Great customer experiences depend on great agent experiences. Giving agents the right tools and knowledge is critical to empowering agents and facilitating customer-centric, empathetic support. And as studies have shown, good customer experiences have a direct impact on topline revenue, driving retention, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
However, according to Forrester, agents on average spend 35% of their time searching for information, and another 15% performing repetitive, manual tasks. They struggle with a complex toolset that gets in the way, rather than supports them in their moment of need.
That’s why I’m excited to introduce Agent Suggestions, predictive intelligence that supercharges agents. Available with Kustomer IQ for Agents, Agent Suggestions leverages the power of AI to streamline the agent experience, surfacing the answers they need right at their fingertips. By reducing friction and minimizing the effort agents put forth to find the right information, Agent Suggestions frees up agents’ time to do their most important work: engaging with the customer and delivering a best-in-class customer experience.
What is Agent Suggestions?
Self-learning AI models that predict agent responses based on historical conversation data
Use historical data mixed with Natural Language Processing techniques and smart filtering to suggest the three most recommended shortcuts to be used.
Learn from your organization’s usage. Based on how shortcuts are being applied, recommendations will change over time, without any manual training needed.
Show only the shortcuts that each agent has access to. Don’t worry, agents will only see suggested shortcuts that they either publicly or privately have access to.
Allow agents to choose how the preview will look. If an agent wants to check all the details in a brand new modal, or just use the existing preview, it’s up to each individual. We made the new modal skippable, just in case it’s not the right fit for everyone.
Are easy to activate. With just one click, the admin will be able to enable this functionality for all agents.
Here’s how it works.
STEP ONE: An admin will enable the Agent Suggestions toggle.
STEP TWO: An agent opens a message. Note: the message must come from the email channel and be the first inbound interaction.
STEP THREE: The agent sees the suggestions. On hover, they’ll see the details of the shortcut.
STEP FOUR: The first time an agent clicks on any of the suggestions, they’ll see a brand new modal with all the details and actions included in the shortcut. This new modal is skippable, so if you don’t need to see a detailed view and choose to skip this step, all you have to do is check a box. The next time you see a suggestion, just hover it to see the shortcut information or click to apply it.
STEP FIVE: The agent clicks to apply the shortcut.
How will Agent Suggestions evolve?
Customer service teams are constantly trying to be as effective and productive as they can, and Agent Suggestions can help organizations achieve that mission. A good first step for this feature is shortcut suggestions, because shortcuts are already a great productivity tool that allows agents to do multiple actions with a simple click.
However, our plans go beyond shortcut suggestions. In the future we plan to expand the functionality with knowledge base article suggestions, similar/related conversations, or even custom actions such as returns, refunds or discounts that could be initiated from the suggestions view.
All these capabilities, tailored to each of the agents and leveraging our self-learning models and smart filtering techniques, will become an essential tool for agents, helping them be more efficient and effective.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Chris Warticki from Epicor to discuss meeting customer service expectations with balance. Learn how Chris balances customer satisfaction by listening to the podcast below.
Finding Balance through Customer Advocacy
Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki, has figured out how to lead a well-balanced customer support team through understanding customer advocacy. Balanced customer advocacy is accomplished through not overly delighting the customer, creating a company standard of customer service, and being consistent with that service. He says, “If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship.” Focusing on what matters most in CX situations rather than providing overboard and generalized service, Chris finds that his team has more successful customer interactions. Creating a personalized standard of service as a brand is extremely important to Chris. He highly recommends figuring out what works best for the company and the customer to provide the best CX interactions possible. The most important aspect to creating a standard of service is maintaining that standard so the customers know what to expect with the brand.
Utilizing Company Investments
Another subject that Chris thoughtfully embraces is utilizing the tools that the company has already invested in. While curating his team of CX reps, he has noticed how other companies frequently gather “the three T’s,” as he puts it, to help maximize their CX efforts. Recognizing that talent, tools, and technology, the three T’s, can aid in creating a successful customer support team, he urges companies to invest in what they already have and to use it to their advantage. He states, “Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.” Utilizing the preexisting talent, tools, and technology, rather than searching for new alternatives, can vastly leverage a company’s investments by proactively searching for potential within. Doing so will promote internal growth and continuous successful customer service interactions.
Employee Empowerment Through Team Collaboration
Exemplary customer service starts with empowered CX agents. These agents typically have a comprehensive knowledge of the inner workings of customer support structure in their company. Chris finds that when questions about CX arise, brainstorming with his employees brings about the best answers. He notes, “If you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.” Brainstorming with a collaborative approach allows for teams to narrow down the most effective solutions and to implement them with ease. This same methodology can be applied to all aspects of business, not just customer support. By asking the employees who on a daily basis handle company affairs, they will tend to produce the most resourceful and practical solutions because of their vast knowledge of internal operations.
To learn more about balancing CX expectations by not rushing to delight the customer, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer | Chris Warticki
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’ve got a fun talk track. We’re going to be talking about this idea of “Don’t rush to delight your customer.” It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but we’ll get to the bottom of it, I promise you that. To do that, we got Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki. Chris, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?
Chris Warticki: (00:30)
I’m doing great, Gabe. Thanks for allowing me to be on as your guest speaker today on your podcast.
Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this’ll be a fun one. Epicor. Got a fun career, both at Epicor, before that. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Chris Warticki: (00:43)
Certainly, Gabe. I’ve been 25 years in the customer service industry, along — in parallel with information technology. 20 year career at Oracle Corporation, where I was involved in technical support management, global customer programs, the like of customer satisfaction, customer success, and more. And then just in the last two years, moved over to Epicor Software, running their customer success management team along with similar programs.
Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
Fun, fun. 25 years and then went to Epicor. Good resume, solid resume. I’ll give you that. So let’s dive in. I want to hear about it. Why not rush to delight your customers? Give us the secret here.
Chris Warticki: (01:31)
So Gabe, this is an interesting kind of thought provoking challenge to the audience. It really is kind of counterintuitive. How can I be the Senior Director of Customer Experience and then be anti-delight, right? And so I’ve created this kind of reputation where I am so for our customers, but at the same time, it’s not about super delight or over delight. And here’s the reason why. What we need to do as organizations that are focused in customer satisfaction, is take a step back and understand, have we really created a standard level of service to begin with, or at all? And if we haven’t, it’s better to create the standard and maintain the standard. And here’s why. If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship; certainly not within the customer base.
Gabe Larsen: (02:38)
Yeah, it does seem like this over delight can get, it can be a little bit much, and it actually can lead to sometimes an unhealthy or poor place. One of the things I’d like to hit with you, in addition to this, is let’s keep it at a high level for just a minute. So many people are having a hard time understanding different terms in this space, whether you talk about customer advocacy, or customer satisfaction, customer experience, want to see if we can kind of level set there. And then let’s talk a little about how you find that balance of not over delighting. Let’s start with customer experience. What is it, give me kind of your definition. What does it mean? How does it play out for you?
Chris Warticki: (03:22)
Great question, Gabe. So from the highest level, customer experience is defined by me and many other industry experts as the sum total of all interactions that the organization has with our customers. And often, it’s always related to just one point of presence or one relationship interaction of engagement with customers, instead of looking at how every line of business from presale, to the sales cycle, to the entire customer life cycle, and every relationship touchpoint from every line of business within your organization.
Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Got it. That’s one. Satisfaction, where do you go on that?
Chris Warticki: (04:07)
So to kind of take a step back from a foundational level, I look at experience as that foundation. It doesn’t have to be the roof. It really is the base layer. It’s everything that’s going on in the organization. And when I came to Epicor, Epicor brought me in to help start a customer success management team. And my first question was, “Well, why do you want this?” And the answer quite frankly, was “Well, because everybody else has one, so should we,” right? So what I needed to do is break down some of the historical definitions and nomenclature that often get marbled together, interwoven, and confused. And so to start out with customer satisfaction, I look at that as the past. And so as we navigate this conversation, we’d take the past, C-SAT is a transaction that has occurred, and we look at it from an example of using a survey, right? Tell us about your experience in order to gauge what your customer satisfaction has become. And that is very tactical and it’s very transactional in nature.
Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Chris Warticki: (05:22)
So C-SAT customer satisfaction, I look at it as a look backwards into the past.
Gabe Larsen: (05:28)
Okay. So more of a backwards look. Customer experience, a little bit of all of the sum total of all the interactions. Hit a couple of these other — you just talk about customer success, that one throws people off often. How does customer success fit into this kind of big picture here then?
Chris Warticki: (05:46)
So one of the biggest challenges I had when I first began talking about customer success, not only within the industry, but also here at Epicor, was the perception of what people thought customer success was about. And yeah, do we want all of our customers and all these interactions to be successful? Yeah. But let’s just say this, without a customer success team or program of any type, it doesn’t mean that we’re not making our customers successful. Why shoulder the burden of one team or one line of business to just be responsible for success, right? So the way that I look at looking at the past analogy for customer satisfaction, I look at customer success as a strategic, proactive, future-forward look at our customers.
