No matter what line of business you’re in, it’s critical to pay attention to the quality of your customer service delivery if you want to keep your customers happy. Read on to find out how much of a difference quality customer service can make — and how you can start taking action today.
Quality Customer Service, by the Numbers
The importance of delivering good customer service becomes all the more significant when it’s quantified. Consider these numbers that speak to the value of quality customer service:
What business wouldn’t want to reap the benefits of word-of-mouth exposure and loyal customers who keep coming back?
But, sometimes, the dramatic results and exciting possibilities make it easy to forget where to start. Let’s zoom out and establish a clearer vision for what quality customer service can and should be.
Before You Can Deliver a Great Customer Experience, You Need to Define It
An important first step toward delivering great customer service is understanding what quality service actually looks like — to your customers and to your employees.
What It Means to Your Customers
One way to find out what the ideal customer experience (CX) looks like is to dig into the most common customer expectations. If you understand what your audience anticipates when they reach out to a support agent, you can model your customer service systems and procedures around that vision.
We’ve previously highlighted the top 10 customer service qualities that can contribute to top-notch customer care. Here’s an overview of the characteristics your customers expect to see from support agents:
Respectful: Show an appreciation for customers’ time, energy and business as well as the situation that caused them to reach out.
Attentive: Use active listening skills that uncover what the customer is and isn’t saying, and show that you’re invested in helping them.
Caring: Exhibit empathy and emotional intelligence to demonstrate a genuine concern for your customer’s feelings.
Patient: Demonstrate plenty of patience when attempting to fully understand someone’s frustrating situation and work toward the type of resolution that leaves them a satisfied customer.
Communicative: Employ strong communication skills to ensure that your responses are as clear, informative and helpful as they can be.
Knowledgeable: Be prepared and forthcoming with expert knowledge about products or services, giving your customers the support and answers they’re looking for.
Determined: Prove that you’re actively committed to discovering the root of the issue and arriving at a solution that meets your customers’ needs.
Creative: Use outside-of-the-box thinking and sharp problem-solving skills to tackle more nuanced and complex issues with personalized solutions.
Efficient: Find ways to minimize the time and effort you put into your support services while maximizing the results to improve the customer experience.
If you’re not sure how your business stacks up against the ideal customer experience, take a look at our ultimate CX checklist.
What It Means to Your Agents
Excellent customer service starts with empowered employees. As these customer expectations show, your audience expects to interact with highly skilled agents. But having the right customer service skills is just the baseline.
Customer care agents must also possess:
Expertise to represent your products and services.
However, they won’t show up with these resources and capabilities on day one. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your staff is adequately trained and that they have access to industry-leading software solutions designed to support quality customer care delivery.
Easy Ways to Start Improving Your Customer Service Right Now
With a better idea of what superior service looks like, you can start making informed decisions and steady progress toward improving your customer service and experience. Here are some simple steps to take right away. While they don’t require too much effort, they can lead you in the right direction and result in a much-improved experience for employees and customers alike.
Get Used to Measuring Customer Service Metrics
Your customer interactions can generate valuable data — if you’re prepared to collect it. With the right insights at your disposal, you can identify service gaps, bottlenecks and other pain points for customers and agents.
For example, a high abandonment rate could mean you need to respond to each customer inquiry sooner than you do right now. A high resolution rate paired with a low satisfaction rate could indicate an issue with how customers feel they’re being treated.
If you haven’t done so in the past, take some time to craft and distribute satisfaction surveys and generate internal reports to see where things stand. Focus on measuring and interpreting these important customer service metrics (and learn more about what they mean here):
Customer service abandonment rate
Customer retention rate
Average resolution time
First response time
Customer effort score (CES)
Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
Net promoter score (NPS)
Start Anticipating Your Customers’ Needs
Shifting from a reactive mindset to a proactive one can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your customer care. Getting ahead of customer needs and concerns is a great way to promote a more positive CX and better prepare your agents.
For instance, retailers heading into the holiday rush can beef up their customer support teams with seasonal employees. Companies can anticipate continued COVID-19 complications and prepare with contingency plans and clear communications.
Additionally, brands can adopt an omnichannel approach and provide customer service via phone, mobile chat and even social media. This allows customers to access the help they need no matter what device they’re using to reach out. Even better, customers can switch channels seamlessly, without skipping a beat or losing context. And companies that plan to embrace remote work for a longer duration can implement the right tools to let customer care teams work from anywhere.
Discover the Impact of Upgrading Your Customer Service Software
Bringing the vision of superior customer service to life requires the right infrastructure. Kustomer’s leading customer service CRM platform can help you achieve those goals faster and more seamlessly by providing the data, automation and customization your business needs.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Irene Griffin, to discuss building better customer relationships through an empathy-driven support model. Irene is currently leading the customer care team at FranConnect. To learn how Irene has built an incredible customer support playbook, listen to the podcast below.
A Playbook for Empathetic CX
Over the years, Irene has created a playbook that helps guide her Customer Support Team to give the best service possible by initiating genuine human interaction. The playbook was created to include strategies and processes to help employees listen to the customer and to understand their needs. Not only should the team members address the customer’s reason for calling, but they should also show the customer that they are there to help and to listen by initiating empathetic conversation. “A lot of times,” Irene states, “Folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want.” As her playbook has developed, it has become a repertoire of customer service secrets that she uses to develop her team and her company’s customer experience.
How to Hire CX Reps
Irene continues by explaining how her CX team is run. She focuses on team collaboration and having a cohesive dynamic. When hiring someone to join the team, the vetting process to find “premium support talent” includes other team members. Irene says, “I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role.”
To assist in the hiring process, during an interview, Irene sets up mock phone calls to see the interviewee’s initial reactions with potentially confusing customer service situations. She asks perplexing questions to draw honest responses and by doing so, she sees if the interviewee is more process focussed or end-goal oriented. For Irene, the most important part of customer interaction is the journey to the answer, or the experience, not necessarily the answer itself. This ensures more authentic and effective customer service calls. Additionally, diversity plays a big role when hiring someone to join the team. Irene talks about how you can pull from the same group of people and still have great outcomes, but she finds that a team with diverse backgrounds creates a more involved and creative environment. As companies apply these hiring principles, they will find customer service rankings improve.
Sample Call Language vs Scripted Responses
As one of her final points, Irene starts to explain her philosophy on scripted phone calls. For Irene and all customer service professionals, consistent information and customer care is important. Most companies create this consistency by creating a type of script for their reps to follow on customer calls. While Irene recognizes the importance of consistency, she feels these calls can become too robotic. Authenticity is what the customer is looking for. Her solution has been sample call language. By sharing suggestions, it put the concepts in the minds of CX reps, allowing them to then be more authentic and creative. She states, “I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus, trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it.” As companies hire the right people using some of the tactics mentioned above, the reps will have the capabilities to have quality customer service calls while still being able to provide consistent information. Sample language is a roadmap to authentic and empathetic communication with the customer.
To learn more about building better customer relationships, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about an empathy driven support model and to do that, we brought on Irene Griffin. She’s currently the Director of Customer Support at a company called FranConnect. Irene, how are you doing? Thanks for joining us.
Irene Griffin: (00:26)
Hi Gabe, thank you for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:27)
Yeah, this will be fun. It’s always good to talk about empathy. I’ve been feeling like I need that in my life –
Irene Griffin: (00:37)
These days especially.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
I need that in life and so it might be good to talk about that in support. But before we do that, tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and your background.
Irene Griffin: (00:47)
Okay. Sure. So I have been a Director of Customer Support at FranConnect like you mentioned. I’m going on three and a half years now, and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I’ve been a hiring manager the entire time. I’ve transformed the team that I inherited and we heard a lot of lessons along the way about how to place great staff into customer support roles. So I can talk a lot about that.
Gabe Larsen: (01:12)
Then we will. We’ll be talking a little bit about that today. So let’s maybe dive in and talk high level, this empathy driven support model. What is it? I mean, give me kind of a 30 second picture overview on it.
Irene Griffin: (01:26)
So, I developed a playbook over the years, and I’ve definitely honed it along the way on how to make sure that we are staffing our customer support team to be empathy driven. And that is to listen to the customer, to understand the customer and not just sort of react to whatever request comes in the door; much like if you visit your doctor and you tell him what prescription you want. You need to give him an opportunity to say, “Well, hold on a second, what’s actually wrong? What are the symptoms?” and then let him decide on the diagnosis. And so it starts with that, making sure that you’re listening to customers. A lot of times folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want. So it starts there and then I just built out on making sure that the folks that I’m hiring are high energy, have great positive personalities and are comfortable in unknown territories. That’s really important. Those are, I think, some of the best indicators of premium support talent. I’ve definitely hired on skillset above personality before, and I learned a few things along the way there. I would say that if you have all the technical skills or you really know a product well or coding language well, but you’re not great at communication skills and you don’t have a high energy, you’re going to be less successful, definitely, than someone who has that high energy personality, is a great listener and communicator, but then still needs to maybe onboard. And I think as technology becomes easier to learn, easier to adopt, especially with a younger generation where it’s much more natural, learning the technology, I think is very much secondary. So when I look at resumes now as a hiring manager, I think, “Okay, that’s great that you have these skill sets and it’s a good place to start. But if on the phone, you don’t express yourself well and you don’t have high energy, I can kind of tell that you don’t have that outgoing personality.” I generally think twice now, for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
Interesting. So, okay. You got these different, I love the idea of empathy. Ultimately there are different ways to, I think, drive customer satisfaction. But finding out what people really want and not just solving what they think they want, but kind of getting to what they really want, being able to do that in an empathetic manner definitely resonates with me. You hit on a couple of points. I want to see if we can double click on a couple of these. So, you were just talking about hiring on skills versus personality. It sounds like one thing you’ve learned is technology, especially with the younger crowd, they can learn that faster. So you do want to see if you can find the right person, the right DNA, to bring on board rather than just kind of the technology ability, et cetera. Are there certain things you’ve found when you’ve tried to do that hiring process that has helped kind of separate the top candidates from the bottom candidates? Questions you’ve asked, assessments you’ve given, any feedback or thoughts there?
Irene Griffin: (04:29)
Sure. Oh, absolutely. So what I like to do is a mock phone call and I’ll present the interviewee with some, blurry, confusing statements and see how they attack it. Put them on the spot a little bit, and I’m not looking for them to solve the puzzle. I’m looking for the interaction and the response. And so if it’s a client, if it’s, “Hey, let me break this down to make sure that I understand what you’re saying,” rather than the sort of silent, “I’m not sure.” So I think doing mock calls is a great idea for that. And then just in general, it’s really about the energy level of the team. In my experience, and I think everyone can relate to this, I’ve never chosen an airline based on customer service out of the gate, right? You choose based on pricing when you need to fly somewhere. So that’s product based selling, right? And so you’re making that sale based on the product. It’s a good price for a flight to where you need to go, but once you have a bad experience, that’s when you’re more likely to swear off the airline. And it’s probably not because the plane that you were on had bad wheels or bad wings or something like that. I mean, the airline’s done the rude thing and they haven’t worked with you. They haven’t listened to you. They’re not meeting your needs. And that’s a very visceral, very emotional response to a transaction. So for us, it’s about relationship building and it’s about that transaction with customers to make sure that they’re feeling their needs are met. So, I like to use that analogy to sort of explain that and I’ll do that along the interview process as well.
Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah. I really liked the mock call. Sometimes you can’t understand a person or know what they’re going to be like until you see them do it, and that’s part of the hard part of interviewing. You’ve got to feel it and see it and interact with them and once you do, that does make a huge difference. Do you– when you say you keep it a little more vague, is it just kind of, do you throw harder kind of customer support questions at them or are they more like a puzzle, like trying to answer like a complicated problem?
Irene Griffin: (06:33)
Actually I stick with– I don’t wanna put people on the spot so badly with puzzles. I mean, I lock up myself when I have it done to me, so I stick with more of what a sample support question might be. Where it’s just long winded, convoluted, there’s extra stuff in there and again, I’m not looking for the outcome as much as I’m just looking for the reaction and the ability to kind of parse it out and kind of stay cool and be organized.
