If you have ever been drawn to the words “artificial intelligence” in a sales pitch or wondered if machine learning could improve your business, you might have also questioned if your use case is even a good fit for what a machine learning model can do.
A good way to approach answering this question is to consider the data you need to provide this artificially intelligent system in order for it to produce the promised result. That sounds like a reasonable exchange, except, are you sure you know what data means in this context?
What is Data?
Let’s say you are interested in a machine learning model that can predict the contact reason for inbound support emails (surprise: this is Kustomer IQ!). The model needs to see examples of previous support conversations and how they were labeled in order to learn what to do when new, unlabeled emails show up in the future. These examples are your data: a collection of paired inputs and outputs from which a machine learning model will extract patterns to make predictions.
In this case, it’s up to you to determine the inputs (“Inbound Support Email”) and outputs (“Contact Reason”) and which input-output pairings best represent the predictions you want the model to make. And in general terms, the more data you expose the machine to, the smarter it gets.
Make sense? This is data. Without data, machine learning models can’t work. And a machine learning model will only learn from what’s in the training data: what doesn’t appear explicitly in the dataset will remain unknown to the system.
As we said before, the models extract patterns in order to apply outputs. You’ll notice in the above diagram, we did not tell the model how we were able to determine Contact Reason. We are just planning to show it input-output examples and trust it will eventually come up with a way to infer “Contact Reason” from an “Inbound Support Email”. This is where data quality becomes important: if we give the model poor quality data, the model will make bad patterns and ultimately incorrect predictions.
Poor quality data is noisy, conflicting, or perhaps consists of too few examples. In the diagram above, the last Inbound Support Email has been categorized as an “Exchange”. We already mentioned that it’s up to you to determine the output in the training dataset, so you or one of your agents decided the contact reason was an exchange. What if another agent decided the contact reason was “Return”? Technically, a return might need to happen for an exchange to occur, so the agent felt the return categorization made sense. Now, what if your agents made this mistake 50% or 25% of the time? This means your resulting training data does not reflect the truth of what you want the model to predict — sometimes the conversation is labeled as an “Exchange” and sometimes the same type of conversation is labeled as “Return”, but it should always be Exchange. In this case, the model will extract a pattern that might not consistently lead it to infer your preferred contact reason for future inbound support emails.
This is an example of one of the main causes of poor quality data: unclear and conflicting boundaries between categories or topics.
Here are the characteristics your data needs to have to be considered “high quality” by Kustomer IQ standards:
Heterogeneity (this is demonstrated in the scenario above): Clear and distinct topic boundaries between different tags and attributes
Stability: No big re-categorization changes 60-90 days prior to model training
Volume: Between 5,000 – 7,000 email conversations from the previous month, or about 500 conversations per topic
Recommendations for Creating High Quality Data for Kustomer IQ
Kustomer IQ relies on machine learning models to predict customer contact reasons and suggest conversation shortcuts to agents. It’s important for you to have high quality data to make these models work as expected.
There are a number of steps you can take to ensure the highest quality of your data and leverage automation from the very beginning. Here are our recommendations:
Design tags and custom fields that best suit your needs. While it’s impossible to cover all cases, try to focus on the most important ones in terms of expected volume. For example, order status, returns & refunds, or promo codes.
Create new tags to cover unlabelled information rather than redefining and remapping everything from scratch.
Add granularity in an incremental fashion. When possible, start with a broad category, such as pets, before attempting to split it into various, more specific categories, such as cats, dogs, or birds.
Try to use clearly defined tags and categories to organize your information. A good rule of thumb is to test them with people. If your team understands their boundaries correctly and knows when to apply them, a machine learning algorithm will be able to figure out their meanings.
Try to make your team work as consistently as possible. Again, this is easier to achieve when tag limits are clear.
Try to keep data stable for a while so that you can grow the amount of examples using your tags and custom fields. While you can iterate and re-define your tags and custom fields at any time, regularly changing this information will affect the amount of data points you get. Also, keep in mind that any re-definition of tags and categories will need the model to be re-trained.
Click here to learn more about how Kustomer IQ can help your organization.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Michael Windsor and Vikas Bhambri to learn about managing CX teams across the globe and building a strong foundation for success. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
Why You Should Expand Your CX
Senior Director of Global Customer Experience at Skybox Security, Michael Windsor helps leaders expand their CX teams worldwide. For some, this may seem like a daunting task; however, Michael clarifies the importance of scaling teams across the globe if a company wants to retain its international customers. When customers outside of the United States are connected to agents who understand their perspectives culturally, they feel more connected with the brand as a whole. The first step to creating a global team is to truly understand what you are offering to your customers.“You really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them.” As teams expand across the world with a common understanding of their customers and brand mission, it builds a sense of empathy for how customers interact with their services. Trust and empathy create a bond between brand and customer, resulting in lasting loyalty.
Educating for Cultural Differences
One of the most important aspects to scaling CX teams globally is educating agents on the appropriate cultural norms for the areas they will be servicing. Cross-culturally, there are many differences in human interactions that are acceptable depending on the region of origin. When discussing his CX team in Israel, Michael mentions, “Israelis by chance are very direct to the point… sometimes that can come across as disrespectful.” To help close the gap between cultures, Michael suggests that CX leaders should actively be engaged in educating their agents as well as their clients on market expectations:
I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.
When both agents and customers are educated and have a common understanding, operations can run much smoother. As more leaders make this a priority, surely they will experience some cultural bumps along the way. Michael ensures that success comes in increments, through operational tweaks – leading to company adaptation, growth, and “customer stickiness.”
Effortlessly Globalizing Your Teams
A strong global team starts with a solid and consistent foundation of understanding, which is essential for success, according to Michael. For leaders who are expanding their teams, he encourages them to start small and take wins and losses into account before broadening their reach. He explains, “That’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.” On top of that, Michael adds that customer-minded companies can scale easier because every decision is made for the betterment of the customer experience. “Really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are… Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey.” When teams are consistent throughout the entire organization, leaders can do their jobs more efficiently, without getting lost in the details. Many experience what Michael calls “analysis paralysis” from overworking their efforts to fit each team, rather than building on a basic set of expectations for all global agents. Ultimately, for the greatest CX management globally, a strong foundation is key.
