Steven Van Belleghem is a global thought leader in the field of Customer Experience. His passion is spreading ideas about the future of customer experience. Steven is the author of multiple international bestselling books including ‘The Conversation Manager’, ‘When Digital Becomes Human’, ‘Customers the Day after Tomorrow’, ‘The Offer You Can’t Refuse’ and a technology thriller called Eternal.
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Steven Van Belleghem: [00:00:00] If people ask me, how do you know if you're doing a good job with your customer experience? My answer is look at the word of mouth. If people spontaneously start to talk about you in a positive way, you're probably doing a great job. Because of the rise of social media, the amount of energy that people and organizations want to put into their customer service and customer experience has increased tremendously in the past 10 years and they suddenly understood that this can make or break them. And that word of mouth aspect became so tangible that there there's been a huge improvement in customer experience.
Joseph: [00:00:41] You're listening to Ecomonics, a Debutify podcast. Your resource for one of the kind of insights into the world of e-commerce and business in the modern age. This is Joseph I'll be presenting a wealth of industry knowledge from interviews with successful business people and our own state-of-the-art research. Your time is valuable. So let's go.
As your business expands and takes on new, exciting shapes. One thing that you can look forward to among many are new ways to give you customers meaningful lasting experiences. My talk today with Steven Van Belleghem is directed towards the future of the customer experience. Steven is someone I'd recommend if you want to keep your eye on the future of business, tech, and the human experience.
Stephen Van Belleghem it is great to have you here on Ecomonics. How you doing today?
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:01:32] I'm good. I'm good. Thank you, uh, Joseph, and thanks for having me on your show.
Joseph: [00:01:37] I'm I'm equally, if not more thankful to have you here, I was really impressed and amazed with some of the subject matter that you cover.
Um, in, in the time that I got to look into let's get these things going. I'm really eager to read these things up. So opening question, very important to ask. Tell us, what do you do and what are you up to these days.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:01:55] Well, my, my passion is to, to write and publish and speak about the future of customer experience. And that's what I've been doing basically in the past 20, 21 years.
Creating and sharing ideas about customer experience on multiple platforms. I've, I've written five books about it. I share my content on YouTube. I share down on Instagram. I write articles on my blog. I give keynote presentations about it, so that that's that's 100% what I do. And next to that I'm an entrepreneur. I started or co-founded two companies.
One is a social media agency in Belgium called snackbytes. And the other one is an inspiration company where we take, um, executives on inspiration tours to Silicon valley, to Dubai, Singapore, China. And that company is called nexxworks. And, um, now those are the things that I, that I, or two companies that I really enjoy working with and we have great teams that are great clients.
So I'm having a good time.
Joseph: [00:02:52] I didn't even know about the, about those other two and it wasn't for lack of trying either. I, I just I'm, I'm impressed to hear that. So let's, w we'll we'll, we'll see how much of that we can get into as well. There's, there's a number of things to talk about the key thing, uh, the most important thing, especially, I mean, one for me as an extension of, uh, of our audience as well, is, is the customer experience.
I've been, you know, I've been in a number of, um, uh, well, it's funny, cause like I basically, I want to say customer service, right? Um, customer service being some, uh, uh, typically an entry-level position for somebody who they have a lot of soft skills, but they're very good. I'm good at communication. Good at if I'm being honest, you know, endearing abuse from the irate customers.
Um, so there's, there's, there's a lot that people have to, you know, frankly they have to put up with when they're in those positions. So it can be a hard job. And, uh, and I think entry level positions tends to bear a lot of the burden and a lot of the brunt of some of the unfortunate parts of a company, you know, sometimes you have to work on the floor and you have to help people.
I mean, I can, I can spend all day just venting about some of the bad experiences that I've had. I've had a lot of positive experiences, too. I've had people who really appreciated the, the extra attention to detail that I put into it. One lady brought in a bunch of chocolates and just cause she was so thankful for the work you did.
So it's been a mixture of good and bad. Um, one thing that I know. As my own career progressed. And I went into companies that were more, um, attentive to the change, not only in how businesses are run, but I think in also in terminology, there was a divide between when I was a customer service agent versus a customer success agent or customer experience agent.
And I'm wondering if there was a divide between those two points for you to, in some of your earlier experience, w did it for you, was it starting as customer service? And, um, at what point did it really become about customer experience, regardless of what position maybe you were taking at the time.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:04:55] Well, I, I think that, um, customer experience is broader than customer surface.
Uh, customer services is typically when, when a client has, has a problem or when something went wrong, you go to customer service and you hope that those people will, will help you out. Um, so that's a very, very specific parts, uh, very specific interaction that is part of the broader customer experience because, well, it is customer experience.
That's every time that a company touches the customer that is customer experience. And that is when you buy something. When you have a question, when you see advertisement, when, when they, you know, dump a whole lot of stuff in the river, And they ruin the climate thing. They ruin our planet. That's also part of the customer experience.
So every time you touch the market, you're basically changing the perception of your audience, or you have the opportunity to change the perception for the better or the worse of your customers. And, um, and, and I think this is, this is at the rise in many organizations. They used the thing, customer experience means customer service and it was like contact.
The customer contact center was like the only place where you needed to help and make sure that there was a great experience today. Most business leaders know that it's much broader than that, but still there are a number of challenges. I mean, what, what, what you just mentioned about customer service employees, that the crazy thing is that in most organizations, the people with the lowest wage.
