How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited to discuss different tactics to make CX teams successful during challenging times. Learn how each leader has trained their teams to provide exceptional customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Navigating CX

Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, discusses how teams are adapting to the new temporary normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are coming to CX agents in states of heightened anxiety and stress and in turn, the CX agents are overwhelmed in their workload. For teams to cope in the pandemic landscape, Vikas has helped them to understand the importance of human-to-human interaction. He notes, “So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.” He goes on to encourage teams to ask what they can do for the customer beyond just quickly responding to conversations. Strategies such as creative problem solving can effectively guide the customer to the best result. Ultimately, showing the customer genuine empathy through human-to-human interactions is what cultivates lasting customer loyalty and happier customers.

Focusing on What Can Be Controlled

Rob Young, Director of Customer Support at Bamboo HR, highlights the need for attainable and realistic customer service standards for CX teams. He says, “Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company,” in reference to what CX teams can do to stay motivated during these challenging times. To help CX teams accomplish the best possible outcomes, he adds that proactive communication between the team member and the customer is the key to success. Methods such as asking specific questions will garner specific answers, effectively leading to a desired end result. He further discusses how when CX agents focus on what they can control in their day-to-day business responsibilities, it sets the precedent for more positive and impactful customer service interactions.

Three Methods to Drive CX Success

Jamie Whited, expert consultant in Client Service and Experience, emphasizes three crucial things each CX team needs to successfully deliver the best customer service. The first is optimism. We are living in an ever changing world with this pandemic and Jamie believes that CX teams should embrace this new normal with optimism. As optimism is often infectious, it has the possibility to spread and cause an overall positive effect on the outcomes of CX interactions. The second point is innovation. Something that applies to all companies is the possibility to innovate and adapt when opportunities arise. To further expand on this second point, she says, “There’s a client I work with that’s … doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company.” This is an especially useful tactic when companies are seeking to promote internal growth and reinvest in their existing employees. Additionally, the third point is to move quickly. With each new innovation, companies have to move quickly to ensure company growth and continued success. Jamie believes these three tactics are extremely useful and applicable to all companies.

To learn more about how CX leaders are winning during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How Customer Service Teams Are Winning in Challenging Times | Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast we’re on LinkedIn live. I’m excited. These guys know I’m excited. With so much digital going on. This is an audience we wanted to make sure we tapped into. In today’s a very specifically relevant topic. As we talk about how customer service leaders are winning in these challenging times. Now, I always have something to say, but I felt like it would be best to mix that up a little bit and have some other thought leaders, practitioners in the space, bring their knowledge to the forefront as well. And so real quick, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri who’s the SVP of sales and CX here at Kustomer. We’ve got Rob Young who’s a Director of Customer Support at a great company called BambooHR. And then we got Jamie Whited who is currently an expert consultant in client service and client experience. So guys, thanks so much for joining. Why don’t we take just 30 seconds and have you guys introduce yourself. Jamie, can we start with you?

Jamie Whited: (01:22)
Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. It’s a pleasure to virtually be together with you today. My name is Jamie Whited and I’m a client service leader and client experience consultant. I have over 15 years of experience building and leading teams in customer service, client success, client experience, and business process improvement. I’m incredibly passionate about people, problem-solving data and creating an unforgettable customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. All right, Rob, over to you.

Rob Young: (01:49)
Yeah. Thanks, a pleasure to be here. I love seeing faces even if it is virtually. Appreciate the invite. Rob Young, I lead our customer support teams at Bamboo HR. I’ve been leading customer support or customer success teams for a little over 15 years. Won’t tell you how much over, but we’ll just go with a little over for now.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I love it. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:14)
Yeah, pleasure to meet everyone. Over 20 years of being in the contact center world, everything from implementing solutions to training agents, and now here at Kustomer over the last three years where I’m responsible for sales and customer experience. And for us customer experience means a combination of professional services, customer success, and of course our support team as well.

Gabe Larsen: (02:39)
Yeah, yeah, multithreaded there. So and last but not least you have myself. I have zero years of experience. No, obviously, I’ve got a little bit of experience, but in a slightly different environment, I run the growth program here over at Kustomer, which mostly consists of our marketing and our business development reps. So excited to get going. Let’s start big picture. You guys, world changed obviously, just in the last two, three, four weeks, depending on where you were and why you were potentially operating in different places. Rob, let’s start with you. Big picture, how did it change from four weeks ago to now with all that’s going on with the virus, the economy, et cetera?

Rob Young: (03:21)
Yeah. So, aside from the large geographic chain, right, our entire workforce is now at home and we’re socially distant from one another. So that is a massive change and that norm, that switched very quickly for us. And so on top of that, we have individual personal lives have also been turned upside down, which is a lot of what we’re dealing with with both our customers and our team members, right? So we’ve gotta be conscious of, we have children or spouses and significant others, or in some cases, roommates that are all trying to get their work and their school done in the same household. So that’s been a big change. It’s been hard to get our heads around just from a work environment, but also from a social, kind of emotional environment as well.

Gabe Larsen: (04:14)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, Jamie, you’re talking to a lot of companies out here in your role. What are you seeing? What would you add to that?

Jamie Whited: (04:21)
Yeah, I would add to that some of the companies that I work with were not big fans of remote working, so they were not prepared for that. Other companies who love remote working, so they were fully prepared for that. Unfortunately, some of the companies I’m working with, they’ve had to have their call centers shut down. They’re international and they are not prepared. So their frontline service was down for a while. Their disaster recovery plans did not include that. Leading industries have toppled overnight and we’re seeing that impact on some of the companies that I work with. At the end of the day, as Rob mentioned, kids are also forced to stay home and have to learn how to go to school remotely. As a parent of four, in middle school and high school, it’s definitely been an interesting adaptation there in addition to working with my quoty-finger ‘colleagues’.

Gabe Larsen: (05:11)
Oh my goodness. You have four. I thought I had the most out of this group, but Rob don’t you have a couple of kids? You have a couple of kids too.

Rob Young: (05:17)
Yeah. High school, middle school, elementary, just the whole gamut there.

Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Oh man, this is the bad group. I think all of us are feeling that pain as we move into homeschool. Vikas, let’s go. Let’s kind of end with your thoughts. Anything you’d add, even from your own experience or some of the customers that you’re dealing with?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us is we were able to make the move to work from home pretty seamlessly from a tech perspective. But that’s just, that’s a fraction of the overall change management, right? The big thing is how people are adjusting to their new work environment, because there is that there are certain benefits to being co-located and being able to grab a peer and talk about something, a problem that a customer may be having that you’re trying to resolve, and so on. And then the very natural, as Jamie was saying, some of us that are parents are adjusting to that, but even for other folks, they’re dealing with everything from, “I’m now spending more time with a roommate than I ever really expected to spend,” right, “we basically share an apartment.” And maybe people dealing with their significant other more time than they actually ever planned on spending with them and having to deal with that. So there’s a lot of that element, especially from a leadership perspective, that we’re trying to deal with. So the tech was easy. We always have to remember, and I always remind people in the support world, it’s a human, we used to call it bums in seats. It’s the human beings that really are the core of it. And so really dealing with that side of it is what we’re focused on.

Gabe Larsen: (07:00)
Yeah. I love that. So let’s talk through that. I mean, I love kind of the level setting of: you got work from home challenges, you’ve got obviously infrastructure challenges, you’ve got parenting challenges. As we move forward, obviously the world has changed. I want to hear some of the strategies you’ve now tried to implement or coach people on to see if you can’t get a little better, make it a little bit better for your employees and your customers. Jamie, maybe let’s start with you. Where do you go from here with all these challenges?

