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The Power of Customer Experience, Empathy, and Honest Communication- An Interview with Gavin Johnson


Gavin Johnson is the VP of Revenue with Seek. He has experience in HRIS systems and systems strategies in general. Gavin shares his thoughts on customer experience and how it relates to personal branding and employee relationships. He shares the power of seeking understanding and empathy as well as general communication.


Michael Sayre  0:04 

Welcome back to “In Your Business” with Michael Sayer. A production of CUI Wealth Management. In this episode, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gavin Johnson. Gavin shares his wisdom on customer experience, good communication, and empathy. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get something out of it.


Gavin, why don't you go ahead and give us a little bit of your background and introduce yourself.


Gavin Johnson  0:27 

My background or history has been in technology. I've worked in the HCM space for a while and am currently with a company called Seek. We do augmented reality for ecommerce. We also launched our education platform. I have been in the technology space for a while and really enjoy it and enjoy working with colleagues in that space too.


Michael Sayre  0:52 

So, this augmented reality stuff, it's pretty awesome. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of how that works and what you guys do in that area?


Gavin Johnson  0:57 

Yeah, we just make fake stuff. Pretty much. Basically, how it works is say you wanted to buy a chair and you're looking online at a furniture store. And you want to see what that chair looks like in your home. So, when you're shopping online, you obviously can look at pictures or if there's videos to kind of showcase it. But a lot of times people will buy something, and it wasn't quite what they expect.


So, my wife bought a dining room table for us. She didn't get out and measure how big the measurements were. She said, “Oh, that looks good.” and bought it. It came. It ended up being like the size of a desk, more than actual dining room table. So, we had to ship it back. The big thing with augmented reality is you can actually see what that will look like so you can see if you like the design in your home and get a feel for with the surrounding objects. Also you can see if it fits, so that's a big thing. And especially with furniture, you want to see if that couch fits over there without getting out the measuring tape and finding out if it will work out. That's what we do. We help different businesses showcase their products in AI online to help them increase conversions and help the customer have an overall good experience with their brand.


Michael Sayre  2:07 

You grew up here in Utah, is that right?


Gavin Johnson  2:09 

Yeah. So, I grew up in Logan, Utah, smaller town, but not really, I guess it wasn't smaller to me. I went on LDS mission, came back, started going to school and actually played baseball there and moved all around the country in the different places. And then finally settled back in the Salt Lake Valley, and have been here the last four or five years.


Michael Sayre  2:30 

One of the things you've recently done is you've done integration of different systems as well. Can you tell us a little bit about it?


Gavin Johnson  2:36 

Yeah. So, I spent some time consulting on different HCM and HRI systems. And I know sometimes people interchange those terms, but we would essentially help them pick out the system that would fit their needs. And I would always tell people, I don't know if there's a system that can fit 100% of what you want, but trying to get them as close as possible, and then just help guide them through the process like how the pricing works.


I would help with the system selection, and then help oversee implementation, and currently do that on the side. I will help people migrate their data from one system to another and help with implementation because usually, a lot of the problems that occur are on the implementation side. And sometimes it will become like a blame game like, “Oh, they were supposed to do this. That person was supposed to do this.” And in reality, all the client really cares about is just having that done right and done correctly. We help with that, to make that go as smooth as possible, and have good communication. I've just loved technology. It's something that I was kind of just been drawn to. It's been really fun to learn and grow that space.


Michael Sayre 

It's kind of interesting, just tying those two things together, your augmented reality, as well as those business systems. I feel like it comes down to making better decisions. On the system side, I feel like a lot of time and money can be wasted. When people think they're saving money. But if they have 50 extra steps that they have to take to move in the right direction, then that's… Time is money. And I feel like the same. Same kind of goes with that augmented reality side of things too, right? If you make changes or send stuff back or whatnot, that makes a big difference.