Spent the time spent to spend most of the time with customers, right? And people that have the highest paycheck they hardly ever see customers in real life. So there's this huge gap and that's something that we need to solve. I'm a huge fan of making sure that senior leadership of organizations comes closer to customers and that they feel direct feedback of customers that it's not just in a form of marketing research.
Let's just say in a graph or statistics, but, uh, just one-on-one that they, that they hear the oohs and the us directly from, from a customer, because at that point, the, the impact and the empathy for customers just increases dramatically.
Joseph: [00:07:02] I agree with that. I mean, one thing that stuck out to me, I, you know, even as I'm describing my own experiences is the disproportionality of how much of the customer experience and the brand experience is on, on me to convey to the customer, whereas, you know, the further removed that they are from, uh, from interacting with, uh, with customers or even frankly, for employees for that matter. Um, the more, the only thing they really have is to look at whatever data is being accumulated in aggregate, and they have to make decisions on a much, uh, on a much larger basis on a much larger scale.
You know, data tells you some things, but data doesn't always tell you the whole story. It doesn't tell you the mood that somebody is in it. Doesn't tell you the mood that you're an employee is. And it doesn't tell you all of these what might seem by now, but they are my new, but they're still important to interactions that all funnel upwards into what ends up being a decision hopefully for the better but not always. And then there's, there's another element to this too, which is, I think is an important thread that I'd like to at least establish is that customer experience. Now that you've set the term accurately, isn't just in the company's control. It's also in the control of the customer is in control of social media.
Um, what, uh, what an individual do their, what citizens do, um, can also affect how people perceive companies like w the example you gave, if a company dumps, uh, toxic waste into a river, So it wasn't the company that revealed that it was a, it was a citizen, it was maybe a private investigator. It was maybe somebody just doing, you know, a PR a personal journalism.
Somebody just happened to be there at the time when they caught it on video. So customer experience is no longer in control of the company. And I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but I put probably social media was the thing that pole vaulted the ability for the actual customers, for anybody outside of the company to control the experience.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:08:55] Yeah. Yeah. I'm with you. You know, I, I tend to focus a lot on word of mouth. Uh, if people ask me, um, how, how do you know if you're doing a good job with your customer experience? My answer is look at the word of mouth. If people spontaneously start to talk about you in a positive way, you're probably doing a great job.
And, and this is not new. We, I mean, 2000 years ago, the farmer with the best vegetables, that's what people talked about them. And he was successful because of that. But you're absolutely right. Uh, social media was a tipping point because suddenly people have a larger community, a larger network. Suddenly the voice of the customer became more transparent.
People could actually hear what people were saying. It used to be in behind closed doors or in, in bars or restaurants. And now it wasn't the open end in the past, you had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the customer today. I mean, if you're in customer service and you're, you're having a conversation with a customer, you should always take into account that it can be recorded, that it can be filmed.
It's like you're, you're playing in a full football stadium these days, which makes it more sensitive and makes a lot of companies freak out that they become scared because of that. But the good thing is that because of the rise of social media and all the things that I just mentioned. The, uh, amount of energy that people and other organizations want to put into their customer service and customer experience has increased tremendously in the past 10 years because they suddenly came so much closer to the customer and they suddenly understood that this can make or break them.
And that word of mouth aspect became so tangible that there there's been a huge improvement in customer expense. We're not there yet. We're not there yet. We all have our bad experiences, but if we would go back to, I mean, 2002, I think we would be surprised how much lower the service standards were back then.
Joseph: [00:10:48] Um, one thing that I would also, uh, uh, expect to have changed too, is the. Uh, distribution of authority. I think when brands were in full control of their message and were both message and messenger exclusively, um, I think there was a lot more consumer trust that the company was, uh, acting in everybody's best interest.
And so it, it took it for me. I remember you being in school. And the first time I remember a company doing something egregious, it was seeing a protest for, for Nike, the, uh, the athletic athletics company. I don't even know what it was they were doing. All I knew was that they were in trouble. So there, because there was only a small amount of.
Um, pushback. It was, I wasn't fully aware what the company had done. All I had known is that, you know, they, they were being bad and that, that was all I had with it. So I like to hear your take on that as well, is that, oh, have, uh, have companies lost their ability to be their own authority and if so, is that okay?
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:11:48] I think there are too many companies that have become afraid to become an authority, to be honest. Other companies now hear the pushback from the market, uh, imagine that you have a certain opinion and you put it out there as an organization. I mean, there are always people who, who don't agree and you don't have people that may react aggressively or very negatively in the past.
You didn't know you had your advertisement, your PR. I mean, you were happy with it. Then, then you, you saw the results in your sales figures today. If you have an opinion, especially about sensitive topics, there's a lot of pushback. And because of that, many organizations just try to avoid being an authority.
I believe that's the wrong strategy. I think that the day as an organization, you try and you have to try to become a top leader. And maybe if you're in B2B markets, it's totally about your industry about how the industry is evolving. Whereas, if you're a B2C company, maybe you should have an opinion about certain topics that matter to a lot of people in society.
I saw a piece of research when, um, I think it was earlier this year or last year when the movement of black lives matters really, really became a big topic in, in the us Senate and in Europe as well. Um, I saw a piece of research where. They investigated what customers expect from organizations related to black lives matters.
And what was really interesting is that if you didn't say anything, it was by definition, negative. So being neutral, it was by definition, negative. The market really expected every organization to take a stand and to, to make sure that they were doing the right thing and that they were helping the world to become more diverse and that everyone had equal rights.