Gabe Larsen: (06:58)
I love that. Yeah. The journey to the– it’s like you’re not looking for the right answer. The journey is the reward, right?
Irene Griffin: (07:04)
That’s correct. And then additionally, I can add, I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role. For me to know that my team trusts each other and they’re building on relationships, they’ll help each other, they’ll grab each other’s tickets without me needing to intervene, that is a big deal. That is just, I think, a really huge thing. And the right personality is going to fold into the right team really well and they’ll enjoy their workday and that translates to the customer experience immensely. When people are happy to be at their jobs, that’s a big deal for customer support.
Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
What are any other things you do to kind of help drive team dynamics? I love the interview, each other, that you can kind of interview the new people to see how well they’ll work together and kind of buy off on it so they feel like they’re part of building the team. Other activities, games, motivational things you do to kind of drive that team dynamics and make it better?
Irene Griffin: (08:08)
Sure. I think…in the pre-pandemic era, when we were all in the office together… it was certainly a lot easier to just, “Let’s go grab a coffee, let’s go grab a quick lunch.” I try not to do too much forced merriment. I think bonding should happen a little naturally, more organically. So yeah, our HR team definitely has great activities for all the employees that bring us together in different ways and we do volunteer work and we have our own internal team parties. But for me, I think mostly just keeping us on standup meetings twice a day, making sure everyone feels heard, repeating the idea of respecting teammates and stuff like that. It happens naturally. I’m happy to say I found out that they were on a happy hour and I wasn’t even invited and it made me thrilled to know that they are choosing to hang out together and even out of work, offline stuff, gaming together and stuff like that. So I think you have to let that develop in its own way.
Gabe Larsen: (09:04)
Yeah. It’s hard sometimes to force that, but sometimes it doesn’t happen naturally. That’s good to hear you guys have some support also from the top to see if you can get some of those things done. So you got a little bit about hiring, a little bit about team dynamics. You also talked about this kind of personality aspect, high energy. Is there a way you coach people to get that, or is that again, maybe more in the hiring process to make sure you find those people that are just a little more energetic, ready to go, be part of the team, et cetera?
Irene Griffin: (09:36)
So, definitely it’s part of the hiring process and that isn’t to say that I’ve only hired extroverts that are bouncing off the walls. That’s not at all what I mean. I definitely have more low key folks, but when they get on the phone with the customer, they’re coached into how to be great customer support people and how to be empathetic. It’s more about empathy, I think, than energy per se. But I do have a playbook that I’ve developed and we would sample tickets, sample phrases. I let them know that, as cheesy as it may seem, I’ll go with: “It’s my pleasure to work with you. Is there anything else I can do for you,” over “Thanks. Have a great day.” Right? It’s just that extra level of like white glove service that elevates the experience and yeah, we’re B2B. So we need to get that relationship established with our customer base. I think if you’re talking B2C and it’s transactional, I mean, you don’t need Amazon sending you flowers for buying something, right? You just want to get the transaction done and it just has to be accurate and it just has to be timely and that’s great. But with us, we’re working with the same folks over and over again. So we need to have the trust and the relationship with our customer and making sure that empathy is at the heart of every call is a big deal. So like I said, I have a playbook where we go through sample language and I make sure that the language is as positive as it can be. So if somebody wants to criticize the product or somebody wants a feature that we’re certain that we’re just not going to support, it’s not just well dismissive or, “can’t do that for you.” It’s, you know, “this is a great idea and I’ll take this to the product team, we’ll see what we can do and in the meanwhile, let’s look at workarounds or other solutions for you.” Yeah. People feel cared for when you use the right language. That’s a huge part of that playbook that I’ve got.
Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, I want to hear just a little more about the playbook. One question that I’ve often heard is how much do you kind of, this word scripting. Scripting versus not scripting, or really kind of pushed certain types of responses? How have you managed that with this playbook concept?
Irene Griffin: (11:39)
So I think with scripting, I think that’s more of a call center concept with customer support teams that are working through complex issues like for example, with us and software, I don’t really adhere much to it. I think it’s more a sample language that I support plus I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it. So I definitely think scripting can be great, but I think that’s more of a call center concept.
Gabe Larsen: (12:19)
Yeah. Do you feel like, so it sounds like you’ve been able to give them snippets or you use the word, playbooks, so give them plays or something that they could potentially use or sample language based on commonly asked questions or common concerns, things like that. How have you found the balance to have versus autonomy versus using these sample dialogues, et cetera, any thoughts there?
Irene Griffin: (12:45)
So I guess we do have FAQ’s and for a knowledge base, that’s really important for us to get the answer, right. It’s not just about how we are talking to customers, about whether or not we’re able to solve it on first touch. That’s also a huge part of the customer service experience. So, I think autonomy is really much more important. When you let them problem solve on their own, I think that’s really key.
Gabe Larsen: (13:07)
Yeah. Yep. In order to get them to that level, have you found, with outside of the playbook, other training aspects you’ve had to really facilitate or product training? How do you get to the people where they kind of have that balance or that capability of being able to be off the cuff and get the answers you need?
Irene Griffin: (13:25)
I think for me personally, the most successful path towards that has been shadowing. So when you have someone that’s really great at what they do, just getting your staff to watch and listen and understand that this is how we conduct ourselves. This is how we talk to customers and this is what’s expected. And then I found this to be pretty successful if you hire the right folks that get it to begin with and they understand, and I think it’s a more pleasurable experience, even for the support people to create the relationship. And then we get high marks. We get high MPS scores because our customers love the team that they’re working with. And so when I get feedback from my customer base, it’s by name, they’re naming folks that they love working with. And it doesn’t mean that we solved the problem right away. It doesn’t mean that it was a magic wand experience, but they know that we’re here and we know they know that we’re working for them, we’re working hard for them. And that honestly buys a lot of leverage with critical problems that you just need a team of technical people to resolve and it’s a little out of your hands to deliver. Maintaining that relationship really helps the customer base and keeps them– . What’s more important for me is making sure that our customers are ready and wanting to call us back again and again and so that we leave them with an experience that is a positive one. So they feel comfortable reaching out to us whenever they need us.
Gabe Larsen: (14:47)
Got it. Do you feel like, I mean, you obviously work in the B2B space and you’ve hit some of these things that kind of drive this empathetic model, other kinds of things outside of this that are keys to building customer relationships that you’ve found?
Irene Griffin: (15:00)
Oh, that’s a good question. I think just getting on the phone with them, sooner than later, is a really key component. I know today nobody just calls each other, right? You text somebody and you say, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?” And then you set up a minute to talk and that’s sort of the appropriate etiquette these days. Just ringing someone out of the blues generally considered, –I think the phone has a huge component in hearing people’s voices and you get a lot from tone and clear up a lot of misunderstanding and get to a resolution a lot faster when you just pick up the phone and call the customer. So I think that’s another key component and you can respond to the ticket and type out your responses, but a lot of times it gives them an opportunity to talk and folks love to talk. Most of the time.
Gabe Larsen: (15:48)
A little more proactiveness, right? You know, certainly methodologies lend itself to being a little more proactive, but we can respond and email, but we could sometimes, “I’m going to try to get ahead of this one or I’m going to just get them right now,” and you’d be a little more aggressive, but sometimes that does pay off. I like that.
Irene Griffin: (16:08)
And a lot of times, to add to that, they’ll end up adding on a couple of extra questions once they’re on the phone and then deflects future tickets. So there’s a lot to it.
Gabe Larsen: (16:18)
While you got them, might as well get it all answered. Right? Get it all out of them. Do you, certainly we talked about a lot of different stuff in this model, so personality and hiring dynamics and using playbooks. If you had to kind of sum it up, as a takeaway that is the secret to having a great support team for a lot of leaders out there like yourself who are trying to navigate these challenging times, what would be kind of your closing statement or closing argument here?
Irene Griffin: (16:45)
I would say that on top of everything we discussed today about getting positive energy folks, make sure that you have a diversity of background folks as well. I think that’s just a huge thing. Nothing wrong with pulling from the same group or the same fraternity at one particular university and hiring a bunch of friends but, there’s a lot of value in dragging people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds. I think that it gives people a more cosmopolitan or I guess, more rich background in which to work and it improves them personally. So I think that’s one of the extra takeaways in summary that I would add on top of that.
Gabe Larsen: (17:28)
And that’s very timely as well. Right? I think we’re all trying to reflect a little bit more on that and find ways to do it. It sounds like that’s been beneficial for you. So Irene, I really appreciate your time. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these ideas, what’s the best way to do that?
Irene Griffin: (17:45)
Yeah, absolutely. So, if you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Irene Griffin at FranConnect, and I think that should be enough info. If you look me up, I’d be happy to link in with you and continue this conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (17:56)
Yeah. It’s always fun to continue the conversation guys. So again, Irene, thanks for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Irene Griffin: (18:01)
Exit Voice: (18:09)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Douglas Kramon, Senior Director of Fan Support & Customer Care Operations at ESPN, to discuss how customer care drives customer experience. ESPN is a world renowned sports network with an unmatched customer care system. Learn how Douglas has become so successful in customer relations by listening to the podcast below.
The Customer Care Operations team at ESPN has transformed the world of customer experience by creating a more empathetic relationship between the agent and the customer. By doing so, not only have they improved customer experiences, but they have made room for fan-to-fan sports discussion. The concept of the “fan” was created as a nickname for customers at ESPN to make a more relatable and human connection to the agents. Douglas states, “But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.” Douglas talks about how everyone in the Fan Support department is a big sports fan and because of this, they are better able to have constructive conversations when customers reach out to ESPN Fan Support.
Improving Brand Experience During COVID-19
For many fans, sports are memories. With this in mind, Douglas’ team knows that sports bring people together and many are missing that fan-to-fan interaction. They want to keep the sports memories alive, especially during COVID-19 when live sporting events have decreased. To do this, Douglas’ team is actively searching for ways to improve the ESPN sport experience all while balancing business and working from home during a pandemic. As Douglas mentions, “Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate.” While live sporting events are minimal, his team is working to replace the experience with engaging content such as a new docuseries called The Last Dance. Continuing to better the fan experience with more interesting content, contacting through SMS, live messaging, and human interaction, Douglas’ team has seen a large increase in C-SAT.
Three Ways to Keep Agents Happy and Thriving
At ESPN, not only is it important to keep the fans happy, it’s also important to keep the Fan Support agents happy. Douglas has figured out three elements that help his team thrive in a fast paced environment: workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. He hopes to harbor a motivating workspace where daily collaboration welcomes insightful communication. In connection with the nutrition concept, Douglas talks about how his agents have families and lives outside of the work environment and he emphasizes the importance of home life. He says:
So you had a great C-SAT. You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, ‘Thank you for doing what you are doing.’ With the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them.
To Douglas, happy agents are a prerequisite to happy fans and small acts make a big difference in agent and fan morale.
To learn more about how customer care drives customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon
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 jump in. We’re going to be talking about customer care driving customer experience, and to do that, we brought on Douglas Kramon. He’s currently the senior director of fan support and customer care operations at ESPN. Douglas, we appreciate you joining. How are ya?
Douglas Kramon: (00:30)
Good Gabe. Thank you so much for having me.
Gabe Larsen : (00:33)
Yeah, I think this will be fun. I mean, you’ve got a real interesting background. Obviously the company you’re working at, a lot of different changes going on there, and I want to jump into some of the ways you’ve managed around that. Still trying to drive those customers to be excited and passionate about a brand that I think really has kind of that passion innately in it. Before we do though, tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background, and then we can kind of jump in.
