AI is Coming

Welcome to the April issue of Martellus Matters. One of the questions we hear being asked in boardrooms across companies concerns what impact AI will have and how best to prepare for it. We tapped a leading professor and author in the field as well as our own Martellus Expert for their practical advice on what steps businesses should take now

AI is Coming… 
Are You Ready?

Build the Right Strategy

AI is coming. Whether that is exciting, anxiety-provoking, challenging or all three, virtually every company is investing to get ready for the onslaught of artificial intelligence. Without having the right strategy in place first, though, businesses risk losing millions of dollars and umpteen hours of time. A smarter approach is to take a step back to ensure that you are foundationally prepared for machine learning before taking action. Consider what investing in AI will mean to your organization, identify when AI can help to achieve specific business outcomes and set clear, measurable goals. Ask yourself: Are you fundamentally structured for the coming digital experience, and if not, what people and processes do you need to get into position?

The Three-Step Plan 

Begin by cleaning up all your data sources so that you have a single view of your consumer. To accomplish that you must be sure that your terminology is tagged online and off to provide an accurate report on every action that takes place from forms to downloads. This process will enable you to constantly gather information that can be used as predictive analytics. When you identify behavior across touchpoints, you will be better able to create an analytics-based strategy. Once you have the right tagging and analytics, think about the best experience to pilot with personalization: Will it help your bottom line? Will you learn more about your interactions with consumers?  Be sure that you have clarity around use cases, including quantifiable measures. AI isn’t just coming, it’s here. And it can be transformative – if you do it right.

The Role of Data: What You Need to Do Now

We asked Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, NYU Stern School of Business professor, and best-selling author of The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream. for her advice on pitfalls to avoid.

“AI isn’t a magic wand. I once heard an executive brag about the number of machine learning patents his company had. ‘Great,’ I told him, ‘but what are you planning to do with them?’ Patents alone won’t create new business verticals or profit centers. To take advantage of this next era of computing, look for narrowly-focused business applications using data your company already has access to. Make sure that your data is clean, free of bias, and that you have consent to share it. It’s vitally important that every organization review its data retention and use policies now.  Finally, make sure you’re developing your stable of quality data scientists and engineers who represent the rich diversity of your customer base. It will still take a few years for AI applications to propagate, but that doesn’t mean you can wait a few years to start recruiting and training your workforce.”

Martellus in Action: How Management Can Lead

Martellus Expert Damaris de los Santos specializes in digital product management, web usability and user experience. Here, she gives her tips on how management can lead the way to successful usage of AI.

1. Leaders must foster a culture of experimentation. Trying out pilot programs – and being willing to learn from them – can help you avoid larger and more costly disasters.

2. Implement a uniform set of best practices that grows out of your pilot programs and is informed by outside experts who create clear guidelines.

3. Start by automating an internal process that will free up employees to spend more time on other things that can improve the customer experience.

Don’t Answer the Call: How Fewer Contacts Increases Customer Satisfaction

Re-Thinking Call Center Investment   

The conventional wisdom is that investing in call centers increases customer satisfaction. In some circumstances, that’s true.  Most of the time, though, reducing costs actually results in increasing customer satisfaction. While this may seem counter-intuitive, most customers don’t want to call anyone these days and are annoyed when they have to take that extra step. When you eliminate complexity and make sure your FAQ’s and query capabilities across platforms are continually updated, customers are better able to self-serve so they no longer have to call when they don’t want to.  Once you remove unnecessary calls, you can reserve your small, lean call centers for “moments of truth” – those rare times in a customer’s life when only a human will do.

The Problem Starts Upstream:  Work the Intersection

In most call centers, anywhere between 15-30% of calls can be eliminated.  Start by understanding why people call and why they call back.  Make sure your value proposition is easily understood, with no tricky terminology or policies surrounding fulfillment, coupons or renewals. Within the call center, first-contact resolution should the key metric across channels; unit cost is meaningless if it requires three “units” (calls) to solve an issue. An outside expert who has experience across disciplines – marketing and operations, for example – but is not beholden to any one group can help accelerate progress by identifying cross-functional solutions that internal leaders with an understanding of only their own discipline cannot see. Go upstream from the call center and work at the intersection of organizational boundaries – that is the surest way to drive satisfaction up and costs down.

How Much is That Call Worth: How to Tailor Service Levels

A  new study, co-authored by Professors Philipp Afèche and Opher Baron at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Mojtaba Araghi at Wilfrid Laurier University, links customers’ future behavior to the service quality they experience at call centers and to the operational decisions to achieve that service. Here, Professor Baron top lines their findings:

“Companies can get more bang for their buck by better coordinating marketing decisions that drive customers to call centers with operational decisions about handling customers once they get there. Companies need to have a more complete picture of the lifetime value of a customer and the value of a call. We urge companies to answer important questions such as: How does a particular customer behave if they don’t get served? What’s the chance that they will leave the company, or spend more, depending on the service quality they’ve received? The answers provide companies important guidelines on how to tailor different service levels for different types of customers.”

