Put the Customer First with User-Centered Strategies

Kailey Raymond on June 13th 2022

Good Data, Better Marketing |  Episode 02

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In this episode, Waseem Kawaf, Global Vice President of Digital Experience at STANLEY Security, shares how he built iterative testing into his team’s DNA by teaching user-centered design strategies that put the customer first.

Guest Bio:

Waseem Kawaf is the Global Vice President of Digital Experience at STANLEY Security, a division of Stanley Black & Decker. What excites him about the digital space is that it makes possible experiences that are highly personal and immediate: available anytime and anywhere. His team spans all the key digital marketing disciplines, from user design and content through to AI systems and analytics. Previously, he worked with brands such as Bose, Dell, and Rite Aid on their digital innovation. He holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from UMass Amherst and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

Episode Summary:

This episode features an interview with Waseem Kawaf, Global Vice President of Digital Experience at STANLEY Security, a company that provides security services to institutions all over the world, including schools, hospitals, governments, retailers, airports, and financial institutions. Waseem is an expert in digital strategy and customer experience, having recently shaped STANLEY Security’s digital presence and consulted with many top brands in the past.

In this episode, Waseem shares thoughts on how STANLEY Security approaches customer experience and automation, especially when insights from the data might be surprising. He provides advice on the importance of always keeping up with a changing market and prioritizing user-centered design.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s important to continuously test aspects of the digital experience, because customer needs and wants are always evolving

  • Having everyone trained in user-centered design can unite siloed teams and put the customer at the forefront of every initiative

  • We’re at the nascency of the emerging field of customer experience, and successful marketers and CX professionals should look at the large tech giants to see what decisions they’re making


“You always start manual. You always start manual, cause you gotta learn. I do think that’s where companies, and a lot of consulting companies, make errors. You can’t assume what a user’s gonna do. You see what they’re gonna do, and then build on it. You do market research – and so, I feel like we were in a period, for many years on the marketing side, where we were building for the board, we were building for our internal teams, we were building for our own user preferences. So it’s flipping the script there.”

Episode timestamps:

‍*(01:53) - Waseem’s role at STANLEY Security and his background

*(03:17) - STANLEY Security’s global footprint

*(04:15) - Continuous optimization and evolving with the customer

*(05:31) - The importance of governance

*(09:17) - Use case of automated chat leading to first natural language processing menu and reduced call times

*(12:56) - Why Waseem wants everyone trained in user-centered design

*(16:32) - Challenge in cultural transformation and stakeholder communication

*(19:24) - Looking toward the future: CX is in its nascency

*(23:27) - An example of another company doing it right with customer data (hint: it’s LinkedIn)

*(24:53) - Optimism for the future, even when optimism can feel rare


Read the transcript:

[00:01:03] Kailey: If you think about security systems, chances are your first thought isn't personalized marketing. Can you even picture what a security company looks like? If you can't, don't worry. That's the goal. Security, whether it's technology, people or both, is designed to feel invisible. But when your safety is under threat, security systems need to be seamless.

[00:01:24] You can't be fumbling through a confusing app or working with systems that aren't right for you. Over the last three years, Waseem Kawaf has been making sure that STANLEY Security provides the most tailored experience. You've probably been in a building monitored by STANLEY. There are over 700,000 of them, but I doubt you noticed. Waseem's going to tell us why getting the digital experience right is so crucial, even for a product that's out of sight and out of mind. 

[00:01:50] Waseem, thank you for being here today. I really appreciate it. I know you've been at STANLEY Security for quite a while. How'd you end up there? 

[00:01:57] Waseem: Yeah, so I came from the agency side. I had built and developed digital teams and really wanted to go to the client side more, to get in depth.

