When Worlds Collide: Optimizing Customer Service and Marketing with Phil Irvine

22 min read
When Worlds Collide: Optimizing Customer Service and Marketing with Phil Irvine
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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Phil Irvine. Phil is the VP of Audience Intelligence at RPA and he gives us the secrets to successfully curating the customer journey through good marketing and solid customer service. Listen to the full podcast to learn more.

What’s Marketing Got to Do With It?

You may be thinking that marketing and CX have nothing to do with one another yet they really do go hand in hand. Both are customer-centric and both focus on customer touchpoints within the brand. A huge part of marketing is knowing how your consumers shop, what their demographics are, and how your business fits into their lives, which is why data is so essential to providing the best experience. Phil explains, “It has become imperative for organizations on a couple of fronts to stand out from competitors, but also to foster meaningful communications with their customers and shoppers.” Rising above the competition happens when marketing and CX leaders come together in their strategies to build a better experience for their consumers on all fronts. For example, if marketers get target demographic information that would be helpful for the CX team, they can share it and work together, making the brand more customer-obsessed in both departments.

Fueling Engagement Through Eliminating Pain Points

The customer journey is hugely important when creating a seamless experience between consumers, departments, and products – something that many leaders effectively fail at. According to Phil, one of the best things leaders can do is to examine the customer’s journey and to look for pain points or places within that journey that makes their interaction needlessly difficult with the company. This doesn’t necessarily mean offering an experience that’s completely personalized per customer; it means finding target groups that match specific demographics, then altering the customer journey depending on their needs, and eliminating pain points along the way. Eric comments:

My perspective is it’s definitely important to be relevant and somewhat personalized, but having worked in a lot of marketing operations types of roles in the past, you got to always think about balancing the level of effort versus the end value or business results that you’re driving with it being personalized.

Data-Driven Results

A common problem leaders in all aspects of business share is that of the “Frankenstack,” which is the lurking monster of unorganized and unused data. It’s a shame when data goes unused because it’s essential for marketers and CX agents to get their jobs done and to provide accurate services to consumers. Data’s become quite the hot topic recently in this realm and CRMs like Kustomer can help you to organize it in a way that improves the quality of your brand’s service. 

Phil shares an example of when he worked for a flower business and one of his major clients was Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank. Phil’s shippers were backlogged, making all orders take longer than expected, which made Barba concerned with the status of her order. Because of their system that kept track of customer data, Phil was able to see that Barbara was a VIP customer and they could then prioritize her items. This shows that having a solid system in place that organizes your data and is easily accessible by your team is a great way to offer actionable solutions to customer problems. 

To learn more about how marketing and CX work together, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

When Worlds Collide: Optimizing Customer Service and Marketing with Phil Irvine


Intro Voice: (00:04)

You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)

Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited for the next episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast. I’m your host here, Gabe Larsen. Special guest today, Phil Irvine. He’s the VP of Audience Intelligence at RPA. Now that’s not a title you get every day. I’ve been tracking Phil, he’s got some great content. I’ve bugged him on LinkedIn. I finally got him. It will be a fun talk track and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in a minute, but Phil, thanks for joining. How are you?

Phil Irvine: (00:40)

Very good, very good. And yeah, it’s been a long time coming. I know we’ve been trading a lot of notes back and forth, and we’re finally able to connect here and chop it up for a little bit.

Gabe Larsen: (00:48)

Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m like stalking people. I’m like I got to get Phil on. We identified him like six months ago and the team and I have been bugging him, but I do appreciate you taking the time. We’re going to be talking about how customer interactions and signals can fuel optimal marketing experiences and wanted to get Phil on because man, we’re seeing so much, I love this more broad view of the customer experience. Not always the service. How does marketing play a role in there? The entire journey optimization becomes really interesting and some of the stuff he does and talks about, I think are fascinating. So before we jump into that, Phil, tell us a little about yourself and some things you guys are doing over there that’s cool at RPA.

Phil Irvine: (01:25)

Yeah, definitely. So as far as myself, I’ve worked in the digital marketing, CRM, customer experience space for about 12 years now. The majority of my background actually was more on the CRM side, but currently, at RPA, we’re a full-service media and advertising agency and we focus mostly on the upper funnel, paid media activities to drive new customer sales, and whatnot. But my group’s function, you’re right. Audience intelligence is not kind of a common title for a group, but I kind of see it as two separate pillars. We help our clients understand their target audiences, insights, their demographics, attitudes, lifestyles, motivations, to help inform media planning efforts on the front end. And then my team is also on point for what we call audience development and activation, which is the actual stitching together of the target audiences that should be linked with all of the various media campaigns that all of our clients are running across all channels. So programmatic social search, addressable TV is a big one now across the board. So it’s a unique and interesting group. It’s kind of new to RPA and not really that common across a lot of agencies. So I’m excited about it.

