Product Usability Specialist John Morrison shares his years of ActiveCampaign experience with Director of Education, Chris Davis. They discuss how to best map out an entire customer journey, from automations within ActiveCampaign to personal outreach.
Chris Davis: Welcome to another episode of The ActiveCampaign Podcast. I’m excited to be [00:00:30] here and honored that you are listening in today to learn about creating the complete customer journey. Those of you who are avid listeners know last episode I talked to our very own Austin Smith about the customer experience specific to our platform, specific to how we approach the experience we want you to have as a user, as well as holistically as an experience regarding our application.
[00:01:00] Today I want to open that up a bit. I want to open it up. It will be inclusive to the application but we’re also going to go over the entire customer journey. I mean we’re talking about acquisition, support, logging in, right? What does that entire experience look like and how do we approach it here at ActiveCampaign? To help me digest, to break down such [00:01:30] a great and large topic, I have with me John Morrison. John, how are you doing?
John Morrison: I’m doing well Chris. How are you?
Chris Davis: Great.
John Morrison: Apparently somebody out on the street is not. I don’t know if you listeners at home can hear the honking car.
Chris Davis: Yeah, and we’re going to keep that in because you know, we’re real here at The ActiveCampaign Podcast. We do some editing but look, we’re in Chicago, you know? You’re going to get a little horn honking. John, what’s your [00:02:00] official title of your?
John Morrison: My official title is product usability specialist. I do sort of the same thing that Tim does. I know you had him on a few weeks ago and he is product owner. I was brought into the product team a little earlier than Tim, while we were still figuring things out. My interest, my focus is on usability but day-to-day Tim and I are doing the same stuff day in, and day out.
Chris Davis: Got you. Got you. All right, and where were you before you [00:02:30] were here at ActiveCampaign?
John Morrison: Oh man, I’ve kind of run the gamut. I’ve run my own business so a lot of the stuff that a lot of our customers go through are familiar things with me. Before that, well, I ran my own business freelancing, doing social media marketing, running my own photography business, teaching design stuff. Before that I spent six and a half years at Apple managing a team of people who taught people how to use computers [00:03:00] and doing stuff anywhere from Final Cut Pro to just learning how to click a mouse day in, day out.
Chris Davis: Nice. Nice. Yeah, that experience is important man, because like you said, it covers the most advanced user to the most beginner and the most newbie of all users, especially in the day of technology now where, oh my goodness, the adaptation of it is faster than the [00:03:30] actual intelligence or ability to understand it. How long have you been here?
John Morrison: I have been here since March of 2013. I looked this up today in preparation for this. March 4 was when I started so, what, going on four solid years now?
Chris Davis: Wow.
John Morrison: Yeah, pretty exciting.
Chris Davis: You’ve seen a lot John. You all who listened to my podcast Data Driven Decision Making with Tim [00:04:00] Jahn, when I first started here you will recall in that podcast I said to Tim was my neighbor, and speaking as we’re seated here at ActiveCampaign, well, Tim’s neighbor was John. Tim’s neighbor was John and it was probably the most entertaining, enjoyable, and effective positioning I had starting here was to hear the raw process of how to get a [00:04:30] product or a feature of a product implemented correctly, because you have Tim’s approach, which he’s got the engineering background so he’s always thinking functionality and then how do we get that functionality to display easily, and then you’re more so from a usability and like, “Listen, I get it. It’s a powerful feature but nobody’s going to use it. Nobody knows what that means.”
This balance man, [00:05:00] it’s been amazing. In fact that’s what I wanted to do this episode. I wanted to piggyback not necessarily on the dynamics of you and Tim but more so following up from our previous episode when we were talking to Austin about the user experience and the difference between UX and UI, and look at it holistically. Like I said, holistically what does that look, what does the total customer experience look like? Because what we’re finding is [00:05:30] though we’re a SAS company, these principles, they really appliy to all businesses that leverage any form or sort of online presence. Right?
In your estimation why is keeping this holistic view of the customer journey important?