Gabe Larsen: (06:35)
Mm. Okay. So I’m –
Chris Warticki: (06:37)
Understanding their business objectives, looking at the future, the 18 month, one year, 18 months, two years and beyond, how can we help partner to be –
Gabe Larsen: (06:48)
[Inaudible] the future. Okay. I like that. And then is there some for the present? So you’ve got kind of the satisfaction is past, you’ve got success for the future. Where do you go for the present?
Chris Warticki: (06:57)
Here is where most people get confused, and that is in the present. And that’s where I’ve termed the engagement model here at Epicor to be customer advocacy. Customer advocacy represents the present state. These are situations that arise that we would commonly refer to as escalation management, crisis management, again, very tactical in nature. They could be some sort of project management, enabled hand holding with your customers, but they got somewhere sideways in a ditch and they need advocacy. They need an advocate on their behalf. And that’s the biggest challenge. Most individuals confuse customer success with customer advocacy, and no matter what we’ve called these individuals in the past, present, or even now today, and what we might even call them in the future, we all want them to be successful. But at the term, but really what is the use case? Is it based on a past survey? Is it based on the present situation or do we want a future-forward look, partner and really strategically collaborate together going forward?
Gabe Larsen: (08:13)
Yeah, I like that. Okay. So we got experience, we got satisfaction, advocacy, and success. Boy, those all probably could be episodes. Probably all be episodes in themselves, but I’d love to get maybe a quick tidbit on a couple of them about how you’ve then taken that definition and started to just put it into action. How do you actually apply it, or how do you get into the brass tacks of it, so to say. So and I’m thinking about the audience here as well. So let’s start with the experience that sum total of the interactions. Is there a way you’ve thought about working with that definition in your different organizations to ultimately deliver a better experience throughout more interactions than just one or one and done type of thing?
Chris Warticki: (09:03)
We have a lot of tools that the industry uses from a service perspective and one of the most useful ones, not to throw buzzwords out there, is definitely the journey map process. That go along to follow with, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with our customers and go through the journey map process, or navigating the process map internally of what our customers go through. And that’s been the most effective way of looking at the experience. I honestly don’t think you need to survey your customers or your people internally too much. You don’t want to create survey fatigue. And I definitely have come from some experiences where we’ve done that. And giving customers a break is definitely one of the best things that you can do. But here’s the thing we all know where the problems are. We all know where the bodies are buried. We all know where the issues arise. It doesn’t take a whole lot of digging to identify where some low-hanging fruit or where some really remarkable gains can be attained. And one of the biggest gains that I can share with you and this audience was just in a business process of provisioning a cloud environment for us to, here at Epicor, we journey mapped it, we process mapped it. It took three times as long as what we thought it was taking. I won’t go into the gory details, but we made some very significant power plays within a short period of time that took what the end result was and reduced it by three quarters time and in a very short period of time. Now I will also say to fully complete that process map, it’s taken a lot longer to fully systematically integrate it and automate it, but that’s where we’re going to get the greatest achievement.
Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Yeah, yeah. Do you find it, and I appreciate the example, but I’m curious. There’ve been others, Epicor, other companies, where there have been those moments that were kind of like just big surprises where it was like, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize we were doing this.” or, “That was an obvious one. Should have probably caught that, but we didn’t.” Is it typically, you don’t find the elephant in the room?
Chris Warticki: (11:20)
I’ll tell you where the biggest aha moment, or maybe it was a moment like, “Oh my goodness.” Maybe it was the surprise, like you’re talking about. And that is, I guess we assume that everything is documented or that everything is going to be seamless or that you can just throw a tool or a widget or some sort of technology at something and it’s going to automatically fix it. The biggest piece here is the collaboration that’s required. When it comes down to it, everybody, like I said, wants our customers and your customers to be successful, getting the right minds to be able to sit together and quickly evaluate, “What’s the business problem we’re trying to solve? And let’s get it documented for future reference so we can lean it over time.” Go from good to great. Go from better to best.
Gabe Larsen: (12:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Yup. Yeah, and getting together with those stakeholders is often a big key in that process. Bouncing around just a little bit, wanting to see if we can tackle this idea because I felt like you set it up and I moved past it for a second, but I did want to come back to, and that’s just, this idea of not rushing to delight. We’ve hit some of these different areas, customer experience, customer success, et cetera. But, I think people really struggle to find that balance there of getting to what matters most, rather than just going overboard maybe on stuff that doesn’t. How do you actually coach your teams to do that? How do you find the balance?
Chris Warticki: (12:57)
I think one of the best recommendations is to ask the individuals in their interactions, what do they consider to be the standard of service in what they do, right? And so you might find, for example, in tech support or in personal face-to-face interaction across the register counter, that some individuals are like, “Well, I think thanking our customers everyday for their business is a standard.” And yet other people might not have even thought of that.
Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Chris Warticki: (13:29)
Right? Just a simple thank you. But once again, if you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.
Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Chris Warticki: (13:43)
So really equip them and empower them to really put the brainstorming, the ideas together, and then collectively say, “Okay, now out of these 12 things, we can’t do all 12 of them, but what is the standard? What’s the consistent top five, top three things that we need to do to be good and that we know we can do every interaction?”
Gabe Larsen: (14:04)
Yeah, yeah. Getting down to those real important ones. I do feel like we try to boil the ocean, right? It gets too much, it’s too many [inaudible] but what are those things that we really need to do? What, do you feel like it is about three, five, seven, ten? What was about the right number typically you found that the team can handle and do on a consistent basis?
Chris Warticki: (14:25)
Yeah. I’m a keep it simple type of person. So following that kiss analogy, I think anywhere from three to five is, three for me personally, is the sweet spot,
Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
I love it. So we hit on a bunch of different topics today. We might have to bring you back to go deeper into some of these areas like customer success. A lot of people have asked about that and how that relates to the customer service world. No, it’s more of a B to B thing than it is B to C so to say, but as you think about the changing environment, some of the different challenges that are attacking different customer service leaders, we’re all trying to find a way to delight or a way to make it easier and keep that customer experience as high as possible. What would be that leave behind advice you’d give to those leaders?
Chris Warticki: (15:11)
My biggest advice is don’t worry about all the buzzwords. It’s not all about gamification or artificial intelligence or machine learning and don’t get absorbed or overwhelmed by all of the stuff that’s out there. Currently in everybody’s organization, you have the three T’s, I call them. You have the tools, you have the technology and you have the talent. Leverage the investments that you’ve made in those three things. In the tools, the technology and the talent. And don’t try, like you said, to boil the ocean. Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at what are the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.
Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
I love it. Alrighty. Well, really appreciate the time, Chris. Fun talk track on be a little conscientious about delighting your customers, find the balance. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these trends, what’s the best way to do that?
Chris Warticki: (16:26)
You can do a few things Gabe, and first of all, to the entire audience, thanks for listening. More importantly, Gabe, thanks for inviting me to this. You have a wonderful dais of professional speakers on your podcast. You can find me, Chris Worticki on LinkedIn. You can also find me on Twitter @cwarticki and I look forward to associating and connecting and linking in and speaking with all of you in the future. So many interactions to come, I’d be more than happy to come back.
Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
Hey, well yeah. We might have to take you up on that. Appreciate the time and the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (17:08)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the strategies to improve the customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers.
Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast.
Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience
Christine first starts by elaborating on their company’s focus on the mother. Keeping the expecting mother in mind, Christine notes how her team has had great success with customer happiness by listening to customer feedback and adapting their products to the mother’s needs. She states, “Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants.”
Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company supports a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.”
To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom-First.
As mentioned above, the mom is at the center of every element of their business, from packaging and marketing to phone calls. Simply put, Bump Boxes is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.
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Customer Loyalty: Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero
Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to build a company from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration.
Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs by saying, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.
Optimize Customer Interactions Every Step of the Way
At Bump Boxes, customer support doesn’t just start with the customer’s problem and end with the CX agent’s solution. Customer support starts from the moment the mom-to-be signs up for the monthly subscription and continues on throughout the life of their subscription. After delivery, Bump Boxes change to Busy Boxes, which come with items to help create a fun and engaging environment for mom and her newborn baby. When discussing the methods in which her CX team continually shows up for their customers, Christine explains:
When you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do with the subscription. It’s more like, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” We know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. If you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.”
Creatively engaging with the mother and being there for every step of the pregnancy process has proven to keep their customers coming back for more. Christine notes how Bump Box has a room full of sonograms and baby pictures sent in by the mothers they service. They become familiar with each mom and enjoy speaking with them as if they are old friends. For Christine, the most rewarding part of running her company is seeing the pictures and sonograms of these babies and knowing her company did something to help each mom through their pregnancy journey.
