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Episode 2 Guest: John Coldicutt, CMO at Planday
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CMO John Coldicutt Mobile Interactions Podcast, tyntec

An interview with John Coldicutt — CMO at Planday, a SaaS-based workforce management solution. In this discussion, we'll cover the modern workforce and how today's companies are using new technologies and tools to improve communication and overall user experience.

Today, I’m sharing a fascinating conversation I had with John Coldicutt. He is the, CMO at Planday, a SaaS-based workforce management solution. We’re going to talk about how today’s businesses are using new technologies and communication tools to manage their workforce, focusing on making user experiences work for mobile-natives on shift-based work schedules


Podcast Script:


Chris:
Hello and welcome to Mobile Interactions Now, the podcast where industry pros share first-hand experience on making mobile experiences work. I'm Chris and I'm part of the team here at Tyntec. On today's episode, we sit down with John Coldicutt, the CMO of Planday to discuss new challenges and [inaudible 00:00:22] involved in managing the modern workforce. We also delve into some granular details, such as scheduling, processing expenses, and other daily operations. So let's just jump right in the episode.

Chris:
Take it away, Jean.

Jean:
Why don't you give the listeners a little bit of your background? I've covered some in the intro, but I'm sure they will love to hear more.

John:
Yeah, with pleasure. So I've been around the mobile space for quite a few years. Actually in the early 2000s, I was working for a company called Amdocs, which is one of the biggest providers into mobile telcos and we did a lot of thinking around what the experience would be of mobile consumers in the future. And I feel that that future's actually only just happening now. I think the game has changed significantly over the last five years with the advents of iPhones and all of the apps that they come with.

John:
I also worked in the mobile feedback space, so I was with a business called Fizzback for a number of years. We did SMS customer feedback surveys. That was pretty ahead of its time. It was kind of a chat bot for SMS and now I'm at Planday, which is really using mobile technology to help businesses that are shift-based and a lot of the workers, often whom are hourly paid, to really collaborate in a new way, in a way that really helps the businesses to stay organized and the workers to have more control over their personal life and their business life, so I'm all about mobile interactions.

Jean:
You have got a lot of great background to cover what we are going to talk about today, which is basically how today's businesses are using new technologies and communication tools to manage their workforce. And we are recently seeing a lot of changes in the types of employment and workforce in general, which has seemed to have changed how things run in the back office, not just the front office across many industries, whether it's a modern gig economy or a more traditional business, like a restaurant, for example.

Jean:
The use of a contract workers and different type diverse workforces playing a key role in how businesses are looking at and staying nimble. So that's the first place I want to start with. Can you tell me about what changes you're seeing in terms of the type of customers you are serving, compared to say Planday's earlier days?

John:
Planday started out in a nightclub in Copenhagen around about 12 years with a couple of guys that were standing at the bar with sort of hundreds of customers looking at each other, wondering where everybody else was that was supposed to be serving those customers. And when they could get a moment, one would go into the back office and look at the roster, which was printed up and stuck on the wall, and would then go down the list and try and call the people or anybody that could come in and help them serve their customers.

John:
So it was a couple of guys that really felt the pain from a business that had very spiky demand patterns, right? You think of a restaurant or a bar or a nightclub, they have very, very peak hours and very quiet hours in between. And they felt the pain of, well we need to, in order to give really good service to the customers that have decided to come here for the evening, we need to make sure we got the right number of people who are able to serve them, but also people with the right skillsets, and also people that wanted to be there and weren't turning up to work reluctantly.

John:
So they came up with this idea of putting the kind of the employee's schedule into the web and then very soon afterwards, when mobile apps became the primary way that people communicate electronically building smartphone apps in order for workers to be able to contact each other, but critically managers and workers to be able to agree on who's working and when. And so, over that period of time, Planday, we've grown out across Europe and into North America.

John:
A large part of our business is still the hospitality space. So it's restaurants, it's bars, hotels, et cetera, cafes. But we've also found that what we built or the problem that we were solving actually translates itself perfectly to a number of other industries. Essentially what we're trying to do is, from a business' perspective, help them understand what kind of staffing level they need, what skillsets they need, which hours and which locations in order to deliver the best possible service to their customers.