[00:02:09] I think on the agency side, the nice thing is to do the depth and breadth of different industries, from sheds to high-tech healthcare to cybersecurity and all around, right. So I really wanted an opportunity to do good in the world. The purpose and the ethos of the company is very key. We help empower safe environments, and that was very, very tangible, that I could relate to. And I first joined STANLEY Healthcare, which was helping to really drive hospital efficiency, protect seniors, and so forth. So the mission and the ethos very strongly resonated with me, but also the opportunity to really build something on the client side and really see if we could build and scale something worthwhile. 

[00:03:01] Kailey: I love that value-driven approach to careers. That's really meaningful. And I was really interested when I learned, because apparently I've been in a building that STANLEY Security helps secure, 700,000 of them in the world. Is that right? How, how large is the footprint? 

[00:03:17] Waseem: So the footprint is 700,000 buildings in 27 countries on six continents.

[00:03:22] So a lot of buildings that you step into are secured by STANLEY. And the idea is to, you know, you don't necessarily need to know that it's secure, but you are secure. And I think that is the best thing. Like the best security is one you don't have to think of. 

[00:03:40] Kailey: You're now on the client side, you were on the agency side before. How has that shifted your role in the customer engagement journey?

[00:03:48] Waseem: So I think when you're on the agency side, you're always consulting. So it was like, okay, here's a go to market strategy. Here are some things we can execute. But when you're here on the client side, you're living it day to day. And so you start to understand, okay, here are the friction points. Here are the dead ends.

[00:04:05] Here's the culture shift needed. Here are all the things needed to really turn it to the next level. I think. Think about project work and IT work. And a lot of tech work, the old mentality is build it, monetize it, capitalize it, write it out. And we're in an era right now where. You need that continuous optimization and the continuous loop of feedback and improvement and distribution of the messaging.

[00:04:34] Kailey: One of the things that you said is feedback loop. And of course, as we know, we're on a data podcast and we're going to dive a little bit deeper into that in a little bit. But for now, do you have one sentence that you can say about how data drives your customer engagement and marketing practices?

[00:04:51] Waseem: So right now we are always. You have to realize the market is always moving. Your customer's preferences are always changing. So if you keep it static, you're falling behind and you can be virtuous one day. And behind the next, because you know, outside of Michelangelo, there's not many things that are perfectly built, right? So especially in the tech space. 

[00:05:14] Kailey: I really liked the way you were painting that picture of making sure that there's almost what you're talking about is real-time. Right? So you want to make sure that you are speaking to these customers at the right moments with the right messages. And it seems like there's a lot of different data points or qualitative, quantitative that you might have to bring together to make that happen.

[00:05:31] Can you just walk me through a little bit about what you've been doing at STANLEY to make sure you are getting that real time data to be able to take action?

[00:05:41] Waseem: Yeah. So there's a couple of real keys to that. Right? One is governance is close to godliness, so you need to make sure you have a governance for every single platform you're bringing on a documentation flow.

[00:05:53] The next thing is you really want to look at where your APIs sit, right? What's your structured API verse look like? Where are you feeding that data? And how are you visualizing and gaining insights? From that data. Most of our tech staff work across 20, 30, 40 technologies. So if you don't have that structured API to start to democratize, to start to flatten, started to really extract, transform and load that data.

[00:06:19] You can't get to the insights and you have a lot of blind spots, right? You know, are there regional characteristics? Are there time of day characteristics, are there weather characteristics, right? Are there holiday factors? Are there all of these things? There's no way you could see if you're just trying to do that in Excel.

[00:06:37] Right? So the ability to start to really figure out technology that scales, not just for you today, but for you in two to three years and how to get those. Quick wins. I say that with quotation marks. There's no such thing as quick wins. 

[00:06:52] Kailey: Probably not across the enterprise. Yeah. 

[00:06:55] Waseem: Yeah. But there are things that you can do to start to really move the ball forward.

[00:07:00] Give the power back to the consumer and allow then your sales team to market properly. I mean, one of the coolest things I think we did was rather than say, okay, here are our brand stands. Right here, design language standards. We actually tested every single component. We preference tested it. And then from that, built the design language and continue to evolve and test and iterate with that because you're always going to be learning and you have to stay hungry.