CX teams would be wise to adopt an understanding of their customers and to thoroughly engage and have genuine conversations with them. At the end of the day, everyone is going through their own journey in life and recognizing that aspect will help add more of a human element to each CX interaction.
To learn more about the secrets to optimizing customer experiences, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience and how to optimize it and to do that we brought on Christine Deehring. She’s currently the Founder and CEO of a cool company called Bump Boxes. So Christine, thanks for joining. How are you?
Christine Deehring: (00:27)
Yes. Great. I’m just so excited to be here, Gabe. So excited about the customer experience and just everything that we do here at Bump Boxes.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah, this is so fun because we’re always looking for, sometimes we talk about just general best practices, but it’s always fun to hear from somebody who’s kind of just daily living it, working the grind, et cetera. So we appreciate you jumping on. Before we do, can you tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and Bump Boxes, just so everybody kind of knows the context?
Christine Deehring: (00:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So Bump Boxes is a monthly subscription service for pregnancy and baby products. So mom can sign up at any point during her pregnancy and she actually gets a box of products that are specifically tailored to that month of her pregnancy. So we include five to eight full-size products and we know what moms are going through during pregnancy and what she’s experiencing every single month. So it’s themed around something she’s going through during that specific month. And then when she gives birth, it transitions over to Busy Boxes, which is a newborn to three-year-old subscription. So, and on that side of the subscription, it’s all tailored around baby’s milestones and really creating that fun, playful environment for mom and baby to experience together. Yeah, so that’s, yeah, absolutely.
Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I was telling Christine before, my wife has somehow convinced me to have four, so we have four children and so she’s definitely a fan of the idea and Bump Boxes. So love what you do. So [inaudible] that we had connected was Christine had come across a couple of things and one was something that was awesome that happened on Instagram. I mean, remind me. You guys went just, you flew up. You added a couple thousand followers just in a day or two. What was that scenario? Remind me.
Christine Deehring: (02:06)
Yes. Yes. So I think we had reached a milestone on our Instagram following and just to kind of give you guys some context and the whole post was all about how like, “Hey, we started from zero four years ago,” and that’s just it. So, that was the whole premise of posting about that big milestone for us on Instagram, because a lot of people don’t know. I mean, we started about four and a half years ago and we started from an idea, right? And now we reach over 14 million moms a month across all of our channels, right? So, I mean, it’s just kind of, “Hey,” like, I mean, it’s just, and what we try to say is like, “Hey guys, if you have an idea, take it and go, like the first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero,” that’s that.
Gabe Larsen: (02:53)
I love that. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim, right? You just have –
Christine Deehring: (02:57)
Yes! You just have to aim.
Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
– and then you figure out where the target is later. But one of the keys it sounded like, and I’m sure the product is fantastic, but you guys do have kind of this maniacal focus on customer service and customer experience and interaction with the customer. And so it sounded like in the post, obviously you found a great niche that a lot of people are excited about, but you’ve kind of taken those extra steps to really bring the customer down the journey with you has been the separator. Is that fair to say?
Christine Deehring: (03:27)
Absolutely, absolutely. A hundred percent. So, I mean, I think, we do a lot of things regarding customer experience here at Bump Boxes. Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s like growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants, right? I mean, that’s just the foundational way to run a business. But I mean, there are some things that we’ve learned along the way, especially growing and scaling, as to why it is just that important to really focus and have that non stop focus on your customer. So I think, one of the main things that we focused on is corporate culture, company culture. Because if you have the right culture, then you can actually empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions to make mom happy.
Gabe Larsen: (04:21)
Right. Because a lot of times we– I feel like we should probably, when we talk about customer experience, we should probably talk more about the employee or the company culture. Sometimes we do all the things that the customer does, but we get that employee side. So, what are some of the fun things you guys have done to try to make that employer culture really enable or empower that customer journey?
Christine Deehring: (04:40)
Yeah, so our company culture is just amazing. So, we have four main core values and that’s what we make all of our decisions based around. So, positivity would be the first one. So, seeing the opportunity, seeing the brighter side of things. Always just trying to be positive in every situation possible and really seeing opportunity where it is. Hustle would be another one. So, constantly, just if there is a barrier, figure out a way to break through it or go around it, but figure out a solution. Constantly, yeah. Constantly move forward. Accountability is another one. So, being accountable for yourself, for your role. We know mistakes happen, everyone makes mistakes, right? I mean, we know mistakes happen, but when a mistake happens, we take, yeah. You take responsibility of it and then you fix it, so it doesn’t have to happen again in the future, you know? And as long as you fix the process, then everything’s great. And then most importantly, mom first, so that’s very customer experience-centric, right? So, everything we do, whether it’s our marketing messaging, whether it’s our site, our customer experience team when they talk to mom on the phone, how we pack the boxes, the product that we select, everything is putting mom first. And as long as we make our decisions around that, then we know we’re doing right by mom. So, that’s one of the main things and actually spells PHAM, so that wasn’t actually intended by design. It just worked out. PHAM with the P-H.
Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
Sometimes they have fun acronyms and you nailed it. You beat me to it. PHAM. That’s cool.
Christine Deehring: (06:10)
That’s right. That’s right. So that’s one of the main things I think, if you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.
Gabe Larsen: (06:26)
I like that. Now, I think some of the things that people struggle with. Because some people come up with big, they get to that step where they come up with some of these core values. It’s actually the ability to implement more, to empower the people to do them. Is there certain, you don’t necessarily need to go through each one, but have you been able to find ways to actually make those values and bring them to life? Is it communication with the team? Is it just highlighting them in a weekly meeting? Is it giving it an award around or what’s been the way to bring those to life and make them so they’re not just the things on the wall?
Christine Deehring: (06:58)
Yeah. Because yeah. I mean, like you can post them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that like that’s the actual culture, right? I mean that’s yeah, a hundred percent. So, for us, I mean I think, we have weekly one-on-ones where we talk about core values. That’s how your performance is reviewed. It’s all around core values. It’s all driven around that. And then we also do gift cards. So, if someone exceeds in core values and they exceed their metrics and they’re nominated for a gift card award that we do every week. So, there’s ways to reinforce it, but I mean, I think that when you start off with your core values and you make your hiring decisions based on those core values you make all the decisions within the company, as long as that’s the cornerstone of why you make those decisions, then it’s easy and everyone gets it and everybody’s on par with it. Yep.
Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
Yeah, I like that one. The one that I find the most intriguing at the moment is the mom first, what was it called? How did you phrase that again?
Christine Deehring: (07:55)
Mom first. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Okay, because it sounded like, and again I’m thinking about some of the posts you guys have. You’ve done some fun things to kind of, it’s not just, “Here’s a box, good luck,” right? There’s these little cherry on tops, these little extra things you guys have done to make it personalized, make it kind of extra, make it feel like you care more. Do you mind sharing a couple of those that may come to mind?
Christine Deehring: (08:21)
Yeah, absolutely. So, we call all of our subscribers personally. So, when you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do necessarily with the subscription. It’s more of like a, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” Like we know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s like, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. Like, if you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.” Yeah. Like, whatever you need –
Gabe Larsen: (08:58)
Have there been some weird experiences where you’ve done something like that, where someone’s been like, “I’m really not doing well, I’m craving something,” and you ordered fries or something like that?
Christine Deehring: (09:07)
Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! A hundred percent. I mean, yes. And that’s why our moms love us and what’s really cool, especially when we make those connections with mom. I think what’s so exciting to see is even in our customer experience room, I mean like, we have so many sonogram photos, so many pictures that moms have sent in. If a mom signs up with us and she’s with us her whole pregnancy and finally, she has her baby, it’s an exciting time that we all celebrate. We all get excited about and then she sends us pictures and we put them up on this wall and that’s really exciting when you know that you’ve made that connection. [Inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (09:47)
Cool, cool. So they actually send you, just by a chance, they’ll send you a picture and you’ve kind of thrown it on the wall in the customer experience room, you said?
Christine Deehring: (09:56)
Gabe Larsen: (09:56)
Awesome. I want to highlight though, the phone call. Because I do feel like, it is a small, well maybe it’s not a small thing, but this proactive customer support or proactive customer experience feels like it’s just a hot trend or a real differentiator. We’re so used to taking inbound query or the chat query or the email inquiry or the ticket, but actually taking the time to go outbound, whether it’s a challenge, a new cut, I feel like that’s pretty different. And it sounds like people appreciated that a lot.
