If the events of this year taught those of us in the customer experience world anything, it’s that we can never stop innovating to be more customer-centric. We can’t hope that we will “get by” just a little longer with legacy CRMs and support tickets. We must embrace change and adapt quickly to meet today’s consumer expectations for a smart, omnichannel experience powered by a modern CRM—the key to scaling CX, meeting explosive growth, and adapting to change.
Some argue that 2020 has signaled the decline of ticket-based support systems. Why has the pandemic emerged as the straw that finally broke the legacy CRM camel’s back? The data tells the tale. Recent analysis of e-commerce trends shows a staggering 10 years of growth in just 3 months at the beginning of 2020. And that was just the early stages of lockdown. As chaos and uncertainty took hold, CX teams were inundated with customer calls and support tickets as they struggled to keep up with questions, changing plans, requests for assistance, and the demands of going direct-to-consumer.
But that’s only where the challenges begin. 2020 also forced organizations to accelerate digital transformation by 6 years to adapt to the “new normal” of stay at home orders, remote workforces, supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, and the economic slowdown. Along with this digital transformation, many CX leaders are realizing they need to follow the lead of the direct-to-consumer disruptor brands that are differentiating themselves, and thriving, by delivering a modern consumer experience.
The DTC Disruptor’s Secret Weapon: Intelligent CX Focused on the Whole Customer
As the pandemic took hold, most direct-to-consumer innovators were many steps ahead and better prepared to deal with the curveballs 2020 delivered. These businesses started with the right culture, philosophy, and customer-centric CRM platform. They built their business to connect with customers at scale. A great example of this is The Farmer’s Dog, a company dedicated to delivering safe and healthy pet food, who totally nailed the customer-first approach. Their customer service agents connect on an emotional level with their buyers using whatever channel the buyer selects to educate and foster authentic relationships. This takes a level of insight tickets can’t provide.
UNTUCKit is another great example of a customer-centric brand. They ensure their stellar shopping experience is supported across every customer touchpoint, especially support. Team members have a virtually seamless process for seeing customer history, gathering the right data points, and resolving customer inquiries.
What Makes a Modern CRM?
If tickets aren’t the ticket, what is the secret to direct-to-consumer success today?
Visibility to Care for the Whole Customer
Now more than ever, customers feel they’ve lost control and trust. Zappos and Amazon have set the bar high with proactive, rapid, data-driven customer experiences. Modern CRMs can help brands rebuild that trust through data-driven conversations informed by a view of the whole customer. Agents must have complete visibility across systems to understand the consumer and their entire situation. But with a plethora of data, and a growing number of channels to monitor, we need AI to unlock these insights. Efficiency is the name of the game in customer service, and AI is a true force multiplier, enabling customer service teams to work more efficiently and focus on the customers who need the most help. Contact centers using ticket-based systems, while relying on siloed customer data, simply cannot deliver the type of experience customers demand today.
Omnichannel Customer Experience
Omnichannel support means a customer can connect with your business anywhere, anytime, and with any method—or even with multiple methods or channels. If a customer wants to reach out via email and then switch to chat, so be it! It’s the experience a new generation of consumers expect. This requires companies to break down silos and integrate their data for a picture of the whole customer across channels. Consumers must be able to switch channels mid-conversation and leverage the best channel for each conversation’s purpose. Our research shows that nearly 90% of customers are frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. That shouldn’t be a surprise—we all know customers want what they want.
Omnipresent, Guided Self-Service
Just as customers expect more tailored and personal communications, they also demand self-service options for immediate resolution. As our new AI e-book explains, AI is being rapidly adopted in contact centers to act as the first line of defense, amplify performance, and create strong efficiencies. The volume, velocity, and variety of customer data today overwhelm organizations without the technology, processes, and operational capabilities to integrate siloed data and personalize communications. AI is transforming customer experiences, and for good reasons.
Happy Agents, Happy Customers
Research shows companies with excellent CX have employees that are 1.5X more engaged than employees at companies with less satisfactory CX; additionally, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. AI is also vastly improving agent productivity and reducing churn for contact center leaders. AI can have a dramatic impact on the customer experience and satisfaction, which in turn makes the employee experience far more interesting and exciting.
AI makes jobs more meaningful and less frustrating by deflecting much of the grunt work and alleviating manual and repetitive tasks agents hate. Agents don’t need to waste time transferring and redirecting customers. Rather, conversations can be automatically classified and routed to the appropriate agent for a speedy and personalized resolution. Not only will this reduce wait and handle times, but it will also maximize team capacity by directing real-time conversation traffic to the right person at the right time.
Realizing the Intelligent Customer Experience
You need a modern CRM to help you execute your digitally advanced, customer-first approach. Leading contact centers have indicated that integrated platforms and data analytics are important in gathering insights into the customer journey. Enter the Intelligent Customer Experience, a culmination of all of the improvements we just discussed.
Intelligent CX means leveraging a modern customer-centric approach and advanced AI to create a smarter, faster, and more enjoyable customer experience. It’s about delivering results fast using the power of AI and data from all channels, whether that be via a call, chat, email, tweet, or all of the above. Your customer service agents will feel more informed since you’ll be empowering them to provide real value, not just closing a ticket or processing a transaction. AI uses context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help, while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.
We’ve seen dramatic changes since March of this year that have accelerated every aspect of digital transformation. We recently launched Kustomer IQ for omnichannel deflection, sentiment analysis, and intelligent routing. Check out more details here.
Customer Care Delivered in a Remote Environment
The pandemic has certainly upended the notion of the traditional 9-5 office. Companies are racing to adapt to a distributed work model, and technology is the biggest driver in adjusting to operating remotely. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. It enables the delivery of the customer experience from anywhere, through remote work orchestration and oversight. Taming the CX frankenstack is another step toward easing the remote transition. Modern CRMs must allow organizations to streamline integration of platforms, data sources, and channels to make remote work.
Collaboration is key to delivering an exceptional experience, so the modern CRM should provide a platform for customer service representatives to work together, to deliver service and support more efficiently and effectively. Collaboration between agents enhances the quality of answers provided to the customer by leveraging subject matter experts. At Kustomer, we believe the collective knowledge of experts makes your customer service organization stronger overall. In fact, we’ve embraced the use of Collaborators, users from other teams outside of support that can view conversations, customer history, and searches. By setting up Collaborators, other team members or departments can help you solve customer questions with internal notes and @mentions, see customer feedback, and more.
The Demise of the Dreaded Ticket
2020 will be the beginning of the end for legacy CRMs and transactional ticketing systems that were built to manage cases, not customers. Personalized support has been a key tenet of the business-and-buyer relationship from day one. Every customer wants to feel like they are known, respected, appreciated, and well-served. They certainly don’t want to be insulted by an interrogation. Traditional ticketing systems will be left behind, as customers expect more and the world continues to converge quickly.
Intelligent, modern CRMs enable true connections to be made with customers in their greatest times of need, by making it easy for agents to come from a place of understanding and context, consistently. This requires unlocking the value of data shared between different teams (such as marketing and customer service), creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new and modern technology.
Download the AI for CX e-book to learn more, and take a look at how Kustomer can provide the tools you need for exceptional DTC customer service.
“Unprecedented times” feels like such an overplayed phrase at this point, but it’s true. As a Customer Success Manager at Kustomer, I’ve had a front-row seat to how the pandemic has impacted (and still impacts) the businesses that are under my care. Some are struggling, some are booming. As I collaborate with my clients in building out business strategies, examining year-over-year performance trends is a tricky endeavor. It’s a bit like trying to judge the size of a hurricane when you’re sitting in the eye of the storm. 2019 feels like aeons ago at this point, and what does it really tell us if a business’ first response time increased by 30 seconds from 2019 to 2020?
As a personal project, I began studying the performance of our clients from March 2020 to August 2020. Many companies have been focused on this window of time as it relates to their performance in a post-COVID world. While there are several metrics that I could have focused on for this project, I chose to spotlight two: First Resolution Time and Average Handle Time. In my opinion, these metrics are some of the most impactful when it comes to judging your team’s performance.
First, I gathered the Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Resolution Time (FRT) metrics for each of our clients. Then, I defined the industry category of each organization. I used the following overarching categories:
Once I had the data, I first explored it by sorting clients by their industry categories. I built a pivot table and gathered the minimum value, maximum value, mean, and median of those respective categories. Then, I explored the data without pre-emptively sorting them into industries – this is important because I didn’t want my industry sorting from the first exercise to lead me to any false conclusions. For the second exercise, I re-sorted the data into ranges of values for both Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time metrics without grouping by industry. I then took note of how industries aligned or did not align to my first analysis. Finally, I documented the correlations I observed.
As I began analyzing the data, I approached my research with a central hypothesis: Average Handle Times will be higher for clients in our Marketplace and Service industries and lower for clients in our Delivery and Retail industries. Additionally, First Resolution Times will be higher for Marketplace and Service clients and lower for Delivery and Retail clients. At a high-level, I found that my hypotheses were supported.
There is a wide spread of data for Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time across all of our clients. There are organizations that operate at opposite extremes within the same industry, ultimately skewing the data. A quick example: the retail category of clients has a minimum value of 0.82 minutes for Average Handle Time but a maximum value of 46.6 minutes for the same metric. To circumvent this skewing, I used the median values of these metrics as they are better indicators for general benchmarks.
