In this section of ‘In Conversation with’, we interview Louis Camassa, LinkedIn Influencer, Brand Consultant, and Thought Leader. In his own words ‘Apply empathy to inspire sales and extend loyalty’, Louis has consulted countless brands on how to understand their customers and attract them to their brand. He has developed a process known as “EMPATHETICS”, which helps brands capture, keep, and increase customers’ interests. Today we speak with him on a variety of topics.
Question: Hello Louis, thanks a lot for talking to us. My first question is about the impact this pandemic is having on companies and how they are dealing and if leadership needs a shift compared to before in terms of strategy and empathy? As an influencer and consultant, your perspective would be of great value.
Louis: So I have a unique position on this because number one, I think the challenge for me is that I live in a unique area. I live in California, it’s a little town called San Luis Obispou with a population of around 60,000 and half of that is students that go to a local university called Cal Poly. So we have a very small population here and it’s the highest price apartments. So it's a very expensive place to live, very affluent and we just live in a bubble of sorts. So what happens here doesn’t happen elsewhere. Hence that would be the basis of some of my thoughts because I don't know how the rest of the world is faring in this situation. But we have been fairly unaffected.
I think where my perspective is unique is that I decided to go outside this area and interview leaders in marketing, specifically. In how they're dealing and how their companies are getting through this. What I found was that many of them are doing well, many of them are even doing better before Covid-19 and I think the reason is that there are certain pockets that are largely unaffected and those pockets are still making purchases and going about their lives. So I think what leadership has changed, from what I have seen and heard, there is underlying or not even underlying, an advert understanding of others and everyone's situation. I think this first started out with companies delaying and for loan payments, mortgages and rent. Other companies, like Verizon, were giving away higher data usage on plans. There were high levels of understanding and empathy and compassion. Business response by bettering services. Hotspot is another example of them offering really low price plans. And I think that has changed but it is magnifying certain attributes of the leader, understanding and empathy, being able to really relate to the other person on the screen and having the opportunity to walk around in their shoes. And that leadership will remain forever and should remain forever. Look at successful companies like amazon- they focus their whole business on really understanding their customers and providing value and that's why they've been so successful. And I think other brands have seen that and its leaders are emerging with those traits and going back to their roots to understand people and I hope that continues.
Question: I agree with you. One of the data points I've been looking at is that not a lot of organizations are confident that everyone works from home thinking there could be a potential drop in productivity. But that does not seem to be the case, so could it be the new norm going forward?
Louis: I think it’s always been the norm. For us in the technology industry and software business and certain marketing advertising. A lot of work happens remotely. And I think what you're saying is that now there a lot of professionals and agencies are trying it. This is largely how everything gets, it's how adoption goes for everything, you have a small percentage of adopters, early adopters who really do something and implement it. It’s like when amazon or ebay in their early times were trying to do something really new. Remember when Uber came out, this was amazing, I remember taking an uber and someone was like, “Wait a second, you're gonna get into a strangers car?” And I was like, “Yeah, how is that any different from getting in a cab?”
Question: And 3-4 years later we started staying in strangers' rooms also.
Louis: Yeah, yeah in an AirBnb, same thing. It’s like “oh my god you're staying in a strangers house, I would never do that, there's gonna be an axe-murderer living there.
So, there's all these scenarios, and there’s so many more, I’ve lived with them all my life. Time and time again. And what I’ve learned through trial and error is that anytime there’s pushback on something that’s really gonna be the next innovation. Anytime it gets someone in the gut and there’s a large emotional response. External evoking experience, where it’s externally evoking some kind of response to what you’re proposing. So remote work, this one, is a little more commonplace because people like myself and others have been promoting it. But there’s dozens of influencers promoting it. The problem is that in bigger industries it doesn’t work. You have to set up infrastructure and bring people. I think this is, like everything, the masses are getting a taste of it and it’s more commonplace for sure and I think the bigger thought is, like you said, productivity is time management. This is an area that is very challenging for people to master. How do they balance their personal life with their business life so they’re not working 12-13 hours a day. Cell phones and you have your computer in front of you, what’s stopping you from checking them at 7 in the morning? Or going on your laptop at 10 at night, doing some research for your customer segment. There’s just a lot, I think that’s what’s improved in some cases, that people are working more hours.
