Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Pam O’Neal from Kustomer. As the Senior Marketing Director at Kustomer, Pam is experienced in social commerce and she spills the secrets on how to take advantage of this tool in your business. Learn more by listening to the podcast below.

E-Commerce for the Social World

The new world of commerce is being steered by social media, especially with consumer habits having turned more digital during the previous year. The power of social media is tremendous – everything is digitized, from friendships to commerce. When social platforms were blowing up, many businesses took to these platforms to relate to their customers on a deeper level and to advertise in a way that was more integrated and personalized. Social commerce changes the way brands create relationships with their customers. If you spend any time on apps like Instagram or Facebook, more than likely you’ll see ads for products from your recent Google searches. This is no accident, many companies use these platforms for this purpose. So, how can CX get its turn on social media? For Pam, it’s a great opportunity for leaders to take advantage because it offers a seamless experience between customer and brand. Leaders inexperienced in this field often wonder how to get started when there are so many social platforms on the web. “How are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world?” Pam explains that leaders should be understanding their customers on every level in order for this new way of commerce to work for them.

Understanding Your Customers by Persona Building

For brands to fully understand their demographic, they need to know what platforms their customers most commonly use. From there they can create the typical customer profile as a way to characterize their typical consumer. “You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply.” When creating customer profiles, leaders should look for specific traits that are common among their consumers – traits that embody the kind of person they serve. These include things like physical traits, behaviors, and patterns when interacting with the brand, and purchasing preference. Persona building helps brands to target the right audience and bring a fresh perspective to the drawing board. This method of creating personas gives brands the information they need for efficient advertising strategies and more importantly, it includes the customer in every business decision.

Meet Your Customers on Their Channels

Pam reiterates the old adage, “Location, location, location, is the first rule of business.” Meeting your customers on their preferred form of social media is a great way to make their interactions with your brand feel more personal and normal. It’s also a great way to make your brand more global by having a social media presence. Media platforms don’t take a break, they’re constantly being used at all hours of the day, across the globe. For a team of CX agents, social media is the perfect tool to casually check in with consumers since it keeps the buying process simple. They see an advertisement for a product, they click on the link and go directly to the website. “Finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important.” Because social media “never sleeps,” it’s something that should be added to every CX team’s tool box.

To learn more about how social commerce is booming in today’s world, 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:

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, I’m Gabe Larson, I’m the Vice President of Marketing here at Kustomer, the top rated CRM and customer service platform for businesses who want to connect with more customers across more channels. Now, we want this to be an active and fun conversation. Let’s have Pam O’Neal join us. She’s our Growth Marketing Director. Pam, thanks for joining. How are you?

Pam O’Neal: (00:31)
I’m great, thanks Gabe. So, yeah, as Gabe mentioned, I run Growth and Demand Marketing here at Kustomer, but you know, I also run a household and some community groups and I like to think I run the lives of two busy teenagers. They may argue with that, but our lives have just gotten out of control this year. So busy with all the change, all the chaos, all the confusion of 2020, and really social commerce, social shopping, and everything that goes with it has become a lifeline for me. It allows me to shop safely for my family, essential staples. I get to combine the advice of friends, families, influencers in the purchase process using social commerce. It saves time. It’s more streamlined. It also allows me to shop when I want to shop. I do insomnia shopping as my team knows.

Pam O’Neal: (01:26)
I had a little insomnia shopping episode last week at around 2:00 AM. Decided that I’d like to try to take up aerial yoga. And that would be a great time to purchase aerial yoga silks, but I had a couple of questions as one might expect. So, social commerce was really amazing for me to be able to read the reviews and the commentary of the community and understand what type of silks I should get as a beginner and make that purchase and get healthier in the process. So, a real lifeline, it also allows us to have a variety of life, right? As we’re locked down, we don’t get to travel as much anymore, but an ad popped up for flying in deep dish pizza from Chicago last week and I couldn’t resist.

Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
So you ordered it?

Pam O’Neal: (02:20)
I did! It was fantastic. And in fact, not only was it fantastic, but friends hit me up. They’re like, “Hey, can we come over and have some?” So we used the back patio and a little social distancing, deep dish pizza. And then I had another friend who sells rugs in Marrakesh. And so I had an Instagram chat with him yesterday and I’m like, “Ooh, I need rugs.” And so he hooked me up with some Moroccan rugs. So even though we can’t travel, even though we can’t do the things that we used to do, social media and our connections across the world are allowing us to do some really fun and exciting things to bring that spice of life back, to make more confident purchases because our friends have recommended and to get referrals. And then just the convenience of it all. Point and click, don’t even make me type, so fantastic.

Pam O’Neal: (03:10)
And I’m a big fan of Messenger to help answer those questions and make it easier for me. So while it has made my life and probably others much easier, it does bring with it complexity for businesses, right? The FedEx guy just showed up with my latest purchase by the way. And I’m glad he didn’t ring the doorbell, but it does bring a lot of complexity to businesses who have to manage that fluid environment of all these different channels that can be used to communicate with you and purchase. And it also makes that relationship 24/7 because social media doesn’t sleep. So today, Gabe and I are going to talk about social commerce. It’s really not new, but it’s really hot now. And the risks and realities of tackling it, how to make it work using a terrific omni-channel CX platform and being there throughout the buyer journey to advise and assist. And then some of the brands that are really doing it right, and doing it well, and really forward-thinking on that front. And then what’s coming up next.

Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
Awesome. Well, why don’t I lay a little bit of the foundation here about what social commerce looks like today? So it is, if you haven’t heard, it’s a big trend and it’s even bigger with the pandemic you guys. This is where buyers are seeking this effortless purchasing experience from, as Pam indicated. I didn’t think Chicago style pizza was part of that, but you can buy stuff like medication and fashion and tools and groceries, everything all to Pam’s point, just with the click of a button. Now, social commerce is not necessarily new. It’s been around for a while and it is a social experience. After all, we love to show off our purchases to friends. We like to seek their advice, their opinions, or share finds with some of the things that we find, discounts with others. We’ve been using social networks for years but lately, technology and techniques, truthfully, a little bit as Zack said, it’s just revolutionizing the experience. Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Kustomer’s chat or customer service platforms are becoming more important tools to create this convenient and valuable experience across not just one part of the buyer journey, but the entire journey from awareness to that post-sale support.

Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
So it really is the closest thing you can get to in-person buying to interacting with an expert in the moment to solve problems, or in some cases, you get a machine, but you get that AI guided self-service. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small e-commerce startups, social network giants, everybody is recognizing this opportunity. And they’re really finding a way to get in on the trend. It does seem there’s almost an app for about anything these days, new ways are cropping up. The line between social media, mobile commerce, and e-commerce, it’s increasingly blurred. Pam and I have been debating this last week. E-commerce, social commerce, and commerce in general. Wow, it’s coming together across industries and it’s not just a retail. It’s not just a retail thing. Guys, you can use things like social shops. You can use Instagram shops where influencers can trade products and a lot of them are taking cuts of their profits.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
They’re selling directly. You got social marketplaces. Zack talked about Facebook Marketplaces where everyone can participate in selling and buying. Chat bot shopping like Messenger purchasing or WhatsApp carts. WeChat Facebook, Instagram messenger. I mean the list goes on and on. Pinterest. Pinterest is another one. So many different ways to get involved in this emerging trend. Couple of data points I wanted to mention, I thought were so powerful. We’ve been, Pam and I have been scrolling through the different resources and research reports, but these two jumped out a lot to me. It’s Stackla’s report, 92% of consumers said that their preferred platform for social commerce was Instagram. 77% opted for Facebook, 57% for Twitter, 47% for Pinterest. From a business perspective, you guys, 73% of businesses believe that their brand had already created an emotional bond with consumers on social media and that this would ultimately help them achieve greater success across social media. So again, this isn’t just about retail. This isn’t just about small businesses. These trends, Pam, healthcare, finance, university, big companies, small companies, all getting in on the game and social commerce is the name of that game. What is your business using?

Pam O’Neal: (08:03)
Well, I mean, I just think it underscores our point about just the fluid nature of social commerce. It’s all over the place. There’s so many infinite possibilities, but it also, as I said, creates this management, or as I like to call it orchestration challenge. That’s a lot of different ways that your customers are expecting to connect with you.

Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
Let’s talk about where customers are and why social commerce is so popular.

Pam O’Neal: (08:28)
Well, it was a great segue actually, because I think the first thing we need to think about when we talk about connecting with our customers and being there in the time of need and serving them and solving their problems is where are our customers? Well, of the eight billion people on the planet, more than five of them are on their phones, right? So they’re doing business on their phones. They’re connecting with people on their phones. They’re using those mobile phones. The lines are blurring. There’s four billion social media users. Wow. Talk about where your customers are and where they’re in that mode to purchase, four billion social media users. And then we’ve got messaging that has been a global phenomenon. It’s given people in the far reaches of the world the ability to connect with families and friends and businesses and partners at a low cost wherever they are.

Pam O’Neal: (09:24)
So that’s been really game-changing and the introduction of commerce to that world, another big opportunity that businesses need to be taking advantage of. So it’s, the first rule of business is location, location, location. The same applies online. You have to be there where your customers are. You have to be there serving their needs, answering their questions. I had a stat from a group called Statista that said 59% of American consumers interact with brands on social media, at least one to three times a day. That’s a lot of times a day that you’re interacting and the more time that they spend on social sites, the more purchases they make, the more relationships they build, the more vendors they discover, the more possibilities they discover. As I mentioned on the pizza, I mean, I didn’t know, I could, for the, about the same price as DoorDash delivery, I could have pizzas flown in from Chicago. So the possibilities are endless and we find out about them, they’re on social media. So –

Gabe Larsen: (10:31)
We just got a question that came in from a gentleman by the name of Peter and he asked, I wanted to throw this out if I can real quick, he said, “God, there’s so many of these different channels.” And even today, he mentioned, it sounds like even more than he thought. There was shops, Instagram, Pinterest, any advice on trying to figure out what channel, where your customers really are and then dedicating time to that? Because he’s like, “I don’t think I can be across all those channels.” Any thoughts from your side?

Pam O’Neal: (10:58)
No. Well, I mean, it starts with the persona, right? You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply. And that’s how you work to prioritize things and it can also be associated with, and this is related to your ideal customer profile, where’s your network already. I mean, let’s look at Glossier. They really built a heck of a following on Instagram. So when you’ve got that community, you’ve got that engagement already sort of gathering, bring it to them, bring it into the realm or at least include that. So, it does start with the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (11:35)
I was just going to say, I’d add to that, Peter, so many people, I think Pam can attest to this, you find that right channel and you go deeper on that. Don’t feel like you have to be on every single channel. I think you saw Zack, the depth, you can go on some of these channels. If you find the right one where your customers are, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere.

Pam O’Neal: (11:54)
Yeah. And one thing you’re going to notice, we’ll talk about it a little bit later. That’s just how these things are merging, right? There’s these hybrids and mashups, if you will, of environments. And so it’s all kind of coming together, everything’s coming together. So it’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out. It’s not just also, it’s not just about what your customers need. It’s what, I’m sorry, what your customer, where your customers are, it’s about what your customers want. And in this case, it’s really a need, right? I’m not going to subject you to a tutorial on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But I did want to just use this to point out that customers, people value social connections highly. They also value things like self-actualization and esteem and all three of those needs play very heavily on social media. So that’s not going away. Those social connections aren’t going away.

