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

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

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

Establishing a Customer Obsessed C-Suite

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

Mental Safety and Cultivating Friendships in the Workplace

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

Consistency Gives Companies an Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

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

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

Exit Voice: (24:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham

A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Kris Featheringham to uncover the secrets to human-centered design. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Kris combines both UX and CX to provide the ultimate tailored experience.

How Empathy Connects Agents and Customers

Director of Multifamily CX, UX, and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac, Kris Featheringham drives the human experience by incorporating empathy into everyday design. “There’s five steps to the design process,” Kris states, “empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things.” One of the most important steps to delivering the ultimate customer experience is that of empathizing with the user by trying to understand how your products can be used in their day to day lives. Kris finds that rather than sitting down and interviewing the user about their experience with a product or prototype, the best method to truly understand their experience is to watch them use or interact with that product. Relating this back to customer experience, Kris notes that the core of UX and CX is rooted in empathy. When teams of experience experts keep the user at the center of all aspects of design, they are better able to fully understand the customer and to grasp how their product has the potential to affect their lives.

Getting the Executive Seal of Approval

Human-centered design has become a hot topic in recent CX conversations. IDEO was one of the first companies to take design-thinking into consideration and to incorporate it into every aspect of their services. Since this is such a new concept, people tend to struggle to get executives or members of the C-Suite onboard with integrating human-centered design approaches into their brand. Gaining executive buy-in is essential for company-wide change. “Executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable.” Regardless of this being a new concept to the world of CX leaders and agents, adopting a design mindset can greatly increase a team’s ability to relate with their customers, by offering insights to their daily lives.

Interact With and Learn From Users

Testing a new product or prototype with users is a fantastic way to evaluate the potential success of that offering once it is released on the market. Sitting down with users and getting a grasp for how they use created components offers some valuable insights to a new product. Asking “why” questions to the test users helps leaders to narrow down places where improvements can be made. If a customer dislikes a product, ask them why. If a customer loves a product, do the same and ask them why. As Kris says,
“This is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say.” He also mentions that focusing on the customer’s desired outcomes leads to a better design because oftentimes, customers know what they need to be fixed when using a brand’s product, website, or software. For CX and UX design teams, customer happiness and product success is a matter of finding the right outcomes to fit their customer’s needs.

Kris leaves the audience with one final note: “The day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by.” By incorporating design thinking into daily practices, adaptation and innovation will soon follow.

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “Assumptions to Understand | Kris Featheringham” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

A Design Thinking Approach to CX | Kris Featheringham

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about an interesting topic today. The ideas, assumptions to understanding. We’ll talk more about it, don’t worry. You’re not going to have all the answers to start. To do that, we brought on Kris Featheringham. He’s the Director of Customer Experience and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac. Kris, thanks for joining. How are you?

Kris Featheringham: (00:32)
My pleasure. I’m great. How are you?

Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Good, man. I appreciate you jumping on. I’m excited to dive into the talk track. Before we do, let’s learn a little bit more about yourself. Tell us just kind of how you came into the world of CX, Freddie Mac. Give us kind of the who and what is Kris?

Kris Featheringham: (00:47)
It’s a little bit of a crazy road. Yeah. My background is mechanical engineering. I’m a math and numbers guy and then I stumbled, well, I didn’t stumble, I went and got a degree in systems engineering after that. And I worked heavily in the world of enterprise architecture, really breaking things down in terms of business processes, system functions, data elements, and things of that nature. And I worked in a consulting space for about 17 years and five years ago, Freddie Mac approached me and said, “You know what? We need someone to start a business architecture practice for us because we need help making decisions.” So I said, “Yeah, I can do that.” So I came on board to Freddie Mac and honestly it was a terrific environment. I love it. I still love it to this day. And I started doing traditional business architecture.

Kris Featheringham: (01:35)
And one day, one of the Senior Vice Presidents said, “You know what? I understand what you’re doing and the people are representative in your diagrams and in your architecture, but they’re really not there.” And I said, “Do you know what? You’re right.” So I went back to the drawing board and I started talking to a couple of my people and I was like, “Let’s roll the dice with design thinking.” It’s something I knew about and I’ve seen applied, but it’s still relatively a new practice brought into this world. So I said, “Let’s go ahead and do that.” So we started creating some artifacts that are typically a by-product of the design thinking process. And I presented it back to my Senior Vice President. She was like, “Perfect. This is exactly what I’m talking about.” So that’s kind of how I stumbled into that world because I started doing less and less business architecture and more and more of that design thinking, that human empathy and things of that nature. And it just kind of spiraled from there. So that assumptions to understanding really, that’s a phrase I’ve coined within our organization because a lot of times companies don’t want to bother their customers. They feel like, “Hey, let’s let them enjoy our products, let them enjoy our services. We know them well enough, we can assume what they like and what they dislike, and we can figure out how we can innovate and progress in our business to address their needs.” But that doesn’t work. It doesn’t really work. So through design thinking, we truly understand.

Gabe Larsen: (02:58)
All right. I like, that was going to be my first one is, what is this assumptions to understanding? But I love that. It’s kind of taking this idea of moving from assumptions, obviously to understanding and how companies probably need to do that. Okay. Well, let’s dive in. Oh, before we do that, I’d love to ask, I apologize, but outside of work, what, any kind of crazy hobbies? Just want to get to know you a little bit. Fun facts about yourself, embarrassing moments you want to share on camera here?

Kris Featheringham: (03:26)
I think you’re going to need more than a half hour for this, but to be honest, there’s a lot of things I’ve been involved with from showing dogs at Westminster to being a little league coach. But honestly the one thing I’ve really become passionate about here over the years is a lot of woodworking and building things. So I build a lot of furniture. I do, I built a deck. I made a wine cellar. So I’ll, when I have those spare moments, I like to build things and kind of, I don’t know, make interesting things and kind of like expand upon our house and make it like ours.

Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
Yeah. Fun. Kind of fix it yourselfer.

Kris Featheringham: (04:01)
Try to be.

Gabe Larsen: (04:01)
I am the, I have always appreciated someone who can use their hands to actually get something done. What’s your favorite project that you’ve done out of everything you’ve built? Where do you go?

Kris Featheringham: (04:14)
I’ll tell you what. So when we moved to this house a number of years ago, my wife’s like, “Hey.” We designed a deck, right? And honestly, this deck turned into 800 square feet and she asked me if I could have it done in the first weekend we’re here. I’m like, “Baby, not happening, not happening”. But three months later though, we did finish that deck and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I worked with her, actually with her father and we plowed through that thing and it’s the highlight of the house. So I love it to death. We sit out there.

Gabe Larsen: (04:42)
800 square feet. That is no joke. That is not a small –

Kris Featheringham: (04:45)
It’s big.

Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
You might have to send pictures. We’ll include them in a link to the show, Kris. All right, well, let’s get into kind of this recipe of design thinking then. Something you hit on and something you’ve kind of come to really understand and appreciate. Love to hear some of the lessons learned. The process you take in order to do this the right way. Where do you start?

Kris Featheringham: (05:08)
You got to have executive support. You really have to have a champion from it, for it, apologies. It is something new to a lot of organizations. Now it’s not a new practice. There’s been companies doing it for over 20 years. IDEO for example, is the famous one. They’re the one. They’re the ones who kind of came up with that process. So I know we’ll talk a little bit more about it as we get in there, but executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable. And without that championship from your, from, everyone’s boss, right? You’re not going to get people to participate in the beginning. So I think if you can sell it to your leadership, you’re there.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, yeah that’s funny you brought a IDEO. I haven’t thought about that name for ages, but you’re right. They were one of the pioneers, I’m thinking maybe even 20 years ago they were talking about, I don’t know what they called it, but it was different. Boy, it was different when I first saw one of their projects or videos. It, boy, I haven’t thought about that in –

Kris Featheringham: (06:19)
Yeah, there’s a great video. I think it’s from like 1997, like Ted Koppel did something or another on Newsweek, Newswire or whatever it was called back then. And there’s like a 20 minute video on it that’s amazing to watch and you can really see the thought process and the, what they were trying to achieve.

Gabe Larsen: (06:33)
Oh my heavens, you’re right. That, that was a fun one. So, you typically try to go for executive sponsorship. That’s one that people really struggle with. Is there any secrets you’ve found to get that? Oftentimes, I’ve heard CX leaders on our side of the fence say, “We speak different languages. They’re kind of about revenue. I’m about NPS. We’re kind of speaking French and Spanish here.” So any thoughts on how to make that happen?

Kris Featheringham: (06:59)
Yeah. I’ll tell you what, there’s an easy way to solve this is, you bring in a high powered, expensive consulting firm to tell you you need to do it. And a lot of times the executive sponsors would say, “Okay, sure. Let’s go ahead and do this,” because someone with some prestige has said it’s a great idea. But I’ll be honest, I would say that nowadays, most of the executive leaders out there know it exists. They know the value of it. They might not necessarily know how to get it started or what it really entails and that would be the responsibility of the person who’s looking to really adopt it and bring it into their organization is, “Hey, I’m sure you’ve heard about this, but let me talk to you a little bit more. Let me bring you in some use cases from some other companies.” There’s so much you can find online about how very famous companies, especially in technology, but across all organizations, retail, you name it, has brought in the concept of design thinking into their daily routines.

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
I love that. Okay. So executive sponsorships, where you go first and then how do you start to build this process of rolling out a design thinking, human-centered process? Any tips?

Kris Featheringham: (08:12)
So, design thinking is often linked to what’s called human-centered design and they’re kind of one in the same. And really, I think human-centered design kind of gives it that definition of really, you’re putting someone in the middle of what you’re trying to do. And human-centered design, design thinking can be used to solve a lot of problems. Originally, it was there from a technology perspective, but it’s grown leaps and bounds. You see it in product development and sporting equipment, services, you name it. But really, the way you get started, and honestly you got to start small, you got to start with a little bit of a, almost like a side gig within an organization, you want to kind of tackle a problem, but really what it means for human centered design is you’re putting the customer at the center of everything that you’re doing.