Douglas Kramon: (01:02)
Sure. My background is obviously when you go to college for Native American archeology and cultural anthropology, it’s natural to land at the worldwide leader of sports. That’s just what you do. It just happened. And needless to say, it’s been a wonderful time at ESPN. But, through my time post college, it’s really all been about customer experience and identifying the opportunities to improve the brand experience with the customer and what I will refer to with ESPN, we call the “fan.” ESPN is a Disney organization and so we have some serious brand prestige to try to maintain and we’re dealing with sports fans. Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate. So a lot of what I do is to make sure in my teams, the passion of sport or the passion that spans out for sport is brought closer to what they want to see.
Gabe Larsen : (02:21)
I love that.
Douglas Kramon: (02:21)
So we’re excited about that. And times have changed a little bit right now as we’re dealing with COVID-19, but that challenge still exists.
Gabe Larsen : (02:30)
Amen. Amen. So let’s get into that part of it. I mean, obviously, as you think about your current environment, it’s all about live – live sports, live everything. And that’s one of the things that drives the passion I think for the brand specifically, thinking about some of the sports ideas. Although on the Disney side, as you said, right? A lot of live interaction there, theme parks, et cetera. If you can just kind of paint the picture as to how you’re viewing it with all the changes that have gone on. Like what’s kind of going through your mind from a, “Holy smokes, the world has kind of turned and now I find myself in a very precarious place?”
Douglas Kramon: (03:14)
Yeah. It’s an excellent question. You know, going into this early to mid-March, I’m ramping up my care team to provide support for millions upon millions of college, NCAA tournaments, challenge players, looking for a college tournament. And then directly following that the beginning of major league baseball and fantasy baseball and suddenly like that, it’s all gone. So you suddenly have an opportunity and you’re ramped up accordingly for one of the most exciting months, if you will, in sports and then it just vanishes. So the live sport experience worldwide has vanished before our eyes.
Gabe Larsen : (03:59)
Man, when that NCA turned, when the big dance got canceled, I felt that one personally, because there’s sports that – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt but I’m so passionate about this. Some of the sports, golf pro stuff, but man to see those kids who this is so important to them. They’re seniors. They’re going to the big dance, a lot of them for the first time and those pictures were just heartbreaking to see.
Douglas Kramon: (04:27)
And that’s the emotion of live sport? Is it not?
Gabe Larsen : (04:29)
Douglas Kramon: (04:29)
So knowing that, it’s disappeared and our fans feel that. It’s as if something has been ripped out of them in an incredibly difficult and challenging time already with what’s going on in the world. So removing live sport, we are working to replace the experience until it comes back with incredible content as you and I have talked about with exciting things like The Last Dance, which is now the number one viewing experience out there.
Gabe Larsen : (05:03)
For people who don’t know what that is, give them just 30 second on that.
Douglas Kramon: (05:07)
Sure, so the last dance is a docuseries about the 97-98 season of the Bulls and Michael Jordan leading that team. And really the last time that team would be together and it shows the evolution of the Bulls from the early nineties on. And of course their premier players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-
Gabe Larsen : (05:34)
It’s really well done.
Douglas Kramon: (05:34)
It really is an incredible storytelling experience. It’s not a live sport.
Gabe Larsen : (05:39)
I’m on episode four.
Douglas Kramon: (05:40)
Soon enough, you got two more to go before this weekend release – I think Saturday. It’s something where passion for sport is still there and we’re seeing that. So right now we shifted from live viewing triaged, in the moment triaged, for live sport because in customer service, for what I do, we’re like a Formula One pit crew. And while all I care about is be brief, be bright and be gone. That’s true enough.
Gabe Larsen : (06:11)
I love that. Say it one more time. That’s kind of been the typical thing of customer service right?
Douglas Kramon: (06:17)
Sure. Be brief, be bright and be gone so you can get the next fan or the next customer and service them and be smart about it. We’re looking at a situation now where we use to get contacts from fans and triage, get you connected appropriately to your TV provider, allow you to view something on a larger screen, you get a lot of technical issues, or it’s lock time almost for fantasy baseball, help you with your rosters. All of that is live triaged and we have special tools where we can see what’s coming over the horizon and hit us. So we know in the moment what to be prepared for. We have great tools that turn dark data into live data and what’s coming to the sender and what folks are saying on social and everywhere. But when it suddenly shuts off the live sport tab and we have to go to video on demand, it’s a different kind of support model, but it’s one where we have the opportunity to also have fan-to-fan dialogue. We like to say, and we believe this wholeheartedly, for customer service, we are fellow fans in the stands with our fans. We’re not the suits in the suites, meaning we’re there with you. We’re sports fans just like you –
Gabe Larsen : (07:33)
I love that.
Douglas Kramon: (07:33)
– and we understand what you’re going through and if you want to talk a little sport, we do too. And that’s what we do and our C-SAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have now, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion, not so much debate, and if it is, it’s off the cuff and it’s jovial. But we, like the fans we know, miss sport. And so we see it in C-SAT, they wanted to come back and we like to say, “We miss it too,” and then we talk a little sport and we move on.
Gabe Larsen : (08:10)
Okay. So I got to click into that for a minute. The typical motion has been kind of be brief, you know, get off, be gone. I liked your saying better. But now, you’re open a little more, you kind of push that based on the changes to have a dialogue because I’m missing sports, the ref’s missing sports. So is there some examples? I mean, you’re having people then kind of be like call in for a problem, but it is, I really miss my Celtics man. You Celtics fan? And next thing you know, five minutes later, we’re talking about the glory days with Garnett and winning a couple championships. Is that kind of what’s going on?
Douglas Kramon: (08:48)
Absolutely. Just yesterday for example, we have a C-SAT, customer satisfaction survey response, and I’ll tell you what the fan said. Fan gave the agent five out of five stars and said, “I called to relay a story about coach Don Shula. As you know, Don Shula passed away recently. I was a highschool coach for 47 years and I spoke about motivation for the 1972 Dolphins. Mark was very attentive, the agent Mark, to the story and he listened and he loved it. And that’s important to me. He’s a great employee for ESPN. Thank you for allowing me to share this conversation.”
Gabe Larsen : (09:29)
Douglas Kramon: (09:29)
We also have others where Alex, for example, and the fan writes to C-SAT, he was, “prompt, helpful and amazing with troubleshooting. But it sucks that he’s a Jets fan, but as the Bills are my team, I have no room to talk.” So as you can see, there’s a jovial nature and a conversational nature from our fans where you reach a care agent. You’re reaching a brand specialist who is also a brand protector. We have chatbots. We have FAQ deflectors. We have self service. We have AI in the IVR methods. Hang on, let me put my dog out real quick.
Gabe Larsen : (10:17)
You’re good! It’s the reality man, the dog [inaudible] that goes, it’s the way the world is right now.
Douglas Kramon: (10:20)
This is the new reality. I have to be here with my dog in the office. So we are brand protectors or agents. When you actually reach the live agent, it’s human-to-human interaction, fan-to-fan. And we see it in our C-SAT and Gabe, let me point out during this time since the quarantine, which is about March 15th to today. What is it we’re looking at, May 8th?
Gabe Larsen : (10:49)
Coming up on two months, coming up on two, right?
Douglas Kramon: (10:51)
Our C-SAT has never been higher. Never.
Gabe Larsen : (10:55)
Douglas Kramon: (10:56)
When you compare it to this time last year, we’re 14% higher and if you compare it to the 40 days prior to 45 days prior to that, we’re 9% higher and it’s because our agents are showing a dialogue, empathy, understanding, compassion, and letting fans know we miss it too. We miss-
Gabe Larsen : (11:18)
I love that. So a couple of follow ups on that one is, how do you find p– How do you find agents like that? I mean, I feel like I’d be a good agent-
Douglas Kramon: (11:26)
You would, I bet you would.
Gabe Larsen : (11:26)
– in one of your operations because I watch ESPN– Well, I did watch it religiously every night just to be kind of up on the latest because I like to have kind of the, what do they call it? The cooler room talk-
Douglas Kramon: (11:40)
Absolutely! The water cooler talk.
Gabe Larsen : (11:40)
– the water cooler talk. How do you find these people, do you actually screen for fools like me who loves sports or what’s kind of the –
Douglas Kramon: (11:51)
Well, the answer is an absolute yes. So you have to pass a sports test to work at ESPN and customer service and ultimately you have to show passion for sport in the interview. We would like you to know fantasy football or baseball or basketball or hockey. You don’t need to know them all. Then we ask for a sports story and Gabe, for example, I’m a Jets fan. It’s challenging to be a Jets fan because the Jets are at the bottom of the barrel most of the time. So it’s one day they won’t be, but we’re suffering Jets fans. Our feeling is this. You love your team because they’re yours, not because they’re great. I want a story from every agent that tells me what they love about their favorite sports star, the game, their team, their love of a specific event. Like they watched the 1980 Olympics hockey team, USA hockey win. And tell us a story. I need to know that you’re connected to sport.
Gabe Larsen : (13:02)
I love that. When you get someone to tell that story, I’m sure it can come out. You can just gauge very quickly kind of the passion and the realness about stories. Do you want to hear my story, Doug?
Douglas Kramon: (13:13)
Gabe Larsen : (13:13)
I’m thinking of The Last Dance. I’ll make this one brief. I don’t remember if it was ’97 or ’98, but I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m thinking Jordan game six, Byron Russell, driving to the whole Jordan memory. Jordan does that push and he sinks it and puts Utah out of it again. I mean, Utah is never going to win an NBA championship. They had their chance, but obviously they had to come against the Jordan era.
Douglas Kramon: (13:47)
That was the first Karl Malone game, if I’m correct.
Gabe Larsen : (13:50)
Yeah! Karl Malone, John Stockton. I mean, that was the team. Again we’re a small market company and so [inaudible] every year and –
Douglas Kramon: (13:57)
Was Clyde Drexler on that team possibly? That was a power team.
Gabe Larsen : (14:02)
Douglas Kramon: (14:02)
It’s the storytelling that you see, it brings it back, the memories. That’s what sports are about. Now, don’t get me wrong. I work in customer care, I’m constantly dealing with things that are issues, broken links, incorrect team logos, pages that are broken that won’t display, let’s say video issues with stutter, jitter, or black screen, et cetera, fantasy confusion. We’re constantly triaging. It never ends. But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.
Gabe Larsen : (14:47)
Yeah. So that would be my followup on that. When you kind of mentioned, and it sounds like you got a decent amount of sophistication in this, you do have some bots, you have some deflection, you’ve got some knowledge base, you’ve got live agents, IVR intelligence on IVR. Without going into extreme detail, how do you kind of find that balance of the individual interaction, but also being efficient and effective and deflecting and making sure that people can self service a little bit? Quick thoughts on that?
Douglas Kramon: (15:19)
So we have tools that determine, based on frequency, recency, frequency, sentiment, and velocity. We know what fans are saying to us via– and I’ll talk on live channels, chat, phone, SMS, right? So those are the ones that we’re doing. Email is not live.
Gabe Larsen : (15:40)
So which one’s most active for you guys?
Douglas Kramon: (15:43)
SMS is growing by leaps and bounds –
Gabe Larsen : (15:45)
Douglas Kramon: (15:45)
– because the younger demo loves it and we’re finding C-SAT highest on SMS because you move at the pace of the fan. When the fan is texting back and forth with you, they might be doing other things during their day, whether or not in quarantine. They’re moving around and they ask a question. They don’t expect an immediate synchronous response. If they do, our SMS is faster, the agent responds quicker. If not, we see a top C-SAT score with an average response time between three and eight minutes of a response back to a fan, meaning it’s moving at the speed of the fan. So we know the most common questions that are coming into us based on a rapid analysis of keyword extraction rate. And so we immediately put the things up that an FAQ could respond to and put it out there for our bots, our chat bot or SMS bot, our traditional and all of that. But, if you get passed through to an agent and the bot has failed, you immediately move to the top of the queue [inaudible] trying to address. And we then capture, what is that question? And we determine maybe that’s something where we can put that out. [Inaudible] The goal is, if you reach my agent, we have to do what’s called a plus one. Not only do we give you the answer, but we know you didn’t want to reach out to us to begin with. Reaching out to customer service is not fun. We need to make sure that you’re satisfied and that we surprise you with a sports knowledge opportunity, information of an article that might interest you about what we just discussed. So for example, if you’re talking fantasy football and it’s information that now Frank Gore has signed a one year deal with the Jets and you want to understand how you can use Frank Gore, when will he be available in fantasy on the Jets? We will just say details on that and, “by the way, check out this article.” [inaudible] gives details about what Frank Gore’s impact may be on fantasy with the Jets. So always an opportunity just to do a little bit more. Why sports is based on emotion and fans retain that.
