Get ready to navigate the cutting-edge of customer experience (CX) with Jeannie Walters and special co-host Michelle Morris - Associate Director of CX Business Transformation at Verizon Connect. We're peeling back the curtain on Sam's Club's groundbreaking AI-based receipt verification system and exploring the ripple effects on the future of retail. Discover how this innovation could transform the checkout experience, tackle theft, and what it means for customer engagement.
Switching lanes, we delve into the government's customer experience revolution, with a spotlight on the USDA's recent initiatives. Reflect on the executive order that's shaking up agency status quos and the newfound trust blooming between citizens and their government.
This isn't just a conversation about technology; it's about humanizing the automated, ensuring accuracy, and strategically mapping the customer journey to adapt to this new frontier. We're also confronting CX blind spots regarding AI integration and the declining comfort customers feel around these tools.
Tune in for a thought-provoking session that promises to leave you with a fresh perspective on AI's role in our lives and a renewed passion for excellence in customer experience across all sectors.
About Michelle Morris:
Michelle Morris is the Associate Director of CX Transformation at Verizon Connect. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) as well as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSSBB). Michelle is a former board member for the CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association). In previous roles, Michelle developed and led two CX practices in the Professional Services (Crowe) and Printing/Manufacturing (Lexmark) industries and was a CX Design consultant and the Sr. Manager of Contact Center Sales for Verizon Business. Prior to starting her CX adventures, she spent 15 years in Product Development, designing laser printing devices. Michelle holds 6 U.S. Patents for her work as an engineer.
Follow Michelle on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/morrismichellek/.
Experience Investigators Learning Center -- experienceinvestigators.com
Watch the video version of this episode on YouTube -- youtube.com/@jeanniewalters
Hey, hey everyone. It is Jeannie Walters. This is Experience Action Podcast, and it's that monthly episode where we focus on what's happening out in the real world. Today it's all about a CX Pulse Check. Now I am so excited because I have a very special co-host with us today, Michelle Morris from Verizon Connect. Welcome, Michelle, we're so happy that you're here.Michelle Morris:
Hi, Jeannie, I'm so glad to be here.Jeannie Walters:
Well, thank you for joining us! Now, for those of you who don't know, Michelle and I have known each other for, I don't know, 100 years. About. And, been in the industry, we've seen alot of changes over that time and so I think that you know one of the ways that we've always connected is by really looking beyond our own industries right and really making sure that we're just kind of staying on top of what's happening out there, what's setting those customer expectations. So you know what's happening in your world right now and where are you getting inspired right now?Michelle Morris:
Yeah, a great question. I'm so happy to be here with you, and just talking about CX. It's my favorite thing to do. So you know you can't help but get really pumped up at the beginning of the year, right, and thinking about what could the year hold. And not only are we doing that at Verizon Connect and planning for exciting transformation efforts, but everywhere I go I see, I feel like I see a new customer experience. You know innovation in everything we do. So, today, it's snowy here and cold and I'm wishing the innovation was like a magic *snap* let's get rid of the snow out of my driveway. But. Wouldn't that be nice? Yeah, exactly, short of that, I just love to see all the cool innovations going around.Jeannie Walters:
Yeah, for sure, and we have a couple of really fun ones to talk about. And so, when we talk about what's happening in the real world out there, when we are really looking for this different inspiration, one of the things I want to encourage our listeners and, if you're with us on YouTube, our viewers to really think about is that even if this, this, these things that we introduce feel kind of out of reach because not every organization might have the resources or the scale or all of those things, I encourage you to hear about what's happening out there and think about what can you take away from that? Because I think sometimes customer experience leaders get a little stuck. We, you know, don't have the right resources. We might not have the big team. We might be, you know, asked to be what I call number narrators, where you're just reporting on numbers over and over and over instead of really making change, and so I encourage you to think about what is one thing you can take away from this. So we have a couple of things to talk about today, and the first one is from Retail Dive, which is an online publication, and this was announced at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, the huge show in Las Vegas earlier this year and the headline is Sam's Club to Bring AI-Based Receipt Verification to All Stores. Now, Michelle, did you have a chance to look at this? I did. And, I'm curious about what you think about it.Michelle Morris:
Yeah! Well, honestly, this is a real customer issue. I've experienced it myself, and so it's actually pretty exciting just to think that I might be able to take my whole cart and instantly walk out and not to have, to have to wait for someone to check through all my cart.Jeannie Walters:
It's really neat technology because, essentially, what they are doing, they're taking the technology that helps us with things like Scan and Go or those Amazon stores that were in the news several years ago, that are still out there, where people can just go through, pick up what you want and walk out the door, right, because the technology is there to scan it to. There are cameras everywhere and now they can associate it with you as a person in many cases. And so one of the things that if you go through a Sam's Club, which is a big warehouse store essentially, at the end they always have somebody who you have to stop with your cart, they have to review everything you you purchased and they mark your receipt, and they do this, of course, to reduce theft and to reduce things that are just, you know, not scanned properly or things like that. But that is a person right now, that's somebody at the exit. With this technology, we can not only now shop in some cases where we don't interact with anybody, or a cash register where it's just scanned and we walk out, but now that step, that last step of the process, can be handled by AI. And so I think what this tells us is first of all, there are some questions here about how good is this technology? How do you make sure it's good? What do you do if it's inaccurate? So I think there are big questions that hopefully they're thinking through and maybe doing some journey mapping and service blueprinting around, because there are questions that this will raise. And the other thing is how do we leverage now those people who were doing kind of something that can be automated? How do we make sure that they are put into roles where they can really serve the customer? Those more focused customer service roles make, making sure that people are, you know, available. Which is one of the complaints of warehouses, is sometimes you go through there and I know I'm only five, four, right, and so there are things where I'm like that thing on the top shelf, I can't get there and I cannot find anybody to help me. So making them more available would be one of those things. But I mean, what are some of the questions that you have on this and what do you think our listeners and our viewers should think about with this?Michelle Morris:
Yeah, so obviously the accuracy is the biggest thing, right? Can they, you know, be accurate with it? But if they can ensure that, it feels to me like there's an opportunity here to make it fun. Oh, I love that! You know, rather than what's currently going on, which is you know someone who's going through and you know how about you? You know, have some sort of electronic device that says, "woohoo, you made it right, I love that! Or, like score, and maybe you know you actually have, you utilize those people to provide, provide a delightful experience which would be something like you rocked it, good job, right, or something along those lines, right, and then those people could be there for any needs if they wanted to, you know, needed some help, if a customer needed some sort of help. So you know, obviously I think there's two parts to that, right? Can they just make something fun with it and not just be, you know, like you're walking through an airport and getting scanned. Right! Because that's what it somewhat looks like or feels like, and I don't think that's probably what they want to do.Jeannie Walters:
I love the idea of sort of gamifying it too, and it's all related to an app, right? That's how they kind of get payment and all those things. So what could you do to maybe give people points or give people rewards for that, all sorts of things? And then I also think that, thinking about, you know, we don't want this to be just somebody walking through an airport. What can we do here? It goes back to these bigger questions about what is the actual experience we want to provide and how can we make sure that we're taking advantage of all of these somewhat overlooked moments, like, if you don't do that, if you don't provide that moment of delight, people will still walk through your store, but if you do, they're gonna tell people, they're gonna come home and say have you tried that thing where you go through the scanner? It's so cool. I think that's the ultimate goal of what we're trying to do.Michelle Morris:
Yeah, I mean, I think, along with their Walmart brand, with the stickers, giving stickers out to kids, right, you know like, hey, there's certainly something that they could brand. That would make it fun, a fun part of exiting Sam's Club.Jeannie Walters:
Yeah, I love it. All right, Sam's Club. You heard it here first, all right. So the next one is really interesting, I think, because it's not an area that we talk about a lot in customer experience and that's with the government. And for those of you who are listening outside of the United States, and even those of us here in the States, you may not know that in 2021, President Biden actually signed an executive order all around customer experience within government agencies. Essentially, they saw that they were not really delivering any sort of great experience for many citizens across many different agencies and they really challenged these different government entities to think about how can we do this? And so now it's two years in, people are, agencies are starting to kind of explain what they're doing, and this one from the USDA, which is the United States Dairy Association, I hope I said that Department of Agriculture. Department of Agriculture. That's what I meant. Thank, you. See, that's why I'm glad you're here. But the headline is two-year anniversary of customer experience executive order helping farmers, ranchers and forest managers. And the reason this stood out to me was because I was thinking how important is it that we define who our customers are, that we really understand their real lives, and there are very few organizations that I think would have more impact on these folks than the USDA, and part of what they do is provide loans and support and kind of business support for these types of organizations, and I found the interesting part of this that they were really looking for: How do we speed up these things? How do we get them the money that they need? How do we make sure that they get approval on things faster? How can we do it in a way that is more satisfying as far as like, yes, you can get instant approval and things like that? So they made a lot of progress. There's still work to be done, but what did you think about all of this with the angle on government CX?Michelle Morris:
Yeah. So this is very near and dear to my heart because a few years ago I was working primarily in the government sector, delivering Verizon services to the government, and so customer experience in the government nobody ever really thinks about. "Wow, I'm gonna get a great customer experience when I go work with the government in some sort of capacity. So this executive order was really groundbreaking and really was an incredible leadership move to allow all the CX professionals like us to just step up and do what we do. So huge kudos go out to USDA and the other agencies that are really taking this so seriously, and there's many of them. I loved the stories in this, though the one thing that stood out to me was it is very specific. They took very specific touch points, things that a customer is, of the government, is going to try to do, and then improved it. And the one that stood out to me was there's the working with women and children and those that need assistance, and the renewal process for that is very painful and difficult, and I put myself in those shoes and I thought if I've got a baby, I mean I don't need any extra hassle in getting approved, and so what a great way to really think about how do I make that process easier? So very exciting.Jeannie Walters:
I think it's really exciting too, and I think part of what is happening with all of this emphasis on how can you, government agencies, do better for your customers, your citizens, essentially is it's rebuilding trust, right, like there was a lot of broken trust to start, and so this is a long-term play. This is not something that's going to happen overnight, and I bet a lot of customer experience professionals out there can really relate to that, because we want things to happen overnight and then we really have to invest and just put in the time, day after day after day, to see the results that we want sometimes. But I just thought that that was really compelling as well. And again, I think, focusing on, to your point, these very specific touch points. They used feedback from folks. They really made a point to listen and make sure that they were prioritizing what was important to the people that they serve, and they're starting to see some really nice recognition and outcomes from this as well. And, to your point, I think this is going to inspire some other agencies who maybe are a little slower at delivering on that executive order, and I think we're going to start seeing best practices, hopefully shared across the government as well, just like we talk about, right, with big organizations that it needs to be cross-functional. We need to build those coalitions. Hopefully we'll see more of that in the future as well.Michelle Morris:
The other thing, just on this one that I love is they're measuring, and it's not just like I'm gonna put something in place and hope for the best. They're measuring whether or not they're making a successful improvement in the experience, so measurement is so important for us to actually know whether we've done anything or not. So it's great, super excited.Jeannie Walters:
I love that you brought that up, because one of the things we always talk about here is you have to know what success is in order to go for it, and part of that is figuring out: What will you measure? How do you know if you're successful? And just keep on that, because it's way too easy for people to kind of act like CX is a magic wand and we'll just talk about it and sprinkle some fairy dust and magical things will happen. But if you're defining, and the way that they did it was really looking at what are we hearing, what's important to our customers, how can we prioritize the right things and how do we make sure that we're successful at that, and that's I mean, it's a great playbook for anybody really. So it is really really exciting and I can't wait to see what happens in the next year. And then the last thing to talk about. It reminds me of things we've talked about in the past, and that's this gap between what leaders believe and what customers believe. So there are stats from way back that they've been updated and reported, but there's always been this discrepancy between a leader of an organization will say "of course we deliver great customer experiences, right, Of course we're superior at this and then you pull their customers and their customers are like, "nope, thumbs down. This is not working for me, and that's because it is hard to see the customer's perspective. It is hard to walk in their shoes as we talk about all of those things, because we have roles and responsibilities in our organization that we have to focus on. But the new gap is about AI. It's about what everybody thinks about AI and how they are looking at this gap between brands and consumers, and this was some research done by LivePerson. They have a State of Customer Conversations 2024 report and they describe this as a clear divide between business leaders and their customers on topics of AI adoption, enthusiasm and education. And what really stood out to me here was this idea that actually the anxiety, the level of comfort with AI tools. Customers are getting less comfortable than they were a year ago, and so that makes me think. Is it because the expectations were set wrong? Is it because of the experiences that they had? Like what is going on, where people are becoming more fearful, more anxious and just less comfortable with these AI tools? So I'm curious. You know you're in a field that I'm sure is looking at this very carefully. So what are you seeing and what did you think about this?Michelle Morris:
Yeah, AI is actually really important to us at Verizon Connect, because everything we're focusing on in the future is being innovative, and artificial intelligence is a lot of the way to get there. And yet you have to be accurate with it or you create disappointment. You actually create a negative experience, right? So for customer experience professionals, we don't wanna create a negative experience and put something out there. Yet we wanna try new technology, and so I thought this gap was really interesting as well. But I also thought towards the end of the article. Not only is there a gap between what they, you know, what customers or consumers think about AI, but there's also starting to make some demands on "If you're going to give me AI, then I want it to be useful for me. Help me make it easier to buy something, help me do these things. So what that says to me is that consumers are becoming more and more savvy about what the possibilities are of AI, and so, you know, I liken