Kris Featheringham: (08:59)
There’s five steps to the design thinking process and I can go over them a little bit more in detail, but it’s empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things that you might kind of go from one to the other back to the beginning, so forth. But it’s really about truly understanding who you’re trying to solve the problem for, whether it’s an internal employee on a technology application, whether it’s a piece of sporting equipment for some end-user playing little league, who knows? But that building of the empathy is really the root of it all.

Gabe Larsen: (09:45)
Yeah. Well, yeah, let’s double click and you can take us through a hypothetical example. I’d love to hear about how you kind of explain or double click on some of these steps. So you were just talking about empathizing, what does that mean? How do you do it? Give me an example.

Kris Featheringham: (10:00)
So really what empathize means is you really just understand your user’s needs. All right, what is it like to be that person? And that person in the design thinking world is called a persona. And you build that persona through really just getting to know the person, getting to know what it is that they do each and every day. And it may even be outside of the domain you work in. So it’s like when they wake up, what’s the first thing they think about in the day? What is their life like? All right. You really want to kind of understand really the day in and day out of that person. And then you might go in there and honestly you might just interview them and ask them questions. You might walk them through various exercises of building a journey, and we could talk forever on journeys. Maybe we’ll talk another day about that. But you might shadow the person during their workday to understand what it is they do because when you sit there and just talk face to face with the person, they might be able to tell you a few things here and there, but you’re not going to pick up the same true sentiment and the understanding of the day in the life of that person without just watching them do their job.

Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Yeah. That’s way deeper. I mean, I’ve heard some people talk about like the customer journey map, which is really, it feels like it’s more just interview focused, watching, talking to them about what they do. What you’re talking about, it does sound like it’s more holistic. I actually talked to a hotel. He talked about his, the hotel, he ran operations for a hotel chain. He was like, “That’s one of the most powerful things we’ve ever done is we’ll just, we’ll get actually a guest and we’ll just shadow them as they check into our hotel, as they go into the room, where they go in the room.” He’s like, “It’s a little weird, but obviously we have permission to talk,” but then they’re really able to find some of those intricacies that wouldn’t probably come out via questioning. It really only came out via shadowing like their day to day life. I liked that one. That’s cool. That’s decent.

Kris Featheringham: (11:56)
Yeah. You couldn’t have said it more. That’s truly perfect. Because a lot of times when you sit there and interview someone, they’re just going off their most recent recollection or their most recent experiences, but there’s a lot of things that will come out that you will, that they would never even thought to bring up as you watch them. And you’ll come back to them afterwards saying, “Hey, I saw you do this and this can talk to me about that?” And then all of a sudden you opened up a whole new can of worms and it’s powerful.

Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
Got it. Okay. So empathize, that’s one. Where do you go? And then define is, how do you –

Kris Featheringham: (12:26)
Yeah, define’s the next step? And that’s a little bit, that’s kind of like a homework step. Once you spent all that time with your customers, really get to know their day in and out, you go back and you really put it all together and you try to understand, what are the true needs my customer has, right? Not just needs, but also, what is the major problems they are facing? A lot of times they will say, “I need this piece of software to do this.” Okay. That might not be really what they need. They needed an expected outcome. The define stage is more about understanding what are those outcomes that you’re trying to solve for? Not what is the client asking for, but what are those outcomes? Because sometimes the client might ask for something, but then it’s because they don’t truly understand or can’t, I won’t say can’t, but don’t necessarily understand that there might be no limits to what you might be able to provide them. So what is that outcome? And that’s really what’s coming out of the define stage and that’s a homework exercise you do with the team. You might bring in some internal people that really talk about it, bring in some perspectives. But that is an internal activity for us.

Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Yeah. That one seems like it’s hard. Because it does, I like your point on, it’s not just what the customers say, it’s kind of the outcome they’re really looking for. And that goes back to that concept. Like if I, what’s that, I love that quote, The Henry Ford quote. “If I would have asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses,” or something, right? Or –

Kris Featheringham: (13:49)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
Wouldn’t have been like, what they really wanted was just to get from faster to A to B. So their answer would have been, “Give me a faster horse,” when they really define the outcomes. Like, “Oh, well maybe we should find a better way to get from A to B,” right? So getting to real customers, not what they need, but what they want. I don’t know. I’m probably not explaining –

Kris Featheringham: (14:13)
Honestly, that’s a perfect example because a lot of times they know what they need to get to solve their problem. They don’t necessarily know how to get there. So they might just throw something off the top of their head, right? And yeah, it might be a great idea, it might not. Let us figure out how to get to that end state. You just tell us what the major problem is and where you’d like to be.

Gabe Larsen: (14:35)
Yeah. I feel like people get stuck there. That’s where it’s always building faster widgets. It’s like, “Let’s just decrease average handle time because people said they’re not satisfied.” We kind of tackle, we don’t really tackle the outcome. We just tackle one of the, one of the potential problems or one of the issues that’s leading to the outcome that’s not desirable. Oh man, any secrets you’ve found? Is it the brainstorm? Is it the, how do you get to the right outcome? Because again, I find that a lot of times people are misdiagnosing the job to be done, the outcome to be done.

Kris Featheringham: (15:15)
Yeah. You set it up perfectly because the next step in the whole process is the ideation stage, right? So now that we’ve done that research and now that we truly understand the problem of where that end state, where the customer or the human at the center of your design is looking to get to, the ideation starts and there’s, yeah. You can Google a ton of different ways to ideate on solving problems and things of that nature. But really, it’s getting people in the room. It might just be internal people. It might be a small project team. It might include some customers as well, but you go in there and you just start throwing out crazy things. And it doesn’t matter if it hits the nail. It’s really a way to, brainstorming is obviously the word that a lot of people have heard, but if you go online, you can search tons of different ways to go through these activities from like, I don’t know. One of the ones I enjoy is like called crazy eights. There’s something called mission impossible and negative brainstorming. There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can do it but really what it does is it throws ideas. What’s that?

Gabe Larsen: (16:22)
What’s like the crazy, like, give me an example of what does a crazy eight mean? It means you, or whatever else you said, is it just –

Kris Featheringham: (16:30)
Yeah. So crazy eights is kind of, that’s kind of my go-to because it works well for a lot of situations. So you just take a sheet of paper, fold it in half once, fold half twice, fold it in half another time, now you’ve got four, sorry, eight squares on your piece of paper. All right. And before we do this though, we make sure that all the people that are part of this ideation session are well-versed in the research that we did during the empathize. And what does that problem statement it needs through the define? So everybody understands part one and two. So we’re all rooted into the problem. So crazy eights, everybody’s got that sheet of paper now with eight little squares and you have eight minutes to put eight picture ideas on a square. And it doesn’t have to be a Picasso or anything like that.

Kris Featheringham: (17:17)
It’s trying to put eight quick ideas onto a piece of paper to come up with random thoughts of what can address those problems. All right. Some might hit the nail. Some might not. Most do not, but the great thing is they spur conversations and then the people in the room start to, people in the room start discussing it a little bit more. And you might take a concept for one person’s, mix it with another and say, “Oh my God, we have a really cool idea right here.” So it’s just a way to get some rapid ideas onto a piece of paper and start building off of that. So that’s the crazy eights.

Gabe Larsen: (17:50)
So it’s finding some way to do some of this ideation process. It sounds like –

Kris Featheringham: (17:54)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
So that’s, from the ideation then how do you narrow that down? You move into this prototype phase. Talk about that.

Kris Featheringham: (18:03)
Yeah. Yeah. So after ideation, right, you start, during that discussion and things like that, you narrow things down, you can’t have it. Let’s say there’s a hundred people, hundred’s way too many, 10 people in a room with eight concepts. You’re looking at 80. You really want to focus it down to a little bit more granular level, right? Pick one or two and kind of put it together. And that’s where you start prototyping, right? And if it’s a physical product, whether it’s technology, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. You can do clickable prototypes for like a website. You could get popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners and put together some kind of fake physical object to represent what you’re trying to build of a physical product.

Kris Featheringham: (18:45)
But you put something together and then you want, you put it in front of a customer or a user that wasn’t part of this, right? And I’m jumping already to the last step is the testing phase, because it’s so important. Like you hand it over to a user and you say, “What do you think?” All right. And just let them, this is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say like, “I don’t get it.” “All right, why?” Ask them why. And they’ll explain something or they’ll say, “I love it.” Ask them why, learn from them, right? If they’re saying, “You know what, it’s great, but it’s missing this.” “Okay. Let me record that.” And you’ll get so many pieces of input and feedback from those users that haven’t seen anything yet until you put that product in front of them and you ask those why questions and you gather that feedback and you know what you do? You go back, you ideate your prototype, you test again.

Kris Featheringham: (19:35)
And it might take a number of cycles to go through the process. But really what you’re doing is you’re taking a creative idea, you’re putting it in front of the customer, they’re giving you feedback, you’re going back to the drawing board and coming up a little bit more creative idea and doing it again and again until you really nail it.

Gabe Larsen: (19:52)
I love it. Well thought out, Chris. I want to spend more time but our time is short. So empathize, walk me through the steps again?

Kris Featheringham: (20:02)
Sure. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, rinse and repeat.

Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
Rinse and repeat. That’s the sixth step. Perfect. All righty. Well, in closing, maybe a summary statement from you. We hit on a lot of different ideas. As people are trying to get this design thinking into their own business, what would be a takeaway you’d leave them with?

Kris Featheringham: (20:26)
You know what, I like to tell people that the day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by. And the design thinking process is not meant to solve a problem and then you’re done and then you forget about it. You are constantly needing to push that envelope. Look for ways to constantly expand, enhance, modify, whatever it is to evolve whatever you’re delivering to your customers over and over again, because that needs to continually evolve or else you become stale.

Gabe Larsen: (20:59)
All right. Well, hey Kris, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Kris Featheringham: (21:05)
I appreciate it. I appreciate you having me on board and I’m open to questions from anyone. Just reach out anytime.

