Using Tech to Scale the Human Touch and Build Community

Last Updated May 12th, 2020

Stef Caldwell, Narrative Science, human touch and technology

Apple Podcasts / iTunes | Google Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

 

Our companies rely on technology. So much so, that it plays an integral role in almost every aspect of how we run our business – from data collection and analysis to customer support and success. But have we let this dependency go too far?

Are we losing that human touch with our customers in the process? If so, it’s time to bring it back. We need to use tech to bring the human aspects of our business to the forefront in a scalable way instead.

How? By using technology to amass data in the form of accessible fact-based stories. Stories that allow us to understand and really connect with our customers – so then we can create a community where they can connect with one another as well.

Our guest on this episode of The Customer Experience Podcast, Stef Caldwell, says her mission is to “bring humanity back to technology.”

And she’s doing this by dedicating her time to analyzing not just what data is saying, but also how it can connect customers to her company and to one another.

Stef serves as the Senior Customer Success Leader and Community Architect at Narrative Science. With a background in product management, business intelligence, business development, sales, and customer success roles, she makes analytics accessible to everyone.

She considers how technology can architect the human touch in the form of a highly-curated customer experience.

Throughout our conversation, we talk about …

What shapes the perception of customer experience
What the relationship is between CS and CX
Why and how to use tech to scale the human touch
Why it’s important to create a community around your core beliefs
How to build community among your customers and evangelists

 

The Human Touch and Technology

Hear the entire conversation with Stef Caldwell on the human touch and technology and on building community right here:

 

Hear this episode and all the others by subscribing to The Customer Experience Podcast in:

Please take a minute to leave a rating and review the podcast while you’re there – it’s extremely helpful.

Stef Caldwell, Narrative Science, human touch and technology

Full Transcript: Using Tech to Scale the Human Touch and Build Community

Stef Caldwell:
I would say it’s my mission. I think my mission in life is to bring humanity back to technology. Technology infuses so much of our lives in our day-to-day, and the more personal we can make it and the more for us, we can make it, I think the better off we’ll all be.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. It’s treating it as the tool that it is and means to an end, not the end in itself. And that it is in service of us, which is this proper role, I think. So before we get going properly, you are in what I regard as the greatest city in America, Chicago.

Stef Caldwell:
Thank you.

Ethan Beute:
The Coronavirus pandemic has obviously affected all of us, what’s the scene where you are, how’s it affecting you or your team or your customers? Kind of set the scene for us there?

Stef Caldwell:
It’s a great question. In Chicago specifically, I think right now we’re under a shelter order, so everybody is working from home, the biggest impact I’m seeing in my day-to-day is just internet stability, having a lot of calls similar to these, sometimes things come crashing down. I would also say that from Narrative Science’s perspective, we are still operating business as usual, we’re really fortunate and that our leadership team and everybody at the company was able to adapt really quickly. Our customers come from a variety of industries. And so when I look at the book of business that I run and the book of business that other people on my team run, everybody is really being impacted differently.

Stef Caldwell:
We have our healthcare customers who are, I don’t want to say thriving because it’s absolutely not the right word, but their business is really booming right now. And then we have people in auto and manufacturing and their businesses are being tested. And I am hopeful that everybody kind of comes out the end of this much stronger. A lot of that is just going to be in flux for the next foreseeable future.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, good observation. Like you, we serve people in a wide variety of businesses and roles and industries and the effects, of course, are very uneven. And as BombBomb we’re fortunate to be on the more on the healthcare side of things where people are understanding more acutely than ever, that time and distance are keeping them apart from people who matter most to their businesses.

Ethan Beute:
So when you can’t do a live Zoom call, like we’re doing now, that recording and sending messages is kind of a nice human substitute to use your language. So let’s get into customer experience and all of the things that you’ve been… I love the variety of roles you’ve been in. I’m looking forward to this conversation. But let’s start with customer experience. When I say that, what does it mean to you?

Stef Caldwell:
So I’m one of those people that I have to go back to the definitions of things often. And I had to pull it for this conversation because I think it’s really important that it’s articulated well. A customer, let’s break it down into its parts is a person or organization that buys goods and services from store business, and experiences practical contact and observation of facts or events.