To learn more about managing international CX teams, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Grow & Manage a Global CX Team | Michael Windsor
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about managing global CX teams. The why, the what, the how. We got two special guests. I’ll let them take just a minute and introduce themselves. Michael, let’s start with you.
Michael Windsor: (00:27)
Sure. My name is Michael Windsor. I’m the Senior Director of the Global Customer Experience here at Skybox Security. Work in the cybersecurity space. Excited to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a fun company. Exciting career. But before Skybox, Michael, where are you? You’ve done a couple of things in the space, correct?
Michael Windsor: (00:46)
Yeah, so I worked for a competitor actually called AlgoSec, where I ran enterprise support that included technical account management globally for the company. And then prior to this, I actually worked in the HCM space. So I used to work for a company called SilkRoad Technology. So it’s, I actually was the Vice President of Global Support Services for the company. I could talk about that position for days, but, started there and been in cybersecurity the last seven, eight years.
Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
I love it. Love it, again. Well appreciate you jumping on. It was fun connecting with him on LinkedIn. And cool story. Thought it’d be fun to share with the audience here today, Vikas, over to you, man.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:29)
Vikas Bhambri, Head a Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s a partner in crime. Mike, I’m looking forward to the conversation. We here at Kustomer are embarking on scaling out our support team globally. So this is, selfishly, this is a great learning opportunity for me as we’re in the midst of our strategy here at Kustomer. So we’ll go to the conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
Nothing better than free consulting. I didn’t tell that, but that is actually the reason that we’re doing. I got you for the next hour, Michael. You’re on camera now, sucker.
Michael Windsor: (02:03)
Gabe Larsen: (02:03)
So start big picture, thinking about managing this idea of global CX teams, where do you go? It just seems such a, like a, it’s like how to solve the world’s problems. It’s a big topic. Where do you start to even digest a topic like this?
Michael Windsor: (02:23)
Well, I mean, ultimately you have to understand, so to give you some backstory – when I came here to Skybox Security, I came in, it was a brand new function that we had never had. And so they’re like, “Mike, tell me, explain to me actually how we’re going to do this, what it looks like, what are some KPIs?” But the first and foremost thing is that you have to really understand where your customer base is. Here at Skybox, we work with clients and partners, and so we had to figure out exactly where we wanted to have, as I say, boots on the ground. So ultimately, we started in North America, I hired my first person, he’s kind of my right-hand person now. His name is Greg.
Michael Windsor: (03:05)
And so we essentially said, let’s build out this model. Let’s look here in the US. Let’s do lessons learned. And then from this let’s scale it globally. Not only looking at one, where our customer base was, but two, where our offices were. So ultimately there’s this whole premise to say, “Let me keep a team closer to my backend services such as RND and support,” and I think there’s good and bad with that. So, I mean, in terms of how we structured that, those are the two things that we really looked at is offices and where our customer base was located virtual versus how much we wanted boots on the ground. Because I always say, pre-COVID is that there were a lot of countries like Germany, as an example, when you want to build trust and respect with them, you have to have that face-to-face interaction. I’m trying to do things over Zoom and virtual meetings and go to meetings and all the other platforms that are out that exist now is sometimes very tough. So, I mean, that’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.
Gabe Larsen: (04:20)
Hmm. I like that. Do you feel like the offices thing is always interesting to me. So you guys now have offices in a handful of places, correct?
Michael Windsor: (04:29)
We do. That’s correct.
Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
And how did you choose the different offices? Was that just based on the customer base? Is that where you decided to kind of anchor it or were there other reasons that kind of came into play?
Michael Windsor: (04:40)
No, I mean, it’s part of it. One is, being in cybersecurity, we’re in Silicon Valley. We have an office, big office in San Jose, which is where most of our executive team sits. The thing also about cybersecurity, I have a big office in Israel and for people that have done business in Israel that know Israel, they are very, very good in the cybersecurity space because they actually kept, most everyone has been in the military. And so when you were doing that to keep your country safe, as opposed to working for a corporation, you usually get the brightest and smartest people from that. So we do have a big office in Israel for those exact reasons is that there’s a big, strong cybersecurity presence in the IDF, which is the military in Israel. And so we have a lot of people that actually work within that capacity that actually work for our company. And you’ll find that in a lot of cybersecurity companies that you talk to in the, that are over in Israel.
Gabe Larsen: (05:42)
Vikas Bhambri: (05:44)
Michael, one of the questions I have, I see a lot of not just us at Kustomer, but a lot of our clients, in the early days try to have a hobbler initial location, which they create their support team from. I think you said you kind of did in your journey and then kind of pushed the limits of how far they can stretch that team. Maybe starting earlier, ending later. Maybe support the three US time zones, but then maybe Europe. And then you get that tipping point where it’s like, “Okay, this is no longer going to scale because,” and I’m curious as to, is that an effective strategy? Do you need to go global right away? And then when there’s the question of global, I always think there’s that crossroads that most companies face, which is organic versus BPO. What are your, some of your experiences with some of those challenges?
Michael Windsor: (06:37)
Sure. What I would tell you is that even taking a step back, you really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them. So, one is, what did you contractually agree to? Again, we offer like a premium support product that is 24/7. So I had to develop a follow the fund model as part of this, to be able to support them kind of in, again, multiple time zones. I think my team right now is in 16 different time zones. And so we had to make sure that, as based upon what we have contractually agreed to, that we actually had a support offering to actually mimic that.
