How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre, Jr.

How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Laurent Pierre from Microsoft Azure to learn the secrets to making a CX team valuable. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Laurent and his team at Azure use customer-centric strategies to create the best experience.

Guiding Customers to Solutions Using Empathy

No longer are the days of bank teller-esque transactions where each experience is done as quickly as possible with little consideration for customer satisfaction. Situations like these leave the customer feeling like another ticket number or a tick mark while the teller counts down the minutes until they’re off for the day. Many companies, particularly in the tech sector, recognize that there needs to be a radical shift in how they approach modern CX. Azure is a branch of Microsoft that was created for the benefit of the customer through every step of their journey. Laurent attributes its success to the mindset of being customer obsessed since the very beginning and carrying that concept throughout the entirety of the brand’s decisions. Keeping the customer in mind or being truly customer obsessed means that each team member has empathy and passion for solving problems and guiding people to solutions. Rather than just solving the initial problem, Laurent emphasizes the importance of being proactive for the customer. “We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.’” A proactive approach gives companies a huge advantage over the competition because it shows the customers how much the brand cares about their experience and what they’re willing to do to keep them around for the long haul.

Employee Experience: The Missing Ingredient

A key component to the ultimate customer experience that many companies often forget is the employee experience (EX). This is just as important as CX in many ways. Providing an excellent EX starts with hiring the right talent. This is where leaders can make a difference in the employee experience early on by selecting the kind of people they want on their team. “I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once.” From there, it’s easy for leaders to deliver EX that boost office morale and employee satisfaction with their hand picked team of agents, further leading to higher NPS scores and customer loyalty. The employee experience is an integral part of CX because if your employees aren’t happy, your customers surely won’t be happy either. We’ve all been there, waiting on the phone for forever, hoping an agent picks up soon, only to be met with someone on the other end of the line who sounds like they couldn’t care less about the product issues. A little bit of friendliness goes a long way with customers and when they feel like their problems have been addressed and listened to, they’re more likely to continue shopping with your brand. When employees are passionate about the company, their role, the product, and the customer, lasting success happens as a result.

Partnering with Leaders Across the Board

Customer experience shouldn’t be the role of solely the CX team, rather, leaders from different departments should consider joining forces with leaders from CX and finding ways to incorporate the customer into all aspects of business decisions. Aligning departments is a great tactic to get the company as a whole on the same page of customer expectations. For Laurent, he has members of the Sales team jump on calls with Support and identify gaps where their software doesn’t work for the consumer. “You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from end to end and make sure that everyone is on the same page about it. Make sure that everyone is engaged so you have a customer for life.” By involving people who manage different branches of the company, it builds a sense of empathy for the customer and for the CX team on a much larger scale. At the end of the day, we’re all human and each customer interaction should be treated with a compassionate response.

To learn more about Laurent’s work and how to add value to CX, Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Drive Business Value With Your CX Team | Laurent Pierre

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’ve got a fun talk track. We’re going to be talking about CX transformation, really this idea of driving business value with your CX team and to do that, we’ve got a special guest: Laurent Pierre. I’ve been calling, I’ve been saying that wrong and he corrected me just a minute ago in a true Americano/American accent or whatever. But do you mind just taking a minute and introducing yourself? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Laurent Pierre: (00:43)
Sure. Hi, my name is Laurent Pierre. I’m the general manager for Azure CXP and that’s the customer experience wing in engineering for Azure. I joined here about 10 months ago after a 14 year stint at IBM.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Awesome. I’m excited. I think you’ve got a fun background. It would be fun to tap into that, talk about CX. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:04)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer. Gabe’s partner in crime.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Awesome. Then I’m Gabe. Run growth here at Kustomer. So let’s dive in. I’m wanting to talk big picture and start with this. It does seem like when it comes, I’m hearing this more and more, that CX, we are just having a hard time figuring out how to talk to the CEO and really drive that kind of business value. They talk about things like CSAT, they talk about things like NPS and they are important often, but when they go and try to get money or they try to get buy in from that executive level, sometimes that CEO is like, “What does NPS mean? I talk dollars and cents, like, how is this affecting our top, the bottom line?” And there is a little bit of a disconnect. Vikas, I wanted to maybe start with you. What would you add to this? I mean, you play a bulk here as a CX leader and you had executive experience. Why is this? Is this a problem? Why is it a problem?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
I think it goes back to the very nature of looking at a contact center customer experience team, a call center. And that, I think, ties to a very antiquated way of thinking about how you do business with your customer. It’s a transaction, right? I do a transaction. I sell you something and in a nirvana world, I never see or hear from you again, right? And, oh my goodness, you have a problem. And now you want to reach out to my team, you know what? I just want them to solve it and I want them to make you go away. So I think that that kind of paradigm is shifted because at the end of the day now, every business is a subscription business. Every customer has to have high lifetime value because we, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. You’re spending so much to acquire that customer on the front end then if you don’t sell them more or you don’t retain them, you’ve lost money on that. It doesn’t matter that they bought something from you. So now, it’s not that I need these people to actually sell anything necessarily, if they don’t deliver that exceptional experience, I won’t be able to ever sell that customer again. That is –

Gabe Larsen: (03:17)
I like that framing. Laurent, how would you kind of think about this, Laurent? I mean you, big picture. How should CX teams be thinking about driving that value or what, is this a problem you’ve seen?

Laurent Pierre: (03:27)
Absolutely. It’s a great question because when I look at where I, when I started in the industry 20 some years ago, it was all about the metrics and I always hate using this phrase but it fits here, where often sales teams are referred to as coin operated people, right? And so one of the things I learned over time is that you have to pull the sales team into the process and you have to understand what their targets are. Not only from a number perspective, but from a customer view of one of their projects. And so, as I evolved and grew up in support, I realized that, let’s park the metrics. Let’s get involved with the customer, understand their projects, connect with the services team that’s delivering it because oftentimes, we find customers spend ten, 20, 30 million dollars, but they don’t have the skillset to do it.

Laurent Pierre: (04:14)
And so what we ended up doing is we started taking our support team leaders and plugging them into the monthly calls with the sales teams. Then in addition to that, we started identifying gaps where the customer purchased technology, but couldn’t maintain it, which ended up in a support call, which ended up in a bad experience, which also ended in customers coming to support to solve things that should have been solved via services. And so if you don’t connect those dots along the way, through the CX journey, you’re going to have multiple touch points that are problematic, full of friction, and then ending up with a customer who says, “Give me my money back.”

Vikas Bhambri: (04:50)
Right and you know this, Laurent, in the early days, particularly in software, right, salespeoples’ mentality was, and literally, “I’m shipping you a disk then I’m done.” And I remember in the early days of my career, I was a sucker who was left [inaudible]. It was a nightmare because the customer was like, “Wait, this is what he or she told me it did. Oh, wait, I have these three other requirements that aren’t addressed here and all of those other things.” But at the end of the day it was a, I mean, what were they going to do? Like sending the disc back? No, but now as a service world, it’s like, “Wait a minute. If you don’t have what I need, I either won’t renew or even worse, I’ll call out material breach and I’ll just shut you down completely.”

Laurent Pierre: (05:35)
Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Do you feel, Laurent, I want to go into some of the details that you’re talking about, how do you start to connect that business? How do you get the value to the forefront? And some of the ways and methods you found this to be successful in previous lives or in your current life? You talked about a couple of them, but maybe start at the top. What, how do you, where do you, where would you start to advise people to start as they want to get down to this kind of business value?

Laurent Pierre: (06:01)
I think the biggest thing is identifying and knowing where you are in your CX maturity model and your journey, right? Some people are just getting started. Some people are dabbling. Some are pretty mature. You have your startups, your mid-size companies, and you have large companies like Microsoft. And so you often have a lot of things that are culturally based, but then when you start looking at it, you have to tie the CX program to the business objectives, right? Because in most cases, I’ve been at companies where the CX budget was a million dollars and they said, “Good luck, Laurent.” I’ve been at places where it’s ten, I’ve been at places where it’s been 20 million. And each time when finance comes back and says, “Okay, what did we get for the ten million dollars we just gave Laurent to run CX?” And so what we ended up doing is we started attaching ourselves to those projects where we were influencing what was happening quarter by quarter.

Laurent Pierre: (06:47)
So it wasn’t enough to wait until the end of the year to get funded. Every quarter, we were sitting there with the sales team, identifying the projects, the digital transformation projects with the customers, and then looking at how we can partner with education and services. And then what we started doing was had the sales team actually tag in the system our influence from a CX perspective. And so sometimes a customer didn’t have, for example, the highest level of support and they needed it. So I just partnered with the sales team and said, “You know what, I’m going to give you my best guy and put a SWAT team together. Anything that happens this quarter, our SWAT teams are going to swarm on top of it and make sure that it’s not an impediment to close the deal.” And as we started doing that, we started finding new ways to engage with the customer. And customers actually started inviting us to the technology selection and other vendors were there as well. And so that’s what we started doing to change the dynamic and not see us just as the break-fix reactive support organization.

Gabe Larsen: (07:43)
I like it. I do feel like if you told most CX leaders, one of the keys to driving value is to go hang out with salespeople, I don’t know if they’d like that. Those two are sometimes oil and water. What do you say to that, Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:57)
Well, look, we’ve taken a very unique approach at Kustomer. At Kustomer, the buck stops with me. Sales and CX report into one leader. Now that might not necessarily be operationally feasible that a company like Microsoft or a large-size company like that, but it’s more around the premise, right? For us, the reason we did this and we did this intentionally when we set up the organization, was having one throat to choke or hand to shake. It says, I own the customer journey from beginning to end, right? From the moment we have that first discovery call all the way through their life cycle, that partnership being cemented, but more importantly, as a software service business, that continuing iteration with our customer success team, our support professional services team, and actually our sales team as well because our sales team is also always engaged.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:52)
For me, having that end to end leadership and visibility is extremely important, particularly in a software service business. But as I said earlier, whether you know it or not, and if your CEO doesn’t know it, shame on you, every business is now a software as a service. You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from beginning to end and making sure that every piece of the puzzle, everybody on your side and the customer side, as in forwarded, is engaged in how we want to make sure that we have a truly a customer for life, or look at that lifetime value also.

Gabe Larsen: (09:27)
I do think that will [inaudible]. Bringing the post-sales into that sales role and finding tangible ways to do it, like you’re saying, Laurent, because I think some people may say, “I get it but every week the role gets a little bit harder than tagging actually records or being part of the conversation, or actually getting part of the sales conversation.” Wherever it happens, that’s a differentiator of vendors, to your point, didn’t have that. I love it. Where do you go next? What other ones have you found that drive that value?

Laurent Pierre: (09:56)
So, I think the biggest thing for me is I always tell folks when we’re having these debates and discussions that you can’t deliver customer experience without EX. So, you can’t deliver CX without EX. And so if your employees are not understanding the process, they’re not skilled, they’re telling the customer some wacky things on the phone that really upset them, right? Just the little, the smallest things that you would think wouldn’t upset them would kill a deal. And so one of the things that we’re looking at, as well as making sure that our employees are equipped to deal with these enterprise-level challenges, these mission critical things that they know the customer, know the product, and probably one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from customers is like, “Every time I call the support center, I have to, re-explain my environment. I have to re-explain my architecture.” And so that’s why it becomes important to understand your customer. Segment them but also align industry-related technologists that can speak not only the technical language, but the business language, whether you’re in banking or retail or manufacturing and aligning those together.

Gabe Larsen: (10:57)
Wow. Wow. So you’ve actually got the place. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about routing and trying to get the right person to the right person, right employee for the, the right customer to the right employee. But you’ve gone pretty deep on what it sounds like. You’ve gotten the ability where one, we’re trying to motivate the employees, but you’ve gone pretty deep in getting the right person. Technical knowledge, business knowledge, so that when that customer is actually interfacing with the employee, it’s a very real conversation because there’s a lot of knowledge transfer happening. Is that, did I get that?

Laurent Pierre: (11:27)
That’s exactly right. And so, for example, in retail, we have Black Friday coming up. For during the summer, we have these flash sales on their websites or throughout the year and aligning people who understand what that looks like and the October, November, December months are make or break for a lot of retail customers. You can’t afford to have a subscription down or a service down. So you have to align people with plan A, B and C to make sure if a region goes down or there’s a place impacted, that we are quickly there. And so monitoring and being proactive. Gone are the days of let’s wait for the case to come in to solve it. We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.” And that’s what I’m finding. Even here at Microsoft. Again, I’ve been here 10 months, but those are the kind of things that we’re putting in place and are in place in many areas.

Gabe Larsen: (12:23)
Yeah, interesting. I wonder, sometime you mentioned the Microsoft thing and I think one, excuse, you probably hear, Vikas, you’re doing a little better at saying this than I am, but it’s well, yeah, we’re at Microsoft, so everything is possible, you know? I mean, you can throw resources at it. I don’t have that ability to be flexible, be proactive. How would you respond to that statement? I don’t know if it’s, I don’t believe it’s true, but it’s not always just about the brand and the resources. It’s gotta be something else.

