Glass Mountains Test – GCS Usability Report

Jay: Welcome everybody to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in social media. I am, as always, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert. Joined as usual by my special Texas friend, he is the Executive Strategist for Sales Force Marketing Cloud. From Austin, Texas, put your hands together, unless you’re driving, […]

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Jay:Welcome everybody to Social Pros, the podcast for real people doing real work in social media. I am, as always, Jay Baer from Convince and Convert. Joined as usual by my special Texas friend, he is the Executive Strategist for Sales Force Marketing Cloud. From Austin, Texas, put your hands together, unless you’re driving, for Mr. Adam Brown.
Adam:Thank you Jay. Yes, if you’re driving keep those hands at 10 and two. This message brought to you by your local auto insurance agent.
Jay:Allstate we do some work for those guys so let’s make it from Allstate.
Adam:From Allstate, you’re in better hands, correct?
Jay:Don’t succumb to mayhem.
Adam:That is one of my favorite TV commercial and pains right now.
Jay:It’s so great, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Adam:Yes, I mean you’ve got the lizard, you got Jake from the red shirt place, but the Allstate and the mayhem, one of my favorite campaigns going right now.
Jay:Was it two years ago where they did the Superbowl commercial where mayhem broke into the people’s house and was selling their stuff on eBay during the game. That was inspired advertising. I usually feel like Superbowl ads-
Adam:Do you know where your mayhem is?
Jay:I usually feel like Superbowl ads are a little overplayed, but that was truly, truly great. Speaking of mayhem, you know who has a job filled with mayhem?
Adam:It is our guest, and one of the things Jay I love about our guest today is truly this organization is one of the pioneers of this entire space that we’ve been talking about for many moons, many years here on Social Pros.
Jay:Yes no kidding, talk about an organization that put a flag in the ground and continues to lead from the front in the area of social media, customer service. Joining us today on the Social Pros podcast, the Executive Director of Digital Care for Comcast, it is Jared Schultheis. Jared thanks so much for being on the show.
Jared:Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Jay:You are in Phili there at the home office. Comcast, of course, has got tentacles all over this great land of ours and powers the television, the internet, the home phone, and the home security of many, many, many millions of Americans and beyond. Tell us what your role is within that ecosystem.
Jared:Sure, so as you mentioned I lead the digital care team. We’re a group of around 150 customer facing employees now who’s job is fairly straightforward. We look to support customers having service issues via social media.
Jay:As Adam mentioned, Comcast and the original @comcastcares Twitter account was one of the very first major corporate forays into social media customer service led by Frank Eliason who was the then kind of social media customer service person at Comcast. Wrote a book about it and is now part of the Brain+Trust Partners consultancy. You guys have come a long way since those early days.
Jared:We have, we are coming up on 10 years now since @comcastcares launched, which is a lifetime I think in the social space.
Adam:It’s basically the entire history of Twitter really.
Jared:The entire history of social space. Frank and just a few people with him, back when this team started, were really visionaries, and what started as a handful of people talking to a couple of thousand customers a year via social has now grown into this bicoastal, bilingual, 24/7, 365 shop that we lead now where we’re going to talk to nearly a million customers this year via social.
Jay:A million customers.
Jared:The growth has been exceptional.
Jay:A million customers interacted with in social in 2017 ladies and gentlemen, that is extraordinary. What channels do you support in the digital care team on the social side?
Jared:We are kind of bread and butter has always been Twitter and Facebook and it kind of continues to be. We’re also heavily involved in our own help and support forums which if we have a chance to talk about I’d love to do so. This year we’re expanding into a few other platforms as well. Reddit, we’re actually already in Reddit a bit but we’re formalizing our presence there, and we’re expanding into Instagram and YouTube this year as well, and a couple other ones are on the radar that we’re thinking about.
Jay:Fascinating, Instagram in particular is really one that you don’t see very often brands spending proactive time in from a care perspective. Do you have or do you anticipate a dedicated ComcastCares Instagram account or is it that if somebody posts a customer service issue on the regular Comcast marketing Instagram account that you sort of swoop in and save the day?
Jared:Plans aren’t entirely finalized for Instagram. We have both of the models you just described exist here at Comcast, so on Facebook we support our marketing and our communications pages. On Twitter we have our own presence as well as supporting the marketing and the communications handles. Both models have worked and continue to work successfully here and I’m not 100% certain how we’re going to roll out Instagram, but it’s going to be one of the two and I’m pretty excited about it. I imagine that Instagram will function for us kind of functionally operationaly largely, at least on the care side largely like Facebook does. As we’ve learned over the years, entrance into a new platform, especially at an organization as large as Comcast, which you talked about earlier, takes some planning and coordination across the multiple teams who have kind of a stake in the social space. That’s what we’re working through and finalizing now.
Jay:How many individualists do you have on the digital care team? I know you’re expanding very rapidly, but what does that team look like?
Jared:We are around 150 people now, but we’re in the middle of hiring a good chunk of folks. We’ll be around 230 come mid-summer this year on the team. Our group is split up into three groups. We’re here in Philadelphia, we have a team in Denver, and a team in Tucson. We have 20, 25-
Jay:Go Wildcats, [air down 00:06:24], Arizona grad right here.
Jared:That’s great, yes we have a very loyal, a few fans out there in Arizona and Arizona fans on our team in Tucson. Tucson’s also the home of our bilingual team. We’re spread out across the country. As the team’s grown one of the things I think I’m most proud of that this team has done is we’ve figured out how to support this team that is spread out across the country, we have a large portion of the team who works out of their house, works from home, and we’re able to do so in a way that keeps the team tight, keeps communications open. While we’re spread out physically and around the clock, it never feels like we’re far away from each other, so it’s one of the things I think we’ve been able to do really well over the last couple of years as we’ve grown so quickly.
Jay:More than 200 full-time folks working in social media customer service, social pres listeners. That is really something.
Adam:That’s amazing.
Jay:Yes isn’t it? Jared do you divide the responsibilities of the digital care team by channel? So somebody is a Facebook rep, or a Twitter rep, or Reddit rep, or do they work horizontally across contact mechanisms?
Jared:That’s a great question and we have used both approaches. Right now and for the last couple years we’ve had folks working horizontally for the most part, especially for our large platforms Twitter and Facebook, so there really is no differentiation at the specialist level. Specialists are what we call the folks on the team are customer facing. We’ve come up with some interesting things from an organizational perspective, how to best manage volume that comes into the team. We have a group of folks who simply triage volume that comes in and they help us sort it and figure out what needs to go where and how we work it, and if there’s something that’s going to be interesting to a group outside of customer service we get eyes on it pretty quickly and get it over to that team through queuing and the tool we use. We have a whole group a folks who really just triage that volume as it comes in and they’re dealing with upwards of 10,000 inbound posts and tweets a day coming through the triage function. Then the engagement function, that’s the bulk of the team who work with customers. They are, as we talked about just now, horizontal so they really support almost all platforms and 95% of the volume or so. The model we’ve set up allows us to really quickly sort through the volume as it comes in, make sure we’re getting the purely care issues and the issues … I’m sorry questions that customers have around products and services and other things that Comcast offers, making sure that we’re queuing those up to respond to as quickly as we can, and then getting the other volume that could be interesting to other folks in the organization to them as quickly as we can. Then lastly after the escalation group we have a team of specialists that handle just the really high complexity stuff that we send to if one of our engagement folks will find themselves working for hours on the same issue. We’re able to get it off to the special group of folks, also within digital care who handle the most complex issues. This model has really evolved over the years. I’ve been with the team for four years now and when I joined I was the 13th employee on the digital care team, so you can see the growth in just four years and this model really would have been impossible at that size. Really fortunate [crosstalk 00:09:47].