Michael Windsor: (07:27)
So you want to push that, but again, when you start talking about a global team, it would only make sense depending on what you propose or offer to your client base, right? So again, if that’s something and if you have clients again, whatever you contractually agree to, one, you have to start off with that foundation. But two, as you start talking about expanding it, the whole thing about customer experience and customer successes is client stickiness. I use this term and you’ll hear it in a lot of the CX or CX space, is that you really need to think about, “Okay, what foundation do I need to start off with to make ourselves successful?” And then in terms of your question is that, “What do I need to do to go above and beyond that?” So what foundationally do I need to do to really start off with a good focus base? And then from that, what other additional offerings we need to offer such as a customer experience team, customer success team, technical account management team, which all worked very closely with the support side to make that happen.
Gabe Larsen: (08:33)
Yeah. Got it. Do you feel like Michael, I mean, so many different countries, so many lessons learned, as you’ve kind of went from one country to another. You mentioned Germany as an example, a little more face-to-face in that environment. Has there been other lessons learned whether it’s country-based or just setting up new offices that would be kind of fun to share to the audience?
Michael Windsor: (08:53)
Sure, absolutely. So, it’s like we have an office in Israel and for those people that have done business in Israel, Israelis by chance are very direct to the point. And sometimes, that comes across to, if you’re taking a team like in Israel and supporting other countries, sometimes that can come across as disrespectful. So again, APAC. Again, the whole thing with our teams in India, sometimes there’s preconceived notions about what those teams do, how they operate, how they interact and stuff like that. And then that client base again, just in those regions have different expectations just in terms of how you’re going to work with them on a day in and day out basis.
Michael Windsor: (09:35)
So it’s really understanding, okay, you have these teams based here. Here’s who they are, culturally. Here’s how they interact day to day. You as a leader have to figure out, okay, so if you’re going to support clients outside of that region, what do you have to do from a training standpoint to get them to make sure that they understand or don’t come across a way that might be considered disrespectful? And then, how do you set proper expectations with your clients, just in terms of dealing with those teams? I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or customer, more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.
Vikas Bhambri: (10:33)
How much of it is consistent? Obviously you’re a company, you want to service all your customers. How much of it is consistent across the board? And then what’s the variability from region to region?
Michael Windsor: (10:47)
Foundationally, it is consistent across the board just in terms of what we do and something that my leaders train their team on is just to tweak those expectations, to tweak those opinions. So foundationally, it’s all the same. And you want to have a consistent foundation because as you’re building functions, if you don’t have a consistent foundation, you’ll get, I call it analysis paralysis. That you’ll get lost in the details. So foundationally yes, they’re all the same again, because ultimately the customer experience or customer success starts from when that first sales call all the way in terms of how they’re supported. So not only do you have to make sure that the teams that you manage are aligned with that, you really need to understand that entire customer journey and keep it foundationally the same. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (11:41)
Yeah. Do you feel like there’s certain, we obviously play in the technology space, so probably less vendor names than otherwise, but as you think about really scaling globally with technology, any lessons learned on that front? It seems like you’ve got security things, you’ve got, I assume there were some challenges trying to get everybody on the same page across different areas and regions, et cetera.
Michael Windsor: (12:07)
Yeah. It really wasn’t a challenge because I think the tools nowadays that most people use and the tools that we use, and I won’t mention any names just to show favoritism for that, I mean we use one of the largest CRMs, again, from the front end of a back end. The web conferencing tools that we use are very internationally-focused tools. So there wasn’t a lot that we had to do. We had to understand data privacy and there was some specifics from a security standpoint that we would have to understand, but most of the tools that you use as you’re building it out, I mean, again, if you don’t have access to these tools, you just have to make sure that there’s no country restraints. Now, thankfully for us, we used some very big global tools to begin with.
Michael Windsor: (12:53)
So we didn’t really have those constraints or concerns as we got into it. But one of the things that as you talk about now with the diverse workforce as part of COVID is that you really have to understand when you start, you just take a centralized team and you disperse them to their homes, what exactly does that mean? And that’s what security challenges are, but we have a very good security team in place that went in and addressed that as we went along, but working with our vendors, it wasn’t hard because not only did we have these challenges, other large companies did as well.
Vikas Bhambri: (13:32)
Michael, one of the things I’ve seen as people have gone and scaled their operation globally, is they’ve taken the pod that they’ve built in the HQ, the country of HQ, which might be the US it might be, UK, Israel, et cetera, and basically replicated that pod in the next location and then the next one. I’ve seen others that have said, “We’re going to have a pod here in HQ location that HQ country, that’s going to remain the same and then we’re going to have a tier one in other countries, but tier two will remain here in HQ,” and then people are sliced and diced in various ways. What was your approach to scaling globally in terms of how you thought about each additional region that you added on? Was it a different skill set or was it just a replicant of the initial premise? How did you go about that?
Michael Windsor: (14:23)
It was actually a replica because again, one of the things that I said that I wanted to make sure is that we were consistent in the process, but really this goes back to your customer base, is that again, what did we contractually agree to as we were doing this and then foundationally, what did we need to put in place? So like, I’ll give you an example. I have a tier one team in the Ukraine. I have a tier two, tier three team, not only in Israel, but also the US. Foundationally, what they do is exactly the same, because the thing is, you’re building a team and as you start taking a pod and then kind of replicating it, you really need to think about what you’re going to do from a leadership standpoint. Because again, if you have a leader in the US, a leader in Israel, a leader in somewhere else, and you start trying to change that foundational function of what they do, you get into leadership challenges, not only from a senior leadership standpoint, from my standpoint, but also leadership challenges as those as those teams work together. So foundation, we started with what we said would work. We looked at the nuances just in terms of what happens within these other countries and other regions, and then ultimately built from that foundational model.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:39)
Any difference in hiring? obviously you’ve got different skill sets in different regions, but anything that you’ve looked at or you want to share with the audience about hiring personas or hiring profiles in the different regions that you operate in?