John: 
And that applies outside of hospitality. It applies in retail, it applies in gyms and fitness chains, even a healthcare organizations. They all need to know when patients or customers are going to be coming in and ensuring that they've got the right people on hand to give the experience that they intend to deliver. So we've seen quite a diversification over the last few years of customers both in North American and in Europe.

Timestamp: 5:20

Jean:
I love that story, the background how it came about and how you are branching out. And that's really interesting. What does a typical user story look like? Just paint it for me a little bit, a user using your app on a mobile device.

John:
Yeah. I mean we have different users that have different journeys. We think about the Planday personas. So you could be, for instance, a business manager or an owner, you could be an end worker, you can be an HR manager or a professional. You could be an accountant. So there are different user sort of stories for each of the different user types that we have. But if I make it, so probably the simplest example would be, let's say I work in a bar. Let's say I'm the bartender, right? One of the things I want to look at on a daily basis is when am I supposed to be working?

John: 
So I'm going to look at the Planday app and I'm going to look at my shifts. What are my shifts for over the next few days? But I may also look to see what open shifts are available for my skillset. So whatever slots during the week or the next month. Does the business require a bartender with my skillset? And I may look at each of those shifts and say, "Do I want to bid on this shift? Do I want to say I want to take this shift?" And one of the questions I might ask myself would be, "Actually, who else is working on Thursday night? I see there's an open shift, but I want to know who I'd be working with." I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's actually really important to people to be working with people they like working with.

John:
So, I'd have a quick look, I'd see five or six people and think, "Yeah. Actually I really like those people. I'm going to put my name forward for this open shift." So in essence, I'm sort of co-creating the schedule with the business, but what I'm also saying is, "I want to be there." So, I'm not being dictated to that I have to work on Thursday night. I see there's an open shift. I want to take it because I like the people I'm working with and I could use the cash. So I'm just going to press the request shift button and then that's going to go to my manager, who if they decide that I'm suitable for the Thursday night shift, will just approve it, then I'll get a notification that actually I am working on Thursday night and it'll appear in my shift calendar.

John:
I may also, while I'm inside the app, I might want to look at my payslips, so I can figure out how much money I'm probably going to make this month. I might want to message one of my coworkers or message my manager. And so, there's a bunch of planning that the employee would do, maybe from the couch just to figure out exactly when they want to work. They may check their own calendar to see what kind of open slots they have, but essentially that's saying, "Okay, I've got some shifts. I want some more shifts. I'm going to apply for a few more shifts."

John:
And then when they turn up to work, we have the ability inside the Planday app for them to use it to punch in and punch out. So once they are close to work, we have a GO fence. They can then start their shift, which is kind of cool. It means they don't have to line up behind some clocking in device. They could actually just use their phone to clock in and start their shift. If they turned up 10 minutes late, they could put a little note in to say why and that's kind of it. And then when they're at work, they can use the messaging capability inside of Planday to message one of their coworkers.

John:
Maybe it's getting really busy in one section of the restaurant and they want to notify all waiters in another section to say, "Hey, can we get some help down here? It's getting really busy." So it's being used in the execution of the operation. So it's not just about planning. It's about the actual execution.

John: 
And then at the end of the month, once all of their shifts have been worked, then they will get notified of how much they're going to get paid and can even see their payslip inside the Planday app, so that's kind of managing that sort of follow-up piece as well.

John:
So that's kind of just a general ways an end user would use Planday.

Jean:
That's awesome. It's kind of fascinating, but if you think about it, it's just common sense how it should work, but just being able to take that as an app on a mobile device, that just sounds fascinating. And I think there are a lot of different layers of technologies you mentioned on that as well.

Timestamp: 9:27


Jean: 
Now I'm going to ask you to shift the perspective really and then just kind of look at it as a manager measuring ROIs and what really stands out for them in terms of why are they using it.

John: 
Yeah. There's a few areas where they really gain benefits. I think from a manager's perspective, they don't want to spend too much time planning the schedule, planning the work schedule for the next week or the next month. They want that to happen as soon as it possibly can so that they can go about what they were intending to do when they open their bar or restaurant, actually serve customers, coach their employees. They don't want to be stuck in the back office.