Laurent Pierre: (12:53)
So, I mean, for me, I go back to when I worked for a a hundred million dollar company 20 years ago, and there’s smaller, maybe 300 people worldwide, right? And basically at that time, we didn’t have the resources. And as a matter of fact, we had to be creative with the small resources that we had. And so for example, to ask a customer who just spent a million dollars, a small business, on software to spend another $200,000 for premium support to get a technical account manager, was often not feasible. There was always this little gray area of, I’d like to have it, but I can’t afford it. So it was, we said, “You know what, let’s give them 60 days as they’re coming up or whatever time frame it needs to fill that gap, get them on the tracks and get them into a steady state. And then if they can afford it later, great.” If not, we disengaged and let them go to the regular process, but we don’t want to drain them as well.

Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
I notice all the time, people making excuses. I don’t want to use that word, excuses, for not delivering a great customer experience because we don’t have the resources. We don’t have, how do you react to something like that? How do you coach people through it?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:57)
You know this, we’re not Microsoft, but I didn’t get to finish yet. Here’s the key thing. At a company at our stage, versus even at Microsoft, it’s all about the mentality and how you’re thinking about it. And I’m sure Laurent’s only been at Microsoft for ten months, but I think anybody who’s read what’s in the public domain understands that there has been a fundamental shift at Microsoft. The thing we think about the customer experience, particularly under Nadella, right, the transformation that Microsoft is going through. We at Kustomer, by the very nature of our business and our mission from day one, if our mission is to help brands deliver amazing customer experience, then we as a company, we’re customer obsessed from day one. So, as I said before, we very proactively thought about even the leadership structure and the organizational structure, but then mapping out that customer journey, and that customer journey is constantly iterating on it as our customers change. They grow, we go global, we have to do different things. And then maturing each of the functions. The sales function and how they think about selling, the professional services team, the customer success and support, boosts that mentality of how will you really think what is the currency in the business? And for us, and it sounds like Microsoft as well, currency is that customer. As long as you’re thinking around that, it doesn’t matter whether you have the funding resources of Microsoft or that of Kustomer, or even that of [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (15:41)
I like that. Laurent, I want to come back to you on that. I mean, it does seem like Microsoft in general has kind of shifted from more of a product company to really just a customer obsessed company. I’m putting words in your mouth here a little bit, but let’s go like more of a whole company initiative. Any insights you would add of how companies can turn because, to Vikas’s point, if you don’t have the focus is the customer from the top down, bottom up, sideways in, whatever you want to call it, you just can’t really get there. Any insights in how Microsoft or your division has been able to really bring that to the forefront and execute on it?

Laurent Pierre: (16:17)
Absolutely. So interestingly enough, the division that I joined is specifically too, it was formed specifically to address that question, where we wanted to bring empathy into engineering and support. So understand what the customer’s journey is and not treat the interaction like a bank teller transaction, and no offense to the banking industry, but a transactional way, right? It’s basically, we wanted to get into the journey of the customer, lifting and shifting, understanding what it costs from a skill development standpoint to run their organization. And so our team, basically we start with the customer and Jason Zander, our EVP, has a phrase. “We want our customers to love Azure.” How do we do that, is we make sure that our people, when you talk to them, when you’re emailing them, when you’re engaging, they feel it coming off of our team members and how we’ve done that is we’ve assigned people, specifically to customers to get deep into that journey, not at the surface level, but all the way down to their projects, their delivery, and how that project ties into the business objectives for that particular year or forward.

Gabe Larsen: (17:22)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:24)
I love that you touched on empathy because to me, and you mentioned the employee experience, if your employees aren’t excited and passionate about product, mission, etc., it’s very hard for themselves to deliver empathy well. I think what gets lost in all of this, Gabe, at the day, is push come to shove. We talked about $30 million deals. And this project that, at the end of the day, when this conversation happens, it’s between two human beings.

Laurent Pierre: (17:55)
Yeah, exactly.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:55)
That’s all it is, right? And if somebody in our world, in the customer experience world, more than likely is coming to you because they have a problem. And so how you on the other side are equipped, intelligent and capable also to show them empathy, I understand you’ve got a problem. And I think that whole thing, the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction. I think that a fundamental flaw in this whole thing is that the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction, but at the end of the day, it’s just somebody who wants help. And I think that empathy is extremely critical and kudos to you, Laurent, and your team, for kind of bringing that into the discussion in a tech world, which can sometimes be very unsympathetic.

Laurent Pierre: (18:43)
I agree!

Gabe Larsen: (18:43)
Very no empathy, right? So Laurent, we’ve got a couple of good secrets from you. Before we end, I want to see if we do one more. You talked a little bit about this idea of bringing sales into the conversation. We talked a lot about kind of empathy and employee, bringing the EX to the CX. What other things have you found getting this value to the top and making the CX team just really who they can be?

Laurent Pierre: (19:03)
I think the biggest thing is that when we’re on the phone solving problems or engaging with them online, one of the things that we find is that it’s not enough, again, to fix the problem. You also have to listen to other things that are going on in the background. And so when you fix that one break fixed issue, you say, “Hey, by the way, I also noticed that’s happening. Let me send you some best practices around this so at 2:00 AM when your system goes down, here’s what you can do.“ Second place is education and skilling. Oftentimes that’s also a coin operated part of the business where the education team is trying to sell education services. Throughout the weeks and months we have that material in house. We actually go out and do, we can do some workshops. At one of the companies before Microsoft, we actually went and created a webinar for one of our customers because they were asking for it. They just hired about a hundred people that weren’t skilled in our product. And we said, “You know what, let’s go in there and help them.” And guess what? Our tickets went this way. Our MTF went that way, because we are able to enable them, not that, it was at our cost, but that’s what we identified to say, “You know what, let’s just go get it done to make them better at using our product.”

Gabe Larsen: (20:14)
Yeah. I mean, so it’s a little going above and beyond, right? It’s not –

Laurent Pierre: (20:19)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (20:19)
Not just watching your handle time or whatever, it’s providing, I think, using some, stealing your words, you’d mentioned before, these kind of memorable moments. I just don’t know how you teach that. How the, have you figured out any, I loved your example of the webinar, but it just seems like it’s hard to get CSRs to see those moments or see those things. Because they’re very focused on just solving the problem often and to then go above and beyond, any thoughts on getting people to see more than just the problem at hand?

Laurent Pierre: (20:51)
For sure. So for us, the proof in the pudding was when our NPS shot 30 points after a year of doing this, right? So that got everybody’s attention because that’s unheard of to have something like that happen, but we got it done. And it’s through those things. So in support, what, some of the times, especially when I was at smaller companies, we basically would mark some people and say, “Okay, you’re off the queue, you’re off support. You’re going to go and do these ten minute how to videos.” And we’re going to upload them to their website. We’re going to go through and collect. When I started working with AI at IBM, we said, “Let’s go find out what our customers are reporting issues about every week, the repeatable cases that show up time and time again.” We took our top 30, converted them to videos, and guess what? Those areas of the business, those calls went down. Our video hits on YouTube went to a hundred thousand a month in those same areas, right? And this is something that everyone’s like, “Oh, Laurent. Stop wasting your time. Don’t do this. No one’s going to watch them.” And we start, we saw it steadily ticking. And again, we didn’t ask for extra funding. I just carved out this small team at the time. I think it was maybe 60, 70 people, at the time. I said, “You two, you three, we’re going to go do this little [inaudible] project.” And that’s what, you have to be brave enough to do that. Take the pain in the front and know that the returns are going to be in the end. And if it fails, hey, you fail fast and you start all over again to something new.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:10)
I agree, Laurent. And the one thing I would add to that is for leaders like Laurent that are over these operations is it also starts at the hiring. And the one thing that I look for, in fact, I was on an interview with a potential member of my CX team for a while. I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once, right? It’s like that person who sees like the hose pipe is leaking and just keeps running it out there every day. And it’s like, “Oh, it’s leaking. It just keeps, I’ll just water the lawn longer.” The guy who’s like, “Wait a minute. If I wrap this once I only have to do it for five minutes next time.” That’s the ideal. And that’s, I think something is somewhat unique in the customer experience world. We’re actually looking, I just said it, we’re looking for lazy people who want to solve problems.

Laurent Pierre: (23:10)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:14)
That’s my big giveaway. My little secret.

Gabe Larsen: (23:16)
I was going to say, I don’t know if we should tell people to look for lazy CX. [Inaudible] Like you always do. I love it.

Laurent Pierre: (23:27)
Listen. Hey, I probably would say it definitely the folks at Microsoft might start looking at me a little funny, but I understand completely the sentiment of what you’re trying to say for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Awesome guys. Awesome. Well, as we route today, talking about providing more business value and recognizing that business value from the top down for CX teams, let’s get kind of a closing remark from each of you. Vikas, maybe we’ll start with you then Laurent, we’ll go to you. What would you leave with the audience today, trying to get their CX team to provide more value ultimately to a leadership team that wants that value?

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Look, here’s the thing. You, as a CX leader, you are delivering value to them. That argument is over. The question is how do you then reflect it back to your c-level, your CEO, CFO, COO, whoever it is? I think the key thing to look at, and we’re on a little bit to some of these, NPS is a key metric. Why? Because the more your customers are out there advocating for you when you’re not in the room, guess what? That delivers more prospects in business to the bottom line, right? The other is lifetime value, right? So whether you’re in the tech business like Laurent and myself, and you’re looking at increase in subscription, increase in ARR, et cetera, that’s one piece of it. But regardless is understanding how much more, I don’t care if you’re selling retail goods, garments, whatever it is, how much more is that particular customer applying from us over time that has interacted? It’s almost looking at like an AB task. Customers who never deal with our CX team, what is their level of future acquisition versus those that do engage in it? The data’s all there. It’s in your systems, et cetera. Make sure you can flush it out and articulate it back to your CX team as you look for this investment on a quarterly annual basis.

Gabe Larsen: (25:19)
I love it. Laurent, what would be [inaudible]?

Laurent Pierre: (25:22)
Well, I would add this, as I said before, you can’t deliver CX without a great EX, right? And in addition to that, I would say that when you’re looking at how we’re engaging your customers, you look at personalization, look at creating those memorable moments, and how we tie that back to the business is the CX program has to be linked to how we’re supporting and influencing the revenue generation. If you try to have a CX program and try to sell it only to the customers will feel good, right, it’s not going to be enough. You need to translate that into, “Oh, by the way, we’re doing this to reduce costs here, increase efficiencies there, and also make sure that that end to end customer journey is something that they will tell everyone else about. Have our stock software be sticky in their environment and make sure that they have a low customer effort score across the board.”

Gabe Larsen: (26:12)
I love that. I love tying it into some revenue streams. That’s a fantastic idea and something I think we can all do a little bit better at. So, Laurent, thanks for joining in. Really appreciate the talk track. Vikas, as always, really appreciates you. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Laurent Pierre: (26:23)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (26:30)
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Top Customer Service Characteristics to Grow the Customer-First Mindset TW

To possess a customer-first mindset is not a new concept by any means. However, the past year has exacerbated many of the vulnerabilities that organizations had within their CX organizations, and some businesses lost sight of their customer-centricity.

CX teams have always, to some degree, been the face of a business. But with the recent shift to digital-first behavior, organizations were suddenly flooded with a higher volume of inquiries and a surging obligation to manage more critical touch points within the customer journey. By now we all know that consumers demand real-time information, and CX organizations need to ensure that their customers are heard, happy, and receiving the best customer experience possible with every interaction.

The pandemic illuminated the fact that there is a lot more work to be done, and we are only at the beginning of a long road to become truly customer-centric. So now that you’ve accepted there is an opportunity to adopt an even stronger customer-first mindset, how do you get started? With your team. Given the importance of their role, you’ll want to make sure that the people you are bringing on board are able to exemplify some, if not all, of the following top customer service characteristics:

1. Resilience

Top Customer Service Characteristics to Grow the Customer-First Mindset Inline 1
Not all customers are happy when they interact with customer service representatives, so it is crucial that your team is able to withstand the heat of the moment, push through the tough conversations, and provide a dynamite experience no matter the circumstances. Measuring sentiment through your CX software will greatly help segment out the unhappy customers and take specific action on them to allow for more positive interactions in the future.

2. Multitasking Skills

Top Customer Service Characteristics to Grow the Customer-First Mindset Inline 2
The ability to juggle multiple priorities is crucial for customer service agents. Luckily this conundrum can also be solved with stellar CX software that allows for intelligent queues & routing, and the prioritization of specific customer profiles or channels. But your team still needs to manage their time appropriately, ensuring that they are responding thoroughly to the task at hand so they can seamlessly move from one conversation to another.

3. Thorough Understanding

Knowing the history of every customer will enable your team to better understand the frustrations being brought to their attention. With a quick assessment of the customer’s order history, previous CSAT scores, general sentiment, or loyalty status, agents have the tools at their fingertips to provide more immediate and personalized responses. This fosters more empathetic conversations that help resolve the issue at hand swiftly and efficiently.

4. Meticulous

Having all of the history of your customer’s relationship with your brand is just the beginning. Being able to be personable based on social cues presented by the customer will take the conversation to the next level. Customers want fluent conversations, not just transactional interactions. By giving your team the tools to pay attention to the details and personalize interactions, you’ll build a more engaged and loyal customer base.

5. Positive

Positivity ties back to resiliency in many ways, but with the increasing importance of CX, and the weight these teams hold in terms of customer loyalty and increased revenue, you need positive energy to be present in every interaction with your customers.