They were expecting them. That was the first thing they expect that they also expected them to contribute. And to support in an active way, using the strengths of their organization to make a difference. And, um, I think that too many organizations are way too afraid. They're too scared. And you just have to take into account.
If you don't have an opinion, people don't talk about you at all. If you have an opinion where you try to do the right thing and relate it to your values. And you believe in that you should always say those words and just put them out there and live with the fact that there is a percentage of people who will disagree and that maybe react in a very negative way, but don't just focus on that.
Also understand that you're trying to defend the values that you believe in and that you will. Attracts a lot of people that really support that as well. You can never say something that everyone agrees with. If you try to do something that everyone agrees with your you're, the average of the average of the average, and you have zero, zero impact.
Joseph: [00:14:36] You know, that's a, that's an, um, an important insight because, you know, I remember, um, it was last summer when the black lives matter movement had, uh, reached what I would say is the apex in, in his overall, um, movement. And every everything, no matter what I did, there was a, a, um, a message regarding it. Um, you know, even going on to play call of duty, uh, with, with my brother, you know, call of duty, had to get in on it too and say, we, you know, we support black lives matter.
And I, if I'm being honest and you know, I think that's one of the things that if, you know, if we're going to, um, uh, illustrate these points is I'm going to have, to be honest, I was more annoyed than anything about it. You know, I, I would like to know that I have my own autonomy, that I can form my own opinion and yes, black lives matter.
It's pretty much a no-brainer. So there was, to me, there was something, uh, of a feeling of, of, of pandering where, you know, they were just trying to make sure that they were, um, uh, uh, greasing that, that particular market, they were buttering them up. But what I didn't know is that if they had said nothing that would actually have, uh, put them into more hot water than if actually, well, less hot water than if they were to oppose it.
Yeah, that would have been the saltwater, but the fact that they would have been hot water off for doing nothing. I think it's almost like there's like a cultural inflation, which I just made up now, is this the idea that once culture moves the overton window, if you don't keep up, you know, you're, you're seeing as either compliant or in opposition.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:16:00] Yeah. And the, and there's a second, uh, target group as well for that. And that's your own employees. Um, if, if, if you work for an organization and they don't you know, speak out about certain topics, not just black lives matter, black lives matters, but also other topics, climate change. I mean, there's so many sensitive topics right now.
If they don't speak out the employees, I mean, are disappointed that they work for an organization that doesn't have an opinion. So, and because of that, you're having inflation of, of those kinds of statements, but still, yeah. Most of them, in my opinion, that it, in a way to neutral way in a safely, uh, just saying we support black lives matters.
Yeah. You're excellent. Absolutely. Right. I mean, that's a no brainer. I mean, it would be really bad if you're not supporting it, but do you mean it? Can you show us that you mean it? What are your actions behind it? How are you going to make a difference? Are you going to put a, it's almost putting a sticker on your windshield of your car?
We're going to contribute to something and we're going to add value to the discussion. And you only have an impact when you starting to add value and you're contributing and not just putting a sticker on the windshield of your car. And you know, most of them think, okay, we need to put the sticker on the windshield of the car, then we're safe and we're done with it.
And we don't have to say anything else anymore, and that's perfectly fine, but then you don't have any impact on your customers whatsoever.
Joseph: [00:17:23] I mean, there, there's a whole bunch of, uh, threads of this opens up because, uh, you know, there there's a political element to it and for what it's worth, I'm more than happy to, to, to get going on this.
Just so you know, some of it, I think also has to do with. You know, if you are allowing culture to, um, to dictate everything and you're always giving ground to them, what ends up happening is that a company loses their ability to have any autonomy whatsoever. And, and I will say, you know, I pay a pretty careful attention to the news. Um, there was a great deal of, uh, of damage done over the course of the last summer. Um, it misrepresented what the, um, the honorable, uh, part of BLM stands for. Uh, and, you know, people took to the streets and they smashed windows and they set cars on fire and people were hurt and people lost their lives.
And, and you have to wonder, you know, at what point our company is giving a little too much credence to this, um, where maybe they've, they've gone over the line and now they're, they're supporting a cause that of a too much, because if you give somebody grants, they will continue to take more ground and they'll keep on taking a tick and taken until there's none left.
And then the last one more anyways.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:18:34] Yeah, it's, it's a very difficult discussion. I, I, I like to look at it from a senior leadership point of view in an organization and asking yourself, what do we need to do? And I think that you have your own values as an organization and you have to believe them and have to act upon them. Otherwise you may as well just delete them from your PowerPoint deck, right? And now you have two audiences, you have three audiences where it needs to land. That's your employees. For me, that's the first group of people that has to be fully with you in terms of what you're going to say, linked through your values.
Then you don't have your customers. Then you have the rest of society. And, and it's a matter of what you want people to remember. What you stand for and how are you gonna make sure that they remember that? And how are you gonna make sure that they, the ones that like it, that, that they feel supported and often there's a downside to that.
And, um, if that downside becomes too large, we need to, we need to probably change course without, you know, um, stepping away from our own values. But most of the time, when you have values and you stick to them and you communicate about them and you contribute to that, both internally to customers and to society, the large majority of people would appreciate that.