Michael Windsor: (15:52)
Yeah, and I think the big thing when it comes to customer success, customer support, client stickiness, one of the things that you have to make sure, always make sure that’s consistent, that when you start talking about different languages. So one is the languages, language and region. Also that whole verbal and written communication skills. So say you have a tier two team and let’s just take Italy as an example. They only speak Italian and you say, “Well, can I really need them to help my US team?” That’s probably not gonna work. So you have the nuances of, again, what is your customer base? Again, most of our clients around the world speak English, I think some choose, it’s easier for them to speak in their native tongue.
Michael Windsor: (16:38)
But with that, you have to think about, “Okay, what is my customer base? How do we communicate with them?” But two, how are we going to make sure those individuals that we hire communicate with our internal teams that might only be English speaking? And then the third part of this is that all the tools that you use day in and day out, if they only speak or understand something, as an example in Italy, how are they going to work with tools that are only in English? So again, it’s tools, it’s what your client’s expectations are. And then two, as you’re hiring, back to your original question, it’s just making sure that when you set up this model and you’re saying, “Hey, here’s who they’re going to support that they actually understand that there’s probably some good verbal and written communication skills, and there’s also maybe some customer satisfaction or customer success skills that you’ll have to tweak based upon the different cultures.
Gabe Larsen: (17:40)
What do you say to CFOs or executives that look at first thing when you tell them, “Hey, we’re thinking about,” especially for US-based companies, “thinking about setting up a support operation globally.” They’re like, “Oh, cost arbitrage, right? We’re going to be able to save some bucks.” What do you say to those people who are looking at it maybe just from a cost saving perspective?
Michael Windsor: (18:02)
Sure, I would tell you that, again, there’s a premise that it’s not about you. It’s not about your CFO. It’s really about your customer base. And if you start with the customer success or customer-focused approach, again, when you start talking about hiring teams in other regions or other countries, as an example, you have time zone constraints that you have to deal with. And I will tell you, it’s easy to set up as I call it a first shift support function, support organization. But if you start looking at second and third shifts, second and third shifts, you worry about burnout. You worry about quality. You have to have leadership to support those functions as well. So I would say yes, ideally, again, a CFO’s premise is to save money, do more with as little as possible. You got to take yourself out and say, “What is best for our customer base?”
Michael Windsor: (19:01)
Once you understand that you have to say, “Okay, what team do I need to be to put in place based upon what my client expectations are?” And three, “How am I going to manage that from a leadership standpoint as we do this?” And I think once you answer those questions, you can figure out the best model because the misnomer is yes. If we take it overseas, it will be very, very easy for us to do. It will be more cost effective, and that’s not necessarily true, just so you know, based upon some countries that if you decide to do this, but with that being said, you really, it’s not really about you, it’s really about your customers. And then you just have to make it about you once you understand that focus.
Gabe Larsen: (19:46)
I like it. I like it. Great words, Michael. It is really interesting to hear about how to kind of shape this global sales team. As we wrap, I’d love to hear kind of a summary. We hit on a couple of different things. People, technology, process, some of the lessons learned. For those people who are trying to build this out on a global scale, any summary statements, or kind of leave behinds you’d give to the audience?
Michael Windsor: (20:06)
I would just tell you, I would say really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are. I have this thing that a client’s perception is always my reality, and that will forever be burned in your head and your audience’s head because it rings true. So it doesn’t really matter what you think or what you want. It’s really what your customers think and what you want. Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey. Again, start with a small pod and then build this out. Don’t try to do it all at once and then scale your operation as you get in once you feel that you have foundationally figured out what you need to do to make your clients successful. And I think from that, there’s no doubt that you’ll have success.
Gabe Larsen: (20:57)
Love that. Vikas, anything you want to add as we kind of wrap?
Vikas Bhambri: (21:00)
No, I think this has been extremely insightful for me. And I thank you, Michael. I think the one thing I’d leave the audience with is I just, my big takeaway from what Michael is sharing with us is there’s no playbook, right? And I think a lot of times we, as operational leaders are looking for the playbook. We’re looking for the sales playbook, we’re looking for the support playbook, the marketing playbook, et cetera. And I think with this, if you really start with your customer in mind and what is your obligation and what is the expectation of the customer that then will drive your playbook and strategy. So I think it’s going to be very different from company to company, depending on who they are, where they are and where they are in their maturity level, but more importantly, where their customers are. So that was my big takeaway. And I thank you, Michael, for sharing that with the audience.
Michael Windsor: (21:49)
Absolutely. And I will tell you, and again, that if anybody wants to reach out to me after this, again, I’m sure that you have, I mean, I would be glad to help them. I have an amazing team. I can even bring on some people on my team, of course, outside of work hours for all my executives that are listening to this, I would be glad to just to help you and understand because it’s a, I’m proud of what we built and I know there’s things that we could share that could help your listener audience.
Gabe Larsen: (22:18)
Thank you. Love it. Love it. All right. Well again, appreciate the time Michael. Vikas, as always. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Michael Windsor: (22:25)
All right, thanks everyone.
Exit Voice: (22:30)
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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Wade Radcliffe and Vikas Bhambri to learn about visual integration to enhance the customer experience and how it boosts agent efforts. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
A New Communication Channel
Wade Radcliffe was the Director of Business Development at Streem, a company that offers a visual layer to the world of CX, and understands the need to integrate multiple channel communication. Many leaders are adopting channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, chat and direct messaging. To this list, leaders should consider adding a visual element to further the communication channels and open the possibilities for cost and time savings. Visual communication saves time because it allows agents to directly help customers by displaying the resolution, rather than having to explain in great detail how to accomplish a task or fix an issue. According to Wade, customer calls that take around 15-20 minutes can be shortened to five minute conversations with an added visual element. Wade portrays, “So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.” This element to channel communication is especially helpful when customers and agents start talking in depth with copious amounts of detail, painting a picture for the other to understand them. When one starts to paint with their words, that’s when visual communication should come into play.
