Identifying Opportunities for Growth with Justin Robbins

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Should CX Pros Forget About the Numbers and Focus on Behavior? with Justin Robbins

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by CX expert, Justin Robbins. Justin’s the Chief Evangelist at CX Effect and has many years of experience working with customers, starting at an early age. Listen to the full podcast below to learn more about recognizing opportunities internally for customer success long-term.

Put the Customer at the Center

A common theme among highly successful companies is their mission to put the customer at the center of every business aspect, not just in the hands of the CX crew. Creating a customer-centric culture can mean a lot of things. For Justin, this means winning investor and C-Suite approval, unifying each department on the customer mission, and taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.

Gaining investor approval and attention from the higher-ups is certainly a daunting task for new and seasoned CX leaders. Justin’s secret to winning them over is to make CX presentations all about how your team’s efforts succeed with hard data, not just opinions and feelings. Money talks, and when CX success is backed by fruitful data and statistics, the C-Suite listens.

Another major component to providing the ultimate customer experience is getting each branch of the company involved in CX in some way. This could mean keeping the sales team updated on customer events or having the engineers work with CX agents to learn more about the customers they’re making products for. When a brand is wholly aligned with the customer mission, it makes for a seamless experience across all departments.

How to Play the Customer Game

The customer game’s simple – as Justin puts it, “There’s no winner or loser in customer experience. The whole point is to keep business going.” Every time an agent helps a customer, even if they score 100% satisfaction, that number resets as soon as the next customer comes through. The game’s forever ongoing and it’s important for agents to stay attentive because every customer’s needs are different. Viewing each experience in this light helps agents get in the mindset of providing a personalized experience to everyone they encounter.

To win at this game every time, leaders need to take a step back and look at their team and the role they play in company success. Justin asks, “How do we identify what they’re doing well and where there’s an opportunity for things to be changed or replaced completely?” When leaders take a deeper look into individual agent behavior and skillset and then find a way to utilize it to their team’s advantage, they are then able to drive growth and change on a larger, unified scale.

Use Talent Where you Find it

Part of looking at the bigger CX picture for leaders is understanding how each of your agents behaves in the work environment. For some, empathy comes naturally and they’re able to really connect with customers on a personal level. Others might be organizationally inclined and more numbers-oriented. Diversity is what brings that human element back into CX and leaders who recognize the importance of diversity in their skillset are capable of assembling a rockstar team.

In the CX world, skills are transferable, meaning they can be taught on the job. What’s really important is for leaders to search for candidates who have the skills that compliment their team. Talent’s key to team success and leaders can find the right talent by focusing on each individual’s strengths and having them teach others about what comes naturally to them rather than having to “get everybody coached on everything all the time.”

To learn more about how to spot opportunities for change and growth, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum

TRANSCRIPT
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s LinkedIn live. We’re excited to get going today. Really appreciate you joining. I’m excited because I think we’ve got a cool talk track, fun guest. So let us dive right in. We have Justin Robbins who’s currently the Chief Evangelist at a company called CX Effect. Justin, thanks for joining, and how the heck are you?

Justin Robbins: (00:37)
Hey Gabe! Thanks for having me. It’s Friday. I’m great. I’m excited. Kids are about to go back to school. I have no reason to complain.

Gabe Larsen: (00:47)
For us, that’s Tuesday of next week. What is that for you?

Justin Robbins: (00:50)
We’ve still got one more week. So it’s the following Monday.

Gabe Larsen: (00:54)
Yeah, yeah. Boy, that summer just cruised by, but I’m not opposed to getting the kids back to school. So Justin and I go actually way back. We had our first conversation when he was at Talkdesk doing some cool stuff. I knew about him then, and I know about him now, so I won’t steal any more thunder than that. Justin, tell us a little bit about your history and what you do over there at CX Effect.

Justin Robbins: (01:19)
Totally Gabe, I always think of myself as a bit of a customer experience mutt. I started as an agent at the age of 12. I got suckered into cold calling newspaper subscriptions and really, I mean, I just kind of, I got, I never tried to actually try to steer away from it, but I somehow kept getting sucked back into customer experience and contact center types of roles. So moved through the operations for a long time. Back in 2007, I joined the team at Hershey and got to build out, at that time was a guest experience program. So going back almost 15 years, this idea of putting customers at the center of a business was just a super fun experience. I got to do that for five years. Kind of moving into the world of training and consulting. Did that for a while when and how you mentioned Talkdesk was there at 8×8 in-house at technology companies and just kind of spiraled right through all of these different types of positions within customer experience and contact center. And landed at CX Effect, actually last summer I started talking to the founding CEO about this idea of a business that could really better educate and help customer experience leaders navigate their technology decisions and whether it’s implementing new technologies, optimizing what they have, or just getting smarter around how is customer experience evolving and how is the toolset around it changing? So that got me excited about that mission. As Chief Evangelist, really, I do two things. One is all of our marketing efforts, so everything we do to kind of educate and put the word out about CX Effect and the other is our kind of training and development. For me, it’s about elevating the intellect around customer experience. It can be a fuzzy term for a lot of businesses. So what does it mean? How do you make it meaningful to you?

Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
Yeah, I just felt like that is so needed. We just need more best practices, content. I think that we’re, kind of fluffy comes to mind. Sometimes it goes there, right? It’s just making everybody happy, make the customer happy. How? How do you do that? What are the steps? How do you get that journey optimized? How do you get the operations and the numbers? And so I’m glad to see that there are more groups popping up that can help us with that because I certainly am not the expert. That’s why we’re having Justin on today. So let’s dive into the topic at hand. We want to talk about this idea of scoreless QA. I love the title here. Should CX pros forget about the numbers and just focus on behaviors? Maybe the start, Justin, level set for us. QA, what is it? How, or should companies be thinking about it? Give us a big picture.

Justin Robbins: (04:00)
Yeah. So quality assurance in the context of contact centers, or even some broader customer experience operations are often the scorecards or the mechanisms we put into place to understand how is our team doing at ultimately keeping our promises is the way that I kind of like to simplify it. It might be something that’s trying to measure. If you’re in a highly regulated environment, it might be the checks and balances, are we complying with processes? If there are certain things that have to be said or certain things have to be done, are we doing those things? For some businesses it’s about the internal look at, are we doing the right things to drive the right outcomes? It’s about if we think an agent saying this will please the customer, did they say that? And then tie it back to, did it please the customer? Or the even maybe broader idea is if we’re looking to develop and coach and improve our employees, how do we identify what they’re doing well and where there’s an opportunity for things to be changed or replaced completely? And that’s fundamentally what quality assurance in contact centers is about. Understanding behavior and driving change around it.

Gabe Larsen: (05:11)
Yeah. And then maybe one more kind of foundational question. Just, it seems like because the contact center has been around a while. QA has been around a while. How have you seen that evolve? And then again, we’ll get into maybe some of the best practices and changes over the past decade or two. Any thoughts on where we were and where we kind of are at the moment?

Justin Robbins: (05:30)
Yeah. So if we think about the nature and the origin of contact centers, it was really a cost-savings measure. It was built around incredibly transactional types of interactions, often, very basic. That’s kind of how we got the mindset of contact centers, being cost centers of agents being these entry-level types of positions that are low paid. And it was things that, it often was highly scripted or it was the guide rails around what had happened in those interactions. A, was easily predicted, but B, highly controlled. And they were highly controlled for a lot of reasons. We’re trying to mitigate costs, we’re trying to mitigate risk, whatever it would be. As we look at how self-service and automation and all of these kinds of predictable transactional types of things have moved out of being handled by humans and into self-service and whatnot, what lanes in the contact center is often highly nuanced? It’s highly complicated. And is this, this has moved away from the idea of heavy scripting. They’ve tried to move away from a checkbox mentality and really moved more towards outcome-driven types of focuses. It’s not about this necessarily how you do it, but what do you accomplish? What do you achieve as a result of what you did?

Gabe Larsen: (06:44)
Yeah, that makes tons of sense. So it’s a big transition from scripting every word, every step to are we getting the right outcome? And sometimes I give you the latitude to shift from there to there. That makes sense. Okay. A couple of key points about this then. We talked a little bit, as we were planning this, about predictive versus reflective metrics. And I was thinking I don’t even know what those are. What are those and what’s the right balance and measuring CX success? Go.

Justin Robbins: (07:12)
Yeah. So first I want to talk about the problem with the typical purchase, like the quality assurance score, which is what happens in a lot of these. You fill out the criteria and it’s like, there’s a threshold. It’s like, we want our agents to achieve an 85% or above or whatever. And what happens, and actually kind of the inspiration for this was a book written many, many years ago called Finite and Infinite Games, Simon Sinek kind of repurposed the idea when he wrote The Infinite Game and it’s around this idea, like everything that we do in life, there are two types of games that we’re playing. Games that are meant to be won and games where the purpose of the game is to perpetuate the game. There is no winner or loser, right? It’s constantly reset. And part of what we’ve done-

Gabe Larsen: (07:53)
I don’t like games that can’t be won, but I’m hearing you, but I don’t like them.