Jay:I’m sure at that point everybody was doing triage, and everybody was doing response, and everybody was doing escalation essentially.
Jared:Yes and everyone was doing reporting, and scheduling, and staffing, and group quality, and group management updates, and everything else. Really none of this would have been possible if we hadn’t penned the scale the way we do. We’re really fortunate that the organization has invested so much time and energy into the growth of the digital care team. It’s really allowed us to do some pretty spectacular stuff.
Jay:Why is that support there at Comcast? Is it purely a function of a demand curve that more and more Comcast customers prefer to use social channels when contacting the company either because it’s just their channel preference as a media habits perspective or they feel like they’re going to get a better outcome, or is there a cost advantage to doing it this way or a customer satisfaction or reduction in customer turn ultimately from doing social care? What’s the kind of business case for this kind of expansion?
Jared:I would say that there’s two main factors of it although everything you mentioned is part of the story. Initially it’s simply demand. As you said, more and more customers are looking for alternative ways to contact brands regarding issues. While the phone environment isn’t going to go any time soon, the chat environment isn’t going to go away anytime soon, increasingly we’re seeing customers turn to social or turn to messaging or turn to community for support. Really it is just a demand and supply issue or question on one side. I also think we’re able to provide some … What differentiates us in social is that we’re able to provide realtime, raw feedback from our customers when things are happening in the environment. Whether it has to do with customers are commenting around a broadcast that is on one of our stations in some location, or customers are commenting on a new product launch, we’re constantly launching new products at Comcast which is great. It gives us the ability to track kind of realtime and provide feedback to our partners in engineering, our partners in technology, our partners in product, our partners communication and marketing. The access to that information and access to what customers are saying in a realtime environment, making it available, providing not just data but actionable information to these folks is one of the things that sets us apart and I believe has helped secure some of that support from our leadership teams.
Jay:You mentioned that you interact with the marketing team, especially on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, places where you may not have dedicated accounts. Are you all using the same software then, is the social media marketing team and the digital care team using the same tools to manage and engage with customers in those social channels, or do you have your software package and the marketing folks have a different software package?
Jared:Right now we are using separate platforms. There are a lot of tools in this space and there’s a lot of tools that have different functionality. I kind of break it up into three big categories. You have your listening platforms, you have your engagement platforms, and you have your publishing platforms. There are absolutely some tools out there that do all three, I think we’ve each found our niche and our comfort zone with different products. We have deployed three across the organization. That said, we work really closely together across all the functions engaged in social, and while we are in different tools at times there is integration in a number of points, especially operationally where we keep in close contact regarding what’s going on so we’re able to avoid collisions. At this point we are utilizing [crosstalk 00:13:37].
Jay:That’s great, that integration is so important. We see that to be a real challenge for a lot of organizations when they’re working in separate tools is just making sure those handoffs are smooth and that the tracking works too. That when you hand it off you can actually say did this get handled, did this get closed out, those kind of things.
Jay:I’m sure, given the work that you do and the kind of company that Comcast is, that you get a lot of similar questions. There’s probably a lot of repeats and certainly if you have an outage or something like that that affects a lot of customers you get a number of people asking the same questions, etc. Do you script out common responses for the digital care team or do you sort of have the go to, all right guys, this call is for answer C, everybody use answer C. How much leeway do you give digital care reps to put their own spin on their interactions with customers on Twitter, Facebook, and beyond?
Jared:That’s a great question and the answer to that kind of predates me, it goes all the way back to Frank and part of the team back then who started the group. One of their core objectives when they launched the handle and something we’ve continued until now, the digital care team, is to humanize the brand. As part of that we’ve never scripted, never used scripts across the team with what our specialists would say to customers. They have pretty broad leeway in how they communicate with customers. We have, over the years, developed and created a fairly strong program that helps us put the guardrails up and help folks stay in bounds and provide them with the necessary tools to get the right answers for customers. When they’re interacting with customers, even if they’re getting the same question day in and day out and you’re right we do get a lot of that, they really have broad leeway in how they communicate it with customers. It’s just like a conversation like the one we’re having now. They develop and they progress on their own, they each take on a life of their own and we certainly don’t want to prescribe what our specialists are saying to customers. As long as we’re providing accurate information and we’re doing so in a professional manner.
Adam:I think that’s a great point Jared. Authenticity and genuineness of the message is so critical. It’s great to have you on the show Jared Schultheis, Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast. It’s a treat for Jay and myself because we don’t typically have somebody who has 150, 200 social care people on their team. There are a couple questions I would love to hear your thoughts on as it relates to scale. I know at Sales Force Marketing Cloud, when I’m out talking to customers about our product Social Studio, one of the things we initially thought was that we’d see some sort of shift to social, that we would see a reduction in the number of call center phone calls, emails, and other mediums as people shifted to social. One of the things we’ve actually found, and one of the things I would love to hear your confirmation or non-confirmation on, is that that hasn’t really happened. We’ve seen volumes stay the same but the different types of questions that people answer and ask on phone are very different than the ones on social. I’m curious with the almost a million interactions that you say you’re going to have this year, have you begun to see a reduction in phone and email or is it all kind of staying the same in terms of overall volumes?
Jared:That’s a great question and it’s a tricky one to answer, and I imagine it’s tricky for most people. Along with the shifting of volume in the increasing number of customers that are going to social to talk to brands. Companies have also deployed recently many solutions for customers to solve problems on their own, and so you’re seeing everyone has multiple apps, every brand has multiple apps in which you can go and you can research an issue on your own and try to solve it. At the same time we’re seeing customers turning to social for answers, we’re seeing customers moving from phone to chat or channel shifting, we’re also seeing an overall decrease in customers reaching out to brands because they’re able to solve things more on their own, or even better, devices are able to solve issues on their own before the customer even has a problem or we can proactively reach out to customers before they have a problem. I think we’re seeing net, and just speaking for myself, but we’re seeing net volumes of customer service inquiries coming down as just products have matured and gotten stronger and self-service opportunities and capabilities have gotten stronger. That said I think we have seen a shift, although the volumes aren’t quite comparable at least here at Comcast to say it’s meaningful from one channel to another, from phone and chat to social, although I think we’re going to see more significant increase in volumes coming through digital channels in the coming years and we’re going to start to be able to talk about measurable impacts and measurable channel shift. I think we see a world or I envision a world where digital channels … We didn’t really get a chance to talk about it but where we see more customers reaching out privately and there’s going to be some merge down the road of customers using application like Facebook Messenger and something like chat on your brand website and it’s interchangeable to the customer, they don’t really see them differently. I think we’re going to see things like that start to happen in the coming years, although it’s hard to predict. I think digital communications we’re definitely going to start to see real meaningful shift from phone to written support from customers because it puts it on their time.
