Establishing Employee and Customer Engagement with Suzzanna Rowold

Establishing Employee and Customer Engagement with Suzzanna Rowold TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen uncovers the secrets to establishing employee and customer engagement with expert Suzzanna Rowold. Suzzanna has over 12 years of leadership experience and is currently working on a PhD with a focus of entrepreneurship and innovation. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Suzzanna transforms CX teams to excellence.

Tips for Hiring Talent and Lowering Turnover Rates

Hiring is one of the earliest engagement touchpoints in which an organization can set clear and specific expectations for interviewees and incoming customer experience agents. The hiring process for a high-performing CX team in organizations can be quite difficult, especially with high turnover rates. Recognizing how brands with high turnover rates struggle to efficiently produce the best CX, Suzzanna says:

So really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive.

Keeping this in mind, she offers some helpful tips for hiring managers to help keep employees motivated to stay. By detailing expectations on the job listing, setting clear standards in the interview and coaching new employees as soon as they are hired, this helps retention rates skyrocket and turnover rates lower. Additionally, Suzzanna discusses how certain modifiers can get organizations in legal trouble in some areas around the country as those modifiers on job postings tend to discriminate against qualified applicants (i.e. “You must have 4 years of experience”). To steer clear of this, it’s best to offer each applicant an opportunity to present their strengths and qualifications.

Helping Employees Identify Their Purpose

When shaping a company culture, two of the most important things customer experience leaders can do is to align their CX reps with the company values and to help reps find a purpose in their roles. When employees feel that they have a purpose in their role and when they are wholly aligned with the company’s values, time after time successful customer engagement interactions and high NPS scores shine through. Suzzanna notes when walking into a new office space, “You can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior.” Not only is it important for employees to feel they have a purpose to pursue with determination, it is also important for CX leaders to find the value within their employees and to hold themselves to a high standard of excellence. Suzzanna remarks, “So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital.” Ultimately, the success of a CX team reflects on the example set by the leadership.

Creating a Culture of Learning by Habit

As a highly regarded leader in the realm of CX, Suzzanna helps other leaders to establish habits of success within their daily operations. One of these habits is urging leaders to invest in their employee’s success and to provide opportunities for growth. To do so, Suzzanna advocates that leaders should regularly be having these conversations with their employees. Another habit is to create a safe work environment in which CX agents feel safe to voice their concerns or problems they may be experiencing which is crucial to smooth operations. “Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake.” Creating a learning environment for CX employees and hosting a culture that encourages discussion will help employees stay in the long run. Suzzanna leaves the audience with one last helpful tip before signing off, “Don’t leave room for mediocrity.”

To learn more about establishing employee and customer engagement or how to lead a CX team to excellence, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement and the best way to do that and our special guest to help us on this journey is Suzzanna Rowold. She is currently an Employee and Customer Engagement Expert. She’s actually setting up her own consulting business, working on her PhD in organizational development. 12 plus years in leadership. Fortune 100 companies, brings a lot to the table. Suzzanna, thanks so much for joining. How the heck are ya?

Suzzanna Rowold: (00:44)
I’m doing great. How are you doing?

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Well it’s good. It’s always fun to have a guest, especially with somebody with your background. You have a lot of things going on right now. Tell us a little bit about some of the fun things you’re working on both current and maybe even in the past.

Suzzanna Rowold: (00:58)
Sure. Sounds great. So I’m currently in the process of completing my PhD. I’m wrapping up my last four classes before the fun dissertation starts. That’s always exciting. People think I’m insane because I cannot wait to get to the dissertation part, which is always funny. So that is actually in organizational development and leadership and I am specializing in entrepreneurship and innovation. So it’ll be exciting because my background is as a licensed clinical therapist for behavioral health. So once my PhD is done, I will have the full gamut of in individual behavior all the way through organizational behavior and can stand across that whole segment. And then in addition to that, like you mentioned, I’m in the process of setting up my own consulting business, looking into some other options of potentially teaching at college levels and things like that. Definitely something I want to get into is moving forward. And my history and experience has been working for large national companies, different markets, multiple states, tens to a hundred of employees that have reported through me. And really in behavioral health when it comes down to it, even being a leader in behavioral health, most of that scope really does have a customer experience component to it because you’re either dealing with providers or hospitals, your internal different departments, as well as those members that are receiving those services. And so customer experience and customer excellence is very much at the top of what needs to happen and really be focused on for all of those staff.

Gabe Larsen: (02:50)
I love that. Yeah. What a well-rounded, the clinical background. You’ve got the PhD. You’ve got experience in customer and in employee. Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can suck out of you some of this knowledge, your experience and knowledge because I know you know a lot of it. So, appreciate the overview, let’s dive into the topic. So throughout your career, you find different ways to be successful. You and I were talking pre-show a little bit about some of the secrets. Things maybe people don’t often think about as much in the way you’ve been able to be successful in your career. Would love for you to start at the top. What’s kind of that thing that comes to mind first? Your first secret and why you’ve been able to be successful in different elements of your career.

Suzzanna Rowold: (03:39)
Well, I think that the primary area that you have to start is understanding really the why behind what those secret tips are. And so really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive. So that just keeps continuing to rise as well. And then you look at the other component of what are those drivers of why staff leave their company. That primary area falls to being more times than not, the lack of professional growth and development. And who’s your leader? Are they supportive? Are they providing the things as a quality leader that they really need? That is the two major areas that are going to drive that staff satisfaction, their engagement and their dedication to the customers.

Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
I love that. Yeah, it’s funny because we often think of employee engagement around just compensation and certainly there is a base of that. I’ve always found if you pay 50% below market, yeah, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping people, but assuming you’re in the ballpark, it does, right? It moves to different elements like the career path. I love the leader, the manager, somebody you trust that inspires you, that cares about you as a person, right? Those types of things, it’s harder because sometimes they’re a little softer. I think I’m with you on that being a big driver of the overall turnover. How do you feel like the engagement of employees then translates to the impact customer service?

Suzzanna Rowold: (05:43)
So really, without having those employees who feel like they are fully part of that company, they have a purpose, they really have that investment because they’re seeing it on the other side. That comes through in their every interaction. And you can tell just walking into an office that maybe you know nobody in, you can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior. And so those are key elements that people think of, “Oh, customer service is one specific area or foresight that you need to focus on.” But at the same time, when you really think about it, you’d need to look to the internal side of the organization and what those behaviors are that are being shaped.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Interesting. Yeah. I just feel like that’s often one of those misconnections. They feel like they want to go after the customer experience, but they forget that obviously the employee drives that so much. So let’s dive into a couple of these employee elements. Want to start a little bit with one of your top tips around hiring and onboarding. How have you felt like you’ve mastered this and, or potentially maybe lessons learned or mistakes you’ve made to kind of overcome this barrier of just getting the right people on the bus?

Suzzanna Rowold: (06:59)
So one of the very top parts of ensuring that your onboarding is really focused to your needs is setting those clear expectations. You really need to have your job descriptions and what you’re posting for those positions be exactly what it is that you’re needing them to do. I know for myself, during the times of looking through different postings and positions, it’s very difficult at times to be able to really see, what does that mean? Every company calls it something different. Every company wants something different, there’s different expectations. And there’s always that one little catchall. So the more specific and detailed you can be to what that environment is going to look like and setting those clear expectations once somebody comes in the door is going to be very critical for that success of both that staff and the company and hiring them.

Gabe Larsen: (07:54)
Yeah, do you feel –

Suzzanna Rowold: (07:54)
And then you want –

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
So I’m just curious.

Suzzanna Rowold: (07:58)
Oh, go ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
Do you feel like people, where do people miss on this? Is it mostly on the expectation side of the house? Where’s the big gap when people try to tackle this hiring element? And I might be jumping just a little bit ahead. I apologize.

Suzzanna Rowold: (08:15)
No, that’s okay. So when it comes to the preceptor of the hiring, many times employees aren’t filtering their recruitment accurately, or they are creating too strict of a bucket for those candidates that they’re letting through the door. Many companies now, especially large organizations, are utilizing different identifiers that automatically disqualify people just through a computer system or through a talent acquisition staff that immediately eliminates some really great qualified people that you don’t understand their backgrounds with, or you don’t get where they really could excel because you’re only looking at a sheet of paper, or you’re only looking at a submission online. And so you really have to be cautious of those things, not to mention using modifiers, such as you must have this number of years of experience. Really, there are many, there’s many counties, there’s many states, there’s many nations that can get into a lot of legal trouble by using those specific things that discriminate against a quality candidate getting through the door.

Gabe Larsen: (09:35)
Wow. Yeah, that’s really interesting because that’s been, I feel like a big conversation lately around using science in hiring, right? It’s like, how do you do that? But what I’m hearing you say is that sometimes you got to be careful. That science can point you in the wrong direction.

Suzzanna Rowold: (09:51)
It really could. And I mean, even myself for example, my background is very unique. And so when people look at that, they immediately make an assumption about what those qualifications are, what those strengths are. And many times they couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just what people associate to certain aspects and certain competencies that may or not be accurate.

Gabe Larsen: (10:17)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think that’s a really different way to look at it. A lot of people, I do think that, and it’s this whole AI conversation with data. It’s like, if you ever let the machine completely run your business, there’s probably a good chance you’re, it needs AI data analytics. How does it enable us, not eliminate us? And so I think you make a good point on that. Okay. So you talk a little bit about clerics, but continue down the hiring. How do you continue to optimize that one?

Suzzanna Rowold: (10:49)
Sure. So once you have somebody in the door, you need to shape that environment of feedback, openness, transparent communications and coaching that needs to happen right from the start. Without those things, you are shaping a culture that does not embrace them and however you set the stage for an employee coming in the door is going to be what you are going to get out of it. And same thing with effectiveness and applicable training. Really making sure that they’re getting all of those resources and tools and training necessary to be successful in that role, the minute that they’re coming in the door. And those are really, those three primary areas for that onboarding once somebody does get hired.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
I like that. So you got kind of the expectation idea. You’ve got the feedback, environments, coaching, and then you just have a dedicated training. Any examples you found that can kind of help us visualize a little bit more on this training example or different ways you’ve actually set clear expectations, something like that?

Suzzanna Rowold: (11:53)
So what I’ve done in previous roles is developing a whole employee life cycle of surveys. And so utilizing new hire surveys, inquiring about their experience with the onboarding, with the candidate process, looking at different, even seasoned staff surveys, are important as people are there for awhile. Also looking at the missed candidate surveys and being able to capture information from people that you wanted to hire in, but they declined the offer. And so that gives you a lot of insights. Now, the biggest catch with all of this though is you actually have to do something about the data that you’re getting. And so, as you’re doing the onboarding and as employees are going through your training programs, when you’re getting feedback about the efficiency of it, you need to make those tweaks and adjustments if it’s not hitting the bar.

Gabe Larsen: (12:47)
Hmm. Yeah. That iterative process seems like that’s always something cognizant of it’s just iterate, iterate, iterate. Okay. So we hit a little bit about hiring, onboarding. Where do you go next as far as some of your secrets?

Suzzanna Rowold: (13:01)
So next is really looking at the focus of aligning the individual to the purpose of their roles, as well as their purpose and contribution to the team metrics and as a whole for the organizational strategic goals. So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital. In the past, I’ve created a career mapping to where as part of the regular quarterly reviews, staff looked at what their role was and worked with their leaders to really identify concrete on a document that they kept at their desk to be able to see how those things linked. And so maybe one person deals with providers and that level of satisfaction builds into some of the team metrics for maybe an NPS score that somebody needs to have as a measurement for their overall goals, which then ties into the success factor of expanding network when it comes to an organizational standpoint. And so really showing staff how, especially your frontline staff, how those pieces link and how they really contribute to that overall goal and effectiveness because they need to know their values.

Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. So it’s about really getting, it’s kind of what you were saying almost [inaudible]. We just have to align people with that overall vision, the strategy, where the company wants to go. It is funny. It’s, I sit in sometimes these Kustomer town halls and things like that, and I’m always amazed to see leaders present the numbers as if people care about them. And I say that a little bit with an offensive joke, but I know and don’t get me wrong. The number the company has to grow with, it’s capitalism at its finest, but to kind of have that be the front and center like, “We hit our number. We didn’t hit our number,” rather than have kind of like this mission goal. Like, “Are we actually helping 10,000 new businesses turn themselves around?” Or something that people want to aspire to? I am always, and I’m guilty of it, but I’m just, I was in one the other day. And I was thinking, “Does this person actually think that anybody cares about the LRR?” Some data metric. What does that even mean?

Suzzanna Rowold: (15:45)
Well and [inaudible]. Nobody knows what that means. Nobody even knows if you say, “Oh, we have an NPS score of 40.” Okay well, where does that relate to the rest of the nation? Is that good? Is that not?

Gabe Larsen: (15:58)
That’s right. That’s right.

Suzzanna Rowold: (15:58)
Nobody knows what that means.

Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Yeah. But bringing the two together. If you can connect, because I love the big picture vision and I love when I go into organizations and they have that just transformational mission that they keep moving towards and kind of aspiring to. But then to your point, tying it together with what the frontline is doing is awesome. Examples of how you figured out how to do this? This one’s a little harder. It’s a, how do you kind of bring this one to bear?

Suzzanna Rowold: (16:30)
Well, and as I mentioned, I mean that really is something that needs to be discussed with your employees in both a team concept, as well as an individual concept when you’re having those lunch and learns, your supervision, your department meetings, those need to be the things that are openly talked about because not only do your staff need to know how those relate, but the leader needs to believe that that relates and they need to be able to demonstrate and show that and show that the leader actually values the fact of what purpose each of those staff bring. The reality is no company is going to be successful without those frontline workers. They are your largest volume of staff. They’re your largest workhorses. Like you need that support and efficiency at those levels and they need to know how their behaviors and their expectations trigger over to the bigger picture. And so many just don’t.

Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
Yeah. There’s so many that just don’t. Very true. Okay well, I want to continue. I want to make sure, our time’s close, I want to get to secret three, where do you go for secret three?

Suzzanna Rowold: (17:41)
Sure. So in secret three, this really comes into where you have to invest in your employee’s success. You need to provide opportunity for growth and development. You need to regularly have those conversations. Developing a culture of learning is extremely important for not only internal satisfaction, but external satisfaction with the company. Creating a safe atmosphere for a fail fast mentality. Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake. We improve and we continue to drive forward for what our purpose is.

Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Right.

Suzzanna Rowold: (18:30)
I mean, really for myself and for any of the teams that I’ve ever been over, my thought is you don’t leave any room for mediocrity. So if that’s what you’re expecting, that’s what you’re going to get. Just like they say, what you measure is what you get. So set the bar high and strive for it and work together as a team to get there.

Gabe Larsen: (18:53)
Oh, fun. Yeah. I really liked the fail fast mentality. It just, it’s a hard one to get into a culture, but when it’s working, it really creates a different, really creates a different atmosphere. How have you kind of, any examples of how you brought this to life or brought this to bear in different organizations?

Suzzanna Rowold: (19:09)
Yeah. So with this, what I have done in the past is set up an annual customer service training theory and that focused on building quarter after quarter with advanced skill sets, leading up into pulling that into culture. As well as running different decision-making and solution-focused, problem-solving rounds so that when some staff were dealing with certain challenges, it was an open forum and discussion to be able to piggyback off of each other and being able to demonstrate how that can be generalized into more common scenarios that staff are facing. And really helping them understand how to have effective and meaningful resolutions without jeopardizing that integrity of the relationship with whichever stakeholder that was. And really looking at one of the things that are my absolute favorites for this area is a quote by Aristotle. So, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The leaders need to role model that because after all, all of their staff’s success is a direct reflection of them. And if you look at it that way, that creates a bit of a different mindset for how you’re interacting and developing your staff to really be that extension of you and success.

Gabe Larsen: (20:37)
Okay. Well said. Really fun secrets, Suzzanna, appreciate you jumping on and talking to us about these different things you’ve found to be successful in your career. If somebody, if we, as we wrap here, if somebody wants to reach out to you and get to know you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Suzzanna Rowold: (20:56)
LinkedIn works great. That’s probably the easiest way to find me.

Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
Awesome. Awesome. And we can, and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So Suzzanna, again, want to thank you for the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Suzzanna Rowold: (21:10)
Thanks so much, Gabe for having me. Have a wonderful day.

Exit Voice: (21:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

How Operations Play a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman

How Operations Plays a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by John Timmerman to talk about operationalizing the customer experience. John currently serves as Vice President of Operations at Mercy, providing exceptional customer and patient service. He serves for the betterment of customer experiences and helps lead teams to excellence. Listen to the podcast below to find out how you too can transform your customer experience through operationalization.

How To Hire the Right Talent

Overseeing multiple aspects of the healthcare realm and having plenty of experience in the service industry, John Timmerman demonstrates what it takes to build a successful and memorable customer experience. Transforming a customer experience team from subjective to objective is no easy task or a quick one. To help CX leaders on their journey to building a successful team and finding the right talent, John discusses the importance of hiring the right people who enhance the customer experience. He says:

So we’ve got alignment between our brand positioning and the criteria for a selection of our talent, how we onboarded them in a very intentional way to orientate and co-locate them into our cultural values. Organizations do a good job of typically giving people technical requirements of the role, but not the belief system. How we reinforce that is through repetition.

John believes that everyone is born with talent that can be utilized for success. He urges leaders to ask the right questions when hiring CX agents and to be frank in their interview process. In his experience he finds that holding frank discussions and asking questions that easily display the point, he has been able to find top-tier talent and save time by using this vetting process. It wastes time when employees don’t live up to the company standards and expectations and by asking the right questions, time and resources are saved because the best talent is found.

