Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us.
Hey everyone. I am thrilled to have Chris Koehler with me. Chris is the COO at box currently. Uh, we also were colleagues at Adobe for quite some time. Um, I worked a lot with Chris's team and was glad to connect with him and be able to get them on the episode today. Chris has a great background in marketing, uh, customer success, and really just engaging with customers would love to kind of have him take a minute to introduce himself and give us a little bit of background.
Yeah, thanks, Joe. Um, yeah, as you said that I'm currently the CEO of box and box about two years after spending, uh, many, uh, many a year at a Adobe, uh, 10 years at Adobe proper and prior to that Omniture, and so, uh, has spent, uh, you know, the last 15 plus years in this space, uh, both as a practitioner, but also, um, you know, advising a lot of companies around what modern marketing looks like. So yeah, in a lot of different roles. So I'm a unique background, uh, Niagara traditional, uh, have come up only through the marketing ranks, but I've been in customer success and run product and been in presales. So I really think about that, uh, customer experience and, and the role of marketing through the entire customer life cycle. But thanks for having me, it's great to great to reconnect.
Absolutely. Yeah. You know, at Adobe it was always, uh, you're a part of, and me and you are part of, kind of the movement towards customer experience and kind of doubling down on a customer experience is even more than important than product is something then, uh, Sean knew, always said, um, what do you kind of see as the modern workplace, both inside at box and then also, you know, facing customers and kind of connecting with customers on an experience level and marketing level.
Yeah. I mean, I think it's, it's, uh, it's interesting. Uh, it's shifting a lot for B to B companies as well, right. Where, uh, I think, uh, traditionally you're you were seeing, you you'd create a product and you say, Hey, here's what it is. And, and product features were like the core of this, but, um, as, as more and more, you know, uh, you know, enterprises are thinking about this, it's really now about what is that customer experience? How do I facilitate a journey? Um, that makes us really, really easy to use, just like in your personal life, any of your consumer apps, you, you want to have that same level of experience, um, with the products. And so this, this idea of sort of the commercial consumer B2B, uh, is, is really critical. And so, um, the way that we think a lot about it is really from end to end, but both from a product experience, how do you think about the CS and, and making sure they're successful the product.
Um, but also are we talking in marketing to these folks and creating experiences that they want to engage with the brand? And so I do believe, you know, this, this notion of a chain know Adobe was talked a lot about changing the world through digital experiences. We talk a lot about, right, how do we empower sort of the next modern generation? How do we make sure that, uh, that, that employees can be as productive and have access to all of their content, regardless of what systems they're using, um, to really drive efficiency and employee experience. So, uh, yeah, it is all about, uh, experiences. Now it's not just about products and features is how we think about it.
It's really important. I think as you kind of dive into a certain group, you know, what is a way that you let's say you enter box enters with like a customer support team? Um, how are you kind of trying to connect with other teams, you know, once you're say you, you spider into Adobe's customer support team, they're your first customer, how do you kind of expand, you know, to other groups and make sure your marketing's kind of hitting on with, with other groups as well?
Yeah, I mean, I think we're actually doing a lot, um, one of the, one of the challenges and I, I took over this demo role about a year ago, and we're still working through this is what does that sort of self service experience look like? And, you know, from when I enter the website into, you know, our product is so tightly coupled with, with our website, because it is, you know, obviously a SAS app, um, but we had a great community applications. You've got a separate support experience. And so we're doing a lot of work around how do you make that, that sort of seamless experience that says, if they're on the website, can they quickly find what they need, if they're in product, how do they find the information they need? Um, if they've got questions, you know, how do you make that as easy as possible to get answers to that?
And it's not just around the human experience, but also how do you create that self service? Because people don't necessarily want to in interrupt what they're doing and they just want to find the answers to it. And whether they talk to a human, they talk to some sort of a, we're looking at chat bot technology that allows them to interact and really get real time answers to this. Um, so for us, we're spending, we we've spun up a huge project around just self service in general, right? Whether that is, I want to buy something, uh, digitally, and I want to be able to do that without maybe not interacting with, with a sales team. Um, and so we have to, we have to create that experience, um, and the same way as I want to be able to find the information that I need, whether it's, how do I, how do I implement a new integration that you've got? How do I actually, you know, do this task or set up this workflow, um, you know, our customers are saying this needs to be as, as seamless as possible. So a lot of what we're thinking about is how do we leverage technology with humans as the overlay on top of that? Um, so it's an additive and they work in conjunction together. So that's sort of our, to this as well.
