Great CX Starts With Happy Agents

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Derek Hixon to talk about his lessons learned after providing over 15 years of exceptional customer support. Listen to Derek’s fun and invigorating life lessons in the podcast below.

Fostering Relationships Leads to Better CX

Derek Hixon, Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream, proudly leads his team of reputable customer service agents. Having over 15 years of customer service experience, he has learned the best methods of garnering customer loyalty and agent happiness, starting with fostering relationships in the workplace. Derek believes that the best customer service experiences start with a happy team of CX agents. To present this idea, he states, “Everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.”

Derek finds that when his team is happy, their positivity trickles down and reflects in their work. They are able to have more productive conversations, find the best solutions to their customer’s needs, and have better overall CX scoring. When those genuine daily interactions take place, the work environment becomes more comfortable and interactive, ultimately resulting in the best customer service experiences.

Utilizing Data as a Tool

Data is a driving force in innovation. It presents the information needed to push internal growth and to modify methods and tools to better suit the needs of the customer. When customers use a product and don’t understand how to use it, Derek finds that is the right opportunity to learn from their data and to innovate that product as well as alter their CX approach. He says, “Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions.” Using data to gauge what your customer expects from a product has proven to be extremely useful with Derek’s CX process. Data can give the information needed to build internal tools that assist customers, or remove the need for internal CX tools all together by creating an effortless experience. Having a high-level view and taking the small but necessary steps to creating the ultimate satisfactory customer experience through using data can be very beneficial to companies.

Building on Each Other’s Strengths

Something all companies would benefit from is employing each team member’s strengths to work together and create a cohesive CX team mindset. Early on in his career, Derek found that each person offers specialized skills for their job and that utilizing that specific knowledge has proven to be advantageous to the company. He explains, “I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience.” He notes that unearthing each team member’s strengths takes patience because oftentimes, they are used to completing tasks in specific ways, and their specialized knowledge gets buried under the day-to-day cycle. Breaking that cycle can be done through engaging with the team, learning from the team and pulling from their skill set. CX teams would be wise to learn from each other and to use their specialized knowledge to build on each other’s strengths.

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “Derek Hixon | Lessons Learned in Running 15 Years of Successful Support Operations” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents | Derek Hixon

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 lessons learned from running 15 years of successful support operations, and to do that, we brought on Derek Hixon, who’s currently the Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream. Derek, how the heck are you?

Derek Hixon: (00:30)
I’m doing great. How are you doing Gabe?

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, pretty good. Well, I’m pretty good, man. We had an interesting morning. But I got to ask, man, it sounds like you’ve got a fun hobby on the side, is that true? You’re a DJ by night, by day, by, what is it?

Derek Hixon: (00:45)
I’ve been trying to retire for years, but I can’t get out of the game, I guess. I do DJ around Boston, specifically a place called State Park in Cambridge that I really like and I also make some music on the side and actually I think being creative is very important to me. And I think what I learned outside of the walls of work really helps me inside them as well. So –

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
That’s awesome, man. Been doing it for years? As long as you’ve been doing support or not really?

Derek Hixon: (01:12)
Oh, I’ve been messing with music since I could walk, so yeah, long, long time.

Gabe Larsen: (01:17)
Love it, man. That’s fun. I’m just getting my boy into guitar lessons. I always wanted to be a jammer, but I just never had the guts to stick with it. So we won’t make you say your DJ name, but if you want to know that you’ll have to ping Derek on LinkedIn. So outside of DJ, give us your quick background real quick.

Derek Hixon: (01:40)
So, I’ve been working within technical support organizations for the past 15 plus years now. Before that I was working within a company called Pearson and, sorry, I’m just going to take a beat for a second. I can’t even talk about myself. So I’ve been working in technical support organizations for the past 15 years and I have a pretty diverse background in media as well. I’ve worked within print production. I’ve worked within the education sphere. I’ve worked within big media and video and I have a fairly diverse background in communications and I’m also in media.

Gabe Larsen: (02:32)
Awesome, man. Well, it definitely sounds like you’ve got a robust background. Want to see if we can pull out some of that today, as we talk about just lessons learned. I mean, you’ve been at different companies, you’ve been in different industries. What are some of those things that just stand out as, “Man, as I’ve looked back at my career, these things have been kind of the make or break things that have made me more successful?” Start at the top. What comes to mind?

Derek Hixon: (02:57)
Oh, it’s funny. I think I’ve fallen into a technical support role and leadership role kind of by accident, but that’s kind of life too. I think life’s very non-linear and you kind of got to go with the waves and fight against them or you’ll drown. And I was working in publishing many moons ago and it was a big publishing company and I was rising up the ranks well, and I had a pretty big team and across multiple cities, but I just wasn’t feeling the culture or just the industry, so to speak. So I was looking for my next new big challenge and I heard of a company called Brightcove at the time. And what excited me about them is that they combined two of my loves, technology and also video. And this is back in 2008, 2007, and YouTube was only a year old. Having video on the internet was the wild, wild West. It was exciting, new, and hard. Which all of it really intrigued me. I had a friend who recently joined there and all they had open at the time was a single contributor support role. And I’ve debated in my head because I had this good career path. I had a good bonus. I liked the people I worked with at the time, but I wasn’t really challenged in ways I wanted to be. Way back in the day I went to school for video and I was going to be the next great Steven Spielberg or something like that. So it was a way for me to still kind of plug into that world as well. So I kind of rolled the dice and I interviewed for a position. I got the single contributor position and this is 2008 and it was about two weeks after I accepted that the whole economy fell through the floor. And I thought, I remember one day specifically, I was going up the elevator and I thought it was gonna be going right back down it. We had to do some layoffs. They were a startup at the time and I was able to survive it thankfully. And the thing I realized real quickly at Brightcove that was different than at the previous company I was at was, and some of this may be due to me at the time, me being in my mid to early twenties, but I thought I knew everything. And I always felt like I was the smartest guy in the room and real quickly at Brightcove, I realized I was not the smartest guy in the room. I was far from it. And it was very intimidating at first for me. I had a lot of fakers syndrome. I was like, “Why did they hire me? Like this was a mistake. Like I shouldn’t be in the room.” But what that really did for me is it threw me into survival mode and I’m like, “Okay. Well, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy at the table,” like I was literally, ActionScript was a thing back then. Rest in peace Flash. I like literally, the guy who was sitting across the table from me, wrote the book I learned from and I was just like, “This is ridiculous, I can’t compete with this level of knowledge.” So what it instilled in me was, I’m like, “Okay, if I can’t be, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy in the room or at the table, I’m going to be the most prepared. I’m going to be the hardest working.” Really what I started doing, the seeds I started lying just to survive, ended up being very helpful for me throughout my career as I grew in different leadership positions in technical support organizations. And what I’d really tried to do initially was I had brilliant coworkers, but they had all this brilliant knowledge trapped inside their heads. So I was just always pinging and poking at them to try and learn from them. And then I was trying to transfer all that down to paper or Google Docs or whatever it was or Confluence or whatever it was at the time, and create my, and it was really a selfish way for me to do documentation. And so I had the knowledge, so I could do my job better. But by getting that mindset, it’s really helped pave a path for me to where I am today.

Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
I love that man. That’s powerful. So one of the big keys was, it sounds like you kind of thought a little high, got yourself in the deep water, neck deep, but you were able to figure it out. And one of the keys was just being able to kind of, sit with that team, really spend some time and pull stuff from them and not just do the conversations, but actually translated into a document or something that could be shared with others or shared with yourself so that you could actually say, “Hey, this is what this process looks like. Or this is what this function, or actual detail looks like,” is that correct?

Derek Hixon: (07:49)
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And that’s something I’ve noticed from my early experiences at my first technical support experiences at Brightcove all through the last few roles I’ve had is I’ve been really blessed throughout my career to work with really brilliant people. And sometimes it’s just helping organize the really good knowledge that they have. Like everyone has very specialized knowledge for wherever they work, but sometimes it’s trapped within and like trying to really get hive mentality and spread the love with what they have.

Gabe Larsen: (08:23)
How [Inaudible] I mean, I think most of us know that intuitively, but it’s always hard to kind of pull it out of people and then get it into, again, a format that’s digestible. You just take, is it just about taking the time? Is it about the right questions? What’s kind of the secret to getting that richness out of people and into a place that can be digested?

