Buyer expectations are higher than ever, and providing fast, effortless, and personalized support is no longer an advantage — it’s a necessity. According to research by PwC, 73% of consumers consider customer experience an important factor in purchasing decisions. Yet, only 49% believe companies provide a good customer experience, and one in three (32%) will walk away from a brand they love after just one negative experience.
With the increased pressure to maximize speed and efficiency and deliver seamless self-service, CX organizations will need to empower their agents with better tools and processes. In the future, agents will go beyond providing support — they will assume a new role as trusted consultants who drive satisfaction, long-term loyalty and revenue, by building relationships and delivering radically personal support.
Today, we’re excited to introduce two new features: Dedicated Agent and Live Mode, that help brands thrive in this new CX landscape. Available for both Enterprise and Ultimate plans, these features add transparency into support operations while enabling hyper-personalized support.
The Kustomer platform is built on the premise of providing agents with as much context as possible to support them through their handling of customer inquiries, all with the goal of increasing the likelihood that those inquiries are handled efficiently and effectively. Half of that battle is getting the right agent matched with the right customer at the right time. Queues and Routing was the first step in this matching process, but what if an organization wanted to take this a step further and do their best to match a particular customer with the same agent every time they reach out to your team? This level of white-glove service is where Dedicated Agent comes in.
Through the function of explicitly linking a customer and agent, we believe that Dedicated Agent has the power to strengthen the relationships you’re trying to build with your customers. By routing customers to the same agent on every inquiry, agents can establish continuity in care and the type of consultative support that truly feels like an ongoing dialogue with your business, boosting satisfaction and loyalty as a result.
How It Works
Dedicated Agent sits in front of your Queues and Routing configuration and acts as the first gateway when determining where to send an inbound conversation. Before we begin evaluating against your Queue rule criteria, we’ll first check to see if the customer requesting support has a dedicated agent. If they do, we’ll then check to see the status of that dedicated agent, who will fall into one of the three buckets outlined below. The first two are straightforward, while the third has some additional configuration to ensure it best suits your business’ needs.
If the dedicated agent is online with capacity: The dedicated agent is routed the conversation.
If the dedicated agent is offline: The conversation continues down the standard routing path and routes to the next available agent.
If the dedicated agent is online but without capacity: This is where things get a little bit more interesting.
While we know there are benefits to metrics like handle time, resolution time, and satisfaction when routing all of a customer’s inquiries to the same agent, there are also risks on the agent and customer side that we wanted to account for. For agents, we did not want to ignore capacity and force assignment or these interactions as they could quickly overwhelm an agent and degrade the support experience. For customers, we know that there is likely only a certain amount of time that they’d be willing to wait for their dedicated agent to become available.
To solve for these, we’ve added what we call Reroute Timers. These per-channel configurations determine how long (from 5 seconds up to 60 minutes) a conversation should await capacity from the dedicated agent.
So, when a dedicated agent doesn’t have capacity, the conversation will sit in a holding pen of sorts, waiting for the agent to gain capacity, for the duration of the reroute timer.
If capacity opens, we’ll route to the dedicated agent.
If the reroute timer expires, the conversation will fall back to standard Queues and Routing rules.
Setting Dedicated Agent up is incredibly simple:
Dedicated Agent can be activated from the General tab in the Queues and Routing settings page.
There you’ll find the configuration for your per-channel reroute timers. These values, from 5 seconds to 60 minutes, determine how long to wait for capacity from an online dedicated agent before falling back to normal routing rules.
Once the feature is enabled, the Dedicated Agent field will populate in the edit customer modal and can be added to insights panel views.
Users with the appropriate permissions can edit this field to choose which team member they want to set as the dedicated agent for this customer.
This addition to your routing configuration gives you the power to encourage an intimate, high quality support experience even as you dramatically scale your support center.
Adaptability — adjusting on the fly to meet your customers where they are or in service of improving one of your KPI’s — is a hallmark of a successful support center. In order to truly be adaptable, an organization needs to keep their finger on the pulse of both individual interactions as well as macro-level changes that happen throughout their workday.
As the last year forced many of us to pivot to remote or hybrid workforce models, we knew it would become important to provide our customers with new ways to monitor what was happening across their support center in real-time. No longer could we intuit that the phone volume was up based on the increased volume of all of our team members in the room around us.
We’re excited to introduce Live Mode for Custom Reports. This allows you to convert any custom report into a full-screen dashboard that refreshes its data every 30 seconds. You can now set up monitoring on inbound volume by queue so that you can make adjustments on the fly to ensure as short a wait time as possible for your customers. Or, add a chart that tracks messages sent per user per hour, to understand how each team member is contributing to the team’s goals.
Live Mode can be accessed by clicking on the Live Mode button in the header of any custom report.
Upon entering Live Mode:
Your date range will be updated to Current Day – so midnight to 11:59pm in your timezone.
All histogram charts will have their intervals overridden to hourly.
We’ll hide the majority of the user interface to maximize the space dedicated to your charts.
Data will refresh automatically every 30 seconds (you’ll see the timestamp update underneath your report name).
Data refreshes will pause when you move to a different tab within the same window but will continue in an unfocused window — so running a dashboard on an external monitor is a-ok.
We’ve added an interval picker as seen on all of our Standard Report charts so that you can get the granularity you’re looking for from hourly all the way down to per minute.
We also offer the ability to quickly swap from today to past hour for high volume organizations that want to focus on micro-trends.
Expectations in the support center space are only going up from here. The support center of the future (and frankly, the present) needs to be nimble and staffed with empathetic and resourceful agents to succeed. We believe that Dedicated Agent will allow your team members to focus on what they’re best at, building relationships with your customers by providing meaningful, efficient resolutions that take advantage of their expertise. And with Live Mode, monitoring intra-day trends and making adjustments on the go has never been easier.
We’re looking forward to seeing how you leverage these tools to take your team’s performance to the next level.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Eric Chon and Vikas Bhambri to learn about making the switch to Kustomer to service their users. Eric is the Community Support Manager at Zwift – an MMO cycling and running game for exercise at home. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
Enhancing a Zwifter’s Route with the Ultimate CX
Zwift is a physical training program that allows users to exercise from home and tour maps with other Zwifters on stationary bikes. Each player’s avatar is displayed on screen in a virtual world with varying levels of terrain difficulty. What attracts cycling and running enthusiasts to Zwift is the option to stay home and still have a great, sweat-inducing workout. As inclines change in the virtual world, cycling becomes more strenuous, which gives the game a more realistic feel. The game also has incremental awards that entice players to cycle more often, to join teams, and to interact with others throughout the trails. Because of this user collaborative environment, Zwift needs a strong CX backing to support users throughout their gameplay. Eric and his team made the switch from Zendesk to Kustomer and the benefits to their customers have been endless.
The Making of a Seamless Integration
Change is hard, especially for big brands like Zwift that require an entire support team of expert representatives to provide the best experience for users. For Eric’s team; however, changing from Zendesk to Kustomer was a seamless transition and they recommend that all leaders make the switch ASAP. The reason for switching CRMs, according to Eric, is he believes that CX is a human-to-human interaction and a platform that encapsulates those beliefs into one space is vital for customer success. Eric often finds that other leaders overuse buzzwords like omnichannel to gain attention in the CX world, causing such terms to lose their true meaning. Many companies think they’re qualified as omnichannel simply for offering multiple communication routes between customers and agents. For a brand to be truly omnichannel, their CX teams need to have the ability to switch between communication channels seamlessly to continue the conversation, rather than only offer direct messaging, emails and phone calls as chat routes on their own. “So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel.”
Throw Tickets Away – It’s Time for Human Interaction
Customer culture is constantly changing. Long gone are the days of customer delis where each ticket represents a person and the transaction is done quickly without much regard for customer satisfaction. When agents have a ticket counter or “deli” mentality, they don’t truly understand the why behind CX and how it helps brand loyalty in the long run. This is the responsibility of the leaders – to train their teams to have empathy for the why behind their roles, and to help them understand how each role impacts the company. The use of platforms like Kustomer helps teams maintain a sense of self and identity with their brand because it doesn’t force companies to adapt to new processes, rather, it works for the company as is. This way, leaders don’t have to copy and paste from an old system to a new one to make their processes more efficient and pretty. “When you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change.” Changing how agents approach CX by having an understanding of the why and taking advantage of modern CRM platforms like Kustomer will surely enhance the customer experience and result in lasting loyalty.
To learn more about Zwift’s transition to Kustomer and Eric’s work, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Switching CX Gears with Zwift | Eric Chon
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Today. We’re going to be talking about switching CX gears with Zwift. We’ve got special guests: Eric Chon, Vikas Bhambri. Eric, let’s start with you. Can you give us kind of just a quick introduction, who you are and a little bit about Zwift?
Eric Chon: (00:26)
Hi. Yeah, sure. I’m Eric. I’m the Community Support Manager at Zwift. Zwift is a online cycling platform and running, multi-sport to kinda get you off your keister and exercising. It’s a sports MMO, so you’ll be running and cycling with basically everyone else in the world that’s currently running or cycling on our many, many courses.
Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
I love it.
Eric Chon: (00:53)
It’s pretty cool.
Gabe Larsen: (00:53)
And then would you tell us just a little more about some of the things you do in that role as the community leader over there at Zwift?
Eric Chon: (01:02)
Oh, sure. So I set a lot of the policy regarding our support initiatives. I lead a team of 15, 16 people located all over the world: in London, in, well now definitely distributed all over the world. In Australia and Japan. And we basically handle all the volume that’s coming in and act as a kind of a liaison between what our members are saying and how our game is developed.
Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Love it. Alrighty. Well, again, it’s exciting for you to join Eric. Excited to get into the conversation. Vikas, real quick, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:38)
Yeah. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales in CX here at Kustomer. Eric, I guess my one question for you, is there any truth to the rumor that the Tour de France is going to be done through Zwift this year because of the pandemic?
Eric Chon: (01:51)
Well, actually the Tour de France happened through Zwift actually. So it was the month of July, we hosted the first ever virtual Tour de France. We did two races every weekend and it was also the first time that there was an officially sponsored Tour de France for women.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
There’s a big Zwift event coming up, right, in the fall? I was reading something about it, but yeah, I think it was a big global virtual race, right? That you all are hosting and coming up in either the fall or winter?
Eric Chon: (02:27)
I believe so. The big thing that’s really coming, I will say this, is what we call is Zwift Academy. And Zwift academy is our big initiative where we have these training plans all set out and then through this grueling process, anybody can join just to either increase their fitness, one man, one woman have a shot at becoming part of an actual pro team. And we’ve been running this for several years as well.
Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
It sounds like Vikas, you’re an avid. You’re a, how do you know all this stuff?
Gabe Larsen: (03:06)
Look, I’ve known Eric now for a couple of years and I’m a big fan of Zwift. I can’t lie and say, look at me. You can tell I’m not as –
Gabe Larsen: (03:13)
I was going to say, yeah definitely don’t exercise. I can tell you that. We actually only want to see your head.
Vikas Bhambri: (03:20)
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Well, awesome. Well let’s get into it. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about switching CX gears with Zwift. You obviously made a platform change recently, Eric, where you guys jumped onto the Kustomer platform from a different platform. And today I wanted to just hear a little bit about the why, the what, and the how. So if you can, maybe start with the big picture and just tell us, why did you even start looking for a different platform? What were some of those pains you started to feel that maybe brought you to ultimately partnering with us?
Eric Chon: (03:56)
Well we wanted a platform that’s a little bit more human, that allowed us to interact with our members and potential members in a more organic way. The old ticketing kind of system made me feel too much like, I’ve used this analogy a lot, but like a deli counter, right? You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on. And if you write back, the tools to know like where, like what problems you faced in the past, weren’t great. You kind of had to search for it. So we’re definitely looking, everyone always says omnichannel, omnichannel, omnichannel. That was the buzzword for a long time. And nothing really truly delivered what we were looking for.
Eric Chon: (04:39)
When we came upon Kustomer. Actually it was mentioned to us through FCR as a potential to take a look at because they knew that we were kind of dissatisfied with what we were at. So we checked it out and it was kind of weird to see like, this timeline is exactly what we want. This is exactly what we’re looking for. Every conversation, every email, phone call, chat, text message, it’s all in a line. You can kind of see the whole history the customer’s journey, right? From one day saying, “Hey, I want to join your platform,” to like, “Is this the right thing to get to? I can’t connect this thing because Bluetooth is all messed up.” And so any agent or colleague that kind of reads through that gets a complete picture. And that’s fantastic.
Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Yeah interesting. So originally you were, you had this kind of ticket-based program and you were feeling needs to be a little bit more customer centric. And then some of these things started to hit you in the right spot. This omnichannel. I got to just click on that real quick. That is a buzzword, right? And you kind of hit on that, “Omni, omni, omni.” What makes the solution not Omni channel because everybody says, “We’re omnichannel,” and everybody thinks they’re omnichannel. And what does omnichannel mean for you? And how did you kind of find that then in the Kustomer platform?
Eric Chon: (05:54)
It’s kind of interesting also because I haven’t heard it until everyone started talking about it and I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense.” Like what you want, you want all of your contacts to be in one spot and you want it to, if you want to switch, the idea to me, the idea of an omnichannel is where you’re supposed to meet the customer where they want to be contacted. And where we were before the chat program is very robust, but it was a completely separate program. It was an acquisition. So to pull data or to see things, it was, you’d have to have a separate tab, have a separate window. Same thing with the phones, cell phone support. All of this stuff was separate and it was harder for our agents to kind of tie that information together.