Christine Deehring: (10:31)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that we’ve done too, is we have a very direct feedback loop with our customer experience team. And so I think it’s super, super important, especially as you roll out new initiatives, as you’re trying and testing things, as you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s resonating with mom and what she wants, having that contact with your customer directly and asking those questions and being in that feedback loop is super important. So, I know, recently we rolled out a VIP program. So, any mom that subscribes with us, she gets, depending on how long she’s committed to, she gets a specific discount to our store just for joining our subscription. And that was something that came up from just customer feedback, right? And so it’s definitely nice to have that instant feedback loop so that way you can make changes, you can test things, you can roll new things out just to make sure that you’re really sticking through to that mission.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
No, that is powerful because I think a lot of times as sales and marketing, we don’t listen to our customers enough. You want to, but you don’t get that feedback loop tightened. How have you done that? Is it the channel? I mean, are you guys pretty channel agnostic? Meaning it’s like, hey, when you have this customer experience person, you can communicate them very easily, whether it’s on tech or phone or email, or is it that you have these kind of weekly check-ins or how have you made that feedback loop more fluid?
Christine Deehring: (12:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m actually in touch with customer experience every single day. So, they actually report directly to me, you know what I mean? And we’ve done that by design. Yeah. We’ve done it by design because I think I want to be as close to our moms as possible. And I think that has been super important to our growth, right? Being able to kind of hear what’s going on on the ground. Being able to talk to moms a couple of times a week, like just to make sure that we’re still staying true to that mission, that they feel good, they’re having a great experience and then, you know, asking for ideas, like, “What else would you like to see from Bump Boxes? What other things have you thought about that would be helpful that we could provide?” and I think being that close to customer experience has really been helpful as we’ve grown and scaled and learned along the way.
Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah, sure. Because sometimes that is the hard part, right? Once you kind of lose track of the customer, you lose track of so much of that goodness. How many people, obviously there are challenging times going on and some businesses are up, some businesses are down. As you kind of think about your own business and lessons learned over kind of the last month or two, and we can kind of bring this to a close, what would be feedback or advice you’d give to people who are looking to scale and obviously be successful while times are maybe a little more difficult?
Christine Deehring: (13:30)
Yeah, absolutely. I think, when you’re kind of going through uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that you really need to focus on is over-communicating, right? Because everybody has just a heightened level of stress. I mean, there’s just a lot going on. You don’t know what everyone is going through. And so, I think just keeping that in mind and over-communicating and especially being there for your customer, having those phone conversations, and understanding that it’s quality phone conversations, right? No matter what mom’s going through, if she’s stressed out, talk to her. I think that, definitely as you’re scaling and growing, just over-communicating is always best, especially during uncertain times like these for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
And that’s obviously true for employees as well as customers.
Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
Christine, it’s fun to have you on. It’s a cool, it sounds like you found obviously a fun kind of niche that you guys are really doing well in and so congrats on that. Solving problems, making customers happy. It’s always fun to kind of see that happen. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about Bump Boxes or your story, what’s the best way to do that? What would you recommend?
Christine Deehring: (14:42)
Yeah! Absolutely. So you can check out bumpboxes.com. You can always shoot me an email, email@example.com. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Seriously.
Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
I love that and that’s such a cool name by the way. Kudos on like a very catchy name. That was it.
Christine Deehring: (14:59)
Thank you. Thanks. Appreciate it.
Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Well, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Christine Deehring: (15:05)
Yeah. Thanks, Gabe. Have a good one.
Exit Voice: (15:12)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited to discuss different tactics to make CX teams successful during challenging times. Learn how each leader has trained their teams to provide exceptional customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, discusses how teams are adapting to the new temporary normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are coming to CX agents in states of heightened anxiety and stress and in turn, the CX agents are overwhelmed in their workload. For teams to cope in the pandemic landscape, Vikas has helped them to understand the importance of human-to-human interaction. He notes, “So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.” He goes on to encourage teams to ask what they can do for the customer beyond just quickly responding to conversations. Strategies such as creative problem solving can effectively guide the customer to the best result. Ultimately, showing the customer genuine empathy through human-to-human interactions is what cultivates lasting customer loyalty and happier customers.
Focusing on What Can Be Controlled
Rob Young, Director of Customer Support at Bamboo HR, highlights the need for attainable and realistic customer service standards for CX teams. He says, “Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company,” in reference to what CX teams can do to stay motivated during these challenging times. To help CX teams accomplish the best possible outcomes, he adds that proactive communication between the team member and the customer is the key to success. Methods such as asking specific questions will garner specific answers, effectively leading to a desired end result. He further discusses how when CX agents focus on what they can control in their day-to-day business responsibilities, it sets the precedent for more positive and impactful customer service interactions.
Three Methods to Drive CX Success
Jamie Whited, expert consultant in Client Service and Experience, emphasizes three crucial things each CX team needs to successfully deliver the best customer service. The first is optimism. We are living in an ever changing world with this pandemic and Jamie believes that CX teams should embrace this new normal with optimism. As optimism is often infectious, it has the possibility to spread and cause an overall positive effect on the outcomes of CX interactions. The second point is innovation. Something that applies to all companies is the possibility to innovate and adapt when opportunities arise. To further expand on this second point, she says, “There’s a client I work with that’s … doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company.” This is an especially useful tactic when companies are seeking to promote internal growth and reinvest in their existing employees. Additionally, the third point is to move quickly. With each new innovation, companies have to move quickly to ensure company growth and continued success. Jamie believes these three tactics are extremely useful and applicable to all companies.
To learn more about how CX leaders are winning during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast we’re on LinkedIn live. I’m excited. These guys know I’m excited. With so much digital going on. This is an audience we wanted to make sure we tapped into. In today’s a very specifically relevant topic. As we talk about how customer service leaders are winning in these challenging times. Now, I always have something to say, but I felt like it would be best to mix that up a little bit and have some other thought leaders, practitioners in the space, bring their knowledge to the forefront as well. And so real quick, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri who’s the SVP of sales and CX here at Kustomer. We’ve got Rob Young who’s a Director of Customer Support at a great company called BambooHR. And then we got Jamie Whited who is currently an expert consultant in client service and client experience. So guys, thanks so much for joining. Why don’t we take just 30 seconds and have you guys introduce yourself. Jamie, can we start with you?
Jamie Whited: (01:22)
Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. It’s a pleasure to virtually be together with you today. My name is Jamie Whited and I’m a client service leader and client experience consultant. I have over 15 years of experience building and leading teams in customer service, client success, client experience, and business process improvement. I’m incredibly passionate about people, problem-solving data and creating an unforgettable customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. All right, Rob, over to you.
Rob Young: (01:49)
Yeah. Thanks, a pleasure to be here. I love seeing faces even if it is virtually. Appreciate the invite. Rob Young, I lead our customer support teams at Bamboo HR. I’ve been leading customer support or customer success teams for a little over 15 years. Won’t tell you how much over, but we’ll just go with a little over for now.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I love it. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:14)
Yeah, pleasure to meet everyone. Over 20 years of being in the contact center world, everything from implementing solutions to training agents, and now here at Kustomer over the last three years where I’m responsible for sales and customer experience. And for us customer experience means a combination of professional services, customer success, and of course our support team as well.
Gabe Larsen: (02:39)
Yeah, yeah, multithreaded there. So and last but not least you have myself. I have zero years of experience. No, obviously, I’ve got a little bit of experience, but in a slightly different environment, I run the growth program here over at Kustomer, which mostly consists of our marketing and our business development reps. So excited to get going. Let’s start big picture. You guys, world changed obviously, just in the last two, three, four weeks, depending on where you were and why you were potentially operating in different places. Rob, let’s start with you. Big picture, how did it change from four weeks ago to now with all that’s going on with the virus, the economy, et cetera?
Rob Young: (03:21)
Yeah. So, aside from the large geographic chain, right, our entire workforce is now at home and we’re socially distant from one another. So that is a massive change and that norm, that switched very quickly for us. And so on top of that, we have individual personal lives have also been turned upside down, which is a lot of what we’re dealing with with both our customers and our team members, right? So we’ve gotta be conscious of, we have children or spouses and significant others, or in some cases, roommates that are all trying to get their work and their school done in the same household. So that’s been a big change. It’s been hard to get our heads around just from a work environment, but also from a social, kind of emotional environment as well.
Gabe Larsen: (04:14)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, Jamie, you’re talking to a lot of companies out here in your role. What are you seeing? What would you add to that?
Jamie Whited: (04:21)
Yeah, I would add to that some of the companies that I work with were not big fans of remote working, so they were not prepared for that. Other companies who love remote working, so they were fully prepared for that. Unfortunately, some of the companies I’m working with, they’ve had to have their call centers shut down. They’re international and they are not prepared. So their frontline service was down for a while. Their disaster recovery plans did not include that. Leading industries have toppled overnight and we’re seeing that impact on some of the companies that I work with. At the end of the day, as Rob mentioned, kids are also forced to stay home and have to learn how to go to school remotely. As a parent of four, in middle school and high school, it’s definitely been an interesting adaptation there in addition to working with my quoty-finger ‘colleagues’.