Gabe Larsen: (02:48)

I like, yeah, I do. You’ve got to kind of have a slightly different view on it and I love the way you kind of bring it into customer service, which we’ll hit on just a minute. I always like to see if I can embarrass people with a fun fact, make you a little more human before we jump into the boring stuff. Anything come to mind, embarrassing moments, fun facts about yourself that you might be open to share to the audience?

Phil Irvine: (03:11)

Oh man. There’s a couple that I can think of. I do have a lot of embarrassing moments, but I think one interesting thing about where I’m at in my career now is that when I was a student at the University of Notre Dame, this was, I hate to age myself, but this was early two thousand. The internet was just taking off. A lot of digital marketing wasn’t in place, but I think I could maybe take credit for being the first person that organized an integrated marketing campaign to promote parties and so we had old school flyers, we had emails that we will blast to the entire student base. We were using AOL instant messenger – another sign of how old I am. And then we would create landing pages. And so it, definitely very janky and very rough, but I think I could maybe take claim to running the first integrated or marketing campaign and for your audience, you can see it was for the purposes of parties. I did go to school a little bit but wanted to have fun.

Gabe Larsen: (04:19)

I mean, to each their own. It sounds like marketing’s, it’s been in your veins for a long time, and Notre Dame, man, it’s a good school. How’s the football team doing? Are they doing all right this year?

Phil Irvine: (04:30)

Yeah, you know. We’re three and O. Haven’t looked that impressive. I think our fan base, we always want more so we expect more. Every game has been a nail-biter so far, but we’re three and O so you can’t complain about that.

Gabe Larsen: (04:43)

I heard there was a rumor that Notre Dame was going to be playing my BYU Cougars in Las Vegas, maybe in a year or two and that’d be a great game, but the Raiders stadium. Anyway, always fun to follow those guys. Somehow they seem to pull it off. It is such a cool program. Anyways. Yeah. I could probably talk about football for a while, but let’s not do that. Let’s dive into the topic. Let’s start with a little broad picture. Let’s talk about relevant marketing. Why is it important? How has it evolved? Give me, paint me a picture of what’s going on there.

Phil Irvine: (05:15)

Yeah. If you think back to the early stages of marketing and advertising, a lot of people are familiar with the show Mad Men, which was more on the advertising front. In the early days, mass blast promotions were the way, basically, the mindset of you got to spend money to make money. There weren’t a lot of nuances to apply to think about how to vary creative and messaging versus different types of segments and targets. But as digital has become so much of a mainstay with organizations from the standpoint of just tracking more signals and pieces of information about their customers, but then also how to use that information to inform targeted messaging creative and types of ads, it has become imperative for organizations on a couple of fronts to stand out from competitors, but also to foster meaningful communications with their customers and shoppers. And these days when there’s just so much content that consumers are exposed to, you need ways to be able to stand out from the crowd and keep somebody’s attention. And people can detect if stuff is generic or not tailored toward them and they’ll ignore your marketing or advertising right off the bat.

Gabe Larsen: (06:39)

Yeah. It does seem like obviously there continues to be a shift here, there. Always want to get more segmented, more personalized, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on personalization. It does seem like it’s a buzzword across the board. We hear that a lot on the quote-unquote service side, we hear it a lot throughout the customer journey. How do you think personalization fares into marketing? What are some of the tactics people are doing there?

Phil Irvine: (07:05)

Yeah. I think it’s interesting because one of the cliches that are being thrown out there as a North Star is the concept of one-to-one marketing, essentially, theoretically having a different creative or message for every person that you’re targeting. My perspective is it’s definitely important to be relevant and somewhat personalized, but having worked in a lot of marketing operations types of roles in the past, you got to always think about balancing the level of effort versus the end value or business results that you’re driving with it being personalized. I feel like there’s more likely a happy medium that organizations to pursue where you may not need to have a different offer, for example, for every single person in your customer database, but maybe you group cohorts together that have similar behaviors, attributes, and surface different messaging or different creative to aggregate groups versus being one-to-one. A lot of it’s also dependent upon the technology, the infrastructure you have to put in the market, these types of marketing programs. But I do think it has to be kind of a happy medium for an organization.

Gabe Larsen: (08:27)

It does seem like that it can be, you can almost go too far. I like the idea that how much more benefit if you really go down to the ends degree that individual maybe that is a little bit difficult. What are some of the more standard segmentations you feel like people are winning with when it comes to personalization, personalizing via cohort? Is it the ICP type stuff? Any thoughts on that?