Gavin Johnson 

Decisions man are hard, right? Especially when you make those decisions that affect not just yourself, but a lot of people that are around you and within an organization. There's a lot of great salespeople that are out there. But you know, a lot of times when they are talking to a person in sales, right, they are going to get the best story from that specific brand that they're representing. Right? And it's sometimes nice to have a third party come in and say, well, that's great for this. And this is the potential downside


This helps manage some expectations. What I found is that they wouldn't have a better experience that just helps everybody all together, helps the brand that's been selected, helps the client, they're happy. And truly, if you are in sales I think that having that consultative approach to things and being able to tell people that's actually not our where we're good at, I think goes a lot farther. You don't want to under promise and over deliver. And then you don't want to over promise and under deliver. If you can find a good balance of delivering on what you promised, that's where you have the happy customer. And then that's where the word of mouth, which I think marketing is the best form of marketing is word of mouth. You get people saying good things about the brand. And I think that's where everybody wants to be consulting me doing consulting has helped me get better at that. So, it's been a cool experience. I know that you're really passionate about customer experience.


Michael Sayre  6:00 

Why do you think customer experience is so important?


Gavin Johnson  6:04 

Yeah, I think the customer journey doesn't just start when you first initially get someone interested. I think the customer experience is really important because that's what keeps people coming back. And I think every brand wants to get to the point where there's that trust, I give an example of like, you know, whether or not Dr. Pepper or Pepsi or whatever, whatever. Let's say Dr. Pepper is your drink of choice. Let's say you go to a gas station, and you buy Dr. Pepper and you don't even care about the price because that's your drink. You don't have to think about it. I think every brand wants to get to that level of trust. And that starts with kind of the things that I mentioned before, whatever your expectation is, meeting on that, and then continue to take care of them and provide good service good experience. I think that provides an overall brand loyalty and trust.


Michael Sayre 

What are some things that you think could help companies drive better customer experience?


Gavin Johnson 

I think one of the things that people could do just like to start off is understanding who your audience is. I think a lot of it will start there. Because if you don't understand your audience, how do you expect to give them what they want? Understanding who those people are and what motivates them, what they want, what will make their life easier and better. I think starting there can help you to know what to deliver to your audience so that they do have a good experience. Regardless of what role you play in your company, whether you're out on the frontlines selling a product, or you're a manager or you're an HR professional.


Michael Sayre  7:44 

I feel like customer experience kind of leaks into all those different fields. You might not consider them as a customer, but I feel like you have certain audiences that you're trying to persuade and that you're trying to deliver message to. And so, I think that kind of leaks into that as well. Do you have any thoughts on that?


Gavin Johnson  8:06 

For every employee that works for a company, you're kind of representing that brand, right? Even when you go and you interact with friends, and people ask what you do for work, and you're representing that brand. I don't think sometimes we're aware of the effect or an influence we might have on people. And I know in my life, there's been little things that I've acted out of kindness, come to find out wow, that actually made a big difference in life and you'd never even knew you never even thought about it. We represent our own personal brands, as well as the people that were employed and our family. I think our family's brand too, right. I carry my family's name and I want to represent them in a good light and what they've taught me. I think it kind of trickles into everything that we do is people's experience with us that a good thing or backing if you have an experience, and someone's had a bad experience with you, it is way harder.


To overcome the negative side, it takes a lot more work to repair any damage that's done. So I think it's really important that whenever we're acting, or we're doing things that we are aware of that, and how we're portraying ourselves not being like, I don't think we need to be fake to our true self, or try to be something we're not, but just be who we want to be, and who we truly are.


Michael Sayre  9:24 

People forget that they are who they choose to be. There's nothing, that forces someone into being something else. When I got into high school, different teachers and different people kind of, they're like, “Oh, it's a Sayre” you know. They already had kind of an idea. You know, what that meant or what that brand was? And I know that with a lot of other companies, even competitors, we kind of have these preconceived, like, Oh, this is who they are, this is how they are. And you can tell that brand is really doing really well when you have those workers that you can Like, you can tell that they work for a certain company, and they have like a shared belief, and they have some things that, that just kind of drive them that really matches the value that are the values that that company really tries to push.