Stef Caldwell:
And so my definition when I put those things back together in my own way, is it’s how a person who buys goods or services from a business or thinking about it honestly interprets the events of those interactions with that business. So it’s subjective, it’s their perception. But ultimately, it’s the interpretation of the events or the interactions they’re having with the people that are in your company.

Ethan Beute:
Really great. I love that you went to some literal definitions and then put it back together into a practical way. And I think the consequence of that is the thoughts and the feelings that we’re left with interaction by interaction. So because of your experience in customer success and some people, when I’ve spoken with some people about customer experience, they see it as this evolution or functionally from an organizational standpoint, and arm of what was or still is a CS or a customer success organization, how do you think about customer success in particular? which I think of that as a highly organizational term, whereas customer experience may or may not be, how do you think about customer success and maybe customer success relative to CS?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah. I think, always, always, I’m trying to put the hat of the customer on and my perspective doesn’t actually matter on customer experience versus customer success. It’s their experience that matters. And so going back again to the definitions, my definition of success from the dictionary is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. And so my definition then of customer success is how a person who again buys goods or services from a business perceives the outcomes of those interactions. So to me, customer success is outcome-based. It’s the perception of an outcome when interacting with this external party and customer experience is really the journey.

Stef Caldwell:
And they go hand in hand, right? Because you can’t have an outcome without a journey. And ultimately what we want to deliver is outcome. So the two are very much aligned, even though they’re not synonymous.

Ethan Beute:
And you really can’t pull them apart. And what I heard when you started into that was essentially I’m going to really dumb it down but the customer doesn’t care. You want their outcome and they want to achieve it in a predictable or quick or enjoyable journey.

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, that’s just the journey to the outcome. I like to think of it again from the customer angle as customer experiences, “Wow, that was a great conversation. I really enjoyed my time with that company.” And success is, “Wow, that was a great conversation. I understand the impact this will have is having or will continue to have on my business.” Similar but different.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah. Or I can’t wait to brag to my peers or superior about this outcome that we were able to achieve to this relationship that I enjoy with this brand or this company. So for people who aren’t familiar, tell us a little bit about Narrative Science, like who are your customers? You already did a little bit of that, but tell us who are your customers? And what are you solving for them?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, I like to say that we’re a company that exists to help other companies realize their potential. So we do that through data storytelling software. But essentially, the premise of our business is data is hard, interpreting that data is time-consuming. And oftentimes the result of that is more confusion than answers. So we have software that translates that data into objective fact-based data stories which can be read and understood by anyone.

Stef Caldwell:
And our, I call them new-age analytics tools help companies in both enterprise as well as commercial markets, get on the same page, and stay on the same page as it pertains to their businesses’ most critical data. More importantly, I think it helps them actually use that data to make critical business decisions. Just in time on any device and then keep moving forward. Ultimately, it’s how do we help people push their missions forward? That’s our mission.

Ethan Beute:
And so I think what separates a lot of effective business leaders from others is that if they all have the same data that some of them do a better job of making meaning out of it and making decisions out of it. So you assist in that process?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, I oftentimes say, we produce data literacy at scale, as long as you can read and understand information presented to you in language, which can happen audibly, by the way, then you can actually leverage data to make decisions when you use our software.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. Let’s go a step deeper. You have two main products right now. One of them is called Quill and that was the one that existed earlier and Lexio is the newer of the two that the customers are different, the experience is different and you’ve served in CS in support of customers of both products. So maybe just draw that line a little bit and how you as a CS practitioner experienced them differently as well.

Stef Caldwell:
Great question. So Quill is what I will say is an analytics tool, a data storytelling tool that is designed to retrofit existing business intelligence solutions. So if you have a Tableau or a Click or a Power BI, and you like many organizations, kind of hovering at about 30% adoption of those tools, and you want to get maximum return on investment for your investment in those tools, that’s where our solution comes in.

Stef Caldwell:
So we can kind of scale the insight through language across all of those systems. And we do that a lot of times in the enterprise with Quill because those large companies have made these big bets on these business intelligence solutions. Where Lexio fits in is it’s the smart alternative to traditional business intelligence. It is a new-age business intelligence platform that takes your data, automatically turns it into written stories that seem as if they were written by a human or your best analyst. A lot of our customers like to say that Lexio is kind of the sales ops person that they didn’t need to hire or the business ops person they didn’t need to hire.