Eric Chon: (06:41)
What I really like is how Kustomer handles it again, like I said, it’s all in one timeline. If we’ve discovered that someone really wants to have us text them, we don’t technically offer text support yet, but the capability of like, “You know what, the last time you wrote in, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m just sending you an email, but could you text me a follow-up,'” you can do that. And it’s all part of the, it’s all part of the flow. You can reach out and connect with that person the way they want to be connected. There’s the golden rule, which is to treat people the way you want to be treated. But there’s the platinum rule which is to treat people the way they want to be treated. And I feel Kustomer allows us to follow that platinum rule.
Vikas Bhambri: (07:22)
Yeah, Gabe. I think this is one of the things that whatever Zwift’s moving to is what a lot of the traditional vendors, old vendors, to call more traditional is much more respectful I guess, is they just rebranded multi-channel to omnichannel. And for them, what that meant is we have all these channels and you can use email, you can use chat and you can get them into one ticketing platform. What they were missing were two key things that Eric alluded to. One is that ability for either the customer or the agent to change the channel. So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel. Being able to go to these traditional ticketing platforms that market themselves as omnichannel; you get an email, you’re responding an email; you get a chat, you’re responding and chat. That’s not true omnichannel.
Vikas Bhambri: (08:19)
The other thing that a customer jumps in the middle of that same issue from a chat to an email or vice versa is merging that together. And what we, we look at it as a conversation into a single conversation, and we call it a multichannel omnichannel conversation where you’ve got different touch points that have come in, but the conversation is around the same topics. Really look, you can call something whatever you want, right? But at the end of the day, I think the true principle of what omnichannel is, is what Eric’s alluding to.
Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Interesting. Interesting. I like that, kind of bringing it all together. Eric, it sounds like that struck a chord. Let’s be on the [inaudible] piece for just a minute. So I don’t know if it was the, kind of mentioned multiple screens, right? But also disability too. Now that sounds like a couple of different data sources in one view. Were you bringing in a couple of different pieces of data to kind of optimize that customer experience?
Eric Chon: (09:16)
So prior to that, yeah, it was, I’m going to use, I’ll use chat as an example here for sure. In order to get our chat information from one to, because everything was done in GoodData, which is a heck of a platform to try to understand. It’s very powerful, but we had to create a separate ticket for each chat that came in so that it would be funneled into the system. I don’t know if that’s still the case but that was a huge pain process to try to get that. And then to get the relevant data across, it really was hours and hours and hours of my time to even get it to some kind of semblance of understanding how many chats came in, where they were coming in, what they were asking for, and could we tie them to the same user?
Vikas Bhambri: (10:10)
One of the things, Eric, that we often hear from folks that are using ticketing platforms is that the ticketing platform is kind of the source of the inquiry from the customer. But a lot of the data that resides about the customer sits in other systems, they kind of, we call the swivel chair where I’m living in a ticketing system like Zendesk and the inquiry comes in from the customer, but then I’m going to another system to go and research it, or maybe find out more about them. Like for instance, what were the kind of the different systems that you were using that the support team had to kind of pivot between? And then were you able to bring any of that into one single view in the customer platform?
Eric Chon: (10:54)
Yeah, well between chat phones, our three main lines of contact, they were all separate systems. So getting them all together and one was a challenge. In Kustomer, they’re all in the same platform. And so they all filter into the same data set. It’s a lot easier for us to kind of see, “Okay, well, how many calls did we get? How long were they? Which teams worked on them and did that call turn into a chat? Did that chat turn into an email?” We can see that transition. We can see how many of those there are and have the tools to be able to see like, well, how often are we channel switching, right? From one to the other, that kind of information is just readily available at Kustomer.
Vikas Bhambri: (11:35)
And one of the things is, from your perspective as being this leader, change is hard, right? And particularly in the support world and you guys have gone through explosive growth and you have a lot of projects on your table. So the last thing you want to do is go in and implement a new customer service platform. What were some of the things that you considered in that as you were going through this process, the retraining of agents, the migration of data, and then how did that actually transpire as you were moving from Zendesk to Kustomer and working with the customer implementation team?
Eric Chon: (12:16)
I mean, we were younger, this is two years ago. I wouldn’t say we’re able to do riskier things, but for us, it’s a constant state of experimentation. It’s like, we want to find what’s best for us. And if we know we have the known quantity and we had all these known pain points and you’re like, “As we scale, this is not going to work for us.” We saw in Kustomer a huge potential to address every single one of those. And we knew that it was going to be, to switch from one to the other that we’ve been in for several years, it’s always going to be tough. But we know that the potential there was to not only just, I don’t know how to put this, to create a support platform that works for us as for us, instead of us trying to adapt to the platform itself was high.
Eric Chon: (13:11)
And that was one of the main reasons why we did it. That, and of course all the ability to keep everything on one channel. The implementation team led by Christina was phenomenal. Really, really smooth over a lot of the things that we had issues with. To be fair, I’m going to say with her experience, she even allowed us to improve our own internal processes. Taking advantage of what Kustomer had to offer and allowing us to think about things in a different manner that we didn’t think were possible before.
Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Yeah. So it sounds like the implementation went very smooth. As we, as you think about other customer experience leaders, community leaders, service leaders who are thinking about making that switch, I think you said it right, you were kind of embedded, it’s a little hard, no one wants to change, it feels uncomfortable, what advice do you have for them? What kind of things would you leave for that audience as they contemplate the same decisions you went through just a little bit ago?
Eric Chon: (14:16)
Document everything and it’s always going to be, it’s harder and easier than you think it’s going to be, right? Obviously, any kind of big switch, it’s always going to be harder than you think. But when you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change. How we decide to approach customer support evolved and that is huge. We are, it’s not just about the metrics, although of course the metrics are very important, right? But satisfaction with the ability to handle these things, customer satisfaction, customer effort, they all improved. So, you keep your eye on that and you’ll understand that it’s worth it. It’s worth it.
Gabe Larsen: (15:03)
I like that. Short-term, sometimes things can be harder. Long-term it does pay off. Vikas, what would you add? I mean, we’ve kind of experienced this. Coach people through it. What are they going to be thinking about as they switch?
Vikas Bhambri: (15:14)
You know, I think Eric started at the beginning, right? Which is you’re entrenched with whatever ticketing or system you’re using today. So first of all, being cognizant that change is hard, right? And it’s something, that whole change management process around educating your team as to the why. Eric was really articulated well. Why are we doing this, right? And it helps people understand why you’re going to go on that journey. And then it’s to really map out, we’re not just trying to cut and paste what we’re doing in an old system into a new system and make it a prettier screen. It’s using this as an opportunity to actually improve something. So whether it’s working with somebody like Christina on the Kustomer implementation team, or whether it’s even sitting back and revisiting some of the decisions you maybe made two, three years ago when you first implemented that other system, is there a better, or is there a different way that we could do today? But I think there’s really some unique opportunities, not just changing technology, but also not only changing the process, but in some cases seeing people talk about changing with people and helping inform the people, because it’s a very different world when you come in and you’re now interacting with humans. It’s human to human, as opposed to what Eric was saying, you’re this guy at the deli counter just taking these numbers or tickets. Right now, you’re dealing with human beings. You actually get to be more empowered. So we’ve actually heard from customers that their retention has gone up and people actually enjoy their role because they’re actually being able to get all this data and being empowered to deliver an amazing experience. With the ticketing systems, it’s really about that immediate transaction that you have with that particular customer.
Gabe Larsen: (16:59)
Awesome. Awesome. Alrighty well, Eric, really appreciate you jumping on. Vikas, likewise. For the audience, hope you understand. Hope you’ve got a great make the switch week. As we coach companies, as we think about helping leaders make the change, you can see Eric did it and he turned out all right. We’d advise you to do the same. So have a great day and we wish you the best.
Eric Chon: (17:24)
Take care. Thank you for having me guys.
Exit Voice: (17:32)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
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.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tells Us | With Matt Dixon & Vikas Bhambri
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)
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.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steven Maskell, Vice President of Customer Experience at Zones, to discuss how to create a personalized, data-driven customer experience. Learn how Steven does so by listening to the podcast below.
Creating a Data-Driven Customer Experience
Steven Maskell has successfully led service teams for nearly 30 years. Throughout his time in the CX industry, he has figured out how to integrate data into providing the most excellent customer service possible. He says, “I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.” In discussing tips in which data can be attained, Steven mentions knowing your customer, who they are, what they’re doing, and how they interact with the brand have all proven to be greatly effective when building brand loyalty and curating to the customer persona.
Data can also be used as a helpful tool when advertising to the customer. Customer data shows shopping interests and purchases. Based on this, the company can decide how to advertise to the customer in the most effective way. Rather than advertising the product a customer has already purchased, a brand could advertise a warranty on that product, ideas for how to use that product, etc. Proactively using data to shape the customer experience can ultimately lead to brand loyalty.
Starting Small Makes a Big Impact
The next step to personalizing the customer experience after finding the data is figuring out an infrastructure to store that data and to organize it to be more useful. Steven knows that it can be overwhelming and difficult for companies to change their current methodologies to becoming more data driven. He mentions, “I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there.” The easiest way to implement this change is to start small and to invest into the basic essentials of data storage and framework. Starting small to get the basics structured into a system is highly recommended by Steven to allow for more structural growth as new data is added. Once the company figures out what they really want to gain from each customer interaction, they will be better able to configure their databases to become more data driven for a more personalized experience.
Integration of AI into CX Operations
Artificial intelligence has become somewhat of a controversial topic in the CX realm. Becoming more normalized, AI can be found in a lot of customer service organizations as an implemented aspect of daily customer interaction. On this topic, Steven notes:
You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So… have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it.
AI, while certainly helpful, is not without flaws. At its current state of development, AI is not a perfect system, nor is it a valid replacement for human intelligence. AI can be helpful in guiding customers to finding answers to their simple questions, similarly to questions answered on FAQ pages. However, nothing can replace the genuine human connection between a customer and a CX agent. It’s this connection that ultimately builds a sense of trust between the customer and the brand.
Steven urges CX leaders to take an honest look at themselves and to reevaluate how they amplify their brand and its products. He believes that in doing so, leaders will produce better CX outcomes.
To learn more about the secrets to personalizing the customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Using Data to Personalize the Customer Experience | Steven Maskell
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 how you can take the customer experience, personalize it, all using data to do that. And got a special guest, Steven Maskell. He’s joining us as the Vice President Customer Experience from Zone. Steven, thanks for joining. How the heck are ya?
Steven Maskell: (00:32)
Absolutely wonderful to be here. Happy days to everyone so it’s a joy to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
We just got Steven before he’s going on vacation so I appreciate him jumping on and doing it quick before he jumps on the week long vacation. Before we jump in Steven, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe your background? Give us that quick overview.
Steven Maskell: (00:53)
Background is that I’ve been in the customer experience space for about 25 to 30 years and have spent a lot of time both on the research side, on the consulting side, and now on the implementation side. So I’ve spent my career both learning what customers want and then helping other organizations better understand how to deliver on that. Then actually being a consultant and helping organizations implement that. And now as the Vice President of Customer Experience, I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Designing, building, implementing and measuring against KPIs.
Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
Yeah, such a fun background. I think it’ll be a fun talk track today. So let’s dive in, big picture as you think about this. Personalization is obviously an important word that people are using a lot more. Data is something that I think people want to use more. AI is a buzz word that people haven’t figured out. How do you start this journey? How do you start to think about using data to personalize? Because I think we all want it, but we don’t know how to do it.
Steven Maskell: (01:54)
Yeah. It’s a great place to actually start this conversation. Here’s the thing about personalization and about customer experiences as a data-driven methodology or practice, you have to, first of all, have the data. You have to know who that person is. You have to be capturing the data. You need to be in a place that they want to give you their data because there’s value in giving it to them, by giving it to you. So, where do you all start with it is what do you know about your customer? Are you able to actually see how they are interacting with you or is it anonymized? Are they sharing with you information that’s important that you can use? We can talk a lot about that in a little bit, but all of us are doing our level best to understand how to really drive a customer experience and make their lives a whole lot easier. And customers are doing their level best to say, “I don’t want you to know too much about me.” So it’s balancing that and making sure that they understand what they’re giving up and what they’re getting, but then you also have to have a robust set of data so that you don’t recommend the completely wrong product service, a path to someone just because you’re trying to put them in a persona that doesn’t make any sense.
Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
But this collision, right? Where do you typically stand? Do you feel like people are more open to give you more data nowadays, or you feel like you’re seeing kind of this tightening up where people are saying, “I don’t even care if you give me value, I don’t want to get the data to you?” What’s the trend you’re kind of seeing there?
Steven Maskell: (03:25)
I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.
Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
I love that.
Steven Maskell: (03:42)
If you go on a website, you do something and then you start seeing an advertisement for the item that you were looking for. Yeah, I kind of expect that. But then you show that to me six months later, no. I’ve moved on. You look really, really ridiculous. Or the next step on that will be, let’s say there’s a product that you purchased and really, stop advertising it. Start telling me what a warranty is or how to use it, or really taking it to the next step. You’re using my data, make it worthwhile. Inspire me. I bought something, now give me a recipe to make with this unusual ingredient that I might’ve purchased off of an obscure website. So people have a short fuse and then if you don’t do it right once, they can be bothered with you. You’ve lost credibility pretty quickly.
Gabe Larsen: (04:33)
Isn’t that true? I can’t argue that point. And maybe I’m acting the same way. I just, short view’s a good way to say it. It’s like people don’t, we just don’t tolerate. It’s that effort word? I just don’t deal with high effort anymore. You’ve got one chance and if it was hard, I’ll go to somewhere else. I don’t care if you’re a big brand name like Nike, I’ll go somewhere else to get my shoes. When you look at the different data sources and trying to create a customer experience that does matter, are there certain things you feel like they’re either the basics or they’re the must haves? It’s kind of like, look, if you’re going to start to take advantage of that one opportunity, that short fuse, it’s this or that type of data to really start to build that personalized experience.
