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

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

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

Humanizing the Customer Experience

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

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

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

How to Unite as a Brand

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

Tips for Transforming a Customer-Centric Business

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

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

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

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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)
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Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

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

Uplifting and Empowering Through Corporate Culture

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

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

Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero

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

Be There For Your Customer Every Step of the Way

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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: 7 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program

Chatbot Cheatsheet: 7 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program TW

So, you think you’re ready to invest in conversational automation, but you want to avoid the hype and nonsense? Great, then we are here to help! Keep these seven points top-of-mind as you build out your chatbot program, and you’re sure to see value in no time.

1. Understand Your Metrics

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

2. Start With Hello

Your first bot 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 totally right out of the gate, so avoid wasting time by trying to build something “perfect”.

3. Leverage the Agent

We have seen countless 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 user experience research, but your agents are the ones who know how your customers are interacting with the bot. Treat the bot like another agent: when you need performance feedback, use its peers.

4. Templates, Rules, and Machine Learning

Not all 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 bot with many different skills and a large corpus of knowledge — why make your customers trudge through structured flows when all they should do is 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.

5. Know When to Handover

A 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. 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 chatbot helps reduce handle time and expedites the customer’s support request.

6. Automation Happens Elsewhere, Too

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 bot, and leverage additional intelligent services: automatic tagging, routing, and prioritization for the agent, just to name a few.

7. Be Customer-Centric

At the end of the day, the success of your chatbot comes down to how well it fits into the support journey and cadence strategy you have outlined for your customers. Consider different segments of customers that might prefer automation to that “direct human” connection. Perhaps automation can be more helpful at the end of an interaction than at the beginning. Take a good look at your customers, and we’ll help you find out the right size that fits.

Want to learn how to get started with intelligent chatbots? Find out more here.
 

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

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

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

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

Digital Transformation Is Here to Stay

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

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

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

Customers Want You to Show Them They’re Valued

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

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

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

CX Will Be More Important Than Ever

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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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.

 

Listen Now:

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

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 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.

 

Why AI and Automation Are a Man’s Best Friend

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.

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.

Download our Scalability Guide to learn more.

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3 Keys to Modernizing the Customer Experience

3 Keys to Modernizing the Customer Experience Twitter

Customers are gravitating towards brands that fulfill great experiences, leaving those that don’t in the dust. With this in mind, brands are beginning to realize that customer experience is directly tied to their revenue. According to a 2016 study by Forrester, superior CX drives superior revenue growth in industries where customers can easily switch to competitors that deliver a differentiated customer experience. Since then, 81% of organizations cite CX as a competitive differentiator and research continues to support the notion that more organizations are leveraging CX to gain an edge against their competition. By ignoring CX, brands are missing out on market share and revenue.

In this blog post, we share three ideas and concepts that will help you modernize customer experience and transform your CX organization from a cost center into a profit center.

Take a True Omnichannel (NOT Multichannel) Approach to Customer Experience

Many believe that the concept of omnichannel dates back to 2003, when Best Buy created a strategy that centered around the customer in order to compete with Walmart’s electronics department. At this time, retailers were starting to see online sales grow at a fast pace, especially for items that didn’t require you to touch them to feel confident in a purchase decision, such as electronics. All that was needed when it came to shopping for consumer electronics were specifications and dimensions of the products. Best Buy knew that since they could not compete with Walmart’s low prices, they would have to take another approach, one that focused on the customer experience both in-store and online, while providing superior post-sales support. This is where the concept of “customer centricity” was born, which is at the core of an omnichannel approach to customer engagement.

So what does a true customer-centric omnichannel approach look like in 2020? Let’s start by first explaining the concept of multichannel, which is often mislabeled as omnichannel.

In the diagram above, we have the typical multichannel model of customer engagement, where the customer reaches out through the channels of their choice. Each individual engagement becomes a “ticket” or “case”, with different customer support agents tackling each issue. This creates three main problems:

1. Each agent fails to recognize that their colleagues are working on the same issue, which in turn becomes an unnecessary expenditure of resources for the company.
2. The customer experiences inconsistencies with how their issue is solved, as each agent may have their own way of wording or solving the issue.
3. Unless the agents recognize that these tickets are from the same customer and take steps to merge them, reporting will be skewed, as there may be different response times, resolutions and CSAT scores for each ticket.