[00:07:26] Because it has a way of humbling you throughout. 

[00:07:30] Kailey: Yeah. I think that's something that you touched on that I think is really important is the structure, right? Like making sure you know what you're going to collect to know what you need to take action on, I think is incredibly important. And I want to dig in a little bit deeper with you on some of these use cases of course, but to kind of start off, like, you know, what would you say is the most important thing that you can do to ensure that you are collecting good data?

[00:07:55] Waseem: It comes back to governance. It comes back to really knowing what your standards are around it. So, I mean, that sounds very theoretical, but if you think about it this way, you need to have naming conventions because you want to be able to see, okay. How is this campaign doing? How is this flow doing? How is this segment doing?

[00:08:16] And without the right governance and naming, you're never going to get that consistent view. And then there is a real, you know, I'd say five years ago, or even three years ago, people lived with. You want to lead with culture? So it's not just putting in the technology. It's how are we going to consistently check on it?

[00:08:34] So it's all right to blow up your own use cases. I mean, that's what insights does. You can't get too attached to an idea because you need to let the insights kind of flow down without that bias of this is definitely going to work. And so that definition use case, you know, flows through that. I love that.

[00:08:53] Yeah, both having that governance and having that culture around that governance, that's propelling it and showing the impact. You always have to be showing them. 

[00:09:02] Kailey: It never ends, you know, I think it's like, you start in a certain place and then like, you know, it's not something that you implement once and then you set it and forget it. Customer experience is something that is always on. It's always changing. It's always developing. I want to learn a little bit more about some of the actual use cases that maybe were the first couple that you wanted to set up. And when you were kind of like implementing this. 

[00:09:25] Waseem: Yeah. So, I mean, one of the first things that we did was chat, right.

[00:09:29] We started with chat four years ago and we launched it on the healthcare side. I was a big chat skeptic. I said, this stuff, you know, this is really invasive. No, one's going to use it. And we started averaging like 300 chats a week and we were expecting nothing. And I had one of my, one of the people on my team who is a dear friend, Steve Elder, who's been in the business 20 years.

[00:09:52] So he knew the answer to all the questions that were coming in, but very quickly, within three weeks he said, You better automate this or else? Like we just, this is not sustainable. Like this is, this is 24/7. 

[00:10:03] Kailey: But that's cool. Let me pause you for a second. So you basically, you said, cool, I want to implement chat, but you didn't try to automate it at first.

[00:10:11] You started manual. Is that right? 

[00:10:13] Waseem: You always start manual, right? You're always start manual. Cause you've got to learn. I do think that's where a lot of companies and a lot of consulting companies make errors. You can't assume what users are going to do, you have to see what they're going to do and then build on it.

[00:10:28] It's just like you would do market research. And so I feel like we were in a period for many years on the marketing side, where we were building for the board, we were building for our internal teams, we're building for our own user preferences. So it's flipping the script there. And then we said, we want to understand the impact of digital calls coming into our channels.

[00:10:49] So using voice recordings, we started to see. Well, a lot of these are not sales intent. They're support intent, right? And a lot of these people are frustrated. So how do we start to work with our support team that became playbooks on chat that fed direct to service and support with people there and then our first natural language processing menu.

[00:11:06] So if you call us right now from the website, instead of getting our call tree, this is what are you looking for? And we taught the menu probably like a thousand phrases and it's probably. Hundreds of thousands of phrases right now around intent and it automatically links you. Right? So we've saved over four and a half minutes per call.

[00:11:25] Kailey: Wow. That's huge. 

[00:11:27] Waseem: It's enormous. And it's just the fingertip of what you can do. We also have put Segment into a lot of our product applications and we can see, okay. When do we have a spike in user activity? When do we see changes? Right. What features are being used? What features aren't being used? What time of day around those features, right?