Gavin Johnson  10:15 

Yeah, I think that's interesting that we run around with our tribes, right, people that were like, and people that value the same thing. I know at Seek our value is serving other people. And that's something we've tried to, you know, instill and that's, you know, I think that that kind of shows and I think people will talk about that too, like, oh, people that are at this place. I've noticed a lot of them are similar. And I feel like whoever you choose to surround yourself with, you know, you start… like my wife said, she said something. I was like, that's something totally I would say. When you start hanging around people, you start talking similar, you start acting in similar ways for good and for bad. I probably had more of a negative influence on my wife, so that's a bummer, but she's had a positive impact on me, so that's a good thing.


We choose to surround ourselves with, with people that we want to be like, I want to do that, right? I want to surround myself with people that helped me be a better person. And I've always tried to have a mentality of definitely not perfect, or ever will be, but I want to always be improving. And there's, that's one thing that I can do and always work on is how can I be better today? And how can I learn from mistakes that that I make? And I definitely want to be surrounded around people that have that same mindset so that we can all get better together. Are there any values that you think have really pushed the way that you do business or have really influenced your life in general? I was grateful I had really good parents who taught me the value of work ethic. My dad was a farmer. My mom was a schoolteacher. I mean, it's not like they had ton of money or anything like that, but they just taught great principles to work hard.

I've even heard people have those conversations of is it better to be smart or work hard? And what's that saying that goes, “leave it om the field and give it all you’ve got” and I think that helps us get you to where you want to go long term. And so that's one of the values that my family was always a good example of. And so that's one of the things that I've always tried to do is just do my best, right, and leave it on the field and hustle towards the person that comes to mind, and then just respect people. Yeah, seems so simple, but we're all human beings. And we all deserve that.

Michael Sayre

So Gavin, from your perspective, what opportunities do you think businesses have right now. This could be with customer experience, this can be with employee experience. This could just be experience with any individual.


Gavin Johnason

I think it all boils down to concerns with communication. A lot of people talk about culture, too. I think having good healthy communication is kind of the starting point to all that. We mentioned earlier, having your promise, meet your expectations. If you're working with the client, having that good communication, it kind of starts there. And if they are experiencing issues having the ability to understand what their pain is and what you need to fix to… There's an opportunity there where we all could be better at communicating and I think the world we live in today because it's so digital. Now we're having to do a lot of things virtually. I think we miss a lot of the communication because of that even though it's such a good tool for us to be able to do things that we normally couldn't do. Just the fact that right now we are not face to face, we lose out like your body language, that's a form of communication. How you conduct yourself. And I think that that's one thing that we could all do a lot better and I think any good relationship or experience starts with communication. Bad communication leads to losing trust. And that's what any relationship is bound on or based on. So I think we could all work on that, and have an opportunity there to get better at it. And I know me, myself, I definitely could do better.


Michael Sayre  14:20 

Gavin, let me share a personal experience with this. Last year, I tried to make an effort to sit down with most of my clients outside of our normal meetings, just to get an idea of their perspective on our relationship. I asked a lot of questions about what was important to them in an advisor-client relationship. And one thing that was really interesting about this exercise is that there's a lot of things I thought were more important, and a lot of the things that I didn't realize were more important to the client.  I got a better perspective of what they saw as important and what some of those commonalities were among the general clientele that I have. I think it's really easy for us to assume we know what people need and what is important to other people. I think openly communicating some of those maybe not so easy type of conversations can actually help us get an idea of whether we are on point. Or we may be slightly off in what we think is going on versus what people actually think.