Pam O’Neal: (12:49)
That platform, that experience is not going away. It’s just going to become a primary place for customers to meet those physiological needs. Those in need of safety need to get those goods and services. Those, build those partnerships, hire the consultants, engage with medical doctors, physicians, and counselors to accomplish what they need to accomplish without having to go into an office. It’s not just about safety these days with the coronavirus and not wanting to step into a brick and mortar facility or a hospital or a doctor’s office, but it’s also become a lot about convenience, right? We have become very, our expectations have skyrocketed this year with the knowledge that you can basically do everything remotely, right Gabe?

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It just feels like the pandemic has only pushed us further down that path, right? It’s like businesses, consumer expectations, they’re growing more and more. And we as businesses have got to keep up and it’s really happening obviously, on the digital side. Some of the stats we wanted to just put out there, the idea of using multiple channels, especially their channel of choice, expecting to solve problems the moment they bring it up through the channel that delivers instant gratification like chat, social media messenger, and more, you can read some of these. Let me just highlight them. 47%, potentially even more, Pam and I were arguing. We might think that the more we’ll be loyal to brands who are available and ready to engage on social media. We saw that when we served customers in one of our recent studies, 74% of people said they were likely to switch if they found the brand purchase was difficult. 88% want to connect with your business on the channel they want, not what you want, what they want. And according to Gardner, 96% said they would abandon a brand following, again, that high effort experience. So this is behind the omnichannel movement. This, I want it now, kind of the current generation, finding a way to meet customers where they are becomes more important than ever before.

Pam O’Neal: (15:06)
But so we just painted a beautiful picture of the possibilities, right? Everyone wants to jump into social commerce. It’s really one of the bigger levers that you can use to drive growth right now. So we’d all like to participate, but as one of the commenters mentioned, we can’t be everywhere. We need to pick our places for our best possible, ideal possible customers. Where are they? Let’s do it right. I would recommend picking that one outlet and doing it extraordinarily well across versus spreading yourself too thin. Because one of the things that we’re finding is a mistake that many companies make is that they’re missing an action where their buyers are thriving, right? So by deeply understanding the customer, focusing on solving customer problems and understanding where they are, you will know where you need to be spending your time and energy.

Pam O’Neal: (16:05)
And you can’t be missing an action. You got to show up to the party. It’s where things get done. It’s where you need to be, need to be seen, or someone else will step into that role for you and they will steal your customers. I know there’s a lot of thriving brands like Glossier that knows this really well. They know they need to be there for their Instagram users in their time of need. So you can’t be missing in action. You’ve got to make sure you’re there in the right places at the right time. Another important lesson is you can’t be flying blind and that’s particularly challenging in this space because it’s very fluid as we mentioned. There’s a lot of different ways that your customers are engaging with you. There’s a lot of different aspects of your customers you need to be aware of.

Pam O’Neal: (16:53)
It’s not just the world of social, it’s your internal systems and your data silos. Where there’s that customer’s order history. What do you know about that customer based on maybe an online assessment that they’ve filled out? Your agents need access to that full whole customer visibility so that they can respond or proactively reach out in an informed fashion. Understanding the whole customer, serving the whole customer’s needs. So it’s important that you’re not flying blind and you have that whole history kind of at your fingertips. You’re not swiveling from screen to screen, chair to chair, trying to piece together this view of the customer while the customer waits impatiently on the other end of the internet. And that basically leads into the concept of fragmented experiences. Having a consistent experience across all of your channels is extraordinarily important to your brand reputation.

Pam O’Neal: (17:51)
You can’t have ill-trained agents that don’t understand the full breadth of your products on a social channel while your experts are maybe on a chat channel. And then of course, as you can imagine with a fluid landscape, like what we’re dealing with right now, with all the change, with all the complexities of the customer history, we can’t overwhelm our agents. So keeping happy, what’s the adage? Happy agents, happy customers. We have to keep those agents well-informed in a very seamless, nice environment where they can tap into the types of details they need to sound smarter. Another thing, as if your support agents are considered advisors, high-level experts, much more valuable experience to them than being thought of as problem fixers. And so it sounds really easy, but there’s been historically a missing element when it comes to creating those experiences, to seeing the whole customer, to having that information at your fingertips.

Pam O’Neal: (18:58)
And that’s really this sort of intersection between selling products, influencing the purchase of products and then supporting those products and services, post-sale. All of that, as we’ve already established, is coming together in this world of commerce, 3.0. This new world where it’s unclear where the purchase process begins and the support experience ends. It’s all kind of coming together. And it’s coming together across a boatload of different channels. So this concept of having a connected customer experience across each of those steps orchestrated by a platform that allows you to manage that gives you the visibility that gives you the ability to interact with those buyers and influencers who are frankly, shaping the purchase experience inside the social networks themselves. And so that’s one of the important components that companies need to start with thinking, as they think about their social commerce strategy, is how are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world.

Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like this is a, and guys, this is where Kustomer with the K can really come into play because we think about CX differently. I’d love to have Pam’s side there. If you’re not trying to connect, do that, as I see that, Pam, that’s been such a disconnect in commerce. The sale experience, the marketing experience that the customer service experience, they’ve all been so separate and being able to support those, and having a single conversation, consistent experience across all channels across that buyer journey, it’s how you start to fill the gap and become these customer advisors across again, the journey and all the channels. So the idea that we push out there is to make customer experience as easy and streamlined as possible. That means consistent engagement, no matter where or how a customer reaches out. And these are some of the keys to really ensuring that your advisors are informed, they’re consistent.

Gabe Larsen: (21:27)
And they’re armed with that simple, effortless experience. So I wanted to touch on a couple of these key pillars that I think supply that advisory concept across the entire customer journey. So here’s a couple of the elements. Let me just go through real quick. Number one is orchestration. It’s a CRM built, we know that term – CRM. That concept’s a little bit built for the old world. We like to call it CRM – Kustomer Relationship Management with a K, but it’s built for D2C modern commerce advisory experiences. What it allows is for you to have that whole view of the customer. That falls then into unified visibility. That view of the customer it’s more important than ever before. You can see the customer across that entire journey. What we talked about during the sales experience, what we talked about when they bought something, they exchanged something, what they bought or of a time before with a problem they had, when we were servicing. All of those things allow you to interact seamlessly in this unified customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (22:33)
That’s number two. Number three is omni-channel. Consistent, rapid response, informed experience across all those modern channels through omni-channels. You guys it’s customer experience that means collecting and harnessing data teams for every interaction across channels to drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships. We increase revenue streams, et cetera. The problem with omni-channel is I think a lot of people still get that wrong. It’s one single conversation, regardless of the channels you have. If you offer ten different channels, but if your agent is still switching between tab and tab and tab, that comes off as a multiple channel experience. What we need is one consistent conversation where each channel drives into that one conversation. And then last but not least is this idea of availability. Pam said it, but social media, it just doesn’t sleep. We have to offer some self-service to be available at all times. A lot of customers are experiencing that self-service, but that allows us after hours to be cohesive, to be seamless. So finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important. And ultimately that brings it all together. It’s this unified, orchestrated, omni-channel, always-on experience that really can drive some of the numbers you’re seeing on there. Increase in sales, decrease in costs, which I think is what we’re all looking for Pam.

Pam O’Neal: (24:09)
Yeah. And there’s also the biggies, but there’s also a slew of others. You’re able to get better insights about your customer and their preferences. And how they’re interacting with you. You can influence the journey. You can expedite it. If you’re chatting with someone, answering a question and you Slack or not Slack, sorry, I guess if you message them a link to the product after you’ve answered their questions, it’s, you don’t even have to tie it. You just click purchase, select your address, and it’s on its way. So you can influence, you can accelerate that purchase cycle, boost the productivity of really everyone in your organization. And more importantly, reduce that wait time, that I think it’s, the wait time for a chat is just a couple minutes.

Pam O’Neal: (25:04)
But email is more like hours or days. And we need to get all of those experiences down to meet this instant gratification expectation of buyers today. And that will in turn, help you reduce churn and overall, it affords you this ability to have no compromises. You can increase customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and reduce costs and increase efficiency. So that usually comes as a trade off, but in this case, not necessarily. And then at the end of the day, of course, happier agents and happier customers, all benefits. But we’re running out of time. And I have to touch on some of the cool stuff that our customers are doing as really cutting edge brands when it comes to using social commerce. And one of those is Amaro. I wish I were in Brazil for many reasons, but one of the reasons is because Amaro is just such a cool fashion brand. They brand themselves as a digitally native fashion brand in Brazil, and they’re really pushing the envelope. In fact, I think they’re one of the beta users for the Instagram shopping experience.

Pam O’Neal: (26:15)
And as such, one of the early users of our Instagram integration. And so they’re able to not only promote their products and mood and brand and aesthetic using Instagram, but allow their followers to purchase and get customer support in the moment right there in the app. And so they’ve been great about that. They’re also one, and by the way, there’s a lot of, they share a lot of their lessons learned online. So if you just want to Google Amaro social media, or what have you, or just DM me after this and I’ll share with you some of the links, but fascinating, the lessons that they’ve learned and how to do it properly. Like for example, the need to educate your consumers and how to actually purchase in a social media environment. That is a little bit fuzzy for some since it’s early.

Pam O’Neal: (27:08)
So they’ve learned that they’ve had to educate them, but interesting thing about Amaro is they actually call their support organization social customer insights. They don’t think of their support organization as post-sale customer support. It’s more about providing insights and gathering insights. And they’ve been very forward thinking about that at Amaro. Another company that, I thought this was really funny with our comp our Kustomer slice, they actually enable other pizza delivery stores to do a better job of getting their pizzas to customers. And they echo the sentiment that it was basically, it wasn’t their decision. It was their customer’s decision to bring them there. So as I said earlier, knowing your customer, what they want and need is one step, but it’s also, the customers will bring you into the realm that they want to interact with you and slices learned that and integrates Twitter into their service and support experience with their customers.

Pam O’Neal: (28:18)
And then one of my favorite brands, Glossier, a beautiful, beautiful brand, and now a $1.5 billion business. So they’re really taking off and they’ve been masters of social media, just really using that effectively. And I think the coolest thing about Glossier is that they were one of the early companies to think of their team as advisors, right? So they call them the G Team and they’re responsible for really the end-to-end, listening to customers, advising them on their products and the combination of products that might be more effective for the customer, as well as post-support. I read an interview with, this is another thing I had mentioned earlier about this sort of hybrid, mashed together experience. And I read an interview with the new COO there. I think she was from Amazon, and she’s really talking about sort of the next generation of social commerce and e-commerce and how it’s all blending together. She’s not giving away any details in the story that I read on Wired anyway, but it talks, it sounds like Glossier is pushing the edge once again, when it comes to delivering this commerce experience for our next generation of consumers.