Gabe Larsen: (21:12)
Thanks Kris. Take care.

Kris Featheringham: (21:13)
Thanks a lot.

Exit Voice: (21:20)
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Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar

Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sami Nuwar to discuss how to successfully attain operational excellence in the CX realm. Sami has a diverse background as a customer experience and operational excellence practitioner. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Sami has become an expert at helping CX leaders reach excellence.

Utilizing Data for Operational Excellence

Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia, Sami Nuwar, helps his team understand and interpret customer data through new technology. In his experience, Sami defines operational excellence as, “The thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.” In instances where CX teams lack in this excellence category, Sami suggests that this is due to a lack of data gathering, interpretation, and action. Oftentimes when data is collected at firms, it is ignored and those within the company forget to ask questions regarding that data. It is impossible for effective changes to take place when no questions are being asked about interpreting the data. “Every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things.” Once that data is collected, it needs to be placed into the hands of those who can utilize that data beneficially. To do so, Sami suggests translating data in a way with monetary value, as dollar signs attract key eyes.

Becoming Operationally Sound

Sami understands that converting a CX team to becoming completely operationally sound can be difficult and overwhelming at first. To help clear any confusion, Sami suggests that the main goal is turning data into information that can be used to the benefit of the company. Becoming operationally sound is initially rooted in understanding the company’s vision and the steps necessary to see that vision to fruition. When a vision is set and understood by the team, it allows space for empathetic conversations to take place. Additionally, listening to and empathizing with those in the company can help employers to gain a better understanding of the daily operations. “Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them,” Sami elaborates. The last part of becoming operationally sound is to find balance within the organization and to translate data in a way that is relevant.

Advertising Successful Changes

One of the most important elements to operational excellence is often overlooked in Sami’s eyes, which is advertising the successful changes implemented by a department. When successful changes are implemented within the organization, Sami says that it is of the utmost importance to “sell your changes” to others within the firm. He goes on to explain that at first a lot of people won’t be onboard with new changes however, when successes are advertised within the company, people tend to hop onboard and support such changes. “It’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.”

To learn more about achieving operational excellence, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Operational Excellence | Sami Nuwar

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about operational excellence. This is an important one. We’ve asked about this. You’ve asked about this. So we wanted to bring on an expert in this topic. It’s Sami Nuwar. He’s currently the Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia. Sami, thanks for joining and how are you?

Sami Nuwar: (00:29)
Yeah, I’m fantastic. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah, I think this will be a fun one, man. Tell us, before we dive in just a little bit about yourself and your background.

Sami Nuwar: (00:37)
Yeah. I’ve spent 16 years at Verizon Business as a Practitioner of Customer Experience Management. I’m traditionally a researcher. That’s where I kind of got my start and then I evolved into an Operational Excellence Practitioner and then evolved again into a Customer Experience Practitioner. Spent 16 years at Verizon and then a few years at a small manufacturing company. After that, and then joined Medallia around this time last year actually.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
I love it. I love it. And for those of us who don’t know a lot about Medallia, give us kind of the 30 second on Medallia.

Sami Nuwar: (01:13)
Yeah. It’s a customer experience management platform. It’s primarily technology that helps you manage the experience, understand that experience, and enables you to do much bigger things. So it’s a technology and a platform, but we like to talk about CX beyond the platform. The technology just makes it easier to do it and democratizes it and now it makes our jobs as people, much easier to spread the love and let other people jump in and help out.

Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. I love it. I do think Medallia, I mean, you guys have certainly made a name for yourself, so kudos. A lot of people use that technology, I think to deliver some good customer, great customer experiences. Well, let’s dive into this idea of operational excellence and maybe you can just say a big picture. Why is operational excellence so important?

Sami Nuwar: (02:08)
Yeah, I believe that operational excellence and other variants of the term, continuous improvement, to me, it’s the rubber meets the road. It’s where the action should take place for the business or the environment to get better. And it’s the thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.

Gabe Larsen: (02:41)
Yeah. Why do you feel like people get lackadaisical on operational excellence? And then I want to get into a little bit, kind of the how here in a second, but is it just because it’s difficult to do? Is it devil’s in the details? But why do you think people don’t get as operationally minded or sound as they should?

Sami Nuwar: (02:59)
Yeah, I think in some cases there’s an assumption that someone is acting on the data that has been collected. That was certainly the case of Verizon for a long time. There was an assumption that people are doing something with it and no one is asking the questions. So how do you know that the, like what improvements have been made and how do you know those improvements are working? So those questions don’t tend to be asked. Those are the details that people tend to overlook. We’re so execution focused, every company is, every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things and ask those questions. Is it working? How do we know it’s working? What else do we need to do and who else do we need to get the help from?

Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
I love that. I love that. Well, let’s dive in a little bit. I mean, you’ve obviously had some experience trying to get operationally sound and tight, et cetera. How do you start to think about doing that? Where do you begin this journey to become more, just operationally tight?

Sami Nuwar: (04:12)
Yeah, I think to build that habit, you have to have a clear understanding of what your current state is and at least get an idea, have a vision of where you want to be. And if you don’t have that vision, then at least at a minimum, understand where your current state is and that’ll help you form your vision. So that’s step number one. You’ve got to knock that out. You’ve got to collect the data to gain that understanding and you have to have the conversations with the people inside your business. Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them. So, and at the same time balance that understanding with talking with customers and partners and external parties to understand what it’s like to be them too. And so collect all that data so that it becomes relevant for you and then it turns data into information that can be used.

Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
Do you feel like on that kind of understanding your current state, is there different methodologies, tools, best practices you’ve found to actually capture that? Is it mostly interviews? I mean, you kind of mentioned that, is that the way to best do that? Or how do you go about getting that?

Sami Nuwar: (05:33)
Yeah. The mode of collecting, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and your timeframe. You know, there’s a need to balance. You have to balance the need for relevant information and the timeframe that you’re working within. And in a lot of cases, especially in a business environment, you don’t have all day, you definitely don’t have all year. And so you’ve got the budget, the data collection need and the need for significance and relevancy with the need for time, and time costs money. So, find that balance that works for you and then choose the mode that works for you as well. So for me, what’s worked is a combination of quantitative techniques and qualitative techniques. Surveys are a great way to manage that balance of data relevancy and time because you can get a massive amount of information quantitatively by doing simple surveys. But that typically isn’t enough because surveys just gives you an indication of what the problem is. And maybe some indication of how big the problem is, which you also need to get is the why. And that really comes from qualitative information. So interviews, video is the new up and coming technology that people tend to use a lot of these days. We have a technology called LivingLens, which is really cool. It lets people submit video feedback or audio feedback and then it gets analyzed behind the scenes by the system. So those are all qualitative techniques –

Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
All different ways you can kind of capture it. Got it. Interesting. Once you get this data, you and I chatted a little bit about this before, but I thought it was such a great point. It’s, not all data is good, not all data is the same value. Some data is, I mean, the world is now capturing so much data, we’re having a hard time making sense of the data, getting the validity. How do you kind of walk through or make sure that you’re not being misled when it comes to some of this data you’re capturing?

Sami Nuwar: (07:41)
Yeah, that’s a key point. I mean, one of the other signals that, I mean, I mentioned techniques to collect data from people quantitatively and qualitatively, but the other, and I think overlooked channel for data, is the internal knowledge base within the business, the operational data. We all have systems and machines that capture data from our interactions with customers and our daily business. And that is typically a treasure trove of information and what, it’s difficult to gather because it’s typically incomplete or hasn’t been cleansed enough to be relevant. And so it’s in a state that’s pretty rough. But if we can take that data and test it to make sure that it’s relevant and then marry it with the feedback that you could get from talking with customers and whatever message you choose, then it becomes, it turns that data into information because you’ve added context. The experience feedback that you’re getting on top of the operational data that you’re already collecting and probably under-utilizing, marry the two pieces together and they become relevant pieces of information. But at the end of the day, the first thing you got to do is, whether you’re collecting data from customers or collecting data from internal systems, you’ve got to test its validity. If you fail to test the validity of that data and you make decisions based on the data without verifying that it’s true, you’re risking making bad decisions in setting the wrong course for your business.

Gabe Larsen: (09:22)
I love that. What are some of the data points you’ve found to be most important operationally speaking that you know you’d say, look to the audience, “Guys, these are probably some data points that if you really want to get operationally sound, a couple pieces of feedback would maybe be this metric, that metric.” Anything come to mind on that?

Sami Nuwar: (09:39)
Yeah. I mean, just going back to my telecom roots and this is actually, the example I’ll give you is pretty agnostic. It’s a telecom, it’s a problem, it’s always going to be there, it’s always been there, but it’s pretty much a universal problem regardless of industry and it’s one of time, right? We can never be fast enough. And anybody who’s ever subscribed to a cable, TV, or internet service or a phone service, any kind of service that requires some provisioning or some monkeying, some wrench turning behind the scenes to be done, there’s always an expectation of time of when it’s going to be done, right? When can I expect the technician to arrive? When could I expect some work to be done by you that you’ve promised me?

Sami Nuwar: (10:32)
And a metric that is typical in the telecom space is customer desire due date. That’s an internal, very nuts and bolts metric that is based, it’s based on a time expectation, right? The clock starts ticking and then the clock stops ticking at a certain point and an image of the difference between that, and that’s a metric that’s kept internal, and that’s how they measure their performance among their teams. And the analogous time metric from a customer’s point of view and in a question that you would typically ask them in a survey, for example is, “Did this thing occur within your expected amount of time? Yes or no?” And if not then here’s the follow up question, right? And then they tell you what it is. And so when the customer responds to a survey, they’re giving you their perception of how long it took something to get done.