Martellus in Action: Are You Setting the Right Goals?

Martellus Expert Beth Lacey spent 25 years at American Express where she designed and deployed exceptional services that improved the customer experience across a broad range of channels. Here, she shares her advice on optimizing call centers.

1. Make first-contact resolution everyone’s goal. This includes customer-facing employees as well as process managers, policy and procedure developers and other “behind the scenes” players.

2. Use handling time as a coaching tool for managing effective conversations.  Hard targets will only force call-backs.

3. Hire people who love interacting and helping others.  You can teach the rest.

The Importance of Internal Branding

This month, we examine how internal branding can build brand love, turn your employees into advocates, and boost the bottom line.

While companies spend millions of dollars on external communications, many overlook one of the most important components in establishing brand love and loyalty: Internal branding. Taking the time to ensure that you have a clear, authentic brand message that is tied to your DNA – and that every employee understands and can speak to it – not only increases employee retention and engagement, it creates a higher sense of purpose, which directly impacts the bottom line.  In fact, companies with a shared sense of purpose outperform others by as much as 400%.

Internal branding is especially important when you are launching a new service or pivoting your consumer messaging in order to ensure that all client-facing employees can be true advocates. Everyone in your company, from the C-suite to individual teams, should feel engaged in creating the story. An external adviser who can be threaded throughout the company across silos can make this process friction-free, bringing fresh clarity and ensuring consistency. In the end, the best internal branding doesn’t merely state facts, it engenders beliefs – that is what moves the needle.

Putting It Into Practice: Employees Play a Key Role

We asked Professor Nicholas Ind of Kristiania University College, Oslo and author of the recently published Branding Inside Out; In theory and in Practice for his advice on how to best engage employees in internal branding.

“When it comes to internal branding, managers should work out how the brand can support what it is employees do.  How can it make their working lives better?  How can it help them change their working practices?  How can it help build better relationships with customers and other stakeholders?  This requires clarity about what the core of the brand means, but it also requires the flexibility to allow people to explore and to experiment – to accept some disunity. In the end, living the brand needs a leadership approach that inspires and supports rather than one that seeks to control.”

Martellus in Action: Three Tips on How to Create Effective Internal Branding

Martellus Expert Amy Giddon is a branding expert who has held executive positions at RushCard and American Express, where she led Strategic Planning, Marketing, Business Partnerships and Customer Information Management.  Here, she offers her three tips on effective internal branding.

1. Be clear, consistent and authentic in your messaging. For branding to resonate, it must be true to your brand’s DNA in content and tone. Don’t try to be the flavor of the week.

2. Demonstrate top level commitment.  It is important that the C-suite be visibly involved and give departments the framework to cascade the message. Everyone who touches your brand should understand how the work they do aligns with the brand promise.

3. Give everyone the opportunity to be brand advocates.  Your employees, especially those who are client-facing, can become your greatest evangelists. Ensure that they have avenues of expression on social media by creating a branded site, template, assets, tools and resources.

Celebrating Community…Martellus Partners with Dress for Success

At Martellus, we have been exceptionally lucky to have a team of seasoned Experts working with clients in an expanding number of fields. As leaders, we are committed to paying it forward by helping others find the same sense of fulfillment that we have – this season and throughout the coming years.

Fulfillment, Purpose and Work

We started Martellus three years ago with the belief that every woman deserves to have productive, fulfilling work that fits into her life and provides a sense of purpose, whether that means more flexibility or greater financial freedom. We always knew that a sense of community and mutual support would be – and is – integral to what makes us unique.

Our Commitment to Empowering Women

While Martellus is comprised of women who have been senior executives at some of this country’s largest corporations, we are firmly committed to helping all women at every stage of their lives, in part because we are so grateful to the women who have helped us. With that in mind, we are thrilled to announce that Martellus will donate a portion of our profits each year to Dress for Success to assist in their mission of empowering women to achieve economic independence through a network of support, professional attire and development tools. We can’t think of a better to way to celebrate the power of women helping women – and the world at large.
Happy Holidays!
Rosa and Daria

It’s So Much More Than the Dress

We asked Joi Gordon, Chief Executive Officer of Dress for Success, to share her thoughts on empowering women through work. Under Gordon’s leadership, Dress for Success has expanded from a single brick and mortar location in Manhattan to a global powerhouse in 27 countries, serving over one million women.

“We are so much more than the suit! Fundamentally, our work is about building confidence and equipping women to become economically empowered. Whether a woman is searching for a job or is employed and needs support to help her keep her job and develop critical professional and life skills, we are there. Our continuum of services meets each woman where she is and supports her throughout her career journey—from mock interviews and résumé prep all the way to leadership development and financial education. Our hope is that each woman who walks through our doors moves from surviving to thriving through Dress for Success, and in turn has the opportunity to give back to her family and community. It starts with the suit, and that first glimpse of possibility when you see her confidence build, but the real growth happens as each woman engages and becomes part of the Dress for Success sisterhood.”