Adam:Exactly, and the benefit to your organization is that you can also have technicians that are able, or specialists in your parlance to be able to handle kind of multiple conversations at the same time so the efficiency there gets so much higher. You mentioned something that I think excites me, I know it excites Jay and that is really seeing platforms like Facebook Messenger truly even become a platform upon which you have embedded apps, whether it’s you want to get support from Comcast, you want to order an Uber, or you want to check on the status of your pizza. Being able to do all that inside of the Facebook application, so I think that’s a really interesting kind of thing I think that’s short or medium term down the pike.
Jared:I’m starting to think about ways in which I provide service or customer service support via Alexa, I think that’s coming soon too.
Adam:Amazon truly has a powerhouse there.
Jay:Although I am a Comcast, Xfinity customer and the voice activated remote inside the Xfinity is really, really good. It’s remarkably good, it’s sort of Alexa inside the Comcast environment, although obviously it only does Comcast things. I can’t order pants from my Comcast remote yet, but in theory right it’s just an audio input device, that bridge could happen someday which would be amazing.
Jared:Absolutely yes.
Adam:I mean Jay you mentioned that it’s funny, I thought the exact same thing. I was home for the holidays and my folks have Comcast. They live in Tennessee, I live in Austin, Texas where we have somebody else sadly. I remarked at my mom’s new Comcast remote control, the UI of Xfinity and all that and I said, “Okay, this is pretty impressive.” I can imagine a day where that becomes actually another support fixture if it hasn’t already. Jared you mentioned one of the things, as you kind of broke down the structure of your team, there being a sort team and when you’re dealing with a million interactions and I can only imagine how many 10s of millions of actual posts and tweets there are embedded in about a million interactions, you need a sort team. My question is how much automation takes place there? How are you using the automation of looking for keywords or trying to identify customers versus non-customers versus the actual hand curation of those posts as they come in and get delegated to a specialist or somebody else in your organization?
Jared:Yes that’s a great question, one we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about over the years and one I’ve explained to a lot of people when we created and deployed this triage, this sorting team. We deploy kind of a mixture of automation and eyes on glass when it comes to our inbound volume, so I think there’s absolutely a place for automation and kind of automatic routing of volume that comes in and whether it’s keyword or hashtag or what handle the customer used or if we know who the person is coming in, there’s absolutely things we can do with routing. What we’ve found, however, is that while we can get most of the way there with automatic routing, we can’t get entirely there with automatic routing and specifically when there’s some event going on. The creation and deployment of a team that helps us sort and tag things as they come in allows us to A) identify potentially what the customer would like some assistance with upfront at all, so helps us identify trends much quicker than if we’re relying strictly on keyword searches. Because obviously keyword routing you need to know what you’re looking for and this tool doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and new issues pop up all the time. If we want to really be realtime and be able to identify and act as an early warning system for the organization we found that just putting real people in there and looking at it and using their best judgment when they see things come in and helping us identify trends has been extremely valuable to the organization. It’s really a combination of the both and I think together it works really well. I don’t think either one could do it on it’s own.
Adam:Talk a little bit about that early warning system because that’s a term that’s near and dear to my heart and I think it’s sometimes an under-represented benefit to, not just social customer care but just actionable social listening. How do you Jared, kind of as you sit there as Executive Director of Digital Care, share all the insights from these millions or 10s of millions of things people are saying about your product, about competing products, how are you sharing that information with, whether it’s product R&D for the new Xfinity remote, to programming, to the folks on the technology side, even down to the people who manage the agents and the technicians that come to your house?
Jared:Yes, that is a fabulous question and that’s one that I am always thinking about and I’m always kind of changing my approach. There’s a balance between push and pull information and there are some folks in the organization are really eager to hear about what customers are saying about their products and there are others who are not clamoring for that information. It’s a fine balance between identifying actionable information and then offering up our abilities and saying, “Listen, we’d love to help you out, what do you want to know about” to various folks. Through a combination of realtime dashboards which our technology and engineering teams are very interested in, realtime dashboards which our national resource optimization team, the folks who kind of look at the phones and where are phone volume is going are very interested in and we work really closely with those groups so that’s kind of the realtime stuff. Then deeper dives into specific topics which can come from any source in the organization. I’ve done deep dives for the legal team, for various product teams, for various technology teams, I’ve worked with the HR function, and a number of different other functions in the organization. There’s deep analytics which you spend a decent amount of time on and it’s looking backwards, there’s realtime analysis and it’s like planning for the unplannable when you’re just always eyes on glass and you’re creating dashboards and communicating with people in realtime, and then there’s event planning, future planning like we’re getting ready for the Superbowl this weekend. Identifying all the people who will be interested in what will be happening in the social space around the Superbowl and how it will impact Comcast and our customers and those who are working to make sure services are available to customers. Different asks from different people have different solutions and I think we just really have to be flexible. One of the things with providing information for folks is not everyone digests information the same way, so I think we really have to be cognizant of what people are asking for and what they’re interested in, and really make sure that we are adapting our style when it comes to reporting out on what’s going on in the social space in a way that’s digestible by our audience, whoever that audience happens to be. I think that’s one of the ways we stay really relevant.
Adam:Jared I think that’s an extremely important point. I know kind of in the early days when we were doing social customer care at Dell we began to truly give everybody the thud factor, huge deck that had here’s all the things that we’ve learned from our customers in social listening, but then we began to realize we need to be a heck of a lot more prescriptive. We need to give the R&D teams specifically just the conversations that related to a new product design and to the finance team what people were saying about Dell credit, etc., etc. It sounds like that is one of the ways I think you begin to start showing that demonstrable ROI is by making the data that you share more prescriptive and more precise. I want to ask one more ROI question before I hand it off to Jay, and that is obviously what you’re doing is there’s a cost avoidance play to it and typically in social customer care cost avoidance is a very key metric. All the things that you do with ComcastCares certainly does some transformational things in terms of brand lift, all the insights that we were just talking about you bringing in, that has tremendous value to a company. It’s equivalent to some of the primary or secondary research that companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on each and every year with focus groups or bringing in research groups. How do you begin to quantify all the ROIs that your organization brings Comcast?
Jared:That is a great question and one I think about often, especially as we continue to grow as a team as you can imagine. One that’s on my mind and so as you said up front, first of all there’s just a straight transactional analysis you can do for the team and looking at costs for us compared to costs for other channels, which is fairly traditional way to look at it. I think you mentioned secondarily though there’s a lot of other ways we add value to the organization and there’s a lot of other ways in which we can measure our success. Some of it is absolutely financial, some of it is features that were implemented because of insights we’ve given to other teams, some of it is kind of were we able to more quickly respond to an issue happening somewhere in our environment because we were able to alert an engineering or technology team quickly? I think there’s a whole different ways we can manage to measure and define our contribution to the organization, some are financial, some are not. The ones that are not financial are obviously harder to quantify, but for those of us in the space I think you can put together a really good story that’s based on whether it’s hard financials or it’s numbers, just metrics saying here are the number of people we’re able to reach. A great example is community, so I can talk a lot about community and the number of customers who can come in and find answers and never really need to pick up the phone and call us because they’re able to go to the community and find what they’re looking for. There’s are real value to both our customers providing a service they really need and to the organization when they do that. There’s a number of different ways you can cut it and it’s one of the things I like about this channel. We talk about digital care and social care, it’s just another service channel but there’s so much more to it and there’s so many other ways to measure our contributions to the organization.