Sami Nuwar: (11:28)
And so what’s incumbent upon us is to take the two pieces of information, their perceived experience coupled with what the business believes happened, and now we look for matches or mismatches in the data. And what I found at Verizon were huge mismatches. And typically that’s because of the measurement time post, right? So the moment in which we would start the clock and then stop the clock and measure that time was not the same moment in the customer’s mind, right? So they’re a customer, the clock starts ticking at the moment of the handshake and then in the telecom company’s perspective, the clock doesn’t start ticking until you sign that contract and that could be a difference of a few days or a couple of weeks.

Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
That’s so powerful. I love that. I just think those are the types of insights I think leaders need to figure out. It’s the tactical advice that really kind of moves them from one place to the other. Last question then is, once you found this and you got the currency, you found the data, then you got to kind of move into the next phase, the change, right? Where do you go from here and kind of, how do you wrap up?

Sami Nuwar: (12:42)
Yeah, you have got to get that data or that information into the hands of the people that you know are going to drive that change and that’s really where the continuous improvement people, the people that are the lean practitioners, the six sigma practitioners, or the people that are purposed, are driving some sort of operational process improvement in the business. We’ve got to get that into the hands of those people and it’s got to be specific enough that tells them what the nature of the problem is, how big that problem is and who’s impacted by it. Ideally dollar signs, if you can attach some sort of financial component to the problem that really gets people’s attention and makes them act on it. And then hopefully they take some sort of action, but it’s incumbent upon us to make sure either to help them take that action or to ensure that they take that action and hold them accountable to it. And lastly, once the action has been taken, right, and you can see the notice in the change and you’re measuring that change, or you’re tracking it over time because that’s part of what we do, it’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.

Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I love that. I love that. Sami, that’s such great advice. And I love kind of the tactical-ness of it. As you, as we kind of wrap here, any quick advice that you’d leave behind for the audience as they try to get operationally excellent in their different support experience teams?

Sami Nuwar: (14:15)
Yeah. I would say that last part that I just mentioned is probably the most important part. We talked about collecting signals and collating it in a way that people can comprehend and then holding them accountable to some sort of action, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to tell people about the change. And I consider that the most important component that’s often overlooked. But if it’s done right, what will happen is it’ll create a reinforcing loop. But people that did not jump into your bandwagon initially, because there’s always somebody who’s not going to jump on board, they eventually do jump onboard later down the line because they see their peers performing because you’ve advertised. You’ve shown that this discipline works and here’s the changes that’s come from it. And those dissenters initially, they didn’t jump on board will eventually jump on board and everybody will sing to the same sheet of music.

Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
I love it. I love it. You got to find those insights. The insights and then the sale. You don’t get it out there, nobody knows about it, it obviously doesn’t, you can’t end up changing anything. Well Sami, we really appreciate you jumping on. It’s fun to have a little more of a true practitioner. Sami is an operational kind of ninja, so it’s fun to hear how you’ve experienced some of that both in your current life and then in your previous life. If someone wants to get ahold of you or learn a little bit more about Medallia, what’s the best way to do that, Sami?

Sami Nuwar: (15:33)
Oh, you can send me a LinkedIn request. I’m on LinkedIn, pretty active on there. So I’ll be happy to connect with you guys and help out wherever I can.

Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sami Nuwar: (15:48)
Great. Thanks for having me.

Exit Voice: (15:54)
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Shaping and Scaling the Customer Experience with Matt Lombardi

Shaping and Scaling the Customer Experience with Matt Lombardi TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Lombardi to discuss the secrets of shaping and scaling the Customer Experience, especially during a worldwide pandemic. Tune in to the podcast below to discover how Matt successfully implements three tactics to build a successful CX program.

Step 1: Gaining Executive Buy-In

Head of Customer Experience and Strategy at ServiceNow, Matt Lombardi has developed a foolproof method to building and scaling CX teams in three simple and easy to follow steps. By identifying these three critical needs that CX leaders should embrace, he has helped lead teams to excellence. The first being getting executives to buy into the CX process early, preferably within the first 90 days. Matt says, “I think under investing in this area is both the most common mistake CX leaders make and it’s also the number one reason CX teams fail to get the resources they need to be successful.” When teams are able to gain executive support and investment, they are more inclined to succeed. As Matt mentions, “CX improvement opportunities can get hidden under massive growth,” meaning that it’s greatly important for CX leaders to develop and present an attention-grabbing business case to executives. In order to build a business case, there are two main areas leaders can turn for information. The first being understanding customer service metrics and how those metrics affect retention and growth. The second is to utilize customer feedback to improve the CX. “When you put those two pieces together, you can then start telling a really compelling story about how to drive long-term growth of your company.”

Step 2: Finding Value in Metrics

The second step of building and scaling a customer experience program is to “track and report on the value” the team brings to the company. A question some CX leaders might have is how to measure the effects CX metrics have on business revenue and customer retention. To this, Matt says that it doesn’t matter who in the company puts together the financial metrics about CX. What really matters is that CX teams have the right resources put into place beforehand so that those metrics are possible. This second step is especially helpful for leaders who are creating a business case to present to executives, as it adds monetary value to the team itself, rather than simple facts or statistics. On this, Matt adds, “Right off the bat you have to be balancing quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects so that you can kind of create and show proof points along the way.” When numbers that demonstrate how much money is saved and how much money is earned, executives are sure to listen. Noting that no other part of a company has to fight as hard as Customer Experience to prove its worth, Matt urges CX leaders to push their business case to the executives to gain support from organizational leaders.

Step 3: Staying Relevant Through Adaptation

The third and final step to scaling a CX team is to stay relevant and to consistently look for areas of improvement. It’s no secret that the customer landscape is constantly changing. It seems that every day, there is a new customer need. Identifying areas of improvement can be done through listening to customer needs and modifying processes or products to better fit those needs. To further explain this step, Matt shares an example of a customer interaction his team used as the means to improve different aspects of CX. In this example, Matt discusses how some of their loyal customers had previously purchased only one product, but as the brand expanded and more products became available, they found that those customers also expanded their purchases with the company. He goes on to say:

So what we found was there were some major problems where our products were not integrating in a way that was meaningful and helpful for our customers. We also didn’t have a really good service experience. And so customers were then dealing with and managing multiple account managers across multiple product lines.

From this experience, Matt’s team was able to alter their processes in ways that helped them remain relevant to their customers. CX leaders would do well to identify areas for improvement that will contribute to their overall relevance with their customers.

To learn more about shaping and scaling the customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Listen to “Build and Scale a CX Program | Matt Lombardi” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Build and Scale a CX Program | Matt Lombardi

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about how to build and scale a CX program, even during a pandemic and to do that we brought on Matt Lombardi out of Customer Experience and Strategy at ServiceNow. Matt, thanks for joining. How are you?

Matt Lombardi: (00:26)
Hey, doing great. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:28)
Yeah, really appreciate you taking the time. Give me the quick overview. Tell me a little bit more about kind of what you’re doing over there, your history and what you do over there at ServiceNow.

Matt Lombardi: (00:35)
Sure. Great. So I’ve been building and scaling customer experience teams for the past decade. It is a passion area for me and at ServiceNow, I joined about a year and a half and I’ve really been focused on one critical question. How do we create a world-class customer experience and how do we create the most satisfied, loyal customers out there?

Gabe Larsen: (01:03)
Love it, love it. And then outside of work, I usually like to ask, do you have any hobbies or crazy stuff, but I was curious about the name Lombardi. You go back to the famous coach or no?

Matt Lombardi: (01:16)
Yeah. So there’s family lore that we do, but I have not seen the proof yet, so I can’t make that claim.

Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
Well, that doesn’t count then. So any kind of hobbies outside of work? Any crazy stories outside of the name?

Matt Lombardi: (01:30)
Yeah, so I’d say the last six months or so, have been pretty wild as they’ve been for everyone. My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter. And so kind of taking her out of preschool has been a really fun, wild ride and that’s really taken up most of our free time and has been a full time job slash it’s been full of really funny happenings. So –

Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
And then she’s currently out of school right now as well?

Matt Lombardi: (02:10)
She is, yes.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
Well, good. We’re all fighting the same fight, man. More power to you. Good luck with it. But there are some pros, right? You do get to see her more, well there’s some pros and there are some cons let’s leave it there.

Matt Lombardi: (02:20)
There are a lot of pros. I think that there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where she hasn’t made a cameo on my Zoom meetings and where she hasn’t cracked up my entire team.

Gabe Larsen: (02:30)
Yeah. Hey, we just had it happen. We had my seven year old to jump in here, so Matt, thankfully he’s ready for it. This is take two for our podcast here. All right, well, let’s jump into the topic at hand. Obviously a lot of wealth and experience, but as you think about CX, how did you start to craft this and shape it is you wanted to really scale from where they were and where you want to go?

Matt Lombardi: (02:54)
Yeah, so that’s a good question. So in my experience, building strong CX teams and really growing them, I found that there are three critical needs that every CX leader has to embrace. The first one is getting executive buy-in early and often. And in my experience, this is the number one priority that has to happen in the first 90 days.

Gabe Larsen: (03:27)
Right.

Matt Lombardi: (03:27)
Number two is track and report on the value that your team is creating for the business. And that ties in to number one, but there’s a lot of balancing of quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects that you have to be constantly juggling and think about. And then number three is continuously adapt and improve to stay relevant. And that’s especially true now when our customer needs are changing every day.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
No kidding, right? Yeah. Amen to that. Well, let’s double click on each of these for a minute. I mean, number one, I feel like a lot of CX leaders, maybe it’s gotten a little easier with all the commotion that’s been going on. But certainly, if we were kind of polling our audience not too long ago, CX executive buy-in, talking different languages, getting necessary funds, misunderstandings, speaking different languages, these were all things that really came out as we were asking, again, the audience for sample talk tracks. How did you go about that? Any examples, stories or recommendations people should take to make the knowledge of reality?