John:
So with Planday, we really help make that scheduling process happen as quickly as it possibly can. We take historical sales data into the Planday system to help them understand when the busy and quiet periods are going to be in the next week. So they know that Tuesday morning is not going to be as busy as Friday night, for instance. So they probably need less people on a Tuesday morning.

John:
So they can very quickly, using that information and using templates that they have stored of staffing levels. They can apply that template and look to see how the expected sales compare to the staffing levels to make sure that they're broadly in-line for the different peak times of the day and week. And once they're happy with that, they can communicate the schedule out to their employee base. And the employees, they could use it either way, the manager. They could determine which employees they want to have working by name and assign those people to specific slots and they may have to do that. Maybe that they only have one head chef if they're in a restaurant or they only have one cocktail waiter if they run a bar.

John:
So they may have to say, "It has to be this person." But then for some of the other roles, they could either specify the person or they could just say, "I need seven waiters or three bussers or whatever the role is." And then, they could allow the talent pool that they have inside the business to self-select when they'd like to work.

John:
So it kind of turns things on its head from the old days where everybody would be ... their names would be put down on a schedule, maybe an Excel spreadsheet. They'd then email that out or send a photograph of that schedule out and everyone would just have to fit their lives around it. With Planday, it enables the employees to kind of merge their work life and their private life in a way that was never possible before.

John:
So for the manager, the benefit of that is manyfold. So first of all, they're never scheduling too many people. So they're never over-scheduling people for quiet periods where they're paying for people just to stand around, nor are they under-staffing for the really busy periods where they could be losing customers and could be losing sales opportunities. So they're getting that mix right, which is both saving them costs and also helping them to increase revenues.

John:
What they're also doing is they're spending less time on admin. So this whole process is so slick and quick and also involves the employees helping to build the schedule. It means that the schedule can be done very, very quickly. And the third thing, which I think is really key is that piece around employee engagement. I think if you work for a business that allows you to have more control or more flexibility over when you work and when you don't work, you're way, way more likely to stay there. And especially in hospitality, the employee turnover rates are so high. They range from 30%-40% for just a full-service restaurant, right the way up to 150% attrition for fast food restaurants.

John:
So for a 20 employee McDonald's, they probably get through 30 employees a year. It can be that high. And that means that managers end up spending so much time trying to find and hire new employees that they don't feel like they're doing anything else. And you're not just losing people, you're losing knowledge and skills. So to be able to retain employees by giving them more control over their time and when they work and when they don't work, that has a real beneficial effect on the attitude the employees have, but also how long they stay with the business for.

Timestamp: 13:30


Jean: 
Given the more of a broader return they're getting in terms of operational efficiency you're talking about, the cost reduction and generally having high morale for the employees, I'm guessing. Is this the adaption of technologies like what Planday is providing, is this sort of a reflection of the general trend or do you think this is more specific to the category? Meaning, in your case, hospitality, for example.

John: 
I think it's a generational trend as much as anything else. We've done quite a lot of research into the space and we found that the average food service worker, so let's just take food services to start with, the average age is 29. So they're right in the middle of that millennial category and these are the people that were sort of brought up with smartphones and iPads and think about the world in terms of apps and text messages and things like that. They are digital natives, right? And they expect a lot from their employer in terms of their ability to communicate with them through applications, but also they expect recognition. They expect flexibility. They just have generally higher expectations than employees maybe would sort of 20 or so years ago.

John:
So sort of these millennials in the workplace have really raised the bar for businesses around how they need to work with them and engage them. And so, we thought about that a lot as Planday and we thought about the other applications that they're used to using because what we don't want to do is make it very hard for them to get their head around the Planday application and involve lots of training costs and perhaps not have employees adopt Planday at the levels that we'd like them to adopt it.

John:
So we looked at things like Facebook. We looked at systems like LinkedIn and we looked at the application interfaces that they have and a lot of the paradigms they have around selecting things and switching between the various sections of the application to make it feel completely intuitive. So as soon as somebody installs the Planday application, they get how it works. They can see the various sections and they can interact with those sections in a way that would be familiar to them.