John Morrison: That’s a really good question. It’s interesting to me. It’s very important to me personally because I’ve seen all ends of it. As I mentioned I’ve been here going on for years and I started [00:06:00] out doing sales and support. There were only two other people doing full-time support and sales with me at the time. Adam Tuttle, who’s now running our sales team, was my colleague in that. I’ve seen firsthand where people struggle, and then I moved on toward the deliverability team and I saw where their efforts fail and where they succeed, so you’ve kind of got a little bit of both ends of things.
Chris Davis: [00:06:30] Yeah.
John Morrison: I come to things, I come to our design approach with looking at if I can’t make this thing work initially, if I can’t figure it out, it’s useless, and if I can’t get the results I need it’s also useless, so how do we bridge those gaps? From start to finish when you’re coming into the platform, if you in your first 10 minutes of using the software can’t figure out what to do with it, you’re not going to stick with it. If you use it and you invest a lot of time in it [00:07:00] and you get garbage results, you’re not going to stick with it.
I think it’s important to look at the platform and figure out what can we do to make things very easy on the on boarding and then what can we do to make things very powerful on the outgoing? I look at a lot of the platforms in our market, and I don’t like to speak ill of competitors, but infamously Enterprise software, which increasingly we’re encroaching [00:07:30] more and more into, infamously Enterprise software is not software chosen by the users. It’s software chosen by executives, from partnership, and it’s not the most usable software. That’s because the people picking it aren’t necessarily the people who care about usability but the people who have to use it day in and day out, they really appreciate that stuff and they’re going to be more able to deliver better results if they actually can use and enjoy the software.
You can give people the most powerful thing in the world but if they [00:08:00] can’t feel comfortable and enjoy using it they’re not going to do as well.
Chris Davis: Yeah, and using it is multidimensional, for the lack of a better term, because using it is also, you know, encompasses hitting the support button to get help. That’s a form of usage, right?
John Morrison: Absolutely.
Chris Davis: Getting on the call to talk to one of our success team folk, that’s a form of usage and if everything is not easy [00:08:30] to understand how to use and very straightforward in its usage, no matter how good the product itself is, it’s going to suffer because all of the other touch points that are necessary and important are not up to par or are not at the same level as the product.
John Morrison: Exactly. Yeah, and a big part of that is trying to be as consistent as possible. For a company that’s been around now like 13 years, we started out really small and we’ve built on top of things [00:09:00] but we weren’t always as closely paying attention to details of what do we name something, what do we call something from end-to-end experience. Something I’m really focused on right now is trying to get our language together. What do we call something in the application? Okay, what is support calling it? What do our competitors collect? What is education calling it? What does marketing call it? And then trying to get everyone on the same page and making sure that we are carrying that [00:09:30] messaging through, and then even bringing it back into the design, if we’re writing a modal, if we’re coming up with some alert, make sure we’re using the right terms. Make sure we’re using the right thinking of it, presenting things in a consistent way.
Chris Davis: Yeah. That’s huge. This word consistency keeps rearing its head, you know, throughout these podcasts and consistency has so many faces. It has so many faces, especially when you have an app [00:10:00] like this. I think it’s a lot easier to establish consistency in kind of like a Walmart, or say right, where you’re hiring employees. Everybody’s wearing the same outfit or uniform. Everybody’s going through the same on boarding. For the most part the people coming in the store, their trends are essentially the same, right? Grab a cart or not, fill the card, and check out, right?
John Morrison: Right.
Chris Davis: Whereas you come into this SAS space, [00:10:30] this online where people can experience your application, your website in so many different forms, right? If we call something in the blog a email blast and then they log into the account and it’s called a campaign, there’s now this disconnect which is going to go immediately to their interpretation of the ease-of-use of the platform, and now they’re confused. It doesn’t matter how much it makes [00:11:00] sense to us or how great the feature is, it’s hidden because of a lack of consistency in what we’re calling and labeling things.
