Conference Re-Cap: Customer Service Experience & CRM Evolution 2015

This week, I attended the Customer Service Experience and CRM Evolution conferences in New York City. The conferences were two of three conferences put on simultaneously by Information Today. The third was SpeechTek 2015

It was the second time I had attended the conference. (See my re-cap of the 2014 conference here.) This post provides an overview of the conference along with a few key insights from the event.



You may want to start by familiarizing yourself with the background of each conference.

The Twitter backchannel is always a great way to see what speakers and ideas are resonating most with conference participants. You don't need to have a Twitter account to view Tweets posted to the conference hashtags:


Key Takeaways

There are always a few things that really stand out at a conference. Here were the top takeaways for me.

Shane Snow's Keynote

Snow is the Chief Creative Officer at Contently and the author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success

His presentation focused on a concept called Lateral Thinking. This technique, popularized by Edward De Bono's book by the same name, is a way of gaining insight by looking at problems from a completely new perspective.

One story Snow shared was how operating room doctors in a children's hospital cut errors by more than 50 percent by borrowing ideas from Formula One pit crews.

This really resonated with me because customer service employees often struggle to see things from the customer's perspective. Lateral thinking can often reveal new opportunities to serve.


Jason Young's Keynote 

Young is the President of Leadsmart, Inc . He's also the author of The Culturetopia Effect.

He focused on culture and drew heavily from his time working at Southwest Airlines. One part that really stood out was how Southwest uses its customer service vision to give employees clear guidance on the type of service they should strive to deliver.

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.

Young also shared a little bit about Southwest's fascinating history. You can learn more about their incredible business story from Herb Kelleher's book, Nuts!

It's no secret I'm a huge proponent of using culture to drive service. A key part of that is creating a clear Customer Service Vision for employees to follow. I even referenced the Southwest Airlines mission as an example in my book, Service Failure.


Burg Hughes's Presentation

This was my favorite breakout session. Hughes is the Vice President of Operations at BuySeasons. They operate three brands - BuyCostumes, Costume Express, and Birthday Express.

His presentation focused on how BuySeasons uses customer feedback to improve service and save the company money. Hughes shared multiple examples of how he investigated service icebergs to uncover problems and find solutions.

One story he shared revolved around a piñata the company sold. Here's the feedback BuySeasons received.

 Source: Burg Hughes, BuySeasons. Customer Service Experience 2015 presentation.

Source: Burg Hughes, BuySeasons. Customer Service Experience 2015 presentation.

Hughes knows customers often don't complain. That means one complaint might really signal a problem experienced by many others.

So, his first step was to contact other customers who ordered the piñata. He learned that many of them felt the same way about the packaging.

Next, he took the problem to the distribution center leader. He learned that such a large box was used because it was the only box they had that could hold both the piñata and stick that came with it. 

Hughes shared that feedback with the merchandising team that sourced the product. They did some research and discovered they could change the stick for a slightly smaller one that came in two pieces and could be screwed together by the customer. 

This allowed BuySeasons to ship the piñata in a much smaller box. It addressed a source of customer discontent, but it also saved BuySeasons a lot of money on shipping since the size of the box factors into shipping costs.

Hughes shared example after example like this in his presentation. It was really impressive to see how a few points of feedback could translate into cost savings and happier customers. I call this having a customer service canary.


If you attended the conference, what were your biggest takeaways?