About Tiffani Bova
Tiffani Bova is the growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce and the author of the Wall Street Journal and bestselling book GROWTH IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business.
Bova was recently named to Thinkers50’s Radar Class of 2019 and was Thinker of the Month in December 2018. She has appeared on MSNBC and Yahoo Finance, among others, and was featured in the January 2019 issue of Rotman Management Magazine’s Disruption Issue.
She has also contributed to publications including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Huffington Post, and is a frequent guest on Wharton Business Radio and a variety of industry-leading podcasts.
As host of What’s Next! with Tiffani Bova, one of the top 100 business and marketing podcasts on iTunes and top sales podcast of 2018 and 2019 according to Top Sales Magazine, she has interviewed guests from Arianna Huffington and Tom Peters to Dan Pink.
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Find about more on Tiffani Bova on her website: tiffanibova.com
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Mary Drumond: (00:42) Joining us today for our season four premiere is Tiffani Bova. Tiffany is the growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce and the author of the Wall Street Journal best selling book, Growth IQ. She hosts the What’s Next podcast named one of the top 100 business and sales podcasts of 2018 and 2019. She has also delivered over 500 keynote presentations to more than 400,000 people on six continents. Tiffani Bova has contributed to publications on HBR, Forbes, entrepreneur HuffPost, and is a frequent guest on the Wharton business radio. It’s an honor to have you on the show today, Tiffani.
Tiffani Bova: (01:21)Hi. Thank you for having me.
MD: (01:23) I’m so glad to be here. I’ve actually been trying to get you on for so long, so this is a big moment for me. I’m a fan.
TB: (01:29) Well thank you. Thanks for having me. Thanks for reaching out and asking.
MD: (01:32) Well in 2018 you wrote a book called Growth IQ and it’s been a bestseller, right? From the Wall Street Journal from several other places. It went into the best selling business books. I mean it’s been quite successful, hasn’t it?
TB: (01:48) It has been. You know, it’s really been super exciting and humbling and cathartic and all of the above. You know, as the book has been out in the market since August of last year and now it’s just starting to make its way around the world. So it’s, it’s really super exciting.
MD: (02:02) And aside from having the book, you’re also a keynote speaker and you’ve got a podcast, right?
TB: (02:07) I do. I have a podcast called What’s Next with Tiffani Bova. It’s every other Thursday on, you know, the normal podcast listening services. And that’s been a lot of fun as well. And it gives me the opportunity just like this, right? To have fun conversations with some interesting people. So that’s, that’s been really great as well.
MD: (02:26) And you also have a day job.
TB: (02:27) Um, I do have a day job. I do have a day job. I am the Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. I have been now for about three and a half years. And so this has just been a fantastic time for me to come back towards the technology provider side and get closer to the customer and understanding sort of the challenges they’re facing as well as all the opportunities they have in front of them.
MD: (02:48) No, that’s great. And I mean, how wonderful that your company supports this venture of yours and really allows you to get out there and speak to people and get your message across.
TB: (03:00) Absolutely. I mean, it is sort of a dream job. I’m very fortunate.
MD: (03:02) Well, getting into the book a little bit, I read it. Our readers did not. Um, so, well maybe some of them have not. So for those who haven’t yet picked up this fantastic book and read it, can you just give sort of a rundown of what you’re trying to get across and what you’re trying to accomplish with this book?
TB: (03:17) Yeah, it’s really a culmination of two things. One, it is the fact that I was a practitioner. I ran global sales, marketing and customer service organizations for almost 15 years. And then I spent a decade at Gartner as a research fellow. Uh, really my sort of area of coverage was go to market transformation as well as indirect channel strategies. And I was part of the team that was really beginning to cover digital marketing and customer experience as an area we were focusing on no, maybe six or seven years ago now. And so it was really bringing those two things together. My practitioning experience as well as my advising and consulting. And I’ve found that most customers asked me the same set of questions and they were very similar to the set of questions I asked myself and my team when I was running organizations. And so I figured that a way for me to tell that story and really some of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way was to put it down in a book.
MD: (04:13) So the overall focus is how companies can achieve sustainable growth, right?