I developed the following recommendations for client benchmarks as they relate to Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time:
Delivery: 4.45 minutes AHT | 10.2 hours FRT
Marketplace: 7.5 minutes AHT | 106.8 hours FRT
Retail: 6.25 minutes AHT | 9.15 hours FRT
Services: 8.7 minutes AHT | 22.2 hours FRT
To supplement my research, I also read about academic studies on benchmarking (and how to successfully apply them to improve team performance). A fascinating read that I uncovered was a study completed by Peter Dickson that examines the competitive advantage businesses gain by implementing customer improvement practices. Benchmarking is considered to be a customer improvement practice, and it was enlightening to learn more about how this particular project could lead to more successful outcomes for our clients. Dickson writes the following: “Both management and evolutionary economics describe a behavioral theory of the firm where an organization’s routines determine its competitiveness. Higher-order search and learning processes improve organization routines that are defined as ‘ways of doing things that show strong elements of continuity.’ According to these theories, the long-term survival, evolution, and growth of organizations in competitive markets depends, in large part, on the superiority of an organization’s routine process improvement practices”.
While I don’t believe that using these benchmarks will make or break the future success of an organization, it is important to consider the implications of encouraging customer service teams to think about improvements. These improvements promote successful businesses, and giving your agents pursuable goals builds accountability and ownership.
Something important to consider: There may be times when an organization willfully ignores benchmarking – particularly if they are implementing a cost-saving strategy. Always consider what’s best for your brand and your team.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Nate Brown to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and how companies need to adapt to them. Nate is the Founder of CX Accelerator, a virtual community that encourages and supports CX professionals in the tough work that they do. Nate is also the Chief Experience Officer at Officium Labs, a company dedicated to decentralizing wealth by investing in high quality CX products and concepts. Gabe and Nate provide valuable insights on change management and how companies can evolve and thrive in the new market.
The Need for a CX Change Coalition
Customer service is still a relatively new department and career path. Customer service professionals are becoming more crucial employees as business leaders find they need someone to take care and understand the skyrocketing expectations of their customers. The organizations that have been able to deliver on customer expectations during this pandemic are the ones surviving and thriving, while others that have failed to build digital transformation may be struggling. Nate mentions that CX professionals are absolutely essential for businesses; to benefit their customers and to help their company financially.
As CX is evolving and growing, Nate mentions that part of that evolution will be in the execution of CX ideas. He mentions the question is, “How do we drive meaningful change inside of complex organizations?” In response to this question he states, “So I feel like the work of CX is becoming more and more the work of a change management and cheerleader.” To go about doing this, one thing Nate suggests is a CX Change Coalition. This idea revolves around the CEO giving CX the time and attention it deserves and, ideally, the CEO will be including other departments in CX conversations to improve “end to end customer experience.” In short, a CX Change Coalition is the process of getting the CEO and the rest of the company engaged in, and conscious of, the customer’s experience.
The Importance of Listening in Every Stage of a Customer’s Journey
Another useful tactic to adapting in a new market is understanding how the customer communicates in various stages of their experience. Depending on the problem or the customer, they could communicate their issues through a variety of channels in a variety of different points of the journey. The customer is always going to give feedback and voice their opinions of their customer experience, whether through company channels or on their own. Nate calls these structured and unstructured channels. To elaborate, Nate states:
You’ve got your structured and unstructured listening paths. Unstructured is where you don’t get to control it. The customers are out there saying what they’re going to say. You want to try and position yourself to learn from that as much as you possibly can. … Wherever you can, you want to create those opportunities for structured feedback. And you want to supplement that with the unstructured feedback that’s already going on in the world. So the ultimate question Gabe, is how can we best listen to our customers where they are?
Companies that learn to listen to their customers whether from feedback through structured or unstructured channels, will be better equipped to adapt to the ever changing market.
Employees and How to Take On the New CX World
As the market and customer changes, companies change. However, if companies are trying to evolve but they leave their employees out of the loop, they are missing the mark. It takes a lot of effort and time to change a company mindset because it is dependent on the employees. Nate suggests that to change employee mindset and to start adapting to this new market, companies must first understand the psychology of their customers and employees. He shares a few guiding questions to help with this process:
How can I motivate my employees to serve customers better and understand what those right motivators are? And then how can I understand the psychology of my customer more? And then from there you can create the strategy and the fundamental best practices and the change management techniques…Why does our customer do business with us, and how can we increase their loyalty and work backwards from there?
With these questions Nate shares that companies will have a good foundational start to improve and adapt their businesses and employees to the new business market.
To learn more about how to adapt your business to the new market, 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:
Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about all things CX and to do that, we brought in Nate Brown. The guy is multitalented. I ran into him at CX Accelerator, which he’ll talk about in just a minute. He’s also the Chief Experience Officer. He’s got content up the wazoo. He’s a man of many talents. So Nate, thanks for joining man. How are you?
Nate Brown: (00:36)
Oh, good Gabe. Well, thank you and happy St. Patrick’s Day to you my friend.
Gabe Larsen: (00:40)
Yeah, I noticed. You’re all green, I love it. Don’t think I’m not ready. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’m ready.
Nate Brown: (00:46)
Man, if I could pinch you, I would because I’m not seeing no green there.
Gabe Larsen: (00:48)
Are you kidding me? This is a deep green.
Nate Brown: (00:52)
Alright, fair enough.
Gabe Larsen: (00:54)
I noticed that. I meant to say that. Well I’m glad to jump in here, but before we do, can you tell us a little bit about some of the — there’s so many things going on, tell us about some of the things you’re doing and why we should care about it.
Nate Brown: (01:07)
Yeah, sure. So CX Accelerator, virtual community, just an incredible space with incredible people, especially right now with everything going on in the world. We’re just there to encourage one another, just build it up, edify those CX professionals that are out here doing tough work.
Gabe Larsen: (01:23)
Nate Brown: (01:23)
The work of the CX professional already was hard. It is getting harder. So we need a space to encourage one another and just to be real with the things that are going on. So that is CX Accelerator. And then recently began working for Officium Labs as their Chief Experience Officer. And that has been just absolutely awesome.
Gabe Larsen: (01:42)
Nate Brown: (01:42)
So getting to do a lot of ambassador work for NCX speaking, writing, blogging different things, and also working as a practitioner inside of some of the best video game studios in the world, which has been so much fun as well.
Gabe Larsen: (01:55)
Wow. Wow. And that’s Officium Labs. Got it.
Nate Brown: (01:59)
You’re right. Yeah. It is “service” in Latin, it’s the word “officium.”
Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
I love it. Yeah, officium, service in Latin. And we’ll hear more about that in just a minute. So, I wanted to talk about the big picture, obviously we’ve got an evolving landscape going on in customer service, wanting to just start there for a minute. How are you seeing things changing through all that’s going on now and really just the general evolution of the CX space?
Nate Brown: (02:29)
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to put a pin on that. I mean, if we look at even like the CXPA, I mean that’s only, shoot, nine years old.
Gabe Larsen: (02:36)
Nate Brown: (02:37)
2011. It’s still very much an emerging art. Anybody that tells you that they know everything about CX is a liar because it’s still being birthed. This function is still being created and we get to be the pioneers that are helping to do that, which is really fun and exciting. It’s amazing how cool this work is and the fact that it’s the unification of doing the right thing for people. We’re serving people really well and taking the friction out of their experiences and making their lives better in that way. But it’s also absolutely the right thing to do for the business financially because we know that those brands that are being authentic and creating compelling customer experiences, those are the brands that people want to do business with that have the customer loyalty factor and are gobbling up that market share. So it’s the combination of these two things of doing the right thing for people doing the right thing for the business. And that’s not going to change, but the way that we do this and in the mentalities around it, the best practices around it, I mean, those things are still being formed. And at least for me Gabe, I mean, recently I’ve just been going back to the fundamentals around change management because the technology has come so far in our ability to get great customer insights and great customer data.
Gabe Larsen: (03:52)
Nate Brown: (03:53)
And that’s where the technology has met us right now. We know our customers, the hearts and minds of our customers, better than we ever have before. And we’re able to centralize and analyze that data in remarkable ways. So now we know what we need to do. The past eight years in this work, I mean, that’s kind of been the challenge and the finish line. How, how do we even know what our customers want from us?
Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
Nate Brown: (04:16)
Now we’re, we’re kinda there. So, wow. Now that work has changed to now, how do we actually execute on this? How do we drive meaningful change inside of complex organizations? So I feel like the work of CX is becoming more and more the work of a change management and cheerleader.
Gabe Larsen: (04:34)
Hmm. How do you relate that to some of the changing tides that we’re currently seeing? I mean, certainly change management is one of those core principles that just won’t go away. Do you see that core principle changing in the way people deliver that kind of exceptional customer experience knowing that certain industries are moving more digital, for example.
Nate Brown: (04:55)
Right. Yeah. It’s almost embarrassing to look and see the statistics around how many digital transformation efforts are failing. It’s somewhere between 80 and 95% of digital transformation efforts are failing. And I really feel like that’s because they’re not unified, they’re not partnering actively with the customer experience initiative inside of the organization.
Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Nate Brown: (05:21)
These two things should be lockstep. I mean, when we think about DTC, digital transformation, it’s enhancing the experience of the employees and the customers over digital channels. That’s what it’s doing. So why would we not be taking the intelligence from a CX function, the abilities and the empathy and just the mentality of a CX function and be applying it to those digital transformation capabilities, because both are going to fail without the other. We need each other. So I think that’s a major change and something that will continue to evolve as the scope of customer experience work evolves into UX, user design, brand experience, digital experience as the CX professional absorbs more and more of this responsibility, I hope and I think that we’ll have more, more power to actually control our destiny and the destiny of our customers.
