Podcast: All Things Chocolate & the Customer Experience

Eric sits down with lawyer turned chocolate savant Mark Svejda for a sweet perspective on finding what customers want.

Eric: Welcome, contact center cactus chat podcast. I’m your host, Eric Mulvin. And this is the show where we talked about customer experience. We talked about outsourcing, managing contact centers and call center staff. Today we’re doing something a little different. We are focusing on the customer experience, but from a slightly different perspective. So I’d like to welcome our very first guest ever today, Mark Svejda. Thank you very much for joining. And I had the pleasure of meeting Mark many years ago when you were only a business attorney. And although that’s one of the hats you still wear, you have another hat that you’re wearing starting about two years ago where you made this the, the well you added on from the courtroom, you didn’t make the switch. But you added in from courtrooms to tasting rooms now. So today, you’re known as the chocolate savant, traveled the world sourcing the best chocolates, and you get to help create these amazing tasting experiences, where you get to try these amazing chocolates. So welcome to the show. And thank you very much for joining.

Mark: Hey, Eric, thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity. 

Eric: Yeah, awesome. So since the show is about the customer experience, do you have a couple questions around that? So since you know, for the people listening, you know, we talk about outsourcing, but customer experience is a big part of that. And customer experience is everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the phones, if you’re in person meeting with somebody if you’re using a service. So explain to our listeners, what is a chocolate tasting experience?

Mark: Well, a chocolate tasting experience can be a whole lot of different things. For me a chocolate experience tasting experience could be going to a chocolate shop, and trying out new chocolates there. It could be trying out a new recipe in a cookbook that I enjoy. It could be putting together six different types of fine chocolates that come from different parts of the world, and having people sample them. So they’re just a wide variety of chocolate experiences.

Eric: Yeah. And what do you do to help design that experience? Like, how important is that for that experience for the person that’s trying the chocolates because I’m sure a lot of thought goes into to that right, you’re not just like, oh, I want to fries on the way home, here’s some chocolate bars.

Mark: Well, in terms of the chocolate experience, or any type of experience, in business or in personal life, I always go by the saying, you want to give people a great experience, and give them a reason to come back. So you want to create a memory. So when I want to put together say a chocolate tasting experience together, then I’m going to go ahead and put together probably six fine chocolates raising anywhere from 70%, cacao or 70%, chocolate content to 100%. They’re going to come from different parts of the world. So when people try that chocolate, they will get to enjoy the different flavor profiles. Most people don’t realize that depending on where the cacao beans are grown, those, the chocolate that comes out of those cacao beans is gonna have a different flavor. So one of the things that I do my chocolate tasting experiences, I want people to have that experience, savor those different flavors, learn something new. And then also in the context of doing the chocolate tasting experience, I was like do a little bit of extra. So maybe I’ll do a chocolate and cheese pairing something that people haven’t had before. Or I may make a specific type of brownie, and bring that out as a surprise at the end. So people get to sample that. So that just goes along with this whole idea of give people a great experience and give them a reason to come back.

Eric: I love that. And that translates actually really well more than I even imagined to the contact center space. Because yeah, I mean, we’re trying to provide these experiences that are extra you, they will they need to be not ordinary if their normal, everyday conversation doesn’t really stand out. But if you leave that, that, that call or that interaction or the chocolate tasting, and you’re like, Wow, that was different like that, that was something that I haven’t experienced before. Yeah, that’s that’s what we’re aiming for, too. Uh, So, I think a lot of people that are listening, they’re also deep into the business world and their careers. And you found a way to make this like you mentioned to me earlier a side hustle around the, and turn it into a little business here as well. So how did you how did you come to figure out to expand and make this your side hustle because other people they they might drive for Uber, they might start selling some software they might start something so how, why chocolate?