Gabe Larsen : (18:13)
Yes. Yeah. I love that. I think, actually, fans do want the self service. For a while, it was a little at a negative connotation, but as a fan, I kind of want to get– if I have those quick answers or quick questions, getting quick answers, I’d prefer to self serve.
Douglas Kramon: (18:29)
Yes. It’s exactly. I think fans prefer self service.
Gabe Larsen : (18:33)
I’m open to chat with somebody and obviously there’s very specific things sometimes where it’s like, look, there’s no bot that can help me with this. I gotta make two transitions from two airlines in two countries. Like I got to talk to someone about this flight, it’s too complicated.
Douglas Kramon: (18:48)
You used to say to our bot, “Agent.” Boom, it goes right to an agent. Our bots don’t take themselves too seriously. They know when to say, “Okay, I’m done.”
Gabe Larsen : (19:00)
Oh, yeah. Well, Doug, we’re coming to the end here. But, you’re my new favorite customer care expert. Loved our conversation. So fun to kind of hear some of the things you guys are doing to react, some of the priorities you’re taking and then just some of the advice you’ve given. And I’d like to end with that. As you think about the audience, other customer care leaders fight the same battles you’re fighting — obviously different brands, different situations, industry, but a lot of the same. We’re all we’re all in quarantine. Let’s see what last piece of advice you’d kind of give to make everybody feel, give them that tip that they can use to win.
Douglas Kramon: (19:35)
That’s a great question. Honestly, you’re not going to have great customer service or fan support as we call it. If this were Disney, we call it like guest support, or viewer support, or whatever it may be. Last year agents were feeling good. Now granted, our agents are now all working at home. They used to work in a center because it’s sports is collaborative and we know that a center is best for that. But when they’re working at home, my recommendation is you have happy agents. You will have happy fans. And it’s a challenge. So we have identified three things. We want to make sure that we have a motivating workspace for our agents. We want to ensure collaboration daily with other agents like you’re in the center. And we have a website where we do constant coffee breaks and we also award agents on a regular basis through what we call nutrition. So it’s workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. Remember these are [inaudible] agents. They’re with their families. So you had a great C-SAT? You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, “Thank you for doing what you are doing.” with the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them. And we’re feeding them where the opportunity presents itself, because these are incredibly challenging times for family and for individuals. Our best is all about making sure we’re keeping our workplace agents happy and it shows in our C-SAT.
Gabe Larsen : (21:18)
I love that, man. Especially the food part. You know, it must be the young person in me. It’s like the food. I mean, it’s something small, but it makes a difference. So I love that idea. I think –
Douglas Kramon: (21:32)
I agree. We have UFC 249 coming up this weekend, which is the first real live sport opportunity — wings for everybody. So we’re excited about this.
Gabe Larsen : (21:42)
Douglas, we are bringing you back, man. I want to hear about that last part. We did not go deep enough into some of the things you’re doing with your employees. So consider yourself tapped again for round two, maybe in the next couple of months, but appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that?
Douglas Kramon: (22:01)
Sure, Linkedin. I’m right on there as Douglas Kramon, K – R – A – M – O – N. I’m happy to chat. I’m always open to learning new things and to sharing.
Gabe Larsen : (22:10)
Love it. Alright well hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Douglas Kramon: (22:15)
You too Gabe! Thank you so very much.
Exit Voice: (22:22)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
Every consumer has a different expectation as to how they believe they should be treated by organizations they do business with. Perhaps I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a full refund and an apology when I feel I’ve been wronged, whereas you wouldn’t be caught dead being so demanding.
But while we all have our minute differences, it is also true that consumer expectations generally shift with the times, and have clear generational differences. This past year has brought a significant amount of changes, and businesses may feel more in the dark about what their consumers are demanding. We wanted to pull back that curtain.
Kustomer surveyed over 550 US-based consumers to better understand what they expect from the customer experience, where organizations are falling short, and how expectations have shifted across generations. According to our research, 79% of consumers say customer service is extremely important when deciding where to shop, and many consumers are more picky with where they spend their money than ever before. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to deliver on consumers’ growing demands. You can download the full report here.
We Must Treat Customers as Humans
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that empathy is of the utmost importance when dealing with customers. As the world has drastically changed, and individuals feel more stress and anxiety than ever before, the potential to brighten someone’s day with a simple support interaction is hugely impactful.
According to our survey, 69% of consumers expect an organization to prioritize their problem if they are upset. Through a combination of sentiment analysis and intelligent routing, your customer service platform should be able to move upset or loyal customers to the front of the line and immediately get them help from the most appropriate agent.
Additionally, 53% of consumers expect a business to know about them and personalize how they interact. To create these meaningful relationships, companies need to adopt technology that allows them to see customer history, issues and behavior in context, no matter the platform. According to Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman. “We were never thinking of it in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”
One thing is clear across the board: consumers expect retailers to know how they’ve interacted in the past, what issues they’ve encountered, and they want organizations to actively make amends. A whopping 76% of consumers expect companies to proactively follow-up and reach out to them if there is a problem. Whether it is a winter storm delaying a shipment, a new safety policy, or a fulfillment issue, proactive outreach is not only a nice benefit, it is now an expectation. Proactive communication can provide even more value when you use it for actions like reengaging unhappy or complacent customers, and building brand loyalty with targeted offers. Make sure your platform can power bulk messaging, targeting specific customer segments based on your unique data, like orders, location, or CSAT. In no time your customer service team will turn from a cost center into a profit center.
The Need for Speed in CX
We’ve all been there. Too much to do, too little time. This turn of phrase is even more pertinent for customer service organizations. Delivering real-time service is inherently difficult without endless resources, especially during peak shopping periods. But it is truly what your customers expect.
Seventy-one percent of consumers believe their problem should be solved immediately upon contacting customer service, but 52% report that they’ve experienced hold times longer than fifteen minutes. That’s a massive amount of consumers whose expectations are not being met.
Luckily, thanks to automation and artificial intelligence (AI), businesses now have the opportunity to provide more self-service options, freeing up agent time for complex and proactive support. In fact, 53% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning AI-powered experiences fulfill their needs. Tools like chatbots are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, with 53% of consumers saying that chatbots improve the customer experience. They can be used to collect initial information, answer simple questions, and direct customers to a help center if human intervention is not needed.
These tools 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. Additionally, 42% of consumers reported that they would be willing to buy a product or service from a chatbot. This transforms AI-powered chatbots from a deflection tool into a revenue generator, with the ability to suggest similar products, or answer questions consumers need clarification on before buying.
To read the full report, including industry and demographic data, click here.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Jason Henne, Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar, to discuss customer service for high-end brands and how to maintain brand reputation in new and existing industries. Jason Henne started his career in CX 26 years ago working for a telecommunications company as a service rep. After moving his way up the company and switching to luxury packaged goods, he has spent the last 15 years at the VP/Director level on customer service for luxury or big ticket products. He and Gabe discuss valuable insights into ideas of tired customer service. Listen to the full podcast below.
Examples, Definitions and Results of White Glove Customer Experience
Gabe and Jason start their conversation off by discussing the definition of white glove customer experience and if it only applies to big ticket customers. Jason notes that while there is a need to make sure that high paying customers get their money’s worth, every customer is valuable. When you work with luxury brands, that expectation is already there. White glove customer service is going above and beyond what the customer expects, even when they are expecting a lot because it is a luxury brand. Jason shares an example of luxury dealership vs any other dealership. He states, “You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, … you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.”
How to Uphold Brand Reputation and Recognition
Another important aspect of customer service that Gabe and Jason discuss is the need for positive brand recognition and reputation. Jason is currently working at Momentum Solar, a new industry that typically has a negative connotation. However, his company has done a few things to separate themselves from the negative connotation of their competitors. The first thing they do to build recognition and reputation is educating the customer on the industry, then the company. Jason states, “And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service.”
The next thing Jason does with his team to ensure a positive brand reputation is taking every review seriously and getting other departments involved. Solving problems and having the budget to go above and beyond for customers requires department coordination. Positive discussions have to take place with the finance department and the sales team so that they can approve budgets and be aware of any changes made. To summarize, Jason notes, “we’re all working … and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. … Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.”
The Goal of Golden or White Glove CX Experience
As a final piece of advice for companies trying to adjust and improve their customer experience, Jason reminds companies what the goal is for the CX department. He states, “By the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.” No customer actually wants to call the customer service department to try and get their issue resolved, but it is necessary. Because of this necessity, Jason points out that it is the job of the CX department to make sure that the phone call or interaction with the customer is as effortless as possible and that the customer leaves happy and satisfied. For a final piece of motivation for companies to remember this goal and strive for it, Jason states, “By keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.”
To learn more about how to adapt your business to the new market, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne
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. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about two things here. Number one is, how to really drive customer experience with high-end brands. When you’re talking about big ticket items, that real red carpet experience. In addition, we want to navigate through how to manage reputation a little bit in challenging times or in challenging industries. We’ve got such an interesting guest with such a diverse background. We wanted to hit a couple of different topics today. So to do that, we brought on Jason Henne. He’s currently the Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar. Jason, thanks for joining. How are you?
Jason Henne: (00:51)
I am doing great. Thanks very much for having me today. I really appreciate it.
Gabe Larsen: (00:55)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s always fun to talk to someone who’s got such a — a lot of experience in CX, lot of different roles, et cetera. I think it will be a fun talk track. Can you just double click a little bit on your experience and background and talk a little bit about that?
Jason Henne: (01:10)
Yeah, sure. Sure. First and foremost, I just want to make sure everybody is safe and sound and healthy and doing good and all that, especially in these crazy times, but yeah. So I’ve been in customer service now, this is my 26th year. I started in 1994 in telecommunications as literally a customer service rep on the phones for a telecom company working the 4-40 shift. So I worked 10 hours a day, four days a week, the overnight shift, and then got three days off in a row. And through the years I worked my way up from a call center rep to team lead, to manager, to national account manager, to senior manager. And then I shifted out of telecom into consumer packaged goods on the luxury end where I became a director. And I’ve stayed at the director and VP level now for the past 15 years and anything from, like I said, I started in telecom, but, at least over the past decade or so, I’ve been in what we would consider luxury or big ticket items where you really need to give that white glove and red carpet customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (02:19)
I love that. Yeah, that’s quite the diversified experience. I think it’ll be fun to hear about some of those different experiences. So let’s dive in and maybe we can start with this high end customer service experience; big ticket items, “white glove” as you kind of phrase it as. How do you, if you just kind of for the audience, is it really that much different of motion when you kind of are working for a Porsche versus a Toyota for example. I mean —
Jason Henne: (02:49)
Gabe Larsen: (02:49)
Isn’t it customer experience or is it really that much different?
Jason Henne: (02:53)
So you’d like the customer to think that customer experience is customers experience; however, in reality, that really isn’t the case. When you’re working telecom or a cable company or anything like that, they get you on the phone, they get you off the phone. They take care of your problem. That’s it. However, when, just like you said, when you’re talking about Porsche, Cadillac, any luxury brand where they’re spending the money in one big lump sum, whether it’s a finance or a lease or a large purchase, or just sometimes the brand name itself, there’s a reputation that you have to uphold to keep that brand reputation and that brand recognition. So the customers expect that and the customers demand that. So whether it be, I’ll give you an example. When I worked in telecom, we got graded as reps on our average call time. They wanted to keep the calls at, I believe it was, four minutes or less.