Matt Lombardi: (04:41)
Yep. Yeah, absolutely. And I think under investing in this area is both the most common mistake CX leaders make and it’s also the number one reason CX teams fail to get the resources they need to be successful. So when I’m thinking about the last few times, I’ve led and grown a CX team, including at ServiceNow, there’s really one big question that I focused on for my first 90 days. And that was, how can I create a business case for investing in CX? And especially at a company that’s taking off like a rocket ship. That adds an extra layer of complexity because CX improvement opportunities can get hidden under massive growth. So I tend to be a bit of an impatient person. And so it takes a lot of discipline to not immediately jump in to CX improvement initiatives, to actually step back and focus on that one question. So there’s a few steps that I like to take to help answer –

Gabe Larsen: (06:02)
Yeah. Double click that on that, if you can. How do you think about a business case? Because I think that’s where we want to go.

Matt Lombardi: (06:08)
Yeah. Yeah. So, I think that the first step is to understand how it’s possible years and years of customer satisfaction metrics impact retention, upsells, and cost to serve. Once you have that down, and I know that can be a lot of work, connecting a lot of dots across different silos, but when you get there, you then need to move to a phase number two, which is to drill into customer feedback. Lots of unstructured customer feedback is ideal to understand what levers can be pulled to improve the customer experience. And then when you put those two pieces together, you can then start telling a really compelling story about how to drive long-term growth of your company. And at that point, the power of experience management becomes clear.

Gabe Larsen: (07:09)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean that first part of just tying the soft measures to the hard measures, like how much does call time or handle time or NPS or whatever, it kind of, or customer truths, how does it all affect top and bottom line metrics? Is that, did you work with your finance team on that? Did you do it yourself? Like how do you, how do you tie those? Because I think that’s the gap. We know we care about revenue for example, or the CEO cares about revenue or the financing, ARR or whatever that metric. And we care about voice of the customer effort score, NPS, but –

Matt Lombardi: (07:51)
Yeah. And then, so my position on this is it doesn’t really matter who gets that job done. What’s most important is before you start leading this kind of endeavor, you need to make sure the other right resource is in place to actually do that work. And that should be a top priority first hire is getting someone with the right business acumen who knows how to do that kind of modeling to support your business case. And so for me, just looking at my team’s trajectory over the course of this pandemic, we’ve more than doubled over the last six months. We’re going to continue to grow into next year. And a large reason for that is because we built out the right business case.

Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
You nailed it on the, I can’t, I almost don’t want to go passed this one because I just feel like it’s, you can’t, you just can’t win if you don’t do this and you don’t do it right, you guys. So the first one was, and now I’m forgetting because I was going a little bit deeper, but you kind of said get the metrics and tie them to, this hard metrics tied to the soft metrics. And then what were, what were you, there was a part two to that. Apologize, I –

Matt Lombardi: (09:06)
Yeah. Yeah. So get the metrics, number two, understand what levers you can pull that then create a better experience and impact your bottom line. And it’s when you meld those two together where you can make that business case.

Gabe Larsen: (09:23)
Okay. Then that feeds nicely into number two, which was really tracking and reporting, I assume, on some of those levers. So that now we’re getting kind of a continuous flow. Is that correct?

Matt Lombardi: (09:32)
That’s right. That’s right. And so it’s one thing to know if I can convert my unhappy customers into happy customers, this is what the bottom line impact is going to be. You need to take it to the next level to understand these are the top customer pain points that are slowing down our growth. And these are the ones where I think we can have the best ROI. Once you have that full story together, and you bring the executive team on board to get full alignment on what the top opportunities are, that’s when you can start having some fun.

Gabe Larsen: (10:13)
Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. And are there certain metrics that you find that are more important that you try to kind of watch or you found to be interesting in your own business that you’d be open to share?

Matt Lombardi: (10:24)
Yeah, sure. So, I mean, I think for me, it always comes down to what is the top-line CX measure for the entire company? And for me, that’s often NPS, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, but then taking it down a few levels and understanding what is driving that top-line score. And there it’s, typically around what is driving value for customers and figuring out, what kind of metrics will help you get there.

Gabe Larsen: (11:04)
Hmm. Got it. Okay, so you get those kinds of tracking and metrics is the big second piece, right? And that’s tying into this bigger business case vision. You make sure you get the right metrics, understand where the strengths and weaknesses are and dive into that. That number three was this iteration concept. That’d be good. Double-click on that. How have you seen that affect your business? What some examples there?

Matt Lombardi: (11:27)
Yeah. So there’s a few things that I think about there. I think just simply building the case, getting executive alignment around what things should change, where resources should be spent, and then being able to show what kind of bottom-line growth that will lead to that, that is that is really the first and most important thing that you need to be focused on as a CX leader. And what I see time and time again, is CX teams that fail to connect what they do to revenue growth and cost savings that executives actually care about, they can expect to see job cuts. Especially during times when companies are looking to tighten their belts. I see, again and again, CX teams are often the first that get snipped. So once you get the organization kind of moving in the same direction, it’s then, kind of my point number two, is focused on tracking and reporting on the value that your team is creating for the company. So what I think about there is, and I think I referenced this already, right off the bat you have to be balancing quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects so that you can kind of create and show proof points along the way. And so, yeah, so for me, it’s kind of, what’s interesting about being a CX leader is I think there’s no other role in the organization that is forced to prove its value again and again, continuously. If you’re in sales, your numbers kind of show what kind of value you’re adding. In CX, you really need to do that hard work of rolling up the sleeves and prove it every day, every quarter.

Gabe Larsen: (13:47)
How do you keep that kind of iterative mindset? I mean, it is hard. You do it once and you don’t, you let it stay stale. How have you found ways to kind of continue to innovate, continue to iterate and continue to find those kinds of ways to improve the customer experience?

Matt Lombardi: (14:00)
Yeah, so I’d like to keep track of both smaller proof points as well as larger showcase items. And so I’ll give you an example of a sort of smaller proof point example. So a strong NPS program should be the engine for your customer reference program. So one easy way to show continual improvement in value, it can be as simple as tracking how many references are generated as a result of CX, and then how many deals have been closed as a result of that. So that’s just one tiny proof point that can be really powerful as you’re kind of building out your larger ROI story. And then thinking about a bigger example, at a previous company, my team identified a really puzzling CX problem. So we identified a trend that showed that our largest, happiest customers who at the time just had one product, as soon as they started to expand and purchase other products, and they became even larger customers, they all of a sudden became a lot less happy. We saw that churn was becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And so that’s obviously the kind of worst case scenario when you’re trying to grow your largest customers. So what we found was there were some major problems where our products were not integrating in a way that was meaningful and helpful for our customers. We also didn’t have a really good service experience. And so customers were then dealing with and managing multiple account managers across multiple product lines. So our research and our work ultimately led to a services transformation project that then ultimately led to incredible retention growth and customer experience gains that we could see through NPS and other metrics.

Gabe Larsen: (16:25)
Awesome.

Matt Lombardi: (16:25)
So that’s sort of a larger example that takes a long time to actually be able to prove out what value you added. But having those smaller proof points along the way goes a long way towards continuing to prove out your team’s value.

Gabe Larsen: (16:44)
Yeah. I appreciate that. I like the approach, Matt. I think it’s well thought out. It’s nice and structured. Thank you for the example. I think that definitely highlights some of the areas you focused on and found that are necessary to win. So as we wrap, if somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these thoughts or suggestions, what’s the best way to do that?

Matt Lombardi: (17:07)
You can reach me through LinkedIn and I’d be happy to connect.

Gabe Larsen: (17:13)
Cool. Cool. Awesome. Well, we’ll make sure we put that in there. Again, thanks so much for joining. Fun talk track on shaping and scaling the CX organization and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Matt Lombardi: (17:23)
Thank you.

Exit Voice: (17:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Human-Centered Customer Experience with Amanda Chavez

Human-Centered Customer Experience with Amanda Chavez TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Amanda Chavez to discuss human-centered customer service and design. Amanda has over a decade of experience working in this type of design and shares expert advice worth listening to. Tune in to the podcast below to discover how Amanda incorporates human-centered design into all aspects of customer experience.

How a North Star Mindset Can Bring Success

As the Director of Customer Service at NuAxis, Amanda understands how to effectively incorporate the often forgotten humanistic element into customer experience. She explains that a human-centered approach not only focuses on learning from data and gathering numbers, but it more importantly allows CX agents to get to know customers on a personal level. She expounds:

There’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.

Amanda’s approach to CX is not new, but rather different than traditional CX methods; she calls this a north star mindset. This mindset is all about acting in the best interest of customers and keeping them at the forefront of the experience. When institutions get distracted by keeping stakeholders happy and getting work done, oftentimes the customer gets left behind in the decision making processes. By having a north star mindset, Amanda finds that it gives people the courage to make unpopular or dubious decisions on behalf of the customer that ultimately leads to success.

Including the Human Element of CX

The human element of the customer experience is arguably the most important part of creating lasting customer loyalty. When companies become too distracted with pleasing stakeholders or keeping upper management happy, as previously mentioned, the customer is often left out of the equation. For Amanda, the act of physically making an effort to include that human aspect back into decision making, keeping stakeholders happy, etc. ultimately keeps customer retention rates high and leads to better employee/customer relationships. She illustrates, “It doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.” To help CX leaders better understand how to include the human element in experience, she urges leaders to ask meaningful questions and to ask customers to provide specific examples of their experiences. One way to do this is to find the extremes of CX, or customers who have experienced the radical highs and lows of service, and ask targeted questions that help to gain a more in depth understanding of areas to improve. Another helpful tip Amanda offers is to record customer conversations. Her team does this through a free, open-source software called Otter. These recorded interactions pose to gather data and to shape future training for more successful outcomes.

Common Sense Uncommonly Practiced

When incorporating the human element back into CX, it is important to develop a sense of empathy for each customer. This empathetic approach naturally occurs when agents genuinely interact with their customers by asking questions and listening to their needs. Discussing her time developing and working a human-centered design approach, Amanda mentions, “Each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives.” Agents and leaders who understand that customers are all experiencing their own version of service through personal interpretation, are typically better equipped to handle any range of customer experiences. Amanda’s final advice to CX leaders is to use “common sense uncommonly practiced,” meaning to engage with the humanistic side of customers and to incorporate human-centered design and service to all aspects of CX.

