Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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

E-Commerce for the Social World

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

Understanding Your Customers by Persona Building

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

Meet Your Customers on Their Channels

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

To learn more about how social commerce is booming in today’s world, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about how you can benefit from AI-driven software to remove language barriers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie Vu: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:04)
Iron Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie Vu: (22:34)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Thank you.

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

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

Exit Voice: (30:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

Kustomer Podcast Kustomer Podcast

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Darryl Addington from Five9 to learn about integrating cloud support and AI into the CX space. Darryl has been involved with AI for years and is an expert at teaching leaders how to fully integrate these new systems into everyday operations. Tune into the episode to learn more.

Hot Take: How Artificial Intelligence Promotes Human Interaction

What would the world be like if AI were to be completely integrated into business practices? Would the human race be eradicated? Would there be lasting world peace? Or would there simply be streamlined customer journeys? The answer is: most likely the third option. It’s fun to fantasize about an AI-driven world, but that future is probably beyond our reach at this point in time, regardless of the advancements being made in the industry. The AI used in most businesses today is there simply to help the customer and the agent.

You might be wondering how AI drives human connection when artificial intelligence is, well, artificial. The purpose of AI is to support agents in a way that allows them to further personalize customer experiences by supplying them with the right information necessary for success. Even though a person might be dealing with a bot when they first contact the CX team, that bot can collect information from the customer to help the agent learn more about what exactly the customer needs. Interactions like this help the customer to feel listened to. They feel like their needs are being taken care of promptly and accurately when the agent is already aware of their purpose for calling in. Personalization is key to adding in that extra layer of humanity to CX and AI is one sure way to get that.

The Benefits are Endless and Profitable

Some of the most evident benefits of integrating AI to CX are the time and money such software can save a company. For example, customers are habitually upset when they have to constantly repeat their purpose for calling every single time they’re transferred from one department to another. With the help of AI, these situations can be entirely avoided because the software along with cloud systems contains all of the information departments need about their customers to make the journey just that much smoother. Darryl recognizes that as a leader in the contact center world, it can be difficult to fully buy into the idea of AI services when some existing processes are alright as is. Many leaders question why they should even buy into AI when innovation is already happening within their contact centers. As Vikas says, “The cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data privacy, up time, and things of that nature…Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud.” With the combination of AI and the cloud in CX, teams are better equipped to serve the customer.

A Future Where Agents and AI Collide

With the endless possibilities facing the world of CX, one can’t help but imagine a time where agents and AI work together to handle customer situations. Darryl believes that this could be the future of contact centers because AI software has the capability to suggest next steps during interactions based on an analysis of what the customer is saying at the moment. It doesn’t just stop there though. AI can analyze tone and situation through a customer’s phone call to suggest potential products that meet their needs as well as suggest articles that answer any questions the consumer may have during the call – further personalizing the experience. Darryl then explains how AI is an awesome investment for the agent side of CX because it shortens after call work and takes notes for the rep, so they can give their undivided attention to the customer. “It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today.” So while leaders anxiously await the development of CX technology to something as grand as in the movies, they would be wise to look into integrating AI. Innovation awaits.

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re actually joining Facebook. Kustomer’s joining Facebook. So if you haven’t heard real exciting news for the Kustomer crew, go check it out on our blog, pending regulatory review. Some real fun synergies that I think will continue to push forward client services, client success, and the overall customer experience. I’m so excited about that news. But today we’re going to be talking about five secrets to practical AI in the contact center. And to do that, we’re going to bring on a couple of special guests. You know Vikas, Head of CX and SVP of Sales over here at Kustomer. Who you probably don’t know is Darryl Addington. He’s the Director of Product Marketing at Five9. So Darryl, thanks for joining and how the heck are ya?

Darryl Addington: (01:14)
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. It’s super exciting to be here. I love AI. AI in the contact centers, this new technology. So I’m stoked to talk about it today.

Gabe Larsen: (01:23)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s jump in, but before we do, you got to tell us a little bit about yourself and then how do you know Vikas? You guys seem to have something in your history, nothing inappropriate. I want to keep this above the belt please. Above the belt.