Stef Caldwell:
Those two delivery models, enterprise versus commercial market are very different. With enterprise is very white-glove approach. And with commercial market, you have to think about scale, you have to think about how do you take this customer experience that used to be very, very human when you’re delivering with a white glove model and scale that so that you can touch thousands of companies but make them feel special in every touchpoint.

Ethan Beute:
So what have you especially in the CS role, what are some things that you took care to do or some hard lessons you learned along the way of creating a more scaled experience that still feels relatively personal and relatively human?

Stef Caldwell:
I would like to say that I’m definitely still on the journey. Lexio is still fairly new market. But I’m really fortunate in that, where I got my CS and CX, or cut my CST, if you will, was with this white glove enterprise experience where you can know and you have to know every detail and every nuance to a person’s business, you pull in resources, you get ahead of issues because you can lean on those personal relationships, you understand the outcomes that they’re seeking, what that means for their business, and what that means for them personally, you have to just always be listening, always be iterating and always be in lockstep with your executive stakeholders, as well as your team and project people.

Stef Caldwell:
So then, I’m fortunate in that I get to adapt what I learned, where I could be very personal into a more scalable model. I guess when I think of how you kind of scale that human touch scale, that really, really curated customer experience, so much of it is reliant on making the product a two-way street, and that means you have to be far more collaborative.

Stef Caldwell:
That means that you have to be in lockstep with marketing and sales and CS and product, and constantly thinking about how you can infuse some of those things that you would be doing if you had that one to one personal touch with every customer into the product itself. And in addition to that, again the person that is bringing humanity back to technology, I don’t think that there is ever going to be a replacement for face to face for literally showing the faces of your brand to the people that are interacting with it.

Stef Caldwell:
So they know that even if they are getting a more scaled product, something that is a little bit more tech touch and automated, that there’s actual humans who actually care behind all of those touchpoints. So I think ultimately, it takes a lot of collaboration. It takes a lot of advocacy to the product team to ensure that they’re implementing those bidirectional communication functions in the tool itself.

Stef Caldwell:
And sorry, I lost where I was going with that. Yeah, ultimately, it’s just a lot more collaboration, you need to put it in the system and allow your customers to really play a key role at iterating with you even at scale.

Ethan Beute:
Love it. I think that the two-way street language, obviously, for me implies a consistent feedback loop and then touching all of the multiple teams who all understand the customers a little bit differently, which kind of tees up where I want to go next. But before we do go, is there anything in particular that you all do at Narrative Science to make sure that sales perspective is understood by marketing, is understood by CS, is understood by product and all vice versa?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, so we actually just recently implemented a new framework that’s working really, really well for us. So we have our boots on the ground team, representative every function. That means on a weekly basis that’s focused on the next three months for customers. So it’s very tactical problem-solving. And the voice of the customer is extremely present at that table. Then we have… We call that our H1 team, then we have our H2 team, which is kind of one level up from there.

Stef Caldwell:
People that are thinking a little bit more strategically thinking about where the product is going over the next one year. And they’re meeting on a weekly basis to continue kind of moving the ball forward there. And then there’s cross-collaboration between those two groups. And then finally, we have our H3 team, which is really our executive team. They’re thinking about things like who do we hire to make these things possible? What kind of financing do we need to take on as a company to continue moving our mission forward? How can we have relationships with the analysts and the press so that we can get the word out at scale?

Stef Caldwell:
So across these different buckets, you have different levels of decision making, but all are moving in lockstep towards this greater mission, which is pushing Narrative Science forward in the next three months, six months, one year, five years, and beyond.

Ethan Beute:
Nice. I’m glad I asked that follow up there. Where I wanted to go, which is also in the same conversation of like cross-function. Different people have different, we’ll just generically call them data input. Some of it is qualitative data because some of these roles are very customer-facing sales and CS, in particular, tend to be very customer-facing, there might be some marketing roles, product marketing, that’s doing a lot of customer conversation.

Ethan Beute:
And then also in those same seats, but especially in product and dev you have tons of this product data, product usage data. Of course, you can append tons of additional third party data on top of any other data. How do you think about the blend of kind of the quantitative stuff and the qualitative stuff like the real customer words and thoughts and experiences and behaviors against all the easily measurable and quantifiable pieces?