[00:11:48] How can we further simplify? And I feel like tech can be an enabler, but you have to consistently teach that AI, you have to consistently work on those mature machine learning use cases you have to consistently define, and it can't be owned by one team. It has to be owned by everyone. 

[00:12:04] Kailey: How are you making sure that all of these different tools and channels are coming together and everybody's speaking the exact same language?

[00:12:13] It seems like you've had a lot of silos and you brought them together. 

[00:12:16] Waseem: It takes time, right? We're not perfect. And six years in, so it's definitely not a. You know, it's a little bit of the never-ending story, but it's a lot more impactful if the head of service or the head of product is talking about CX in the ways you're talking about CX, when an organization starts to all march towards the customer at the center.

[00:12:38] I mean, you have to remember a lot of times people see tech as a panacea. Tech is not the panacea. Tech is conduit. Right. At the end of the day, you still have human to human interactions. What you want to do with that technology is you want to have it be an empower, an accelerator of the journey. 

[00:12:56] Kailey: I hear you there. Yeah. I mean, I definitely think that technology, you need to remember that human beings are behind it. Right. And that you can make sure that you have that right. Customer experience that you're threading back to other human beings. So I do love the fact that what you're really talking about, I think is user centered design, really?

[00:13:16] So is that something that you train across your teams? Is that kind of like the methodology with which you live in and breathe? 

[00:13:23] Waseem: Yeah. So, I mean, it's interesting to think through, but all of our team has a UX background more or less, right. So whether they're designers or psychology majors or. They spend time in the trenches.

[00:13:38] Everyone has to have that UX background. So that's something that you explicitly seek out. 

[00:13:44] It's something we explicitly train, right? When we built this team, these capabilities of saying, okay, someone who's classically trained in user experience is not a data scientist, but they probably understand how to best create that flow.

[00:13:59] And then we can work with data scientists to actually start to apply it and iterate it and move it through. Cause that's what you need, right? You need to be able to have the definition in house and the application or execution can live with a variety of teams. And even, you know, from our senior UX director to, or to, you know, our first years on the job, everyone feels empowered.

[00:14:22] Really. Contest and push the envelope. Right? You don't want a bunch of Yes People on your team because you're not going to move forward. You know, you're going to learn a lot from just running with it, with the AI stuff. We're, we're learning and we're improving. There are so many opportunities to improve the experience that even if we're taking things that are repeatable and not Life or death things that we're automating. It's not like we're looking at, someone's getting broken into and you're dealing with an AI. Absolutely not. 

[00:14:53] Kailey: I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad. I'm glad to hear the robots aren't in charge of that one. Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I, that I think I'm really interested in learning a little bit more about is this UX methodology that I think you're kind of bringing into this organization.

[00:15:07] Is this something that you brought in or is this something that was always the ethos of STANLEY? 

[00:15:11] Waseem: Yeah, we brought it in, yeah, we brought it in, it's always a, we, because it's the team that succeeds. I fail, the team succeeds. 

[00:15:20] Kailey: That's true. How did that feel to transition and like, how did you kind of drive that championship throughout the organization? That this was the right way to orient folks around customer experience was through user centered design. 

[00:15:31] Waseem: So it's interesting, right? I mean, I'm lucky to have a boss who believes in me and someone that's mentored me quite well. I was also brought in to be a change agent as brought on to kind of lead, um, the initial stages of digital transformation.

[00:15:46] And it hasn't always been easy and it hasn't always been pretty and there's been a lot of mistakes along the way on my part. So it's something that wasn't built in a day. And I truly think you need two years to really build a foundation. And then you can start to do things that are considered. Leading edge or advanced use cases.

[00:16:11] Kailey: I do appreciate that perspective. I think that a lot of times people feel like something that they need to happen. Right now, but you saying that two years is really before, like what you need before you can do anything I think is humbling. And the fact that you're like, literally this is a daily thing that we're continuing to work on.