Steven Maskell: (05:21)
Yeah. There’s a lot that goes into it and they fall into, I would start with two large buckets. Bucket number one is who is the person? And bucket number two is what are they doing? What’s the intersectionality of those two things? So is this person a procurement person? Are they a legal professional? Where do they sit within their profession? Where do they, who are they overall? We’re not talking about highly granular, but if you have a procurement person they’re looking for X. Generally, they’re looking to get the best deal and the best whatever. If they might be a lawyer, they might have something specific, a highly unique need that they want. So now you have an understanding of who they are a little bit about what their drivers are. The second would be then, what are they actually doing? How are they actually purchasing things? How are they actually interacting with your brand? Are they looking at your advertising? Are they responding to your blog posts? Are they actually making purchases? Are they open to conversations? What are their actual behaviors so that you can start building a good understanding of who they are? So you also want to keep testing your hypothesis. This person is A, and so this is what’s important. Their data suggests that that’s what they’re going down. That then would drive you as a deliverer of consumer or customer experience to follow that path. But the second you start seeing them doing something different, now’s the time that you have to pivot. You have to understand what’s going on. And so the two areas where I would say the best understanding is, is frame it around, who are they? And then what are they doing? And then how are they influencing each other?
Gabe Larsen: (07:01)
Yeah, I think those are great big buckets that you can kind of build around. I think as soon as you start talking about data though, the word technology kind of comes into play and you start to think about, “Okay, that makes sense.” Behavior, who they are. I don’t know how to store that stuff. I don’t know where to store it, or it’s stored in so many disparate systems that I don’t think I can bring it together to make a difference. I don’t necessarily want you to be, sell some technology with this question but, quick thoughts on building that infrastructure to actually do something with it or capture it from a technology standpoint? Because it seems like once you know what data to get then you’re going to say, “Well, how do I get it? Where do I store it?”
Steven Maskell: (07:48)
Let’s just take a deep breath on that one, because there’s so much that happens. There’s some great off the shelf products. There are bespoke products. There’s custom work that people do. The thing that is most intimidating is there’s just so much data. And it comes down to a point of taking a deep breath, in my opinion, and saying, “What do I really want to drive with this? There’s so much that I can and so many interactions.” Well, there’s these silly things like, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You boil it, you can’t boil there. So we all have these things. The exact same thing applies. You know, I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there. But once you start actually figuring out what it is that you want to learn about, someone build that and feed it and keep it going. Then something will come along where you want to add a new entity or a new attribute, or something that’s a little bit different that’s associated about that person. Grow with them and only them, don’t try and build this behemoth of, “I want to know everything about everyone and everything.” You’re never going to succeed. Rather, just get the basics. Who are my top customers? Why are they my top customers? What do my top customers look like? What do my top customers buy? What do my top customers not buy? That’s enough. That really is enough because now you can start saying, “Okay, these seem to be my large product central services. Now I can look at my other customers that look like my top customers, maybe from two years ago, are these the same things that I should be sending to them? Should I be nurturing them in the exact same way?” Let me tell you something, that’s more than enough.
Gabe Larsen: (09:38)
Yeah. Yeah. I really appreciate the crawl, walk, run strategy. I’ve often referred to it as it does get overwhelming fast and narrow it down to some of those key points and to start to manually capture. I’ve always found if I can build it and get it in an Excel spreadsheet first, or you’d mentioned that, that’s just, I got it. I’ve kind of felt it. I’ve tasted it. I’ve touched it and may only be three data points then it’s like, “Okay, how do we automate this?” And then pretty soon I’m moving on to kind of phase two. I think that’s really important. So you kind of frame that, but I’m curious as people go down this journey, what are some of the other gotchas? We know it intuitively the data, we need it. Personalization, do it. We’re not, a lot of us aren’t doing it very successfully. Is there a couple of gotchas that, and maybe one of them is, it’s that crawl, walk, run, you don’t try to boil the ocean to start with the day. Anything else you’re seeing where people are kind of stumbling on this journey?
Steven Maskell: (10:36)
That’s like a two year podcast to have conversations around that. And I’ll just hold –
Gabe Larsen: (10:43)
Of course you’re going on a vacation tomorrow, so we don’t have to –
Steven Maskell: (10:47)
Yeah. Look, there’s so much that the people botch. I think some of the things are expectations and it’s having very realistic expectations. We hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo around machine learning and AI and all these sorts of things. And it took IBM a really long time to build Watson and Watson still screws up. And what I would say is this, don’t expect that it’s going to solve everything. Really what it’s going to do is it’s going to help you understand a little bit better, a little bit better. That’s what you’re trying to do each and every time. There’s also going to be some gotchas especially in a B2B sort of environment where the user or the person you’re trying to interact with is anonymized. And so you then have to switch your mindset around, “Okay. I was trying to do a one-on-one between me and you, Mary the buyer, or Jane the seller, but now it’s just a buyer. And how do I understand that?” That’s a bit of like, “Oh wow, I can’t succeed.” Actually, you really can. You’ve got to understand that someone’s making a purchase, and you have to switch your mindset. You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So the gotchas would be, have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it. Two is also making sure that you have a lot of people on board with you on this data amalgamation and centralization and then pushing out of insights and, or next steps is fantastic. Yay. But really what it comes down to is you’ve got to have everybody understanding how to use that. How are you actual sellers? What is your salesforce using this information for? The wisdom for them, you’re going to make more money by knowing more about your customer, which means you have to get more so that I can help you and all that sort of thing, would be some of the other things to really consider in the entire equation. And it is an equation where one plus one plus one, there’s a lot that goes into the chain versus, “Okay, pull a lever and then suddenly something will happen,” but that’s human interaction. And my data also may suggest something, but then I’m having a bad day and I completely throw a fly net on them. So I would just keep the realistic expectations. Know that you’re not always going to get the data and that you also need to make sure that everyone’s, there are a lot of people are on board with the entire process of getting it. And please don’t think that AI is going to be the solution. Please don’t think that machine learning is going to be the solution. We’re a ways off on that. There’s some great stuff that’s being done, but it’s not perfect. And it’s never going to get rid of, never’s a strong word. It’s never going to get rid of people actually understanding someone else.
Gabe Larsen: (13:45)
Yeah. I mean, I’m guilty. I actually was one of those people who was like, “Oh, I’ll just deploy a chat bot and it’ll run itself.” And it didn’t require a full-time person to program and integrate. So I’m smiling you bring up kind of like the AI thing. So I’m guilty on that one. You’ve talked about it a lot. We hit a bunch of different topics on the data front. If you had to kind of simple it down and just mentioned starting on this journey, where or how would you recommend a CX or CX leader start?
Steven Maskell: (14:25)
When would I start? When would I recommend the CX leaders start? I would recommend that a steep CX leader needs to have a good, honest assessment of where they’re at. The function that I had the delight of being in is the result of that assessment. Where there was a goal, there was a big, hairy, audacious goal. And the bottom line is the infrastructure, the platform, the knowledge, it just wasn’t there. And that’s okay. And you know, so the first thing is the CX leader is what’s there, is there a CRM solution in place? Is there a, is there some way that it’s being fed? Is there a mechanism to better understand, are we engaging with customers? Do we have a way of solutioning and being standardized and how we try and solve for things? It’s looking at your landscape and wondering like, “Okay, what do I know about my customers?” And if it’s sitting on the backs of napkins at the end of the long night of drinking, then it’s not going to do a whole lot of good. But if it’s codified and solidified, and if I use the right nomenclature and no matter how many times I say a certain word, everyone understands exactly what that word means, now that we’re heading in the right direction. And so those would be the things that that would happen. I would also argue that you have to understand that a business, the CX leader is in a place to amplify what a business is doing well. So businesses are the results of delivering of services, goods, and products and they do that really well. So please don’t think that customer experience is going to change your product. You have to remember what your product is and you’re there to amplify it. So, I’m not going to change how airlines fly. I am going to make the whole process of engaging with, in this case an airline, as delightful as possible. I’m going to leave the wings and all that to them. And so that would be the other thing as a CX leader is I am responsible for amplifying what my business does and understanding you also have to be able to really, this is one of the hard things, you got to be able to suck it up when someone says you suck. And understand that they’re right.
Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow, but well said. Well Steven, appreciate you taking the time. I know you got fun stuff coming up ahead over the next couple of days. If someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Steven Maskell: (16:56)
Find me on LinkedIn. Steven Maskell. Happy to have a conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, Steven, really appreciate the time. Fun talk track on thinking through how to use data to personalize that customer experience. So thank you again and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (17:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sioban Massiah from Twitter to discuss the Power of Connection and how to retain customer loyalty. Learn how Sioban connects with customers by listening to the podcast below.
Growing Your Connection to Retain Business
Partner Experience Manager at Twitter, Sioban Massiah, has quite the diverse background in customer advocacy and support. Having a deep understanding of customer needs, Sioban has been at the forefront of building lasting connections that retain customer loyalty. Sioban remarks, “You need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationships and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up.” Building connection is more than business alone, it is listening to your customers and providing the best products and services available tailored to their needs. Ultimately, the power of connection simply comes down to how a company resonates with their customers. If the connection is strong from the get-go, a company is more likely to retain those customers and their long-term support.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
Having worked at world renowned conference company, TED, Sioban knows that it’s the small but important changes that make a world of a difference to the customer. While recounting her time at TED, she discusses how after each conference, a post-event survey was conducted to the attendees. The purpose of these surveys was to gauge what TED’s listeners wanted to hear in future conferences so they could provide conversations tailored to their listener’s interests. Carrying these customer experiences with her, Sioban understands that creating big changes to modify products and services to the customer’s interests may be difficult for small businesses. To help, she says:
You don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.
Building a connection with customers is vastly important when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and what may seem like small changes can actually make the biggest difference in the long run.
Align Your Company With Your Purpose
Sioban has noticed a pattern in the business market, that is if a business was created simply to profit from their customers, it is clear in their business practice. However, if a company was created to thoughtfully engage with their customers, it is apparent and those with similar alignments will be drawn to that company. She has found that when a company is aligned with their main purpose in all aspects of business, employees tend to stay on longer and customers continue to come back for more. She notes:
No matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it.
Aligning a company with its beliefs has proven to be successful for Sioban during her time at Twitter. In fact, she accredits Twitter’s success within the last three years to its alignment with company beliefs. Sioban hopes companies will understand that opportunity is presented to everyone. It’s what you choose to do with that opportunity that truly makes the difference between failure and success.
To learn more about the secrets to connecting with customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about the power of connection. I think this is going to be a fun one. We’re going to be talking with Sioban Massiah. She’s currently the Partner Experience Manager at Twitter. Sioban, thanks for joining. How are you?
Sioban Massiah: (00:24)
I’m great. Trying to get used to this new normal that is our lives, but can’t complain about it.
Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
Yeah, we were just talking about that. It’s like it’s happening. So get used to it. Whether you like or not, things are still –
Sioban Massiah: (00:36)
Yeah, I was going to say we definitely didn’t have a choice in this one but –
Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
That’s right. That is just the way things have kind of worked out. Well, I’m excited to have you on. You’re obviously at Twitter now, but can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background? I think just kind of a fun little background.
Sioban Massiah: (00:50)
Sure. My background is very, very diverse. When people look at my resume, they were like, “What? How did you even get to where you are?” I was one of the, sarcastically, fortunate people to graduate with a marketing degree in the recession in 2008. And we all know marketing was the first thing to go in 2008 when the recession happened. So I kind of just landed in sales because that’s what marketing people did in 2008 with a degree and student loans. I think working in sales was actually one of the best things that could’ve ever happened to me. I learned how much I hated working in sales because I didn’t like pushing things that weren’t something I authentically believed in, but it also brought me into a space that I actually never even thought about, which was conference companies. And that was super helpful because it showed how people thought it gave me a diverse perspective. I learned about so many different industries and was able to take all of that mashup of my skillsets and really be able to think about customers and what they want, what their stuff are, high level. So went from conference companies to one of the best conference companies in the world, Ted Conferences, Ted Talks. I love it.
Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
You know, I’ve met the actual Ted. I’ve met him before. He is just cool.
Sioban Massiah: (02:19)
I was like, “Which Ted?”
Gabe Larsen: (02:23)
I don’t actually know where that name came from but –
Sioban Massiah: (02:24)
I, well, a little tidbit, Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, which –
Gabe Larsen: (02:29)
Oh I did know that. Oh man, I wish we weren’t recording. That is, that’s right.
Sioban Massiah: (02:35)
It’s okay. Somebody who’s listening may not have known. So we’ll just add this to the information that they’re learning on the podcast. So, went there for a little bit, loved it. But wanted to expand a little bit more on my career, move to something where I’m focusing on engaging a different type of community and I landed at Twitter, which I absolutely adore. I think no company is ever going to top Twitter for me. I just, I think Twitter moves with a purpose, so super happy to be here, even though I shifted a little bit more to the partner side, which are still our customers. I love it.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Wow. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you definitely have a background in kind of keeping people happy. So it’ll be fun to dive into the topic and Twitter you’re right, it’s just a cool company and they’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. So I don’t blame you for taking the chance and jumping ship. That sounds fun. Well, let’s turn the topic for a second. Let’s talk about this power of connection. What — start big, what is that? What is the power of connection?
