Episode 191 : Personalization and Emotional Connection: How AI is Shaping Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction

Zack Wenthe is the Customer Data Platform Evangelists for Treasure Data. He often speaks about the marketing and customer data industry at industry events, webinars, and virtual conferences. Having spent a majority of his career in marketing and marketing consulting working with large enterprise brands like Walmart, Nationwide Insurance, FedEx, and many more, Zack now gets to tell the CDP story to help marketing teams eliminate the friction caused by silos, inefficiencies, and lack of understanding of their true customers. 

Zack lives with his amazing wife and two kids on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and has one more who is away at college. Outside of work, Zack enjoys cooking, spending time with his kids, writing comedy, and maybe someday a screenplay.


• We like to ask our guests in their own words, if they could share about their journey, how it is that they got to where they are today?

• So, you work at a company called Treasure Data. And for those of our listeners that are not familiar with your organisation, can you tell us a little bit about what you do.

• Based on your experience, and your knowledge in this particular area, what are maybe three of the top pain points that utilising this methodology, helps with customers overall experience with a brand.

• How do you think ChatGPT can help organisations with the overall service experience?

• As it relates to creating emotional connection and personalization, can you share with us, how you think that will help to deepen brand loyalty and of course, improve overall customer experience?

• Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?

• Could you also share with our listeners maybe one or two books that you’ve read? It could be a book you read recently, or even one you read a very long time ago, but it still has had a great impact on you.

• Could you share also with our listeners what’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you are really excited about? Either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.

• Where can listeners find you online?

• Do you have a quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote if for any reason at all you get derailed or side-tracked and you kind of just need that quote to get you back on target, back on track. Do you have one of those?


Zack’s Journey

Me: So, even though we read a little bit about you, a little bit of professional, a little bit of personal, we still like to ask our guests in their own words, if they could share about their journey, how it is that they got to where they are today? Could you do that for me, please?

Zack shared that he would say it’s a long winding road to how he got to kind of his career. He went to college thinking he was going into theatre and yet, somehow, he ended up in marketing. But when you think about it, marketing is a lot of theatre. So, he started college, he realized he wasn’t going to make any money if he went into the theatre route and kind of wandered around for a bit and kind of landed into the marketing space, ran teams for a while before he made the jump into the consulting world. 

And most of his consulting career was tied to martec, he was enough of a nerd that he was a marketing technologist before that was like a title or a thing. And he could kind of translate, he could tell the marketing story to the tech people and then he could translate the technical requirements and limitations back to the marketing team and they can kind of work through the details. So, he spent a lot of his career as a strategist doing implementations and family, it got to be a lot to be with a client every week.  

So, he kind of made the jump over to the product world. And he sits now as Yanique said, as the CDP Evangelist, so he gets to kind of talk about their product, and he talks to marketers that he’s worked with for his entire career and kind of understand their pain points. And so, he gets to kind of come and talk to businesses, owners. And so, that’s how he ended up here.

About Zack’s Company – Treasure Data

Me: So, you work at a company called Treasure Data. And for those of our listeners that are not familiar with your organisation, can you tell us a little bit about what you do?

Zack shared that Treasure Data is an enterprise customer data platform. And what that means is they work with typically complex organizations who are trying to bring all of their customer profile, transactional behavioural data together into a single location. 

So, you may have email systems and eCommerce systems and physical point of sale systems and all these different things that have fragments of the individual kind of scattered within these different systems. 

And so, the goal of a CDP or Customer Data Platform is to bring all of those profiles together. So, we’re looking at a single kind of 360 degree view of that customer and therefore, they can create better customer experiences, they can create better connection, emotional connection with their customers, so that they’re not having these, well, he calls it into the call centre, and they don’t even know that he made a purchase kind of experiences, which unfortunately, happened way too often. So that’s the pain they solve.

Me: So, let me give an example. Let’s say for example, I go to my doctor and the week before I had gone to a different doctor and I did a blood test, and in the week before that I did a mammogram. And so, is it that your platform allows this doctor to see all of this medical data merged into one space and they can look holistically at the person?

Zack stated that, so with obviously with privacy and consent kind of in place, so assuming that that medical system was sharing the information, and you had consented to that, absolutely, it would bring all of that profile together, and make it available to the electronic medical record in that case or to a scheduling when you call them later now, and you have to schedule an appointment, they’d be able to see that, “Oh, by the way, you were in here a week ago, and you prefer this location.”

So now they’re not going to send you to one 20 miles away from you. 

So, all of those little details, and it works across retail, travel and hospitality, big B2B, medical, absolutely. All of those scenarios.