Now let’s take a look at what a true omnichannel customer engagement model looks like:

In this model, we are still meeting customers when and where they want to be engaged, yet on the back-end there is one major difference: each individual engagement shows up as one conversation for a single agent to respond to. This sole difference alleviates the three problems outlined above.

So how does a true omnichannel approach help turn your CX organization from a cost center into a profit center? According to Aberdeen Group, companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement see a 9.5% year-over-year increase in annual revenue, compared to 3.4% for weak omnichannel companies. Similarly, strong omnichannel companies see a 7.5% year-over-year decrease in cost per contact, compared to a 0.2% year-over-year decrease for weak companies.

Differentiate by Appealing to Your Customers’ Emotions

Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, economist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, introduced the idea of a dichotomy between two modes or systems of thought. “System 1” is fast, instinctive, unconscious, automatic and emotional; “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, calculated and logical. In these modes of thought, “System 1” dominates “System 2”, as it takes much less effort, making it the default system.

If you have ever worked in customer support, you will quickly notice that some customers may be disrespectful and downright nasty. But it’s important to note that none of these outbursts are personal attacks and are oftentimes the expression of frustration when it comes to solving their problems. This is an example of “System 1” thinking and the impact of this “System 1” thinking from your customers is a powerful double-edged sword. The reward or punishment for solving their issue is magnified by social media and online reviews. As Spiegel Research Center finds, nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. Each interaction will either create brand advocates for your company that will help bring in more revenue, or brand detractors that will bring negative financial repercussions. That being said, we can create more brand advocates if we meet customer expectations.

This begs the question: what does the modern day customer expect? Nowadays, customers expect their problems to be resolved quickly, effortlessly and empathetically. Essentially they want to talk to an agent that is a “System 2” thinker.

As a leader in your organization, it is imperative to set up an infrastructure that is designed to take into account the emotional component of the customer experience. Fortunately, modern day artificial intelligence (AI) methods such as machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), predictive analytics, deep learning, and multi-dimensional neural network mappings can be leveraged. These sophisticated technologies allow for functionalities such as customer sentiment analysis and automatic language detection. By considering how your customers are feeling, your organization can take appropriate action to ensure they leave the interaction happy and on their way to becoming brand advocates.

Streamline and Automate Customer Experience Business Processes

In a traditional CX technology ecosystem, customer data is siloed. Each individual system may require manual updates as agents work through each ticket or case. Reports will need to be pulled from separate systems in an attempt to get a 360 degree view of the CX organization. In this ecosystem of siloed customer data, we are not only pulling agents away from being in front of customers by requiring manual data entry, we are also compromising the integrity of our reporting and visibility into the CX organization. Ultimately, this is hindering our ability to be agile and adjust to changing customer expectations.

The solution to these problems caused by fragmentation is to consolidate your customer data into a customer experience platform that is capable of taking all of your customer data and making it viewable, searchable, actionable and reportable. Notice we are not talking about a helpdesk product, but rather a next-generation platform for customer experience, support and service.

With all customer data under one roof, business process automations can be leveraged to their full potential. Automations are no longer limited within each individual silo, but instead can impact the entire CX ecosystem.

As businesses are seeing a bigger impact on their revenue directly from customer experience, CX leaders need to ensure that their technology is up-to-date in order to stay competitive. The days of customers tolerating poor experience are over. Think about it—your closest competitor is just a 15-second google search away. As they should, customers expect more from us. Fortunately technology exists today to modernize your customer experience, build more brand advocates, and ultimately turn your CX organization from a cost center into a profit center. It’s time to take a good look at your organization and ask the tough question: is my CX organization built to deliver a modern day customer experience that will turn brand detractors into brand advocates?

 

How DTC Brands Deliver Standout, Personalized Online Experiences

How DTC Brands Deliver Standout, Personalized Online Experiences Twitter

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses are upending entire industries and putting customers first. By cutting out the middleman and selling directly to the consumer, rather than through a retailer or third party, DTC businesses are exploring new ways to reach consumers with amazing and transformative customer experiences. But how do they do it?

Know the Customer History

Imagine having a conversation with a friend, but not being able to remember anything about that friend, or any interactions you’ve ever had with them previously. It would be difficult to have a truly personal or meaningful conversation. That’s how traditional retailers have historically interacted with consumers, with a large blind spot around customers’ preferences and behaviors.