Stef Caldwell:
I think about this every single day. Literally every single day I look at the data behind how my customers are using our platforms and so does the rest of the organization. One of our key metrics as a business is weekly active, monthly active. And then we want to see within those weekly active and monthly active users, how they’re navigating our platform, are they engaging with new features, or existing features.

Stef Caldwell:
And all of that is translated, luckily for us into Lexio reports that are so easy to read and understand that I constantly get questions from executives, from marketing, from product, I don’t understand why haven’t these customers used this new feature yet? And so to your point, you have to have the qualitative and the quantitative. And I think COVID is actually a really interesting angle to respond to this question, because, look, we’ve got customers in pretty much every industry. And we know that their businesses are challenged and being tested and they have to adapt. And what that means to the product data that I can see is their usage right now is volatile, extremely volatile more than it’s ever been.

Stef Caldwell:
And if you just looked at that as senior leader in our company or somebody in marketing or somebody in product, you would say, “I don’t understand. It looks like things are changing here.” If you didn’t know, if you lived in a vacuum and had no idea that COVID was a thing that the entire world was responding to right now. You would be alarmed, looking at that data.

Stef Caldwell:
But that’s where the anecdotal comes in. I know that this is still a strategic imperative for company A, I know that this actually has been tabled for company B. And I know this because we have these outreach, we have these bidirectional kind of communication mechanisms that allow us to couple the qualitative, the narrative about how their industry is responding or how this company is responding to COVID and the quantitative, what that means in terms of their interaction with our product. And so what I do specifically to bridge this gap for my team because it’s all about communication at the end of the day, is every week I’m producing reports based on how the customers are using the software. Every month, I do a 30-day look back, looking at kind of my calendar as well as other kind of strategic conversations we had across the board with those customers.

Stef Caldwell:
And we tie all that together in an anecdotal kind of look back that responds to both the data but then also supports why the data is the way that it is so people can have that fuller understanding of what our customers are doing and how anything is really impacting their business and where our product fits in and all that.

Ethan Beute:
Really good. I love the look back in particular just to provide that context that’s missing from the raw material itself. How much… Obviously, you’re in a position that we are at BombBomb and that you use your own product as part of your own business flow. How does Lexio plug into that for you?

Stef Caldwell:
I’m excited to answer this. So for me, the data that I exist in is both Salesforce and Mixpanel. From a Salesforce perspective, I’m using Lexio to understand what is happening in the narrative science pipeline as well as in our bookings, so that I understand what capacity is going to be for onboarding customers and making sure that they get the experience that they are so deserving of.

Stef Caldwell:
And then from a Mixpanel perspective, we’ve got that hooked into our product. So we can see kind of step by step how any individual or company is really using our platform, obviously, that informs our business in so many ways. One, is this customer getting value out of the system? Does that mean that they’re likely to renew or unlikely to renew? But more importantly, when we look at that usage, how can we innovate in the direction they need us to if they are going to be that great customer? And how do we decide not to innovate for those customers that we know are actually what we’d consider healthy churn?

Stef Caldwell:
And I think healthy churn is important for product and CS to really be aligned on because you can’t be everything to everyone, you’ll be nothing to no one if you take that approach, so we have to really be in lockstep. They’re looking at the usage through Mixpanel, through Lexio so that we can be really smart about where we innovate.

Ethan Beute:
Love it. And of course, you obviously need to push that back up to sales and marketing so that they have a very clear view of who they should maybe… How did we attract these healthy churn events in the first place? And how did we sell into them? And how can we prevent that in the future? So, really good. Let’s transition to community, obviously, at some point in the H3, H2 or H1 team, or all of them. The value of community probably came up, you either self-selected or were hand-selected to lead the charge. How did that conversation come up at Narrative Science just around community? And then how did you jump at it?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah. I like to think that Narrative Science is again, this next-generation business intelligence company. And I mentioned this earlier, we have tools that retrofit existing business intelligence, then we have Lexio, which is kind of the smart alternative, it is this next-gen business intelligence. But what that means when you’re doing something that’s on the bleeding edge of innovation, is that not everybody’s ready for it?

Stef Caldwell:
And traditional methods of marketing just don’t necessarily work because we’re not selling a commodity. We’re selling something that most people have not ever heard of. So I like to think about this as, when Uber first came to market, people thought that I was crazy because I wanted to get in a stranger’s car and have them drive around the city. And when Airbnb came to market, people thought I was crazy because I was so eager to sleep in a stranger’s bed and then their home.