Utilizing this Methodolgy in Helping with Customers Overall Experience with a Brand

Me: So, share with our listeners for me, Zack, based on your experience, and your knowledge in this particular area, what are some of I would say maybe three of the top pain points that utilizing this methodology, helps with customers’ overall experience with a brand.

Zack shared that he would say the top three or the number one that they think about is this idea of the fractured individual. So, at any given time, when he’s a consumer, and he’s dealing with a company, he’s not dealing with a department, he doesn’t care whether you’re the online team, or you’re the marketing team, whether you’re the email team, whatever variation of that departmental hierarchy you are, he just deals with the brand as the consumer. 

And, unfortunately, corporations don’t typically operate that way. We have structure and teams and silos. And so, what ends up happening is you end up with this fractured view of an individual, and it’s frustrating from the consumers perspective, because now one day they’re talking to, they’re physically in a store, and they’re shopping, and they’re talking to somebody that’s under one team, and one data system. But again, later on, they’re online, and it’s a whole other system. 

And they recently just had a new customer joined them, and this is the exact scenario that they were trying to solve, they said, “Look, we’re a high-end jewellery retailer, and during the pandemic, 80% of our people were shopping online, they were buying and spending large amounts of money. And it’s not acceptable for them to walk into our store and talk to a salesperson, and the salesperson has no idea who they are, no idea about their past purchases, that’s not the experience we want to create.” 

And so, by democratizing or making all of this data available, they eliminate that friction, or that kind of pain point of dealing with the customer. So, that’s the first one. 

The second two are kind of offshoots of that is, once you’ve solved that major problem, then now you can start to have conversations amongst multiple teams, because you’re all working on the same set of data. So, no longer are you arguing over when the last customer visited based on which system is in charge, it’s all combined. And so, you’re able to have a conversation, you don’t go to a board meeting and hope your data is correct, because you’re working on a unified set of truth. So, your analytics, your insights, all of the reporting is better. 

And then the last one is now they also break down the access to data. So, a lot of times with silos, the challenge becomes, if you’re in the marketing team, you’re going to have to go to somebody in IT, they’re going to have to pull report for you, they’re going to have to go in, and it’s going to take a couple weeks, they make it easier and faster for all these teams to access this information so that they can move faster, and they can move more nimbly. So, the three really is access to the first the total customer to begin with, then you can trust the data and then you can move nimbly and interact with the customer as a result of that.

How ChatGPT Can Help Organizations with the Overall Service Experience?

Me: So, data is king, right? And as we’ve emerge out to the pandemic, and now we have all of these wonderful AI tools. Now we have ChatGPT, I would love to know your views since you’re in the data world in terms of how do you think ChatGPT can help organizations? I mean, there’s a lot of chatter about ChatGPT replacing people but I personally don’t believe that any technology is going to replace a human being. But I would love to hear your views since this is an area that you operate in on a day to day basis across different industries, how do you see this helping or not helping the overall service experience?

Zack shared that this is a great question. He thinks ChatGPT allows us to access more information faster. But really, that’s never been the problem. Really, it’s never been an issue, there’s no shortage of information or data, and it’s never going to get less.  

The problem now still lies in organizing it, accessing it, and trusting it. And so, he thinks as these models, whether it’s open AIs, ChatGPT or any variation of that, or some of the other competitors, as they mature, and you start to see, he thinks the biggest question, the plugins, where you can start to bring in information, so not only can you ask your assistant, your AI assistant, “Tate, help me plan a trip to Mexico. I want to stay in an all-inclusive resort with this weather.”  

And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, here’s some options.” Well, that’s historical information. But now when you pull in a plug in, for example, and it can real time access travel, it can access weather patterns, it can access all this other information. Now, that becomes useful and now it becomes a matter of indexing and organizing and making that data accessible. 

And so, he thinks that’s where he gets excited, especially personally, just being able to speed up a lot of the mundane things we do on a day to day basis as a consumer, but also as a business, they, customer data platforms are going to be a source for a lot of those AI systems. 

If he knows everything you’ve purchased from them, and he knows everything based on that what other customers have purchased, all this other information, he can feed it to an AI system, and you go shopping, and you can say, “Hey, pick out my summer wardrobe.” 

And the AI system can make recommendations based on what you like, what you don’t like, and it’s super personalized to you because it’s not just looking at what you bought maybe at the store, but because the AI is tied into other stores, it looks at what you buy in other stores, what shoes you have, how you tend to use those clothing items. Do you travel? Do you speak? All these ideas. But the idea is, by being able to really personalize at a level we’ve never been able to get to because of just resource scales. He thinks that’s where AI gets really interesting. 

Will it replace people? No, he doesn’t think so. He thinks it’s going become a skill much like googling is, you have to know how to Google to get through your day. He thinks interacting with AI is going to be a very similar scenario.