TB: (04:19) It is. It’s really about becoming smarter about growth. I mean the thought process I went through is that for me, growth is a thinking game and out thinking your competition is just as important as out-marketing them and out, you know, product developing them and R and D spend and all the things that you can do. But for me it’s really about thinking differently about how you approach the opportunities in front of you. And that was really the foundation for Growth IQ.
MD: (04:46) So you put down 10 paths to achieve growth, and one of them, I mean the first one on there is customer experience. So it being first on the list. Is that because you, you believe it is the starting point or was it just kind of coincidentally first on the list?
TB: (05:05) Uh, no, it was very intentional. Uh, I believe there’s two things. One that customer experience. Uh, what I did was I found 10 paths to growth as you mentioned. And customer experience was one of the paths that should be in combination with all the others. It was one of those common threads that you have to make sure you put the customer at the center of all the decisions that you make and that that customer becomes your true North, not at the expense of your employees, but really about why are you doing it, what do they expect from you and what are the things that you can continue to improve on to improve that experience? Mostly because, uh, as I mentioned, we started talking about this many years ago that we believed at the time that customer experience would become the new battleground. And that was really a way for us to say that it was either going to become more important than the products and services that were being sold or as important. And we’ve seen through countless research studies, both at Salesforce and externally, you know, whether it be at McKinsey or Bain or continuing work at Gartner that that is in fact the case. So me putting it first was very, very intentional that I think people get very caught up in the shiny things that the business does and they sometimes lose focus and lose that attention on the customer.
MD: (06:19) Well, it’s been 20 years since the book Experience Economy came out, and we were lucky enough to have Joe pine on this podcast talking to us about the book, talking to us about what he believes the experience economy is made of. And one of the things that he talks about, and I know you talk about as well, is how customer experience really is the way to stand out in a commoditized market and how brands can remain competitive. Right?
TB: (06:47) Absolutely. And I think that this comes down to, let me frame this up by saying, look, it has a lot to do with a business like us saying we’re really focused on the customer and this is why. It’s going to bring us greater loyalty and lifetime value and reduce churn and get more share of wallet and get more recency of purchase and all those things, right? That’s very internally focused, sort of. It’s good for us. But the other side of that same coin is it’s actually great for the customer.
MD: (07:19) Right.
TB: (07:21) And you know, those two things is if it’s great for the customer then in the end their success, their success with your product or service making their lives or business better, whatever that might be, means they’re going to buy more, be more loyal and do all those things and that the result of that, right? That’s the cause. They have a great experience. The effect of it is you reduce churn, you grow faster, you know, those two things kind of in combination. But while it, it sounds like an easy proposition, one of the challenges I hear pretty consistently from executives is it’s really hard to measure what that means and what that impact is. It’s kind of the soft stuff and the soft stuff is hard to manage. Where the hard stuff is easy to manage, right? What’s the revenue, what’s the churn, what’s the profit, you know all that. That’s easy to measure. It’s the soft stuff that’s really hard and sometimes the thought of customer experience not having potentially really hard metrics to track it means that the things that we just agreed on are really hard to prove.
MD: (08:22) Right? No, absolutely. I know because I deal with this every single day of my life, but I mean don’t you think that we are now coming to a stage, you know now in 2019 I would say maybe over the last decade, perhaps even just the second half of the decade where companies have really been putting their focus on becoming experience-oriented, becoming more customer-oriented and and really making tangible changes in the way that they do business. Do you think there’s still the option for companies to not provide customers with good experience or not at least have a focus on that?