Gabe Larsen: (29:33)
I want to thank Pam for joining and talking about a little bit of the who, what, and why of social commerce. So Pam, thanks so much for joining.

Exit Voice: (29:47)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

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Now that the world’s returning to a somewhat normal state, many leaders are scrambling to relate to their customers in this new economy. Customers from all across the globe are opting for the digital experience for shopping and communicating with brands, and with this high demand comes a rich diversity of languages – this is where Unbabel shines. Unbabel is a translation platform powered by AI, for the benefit of agents and users. Having an understanding of your customer is key, and what better way to do that than speaking their native language? Tools like Unbabel help propel companies ahead of their competitors, giving them a language optimization edge. Sophie’s goal is to help CX leaders understand that just because your customer doesn’t speak your language, doesn’t mean that you can’t help them. “One thing I think that’s really exciting…is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them on their expertise.” Teaming a seasoned agent with the power of AI creates the ultimate experience.

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Imagine the surprise when a non-English speaking customer contacts your company and is greeted in their native language, full of nuances and terms that are familiar to them in their region. This is all possible through AI, which can be extremely useful across the entire customer journey, not just at the point of first interaction. The way that AI helps in these situations is it detects the customer’s preferred language and connects them with an agent who speaks that language or helps to translate the customer’s words into the language of the agent. AI’s certainly a hot topic in the CX realm that leaders were initially apprehensive to include, but the more it’s integrated into everyday business, the more leaders and consumers become comfortable utilizing this modern technology. The brands that do it right have AI as well as a team of qualified people working together to provide the best experience possible. “Humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect.” As technology advances and more leaders integrate AI, the more efficient agents will be.

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Translation software is an amazing tool because it adds that human element back into CX. It allows your company to expand on a global scale, which is so important for leaders trying to make their brand accessible. If your brand only caters to those who are English speakers for example, then your brand cannot truly be deemed global. It’s so important for leaders to understand their customers across the map and to make an effort to relate to them on every level. AI isn’t always going to be the magic pill that fixes everything, but it can streamline the process and make things much easier for the customer and agent. Best of all, AI’s approachable and manageable, meaning that the leaders who are considering using this tool should absolutely take that next step and do it! Find a way to integrate AI into your CX team where they work together to make your company more accessible for the global customer.

Sophie leaves listeners with one last piece of advice: “It’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak.” By focusing on the customer and recognizing them as a human being, it makes them feel more valued and connected to the brand. Add AI translation software to the mix and you’re absolutely going to see successful results and better scores.

To learn more about how you can benefit from AI-driven software to remove language barriers, 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:

3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re back. You’ve got Gabe Larsen here with Kustomer, my colleague, Vikas Bhambri, who runs Success and Sales over here at Kustomer, and we have a very special guest joining us today, and we’ll be talking about a really fun topic. Sophie Vu is joining us from Unbabel. Sophie, thanks for joining and how the heck are you?

Sophie Vu: (00:35)
I’m great. Thanks for having me Gabe. I’m excited to be joining and using this platform. I’m going to self-limit newbie to this platform, so excited to be here. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
I love it. So maybe tell us just a little bit real quick about yourself and Unbabel, if you can, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (00:54)
Sure. So I’m based in San Francisco, Unbabel and I’m the CMO. So I lead go to market and operations for the company and specifically, what we do is we get to work with some global, very customer-focused brands, like Booking, Logitech, Microsoft, and really enable them to interact with their customers in any language. And Unbabel is an AI powered solution combined with human editors. So we have a global community of professional and casual translators who obviously passed certification to enable us to provide great quality translations in near real time. So enabling companies that promise a customer-centric vision and brand and by creating empathy by speaking your customer’s language. That’s Unbabel in a nutshell.

Gabe Larsen: (01:46)
Love it, love it. Yeah. And we’re going to be talking a little bit more about that. So let’s dive into the topic. I want to click into kind of just what you were talking about. You guys play in a little bit of an interesting space, this idea of kind of language operations. Could you give Vikas and I a little bit of an overview of what that is, why you think it’s important, what’s going on in that space?

Sophie Vu: (02:08)
Sure. So self-admittedly, we are creating a space, a category, what we call Language Operations. And so you can think about it as a holistic approach to enabling organizations, to leverage people, processes, and technology, to enable this multilingual communication. So think of Language Operations as a way to roll out, centralize, and scale multilingual capabilities across every function in an enterprise, right? We’re starting with customer service, but eventually we want to obviously enable marketing, sales, product, HR, legal, or what have you, to be able to function in this global world that we live in. So language operations are technology, people, and processes the entire concept.

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. I want to just flash this, as you kind of talked a little bit about that for the audience. It’s kind of a different concept, but it definitely seems like it’s something that as companies scale, it’s becoming extremely important. I wanted to throw it out to Vikas. I mean, Vikas, as you interact with all these different companies, everybody seems to want to go global or come to the US or go Europe, what role do you feel like language is playing in that? I mean, it seems like it’s been a barrier for a long time.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:21)
It has. And I think this is an exciting time and I think Unbabel is the right place, right time. Allowing brands and companies of various operations, we’re obviously looking at it from a customer experience perspective, but the think globally and act locally. And I think that is something that if you look at what has challenged brands in the past of really scaling, was that, I now need to have people in local region that speak local language and with a platform like Unbabel, that’s no longer the case. So just, let’s look at it from a customer experience perspective, having an English speaking agent sitting in the US who can now engage a Spanish speaking customer in Spain or Columbia or Mexico in the language in the local tone that’s required, is truly unique.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:25)
And that allows somebody that, like I said, can think globally act locally, but also look bigger than they actually are, because you might only have a team of, 50, a hundred, 200 sitting here in the US or actually sitting in Ireland or wherever it might be, but then being able to engage a global audience of customers. And as Sophie said, that’s the first wave, but then you think about other use cases where you can have that. Do I need an HR professional in every single geo that I operate in when I can have an HR team sitting in England? Let me not just be US-centric, but sitting in England or sitting in France, but then communicating with employees that are global. So I think that’s kind of the exciting thing about what Sophie and her team are doing.

Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so funny. I had this experience the other day, I was chatting with somebody and he kind of walked through what you just talked about, Vikas. It sounds almost futuristic. He’s like, “Look, I’m sitting in London, but I’m, I speak Chinese.” And he’s talking with a restaurant chain on chat. And somehow that person actually, he was then speaking with the Chinese person, although he was in London, I was just like, it was just really cool that it could, his location was different, but the chatbot could recognize the language. And then he was routed to a person that could speak it. That sounds amazing. So to see it in action, I think, is pretty cool. So Sophie, kudos to you and the team. I want to, we’re going to come back to this language thing in just a minute, but I do want to back up a little bit more and tie it into some of the things going on in the market. So many interesting things are going on in the state of customer service. Language is one of them. And we’ll talk again a little bit about that in a minute, but Sophie, you guys have recently done a study. Want to talk and hear a little bit about some of those big picture trends you’re finding and hearing, and then let’s dive into a couple of them and talk about what we’re seeing people do to win as those trends appear.

Sophie Vu: (06:32)
Sure. Yeah. So we did a recent study focused on customer service and customer support, and it covered about 600 leaders across US, the UK and Germany. And we just wanted to understand what was keeping them up at night and what were their goals. So some of the findings were, you would think customer service departments usually are all about cost optimization, but they’re actually looking to spend more this year. And I think that’s due to just the demand during COVID. Demand for digital interactions, certain industries had higher demand than others, as you can imagine. And it was really about how they can reorganize and rethink their offering. And make it more digital, more self-service. And so that was one of the big trends. The other one was, everyone talks about AI and AI as a way to help augment and really scale these operations. So you have limited people, but how do you make these people be more, do more with less?

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Right. So, yeah. I can’t argue with AI. Maybe we can start there and then circle back. What is it, do you feel like that is, with this AI thing, obviously it’s a buzzword. Why is it becoming more adopted? Where is it becoming more adopted? How do you see it playing out in customer service organizations?

Sophie Vu: (08:01)
Sure. So I think AI has come in different ways, right? It started out as this grand thing. “Oh my god! Robots are taking the world!” To them, “Oh, we don’t need humans anymore.” And I think everything kind of calmed down a little bit to understand that AI can actually help augment and supplement the things that we’re doing. And humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect. They’re going to miss the context, the nuances, the cultural differences in tone. And so it’s really that combination. But I think, for example, it’s about incorporating AI in processes to help optimize and streamline it. And people are doing that in very strategic ways. It’s not all or nothing. It’s applying AI where it matters most.

Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I like that. I feel like it’s something that is still being talked about, but it does feel like people are getting the hang of it. Like we’re starting to see it actually not just be talk, but there’s a little bit of walking going on. Vikas, what’s your take on how people are playing this game of actually getting it into play and seeing a difference in their business?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:08)
Yeah. I think what we’re seeing in the customer service side is, there are three key areas. One is on that point of interaction with the customer, being able to automate the suggestions that we give them, the help articles, being able to help them troubleshoot their own issue or challenge. Because reality is, I think you’ve got more and more customers who don’t actually want to engage a live human agent if they don’t have to. The second piece is then how do you use AI? If the person basically raises their hand and says, “You know what? I tried, but I can’t do it.” Or, “I need further assistance.” To identify who they are and what their challenges are, and some of the areas where you can do that, right? You can look for obviously anything that they share with the bot or the automation, you can look at the sentiment of any free-form text that they deliver.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:07)
You can look at the language of what they’re, what language they’re speaking in. You can look at all of that detail. And of course, if you have any data about who they are, then make sure that you route them to the right individual or team that can service them most effectively. And then lastly, I think Sophia alluded to this, which is how do we empower that human being with AI? So how do we give the agent who’s sitting there now trying to help this individual who tried to troubleshoot themselves and couldn’t, how do we recommend suggestions or solutions to them so that they can be most effective and efficient? So really using technology and AI across that entire journey of that particular conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:54)
Yeah. I feel like it’s, I love the analogy. My nine-year-old actually made me watch the Robert Downey Jr. Now I’m forgetting –

Sophie Vu: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Is there a movie called Rocket Man? For some reason, I said, oh, was that rocket man, rocket man? I don’t know. Anyways, I thought, I was thinking what a cool analogy of that. And as you were talking, Vikas, it’s like, at some point you will be, you’ll take this regular kind of customer service agent and you encompass them around, it’s not just in chat bot, but it’s this, you encompass them with almost like a JARVIS-type experience where it’s recommending or it’s telling them or feeding them or guiding them. And I was like, wouldn’t that be cool? I think we can actually get there in customer service. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I thought that was a fun analogy. And it’s not Rocket Man. It’s Iron Man. Sophie, what do you, on the language side of things, do AI play a role in that in some form or fashion? How are you guys thinking about that specifically around this language offsite then?

Sophie Vu: (11:53)
Yeah. Absolutely. So, I am guilty as a marketer. I think a lot of companies have said they do AI and actually made it worse for people to understand what AI actually is and how it’s applied. But am I kind of, I guess BS neater is like, if you remove the AI from the product, is that company still around. Does that product exist? And I think if we remove the AI from Unbabel, we don’t have a solution and technology, we are truly AI powered in the sense that the entire process of translating involves AI to automate and create better efficiency across our translation pipeline as we call it. So it starts even with viewing the incoming message, right? Like we can, like sentiment, language, those nuances to even anonymizing the data, because obviously we do care about respecting PII compliance to then obviously machine translation as well.