Jay:Jared I want to ask you a question about your triage program. Often times when Adam and I work with corporate clients, he at Sales Force and us at Convince and Convert on expanding social media customer service, you get this well we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the resources, we can’t answer everybody so we’re going to have to pick and choose which customers we interact with. Then you get into the conversation about well if we’re going to pick and choose which customers to interact with, which may or may not be a good decision to begin with, but then how do you do that? Is it by acuteness of their problem? Some people will say that they’re going to triage based on number of social followers or a “clout score” or something along those lines. What do you believe is the appropriate way to pick and choose if in fact you have to pick and choose?
Jared:Absolutely I think everyone has to pick and choose. I could likely put another 500 people to work tomorrow across various social platforms if I was able to to support customers, so there is a certain … And what I’m talking about is adding additional platforms that we don’t support right now. I certainly don’t think that there is a choice to be made where you prioritize the apparent severity of one customer’s question versus another or the influence of one customer over another. I think a customer is a customer and a customer has an issue and you work to solve it as quickly as you can. One of the ways in which we have traditionally ring fenced our team is we support customers that reach out to us using our handle or on our Facebook page directly or using a hashtag with Comcast Xfinity in it. That’s one way in which customers can directly get to us and-
Adam:Sort of a direct mention versus an indirect mention?
Jared:Absolutely direct versus indirect.
Jared:One of the goals we set for this year is to expand further into the indirect side. Beyond that though I think prioritizing by issue or segmenting or sorting by for purposes of what you respond to and what you don’t respond to by severity of issue or by who the customer is I think is absolutely the wrong approach on this channel. I mean could you imagine doing that in a traditional contact center? You really couldn’t prioritize so it’s based on the severity of the call, who they call, when they’re calling in. One thing I’d like to mention about the triage folks, and maybe an alternate way to think about it for those out there who come from traditional operations environments like I do, is social doesn’t have an IVR up front, there’s nothing in there that says are you calling about a billing issue, or a repair issue, or are you calling to make a payment. We don’t [crosstalk 00:32:39].
Adam:You get the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, you get them all.
Jared:That’s right and there’s no way to know exactly who they are or what they’re writing about when they come in. What the triage function allows us to do is do that first pass and first sorting of it, and it’s done not in an effort to figure out what we respond to and what we don’t respond to, but it’s done in an effort to organize inbound volume in a way that allows us to more quickly get back to customers via these channels and to really operationally meet their expectations. I think of our triage team as our IVR.
Jay:Yes, it’s like a human IVR, that’s a really interesting way of thinking about it. You’ve run one of the worlds largest social media customer service teams, there’s no question about that. You have probably hired or overseen the hiring of as many social media customer care representatives as perhaps anybody working in the space today. What makes a great digital care rep? What personal characteristics or qualities or beliefs or skills makes somebody really good at this? I think it’s an important conversation because you may not need to hire 100 people this year but you’re probably going to have to hire somebody. Everybody listening is going to have to continue to staff for digital care whether they want to or not because customers will simply eventually demand that they be interacted with there, and as you know I wrote a whole book about that concept and I talked about it everyday. We’re faced with all these people trying to staff these roles, but I’m not sure they’re really clear on what they’re looking for. I think you are uniquely qualified to answer that question.
Jared:That’s something we talk about a lot like what is the profile of the person we want on the team and the person on the team who speaks with customers. One thing we found in common across the organization and all of our specialists who speak with customers everyday is that there’s an eagerness to help, there’s a confidence with the folks that there’s an understanding that they won’t know everything and they’re going to need to ask for help at times and reach out to their peers, or in telecustomer I don’t know at this moment, give me a second and I’m going to research this for you. Having that confidence to both confidently say what you do know and confidently admit when you need help is important. I think people have to have fun on this team. I think you need a little but of hustle in the group, and I think having experience speaking with customers in some capacity whether you waited tables or you did a retail job at some point I think is a big plus. I think being comfortable speaking to customers in a way, as I mentioned earlier, helps humanize the brand is really important. You really have to have your own voice in this space to be successful.
Jay:Yes that experience working with customers, that sense of empathy is incredibly important I find. It’s got to be really exciting to be doing what you’re doing right now. You are in the middle of the maelstrom Jared.
Jared:It is, we’re having a blast.
Jay:You really are. You know who else is in the middle of the maelstrom? Our friends at Yext, one of the sponsors of the Social Pros podcast. Yext is a leader in mobile marketing solutions, and look, as we all know, you’re rolling around, you’re in a different city, maybe you’re traveling, or maybe you’re just downtown looking for something to do. You’re going to pull out your phone and figure out what’s going on, where you can go, and search and location are so intertwined now because as we use our mobile devices to find what to do, where to go, when things are open, what the specials are, search and location become the same thing. Yext has a brand new white paper all about that. All about how search and location are becoming one. If you’ve got a business that has retail locations, so you have a door that customers walk through, I want you to download this white paper as soon as we’re done here with this great episode of Social Pros. Go to That’s and learn more about this key topic from our friends at Yext. The show this week is also brought to you by our friends at Sales Force Marketing Cloud who employ Mr. Adam Brown. They have-
Adam:Thank you.
Jay:Yes well done. They have a really great ebook as well that I want you to download. Here’s where you go to get it. Go to bitly/salesforceads, bitly/salesforceads. It’s called the future of ads and it’s an amazing research project that talks about global ad span, the click through rates, target response rates for Facebook ads, for Google ads, for Twitter ads and more. A lot of times what should my Facebook ad CTR be? Well this report tells you what those ranges are, fantastic. They also tell you how to increase your social media ad spend returns using CRM data, how to do some really nifty lookalike and re-engagement campaigns, great use cases and stories in there. If you’re doing paid social got to get this. It’s totally free, it’s super slick, you’re going to learn a lot, I did, bitly/salesforceads. The show this week is brought to you, as always, by Convince and Convert Media. The media division of my company. Producers not only of Social Pros but also the Content Pros podcast, the Influence Pros podcast, The Business of Story, The Convince and Convert podcast, and returning for 2017, The Jay Today Show which is my twice weekly short forum video show. Three to four minutes twice a week, you can subscribe to that at Adam, back to you.
Adam:Thank you Jay, and Jared it is so great to have you on the show. I mean as an Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast, as we’ve said, you manage and lead one of the largest, if not the largest, social customer care organization in the country, if not the world. What an impressive achievement and the work that you’re doing there is nothing short of spectacular. What I wanted to find out though and you eluded to this in one of your answers, you said that you kind of had an operations background. I’m curious personally, but I know our listeners are also curious how you got to this role because if you’re anything like Jay and I and you’re anywhere over the age of seven this whole career path and this job title didn’t even exist a couple of years ago.
Jared:No it didn’t. As we talked about earlier I am lucky that there were some pretty insightful and visionary folks leading the way here at Comcast in the social space. I come from an operations environment. I worked in the financial industry prior to joining Comcast about four years ago. My last company I spent eight years at Barclays. My last role there was leading the customer care team, so mainly inbound phones. My transition from banking into cable was less traumatic than I imagined which was good. I think customer service is really a transferable skill which is great. Transition into social was a little bit more rough, but one of the things that the organization needed when I came in was they were starting to think about ways in which we could really scale this function. I think the writing was on the wall, I think the demand was there for social support, and I was able to bring some background and operations and how to kind of deploy the support infrastructure to really support the team that scales. There was a lot of really, really good talent already here on the social team, so combined with their expertise and my background in operations we were really able to build out a really strong social care organization. The success it’s really been tremendous because everyone on the team has really been passionate about what we’ve been doing since the team started. We still have a few folks on the team who’ve been here since the very beginning and they’re as passionate now as they were when the team started all those years ago.