Sioban Massiah: (03:45)
So to me, the power of connection is just how people resonate with their customers. I think connection is obviously more than just business, but I realized that there was a strength in it from the way I went from my different jobs. Other than Ted, every position that I’ve had has been a referral. And I thought that was very, one, I just thought that was very normal until I started actually engaging with people and realizing that referrals and people actually advocating for you strongly wasn’t a common practice. And when I asked people, why would they, why would they champion for me so much? They said that the connection that I have, the authentic connection that I have with people is a skillset that other people didn’t have. Everybody is presented with an opportunity, but it’s how you take that opportunity and keep going with it and how you run with it that really stands you apart from other people. As I started moving within my career, I realized that that was something that also sets you apart as a company, within organizations, not being empathetic and not being culturally concurrent and not actually knowing your customer, was something that was a big hindrance. No matter what you did, no matter how you did it, if you didn’t actually listen to your customer and figure out what they wanted, you weren’t succeeding as a company. My favorite example is when you call into customer service and you can almost anticipate what they’re going to say, “Hello, Sioban. I, yes. I completely empathize with what you’re saying. I can imagine that…” you can repeat it verbatim if you actually speak to somebody. And it’s like, I literally asked customer service people, “Did you listen to anything that I just said? Can you repeat to me anything that I’ve just said, bullet point wise?” And they can’t and it’s like, “Wow. So I just went through this spiel of what happened to me, for you to read off a script.” So I think that no matter how helpful you are, no matter how good at what you do, if you are not actually in tune with your customer and connecting with them on a level that is not service of an exchange of service or product, you’re not going to move forward and you’re not really going to keep these customers.
Gabe Larsen: (06:06)
Why do you think people mess that up? I mean, because what you’re saying, I mean, I’m like, yeah. Yes, we should be doing that. Is it because, we go to scripting because we want to control it? You have a couple bad examples and so you kind of have to tighten down the controls and make sure people are, they’re all saying the same thing. So you don’t go off in a tangent or offend somebody in this kind of world of offending people that we sometimes we find ourselves in. Why do companies not do that? How have they gotten away from that?
Sioban Massiah: (06:37)
So, I have two answers to that, but the short answer are, people are lazy. It’s very clear when things, especially things like what’s going on right now are happening. You see who are businesses and are customer focused and you see people who are in it just to make money. It’s very, very clear. So some people are about profit and some people are about purpose and companies that are about profit in this space are, it’s very clear. And people who are about purpose are the ones that are engaging. So I think that’s the first answer, but of course you, the scripts are needed because you want to make sure communication is consistent across organizations. But I think that the script is the foundation and the training to be connecting and actually empathetic with your customer is what you build off of. You need to hire people who these practices are actually part of who they are in general or just who they want to be and who they see themselves being. So that way, this script is something that they can work with, but they can still connect and empathize with their customers and how they and their company are company-wise.
Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. I love that. I love that. I think they’re, sometimes they’re necessary evil scripts, right? It helps you control, but you got to kind of find that balance. You mentioned the word purpose, and I just wanted to follow up on that. If you can, people are about profits or purpose, how do you do that? How do you get your employees or your brand or your customer service reps, or how do you get aligned around a purpose? I mean, ultimately a company can’t function without profits. And so that has to factor in, I guess –
Sioban Massiah: (08:25)
Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
You’re right. You can kind of tell when people are just looking to like, make a buck versus, they’re all aligned around kind of a common vision or purpose or mission. I don’t mean to go on a tangent. Any thoughts on that one? How do you kind of get it?
Sioban Massiah: (08:38)
Tangents are my favorite place, so we can definitely go there. I think once you’ve actually established a company and you don’t have a purpose, it’s super hard to align it. Because now you’re switching things up. Yeah. You’re playing catch-up, you’re switching things up. So when I actually speak to people who have small businesses, I’m like, what are you doing this for? Make it clear. If you are starting this company, why? And if you do not know why you’re starting this company and you can’t communicate that to your customers, why should they keep working with you? So I think for small companies, that’s the first thing you need to do is the purpose of why this company is important to you. Some people are out here to just make money and that’s fine, but it’s going to be clear. I think for companies who don’t have that purpose, I think that’s something that they need to actually take some time out and really establish. And once you establish what the purpose is, the people will come to you. So things will fall in line. And it sounds very hippy dippy of me, I apologize. This is like a business podcast, but –
Gabe Larsen: (09:50)
We’re people too, we’re humans first.
Sioban Massiah: (09:53)
Yeah, I think one of my favorite books is the Alchemist, is when you want something, the whole universe conspires to make sure that you get it. And I think that biases to even businesses. So, I just think that creating the purpose will make it clear as a company and company employees leave and go. They come, they go. So when you have a purpose, the companies, the employees who are not aligned, they’re not going to stay. And I think honestly, no matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it. So that’s why I think it’s so important to actually have that alignment and make sure that purpose is very clear. Twitter as a company wasn’t purpose driven before. They put a purpose in place in 2017 and talking to another co-founder, one of the co-founders, they say, they think that that’s what’s making Twitter the company it is right now. We obviously, we’ve gotten, Twitter’s in the news pretty much every week and I won’t go into that because I haven’t cleared that with comms yet. I think, I honestly don’t think I would have been at Twitter if it wasn’t, it didn’t drop a purpose, which is very, very clear. It’s to serve the public conversation. So no matter what you think about Twitter, you can’t say that we’re not doing that purpose. And I think conversation again, is one of the keys to connection and that’s why I’m at Twitter right now.
Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Well, I love that. I mean, I think it’s, I mean, whether you were at Twitter or not, it’s interesting because it certainly felt like it was doing something and now there is, there feels like there’s something different going on. That’s fascinating to hear. Let’s continue down the path on connection just for a minute. So, we talked about kind of getting people aligned to a mission and that being part of connection. And then we talked a little bit about this empathy and having connection with your customers. Wanting to go down that path just a little further. How do you, or how have you found in some of your customer experience interactions that people can continue to build that connection piece? Is it just about empathy? Is there other things that help you kind of get further down that connection bond and strengthen it?
Sioban Massiah: (12:19)
Absolutely. Obviously business first live, we can collect these things. People are sometimes willing to share. So thinking about like, when I was at Ted, when we would make people sign up for conferences, we wouldn’t just allow them to sign up, they actually had to apply for conferences. They had to say why they wanted to attend a Ted Conference. We have that data. So now we are creating, if the conference that we had, was it aligned with something that’s a trend we saw, we took that data and we were like, “Okay, well now let’s start looking into this as content. Let’s start looking into this for our audience. These are people who are willing to pay, and this is not even what we’re presenting yet.” What, imagine how much they’re going to be engaged if we actually present these things. I think when it comes to Twitter, it’s just in general, we literally have what people want on our product. Like, wow. They’re telling us what they want. They’re telling us how, what they’re interested in. Like we literally are and they don’t even know it. I think that there’s always ways in which you are paying attention. So obviously customers, you do post-event surveys. Every conference has a post-event survey. So like being able to do those post-event surveys and quit making the questions that you ask a little bit more thoughtful, those are little things that you can do that are going to change the trajectory of how you work, period. It’s the catalyst to go a little bit further and you don’t have to make extreme changes tomorrow. Like you don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.
Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
No, I totally agree. It’s always the baby steps, right?
Sioban Massiah: (14:37)
Progress is a slow process as one of my friends said that to me probably the first week I met him and I’ve always taken that.
Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah. Yeah. And you’re right in the world we live today, it’s kind of like the “now generation,” right? We all want it now and immediately, but ultimately sometimes you got to just take that slow and focus on the small things and it’s customer service and success leaders. I think that’s where you got to go. You’ve got to focus –
Sioban Massiah: (15:00)
Gabe Larsen: (15:00)
On the small things. So as we kind of wrap here and as you summarize, we’ve hit a couple of different things, but –
Sioban Massiah: (15:07)
Gabe Larsen: (15:08)
Thinking about the power of connection, what advice would you kind of leave with the audience here?
Sioban Massiah: (15:13)
I think that my main point is to not just look at your business as a way of making money, and obviously that is the goal. That’s probably the sole goal for the most part, but is to really take a look at your customers and realize that the business that you have, if you are even listening to this podcast, is probably because you aren’t somebody that is thriving off of your customers. You’re thriving off of your partners. And you need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationship and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up for that.
Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Yeah. Yeah. Exciting, I think that’s right. And I think you gotta stick to that kind of higher purpose. It makes a big difference. Thanks so much for joining. It’s a fun talk track. I like this idea of the power of connection. I might have to steal those words for something.
Sioban Massiah: (16:09)
Listen. Whenever you want me to come talk about it, I will be happy to.
Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
If somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you do, any recommendations? Are you open to that advice?
Sioban Massiah: (16:17)
Sure, absolutely. They can email me via my Twitter email since I actually use that the most, which is S as in Sam, I O@twitter.com or they can connect with me via Twitter at J, I push the brand no matter where. I am an advocate. Well, they do sign us up. They hope that we use it, but not everybody is an avid user. I have always been an avid user. So, it just worked out. But, you can reach out to me via Twitter at J as in John, U S T C A L L M E Sio. So justcallmesio, which is my nickname at work, and you can DM me there or reach out to me there. And email and Twitter are my fastest ways to contact.
Gabe Larsen: (17:08)
Awesome, well I love it. Well, really appreciate you jumping on. Fun talk track. Quality, the power of connection and openness. And the audience, have a fantastic day.
Sioban Massiah: (17:17)
Exit Voice: (17:23)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Freedman from Kustomer to evaluate the formula for high performing CX teams. Learn how Matt has successfully built brand loyalty in a new economy by listening to the podcast below.
Enterprise Account Executive Manager at Kustomer, Matt Freedman, knows how to build a company from the ground up and understands what it takes to produce successful customer experiences all while building brand loyalty. To explain the new economy, or as Matt puts it, the me-economy, he says:
It really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands.
He finds that 57% of the me-economy says they are loyal to specific brands solely due to their experience with proactive and efficient customer service. Challenging the older CX values and tactics, this new generation cares more deeply about good experiences over poor experiences, and is more likely to give positive feedback on great CX.
5 Ways to Create a Customer Obsessed Brand
Matt and Gabe discuss the five ways to create a customer obsessed CX team: personalization, an effortless experience, adoption of self-service, being on the channel of choice (COC), and being in real time, 24/7. A customer obsessed brand starts with personalization. Actions such as knowing the customer by name, showing empathy towards their questions, and using customer data to tailor each experience results in better customer care. Customers are happier when their experience requires little to no effort on their part; they expect the care agent to adapt to their needs. Low effort experience can also be accomplished through self-service and filtering customer issues through the proper channels. Additionally, Matt notes that personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. “It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you”. To further expand on this point, Matt discusses how CX representatives should be available in real time to their customers, meaning that they are readily available and empathetic to their needs.
Difference Between High and Low Performing CX
Matt explains that there are two strategies to keep CX teams competing in the me-economy at a high performance level. The first being tech and the second being strategy. Not only is it important for brands to have the technology aspects of CX up and running, it is imperative that brands develop strategies on how to implement such technology into building customer relationships. He notes,”Stick with what has worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about.”
Matt expresses that a self-service supportive CX team will help the customers quickly find a solution to their question by funneling issues through self-service, bots, and agents. If a customer has a question, they can turn to the brand website and look for information on the help page. If their question is not answered there, they can live chat with a bot who can solve low effort issues, further funneling more complex customer questions to agents. Matt explains that the main goal of CX is to treat the customer as a human, as family, as someone known personally by the company. He says, “People want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.”
Matt urges brands to take advantage of the current me-economy and to adapt their CX teams to better suit the new customer.
To learn more about the formula for high performing CX Teams, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:09)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about the formula for high performing CX teams. I think this is going to be a fun one. To do that, we brought on Matt Freedman. Matt’s an expert in customer experience and really a focus on building brands so Matt, you and I have been going back and forth. I’m excited to jump in, but thanks for joining. How are you?
Matt Freedman: (00:31)
Doing great, Gabe. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:33)
Tell us just real quick, maybe just a little bit about yourself and kind of the passion that you have around content, brand building, and customer experience.
Matt Freedman: (00:42)
Yeah, I appreciate it. So back in about 2012, I founded a direct to consumer brand that was selling golf shoes online over Shopify and built an e-commerce company. So, just fell in love with that process; then just being super customer obsessed and trying to build human relationships with everyone that was buying shoes from us. We were a small scrappy startup and really caught the bug at that point. So I’ve been sort of at the intersection of technology, e-commerce, and customer data ever since throughout my career and landed here at Kustomer for all of those reasons. So really excited to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (01:21)
I love it. Alright, man. Well let’s dive in. You got some slides. I’m going to ask some questions as we go through, but let’s start talking big picture of the formula for high performing CX teams.
Matt Freedman: (01:34)
Yeah, for sure. So in a lot of ways this is just really some learnings and some things that I’ve found correlations between really high performing CX teams, companies, and just this general customer obsession. And it seems like there’s some tethered synergies or strategies around these brands that seem to outperform or outpace the rest of their industries. So I’ve spent a number of years really compiling all of this data, putting it together and something that I was trying to just get a modern take on. Obviously in this current Corona economy, everything’s a little bit different, but some of these general themes resonate and have stayed the same regardless. So I just wanted to put something out there that might be helpful for others trying to become customer obsessed or build that really high performance CX team. So a couple of things that we found, there are distinct and clear strategies or almost philosophies that brands are adopting that outpace or outperform their industry. It’s not necessarily always right in front of you, or what they serve, or the channel that they’re on, or the type of service. We’ve obviously all read The Effortless Experience and learned that going above and beyond, surprise and delight is not always a great future indicator of loyalty. So I started to really take that to heart and try to understand, okay, well if people really just want what’s expected of your brand, why are some companies so far ahead and have such higher C-SAT, NPS, loyalty scores than others? And I dove a ton into the data across a bunch of different industries and really kind of surfaced something really interesting that I never thought about before. And it really had nothing to do with the function or the tactic. There’s a lot of tools out there. Obviously Kustomer is the world’s leader right now in conversational CRM and the things we’re doing. But the brands that seem to be really outpacing the rest of their industries have understood and built their support organizations around this thought of what I’m calling the me-economy and what the me-economy is, is 22 –
Gabe Larsen: (03:53)
You better be defining this here. You better define what the me-economy is, but I like the term. I like it.