Gabe Larsen: (06:16)
Yeah. Why do you feel like we’ve struggled to get there so far? We’ve just been waiting for some sort of event to force us to come together, or is it just your typical kind of siloed organization? You do this, you do that. What stopped us from bringing some of those things together and under the umbrella of just kind of an overall experience?
Nate Brown: (06:35)
I think about how long it took for marketing to be viewed as a legitimate function and the role of a CMO to really be valued and respected. And that took a long time and I feel like the CXO, chief experience officers kind of there, or it’s kind of a wait and see of why are you here? Why did we need you again?
Gabe Larsen: (06:55)
You don’t own –You don’t have a specific org right? It’s like you’re this cross functional nobody.
Nate Brown: (07:03)
I mean, so either people really want you there and they are actively recruiting you for assistance and enhancing the experience within their purview, or they’re just kind of looking at you confused. And I have been in organizations and been viewed in both of those ways. And it’s really hard. Both are really hard. I mean the best case scenario, everybody’s looking to you to guide the strategy and to be the primary drum beater on how to improve CX and get everybody excited on the topic of CX. That’s your best case scenario. And what happens more often is that the chief– the experience leader is coming in and everybody gets territorial, or a lot of people get territorial, and they end up not getting to have control or meaningful responsibility across the end to end customer journey. And the work is stymied.
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
That’s so true. That’s so true. What is optimal in that? I mean, you touched on it a little bit, but as you think about, well, even CX and experience that these two leaderships, and then you bring in some other roles, how do you see those working together to ultimately benefit the customer?
Nate Brown: (08:17)
I mean, in my mind it’s a strong CX change coalition that is cross-functional and that you have people that really want it. I mean, they’ve seen the light in terms of when we help our customers to win, we win and you’re not having to sit there and prove the value of the work. You actually get to do the work and that’s the best case scenario. And it’s the CEO, that gets to really set the context for that. “Hey, this is our number one priority. Here’s all the reasons why, if we don’t make our customer experience a legendary, then we won’t be here in 10 years. This is the way that the experience economy is moving. I have isolated this individual in this function, that’s going to help guide us intelligently in our strategy here. And we’re all gonna work with this individual as part of the CX change coalition to improve our end to end customer experience.” That right there is the best case scenario in my opinion.
Gabe Larsen: (09:15)
And I love the CEO buy in, right? I mean that’s always a — you get someone on top who really pushes it all the way down and makes everybody come sit at the same table. That can make a huge difference just in and of itself. So I love that you’ve mentioned let’s make that end to end experience great. Sometimes I feel like people struggle in the tactics of bringing some of these ideas to fruition. You’ll hear words like journey maps, you’ll hear words like, certain drivers of net promoter. You know, are we making it easier? Or our wait time, or maybe it’s different metrics that people have. As you’ve worked with different organizations or you’ve kind of thought through this process, what are some of the things — is there certain principles or best practices you’ve found that if you really want to start to get that end to end experience optimized, change — like you mentioned change management, are there different things that you’re like, “Man, you gotta get this right. Gotta focus here.” And that really puts you on that path to success.
Nate Brown: (10:17)
And there’s — it’s going to have to look different inside of each organization, of course. Highly customized approach based on the needs of the organization and your customer demographic. But, there is a bit of a formula that I feel like is somewhat transcendent. And I’ve captured that in the CX Primer, which I think you’ve looked at.
Gabe Larsen: (10:36)
Hey man, I use it to onboard myself. That’s got some goods in it.
Nate Brown: (10:40)
Yeah. That’s kinda my heart and soul in terms of my approach to CX. It starts with that leadership and strategy, establishing that strong CX Change Coalition, getting people as allies into the work. As Jeanne Bliss would say, “Identifying the power core in the organization, making them a CX ally.” That is required in the beginning, then it’s working with that CX Change Coalition. What is the right customer KPI in each of these different touch points doing your initial journey map as a hypothesis map. And then you build up your voice of customer engine. Stage two, voice of customer engine. Are we positioned to listen to our customers? Yes or no, creating your listening paths, identifying your customer segments, your personas, working through how can we listen to these individuals the best, getting those insights collected and centralized and getting a great CX dashboard created so that before you start making a bunch of changes, you can actually see how those changes are impacting your customer’s lives.
Gabe Larsen: (11:42)
Like the current– really understand that current state as different things are tweaked. You can almost see how well it’s impacting that future for your organization. Talk about this “voices” concept and being able to make sure you can hear at different touch points, the voice or voices of the customer. How are organizations thinking about that portion? I’ve certainly read the journey maps, but the voice thing is interesting. Can you double click on that for a second?
Nate Brown: (12:10)
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I like to start with looking at the different touch points. Here’s this part of the customer experience, what’s going on here, and how would a customer generally articulate their thoughts and perceptions about us in this area? Is it going to be on some website, in a social review? Is it going to be more word of mouth based? Is it something where we can create a structured channel here? Because you’ve got your structured and unstructured listening paths. Unstructured is where you don’t get to control it. The customers are out there saying what they’re going to say. You want to try and position yourself to learn from that as much as you possibly can. Then where you can be smart about it and say, “Wow, we could pop up something here just really quickly in a great UI, something really flashing and clean and compelling where the customer would be very likely to give us some structured feedback that would be very helpful in this area.” Wherever you can, you want to create those opportunities for structured feedback. And you want to supplement that with the unstructured feedback that’s already going on in the world. So the ultimate question Gabe is how can we best listen to our customers where they are?
Gabe Larsen: (13:23)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. I love that. And it is. It’s almost by touchpoint, it sounds like, right? I mean, you’re looking at each individual interaction or on this journey and really trying to dissect what is the voice or how do we listen to that individual touch or what’s maybe a KPI that we can show how well that touchpoint is or is not driving the customer forward. Do you — so many — and I think this comes from the call center, our call center days, but so many age old KPIs, right? When you throw out a word like that, it’s like, Oh yeah, you’ve got a lot of us old school, I’m going to say us, but, I’m not probably in that as much, but she had some old school people, you know, they love some of these old school KPIs and metrics. It feels like when you talk about this modern journey map, and then really looking at these different touch points, are there some creative measurements that you’re seeing people do along that journey to be able to understand the voice and how customers are reacting at different touch points? Or, are most people still kind of using the, again, the age old debate, a hold time and an NPS and things like that as they go through their journey.
Nate Brown: (14:37)
Yeah. It’s a great question. I think that we have seen a good evolution in this area and in some of the things that I’ve been seeing. I’d be happy Gabe to share if you could somehow get this out, a sample of a good journey map that includes each of those touchpoints, some examples of different KPIs that I think are good for those areas. As you get into that marketing area, a great marketing metric is NPS. It’s a referral based metric. How do people generally feel about our product or service period? So, I mean, that’s a good marketing based question, but as you get into the sales cycle and get into the implementation of a product or service, what you’re looking for at that point is the wisdom captured in the effortless experience. You’re looking for, how easy is it to do business with us? That ease of business score becomes more essential there because of that is what is a better depicter of customer loyalty. It’s about customer loyalty. So when you get to support, a traditional customer service environment, you can look at some of those KPIs around customer effort score. You definitely need some operational data in there that’s specific to a contact center or support environment. Generally, average handle time is not going to correlate at all to customer loyalty or to a meaningful metric in most environments. There are cases where that is important and that could be applicable, but more, what we’re looking for in the support area is something like customer satisfaction and customer effort score and what we want to do, kind of the metric that really shows that end to end customer journey, customer lifetime value. We want to correlate all this stuff to be able to see how loyal is our customer, what is the share of wallet that we’re able to obtain from them and how referenceable can we make them to where they’re introducing us to their network and becoming brand ambassadors.
Gabe Larsen: (16:34)
Nate Brown: (16:36)
Those are the things that matter. And there is no metric that captures that as well as something like a customer lifetime value or another Jeanne Bliss-ism, the customer growth engine, where you’re just looking at your organic customer base by volume and value and asking yourself, have we earned the right to grow this? As we look at this quarter over quarter, are we growing our customer base and why? Or is our customer base in a state of decline? And then my goodness, why? Instead of getting caught up in some hypothetical around NPS, or even something as powerful as customer effort score, it’s just a hypothetical.
Gabe Larsen: (17:16)
I love those. Those are some interesting — It’s a lot of, I think, meat there, right? Some different ways to look at your business and different KPIs. I’ll have to go look at the old Jeanne Bliss, see if I can dive into some of those things you’ve mentioned, she’s such a rock star.
Nate Brown: (17:29)
Chief Customer Officer 2.0 is probably the most influential book that I’ve read in this space. It’s just the best.
Gabe Larsen: (17:35)
Is that right?
Nate Brown: (17:35)
Yeah. It’s fantastic.
Gabe Larsen: (17:36)
I have not read that, I’ll put it on my to do. Customer effort score for those of us who don’t know what that is. I mean, certainly we know a lot about the effortless experience and I love the idea of making it easy. How do you — one more click on that? What, what is, what do you mean by an effort score?
Nate Brown: (17:53)
Yeah, the question is how quickly were we able to resolve your issue? How quick and easy was it to resolve your issue? What you’re looking for, there is a resolution based transaction. There was a problem. The problem was hopefully solved. And it’s just asking how quick and easy was it for us to do that for you?
Gabe Larsen: (18:11)
How easy is it to do business with us here?