Sophie Vu: (12:54)
So obviously AI is a big part of that and then just routing to our translators, if needed, based on the quality. So we also have a proprietary quality estimation system and then just thinking about not only writing, but then also thinking about how do we improve those systems? So frequently asked questions, there’s going to be things that are going to recur and reoccur. And then I think, Vikas, you mentioned about optimizing the agent’s experience, right? So predictive things like, okay, anticipating what that answer will be. Rounding them to the right answers, figuring out who has that expertise within the agent pool as well. So one thing I think that’s really exciting is that with language operations, tying it back there, is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them based on their expertise and who doesn’t want to have the right answer and hear it from a knowledgeable person when you have a problem with a product or a service?

Gabe Larsen: (13:55)
I know, I love that. That’s interesting to hear how that can kind of play a role in the language piece. One other thing I want to hit on, when I look through the study, I love this concept of channels. It’s something obviously near and dear to our heart here at Kustomer. When we think of the customer service world, more of an omni-channel experience, just want to throw that out there. Some of the things I was reading in the report around people’s preference of channel, how channels continue to expand. I wanted to get your guys’ take on, obviously people, the omni-channel thing is, it’s there, and I think people are experiencing it. Where do you think we go from here when it comes to channels? What is the next field, green field? Is it more channels? Is it a better combination of synergistic movement of the channel? Vikas, maybe I can start with you on this one. Thoughts on channels and where we’re going there?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:45)
I don’t think there’s any real stopping the number of channels. I think that’s the real challenge for anybody, which is saying, where are my customers and where do they need to be served? And unfortunately you don’t find out until the customer starts knocking on a door in some universe that you then need to answer. And I think a great example of that is TikTok. I remember as much as, you both got a chuckle out of that one, but funny enough, about, probably going back just before I think it was my last trip before the pandemic, and I was sitting down with a CEO of a fashion brand who was really pushing for TikTok as a channel and kind of had the, we had the reaction that you did, which was who you going to talk to on TikTok?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Now, a year later you’re seeing brands engage consumers, not only for marketing purposes, but for customer service on TikTok. That’s just one example. So what’s the next TikTok? What’s the next messaging platform? What’s the next tool that somebody is going to use where you’re going to have to exist for you to effectively communicate with your consumer? And I think that’s a really interesting challenge for any new CX leader is identifying that. And I remember, I’m not going to age myself here, but I remember when we started talking about chat, people had that same reaction. Nobody’s going to want to chat with us. The phone 1-800-NUMBERS where it’s at. And obviously, chat is now the default channel, right? You kind of get out of the gate and chat and email. And by the way, we talked about things like email and even the phone at one point dying as channels, and they’re not, they still exist. And if anything, they’re growing. So the challenge is you have to exist everywhere. You can pick and choose which ultimately your consumer will be there and there’ll be there before you are.

Gabe Larsen: (16:45)
You know, I have this funny, I had a sit down with our, we’ve been talking about how to expand our marketing center. I sat down with our preferred agency and we were talking about different channels, further international, et cetera. They did. They brought up TikTok, they’re like, “Have you thought about going deeper into TikTok?” And I was like, “I haven’t even thought about TikTok.” And then truthfully, they brought up this kind of new platform club, near clubhouse, if you guys, I’m on one. You can tell, I’m not an expert at clubhouse either.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:19)
You’re doing it, Gabe. All you do is talk.

Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
I’m on it, but they’re like, “Hey, are you active there?” And I’m like, yeah, like you said, Vikas. I’m getting old. I’m just like, “Can we just talk about Google?” But it’s like new channels coming on, coming online. And are you where your customers are? Sophie, thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (17:39)
Yeah, I mean, I came from the social customer service space. I was trying to make that happen 6, 7, 8 years ago. And, well, I’m not the reason. So like I wasn’t learning brands like, hey. They weren’t getting anywhere in these email labyrinths and they’re going to go on Twitter and tell the whole world the problems they’re having with your brand. And, you know, they had a voice. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp from a global perspective. So I mean, customer service teams need to be prepared. They, it’s just going to be continuing when it’s an existing platform, that’s going to keep continuing and staying there and then adding additional new ones.

Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
Yeah. I can’t argue that. I got two more questions than we can wrap on this. You guys, one is, we’re obviously coming out of, I want to move just a little bit away from the research for a second and get your opinion and then maybe closing arguments here. How do you think people can adapt to the changes coming out of the pandemic? Do people need to be doubling down on AI? Do they need to be refocusing on omni or is it just kind of business as usual? Anything you guys are thinking about seeing clients do as they maybe need to adjust to the, I mean, they had to adjust to kind of the pandemic world and now, is it the post pandemic world? And if so, what do they need to do? Thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:59)
Yeah. I actually heard this term the other day, so I’ll steal it. Somebody was alluding to this as the vaccine economy, the next phase. So I’ll steal that one. And so here’s what I would say there. I think what customer experience leaders are going to have to identify, they certainly went through and we talked about this, Gabe, you and I, 12 months ago, the biggest kind of stress test that the customer experience industry has faced in forever. Which was this high volume, this surge of inquiries, the staff being in disarray, going to remote work, et cetera. So they really got the crap kicked out of them. And I, fortunately, so many people were able to make smart decisions, partnering with different technology providers and really being able to address it and come out of it.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
The question then is now, what learnings do you take from that experience and continue to invest in and adopt? And like I said, AI slash chat bots might be one area, right? Also the agent infrastructure, right? Oh, wait a minute. Remote from, remote work worked in some cases. In some cases, it didn’t. There were certain policy decisions. I think brands were much more forgiving of consumers. Does that continue to stay? So I think there’s a lot of those things that people are going to take, a lot of experiences. And then the question is going forward, because what is the consumer mindset now, coming out of it? And what are they going to expect of brands, is going to be extremely interesting to watch and observe, and actually be a part of, because I think consumers and particularly depending on where you are in the globe. So as much as I think it’s a very US-centric world to talk about the vaccine economy, because there’s large parts of the global population that are still knee-deep in it. So I think brands are going to also have to be very sensitive to that and also how they go out there and talk about their services and offerings, especially global brands. If you’re an Uber as an example, or somebody like that, you have to be, once again, think globally – act locally. And I think that’s going to be very important as they move forward.

Gabe Larsen: (21:20)
Yeah. There is a lot to learn. I think people, I mean, it was long enough. If it would’ve just been a couple of months, I think maybe we wouldn’t have been forced to kind of change to adopt and learn. But I think a lot of us were forced to learn and there are hopefully some good things coming out. Sophie, thoughts on this? How are you kind of seeing this play out?

Sophie Vu: (21:36)
Yeah. I mean, I had a different perspective. I agree, it’s the vaccine economy, but I like to say there’s also, re-entry anxiety that’s happening. How do you operate in this world? Like, what are the rules? People are still debating whether mask or no mask. And, but I think one thing that’s accelerated is globalization of companies and of people, and you have people moving everywhere in the world that you can live anywhere and be able to interact with brands, people, your company, your employers. And so I think it’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak. Focusing on that expertise, and I think that’s something that is encouraging, I think. Honestly.

Gabe Larsen: (22:28)
That’s a valid point. Yeah. That re-entry, what’d you call it re-entry –

Sophie Vu: (22:34)
Anxiety.

Gabe Larsen: (22:36)
I think it’s interesting. This is, I’ll try not to go into any political realm here.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:46)
We’d rather you didn’t, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (22:46)
Politics, but yeah. There are a lot of different perspectives, I think on how this is going to move forward. Some people want the vaccine, some people don’t, some people have the vaccine and don’t want to come in unless this is in and they don’t, some people want to stay home. And I mean, I’ve been hearing a lot. I know some people are very comfortable talking about their medical, like they’re getting vaccine. Some people are like, I don’t want to actually be asked that. So do they, are they going to shop more or are we still going to still see the online stuff? Being able to adjust to that and for your business to adapt to it quickly, I think is probably right. I think here, I think you’re definitely on to something Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (23:23)
Hybrid. Like the same thing, you’re gonna, you got an offer to go, not just in the room and dining anymore. You got to, your customer has evolved. It’s very multifaceted, right? And so you get one channel, even physical and digital now. You got to navigate these new environments that we’re in.

Gabe Larsen: (23:46)
Yeah. And I think that I like that word hybrid. I think people, companies, and this is across the gamut, I think going extreme in one way, like pushing all your people back to work or trying to just be an in-person restaurant, like, how do you do that hybrid? How do you match the world where they are, almost like the conversation we had about channels? I think the people who go extremes are probably going to run into some, they may run into some problems. So, awesome. Well, let’s wrap. Talked about a lot of different concepts, loved language ops. Thanks for introducing that, Sophie. I think you guys are onto something very special there. Sounds like an interesting study. And I want to hear, I want to see if we can end with that maybe as a call to action and get a link out to people. And then we talked a little bit about the current state of the market. What’s that one piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders just trying to make it now? Summarize or one thing you’d leave with them. Sophie, can I start with you? Thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (24:40)
Sure. I think it’s not, I think it’s, understanding that AI is not Rocket Man or Iron Man, sorry Gabe. But it is approachable. It is something that can be applied very concretely. And that is what we’re trying to do with Language Operations and the Unbabel platform. But I think it’s trying new things, being comfortable that you’re not going to solve everything right away and that you can take incremental steps. And then you have a lot of people thinking about these things. And so for me, it’s about exploring these things and thinking about the customer. And when you think about the customer, it’s that you want to be open to new ideas because they’re ever changing. There’s not one monolith of a customer. So –

Gabe Larsen: (25:26)
I like that. That’s definitely coming out more and more of this kind of customer that they’re going to be different. Vikas, what’s your kind of closing take?

Vikas Bhambri: (25:33)
I think one of the things that we’ve experienced over the last 12, 15 months at various stages across the globe as this pandemic has kind of gone all over the place is the shifting in different economies. And I think any CEO or VP of e-commerce is going to really want to put the foot on their gas in terms of globalization sooner rather than later. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a two-year-old cosmetics brand that’s just coming into market or a retailer, or if you’re somebody who’s been around for ten years or older, right? Somebody’s going to really want to expedite that global penetration from a consumer acquisition standpoint. What obviously that creates for a CX leader is you have to be able to move fast and moving fast no longer has to be about bodies.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:26)
It doesn’t mean that you then need to go and scale your operations up exponentially. You don’t need to go and bring in BPO’s all over the globe to support that global alignment. And it doesn’t mean you need to serve people in your language and your local language, right? Whether that be English, French, Spanish, et cetera. So to me, that’s where my kind of take away is, language is no longer a barrier to entry. And I think, with technologies and Unbabel kind of leading the way here, I think that creates exciting opportunities for CX leaders to be able to focus on the business process and the customer experience and not worry about getting resources in different locales. And that’s pretty exciting because, you know this Gabe, we’ve built a scaling company over the last four years. We spend a lot of time just hiring people and as a CX leader, not having to do that and focusing on the process and the experience, it is a dramatic game changer from how we previously operated.

