Voxpro – powered by TELUS International caught up with Marlene Summers, Vice President of Customer Support Services and Community at subscription management platform Zuora, to discuss the subscription economy, the art of effortless experience and delivering exceptional CX at scale.
Could you give us some background on Zuora and what it does?
Zuora started with the idea that the world of business was moving to a subscription-based model. That meant people were going to be interested in not just buying one product, but subscribing to them as a service. For that to work, you need to have billing and other types of systems that recognise how subscriptions are different than one-time charges. That’s where Zuora comes in – we create a cloud-based software platform on a subscription basis that enables any company in any industry to successfully launch, manage, and transform into a subscription business.
Many companies that started with us – like Zendesk, DocuSign, Box, SurveyMonkey – have gone on to have very successful IPOs. These are companies that sell software as usage-based, monthly, quarterly and annual subscriptions.
But the subscription economy is not just a software story. Zuora is working with customers like Briggs & Stratton, Toyota, Kia Motors, Penske Media, Ricoh and Bloomberg. Additionally, Zuora is now behind the connected car initiatives of seven of the top ten auto manufacturers in the world and is working with 20 major newspaper publishing groups, including News Corp and Nikkei’s Financial Times.
“From smart floors to porta potties, we’re seeing even the most unlikely industries adopt subscriptions.”
Any particular industries really embracing the subscription-based model?
As we evolved as a business, there was a real need for media and entertainment companies to transform the way they were providing content. They were moving away from selling physical products such as newspapers to selling their media offerings through subscription. We worked with major publishers like The Financial Times, The Guardian and The Boston Globe who, at the time, realised they were losing significant amounts of business. They had to combine their traditional offering with an online digital experience that could cross multiple devices.
While we’re working with companies within all verticals, the media and publishing industries are certainly ones that have had to embrace the subscription model and paywall concept at an early stage.
What trends are you currently seeing in the subscription economy?
From smart floors to porta potties, we’re seeing even the most unlikely industries adopt subscriptions. From an industry perspective, the manufacturing sector is booming due to the rise of the Internet of Things in the subscription economy. And it’s a global phenomenon! We’re seeing this in Japan with customers like Toshiba and Komatsu, and in Europe with customers like Enel and Peugeot.
The challenge with these types of IoT-enabled services becoming subscription-based however, lies with keeping track of your customer through their journey. Because the physical entity that you are offering is going to change owners, it’s about trying to capture that whole customer journey through its various layers of complexity and then tying it into customer experience and monetising it. You are trying to figure out who they are, how to reach them and how to ensure they stay connected to your product and improve it over time.
“Delivering CX at scale involves getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”
At our upcoming CX Summit in June, you’ll be speaking about delivering great digital CX at scale. Could you fill us in on how you achieve this?
For us, delivering great digital CX at scale is about developing a whole ecosystem of people who have an interest in the long-term vision of the subscription economy. We use a community platform as a place of engagement because it’s the only way to have as many conversations as possible and to capture them. These single interactions generally take place in a reactive ticket mode but, ever increasingly, happen online.
You see this now in the consumer service space. You’re not going to call up Apple when you see an error on your iPhone. The first thing you are going to do is search. You’re going to see if someone else is talking about it. Your last resort is to go to the company because it’s going to be the slowest option. Delivering CX at scale involves getting the right information to the right people at the right time – building platforms and online communities that support your customers.
Effortless experience forms the overall theme of the CX Summit. In your opinion, what does effortless experience look like?
With lots of applications and platforms, B2B enterprise software included, there’s a feeling that processes are often more difficult than they need to be, and that makes people not enjoy using them. Effortless experience, for me, is achieved by thought leaders capturing the experience of their existing customers and taking those learnings to improve standards. It’s about looking for customer experience feedback and identifying elements in the customer journey that are unnecessarily hard, and trying to make improvements so that the experience becomes as close to effortless as possible.
Any companies you’d associate with great effortless experience?
DocuSign, which is used for electronic writing, really stands out for me. Electronic signatures seem like a simple need, but DocuSign are the leaders in making it really easy. I know it’s DocuSign I’m using, but I think most people don’t need to know that it’s DocuSign. Its service is absolutely effortless!
Finally, what one brand do you love to engage with as a customer?
I love a lot of subscription-based brands – I couldn’t live without them! However, my favourite is a company called Clear, which is a security business. Through its membership, Clear’s service enables you to skip queues at a number of airports and sports arenas. Whether it’s for improving your standard of travel, or simply helping you feel more important, it’s a fantastic service! We’re even installing Clear at our Subscribed conference at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis in June, to get subscribers to the front of the line.
Marlene Summers was a speaker at the Effortless Customer Experience Summit, that took place in San Francisco on June 27th 2019. Organised by Voxpro – powered by TELUS International and its parent company TELUS International, the event brought together experts in the field of customer experience from major companies such as Google, Bird, Patreon and Wix to discuss ways to reduce customer effort, how to deliver great digital CX at scale and much more besides. If you like the sound of that why not check out our e-book on ‘The Art Of Effortless Experience’
Enjoy this post? Check out our interview with Maritza Dominguez of Patreon who explains how the platform gains the trust of users without compromising on effort.