Justin Robbins: (07:57)
Well, think about the idea of customer experience. If I get 100% on my QA interaction from the customer I just had, that 100% is meaningless when I answer the phone or I answer the chat for the next customer. The game resets. There’s no winner or loser in customer experience. The whole point is to keep business going. So that’s part of the problem with scoring versus looking at an approach that doesn’t use scores, but to the idea of predictive or reflective, part of what we’ve tried to use with these quality assurance programs is to say that a score is predictive of a great customer experience or not. That’s right. That’s part of the intent. And often we see an incredible disconnect between if your quality program is about internal compliance, I could score 100% on internal compliance, but when I look at the customer’s satisfaction, they’re totally miffed, we did nothing to serve them. And often that’s one of the most common challenges that I see in businesses is there’s a disconnect between the quality score and then employee ability to progress in their performance improvement. They get an 87 on this and the reason they got an 87 is totally different. So lots of challenges in actually being a predictor of success. But –

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
I got to, sorry. I got to interrupt. You just hit on, I think one of the fundamental things that CEOs, or if it’s just such a bane of our existence in the CX space, that we have metrics that look good internally, and then they have zero correlation to business outcomes that I think we care about. Whether you go as low as customer SAT or as high as like revenue, bottom line, top line, it’s like, I see that we’re getting good scores, but our revenue is lower. That doesn’t work. And I think that’s such frustration for business leaders and some of the people on the outside looking at customer experience because yeah, they’re chanting, “We got all these internal metrics high,” but they’re seeing things that they care about not in the correlation doesn’t seem to be there.

Justin Robbins: (10:11)
Well, I mean, and that really goes to the point of what is the idea of predictive versus reflective metrics? And most of what we measure in our contact centers or on customer experience teams is looking backward. It’s what did we score? What happened in the past? What was, all of these things are looking back and then the way we managed to that is very reactive. And we’re trying to address symptoms, but we’re not looking at the cause. And so the idea of shifting from reflective metrics because we’re always looking at what happened in the past to predictive is this idea of what’s happening in our business that if we do this, or if we spend time here or whatever, that would lead to great behavior. I used the example off to Gabe of losing weight. Say, so my wife and I, we just had a child and I packed on some like pregnancy pounds myself. And if I want to lose that weight-

Gabe Larsen: (11:11)
You call it sympathy weight.

Justin Robbins: (11:17)
That’s it. That’s it. My reflective measure is stepping on the scale. Did I lose or gain weight? But my predictive measures are, what am I eating? When, how often and what kind of exercise am I doing? And I think that’s part of the shift for us as leaders is what are those types of things that we should be looking at and measuring, and coaching and developing in our business? Not so many scale metrics, because most of what we’re doing today are scale metrics if we’re being honest.

Gabe Larsen: (11:40)
I love that. So can you maybe give a couple of examples? I mean, I loved your analogy of the weight scale because I have my COVID pounds that have been starting to pack on and I’m always terrified. I’m always, go to the weight scale and I’m like, “This is inexplainable! How did this happen?” And it’s like, “Well, the cheesecake you downed the other day, that probably helped.” So I know I’ve lived that. But when you go into some of the contact centers or service centers you’ve dealt with, what are some of the ways that you’re actually shifting it? So what are some of those scale metrics versus some of those indicator metrics that you’re starting people to kind of change their thought and focus on?

Justin Robbins: (12:19)
Yeah. So part of this goes back to the idea of when you look at your quality assurance in your coaching and your development programs, how are you measuring, tracking, talking about success? So traditionally I’m looking at your score and we might talk about a couple of criteria on that score, but it’s really about your score. And it’s about improving your score. When you shift away from a score-based approach to quality and more to behavior-based coaching, that’s really what scoreless QA is about. It’s about behavior-based coaching. Now, you and I Gabe, start to have focused conversations around, let’s say we’re in a sales environment. And one of the skills I’m trying to develop in you as is upselling and cross-selling. Now, I focus, when I do a quality assurance evaluation on you, I’m looking around a specific skill, not for a score, but how do I develop this skill and track you over a period of time? How do we do around that skill? Because what tends to happen when it’s score-based is it’s like buckshot, it’s scattered. And I, as your coach today, I’m talking to you, Gabe, about the reason you missed these criteria. Tomorrow, it’s about these criteria and there’s no cohesiveness between coaching interactions. There’s no long-term development. So that’s part of the shift in terms of being predictive versus reflective is let’s focus on one area, not just what is the score, but what does the behavior tell us?

Gabe Larsen: (13:40)
And then how do you come up with some of those? I love the cross-sell example. That helps solidify that in my mind. But do you kind of then have to go from the end backward? You sit down with some of these leaders and you say, “What is ultimately the goal? And then let’s now trackback. What are those skills that lead to the goal we want? Then let’s develop a program around those skills.” Or how do you get this, for those who are wondering like myself, how do you get this in play? What’s the first step to do it?