All of these top customer service characteristics are equally important, and they all can be enhanced with the proper set of technology tools. Having the right information, at the right time, quickens response rates and eases tensions with your customers. Knowing that your customer had a bad experience last time they interacted with your brand gives your team the knowledge to be even more empathetic and understanding when engaging in a conversation with them in the future. The examples are endless, but ensuring that you set up a foundation that allows you to automate miniscule tasks, organize conversations based on complexity or priority, and understand why customers are reaching out to you in the first place, will help your team’s best qualities shine through, because they will face less blockers in their day to day. With fewer barriers in their way, agents can adopt a customer-first mindset, and prioritize the customer in everything they do.

 

Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri

Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Stacy Sherman from Schindler Elevator Corporation and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss why the employee experience matters just as much, if not more than the customer experience. Stacy has a rich background in CX and provides incredibly insightful information in this episode. Listen to the full episode below to learn more.

Establishing a Customer Obsessed C-Suite

Many CX leaders are finding it difficult to help their teams completely deliver the best overall experience for their modern customers. Director of Customer Experience at Schindler Elevator Corporation, Stacy Sherman, attributes this to people at the top of a company not being completely customer centric. When people at the top of a company, such as executives or others within the c-suite, are customer minded, the brand as a whole is more likely to find success. A great way to get executive involvement is to have them participate in CX activities to get to know the processes and the employees. This method creates a sense of empathy on a multi-departmental level that ultimately implements a customer mindset from the bottom up. On this, Stacy remarks, “Those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.” Engaging with the frontline agents who handle all things customer related is one of the best ways for a brand to become more holistically customer centric. This engagement not only centers the brand, it also encourages those frontline agents to go above and beyond in their roles, especially as they feel that they are valued and an integral part of the brand.

Mental Safety and Cultivating Friendships in the Workplace

A large contributor to customer satisfaction is that of employee happiness. The experts discuss Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey questions that help to determine overall employee satisfaction within their company. Of these 12 questions, one of the most notable asks if the employee has a best friend in the workplace, as this is helpful for improved satisfaction scores. On this note, Stacy mentions that her company has a book club and she feels that it has become so successful because of the friendliness between her coworkers, which opens a space for nonjudgemental conversation. Noting that customer service and customer experience are very different in a “holistic view,” Stacy reminds listeners that a workplace culture trickles down to customer engagement. When the employees are happy, the customers are happy because the agents perform better, are more attentive, and are more willing to go the extra mile. Creating a space where employees feel they have friends and can be somewhat vulnerable with one another is accomplished through a safety menatility. “Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.”

Consistency Gives Companies an Edge

Companies with an edge on the competition are more than likely to be united with a common goal across all functions and branches. According to Vikas, “Customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board.” All departments should be inspired to keep the customer in mind and to do so, Stacy suggests having a weekly meeting with leaders from all departments to contribute and create a cross-functional customer journey map so that all are on the same page. When leaders work together in a customer obsessed manner, they are enhancing the overall experience by curating each business element to their experience. Leaders would do well to place themselves in the shoes of their customers and their employees to get a look at how their business affects their lives. Doing so strengthens the bond between employee, customer and leader and ultimately drives retention across CX.

On a last note, Stacy urges CX leaders to empathize, listen to and adapt with their employees, especially as they embrace a new normal and return to work.

To learn more about driving CX with the employee experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | With Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about why you must drive the customer experience with the employee experience. I think this is one of those often missed conversations. To do that we have two special people joining me today. Both Stacy and Vikas, why don’t you guys take just a minute and introduce yourselves? Stacy, let’s start with you.

Stacy Sherman: (00:34)
Yes. Hi. I’m happy to be here. Stacy Sherman. I am the Director of Customer Experience and Driving Employee Engagement at a global company, Schindler Elevator Corporation. And also live and breathe CX when I’m not at work through my blog and speaking about doing CX right.

Gabe Larsen: (00:56)
Yes. And I’ve been following. We got to make sure people see that we’ll get a link to it. Doing CX Right. Lot of great thought leadership coming from Stacy. And she will be sharing some of that with us today. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:09)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Yup. My right hand man, as we cohost our Experience Fridays show. And I’m Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Stacy let’s get into this. I want to go big picture for just a minute. What do you think is broken in customer experience today? So many things going on. What’s not working?

Stacy Sherman: (01:32)
I believe that it starts with culture, right? It’s about the people. So the best in class companies have that customer centric, no matter what perspective, at the top. And then those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.

Gabe Larsen: (01:57)
I like the bottoms up approach. Vikas, what would you say? What do you think is most broken?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
No, I think Stacy hit the nail on the head, right? I mean, customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board. And I think we’ve always talked in the CX space about the three pieces to an effective program. People, process, and technology. And a lot of money and time is spent on process and technology, but very little is spent on people. And I think if you look at the companies that separate themselves, they put as much, if not more emphasis on the people end of it, than they do process and technology.

Gabe Larsen: (02:37)
Well, why do you guys think that is? I mean, process, is it because processes and technology are a little bit easier to do and the people side of it’s hard? Stacy, what do you think? Why do people not grasp the people side as much maybe as the technology side when it comes to optimizing the customer experience?

Stacy Sherman: (02:55)
I believe that companies, especially old school companies are still understanding that customer experience is a competitive weapon. It gives a competitive edge and we have not fully, fully shown the ROI behind culture and experience and why it matters. We know over the longterm and there’s so much research behind it, but it’s really proving out. It’s somewhat of a new field. I mean, customer service has been around forever, but that’s different than customer experience in that holistic view.

Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
Well, I like that because I do feel like you guys, that when you map a journey of a customer and you change a process, you can often find the efficiencies almost in dollars and cents, right? You can literally see something change, whether it’s in efficiencies and cost savings, or maybe it actually revenue in growth. When it comes to the people side of it, maybe that’s the problem, Vikas, isn’t it? You focus on kind of engaging your employees and making them happier, it’s harder. It’s kinda harder to see the ROI. Is that, is that kinda where you’d go or what would be your thoughts as why it’s difficult to kind of focus on the employee side?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:12)
Well, I think a lot of people look at it as unfortunately, a necessary evil. Like, we hear terms in the industry about the, it’s a cost center, right? And the moment you have that mindset, then everything you’re doing in that part of your business, you’re not necessarily looking at things like top line growth. And so, I always joke that. My peers in marketing, I’ve always had this advantage. Big budgets, et cetera, because everybody’s like, “Wow.” And it’s amazing. Right, right. We spend so much to acquire the customer and then we like throw them back into the dark ages, right? We have all this amazing technology, all these cool tools to acquire the customer. And then we send them into the dark ages. And with these people that sometimes literally look like they’re sitting in antiquated workspaces as well. So I think there’s a lot of that thoughtfulness that has to go into how do you want to treat customers after you acquire them, right? And then engaging the customers to deliver that amazing experience.

Gabe Larsen: (05:18)
This is a question that just came in on LinkedIn from Carrie. I wanted to throw it out to you guys. This bottoms up. I thought this might be interesting because it’s one that we do say you gotta get the leadership behind it, but how do you actually influence that bottoms up culture when it comes to the people? You want to start with this one, Stacy?

Stacy Sherman: (05:36)
Yeah, sure. So we are asking customers for feedback, thousands and thousands of different sources that we collect. And the key is that it’s using that feedback once closing the loop, right? Letting the customer know we heard you and we’re making changes, but also engaging your front line and having them look at the feedback, use it in their meetings, having leaders celebrate those good scores, satisfaction, NPS, et cetera, and using the other detractor ratings as coaching opportunities. And it’s that drum beat that we do that really drives that culture, that caring and empathy and best practices.

Gabe Larsen: (06:25)
Yeah, it is about, I mean, when we say bottoms up, guys, I think that is one of the key elements is you got to go to the front. So that’s the frontline employee, or that’s the frontline customer. We just did Vikas, at our own company, one of these employee engagement surveys and these action planning sessions where we sat down with some of the frontline people and asked them, “What do you think about how we can improve,” not only their own culture, but some of the customer experiences. And I was surprised, I was pleasantly surprised like, “Wow, these guys really know it. Like some of their ideas were a lot better than I think just asking the customer how we can improve their experience. And so I’m becoming more and more of an advocate of the employee side, the survey and using them in action planning sessions to see if we can’t get that bottoms up feedback to actually change some of the top end processes. Vikas, what would you add on bottoms up?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:17)
Well, look, we’ve talked about voice of the customer for years, right? It’s, what we look at in our program is voice of the employee of the customer, right? So our frontline, my customer success managers, my technical support specialists, they understand what customers are looking for. Obviously with Kustomer, in a contact center CRM platform, what are some of the things that they feel challenged with with their current tool set? What are they looking for? Whether it be reporting or other things. So I think really giving them a voice back with our product team, et cetera, to do that. The other is the frontline often really wants to do right by the customer. And they get hampered by process, right? We kind of put the handcuffs on them and where I’ve seen people really, companies be really effective here, some of our customers that we work with, is empowering that frontline. Allowing them to go above and beyond. We all hear about that amazing Zappos story that is now a mythical legend about somebody who sat on a phone for eight hours, talking somebody through a journey with their, with their product selection. Now that’s an extreme, but can you empower your people to go above and beyond? And then the third thing that I am really excited about is I’m seeing more and more companies put the executives or new employees in the chair of their frontline as part of their onboarding. So as part of your onboarding, go sit with your support team, hear your customers, feel their pain, understand their challenges, and then rotate your executives into that on a regular basis. I think those are all pretty exciting ways to approach this.

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
[Inaudible] Because I think as executives, you do, you just lose that vision. You lose, and you start to get into your meetings. You start to get the, you lose the bottoms up approach. I liked some of those ideas. Stacy, sorry. You were going to say something.

Stacy Sherman: (09:07)
Yeah, no. It’s exactly what we’re doing. At my work places, we’ll go out and spend time visiting the technicians, right? Those really important people who are fixing the problems and servicing customers, those technicians and mechanics every day. And so those not in that job will go and spend time. And I’ll tell you, I recently visited, before COVID, a hospital. Spent the time with a technician and I was amazed at how much he does in a day. Putting myself in his shoes and how he services the customers and it’s a big job. And I, so I agree with you. You’ve got to walk in employee’s shoes as well as the customer’s shoes.

Gabe Larsen: (09:55)
Yeah. Interesting. Dan, I think Dan, I love this word, Dan, this is kind of a inverted pyramid. CEO goes at the bottom customers at the top, and you start to kind of actually action a culture that brings the employee feedback all the way to where it shouldn’t be probably front and center. Are there some other things you guys, when it comes to using the employee to drive customer experience that you’ve found either beneficial in some of your interactions, your coaching, or just in your own effort? What are some of those tactics you’ve found to really drive the employee experience that ultimately drives the customer experience? Stacy, anything that comes to your mind?

Stacy Sherman: (10:35)
Yeah, well it’s what was said before about the voice of employees. So when they feel that they’re valued and they’re part of business decisions, they own it more. So part of our customer experience team is literally going out and talking to the employees before we launch something, before there’s some, as we frame up a new feature or a new anything, right? Involving the frontline into that feedback mechanism. And then they feel, they feel like they matter. And that’s huge.

Gabe Larsen: (11:12)
Yeah. I felt like the thing that you really can, you gotta be careful of it, if you’re going to go with this bottoms up approach, you’ve got to actually do something with the feedback, much like customer experience. You ask a question to an employee or you take the time to do what Stacy’s recommending and do an interview or do an engagement survey, and then you don’t actually action on that, I think you’re going to find that your engagement among your employees will probably drop more than where it was currently. So be conscientious of asking without actioning. Vikas, other things you’ve seen? I loved kind of getting the executives and listening to some of the phone calls. Other ways you’ve found to kind of empower agents to therefore empower customers to be, to have that great experience?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:59)
No, I think, as I said, I’ve seen where certain brands that we work with have given their frontline a budget. A budget to go send a thank you card or a birthday card or a birthday gift, or a token of their appreciation, right? Some have done where if they’re on a call that they can offer a coupon or something to that effect, right? So some really things, once again, empowering them to really, truly build that relationship with their customers. And then how do you recognize employees that go above and beyond, right? We’ve got the concept here at Kustomer. We call it the DJ Ty By award. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. And on a regular basis, we recognize those team members. And it’s not just the frontline, right? It’s the engineer who goes above and beyond to work on a bug over the weekend, right? It’s somebody in facilities who make sure that our, when we had our big Kustomer day event in our office, right, that the place looks amazing and it’s set up to entertain our guests. So I think it’s all of those things, right? If you create that culture that really becomes around rewarding and recognizing your employees for when they go above and beyond, I think those are some things that have really been successful.

Gabe Larsen: (13:20)
And one of the things I love as a resource, you guys, that you might want to check out is the Gallup Q12 Questions. It’s for those of you who don’t know Gallup, it’s a research-based consulting firm, focusing on the behavior like economic science of employee and customer engagement. And I don’t want to read through them, but there are some comments coming in about this on LinkedIn As you think about that bottoms up culture. Let me just tell you a couple of these, because I think it’s a great way to start formulating the culture of employee engagement that then translates to the customer and I want to get a couple of your guys’ opinion on some of these. So question one, they say, do you know, what’s expected of you at work? If an employee can answer this positively, they’re more likely to provide an engaging customer experience. Two, do you have the materials and equipment you need? Three, at work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? In the last seven days, have you received recognition? Does your supervisor, someone seem to care about you as a person? Is there someone at work who encourages your development? At work do your opinions count? And on and on. And this is a great framework I’ve found to start to think about how you actually drive I think that engagement culture, and maybe for some of you who are asking the question, a good place to start. One of these questions, you guys, it often is debated and I just want to throw it out here, is this idea of, do you have a best friend at work? And Gallup states that if you do have, if employees can answer this in a positive manner, they’re more likely to deliver a customer experience? Quick thoughts on one. Do you feel like that’s odd or how would you kind of explain that to the audience? Stacy, I’m putting you on the spot, but thoughts on facilitating more friendships among employees to ultimately drive the customer experience?