Question: I wanted to connect remote work with one specific function called sales. There is remote work and there is sales. I wanted to understand what kind of role would online tools play in the sales function?
Louis: For sure that industry is going to continue to evolve and expand. If you look at Zoom right now, their stock price has skyrocketed, use has skyrocketed. Google play has been in play for several months, maybe tik tok has bumped them maybe a couple times but it’s been zoom number one. Remote work has transformed to zoom meetings and there’s a variety of tools you can use to improve remote work and telecommute and all that. But if you look at all the tools there’s a lack of congruity between them and connection. So you have zoom for meetings and slack for communication and maybe you have a project management tool then you have Airtable. You have all these different tools you’re using and they're all disprant and disconnected. I dont think anyones done a great job at all these tools so that everything is cohesively sewn together and works fluidly. Slack tries to do that with their integrations and to some extent that's working. This is new terrain but now that there are more people working remotely there’s higher demand for better cohesion between all these tools. Better management and oversight.
Question: There is huge potential in this industry for disruption. An integrated solution like you said, a solution, in your wods, that’s cohesively sewn together. There’s potential for a solution, right?
Louis: Absolutely, I think if you look at companies like Ghira, they have done a tremendous job sewing together all their platforms. They’re more than advanced solutions, I don’t think they are as simple or straightforward for small or medium sized businesses. You have got Basecamp that is good for smaller businesses but they lack in certain functionality. I don't know if there’s one that really ties it all together well and I think that will be the future. You have Microsoft Office and Google, they have their own office suites and all their different pieces that you can use for meetings and for docs and spreadsheets. The biggest challenge I see for individuals and brands is organizing their operations and having clear project management systems and communication systems.
Question: One interesting fact that I came across was that since Covid-19 started there’s been a surge in security breaches globally. So how important is information security and what are your thoughts?
Louis: Interesting, I didn’t know that there had been a surge. Security has always been at the top of mind for me. Specifically when it comes to personal data and private data. I think, if you look at Facebook and other social networks like Tiktok for instance, there’s a lot of security concerns that, in my opinion, are misplaced. Really over magnified TikTok, Facebook, they’re not really the problem. The bigger problem when you have companies like Chase Bank, Blue Cross, the DMV of California, there are many more that have been hacked and data has been disseminated and now can be bought on the dark web. I heard the other day that Shopify had an exploit, some of their support team had somehow gotten records of a site that I use. Now Shopify is a huge leader and their stock price has gone up like a hockey stick because of the crisis and I think they are the anti-Amazon. Great company but even them. And this was not due to their software, it was due to people. So security is paramount in my opinion and if you look at Shopify’s stock price, there hasn’t been any blip on the radar because of that exploit. Same thing, these other companies that have a security exploit. The only time, I remember where stock price was affected, was when EquiFax had a data breach and they had some losses and so forth. But otherwise it just gets swept under the rug and people move on where there are hundreds of millions of data records floating around the dark web where people could download and get your personal information. And, in my opinion that’s way scarier than Facebook giving away my friends list or the ramifications of getting access to some of the things I like.
Question: I see your point in the real area of concern regarding security. The data that really matters, financially, is the one that needs optimal security. I wanted to discuss a little bit about Dark Factory. Would there be more focus on building autonomous factories going forward?
Louis: Here is the thing with AI, and automation and this has been going on for years. Tesla, how they build their cars is largely robotic and Amazon has huge improvements in how they pack and ship their customers products with all their robotics. And now Amazon has got FAA approval to do drone deliveries through robotics. So certainly there will be a lot of robotic use in the future. The underlying fear, I heard this in a peer group, someone was talking about how robots and AI is going to take over all the jobs and it’s just not true. It’s what's called a luddite fallacy. It’s what happened over in Europe and England. Compare it to weaving, like they’re making clothes, it was a loom that they automated and you didn’t need a person to do the sewing anymore. There was this big debate about how all these people were going to lose their jobs and crash the economy but what happened was their jobs were redistributed to different areas and nothing happened. So I think people are overly sensitive because they don’t understand it and we’re still way off from when that’s gonna affect any jobs or manufacturing.