Yeah. You know, better than anyone having done customer success so much that probably, uh, the majority of people are searching online for an answer first. And by the time they get to you on Twitter or your customer support line or your sales, they're probably pretty fired up that they haven't been able to find an answer and, you know, they're ready for a quick response. Um, what's kind of a way that you're trying to help that with self serve is that, uh, improving knowledge base, um, just kind of training early on.
Yeah. So there's a few, few different things. One we're doing a lot of surveys just to understand as people come to the site, you know, are they finding what they're looking for? And we definitely are making changes based on some of that data. Uh, but you're right. If, if they're getting to this support line, they've already tried to figure this out, probably, you know, through multiple channels and then they're frustrated because they can't get access to it. Um, we're, we're actually going through a whole project of revamping our knowledge base. Um, we're gonna, uh, rethink the community, um, site. And how, how do you actually, um, longterm build a community that, uh, you know, other customers can bounce ideas and thoughts off, not just from a global perspective, but I think, um, there's a lot of, uh, there's a lot of, you know, sort of interest around, um, best practices. And so in this world where everyone's working from home, you know, and you don't have as much, you know, over the shoulder conversations, a lot of people are just asking like, Hey, how can I find out from my network, from my peers? Like, what are they doing instead, there's a lot of this that I think we could be doing a better job of longterm. Um, but I do think that the self service experience is going to be important moving forward.
You know, we, we, uh, did a survey at cloud app last fall, uh, on remote work. And we've, we looked at younger generations, older generations and kind of wanting to understand what the trends were like there, and more than 50% of gen Z and millennials stud, uh, that they were working remotely the majority of the time, obviously that's like almost a hundred percent of the time right now for a lot of at least office workers. Um, but how do you think these conditions have accelerated things and maybe, you know, take us in box has a lot of employees. Um, how did you guys kind of shift things from, you know, having all these people come into the office to suddenly remote over, you know, a, a week span?
Yeah, yeah, it was, um, I mean, luckily we're, we're sort of a cloud first enterprise across everything that we, you know, every tool set that we have. Um, so it was a bit easier for us than probably most, but we, we did, I would describe, um, we had a work from home. Uh, we, we had a healthy office culture, um, and we had hubs across the, across the globe and we spent a of time sort of building those experiences and, you know, and, and all the amenities that a Silicon Valley company, you know, has to, to provide to compete. Um, but w and we had folks that were working remotely, but it was, you know, it was like maybe a day a week and sometimes two days a week. Um, so we were already set up for that, but it is a very different environment when literally every employee, when we make the decision, we say, Hey, this is working.
We're realizing what's going on here. We actually have to pivot, and now we're going to close the offices and globally, everyone's going to work from home. Luckily we had the tools already in place where, um, you know, our Slack and a zoom customer and an Opta, and we partner with them closely. Um, you know, we're a three 65 shop. So again, you know, we already had all the tools in place, but there were a lot of like norms they changed as well. Right. How do you, um, how do you make sure you keep that cultural aspect of the, of the company intact? Um, how do you make sure your teams are in touch? There's no more of, as I described the, over the shoulder that, you know, the water cooler conversations and all that, we spent a lot of time, not just, you know, making sure that the people had the tools in place, but what are the new norms that we have established?
Um, what are the standups we're going to do to make sure that people, you know, can understand what the priorities are and the communication is there? How do you create the culture? Um, one thing that we pivoted as a company really quickly is we always did. Um, we always did this Friday lunch in, in our, in our headquarters in Redwood city. And if you were, you know, if you were in the office, people went and, and, you know, ate lunch and heard the presentations, but you didn't necessarily have a lot of global participation just because it felt, it felt awkward because, you know, you were listening in, on a cafeteria, huge cafeteria, and there was, it was hard to hear, you know, to a fully virtual. And now we have the participation across the company, um, is amazing. We have more than 50%, 60% of the company every Friday on a call hearing, you know, what's the strategy of the company what's working.