Nate Brown: (18:13)
No. So that is a different question. So that question is broader. And that’s a question that you can ask in the sales cycle and you can ask in the implementation cycle. The true effort score question, you can only ask in the support environment because there was a problem and there was a problem resolved. That’s where that question comes in.
Gabe Larsen: (18:32)
[inaudible] tied a hundred percent to that.
Nate Brown: (18:34)
Gabe Larsen: (18:35)
Got it. Okay. And then one last one, before I let you go. This is, we’ve talked a lot about on the customer side, obviously, employees feel that, especially as we move more into the service side of the house, maybe we lose a little bit on the digital interaction there. How do employees play a role in this larger CX initiative?
Nate Brown: (18:53)
The frontline employees, Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (18:56)
Nate Brown: (18:57)
Yeah. That’s absolutely the question we should be asking because we can have the best strategy in the world and unless it actually pulls the heartstrings of our employees to the brand —
Gabe Larsen: (19:08)
Unless someone actually lives that brand promise. Right?
Nate Brown: (19:11)
Right. Yeah. I mean, goodness, if we don’t change the mentality or behaviors of our employees, then what have we done? Nothing. We have not accomplished anything. So it really is a psychology based work that we’re doing, and the key here is to make it real and relevant and exciting for our employees. I mean, 90% of the employees that I’ve worked with out of the thousands that I’ve done this work with, want to serve customers well. It’s not about convincing them why they should, they want that. The trick is it’s showing them how. What are the specific behaviors that you could do, that you could change just a little bit in your day that would have a significant impact on this customer journey and be able to show them in some form or another what that customer journey looks like.
Gabe Larsen: (20:08)
Yeah. Yeah. It seems like — I’m glad you threw that out and I think that’s a good way to end. It seems like the whole strategy is there, but if you don’t have these people kind of supporting it, it does get, it just gets lost. So don’t forget that part. Do not forget about the employee. That is important.
Nate Brown: (20:25)
That’s a great CX dashboard you got there and wow. It is not changed anybody’s life.
Gabe Larsen: (20:31)
That’s right. You spent all that time on the dashboard. You didn’t train your employees, you fool. No, I love it. Well, Nate, that’s fun to talk through it, man. As I was saying before, Nate was pretty instrumental as I was looking to jump into this kind of CX/CS space. He’s got some fun tools, some fun content, and you can hear that logical flow as he was taking you through, as you think about a CX transformation, that leadership portion, mapping out the journey, getting those kinds of different touch points. I certainly appreciated it cause my mind works a little more like that. So Nate if someone wants to, well, before I do that, we talked about a lot of things. In summary, how would you kind of summarize this? We talked about the maps, and the employees, and the journey, and the evolution of it. Thinking about the changing landscape of where we are today, what’s kind of that summary statement you’d leave with CX/CS leaders about how to deliver this great experience as we move into potentially a new normal here?
Nate Brown: (21:30)
Yeah. I would say dive into the psychology of the work, get down to the why, take a look at something like a prime to perform and make yourself a bit of a psychologist. How can I motivate my employees to serve customers better and understand what those right motivators are? And then how can I understand the psychology of my customer more? And then from there you can create the strategy and the fundamental best practices and the change management techniques, but get down to the true why, what makes your company unique and different; that start with why, that Simon Sinek. Then your next why is why should we serve customers better? What are the motivators there for our employees? The why’s of our customer. Why does our customer do business with us, and how can we increase their loyalty and work backwards from there?
Gabe Larsen: (22:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I love it. Alright man, if someone wants to get a hold of you or learn a little bit more about some of the fun things you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that?
Nate Brown: (22:27)
Yeah. Hop on over to CXaccelerator.com. Join our virtual community. We want to encourage you. We want to help you. It’s a very safe place, a very encouraging place. So do that. And then if you want to work with me some more, hop on over to Officium Labs, and we’ve got all kinds of opportunities there, some additional content and some ways that we could work together. So, do one or both.
Gabe Larsen: (22:49)
It’s so funny. It’s like you eat, drink, sleep about everything CX. It’s so fun to see. This guy, we were talking pre show, I was like, “This guy can probably talk about this for four hours, but we’ll cut him off in about 30 minutes.” So Nate, appreciate you joining and everybody else, have a fantastic rest of your day.
Exit Voice: (23:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by two members of the Kustomer team, Andrea Paul, Director of Research, and Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and Customer Experience, to discuss how the pandemic is fast-tracking the digital transformations and how it has changed the way customers interact with businesses, forever. Andrea and her team went out and surveyed CX professionals across a variety of industries to understand how COVID-19 is affecting customer service organizations and how they are adapting to these challenging times. Join the full conversation for hard data and an in-depth discussion on how businesses can succeed and the role technology plays to achieve efficient customer service.
Increases in Inquiries and Changes in Media Channels
One of the first data points discussed is the 17% increase of customer service inquiries for all channels. Meaning, more and more people are reaching out to customer service departments for details about their orders. It has brought out a need for a more proactive approach to customer service. The passive approach of the past has been exposed and companies are learning that they have to change or customers will not continue to use their services.
Another interesting statistic they found is that inquiries increased 34% on the phone. To comment on this trend, Vikas states, “When you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? … So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand.” Companies that will take the time to look at their processes, be more proactive, and respond quickly to their customers will come out on top after all of the COVID-19 effects calm down.
The Challenges of a Remote Workforce
Another big change that all companies are experiencing right now is the transition from an office based workforce to a remote workforce. Vikas and Andrea note several problems that have arisen because of this change. The first issue being the fact that reps, agents, and all employees are lacking the tools and technologies they need to succeed at home. Whether it’s the quality of the computers, the software, wifi, distractions, or phone call quality, employees are struggling to give customers the highest quality experience because they don’t have access to their normal tools and technologies. In addition, management and general team accessibility has been a challenge. Vikas comments on how management has changed by stating, “I think that’s the biggest challenge is what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.” Other professionals from the research project agreed with this statement. Andrea shared that 34% of respondents mentioned it is difficult to work remotely and an additional 23% said they lacked the tools to do their jobs remotely. If a remote workforce is the new normal, data shows that changes must be made to combat these challenges.
Why CX is More Important than Ever Before
90% of the research respondents agreed that customer service is more important than ever before. Andrea shares her thoughts on this data point and suggests an important mindset change: “I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company… So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.” It is clear that companies that focus on customer service will retain their current customers and outlast other companies. In a time where businesses and customers are constantly shifting, companies that are consistent in customer service are going to come out on top.
To learn more about the COVID-19 research conducted by Kustomer, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty. Alrighty then. We’re going to kick this off. We got another session to go live today. We’re going to be talking about how the global pandemic is affecting customer service organizations, more research for you today. That’s one of the things we really want to bring into these conversations. Love practical advice, love best practices, but boy, do I love research. And so to do that, we brought on two special guests. One you’re getting more familiar with, but let us just take a second and have each person introduce themselves. Andrea, let’s start with you.
Andrea Paul: (00:49)
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you guys for having me today. My name is Andrea Paul. I am the Director of Research here at Kustomer. I was a journalist in my past life and I’ve sort of been working on content production and research for SaaS companies for about the last 10 years.
Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
I love it. And she’s got some nuggets, some golden nuggets you’re going to bring out here in just a minute for — Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:12)
Vikas Bhambri SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM contact center lifer. I’m looking forward to the chat today, learning something new from Andrea after all these years.
Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
That’s just the way it works out. And then you know myself, I usually make up a new title for myself every week, but we’ll just leave it at VP of Growth here at Kustomer today. And let’s dive in. So Andrea, let’s start high level. You, the team kind of decided, “Hey, we want to get some data about what’s going on.” Why did that kind of happen? What was the project about? Give us kind of the big picture here before we dive into some of the findings.
Andrea Paul: (01:54)
Yeah. For sure. So I feel like so many companies have been creating tons of content over the last few months ever since the global pandemic happened. Whether that’s general tips for brands or sort of their gut instinct of where businesses are struggling. Right? So, you hear those buzz words of “In these challenging times” or “We’re all in this together.”
Gabe Larsen: (02:17)
That’s my favorite, the “In challenging times.” I love that.
Andrea Paul: (02:20)
Exactly. And I think Kustomer, we were a bit more well positioned with our finger on the pulse because we’re having these ongoing conversations and dialogues with our customers and customer service professionals in this space. But in the end, every company is an isolated incident, right? They’re sort of broad generalizations that we’re making. So we really decided that we needed to come to the table with some like cold, hard facts and data to inform how the global pandemic was really impacting customer service organizations and what they really needed to succeed right now. So, we went out and we ran a survey between April 1st and April 10th. I believe we had around 168 respondents. They were all customer service professionals based in the U.S., employed full-time across a variety of industries. So that was sort of how we approached this.
Gabe Larsen: (03:12)
Love it. Love it. Okay. So, well, let’s dive in and then we’ll get some commentary from myself and Vikas. So big surprises as you got the data back, analyzed it with the team; anything jumped out to start that was a little more, “Hmm, that’s odd?”
Andrea Paul: (03:27)
Yeah. I mean, I think the one thing that was interesting, obviously we had responses across a variety of industries, but we’ve seen differing responses in terms of volume of inquiries and it does shift from industry to industry. So I know that we last week talked about a different research study that actually saw a decrease in inquiries. We saw a 17% increase overall across industries. There was, I think about a 34% increase on phones specifically. So there are these, like a lot of companies are seeing these bursts in activity right now, and there’s just a need for being more efficient and being able to handle this increase.
