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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vipula Gandhi, the current Managing Director at Gallup, to discuss customer service data and the connection between customers and employees. Vipula has a wealth of experience, working in several industries from banking, to hospitality, to consulting. She has also worked all over the world in India and Singapore; and cities such as Dubai, London and now Washington D.C. As a true expert in the field, her insights on customer and employee engagement are sure to help businesses improve their customer service experience. Listen to the full podcast below.
Customers Feelings Are Facts
Vipula discusses with Gabe that companies need to understand their customers to succeed. She notes that while most CX tactics and strategies are focused on rationale, logic, and the process that the customer goes through, the most important and effective strategies involve the emotions of the customer. Data, effective strategies, and measurable company growth can come from a study of the effects of emotion. Vipula wisely states, “…to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors.” This science of the impacts of emotion is relatively new, but dramatically improves the customer experience. Gabe responds and summarizes this point by stating, “…it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience.”
How Complaints Can Actually Increase Brand Loyalty
Another interesting discussion point between Gabe and Vipula is the idea that if complaints and problems are handled correctly, it increases the emotional connection customers have with the brand. It ultimately leads to organic growth as they share their experience with friends or post about it on the company page. Vipula describes this with the following example: “You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities.” Seeing complaints and problems as opportunities to not only improve your customer experience process, but to show the customer that you are there for them and are capable of helping them is the necessary mindset that all businesses need to have.
The Importance of Treating Your Employees With Care
Lastly, Vipula highlights the importance of treating employees with as much care and respect as the customers. She states, “Employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of.” Employees that are taken care of and know they are valued and appreciated will work harder and build relationships with customers. This will increase productivity and profitability. Vipula notes that people cannot share what they do not possess and so employees that feel valued will be able to share that and help customers feel valued. In turn, that will increase brand loyalty. To continue to highlight the power of the relationship between employees and customers, Vipula ends by sharing this point of data from their research. “When companies harness the power of these two insights … they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth.” This strategy works and businesses are already seeing the benefits of it.
To learn more about customers, employees and how to drive customer engagement, 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:
Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi
Intro Voice : (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi welcome everybody. I’m excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement, the power of managing both of them to drive customer loyalty. To do that, we brought on Vipula Gandhi. She’s currently a Managing Director at Gallup and Vipula and I actually go pretty far back now that we’re getting older. We were chatting the other day and it’s been multiple years, five plus years since we’ve spoken, but Vipula has an international array of experience. Originally started in India, London, Dubai, Singapore. She’s currently residing in Washington, D.C. and has worked in hospitality and consulting and banking. And so when it comes to the customer experience and the employee experience, not only is she kind of eat, drink and sleep some of that in practitioner land, but also from a consultant, and now obviously at Gallup helping companies figure out this interesting dynamic between the employee and the customer engagement. So Vipula, thanks for joining. How are you?
Vipula Gandhi: (01:13)
There you go. Thank you Gabe, I’m excited to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
Yeah, I think this is going to be a fun talk track. Again, we have some fun history together as we both worked for Gallup in Dubai, five, six years ago, but I gave a brief overview of Vipula, but can you tell us just a little bit more about yourself and then specifically kind of what you guys do over at Gallup?
Vipula Gandhi: (01:31)
Absolutely. So Gabe, as you’re very, very aware, I’m passionate about leveraging human potential. Whether they are employees, they are leaders or they are customers, I guess just directing all the potential towards organic growth with health societies and countries. So that’s why I am really excited to turn up to work every day, whether or not in quarantine times, just to my office here in the house. At Gallup today, I am the managing partner and I look after the business strategy, the business performance and talent for the consulting side of Gallup, and really excited to be here today.
Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Gallup’s been legendary, not only in its research, but I think in the private domain, in the business domain, but obviously in the public domain. Do you do much with any kind of polling or the stuff around that stuff? No, right? You focus more on the business…
Vipula Gandhi: (02:29)
I focus on the consulting side, where I help organizations drive organic growth through employee and customer work. Although a lot of our polling work is also of interest to our corporate clients, so when those two merge, I work on that. For example, we have a corporate client whose vision and mission is to focus on women’s health globally. Now, we can dip into a lot of our expertise and polling across the world to figure out the current state, the challenges and the opportunities, and track measurement of future progress made. So sometimes the worlds collide.
Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
I just love that side of it, right? I mean, the thing that I’ve always valued about Gallup is just the research based approach, right? Sometimes when you get into this employee and customer world, it can get a little more touchy feely, but some of the research and the data that you guys have brought to it, I think is interesting, and hopefully we’ll get into a little bit of that there. So with that in mind, let’s just set up the big picture. We think about employee experience, we think about customer experience, what is wrong with the way we are currently thinking about customer experience today?
Vipula Gandhi: (03:37)
Thank you so much, Gabe. And I think that’s an awesome question. And as I think about how do we really compete in the market? In any organization that you work for, we compete on either price or we compete on the product and service features, or we compete on something called this customer experience, that’s a bit more gray and hazy and an area that allows you to innovate and do new things. So customer experience is what helps us differentiate in what we are trying to do. Now, even before the COVID-19 hit us five weeks ago, at least here in Washington, D.C., what we were seeing was two big challenges organizations were facing with customer experience. The first was really, we are information rich today, but insights poor. Now, we all know that we need insights that we can impact, or immediately action, as well as think about how we can strategically focus our work in the future. So once you have the right data, you need those insights that you can action on and then you have people who are enabled and empowered to deliver on those experiences. So the first question is, do you have the right data? A lot of organizations focus a lot on rational aspects of relationships and Gallup talks a lot about our research and experience on the emotional aspects of customer relationships. So, do you have the data and is it at the right level at which you can create action? And what we have seen when we work with organizations Gabe, is that the focus really gets on administering a client experience platform or a program and managing data rather than focusing on actually implementing the changes that we need to do from the insights we gathered from the data.
Gabe Larsen: (05:32)
That’s so true, right? It’s like —
Vipula Gandhi: (05:33)
Yeah. Absolutely. You just, all the focus goes there, Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Yeah. We love the net promoter score, right? We love to administer that survey to our customers and then we don’t do anything with it. It’s like, “Okay, our MPS is blank. Alright, moving on,” and then we kind of go somewhere else.
Vipula Gandhi: (05:52)
I would just talk a little bit more about that Gabe, really, because it is easy to say it’s actually hard work. You and I have done that, changing stuff. But the other challenge I’ve seen organizations facing, Gabe, is around difficulty in managing the cumulative experiences across multiple touch points and multiple channels over time. Now, we all know that our research has very clearly demonstrated that customers do not identify their relationship with an organization to one channel or — but a sum of every touch point. So, it is not easy in the world of omnichannel when people are looking you up on the internet and actually doing the transaction somewhere else, and the connectedness between the two is something that organizations face challenges with. And then COVID-19 struck. We haven’t even spoken about COVID-19. I mean, managing change and managing change and managing customers was difficult to say in stable times and over the last five weeks, if you’re not a healthcare and not a grocery organization, you’re actually risking irrelevance in the market. And all your customer satisfaction matrix and customer journeys have been thrown out of the window in the times of crisis, and all they’re talking about is addressing our customers; what they need today, here and now. How do we, Gabe, provide our services to them to empower teams and foster decision making in a safe way today? But right now, even government organizations and our clients are realizing that we have now come into a phase of next and beyond COVID-19. So, we know that a lot has been written about how customer preferences and business models will outlast the crisis. So how are you going to endure in this new normal, in and out on blackout periods, in a more digitized world, with lower cost structures and new value propositions? So I guess all of us have a challenge in front of us.
Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. It really is. And I want to hone in on one thing you said just a minute ago, because I think it is really pertinent to the conversation; but it’s this idea of rational versus emotional, in the way in which we kind of think about and measure that. Can you just double click on that for a second? Because I think it’s again very important to the world we’re now in, because we certainly — and I don’t know the, I’m not the expert on — but there’s certainly a rational element to it like, “I want my stuff, like I need fast recovery or fast stuff.” But also, there is an emotional element like, “My life is — I’m feeling things I haven’t felt” and to be able to tap into that. Can you talk about how you guys think through that a little more?
