We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.
What Is Being Done NOW
An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.
Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.
Transformation While Resources Are Crunched
There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.
One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.
Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.
Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.
One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”
Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.
Moving the Customer Experience Dial
A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.
“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.
Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.
In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.
To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience
One of the biggest challenges for contact centers and customer service departments is convoluted systems. According to CCW Digital research, two of the top five areas for improvement include agents spending too much time on low-value work and the absence of a 360-degree customer view.
When customer service agents don’t have a 360-degree customer view, they spend excess time navigating applications and databases trying to manually find customer information and history, which is frustrating and inefficient for both employees and customers. However, with the right technology, it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on to learn why.
Tap Into the Power of a Centralized CRM
Building a 360-degree customer view is dependent upon giving our front-line employees and customer service agents the tools they need to see customer history, route inquiries accordingly, and find solutions seamlessly through an efficient customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
As seen in a recent CCW Digital webinar, during a peak in the pandemic, customer contact volume increased ten fold, while agent capacity decreased 20%, call duration increased 62%, wait times increased by 27 minutes, and as you would guess, customer satisfaction decreased — by roughly 28%.
As customer volume increases and agent capacity decreases, friction is brought into the customer experience, exposing an unforgiving area for improvement in the contact center — the vast majority of CRMs being used are not getting the job done. Simply put, customer service departments around the globe are losing customers as a result of poor management and technology.
Specifically, incorrect and incomplete data means longer wait times, less ability to predict needs, and less ability to personalize interactions.
We’ve seen an uptick in digital channel utilization which means you have more touch points and data sources to aggregate customer history, and therefore a greater need for an omnichannel CRM.
The only way to alleviate the friction in the customer experience is to create a more efficient process, reducing the amount of applications agents need to record and access customer information, and resolve problems by using a single, unified, and actionable customer service CRM.
Increase Efficiency and Personalization Through AI and ML
AI can help you better glean insights from your data at scale. Then it can be used to improve routing and provide agents with real-time guidance and recommendations, thereby increasing their ability to “see” and “use” their 360-degree view.
AI and machine learning (ML) have the ability to improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks as well as your most complex business processes. For instance, high-volume conversation traffic could be intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent, loyal customers could be prioritized, and agents can quickly deliver standardized responses when appropriate.
With Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI can simulate human actions to complete repetitive and rule-based tasks and processes. RPA can allow chatbots to fully complete a customer conversation without the need to escalate to a human agent, as well as provide the customer with more self-service opportunities by tapping into appropriate backend datta. This makes agents more efficient, freeing up their time for complex and proactive support, and gives customers more accurate information quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI, ML, or automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite.
If a business leverages customer data properly and gives the chatbot a 360-degree customer view, chatbots can ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support. Of course, if needed, once the customer experience requires a transfer to an agent, automation can route the customer to the right agent, best equipped to solve the problem, and transfer all of that data into the agent’s view.
Want to learn more strategies to deliver standout customer service through a 360-degree customer view? Download CCW’s latest report here, filled with insights from Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum and NYT bestselling author Shep Hyken.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Blake Morgan joins Gabe Larsen to discuss the importance of focusing on the customer and its role in attracting more customers. For the last 12 years, Blake has been in the customer service industry as either a practitioner or thought leader. She got her start as a customer service executive at Intel and for the past 5 years she has been a keynote speaker. Blake is dedicated to helping prepare businesses for the modern customer and helping them become the companies of the future. She is also the author of The Customer of the Future and hosts her own podcast titled “The Modern Customer.” Listen to the full episode below.
The Customer and Company of the Future
Times are changing very quickly and the customer service industry is not immune. The modern customers are in an interesting situation because they are being exposed to a variety of service experiences and not all of them are good. So what exactly should we expect from the company of the future? Blake states, “The company of the future has a soul. The company of the future is thoughtful. They’re thinking about more than just how much money they’re making the next quarter. They’re looking at the implications their behavior has on not just the customer, but the employee, the community, the environment. They’re thinking about innovation as a core piece of their competitive strategy.” If these are the characteristics of future companies, how does your company compare?
Why This Change is Slow
There is a very pressing need for change, but it is happening at a much slower pace than what is needed. Blake suggests that this is happening because of the nature of CEOs and their short time investments in companies along with the need to change culture. Changing a company’s culture and being willing to make a long term investment into customer experience isn’t always appealing and is not a quick fix. One of the elements of Blake’s philosophies is the psychological aspect of customer service. This involves the mindset and the culture. If CEOs were willing to invest more time, be more patient and persistent, psychological and cultural changes would occur in a company. Blake recalls, “Customer experience has to permeate through the culture of the company. It has to be in the fabric, in the mission, the values, the way people talk. We’ve got to have that humble, open culture. It’s not easy to simply replicate what somebody else does, especially for big companies that have toxic cultures or have cultures where things move very slowly and change is hard. I think it’s extremely difficult for these companies to change the culture, which is the biggest piece.” Making these changes is a slow process normally, but Blake is optimistic that it will speed up as companies apply the principles in her book and invest more fully in customer experience.
What it Takes for a Company to Stand Out
In the middle of their discussion, Gabe asked a simple, yet powerful question, “Why does CX matter?” Blake’s response is that in today’s world, there is so much product competition that simply having a good idea isn’t enough. She further explains that by excelling in the customer service and customer experience department, companies can manifest their value. It’s important for companies to take the time to care about people and recognize the humanity of the customer. As Blake so eloquently describes, “In a time where many of our products and services are the same, customer experience is the only way to stand out. Our products and services have become commodities or simply competing on price. And maybe that in the short term, but in the long term we want to be relevant. We have to compete on experience on how we make people feel… Thoughtfulness is truly a competitive advantage today.” Quality customer service and experience is essential for the companies of the future and the customers of the future demand nothing less.
To learn more about the customer and company of the future, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
The Customer in the Future with Blake Morgan
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s show. I’m excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about the future of the customer or the customer being the future. To do that, we brought on Blake Morgan. She is a customer experience expert. She does keynote speaking. She also happens to have a new book coming out called “The Customer of the Future.” It talks about 10 guiding principles that we’ll dive on to just a little bit today. So Blake, thanks for joining. How are you?
Blake Morgan: (00:39)
Hi. Good, thank you. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I love podcasting. I have my own podcasts, so —
Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
That’s right. Can you tell us, maybe add that in, but tell us a little more about you and some of the fun things you do in your day to day.
Blake Morgan: (00:57)
Well, what’s super fun now is I am 29 weeks pregnant, so I’m a mom.
Gabe Larsen: (01:05)
It’s your first?
Blake Morgan: (01:05)
It’s my second.
Gabe Larsen: (01:08)
Blake Morgan: (01:09)
Yeah. So you asked me what’s fun. So I guess that’s like fun. That’s fun news. I also have two dogs. They’re fun as well. And a husband. The one thing I do is I bring my message that if you focus on the customer, if you make people’s lives easier and better, you will always attract customers to you. And that’s the basic message that I bring all around the world, whether it’s on a stage, on my podcast “The Modern Customer,” on my Forbes column. It’s a simple human message that we’ve gotten too far away from treating people like wallets. And we have to be real about how we are building and designing experiences for other people and how do we make them feel?
Blake Morgan: (01:57)
And now feelings are a business metric. And that’s really exciting for people like me. For over 12 years I’ve been telling stories about why how you make people feel matters. And now, businesses are starting to draw the correlation between, oh gosh, we’re making people feel like junk. And I can see our market share shrinking. Oh, it makes sense. So it’s been a pleasure to be able to do this job and I’ve been doing it for about five years, completely focusing on thought leadership. And before that I was a practitioner as an executive at Intel, the chip maker. But I’ve been in the customer world for about 12 years whether as a customer service executive practitioner or on the thought leadership side producing content.
Gabe Larsen: (02:46)
I love it. I love it. Well, let’s dive in. That’s a great intro. I want to hear a little bit about the book, but the looming question– I always like to think about titles and you’ve got this kind of customer of the future. So maybe start there. Who is the customer of the future?
Blake Morgan: (03:00)
The customer of the future. She is already here and I recently heard a quote that “the future is here, It’s just not widely distributed.” And I love that because you know, in your life you’re getting some beautifully easy, seamless, zero friction, personalized customer experiences from companies like Spotify and Netflix and Amazon and Apple products. And depending on where you get your healthcare or your airline, I mean hopefully you’re with the best, but many of us are not. So you’re getting these wonderfully delicious experiences in some areas of your life. But like if we look at the five most hated industries, they are travel, especially air travel, insurance, cable, Telekom and wireless services and internet services. So basically many of these experiences are extremely broken. But then, when we say the future is not widely distributed, but it’s here, the customer is comparing those horrible experiences with the wonderful ones they get. So everyone today is being held to a different standard.
Gabe Larsen: (04:14)
Wow. Yeah. You nailed it with the industries. I’m thinking of my cable bill, my Telekom bill, and like yes, me, me, me. But you’re right, times definitely are changing. So how does that compare to the company of the future? Is that similar? Does it have to react differently with some of the different changes with the customer of the future.
Blake Morgan: (04:37)
Yeah. The company of the future has a soul. The company of the future is thoughtful. They’re thinking about more than just how much money they’re making the next quarter. They’re looking at the implications their behavior has on not just the customer, but the employee, the community, the environment. They’re thinking about innovation as a core piece of their competitive strategy. And that’s why you see — when I put out my lists on Forbes of the most customer centric companies, these are companies that do everything well. They’re good to their people, they have a huge innovation focus, they are good on customer service and they also are trying to look at ways to be more sustainable, to impact the community in a positive way. And so they do everything well. And that’s why when people ask me, Blake, what are the most customer focused companies in the world, I just point them to the great place to work list because we see that companies that are great places to work often have excellent customer experiences and their stock prices are going up as a result.
Gabe Larsen: (05:49)
Yeah, and that first thing you said; companies won’t just look kind of at the numbers, you know, they’ll have a soul. Well why is that so hard to make that transition? Is it that hard? Is it just something we got to kind of do? Because I feel like you still have leaders getting up there and yeah, it’s all the almighty dollar and that does matter. But if the customer is not happy the dollar doesn’t come. It’s like they’re not getting it. Why is that not happening? Or is it as simple — is it changing your mindset or what’s going on there?
Blake Morgan: (06:23)
Yeah, I think we have to look at what individual leaders are measured by and what their goals are. If you think of a CEO, they often come in, take over at a big company and their goal is to be there a few years, turn the company around, make it profitable and then move on to a better paying or more fancy, we’ll say, CEO job. And that’s a problem because for these customer experience programs, they required long term investments. They often require being misunderstood for long periods of time. And when founder CEOs, they focus on their businesses, it’s often the long term view because they aren’t held to the standards by the board. They don’t really care because they’ve built the company, it’s their baby. And they’re willing to be misunderstood. Yeah, like Reed Hastings of Netflix. So I think that’s one of the problems is that the performance metrics for these leaders are not in service of customer experience. They’re in service of the almighty dollar, quick turnarounds. And it’s really a conflict when we think about things like digital transformation that require at least five years or so of sometimes taking a loss in order to transform into a better company.
Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah, that’s so interesting looking at some of the different examples of like a turnaround CEO versus an original founder, right? That mindset of this is my family, or this is — there’s just such a different futuristic view on that. You mentioned the Netflix gentlemen as an example, you’re right, they kind of see things different. The CEO compensation, yeah that probably would change behavior, right? What are you actually here to do?
Blake Morgan: (08:22)
Gabe Larsen: (08:24)
So, in all of this going on in the world, we talked a little bit about the future of the company, the future of the customer. CX, a lot of people debate its importance. Why, why does it matter so much today?
Blake Morgan: (08:38)
So in a time where many of our products and services are the same, customer experience is the only way to stand out. Our products and services have become commodities or simply competing on price. And maybe that in the short term, but in the long term we want to be relevant. We have to compete on experience on how we make people feel. Um, and that’s why I think customer experience is the great leveling field of our time because any tiny company can build something that’s simply better where they take something that has been the way we do business for a long time that customers hate and just said, well, let’s make it better. Why does it have to be like this? And they simply win by creating something that people just love and can’t stop using. It often comes from frustration. There’s a company called Good Grips or Oxo Grips and the founder of Oxo Grips, which is a company that makes things that are like easy to handle.
Blake Morgan: (09:42)
Like in my shower, I have a window wipe, I guess you’d call it, or like a glass — I don’t even know what the name for this is. Basically, when your shower gets all streaky, it wipes the shower down and it has an amazing grip. And the reason this founder created this company, Oxo Grips was his wife had I believe Parkinson’s or her hands shook. She had a disease where her hands shook and she couldn’t hold things well. And so he created this company with products that were easy for people who had disabilities to be able to hold them. I think some of the best innovation just comes from frustration. Like why does it have to be like this? It can be better. And let’s just build it. And so you asked, why customer experience? Why now? It’s the great leveling field of our time. Experience matters. It is the only way to make a customer remember us and we can no longer simply rest on our laurels and ride our legacies into the future. It just won’t work anymore.
Gabe Larsen: (10:44)
Why, that is true, right? I mean, it’s like when you think you’ve got a cool product innovation and oftentimes, it can be knocked off. Whether it’s here or somewhere else. But yeah, that service level is one of those things that in particular about the customer. And there are multiple areas I think in the customer experience, but I like the service. What’d you say? What’d you call that? The great leveling field for — yeah, there’s something to that. That’s so bloody hard or whatever word you want to use. I’m not, not British, but it’s so hard to meet or knock off because that does require a culture and all these different, kind of, aspects where its products sometimes you can find the ingredients and you can do it quicker. So let’s dive quickly just into the book for a minute. Where is the book at the moment? It’s obviously — we can see it here on your LinkedIn profile, but give us some of the different topics in the book and some of the things you hit on there.
Blake Morgan: (11:46)
Yeah. The book is live, it’s been out since October. I’m really excited because it became a best seller on Amazon and Porchlight books, which is where the conference organizers buy books and the book is based on my 10 guiding principles. In my speeches, I bucket that into three categories and that includes the psychological, technical, and experiential aspects of a strategy. The psychological, the first piece, is the most overlooked piece of a customer experience strategy. And that’s mindset, culture, and leadership development because we don’t realize that the answers are often right in front of our nose and they’re free. But we don’t want to look at our culture. We don’t want to think about, well how do the executives walk around and talk about customers at our company. The second piece is the technical piece and that’s where I dive into digital transformation. Analytics.
Blake Morgan: (12:43)
What is customer experience technology? What does the market look like? And I talk about personalization. And then in the third piece we look at the experiential aspects of the strategy, which are more about marketing, which are more about data ethics and privacy. And lastly, experience design. And so the three pieces again in the book: psychological, technical and experiential aspects of strategy. You won’t find it bucketed like that in the book, you’ll find the 10 principles. But when I’m talking about it 10 is just too damn many for anybody to sit through me. It sounds like a laundry list. So for the sake of like keynotes or podcasts, I explain it in these three buckets, which I think people, it’s easier for them to get.
Gabe Larsen: (13:33)
Three is always a little easier than 10. Where do you feel are the best or the worst as you think about these three buckets? Or is there areas that you typically see we kind of are floundering the most or maybe have the biggest strengths?
Blake Morgan: (13:48)
Yeah, I think that the first is mindset. The biggest is mindset and culture. Because most companies, what they do– and I talk about this often because it’s like the biggest bruise in my industry– is they hire a chief customer officer or they hire an experienced group and that group or that person has no power, no influence, no one in the company really even knows who they are, or what they do. It’s just putting lipstick on a pig really. And even when I worked at a fortune 100 company, I remember asking my boss, because I was an executive in customer service and I said, we have a customer experience group. Well what do they do? And she said to me, Oh, I think they produce events. And I thought, what? That makes no sense. Customer experience has to permeate through the culture of the company. It has to be in the fabric, in the mission, the values, the way people talk. We’ve got to have that humble, open culture. It’s not easy to simply replicate what somebody else does, especially for big companies that have toxic cultures or have cultures where things move very slowly and change is hard. I think it’s extremely difficult for these companies to change the culture, which is the biggest piece. Instead of just hiring one person, like a chief experience officer and then just saying that, okay, we’ve done our job.