Why Leaders Shouldn’t be Hesitant to Adopt Video
Some agents and leaders are hesitant to adopt video as a means of communication for a multitude of reasons. Some stemming from security and how to navigate access to customer’s smartphones with ease of mind. To this, Wade reassures that much of video communication apps and software have customizable security features in place to protect both the user and the company. Another reason some might be skeptical of the benefits to visual CX is agents would rather not be face-to-face with customers when in difficult situations. Wade explains the importance of personal connection and how human-to-human interaction can actually be valuable to customer conversations. “Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video.” To make two-way video work properly, Wade suggests using an app or sending a text message with a link directly to the customer’s smartphone, which when opened, will allow the agent to see through the smartphone’s camera. Many businesses could benefit from this form of CX and advance their team’s efforts.
Opportunities Attached to Visual Platform Adoption
The opportunities for visual CX are endless. This method can be applied to a slew of businesses and field expertise, which in turn will save companies time and money downstream. For example, Vikas evaluates a situation in which a blinds company could benefit from agent visual services and avoid droves of returns by helping customers measure their window spaces correctly over video. Another example used in the episode is discussed where a customer has the ability to film the outside of their house so a field technician knows what tools and equipment to bring (such as a ladder with the appropriate height) that will fit the demands and resolve the issues most effectively. In closing, Wade urges leadership to give video tools a try and to slowly integrate visualization into CX. “Like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.” Opportunities for customer success are boundless as leaders integrate video channels, making the future of CX more accessible to all who have mobile devices with the camera feature.
To learn more about Wade’s work at Streem and how to integrate video channels, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Is Video the Future of Customer Service? | Wade Radcliffe
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, you guys ready for the fight? Here we go. We’re going to be talking on the importance of a visual context in the customer service, customer experience, customer support. And to do that, we brought on two special people. We got Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer and Wade Radcliffe over at Streem. Wade, why don’t you take just a second and introduce yourself?
Wade Radcliffe: (00:31)
Hey, thanks for having me on today. So about 20, 25 years in the contact center world, and I’m excited about now that we’ve got everybody with smartphones in their pockets, adding a visual layer to contact center integration interactions when it makes sense. So we’re here to help people accomplish that.
Gabe Larsen: (00:48)
Love it. Glad you’re here. Vikas?
Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime here at Kustomer. Responsible for Sales and CX and Wade and I have been around the contact center for similar amount of time. I’m not at 25 years yet, but just crossed the 20 year mark. So a lot has changed and I’m super excited to talk about the visualization in the contact center. I think it’s been a long time coming.
Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
And I’m Gabe Larsen. I am one year in the contact center space, so very excited to have you.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:17)
This is Gabe’s unique way of kind of short-cutting his learning process, getting people like Wade on and just like an abridged MBA.
Gabe Larsen: (01:29)
It is, man. That’s, that is the cheat code. And it’s fun because I can tell that I have a reason to be kind of a punk. So Wade, we want to start off high level and say, I don’t know if we agree. I don’t know if I agree with you. I mean, why go visual? It’s, we have so many good channels right now. Phone. We have email. I mean, that’s been working for a long time. Why do we need to kind of open up the kimono and introduce a visual tools ideas into the customer service process? Start big picture for us, give us the watch.
Wade Radcliffe: (01:58)
Sure thing. So, I mean, I guess the first thing to know is that you don’t apply a visual to every business workflow, right? So there are times where, let’s take resetting a password, for example. It’d be crazy to have a visual layer for that, but if you have what is typically a 20 minute call to have somebody work through fixing their ice maker, for example, or walking them through their house to quote some services, visual can take that 15 to 20 minute call and bring it down to just five minutes. So we’re not out here saying it’s the perfect tool for every job. We’re just saying that wherever you have to paint a picture with your words or using voice only, it’s a challenge.
Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Vikas, I mean, you’re out and about. Give us your kind of big picture thought on just digitalization in the customer service world.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:48)
Sure. I’ve seen customers explore it, dabble in it, over the last, I would say five to seven years in particular, but I haven’t seen them, you go back to them six months later. “So how did that project go?” “Oh, we wound it down,” right? A lot of it is, and I think to Wade’s point, and maybe Wade, you can touch on this, is kind of the success rate. The other challenge, Wade, historically was also that the customer was on so many different platforms that it was hard for a company to say, “Okay, I’m going to adopt a technology and it’s going to work for my,” just as a quick example, “iPhone user and an Android user, and if somebody is on their iPad,” right? And so that became a challenge. So how have things progressed, obviously in the last few years?
Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
I love that.
Wade Radcliffe: (03:40)
A lot to unpack there. So we’ll start with the fact that we’re not out there pitching that you should do visual chat for this. So what we found is that one-way video and two-way audio works best typically, because you’re both looking at the same thing. You’re co-browsing the environment, if you will. You have a shared experience. And because if something’s not working with the system that I just bought, I don’t want you to see me with my cranky face on. And the agent doesn’t necessarily want to have people see them, plus on a typical video conference call, if I’m seeing myself, I’m looking at me and not other people, right? So we’re not focusing on the issue at hand. So one-way video is a great way to accomplish resolving an issue. Second thing is on the fact that before we had some ubiquity and standards, we had to be on a certain platform and that was a challenge. Now that more and more people have a smartphone, typically an iOS or Android, 90 to 95% of the time, it’s a lot easier. Plus we can go through the mobile browser, as opposed to having to download an app. So these, with HTML5 and the extra bandwidth that people have these days, you can pull off a visual layer when it makes sense, a lot more easily.
Vikas Bhambri: (04:59)
So Wade, I think this is interesting because I think clients, when I was talking to them about this, because there’s nobody, there’s no playbook, right? It’s not like, to your point, voice or chat that’s been around for years. And everybody, I think they were kind of dabbling in different things. I even had one customer that was like, “Well, I’m going to integrate Zoom into my experience.” And automatically, I was thinking about, as you said, the customer showing their face and does a customer want to show their face in this kind of interaction? And then the agent. There’s actually pushback from the agents going, “I don’t want to show my face to that, look, I mean, I –
Gabe Larsen: (05:34)
“We didn’t get ready in the morning.”
