Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri

Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Matt Dixon from Tethr and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss Matt’s most recent research on over one million customer service phone calls. In this episode, they discover what the research indicates and how leaders can utilize the data to their advantage. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Adapting in the Biggest Stress Test Ever for CX

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Matt Dixon and his team of professionals quickly got to work analyzing data from 1,000,000+ customer service calls. This last year has been described as CX’s greatest stress test ever because teams are having to constantly adjust and adapt to the ever changing world. A year in the making, the data is showing what teams are and aren’t doing correctly in this new environment. Something that Matt hopes teams will make note of, is pre-pandemic, about 10% of customer service calls were classified as difficult. Seemingly overnight, the amount of difficult calls jumped to a whopping 20%, overwhelming underprepared CX agents. As history shows, greater difficulty in customer experience interactions leads to greater amounts of negative word of mouth marketing and upset customers. This then leads to more people being unwilling to purchase goods or services from a brand because of high difficulty interactions. To help teams adjust to a new normal and return to work, Matt offers some practical and actionable tips in the episode. He explains that making sense of collected data is key for all teams who want to be successful in the future. “Data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology that exists today.”

Using Data Proactively Now and for the Future

Data is constantly being discussed in modern CX conversations on a global scale. It seems that more and more companies are turning to using data to gather helpful information about their customers. No longer are the days of QA teams and reps who had to take detailed, tedious notes on every customer interaction to gather data and search for opportunities for improvement. New technologies allow for that data to be automatically collected, scored, and reviewed. Brands would be wise to implement data collection and implementation on a company-wide basis, as it plays a major role in customer success and higher NPS scores across the spectrum. Matt believes that in order for that collected information to be holistically useful, teams have to be proactive about the way they utilize such data – to not only solve immediate issues, but to use it to predict future issues and customer difficulty. Matt explains that data can be used to prepare for “The thing they’re (customers) probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months. … It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience.” In addition to this, Matt believes that so many companies spend too much valuable time concentrating on gathering survey responses that would be better spent on analyzing data that is stored within the technology they already have access to. As CX leaders learn more about their technology and how they can use it to collect data, customer satisfaction is sure to skyrocket.

Employee Satisfaction Leads to Brand Loyalty

The topic of employee satisfaction has gained traction in the CX realm. Leaders are starting to recognize the importance of having teams of agents that are happy, rewarded for their efforts, and satisfied with their contributions to the company. The year of customer experience calls that Matt and his team analyzed revealed that big brands are being exposed and their weaknesses are being made public. Their lack of training and agent accountability is contributing to public distrust of these big brands. Vikas uses the example of reps working from home without direct supervision that are telling customers to complain on social media because they don’t have the tools, permission, or training to properly help them. Matt and Vikas believe that it is extremely important to hire the right people, train CX agents correctly, and establish a level of trust with them so that they can work independently and efficiently. “If you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.” When these agents feel that they are trusted and have the freedom to make crucial decisions on part of the customer, brands are more likely to win. Evidently, customer interactions prove that when the agents are happy, trusted, and feel like their efforts are important to the company, customers are happy and have a greater chance of staying loyal to the brand.

To learn more about 1,000,000+ customer calls and what the data shows, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tells Us | With Matt Dixon & Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about customer service research. What 1 million, it’s more than a million phone calls, tell us what the heck you’re supposed to be doing to be successful in customer service. And to do that, we brought on a couple of special guests. One you know, Vikas Bhambri, and the other is Matt Dixon. Guys, why don’t you take just a minute and introduce yourself? Matt, let’s start with you.

Matt Dixon: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. Gabe, thanks for having me on. Matt Dixon, I am the Head of Product and Research at Tethr, which is an AI machine learning venture out of Austin, Texas. Prior to that, I hailed from CEB where I ran the customer experience and customer service practice for many years there. And I worked on all the research related to effortless experience, customer effort, score, effort reduction, some of which we’ll talk about today, hopefully.

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Awesome. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:06)
Sure. Happy Friday, everyone. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Looking forward to the chat with Matt and Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
And you know myself, Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Matt, what does it feel like to be a celebrity? I mean, people must come to you. This question, by the way, those of you that –

Matt Dixon: (01:24)
[Inaudible]

Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
People must come to you and be like, “You changed my life.” I mean you wrote Effortless Experience, you wrote Challenger. I mean, how does it feel to be a celebrity? I’m partially kidding, but those are big books. A lot of people have been impacted by them. So number one, thank you. But in all seriousness, what does that kind of done differently for you in the way you’ve kind of managed your career so far?

Matt Dixon: (01:49)
Well, thank, first, thank you for the kind words. I think they’re, the first thing I’ll say is this. Those books and all that research was a big team effort. So it, it’s a kind of an awkward thing to have your name on a book that you know there were dozens and dozens of people behind, putting that research together. But at the same time it’s been a pretty fun journey. We’re, I think in both sales and customer service, we’re a little bit different from a lot of the other folks out there. I mean, you and I know a lot of the same folks in the sales world. I know you hailed from that world as well prior to your time at Kustomer in the customer experience and customer service world. And I think there’s so many good expert, kind of subject matter experts and thought leaders out there. What I think makes some of this research different is the thing I still try to stick to today is I’ve never run a call center. I’ve never been a Head of Customer Experience. I’ve never been a call center rep. I think I’d be, probably be an awful call center rep. I’ve also never been a salesperson. I’ve never run a sales organization and I’ve not, I have not carried a bag for 20, 30 years like many of the other folks out there writing about sales. I think what makes me different, and some of the folks I worked with on that research, is that we’re researchers. We brought data to the air against some of the big questions people were asking.

Matt Dixon: (03:07)
So Challenger, it was, how do we sell the information to power buyers? And we’ve been taught for so long that it’s all about needs diagnosis and relationships and this kind of thing. Is that actually true? And we found with the Challenger research, a lot of that stuff was built on flawed assumptions, or at least it didn’t stand the test of time and the data currently shows a better way to do things from a sales perspective. In effortless experience, very similar. We’re all taught to believe that more is better. It’s all that delight and wowing and exceeding the customer’s expectations and we shouldn’t do that as companies. We should have a great brand that delights, a killer product that delights, great pricing that delights, a sales experience delights, but when things go wrong, we’ve found that’s not the time to delight. That’s the time to get things back on track and make it easy for the customer. Play good in customer service.

Matt Dixon: (03:52)
And so I think in some ways I like, I don’t know that I put myself up in the Pantheon of like the MythBuster guys from Discovery Channel, but I, and that’s kind of how I think of, my career has been a lot about that. Trying to bring science to bear, to test some of these assumptions that a lot of people have that feels so right. And then we never stopped to question whether or not they’re actually true and there’s a lot that we go and test and we find out it’s actually true, but there’s a lot that we tested we find out it’s actually wrong. And I think exposing that for sales leaders, customer experience leaders, contact center leaders, customer service leaders is really important and really valuable because it helps them proceed with clarity and allocate the resources better.

Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
Yeah. Well, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve appreciated about the methodology in the CX space. It seems like it’s fluffier at times, right? It’s a day on the phone with Zappos for 50 hours to make somebody feel good. There’s just so much kind of feel good stuff, that I remember reading the Effortless Experience and it was the first time I was like, “Oh my goodness, a data driven view into customer experience that I think maybe isn’t the standard.” So I do think it is nice to have some research. That’ll set up our conversation as we jump in. Vikas, I mean, your experience with the Effortless Experience, or it’s got to be one of those books, that’s just, you’ve talked to maybe a hundred thousand people about?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:09)
No, look it’s, Matt and team did a great job. It’s top of mind for a lot of folks right now, right? In terms of just how do you compete effectively? And I think the effortless experience in terms of that experience that you can deliver, not only externally, but internally with your team, and then how do you use data to iterate that experience, right? I think what Matt and team do is they’re looking at it at a macro level, across many customers and many trends. And then, what any operational leader needs to do is then apply it to their business and say, “Look, let me look at the metrics in my data. These are the bars that I want to aspire to. What do I need to do to get there?” And looking at the data within their own tools and tool sets and saying, “Where am I falling short?” So I think it’s that perfect convergence in terms of how do people effectively compete in what’s becoming a very challenging environment, right? New companies popping up in every space, almost on a daily basis.

Gabe Larsen: (06:05)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s get into kind of then, some of the latest research and it may not be the latest latest, because it seems like every time I talk to Matt, he’s got something new on his, on his cuff, but –

Matt Dixon: (06:16)
[Inaudible] Now I feel lazy because I have –

Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
[Inaudible] four weeks old. What the hell?

Matt Dixon: (06:28)
[Inaudible] me lately.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t good enough. So maybe kind of give us the backstory on this. Obviously it was COVID related. A lot of phone calls. Fill in the blanks as to why you started it, what it is.

Matt Dixon: (06:39)
Yeah. So we at, just a little bit of background. So at Tethr, we are in the conversational analytics space. I know a lot of the folks on the, listening on that are familiar with that technology. We’re one of the players in that space. And so we work with a lot of big companies around the world. And what was interesting is we take their phone date, phone call data, we take their chat interactions, their email changes, other other data, and we help them make sense of it. And to understand what’s going on in the customer experience, what the reps are doing to the good and to the bad. What the customer’s experience is with their product and their digital channels and so on and so forth. And one of the things we noticed is, with COVID in that, obviously it took the world like in a blink of an eye, just changed a lot of what we do. Think about a call center leader, multiple kind of dynamics at play. On the one hand, all of my reps who used to be sitting together in a contact center that are now all working from home. No access to peers, no access to supervisors, no shoulder to tap to ask for some help, really working on an island. And then you add onto that the fact that customers are now calling about maybe not entirely new issues, but much more acute issues. So think about, for instance, a utility company, we work with a number of utility companies. They’ve always had a certain percentage of customers that call for financial hardship reasons. I’ve lost my job. My spouse has lost their job. I can’t pay my electric bill this month. I need to go on a payment plan [inaudible] will shut my power off. That, we found in one company in our study, the number of financial hardship-related costs increased by 2.5x almost overnight in the span of like a couple of days. The number of people calling in saying, “I can’t pay my bill. I cannot have you turn the power off. And I don’t know when I’m going to be able to pay to pay you guys. So I need to, you got to come up with a plan and it’s got to be a new, creative plan, right? Because I don’t know when I can get back on track financially.” That produced this perfect storm for customer service leaders. So we started hearing from a lot of our customers, “Hey,” like, “let’s get under the hood of what’s going on in these conversations. What’s changed for our reps? What’s changed in the customers, with the customer’s expectations? What are the good reps doing that we need to do more of? What are the reps doing to the bad that we need to do less of, and let’s get our arms around this because this stuff is happening so fast.”

Matt Dixon: (08:57)
And so that’s what we did. We collected. We took a sample of calls. A million calls total from across 20 different companies. And we specifically picked those companies because we thought they represented a broad cross section of the economy. Some industries really effected like travel and leisure, some less so. And so we combined, we created the sample and we went in and we studied it. One of the first things we did was we scored all of the calls for the level of effort. So we had built an algorithm at Tethr, we call it the Tethr Effort Index, think of it like a predictive survey score. So rather than asking your customer at the end of a call to tell you how much effort that call was and for those of you familiar with the Effortless Experience, you know a customer effort score is one of these things that we talk about a book. That relies on a survey, but what we built a Tethr was a machine generated algorithm that could take a recorded phone call and the machine could tell you basically, here’s the score you would have gotten on the survey if the customer had filled it out, but without the high effort experience and the expense of asking the customer to fill out a survey.

Matt Dixon: (09:57)
So the first thing we did was we started collecting calls on March 11. We picked that date because it was the date the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. We ran the study for two weeks to get a million calls sample from across 20 different companies. So that was a subset of the total call volume those companies do with us. And we scored those calls and we looked at what the scores were before and what they were after. And we saw a real increase overall in just the difficulty of calls, so the effort level of calls. And for those of you again, who know the research, know that effort corresponds with churn. It corresponds with negative word of mouth. It corresponds with customers unwilling to buy more from you, unwilling to accept the save offer, right? When they get transferred to the retention queue.