Gabe Larsen: (05:11)
Oh my goodness. You have four. I thought I had the most out of this group, but Rob don’t you have a couple of kids? You have a couple of kids too.
Rob Young: (05:17)
Yeah. High school, middle school, elementary, just the whole gamut there.
Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Oh man, this is the bad group. I think all of us are feeling that pain as we move into homeschool. Vikas, let’s go. Let’s kind of end with your thoughts. Anything you’d add, even from your own experience or some of the customers that you’re dealing with?
Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us is we were able to make the move to work from home pretty seamlessly from a tech perspective. But that’s just, that’s a fraction of the overall change management, right? The big thing is how people are adjusting to their new work environment, because there is that there are certain benefits to being co-located and being able to grab a peer and talk about something, a problem that a customer may be having that you’re trying to resolve, and so on. And then the very natural, as Jamie was saying, some of us that are parents are adjusting to that, but even for other folks, they’re dealing with everything from, “I’m now spending more time with a roommate than I ever really expected to spend,” right, “we basically share an apartment.” And maybe people dealing with their significant other more time than they actually ever planned on spending with them and having to deal with that. So there’s a lot of that element, especially from a leadership perspective, that we’re trying to deal with. So the tech was easy. We always have to remember, and I always remind people in the support world, it’s a human, we used to call it bums in seats. It’s the human beings that really are the core of it. And so really dealing with that side of it is what we’re focused on.
Gabe Larsen: (07:00)
Yeah. I love that. So let’s talk through that. I mean, I love kind of the level setting of: you got work from home challenges, you’ve got obviously infrastructure challenges, you’ve got parenting challenges. As we move forward, obviously the world has changed. I want to hear some of the strategies you’ve now tried to implement or coach people on to see if you can’t get a little better, make it a little bit better for your employees and your customers. Jamie, maybe let’s start with you. Where do you go from here with all these challenges?
Jamie Whited: (07:31)
Yeah, so I would probably say my top three that I’m looking at are first and foremost optimism. We have to remember, this is not going to last forever, but we have to accept the current new norm and be able to embrace it with optimism. A lot of people struggle with that. So, if we can lead with that and help influence others to feel that same way, I think it’ll just be a trickle down effect in a really positive way. I would say secondly, is innovation. We got to have innovative solutioning for all the problems that we face as customer service leaders. Yes, tech is probably the easiest, infrastructure a little bit harder sometimes depending on how your site is set up. But it’s everything from, if somebody had a problem, they would turn around and look at their colleague. Now they’ve got to wait for a response on Slack or they have to text them. They have to call them. So their response levels are going down. So how do we approach that? We just have to get innovative with what we do and how we do it. It’s an opportunity for us to adapt quickly trying new fun methods that maybe nobody wanted to try before. And even, how do we complete our day-to-day responsibilities in a new way? And then I’d say lastly, we have to move fast and we have to pivot quick because some of these new methodologies are not going to work. The sooner we recognize them, we pivot very quickly and try something else so that our companies and our employees and ourselves continue to grow and have the company day-to-day business continue.
Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, that’s actually trying this and this LinkedIn live, right? I mean, that’s one of the things we were wanting to try fast and see if it worked and goes out. And how do you interact differently with your customers? Can you get a quick answer and then if it works great, if not, maybe you throw it in the garbage and try something new. Vikas, what would you kind of add to that? From strategies to see if you can operate more successfully in this new normal?
Vikas Bhambri: (09:13)
Yeah, well look, I think at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s anytime you’re talking about customer service, you’re talking about the two sides of the equation and in the middle of it, as Jamie said, it’s that empathy and the empathy needs to be extended both to your team, the agents or the ninjas, or the gurus, whatever you call them and then your customers, right? Because both sides, don’t forget, there’s that element as well. Your customers also are in a heightened sense of stress and frustration, right? And it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether you’re in the software business, like we’re at at Kustomer or you’re in food delivery or you’re in pharma delivery or whatever it is, right? So I think that’s the key thing is there’s two sides of that equation and once again from a leadership perspective is having empathy with both sides and the education, so the education for me to make sure my team is aware. Look, customers are also dealing with this new temporary norm, and they’re going to be a heightened level of frustration. So you may get somebody who’s normally very easy going and easy to work with might be a bit more challenging. And on the same time, I actually had to coach a customer to tell them, “Look, I know you had a rough interaction with one of my folks, but they’re also in a heightened level of stress.” So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all going to have to be a little bit more patient if some of these things go on, but that’s what I think we’re starting to see that Jamie mentioned that some of these industries that are struggling with more cues, more hits, people are getting more frustrated because they want to change their flights. They want to do stuff and obviously that makes a little bit difficult. Rob, it sounded like from your guys’ standpoint, you guys had some teams that were being bombarded, like getting more requests, and then you had some teams, which I think is an interesting problem, that were actually slowing down. Like they’re not getting the service requests. How have you, is that true? And if so, how have you handled that?
Rob Young: (11:28)
Yeah. It is true, which has been a really interesting thing to try and sort out. So we’ve had to, first of all, the communication is just key, right? We’ve had to step up communication with customers and of course with our reps and then helping them be okay with change, like moving workloads around. We’ve had to shuffle some workloads to try and help teams that are just buried with requests and then teams that those requests are just trickling in. So that’s tactically, we’ve had to do that for sure, but also at a higher level helping our reps be okay with change and we’re pulling together, we’re all on the same team. We provide software and support for HR professionals and I don’t like the abbreviation of HR because you forget the human side, right? It’s Human Resources. So we’ve got to step up the human side as we continue in this new norm, for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (12:31)
And do you feel like, this is actually a question from the audience, this is kind of a cool feature in here, we got a question just about how your customers are reacting. Are you finding that your customers are being more empathetic or are people, I mean, Vikas you were kind of alluding to this a little bit, but are your customers more anxious? They’re more impatient? Rob, maybe let’s start with you and then we’ll go around.
Rob Young: (12:53)
Yeah. So, normally we ask, “How are you doing today?” That doesn’t cut it either with our team or with our customers anymore. So we’re instructing leadership and our frontline reps to ask specific questions. “How are you managing your workforce now? How is your life at home with your spouse or your significant other, your children going?” So asking very specific questions, “How are you doing?” It’s odd. We’re all doing okay. That doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Trying to get very specific answers in areas that we can then focus on and help. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Oh, I love that. Vikas. Your side of it. Anything, first of all, do you feel like customers in general are being more empatheti? And if they’re not, how are you managing that contextual language? Kind of like Rob said, are you trying to open it up and have people be a little more friendly? How do you navigate around that?
Vikas Bhambri: (13:49)
Yeah, I think customers themselves, we’ll look at the end of the day where we’re all human beings, I think they’re even, agents are saying, or my team is saying that, they’re asking, how am I doing? Which normally, if I’ve got an issue with software, I’m not going to necessarily have those niceties, right? And so even the person who’s coming in with the inquiry’s like, “How are you doing?” And I think on the flip side, the team is making sure that they’re understanding what the current environment is that somebody is dealing from. So you’ve got this particular issue, how are you operating? So I think asking a bit more than just jumping right into the thick of the problem that the individual’s having.
Gabe Larsen: (14:40)
Yeah. And Jamie let’s finish with you with this one. I mean, and maybe it’s just a recommendation. It feels like contextual messaging is super important. Whether your customers are being more empathetic or maybe they are being less, any advice you’d give out to people about how you should be approaching that conversation as they come in?
Jamie Whited: (15:00)
Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what Rob and Vikas also said earlier, is that we can only control how we react. I have one company that works a hundred percent with the cruise lines who was heavily impacted. So there are people who’ve lost their jobs or people who are now off the ship. They’re not having any income coming in. So a little problem is turning into a bigger problem and they’re coming unfortunately, very angry and just losing patience. So, we told the teams, you can only control your reactions. If somebody is coming at you like that in a very frustrated manner, then you turn around and you just give them the biggest virtual hug and empathy that you can potentially give them, retell them you understand where they’re coming from, and you are so sorry for their loss, and that we’re going to do everything we can to make this right for you. And that seems to obviously calm people down in pretty much any industry. There are other companies where people are being a lot more empathetic and compassionate. So we’re seeing a little bit of both, depending on the company and the industry.