Stacy Sherman: (15:05)
I love that because –

Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
Number one though, isn’t it, it’s a little weird.

Stacy Sherman: (15:10)
I love it because again, it’s all about relationships and connection, so it makes total sense. And actually as a leader, right, of a team, I’m very focused on that. Like we just recently did a book club. It was a work book club around Simon Sinek, Start With the Why.

Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Love it.

Stacy Sherman: (15:33)
Yeah. And we got to talk about each chapter, understand the why, and now we are all able to help each other, make sure we hold each other accountable to our why’s and we wouldn’t have done that without being vulnerable and a friendship to do that.

Gabe Larsen: (15:50)
So you’ve kind of used a book club as a way to facilitate some of those relationships which ultimately kind of drives some of that engagement. Vikas, we’re obviously more of a remote culture at the moment and we’re having a different experience. Any things you’ve done or you’ve seen customers do to facilitate this friendship at work, this more kind of conducive collaborative environment across companies?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:16)
Look, I think the key thing there, what I think the gist of that is if you create a camaraderie where folks feel that they’re in it together. So one is how do you break down those barriers where people can go and feel comfortable asking for help? Going to one another for help, without feeling like, “You know what? People are gonna look at me like I don’t have the answer,” right? And the whole thing about, kind of that friendship environment, to me, it becomes a very key thing where if you feel that camaraderie and kinship with your peers and then of course, eventually the company, you think about it in the mindset, “Do I want to let these people down?” And I think that also creates an environment where people want to go above and beyond. When you perhaps don’t have those relationships, don’t have connections, then you’re more likely to say, “You know what? I’m just going to mail it in.” So I think that’s kind of what creates that environment, where you don’t want to let your teammate down, right? “So I see how hard Gabe is working well, you know what? Vikas, has to step it up,” right? So I think those are some of the kind of collegial environments where people promote success.

Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
That’s actually question number nine on that survey, Vikas, is, are your associates committed to doing quality work? I think you’re right. If people start to feel a little bit of that prep, prep is maybe not the right word, but they start to fill it, they jump on it. Stacy, what were you going to add?

Stacy Sherman: (17:38)
One word comes to my mind as you were just speaking. The word safety. We always think about safety from physical, but in a company it’s actually about mental safety too. Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.

Gabe Larsen: (18:01)
I think we’re getting that more and more, because we’re all feeling a little vulnerable right now. I know I am. If anybody wants to talk to me about that, we can. Vikas knows I’m feeling vulnerable. Let’s end with this question, Carrie, appreciate the questions during the session. So since all CXE says includes cross-functional teams, how do you ensure teams like Ops and Marketing that may not always be in direct contact with the customer provide that consistent customer experience? So he’s talking about the whole customer journey. How was it not just my support team? How is it not just my sales? How do we kind of come together? Ooh, I don’t like that. That’s a harder question than the other softballs. Stacy, what do you think?

Stacy Sherman: (18:48)
No, it’s not hard.

Gabe Larsen: (18:48)
Okay, sorry.

Stacy Sherman: (18:52)
No, it’s not hard.

Gabe Larsen: (18:54)
Give me time to think, Stacy. I was just kind of –

Stacy Sherman: (18:59)
No, thinking, it’s the answer is you bring everybody to the table. All the different organizations come together to build the customer journey map. And everybody has a piece, right? How customers learn and buy and get and use and get helped. You have all the right teams who own those different parts of the journey and they’re at the table, and then you design it together. You co-create it together. And then you go validate it with the customers and find out where are the gaps.

Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. Bring everybody to the table. Vikas, what would you add?

Vikas Bhambri: (19:33)
No, I think, I think what Stacy said is spot on. I think if I look at, first of all, it starts with the values of the brand, right? What are your, what’s the, what are the values that you adhere to as a company? And that should be consistent across all departments, regardless of function. The second piece of it is your brand voice, right? If your marketing team is out there and they’re promoting partnership and things like that, and then you’re not following through on the backend, well, shame on you. So I think it has to be that alignment because the messaging you’re telling your customer at the frontend has to be delivered on the backend, right? Goes back to what I was saying earlier. The Ops is really interesting because Ops is indirect in contact with customers, right? The way you even bill a customer, you invoice them. The way that you reach out to them if they haven’t made a payment in time. If you’re a customer first brand, is your first notice to them that, “Oh man, you haven’t paid me,” or is it, “Hey, is everything okay? We didn’t get a payment from you. That’s not normal. What can we do to help?” So I think even the tone that these other functions take, we’re seeing it now, right? Obviously with the pandemic is how we, as a cross-functional team are meeting on a regular basis to talk about our customers and understand what is impacting specific customers and what can we, as a company and partner do to help them through this crisis. It’s a cross-functional team that meets on a weekly basis through this pandemic to have these conversations. And it’s regardless of the function in the company.

Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Oh, I love it. I don’t know if I’ve got much to add on that one. Carrie, I do like the communication, the feedback loop. Nothing better than when you start to celebrate successes and other people can start to feel it because Marketing, Ops, they have sometimes a harder time wanting to join. But if they feel some of that, those customer quotes that come in, as you know, or having these conversations that the support person hears, if you can have other people experience that, it makes other functions want to participate because they want to join the party. So that might be one tactical thing to think about. All right, well, as we leave you guys, maybe just quick summary comments. We hit a lot of different items, appreciate the audience questions. As you think about driving the customer experience with employees, what do you leave the audience with today? Stacy, let’s start with you.

Stacy Sherman: (21:55)
As leaders, we have to empathize and really listen. There’s no cookie cutter approach here. So really listen to what each person’s individual needs are, including their return back to the office and helping them. Because there’s a lot of mental and physical ramifications of COVID. So that included, really listening, empathize and then adapt to what meets their needs.

Gabe Larsen: (22:26)
Love it. Vikas, what did you want to –

Vikas Bhambri: (22:27)
So, I’ll kind of tie my summary back to what Carrie said, the inverted pyramid, right? I liked the way he phrased that. And I know a lot of people that I talk to love watching television programs like the Shark Tank and so on. I’ll tell you one of my favorite shows, and as a 20 year CRM contact center lifer, is a television program called the Undercover Boss. And that’s where CEOs dress up in disguise and go out there and work side by side with their team members in the frontlines, right? Whether it’s making pizzas or making pretzels all the way out to being a surface technician and the key message of that program, which I think Stacy alluded to, is speak to your frontline. Experience what your frontline is seeing and going through. And I think those are great lessons. Every time I watch that show, I’m amazed by like the revelations that a CEO of even a company that’s been a multi-generation family company. It’s like, “Wow, I never knew. I didn’t realize this was going on. I didn’t realize we were making these decisions that were impacting our customers and our frontline employees.” And so those, if anybody hasn’t seen their program and you’re a CX professional, I would strongly recommend it and try to get your CEO to watch it if you can.

Gabe Larsen: (23:51)
I love it. What’s it called? What was it called one more time?

Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

Stacy Sherman: (23:56)
It’s walking in the employee shoes. That’s literally what it is, but also walk in the customer’s shoes.

Gabe Larsen: (24:02)
Yeah. So, I mean, it’s one of the things we forget. Like we talk so much about walking in the customer’s shoes. Maybe we should try walking in the employee’s shoes. Well Vikas, Stacy, as always, appreciate you joining and for the audience, thanks for taking the time and to have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (24:20)
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.

 

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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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Listen to “Anntte Pedroza | Building a Customer Centric Culture” on Spreaker.

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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)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Secrets to Improving the Customer Experience With Christine Deehring [Podcast & Transcript]

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the strategies to improve the 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.

Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience

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 supports 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 at the center of every element of their business, from packaging and marketing to phone calls. Simply put, Bump Boxes is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.

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Customer Loyalty: 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 build a company 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 by saying, “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.

Optimize Customer Interactions 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.

If you’d like to find out more about Kustomer and how we can help, get in touch for a demo. You can also check out our handy (and free!) Buyer’s Guide to Your Customer Service CRM Platform, if you’re looking for more information on how to deliver superior customer service.

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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.

Happy Team, Happy Customers with Adam Maino

Happy Team, Happy Customers TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

Proactive Team Culture Through Intelligence Swarming

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

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

Utilizing Knowledge-Centered Services

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

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

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

The Secret to A Happy CX Team is A Coaching Mentality

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

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

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

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Happy Team, Happy Customers | Adam Maino

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. Today, we’re going to be talking about secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Want to get into the scaling aspect and to do that, we brought on a guy I’ve been bugging a lot lately, trying to get him and I got him. His name’s Adam Maino. He’s currently the Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce. Adam, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Maino: (06:54)
That’s great.

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (08:38)
Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (11:45)
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (16:38)
Yep.

Exit Voice: (16:39)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

The Chatbot Cheatsheet: 6 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program

Chatbot Cheatsheet: 7 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program TW

Conversational automation is crucial to great customer support. An effective customer service chatbot can communicate with customers and answer important questions, streamlining the customer support process.

How to Understand Your Metrics When Building a Customer Service Chatbot

Containment rate, or its alternative name, “deflection rate,” is the percentage of total conversations fully handled by a chatbot, and is a key metric to track when trying to figure out how well your chatbot is performing. Customer satisfaction is also important. Keep in mind how the introduction of a chatbot could alter existing performance indicators. For example, will the average handle time increase now that agents are only handling more complex inquiries? Ultimately, a well-defined customer service chatbot program will be able to communicate increased agent efficiency and customer satisfaction, which equals a reduction in the cost of care.

Learn how to build a chatbot that makes communication easy with these six chatbot tips, and watch customer satisfaction skyrocket! Now, let’s explore how to build an effective customer service chatbot program.

1. Start With Hello

Your first customer service chatbot does not need to be elaborate. In fact, we recommend against it. When you are first getting started, pick one or two simple (but useful) use cases to automate. Then, you can learn and iterate as you discover how your customers prefer to interact with a chatbot. No one gets it perfect right out of the gate, so avoid wasting time by trying to build something “perfect”.

2. Leverage the Agent

We have seen countless customer service chatbot programs fail to engage the existing front-line customer service team when designing an automated conversational experience. It’s great to learn from data and prevailing customer experience research, but your customer service agents are the ones who know how your customers are interacting with the chatbot. Treat the bot like another agent: when you need performance feedback, use its peers.

3. Templates, Rules, and Machine Learning

Not all customer service chatbots are “conversational AI”, because not all use cases require machine learning. Very effective bots can leverage rules and simple conditional logic — it all depends on the use case. Similarly, natural language processing is great when you have a customer service chatbot with many different skills and a large corpus of knowledge.

Why make your customers trudge through structured flows when they can ask the question directly? In both cases, we recommend leveraging buttons, quick replies, and other conversational templates that help the user move through the conversation quickly and efficiently.

4. Know When to Handover

A customer service chatbot is not a replacement for a human agent. Often, you need to give the user a way to bail out of tough conversations and difficult questions, and that’s alright. Chatbots are excellent at fully resolving low-level queries because they often suit the modern customer’s habits of utilizing mobile technology to solve simple issues. However, just because an issue is complicated does not mean a chatbot cannot be helpful. Consider how you can use the bot for information gathering and light triage before routing to the right agent. In these cases, the customer service chatbot helps reduce handle time and expedites the customer’s support request.

5. Automation Happens Elsewhere, Too

Customer service chatbots get a lot of attention when it comes to automation. Often it’s the mental model in our heads for intelligent customer service. Consider other ways you can streamline the customer support experience with a chatbot, and leverage additional intelligent services: automatic tagging, routing, and prioritization for the agent (just to name a few).

6. Be Customer-Centric

At the end of the day, the success of your customer service chatbot comes down to how well it fits into the customer support journey and cadence strategy you have outlined for your customers. Consider different segments of customers that might prefer automation to “direct human” connection. Perhaps automation can be more helpful at the end of a live chat interaction than at the beginning. Take a good look at your customers, and we’ll help you find out the right size that fits. In doing so, you will improve your customer experience and customer satisfaction metrics. Discover Kustomer’s intelligent chatbot solutions today.

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

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

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

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

Digital Transformation Is Here to Stay

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

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

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

Customers Want You to Show Them They’re Valued

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

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

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

CX Will Be More Important Than Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we are in 2020, a decade full of opportunities and challenges no one could have conceived only a few short months ago. Our families need us, our friends need us, our countries need us, and hidden amongst these needs is an implicit truth more important now than ever: our customers need us. Imagine the cashier wearing a contagious smile, or the support e-mail which asks how you and your family are doing? These moments of kindness, compassion and empathy are in this day and age a brand’s greatest asset.