John: 
So I think millennials that come into a workplace that doesn't work like that are going to feel not necessarily trapped, but they're not going to feel as comfortable as they would going into a workplace that interacts with them with a system like Planday. So I think there's a generational aspect to it. But I think for shift-based workers, a lot of them, regardless of the industry just don't spend too much time sitting behind a computer, right? You think of an average doctor or nurse, you could be a security professional, you could be someone that cares for elderly or disabled people, you could work in a gym, you could in a retail outlet. These are people that are interacting with other people face to face on a daily basis at pace, perhaps in multiple locations and so they are inherently mobile people, right?

John:
They're not chained to a desk like the rest of us. They're looking at their mobile phone, checking for information, just doing everything on the fly. So we needed to make sure that what we built really played into the mobile world and allowed them to have the ability to interact with some fairly sophisticated functionality, but do it in a really easy to use way that is mobile at first.

Timestamp: 17:05


Jean:
I want to delve a little bit deeper into the whole generational aspect you're talking about. Especially how that might translate in terms of the actual behavioral thing that you are seeing on your platform, for example the most utilized features, perhaps the even most frequently requested features or something in terms of the messaging channels or a type of interactions they prefer that you find interesting.

John:
We do a lot of analysis on user behavior, as you'd expect using systems like Mixpanel and others to figure out which parts of the systems our users are interacting with, how frequently, how often they log on, et cetera. It was kind of surprising what we found is that the average user is logging in four or five times a day to the Planday system. They have multiple sessions in one day. They're looking at it around the clock. So a lot of them are waking up in the morning, maybe checking Instagram and then checking Planday to see when they're working.

John:  
And, it's kind of interesting to see how much time they spend looking at who else is going to be working on their shifts. They're sort of very social people a lot of our users. And so they kind of need to know who they're working with. And, it's sort of interesting also how often they want to change their schedule too. I think a lot of them will try and deviate at least once a month from their original schedules. So they'll look to see if there's other employees that they could swap shifts with. It may be that they have an exam or a relative visiting, so they want to hand off one of their shifts to a coworker or just kind of put it up for sale for any other coworkers to take.

John:
So there's a lot of fine tuning of their schedule that goes on. And because of that, because they're looking to mash Planday in with their other calendar, which their personal calendar, we've had a lot of requests to integrate iCal, for instance, on iOS into Planday and vice versa. So that's something we're in the process of releasing is kind of an iCal integration so that they can see how their Planday or their work life lines up with their personal, social life. To make sure that they're not creating overlaps.

John: 
They're 24/7 people and I think the millennials, they see every hour as an opportunity to either be doing something fun or to be working. That's kind of one of the more requested features that we've been implementing fairly recently. And also, there are some businesses out there that have raised the bar in terms of what chat looks like. So companies like Slack, for instance, have got very engaging chat platforms with emojis and GIFs and things like that. So we're starting to introduce some more of that functionality into our app to make it feel like an even more fun place to spend your time.

John:
But yeah, we're really just trying to enable them to use Planday as sort of their window into their work life in the same way that they'd be using maybe Facebook as a window into their social life.

Jean:
In terms of the chatting that you are talking about, is it mostly on-app chats, basically IP messaging going back and forth there? Or are you also connecting with other channels there?

John: 
It's mostly sort of just forward backwards messaging. So one of the things that we've sort of been scratching our heads about is how we integrate to other chats capabilities that they may have. I mean, if you look at somebody's smartphone, there's probably about five or six systems on there that they could use to chat, right? Let's think of an iPhone. You've got the messaging that kind of comes with it. You've probably got WhatsApp on there. You've probably got Facebook Messenger on there. You may have another couple. You may be using Slack or something like it. So we're looking to allow information about a shift in Planday to sort of find its way into other chat channels.