[00:16:29] Also notable to like, make sure that folks know. And I heard you say it hasn't always been easy. So do you have any examples of things that maybe fumbled along the way, things that were pretty hard to get started with that you learned a lot from? 

[00:16:46] Waseem: If I had to look back on it, I would say cultural transformation and understanding the amount of stakeholders where you have to win hearts and minds.

[00:16:54] I probably could have done a much better job with that. You know, I'm not the Miles Davis of cultural kumbaya revolutions, right? Like that was something. That came with time and the level of patience and the level of adjustments that had to be made were sizable. Cause you learn a lot about yourself, even if you feel like that's the right solution.

[00:17:13] If that person is not on board, you can't brute force it a lot of the time. You really have to bring that stakeholder in to drive the full. You know, globally, there's a lot of different cultures. There's a lot of different languages, so there's a lot of nuances on how you can bring things to scale. And that's a continuous iterative process, but on a scale of personal development, I mean, that's a big one for me.

[00:17:35] Kailey: Is there an example that you might have of maybe it's the biggest challenge, challenge, and customer engagement or use case where you're like, well, that didn't go exactly as we were expecting it to go any specifics there? 

[00:17:47] Waseem: Well, I mean, I'd say look at the end of the day, we did our first global web. Launch, basically standardized content standardized, you know, with regional flourishes and so forth.

[00:17:58] But we had some of our call to action buttons that we thought would be game-changing winners, proliferating choice, and it didn't drive what they needed to drive. So we had to switch it out pretty quickly. We've also had somewhere upwards, I want to say like, 60 playbooks on chat. So, yeah, we fail quite a bit.

[00:18:21] Kailey: Iterative processes. The name of the game. 

[00:18:23] Waseem: Yeah. Because there's things and we get secret shopped. I asked our teams, our external partners to secret strapless. And so if they're seeing friction points, They're sharing them. And they're hard pills to swallow sometimes because you don't see that there's a blind spot.

[00:18:39] So yeah. I mean, we're consistently humbled, right? I'd say probably 18 months ago, 20 months ago. I really wanted to have as limited of tech as possible. They could just scale, but it's very hard to do, right. Because just like a human can be good at many things, but great at only a few things, same with technology.

[00:19:02] Kailey: I know that you said you were kind of brought in, you were going to be a change agent for this organization, really leading on digital transformation efforts for STANLEY. And obviously that's been a massive theme over the past couple of years.

[00:19:24] What are other top trends, or if you want to expand on what's going on within digital transformation, your space, you can do that as well. But what are the trends that you're seeing in your space that are impacting security or anything else? 

[00:19:36] Waseem: So it's a great question. I'll say, I think one of them is really reframing tech as a whole, right?

[00:19:44] So tech is under assault as a whole because a lack of privacy constraints haven't been implemented over the years. So now there is a lot more and the market is shifting in such a way that you really have to think about cohorts. You really have to think about holistic experience as opposed to last click attribution.

[00:20:06] You know, we're going to do ABM at all costs with second or third party data. You're just losing so much of that. Right. And you shouldn't have to rely on that in order to drive holistic experiences. So that's one trend right there that I'd say is going to continue to expand. And if you push that a little further, knowing that, okay, you know, Google, Facebook, other advertisers are not going to work the same way.

[00:20:29] So, how do you start to move there? And I think it's important to look at where the big boys are moving. Where's a Google moving? Where's an Amazon moving?  And if you see that they're moving much more towards the customer experience end of the spectrum, Microsoft acquiring Nuance for natural language processing, that's not because, you know, they want to run a charity there. That's because they felt that Google is more advanced and they want to flip the bridge. And you have former leaders like Salesforce trying to bridge that gap too. So everyone is really seeing this experience of CX, but because we've been so siloed for so many years, there's not many CX professionals.