We can implicitly understand the importance of caring for your customers, but for several years now, the data has been showing much the same:

Treating your customers with compassion and good old fashioned kindness are now must-haves, not should-haves. And the uncharted waters of 2020 have emphasized this fact even more. The global pandemic has forced nearly all communications between customers and businesses into a digital interface. That means you can’t go into a store with a problem anymore — the only means of getting your problem solved is through phone, email, chat or social media. Therefore, the main cues a customer service representative uses to understand a person’s emotions (body language, tone, etc.) have been stripped down significantly.

Organizations must take this opportunity to invest in the heartbeat of their brand’s resilience, and taking care of your customers is where you must start:

1. Technology

You are running a pet grooming business, and supply your staff with hedge trimmers and power hoses, how happy do you think the pets and their owners will be? The exact same logic is fundamental in how you support your front line support agents. Ensure they have a full-spectrum, omnichannel view of customer history, enabling them to treat people like valued humans, not tickets. When an agent can see historical conversations, provide support over multiple channels, and see the customer profile and not a ticket, they are equipped to provide compassionate, human-centered support.

2. Training

Lead by example. Before expecting your employees to provide world class, compassionate customer service and support, you must prepare them and care for them at “home”. Think about things like compassion training, support coaching, platform training, and any other form of investing in your customers’ caretakers.

3. Tone & Language

With human interactions, one can utilize body language, notice visual queues and react in ways simply not possible in the digital realm. For all online or voice support, tone and language is crucial to achieve positive, efficient and
compassionate customer service. When it comes to supporting your agents, who take on challenging and pressure-filled conversations regularly, brands can leverage an internal knowledge base (IKB) , multi-language tools and short or “canned” responses. The IKB offers answers, support, and advice on dealing with any number of customer service scenarios, offering an agent their own repository of self-help in a predetermined language and tone. Multi-language tools such as snippets, in conjunction with shortcuts in Kustomer, offer agents contextual, error-free, multilingual canned responses which are simple to use and provide perfect tone and language, enabling agents to support customers worry-free.

4. Customer (Human) First

Remember that each customer is not a ticket, but a person with needs. How is their day? How are they feeling? Start and end each interaction with a compassionate human touch, and your customers are sure to notice the difference. Just like a smiling cashier, or happy delivery man, these small details can make a world of a difference.

5. Understand Emotions

What is the general sentiment of your customers? The way in which you interact with a customer drastically shifts if, before starting on the conversation, you already know how they are feeling (natural, positive, very angry, etc). With Kustomer’s sentiment analysis, understanding sentiment takes zero human effort and allows for segmentation or prioritization of negative sentiment. “I understand that you’re not so happy right now, I’m here to make things better.” Proactive and compassionate messages like this can make a world of difference.

6. Reporting & Analytics

Once you’ve built up a repository of customer interactions, analyzing and understanding themes and patterns becomes essential for resiliency and customer success. What are your top five contact reasons and how can you create proactive solutions to these key customer challenges? Through these insights, could you begin to develop deflection strategies?

7. Artificial Intelligence

You understand why your customers are writing in, you’ve built better operational/product efficiencies to resolve some inbounds, but will always get questions such as “where is my order?” (WISMO), cancelation/refund requests, etc. With the advent of Kustomer IQ, you can now deflect such repetitive questions and enable your customer to walk through quick and easy self-service. This allows them to receive the fastest resolution and decreases overall inbound demand on your customer service teams.

8. Routing & Assignment

With the remaining inbound conversations, it is important that the customer’s query gets to the right agent as efficiently as possible. It is incredibly inefficient to have humans manually delegate support requests when a queues and routing system can do this quickly and efficiently. This allows managers to focus on other priorities, and strengthen the team’s overall experience. Intent Identification allows you to proactively tag or assign contact reasons to conversations and use this prediction to route the conversation directly to the required team. When done well, this will allow your team to resolve all issues within their scope and mandate, not wasting time rerouting or escalating conversations meant for other teams or departments.

We hope it is quite evident that empathy, compassion and a truly human customer experience will add priceless qualitative and quantitative value to brands and customer experience across any vertical. In this day and age, humans want to be treated like humans, not support tickets. When these practices are combined with a technologically sound support system, organizations will see decreased inbound requests, increased brand advocacy, and provide an enjoyable experience for both customers and customer experience specialists.

 

Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19

Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19 TW

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

Understanding Remote Needs

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

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

Understanding Needs, Remotely

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

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

 

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective

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

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

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

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

1. Optimize Your Operations

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

2. Increase Your Self-Service Offerings

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

3. Empower Your Agents With Better Technology

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

4. Route Intelligently

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

5. Get Ahead of Issues

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

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

 

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic

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

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

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

More Inquiries, Less Time

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

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

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

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

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

How Organizations Are Adapting

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

What CS Teams Need

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

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

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

 

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success?

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success? TW

Customers are anxious. They’re stressed. They want answers quickly. And customer service organizations are being asked to do more with less than ever before. Unfortunately there’s no escaping the current environment we are living in, and customer service teams are seeing changes as a result. But how exactly are these organizations being affected?

Kustomer surveyed over 150 customer service professionals to find out.

Circumstances Affecting Customer Service Success

Businesses are having to change how they do business and interact with customers during this time. One of the biggest shifts? Adjusting policies. Seventy-seven percent of individuals reported that they have had to learn new policies due to COVID-19. It’s essential to arm your team with the information they need to instantaneously service customers. Make sure your technology can intelligently surface relevant information from a knowledge base, so all agents are delivering consistent and high-value service.

Additionally, 64% of respondents reported a need for greater efficiencies during COVID-19, while 57% reported having to deal with more complex issues than usual. It’s more important than ever to automate low level support with the help of AI, to free up agent time for issues that are more complicated and emotionally-wrought.

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success? Stats

How Success Metrics Are Changing

Luckily, it doesn’t seem like customer service success metrics are being significantly impacted by the global pandemic, and in some cases, organizations are seeing improvements. There are large differences from organization to organization, even in the same industry, implying that the way a customer service team handles the current circumstances has a huge impact on how customers react. Improvements in success metrics may be happening for a couple different reasons:

  1. Customer service organizations are taking extra measures to proactively help their customers and deliver empathetic service
  2. Customers are more understanding and know that organizations are struggling, so don’t have as stringent standards

It’s imperative to keep a customer-centric mindset, as loyalty becomes more essential to secure, and continue to measure the success of your team, adjusting accordingly. Make sure you have access to reporting and analytics, and understand where you’re falling short and where there are greater needs.

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

 

Special Report Coming Soon: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service

Special Report Coming Soon: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Stat

We’ve all heard the classic lines at this point:

“In these challenging times…”
“Now more than ever…”
“We’re in this together….”

And they’re all true. These are absolutely crazy times to live in, let alone work in, and the global pandemic is affecting every aspect of our day to day lives. But what does this all really mean for customer service organizations?

Kustomer surveyed over 150 customer service professionals across a variety of industries to truly understand how their businesses and teams are being affected by COVID-19, and the results are powerful. Fifty-two percent of customer service professionals say the global pandemic is affecting their customer service organization a great deal, meaning massive changes in ticket volume, customer attitudes, or policies. An additional 27% report being impacted slightly less, experiencing significant changes due to COVID-19. Only 1% of organizations reported no change at all.

While some industries, like retail, are seeing a troubling decrease in business and inquiries, other industries, like healthcare and financial services, are having more problems to solve than ever before. While this isn’t a permanent condition, and hopefully things will go back to a “new normal” soon, there is no doubt that there could be long-term impacts. Teams may need to think about driving efficiencies with less resources, or how to work productively in a remote environment. The only constant is change, and preparing for the future now is the true key to success.

Luckily, customer service organizations play a vital role in times of crisis. Ninety percent of customer service professionals believe customer service is more important than ever amidst the global pandemic. With many businesses shutting their storefronts, customer service professionals become the face of the company, and are essential to empathizing with customers and preventing issues before they arise.

Our full report will be released in the coming weeks, with insights on how conversation volume has changed, what circumstances are affecting customer service, how organizations are adapting, what customers need from you, and how different industries are being affected. Plus, we’ll provide you with tips and insights on how your business can react to these extraordinary circumstances, and what tools you should have in place to minimize the impact on your customer service team. Stay tuned.

 

How to Focus on the Right Customers for a Strategic Advantage with Peter Fader

How to Focus on the Right Customers for a Strategic Advantage with Peter Fader Twitter

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Peter Fader to discuss the different types of customers and how to have customer centricity. Peter is a professor in the Marketing Department at the Wharton University of Pennsylvania. He also consults and works in many different markets, from telecommunications to financial services. His most recent startup, Theta Equity Partners, helps organizations evaluate their worth based on the worth of their customers. Peter’s philosophies are centered around the lifetime value of customers and sales forecasting for products. His ideas are new, innovative, and are bringing about positive changes in the industry. Peter is also the author of the book Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage and its principles are the focus of the discussion in this episode. Listen to the full podcast below.

Not All Customers are Created Equal

Most organizations are focused on making sure that every customer is happy, satisfied, and motivated to continue buying their product. While this is a good focal point, customer service and customer treatment cannot be “one-size-fits-all” because all consumers are created differently. While equal treatment is normally the goal, Peter suggests the opposite to help businesses grow. He states, “we’ve got to really focus more on . . . the right customers, on the ones that we project to be more valuable. And by investing our marketing and other assets where the value is going to be generated, we will do much better than the kind of one size fits all . . . practices that we’ll see [from] a lot of companies.” Peter further mentions that by creating different levels for customers, they will get the treatment they want and deserve.

Questions to Determine How to Segment Customers

Determining the type of customer treatment starts with evaluating customers and determining how their worth can contribute to the worth of the company. Instead of segmenting customers into groups according to demographic, organizations need to look at the worth that a customer could bring or the amount of time they are projected to stay with the company. Peter states that these behavioral patterns are the best way to segment. The following questions are suggested by Peter to determine the lifetime value of customers.

“How long is this customer going to stay with us? Over that horizon, how many purchases will they make? And how much will we earn off of them on each of those transactions?” Companies who make decisions based on the value and behavior patterns of their customers separate themselves from other companies and they will see more success.

The Link Between CFO and Customer Valuation

For the rest of the podcast, Peter and Gabe discuss the importance of the finance department in a business, specifically the role of the CFO. Most innovations or new ideas are stopped by the finance department. However, with Peter’s model of seeking out the value of the consumers, it creates more hard evidence and space for the finance department to get on board. Peter recalls:

“If we can show the CFO that she can do a better job of valuing the entire company from the bottom-up, by projecting the number of customers they are going to acquire and the value that will derive from them, and go to Wall Street and say this is what we’re really worth, then we’re going to win her respect and then it’s going to spill over across the organization. And we’ve been doing that for real and it’s been amazing how well that’s been working.”

Peter’s “customer-based corporate valuation” tactics are winning over CFO’s and helping companies evolve and do more for their customers. By linking all these different corporate aspects, with the focus on customers with predictable behavior patterns and differential treatment, companies are innovating and expanding. It is a successful new model of thinking and as Peter said, “[it’s] been working.”

To learn more about customer centricity, how to focus on the right customer and what to do about it, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Focus on the Right Customers for a Strategic Advantage | Peter Fader” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

How to Focus on the Right Customers for a Strategic Advantage with Peter Fader

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 podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about customer centricity. And to do that, we brought on Peter Fader. He’s currently the professor of marketing at the Wharton School out there in Pennsylvania. He is also the co-author of a couple of books. One that I actually ordered when I reached out to him called Customer Centricity, focusing on the right customers for strategic advantage and he also advises some startups. So, a man of many talents. Peter, thanks for joining. How are you?

Peter Fader: (00:37)
Oh, I’m doing great Gabe. Good to talk to you about this topic and other related ideas.

Gabe Larsen: (00:44)
Yeah, yeah, I love the idea of customer centricity. I did a little bit of an intro. Anything you’d add or explain as far as your background, some of the fun things you’re working on?

Peter Fader: (00:54)
Yeah, in addition to all the academic work, which is the day job, developing models, professing to others. Not only advising startups, but I’ve actually co-founded a couple of startups to take these ideas and methods and bring them to life at full commercial scale. So what we’re going to talk about here might seem a little radical, might seem unconventional, but it’s proven and it’s been quite successful so far.

Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
I love it. I love it. Interesting. Well, let’s dive right in. Start big picture for us. I mean, people use different words, customer engagement, customer service, experience. You talk a lot about customer centricity, big picture, what does it mean to you? How do you define it?

Peter Fader: (01:35)
Yeah, I have to tell you, Gabe, it’s a very bad choice of words and I mean that sincerely. I look back at the book, which has been very, very good. It’s sold a lot and people have been, like yourself, have been reading it and intrigued by it, but the title doesn’t do justice to it. In fact, I think, I don’t know if you have a copy of it in front of you right there, but Gabe what’s the subtitle of the book? That tells us what it’s all about.

Gabe Larsen: (01:59)
Yeah. Yeah, it does say here it’s the focus on the right customers for strategic advantage. Does that, that’s kind of where you’re at.

Peter Fader: (02:06)
So we’re talking about exactly the idea that not all customers are created equal. And it’s not just a matter of being centered around the customer. It’s rather being engaged with, intimate with, responsive to, providing experiences to, the customer and some faceless, nameless, one size fits all way. It’s recognizing the vast differences across them, the disproportional value that some bring. Say, we’ve got to really focus more on those, on the right customers, on the ones that we project to be more valuable. And by investing our marketing and other assets where the value is going to be generated, we will do much better than the kind of one size fits all we love everybody, kind of practices that we’ll see for a lot of companies.