And that will, you know, make, make the relationship stronger. And the world may be a little bit better. And if a small minority. Uses it in a wrong way. That's a very sad thing, but I think you need to accept that that that can happen because if you're not willing to accept that you will always play the safest ball you can play and you may as well do nothing.
So I think if you do something, if you want to step out there, if you want to be a talker, you have to do something that has an impact on your market as well. Uh, if you, if you broaden the scoping and we think about CSR, there are so many companies that are doing something with CSR, they're donating money, and that's great that they're doing that, but reality is that most of the time they're customers.
Don't even know about it, that their own employees don't even know about it. I think you can. What you need to try to do is have an positive impact on society. Try to change your world, but from within, from your own strengths, your own beliefs in a way that it's, that it can be linked back to your business.
And then you can have a positive impact. Uh it's it's like if you believe in diversity, imagine that, I mean, every company should believe in diversity, but take a company like Google. They believe in diversity. They want to attract as many talents as possible. They want to create products for everyone last week, they announced at IO that they're going to have this skin app where you can just look at your own skin and it's, uh, an AI tool that will allow you to detect.
Uh, if you have skin cancer or if something's wrong with certain parts of your skin, and then they will recommend a doctor that can help you with that. If you tell the world that you're into diversity, we have to make sure that the data set that was used to develop that app comes from a diverse audience and that you didn't just do that with, for instance, Uh, and that it, it has a less accurate impact on the skin of black people.
I mean, if you pledge for diversity in every product that you launch, you have to feel that. And that's what Google did. If, if I read the research reports, right, they use 60,000 people to develop that app. And it was a spread among all kinds of ethnic groups. And then you're showing the world that you actually care about the things that you're saying that you care, it's not just about provocative things. It's also in the products that you launch, that you can show that you care about diversity. And that's what Google did with this new app.
Joseph: [00:22:17] I, I didn't, I didn't know about that app, but one thing I would love to tell our audience about to just they understand more what Steven's content is about is that you're very, future-facing, you know, you've been keeping your eye on what's unfolding and within the next weeks and months to years, Um, and I would imagine a few cases, you know, even what's going to happen decades from now.
Okay. So I had this question. This is like top five silliest questions I've ever asked on this show but I, I think we can relate this in a way that's productive. So there's a, there's a bit of wisdom that a former a client that I had worked with a while ago. He cause he was into wrestling. He said, eventually everything has to do with wrestling and he's not wrong because wrestling is, is theater.
And it it's a way of magnifying, really all of life. Cause wrestlers come from all over the world, they represent different ideas and it gets into a whole thing. Um, and I also remember, you know, my brother, he's also big into wrestling too. And he says something very similar to what you said earlier, which is the idea of having no reaction whatsoever. He said, the last thing you want is to walk out to a crowd that has no reaction whatsoever. If they're cheering great. If they're booing, some people actually take to that because in wrestling, you have to have the bad guys they're referred to as the heals and you have your heroes, which are referred to as faces.
So the reason why I ask this, because I wonder if there is a productive element to accompany taking more of a heel role rather than a face role. I think there are companies that tend to be. Attacked, um, and often fairly. So, um, for instance, I think Amazon gets attacked quite a bit because you hear about the conditions of that the employees under and that their turnover rate is somewhere in the realm of a hundred percent and, and yet people still use Amazon.
So there are places where you can have somewhat of a, of a negative effect, if it compels positivity to wash it over, um, negativity can drive positivity. And I'm wondering if there's any, um, uh, any experience from your end that I can substantiate or refute that.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:24:29] I think the large majority, almost everyone tries to be the hero in the movie.
Ah, that's, that's what every company hopes to achieve that they get a product and they have a few exceptions. Um, I think Amazon has a lot of fans. Uh, it's not that people don't like Amazon they're very happy with the service, but sometimes it feels like a trade-off as some people think, okay. I love working with Amazon, but it's so sad that their, their staff is treated in a way that doesn't feel okay.
But hey, I don't have an alternative. So I'm going to work with Amazon. The day that you would have an Amazon 2.0 that has the exact same service and their employees are the happiest in the world, probably we will all change to that company. But we don't always have the alternative. And you have a few companies that are so well positioned in their market that they can, they can get away with it.
I mean, Facebook is another one. Facebook has such a bad image in terms of taking a responsibility related to fake news and how elections are being manipulated, but still, I mean, we, we just have Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and I cannot live with it. Those tools. So I live with the fact that they're not doing a good job on another level.
And then you have companies that have, I mean, if I look through all the stuff that I write about and talk about, about customer experience, then you have companies that almost do the opposite and are still very successful. They could company like. Uh, It's probably the worst airline we have in Europe.
Uh, it's terrible service. It's a terrible experience, but they do two things really well. They're extremely cheap. Right now it's so cheap that you even get a Euro to step on their plane. Can you imagine that it's a negative price that they have today on certain of their uncertain routes? So it's, it's a crazy model, but they're extremely cheap and they almost always arrive on time.
They're very, very efficient. And then the crazy thing is they promise you a bad experience. And you get a bad experience, but because the promise was about experience, you can live with it and they live up to their expectations and then it comes to expectation management. Then you know what you're going to get and they deliver that.
And then you can get away with it because there's no alternative that is so cheap. And that has like a VIP experience that doesn't exist. So, so you have some companies that are so extremely positioned that they get away with it, but most of the time. They still fulfill the promise. They still do what you expect them to do, even if you don't like it, or if you don't agree, they stick to that promise.