Gabe Larsen: (03:57)
Jason Henne: (03:58)
I moved on into luxury and I became a leader in the luxury realm. I took call time and threw it out the window. I don’t care if you’re on the phone with a customer for an hour, if you are giving them service that they need at the service that they deserve. And most importantly, resolving their problem, if possible on that one call, that one call resolution. That’s what matters because they’re going to then get off the phone and say, wow, I was really treated great. And then, say they’re at a dinner party or talking to their friends or something and they’re comparing what brands they use or what company they use, that one person could tell the 10 or 15 people that they’re at a dinner party with; “Yeah, well, I’m using X brand and I had an issue with them a few weeks ago and I called them up and wow, they handled everything I needed in an hour and they didn’t rush me. I didn’t feel rushed. And they handled my situation perfectly.”
Gabe Larsen: (04:54)
What I love. And I love that. So it’s a different, there’s certain things you can do in kind of that luxury environment that you probably just can’t really do in kind of that velocity environment, where you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of transactions and customers.
Jason Henne: (05:11)
Right. And you nailed it when you did the comparison versus Porsche and another type of car. You go in to get your car service and say, you have, I don’t know, a Ugo from like the eighties, if you could find a place that services, and you go and, “All right. Yeah. We’ll take care of it, have a seat.” Well, whatever. You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, or a Porsche dealership, you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.
Gabe Larsen: (05:49)
Jason Henne: (05:50)
So again, it’s brand reputation, it’s word of mouth. And that’s what I take in, in where I am now at Momentum Solar. We are a big ticket item. We really are. It’s not an inexpensive purchase and there are so many benefits to it. And because we know that the customers are spending a good amount of money on their product, if they have an issue with their product or with their contractor, a billing issue, which we have to explain to them, I don’t care how long we’re on the phone with them for. I don’t care if it takes 60, 90 minutes to go over step by step of the agreement or go over their billing with them piece by piece. I want to make sure that when the conversation is done, their situation is resolved, they have peace of mind, and they were wowed by our customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (06:43)
Yeah, I do. I think that’s the right mentality. I love the examples. So one is the phone call, for example, right? Where you kind of ditch the call time and said, “Let’s just focus on whatever we need to focus on to get this right.” And ditch that kind of call time. As you’ve worked with some of your luxury brands in your past, are there other of those types of examples where you did, you kind of got into the specifics of doing it differently, kind of —
Jason Henne: (07:14)
Gabe Larsen: (07:15)
Asked differently, et cetera?
Jason Henne: (07:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I was at, I spent a year as a head of customer service for a very high end interior wall covering company. And my boss who was the chief operations officer, his name is Mike. He was, and what he taught me, and he was so big on integrity. And listen, I’ve always been big on integrity, but they took it to another level and say something wrong happened and you know it was our fault or it was just something that couldn’t be out of everybody’s wheelhouse, right. We knew it was no one’s fault of our own. Maybe it was a shipper or something, but it fell on us and we needed to make it right. Not only do you give the apology, do you make it right, you then, we then went above and beyond. Right. And what I mean by that is, okay, let’s make this more personal. We’re going to send them maybe a bouquet of flowers with an apology note, or we work with a vendor that supplied fudge and brownies for us. So we would send them a box of chocolates with an apology note, or a simple thing such as a balloon or something like that, just to apologize. And I think the integrity and taking accountability of maybe it wasn’t our fault 100%, but we know the onus does fall on us and we’re going to make it right. And we’re going to show you that we’re sorry, and we’re going to show you that we are continually there for you.
Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Got it. Yeah. So you really did, I mean, you’ve found a way again to just go. It’s almost like in a regular brand, they have these, I say regular brand, but they have these kinds of premier, platinum, the gold, silver, bronze, but it’s like you’re only delivering that gold service, right? Whether it’s a phone call issue resolution. Do you find that, I mean, more companies want to deliver, more companies want to do some of the things you’re talking about. It’s just that it’s too timely and too costly. Right? There’s just gotta be a balance. You just can’t, you can’t do that, you can’t give the bagels to everybody. Right?
Jason Henne: (09:29)
Right, right. You’re right. So, what you have to do is a lot, I don’t want to say begging, but make sure you’re vocal in your finance meetings when you’re talking about your operational expenses, when you’re talking about your capital expenses for the next year. “Hey, Cap X for next year. Okay. On the operational side, we know we might need a few more reps because our call volume, our average call time is still higher. Let’s make sure that we have the Cap X in there for some extra computers for next year. So balance out any additional headcount. Let’s make sure, put your ideas to them, to the finance department when you’re going over your budget for the next year. Make your case, state your case, create a PowerPoint presentation, give reasons why, get surveys from your customers and show them what the customers want. That really does help.
Gabe Larsen: (10:27)
Yeah. Yeah. Do you recommend, I like the planning because I think some people want to deliver that exceptional customer experience, but you mentioned Cap X for example, it’s like, they’re not thinking about the things that need to be in place to do that. Well, you might need some additional headcounts, some different machines, technology, computers, et cetera. Anything else you’ve done double click on that. Like, “Hey, if you’re going to really plan to deliver a great customer experience or go above and beyond a budget people,” anything else you’d highlight in that aspect?
Jason Henne: (10:59)
Yeah, training. You make sure your reps are fully trained on every type of material, product, or service that you’re delivering. So when they’re on the phone with the customer, they don’t have to say, “Ah, I don’t know. Let me find out and call you back.” You want to make sure —
Gabe Larsen: (11:16)
That empowerment, right?
Jason Henne: (11:18)
Yeah. Yeah. And you want to make sure that rep has that knowledge right off the bat. And if it’s a lot to take in, make sure you have a very well rounded and full and easy to navigate knowledge base.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
So they can actually get the answers that they potentially want. Right?
Jason Henne: (11:36)
Exactly. And make sure that the knowledge base stays updated because things change constantly and you don’t want to miss anything and tell the customer something from four years ago that might not be applicable now.
Gabe Larsen: (11:48)
Yeah, welcome to everybody’s world. Right? That, that, that darn going, gonna curse. What would you kind of advise? Or, how would you advise clients who are thinking about, I’m forgetting the name I’ve often heard about it, but it’s kind of the tiered customer service program, right? It is that if you’re a gold platinum member, if you’re a high end member, you kind of do go to this and you do get treated differently. Is that, maybe you’ve done that or not done that, but do you think that’s a wise thing to go for? Is it just like, just treat everybody valuable?
Jason Henne: (12:20)
I agree with treating everybody valuable. However, I do understand that companies do tier A, tier B, tier C, depending on the amount of money that a customer —
Gabe Larsen: (12:30)
Jason Henne: (12:31)
Depending on the amount of money that a customer spends either lifetime or through a five-year, four-year or three-year span. However, I think with that, there can become number one, confusion; number two, you then have to make sure your CRM is updated on what level they are; and number three, you then have to
Gabe Larsen: (12:51)
You have three different policies. Don’t you? It’s like–
Jason Henne: (12:54)
Then you have, yes, then you have three different policies and then you have to worry about how do we automatically make sure we know that customer is an, A, B and C when they call. Do you have to put their phone number in your, your call center phone system to make sure they go into this segmented queue? Or does it go into the general queue where they could get everybody and are they first in, first out? There’s a lot of planning in that.
Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
Yeah, yeah. That, that last part, I mean, personalization was before COVID, I think a bigger buzzword. It’s kind of dropped, I think people are talking about a few different things, but yeah, that ability just to do phone lookups and keep the history of all the transactions that somebody has done to really be like, “Hey, I noticed you had a flight in the last couple of months, or you did these purchases.” That’s not a ticketing system. That’s consistent with the CRM system and not all CRMs. So you are sometimes talking about multiple layers of complexity there. Not that, I’m certainly, you’re probably more expert than I am, but I did just want to highlight that because I’ve heard multiple people, we don’t have a CRM, we have a ticketing system. Case management is not CRM.
Jason Henne: (14:09)
Right. That’s such a great point. So I guess to answer your question, I’m not a fan of first class, second class, third class customers. I think everybody should be treated the exact same because that customer that maybe was once a one time purchaser might end up being a multiple time purchaser, giving a ton of referrals if we treat them the same way that we’re going to treat someone who’s spending a hundred thousand dollars on a claim.
Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
Interesting. Interesting. Okay. I want to turn for a minute and attack this, kind of your guys’ space. One of the things that I felt was interesting in your background and actually more in your current prerogative is solar. Solar has, it just has an interesting history, right? It’s had some government stuff, you’ve had some door knocker people. In some cases, in some areas it’s really taken off. In other places, it has a little bit of a bad rap. How have you been able to manage through what let’s maybe call an emerging industry? Something that’s not Telecom. I mean, that’s been around a hundred year. Solar, it’s just got a lot of different players. It’s got a lot of different attitudes, reputations. How does it kind of work managing through some of those intricacies?
Jason Henne: (15:30)
Well, number one, you’re right. Solar has not been around for a long time. It’s still emerging and we’re still getting into more States, as governments are approving it for more tax incentives and that sort of thing. And with that, there have been some negative stigmas because… like you said, people canvassing houses, however, it’s all about proper education and the proper way to go about it. We want to make sure here at Momentum Solar, we want to make sure that every customer is educated correctly and not just on Momentum, but solar in general.
Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Jason Henne: (16:07)
And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service, where multiple climbs on inc 500, our CEO, one in 500 speaks word, um, for CEO of the year for New Jersey. There’s a lot to be said about brand reputation when the industry itself might have a negative stigma about it. We’re not the same solar company as XYZ solar company that might have a million bad reviews. We’re A+ rated on the BBB and we use that. To have it and maintain an A+ rating in the BBB is pretty darn good. And it’s pretty darn important.
Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
And what do you tribute that to? I mean, just double click on that, because that is a big deal. Is that, I mean, you’ve obviously not just, that didn’t come — that took a little work. Right? So [inaudible] I love the education part. So it sounds like you guys focus a lot on education to kind of say, “You know what, let’s sell you on solar first. Let’s talk about Momentum second.” What are some of the other things you’ve done to make sure that you keep that reputation up in the air? That’s impressive. That rating.
Jason Henne: (17:30)
Yeah. So our Better Business Bureau complaints do come directly to my department and we handle them internally. And, because we take such pride in our customer service and we take Better Business Bureau, like I said, is very important. Some companies might not think so, some companies might not care about their grade, but we do. The Better Business Bureau replies, once we go call the customer and try to rectify their issue with them, myself and my management team, it’s either myself or I assign in seminar management. We’re the one that personally writes the replies.
Gabe Larsen: (18:07)
Wow. Wow, cool.
Jason Henne: (18:09)
I don’t want to find that out to anybody.
Gabe Larsen: (18:12)
Jason Henne: (18:13)
I want my department to handle it. We might work with other departments to get the situation resolved because we’re one big team, which is another thing when talking about industry reputation and how to still, how to change that stigma by providing white glove customer service. Constantly, constantly interacting with different departments on a daily basis. When we’re all not working at home, we’re all working in the office and we’re constantly getting up and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. So every issue is not just, “Hey, look at this, let’s get this done,” it’s, “Hey, we need some time to talk this issue out.” Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can then be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.
Gabe Larsen: (19:12)
Nice closed loop process on that. You’re kind of bringing —
Jason Henne: (19:17)
Absolutely. And solar, like I said, solar is not an inexpensive ticket. However, in the long run, it does save you money because of the solar energy that you’re producing and then consuming. So that’s one big piece of education that we have to give the customer. Yes, it might be right.
Gabe Larsen: (19:39)
Maybe that makes tons of sense. So, so number one is you guys have done a lot of education too. It sounds like you’re pretty maniacal about, you’ve identified something like a reputation management tool, like the Better Business Bureau and take it very serious. To the extent of action planning, results, you get feedback, you close that feedback loop fairly quickly, put the change and get it back to the sales team and see if you can do it. Anything else on the mind as you think about your customer service and really trying to drive a different approach in kind of this emerging solar industry that you guys do?