Derek Hixon: (08:43)
Yeah. It’s a lot. It’s a bunch of things you have to be patient with. I’m like old school at heart. I like to DJ. I DJ with vinyl only. I don’t like DJ out digitally. If I cook I’m grilling with charcoal, I don’t want a gas grill. It’s just kind of my nature. I just think things are better if they’re done right and slowly, and usually you benefit from it in the long-term. You can always get short-term success with things, but if you have the luxury of time, which you don’t always have obviously, you can do really great things. And I also think just keeping it real with people and being transparent can really get you a lot of credit with people to get trust within you. To kind of pull things out, but it takes time. And where it really starts is, it’s process, right? Process is what everyone’s chasing in a leadership role. They want people to do things in a similar manner. I don’t necessarily want everyone on my teams to do things exact. And I compare, I like sports as well. And when I talk to my team, I’m really, really good at bad analogies. And I like to equate how they do their job, like a golfer and a golf swing, or a baseball player in their batting stance. It doesn’t have to be the same exact stance or swing for everyone, but we’re all trying to get the same results. You’re trying to drive the ball straight and far down the middle, or you’re trying to get a base hit or a home run. When I’m sitting with people, you really have to sift the team, you have to take the time. You have to stroke the coals, you have to prepare for a DJ set, like you have to really understand, “Okay, what’s their day-to-day like?” And that goes through shadowing. Okay. And like I always say, cliques kill. You can do things to simplify your team’s job, you’re getting quick wins and you’re making their lives easier, which is going to filter right down to the customer. And so that’s where you start. And also people like talking like, hey, I’m doing it right now. People like talking about themselves. People like showing off the things they know and it also gives people a chance to feel empowered and talk about the hard work they’ve put in and how they do it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:02)
I like that. Then through all of these interviews you’ve done and different stakeholder discussions, et cetera, any quick things you’ve found that ultimately changed the way you look at support, ideas around simplicity, or people making it harder than they maybe need to sometimes, but different things like that?

Derek Hixon: (11:24)
Yeah. I think that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees type of thing, fully applies when it comes to support. And I think support at times traditionally can have a bit of a stigma. It’s literally at the end of the big funnel from sales to marketing, through products; we’re at the very end. But also, we’re at the end of one part of the process where we’re at the tip of the spear for the customer part of the process of how they’re using a product and where they’re running into things. And I think that it’s just really important to, I’m sorry, what was the exact question? I kind of went off there a little bit.

Gabe Larsen: (12:05)
No, no. It’s totally fine. I missed some of the lessons learned as you interview some of these people and, just curious if there’s general findings. What did you find [inaudible] people ‘complexify’ stuff or –

Derek Hixon: (12:20)
Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes, and this is the, I find this especially when I first join an organization is I really lean into it when I hire somebody new as well. New blood is invaluable, new perspectives, just new angles on looking at things. Sometimes people live with a certain way of doing things for so long or someone told them to do it a certain way. So they just will do it a certain way. And that’s just the way they’re going to do it forever. And it goes back like, I have a saying that I always tell my team is like cliques kill. And like, if we can simplify the amount of things like tools needed to accomplish a task or ways to assist someone, that’s where it helps. And also I think the other hard thing, a thing I’ve seen across the, when I’m working with people to try and figure it out and simplify the job is, a lot of times, people are afraid to take a short-term hit to get a long-term gain. And I kind of almost look at it like preventative medicine or it’s like if sometimes teams are really scared to take some steps back and look at, “How do I do my job? Well, what are the steps I need?” instead of actually just taking the cases and doing them because like, “Oh, if I’m doing all this stuff and I’m not taking the cases, are cues going to really grow?” And I’m like, well take that short-term hit because it’s going to like, if you take time on this one case it’s going to help, or if you write an article on this one type of case and we post it, it’s going to help hundreds of people down the line and it’s forever going to be evergreen and all that jazz. So it’s helping the pulp. I think that’s, really it’s the benefit I have in the positions I’m in now. I used to be in the trenches, just like the people on my team, taking the cases and doing the calls. You don’t always have the luxury to pull yourself above the clouds and look down at everything. But to be able to do that with the team and allow them that freedom really helps them to help the customer experience better, how the team works better, and also helps them get a different perspective on things and potentially, like I think when people talk about support and customer success so much, they’re always just talking about the customer, but the customer experience is going to suck if the people on the team supporting them aren’t happy, or don’t what they’re doing, or don’t feel like they’re growing. Not everyone’s going to be a support lifer, and that’s cool. I’m sure yourself, you’ve had many different turns throughout your career. But when people are on my team and they’re working with me, I want to know what their goals and aspirations are. And I want to figure out how, when they’re in the current role they’re in with me and my team, how can I help grow skill sets that will help them accomplish larger goals while also helping the immediate goals with what the team has now? So, I really think it’s hard. I think the biggest secret is pulling people out at times and understanding what their path can be and the results will filter out throughout to the customer, the data will start pointing in the directions you want, and you’ll just create a really good working environment where people enjoy being, and working, and pushing and pulling in the same direction with each other.

Gabe Larsen: (15:46)
I like that. So, one big thing is just understanding your team, what they’re doing, learning from some of those findings. The second thing that we touched a little bit about was this idea of case analysis and what do customers really need help with? Talk about how that’s been a lesson that you’ve learned and how that applies to kind of transforming service organization.

Derek Hixon: (16:10)
Yeah. Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions. And so it goes back. And so in the very beginning, if I’m shadowing, it’s like if I got a new job at CompanyWide tomorrow to run their global customer support organization, the first thing I would do would be sit down with the team and understand what their day-to-day is like. And it’s not just to make sure their to-kill cliques and to make their day-to-day more simple, but I want to understand what the cases are and what the questions are that they’re answering and asking. I’ve done this primarily, this is nothing new, but I do this primarily through using case-reasons and sub-reasons at the case level. That means like, if it’s a billing question, that would be the case reasoning. And then from there, the sub-reason could be, “When’s my next bill due? I want to cancel. Where do I find?” Once you can bucket out what the customers are writing in about into different reasons and sub-reasons, then you can really start building a map of what people are actually asking the team about. Really, I don’t look at support, I always kind of looked at as support as a secret part of product because that’s what the, people are using a product.

Gabe Larsen: (17:38)
Agreed. Agreed.

Derek Hixon: (17:38)
We’re all consumers and we’re all going to have questions on things at some point in time. So I love working as support just because I think it’s good karma. When people are putting their heads against something, and they have a question, it’s because they’re using the product and it’s not working, or they don’t know how to, or they don’t want to figure out how to, because they still have time to sit down and figure out all the things. So really understanding what the people are asking about and then once you understand what they’re asking about, the real proof in the pudding is what action are you taking on the data, and who are you sharing that data with? It’s always easiest initially, to affect things internally, meaning within the support organization, but when you really start developing at my level relationships with peers across the aisle, and in marketing, in products, in engineering and development, that’s when you can really, really, really start doing some great stuff with the data such as creating internal tools. So you can do better work for the customer, or even better, make those tools available for the customer, or make it so the tool is not even needed because the thing just happens. Oftentimes, just from analyzing product usage data, a lot of places where customers might butt their heads against the wall, aren’t going to show up because they’re going to support those sort of things.

Gabe Larsen: (19:07)
I like that. I mean, sometimes the devil’s in the detail, man. It’s finding that, I love the idea of this case-reason and really being able to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, can be, I mean, it just opens up so much insight as to where you potentially need to go. I liked that one. And then number three, you talked a little about this idea of working in a box. Jump into that for a minute. How does that apply to kind of lessons learned?

Derek Hixon: (19:30)
Yeah. My favorite thing about working within a technical support organization is that, when I’m working at a software company, you work with and you talk to everyone within the company. Like then that goes from a tier one associate on my team to me. We’re talking to account managers, we’re talking to marketers, we’re talking to sales guys, we’re talking to product, we’re talking to engineers. And it’s really nice to have like our tentacles throughout the company that way. And like, what really gets me off is cross-collaboration. I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience. So, I try and really foster relationships there. It’s not easy. It can be really hard at times because all the different segments have different goals, and different OKRs that they’re pushing towards. Hopefully everything will roll up to the greater good, but it’s hard for all of it to cross over exactly. And just being realistic with where support lies within the totem pole of things at times, if you can learn how to work within other teams, cross-functional OKRs, and whatnot, you’ll have better success with what you’re trying to do instead of trying to jam a square through a circle hole. I’ve tried to jam a lot of squares through circles, so I’ve learned through a lot of failure, and I’ve been far from perfect. But hopefully I’m getting a little bit of wisdom with age, but to be determined.

Gabe Larsen: (21:14)
Wow. Well, I totally understand where you’re coming from. It seems like I get smarter with age, but then I look at myself and I look at my life and I’m like, “No. I’m not.”

Derek Hixon: (21:27)

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
BS’ed my way through everything. Well, we covered a lot today, Derek. As you think about other service support leaders out there trying to win, what’s kind of a summary takeaway that you’d leave with the audience based on some of the stuff we’ve chatted about today? Any quick kind of quick summary comment?