And because that at a certain level, there's a lot of value being brought to you. You live with the downside. So you have a few of those, but, but it's the minority. Uh, it's it's it wouldn't be a good idea for Starbucks to say, okay, let let's copy paste that, that experience ID, um, and, and that worked out well for them.
That's copy based on that, wouldn't be a good strategy because there's so many alternatives for Starbucks, but there's no alternative for Ryanair or Facebook or Amazon.
Joseph: [00:27:31] Right. You know, um, I briefly flashed back to a, a, a restaurant experience that I had. Uh, we went on a field trip to Chicago in the states and it was like a, it was like a vintage 1950s diner.
And I don't know how historically accurate it was, but the servers just nonstop were shouting at us. And that was part of the experience. It was just, it was like a, almost like a form of catharsis where, you know, they're just there, they're just going to dirt. And in a way it was, it was enjoyable because it was such a pattern interrupt.
So, uh, but that, that gets into more of like, you know, doing it for the sake of entertainment rather than there being, you know, some, some, some issues everybody knows about. That's, that's an interesting one, but you know, it's, it's cost benefit analysis. Yeah. They're gonna treat me like. But I'm getting there on time and I get a year out of it.
So, yeah, that's, that's fascinating. I didn't know about that one. I don't, uh, I don't ever leave my apartment, let alone get on European airlines. One of the questions that I had, uh, that I had chambered and, you know, we've, we're basically like halfway through it, you know, is, you know, are there customer experiences that stick out in your mind?
You know, even to this day, My my guess is, you know, being a speaker, you've probably traveled on Ryanair and therefore you've had firsthand experience. Um, so along those lines, are there any other ones that, you know, even on your mind right now are still fresh, positive, or negative?
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:28:47] I, I always try to look for positive experiences.
I just heard this story the other day of an insurance company, and there are not that many insurance companies. You know, that you'll link to great customer service, but there there's this one and this guy called his insurance company. It's, it's a, it's from the Netherlands. It's called central, but here it's part of the academia group.
And, um, he had bad news. He had a friend of the family that passed away unexpectedly and he wanted to stay in the Netherlands to go to his funeral, but he had booked a trip. So he called his insurance company and said, hey, I have this insurance. That in case that I have to cancel a trip that you're, I'm getting refunded, but usually those kinds of insurances are only being applied to when it's a close family member, a first-line family member that passes away, or when you become really ill yourself.
So this insurance company is like, oh, we're very sorry to hear so, and, and of course we're gonna, we're gonna reimburse you. And then he said, I just want to make sure it's it's not, it's not a relative it's, it's a friend of our family and the answer of that insurance person was in the service center.
It's not up to us to decide who you can love and who's important to you. And when I heard that, I was like, this is such a wonderful answer. I mean, this, this, this, this guy was in, in, in grief, he was extremely sad. And then they give him an answer like that. And I've heard him telling that experience and that, that, um, that story like 20 or 30 times now, and he will never forget that.
And it's those kinds of small details that often make a huge difference. And I'm always looking for those small details. Um, and sometimes it's a mindset. Like I think Netflix is, is, is a really interesting one to look into. Usually not flicks works fine, but if there's, if something goes wrong, if you don't have access to Netflix and it's their mistake, they will proactively refund you for that.
They will not wait until you ask for a refund, they will proactively do it. That shows me that you have a culture of being customer centric. Uh, another example is when, when I think about opposing interests, it's always interesting to look at how a company reacts when there's an opposing interest. Uh, imagine that you have a bank account, uh, sleeping bank account for three or four years.
You don't use it at all, but every year you pay a fee for, to have that bank account. How do you react as a bank? You could say, Hey, we're going to, we're not going to tell Joseph. I mean, we're making easy money here and this is we're going to let him sleep. But the good thing to do is to call you and say, hey Joseph, you have the sleeping bank account.
We just wanted to let you know, if you want to, if you want to shut it down, that's fine. And we're going to refund you for the five years that you've paid us. And we didn't give you any value. That's an opposing interest. And there are not that many organizations that react from a customer point of view in such a situation.
A great example was Airbnb in January this year, when there were some issues in, uh, in Washington DC, when the new president came. Um, there were a lot of people who booked a room or an apartment in Washington, DC through Airbnb. And what they've done is they did their research and they, they, they try to find out if the people who rented out the place, if they were extremists, that that were going to Washington DC for, for vandalism.
You know, very aggressive protests. And when they found people like that, they basically canceled the deal. That's an opposing interest. They lost money, but they believed that that was the right thing to do for their other customers. And for people who rent out apartments in Washington. So when you have an opposing interests, that's the moment very often that you can see that the company is really customer centric or not.
Joseph: [00:32:37] I think to be fair too. Um, it, it, it could come from a place of pure altruism, but I think that there's enough evidence in a data spreads to show that, you know, when you, when you make these, uh, these decisions, it should also yield a, a better improvement for the overall company. If, um, you know, let's just say that there was a van, a vandal, or there was a, uh, someone who turned it into an, a violent opportunity. Well, that would cost the company a lot of bad rep, a lot of money, a lot of reputation. And unless they're uniquely positioned to be the only way for somebody to stay somewhere when they're not, then that would end up doing them anyway. So I, I think there is, um, uh, there is an assessment.
There is, yeah, you, you do the right thing. And for the most part, doing the right thing should help the company. Anyways.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:33:24] Of course. And in the long run, it always does. I mean, think of the example of the sleeping bank account, if you find out after five years that you've paid, that you paid the bank a couple of hundred dollars for nothing.