Gabe Larsen: (02:59)
Interesting. So do you feel like — certainly, we, I think for a long time we’ve operated in the world where we all treat customers kind of the same way. It’s that vanilla-type experience. What are the challenges for trying to do this? To actually get to a place where you treat customers either the way they want to be treated or specifically based on their need?

Peter Fader: (03:23)
That’s is the challenge and that’s what keeps me gainfully employed, keeps me in the streets. The challenge is to recognize or at least project what each customer is going to be worth in the future. See, too often we base our customer management strategies either on the past like what did they do with us? Or on totally irrelevant cues. Like are they millennials or gen Xers, or demographics? The real way to value manage your customers is based on, what do we think they’re going to be worth? In other words, how long do we think they’re going to stay with us? How many transactions are they gonna make over that horizon? How much are they going to spend? How much margin are we going to make? In the old days, it was impossible to do that. You couldn’t tag and track and project your customers nearly as well as we can do today. And so we wouldn’t even go there and anyone who would try to do it would be laughed out of the room. But today, given the kind of data that we have, given the kinds of analytics that we can lay on top of it, and given the kinds of technologies that then let us serve up different kinds of experiences, and products, and messages to different kinds of customers based on their value, we can do it; and it’s now a strategic imperative to do it. That’s the idea that I’m pushing.

Gabe Larsen: (04:40)
Wow. Wow. Interesting. If you just had to say, I mean obviously it’s your point, you’re gainfully employed, what percentage of companies are doing this to a level that you would say is, these guys are doing it world-class Gabe? Is it 5%? Just kind of a guesstimate on how the market is reacting to this, so to say.

Peter Fader: (05:03)
That’s a very interesting question that we got to ask. Where are we going to draw the line? Are we going to draw it at world-class? Are we gonna draw it at adequate to keep up with the changing times? So let’s, let’s first be a little bit more modest and talk about just those who are keeping up.

Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Yeah. World-class is maybe… Yeah, that’s fair. That’s fair. Yeah, go ahead.

Peter Fader: (05:26)
And I’m happy to talk about world class too. It’s just that there aren’t a lot to talk about. And, the issue is this, and it’s an issue that comes up every podcast you do, every conversation you have, Amazon. And the funny thing is that even though Amazon touts itself as being the world’s most customer centric company and they’re not bad at it, that’s not their thing. Their thing is operational efficiency. Their thing is just being able to stock a lot of stuff, get it to the customer real quickly, keeping the prices low. They are operational efficiency, just incredible. They make an operational efficient firm like Walmart or Toyota look like they’re terrible. But, the amazing thing about Amazon, what really sets them apart, isn’t only that they turn the crank better than anyone, but in the process, they’ve also raised the bar on these ideas of customer engagement, intimacy, responsiveness. So Amazon is just a paragon of operational efficiency. And in the process they’ve actually raised the bar on all this — what we ever want to call it, customer centricity, customer engagement, customer intimacy, responsiveness — to the point where even though that’s not their truly main goal, it just arises as a side effect, a spillover from their operational efficiency. And, it makes it impossible for every other company to keep up on either dimension. So again, even though that’s not really what they do, although they’d like people to think about that; companies need to at least be at that level of understanding customers, how they’re different from each other and how the kinds of services and products that we put out there are going to be reasonably responsive to their differential wants and needs. And most companies are just really bad at it cause most companies, most retailers let’s say, are just chasing after Amazon on the efficiency side and not even coming close. And so they’re falling way behind on these other dimensions.

Gabe Larsen: (07:36)
Fascinating. Fascinating. Do you feel — so going again is a little more tactical then. So, you’ve talked about some of the tagging capabilities that allow people or brands, companies, to start to do this idea, start to treat people slightly different. What are the most typical or the recommended ways to segment customers? Sounded like there were some bad practices; millennials for example.

Peter Fader: (08:02)
Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (08:02)
Sounds like there’s some good practices

Peter Fader: (08:04)
There are. Well that’s again my thing is, let’s not segment people based on what they look like. Let’s not segment people based on necessarily what they’ve done or where they live or any of that. Let’s segment people on a good guess of what they think they’re going to be worth. Or, on the dimensions that are one level below that. So, like I said before, I focus on customer lifetime value, the overall future value of a customer; and that’s the Holy Grail. That’s the gold standard. That’s the best way to do it. But, that’s also, for a lot of people in companies, it’s kind of hard to get their brain around it. So, let’s just knock it down one level and, and break it down into the three or four dimensions that I mentioned before. How long is this customer going to stay with us? Over that horizon, how many purchases will they make? And how much will we earn off of them on each of those transactions? So, those three dimensions, that’s the basis of it. So, Hey, look, we’ve got some customers over here and they’re going to stay with us for a long time, but they’re not going to spend very often. We have some customers over here and they’re going to be come and go. But, when they’re with us, they’re going to spend a lot. And we have some customers over here who, well, they’re not going to buy very often, but when they do it’s going to be giant, giant purchases. So we want to segment people on these relevant behavioral—

Gabe Larsen: (09:34)
Behaviors, yep.

Peter Fader: (09:34)
—topics and we’d like to do it with an eye towards the future as opposed to the past. The past isn’t terribly misleading but it might be a somewhat distorted view of what they’re going to be doing as we move ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (09:50)
Now do you feel like, so once you’re able to segment based on some of those things and I love the idea like lifetime value for example, is the Holy Grail. That’s a great one. Do you, what is, how do you do it differently then? I mean, now that I know this, now that I’ve segmented it appropriately and I’ve got to use some different methodologies, technologies to potentially do that. Is it the more experienced agents? Do you do kind of the gold level, the gold standard experience for the bigger lifetime value customers? Finish that piece of it. How do you –?

Peter Fader: (10:21)
Sure thing. okay, let’s do it. Sure, so once we have our lifetime value magic wand and we wave it over each customer’s head and we see that number shining, then we put them in buckets based on, let’s say high, medium, low. So, you just mentioned the most obvious thing, which is let’s create the presidents, gold, metal, blue ribbon, red carpet club. Let’s give them this special 1-800 number. Let’s check in with them every now and again, make sure they’re happy. So that’s kind of a given. And a lot of companies get that even if they don’t do it particularly well, they don’t use the right basis segmentation or they don’t go far enough with it. So that’s step one. But when I’m looking at some of the best practice companies, it’s amazing how far this differential treatment will spill over.

Gabe Larsen: (11:08)
Yeah.

Peter Fader: (11:08)
So, a really good example would be, it should spill over all the way to product development. So instead of going to the R and D people say, Hey, R and D people come up with something cool that we’re going to sell a lot of. No, it’s, Hey R and D people. We’ve got these really valuable customers over here. Come up with something for them. We don’t mind if other people buy it too, but job one is to make sure that we maintain, enhance, extract the value from those really good customers and acquire more like them. So let’s come up with not just awesome products that will be good to the masses, but that will be especially appealing to the valuable customers. Let’s really double down on and give them differential treatment, not so much when it comes to customer service, but even when it comes to designing products in the first place.

Gabe Larsen: (12:01)
Wow. So basics on that front is, well maybe basics isn’t the right word, but foundationally speaking, yes, do the red carpet, blue ribbon type thing, 1-800 number. The next level on top of that is to actually sit down and say, from a product standpoint, how are we delivering something to that group that keeps them close to us and grows the relationship? Interesting.

Peter Fader: (12:25)
Of course, I endorsed what I just said, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that the next level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:31)
Oh, okay.

Peter Fader: (12:31)
It’s kind of a far off level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
Oh, okay.

Peter Fader: (12:33)
So the first level is just to do it purely on the direct marketing and then customer service side. The second level would be to do it, let’s just go one step away from marketing. Let’s go to sales. So when we’re interacting with our sales people and when we’re incentivizing our salespeople, let’s encourage them not just to bring in as many customers as they can as cheaply as possible; let’s incentivize them to go after the valuable customers.

Gabe Larsen: (13:01)
Okay.

Peter Fader: (13:01)
Let’s use lifetime value as the metric to guide and gauge their activities. Which salespeople kind of like. They don’t want to just bring in customers. They want to build relationships.

Gabe Larsen: (13:13)
Yes.

Peter Fader: (13:13)
And so let’s use these lifetime value metrics for sales as well. So that’s one step away from marketing and then maybe the next step away would be on the supply chain. So as much as we want to deliver things quickly and cheaply to everyone, we’ve got to make sure that we get the stuff to the good customers in a way that’s even going to be fast and really reliable. So let’s tip our supply chain a little bit more towards them. So basically we take these ideas and have them diffuse through the organization one step at a time and product development is several steps away. And sometimes there’ll be a lot of pushback from those folks, but if we can win over enough parties within the organization. Now for me, the ultimate partner that we want to have would be finance. And all too often, the folks in finance are really, really skeptical of, if not downright disdainful of what’s going on in marketing. And so that’s been a Holy Grail for me personally, that’s been over finance and that’s what I’ve been doing lately and a lot of my recent research and my newest startup; the idea of customer based corporate valuation. If we can show the CFO that she can do a better job of valuing the entire company from the bottom up by projecting the number of customers they’re going to acquire and the value that will derive from them and go to Wall Street and say this is what we’re really worth. Then we’re going to win her respect and then it’s going to spill over across the organization. And we’ve been doing that for real and it’s been amazing how well that’s been working.

Gabe Larsen: (14:49)
Wow man it sounds like you’ve got your hands full, project here, project there, project there, project here. Ultimately, so this finance thing that you just talked about, maybe just one more click on that. So just bringing it all together, you get this kind of customer centric message and this customer, prioritization engine or model working and you’re really starting to focus on this as a strategic, go to market, what, what does that do different for the organization? Maybe that’s an obvious question, but are you seeing that, end outcome, you know, valuations are higher, end outcomes, the NPS scores are bigger, better, it’s lifetime value grows? All of that?

Peter Fader: (15:35)
All of the above. I’d be happy to give you the specifics on it. So, one thing just from a spreading of the gospel, like we said, we’re going to start with marketing, more over sales [inaudible], and so on. Once we get to finance, then these ideas, these practices, spread like wildfire through the organization. At that point, all of this — once the CFO nods their head and says, yeah, I’m on board with it, then all the other C level people are instantly bought in. I mean, let’s just face it. That’s the power and respect the CFO has in the organization. So it just helps spread the ideas. That’s number one. Number two, all of the stuff, the idea of building relationships for the long run instead of trying to squeeze as much money as we can out of our customers today goes against the grain of traditional Wall Street valuation procedures. It’s really hard for a company, for a CEO to stand up in front of Wall Street and say, trust me, our quarterly numbers aren’t that great, but just wait till what they’re going to look like in two years. But once you have this lens of customer base, corporate valuation, you can actually go to your external stakeholders and say, look at these customer assets. Maybe they’re not showing up on our balance sheet, but they’re real and hold us accountable for them. It’s a kind of thing that Jeff Bezos has been doing informally for for years, but now we’re showing how to do it formally where we’re really working with companies directly, with investors and saying, here are those future looking numbers. You should share them, you should hold yourself, and me, accountable for them. And it works.

Gabe Larsen: (17:14)
Yeah.

Peter Fader: (17:14)
So you get the external buy in as well and it really gives a jolt to these ideas that, I hate to say it, that no internal marketing activity can ever achieve.

Gabe Larsen: (17:29)
Wow.

Peter Fader: (17:29)
So this is something I had never thought about. Like again, if you looked at my first book, there was never this notion at all, but the key to finding success in customer centricity is win over the CFO first.

Gabe Larsen: (17:41)
I love that. I love that.

Peter Fader: (17:43)
Again, this is what I’m seeing. So if you look at my new startup company called Theta Equity Partners, thetaequity.com, it looks like a straight investor play and working with private equity firms and others, just to basically show the value of the customer base or the companies that they’re working with. We’re trying to make it distinctively appealing to them about, again, once they see the value of it, then they start to ask these questions. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Why has all this customer value plateaued? Is it that we’re not acquiring enough customers, they’re not staying long enough, not spending enough? So it starts getting the CFO to start asking marketing type questions and having a really productive conversation with the marketing folks instead of just saying, no, all the time.

Gabe Larsen: (18:35)
Boy, do I know that world. But I do find it fascinating Peter. Right. It’s kind of like the way the world finance has always been. It’s been more of the lag, I’m going to use lagging indicators. We always are looking back and what I’m hearing you say is if you guys can start to look at, I’m going to use the word broadly, like leading indicators, but maybe something that’s not your typical SaaS metric, for example. It’s more customer focused. That would be different.

Peter Fader: (19:04)
So, let’s spin it around. You mentioned just a few minutes ago, net promoter score. Well, so we’ve been spending a lot of time talking to the current holder of the flame of, of NPS. That’s Rob Markey at Bain Consultants.

Gabe Larsen: (19:20)
Yes, absolutely.

Peter Fader: (19:20)
He, along with Fred Reichheld, who first came up with the ideas, they’re not just standing still and just shouting about NPS and ending the conversation there. Rob, to his great credit, is thinking exactly along the lines that you just mentioned, which is let’s augment net promoter score with other forward looking customer metrics. Ones that are a little bit more behavioral and not just attitudinal, like NBS.

Gabe Larsen: (19:46)
I love it.