Gavin Johnson  15:31 

Yeah, I totally agree. And even you know, relationships with my spouse, sometimes men and women, I think, think very differently, right. Sometimes we'll just misunderstand each other and miscommunication. I mean, my wife had a discussion last night where she said something and I thought about something differently. I was totally off and we just had like, hey, actually, this is what I meant, like a clarification. And I think if I would have thought it meant something different. I could have led to some, some problems or I could have been upset about something


And so having that like good open communication and feeling safe to open up to somebody and say, “This is this is actually what I meant.” and they'll listen and try to understand where you're coming from. And it's always hard because with communication it's two ways. You can't force somebody to communicate in a healthy manner. But I think if everybody did, we would be a lot better off. I think we all communicate really differently. Everyone kind of has different ways that they feel like they've been heard and that they feel like they have been able to communicate their thoughts. I don't know if you read that book, The Five Love Languages. Even people respond better to different things. Whether that's you're giving someone words of affirmation, if you're writing a note, there's just ways that we can demonstrate we care and communicate to people that resonate more.

I know for me, with texting, I'm really bad at it. I look back at some texts. I'm like, what the heck did I even mean in that text? That makes no sense. I just was like, let me just send this off. And then I can like move on to the next thing. I'm definitely better in person and communicating that way versus through a text. I know email, before I send an email. I will want to read it through before I send it off. But those are ways that I have just realized that man, there wasn't even like an autocorrect button just like literally doesn't even make sense. Why did I do that? I said that we live in like such a fast-paced environment that I feel like because of that, sometimes I know personally, I haven't communicated the best. Do you have any thoughts on in our current situation? You know, you've talked about how customer experience is so important and how a lot of that comes down to communication and following through on what's communicated. What thoughts do you have for our current environment where we've got a lot of disconnected?


Michael Sayre 

A lot is going on with social distancing. How can people have good communication and keep that good customer experience in this type of environment?


Gavin Johnson

Yeah, I think that's a great question. And those are things that I mean, I definitely don't have the answers to all of that. Other people who do, please let me know. But I think one of the things to keep in mind is you have some empathy and compassion for other people with what's happening right now. I think it's kind of hard. I think we're all in this similar boat that we're all figuring it out. And we're kind of in it together. And no one's really ever experienced this before. So, I think if we have that mindset of, we're kind of all in this together and to help one another, figure it out. I think that that would be really, really important. And when there are miscommunications, because of we're trying, we're all trying our best, try to have some empathy for others. And if something doesn't make sense, let's communicate back healthy. Even if people are not doing the same to us, I think that would just help everybody.


Michael Sayre  19:00 

It's it's interesting because it reminds me of the conversation I had with Jared Olsen not too long ago, a couple podcasts ago. He feels that most people are deep down. They're probably good people. They're trying to do their best. Most people aren't trying to cause harm to people. Most people aren't trying to offend other people or trying to bad mouth them or whatnot. I feel like most people are trying to do their best. Most people are trying to, even when you're trying to do your best, you can still have communication that is interpreted incorrectly or that is seen... You think that you're communicating things really well. And it might be really good for the way that you listen and the way that you gather information, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it registers on the other side in the same manner, and I think that's really important, I think that helps with the empathy side as well, is to realize that now most people are probably deep down inside good people, and they're trying to do what's right. Yeah. Even when you're trying to do your best, you know, everyone still has their moments when they don't do their greatest.


Gavin Johnson  20:22 

Yeah, I totally agree and echo. Exactly. Jared, thoughts on that, because I don't think anyone's inherently like that person. I think we just are all trying to do our best I think we've made everyone's made a bad decision, right? I know. A lot of people struggle now to like being home with the kids. Like if kids are yelling in your ear while you're trying to communicate, man, it's hard to not get frustrated. And if you would want to lash out, which is obviously not a good form of communication, there's just a lot going on. And I know for me like if I get tired, right or I'm not as good at communicating, there's a little thing weakness that I have that. But inherently I don't want to be like that. I want to be a good person.