To learn more about human-centered customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Create a More Human Experience in Customer Support | Amanda Chavez” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about human-centered customer experience and to do that, we brought on the Director of Customer Experience from NuAxis, that is Amanda Chavez. Amanda, how the heck are you? And thanks for joining.

Amanda Chavez: (00:24)
I am as good as can be expected with homeschooling kids and working.

Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
We were just comparing notes. You have how many kids again, Amanda, for the audience just so they know?

Amanda Chavez: (00:35)
Half as many as you, I’ve got two.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yep. So she’s got two and unfortunately, I did have a chance to meet a couple of them before and that was really fun on our Zoom meeting, but they are unfortunately not in school. Mine are in school, so I was bragging and Amanda was jealous, but that is the world in which we live. Amanda, tell us real quick, besides the two kids, give us kind of your quick background, who is Amanda?

Amanda Chavez: (00:58)
Oh my gosh. So I have been in human-centered design for a little over a decade and in human-centered design, we designed for end-to-end experiences whether it’s for an end user or a customer. And so I’ve parlayed that into more specifically work with customers, working on that experience. So yeah, that’s me.

Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’re excited to pull some of that information out of you today. So let’s start at the top. A lot of people don’t even know what, when you say human-centered customer experience, maybe just define it or what does that even mean? Why is it important?

Amanda Chavez: (01:41)
Sure. So I mean, well, human-centered design really focuses on designing experiences for humans and customers, I’ve heard that customers are also humans. So, we should start there. So in designing for a customer, using a human-centered approach to design for customers. So there’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat of customer experience, which you delve into through your podcast. And there’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Got it. And is there, I mean, if you had to compare that against a non-human centered, like, is it, this is kind of the new way. What was the old way? What would you say is kind of the old way of doing things or what’s the difference with this?

Amanda Chavez: (02:55)
So it’s not necessarily an old way, just a different way. I think that people in this field, it’s just really easy to go to numbers and to point to a tried and true solution to address the numbers. Which is fine. Anybody who’s focused on improving things for a customer, I’m not going to throw salt on how they do it. This is just a different way to do it.

Gabe Larsen: (03:23)
Love it. Okay, good. So let’s get into some of the ways you think about this human-centered design. If you were going through with a specific project or client or maybe a project of some sort, how do you start to think about attacking or approaching this human-centered customer experience?

Amanda Chavez: (03:44)
Sure. I think first and foremost, you have to go in with a mindset. And maybe this is because I’m in my forties now and right in the middle of life that I’m thinking about it this way, but why is any of us really doing what we do, right, if not for the benefit of other people, if not for our customers? So I think really keeping your north star and your “why” front and center helps you to act with courage to make even at some points controversial or leap of faith decisions on behalf of your customers. So I think having that north star mindset that you are acting in the best interest of your customers has to be sort of front and center, agnostic of what approach you take.

Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
So the “why.” Why do you feel like, I mean why, why, why?

Amanda Chavez: (04:43)
That’s a, I love “why” questions. Go for it.

Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
Well, yeah. Why do people miss this? Or why did they not start here? Is it just something they dive into the details? It seems like a natural thing to do, but maybe an easy thing to forget.

Amanda Chavez: (04:57)
Yes. So what you’re saying is like one of my favorite expressions: it’s common sense, uncommonly practiced. And I think the “why” for it is like, you’ve got a boss who’s giving you a mandate. You’ve got shareholders who have earnings expectations above you. There’s a lot of drivers that influence, very real drivers too, that influence how people communicate to you about what you’re supposed to be doing. And a lot of times it’s not, the customer doesn’t really come into the conversation. I have noticed that after working for 20 years, that it almost never enters the conversation. So I think, this is why I think it also takes courage because you have to be the one to put it in the conversation. And it doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.

Gabe Larsen: (05:58)
Yeah, somebody’s got to do it, right? And if it’s not you, it’s probably not going to be anybody.

Amanda Chavez: (06:04)
Yes, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (06:04)
So we can start with the “why” and really just try to figure out why you’re a business, why you’re serving your customers, get that kind of big picture. From there then, where do you go to kind of start to dive into the detail?

Amanda Chavez: (06:18)
Sure. So I don’t, I really don’t want to knock quantitative data. That’s certainly a part of the human-centered practice also, but instead of stopping there which is, I feel like, you were asking about a new way versus the old way, I think just a common way is to stop at looking at the quantitative data. And there is truly a place for survey data, looking at your AI analytics about how people are interacting with a given touch point, but you need to look deeper than that. So it, and this is something that costs like almost no money. It takes a little bit of time, but again, part of the common sense uncommonly practiced is take that data and that will tell you where the solar flares are, right? It will tell you where, it’s a symptom that there’s a problem. Take a look at that and then talk, just talk to the humans, right? Like things that we do all the time. Ask, you’re talking about “why” questions, literally all you need to talk to the humans is like the stuff that you learned in fifth grade English, right? Who, what, where, when, why, how. Ask them about their experience and really listen and even better, record it.

Gabe Larsen: (07:34)
Yeah. Sometimes it is about, I think I read once that, maybe this was for emails, it was like, “It’s best to speak at like a third grade level.”

Amanda Chavez: (07:48)
Nailed it then. A little ahead of you, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (07:53)
I was just like, “Wow.” Because I am, I’m a buzz. I’m like, “AI chat bot,” any other buzzword I can throw in there. CX experience management. It’s like, “What is experience management?” And I’m like, “Wow.” If I really started to just be real with people, I think that would probably help in sales and marketing and customer service. But I can imagine as you go and talk to these people and you have a real conversation, the news, I’ve always called them the newspaper questions. I don’t know why, but –

Amanda Chavez: (08:29)
No, that’s it. The newspaper questions. You learned it in fifth grade.

Gabe Larsen: (08:32)
Yeah. I actually need to Google that one like is that a thing or did I just make that up, the newspaper questions?

Amanda Chavez: (08:39)
You didn’t. I was actually going to say the journalism questions.

Gabe Larsen: (08:42)
Yeah! There is some. No, I knew it!

Amanda Chavez: (08:43)
See? You were right all along.

Gabe Larsen: (08:43)
No because, like yeah. The basic newspaper guy, woman, man would be like, “What, who are you? What are you doing? What happened here?” Like that’s the base.

Amanda Chavez: (08:56)
Oh, and can I also say too when you’re asking these questions, so set aside, listen, I have a whole method for doing this. And I get really like, if you’re like an expert in this, I will like punish people for not asking questions the right way. But if you’re somebody just getting into this, it doesn’t matter how you ask the questions. But one thing you do need is to shut up. Like, you need to ask the questions and do not add your color commentary, let that person speak and dig in deeper. Like what you’re doing on this podcast, Gabe too, you’re asking follow-up questions, you’re digging. When somebody gets really excited about something and they start to gesticulate, not that any of us is ever going to talk to anybody in person again, but you hear them talking and you can tell that they’re getting excited or you hear them kind of take a step back, pause and get reflective, those moments where something changes and how somebody is talking, that indicates that there’s a high level of emotion going on, either positive or negative. Dig into those places. Follow up. Ask your newspaper questions.

Gabe Larsen: (10:07)
I like the follow up. Yeah. It’s about going, I’ve found that in multiple aspects. Actually, I was just interviewing a candidate and was really feeling the benefit of that. Like, “Tell me about this and then well, what happened here?” And then we went down like five levels. It was just really, it was like, “Oh, that’s, I think this person really knows what they’re doing,” or you really got to the root of it because you did, you went five levels down. Maybe five –

Amanda Chavez: (10:33)
That is, no, that’s the magic number for root cause. Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (10:36)
Yep. Well see, I know so many things, Amanda. You just didn’t, weren’t aware of it. I know newspaper questions. I know third grade reading level.

Amanda Chavez: (10:45)
Gabe, seriously. I mean, we’re very lucky to have you here.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. That’s what I was wanting you to say that. Thank you for saying that.

Amanda Chavez: (10:55)
You’re so welcome. You’re so welcome.

Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Okay, so you got point one. We’ll come back to that topic in a minute, but we’ve got point one, it’s all about the “why.” Point two is how did this, finding the right data. I love the questions. Diving deeper. I love your idea of it’s not, you don’t have to say the perfect thing, but dive into it. What’s number three? Where do you go for kind of your third big point on figuring out this human-centered design?

Amanda Chavez: (11:14)
Sure. So, and the reason I recommended to you recording it, so you have to ask permission just so that, I mean, I feel like a lot of people know that, but I don’t want to make assumptions. So if you’re ever, there’s a free open-source software out there, I want them to give me a cut because I advertise them without sponsorship all the time, but Otter. It’s Otter like the animal. Otter.ai. If you enter that into a web search, they have an open source free platform for you to record conversations and they transcribe them for you. And then they even do like sentiment analysis. Like, I mean, it’s, it’s bananas. Like there, it’s, if you want to do like CX on the cheap, you could do a lot worse than Otter and I’ll be collecting my check from them later, but the reason –

Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
I’m looking at them now. Keep going. I’m looking at it though.

Amanda Chavez: (12:12)
Oh sure, no problem. But once you collect that data, because that is what you’re doing, you’re, I mean, it’s a softer touch, going in and talking to the humans, but it’s nonetheless it’s data. So collect that data and then start to look for what the themes are. So talk to a couple of people, right? Talk to people who represent the extremes of the experience. People who have, either people who’ve had the ultimate high or the ultimate low with the experience, find out what they’ve got in common or demographically, right? Sort of customer segments. Looking at people across different customer segments or people who are, who represent the extremes of an experience, and then from there aggregate what they’ve got in common. What are the themes that they’ve got in common? Because by looking at those different segments and seeing what they have in common in their experience, that tells you, and again, compare it with your quantitative data too, but that tells you sort of in a really graphic way, what’s going on with your customers and what their experience really looks like. And then from there, you can map out their journey, right? From literally from their own words, you can begin to map out their journey. And I know that probably most of your audience knows how to do a journey map, but –

Gabe Larsen: (13:39)
What have been some of the just, I wanted that last part because people do ask about that a lot. I mean, what are any experiences or stories, and I guess it could be on any of these points. But as you’ve gone through these exercises, fun things you’ve kind of discovered, interesting pain points. Like, “I’ve never thought we’d find that to be a problem and we found it,” or something that can kind of bring some of these points just in a little more of an example.