Gabe Larsen: (15:15)
Is there a leader or a company that you would highlight that kind of embraces some of these concepts? The customer experience, customer service in a way that is something that maybe you aspire to? Whether it’s the cultural aspect or one of these different ideas. Where would you go with that?
Blake Morgan: (15:35)
Yeah, I would say that from a culture perspective, Workday is one I really like. The founders are just good people and if you find inside the company, just the stories you hear are just human stories of leaders doing the right thing for employees. And they’re one of those companies that’s on the great place to work list. And they’re also known for customer experience. You can’t really talk about customer experience without talking about Amazon. They have changed the game for everyone. I went to Amazon because I wanted to know like, was there any magic or would I find bunnies being pulled out of hats at Amazon headquarters and when I did the tours and met with executives. What I found is that there was no secret sauce or magic that it’s simply a company that’s run extremely efficiently, focused on innovation, very hardworking, humble people. I met a head of logistics who would go driving with his delivery people at two in the morning just to see some of the hiccups or hindering blocks in their process to make more efficient operations for his employees. And I think most people in big companies just don’t have the stomach or the commitment to go through that to go on a 2:00 AM drive just to make something 10% more efficient.
Gabe Larsen: (17:02)
Yeah, that’s what it feels like they’ve been able to do. Right. It’s like that effortless experience. I know I’m stealing that word from others. But they seem like they have mapped that customer journey a billion times. They just know exactly where — they’ve just eliminated every, well, they’ve eliminated a lot of different headaches to make it so easy to do business with them that you’re like, I’d rather do that than go somewhere else. Well Blake, I really appreciate the time. It’s a fun talk track. I’m excited. Blake was a referral. I was talking to someone else and they said you’ve got to talk to Blake who’s got this new book.
Blake Morgan: (17:40)
Gabe Larsen: (17:40)
So I quickly researched her. I wrote out to her, I ordered the book and it gets here in a couple of days. I’ll have to check that out. I’m trying to learn more about the whole customer experience and customer service. So I appreciate the talk track. In summary and then maybe for people who want to learn a little bit more about what you do Blake, how would you bring it to a close?
Blake Morgan: (18:02)
In summary, I think the best thing you can do for your business is hire sensitive, empathetic people who are interested in other people’s experiences. And these are the people that will build beautiful customer experiences because they’re very thoughtful and they really think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of something. And that’s truly the number one thing is hire thoughtful people, whether they’re leaders, employees, customer focused agents. Thoughtfulness is truly a competitive advantage today. And if you want to learn more about me, I would love to connect with your listeners. Come to my website blakemichellemorgan.com. I’m launching a new podcast soon on entrepreneurship with my husband Jacob Morgan. So hopefully you’ll find that as well on my website and would love, any way I can help, anybody listening please reach out.
Gabe Larsen: (18:58)
Yeah, that’s so fun. As I was talking to Blake pre show it was like I honestly don’t know how to introduce you. You got all these different accolades and things you’re doing. So where should I start? So anyways, do check her out. I think that’s a great idea. We will make sure we put some of that in the show notes. So Blake, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Blake Morgan: (19:17)
Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
Exit Voice: (19:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Shep Hyken to discuss his book, The Cult of the Customer and the different phases of customer experience. Shep Hyken is a customer service expert and has spent 37 years in the industry. He is passionate about customer loyalty, engagement, and management. He is a keynote speaker, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and is currently the CSP, CPAE, and CAO (Chief Amazement Officer) at Shepard Presentations. Shep is very knowledgeable and brings valuable insights to the table as he and Gabe discuss the five “cults” in his book. Listen to the full episode below.
Why Use the Word “Cult” with Customer Service?
Most of the time when people see the word cult, they automatically think of small groups of individuals with negative and radical beliefs. “Cult” does not typically have a positive connotation. However, by discussing the latin origins of the word, Shep explains that it actually means a group of people with common interests and a unified goal. In this sense, cults aren’t inherently bad and the word could reference a lot of different groups. Shep states, “It’s a group of people that have a common interest and in this case, the cult of the customer is all about people that are fanatical, if you will, about taking care of their customers, both internal and external…” Throughout his book, Shep uses this word not only to describe the overall commitment and passion to positive customer service, he uses the word “cult” to describe different phases of the experience.
The Five Cults, or Phases, for Customers and Employees
To better understand the experience of customers, Shep created these five cults. The first is uncertainty, meaning that the customer is lacking knowledge or experience with the company. After moving through uncertainty, the customer arrives at alignment. In this phase they better understand what the company actually does and the company’s mission. Third is experience: where the customer actually has personal experiences with the product or service. Fourth, take ownership. When a company takes ownership for any unfortunate mistakes or mishaps, they gain the customer’s trust. Fifth, amazement. Shep recalls, “Now if it is positive and it’s predictable and consistent, you’re actually operating into the ultimate cult, the cult of amazement.” Additionally, Shep relates these phases to employees as well as customers. For example, when a new employee joins a company they have uncertainty, then they learn and align, have experiences, take ownership, and then, hopefully, enter the amazed state.
Consistency and Amazement as a Realistic Goal
While reaching the amazement cult and staying there seems like an unattainable goal, Shep assures that it is possible. It may be a fluid experience but it is possible. To understand how it is possible, Shep defines amazement as being “consistently better than average.” By taking the time to understand customer expectations and then creating better than average standards, customer loyalty will spike as well as customer satisfaction. Consistency is the key to being in the amazement cult. To make this point clear, Shep states:
I’ve been talking about consistency since the 80s. No matter how good you are, if you’re one day good and the next day okay– even if you ever dropped below average– you’re still going to be seen as inconsistent . . . To be better than average means simply as Horst Schulze, the cofounder and first president of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Organization, said “If you want to create a world class brand and be recognized for amazing service, just be 10% better than average all the time.”
Finding the weaknesses or trouble spots in your company, reevaluating customer expectations, and creating goals of consistency is the way to help every customer have an “amazing experience.”
To learn more about The Cult of the Customer and its various applications in the customer experience realm, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
The Cult of the Customer | Shep Hyken
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about cult, the cult of the customer. I think it’ll be a fun dialogue. To do that, we brought in Shep Hyken, probably heard about him. I’ve been tracking him for six months. People have probably been doing it longer, but I’m newer to this space so that’s my excuse. He is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling, he’s got an author, keynote speaker, and he does run his own company. So, you’ll see him across multiple channels, very active on social, got a podcast. I think we’ll learn a lot today and I would definitely advise after, to make sure you follow some of his thought leadership content. So Shep, thanks for joining and how are you?
Shep Hyken: (00:54)
Hey, thanks for having me. Great to be here. Excited. And while you may have only been doing it six months, I’ve been doing this about 37 years. So, I don’t know if any — I guess I have had followers for 37 years because there are people, this is true. My very first contract I ever signed to do a speech was in 1983 with the company, Anheuser-Busch, or Budweiser. Yeah. And just about two months ago — I mean, I’ve worked with them, gosh a hundred times, maybe more over those years. Okay. But my most recent one was just a couple of months ago. So some of those people had been following me for a long time.
Gabe Larsen: (01:33)
Shep Hyken: (01:33)
And hiring me.
Gabe Larsen: (01:33)
You say 1983? Is that what you said?
Shep Hyken: (01:36)
Yeah. Yeah. Before you were born maybe?
Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I don’t want to go into it, but it’s pretty close.
Shep Hyken: (01:41)
I know. I look young and I’ll tell you why. I cut my hair off. Just shave it all off. No, you can’t see — has he got gray hair? Well, unless I take my shirt off, you won’t know. Back hair could be gray, but hey, we’re not going to do that here. But seriously, old guys that are bald, they don’t look old until one day they do look old. But I’ve got about another 10 years before that happens.
Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
Yeah. Well I won’t make you share your age, but it sounds like 37– That’s a long…we’ll just go with that.
Shep Hyken: (02:10)
1983 I started my business. Yep.
Gabe Larsen: (02:12)
You are a seasoned professional. Wow. Well again, tons of information we’re going to try to dive into it today. Let’s start high level cause when I saw this book, I mean it is kind of a revised edition coming out, but this idea of cult. I mean most people see that and they’re like cult, that’s some weird people doing some weird stuff in some weird place.
Shep Hyken: (02:34)
It’s got the rep. It’s got the rap and the rap — got the reputation and a bad rap. Cult is actually, it’s an interesting word. And by the way, this is a completely updated, revised edition; new stats, facts. We took out a few of the case studies that weren’t relevant. We got rid of some names of people that are in jail now that we used as examples. They’re now, they’re no longer part of the book. True. That’s true. I won’t tell you who it is either. No, it’s true. There was a guy in there who’s in jail right now. He’s out of the book.
Shep Hyken: (03:05)
You never know what’s going to happen. Right?
Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
You don’t, you don’t.
Shep Hyken: (03:08)
So, the word cult. When I sent the book out, the first time the book came out, I actually sent it to a bunch of my clients. One client sent it back, a healthcare system that has a religious persuasion and said, the word cult disgusts me. You will never work for my company again.
Gabe Larsen: (03:28)
Whoa you’re kidding.
Shep Hyken: (03:28)
Whoa, Whoa. I apologize profusely. But, if you read the back cover of the book or the inside jacket, it says cult is not a dirty word. The word cult is really, first of all, it comes from the word cultus, the Latin word cultus, which means care and tending which is interesting. But beyond that, the actual definition of a cult is not about fanaticism. It’s about a group of people with common interests headed toward the same direction, doing the same thing.
Gabe Larsen: (03:59)
Is that right?
Shep Hyken: (03:59)
So, in effect, it could be a religious order, but it could also be a bunch of people who go out and it’s almost like religion. Every Sunday morning you see them running through the park, working out together. So it’s a group of people that have a common interest and in this case, the cult of the customer is all about people that are fanatical, if you will, about taking care of their customers, both internal and external; creating an environment that’s care and tending toward those people. And, ideally doing such a great job that these customers, especially the outside customers, become evangelists; which is why the subtitle is “Create an amazing customer experience that turns satisfied customers into customer evangelists.” People that will praise what you do and share and spread the word about how great you are.
Gabe Larsen: (04:50)
I love that. You know, I don’t — there was another gentleman, Russell Brunson, he’s kind of a marketing guru.
Shep Hyken: (04:56)
Yep I know Russell.
Gabe Larsen: (04:57)
Cult-ure. Like CULTure, culture. Like something that people are a little more intense about that they really care about and want to be a part of. You’re right. I like that the history shows that it’s not just a negative, kind of crazy people that we sometimes assume. But there is kind of a positive– just a group of people that are really dynamic in following the cause.
Shep Hyken: (05:19)
So here’s some trivia. I’ll give you trivia that I’ve never shared with anybody before. I don’t think I have anyway. So when this– I did not come up with this title. When I was approached by Wiley a dozen plus years ago to write this book, I had the idea that would be called “The Customer Focus,” which is after my training programs.
Gabe Larsen: (05:41)
Shep Hyken: (05:41)
And they said, we’ve got a different title. We would like you to consider, “The Cult of the Customer.” Whoa, that’s an interesting name: Cult. The “cult” caught my attention too. So ironically, that summer I saw a woman speak, she was wonderful. She’s the one that came up with the Aflac commercial. “Aflac.” So she talked about how it would be a polarizing commercial; that people would love this because it’s funny, people would hate it because it’s stupid, but everybody else would remember it no matter what because who’s going to forget Aflac. Right? And so, I asked her. I had a chance to ask her about the word cult in the title, and she says it will do the same thing that Aflac does in a sense. And that if people are walking through the bookstore and they see “The Cult of The Customer,” they may stop and look at that word cult because it jumps out at them.
Shep Hyken: (06:34)
And it may cause them to pick up the book and look at it. Some people, it’ll just like, “who would use that word in a title,” and others will go, “well that’s a really interesting way of putting it.” So in effect — but everybody remembers that word cult because it just stands out.
Gabe Larsen: (06:49)
Oh my heavens. When I first saw it, it did.I think you nailed it.
Shep Hyken: (06:54)
Gabe Larsen: (06:54)
It’s a little bit of a head turner. You walked by and probably some people are like, what? But other people are like — so whatever it is, good for you because it worked.
Shep Hyken: (07:04)
It worked. We sold a lot of books. When it first came out, it immediately, interesting. It was the number one book of all books sold on Amazon for just a real short time. But it was the number one book. It stayed number one in business for weeks and weeks. It also hit the Wall Street Journal list, the USA Today list. And I was surprised it didn’t hit the New York Times. The next one did. But this one still, it hit a bunch of good lists.
Gabe Larsen: (07:31)
Wow, well, congratulations on a bunch of books. Yeah, I’m sure the title had something to do it, but the content as well. So let’s hit the content. Can you talk about these five cults or phases customers go through? Maybe start there.
Shep Hyken: (07:45)
So, I started to look at — my goal in life is to simplify the complicated. And it’s not even that complicated. We want to create an experience that gets people to want to come back. Well, let’s talk about what people are thinking through their journey. And the first time a customer decides to do business with someone, no matter how good the reputation is, they can only hope that it’s going to be as good as what’s promised.
Shep Hyken: (08:11)
And I call that the cult of uncertainty. That’s a phase that customer’s in. The next is they’re going to get into alignment. So they get into this cult of alignment. They’re starting to understand what the company’s about. And by the way, B2B, B2C doesn’t matter. It’s, I want to understand who it is I’m dealing with, what they’re promising me. Okay, I get it. Now I need to experience it. And as I experience it, hopefully I’ll like it and it’s a good experience and I like that experience, but it’s not predictable yet. It only becomes predictable when it’s repeated, when I can count on it. So you go from uncertainty to alignment to experience, and then you go to ownership. That’s when it is predictable. People say things like, “they’re always so helpful, they always get back to me, they always are friendly.” Yeah, the word “always” followed by something good.
Shep Hyken: (08:57)
Now, if it is positive and it’s predictable and consistent, you’re actually operating into the ultimate cult, the cult of amazement. And that’s where, and by the way, amazement can be over the top, blow me away. But you can’t count on over the top experiences every time. Usually, you have to wait for a problem to fix it. Or maybe you overhear something and you can surprise someone. But if day in and day out, you’re just predictably above average and creating that positive experience where your customers go, “I love doing business with them.” And if you said, well, what do you like about them? They always get back to me so quickly. They’re always, like I said, knowledgeable, helpful, friendly. You can use all those. Even when there’s a problem, I know I can always count on them. Which by the way, when you’re in amazement and then there’s a problem, that customer immediately goes back to uncertainty. Immediately. And if you handle it right, they quickly jump back to amazement. And that’s when they’ll say, even when there’s a problem, I know I can, here’s that word, always count on them. So that word “always” followed by something positive.
Gabe Larsen: (10:01)
But that is scalabil– it’s consistent.
Shep Hyken: (10:06)
Consistency counts. I would say that as I do my speeches, I don’t know how many, I mean I’ve done thousands of them over the years, but, as I’ve been talking about consistency; I’ve been talking about consistency since the 80s. No matter how good you are, if you’re one day good and the next day, okay, even if you ever dropped below average, you’re still going to be seen as inconsistent. So if on a scale of one to five where one is bad and five is great, three is average or in the middle. To be better than average means simply that Horst Schulze, the cofounder and first president of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Organization said, if you want to create a world class brand recognized for amazing service, just be 10% better than average all the time. Because that “all the time” part that’s not easy to do.