Jamie Whited: (07:31)
Yeah, so I would probably say my top three that I’m looking at are first and foremost optimism. We have to remember, this is not going to last forever, but we have to accept the current new norm and be able to embrace it with optimism. A lot of people struggle with that. So, if we can lead with that and help influence others to feel that same way, I think it’ll just be a trickle down effect in a really positive way. I would say secondly, is innovation. We got to have innovative solutioning for all the problems that we face as customer service leaders. Yes, tech is probably the easiest, infrastructure a little bit harder sometimes depending on how your site is set up. But it’s everything from, if somebody had a problem, they would turn around and look at their colleague. Now they’ve got to wait for a response on Slack or they have to text them. They have to call them. So their response levels are going down. So how do we approach that? We just have to get innovative with what we do and how we do it. It’s an opportunity for us to adapt quickly trying new fun methods that maybe nobody wanted to try before. And even, how do we complete our day-to-day responsibilities in a new way? And then I’d say lastly, we have to move fast and we have to pivot quick because some of these new methodologies are not going to work. The sooner we recognize them, we pivot very quickly and try something else so that our companies and our employees and ourselves continue to grow and have the company day-to-day business continue.

Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, that’s actually trying this and this LinkedIn live, right? I mean, that’s one of the things we were wanting to try fast and see if it worked and goes out. And how do you interact differently with your customers? Can you get a quick answer and then if it works great, if not, maybe you throw it in the garbage and try something new. Vikas, what would you kind of add to that? From strategies to see if you can operate more successfully in this new normal?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:13)
Yeah, well look, I think at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s anytime you’re talking about customer service, you’re talking about the two sides of the equation and in the middle of it, as Jamie said, it’s that empathy and the empathy needs to be extended both to your team, the agents or the ninjas, or the gurus, whatever you call them and then your customers, right? Because both sides, don’t forget, there’s that element as well. Your customers also are in a heightened sense of stress and frustration, right? And it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether you’re in the software business, like we’re at at Kustomer or you’re in food delivery or you’re in pharma delivery or whatever it is, right? So I think that’s the key thing is there’s two sides of that equation and once again from a leadership perspective is having empathy with both sides and the education, so the education for me to make sure my team is aware. Look, customers are also dealing with this new temporary norm, and they’re going to be a heightened level of frustration. So you may get somebody who’s normally very easy going and easy to work with might be a bit more challenging. And on the same time, I actually had to coach a customer to tell them, “Look, I know you had a rough interaction with one of my folks, but they’re also in a heightened level of stress.” So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all going to have to be a little bit more patient if some of these things go on, but that’s what I think we’re starting to see that Jamie mentioned that some of these industries that are struggling with more cues, more hits, people are getting more frustrated because they want to change their flights. They want to do stuff and obviously that makes a little bit difficult. Rob, it sounded like from your guys’ standpoint, you guys had some teams that were being bombarded, like getting more requests, and then you had some teams, which I think is an interesting problem, that were actually slowing down. Like they’re not getting the service requests. How have you, is that true? And if so, how have you handled that?

Rob Young: (11:28)
Yeah. It is true, which has been a really interesting thing to try and sort out. So we’ve had to, first of all, the communication is just key, right? We’ve had to step up communication with customers and of course with our reps and then helping them be okay with change, like moving workloads around. We’ve had to shuffle some workloads to try and help teams that are just buried with requests and then teams that those requests are just trickling in. So that’s tactically, we’ve had to do that for sure, but also at a higher level helping our reps be okay with change and we’re pulling together, we’re all on the same team. We provide software and support for HR professionals and I don’t like the abbreviation of HR because you forget the human side, right? It’s Human Resources. So we’ve got to step up the human side as we continue in this new norm, for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (12:31)
And do you feel like, this is actually a question from the audience, this is kind of a cool feature in here, we got a question just about how your customers are reacting. Are you finding that your customers are being more empathetic or are people, I mean, Vikas you were kind of alluding to this a little bit, but are your customers more anxious? They’re more impatient? Rob, maybe let’s start with you and then we’ll go around.

Rob Young: (12:53)
Yeah. So, normally we ask, “How are you doing today?” That doesn’t cut it either with our team or with our customers anymore. So we’re instructing leadership and our frontline reps to ask specific questions. “How are you managing your workforce now? How is your life at home with your spouse or your significant other, your children going?” So asking very specific questions, “How are you doing?” It’s odd. We’re all doing okay. That doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Trying to get very specific answers in areas that we can then focus on and help. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Oh, I love that. Vikas. Your side of it. Anything, first of all, do you feel like customers in general are being more empatheti? And if they’re not, how are you managing that contextual language? Kind of like Rob said, are you trying to open it up and have people be a little more friendly? How do you navigate around that?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:49)
Yeah, I think customers themselves, we’ll look at the end of the day where we’re all human beings, I think they’re even, agents are saying, or my team is saying that, they’re asking, how am I doing? Which normally, if I’ve got an issue with software, I’m not going to necessarily have those niceties, right? And so even the person who’s coming in with the inquiry’s like, “How are you doing?” And I think on the flip side, the team is making sure that they’re understanding what the current environment is that somebody is dealing from. So you’ve got this particular issue, how are you operating? So I think asking a bit more than just jumping right into the thick of the problem that the individual’s having.

Gabe Larsen: (14:40)
Yeah. And Jamie let’s finish with you with this one. I mean, and maybe it’s just a recommendation. It feels like contextual messaging is super important. Whether your customers are being more empathetic or maybe they are being less, any advice you’d give out to people about how you should be approaching that conversation as they come in?

Jamie Whited: (15:00)
Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what Rob and Vikas also said earlier, is that we can only control how we react. I have one company that works a hundred percent with the cruise lines who was heavily impacted. So there are people who’ve lost their jobs or people who are now off the ship. They’re not having any income coming in. So a little problem is turning into a bigger problem and they’re coming unfortunately, very angry and just losing patience. So, we told the teams, you can only control your reactions. If somebody is coming at you like that in a very frustrated manner, then you turn around and you just give them the biggest virtual hug and empathy that you can potentially give them, retell them you understand where they’re coming from, and you are so sorry for their loss, and that we’re going to do everything we can to make this right for you. And that seems to obviously calm people down in pretty much any industry. There are other companies where people are being a lot more empathetic and compassionate. So we’re seeing a little bit of both, depending on the company and the industry.

Gabe Larsen: (16:01)
I love that. So one question that has come up and it’s actually posted here by one of the team members, Rob, you were just touching on it, but for those who are experiencing actually lower volume in service requests, because things are slowed down for them because now the economy has been hitting, creative ideas to keep people busy? I mean, obviously we don’t want to go to the furlough conversation or things like that and so company’s like, “How do I still make these people effective?” Vikas well, let’s start with you Vikas. Quick feedback on how you think you can get other people who are slow moving?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:34)
Yeah, that’s the inverse problem, right? Is you don’t have enough work and the first thing that anybody’s going to think of if they’re sitting in at home is at what point does a company say they no longer need me because there’s no volume, right? If you’re in that situation. So to me, once again, we have to think, go support holistically and part of support is about things like your knowledge base, right? And things like that. So now if there is latency or there’s bandwidth within the team, how can we optimize ourselves? Because at the end of the day, I think Jamie mentioned this and I think it’s very important for everybody to be cognizant of this, this is not the new norm. This is the new temporary norm, right? And so when we go back to quote/unquote business as usual, we will have those inquiries. So how do we optimize for that eventuality? So can we use people from the team to create new knowledge base articles, new FAQ’s, new training guides, new, obviously I’m talking about it from a software business, but it applies to a lot of other industries as well, right? How tos, things like that. So I think there’s plenty to do when we think about the support realm holistically and what the can be doing beyond just responding to conversations coming in from the customers.

Gabe Larsen: (17:55)
Yeah. Rob, anything you found or any quick tips or tactics you’ve applied?

