Here we are in 2020, a decade full of opportunities and challenges no one could have conceived only a few short months ago. Our families need us, our friends need us, our countries need us, and hidden amongst these needs is an implicit truth more important now than ever: our customers need us. Imagine the cashier wearing a contagious smile, or the support e-mail which asks how you and your family are doing? These moments of kindness, compassion and empathy are in this day and age a brand’s greatest asset.
We can implicitly understand the importance of caring for your customers, but for several years now, the data has been showing much the same:
A customer is four times more likely to move to a competitor when facing a service related issue rather than a price or product related issue.
From a purely financial perspective, it will cost six to seven times more to bring in a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.
Treating your customers with compassion and good old fashioned kindness are now must-haves, not should-haves. And the uncharted waters of 2020 have emphasized this fact even more. The global pandemic has forced nearly all communications between customers and businesses into a digital interface. That means you can’t go into a store with a problem anymore — the only means of getting your problem solved is through phone, email, chat or social media. Therefore, the main cues a customer service representative uses to understand a person’s emotions (body language, tone, etc.) have been stripped down significantly.
Organizations must take this opportunity to invest in the heartbeat of their brand’s resilience, and taking care of your customers is where you must start:
You are running a pet grooming business, and supply your staff with hedge trimmers and power hoses, how happy do you think the pets and their owners will be? The exact same logic is fundamental in how you support your front line support agents. Ensure they have a full-spectrum, omnichannel view of customer history, enabling them to treat people like valued humans, not tickets. When an agent can see historical conversations, provide support over multiple channels, and see the customer profile and not a ticket, they are equipped to provide compassionate, human-centered support.
Lead by example. Before expecting your employees to provide world class, compassionate customer service and support, you must prepare them and care for them at “home”. Think about things like compassion training, support coaching, platform training, and any other form of investing in your customers’ caretakers.
3. Tone & Language
With human interactions, one can utilize body language, notice visual queues and react in ways simply not possible in the digital realm. For all online or voice support, tone and language is crucial to achieve positive, efficient and
compassionate customer service. When it comes to supporting your agents, who take on challenging and pressure-filled conversations regularly, brands can leverage an internal knowledge base (IKB) , multi-language tools and short or “canned” responses. The IKB offers answers, support, and advice on dealing with any number of customer service scenarios, offering an agent their own repository of self-help in a predetermined language and tone. Multi-language tools such as snippets, in conjunction with shortcuts in Kustomer, offer agents contextual, error-free, multilingual canned responses which are simple to use and provide perfect tone and language, enabling agents to support customers worry-free.
4. Customer (Human) First
Remember that each customer is not a ticket, but a person with needs. How is their day? How are they feeling? Start and end each interaction with a compassionate human touch, and your customers are sure to notice the difference. Just like a smiling cashier, or happy delivery man, these small details can make a world of a difference.
5. Understand Emotions
What is the general sentiment of your customers? The way in which you interact with a customer drastically shifts if, before starting on the conversation, you already know how they are feeling (natural, positive, very angry, etc). With Kustomer’s sentiment analysis, understanding sentiment takes zero human effort and allows for segmentation or prioritization of negative sentiment. “I understand that you’re not so happy right now, I’m here to make things better.” Proactive and compassionate messages like this can make a world of difference.
6. Reporting & Analytics
Once you’ve built up a repository of customer interactions, analyzing and understanding themes and patterns becomes essential for resiliency and customer success. What are your top five contact reasons and how can you create proactive solutions to these key customer challenges? Through these insights, could you begin to develop deflection strategies?
7. Artificial Intelligence
You understand why your customers are writing in, you’ve built better operational/product efficiencies to resolve some inbounds, but will always get questions such as “where is my order?” (WISMO), cancelation/refund requests, etc. With the advent of Kustomer IQ, you can now deflect such repetitive questions and enable your customer to walk through quick and easy self-service. This allows them to receive the fastest resolution and decreases overall inbound demand on your customer service teams.
8. Routing & Assignment
With the remaining inbound conversations, it is important that the customer’s query gets to the right agent as efficiently as possible. It is incredibly inefficient to have humans manually delegate support requests when a queues and routing system can do this quickly and efficiently. This allows managers to focus on other priorities, and strengthen the team’s overall experience. Intent Identification allows you to proactively tag or assign contact reasons to conversations and use this prediction to route the conversation directly to the required team. When done well, this will allow your team to resolve all issues within their scope and mandate, not wasting time rerouting or escalating conversations meant for other teams or departments.
We hope it is quite evident that empathy, compassion and a truly human customer experience will add priceless qualitative and quantitative value to brands and customer experience across any vertical. In this day and age, humans want to be treated like humans, not support tickets. When these practices are combined with a technologically sound support system, organizations will see decreased inbound requests, increased brand advocacy, and provide an enjoyable experience for both customers and customer experience specialists.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
Customer service organizations are taking extra measures to proactively help their customers and deliver empathetic service
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.
“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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Peter Fader: (12:31)
It’s kind of a far off level.
Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
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 email@example.com.
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)
Exit Voice: (18:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
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.
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.
Make the Agent’s Job Fulfilling
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.
Let Customers Help Themselves
Businesses also have the opportunity to provide more self-service opportunities with the help of AI. Think about chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information and direct customers to a help center if human intervention is not needed. 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.
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. Sentiment analysis is another benefit of AI technology. By looking at the words and tone in a customer’s messages, the technology can identify how satisfied, or dissatisfied, a customer is, and escalate the issue accordingly.
How We Can Help
For better or worse, solving a customer’s problem is no longer the only job of a customer service organization. Customer service is increasingly being thought of as a revenue driver and not a cost center, and customer service insights are being leveraged beyond the support organization to inform larger business decisions. Keeping a consistently high level of support as you scale your business could be the difference between rocketship growth and stagnancy.
All of this makes finding the perfect customer service software solution imperative. Delivering on growing customer expectations at scale, whether that means personalized and proactive support or true omnichannel experiences, is not optional. With Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform, businesses are able to have a single view of the customer journey, seamless omnichannel communications, and the ability to automate complex business processes and knowledge management.