Matt Freedman: (03:59)
Thanks. It’s something I’ve been jamming on here for a little while, but it really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands. And what we’re seeing is the brands that are optimizing their entire CX organization from tech stack to philosophy, to agent training and coaching are really the ones that are outpacing and really outperforming the rest of their industry. So I’ll just take a pause there and any thoughts or what you think on just kind of the general gist of this me-economy and what we’re seeing?
Gabe Larsen: (04:59)
I mean it resonates, I think, right? I mean, right now you feel like there is, if you look at the makeup. Yes, I love that 50%, right? That’s the problem that we’re running into now is that with the change of guard, which basically means a change of genetic makeup, Millennials, that group is taking over. They’re taking over leadership positions, they’re taking over companies, they’re taking over a lot of the population. They are a lot of the buying power now and as that group starts to take over, this has been talked about a little bit, but when it comes to our world of customer success, I feel like it’s been talking about more than the buying side. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it enough in the customer experience side. And so I think it’s super relevant knowing that the numbers are encroaching. It’s like, whether you like it or not, it’s now coming. The question is, how do you deal with it? But I love the framing of the me-economy because the numbers are proving that this is a different population than it was obviously just a few years ago.
Matt Freedman: (05:56)
You’re a hundred percent right. These are no longer fringe cases. We now make up the biggest consumer group of, with buying power with the actual populace. And just when you’re thinking of this and trying to internalize it, it’s really the on demand generation really comes to mind. So as you’re setting expectations, now, obviously going through this new world virus economy that we’re living in, it’s a great time to kind of pause and reset and just rethink, “Man, am I really set up and optimized for not only these fringe cases anymore, but this gigantic new wave of demand, expectation that this on demand economy has?” So I think it’s a perfect setup, just a little bit of the performance playbook that we found across all of these brands that are outpacing everybody. There’s really five basic things that we saw that were key themes in terms of the demand. And it comes back to a number of these stats, but personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you. You know, the second being low effort experiences. 96% of customers across the board throughout this generation who have high effort experiences will be disloyal to your brand. So if loyalty is important to you, low effort experiences have to be one of the key tenets of what you’re trying to drive. The other incredibly interesting thing that was really eye popping to me was the amount of adoption among the me-economy around self service. Obviously there’s a number of different tools, starting with chat and such, but self service is a requisite of being a high performance CX team when dealing with the me-economy and I think we’ll talk a little bit more about that and being on the channel of choice, we have a fun little acronym for this, but this is one of the biggest shifts and trends that we saw throughout the data. Currently, it sits about 32% of me-economy consumers require you to be on their desired channel. Now overseas, we’re seeing way more adoption in China, in Brazil of WhatsApp and social messaging apps as the preferred channel for CX to be handled on. From the data, the U.S. is almost a laggard in this group, and it’s interesting to see more adoption here, but that is a massive opportunity here in the States for you to outpace your industry and CX is to adopt social messaging channels now, and the 24/7, “be in real time,” always on, always listening for everybody everywhere. It’s incredibly difficult to just say that and to adopt it immediately. But you need to start thinking about these things, no longer fringe cases, now, requisites of what’s happening with industry leaders in CX today.
Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
Yeah. I like this summary, Matt. I think it’s great to see these on one sheet. Certainly we’ve heard personalization, right? That word has been in use over the last couple of years. “Be in real time,” 24/7, that’s a little different flavor there, probably a little newer with your point me-economy, the channels. We’ve started to see that expansion of channels, but the way you framed it there being on the channel of my choice, basically, is different than just being omnichannel. It’s like, “Be where I am, you punks.” Certainly we’ve seen a rise, I think in this self service. That is a real push for the trend, but I like how you’ve kind of framed. These are the five real playbook pieces that you’re going to need to be able to do to win in this kind of me-economy dominated society. Got it. I like it.
Matt Freedman: (09:58)
Yeah. The funny thing, Gabe, is you mentioned omnichannel and everybody, it’s such a buzzy term and everybody’s trying to solve for omnichannel. And to me, it’s a big puzzle that if you kick it up a level and think more strategically about what your customer wants, your customer isn’t asking you for omnichannel, your customer is asking for you to be on my channel. So if you’re able to take a look at these trends of where the me-economy is going, omnichannel may not include phones for some brands as this generation trends away from wanting to sit and get passed around with live agents. It’s almost a really good time to rethink what omnichannel actually means because some of those channels that may be dated, may not make the cut. So it’s interesting.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I like it.
Matt Freedman: (10:52)
Awesome. So one of the things that really stood out to me in this me-economy and some of the stats that we got through are, 57% of the me-economy says that customer service is one of the main reasons they feel loyal to a brand. And what’s really interesting about this is that there is a tremendous amount of loyalty with the me-economy. They tend to really, they’re 78% loyal to brands that they feel that they’ve chosen as sort of their brand of choice for a particular category. There’s a ton to be gained by winning this market over. But the biggest driver, other than price that we found is that customer service is the biggest sticking point with this generation of folks.
Gabe Larsen: (11:39)
Ah, wow. I see that. I wonder if the audience would be surprised at that. That feels, if you are surprised, I love it. I have a handful of people watching that comment. That sometimes I think with this new age mentality that maybe customer service isn’t as important, right? That it maybe should play a lesser role, but that certainly is the majority of that group is more or less kind of saying, “Hey, that is still true. We still care a lot about this.” Which is maybe interesting in this light, Matt, that for a long time, we have relied a lot on loyalty around brand building. Then you have all people know this. So, you know I shop at Nike because I’m a Nike guy. I just always have been and there’s this loyalty to brands, but in this me-economy, these five pillars become more important. Like honestly, I don’t care where I can get it, direct to consumer style, right? I don’t care where I can get it as long as it’s effortless, right? As long as they can do this piece, right? So maybe that’s the big takeaway on this slide is that although brand is important and it always will be, this me-economy is starting to put some things over brand building like the five plays you talked about, right. Effortless experience, et cetera.
Matt Freedman: (12:56)
Sure. You just think about the way that we shop. Everyone goes to Amazon for everything just as a first touch point to see if you can get it there. You can’t compete with next day, same day or two day in most cases. So that experience and what you’re promising me, the brand promise of when you’re going to deliver it, can I guarantee that it’s going to be here on time? You look at the rise of the subscription economy now, especially more than ever, people not really wanting or being able to leave their homes. That on demand mentality is more important in some cases that the data shows than the brand or the product itself. It’s more, “When am I going to get it? Can I rely on you and is your price competitive?” That almost outweighs the brand or product itself.
Gabe Larsen: (13:43)
I like that. I like that takeaway. I think that’s a big, it’s something we got to just continue to just, that is real. We need to adapt. Not probably fight.
Matt Freedman: (13:54)
Sure, and what’s interesting too, I don’t across again, just this first pass at looking through some data, less than 30% of brands really feel that they’re equipped and ready from a technology perspective with things like those on demand chat channels, social messaging, having a really highly intelligent knowledge base, the self service factor. People don’t feel that they’re necessarily ready for this or haven’t fully adopted. And I know it’s a newer concept, but there’s just so much room right now while we’re all sitting in our homes, working from home, to just maybe rethink, “What does the next two to five years from my company look like? Are we really set up to solve and really engage with this new market?”
Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
I love it. All right. Keep going.
Matt Freedman: (14:48)
Here’s the one big takeaway of some of the value drivers. If you’re a CX manager or a leader, and you’re trying to sell up the chain to your e-team, or to try to get some funding for some of these tools and this new philosophy to inject some new life into your CX organization, here’s some of the things that you stand to gain. And a lot of these stats are just public domain that we know about high performing CX teams. This is tailored towards Millennials and Gen Z, but we touched on one, the loyalty factor is massive. 78% of me-economy consumers feel more loyal to brands. The one thing that really struck me that I thought was crazy that I almost didn’t believe when I saw it was up to a 98% C-SAT score appears just by plugging in some of these social messaging channels as a primary channel, which was absolutely stunning to me.
Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Why do you think that is? Is that just because of, I mean those are the channels that we’re familiar with. We know them. So once I’m able to use them in a platform, it makes more sense. It’s easier for me.
Matt Freedman: (15:53)
Yeah, absolutely. To me, it’s the channel of choice.
Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Say no more.
Matt Freedman: (15:57)
We as peers, that’s where we’re talking.
Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Matt Freedman: (16:01)
This generation tells more people when they get great care than they tell people when they don’t get great care. And that’s the first generation to do that. Typically you’ve seen in older generations up to 20 people will hear about a bad experience. The me-economy is kind of bucking that trend. So another interesting little nugget there. In the last to really come down to the balance sheet, here’s really, if you’re talking to your CFO and you’re trying to gain more momentum around your organization, these people spend up to 21% additionally for great customer service. And it’s proven around 70% of this me-economy says they already have spent more money to do business with brands that offer great customer support. So I’ll pause there really quick, Gabe. Any thoughts there? We’re going to start to dive into more of the model of how to sort of adopt or build a framework of how your CX organization can start to build the tenets of what this looks like to solve for this me-economy. But anyway –
Gabe Larsen: (17:05)
No, I think you’ve set it up well. I think you’ve set it up well. I think the big next question is, got it. That maybe is a problem I wasn’t seeing as much before. Some of these types of elements, the question is, “How do I start to move in this direction and maybe adopt some of these principles in a real way to tactically or tangibly change the way I deliver service?”
Matt Freedman: (17:24)
Yeah, sure. There’s a lot of different information out there. There’s a ton of opportunity of different ways outside of just this. Just kind of taking a baby step, crawl, walk, run approach. But if you’re speaking specifically and candidly to this me-economy market and the demands that they have to be competing with these high performing, outpacing industry leaders, these are kind of the two basic things you can do today to start thinking about. And the first is the technology stack. Obviously at Kustomer, we’re a bit biased here of the things that we offer, but irregardless, we built a model that we’re going to talk about in a moment called SLS. And that’s a funny little acronym for self-service, live support, and the last S being social messaging channels. So we’ll dive into that in a moment. But from a strategy perspective, if you were to weigh these two, technology and strategy, it’s almost 50-50. I mean the technology can get you so far, but if you’re not going to adopt it as the source of truth and the source of just having this new generation lead the way for your company, we’ve built this model called the Now Philosophy that you and I, Gabe, have talked about. But it really is, it’s adopting the always, everywhere, for everybody model that the demand is being driven by this me-economy. So split this right down the middle. Half goes to tech, half goes to strategy. That’s the two basic fundamental tenets of how we can split this up.
Gabe Larsen: (19:00)
Yeah. I liked that. The funny, the way when you project that, right? I think for a long time, we’ve talked about people, process and technology as being like the fork, some of the fundamental principles of driving an effortless experience, great customer experience. The way you kind of framed that was technology, it needs to be brought to the forefront that it almost is at the core and then you build your strategy, in a lot of cases, around that because it’s playing such an active role. Again, it often felt like people, process, and then add some technology on. Now it’s almost more like, no, no, no. Get the technology. Build around that technology [inaudible], which I think that’s a slightly different frame of mind than we have in the past.
Matt Freedman: (19:45)
Yeah, you’re probably right. The people, process model dates back to what, Henry Ford and even beyond. So maybe this is a little bit disruptive, but at least from what the data tells us, if you want to serve this new market, which is now the majority, not the minority here, these are the two basic things you can enact now. So let’s dive into what that means really quickly. From the technology side, again, you’re looking at self-service, live, and social are the three basic tenets of how you can win here. We are certainly not suggesting that you abandon things like phone and certainly email. Stick with what’s worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about. So there’s a lot to this to unpack because within each of these categories, there’s several different types of widgets or platform products that you can stand up that can build your own version of this stack. But what we’ve heard is that an intelligent knowledge base is where the me-economy starts. Almost 80% of those inquiries are now starting on a self-service basis. So the first place they will go is a knowledge base that’s public on your website. So if they can’t find the answer of what they’re looking for there, the second piece of that is enacting some kind of live chat that could be with a bot to deflect or suggest an answer first with a conversational CRM that Kustomer offers, obviously the data component of that being hyper-personalized and understanding, and even anticipating why that order may have been missed or why that person is reaching out to us. These are those little tiny micro nuggets that are the difference between high performers and low performers. So having all of that experience connected on the back end. So when the agent walks in, in the morning, they know they’re set up to succeed because when someone comes in, they can almost anticipate and say, “Hey, Gabe. Saw you reached out. You don’t have to give me your order, number, your account number. I see that you’re waiting for a package. I get it. It’s a grill. It looks great. Is that what you’re reaching out about?” That’s the difference of being reactive versus proactive and that’s what this economy is demanding of you. And the final bit being the social messaging piece. This is the channel of choice. Be where I am. And this is where peer to peer, we’re talking. We’re talking over Facebook app and WhatsApp and other apps, and that’s how people want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.
Gabe Larsen: (22:37)
Yeah. I feel like on this one; some of this, you’ve heard, but it is some of the adoption of it. As I look at some of the expectations I have as a consumer, when I email a ticket or email in, and if someone creates a ticket, I’d probably have in my frame of mind, it’s, I don’t know, maybe a 24 hour response time. When I Facebook message someone, I’m probably thinking a handful of hours. When I’m live chatting with someone that’s a tough, that’s that real time. You’ve got to be real as soon as they feel like you’re playing with multiple tabs and jumping around you’re out of it. But it’s like, what this has really forced us to do is I think you’ve got to then take these concepts and be able to almost dive into some of them individually and teach your agents some of the best practices and strategies, because it isn’t just email anymore.