Gabe Larsen: (04:12)
Okay. So let’s unpack that a little bit. So generally speaking though, companies in this piece were saying, it is a 34% overall increase in–
Andrea Paul: (04:25)
34% on phones. Yeah. So 17, overall 34, on phone, I think it was like 28 via email. We saw that financial services and healthcare, I believe, when we looked at it by industry, were seeing the highest increases. Which makes sense obviously. We all know that, but —
Gabe Larsen: (04:41)
I think because this is where you were going, right? It’s like, you’ve got to be careful with that stat because it’s so industry specific, right?
Vikas Bhambri: (04:49)
It is. But I think what Andrea’s research is showing, I think a couple of things that I took away from that was, one; when you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? Because I mean phone is the most real time, no offense to chat and some of the other channels, SMS, et cetera, but they’re asynchronous. When customers reach for the phone what that tells me is “I don’t want to wait anymore. I don’t want the back and forth. I want to speak to somebody and I want to speak to somebody now.” So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand. And then if you look at just the overall 17%, that applies to what we’re seeing in our one-on-one conversations, which is a big discussion point around this surge. That’s actually what people are calling it, the surge. And it’s the number of conversations that people are having per order. I’ve heard as many as four to five times x the normal volume, because people are like, “You know what, I just don’t want to hit something on your website and say order, I now want to know constantly, where is it? When’s it getting here? Why is it late, right? Why is one item missing?” And so I think that anxiety is also kind of compounding the expectation.
Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Yeah. I went on the phone because I do think that adds, you’re right. There’s just something more about, we’re all feeling the urgency and so it’s one thing to say, requests are going up, but that the phone requests are kind of seeing one of the bigger spikes, just shows you that we’re nervous. We’re feeling the need to kind of do something more and so it’s coming out of the phone cause it’s like, “I need an answer and I want it now.” What were you going to say Andrea? Sorry I didn’t mean to —
Andrea Paul: (06:46)
Yeah. I was just going to say, excuse me, 80% of the customer service professionals that we surveyed also said that they had a greater need for proactive outreach. And I think it goes to just that. Right? So all of these customers for each order, they’re reaching out because they want to know are there delays in shipping? What are you doing to keep me safe? Are there fulfillment issues happening right now? There’s so many more questions that consumers are asking so customer service organizations are having to sort of scramble and figure out, “How do I get ahead of this so I’m not seeing this huge surge in inquiries, and try to get all the questions answered before they come in.”
Gabe Larsen: (07:29)
Surprising? Vikas, when you see something like that? I mean, we’ve talked about proactive activity being important for some time but it sounds like, again, COVID, it’s doing this in a lot of ways, but kind of putting the pedal to the metal on that one as well.
Vikas Bhambri: (07:42)
Well, I think what people are discovering, kind of during the stress test, is their current investments are severely lacking and they didn’t realize it because look, when your volumes are low, when expectations are low, you can muddy through it, right? I can go to your website, look for my order, hit that FedEx tracking link that takes me to a page that doesn’t give me any further update. And I send you an email and you respond and we go — but now you’ve got 10 X, I heard one CEO mentioned that they actually are seeing a 10000% increase. So 10 X took — then 10,000, obviously. But the volumes increased, but also the heightened anxiety. So now I go to your website and I get that tracking. It takes me to a FedEx page and FedEx doesn’t give me data. Guess what, email is not going to cut it. I’m picking up the phone and I’m calling you to say, “Where’s my order because I’m waiting for diapers for my baby,” right? And you know, “Food for my kids, medicine,” whatever it might be. And I think that’s what — people are figuring out like, “Wow, are our investments simply–” And unfortunately this is getting — Andrea, I don’t know if there’s anything came up on your research here, but what I’m hearing is this is now hitting the executive level where CEOs are now becoming aware that their investment, that their team told them they were perfectly fine are no longer, ready, willing, and able for the current state.
Andrea Paul: (09:15)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there was a data point in the research survey that did talk about the need to invest in new technology. So there was one data point around adopting more efficient, more automation to become efficient. I think that it was 59% of respondents that said they needed to adopt more automation for efficiency. And then an additional 59% of respondents said that they just realized now that they needed to invest in new technology, because whether that was challenges with efficiency or working remote or whatever it was, they realized there are so many problems that we didn’t have to address previously that now are staring us straight in the face and we can’t ignore anymore.
Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah. Is that because — Andrea, do you think that’s — I mean, I assume that’s obviously you got a lot of reason coming from COVID on that, but people not knowing that they need more automation just sounds like an odd statement to make. But, do you feel that that’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon? Or do we just expect that to go more and more and more?
Andrea Paul: (10:29)
Yeah. I mean, I think efficiency is always sort of the name of the game in any business that’s trying to make money. It’s just that right now, the circumstances are so different. I think that there were 63% of our respondents that they needed to cut costs due to COVID and an additional, I think it was 46% or so said that they had to reduce staff. So that efficiency is just so much more transparent. But I think —
Gabe Larsen: (11:01)
I like that pairing, hold on because that’s interesting. Right? It’s like, that’s where the pedal meets the metal. We’re in a situation now where a lot of us have had to cut some unfortunate individuals due to circumstances. And so we are required to do more with less. Say those numbers one more time. What percent had said they —
Andrea Paul: (11:22)
It was 63% reporting they needed to cut costs and then 46% reported that they needed to reduce staff. So yeah, that’s huge numbers and obviously we’re seeing that across the board, no matter the industry. There are certain industries like financial services that are more busy than ever. But the fact is, we’re seeing this increase of inquiries across industries while also a lack of resources, while also costs and staff being away for them. So right now it’s like, “Wow, we didn’t realize we were being inefficient, but we have to do everything in our power in order to figure out how to solve this for now and into the future.” We don’t know —
Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
In that case I think the inquiries are going up as we heard. Right? So now I do have this interesting situation where the staff is down, the technology costs or investment is going down and obviously I’m getting more inquiries. I have to potentially do more, again, do more with less because how do you think companies then manage around this? That is the environment. “I have less employees, I’m asked to do more.” Is automation the answer?
Vikas Bhambri: (12:28)
You know, automation is definitely one answer, right? I mean I think it’s the key one, but I think before you even get to the automation, I think you have to figure out the process, like where are the gaps? Where are you getting hit the hardest? It goes back to my example before around if people are coming to you for Wismo, “Where’s my order?” Now go tackle that, head on right? And then go after the next thing. And then the next one, I think, where people just kind of — where they struggle is where it becomes too daunting. Right? Oh my goodness. I’m just getting bombarded. I don’t know where to start. So you almost need to take it piece by piece and prioritize your volumes and say, “Look right now, we’re seeing an uptick in Wismo” as it’s referred to, right? “And let’s go tackle that. And then the next one.” But here’s the interesting thing is this is a unique opportunity for a lot of companies in two ways that I’m seeing is one; look, Amazon and some of the other big retailers really struggled early on. Right? And so created a window of opportunity for some of the other entrance in the market to take market share. Now you knew Amazon was going to figure it out sooner or later and get back online and they have.
Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It feels like it’s figuring it out. Right? [inaudible]
Vikas Bhambri: (13:45)
So the question is in that six week period, were you able to win the hearts and minds of those customers? Right. And a lot of brands struggled with everything from supply chain to delivery to customer service. So they may have missed out on that opportunity. The other thing in other industries where people are finding is look, we just saw the unemployment rate here in the U.S., people will have more time and they will start looking at their balance sheet and they will start looking at, “Wait a minute, why am I paying this fee to my financial services firm? Why am I paying this to my mobile bill?” Things that they just take for granted because when you’re employed and you’re working and you’re super busy, you don’t look at these line items. Now you’ll see a big chunk of the populace will start looking at this and start reaching out to their financial services company or their telco or whoever and saying, “Hey, you got to do something for me.” So you’re going to see a surge in those industries as people start looking at their bottom line.
Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m doing it. I don’t know about everybody else, but my bill the other day, I was like, where can I cut? Right? I mean, we’ve got to get smart here. Andrea, this channel thing keeps coming back into my mind. I’m just very interested. The phone thing. I love that point. Any other tidbits on things you’re seeing with different channels that are happening? Channels going up, channels going down, anything else you could share there?
Andrea Paul: (15:10)
Yeah, I mean, across the board, I think the only industry that we saw any decreases in on specific channels was retail. And it was also different for individual retailers, which makes a lot of sense. I mean, across the board, people are, as you said, cutting down on expenses. So if it isn’t an essential item that they need they might not be buying and thus might not be sending inquiries to customer service teams. Um, but overall across all industries, there was an increase for all channels. Phone happened to be the most followed by email and then reaching out on the web, which makes it seem, people are in front of their computer all day. So that will —
Gabe Larsen: (15:54)
[inaudible] On that last piece that just that other, some of those other channels, because phone and email have been the dominant channels for so long in this part of the world. Do you think with some of the changes, and maybe you saw that in the data with some spikes, but do you think social now, if it saw a little bit of a spike, is it going to remain higher because you know, people are there and they want to use some of these different channels and all of a sudden phones becomes a little less dominant as we move into the future?
Andrea Paul: (16:21)
I mean, I think it really speaks to the urgency factor that Vikas was talking about. Social, in terms of all of the channels, was the lowest in terms of a spike. I think it was single digits. And when people are on the go, when they’re running from place to place and from office to home, they’re on their cell phones, they’re going on Twitter and inquiring with companies. I think that’s not necessarily how people are functioning right now. They have more time and they also need an urgent answer to their inquiries. So they’re choosing other channels to get that done. I think the social thing is more about convenience when people are moving from place to place.
Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
I wonder and Vikas, you might have a thought on this. It’s just with us all kind of moving remote and obviously the urgency we’re seeing in some of the channels, but we’ve wondered if some of these other things like SMS, social, Facebook would start to gain more market share in communication channels and customer support. Is this the moment that we’ll continue to see that? They’ve now taken more market share from phone or email? Do you think they’ll kind of continue to drop back down and phone and email will continue to dominate as we move into the next three, six, twelve months?
Vikas Bhambri: (17:33)
Yeah I think the industry has been on like a slow transition to these other channels. And right now the consumer doesn’t have the appetite to be trained. You actually do have to train the consumer to move to these other channels. It doesn’t happen overnight right? When about five, six years ago, working on projects, moving people from voice to chat as an example, that’s a big change in management, right? How you even present options on your website, right? Hiding the 1-800 number, doing things like that. So, you know, I think that the adoption in those areas has been relatively slow and I don’t think now’s the time, right? When the consumer doesn’t have any patience to say, Oh, by the way, SMS us if you need help, if that wasn’t part of your core engagement before, now’s not the time to try and try those things.
Gabe Larsen: (18:26)
Interesting. Andrea, and I’m sorry, my mind is full of questions that I’m hoping she has the answer for all these, but [inaudible] remote work. I mean, that’s obviously been a challenge for a lot of us. We’ve talked about it in previous sessions, Vikas and I. We’ve lacked some data. I mean, we believe a lot of people are doing it, but, and we believe it’s frustrating. Any light you could kind of shed on just that, what’s going on with the remote workforce type stuff?
Andrea Paul: (18:49)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I touched on it before that companies now are having to sort of face these challenges that they didn’t realize were challenges before. Almost every company that we surveyed did say that the vast majority of their employees were fully remote now, which makes sense where a lot of states are still in this lockdown, but 34% of the respondents did say that they were reporting difficulty working remotely. And 23% of them said that they didn’t have the tools in place to actually do it, which is huge. It’s like I’m being forced to work remotely, but I physically cannot do it given my current tech stack. So that was kind of shocking to me.
Gabe Larsen: (19:32)
Was there in the stat, or maybe Vikas you’ve heard about this, it seems like, the percentage of people who are now working remotely, I mean, it’s got to be extremely high from look, we’re almost all a hundred percent and then to combat that, it sounds like people are struggling to try to work within that environment. Tools and technology you highlighted. What else do you guys think is holding people back from being effective in this work from a home environment that we’re all facing? Vikas maybe let’s start with you and then Andrea will pop back.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:04)
I think one of the biggest challenges is management. The contact center in particular, hasn’t really evolved in how people manage, right? Because we’re just — it’s still an industry or segment that’s still very much co-located. Right? A lot of times when you talk to even companies that are distributed, they’ll tell you, “Oh, but our support team is based in X.” Right? So that I think creates a challenge because so much of it was just walking the floor, right? Going and sitting with an agent, observing them, that kind of even the one-on-one’s and how you engage the team, how you look at what they’re doing, how you mentor them is very different than I think other industries or other departments within companies. So I think that’s the biggest challenge … what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.
Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
Yeah. I personally have felt that problem. So I’m glad others have too. Andrea, what would you add?
Andrea Paul: (21:08)
Yeah, I mean, I think in addition to that, a lot of support teams have to bring in additional individuals on other teams, right? So whether that’s processing a return or they have a question for a different department, they can’t, walk over and tap someone on the shoulder. So being able to, in an efficient way, incorporate a lot of different individuals across an organization and make sure that customer’s problems can be resolved very quickly; that’s been a huge, huge issue.
Vikas Bhambri: (21:38)
I mean, we’ve all been on the call and in fact, I was on one yesterday with a brand and it was like, can I put you on hold while I speak to my manager? Guess what? That manager’s not physically there and I’m sure they would have a week ago or actually a month ago they would have turned around and said, “Hey, I’ve got a quick question for you.” Now they’re trying to track that person down. This agent put me on and off hold four times before I finally said “I’m done.” And then it was like, yeah, let me take your details and I’ll see if I can get a hold of my manager and call you back. And of course I never heard back. So guess what, lost opportunity for them because I won’t be doing business once this thing ends, but I think that’s a great example of yeah; how do you even get a hold of your manager?
Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
That’s so frustrating. I mean, the tools and technology, I think it comes down to that. Andrea, I’ve kind of dictated some of the questions I was interested in some of the things I’ve been wondering about; any other interesting bits or things that kind of popped out before we wrap?
Andrea Paul: (22:38)
Yeah. I mean, I think that one headline stat, which I think we’re all aware of as you know, in the customer service world, but, 90% of professionals reported that they think that customer service is more important than ever right now. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company. A lot of people are very isolated right now their talking to a CS professional, could literally be the only social interaction they have for an entire day. So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.
Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Yeah. Yeah. So you kind of, because I was going to follow up with that. I mean, everyone believes it, but what is it about customer experience that is the most important? Is it that point of feeling valued? I literally just got off a call with a gentleman, he’s my new favorite customer care leader, Douglas from ESPN. If you’re watching Douglas, a little bit of a shout out. Amazing some of the things they’ve done over at ESPN. Obviously all live sports, right? Turn that off. He’s really allowed his agents, you’ve got agents doing 15, 20 minute calls of people just wanting to talk about sports and he’s like, “You wouldn’t believe the CSAT man. They’re going through the roof because people are calling in and they’re like, do you remember that time when Michael Jordan shoved Bryon Russell in game six of the 97 finals?” I was just watching the last dance and [inaudible], but they’re missing. So anyways, he’s like, “Man, we’ve been really pushing that. That’s usually not something we love to do.” So that’s one aspect. Are there other things as part of the customer experience, Vikas, that you say “That’s why it’s so important right now. It’s X or it’s Y?”
Vikas Bhambri: (24:46)
Yeah. I mean, I think you saw, I think Zappos actually did something like that where if you just need somebody to talk to you can call the Zappos contact center and you know Zappos is known to deliver happiness to the world, but you know, literally saying our agents are just here to talk to you, even if you’re not buying anything from us. I think that just, that’s what my thing is. Those of us that are in this space have always known that CX is at the forefront. They are the voice of your brand. I mean, no offense to marketers, right? But they’re the front line. They have the physical engagement with the customer, right? Whether it be a conversation over the phone or chat or any other medium. The thing for most brands now is look, we’re seeing it unfortunately every day. There are brands, there are historic brands, the J Crews of the world and Neiman Marcus’ that are filing for bankruptcy, etcetera. How do you not only survive, but flourish? And the customer is extremely loyal, believe it or not. As much as we talk about the — when we look at it generationally, we look at it by income, we look at — what’s been proven out in the last 20 years is customers are loyal. But, they’re loyal to the brands that deliver that amazing experience. So how do you separate from the pack, leverage this opportunity to go further and then win customers for life. I think that’s the big thing if you’re a CEO of a brand that you should be sitting around and talking to your team about, which is; yes, this is a traumatic time for a lot of folks, but this is a — we can position ourselves in a way to be unique, deliver amazing service experience, and then of course, when this thing comes to an end, and it will, how do we continue to work with these people?
Gabe Larsen: (26:41)
How do we come out on top, right? Andrea, what’s kind of your — you’ve read the data, you did the research. What do you do next? If I’m a customer service leader I’ve gone through this piece, I understand some of the problems and challenges, what’s the takeaway, or how would you coach customer service leaders to act or behave differently, knowing some of the data points you’ve shared with us?
Andrea Paul: (27:02)
Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is, as I have said many times, this is just exposing a lot of gaps in what customer service teams, what tools they have, what strategies they have. And I think it’s different from industry to industry, from business to business. So the big takeaway for me is like, understanding where are you falling short? Where are those gaps? What are the challenges you’re facing and then how to solve those, whether that’s your approach to interacting with customers, whether that’s having new tools in your tech stack in order to work remotely more efficiently or successfully. But really taking a look at your organization, understanding where those challenges are and how you can better prepare yourself for the future and for right now.
Gabe Larsen: (27:49)
Yeah. It certainly is an opportunity to get your operations in order. There’s no doubt about that. Vikas let’s end with you. Hearing some of those data points, what would be your recommendation as companies and customer success service leaders move forward?
Vikas Bhambri: (28:03)
Sure. And Andrea, just really enlightening research even for us that are in the thick of it. Definitely learning some new things. Look, for support leaders, I would say, key thing, this is still — you’re in the thick of it and it is a human-to-human game, as much as we talk about automation and technology. And as you’re working with not only the customer side, but then the agent side to make sure that everybody is happy, healthy, and engaged to do what they need to do, whether it’s buy more goods or actually service the customer. So, my thing for all support leaders out there is use the community effectively. Tools like support driven, right? We had a huge summit that’s fully recorded and available with just a lot of trick tools from amazing thought leaders around the globe that we’re making available to folks on our website. And then lastly, look, Gabe, Andrea and I are here, right? And we have our experiences and our network of both customers and industry veterans. So feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn, if there’s anything we can do to help you as you’re brainstorming and thinking about how do you not only navigate the here and now, but what’s the plan going forward? We’re more than happy to help with that conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (29:26)
Love it, love it. Alrighty. Well, Andrea, thanks for joining. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining. Fun talk track. The research is available. We’ll make links to it here in the comments. Make sure you download that and certainly best of luck and stay safe.