Darryl Addington: (01:37)
Yeah. So I’ve been in the contact center industry for most of my career, which is I lose count because it changes every year, but it’s somewhere around 25 years. I started at a company called Edify, which was a self service company. So they had one of the first 4GL development environments. And it’s actually not too dissimilar from some of the stuff that’s out there today. I spent some, I spent quite a bit of time at Genesys and then Vikas and I met when we were at 8×8.

Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
You were at 8×8? They’re still doing well aren’t they? 8×8’s still doing well.

Darryl Addington: (02:08)
Yeah, they are. They do seem to be doing well there. From what I’ve seen, they’re attaching quite a bit of contact center to their UC sale, which is a big part of their businesses is unified communications. Yeah. They had a little bit of news today about a new CEO. That’s going to join the company and take them on to the next part of their journey.

Gabe Larsen: (02:28)
Oh, I didn’t see that. Interesting. And then it was 8×8 to Five9, or was there a step in between that?

Darryl Addington: (02:34)
That was it for me. Yeah. I came over here, I guess getting close to four years ago and that’s been a super, super interesting ride. Five9 has a great cloud contact center. And the market is certainly looking towards the cloud for their contact center technology. And so it’s been great. I mean, it changes every single quarter, as I like to say. What happened? What did we do last year? Well, it doesn’t really matter what we did last year because things are changing so fast, but it’s great to be in a market where people are using the technology and at a company that’s so great like Five9, the people there are really great, and we have really good processes and things, and our customers love us, which is a spectacular position to be in.

Gabe Larsen: (03:11)
Interesting. You want to add anything to that, Vikas? Did you guys actually work together?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
We did, we did. Obviously I led an enterprise and mid-market sales at 8×8, and Darryl was in product marketing. And we worked very closely together in terms of a lot of our rollout, particularly around our contact center solution there. And I’m glad to get reacquainted with Darryl, obviously Five9 being a key partner for us here at Kustomer. So excited to have the discussion around AI and what’s going on in the market.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
So you guys didn’t have any of the typical sales and marketing fights then, huh? It was all rosy.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:47)
I mean, it was just like you and me, Gabe. There’s never any fights between sales and marketing when it comes to me. I know how heavily dependent I am on both you guys in individual lives for success. So trust me, there’s no fighting here.

Gabe Larsen: (04:02)
That’s fair. It’s been fun to partner with Vikas. And truthfully Darryl, Five9, I got to admit, it sounds like you’ve been there for awhile, it’s just a great story. How many employees are you guys up to? I don’t want to go into anything.

Darryl Addington: (04:13)
Yeah, I believe we’re at around 1300, I think that’s correct. Yeah, when I joined it was seven or eight, something like that. So, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (04:23)
Yeah. Right. I mean it is a growth story. If you haven’t heard about Five9, the innovation they brought to the contact center, the dialing solutions, I remember we actually used you guys in a couple of places in some, in more of a sales area. Maybe five, I don’t know.

Darryl Addington: (04:41)
Yeah, that’s right. That’s actually been around since 2001 and for the first eight to ten years of its existence, we did quite a bit of outbound, which was who was buying cloud0-based solutions at that time. And then, six years ago, the contact center said, “Okay, I’m ready for the cloud from my inbound contact center.” And that’s most of what we do today.

Gabe Larsen: (05:02)
And that was such a, I don’t know if you call it a pivot but I remember when you guys started to kind of go that direction and it’s obviously turned out really well. So a lot of cool stuff in the contact center. Let’s jump into AI. Maybe just start with a super big picture. I mean, obviously a buzzword. What does that mean to you? What is AI? Give us kind of why people should even care about it, what it is.

Darryl Addington: (05:22)
Yeah. You know, AI is interesting because like a lot of industry trends it’s, people have gotten a hold of a term and they’re using it whether it’s appropriate to use or not. The other thing about AI is because there’ve been so many movies and TV shows about AI, people’s first inclination when they hear it is, “Well, this must be something magical.” And there may be a point where we have some voice in the cloud that we talk to and it knows everything about us and it knows everything about the business that we’re communicating with and can magically solve all of our problems for us. And if that happens in the future, that’ll be interesting. It’ll probably change every aspect of lives, but it’s not something that businesses can invest in today. It doesn’t exist today. And so what they can invest in now is technology using this idea of machine learning, which we can talk a little bit about. They can invest in that to solve the types of problems that they’re suffering from today, which there’s lots of them. And especially if you look in the contact center, tons of room for improvement in customer experience, as we all know, and tons of room for improvement in terms of operations and improving efficiency and things like that.

Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Interesting. Yeah. I’ve got a nine-year-old boy and I’ve let him do a couple of things with the Avengers, Ironman, and he did ask not long ago, he’s like, “When can we get this Jarvis?” Like, “When does Jarvis come to our house?” And you can just –

Darryl Addington: (06:38)
He walks around, right?

Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
He changes everything, cleans the house, and makes everything great. I’m like, “Well, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.” So when you think about artificial intelligence, I’m really trying to lay the foundation, is there certain things you need to be or have in place to make sure we’re actually set up to implement this in a structured manner?

Darryl Addington: (07:00)
Yeah. There are a few steps that you can take. There’s actually a lot of low-hanging fruit for a lot of the contact centers out there to help them with customer experience and efficiency, and the first one is moving to the cloud and there’s a few reasons to do that. It sounds a little self-serving, but the reality is that all the innovation that’s going on in the contact center in terms of software is happening in the cloud. You might’ve seen a couple of years ago that Gartner ended their MQ for on premises contact center. And they said that the technology had reached its peak point and it wasn’t evolving anymore. So there was no reason to have an MQ. And that’s because all that innovation is now going towards the cloud. So that’s one good reason.

Darryl Addington: (07:39)
The second big reason is that the cloud is where the data’s at. So if you look at what machine learning is, and if I can just jump into that for a second. So machine learning is basically, it’s not magical. It’s basically an algorithm – it’s just math. And what it does is it allows machines, but the really cheap compute power that we have today to be able to go through a whole bunch of data. So in the example of text-to-speech, right, machines being able to have natural sounding voices, Wavenet, which is Google’s text to speech, they sample voices, millions and millions and millions of hours of voices at up to 24,000 samples per second. So if you think of all the data points that you’ve got along that human voice, and then you multiply that times all the needs of hours that the computer has gone through, it has so much data about the way that we articulate, the way that our voices sound. Just what we’ve been, I’ve been talking about this for a minute, right? Like how many samples do you have in there? And what that’s done is it’s generated these really super realistic, like, you can still tell it’s a machine if you’re listening closely, but it sounds so good that it doesn’t get in the way of the communication between a machine and a human anymore. And so that’s just one example of how machine learning is adding to this technology. And anyway, the data is in the cloud, right? And in an on premises world, all those voice conversations are trapped in servers somewhere in an enterprise, and you can’t get to them. And so you can’t really improve the AI with that data.

Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
It seems like Vikas, you’re out there on the front lines a lot with people and the move to cloud has obviously been accelerated with the pandemic. I mean, why is somebody even, no offense if you’re on premise at the moment, but why is someone, are there actually people who are on premise still? And if so, why?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
There are. Obviously the legacy vendors are still in existence and making a lot of money off of the maintenance revenue from people being on-prem. I think the key thing is, look, change is hard, right? And I think it’s A, the fear of uncertainty. Two, it’s the effort to actually go through that migration process. And then there’s a lot of unknowns and hearsay in the market and look, as Darryl said, the cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data, privacy, up time and things of that nature, right? Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud. So I think those are some things where businesses have a lot on their plate obviously, and so this becomes a matter of where does this fall on your priority list? The challenge, I think most people don’t see is all the upside that Darryl alluded to by moving to the cloud because that’s where the innovation is. So at some point, yes, you need to bite the bullet, but it’s not just about doing as is, right? And like, “Oh, I can run my contact center on-prem today and I’m going to,”

Darryl Addington: (10:44)
That’s right.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
“What are all the additional things that I can take advantage of once I move to the cloud?” I think that’s what a business should really be thinking about.