You're going to become extremely angry and you may take away all the future business. Whereas if they call you and say, Hey, Joseph, we just figured this out. This is not good. We're going to refund you for those five years. You're going to be so positively surprised that you will stay with that bank for the next couple of years.
And every time that you have something financially that you need to get, you will go to them because you will trust them that they will treat you in decent way.
Joseph: [00:34:01] You also, your, your Netflix example, um, stick out to me too, just because I remember. I, I don't want to throw any of our phone companies under the bus, but here in Canada we have like two, so it's not hard to dig it up, but, um, we would, we would hear the, like, you know, maybe the internet service was down for, for a few hours.
I said, well, we'll refund you for the few hours that it was down. And I'm like, oh yeah, thanks. Thanks for that. Yeah. That's a really, really, really appreciate that. Like the fact that Netflix, you know, goes okay, you were inconvenienced for a few days. I think we can just stand to give you another month anyway.
So you know, a little extra, a little extra candy there. Yeah, exactly, exactly.
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This next question I have, um, I wants to, uh, uh, do this one specifically for our, um, our, our drop shipping crowd. Um, drop shipping is very, uh, important to it, to my audience because a lot of us, we want to become brand owners and we want to you know, really get into, uh, into, and for a lot of us, we're, we're fighting a one-person battle until we have the means to hire our first VA.
So you're your customer experience trends video on YouTube right now stands currently as your most viewed video. Um, and it's pretty clear to see why it's, there's a lot of important information about what's to come. So I asked my audience to check it out. Does they can see it, uh, at full, but for brand owners who are fighting a one-person battle, um, what customer experience trends should they be looking out for?
Or what ones can they, uh, adopt into their business that would help give them an early edge.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:35:57] I would go for two, two strategies. First one is be more human than anyone else. Uh, so figure out a way, how you can, how you can make it all more personal. And I know that requires an effort and I know there's not a lot of time, but there's for instance, a big difference between receiving an email link versus receiving an email.
If you send out 1000 emails, there's a big chance of people that maybe 10 people will open them up because they see it's a it's. Yeah, it's the same for everyone. And it's boring and you don't like it. You don't like email. So you're deleted versus what, if you arrive 100 personal emails to people who bought stuff on your platform, there's a big chance that 80% of them will look into it because it's the personal mail from the owner of the company that is thanking you to do business with them.
And that personalization. I'm making it personal, making it more human. That would be first strategy that I would use. And the second one is I would try to outwork my competitors and the others in the market in terms of content production. It's something that I personally believe in. I'm a one man company.
It's not really fair to say because my wife is also in my business for my keynote. So it's the two of us, but it's still a small company. Um, but we produce a lot of content together. I have, uh, two podcasts. I have a weekly video, multiple videos in between. I have everyday something on Instagram. Um, I'm sharing stuff on LinkedIn.
I have my blog on my own platform. There's a lot of time and effort that goes into that. And in the beginning, You're basically over-investing because there's only a few hundred people that are checking you out, then you'd think, why am I doing all this work? But after a while you're building an audience, you're building a community.
People start to like it, people find you through the content. They appreciate the work that you do and you're growing your business. And if you produce more content than others in the industry, and it's valuable content in the long run, that will be an enormous partner in your business too, to make a difference.
So those are two strategies that I'm, that I'm a big believer in. And I applied them myself in my work as well.
Joseph: [00:38:08] And those are both, um, uh, options that can be adopted, even if somebody is just setting their brand up out right from the get-go. Um, it's, it's not difficult to fire up the camera and do and do videos.
It's not difficult to write an email, you know, But I think once I've written one, the format is, is there, you know, I could probably use it on a, on a few more people as well.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:38:29] Yeah. But it's, and it's sometimes you can be very efficient a couple of times a year. Not always, but sometimes I make content that I really think is cool.
And I want to share it with a lot of people. Like my trends video that, that scored really well on YouTube. And, and I, I sometimes bring out an ebook or something like that. So when I bring a piece of content out that I think is really valuable, I write over a weekend, 1,500 emails to my customer base of the last few years.
And I, of course I have like a part of that mail is, is the same for all people, but I personalize them and it's not a mailing and mailing would take me one hour. Those 1,500 emails, emails take me two full days. But the impact that I have with them is just huge. I always instantly get business out of it because people appreciate the personal effort and it's, it's just, most people don't want to do the work, but if you want to do the work, you're going to have an impact with it. I guarantee you.
Joseph: [00:39:25] I I'll, I'll tell you a brief story to it just to back this up. So this comes from my, um, uh, from my days and when I was in the Toronto comedy scene and it's always better to wait until it made the guests laugh before I say that. So, but anyways, a, um, there, you know, a lot of people were trying to put on shows because getting onto the, um, onto the clubs was difficult.
There was a lot of supply or sorry, a lot of demand, not a lot of supply. So, you know, people were putting on their own shows and some of them didn't have much time. One show that I remember always had a good turnout. And you know why? Because the host of the show was talking to people on Facebook one by one sent a, send a personal message to say, Hey, we're doing the show.
Here's some of the people we would love to have you have you come out and. You know, it, it, it, it felt very personal and because it was, and if I were to say, thanks, by the way, you know, how are things going? And the next thing, you know, you know, she's having like a bunch of conversations and is strengthening and nourishing her network, um, as well as expanding it.