Matt Freedman: (23:27)
Gabe Larsen: (23:27)
It’s not. And so, yes, you’ve maybe heard some social messaging. Like I got to do that. Maybe some of you flipped it on, but I’m telling you, if you flipped it on and then haven’t kind of gotten with the, this is not email, this is something. So there’s a recognition that these are key components. And I think you’ve laid that out well, but I think the second point is, as you think about implementing this, know that it’s just like when you first implemented the email channel or the phone chat, this takes a full different mindset because expectations of consumers are different.
Matt Freedman: (23:57)
100%, and it’s the perfect setup for the following. It’s the other half, it’s that other 50% of why this is important, how it can be implemented? How many of us in our history, and it dates me back to having our own brand, how much technology do you buy and only adopt 10% of it? So you have this shelf collecting dust of all these technologies that you should be using more of that you’re wasting money on. So it’s almost the philosophy adoption and the strategy around using the technology almost has to be aligned to the same north star as the tech itself. So, I’ll end with this, but on the other flip side of the coin is adopting this philosophy. And the demand again, of the me-economy is just this. This is a derivative of what the demands are. It’s always, everywhere, and for every one; we have to be 24/7. We know that being everywhere on the channel of choice or on the COC, this will strip away the omnichannel thing for a moment and just realize the me-economy, wants you’re exactly where they are and they want an answer fast and they’re not willing to wait. Otherwise, that equals an effortful experience. 96% of those people will not shop with you again or become disloyal. So again, the tech is great to have it, but if you don’t have the strategy and the personnel to man those chat lines properly, it’s going to be all for not. And the final thing obviously is the biggest component of this, is treating your family, your brand’s family, like that, like they’re customers. They’re not ticket numbers and cases. When they reach out to you, it’s one thing to say that you can be empathetic, but how can you do that without data about that person right in front of you? When agents have to go fishing around in ten different systems, it totally negates your ability or your promise of being customer obsessed. So the data being right in front of you with that CRM is absolutely paramount to adopt this type of a philosophy as well.
Gabe Larsen: (26:05)
Yeah. I think these are the, I really like the always, everywhere, everyone. It’s great, because that’s one that isn’t as much on my mind, but you’re right. It’s the 24/7 one just keeps coming back. Like how do we always be around there? So that’s kind of one that I feel like I’ve got to wrap my head around probably more. It’s resonating most with me. Really liked that you brought in that build a community. This interaction, I feel like it’s happening more and more. People are talking Slack channels, people are talking Facebook groups, people are talking. And maybe that is also like be on a channel because for a long time it was, let’s build a community on our website. It’ll be hidden somewhere and they’ll never log in and know what happened with it. Now that we’re going with that channel of choice and we’re starting to integrate Slack communities or Facebook communities. Well, they’re being more adopted, but I don’t know if we’ve got ahead of that enough. I feel like you got some modern people doing that, but I think you’ve got a lot of people still lagging there, big time. People want to talk to each other and they’re scared. We’re scared to do it in some instances because that’s a live real time community that they –
Matt Freedman: (27:17)
Gabe Larsen: (27:17)
So how do you monitor it and how do you make sure that people don’t post bad stuff? And that’s kind of like, I can see that hesitancy to go there, but the importance on the flip side of kind of that real time, collaborative, interactive between people, not just you and them, but them and them, meaning them and the other customers, I think is pretty important. So, Matt if you were to kind of summarize, a lot of great points, companies, people who are trying to figure out how we navigate this kind of me-economy, what would be kind of the summary statement there?
Matt Freedman: (27:51)
Yeah, for sure. I threw it into a quick slide. I was hoping you would ask that.
Gabe Larsen: (27:58)
I promise I did not know that.
Matt Freedman: (28:03)
All good. We’re totally in lockstep here. So just some of the key takeaways, again, the big thing for me is to realize that this is a seismic shift that’s happening underneath our feet in real time, especially right now, while people are sitting at home, re-evaluating ways to take their businesses to the next level. So it was only a matter of time where this data surfaced. Where the economy of the Millennials and the Gen Z and the demand that they have, the on demand lifestyle that they’ve lived is driving a brand new generation or economy worth of requirements of your CX team. So we can take baby steps towards that over time. But I would almost recommend taking the weekend or taking a week and just really doing a hard eval on how you’re positioning and how you’re setting up your CX team for success. The first thing is just ditch the ticket. If we’re still referring to customers as tickets or cases, it’s just unacceptable in the me-economy. We’ve seen it proven. Adopting the SLS tech stack, the self service, the live and the social, continuing to focus on low effort experiences. Thank you again, Matt Dixon for putting that out.
Gabe Larsen: (29:24)
Trademark. Trademark Challenger.
Matt Freedman: (29:24)
God, I owe him so many times for having used that phrase. Know every customer by your name. One of the coolest exercises that you can do to prove to yourself or your company that you are customer obsessed. If somebody, if that term is even floating around your CX team, go to your leadership team and say, how customer obsessed are we or are we committed to being? And if they think they are now ask them point blank, who’s our best customer. If you’re a direct to consumer brand, prove it to me. Name our best customer and why they are our best customer? And what are we putting in place to know every single person that’s in our base like they’re our family? They’re the people paying our bills. It should come to that level of obsession. The now philosophy we talked about that encompasses a number of these, but the big takeaway for me, and I’ll tie it off with this, is really there are brands performing at this level of standard, and we’re going to continue to see them grow and put content out and to continue to see examples of them winning. But the resources are out there for any brand that wants to commit to being customer obsessed to do this now. It doesn’t take a radical change where you have to go completely turn everything upside down. There is a formula and approach based on what we just laid out that any brand can achieve this. And selfishly, to my understanding, Kustomer is really the ones leading the charge on how to get people to that level of customer obsession.
Gabe Larsen: (31:07)
I agree. I love it, man.
Matt Freedman: (31:09)
Again, I’m biased.
Gabe Larsen: (31:12)
You’re fine. You’re fine. Well, Matt really appreciate you taking the time. I like the idea. I think you’ve really laid it out well, the formula for how CX teams can win, especially in this kind of me-economy that you put forward. So thanks for joining and for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.
Matt Freedman: (31:32)
Thanks Gabe. Appreciate it.
Exit Voice: (31:34)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In a world that’s so heavily focused on utilizing digital technology and social media to create convenient experiences for consumers, making your customer service communication lines as simple, seamless and tailored as possible to specific members of your audience is a must. A personalized customer service strategy is just one way to make a measurable impression on consumers. In fact, according to an ROI of Customer Experience report by Qualtrics, 77% of customers agree that they’re more likely to recommend a brand to someone after having just one positive experience with the company.
But how can you make each digital customer service encounter a customized one? What is personalized customer service, and how can you deliver personalized customer care that’s beneficial both to your customers and your business? Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of this customized solution and how Kustomer can make it happen for your business.
Diving Deeper: What Exactly Is Personalized Customer Service?
In a recent article, we highlighted personalized customer service and how it works well with an omnichannel approach. Artificial Intelligence magazine defined personalized customer service as the assistance provided by a customer service agent that is tailored to each individual customer, based on their specific wants and needs.
But this approach doesn’t simply bring in more business by chance. There’s a psychology behind personalized customer service. Research shows that customers are keen on personalization, as it helps them remain in control in customer service conversations, reduces feelings of stress and defeat, and helps them feel more empowered as a customer. With more than 50% of customers admitting that they’ve had to re-explain issues to customer service agents in the past, this can have a major impact on business, enabling customers to feel an instant disconnect that leads to distrust and uncertainty with the brand.
What Are the Major Benefits of Providing Personalized Customer Service?
When it comes to customer relationship management, weaving personalized customer service into your strategy is a must for many reasons. In fact, it’s not only beneficial to the well-being of your customers, who could potentially become returning customers, but also to the bottom line of your business. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of personalized customer service on both ends of the spectrum:
For the Consumer
From adding more depth to initial conversations to increasing trust and satisfaction with a brand, the benefits of customer service personalized to the consumer can change the way they look at your business.
More meaningful conversations. When customers enter a conversation with an agent, they want to get as much out of the conversation as they can. Agents who are willing to take a dive deep into the issue and curate a resolution that’s specific to the problem at hand provide an unparalleled experience for customers that can have a major impact on their impression of your brand.
Enhanced trust in a company. It’s very natural to want to spend more time with someone you trust and can confide in. The same idea can be used in a customer service encounter between an agent and a customer. As perfectly stated by HubSpot, “loyalty is rooted in trust, and customers can trust real-life humans more than the ideas and values of a brand.” When customer service agents take the time to analyze a personal customer issue, it shows an element of caring and understanding that fuels trust and compassion from the other end.
Improved overall satisfaction with service. Customers expect quick, reliable service when they reach out to your agents. HubSpot found that 90% of customers say an immediate response from customer service agents is important or very important when they bring a question to the table. What qualifies as an “immediate” response? Research shows that customers want to be answered in 10 minutes or less.
For Your Company
Brands can see a major return on investment when they incorporate personalized customer service into their strategy.
Consistent business. When it comes to making a customer feel valued and appreciated, personalized customer service goes a long way. Pleasing a customer does more than put a smile on his or her face — it often leads to return business for you. Research by HubSpot found that 93% of customers are more likely to become repeat customers at a business that provides optimal customer service, and 90% agreed that they would at least be more likely to purchase more items from said company.
Increased customer loyalty. In our research, we’ve found that curating a personalized customer service experience over one that’s less customized could be the resolution to a disconnect; if a customer doesn’t feel heard in their conversation with one of your agents, they could be less likely to show brand loyalty and more likely to purchase products and services from a company that will, in fact, listen to what they have to say.
Better leverage to improve your current strategy. Because you’re creating more personalized experiences for your customers, you’re getting a better idea of not only what they expect out of that initial conversation, but what they anticipate to get out of your business as a whole. While you may be the expert of your business, the people who purchase your products or services are the same people who are fueling your company with revenue to keep the engine pumping and their opinions are invaluable.
How Kustomer Can Help You Deliver a Personalized Customer Service Strategy
Creating and delivering a top-notch customer service experience for consumers should be top of mind for your company. If your current strategy doesn’t seem to have the impact on your customers that you’d like, Kustomer can help.
Optimal customer service is more important than ever, and learning how to customize each and every interaction with customers is imperative to your success. Our on-demand webinar, Importance of Personalizing Your Customer Service, can teach you everything you need to know about achieving a personalized customer service strategy. We take a deep dive into why customers value personalization, challenges that may occur that can keep you from delivering this type of customer service, and real-life case studies that showcase how Kustomer has transformed strategies for clients in the past.
Today, customers know more than ever before. They have access to continual customer reviews via social media, use self-service resources to educate themselves on products and services, and are well-versed in the digital space to find the information they need. With 4.33 billion active internet users across the globe, there’s no doubt that your customers are browsing your website, social media platforms and review sites to get to know your brand.
While we’d all like to think that visits to our websites all hold positive intentions, some customers may come to complain or discuss their negative experience with a product or service you’ve provided. These tricky situations may require having a customer service conversation, one in which your agents can turn what started as a discussion with a dissatisfied customer into a positive situation. With the right skills and resources, you can train your customer service agents to engage in highly effective conversations that leave your brand with a positive reputation.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what defines positive customer service conversations, some of the benefits that come with having an optimal customer service team and how Kustomer can help your agents better support your customers.
What Makes Customer Service Conversations Effective?
In an episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, hosted by Kustomer’s VP of Growth Gabe Larsen, titled “How Customer Service Has Transformed Over the Last 20 Years,” Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum joined Larsen to discuss how the customer experience has drastically evolved thanks to the adoption of online support. Today, many customers are using live chat to connect with brands for support, and will only continue to do so in the future.
When a customer service conversation occurs, agents are expected to support each person in a way that will drive loyalty and retention. On the podcast, Birnbaum shared his thoughts on the topic and how customer service staff can step up their game to ensure an effective conversion:
“I would say make sure you’re supporting your customers in the way that they want to be supported. Right? … The bar is going up and up every single day, right? … When you have a bad experience, you’re taking it to Twitter, you’re telling all your friends about it, right? So over-index on those amazing support experiences and the ways to do that would be through the higher caliber of agents here that are very well trained and then a tool that’s going to enable those agents to be successful. And certainly, our product can help you do that. But I would focus on that. I think that’s one of those amazing support experiences that will drive customer loyalty and retention.”
To have an effective conversation goes beyond setting the bar high, however. Customer service agents should be well equipped with not only the skills and knowledge needed to provide positive interactions — they can also benefit from valuable resources to streamline their response. Overcoming tricky situations may be intimidating and difficult to navigate, but the right response tools can ease the process. Here are a few ways to have a more effective customer service conversation:
Have the right skills.
According to Indeed, some of the top customer service skills include: communication, empathy, patience, active listening and quick thinking. A customer service representative should be equipped with these skills to handle tricky situations as they arise.
Remember: Not all customers are created equal.
In another episode of “Customer Service Secrets,” Peter Fader, professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, joined Larsen to discuss why focusing on the right customer gives companies a major advantage. He said that customer treatment simply isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” and focusing on the customers that can bring more value to the company are the ones that can really help the business grow.
Take in customer feedback.
Allow customers to rate the conversation or provide feedback to help agents improve the customer experience based on past interactions.