What's not, uh, we've had guest speakers, uh, we've had fun entertainment. Um, we have a lot of really cool eMoney customers. So we've had, you know, we've had some celebrities come in and, and, you know, do some fun, you know, a song here or there. Uh, so it's, I think the important piece is like, how have we, how have we kept the culture, um, going very, very quickly. Uh, and that's been sort of our internal view. And then, you know, obviously externally, we, you know, we did a lot around customers and how we're thinking through that too.
Yeah, that's really cool. I feel like the digital transformation talk was, was pretty thick at Adobe, obviously in Microsoft and Oracle and Salesforce were all pushing it pretty hard. Um, you know, seven years of conversations spanned into seven weeks. I'm excited to see when it comes back to a hybrid of some people in the office, some people decide to stay remote, like what that looks like. Cause to your point, like Adobe tried to connect the offices all the time. Like there were those cameras in San Jose that linked to Lehigh and you could like walk past them and try and say hi to people. Um, but it always felt a little awkward. Like it never felt super authentic, and it was probably a lot because we weren't used to that type of experience. Um, so we interesting to see what kind of comes out of this
Well, and I think, um, you know, I think what, what works really well, and one of the things that we're, we're noticing one, I mean, you know, employee productivity has gone up and we don't know if that's just because people are working longer hours and work more like that's, you know, something as we're in this sort of sprint. And is that it, is that something we can maintain that momentum, you know, longterm is, is a big question. I think we all are, are, are grappling with, but whenever one it's it's equal when everyone has their own screen. And, you know, I think the mixed environment, it's something that we're noticing is when you have say 10 people in a conference room and five people on, you know, video conference, it's just really hard to you're connected, but when everyone has their own screen, um, you, you can, you can look at everyone, you can engage with everyone.
Um, you know, I think that's, uh, that's the equalizer, uh, that I think is, is allowed for, you know, the productivity to happen and feel like you're connected with people. Video is obviously super key to that. Um, whether, again, whether it's asynchronous or, you know, live, I think having that connection with people in the video, um, is what people are craving. Uh, so I, I'm not sure how you maintain this when you do have people that do want to go in the office, you're going to be some, there's going to be cohorted. People's like whether they enjoy an office environment or their workspaces are just not conducive to, you know, working from home, you know, they might have roommates or small apartments or other things. So, uh, we're not sure what it, what the future is going to look like, but, um, we do believe there will be some sort of hybrid as you described.
Yeah. We saw, we saw a big, you mentioned, you know, video being a key part of that. Like we saw a big spike in a scene, you know, cloud app is a screen recording tool. You can have your face in the corner and record your screen talking to a document or whatever. We saw spikes in work behavior, like three X increase during the former morning commute time, four X increase in after hours. And also executives were like the highest, uh, usage growth, um, was like four to five X. So like more communication between executives and their teams or managers and their teams making sure they're staying connected when they can't necessarily do a zoom call.
Yeah, I think it's, I think that the key pieces, because, um, you don't have people traveling as much as well. So a lot of, uh, access, right. We're seeing that both with customers, um, we're seeing that internally, like as our leadership, uh, we're probably, uh, communicating and engaging more now than we ever did for, you know, the years prior, because we're all, we're all available. Like people aren't in different, you know, in different, on different continents, they're not traveling. Um, and so we connect actually I think probably two to three X times more how, and so we're, we're, you know, from a strategy perspective, more we're more aligned than we ever have been. And it's the same thing with my leadership team, you know, across the marketing organization, you know, we started doing daily stand ups, but then it was like, okay, now this is maybe overkill, but we meet a couple of times a week where we're just constantly connected. And, and the ironic part of this is, you know, a lot of us feel as connected, if not more, you know, although we haven't actually seen anyone in person than we did when we were all sort of passing each other in the hallway from conference room, the conference room, um, and engaging for 30 seconds as we walked past each other. So it's it's yeah. It's pretty interesting.
Yeah. I mean, this, this conversation right here is a perfect example, like to get, you know, a COO of a growing startup to kind of join, uh, in like two weeks or like 10 days, that's like, that's insane, right. There would have been probably you may have been traveling or you would have had more meetings or something would have had to get rescheduled. Um, you know, this is, this is exactly like a, a key piece of something that wouldn't have happened back in like February.