Gabe Larsen: (27:29)
No, I think that’s going to be the globalization of all companies – that the playing field has been so much leveled with the kind of the e-commerce movement, et cetera. I think you’re going to continue to see that. So, Sophie, if we can kind of end, again, you touched on a little bit of this research report, and I wanted to flash this just real quick. Because I liked your answer as you were ending there on this AI and how Unbabel is thinking through some of that. If somebody wanted to learn just a little more about this, your view on AI, a little more about this research, is there a place you could direct them or where would we go to find that?

Sophie Vu: (28:06)
Yeah. So I hope there’s some type of digital linkage and in posting comments, but I always want to show a visual because I think we always speak in platitudes and generalizations around AI. And I just wanted to be really detailed and concrete about how we use AI in the sense that it’s again, not rocket science, but close to it. But applied in a very concrete and applicable way. And so wherever you see those red arrows, it’s kind of where we think about where we’re applying AI, right? So pre-processing anonymization of the data that we’re getting, cleaning it and sorting it. We apply that there, obviously with machine translation, the quality estimation, which is basically this message, a certain quality to then be sent and shared, and then incorporating that into working with our humans. The translator community. And so this loop is basically the core of what Unbabel does to enable near real-time translations. But yeah, we have a lot of documentation and research about it, but I think it’s just helping people get over the fear of what AI is and how they can use it is what, is one of my –

Gabe Larsen: (29:19)
It makes a big difference. Absolutely. So we will. I’d like this, it’s nice sometimes to just break it down a little more simply to your point. So we’ll get the link. And the LinkedIn here, you guys, so you can access that research study. Some real great material as Sophie alluded to at the beginning. So we’ll wrap with that. So Sophie, thanks so much for joining. Vikas, thanks so much for joining as always. And for the audience, we’ll let you have a fantastic day. Have a great one, everybody.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:04)
Thank you all.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Thank you.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:05)
Pleasure meeting you, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Likewise Vikas. Bye Gabe.

Exit Voice: (30:13)
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Why Quality Customer Service in Healthcare Is Needed More Than Ever

What Consumers Expect From the Patient Experience TW
 

Healthcare is a sensitive topic for a lot of Americans. It’s become top of mind for many who have seen loved ones sick. We all want to be healthier and have a better quality of life, but unfortunately customer service in healthcare has one of the worst reputations, and people want to veto the experience all-together.

While doctors, nurses, and all healthcare support staff are busy trying to save lives, it’s no secret they are overworked, and the priority in the patient experience can fall to the bottom of their priorities. It is often a thankless job, but fortunately, there is an opportunity to serve the community in an outstanding way that your competitors are lacking.

Why Customer Service in Healthcare Is Important

Keeping up-to-date with the latest medical advances has always been a priority for the healthcare industry, but this means new technology and the opportunity to improve the administration and patient experience can fall behind. With lives on the line, it’s almost a no-brainer where to invest when trying to allocate limited resources.

However, latest consumer trends and research make the lack of customer experience impossible to ignore. Healthcare is contending with evolving patient demands. People want more out of their experiences. Personalized experiences have become the norm in industries like retail and hospitality. According to research conducted by SalesForce, 69% of consumers say one extraordinary customer experience raises their expectations of other companies, and 57% of Americans say the healthcare industry cares more about their own needs than the patient needs.

Younger generations are prioritizing a better quality of life and they’re not afraid to go elsewhere to get treated the best. In the same Salesforce survey, 83% of millennials wanted a mobile app for health coaching and 79% wanted 24/7 text messaging abilities. Compared with other generations, they are especially accustomed to having their needs met in a personalized way and their customer experience in healthcare has been incredibly jarring.

Common Patient Complaints

Healthcare administration staff might be surprised to know that patients dealing with unfriendly staff is not the number one complaint. Although a rude receptionist can sway their entire experience at the clinic or hospital, the biggest complaints are scheduling difficulties, waiting too long, and confusion with insurance and billing. Unsatisfied patients did rank high in feeling like they weren’t heard and did not think they had enough time with the doctor, but it wasn’t the most outstanding problem.

This provides some good news for those in healthcare. A lot of the problems can be fixed with automation and technology. By hiring additional chat support staff, which tends to be cheaper than hiring in-person personnel, you can also quickly address issues and customer scheduling concerns that can be done outside of the office and in the comfort of the patient’s home.

How to Provide Excellent Customer Service in Healthcare

A patient-centric approach is critical to transforming the overall customer experience. People want a seamless experience and this can be provided to patients by offering various communication touchpoints. You might think good service begins with the people, and you’re not wrong. However, setting up good tools and efficient systems will only make the training process easier and more scalable.

People in the end want to feel like they matter and that their concerns are heard. Doctors have limited time, so this offers an excellent opportunity for customer service staff to thrive. By having the right systems and processes in place, you can collect patient feedback and address it in a timely manner.

Kustomer: The Healthcare Customer Service Solution for You

There are a number of ways Kustomer helps the healthcare industry and their patients. First and foremost is keeping up-to-date with HIPAA compliance so that patient data is safe and secure.

Additionally, through the use of AI, Kustomer automates manual tasks, routes conversations, and answers commonly asked patient questions to help people self-serve before talking to customer service.

Kustomer has developed a handy guide that outlines what consumers expect from the patient experience here. With a survey of over 550 US-based participants, Kustomer uncovered that 79% of individuals say service is extremely important when deciding where to do business. In the guide, you’ll learn how to drive more revenue through prioritizing the patient experience.

If you’re interested in requesting a demo or would like to know more about how Kustomer helps those in the healthcare industry, find more information here.

 

The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Tom Rieger from NSI, to learn about customer retention through enhancing wait times. While this is a hot topic in the industry, companies seem to be missing the mark. Tom teaches us everything we need to know in the podcast below. Listen along to learn more. 

The Science of Wait Times and Rewarding Customers

We’ve all been there – waiting for what seems like hours, listening to horrible elevator music, hoping that at some point, someone picks up to solve our problem. It seems that many companies are handling wait time wrong. Either they put the customer on hold for too long because they don’t have enough resources to answer efficiently or they haven’t utilized data to their advantage to better understand the customer’s problems. In the CX world, wait times are inevitable and it’s impossible to deliver a good experience when agents are overwhelmed. Little do people know there’s a science to perfecting the wait time. When we get too stressed, cortisol is released in the brain, causing us to not effectively pay attention or be able to process stressful situations. As humans we tend to create an opinion of an experience based on the end result. Keeping these two factors in mind can help leaders to lessen the pressure on agents and to help agents deliver a better end result. Even with long wait times, customers tend to be happier and more connected to the brand if they have a satisfying experience at the end of the interaction. “If you have to wait a short amount of time to get bad service, because that rep feels so rushed to keep their service levels where they are, you’re not going to be as happy as if you waited longer and then got a good experience.”

Scripted Language vs. Natural Dialogue, How Do They Compare?

So many companies have resorted to using scripted language for each rep interaction, turning agents into robotic employees. Customers can sense this. While it’s okay to automate some aspects of the service experience, leaders should be actively seeking ways for agents to personalize their interactions beyond the script. Providing personalized service is what sets a brand apart from the competition. This tactic can really set the tone for how customers think of the brand in the future; if they have great service and feel their problems are solved, it’s likely that they’ll continue shopping with the company. What really matters in CX is the outcome of each interaction. Did the rep solve the customer’s problem? Did they make the customer feel valued and understood? As Tom points out, “You can’t differentiate your brand based on a recording, but you can differentiate your brand based on the entire experience that you provide.” Forcing agents to stick to the script at all times is ultimately a waste of valuable energy that would be better spent on personalizing the experience for each individual customer through naturally flowing conversation.

Tips for Beginners: How to Enhance the Wait

For those who are just starting their journey as a leader in CX, one of the best things they can do to improve the customer and wait time experience is to take a holistic look at the data and to utilize it in every aspect. Data is helpful for understanding human behavior and altering processes accordingly. “So making sure you have the data, that you have the right metrics and then just rolling up your sleeves, quite frankly, and being willing to keep an open mind with what the data tells you.” Taking a deep dive into how your company is performing according to customer feedback can really open up so many opportunities for improvement.

The experts leave us with one final tip. While a customer’s waiting to speak to an agent, don’t try and sell them things. In order for an agent to successfully upsale, the customer has to be in the right mindset. They have to be open and ready for new information whereas in a call to the CX team, they are most likely not in the right mindset and will end up more frustrated and feeling taken advantage of. Selling to customers during their wait time, in a way, diminishes their needs and shows them that they’re only worth the money they spend. Wait time provides a chance for companies to garner lasting loyalty through making the entire interaction worthwhile.

To learn more about wait time and how it affects CX, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience | With Tom Reiger” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience | Tom Rieger

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 the power of wait time. Wait time, one of the things everyone talks about but I don’t know if everybody is doing it right. And we have a special guest joining us today and that is not Vikas. Vikas is not our special guest today, although I’m glad he’s here as always. Vikas Bhambri. But we do have Tom Rieger. He’s currently the president of NSI. On the NBI side, which is their consumer facing organization over there at NSI, he’ll talk a little bit more about that. Tom and I go way back. We were actually colleagues at Gallup. He wrote a book about barrier busting in 2011 that I thought was so fascinating and just broke down the customer experience, each step, and how you look for barriers and break them. And then recently, actually, he’s got a new book out, just published a couple of months ago, calling culturing organizational blindness, the three deadliest blind spots and how to avoid them. So appreciate you joining and how the heck are you?

Tom Rieger: (01:18)
I’m doing great, Gabe. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
Yeah! Tell us just a little bit more about your role, your background, what you do over there at NSI. Give us that brief overview if you don’t mind.

Tom Rieger: (01:26)
Sure. So NSI and then NBI are a customer facing entity, really specializes in human behavior analytics. So we’re a group of behavioral scientists of different disciplines – social psychology, political science, decision science, and so on. And we tend to tackle wicked problems. We do a ton of work for the Department of Defense, supporting the joint staff. And then we also work for a variety of different clients. We work in call centers, the video game industry, we’re doing a fair amount now in the medical device field. So really, wherever we can apply that multi-disciplinary, multi-method look to try to get different ways of looking at problems.

Gabe Larsen: (02:09)
Yeah, that’s what we’re going to dive into today. So without further ado, let’s hit it. Let’s start just big picture. Wait time, why the fascination with it? Is it really that important?

Tom Rieger: (02:24)
Wait time is something that I found with our call center clients, it’s always something they’re trying to figure out because if you drive a shorter wait time, that means one of two things. It means either you hire a lot of people and your costs go through the roof or you depersonalize your experience and you automate everything. And one is not necessarily good or bad, but it’s certainly not an absolute. But the problem is when you drive it to be faster and faster, invariably you change the amount of time you have actually with a rep, creating that one-on-one relationship and really providing a differentiated value. And so it’s a trade off that really fascinated me. And it’s got so many different aspects of it. That’s something I love studying and it’s something our clients have asked us to say now a few times to help them figure it out.