Rob Young: (17:59)
Yeah, probably two things there. One is proactive communication, right? We are using some of our staff as almost CSMs to reach out. The CSMs are being inundated and so we have a switch that kind of proactive outreach to our customers raising our support reps to manage a lot of that workload.

Gabe Larsen: (18:23)
I think that’s important. This proactive, I think whether that needs to be happening, even if people aren’t experiencing downtime. All right. One more thing. I kind of want to leave the audience with, because definitely there’s an employee part of this and you guys have touched on it just a little bit, but maybe you could just give one tip for the, it seems like across the board, right? A lot of these reps are, in some cases nervous, some cases they’re overloaded, some cases they’re slowed down. Generally speaking, they’re at home and they’re feeling sometimes a little more nervous or apprehensive. What have you been able to do to try to drive a little bit more security, belief in the vision of your company, keep them on the boat, because again, they’re important for the overall vision and mission of the company. So let’s go through, maybe we can kind of end with this. Jamie, do you want to start?

Jamie Whited: (19:12)
Yeah, I would probably say, there’s a client I work with that’s retail and it’s not necessary to what’s going on right now. They’re doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company. They’re also doing education, so they’re showing them that they are data lean six Sigma. So they’re just reinvesting in their employees.

Gabe Larsen: (19:36)
Yeah. I love that. Finding a way in this, while it’s slowed down, let’s actually find a way to reinvest. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:43)
Yeah. Boy, if I see one more picture of a Zoom, a happy hour and those are great, don’t –

Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
– one of those, so watch it, dude.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:55)
Yeah. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Look, those are all great. But I think what I’m hearing from the team really is helpful. If you normally do weekly one-on-ones, doing daily one-on-ones, daily stand-ups, making sure, especially from a leadership perspective, sometimes we can, especially I’m guilty of it, Slack is not my friend at all times, especially when I’m super busy, but being more aware –

Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
– He is really slow on Slack.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
Right. Just being super aware of Slack, right? And being hyperresponsive. So I think those are some of the things that I think any team member would appreciate.

Gabe Larsen: (20:36)
It’s almost an over-communicate, whatever you were doing, almost double it. Rob, we’ll end with you here.

Rob Young: (20:42)
Yeah. Specifically, I love what’s been said about focusing on what we can control, right? If we focus on what we can control, one of our core values at Bamboo HR is make it count. Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company and leave the rest outside.

Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
I love this. Great. Alrighty. Well, thanks Rob for joining. Jamie, thanks for joining. Vikas, thanks for joining. Such an important talk track, as we all try to figure this out. So I thought it’d be fun to bring you together. People who are really working in it, doing it, living it, breathing it to give some tips and tactical advice. So I hope the audience enjoyed it and have a fantastic day.

Rob Young: (21:23)
Thank you. Take care.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:31)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by two CX leaders, Michael Miller and Vikas Bhambri, to discuss managing customer expectations during a global pandemic. Both Michael and Vikas have had to adapt their teams to the new CX issues spawning from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how these leaders have successfully managed customer delivery expectations during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Simple Tricks to Earn Customer Loyalty

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has greatly impacted businesses across the globe. As a result of these uncertain times, a new customer has risen, the highly anxious user. In response to this, companies have had to diversify their CX tactics to keep up in the new, highly anxious user arena. To help businesses keep up, Chief Product and Strategy Manager at Convey, Michael Miller dives into three simple ways to earn lasting customer loyalty that will continue after the pandemic. The first is setting expectations for product arrival. Second, frequently providing status updates to the customer so they have an up-to-date understanding of product handling and delivery time. Lastly, the typical customer wants flexible delivery options. Various businesses have opted for curbside pick up and home delivery instead of in-store shopping. Michael concludes, “So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.” Businesses would do well to implement these three simple tricks to retain customers long after the pandemic is over.

Proactive Communication

SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, Vikas Bhambri sets the standard high for other CX teams. Vikas understands that customers are happier when they feel their needs are being handled in an effective manner. He says this is accomplished through setting delivery expectations with honesty and by being available to solve customer’s issues promptly. He adds that the concept of too much communication between the agent and the user simply doesn’t exist in the realm of CX. Proactive communication happens when product and order updates are sent at each relevant step. If this is too much communication, Vikas explains, “Give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.” By showing up and being openly available, agents are better able to get to the root of the customer’s issues in a timely fashion. The more openly a business communicates right now, the better.

The Role of AI in CX

Recently a controversial concept, AI, has come to the forefront of the CX discussion. While not completely replacing the importance of human-to-human interaction, AI has infiltrated the service industry through easing the roles of CX agents by better filtering user issues. With the new COVID-19 business-scape, highly anxious customers have been on the rise and the burden of customer care agents has been significantly increased to the point where they are overwhelmed. Companies are integrating AI into their CX to get a better handle on customer care. Michael has deployed an AI program at his company to help catch carrier delivery problems before they happen. This AI is helping meet the new customer expectations previously mentioned and helps their business have proactive communication. To further explain his AI integration, Michael emphasizes:

When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.

Companies can reach out to their users with AI and filter their needs so their CX agents have a better handle on incoming customer situations, resulting in happier and more loyal customers.

To learn more about how to manage customer delivery expectations and how to create lasting customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Manage Customer Delivery Expectations During COVID-19 | Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast. Today we’re going to be talking about a couple interesting topics, but specifically, how to manage customer delivery expectations during all of these challenging times. And to do that, we brought on Michael Miller, who’s currently the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey, and then Vikas Bhambri the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer. Guys, thanks for joining. How are you?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:37)
Thanks for having us.

Michael Miller: (00:39)
Doing well. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
Yeah, why don’t we just take a minute and have you guys tell us a little bit about what you do and the companies that you work for. Mike, let’s start with you.

Michael Miller: (00:49)
Sure. Hi, I’m the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey. We are a delivery experience management platform, and what that means is we help some of the largest retailers in the world with a set of tools all across the buyer’s journey, all geared towards creating a better customer experience and better delivery outcomes.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
Love it. Vikas, just take a second.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:10)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer and we are a customer service CRM platform that enables brands to engage their customers regardless of channel, with an optimal agent experience. So really excited to have this conversation today.

Gabe Larsen: (01:31)
Yeah guys, this is such a fitting conversation. Let’s start big picture, and then let’s dive into detail. Vikas maybe let’s start with you. As we see the current environment changing, what are some of the trends, challenges that customer service organizations are facing?

Vikas Bhambri: (01:47)
Well, look. We just went to something that’s never been seen before. In fact, Mike and I were talking earlier in the week and I think one thing that really resonated was Mike telling me that we are at e-commerce projections of 2022 level here in 2020 because of the accelerant called COVID-19. Right? Because all parts of the country and really across the globe, we have moved to a pure delivery model, right? If I just think about my own experience, I haven’t been to a grocery store now in five weeks here in New York, we are getting literally everything delivered. Flowers for my wife for our anniversary, cakes, grocery items, prescriptions. So we’ve fundamentally transformed the way we shop and interact with brands, in the last 30 to 45 days. What that does for the brand is it’s created an unprecedented opportunity and some simply can’t handle it, right? Because they were not built. I was talking to a CEO of a food delivery company the other day who said that his business has grown 10,000%. 10,000% through COVID-19, which if you told any CEO of a company, “Your business is going to grow 10,000%,” he would probably, he or she would probably jump for joy. Not if you’re not set up –

Gabe Larsen: (03:24)
Yeah, that’s right.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:27)
– overnight. So what’s happening for a lot of these people, if you go to their websites, they are taking, either some of them have gone to full transparency. “We can’t take any more orders.” Which I think is commendable, believe it or not. Right? Be honest with your customers. Some, unfortunately, are taking orders and then on the back end, they’re saying we can’t fulfill them after the fact, or after you submitted your order. Now you realize orders are out seven, ten days. And then the other thing that’s happening is, there’s a heightened level of tension in the consumer base. So when I order something, I used to order something from Amazon and just sit back. It was up the next day, two days later, whatever it is. Now I’m hitting refresh because I’m worried about feeding my family. Like, “Where’s my order, where’s my order?” and so that’s the new norm, right? Both on the brand side with their experience, as well as consumer expectations, is people have a heightened level of anxiety and are really expecting brands to live up to that brand promise, which it’s hard to do when your business can grow ten thousand percent.

Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
Yeah. I love that. I mean, the refresh on the Amazon order, I didn’t mean to laugh, but I know the feeling. Mike, what would you add to that?

Michael Miller: (04:49)
I think that’s all 100% accurate and we’re seeing it really all the way through the supply chain, which is under enormous strain. So with this spike and shift to e-com, just some data that we’ve seen across our network, on-time delivery percentage at an aggregate level has slipped from about 90% to 70% over the last two months. We’ve also seen a spike in exceptions, meaning delivery problems of almost 200% over the last month. So the issues that are happening all the way through the network that is under strain and how that manifests and sort of miss customer expectations, it’s pretty dramatic.

Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
Wow. Wow. So basically, from a data perspective, if you had to pin it, are companies actually meeting expectations when it comes to delivery during COVID? It sounds like there’s struggles; that the supply chain is having problems.

Michael Miller: (05:46)
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:50)
Mike, you’ve probably seen this because I noticed something I’d seen for the first time, the other day. As I was mentioning, I bought a cake online, first time ever, cakes being delivered. And when I went to see the tracking, basically it was a tracking link to UPS and they had said that due to things beyond their control, orders were being delayed and I actually got my cake a day later than what was intended. What are you seeing from that side? Because it’s interesting. I think the delivery functions are also having their own issues, which impacts the brand doesn’t necessarily control that.

Michael Miller: (06:32)
Yeah, absolutely. So the carriers in general, and we have relationships with pretty much every carrier in North America, and they are absolutely straining to keep up with the overall surge of demand. And you see that again and slippage and on-time delivery percentage. The bigger carriers like FedEx, UPS have actually started tracking COVID related exceptions specifically, and reporting on those and those are through the roof. Week over week as you might imagine. And all of that manifests in if a retailer made their delivery promise, that the carriers are having a hard time adhering to that, that is a missed expectation and that’s where it starts to hit your world with the, “Where is my order?” calls and those kinds of experiences.

Gabe Larsen: (07:20)
Wow. Do you feel like there are certain, as you’ve looked at the data and you see different companies, are there places or industries that are excelling at this? Actually doing it right? And if so, what are some of the things, do you feel like they’re doing well to combat this?

Michael Miller: (07:40)
Yeah. I’ll jump in. We actually do a lot of customer surveying and we’ve actually ratcheted it up during this period. And, we hear pretty consistently that customers at least, are looking for three things and the first is setting an expectation around when something is going to arrive. That is harder to do today than it has been historically, but that is absolutely expectation. They want frequent updates as early as possible as to when that’s going to change, if it is going to change. And then lastly, they’re looking for flexibility about delivery options. So, this surge in people who may not want to go into a retail environment grocery or otherwise, and so the rise in curbside delivery we actually saw early on during the quarantine periods a spike in return to senders because people were trying to deliver things to offices in locations that were no longer open. So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I love it. So frequency, communication, flexibility is some of the key themes you’re finding different companies are doing in order to be successful.

Michael Miller: (09:00)
For sure.

Gabe Larsen: (09:00)
Vikas, on your side, and then I want to come back to Mike on something. But that’s on the delivery side, but if I’m a CX Lead, I’m a customer service leader. How do I keep up with these changing expectations, especially as it relates to delivery?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:17)
Sure. I can’t even imagine the stress they’re under. I think number one is the more information you can give to customers. It goes back to the transparency I said, right? Which is, ideally you’d like, your brand to kind of take the step, the extreme step of maybe saying, “Look, I can’t take on any more orders,” but I know that’s difficult, right? At the end of the day, this is also an opportunity for a lot of brands to acquire customers and acquire customers away from Amazon because people are looking for new options. So I can’t expect anybody to take the stance of, “I’m not going to take on any new customers,” but if you are going to do that, right, who am I to ask? Unless it’s me. But if you are going to take on those new customers, right, and then they are going to submit orders, then I think really kind of owning up to the transparency. So when they come to your website or they engage in your portal or whatever it is, being able to see real time status updates on where their order is in the process. Is it still being packed, right? If it’s out, is it out for delivery? And if it’s out for delivery, where is it? So I think that piece of it, then look, you’re still going to have this heightened level of tension in your consumer base. They are going to reach out to you. Be available across channel. Right? Don’t make it so like, “I gotta go email you,” because nobody really trusts that you’re going to get back to them in a timely fashion. Be available in real time channels, like chat, the voice channel. Right? And if they’re going to go to social media and rip on you because you’re not giving them information, be there to answer their call there. Now when your agents then are engaged with them, let’s make sure they have the data because that’s the worst thing that can happen for a poor agent is, “Now I’m dealing with this very frustrated customer who’s asking about the flowers, the food, the cake,” whatever it is that they’ve ordered from you, and you don’t have the answers. And so you’re sitting there going, “I wish I could help you, but I don’t know where your order is.” Right? But here’s where the brands that are going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack are the ones who are proactive. The ones that reach out to you to keep you abreast of where your order is. So you don’t have to come to me. I’m sending you text alerts, I’m sending you emails, right? I’m letting you know where your order is. And then if there is any change in that, I’m also letting you know, to let you know that you can make a change. Let me give you a really quick story. Went out and ordered a ton of groceries from a delivery provider and at noon that day, I got an alert that your shopping cart is being packed. I’m like, awesome. Right? Food’s coming. I’m super excited. Five hours later, still no delivery. I go into a panic. We were running pretty low on some supplies. I went to another provider and bought groceries. At 10 o’clock at night, that original grocer delivered. Now I’m sitting there with two X because the other person also fulfilled their order. So I went from being really worried about food supply to now I’m sitting on so much food that I’m kind of worried that I’m taking away from the overall supply chain and I’ve got stuff that’s going to spoil. And so if you had just kept me posted as to where my stuff was, day one with that original order, I never would have gone out and doubled my spend unnecessarily so –

Gabe Larsen: (13:09)
You went to a competitor, right? Or went to another person, right? When it comes to your experience and your value. Do you feel like, you guys, that there is best practice when it comes to communication? What is too little right now and what’s too much? I mean, it sounds like Vikas, you experienced too little. Is it more [inaudible] does it pick up during and then once it’s delivering? Any tactical recommendations there?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:35)
Sure. I’ll start and I’ll let Mike chime in. But from my standpoint, especially in a situation like this, you can not take the position that you are over-communicating. In fact, let the consumer tell you, “You know, what, I’m going to unsubscribe or stop sending me alerts.” I’d be shocked in this event, during this event, if that would be the case, but give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.

Gabe Larsen: (14:10)
I like that. Mike, anything you’d add?