Adam:From where you sit and you have a very interesting vantage point, as it relates to the social media from a marketing and communications standpoint, we’re talking about Facebook Live, we’re talking about streaming video, video and that type of content seems to be really interesting. I’m curious Jared to hear from your standpoint, from a social customer care standpoint what you see on the other side of the mountain. Are we going to see the same thing begin to happen in customer care where someone will take their smartphone and they’ll fire up a Facebook Live or they’ll Facetime you or something like that so they can crawl back behind the TV to the cable box and say, “Okay I’ve got this coax plugged in here and this plugged into my TV, what is wrong?” Are we going to see that, have we already seen that and what do you have your R&D team and the digital care team at Comcast thinking about or working on?
Jared:Yes, I think we are already seeing that in a number of places you see customers doing that. We have some capabilities along those lines now and we’re looking at more. It’s interesting, I talked a little bit about how you see digital channels are going to emerge in the coming years. I think we’re going to see different channels. Digital meaning written channels. I think we’re going to see a point where video, voice, and written channels start to merge and it’s going to become easily transferrable from one to another. We talk about channel shift now, customers who used to call now tweet us. We’re going to see customers tweeting and calling us at the same time, customers hitting us literally at the same time written, video, and voice. I think it’s coming sooner rather than later. I don’t have any specific solutions I’d like to share now but you’re absolutely right that it’s coming, we’re seeing it in a number of places both here at Comcast, some stuff that’s in the works and outside the organization. You’re absolutely right I think this is a trend that is going to continue and it’s going to pick up pace a bit.
Adam:That integration between online and offline customer service is going to have to really be working at that point because if people are going to be calling and emailing and tweeting and SnapChatting all at the same time holy cow, that creates four records in the database, that’s going to be a hot mess. Luckily smart software companies are already working on that, but we’re going to have to come a long way on the integration front pretty quickly.
Jared:Yes and customers, and rightfully so, they call an organization and they expect you to know that you emailed yesterday or you tweeted three days ago.
Adam:It’s not an unreasonable expectation, it really isn’t. It’s just what they don’t understand is that the software doesn’t really talk to each other in many cases yet, but we’re working on it, we’re working on it.
Jared:Yes and we are working aggressively on it and have some great solutions are already in place to provide that integration and that kind of full 360 view of the customer experience with us, both from an inbound perspective and stuff that we’ve done proactively with that. Having that 360 view of the customer relationship is going to ease our transition into that environment you were talking about a moment ago where we start to see customers with their phone, crawling behind their TV, pointing it at the back of the box, and talking to us at the same time asking us how do I fix this? Having all that integrated at the same time is going to happen and it’s coming quickly.
Jay:Jared we’re going to ask you the two questions that we ask every guest here at the Social Pros podcast, now in season six of this show. First one is what one tip would you give somebody looking to expand their digital care team?
Jared:One tip, one tip’s hard, I’ll try though. Experiment, this is a channel that is in a lot of ways very similar to other service channels but I think there’s a lot you could do in this space that’s unique to inbound support channels. I would absolutely spend time experimenting and thinking about how you can add value that is unique to your function.
Jay:I love it, I love that idea of adding value and not just routinely answering customer questions, but doing that and a lot more. Last question for Mr. Jared Schultheis who is the Executive Director of Digital Care at Comcast, thank you so much for your time. If you could do a Skype call with any living person who would it be and why?
Jared:I have a dear friend from elementary school who amazingly does not use social media, has dropped off the grid completely and I have been unable to find him and I will not mention him here, I imagine he’s concerned with privacy so I can’t find him. I would love to track down this friend of mine from when I was a child and have a nice chat, I think it’d be great.
Jay:Love that answer, that’s spectacular. He probably just listens to Social Pros, I mean that’s all he does and he doesn’t do Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, he just listens to Social Pros and that’s it and that’s enough.
Jared:That’s probably what it is.
Adam:Or he has his friend transfer it to cassette tape.
Jay:Real to reel is what it is, nobody even understand the reference other than a couple of us. Jared thanks so much for being on this show, we really appreciate it. Congratulations on the great work that you are doing at Comcast. We’ll check in with you again next year and see when you’re up to 15,000 reps how things are going.
Jared:You got it and thanks again for having me. Really had fun, appreciate it.
Jay:It was our pleasure. On behalf of Adam Brown I am Jay Baer from Convince and Convert. This my friend has been Social Pros and we will catch you next week.

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Episode Transcript

Randy: Hey Alexa. Anna: Oh, Randy, no. This is Anna. Randy: Oh, right, right. You caught on really quickly there, because we didn't rehearse that at all and- Anna: We didn't. I knew where you're going. Randy: Either I was going to call you Alexa or Siri. I couldn't decide what to do. But, for those listening, if I set off your smart device, I apologize. We'll throw a Google right now. We'll throw an Echo. Will throw pretty much every device. Anna: [inaudible 00:00:25]. Randy: Exactly. People are just hitting "stop," please stop playing. But, don't stop playing this podcast. This is going to be a fun one. We dig in with Tom Webster to the ideas of, how is the smart device changing our homes? How is it changing our behaviors? How is it changing the way we look for content? If you don't know Tom, he's at Edison Research, where he's vice president of strategy and marketing, and they do really cool research. They're pretty much powering elections on a day-to-day basis, and somehow in between, they figure out how these smart devices work out. Out of a ton of fun. You, Anna. Anna: Yeah, no, this is amazing. And Tom has some amazing insights and also delivers it with some fantastic humor in there as well. This episode, I think for me, was really fun too because, Randy, we talked about this a little bit on the show, but basically there's been this whole push in our industry to be like, "Get ready for voice search," but then it's just sort of like question mark, "How do we do that?" Everybody's like, "We know we need to go this direction, we know we need to be prepared for smart speakers." But Tom actually helps us get there. Randy: Yeah. What I found interesting, and this was in the second half of the podcast, you have to listen through to hear this part, was that there's two different ways that we're interacting with the smart device. One is interactive, and one is, "Give me the quick answer. I just want the result." Right? And it's [inaudible 00:01:53] this opportunity. I often just think of that first, sorry, that latter one, which is, "Tell me how long it takes to boil eggs," as I gave the example in the podcast or, "Tell me how long it's going to take me to get to work right now." Very quick access to information. But, the light that I got from Tom, and I'm trying to think what apps we could build at Uberflip for this is, what if we could deliver value by giving people the opportunity to go through an interactive assessment through these devices? Anna: I like that you're already thinking that, because all I keep thinking is about how we pretty much should just blame voice search and smart speakers and Dora the Explorer and teaching us to talk to things. I just keep making that dotted line back to Dora the Explorer. Randy: Dora is scary. My kids used to watch Dora on YouTube, but YouTube would recommend all this other content after another and obviously [inaudible 00:02:50] the backpacker something like that. And you're just like, "How did that happen? How did it get so dark so quickly?" And I guess it's just matter of time until we get there with voice and someone on the other line is telling us some scary things, but for now we're going to hear some great things. I think you got to kick it off with Tom. So let's roll this week of the Conex Podcast. Anna: Hey, Tom. Thank you so much for being here with us today. I should actually say, "Thank you for being with us, again." You were on the podcast a couple of years ago back when it was Content Pros, so thank you for coming back and chatting with us. Tom Webster: Yeah, I hope I can eventually get a five-timer jacket, like the ones they give out on SNL. Anna: Yeah, I was just thinking that