Stef Caldwell:
And you look around now and these are just commonplace, right? Everybody takes an Uber, it’s likely the preference for most people, same thing with Airbnb, we love to travel and love to travel like locals by staying in people’s homes. But when those things first came to market, you didn’t have community. And so you look around now though, and there are all these people that are really evangelists for it. And that’s how those companies move their missions forward.

Stef Caldwell:
It takes time to transition an entire industry, from the old world to the new. And it takes time to garner enough of a following of evangelists who are willing to build with you and iterate with you because it’s not going to be perfect when you’re trying to redefine something that everybody is kind of clutch to and defined in their own way. So you have to find these people, literally individuals who are willing to stick it out with you, people that want to see you be successful because it means their success. It means something that they need in their lives now and they are willing to then build it with you. So that’s really what was the impetus to building a community at Narrative Science is there are people surrounding our brand ecosystem who are these evangelists for us. And how do we curate, and have meaningful conversations with them so that they can help us push our mission forward?

Stef Caldwell:
That’s what we’re doing. We’re building up our community of advocates, these are people that want to rewrite tomorrow. And do that with us, people that believe in this new way and this future that’s possible, because of companies like Narrative Science. And so we’re, again very early on in our journey here, we’re starting to lay the bricks for our community. But we’re doing that with things like really exciting events, both virtually and then hopefully post COVID in person, offline events. We actually have one coming up at the end of April, for anybody that is interested in joining, will have thought leaders from the analytic space, people like Donald farmer, former CPO at click keynoting the event as well as a lot of other innovators. Again, the goal of those types of conversations bring people to the table and talk about how we’re innovating and how we’re rewriting the tomorrows of each of our respective industries.

Ethan Beute:
So many important themes in there. I find it difficult especially the way you set up the response there. I find it difficult to pull kind of category or category design away from community and community building. The common thread there is this bidirectional conversation, not just company your brand to customer but customer to customer as well that it’s not really a sales conversation or a product conversation or a price point contract terms conversation it’s a, why are we all doing this together? What problem are we solving? How is this unique? Etc. And so that’s great.

Ethan Beute:
I think my curiosity is you. I mean I understand why but I’d love to hear like the process of we’re doing community, someone needs to lead this charge. Were you like, “We need to build community and I need to lead this charge?” Or how did this come up internally? And I’m asking really on behalf of the listener who like customer experience, and like so many other things that’s happening, whether or not you’re intentional about it, you’re either missing the opportunity or someone is unwittingly creating some degree of community or you’re very intentional about it. So you all are obviously very intentional about it at this point. But what was that kind of awakening internally?

Stef Caldwell:
I would say the awakening for me was actually work that I do on the side of Narrative Science. So I built a company called Manifest that we can talk further about, but what Manifest was, was a community for ambitious women in Chicago to connect and share their experiences to collectively move forward. And as we started building that community, we started having those individuals request products from Manifest. So then we started building products to address those needs. And when I realized that you could do that same process, but the inverse at Narrative Science, I started advocating for it.

Stef Caldwell:
I was like, “We have people that are infatuated with our brand, but don’t have a buying use case right now, how do we stay connected with them? We have people that are purchasing this and are infatuated with it and they want to spread the word. How do we give them opportunities to do that?” So to your point, when our topic is a category, it’s ever more important that we bring all the people that are interested in that from all the different angles, whether they’re a user, or they’re an AI kind of visionary, to have those conversations because conversations result in ideas, ideas result in products, products result in revenue.

Stef Caldwell:
And when Narrative Science can make more revenue, we can bring our mission to more people. So that’s kind of why I raised my hand for community, started advocating for it, got other people on board with this idea that this could really bring people together, and help us move our mission forward. And so now we are being very intentional about how we roll that out.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, I imagine in a culture again, I have some exposure to several of your team members I have visited before and spent some time with some of your folks in person. I can’t imagine that it was a difficult lift. I don’t imagine you were rolling a boulder up the hill to get this thing going. But I can imagine that some people listening are probably in organizations where it’s probably a greater challenge. And I love… Let’s talk about Manifest for a few minutes. So what was the spark there like you founded it. What were you trying to solve and what is it about?