Defining Values that Resonate

Companies would be wise to define their core values and beliefs early on in its creation. Doing so can help in the decision making process and in setting goals. All too often, executives create these company values and paste them on a wall but forget about them as soon as the first meeting comes around. Identifying, sticking to, and incorporating company values is essential for building lasting success, especially when the brand as a whole is aligned with those values. When hiring new employees or agents, these values can be brought up in the interview however, it can be extremely taxing when working with pre-existing employees who do not align with new values. On this topic John expresses, “It’s so difficult if you’re inheriting people that aren’t aligned with those values to begin with. And it’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to put together a stage plan to have a lot of critical conversations over time and fairness for them and the organization.” There is no singular correct set of beliefs or values and these change from company to company depending on multiple factors. The biggest takeaway from John is to implement and remember those core values in all aspects of CX and business operations and to align the brand with its purpose.

Journey Mapping with Employees in Mind

Journey mapping has become quite a hot topic in the customer experience world as of recently. Typically, a journey map includes every touch point of the process it takes for a customer to achieve a goal within the brand. John presents the different approach of creating a journey map with employees in mind. One of the most distinctive features of this strategy is the connecting of different departments and helping them understand their expectations of one another. Noting his experience at Mercy, John explains, “We have some of the brightest clinicians on the planet that work at this organization, and yet they really haven’t had the opportunity to step back and clarify expectations in these interdisciplinary teams. So that’s kind of like the first step before you do the sophisticated approach.” Furthermore, this is especially effective when expectations are broken down into feasible action plans, focusing on particular steps of the journey map. For example, when working for Ritz-Carlton, John implemented a tactic to improve specific areas. He found ways to improve areas such as the arrival and the departure that further structured the relationship between the organization and the customer. Not only does this tactic work for hotels such as Ritz-Carlton, it is also applicable to all businesses that serve customers. Keeping the employees in mind in the journey mapping process works simultaneously to build customer loyalty.

John hopes CX leaders will streamline their processes from subjective to objective experiences with his helpful advice. To learn more about operationalization, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Activate a Customer-Centric Organization | John Timmerman and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re really excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about operations and how that really plays into the role of helping you transform your customer experience and to do that, we brought on a good friend of mine, John Timmerman. He’s currently the Vice President at Mercy. John, thanks for joining. How are you?

John Timmerman: (00:32)
Good. Thank you, Gabe. Delighted to be here with you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah, yeah. We want to take a minute and we’re going to dive in. I think the talk track will be fun. A lot of cool stuff in your background to dive into, but before we do, can you take just a minute to maybe introduce yourself just a little bit more on some of your background?

John Timmerman: (00:50)
Certainly, Gabe. I work at Mercy Health Care in St. Louis and I oversee service lines, support oncology and cardiovascular, respiratory, food service, environmental service, a number of areas that are all operational and how we bring our patient family experiences alive. And we do it here at Mercy through our mission, which is to bring the healing ministry of Christ alive every day with compassionate care and excellence. And prior to Mercy, I worked as the Global VP of operations for 4,700 Marriott hotels. Prior to that, Global VP of quality and operations for Ritz-Carlton brand worldwide. And then health care before that. So I was a hotel worker. Cleveland Clinic was the first health care organization that I was part of.

Gabe Larsen: (01:44)
Yeah, well you’ve definitely seen the movie before so I’m excited to jump in and then as always, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri, Head of CX and Sales at Kustomer and myself, Gabe Larsen, Vice President of Growth. So let’s dive in real quick, wanting to start with this one, John, a lot of companies run into this problem of trying to transform their customer experience, but it just feels soft, right? They’re often talking about the subjective side of the customer experience. The thing I’ve admired about you as I’ve followed you to talk to you, you just seem to always have such an operational mindset, this fanatical maniacal focus on data and process and systems and structure. Big picture, how do you, how do you kind of coach organizations to shift from the subjective side to the objective side?

John Timmerman: (02:34)
Well, it’s kind of common, organizations understand that they — “Survival is not mandatory” as Dr. Deming has said. And so they know they need to evolve around the consumer, their requirements, wants, needs and expectations, but how they do it is usually the failure point. So they’re looking for a campaign, plug and play recognition program, training, and there’s a lot of good training organizations, so nothing against training, but we would have a lot of people come to us at Ritz-Carlton and go through our training program. There’s other good ones like Disney. And so, there’s a lot of good ones out there, but they’d always be surprised when they kind of get an insight of how we activate the customer-centric organization and how we hire the talent. So we’ve got alignment between our brand positioning and the criteria for a selection of our talent, how we onboard them in a very intentional way to orientate and co-locate them into our cultural values. Organizations do a good job of typically giving people technical requirements of the role, but not the belief system. How we reinforce that is through repetition. And so you take a look at something like our organization was architected on personalized service and in your first 30 days, we’re going to reinforce personalized service 30 different ways for you to touch, feel, and be a part of that. So it’s not abstract. I think a good example I would give is one of the things I would do when I was younger is teach scuba diving. And that’s a sport where there could be some really high stakes for people who [inaudible] and we train a student, we would reinforce any technique 15 different ways before we felt comfortable putting them solo. And it’s similar to, if you want to activate a customer-centric organization, there’s no quick fix. Folks can give you insightful information and training programs. You might get a few golden nuggets, but you’ve got to really engineer the processes to reinforce, align those behaviors, those expectations you’re looking for. And that’s the hard work that organizations most times miss.

Gabe Larsen: (04:56)
Yeah. Yeah. I liked the re-engineering of the process. You mentioned a couple of things and I want to go back to one thing you said before we go into process. Sounds like one of the secrets you found is on the hiring side, which is not, a lot of people are talking about customer journey. They go into that re-engineering, they’re like, “Okay, well, let’s get customer centric. We want to get more data-driven, we don’t want to be soft. Let’s map the customer journey and see how we can optimize it.” But you talked about the hiring process. I mean, it always seemed like, at the Ritz-Carlton in particular, with my experience at Disney, like they hire different people. How do they do it? What’s the secret?

John Timmerman: (05:43)
Yeah, so it’s kind of funny because well, I was with you, Gabe, at Gallup, they’ll be flying around all the world, talking to CEOs and COOs. The common thing would be the C-suite would say, “I don’t like my culture. I want to change it.” And they ask “How long will it take to change?” And I’d ask well, some basic questions like, “What’s your turnover,” right? And so it’s 25%, maybe four years, because if you don’t hire right, it’s very challenging to align someone to something that’s not natural to whom they are. And I believe God’s given everyone talent. It’s just, the problem is you might not be in the organization that best fits your talents. And that seems to be the problem. So the first thing is defining what are those, what are those core principles? So when I talk about Ritz-Carlton, it was a personalized service. When I, the Cleveland Clinic, it was around patient-centered care. When we’re at Mercy, it’s activating the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. And so there’s no one right value system or brand positioning, but you have to define it. And once that’s defined, you have to look at people that naturally do well, the top performing and those that don’t do well, the contrast group, and kind of see what’s driving those behaviors between those two groups and then start to develop some recruiting, some employer, brand marketing. So the messaging that you send out is incredibly important. Not here at Mercy, but I was working at another large hospital organization and they were having trouble with their nursing staff. And when we did the root cause analysis, it was just the communication they were sending out is on the recruitment front end of it. But once you get that, then you have to look at how do we identify? Do these people have these innate behaviors with them? And so you’ve got to have the right guy to ask the right questions of the individuals to know if they’re going to conceptually match to that environment. And then you’ve got to kind of not assume they’re just going to activate themselves because people can have these innate talents, but they have to be brought out in many cases. And it’s a spectrum. So some people, just there’s no off switch and they’ll go from day one. And other people require a lot of coaching and creating the right environment to help them activate it and everyone in between. But it really comes down to what is our brand positioning? What do we want our consumers to say about us? We want them to see, touch and feel. And then what are the people in the organization? You probably have some, no matter where you work, that are doing that today. Let’s study them, don’t study the people that are no better than the average, because you’re going to just get average results, but study the ones that are doing it today and let’s figure out how we can recruit to those behaviors as best as possible through both the communication, the brand positioning and the employer base comms, as well as the questions and the discernment that you think through people through when they come into the organization. So for Mercy, we’ve, our hurdles, our first few are the technical requirements, the experience, the credentials and education, and the second hurdle is you have the talents for the role. So if you’re going to be a manager, do you have management talents? Can you develop a team or if you’re in a business development, can you influence? And then the third one is our Mercy fit. Do you, are you going to feel comfortable with, on activating everyday, dignity and excellence and compassion and service and stewardships and charisms like bias for action and entrepreneurship? And so once you’ve got that, that’s at the front end of the funnel, then he got to kind of have to look at the entire journey of the employee especially through the first 21 days, because that’s usually when you get them really aligned or you kind of lose them, they start to go off tracks and those organizational norms start to kind of have an effect on them.

Gabe Larsen: (10:05)
No, I love that. Vikas, go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:05)
I was going to ask, I think one of the things you mentioned is about the brand value or brand promise that people call it. You mentioned some amazing examples, including Mercy. I think one of the things I see as a challenge is people create these values. They put them on a wall or whatever it is, but it never really permeates through the organization. So that would be question number one, if you could give some tips or tricks or how do you actually then orchestrate it through the organization? And two is not everybody always comes on board, especially if this is an evolution that a company may be going through. How do you then kind of identify those people that aren’t in line with the new philosophy and kind of gracefully exit them out of the business if they’re not a fit? I’d be curious about your experience there.

John Timmerman: (10:55)
Yes. All great questions. I’ll answer the last one first, and that was VP of Operations at Ritz-Carlton. We would open a hotel. So then you have a chance to do it right from the beginning as you’re hiring 200 to a thousand people depending on size of the hotel. And to get that, so you know, we selected one out of 20 qualified applicants that had our DNA.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
How many was that?

John Timmerman: (11:22)
I’m sorry?

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
How many was that?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:24)
One out of 20.

John Timmerman: (11:24)
One out of 20.

Gabe Larsen: (11:26)
One out of 20.

John Timmerman: (11:26)
So that means we were willing to go without people to get the right person, because we knew that we had the wrong person, it just cost you dearly. And that’s a discipline, some organizations just quite frankly don’t have. They lower that requirement. And when I would meet with new employees and we’d be opening a new hotel or bringing on a new department, I’d be very frank. I talk about our values and say, “If there’s anything here that you feel uncomfortable with, please, we’re going to take a break and do not come back because this is not the right organization for you. There’s an organization out there for you. We’re just not the one. And that’s okay. We want you to kind of come to that self-discovery now.” It’s so difficult if you’re inheriting people that aren’t aligned with those values to begin with. And it’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to put together a stage plan to have a lot of critical conversations over time and fairness for them and the organization. So anytime you go to hire someone new it’s like, “Let’s get it right,” because downstream is just so much more difficult. But in terms of, what’s the second part of the question or the first part of the question?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:46)
Yeah, [inaudible]. How do you permeate it through the organization?

John Timmerman: (12:49)
Yeah, most of those are quite worthless to be quite frank because you have some consultant or some marketing company, and they could be good consultants and marketing companies, but they developed some textbook vision statement, mission statement, whatever word, label you want to put on it, and it gets transferred to posters and to a buttons in a campaign. And then it collects dust over that. And so really the proof point is, how you can wire it in to create an affinity to one your human resource processes, and then two, your leadership processes and three your operational processes and four your information now with analytics processes. So for HR, we talked about, it’s like calibrating that to the psychometric or that the hiring criteria for leadership processes. And it’s just a basic, “What’s my role as a leader for activating this in my communication?” And so if I had a meeting here at Mercy or Ritz or at other organizations I’ve worked, one of the things is typically the values tend to be at the bottom of the agenda, but it’s intentionally bringing it to the top. So the first thing you talk about is mission, vision, and values, or whatever you call it in your organization, clear. And even though profit is a fuel that keeps us moving forward, and you got to talk about that by all means, that’s not the first thing. And by the way, I’ve been all over the world and profit gets the leader excited, but I’ve never met a frontline employee that get excited on –

Gabe Larsen: (14:24)
Amen. Amen.

John Timmerman: (14:27)
So talk about the things that are going to resonate to them. And it’s the things that are relevant, tactile to them and how that relates to the values. One of the just quick best examples, I can’t mention client names, but we were working a large banking client and the banking client were developing a value system, and this is in California and they were, they were just dead set that the executives were going to define this. And we pushed back a little and said, “Yeah, the executives have a big role for defining those, but really it’s your frontline that’s going to be the proof point for this.” And we kind of had some healthy discussion with them and we finally agreed that, “Hey, the executives will develop a mission statement, and then you get consultants, go ahead and create something with the frontline and we’ll work at it and consider it.” And so we did that. Parallel tracks and an executive did a great job, but the final test was we took the mission statement, the values that the executive created. We took the ones that project team of frontline workers created, and then we randomly picked frontline, these were bank tellers and cashiers and such, and we asked them, “Take a look at these two value statements. Which one gets you excited and in less than 30 seconds, which one can you create a story right now about how you’ve either done this or how are you going to do this?” And take a guess which one they picked?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:49)
The frontline.

John Timmerman: (15:51)
Yeah it was. Frontline wins every time. And so, it needs sponsorship of executives, but if these things don’t resonate within the culture that you have, it’s dead on arrival.

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Wow. Wow. So maybe one follow up to that, John, I just feel like a lot of people ask, especially when it comes to the Ritz-Carlton, these, the it’s, and maybe I’m just, maybe I’ve heard rumors, maybe it’s not true, so maybe you can dispel them. But, when someone like goes in a room, the operational rigor that before somebody checks in like what that person actually does in preparation to get that room, like there’s a 50 point checklist or a hundred point checklist, or there’s a lot of operational rigor that goes into actually providing that optimal experience. I’m trying to think of some of the examples I’ve heard, but maybe you can confirm or deny. How operational significant do you get on some of these small things to make it that Ritz-Carlton-type experience?

John Timmerman: (16:53)
Yeah. So, and a good reference for this is, it’s a Gallup book that was published a while ago and it’s around the notion of how do you create excellence? And when you take a look at a new coworker, employee in an organization, against a requirement, first got to make sure, is there a requirement well defined? So you’re pretty close, Gabe, in that in a guest room, we had about 127 key points of cleanliness and operational requirements. And then you take that and then you say, “Well, how do I make a highly reliable system against that?” So you wouldn’t get the training, the hiring, the inspection process. And so one example would be you just, you have worker fatigue if you kind of ran them against 127 points for 16 rooms. They would clean [inaudible] cleaning a room at a clip of a room for every 30 minutes on average. And so you take that and break it down to what are the 14 vital things that are important to the customer that we got to get a hundred percent, right? So the 127 are still important. We’re not going to ignore them, but we’re going to allow a different level of variation for 127 versus these 14, have to be just bulletproof a hundred percent right. And then be really rigorous on our inspection and reinforcement on those things at high frequency rates. So that’s every room, every housekeeper. One of the things we learned with our housekeeping staff too was, we got to a point where we said, “Hey, we’ve got some people that are so good where they just don’t even need inspection.” So we stopped the inspection and we got pushback from them, they said, “You know what? We know we’re really good and we got low error rates, but we actually want leaders to come in and recognize the great work that we do,” So be careful too, when you go to complete self inspection with top performers. Sometimes those employees value the feedback and the validation that we give them. So it’s designing the right level of inspections so that we’re not burdening with a lot of unnecessary costs, preventative costs, but it’s making sure that for those things that are vital to you, you got a high reliable system. Like one of the things we can never guarantee when we were checking in a customer at Ritz was they’d get the room they wanted. The right view, the right floor and all that. So we stepped back and said, “Well, what can we guarantee?” Well, we can guarantee and we can operationalize that. We’ll use their name at least three times when they check in. And so how do you do that? Well, at the bell services, the door, they’re trained to look at the tags on the luggage. And then they got them. We give them a tool, a microphone, and a radio to communicate it to the front desk. And then we got a follow up call from someone on duty once they checked in the room to see how they’re doing. And so there’s constraints in any order. And then people also say, “Well, you probably pay people more at Ritz-Carlton. That’s why you got it.” Guess what, we paid the same market rate as the Red Roof Inn and any other brand. It’s just that we had some really super good processes and the same would be for Mercy. We focus on, there’s an ocean of things you can work on and that are important so you’ve got to have those accounted for, but you got to really narrow it down to how are you going to differentiate and what’s going to be critical that has to have a hundred percent reliability, and then just really design around that. Because if you try to design a hundred percent reliability, especially in a human dynamic situation where you’re relying upon human technology and not automation, you got to really pick the areas that you go for very carefully.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:44)
John, you made a great point at the end there, which is a lot of times people, when we use brands like Disney or Ritz-Carlton, et cetera, people are like, “Look, of course people are paying $800 a night or a thousand dollars a night to stay there.” You’re going to, and the assumption is that you said that we’re paying our people more. My belief has always been that there’s some core elements that you can have in any business, whether you’re a restaurant, whether you’re the local delicatessen, whatever it is, that it doesn’t matter if you’re the Ritz-Carlton. What are some of those kind of key principles that really any business can adopt? You said you’ve got a 127 point checklist, but there’s 10 things that every business should think about or consider or adopt to provide that premium level of customer experience.