Derek Hixon: (21:50)
Yeah. I would just say, know your team and then use the data as a tool. Everything’s a tool. Like, there’s a phrase, “Death by a thousand paper cuts,” and I like to apply life by a thousand paper cuts. We’re always, and like the real big phrase that I say to my teams is, “Green grows and ripe rots.” Meaning like, as soon as you think you’re good and you know everything and you start being stagnant, you’re screwed. And like, I try and have a mindset of always wanting to grow and learn and understand, and we’re always tweaking things, but we’re never making this huge, big, crazy change, but we’re always making series of changes based on the data we’re getting and through just keeping a really open communication within the team. And from there, there’s no whiplash had by the team by all these big changes, but if all of a sudden we look back six months, we’re like, “Oh wow, we did a lot. We used to do things this way? That was crazy.” So I think just really having a high-level view of things and I’m not trying to boil the ocean, but always trying to slowly innovate, push, and move forward. But like, everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.

Gabe Larsen: (23:15)
I love it, man. Alrighty. Well, a lot to cover. Definitely a lot of experience coming out. I can hear the wisdom in your voice. I’ll have to join you in Boston sometime when things calm down with all that’s going on with the COVID, et cetera. It’d be fun to hear you DJ, man. So anyways, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:40)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

The Chatbot Cheatsheet: 6 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program

Chatbot Cheatsheet: 7 Tips for Building a Chatbot Program TW

Conversational automation is crucial to great customer support. An effective customer service chatbot can communicate with customers and answer important questions, streamlining the customer support process.

How to Understand Your Metrics When Building a Customer Service Chatbot

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

Learn how to build a chatbot that makes communication easy with these six chatbot tips, and watch customer satisfaction skyrocket! Now, let’s explore how to build an effective customer service chatbot program.

1. Start With Hello

Your first customer service chatbot does not need to be elaborate. In fact, we recommend against it. When you are first getting started, pick one or two simple (but useful) use cases to automate. Then, you can learn and iterate as you discover how your customers prefer to interact with a chatbot. No one gets it perfect right out of the gate, so avoid wasting time by trying to build something “perfect”.

2. Leverage the Agent

We have seen countless customer service chatbot programs fail to engage the existing front-line customer service team when designing an automated conversational experience. It’s great to learn from data and prevailing customer experience research, but your customer service agents are the ones who know how your customers are interacting with the chatbot. Treat the bot like another agent: when you need performance feedback, use its peers.

3. Templates, Rules, and Machine Learning

Not all customer service chatbots are “conversational AI”, because not all use cases require machine learning. Very effective bots can leverage rules and simple conditional logic — it all depends on the use case. Similarly, natural language processing is great when you have a customer service chatbot with many different skills and a large corpus of knowledge.

Why make your customers trudge through structured flows when they can ask the question directly? In both cases, we recommend leveraging buttons, quick replies, and other conversational templates that help the user move through the conversation quickly and efficiently.

4. Know When to Handover

A customer service chatbot is not a replacement for a human agent. Often, you need to give the user a way to bail out of tough conversations and difficult questions, and that’s alright. Chatbots are excellent at fully resolving low-level queries because they often suit the modern customer’s habits of utilizing mobile technology to solve simple issues. However, just because an issue is complicated does not mean a chatbot cannot be helpful. Consider how you can use the bot for information gathering and light triage before routing to the right agent. In these cases, the customer service chatbot helps reduce handle time and expedites the customer’s support request.

5. Automation Happens Elsewhere, Too

Customer service chatbots get a lot of attention when it comes to automation. Often it’s the mental model in our heads for intelligent customer service. Consider other ways you can streamline the customer support experience with a chatbot, and leverage additional intelligent services: automatic tagging, routing, and prioritization for the agent (just to name a few).

6. Be Customer-Centric

At the end of the day, the success of your customer service chatbot comes down to how well it fits into the customer support journey and cadence strategy you have outlined for your customers. Consider different segments of customers that might prefer automation to “direct human” connection. Perhaps automation can be more helpful at the end of a live chat interaction than at the beginning. Take a good look at your customers, and we’ll help you find out the right size that fits. In doing so, you will improve your customer experience and customer satisfaction metrics. Discover Kustomer’s intelligent chatbot solutions today.

Leverage the Power of Customer Service Chatbots

The Undeniable Power of Chatbots TW

Since the dawn of the computer age, engineers and designers have had to consider how humans can, and should, interact with new technology. They designed and implemented interfaces that altered our mental models for exchanging information and we had to learn novel symbols, workflows and behaviors in order to interact with these new platforms. Basically, we conformed to the computer, not the other way around. Yet over the last few years, a new service has emerged that represents a departure from this norm: the chatbot, a digital experience that replicates and automates the medium of human conversation.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’ve interacted with an online chat popup, there is a high probability you messaged with a chatbot first, and conversed with a human second. Conversational chatbots are not as complex as you might think. These digital customer service assistants can tap into customer data and knowledge bases stored in their database to help answer common user questions based on the user’s needs or inquiries.

For example, if a customer wants to know what the store operating hours are, they can reap some of the customer service chatbot benefits by getting an automated response with your store’s intelligent chatbot and human customer service agents are now free to focus on more high-level or specific inquiries, conducted through live chat, that might be a bit too complex or nuanced for the chatbot to answer.

The Three Customer Service Chatbot Benefits You Need to Know

Text-based support and conversations are the new interface, but it can get repetitive and it’s difficult to scale a one-to-one communication operation. This is where conversational chatbots come into the picture. Smart businesses use automation to help support more customers who prefer digital communication. 

As automated interactions, conversational AI chatbots can essentially exist wherever human-to-human dialogue is used to change information and accomplish an assignment. The best way to experience the benefits of this kind of automation is to focus on the conversations that you are already having with your customers. Here is where you’ll see an immediate impact:

  1. Faster Response Times: Chat and messaging work best when someone can immediately respond, not when customers are waiting in a queue because agents are tied up. With a chatbot, each message is seen and responded to, and your most common questions are quickly addressed. Further, by allowing chatbots to handle initial information gathering, agents are able to join and resolve conversations faster if escalation is needed.
  2. Better Agent Utilization: No one wants to answer the same question over and over again. Chatbots remove basic, low-level questions from the workload. By reducing the number of messages your agents receive, you will increase the efficiency of your support operations and be able to focus on the more complicated questions and tasks.
  3. Data on What Customers Need: Chatbots automatically collect and analyze your customers’ questions and issues. Instead of manually reviewing conversations or asking agents for anecdotal insights, you can review organized and aggregated intent data.

Implementing a Chatbot for Superior Customer Service

If you’re ready to automate and streamline the interactions you’re already having with your customers, start with these skills to experience the core customer service chatbot benefits:

  1. Five to Ten One-Touch FAQ Answers: Focus on supporting your most common questions that can be addressed with one response. You can direct customers to an FAQ article, or deliver a conversational answer directly.
  2. One Common Workflow: Similar to the above, there are certainly interactions that require authentication or simple lookups from another data source; these aren’t hard to tackle, just usually require manual attention. Verify, authenticate, and pull in data to automate simple workflows. If you’re an e-commerce business, “Where is My Order” or “Return Status” are great, universal examples.
  3. Easy Agent Takeover with Routing: Once a chatbot cannot answer a question or resolve an issue, make the handover process to human support quick and painless. Better yet, ask a few questions just prior to the handover to give agents context for the conversation and route to specialized teams.
  4. Natural Language Processing: Natural language processing and machine learning — the “AI” of conversational AI — make it possible for your bot to understand and respond to customer intent, not specific keywords. This allows the bot to keep up with the way each customer thinks, communicates, and switches topics, ultimately leading to higher understanding and better resolution rates across all conversations.


Want to learn more about how chatbots can transform your customer experience? Check out how Kustomer powers intelligent self-service here.

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders

Speakeasy: A Conversation Among CX Leaders TW

We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.

What Is Being Done NOW

An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.

Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.

Transformation While Resources Are Crunched

There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.

One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.

Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.

Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.

One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”

Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.

Moving the Customer Experience Dial

A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.

“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.

Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.

In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.

To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience


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

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

One of the biggest challenges for contact centers and customer service departments is convoluted systems. According to CCW Digital research, two of the top five areas for improvement include agents spending too much time on low-value work and the absence of a 360-degree customer view.

When customer service agents don’t have a 360-degree customer view, they spend excess time navigating applications and databases trying to manually find customer information and history, which is frustrating and inefficient for both employees and customers. However, with the right technology, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn why.

Tap Into the Power of a Centralized CRM

Building a 360-degree customer view is dependent upon giving our front-line employees and customer service agents the tools they need to see customer history, route inquiries accordingly, and find solutions seamlessly through an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

As seen in a recent CCW Digital webinar, during a peak in the pandemic, customer contact volume increased ten fold, while agent capacity decreased 20%, call duration increased 62%, wait times increased by 27 minutes, and as you would guess, customer satisfaction decreased — by roughly 28%.

As customer volume increases and agent capacity decreases, friction is brought into the customer experience, exposing an unforgiving area for improvement in the contact center — the vast majority of CRMs being used are not getting the job done. Simply put, customer service departments around the globe are losing customers as a result of poor management and technology.

Specifically, incorrect and incomplete data means longer wait times, less ability to predict needs, and less ability to personalize interactions.