[00:21:13] You know, I went to a conference in Atlanta for chief experience officers, and there's only 300 senior CX professionals, according to Tribal CX, right. 300. So, I mean, when you look at that globally, that's not a big pond. So, you know, the Microsofts, the Amazons, the Googles, they need champions within, but that whole ecosystem is yet to be built.

[00:21:40] It kind of reminds me of the digital marketing and digital platform ecosystem 10 to 15 years ago, I feel like that's going to be a big build. I think we're just at the start of that. And it should be exciting to see where it moves. And then, then I'd say, you know, the second trend is really not leading with technology.

[00:21:59] It's how do you get the culture in? So there's this, you know, there's this huge bifurcation of culture versus tech, right? And we talk digital marketing. How dumb of a phrase that right? Think about it. Digital marketing. Do you say electronic phones? You know what I mean? It becomes all encompassing, right? So you get, you have to start break down the paradigms of how we think about it.

[00:22:28] Right. And it shifted, but our philosophy of siloing things still haven’t shifted. So you know where you had this nascency. Okay. There's no silos. And if you're in digital marketing, you do web, you do, you do paid, you do SEO, you do PR or you do whatever, right. And you learn it all. And you’re a Swiss army knife to like it's gotten super specialized.

[00:22:53] But now if you're thinking about it, you're creating silo points across the board. So now you have to kind of rebreak it. 

[00:23:00] Kailey: Yeah, I totally hear you. I mean, I think that that's some of the interesting things here too, that I heard in here is privacy first party data. Everybody's kind of making sure that those two things are really specifically, they’re on the customer side.

[00:23:13] Consumers have been begging for this for a really long time. Customers are finally, you know, they were dragging their feet for a while and they're finally saying. Okay, we're getting behind this and the big guys, you're right, are actually creating a lot of the rules now to make sure that everybody's following suit.

[00:23:27] What is the best example of a person or a company that you think is doing it right? 

[00:23:34] Waseem: I like where LinkedIn is moving. I like where LinkedIn is moving a lot, because LinkedIn is opting in. You opt in to all the preferences. You self update, you engage. The feeds are open, especially with what's happening with Twitter, LinkedIn, and it becomes even more relevant source.

[00:23:51] So they've really written that wave of first party opt-in data. And I think they're very well positioned to be the next real ABM player, the next real engagement player, the next real thought leader in the space of what, what can be done.

[00:24:12] Kailey: I think  your LinkedIn take for me is really a cool one. I think I hadn't really paid attention so much about the way that they configure everything around opt-in, but I have certainly noticed that, especially with Twitter kind of being in, in the, the way that it is right now, folks go to LinkedIn all the time and they're using it in personal ways, as well as professional ways.

[00:24:35] Last question. What's your favorite piece of data or your favorite database marketing campaign? 

[00:24:53] Waseem: I think the stuff that's going on with DeepMind and Google is just fascinating, right? It's integrated into all the Google products. And if you look at what they've done in enabling science, so like, even like, protein folding, and how using AI and machine learning has enabled that process to go a long way.

[00:25:17] And become a lot more tests, fail, fix, and start to go after, uh, diseases and how we get attached to proteins. Like fix a lot of. Current elements. That's fascinating to me, right? Because I do think a lot of these are multi-use case things. So we look at it in the world of sales or operations, but you know, the use cases of what you can do with tech and with insights and with connected experiences is very exciting throughout.

[00:25:48] So. You know, I'm an optimist. I know there's not many lists, but, uh, I do feel like we could have a bright future. The more people think of defining the problem needs. Fixing the customer experience, knowing that it's never done. And knowing that there's a lot of good, we can provide to the world to enable humans to do even better things with their time and money. 

[00:26:13] Kailey: I love that. I think that is an incredible way to end and making sure that we remind ourselves that there is humanity and data and that you can drive really meaningful human experiences when you are bringing together the right. Waseem, thank you so much for your insights today. It's been really informative.

[00:26:33] Waseem: Thank you guys.

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