Matt Dixon: (10:42)
Specifically, we saw before the pandemic for the average company in our study, it was about 10% of their calls that would have been scored as difficult on our scale. It’s a zero to 10 scale. So we’re looking at the scores in the zero to four range. Those are the bad ones. In the study, so after March 11th, for those companies, that percentage doubled to 20%.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:02)
Wow.

Matt Dixon: (11:03)
So now, one fifth of their total call volume was in that zone of customers who are likely to get on social media and badmouth you, likely to churn out, not likely to buy anything more. They’re going to go in and tell their neighbors and their friends and their colleagues, “Don’t do business with these guys. It’s a terrible company, they’re treating me,-” and again, a lot of the, it was compounded by the way the reps were handling that. The fact that they’re all working from home and we get into a little bit of that, but it was kind of a staggering overnight change in the dynamic.

Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
Well, and I think that’s obviously, I think we’re all experiencing that. So it’s not too surprising from an interpersonal perspective. I can relate. Obviously taking this call from home at the moment. So if I understand the basis of it though, it did start in March 11th, it went for two weeks. Million plus phone calls, cross segment of the industries, just touch on that real quick. It was, you did try, it was pretty variety. So it wasn’t just hospitality and travel. You felt like you got a pretty good cross section on that.

Matt Dixon: (11:57)
Good cross section. So we, we’ve got in there some consumer products companies, some travel and leisure companies, utilities, financial services, card issuers, telco, and cable. It was a broad cross section. We had a couple of more B2B tilted companies as well. So we felt like we had a pretty good sample that we could say, “It wasn’t all skewed towards travel and leisure.”

Gabe Larsen: (12:18)
I love these different industries. Go ahead, Vikas.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:20)
Let me touch on one thing, which I think is really interesting. I think this is about the data, right? And I think if people aren’t using their contact center or CX data in the best of times, shame on them. But especially now, and I think there’s a real opportunity for companies to do what we call proactive service. And I think a great example of this is if you’re an insurer and you’re seeing that 20% of your volume coming in is around, “Hey, I want a reduction in my premium because I’m not driving my car,” why not use that data? Go out to market like my insurer’s done and say, “Hey, we’re giving you a credit to your account because you haven’t even asked for it, but chances are, you’re not driving. So we’re giving all our,” and look at the positive press and you’re seeing some big insurers now are catching on to this. And people are like, “Wow. My insurer’s thinking about me in this time of need.” And I think using that data, because chances are, they were going to give people individually, those credits anyway. One, you’ve reduced your conversation volume into your contact center because now you’re proactive about it and you’re getting positive press. Any thoughts on that and how people might be using that data creatively?

Matt Dixon: (13:29)
Yeah, no, I mean, I think you’re right. So the, a couple comments, one is, being proactive, I think was one of the things we wrote about in The Effortless Experience. Not just solving this issue, but thinking about the next issue proactively for the customer. The thing they’re probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months, but you as a company know this, so you can use your data to predict that, and you can fully resolve it for the customer. It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience. But the other thing in general, I totally agree, Vikas, with what you’re saying. That I see, I’m constantly surprised by how little companies, big companies actually leverage all the found data in their enterprise and how much they obsess about getting more data from like, for instance, post-call surveys.

Matt Dixon: (14:17)
So that to me, I find to be like, it’s just this weird head snapping thing that I don’t understand at all, which is they all obsess about post-call surveys. What do we need to do to get more customers to respond to our survey so that they can tell us how much effort the experience was? And I always think, “Well, you’re recording all your phone calls and your email exchanges, and your chat interactions, your SMS exchange and all this stuff on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and social. Like you have enough data already to know what the experience was. Why are you obsessing about your survey response rate?” And it just, it’s so interesting the way, and even when you get down to it, I hate to be pessimistic here, but our data in this view, but I think part of the reason is they get paid on survey response rates and NPS scores and things like that. And so that’s why they obsess about it. It’s not, ultimately, if they really wanted to fix customer experience, there are way better sources of data in the systems they already use so that they can be more proactive, so they can find those effort causes and drivers and do something about it. It’s, that data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology exists today, you know? Sure. 10 years ago you needed a QA team, kind of with headsets, listening to calls, making notes and surfacing opportunities to get for improvement. But you don’t have to do that today. Machines can do that at tremendous speed and scale and so, but it surprises me why more companies don’t do it.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Yeah. I mean, the thing is if you send somebody a 15 page survey after an interaction, right, if you’re in the travel industry, for example, right, after I’ve spoken to a customer service professional, it’s like you had good interaction. And I don’t think maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a lack of understanding at the executive level that what kind of data occurs in these conversations, right? If you’re a marketeer and you don’t realize that the best feedback you’re going to get about a promotion or an offer or a competitor, what a competitor’s doing, is in those conversations. If you’re a product person and you don’t realize, “Wow, like my contact center gets real-time feedback on a new feature or a new service that I’m providing,” there’s a lack of understanding there about the richness of the data that resides in the contact center environment.

Matt Dixon: (16:27)
Yeah. I agree. It’s, I think there’s this assumption that it’s the data in so far as leverage, it’s really just valuable for making contexts in our interactions better. So, but we find when we go into those conversations, it’s a gold mine, Vikas, as you’re saying, of the insight around your digital experience. What were all the things the customer was trying to do on your website or your app before they picked up the phone and called that they’re actually telling the rep or complaining about in the conversation and you’ve just recorded it? What are all the things they talk about with respect to your product or your feature or your pricing, or your competitive differentiation, or about the sales rep who oversold them on the product or service to begin with, and now they’re calling in disappointed? So there’s just tons of insight there for all parts of the enterprise, not just for the QA team at the call center.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:11)
Right.

Gabe Larsen: (17:12)
No, I love that. So this is one way I think companies are trying to kind of do things differently in this, it’s been called the new normal or the new world we live in, using data in a way maybe they haven’t done. There were some other things that you were alluding to, Matt based on findings you have, and we’ve put a link in the chat for the actual HBR article that you wrote. So if you want to see some of the additional findings but I want to get into some of these takeaways. Where did you kind of go based on then the data that was revealed? Can you maybe start at the top? So we got data, one, and then what’s next?

Matt Dixon: (17:43)
Yeah. So we, so the highest level again, we found a doubling of the predicted effort level of interactions from pre-pandemic to in the pandemic or pre-March 11 to post-March 11th. The other thing we found as we started digging into what was really driving this was, and I think you found that generally speaking at the highest level, this is this higher level of effort in these interactions was sort of born of two different things. And they’re kind of, there’s a little bit of overlap. And on the one hand I mentioned before, customers who are feeling a lot more emotion and anxiety, driven by things like financial hardship, coming in really frustrated because maybe it took them two hours to get through to a rep because now the call center doesn’t have access to the outsource that they used to provide overflow support. The call volume has spiked, and now there’s a longer hold time. So they’re frustrated to begin with. They’re doubly frustrated maybe because they went to a website and what in normal times wasn’t such a big deal, now it was a really big deal because the alternate option going in self-serving failed them. They’re talking to a rep who they feel like is dealing with policies that really haven’t been updated in light of the pandemic. So you might be asking for a bill payment, that utility example I used before, a bill payment extension or a payment plan. And they’re still pushing customers to the policies that existed before the pandemic. And they haven’t really updated us because the company moves really slowly and they just feel like they’re dealing with people who are just throwing out policy and hiding behind policies.

Matt Dixon: (19:11)
That’s kind of on the customer side. Then the agent side, think about it. And you’ve got to be empathetic to the agent situation here, too. Many of these agents who are now working from home, the fact of the matter is that before the pandemic, most of them were working in kind of a factory floor model of a contact center where they were, they sat in a group surrounded by colleagues who they could tap on the shoulder and ask for help. Supervisors they could wave their hand and flag down for assistance or a policy exception in the moment. They were given a script, they were given a checklist. They had access to all the resources they needed. There were kind of like cogs in the machine. What happens when you send all those folks out to their home offices and now they’re left to their own devices?

Matt Dixon: (19:52)
What you find is that in some cases, maybe we didn’t hire people, we didn’t hire the right people. And maybe in some cases we never coached them on the behaviors that could lead to them being successful. We just kind of told them to stick to the script and just follow the rules, follow the checklist. That doesn’t really work in a situation where customers are calling in about high-anxiety, high-emotion issues. And they’re asking reps to make exceptions and make up their minds and decide things on the fly. Then what do you do if there’s no tenured colleague or supervisor you can flag down? You’re sitting in your basement or your living room doing your job. It’s really, really tough. So what that means is agents are shirking responsibility. They’re citing policies. They’re saying, “Hey, I can’t really help you. Maybe you should write a letter to the company. Sometimes that gets their attention. And you know what you might want to do is just bad mouth them on Twitter, because if you do that, they usually jump to it and they can help you out.” You know? And I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of that going on and it, that then compounds the frustration from customers. So beyond that, we started to look at, I think the good news is there are things we found in the research that are, we think tools and ways forward and we’ve talked a little bit about those, but let me pause here and just see if you have any thoughts, Gabe or Vikas, on that piece of it.

Gabe Larsen: (21:03)
Yeah. Any response to that? I mean, definitely a customer side and an employee side. It sounds like.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:08)
No, I look, I think I, Matt, I’ve been saying for weeks as we’ve been doing these is, this is the biggest stress test that the contact center industry has ever gotten. And I think a lot of the fundamentals that were broken at a macro level across the industry, but individually are in for specific brands are being exposed. And I think that lack of training and empowerment is one that is absolutely coming to the forefront because for somebody who’s been walking the floors of contact centers for 20 years, this even today, there’s the culture of the supervisor walking the floor, looking over the shoulder, providing guidance, jumping in and saying, “Hey, let me listen to that call. Let me coach you through it,” and forget the technical limitations. How do you do that? Now when you’ve got, maybe you’re a supervisor of 20 people and now they’re disparate and they’re working from home, forget the, like I said, the technology limitations, how do you actually do that? So I think, like I said, we’re exposing a lot of the flaws and I think, what are some of the changes we’ll see going forward is that ability to empower and really create this into a knowledge worker role, right? Because as self-service takes care of the low level simple questions, you’re going to see, I think you’re going to see this in the contact center regardless of the work from home environment, but you’re really going to need people who can handle those difficult questions.

Matt Dixon: (22:36)
Yeah. We actually, there’s another one, I don’t know if, Gabe you throw this up on the, with the other article, but there’s an article we wrote in 2018 about T-Mobile’s journey toward a different in kind of knowledge work environment for their contact center, where they basically told their reps, “You guys are now small business owners and we are, our job as leaders is to figure out what’s getting in your way of delivering the right customer experience. Is it a policy? Is it that you don’t have the right tools? You don’t have the right, you’re not on the right platforms that the connection speeds too slow? What is the thing that’s getting in your way? But you tell us what you need. We’ll clear the road for you. Your job is to own the customer experience and come up with creative solutions, but use your own judgment.”

Matt Dixon: (23:15)
A lot of that really increases the importance of hiring great people, coaching them in a really effective way, giving them great manager support and putting them in a climate that really rewards people for using their own judgment; doesn’t just tell them to stick to the script. So that article was called Reinventing Customer Service and I encourage everyone to read that because it picks up on this story that Vikas is talking about. When the easy stuff goes away, by definition, what’s left is the more complicated stuff that the live rep is handling. And you need to have really good people who can exercise their own judgment, and that’s even more important. And what becomes apparent is when, if you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.