We’ve seen an uptick in digital channel utilization which means you have more touch points and data sources to aggregate customer history, and therefore a greater need for an omnichannel CRM.

The only way to alleviate the friction in the customer experience is to create a more efficient process, reducing the amount of applications agents need to record and access customer information, and resolve problems by using a single, unified, and actionable customer service CRM.

Increase Efficiency and Personalization Through AI and ML

AI can help you better glean insights from your data at scale. Then it can be used to improve routing and provide agents with real-time guidance and recommendations, thereby increasing their ability to “see” and “use” their 360-degree view.

AI and machine learning (ML) have the ability to improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks as well as your most complex business processes. For instance, high-volume conversation traffic could be intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent, loyal customers could be prioritized, and agents can quickly deliver standardized responses when appropriate.

With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI can simulate human actions to complete repetitive and rule-based tasks and processes. RPA can allow chatbots to fully complete a customer conversation without the need to escalate to a human agent, as well as provide the customer with more self-service opportunities by tapping into appropriate backend datta. This makes agents more efficient, freeing up their time for complex and proactive support, and gives customers more accurate information quickly.

Let’s take a closer look at chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI, ML, or automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite.

If a business leverages customer data properly and gives the chatbot a 360-degree customer view, chatbots can ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support. Of course, if needed, once the customer experience requires a transfer to an agent, automation can route the customer to the right agent, best equipped to solve the problem, and transfer all of that data into the agent’s view.

Want to learn more strategies to deliver standout customer service through a 360-degree customer view? Download CCW’s latest report here, filled with insights from Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum and NYT bestselling author Shep Hyken.


Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins

Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by CloudTask CEO, Amir Reiter, and VP of Marketing, Tom Jenkins, to discuss outsourcing and how to adapt in today’s dynamic markets. CloudTask is an outsourced sales organization that allows leaders to focus on scaling their businesses while giving them the ability to hire state-of-the-art sales and customer success support teams, on demand 24/7. Both guests are committed to providing the right tools organizations need to create wow-worthy support and thrive in the digital landscape. For great insights on the benefits of outsourcing, listen to the full podcast below.

Why Outsourcing is the Right Answer

Outsourcing is a highly discussed topic in the business world. Most of the time it is used as a tactic to save money and increase profit. To describe it generally, it’s when outside experts help build your business or processes. The better the business processes and training programs are, the easier and more effective outsourcing can be. Amir ties together outsourcing and customer service by saying, “We’re seeing an influx of inquiries now because people aren’t prepared for remote customer support. And I think whether or not you outsource or don’t outsource, if you build a solid training program and a solid repeatable process, it’s just a matter of having smart people who represent your company the right way.” While outsourcing can potentially benefit multiple areas of a company, it’s most important to focus your efforts on having a repeatable process and a good training program.

Outsourcing That Works

Once businesses decide that they are going to outsource, it’s usually difficult to determine which company/individual to hire. To assist in this decision making process, Amir and Tom mention two things. First, you need to have a good grasp on your company and its purpose to ensure that the other company will mesh with yours. Amir states, “Look for culture that matches yours. Look for teammates that you enjoy working with. Look for a company that adds value, that has experience and can bring their experience to the table, whether it comes to training, processes, technology, templates.”

In addition to that, to make sure outsourcing is effective, it’s important to remember that outsourced people are still part of the team. Tom adds, “I’d say even though it is outsourcing as well, still think of it, it’s your team. We just join your organization. The closer we work together, the better the results are going to be. We love it when people come to our offices, people bring their own trainers or even their account managers. And you know, we go hiking, we go out for dinner afterwards. The closer we work together the better the results are going to be.” In other words, make sure that outsourced individuals connect with your company and feel like they’re a part of the team. When you do that productivity will increase and the team will have a positive experience overall.

The Importance of Empathy

In a more serious and sensitive tone, Amir and Tom also go into the current COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how it is affecting the B2B, B2C relationships. They discuss the importance of empathy, understanding, community, and a balance between life and work. Understanding your team and culture will help increase the desire to understand the customer. Tom explains:

It’s about understanding what exactly is going on, both in your business, but also in your life and how you can support, again, not just through your business, but everybody is looking to each other to create more community. And the more community you create, the better it’s going to be for your business. That’s not why you want them to do it. You know, you want to do it because we’re human beings and we want to support each other. The more human you are, the more everybody is going to benefit; business and life.

Community and empathy are essential characteristics of a business that wants to grow quickly and authentically. Outsourcing the right way is going to help businesses scale while delivering on customers’ expectations. To learn more about Amir Reiter, Tom Jenkins, CloudTask and outsourcing, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.


Listen Now:

Listen to “When and Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Customer Service Team | Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins with CloudTask” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)
Alright welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about, I think it will be a fun topic, we’re going to talk a little bit big picture about what’s going on in the current environment. How companies B2C and B2B look at customer service differently. Then we’re going to hone in on this idea of outsourcing. How should you be thinking about your outsourced customer service strategy? Why do it? Why not do it? Some of the challenges. To do that we’ve got two gentlemen joining us. We’ve got VP of marketing, Tom Jenkins coming from CloudTask and then we’ve got CEO, Amir Reiter, from CloudTask. Guys, thanks for joining and how are you? Amir let’s start with you.

Amir Reiter: (00:47)
We’re good. It could be better circumstances globally, but we’re good. We’re good. I’m in Miami. Tom is in Hawaii at nighttime.

Tom Jenkins: (00:59)
I’m not in Rio de Janeiro on the beach. I’m down in Medallín, Columbia. I’m looking forward to the recording.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this will be fun. I mean all of us wish it was, good point Amir, under a little different circumstances, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Before we dive in, let’s have each of you just tell us just a little more about yourself and then maybe a little more about CloudTask. Amir, let’s start with you again. So tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you guys do over there.

Amir Reiter: (01:25)
Yeah, so I’m the CEO and founder of CloudTask and we are all about allowing leaders to focus on their business and I give them the ability to hire sales, customer success support teams, on demand 24/7, multi language. And we partner with amazing technologies like Kustomer and other great tecs and sales and customer success space so we can enable best of breed, customer support, sales, and success functions.

Gabe Larsen: (01:51)
I love it. I love it. Tom, tell us a little bit about yourself. We’ve got now a little bit on CloudTask, what would you add to that or in your background?

Tom Jenkins: (01:58)
Yeah, so my background, I head the marketing team here at CloudTask, great company, great culture, been here two and a half years and yeah, I think Amir did a pretty good job explaining who we are. We’re just here to help other businesses scale and grow and yeah, I’m enjoying being part of that journey.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
Love it. Love it. Well, let’s dive into the talk track you guys. So, and Amir, let’s start with you. We were talking pre about this, I think it’s an interesting idea. Why B2C has made the investment in customer support and why B2B has been lagging a little bit?

Amir Reiter: (02:30)
I think it’s in the easy answer, right? I think the consumer in B2C has a voice. “I didn’t get my diet pills in 24 hours and I’m going to complain on chat and scream and kick and scream and I’m never going to buy from you again. I’m going to leave a review right now in real time.” Right? So I think the consumer has a louder voice in B2C and they’re quicker to share their voice. And I think B2B, it’s driven differently, right? It’s not necessarily transactional on small items where reviews can make a difference. It’s more longer agreements, contracts where somebody that signed a contract might not be there in six months, right. You could sign a million dollar contract and you can leave a company tomorrow. Right? And companies that have been growing really fast in B2B spaces have been fueled by a lot of VC money and their goals are not necessarily NPS scores. It’s kind of revenue. Now, it’s become a much more of a player in B2B because there are review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra and —

Gabe Larsen: (03:43)
[inaudible] getting a little more empowered. Right?

Amir Reiter: (03:45)
It’s catching up. Right? But that’s my opinion why. What do you think Tom?

Gabe Larsen: (03:52)
Tom, yeah. What would you add to it man?

Tom Jenkins: (03:53)
Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s a volume thing that definitely comes into it. And B2C tends to be doing much larger numbers. And then for the needs to invest in customer support was immediately more obvious. I certainly wouldn’t say more necessary because usually in B2B — well, not always, but that tends to be low volume, higher cost. But you know, at the end of the day, the revenue’s the same. At the end of the day a customer is still a person, whether it’s a business, it’s still an account manager, a sales rep, the support manager there. And they still need to be treated the same way. But it just feels like because it is a business there’s that kind of, I guess, lower level of empathy maybe. That’s really changed in the last few years and B2B’s really started to catch on as well.

Gabe Larsen: (04:43)
I agree. I agree. Some of those points –that definitely resonates with me. I’ve experienced both in a major way. What do you guys feel like, again I just want to stay a little high level and then let’s dive into outsourcing, but certainly time’s changing for B2C and B2B. What are you seeing going on and how can companies react most effectively to somehow maintain some semblance of success or whatever’s kind of going on here. Tom, we’ll start with you.