Amanda Chavez: (14:05)
Sure. No, thank you. You would, by the way, you’d make an amazing human-centered researcher. Like you kind of do it naturally. So, but yeah, because we ask for examples. We ask when we’re talking to customers. We ask them to give examples. So some of the interesting, oh man. I don’t want to get into like dark night of the soul stuff, especially since we’re having such a lovely conversation –

Gabe Larsen: (14:31)
Oh no, let’s do it. Those words are intriguing. Dark night of the soul.

Amanda Chavez: (14:35)
I know. Yeah, but I mean it. So I’ve been, so NuAxis, we work with federal customers and that’s where the majority of my, the second half of my career has been working with government, federal government customers. And the cool thing about the federal government is that they touch every problem and every person and every like customer segment. I mean, it’s amazing the reach of the federal government and so I say that to say that it, one of the first human-centered design projects that I did was for sexual assault prevention. And that’s why I’m like, “Oh, the dark night of soul stuff.” What we realized through that research and talking with people who were, who had been on, like who had been victims of sexual assault, as well as perpetrators, people who had perpetrated it, was that there’s so, I mean, one of the biggest things for me was that there were so much gray for them in their perspective. I mean, really going in and talking with people and it’s a big challenge to stay objective, especially when you’re talking with like people who have perpetrated sexual assault, but there was so much gray for them. And so much like misunderstanding sort of leading up to the event and then after the event. And I think in our minds, we kind of like see it as a black and white thing. And that was sort of, that insight alone really kind of shaped my thinking about a lot of different things that sort of, that insight sort of has permeated my understanding all these years later that each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives. And I mean, I know that that sounds really like mixed up to say that you can have empathy for people who have even been on, but it does once you talk to people and you understand them, you can’t help but have empathy.

Gabe Larsen: (16:53)
Hmm. Interesting. Well, that’s a fascinating experience. I didn’t realize those, that you worked on projects like that. That’s wow.

Amanda Chavez: (17:03)
Yeah, well it’s been all over the map.

Gabe Larsen: (17:04)
No, it’s a great example though. I think of kind of double-clicking into that idea of this kind of human-centered design as you, wow. Geez. That’s crazy.

Amanda Chavez: (17:16)
Sorry, I didn’t mean to, I told you it was going to be dark night of the soul.

Gabe Larsen: (17:19)
Yeah, in my mind and the gray area comment. That’s right. That really resonates, fascinating. Well, we might just, man, we might just have to have you come back. I want to hear three or four more experiences. Maybe not as interesting as that, but I –

Amanda Chavez: (17:37)
Like a little less interesting for the next time. Totally, totally. We’ll keep it lame.

Gabe Larsen: (17:42)
But it might be fun to have you come back and talk through some of those examples, but I appreciate kind of the framework. We did it on a couple of different ideas. In summary, as you think about CX leaders who are trying to get to more of this human-centered design, or maybe just get better in CX, what would be kind of thing you’d want to leave with them?

Amanda Chavez: (17:58)
So, I mean, I, again, I think I would just want to go back to start somewhere. You may not have a perfect process mapped out. You may not have sophisticated AI running in the background or the means to interpret the analytics that you’re collecting, but you can always talk to the humans and you don’t have to have a fancy formal process. You will walk away with just deeper understanding of who your customers are. And if you have that north star, that intention that you want to improve their experience, I mean, we can all be talking about all the tools, tips, and tricks in the world, but really the basics, again, you could do a lot worse than to just go with the basics.

Gabe Larsen: (18:47)
And you got to add your, what’s your common and uncommonly phrase? I think we just, we got –

Amanda Chavez: (18:52)
Common sense uncommonly practiced.

Gabe Larsen: (18:55)
Yeah. We got to end with that one. That’s such a great, I got to steal that one. I just don’t, it’s such a tongue twister. I don’t know if I can do it. Alrighty. Well, if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about human-centered design, what’s the best way to do that, Amanda?

Amanda Chavez: (19:09)
Oh my gosh. Email me. I would love to have a conversation about it. Do I give my email here?

Gabe Larsen: (19:14)
You can absolutely. Or you can do LinkedIn. What, any preferred –

Amanda Chavez: (19:19)
Like normal adults. Yes. You can look me up on LinkedIn. Yes. You could do that too. Rather than posting my email like a billboard.

Gabe Larsen: (19:29)
No, no. Well, yeah, we do transcribe this, so we would probably get your email out there, but either –

Amanda Chavez: (19:35)
LinkedIn, that’s it. LinkedIn. I’m there. Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (19:37)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, it’s been fun to have you and appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Amanda Chavez: (19:47)
Thank you, Gabe. Thanks everybody.

Exit Voice: (19:54)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Introducing Kustomer App Marketplace & Developer Platform

Introducing Kustomer App Marketplace & Developer Platform TW

We’re very excited to announce today the release of our third party app development program and the launch of 20 new apps.

The “app store” concept is not a new one. While its most recently reached global popularity by Apple and Google, companies have been making digital marketplaces for others to develop, package and distribute applications online since the early days of the internet. The same way that Airbnb provides more choices to consumers by providing housing options from a global network of homeowners, an apps platform enables customers to benefit from the work of thousands of developers around the world.

One of the main reasons businesses choose Kustomer is because our product provides a “single pane of glass” into many different systems a business might need to provide world class support. However, there are thousands of systems, both third party and home grown, that businesses could potentially use to provide quality support. And our CRM platform has an endless array of use cases and functionality that could be leveraged to build these integrations. While our product and development teams do build things very quickly, our team alone will never be able to keep up with the demand of the various integrations our customers need.

So we’re extremely excited to invite our partners, customers, and third party developers to now build integrations and experiences inside of Kustomer’s CRM platform at a scale that we could never dream of internally. However, in order for this initiative to be successful, there are three key components that we have been investing in, and will continue to expand:

    1. First, apps need to be able to have a wide range of functionality in order to provide value to businesses. Thanks to the hard work of our apps platform team, apps can now install custom objects, connect to OAUTH-based third parties, create cards, custom views, custom attributes, webhooks, workflows, and more. We’re confident this work will result in features and automations that ultimately make support teams work more efficiently, and deliver delightful experiences to their millions of end-customers around the globe.
    2. Secondly, partners need to have the proper documentation to know how to build an app. Today we’ve announced our third party apps documentation, which has already been leveraged by both our internal apps team and some early partners to develop apps that many of our customers are using today.
    3. Finally, partners need to be incentivized to build the app. Today, we’re working with integration partners to build experiences that benefit all three parties involved — Kustomer, the partners, and the companies that use these integrations. Over the next few months, we’re going to be rolling out more features to make app submission easier, and revenue sharing programs to continue to foster and incentivize a wide array of integrations to be safely and securely built and distributed from any developer in the world.

This is obviously just the dawn of our apps vision, and we need your help to make Kustomer a better tool for thousands of companies and millions of customers worldwide. If you’re interested in building an app, the best place to start is by reading the Kustomer Apps documentation and filling out our developer form to get a test account and start building. And as always, if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team on whatever channel you prefer!

 

Kustomer Launches New App Marketplace, Making It Easy for Businesses to Connect Tools, Processes and Data Into a Unified Customer Experience

Kustomer Launches New App Marketplace TW

Curated Set of Integrated Apps Helps Businesses Streamline CX Operations to Improve Agent Productivity and Customer Satisfaction

 

New York, NY – February 23, 2021Kustomer, a top-rated CRM for modern customer experiences, today launched the Kustomer App Marketplace, a curated set of applications and integrations that can be easily added to the Kustomer platform for a unified, omnichannel customer experience. By integrating communications, ecommerce, social, productivity, advanced analytics, and other best-in-class apps with the Kustomer CRM platform, businesses can activate omnichannel CX operations more quickly and efficiently.

“Businesses are racing to integrate new communications channels, artificial intelligence, chatbots and other innovations to create seamless, bespoke customer experiences at every step in the customer journey. This can be challenging when legacy technologies and complex integrations get in the way,” said Brad Birnbaum, Co-founder and CEO of Kustomer. “With the new App Marketplace, we are making it easy for businesses to extend the value of their Kustomer CRM platform with plug and play apps that modernize and unify omnichannel operations. Businesses can now tame their CX ‘frankenstack,’ creating the seamless, agile operations they need to connect in more ways with more customers.”

App Marketplace Provides Measurable Benefits To Brands and Partners

The Kustomer Marketplace makes it easy for businesses to better inform customer interactions, boost agent productivity, streamline operations, and reduce total cost of ownership with these features:

  • One-Click Install Apps: Businesses are using the App Marketplace to assemble and adapt their CX ecosystem without the need to engage expensive development resources.
  • Full CX Ecosystem Integrations: Businesses can tap into a large and growing list of integrations to unify their customer service systems, connecting every element of an omnichannel customer experience.
  • Seamless CX Operations and Unified Customer Visibility: By linking every element of CX operations and data, CX organizations can put a single view of the customer at agents’ fingertips. Agents can quickly find, share and act on information across the tech stack by creating one central place to stay focused and get work done.
  • Centralized Tools Management: Customer Service Operations can now go to one central marketplace where admins can install, integrate and maintain third-party apps with the Kustomer CRM platform.
  • Fast Track to a Growing Marketplace: Partners can tap into new revenue streams with a comprehensive app development platform and resources to join an established marketplace of qualified buyers.