Michael Miller: (14:12)
I mentioned our consumer surveys. We’ve got a data point that says 68% of consumers explicitly want more frequent updates than they did pre quarantine. So, I think absolutely the point is right. Early and often should be the bias and I think that’s what customers are looking for right now.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
Yeah. I’m just amazed at some of the changes companies have had to make in order to facilitate some of this. I’ve got a friend who, I think you highlighted it Mike, he closed down obviously his retail shop, and now they do tons of business curbside, but I love that flexibility. I like that frequent communication. Times have changed. We got to change it. One other thing I wanted to kind of dive into is obviously artificial intelligence is a topic of conversation and has been for a while, but boy does it feel like it kind of moved into fourth gear, fifth gear here as companies are looking for more ways to do things with less. As you think about the supply chain, as you think about the customer experience, how can AI start to infiltrate and make things better for us? Vikas, let’s start with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:20)
We just rolled out the biggest stress test to any customer service operation that I’ve witnessed in 20 plus years, right? Like I said, the level of anxiety, the level of expectation of volume of inquiries, right? So for every one order now people are seeing four to five inquiries coming in or tickets, or however you want to designate it. But basically customers reaching out, right? Four to five X, what is the traditional inquiry rate per order. So that’s significant and your customer’s care operation is not set up to handle that volume. And guess what? It’s really hard right now to go out and hire more agents because it’s hard to hire them. It’s hard to recruit them. It’s hard to train them. So you’re kind of making it, exacerbating the challenge. So this is where artificial intelligence can be a really powerful solution in this time. So what we’ve done at Kustomer, we kind of rolled out our Customer IQ Suite, and this allows a number of key things. One, that initial self service that I was talking about before for customers to be able to self serve and answer some of their own questions. For you to update them with your policies and procedures. And you need to be nimble. It’s not going to be static, right? So you can’t go to IT and ask them, you need a three day turnaround on updating something. You need to put it in the hands of the business users, right? Every time, if you’re, for example, an airline and you’re going to constantly be tweaking your refund policy, right? Put it in the hands of the business users to update those knowledge based items, which then get passed on. But then when the customer comes to you, how do we prioritize those requests? So using intelligence to then route those inquiries. If I’ve got an order that was delivered two days ago, and Mike’s got an order that is out for delivery right now, let’s make sure we prioritize Mike because Mike is probably really concerned about where his order is, right? Over Vikas, who got it two days ago and maybe was like, “Hey, you forgot to check.” Right? So being able to do some really cool things like that, using artificial intelligence, then when the agent gets engaged to help them suggest next best action. So yeah, if you didn’t have an AI strategy before, now’s the time because I know people are like, “No. It’s going to take me time. It’s going to take years. I don’t have the expertise.” There’s some really quick things that you can do to fundamentally change how you operate in this environment.

Gabe Larsen: (18:13)
I like that idea that [inaudible] AI basically from that customer journey [inaudible] makes it better. A little more easy. A little more [Inaudible] for the customer and for the brand. Mike, what would you add to that?

Michael Miller: (18:29)
For us, it’s all about what you guys mentioned earlier, which is getting more proactive. So we’ve got nearly four billion shipping events on our platform right now, and we’ve built machine learning models to crawl all over those specifically so that we can predict when an estimated delivery date or a promise date is going to be missed. So for example, just last week, we identified over 300,000 shipments that were going to miss their promise date and we did it up to 36 hours before the carrier even reported the problem. So you’re talking about up to a day and a half before you would otherwise know there’s a problem. When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.

Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
Yeah, that’s incredible. The 36 hours. That’s a long time before obviously the carriers knew about it. Well, let’s wrap, guys, a lot of fun conversations, obviously challenging times need to figure out the best way to do that. Specifically, thinking about this idea of, “Where is my order.” Before we leave, advice for customer service leaders. Give me kind of your summary or your takeaway. Vikas, let’s start with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:58)
Yeah. I mean, my advice to customer service leaders is you have a once in a lifetime opportunity, right? For the last few years, every leader I speak to, not just in the customer service, but the C level in the boardroom has said, “My threat is Amazon and Walmart. When do they come into my market?” You have an opportunity here to take customers away from them because they’re having their challenges just like you are. So it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because you have this opportunity to acquire customers. I mean, I’m seeing CACs have literally zero, right? Customer Acquisition Costs of zero. But if you drop the ball, and now the pressure’s on you Mr. or Mrs. Customer service leader, if you drop the ball, when this pandemic ends, those customers won’t be there. What do you do? Think about quick wins. What can you do? Whether it’s on the agent experience, the automation piece, the bringing in of this order data into your contact center environment, into your customer care world, to be proactive with, there are ways that you can fundamentally change your business, not just for the short term, but we’re all going to come out of this. How does this actually put you in a better stead for when we come out of this pandemic? So that would be my feedback to customer service and C level folks all across the globe.

Gabe Larsen: (21:26)
You’re right and when we come out of this, there’s going to be winners, right? And if you do it right now, you’re going to be standing on that pedestal. I can’t agree more. Mike, what would you add?

Michael Miller: (21:36)
Very similar. I think there’s a strategic lens and a more tactical lens. Strategically, it’s exactly right. I mean, evaluate your partner ecosystem and the extent to which you can identify tools that allow you to get proactive, that allow you to get more efficient, automate tasks, I think is an incredible opportunity. More tactically, if you’re in the care center, our advice is, we’re seeing specific spikes in things like general delays, address issues, COVID related delays. So if you can build targeted workflows around getting proactive and issuing customer communications and reassurances around those, that’s going to serve you really well these days.

Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
Yeah. This proactive nature, now more than ever, I think we’ve gotta be proactive. Guys really appreciate you taking the time today to talk about COVID and all the different challenging times we’re participating in. And for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.

Michael Miller: (22:37)
Thank you so much.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:37)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (22:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging

Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.

Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels

Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.

Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX

Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.

To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Keynote Customer Experience Summit | with Matt Dixon, Brad Birnbaum, and Lauren Pragoff” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?

Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?

Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.

Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.

Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?

Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.

Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”

Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?

Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.

Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?

Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”

Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.

Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.

Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.

Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?

Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.

Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
That’s right.

Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?

Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.

Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?

Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.

Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?

Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –

Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –

Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.

Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.

Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –

Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –

Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.

Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –

Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –

Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.

Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.

Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.

All: (33:13)
Thank you.

Exit Voice: (33:13)
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What the “New Normal” Will Look Like in the World of CX

What the “New Normal” Will Look Like in the World of CX TW

While at times 2020 can feel like a real-life “Black Mirror” episode, it did force many CX teams to transform at lightspeed, re-evaluating how they got their work done and what a successful customer service interaction looked like. According to research conducted by Kustomer in April 2020, 79% of customer service organizations reported that COVID-19 had impacted them significantly.

But 90% of those organizations also believe that customer service is more important than ever in these times of crisis. Many organizations are struggling to understand when they’ll go back to “business as usual”. And the fact of the matter is, they likely never will. The new way of working that 2020 forced upon CX teams will have lingering effects, and consumers are now used to doing business in a whole new way. We’ve outlined the changes and challenges we predict will stick around into 2021 and beyond, and how organizations should prepare to cope with them long-term.

Digital Transformation Is Here to Stay

Practically overnight CX organizations were forced to work entirely remotely. Some agents didn’t even have laptop computers to work from home with, others had slow internet making it nearly impossible to handle inquiries in laggy legacy systems. According to Kustomer research during COVID-19, 39% of CX professionals reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.

More than five months later, many organizations have put processes in place and applied technology bandaids to make remote work function. And the good news is, it’s entirely possible to deliver efficient and effective support in a remote environment. According to PWC, 82% of office workers would prefer to continue working remotely, at least part of the time, even after COVID-19 has subsided. And a whopping 73% of executives say working remotely has been a success.

These shifting attitudes are here to stay, and provide many added benefits to organizations. Workers have more flexibility in their schedule and save time commuting, and businesses can potentially garner cost-savings by downsizing office space and cutting back on in-office perks. So while some organizations have implemented temporary fixes to get through this quick shift to digital-first, a long-term technology solution to enable smart remote work is now imperative.

Customers Want You to Show Them They’re Valued

During times of crisis, customer needs change. 2020 has never made that more apparent. Some organizations chose to shift their success metrics away from average handle time, as customers demanded (and valued) longer interactions. Zappos even opened a customer service line that people could call to chat about literally anything … even if it was completely unrelated to shoes. According to our COVID-19 research, CX teams reported that customers valued empathetic service above all other customer service attributes during the pandemic.