Peter Fader: (19:46)
Let’s figure out what metrics will be good indicators of how profitable and healthy our customer base is. And you know what? Let’s not just talk about them. Let’s not just insist that our clients look at them and disclose them. Well, let’s go to regulators. Let’s go to financial accounting standards boards and say, you know what? You should be mandating that every couple of weeks we should put these things out there.

Gabe Larsen: (20:14)
I love it, I love it. I love it. That’s so funny.

Peter Fader: (20:14)
Now this is real. If you go look at the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, Rob has an article and we basically have companion articles where he’s talking about the new loyalty economy and painting this picture about how the world has changed. And then we have this companion piece about customer base, corporate valuation. This is my partner in crime, Dan McCarthy and myself. And we both submitted letters literally to FASB, the financial accounting standards board, saying things have got to change; these metrics really work. We should really be having a conversation about which one should be disclosed, what caveat should be associated with them, what investors should or shouldn’t be doing with them. We’re really, really serious about this. And, it’s really taking off, I mean, just in the last year or two, it’s amazing how much progress we’ve had and it’s just beautiful how we’re building the bridge between marketing and finance in a way that it was just really inconceivable just a couple of years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (21:15)
Yeah. This is, I’m looking at the Harvard business review, you guys. Interesting. Well, I know, I know we’ve got a hard stop here, so let’s, let’s let you jump. But wow, real interesting dialogue. If someone wants to, Peter, learn just a little bit more about some of the things we’ve talked about or learn a little bit more about you. What’s the best way to do that anywhere you’d send them.

Peter Fader: (21:35)
So, three different directions. So there’s me personally, so I’m always tweeting about this stuff @faderp, love to connect with people on LinkedIn, keep the conversation going there. Then there’s the day job if you go to Petefader.com you see my Wharton faculty page and all the research, teaching stuff. And then as I mentioned, there’s the new startup thetaequity.com, where would we have all these wonderful case studies of how we’ve valued publicly traded companies from the bottom up using these marketing metrics. So lots of different things. They might seem kind of different and unrelated, but they really do come together and paint this picture of what customer centricity is and what it should be.

Gabe Larsen: (22:18)
I really think that’s forward thinking, Peter. I mean, we’ve been looking backward long enough, so I appreciate your work. I’ll have to check some of that out. I had gotten your book, but I was truthfully not aware of some of these other projects. So I appreciate you taking the time.

Peter Fader: (22:29)
And Gabe, I appreciate your giving me the opportunity to talk about it.

Gabe Larsen: (22:32)
Alrighty well we’ll let that, and I’m sure the audience appreciates it. And for both of you, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (22:46)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Being Prepared in a Time of Crisis with Dr. Merilee Larsen

Podcast: Being Prepared in a Time of Crisis with Dr. Merilee Larsen TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen invites Dr. Merilee Larsen to discuss the essential and non essential things we need in this time of crisis and how we can be prepared. Merilee is the Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University. Her background is in disaster thinking and education. She has been at Utah Valley University for 20 years and within that time, she has switched from Emergency Medical Services to Public Health. Dr. Larsen has a Masters in Public Health and a Doctorate in Health Education. She is very authoritative on crisis prevention and, during her time with Gabe, she shared some valuable insights for all.

Fear, Hoarding, and What You Actually Need

It has been very clear that the current COVID-19 pandemic has struck fear into the American public and citizens of all nations. The United States has experienced an interesting side effect of the pandemic: excessive purchasing at grocery stores. On that note, Merilee did an experiment with her social media followers. She wanted to determine which items were out of stock and the location tied to that shortage. Dr. Larsen found that cleaning products are out of stock in most places, but results also showed that the Midwest has been buying superfluous amounts of toilet paper. Merilee also mentioned that the excessive shopping and hoarding of items, like toilet paper, is driven by fear. It has become a trend that people participate in because they see others doing it. She states, “I have a friend who went to the store to get paper cups and came home with $300 worth of groceries. And when I said, ‘Well, why did you do this?’ She said, ‘Well, everybody else was doing it and I didn’t know what to do.’”

The solution is not to hoard. Rather, we should be preparing for a 14 day quarantine. Merilee clearly states that we need to have a good food supply. Fruits and vegetables, non perishable items, and a sweet treat to help on tough days. While having an abundance of toilet paper isn’t necessary, she recommends focusing on other toiletries like shampoo or toothpaste and staying on top of prescription medications. By focusing on the daily essentials without hyper focusing on toilet paper, people will be more prepared and less stressed for the coming weeks.

Physical and Mental Health Tips

In her dialogue with Gabe, Dr. Larsen gives listeners a suggestion to promote physical health: we should be washing our hands for at least 20 seconds. While this is simple, it will make a big difference. The disease spreads when “droplets” land on a surface, a person touches those surfaces and then that person proceeds to touch their face. By washing your hands, it is less likely for the virus to spread. On top of that, daily physical exercise is recommended not only for physical health, but especially for mental health. Combined with good nutrition, exercise can help calm a lot of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, because of the need for isolation and the extended time people are spending with their families, Merilee recommends having a family mental health plan. She states, “Talk over this with your families. Make sure that there’s a plan so you guys can handle being in close quarters together or with your roommates or wherever you’re at. … Have a plan for conflict and … a plan to handle anxiety and depression in your home.”

What is Social Distancing and How is the World Going to Change Because of the Pandemic?

Social distancing, the buzzword of 2020, is avoiding public places and large gatherings. Most states have regulated the size of gatherings or have been placed in a state of emergency. However, when people are required to leave their houses for certain things, like going to the grocery store, the public has been asked to be socially distant. When possible, it is recommended that we stay at least 6 feet apart.

Merilee adds a visual to social distancing, she says, “imagine as if you are holding a hula hoop around you. Don’t let anybody into your hula hoop space.” This prevents the spread of the virus further. Merilee and Gabe also comment on how society will change because of the pandemic. Isolation will probably become a common practice for the flu, the custom of shaking hands might go away and new social norms will appear. Businesses are learning to be flexible, and with technology, employees are becoming a “remote workforce.” Despite all these changes, Merilee is hopeful for the future. One of her final statements is: “I have high hopes for us. I hope that we can — I think we can come out of it, but yes, I think it will change how we are doing things and how we continue to do things.”

To learn more about individual and public health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Listen to “How to be Prepared in Times of Crisis | Dr. Merilee Larsen” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Being Prepared in a Time of Crisis with Dr. Merilee Larsen

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to dive in. I think this will be a fun talk track today. We’re going to be talking about preparedness during today’s crises. And to do that, we brought on Dr. Merilee Larsen, currently Assistant Professor of Public Health at Utah Valley University. Merille thanks for joining. How are you?

Merilee Larsen: (00:32)
Good, thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me on.

Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Yeah, I think this will be obviously very timely. It’s a fun talk track. Before we dive in, maybe you could take just a minute and tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of your background.

Merilee Larsen: (00:45)
Sure. Thanks. Like you said, I am an Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University. I have been there for 20 years. I spent the first decade teaching in emergency services. So I have a background in EMS and emergency services and then the second half I have been in public health. So I have kind of an interesting combination of emergency services and planning and preparedness coupled with public health. I have a Master’s in public health and a Doctorate in health education that I got from Loma Linda University. And so my research base is in disaster thinking and in education. And that’s kind of my background.

Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
Well that’s very fitting because that seems to be where we are; the word disaster. A lot going on in the world and we want to dive into it. As we talked a little bit before we jumped on, right? I mean, obviously we have an interesting situation going on in the world today. Many business leaders kind of wondering what’s going on with this virus that’s going around. How can we be thinking about it? And so today we wanted to dive into that and figure out how can we think about preparedness in these times of crisis. So maybe let’s start big picture for a minute and I do want to narrow in a little bit on this Coronavirus. Maybe talk to us about just the basics of it. I think there are some spells about how do you get it, myths about how dangerous it is. Big picture, what’s going on here?

Merilee Larsen: (02:13)
Okay. So the Coronavirus or COVID-19, it is basically kind of a major virus. It can infect both animals and people. We have had outbreaks of coronaviruses in the past. If you think of like the SARS outbreak or, there’s a Middle East outbreak called MERS. Both of those we’ve had. Normally SARS type infections can cause very mild respiratory infections, like the common cold. But this particular virus is crazy. It’s kind of a gangbusters virus. So it’s big. Currently right now, CDC estimates in the United States, we have 300,000 infected as of today. So it’s pretty major. And the reason that’s so big is because it’s new. Nobody’s ever had it before. Nobody’s ever had this kind before. So it is highly transmissible and easy to get.

Gabe Larsen: (03:04)
Yeah. When you talk about the virus itself; anything that jumps out to you as things that… either ways people can get it or ways people can’t get it. I’ve heard some things about my kids swinging on a swing set, boxes coming from Amazon versus direct contact; sneezing, coughing. Any kind of thing you’d highlight there as people think about some of these different things that they’re trying to avoid in order to not get this?

Merilee Larsen: (03:36)
Sure. Well, things to avoid would be direct contact. Once you have it, you have these, basically droplets that you can breathe out or you can talk out or you cough or sneeze on somebody, which is super gross, and it travels through the air. So, most of these respiratory droplets, they just kind of fall to the ground in front of you. But if you’re in super close contact, you’re going to breathe them in or you’re going to get them on your hands and touch your eyeballs. If you’re a kid, you’re going to pick your nose. I mean, and you’re going to get sick. We don’t really know how long they can live on surfaces. Scientists are estimating three to four hours. So is there a little bit of a risk with going to the park or touching things that other people have touched? Yes. There’s a little bit of a risk, but there’s differences. Your Amazon boxes, you’re probably fine. They’re finding that it’s not living on cardboard for super long, but it can live on non porous surfaces. Like stainless steel, still up quite long there, but not on copper. So it just depends on what you’re touching really.

Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
I don’t know all the things that I’m touching. Now I’m thinking about it. [inaudible].

Merilee Larsen: (04:37)
Thank the Lord. Amazon, you’re fine. Prime, we’re going to all be okay. If we can’t get on prime we’re not getting it anywhere.

Gabe Larsen: (04:51)
That’s good, right? Obviously, everything is shutting down. That’s good. Kind of set the level. I know a lot of people read that, but just to kind of set the table. I think the more important thing is where do you go next? Right? So, knowing the times have changed, knowing that we are in a crisis situation, you are hearing things like people making a run for this crazy stuff going on with toilet paper. Right? And that being almost a psychological thing of preparedness. As you think about preparedness and thinking about the times we’re in, how should we be prepared or how can we prepare?

Merilee Larsen: (05:24)
Well, for starters, you’re not going to need this much toilet paper. You’re going to be fine. Everybody’s going to be fine. We need to back off the toilet paper, otherwise you’re going to be very hungry, but you’ll have tons of toilet paper. So we want to try and avoid that whole thing if we can.

Gabe Larsen: (05:43)
Have you seen some of those videos? It’s just crazy, right?

Merilee Larsen: (05:43)
Yes, it’s insanity!

Gabe Larsen: (05:47)
I mean, look, you gotta go, you gotta get what you can get. But, it’s like what is this craziness with toilet paper? But it must be…

Merilee Larsen: (05:54)
I don’t know.

Gabe Larsen: (05:54)
…Our brains that knows we’re panicking and so that’s all we know how to get.

Merilee Larsen: (05:58)
Toilet paper and water. So I hope you’re going to be okay. But, your systems are going to be fine. You can drink water out of your tap. You’re just fine. Toilet paper, you probably need enough in your house for 14 days, maybe, maybe three weeks. I don’t know. I don’t know how much you’re going through, but you don’t need that much. So, if you’re looking at true preparedness and if you’re looking at their recommendation that FEMA is making, you do need food. You need at least 14 days worth of food. So that means perishable and non-perishable and some candy. Everybody’s going to need some candy. So just get some good stuff that you can keep in your house and that you have enough for everyone to eat. Candy and novelty items are really good to kind of break up things, especially if you have kids or if you’re like me and you just kind of need something at the end of the day so you don’t go crazy. Like you just need a little, you need a Twix once in a while. So, some shelter items that are always nice to have on hand. Like if you have a wood burning stove; it’s freezing here in Utah right now, so you might need some wood or something like that. Propane is always nice if you have access to that. So, everybody you need to wash your hands and do it for 20 seconds. Dipping it under the water and pulling it back out, that doesn’t work.

Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
I mean this is obviously, I don’t want to mock it but, this is obviously real. [inaudible] Follow some of the best practices you’re seeing around the 20 second thing, etc.