Yeah. I think it is interesting, you know, um, especially early on and it's, and we're trying to maintain this, that, um, the number of meetings at, in the beginning actually dropped pretty, pretty quickly. Cause it was like, you have to be laser focused on what is it, what are the priorities, what do we need to get done? Um, and, uh, you know, so we, we had a lot of, we had a lot of examples where we could actually get stuff done via Slack and say, Hey, can we make a decision quickly on this? Let's let's chat about this and let's not have another meeting. I think, I think those norms are so hard to break and you're certain, you're like, Hey, let's get on a call and a video and do this. And, and there's examples where I think we just naturally have to say, do we need to get on another call, uh, to answer this? Or can we do this in a way? So that's, that's the other thing where, you know, uh, habits are hard to break. And so, uh, that's what, uh, we're, we're trying to do with this new medium.
So my, my, uh, my story of when I started switching and eliminating meetings at Adobe was as managing some, some, uh, resources in India. And also I had some people in APAC, uh, Singapore and UK. And so it was like really funky time zones, right? Like 12 hours, exactly. For India, nobody's really happy at seven or 7:00 PM on a phone call. And that's when I first discovered, uh, you know, kind of like async video was like, I can, we can, let's cut this like 45 minute call and I'll just send you guys a quick video of me, you know, talking to the project or whatever. And then you can respond with video when you're able to, and it connected, this, created this great connection. Um, and then also, um, I dunno if you knew Maria, Poveromo very well, uh, over at Adobe, but she was my VP for awhile. And I started sending her videos of updates and she's like, this is great. I get like 15 of these update emails every Monday. And I don't really watch the video piece, but I listened to it in my AirPods, you know, walking into the office, uh, from my car and I can get the quick update versus having to read, you know, 40 emails on your team's updates. So there's really some nice advantages to finding different ways to communicate.
Yeah. I mean, I think, um, what's, what's been interesting too is just from a international perspective. Uh, you know, I would typically do, you know, six times a year to London and several times a year to, you know, to Tokyo. Um, but now, you know, I'm speaking with my, you know, with the European teams two to three, four times a week because it's like, I'm not commuting, I'm not in the car. Hey, you want to do a quick video at 8:00 AM? Sure. Um, let's do and get on or, or we do an all hands call, whether it be every two weeks at 7:00 AM on Monday, well, typically would have been commuting in and now I can be on video and sync with them. So yeah, it's, it is, uh, there are benefits to not, uh, you know, not doing the commute. Um, and then the other thing with like eight with an APAC teams, you know, I'm willing to like, I, I do a trade off of having lunch with my kids, uh, and then doing, uh, an eight o'clock, you know, 30 minute video with, with the Tokyo team. Like, I'll take that trade off all day. Right.
Absolutely. You know, so what are some kind of tips and tricks you've learned as a leader? Um, you know, first of all, like we're all working from home during a pandemic. This is not necessarily what remote work normally looks like. Um, but what are some tips you've learned? Uh, you mentioned the daily standups that, you know, change to weekly or whatever, but some connection points, collaboration points that you've learned.
Yeah. I mean, I think there's, there's quite a few, um, as we've evolved and, you know, our, you know, very, very quickly in the last three months on some type of crisis, right. Um, communication is key, right. And, um, communication in general as a leader is critically important, but in a time when there's so much uncertainty, there's so much, um, so much worry and stress in the system, uh, you have to just over-communicate. So we've, we've done that a lot. So whether that is sort of ongoing, I send out comms every, every week, like here are the priorities, here's what we're doing. We've done a lot of all hands calls. We've done a lot of, you know, ask me anythings, like literally, um, over-communicate is probably been the number one thing. And we're doing that both at a company, but also within the marketing organization.
Um, I think another point, um, is just having empathy, uh, both for employees and customers. Um, you know, this is a, like you described as, uh, a very unusual time. Um, and it isn't like normal work from home or remote work. You know, a lot of people are dealing with, you know, stress or family members that are sick. A lot of people have kids that are at home, uh, that, uh, they're trying to homeschool at the same time of, of, you know, um, doing their day jobs. And you just have to give that empathy and flexibility, um, and understand. And, and I think that, um, the time shifting, like you described, we see it happen a lot as well, where people are, you know, I've got folks on my team, two working parents, you know, um, younger kids that, that can't just be self directed, you know, four hours at a time.