Vipula Gandhi: (08:37)
Absolutely. So, Gallup’s customer experience science is truly built on the foundation that to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors. I want you to think about the time you got married or you bought your new house, were you rational, or were you emotional? So if you design your customer experiences on rationality alone you will lose out. Now, rationality is important. Think about transactions, scheduling, inventory, communication models, these are very important. They build foundations, but the emotional aspects, that are trust, hope, friendship, pride, that’s what makes our decision. I’ll give you an example. Think about wait times. Right? A lot of times organizations are chasing wait times, reducing wait times for customers. And wait time is a rational phenomenon.
Gabe Larsen: (09:43)
Vipula Gandhi: (09:43)
But, [inaudible] what we have found is that it’s not even the wait time that matters, it’s the perceived wait time that is more important. So, not exactly how many minutes I waited, but how many minutes I felt that I waited standing in a queue to get to a person at the branch trying to serve you. And the more that they put a television there, they give you a form to fill, they come and talk to you. They have ensured that no table looks empty because then you will feel that wait time is longer because the number of agents are less than they should be. So how do you manage the perceived wait time is actually solving the emotional need. But I’d also ask, think about the best of the brands that you use and how you feel about them. And everybody knows what a great job Apple has done with it. It’s about how you feel having bought an Apple product, that sense of pride, that sense of having higher — trusting that you have the best screen size, the best processing power and things like that. But it’s really about how it makes you feel to be a customer of that brand that matters.
Gabe Larsen: (10:58)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s so interesting because it does feel like we’re not doing that. What I mean by that is if it’s not the instrument, right, the surveys that we often do, it is we’re often focusing on the rational side of it, right? The wait time thing, so interesting, right? Because we — Oh, that’s such a powerful example. It’s not about the wait time, it’s about the satisfaction with the wait time or the perceived wait time as you kind of phrased it. You may not have an opinion on this, but why do we not go into that emotional element? Is it because of the survey instruments that we’ve often created that just focus on the rationale and therefore we manage and kind of action around those? Is it, we just haven’t understood that when it comes to human decision making, the emotional side is more valuable than just the rational side? What’s the, I feel like when I’m talking to you, like, it’s so true, but I don’t think most companies get that. Am I wrong?
Vipula Gandhi: (11:59)
You’re absolutely right. And if you just think about, the rational is easy to put your arms around it, right? Emotions are tougher. I can give you the fact that when you say emotionality, what you’re measuring in your surveys are things like, how long did you wait? Did we meet your needs of what you’ve called us for? But rather thinking, how this individual felt that entire exchange went? Does he feel that the promises that were made to him were kept? Does he feel that they are proud to be a partner to you? Do you feel that the promise is kept, and this is a [inaudible] company that solves my needs. Now this is a, you know, a little bit of an ambiguous concept. And the other fact is that neuroscience and behavioral economics that have brought this emotionality aspect of economic decision making of humans being emotional is just, maybe 50, 70 years old; not like other sciences, which are, economics, which is based on rationality, which has been there for hundreds of years. A little bit of a new field of science, relatively difficult to put arms around it. However, now Gallup has written a lot about it. We have figured out how you drive these emotional outcomes to some rational drivers and behaviors and obviously values [inaudible]. A little bit tougher, but can be done.
Gabe Larsen: (13:30)
That makes more sense because I’m thinking, some of the questions you asked and I’m thinking of instruments, just because of the world of customer service, customer experience, we all love our net promoter scores and our C-SAT and things like that. But the questions you were kind of phrasing and you’ve said them, but I’m forgetting them, but they weren’t the typical, “Do you recommend” question? How satisfied were you? They seem to go a little above and beyond, but I love the tie in that you mentioned, it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience. That’s a cool, tie-in, that’s fun.
Vipula Gandhi: (14:15)
Maybe also give you another example Gabe, now that we’re talking about that subject, right? We all want to ensure that no customers are dissatisfied with us or not complaining to us. What we have found through science and through our experience and working with clients in this area is that we don’t want people to complain, obviously, but when people complain, there’s an opportunity for you to actually increase the emotional engagement with the brand after the complaint, more than what it was possible before the complaint. Let me explain that to you. You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities. And I just want to mention this thing about this company called Chewy. Now, because you have pets Gabe and we love our pets–
Gabe Larsen: (15:17)
I just got done walking my dog. I just got done walking my dogs. Yeah.