Tom Jenkins: (05:11)
Yeah. The first thing is just understanding that we’re all in this together. There’s nobody who’s not affected by this global situation. And it’s just really engaging with people, getting on the phone, coming back to that empathy again, it’s no longer about, “Oh, can I have a meeting? Can I have some more money? Can I have the renewal?” No. It’s about understanding what exactly is going on, both in your business, but also in your life and how you can support, again, not just through your business, but everybody is looking to each other to create more community. And the more community you create, the better it’s going to be for your business. That’s not why you want them to do it. You know, you want to do it because we’re human beings and we want to support each other. The more human you are, the more everybody is going to benefit; business and life.

Gabe Larsen: (06:03)
I love it. Amir, anything you’d add, kind of trends you’re seeing, ways people are handling all the changes?

Amir Reiter: (06:08)
Well, either changes, you know, when you bring up the topic changes you think of the current situation, changes in B2B and B2C support in general. Tom talked about the current environment. Let’s talk about two weeks prior to what’s happening, just B2B and B2C. I think one of the big changes we’ve seen in the last year was this concept of sales chat, right? And, “Oh my God, there are sales chats and sales engine, and we’re making money with sales chat.” But what we got to see from behind the scenes was that a lot of the sales chat people were customer support issues. And a lot of those customer support issues well, they were sales opportunities. So what’s the real change? It’s just that people kind of took a concept that probably existed for a long time and realized that, “Hey, we’re impatient and if we can talk to a human being on a website live, we like that.” Right? And we do like that, right? If I just had a customer support experience with Namecheap, I was about to buy domains and I got locked out because my credit card was declined. And then they asked me to unlock it, they said, “What’s the last four digits of your credit card?” And I said, “I’m freaking locked out because of the credit card, there’s no credit card. How am I going to know the last four digits of my credit card that locked me out?” And I had to wait for like 10 minutes for a response, because it was clear that the person was handling multiple chats. I didn’t like that because I got timed out and I had to start over a couple of times. So I think people realize that, “Hey, live chat is great, having support’s amazing, but they’re trying to always find that ratio of person to support case and what happens to support is support doesn’t look that as money generating, sometimes it’s given less resources. And I think if we look at — this is like a wish for me, right? — I think that if we can learn how to make chat support, or support people also salespeople, but not by selling and closing deals, but just by having answers, I think we can invest more in support and have more efficiency because I like to talk to the same person about maybe buying a new domain and a new problem.

Gabe Larsen: (08:19)

Amir Reiter: (08:21)
That’s just me.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
That was kind of the talk of the town, right? Chat? And how we can use that deflection, being smarter, some automation. Let’s use that to dovetail into some of these conversations about outsourcing. I mean, that’s one of the things you guys have specialized in. You obviously help companies think through that. Maybe just again, on this topic, start a little more bigger picture. Why would I, as a company even start down this path? Why outsource my service center versus going inhouse?

Amir Reiter: (08:50)
That’s a good question. I think I want to answer that question, not from the lenses of CloudTask, right? I think I’m going to answer that question from the point of outsourcing and BPOs have been around for a very long time, and they’ve been around for a long time for the enterprise, right? The airlines, the big banks, right? The people who have thousands of employees. And I think whether you outsource or don’t outsource, it all comes down to having a repeatable process and having an amazing training program. Right? And if you look at the world, what’s happened recently and how everyone’s remote, you know, we’re seeing an influx of inquiries now because people aren’t prepared for remote customer support. And I think whether or not you outsource or don’t outsource, if you build a solid training program and a solid repeatable process, it’s just a matter of having smart people who represent your company the right way. And that could be through an outsource BPL, that could be people you’re hiring remotely. That could be W2’s and trainer leave. But if you have that culture of treating everybody the same internally and putting benchmarks so that everyone’s competing for the common good of a customer’s experience, I think companies win. But I’m a fan of even a blended workforce.

Amir Reiter: (10:03)
I think for me, for us, you know, we’re an outsource sales organization and we have an outsourced marketing person who helps us and he’s Tom’s best friend. So — and I also have an outsourced CFO. So we kind of preach what we saw in the sense that — find people that you mesh well with, who show up every day and who work with you and the type of engagement starts to fade away, I think.

Gabe Larsen: (10:30)
Yeah. I like that. I like that. I want to ask a follow up, but Tom, anything else you’d add or you see it slightly different?

Tom Jenkins: (10:36)
Yeah. I may have touched on it. And a big thing is the processes, especially when a lot of companies now are suddenly having to ramp up their teams really quickly. And usually when you work with an outsource provider, they’ve been there and done it over a number of years and they tweak the processes to a number of different industries, organizations, groups. And of course it still needs to be about your organization. So they are specialized to work with you to do that. As when you’re doing it first hand yourself, even if you’ve had a team for a while and suddenly have to expand it, it’s a lot of the time about not reinventing the wheel, just going with a process that you know works and there’s proof of it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
Got it. And then this training thing. I mean, you hit on it, telling me you’re reinforcing it just a little bit, but is that kind of the thing that people don’t have the most of?

Amir Reiter: (11:30)
Oh my God, that’s what they really tell you when they say, I don’t want to outsource. They’re basically like, I have not invested in a full time training department and I am more comfortable looking over someone’s shoulder, which they never really do because you don’t really have time to look over somebody’s shoulder, but that has been the number one underlying objection that I have felt. And I get it, right? I think it’s hard for a leader to be like, “Hey, like I don’t have state of the art training program. And that’s why I’m scared of working with you guys.” It’s a lot easier to say, “I just don’t outsource.” Right? But that’s kind of what I’ve seen, but I think that —

Gabe Larsen: (12:02)
And what does a state of the art training —

Amir Reiter: (12:04)
I’m glad you asked.

Gabe Larsen: (12:08)
What does that look like? And Tom, you can add in on this one. Amir, go.

Amir Reiter: (12:12)
Yeah. I would say a training program that is nimble and changes with the influx of the class that comes in. An ongoing program that supports and rewards reps for taking part in advanced training on an ongoing process. And that’s just like from high level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
Got it. Got it. Tom, what would you add to that?

Tom Jenkins: (12:34)
Yeah. And ultimately it comes down to having an awesome training team as well. Making– because we’ve all sat through training where it’s like death by PowerPoint, having trainers who really know how to keep things fun, light, and make sure everybody’s chipping in and getting engaged and doing. That’s when knowledge is maintained. And then having live coaching as well. It’s not just go train, go and do your thing. You need people, you need the managers, QAing calls listening in saying what’s working, what’s not, and constantly kind of having those little incremental gains to keep improving.

Gabe Larsen: (13:15)
Yeah. It is. People are thinking about outsourcing. If you had to leave them with a couple of pieces of advice, what would be — You know, “Should I outsource? Should I keep my team?” What would you leave them with Amir? Best practice, advice, takeaways, tips, tricks?

Amir Reiter: (13:33)
Look for culture that matches yours. Look for teammates that you enjoy working with. Look for, look for a company that adds value, that has experience and can bring their experience to the table, whether it comes to training, processes, technology, templates. And look to take the word outsource and save money out of your mind. That’s a byproduct. Look at outsource as in, I’m bringing in experts. And when those experts work with me, I gain those expertise and if they have something that I don’t have I’m going to tell them — and that’d be my biggest takeaway.

Gabe Larsen: (14:04)
I love it. I love it. Tom, what would you, from an advice perspective or people who are considering going one way or another?

Tom Jenkins: (14:11)
Yeah. I’d say even though it is outsourcing as well still think of it, it’s your team. We just join your organization. The closer we work together, the better the results are going to be. We love it when people come to our offices, people bring their own trainers in or even their account managers. And you know, we go hiking, we go out for dinner afterwards. The closer we work together the better the results are going to be.

Amir Reiter: (14:37)
Unfortunately the days of working for a Boeing and retiring at a Boeing are over and employees are moving around for organization, organization and you’d be very surprised. You can have a teammate who’s internal, who’s there 10 years. You can have a rep who’s representing a company through an outsource agreement who is there for 10 years. Right? It’s no more black and white, I think, as it used to be.

Gabe Larsen: (14:59)
Yeah. Yeah. Do you, one last question before I let you guys go, you kind of hit on this Amir and I’m just curious. There has been a lot of outsource companies, a lot of, been a lot of BPOs over the years. What would separate different BPOs? Is it their technology stack? Is it their training? You mentioned the training being a big differentiator, really important. How would someone start to navigate just thinking, “Oh, Gabe, there’s so many of these. I don’t know how to choose.”

Amir Reiter: (15:25)
I think the ones that have been around for 30 years will have the money on the balance sheet, the certifications through the roof, but they will lack with culture being nimble and technology. And then younger ones will be very quick. They’re the ones on podcasts with technologies like Kustomer. And so it’s just like you can imagine, right? I think you’ll find that younger BPOs will be more nimble. There’ll be more reading the articles about artificial intelligence automation while the big ones will be like, that scares me. We’ve got $4 billion in business and this is how we’ve been doing it for 30 years. And that works for some organizations, it doesn’t work for others that move quickly. So find a company that matches your size, your speed, how they’re invested, they’re invested like you, you guys are both bootstrapped.

Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
I like that.

Amir Reiter: (16:12)
Private equity backed. Right. It feels good. It feels like a natural fit.

Gabe Larsen: (16:15)
Yeah. Anything you’d add to that Tom?

Tom Jenkins: (16:17)
Yeah. Most people are outsourcing now. So understand what they’re currently doing, get peer reviews, check out the reviews online on G2, for example, and just speak to a few different teams. Find the one you like the most and give it a shot. And I’m sure they’ll work.

Gabe Larsen: (16:41)
I love it. I love it. All right you guys, well really fun talk track. I think it’s very pertinent, especially as we’re all working remotely and times have certainly changed and I think people are probably more open to just doing things different. So I think it’s a very timely discussion around B2B, B2C, but also, and then this kind of remote and outsource workforce. If someone wants to learn more about you guys, CloudTask, what’s the best way to do that or get a hold of your, or kind of see what you guys are all about?

Amir Reiter: (17:06)
We’ve got live chat on our website, or you can find me on LinkedIn Amir Reiter, real easy to find. And Tom, Tom is everywhere.

Tom Jenkins: (17:16)
We are everywhere, social,, LinkedIn.

Amir Reiter: (17:19)
Wherever the social cause in the world that’s where Tom is.

Gabe Larsen: (17:22)
That’s where Tom is. All right. Well, I think that’s good. Really appreciate you guys taking the time and for the audience, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Amir Reiter: (17:29)
Thanks Gabe.

Tom Jenkins: (17:29)
Thanks so much.

Exit Voice: (17:37)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.


How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards

How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined with a long time friend, Steve Richards, to discuss Customer quality and assurance and how to best train customer service reps. Steve is the co-founder of ExecVision and he has founded other sales performance improvement companies. Throughout his career, he’s been committed to helping companies continually improve by understanding the data and the customer experience. Listen to the full podcast below for his valuable insights on how companies can transform their agents into a revenue center.

Data is Not The Issue

To start the conversation, Steve makes it very clear that companies don’t need more data to enhance customer service. Most companies do an exceptional job of collecting the necessary data that they need to start the improvement process. It is in analyzing and applying the data where companies typically miss the mark. Steve notes that just measuring to measure and having data is not going to help improve the situation. He states, “In the organizations…who do a much better job, they kind of close what we call insights-to-performance gap. So what they’re doing is they take all the data and then they use that data and they actually take action based on it to change something.” If companies gathered the data with an understanding of how to use it, they will be able to make a continuous improvement around the actual engagement, the interaction that’s happening with the customer.

Make Sure Your Agents Have the Resources to Improve

When it comes to QA, or quality assurance, a lot of analytical work is happening to ensure that the customer service experience is as good as it can be. QA tools record phone calls, conduct surveys and collect a lot of data about how to improve the experience. However, this information isn’t being translated to the very people it concerns, the agents themselves. Steve mentions, “People value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told. So if you actually want to get someone … to change their behavior — if we can get them to … listen to one or two of their own calls per week, they’re going to hear things, they’re going to change things.” Let customer service agents and reps have access to the QA data, such as their recorded phone calls, and they will start noticing ways they can improve.

The Steps to an Effective Customer Service Call

On several occasions, customer service reps will be asked to follow a script when answering calls. This can often leave the customer unhappy or unsatisfied with the service. However, there are still resources that the rep needs to use to solve problems. To make sure that the reps get the required information and that the customer feels good about the service they’re getting, Steve suggests viewing phone calls as a jazz musical composition. “It’s not a script, but we also don’t let them wing it. So we’re going to give them … the notes you have to hit in the piece, and then everything else you do around it, bring your personality.”

With that in mind, Steve also shares the important notes that must be hit to make the call effective. The first important notes are the beginning and the ending of the call. Making sure that the rep opens with a kind, confident, and consistent greeting and ends the call with a definitive action plan and customer appreciation. Secondly, practice active listening. Steve states, “The empathy, the active listening, and not doing it in such a way where you’re essentially caving. It’s like you have a backbone. You’re looking at the eye of the person, not physically, but you get the idea. As a peer and you’re paraphrasing what they said, making sure you understand, clarifying what they said…” The last important note to hit for an effective customer service call is simply not putting the customer on hold for too long. Timeliness is one of the best things to train your reps on and it will make a big difference.

To learn more about QA and customer service rep training, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.


Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance | Steve Richards w/ExecVision” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright welcome everybody. We’re going to dive in today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience, something a little different, a different aspect, really how to escape the insights-to-performance gap, all based on the customer experience customer service world. To do that we brought in co-founder of ExecVision Steve Richards. Steve, thanks for joining man and how are you?

Steve Richards: (00:32)
I’m doing great Gabe thanks for having me here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah, it’s funny, Steve and I go way back. It’s been years, man. It’s probably been almost a decade, hasn’t it?

Steve Richards: (00:40)
I’m used to the salespeople and its kind of a little bit of a different world here going into call centers with CX. So, yeah, we’re having fun together.

Gabe Larsen: (00:49)
Yeah. But definitely knows his stuff when it comes to coaching, training, and I think using audio to really help people do their job better. Tell us a little bit about yourself and ExecVision before we jump in.

Steve Richards: (01:04)
Yeah, sure. So, I’m a founder of various sales performance improvement companies over the years. Somebody that does outsourced appointment, setting a sales training business, but really what we were seeing that was missing and we were looking at why do some people have so much more success in actually creating revenue? I will tie that back to CX later on. And a big thing is they had a culture of continuous improvement around the actual engagement, the interaction that’s happening with the customer. Usually, it’s a voice conversation, but it certainly is also a text conversation, SMS, email, other communication channels, but they had this kind of feedback loop. Our great mentor, Ken Krogue used to call it the brief debrief. You know, they prepare in advance. They do their job throughout the day. Then they go and they debrief afterward and they have a continuous improvement or kaizen loop. So I’ve, I’ve been committing my life professionally to helping companies figure that out.

Gabe Larsen: (02:00)
I love it, man. That’s a great intro. I love the shout out to good ol’ Ken Krogue. I need to reach back out to him. You move away from somebody and then all of a sudden you don’t talk to them. He’s such a good person. Such —

Steve Richards: (02:14)
Amazing, amazing.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
Well let’s start big picture. Customer experience, customer service, what’s broken? Paint me — I mean, you’re in this all the time. Where are you seeing some of the fractions, the areas that are not working?

Steve Richards: (02:29)
Yeah, so the thing is with customer experience, so many call centers and contact centers have done a lot — omni-channel communication, they’ve done a lot to be able to measure and understand more what’s going on within customer experience right now. So I think what happened previously is NPS and C-SAT, and everyone’s been doing first call resolution for average handle time, for average, forever, hold times, all those kinds of things. They’ve got that. So the data’s there. I don’t think there’s anybody out there, there are very few out there that can’t say, well, we have data on our customer experience. Would you agree with that?

Gabe Larsen: (03:07)
Yeah. I mean, it seems like the data — I mean, I don’t know if it’s the right type of data, but there is a lot of data out there, right? I mean —

Steve Richards: (03:16)
Well said. Certainly, there’s a lot of opportunities for making sure we’re looking at the right types of data. And really the point of view we’re coming at is you have got the data on one side, it’s almost like there’s a canyon or a chasm that happens here. So you’ve got the data. How do you actually get that data to translate into agent performance or rep performance? Everybody calls them something different, agents, reps, et cetera, [inaudible] specialists. But really, when you think about it, it’s collecting all the data. The whole point, why do you measure a sprinter? Why do you time a skier? Why do we do these things? And the answer is to improve performance, to get even better.

Gabe Larsen: (03:54)
But it is funny, right? I mean, oftentimes we will — I mean, I get caught into this. You start measuring to measure and you’re not actually looking at how it can potentially affect the ultimate performance. So yeah, that probably as a bigger problem than you think.

Steve Richards: (04:09)
That’s it. In the organizations we’re seeing who do a much better job, they kind of close what we call insights-to-performance gap. So what they’re doing is they take all the data and then they use that data and they actually take action based on it to change something. Certainly some things could be around the processes and the systems of engaging with customers, different communication channels. I’ve mentioned things like SMS before and things like that. And then also at the same time, it’s what are our agents and reps saying? Now, I think the thing that some people might be thinking is, well, QA. Well we’ve had QA forever, quality assurance. We’ve got folks that do call listening, they do some call scoring, they do auto failing of calls. The thing that I’ve learned, Gabe, and it’s been fascinating going from a predominantly inside sales lens and going into the call center where there is no QA and inside sales typically and there really is in a call center, is the people. The reps frequently view the QA folks, almost like the cops, like it’s the police because they’re — and their language, think about their language. They’re looking for infractions, they’re auto failing. The QA, in most cases, the QA people sit like over there in the corner. It’s almost like the wizard of Oz behind the curtain. And everybody else is out here and whenever the QA team distributes a report, usually it’s, it’s the bad dog report, you know, “bad dog, you peed on the sofa, go outside.” And in many cases, they actually get their comp taken from them. I’ve seen a lot of organizations where people will get docked if they have to have a sales KPI or a revenue-generating KPI or offer a product, they’ll lose the variable component of their comp because their call was not compliant. It wasn’t done in a compliant manner, according to their — whatever the compliance department requires. Do you see what I mean?