Digital-first brands don’t have to deal with this problem. Every aspect of the online journey can be adjusted to meet customer needs, and with the right technology can be available to staff in a single view. You’ll be able to know a customer’s preferences, buying history, sentiment, previous interactions with the brand, status of their orders, even their preferred channels of communication. You’ll no longer be interacting with Customer #45634, but with a valued human being who feels heard and appreciated.

In-Action With Glossier

Hyper-popular beauty and skincare provider Glossier makes buying their products as intuitive and personal as possible. To replace the experience of trying on makeup at a counter in a department store, Glossier creates an immersive, digital journey. Customers can get a personal consultation from a member of the gTeam, who is prepared to provide all the support they might need over the channel of their choice, and has all the necessary context and information about their shopping history.

Solving for Decision Paralysis

The spread of e-commerce has created a paradox. In the heyday of big box stores, a huge selection of products and styles used to add value. Customers did most of their shopping in a physical space, as it was still faster, cheaper, and more accessible than shopping online. A large number of stores and a wide selection meant customers were more likely to shop and find what they were looking for. However, the near-infinite amount of choices provided by Amazon and other big box stores and marketplaces has flipped this notion on its head.

Now, customers are overwhelmed with choices. If you search the word “soap” on Amazon, you get over 60,000 results. Picking a simple product becomes paralyzing as you try to weigh price, benefits, ingredients, and other factors all at once. And having your product feedback heard or incorporated can feel hopeless.

Products Customers Want and Need

Focusing on a few good items done right, at a fair price point, is key to tapping into modern shopping trends, and encourages brand loyalty and repeat business by making products that become an essential part of customers’ lives.

Some high growth DTC brands, such as hair care company Prose and dog food company The Farmer’s Dog, even incorporate customer feedback into their product. Through proactively seeking feedback from customers, these leading brands ensure that both their products and service are exceptional, and they keep their customers coming back time and time again.

Additionally, DTC brands are able to use customer data to inform business decisions. If you document why customers are reaching out, you can use this information to optimize UX, make product or fulfillment tweaks, or even open a new store location.

Want to learn more about how high-growth DTC brands are standing out from the competition through CX? Download the guide here.

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How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day Twitter

It’s a day of love, romance and positive feelings…. that is until white lilies are delivered instead of red roses, or a winter snow storm causes a shipping delay for that diamond necklace she’s been waiting for.

During peak shopping days, like Valentine’s Day, customer loyalty is on the line. A mistake not only means an angry customer, but could mean embarrassment and conflict due to a missing or incorrect present. The way that companies handle service inquiries during these seasonal rushes is of the utmost importance. They must treat customers with empathy, and understand that problems and questions can hold a lot more weight during stressful holidays.

The National Retail Federation reports that $27.4 billion is going to be spent this Valentine’s Day, a whopping 32% increase from last year. So follow these tips to avoid getting caught in cupid’s crossfire.

Prepare for Scale

If you’re a retailer that caters to romance, like florists and jewelers, prepare for an uptick in orders and inquiries. Your apps and websites should be able to handle an increased load, and you should have staff in place to handle the spike in customers reaching out. By leveraging technology that incorporates AI and automation, low level support tasks like business hours and shipping information, can be deflected away from your agents, freeing up their time to tackle more difficult inquiries and making sure Valentine’s Day goes off without a hitch.

Deliver On Instantaneous Conversations

As much as we all wish our significant other was planning a lavish evening months in advance, the truth of the matter is that last minute gift buying is… the norm. Customers will likely be ordering flowers or chocolates mere hours before they want them to be delivered. Make sure you’re able to manage real-time fulfillment, as well as real-time conversations.

In order to deliver truly instantaneous support, agents must be able to have the full context of every customer interaction at their fingertips, no matter the channel or issue. Did the customer just receive their order? What is the sentiment of their interaction? Did they just have a conversation about the same issue on a different platform? Being able to see this all in one view, versus opening new tickets for every new interaction, means you’re able to serve customers quicker and build relationships faster.

Be Channel Agnostic

Your customers are on the go. No matter whether they are at work, on the train, at dinner or on their couch, you need to be available to them. Make sure that your customers are able to contact you on whatever channel they’re active on, and switch between those channels seamlessly and without losing context. When time is of the essence, your customers don’t want to have to start the conversation over again.