Jason Henne: (20:16)
Yeah. So it goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning with white glove customer service. If you call our customer service number, we don’t have an IVR where you’re saying something and then we’re giving you an answer via AI or anything like that. I want —
Gabe Larsen: (20:34)
You don’t like AI? You’re a human guy, not an AI guy. Huh?
Jason Henne: (20:39)
I absolutely like AI. However, I think for certain price ticket items and certain issues, you need the human touch.
Gabe Larsen: (20:47)
Jason Henne: (20:48)
You need that. You need that human touch. So when a customer or a prospective customer calls, they only have two options in our phone tree, sales and customer service. That’s it. And they’re going to talk to a live person every time. Maybe in the future we’ll implement some AI. If they won’t get there.
Gabe Larsen: (21:10)
You’ve made it available. So yeah, they can basically, there’s no crazy phone tree to go through. You’ve made it simple. It’s quite an effortless experience.
Jason Henne: (21:21)
Right? And the other company I was referring to earlier with our luxury wall covering company that I was the head of customer service for, they don’t even use a phone tree. They, every single call was answered in nine seconds or less live. No prerecording first, press one for this, press two for that, every call was answered live. And if customer service had to transfer that call to a specific person, maybe it was a client asking for somebody in a sales department, we then transferred the call, but there was no recording at all. Every call was answered live in nine seconds or less.
Gabe Larsen: (21:57)
Cool. That’s awesome. I mean, it’s those types of, I just that word of making it easy, right? I mean, the AI is, I think it’s a big thing and in the right time, this word deflection and finding a way of good balance is important, but I like your approach. It’s like where we are right now. Want to make it easy for the customer. Let’s do it. Let’s get it quick and see if we can’t start that process to make sure they’re happening quickly. Jason, I appreciate the talk track. It’s fun. Just to kind of hear about some of your different experiences, again, quite a wealth of experience, both luxury and telecom and now solar. Sounds like there’s some overlap, but definitely sometimes you’ve gone more high end, spent more time, more dollars. Other times you’ve tried to find a bit more of a balance there. As you think about customer service, certainly it’s a challenging time with all that’s going on. What advice would you kind of summarize with, for customer leaders who are trying to figure out how to, and I’ll use a generic term here, but just win, survive, manage all the leads that are coming in, keep the customer service levels high while the satisfaction still is maintained as good. But what would you kind of move in with?
Jason Henne: (23:03)
You know, this is you’re right. This is a really trying time right now. Every customer service department for the most part is working from home and oddly enough, it’s working. Its working. Our service levels are so high right now and our productivity because people aren’t being, I guess, their attention is being kept. What they have to do. They’re not in an office with 300 people. If we need to have meetings, we’re going to zoom it or message or anything like that. Keep remembering that when the customer calls you, they don’t want to call you. It’s a nuisance to them. They’re calling to have a problem taken care of and to give them the peace of mind that they want. So what I can say is what, one thing I tell all my employees is the customer is not wanting to call you. However, by the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.
Jason Henne: (24:07)
And that’s yeah, that’s the advice I can give.
Gabe Larsen: (24:11)
Yeah. It was like the guys, they’re calling for a problem and that problem needs to be resolved. Let’s not forget the fundamental purpose of customer service. Forget all the times and the numbers. And it’s like, here’s the problem, how do we solve it? Let’s make it easy.
Jason Henne: (24:27)
Yeah. And you know what, let’s make them happy. Let’s make them happy that they did call so they don’t think it was a waste of time. And by doing that and by keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (24:47)
Right. I love it. Well, Jason, again, really appreciated the talk track. Fun to kind of talk through a little bit of these different items. If someone wants to get ahold of you or just continue the conversation, what’s the best way to do that?
Jason Henne: (24:58)
Okay. They could send me a direct email at J H E N N E@momentumsolar.com. M O M E N T U M, solar, S O L A R.com. Or just look me up on LinkedIn, Jason Henne, J A S O N H E N N E. I’ll be more than happy to connect with you and message with you back and forth if you so choose. And yeah, this was a lot of fun.
Gabe Larsen: (25:22)
Yeah. I really appreciate it. We might have to bring you back for round two next quarter, just to continue to kind of chat about what’s what’s the–
Jason Henne: (25:28)
I would love it.
Gabe Larsen: (25:29)
So anyways, man, have a great day. For the audience–
Jason Henne: (25:32)
I would love it.
Gabe Larsen: (25:33)
Jason Henne: (25:35)
No problem. Thank you so much for having me on.
Exit Voice: (23:16)
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I was beyond excited. I had the perfect gift for my wife for our anniversary planned out. After doing some initial research I had an ad pop up on my Instagram feed that provided exactly what I wanted — a personalized canvas with our wedding song on it. I pictured my wife opening up the package on the day of our anniversary and being overcome with emotion. I was sure that I had “husband of the year” in the bag. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had planned.
The order process for this personalized canvas was very straightforward. I specified how I wanted the canvas to look and provided the exact wording, the canvas size, and the design. It was three weeks until our anniversary so I believed I had plenty of time. I put in the order and they sent me an email that said it would take them 1-2 days to provide me a proof and then 1-2 days to complete the canvas before shipping it. It was exactly what I saw on their website before I ordered. I knew I was cutting things a little tight but wasn’t worried. After four business days, I approved the proof they sent me, I kept waiting to get the confirmation that my order was shipped. After four more days I emailed them on a Friday asking where my order was. I started to freak out as I was down to a week before our anniversary.
I finally heard back from them on the following Monday (as they don’t work on the weekends): “We are a little backed up on our orders. We had more orders come in that we weren’t prepared for “. While they were extremely apologetic in their response they were putting my “husband of the year” award in jeopardy. Two days later I emailed them again asking when my order would be shipped. They responded quickly that it would be shipped the next day and to my relief, it was. It’s too bad that it was shipped on the same day as our anniversary. My wife is very understanding and wasn’t upset. I was disappointed though as this whole situation could have been avoided. Organizations need to consider how they can be more proactive in their approach to the customer experience so they don’t let down their customers and create lifelong customers. This is at the core of becoming an intelligent customer experience (CX) organization.
What Is an Intelligent Customer Experience?
Intelligent CX involves leveraging the technology and data that exists today to create a better overall customer experience. This includes sharing data between the different teams such as marketing and customer service, creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new technology such as AI.
Eliminating the Silos
Too often, organizations suffer from a lack of communication between different functions such as marketing, customer service, sales, and manufacturing. The loser in all of this is the customer, and ultimately the business, as companies will lose potential revenue and customers.
Intelligent CX organizations have more open communication and data transparency which creates a more fluid transition between the discovery and buying customer journey stages. As an example, the manufacturing team at the customized canvas company should have informed the marketing and support teams that orders would be delayed. They then should have updated their website and order emails so I would be aware of any delays and sent proactive communication of these delays while I anxiously waited for updates. Instead, I was the one that had to reach out to their customer service team a few times for updates. The friction points that existed in my customer journey could have been avoided by breaking down the silos within this organization.
Use Data to Provide a Differentiated Experience
The second component of an intelligent CX organization is leveraging the data you have about the customer to provide a better customer experience. This was the first canvas that I was purchasing from this company, yet there didn’t seem to be an acknowledgment of that. I felt like any of their other customers. If this data was appropriately used they could have:
Proactively reached out when they realized that my order was going to be delayed
Routed my issue immediately to the next available agent
Provided me with an exclusive and personalized offer as a first-time buyer to help drive repeat business.
We’re seeing organizations with an intelligent CX mindset collect more data at each touchpoint. They are also creating new roles that combine CX and analytics to help deliver on an organizations’ CX vision.
Embedding Artificial Intelligence
The last component of an intelligent CX organization is applying AI to inject automation and machine learning into the customer experience. AI takes advantage of the data that you have and helps organizations act on it in ways that could never be done before. This not only generates additional revenue but can result in significant cost savings.
During the purchase of my customized canvas, AI powered technology could have detected a delay in the processing of my order and proactively sent me an email without having to reach out to the customer service team. Another example is having an AI-powered chatbot on their website that could have provided me with an updated status so I didn’t need to wait until Monday to receive a response. These examples are just a small slice of what AI can do. Smoothing out these areas of the customer journey by leveraging an intelligent CX mindset is what transforms a good customer experience into a great one.
The Time for Intelligent CX Is Now
We need to go beyond providing a great customer experience — customers are expecting more. Intelligent CX organizations break down the silos that exist between different departments, they collect more data and better leverage existing data, and they embed AI into their CX processes. This ultimately creates an extraordinary, frictionless experience for your customers that will result in brand loyalty and ultimately drive a more profitable business.
PS: While it was late, the canvas has a special place in our home and reminds my wife and me of our wonderful wedding.
We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.
What Is Being Done NOW
An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.
Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.
Transformation While Resources Are Crunched
There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.
One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.
Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.
Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.
One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”
Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.
Moving the Customer Experience Dial
A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.
“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.
Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.
In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.
To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience
One of the biggest challenges for contact centers and customer service departments is convoluted systems. According to CCW Digital research, two of the top five areas for improvement include agents spending too much time on low-value work and the absence of a 360-degree customer view.
When customer service agents don’t have a 360-degree customer view, they spend excess time navigating applications and databases trying to manually find customer information and history, which is frustrating and inefficient for both employees and customers. However, with the right technology, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn why.
Tap Into the Power of a Centralized CRM
Building a 360-degree customer view is dependent upon giving our front-line employees and customer service agents the tools they need to see customer history, route inquiries accordingly, and find solutions seamlessly through an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
As seen in a recent CCW Digital webinar, during a peak in the pandemic, customer contact volume increased ten fold, while agent capacity decreased 20%, call duration increased 62%, wait times increased by 27 minutes, and as you would guess, customer satisfaction decreased — by roughly 28%.
As customer volume increases and agent capacity decreases, friction is brought into the customer experience, exposing an unforgiving area for improvement in the contact center — the vast majority of CRMs being used are not getting the job done. Simply put, customer service departments around the globe are losing customers as a result of poor management and technology.
Specifically, incorrect and incomplete data means longer wait times, less ability to predict needs, and less ability to personalize interactions.
We’ve seen an uptick in digital channel utilization which means you have more touch points and data sources to aggregate customer history, and therefore a greater need for an omnichannel CRM.
The only way to alleviate the friction in the customer experience is to create a more efficient process, reducing the amount of applications agents need to record and access customer information, and resolve problems by using a single, unified, and actionable customer service CRM.
Increase Efficiency and Personalization Through AI and ML
AI can help you better glean insights from your data at scale. Then it can be used to improve routing and provide agents with real-time guidance and recommendations, thereby increasing their ability to “see” and “use” their 360-degree view.
AI and machine learning (ML) have the ability to improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks as well as your most complex business processes. For instance, high-volume conversation traffic could be intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent, loyal customers could be prioritized, and agents can quickly deliver standardized responses when appropriate.
With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI can simulate human actions to complete repetitive and rule-based tasks and processes. RPA can allow chatbots to fully complete a customer conversation without the need to escalate to a human agent, as well as provide the customer with more self-service opportunities by tapping into appropriate backend datta. This makes agents more efficient, freeing up their time for complex and proactive support, and gives customers more accurate information quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI, ML, or automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite.
If a business leverages customer data properly and gives the chatbot a 360-degree customer view, chatbots can 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. Of course, if needed, once the customer experience requires a transfer to an agent, automation can route the customer to the right agent, best equipped to solve the problem, and transfer all of that data into the agent’s view.
Want to learn more strategies to deliver standout customer service through a 360-degree customer view? Download CCW’s latest report here, filled with insights from Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum and NYT bestselling author Shep Hyken.
Just because your company offers around-the-clock customer service doesn’t necessarily mean you’re offering great service to your customers. Consumers who are attentive enough to reach out for assistance in the first place will always be able to spot the difference between above-and-beyond customer support and disjointed, sloppy service.
3 in 4 customers identify customer experience as a top consideration in their purchasing decisions.
2 in 3 find excellent customer service more compelling than marketing and advertising.
1 in 2 believes that most brands could improve their customer service.