Gabe Larsen: (10:57)
Yeah, but that’s interesting because we do — sometimes we celebrate the crazy stuff, right? The over the top, I think is the word you used. And those are nice, but it does require maybe a big blow up or a big problem. It’s that consistent, repeatable, scalable, whatever other word you want to throw in, that 10% above average. But it’s getting there. That ain’t that easy.
Shep Hyken: (11:20)
Well over the top is hard. I mean, you know, it’s like if you’re a server at a restaurant and you overhear a couple talking that it’s their year anniversary and you surprise them with a cake with a candle. That’s not really over the top, but that’s a surprise. Okay. But if the rest of the time you are inattentive and didn’t bring them their drinks fast and the food came out and it was sloppy the way it was, put–. See, you’ve got to always be — I want them to say, “you know what, that server was wonderful and that surprise was amazing.” And wonderful is attentive, friendly, nice, made suggestions. And that’s a very simple hospitality example. But again, B2B, it’s the same way. We’re a manufacturer. We’re selling to a company. You feel good about the order you place. I call you up and say, just want to let you know the order– or I email you– the order has shipped, here’s tracking information. I’m going to watch it too. I call you to let you know it arrived and, or I email you to let you know, and I’m on top of it. And you’re saying to yourself, wow, these people have it together. And when that happens again and again you go, “I can always count on them.”
Shep Hyken: (12:29)
That’s why people love Amazon. It’s because they send out these notices, your order is placed, your order has shipped, your order is received. Then on top of that, if there’s a problem, they have a pretty great system of management.
Gabe Larsen: (12:42)
I want to get through the rest of the phases, but just one more click on that because that’s like the Holy Grail. That consistency. It just seems like we can’t do it. Is it because we don’t have the technology, the wherewithal, the knowledge, that there’s just too many complications? How come we’re not there?
Shep Hyken: (12:59)
I believe that the majority of the problem with inconsistency, sure there are issues built into a process that can be fixed. But a lot of the problems have to do with people where they’re not paying attention to what’s going on in that moment. And I will tell you when I work with clients and one of the exercises we’ll do is say, I want to have the group sit down in small groups and talk about– come up with the three biggest problems you hear customers complain about all the time. And I love this because they come up with some great ones and I go, all right, let’s figure out what the most important one we want to deal with. So this happens all the time. Oh yeah, it happens every week, every day. I go, well, if it’s happening all the time, why haven’t you fixed it yet? Okay. And by the way, some things are not fixable. Jeff Bezos said, we don’t need a customer service department. We need to be that good that customers should never need to call us for anything. And that worked until the shipment went out of the warehouse and then UPS, FedEx, Post Office, whoever it is, picked it up and lost it on the way. Now, it wasn’t in Amazon’s hands. It isn’t even Amazon’s fault. By the way, every time a customer called and said, where’s my shipment? It didn’t get here. And they found out that it was lost by UPS, FedEx, or Post Office, whoever. Amazon always said, no problem. We’ll take care of you. Okay. And see, that’s the kind of thing that kind of started that consistency of ownership. And whenever there’s a problem, I always say, apologize, acknowledge or acknowledge and apologize, doesn’t matter. Fix it. That’s the third step. Acknowledge, apologize, fix it or discuss what you’re going to do. Take ownership of it. Don’t blame others, just get it done. And number five, do it fast. And when you do that, you’re going to restore confidence. Now, even though a shipment that’s lost isn’t Amazon’s fault, how quickly they say, we’re going to get one out to you right away.
Gabe Larsen: (14:52)
They take ownership and they recognize it. You know, it’s funny, I remember one time, just to be thinking of your example when you talked to your group. I started even new at this company, but it’s funny when you have fresh eyes on a perspective problem. I remember I joined this company right in the front door, there was this big orange cord that kind of went across the front of the office. And I remember walking in and thinking, guys, why is this orange cord here, this large orange cord? Every day we have this step over it. And you know, to a point, it’s like, well, it’s just always been there. [inaudible]. So sometimes we don’t even acknowledge it because it has become just what we deal with. The orange cord is in our way. It’s always there.
Shep Hyken: (15:39)
There’s an old story. Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker who’s passed away, used to tell a story about — there’s a big family dinner and the little girl says, “mommy, why do you cut the end of the roast off before you put it in the oven?” And mom thought about it and she says, well, that’s what your grandma taught me. And so she went to grandma, “grandma, why do we cut the end off the roast before we put it in the oven?” And she goes, “well that’s actually, that’s a very good question. But when I learned how to cook a roast, that’s the way I was taught by your great grandma.” Great grandma, four generations is in the room. She goes over to this elderly woman, “great Grammy, why do you cut the end of the road off before you put it in the oven?” And she said, because those roasts are so big, you have to take the end off so it will fit in the oven.” But the oven has got bigger, but they still kept cutting the end of the roast off. And it’s like, because we always did it that way and sometimes we become so used to something that it just doesn’t phase us. So back to the original concept, when our clients say this happens all the time ago, why is it happening all the time? There’s got to be some way to eliminate or at least mitigate it. So anyway, we have digressed away from the five columns.
Gabe Larsen: (16:54)
I’m so sorry, that’s so fun.
Shep Hyken: (16:56)
Oh I love it. This is what happens.
Gabe Larsen: (17:00)
[inaudible]. Oh man, you’re right. Bless his soul because that was a lot of great quotes. So go ahead and finish the five. I did have one other question.
Shep Hyken: (17:06)
Those are the five. We’ve got uncertainty into alignment, into experience, ownership and then amazement. And by the way, you mentioned Gabe, as you walked into a new company, employees have the same exact experiences that customers have, the five phases or five calls. Because when you walked in to work with, you know, this new company Kustomer, which by the way, I love the way they spell it. Different. Okay. Because whoever said — there is truth to this, that spelling is no indication of intelligence. Okay.
Gabe Larsen: (17:41)
Shep Hyken: (17:43)
Very smart people just don’t know how to spell. Okay. You spell by remembering, by feeling it and kinesiology. I don’t know. There’s all kinds of ways they talk about, anyway.
Gabe Larsen: (17:53)
He’s mocking because we spell it with a K. For those of you who don’t know Customer with a K.
Shep Hyken: (17:57)
Is the K backwards? No, it’s Customer with the K. So, here’s the thing. The employee comes in and they go, Oh, I’m looking forward to work. I hope I love this job. Hope. Hope is not a strategy as they say, but hope is also an indication of uncertainty. Now I’m in there, I’m being onboarded, I’m learning about the mission, the values, the vision. Now I’m getting into alignment. I’m understanding it. So now I’m going to go to work. I understand this is what we’re supposed to do, this is how we’re supposed to be, and now I’m experiencing this and hopefully I’m liking it. By the way, I’m assuming that I’m enjoying this experience. Can’t wait for tomorrow. Oh, more of the same, more of the same every day. Now I’m owning it. And when you say to me, how do you like your job when you come home and your partner, your spouse, your best friend says, how do you like your new job? And you say, I love working there. You’ve now moved that employee from hope or uncertainty into amazement.
Gabe Larsen: (18:56)
Wow. Yeah. So, the employee’s journey does follow those same things, those five phases or five cults. Got it. One thing I wanted to dive into on the five, you talked just a little about the employee side of it, but we were talking about consistency. Is it– how possible is it really? I mean, you’ve been doing this for 37 years Shep, so you can just tell me it’s not possible, but is it really possible to get to that amazing level? I mean, can you be that?
Shep Hyken: (19:22)
Yeah, that’s the whole point. That’s what I try to preach to my clients. And by the way, I have lost a couple of speeches and projects because my definition of amazement is better than average all the time. And, there was a client that said, we need to always be, we need to blow our clients away every time. We need to prove to them over and over again. I go, you prove it when you’re consistently better than average. And by the way, the client defines who and what average is, but you can get a pretty good idea after being in business for a while, what your clients basic expectations are, and then say, where can I make it better? Where can I exceed it? I don’t ever want my client — you could say this, or Kustomer, you can create standards. You could say our clients will never be on hold for more than 45 seconds and if they are on hold, they’ll be given the option, by technology, allowing us to tell the client, “your call really is important in spite of what other people say and we value your time. We unfortunately are overwhelmed today and your whole time will be about four minutes or we can call you back at whatever time is convenient.” And you know, there’s a system that allows them to just punch in the numbers on their keypad and that shows you appreciate their time and effort. I can’t stand calling and they say it’s very busy, please hold, forever. We don’t know how long it’s going to take. So anyway, there is an example.
Gabe Larsen: (20:50)
We almost don’t even put up with that anymore. Now that we know there’s a different option, right? So, I love that definition of amazing, by the way. It just makes it so much more obtainable. That that does makes me feel better.
Shep Hyken: (21:01)
Little better than average all the time. And that means, and you can set your standards and you could say you’ll always return a phone call within two hours. You’ll always return an email within whenever. And you create these standards and you know, these standards are not just acceptable, but they will impress your customers. And you do that by talking to your people about what they know impresses their customers both internally and externally. We do an exercise here, in our office — and we teach our clients all over the world to do this — where every week they have to bring in an example of a good experience that they’ve created either for an internal or external customer. Sometimes it’s just, give me a general customer service moment of magic, positive thing again or give me an example of when you did something very specific that we’re talking about and they have to look to find that example. And what will happen is they’ll make that example happen, which is great because now they’re service aware, they’re making an effort to make things happen, so it’s positive. By the way, the types of exercises we’re talking about are included in the book. At the end we have a whole workbook and these are the same exercises that our trainers from our company go out and deliver to companies all over the world, so it’s included as part of the book.
Gabe Larsen: (22:15)
Let’s get there. I mean we’ve hit on a couple of points. I love some of the action items. If someone wants to learn more about you — get into the book. We’re obviously recording it now. It will be hopefully releasing soon here in conjunction with this session. What would you recommend to take the next step and learn more about Shep Hyken and what he does?
Shep Hyken: (22:35)
Well, you can go to hyken.com but if you want to learn more about the book, cultofthecustomer.com, and you can learn more or go straight to Amazon. By the way, if you buy the book, you need to go back to the website and there is, you’ll see it as you scroll down– I’m looking at it now– a big circle with a star in it says if you already pre-purchase a book, click here for your free gift. But you know what, we are going to modify the free gift just a little and let me tell you what we’re giving away. Anybody that clicks on that will get free access to one of my courses. We charge $49 for this course. It’s an online service course. Here’s what I want people to do. You can look at it as an individual. Print the workbook out, fine. If you’ve got a group of 25 people, print out 25 workbooks. It’s your paper at that point, and show it to everybody. You’ll have a great one hour with a group of people — have an hour long customer service workshop that you’ll be able to do with your group. No charge. Once you get it, you’ve got to use it because it’s not going to be there forever.
Gabe Larsen: (23:40)
Got it. Oh I love it.
Shep Hyken: (23:41)
Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
Cult of the Customer. Um, make sure we get that. Shep best of luck. Again, sounds like the book, the new version of the book, obviously it’s been out for a while, but new version with new stories, nobody from jail, et cetera.
Shep Hyken: (23:56)
It’s crazy. Yeah. And if I won’t tell you — if you read through the book you’ll go “Oh I know this is.”
Gabe Larsen: (24:02)
I probably don’t. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time. A great talk track on the Cult of the Customer. So again, appreciate you taking a minute for the audience. Have a fantastic day.
Shep Hyken: (24:14)
Thanks Gabe, thanks for having me. Bye bye.
Gabe Larsen: (24:16)
Bye bye. Alrighty and that is a wrap.
Exit Voice: (24:29)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.
Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.
In 2020, it’s all about enhancing the digital customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the current trends in customer service that can help you run your business and satisfy consumers:
8 Current Trends in Customer Service
Keeping up with what’s new in customer service can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most in 2020. Here are eight we recommend weaving into your business strategy:
1. Taking Care of Every Customer by Promoting a Strong Company Culture
Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.
2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized
Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.
With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile: according to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.
The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.
3. Building Strong Customer Connections
Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something goes wrong.
4. Taking the Omnichannel Approach
This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2020. Often confused with multichannel support ‚— or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.
5. Focusing on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business
Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.
As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.
Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed
6. Be Responsive on Social Media
Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.
“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”
7. Using Chatbots to Your Advantage
Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.
8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support
Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.
Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?
Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.
Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Jeanne Bliss, CEO and founder of Customer Bliss, joins Gabe Larsen to discuss her book and her four pillars of quality customer service. Jeanne Bliss wrote Would You Do That to Your Mother? in 2018 about the standards companies should have for treating their customers. She started her career at Lands’ End and has been in the industry for 25 years. Her theories have developed as a result of her personal experience of coaching around the world. In this podcast episode, Gabe and Jeanne discuss a lot of concepts that companies need to be more aware of to improve customer service. Listen to the full podcast episode below.
Enabling Employees and Asking Probing Business Questions
One of the first pillars in Jeanne’s book is the importance of enabling employees to rise up to be the “good guys” in terms of customer service. She states, “We do things inadvertently inside our business that gets in their way. We wire [employees] into policies that they have to constantly feel bad about enforcing. We don’t trust them to make the call.” By taking extra care in the hiring process and trusting employees to make important customer service calls, the quality of service will rise. She also mentions allowing employees to have a “congruence of heart and habit.” When you let employees live their values in the workplace and not just check boxes, they will be in a better position to thrive in their jobs and make customers feel more appreciated.
Another important pillar that Jeanne discusses is the importance of making it easy for customers to get help. She introduces this concept by asking questions that spark businesses to become more conscious of their practices. Some of these questions include: “Do we make it easy to get help? Are you getting old waiting on hold? Do we make our customers feel like a hot potato passing them around?” Employees and customers are people, and both need to be treated with respect. So, it may be necessary to make changes to ensure this kind of respect is implemented within the company. Whether that means enabling and trusting employees more, or revising the customer service process, it will be worth it.
Make Customers More Important Than the Process
Company policies and practices are often created for company efficiency rather than customer comfort. Companies truly need to make their people more important than processes and policies. Jeanne brings this up with the following question, “Do you walk customers out of trouble spots? When the power goes out, are you there immediately saying, ‘we know your power’s out and here’s what’s happening.’” Again, Jeanne reminds business owners that perspectives, ideologies, and processes need to change in order to best help those the company was created to serve.
The Benefits of Doing an “Audit” of Company Policies
At the beginning and end of the podcast, Jeanne talks about how bad customer service policies and perspectives often seep into companies; compromises are made as the company grows. That said, there is a need to look into businesses and do an audit to find the negative practices that have seeped in. Customer and employee trust is something that is essential and must be preserved. Trust will ensure that the company stays true to its vision and purpose. Jeanne shares the following advice and experience:
“Every relationship that’s created between a customer and a company comes because customers have to trust us. But are we trusting them in return? Read your fine print, do a trust audit. Is there anything in there that says we don’t trust you? Do you have any gotcha moments? The Columbus Public Library … got rid of late fees because their whole purpose is to help young minds read.”
The Columbus Public Library is just one example of an organization that did an audit of their policies and made changes to better serve their customers. Jeanne recommends that businesses do “trust audits” and take the time to change policies often. When they do so, they will be more successful and have more loyal customers.
To learn more about Jeanne’s four pillars and successful customer service tactics that positively affect businesses, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking about customer experience, how to do it, why to do it, some of the details around that. To do that, we brought on Jeanne Bliss. She is currently the CEO and founder of Customer Bliss. In addition, she is the five time Chief Customer Officer and what some people refer to as the “Godmother of Customer Experience.” I love that one. That was fun. That was really fun. Um, Jeanne, thanks for joining. How are you?
Jeanne Bliss: (00:41)
I’m great, how are you?
Gabe Larsen: (00:43)
Yeah, fantastic. I appreciate you coming on and we were talking pre-show, trying to learn all that I can about customer experience and I think Jeannie, obviously has a lot of background —
Jeanne Bliss: (00:51)
It’s Jean actually, if that’s okay with you. Yeah, that’s okay.
Gabe Larsen: (00:55)
Okay. I apologize.