Gabe Larsen: (07:24)
Right. Sing the chorus to your favorite song; a little “Mr. Brightside,” a little “Touch of Grey,” whatever. Sing the chorus to it while you’re washing your hands. It’s perfect. 20 seconds. Do it when you leave your house and come back, wash your hands, kids too. And then watch your face. Don’t touch your eyeballs. Don’t pick at your teeth, keep your hands out of your face. You’re going to need some household goods. You probably need some laundry soap. You probably need some dish detergent, some paper towels. The big thing that we always talk about is cash. You really need to have or work on having enough savings that if you are out of work for however long this quarantine lasts, that you can afford it. You can afford to pay your utilities, you can afford to pay door dash; because we all know we’re going to use it. Then you just have enough cash on hand so that you can pay your bills for two weeks or more. So you need some stuff if you’re bored. You need maybe some board games, some books, some things to pass the time, which is a big one. If you have babies, you need baby supplies. Diapers, again, don’t hoard. But, you do need enough diapers, wipes and formula for your little ones. And if you have a neighbor that has one, they could always use a little help. Personal hygiene items; shampoo, conditioner, tissues, floss. We all appreciate it, some floss. Prescription medications are huge. If you have a prescription for something, make sure that you get those filled. I recently had to have a prescription filled for my little boy and we waited for three days because they had so many prescriptions to fill. So make sure you’re ahead of the game on that. Talk to your doctor and if you have pets, please get some pet food for your pets at least long enough that if you have to stay inside for two weeks or more that they’re covered as well. So mentally, we also talk about mental preparedness. Talk over this with your families. Make sure that there’s a plan so you guys can handle being in close quarters together or with your roommates or wherever you’re at. And if you have a plan for conflict and if you have a plan to handle anxiety and depression in your home. The mental aspect is just as important as the physical, always, especially in this time. There’s a lot of fear going on right now and we have to help each other and we have to help…

Gabe Larsen: (09:33)
Yeah, it does seem like one of the areas that people, I mean, and I think we’re hoarding different items is as we kind of go into this nervous preparedness or whatever that psychological state is of hoarding. But, yeah, the mental thing is a little bit overlooked. Whether that’s in work or at home. I definitely find that that resonates with me as I’ve talked to different employees. I’ve got obviously family myself and there are ups and downs. Is there anything, I mean you mentioned kind of having a plan. Is there other things from the mental preparedness standpoint? A little bit of exercise, psychological, well I don’t know if there’s psychological help that is available to different people, but any other thoughts on the mental side?

Merilee Larsen: (10:14)
Yes, mental — always, exercise is great for mental health. It does wonders for anxiety and depression. There’s countless amounts of studies and research that’s behind that. So really if you’re feeling an anxiety attack, come on, I would recommend for you to go out and take a walk or a run and that can really help pull back some of those symptoms. Other things mentally is to eat a little better, to choose a little bit healthier food and that can help mental clarity as well. There’s an app called Calm, which is fantastic, that has meditations and things like that on it that are really helpful. And there are a few apps that you can find out there that have chats with psychologists. So if you need to, there’s an option for that kind of thing as well. Now that we can’t really — there are a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists who will do face to face over zoom and that option is out there as well. But I would really tell you to try and get a little more exercise, try and eat a little better. And if you’re feeling it come on, go put some running shoes on and go for a walk.

Gabe Larsen: (11:14)
I like the mental and physical part. And do you have any thoughts as to why — I mean, is that just human nature? I mean, we joked a little bit about the hoarding and the toilet paper and stuff, but is that just the grasping at straws mentality or why do you feel like people went that direction versus maybe some of the recommendations you said, which was a little more food preparedness or a little more mental preparedness. Is that just the human emotion kicking in?

Merilee Larsen: (11:43)
I think it’s fear too. And it’s kind of interesting as I’ve been talking to people and doing a little more research during this time, I have a friend who went to the store to get paper cups and came home with $300 worth of groceries. And when I said, well, why did you do this? She said, well, everybody else was doing it and I didn’t know what to do. So I think we’re kind of following each other and we are very panicked about the unknown. We don’t know what the next six weeks is going to look like. And we’re afraid to go without. And you know, people are choosing different things. We see our neighbors…

Gabe Larsen: (12:18)
Because we all deal with it a little differently, right? Now you did a little exercise. What was that? You did a little exercise where you had different people send to you as they were going around and shopping. What was that?

Merilee Larsen: (12:27)
I did. On my social media I asked my friends from all over the world to tell me what their grocery stores were out of and where they were located. And it was kind of fascinating to see the Island of Tahiti was out of hand sanitizer of all things. And we had — I had friends and it seemed like more in the Midwest toilet paper seemed to go like wildfire. But in other places, it was hand sanitizer and Clorox. So it was kind of fascinating to see what was happening where and where the panic was.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Hmm. Interesting. We’ll have to check that out. As we think about businesses, I want to turn just for a minute. Definitely we’ve got companies with the economic struggles now that this virus is putting on the economy. I mean it’s obviously very real and many people are facing dire and sometimes interesting situations. We’ve got business leaders trying to take care of their customers and their employees. As you think about preparedness, and maybe more on the employee side, is there anything you’d recommend to business leaders — and maybe it goes down kind of that mental preparation and enabling some of that as people are facing things in their personal life and also trying to manage work — that you’d recommend to them as they try to navigate the business side of the preparedness equation?

Merilee Larsen: (13:52)
The business side is kind of an interesting side. This is a side that there’s so many facets to. But really a lot of the top, I would really talk about flexibility. I think too, as a business leader, I would look to see how flexible we could have our employees be. Can we reduce our meetings and our travel? Can we do more on Zoom? But can we still somehow stay connected? Maybe have morning coffee over Zoom or whatever it looks like for you. Being transparent with your employees as well as your customers I feel like that is huge as well. And if you’re having your workers come into your workplace, really stress hygiene and making sure that everyone’s taken care of in the building, but then when they leave so that we’re not just becoming a hotbed of illness and then carrying it out to the families. But really be flexible. Really have your people self-monitor if they’re feeling sick and if they need to, have the flexibility that they can isolate or quarantine at home. That is a great way to help.

Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
And make it a little bit easier both for the business as well as I think for society as a whole. We were talking a little bit about social distancing and obviously that’s become a big buzzword. It is something people are kind of practicing, but I don’t know if I know what it means. I know what it generally means. But, what are the best practices for social distancing that you have in mind? Again, I’m thinking of some people, you know, a lot of businesses are obviously closing. Some are mandatorily staying open to others. You’ve got factories, you got Amazon; people are trying to still manage. Best practices in this kind of social distancing for people who are put in a situation where they may need to be around others and interact with others?

Merilee Larsen: (15:40)
Social distancing is really, you’re trying to avoid large events, mass gatherings. So, imagine as if you are holding a hula hoop around you, don’t let anybody into your hula hoop space.

Gabe Larsen: (15:51)
I like that.

Merilee Larsen: (15:51)
Socially distance. No close talkers. Keep them outside of your space.

Gabe Larsen: (15:57)
Yeah. Is there kind of that hula-hoop, is that about the right distance? I mean, is it 12 feet, six? I think I’ve heard six feet.

Merilee Larsen: (16:05)
Six feet is great, but if you’re in a situation where you’re in a meeting, then maybe just try for that hula hoop distance. Something is better than nothing.

Gabe Larsen: (16:16)
Wow. Crazy times, right? I’m starting to kick off — I went to one conference, this is now weeks ago, but it was just the beginning of it and they kind of, you know, no handshake conference, right? So people were, it was awkward. We were doing this elbow thing and fist bump thing and that was a month before. I wonder how this — assuming things do continue, assuming things improve — how this will just change. Obviously we’ve got the flexible workforce, a remote workforce. We’ve got interactions between people as they talk about different waves, if you’ll kind of get rid of things like social norms of shaking hands? Some people say the world will never be the same, but hopefully we have semblance here.

Merilee Larsen: (17:01)
Well, hopefully, hopefully we can get back. I think it’s going to take a little bit of time though. Like if you look at the last time we used a federal quarantine, the last time we were totally restricted was the Spanish flu in 1918.

Gabe Larsen: (17:14)
Is that right?

Merilee Larsen: (17:14)
Yeah. So, it took a little bit of time to come out of that. But I think I have high hopes for us. I hope that we can, I think we can come out of it, but yes, I think it will change how we are doing things and how we continue to do things. We may socially choose to isolate in flu season normally. And that’s not a bad thing. So this may change the atmosphere of public health, which I don’t hate. It’ll be okay.

Gabe Larsen: (17:44)
1918, right? This definitely is unprecedented. I mean, I’m not that old, but I’ve lived through the 2000s, 2004, 2008. This is definitely different than all of those so it is uncharted water. But, real interesting talk track, appreciate you jumping on and talking through just some of the different things companies and people can do to get prepared in these times of crisis. So, if someone wants to get in touch with you or just learn a little bit more about some of the things you’re thinking about, is there a good way to contact or stay connected?

Merilee Larsen: (18:16)
Yeah, my LinkedIn page is great or you can feel free to email me at merilee.larson@uvu.edu.

Gabe Larsen: (18:24)
Awesome awesome. All right, well, really appreciate you taking the time and for the audience. Have a fantastic day.

Merilee Larsen: (18:29)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (18:38)
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How Kustomer Is Helping Brands Stay Customer-Centric During Coronavirus

How Kustomer Is Helping Brands Stay Customer-Centric During Coronavirus TW 3

As the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grow globally, I want Kustomer to be a resource in every way possible. The current climate will no doubt bring changes for both businesses and consumers. More support teams will be forced to work remotely in response to the spread of COVID-19. Companies may need to prioritize proactive engagement to ease customer concerns. And consumers’ purchasing habits may shift, opting for online and delivery options versus shopping in-store.

Kustomer Is Here to Help

It’s likely that customer service will become even more important for your business over the coming weeks, and I think it’s important that we at Kustomer do our part to help your teams stay proactive, collaborative and customer-centric during this uncertain time.

Starting this week, we are offering customers our Ultimate Package for free, which will enable seamless cross-functional communication and dynamic team oversight.

With our Ultimate Package you will have access to features like:

  • Unlimited Collaboration, allowing you to loop in anyone from any department within your organization to help resolve inquiries more efficiently in a remote environment. Features like Notes, Following and @Mentions let cross-functional teams conduct internal communications and ensure customers get the expedited service they need right now, no matter where they are in the world.
  • Team Pulse, allowing you to see your agents are working on in real time. Managers can quickly jump to the customers and searches that agents are viewing in real-time from the Team Pulse dashboard, enabling teams to manage performance and effectiveness seamlessly.

Our Promise to You

All of us at Kustomer are here for you as we collectively make necessary changes to navigate this new reality. We are encouraging our employees across our New York, California and North Carolina offices to work remotely for the month of March out of an abundance of caution. But you can rest assured that although we may be working from our couches and not our desks, we’ve got your back during this time.

 

How Automation and AI Can Help Your Business Succeed in Customer Service

Why AI and Automation are a Man’s Best Friend Twitter

We all know that customer experience is becoming more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty. And the businesses who prioritize customer experience are the ones that are succeeding. The question becomes, when that awesome customer experience begins to pay off, how can you continue to execute on a high level of service without hiring an army of people, or sacrificing the human touch? AI and automation can help you scale.

How Exactly Does Automation In Customer Service Help?

Automation in customer service reduces menial work for agents and can prevent human error from happening. This reduction in friction also gives your agents much more room to provide personalized service to your customers.

AI can help solve a core problem when your organization experiences hyper growth and your customers need answers to their problems quickly. It is possible to grow your business without losing the human touch. In fact, it’s essential not to lose this. Businesses that prioritize a personalized customer experience are the ones that are succeeding in this fast-paced environment. Although it might sound counter-intuitive, by introducing automation into some of your core systems and processes, you can actually provide an even more personalized touch within your customer service department.

Automation Helps Reduce Repetitive Tasks for Your Agents

Many folks still think of AI as a threat to their jobs….as robots taking over the world! Despite the doomsday rhetoric, the fact is that current day AI can actually make customer service professionals’ jobs less time consuming and simultaneously more fulfilling.

Oftentimes the most tedious tasks on an agent’s plate are manual and repetitive, and may not require human intervention. Luckily AI can automate much of this work. For example, when an agent needs to initiate a return, they may be talking to a customer in one system, looking up a customer’s order history in another, and using a third system to create a return management authorization (RMA). A fourth system may send a message to the person who handles those returns asking to expedite for an important customer. With AI and automation, a single button click could start the RMA process, create the shipping label and notify a team to expedite.

Automate Common Customer Questions With the Help of AI

Businesses have the opportunity to provide more self-help opportunities with the help of AI. Chatbots are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers because they can quickly answer common questions without the need for a live representative to be on the chat. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right data, businesses can actually do the opposite.

For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support. When you have AI in customer service, you provide a more relevant customer experience and buyer experience to your clients.

Superpower Your Agents

Beyond freeing up agent time, AI can also be used to arm support agents with all the information they need to quickly and accurately service their customers. AI support technology can suggest messages to send to customers based off of historical conversations and customer attributes, which can become more accurate and personalized over time in conjunction with a machine learning model.

You can also power sentiment analysis with AI technology, which means you can analyze the tone in the customer’s messages, and determine whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied. If you have a dissatisfied customer, you can escalate the issue quickly and give a more hands-on approach to save the customer relationship.

How We Can Help

Customer service is increasingly being thought of as a revenue driver and not a cost center, and customer service insights are being leveraged to inform larger business decisions. Keeping a consistently high level of support as you scale your business could be the difference between rocketship growth vs. staying stagnant. Automation in customer service gives you the exact tools you need to keep your customers happy without sacrificing quality as you grow rapidly.

Finding the perfect customer service software solution is imperative. If you’re interested in delivering a superior customer experience at scale, whether that means personalized and proactive support or true omnichannel experiences, consider Kustomer to be your right-hand man. With Kustomer’s unique customer service CRM platform, businesses are easily able to have a single view of the customer journey, seamless omnichannel communications, and the ability to automate complex business processes and knowledge management.

Download our Scalability Guide to learn more, or reach out and get to know us through a free demo.

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