The Gist

  • Aspirational goals and practical steps. Balancing aspirational objectives with practical strategies is crucial for brands to continually improve and provide personalized customer experiences.
  • Customer data as connective tissue. Properly collecting, managing and utilizing customer data is essential for brands to enhance their customer relationships and comply with privacy regulations.
  • CX and EX connection. The connection between employee experience and customer experience is a focus of the Kihlstrom's book, with the aim of helping brands measure and tie the two experiences together.

In this CMSWire Contributor Q&A, the intricate interplay of customer experience, employee experience and first-party data is examined by Greg Kihlstrom, author of the forthcoming book "House the Customer," and Barry Padgett, CEO of Amperity.

Together, they delve into the challenges companies face in delivering personalized experiences, the significance of first-party data, the connection between customer and employee experiences and the implications of privacy regulations on data collection practices.

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Dom Nicastro: Hey everybody, Dom Nicastro here, CMSWire managing editor. We're here with our latest contributor Greg Kihlstrom. Wave, Greg, so they know which one you are. We're also usually we just have the one-on-ones with these contributor interviews. But we have a special guest today. It's going to be Barry Padgett. He's the CEO of Amperity. What's going on Barry? 

Barry Padgett: Good to see you, Dom.

Creating Valuable Customer Relationships

Nicastro: Yep. Good to have you here. And you're here because Greg, in his latest article, you know, he's talking about a great book coming out. And Greg, congratulations on getting this book out the "House of the Customer." That's the topic of your column, and it discusses how brands can build valuable customer relationships through you know, improving their ability to provide what everyone wants to provide those personalized customer experiences. And Barry's not just sitting here randomly, he wrote, wrote the foreword for that. So we're happy to have Barry on, too. So Greg, we'll start with you. I mean, just, you know, give our listeners a sense of this book. And you know, what was the motivation behind it and what can they expect if they pick it up?

Greg Kihlstrom: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, my latest book is called "House of the Customer," as you mentioned, so I really want us to do two things with it. And I want it to be both aspirational. So I outlined for what I call North Star goals for brands to relate. They may not be achievable today, but they are something to strive for. And I also want us to provide a practical guide, too, OK, we've got these we've got these goals out there. We're striving to achieve them. But what do we do today? In order to you know, get the ball rolling and move towards them.

And so just briefly, the four goals, the first one is providing one to one omnichannel personalization. So this is personalization everywhere on every channel for every individual second is having a strong first-party data strategy. The third is moving towards a customer lifetime value model and really thinking about the long term value of the customer and the last one is having an agile customer-centric culture within the organization and really tying that employee experience to the customer experience. And I'm sure we'll talk more about all of that as we go here. 

Related Article: Using First-Party Data to Build Trust With Your Customers

Unlocking Personalization through First-Party Insights

Nicastro: Yeah. Barry, you come in, you know, writing the foreword. What's the gist of that? Or did you just take the easy route and have ChatGPT write that foreward for you.

Padgett: Well, I didn't know about ChatGPT. I don't think that the — I don't think OpenAI had launched it when when Greg and I were working on the foreward but be forewarned, many forewards can be written by that going forward. In terms of the four pillars that that Greg outlined there and what he and I have been chatting about in the past and it certainly is a strong narrative in the book is the connective tissue between those four pillars that Greg described is really the customer data, right understanding who your customer is, is the unlock to them, I think getting on to onto the breadcrumb trail with with Greg and, and delivering on the promise.

And so this this idea of first-party data that Greg mentioned, is really a fancy name just for you know, the customer data that you have and that you collect on your customers every day, whether that's through the activity they take in email and responding to emails, whether it's browsing your website, whether that's finding things either online or in store, whether that's calling your contact center or support or opening up a chat window. There are many ways in which customers interact. And fortunately, or unfortunately, each one of those interactions is usually driven by a different kind of backbone, right, a different system, a different way of capturing the data, a different way of cataloging it, a different way of describing it. And it's really hard for brands to bring all of that together and do it easily and hydrate it all and make it available to the teams like marketing and ecomm and support and finance that really need that information in order to deliver on that. That goal of personalizing the experiences.

Overcoming Barriers to Personalization

Nicastro: Yeah, and you know, I've been a reporter at CMSWire since 2014. Now an editor this past year and you hear the same thing over and over again, you needed to personalize experiences, and was still trying to figure out the answer like that perfect answer. I don't even think there is the perfect answer. But, Greg, kicking it back to you. You know, what are some of the blockers lately? It's — we're here in early 2023. You know, what are some of the things that are still holding, you know, marketers customer experience folks back from creating these experiences?