Gabe Larsen: (03:17)
I love it. Vikas, I mean, 20 years in a contact center is, wait times, it’s not ever going away, right? I mean, it’s one of those terms that you’ve heard for years and you probably will continue to hear for years.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:29)
Yeah, no. I mean, it’s one of those, Tom hit the nail on the head. It’s one of those age old problems, which is, it’s something that, unless you’re just going to staff so that you’ve got somebody who can grab, pick up the phone call right when somebody comes into the queue, which is virtually impossible to do, it’s going to exist. So the question is, what do you do with it? Because it’s time that’s there. How do you use it so that it’s the most benefit to you as the brand, as well as your consumer customer base?

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
I love that. I love that. So let’s get into that because it seems like the age old conversation would be about how do we increase satisfaction by lowering wait time and driving service level? I mean, it’s always how we lower the wait time, lower the wait time. Is that the way we should be framing it, Tom? Or how have you kind of helped organizations think through this?

Tom Rieger: (04:24)
So not necessarily. So let me put it this way, Gabe. Let’s say that you’re in a bar and you ever have an argument with someone and it’s clear you guys are going to have a fight. And he says to you, “I’m going to throw my beer in your face, but can you just wait here five minutes? I’m gonna make a phone call first.” So that five minutes is going to be really annoying, right? Because of the outcome at the end of it is something bad, something unpleasant.

Tom Rieger: (04:52)
Let’s say, you’re going to Disney world with your family and you want to go to space mountain and you’re expecting a one hour wait and you get there and it says, the wait time right now is 11 minutes. You’re going to think that is the shortest amount of time in the world. Even though the 11 minutes is more than twice as long as the five minutes. So it is just the pure satisfaction with wait time is very context and expectation dependent. But beyond that, what really matters isn’t the wait time, it’s through what, is the wait worth it? It’s what’s happening at the end. There was a study done in 1993. It was published in the Journal of Psychological Science by Danny Conoman, who we all know from great work along with Barbara Fredrickson and some other noted social psychologists and behavioral economics specialists. And it was basically, it was really interesting. What he did is he had people stick their hand in painfully cold water for 60 seconds. Yeah, I think it was 57 degrees. And then in the second trial, they had to stick their hand in the same 60 seconds, but they kept it in the cold, painfully cold water for another 60 seconds while it was increased one degree Celsius. So up to about 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So it was a lot more pain to keep your hand in the water, that extra 30 seconds. And then they were asked and it was randomized, which one was first. And then they asked, which would you repeat for a third trial? 70% percent, just about, just under 70% said the longer one, even though it was, it was more pain sticking around cold water, but in a better end. And this relates, and that actually increased all the way up to over 80% for people who noticed the difference in temperature. So that’s called peak end theory, that you judge the experience by what happens at the very end or by the page. So let’s put that in a call center context. If you have to wait a short amount of time to get bad service, because that rep feels so rushed to keep their service levels where they are, you’re not going to be as happy as if you waited longer and then got a good experience, which is less expensive for the clients who delivered.

Gabe Larsen: (07:17)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Vikas, he just kind of blew my mind. Are you following this? You’ve been in contact-

Vikas Bhambri: (07:23)
I am. I understand what Tom is saying, right? I think the challenge is most contact centers do both. And what I mean by doing both is long wait times and a negative result when you actually do engage with the agent, right? If you look at CSAT results. So, I think what Tom’s saying is, look, you can keep your wait time. I’m sure it’s going to be within reason, but you can keep it lengthy, as long as when the person actually engages the agent, they resolve their issue. And I think just so many of us, and obviously it varies by brand and by industry, have been set up awaiting that negative experience. So as that time clock keeps going, our frustration and anxiety continues to build as you –

Gabe Larsen: (08:13)
As you know it could potentially be probably negative. You’re like these guys are jokers anyways, right? Is that what you’re saying?

Vikas Bhambri: (08:19)
Right. And then Tom, your kind of Space Mountain example and very fresh in mind because one of the few trips I made pre-COVID, are you all kind of advocating to say, “Look, tell them it’s going to be a five minute wait, but have an agent pick up the phone in two minutes?”

Tom Rieger: (08:37)
It’s not that simple. When you do the math, you have to look at this by issue type, because there are some types of tickets that are critical. And if it’s preventing them from using your brand, you’re going to want to get those resolved immediately. There’s others that are less critical. And here’s a really cool thing. When you actually build a regression curve, matching satisfaction or brand usage or dollar spend versus the actual wait time, almost always the shape of the curve is cubic. So in other words, there’s a point where it’s so short, they’re really happy. It’s like, wow, they answered instantly. So it’s really high. And then you reach this flat zone where it kind of doesn’t matter. And then eventually it gets to be so long that you fall off a cliff. Now, if you do a little calculus, once you determine that curve, you can figure out, well, where do you take off where people are really thrilled and you know what? It’s expensive to do that. So you have to be very choosy, what types of tickets you really want to get. Then where’s the inflection point? Where do you start to fall off a cliff? And then where are you really falling off a cliff? And almost always, you can extend your service levels, get them a little bit longer, just so you’re in that flat zone, but not falling off the cliff. And your customers may not notice, but that could free up enough time to provide more of that individual focused experience that the reps are probably feeling they can’t afford to deliver because there’s so much pressure on the service level.

Gabe Larsen: (10:11)
Yeah. Well, I was going to say, I mean, just the conversation of getting people to move away from always wanting to lower wait times, it just feels like it’s almost like religion at times. It’s just almost fanatical. It’s like, no, no, no. I can’t even hear what you’re saying, Tom, because I have to lower my wait time.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:29)
And Tom, what I heard was that flat lines could almost be specific to the type of issue.

Tom Rieger: (10:36)
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that cliff is going to be in a different place for different types of issues.

Gabe Larsen: (10:42)
So quick on that, just for one second. So you’re basically saying what you would recommend or what you often do with clients is one, probably kind of give them the pitch big picture, just so they’re starting to think differently about wait time, but the execution comes into running some sort of analysis around issue type and wait time and finding this kind of optimal spot and then potentially implementing that as, do I hear that right?

Tom Rieger: (11:10)
Right? Yeah. It’s just math. It’s just math finding that, but that’s only half the battle because that doesn’t –

Gabe Larsen: (11:19)
With a lot of battle. Because when you said calculus, again –

Tom Rieger: (11:22)
Oh, come on. It’s easy. It’s not that hard. So that’s only half the battle because then you have to deliver a great experience to make the wait worth it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Oh, I see. I see.

Tom Rieger: (11:32)
So then that gets into making sure that you in-group, that it’s not us versus them. Treating them as a valued customer, but here’s another side of this and this is something I talk about a lot in my new book. If someone is in a threat state, if someone is feeling pressured, if you release cortisol in your brain. That shuts down your prefrontal cortex. And when that happens, it becomes very hard for that rep to really think clearly because they’re under so much pressure and it’s a two way street. If you have someone out there who’s falling into these blind spots and just trying to rush through, then that’s going to put the customer in a threat state and then they’re going to be unhappy and they’re not going to be listening. And you know what’s going to happen? They’re probably going to call back. Your first call resolution is going to tank and your cost just doubled in an effort to save a penny in wait time. So it just cycles the plan itself. So you really have to focus on making sure you support that rep, give them the tools and really focus on in grouping and providing that great experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:41)
So Tom, one of the things you mentioned is obviously the agent side of it and making sure the agent doesn’t feel rushed. And what about on the consumer side? I’m just thinking about, as you said, wait times are inevitable unless we staff to the point where literally, you can just pick up the phone the moment somebody dials on one end. What can brands do to use that time effectively? Because I think about things like even the whole concept of callbacks, right? Where I give you my number and you call me back. Now, I’m still waiting, quote-unquote, but I’m not waiting in an IVR queue, listening to some diabolical music. I can watch my own television. I can surf the internet. I can cook dinner and you’re calling me back. I’m still waiting, but it’s my wait time. You see how the consumer mindset fundamentally changes? What are some things that brands, other than callbacks, are doing to make the consumer, I guess, have a better experience?

Tom Rieger: (13:46)
So I think there’s a few things to think about with this. One is prioritizing your tickets. So what are the things that have to be answered right away? What are the things that have to be answered sort of right away? What things can wait a little bit? Secondly, there are some things where automation is just fine. If it’s, my account is frozen and I just have to flick a switch somewhere, I check a box somewhere and I’m back in business, just fine to do that in an automated way. So it’s being smart about what’s automated and what’s not and then always not making it impossible where someone has to spin around three times, do a magical incantation, brew a potion, sacrifice a goat in their backyard and then they’ll get to a rep, versus just pressing zero.

Tom Rieger: (14:36)
And that creates a lot of frustration. It can put your customers in a threat state again. So don’t try to make it hard for them, just make it easy for them to solve their problem. So you’re right. You don’t want to, the whole idea is you don’t, you shouldn’t have to hire a million people to find this right balance. So it’s being smart about what you automate. It’s being smart about your channel prioritization and it’s being smart about how you train and equip your reps to provide that individualized service. You can’t differentiate your brand based on a recording, but you can differentiate your brand based on the entire experience that you provide.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:19)
So, I think, where we’re seeing customers move to is kind of a differentiated queue experience or wait experience, which is kind of almost like an emergency room, wait room, right? Where we can prioritize certain types of incidents or somebody comes in with a heart attack. Well, guess what? It’s not like, “Sorry, sir, you’re second in line. But this person over here with an ingrown toenail really takes priority,” which actually is the way most contact centers have operated and unfortunately so many still do because they’re flying blind with lack of data, lack of that automation that you’re talking about, where somebody comes in and we treat everybody the same and it’s like, “Well, you’re in the wait queue, even though you’ve got this really critical heart attack.” So I think where we’re seeing more customers move to, Gabe, is this whole concept of almost like an ER wait room where we can shuffle the deck and prioritize certain people based on who they are and their issue, which I think delivers a different experience as well.

Tom Rieger: (16:30)
Yeah. Triage is fine. But again, keep in mind what matters is what happens at the end. Did you solve a problem? Did you keep them in your brand? Did you keep them as a customer? Your call center is your defense. They are the frontline of the defense of your brand. So keeping someone where they are is a win. If you can get them to buy more, that’s even better. Like, but your job as a call center rep is to play defense. And just make sure that the customer’s happy, the problem is solved, and that you carry on being your customer when you’re done.

Gabe Larsen: (17:03)
Do you feel like the, I mean, you mentioned the rep stuff and I’m sure there’s training, but maybe what happens is if you did that analysis, you could coach reps better on how much time they do have, because it does just for like reps are just, “I gotta get this done. I gotta get this done.” And their bloods starting to boil and they’re sweating and it’s, you know. What are, on the rep side, have you seen brands, companies do anything there to continue the coaching, to continue the strategy and structure, to empower them to actually deliver that great experience?