John Morrison: Right, and it’s really tough for us in that market because we started out in email marketing and there’s certain terms that are used by email marketing, and then we’ve gone into automations and CRM, and like some of these same terms are used in those different markets to mean totally different things and we’ve kind of had to a grow and adapt. That’s why the CRM platform’s called deals actually, because when we first did it we were talking about [00:11:30] okay, we’re going to have leads. But then we had three things in the header bar that said contacts, leads, and lists, and it was like okay, where my people?
Chris Davis: Yeah, right.
John Morrison: We decided to call it deals and a lot of people gave us a lot of pushback at first and was like, “This is strange. Is this this deals, is this opportunities or leads?” I felt strongly, Jason’s the one that came up with that name. I felt strongly I think this is the kind of place where we should go our own and I think it’s panned out that it’s worked out pretty well. It’s still some established marketing people get a little [00:12:00] weird by it but I think it makes a lot more sense long-term.
Chris Davis: Yeah. I would admit deals was a term that had to grow on me, and when it grew on me it stayed because it does. It makes sense. It’s like a customer or a contact can exist but not have a deal, right, like not be ready to be considered, you know, marketing qualified or sales qualified, so different terminology in the CRM space [00:12:30] normally, you know, like opportunities or whatnot. But when you think about deals I feel like it’s more up to date with kind of like what we’re seeing in society, like hey, let’s make a deal, you know. I think that people coming from a non-CRM, nontraditional CRM background, it’s a lot easier for them to understand that so, yeah.
This brings me to my next question John. I feel like [00:13:00] a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about is from experience, Right? Like we’ve got years and years of experience doing this so we know that it’s more than just saying, “Hey, I’ve got an amazing product with a beautiful website and some developers to update it whenever people ask for things.” For that person who maybe needs to learn through experience, they’re starting out and they’re listening to this, and this is [00:13:30] their only way of kind of like going into the future to see what they should be doing now to prepare for that. What would you say, like when we’re looking at the process of establishing a successful customer experience throughout the business, what would you say would be the first area that you would instruct that new owner to focus on?
John Morrison: Be human. That is extremely important. I saw it in deliverability. I saw [00:14:00] it in support. I saw it when on boarding people and I see it as a pitfall of ourselves in design at times. You can study everything. You can get deep into the weeds with numbers. You can get deep in the weeds with data, and data can be really valuable, but if you depend on too much data and too much automation, which is funny because we’re an automation company, you can lose [00:14:30] the warmth of things and you can lose the feeling in things, and your customers, the people interacting with you, will notice it.
Additionally it can be paralyzing. There’s a famous story about a guy named Douglas Bowman who used to be the design lead at Google and then he left to become the creative director at Twitter until fairly recently. He left Google and he wrote a great blog post talking about it, about how their dependence on data and they’re like, which one tests better, [00:15:00] was paralyzing. There’s a story about them trying to pick between 41 shades of blue and split testing which one performed better, and then split testing does a two pixel border do better than a three pixel border? At the end of the day most people aren’t going to notice that, and that’s a great psychological study but that’s not a place for tech company to get hung up. You want to be able to keep moving and you want to be able to have some feeling. You [00:15:30] shouldn’t fixate so much on perfect that it gets in the way of good enough and holds you back.
When it comes to your business workflow I’m a big proponent of if you’re going to build an automation, you’re going to have deals, you’re going to have things go through, make sure there’s stops where that person is interacting with you on a personal level.
Chris Davis: There it is.
John Morrison: That maybe you have your automation, it sends a notification to you to send a personal follow-up email, [00:16:00] and don’t have that be necessarily a scripted thing. Maybe you start at a framework and then add some color in there, and even if you make some typos, even if you make some mistakes, you can get some great remarks back and forth with your customer and they’re going to appreciate you a lot more. If you make them laugh, if you make them smile, they’re going to like you a lot more and they’ll trust you a lot more.