Jeanne Bliss: (00:57)
No worries! It’s spelled Jeanne but I say Jean, just to confuse the heck out of everybody.
Gabe Larsen: (01:02)
I’ve got some of that going on. I’m Gabriel and I go by Gabe. Some people say Gabby, so I know the feeling.
Jeanne Bliss: (01:09)
Hey Gabby. There you go. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (01:10)
That actually happened yesterday in the taxi. He’s like Gabby, I’m like, whatever. I’ll just take it.
Jeanne Bliss: (01:15)
What’s on your Starbucks coffee cup?
Gabe Larsen: (01:18)
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. So, anything you’d add kind of to your background? I mean, I did short and sweet. Anything you’d add for the audience, Jeanne?
Jeanne Bliss: (01:27)
Sure. I was a practitioner for 25 years before I started books and coaching leaders around the world. And so I’ve lived in reality and I think that’s what people gravitate toward: that my stuff is not pie in the sky, it’s not kumbaya, it’s been field tested, has to be real and that’s really also why I keep changing how I write about this work. So it’s accessible.
Gabe Larsen: (01:59)
Hmm. Yeah. I mean the practitioner always makes a difference rather than someone who just talked about it or consulted on it. So I think that gets into the talk track that I wanted to dive into today. We were talking a little bit about one of the books that you’ve written and this is, “Would You do That to Your Mother?” So, start big picture for us. Can you talk just a little bit about why the book, why you want to get it, what it’s a little bit about it, etc.
Jeanne Bliss: (02:24)
Absolutely. Yeah. So this is my fourth book and what’s happening with customer experience, like anything that becomes something that is in the conscience and everybody wants it or it’s in their top two things for their CEO is now, suddenly, we have a capacity to do two things. Overcomplicate the heck out of it or water it down so much that it means nothing. So it means either nothing or everything and we make it more and more complicated and or inaccessible. What’s happening with customer experience is that both of those things are happening and while we’re getting into journey mapping and all of these other things, which are fine, we’re also missing the basics of what’s still impacting each of us as human beings, as we try to get value from the companies who serve us. And so this is a fast track to identify those common things that affect our lives that either don’t show us honor or trust or don’t honor or trust our employees. And so it’s broken into four categories. You’ll recognize them as a human being, and a customer, and as our leader — leading service or support people and serving customers — you will recognize these are the four major areas that you have the opportunity to impact. And so that’s why I wrote it, to make it very accessible and fast track people into this world.
Gabe Larsen: (03:50)
And then, from a title perspective, I do have to ask, how did you — where’d that one come from? I mean it’s certainly unique.
Jeanne Bliss: (03:57)
So, originally the working title was “Why Oh Why?” Why oh why do companies charge $7 for a bottle of water? Why oh why, la la la. And at one point in time this, “would you do that your mother” jumped in because what’s happening is in a well-intended or not deliberate way, we’re letting things seep into our business that we wouldn’t do to the people that we care about in our lives. And so this is a conscience question. It goes all the way back to the beginning of my career when I went to Lands’ End and was training 2,000 phone operators. So, and back then, Gary Coleman, the founder of Lands’ End actually called me the conscience of the company. And so this is a conscience question and you can ask this question at every level. You can ask it personally as you’re interacting with the customer, maybe you’re not in charge of that policy.
Jeanne Bliss: (04:51)
But, would you deliver the know the way that you might consider delivering it to your mother or whatever it is. When you’re in the middle of an organization creating processes that put customers through 50,000 hoops, it kind of forces you to think about that. At a leadership level it gets you into those more strategic decisions about how you make the money in the business.
Gabe Larsen: (05:16)
I love it. I love it.
Jeanne Bliss: (05:16)
So, yeah, and again, back to my thing of simplifying. Whether you’ve got a major customer experience transformation effort on, or you’re leading a big part of the organization, we can start asking, would we do this — it doesn’t have to be your mother — somebody you love. Would you do this to your favorite aunt? Would you do this to your uncle? Would you do this to a friend or a neighbor —
Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Keep it close, keep it personal.
Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
It’s just about to humanize. There’s this person at the end of every decision that we make. Full stop.
Gabe Larsen: (05:46)
Yeah. Yeah. So, okay, so that’s the title. That’s one of the reasons you bought the book, or you wrote the book. These pillars that you talked about. Let’s dive into those just a little bit and talk about how that can then be translated into changing the way we do customer service. Maybe start at the top.
Jeanne Bliss: (06:01)
Sure. You bet. So four categories or four pillars of the book. The first one is around enabling your employees to rise. We do things inadvertently inside our business that gets in their way. We wire them into policies that they have to constantly feel bad about enforcing. We don’t trust them to make the call —
Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
All true, all true.
Jeanne Bliss: (06:23)
We don’t trust them in the moment with data about customers. We don’t give them the opportunity to make a call or extend grace or exceptions without touching the desk or passing it on or escalating five times. The way we hire; we’re hiring perhaps for technical skills before we hire for care. We inadvertently put our people in the position of being survey score beggars. We’re coaching them to score versus coaching behaviors. On and on, giving them — and there’s this other thing around spirit in an organization. It’s what I call congruence of heart and habit. Are you letting people live their values at work? Are we letting them be memory makers or are we making them watch a clock and tick off boxes that there’s no way that they can go beyond checking boxes? Are we giving them the ability to put themselves in the moment and leave the customer with a memory that is, “Man, I want to deal with these people again.”
Gabe Larsen: (07:28)
Wow. Wow. I mean, as I hear that list, I’m just like, wow. That’s so many things that we can do right or do wrong. If you were coaching an organization, is there a place you typically say, this is where you should start on enabling employees? Like make sure you hire right or make sure you get this part first because it’s kind of the baby step to getting, enabling employees to really rise or thrive.
Jeanne Bliss: (07:54)
Yeah. A couple things. One is be really clear about who you’re hiring for. What kind of humans do you want in your organization and how do you want to show them, help them show up. The second one is around trust. You know, trust given is trust received. If we have — if we’re hiring the right people, then we should also be identifying the places where customers are constantly hitting their wall, hitting their head and asking for exceptions. Two things here: help your people identify stupid rules or policies and be open to that feedback. Reward people for bringing it up and then get rid of them. So that’s number one. And number two is trust your people. This is what I call leadership bravery. Trust your people in the moment to make the call. For example, um, you know, one of the things I say in the book is, “would you turn down your mom’s warranty claim three days out warranty?” Well, you don’t want to, but we force our people into these black and white things.
Jeanne Bliss: (09:02)
But what about if we were brave? So we hire them for the right reasons. We know they have these humanity plus technical skills and then we give them —
Gabe Larsen: (09:10)
Empower them a little bit.
Jeanne Bliss: (09:10)
— enough. It’s not blind trust. This isn’t about do what’s right, the customer’s always right. Everybody gets confused. This is about putting them in a position of growing the business by making the right call. You may be — if you’re turning down somebody’s warranty in three days out of warranty, it may be a 20 year five line of business customer. Goodbye Charlie and the customer’s gone, man, we’re dumb. The employee’s going, man, we’re dumb. And I didn’t want to do that, but I was forced to do that after I escalated it five times. So we’re doing two things here. What we have done is condition our customers — think about your own life — to do what I call service roulette. You ever call an airline more than once?
Gabe Larsen: (09:59)
No comment, no comment.
Jeanne Bliss: (09:59)
Okay, so you call it — I love the airlines but the poor airlines people are put through the ringer– call an airline more than once, you reach a policy cop, probably a nice smart person, but they’re just going to spout it off. And so what we do is we hang up and we dial again, hoping for somebody else every time we call. Every one of those calls, what does that do? That costs the company money.
Gabe Larsen: (10:24)
That costs tons. Yeah.
Jeanne Bliss: (10:26)
So service roulette is costing the company money. Not trusting our people is costing the company money, not only in customers who depart, but in employees whose spirit is diminished and don’t want to be a part of: A, a company that makes such dumb black and white rules that they’re forcing their best customers away, and a company that doesn’t trust them to make the call in the moment.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. Wow. Wow. Interesting. I like that. You call it service roulette? Is that what you said?
Jeanne Bliss: (10:58)
Yeah. Service roulette.
Gabe Larsen: (10:58)
Boy do I play that. I was laughing because I, yeah, I do that too often. I didn’t know there was a name for it. I thought I was being sneaky.
Jeanne Bliss: (11:07)
I made that up. So in that — those were the top eight things. Do we honor the dignity of customer’s lives? Do we show up [inaudible] company? Do we trust the frontline to extend grace? Number two, do we hire people with the ability to care? Three, are we doing any survey score begging? Four — our people hate that — do we check our bias at the door? We’ve got built in biases. We have to coach people. Five, do we have any rules that inhibit people’s ability to serve? Six. Do we reward for congruence of heart and habit? Seven, and do we nurture memory makers?
Gabe Larsen: (11:42)
Wow. Wow. Interesting. Okay. So that’s all about enabling employees. You’ve got a whole eight kind of recipe process. So let’s go number two now. I want to see if we can get through a couple more. We may not get through all four pillars, but the next one was easy, right? Make it easy to do business with you. How do you think about that one?
Jeanne Bliss: (11:59)
I actually call that chapter, because this is a mom book, “Don’t Make Me Feed You Soap.”
Gabe Larsen: (12:05)
Now for someone who actually — I have this one memory, you’ll love this Jeanne. I have this one memory. I’m walking home from a church activity and someone did something and I swore at them and my mom happened to be right there and boy did she feed me soap. So I have eaten soap before.
Jeanne Bliss: (12:22)
I have eaten a lot of soap.
Gabe Larsen: (12:23)
It tastes terrible.
Jeanne Bliss: (12:25)
It’s terrible. Yeah. Okay, so this is all about those things that roll under the feet of the call center people. Now here is how you can solve this everybody out there; start keeping track of how many times you get this. Okay? Do you honor customer’s time in their clock, right? How often has an airline pushed away from the gate and caused an on time departure? Or are you waiting for a refrigerator repairman and waiting for half a day? Are you put in a queue? So are you building your business on customer time or your time? You take the monkey off the customer’s back and if you’ve ever tried to put in an insurance claim or lost your luggage and you call and instead of helping you, the company gives you homework.
Gabe Larsen: (13:14)
Sounds like you’ve been through this. I think we’ve all been through this before.
Jeanne Bliss: (13:16)
Do we let customers depart gracefully? You know? Remember that whole AOL thing a million years ago? Well, we won’t get into it, but a graceful departure can lead to an eventual return. But if you badger your customer, you penalize them for leaving early. You do all of this handcuffs stuff, the customer is going to say, well now of course I left ‘because they’re meanies.
Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
Yeah, boy, boy. It seems like a lot of people do that. That’s a bad one. That’s a big problem.
Jeanne Bliss: (13:50)
Do we make it easy to get help? Are you getting old waiting on hold? Do we make our customers feel like a hot potato passing them around? These are the things that affect all of our lives. Would you send your pile of paperwork to your mom?
Gabe Larsen: (14:10)
Yeah, I probably wouldn’t. I don’t know if she’d do it.
Jeanne Bliss: (14:13)
So those are some of the eight in that section.
Gabe Larsen: (14:16)
Yeah, I love that. So, number two is all about we gotta make sure we do — It’s easy, but I love that. Looking at it from the customer’s viewpoint, not just our own. Because we’re always like, well, this process is very efficient, but might be efficient for you. It’s not efficient for the customer. Okay.
Jeanne Bliss: (14:30)
In fact, I call this section, build your respect delivery machine. Are you respecting? Does the customer at every turn feel like you’re respecting them?
Gabe Larsen: (14:39)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great way to summarize it. Okay. That’s pillar two. Where do you go for pillar three?
Jeanne Bliss: (14:45)
Pillar three is around rebuilding your business from the customer standpoint. I call it put others before yourself.
Gabe Larsen: (14:53)
Gabe Larsen: (14:55)
Does your hello focus on people or process? Ever walk into a reservation center or a hospital? You’ve got somebody, eyes down, and they hand you a clipboard, right? Or a business room or whatever, or you call to put in a claim. Instead of saying, Hey, how are you? They say, what’s your policy number? Or order number, ticket number? What — the hello? That is the first impression of who you are as people. Do you allow for human error? If you return that rental car three minutes late, are you going to get dinged for half a day?
Gabe Larsen: (15:38)
Yeah. Do you put — I like that. Do you put people first or put people above process?
Jeanne Bliss: (15:46)
So it’s redesigning. Do we build for customer emotions? I have a story in there about the emotional and health impact of the hospital gown. People actually get sicker in hospitals wearing those crummy gowns where you can see your underpants. You know what I mean? Cause you’re cold. You’re cold and vulnerable and all this other stuff.
Gabe Larsen: (16:08)
It’s a terrible experience. It’s a terrible experience. You’re right.
Jeanne Bliss: (16:13)
Do you walk customers out of trouble spots? When the power goes out, are you there immediately saying, “we know your power’s out and here’s what’s happening.” So, it’s a bunch of prodding in this section to have you rethink what you, how you run your business.
Gabe Larsen: (16:29)
And that literally is, I mean, it’s examining almost the entire process beginning to end and seeing where you can put, not you first, but the customer first.
Jeanne Bliss: (16:38)
The starting point of the work is different.
Gabe Larsen: (16:40)
Yeah. Okay. Got it. Okay. Then number four, where do you go for number four? We’re cruising now.
Jeanne Bliss: (16:45)
We’re cruising. It’s called take the high road. It’s getting rid of the bad legacy practices that seep in. Again, we’re good people, but we let crummy things seep in. So for example, are we honoring customers as assets? Ever see your phone company give a better deal to a new customer then you spin around?
Gabe Larsen: (17:07)
TV. My TV company. Yeah.
Jeanne Bliss: (17:09)
I’m a multi million miler flyer of an airline and I lost my club card. You don’t need them anymore. But at the time I said, “could I have another club card?” And the woman looked me in the eye and said, “that’ll be $30 please.” We make the silliest decision. Does two way trust define our actions? Every relationship that’s created between a customer and a company comes because customers have to trust us. But are we trusting them in return? Read your fine print, do a trust audit. Is there anything in there that says we don’t trust you? Do you have any gotcha moments? The Columbus public library, metropolitan library got rid of late fees because their whole purpose is to help young minds read. But if you’ve gotta return a book before it’s ended because you’re worried about the late fee, we’re completely getting in the way.
Gabe Larsen: (18:05)
That goes against your whole policy. Yeah. Your whole vision.
Jeanne Bliss: (18:09)
Your whole reason for being — yeah. Or gullibility tax. You bring your car in to have the radiator looked at it and there’s now a $2,000 bill that’s presented to you because it’s an opportunity. And then a nickel and diming, you know, who loves cracking open a $7 bottle of water in the middle of the night, charging you what you can. And is your apology your finest hour. I know. It’s funny.
Gabe Larsen: (18:40)
The seven dollar bottle of water. Oh my goodness. I hate that experience.
Jeanne Bliss: (18:44)
The cool thing about this book is I actually hired a cartoonist. So there are cartoons for every single one of these.
Gabe Larsen: (18:50)
Well it’s, that’s so much. Yeah. I mean there’s a lot to take on and I appreciate you kind of running through in a fairly quick manner, the four pillars. As you take a step back and you think of the audience, you’ve got these customer service leaders trying to nail down some of these principles. Where — the baby steps or the place to start. Do you typically go to pillar one, two? How do you coach people? Guys, there’s a lot, but start simple. That’s why I loved your message. Start simple, start here. Where do you kind of go?
Jeanne Bliss: (19:17)
I would definitely do the start with the first chapter because I say what’s on the inside shows up on the outside and the chapters around employees and it’s called “be the person I raised you to be.” [inaudible] things around them, silly momisms. And there’s a quiz at the end of the book and if you want to, I will give you the first chapter and the quiz that you can put as a link that people–
Gabe Larsen: (19:40)
We’ll absolutely do that. Let’s get that after. And that probably answers my next question. So if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you and some of the things you do, the book, we’ll certainly put those notes in. Anywhere else you’d pushed them to take the next step in learning about Jeanne and what you do.