Tom Rieger: (17:31)
Yeah. One of the things that I’ve seen are people completely overhauling their QA process and trying to make it a little less rigid. And we don’t see it as much of it as we used to, thankfully. But the one that drives me crazy is, is there anything else I can help you with? Because if you couldn’t solve their problem for whatever reason, keeping them on the phone to ask that isn’t going to help anything. It’s just going to send them into a towering rage. So it comes down to, these call centers take such care in how they hire and how they train. So then taking away the talent of the route doesn’t make any sense. So it’s establishing clear guidelines, clear outcomes, and then letting them use their judgment and coaching them along the way on how they maybe could handle things better versus you didn’t use this phrase and you didn’t ask this question this way and you didn’t follow the sequence. If it’s not appropriate, don’t do it.

Tom Rieger: (18:26)
So if you want to really establish that connection and not out group corporate policy and take people through a process that may not make sense, those are some of the ways that you can help achieve this. In some cases it may take a little more time. And it does take some skills for the reps to be able to listen to the problem. And they surely asked the right questions. Doesn’t mean you can’t provide guidelines on how to structure the call. That’s great. But trying to script every word is simply not going to work. It just isn’t. I mean, if you have 10 different types of customers and 22 different types of issues and 15 different products, do the math. You would have to script thousands of different types of specific combinations and that’s just not practical and it wouldn’t work if you did.

Gabe Larsen: (19:17)
Yeah, it does seem like we’re moving away from that scripting. Vikas –

Vikas Bhambri: (19:23)
Absolutely. I think the contact center is for brands that really want to deliver that optimal customer experience, it’s really turning into a knowledge worker role. You’re going to give the agent as much data as you can about the customer, about the situation they’re in, maybe some context of previous resolutions or whatever, but you’re really going to leave them to, quote unquote, script how this particular interaction is going to take place. So you’re actually seeing a very different profile of individuals – in types of roles. Tom, do you think the KPI average handle time is antiquated? Is that something that maybe contact centers shouldn’t even be looking at anymore?

Tom Rieger: (20:10)
Well, I think you need it from a budgetary perspective. So I think that’s just something strictly for managing the cost side of a call center, it’s always going to be important, but I think it is absolutely not a measure of customer satisfaction. It’s again, a cubic function, right? Because there’s the total time. There’s the amount of time they wait, then there’s the amount of time of the actual interaction. And then maybe there’s some resolution time. And again, it’s that entire time that’s important. Each will have their own function and this is just math to solve. So I wouldn’t say handle time is unimportant, but saying it always has to be shorter is very short-sighted and quite frankly, flat out wrong.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:53)
Right. And I think where we’re seeing a lot of our clients move to is more of this just understanding effort. Customer effort score. So I guess average handle time or the total time that that conversation took place can factor into that effort score, but at the end of the day if, look, if I need to spend three minutes with you to explain the situation and you resolve my issue as a consumer, I might be okay with that. You’ll probably get a CSAT of five, as opposed to me spending 30 seconds with you or 10 minutes with you and you don’t resolve my problem, then I’m really going to be ticked off.

Tom Rieger: (21:27)
Exactly, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (21:30)
Well, we’ve hit a lot, Tom. And as we look to wrap wanting to get, we have listeners out there who are, I think, debating this within their own organization and trying to figure out kind of how they potentially move from here. For those CX leaders, call center leaders, who are just starting this journey, where would you recommend they kind of start to kind of tackle this? I, again, we hit a lot of topics, but where would you recommend they start?

Tom Rieger: (21:57)
Well, you start by getting the data and doing the work. You have to look at this place, you type, you have to roll up your sleeves and do the quantitative analysis to say, first of all, do we have the metrics we need? What are they telling us? What are our real budgetary constraints? And then what do we need to do with them? What can we do within that? You have to look at your training, you have to look, are there barriers in the way? I mean, it’s a bit of a holistic response and it may seem overwhelming, but honestly it really isn’t. The projects we’ve done, I mean, we just, this summer, I had to do a quick turn for one of our larger clients. They were facing some decisions they had to make. We executed the entire effort in I think three weeks. So it can be done quickly. So it doesn’t have to be a giant project that takes you a year, but there is work that has to be done. So making sure you have the data, that you have the right metrics and then just rolling up your sleeves, quite frankly, and being willing to keep an open mind with what the data tells you.

Gabe Larsen: (22:59)
I love it. Vikas, any takeaways or quick summaries on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (23:04)
No, look. To any of the CX leaders that are listening, the practitioners, if I can just give you one word of advice, do not try to sell anything while people are waiting in your queue. Generally speaking, people are coming there because they’ve got an issue and the last thing they want to hear about how it’s 30% off, or you’ve got this promotion, or this other product or service. They’re not in the right state of mind to even absorb that. So really be mindful about what are you, if you are going to put your customers into this queue or this wait time, what are you, what are you using, to Tom’s point, to put them in the right state of mind, so when they engage that agent, they’re not taking out their frustration and really starting that conversation on a negative track?

Tom Rieger: (23:57)
You have to get them out of the cognitive threat state to be able to upsell them. Period.

Gabe Larsen: (24:04)
Good. Well Tom, really appreciate you taking the time. Fun. For those of you, we’ll make sure we put a link to his newest book that just came out a couple months ago. So Tom, have a great day. For the audience, also have a fantastic time. Thank you everybody.

Tom Rieger: (24:20)
Thanks. Thanks guys. Really a pleasure.

Exit Voice: (24:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

3 Reasons Why Customer Complaints Can Help Your Business Grow

How to Decrease CX Costs by Improving Agent Productivity TW

A business could be doing everything right, but at some point they will receive a customer complaint. It can be easy to place blame on the customer. They might be rude or have unrealistic expectations. But businesses should see the unsatisfied customer as a growth opportunity. Very few businesses actually know how to handle customer complaints in a manner that is both respectful to the customer and shows them that you care about their business. Interested in knowing more? In this article, you will uncover three ways customer complaints are actually a blessing.

How to Handle Customer Complaints

If a customer is unhappy with your service or their purchase, they will likely complain. And it’s more critical than ever to address these complaints. According to Ruby Newell-Legner’s Understanding Customers research, it takes roughly 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. The same research reveals that 70% of unhappy customers whose issues were resolved in their favor said they would be willing to come back. Not only is it critical for businesses to solve a customer complaint the first time, it can truly sway a customer’s lifelong experience with that brand.

According to an American Express survey, U.S. consumers were willing to spend more when companies provided exceptional customer service. In fact, they were willing to spend about 13% more. However, in that same study, 42% of shoppers said that companies were helpful but didn’t do anything extra to keep their business while 20% thought companies took their business for granted. Furthermore, 59% of respondents said they would try a new brand just for the better customer service experience.

While there’s always room for improvement, customer service provides a huge opportunity for your business to shine. If you can deliver an exceptional customer experience, your business will be able to steal market share from the competition.

A Personalized Touch Counts

The next step to navigating customer complaints is to train your customer service team to handle customer complaints empathetically, ensuring the customer feels valued and important. Businesses must capture customer feedback and respond to the dissatisfied ones immediately.

When a business ignores an unhappy customer, it makes them feel like their voice and opinion does not matter. Writing any wrong shows that the business cares and wants to continuously improve by addressing customer feedback instantaneously.

Active Communication Is Key

Customers are turned off by being kept in the dark. If you’ve received their complaint, acknowledge it and act quickly. The best way to handle customer complaints is actively communicating with your customer and letting them know you’re working on the problem right away. Your customer is already frustrated that things aren’t going their way. Don’t add to the frustration!

It’s important to apologize and listen carefully to what their needs might be. If the problem looks like it may take a few days to resolve, be sure to list out the next action steps and what a resolution would look like. Customers don’t want to wait four days to see if they’re eligible for something as simple as a refund. If you can answer some of these questions right off the bat, it’s going to make your customer feel better about the situation.

Empower Your Support Team to Go Above and Beyond

Support teams have a tough job and their hands are often tied when it comes to how to handle customer complaints. Additional positive touches can be critical, especially when a customer has complained. Can your support team give the customer a gift without having to escalate to a manager? How can you empower your support team to go above and beyond while they are in active communication with an unhappy customer?

For example, The Ritz-Carlton is known for its high-end customer service. The tourism and hospitality company has been able to create a loyal fan base. One of the many reasons they are known for their impeccable service is because they have empowered every employee to provide additional touches to make their guests’ experience exceptional.

If the bellhop, for example, overhears a complaint, he or she is able to take it into their own hands and offer free dessert, or another positive touch point, to that client. They do not have to go to the manager for permission or to escalate the issue. This gives power to the employee to quickly react to a customer’s complaint, and they are not held back by company processes in order to make a customer feel valued.

Connect With Kustomer:

Interested in knowing more about how you can deliver excellent customer service in the modern era? Feel free to download our free ebook about four key ways to deliver on customer needs. You can also check out our free report, What Consumers Expect From the Customer Experience, so that you and your business can begin implementing a great customer experience that goes beyond what your competitors are able to provide.

 

4 Elements of E-Commerce Customer Service

How Consumer Behavior Is Fueling the Future of Retail CX TW

The world is rapidly changing and that’s good news for businesses in the e-commerce space. In a study conducted by The Global Consumer, more than one-third of global consumers purchased products online at least once per week. This means it’s more crucial than ever to focus on the e-commerce customer service experience.

There’s been a huge bump in online purchases ever since the pandemic began. As more consumers practiced social distancing and stayed at home, their online shopping habits increased. In fact, on a global level, 49% of consumers shop online more than they did pre-COVID-19 and the amount spent online with U.S. retailers alone in Q2 of 2020 was 44% higher than the same period in 2019.

These new statistics mean there’s a lot of room for growth in the e-commerce sector. If you’re a retailer, one of the most important points of contact for new customers is your customer service team, which means it’s imperative that they’re trained and up-to-date with the latest knowledge and know how to go above and beyond for your customers.

What Is E-Commerce Customer Service?

E-commerce customer service is the act of assisting new or existing online customers when they encounter questions or challenges they may have throughout the customer journey. It is the goal for an e-commerce customer service team to provide a pain-free, digital shopping experience for consumers.

An e-commerce business should look at all the ways a customer would interact with their brand and provide assistance for them throughout the digital customer journey. This could mean answering their questions directly on the brand’s website, via social media, or by telephone calls and emails.

The ideal e-commerce customer service experience means customers are never left hanging — no matter what. If you’d like to improve your customers’ experience throughout the buyer journey, here are four important elements you should be incorporating in your e-commerce customer service strategy.

1. Reduce Redundancies and Customer Friction

According to HubSpot Research, the most frustrating thing about interacting with an e-commerce brand is having to repeat their problem to more than one customer service representative. You can prevent this from happening by incorporating an omnichannel communication strategy that allows a customer service agent to see all the ways a customer has connected and interacted with your brand. Don’t take their problem for granted. If a customer doesn’t feel like you’re able to accurately, and consistently solve their problem, they will look elsewhere for a brand that does.

2. Provide Self-Service Options

Customers often dread having to reach out to a customer service agent. They prefer to find the solution to their problem on their own before having to interact with someone. Some of the cheapest ways to improve the customer experience is by providing more self-help and FAQ documentation for that customer.