TB: (08:55) Well, Hm. I would answer it this way. I’d say in the last, you know, whoever, you know, to the listeners as well to you and I, you know, in the last 10 engagements we’ve had with a brand, whatever brand that might be just in the last 48 hours or 72 hours, you know, did you have to call your cell phone company or did you have to go get gasoline? Or did you have to take an Uber or get on a plane or check in a hotel or whatever, right? Go to our restaurant, right, whatever, whatever it was. In the last 10, what percentage of that 10 did you walk out and go, wow, that was really good experience. Now you may have not even thought about it and just thought, well, you know, you sort of are going through the motions, so nothing stood out as being really compelling. You’ve just come to expect. But if you really stopped and reflected on that and then you sort of went, wow, it was just kind of okay then it answers that question you just had that there is no shortage of people understanding that it’s important but knowing what to do with the fact that it’s important and changing behaviors and more importantly the processes and people side of the business, not just the technology side. You’d know that while it is a high aspiration and on the top of CEO’s lists and you know chief customer officers are now being hired and you know all this focus and conversation around CX, this podcast, my book, the first chapter, everything we’ve just said and, and you could argue that still, the gap between what customers, whether it’s a consumer on the B to C side or a business buyer on the B2B side, that the gap between the expectation of what you want from a brand, from an experience standpoint, and then the reality of what is actually delivered the chasm or the gap between those two things is still some 25 or 30 percentage points between what the expected. Like, I expect it and I will pay more and I will stay more loyal. And then unfortunately, 57% of the time customers say that a brand has failed to deliver on those expectations.
MD: (10:47) So, it’s still happening. Companies are still not getting it right in a sense. But yeah, you actually contributed towards my next question, which is customer-focused, and customer experience is still becoming a norm. At least companies, everybody knows about it. For the generation that’s coming into this market right now, if we think about it in like a really positive sense, they’re going to come into a market where customer experience is natural or that focus is natural. So they’re not gonna know a market that doesn’t have that focus. Does that mean that customer experience is going to become commoditized in the market and then we’re going to have to find some new frontier to revolutionize and get that competitive advantage?
TB: (11:27) Yeah. From a customer’s point of view, I hope that’s the problem, right? Because then we as customers will be like, this is great. Everybody’s great.
MD: (11:33) I mean, we are entitled, right? Like we’re super entitled. We want the least amount of effort possible. Like I don’t even tolerate a brand that puts me through too many loopholes. I’m just like, bye. Yeah. You know? So what I’m saying is even though it’s a great problem to have, right, it’s the natural course of the market to find one thing to disrupt or one more thing to become a competitive advantage.
TB: (11:57) So you know, one of the foundational concepts in my book, Growth IQ, is the following. While there are the 10 paths, the kind of aha in that is if somebody read those 10 paths, I doubt anyone who’s been in business for any point of time, you know, working for a living would not go, Oh there’s nothing new to me in the 10 paths. And that was intentional as well. All I wanted to do was modernize business growth strategies with the lens now that we have at our disposal, i.e. social, mobile cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, like everything that’s sorta wrappered around the fourth industrial revolution, which is just all about connected everything. Right? And I wanted to modernize some strategies, but the sort of aha was one, it’s the combination of multiple growth paths. It’s never just one. And the second is the sequence in which companies actually pursue those paths. And so going back to your question. Is customer experience being combined with product and market expansion or market acceleration or optimizing sales or product diversification, like those two things in combination, you can’t just have a really amazing customer experience and horrible food, or an amazing customer experience and a terrible product where even though, 85% of your products get returned and the call center reps are really amazing and nice and helpful. It doesn’t change the fact that the products are terrible. Just having a strong customer experience and a compelling customer experience doesn’t win. It has to be this combination of either good enough products with a really compelling customer experience. And so, going back to your question, do I think that it will itself commoditized because of the fact that it’s a combo play in isolation? It doesn’t matter. Does that make sense?
MD: (13:45) Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
TB: (13:46) Yeah. You know, I use Zappos often. So Zappos sells shoes, right? Yeah. Okay. They sell everybody else’s shoes. They don’t sell their own shoes. So you could go get the same shoe somewhere else, maybe even faster. But if I’m going to go get the same shoe somewhere else and maybe even pay the same price or less, customer experience, and that example becomes a differentiator. Make sense?
MD: (14:13) Yeah. That’s what I do with Sephora. Absolutely.