And so they'll do things like a shift, like, Hey, from nine to 11, I'm offline, I got to go, I'm working with, you know, um, I'm on kid duty helping them for two hours and you're like, great. Um, okay, block it off of your schedule. I know that you'll do something, you know, we can connect later at night or you do it in the morning. Um, so I think that's, that's been critically important as making sure people have the time and flexibility to deal with this. Um, this pandemic is, is, is challenging. Uh, um, I think the, um, the other thing that, uh, we spent a lot of time on is getting focused and what are the priorities, um, in a time when there's, there's a lot of uncertainty, you just have to be crystal clear on what are the priorities that we, um, we need to focus on right now.
Um, because also what happens, and, and this, this happened a lot when we were responding to this. So all of a sudden we're like, Hey, how do we, how do we just make sure that our customers are okay? And we did a lot of programs around, you know, free offers, like turning off averages, um, really creating experiences and helping them in any way possible. Um, so I think, I think that was another, another key piece of this is customers matter, you know, no matter what, right now let's stay focused on helping them and let's put things into, into place. And we've gotten a lot of tremendous feedback of, um, you know, from our customers in this time, you know, that we actually care and it's part of our core values. So I think that, um, that, that is, uh, equity critically important as well.
That's awesome. Yeah. I think, I think that's so important because it does, if you don't focus on that, like all of us as businesses, there's such a snowball effect. Like if, you know, you have your 10 biggest customers at box churn, um, no, then you guys have to churn from other tools and the save your money, and then it just creates this massive, you know, sass snowball. So if we all kind of focus on preventing churn, you know, giving leniency, giving empathy, I think that's so crucial.
Really good point. Yeah. And I think, I think for us too, is, um, simplicity of messaging as what we, we focused on to obviously flipping, you know, we, we had a pretty, uh, pretty healthy field marketing, you know, organization doing a ton of activities. Um, we spend a lot of time repeating that, but we also spent a bunch of times rethinking the messaging and simplifying it because when you start to think about a way I would describe it as is someone's hierarchy of needs from a business perspective, it isn't, um, you know, these complex, you know, use cases like that all goes out the door and all of a sudden you get down to, okay, do I have access to my content? Do I have, can I share? And I video, like how do I actually do my job? Um, so we spent a lot of time, like how do we get to simplicity and making sure that we can help customers?
I think the next phase of this, um, you know, and, and we, and you described it as this notion of digital transformation. Uh, everyone's been talking about that for so long. I think it's going to be, how do you accelerate, um, business processes? You know, what, what does, you know, you're going to have this mixed environment for some period of time, if not forever. Um, but, uh, how do you start to think about, you know, how do you digitize the processes within your business that became very clear that were bottlenecks for your productivity as a business, not just about boys,
That's really smart. You have that, you know, you have, when the, all the Costco, the CFO, and he's like, Hey, what's this, you know, box line item. Um, you need, you need a, the team to be able to quickly say, including the CFO, like, Oh, that's an essential business. You know, we, we need that for this, this, and this thing
Really smart. We started like quite a bit as well, where, um, yeah, I think there was a period of time where, you know, a portion of an organization might work from home, right. There might be departments. They kind of, you know, to have more flexibility, obviously if you're in a sales organization or CS organization, you know, you're going to have a lot more work from home stuff that you see. Um, but what we're seeing is like departments that didn't necessarily ever work from home, whether that's an accounting organization or that is, you know, a, a, an engineering organization. Now, all of a sudden they're all working from home. And then, uh, you know, there are a lot of questions like in engineering is can, can you have engineers work from home and still drive and be productive and everything else? And what we're finding is yes, the answer is yes. And so how do you actually provide the tools for them longterm? They may not, they're not going to work from home forever, but they might say I was so productive. I won't want to work from home for three days a week and we'll have operation in the office for two days. So now it's not like a niche thing that only some people need it. It's like everyone in the organization needs access to this. And what does that flexible model look like to make sure that people can do their jobs
Truly smart. Chris has been a fun conversation. Great to reconnect with you. I have one more question, uh, what you're looking into your crystal ball and kind of make some, uh, predictions on what you think both the modern workplace looks like, and also how marketing, uh, is kind of fitting into, um, the next few years.