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
And that’s probably — I mean, when we were first dipping in inside sales back in 2000, we were playing a little bit of the call center space with the in contact, way back when, but that sounds like QA hasn’t changed much from when I was playing with it 20 years ago.

Steve Richards: (06:20)
And Gabe, to be fair, just to interrupt. They want to. I don’t think it’s a question of the QA people not having the best interest of the business or the agents or the customers or the customer experience. It’s just that QA is one of those processes that it makes me scratch my head. I get a kick out of it. You and I have seen this. The process was what evolved over time, based on the resources they had. And when a QA function really just has a big pile of call recordings or nothing else, or maybe they have some speech analytics and nothing else, they do what they can do. They do things like random sampling. They spend a lot of time listening to dead air or calls that really are not scorable or coachable anyway. And as a result of that, they had to create all these kinds of crazy Rube Goldberg machines around this to ultimately improve agent performance. But along the way, that vision was never really achieved. And instead, it turned into like the infractions department,

Gabe Larsen: (07:18)
But, I’ve got to give them credit because I don’t mean — Steve and I share such a history you guys, you’re going to have to be patient as we [inaudible] sometimes, but at least they’re doing it. I mean, you look at the sales space and that’s like, people are acting like listening to, doing QA or listening to calls that was something revolutionary and brand new. So kudos that they’ve at least been, I think, going down that path and trying to listen, because the idea of listening to that real-time game film, whatever space you’re in, service, success, sales, it’s important. I mean, I think we need to hear it so kudos that it is happening. So where do you then find as you think about that traditional QA, be a little more black and white, how is that starting to branch out then? Where are some of the areas that they’re starting to kind of say, “Hey, how do we make this a little better?” And what does that look like?

Steve Richards: (08:09)
They want, so QA wants to be more involved in the process of actually seeing the business metrics improve.

Gabe Larsen: (08:16)
Got it. Okay. Yeah.

Steve Richards: (08:18)
And that’s —

Gabe Larsen: (08:18)
The tie in we were talking about.

Steve Richards: (08:21)
There’s the tie in. So they’re aware of that. Most of the time they’re actually, they’re not usually measured on NPS or customer satisfaction or those other metrics we talked about before they’re aligned with customer experience. They’re usually measured basically on the number of calls we’re able to score. They’re hitting their SLA, their departmental SLA to the rest of the business. But most of them spiritual, in their hearts and in their minds, they want to be doing more. And I think the other thing that’s changed is if you go to the average call center and contact center, you sit with the average agent on the phone. And I don’t care if they’re taking inbound calls or making outbound calls. What you’re gonna find is the vast majority of them never have an opportunity to even hear one of their own calls or anybody else’s calls to try to sharpen the saw or improved performance and it turns into a little bit of a hamster wheel and a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what happens is their supervisor will get the recorded call with the report from QA and usually there’s some infractions and maybe some areas of opportunity. Now, if they’re kind of busy doing their thing trying to service the customer or provide support, and then maybe offer an upsell or offer an additional product, maybe try to stop a cancellation. They’re so busy doing that they never have an opportunity to actually absorb what that is. But even more importantly, I think Gabe, is that people value more what they conclude for themselves more than what they’re told. So if you actually want to get someone — a human being, if you want to get a person to change their behavior, if we can get them to, even if they listen to one or two of their own calls per week, they’re going to hear things, they’re going to change things. And certainly, a supervisor is much better suited to do that with them than if they just simply get a report of what happened.

Gabe Larsen: (10:01)
Yeah. So yeah. It has been a lot of people in the corner listening and throwing over a report that doesn’t feel — I’m not –you teach me how to fish, you give him a fish type of thing. If they can see it, taste it and touch it one, the reps will be more important.

Gabe Larsen: (10:16)
But two, we then start to tie that QA into something that might be a little more directly tied to ultimately the business outcomes that the people want. So how do you start to move down this path? How do you make that happen?

Steve Richards: (10:32)
Yeah. And I’ll give you a tie back to Kustomer to what you do. And obviously this is not about what our respective technologies do, but if you’re thinking about customer service re-imagined, and if you’re thinking about personalizing that experience and providing that real-time information to the folks that are doing the service support, selling, et cetera, then, really the last mile, if you think about it, with that in place, the last mile is, well, what are they actually saying? What are they doing? What does that communication sound like? Because there’s a lot of different research that shows that the most important part of the customer experience, the thing that’s the most memorable, the things that show up on the feedback surveys is when the customer interacts with one of your reps or agents. And it can have a tremendous impact on having a lifelong customer versus a churn customer or someone who tells your friends, because they’re such a net promoter, they’re telling everybody, you gotta sign up for X. And so what we find is that we have to start number one with defining, what does good look like? What are our, not scripts per se? I mean, there certainly are scripts. Really the way to think about it is more like jazz. When you hit the notes in the composition. I heard that one time Gabe, it stuck with me. I love that. I think it was a speaker at the Inside Sales Association who told me. It’s not a script, but we also don’t let them wing it. So we’re going to give them, really for this communication type, for this call type, these are the notes you have to hit in the piece, and then everything else you do around it, bring your personality. Bring your personality. That’s number one. Number two, you have to have a method or a system to understand, are they doing it? Are our agents doing these things according to hitting the notes. So if they’re hitting the notes and all the rest of their metrics are good, fine. If they’re not hitting the notes, then we know we have to go in and change that behavior. So we need to automatically surface these, if you will, coachable moments. And that’s an interesting thing because in the call center or contact center, the term “coachable moments,” I don’t think it’s as prevalent as sales. So I think that what you and I have experienced, I think that call centers are way ahead of us in terms of QA and quality. I think that sales, in general, has kind of been better about at least having a focus on the coaching of the person and the coaching of the communication.

Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
The time and the results yeah, probably. Yeah.

Steve Richards: (13:00)
And then you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to track the performance improvement. So whatever it is they’re trying to change or improve, let’s see how that score for that item increases over time.

Gabe Larsen: (13:15)

Steve Richards: (13:16)
See what I mean? And that’s it. That’s the full circle. Ken Krogue, right? Brief, execution. It’s from the book Flawless Execution, the Navy fighter pilots where they brief before they go and do a mission, then they have the mission. And then later on they debrief and the way that they describe it in the book is that they all get into a debrief room and it doesn’t matter what your rank is, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you saw something that will improve the mission for the future, we’re going to talk about it. So they, I think they symbolically take the velcro rank off of their shoulders and they put it down on the desk from what I understand.

Gabe Larsen: (13:48)
Yeah. Yeah. I think you nailed it to the T. How — are there certain things you’ve found? I like the simplicity of it, right? I mean, it is. And the tie in. You look for the right behavior, you don’t necessarily have to script it, then you follow it through, make sure it’s moving the levers you ultimately want to move. Thinking about that jazz or the notes, are there certain things that you’ve found as you’ve studied conversations or worked with different customer service or experience organizations, contact center, whatever it may be, but what are some of those notes? Is it, is it the personalization that that really is an important behavior, or thing to do or say? Is it thanking them? Any tidbits or advice there? I’m just curious if you’ve found anything.

Steve Richards: (14:31)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. So I’m going to go with, probably I’m thinking a lot of people listening to this are going to be predominantly inbound calls from a customer type of setup. So let’s talk with them first. It’s always going to be the bookends of the call are going to be really important. So it’s going to be number one, how they open the call. Is there consistency, is there confidence? Are there clear expectations set for what’s going to happen? And then of course, how they end the call and how they end the call with a definitive plan of action for resolution. If there’s still an open issue, or if they end the call based on being appreciative, showing appreciation, like you said, thanking the customer, those types of things and or offering an additional thing or asking for an additional thing. And then in the middle there are some key notes that we hear people have to hit. One of the big ones, of course, is active listening. The empathy, the active listening and not doing it in such a way where you’re essentially caving. It’s like you have a backbone. You’re looking at the eye of the person, not physically, but you get the idea as a peer and you’re paraphrasing what they said, making sure you understand, clarifying what they said, saying, “okay, let me, let me go look into this.”