all of this to many, many years ago I don't know, Jeannie, forever ago. It feels like when we said what's this GPS thing? I don't trust that. You know, give me my map. I've been reading a map forever." Right? And so then we had a GPS and somebody you know would have one year, like wow, and then it would say, recalculating, recalculating. You're like okay, this stuff it doesn't know what the heck it's talking about, right? Well, that you know, fast forward, however many years now, and I couldn't tell you the last time I actually had a map in the car, right, because I do trust the GPS and they've worked out a lot of the kinks, and you know, I do know that there's multiple choices of different things that I can can utilize to feel like I'm comfortable with the technology. I think that's what's going to happen with AI over time, and we're all getting smarter in the technology space, so it is going to take time. I feel like we've been talking about AI for so long now, but it is better if we look back at where it was five years ago the AI capabilities within contact centers or in any of the types of tools that we use as customer experience professionals. They are better.Jeannie Walters:
Yeah, I agree, I agree, and I think the other interesting part of this article was that really there is this optimism about what it will do eventually. I think there were some generational differences, but essentially everybody said, "yeah, I think it's going to make my life better, yeah, I think it's going to help me, as a customer, have a better experience. So, while they're kind of complaining and saying they're anxious about it, we also have this optimism of they're seeing where it could go, I think, and that's exciting. The one thing I will say is that this highlights again kind of the I don't know what the right word is even like maybe overestimation of the power of these things from the leadership, who, you know, they have these huge ideas about what can happen, but in order to get there, to your point, we have to go through the learning phase with the GPS, we have to improve the technology as we go and iterate, and so I think part of this is coming back to like, what can we do for customers today? Can we set better expectations? Can we give them options? Because I think that's, they didn't come out and say this, but it felt like the complaints I'm hearing from customers are I don't want to talk to a bot. I don't want to talk to a bot because then you're stuck there and if you feel kind of trapped by that and you don't have the option to go a different channel where they still know you and recognize you, that creates a lot of frustration. But I think a lot of people are having experiences with bots that they don't even know anymore, like they're personalized experience, they're relevant, they're quick, they are convenient and they're just moving on with their day and it doesn't really stop them. So there's just so much around this topic, but I think, asking leaders to really think about what can we do to ease that anxiety over this with your customers and how can you paint that picture for what's in the future, because people are excited about that. So there's a lot to unpack. I mean, we're going to be talking about AI forever and it's really I think in the last 18 months it's taken off in all these new ways because everyday people suddenly had access to it and understood what it was capable of, right, and that's that kind of changed the playing field in so many, so many different ways. But I think a lot of this and whenever we talk about these timely things, I always come back to, some of this, we have to go back to some of the basics, like how do we set better expectations with customers? How do we make sure that strategy is leading technology and not the other way around? How do we define success? And if we can do that and we can innovate, like these ideas, if we can provide that seamless shopping experience, it almost feels like wrong when you think about that. Here at the United Center, where the Bulls and the Blackhawks play, my husband went there for a game with our son and they showed me all the lines of people standing in line for the food vendors and there was a little place where it said walk on in and walk on out and they had the technology there. So you scanned your phone and then walked in and he said nobody was going through it. Everybody was scared of it because there wasn't enough education for people, there wasn't enough comfort. So I think as we roll out these things, like those receipt scanning bots or the AI scanners, we might need a person there for a while explaining it and giving them comfort and saying it's OK, you can walk out, you're good, until people get more comfortable with it.Michelle Morris:
Agree, I mean, the first time I experienced the grab and go was from an Amazon location. I mean, I thought I was stealing something. I mean it feels like it right, you're just walking in and you walk out and you're like OK, I feel like I just took something, but, yeah, the education around it is good and I think that's the opportunity. Like with Sam's Club, they're like make it a game, have them, cheer them on and help them realize this is OK to use this kind of technology. So I agree, yeah, lots of training that goes into it.Jeannie Walters:
Definitely, definitely. Well, Michelle, I'm so glad that you were able to join us today. Is there anything else you want to leave with our viewers and our listeners?Michelle Morris:
I don't think so, Jeannie. This is always fun. Bring me back, let's talk again. I will. About fun things like this.Jeannie Walters:
I know it really gets your wheels turning, I think, to see what else is out there which is exciting. So thank you so much for being here and we will bring you back. So I'm going to hold you to that, so don't you worry. Well, thank you everybody for being here with me at Experience Action, this special episode of CX Pulse Check. As you know, you can ask me anything. You can leave me a voicemail at askjeannie. vip and our typical episodes, I answer one question every single time. So, please, we want to hear from you, I want to hear what you are looking for, and we'll continue to bring in amazing co-hosts like Michelle today. Thank you so much for being here and we will talk next week.