Martellus in Action: Join Us

We look forward to deepening our commitment to Dress for Success with everything from clothing drives to mentorship. Should you like to join us, here are three ways. For more details on how to get involved contact your local affiliate.

1: Donate Clothes:  Donate gently used business attire and appropriate accessories or host a Donation Drive of your own

2. Volunteer: Volunteers at local chapters are crucial at every step. Use your skills, meet others in your area and pay it forward

3. Make a contribution: Dress for Success depends on financial donations to ensure that they can continue to grow and help more women succeed

Content Marketing…The New Rules

With traditional marketing channels drying up and consumer attention increasingly fragmented, content marketing is key for brands to reach their core audience. Many, though, are not seeing the success they hope for. One common mistake is confusing content marketing with advertising. The rules of the game are different. Messaging that is consistently too product-focused rather than being entertaining, educational or emotionally moving will fail to engage consumers or lead to conversion. To avoid these pitfalls, it pays to put time and thought into doing strategic foundational work before creating any content.

Creating Content That Gets Results
First, it’s important to understand who your target customer is, what their entertainment needs are, and who they are engaging with. This determines where you can play and what you can talk about. While a portion of any campaign will tout your product, to hold consumers’ interest you must broaden out to include tangential topics that are relevant to them and speak in an authentic voice. This requires strategy and creativity. Assess your internal organization. Do you have the best people in place to accomplish this or do you need outside counsel? With the right team, your content will become the conversation consumers remember.

Reaching Your Consumer: The Biggest Mistake Companies Make
We asked Joanne Tombrakos, professor of Digital Marketing and Social Media at New York University, for her advice to companies launching a content marketing campaign, including the mistakes to avoid. Tombrakos writes regularly for ForbesWoman, Thrive Global and The Huffington Post.

“Many companies know they need content to share on social media but have trouble letting go of traditional push marketing. They tend to talk at their customers instead of to them, forgetting they are trying to connect with other human beings. Today’s customer is very savvy. They know when someone is trying to sell them something and they turn away. Good content that is informative, useful, relevant, sometimes entertaining and may in some way make someone’s life a bit easier is what works. In the end, selling less will actually lead to more success.”

Martellus in Action: 3 Steps for a More Effective Campaign
Martellus Expert Nadina Guglielmetti is a digital and content marketing veteran who has launched and scaled best-in-class online experiences for Fortune 500 companies. Here, she shares the foundational steps necessary for creating content that resonates.

1. Know how you differentiate. Study the competition across all categories. Understand which brands your consumer is paying attention to and why.

2. Provide a value exchange with your customer. Map out an audience profile. Know which channels your audience looks to and what they want. Decide where you can add the most value so they are willing to spend time with your content.

3. Outline your playground. Your content topics should be authentic and tied to your brand DNA and positioning.

The Gig Economy…The Rise of On-Demand Experts

According to a recent study by The Aspen Institute for the Future of Work (done in conjunction with the Markle Foundation, Burson-Marsteller and TIME), 70% of companies surveyed said they believe more businesses will move to an on-demand labor model. While the rapid expansion of the sharing economy is garnering its share of headlines, one of the fastest growing segments is the deployment of highly experienced executives on a project basis.

At Martellus, we believe real change happens when you combine deep subject matter knowledge with hands-on experience and organizational savvy to ensure that decisions are activated. A seasoned executive who concentrates on the ‘how’ as much as the ‘why’ can accelerate performance, warn about potential pitfalls, speed up decision-making, help with fundamentals and become an objective sounding board for leaders. For us, the sharing economy lies in sharing knowledge, know-how and experience.

The Secret to Better Results: Leadership and On-Demand Experts

We asked leading expert Dr. John J. Sumanth, James Farr Fellow at the Organizational Behavior Center for Leadership & Character of Wake Forest University, for his advice on how business leaders can ensure the best results when bringing in outside experts.

“One of the biggest mistakes firms make is assuming that consultants don’t need to be effectively integrated and socialized into the organization’s culture and norms at the outset of a project, since they’re brought in to provide third-party objectivity and insight. However, failing to take time at the beginning to help the external team understand the organization’s culture, where the organizational land mines are, who the informal power players are and what the political landscape looks like can help the consulting team avoid missteps and enhance its credibility when it comes time to making recommendations. Clients who take some time at the beginning of a project to clearly define the organizational playing field for the consulting team will build internal trust and help to set the external experts up for long-term success.”

Martellus in Action: How to Improve Outcomes

Martellus Expert Sherry Weiss has experience as an in-house executive (Citi, and as a sought-after consultant focused on the intersection of marketing and product. Here, she shares her tips on how to enhance results when bringing in a consultant.

1. Make sure your team knows why the consultant is there and what their role is. Taking time to clear the path at the start will speed up results down the road.

2. Think about the incoming expert as an extension of your own team; grant them the same access to information and your own time as the rest of your staff.

3. Reduce potential stress by letting your team know that the expert is there to enhance outcomes and make them more successful, not find fault.