This shift in consumer expectations may have boiled over in these strange, isolating times, but customer expectations have long been shifting in that direction. Customers aren’t satisfied with being treated as ticket #12558369, that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible without any real human emotion or interaction. They want to be treated like a valued customer, with real thoughts, emotions, feedback and values.

As AI and automation take on more of the busy work in the CX space, and more consumers shift to online vs. in-store shopping, customer service agents will take on a much more important — and challenging — role. They will become the face of the company, reflecting its values and building lifelong relationships. Think of all of the DTC disruptor brands with cult-like followings — yes they have chic branding, but they’ve also built a community of advocates based on how they treat (and value) their customer base. We could all take a page out of their book.

CX Will Be More Important Than Ever

It’s clear that the “Superhero of 2020” award should go to customer service teams. The influx in customer service inquiries, the immensely challenging questions, the need to provide empathy and humanity during an incredibly stressful time … all were imperative in a strange and stressful year. But good customer service can do more than just solve a customer’s problem. It can also proactively drive revenue.

Kustomer’s recent consumer research looked at data across generations, and one thing is clear: younger generations demand, and value, excellent service. Consumers aged 18-24 ranked customer service as the number one attribute when choosing where to do business (whereas the general population ranked it below price). Additionally, younger generations are more willing than older generations to pay a premium for good service (61% of consumers 34 and younger vs. 48% of consumers 55+), and they are willing to pay more of a premium at that (20% of consumers 18-24 are willing to spend up to 15% more for exceptional service, vs. only 7% of consumers 55+).

This demographic data allows us to take a peek into the future. In the next five or ten years, these individuals will become heads of households, and customer service will determine where they spend their money, and how much they spend. It is imperative to prepare now for what is to come — and exceptional service is no longer optional.

Want our full list of predictions, along with tips on how to deliver exceptional service in 2021? Download the full guide here.
 

Benchmarks: What We’re Seeing For Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time in Q2 & Q3 2020

Benchmarks: What We’re Seeing For Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time in Q2 & Q3 2020 TW

“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:

  • Delivery
  • Marketplace
  • Retail
  • Services

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.

 

Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown

Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown TW

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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.

 

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Listen to “Nate Brown | Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market” on Spreaker.

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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)
Yep.

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)
Yep.

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)
Yep.

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)
Yep.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Right.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Right.

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)
Yeah, yeah.

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.

 

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders TW

We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.

What Is Being Done NOW

An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.

Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.

Transformation While Resources Are Crunched

There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.

One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.

Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.

Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.

One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”

Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.

Moving the Customer Experience Dial

A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.

“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.

Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.

In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.

To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience

 

Your Curated Guide to Virtual CX Events

Your Curated Guide to Virtual CX Events TW

Where’s the party at?…. In front of your computer.

With the coronavirus not ceasing anytime soon, what options do conference attendees have? Go virtual! You are now able to attend brilliant learning and networking opportunities, from the comfort of your couch.

Now more than ever, companies are searching for technology to deliver on customers’ growing demands. Circle these CX events on your calendar to gain insights about the latest CX innovations, how COVID-19 is changing customers’ expectations, and dive into the smartest strategies to deliver standout customer experiences.

Here is our curated list of must-attend events.

Customer Contact Now Virtual Roundtable

Date: July 28, 2020
Description: Free half-day online event for 25 senior-level customer service professionals with a keynote by Shep Hyken.
Request to attend here.

Flower Arranging with Kustomer and Alice’s Table

Date: August 20, 2020
Description: Stuck at home? Miss traveling? Miss the camaraderie with industry peers? Trust us, we get that it has been tough being at home all day, but in the spirit of #alonetogether join Kustomer & Alice’s Table for a fun flower arranging workshop!
Request to receive farm-fresh flowers here.

Consero’s Knowledgebridge: The Contact Center Consero

Date: August 20, 2020
Description: Consero brings the world’s most senior executives together to build relationships and share knowledge through uniquely valuable events.
More info here.

CCW at Home

Date: August 24-28, 2020
Description: Learn from the most innovative brands in the world. Discover the latest CX technology. Join sessions on today’s challenges, priorities, and focuses on impacting customer contact executives and business leaders most.
Bring CCW experience home here.

Consero’s Knowledgebridge: The CX Program

Date: September 1, 2020
Description: Consero brings the world’s most senior executives together to build relationships and share knowledge through uniquely valuable events.
Register here.

ElevateCX Denver

Date: Septemper 4-5, 2020
Description: Learn from your industry peers about trends in CX, hear thoughtful advice on growing and scaling teams, and get insight into how legacy brands are evolving their customer support solutions.
This is still an in-person event. Register here.

CCW Online Summit: Customer Experience Trends, Challenges & Innovations

Date: September 22-24, 2020
Description: At CCW Online: Customer Experience Trends, Challenges & Innovations, we’ll reveal the latest on what customers are expecting from the experience — and what it takes to deliver. From journey mapping, to analytics, to technology, to digital engagement, to agent empowerment, you’ll know how to create the unbreakable connections that drive customer loyalty, advocacy and revenue.
Free online event registration here.

Kustomer Conference

Date: October 2020
Description: We’re back for our most exciting event of the year, The Kustomer Conference! Join us for a jam-packed all-online experience as we reveal new product updates, Kustomer’s roadmap for the future and more. We will bring you insights from the brightest minds in the CX space and give you interactive opportunities to network with your peers. You don’t want to miss this event!
Stay tuned for more details as we reveal the date, agenda and speakers.

Shoptalk’s Retail Meetup

Date: October 20-22, 2020
Description: Shoptalk Meetup is retail’s first digitally native event! It’s a fun, productive way to connect online with the people you know and meet the people you don’t–in a friendly and open environment. It’s like being at Shoptalk, but without going through TSA.
Register here.
 

Stay up-to-date on new and upcoming events throughout the year here.
 

The Kustomer Internship Experience in a Remote World

The Kustomer Internship Experience in a Remote World TW

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!

 

How to Use Kustomer Data to Help Forecast Headcount

How to Use Kustomer Data to Help Forecast Headcount TW

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.
 

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency TW

We all know that businesses strive to be efficient — not only within the customer service department, but throughout the entire organization. However, as customer experience continues to become more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty, the goal for CX departments to be highly effective can at times feel at odds with the efficiency mandate.

Kustomer wanted to hear from CX workers on the front lines, and surveyed over 120 professionals to understand how they’re feeling. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to achieve efficient customer service without compromising the customer experience.

The Efficiency Mandate

It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of respondents reported a need to be more efficient. A total of 92% of organizations say more efficiency is needed, but 51% also reported that there is a greater need for efficiency than a year ago. Only 6% of respondents said that the need for efficiency has decreased in the past year.

Whether it’s a recession, a pandemic, or changing customer expectations, the success of a business can swing downward swifty and without notice. Organizations have felt this impact strongly in 2020, and the gaps in their strategies that they may not have felt a year ago are now staring them directly in the face. Perhaps efficiency isn’t the number one priority for a customer service organization when business is booming and resources are available. But the power of an efficient AND effective customer service organization can make a massive impact during both challenging and successful times.

A few factors are impacting how organizations are achieving efficiency: 63% of respondents reported having limited staff, while 44% reported being on a strict budget. A total of 42% of customer service professionals reported not being able to currently manage 24/7 support, while long wait times and access to the right tools seemed to be less of a concern for CX organizations.

However, when staff and budget are unexpectedly slashed, having technology tools in place that can minimize that impact and make agents’ jobs easier, is of the utmost importance.


Challenges Associated With Delivering Efficient Customer Service

It’s clear that customer service professionals know they must be more efficient, and aren’t sure how to do so in a way that provides a positive experience to their customers. The fact of the matter is, all customers must be served, and oftentimes there are roadblocks to doing so in an efficient manner.