John Timmerman: (21:36)
Yeah. That’s a pretty common question. And I’m not going to skirt around it, but I would say that I’m a little bit hesitant because of sharing specifics because then, as you know, Vikas, Gabe, people run out and try to implement that and may not be right for the context. When I first got to Cleveland Clinic from Ritz, they said, “Make us like Ritz-Carlton.” I said, “Well, let me come back to you in 90 days and tell you if that’s right.” And there’s some things we use from Ritz, but there’s a lot of things we didn’t use too just because of the context and the brand positioning. So, but here’s what I would say though, I give you some fallacies to stay away from. So maybe I’ll go the other direction, not saying what to do, but what not to do. The one thing is to draw the assumption that training’s going to solve it. And I learned this as a young 20-year-old manager, when Ritz was just being formed. When I joined the organization, the president Horst Schulze, we all the time, you get general managers with, you would call them excuses. Excuses why they couldn’t deliver a perfect customer experience for our guests. And the typical excuse was training. And then what Horst would do on the phone, Horst would say, “I’m flying down to your hotel right now. I’m going to offer everyone of your employees a thousand dollars if they can do this the way that we’re asking them to do it. What time do you want me to show up?” And the GM would always say, “No Horst, don’t get on the plane. It’s not a training issue. There’s other issues. We’ve got to clarify the expectation. I got to go back and make sure they’ve got the tools and resources. We need to know if we’ve got the right measurements and metrics in place to answer the question. How do we know this is being done the way that we want it to be done? Are we reinforcing the right behaviors, both positive reinforcement as well as you gotta be truthful.” Hey, there has to be negative consequences when these things aren’t done after you’ve given everyone, you’ve set the table with what they need to be able to do it and you can’t just say, “Happy employees and happy customers.” Yeah. It’s easier to serve customers if the employees are happy, but there’s other processes and tools and resources that have to be brought in to play too. I really wish it was that easy. Then we’d all be getting better customer service across the board. So stay away from that training fallacy. Also stay away from the fallacy that if we just paid more, because for any savvy manager, put the data aside and the data sites this, is that pay is abhorrent. So that’s not right, it’s an obstacle. But if it is right, it’s very short-lived and what’s going to give you, get you in terms of performance. And if there’s one thing I always learned from Gallup, when you look at what drives behavior, you have to ask, you have to know that it equals one level with each coworker. So for someone, it might be economics, for other people, it’s going to be public recognition. Other people, I mean, they quit if you gave them public recognition and it’s some autonomy and their job, and it just varies across the board. And that’s why leadership is not easy, not for everyone, because you’ve got to dial into those nuances of people once you’ve set that table and give them those basic tools and environment.

Gabe Larsen: (25:03)
Wow, I like that. I want to talk just for a minute about the, you hit some of the operational elements, but a lot of people talk about this customer journey map concept and how you can actually start to go from end to end and start to find some of the checkpoints or the areas you do need to improve. How would you coach organizations to go through that process? I mean, it seems like you’re so methodical in the way that you walked through that customer journey yourself and find things that, I remember this one we did at Toyota together, and you were thinking of things I didn’t even, there were so many signatures, you were like, “That guy had to sign 130 times. Like that’s crazy.” And I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t even see that one.” Is it just take an eye for it? Or how do you do a customer journey map, John Timmerman style? You know?

John Timmerman: (25:52)
Yeah. The most I’ll give you is, if you’re at maturity stage one, but the first thing to do is to most, and by the way, most of the breakdowns occur in service organization between handoffs, between departments. And so if you kind of know that, and that’s a working hypothesis, then one easy thing is just to get two departments together and clarify requirements and expectations. So I can’t tell you the number of times I walk into a hotel and meet with the culinary and the banquet servers and ask the question, “Do you know what you want from them? And do they know what they need from you?” And they’d be working together for 10 plus years and really not have a clear definition around how they support each other and those requirements. And that’s true for hotels and hospitals. We need, we have some of the brightest clinicians on the planet that work at this organization, and yet they really haven’t had the opportunity to step back and clarify expectations in these interdisciplinary teams. So that’s kind of like the first step before you do the sophisticated approach. Let’s say you got some clarity around basic requirements between departments, teams, multidisciplinary units. Take the customer experience at Ritz, we calculated that there was 1800 potential touch points for travel or stay in 1.5 nights. So again, that’s the ocean of what can happen. And then you got to say, “What are the critical phases of the 1000 plus that inform the consumer’s opinion of you?” And really determine whether they’re going to come back and what they say and feel all that. And you break it down into a little bit, the arrival phase. It’s like mom said, first impression. So let’s focus right now on the arrival phase and get that right. And then if it’s not the arrival, maybe you got that, we know recency theory that the departure, the fond farewell thing. So maybe let’s go take a look at that. And then maybe let’s circle to what’s in the middle between those two bookends of the phase, and let’s look at it, or what are the transactions, the things that they’re doing? Like filling out those application forms. What are the things that we’re doing to reinforce relationship? How do we intelligently design something unanticipated? Organizations don’t have endless resources to gold plate, the experience. So you’ve got limited amenities and things you can do for consumers to drive their loyalty. So whether it’s on the site, visual site with gamification, or it’s a physical interaction, how are we going to find design, design in some of these things that are going to drive delight and make this more than just a reliable, transactional thing, but also experience that drives relationship and some level of memory and printing for that experience?

Gabe Larsen: (28:57)
Hmm. Interesting. I like it. Do you, as we get to kind of close here. Certainly the world has changed and that’s changed for Mercy. It’s changed for Ritz-Carlton has changed for so many companies with all that’s happening in the world. What are some of those things that you’ve learned through this change that you would want to leave maybe with customer experience leaders trying to transform their businesses, knowing that digitization is on us more than ever, knowing that COVID is obviously changing everything we do? What are some of those principles that you’ve kind of maybe either had to adopt or didn’t you feel like you could pass on to an audience of customer experience leaders?

John Timmerman: (29:36)
Yeah, I actually, a great question. I actually have three of them. There’s many, but three. The first one is this is a tragic situation that’s occurring. A lot of people are put in a very bad situation and let’s take this bad situation and try to use it for good as much as possible. And you can do that through many different ways. One is compassion. So we don’t lower our standards but we’re also looking at things through the eyes of not just our consumer, but our coworker. And so maybe there was a policy that you never compromised in the past and not suggesting what organizations do or don’t do, the policies, but let’s reevaluate it through the lens of, you’ve got one parent that’s trying to juggle somebody at home and another one that’s trying to juggle their job and the school’s closing. And let’s reevaluate policy through an eye of compassion for people and make sure that we put them at the center of it. The second one is let’s just try to automate as much of these things as we can. So, per capita, the US, we’re extremely high in terms of per capita cost for health care. And so if we can take out some manual process and automate it and allow people to practice at the top of their license and allow people more human contact versus paper shuffling, let’s do that as much as possible too. And the third thing is for leaders, I can speak for myself and the leaders I work with, you’re going to have to take a step back and rethink the new requirements because the world has changed. And a lot of the things that I would do yesterday that would drive performance results and success just quite frankly don’t apply today in this new environment. And so we’re all having to learn how to, if you’re right-handed, write left-handed. And make sure you’re spending time with your teams to define, “Hey, what are the new requirements? Because things have changed.” I just can’t say that it’s the things of yesterday are going to work today and give people the breathing room to kind of go through that discovery phase because the demands of co-workers, of consumers, of leadership, I suggest is very different today and that’s going to require some change and growing for I think, all of us, that whole leadership responsibility.

Gabe Larsen: (32:14)
Awesome. Awesome. Well John, love having you on. Vikas, closing thoughts or closing questions on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (32:18)
One, I think we could do another 30 minutes.

Gabe Larsen: (32:21)
Yeah. Dang it. I’m sad I only booked 30.

Vikas Bhambri: (32:25)
Can we do a part two? No look, I think the key thing, and we learned a little bit about this last week with our previous guests is, your customer journey mapping is all the rage and everybody’s doing it. But I think my key takeaway from John’s discussion is the employee side, because, it is, there’s two parts of the equation and the employee, everything from hiring to then enablement, and then the management of those of those team members is absolutely critical in delivering that ultimate customer experience. So thank you so much, John. That was my big takeaway.

Gabe Larsen: (32:58)
Yeah.

John Timmerman: (32:59)
God bless. Take care.

Gabe Larsen: (32:59)
How many touch points was that again, John? It was how many?

John Timmerman: (33:04)
It was about 1800 plus per just for a 1.5 length of stay.

Gabe Larsen: (33:10)
That is just crazy. Alrighty. Well John, again, really appreciate you joining and taking the time. Vikas, as always, thanks for being on and everybody have a great day.

Exit Voice: (33:22)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle

Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle TW

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

Tip 1: Build a Strong Base for Relationships

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

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

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

Tip 2: Utilize Data Effectively

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

Tip 3: Step Outside of the CX Role

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

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

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

Tip 4: Actively Listen to and Learn from the Customer

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Four Steps To Transforming a CX Organization | Hunter Schoettle

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about transforming. How to do that on the customer experience side with a little bit of a healthcare focus and to do that, we’ve got Hunter Schoettle joining us. He’s currently the Head of Customer Experience at PatientPop. Hunter, thanks for joining man. How are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunter Schoettle: (09:36)
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (19:39)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Building a 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence and 3 Simple Tips with Shannon Martin

Building a 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence and 3 Simple Tips with Shannon Martin TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Shannon Martin to learn about building a 90 day roadmap to successful customer service. Learn how Shannon has built an excellent team to provide world class customer service by listening to the podcast below.

Problem Solving Through Connection

Senior Director of Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group, Shannon, reveals the secrets to structuring a successful CX team with a 90 day roadmap. The first step to 90 day success is to build a connection through asking questions. Doing so is sure to uncover problems that need to be solved within the brand that customers are experiencing. This is an especially effective way to cater the ultimate consumer experience because this method is created by design-led thinking. When asked to evaluate a design-led thinking company culture, Shannon says, “Even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact of the customer? What is their experience finding the problems?” By asking questions to the customer and further quantifying problems that need to be solved as a result, a company becomes more vigilant and better customer service outcomes are sure to ensue.

Testing Promising Opportunities

The next step of the 90 day roadmap is to test and learn based on the data gathered. Once these problems have been identified, it is important for CX leaders to look at all of the options to find the most promising opportunities. As Shannon says, “You really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start.”

A prime example of testing and learning was when Shannon’s team identified how to better provide a customer experience. She understands how difficult it can be for brands that have CX teams across the globe to implement change. Shannon believes that one of the best ways to effectively implement tests and change is to start with a focus group and if said group shows positive results, change can then be implemented globally. To do this, Shannon’s test group displayed a more consultative approach to CX, rather than that of a strictly problem solving approach. Additionally, her team cut all handle times and allowed the agents to provide service at their will without constraint. This ultimately led to higher customer satisfaction scores, employee satisfaction scores and a profound increase in revenue.

Slow Down for Success

The final step to creating and actualizing an effective 90 day roadmap is to take things piece by piece and day by day. Something a lot of newer brands evidently struggle with is they tend to overleap oneself and become overwhelmed with amounting problems that need solving. Shannon’s solution is to find the right opportunities and to create change in small and effective steps. She mentions:

Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?

Starting from scratch and working in small steps can bring long-term benefits and success. Working each day towards a goal and doing what is necessary in increments to achieve that goal can help launch CX teams to their biggest wins.

CX and CS leaders alike could greatly benefit by using Shannon’s 90 day roadmap to customer service excellence. Identifying problems by creating a connection and asking targeted questions, testing and learning from data, and solving problems day by day have all proven to transcend teams to CX greatness.

To learn more about the secrets to creating a 90 day roadmap, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Listen to “The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | With Shannon Martin” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | Shannon Martin

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. Fun topic, very fun topic. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a 90 day roadmap to customer excellence and to do that, we brought on Shannon Martin. She’s currently the Senior Director, Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group. Shannon, thanks for joining. How are ya?

Shannon Martin: (00:30)
I am great. It’s a lovely rainy day here in Texas, which for most people may not be exciting, but for Texas, it’s a great day.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
I love it. I love it. Well we appreciate you joining and want to jump into some of the lessons learned from your cool career. But before we do that, maybe tell us just a little bit more about your background.

Shannon Martin: (00:51)
Sure. Even though I am part of the Travel Partners Group at Expedia now, prior to that, I was the Head of Global Customer Experience Operations for HomeAway, which became Vrbo, which was acquired by Expedia.

Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
Yes.

Shannon Martin: (01:06)
So I’ve got at least 20 years, I don’t want to say exactly how many, in the customer service world, starting with frontline management and then going all the way through to everything that supports customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (01:19)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, yeah. You look at, check out her LinkedIn and you’ll find that she is, she’s seen the movie once or twice, so it’d be fun to kind of dive into this idea of starting up and optimizing your customer excellence transformation. So let’s start at the top. As people think, I think this is one of the big challenges, I’m new to a job. I’m thinking about trying to kind of optimize the structure, the strategy, but there’s so much coming at me. How do you start? How do you start thinking about this 90 day plan of being able to just do it and do it right?

Shannon Martin: (01:52)
Well, if you’re coming new into a company, you obviously don’t know what you don’t know. The big thing these days is design-led thinking, take your approach to those first 90 days in that design-led thinking framework, then you realize the first thing you need to do is figure out what problems you need to solve. And then from there you can start thinking about, “All right, I’ve figured out a problem. What are some of the things that I might be able to address?” And then start designing some tests to see if you can actually make a difference in those areas? Because even those incremental tests could start to show you some goodness that you can expand on in a broader base later.

Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
I, yeah, this design-led thinking. It seems to be a little bit of a buzz, not a buzzword, but something that I think not everybody knows about. Could you just double click on that a little bit because it does, it is for some, a newer phenomenon. How would you explain that? What is it?

Shannon Martin: (02:49)
What’s funny about it is in the customer service world, I think customer service people are naturally designed to do this, but you always want to start with the customer’s problem. What problem are you trying to solve? And so once you understand what problem you’re trying to solve, then you can think about, “Okay, what are the processes that impact that problem? How does a customer get to the point where they have that problem?” And then you start looking at breaking that problem apart and what can you then fix? And then it all becomes a question of testing; test and learn. How do you tweak this one thing? Does it make a difference? How do you, and then expand that to different parts of the process? So even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact on the customer? What’s their experience finding the problems?

Gabe Larsen: (03:44)
I like that. I like that you’re right. In some ways it’s been around for a while, but it does take a couple of new avenues, a little bit more structure in the way that you kind of talked about it, right? Problem and process and product and bringing those all together. Let’s maybe double click into some of those thoughts. I like the design-led thinking of how you then approach those 90 days. Where do you typically start?

Shannon Martin: (04:03)
Gosh, the first thing is you need to go out and you gather your data right on the problem. And the best way to gather the data is talking to people. This is actually a twofold benefit. Not only can you start to understand the customer’s problems and concerns, but you start to build relationships with the people on the front lines. At VRBO, our customer service agents talk to 10,000 people a year.

Gabe Larsen: (04:29)
Wow.

Shannon Martin: (04:29)
And my joke was they had the Vulcan mind meld with their customers. If you wanted to know how something was going to go over with a customer, talk to customer service agents. So that’s where I start, like just getting their information, getting in their ideas, round tables and surveys, and just going down to someone’s desk and saying, “Hey, what are you seeing? What are you hearing today about X, Y, and Z?” So again, not only are you starting to gather your data on what the customer problems are, you’re also hearing directly from the folks that probably have ideas on how to solve those problems and building the relationships with those teams. It’s all gonna give you a lot more trust in grace when you start to suggest some changes later.

Gabe Larsen: (05:14)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, people feel, I feel like people, they do try to get to their customers, but sometimes they don’t get the information they want out of it. It’s like, I love that you kind of talk about this idea of building connections by asking questions. Is there certain ways you’ve found to get the right information out? Is it about structuring the right questions? Is it about just getting to the right people or make sure you get to the right customers or any thoughts on kind of that double click on actually extracting some of the goodness out?

Shannon Martin: (05:43)
There’s so many frameworks and how you can do it. I have usually taken a little bit more of an unstructured approach and I might start out with, “Hey, what are you hearing about our billing issues right now?” And it’s something, I mean, that seems like a fairly broad topic and there can be lots of questions or lots of answers that could come about. But oftentimes agents have something that’s very top of mind and they’ll say, “Well, what we’re seeing right now is that refunds are taking more than the normal amount of time.” “Okay. Tell me more,” and it really becomes like the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” once you have that breadcrumb to go after, then you can actually start looking at more structured data to figure out how big the problem is. So if you’re seeing a payment issue in New Zealand, like, “Okay, what payment provider are we using in New Zealand?” Well we’re using this particular one, I’m not gonna name names. And so then you actually start, you go to the case management system. It’s like, “Okay, how many contacts did we have? How many bookings do we have? Okay, we’ve got a fairly good percentage of things that are not happening.” And then you go to engineering and it’s like, “Okay, are we seeing anything happening here?” So you start gathering all your data now that you have that breadcrumb or that starting point that identifies a problem. Because once you, you have some anecdotal problems, but then you need to quantify them. How big of a problem is it?

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking as you said the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” concept of somebody saying something like that. They said the five whys. It’s like you’re having a problem, why? Well this. Well, why? Well, why? And pretty soon after the fifth one they said, usually you’ve got down to the root cause of what’s really driving this person or what they care most about, or what’s really kind of putting them in that position. That, “Tell me more,” that’s fun. I’d forgotten that. Okay. So getting the connections and asking the right questions is number one. Where do you kind of go to next, as you think about this road map and this design-led thinking transformation?

Shannon Martin: (07:52)
Right? The normal, the thing that we normally look at, so before you come up with a specific solution, right, you have to, there’s some maybe policy process kind of the softer things that you need to figure out. And in that case, you also want to look at all your options. So let’s say you identified 20 different problems like, “Okay, I’m going to narrow it down. What are just a couple of promising opportunities that we have here?” And they could make a small change that can make a big difference, or it could be a big change that happened that fixes every customer. That’s like, not as likely, but you really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start. It will help you feel like you’re not boiling the ocean, right? Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Yeah. You, and this might go into your back on a little bit but I’m always interested. As you’ve gone through some of these exercises, and you found some of these few promising opportunities, have there ever been some surprises where you’re like, “Oh man, here’s a fun one. A fun part of the process that we could change or part of the customer experience, or even something in the employee experience, that we could change that would ultimately kind of produce bigger results.” Anything come to mind that again, some of these maybe few promising opportunities, that you’ve found in different situations?

Shannon Martin: (09:54)
I’m trying to think. We, there have been so many along the way. I’m just thinking of something particularly goofy that springs to mind but, there’s a whole idea just in how you finish your call, right? You never want to leave the customer with a negative, right? So the standard question has always been, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Well, the answer then is no, which is a negative and that’s not necessarily how you want to end a call.