Creating Emotional Connection and Personalization – How Can That Help Deepen Brand Loyalty and Improve Overall Customer Experience?

Me: That’s interesting, like learn to Google, learn to ChatGPT, that kind of leads to my next question, as it relates to creating emotional connection. And I think it’s important to recognise that all customers are human beings, and everybody has their personal preference and personalization has been one of those buzzwords for quite a few years now. But as you mentioned, before, we haven’t really been able to get to that level of granular specification with customer to customer, I don’t just feel like I’m a transaction, or just another person, but I feel like this was for me, only me, nobody else in the world, but me. So, can you share with us, how you think that will help to deepen brand loyalty and of course, improve overall customer experience?

Zack shared that when it comes to improving the customer experience and brand loyalty, at this point, being loyal to a brand is often not enough. We all think about all the loyalty programmes we’re all members of, the average household has 20 plus loyalty cards, if not more, it doesn’t make you loyal, it just means you’ve kind of learned to operate within that mode. 

He thinks really what it comes down to is the level, which is the next level, which is brand attachment. Are you attached to that brand? And are you happy when you interact with them? And would you be sad if they weren’t around? And that’s a level that a lot of brands still don’t operate at. 

There’re obviously degrees of that within different industries and different verticals. But if you think about it in that lighter, in that lens, people came out of the pandemic who were very loyal to brands and then couldn’t shop in them anymore, so they found an alternative. They learned to shop online, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this was super easy.”  

People who are scared of eCommerce aren’t scared of eCommerce anymore, they have groceries delivered to their door. We all went through a massive shift in our buying behaviour as a result of the pandemic. But he thinks it’s not just a result of that, we just accelerated what was already happening. 

And so, we’re in this world now where the consumer is in charge, they get to pick what they want, and brands have to keep up, they’re not in the driver’s seat, it’s no longer, “Here’s my experience. And if you want to do business with me, you have to bend to my will.” Consumers are now saying, “Hey, this is how I expect to be treated. This is the brand I want to deal with.” And we’re being a lot more forceful as consumers in making those decisions, in breaking up with the ones that we don’t like, and so forth. 

So, that means now as we get to the personalization side, personalization has to evolve. We can’t just geo target advertising to people or target based on, “Well, you bought this in the past, you’re going to buy this in the future.” There’s a whole other level below that, which when we get into the idea of creating those emotional connections, creating those tying into as individuals, as people, whether that’s through personalization, whether that’s through AI, whether it’s through new ways of creating ads, we can create content at scale, that we’ve never been able to. 

So now, he can serve you, if he knows you’re an introvert, and he’s a travel company, he can serve you out ads or content that shows people sitting on the beach reading, that’s more appealing to you, that seems like that’s vacation, versus if you’re an extrovert, being able to show a group of people hanging out on the beach, socializing. And for the introvert, that’s exhausting, for the extrovert that’s exciting. And so, and that’s a really simple example. 

But if you think about that, before you’d have to create all that content, you’d have to write all that, well, AI can do all that now. You can generate those images, and you can process it and it’s only the beginning, it’s only going to get better, faster, easier, cheaper to do.

Me: It’s amazing the amount of things that AI has allowed and when I look across the different platforms that I use, and I get these emails on a weekly basis about the platforms integrating AI into their existing solution, making it easier for the consumer. And as you mentioned before, things that would have taken 10 hours, a whole month to do ten/five years ago can literally be done in like 5 minutes or less.

Zack stated absolutely and he thinks we’re just scratching the surface. He thinks right now, it’s still, in a lot of ways a gimmick. Because people are just trying to figure out, what is that killer use case for his business for AI? And so, let’s try something. And so, much like we had 20 years ago when people started creating websites, everybody kind of jumped online, and then they figured out what worked. And then same thing, 10 plus years ago with social media, it was like everybody needed a social media platform. And then you’re like, “No, I just need a page.” Okay, but this is what this page means and then it became Instagram, AI is going to be the same thing, we’re going to have this kind of wave as we figure it out.

Me: Agreed. One of the things I loved about what you said earlier, when we just started talking about the emotional connection was brand attachment. And if you think about a brand that you can’t live without, like, if they were no longer in existence, how would you operate? Would you be able to find a substitute? And when you said that, what came to mind was my Apple ecosystem. So, I’m just like, I don’t see any other product out there that moves so smoothly and easily. And honestly, if there was no Apple, I don’t know if there would be a substitute. I would find a substitute, of course, but I wouldn’t be satisfied because if they’re not offering what Apple is offering, then it would mean that they’re not meeting my expectations, because Apple has set the bar so high.