Gabe Larsen: (16:01)
I love that. So one question that has come up and it’s actually posted here by one of the team members, Rob, you were just touching on it, but for those who are experiencing actually lower volume in service requests, because things are slowed down for them because now the economy has been hitting, creative ideas to keep people busy? I mean, obviously we don’t want to go to the furlough conversation or things like that and so company’s like, “How do I still make these people effective?” Vikas well, let’s start with you Vikas. Quick feedback on how you think you can get other people who are slow moving?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:34)
Yeah, that’s the inverse problem, right? Is you don’t have enough work and the first thing that anybody’s going to think of if they’re sitting in at home is at what point does a company say they no longer need me because there’s no volume, right? If you’re in that situation. So to me, once again, we have to think, go support holistically and part of support is about things like your knowledge base, right? And things like that. So now if there is latency or there’s bandwidth within the team, how can we optimize ourselves? Because at the end of the day, I think Jamie mentioned this and I think it’s very important for everybody to be cognizant of this, this is not the new norm. This is the new temporary norm, right? And so when we go back to quote/unquote business as usual, we will have those inquiries. So how do we optimize for that eventuality? So can we use people from the team to create new knowledge base articles, new FAQ’s, new training guides, new, obviously I’m talking about it from a software business, but it applies to a lot of other industries as well, right? How tos, things like that. So I think there’s plenty to do when we think about the support realm holistically and what the can be doing beyond just responding to conversations coming in from the customers.
Gabe Larsen: (17:55)
Yeah. Rob, anything you found or any quick tips or tactics you’ve applied?
Rob Young: (17:59)
Yeah, probably two things there. One is proactive communication, right? We are using some of our staff as almost CSMs to reach out. The CSMs are being inundated and so we have a switch that kind of proactive outreach to our customers raising our support reps to manage a lot of that workload.
Gabe Larsen: (18:23)
I think that’s important. This proactive, I think whether that needs to be happening, even if people aren’t experiencing downtime. All right. One more thing. I kind of want to leave the audience with, because definitely there’s an employee part of this and you guys have touched on it just a little bit, but maybe you could just give one tip for the, it seems like across the board, right? A lot of these reps are, in some cases nervous, some cases they’re overloaded, some cases they’re slowed down. Generally speaking, they’re at home and they’re feeling sometimes a little more nervous or apprehensive. What have you been able to do to try to drive a little bit more security, belief in the vision of your company, keep them on the boat, because again, they’re important for the overall vision and mission of the company. So let’s go through, maybe we can kind of end with this. Jamie, do you want to start?
Jamie Whited: (19:12)
Yeah, I would probably say, there’s a client I work with that’s retail and it’s not necessary to what’s going on right now. They’re doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company. They’re also doing education, so they’re showing them that they are data lean six Sigma. So they’re just reinvesting in their employees.
Gabe Larsen: (19:36)
Yeah. I love that. Finding a way in this, while it’s slowed down, let’s actually find a way to reinvest. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:43)
Yeah. Boy, if I see one more picture of a Zoom, a happy hour and those are great, don’t –
Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
– one of those, so watch it, dude.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:55)
Yeah. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Look, those are all great. But I think what I’m hearing from the team really is helpful. If you normally do weekly one-on-ones, doing daily one-on-ones, daily stand-ups, making sure, especially from a leadership perspective, sometimes we can, especially I’m guilty of it, Slack is not my friend at all times, especially when I’m super busy, but being more aware –
Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
– He is really slow on Slack.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
Right. Just being super aware of Slack, right? And being hyperresponsive. So I think those are some of the things that I think any team member would appreciate.
Gabe Larsen: (20:36)
It’s almost an over-communicate, whatever you were doing, almost double it. Rob, we’ll end with you here.
Rob Young: (20:42)
Yeah. Specifically, I love what’s been said about focusing on what we can control, right? If we focus on what we can control, one of our core values at Bamboo HR is make it count. Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company and leave the rest outside.
Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
I love this. Great. Alrighty. Well, thanks Rob for joining. Jamie, thanks for joining. Vikas, thanks for joining. Such an important talk track, as we all try to figure this out. So I thought it’d be fun to bring you together. People who are really working in it, doing it, living it, breathing it to give some tips and tactical advice. So I hope the audience enjoyed it and have a fantastic day.
Rob Young: (21:23)
Thank you. Take care.
Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Exit Voice: (21:31)
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Having all of your customer data in one place is extremely powerful. A holistic customer view can improve the first-contact experience, enable personalized and speedy service, power proactive customer support, and reduce handle times. While having all your customer data at your fingertips can be empowering, information overload can be overwhelming.
Have you ever had a situation where one of your agents saw information they shouldn’t have? Maybe someone edited a data field they shouldn’t be able to change. Have more confidence in your data. Permissioning enables greater data security and integrity.
Now, with the introduction of field level permissions, Kustomer offers a more tailored agent timeline.
Separate Team and/or Business Unit Data
Keep customer data for all your brands in one place, and display only relevant information to agents. Configure agent views as appropriate for your business. Kustomer’s customization adapts to customer support teams that are centralized or specialized. Measure and grow customer lifetime value (CLV) across products. Support cross-sell and co-marketing efforts between your brands.
Improve Agent Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction
With field level permissions, you can control data accessibility for specific fields. This means that your billing team or fulfillment team only sees information relevant to their role. Focused views drive down average handle times so your team can help even more customers.
Secure Your Customer Data
Kustomer’s commitment to data security is demonstrated by our SOC 2 Level II certification and HIPAA compliance. Restrict data access at the field level to mitigate risk and de-risk systems for greater compliance. This is essential for clients with highly private personal information in industries such as financial services and healthcare. Limit write access, but permit read access to guard data integrity while maintaining accessibility. This can also be used to support
Intuitive Design for Easy Data Permission Controls
Putting this functionality in the hands of our users gives administrators greater control of their customer data in real-time. Navigate seamlessly between permissioning for objects and fields. Kustomer’s smart settings ensure users don’t create contradictory rules such as granting Write but not Read access. These controls allow you to connect all of your user data to Kustomer’s systems, knowing that you supervise user access.
This next step in Kustomer’s data permissioning model provides enterprise corporations with the controls they need. Learn more about how Kustomer can help your team here.
Although many companies bill themselves as purveyors of exceptional, personalized customer service, the reality is markedly different. In fact, for most, a typical customer service experience can devolve to tropes often reserved for speed dating. Too frequently, customers find themselves having to reshare their name, history, and problem ad nauseum when communicating with a brand’s customer service team. And so, what should be a straightforward and personalized experience often becomes a fragmented, impersonal one.
The numbers paint a bleak landscape. According to the CCW Digital Market Study, 49% of organizations felt their biggest concern was a lack of 360-degree view of their customers—as a result, they couldn’t provide a unified experience across all channels. What’s more, insufficient data and disconnected systems make it a challenge for businesses to know enough about their customers to personalize the customer service experience.
Think about it: can you truly deliver on the promise of personalized customer service when that personalization happens inconsistently—or incompletely even? It stands to reason then that customer service cannot be truly personalized without also being truly omnichannel as well.
Let’s take a look at what defines personalized customer service, the benefits of personalization, how you can provide a more personalized customer service experience and the role omnichannel plays.
What is Personalized Customer Service?
Conversations connect people—they always have. And customer service agents must be encouraged and enabled to establish genuine connections with their customers. To do so effectively, they must also have adequate background information and context—on any client, on any platform, in any market, and at any moment. Silos will only inhibit them from delivering on customer expectations and forming a loyalty-building bond. They should understand who they’re servicing and how—and they should have that knowledge at a moment’s notice.
Artificial Intelligence magazine defines personalized customer service as the service provided by an agent that caters precisely to what the customer is looking for. This enables the consumer to gain a connection to your company and feel confident that you have a tailor-made solution that leaves them feeling satisfied after the interaction.
The Omnichannel Approach
In today’s hyper-connected world, you can’t simply think like the customer, you must communicate like them too, and be channel agnostic.
People today connect asynchronously. They have no allegiance to any platform or any one service. And their channel proliferation is happening at breakneck speed. One moment they can be @mentioning your brand on Twitter, while another they’ll be shooting over a screenshot of said @mention over text.
They communicate with friends and family in this manner, perhaps even with co-workers and superiors as well, and expect the same sort of nimble, contextualized, and convenient communication in other facets of their lives. And while they may have a channel of choice, companies must understand that said channel can change over time. Or, over the course of a week.
To put things further into perspective, today’s average consumer uses 10 separate channels to connect with companies. You heard that right—10. By giving customers an omnichannel approach, you increase the chances of reaching them and making it easier for them to reach you.
Benefits of Providing Personalized Customer Service
Delivering top-notch customer service is of the utmost importance. Doing so in a personalized manner, via the combination of human interaction and automation, can bring success to your business in more ways than one. Some of the benefits of providing personalized customer support include:
Enhanced customer loyalty
Increased customer satisfaction
More meaningful conversations that help you improve your strategy
Quality customer service is an ambitious tactic. In fact, according to research from Dimension Data, 81% of organizations believe that customer service is a major competitive differentiator. By personalizing the customer experience, more companies can enhance the quality of service they are providing and get a leg up on the competition.
1. Get to Know Your Customer.
If your business utilizes a platform that has access to all customer information in a single view during the interaction, customer service agents have the context they need to provide personalized experiences This cohesion allows agents to deliver quality, personalized service, and the ability to solve a customer’s problem in a timely manner.