Related Article: Creating a Clearly Articulated Data Strategy

Kihlstrom: Yeah, and I think some of it is connecting an experience on one channel to another so you know, there may be a great experience on the website, but you call the customer support center and have a terrible experience or when it feels like one team isn't talking to the other one channels and talking to you though so that's that's that's one thing. You know, it's very much a tying all that data together can help to solve that. I think another thing is just not having great first-party data in the first place. I mean, a lot of brands have been relying on third parties and partners and other things to really stitch together and experience which is sometimes less than optimal.

So I think that, you know, we hear things like Google deprecating third-party cookies and mobile device IDs, you know, bit more privacy control over those kinds of things and to some marketers, that sounds scary. To me, I see an opportunity because actually brands now actually need to create these, you know, they need to have all the first-party data themselves and when they do that, it actually enables greater personalization, enables greater cross-channel journey orchestration and all of these things that that to your point earlier, you know, are lacking today. But by solving for the one problem of you know, greater consumer data privacy regulations, they're actually able to solve some of these other challenges at the same time.

Privacy Concerns and Compliance

Nicastro: And Barry, you know, what are you hearing out there in terms of that privacy issue? Because, you know, like Greg was saying this, of course, you have the laws GDPR, CCPA. Are customers are like — let's use your your platform as an example arecustomers coming to your team and saying, hey, you know, we need help in the privacy arena. We're kind of behind. You seeing that a lot?

Padgett: Yeah, and I think there's a couple of flavors of that. I think, certainly that is the one we're describing, which is the compliance component, whether that's CCPA in California, or GDPR in Europe and the countless other examples that are going to show up here before too long. And then there's just the “do the right thing” component. Right, which is I think, you know, we all are capable of putting our own consumer hats on and and I think the do the right thing option is, you know, transparency. We'd like to know who's collecting what we would like them to ask our permission before they collect, we would like to know how they plan on using it and ask for permission.

And then you know, ultimately, if we would prefer that they not collect our data, or better yet, delete the data they have on us. We want to know that. We want to know that the company or the brand is responsible and is going to be able to do that. So I think there's those two versions. There's the what is the law forced you to do and then what's the right thing to do by your customer and produce brands who are, you know, espousing customer-centricity and personalization and trying to do the right thing by the customer. It doesn't always mean data collection for the day-to-day data collection, and sometimes it means a conversation and some transparency with your customer. Even if that customer says I don't want you to track me. I don't want you to keep my data knowing you delete everything you have. So building these foundations like Greg was mentioning around first party should allow the brand to ask for that sort of contact stability, understand what their accountability is, understand what the customer is asking for with respect to the usage of that data. And so a first-party data platform, it's table stakes now, these things should be included in whatever foundation you're building.

The Crucial Connection Between CX and EX

Nicastro: Yeah, sounds really easy. And and, you know, on top of that, you know, everyone is talking to customer experience professionals about the connection with employee experience too. And, you know, a lot of people are extolling the virtues of employee experience, like it's brand new, like in the 50s. They didn't care about or something. Well, they all we always knew that. But that connection between CX and EX, man, I went to a conference last year, the Forrester event in Nashville, and I feel like it was an employee experience conference. For the most part, a lot of these customer experience folks like call center managers, you know, were talking about employee experience and how they empower their call center agents, for example, make it a great experience for them to come to an otherwise thankless job, right. So Greg, what are you hearing about, you know, that connective tissue, you know, between employee experience and customer experience and sort of how they connect and how you get it done?

Kihlstrom: Yeah, I mean, I think this is one of those topics when I had Barry on my podcast a few months ago, and this is one of the topics we really bonded over is, is just our belief and the connection between these things. And I think the smart brands out there are measuring the connection between the two and to, you know, to your point, this is not a brand new thing that employees should be happy or you know, a company should treat their employees well. But I think what we've seen, you know, with the pandemic with the whatever you want to call it, the great resignation, all of those kinds of things kind of converging together.

We've seen and we've all felt very firsthand what it means when either employees leave en masse and an organization and is so short staffed, whether it's a restaurant or or whatever. We've seen when employees are disengaged what that effect that has on us as customers. And so being able to not only see and kind of feel that viscerally but also more and more brands just tying the connection and measuring that connection between the two. I think we're starting to make some progress. It doesn't feel sometimes like we're making a lot of progress because there's still a lot of room to cover, but I do feel like the smart brands, the category leader brands, they've been talking about this for a while they've been doing this for a while and now you know, those that are playing catch up, are starting to measure and really tie the two together as well.