now. Yeah, you can be the Steve Martin of Content Experience Show. Tom Webster: Let's hope. Yeah, I get my five-timer jacket. My content five-timer jacket [inaudible 00:03:42] now for that. Anna: Nice. For those who are just tuning in, who maybe didn't catch the last episode that you were on, would you mind giving everybody just a little bit about you? Tom Webster: Sure. I'm senior vice president at Edison Research, which is a probably best known in the US as the sole providers of exit polling data to the national election pool, which is all the news networks basically that you see election and primary and caucus coverage on, all of that exit poll data comes from us. It's a job that's really demanding. And so, obviously, they don't let me touch that part of it, but I do a lot of custom research in the tech space. I do a lot in the audio space. Certainly I've done a lot in podcasting, and now we're doing a lot of research on another aspect of the Audio Pie, the smart speaker universe. We've done a ... I know we're going to talk today about this, but we've done studies for a number of companies sort of privately, and we've got public data that we're going to talk about today that we've done in partnership with NPR. The audio space is pretty hot right now, actually. A lot of things are up. Podcasting consumption is way up, audio books are way up. All of that falls under my purview at Edison. Anna: Nice. Which is funny because I feel like marketers for the longest time in general haven't touched audio, and 2017 and 2018 was "The year of video." But, let's just jump right into it, because the smart audio report that you conducted with NPR has some fascinating research just about the rise of audio. Even as you just alluded to. I mean, it's exploding, it's continued to grow and there's a lot of fascinating research. What exactly, again, even though you're on the fifth sort of iteration of the smart audio report, what exactly is it, and what are you trying to measure? Tom Webster: Right now, when we started the smart audio report, we had this theory that the smart speaker as it were, the Alexa devices, the Google Home and even the Apple HomePod and things like that, they actually might change behavior. I mean, we don't do the ultimate food processors study for instance, the ultimate fidget spinners study. We don't think those change behavior. But we wondered what would happen when these devices got into people's homes, and people got used to talking to computers, how that would change human behavior ultimately, but certainly how would it change media consumption. So we started down this path with our partners at NPR. They obviously have a keen interest in audio and the audio space and our hypotheses were correct. They do in fact change behavior when they start to get into people's lives and people start to understand what they can do. The rich insights that we've been able to pull out, both through quantitative research and also ethnography, have been really eye opening. Besides the survey work that we've done, we actually moved in with, I think at this point, 45 or 50 different families. Legally moved in, I should say. And basically watched them interact with these devices, how they use them, how they address them, what kinds of things they asked, to be able to see in situ how people incorporate them into their day-to-day routine was super illuminating. It's a really fascinating body of work. Randy: Okay. I got to jump in, I had a question all cued up and then you told me that you moved into people's houses, I got to understand that more. Was this a sleepover situation? Because I use my smart speaker a lot at night and there's probably a lot you could learn from that. How in the house were you? Tom Webster: For several hours, some of them in the morning, some of them mid day, some of them midnight, and all over the country too. We got to see some things that an initial survey might not have uncovered. One of the things that our first iteration of both the survey and the qualitative work pulled out was this interesting relationship with parents and children. So many parents bought them for their kids, or at least in part, so that their kids could interact with them. You see the kids using them, the kids using them to play games, the kids asking them for content, they used to have to ask dad to play "Frozen" on dad's Spotify, on his laptop, and now they can ask for it themselves over and over and over and over. And it's an interesting thing. I know, our friend Mitch Joel often talked or talked in the past about, when you have a young child in the house and they get a TV, their natural instinct is to go up and try and pinch it and zoom it like it was an iPad. Now I think that children of the smart speaker generation will begin to expect that you talk to devices, that you talk to computers. And that's just how you operate them. Indeed I think going forward this technology is going to get baked into a lot of things, so the kids aren't wrong. Randy: No, absolutely. It's funny. My kids are 11, nine and seven and few years ago at Uberflip we gave everyone holiday gifts from my team and we do that every year. We gave everyone a Sonos. It wasn't the smart Sonos where you speak to it. I know they have that now with things built in, but year one, when I brought that home, my kids loved it, right? But the next year we gave everyone Google Homes and now we kid that the Sonosses are just very expensive paperweights in the house because my kids have zero interest in taking the time to type something out. Tom Webster: Well, my friends at Sonos are not going to love hearing that, I have to say. But- Randy: [crosstalk 00:09:21] and I'm sure we can change the kids. Anna: We can balance it. I use mine every day, I love it. It's not a paperweight in our house. Randy: [crosstalk 00:09:31] I have Sonos in my walls. I have Sonos at, what's it called? The play bar? Is that the one that [crosstalk 00:09:37]? Tom Webster: Yeah, yeah. The play bar. Randy: Great product. Great product. Let me ask you, I'm curious. I took a look at the smart audio report, which I just find fascinating because this thing is taking off so quickly. And one of the things in there that you highlight is the new product adoption curve. We've all seen these before, starting off at innovator and progressing through from adopter to majority and eventually laggard. Maybe you can contrast for us and I am going to put you on the spot. The takeoff of this versus the fidget spinner, because you brought the fidget spinner into this. So, we got to see, how fast is this compared to the fidget spinner? Tom Webster: Yeah, I think it's faster than the fidget spinner. I think the fidget spinner was popular in pockets. I can't say, Randy, that our body of research on fidget spinning is as deep as our body of research on smart speakers. But, it's a pretty rapid adoption curve. The first trend that we tracked from two years ago to last year was from 7% of the US population owning one to 16%. And that's faster than smartphone penetration went up. That's faster than social media went up. That's faster than podcasting went up. It was, in fact that year-over-year trend was the steepest adoption curve we've seen for a piece of consumer technology. The interesting thing from last year to this year is that on the one hand you might be tempted to think that it is slowed, because it's gone from 16 to 21. It's still grown at significant percentage year over year, not as much as it did in the first year that we tracked. But, what's gone bananas are the number of devices that people own. Now, the majority of people who own a smart speaker, the majority own more than one. You're more likely to own more than one than just one. So, the number of devices in people's homes, year over year, has more than doubled. And that's putting computing into rooms of the house now where computing did not used to happen. It's putting a computer in your bathroom, for bathroom computing. It's putting a computer in your bedroom, it's putting a computer in your kitchen. And that's changing media consumption. That's changing a lot of things. Anna: It's crazy too the stat that you have in the report about how, in the 2018 holiday season alone, 8% of people in the US got a smart speaker. I mean, that's just insane that it's even now just becoming a gift that people give people. We're giving people computers now. Tom Webster: Yeah. Because they work on multiple levels. I mean, we do have research in this report that shows that there's some FOMO that people have, or at least anxiety, that they're not using the devices to their fullest capacity. Most people will agree that they don't know everything that they can do. But that doesn't matter, because you can also just sit it on a shelf and say, "Play some music." That's fine for most people, right? That's actually the key to getting these devices in mainstream homes, is the fact that they do mainstream things. But as people do get them into their homes, they start to do more and more things and in the first couple of iterations of the smart audio report, we track the number of different skills that people might do, you attract dozens and dozens of them. And the average smart speaker owner does at least eight things a day, eight regular different things with their smart speaker. It's a litany of the mundane, it's everything from laundry timers and kitchen timers, to just getting the weather and the traffic. But all of that