Wade Radcliffe: (05:36)
Or, “I may want to roll my eyes.”
Vikas Bhambri: (05:39)
Right. Right. Or yeah, exactly. “I want to show my expressions of frustration, like pull my hair out or something like that.” So it’s interesting. You guys have actually changed the conversation. I’m almost thinking about it like, maybe I, am I thinking about this the right way where I’m on my phone and I’m just showing what I’m seeing, not myself and I’m not necessarily seeing the other person?
Wade Radcliffe: (06:00)
Exactly. So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.
Gabe Larsen: (06:11)
Got it. So do you not recommend that, I gotta, do you not recommend the kind of the face-to-face or is there a time and place where someone who would actually show their face from a customer view and the agent would show their face or is that, to Vikas’s point, nobody wants to do that actually?
Wade Radcliffe: (06:25)
There’s a time and a place for it. Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video for awhile. So, “I’ve seen your space, now let’s have a face-to-face conversation about how we go about ordering furniture,” for example. So it’s nice, like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.
Vikas Bhambri: (07:01)
Wade, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this, but I tell you one use case that I think was so brilliant was I had a customer who was in the blinds business. And if you don’t know how many people botch the measurement of their blinds, you would be shocked Gabe. Especially a guy like me who was like the anti-DIY guy. So to measure out end to end, how much blind with you need, and length I can handle, but width is where most people mess up. And so what they were finding was the number of orders that they were having to go through. So to your point Wade, like video would have been great for them to actually say, “Show me how you’re measuring this.” Like, you know what I mean? “Let me walk you through, are you measuring from end to end? Are you going from window to window or what it is?” So that’s the one that I personally –
Wade Radcliffe: (08:00)
Yeah, it’s a perfect match and yeah. Whether or not you’re inside the window casing or outside the window casing, those are very important things to know. And what we like to see is that with that visual layer, not only are you saving some time in that particular session, but you’re saving some downstream time as well. You’re not having to send somebody out, which costs you a few hundred bucks every time you do it, or you’re not dealing with a return because they bought it a little bit too long and a little bit too short. So if you can save some of those downstream actions, such as truck rolls or returns, the visual layer has really paid for itself.
Gabe Larsen: (08:36)
You know, it’s funny, Oh go ahead, Vikas.
Vikas Bhambri: (08:40)
So am I oversimplifying this to think that in anywhere that I think of a world where there’s a field service technician, it sounds to me like, I’m not trying to say you’re going to switch out the field service technician, but you guys could be a, at least a level one, right? Like, “Let me try to walk you through doing it yourself before I send out a technician.” And then you mentioned, I think another use case you mentioned was kind of the home styling or interior design element, which kind of ties into the blinds example I gave. Are there other industries that are using this kind of technology? Maybe it doesn’t come to mind immediately and you’re like, share that with the audience.
Wade Radcliffe: (09:20)
Sure. So anybody that does consumer goods that might have a little bit of complexity to them are very good. Utilities are very strong because we can take some pictures of the outside of someone’s home or building and then when we send that field technician, they know exactly what they’re getting into. They know what tools they have to bring. They know they have to bring a 12 foot ladder, those kinds of things, and they have an approach into that home. So there’s, utilities are big. Insurance companies. Sometimes refinances and home appraisals. It’s nice to walk a property and we can grab GPS, make sure we’re talking about the property we’re appraising, as opposed to, their rich aunt’s or uncle’s house. And if you’ve got a loan to value of maybe 20, 30, 40%, you don’t necessarily need to do an in-depth appraisal because there’s so much equity in that home. So there’s lots of ways that you can leverage –
Vikas Bhambri: (10:13)
It’s interesting. I just, oh, go ahead, Gabe. Sorry.
Gabe Larsen: (10:15)
Yeah. Check this one out, Wade. I don’t know if you can see that on the screen, but –
Wade Radcliffe: (10:18)
Gabe Larsen: (10:20)
Customers, by Fatema, you’ve got some car features, so service centers, that’s kind of different. Sounds like they’re exploring that. Fatema joins us from Dubai. I think we’re going –
Vikas Bhambri: (10:32)
One of the things we were thinking about was, my wife didn’t want to go to the dealership, is man, if you had a person in the dealership who could walk you through the features, functions, obviously you could do everything, but test drive the car, using a technology like this, or as you were saying, realtors. We just, I think our last show, Gabe, we had a guest who was moving from San Francisco to Denver and he said he bought the house sight unseen, but imagine a realtor walking you through a home in Denver. So maybe other use cases for this type of technology.
Wade Radcliffe: (11:06)
Yeah. I want to stick with your dealership example for a moment. So let’s say that they’ve actually bought the car and they’re at home and they’re trying to get their Apple CarPlay to work and they’re getting frustrated. They don’t want to spend two hours of their day going to the dealership or interacting with people face-to-face. This would allow them to walk them through it. They’ve learned something. They’re empowered. And you get the issue resolved right then and there without tying up that bit of time on their dealership too.
Vikas Bhambri: (11:36)
I’m getting more and more excited.
Gabe Larsen: (11:36)
Yeah, I’m seeing Vikas’s eyes get big. I’m interested in –
Vikas Bhambri: (11:41)
When we started the show, it’s been a long time coming. And I think the challenges, as Wade alluded to, were the technology limitations, we didn’t have ubiquitous device where you could just say, “Here’s the standard,” right? We only have to support, and now we only have to really support two main devices, no offense to Microsoft, but it’s Apple and Android, right? You don’t have to worry about all these 15 different environments. And then I think what Wade’s doing at Streem is writing the playbook by how you do this. Because like I said before, so many people were confused as like, “Well, do I do this? Do I show the agent? Don’t I show the agent? Do I see the customer? Is a customer going to want to download software?” That was another big issue in the past. We asked them to download something, so that seems to be no longer an issue. So the hurdles are moving and now we can really have some fun with the use cases.