Matt Dixon: (24:01)
And so it really, this is, I think there are two trends that’ll be kind of shot through a tunnel of time with COVID. I think one is digital and specifically omni-channel capabilities. The ability for companies to seamlessly switch, obviously work that you guys do at Kustomer, to switch from one channel to the next. I think the ability, the effectiveness of asynchronous messaging in particular, chat effectiveness, SMS effectiveness, customers used to use that stuff for simple binary interactions. Now, when they’re looking at a two hour, wait time in the phone to queue, they’re going to go try that chat channel first, right? And see how far they can get. What that’s doing is it’s forcing chat to grow up really fast and forcing our chat bots to get really smart really quickly. I think the other trend that will be shot through a tunnel of time is agent empowerment and hiring great people, putting them in a climate of judgment where they can leverage the expertise of their peers, but more importantly, where they’re trusted to do what they know is right, because we trust that we hired great people and we showed them, here are the boundaries in the sandbox we can’t go across for regulatory reasons or legal reasons, but within that, use your judgment. Do what you think is right for the customer. We’re not going to script you. We’re not going to checklist you. And it turns out putting customer reps in those environments means they deliver actually better outcomes, more customer-centric outcomes, and they deliver better results for their companies, higher NPS scores, lower churn, higher cross-sell and up-sell. And that’s exactly what T-Mobile saw in their experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (25:27)
Yeah, and if I can just touch on what Matt said about that omni-channel experience. It’s really delivering that same experience, regardless of channel. I talked to a lot of customer service leaders that complain you gave the example of people going to Twitter to complain. And I didn’t know agents were actually coaching them to do that. I can see why. And it was really interesting. I remember a few years ago, I did some work with an airline where I met their social team, the Twitter team, and they were like, they walked into the room, like really like a group of alphas. They were talking about how they had a separate set of policies that they were able to do than the core contact center, because they were like, “When people complain on social, we have the ability to offer them refunds and things that the core team isn’t.” I was sitting there laughing. I’m like, “This is not a good thing. You’re basically training people to go to social media, to amplify their voice so that they get better customer service.” And I’m like, “That is a fail because what you’re doing then is you’re training them to go to these places.” And so for me, omni-channel experience, it’s not just about delivering the channels, but you should have a uniform experience regardless of which channel that customers coming to you with. So I thought that just, when you mentioned Twitter and agents guiding customers to that just triggered that airline story.

Gabe Larsen: (26:44)
Crazy.

Matt Dixon: (26:45)
Because they say, “Well, look. Actually the alpha team is on that group. I know several companies, big name companies that put their best reps, you graduate into the social team. When you reach the highest level of agent status, that’s where you go, like, that’s the destination job. There are no rules or no policies do whatever you want. And what they’re doing is teaching their customers that the way you get the best service from this company is by publicly complaining about it.

Gabe Larsen: (27:08)
Sure.

Matt Dixon: (27:08)
And it’s just like –

Gabe Larsen: (27:11)
Yeah. It’s funny that that’s what, that’s the world we’re in though, you guys. Our time is unfortunately come to an end, such a fun talk track, always more to discuss. We did leave the link to the HBR so you can dive in a couple more of the findings and the research. Matt, it’s always great to have you. Vikas, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Thanks.

Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)
Thanks.

Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Take care guys, bye.

Exit Voice: (27:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle

Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Hunter Schoettle from PatientPop to uncover the four secrets to transforming the customer experience. PatientPop offers support to private healthcare practices and Hunter’s team is able to handle every aspect of CX with these four helpful tips. Listen to the podcast below to find out how you can transform your customer experience.

Tip 1: Build a Strong Base for Relationships

Being the Head of Customer Experience at PatientPop, Hunter understands the importance of having CX that goes beyond the standard. Hunter has developed four tactics for transforming the customer experience to a standard of excellence. The first is caring for the people within the company. Hunter creates a principle of honesty and understanding within PatientPop by hosting a work environment in which his employees feel cared for and comfortable in. Hunter explains:

I think that having happy employees, happy people, is going to drive those positive customer interactions. And even if you’re talking about the technology itself, having happy engineers working on your product, they’re going to be a lot more dedicated to driving results and delivering things that are going to help our customers.

When the people who work at the company are happy, their satisfaction scores are more likely to increase and customers are more likely to continually use the product. Even those who don’t interact with the customer on a daily basis are better able to provide superior products and services because their happiness in the workplace reflects on the customer satisfaction scale. Building a strong base for relationships between employees and leadership is just the first step to transforming the customer experience.

Tip 2: Utilize Data Effectively

The second step is to use data to the company’s advantage. According to Hunter, data is key to making decisions because it offers unbiased and emotionless information that when utilized effectively, can greatly benefit the company as a whole. In order to correctly use this resource, it is important to automate data availability to save time and talent. Further, it is also important to continually update and analyze the collected data. Because data offers an unbiased look into how the company is performing altogether, it is a valuable resource that should be constantly monitored and used in all aspects of implementation of policy and decision making. Hunter mentions, “Put a lot of thought into how you’re going to organize it (data) and what you’re going to look at if you want to be successful in the long run.” Questions can be answered through looking at data. If a CX team wonders why a customer is leaving or what needs to be fixed to keep customer loyalty, the team would benefit greatly from looking at collected data and implementing it into aspects of improved CX.

Tip 3: Step Outside of the CX Role

Hunter’s third step to transforming CX is to step outside of the CX role and engage with other parts of the company. This method effectively optimizes the customer experience because of the insights gained from other teams working together to provide the best products, services and experiences. To further expound on step three, Hunter says:

Really what I mean by that is I love getting outside of my role and knowing what’s going on in the rest of the organization. I want to know what sales is doing. I want to know what implementation is doing. I want to know what the customer success team is doing, support, product, so on and so forth. And I think that knowing all of those things and having a pulse to some extent around those areas really gives me the ability to be proactive.

When teams are interconnected not only in the customer experience side but throughout the whole organization, the company is more likely to retain customer loyalty. When asked how to better insert oneself into different roles within the company, Hunter says that persistence is fundamental in getting insights from other parts of the company, especially if the others are standoffish at first. Additionally, having a strong agenda with a clear direction helps to get started on working with other teams to collect more data and insights.

Tip 4: Actively Listen to and Learn from the Customer

The last step to transforming the customer experience is to listen to the customer. Hunter sees that many CX agents say they are listening to the customer; however, he finds that most of the time they are not really listening with intent but are just waiting for the opportunity to get the job done as soon as possible and to move on to the next person. Generally, the customer is going to tell a brand everything it needs to know about the products or services offered through their feedback. Hunter notes a difference between actually listening to the customer and hearing the customer. He says, “So I think that really, truly listening to your customer and actually understanding the issues that they’re having before trying to solve them is one of the biggest things that a lot of companies miss on.” Allowing customers the time needed for them to fully speak and express their issues, taking notes, actively trying to understand their problems and figuring out efficient solutions are all imperative to gaining customer loyalty and useful data. This tactic helps eliminate wasted time on misunderstandings and helps to create a customer-centric culture in which customer feedback is valued and is essential to improving upon the brand as a whole.

Hunter urges organizations to implement these four helpful tips to transform their customer experience. To learn more, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Four Steps To Transforming a CX Organization | Hunter Schoettle

TRANSCRIPT
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’re going to be talking about transforming. How to do that on the customer experience side with a little bit of a healthcare focus and to do that, we’ve got Hunter Schoettle joining us. He’s currently the Head of Customer Experience at PatientPop. Hunter, thanks for joining man. How are you?

Hunter Schoettle: (00:29)
I’m doing awesome. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah. Yeah. Excited to have you. It’s fun to have a little bit of a different flavor around customer experience and some of the things you guys are doing in the healthcare space. I think from the product standpoint or the service, all the things you, it’s so different, but I think kind of this customer experience will be fun to hear your per view on it. So before we dive in, tell us a little about yourself.

Hunter Schoettle: (00:54)
Sure. So right now, like you said, at PatientPop. They’re a practice growth platform for private practices across pretty much every specialty. So I work with everything from med spas to dentist to neurosurgeons. So get a really diverse group of people there. I, like you said, running the customer experience department, so we still have a startup vibe. We just got the series C so really, really kind of growing more into a mature company at this point, but I definitely still get to wear a ton of hats. Had a lot of background in sales, which taught me that kind of just, figure it out mentality, get stuff done, whatever it takes. So I enjoy having a challenge. I handle everything from customers threatening legal against us, contract law, I’ve read copyright law, all the way to just managing our Google My Business. I respond to the reviews on there. So the main bread and butter, main focus though is on customer attention and that’s really where my department thrives and gives the most value to the company. Using those frontline interactions to both gather data and then analyze and use that to help continually improve the product.

Gabe Larsen: (02:09)
I love that. And tell me one more time, the primary customers that you guys are servicing, one more time, or what type, who are they again?

Hunter Schoettle: (02:16)
So private practice doctors, pretty much any specialty right now.

Gabe Larsen: (02:22)
Interesting. Yeah, that’s going to be fun. And then just for the audience, if you’re wondering, you do not say his last name as you think you [inaudible]. Don’t ask his last name because I can’t even say it again. So you’ll have to hit him up on LinkedIn if you want the phonetic spelling of, or the phonetics of how to actually say –

Hunter Schoettle: (02:46)
You nailed it on the intro though.

Gabe Larsen: (02:46)
– phonetically put it in there. All right, well let’s jump in. I mean, you’ve been doing this for a while. I’m interested to see if I can pull from you some of these keys or secrets to the way you’ve been able to transform that customer experience in your space. Where do you start?

Hunter Schoettle: (03:02)
So there’s really four main things that I’ve kind of looked at. I think the most important one to me is always the people, which sounds counterintuitive when you’re talking about tech and SAS and all that, you really think that tech and whatnot is more but, more important, but everything behind that is always going to be the people. And I think that having happy employees, happy people, is going to drive those positive customer interactions. And even if you’re talking about the technology itself, having happy engineers working on your product, they’re going to be a lot more dedicated to driving results and delivering things that are going to help our customers.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
Yeah. I mean, that’s something that I think most people, they say but it’s easy to talk the talk, it’s hard to walk the walk, or people kind of intuitively know it, but they have a hard time figuring it out. Anything come to mind that you’ve been able to actually put that into practice where you have actually been able to get that engagement level of your employees to a level that does translate to happier customers?

Hunter Schoettle: (04:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So I think a couple things, one is the, that question actually sparks a different story that was originally coming to mind, but I have one individual on my team. He is a rock star performer, always doing great, but he’s really, really hungry for more career growth then he wants to move up and so on and so forth. And I think that everyone thinks that career growth means promotions, merit increase, et cetera, et cetera. But realistically it doesn’t always have to come in that. So he was always a good performer, but I started having him train the new hires, work with people that are newer on the team, getting him a lot more exposure to some of those hard management skills. And that changed his entire attitude in the office and his performance numbers, even though they were already great, he was already leading the team, we saw a definite lift in those and the feedback from the customers in turn has also improved. So we constantly monitor that as well.

Gabe Larsen: (05:10)
Interesting. Yeah. And sometimes everyone thinks it’s about the money, right? Or they think it’s about the physical things, but sometimes it’s different. I think each person is different. Sounds like you figured that out [inaudible]. So people, I mean, have you thought much about the hiring? It seems like people always struggle getting the right people in the door and then engaging them. Quick thoughts on the hiring process, anything figured out there?

Hunter Schoettle: (05:35)
Yeah, absolutely. So I think there’s a couple of things around hiring. One is just really investing in the interview process and making sure you’re learning everything. I mean, that’s kind of obvious, but once someone’s in the door, it’s investing in them personally and professionally. So, I like to build really strong relationships. I like to where people are personally. I think that knowing that someone’s family member is sick and changing how you interact with them that day, that week, whatever, goes a long way to making sure those employees feel supported, feel engaged, and if an employee likes their manager, likes their director, likes their leadership, they’re going to work a lot harder, on the flip side as well. So and then it also comes to supporting them professionally. So you have to support your careers and I think that’s the bigger part about hiring is if you want top talent on your team, you have to support the top talents, careers. You can’t hold on to them and try and keep them pigeonholed into where they are performing great on your team. You have to be okay with supporting them, moving on if you don’t have the right opportunity for them. And I actually just ran into that. I know we had spoke about that before. Before were on here I had one a woman on my team who I’d been working with for two years. She’s been my direct report, seen her grow tremendously and she’s gotten to the point where she has a lot of options. I don’t have the right opportunity for her growth right now. But we were talking and I actually choked up teared up a little bit when I was telling her that I would give her a great reference, whatever it was. But that level of relationship is really what I look to build with my people.