Yeah. So I think, um, so from a, what does the modern workplace look like? I think we will have some hybrid environment. I don't think, uh, the office environments of years past will be the same. Um, I think what'll end up happening is you almost have to have these as collaboration, hubs, where people can go in and they might go into the office a couple days a week and I'll collaborate and they'll get that human interaction. And it, it's almost the way I keep describing it as like, it's almost like a lounge where not everyone has like an assigned desk or whatever you'll go in and you'll have access to a cool environment, uh, that you can go and collaborate with people. And you might actually have like zoom pods or WebEx pods or whatever, where, you know, you can go in and, and work, you know, um, and have an environment where it's, it's your own.
I think there's just employees. I mean, you already said it with sort of the, the gen Z of feeling comfortable work from home. I think employees are just going to demand this because, um, it's opening up all sorts of options for them. And so I think this is the new modern workplace is going to be this hybrid environment. But I think that the corporate, uh, those companies that go back to a corporate environment, um, are going to be at a disadvantage versus those that are, that are, um, allowing the flexibility of, of the future. I don't know that it's going to be, everyone is working from their house and that we don't have offices anymore. I don't think we've, that's what will happen. Um, but we think it will be some hybrid as it's sorta my guess of what that looks like.
Yeah. I would agree. I think, um, there, there's a big opportunity to just kind of support that growth and, you know, it could be a generational shift. Um, but certainly like it doesn't change. The people like to go to their, their Googleplex and get their dry cleaning and go to the gym and, you know, do everything they need to do. And that can just be kind of a creative hub or a collaborative hub, like you mentioned. Yeah.
Yeah. And then I think, I think from a marketing perspective, um, you know, obviously one that we've been talking about for a very long time is just, um, digital. And I think what's, what's really interesting. And I think what, um, us as marketers have to think through is, um, when you start to put on these digital events, what does that, what does that evolve into? And, um, you know, obviously we, you know, major conferences, it's very, very expensive. I'm not doing that obviously for, you know, this year and, and likely next year as well. But then the big question is do big conferences come back. Um, and you know, it's their millions of dollars to run these things, you know, can you replicate that experience in a digital environment? Um, can you ultimately create that digital experience as we described, um, that, that morphs sort of your traditional in person, you know, ad out of home advertising all of that, uh, does digital replace this and, and accelerate even faster? I think that's, that's the question we're all trying to work through. And then, uh, when does the fatigue set in? And so how do you, how you differentiate that digital experience? And I think a lot of new companies focus on whether that's event platforms or engagement platforms or whatever this is, uh, to really, um, replicate that person to person in person, you know, small collaboration in a way that, uh, you know, you can foster that, but everyone can do that from a different location.
Yeah. It's interesting. Like, I, I, as things were unfolding, I kept telling our CEO, you know, he's like, Oh, look at all, these, these conferences are starting to cancel. And I said, I'd be ultimately shocked if summit ever got canceled. Like, I know how much pipeline is driven at those events. And obviously it, it, and everything else got canceled. Maybe it turns into like a more regionalized comp smaller conferences. Like you mentioned, where you can get together with customers and send out your sales teams and do some, you know, experiences for people that are using the product. Um, but it's like not the hundred thousand people at Dreamforce, uh, type deal.
Yeah. And I think what, what could be an interesting model is you'll have, you'll have like regional gatherings that are part of the global digital event. Yeah. Interesting hybrid hybrid. Cool. Where you can, you can imagine like hubs all over the U S or in a, in a Mia watching main stage, but being together and then breakouts in person. Uh, but again, the facilitation of that, like what's, the flap is, is heavy and hard. And I don't know that anyone's figured that out yet, but a cool market opportunity for, for some folks.
It's really great, Chris, thank you again for your time And today and everyone check out box. I'm a big fan have been for a long time, great company, great product, and a great leader.
Thanks, Joe. I really appreciate the time. And, uh, and, uh, thanks and good luck. Have a good weekend. Thanks man. Alright, cheers.
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