Stef Caldwell:
I’m going to answer that one thing that I just want to share with your listeners because I think this tactical advice could be really helpful for anybody trying to build community or grow community to respond to what you’d said. It was pretty easy at Narrative Science. I think everybody… We have a very visionary leadership team. They recognized how valuable community could be to us. But community is so big and broad that you have to break it down to really, really tactical elements and start having just many evidence of traction, to start building towards something that’s much broader, which is community now.

Stef Caldwell:
At Narrative Science, where we started was just social media. How do we get our community at Narrative Science together to help share our mission? And then it turned into executive roundtables? How do we gather 10 like-minded people, super tangible, and get them to start cocreating by having conversation, and now we’re looking at bigger scale things like our data storytelling summit that’s coming up. So to anybody listening, kind of considering how do we start small, start really tactical, get people on board, start showing that early traction, and then ultimately kind of grow, evolve, and graduate to bigger community efforts. You don’t have to implement a community software system right away to…

Ethan Beute:
You don’t need the 80 point plan. You just need to create some momentum. And your point, there are a lot of different ways to go about it. A lot of models you could probably look at, I would guess that there are tons of videos and blog posts available about building community, or actually brings to mind a number of people, and I can think about a bunch of people on LinkedIn that are consistently talking about some of the practical things here. My only follow up to that, and then we’ll go to Manifest.

Stef Caldwell:
Sure.

Ethan Beute:
Is when you brought those 10 people together, was it simply for conversation’s sake, and I’m asking this kind of from a personal point of view, like my tendency in a lot of situations is not to give myself permission in a work context I’m air quoting, to simply go into something for discovery’s sake, were you looking to produce anything out of it or document anything out of it? Or was it let’s just bring people together and have a conversation?

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, again, for us, it’s all about solving the customer’s problems. So at the executive roundtable, it was industry leaders who have questions and they want to share their knowledge and collect other people’s knowledge so that they can problem-solve in their businesses. And obviously, when you are the magnet for that conversation, when you are central to that conversation, people problem-solve around the thing that you exist to be and to create. So I would say it was more conversational, but definitely with the intention of helping people problem solve and move their companies forward as a result, as an outcome of the conversation.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, I really like the way you position that, that they could have gotten together on their own, but it makes so much more sense for you to bring them together because you are the common point of connection, even though it’s going to go in a variety of directions. So Chicago, ambitious women, you and Manifest.

Stef Caldwell:
That’s a good tee up. Manifest really came about as a result of me hitting a really low point in my career. After graduating college, I poured myself into my work as a lot of ambitious women do, I had no identity other than who I was at the office. And a few years ago, I was going through a career transition. And I had raised my hand for a role that was definitely a reach, it would have been my first step into a managerial role. And by that, I mean it would have given me experience in managing people. And I thought for sure I can do this, I manage a household, I can lead a team, I do public speaking to audiences 5000 or more people, but technically speaking, you’re right. I don’t have managerial experience.

Stef Caldwell:
And so I didn’t get the job. And in that moment, my world came crashing down because I had agency up until that. I’d gotten every job I ever wanted. And so I wallowed in self-pity for a few months. I monopolized dinner table conversations, one moment at a time and then I realized in having those conversations that I wasn’t the only one, there was ambitious women all around me. And they had experienced very similar let downs. And I think for women as a gender there’s this narrative that everyone has to be a boss or be a boss babe, then we’re killing ourselves at work.

Stef Caldwell:
And statistically, it’s just not getting us very far. So leanin.org says that women hold 38% of middle management positions, 30% of VP positions, 21% of executive positions, and the numbers are on the rise. But conventional wisdom would tell you that women hit a glass ceiling. And in reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up. That step that I missed is what they call the broken rung. And this broken rung results in more women getting stuck at entry-level, fewer women becoming managers, and as a result, there’s a significantly fewer women that ultimately advanced to the higher levels.

Stef Caldwell:
So what I learned from this experience, kind of the fallout was two things. Women need more space to support each other and swap ideas and best practices across industries. We have women in tech, we have women in manufacturing, but we don’t have women, ambitious women. And then the second is as a gender, we need to diversify what makes us feel successful. We can’t be just defined by our work. And so what is Manifest doing, we are rewriting the definition of success for ambitious young women. We believe that you should diversify your life in the same way you diversify your investments. And we believe that success can be realized in any and or all of those domains.