Gabe Larsen: (10:25)
Oh, interesting. Interesting.

Shannon Martin: (10:25)
And so we actually tweaked how our agents completed their calls and said, “Have I answered everything for you today?” And, and at that point, then the customer has the opportunity to say, “Yeah, actually you have,” or “No, wait a minute. I have one more thing.” Just that one small thing, again, very small thing in the process. And we saw a shift in our customer satisfaction scores.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I love that.

Shannon Martin: (10:51)
Customers were left feeling more positive, especially in a case where the agent had no ability to change the outcome, right? So it’s perhaps a policy thing, or perhaps in our case, a traveler was unable to get a refund from the property owner because of the property owner’s policies, whatever the case may be. But it definitely helped the customer recognize that now this agent has done everything they can, and it was reflected on the customer satisfaction scores.

Gabe Larsen: (11:21)
I like that. No, that’s fine. I appreciate that because sometimes it is those small and simple things that lead to big changes, big results. And sometimes those are the things you need to be able to find, especially if you’re new or you’re trying to map out that. It’s always, I feel like quick wins. If you can find some of those things while you work on the bigger pieces that allow everybody to be satisfied. You, your boss, your customers, your employees, everyone wins.

Shannon Martin: (11:47)
Yeah. [Inaudible] Hear about it. They’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s kind of nice to be able to say that.”

Gabe Larsen: (11:52)
I like that. Okay. So we have building connections–kind of getting the questions right, simplify it down, focus on some of those quick wins or find those promising opportunities. I like the way you talked about it. Then where do you go last here?

Shannon Martin: (12:07)
And the last one is where it can really be fun and sometimes requires a little bit more creativity. And that’s where you test and learn. So you’ve identified your promising, some places to start and you need to be able to test your theory. And again, if you’re going to make a small change and you have 3,000 agents globally, you’re not going to be able to test it across 3,000 agents. Like that’s just too much to ask, but you identify a set of agents, maybe in a single region, or even a single team, depending on how much time you have so that you can have them try something just to get a signal. So we had an interesting test that we ran, because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative. And when we first started it, they were struggling with that. They’re like, “Well, I’m not a salesperson.” Like, “We know that, but you’re helping the partner or customer run their business better with our tools. So you have the technology, you can teach them and consult with them on how to do that better.” Well, guess what happens when you go into consultation mode and you’re having these great conversations? Your handle times go up. So then our agents were struggling with trying to, we didn’t cap handle times, but everyone kind of watches handle times. And so we ran a test and said, “Okay, no holds barred. You guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test, all so that you can do this consultation.”

Gabe Larsen: (13:51)
Wow. Wow. Awesome. Awesome.

Shannon Martin: (13:55)
In the results that we saw, customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners were learning how to do their business better. And we saw a return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group. So it was one of those things that we got enough signal on that test. And I think we ran it for three months, that particular one. I was like, “All right, this is how we’re going to run it going forward,” because we know giving up control over that handle time, allowing the agents the freedom to have those great conversations with our partners, led to an overall better experience for everyone.

Gabe Larsen: (14:38)
Yeah. Wow. I love that, the idea of kind of nail it and scale it. You got to find a small group of people that you can inject that change on and then see if you can actually do it. I love the idea. So funny, we find ourselves, as you were talking, I’m just, we think we’re being customer obsessed sometimes because we’re looking at things like handle time. But really that’s actually disabling the customer to have a better experience because we’re so interested in this metric, but yet we think we’re being customer obsessed, but really we’re being customer not obsessed. But –

Shannon Martin: (15:16)
Metric obsessed. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
It’s interesting that sometimes the metrics can not lead you astray, but sometimes they can give you mixed messages. I’m feeling, I’m hearing that a lot. Like people are like, “Well, my numbers are good, but my overall customer experience is not good.” It’s like –

Shannon Martin: (15:36)
I always say you get the behavior that you encourage. And if you’re encouraging shorter handle times, the agents, they’re smart. They’re going to figure out how to whip through those things and move customers through faster even though they may not want to.

Gabe Larsen: (15:53)
Yeah. Oh, fascinating. I need to send this recording to a few people. So, okay. Well Shannon, we really appreciate your time. As we kind of think about wrapping, we’d love to just get a quick summary from you. You hit a bunch of different things, but you’ve got different CX leaders, CS leaders out there trying to kind of get this transformation or get into this excellence mindset. What’s that last piece of advice you kind of leave with them?

Shannon Martin: (16:18)
If you get just a tiny bit better every day, then at the end of the year, you’re going to look back and you’re going to see, “Wow, we’ve made some incredible improvements.” So, it really is those tiny steps. As long as you’re doing everything you can to get a little bit better every day, you’re going to get big wins down the road.

Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
So yeah, that’s the small crawl, walk, run, I’ve often said. Crawl, walk, run. So if someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Shannon Martin: (16:48)
Definitely on LinkedIn. So Shannon Martin, and I guess the LinkedIn handle is S-L-E-A-R Martin.

Gabe Larsen: (16:55)
And I can attest, she does respond. That’s how I found her, on LinkedIn. So she does respond.

Shannon Martin: (17:03)
Definitely. Definitely. Always willing to share.

Gabe Larsen: (17:03)
Awesome. Okay. Well, I really appreciate the time today, Shannon, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (17:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Next-Level CX for B2B Companies With Steve Walker and Troy Powell

Next-Level CX for B2B Companies With Steve Walker and Troy Powell TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steve Walker and Troy Powell from Walker to uncover the secrets of their newest research report focused on the differences between B2C and B2C customer experience. Learn how Steve and Troy are helping CX leaders make steady progress to achieve the next level of CX excellence for their companies by listening to the podcast below.

Humanizing the Customer Experience

Living in a digital world, almost anything can be found online. With the masses flocking to online business, especially in times of COVID-19, those involved with customer service and business-to-business companies have had to completely rethink the customer experience. All too often, companies find themselves having to solve more complicated issues in B2B communications, sometimes forgetting the human at the other end of the interaction. Steve Walker, CEO of Walker, believes that it is imperative for excellent customer service reps to remember the human on the other end of the line. He says:

We don’t think that we’re still dealing with human beings and human beings have these kind of very humanistic needs, but sometimes in B2B we make it too complicated. Also, you’re just dealing with way more people and more complicated solutions. But it really is. It’s about making it personal. It’s about, how would I like to be treated and what problem are we solving for the people that we’re working with?

Adding that humanizing element to every CX interaction has proven to be very effective in customer engagement and satisfaction. Showing a shred of empathy goes a long way when it comes to CX and brands would be wise to self reflect and find ways in which they can show more empathy in customer correspondence, further allowing the human side to peek through.

How to Unite as a Brand

Customer service is essential to lasting brand success. VP of Strategy and Analytics at Walker, Troy Powell, knows that one of the most effective things a company can do to provide the best CX is to unite every department and to become more customer-centric across the board. When building a team of reps and vying for executive approval for CX changes, it is important to find those who strive to provide the highest quality customer support. This team can be assembled from any department. As long as all departments are on the same page about the brand’s core CX methodologies, the brand can find major success in a customer-centric model. To further explain this, Troy emphasizes, “So trying to build out this ally network and form some kind of a team, even if it’s slightly informal, is pretty critically important. And then as quickly as possible getting some kind of a win.” Having that initial win can help grab the attention of those at the top of the company. Something as simple as a survey making its rounds can shine some light on the progress and initiatives of the CX team.

Tips for Transforming a Customer-Centric Business

Creating a successful customer service team from the ground up can be extremely taxing and difficult to map out, especially for those newer to the process. Steven urges those who are searching to build a thriving team to start with the basics. He mentions some key takeaways, which are to talk to those who deal with customers daily to get a more well-rounded persona. Additionally, take a qualitative approach, speaking in a way in which executives will be more keen to listen to. Vernacular such as “revenue and margin and market share” are sure to catch their attention. Furthermore, find your first win and build upon it. Lastly, talk to people who know how to help and talk to those who fill similar shoes and can offer seasoned advice. As Steve mentions, “The ultimate outcome of being customer focused is to have a sustainable business. So, if you have a sustainable business, then you probably already have some things that you do really, really well.”

Creating a high-level customer experience and aligning with a customer-centric company culture will surely bring a more sustainable and successful business.

To learn more about the secrets to leveling up with extraordinary CX, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Listen to “Troy Powell and Steve Walker | The Maturity Model” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Next-Level CX for B2B Companies | Steve Walker and Troy Powell

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. Today, we’re going to be talking about next-level CX for B2B companies. The why. The what. The when and the how. And to do that we brought on two special guests, Dr. Troy Powell, currently the VP of Strategy and Analytics at Walker. And then you’ve got Steve Walker, currently CEO. Steve, Troy, thanks for joining. How are you?

Steve Walker: (00:33)
Doing good, Gabe. Thanks for having us on the podcast.

Gabe Larsen: (00:38)
Well it’s fun. We’ve got a fun research report that we’re going to dive into that I think will be really insightful for the guests. Appreciate you sharing with us some of these findings, but before we do that, can you tell us a little bit about Walker, some of the things you guys do over there? The podcast you guys do, give us a little more about your story.

Steve Walker: (00:57)
Yeah, I can kick it off and then let Troy jump in here. But, we are an 81 year-old family business. My grandmother did door-to-door surveys starting in 1939 and she was an entrepreneur and saw a business opportunity and actually didn’t go to college or anything. She just was trying to make a buck. And that was kind of the birth of market research. It’s about the same time Gallup was starting to do political polling and Nielsen was tracking the movement of stuff, but my grandmother was an entrepreneur. And so we grew up as a market research agency. Early on, we were into the customer satisfaction movement, Malcolm Baldrige, all of those factors that have moved us more and more towards a customer experience economy. And we bet a couple things early on, on the internet so we were pretty fast in technology. And then we really honed in on our focus on customer experience just in the last three or four years with our partnership with Qualtrics and their whole ecosystem around using insights to drive business success.

Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
Yes, yes. Kudos on that. I’m actually in Salt Lake City at the moment. So just a bones throw from the Qualtrics headquarters. What a great story and I know you guys have a strong partnership there. I actually also worked at Gallup. We have some common things in our lineage there. I spent some years at Gallup in those early companies, trying to kind of figure out how to survey real pioneers in the industry. Troy, anything you want to add to that? That’s a pretty good overview.

Troy Powell: (02:34)
Yeah, no. That’s great. Steve definitely has the background on this company to share.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
You’ve been saying third generation, is that what you said? Third generation, is that right now?

Steve Walker: (02:45)
Yeah, and I’m in the fourth quarter of my career too. So we actually have a fourth generation in the business. So, if we’re lucky we might make it another one.

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah, beautiful. Not many family businesses make it that long. Sometimes they find a way to unravel but kudos. Sounds like you guys would beat the odds. One other thing I’d love to get into, love to just kind of humanize you before we get into some of these best practices on CX by asking you maybe something a little more personal. Troy, maybe we can start with you. Outside of work, I mean, we know you’re a, maybe it’s the Duke thing. It is a doctor of Duke. And did you play bask- I heard you were a good basketball player. Is that what I’ve been hearing?

Troy Powell: (03:27)
I played high school. We were state champions in Alaska. I grew up in Alaska, so –

Gabe Larsen: (03:37)
That doesn’t count. That doesn’t count. You have to come up with something,

Troy Powell: (03:39)
But with the other Duke connection, I actually played on a youth team of Trajan Langdon who played at Duke for four years. And now he’s director of operations, I think Houston, anyway some NBA team. But so, yeah, so there’s some connections basketball wise. I do still enjoy watching basketball, not playing much. And then watching my son play basketball. So spend a good amount of time with him. Youth sports, trying to be a good youth sport dad.

Gabe Larsen: (04:06)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, hey man. Welcome to the club. I’ve got a couple boys that I’m trying to get into that as we speak. What did you, what was the doctorate in?

Troy Powell: (04:15)
It was actually in sociology and then it was a very quantitative program and looking to make a little bit more of a practical impact. I transitioned into this world of doing survey research for businesses, right? Customer research in that manner, that’s kind of what got me in at Walker for 15 years ago now.

Gabe Larsen: (04:39)
Oh my good- yeah. 15. Well, congratulations. All right. Steve, over to you. Outside of work, any hobbies, any fun, embarrassing moments you want to share?

Steve Walker: (04:46)
Yeah. Gabe, you know, I would make a great full-time recreater. I have lots of interests and very few of them I’m really proficient at, but I actually like to play golf, but I’m an 18 handicap. I like to fish, but I really don’t know that much about fishing. I just think it’s fun. I love sports. I love to read. I got family, I got friends, I like wine. I like fine dining. So, work just gets in the way of having a good time sometimes for me.

Gabe Larsen: (05:17)
Well, I can appreciate the 18 handicap. That sounds like you and I should go hang out sometime. Well, all right. Let’s jump into the topic at hand. Big picture, maybe Steve, you can talk about this, just set the stage for this report. You guys obviously have a research-based approach. At Walker, you guys do a lot of this stuff. But, why this report? Give us kind of the why and the what of this?

Steve Walker: (05:42)
Yes. Some of it came kind of from our business focus as we emerged in kind of the customer satisfaction, customer loyalty measurement industries from the research perspective. We just found we had a niche with B2B companies and it was because B2B is different and it was complex. And maybe back ten years ago, you’d go to a conference and they’d say that they had stuff for B2B, but then the case studies would be Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines and you know, all these great companies. But they really didn’t understand B2B. And you’re going to allow us, I think, to promote our report, which is really a nice deal. It’s kind of a playbook for a B2B marketer, but in the report we discuss some of the basic differences between B2B and B2C. And just to highlight a couple for you.

Gabe Larsen: (06:38)
Please. Yeah.

Steve Walker: (06:38)
Most B2C is pretty transactional. It’s one person buying it. It tends to be a product or service you consume and you might consume it, but there really isn’t an ongoing relationship. A B2B tends to be an ongoing relationship with both products and services, right? Typically the sales cycle is much longer and it’s more complex. There’s usually multiple people involved in making the decision. And then in the company that’s providing the value, there tends to be multiple people who deliver to the customer. Think about a global partnership between, say a big automaker and an IT supplier. They’re trying to provide service to an organization across hundreds, if not thousands of customers. And then on the opposite side, maybe tens, if not hundreds of people that are delivering the value to those customers. And then just the whole kind of aspect of how you do the metrics. Things like NPS work really good in the consumer space or JD Power, kind of like ratings work good in the consumer space, but they’re not really diagnostic or prescriptive enough for a B2B. So, we’ve always had an interest in B2B. Our partners at Qualtrics did a huge study sort of on the whole state of customer experience today. And so we went with them with Troy’s expertise and say, “Hey, we’d like to dataset and tease out some of the information and kind of compare and contrast B2B and B2C,” and what resulted is a really, I think a compelling case for the B2B marketers to step up their game.

Gabe Larsen: (08:11)
I love that.

Steve Walker: (08:11)
Just real quickly. Like in 2013, you could call an Uber and you could order from Amazon and those technologies that we sort of as consumers expect from a digital experience, B2B still doesn’t have some of that. I mean, if I ordered something for my business that’s coming via truck, I don’t have an Uber app to tell me where that package is right now. And so that, kind of with COVID and all that, this whole acceleration towards the digital economy, it’s really calling the B2B guys to step up the game on a customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (08:47)
Yeah and it’s true. It’s like the, I had one person say the consumerization of the B2B buyer, all of this stuff we do as a consumer, it’s now translated into the B2B world and we kind of expect, we believe it’s not there, I think to your point, but we’re pushing it because it certainly needs to be there. So Troy, maybe you could walk us through, that’s a great foundation. What were some of the findings, as you think about companies trying to take it to the next level, what were some of those findings that allowed companies to kind of separate themselves from the pack?

Troy Powell: (09:27)
Yeah. One of the things we did find is B2B, there’s a slightly different path in how they develop CX maturity, which a lot of this report is very focused on this customer experience as a function within an organization, or it’s a skill within an organization. How do you develop that? How do you flex that muscle better? And so we defined the path was slightly different for B2B companies in that the companies who really made that transition from just starting out to being kind of at a second level of maturity, they really had to go through this activation process within the organization of getting the organization to think about the customer more, to be more customer-centric. And that’s because in a B2B org, everybody’s owning the customer. There’s different functions, there’s different business units, all of these different people are having a role and you kind of need them all on board in order to understand the customer better and deliver an experience. So whereas in B2C, there’s a little bit more centralization and we’re broad brush strokes here. Not every company is the same, but they definitely have that tendency. So that was an interesting finding that, really there is, and we see that a lot. There’s this push up front of, “Well, all right. I can’t do this alone as an individual or a small team that’s trying to get the company to be more customer-centric.” You’ve got to have leaders on board, you’ve got to have a cross-functional team and all these things to really expand it out of just one little starting point.

Gabe Larsen: (11:07)
Yeah, we hear that all the time, but I’d love your quick take on it. I mean, getting the CX leader, B2B, B2C, they often are trying to run it on their team or sometimes siloed and they’re trying to push it up to the executive team. And sometimes it’s falling on deaf ears. Any quick tips or advice for people who are struggling to kind of get that up to, it seems like it should be obvious, I realize that, but sometimes –

Troy Powell: (11:34)
It’s not. And I think we did point out there’s kind of a couple of different ways that CX often starts. And sometimes it is top-down driven. A new leader comes in, a new CEO or somebody on the team and says, “We’re going to do this.” In that case, it’s a little bit easier. It’s still, there’s a lot that needs to be done to really make it effective, but to your point, it often starts in smaller areas. A customer service call center might be a place where they start to do surveys and really think about the customer. And then, all right. Now how do we expand that out? I think it’s very important to early on be identifying who are those people who are kind of allies? And saying, “Hey, there’s people over here in the sales department that are interested in what we’re doing and they’re kind of willing to partner.” So trying to build out this ally network and form some kind of a team, even if it’s slightly informal, is pretty critically important. And then as quickly as possible getting some kind of a win. So saying, “Hey, we’ve got this little survey going somewhere in one part of the business, let’s show how taking that feedback has helped us to be more efficient or to get more revenue,” or something. And then just blasting that message out and getting the attention of leadership. That way is really important.

Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
Yeah. This is mature, yeah. The maturity. Being able to get those, get the executive people behind these transformational programs seems to be a mix, I think, in multiple organizations. So, the maturity model that you guys kind of discovered, that really was the foundation, a lot of the reports. Sounds like there were some other key findings. Do you want to hit on that, Steve? You mind hitting number two on your list? Surprises from the report or things that kind of popped out?

Steve Walker: (13:24)
Well, yeah. The maturity model is, actually we adopted the Qualtrics maturity model just because they’re a 900 pound gorilla in the world, but we actually were on the same track in our own business. But again, with our partnership, we just kind of got in their wake there. But one of the things we found out is that B2B really, truly is behind when you just look at B2B versus B2C, there’s great room for all organizations to enhance their customer focus. But in particular, the B2B folks tend to be behind, I’m searching for the number right now. Is it like –

Troy Powell: (14:07)
Yeah, I think around 60 or so. Over 60% of B2B companies are just at that lowest level of maturity still.

Gabe Larsen: (14:15)
Wow.

Steve Walker: (14:15)
Yeah. And I think like 80% are at the bottom too. So there’s a lot of work to do in that respect. Again, like I think there’s even a significant number, like more than half the firms in the entire study said they’re just at the first stage. So, we really are talking about there’s a lot of room for growth. One of the things I like to say is it’s a great time to be a CX pro.

Gabe Larsen: (14:44)
[Inaudible]

Troy Powell: (14:50)
Yeah. Well, there’s so much more to focus, I think a lot of the reason why it’s low is because there are so many more companies getting into it. Maybe five years ago, maturity was probably higher for those who were doing it. And now we’re just seeing a lot of companies recognizing the importance of that CX, customer experience, focus. And so a lot of them are starting out trying to figure out, “Okay, how do we do this? How do we scale this?”

Steve Walker: (15:19)
Yeah. And actually something you said, Gabe, kind of sparked a thought I had, but you kind of said that our B2B expectations are informed of our B2C experiences. It’s so true. And I think that’s one of the problems is in B2B, we sometimes don’t think that we’re still dealing with human beings and human beings have these kinds of very humanistic needs, but sometimes in B2B we make it too complicated. Also, you’re just dealing with way more people and more complicated solutions. But it really is. It’s about making it personal. It’s about, how would I like to be treated and what problem are we solving for the people that we’re working with?

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
Yeah, it does. So I’d like some of those people using the, there’s no B2B, B2C. It’s just being a human or is it a person? And, because he arrived somewhere along the lines we in B2B have missed that a little bit. We started to look at them, not as people, but something a little bit different. One of the things that jumped out to me, you guys, on the report was this over-reliance on frontline employees. Maybe, Troy, could you touch on that? What was the finding there and how are people overcoming that?

Troy Powell: (16:37)
Yeah. And it partially goes back to the CEO, who owns the customer and who owns different parts of the interaction. That can be a complex thing with a lack of great coordination for that within B2B. And so what often happens is because you do have, I feel like there’s more human interaction still within a B2B relationship. Things are more complex. You need salespeople, you need implementation people involved to help scope out these bigger things. We sometimes, as B2B companies, sometimes just let the people figure out what our broken processes are. And be like, “All right, well we’ll just get good account people. We’ll get good customer service people and they’ll figure out how to make the customer happy.” And so there’s not as much time spent on building out processes that are more efficient, more consistent, omnichannel. We just say, “The people will figure that out.” And so you get these account reps who are helping solve issues, track down lost deliveries, all these things besides trying to build more business and relationship. So I think that’s a big issue. And we talked about a couple solutions or obstacles there, one being this human-digital balance that I think you have to strike at a much more intricate balance within B2B and saying, “Yeah, we still need humans involved, but how do we get more digital? And then how do we get better enablement of those humans with the right data and information so that they can more effectively do their jobs and therefore deliver a better, more consistent experience?”

Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Yeah. It still feels like it’s so disparate. And I know you highlighted that term, kind of silo, within the report multiple times. It still feels like we’re doing one thing. It’s not being passed around. We’ve got to find a way to enable, but not over-rely. I think that’s a great takeaway. Steve, as we look to wrap, I’d love to, all of our listeners, we do have oftentimes people saying, “I’m trying to just get going. I’m trying to get started on the journey of the CX transformation.” And I don’t know where they’d fall in the maturity model. That may be something they need to come talk to you guys about. But if for those people who are just starting and really wanting to get that transformation going and moving, what would be having gone through this report, maybe some of your other research studies, et cetera, what would be your advice to those CX leaders wanting to start and really nail the CX transformation?

Steve Walker: (19:21)
Well, I think getting the, downloading the report would be a great start because it really is kind of a seminal piece I think on no matter where you are in the journey. I think the other thing I would say is that any business that’s successful probably has already figured out a little bit of this already. The ultimate outcome of being customer focused is to have a sustainable business. So, if you have a sustainable business, then you probably already have some things that you do really, really well. At the risk of sounding really self-serving, I think way too often, we jump into surveys. And I think that probably if you’re just starting out, it’d probably be best to go talk to some of the other key executives in your company. Talk to those people that interact with customers on a day-to-day basis and take more of a qualitative approach to begin because the business people don’t really talk survey data and they don’t really talk about rating scales. The business people talk about revenue and margin and market share. And I think if you, and I give credit to this a lot to Troy, he can do a better job of articulating this, but as opposed to starting with the X data, kind of talk to the business leaders about what they’re trying to drive, and then bring some insights from your customer base that can help them make those decisions better or with a more complete set of information.

Gabe Larsen: (20:57)
Yeah, I like that. I do. I think that’s a, it’s just a disconnect. I’ve heard it in our dealings. It’s like two different languages. I’m talking CX, you’re talking top line, bottom line and where the two don’t, I mean, they connect, but obviously they’re not the exact same thing. We’ve got, I think that’s a great place to start. Troy, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you guys, maybe even download this report, we can put it in the show notes, but what any quick advice or thoughts on learning more about kind of Walker and some of the cool things you guys are doing?

Troy Powell: (21:28)
Yeah. So if you go to our website, so walkerinfo.com, you’ll be able to download this most recent report, next-level CX for B2B companies. We also have a report out there that gets a little bit to what Steve was talking about. Combining experienced data and operational data, which is really critical, kind of talking about that along with a lot of other content we’ve created in the past. And that’s a great way to connect with us. You can also look Steve or I up. So, Steve Walker or Troy Powell on LinkedIn, connect with us that way and start a conversation. Really, there’s a lot of great resources out there now for CX pros, but sometimes there’s too much. So, sometimes just talking a little bit to somebody can help.

Gabe Larsen: (22:15)
I love it. Alrighty. Troy, Steve, really appreciate you joining. Looking forward to learning a little more about Walker and how we can partner potentially at Kustomer in the future. So, thanks for your time. Thanks for the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Steve Walker: (22:29)
Appreciate it, Gabe. Thanks for having us on.

Exit Voice: (22:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Building a Customer Centric Culture with Annette Pedroza

Building a Customer Centric Culture with Annette Pedroza TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Annette Pedroza to learn about building a customer centric culture. Learn how Annette accomplishes this by listening to the podcast below.

Success Starts with Leadership

Having over 20 years of customer service experience, Annette Pedroza helps companies uncover their CX potential by showing ways in which they can improve their overall customer service techniques as a brand. In doing so, Annette has figured out three of the most impactful methods that make the biggest difference in customer satisfaction. Those three being leadership, assessment, and involvement all help to guide companies to higher NPS scores, better survey results, and long-term customer delight. The first step to having effective, company-wide change is implementing new tactics with those in leadership positions, allowing their example to initiate trickle-down change to other employees. To explain this further, Annette suggests:

I think when employees hear leadership talking about the customer, that’s really important. It’s also when they see leaders modeling customer centric behaviors, when they’ve done something that’s maybe not the most cost effective thing but it’s right by the customer, when they see that, they’re much more likely to follow and be in that same mind frame.

When leaders implement change within their organization and set an example, employees tend to follow suit and positive results are sure to come.

Improving CX Through Company Assessment

Customer engagement should be of the utmost importance when it comes to daily company operations. When Annette is asked to help improve a brand’s CX efforts, she assesses it to create strategies personalized to that brand – tools and tactics that will help enable exemplary customer service. She says:

You’re not going to have one strategy that’s going to fit everyone, but some of the things that I look at specifically are how large is the company that I’m working with? Are their employees open to change? Who are the power players? I think that’s really important, is having a relationship with people within the company who are going to help evangelize the work that you’re doing because other people are following them as well.

One of the biggest keys to profitability is keeping the customers happy. Not only is it important for companies to make money, it is necessary for companies to keep the customer in mind with every part of the company. Aspects such as decision making, marketing, and policies should always keep the customer at the forefront. Using customer data and feedback facilitates necessary change to improve products and services, resulting in happier customers. By assessing internally and adapting as a brand, customers tend to have their needs met resulting in long lasting customer loyalty.

Driving Customer Engagement With Brand Involvement

Annette finds that one of the greatest ways to build a customer centric culture is to become involved with the employees who drive customer success. Setting realistic customer centered goals and holding each other accountable for completion of those goals can also help to build a more customer centric culture. To demonstrate this, Annette tells a story about working with a team of engineers and connecting them with their customers who were using their engineered products. In doing so, they were able to improve product design based on direct customer feedback. Annette says, “Really at the end of the day, the goal was to get everyone thinking in a customer way rather than just doing things the way they always had before.” Aligning a company with its customer centric values and becoming more involved with the internal workings of the brand are crucial to monetary success.

To learn more about the secrets to building a customer centric culture, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Building a Customer Centric Culture | Annette Pedroza

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody to today’s episode. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about building a customer centric culture and to do that, we brought on Annette Pedroza. She’s currently a Customer Experience Expert. Annette, thanks so much for joining. How are you?

Annette Pedroza: (00:29)
Hi, Gabe. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s fun. It’s always fun to talk to people like yourself who have a plethora of experiences. Do you mind taking just a minute and tell us just a little about yourself?

Annette Pedroza: (00:41)
Absolutely. So I’ve been a customer experience professional for 20 years. I’ve been primarily in the tech industry. I’ve been at Fortune 100 companies, medium-sized startups. So I’ve kind of done it all and I’ve led from all aspects of strategy and execution. I think what we’re going to talk about today, which is really what’s near and dear to my heart, is instilling and growing a customer centric culture.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
Yeah, I loved the talk track and as I mentioned, bringing in years of experience will be great for me and for the audience. So let’s dive in there. Let’s start big picture. You mentioned this customer centric culture. What does that, what does that mean to you?

Annette Pedroza: (01:25)
To me, it means that your customer is at the center of what you do and not just in your words, but in your actions. Does every employee understand what their contribution is to the customer experience? You’ve heard many companies say, “We’re customer centric, we’re all about the customer. Customer’s at the center of everything we do.” And I think, so there’s really a difference between listing that in your values and I think believing it with all your heart, right? And then knowing how to mobilize your company toward customer centricity.

Gabe Larsen: (01:58)
I got to say, Annette. Yeah, that has been for me like the, I love the way you just said that. I just feel like we all know it should be on paper, right? And we all know we can all say the right words. So it’s not like it’s something new. When you talk to somebody, it’s not like somebody who’s like, “Hey, it’s not that we don’t want to be customer centric.” It’s just, how do you do that?

Annette Pedroza: (02:23)
That’s exactly the point, I think, because you can’t just dictate and say, “Hey, everyone starting today we’re customer centric,” and then expect people to know what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do that. So that’s where I come in.

Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that definitely will resonate with the audience as, yeah. The devil’s always in the details, right? It’s like, as I’ve listened to some of the feedback of the audience as I mentioned just a minute ago, they recognize the importance of customer service and delighting and pushing customers to be happier, et cetera. But devil’s in the details. So, how do you set that up? I mean, you’ve obviously had some fun experiences in doing this. How do you start to think about building this kind of a customer centered culture?

Annette Pedroza: (03:08)
Well, I have some strategies that I’ll share with you today and give you a couple of case studies. I think that first of all, when I look at this and I think everywhere I’ve been, I’ve used a different strategy just depending on the company. And I think the one thing that’s consistent is you really just need a strong foundation to start. And I have, I actually have three little tips here for you on how you can build that foundation –

Gabe Larsen: (03:37)
Love it.

Annette Pedroza: (03:37)
So the first thing is you need leadership, assessing and involvement. So you’ve heard before, right? The tagline, it has to come from the top. And it’s true, it really does. I think when employees hear leadership talking about the customer, that’s really important. It’s also when they see leaders modeling customer centric behaviors, when they’ve done something that’s maybe not the most cost effective thing, but it’s right by the customer, when they see that, they’re much more likely to follow and be in that same mind frame.

Gabe Larsen: (04:09)
Yeah. I mean, that is definitely, I don’t want to say cliche, but the, it needs to come from the top down. What do you feel like is the reason it often does it? Is there something that’s the standard hurdle that companies are facing by getting kind of that executive mind?

Annette Pedroza: (04:26)
Well, I think part of it is companies are in business to make money and a lot of times that’s their focus and teaching someone that by focusing on the customer experience, you can really affect your bottom line so much more. It can be really uncomfortable to say, “Okay, we’re actually going to make this shift where the customer is going to be first.” I think I’ve had some experience in having to turn a leader around a little bit, not that they weren’t customer focused, but how do you bring them along to understand that customer experience is the most important thing that you can do for your company? And I think as with any working relationship, you have different strategies that you use to work with different people, but it always comes back to data. Like, “Here’s where we are. Here’s where we want to be. Here are the things that we need to do to get there. And here’s what I think the results will be.” So, let me give you an example of that and it’s something more tangible, I think. For example, our net promoter score is 22 and we’ve done some competitive analysis that says our competitor is at 34, right? And we want to be there, right? And we want to be higher than that competitor. So here are the top issues that we’re tracking that our top customers are having, the complaints that they’re having with our processes or product or whatever it is. And what we do is we can do some analysis to say, “If these things go away, if we make these things better, here is the impact to our NPS score.” And what’s really powerful is if you can say, “We’ve assigned a dollar value to this. So we know that a promoter is worth this much money, and if we can get this many more people from the tractors to pass and the tractors to promoters, then this is the impact to the bottom line.” And what leader is not going to listen to that?

Gabe Larsen: (06:21)
Yeah. I think that last piece is the key, right? It’s just, this space has been notoriously non-revenue focused or non-dollar focused than that last piece. If you can tie your NPS to something that is closer to that dollar, I’m just going to use the word dollars and cents, right? I think that’s where you start to really talk in executives language. And we’ve struggled with that in the past, right? I think a lot of people, they end with, “Well, our NPS went up,” and it’s like, “That’s nice. Did the employee survey go up as well?” Because like, surveys are surveys are surveys, and I don’t mean to mock it but I just, oh I think you nailed something there. We’ve got to get a little better on ROI focus. Okay. So you’ve got one is leadership. What was kind of your next one?

Annette Pedroza: (07:16)
Assessing your specific environment. So you’re not going to have one strategy that’s going to fit everyone, but some of the things that I look at specifically are how large is the company that I’m working with? Are their employees open to change? Who are the power players? I think that’s really important is having a relationship with people within the company who are going to help evangelize the work that you’re doing because other people are following them as well. So making sure that you have that power team. And then I think the third one really is just setting realistic goals, right? To be able to execute on your plan, because you don’t want to put this big plan out there and then it flops because you didn’t necessarily have the bandwidth or the resources or you didn’t get leadership buy-in or you didn’t assess well. But I don’t want you to get discouraged when you think about, “Oh, well leaders, I mean, bandwidth or resources, I don’t have that.” And I say, “Yes, you can,” because even if you’re a team of one, you can start small. I’m going to go through some case studies today, and I can tell you about what I’ve done by myself at a big company, and you can start small and go from there.

Gabe Larsen: (08:26)
Yeah. Yeah, so it’s leadership is a big one. Two is getting that kind of current state assessment and three is more around goal planning and how you measure, manage that, et cetera. Did I get those three, right?

Annette Pedroza: (08:41)
Yeah. That’s, those are the three I’d use as my foundation.

Gabe Larsen: (08:43)
Yeah, perfect. So let’s go into, I’d love to see how these are applied. I know you’ve got some stories, well in your 20 plus years I’m sure you have many stories. But I’d love to hear how you’ve kind of been able to take some of these principles and embed them into an organization or again, got to get this customer centered culture. Any thoughts come to mind on that front?

Annette Pedroza: (09:05)
Yeah. Well, let me tell you about a company that I was with. It’s a medium sized company, about 700 employees, highly valued the customer and their experience. It was even their brand statement about how much they value their customer. But if you asked any one employee how they contributed to the customer experience, they would say, “Oh, customer experience, that’s an operation. Support does that. It’s their job.” And clearly the brand and the culture were not aligned. So my task really was, how do I help them see how they connect to the customer, even if they’re not customer facing? So here’s the task or the specifics that caused this. We had a survey coming in, right? And the survey feedback was such that we were getting feedback that says we’re not so easy to work with. And we hadn’t measured effort before this. And so I said, “Okay, we need to start looking at measuring effort and improving the things that are high effort for the customer.” But at the same time, I’m looking around internally and I’m seeing that we’re not exactly making it easy for each other either, right? For our coworkers. And when I grew up professionally, I’ve always treated my coworkers as my internal customers. I would never hand something over partially done and say, “Oh yeah, spreadsheet’s not, it’s not sorted but you can figure it out,” or, “You’ve got this.” I just wouldn’t do that and I was just seeing a lot of that going on. And I thought, “How can we possibly embark on this journey of making it easy for customers when we’re not making it easy for each other?”