Darryl Addington: (10:52)
I completely agree, Vikas, and actually the integration to Kustomer that you guys have created using our SDK is an example of something that’s completely different in the cloud than it is on premises. And anybody that’s been on premises and is connected their CRM or customer information system to their contact center, knows that you own that integration, regardless of who did that work when it breaks, it’s, you’re the one that’s responsible for that breakage. And Gartner calls it fragile infrastructure. It’s this connection between all the different systems in an on-premises world. And basically what it does is horrible for the contact center, but it causes people to not make changes to what they’re doing. So they can’t iterate. They can’t transform. They do changes every three months or six months, or over years sometimes because in the past, they’ve made a change and it’s broken and what the worst thing you can possibly do is roll out a change to all your agents and have it break. Your phone’s going to light up. You might do it twice. You’re not going to do it three times. And all that’s super, super stable on the cloud, like that has gone away because the cloud vendors, like yourselves and ourselves, we own that. We have thousands of customers using these integrations and using the software. So it behooves us to make sure that it works because now our desk is, our phones are lighting up when it doesn’t work, not the person that was responsible for the context of your integration in the first place.

Gabe Larsen: (12:14)
Yeah, that’s so interesting that Gartner and I didn’t realize they’d gotten rid of that on-prem, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that, Darryl. That’s funny. Well, let’s talk about some of the practical uses. You gave kind of the general idea and the foundational, but how did that translate for the agent and the customer? Maybe you can just start at a high level, where do you feel like people are seeing some of those benefits from moving to the cloud, and then the data, the machine learning, and ultimately the artificial intelligence?

Darryl Addington: (12:37)
Yeah, so the net result of machine learning and AI, and there’s a couple of use cases that I think we could talk about here. So one is automation. How can you take some of the things that people are currently doing with agents and automate them? And then the second is agent’s assistance. How can you make the agent’s job easier? And there’s lots of benefits that you get in terms of what the customer experience is like, but also some benefits around agent training and things like that. So if you take that first example, automation, there’s a lot of things that you might try and do in an IVR, but as we all know, using, pushing buttons on the DTMF is not a lot of fun. Most customers won’t do it. Later, we can touch on a customer case study that had a DTMF auto-attendant replaced with an AI-based auto-attendant and saw some awesome results.

Gabe Larsen: (13:25)
Really? Interesting.

Darryl Addington: (13:27)
And then the other element is you might, speech reco exists today, but it’s so expensive and hard to put in and it takes so much energy to maintain over time that it’s only been available to the high end of the market. So if you call Southwest Airlines and you call your bank, and it’s a big bank, you’ve probably interacted with a speech recognition system to automate some of the things you do, transfer funds from checking to savings, et cetera. But those are expensive and so the average business can’t really adopt them, but with this AI stuff, it is actually a lot easier to implement. We put in that auto attendant that I referenced in about two weeks, two weeks of PS, like one person for two weeks, which is crazy different from what the old speech reco was.

Darryl Addington: (14:10)
It was six months to nine months just to get the thing up and running. In some cases for the larger companies, like two years before you could actually put the thing into production. Really, really amazing. Anyway, so automation is like the first one and in any business, and you can kind of break down automation versus assistant, right? So customers know when they need to, when they need some automation versus when they need some assistance from a human being. So for example, if I’m going to go into a business and I’m going to, I want to know, is your store open? Right. Very, super common for COVID right now, is the store open? When is it open? Like, what hours are it open? These are all like things that you know you can just figure out, you should be able to figure it out from our website or from an IVA.

Darryl Addington: (14:51)
What’s the status of my order? I need to change my address. These are all things that you would expect to be able to do without a human being. But, “Hey, I ordered a piano bench 20 weeks ago and for the last 20 weeks, every two weeks, you’ve said it’s coming, but it’s not here yet.” So like, let’s have a conversation because I know I’m not going to get this resolved on self-service. And so that’s sort of, if you think about it from that perspective as a business, you can kind of think about what do I want to automate versus what I want that has something to do with the human experience that you’ve got. It has something to do with the relationship that you have with the business. You want to get to a human being because they’re going to be able to smooth all that over and make it better.

Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
So in a lot of ways, you’ve been able to take that complex voice recognition and be able to simplify it so that you can automate some of those more mundane tasks via phone if they want to. It’s just a [inaudible].

Darryl Addington: (15:42)
Yeah. Speech reco is a good example. And then I guess, let me just talk about IQVIA which is one of our customers. They did the auto attendant. What they found was that their customers weren’t willing to hit the tones. They weren’t willing to hit the buttons on the phone. And what that resulted in was that they got to agents that weren’t necessarily skilled to solve their problem. And then, like they probably had access to a CRM, like the great one that you guys have, but they maybe didn’t know how to navigate through it in order to find what they needed, et cetera. So when they implemented the flat menu, essentially, right, just tell me what it is that you’re calling about, customers were willing to give that a shot. And what they found was after those two weeks that I talked about, 87% on the first utterance, the first time that they just said, “Hey, I’m calling about this issue,” they were able to identify that and transfer that to the right agent and 93% after the second utterance. So if it didn’t get it the first time they were able to get to 93. They reduced their agent transfer down to less than 1% from agent to agent, meaning it got routed correctly to the agent. And then the other big stat for that one that was amazing to me was their average handle time decreased by 15% because the agents were actually trained on the issue of the customer. Yeah. So like really cool stuff. And the fact that a medium size and not these big organizations could implement something like that to me is, that’s like wow, right? Like that’s okay. It’s not quite magic like Jarvis, but it has such a big impact on the business. It’s super compelling and interesting and it solves the problems that the businesses have today.

Gabe Larsen: (17:18)
Interesting. Thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (17:21)
No, I think the key thing is that it opened up the opportunity for all types of businesses to deliver that optimal experience. You know what Darryl said, if you look at speech recognition, something that was primarily kind of started by, primary adoption was large financial services institutions. So the flagship banks, and as Darryl said, it took the number of years to roll it out. And frankly, the effectiveness of it, I would still debate, right? So now being able to offer that up to a medium size, small businesses I think is fantastic because as consumers we don’t only want to have a great experience, we used to joke that everybody talks about Apple delivering this amazing experience and everybody said, “Yeah, sure. It’s Apple,” right? Trillion dollar company. Of course they can afford to. So now I think of an opportunity for every business owner or every leader in every business, to think that they have the capabilities within their budget to go deliver an Apple-like experience, which I think is great because as a consumer, I think that’s the ideal that we’re all looking for.

Gabe Larsen: (18:30)
Yeah. It’s interesting. And I assume Darryl, that found that often the touch tone versus the speaking, it’s that big of a difference. We’re that lazy.

Darryl Addington: (18:43)
Yeah. Well, most people don’t understand why they’re doing it. You know there’s actually a website and it’s been around for forever, it’s called Get Human. And it tells you how to bypass the IVR so you can talk to a person, but what the consumer doesn’t realize, generally speaking, is that they’re then going to get to an agent that isn’t skilled to help them and so they’re going to get transferred around after that in order to solve their problem. But whatever. Speech reco is much, much better now with this AI. And even saying they don’t even call it speech reco anymore but it does recognize what you’re saying. Potentially yeah, to just be easy and usable which is great.

Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
I didn’t realize that was such a difference. And then you mentioned a little bit about agent assist-type capabilities. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Or what does that look like?

Darryl Addington: (19:27)
Yeah, so agent assist is now, so now we know the consumer knows and the business knows that an agent needs to be involved. You’ve got something that is relational. So you’re onboarding a customer, for example, you don’t want to do that really in self-service. Some businesses can do it just because of the nature of their business, but a lot of businesses want you human beings involved. Or it’s something that is going to break the relationship. Hey, it’s been, like I said with the piano bench or travel-wise, I called Southwest Airlines recently. I was going to go to Kauai over the break and they closed the island and Southwest canceled my flights. So I wanted to talk to somebody about that. So you know you need a human, okay. So now you get to the agent now, how can you help the agent? And there’s a number of ways that AI can do that really easily today. So one is around call summarization and dispositions. So dispositions is this funny word, right? A disposition is essentially like, what was the call about? It’s a pretty simple thing. And the agent typically in a contact center has got, it’s easy to do. They just click on one, except that the list is usually a hundred items or longe. They have to scroll through the list at the end, right, and figure out what was the call about? And with a hundred items and the fact that most calls, not all calls, but most calls have multiple things that they were about, the agent does something called satisfaction. They just pick the first one that looks pretty good and their management doesn’t want them on after call work. They don’t want them sitting there for 10 minutes optimizing that disposition, right?