Wade Radcliffe: (12:34)
Gabe Larsen: (12:36)
That, Wade, I want to get to the playbook, but do you have a quick comment on this one from Bruce? I’ve seen Zoom tends to perform better via app versus smartphone. Are you seeing the same?
Wade Radcliffe: (12:45)
Yeah. So when you’re actually using the mobile app, you’re actually, can get inside some of the goodies of the device. So for example, you got a gyroscope, an accelerometer inside that device. So if I’m moving it around, I can get an idea of depth and I can take measurements and it’s a little bit stickier, and those kinds of things. Yeah. It’s getting pretty exciting. And going through the browser via HTML5, you can’t necessarily pull all that off. So yeah, definitely the app’s a little cleaner, if you want to do some rural, funky stuff. If you’re just wanting to see what the person can see and co-browse their environment and draw on the screen, then typically you don’t need an app to do that.
Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
So do you, Wade, this playbook idea, I mean, we’ve hit some of the common hurdles, I think Vikas, and you’ve seen over the years in the industry, but if you were coaching somebody now to start this journey, how do I start to think about visual? Is that, I mean, I’ve got to identify the use cases. I need to know, I mean, you’ve talked about it a little bit, any five step process and best practices as people start to take this journey, you’d recommend?
Wade Radcliffe: (13:43)
If I were to go into a contact center, I’d say, “What calls are long and frustrating on average, if you type them?” And then once you’ve typed those, you can start to listen in on them and say, “Where are people getting hung up?” I said, it’s very much like it was prior to video. And you just, you prioritize, you run your priority charts, you pull out where your stickies and points are. And then to my surprise, video is so much easier to implement than I thought. I thought it was to be a big, complex thing and tough to do, but we’re actually able to do integrations, including integrations with customer, within an hour and you can trial it and see how it works and kind of get your folks the right feel for it. Because there, I’m trying to think of how best to put it, but there are ways that you can communicate, “Hey, are you on a smartphone? Hey, can I see through your camera?” that the agents get comfortable with to allow for a smoother engagement.
Vikas Bhambri: (14:42)
So to that point, what does the customer engagement look like? So I’m on the phone. Obviously I have to be on my smartphone with the contact center. I’m speaking to the agent and the agent says, “Hey, know what? It’d be super cool if you could just show me what you’re looking at,” and do they send, SMS me a link that I hit the link and then it invokes it? Talk to me a little bit about the customer side of that experience.
Wade Radcliffe: (15:08)
So a call comes in, they’re having a discussion. Sometimes you have a power user that knows exactly what they want, and they got a part, they need a replacement. You’re not going to deal with that, but you have someone saying, “My barbecue is not lighting.” I can say, “Well, what kind of model do you have?” “I don’t know. It’s a black one and it’s a little roundish.” So they’d say, “Hey, are you on a smartphone?” Yeah, most likely, yes. “Hey, would you mind if I looked through your camera so we can see the same thing?” And then once they do that, they push a button from their agent desktop, and then that sends a text message and they tap on that link on the text message, and then they have to say, “Accept the privacy terms saying yeah, I can look through your camera for the next five minutes.” And then you’re off and running and you have that voice call still in place. So you’re never really abandoning the voice call. You just add that visual layer and they go, “Oh, you’ve got a XY 2000. This is a common problem. Let’s go down here and point to where do you want to” –
Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Wow, I love it.
Vikas Bhambri: (16:04)
Very cool. How do you see working with folks that maybe are having a digital or text-based conversation, so chat or SMS with an agent, or is it primarily, is the use case voice?
Wade Radcliffe: (16:16)
And that does a couple, add something nice to it. So yes, absolutely. Chat’s a perfect example. You’re doing a chat and say, “Hey, are you on a smart phone? Let’s tap this link.” Or you can send them a code if they’re on something else and they can go to a webpage. But yeah, and what’s neat about that is that now we can get the voice through Streem as well. So if you wanted to do some analytics and do some crunching on what’s being said, and how it’s being said, some transcription, you can actually run the voice and the video through, initiated from a chat.
Vikas Bhambri: (16:43)
Wow. Super cool.
Wade Radcliffe: (16:46)
Or email or anything that’s text-based.
Gabe Larsen: (16:49)
Well, I love the examples, Wade. Is there another example? I mean, you’ve talked more about the kind of the consumer products, any other interesting stories or examples to kind of bring to light where you’ve seen this be very effective, again, maybe in a different industry that you could share?
Wade Radcliffe: (17:03)
Sure thing. Well we, one of our use cases is pretty strong as pro-to-pro conversation. So you’ll send a novice out in the field, or you’ve got a contracting, a contractor working for you. We have an airline that uses this to support their technicians. So technicians can know everything about every plane in a fleet. So they can actually call a lifeline if you will, and go back to the pro and their pro can walk them through a complex resolution.
Gabe Larsen: (17:31)
Got it. Got it. And do you find, I mean, as people implement your solution or visualization tools, where do they then get hung up? I mean, you’ve made it sound too easy, no offence, but there’s gotta be a couple holes somewhere. Where do people often be like, “Oh, shoot. I wish I would’ve thought,” or is it really as easy as you’re saying it is? I don’t mean to contradict you there, but it sounds pretty darn easy. Is there some place, is there some gotchas that bigger companies run into? Security? Something like that, that you need to be thinking about?
Wade Radcliffe: (18:01)
Well, most of the providers out there offer some pretty customizable security features. So you can, don’t have to store it here with us. You can store it on your own systems that got APIs, where you can really operate at atomic level to get rid of some of some things where you don’t have the feature that you need. The biggest issues that we see sometimes are like, someone’s screen lock is on and they want to turn it to the left. And then you’re looking sideways, just small things that people have, like when you’re walking your father-in-law or mother-in-law through an issue with their smartphone. So sometimes those are somewhat challenging to work through, but 80% of the time to 90% of the time based on your customer demographic, it’s quite smooth.
Gabe Larsen: (18:46)
Got it. All right. Well, Vikas –
Wade Radcliffe: (18:46)
Which helps, you can’t run this on dial-up.