Vipula Gandhi: (15:20)
So I love the example of chewy.com on customer experience because a lot has been written about Apple so we don’t want to go there. But, Chewy is the online provider of pet foods and supplies and tries to provide differentiated customer experience, and it competes with Amazon. They have raised, doubled down on the customer centric culture and basically it’s very refreshing when you hear chewy.com say how they trust agents to treat their customers right. And they provide empowerment to the agent level. So there’s a couple of stories going on on Facebook. I don’t know whether it came to your wall or not. It’s about a lady who basically wrote to chewy.com that she has these bags of pet food; a dog, and a cat pet food, and she lost the dog 15 days ago and then lost the cat two days ago. It was really bad timing for her. So she said, “Can you take my two pet food bags back?” Chewy.com actually responded to her. They basically told her that they refunded her money, they asked her to donate those bags of food to the local shelter. A week later they sent her a set of flowers and it was a non-scripted e-mail, non-scripted handwritten letter saying, “We really think,” they named the pets by name, and they said, “Losing two, this is so sad,” a beautiful message with big flowers. And this lady actually went up online and organically gave feedback about her customer experience. And that’s not the only one online on Chewy’s customer service and lots of people have been about pet portraits and how they get mail saying that it’s getting hot right now, “How to prevent your dog,” and they always name the dog by name, and how — in this weather. So you see how they go above and beyond. And that’s the connection you mentioned about employees, right? You can deliver this kind of service that our employees and the customers of chewy.com are really their brand ambassador. I don’t know how many of my friends are actually coming to me about using them, keep in mind that they don’t have a reference program for customers. Customers are doing this because they are just so happy with what they have, whether it’s their videos on YouTube, whether it is 24 seven phone service, it’s just amazing how they are dealing with it. And it’s out there for everyone to see on wall street.
Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
No, I love it. I’d love it because that’s a great example of just doing it differently. And again, I think tapping into some of both the rational and the emotional side of the equation. As a followup to that, one of the unique things about Gallup is this employee side and how you guys try to kind of bring both the employee and customer experience together. Can you touch a little bit on the employee side and how you guys kind of see that fitting in?
Vipula Gandhi: (18:22)
Absolutely. So, employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of. And talent is always important and I know we went from historically lowest unemployment rates a couple of months ago to 26 million unfortunate job losses in the last few months, but talent will always be important and treating customer right starts with treating employees right. Gabe, you can’t give away what we don’t have. You can’t bring happiness if you don’t have it yourself and you feel unfairly treated. And a lot of founders, whether it’s the founder of Virgin or Southwest, they all have spoken largely about the importance of treating employees right, and especially in the service industry Gabe, it is extremely important that we understand the role employees play to deliver that experience. At Chewy.com, ensuring that they feel they can bring their talent to the role, and then they have the empowerment to do that. And everybody knows Ritz-Carlton’s empowering their people to deliver great service. Some of the iconic brands have always, always trusted their frontlines, ensuring they hired the right people with the right talent and give them the empowerment they need to bring delight to the customers. So, it’s a crucially important role in any customer experience that you will design.
Gabe Larsen: (19:55)
Yeah. I love that because I do feel like it’s, oftentimes we manage them separately. We think about them separately. We’ll get an NPS score and then we’ll get maybe an employee engagement score or some sort of employee satisfaction score. One is run by product or by customer experience or by marketing, and the other is run by HR and they don’t make a correlation. They don’t see that, “Hey, maybe our customer service reps are the most dissatisfied and they’re the ones who engage with our customers the most.” Should we talk about that because they’re always so separate? But that philosophy of kind of bringing that together makes, I think, a lot of sense and I’m surprised that more organizations don’t do that. Why do you think a lot of organizations don’t do that? Is it just because the one’s kind of typically been run over here and one’s been run over there?