Gabe Larsen: (07:23)
Cool man, yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people say their people are their assets or it’s just hard to actually do it, to find a way to get beyond the general conversations and get to a personal level. And sometimes actually, I’ve heard other people discourage that like, “Hey, keep it professional. Don’t get to that level where you are really good friends.” That sounds like you’ve felt like you found a pretty good balance on that front.

Hunter Schoettle: (07:46)
I’d definitely say it’s a fine line. I think there is, too personal is definitely a very real thing, but I like to have some personal relationship for sure. But there definitely is a way too personal. I still have to keep it professional, of course. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (08:02)
I think that’s fair. That is, I think finding the line is what separates great leaders from others. So people’s one side. The second place you talk about a little bit is based on the data piece. Talk to me about how you’ve kind of found a way to break through and make data something that enables you to transform.

Hunter Schoettle: (08:22)
Definitely. So I think that data is one of the most, I mean, I guess it’s redundant to say one of the most important things when we’re talking about the most important things, but data is huge. I use it every day, all day. And really when it comes to decision making, everything, I try to keep the emotions out of it. I keep my feelings, my thoughts, all of that out of it. And I just stare at the data, look into what’s actually going on, what the facts are. And I think there’s a couple things that I really key into here. One is automating data availability. So if you have to do a huge manual effort to get the data that you’re after, then you’re wasting resources. So being able to access the data that you need regularly is one huge factor there. And then another is just generally the analysis of it — what you’re looking at, where you’re going with it, so on and so forth.

Gabe Larsen: (09:23)
Got it. Yeah. Is there a certain, feels like people, and this is another one where I think people are like, “Yep, yep. We need to use data, but I don’t know. One, my data is so dirty or it’s in disparate systems.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately.

Hunter Schoettle: (09:36)
Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (09:36)
Like, “I know I need the data, but part of it’s in my CRM and the other’s in the ticket system, I got a chat program over there.” It’s like, I keep saying it on here, this guy told me about his frankenstack and I just can’t get over it. It was such a funny word. He’s like, “You mean my frankenstack?” I asked him about the technology stack and he’s like, “You mean my “frankenstack?” But is there a certain, so is there certain metrics that you’ve found that are outside of the norm that actually tell the story you want? Because sometimes I’m feeling like we’re looking at numbers and I did, I had a call today where a woman was saying, “You know, we’re looking all about call handle time. But what we didn’t realize is our maniacal focus on handle time was really decreasing our net, our overall customer experience. And so we had to like find this balance.” Any thoughts on metrics? How to watch them, which ones are right?

Hunter Schoettle: (10:27)
Definitely. Definitely. So the first part of that statement, very true there’s data all over the place that’s housed in many different areas. So I definitely feel that still. I haven’t solved that problem myself just yet but I think that is another big one is how clean your data is leads back to how everything else, how your decision making is, et cetera, et cetera. But some of the main things that I really focus on is you got to start early. You got to really sit down and think about, put a lot of thought into how you’re going to organize it and what you’re going to, what you’re going to look at if you want to be successful in the long run. And what my team has done, we’ve built our own custom object that we work out of which is a case or whatever. I don’t want to use too much Salesforce lingo, but it’s our own custom object within Salesforce. And we’re constantly tooling it to make sure that we’re adding data points, changing, adapting, moving on, and we put them into big buckets. And so it’s products, service, customer service, expectations versus performance, costs versus value, things like that are really the things that we’re looking to gather. And the main metric that we’re actually looking at is when customers are requesting to cancel and when customers actually do cancel, why are we losing customers? And how can we fix the issues that cause a customer to leave us? And I think that if you’re, if you’re focused on the end of the funnel there and fixing those main issues, you’re going to be getting the best return on investment from a customer experience standpoint. Because A, you’re going to be increasing your customer attention at the end of the day, but you’re also going to be those mad customers that maybe aren’t mad enough to cancel it are still going to be having those same issues. And you might be shifting the NPS needle to moving them into more promoters and then even upstream, you’re fixing the same issue and can increase your new sales. Kind of a backwards funnel approach.

Gabe Larsen: (12:37)
No, no. I think that’s, I haven’t heard somebody or I haven’t had somebody explain it that way, but I like that. I think that’s a different way to look at it, but maybe the backwards funnel, that’s an interesting way to kind of frame that. Maybe we need to frame it differently because sometimes I think we’re getting off in the wrong direction when it comes to metrics. Okay, so you got the people side a little bit, all data, where do you go next?

Hunter Schoettle: (12:57)
So, I think one of the big things for me is, what is customer experience? To me, it’s the entire customer journey. So I think that if you’re in a customer experience role and that’s something you’re really focused on, you really don’t have a role. And I, what I really mean is get outside your role. So I’ve actually never even read my job description. I don’t know what it says. I know it says, “Do these things and perform in these areas.” And I hit those. I hit my goals, all of that, but really what I mean by that is I love getting outside of my role and knowing what’s going on in the rest of the organization. I want to know what sales is doing. I want to know what implementation is doing. I want to know what the customer success team is doing, support, product, so on and so forth. And I think that knowing all of those things and having a pulse to some extent around those areas really gives me the ability to be proactive when it comes to leading back to that data is what am I going to be tracking? Maybe I need a new data point based on what someone in sales is doing. Maybe sales is trying new price floors, or pitching a new product, trying to get a higher attach rate. And I can put new data points that my team can start tracking moving forward to see on the end of the funnel there, is that a positive or negative effect to when you’re looking at those cancellation requests?

Gabe Larsen: (14:22)
Yeah. Is there any advice on doing that and getting out of your box? I mean is it just the umph to do it? Is it setting up a weekly conversation with somebody outside your, or any quick advice for people who kind of want to do that, but are lacking kind of that, what’s the best way to kind of operate a little bit outside my box?

Hunter Schoettle: (14:43)
So, I mean, first one is definitely persistence. I think that there are a lot of, a lot of people love opening up and letting others come into their org or their department and like explaining it. But sometimes it can feel intrusive. So sometimes people are a little more standoffish to having you involved in some of their department’s meetings, but I think it’s just being persistent and being able to show the value of you being around and working together. And then you hit the nail on the head. I think that weekly meetings or bi-weekly meetings is huge to just continue looking at trends. And I think that as long as you have a good agenda and are going over the biggest trends, pertinent trends, and focusing on more bigger picture items opposed to, a lot of times, people want to get nitpicky into like one account, things like that. I think as long as you have a strong agenda and focus on bigger trends, bigger items, then you can get a lot of really valuable things in terms of, I work with sales on a bi-weekly basis and we look at different trends and processes that they’re working on to continue improving, which then leads into implementation. They have better accounts, better expectations set, leads and so on and so forth throughout the journey. But there’s a lot of different ways. It all starts with persistence though.

Gabe Larsen: (16:08)
Yeah. I think the persistence, someone used the word pleasantly persistent or something. It’s kinda like we were talking about the personal and professional. There’s this line of persistence, pleasantly persistent. This is what I do. And I’m like, “Okay.”

Hunter Schoettle: (16:24)
There’s also a big relationship key there as well, which you touched on there, but you got to build relationships across the departments, which leads into once you have those good relationships, that personal relationship, you can start using that to start accomplishing some of that and using that persistence with those people more directly and intentionally.

Gabe Larsen: (16:47)
Yeah. The relationships make a big difference. So, all right. So we’ve got people, data, getting a little bit out of the box and then where do you end?

Hunter Schoettle: (16:56)
So this has got to be the most obvious one for sure. But I think a lot of people don’t do it and it’s to listen to your customer. The customer is going to tell you everything that you need to know. And I think the reason that I even bring that up is a lot of people think they’re listening to their customer, but they’re actually not. And so a customer might say for example, “I have an issue with the product. The product’s not working.” And then say interaction with the support rep. Product’s not working. Support rep just jumps on it and starts trying to fix the product. Or really the issue is not that the product’s not working. The issue is that the customer doesn’t know how to use the product, or hasn’t adopted the product in the way that it’s supposed to be used. And it’s really more of an educational issue where that support rep, they tried to solve the problem before they knew the story. So I think that really, truly listening to your customer and actually understanding the issues that they’re having before trying to solve them is one of the biggest things that a lot of companies miss on. And the way I put that into interactions with my frontline in my department is the first five to ten minutes of our calls is just the customer talking. We have a quick intro and then just let them talk. And then it gets silent. They say, “Oh, I have an issue with this.” Get silent. You wait five, ten seconds. And then they open up and go then just line by line. We take notes. And then, and then once we’ve got that full story, that’s when we go in to actually solve the issues for them. And I think training across departments with things like that is a super important thing. Our frontline, my team, hears it all the time. “You’re the first person that truly listened to me.” And that’s something you don’t want to hear very often. You want to make sure that you’re truly listening to your customer.

Gabe Larsen: (18:50)
Yeah, yeah. That is, that’s another one that I think people talk about, but they, your point, they don’t do as much. So I like that. I think that’s a fun talk track. Hunter, appreciate you taking the time to join us today. If someone wants to reach out or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Hunter Schoettle: (19:08)
I’m fairly active on LinkedIn. If I get messages, I usually look at them. I’d say that’s probably the, probably the best way for now.

Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, really appreciate it. Transforming customer experience in healthcare. Those are some of the lessons learned from Hunter. So Hunter again, thanks for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Hunter Schoettle: (19:32)
Absolutely. I appreciate it, Gabe.

Exit Voice: (19:39)
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How to Better Understand Your Customer With Ed Porter

How to Better Understand Your Customer With Ed Porter TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Ed Porter, Chief Revenue Officer at Blue Chip CRO, to discuss the changing customer environment. Learn how Ed has adapted to new consumer needs by listening to the podcast below.

Tips for Relating With The Customer

Having years of experience and quite a diverse background in customer engagement, Ed Porter has developed a deep understanding of his customers. Considering each touch point throughout the customer engagement process, Ed claims that companies will better relate to their customers as they analyze and adapt these touchpoints to the different customers they have. He says, “So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels.” Understanding every aspect of each customer interaction can help companies better serve their audience by better adapting to their wants and needs. Knowing aspects such as who the customers are, what they’re looking for, how they interact with the brand, etc, are all helpful when adjusting products or policies to better fit the customer demographics.

Reactive Vs. Proactive Customer Service

Ed explains the difference between proactive and reactive CX and the benefits of both. One of the first steps in creating a successful CX team is making sure that your agents have the necessary tools, information, and skills needed to produce rewarding results. Next is evaluating how the brand should go about in creating and enforcing their customer service ideals. Ed mentions, “You keep your employees happy, you provide good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers.” Proactive customer support happens when employees are well trained and knowledgeable about a brand’s products and services. The reactive side of customer support comes into play when preventing future problems from happening through customer education. Educating the customer, using focus groups, user testing, etc, can all help to lessen the amount of upset customer interactions, further benefiting the brand name.

Start with the Business Model

Ed understands that it can be difficult for CX leaders in companies that aren’t large corporations to improve their teams as a whole and to implement change. Striving to completely understand the business, setting goals, and creating an action plan for how to accomplish those goals are the keys to creating CX success at a base level. To further evaluate this, Ed explains:

You can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience.

You don’t have to be a large corporation to really nail customer support. Simply aligning the company with its beliefs and making sure that each department is on the same page when it comes to the customer service standard, is sure to bring about customer satisfaction. Ed urges each brand to reflect on what they really want out of each customer interaction and to continue to “evolve and innovate” and adapt with the ever changing customer environment.

To learn more about the secrets to understanding the customer environment, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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How to Better Understand Your Customer | Ed Porter

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about all things customer experience and to do that we brought on a good, my best friend.

Ed Porter: (00:21)
There you go.

Gabe Larsen: (00:21)
My best work friend, one of my better work friends. His name’s Ed Porter. Ed and I go way back. First met at a conference, maybe six years ago. Was it Ed, is that we decided? Five, six years?