Top Five Benefits of Effective Customer Service Conversations
Customer service conversations can go a long way; when customers feel empathy and receive a personal response from the company, both the customer and the business win. Here are some of the many benefits:
1. Positive Brand Reputation
When customers feel more comfortable sharing their questions and concerns with your company, it could impact the outlook they have on your business entirely. An Accenture Strategy Research Report found that 42% of consumers will stop giving a brand business if they’re frustrated with the company. Additionally, 21% of those consumers admit that they’ll never go back after walking away. An effective customer service conversation can solve issues before they turn into lost business.
2. Customer Loyalty and Retention
When customer service conversations go well, consumers are more likely to continue purchasing a brand’s products or services regularly. According to a 2017 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of customers surveyed across the globe consider effective customer service to be one of the most important factors in determining their loyalty to a brand.
3. Repeat Business
Customer loyalty goes a long way; it generally means that repeat business is inevitable. In fact, according to the Accenture report, nearly half of consumers spend more money with companies that they’re loyal to. An effective customer service conversation can help consumers feel more comfortable and confident in your business — enough to come back for more products or services — especially if a problem is solved or a relationship is built during the conversation.
4. Competitive Advantage
Companies within the same industry are constantly searching for strong differentiators, but customer service has become a competitive priority. In fact, a Gartner survey found that 89% of companies compete on the quality of their customer service on its own. An effective customer service conversation, via live chat, social, emails or customer care line, can be what sets your business apart from industry competitors and keeps customers choosing your business over their other options.
5. Friendly and Helpful Customer Service Staff Members
Effective customer service conversations don’t only have an impact on your consumers and the bottom line of your business; they also largely affect your customer service support team. The Microsoft service report found that 30% of customers say that speaking with an agent who is both knowledgeable and friendly are the two most important factors during a customer service interaction. Staff members can feel a sense of satisfaction by having effective customer service conversations, motivating them to be even more helpful and friendly for future interactions.
How Kustomer Can Help You Support Your Customers
Kustomer’s business model is built around helping companies better connect with their customers to meet their expectations. With many people spending more of their free time at home, customers have ample opportunity to reach your team and are expecting their wants and needs to be met with a real-time response. With Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform, you can achieve continuous omnichannel conversations by using artificial intelligence as a supplemental tool to aid agents and deflect low level support.
These unprecedented times have encouraged us to conduct a special report: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, which analyzes how businesses are reacting to the global pandemic. Many of the results are very powerful, for example, 79% of customer service organizations have felt a significant impact of the coronavirus, with about 1% reporting no impact at all.
Throughout the report, you can learn more about meeting customers’ needs during the pandemic and further understand other valuable insights that can get your business through these tough times.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group to discuss customer loyalty, growth preparation, and employee management. John is an entrepreneur and has three businesses. However, most of his time and attention goes to The DiJulius Group, a customer experience consulting firm. He has written several books from Secret Service, The Customer Service Revolution to The Relationship Economy. As a keynote speaker, John is committed to helping people understand customer experience and he strives to improve that aspect within businesses. He shares insights with Gabe Larsen and emphasizes customer service principles to focus on amidst dealing with today’s pandemic. Listen to the full podcast below.
Why a Recession is Good for Businesses
The current COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economy very hard. From large scale operations to brick and mortar businesses, everyone is feeling the impact. The last big recession was in 2008 and no one wants to relive that. However, John DiJulius recently wrote an article about how to prepare for a recession and in his discussion with Gabe, he explains why recessions can be good for businesses. He starts by saying, “One of my favorite, but also least favorite, quotes is ‘nothing ruins a company’s customer experience faster than rapid growth.’ … I can’t tell you how many companies in the past year that have hired us and the reason why is because they’ve gone through incredible growth and they got away from the soul of their startup.” While it is never ideal to be in financial trouble, John suggests that it’s a good time for business to hone in on providing quality customer service.
This can also be a great time for creative thinking and focused efforts on ideas and projects that were brushed aside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We can use this downtime to dive deep into the details of the company. John adds this statement of hope: “I believe that now that we have the opportunity to do this, we’re going to come out of maybe third or fourth quarter 2020 better. And I know that 2021 is going to be a better year as a result of this opportunity than had we not gone through this crisis and never been temporarily shut down or paused.”
Showing Compassion to Your Customers
Strong leadership and management will also be essential for any business to survive the pandemic. By keeping the needs of customers at the center of managerial focus, companies will be able to maintain customer loyalty. John suggests ceasing sales messages and emails; instead, companies should reach out to customers with kindness and concern. While airlines might have a bad reputation when it comes to customer service, John quotes them as being an example of how to care for customers in these challenging times. He states, “the U.S. airlines came out and did it right. I mean they did it weeks ago saying, ‘Hey, if you need to change your flight there will not be a fee.’” Now, more than ever, it is essential that customers know you care. The kind of transparency and compassion the U.S. airlines showed is what customers are looking for. Further, it will be a great way to drive customer loyalty throughout the recession.
Necessary Leadership Skills to Care for Employees
Intense fear of the unknown is looming in communities everywhere. Employees are particularly troubled about their vulnerability and being subject to the actions of their employers. By being transparent and not being afraid to over-communicate, leaders will be able to maintain the loyalty of their employees. Also, being clear about the company plan and the motives behind it will eradicate some of the fear and anxiety employees have been experiencing. Transparency and communication will be some of the most important leadership skills practiced at this time.
Adding to the principle of transparency, John also recommends “making sure that we’re giving our employees resources. Resources to immediately get on unemployment if that’s the case. Resources to immediately know what their health benefits are.” This will continue the chain of communication and let employees know that their employers care about them and their well being in this troubling time. John continues to note that candid CEOs help increase connection and a sense of normalcy. The pandemic and recession are only temporary, but the actions of company leadership will either keep customers and employees loyal, or drive them away.
To learn more about leadership recommendations and how to encourage employee and customer loyalty in a pandemic, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Encouraging Loyalty in Challenging Times with John DiJulius
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about a lot of different things about customer service. It’s a timely topic about managing in times of change, as well as this idea of being recession-proof. How do you focus on the customer to become more ready and prevalent in this ever-changing business environment that we have right now? To do that, we brought on John DiJulius, a man of many talents. Currently the presidents of the DiJulius Group. Excuse me, John, but he’s also a book author. He’s got multiple books out. One of his latest is called “The Relationship Economy.” We’re going to touch on that hopefully just a little bit today, but we’re going to be dancing around multiple topics. John, really appreciate you joining and how are you?
John DiJulius: (00:54)
Thank you. I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:56)
Yeah, I’m excited. Can you tell us just a little bit more about — there’s so many multifaceted topics, can you give us just maybe one more click on who you are and what you do?
John DiJulius: (01:05)
I’m an entrepreneur. The past 30 years I have grown three businesses. My primary is the DiJulius Group where we are only a customer service/employee experience consulting firm. And we just work with some of the best of the best and helping them become the brand customers can’t live without, and ultimately make price irrelevant in normal times.
Gabe Larsen: (01:34)
I love it. I love it. Well I think that’s very fitting for today’s conversation. So, let’s dive in and then we can kind of tie in a couple of different concepts. So big picture, we were just talking about an article and we can start there. You’d call it how to make your business recession proof. I don’t know if you saw it coming, but maybe give a big picture thought on kind of the current environment we’re working and how companies should be thinking about it.
John DiJulius: (01:57)
Yeah, before this Coronavirus crisis, I wrote an article because I knew… well I wasn’t predicting it, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that everything’s cyclical. So I wrote an article saying it’s time to recession proof your business. And I might be the only person that says this, but I say it all the time. I enjoy a recession, okay? And I don’t like any of the financial crippling it does to people and jobs and all that. But as a business owner, there are so many benefits. So, let’s look at the negatives from a booming economy: Even one of my favorite but also least favorite quotes is “nothing ruins a company’s customer experience faster than rapid growth.” And think about that: We’ve gone through it. I can’t tell you how many companies in the past year that have hired us and the reason why is because they’ve gone through incredible growth and they got away from the soul of their startup. And when we started, we were able to interview 10 people to get the right person. Well, now when we’re growing by leaps and bounds, and we need 50, and we’re interviewing 55 and saying, well he’s not the best for us, but of the candidates here, he’s the best, so take him. We start talking about, you know, “What about Joe who’s underperforming and doesn’t get it?“ Well, we’ll work with him.
John DiJulius: (03:39)
Because not only can we not afford to lose Joe, we need 10 more of him. And all those things. You start fast tracking, you start compromising and the growth is intoxicating, and we all want it. But you wake up and you look around and you’re like, who are these people? This wasn’t the company I built. So, what are the opportunities when you go through a recession? This has been especially prevalent the last three years, it’s been an employee market where there’s been more jobs available than employees. And turnover in 2019 was an all-time high and all these things. So now people got to pay $15 an hour for a $12 an hour job, and may not be getting the best candidates.
John DiJulius: (04:30)
So this stuff all becomes cyclical and now it becomes an employer market, where there are more people out there and better opportunities to choose from. You start making decisions that getting rid of things and fat and silly expenses that we shouldn’t have been doing anyway. And so, it forces you to make decisions. And it always cleans out your competition. I always say a recession is like a business enema and there’s a lot of shitty businesses that are having success. So, when the economy is doing good and so the old quote “even a turkey can fly in a tornado… But when that tornado stops flying, the turkeys start dropping.” So, the people that have worked on customer loyalty and employee loyalty really shine and emerge as the leaders of the business. So, sorry, that was a long answer.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
No, I love the setup. I think that’s, I mean the turkey, I’ve never heard this statement with the turkey and the tornado. I’m just going to trust you.
John DiJulius: (05:38)
I’m going to say I made it up.
Gabe Larsen: (05:41)
I love it. So, as you think about some of the things that people can do as these times get difficult, the enema example; it is a time to reflect and cut back the fat, trim the fat maybe refocus in areas. I know we were talking a little bit about that as we jumped on here. How would you coach organizations to start thinking about doing that so that in the next month’s here, they maybe can come out of this a little more on top than they would have?
John DiJulius: (06:11)
Well, the first thing is our leadership, our customer experience, and their employee experience need to all be on center stage. And we have got to be careful with these knee jerk reactions. We businesses probably have to close, hopefully temporarily, and lay off people, or ask people to take one day less, whatever. We don’t know when it’s going to stop and how severe it could be, but man, do we have to do it with empathy and compassion and make sure — and we have to walk a fine line as leaders of transparency and fear. I was talking to a CEO yesterday that had to make some major cuts. And one of his employees that got cut or laid off said, “Yeah, that’s so the company can have a stronger bottom line.”
John DiJulius: (07:07)
That’s not true. So we have got to be transparent and say, look, the reason why we’re doing this is because we want to make sure you have a company to come back to in 90 days and we have to be going into our lines of credit and we have to do these things. So, we need to be transparent in what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it without also causing panic. But I think great leaders right now need to show that they were born for this moment. I love moments like this because I think this is when I operate best. I don’t want to always be in this moment, but I think this is when, while everyone else was running around with their head cut off, I act like this is, I knew we were going to be here.
John DiJulius: (07:53)
I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but I knew this was, and we’re prepared for it and we’re going to get through it. And you couldn’t be working with, or for a better brand to help you and us get through this. And so, knee jerk reactions, like with events being canceled and all these things, whether it be a speaker’s or conferences or venues or hotels that first try to enforce their contracts. That’s crazy. And then they’re getting into pissing matches, saying, “Hey, this is not considered forced majeure.” Listen, this is going to die down. People are going to have to have their events again in six months and into 2021 and they’re going to remember how you treated them and no court in the world is going to enforce a penalty or anything like that.
John DiJulius: (08:51)
So I think it’s really a burden. And the really embarrassing thing is, I can’t believe I’m saying this and using them as an example, but that the U.S. airlines came out and did it right. I mean they did it weeks ago saying, “Hey, if you need to change your flight there will not be a fee.” I mean they were probably one of the first. They’re usually the butt of everyone’s jokes and it’s pretty sad that they’re the ones that are showing the way right now. Which, give them credit.
Gabe Larsen: (09:22)
Do you feel like… let’s double click on that because I think that’s a question that people have struggled with in challenging times: How do you work with your customer? You were kind of joking saying you probably shouldn’t go after him and that small fine print clause attack them. Given your seed away and given your pants, you have all my stuff for free for the next 12 months. Maybe not, that’s the other extreme. Is it just a partnership? Come on man, be real, is there a middle ground that you’d advocate for? How do people find that middle ground?
John DiJulius: (09:56)
Yeah, I think the first thing is back off on the sales and pitching because I’m even really offended by like “dude, you’re really emailing me right now about upselling me on something while I’m trying to work through this mess and I’m worried about employees and their families and keeping food on their table?” I just think it’s insensitive, I think we need to reach out to our customers and say, “what can we do for you? What’s the best thing you need? Is it a pause? How can we best serve you?” And I think there’s great opportunity to also step up and give back to the community.
John DiJulius: (10:40)
I’ll give you an example of that. A couple of things that we’re doing and obviously you and your customers can figure out how that applies in their world. But the first thing we did was we reached out to our consulting clients and said, “listen, number one, everyone’s going crazy and because of your loyalty I want to offer your leaders a free leadership webinar on what they need to do, and the face they need to be wearing.” Even if that means when they’re not in front of their employees, they have to curl up in the fetal position and cry. We have to show the employees that we’re right where we want to be, and we have our competitors right where we want to be.
John DiJulius: (11:27)
But then the second so I said, that’s complimentary I want to give to you and listen, while it might be generous, what else am I doing right now for the next few weeks? It’s not like it’s — so I want to give back. The second thing is we have offered our clients, if you want to pause right now, we can pause. If you want to, since we can’t come out there, turn it into virtual consulting, we have that capability. It’s totally your call. And then the final thing that we thought of that one of my employees thought of, which was just brilliant, and again, this isn’t about the DiJulius Group, I’m just trying to give your audience ways to do this. So, we have an online education format that companies take and train their employees.