TB: (14:15) Right. And so if it was, just the experience was really good at Zappos and the product selection wasn’t as strong and the quality of the shoes and the selection wasn’t as wide, you would drive down the street and get what you want. So it has to be that, that combination, and I’ll just use an example for me that happened literally yesterday. I was traveling, I was in Chicago and I, and I normally catch Uber’s and the Uber wait was a little long for me. I had to get somewhere. So I hopped in the back of a cab while someone was getting out of the cab and she had luggage. And the cabdriver literally popped the trunk. She got out, she grabbed her bag, taxi driver did not get out of the car. She grabbed the bag and walked away and didn’t close the trunk. I’m trying to get in the cab. He’s rolled down the window, he’s yelling out of the cab for her to close the trunk. I’m getting in the cab and listening to this. Right. And then he’s just like ‘uh, you know, these expectations are ridiculous.’So going back to your expectation, right? I’m sitting back there going, Oh my God. Like I wish I had this recorded cause this is so this whole little, I can’t make this up.
MD: (15:23) Gold.
TB: (15:24) It’s gold for me. Right? I now have a new story for my keynote speaking, right? I’m like, so now I’ve told it twice, the second time I’ve told this story. And so, you know, he gets out of the car, slams the trunk closed, gets in the car. Now he’s totally grumbling by maybe name it right. And I’m in the back of the cab, says nothing to me like, and then I say sort of where I’m going, but five minutes into it I go, Hey, have you ever wondered why people choose to actually catch Uber over taxis?
MD: (15:51) Right?
TB: (15:53) Let me just play back the last six minutes to you. So it has to be, you know, multiple things. It can’t just be a great or poor experience, right? Because in that moment I was willing to have not a great experience because of the need I had to get from point A to point B. So it’s always this wrestle for consumers or customers, business buyers, whatever, right? People who want something from some brand or a service. It’s this tussle between, am I willing to get up, give up a little of the convenience on the service in Uber just because I need something right away from, you know, a job to be done. You know, i.e. getting from point a to point B.
MD: (16:27) Yeah, I mean that’s what my company, Worthix, does. That’s exactly what we do. We focus on understanding which motivators are actually causing the decision. So an example that comes to my mind was a couple of years ago when I went to a destination wedding in Tuscany. And I mean, you know, wonderful, magical, you’re in Tuscany it’s great, but you know, what isn’t so great is that restaurants and a servers in restaurants in Tuscany, which is kind of the Italian countryside, and they’re just rude. You know, and if you’re European, you might even understand how that rapport inside a restaurant might be a little bit different. But for someone coming from the US and, and encountering that type of reality, it’s really off-putting because they will shout at you. They will take the plate away from you in the middle of the meal, if you ask to change an ingredient or you complain about something, and they will shoo you out of the restaurant. Shoo, shoo, shoo, I don’t want your business, you tourist. We still go. And because we want to have that food experience, the taste, the quality, right? So even though the experience is terrible, the food is making it worth it.
TB: (18:04) Another example that I give on this podcast all the time is, a couple months ago we had this thing where Ryanair was voted the worst airline for the sixth consecutive year. And I’m thinking, wow, after six years of being the worst, these guys are still in business, and they’re going strong. So they are offering the worst experience, at least from their customers’ perspective, but people are still choosing to do business with them. And is it just the price point or is it because the price point at that opportunity at that moment to go to that destination is the best option available, like you and the taxi? I bet that if you had an Uber right there, you wouldn’t have chosen the taxi.
MD: (18:46) It was an 11 minute wait for the Uber. I couldn’t wait. I had to get from point A to point B. I didn’t have enough time to wait, and I even did, you know, X, black, like, it didn’t matter. I had to get going. Right. And I would say this, you know, and you brought up a great point, that the expectation of consumers, regionally, is also very different. So what we may consider in the United States as a sort of rude service, to you use your words, is not culturally somewhere else. And so, you know, the one thing I’d say is that, you know, that is something we always have to take into consideration. So, you know, in the US, you hand a waiter your credit card and they take it away, charge it, and bring it back.