Mark: Well, first of all, I’ve always had a passion for baking. So that started as a little kid six, seven years old with my mom in the kitchen. So I’ve always enjoyed baking. And then I’ve always enjoyed eating chocolate, but typically it was always been milk chocolate.  So I didn’t really sort of get into this until about five or six years ago at a chocolate shop in San Francisco called Danny line chocolate and Danny line is a bean to bar chocolate maker, meaning that they purchased the beans. They do everything in terms of Roasting the beans, cracking them open having cacao nibs converting that into chocolate. And they would typically have about 15 different types of chocolate set out in a row, you could sample everything. So one day I started going down the row sampling everything. And it’s like, Man, I can’t believe all these different flavor profiles in this chocolate. So I sort of got very, very interested in what was going on in terms of the flavor profiles. And I have the opportunity to travel a lot in the world. Always have enjoyed going to bakeries, I have a little bit of a sweet tooth. So it just sort of came together in terms of traveling, finding different childhood experiences out throughout the world. And I thought we’re getting traveling more getting close to retirement, I don’t necessarily want to practice law in my life, what can I do that I have a passion for that I can still potentially make some income from, that people will enjoy. And that’s sort of how it got created. I mean, the thing is, is that I when I sort of made a modification to my LinkedIn profile, a little side story here, I mean, who wants to connect on LinkedIn with a lawyer, lawyers are a dime a dozen. But a lawyer has a passion for chocolate, and that was totally different. So when I added chocolate in to my LinkedIn profile, then my first connections on LinkedIn just exploded.

Eric: Oh, really. 

Mark: So for whatever it’s worth, maybe somebody wants to use that in terms of their business to help grow their business also.

Eric: Yeah, I think part of it too, is really, you know, this is also who you are, you have this passion for chocolate. And so you’re sharing more of your who you really are with the world instead of just the lawyer side of things. And I think people are really attracted to that too.

Mark: And the other the other part of that is also I want people to tell me about their chocolate experiences. Because if someone went to a great restaurant had a great chocolate dessert, or they had this fantastic hot chocolate at this little this little restaurant in Paris, and I want to know about them. Because if they had a great chocolate experience, and I have the opportunity to go there, and I want to try it out. 

Eric: Yeah.

Mark: So I want people to share with me, just like I want to share with them. So I’m just interested in growing a chocolate community so I can find out more chocolate experiences.

Eric: Yeah, that’s awesome. So we got people listening today, you know, they’re, they’re concerned about the customer experience. And like I said earlier might be a person on the phone, it could be someone you know, coming into the business, what advice would you have to someone that’s trying to create an amazing experience for their customers their brand. Now, whether it’s chocolate tasting, or selling a product or service?

Mark: I think try to find out best you can, what does the customer want? And then try to satisfy that customer want.  And that’s basically then just talking to people. What do you like, what do you not like? What am I doing right? What am I not doing right? And just try to give them the best, the best experience that you possibly can. And what can you do to differentiate yourself from the competition? I think that’s really the the most perhaps, the most difficult thing to do in business, especially if you’re in a business that and everybody’s doing it. You know, how do you how do you differentiate yourself? It’s like the pizza business, how there’s pizzas around every corner. What makes one pizza company successful and the other one not successful? Why does one have one line out the door? The other one doesn’t. It’s got to be the customer experience. So find out what your customers want, and give them a reason to come back.

Eric: And that is great advice. Thank you for sharing, because I know working with businesses, that’s one thing that’s it’s across the board businesses are guilty of that they don’t, they get so focused on the business and they forget to talk to the customers and see what exactly they really need. And that’s so true. So thanks for reminding our listeners about that. And thank you for sharing these amazing chocolates with me. I really appreciate you being our first guest today too. So Thanks for Thanks for joining. And if people want to learn more about you or the chocolate tasting, they want to connect with you maybe tell you about a an experience somewhere in the world that you need to go try. How can they connect with you?

Mark: Okay, it’s pretty easy. It’s Mark M A R K at chocolate savant.com. That’s my email address mark@chocolatesavant.com. I’m very active on LinkedIn. So if you go on LinkedIn and just type in chocolate savant in the search bar, I will come up so you can connect with me uhm, I’m on Facebook, so I’m pretty easy to find. So and I really welcome people reaching out to me and sharing their their chocolate experiences with me, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my future experiences with your listeners.

Eric: Awesome. Well, hey, thank you very much for joining the contact center cactus chat podcast and until next time, we’ll catch you guys on the next episode.

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