Steve Richards: (15:41)
Another big one we hear is don’t put the customer on hold for a long amount of time. That’s another thing that I think plays into customers’ hands, because the reality is a lot of these call centers and contact centers, especially serve and support. The answer is not necessarily readily available. We want to try to do first call resolution. We want to try to not escalate if we can. So if we can provide that rep or agent with what they need to be successful or resources they can turn to, they can have hold times be shorter and get to the resolution sooner. Or ultimately if they have to escalate, they can know that they have to escalate and how to escalate so they can get it done faster. And I think a big thing that we also see is, we’re starting to see more and more people asking for referrals or people asking if you’re for the advocacy of the customer along the way. And that’s the cherry on top. If you did all the other things well, you’ve earned the right to try to expand your business with that customer, maybe offer them an upsell, something they’re not thinking about or a higher level of service if it’s a subscription.

Gabe Larsen: (16:43)
Yeah. That is fascinating. One more quick question on that. I mean, do you see, it does seem like a lot of people are talking about, “Hey, let’s make this not a cost center, but a revenue center.” That’s a little bit of a buzzword. So it’s like, have you figured out, are you seeing people kind of talk through, “Hey, I’ve got a contact center, but I ultimately would prefer that this is not just a cost center that’s spending all the money, but we are trying to get more referrals, upsells, cross-sells.” How do you think about that?

Steve Richards: (17:11)
Yeah. Let me tell you, I’ll tell you a quick story from a very well known, but I will remain, leave them as an unnamed company that has, it’s a retail store and they sell beer and wine and my wife’s cousin previously worked at this company. And at the time they set up a contact center to basically be a service hub for anytime someone has a party and they go into the store and they place an order, like if years later, they want to make an adjustment or all these kinds of things. And I asked him, and we talked about his measurements and pretty much all his KPIs are all the things that we’re talking about with CX, with customer experience. Um, but then I said, “Well, what, what revenue KPIs do you have? Basically, Hey man, would it be helpful if I, cause I’m having a party, should I buy from you? Like, is that good for you?” And he said, “No.” I said, “Interesting,” I said, “cause I’m seeing a theme and a trend towards, –” and it’s kind of like Gabe what you and I saw with field sales versus inside sales, kind of like retail plus the call center where you’re also going to offer them something or you’re going to, or you’re going to try to avoid churn or something like that. So most of these places aren’t set up cause he said, “Well, we can do that, but we don’t have a KPI.” So I said, “Well, if that’s the case, you don’t have a KPI. You don’t have any kind of incentive structure for the rep. Do they do it for your agents? Do your agents do it?” And he goes “A little bit, but not really.” But you know, you and I both know if you give him a comp plan if you will, or some sort of incentive — I know it doesn’t work the same way, it’s not like a variable — but it’s like, if you give them a little spiff, a performance incentive for offering something, you’re gonna bring in more business and you’re going to do it, you’re going to have an additional channel and it’s going to be a little — and sometimes that additional business gets so big, then it displaces some of the other channels.

Gabe Larsen: (18:54)
Yeah. Fascinating. Yeah. That does — that trend. That’s a little more of a side note, but that’s interesting to hear. It does seem like a lot of people are starting to try to think how do I not just do this, but I can also do that while I’ve got them here on the phone, right? Well Steve, it’s fun to have you man. It’s always fun to catch up. We talked about a lot. If you had to kind of summarize, take away, where would you end with this? Advice for the audience.

Steve Richards: (19:16)
Data is fantastic. The reason we measure is to improve performance. If you really want to improve performance and what I mean by performance is all those metrics that you look at, NPS, CSAT, all that stuff. If you want to improve that stuff, you have to understand the customer experience. You have to see it through the voice, hear the voice of the customer yourself, secret shop yourself, and then ultimately improve what the agents do and how they communicate. Because agent communication is like the sharp end of the spear. That’s one lever that most people haven’t done as good a job at pulling as they need to. And in order to get the agents better and reps better, they really have to be involved in their own development.

Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
Love it. I love it. Alright man, well if someone wants to get ahold of you, or learn a little more about ExecVision, what’s the best way to do that?

Steve Richards: (20:00)
Connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s always good. And we’ve got a lot of really good content on the insights to performance gap and call center coaching and things like that on

Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
Okay, well, we’ll make sure we direct people that way. So, Steve, appreciate it. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Steve Richards: (20:15)
I’ll see you at the Rangers game at MSG all right.

Gabe Larsen: (20:18)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (20:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.


How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations

How AI Chatbots Can Streamline Staff Expectations TW

Artificial intelligence is making a major impact on customer service and shows no sign of stopping. The increased interest is warranted — Forbes contributor Kathleen Walch of Cognitive World said AI is a useful tool that’s improving customer service, enhancing customer loyalty, enabling better brand reputations and allowing customer service agents to focus on tasks of greater value that can bring companies more business.

While all of these benefits are highly advantageous for businesses, making sure customer service staff are satisfied is a critical initial step in the process. Here are four simple ways that AI chatbots can improve work-life for your customer service agents and better streamline agent experience and expectations:

1. Improved Work Efficiencies

One of the many benefits of utilizing chatbots is the ability to shift work expectations of customer service agents. As Chatbots Magazine stated, chatbots are truly the future of engagement. There are many direct questions that can be handled by way of automation, giving customer service staff the freedom to take on the more meaningful conversations within a short period of time.

2. Better Conversations With Customers

When customer service staff can focus on more important cases instead of the simple questions that AI chatbots can handle, agents have a strong role in driving business and loyalty for the company.

3. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

When customer service agents have more time to focus on complex queries and enhance the connection between customers and your company, they may find greater overall satisfaction in their work. With AI chatbots, you also have the opportunity to introduce steady, more enjoyable working hours that create work-life balance. AI-powered bots can handle the low-level inquiries during the traditional “after hours” time frame, which means you don’t have to worry about keeping staff on the clock at all hours of the day. Not only can this help with workplace satisfaction, but it can also reduce overhead costs.

4. Increased Capacity

Realistically, customer service staff can only talk to one customer at a time, making it difficult to handle more than one issue simultaneously. When AI chatbots are introduced, you can alleviate the pressure that customer service agents once felt about long queues. While this is beneficial for agents in terms of streamlined expectations, your company can still meet bottom-line goals and continue servicing all customers that contact you.

Working With Kustomer

Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform is built to meet the expectations of the customers and agents of today. With our solution, you can better manage customer inquiries and high support volume to streamline staff and company expectations. Request a demo today to learn more about our process and services.

Better For You: AI Chatbot vs Live Agent?

Questions You Should and Shouldn't Bring to a Customer Service Agent TW

Customer service agents provide immense value to any business. Not only are they highly knowledgeable resources that consumers can rely on to solve their issues, they also play a role in influencing purchasing decisions and building community.

The digital age, however, has made it easier for companies to rely less on human agents to answer easy questions and instead utilize artificial intelligence to get the job done, and many significant companies like LinkedIn, Starbucks and eBay are on board. The general interest in the AI chatbot is only anticipated to grow, as Business Insider reported that the market size is projected to increase from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024.

The Power of the AI Chatbot

Enabling automated, low-level service via an AI chatbot allows your business to take these smaller inquiries off the hands of your agents, so they don’t have to work around the clock. They are able to focus on the most important cases, playing an invaluable role that drives business and loyalty.

But which questions should chatbots handle, and which should be escalated to customer service agents?

Questions for AI Chatbots

Today’s consumers love convenient interactions. AI chatbots allow for quick resolution without impacting the quality of the experience.

Questions that are simple are ones chatbots can easily handle. CXL Institute refers to these as “Tier 1” questions, which can be interpreted easily by a machine that’s loaded with information in a database. Queries regarding size availability, time and rescheduling for travel booking, as well as specific order numbers can be easily answered by chatbots.

  • “What time is my flight?”
  • “When will my package arrive?”
  • “How much is a ticket to the Monday show at 5 p.m.?”

Queries regarding information that can be found on your company website are also great for an intelligent virtual agent to tackle, saving customer service agents time and energy that would otherwise seem wasted.

  • “Where is the nearest ATM?”
  • “When does your store close?”

Chatbots have the ability to ask fact-based questions, pulling customer information into your internal knowledge base that is built in part by the customer queries. Some examples include:

  • “Which day do you want to go to the event?”
  • “How many people are attending?”
  • “What color are you looking for?”

Questions for Live Agents

Live chat is unmatched for some consumers. When it comes to the complex questions, we agree. For example, if a customer is interested in a certain product but wants more information and guidance down the sales funnel, an agent can address doubts, answer these specific questions and help customers make decisions.

Questions that can turn into bigger issues based on communication limitations don’t work well for chatbots; customer service agents can provide sincerity in the form of understanding and humility, for example, which can improve the reputation of your business. Some examples:

  • “Why can’t you process my credit card?”
  • “How can I get credit for this coupon?”
  • “I can’t decide between the small speaker and the big speaker. Can you help?”
  • “I used to wear this perfume, but I can’t find it anymore. Do you make something similar?”

AI chatbots allow you to scale your customer service and rely both on artificial intelligence and human agents to provide a quality experience for consumers.

Learn more about how Kustomer can improve your customer service strategy today by requesting a demo.


Deliver personalized, effortless customer service.

Request Live DemoWatch Video Demos