Learning Opportunities

A Guide for Enhancing Customer and Employee Experiences

Nicastro: Yeah. And Barry, I wanted to, let's pose a final question for each of you which is basically about the book, you know, "House the Customer," Greg Kihlstrom, it's out January 11. Correct, Greg?

Kihlstrom: Yeah. 

Nicastro: So it's out the door now. I'll ask Barry, you know, who do you think the target audience is here? You know, who's gonna open this book and by the end of it, just not gonna be not gonna be able to put it down and say, You know what, this actually improved my outcomes. I need to read this because I have problems with this, this and this.

Padgett: Well, great question and not to pump that book too hard on Greg's behalf. But really I think anyone who obsesses about getting a customer or employee experience right, would be a fantastic candidate for the book. You know, we're so ubiquitous now in terms of how our businesses work in terms of whether it's sales, marketing, support, analytics, data science, whether you're in IT or you're sitting on a shop floor, we now all have the possibility of harnessing and utilizing customer data to deliver insanely great customer experiences. And I think we I would assume that most employees want to deliver great customer experiences for their brand.

And that in turn is this virtuous cycle that you were mentioning, Dom, which is man delivering those great customer experiences is fulfilling as an employee, and it actually generates insane amounts of employee NPS and satisfaction. And so I think that the best candidate for this book is somebody who simply obsesses about getting it right. Whatever getting it right means delivering the right product at the right time, making a you know, an inbound call fantastic. Understanding who the customer is, so you can personalize your website. Understanding who the customer is, so I don't triple pay when I'm out serving ads for a person that I count three times in my database. So really, whether it's experiential, whether it's personalization, whether it's financial, I think there's a bunch of folks are gonna get a really, really fantastic experience out of Greg's book. 

Helping Brands Find Direction and Achieve Aspirational Goals

Nicastro: But yeah, you could pump the book all you want, because Greg is a fabulous contributor for us at He's been doing it for a long time now. We so appreciate you delivering to our readers, just some actionable advice. So, pump all you want, Greg, go ahead. And the final question to you is pretty much the same one — let's let's place you at a conference later in the year. Someone come up to you. You wrote that book. "House of the Customer," didn't you? What do you hope they get out of it when they talk to you?

Kihlstrom: Yeah, I definitely I don't know that I can say it better than Barry just said, but I'll try my best here but ya know, I really as I was saying at the at the beginning, I think I wanted to balance the aspirational the OK, where should we be looking towards with the practical, and so for someone to see whether they're a marketing leader or an aspiring leader to say this is where I want the brand to get to, and we're not going to be there today. But this is where we need to get to and then also have a set of steps to get there and to really get things started or to get unstuck because I think there's a lot of brands that are doing great stuff, but sometimes they get a little bit stuck because their processes or their teams or they just don't know what to do. And so to really, you know, get not only get unstuck, but know where you're getting unstuck, to I would say that that'd be a great, great outcome.

Staying Composed Amidst a Looming Recession 

Nicastro: Cool. Barry, I gotta say you look nice, cool, calm and composed. I mean, you're a CEO in a looming recession. How do you look so relaxed?

Padgett: Well, I think two things, Dom. One, you know, I would say that, you know, kind of harkening back to the pandemic, which in many ways, obviously, disastrous as it was, from a human perspective, from a business perspective, actually, were more crosswinds for companies like Amperity, big companies who sold in store now moving to digital overnight, right? Having to figure out how to serve a digital customer. Is the Dom that logs into the website, the same Dom that used to come into the store. I want curbside delivery.

I have all of these things I need to go figure out which are different systems. My point of sale system in house in the store is totally different than my econ tool, which is different from a marketing tool. So in a lot of you know, the a lot of cases, the pandemic forced companies to get out in front of their digital issues and their customer data issues and I'd say the same thing is true with the current economic crosswind, the cost of acquisition is going up. That cookie is being deprecated it's doom and gloom on your paid media. And so getting that first customer data, right like Greg was mentioning, is front and center. Now for almost every executive, every B2C and D2C brand on the planet. And we're uniquely positioned at Amperity in terms of being able to deliver that. 

Nicastro: Plus chat, there's always ChatGPT if you if you don't, if you start to lose momentum, just ask chat what to do. We'll figure it all out for you. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us here on Appreciate it, Greg. Looking forward to many more columns down the road. Appreciate it very much.

Khilstrom: Thanks so much.

Nicastro: Have a good one Barry.

Padgett: Thanks, Dom.

You can reach out on LinkedIn to Greg Kihlstrom and Barry Padgett