Justin Robbins: (14:07)
So there’s really, to me, I think kind of three big ways that you can go after it. One is kind of strategic initiative- based where you’re saying, “Hey, as a team, we’re rolling out a new product line,” or, “We’re really looking to improve, we know from our customer surveys, that the number one place where we fall short is on empathizing.” Whatever it might be. And so we want to make a focused effort around not only helping employees who struggle with empathy, develop better empathy, but also take employees who are really, really good at empathy and figure out how do we leverage them? Not coach them, not be like, “Gabe, you’re great at empathy. So I’m not going to develop you,” but say, “How do we use you now to help train and equip and engage others?” So part of it’s like focused on that.

Justin Robbins: (14:52)
A second could be based on individual employees. So each supervisor spends time really knowing, if I’m a supervisor and I’ve got a team of say eight to twelve agents, which is typically around like the average that I see in a lot of contact centers, I should know my eight to twelve agents. What is the core focus area for them this month or this quarter? And then I’m working with quality or if I’m the quality person or coaches around that type of, so there’s that. And then the third way to go about it is really around like, kind of event-driven. So for new hires, new hires kind of have this like track that you put them on in terms of quality. Their first few weeks are based around this type of development and then we move them in month two is around this type of development. Or for our employees who have been with us a long time, maybe they fall into a kind of categories. Our top performers, focus around these types of programs. Our kind of fence performers, we put them around here. Our under-performers we go here. So really there’s a number of approaches. It’s ultimately around like, how do you focus on for each employee, one to maybe three meaningful behaviors kind of at a time? But that’s really what it comes around, not let’s try to get everybody coached on everything all the time.

Gabe Larsen: (16:08)
That’s a great, yeah, that last part. Being able to simplify it and focus on just a couple of core behaviors and really work those and then define some new ones, because man, boiling the ocean, as we all know, can get fairly difficult. Love it. Okay. I think I got it. I think I get the problem. I think I get some of the ways you’re thinking about changing that QA to this idea of the kind of scoreless QA resonates. Wanting to maybe, as we look to wrap a little bit, just pull you back out a little bit. The high-level question just around complacency. What do you feel like is holding most businesses back from investing in the overall customer experience? Any thoughts on that one?

Justin Robbins: (16:48)
Yeah. So when I look at the businesses that have struggled to make the case for investing in CX, there’s typically like two or three common things that are playing. Number one is your champion for customer experience doesn’t have either stakeholder or executive buy-in. They’re kind of out on an island. And I had a conversation with someone about it recently and they’re almost like the outcast in the company. And part of why they become the outcast is they have, like the way they talk about customer experience is very like feeling or opinion-driven. It’s not evidence-based. And when I think about if I’m going to invest in customer experience and I’m an executive, I need to understand from a, is this helping improve revenue? Is it reducing churn? What is the tangible business outcome like?

Justin Robbins: (17:40)
So that’s part one. Part two is really like a conflicting definition of what customer experience is. So you’ve got a lot of people who are really passionate about customer experience, but there isn’t maybe a unified leader. And so sales view of CX is one thing. The contact center’s view is another thing. Operations. And then everybody’s kind of championing minor causes, but there’s not a unified vision for customer experience. So that’s it. Or the third is, maybe somebody is like showing the business case, they’ve got a unified leader, but really then it comes down to figuring out like what’s the north star. I talked to someone just a few weeks ago that they said, “Look, we can get money. We can get, we’ve got people to accept, but we don’t know where to start. We don’t know what’s going to be most impactful for us because we’re too entrenched in it.” So looking for people can provide an outsider’s view of like, here’s what you’re saying you’re trying to achieve. Here’s what you’ve been doing. Like, focus here first. That tends to be maybe the other missing link.

Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
I think those are great. But the metrics one, like we talked about that earlier in the program. It’s just sometimes those metrics. So the CEO, just don’t understand where that CX team is coming from. So it feels fluffy versus data-driven. That one just seems to come up so often in my conversation. Awesome. Well, let’s wrap Justin. Really appreciate you taking the time. Couple of things to end. One is if we want to learn a little more around scoreless QA, CX Effect, any thoughts? Where do we go? Comments?

Justin Robbins: (19:19)
Easy. Cxeffect.com. I know we were also tagged on the LinkedIn post here. So click on that, but our website’s the best way to get content, get in touch with us, all those good things.

Gabe Larsen: (19:28)
Cool. And if someone does want to continue the dialogue with you, any recommendations? Best way to reach out?

Justin Robbins: (19:34)
Let’s keep it easy. We’re doing this on LinkedIn. So get ahold of me here. I got, gosh, I’d love to keep the conversation going.

Gabe Larsen: (19:42)
Awesome. Justin, I owe you one if I could ever return the favor. Appreciate it. Scoreless QA. It’s in my head now. I think I got it. So thanks again for you and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Justin Robbins: (19:53)
Cool. Thanks, Gabe.

Exit Voice: (19:59)
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