Gabe Larsen: (11:00)
Sorry.

Annette Pedroza: (11:03)
So here we are, this is, again, this is a smaller company. I’m able to launch a company-wide program. I’ve got, leadership buy-in on this. I’ve assessed well, I believe. And the idea was, “Hey, everyone has a customer, whether it’s internal or external. What are you going to do to make it easy for your customer?” And we launched this customer-wide or the company-wide program and we had a kickoff, we had parties at our global sites, we built excitement around it. It was fun. We celebrated success, but also there was accountability involved and we tied it back to their goals. So it really allowed employees who weren’t customer facing to understand the idea of having a customer and making that experience better because if you’re making that experience better for your coworkers and they’re in turn making it better for their coworker. And then pretty soon it’s flowing down the line where the customer is seeing that experience as well. So really the learning here was just creating that, those goals and tying them back to the vision or the brand.

Gabe Larsen: (12:08)
Yeah. And why do organizations on this thing, why do you think they, was there something that kind of enabled you to do this easier? It sounds like you kind of walked through your process in a pretty structured manner, as far as leadership and assessing and getting your goals. Is it, was there, if you had to go back, was there one thing that you felt like made the biggest difference?

Annette Pedroza: (12:33)
I think it was my direct leadership who very much trusted me to roll something like this out and I mean, I think probably I was very fortunate that I didn’t have any pushback on this site. And they said, “Okay, here’s the budget you have to work with, go.” And we really, well because the company was so customer centric in terms of their core value, even though not everyone knew how to do it, I think people really were eager to do that. They really were eager to live that value. And I just had to show them how.

Gabe Larsen: (13:13)
Do you feel like, I mean, I think on each of these steps, and I think that the visual or the story definitely helps kind of put those into the right place. I think on each of them there’s challenges that people often run into, but I’m thinking of the goals one for just a minute. Any tips on kind of double clicking on that step in particular in your story? How do you really come up with the right set of goals and then measure them appropriately? Any tips or tricks there?

Annette Pedroza: (13:44)
Yeah, I think in this, that actually is probably the most difficult part is asking leadership to include something customer related for non-customer facing people to make some goal for them. And so what we did in this case, these weren’t really tight goals, but it was just something for them to achieve. And what it was was I asked every person in the company to make a commitment as to what they were going to do differently. And then those were actually documented visible to everyone and that way we could go back and say, “Okay, here was the goal that you set up earlier this year to say you were going to make this one change in finance, or the way that you provided this feedback to another employee. Did you do it? How did it go?” That kind of thing.

Gabe Larsen: (14:37)
Yeah. I think that’s probably as good as you can take it. That is, that step is not just gets a little foggy sometimes. I think of providing a little bit of that clarity definitely helps.

Annette Pedroza: (14:48)
And really at the end of the day, the goal was to get everyone thinking in a customer way rather than just doing things the way they always had before and saying, “Oh, it lives in Operations.”

Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Yeah. Yeah. On that last piece, was there a couple of tactical things? Was it team huddles or little marketing materials? Because I do feel like when you create this customer focus initiative and getting some of the organization excited about it and behind it and talking to them about the leadership point, but were there a couple little things you found helpful? Was it just the email communications, but it was at the rally with the managers rallying the troops that kind of got the employees excited? Anything that kind of helped to get the employees around this new way of thinking?

Annette Pedroza: (15:30)
Yeah. Both of those, I would say. So a couple of different things. One, I have a lot of energy around it, so I was excited and then I had hired a new employee who just one of those magnetic people who everyone wanted to be her friend and loved her. And so she was excited about it and telling people about it. And then we certainly had some communications going out coming up to the event, like, “Here’s what we’re going to be doing,” and getting people excited about it. And then not only that, but we had, so this company had a lot of people who worked out of their homes and we actually created mousepads and pens and we had a logo and all these fun things around making it easy. And even people who were at home, everyone got a box with all their goodies in it. So it just was something to get people engaged and excited and it’s something they would see everyday on their desk.

Gabe Larsen: (16:23)
Yeah. I love that. I think sometimes it’s the cell internal is as big as the work externally sometimes. So I like some of those ideas. Okay. So that was one example where you were able to kind of bring these three principles of leadership and assessing and goals together. Have you seen this at other points of your career or in other instances?

Annette Pedroza: (16:44)
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve done this. I mentioned that I did a whole company-wide rollout of one big program, but you can’t always do that. And good example of doing something a little smaller, starting small would be at a large company. I was working for a Fortune 100 company. Over 10,000 employees, very customer centric CEO, who was really excited about the customer experience, measuring the net promoter score. And we had thousands of customers providing feedback every day, thousands a day. And we had this closed loop call back program where I was routing survey verbatims to process owners to call the customer back, whether it’s to repair the relationship, fix something, but it was something within their organization. So if it was about billing, then that went to the billing group. If the customer complained about the website, we made sure that the website team got ahold of that feedback and then they would call the customer. But I had a lot of feedback that was coming in that was general and there wasn’t really anyone to own those. And so what I did was I contacted some VPs of different organizations and just let them know what I was working on. And I really helped them see the connection between our very customer-centric CEO and how their non-customer facing teams could now have a very direct experience with their customer. And so I was welcomed to present at all hands meetings. And I would go in with all of my excitement and passion around this about what’s happening when we talk to customers and here’s what they have to say and here’s how excited they are that we called them. And here’s what we can learn from them. And before you knew it, I had people raising their hands and wanting to participate. And here now you had employees who were, had no direction. I’m sorry, no direct connection to the customer prior to that. And now they had a chance to actually talk directly to a customer and really live that customer centricity value. And I just did this one team at a time. And before you know it, one VP is talking to another VP and then people are knocking at my door saying, “Hey, we want to participate. How do we get to be part of this?” So really just starting small and just growing your sphere of influence and leveraging that leadership to spread your message. The size doesn’t matter. You can influence the company of any size.

Gabe Larsen: (19:08)
Yeah. I think that small, that’s interesting. Because we, on the last one we were talking and it felt like a pretty big rollout, the previous story. And maybe your second story did end up reaching kind of the same number of people or customers. But I like that idea. Sometimes you don’t realize if you can get, and that’s what principal change management. If you can get one team or one group doing something different and other people see it –

Annette Pedroza: (19:35)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (19:35)
Sometimes that, someone was using the word, sometimes you nail it and you scale it. You get one group to do it and then scale it to the rest of the organization. And sometimes that’s a better way to do it than try to go big or go home. Was there any, again, thinking about kind of tactics or tips on that as you got that small group, it sounds like the other VP, the other people just started to more and more or less naturally hear about it. Did you do anything to help them in that cause or was it pretty just kind of quote unquote viral?

Annette Pedroza: (20:08)
Viral is a good word. Yeah, it did. I mean, definitely it grew organically, but I was on it all the time. There was easily times where I would contact the group and I would maybe get, “We’re not sure. We don’t have time right now.” Because of course that’s really a lot of times with a program like this, that’s what you get, right? We’ve got our day jobs to do. We’ve got so much work and I’m saying, “Hey, I’m asking for one call a month for each of the employees to call one customer a month and so-and-so group is doing it and they’re doing a great job.” And being able to highlight some of the wins that we had and what other groups are doing there becomes a little bit of a competition or we want to be recognized too. So that was, I think a very important tactic at this particular company.

Gabe Larsen: (20:56)
Oh yeah. Those are some good principles, right? You make people start to feel it a little bit and all of a sudden they want to be part of the cool crowd. Makes me remember my high school days of not being part of the cool crowd, but wanting to be part of the cool crowd.

Annette Pedroza: (21:14)
Very cool, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (21:14)
No, I appreciate it. I appreciate it. I like the real kind of visual examples that you shared. We’d love to hear one more. I know our time is a little short –

Annette Pedroza: (21:26)
Okay.

Gabe Larsen: (21:26)
If that’s okay, I’d love to hear one more. They’re just so interesting to hear kind of the real life examples of how you’ve applied this in different situations. Does one more come to your mind?

Annette Pedroza: (21:37)
Yeah. I can have another one. Here’s another one where we really saw a direct impact of the work that we did on our product satisfaction scores. So I was at a large software company and we were running a product survey and we were getting feedback from customers on these specific products. And then we were handing that feedback over to the product teams. And I’d say that the feedback wasn’t exactly received excitedly. I think a lot of companies see this where you have engineers who just put their heart and soul into this product, right? It’s their baby. They created it. And then you give them feedback and maybe it’s not perfectly positive. And then they’re a little bit defensive. It’s like, “Well, of course I’m developing this with the customer in mind. Look at this beautiful thing I created for them, or they’re using it wrong.” One of the ones that I heard. So what we did really, the idea was let’s implement closed loop, right? Let’s do a callback program and route those verbatims, the customer answered the survey. We’ll route those verbatims. And I want to say here that I think a lot of companies will outsource this work, or maybe they’ll say, “Yeah, we have to talk to these customers who are getting us negative feedback,” and they’ll assign it to say, a customer service team who makes all the calls. And instead, we routed these directly to the product teams. By something right to the engineers about their product and that feedback that they had originally been defensive about completely changed, right? Now, they heard directly from the customer’s mouth to their ears. And it was just something so powerful in that interaction that they could have a discussion with someone about, “Wait, what are you trying to do? Oh, how interesting,” right? And so I was hearing from people who were participating, employees, how eye-opening this was for them because they had no idea that they were trying to use the product in this way or that we’ve made something so confusing but seems so natural for the engineer to do it this way. But for the customer, it was so confusing and this was really just eye-opening for them. And suddenly they were on this new mission of product improvement with the customer at the center and our product satisfaction scores within a few months were really, I mean, we saw significant improvement. And I think it really helps to just give them an awareness of the customer as a real person, versus just here’s some, a pile of feedback that I can give you. So I think that information is really powerful and then getting that feedback directly from the customer was even more so.

Gabe Larsen: (24:10)
And so did you, you actually had them jump on the phone at times or make some of the calls or you just gave them the verbatims you were saying?

Annette Pedroza: (24:17)
No, I gave them the verbatims with the idea that they would call the customer or email the customer and make an appointment and talk to them about it.

Gabe Larsen: (24:25)
Wow. Interesting. Yeah, that’s a kicker, right? It’s the product team. I mean, everybody, we all, as the organizations get bigger, the CEO, the product team, the marketing team, they all start to get a little further away from the customer. And just getting the verbatims, I think to that group is actually a good milestone, but how would they actually interface is awesome. Well, did you run into some roadblocks trying to get them to do that? Were they hesitant at first or were they pretty jazzed about it?

Annette Pedroza: (24:57)
Some were, some were hesitant about it. I think first of all, if you’ve never talked to a customer before and now you’re going to talk to someone live, they’re a little bit nervous about that. So the way that I headed some of that off, first of all, I had a very detailed training program for everyone who was going to talk to a customer all about, I mean, down to here’s how the information is going to come to you. Here’s how you’re going to contact the customer to make an appointment. Here’s a template you can use for that. Here are some things we never say. Here’s some ways that we should respond. If the customer says this, you should try this route. We don’t want to get defensive because this is their feedback and they’re entitled to their feedback, it’s their perception. And the other thing that we did too, is we had some really, people who were just great at this and they were willing to, and I was willing to do the same thing is, “Hey, listen to me do a call before you do your first one. You can listen to me, talk to a customer or I can sit with you while you do your first call and coach you along if you need any help.” And so I think that really helped ease people into it. We made sure that the calls happened in the time zone of the person, if we could make that happen where the customer and the developer were in the same time zone. And we also, the other thing we did was we created teams to do the callback. So when possible, it wasn’t just an engineer. Sometimes there was a product manager on there, sometimes someone from support. And I really liked that because what that gave us is that every person brought their own ear, their own perspective, right? And so they all might’ve heard something different and that just made for a better discussion afterward about is there an initiative here that we need to be working on or updating or canceling in that, because of that feedback?

Gabe Larsen: (26:48)
Yeah, wow. I love how you eliminated a lot of the barriers, right? That’s I think the, to get some other people involved, sometimes you gotta make it simple. That process of kind of, time zones and getting them a script or getting them kind of the structure of the conversation. All of that stuff goes a long way because I think about a lot of the product teams I know. You dumped that in their hands and they’re going to be like, “Oh, we can’t do it. It’s scary.” But I think that’s fantastic. You kind of went that far to actually really make it easy for them. And I think you’ve hit on that a couple of times, how do we make it easy for us, not just the customer? Well, Annette, really appreciate the talk track day. We did cover a lot of information. I’d love to hear kind of your summary. As you think about other success service leaders like yourself, trying to build this customer centric organization, trying to get this nailed down, knowing it’s important, but the devil’s in the detail, what advice would you leave for them or summary, a statement as you’ve talked about some different concepts today?

Annette Pedroza: (27:48)
You know, I think the first and foremost you can do it, even if you start small, you know, just start somewhere, you’d be surprised how quickly a positive change like this to an organization can spread. I think that being able to tie some goal, some employee goal to that customer centric vision, I think that’s just becoming more and more important and really just having your data available. If you’re going to talk to a leader about this, make sure that you’ve got defendable information, this really works everywhere. In all different environments. I’ve used it in multiple business models, B2B, B2C. I’ve been in B2B2C. So it works. And you know, I’ve been in product service companies, consumer goods, and like I said, you assess what you have to work with and start with something.

Gabe Larsen: (28:38)
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a great summary. So, Annette thanks so much for joining. It’s so fun to have someone who has so much experience and can share real, tangible stories about things that have worked and lessons learned from it. So if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these fun stories, what’s the best way to do that?

Annette Pedroza: (28:57)
Oh, sure. You can reach me on LinkedIn. I looked today. I am the only Annette Pedroza that I could find on LinkedIn. So I should be pretty easy to find, be happy to answer any questions or talk to people.

Gabe Larsen: (29:08)
Awesome. Alrighty. Well, hey. Really appreciate you joining Annette, one more time and for the audience have a fantastic day.

Annette Pedroza: (29:15)
Thanks. You as well, Gabe.

Exit Voice: (29:22)
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The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah

The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sioban Massiah from Twitter to discuss the Power of Connection and how to retain customer loyalty. Learn how Sioban connects with customers by listening to the podcast below.

Growing Your Connection to Retain Business

Partner Experience Manager at Twitter, Sioban Massiah, has quite the diverse background in customer advocacy and support. Having a deep understanding of customer needs, Sioban has been at the forefront of building lasting connections that retain customer loyalty. Sioban remarks, “You need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationships and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up.” Building connection is more than business alone, it is listening to your customers and providing the best products and services available tailored to their needs. Ultimately, the power of connection simply comes down to how a company resonates with their customers. If the connection is strong from the get-go, a company is more likely to retain those customers and their long-term support.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Having worked at world renowned conference company, TED, Sioban knows that it’s the small but important changes that make a world of a difference to the customer. While recounting her time at TED, she discusses how after each conference, a post-event survey was conducted to the attendees. The purpose of these surveys was to gauge what TED’s listeners wanted to hear in future conferences so they could provide conversations tailored to their listener’s interests. Carrying these customer experiences with her, Sioban understands that creating big changes to modify products and services to the customer’s interests may be difficult for small businesses. To help, she says:

You don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.

Building a connection with customers is vastly important when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and what may seem like small changes can actually make the biggest difference in the long run.

Align Your Company With Your Purpose

Sioban has noticed a pattern in the business market, that is if a business was created simply to profit from their customers, it is clear in their business practice. However, if a company was created to thoughtfully engage with their customers, it is apparent and those with similar alignments will be drawn to that company. She has found that when a company is aligned with their main purpose in all aspects of business, employees tend to stay on longer and customers continue to come back for more. She notes:

No matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it.

Aligning a company with its beliefs has proven to be successful for Sioban during her time at Twitter. In fact, she accredits Twitter’s success within the last three years to its alignment with company beliefs. Sioban hopes companies will understand that opportunity is presented to everyone. It’s what you choose to do with that opportunity that truly makes the difference between failure and success.

To learn more about the secrets to connecting with customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about the power of connection. I think this is going to be a fun one. We’re going to be talking with Sioban Massiah. She’s currently the Partner Experience Manager at Twitter. Sioban, thanks for joining. How are you?

Sioban Massiah: (00:24)
I’m great. Trying to get used to this new normal that is our lives, but can’t complain about it.

Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
Yeah, we were just talking about that. It’s like it’s happening. So get used to it. Whether you like or not, things are still –

Sioban Massiah: (00:36)
Yeah, I was going to say we definitely didn’t have a choice in this one but –

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
That’s right. That is just the way things have kind of worked out. Well, I’m excited to have you on. You’re obviously at Twitter now, but can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background? I think just kind of a fun little background.

Sioban Massiah: (00:50)
Sure. My background is very, very diverse. When people look at my resume, they were like, “What? How did you even get to where you are?” I was one of the, sarcastically, fortunate people to graduate with a marketing degree in the recession in 2008. And we all know marketing was the first thing to go in 2008 when the recession happened. So I kind of just landed in sales because that’s what marketing people did in 2008 with a degree and student loans. I think working in sales was actually one of the best things that could’ve ever happened to me. I learned how much I hated working in sales because I didn’t like pushing things that weren’t something I authentically believed in, but it also brought me into a space that I actually never even thought about, which was conference companies. And that was super helpful because it showed how people thought it gave me a diverse perspective. I learned about so many different industries and was able to take all of that mashup of my skillsets and really be able to think about customers and what they want, what their stuff are, high level. So went from conference companies to one of the best conference companies in the world, Ted Conferences, Ted Talks. I love it.

Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
You know, I’ve met the actual Ted. I’ve met him before. He is just cool.

Sioban Massiah: (02:19)
I was like, “Which Ted?”

Gabe Larsen: (02:23)
I don’t actually know where that name came from but –

Sioban Massiah: (02:24)
I, well, a little tidbit, Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, which –

Gabe Larsen: (02:29)
Oh I did know that. Oh man, I wish we weren’t recording. That is, that’s right.