Darryl Addington: (20:50)
They want him to get onto the next phone call. So they just pick whatever. So that just totally ruins the reporting. Like you don’t actually know what that call is about. You know what the agent saw, the first thing the agent saw that looked close is what you know about that call. So AI can help with that because it listens to the whole call, listens to the conversation between the customer and the agent, and then they can pick multiple dispositions based on what that call was actually about. Now, you got this awesome reporting that’s more accurate and can actually tell you and let you fix problems around what your customers are calling about. So that’s number one.

Darryl Addington: (21:20)
Number two is call summaries. A lot of time gets spent by agents trying to capture what’s happening in the call and write down notes. With AI I can just capture all of that. And one of the things that Five9 is doing that’s interesting is that we actually summarize the call based on the dictation. The AI is not perfect, but it gives us enough details that we can then use NLP to summarize what that call was about. And at the end of the call, the agent just goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, let me crack that one real quick. I’ll be cool.” And they hit the button and it automatically gets written into Kustomer, into the CRMso that they don’t have to do all that. So shorten, it does two things. Shortens the after-call work, but then it also allows them to focus more on the customer because they’re not busy trying to capture all the notes during that.

Darryl Addington: (22:05)
Darryl, are you seeing an ability in the voice world to whisper to the agent and obviously prompt them based on the conversation that is taking place on potential solutions? So as you said, the AI is listening to the conversation going back and forth between the consumer and the agent and actually recommending, “Hey, maybe you want to say this. This is the solution to that problem. Like they should reset their cable box,” whatever it is. Do you see, is that something that exists or is that something that is still in flight?

Darryl Addington: (22:42)
Yeah, no, that’s something that you can do today and a great example. So there’s a whole bunch of different things that you can do around, like, so you might have legal statements that you need the agent to say, so you can watch for those. You can actually watch to see if they didn’t say them and then you can prompt them to say it, and then you can see if they actually said it like, so it’s like so awesome using the technology. And then there might be the next best action type of things. Like what should they be doing? So for example, it might be an example of if you’re in a business where the usage is important to the customer using the product, there might be examples, “Oh, have you tried using it like this?” Or it could be cross sell up sell-type opportunities where it’s saying, “Hey, customers that purchase that product that you’re talking about now, 85% of them purchased this product next.”

Darryl Addington: (23:25)
So talk to them about that product. So yeah, lots of examples there. The other thing that is happening is knowledge base. So being able to go on a knowledge base and pull up articles and present those to the agent, and man, talk about it being easier for the agent to your point, Vikas. You’ve got, and now you’ve got an AI that’s right there saying, “Hey, here’s what to do next.” Or, “Here’s an article that you can use to solve this problem.” It helps the agent because they’re not distracted with, and as you know, as you guys both know, one of the big problems with agents is they’ve got stuff everywhere, right? So they spend a lot of time putting the customer on hold and looking for things and with the AI just suggesting –

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Not if they’re using Kustomer, but that’s a different discussion.

Darryl Addington: (24:07)
No, you’re right. But the you’re replacing environments that are like that with –

Gabe Larsen: (24:12)
Yeah, i’s funny. As I look at that, Darryl, I’m like, how did the agent ever function without these things? Like, what were they doing? They must’ve been, I guess they were –

Vikas Bhambri: (24:22)
Going back to what Gabe’s son was saying about Jarvis, right? We often, when we think about AI, it’s always still today, it’s very much a handoff conversation. It’s like, “Okay. The bot tries to solve the issue if it can. It hands off to human agent.” And yeah. I mean, we suggest things too. Do you envision a world where, especially in the voice world, it’s slightly different in the digital world where we’re talking about chat or social or whatever, where bot and agent are actually solving the problem for the customer together? And what I mean, I’m just thinking out loud, right? So from the perspective of I’ve got a generalist agent or, and maybe we have, but the bot is the expert in mortgages and we’re trying to solve the problem, but for the consumer, it’s seamless. Like a consumer feels like they’re talking to two people, but reality it’s one human agent and a bot who maybe is a specialist bot around mortgages if I was to look at financial services.