1 in 3 would break up with a beloved brand after just one negative customer experience.
Certainly, the last thing you want your customers to experience is bad customer service following an already negative experience with your product or service. The type of customer service you deliver should matter to you because it matters to your customers.
But how can you treat your customers right? Well, you can start by exploring our essential customer service qualities list. Not only are the tactics below simply good skills to have for customer service, but they can have a direct impact on your business’s viability. By exhibiting the following customer service skills and qualities, you can help deliver an excellent experience, promote brand loyalty and ensure customer retention.
Great customer service starts with respect for the customer. During each and every customer interaction, it’s important to remember that each customer is a person — not a ticket — and to treat them accordingly. Simple ways to do this include using the customer’s name, thanking them for their patience and keeping your emotions in check, even if the customer starts to get worked up.
Additionally, providing personalized customer service through an omnichannel approach shows that you respect your customers’ time, energy and attention. If your customers find contacting you to be too laborious or time-consuming, you won’t be off to a great start. Instead, make it as easy as possible for them to reach you when they have issues or concerns.
2. Active Listening Skills
Active and effective listening is one of the most important qualities needed for customer service. It requires a deep and insightful understanding of what the customer is saying — and what they’re not saying. Only when you dedicate the time and attention to hearing the customer out completely can you begin to work toward a satisfactory resolution.
Showing that you’re concerned for the customer and attentive to their needs is all part of active listening. Be sure to stay present during all conversations, repeat the customer’s concerns or questions back to them as a confirmation and use the right tools to keep track of the information your customer has already provided.
To offer the most successful customer service, you’ll need to practice empathy and emotional intelligence. Being empathetic means putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and making an effort to understand the emotions they’re experiencing.
For instance, something as simple as a shipping delay can cause a lot of stress, especially if the customer purchased it for a loved one or a special occasion. And, even if your customer doesn’t articulate any specific emotional dilemma, recognize that their reason for contacting you is partly driven by feelings. In your interactions with the customer, demonstrate that you care about the things they care about and do your best to put their mind at ease without dismissing their concerns.
4. Strong Communication Skills
In addition to the above good customer service traits that relate to listening, it’s equally important to have the right approach when it comes to responding. Exceptional customer service skills include speaking clearly and articulately, providing just the right amount of information and asking the right questions at the right time. Even your choice of the right words and affirming phrases like “can,” “help” and “resolve” can point the customer service interaction toward a more positive conclusion.
5. A Positive Attitude
Speaking of positivity, another important customer service quality is a positive attitude. This, of course, should be paired with an empathetic approach so as to not dismiss your customer’s worries.
A warm, approachable demeanor is always appropriate, and, in the right moments, a dash of humor and a cheerful tone can help ensure customer satisfaction. Even when the going gets tough, a calm and positive outlook can help diffuse negativity and underscore the resolution you’re working toward.
Patience is a virtue — and it’s also one of the most important customer service rep skills, too. For agents tasked with assisting frustrated customers, solving challenging dilemmas and accommodating high volumes of customer service inquiries, patience isn’t always easy.
However, the ability to stay level-headed and attentive enough to follow a customer’s journey and reach a solution helps contribute toward an exceptional customer experience. After all, the last thing a frazzled customer wants to encounter is a customer service professional who loses their temper.
Determination goes hand in hand with patience and related customer care skills like tenacity, persistence and focus. Sometimes, the answer to a customer’s problem is not always obvious or immediate. It takes a determined and focused approach to get to the bottom of some issues, and just as much effort to ensure that things turn out the right way.
8. Product and Service Expertise
Deep knowledge of your products and services — and the confidence to talk about them in detail — are key customer service attributes. When a customer reaches out with a question, they certainly don’t want to end up speaking with someone who is just as clueless as they are. To thrive in customer service, you should know your product or service inside and out. Armed with essential information, you can more successfully and expediently understand your customers’ needs and find the right fixes.
9. Creative Problem-Solving Abilities
Adaptability, flexibility and an outside-the-box approach to customer dilemmas are some of the best skills to have for customer service success, especially when there’s no obvious right answer to the customer’s problem.
When customer service agents can confidently come up with creative solutions on their own, they won’t need to loop in a busy customer service manager for every issue that arises. As a result, customers will feel like they’re in good hands and are sure to appreciate the personalized assistance.
Providing efficient customer service is more important than ever. It doesn’t mean you should work through customer support inquiries as quickly as possible, though. Rather, efficiency means minimizing effort and maximizing results.
To do this, take advantage of chatbots and other AI tools to address your customers’ basic needs and gather information so that skilled customer service agents can jump in when their expertise is really needed. Additionally, adopt an omnichannel approach to provide customers and agents with the most streamlined process without repeated information or redundant responses.
Now that you’ve brushed up on the best customer service qualities, request a demo to find out how Kustomer’s CRM platform can help you embrace these critical characteristics and deliver personalized service to each and every customer.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Sergio Frias joins Gabe Larsen to discuss the Be NICE platform; a process that companies can use to improve their customer experience. Sergio is an engineer and has spent the last 20 years in the construction, tobacco, and aerospace industries. He worked at Supply Chain for a while, and that’s where his passion for CX started. The company was ranked #13 out of 13 on a customer support survey, and his boss gave him the challenge of rising to the top. By creating the Be NICE program, they became number one. After a brief amount of time away from the industry, he returned knowing that it was where he wanted to spend his time, and he continues to share his passion for the CX industry today. Listen to the full podcast episode below.
What is the NICE Program and What it Stands For
The NICE Program was created by Sergio Frias in order to help give companies the tools they need to have better customer service. It is also an acronym for Nurturing Insights about Customer’s Expectations. Sergio explains, “The whole idea behind that is that for you to deliver a customer enchantments, which is more than satisfaction, which is the wow factor, you have to deliver something that the customer is not expecting. And for you to be able to do that they’re not going to tell you what a wow moment is for them. You have to figure that out. So you have to have an insight.” Customers want to be blown away with quality service and that requires insight. The NICE program helps businesses find these insights and act on them.
The Eight Steps of NICE to Drive CX
To help give companies clear direction, the eight step process was outlined for improving CX. The first step is context, or getting the background information so companies know where they are at and where they want to go. Next is benchmarking. Benchmarking is comparing the customer service tactics of other companies. They do not have to be companies in the same industry, they just need to have good tactics to learn from. Third is the ever important customer journey map. The importance of going through the experience of the customer and mapping it out cannot be forgotten either. And fourth is a step called the “essence of NICE.” Sergio explains, “the idea is that you have to grow the performance from what you are delivering, actually delivering, to what you promised. And then you have to go beyond that because customers are not satisfied by getting what they paid for. … So we have to figure out ways to understand what are the processes that we have to change or make flexible enough so that we can go around them to deliver what the customers are expecting without bankrupting our company.”
The fifth step is about evaluating which processes of the organization or company need to change. It is about not being afraid to take a hard look at a company and figuring out what alterations need to be made and creating a plan to execute those. Step six is called knowledge sharing or making sure that the important information isn’t kept a secret. When knowledge is shared, change can happen. Step seven is making sure that the right employees are in the right places and that they are taken care of. Happy employees help have happy customers. The last step is all about service. To explain this, Sergio comments on the incorrect understanding some people have of what service is. He shares, “So if I serve you, it’s because you’re better than me, which I believe is exactly the opposite because the people who can actually serve the ones that are capable of sacrificing themselves to the benefits of others, those are very special people. … And then we have to make sure that the organization understands that so that the people that will be serving the customers, they will serve thinking that what they’re doing is not just another work like any other work.”
Expert Insights on Where to Start When Improving Customer Experience
To finish up his time with Gabe, Sergio shares some last insights about attitudes and practices companies should have when they start the NICE program. Companies need to have an open mind to new practices and know their brand inside and out. Also, knowing the impact a company has on those around them. Once organizations really know themselves, they will be ready to do the heavy lifting and start making the necessary changes. Another important point he makes is the following; “do not assume that you know what is best for your customers. You have to make sure that they tell you one way or another. You have to deliver something that is aligned with their expectations. What you think is great, really doesn’t matter. What matters for them is what is great for them. So you have to understand what is valued from your customer perspective.” Powerful and positive CX experiences lie ahead for the organizations that learn to apply these principles.
To learn more about the NICE program and Sergio Frias check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Be NICE | How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias
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 how to drive the customer experience using a really interesting framework that was brought to my attention not too long ago. And so we brought on Sergio Frias. He wears multiple hats, actually. He’s currently the President and CEO of the Federation of Canadian-Brazilian Business, as well as he’s also the chief customer experience officer at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Management of Ontario. So Sergio, thanks so much for joining and how are you?
Sergio Frias: (00:44)
I’m fine. Thank you very much for having me. It’s really a great opportunity to be here. Thank you.
Gabe Larsen: (00:50)
Well, I think you bring a lot of wealth of experience in this, obviously in the CX space and I think in the customer space in general. Before we jump into the topic, can you just do a double click real quick? Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?
Sergio Frias: (01:05)
Yeah. Well, I’m an engineer. I worked for construction industry, tobacco industry and aerospace industry for the last 20 plus years. I’m in the aerospace industry. I worked on multiple fronts in Supply Chain in customer support operations, sales, contracts and most recently I decided to change paths in my career and become this CX guide that I am today.
Gabe Larsen: (01:37)
Well, let’s let’s then go further into that. I mean, what was the, what was the thing that made you flip? How’d you become a CX expert?
Sergio Frias: (01:44)
That’s a great question. Actually, for many years, since I joined the aerospace industry, I was being exposed to customer experience all the time. So I had a lot of functions that were to support customers one way or another. So when I was in Supply Chain, I was asked to be the supplier, the purchasing guy for spare parts to provide to customers. Nobody wanted to do that job, but I was asked to do it, I said, “you know what? Nobody wants it, it may be a good opportunity.” I went there, but I was always trying to go back to my usual life. Then at some point the President of the Services Business Units in the company I was working for, he came to me and said, “you know what? I have a problem. We are number 13 out of 13 companies in a survey about good quality service in terms of customer support. We need to be number one. And for that, we need to deliver great customer experience.” And he said, “if you want, the job is yours, you’re going to be the owner of this business. So you buy, you sell, you do everything, all the logistics, distribution, everything.” That was a great opportunity for my career. I was not really thinking about CX, but the more I got into that I realized that I knew how to do it because of the many years working with customers and always being concerned about how to get the customers what they needed. I realized that was an amazing thing, especially when you could deliver and the customers were happy and they — you could see the results right in front of your eyes. And it was a great opportunity because the size of the problem was so big that I had to create something. And I created the NICE Program, which was very successful. Unfortunately, two years down the road, the business unit that I was working for was terminated. And I had to break my organization into three to have a piece of each, each one of these pieces within the other business units in the company. Then I moved to be a sales guy, selling business aircraft. Then I moved to be a sales guy for commercial aircraft, then services to airlines, but I was never the same. After that, my heart was with CX and I was always thinking of ways to get the experience of the customer, either on the sales process or the contracting process or in the delivery process or the aftermarket process, always trying to make it better. And then that’s when I realized that, look, I’m getting old, my friend, if I want to jump on this dream, it has to be now. And that’s what I did. A few months ago I left the aerospace industry. I became an independent guy, and I was invited by the CMO, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Management of Ontario to do exactly what I always wanted; to write my book about the NICE Program and to share the knowledge that I accumulated over many, many years working with customer experience. And I’m still excited about that.
Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
I love it. I love it. I think we share some of that. I also did a lot of selling in my background, but did taste the flavors of CX. And once you go CX, it’s hard to go back. I can relate to that. So, well, let’s dive into this NICE program a little bit. I mean, it sounds — I think the thing that’s always great to come across is when there is a little more structure to delivering customer service, sometimes it gets soft. I’ve talked about that on this podcast before. It’s just feeling. The more you can get strategies and process and structure, I think it all helps us deliver a better customer experience. So start with the why, what is the why of this program?