Stef Caldwell:
You can be a badass at work, you can have a side hustle, you can be a great mom, you can write a book, you can be a yoga guru, you can be all of these things. As long as you just follow what lights you up inside, and what makes you feel personally successful. It doesn’t have to be defined by who you are at the office. So we exist to provide a space for ambitious women to connect not compete, to share not compare, and to move forward together. We believe in leveraging the collective knowledge and networks of our community to help propel women forward in any area of their life.

Ethan Beute:
Love it. I love the diversity or I guess the wholism of the view of a successful life as well as the wholism of women from any industry or any background, I think there’s probably a lot more interesting learning and a lot more interesting conversations as a consequence of that. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people, women in tech is obviously a thing. And that’s really helpful because there’s plenty of diversity within tech, as you well know. I’m just talking about the six or seven kind of disciplines you’ve been in, in your career already within a tech and business context. But I think opening that up even wider, probably is interesting. Did this start primarily digitally or face to face.

Stef Caldwell:
So it started face to face, very similar to the community work that we’re doing at Narrative Science. My theory was if we could pull 10 women together in a face to face setting and give them Vegas roles, what happens here stays here. Then we could authentically facilitate conversation around topics that are otherwise taboo to talk about with strangers. What are you most proud of? What are you most excited about in your life? What are you struggling with the most? What are you missing in your life? And allowing them to answer that question from any dimension of who they are was really, really powerful because you have women that lean into the career conversation, you have women that lean into their challenges in their relationships or their marriages or running households. And ultimately everybody is kind of dealing with the same thing. Despite where those challenges and obstacles are coming from.

Ethan Beute:
It’s really good. For folks who have enjoyed this conversation so far, and I assume that if you’re with us at this point, you have found this really interesting and valuable. We’ve touched on a lot of themes that are consistent on the show and if you visit bombbomb.com/podcast, of course you can search the customer experience in iTunes or wherever you prefer or Apple podcasts or Google podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you prefer to listen and find a lot more conversations that are about this balance of human and tech.

Ethan Beute:
A lot of CS thought leaders, of course, sales and marketing and leadership as well and Stef, you’ve just had a really cool career to date. I’m excited for where you’re going to go over the next decade. In kind of touching a lot of those different lines, what are maybe one or two things that have surprised in your journey to date, having been in sales and this dev roles and obviously interfacing with product and building kind of CS functions that didn’t exist and now pioneering community. What are one or two things that maybe surprised you along the way or maybe something you picked up in the Manifest conversation or maybe a question you were asked in the Manifest setting that you provided an answer and you just discovered something about yourself?

Stef Caldwell:
I think the biggest surprise for me in my professional career has been that there’s just not a playbook, that everything is just adapting to your environment and taking and pulling from every area of your life frameworks that work. I definitely thought it might come up that one day somebody was going to hand me a playbook and say this is how you do CS or this is how you do sales or this is how you do marketing, whatever it was, and there are playbooks but everybody is responsible for adapting all the playbooks into something that works for them and works for their business.

Stef Caldwell:
And so at Manifest, we’re kind of building playbooks for life, we’re pulling from different thought leaders like I love Lululemon has this incredible goal-setting program. Michael Hyatt also has an incredible goal-setting program, James Clear, Atomic Habits, Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit and we’re compiling a playbook for life. So biggest surprise was that playbooks didn’t already exist. The perfect playbook, the end all be all for any person trying to do anything, the biggest most exciting thing is how you adapt those playbooks how you have conversations like these and then those result and ideas and new playbooks to help you kind of move your company’s mission forward or your own mission forward.

Ethan Beute:
I love it. It really blends kind of where we were several minutes ago with qualitative and quantitative, the playbook is essentially a rule set. A series of events kind of or a set of guidelines or a set of like written things, but when it intersects with the real world in real situations that they need to be flexed and adapted and you keep what works and ditch what does and it’s… I love it. Really good response there. Before I let you go, Stef, I’m going to ask you for a couple things. This is just your opportunity to show some appreciation for a person and accompany so a person that’s had a positive impact on your life or career and then give a shout out to a company or a brand that you really respect for the experience they deliver for you as a customer.