Phil Irvine: (08:53)

Yeah, well, the low-hanging fruit for a lot of e-commerce companies, retailers kind of comes top of mind is personalization from a product preference standpoint. So if you have information of what people have bought in the past, that can inform what their next purchase or purchases should be, and a lot of companies have made a lot of progress towards using it, whether it’s predictive analytics or whether it’s just straightforward, common sense, like what types of items that a customer is going to purchase along their journey with an organization. I think coupling that with, back to the word I mentioned before, but just relevance from a timing standpoint, from a seasonality standpoint, and a couple of companies that I’ve worked at, tailoring communications towards the season or the current events is also a big win I’ve seen in the past towards exhibiting personalization towards your customer base. People, I worked at a flower company, so the low-hanging fruit there was Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and everything that we sent out marketing-wise, it was around those two holidays. Hopefully, everybody wants to –

Gabe Larsen: (10:13)

You got to do the Mother’s Day flowers. You have to, in fact, I’ve got my hand slapped a few times for falling by the wayside. So yeah, I get it. I get that.

Phil Irvine: (10:21)

Yeah. So I think it’s, that’s definitely a big win, but the challenge is what is relevant to your customer base. And there’s a lot that goes into that.

Gabe Larsen: (10:29)

I like the example. I think that’s a good example. You sometimes kind of find what works for your individual group, but flowers to your point maybe make sense. You pick a couple of holidays and you beat around those. You highlighted a little bit on the technology, not too much, but I want to see if I can just push you on that a little bit. It seems like a lot of people struggle, to do things like segmentation, to do things like personalization, because they have maybe what they have heard called like a Frankenstack. It’s like this doesn’t really have data here. I don’t have the data there, or I don’t have a full platform here. How do you coach people? Or any thoughts, maybe that you guys run internally? Or how do people start to think about this with the right tech stack?

Phil Irvine: (11:08)

Yeah. It’s definitely a hot-button topic right now. I think the biggest thing and again, this is kind of known in the marketplace is just a good infrastructure that has centralization of all of your customer data, not just their demographic profile information, but all of their past purchase history. And then what’s really becoming important now is all of the digital signals that you can capture. So what are they doing on your website? How are they engaging with your ads? What are those customer contacts like? What’s the content that’s being discussed? And with platforms like CDPs, marketing automation platforms, to some extent, you can package this information where you can surface it in an actionable manner. And the thing that we do coach with clients that we work with is that there’s a lot of great technology out there, and there are solutions to get to kind of that North Star of having these actionable insights to be able to activate against.

Phil Irvine: (12:16)

But when you pitch this to senior leadership, or even if you’ve gotten the approvals and you’re implementing these types of solutions you want to try to think of short, small wins that you can exhibit along the way while you’re implementing these, like a CDP type solution. You want to have your north star of what the optimal, personalized segmentation experience will look like, but the thing that I try to preach and what I’ve personally pursued in roles that I’ve had is like exhibiting small wins along the way to show that these investments are worth it, because they’re expensive at the end of the day.

Gabe Larsen: (12:55)

Yeah. I think that’s key because those dollars start to stack up. You feel like most companies, I feel like maybe there’s a certain point you reached this, but a lot of people, they try to kind of treat their marketing automation toolset as like the CDP, like the kind of like their, everything they can get in that, or they’ll maybe try to use their CRM, whatever it may be – HubSpot, Salesforce, as kind of like their database of all interactions. But it does seem like there’s a lot of emerging companies are actually creating a new database of trying to pull everything into another system or something like that, where ultimately the customer data is residing. Any quick thoughts on that or guidance for people as they grow? Do you ultimately need to get like a data warehouse that everything kind of goes there and then you feed off that into your CRM and marketing automation? Thoughts on that?

Phil Irvine: (13:55)

Yeah, definitely a lot of directions to go there, but I think, so I have seen the same thing from a marketing automation standpoint. I think historically a lot of organizations have relied on that because email marketing is very powerful. It’s number one, it’s cheap. You don’t have to pay an incremental cost per impression or email you’re sending out. So it makes a lot of sense and there’s a lot of investment, it’s tied to customer data. So that makes a lot of sense, I think. But where organizations are going now though is trying to put in the market the same type of experience across all media channels. So not just email, but social display drive, even TV. And so I think with marketing automation platforms, there are some limitations with where you can distribute audiences as opposed to CDPs. A lot of them are architected in a way where they have native integrations across all of these media channels. So that’s why I think you’re seeing a big investment in that space. And then the other piece too is the identification of trying to understand, like tie digital identifiers with email and other offline identifiers so that you know the exact person that you’re sending a message to. So that’s the other, I sound like I’m a CDP salesman right now. It was just an observation we were seeing in the space right now.

Gabe Larsen: (15:29)

What is, let’s just go maybe one industry like the retail e-com, what is the more popular CDP platform that people would be using? Any quick ideas for those of us who aren’t as familiar?