Chris Davis: Yeah. You said something kind of profound there John. I always talk about, and we’ve got multiple pieces [00:16:30] of content that say it, in fact it’s one of the core, one of our beliefs here is that don’t dominate everything, right? But in hearing you talk I don’t often hear people instruct others or other business owners to intentionally inject human interaction. Most of the time human interaction is a byproduct of not being able to automate something successfully, so it feels naturally, services like okay, we’ll just have to. But it’s [00:17:00] like what if we flip that and it’s not I have to, oh, I get to, right?
John Morrison: Exactly.
Chris Davis: I get to put the human element here because you’re right, especially when we have technology in between, one human and another and technology is smack dab in the middle, there is, regardless of how much we adapt technology and how comfortable we are with it, that’s a barrier. That’s a barrier and people want to feel like humans.
John Morrison: [00:17:30] That’s the thing. You know, you can automate in and you can automate out, and what I mean by that is we can put our automations of let me send all these emails, at the end of the line someone’s going to have mail rules set up. They’re going to have spam filters and spam filters are getting smarter, and smarter, and smarter at identifying what is spam. If you just have the form stuff that you’re sending out every single time, and you’re trying to make it look as much like a personal email [00:18:00] but it’s not really because it’s got headers coming from a mail server, and it’s got an unsubscribe link, its going to be more likely to be filtered into spam when it’s trying to fake what it is.
Chris Davis: Right. Right.
John Morrison: If you are writing things in here and you are being a human being in there, number one, it’s going to be less likely to get caught by a spam filter. Number two, it’s going to be more likely to be read by that human being and actually responded to. You can fake that somewhat [00:18:30] but you can’t go the whole nine.
One of the best emails I’ve ever received from anybody, I get a lot of messages from recruiters trying to get people into ActiveCampaign or trying to get us to hire them to get people into ActiveCampaign. They just find me on LinkedIn and this guy actually read my LinkedIn profile, and then he googled me somewhere and found my Twitter, and he found that I was into like Star Wars and comic book movies, and he wrote me [00:19:00] a personal email about trying to get people in, like being honest and straightforward but then was like, “By the way, did you see Suicide Squad? What did you think?”
Chris Davis: There it is.
John Morrison: It was one of the only times where I didn’t immediately delete that email. I was like, “Hey man, not looking to work with recruiters right now. I didn’t like Suicide Squad,” blah blah blah. “What did you think of Batman versus Superman?” Him and I have an ongoing correspondence back-and-forth now. Then he reached out to me fairly recently and said, “Hey, are you guys looking to work with recruiters?” I said, “You know, I’m going [00:19:30] to have to talk to some people because I think we are expanding that now.” This is not an advertisement to send me emails about recruiters. Please do not, but I trust him now. I like him, like I have a personal connection with that human being and yeah, trying to do that with every single interaction, that would be exhausting. But if you really care about something, if it’s worth it to you, you should put that extra effort in there and you will develop a relationship, and people will remember you and want to work with you.
Chris Davis: Yeah. I [00:20:00] think this is such a good reminder man, when we’re talking about the customer journey, because a lot of times we look at the success of that customer journey being money, revenues, profit made. But you can argue as we’re talking this through that a successful customer journey not only makes them feel human but it makes them feel human through genuine relationship, right?
John Morrison: Yeah.
Chris Davis: We don’t have to fake like we’re best friends, right?
John Morrison: No.
Chris Davis: [00:20:30] You and that guy, you’re not best friends but you share a commonality that is one, the application, then two, some personal stuff, right?
John Morrison: Right.
Chris Davis: The minute we use automation to replace that, you know like we try to make a sale without having that personal, that relationship piece in it, a lot of people, a lot of our users really enjoy our one-on-one calls that you can have with the success team [00:21:00] member, right? We just started office hours. People are starting to set their clock to Tuesdays and Fridays to attend these office hours. I’m starting to see familiar faces, or names I should say. Now every time I can say, “Hey, welcome back.” Right?
John Morrison: Yeah. And you’re going to remember those people. They’re going to remember you. That’s extremely valuable.