Stef Caldwell:
I have to go out of my way to shout out a woman named Kathy Slowinski. She is I think, chief product officer now at neighborhoods.com. And the reason why I want to shout her out is I didn’t know that product management was a career path for women in tech when I was coming up, and she showed me how applicable product management was as a skill set that could be adapted in the future to any role marketing, sales, customer success otherwise, and she really gave me in my mind an elevator ride to up-leveling my career in a way that I wouldn’t have if she hadn’t pulled me into product.

Stef Caldwell:
I think there’s there’s people in your life that they see you for the unique and talented individual you are, and they say, “You do more of this. Lean into that because that’s what makes you special.” And she was the first person that did that for me in my career, and I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the career that I have. I wouldn’t have the confidence or the gumption that I have without her. So major shout out to Kathy and then also I would be sad if I didn’t have the opportunity to shout out the leadership team at Narrative Science. I’ve worked for tremendous managers there and Narrative Science is where I’m making my career. And so I’m really, really grateful for the folks on that team as well.

Ethan Beute:
Awesome. How about a besides Narrative Science then another company or brand that you really appreciate?

Stef Caldwell:
Sweetgreen. My colleagues are all going to laugh. They know how much I love Sweetgreen. But to me, going back to customer success, customer experience. Sweetgreen has the ultimate customer journey. I’m a person that orders it a lot for lunch, you can order directly through their app, you walk into the store, you grab your salad, you can leave the office and be back to the office for a conference call in three minutes.

Stef Caldwell:
And oftentimes what that means is, they mess up from time to time. You grab the wrong salad or your salad’s not made perfect, but anytime you need to you just go in their app, you chat support. And they are one of those companies that’s like, “You’re right. Let’s fix it.” They get it fixed immediately. And I think that that is just the ultimate customer outcome is you have an obstacle that you’re facing together, the company does the right thing by you. And they create this evangelist, this advocate because now I’m standing on this podcast talking about Sweetgreen and the salads that I love from them. So shout out Sweetgreen.

Ethan Beute:
That’s awesome. I have enjoyed that experience myself, not the ordering side of it, with your CMO Cassidy, I was able to go downstairs, walk next door, pull it off the shelf and enjoy just an awesome salad. So good call there. Stef, this has been a pleasure. I really appreciate what you’re up to. I appreciate what I called your passion but turns out to be your mission. I don’t know how separable or inseparable those are. But I really appreciate what you’re up to and how you approach and view your work and the world in general. If people want to follow up with you personally or with Manifest or with Narrative Science, where are some places that you might send people.

Stef Caldwell:
Yeah, I think the most collective place is my LinkedIn so you can find me Stef Caldwell, I spell Stef with an F. Otherwise follow me on Instagram @bystefcaldwell or manifest-her.com. Just a quick kind of drop, we will be announcing our book coming out in July, Manifest Her, the ambitious woman’s guide to getting unstuck, navigating the ambiguity of your post prescribed life and manifesting your biggest dreams so if anybody listening is kind of feeling like me when I started Manifest, hopefully it’s an incredible resource for you. But definitely open to any conversation with any person that is inspired by this conversation. And Ethan, thank you so much for the opportunity.

Ethan Beute:
Yeah, thank you. I will drop links again at BombBomb.com/podcasts, we do write ups, we grabbed some video clips, we do embed the full audio and I always make sure to have links to all the things that we talked about. I might even round up some of those books that you pointed to and some of those other resources. I really enjoyed it so much, again continued success to you. I hope you have a great rest of your day and I appreciate your time here in the conversation.

Stef Caldwell:
Thank you so much. This has been awesome.

 

Video Highlights: Marketing To Employees, Not Just Customers

Check out the top five video highlights from the discussion with Stef below…

 

1. CX as an Interpretation of Events

 

 

2. The Human Touch and Technology in CS

 

 

3. Balancing Qualitative and Quantitative Data

 

 

4. Why Build Community

 

 

5. Tips to Build Community

 

 

More with Stef Caldwell:

 

 

Other CX Conversations You’ll Enjoy:

 

Please Subscribe to and Rate The Customer Experience Podcast:

 

 

Stef Caldwell, Narrative Science, customer experience

 

 

Ethan Beute

Ethan Beute | About The Author

Chief Evangelist at BombBomb, co-author of Rehumanize Your Business, and host of The Customer Experience Podcast, Ethan collects and tells stories of clearer communication, human connection, and higher conversion with simple, personal videos. BA: University of Michigan. MBA: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Fresh air & clean water.