Jeanne Bliss: (19:55)
Sure. Definitely. I have a really simple website. I married a guy named Bliss, so my website is Customer Bliss, B L I S S happiness.com. I did not make that up. Customerbliss.com and there are all kinds of goodies and things. There’s a whole section called downloads. Many, many gifts for you to drive this work inside your business.
Gabe Larsen: (20:17)
Okay. All right, well Jeanne, really appreciate you taking the time for the audience. I’m sure you’d love that. Great information, high level, tactical, strategic. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Have a great day. Jeanne, thanks again for joining.
Jeanne Bliss: (20:30)
You’re welcome. Thanks. And Hey everybody, keep pushing that rock up the hill.
Gabe Larsen: (20:33)
Take care. Bye bye.
Exit Voice: (20:42)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Adrian Swinscoe joins Gabe Larsen to discuss his philosophies and strategies for improving the customer service experience. For the last 25 years, Adrian has been consulting individuals and companies on their marketing and business development, customer insight, and customer service spaces. He has a passion for helping businesses create positive spaces for their customers and helping organizations simplify their strategies to make them more effective. Adrian is also the author of How to Wow and Punk CX, the latter being one of the subjects of discussion in this episode of the podcast. Listen to the full episode below.
What is Punk CX?
Punk CX is a new way of looking at customer service that Adrian thought of back in 2017. He was inspired by the emergence of punk music in stark contrast to the prog-rock era of the 1970s, at which time punk music became a statement to go against the norm. The creators of punk saw prog rock as becoming too measured and overly technical, and Adrian sees a lot of similarities in the customer experience space. Adrian believes that companies were getting too meticulous with their strategies. When instead, they needed to develop more of a punk mindset. Adrian describes this mindset by stating, “It was a very DIY, democratic, back to basics approach. It was more about mindset and daring to be different and being okay that not everybody would like it.” If companies can drop the technicalities and start committing to action-based solutions in their customer service, they will have a greater capacity to help their customers and grow their business.
Connecting Strategy with Business Objectives
To illustrate this point, Adrian shares an interesting story about the interviews he has had with business executives. First, when executives are asked what their customer service strategies are, they repeat all the typical buzzwords; such as omnichannel, effortless, digital, connected, etc. – all responding in similar ways. When asked follow up questions, their answers are even more vague. Adrian recalls, “the second question I say is . . . tell me how your strategy supports and enables the delivery of the overall business’s strategy and overall business’s objectives. And then you get some blank faces.” Overly technical customer service strategy does nothing for the business or the customer if they aren’t aligned with the business objectives. Too many organizations are draining resources on little details that aren’t connected to their business or customers. By simplifying strategies and connecting strategy and objectives, organizations will find their business growing and their customers happier and more satisfied.
How to Simplify and Amplify the Customer Service Experience
Most organizations aren’t listening to the feedback their customers give them and it’s hurting their business. Adrian quotes a study that states “only 20% of them [companies] have actually delivered and developed the resources, the content, the knowledge bases, the facilities and the tools to help customers help themselves.” While most companies know that their customers want to help themselves and don’t want to jump through the customer service hoops, they aren’t investing in finding solutions. Adrian’s recommendation for organizations to simplify and amplify the customer experience is to do the necessary research and start implementing it.
The next challenge for companies to develop punk CX is to keep evolving with their consumers. In a remarkable comment about the true nature of customer service and the need to have a punk attitude about it, Adrian explains:
“People’s queries and inquiries and problems and their questions, they change and evolve over time. So that content needs to be managed and maintained and upgraded on a consistent basis. And so, you need to make an ongoing investment in that if you want to keep ahead of that curve. Because absolutely guaranteed, your products, your services will evolve and therefore the problems or the questions or the queries that your customers will have will evolve as well.”
By researching and continually investing in the customer experience, companies will stay ahead of the curve and give the consumers exactly what they want, the means and tools to help themselves.
To learn more about punk customer experience strategies, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
What is Punk CX and Why Should You Care | Adrian Swinscoe
Into Voice (00:04):
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen (00:11):
Alight, welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking about a little different perspective on how you should be looking at customer service. And to do that, we brought in Adrian Swinscoe. He’s actually the author of a couple books. One that I’ve come across is How to Wow and we’ll be talking a little bit about that today. Then, there is actually another one that came across; we were talking a little bit pre-show, it’s called Punk CX and we’re going to start with that one. He does run his own show at Adrianswinscoe.com. But I’m excited to have you on the show Adrian. How are you?
Adrian Swinscoe (00:49):
I’m great Gabe and nice to see you. Nice to speak to you. Nice to be on your show. Thanks for the invite.
Gabe Larsen (00:56):
Yeah, it’s been refreshing. Again, I did just kind of stumble across Adrian if I’m honest, and I liked some of his content, so I wanted to interview him for this podcast. But this “punk CX” thing definitely jumped out so I want to dive into it. But, before we do Adrian, can you tell us a little about yourself and kind of your background?
Adrian Swinscoe (01:15):
Okay. So quickly, I work in this service experience sort of space and have been in this sort of space for, crumbs, probably somewhere in the region of 11 or 12 years. I’ve been, I have a background as an economist, a teacher, I worked as a business developer in a corporate environment doing an innovation related sort of projects, worked as a general, sort of like a freelance, independent consultant. Nearly bought a steel company at one point. So I nearly became a steel magnet, which was a near miss. Unfortunately, I wanted to be able to wander around with a big hat and a cigar, but that’s obviously in a parallel universe. But right now, I am in this sort of space. My, I describe myself as a lover of simplicity and the human touch with a really useful bit of technology thrown in. And the thing that I really am interested in, and focus on, is how do we build organizations that deliver better outcomes for both their customers and their people.
Gabe Larsen (02:27):
Yeah, yeah. I love it. Great introduction. I’m sorry to hear about the steel mill. Maybe in a future life to your point you will be able to do that.
Adrian Swinscoe (02:36):
You’ll see me on a sidewalk somewhere kind of like smoking a big fat cigar.
Gabe Larsen (02:41):
I’m just not picturing it, but it’ll take me a little time. I’ll get there. So let’s dive into this. That was a great kind of intro of you. I was a little bit taken back as you were talking about this thing of “punk CX.” I was like, Whoa, that feels, truthfully different than I think a lot of people have framed it. Give me kind of the why, what, how. Why “punk CX,” and what does it mean?
Adrian Swinscoe (03:05):
So I’ll give you the short, I mean, I will try and make it as short as possible. About, back in December, 2017, you know, as is my one from time to time, I was in the pub with my friend O’Sheen drinking a couple of pints of Guinness and I was having a bit of a rant about the state of the experience and service and experience sort of space. And I was getting frustrated by the idea that we weren’t seeing really significant material kind of changes in the experience that one; companies were delivering, and two; that their customers were getting. And I was almost a bit like banging on the table, just, I wish some people would do something a bit more punk. And when I say punk I don’t mean the green hair and piercings and kind of like destruction and loud music and raging at people.
Gabe Larsen (03:58):
Adrian Swinscoe (03:59):
I mean, just doing something which dares to be different. It’s a little bit kind of stand out from the crowd, that’s a bit more experimental, that is a bit of a bit of a change. That idea sat with me for about six months and in the summer of 2018 I started to think about it, started to think about that a bit more deeply. And it made me think about where does, where did punk come from? Now punk came, exploded out of the back of prog-rock in the 1970s. Now prog-rock, for anybody that is a music fan, it was popular. It was also accused of being overly elaborate, somewhat self-indulgent, kind of overly technical. You almost needed a PhD in music to be able to be part of a prog-rock band. In some respects, and in danger of disappearing up its own arse — i.e. it was more interested than it was, maybe, in its fans.
Gabe Larsen (04:59):
I love it.
Adrian Swinscoe (05:00):
And then punk exploded out of the back of that with this idea of like going, well anybody can make music. And it was a very DIY democratic, back to basics approach. It was more about mindset and daring to be different and being okay that not everybody would like it. And I thought that’s cool, but then I thought, you know what’s funny, it’s like the service and experience space I think is starting to exhibit some of the same characteristics as prog-rock did in the 1970s — i.e. It’s becoming overly specialized, functionalized, measured, certified, professionalized, blah, blah blah, yada, yada, yada. All that sort of stuff.
Gabe Larsen (05:37):
It’s over complicated. Yeah, over complicated so many things. Got it.
Adrian Swinscoe (05:40):
And also get into the same point where it’s becoming more interested in itself then actually the people that are supposed to benefit from it — i.e. our customers. And that sort of explains a lot of the lack of real movement and improvement in this whole space, particularly for employees and customers.
Gabe Larsen (05:56):
Adrian Swinscoe (05:58):
And I thought, well, if that’s true, then what would a punk version of CX look like? And I was a bit like, that’s cool. Well let me figure something out. And then, what it spoke to was this idea of like trying to inject a bit of urgency, a call to action into the experience space to say, stop over complicating things. Stop, get out from behind your desk and your spreadsheets and your dashboards and all these different sort of things and do stuff that really matters to your customers.
Gabe Larsen (06:34):
Adrian Swinscoe (06:34):
And so I wrote the book, it’s more like a fanzine or a manifesto. I call it a visual slap in the face for the customer experience industry because it’s not like any other business book in that it’s not 50,000 words of black ink on white paper. It’s like a full color, short pithy to the point. It’s almost designed like an album and that rather than having chapters, I talk about having a track listing. So you end up with this, here’s a title, here’s a few short words that kind of basically makes the point and then ask a couple of questions or maybe just makes a point that says, right, now crack on, get on with it. I’m more interested in better action that produces better results. That’s it.
Gabe Larsen (07:17):
Yeah, yeah. It does seem like I’m still newer to the space. Your point on just kind of a lot of talk, a lot of over complication and just this idea when you kind of deuce it to me, you know, let’s simplify, let’s focus on what matters most. And I mean, again, some of the other things on the outsider, they’re important, but they’re not as important as what the goal of this whole function is; that is obviously to make the customer’s life easier and better. So, as you’ve kind of taken that idea of “punk CX,” I assume you’ve probably seen this in different areas, you’ve consulted different companies. Let’s go into the, not necessarily the tactical, but how would you start thinking about some ways to clear that crap out and just simplify CX or the experience that customers are having with different brands?
Adrian Swinscoe (08:12):
So one of the things I would say, where I would really start, cause you can get a little tactical and you start fiddling around in different sort of things. I think the one thing I would say is that, I think we actually have to start fundamentally at a strategic kind of level. Okay. And the thing that strikes me, and this is where we’re, I think we’re getting caught, it’s creating a lot of problems, is that — I’ve met a bunch of people and particularly leaders, directors, managers in this sort of space. You turn around to them and go, right, fine. I want to ask you a couple of questions. And the first question is, what’s your experience strategy? And they go, right, okay. And they go, we want to create an effortless, digital, connected, omnichannel, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Gabe Larsen (09:02):
Buzzword, buzzword, buzzword,
Adrian Swinscoe (09:04):
Experience. And then it goes like, you’ve got a room of like 50 people and pretty much everybody’s saying the same thing, right? And you go, brilliant, okay, thank you for that. I’m not going to make you wrong just yet, but I will thank you for your answers. And then the second question I say is go, okay, now, tell me how your strategy supports and enables the delivery of the overall business’s strategy and overall business’s objectives. And then you get some blank faces.
Gabe Larsen (09:39):
You get some blanks. Yeah, I can see that.
Adrian Swinscoe (09:42):
And then you end up with this kind of thing with people, and then you’ve got blank faces and then you get some twinges of panic and nervous twitches and stuff going on because people know. Then they’re kind of like, oh, okay. It feels really obvious, but actually that’s the thing. If you’re not connected to what the business is going to really do, then — in time, and I think that time is actually starting, is coming right now, is that people start to challenge the worth of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Right? So that’s one of the big questions is because what we’ve seen is this proliferation of activity, whether it’s like this or that or the other; I don’t want to name and shame any particular areas.
Gabe Larsen (10:32):
Adrian Swinscoe (10:32):
But yet out of all this explosion of activity, you got to look at it and go, yeah, but none of it’s all connected. None of it makes sense. None of it is driving positive changes and outcomes that make a difference to the business and therefore make a difference to customers.
Gabe Larsen (10:48):
Yeah. So, one is that idea that we get so caught up in the minutia sometimes, we need to make sure that we are strategically aligning with what the business wants.
Adrian Swinscoe (10:59):
Gabe Larsen (11:03):
It’s simple but it’s true.
Adrian Swinscoe (11:04):
I know, completely. It’s a bit like, you have to be measured and considerate and everything that you can do because ultimately, it’s about delivering value for both the business and the customers.
Gabe Larsen (11:15):
Adrian Swinscoe (11:16):
It’s not about what you want to do. It’s about what is required.
Gabe Larsen (11:20):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Adrian Swinscoe (11:22):
And right now we’ve got this elaborate, nest of things; many of which don’t make any sense. So it just feels an expensive mess if you’re an exec — a C level executive looking down at this and going, we’re spending all this money, what are we getting?
Gabe Larsen (11:36):
What are we actually getting?
Adrian Swinscoe (11:38):
And I am kind of getting letters and emails and tweets and all this stuff coming from customers going, what the? I’m spending all this money and I’m trying really hard and they’re still bombarding me with all this crap.
Gabe Larsen (11:54):
All this kind of nonsense. Right? Yeah. Because it just doesn’t work for the customer ultimately. Got it. Got it. So, one is strategy. The other thing I wanted you to kind of click into, you and I talked about this a little pre show, but there was some research you came across and it did feel like another one of those points that was like, duh! Why don’t we do the simple stuff versus making the complicated stuff you want to touch on that briefly?
Adrian Swinscoe (12:18):
Yeah. So, one of the big things that really, really frustrates me is this idea that we know that customers don’t really want to get in touch with us, they don’t really enjoy the idea of the prospect of having to phone and then navigate a phone tree, or send an email and wait for a response, to do all that sort of stuff. So, if you have a problem that you think is a reasonably simple problem, we like to help ourselves. Right? So even my mom and dad who are in their seventies will probably like to do some research and figure out how to do something, try to figure out how to do something first before we try and involve somebody else. Now, the interesting thing is that there’s some research that says that somewhere in the region of 60%, if not more, of all inquiries into help desk, support teams, contact centers, whatever, come about for two reasons. One is that your customers can’t find what they’re looking for on your website or you’ve just failed to answer their question the first time around and you sort of messed it up. So you’ve got this kind of 60% of your inbound demand for help can be solved either by you being better at solving things the first time around, or two, helping customers help themselves. Interestingly, Zendesk, who is one of your competitors, so asked for permission to talk about this beforehand, they produce a piece of research, which said something in the region like 50% of all companies, north of 50% of all companies know this, they understand this, yet only 20% of them have actually delivered and developed the resources, the content, the knowledge bases, the facilities and the tools to help customers help themselves.
Gabe Larsen (14:15):
Adrian Swinscoe (14:15):
And I’m going, my mind is exploding here. I’m like, good people. Listen to your customers, hear what they’re saying and do the bloody work.
Gabe Larsen (14:23):
Adrian Swinscoe (14:25):
Cause I’ll tell you what, it will make your life easier.
Gabe Larsen (14:28):
Yeah. Yeah. What do we — I mean I love the point because again, I think that’s kind of that, it’s just the simplicity of CX. We get caught up in all the things. Would you say — that 20% number, give or take, it’s very interesting. Well, why don’t we? This does drive back to this “punk CX” thing. We just, we get caught up in all the minutia and we lose that simplicity. That’s the whole point.
Adrian Swinscoe (14:53):
I think the thing that is, that’s part of it. I think there’s also the other part of it is that it requires us to do different things.