Vipula Gandhi: (20:48)
So it’s really the organizational structures. You and me are very aware Gabe that activating great customer experience takes commitment from leadership. It does take measurement. That’s important. It takes advanced analytics, and more importantly, it actually takes accountability and follow through in the front lines to actually deliver it. Now, we know that when employees create an emotional connection with the customer, it does have a profound implication for productivity and profitability. When was the last time you went to a store and you entered the store in a retail environment and the person was there not even helping you choose dresses? And sometimes they really help you and you really kind of end up buying four things when you went up to buy one. It does matter. And when employees know how to make most of those moments that engage customers, we know that customers will spend more, they visit you more often, they will resist competitive overtures and they promote the company brand to others, and also forgive the occasional service blunder that we all commit. So it’s important to build that connection. In the organization, generally, these two things are looked at in different places. However, by serendipity, one of our clients, sometime like 15 years ago, we actually discovered that we were working with them on both employee side and customer side, driving those experiences, and we looked at the stores, the top 10 stores on employee experience driving, and we looked at the list of top 10 stores that customer experience was being done well. And we hypothesized that there’d be a lot of commonality between the two. Low and behold, we found that those two lists only had one store in common. That was something that surprised us in the data. And then as we started looking and doing some business analysis on the impact on business value, they looked at the fact that if companies just focused on driving employee experience, they got a 70% boost. If you look at companies that only focus on customer experiences, they also realize about that much. However, when companies harness the power of these two insights and parallels and they were doing both well, they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth. If you found the data, it came as a surprise to us as well, and we then repeated this hypothesis with multiple other clients, and we found that data tells you, it is just better to look at both these matrix together. So we can have employees who are engaged, who are talented, who want great experiences and who are empowered to then deliver on those engaging customer experiences, which will be great for organic growth.
Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, wow. Interesting. And that was, what kind of industry was that?
Vipula Gandhi: (23:51)
That was the retail industry because they had hundreds of stores across the U.S. and you need good data to at least do the first few experiments. So that really worked well. And it was so serendipitous that we came to this finding.
Gabe Larsen: (24:04)
Wow. So like a 2X, 2.4, 2.5X, when you were able to kind of start looking at those together. Interesting Vipula. Well, I love the talk track. We might have to do this again. You seem to be just full of interesting facts and tidbits. Obviously you’ve been doing it a long time, so I’m not surprised. We’ve hit a lot of different items, the rationale, emotional, the customer, the employee, and kind of managing them together. As you think about customer experience leaders out there, customer service leaders, is there a word kind of advice you’d give them as we leave today about how they can do their job better, especially in the current environment?
Vipula Gandhi: (24:44)
Absolutely. And I would start by saying, you have to, in this next and beyond phase of COVID-19, you have to restart with customers. What you have done so far to engage your customers, don’t take that for granted. I was a big loyal person of Marriott, and I loved their CEO’s talk about, very emotional talk about LinkedIn, actually about how he had to let go of people and how they’re hoping for things to start again. But in spite of all that, I love them. I love their leaders. I was concerned that they lost so many people, they lost money, is this still a safe place? Would they really, clean displays [inaudible] that’s important. And then I’m reading about how they are getting the hospital grade disinfectants in hospitality now. So all I’m saying is you need to regain engagement of customers in a limited budget and time. So we have to restart with customers and you have to redesign your customer experience because how to target new channels, how to target different customer segments, and how to cater to post COVID safety and quality and other concerns that your customers will have. New channels, if your expertise was meant to say branch experience, things that moved on to digital more, now how we want to deliver a human experience through technology? How to cut off new channels that you didn’t use before, like WhatsApp. How are these channels going to be safe? How are they going to be error free? How are they going to be — what would the new channel experience look like? So we have to restart with the customer. We have to redesign our customer experiences and we have to keep close to our customers, listen to our customers and listen to our front lines because that’s where we get fast ideas in a limited budget to think about what the future holds for us. So, you know, I’m deep into — I love thinking through this, this is a new challenge, and I truly believe in the era of the great human spirit. We will come over this challenge and forge ahead.
Gabe Larsen: (26:57)
I love it. Those are inspiring words. We need to overcome it because it certainly, for many people has been a very, very challenging time. Well Vipula, I really appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Gallup and some of the things you guys do over there, what’s the best way to do that?
Vipula Gandhi: (27:18)
Digital, LinkedIn. My name is Vipula Gandhi. Do connect with me on LinkedIn and I would love to continue the conversations. This is a subject close to my heart so –.
Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
We can tell, we can tell. Again, thank you so much for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Vipula Gandhi: (27:30)
Thank you so much.
Exit Voice: (27:37)
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