Mark Zablan is the CEO of Emplifi, a unified platform for social marketing, social commerce and customer care. We asked him about the role of data and automation in CX, as well as what makes for a successful rebrand (following the merger of Astute and Socialbakers – to become Emplifi – last year).

What are the biggest gaps in brand-customer experience? What areas should marketers be focusing on?

Today’s consumers have greater choice and higher expectations than ever before. When they have a bad experience, they go elsewhere. In fact, nearly half of UK consumers have left a brand in the past 12 months after a single poor experience. The problem is that when it comes to experience, expectations change rapidly, so it’s essential that marketing teams align with revenue and customer care departments to provide a consistent experience across social, web and other digital channels.

This can only be achieved through harnessing data and applying insight at a personal level, which requires automation. For example, automated systems that filter incoming queries in real-time, or virtual assistants to provide personalised responses with speed and consistency. Such technologies will identify the individual needs of a customer and provide real-time recommendations on how to deliver it.

Today’s shoppers also look to social media to not only discover products but to buy them and then get post-purchase care, without ever having to leave the social platform of their choice. Marketers should therefore focus on providing customers with the ability to purchase products directly from social media in a seamless way.

Lastly, greenwashing concerns and work like the Gender Pay Gap Bot teach a valuable lesson in leading with empathy, rather than self-service or trend-chasing. It is also a lesson in transparency. You cannot hide what you really stand for, nor should you seek to! Customers want to do business with brands that care about them and genuinely mirror their values. Those that fail to do so risk losing millions in revenue or market value, and immeasurable reputation damage in the long term. It is simple – actions speak louder than words, and the brands that practise what they preach on social will inevitably build stronger connections with their audience. At a time when the need for compassion couldn’t be higher, companies must lead with empathy, honesty and transparency in everything they do.

What brand’s customer experience impresses you?

Delta Air Lines is a good example of a company using data to understand their customers’ needs and to respond at each touchpoint. For example, they’ve adopted real-time systems to connect flight crews with customer support – meaning flight attendants can identify and greet travellers by name, address travel disruptions, provide connecting flight gate information, complete in-flight purchases, and more. This data can then be fed into their systems to inform and improve CX across the entire organisation.

From in-flight menus to customer support services, Delta is using data to empathise with its customers and the results show in its consistently high level of customer satisfaction.

Emplifi launched from the merger of Socialbakers and Astute last year. What would you say makes a successful merger, and is there anything you would you do differently?

Any rebrand is a challenge, but the harmonising of three distinct brands under one umbrella is an even tougher one – especially in such a tight time scale! We needed to consolidate the brands’ cache into a single brand identity, matching the vision and mission to the brand name and story, positioning this new entity around the core issues we solve for customers. It’s only by putting customers front and centre that a brand will thrive in its new skin.

At a time when the need for compassion couldn’t be higher, companies must lead with empathy, honesty and transparency in everything they do.

We also had to ensure that the whole team was aligned with the purpose and vision of Emplifi. Our talent is our most powerful asset, so we needed them to be engaged and active as the new brand was launched to market. I would say the impact of a remote environment slowed us down last year, as there’s no substitute for cross-business interaction and collaboration, but now that we can have in-person meetings and group-all-hands, we can see the synergies come to life and the positive culture gaining momentum.

Our progress since launch is something I feel extremely proud of. We were recently valued at over $1 billion, not even a year since our conception, as Emplifi is rapidly becoming the platform of choice for brands that understand that business now runs on social for the entire customer journey.

What are your tips for keeping remote teams engaged?

You cannot over-communicate. We run regular all-hands, department, team and cross-team meetings. We also share important updates via Slack, sharing information when and where our employees want to get it. Accessibility to leadership is also important. I hold sessions with teams and tell them to ask me anything. Not only do employees benefit from access to the CEO, but I stay connected to what’s front of mind for my team.

Most importantly, just because teams are remote, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have fun. Last year we introduced a new leadership team and ran an internal social media campaign called The C-Suite Challenge. We each recorded ourselves answering random non-business related questions like, “if you were an animal, what would you be and why?” The last challenge was to give a tour of your home office. Let’s just say, we all learned a few things about each other!

What’s next for Emplifi?

Emplifi’s mission is to be the platform of choice for brands that run on social for the entire customer experience. The modern consumer looks to social not only to discover and research products, but more and more to purchase and engage in post-purchase care. As such, we’re investing heavily in innovations to enable brands to better serve their customers across social commerce, care and service touchpoints.

The launch of Emplifi ShopStream by Go Instore is a key addition to Emplifi’s wider strategy and can help companies to maximise profits by increasing customer engagement, specifically by bringing interactive live streaming to live commerce. This is just one of many exciting updates!

Social CX and Customer Service Best Practice Guide