Gabe Larsen (15:00):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:01):
And the different things include being able to develop, manage, and maintain content that responds to our understanding of what customers want.
Gabe Larsen (15:18):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:19):
Naturally, an organization will look and go, well, developing content requires people with different skills. Whether it’s the data analysis and listening skills and then the producing of the content and the quality management and the digital uploading and thereof et cetera, et cetera. But, that requires people and that requires a cost.
Gabe Larsen (15:46):
Adrian Swinscoe (15:46):
Right. And what they’ve got to do is they’ve got to try and manage off. We’re making an investment here in terms of the development thereof of that content against how much we’re going to save on the inbound inquiries, right? And you’ve got to get that balance. Now, the trap that people fall into is they’ll go, Ooh, we’ll develop that content and then that demand is going to disappear. I’m like, no! Because here’s the thing, people’s queries and inquiries and problems and their questions, they change and evolve over time.
Gabe Larsen (16:20):
Adrian Swinscoe (16:20):
So that content needs to be managed and maintained and upgraded on a consistent basis. And so, you need to make an ongoing investment in that if you want to keep ahead of that curve. Because absolutely guaranteed, your products, your services will evolve and therefore the problems or the questions or the queries that your customers will have will evolve as well.
Gabe Larsen (16:48):
I love it.
Adrian Swinscoe (16:48):
And so if you’re not developing that knowledge consistently, this demand here, this inbound query demand may go down a little bit, but it may spring back up again as you do a new product launch. It’s an ongoing investment. You’ve got to try and get that balance there.
Gabe Larsen (17:06):
And people just really struggle finding that balance. That’s a really interesting insight. I liked that. I liked that a lot. Well Adrian, man, there’s always more to discuss, always more to go through. We didn’t even get to the, to the 60, what is it, 63 principles in the “Wow” book.
Adrian Swinscoe (17:23):
68 in fact.
Gabe Larsen (17:24):
Adrian Swinscoe (17:25):
I did want it to be 69, but my publisher wouldn’t let me go there.
Gabe Larsen (17:31):
That’s a great way to end this show. We may have to bring you back to dive into maybe not 69, but a couple of these, “How to Wow” customers going forward. But I do appreciate you jumping on. If someone wants to learn a little bit more about you and understand more about Adrian Swinscoe, where should they go?
Adrian Swinscoe (17:49):
Just going to look me up on Adrianswinscoe.com , Which is A D R I A N S W I N S C O E.com. You’ll find everything you need over there.
Gabe Larsen (18:00):
Well, again, really appreciate it, I love the simplicity message. I think it’s something we need. So thanks for taking the time and for the audience, Have a fantastic day.
Adrian Swinscoe (18:08):
Dude, thanks Gabe.
Exit Voice (18:16):
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
Mary Drummond, CMO of Worthix, a specialist at improving customer experiences, joins Gabe Larsen on the Customer Service Secrets podcast to discuss the fundamental elements of building beneficial relationships between companies and customers.
The Value Of Time Well Spent
Mary shares an experience she had during a podcast interview with Joe Pine, the decorated author of the book The Experience Economy. As they discussed customer experience, Joe said, “Mary, when people talk about customer experience, they’re talking about something entirely different than what I’m talking about.” When most people talk about customer experience, they’re actually referring to customer service, customer satisfaction, customer relationship, customer success. However, Joe’s understanding of customer experience is centered on the value of “time well spent”. Mary adds to this point, stating, “it’s taking your time to create an experience out of that purchase.” From this perspective, customer experience can be seen in terms of the economic offering of an experience.
Starting With The Customer’s Needs
In order to create these experiences, one of the best starting points is by going through the process of identifying the customer’s needs and expectations. While the advancement of innovation and technology are continually changing the ways in which expectations are expressed, many of the fundamental needs remain the same. Mary shares an example of the basic need of transportation to convey this point. Before the invention of cars, people still needed to get around, but they either walked, rode a bicycle, or used horses to do so. “Now, as value propositions changed, innovation and technology came around. That need was exactly the same, but the expectations of the market started changing. And as the expectations changed, companies adapted to this ever-changing speed of the customer and provided more and more innovation in the form of automobiles.” As a result, Mary claims that it is the company’s job to identify “the need of the customer according to their ever-changing expectations.”
Building on this, the customer’s experience is established through each of the interactions they have with a company. However, these interactions aren’t limited to the moment of purchase, which is the way many companies see it. The interactions customers have with companies and brands begin as soon as they realize their need, and lasts past the point of purchase. In this context, Mary defines the experience as “the sum of the interactions that work together to provide a solution to the need according to the customer’s expectations.”
The Five Drivers of Customer Satisfaction
Mary offers five of the most important drivers that influence purchasing decisions and customer satisfaction. These main determining factors are “price, quality, relationship, social proof, and brand identification.” All of these hold value to some extent when someone is deciding which food to eat, which clothes to wear, or how they are going to spend their day off. “Depending on how they weigh out in a customer’s mind, you can either increase one in order to improve that perception of a good experience, or reduce them in case it’s causing a bad experience.” By examining these drivers and how they impact the customer’s experience, we can get a better idea as to whether the customer views the experience as “time well spent”.
For more ideas on building your customer experience, listen to the Customer Service Secrets episode “The Five Key Elements that Drive Customer Experience” wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Five Key Elements that Drive Customer Experience with Mary Drummond
Intro Voice (00:04):
You’re listening to the customer service secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen (00:10):
All right, welcome everybody to today’s podcast. I’m excited to get going! We’ve got Mary Drummond. She is the CMO at Worthix. Mary, thanks so much for joining, and how are you?
Mary Drummond (00:23):
I’m good. So I’m like your marketing counterpart here at Worthix.
Gabe Larsen (00:26):
That’s right. We’re like marketing partners. I actually hope we are partnering on more stuff. Mary was just giving me a little tour of how to be a podcaster because outside of being the CMO at Worthix, she is also the podcast host of something called the “Voices of CX.” I probably can’t do it justice. Mary, can you tell us a little about yourself, the podcast and what you do over there Worthix?
Mary Drummond (00:51):
So, more than considering myself the chief marketer, I do truly consider myself the chief evangelist. And it’s probably because other than the CEO, you won’t find anyone in this world who is as passionate about this company as I am.
Gabe Larsen (01:08):
We can feel it from your voice, by the way. I’m like feeling the passion.
Mary Drummond (01:12):
I get genuinely excited when I talk about it. Yeah, but it does, it makes my job really, really easy because all I have to do is then take this passion and convert it into something that people can identify with. So, all I have to do is make sure that I’m distributing that message properly, which is why I have the podcast in the first place. Which is a great way to get that message across, to speak to the people in the industry that actually matter, that everybody else is listening to. And it’s been great because honestly, as the host of Voices of Customer Experience or Voices of CX, I have spoken to some of the most brilliant brains that are out there nowadays. And it’s been the biggest learning process of my life for sure.
Gabe Larsen (01:59):
I can only imagine. I can only imagine. I was telling Mary, I’m setting up on my own journey to become a podcast expert, so she might have to be a little bit of a coach and as I do that, but we’ll save that for a later time. Today, we want to jump into some of the trends and problems facing customer service leaders. And one of the things we were talking pre-show that actually was, you know, and I’m being honest here, it was pretty cool was this idea of not looking at it so siloed. A lot of organizations are looking customer experience as just kind of one point. And you kind of blew that up for me and said, Gabe, it’s different. It’s bigger than that. Give me a little more on that. How are you seeing that play out and why is it so important?
Mary Drummond (02:40):
So, I think that the number one problem that we have nowadays is that it’s really difficult for people to agree on a definition of customer experience. It’s just extremely problematic when you think about it. But when people are looking at the experience, there are a lot of definitions out there. The most accepted or the most commonly used one, and it’s the one that’s used by the CXPA, which is the Customer Experience Professional Association, is the idea that experiences are the sum of the interactions that a customer has with a company. Okay, in a nutshell it’s like 20 words, but basically that’s what it is. So, some of the interactions, right? And I agree with that definition, let’s say with some reservation. Now, customer experience has recently become super duper popular. Everybody’s using it. I like to say that customer experience has gone mainstream and you know, it’s gone mainstream when they start using it in advertising. So if you’re going through airports, you’ll see big signs that say, “Try to improve your airport experience.” I’m like, wow, airport experience… Turn on the radio.
Gabe Larsen (03:52):
Airport experience, well yes, there is an experience I guess. That’s weird.
Mary Drummond (03:55):
The bathroom experience when you’re at the airport is a thing too. And they’ll talk, there’s an ad running on the radio from Quicken Loans and it’s talking about improving your mortgage experience. You know, so experiences have really hit mainstream, which is pretty much a dream. I think that there are a lot of people out there, a lot of authors, a lot of thought leaders that really put a lot of work into making this happening, where people actually care, not only people, companies, investors, shareholders, everybody cares about the experience. So that is great. Now it also means that the message gets diluted and it also means that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding what it truly means. And since the industry is new, there’s still a lot of questions. So I understand that my definition of customer experience might not necessarily be same definition as the listener, but hopefully there is an overlap and hopefully what I do for you makes a little bit of sense.
Gabe Larsen (04:58):
Yeah, one quick followup on that, and I’m still kind of a newbie so I can ask this, but is there a big difference between customer experience and customer service? I mean obviously they’re interrelated, but how would you kind of coach people who are like, why are they people acting like those are different? How would you navigate that?
Mary Drummond (05:17):
That’s my favorite question…
Gabe Larsen (05:21):
If it’s too basic, you can be like that’s a dumb question.
Mary Drummond (05:23):
No, I think that it’s the first thing we need to get out of the way. Especially because your company Kustomer works very closely with customer service. And it’s probably one of the biggest focuses, right? We met at Customer Contact World, which is a conference that’s focused on bringing solutions to call centers and customer service. So there is a huge overlap, but it’s an overlap. One is not the same as the other. So as for a definition, I’m going to use what Joe Pine said. So if you know who Joe Pine is, he is the coauthor of a book called The Experience Economy, which was written in 1999. And it was the book that set off the whole idea of customer experience. So he could be called the father of customer experience. He created this whole concept.
Mary Drummond (06:26):
Yeah, and when I had Joe Pine on my podcast, what he told me super clearly was, “Mary, when people talk about customer experience, they’re talking about something entirely different than what I’m talking about.” So most people, when they’re talking about customer experience, they’re actually talking about customer service, customer satisfaction, customer relationship, customer success. What Joe Pine is talking about when he’s discussing the experience is very much the idea of time well spent. So it’s taking your time and creating an experience out of that purchase. So he’s speaking directly to the idea of an economical offering that is an experience.
Gabe Larsen (07:21):
Yeah, that’s deep. My mind… I’m kind of like, ooh… That was deep. So really, customer experience is kind of, I don’t mean to say it’s better, but it’s on top of, right? It’s like it almost, I would almost say, based on what you’re saying is it is, it’s on top of it. There may be that overlap, but it does feel like it is the broader category of some of these subsets like customer service, customer success, etc.
Mary Drummond (07:47):
Well, you see, the thing is that Pine was speaking of the economic offering of an experience. So that would be something like, Candytopia right? Where you offering an experience that people go in there and they have this experiential thing with candy and then you have like the ice cream museum or you have other things like Meow Wolf, this like immersive art. You know, so Pine was speaking specifically of these things, but if you take that concept and you apply it to business, what you understand is the experience boils down to the need. Okay, so way before products or companies or anything else, humans had needs. So if you consider before the automobile was created, people still had the need for transportation. So what were they using at the time? Horses. Bicycles. Whatever. Right, that need, that need existed. And the market was somehow providing that need.
Mary Drummond (08:55):
Now, as value propositions changed, innovation and technology came around. That need was exactly the same, but the expectations of the market started changing. And as the expectations changed, companies adapted to this ever changing speed of the customer and provided more and more innovation in the form of automobiles. And you know, nowadays we’ve got electric cars, right? If you think about it, essentially they’re still solving the same basic need that was there from the very beginning. It was being solved by a horse previously. Right? So what the experience, what I consider to be the experience in the business sense is the way that the company is providing the need of the customer according to their ever-changing expectations in the market. This goes from before the moment of purchase, the moment the customer realizes that he or she has a need, all the way to way after that purchase or transaction has concluded. Even once the relationship with the company has so-called ended, the customer continues to have expectations about that brand and about that company. So that’s what I consider the experience: The sum of the interactions that work together to provide the solution to the need according to the customer’s expectations. I know it’s a little bit confusing. That is how we see it.
Gabe Larsen (10:27):
It does seem like, and that goes back to almost my original question and maybe that fits in a little bit, right? There are different points in the customer journey, and oftentimes we have focused on one versus the other, but if you really map out that customer journey, it is pretty long, right? There are different touch points and there’s ultimately different things that drive that overall experience and therefore loyalty or satisfaction that really does drive people to again come back, repeat, you know, grow with you, stick with you, etc. Interesting. I’ve got a noodle on that one for a minute… That kind of customer experience versus customer service idea.
Mary Drummond (11:09):
Well i’ll build on it if you want. So when you have customer service, what you’re speaking of is a very particular moment or aspect of the experience, which is the relationship. So customer service is the relationship that the company builds with their customer. And relationship is crucial, it’s really, really important. But it is one of the multiple factors that ultimately affect the customer’s decision to choose to do business with your company or with another one that’s out there. So there are quite a few factors. So if we say customer experience is customer service, it is not, but customer service is definitely experiential. It’s definitely part of the experience.
Gabe Larsen (12:02):
But it is just part of it. It’s not the whole experience. The whole experience is… Well, paint that picture. So of customer experiences, what are some of the other parts of the experience that aren’t encompassed in customer service? For example:
Mary Drummond (12:17):
If we’re speaking of attending the need, right? So you talk about the need, you have to have a product, right? So when someone purchases a product, there are two like really easy cost-benefit factors that we can take into consideration there, which is quality versus price. So we always kind of make that relation, you know, like okay, I’m going to pay this much to gain this benefit. And pricing is so complex that there are whole schools of business that focus entirely on pricing. It really is very, very complex. But what we do know is that it’s not always directly related to quality. It is at times, but there are other things that affect it, like relationship is definitely one of them. People will pay more for a company that they have a good relationship with. Because it’s important to them, right? So just to kind of explain it really quick, what we believe in is that there are decision drivers and all of these decision drivers put together drives the customer to decide on how much of each they need in order to have a positive experience or negative experience. But it depends on the customer’s need and the expectation that they set for that company. So if I’m an Apple customer and I go to buy an iPhone, am I looking for price? No, I’m not looking for price. I’m not price sensitive. They are the most expensive. What am I looking for? I am probably looking for really good quality and probably looking for a very easy experience. So low effort in usability factors. Right? But there’s also something huge that’s a lot less subjective, let’s say, then price and quality, which is social proof. How you’re perceived by your tribe or by the people that surround you. So take it this way. I don’t know what phone you have, but I get really upset when I’m in a group chat and there’s that one person with a Google phone that’s making all of my text bubbles green. I’m like, just stop it already. Just go away. Stop ruining my group text.
Gabe Larsen (14:36):
I’ve got to stop you because I was having problems with the app. I have this total dovetail. It’s only five seconds, but I was that person. I literally was that person. I switched to a Samsung, or Android, I don’t know what it was. But I switched and the whole executive team at my last company, I hope they’re listening, they were all on Apple. And honestly, you would have thinked, you would have think you would have thunked. You wish you would’ve thought, that I killed the president or something. I’m dead serious. There was like a revolt. They were just like, you SOB, you mother***, we won’t put up for this. We won’t stand for it. And I got peer pressured back. So now, I mean, you’re not seeing this, but I’m holding this up for Mary. I’m back on an iPhone because I got guilty. So, sorry for the for the thing, but yes, I know what you’re talking about.