So, I mean, it, it, it, it works in, in, in your realm. It works in that realm. It, it works. I that much, I, I, 100% agree with.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:40:32] Yeah. People appreciate the personal effort and it's a very simple strategy. It's a zero, but you just need to do the work.
Joseph: [00:40:39] I wanted to make sure we, we, we, we put some time into this episodes to let people know about your book and it's, uh, the offer you can't refuse. You, you, you put out a other publisher material as well. Uh, this one is where I received high praise for him for, it was one of the ten, 10 most read business books of 2020. So, uh, congrats, uh, to, to that. What are some of the main discussion points that to compel the reader? Like some of the main premises that you convey in the book?
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:41:03] Well, in the offer you can't refuse. I, I discussed the future of customer experience and I try to look what, what kind of components can you add to your customer relation to eventually reach an offer people can't refuse. And the research showed that there are four components that people value today. Uh, and, and the let's say the most basic one, the minimum demand is of course having a good product at a good price with good customer service.
That's like the minimum demands. Um, without that it's really hard to compete. That's obvious. Then you have digital convenience, which is also becoming a commodity. Um, people expect things to go in a fluent way. We know how things works, not how things work. So digital convenience is also becoming part of the new minimum.
And then there are two additional dimensions where you can differentiate yourself with the first one is partnering in life. Asking yourself, how you can positively positively have an impact on people's lives, where you understand the human behind the customer, where you understand that every human has like a movie of her or his life in their head and the things that we hope for things that we are afraid.
Um, ambitions that we have, and the better you understand that the better you will be able to become a partner in life of people. And then the, the, the top, the last component, the fourth component is changing your world, using your own strengths, to have a benefit, to create a benefit for society and, and those four components, great product service price, digital convenience, partner in life, changing your world, individually each of those four components bring value to the modern customer, but if you manage to bring them down in one conversation, one experience, that's the moment when you create an offer you cannot refuse for your customers. So that's the very short pitch of the whole.
Joseph: [00:42:50] Yeah, and it, it, it ties in the, you know, the threads that we were working on throughout the, the course of this episode.
Um, I think one of the things that stuck out to me when I was, when I was doing my digging is, you know, the idea that convenience is, uh, such a, uh, standard for what customers, uh, uh, uh, expect as part of the experience. We do have to go the extra steps to, and those extra steps include, you know, being a, being a partner, having a positive impact and really.
Meaning that mission hadn't and changing things in a way that's tangible. Not exactly, exactly that. So, so here's a series of questions. This was more of a personal one for me, but I I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to terminology. Like I tell people that I do a podcast, but if I told people that I did radio.
They would, uh, they would like kind of like nod their heads a little bit more and say, okay, you know, he's a, he's a radio guy. Okay. I get it. But the podcast I had to then follow up and say, I'm paid for this, by the way. Uh, because you know, people have different stereotypes or preconceived notions of it.
Uh, and, and that's just one of them too. You know, I, there was another one I'm blanking on it now, but I would talk about it all the time. So I'll just skip it. Maybe it'll come back to me later. I'll email the email, you and I wanted to ask the same question about even the term customer. I sometimes think that the term customer doesn't fully appreciate the relationship that they have with the business, um, because they've become, they can be ambassadors.
You talk about the user generated content. You talk about the community that builds up around a brand. So do you feel that the term customer fully appreciates the relationship that they have with a business or in your utopian view of the world? Do you think there's maybe a more accurate term for it?
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:44:25] No, that's a very valid point.
Uh, customer is, is very, it's a small part of the relationship, but it's, it's, it's human stuff that connects with each other. And, and there's so much more in data that a human can do for your organization. You can become an employee, you can become a shareholder, you can become an influencer. You, we can indeed an ambassador.
And, and the question is, what do you want to create? And I think at the end of the day, probably you don't need customers. You need. I had the pleasure to share the stage with, and I forgot his name, but maybe you can help me. It's first name is Bruce, the lead singer of iron maiden. Uh, I'll look it up for you.
But anyway, Bruce in, and he's, he's one of the coolest guys I've ever shared the stage with. He flies his own plane and he has all these cool stories. And I had to present just in, before him and I was talking about customers, customers, customers, all the time. And then he came on stage and he says, I know the previous guy was talking about customers.
That's nonsense. I, you don't need customers. You need fans. I will never forget that sentence because he says your fans don't go away. When you sing a bad song, your fans can accept it, that you bring out an album that isn't as good as the previous one. And they will wait until you bring it. Uh, next one and they will support you in that process.
Your fans will put a tattoo of your brand on their arms and they will buy merchandise to show the world that they really care about.
Joseph: [00:45:49] To our video audience. Uh, yeah, I can speak to that.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:45:52] There you go. So you're absolutely right. It's maybe at the end of the day, you don't need customers, but you need fans and ambassadors.
And if you succeed in that, you will always be success.
Joseph: [00:46:02] And, uh, the, the fellows named by the way, uh, Bruce Dickinson.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:46:05] Yes, of course. Of course. Bruce Dickinson.
Joseph: [00:46:08] Yeah. I mean, if it's ska, I can come up with off the top of my head, but everything else I have to research. So I've got you for, I don't have you for too much longer.
I've got you for about another eight minutes. Um, I did have a question here. This is like a philosophical one for you, just because, you know, you're, you're really keeping your eye on how things are unfolding. However, maybe it's 10 years, maybe it's a hundred years. So we speak a lot about, you know, what's going to change in the customer experience.