Zack agreed absolutely. And we all have those. And he’s 100% on board with the Apple ecosystem as well, that would be his challenge. And there’s probably five or six other brands in your life that if you had to replace them, you would, but you’d be frustrated by it, you’d be sad by it, you’d be upset. And he thinks that’s the level that we as companies need to kind of strive for now. Now, it’s not just are they loyal? Do they do they buy from us repeatedly, but do they want to buy from us repeatedly?

Me: Very true. Because want and need are two different things, right?

App, Website or Tool that Zack Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he can’t live without in his business, Zack stated that that’s a good question. He does a tonne of research and writing and notes. And so, he’ll give you two. So, he has bothEvernote and Notion as his kind of a second brain for collecting and managing information. And so, he loves notebooks, he loves writing and moleskin notebooks, but he loses them, or he forgets what he wrote down in one and then it sits somewhere in a desk drawer. So, getting it into a digital system was a huge change in how he personally operates, how he manages his workload. So, Notion is probably his number one recommendation right now. And it’s integrated with AI, so you can be on the cutting edge, because you can use AI write within it to summarise notes and do to do lists and all sorts of cool things.

Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Zack

When asked about books that have had a great impact, Zack stated that he’s got a couple here and he has a couple different ones. So, he’s always been a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell, so Tipping Point, anything by Malcolm Gladwell is a good one. But when we’re thinking and we’re talking about personalization and we’re talking about psychology, a book that actually came from a recommendation by Malcolm Gladwell, he made it a comment in one of his books. But he went from the source, it’s a textbook. But it’s called The Person and the Situation: Perspective of Social Psychology by Lee Ross and it’s like perspectives on kind of social psychology. And since he’s a marketer, social psychology is a huge interest area for him. 

And the thesis of this book really comes down to the idea is, how much does the situation that we’re in influence the way we behave versus the person and the personality? So, in other words, all things being equal, does the person behave the same regardless of situation? Or does the situation really drive? 

And a lot of times when we think of personalization, and when we think persuasion, and we think writing copy, and all these things, we focus on the person, we spend too little time focusing on the situation that they’re in. And so, this was definitely a kind of a deep dive into social psychology on how much the environment around you can impact how you behave, how you interact, and how you respond to stimuli.

Me: That’s a very good point, because I think the environment definitely affects you. I mean, let’s say you’re buying something in relation to a plumbing issue that you’re having at your home, but there is an emergency, clearly, the urgency of purchase is going to be much greater just based on the environment on what’s happening on the situation, versus you just randomly walking into the store and making that purchase.

What Zack is Really Excited About Now!

When asked about something that going on right now that he’s excited about, Zack shared that he’s writing a book, he’s been working on a book for a while. So, a lot of his job and his career has always been centred around storytelling. And about three years ago, he sat down, and he said, he can talk to you about that but what the heck does he mean by storytelling in business, and so he started just kind of pulling all these notes together. And then he started diving into the research and pulling a lot of things out. And so, that’s been what he’s been working on furiously for the last six months or so is getting that manuscript done and whatnot.  

It’s been amazing because he thinks the art of writing, it is one of those things that every marketer, every business owner should dedicate time to writing. So, even if you’re not going to write a book, sitting down and taking the thoughts that’s in your head and distilling them so that somebody else can learn them is an incredible way to not only teach yourself, but to refine your thinking and realize where you might have a gap or where you might need to explain better. 

And so, even if you’re not going to write a book, he would say any anybody should pick up a pen, grab a keyboard, and start writing about your passion area or your interest area, because you will unlock a lot of things about yourself when you’re staring at a blank screen and you’re trying to get words out of your head.

Me: Very true. Awesome. So, I’m excited about your book. I hope that when it’s released, we can have you back on our podcast to discuss all the exciting buzz coming out of that book.

Where Can We Find Zack Online

Website – www.treasuredata.com

LinkedIn – Zack Wenthe

Twitter – Zack Wenthe

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Zack Uses 

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Zack shared that he has a lot of concepts and stories and notes. And he thinks one that drives him as a marketer, and one that drives him personally, he uses it often. There’s a jazz performer, his name is Art Blakey, and he had a quote, and it was simply, “If you’re not appearing, you’re disappearing.” And so, he kind of apply that in a lot of different ways. From marketing perspective, if you’re not showing up in front of your audience, they’re going to forget you, you’re going to fade away. 

He (Art Blakey) obviously was talking about it from a performance perspective, as a performer. If you’re not up in front of the audience, you’re losing that connection. But Zack thinks it applies to our personal lives as well. If you’re not showing up and you’re not bringing your authentic self, then you lose those connections, out of sight, out of mind is such an easy default for so many people. So, to him, that’s one that he always kind of go back to, which is, just show up, be present and be out there.

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·  The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology by Lee Ross

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