Andrea Paul: (29:42)
Exit Voice: (29:47)
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A lot has changed in the past six months, including the way that we all work. As a rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College, majoring in business, I’m finishing my second summer as an intern in the sales operations department. As I reflect on the internship experience here at Kustomer, I’ve expanded my knowledge and stretched my skill set, while also learning to work in this new, remote normal. Here are some insights I picked up along the way.
Diving Into the Sales Operations World
My first summer at Kustomer was a great learning experience. I was finishing up my sophomore year of college, had just switched my major from biochemistry, and was looking for a way to learn more about working in a business environment. Working in sales operations, my job centered around Salesforce administration at first, but has since evolved to include more interdepartmental and substantive work. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on projects alongside marketing operations, customer experience, sales enablement, and sales leadership. The projects have covered a wide range of areas, including tracking pipeline, researching CPQ software, and reassigning sales territory, among others. My time at Kustomer has given me the chance to gain insights and experience in several areas of the business.
Interning in a Remote Environment
When I was asked to return for a second summer, I was thrilled to rejoin the Kustomer team. This time, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, my second summer at Kustomer looks very different from the first. On the plus side, not having to commute from New Jersey means I get to sleep much later, and I certainly don’t miss the crowds at both Newark and New York Penn Station. I do, however, really miss the one-on-one interaction I had with my team at Kustomer last summer. While working from home and not seeing my coworkers at the office has been different, Kustomer has made it a smooth transition with the help of Slack and Zoom meetings, and I’ve been able to continue to get my work done and to keep in touch with my team and the company as a whole. Other than not being able to go to the office and meet in-person, my internship experience has been similar to last summer. I’m able to work on the same kinds of projects, build upon the same skills, and continue to make similar contributions, while learning new skills and about how the business works holistically.
Being a Part of the Kustomer Community
I very much value the opportunity I have been provided to get so involved in the day-to-day operations of the company as an intern. I don’t think that I would have gotten so involved if I had been interning somewhere else. I have been given the opportunity to truly see what working in sales operations full-time is like, and am much more involved in major projects and tasks than I expected to be going into an internship. This involvement is a huge source of motivation for me.
Most importantly, however, has been the interactions I have had with my colleagues at Kustomer. I’ve been made to feel like part of the team, which was another major reason I wanted to return for this summer. I have learned so much from the colleagues I worked alongside, and admire the vision of the company and its leadership. I felt welcomed from the start. On my first day, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer’s CEO, invited me and the other three new hires who were starting that day to breakfast. I see this as one of the best examples of the Kustomer environment and the values of the leadership team. Before I had officially started my first day at 9:00 AM, I had not only met the CEO of the company, but had been given the opportunity to talk to him and hear about Kustomer from his perspective. The company as a whole shares this sense of community and welcoming that far exceeded my expectations, even in a remote environment. I’m excited to finish out my second summer at Kustomer in a few weeks, and I am so glad I was able to gather valuable experience and meet so many interesting and special people. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me personally, as well as for Kustomer!
As COVID-19 cases began to spike in February and March of 2020, the economy slowed. Many companies were faced with the difficult decision to layoff or furlough a percentage of their workforce to stay afloat. As we move into the summer months, there have been modest gains in economic activity and employment growth. Reuters reports that approximately 25% of private-sector jobs have since been recovered out of those lost in March and April. Still, recovery has been slow as many contemplate future waves of the virus.
Considering the uneven terrain of our current economy, workforce management has become even more critical to maintaining profitability. It also promotes the health of your customer service team. If you’re running a skeleton crew and looking for ways to justify an increase in headcount for your team, read on.
How Kustomer Data Can Help
There are a handful of important metrics within the Kustomer platform that can help you understand whether your team is over- or under-staffed: inbound messages, average handle time, and agent capacity. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll focus primarily on a single channel: chat.
Here is the major question to consider: what does the data tell us about staffing needs and restrictions? Additionally, how many agents do we need to staff so that all chat customers are served immediately?
Let’s say that you’re an up-and-coming retailer in the Atlanta area. You currently have a 10-person team that handles all of the incoming chat conversations on your website. Each of these agents is trained to handle five chat conversations at a time. Collectively, their average handle time is five minutes.
Every agent works an eight-hour shift. They take multiple breaks throughout the day that add up to approximately one hour; they work for approximately seven hours per day. Thus, every agent is capable of performing approximately 420 minutes per shift (seven hours is equal to 420 minutes). Sixty minutes divided by an average handle time of five minutes means that each agent could theoretically complete 12 conversations per hour (if not multitasking). If we multiply that number by agent capacity (five, in this case), we can speculate that an agent can handle 60 conversations per hour.
If an agent can resolve 60 conversations per hour, and each of those conversations has a collective average handle time of five minutes, then an agent is capable of performing 300 minutes of work in an hour (in the eyes of our reporting). Finally, when thinking through the amount of work an agent can handle in a shift, that number is 2,100 minutes of chat work (300 minutes multiplied by seven hours).
As the lead of this team, you begin by pulling the average inbound messages per hour within the Conversations tab of your Standard Reports. Break up the data by day of the week. You notice that Mondays, on average, see a typical volume of 6,000 inbound chat messages. Again, if we multiply the total number of messages by our average handle time (five), this represents 30,000 minutes of chat work that needs to be completed on each Monday. If we divide those 30,000 minutes of chat work by the 2,100 minutes that an agent is capable of completing each shift, we can guess that we need approximately 14 agents working on Mondays to serve all of the chat customers as they arrive.
You can replicate this process across all days of the week, or certain seasonal spikes, and even apply this method to other channels. With further calculation, you could provide an hourly view of necessary coverage for inbound chats as well.
One final disclaimer: the important thing to remember here is that we are using past performance to forecast the future. Thus, it will not always be a perfect predictor of future staffing needs. It’s important to regularly monitor the ebb and flow of inbound messages to ensure that your team is adequately staffed.
Here we are in 2020, a decade full of opportunities and challenges no one could have conceived only a few short months ago. Our families need us, our friends need us, our countries need us, and hidden amongst these needs is an implicit truth more important now than ever: our customers need us. Imagine the cashier wearing a contagious smile, or the support e-mail which asks how you and your family are doing? These moments of kindness, compassion and empathy are in this day and age a brand’s greatest asset.
We can implicitly understand the importance of caring for your customers, but for several years now, the data has been showing much the same:
A customer is four times more likely to move to a competitor when facing a service related issue rather than a price or product related issue.
From a purely financial perspective, it will cost six to seven times more to bring in a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.
Treating your customers with compassion and good old fashioned kindness are now must-haves, not should-haves. And the uncharted waters of 2020 have emphasized this fact even more. The global pandemic has forced nearly all communications between customers and businesses into a digital interface. That means you can’t go into a store with a problem anymore — the only means of getting your problem solved is through phone, email, chat or social media. Therefore, the main cues a customer service representative uses to understand a person’s emotions (body language, tone, etc.) have been stripped down significantly.
Organizations must take this opportunity to invest in the heartbeat of their brand’s resilience, and taking care of your customers is where you must start:
You are running a pet grooming business, and supply your staff with hedge trimmers and power hoses, how happy do you think the pets and their owners will be? The exact same logic is fundamental in how you support your front line support agents. Ensure they have a full-spectrum, omnichannel view of customer history, enabling them to treat people like valued humans, not tickets. When an agent can see historical conversations, provide support over multiple channels, and see the customer profile and not a ticket, they are equipped to provide compassionate, human-centered support.
Lead by example. Before expecting your employees to provide world class, compassionate customer service and support, you must prepare them and care for them at “home”. Think about things like compassion training, support coaching, platform training, and any other form of investing in your customers’ caretakers.
3. Tone & Language
With human interactions, one can utilize body language, notice visual queues and react in ways simply not possible in the digital realm. For all online or voice support, tone and language is crucial to achieve positive, efficient and
compassionate customer service. When it comes to supporting your agents, who take on challenging and pressure-filled conversations regularly, brands can leverage an internal knowledge base (IKB) , multi-language tools and short or “canned” responses. The IKB offers answers, support, and advice on dealing with any number of customer service scenarios, offering an agent their own repository of self-help in a predetermined language and tone. Multi-language tools such as snippets, in conjunction with shortcuts in Kustomer, offer agents contextual, error-free, multilingual canned responses which are simple to use and provide perfect tone and language, enabling agents to support customers worry-free.
4. Customer (Human) First
Remember that each customer is not a ticket, but a person with needs. How is their day? How are they feeling? Start and end each interaction with a compassionate human touch, and your customers are sure to notice the difference. Just like a smiling cashier, or happy delivery man, these small details can make a world of a difference.
5. Understand Emotions
What is the general sentiment of your customers? The way in which you interact with a customer drastically shifts if, before starting on the conversation, you already know how they are feeling (natural, positive, very angry, etc). With Kustomer’s sentiment analysis, understanding sentiment takes zero human effort and allows for segmentation or prioritization of negative sentiment. “I understand that you’re not so happy right now, I’m here to make things better.” Proactive and compassionate messages like this can make a world of difference.
6. Reporting & Analytics
Once you’ve built up a repository of customer interactions, analyzing and understanding themes and patterns becomes essential for resiliency and customer success. What are your top five contact reasons and how can you create proactive solutions to these key customer challenges? Through these insights, could you begin to develop deflection strategies?
7. Artificial Intelligence
You understand why your customers are writing in, you’ve built better operational/product efficiencies to resolve some inbounds, but will always get questions such as “where is my order?” (WISMO), cancelation/refund requests, etc. With the advent of Kustomer IQ, you can now deflect such repetitive questions and enable your customer to walk through quick and easy self-service. This allows them to receive the fastest resolution and decreases overall inbound demand on your customer service teams.