Darryl Addington: (25:24)
Yeah. So absolutely. I think the way that that’s manifesting today in the market is that you are able to get agents out on the floor faster. So they’re not a mortgage expert and maybe they don’t have to take the month long training in order to get them out on the floor because the AI is going to support them. They’re going to support them visually, not necessarily communicating directly to the customer while the agent’s communicating with the customer. But one of the things that we’ve focused on since the very beginning and the integration of the customer helps with this, is that context level between the automation, because it always exists, that’s what consumers know like we talked about, right? They know if it’s self service or automation, they’re probably going to start with self service if they can, even if they know they need an agent, they’re going to have to pass through the self service to get to an agent.

Darryl Addington: (26:13)
And during that time we can gather this word’s intentions, right? Like what is the customer trying to do? And the identity of the customer and the intent of the customer and any context about what the customer was doing recently can be passed to the agent and that agent then can make that a seamless bridge. And that’s a super, super, super critical part because in survey, after survey, after survey shows that customers do not like starting over when they switch channels and whether that’s from self service to an agent or from text to voice, whatever the case might be, they don’t like that.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:44)
Yeah. And I think when you live in our world and we’re so used to the technology side of it, we take it for granted. And then I think it’s quite often when I put my consumer hat on and I’m engaging all these different brands that I’m almost in disbelief as to the percentage of brands, that very basic nuance that you talked about there, the handoff, is still fundamentally broken I would say for 90% plus of most businesses.

Darryl Addington: (27:08)
Yeah. Well, and that’s solvable today without AI. I mean, that’s a problem that if you get a good pre-built integration between, to cloud vendors like us, you can solve that today and it’s actually relatively easy. You just implement the solutions, which is great. So I recommend businesses go do that.

Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
You’ve got to find that way. Well, let’s wrap up. But Darryl, I’d like to let you kind of finish and maybe pose this question to you. A lot of people out there trying to start this journey, figure out the best way to kind of optimize each part of the customer journey, where would you kind of leave the audience with, how do you start? Like where do I go to kind of get my feet wet and crawl, walk, run, if you will?

Darryl Addington: (27:48)
Yeah. I mean, so move to the cloud for one, because of all the reasons we’ve talked about, stability, better reporting, better UI, as you can control, and you can iterate on your contact center. That helps a ton. Integrate into your CRM, like with a pre built integration. Prebuilt, it’s important. There are great SDKs. We have one, but if you can get a pre built integration into a CRM like Kustomer, awesome. Like, that’s going to help so much in terms of the experience, the agent training, the environment looks seamless across that whole thing, and they can get all that context we just talked about. Three is enabling the agent. Super important for work from home these days, and that’s agent stats. How am I doing during the day? Am I meeting the customer and the company’s objectives for me? Am I not? Gamification and workforce management or another key one so that you can manage your schedule really effectively. That empowers the agent in a way that they haven’t been empowered previously.

Darryl Addington: (28:39)
So those three steps, and then like, that’s just low hanging fruit. Like you can go do that today and really easily, within three months, depending on the complexity of your contact center, could be a week. It could be really fast, might be a bit longer, three months if you were super big, if you got 30,000 agents or something, but you can go do that today. And so those are the first three steps. And then AI, AI is absolutely there. It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today while we all wait for Jarvis to come around and –

Gabe Larsen: (29:14)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Vikas always appreciate you joining. Darryl, thanks so much for having me. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Five9, what’s the best way to do that?

Darryl Addington: (29:22)
Well, the website’s a good spot to start. It’s got a lot of good information. There’s numbers that you can call out there, et cetera. And, uh, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (29:32)
Love it. Alrighty, man. Well hey, appreciate your time, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Darryl Addington: (29:36)
Yeah, you too.

Exit Voice: (29:43)
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