Ed Porter: (00:33)
Yeah. Five, six years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
And Ed’s got an interesting background. He’ll probably double click on that in just a second, but played in the call center space, knows customer service, dove into the sales space, really helped engineer and transform an inside sales team. Now starting to do a lot on his own from a consulting standpoint as he plays kind of CRO for different companies and really helps them think about the whole lifetime customer value, kind of start to finish from customers, engaging with you all the way from kind of talking to you post-sales. So with that, Ed, thanks for joining. How are you, man?

Ed Porter: (01:09)
Yeah, thanks. Appreciate it. And glad to see you on the other side of the fence. On the customer support side.

Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
That’s right. That’s right, man. Tell us a little more. Tell us a little bit more about your background, some of the fun things you’ve done.

Ed Porter: (01:19)
Yeah, so I grew up in the outsource contact center space. So for me, it was my first job. I was working part time as a call center rep while I was in college, trying to do that and found myself eight years later at the company risen through the ranks and had multiple sites that I was overseeing and a little over a thousand total employees through a lot of different levels of that management. So that’s really where I grew up in my professional career and learned just an immense amount of information and really what drew my passion to understanding the customer side of things both as a consumer myself, and being able to relate in the roles that I was in, that these are the things to strive for and aligning your customer satisfaction process to your internal QA process and how those two really need to be on par. And then even to a point where there were points in time where I would be irritated at the sales team for how they sold or didn’t sell something and then we had to support it. So that’s really what built the foundation for me and drove my passion in the customer experience side of the fence, and then went from there to software sales. So, that’s where I really got my start in sales working for a startup that was a call recording software for enterprise contact centers. So, got to learn the sales side of the fence while in a field that I was still familiar with. And then of course jumped into inside sales, built an inside sales team from scratch then went to a CRO of an organization where I ran the full customer life cycle from marketing sales to customer success. And then we successfully led that organization to an acquisition, and then I’ve been on my own for the past year, doing really different things for different clients, but all centered around this CRO type of role and more so encompassing that full customer life cycle and ensuring that everything is aligned from marketing to sales, to ongoing customers experience.

Gabe Larsen: (03:29)
I love it. Yeah, that’s a real checkered background, but I appreciate you jumping on and sharing some of the goods with us today. So we’ll be focusing more on the customer side of the house, not on the prospect side of the house. We did record a podcast on the prospect side of the house maybe four years ago, but we’re going to pass on that one for the moment. We’ll focus on the customer. So as you’ve kind of integrated yourself into this post-sales world, or re-integrated, I know you started there and you’re coaching companies on this whole life cycle of the customer, what have been some of the findings and things you’ve found that have been those deal makers that change the way companies see their customer and ultimately interact and see that satisfaction score up and down? Where do you, where do you start?

Ed Porter: (04:12)
Yeah, so I think the big thing, and you kind of teed this up maybe about a month ago on LinkedIn, which I was extremely happy that that’s being talked about was this terminology around customer experience and what does it really mean? What do you call the team of people that handles customer inquiries, support, whatever the case is, what do you call that team? And I think that’s been probably something that’s gotten a lot more in the spotlight over recent years. If you rewind 15 years ago, that really wasn’t a thing. Customer experience at times kind of got related into marketing way back when, and I think that was kind of the big thing for me, which now companies are starting to adopt is what does that really mean? And it means more than just a touch. It’s more than just that single inquiry. It’s what happened before, what happened during, what happens after and knowing that that can tie very closely to what omni-channel is. So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels. So this, there’s a complicated mechanism out there within customer experience. When you think about how your customer interacts with your company and your brand, this could be anything from a radio advertisement to a print ad, to a digital marketing ad, to an ongoing product usage or consuming of clothing or product lines, how they’re receiving packages and what’s inside the packages. So there’s a lot of those touch points now that are starting to be examined and the companies that are doing it right, you can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it, right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience. The first step is alignment. The second step then is putting yourself in those, in the customer’s shoes, because if I’m a founder of a company, I’m the farthest one away from the customer. So how do I really know what the customer wants? I don’t. I got to go to perform these focus groups and perform these surveys, figure out through satisfaction surveys. What do customers really want in a buying experience and how do you align your different service offerings to them? And it’s just a constant re-engineering of things. It’s being able to look at the data within your transactions that are happening between your frontline and your customers. It’s being able to look at speech analytics types of solutions and understanding chat engagements and understanding what does that mean between a phone call interaction with Gabe Larsen or chat interaction with Gabe Larsen and an email interaction? What does all that mean? And are they completely different issues? Are they similar issues? So there’s a lot of examining on a single touch point to figure out what is that customer experience really like for that singular unit of Gabe Larson, as opposed to a mass unit of thousands and thousands of customers?

Gabe Larsen: (07:40)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean I love the idea of looking at that more broadly, bringing in kind of the full touchpoint analysis. And I think people with minds are trying to bring all of this together under one umbrella. I want to go one another place with you. As you think about touch points, that’s just a big conversation in the customer service world around omni-channel, multi-channel. Do customers want to come on the phone, not come on the phone? Where do you stand on this unique or differentiated channel approach and why or why is it not important?

Ed Porter: (08:12)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing, again, from what my previous message was is you gotta be where your customer is. You got things like generational differences. There are some generations that the millennials kind of get thrown under the bus here, but they’re the ones who want to text and do everything online and they want instant gratification. And whether or not you subscribe to that theory, there are plenty of people who want to, who prefer that method. So no longer is customer experience a one size fits all. It’s, unless you’re serving one singular demographic, then maybe you can cater to that more. But other than that, there are people who want to use the phone and talk to a human and don’t want to get lost at a voice automated IVR. There are people that want to chat with you and they want to chat with you at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night or five or 6:00 AM when they’re coming home from work on the night shift. So, if those are the types of customers that you’re catering to, that’s the first one being available in the channel that they want to talk to you, not necessarily just the one you want to deliver. So I think that’s a big one. When you look at how do you deliver service and support to a customer and understand who the customer is? Who are they? Is it somewhere where you’re serving the public or you’re in a B2C world where you kind of gotta be 24/7, or are you in more of a B2B world where your customer is a traditional first shift or maybe second shift? So I think that’s availability. And then the second is the channel and we’re just seeing increases left and right on these non-voice channels. Email was the big hype probably ten, 15 years ago, where you had companies that were coming up with these email management systems. And now you got to go integrate that into chat. You got to look at bots that can really help out that. I kind of look at a bot being a digital alternative to like an IVR, very similar technologies operating in similar fashions to ultimately try and deliver some self-service. So these are channels that really got to be done. And I’m going to take a little bit from some of your past life. And we know that there is a lot of research done by buyers. 54, 56%, whatever the case is before they interact with somebody. That’s an important data point to know, understand on the customer experience side of things too, because not everybody wants self-service, but there are plenty of people who do. And if you don’t have a great FAQ or great online support or research, all that’s going to do is clog up labor from your team having to fill these calls. And again, you may not be delivering the support or the experience that the customer wants. So I think when you look at customer experience and omni-channel, they’re really hand-in-hand because you gotta be available wherever they want to consume you and really not the other way around.

Gabe Larsen: (11:07)
Yeah, it does. I love your first line, which is you got to meet the customer where they are. I usually think that’s, we’re all focusing on the customer. If you haven’t asked, what do they prefer, where they’re at? And you’re assuming that they just want to be on this channel or that channel, you might be up a creek, find yourself –

Ed Porter: (11:24)
Yeah. Oh yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (11:24)
– place. One of the other debates or debate isn’t the right word, but certainly the conversation is, is this movement. I think maybe COVID helped push us that direction, but it’s reactive versus proactive customer service. And you’re finding that a lot more often companies are finding ways to reach out and interact in ways that maybe they haven’t done because this world has been so inbound focused. It’s been so, “Why don’t we just kind of sit on our heels and wait for something and then optimize the experience around that?” But COVID, in some instances or the digital transformation that COVID [inaudilbe] change that, what’s your take on this and how are companies maximizing it?

Ed Porter: (12:05)
Yeah, I think COVID certainly accelerated the transformation and really forced some things. And the biggest thing it forced, I would say globally, is just how do you do work from home? So that’s a very high level. And then you take it down to the customer experience. There’s, you have traditional contact center reps that have been doing work from home forever. I remember back in 2002 at the outsource contact center, I was on a steering committee where we were actually looking at turnover in the contact center and why is it so high? And we had, I started researching work from home. And back then there were contact center companies that were only around virtually. So there was technology back then where businesses were being built virtually. So it existed, but the challenge was getting that, getting that push to how do you do it? And it’s one of those things that’s probably on every executive’s whiteboard, it just never gets prioritized really highly because quite frankly, there’s some other fires to put out, but that’s one of the things is how do you manage people and how do you manage people remotely? And you’ve kind of got to figure that out to make sure your employees are successful before you can expect them to deliver a great customer experience. So I think this shift has forced them to focus on that. Prior to that, digital transformation has been happening. And I think that curve, if we started in the early two thousands, was really slow and long and it’s starting to kind of peek up a little bit. And like I said, COVID really just accelerated that. So I think this again goes into, there was a saying back in my day, which was, “ESAT equals CSAT.” So employee satisfaction, you keep your employees happy, you provide a good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers. Now, whether or not you buy into that, I don’t know. But there’s an interesting correlation there to say, “I want to make sure that my employees are trained properly, are coached properly, to make sure that they have all the latest and greatest information and making sure that that information is not only digested, but also implemented.” So this whole digital transformation, those start with an overall, an overarching communication strategy and how that works. How do you, you’ve got a rep that’s been on the phones or on the chat or on email for two years, but like any product, things change. So how, what’s your ongoing coaching and education process? Like how do you manage that and then take care of your employees? And then quite frankly, they can do that from anywhere. So when you start looking at proactive versus reactive support, the proactive support comes into not only training you on how to do something better, or if it’s a new product or a different process, but it’s also, how do you take that to the customer so that you can prevent a phone call or a chat because ultimately, this has never happened. The customer never calls and says, “Hey, I just wanna tell you guys you’re doing a good job.” So everyone’s always calling or chatting or emailing because there’s a problem. So the reactive side is how do we prevent the problems? And that has to do a lot with customer education. Has to do a lot with product and quality control and things like that. But that’s where those types of departments gotta be intertwined into this whole customer experience. So the reactive side is how do you keep a pulse on the customer? Looking at voice of the customer initiatives, developing projects, developing focus groups, developing interviews, and surveys. There’s a lot of channels to connect with your customers. How you build that and take that feedback is an ongoing process. So even to the form of, at a previous company, we had a customer advisory council that we formed with customers, and it was simply, “Here’s some new features we’re thinking about rolling out. Good or bad? Rip it apart or tell us what we need to do differently.” That wasn’t the only source, but it was a source of us getting customer information. We did surveys, we did focus groups. These are some big things. When you look at customers where you have thousands and hundreds of thousands of customers, how do you do it? Surveys tend to be some of the most effective, but it’s a constant process, not a one-time thing. Figure out your plan for the next year or two. It’s got to happen regularly in order to see what’s happening. What do customers really want? That’s the reactive side or the proactive side. The reactive side is what traditional customer experience centers are; just wait for the call or complaint or the problem and do what you can to solve that problem for the first time. So those are very reactive.

Gabe Larsen: (16:47)
I think the digital, the digital stuff is pushing us one way or another and pushing us into boundaries, obviously that we maybe weren’t prepared for, but we’re getting prepared pretty quickly. So a couple of different topics, but you’re on, you’re in the face of different companies and customer service organizations trying to optimize in these changing times. As we part today, any kind of leave behind or takeaways you’d leave for customer experience leaders trying to navigate and be successful in these challenging times?