8. Routing & Assignment
With the remaining inbound conversations, it is important that the customer’s query gets to the right agent as efficiently as possible. It is incredibly inefficient to have humans manually delegate support requests when a queues and routing system can do this quickly and efficiently. This allows managers to focus on other priorities, and strengthen the team’s overall experience. Intent Identification allows you to proactively tag or assign contact reasons to conversations and use this prediction to route the conversation directly to the required team. When done well, this will allow your team to resolve all issues within their scope and mandate, not wasting time rerouting or escalating conversations meant for other teams or departments.
We hope it is quite evident that empathy, compassion and a truly human customer experience will add priceless qualitative and quantitative value to brands and customer experience across any vertical. In this day and age, humans want to be treated like humans, not support tickets. When these practices are combined with a technologically sound support system, organizations will see decreased inbound requests, increased brand advocacy, and provide an enjoyable experience for both customers and customer experience specialists.
The economic impact COVID-19 has made on small and local businesses is staggering. Unemployment is at a record high and many businesses have already declared plans to end operations for good.
This chaotic time definitely paints a bleak picture, but it also serves as an opportunity to get involved and help. Some of us are fortunate enough to have extra time and energy to provide assistance for these businesses in their time of need. But what exactly does that look like? How can we rally not only ourselves but our personal communities to help the businesses we depend on at this time of crisis? Below are a few ways you can give some extra support.
1. Pay now, service later
Buying a gift card from a local mom and pop shop or paying for a future haircut you know you will need can be a boost to some of your favorite service spots. It gives encouragement to the business, showing them that you’re a loyal customer, and gives them quick revenue. If you are unable to pay for services now, schedule an appointment for the future. This serves as a nice reminder that this situation is temporary and gives you something to look forward to.
2. Small businesses are adapting… adapt with them!
It’s important to be aware of how your favorite spots are maintaining relationships with their customers so you can still take advantage of their services and support them. Soon after social distancing began, a local brewery near me started selling vegetables, herbs, and flowers from their garden. They advertised heavily on their social media platforms and enabled customers to pre-order plants as well as packaged beer for curbside pickup. If you feel uncomfortable picking up items from a location, check and see what delivery options exist. Many brick and mortar shops have expanded their shipment operations so you can still support them without having to leave your home.
3. Be an advocate for the places you love
A great way to support local business is to spread the word about them. Think of some of your favorite local spots and start following them on social media. If a business posts about services they are providing, share it with your network. At a time when people are ordering takeout more than usual, it helps to have options to choose from. Not everyone knows about that amazing hole in the wall ramen place you love. So tell them!
We all know how important it is to make customers feel special, but now it’s time to make businesses feel valued too! The pandemic won’t last forever, but the effects will likely linger. Let’s all do our part to give some much needed support.
Before COVID-19, I often thought about things I would do with my daughters if I had more time, like camping in the backyard or reading an extra story at bedtime. But when I did have the time during one of NYC’s many school breaks, my first thought was, “I wonder what time we’re going to take them to Wito and Wita’s (their grandparents) house.” Then COVID-19 happened, and everything changed. Instead of manifesting some of those ideas into reality, I spent my time worrying about my job security (I am an office experience manager after all!).
My husband and I were so consumed with fear, anger and sadness that we didn’t see our six and two year old daughters’ lives were turned upside-down, too. So, we panicked and backfilled those 10 hours with brain-rotting, eyesight-destroying digital babysitters named, “TV” and “Tablet.” The four of us had spent more time at work or school, daycare and aftercare than at home with each other. Two months later, my husband and I are both grateful and decided to switch our mindset away from worry. Both of us are still employed and it’s more important to maintain our sanity and that of our children, than anything else.
Is it possible to homeschool a first-grader whose number one fan is her two year old sister? Of course it is! Anything is possible, right? Instead of sharing tips that don’t help your family at all, here are a couple of our biggest struggles and reflections as a note of encouragement to anyone who may also still be struggling, partnered or alone, parent or not.
Many, many thanks to the senior management team at Kustomer for allowing me to have these stories to tell, and if you, Maya and Suna, read this, please forgive Mommy for embarrassing you. 😂
We Call It Mess, But They Call It Art
Two year old Maya was proud and excited to show me her permanent drawing on the wall of our rented apartment. I called her “bad for drawing on the walls because [she] should have known better.” It wasn’t until the tears started falling that I realized that I was the one who should have known better. Where was I when she got the marker? Why didn’t I look when I smelled the fresh Sharpie ink from the marker she was so diligently using to draw and fill in a 6-inch circle?
Longer story short, I was M-A-D but I remembered that she was exercising her creativity. Who cares how many Magic Erasers I had to use to clean it? Maya had to practice somewhere and she decided to improvise, which is also a life skill! Now we have markable surfaces for her in every room with pieces of recycled cardboard or brown paper bags, and we spend time practicing other shapes, with washable markers.
It’s Okay to Get (and Be) Frustrated
After almost 32 years of life, it never dawned on me how challenging it could be to look at the time and know it’s 12. I don’t mean the concept of noon or midnight, but simply 12 o’clock. Suna, six years old, nailed the analog clock in our first lesson. She knows it’s wherever-the-hour-hand-is o’clock when the minute hand is on 12. But after two math workshops and watching the same YouTube video about digital clocks three times, I felt my body go numb when she looked at the time in her math book and excitedly said, “Twelve hundred.” Be patient, be kind, and lend a helping hand to your kids (or other creatures in your home) whenever you can find the time.
I think we can all agree it’s been an interesting — and hectic — couple of months. Juggling work and the kids has felt like an extreme sport, right? The lesson here is: don’t stress! Your children will learn new things, even if it’s not exactly on the school worksheet. They’ll drive you crazy sometimes, and that’s ok too! Just try to keep up with the basics, create a flexible routine, read a lot and spend time playing with them (better if it’s outside!). We are all doing the best that we can in these uncertain times. You are making it work, and that’s all that matters.
Remote work can be challenging and hard on us as individuals. Many of us are learning how to manage our home lives and work lives in a time of uncertainty. And while we’re adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of working from home, many of us are also adjusting to working in environments where we are isolated from each other. Together, all of this can take a hit on our mental health. And while often ignored, as you are managing other aspects of your life, it’s important that you prioritize your wellbeing and practice self-care in order to stay happy and productive.
Here are some ideas to help boost your mental health during this time:
Create a Routine
While there are many factors beyond your control right now, it’s important that you keep and establish structure where you can. This includes building a new schedule; including setting your wake up time, core work hours, scheduling breaks and carving out ‘you’ time. Building out your day in a thoughtful way may take time, but test out what feels right for you and your needs. And while it’s important to outline your goals and tasks for the day, it’s also important to schedule breaks and fun activities. Time away from your screen will give your body and mind a well-deserved break. These routine’s are essential in maintaining boundaries between work life and home life, as well as keeping us productive, on track and feeling good.
Stay Active and Incorporate Wellness Into Your Day
Maintaining an active lifestyle may seem tough during these times, but now is the time to incorporate wellness and activity into your routine. If you used to go to the gym before commuting to work, try building out time for an online fitness class prior to turning your computer on in the morning. If you feel comfortable going outside, going for a walk is another great way to incorporate exercise, break up your day and get some fresh air. This is also a good time to try something new as many apps and websites offer free trials and subscriptions to get you started. Yoga and meditation are two practices that promote balance and can allow you to mentally clear your head. No matter what you choose to do to stay active, regular exercise and wellness activities are a great way to boost your mood and keep you grounded when in isolation.
Many of us can no longer rely on regular run-ins by the coffee machine or lunch dates to stay connected to each other. It’s important that while in isolation and working remotely that we maintain healthy relationships with our coworkers, family members and friends. Take time to think about how you can stay in touch with each other and find ways to virtually check-in. Whether that be a phone call, zoom date, virtual coffee or happy hour, staying in touch is vital to combat loneliness. Being able to lean on others and support one another goes a long way during this time.
Recognize Your Needs
We are all different, with different situations, needs and responsibilities. What works for one person may be much different than what works for another. Now is the time where you may need to sit down and assess, what is working and what is not working for me? Do you need to define ‘heads down’ work time? Are you finding you need to make adjustments to your work space in order to be more productive? Do you need to adjust your schedule due to family needs? Making these adjustments to create an environment that supports your needs will positively impact your mental health, stability and productivity.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
During this time, many of us may feel the added pressure to prove we’re being the best employee, family member and friend that we can be. Add in a global pandemic and this can result in added stress and times when we feel overwhelmed. And while some days will be harder than others, it’s important that we recognize these emotions and remember that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Listen to your body and mind and take physical and mental breaks when you need to in order to make tomorrow a better day.
Try a New Hobby
It’s no surprise that week after week our lives can feel like we’re continuously spinning on a hamster wheel. If you feel like you’re in a rut but find yourself with free time that you did not have before, think about picking up a new hobby. Have you been wanting to learn how to cook a new dish? Are there home improvement projects that you’ve always wanted to complete? Have you always wanted to try brewing your own kombucha? Use the time you normally spent commuting to and from the office to pick up a new hobby or skill. There’s no time like the present!
We are all trying to get used to a “new normal”, and it’s sometimes easier said than done. Try to practice patience and compassion with both yourself and those around you, and prioritize your wellbeing when possible. For more remote work best practices, check out our infographic here.