Sergio Frias: (05:16)
Yeah, if you remember, I just mentioned my boss, he wanted to be number one. And the only way to do that was by delivering great customer experience. So that was the why. The problem is that’s not enough. You have to go lower into how you’re going to actually deliver that. So we came to the how and how we would do that. So we basically had to transform operations, centric organization, or focused organizations into customer centric organizations. That was the only way because the whole organization was focused on running the processes regardless of what the end result was. And we had to convert that. So by basically training people and getting them to be nice on the phone, that was not enough. We had to change the entire organization because otherwise the people with all the good intentions, they would never be able to deliver a great customer experience if the systems behind them, the processes and the tools and everything, they’re not all aligned with the same purpose. So the thought management has to be aligned the processes, the tools, everything has to be aligned. And that brought us to the what, so what we would do. So we basically had to develop the people and we had to upgrade the tools, we had to review the processes and we had to change the culture. So this is what the program is all about, right? So it’s a people and organizational development program, which purpose is to deliver those four things that will actually make the — or materialize the transformation that will end up delivering great customer experience, which let me tell you, at the end of the story already, we became the number one, right? So from number 13, out of 13, we became number one from 13. So that, that’s what it is.
Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
Wow. Do you — I love the alignment when — because you’re right. Sometimes we focus too much on the people side or the process side or the technology side, and you really want to get those threaded together. So they’re all working together. I like that you’ve brought them all kind of in one underlying framework. I’ve got to ask, what does NICE stand for? I mean, is that an acronym? You’ve got to be nice to people as part of this program now.
Sergio Frias: (07:35)
Yeah. Well you do have to be nice to people because that’s the key, right? NICE is actually an acronym. It comes from Nurturing Insights about Customer’s Expectations. The whole idea behind that is that for you to deliver a customer enchantments, which is more than satisfaction, which is the wow factor, you have to deliver something that the customer is not expecting. And for you to be able to do that they’re not going to tell you what a wow moment is for them. You have to figure that out. So you have to have an insight. And for that it’s not magic, right? It’s not fairy dust and suddenly you know everything. It’s a process. You have to build that. And you have to build that through all the interfaces you have with your customer. And in terms of all the customer experiences that they have, that they experienced with your business, starting from the very beginning with what your brand promises, what your marketing says, what your sales process is, how the contracting works, how the delivery works and the aftermarket, and always remember; that if you have customer services, basically because the customer experience failed somewhere before that, right? So the idea is to understand all that, those aspects and how your brand, your company is exposed to the customer, providing experiences, even if you’re not seeing that. And that’s — when you truly understand that, then it’s much easier to be able to take action, prioritize things, and deliver the great experience through all those channels.
Gabe Larsen: (09:12)
I love that. I love that. I think that’s a fun acronym. That’s good to know what that is and again, I liked that you’ve brought them all kind of under one umbrella. Let’s get into some of the components that you find really important as part of this NICE program. How do you break it out? Is it one, phase one, phase two, three pillars, five? How do you think about the NICE overall framework or strategy?
Sergio Frias: (09:38)
Yeah, we basically — it’s a program with eight modules. Yeah. And it’s on purpose because we want to make sure that people understand each one of the phases and each one of the things that have to be done to deliver that great customer experience. The first one is what we call the context. So, for you to be able to go from one point to another, you need to know where you are and where you want to be, where you have to be. And that’s when, when you’re trying to deliver a great customer experience, you need to understand how good is your experience today and how good it has to be based on the strategy of your business. So this is the context. You have to understand exactly what is going to be the trip from where you want to go to where you have to go.
Sergio Frias: (10:22)
Right? The second part is the benchmarking. The second module is the benchmarking. Why? Because there’s a lot of companies out there that are currently, that are delivering an experience as we speak and our customers, they are being exposed to that. So we need to understand who are those companies that are defining our customer’s expectations so that we can have a chance to figure out how to deliver to that expectation. Right? So the benchmarking is a module where we try to understand who are those companies, those companies may or may not be from our industry. Right? So when I was doing this in the aerospace industry, uh, one of the main companies we were looking into was a retailer. The other one was, I guess I can mention the name, it’s McDonald’s right? So McDonald’s, don’t sell spare parts for airplanes, right? I don’t remember to have seen a Mack landing gear, but the fact is those guys, they know very well how to standardize processes and part of our business needed that. So we use them as a reference, as a benchmark, the same with the retailer, they were really good at customer experience. So we did that. And then once we mapped and figured out which companies we could invite to join us in this journey to deliver a great customer experience, we developed a partnership with them and we brought them in to help us to grow, to help us to deliver. Right? The next one is the CX mapping or the customer experience mapping because —
Gabe Larsen: (11:52)
We’ve got context, benchmarking and mapping. Right. Did I get those and [inaudible]?
Sergio Frias: (11:56)
Gabe Larsen: (11:58)
Alright keep going.
Sergio Frias: (11:58)
Yeah, and the mapping, as I mentioned before, the experience doesn’t start when you actually have a customer on the phone complaining because the product they bought is not working. It starts way before. It starts when, for example, if I say the word Porsche, it defines an expectation already. It has to be something fast, something with great performance and sexy, right? Your brand is already telling a story and your customers are already expecting something out of that brand. And then there’s all the marketing that you do around this name, around this brand. And then you create more expectations and then you start to sell and then you’ll deliver. And then there’s after markets, all the supports after sales, and even the disposition sometimes like you buy a car and when the car is, you can sell it to anybody, you can get rid of it. This is a bad experience. And companies typically don’t see that. So the purpose of this module, you have to map all the expectations that are being created by your organization, your brand, your process, whatever, that you have to figure out a way to deliver to that. Right?
Gabe Larsen: (13:05)
Sergio Frias: (13:06)
And then we have the next module, which we call the essence of NICE. The essence of nice is the following. We, typically the companies that need to do something, it’s because they are delivering a performance that is less than what they sold to their customers. And then the idea is that you have to grow the performance from what you are delivering, actually delivering, to what you promised. And then you have to go beyond that because customers are not satisfied by getting what they paid for. Remember, every time we buy something, we always choose the cheapest one expecting that it will perform like the top of line of that product, right? So customers only are satisfied when they get what they expect. So we have to figure out ways to understand what are the processes that we have to change or make flexible enough so that we can go around them to deliver what the customers are expecting without bankrupting our company. We have to preserve the financial results, but we can do things that are simple, that can deliver satisfaction without breaking the company. And that’s what this is all about. But there’s another level of performance that is the dream of the customer, because some customers — you’re so far from the dream that they’ll not even tell you what the dream is because they don’t think it’s worth, right? So, well, “why would I do that? They’re not even performing the minimum necessary.”
Gabe Larsen: (14:25)
Sergio Frias: (14:25)
So the idea is to develop your people to a point that they can read in between the lines, they can understand or figure out what has not been verbalized by the customer. So they have to understand what the customers will see as a wow moment, or will see as the magic or see as something spectacular. And when you are able to figure that out and deliver that with those flexible systems, with those flexible processes in your company, you will be delivering great customer experience. So this is the essence of NICE. The next one is a triple away organization. Triple away organization is basically you have to evaluate your entire organization, figure out what are the things that you have to change? What are the processes you have to make flexible? What are the tools you have to improve and everything you have to do to be able to have the entire organization focused on that delivery. And then of course, execute, you know, have plans in place, make those changes and transform your organization.
Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Okay. So there’s a lot to this, but I think there’s a lot to customer experience. So we’ve got context. We’ve got benchmarking, knowing where you are, where you’re not, I love the mapping, knowing those moments of truth. This essence of nice was different, but I liked those different service levels you talked about. Okay. I think I got that triple organization was number five. What were the last ones? Give me the last three real quick.
Sergio Frias: (15:53)
Yeah. Knowledge sharing because it’s the next one because there’s a lot of knowledge inside of your organization. And you have to make sure that you use that knowledge before you start spending money to get training to 300, 5,000 people. The next one is the right people at the right place. You have mapped the profile of your people and understand what would make them happy. Because as Richard Branson says, “if you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers well.” So you’ve got to make sure that they are happy, because if they’re happy, they produce more, the productivity is higher, the quality is higher, the customers are happier and you make more money. So you’ve got to figure out a way to get them happy. And in this program, we help people to understand how to map those profiles and move people around the organization so that you put them at the right place.
Gabe Larsen: (16:45)
Got it, got it.
Sergio Frias: (16:46)
And the last one is the true meaning of service. This is very important because, particularly in countries like Brazil, where I come from, we come from — we were the last country to abolish slavery. So the whole culture of the country makes people feel like service is something, menial something, subaltern something’s slavish, right? So if I serve you, it’s because you’re better than me, which I believe is exactly the opposite because the people who can actually serve the ones that are capable of sacrificing themselves to the benefits of others, those are very special people. Look at the people that go to the military and go fight a war overseas. Those guys are serving their country. Nelson Mandela, he was serving a cause. A father, a mother that decides to give up the career to stay home and take care of the family they’re serving their families. So those are very special people who —
Gabe Larsen: (17:44)
[inaudible] — cause sometimes.
Sergio Frias: (17:46)
And then we have to make sure that the organization understands that so that the people that will be serving the customers, they will serve thinking that what they’re doing is not just another work like any other work. It’s something really special. And once people realize that they have self fulfillment when they do it, when they succeed and the customers are very happy. And of course the company makes a lot of money. So it’s good for everybody. So that is a very important part of the process.
Gabe Larsen: (18:14)
Oh, I love it. Well, that is a very comprehensive — and I know there’s, as we were talking pre show Sergio, I think you could go on this for hours, but each of those modules, I assume you can go layers deep. But I like that it’s holistic. I liked that it brings people process technology, kind of brings all of those together. As you think about a framework like this and knowing you’ve been a customer experience leader, and you’ve talked to some of those, what would be your kind of tip or advice for people who are trying to start this journey tackling all eight might be difficult [inaudible].
Sergio Frias: (18:50)
Well, first thing is for them not to limit their understanding of customer experience as that moment of truth, the moment you are in front of the customer. You have to look at the overall thing. You have to understand the impact of your brand, of your services, of your products. You have to look at the overall thing, not just one piece. The second would be, you have to change not only the people, but you have to change the organization. If you change either one or the other, I can guarantee you that you’re going to waste time and money. It’s not going to work. You have to change both. The other one would be to not underestimate the power of your organization, the power of the knowledge you have in your organization and the power to make, to promote change. You have to choose the right people to have around you so that the change can actually happen. The next one was do not assume that you know what is best for your customers. You have to make sure that they tell you one way or another. You have to deliver something that is aligned with their expectations. What you think is great, really doesn’t matter. What matters for them is what is great for them. So you have to understand what is valued from your customer perspective. And what I would suggest particularly now is that you understand that improving our processes or trying to find more efficiencies or optimize the way you do things. These days, when people have a lot of capacity, idle, it’s not the best thing to recover from COVID pandemic crisis. Customer experience is probably the best way because that’s when you’re going to bring your customers together, you’re going to be closer to them and you’re going to incentivize the demand to come back. So if I would bet at this point in something to recover, I would bet on customer experience because this is what is going to make the biggest difference over the last few years, I would say.
Gabe Larsen: (20:52)
I love it.
Sergio Frias: (20:52)
That’s what I would say. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
I mean, times are still challenging for many of us and I think customer service can be that difference, needs to be that difference and I think you outlined a good way for everybody to think through that. So Sergio, really appreciate you jumping on today. If someone wanted to learn a little bit more about you or get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?
Sergio Frias: (21:11)
Well, you can find me via my email address is email@example.com. Or you can find me on LinkedIn, my profile, just look for Sergio Frias. It’s me and you can reach me there and we can connect and I can try to help. It will be definitely a pleasure.
Gabe Larsen : (21:33)
Appreciate it. Well, definitely a lot of information gathered today. Hopefully helpful for the audience. Sergio, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Sergio Frias: (21:43)
Thank you very much. For you too and thank you for the opportunity. Bye bye.
Exit Voice: (21:53)
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