TB: (19:35) Internationally, especially in Europe, they don’t leave the table. They bring the credit card machine. Come up to the table with the machine. Okay, so now when that first started happening, now the person you’re going to quote unquote, either tip or not tip is looking you in the eye, right? And so to us that’s like, Oh, you know, then you feel obligated. Then you’re not sure if you should be tipping in this country or not tipping in this country. That would be very, an affront to someone from the US who wasn’t aware of that. Like, why are you bringing this to me? Like I don’t understand, you know? But for them, that is trust, transparency, I’m not walking away with your credit card like, and so there are benefits to it. And so just because it’s our, as a consumer expectation, always keep in mind that sometimes it’s generational, sometimes it’s cultural, meaning regional. Sometimes it’s because of regulations. If you’re in a bank, it has to be a certain way versus if you’re in a coffee shop. Right. And so that’s one thing that it can’t always be, people go this sort of high end customer experience for a reasonable price. There has to be a balance between those two. You know, a hotel room is a hotel room, but the price point of a four seasons is very different than something that may be across the street. And so you can’t go stay across the street, because the four seasons was busy and you needed to be right there, and then expect four seasons kind of service. That’s unfair. They will always fail. So it’s it’s a matter of how do you actually bring that up ultimately across the board. And so I think it has also something to do with us as consumers to make sure that our expectations are not unrealistic, which means we’re just setting them up for failure every time.
MD: (21:15) Right. But you know, when it comes to the company’s role in this, I watched a keynote that you did where you talked about, I believe it was Steve jobs, always leaving an empty chair in the board room for the customer, for like a symbolic representation of the customer. Was it Steve jobs?
TB: (21:31) Ah, yes.
MD: (21:33) So in that case, I mean that helps remind executives and decision makers within organizations to always keep in mind the customer’s journey, what the customer goes through. But how can companies put themselves in the customer’s shoes when the customer’s reality is so different from their own? I mean, if we are doing business somewhere in Southeast Asia and we’re here in the US, you know you can bring someone in from that demographic. But for a global company, or even here in the US that’s got so much diversity, it is having a diverse team, a way to succeed in this regard or is it, what’s the best way to always keep our customer’s best interest at mind and not get carried away by our biases or by what we think is best for the company alone and, and stop looking at the customer?
TB: (22:19) Well a couple of things. I think that there was a great, I was at an event this past week that Salesforce put on called connections, which is really just sort of, you know, a marketing haven, if you will, of conversations along these lines. And our CMO, Stephanie Buscemi did a panel on inclusive marketing, and it was really about sort of the bias of, you know, people who are writing campaigns and doing campaigns, being very aware of who the audience is. And then even in the advertising space that it was some, I’m going to mess up the stats, but I think it was in the middle 30% range of advertising actually has women in it yet we’re 55% of the spending power. And so thinking about what is that experience for a buyer when they always see an advertisement but they don’t see themselves in that ad. That has implications to the experience you think you have with the brand.
MD: (23:09) Right.
TB: (23:10) I can even use myself on giving a keynote. At least a couple of times a month when I will get offstage, someone will come up to me and say, I really noticed that the people, the faces that you use in your images on your slides on stage are very diverse. I really appreciate it. I saw myself in your presentation. Even something that simple maybe means that the experience they had listening to my keynote was better. Not the content necessarily, right, but the experience of, they saw themselves in it, they enjoyed the content, so overall they go, ‘gosh, she was a really great speaker,’ but everything touched their perception of how good I was or how informative I was or how valuable that use of time was for them. It was not just my content, it was the images I use, it was the examples I gave. It was the consideration around what pronouns I use. All that stuff adds up to “the experience.” Going back to what I was saying a little bit ago, it’s the combination of a lot of things. It’s not just you answer your phone fast, it’s not that you have a great price. It’s not that everyone welcomed you when you walk in the door. It’s not that your dental hygienists are really pleasant and kind and gentle during your teeth cleaning. It’s that the person who welcomed you when you first walked into the dentist office was happy to see you, knew who you were, was expecting you. That all plays towards, do you like that dentist or not? Right. And so that’s why I say that price is not the only thing. It’s not the only lever. And if you look at brands that really focus on customer experience, I’m just going to pick Netflix as an example. They’ve raised their price two times this year. Twice. And what has happened when they’ve done that. One, the conversion of non-paying to paying customers has gone up. They’ve also acquired more customers. What are their competition do? Lowered their price.