2. Always Meet Customers Where They Are.
When it comes to increasing customer satisfaction and solving issues simultaneously, companies need to incorporate an omnichannel approach. When customer service agents can meet customers wherever they are, whenever they need assistance and not lose context as customers switch channels, they’ll be able to solve issues quickly, efficiently and personally.
3. Use Artificial Intelligence to Your Advantage.
Companies that are ready and willing to thrive in the digital age understand the value that comes with automation. Using resources like chatbots allows technology to take care of the analytical and manual work, giving agents more time and flexibility to handle complex tasks and issues presented by customers. Not only does this free up human resources, but it also enables your customer service team to build stronger connections with customers, building strong customer loyalty.
How Kustomer Enables Omnichannel Customer Service
For too many brands, the need to keep up with the growing number of channels has meant adding solutions at the expense of the customer experience. This multichannel approach has created silos of customer service agents and information. Each channel is staffed with its own team and creates its own record of customer information that isn’t broadly shared among the rest of the customer service organization. For example, if a customer had interacted with an agent earlier on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations or the solutions they each offered, leading to potential agent collision.
Truly omnichannel platforms like Kustomer enable agents and customers to have a single-threaded discussion about a topic that spans all of the channels their customers may use. Agents and customers can seamlessly switch from one channel to the next as needed during a conversation while seamlessly progressing the discussion. And customers never have to repeat information because agents always have the context of every conversation through a comprehensive timeline of previous interactions, purchases, and customer data all in a single view, on a single platform. As a result, you can deliver truly personalized, omnichannel customer service even as the constellation of channels continues to grow.
A common saying states that perception is reality. Regardless of its validity, perception is widely accepted, and it can have significant consequences on either an individual or an organization’s reputation and credibility.
Organizations face this every day: how to deliver the best possible product while also winning trust through superb service. Even a superior product can fall victim to upset customers — according to an Accenture Strategy Research Report, 47% of consumers admit they won’t even engage with a brand after being disappointed. Today’s complex, omnichannel environment makes these stakes even higher.
Analyzing sentiment and empowering agents with data allows them to go above and beyond, providing customers with an experience that promotes not only satisfaction, but also encourages loyalty.
What is Customer Sentiment Analysis?
KM World defines customer sentiment analysis as the processing of information to determine the opinion of a consumer. The time consumers take to ask questions, resolve issues, and share both positive and negative experiences can be used to help an organization evolve.
It’s important to understand that the way this information is gathered has changed drastically in the last two decades. What was once handled by either a letter or phone call to a company has now evolved into a multi-layered approach that can feel dizzying for an organization seeking to keep pace.
To deliver the most empathetic customer service experience, an organization must understand customer sentiment across all channels. Let’s take a closer look at sentiment scoring, what’s considered a positive sentiment and three solid reasons customer sentiment analysis is a must for your organization.
What is a Sentiment Score?
According to CallMiner, a sentiment score is the number used to gauge customers’ opinions of a company’s service and products. A positive sentiment score indicates exactly what it describes — customers are satisfied with their experience with the company’s offerings and will likely continue to go about business as usual — and as such, a negative score explains the opposite. Both types of sentiment scoring are important, as they can help a company understand where they need to improve and where they can continue following business protocol.
3 Reasons You Need Customer Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment analysis gives you an increasingly accurate temperature check on how your customers feel about your brand, your products and the service you provide. For agents to turn this data into insights, however, they must be able to easily access this type of customer information.
Here are three reasons why customer sentiment analysis is ideal for driving customer loyalty:
1. Customer Service Agents Become Advocates
Every time a customer reaches an agent, that agent should, at a minimum, be empowered with all the information needed to provide a seamless experience. From purchase information, shipping information, and return requests, to an accumulation of all internal communications that have occurred, agents should have all the customer details available to them in order to provide the best possible service. But this isn’t always possible without the right technology.
When armed with sentiment analysis, the agent is properly prepared to connect and empathize with the customer on the aspects of either the service or the product that felt frustrating. This type of communication serves to both personalize the experience while also helping to neutralize potentially difficult conversations.
To provide the modern experience customers expect, organizations can’t afford for their agents to have any information gaps. According to Calabrio, 60% of customer service agents feel that they don’t have the tools or technology needed to handle customer issues, and 34% cite a lack of pertinent customer data as their biggest problem. With the right resources in place, companies can properly identify negative and positive sentiment scores and translate the insights into providing an improved customer experience across the board.
2. It Has a Major Influence on the Future of Your Business
When it comes to both acquiring and retaining customers, brands must pursue the new rules of engagement. According to Social Media Today, 70% of consumers have admitted that they turned to the social media accounts of brands for customer service reasons on one occasion or more. Utilizing social media channels is one of the most advantageous moves a brand can make today.
Customer interactions, whether indicating negative or positive sentiment, can be used to benefit the company. This data can be used to get ahead of issues, inform internal product teams of concerns or problems and influence both new customers and loyal ones. Data can reveal how an individual consumer is feeling, and it can also reveal areas in your product or policies that need improvement.
Unfortunately, many organizations look at sentiment based on the channel: e-mail, phone, chatbot/live chat, social and others, and that means all the data collected is siloed. The result of siloed data needing to be measured and analyzed together is an analyst somewhere banging their heads against a wall trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.
In other words, siloed data can be analyzed together, but it will usually be inconsistent and incomplete, with gaps that don’t cover the holistic customer experience. When attempting to make sense of the entire customer journey from initial awareness through to repeat purchases, organizations must consider a holistic way of collecting the data to be analyzed more accurately. A customer service CRM platform, that unifies all data into a single view, can help businesses garner insights from cross-channel data.
How Kustomer can help
Understanding how your customers feel can be a useful tool for your business. The organization that achieves a comprehensive, holistic and actionable view of their customer, and leverages sentiment analysis to understand how customers are feeling, can create empathetic experiences that boost loyalty, retention and repeat sales.
Kustomer’s Sentiment Engine specifically achieves this. It’s driven by AWS Amazon Comprehend, and through natural language processing APIs, the Kustomer platform can analyze all incoming text from the customer, no matter the channel. You’ll always know how they feel, and be prepared to deliver exceptional service in customers’ greatest times of need.
Customers have high expectations when it comes to the level of service they demand from brands. While the American Express Customer Service Barometer found that Americans are willing to spend up to 17% more on businesses with excellent customer service, the top reason most customers switch products or services is because they feel unappreciated by the brand. In fact, 33% of Americans are inclined to switch to a different company after a bad experience.
Unfortunately for companies, the cost of human support is high. Introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into operations is one way companies can control costs while improving their service abilities and maintaining the human touch that makes customers feel appreciated and valued.
What Is AI Customer Service?
While AI and machine learning may at first appear to threaten the customer service industry, they actually have the power to make customer service agents’ jobs less time-consuming and more fulfilling.
Integrated AI can instantaneously retrieve the data an agent needs, while the agent or support team deals directly with the human side of customer service. This eliminates the need for human agents to run multiple systems simultaneously to address customer inquiries. Rather than employ agents to work 24/7 in a call center, AI can be used to field and classify calls and messages so human agents are then able to work more reasonable shifts with increased efficiency and reduced physical and mental stress.
Through intuitive machine learning that constantly works to improve itself, AI allows companies to be present to the very best of their abilities along every step of the customer journey.
How Are AI and Machine Learning Being Used in Customer Service?
There are plenty of reasons why AI and automation should be loved, especially when it comes to customer service capabilities. Here are a few ways the technology is already being used:
Everyone has had the experience of needing a simple question answered by a brand, only to dread having to jump through customer service hoops just to get someone on the phone who may or may not have the answer. Conversational chatbots can make these conversations more seamless. Not only do conversational platforms help cut costs, they also can help your customer service scale and enable your agents to have more meaningful and productive conversations. By using chatbots to aid your live chat operations, your business will be able to engage customers in real time without the need for an around-the-clock staff.
Amazon, for instance, uses chatbots that leverage the data the company collects on all of its customers and their past orders. By allowing chatbots to access information about the customer’s past preferences, you can have the chatbot interact with customers up to the point where an agent is needed. Once the conversation is transferred to an agent, they can pick up where the chatbot left off.
Eventually, you can train your chatbot to not only acquire customer information, but also recommend the actions customers and agents should take next. If a customer simply needs a common question answered about a product they already purchased, the chatbot can direct them to a FAQ rather than contact an agent. This saves the human agent’s time and allows them to make better use of it dealing with more complex customer queries. All chatbot interactions can be automatically tagged in your AI system so they’re easy to track and reference, and can be used to improve future recommendations.
Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to handle the necessary, but routine tasks that keep support agents from interacting with customers in meaningful ways. By taking care of low-priority, mundane tasks, RPA helps customer service agents reclaim time in their days that would be better spent handling high-value customers or fully addressing complex questions without feeling rushed.
