Just back from a trip to Nashville at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit. I had the honor to be a part of their VIP influencer program and it left me pondering one thought...it's the people who make the experience. Bottom line, IBM is not your grandfather's company. It's continuing to grow into a forward thinking consistent set of experiences all over the globe. And as a people driven company, it's inspiring to see this behemoth create something so repeatable. Oh, and one more thing, everyone I meet at the company is nice (sincerely).
Here are 5 things I learned at Smarter Commerce Global Summit:
1) Smarter Relationships - this one is going first because it ranks the highest. I was invited to be amongst a really phenomenal group of influencers. Bottom line, I was a kid in a candy shop meeting the people I've engaged with online and have followed for so long. I was honored to have been asked to interview most of them (some are up here), to which I am thankful. I learned from each and every one something uniquely different (full list of influencers at the bottom of this blog).
2) BIG Data - This buzz word became an inside joke between us all, Ted Rubin summed it up best in his tweet: "Data, Data, Data, Data, and more data." This big theme of data, technology, and how to create unique experiences using it, even made the main stage. "Watson", the master computer system that shattered every question on Jeopardy competing against the top previous Jeopardy winners, was introduced having a massive upgrade as a contextual online system that understands and builds immediate referential answers to any live customer service issue directly to the consumer. For instance, when a consumer asks a banking question online, Watson considers your history profile, the bank's product offering and the economic variables to give a customized response with just the right product for you. It really is "Smarter Commerce."
3) Everyone Matters - I was excited to be asked to give a presentation at the conference titled: "How to Build your Social Body Language." Amongst the great questions at the end, there was one based on an example I'd used in my presentation about American Airlines and their poor social customer service (or Customer Care as @KimGarst calls it). On our trip out to Nashville, an American Airlines customer service representative did not treat us in a way we, as customer's, had expected. Due to mechanical problems, we missed our connecting flight and were grounded in Dallas for the night. We had no luggage and were faced with rescheduling a morning meeting the next day - which was he entire reason we had left a day early in the first place. With a lack of empathy, the service rep was not very nice to say the least. I tweeted my experience in as factual a way as 140 characters would let me. I was communicated with on Twitter with a "social rep", who tried to do everything to take the conversation offline. I believe that open conversations via social are critical, because openly solving problems helps more people that just the two communicating. It's a public medium, with public conversations. I was promised a call from customer service, during "normal business hours" (another customer service faux pas - issues happen round the clock) and I actually did receive a call that next Monday morning. Points for American Airlines... I actually just wanted to be heard, have them acknowledge a breakdown in their approach, and have them tell me they're working on it. Just that they were human, like me, and stuff happens. They gifted us two free vouchers for a future flight - appreciated, absolutely! Pete Krainik (@theCMOclub), President of the CMO Club, asked me if I did not have 50k+ followers on Twitter, would I have received the same result? Great question! Although most people may not have such a high perceived social influence, I hope companies understand that everyone matters and influence is everywhere, not just online. It's how you handle yourself, and how human you are that matters, regardless of the medium it's addressed through.
4) Be Helpful- this really hit home for me when Jay Baer (conference master of ceremonies) keynoted on his idea of creating helpful experiences and covered his 5 blueprint tenants in his new book "Youtility." I received an early copy of his book at the conference which I couldn't put down on the airplane home and can honestly say: run, don't walk, to pick the book up. It's a must read for every entrepreneur and leader. His book helps businesses to understand how and why you create 'give to give' experiences and how they will return much more ROI than any 'give to get' strategy. It also helps that he was the consummate professional with just the right balance of serious and fun in all of his on stage deliveries....he nailed it! I can't stop thinking about all the Youtility experiences I'm now going to help create.
5) Experience as a Service - this is the toughest one of them all because the larger the company, the more difficult it is to remain consistent. After talking with global analytics experts Brian Eisenberg and John Lovett, I wholeheartedly agree that every company offers something a bit different because of their brand footprint. IBM wins for being the most consistent in their delivery of their technology experience. You don't get to be the size of IBM without doing something right.
KEY TAKEAWAY: You can have the best technology and products, but the smarter people building those very products and experiences make the experience, not the other way around.