Communicate Seamlessly with Customers and Vendors

Marketplaces may have a particularly difficult time handling seasonal rushes. Let’s say a customer is ordering a bottle of champagne to be delivered to their partner when they get home from work. To ensure a seamless process, marketplaces will have to use a system that can enable communication with customers and vendors simultaneously to solve any issues. Traditional customer service solutions force agents to switch between multiple platforms and screens, instead of connecting conversations between customers and vendors in a single view.

Your brand doesn’t want to be the reason for a break-up. Prepare properly and deliver exceptional support, and you and your customers will live happily ever after.

Learn more in the latest customer service retail report.

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4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

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Creating and maintaining a strong customer service team is one of the most important considerations you can make for your business. In fact, a Customer Service Barometer study by American Express found that 68% of survey respondents agreed that the right representative is necessary for creating a positive experience. Of those people, 62% said that the customer service agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness are what make them a sought-out representative.

So how do these customer service representatives work to achieve the perfect customer service resume? Beyond basic skills and experience, it’s all about creating a customer-first experience.

What Is Customer-First Support?

The customer-first approach is a simple concept. It’s all about creating a personalized interaction from the moment the conversation begins until it ends. It’s about recognizing that while you may be behind a phone or computer, you’re still speaking to an actual person who is not only confiding in you with their issues, but is trusting you to provide them with the support and solutions they need. Customers want agents to interact with them just as they would engage with someone in person who can provide assistance.

While customer-first support is highly reliant on a strong customer service agent, technology plays a major supplemental role in achieving it. Taking an omnichannel approach at customer service and meeting your customer needs wherever they are is critical. The right CRM platform can ensure success in achieving customer-first support via intelligent automation so your customer service agents can provide assistance with high-level, complex issues while chatbots assist more basic and immediate needs. But remember, the customer always comes first.

4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

Customer expectations have evolved past closed tickets and short resolution times. To succeed in today’s ever-changing world, brands must take a customer-first approach to service and support. Here’s how to achieve it in four simple steps.

1. Understand the Emotions of Your Customers

Do you know what percentage of your customers are happy, satisfied or disappointed? Understanding the emotional state of your customers, and adding empathy to the conversation, makes the experience more meaningful, and agents can have conversations that truly help customers.

The top difference between a good agent and a great agent is their ability to express empathy. Empathy is enabled by sensing someone’s emotions. Sentiment scores within your customer service software should give your agents:

  • Updates and reporting in real-time.
  • The ability to segment customers by sentiment data.
  • Sentiment-based workflow automations.

By pairing sentiment data with the right agent skills, it’s easier to master the skill of mirroring to make customers more comfortable. Mirroring, even if doing something as simple as using casual terms as you would with a friend, can go a long way in building a customer relationship. A customer service agent must know the appropriate tone to use to calm frustration, convey understanding of the issue, and express empathy.

2. Encourage Actual Conversations

Enabling true, personal conversations requires a mindset shift from transactional support to conversational support. Conversational support, service and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. Agents are there to provide real value, not just to solve a problem or process a transaction. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

3. Embrace Omnichannel and Break Down Silos

Meeting customers when and where they want pays off. In fact, according to a Kustomer study, 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. The brands that deliver omnichannel support will win additional brand loyalty.

Don’t think it’s just “newer” channels like social media that need your attention, though.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” according to Olive Huang, the research director at Gartner. “You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organization, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact center, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

The days of isolated call centers are gone. CX leaders need to partner and collaborate with other departments to make improvements throughout the entire customer life cycle.

4. Reinvent Your CS Titles and Hiring Process

Names are powerful, and for customer service teams, names set the tone for customer interactions. An “agent” is a transactional term, ideal for reactive problem-solving. Many modern CX organizations are reinventing the names, skill sets and training of their customer service teams because of the importance of the experience to customer value.

Calling your support agents something like “Happiness Agents” would not be wise if they consistently deliver low CSAT numbers and aren’t empowered to actually generate happiness. While names set expectations, you have to make sure that you are able to execute on those expectations. That’s where the principles of a customer-first approach can deliver true value.

How Kustomer Can Help

Shifting to a customer-first support strategy allows you to achieve this, giving you a competitive advantage and a positive reputation in your industry. With Kustomer’s Guide to Achieving Customer-First Service, you can gain the knowledge and leverage needed to navigate away from outdated customer service mechanisms, learn how to hire the right people for your customer service team and understand how to create a customer feedback loop between your customer service and marketing teams for a seamless strategy.

To learn more about how to deliver customer-first support, download the full guide here.

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