RPA works across multiple systems to track user actions within an application to complete and perform tasks ranging from automatically replying to emails to routing conversations. The improved efficiency from saved time on menial tasks also saves companies money. Aside from cutting costs, RPA has the power to increase revenue by speeding up the rate at which customers are able to make purchases through your company.
In the past, automated phone systems performed data dips, moving customers through a phone tree where they were asked to “press 1 for a current reservation,” “press 2 for reception,” “press 3 to make a new appointment” or something similar. The flaw in this system is that the information collected was never handed off to the agent, and the customer would have to repeat themself once they were connected with a human. AI eliminates this unnecessary process — if a customer is calling about a product that’s discontinued, for example, there might not be a need for a human agent to talk to the customer only to relay that same information. This saves time for both parties by supporting your human customer service agent and saving the customer from exasperation.
Using AI to capture information about the customers and pass along only the absolutely necessary parts of that information allows agents to have more meaningful conversations and become more knowledgeable about the areas of the business that matter.
If a customer still wants to talk to a human even after discovering their product is discontinued, the agent can immediately begin the conversation by offering recommendations for other products the customer may like. AI doesn’t eliminate the need for humans, as many people incorrectly assume when they hear talk of using AI in customer service. Instead, it augments the human team and allows them to be better at their jobs.
Monitor Support Operations
When you use AI to monitor support operations, you can predict when conversations may start to turn from positive to negative. This insight allows managers to intercede accordingly, and no longer requires them to randomly audit customer service calls to regulate quality.
AI can also help monitor which responses result in reopened tickets. If response A, for instance, tends to resolve inquiries quickly, but response B results in the ticket repeatedly being opened, the system can recommend you eliminate response B in order to set your agents up for success. Managers and executives can use the data generated by AI to oversee customer service operations in a more clear, efficient way, improving day to day operations for everyone involved.
What Are the Advantages of Automated Customer Service?
Customer satisfaction is directly linked to the service experience, and so it’s important to make sure the customer journey is as seamless as possible. Integrating AI into your customer service isn’t about replacing humans. Rather, it is about arming your customer service agents with the information they need to have purposeful conversations with your customers, and using data to personalize your customers’ experience with your brand.
Incorporating AI customer service not only improves your relationships with your customers, it builds trust and increases brand loyalty. This means more repeat customers, and more word of mouth referrals for your business.
When you build an incremental strategy to roll out AI in your organization and optimize according to data collected, success is sure to follow. Using AI to build a more complete view of a customer’s relationship with the brand helps companies meet high expectations for exemplary service, and come across as anything but artificial.
Kustomer Offers AI Business Solutions
The Kustomer platform stands out among customer service solutions for the comprehensiveness of available customer data and its business process automation that is driven by branchable, multi-step workflows and custom business logic. Kustomer IQ is a groundbreaking new service that integrates machine learning models and other advanced AI capabilities with the Kustomer platform’s powerful data, workflow and rules engines to enable companies to provide smarter, more personalized, automated customer experiences with increased efficiency.
Kustomer IQ integrates machine learning, natural language processing, predictive analytics, deep learning and multi-dimensional neural network mappings as a part of its AI suite. Natural language processing involves the interactions between computer and human language, and dictates the extent to which computers are able to process and analyze large amounts of natural language data. Natural language processing is used along with text analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics in sentiment analysis, also known as opinion mining, which helps companies keep a finger on the pulse of their target audience’s interests and values.
Companies that employ the AI suite are then able to use their own data to train Kustomer IQ’s predictive machine learning models, automatically customizing them to address their own business needs. With each new interaction and piece of data, these models learn and self-tune increasing their predictive accuracy and improving the decision making of both the models themselves and the customer service organizations using Kustomer.
Through Kustomer IQ, companies will be able to automate manual, repetitive tasks and essential processes of their customer service experiences. In addition, Kustomer IQ changes the way companies manage knowledge during a service inquiry by surfacing relevant insights and predicting future outcomes to enhance customer self-service, facilitate real time intervention through recommendations, and streamline proactive outreach. By automating everything and providing the right information at the right time, Kustomer IQ frees up agents to focus on more complex and emotional customer interactions, resulting in reduced costs and faster resolution of calls.
Features of Kustomer IQ include automated conversation classification, queues and routing, customer sentiment analysis, automatic language detection, suggested agent shortcuts, customer self-service, conversation deflection and workforce management. If you’re interested in learning more about Kustomer IQ and how it can help elevate your business’s customer service capabilities, download our ebook, explore our website and get in touch today.
Kustomer offers real-time, actionable views of customers, continuous omnichannel conversations, and intelligence that automates repetitive, manual tasks to make personalized, efficient and effortless customer service a reality.
How do you empower your customer service agents to deliver a great experience and delight customers? How do you hand down your company’s vision and purpose, so that they can bring that to all of your stakeholders? Well, we thought we’d speak with Michael Pace to find out.
Michael is the Principal and founder of the consultancy The Pace of Service, which helps organizations to realize the full benefit of Customer Service, Social Business, Business Process Management, and People Leadership. There he’s worked with some amazing brands like Tory Burch, David Yurman, and Rue La La among many others. He’s also the President of the Northeast Contact Center Forum, which puts on quarterly events for contact center and customer experience professionals.
In this episode, we go deep into the world of agent empowerment, covering what empowerment means, how to build trust between manager and agents, how to build trust, and how to set guidelines for responsible freedom. Listen to the podcast to get all that great knowledge, and check out this related post from Michael’s blog below:
Leaders: You Are Doing Empowerment All Wrong
Every management book will tell you that you need to empower your associates. In many ways, it does make perfect sense; the more your associates can do the right thing for customers on their own, everyone wins.
Customers get their issue resolved or the product they want with limited hassle.
Your associates are more fulfilled and their overall engagement and morale increases.
And you, as the leader, get the opportunity cost of focusing on more strategic priorities
But you are doing it wrong (maybe).
Somehow the word empowerment turned into something that you can give to another person, like a magical gift. Or I can bop you on your head, like a holy man, and now you are empowered (dusts hands off in a proud manner of achievement). Or you have been hypnotized by my mystical words of leadership.
Empowerment is like energy, I cannot physically give you mine; it already resides in your associates. If you believe you can actually pass it along, you may be essentially passing over nothing. However, if we believe empowerment is something that I (your manager) can help unlock within you (associate), we can take the appropriate steps to unleash it. So instead of talking about empowerment, I talk with my reports about how I can help them exercise their responsible freedom, and how they can help their reports exercise theirs.
I discovered the phrase in a book by Chip R. Bell & Ron Zemke called Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service. It’s a great book for the Customer Service Leader who looking for direction that spans both strategic and tactical, combined with real life stories. Exercising Responsible Freedom is simply knowing the right thing to do, understanding the risk, recognizing your proverbial guardrails, having solid rationale, and most importantly doing something. Sounds a lot like empowerment, but with some real power.
How do you do it?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Have the respect for your associates to treat them like adults. Far too often, I encounter people leaders who act more like parents than business leaders. Your associates typically have mortgages, rents, insurance, bills, children, and a whole host of other responsibilities, they can handle more than you think. If they can’t, you probably need to reassess their future and the time you invest in them.
Paint the Vision: You cannot expect people to know and do the right thing if they do not know what direction you are going. Describe to your associates what the realistic future looks like, and have conversations (two way) about what it means to them.
Provide the Flexible Guardrails: Talk about what would be going too far, and talk about what is too safe. Use examples of what is in scope and what should remain out of scope. In regulated industries, providing this detailed information is critical for wary associates.
Discuss Possible Outcomes: Have a discussion about if something did go wrong. Develop operating agreements that provide a safe zone for both you and the associate to review lessons learned. I find myself often saying to people, if you had a good rationale for actions, you will never been in trouble. But if I asked “why”, and their answer is “I don’t know” or “I just did it”, we will need to talk more. And don’t forget to talk about the incredible things that can happen if they take the appropriate leap.
Let them know you TRUST them: Just overtly saying to associates, “I trust you to ….” is amazingly powerful confidence builder. It reaches them on both a professional and personal level. See prior post on Trust for more info.
It is evident that service and relationship building are key differentiators between similar businesses. Customer’s expectations are pacing with the speed of technology and process innovation. If you provide scripted and/or automated responses to customers, they will repay you with the equal amount of passion. If your social support team is tweeting right out of the traditional public relations handbook, you will most likely anger or disenfranchise your customers. Same goes for customer service representatives who must use the caller’s full name 3 times in a call.
We need to hire, develop and foster our associates (and our associates’ associates) to think critically, do what they believe is the right thing for the customer, and not feel they have done something wrong by erring on the side of the customer. When they exercise their responsible freedom, they engage customers on a human level, they build strong relationships, and they have the true opportunity to “WOW” a customer.