Question: It would create so many opportunities. In our analysis of how many jobs could be potentially lost, we never take into account the fact that there will be the creation of new opportunities and new skill needs.
Louis: That’s exactly right, a lot of people don’t consider that even if machines are doing the work, they still need to be maintained and updated, and programmed. I worked in a machine shop, many years ago that my family owned. You still had a person sitting there, monitoring it and updating and programming and cleaning, and having to make sure the parts were in there and taking them. There was still work to be done, it’s not like the machines sat there and did everything themselves. It’s not possible. So there’s a lot of that to it and I think especially in the U.S. there’s kind of a sentiment where a lot of our population doesn't want to do that kind of manual labor or work. If you look at our trades, concrete layers are making upwards of $100,000 a year laying concrete. That’s not a highly evolved or complicated job, sure there's specialization but you can go to trade school and learn it and you got yourself a really nice paying job. The salary is so high because there’s not a high number of people interested in that field. There’s higher demand than supply. I think that’s where automation has to go. That way people don't want to go backward, they want to continue evolving, work smarter not harder.
Question: That wouldn’t work, for example, in India because you’ve more supply than demand in such jobs.
Louis: Yeah that’s an interesting point. So a lot of what happens in the US is we outsource the jobs that people can't afford to live on here or don't want to do to other countries. That's both good and bad, there's a double edged sword. The good is that other countries are getting developed and gaining skills but the bad part is that the work is monotonous and tedious and sometimes challenging. It uplevels, and in 10 or 20 years, all that work is going to one country, that country will have enough skills to do the next level of work and they’re going to get offshored somewhere else. The circle of life is just constantly evolving and improving.
Question: My last question is slightly political. After the pandemic has the world become more globalized or less globalized? We see that we are banning apps, there are trade restrictions, less travel. What do you see the world will look like in the next 10 years in terms of how globalized would we be?
Louis: I think we’ve definitely become more globalized. I have seen this in my experience, there’s more regulation now and more fear and there’s a sensitivity to globalization. Where things that were flying under the radar and getting done without government oversight now are starting to come into the light. Here is what is really interesting- information can break down any barrier in any country, that's pretty easy to globalize; communication and information work. What gets a little more challenging is physical goods and shipping. I think, if you look at Ali Baba, China’s largest company, they sell the most out of Walmart and Amazon. What they have done is revolutionary. They have been able to connect countries like the US with manufacturers in China, India, Korea, Japan, you name it. Go direct to the source, the manufacturer, communicate, hold transactions, have payment, shipping all in one platform. It’s kind of like Amazon but manufacturing. Unlike Amazon with their retail you have the manufacturer and you’re buying direct, it’s all self contained. That in my opinion broke down a lot of the barriers with globalization and you still have taxations and government regulation that are affecting it. But once the genie’s out of the bottle, it's hard to put him back in. I think that platform and others like it have really transformed how we are able to interact, purchase and trade goods with one another. That's globalization and there's a lot of fear around globalization because of security and privacy and you're data warfare. But I think we’ll continue to see globaltion. I think it's only gotten better and continues to get better. In the U.S. I tried to order products for my customer and it couldn't do the quantity I wanted. They wanted to do quantities of 1 million plus pieces and I only wanted 50,000 and no one in the U.S. wanted to deal with us. So I found a Chinese manufacturer who was willing to do 50,000 and communicated, wanted 30 days, got everything shipped and it worked well. Globalization because it has to be. I don't think there's a choice, you can't get it in your own country so you have to go outside of it.
Interviewer: Thanks a lot, Louis. It was a great interview. Your insights were really thoughtful as always. I have been following your LinkedIn articles since quite some time. As always, you make one think longer than it takes one to read your article, which, in my opinion, is a hallmark of a great thought. I look forward to speaking with you again.
Louis: Thanks Srikant. Sure, why not.