John:
We're talking about this kind of in contacts collaboration. Two users may be talking about shift, but wouldn't it be great if they could attach the shift into that message so that they could modify that shift together, for instance? But right now, most of the chat is just happening over sort of IP. We do offer the ability to use SMS for anybody that's really stuck in the olden days. And it may happen in certain industries that not everybody does have a smartphone. So if you need to notify a user that there's a last-minute shift or that their shift's been canceled because they're closing the establishment for the night and you need to get that message out there, it may be that they use sort of SMS as the very last sort of fallback mechanism.

Jean: 
That's real interesting because I was recently talking with the GPS tracking and transport telematics company who is integrating third party basically SMS texting APIs on their platforms because it turned out that customers are needing it. So I'm wondering in terms of what you briefly mentioned iCalendar, iCal, that kind of integration as well, but in broader sense. How do you normally go about deciding what third party solutions to integrate and all that?

John:  
Through user research. We need to know what else they're using and how they want to work. When you think about the majority of our base, it's a small to medium sized businesses. We have literally thousands and thousands of hospitality businesses using Planday and often they are kind of between 50 and 100 employees. So these are not big businesses. And these businesses don't tend to have a significant IT infrastructure, so the employees probably don't have an email address for their restaurant, right?

John: 
It's very unlikely that they're going to be using Slack internally. That would tend to be sort of tech-like businesses or slightly larger businesses. So we try and figure out are they working today and actually a lot of new customers that we sign up, we ask them, "How are you communicating with your workers about upcoming shifts and [inaudible 00:22:57] changes to the schedule?" And they say, "Yeah, we have WhatsApp groups." So that's kind of interesting, right? They're using WhatsApp groups, which is kind of a personal channel and it's people are having to give away their own personal phone number in order to communicate with their coworkers, which isn't ideal, but it's kind of how they're working.

John:
So if that's what they're using today, then we need to look at systems like WhatsApp to understand how they're using those systems, what sort of experience they have. And that sort of helps us to design out what we need to build in order to elegantly replace something like a WhatsApp.

Timestamp: 23:52


Jean: 
Switching the perspective a little bit here, when it comes to your own marketing strategies and activities surrounding customer acquisition and retention in particular, what are some of the things you've been experimenting lately that are giving you some promising ROIs?

John:   
Yeah. It's kind of interesting, so I mentioned before that a lot of the businesses that we work with are highly mobile. So imagine you're running a couple of restaurants. You're often ... you're on your feet. You're not sitting behind a desk. And what we also have found is that a lot of the managers or owners of these businesses, they look at Facebook a lot on their mobile phone. Why? Because they're looking to see who's checking into their establishment. They're looking to see who's taking pictures of their food or their drinks, whatever it is that they do. They're looking to see what reviews and ratings people are giving them on Facebook.

John:  
So, they're spending a disproportionate amount of time on there. So we've kind of I guess taken advantage of that and started to use Facebook as a way to do customer acquisition. So, we use a lot of highly targeted methods to try and get the right Planday ad in front of the right person at the right time. So in Facebook, exclusively Facebook mobile because, as I said before, these people aren't sitting behind a desktop. So they're not sitting there browsing through pictures of their friend's cats. These are highly mobile people.

John:
So, we use look-a-like audiences. We use custom audiences in order to try and understand exactly how they're using Facebook in their day to day life.

John:
As I mentioned before, a lot of our users tend to be mobile and that includes the managers who we sell the Planday system to. And so, we're looking at the systems that they use a lot on mobile. For instance, they use Facebook and Instagram a lot on their mobile devices. And why do they do that? Well often they're obsessed with understanding which customers are coming into their location and maybe checking in, what pictures they're taking, what conversations they're starting about their night out at X restaurant or whatever bar that they're running. And so, they've got a very keen eye on the Facebook and Instagram feeds where their establishment is tagged or even their employees are tagged.

John:
And so that's kind of the targeting piece. And then we use what we learn from our customers in terms of the benefits they've derived from using Planday to test different messaging through those channels. So through channels like Facebook and Instagram we would try out saving money versus saving time versus engaging your employees and lots of different imagery in order to see what really gets the best response from our users.