Challenging inquiries are the number one reason CX teams report that they can’t deliver efficient support. While automation and self-service tools wouldn’t be effective in resolving challenging customer issues, the implementation of these technologies can actually free up agent time to tackle these inherently more time-consuming tasks. Instead of answering simple inquiries like product and policy questions, customer service teams can spend more time on higher level support and relationship-building.

Another top roadblock to delivering efficient support is unclear or unknown policies. When agents have to go searching for accurate information, across a variety of systems, customers are sure to suffer. Ensure that you have a solution in place that can surface relevant policy information, with the ability to update it in real time as policies shift and change. Intelligent chatbots can even tap into this knowledge base and surface highly relevant and always-accurate information to consumers instantaneously.

Beyond the nature of customer inquiries, there are additional external factors that customers report are preventing them from adopting efficiency tools.



The top reasons that organizations aren’t adopting efficiency tools, are a lack of executive buy-in and a lack of budget, which unsurprisingly go hand in hand. If leadership doesn’t understand the value behind adopting efficiency tools, they likely won’t allocate budget for them.

Ironically, adopting efficiency tools could completely transform a CX organization from a cost center into a profit center, ultimately benefiting not only the executives but also the business as a whole. Think about it: time is money, and when valuable human time is spent on low level tasks that technology can handle, no one benefits. Tagging conversations, routing conversations, answering very simple questions … all of these tasks can be menial and brain-numbing to customer service agents. With the advent of technology, customer service agents no longer need to be relegated to low level work, and can take a more prominent and important role within an organization.

Not only will agents spend their time answering more challenging and important inquiries from customers, they will also have the time to build long-lasting relationships, proactively reach out to customers, make customers feel heard and valued, and even close more business. This time spent by agents will truly contribute to the bottom line of a business, increasing loyalty, advocacy and brand sentiment.

For the full findings from Kustomer’s latest research, including breakdown by industry and business size, download the full Efficiency Research Report here.

 

The Importance of Empathy, Compassion and a Truly Human Customer Experience

The Importance of Empathy, Compassion and a Truly Human Customer Experience TW

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:

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:

1. Technology

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.

2. Training

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.

 

3 Ways to Support Local Businesses During the Global Pandemic

3 Ways to Support Local Businesses During the Global Pandemic TW

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.

 

Tips and Encouragement For Parents Working From Home

Tips and Encouragement For Parents Working From Home TW

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.

 

6 Mental Health Tips for Working Remote

6 Mental Health Tips for Working Remote TW

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.

Stay Connected

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.
 

Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19

Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19 TW

At Kustomer, we design features based on customer needs, so it’s always been a normal part of my work to be on Zoom calls with users from all across the globe. Now, however, I typically talk to people who are calling from their kitchen tables or tucked into corners of bedrooms. Even though I’m personally working from a glorified closet, it’s been a silver lining to continue to connect with users and learn about their needs (and sometimes meet their dogs and babies). So how do we continue to design great experiences for our users, remotely?

Understanding Remote Needs

Understanding users for any SaaS product has a lot to do with understanding their environments. A lot of Kustomer users are in our product all-day, every-day. What does it feel like to use our product at work every day? What does it feel like to use our product on a large monitor? As part of a small team? As part of an enormous team?

When our users’ environments change, we need to reframe our understanding of needs. There is much less likely to be a large, bustling room with a team that’s sitting together. Certain integrations become more important. Communication is more asynchronous. Users in different countries, and across different industries, may be experiencing the impact of COVID-19 in vastly different ways. Consider the new environment and reframe your understanding of your users as quickly as possible.

Understanding Needs, Remotely

To help with understanding “as quickly as possible”, the design team at Kustomer uses a suite of tools to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. We use UsabilityHub, Canny, InVision, and Zoom, among others, to communicate with our users and gather feedback as we design new features. As much as we miss on-site visits to our customers, these remote-friendly tools allow us insight into our customer needs, even as they change and grow. I have found that more than ever, our users are happy to provide feedback and help us shape our features to align with their goals.

It’s an interesting new reality for all of us, but the more we can learn and adjust to shifting circumstances, the more successful we will be. At Kustomer, we are looking to perfect the customer experience, and constantly searching for others to join us in making that mission a reality. Interested in joining us and helping create excellent user experiences? See our open roles here.

 

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective TW

Doing more with less seems to be the struggle for most business leaders these days. It’s interesting, and unfortunate, that it takes a pandemic for companies to start focusing on efficiency. But issues that you used to be able to ignore, are now staring you directly in the face.

The problem with a focus on efficiency is that it is often implemented at the expense of the overall customer experience. The easy response to cutting costs would be to reduce staff, making it harder to reach out to support, and delaying responses. But the outcome of this strategy would ultimately lead to unhappy customers. And take it from me, customers won’t forget this bad experience when things get back to “normal”. The businesses that are able to do more with less in a way that meets or exceeds expectations are the ones that will exit this pandemic with an even more loyal customer base.

So how can you achieve this? How can you significantly cut costs while not degrading the level of support? Read on for our five tips to efficient and effective customer service:

1. Optimize Your Operations

Fix things in your product that cause customers to reach out to you in the first place. This might be offering the ability to track your order status, or completing a return without contacting customer service.

2. Increase Your Self-Service Offerings

Gone are the days of putting up an FAQ page and hoping your customers find the right answers. You need to leverage intelligent automation to put the right information in front of your customers at the exact point they need it. With tools like AI-powered chatbots, you have the ability to not only extract exact information from knowledge base articles, but allow customers to complete actions on their own.

3. Empower Your Agents With Better Technology

Your agents shouldn’t be wasting time looking up key information in multiple systems. I’ve seen examples of companies looking up information in 8+ systems to handle one customer issue. How are agents supposed to be efficient if their computer screens are covered in post-it notes and they have multiple tabs open? Find a solution like Kustomer that connects to all of your core admin systems and allows agents to search and take action on data in the platform they are already operating out of. The below example shows how a delivery service can consolidate all key order information directly into Kustomer.

4. Route Intelligently

You should be able to route issues to the right team based on issue type, customer value, skillset or capacity. There is no experience worse than chatting with support and hearing: “Sorry I don’t have the answer to that question, but let me forward you to the team that does.” Don’t force the customer to guess which of 10 phone numbers is the right one to call, or make them e-mail multiple departments to solve their issue. Instead, use technology that routes based on keywords or even better custom objects about that customer (status, order value, country, etc).

5. Get Ahead of Issues

Proactively reach out to customers before they reach out to you. Get ahead of any problems, like fulfillment issues and weather delays, or educate customers about how you’re keeping them safe and healthy in uncertain times. Use a platform like Convey to give full transparency into the delivery lifecycle. Then utilize a platform like Kustomer to engage with customers based on delivery updates.

Hopefully, you found these five tips helpful. The most important piece is balancing doing more with less, while making sure customer expectations are met…or even exceeded!

 

How to Stay Sane While Working Remote

How to Stay Sane While Working Remote TW

Remote work has long been controversial. While tools that support remote work have been widely available for some time, prevailing attitudes have not been disrupted as quickly. Companies have tried to create balanced policies everyone can agree on, but the issue is complex because each employee is different. Opinions can also differ greatly by department or even by job function. Your sales manager’s personal policy will not be the same as your engineering lead — trust me. All of this is to say that there’s no silver bullet that will put this debate to rest. But let’s be honest, many of us won’t be working in an office for quite some time, so here are a few simple ways to make the most of a week while working remote.

Create a Space to Work

Swapping your commute for the distance between your bed and home desk might seem like a win, but it’s important to not undervalue what a commute provides. A commute signals that it’s time to clock in or clock out. It forces you to plan ahead and keep a schedule. It gets you out of bed at an exact time so you’re not late for that 9am meeting. And once you show up to work, you show up. There’s very little tolerance for napping or strutting around without pants on in an office––not so much while working remotely! This is why it’s so important to create a dedicated home office and routine.