Phil Irvine: (15:39)

Oh, man. There’s, it’s becoming so fragmented, but we’re definitely seeing mParticle is one that’s popping up and [inaudible] I got to give a shout out to. I know the CEO and the leaders there specifically, and I’ve worked with their platform in the past, a very good one. All the big tech like Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, all have CDP platforms and I’m sure they’re all solid, but yeah, those two are the two that I’m probably most familiar with.

Gabe Larsen: (16:12)

That’s helpful. That’s helpful. Oh, man. I wish we had more time. I want to bug you about some other things, but I do want to get to this last question before I let you go. Marketing and customer service. There’s certainly, one of the reasons I want to have you on is it’s just, there’s so much integration, especially as we talk about the retail side and e-commerce. I love talking to those individuals because they don’t view it like the old school contact center, sales marketing. It’s like, no, man. We’re like, it’s the journey. It’s the customer journey. I’ve run marketing, I’ve run growth and growth is kind of everything. How do you see that working together? Thoughts on that?

Phil Irvine: (16:48)

Yeah, I definitely see them working in tandem and actually have a couple of examples. I’ll just go into one right now. But again, at the flower company that I worked at, we have these big busy season periods, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. So within our customer files, we actually, when we worked with a CDP or we onboarded our customer file into a CDP, they had a ranking system so that we could bucket people into two different value tiers. And we actually, and that was based on past purchase history, but also marketing engagement fed into that algorithm. And so all of that scoring was ported into our, we were using Zendesk, which was our contact center, solution and so-

Gabe Larsen: (17:40)

One of our big competitors, we know those guys.

Phil Irvine: (17:44)

So I’m sure this could have been done with Kustomer as well.

Gabe Larsen: (17:48)

I didn’t pay him to say that, but he’s right. Keep going.

Phil Irvine: (17:51)

But during these busy seasons in the flower industry, a lot of people are calling us to understand the status of their deliveries. If there happened to be a delay, there’s just a lot of attention and focus on making sure these shipments arrive to customers in a timely manner. So we had a scenario actually though, where we had it noted a specific VIP and she was calling to understand the status of her order because our shipping partners were kind of backlogged. It actually had, it actually ended up being Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank but we had this note that she was a VIP. So we were able to kind of escalate attention to her order to get her flowers shipped out or kind of prioritize her order out to over, sorry for the others in the queue. But the concept there is you want to make sure your VIP stay [inaudible]. They’re valuable to your organization. So that’s just kind of one anecdote, but that’s how marketing data can also help inform these customer contact type scenarios to have better experiences for your customers.

Gabe Larsen: (19:00)

So powerful. It’s like if you start to bring that, I mean, that’s it right? I mean, it’s like that 360 view of the customer. And I think we’ve been talking about it for years and years, but boy, is it hard to implement? And I love examples like that because it’s an illustration of what power can be. If you can, maybe it’s not the full 360, but getting some of these other data points together so that it’s like, “Oh man, I didn’t know that. Therefore I’m going to act to do something differently. Want to ask more questions, want to bug you, want to make you waste more time with me, but I’m going to save you. I’m going to save you and not do that. We’ll wrap up. If somebody, maybe don’t say that, maybe I’ll ask you for a quick summary or closing. I mean, so many people are trying ways to kind of figure out how to do things better in customer service marketing and it’s a big journey. The Frankenstack, the personalization, where do you start? Maybe end with that statement if you can.

Phil Irvine: (19:53)

Yeah. Yeah. I think, thinking about your business objectives and understanding not just what your customers should be doing when they engage with your brand, but what, how you want to influence their journeys and their experiences. And I think going through that exercise, but then mapping out what are the pain points in those, in that experience or that journey? I think really once you can kind of understand the gaps and the pain points, that should drive where you focus your technology resource and attention, focus and investments, as opposed to, a lot of organizations, they see these shiny new toys. They hear –

Gabe Larsen: (20:51)


Phil Irvine: (20:51)

But I think a lot of times there’s no attention paid towards what are the true business problems and how should we prioritize solving those first before investing in the technology?

Gabe Larsen: (21:02)

I love it. I mean, if someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what’s going on, what’s the best way to do that?

Phil Irvine: (21:08)

Yeah. So you can find me on LinkedIn. Phil Irvine, RPA. I believe if you search there. Feel free to reach me, my email: pirvine@rpa.com, and I’m sorry for the shameless plug, but we’re actually gonna be launching our own podcast called Clear the Air with RPA and Gabe, maybe you can be a guest on our show. I hope I have the privilege to have you as a guest.

Gabe Larsen: (21:34)

I’d love to return the favor. Absolutely. You got to keep me informed on that. I hadn’t heard, I don’t know if we talked about that yet. All right, well we’ll let you go. I love the talk track, transition, personalization, marketing, how it all fits in with customer service. So Phil, thanks so much, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:55)

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