Sioban Massiah: (02:35)
It’s okay. Somebody who’s listening may not have known. So we’ll just add this to the information that they’re learning on the podcast. So, went there for a little bit, loved it. But wanted to expand a little bit more on my career, move to something where I’m focusing on engaging a different type of community and I landed at Twitter, which I absolutely adore. I think no company is ever going to top Twitter for me. I just, I think Twitter moves with a purpose, so super happy to be here, even though I shifted a little bit more to the partner side, which are still our customers. I love it.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Wow. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you definitely have a background in kind of keeping people happy. So it’ll be fun to dive into the topic and Twitter you’re right, it’s just a cool company and they’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. So I don’t blame you for taking the chance and jumping ship. That sounds fun. Well, let’s turn the topic for a second. Let’s talk about this power of connection. What — start big, what is that? What is the power of connection?

Sioban Massiah: (03:45)
So to me, the power of connection is just how people resonate with their customers. I think connection is obviously more than just business, but I realized that there was a strength in it from the way I went from my different jobs. Other than Ted, every position that I’ve had has been a referral. And I thought that was very, one, I just thought that was very normal until I started actually engaging with people and realizing that referrals and people actually advocating for you strongly wasn’t a common practice. And when I asked people, why would they, why would they champion for me so much? They said that the connection that I have, the authentic connection that I have with people is a skillset that other people didn’t have. Everybody is presented with an opportunity, but it’s how you take that opportunity and keep going with it and how you run with it that really stands you apart from other people. As I started moving within my career, I realized that that was something that also sets you apart as a company, within organizations, not being empathetic and not being culturally concurrent and not actually knowing your customer, was something that was a big hindrance. No matter what you did, no matter how you did it, if you didn’t actually listen to your customer and figure out what they wanted, you weren’t succeeding as a company. My favorite example is when you call into customer service and you can almost anticipate what they’re going to say, “Hello, Sioban. I, yes. I completely empathize with what you’re saying. I can imagine that…” you can repeat it verbatim if you actually speak to somebody. And it’s like, I literally asked customer service people, “Did you listen to anything that I just said? Can you repeat to me anything that I’ve just said, bullet point wise?” And they can’t and it’s like, “Wow. So I just went through this spiel of what happened to me, for you to read off a script.” So I think that no matter how helpful you are, no matter how good at what you do, if you are not actually in tune with your customer and connecting with them on a level that is not service of an exchange of service or product, you’re not going to move forward and you’re not really going to keep these customers.

Gabe Larsen: (06:06)
Why do you think people mess that up? I mean, because what you’re saying, I mean, I’m like, yeah. Yes, we should be doing that. Is it because, we go to scripting because we want to control it? You have a couple bad examples and so you kind of have to tighten down the controls and make sure people are, they’re all saying the same thing. So you don’t go off in a tangent or offend somebody in this kind of world of offending people that we sometimes we find ourselves in. Why do companies not do that? How have they gotten away from that?

Sioban Massiah: (06:37)
So, I have two answers to that, but the short answer are, people are lazy. It’s very clear when things, especially things like what’s going on right now are happening. You see who are businesses and are customer focused and you see people who are in it just to make money. It’s very, very clear. So some people are about profit and some people are about purpose and companies that are about profit in this space are, it’s very clear. And people who are about purpose are the ones that are engaging. So I think that’s the first answer, but of course you, the scripts are needed because you want to make sure communication is consistent across organizations. But I think that the script is the foundation and the training to be connecting and actually empathetic with your customer is what you build off of. You need to hire people who these practices are actually part of who they are in general or just who they want to be and who they see themselves being. So that way, this script is something that they can work with, but they can still connect and empathize with their customers and how they and their company are company-wise.

Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. I love that. I love that. I think they’re, sometimes they’re necessary evil scripts, right? It helps you control, but you got to kind of find that balance. You mentioned the word purpose, and I just wanted to follow up on that. If you can, people are about profits or purpose, how do you do that? How do you get your employees or your brand or your customer service reps, or how do you get aligned around a purpose? I mean, ultimately a company can’t function without profits. And so that has to factor in, I guess –

Sioban Massiah: (08:25)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
You’re right. You can kind of tell when people are just looking to like, make a buck versus, they’re all aligned around kind of a common vision or purpose or mission. I don’t mean to go on a tangent. Any thoughts on that one? How do you kind of get it?

Sioban Massiah: (08:38)
Tangents are my favorite place, so we can definitely go there. I think once you’ve actually established a company and you don’t have a purpose, it’s super hard to align it. Because now you’re switching things up. Yeah. You’re playing catch-up, you’re switching things up. So when I actually speak to people who have small businesses, I’m like, what are you doing this for? Make it clear. If you are starting this company, why? And if you do not know why you’re starting this company and you can’t communicate that to your customers, why should they keep working with you? So I think for small companies, that’s the first thing you need to do is the purpose of why this company is important to you. Some people are out here to just make money and that’s fine, but it’s going to be clear. I think for companies who don’t have that purpose, I think that’s something that they need to actually take some time out and really establish. And once you establish what the purpose is, the people will come to you. So things will fall in line. And it sounds very hippy dippy of me, I apologize. This is like a business podcast, but –

Gabe Larsen: (09:50)
We’re people too, we’re humans first.

Sioban Massiah: (09:53)
Yeah, I think one of my favorite books is the Alchemist, is when you want something, the whole universe conspires to make sure that you get it. And I think that biases to even businesses. So, I just think that creating the purpose will make it clear as a company and company employees leave and go. They come, they go. So when you have a purpose, the companies, the employees who are not aligned, they’re not going to stay. And I think honestly, no matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it. So that’s why I think it’s so important to actually have that alignment and make sure that purpose is very clear. Twitter as a company wasn’t purpose driven before. They put a purpose in place in 2017 and talking to another co-founder, one of the co-founders, they say, they think that that’s what’s making Twitter the company it is right now. We obviously, we’ve gotten, Twitter’s in the news pretty much every week and I won’t go into that because I haven’t cleared that with comms yet. I think, I honestly don’t think I would have been at Twitter if it wasn’t, it didn’t drop a purpose, which is very, very clear. It’s to serve the public conversation. So no matter what you think about Twitter, you can’t say that we’re not doing that purpose. And I think conversation again, is one of the keys to connection and that’s why I’m at Twitter right now.

Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Well, I love that. I mean, I think it’s, I mean, whether you were at Twitter or not, it’s interesting because it certainly felt like it was doing something and now there is, there feels like there’s something different going on. That’s fascinating to hear. Let’s continue down the path on connection just for a minute. So, we talked about kind of getting people aligned to a mission and that being part of connection. And then we talked a little bit about this empathy and having connection with your customers. Wanting to go down that path just a little further. How do you, or how have you found in some of your customer experience interactions that people can continue to build that connection piece? Is it just about empathy? Is there other things that help you kind of get further down that connection bond and strengthen it?

Sioban Massiah: (12:19)
Absolutely. Obviously business first live, we can collect these things. People are sometimes willing to share. So thinking about like, when I was at Ted, when we would make people sign up for conferences, we wouldn’t just allow them to sign up, they actually had to apply for conferences. They had to say why they wanted to attend a Ted Conference. We have that data. So now we are creating, if the conference that we had, was it aligned with something that’s a trend we saw, we took that data and we were like, “Okay, well now let’s start looking into this as content. Let’s start looking into this for our audience. These are people who are willing to pay, and this is not even what we’re presenting yet.” What, imagine how much they’re going to be engaged if we actually present these things. I think when it comes to Twitter, it’s just in general, we literally have what people want on our product. Like, wow. They’re telling us what they want. They’re telling us how, what they’re interested in. Like we literally are and they don’t even know it. I think that there’s always ways in which you are paying attention. So obviously customers, you do post-event surveys. Every conference has a post-event survey. So like being able to do those post-event surveys and quit making the questions that you ask a little bit more thoughtful, those are little things that you can do that are going to change the trajectory of how you work, period. It’s the catalyst to go a little bit further and you don’t have to make extreme changes tomorrow. Like you don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
No, I totally agree. It’s always the baby steps, right?

Sioban Massiah: (14:37)
Progress is a slow process as one of my friends said that to me probably the first week I met him and I’ve always taken that.

Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah. Yeah. And you’re right in the world we live today, it’s kind of like the “now generation,” right? We all want it now and immediately, but ultimately sometimes you got to just take that slow and focus on the small things and it’s customer service and success leaders. I think that’s where you got to go. You’ve got to focus –

Sioban Massiah: (15:00)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (15:00)
On the small things. So as we kind of wrap here and as you summarize, we’ve hit a couple of different things, but –

Sioban Massiah: (15:07)
Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (15:08)
Thinking about the power of connection, what advice would you kind of leave with the audience here?

Sioban Massiah: (15:13)
I think that my main point is to not just look at your business as a way of making money, and obviously that is the goal. That’s probably the sole goal for the most part, but is to really take a look at your customers and realize that the business that you have, if you are even listening to this podcast, is probably because you aren’t somebody that is thriving off of your customers. You’re thriving off of your partners. And you need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationship and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up for that.

Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Yeah. Yeah. Exciting, I think that’s right. And I think you gotta stick to that kind of higher purpose. It makes a big difference. Thanks so much for joining. It’s a fun talk track. I like this idea of the power of connection. I might have to steal those words for something.

Sioban Massiah: (16:09)
Listen. Whenever you want me to come talk about it, I will be happy to.

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
If somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you do, any recommendations? Are you open to that advice?

Sioban Massiah: (16:17)
Sure, absolutely. They can email me via my Twitter email since I actually use that the most, which is S as in Sam, I O@twitter.com or they can connect with me via Twitter at J, I push the brand no matter where. I am an advocate. Well, they do sign us up. They hope that we use it, but not everybody is an avid user. I have always been an avid user. So, it just worked out. But, you can reach out to me via Twitter at J as in John, U S T C A L L M E Sio. So justcallmesio, which is my nickname at work, and you can DM me there or reach out to me there. And email and Twitter are my fastest ways to contact.

Gabe Larsen: (17:08)
Awesome, well I love it. Well, really appreciate you jumping on. Fun talk track. Quality, the power of connection and openness. And the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sioban Massiah: (17:17)
Yes. Thanks.

Exit Voice: (17:23)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the secrets to optimizing customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers. Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast below.

Uplifting and Empowering Through Corporate Culture

Christine first starts by elaborating on their company’s focus on the mother. Keeping the expecting mother in mind, Christine notes how her team has had great success with customer happiness by listening to customer feedback and adapting their products to the mother’s needs. She states, “Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants.”

Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company hosts a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.” To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom First. As mentioned above, the mom is in every element of their business, from packaging, marketing, and phone calls. This can also apply to every aspect of their business because it is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero

Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to focus on a company and to build one from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration. Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.

Be There For Your Customer Every Step of the Way

At Bump Boxes, customer support doesn’t just start with the customer’s problem and end with the CX agent’s solution. Customer support starts from the moment the mom-to-be signs up for the monthly subscription and continues on throughout the life of their subscription. After delivery, Bump Boxes change to Busy Boxes, which come with items to help create a fun and engaging environment for mom and her newborn baby. When discussing the methods in which her CX team continually shows up for their customers, Christine explains:

When you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do with the subscription. It’s more like, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” We know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. If you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.

Creatively engaging with the mother and being there for every step of the pregnancy process has proven to keep their customers coming back for more. Christine notes how Bump Box has a room full of sonograms and baby pictures sent in by the mothers they service. They become familiar with each mom and enjoy speaking with them as if they are old friends. For Christine, the most rewarding part of running her company is seeing the pictures and sonograms of these babies and knowing her company did something to help each mom through their pregnancy journey.

CX teams would be wise to adopt an understanding of their customers and to thoroughly engage and have genuine conversations with them. At the end of the day, everyone is going through their own journey in life and recognizing that aspect will help add more of a human element to each CX interaction.

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “How Bump Boxes is Rapidly Growing by Focusing on the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience and how to optimize it and to do that we brought on Christine Deehring. She’s currently the Founder and CEO of a cool company called Bump Boxes. So Christine, thanks for joining. How are you?

Christine Deehring: (00:27)
Yes. Great. I’m just so excited to be here, Gabe. So excited about the customer experience and just everything that we do here at Bump Boxes.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah, this is so fun because we’re always looking for, sometimes we talk about just general best practices, but it’s always fun to hear from somebody who’s kind of just daily living it, working the grind, et cetera. So we appreciate you jumping on. Before we do, can you tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and Bump Boxes, just so everybody kind of knows the context?

Christine Deehring: (00:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So Bump Boxes is a monthly subscription service for pregnancy and baby products. So mom can sign up at any point during her pregnancy and she actually gets a box of products that are specifically tailored to that month of her pregnancy. So we include five to eight full-size products and we know what moms are going through during pregnancy and what she’s experiencing every single month. So it’s themed around something she’s going through during that specific month. And then when she gives birth, it transitions over to Busy Boxes, which is a newborn to three-year-old subscription. So, and on that side of the subscription, it’s all tailored around baby’s milestones and really creating that fun, playful environment for mom and baby to experience together. Yeah, so that’s, yeah, absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I was telling Christine before, my wife has somehow convinced me to have four, so we have four children and so she’s definitely a fan of the idea and Bump Boxes. So love what you do. So [inaudible] that we had connected was Christine had come across a couple of things and one was something that was awesome that happened on Instagram. I mean, remind me. You guys went just, you flew up. You added a couple thousand followers just in a day or two. What was that scenario? Remind me.

Christine Deehring: (02:06)
Yes. Yes. So I think we had reached a milestone on our Instagram following and just to kind of give you guys some context and the whole post was all about how like, “Hey, we started from zero four years ago,” and that’s just it. So, that was the whole premise of posting about that big milestone for us on Instagram, because a lot of people don’t know. I mean, we started about four and a half years ago and we started from an idea, right? And now we reach over 14 million moms a month across all of our channels, right? So, I mean, it’s just kind of, “Hey,” like, I mean, it’s just, and what we try to say is like, “Hey guys, if you have an idea, take it and go, like the first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero,” that’s that.

Gabe Larsen: (02:53)
I love that. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim, right? You just have –

Christine Deehring: (02:57)
Yes! You just have to aim.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
– and then you figure out where the target is later. But one of the keys it sounded like, and I’m sure the product is fantastic, but you guys do have kind of this maniacal focus on customer service and customer experience and interaction with the customer. And so it sounded like in the post, obviously you found a great niche that a lot of people are excited about, but you’ve kind of taken those extra steps to really bring the customer down the journey with you has been the separator. Is that fair to say?

Christine Deehring: (03:27)
Absolutely, absolutely. A hundred percent. So, I mean, I think, we do a lot of things regarding customer experience here at Bump Boxes. Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s like growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants, right? I mean, that’s just the foundational way to run a business. But I mean, there are some things that we’ve learned along the way, especially growing and scaling, as to why it is just that important to really focus and have that non stop focus on your customer. So I think, one of the main things that we focused on is corporate culture, company culture. Because if you have the right culture, then you can actually empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions to make mom happy.

Gabe Larsen: (04:21)
Right. Because a lot of times we– I feel like we should probably, when we talk about customer experience, we should probably talk more about the employee or the company culture. Sometimes we do all the things that the customer does, but we get that employee side. So, what are some of the fun things you guys have done to try to make that employer culture really enable or empower that customer journey?

Christine Deehring: (04:40)
Yeah, so our company culture is just amazing. So, we have four main core values and that’s what we make all of our decisions based around. So, positivity would be the first one. So, seeing the opportunity, seeing the brighter side of things. Always just trying to be positive in every situation possible and really seeing opportunity where it is. Hustle would be another one. So, constantly, just if there is a barrier, figure out a way to break through it or go around it, but figure out a solution. Constantly, yeah. Constantly move forward. Accountability is another one. So, being accountable for yourself, for your role. We know mistakes happen, everyone makes mistakes, right? I mean, we know mistakes happen, but when a mistake happens, we take, yeah. You take responsibility of it and then you fix it, so it doesn’t have to happen again in the future, you know? And as long as you fix the process, then everything’s great. And then most importantly, mom first, so that’s very customer experience-centric, right? So, everything we do, whether it’s our marketing messaging, whether it’s our site, our customer experience team when they talk to mom on the phone, how we pack the boxes, the product that we select, everything is putting mom first. And as long as we make our decisions around that, then we know we’re doing right by mom. So, that’s one of the main things and actually spells PHAM, so that wasn’t actually intended by design. It just worked out. PHAM with the P-H.

Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
Sometimes they have fun acronyms and you nailed it. You beat me to it. PHAM. That’s cool.

Christine Deehring: (06:10)
That’s right. That’s right. So that’s one of the main things I think, if you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.

Gabe Larsen: (06:26)
I like that. Now, I think some of the things that people struggle with. Because some people come up with big, they get to that step where they come up with some of these core values. It’s actually the ability to implement more, to empower the people to do them. Is there certain, you don’t necessarily need to go through each one, but have you been able to find ways to actually make those values and bring them to life? Is it communication with the team? Is it just highlighting them in a weekly meeting? Is it giving it an award around or what’s been the way to bring those to life and make them so they’re not just the things on the wall?

Christine Deehring: (06:58)
Yeah. Because yeah. I mean, like you can post them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that like that’s the actual culture, right? I mean that’s yeah, a hundred percent. So, for us, I mean I think, we have weekly one-on-ones where we talk about core values. That’s how your performance is reviewed. It’s all around core values. It’s all driven around that. And then we also do gift cards. So, if someone exceeds in core values and they exceed their metrics and they’re nominated for a gift card award that we do every week. So, there’s ways to reinforce it, but I mean, I think that when you start off with your core values and you make your hiring decisions based on those core values you make all the decisions within the company, as long as that’s the cornerstone of why you make those decisions, then it’s easy and everyone gets it and everybody’s on par with it. Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
Yeah, I like that one. The one that I find the most intriguing at the moment is the mom first, what was it called? How did you phrase that again?

