X amount of dollars per month. But those customers that you signed on in November 2020, have you even reached out to them since the year started? Where do we close that gap? Or how do we close that gap?
Mark stated that that’s a great example of that sort of systematic systemic problems that organizations have to do this kind of customer experience delivery right and that’s the sort of silos, the organizational silos that exist in so many businesses, driven by management structures, team structures, and sadly, often incentive structures that really govern what people do, what your teams do, the lifeblood of the company, the people, what they actually do, if those are not connected and everybody from the top down is focused on the experience goal, then you’ll get this kind of situation.
And that’s why you need a top level leader around these initiatives to make sure that the organization lines up.
It’s funny he often thinks that the real challenge these days of getting these stuff right is not technology anymore, it’s not data, it’s the organization actually doing the right things and behaving the right way.Mark Smith
And so, if your sales team is totally incented, and motivated around just getting the deal in and then they hand it on to somebody else to look after that customer, then they’re only going to care about it up to that point. And if their incentives and their commission is purely based on that, then that’s where it stops, and they move on to the next thing.
Now, that can work if you’ve got a good customer success group who picks up the customer and their job is making sure that customer’s happy and they pick up.Mark Smith
That’s what actually what they do at Kitewheel is a nice handoff between the sales team who bring the customer up to the point of becoming one of their customers and then their customer success group picks them up and they’re responsible for every week, every month, making sure that customer’s happy and successful.
And ultimately, in two years-time, three years-time would renew and stay with them. And as long as there’s a connection and the handoff happens, and you’ve got people caring about both sides, that can work.Mark Smith
The problem is when there isn’t anybody to hand it to, they’re just sales are being done and immature businesses can often be like this, they’ve just bring sales in, but no one picks them up.
And it seems like no one cares about you. We’ve all experienced that, you buy a product and then it feels like no one’s interested in you anymore, they’ve got your money, and you’re on your own kind of thing.
App, Website or Tool that Mark Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business
When asked about an online resource that he can’t live without, Marks shared that for his business today, it would almost certainly be Zoom. They have suddenly moved a year ago now almost, to be in a virtual business, no one goes in the office anymore, everybody works from home, he used to travel almost every week to visit customers. And now he has been sitting in the same room for the last 12 months doing everything virtual. So if they didn’t have these tools, it’s not always Zoom, many customers use Microsoft Teams or WebEx. But those online collaboration environments is undoubtedly the most important tool in his life right now to keep the contact going. Keep connected with the customer, make sure they’re happy.
Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Mark
When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Mark shared that an interesting question. The best recent book he read actually just literally a few weeks ago, he read Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, which is a great business book. It’s like he’s gone through all the things that he (Mark) has gone through running a company over the last 20 years. And just full of great kind of down to earth advice on how to handle difficult situations and lots of stories about how this sort of thing happens all the time, it’s always difficult, there’s always completely unknown things that come around the corner that you need to be able to adapt and handle.
So, he really enjoyed that read a few weeks ago. And then the other classic business book that he read a long time ago was Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, which is all about how you go from early kind of inventive ideas to more mainstream business. And he feels like that’s where the customer experience world is at the moment, it’s gone from early stage stuff to suddenly, it’s like every company out there is suddenly interested in customer experience. And we’re definitely going through that kind of transition right now.
Me: I think COVID has actually brought it to the forefront even more, that has been my experience here in Jamaica for sure. They’re more sensitive, and they pay more attention to the quality of the experience that they’ve gotten and I don’t know if it’s because safety has been like the new buzzword, how safe do you make me feel if I have to come into your environment and that a lot of times falls on how to services delivered. Something as simple, which has nothing to do with the product or service that you deliver but something as simple as when you actually arrive at a client’s location and they are taking your temperature and spraying you, sometimes they’re spraying it with things that you’re not aware of. And nobody is actually saying to you, may I please sanitize your hands, and the liquid that we’re using for the sanitation is alcohol mixed with lemongrass oil, or whatever concoction they’ve put in a bottle, but I think it is courteous, you should exercise courtesy and tell the customer what you are sanitizing their hand with.
Mark agreed and shared that Yanique made a really interesting point. And one of the things that worries him about the whole pandemic is we’re being moved all this digital sort of human less contact mechanisms and people are going to forget about how to actually interact with each other, those kind of situations where people don’t talk to you anymore, maybe because they’re a bit scared because this situation is scary.
But he knows exactly what you mean about that kind of personal interaction thing. But he also thinks this COVID, it has totally changed the business world as well and it is driving this interesting customer experience, because for so many businesses, their customers have totally changed how they experienced that business.
All of a sudden all of our customers are also at home, like we are, and also having to do things on new channels, on more digital channels and that’s a whole different experience for a lot of people. And so, the smart companies are suddenly focusing on, “We better investigate this area and do the best we can to make this experience for the customers a good experience.”
What Mark is Really Excited About Now!
Mark shared that Kitewheel has been around about 8 years and their business has been very focused on very large organizations who have been the sort of real leaders in this customer experience space and the first ones to move into, try and manage journeys better, and connect their channels and use all their data and so on.
And the thing they’re working on and kind of launching in just a few weeks time, is how they bring those same things, the things that the big guys have been pioneering?
How do they bring that to everyone?
How can they package that up, and make this sort of a journey approach, accessible to a lot more companies, a lot more businesses by essentially simplifying it and packaging it up so that everyone can kind of benefit from those, the early work of the kind of pioneers.
And that’s very exciting. And it’s a sort of reaction to get so many people asking them for that. They don’t necessarily have a big army of internal developers to do things themselves but they’d still like to start taking this more customer experience centric approach to things. So, that’s their big initiative that they’re working on this year, and in fact, launching in a couple of weeks.
Where Can We Find Mark Online
Website – www.kitewheel.com
Email – email@example.com
LinkedIn – Mark Smith
Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Mark Uses
When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Mark shared that he has a lots of those, he’s well known for having lots of quotes for different things. One of the mottos of the business, actually, they have a motto which is,
“Work hard and be nice to people.”Mark Smith
They have a poster that hangs in the office. No one sees it anymore but it does hang in the office. But he grew up in Scotland and there’s a great there’s matching quote from Scotland which is that,
“Hard work never killed anybody.”Scottish Quote – Unknown
And that would be his quote for when times are tough, you should remember that hard work never killed anybody, which is an old Scottish expression.
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