Chris Davis: Yeah. Yeah. Do you know what John? I think we just can’t rush it man. [00:21:30] You just can’t rush a solid sale, right? Automation is there to help you facilitate that process but building genuine relationship, knowing their pain points, it not only ensures that the product fit is just right but it also builds trust on the other end from us to know, okay, if this user is saying this feature is missing, I trust that feedback more than this guy over here who’s never [00:22:00] come to any of the one-on-one calls, never attended office hours, always kind of complains. You know, it works both ways.
John Morrison: Exactly. Yeah.
Chris Davis: Yeah. That is, man, I’m so glad you brought that up. Wow. Good stuff. With that we know where to start, like don’t forget you are a human selling to a human. Right?
John Morrison: Right. Data can be extremely valuable and I think [00:22:30] some of the stuff that we’re doing now and the stuff we’re going to be doing further with deep data and tracking, it can be extremely valuable but what you do with it is what’s more important.
Chris Davis: That’s it. That’s it.
John Morrison: If I set up some profile, set up some stuff to do some tracking and I get info about my customer, I want to automate the crap out of getting me that info and setting everything up for me, but then ultimately when I want to step up to bat and I want to hit it out of the park, that’s when I want to be personal [00:23:00] and that’s where I want to read over that stuff and say, “Okay, how do I frame this? How do I feel? How do I think this person’s going to feel?” and bring some life into it.
Chris Davis: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. What do you think prevents people from doing that? What do you think is one of the top reasons why?
John Morrison: It doesn’t come naturally to everybody and that’s not a shot against people. It’s funny because this comes into the design process here at ActiveCampaign, [00:23:30] like yeah, sure, sales absolutely for our customers, and this is something I learned doing sales, but when I started here, power to Jason trusting me right away, but I was working in sales and support and I look at the date-based campaign feature. I was trying to understand how to send a date-based campaign and the message there to configure was written in [00:24:00] Boolean logic. What I mean by that, it was written in programmer speak. It was written the way a developer would do it.
That’s not a fault or a criticism of the developers. ActiveCampaign at that time was 10 people. I was number 10 and I think like seven of those people were developers, and one of them was a designer, [Kosal 00:24:24], who’s amazing, you should have them on some time, but at the same time Kosal’s the first person that’ll tell you he’s not a designer. [00:24:30] Nobody had looked at this and said, “Man, how to make this more human?” I said to Jason, I said, “This should be a sentence. This should simply be just let’s rearrange these words and make this into a sentence, and they’re writing a sentence.” I took it to Jason. He said, “Go ahead and rewrite that.” I did. He loved it, we put it in the app.
That’s where I think you’ve got to look at things. You need to look at anywhere you’re building something and say, “How can this be more human? How can this [00:25:00] be more real?” Like I said, that doesn’t come naturally to everybody and I think if you are running a business you should look at that stuff. You should look at having another person on that stuff. You should look at having some review your stuff, but I also think you should push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Something that was really valuable to me was taking improv classes. I am not a performer but forcing myself to do that sort of thing broke the mold on me [00:25:30] of how I dealt with other people and it made me try to look at things differently. I would say find things in your own personal life that are going to skew your worldview and force yourself to adapt to that. I think you’ll do better in a lot of the things that you do.
Chris Davis: Yeah. It’s like the old adage get comparable being uncomfortable, you know, because that’s when growth takes place. Wow, so John, in closing [00:26:00] what are some key indicators that people can look at, whether they have a SAS company or you know, a blog, or you know, whatever the level of online presence they’re currently using, what are some indicators that let you know that you have an effective customer experience? What are some key indicators that you can see for that?
John Morrison: I mean ultimately, as much as I rail against data, it comes back to data. It [00:26:30] comes back to checking in to people, checking in with how many people are coming back to you. What are people saying about you online? What are people … Yeah, you can look at your sales and what’s your average sale value and how many of these people are coming in from where, but … I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer for you Chris.
Chris Davis: Yeah. I think that’s telling in itself [00:27:00] though, right? Because that experience is really up to you, right?
John Morrison: Yeah. It’s so personal.
Chris Davis: It’s you to determine.