adds up. And, as they start to take little things off our hands, we start to trust them more and more and we start to use them more and more. Randy: Tom, I want to take us to break in a minute here, but before I do, can you give us, just name off, what are some of those eight things that people are using it for other than music and maybe an alarm in the morning? Tom Webster: Yeah, music is certainly one, the biggest one. Music's the primary reason why people buy these devices in many cases, but we also took a look at the top indexing activities by day part. And I want to explain, these are not the top activities by day part, because music is number one across the day. But if you look at the activities and skills that punch above their weight, that over index against their average by each day part, as I mentioned, it's a litany of the mundane. In the morning, the top indexing activities, are traffic, weather and news. Indeed, we see a lot of substitutive behavior here with smart speakers, where people are using them in the mornings in place of that background television watching, putting on one of the network television news programs in the morning. They're instead going to their smart speakers for this basic information. Across the day, people use them to listen to music, to add to a shopping list, add to a to-do list, little reminders when their hands are full. As we get around dinnertime, two of the top three indexing activities are either, find a restaurant or a business, or to order food, which makes a lot of sense. Then finally, in the evening, it's a lot of winding down activities, controlling devices, light timers, reading an audio book, short stories and so on. What all of this sort of wrapped up tells you, is that people are using these, not as a gadget, "Look at this cool thing that it can do," but as just a constant companion to do the everyday things in their life. That's the key to, I think, their increased adoption and why people are buying more and more of them to put in more and more rooms of the house. Randy: I'm absolutely loving this episode, and I think you just set up the second half perfectly, because all marketers are sitting there being like, "Oh my God, what do I have to do to adapt to this?" We'll dig into that right after this break, right back with Tom Webster. Jay Baer: Hi Friends. This is Jay Baer from Convince and Convert reminding you that this show, The Conex Show Podcast, is brought to you by Uberflip, the number one content experience platform. Do you ever wonder how content experience affects your marketing results? Well, you can find out in the first ever content experience report where Uberflip uncovers eight data science-backed insights to boost your content engagement and your conversions. It's a killer report and you do not want to miss it. Get your free copy right now at That's And the show is also brought to you by our team at Convince and Convert Consulting. If you've got a terrific content marketing program but you want to take it to the very next level, we can help. Convince and Convert works with the worlds most iconic brands to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing and word-of-mouth marketing. Find us at Anna: Hey everybody, welcome back. We are here with Tom Webster and we've been talking about the rise of smart speakers and what this means as far as usage goes. But Tom, one of the things that I really want to talk to you about is what this means for marketers. Because it seems like, especially for me coming from the content marketing industry, there's been this huge push to be like, "Everybody prepare for voice search, everybody get ready. People are talking, they're searching differently. It's different than organic search, so go prepare." But there doesn't seem to be a plan to do so or even sort of indication on next steps. What does, first, this actually mean for marketers? And second, how can we actually prepare to do this the right way? Tom Webster: Well, as soon as I first had an inkling of what smart speakers and voice assistant technology would be able to do, I had the same thought as many people in our business. How can we ruin this with marketing? Anna: All right. Exactly. Tom Webster: And I'm here to tell you it's very easy to do. One of the things that I mentioned in the first segment was how people begin to trust these devices. That's word number one that a marketer needs to put at the top of their list. And that is trust, because as soon as that trust is violated for any reason, then these devices will go into a junk drawer. It is not escaped millions and millions of people in this country and in others, the fact that these things are always listening. So, there has to be immense value and trust in order to overcome that. There are two ways to violate that trust. There's the sort of obvious ways which are, it exposes your financial information or something like that. But then there's also, if it's intrusive with things like advertising where it's not welcome, and I know that both Amazon and Google and certainly Apple too are all very cognizant of this. They're not going to be running ads to sponsor your asking for the time. But skills I think are an extraordinarily important part of what marketers can think about and what they can address, because what does a skill do? A number of things that I've already mentioned that people use these devices for, they're to help them. They're to help them when their hands are full, they're to help them with common everyday tasks. I think if marketers place trust as number one, and helpfulness as 1B maybe, and use that as their filter, then things will naturally suggest themselves. They really do have to be helpful. They really do have to be trustworthy. To me, the ultimate audio app of all time is decades old, decades. It predates smart speakers by years. And that's the Butterball Turkey Hotline, and we've all called it at some point. When I've had my turkey in the oven for five hours at 200 degrees, and I wonder what's wrong, there's a helpful human on the other end of the line that's going to help me save my turkey, or at least tell me to throw it out before I kill my family. That's the way I think we have to think about smart speaker skills. Is it helpful, and is it trustworthy? And especially when you think about all the things that they do that are not in the voice of the brand, they're in the voice of Alexa, they're in the voice of Google, and you're working in those parameters and making that consistent. So, it's absolutely a challenge. I think we have to put our worst instincts behind us and actually help people. Anna: It's so funny that you mentioned that, because you're right. I mean, people have been conducting experiments with Facebook, where they've had random conversations about cat food when they don't have a cat and then all of a sudden somehow they get cat food ads. I mean, there's always this underlying suspicion of this amazing piece of technology that is "free", and what is it actually, what is the true cost of actually this technology? I love your message of just trust, because there are no such things as really ads right now with voice search. Google Home isn't going to be serving you, it's 10:30 in the morning brought to you by Purina. Also, your point about being genuinely helpful, like the Butterball Hotline. I mean, I think if people just continue and marketers just continue to go this way, we can use these things in ways that actually reach our audiences in meaningful ways, and it develops even more trust with us and that trust transfers. Tom Webster: And I think there's a real opportunity for interactivity as well. I mean, a lot of the content that content marketers produce in video form or in text form, I mean, it is not interactive. Maybe there are things you can click on, but there's no user-driven path here. And this is starting to be possible and starting to happen more and more with smart speakers. Two of the examples that really come to mind here, Purina has a breed finder which you answer some questions and it tells you what your perfect breed is, and that's brought to you by Purina. It's not overly laden with the advertisements, but you certainly know it's a Purina thing and it's fun. Then there's also the Zyrtec allergy cast, is one of my favorites, which will tell you in excruciating detail why you shouldn't go outside. I've learned about rhizomes and channel blasts and all kinds of words I didn't even know. I basically haven't left my apartment in nearly six months because of Zyrtec allergy casts telling you that, and there's no over advertising for Zyrtec on there. But it is a thing that does what it says on the tin. It's a thing that tells you how bad is it going to be out there. And, thanks Zyrtec for telling me that. Again, it's that helpfulness, that trustworthiness. It's not ruined with advertising, but I'm aware of who's doing it and I'm grateful for those services. Another great, this is one of the best pieces of content I can think of is, it's a podcast but it works great on smart speakers called Chompers, and it is exactly as long as children should brush their teeth for. It's basically a guided toothbrushing with a fun game or activity. And if you've got a five-year old or a six-year old or a 30-year old, whatever, who you struggle with getting them to brush their teeth correctly, you throw on Chompers every day and they get something fun to think about. And they also get told, "Now