John DiJulius: (12:13)
But with all of these restaurants, with all these small brick and mortars, or mom and pops closing temporarily, hopefully, it’s scary times. We’re offering, we’re rolling out our online modules to all these small mom and pops to say, take advantage of the downtime and give this to your employees. And again, selfishly if you think about it doesn’t cost us anything. Okay, we’re not going to lose revenue because mom and pops don’t hire us. But we are giving back to them and hopefully doing something that’s valuable to them, because they’re in a horrible position right now.
Gabe Larsen: (12:58)
Yeah, I love that. I just find like finding that balance, looking at it more of a partnership. How do we give more than we get I think is something we’ve got to be kind of thinking about to make this more of a structured environment. I think that’s just some of the things we’ve got to kind of nail down.
John DiJulius: (13:15)
And also in my examples, I want to be clear. Again, none of them are going to cost me or my team anything, so it wasn’t like we are saying, “Hey, give it for free and lose revenue.” No, that’s the last thing we can afford. But these are things that are really about us having either downtime or available online modules that really don’t have a higher cost to us, to customers that would never be our customer. So, it’s not like you would have you’re getting a free and now you’re not going to ever use us. The mom and pops that were all small businesses wouldn’t hire us anyway, so we’re not losing future revenue.
Gabe Larsen: (13:54)
I love that. I love that. One other thing you touched on, and I just wanted to see if we could click on that for a second, was that leadership and the employee side of it, right? So, okay, we got a couple of customer things. Let’s go back to the employee. Got a lot of leaders listening in and trying to figure out this “in environment.” How do I coach and care about the individual? How do I also manage my business? The transparency versus —
John DiJulius: (14:16)
Gabe Larsen: (14:20)
Fear costs. How do I make sure I give enough information about the company but not again — I think your word fear and panic are right. DoubleClick that. How are you finding ways? What coaching would you provide organization’s leaders to make sure they manage that employee the right way?
John DiJulius: (14:35)
And I think you can’t over communicate enough right now. I think the CEO needs to be visible and doing videos and sending out to his employees or her employees and every leader, because some people don’t have access to the CEO, but you might be my GM, you might be my shift manager, whatever it may be… And so, you’re the CEO to me. And just constantly, because worse than what is happening is the fear of the unknown. And that is the other shoe going. I’m waiting for you to come in and tell me that we’re out of business or we’re closing, or I’m permanently laid off. And you can’t promise what’s going to happen in six months or 90 days because we hope that it’s not going to last long.
John DiJulius: (15:25)
All you can do is say, “Hey, here’s our plan and here’s why. I want you to understand why we are taking these steps.” And the other thing that is really — is making sure that we’re giving our employees resources. Resources to immediately get on unemployment if that’s the case. Resources to immediately know what their health benefits are. Because I believe health benefits are still enacted versus traditional times when you lay off someone, they could lose their health benefits and they have to go on Cobra or whatever. I believe that that isn’t the case, because that’s what they’re scared of. Also, something that’s been really, really good is teaching our employees how to deal with it personally, and give him education saying, “listen, we all know what we have to do right now to be safe and avoid.”
John DiJulius: (16:17)
And the thing you don’t need to be doing is checking headline news every five seconds and being on social media too much because the numbers can never go down. They can only go up. So, when you hear other people, a hundred people were infected or whatever it is, and then you hear another industry is forced to close, that’s not helping. As long as you’re not being irresponsible and going out and not practicing social distancing. So now, what to do and teaching them “Hey, take advantage of this time.” Like I told you, when we got out, we’re playing the DiJulius family olympics and we’re going through old pictures and I’m showing my kids my home videos, they’re black and white when I was a little kid.
Gabe Larsen: (17:09)
Come on, they’re not black and white?
John DiJulius: (17:09)
They are, they are. Yeah, but it’s funny, my kids are calling me, they’ll say, “Hey Dad, I thought you had to walk to school both ways up-hill and snow without shoes?” “That, Oh, we don’t have footage of that.” But to see the hairstyles and making fun of dad because his hair was feathered back like it was in the late seventies, early eighties. It’s taking advantage — I think whether it’s God, nature or fate, I think this has a way of giving us a wakeup call saying that we’re out of balance here and we need to get back to that human nature.
Gabe Larsen: (17:52)
Is there something that they’re almost, does feel like there’s a little something bigger of like we need to kind of take a step back as people, individuals, families, groups, and kind of figure out what’s most important. And you’ve seen — I’ve heard some amazing stories of people kind of coming to a better relationship or truth or understanding because they have just said, you know what, it’s the first time I’ve taken a deep breath in five years and I’m going to do things different.
John DiJulius: (18:16)
Yeah. I call it the holidays. It is the holidays right now without the chaos, the mess or the third cousin that we really didn’t want to have to entertain. It’s the best part of the holidays where you play games and look at pictures and videos. Another thing that we’re doing is we’re doing DiJulius family trivia game. So everyone has to think of five questions and see who knows the most. And it’s just, it’s kind of cool stuff now, but let’s take that to the business realm. Listen, I could speak for myself. My business, I have three, we started looking at — there’s several things that it’s been shame on us that I have been mad at; throwing erasers at chalk boards that we haven’t gotten to, that we should have three years ago.
John DiJulius: (19:10)
The next evolution, the next, the better service or product, all these. But none of us can because we’re so busy with the day to day fulfilling customers and our jobs. And all of a sudden, we’ve just created the time to do these things to work on the next innovation that we know was critical to our evolution and revenue stream. I believe that now that we have the opportunity to do this, we’re going to come out of maybe third or fourth quarter 2020 better. And I know that 2021 is going to be a better year as a result of this opportunity than had we not gone through this crisis and never been temporarily shut down or paused.
Gabe Larsen: (19:56)
I love it. I love it. I think that’s As you have the time to pause, make sure you use it effectively, because when this thing ends and it’s going to end, come out on top, find a way to make sure 2021 is a big hit. So, John, I love it. I love the talk track. I appreciate it. It’s very relevant. It’s very contextual. John and I were going to be talking about something different today, but we thought, you know what, all that’s been going on the last months, weeks for wherever you are, that this would be more interesting. And I thought you nailed it John. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you, the DiJulius Group, what you guys do, what’s the best way to do that?
John DiJulius: (20:31)
They can go to thedijuliusgroup.com or they can email me email@example.com.
Gabe Larsen: (20:39)
Okay, well really appreciate it, John. Fun talk track, and for the audience – have a fantastic day and do be safe!
John DiJulius: (20:46)
Thank you for having me.
Exit Voice: (20:55)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
The modern customer wants to buy a product, but they don’t want to be treated like a transaction. They’re expecting an experience—and if that experience is a positive one, then a one-time purchase often becomes a lifelong interaction with a company that understands their wants, needs, pain points and history. Unfortunately, most companies are still living in the early-digital Dark Ages, treating their customers like tickets in a queue rather than individuals with real desires and concerns.
According to a recent Kustomer survey, three-quarters of consumers aged 25 to 34, expect personalized communication from retailers, while only 60% aged 65 and older agreed with this notion. This means that personalization is becoming the new norm, especially with the younger generation, and will only continue to grow.
But instead of marshalling their vast stores of data to proactively identify and engage specific customers, many companies are still relying on outdated customer service models that waste their money and customers’ time. This misguided approach frustrates customers—and can hurt a businesses’ bottom line. Poor customer service costs companies $62 billion a year, and lack of personalization prompted 41% of Americans to switch brands in the last year alone.
On the flip side, companies that truly know their customers—everything from their previous purchases, customer service conversations, and preferred channels of communication—often experience double-digit growth, and nearly half of customers spend more when their experiences are tailored to their particular wants and needs.
To retain customers in an increasingly saturated and competitive digital marketplace, companies must learn to quickly and seamlessly address customer needs and concerns as they arise. In other words, they need to use real-time data to give them a 360-degree view of their customers—and then use that data to deliver relevant, personalized, helpful interactions that make the customer feel seen and heard. This approach will transform customers from flashing lights on hold to real people. And when customers are treated like people, they’re more likely to become not only repeat purchasers, but your most loyal cheerleaders.
Unfortunately, many tactics that once served an organization well in engendering a customer-first culture simply fail to keep up with the enormous increase in both customer data, and use of connected devices. Two and a half quintillion bytes of data are created each day at current pace, and Gartner predicts there will be more than six connected devices per person as early as 2020. This device proliferation and increase in data results in an overwhelming number of touchpoints that must be tracked and connected to the customer’s buying journey. It’s a tall order, but the organizations who will win are those who can use all of this data to scale the customer experience quickly, efficiently, and effectively, and all on the customer’s terms. It’s not just enough to collect data: it needs to be the right data that can be acted on in the moment.
Working with the customer where they’re comfortable
The digital age has changed where, when, and how customers interact with a brand. What was once a simple cycle of seeing an ad, making a purchase, and repeating, has shifted into a looping journey with the potential for numerous friction points that can turn a customer away from a brand all too quickly. McKinsey describes this journey through four critical areas: consideration, evaluation, purchase, and post-purchase experience. Instead of assuming a consumer will immediately be faithful to the previous brand purchased, McKinsey states that today’s buyer continues to consider new brands available to them. McKinsey adds the element of the Loyalty Loop, which fast tracks future purchases, but in order for a brand to effectively qualify for this shortcut, they must have fostered lasting loyalty with the customer. And 95% of consumers say customer service is important in their choice of brand loyalty. In other words, helping a customer find the answer they need quickly is a significant indicator of whether or not a brand has continued ownership of that customer’s wallet share.
An additional complication is the increase in possible touchpoint locations: digital searches, email, social media, website, and more. In fact, 31% of millennial customers looking for help reach out to a company via Twitter. It’s important for an organization to connect all relevant touchpoints to a unified customer profile in the event of a customer service interaction, or they run the risk of further fracturing the experience and the relationship.
Brands must be willing to look critically at their existing systems to evaluate if they’re truly prepared to handle the significant amounts of data, devices, touchpoints, and the unified view necessary to provide a seamless customer experience. Tools driven by AI and machine learning are the only way to ensure a business can scale to keep pace.
The expectations for customer agents have never been higher; below are ways that AI magnifies data to bolster a support team so they can create optimal customer experiences.
Automate processes and tasks
KPMG has estimated that the service cost reduction with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is as great as 75%. With the average cost of service centers continuing to rise — voice is $12 per contact, and live chat is $5 per contact — shifting resources to self-service through automation and a knowledge base can result in huge savings. Automation tools can decrease costs to just 10¢ per contact.
It isn’t simply the dollars and cents saved, however, that make automation so impactful to an organization. In one use case, automation can vastly improve worldwide organizations needing to route certain language speakers to agents who can communicate in that language. Additionally, by routing common questions and needs to a self-service portal or base that can both quickly and effectively solve a customer’s problems, agents are freed up to more quickly take on the more complex, nuanced issues that customers face.
While skeptics might be concerned about customers valuing human interaction above all else, according to this report from Statista, 88% of US consumers expect an online self-service portal. In fact, bringing numerous types of customer data touchpoints into one place — and from any resource — creates a more seamless, personalized experience for that customer. This method allows for both speed and a personalized approach to be achieved, and on the customer’s terms.
Augment existing agent support
When a customer dials into a service call center, provides significant information regarding who they are and why they’re calling, and is then directed to an agent for further assistance, the worst possible scenario is that customer then having to repeat all of that information…again. When considering a customer may have also reached out through email and even social media, it becomes even more crucial to use data in the right way. Much like being retargeted by an ad for a product you purchased yesterday, today’s customers are smart and expect organizations to be intelligent with their data. If, after interacting with a chatbot and providing all relevant data, a customer’s issue is escalated to a human agent, the customer expects an agent to already have the necessary context to properly manage the issue. That context should include relevant information like shipping number, previous conversations from both online and offline sources, and previous purchases made, combined into a unified customer profile.
Not only does the full customer data view aid with escalating issues directly, it can even be used to provide recommendations to the agents before even interacting with the customer. Through AI technology, an agent can be given an automated recommendation for how to best handle the customer’s request, eliminating both time and mismanagement; thereby improving the quality, time, and ease of service for both the customer and the agent.
When AI is used to capture data for context, the technology and the human agent become critical partners in providing the right customer experience. It empowers an agent to be a true specialist, who can change the customer’s outcome in a way automation cannot. The marriage between the two is what elevates the customer experience to a level that promotes long-term loyalty.
Proactively boost future outcomes
As a part of the new expectations customers have for service-related interactions, customers expect their preferred brands to be proactive in handling potential issues. For an organization this can be as simple as customer communication that informs of impending weather that will impact a shipment, or as sophisticated as predicting volume needed quarters in advance based on real-time interactions. In order to accomplish this, however, all relevant data must be gathered in a location where it can be acted upon quickly.
One use case could even enable leads and managers to get ahead of issues in-the-moment. For example, as a call is happening, the voices can be translated into text, then analyzed and graded in real time to measure key indicators that identify a call going south. Instead of arbitrarily choosing which calls to QA, or to QA all calls after-the-fact (and risk missing the ones requiring assistance), AI and machine learning can alert a team lead exactly when to jump in and improve the customer interaction as it occurs.
Antiquated technology looks reactively at improvement; the best customer experience requires proactive use of data as the touchpoint interaction occurs, rolling it into the most personalized experience possible.
Connecting all the data to relevant touchpoints and driving a hyper-personalized experience will change how your customers experience you and your product. Tune into our webinar with guest speaker from Forrester where we break down how you can create an elevated customer experience.