We're all human. And we're not perfect but having the mindset that everybody is trying their best… It was funny. Me and my wife were talking about this the other day, and we're thinking about things. Like if I'm having a bad day, she's like, pretty even keel and can like, she makes me feel good. And then when she's having a bad day, I'll be more even keel. We have those times. It's bad if we're both having an off day though, obviously. And those happen. But for the most part, we have seen that the other person kind of helps when they're having that bad day. And it's kind of cool to have somebody help you with that. And then for me, when I'm having a bad day and they've said the right thing, and they've just listened and communicated well with me, then it just makes things a lot better. I think if we had that same approach to people we're interacting with, if they aren't communicating good, are they


Their body languages like some weigh in on them or is heavy, just kind of thing to times where you may have experienced something in your life and remember that and maybe try to help them, you know, instead of saying, oh, why is Mike being such a jerky jerk? Just extend a hand and take them any help. And I feel like that goes a long way.

Michael Sayre

So, there's those times you're in the checkout line and kids are screaming and they want to get a treat or whatnot and your patients is empty. Sometimes you're like, “Now, I'm that person. I'm that one that is has the low patience.” And instead of being like, “Oh, I'll never do that when I have kids.” You think, “ Now I'm totally doing it.” I think, there's, there's so many people that you just catch them at the right time and they're going to be in that same place or type of situation at some point.


Gavin Johnson  23:01 

Yeah, I totally agree.

Michael sayre

We're going to go ahead and wrap up here. But what are your final thoughts for leaders, managers, HR professionals? What would you leave them?


Gavin Johnson  23:11 

Someone that once told me before, that was a leader of mine that people don't care about how much you know, until you show how much you care. And so, I think showing to other people that you truly care about them before you kind of show how much you know is super important. One thing that's always resonated with me, and leaders that I've always really looked up to personally is, they show that you're just not a cog in a wheel. And that you're not just reporting duties and tasks, but they actually care about what's going on in your life and how you're doing as a person. Because like I said earlier, I think a lot of people have good days and bad days. And, man, if I had a leader that reached out when I was having a bad day, me personally, it's maybe how I am and other people aren't saying it makes me just want to work so much harder for people that care, inherently.

I always want to work hard. That's who I am. But there's this extra… man, when the going gets tough, I dig a little deeper for those leaders that show that they really care about me and not just care about what you're doing for them. That's one thing that's always really resonated with me. I think sometimes leaders kind of go through the motions a little bit, and people can kind of see through that if you don't really mean it. And if you don't really have that deep connection and care.

Michael Sayre

I absolutely agree. I think now when you know everything, it's kind of hard to show people that you care before you show him what you know, but you know, that's not bad. You know.


Gavin Johnson

It's funny, how many people don't really know everything, right. And Geez. Okay. I mean, I know I said everyone has their weaknesses, but that's so annoying, right?


Michael Sayre

One of the leaders that I look up to always said, “If you know everything, you won't learn anything.” In other words, if you feel like you completely know what's going on, you're probably missing something.

Gavin Johnson

I totally agree. I've always wanted to have that perspective of, you know, you can't be someone that's like incompetent, right? And having that balance of knowing what you're talking about, but then being okay to say, “I don't know” or “what do you think on that” and I love the collaborative environment. I feel like if you give more people and more heads that can work together to find a solution and come together consensus building activities that occur like you can accomplish so much more with having people working together. And I think to be able to do that effectively, you can't know it all right, and you can't have to be like my way the highway and be okay to like, say, I don't know at all. And having that perspective to like being a lifetime learner, that we're all learning every day, and no one's got a fully figured out. Right. But I think together we can share some good wisdom.


Michael Sayre  26:11 

Great advice. And I think that's some great parting wisdom. Well, Gavin, thanks so much for joining today. I really appreciate you taking the time and sharing some of your wisdom with the audience and hope we can have you again here another time.


Gavin Johnson

Yeah. My pleasure. And thanks for having me on. I'm honored to be on your podcast and be able to talk so I appreciate you even extending the offer.



Securities and investment advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services Inc. Member FINRA SIPC, registered investment advisory firm insurance offered through CUI Wealth Management CUI Wealth Management LLC and Woodbury Financial Services Inc. are not affiliated entities Gavin Johnson and seek are not affiliated with CUI Wealth Management or Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. CUI Wealth Management is located at 5965 South 900 East suite 150 Salt Lake City, Utah 84121

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