First, dedicating part of your home into an office should not be more involved than it has to be. It doesn’t make sense to buy an Aeron chair and a wall of monitors if you live in a small apartment or are on a tight budget. Refrain from renovating your living room into a corner office. Instead, appreciate that your work-life balance is now a work-life harmony. The two are sharing the same space and must coexist. So if this simply means having a chosen area for your work computer, then great! (But maybe put a potted plant or two down while you’re at it). Your dedicated work space will let you know when it’s time to work and will help keep you organized.

Speaking of being organized, it’s incredibly important to keep your office space clean. We’re living in extraordinary times and if you read the news on a daily basis it will quickly feel like everything is out of control. Your work space shouldn’t feel equally out of control. Maintaining a clean space will help you keep a sense of order and, frankly, it will give you something to do. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the list of available activities has shrunk dramatically in 2020. If there’s one takeaway from reading this, learn to love to clean and thank me later.

Shut Off in the Evening

Most people understand what time they’re going to start working in the morning, but less plan for when they’re going to wind down. Since you now work where you live, it can be harder to know when your work day ends. And it can often feel like companies today are “always on.” Whether it’s a new email, slack message, or even a Kustomer notification, there’s no shortage of applications vying for your attention. And while being virtually available and super connected always gives us ways to be productive, individually we need to recharge. It’s just as important to schedule this time as it is to schedule your next meeting. So before you open up your laptop to start a new work day, have an approximate goal of when you plan to close it.

Share What Works

Lastly, understand that while you’re creating a routine around this new normal, your colleagues are experiencing their own version of the same thing. It’s important to stay connected with them and talk about what is working and what isn’t. Nobody is expected to have all of the answers right now, and for many of us this working environment is very new. But remember that teams are built to solve problems together.

Check out our infographic for more tips on how to successfully work in a remote environment.
 

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic TW

Even during the best of times, businesses strive to be more efficient. There are always things to improve upon, always more customers to service, always proactive outreach to do. But when circumstances shift rapidly, and businesses are asked to do more with less, finding ways to be more efficient suddenly becomes priority number one.

Kustomer recently surveyed over 150 customer service professionals to better understand how they are being impacted by the pandemic, how their business is adjusting as a result, and what customers are expecting during their greatest times of needs. One thing became abundantly clear: being efficient and effective is not optional.

More Inquiries, Less Time

Across industries, customer service teams are seeing a 17% increase in customer service inquiries during the global pandemic. Phone inquiries are seeing the largest uptick, with a 34% increase, followed by e-mail (28% increase) and web (24% increase). Social channels are being impacted the least, with only a 7.2% uptick.

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat

Not only are companies having to handle more conversations, they are having to do it in a largely remote environment. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.

It’s essential to have a customer service strategy, and the correct technology in place, to handle bursts in activity and enable productive remote work. Look for tools that leverage AI and intelligent automation to power self-service and low-level information gathering. This will free up agent time for more high level and urgent support, while allowing customers to get their questions answered immediately.

Ensure that the technology you have in place allows for collaboration between remote team members, so you can pull in the necessary individuals to solve customer issues quickly. You should also be able to manage your team with confidence, even if you can’t be beside them. Having a view into what your agents are working on, and being able to intervene if necessary, is key to a successful remote CS team. And most importantly, your customer service platform should be easily connected to by all of your agents with a basic internet connection and standard browser.

How Organizations Are Adapting

The circumstantial changes associated with the global pandemic are causing some real changes for organizations. Unfortunately, 63% of CS organizations reported a need to cut costs during the global pandemic, with 46% reporting a need to reduce staff. All of this means efficiency is incredibly important. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said there is a need to adopt more automation for efficiency, and 56% said there is a need to invest in new technologies. And unfortunately, customers aren’t giving businesses a break when it comes to speed. Quick service is one of the top three most valued customer service attributes during this time. Doing more with less is the name of the game in 2020, so put the tools in place to adjust sooner rather than later.

What CS Teams Need

63% of CS organizations report the need to cut costs
46% of CS organizations report the need to reduce staff
90% of CS organizations report the need to adjust policies
56% of CS organizations report the need to invest in new tech
59% of CS organizations report the need to adopt automation for efficiency
80% of CS organizations report the need to reach out to customers proactively

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat 2

While the current environment won’t last forever, it’s important to properly prepare for extreme circumstances if and when they do occur again. Our full report has a plethora of additional industry-specific and general data, as well as actionable takeaways you can put into practice today. Download it here.

 

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19 TW

Life has become a series of trade-offs and workarounds in light of the pandemic. Curbside pick-ups are my new norm. My inbox is a litany of order confirmations and estimated delivery times. Last weekend, I drove to a local hardware store and found the following handwritten message on a sign at their front door: “Know what you want. Get in and get out.” At times, my interactions with people feel purely transactional.

The world has changed, and customer service is changing right along with it. Businesses are being challenged with a paradoxical conundrum: how do we retain our humanness? How do we maintain trust in a time of uncertainty? Below are three ways customer service teams must adjust in light of the global pandemic.

Empathy Is #1.

Companies who approach customer service with a deeper level of empathy are more likely to maintain loyalty and win new business. This concept is not a newfound revelation. In fact, The Empathy Business has studied the efficacy of empathy in business for years. And what have they found? Organizations that focus on the “emotional impact” they have on employees, customers, and society are valued higher and earn more than their counterparts.

In the world of COVID-19, empathy is even more desperately needed. Quarantine measures and social isolation mean a rise in loneliness and other mental health issues. Think about it this way: what if your organization delivers the only social interaction an individual will experience for a full day? Armed with that information, how should you change your customer journey?

Start small. Use your data. Study the way your customers use your tools and services. Where are they running into roadblocks? Where are you making your customers’ lives easier? Take note and adjust. Document your FAQs in an accessible location, like a Knowledge Base. Have the patience to clearly explain the nuances of your business and policies. Above all else, practice kindness in all of your communication.

“One-Size-Fits-All” Won’t Succeed.

As the pandemic spreads, we’ve seen a spike in conversations for many of our clients. And according to a recent survey by Kustomer, there has been a 17% increase in inquiries across industries. With this influx in communication, it no longer makes sense to force every customer to call the same number to contact your company. Instead, it’s time to get smart about the channels you employ to manage customer interactions, and it’s time to invest in a fully-fledged omnichannel experience.

But beware: you should avoid blindly adding new service channels without a strategy in place. Dig deep into your customer personas and understand their respective beliefs and behaviors. McKinsey notes that “not all customers are the same, and it’s how they differ in their behavior and preferences—particularly on digital—that should have an outsize influence on how service journeys are designed.” Keep this in mind, too: a small percentage of customers — classified as the “offline society” -— may suddenly be forced into adopting digital communication in light of shelter-in-place orders. Take these different customers into account when adapting your customer service strategies.

Automation Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury.

As we’ve seen an increase in the number of inquiries, we’ve also seen an increase in the need for artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Agents can become easily overwhelmed by an onslaught of new messages. AI can automate some of the more tedious tasks that those agents might encounter, thereby freeing their time for more important work.

Consider how you can deflect commonly asked questions and save your agents valuable time. Let’s say you’re an airline in today’s world. With the rise of the pandemic, you’re being flooded with requests for information about your refund policy. Instead of directing your team to answer each inquiry individually, you could use automation to serve up pre-written articles that align with the inquiry’s keywords. Not only do you protect your team’s time, but you also deliver a better customer experience as customers receive near-instant answers to their questions. Beyond that, unsuccessful deflections can provide a treasure trove of data to guide your future content.

Those who adapt and adjust their strategies now can influence their fate in the post-pandemic world. The opportunity is there. We have to be good stewards of our time and resources to capitalize on it.

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