Ed Porter: (17:15)
Yeah. I think even outside of where we’re at right now, I think the big thing to, to look at in the customer experience world is, technology is a piece of it and there is so much amazing technology out there, but technology doesn’t solve the problem and technology has to kind of be that enabler. So what I would leave behind to any customer experience executive is to focus on the business first, go figure out what you want to do, how you want to do it and then look at technology to enable that process. Don’t look at technology to create the process. So I think that’s the big one, technology is not going away. And if anything, it’s just, there’s going to be a lot more noise. There’s going to be more startups coming around. There’s going to be better solutions out there that continue to innovate and evolve. And there’s always going to be some really cool things that they do. And I think that’s great, but use that to build a better process first, before you try and look to technology to solve a problem.

Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
I love it. I love it. Well Ed, appreciate you jumping on today. It’s always fun catching up sales, customer service, whatever. Someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little more about what you do, what’s the best way to do it?

Ed Porter: (18:32)
Yes, definitely on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn for a lot of different reasons. So I’m there. Look me up, Ed Porter. There’s not a whole lot of Ed Porters. I think there’s actually maybe a Senator or a Councilman out in California and then there’s a photographer that I know of. So there’s only a few. I’m in Columbus, Ohio, so I’d love to connect with people. And I’d love to just chat more about this. It’s a great topic and something that I’m really passionate about.

Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
Awesome, awesome. Again, appreciate the talk track. Appreciate you jumping on and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Ed Porter: (19:04)
Yeah, definitely. Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (19:11)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Happy Team, Happy Customers with Adam Maino

Happy Team, Happy Customers TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Adam Maino from FinancialForce to uncover the secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Learn how Adam builds a strong company culture that allows his team to fail fast and learn from those challenges by listening to the podcast below.

Proactive Team Culture Through Intelligence Swarming

Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce, Adam Maino has some astute insights about the world of customer service and creating a proactive company culture. He believes that a proactive team culture is brought about by hiring the best and brightest customer support talent. Adam finds that when completing the hiring process, candidates who are customer-centric tend to be more genuine and authentic with customers. To further explain, he states, “it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.” According to Adam, viewing the customer as a person and treating their needs with empathy is crucial to the success of daily CX team operations.

Typically, CX teams have a tier system of agents who handle incoming cases. Adam’s team has completely removed the need for a tier system by adopting the method of intelligence swarming. This method breaks down any pre-existing tiers by shepherding cases to the team members best suited to handle them. Adam elaborates by stating, “What that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better.” Eliminating the need for multi-step solutions is a great way to conserve customer loyalty and help customers quickly and efficiently.

Utilizing Knowledge-Centered Services

Adam also emphasizes the importance of integrating Knowledge-Centered Services (KCS) into CX standard practices. He uses the KCS model from the Consortium For Service Innovation to improve his customer service team interactions. While discussing how incorporating KCS into standard practice greatly assists and accelerates scaling CX teams, Adam says:

KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18-layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.

The main purpose of KCS is to motivate CX teams to frequently improve their knowledge base by contributing individually written articles based on agent-customer cases. This is to solve future difficulties, leading to quicker resolutions and delighted customers.

The Secret to A Happy CX Team is A Coaching Mentality

Adam has identified multiple methods to leading and managing a happy and successful CX team. He notices time and time again that when his team of agents are happy, his customers are happy. Adam mentions one method in particular that has helped him continually motivate and empower his team is allowing his agents to work at their own inclination; more independently and with more autonomy. He says, “I think what we should be really focusing on … coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.” He figures that a team works more efficiently when their environment is collaborative and the leader exemplifies a coaching mentality rather than a managing mentality. Additionally, he notes that positive feedback and recognition are what help him keep his high performing CX agents. By focusing on quality experiences and services, agents and customers are more likely to have positive interactions.

Adam urges companies to approach new ideas head on and to not be afraid of failure, as failure helps CX teams adapt and produce the best possible customer experience.

To learn more about the secrets to transforming a world-class CX team, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Secrets to Transforming a World Class Customer Support Team | Adam Maino” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Happy Team, Happy Customers | Adam Maino

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. Today, we’re going to be talking about secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Want to get into the scaling aspect and to do that, we brought on a guy I’ve been bugging a lot lately, trying to get him and I got him. His name’s Adam Maino. He’s currently the Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce. Adam, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?

Adam Maino: (00:37)
Good! Doing great. Thanks for that.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Really appreciate you jumping on. Appreciate you responding. Cool background. Can you tell us real quick, just a little bit about yourself? Some of the things you guys do over at FinancialForce?

Adam Maino: (00:47)
Yeah, so we have multiple applications based on the Salesforce platform with accounting and PSA being our top applications. We also have SEN each as well.

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Yep.

Adam Maino: (01:04)
Very nicely in the same environment. Yeah, having a good time serving our customers with those.

Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Love it. Love it, man. And I always like to ask, outside of work, what’s your go-to, man? Any crazy hobbies, high school band, a dog lover, anything like that?

Adam Maino: (01:24)
Yeah, I love making music, so I’ve got a bunch of guitars and fly fishing and hanging out with my family.

Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Nice, man. Yeah. I’ve been trying to get my nine-year-old into guitar. I’m a total hack, but something about acting like you can sing and strumming that guitar just makes you feel better about life. Just makes you feel better. All right, well, let’s jump into the topic at hand. So you’ve obviously done this for awhile in some incredible areas, driving customer support, scaling it. As you think about some of the lessons learned and secrets, where do you start?

Adam Maino: (02:01)
I think culture really is one of the most important things you can have; to start with and so I think that’s something that you just have to have by default in order to really just scale teams and have fun doing it along the way. So, part of that for me is looking for the best talent. Really focusing on talent that’s customer-centric and always putting the customer first and online and that’s from your application layer, support, all the way up to support engineering. So it doesn’t matter who’s on point, everybody can speak to a customer and they can do it well.

Gabe Larsen: (02:43)
Yeah. How do you, two follow ups on that. I mean, people want to have a good culture, they want to hire well and get good talent and any things you’ve found to kind of tilt the statistics in your favor to actually bring on more talented reps, agents?

Adam Maino: (03:02)
I think we’re pretty lucky. We have a solid employee success team and they are really good about giving into our other candidates that come online and so, when we do get candidates, we usually have a pretty good run of really good candidates. But I think really, when you dive into those questions and put them on the spot, it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
Yeah. I love that. Do you, when you think about organizing your team, I mean, you mentioned this idea of like support engineers and customer service reps, that’s often something people have asked about, how do you think about the structure? You’ve got a gold, maybe like a top-tier team. You’ve got the support engineers, like a tier-two, maybe a tier-three support. Any quick thoughts on, it’s a little bit out, but the support engineers flagged that for me, how you’ve kind of thought about, either in your own org or coaching other orgs on just kind of the overall structure of what support should or shouldn’t look like?

Adam Maino: (04:15)
Yeah, so we took an approach called, intelligence swarming, which is an agile support methodology, which actually crushes the tiers. And so, what that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better. And it really builds on this idea of having a collaborative environment, so you can reach out to them. And I think our team has actually changed because of this process. And before we literally had two separate channels where we had an application support report, and then product support engineering report into action in the product. So now our teams are actually made up of different layers. So my team, I have product support engineers, I have application support, I’ve got technical account managers, and programmers.

Gabe Larsen: (05:24)
Wow, interesting. You nixed the tiers. Is there a book or something on that? I mean, agile customer support.

Adam Maino: (05:35)
[inaudilbe] great. I cannot tell this organization enough, but it’s called the Consortium for Service Innovation. They’re amazing. So they’ve come out with KCS. So that’s the gold standard for learning and creating knowledge programs and our state program and then intelligence swarming and they’re also looking at things like predictive customer engagement models, was just a big event actually. But yeah, they’re absolutely incredible. I highly recommend checking out their site and then ownership to me is worth its weight in gold.

Gabe Larsen: (06:27)
How do I not know about these? What? What? Oh my heavens. Yeah. I’m just looking at them as you talk. I felt like I’ve at least come across a lot of these. I don’t even know how to say it. Consortium, Consortium for serviceinnovation.org is where I’m at for the audience.

Adam Maino: (06:54)
That’s great.

Gabe Larsen: (06:54)
And the intelligence swarming, you mentioned KCS. What’s KCS? I think I got the intelligence swarming from your last, what was the KCS thing?

Adam Maino: (07:04)
Knowledge Centered Services. And so what that allows you to do, and this is great for, I think really important for scaling teams. It doesn’t really matter if you’re spread out. In fact, when I joined the company that I’m at now, we only only interned people, and so it was the first program I brought in. I feel like if you’re going to scale a team, that’s sort of the layer, the concrete layer that you want to put in first and then start building up your team from there. It plays nicely in tandem with intelligence swarming. But basically, KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18 layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.

Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Yeah, that sounds right up my avenue. I’ve been, we’re going off topic a little bit, but I’ve been having a harder time finding some more. That sounds like some real, just practical, tactical, how to get stuff done. And I keep finding orgs that it’s, I don’t want to say same old, same old, but it’s kind of the higher-level, fluffy, “Let’s talk customer service.” That sounds like a little more getting into the science and the process. And some, I like it. That sounds cool.

Adam Maino: (08:30)
There’s great measures in there for when you, like our measurements for our team are, 50% of their performance metrics are knowledge-based.

Gabe Larsen: (08:38)
Wow.

Adam Maino: (08:38)
That’s like a big chunk of how well they’re doing is how much they’re contributing to the knowledge base, how much they’re writing good articles. You have coaches that look and evaluate the articles and how well they’re linking those articles to those cases and that’s [inaudible] linking the article to the case when you solve it.

Gabe Larsen: (09:03)
Yes. Yes. Do you just want one more click on that with compensation? You mentioned part of comp, like maybe their variable for example, is based on the knowledge base or knowledge based interaction or engagement. Going back one step on compensation. How do you think about coming to drive motivation? It sounds like you believe in a variable, for example, for the reps.

Adam Maino: (09:28)
It’s interesting. We have a global team obviously, and not all regions do you comp. Europe’s just not that at all. That’s just not part of, it’s like, “You did your job good,” right? So like, if you’re going to score a C-SAT score and you get an eight out of ten from somebody in England, that’s like a ten out of ten in the U.S. right? You’re jumping up and down and screaming and going and grabbing a pint afterwards.

Gabe Larsen: (09:54)
I love that.

Adam Maino: (09:54)
That’s a totally different world. My mom’s a Brit, so I can make this and my dad’s Italian. I can draw that. That’s fine. I can say this aloud. So yeah, I think that’s sort of the big push is, depending on the culture, it does have some push, some drivers. But in all honesty, I think things like recognition and being recognized and valued as an employee go a lot further. I think the other stuff is really sort of icing on the cake, but as long as you’re feeling valued as an employee, as long as they’re feeling like they can contribute to any processes that you push out and they’re part of that integral part of those processes that you roll out, and that they’re not feeling micromanaged, they’re feeling coached and not sort of this overhanging, like with my employees, I never ask them or I never tell them what to do. I’m always just, I ask them what to do, right? It’s a request. There’s no demands there. I think what we should be really focusing on and that’s coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.

Gabe Larsen: (11:19)
Got it. Do you find there’s this kind of cliche statement, that’s “happy employees equal happy customers?” Is that a philosophy you guys adhere to? And if so, why? Do you have data to back it or you just believe it?

Adam Maino: (11:35)
Yeah. I definitely think that, so it’s interesting. So one of our management metrics that we run is team happiness.

Gabe Larsen: (11:45)
Okay.

Adam Maino: (11:46)
And you have a tiny pulse and a regular, tiny pulse and we watched the trending. And so if our team is happy, our customers are happy. You’ve got to have both, and you can’t push to the extreme and have them fall over and then get crushed in the process and then you have great people leave. So, you’ve got to keep your team happy. You’ve got to keep them healthy. You’ve got to keep them invested in what you’re doing and I think all of that really comes to you’ve got to have good leadership, period. They’re going to want to work. No one has to show up, they could leave for another job, right? I think that’s sort of the great myth is people are like, “Ah, you know I have to be here,” but you don’t so they could leave just as easily as –

Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
They came, right? Yeah. They come, they go. You mentioned a little bit on metrics. The happiness score is a cool one. Other metrics you’ve found that are kind of those game changers for other leaders to be considering, or maybe unique to you guys that you find maybe other leaders don’t look at as much?