So this is a very far reaching question, but have you ever thought about what the day would look like? We no longer have people who are paying for other people's services where we no longer have customers. I guess that somewhat ties into the idea of now we turn into fans, but I think it has more to do not just with them, but also with the structure of business altogether.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:46:52] Yeah. At the end of the day, we're going to probably end up in a world where every customer is also a business on its own. There's a nice example that is unfolding right now. Um, I don't know if you're familiar with the website. I've heard of it, SHEIN. Last week. Um, there was breaking news about SHEIN it's a fashion platform, e-commerce it is now in the United States.
The most used shopping app. Amazon is on number two and SHEIN is a number one, but most people don't know in Europe and the US is that it is a Chinese platform. And they were below the radar for a very long time. They've been growing more than 100% per year in the last eight years. And now more than 50% of all the website visits on fashion platforms is for them.
So they have more visitors than Nike, H&M, Zara and all those platforms altogether. They're huge. And they're like the Tiktok fashion. Well, it means that they look at the data points or they look at what you find popular, what you like, what you don't like. And then in real time, we'll ask two creators out there to create new fashion items that they will design.
Sometimes they even make 10 pieces of it to see if it works or it doesn't work. But the production is not the being done by professional fashion. People by individuals like you and me, it's done by creators. So they have millions of creators that are making fashion for them. And because of that, the, the amount of money that you need to invest to create a new fashion item is so much lower.
And the fact that they sell it directly to the end user and that they don't have to fix retail in between makes that they can sell it at very, very cheap prices and still make money because of that. But this is a new system. This is a new world where the customer is also the creator. And where it's more a community of people doing stuff together.
And SHEIN is almost like the platform that's facilitating that. So the question is who is the customer of who? I mean, who am I buying from? I it's, it's totally unclear. And it's a complete new way of working and the easier it becomes for every individual to make something, to create both physical assets or digital assets, the flatter, that relationship and the, and the, yeah, the, the more network that relationship will become.
Joseph: [00:49:20] Yeah. As you, as she was describing this, you know, I'm even thinking about some of the seeds that had already been implanted, because again, we talk about social media and how, you know, any one individual, regardless of, even if they're. They haven't, they haven't set up their own store or maybe drop shipping or even any of this e-commerce doesn't interest them, but they can still become their own brand.
They can become their own influencer. They have a presence on Instagram. They can have a presence even on, on Facebook. They have a presence pretty much anywhere they want. So, um, one thing that I think has certainly been established at this point, uh, given our technology and how, um, relevant the online component of, of life is now, is that anybody who wants to elevate themselves can do it. So now is actually a game of willpower, I think.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:50:03] True. Do you have the persistence perseverance to, to make it happen and to, to stay in the game long enough.
Joseph: [00:50:10] Excellent. So, um, uh, I have two questions left for you. Well, actually I have like 15 here. Because they just kind of like a go go off and I prefer to do that anyways.
Um, so I'll give you my wrap up question in a moment, but first this going to be really fast. One, um, what's one technology that excites you and one that frightens you and I'll tell you mine, just to give you a chance to Stu. So what excites me or NFTs, uh, because it gives, uh, digital content creators and ability to individualize digital media, where before it would not have any individual quantifiable.
What frightens me is virtual reality. You know, the idea that it turns into ready player one, and everybody is just putting on the headsets and stop living. So that, that scares the daylights out of me. But I'd like to hear yours.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:50:53] All right. I cannot wait to have a virtual assistant that really works well.
I'm really waiting for the iPhone after the Blackberry moment for virtual assistants, I think that would make my life a lot easier. And I'm really scared about deep fix. I think we're going to have a lot of trouble with that. Then the next couple of.
Joseph: [00:51:12] Okay. Yeah. That's, that's bad that that's highly bad.
That's why a part of me just wants to start writing really inappropriate things on Twitter. Just to kind of like get ahead of it. You can't blackmail me. I'm blackmailing myself. Yeah. Uh, there's a, there's some things in my draft folder just anyways. So with that, we're going to get you on out of here. So our final wrap up question, if there's any final bits of advice or like a Chinese proverb, we really like, you're welcome to share it.
And then let our audience know how they can look into what you do. And I highly recommend it.
Steven Van Belleghem: [00:51:41] All right. Well, thanks for that. People that people can, or a recommendation is, uh, what I need to give her. Don't listen too much to it, to feedback of people that are too negative. I think you need to surround yourself with people who can be as excited about things as yourself.
That makes sense. A lot easier that you don't have to waste any energy and convincing people all the time. So I think that's a crucial one. When you think about building a team, um, and now where they can find me, um, basically on all social networks, um, my YouTube channel is youtube.com/my name's Steven Van Belleghem.
Then I share a lot on Instagram. That's just my full name at Steven Van Belleghem. Uh, I have, uh, a podcast that they can check out. And my website is my name.com. I have a blog there with many articles about the future of customer experience.
Joseph: [00:52:30] All right, fantastic. Um, well that, that's everything that we've got for today.
So as always to my audience, uh, it is a joy and a pleasure to be able to do this show so that I can learn all this information and I can meet these people and I can get better information to all of you. So thank you all for your time and your engagement. And then please give, uh, please give our guests, uh, some of that attention as well at, um, it means a lot to have their time and, uh, I hope all of you will do your part. And so with that take care and we will check in soon.
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