If you’re noticing a pattern within your e-commerce customer service channels where customers are asking the same questions over and over, you might benefit from creating additional documentation on the website to help customers get what they need quickly without having to ask for help.

3. Replace the Sales Rep with E-Commerce Customer Service Agents

Customer service agents are wearing a lot of hats in today’s market. They’re not only expected to solve tough customer problems, but they’re also an extension of the brand’s image. They need to know how to best service their customers’ unique  needs and personal tastes.

Today’s consumers are turned off by pushy sales reps, but they do love someone who is in their corner and recommending products that are relevant to them. However, it’s a fine balance to juggle these two worlds. It’s important to provide training for your customer service team so they can understand the difference, and learn how to recommend the best products in a way that’s authentic to the brand. Consumers want a personalized experience and you can deliver by having your support team lead them down a path that’s unique and relevant without being seen as salesy.

4. Take Customer Reviews Seriously

Many customers feel like they’re shouting into a void when it comes to delivering feedback to a brand. They’ve taken their time to answer a customer satisfaction survey and, if their feedback was especially negative, often don’t see changes in how the company handles the shopping experience. This is an area where you can really stand out from your competitors.

If you notice a customer has had a bad experience, don’t let their feedback go unnoticed. Reach out to them, offer to make it right, and let them know you value their opinion no matter what. Some of your harshest critics can turn into your biggest supporters if they see first-hand that you value their business and will do anything to make sure they’re satisfied.

Connect With Kustomer:

It can be hard to stand out from the crowd and grab a bigger piece of the pie in the e-commerce market. However, Kustomer is here to help! If you’d like to know more about how to differentiate yourself in the market and improve the agent experience for the customer, you can watch our ondemand webinar here. Delivering exceptional customer service requires companies to empower their team with the tools they need to succeed. Feel free to request a free demo right here and start creating stellar customer experiences today.

 

How Kustomer Transformed Its Global Support Experience

How Kustomer Transformed Its Global Support Experience TW

An excellent customer experience is just as important for you and your clients as it is for us and ours.

This is why I joined Kustomer as the Director of Global Support a little over a year ago: to help transform our team and improve the experience we deliver to our clients.

I’m excited to share that Kustomer now offers 24/5 global support, from Sundays at 6pm ET through Fridays at 9pm ET. This is a major milestone and one of the many significant changes we’ve introduced to deliver fast, efficient support to our customers around the world.

I’ll walk you through the recent improvements we’ve made to our customer support, in addition to what is on the roadmap.

Growing Pains Lead to New Opportunities

Around the time I joined, we were going through some growing pains as a CX organization. We had recently doubled our client base and had the will, but without the right foundations and structure in place to help us succeed.

I started our transformational journey by getting to know my team and our clients. Some of the questions I asked were:

  • How is everyone feeling about their role and responsibilities?
  • Do they have enough knowledge to do their jobs well?
  • What kind of feedback are we getting from our clients on our performance?
  • What specific things do our clients need from us to help them make the most of Kustomer?

I discovered that our team was very stressed and lacking confidence in their abilities. They were taking longer on some issues because they weren’t given the proper training and tools to help them do their roles well. They also didn’t understand how important they were to our overall mission here at Kustomer. So I set out to change all of that and help them succeed.

Over the next 12 months we went through a whirlwind of change:

We re-evaluated our job descriptions to ensure we had the right hiring profile for our team, and started recruiting for Technical Support Engineers to ensure we had the right blend of technical and customer facing skills. For the first time, we added Sr. Technical Support Engineers and made sure we had a mix of junior and senior team members to help round out our knowledge. Additionally, we expanded our coverage to 24/5. We now have team members covering the EU, East Coast, Midwest, West Coast and APAC regions.

And we didn’t stop there. We made sure to improve our new hire onboarding to ensure training consistency and reduce the onboarding timeline of our new hires from six months down to one, achieving an 83% decrease in ramp up time! We introduced Business Impact on our forms and chat channels which allows clients to set their own priority on each issue so we can help resolve problems in the timeline that works best for our clients. We also introduced formal critical coverage outside of our normal business hours via the “critical” business impact selection to allow us to provide after-hours help on urgent issues.

On top of everything, we added holiday coverage to provide better support during our clients’ busiest times, and shifted from transactional to consultative support. We ensure that we understand our client’s configuration and needs before tailoring a solution to their unique environment. Lastly, we added Kustomer Live! monthly training webinars and ad-hoc training, as requested, and introduced a pilot Premiere Support Program to offer short term dedicated support for clients who may need a little extra help from time to time.

Stepping Into Our Customers’ Shoes

We also made significant improvements to our own instance of Kustomer (Alpha) so that we could use all of the amazing features that our customers have been using so successfully, for our own client support.

First we set up custom reporting and rolled out team metrics. Here are some of the improvements we’ve seen:

  • We have been consistently hitting or beating our targets for the last six months.
  • First Response Time goal is under one hour, and is currently at 28 minutes
  • Average Duration goal is under two business days, and is currently at 1.9 business days
  • CSAT goal is 4.5 or higher, and we are currently at 4.7

Additionally, we integrated Kustomer and Jira and added automations to help us keep issues moving forward, and we brought client information in from our sales tool so we have a better understanding of who our clients are, as we’re supporting them. We can also more easily see when clients are running into repeated issues and address them at the core.

We continued to optimize by introducing Queues and Routing, which reduced our First Response Times by 50%.We also increased visibility through various searches and reporting to help us see problematic trends and react more quickly to larger issues.

Finally, we introduced automation to help our team members better manage their daily workloads, and we implemented chat to set better expectations on First Response Times and allow us to handle critical issues.

Looking Forward

We may have accomplished a lot, but we are just getting started! The changes that we’ve made have had a profound impact on our team and on our clients. When I talk to the team now they tell me they feel more empowered to do their jobs and are excited to be a part of our bigger mission here at Kustomer — to deliver an exceptional client experience.

Feedback from our clients has been phenomenal. We get five star rating after five star rating for speed of turnaround, quality of response and level of product knowledge.

This year we’re continuing to focus on improvements to our onboarding so we can scale our training as we grow. We’re adding more advanced training to help us reduce turnaround time and will be introducing a formal quality assurance program for our agents to ensure we’re delivering high-quality service consistently. We’re also planning some changes to our chat channel to allow for more real-time responses to high priority issues.

We love to hear feedback as we continue to make changes. Please feel free to reach out to me and share your experiences so we can continue to focus in the right places to improve your experience.

About the Author

Gordana Warga is a B2B technical support leader with extensive experience transforming teams across various tech stacks and industries. She finds proactive ways to quickly improve the client experience through automation, enhanced training, and process improvements. Her teams are empowered to consistently exceed their goals and partner with clients to help them better utilize SaaS products.

 

How To Turn Your CX Organization Into a Revenue Generator by Engaging Customers in the Digital Age

How To Turn Your CX Organization Into a Revenue Generator by Engaging Customers in the Digital Age TW

To facilitate more meaningful, long-term customer relationships, companies must focus on implementing solutions that offer both valuable and seamless support. With customers relying on agents to support their entire pre- and post-purchasing journey, there is a clear opportunity to optimize the customer experience by leveraging critical insight and assistive technology.

By equipping agents to support complex interactions and promote more proactive communication, companies can secure loyal customers that drive bottom-line results and prompt consistent growth in revenue.

Focus on Omnichannel Support

To operate in the digital era, companies must be equipped to support an omnichannel experience. With customers spending more of their personal time validating their purchases with pre-transaction support, they require access to agents who can effectively understand their entire contextual journey. By focusing on an omnichannel approach, companies can work to better understand their customers intentions and adapt support as needed.

According to Gabe Larsen, VP of Marketing at Kustomer, “Omnichannel support can often seem intimidating to businesses because they think they need separate teams to manage these separate channels through separate systems. Your customer data is powerful, but it often lives in other disparate systems making it a challenge to provide a complete picture of your customers. You need to implement a support solution that unifies that data and makes it easily available and actionable for your support team. And since your omnichannel strategy connects all your channels, data on customer interactions travels with the customer and moves as easily between channels as they do.”

As customers continue to utilize different channels, switching between self-service options, live chat, and traditional phone service, it becomes necessary to gain a line of sight into every aspect of the overall journey.

Additionally, when customers increase touch points by requesting support pre-transaction, companies must work to identify these moments to piece together a 360-degree view of the customer later on.

To achieve a more seamless approach, companies must implement Al solutions that ensure flawless escalation and increased efficiency. With modern Al technology, customers using a chatbot service can be swiftly routed to the most qualified agent to receive individual support. By pinpointing the exact moment of frustration or inefficiency, Al works to seamlessly adapt to the customers’ momentary needs, while providing the agent with the necessary contextual information to adequately handle the case.

Once agents gain access to this in-depth customer insight they can more effectively handle the unique influx of questions and services they are currently expected to provide. Companies can then work to provide a simplified experience as customers effortlessly switch between channels without ever having to repeat their inquiries.

Says Ryan Patchitt, Customer Experience Manager at Waldo, “Having that 360-degree customer view, it allows the agents in one click to have an understanding of, from the beginning, from that first order that the customers had with us, has there been any pros or cons throughout their journey? When looking at that, it allows the agents to say, ‘you’ve been with us for X amount of time, we can see that you needed your contact lenses now, a month ago, you seem to be running out at this time of the month, why don’t we change your plan to this?’ and it really helps the agents get a more personalized experience for our customers and it also saves a lot of time which is great for us.”

Leverage Personalization

Once agents can effectively handle a more seamless flow of interactions, they can work to provide the more personalized and empathetic version of support customers are currently seeking.

We know customers do not want to be treated like a ticket number; they want agents to consistently recognize them on every platform and actually understand their intentions and goals. Identifying the customer is one thing, but providing meaningful and personalized support at every touchpoint takes a more comprehensive approach.

This level of support requires access to detailed customer data to go beyond simple recognition and support complex, meaningful interactions. Additionally, it demands streamlined back-end processes to allow agents to direct their focus on the most substantial cases.

“There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship,” says Gabe Larsen, VP of Marketing at Kustomer.

To leverage comprehensive customer data, empower agents with Al tools like customizable insight cards that curate the context and tools needed to facilitate an interaction. With this technology, agents can process returns, issue credits, or rebook reservations all in a single platform. This keeps the most critical information in one place, allowing agents to focus on each interaction by avoiding distracting searches and inefficiencies. Additionally, it allows agents to more effectively act in an advisory role, recommending new products and services that may align with their value-driven mentality — increasing potential revenue opportunities.

To learn more about how to transform your contact center into a profit center, download our latest report produced in conjunction with CCW, right here.

 

Top Customer Service Characteristics to Grow the Customer-First Mindset

Top Customer Service Characteristics to Grow the Customer-First Mindset TW

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

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

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

1. Resilience

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

2. Multitasking Skills

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

3. Thorough Understanding

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

4. Meticulous

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

5. Positive

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

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

 

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

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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.

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

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

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

Exit Voice: (24:20)
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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.

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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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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.

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

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.

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Guide to Delivering Quality Customer Service

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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 the benefits of 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.

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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)
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