Adam Maino: (12:51)
I think there’s, I started putting them in two buckets, right? As like the management metrics and then the individual metrics and individual metrics should be driving the right kinds of behaviors. So I would definitely stay away with how many tickets you’re closing and almost like the speed of closing those cases out, because now you’re focusing on throughput and quantity, and that is not a metric to go for. You’re not going to have great customer interactions at that point. You’re going to get analysts going, “Can I close this case now? I’m gonna close this case now, okay?” and then, you’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, I still have a problem.” You’re going to get those really bad behaviors. So I think, yeah, focusing on the quality, focusing on collaboration, try to look at things where you’re measuring collaboration. And so on the individual level, and obviously C-SAT, I think C-SAT is great. But you’ve got to write the C-SAT. So it’s, or the analyst, it’s not some general metric that they’re looking at like, “Oh, well, they’re unhappy with the company. So I got a three,” I mean, you kind of have to write it so it’s very tailored to them, that you’re asking the right question. And then on the management side, I never put the numbers of how much throughput somebody is having in terms of like, that’s not a metric that we’re looking at. But I do use what I call, gray metrics. So I use throughput to look at how well they’re doing against the team average. So not against whatever value is just placed in the sky, but how well are they doing against the team? And it’s not the full story and that’s why I don’t put it out there. You might have a really high performer that is dealing with some incredibly challenging cases and maybe they’ve only had six cases that they’re being able to tunnel through that week, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad job, it’s just that’s what they’re working on, right? And you know that, and if you’re a good leader and you’re a good coach, you know what they’ve been working on so you’re not making those value judgments, right?

Gabe Larsen: (14:55)
I like that. That’s right, man. I like the rep and kind of the management focus. And boy, I do find a lot of people go in too far on those rep, the quantity stuff, right? Then it definitely seems like it impacts the overall quality, but I know there’s always a balance on that. Well, I appreciate the talk track, a lot of fun ideas. I’m real interested in this organization. I’m going to have to double click on that a little bit, but it sounds like it really comes down to culture, a lot of collaboration, and then this philosophy. These agile ideas and processes and numbers have really been some of your keys to success. We hit on multiple topics. What’s that last piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders trying to scale, trying to transform amongst all the things that are going on?

Adam Maino: (15:40)
I would say don’t be afraid to try new ideas and don’t be afraid to fail at them and build a culture that allows your team to fail and learn from those challenges.

Gabe Larsen: (15:55)
Yeah, fail fast, right? Easier said than done. If someone wants to get a hold of you or learn a little bit more about some of these topics, what’s the best way to do that?

Adam Maino: (16:05)
You can definitely find me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn profile, that’s probably the easiest and fastest way to do it.

Gabe Larsen: (16:12)
That’s how I found him.

Adam Maino: (16:16)
So yeah, definitely. I’m sure you’ll put the link in there, but yeah, hit me up on LinkedIn. I usually respond pretty quickly. I’m on there quite a bit. So, yeah. Let me know. Happy to talk through any more challenges.

Gabe Larsen: (16:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Adam Maino: (16:37)
Great. Thank you so much for having me on.

Gabe Larsen: (16:38)
Yep.

Exit Voice: (16:39)
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Great CX Starts With Happy Agents

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Derek Hixon to talk about his lessons learned after providing over 15 years of exceptional customer support. Listen to Derek’s fun and invigorating life lessons in the podcast below.

Fostering Relationships Leads to Better CX

Derek Hixon, Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream, proudly leads his team of reputable customer service agents. Having over 15 years of customer service experience, he has learned the best methods of garnering customer loyalty and agent happiness, starting with fostering relationships in the workplace. Derek believes that the best customer service experiences start with a happy team of CX agents. To present this idea, he states, “Everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.”

Derek finds that when his team is happy, their positivity trickles down and reflects in their work. They are able to have more productive conversations, find the best solutions to their customer’s needs, and have better overall CX scoring. When those genuine daily interactions take place, the work environment becomes more comfortable and interactive, ultimately resulting in the best customer service experiences.

Utilizing Data as a Tool

Data is a driving force in innovation. It presents the information needed to push internal growth and to modify methods and tools to better suit the needs of the customer. When customers use a product and don’t understand how to use it, Derek finds that is the right opportunity to learn from their data and to innovate that product as well as alter their CX approach. He says, “Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions.” Using data to gauge what your customer expects from a product has proven to be extremely useful with Derek’s CX process. Data can give the information needed to build internal tools that assist customers, or remove the need for internal CX tools all together by creating an effortless experience. Having a high-level view and taking the small but necessary steps to creating the ultimate satisfactory customer experience through using data can be very beneficial to companies.

Building on Each Other’s Strengths

Something all companies would benefit from is employing each team member’s strengths to work together and create a cohesive CX team mindset. Early on in his career, Derek found that each person offers specialized skills for their job and that utilizing that specific knowledge has proven to be advantageous to the company. He explains, “I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience.” He notes that unearthing each team member’s strengths takes patience because oftentimes, they are used to completing tasks in specific ways, and their specialized knowledge gets buried under the day-to-day cycle. Breaking that cycle can be done through engaging with the team, learning from the team and pulling from their skill set. CX teams would be wise to learn from each other and to use their specialized knowledge to build on each other’s strengths.

To learn more insightful life lessons, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Derek Hixon | Lessons Learned in Running 15 Years of Successful Support Operations” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents | Derek Hixon

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about lessons learned from running 15 years of successful support operations, and to do that, we brought on Derek Hixon, who’s currently the Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream. Derek, how the heck are you?

Derek Hixon: (00:30)
I’m doing great. How are you doing Gabe?

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, pretty good. Well, I’m pretty good, man. We had an interesting morning. But I got to ask, man, it sounds like you’ve got a fun hobby on the side, is that true? You’re a DJ by night, by day, by, what is it?

Derek Hixon: (00:45)
I’ve been trying to retire for years, but I can’t get out of the game, I guess. I do DJ around Boston, specifically a place called State Park in Cambridge that I really like and I also make some music on the side and actually I think being creative is very important to me. And I think what I learned outside of the walls of work really helps me inside them as well. So –

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
That’s awesome, man. Been doing it for years? As long as you’ve been doing support or not really?

Derek Hixon: (01:12)
Oh, I’ve been messing with music since I could walk, so yeah, long, long time.

Gabe Larsen: (01:17)
Love it, man. That’s fun. I’m just getting my boy into guitar lessons. I always wanted to be a jammer, but I just never had the guts to stick with it. So we won’t make you say your DJ name, but if you want to know that you’ll have to ping Derek on LinkedIn. So outside of DJ, give us your quick background real quick.

Derek Hixon: (01:40)
So, I’ve been working within technical support organizations for the past 15 plus years now. Before that I was working within a company called Pearson and, sorry, I’m just going to take a beat for a second. I can’t even talk about myself. So I’ve been working in technical support organizations for the past 15 years and I have a pretty diverse background in media as well. I’ve worked within print production. I’ve worked within the education sphere. I’ve worked within big media and video and I have a fairly diverse background in communications and I’m also in media.

Gabe Larsen: (02:32)
Awesome, man. Well, it definitely sounds like you’ve got a robust background. Want to see if we can pull out some of that today, as we talk about just lessons learned. I mean, you’ve been at different companies, you’ve been in different industries. What are some of those things that just stand out as, “Man, as I’ve looked back at my career, these things have been kind of the make or break things that have made me more successful?” Start at the top. What comes to mind?

Derek Hixon: (02:57)
Oh, it’s funny. I think I’ve fallen into a technical support role and leadership role kind of by accident, but that’s kind of life too. I think life’s very non-linear and you kind of got to go with the waves and fight against them or you’ll drown. And I was working in publishing many moons ago and it was a big publishing company and I was rising up the ranks well, and I had a pretty big team and across multiple cities, but I just wasn’t feeling the culture or just the industry, so to speak. So I was looking for my next new big challenge and I heard of a company called Brightcove at the time. And what excited me about them is that they combined two of my loves, technology and also video. And this is back in 2008, 2007, and YouTube was only a year old. Having video on the internet was the wild, wild West. It was exciting, new, and hard. Which all of it really intrigued me. I had a friend who recently joined there and all they had open at the time was a single contributor support role. And I’ve debated in my head because I had this good career path. I had a good bonus. I liked the people I worked with at the time, but I wasn’t really challenged in ways I wanted to be. Way back in the day I went to school for video and I was going to be the next great Steven Spielberg or something like that. So it was a way for me to still kind of plug into that world as well. So I kind of rolled the dice and I interviewed for a position. I got the single contributor position and this is 2008 and it was about two weeks after I accepted that the whole economy fell through the floor. And I thought, I remember one day specifically, I was going up the elevator and I thought it was gonna be going right back down it. We had to do some layoffs. They were a startup at the time and I was able to survive it thankfully. And the thing I realized real quickly at Brightcove that was different than at the previous company I was at was, and some of this may be due to me at the time, me being in my mid to early twenties, but I thought I knew everything. And I always felt like I was the smartest guy in the room and real quickly at Brightcove, I realized I was not the smartest guy in the room. I was far from it. And it was very intimidating at first for me. I had a lot of fakers syndrome. I was like, “Why did they hire me? Like this was a mistake. Like I shouldn’t be in the room.” But what that really did for me is it threw me into survival mode and I’m like, “Okay. Well, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy at the table,” like I was literally, ActionScript was a thing back then. Rest in peace Flash. I like literally, the guy who was sitting across the table from me, wrote the book I learned from and I was just like, “This is ridiculous, I can’t compete with this level of knowledge.” So what it instilled in me was, I’m like, “Okay, if I can’t be, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy in the room or at the table, I’m going to be the most prepared. I’m going to be the hardest working.” Really what I started doing, the seeds I started lying just to survive, ended up being very helpful for me throughout my career as I grew in different leadership positions in technical support organizations. And what I’d really tried to do initially was I had brilliant coworkers, but they had all this brilliant knowledge trapped inside their heads. So I was just always pinging and poking at them to try and learn from them. And then I was trying to transfer all that down to paper or Google Docs or whatever it was or Confluence or whatever it was at the time, and create my, and it was really a selfish way for me to do documentation. And so I had the knowledge, so I could do my job better. But by getting that mindset, it’s really helped pave a path for me to where I am today.

Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
I love that man. That’s powerful. So one of the big keys was, it sounds like you kind of thought a little high, got yourself in the deep water, neck deep, but you were able to figure it out. And one of the keys was just being able to kind of, sit with that team, really spend some time and pull stuff from them and not just do the conversations, but actually translated into a document or something that could be shared with others or shared with yourself so that you could actually say, “Hey, this is what this process looks like. Or this is what this function, or actual detail looks like,” is that correct?

Derek Hixon: (07:49)
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And that’s something I’ve noticed from my early experiences at my first technical support experiences at Brightcove all through the last few roles I’ve had is I’ve been really blessed throughout my career to work with really brilliant people. And sometimes it’s just helping organize the really good knowledge that they have. Like everyone has very specialized knowledge for wherever they work, but sometimes it’s trapped within and like trying to really get hive mentality and spread the love with what they have.

Gabe Larsen: (08:23)
How [Inaudible] I mean, I think most of us know that intuitively, but it’s always hard to kind of pull it out of people and then get it into, again, a format that’s digestible. You just take, is it just about taking the time? Is it about the right questions? What’s kind of the secret to getting that richness out of people and into a place that can be digested?