switch to the top left." It's a super piece of content marketing and it's helpful. Anna: I want that now, just for me. Tom Webster: I've been brushing all along. I mean, now with  [crosstalk 00:22:43] Chompers, yeah. I've really come to relearn oral hygiene. Randy: It's a lot of fun all of this stuff. It reminds me a lot, and we had a podcast [00:22:52] where we ended up talking a little bit about that Bandersnatch movie, right? The one with- Anna: Yeah, yeah. Randy: [inaudible 00:22:58] adventure. And I think that's a lot of these examples you're talking about. We want that interactive ability to choose our next step, choose our destination as to where we're going. And I think that's what a lot of these games, if you will, I don't mean to minimize them, but they're ultimately games that we can build content into that create this interactive opportunity. But I want to switch for a moment to something where there's elements of these speakers that are less interactive. They're very results driven. Right? I've kidded sometimes that we used to say, "The best place to hide something on Google was page two of the results." And when I went there, now it's result two, because if I asked my smart speaker how to make poached eggs, they're just telling me. They're not asking me, "Which of the following five results?" I just get immediate answers. What would you say is really the implication here for marketers from a search perspective, where we don't play the game, if you will? Tom Webster: Well, the degree of difficulty here is ramped up quite a bit, because it's not enough to have top-of-mind awareness. You need top-of-mind preference. Printer toner could evolve to be 6 million times better than it is today, and I'll never know, because I just keep asking, "Alexa, reorder my toner." It doesn't really matter, that part of it has been commodified. And you are right that it is now result one. And one of the things that all of the leading voice assistant technology manufacturers are really keen on, are failed requests. Studying failed requests and making sure that people aren't getting frustrated with the devices. Right now, people aren't really getting frustrated with the devices, because even though there are failed requests, people aren't expecting great things out of these. I think most people are surprised. In fact, I know most people are amazed by what they can do rather than frustrated by what they don't, or what they get wrong. But having that strong brand, that strong top-of-mind preference, is something you have to do off the device in order for people to find you on the device. But again, I think that's where skills really come into play, because if you're just trying to be search result number one, if someone's looking for a given product, that's one thing. But, if you can actually design and develop a skill that makes you the thing that people ask for help about, that's a strong play. So, again, skills are really, really important there, and maintaining that trust and maintaining that helpfulness. Anna: Nice. I feel like there's no better way to end a podcast session than to drop the mic like that. Tom, we could spend all day talking about this report and talking about smart speakers and what this means for the future of marketing and just tech within our lives in general. But I'm sure people at some point would actually love to read this report. So, where can they actually go download the report that we've been talking about this entire time? Tom Webster: All right, now I'm going to bring it all home with the content marketing aspect of this, right? And this is sort of the meta play. You can download this at and this is research as content marketing. It's been downloaded gazillions of times and NPR, and obviously we as well, get associated with it and as long as we keep doing it right and it keeps being accepted as currency, it's a piece of content marketing. Is a piece of content marketing for both of us. So yeah, Anna: Nice. And then what else do you have coming up, just so people can stay tuned and take a look on the horizon? Any other big reports coming up? Tom Webster: Yeah, I mean, since this is a pod cast, as the kids call it, we do a lot of research in all things audio, not just smart speakers, but also podcasts and online media and things like Pandora and Spotify and even audio books. Our flagship study, our annual omnibus currency data on all of that, is a study that we put out every year in partnership with Triton Digital called The Infinite Dial. And The Infinite Dial 2019 comes out on March 6th and that's going to have as really eyeopening, surprising new data on things like podcasting of which this is one. Anna: How very meta. Fantastic. Okay, everybody, go check out the report, the smart speaker report. Go check out that flagship report. It's always going to be amazing and interesting. Tom, I loved talking to you today. I love digging through the reports and actually getting to dig into more detail with you about it. Before we let you go though, we would love to chat with you about a little bit of a full personal side of Tom. We got to know you on the professional side. We've got talked about a lot of data, a lot of statistics, but Randy has some fun questions queued up for you. So, if you wouldn't mind sticking around- Tom Webster: This better be fun. Anna: It will be. Oh, it always is. Tom Webster: This better be fun, Randy. Anna: Randy always says random questions, so I'm sure it'll be a blast. All right, everybody. Stick around and we're going to [inaudible 00:28:09] chat a little bit more with Tom right after this. Randy: All right, Tom, thanks for sticking around. We want to get to know, what is Tom doing when there's people moving into his house watching from afar in a very creepy way? I'll first share with you, my kids have all of a sudden found this new game on their smart speakers called Akinator. You guys played this? Tom Webster: No. Anna: No. Tom Webster: No. Randy: It's basically 20 questions where Akinator, which is this genie guesses the famous person that you've chosen in your mind. It's like, "Is it a male, is a female? Is this person over this age?" Before you know it, it magically knows the answer. Pretty cool. What is one of those fun or silly or stupid things that you were personally using your smart speaker for that none of us would have been aware of? Tom Webster: Wow, that's a good one. Something I'm using the smart speaker for that is fun or random that you're personally unaware of. Do you know, it's a really small thing. We do the same three things every morning. We are such creatures of habit. And the first thing that we do when we walk into our kitchen is say, "Alexa, good morning." And every day there's something goofy. I mean, Alexa has a very finely tuned, goofy sense of humor that they do a great job with there. We always start with, "Good morning." I don't know how much fun that is, but there's always something goofy or funny or stupid. We start with good morning, second we listen to Up First and then third we put on some music after that. Try "Alexa, good morning" sometimes and see what that has to say. By the way, obviously, I've had to change the name of our device to not Alexa because I do so much of this. Randy: That's hilarious. Anna: That's true, otherwise it would just be going off in the background every- Tom Webster: Constantly. Yeah, it took me months to figure that out by the way, or at least to get off my duff and do it. I was constantly like, "Shut up, Alexa, shut up." Randy: Is as great as [inaudible 00:30:15] I'm sure you've seen it, Tom. Tom Webster: Yes, yes. Randy: The older individuals don't know how to pronounce Alexa, it's the Alexa that can adapt to various games. Like Alexia, Alexis. It is priceless. Tom Webster: I'm going to set mine off now sort of on purpose, but we changed ours to "Echo" and what we have learned accidentally over these many months of owning it, is it will respond to "Gecko." It will respond to "Prosecco." Any number of ways you can accidentally ruin your day. Randy: That's amazing. I'll leave you both with this one funny, this literally happened this past week. I found out, which I didn't know that these smart speakers can actually act as telephones. I don't even know if it's proper to call it a telephone, but they can make outgoing calls. It finally got me to the point where it was like, "I am cutting the cord, I'm cutting my home phone line. I am getting rid of it." And the funny thing that went on from there, because I didn't want to give up a phone number, I wanted it to park it somewhere. I went through this whole app to do so and then I get to the point where they're like, "Okay, to verify we need to call you." And I realized I don't actually have a functioning home phone to accept the call. I had to call my dad to bring over a phone from his house, so that I could just accept the call so I could cut the cord and move fully to a smart home. Anyways- Tom Webster: #first world problems. Randy: Exactly, exactly. It's definitely a different world we're living in. It's an exciting one. Tom, thanks so much for educating us on the trend and we have to think about as marketers. I hope everyone's enjoyed this podcast on behalf of Anna, Convince and Convert, I'm Randy from Uberflip. We've had Tom Webster join us, and this has been a delight. Until next time, thank you so much for tuning in to the Conex Podcast.  
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