Mary Drummond (15:33):
Do you see how strong social proof is? It’s a huge motivator. And another one that’s also more subjective is brand identification. So one thing that we’ve seen recently, and you know, it’s been all over the news, is brands taking a more active stance politically and standing behind their beliefs and really making strong statements that maybe 20 years ago companies wouldn’t dare do. Oh my God, talk about something controversial. No way. But the truth is that the generations of today, they really want to stand behind something that matters to them. You know, so you have companies, I’ll give two, Nike is an example of a company that stood strongly behind what they believed in with the Kaepernick campaign that they ran last year. Or what was it, 2018? And analysts were freaking out, “Oh Nike… they’re really gonna take a hit for that.”
Mary Drummond (16:28):
And it was actually very successful, but it really could have gone either way. The truth is that Nike did some really, really deep research and they knew who their customers were and they knew that their customers would back them up even though they would lose some customers. The customers that actually mattered to them would stick around and actually create a stronger emotional connection with the brand because of that. I remember when that whole thing happened and people started burning their Nike’s. I remember going onto my phone as I’m watching the news go to Nike’s website and ordering anything. I just ordered anything because I just wanted Nike to see that people were still going to buy from them, you know? So I’m like, I’m going to buy right here just to show Nike how much I care.
Gabe Larsen (17:14):
So what do you feel like? And some of these examples are extremely powerful. Are there certain things that you’ve found that are the typical drivers to kind of get this? I mean, it sounds like, you know, price quality. You’ve listed a couple. Is there a typical list that you’re like, Gabe, these are the normal ones that companies need to be thinking about to drive that overall satisfaction?
Mary Drummond (17:35):
Yeah, we have five. Now these are the ones that we… So we did tons of scientific research and we narrowed it down to five, and these five drivers, they’re the main influencers of purchase decisions. Now, as you changed the decision, because you see the things that we make decisions all day long and ultimately on a daily basis, we’re constantly weighing out cost benefit. Let’s say, let’s call it cost benefit to decide whether or not something is worth it. So I’m going to give you an example. Waking up at 6:00 AM to go to the gym. Do you want to do it? Hell no. Hell no. Today it was raining so hard in Atlanta and I got out of bed and I’m like dragging myself out of bed. I’m like, I’m going to the gym. Did I want to? No.
Mary Drummond (18:21):
But in my mind, I’m telling myself that the benefits that I’m going to obtain from that sacrifice, what I’m giving up is worth it. So I go and I do it. So every moment in our lives, whenever we’re faced with a crossroad, we weigh out price, which can be money, it can be effort, it can be a sacrifice of morals. There are a series of things that we can do as paying a price in order to gain a benefit. And what does that benefit? It can be a better body. It could be health, it can be anything. So when it comes to purchase decisions, normally we’re giving up money in order to gain a product or service. So what we identified as the five decision drivers or purchase decisions are: Price and quality. It’s not in any specific order… It changes radically according to the customer and the situation. Price and quality, relationship, social proof, and brand identification. Each of the five things that I brought up.
Gabe Larsen (19:24):
Oh, price and quality are one. Okay. Got it. Okay, so say it one more time, one more time just so I got them. So, price and quality…
Mary Drummond (19:30):
Price, quality, relationship, that’s where you come in, right? Social proof, and brand identification. Depending on how these five factors… depending on how they weigh out in a customer’s minds, you can either increase one in order to improve that perception of a good experience, or reduce them in case it’s causing a bad experience. So if your customer has a really good impression of you and you don’t know why, you can run a Worthix survey and find out what’s causing that good impression so you can boost it.
Gabe Larsen (20:03):
Hmm, and really focus on one of those key drivers, right? Because I did like what you had mentioned pre-show, like oftentimes you guys were running these MPS survey and I’m just using MPS an example. But you know, it’s like, “Overall how satisfied are you?” And then you’re like, I don’t know what to do with that.
Mary Drummond (20:22):
Satisfaction doesn’t actually lead ultimately to the buying.
Gabe Larsen (20:24):
Well, I just love the idea of like when you talk about those drivers, I’m like, I can do something with that. I can coach my people. They can own it. We can do something. But satisfaction does feel like it’s so, uh oh, well they’re not sad. Then you gotta dive down more and more, so I like the action of building.
Mary Drummond (20:45):
Satisfaction is great if you’re doing a conformity check, right? So like I’ve got expectations as a customer, is that company living up to my expectations, yes or no? If the answer is yes, then I’m satisfied. If it’s not then no. Now am I going to leave you because I’m not satisfied?
Gabe Larsen (21:04):
Personally, I don’t believe that someone… it’s probably is all over the board. Some people, yes. Some people, no. I don’t know if it’s predictive of what we’re talking about here.
Mary Drummond (21:18):
It’s not because it’s only one factor. So if the price is really, really good, I might stay with you even if you suck. If I’m looking to buy like family heirloom that I want to pass onto my daughter when she grows up, I’m probably not going to measure the price because what I’m looking for is quality. I’m looking for durability, I’m looking for something that’s going to withstand the test of time, right? If I’m looking for a quick fix, something that I’m going to use one or two times, why on earth would I spend all this money for something temporary? So I’ll sacrifice quality, then I’ll probably sacrifice relationship cause all I want is this product for like whatever you know a party. Now what happens is… I’m a customer of Comcast. Okay, this this like the perfect example, because Comcast is known for having truly terrible relationship with their customers right now. Why is it that after five years with Comcast, I am still with Comcast even though their relationship sucks? Because I don’t need to call them that often.
Gabe Larsen (22:23):
It’s quality. It’s finding this balance between the different drivers.
Mary Drummond (22:29):
And when I think about the effort that I’ll have to leave Comcast and go to their competition, and then is there competition going to be that much better? Not necessarily, right? So in that specific example of Comcast, I’m not going to leave. But then again, internet isn’t a market that’s that commoditized. You don’t have that many players out there. It’s not like retail where you have hundreds of options. So depending on the industry you’re in, if you’re in an ultra commoditized market where price isn’t a differentiator, nor is quality, then you really have to stand out on other things like relationship.
Gabe Larsen (23:06):
You start to play those different games, yeah.
Mary Drummond (23:09):
And that’s where you have to innovate, truly innovate in the experience. So, you know, an example that I give all the time is Chewy. I don’t know if you know who Chewy is, it’s like a subscription for pet food. It’s like the most basic thing in the world. Chewy doesn’t sell cheap dog food. They’re more expensive than Amazon. They don’t sell super high quality or any different quality than all of the other pet stores out there. They’re selling the exact same products everybody else is selling. So an ultra commoditized market. How does Chewy get their customers to stay with them? How do they guarantee that loyalty if they’re not different at all in price and quality? Well, they really work hard on their customer service. They really work hard in their relationship. They like cultivate this intimate relationship with their customers. They’ll write handwritten cards. My dog got a birthday card! A birthday card in the mail from Chewy! These are these little things that make a difference.
Gabe Larsen (24:22):
Fascinating. Fascinating. So these companies got to find the different things that really drive their differentiators or behaviors, which really can separate them in the market. And you’ve narrowed it down to five doesn’t mean you have to do one could do the other. It’s about finding what’s unique in your industry and potentially commoditize a non-commoditized market. Well, Mary, that was not what I expected. I had like 10 more questions we’re going to have to bring you on again next time. But I really like this idea of experience looking at the whole journey and then the drivers that potentially drive that and you obviously narrowed it down to five. I’m going to have to think a little bit about that.
Gabe Larsen (25:02):
So as we wrap, if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what y’all do over there at Worthix, what’s the best way to do that?
Mary Drummond (25:13):
Okay, well I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn and Instagram and everywhere is like @drummondmary, it’s really easy to find me. I’m like the one and only. You find some other people, but they look very sketchy. So don’t go with them. I’m like the one and only @drummondmary who looks like a person that would give you lots of interesting thought leadership.
Gabe Larsen (25:32):
So don’t follow them, follow her.
Mary Drummond (25:34):
Don’t follow them. You can also find me on Medium if that’s where you get your fix. And worthix.com to learn more about Worthix.
Gabe Larsen (25:42):
I love it. I love it. Well, it does it seem like a cool technology.I love the talk track and I’m looking forward to interacting more. Thanks again for joining and I wish everybody a fantastic day.
Exit Voice (25:58):
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Vikas Bhambri, Senior Vice President of Sales and CX at Kustomer, joins Gabe Larsen in discussing how both human customer service agents and artificial intelligence (AI) are mutually beneficial in the development of real and positive customer experiences.
AI Bots Alone Cannot Solve Customers’ Problems
The artificial intelligence bots of today’s world are not only growing in popularity, but they are also growing in capability. They are the focus of various customer service conferences around the globe; but are they being utilized in the correct way? Vikas Bhambri, with his 20 years of experience in customer service, claims that even though they are receiving growing amounts of attention, people do not seem to understand where AI bots show their strengths.
Bhambri discusses how everyone is “hyper fixated… it’s getting kind of buzzwordy… [but] the key to me is, let’s think about the customer. Let’s start with the customer and the experience that they want, whatever you want to offer them, and then let’s figure out where you appropriately position the bot versus the human being.” Only in the future, when innovations permit even further data for both bot and human, can they coexist in beneficial harmony.
Knowing Your Customer
Human reps and bots will more successfully coexist when the bots are able to recall previous data from individual customers. Doing so will enable customer service branches to personally help clients, rather than run everyone that calls for assistance through the same AI loop. Vikas goes on about the necessity of “AI machine learning… [bots should be] looking at the results of anybody who’s ever asked a similar question and what has been offered to them and what actually resolved their issue… that’s where it gets… more in depth.”
He also gives an example of treating customers differently by comparing clients that have different demographics. Your company will have “all [of] these different issues that have been resolved across [your] entire customer base and now a multimillion dollar customer comes to [your] website and asks a question.” Your bots of today are “probably going to offer them the same solution as [it] did to the last 20 people that asked that question… they’re only looking at the question, and they’re not looking at who [they] are.”
Where the Bot and Agent Best Work Together
Once the customer has been personally identified, it is vital that both the bots and reps focus on the customer’s needs. Not only is the client’s problem important, but the means, or channel, that your company uses to resolve it should be an additional focus. It is essential to understand the customer’s situation, and realize whether a personal interaction with a rep or an automated conversation would be more efficient.
Vikas and Gabe talk about the idea of whether the customer wants “to speak to somebody [or] if [they] don’t, and want to do it [themselves].” Vikas gives the potential example of using new tech-advances like geolocation to aid in the customer experience as well. He says, for example, “I’m an airline, and when you’re reaching out to me from an airport the moment I kind of initiate that, [I] should be like, ‘Oh Mr. Barry, I see you’re booked on the flight from Orlando to New York because — and I know you’re in the airport right now. You know what, we’ve already rebooked you. Just head over to gate 43.’” The future holds great potential for the merger of AI and human reps, but the customer experience can only really be elevated when the customer’s needs and situations are understood by both.
Do you want to enjoy more in depth ideas about how to better the customer experience? Listen to Customer Service Secrets episode “Bots Vs Human: How to be Successful in AI Customer Experience” to hear it directly from the experts.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Combine the Best of Both Human and Artificial Intelligence to Kindle a Successful Customer Experience
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s show. Today we’re going to be talking about bots versus humans, all things customer experiences. We’ve brought on Vikas Bhambri where he currently is the SVP of sales and customer experience over here at Kustomer. Vikas thanks for joining man, how are you?
Vikas Bhambri: (00:26)
Glad to be here man. My partner in crime. Guest number what, 56 on the podcast?
Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
No, when this comes out man, this is, you’re going to be earlier than that.
Vikas Bhambri: (00:37)
I asked to be number one. I would like to quickly dismiss it… Now it’s like 56, 57, somewhere along those lines.
Gabe Larsen: (00:45)
If you could see me right now, my face is red. I did tell him that but I’m not going to fulfill that promise. Well you’ve been on vacation for like a whole four days. So what do you expect me to do, wait?
Vikas Bhambri: (00:55)
I’m glad the place is still intact, you know?
Gabe Larsen: (00:59)
So I probably didn’t do justice introducing you. Tell us just a little more about your background, some things you do over here at Kustomer, etc.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:04)
Sure, I’ll give you the short version. You can tell me if it’s not short enough or if you want me to go into more detail. Twenty years, CRM, contact center veteran. A lot of people don’t actually know this about me, but I started my journey, or my career in the contact center. I was a guy who carried a pager around, got the call — the page at two in the morning that something was wrong with my application. So back in the day, you have to actually be the coder and the QA, and the help desk for your product. So I did that, but then found myself actually implementing contact center technology. My first client was CSX transportation. If you don’t know them, they’re a big commercial railway on the East coast. And I actually implemented the contact center solution where if you were at a railroad crossing and the crossing was down or broken or the gate was smashed, you call the 1-800 number, it would route into the platform that I implemented with the agent.
Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
What was this 1970, 1960?
Vikas Bhambri: (02:15)
I’m not that old. It was probably just around the .com, so 2000, 2001. I went from there to implementing contact centers, like Bank of America, UPS. So I’ve been on this like CRM contact center journey since its inception.
Gabe Larsen: (02:31)
Was that on purpose or was that just by accident? I mean, are you that passionate about the space?
Vikas Bhambri: (02:36)
You know what, I’ve become passionate about it. I mean, you know, initially it was a job. Oh this is interesting. And you know, for me it was more around I love technology. So it was the perfect role to be a business analyst or project manager working with technology. But then as I got into it more and more and spent more time in the contact center, in the trenches, and then in the CRM world, which now encompasses sales, marketing, etc. And just seeing that evolution. So it’s been fun. I’ve worked across the globe, I spent five years in Europe. I’ve done CRM sales service marketing, you name the industry: retail, TELCO, financial services, insurance, healthcare… so it’s really been a great run over 20 years.
Gabe Larsen: (03:23)
I love it, man, that’s right. It’s funny, you and I have known each other for a few months now, but I forget that history, that’s a pretty rich history.
Vikas Bhambri: (03:31)
Yeah, a lot of people, they get caught up in the title, the most recent title, right. Like, oh you’re sales and CX leader and reality is, I actually started my career as a developer. It’s been a wild ride.
Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
Yeah, that’s a little bit of a change, right? Board room to dev room. So let’s dive in: Talk bots and humans for a minute. So obviously it’s a little controversial, isn’t it?
Vikas Bhambri: (03:55)
It is, because I think, of late, everybody is hyper fixated. You go to any conference, you go to any meeting and everybody wants to talk about bots. It’s getting kind of buzzwordy right? And everybody now says they do it. Everybody says they’ve got one. The key to me is, let’s think about the customer. Let’s start with the customer and the experience that they want, whatever you want to offer them, and then let’s figure out where you appropriately position the bot versus the human being. And I think ideally, and I think that the future will actually be where, they coexist. And so we can stop having this…
Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
One eliminates the other, one pushes the other out.
Vikas Bhambri: (04:42)
Right? And even the way some people talk about bots is they’re like, “look, we’re going to — we’re going to implement the bot and they’re going to solve the problem.” And then what happens when they don’t? Now the customer’s frustrated, right? Now, they pick up the phone or they called the agent and the agent has no idea that they just went through an eight step process with a bot and it failed. So even understanding like how do I take a journey that may start out with a bot, and actually escalate it to a human experience.
Vikas Bhambri: (05:11)
And what nobody talks about is, when did it start out in a human experience and then maybe kind of escalate to a bot, right? So you actually empower the human agent with more information, more data, more automation for them to give intelligent solutions back.
Gabe Larsen: (05:27)
Let’s go back to it. So maybe take one step back real quick because I want to dive into those two use cases. But when you say bot, how is that different than chat versus AI versus… give us a little click on that.