John: 
And interestingly, a lot of these systems include forms. So within Facebook you can fill in a form without leaving the Facebook app that allows the person being advertised to to let us know that they'd be interested in having a conversation about Planday. So I think using Facebook and Instagram and other mobile-centric media is actually a very good way to engage with our user base.

Jean:
Delving slightly deeper into how you're engaging your customers and prospects, in this case on mobile. Do you see any still remaining big challenges you are experiencing in terms of, let's say, user experience or compliance requirements, any big hurdles?

John:
Well I mean compliance is really important so we need to be very conscious of privacy laws, GDPR has been a big thing in Europe in terms of how we use and process our customers' data. So we have to kind of stay squeaky clean when it comes to that. But what we found is there are still very, very good ways to sort of stay compliant and yet be very targeted in your marketing strategy. You have to be a little bit careful not to sort of cross over the line in terms of maybe being a bit creepy following somebody everywhere that they go on the Internet. So you can kind of overdo re-marketing as a way of re-engaging with site visitors.

John:
But I think we've kind of found the sweet spot today. I mean, we're very careful about how much money we spend and what return on investment we get from that marketing spend. So if you start doing things badly right away that annoys people, it very quickly translates to poor return on investment on a specific campaign. And so I think when the numbers look good, you're probably delivering a good experience that's getting people sort of warmly into wanting to have a conversation about Planday, rather than kind of annoying them into picking up the phone, if that makes sense.

Jean:
It does. And this is my last question. For your customer communications, whether it's a notifications and what have you, is it mostly one-way or two-way conversations?

John: 
Oh it has to be two-way. I think the days of preaching to your customers are probably long gone. So we use a lot of systems in order to have a two-way dialogue with our customers critically from within our application. So we use systems like [Intercom 00:29:32], which allow us to start a communication about something and then allowed them to respond or allow them to initiate the communication if they have a question or a suggestion, what have you.

John: 
So systems like Intercom are a really great way to give an always on channel for the customer to reach out to you. Another system we us is a system called Wootric. It's what we do to occasionally ask our users would they recommend Planday to another business. So we use that for our net promoter mechanism. And again, we get their score from 0-10, but also the reasons that they gave the score. And of course if they have a question or they have negative experience to share, then of course we then can reach back out to them using Intercom to kind of develop that conversation and try and resolve whatever their issue is.

John:
So, yeah. I think the great thing about being in the SASS world, the software is a service space, is you come across lots of great technologies that allow communication to happen in a very two-way manner between your business and your customers.

Jean:
Awesome. That was a lot of topic we just covered. So for listeners who would like to learn little more about what you just shared with us, any resources you want them to check out?

John:
We have a lot of resources on Planday.com, Planday.com/blog. We post a lot of leadership articles and any research that we've done, it usually finds its way onto our blog. For users or listeners in Europe, we have a Brexit section, which talks about the implications that Brexit will have on not just the UK, but Europe in general on the sort of the shift-based worker space. So Planday.com/Brexit has some pretty interesting information there as well.

Jean:
How timely. Thank you for that. And, one more thing before you go. I have a fun little question I ask my guests for a closing statement we call What's on Your Phone? And this is the question. Are you ready to play?

John:
Sure.

Jean:
What are the three things that you use the most on your phone?

John:
On my phone. I'm not sure I should reveal this. Obviously Planday. We use Planday internally, but I spend a lot of time on the road, so I like to keep myself occupied, especially when I'm flying, I tend to use Netflix on my phone a lot because it allows me to download episodes of shows that I'm otherwise going to miss. I tend to use Spotify, obviously to listen to music. And a great way to kind of keep in contact with my friends, family, and coworkers is FaceTime. Everybody seems to be using iPhones these days, so I use a lot of FaceTime.

Jean:
Happy to hear. Now with that, I would like to thank you, John, for sharing your thoughts with us.

Chris:
Thank you again to John Coldicutt for joining us today. You can find out more about John and Planday at Planday.com. That's P-L-A-N-D-A-Y.com. To find out more about Jean and Tyntec, visit Tyntec.com. Make sure to search for Mobile Interactions Now in Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, or anywhere else podcasts are found and click subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. On behalf of the team here at Tyntec, thanks for listening.

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