Christine Deehring: (07:55)
Mom first. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Okay, because it sounded like, and again I’m thinking about some of the posts you guys have. You’ve done some fun things to kind of, it’s not just, “Here’s a box, good luck,” right? There’s these little cherry on tops, these little extra things you guys have done to make it personalized, make it kind of extra, make it feel like you care more. Do you mind sharing a couple of those that may come to mind?

Christine Deehring: (08:21)
Yeah, absolutely. So, we call all of our subscribers personally. So, when you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do necessarily with the subscription. It’s more of like a, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” Like we know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s like, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. Like, if you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.” Yeah. Like, whatever you need –

Gabe Larsen: (08:58)
Have there been some weird experiences where you’ve done something like that, where someone’s been like, “I’m really not doing well, I’m craving something,” and you ordered fries or something like that?

Christine Deehring: (09:07)
Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! A hundred percent. I mean, yes. And that’s why our moms love us and what’s really cool, especially when we make those connections with mom. I think what’s so exciting to see is even in our customer experience room, I mean like, we have so many sonogram photos, so many pictures that moms have sent in. If a mom signs up with us and she’s with us her whole pregnancy and finally, she has her baby, it’s an exciting time that we all celebrate. We all get excited about and then she sends us pictures and we put them up on this wall and that’s really exciting when you know that you’ve made that connection. [Inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (09:47)
Cool, cool. So they actually send you, just by a chance, they’ll send you a picture and you’ve kind of thrown it on the wall in the customer experience room, you said?

Christine Deehring: (09:56)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (09:56)
Awesome. I want to highlight though, the phone call. Because I do feel like, it is a small, well maybe it’s not a small thing, but this proactive customer support or proactive customer experience feels like it’s just a hot trend or a real differentiator. We’re so used to taking inbound query or the chat query or the email inquiry or the ticket, but actually taking the time to go outbound, whether it’s a challenge, a new cut, I feel like that’s pretty different. And it sounds like people appreciated that a lot.

Christine Deehring: (10:31)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that we’ve done too, is we have a very direct feedback loop with our customer experience team. And so I think it’s super, super important, especially as you roll out new initiatives, as you’re trying and testing things, as you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s resonating with mom and what she wants, having that contact with your customer directly and asking those questions and being in that feedback loop is super important. So, I know, recently we rolled out a VIP program. So, any mom that subscribes with us, she gets, depending on how long she’s committed to, she gets a specific discount to our store just for joining our subscription. And that was something that came up from just customer feedback, right? And so it’s definitely nice to have that instant feedback loop so that way you can make changes, you can test things, you can roll new things out just to make sure that you’re really sticking through to that mission.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
No, that is powerful because I think a lot of times as sales and marketing, we don’t listen to our customers enough. You want to, but you don’t get that feedback loop tightened. How have you done that? Is it the channel? I mean, are you guys pretty channel agnostic? Meaning it’s like, hey, when you have this customer experience person, you can communicate them very easily, whether it’s on tech or phone or email, or is it that you have these kind of weekly check-ins or how have you made that feedback loop more fluid?

Christine Deehring: (12:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m actually in touch with customer experience every single day. So, they actually report directly to me, you know what I mean? And we’ve done that by design. Yeah. We’ve done it by design because I think I want to be as close to our moms as possible. And I think that has been super important to our growth, right? Being able to kind of hear what’s going on on the ground. Being able to talk to moms a couple of times a week, like just to make sure that we’re still staying true to that mission, that they feel good, they’re having a great experience and then, you know, asking for ideas, like, “What else would you like to see from Bump Boxes? What other things have you thought about that would be helpful that we could provide?” and I think being that close to customer experience has really been helpful as we’ve grown and scaled and learned along the way.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah, sure. Because sometimes that is the hard part, right? Once you kind of lose track of the customer, you lose track of so much of that goodness. How many people, obviously there are challenging times going on and some businesses are up, some businesses are down. As you kind of think about your own business and lessons learned over kind of the last month or two, and we can kind of bring this to a close, what would be feedback or advice you’d give to people who are looking to scale and obviously be successful while times are maybe a little more difficult?

Christine Deehring: (13:30)
Yeah, absolutely. I think, when you’re kind of going through uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that you really need to focus on is over-communicating, right? Because everybody has just a heightened level of stress. I mean, there’s just a lot going on. You don’t know what everyone is going through. And so, I think just keeping that in mind and over-communicating and especially being there for your customer, having those phone conversations, and understanding that it’s quality phone conversations, right? No matter what mom’s going through, if she’s stressed out, talk to her. I think that, definitely as you’re scaling and growing, just over-communicating is always best, especially during uncertain times like these for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
And that’s obviously true for employees as well as customers.

Christine Deehring: (14:21)
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
Christine, it’s fun to have you on. It’s a cool, it sounds like you found obviously a fun kind of niche that you guys are really doing well in and so congrats on that. Solving problems, making customers happy. It’s always fun to kind of see that happen. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about Bump Boxes or your story, what’s the best way to do that? What would you recommend?

Christine Deehring: (14:42)
Yeah! Absolutely. So you can check out bumpboxes.com. You can always shoot me an email, christine@bumpboxes.com. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Seriously.

Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
I love that and that’s such a cool name by the way. Kudos on like a very catchy name. That was it.

Christine Deehring: (14:59)
Thank you. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Well, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Christine Deehring: (15:05)
Yeah. Thanks, Gabe. Have a good one.

Exit Voice: (15:12)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

What Is It Like to Work on the Product Team at Kustomer?

If you’re interested in joining the Kustomer team, check out our Careers Page.

What is it actually like to work here at Kustomer? We’re going to help answer this question in a series of interviews with folks from every department to tell you about their unique experience, and how it applies to anyone looking to join our team.

Here’s Peter Johnson, VP of Product at Kustomer, to share what it’s like to build our powerful platform for customer experience:

Q: What is unique about working on and building the Kustomer platform?

PJ: We get the chance to totally challenge the status-quo in the support space and re-imagine what a modern CRM should look like. We get to ask questions like, “Could ticketing be done better?” or “How can we improve on legacy routing models?” These are old problems being reimagined in modern tech, and we’re at the forefront of them.

Q: What skills and programming languages do we recommend applicants know and use on our team?

PJ: Project Managers and Designers don’t need to be able to code at Kustomer! Though it doesn’t hurt to know HTML/CSS or Javascript. I think the most important skill is being able to learn quickly. Yes, having previous experience leading a dev team, designing in Sketch, working in Agile, etc. are all helpful traits. However, the best PMs/Designers are open-minded, data-driven, curious, and genuinely give a shit about the products they design.

Q: What features are the product team most proud of?

PJ: Many come to mind: Obviously the Customer timeline, Synchronous and Asynchronous Chat Product, and Chat Conversation Assistant are highlights. Though I’d say that I’m even more amazed at what we were able to ship considering how quickly we shipped it, with such a small team, and in such a short timeframe.

Q: How does Kustomer set up its Product team for growth and success?

PJ: We try to inject data into the decision-making process as much as possible—both qualitatively and quantitatively. Existing customer feature usage metrics, as well as feedback, are extremely important in our future feature decision-making. There’s a quote I love that says “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Q: If you had to describe the Product team in one word, what would it be?

PJ: Kustomer. We commonly use the phrase “Don’t just talk about it, be about it.” At the end of the day, no phrase or one word sums up our team better. The results our team’s hard work and output can be seen in the Kustomer product.

Q: What kinds of things does the Product team do as a team outside of work?

PJ: A few recent events we’ve done: a ping-pong outing at Fat Cat, lunches in Bryant Park, drinks at the Pennsy—we definitely have a lot of fun as a team.

Q: Where have other members of the Product team worked in the past?

PJ: Social networks, CRM software companies, real estate management software, health startups, video chat software, and more.

Q: What are some of the benefits of working at Kustomer?

PJ: Beyond things like great health insurance and snacks, I’d have to say ownership. You have the chance to design and be a part of launching a totally original product that has your fingerprints on it, and is used by thousands of people every day. It’s a really satisfying feeling to own a product end-to-end.

If all of this sounds makes you think, “Wow, Kustomer sounds like the kind of place I want to work,” then we have some good news. We’re growing fast, and are hiring for our Product team in our NY office RIGHT NOW! If you’re interested in joining our team, apply directly here.

What Is It Like to Work on the Operations and People Team at Kustomer?

If you’re interested in joining the Kustomer team, check out our Careers Page.

What is it actually like to work here at Kustomer? We’re going to help answer this question in a series of interviews with folks from every department to tell you about their unique experience, and how it applies to anyone looking to join.

 Here’s Robert Charming, Head of Global Operations & People at Kustomer, to share what it’s like to be part of the team that keeps us growing and thriving as individuals and as a company!

Q: What is it like to work on the Operations and People team at Kustomer?

RC: Operations & People are the core drivers of our business. It’s through our people that we push the business forward, moving the needle on the operational goals we set out for ourselves. Being a member of the Ops & People team means being a part of the foundation the rest of the company is built on.

Q: How does Kustomer’s Operations and People team work with the rest of the company?

RC: Well, we impact everyone and a bit of everything. On the people side, we’re partnering with hiring managers to define their needs and work with them to find the right people to add value back into the organization. Once a new team member joins Kustomer, we’re also there to help support them in their professional (and personal) growth. This spans everything from making sure people have markers for the whiteboard, to talking through individual career paths with teammates. On the operational side, we help teams work together to define metrics, drive ownership in the organization, and increase productivity by streamlining processes. The joke is that we’re the WD40 of the organization—and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Q: What are some of the daily tasks expected of the open roles on the operations team?

RC: We’re looking for two roles at the moment—an Executive Assistant to the CEO, and a Talent Acquisition Lead. As the EA to the CEO, the focus will be threefold:

  1. Driving productivity and efficiency into our CEO Brad’s schedule and role.
  2. Overseeing and managing the office, including things like those aforementioned markers, to putting on all company events like our yearly holiday party.
  3. Ad hoc projects across the executive team.

Overall, the EA will drive the organization forward, partnering with both Brad and Robert, Head of Ops and People, to make sure we’re running smoothly at all times.

As the Talent Acquisition Lead, you’d be owning the end-to-end function, from defining roles to bringing on the talent to fill them. We have a solid foundation in place today, but there’s always room to improve. From talent branding to candidate experience and interview training, there’s a lot left to be done, and we strive to make sure the people we engage have an exceptional experience.

Q: What is unique about Kustomer’s culture, and how are Ops and People a part of that?

RC: Kustomer offers you a real sense of ownership in the work that we do. We’re very transparent with everything, from decisions to metrics, to the goals we’re setting for ourselves. This has helped us do a lot with a little and move mountains quickly. We’re proud of our scrappy, resourceful team, and we all band together when we’re facing a challenge. Specifically, the People and Ops team are helping make sure everyone is moving in the same direction with KUSTYS (like OKRs) and many other communication initiatives, like our bi-weekly all-hands meeting.

Q: How does Kustomer set up its employees for growth and success?

RC: There’s quite a few ways to list here. One of the larger things is our KUSTYS, which help define what individuals are working on during a specific scope of time. Other ways are through our benefits; we cover 100% of premiums AND coinsurance for people on our teams, also paying most of the family portions as well. As a member of the People team, we’re advocates for our employees and their best interests. As a team, we’re here to talk through challenges, provide feedback, and ensure we’re all in a place where we can be productive. There’s a lot that goes into that mission.

Q: If you had to describe the People team in one word, what would it be?

RC: We didn’t know how to answer this one, so we asked Brad and his response was “Awesome”.

If all of this sounds makes you think, “Wow, Kustomer sounds like the kind of place I want to work,” then we have some good news. We’re growing fast, and are hiring for People and Ops roles in our NY office RIGHT NOW! If you’re interested in joining our team, apply directly here.

What Is It Like to Work on the Kustomer BDR Team?

If you’re interested in joining the Kustomer team, check out our Careers Page.

What is it actually like to work at Kustomer? We’re going to help answer this question in a series of interviews with folks from every department here to tell you about their unique experience here, and how it applies to anyone looking to join our team.

First up is Jared Accettura, Team Lead, Customer Experience Consultants at Kustomer, here to tell us what it’s really like to work as an Account Executive or Business Development Representative at our fast-growing startup.

Q: How does Kustomer approach selling our product?

JA: The Kustomer product is a powerful one, and makes a real difference for our clients every single day. It’s also constantly evolving. Because of that, it’s key for our BDRs to be experts in the platform and speak to its capabilities, as well as how our current clients are using it. BDRs use that expertise to act as consultants, opening the door for CX projects in the discovery phase of a sales cycle.

Q: What is unique about the culture of our Sales / BDR team?

JA: The collaboration that exists across the Sales organization is huge. Working in close tandem on everything, from prospecting to messaging to onsite meetings, Account Executives and BDRs learn from one another, provide support, and develop new strategies for success. It’s truly a unique partnership that pays dividends for individual growth and the business overall.

Q: If you had to describe the Sales / BDR Team in one word, what would it be?

JA: Community. The CX community is a tight-knit one in general, and every member of the Sales organization is deeply entrenched in it. With so many members of the sales organization active in the space, it’s made our team feel like a true community that supports one another and pushes our team to be better.

Q: Where else have members of the Kustomer Sales / BDR team worked?

JA: Members of the Sales team have worked at a spectrum of SaaS and software companies. That includes small startups, large multinational companies, and everything in between—and not just in the customer support space!

Q: What kinds of things do Sales / BDR get up to as a team outside of work?

JA: The Sales / BDR teams get together outside of work often. Group activities like Mets games or volunteering at a soup kitchen or even axe-throwing in Brooklyn (look it up) are happening on a weekly basis. It provides a great way to bond as a team, relax, and have fun with coworkers who become not only friends, but family.

Q: What are some of the benefits of working at Kustomer?

JA: The benefits of working at Kustomer aren’t just the highly attractive pieces like healthcare options, partial phone bill payments, and more. They also include the benefits that go along with the amazing potential of working with great teammates, who are all focused on turning Kustomer into a true industry disruptor. The sky’s the limit, and it’s truly valuable and inspiring to work around so many people who are committed to the same vision.

If all of this sounds makes you think, “Wow, Kustomer sounds like the kind of place I want to work,” then we have some good news. We’re growing fast, and are hiring for a BDR role as well as Sales roles across the country RIGHT NOW! If you’re interested in joining our BDR team, apply directly here.

From Customers to Teammates: Creating a People Centric Culture

As a member of Kustomer’s People team, I frequently chat with candidates about working at Kustomer. Our conversations cover individuals’ experiences, interests, and what they’re looking to do next in their career. When candidates ask me about our team, I share how we deeply value helping people.

It’s an inherent part of what we do, and who we are. Customer service permeates our collective experience at Kustomer.

Our shared concern for others stems from the company’s history. Kustomer’s co-founders, Brad and Jeremy, have worked in the CRM space for over 20 years. They’ve set out to shift the way we think about client success. The technology we’ve built advocates for the customer by offering a holistic view of their needs. In our platform, the customer is the atomic unit of record. This model enables support teams to better serve customers and alleviate pain points created by ticket-based systems. As Brad explained, “It’s about supporting a customer and not a case.” The People Centric mindset they built into our application is at the forefront of what we do.

Brad and Jeremy harnessed their extensive knowledge to create a product that fixes broken customer relationships. Their propensity towards improving customer service defines Kustomer’s core values, which are rooted in serving others. In fact, our primary value is “Customers First.” This passion for a flawless experience bleeds over into the way we work together at Kustomer.

On a micro-level, conversations between Kustomer teammates often revolve around advocating for others. An engineer recently told me her favorite part of work is customizing our platform for clients’ specific needs. “You get to see so many use cases,” she said excitedly. “I love that our product makes people’s’ lives easier.” Our focus on people’s experience is a shared theme across teams.

Another developer shared with me that his team put significant effort into a project, but then realized late in the process a better solution existed. Despite added work, the team agreed to pivot the approach, yielding better results for our clients. “Here at Kustomer, we focus on the best outcome for our customers,” he explained.

Since its inception, Kustomer has made serving customers a priority. We take the same approach with our internal team. Our culture promotes setting folks up for success. Leaders and teammates regularly check in with one another. Individuals are encouraged to voice their opinions and map out their personal careers aspirations. I have personally benefited from one-on-ones with my team lead, gaining insights into how my work directly impacts the business and how I can continue to grow in my role.

Beyond taking a personal investment in our teammates, there is an abundance of institutional support at Kustomer. Every quarter, we survey our team to better understand their engagement and the areas we can address as a People team. We want to ensure that individuals have what they need to perform at their best. As a result, the company covers 100% of employees’ medical, dental, and vision insurance. Additionally, we enjoy a flexible vacation policy, catered lunch at our semi-monthly meetings, a free Citibike membership, and an array of other perks. Using this feedback loop, we frequently look at our total rewards package to make sure we’re appropriately serving our team, the same way we strive to serve our customers.

Every day, I am impressed by my colleagues’ thoughtful perspectives and their knack for collaboration. I find that folks are inclined to support each other at Kustomer. I spoke with a marketing colleague about cross-departmental collaboration. “When I first started in my role two years ago, I wanted to engage with the product and review its functions,” she recalled. “Our test engineer immediately offered to walk me through our platform and his process. To this day, we still exchange ideas about the product. He has been a great source of knowledge for me.” Kustomer’s People Centric culture encourages our team to learn from each other.

It’s evident our team values commitment and accountability. Our work is centered on helping people and one another. We strive to treat our teammates like our customers—with respect, authenticity, and kindness. Relationships are a priority to us, whether they are forged across our software or in our workplace. As a member of our People team, I’m excited to continue providing a People Centric culture to our customers, internal and external.

Natalie Magioncalda is on the People Operations team at Kustomer.

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