Vikas Bhambri: (05:43)
Sure. I think for me, when you think about bot, I kind of liken it to just robots, right? It’s technology that does a task. Now when you get in a chat box that’s just serving technology through a medium, which happens to be chat. But I would argue chatbots are already outdated because chat is only one digital interaction. Why wouldn’t you do the same on Facebook messenger? Why wouldn’t you be the same on WhatsApp or SMS? So even the whole nomenclature now it’s already outdated.
Gabe Larsen: (06:13)
Well and it did feel like chat — chat’s been around for so long. It’s like wow, is this really something that new, adding a little more of a bot or a push notification in a bot? But it seems like maybe as we take it to different channels, that would be one thing that would certainly be different. It’s this automated interaction in a channel, chat particularly, that allows you to potentially deflect or get rid of some of the human interactions.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:39)
Chat was rightfully kind of the first kind of place to offer it. Because at the end of the day, people are already used to doing pre-chat surveys and asking certain questions. So it kind of made sense to offer it there, right? And you know, you’ve got companies like Drift and others that are doing it in different styles. So it makes sense. But why wouldn’t you offer some sort of automation when somebody goes to your knowledge base? So now we call that — now we’ve kind of pocketed that into self-service deflection. At the end of the day, it’s still a bot. It’s still technology that is looking to the customer to answer certain questions or make some self identifiers and then offer them a solution.
Gabe Larsen: (07:21)
Got it. Got it. Okay, perfect. That’s great to just get the fundamentals. And then one step above that, where do you feel like it’s, maybe it’s where we are currently or where we should be going, but there’s stuff that’s like pre-programmed, like branching stuff you could put in. So they like press a button or they answer yes and then it delivers them a message versus true intelligence, like they write something, the bot reads it and actually responds back in an intelligent way. Are both of those happening? Is just one of those happening? Where are we in this evolution of the bot, so to say?
Vikas Bhambri: (07:57)
Sure. So, to me it’s kind of the if, then, else, right? Like the choose your own adventure. For those of us that are old enough to remember those.
Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Those books were good. I should get one of those for my eight year old, actually.
Vikas Bhambri: (08:13)
But here’s the thing: So the if, then, else, the branchable logic that’s there. It’s been done. I think you see that quite often now.
Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
That’s pretty table stakes now.
Vikas Bhambri: (08:24)
Right? That’s table stakes. I think true AI, where you’re looking at the question the person’s asking, analyzing it, then comparing it to other questions… When we talk about true AI, machine learning, it’s now looking at the result set of anybody who’s ever asked a similar question and what has been offered to them and what actually resolved their issue. So that’s where it gets a whole much more in-depth. Now, I still think the problem with even that concept and why I’m excited about some of the things we’re working on, is that it’s still very limited to all the problems that people have asked and answered. It still doesn’t really take into account who that customer is. I think that’s still one of the things when we talk about bots and you’re only as good as your data. So what I describe to people is… look, imagine you bought a robot to clean your house and you only put it in one room of your house and said learn and then you unleashed it on the whole house. You’d probably end up with a wreck because the dimensions of your one room are not all of the rooms. And I think that’s when people create these algorithms, they’re only thinking about one problem area and then all of a sudden they unleash it. For example, I’ve got all these different issues that have been resolved across my entire customer base and now a multi-million dollar customer comes to my website and asks a question. I’m probably going to offer them the same solution as I did to the last 20 people that asked that question. Now taking into account that they’re a $5 million customers, now I’m going to wreck my house.
Gabe Larsen: (10:00)
Oh, interesting. Almost like a tiered… you know, we talk about like tiered support where if I’m a gold member, I call in and I’m treated different. But you’re not really treated different with a bot because they don’t know a lot about you, and they’re only looking at the questions.
Vikas Bhambri: (10:14)
They’re only looking at the question, and they’re not looking at who are you.
Gabe Larsen: (10:16)
So that might be one of the future trends, as you think about bots and how they… I can’t think of anybody doing that, that’s pretty… wow, that’s different.
Vikas Bhambri: (10:27)
That’s it. The more data you can feed this, the more intelligent it’s going to be. I think the problem is when people are thinking about it, they’re not thinking about what data am I going to keep using with the robot? Because that’s easy for people to say, “what information you’ve giving the robot?” And if you’re not giving them all the details, they’re going to make foolish decisions.
Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
What else do you have? If you had to kind of say a couple of years from now, I mean I just thought that was interesting. Kind of the personalization of the bot around the individual, the company, whoever it may be, and then treat them slightly different. Any other things you see in a couple of years from now, where the bot is going to that might be a little outside of the norm?
Vikas Bhambri: (11:06)
I think the big thing — well, before we even get there is I think there’s going to have to be this harmony between the bot and the human experience, which I don’t think exists today.
Gabe Larsen: (11:17)
So lets click into that, and then we’ll come back to the trends. So right now people are kind of thinking about it: as I interact with the bot and then there is a chance I would maybe escalate to human.
Vikas Bhambri: (11:31)
It’s still clunky. The hand off is clunky because a lot of times, well we’ve all experienced that as consumers. I get asked a bunch of questions by the bot, I get served up to human agent because the bot can’t actually answer my issue. And the agent actually asks me all the questions again. That’s like the most fundamental failure of the hand off because they have no visibility. They may know that you did communicate. A lot of brands won’t give their bots names. So like you, you asked Jeeves or you asked Elsa, right?
Gabe Larsen: (12:06)
Elsa is a Frozen reference in case anybody’s wondering.
Vikas Bhambri: (12:11)
Right, anybody whose kids are listening, they got it. All of a sudden, they talked to Elsa before me, but you don’t know what they asked and answered. So that’s a very fundamental flaw, but people are getting better at that. They’ll at least give you the tree, showing everything that the person went through with the bot, right?
Gabe Larsen: (12:27)
Do they? I sometimes question if they’re even getting that, but fair. Yeah, they could get that far.
Vikas Bhambri: (12:34)
There are some people who are a bit further along, if you look on a maturity index, so now I know what questions you asked the bot or answers you gave, and why they can’t resolve it. But to a degree, I almost have to still go and do my own due diligence and figure things out. So I think that’s step one. Now the other thing is, how do I take that data that I did get, plus what the agent captures and now offer up intelligent suggestions to the agent to resolve? That’s where I think you start getting true harmony is automation on the front end, smooth pass off, but then also helping the agent be smart by giving them smarter answers.
Gabe Larsen: (13:16)
But help me visualize that a little bit. So what would that look like? The first part I get, so you get the automation. I like the second part, the smooth transition, because that just feels clunky in my own experience with bots. But that third part. It’s like, ooh, how can we enable the effectiveness of the agents so they are responding back smarter? Any examples, like tactical examples that may come to mind?
Vikas Bhambri: (13:38)
Think about this and let’s just use your cable box provider. You just went through an eight step troubleshooting process with the bot. It failed. You’re on the phone with the human agent and the technician is saying, “Ah, okay I see that you went through this process.” Maybe the agent gathers one or two more details from you. You know what I mean? You check the remote, you know the batteries in your remote or whatever. Now, the intelligence to the agent says I’m going to take all the steps that the customer did with the bot, plus what you gathered and now I’m going to offer up a solution. Take both sides of that discussion and then offer up a solution.
Gabe Larsen: (14:20)
Cool! Interesting. So now flip it, because that’s kind of the standard idea, that can we deflect –? Well, do one more quick double clickback on that. So I liked your three step process. You have automation. If you need to escalate, you pass it off smoothly and then you kind of provide real intelligence or a recommendation. A lot of people are wondering how far you can go with a bot before you have to escalate. That’s, I guess, the elimination conversation. Where do you kind of recommend companies who aren’t thinking about that? Try to get rid of the small stuff, focus on the return? How far can you automate that bottom part of customer service?
Vikas Bhambri: (14:58)
I think the two factors you have to look at are one, what can the customer do themselves or can you kind of use the bot to guide them through to conclusion? So that to me is number one, because at the end of the day, as much as brands don’t want to talk to customers, customers don’t want to talk to brands either. Right?
Gabe Larsen: (15:20)
Do you think that’s true? I mean is that kind of where we are? I mean people don’t want to really do it.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:25)
They don’t want to. It’s not a bad thing. And I think we need to get away from that. If I’m booking a round trip flight from New York to LA, I don’t want to talk to anybody, I want to go to a website, I want to go to a mobile app, I want to book the ticket, get a reasonable fare, select my seat and I’m done. It’s paid for it and everything, right? I don’t want to ever speak to a human being and the airline doesn’t want to speak to you either.
Gabe Larsen: (15:53)
It just sounds bad.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:54)
But quote unquote, we’re talking, right? Because we’re obviously transacting business, but we don’t have to have an elongated discussion. Right? So that’s number one. Number two is when do you want to get that human being involved? Because now I’m booking New York to San Francisco, to LA, to Portland.
Vikas Bhambri: (16:19)
It gets more complicated. I want to be able to speak to somebody if I don’t want to do it myself. Number two is there’s an adverse event, right? My flight to San Francisco gets canceled. Now everything is going to be botched. I want somebody to jump in. And third, you have customers whether it’s ato demographic, whether it’s a high end customer, that you want to offer, that additional level of service, if they choose to use it. And that’s why I said bots can be a one size fits all because if you’ve got a premiere business traveler, you want to be able to say, look, if you want to go and book that round trip ticket yourself, go for it. But by the way, we’re here for you.
Gabe Larsen: (17:00)
And maybe it’s just where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I like to book stuff on my app and things like that, but I’m in like a Delta premiere or whatever that is, gold or medallion, and maybe I’m driving, you know, I’m just gonna call them up and have them walked me through it and book my roundtrip ticket or something. I like that sometimes, so I do like that option. I like the complication. The emergency totally resonates, right? It’s like when your flights booked and you’re trying to go home for Christmas, the last thing you want to deal with is a bot. Is my flight canceled? Just help me, I need to talk to someone.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:35)
So that’s why I think brands need to look at where is that inflection? Where does that point where the customer is going to yell? Now there might be some customers, they don’t care if they’re yelling all day long, right? But certain segments of customers, we care, the brand absolutely does care because they want your repeat business. Right?
Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
So do you feel like if you implement some sort of automated bot program, are you affecting negatively or impacting negatively the customer experience?
Vikas Bhambri: (18:02)
No. If it’s done thoughtfully where you’re thinking about that journey and go back to the customer journey, or customer map. It may actually benefit the customer. If I want to change my address, do I want to speak to somebody by changing my address? No I want to go in, I want to punch it in and I want to hit submit and let it go.
Gabe Larsen: (18:25)
I think the problem people are running into is because it’s such a trendy word now, I think I’ve run into this in the past a little bit is you’re like, well, let’s throw a bot on our website or let’s throw a bot somewhere and you don’t watch the rest of that customer journey and that’s where you drop off on kind of points two and three. We have a bot, but the experience actually got worse because we didn’t help them.
Vikas Bhambri: (18:42)
I think like anything, A, you need to AB test, and B, you need to do the what if scenario. What if a customer wants to do this? What if they do that, and you need to really think it through. But the easy thing to do is just… you almost need like a program management around iit.
Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
You really do. What I learned in my last gig is, we got a bot and it was cool. We threw it up there and pretty soon I was like, I need someone to own this and own the journey. It’s not just a side gig that someone else can do by themselves..
Vikas Bhambri: (19:16)
Like in marketing, right? You have somebody who does your search engine optimization. You need a bot optimizer.
Gabe Larsen: (19:28)
So flip the other way then. Is there a reason or a method to go to a human, then to a bot? Is that in our future, that certainly would be kind of a side scenario or side use case. But is anybody doing that? No.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:47)
No. I don’t think anybody’s doing that. I think right now it’s about bot to human. But where I think is a missed opportunity in the near term is to empower that agent with more choice for automation, where they can do things. And you’re seeing in some industries I think TELCO is actually ahead of this where your agent will take action on your behalf, like so you don’t have to get up and reboot your cable box. There’ll be like, we can do it from our side.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:19)
It’s things that financial service institutions are able to do, where the agent can initiate fraud detection and things like that. So I do think there is things happening on that side, but I’d like to see more of that across the board.
Gabe Larsen: (20:31)
See if we can’t bring that together. Okay, last two questions and I’ll let you get back to your day job. So one is for people who are starting to go down this journey, human versus bot, I think you’ve given them a lot of material. Where would you kind of say, if you’re starting this journey, here’s a couple things I think about or if you start, here’s the baby step you could do now, what’s kind of that easy step that you could take starting the journey of maybe getting a bot into your program and your customer service journey?
Vikas Bhambri: (20:59)
I would start with my knowledge base, your FAQ’s. The reason I think people should be putting FAQ’s or their knowledge base together is they’re like, oh this stuff is so darn easy that I expect my customers can do it themselves. So start there and start putting that into your initial bot journey. Where you’re basically pointing them to existing artifacts, things that exist. And then as you start triaging through those, then it’s like what are the next level of… let’s actually sit down with the agents or the reporting, and look at what are people reaching out to us about. And ideally you want to look at the end of the day, you want to fix the end solution. But if you can’t do that in the near term, what can we do that can automate the solution.
Gabe Larsen: (21:54)
I love that, I love that. That’s a great place to start. Okay. Last question is, we touched on it a little bit before, but there’s a lot of movement in the space. A lot of new technology is coming out, all different languages. Obviously some buzzwords. Any kind of predictions as you move into the future, thinking about humans, bots, anything kind of on your mind that says, I think it’d be fascinating if we saw X or Y in the future as bots evolve and iterate?
Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
I think the biggest thing is, how much data can we feed? What I mean by that is, look, if I’m on my mobile device and you’ve got so much information, whether we believe it or not, the brand potentially has access to my geolocation. They have access to certain data about me on my phone. They have a profile on me. They understand the question I may be asking. Where to me almost get to the point where you’re doing predictive analysis. Before I even ask you my question, you know the question I’m going to ask because we have so much data about you. So we’re like, wait a minute, most of the time when somebody is reaching out to us, I’m an airline, and when you’re reaching out to me from an airport. The moment I kind of initiate that, you should be like, “Oh Mr. Barry, I see you’re booked on the flight from Orlando to New York because, and I know you’re in the airport right now. You know what we’ve already rebooked you, just head over to gate 43.” That’s the Nirvana.
Gabe Larsen: (23:28)
You know the funny thing is I used to be nervous a little bit about the data thing and giving too much data, but now I’m like, I want to give, and I think there’s people like me in this world who are willing to give up less privacy. They’ll have less privacy to get better service, to get more personalization. I’m like, dude take my social security number and take whatever you want, but give me that type of service.
Vikas Bhambri: (23:51)
I think that’s ultimately it. Like look, GDPR, you’ve seen the California Consumer Privacy Act, all of this stuff, people are still hitting every website. You know, I was in Europe, and every website comes up with a pop up and everybody hits accept. Why? Because I’m giving you data because at the end of the day I’m hoping you’re going to market to me better, sell to me more intelligently or are you going to give me better service. There will always be people that will opt out. Most people think, “if you’re going to offer me more value, I’m willing to give that.” And there is so much you can do with it to benefit the consumer.
Gabe Larsen: (24:31)
Could you be proactive? You’ve heard some of those stories where you know people are the target. Did you hear the target story where they were buying this family was buying different things and then they sent them like a gift card or a coupon for… I won’t get into the details, but basically send them a coupon and they were like, “Hey, we’re not, we’re not actually experiencing that. We’re not doing it.” Well they went and asked their daughter, and it sounded like that person is sick or is not working. But based on the behavior, their AI triggered, and sent a coupon for something, this father got it so it can get a little bit out of hand. But my goodness, the stuff you can do with data, wow. You can take this pretty far.
Gabe Larsen: (25:17)
Cool man. Well, I appreciate it. So if someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what you do, you know, continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Vikas Bhambri: (25:26)
LinkedIn is always a great place to hit me up. You can hit me up at kustomer.com as well, either or.
Gabe Larsen: (25:34)
Love it, man. Well, I appreciate you joining. Great times. Audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (25:47)
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