Derek Hixon: (08:43)
Yeah. It’s a lot. It’s a bunch of things you have to be patient with. I’m like old school at heart. I like to DJ. I DJ with vinyl only. I don’t like DJ out digitally. If I cook I’m grilling with charcoal, I don’t want a gas grill. It’s just kind of my nature. I just think things are better if they’re done right and slowly, and usually you benefit from it in the long-term. You can always get short-term success with things, but if you have the luxury of time, which you don’t always have obviously, you can do really great things. And I also think just keeping it real with people and being transparent can really get you a lot of credit with people to get trust within you. To kind of pull things out, but it takes time. And where it really starts is, it’s process, right? Process is what everyone’s chasing in a leadership role. They want people to do things in a similar manner. I don’t necessarily want everyone on my teams to do things exact. And I compare, I like sports as well. And when I talk to my team, I’m really, really good at bad analogies. And I like to equate how they do their job, like a golfer and a golf swing, or a baseball player in their batting stance. It doesn’t have to be the same exact stance or swing for everyone, but we’re all trying to get the same results. You’re trying to drive the ball straight and far down the middle, or you’re trying to get a base hit or a home run. When I’m sitting with people, you really have to sift the team, you have to take the time. You have to stroke the coals, you have to prepare for a DJ set, like you have to really understand, “Okay, what’s their day-to-day like?” And that goes through shadowing. Okay. And like I always say, cliques kill. You can do things to simplify your team’s job, you’re getting quick wins and you’re making their lives easier, which is going to filter right down to the customer. And so that’s where you start. And also people like talking like, hey, I’m doing it right now. People like talking about themselves. People like showing off the things they know and it also gives people a chance to feel empowered and talk about the hard work they’ve put in and how they do it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:02)
I like that. Then through all of these interviews you’ve done and different stakeholder discussions, et cetera, any quick things you’ve found that ultimately changed the way you look at support, ideas around simplicity, or people making it harder than they maybe need to sometimes, but different things like that?

Derek Hixon: (11:24)
Yeah. I think that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees type of thing, fully applies when it comes to support. And I think support at times traditionally can have a bit of a stigma. It’s literally at the end of the big funnel from sales to marketing, through products; we’re at the very end. But also, we’re at the end of one part of the process where we’re at the tip of the spear for the customer part of the process of how they’re using a product and where they’re running into things. And I think that it’s just really important to, I’m sorry, what was the exact question? I kind of went off there a little bit.

Gabe Larsen: (12:05)
No, no. It’s totally fine. I missed some of the lessons learned as you interview some of these people and, just curious if there’s general findings. What did you find [inaudible] people ‘complexify’ stuff or –

Derek Hixon: (12:20)
Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes, and this is the, I find this especially when I first join an organization is I really lean into it when I hire somebody new as well. New blood is invaluable, new perspectives, just new angles on looking at things. Sometimes people live with a certain way of doing things for so long or someone told them to do it a certain way. So they just will do it a certain way. And that’s just the way they’re going to do it forever. And it goes back like, I have a saying that I always tell my team is like cliques kill. And like, if we can simplify the amount of things like tools needed to accomplish a task or ways to assist someone, that’s where it helps. And also I think the other hard thing, a thing I’ve seen across the, when I’m working with people to try and figure it out and simplify the job is, a lot of times, people are afraid to take a short-term hit to get a long-term gain. And I kind of almost look at it like preventative medicine or it’s like if sometimes teams are really scared to take some steps back and look at, “How do I do my job? Well, what are the steps I need?” instead of actually just taking the cases and doing them because like, “Oh, if I’m doing all this stuff and I’m not taking the cases, are cues going to really grow?” And I’m like, well take that short-term hit because it’s going to like, if you take time on this one case it’s going to help, or if you write an article on this one type of case and we post it, it’s going to help hundreds of people down the line and it’s forever going to be evergreen and all that jazz. So it’s helping the pulp. I think that’s, really it’s the benefit I have in the positions I’m in now. I used to be in the trenches, just like the people on my team, taking the cases and doing the calls. You don’t always have the luxury to pull yourself above the clouds and look down at everything. But to be able to do that with the team and allow them that freedom really helps them to help the customer experience better, how the team works better, and also helps them get a different perspective on things and potentially, like I think when people talk about support and customer success so much, they’re always just talking about the customer, but the customer experience is going to suck if the people on the team supporting them aren’t happy, or don’t what they’re doing, or don’t feel like they’re growing. Not everyone’s going to be a support lifer, and that’s cool. I’m sure yourself, you’ve had many different turns throughout your career. But when people are on my team and they’re working with me, I want to know what their goals and aspirations are. And I want to figure out how, when they’re in the current role they’re in with me and my team, how can I help grow skill sets that will help them accomplish larger goals while also helping the immediate goals with what the team has now? So, I really think it’s hard. I think the biggest secret is pulling people out at times and understanding what their path can be and the results will filter out throughout to the customer, the data will start pointing in the directions you want, and you’ll just create a really good working environment where people enjoy being, and working, and pushing and pulling in the same direction with each other.

Gabe Larsen: (15:46)
I like that. So, one big thing is just understanding your team, what they’re doing, learning from some of those findings. The second thing that we touched a little bit about was this idea of case analysis and what do customers really need help with? Talk about how that’s been a lesson that you’ve learned and how that applies to kind of transforming service organization.

Derek Hixon: (16:10)
Yeah. Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions. And so it goes back. And so in the very beginning, if I’m shadowing, it’s like if I got a new job at CompanyWide tomorrow to run their global customer support organization, the first thing I would do would be sit down with the team and understand what their day-to-day is like. And it’s not just to make sure their to-kill cliques and to make their day-to-day more simple, but I want to understand what the cases are and what the questions are that they’re answering and asking. I’ve done this primarily, this is nothing new, but I do this primarily through using case-reasons and sub-reasons at the case level. That means like, if it’s a billing question, that would be the case reasoning. And then from there, the sub-reason could be, “When’s my next bill due? I want to cancel. Where do I find?” Once you can bucket out what the customers are writing in about into different reasons and sub-reasons, then you can really start building a map of what people are actually asking the team about. Really, I don’t look at support, I always kind of looked at as support as a secret part of product because that’s what the, people are using a product.

Gabe Larsen: (17:38)
Agreed. Agreed.

Derek Hixon: (17:38)
We’re all consumers and we’re all going to have questions on things at some point in time. So I love working as support just because I think it’s good karma. When people are putting their heads against something, and they have a question, it’s because they’re using the product and it’s not working, or they don’t know how to, or they don’t want to figure out how to, because they still have time to sit down and figure out all the things. So really understanding what the people are asking about and then once you understand what they’re asking about, the real proof in the pudding is what action are you taking on the data, and who are you sharing that data with? It’s always easiest initially, to affect things internally, meaning within the support organization, but when you really start developing at my level relationships with peers across the aisle, and in marketing, in products, in engineering and development, that’s when you can really, really, really start doing some great stuff with the data such as creating internal tools. So you can do better work for the customer, or even better, make those tools available for the customer, or make it so the tool is not even needed because the thing just happens. Oftentimes, just from analyzing product usage data, a lot of places where customers might butt their heads against the wall, aren’t going to show up because they’re going to support those sort of things.

Gabe Larsen: (19:07)
I like that. I mean, sometimes the devil’s in the detail, man. It’s finding that, I love the idea of this case-reason and really being able to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, can be, I mean, it just opens up so much insight as to where you potentially need to go. I liked that one. And then number three, you talked a little about this idea of working in a box. Jump into that for a minute. How does that apply to kind of lessons learned?

Derek Hixon: (19:30)
Yeah. My favorite thing about working within a technical support organization is that, when I’m working at a software company, you work with and you talk to everyone within the company. Like then that goes from a tier one associate on my team to me. We’re talking to account managers, we’re talking to marketers, we’re talking to sales guys, we’re talking to product, we’re talking to engineers. And it’s really nice to have like our tentacles throughout the company that way. And like, what really gets me off is cross-collaboration. I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience. So, I try and really foster relationships there. It’s not easy. It can be really hard at times because all the different segments have different goals, and different OKRs that they’re pushing towards. Hopefully everything will roll up to the greater good, but it’s hard for all of it to cross over exactly. And just being realistic with where support lies within the totem pole of things at times, if you can learn how to work within other teams, cross-functional OKRs, and whatnot, you’ll have better success with what you’re trying to do instead of trying to jam a square through a circle hole. I’ve tried to jam a lot of squares through circles, so I’ve learned through a lot of failure, and I’ve been far from perfect. But hopefully I’m getting a little bit of wisdom with age, but to be determined.

Gabe Larsen: (21:14)
Wow. Well, I totally understand where you’re coming from. It seems like I get smarter with age, but then I look at myself and I look at my life and I’m like, “No. I’m not.”

Derek Hixon: (21:27)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
BS’ed my way through everything. Well, we covered a lot today, Derek. As you think about other service support leaders out there trying to win, what’s kind of a summary takeaway that you’d leave with the audience based on some of the stuff we’ve chatted about today? Any quick kind of quick summary comment?

Derek Hixon: (21:50)
Yeah. I would just say, know your team and then use the data as a tool. Everything’s a tool. Like, there’s a phrase, “Death by a thousand paper cuts,” and I like to apply life by a thousand paper cuts. We’re always, and like the real big phrase that I say to my teams is, “Green grows and ripe rots.” Meaning like, as soon as you think you’re good and you know everything and you start being stagnant, you’re screwed. And like, I try and have a mindset of always wanting to grow and learn and understand, and we’re always tweaking things, but we’re never making this huge, big, crazy change, but we’re always making series of changes based on the data we’re getting and through just keeping a really open communication within the team. And from there, there’s no whiplash had by the team by all these big changes, but if all of a sudden we look back six months, we’re like, “Oh wow, we did a lot. We used to do things this way? That was crazy.” So I think just really having a high-level view of things and I’m not trying to boil the ocean, but always trying to slowly innovate, push, and move forward. But like, everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.

Gabe Larsen: (23:15)
I love it, man. Alrighty. Well, a lot to cover. Definitely a lot of experience coming out. I can hear the wisdom in your voice. I’ll have to join you in Boston sometime when things calm down with all that’s going on with the COVID, et cetera. It’d be fun to hear you DJ, man. So anyways, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:40)
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How the Right Customer Service CRM Can Make Your Customer — and Agents — Happier

How the Right Customer Service CRM Can Make Your Customer — and Agents — Happier TW

You know the phrase “Happy Wife, Happy Life”? Well, here at Kustomer our motto is “Happy Customers, Happy Life”. It may not have the same catchy ring to it, but any CX professional can attest to its truth. Creating happy customers resonates far outside of a customer service organization — customers can act as unpaid marketers, they can give insight into product development and campaign plans, they will undoubtedly drive more revenue and positively impact your bottom line.

But what often gets overlooked, is the direct correlation between agent happiness and customer happiness. It’s immensely clear to anyone who has ever called a cable company or visited the DMV, that when agents are forced to jump through hoops, use outdated systems, and deal with a bombardment of unhappy consumers all day long, they likely won’t be providing the best service. But when agents feel empowered, feel their jobs are valued, and — most importantly — have the right tools and technology in place to do their jobs well, they are able to be efficient and effective in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment.

Ultimately, agent happiness directly translates to customer happiness. The more information that agents have at their fingertips, and the more they are able to focus on quality instead of quantity, the happier they will be, and the happier they will make your customer base. Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual, has experienced this first hand.

Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers, and siloed third-party data means an abundance of wasted time. Agents have to look in a multitude of different systems, on different platforms, just to service a single customer inquiry. A true customer service CRM should connect seamlessly with your other data sources and business intelligence tools, while taking the place of your support platform, contact center routing software, and process management solution. With all information centralized, agents don’t have to waste time searching for the information they need to service an already frustrated customer.

How the Right Customer Service CRM Can Make Your Customer — and Agents — Happier Quote

Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, agrees that switching to a true customer service CRM, from an old-school ticketing system, is a game changer for both agent happiness and development. When agents are stuck in the minutia of complicated workflows and a never-ending sea of tickets, they are unable to focus on what’s most important, and find value in their work.

Agents have a difficult role. They are the voice of your brand in every customer interaction, yet when they start that interaction they often barely have enough information to authenticate the customer, much less provide differentiated service to every customer.

To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and helps them deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service. There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information. Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.

Want to learn more about how switching to Kustomer can create happy customers and happy agents? Explore how we stack up to Zendesk here.
 

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