MD: (25:03) Yeah, and it makes no difference whatsoever. The price is making no difference whatsoever at this point, right?
TB: (25:09) At this point, right. They’ll find a point where the diminished return will happen. They will hit the ceiling where people go, no, no, no, because collectively research shows that I think it’s like all of us, you know, humans, people, consumers of streaming service are willing to spend about $38 a month total. So if it’s seven services, one service to service four services, that $38 or $40 is the dollar amount and so as they start to bump up against raising that number for everybody else, either everyone else is going to lower prices that keeps it under 40 ,or it’s going to push the consumers monthly nut above 40 and then the consumer is going to make a decision, is Netflix now too expensive or do I drop another service? Then they’ll know what happens at that point. This is all just benchmarked with the old price of cable TV, isn’t it? Like cut the cord but not cut the cord.
MD: (25:59) Tying ourselves into new cords. But anyway, the last thing that I wanted to address is the speed of change of the market. One thing I’ve heard you say is that it’s the customer that’s pushing change and innovation, and customers innovate and create expectations faster than companies can keep up. So how do companies keep up?
TB: (26:18) Yeah, and this is, this is one of those questions I often get because I think people put themselves up against an unrealistic expectation of they need to be, going back to your example of Steve jobs, like you know, I’m sure, I never asked him this question, I’m making a huge assumption. I’m sure Steve jobs didn’t wake up the day he decided to do the iPhone and expect that there would be more iPhones on the planet than toothbrushes. And it’s only been almost 13 years since the iPhone showed up. Some people don’t even remember there never being an iPhone. I remember those days. But you don’t need to be a Steve Jobs. You don’t need to be a Jeff Bezos. You don’t even need to be a Mark Benioff, our CEO. What you need to do is try to get a year or 18 months ahead of where the customer may want to go and welcome them when they show up. And so maybe look, your customers actually want to conduct commerce with you on Instagram or Facebook or even via text message or chat. But now the only way they can do it is they have to be on your website. And so that ruins the experience. And so you just have to say, if the market is moving that way, what is our Instagram commerce story? You know, what is our strategy? Are we going to do it? If we are, should we announce we’re working on? Get some feedback now, and let them know we’re going to be doing it, that we know that that’s where they want us to take them versus just ignoring it and not doing it. And then once again, you let the competition do something so simple like that. And then the experience of well, I can’t buy on Instagram, I can only buy on the website. I’m going to drop this other vendor that sells whatever X, Y, Z product. So you know, it is really just about getting ahead enough. And especially for most businesses that are small and mid, I mean 95% of businesses globally are small and midsize businesses that are smaller than $5 million annually. You know, making those kinds of changes in investments is very risky because if they make the wrong decision, it could end the business, right? So when you talk at the fortune 500 layer, the fortune 1000 or global 2000 layer, that’s a very different conversation. But the mass is that a very small percentage of businesses ever get larger than 5 million. So how do you tackle these things in a way at scale that isn’t people, asset, labor-intensive? And that’s where automation, AI, machine learning, and now this kind of democratization of technology allows even very small companies to get access to tools and technology that can help them solve these customer experience challenges. And when, as a differentiated strategy without heavy, you know, asset and cash investments because they just don’t have the ability to do that. So, you know, I think that’s one of the things that companies like Salesforce is really focused on. It’s like customer success and bringing these great tools and technologies to all size organizations around the globe and not just to the very large.
MD: (29:05) Well that was a great conversation. For the listeners who want to stay in touch with you, the ones that want to buy your book and follow you, is there a social media network that you’re most active on? Where should we go to keep up with you?
TB: (29:18) Yeah, so Twitter’s probably one of my most active, it’s at Tiffany and @tiffani_bova. And then I’m on Instagram and Facebook, and then the podcast, and of course, the book Growth IQ. So I’m pretty active online and I’m really responsive. So you know, LinkedIn as well. So I look forward to hearing from your listeners to hear what they thought of some of the things we talked about as well as some of the ideas. I mean, I get inspired by hearing and learning from people that do this every day. I get to talk about it. They get to do it.
MD: (29:50) Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you being on.
TB: (29:52) Thank you for having me.