John Morrison: It’s what do you gauge your personal success on, but additionally, what is your market? So many people just want a cookie-cutter answer for everything and I think if you’re selling T-shirts, that’s a wholly different business than if you’re a photography business, and if you are selling webinars that’s a whole different thing. But you need to look at what do you gauge as your personal success, [00:27:30] and how do you measure that is going to be so wildly varied that I don’t think you can have a straight answer that’s going to apply to everybody.
Chris Davis: Yeah.
John Morrison: Ultimately it’s a matter of how much time you’re spending on something and what are you getting back, but what your goals are is more important.
Chris Davis: Yeah, and how does that end-user feel, you know, and if that’s important, like you said, if that’s important. One person may take pride in the fact that all of their [00:28:00] users have this warm feeling because they not only enjoy the product but believe in the cause. You know, I was watching Shark Tank and a lot of the millennial’s now say you have to have a social movement, so they take 10% of their earnings and they give it to a noble cause. Some people are like, “I want to spend money there because I believe in what they’re doing and their product.” If that is something that you set out to do then that’s what you measure towards. Other people, [00:28:30] and I’m not saying that people who don’t do that, there’s businesses that it’s strictly about numbers and it’s like, “Hey, look, our people putting out bad reviews hurting our money?” That becomes a metric, you know?
John Morrison: That’s the thing. If people have a bad experience they’re most more likely to talk about you, which is probably not what you want, right? You don’t want them saying bad things about you so building your brand to be a thing that is likable is extremely valuable. Look at the most successful brands in our world today. You know, it’s companies [00:29:00] like Apple. It’s companies like Nike. It’s companies like Coca-Cola, and they’re lifestyles, right?
Now, B2B software, for us, I mean we’re not going to be Coca-Cola. No one’s going to be like wearing a Coca-Cola shirt to the Super Bowl, I mean an ActiveCampaign shirt to the Super Bowl and have other people high-fiving them, but ultimately you should strive to have some sort of warmth and likability to your stuff because the flipside is being very dry [00:29:30] and being unliked.
Chris Davis: Yes.
John Morrison: Yeah, and social responsibility, yeah, I think our world is changing in a lot of ways right now. Not to get political, but people are being very conscious in their consumerism, right? People are saying, “I’m not going to shop at these things that don’t support my values,” or, “I am going to engage in these things.” You make some decisions with that, like if you say, “Our business is going to take a stand on issue number five,” [00:30:00] you may alienate some people in doing that but you also may get a lot of the attention for just doing that. You kind of have to gauge the ups and downs about that, like whether it’s worth it for you financially but also whether it’s worth it for you ethically. What do you want to stand for? What do you want to do, and how do you think the world is going to respond to that is just as important as anything else. I mean we’re sort of weirdly getting into social justice [00:30:30] but I think it ties in. I think it ties into that personal experience.
You know, I didn’t like Suicide Squad. I’m not afraid to say that. I also am very happy to work at a company that is okay with me saying that I don’t like Suicide Squad on a podcast, right?
Chris Davis: Yeah. Sure. Sure. Yeah. I think it’s all important man, and it all goes back to the fact that we’re humans and it’s all about relationships, man. John, this is been great man. This is been really, really good, really insightful [00:31:00] as well. Any parting words you would like to leave our listeners with?
John Morrison: Just be human. The human. Be likable. Respect other people and I think, man, this is so like warm and fuzzy cushy, but I really think that that is extremely important in every end of your business, and I think if you can do that and monitor your numbers and keep your numbers up, you will be successful much more than you would be if you were very dry and [00:31:30] automatic about things.
Chris Davis: Yeah. Nice. Nice, and I’ll part with all relationships matter man. All relationships matter.
John Morrison: Yeah. All relationships.
Chris Davis: Again John, thank you so much for being here.
John Morrison: Thank you.
Chris Davis: Look forward to having you back and I hope that this was very, very helpful for all of you listeners.
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This is The ActiveCampaign Podcast, the small business podcast to help you scale and propel your business [00:32:30] using automation. I’ll see you on the next episode.