“Streamlined operations and unified customer experience are imperatives today as businesses scale to deliver more personalized service on tighter budgets,” said Vasili Triant, Chief Operating Officer at UJET. “We are proud to be selected as one of the first apps featured in the Kustomer App Marketplace and believe it will become an essential hub for businesses looking to build the modern CX operations needed to serve today’s increasingly digital and mobile consumers.”

In November 2020, Kustomer signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook, subject to customary regulatory review. Once the acquisition closes, Kustomer will continue to serve its customers and work with its partners as part of the Facebook family. With complementary capabilities, more people will be able to benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however they need it–via phone, email, text, web chat or messaging. In particular, Kustomer will be able to enhance the messaging experience which is one of the fastest growing ways for people and businesses to engage.

About Kustomer
Kustomer is a top-rated CRM, helping top brands deliver modern customer service that creates customers for life. Through AI-powered automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of contact centers and businesses, enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com

Join us for our webinar on February 25th, 2021: How to Unify a Modern Tech Stack for Seamless Customer Service

Register Now

 

How Operations Play a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

How To Hire the Right Talent

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

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

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

Defining Values that Resonate

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

Journey Mapping with Employees in Mind

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

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “Secrets to Operationalizing a Transformational Customer Program | John Timmerman” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Timmerman: (11:22)
I’m sorry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (15:49)
The frontline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (32:58)
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (33:22)
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Secrets to Improving the Customer Experience With Christine Deehring [Podcast & Transcript]

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the strategies to improve the customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers.

Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast.

Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience

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

Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company supports a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.”

To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom-First.

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

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Customer Loyalty: Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero

Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to build a company from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration.

Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs by saying, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.

Optimize Customer Interactions Every Step of the Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Guide to Delivering Quality Customer Service

woman in carriage

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:

  1. Respectful: Show an appreciation for customers’ time, energy and business as well as the situation that caused them to reach out.
  2. Attentive: Use active listening skills that uncover what the customer is and isn’t saying, and show that you’re invested in helping them.
  3. Caring: Exhibit empathy and emotional intelligence to demonstrate a genuine concern for your customer’s feelings.
  4. Positive: Transform customer complaints into positive touchpoints with the brand by leading with a positive attitude and a warm, friendly tone.
  5. 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.
  6. Communicative: Employ strong communication skills to ensure that your responses are as clear, informative and helpful as they can be.
  7. Knowledgeable: Be prepared and forthcoming with expert knowledge about products or services, giving your customers the support and answers they’re looking for.
  8. Determined: Prove that you’re actively committed to discovering the root of the issue and arriving at a solution that meets your customers’ needs.
  9. Creative: Use outside-of-the-box thinking and sharp problem-solving skills to tackle more nuanced and complex issues with personalized solutions.
  10. 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.
  • Data to gain a 360-degree view of the customer.
  • Authority to take action on behalf of a customer.
  • Tools to manage their work efficiently.

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
  • Resolution rate
  • Average resolution time
  • First response time
  • Customer effort score (CES)
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Sentiment analysis

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.

To discover more, request a free demo today.
 

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin TW

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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.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “Irene Griffin | Using Empathy to Connect with the Customer” on Spreaker.

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)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (18:09)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon TW

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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.

Fan Support

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.

 

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Listen to “Douglas Kramon | Be Brief, Be Bright, and Be Gone” on Spreaker.

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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)
It is.

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)
No way!

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)
That’s awesome.

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)
Of course.

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)
It was.

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)
Really?

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.

 

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data.

You Must Know Consumer Expectations to Deliver on Their Demands. We’ve Got the Data. TW

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.

 

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne TW

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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.

 

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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)
Sure.

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)
Got it.

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)
Right.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Yeah.

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)
That’s fantastic.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Interesting.

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)
Take care.

Jason Henne: (25:35)
No problem. Thank you so much for having me on.

Exit Voice: (23:16)
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How to Bring an Intelligent Customer Experience to Your Organization

How to Bring an Intelligent Customer Experience to Your Organization TW

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.

How to Bring an Intelligent Customer Experience to Your Organization Inline

 

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders TW

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

 

Achieving a 360-Degree Customer View Isn’t as Tough as You Think

Achieving a 360-Degree Customer View Isn’t as Tough as You Think TW

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.

 

The Top Customer Service Qualities Your Customers Expect

The Top Customer Service Qualities Your Customers Expect TW

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.

Just consider these consumer insights from PwC:

  • 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.

1. Respect

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.

3. Empathy

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.

6. Patience

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.

7. Determination

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.

10. Efficiency

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.

 

Be NICE: How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias

Be NICE: How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias TW

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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.

 

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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)
Yes. Perfect.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Right.

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 sergio.friasrb@gmail.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)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Digital Customer Service: What It Is and Why It Matters

credit card and laptop

In the realm of customer care, there’s tried-and-true, traditional customer service, and then there’s digital customer service. While there’s certainly plenty of overlap, the latter takes a more focused perspective and is designed to support digital consumers by taking their omnichannel customer journey into consideration.

This might have you wondering, what is digital customer service, exactly? And how can digital customer care improve the overall customer experience? Read on for answers to the most common digital customer service questions, plus tips and strategies for delivering a top-notch digital customer experience (DCX), no matter where your customers are.

What Is Digital Customer Service?

Digital customer service has come about because of the demands of the digital customer. Digital customers use online channels to connect with businesses, branded content, and the ability to make purchases using digital channels such as web, mobile, social, and email. Digital customers can maintain a relationship with a brand without ever setting foot in a brick-and-mortar establishment, but may communicate with brand representatives over live chat, email, text or the phone. Importantly, a digital customer may engage with a company across multiple channels.

Customer support has drastically changed over the past two decades to accommodate these somewhat elusive digital consumer behaviors and high customer expectations. Over the next few years, customer service experts predict that ensuring consistency across customer touchpoints will be a top priority for businesses.

But even today, customers look for a rich support experience that efficiently and effectively meets their needs. Simply put, digital customer service, or digital customer care, is what businesses must provide to help meet the needs of their digital customers.

But it’s not just about solving a ticket in a transactional manner; it’s part of a whole new customer engagement philosophy. The best digital customer service approach works toward building and cultivating a great relationship with customers. In this relationship, the brand treats the customer as a real person with a name and a history and a habit of hopping from one digital channel to another.

Additionally, it requires a proactive strategy wherein the business anticipates as many of its customers’ needs and expectations as possible ahead of time — and addresses these with the right infrastructure. Then, when a particular issue arises, the digital customer service team can work toward a personalized solution within an already supportive environment.

What Is Digital Customer Experience?

The digital customer experience (DCX) encompasses all aspects of a customer’s interactions with a brand through digital channels, and the overall brand perception and satisfaction rate they’re left with as a result. This includes touchpoints like:

  • Visiting a website on mobile.
  • Viewing social media ads, like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Browsing through products online.
  • Reading customer reviews.
  • Logging in to their personal account.
  • Testing out a promo code in the checkout.
  • Completing an online transaction.
  • Receiving an order confirmation email.
  • Messaging with an AI chatbot for assistance.
  • Processing a return online.
  • And every other step along the digital customer journey.

The collection of these activities and impressions, DCX, is also sometimes called digital client experience or digital consumer experience. In most cases, it can also be considered an omnichannel customer experience, given the way in which customers will approach the same brand from various channels.

As a result, another important aspect of DCX is the customer’s experience when switching between channels. For instance, when hopping from a mobile device to a laptop to take a closer look at a product saved in their shopping cart, most online shoppers wouldn’t think twice about the logistical considerations related to making that a seamless experience. But, if siloed systems require the customer to run the same search and provide the same basic information over and over again, the experience probably won’t leave a great lasting impression.

How Can Digital Customer Service Improve Your Customer Experience?

To provide successful digital customer service, brands must be able to support customer needs anytime, anywhere. And, the customer should always be able to pick up right where they left off. One-third of consumers agree that the tedious process of having to re-introduce and explain themselves to multiple agents is one of the most frustrating aspects of customer service experiences, according to Hubspot.

However, Accenture found that 91% of customers are more likely to purchase from brands that recognize them by name, remember their purchase history and provide personalized offers and product recommendations. With the right tools in place, brands can deliver the best digital customer experience possible, solve issues as they arise and even provide incentives and suggestions that are tailored to the customer’s interests and past activity. Great digital customer service promotes customer satisfaction and retention.

Moreover, exceptional service can increase customer acquisition through word-of-mouth and reviews. A study from American Express revealed that, on average, U.S. consumers will discuss a negative customer experience with 15 people but would share a good experience with 11 people. The numbers go up to 17 and 15, respectively, for millennial consumers. So, a positive DCX not only stops negative feedback from spreading like wildfire, but it also leaves favorable brand impressions with about a dozen additional consumers for each satisfied customer.

How Can You Provide Excellent Digital Customer Service?

In order to provide seamless digital customer service and a seamless DCX, you’ll need to direct your efforts toward digital customer experience management. Let’s explore a few best practices to work into your strategy.

First, take advantage of automation, AI and self-service tools that can quickly collect data and diagnose problems. When a customer need arises, these tools can allow customers to access immediate information — and potentially a quick solution. Or, they can collect the most important details and open a customer support conversation. The best tools will be able to manage or assign conversations and even deliver automated messages based on certain triggers you’ve identified, saving you time and energy to address more complex customer needs.

Next, make sure you’re set up with a system that stores and transfers customer data to support more seamless customer care. For instance, a skilled customer service agent who is prepared with the background information gathered by a chatbot can get right to work solving more complex issues. The customer service team will appear more capable and expedient when they don’t have to backtrack. Plus, customers have come to expect customer service handoffs that are as seamless as their digital browsing and buying experiences.

Finally, remember to gather customer feedback on the support and overall DCX you’re providing after each digital customer interaction. When customers have a chance to offer their opinions, they typically feel more satisfied with the interaction overall. Plus, you can use customers’ valuable feedback to improve your processes.

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