Vikas Bhambri: (18:50)
Wade, are you seeing some of the traditional retailers, like the brick and mortar, adopt this? And I’m just thinking about now I’m in a store. I’m in, maybe a DIY store, like a Lowe’s or something like that, or I’m in a sporting goods store, and I’ve got a question about a golf club, or a grip or whatever it is, rather than having somebody, a lot of times, no offense, people on the floor no longer really know what they’re talking about. I can have like a centralized group that actually knows what they’re talking about.
Wade Radcliffe: (19:24)
Vikas Bhambri: (19:24)
Are you seeing people adapt this to where customers in store can actually use this technology?
Wade Radcliffe: (19:31)
Absolutely. And I’m glad you brought up Lowe’s because we have a press release out with them. They’re incorporating what we do.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:37)
That was not teed up. I just want the audience to know I am not a shill. I did not get a check in the mail, though I gladly accept them, but I did not know that. That’s fantastic.
Wade Radcliffe: (19:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So retailers do, first, they’re going to need to differentiate what they do, right? And Lowe’s is a great example where someone’s walking the floor. They’ve got an issue and this is not being done right now, but it’s a great idea, just to have a QR code, like if a supplier wants to put a QR code up in their, where their products are displayed, I could click on that and we can kick off a video session. It can kind of walk through some how to use a particular tool or in those kinds of things. So that’s a good idea. Plus, a lot of retailers, we see are doing actually some warranty work or first level warranty work for the OEMs. And this allows them to pull off some of that, without having to roll a truck, I think Lowe’s would have to go out and fix a dishwasher, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if they could do it over the phone with video?
Gabe Larsen: (20:39)
Yeah. Well, I’m sold. I’m sold. I think we could be using the video, more visualizations in CX. I didn’t think you’d be able to budge me over the edge, Wade, but congratulations. Closing comments, as we kind of wrap here. Wade, why don’t we start with you and then, Vikas, we’ll end with you. Thinking about, we talked about a lot, Wade, any things you’d leave for the audience as kind of recommendations or leave behinds?
Wade Radcliffe: (21:04)
Give it a whirl, give it a shot. Start small and see what you can pull off using visual. And thank you so much, Gabe and Vikas. I really appreciate the time to hang out with you guys and talk about what we’re up to in the world.
Gabe Larsen: (21:19)
Absolutely. Vikas, you convinced or you still doubter? I know you were a doubter to start but –
Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Wade, I’m excited. You can see the smile on my face. I was a doubter just because I’ve seen the challenges in the past, right? And like I said, sometimes being a dinosaur, but I would say to the practitioners out there who are listening, they’re probably like, “Oh no. They just introduced another channel,” right? “I just got my arms around Twitter or WhatsApp or Facebook messenger and now these guys and my boss is probably listening.” And he’s like, “We got to do video.” But to Wade’s point, dip in with the appropriate use case. Start out with those items that are most challenging your contact center agents today. Those long conversations, the ones that are taking four X your normal conversation, dig into those. See if video can be a solution to what your, the customer is actually trying to solve for. And I love how Wade said, if they’re starting to paint with words, let’s use the visual. And I think that’s a great way to tackle some very specific use cases to get your foot in the door.
Gabe Larsen: (22:30)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Wade, thanks for joining again, fun talk track. I think you’re hitting on something that, yeah, to Vikas’s point, has been maybe around a little while, but it’s taken some leaps and strides and it’s starting to make some noise, I think, in the right places. So kudos to you and the Streem team. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Wade Radcliffe: (22:48)
Exit Voice: (22:54)
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To possess a customer-first mindset is not a new concept by any means. However, the past year has exacerbated many of the vulnerabilities that organizations had within their CX organizations, and some businesses lost sight of their customer-centricity.
CX teams have always, to some degree, been the face of a business. But with the recent shift to digital-first behavior, organizations were suddenly flooded with a higher volume of inquiries and a surging obligation to manage more critical touch points within the customer journey. By now we all know that consumers demand real-time information, and CX organizations need to ensure that their customers are heard, happy, and receiving the best customer experience possible with every interaction.
The pandemic illuminated the fact that there is a lot more work to be done, and we are only at the beginning of a long road to become truly customer-centric. So now that you’ve accepted there is an opportunity to adopt an even stronger customer-first mindset, how do you get started? With your team. Given the importance of their role, you’ll want to make sure that the people you are bringing on board are able to exemplify some, if not all, of the following top customer service characteristics:
Not all customers are happy when they interact with customer service representatives, so it is crucial that your team is able to withstand the heat of the moment, push through the tough conversations, and provide a dynamite experience no matter the circumstances. Measuring sentiment through your CX software will greatly help segment out the unhappy customers and take specific action on them to allow for more positive interactions in the future.
2. Multitasking Skills
The ability to juggle multiple priorities is crucial for customer service agents. Luckily this conundrum can also be solved with stellar CX software that allows for intelligent queues & routing, and the prioritization of specific customer profiles or channels. But your team still needs to manage their time appropriately, ensuring that they are responding thoroughly to the task at hand so they can seamlessly move from one conversation to another.
3. Thorough Understanding
Knowing the history of every customer will enable your team to better understand the frustrations being brought to their attention. With a quick assessment of the customer’s order history, previous CSAT scores, general sentiment, or loyalty status, agents have the tools at their fingertips to provide more immediate and personalized responses. This fosters more empathetic conversations that help resolve the issue at hand swiftly and efficiently.
Having all of the history of your customer’s relationship with your brand is just the beginning. Being able to be personable based on social cues presented by the customer will take the conversation to the next level. Customers want fluent conversations, not just transactional interactions. By giving your team the tools to pay attention to the details and personalize interactions, you’ll build a more engaged and loyal customer base.
Positivity ties back to resiliency in many ways, but with the increasing importance of CX, and the weight these teams hold in terms of customer loyalty and increased revenue, you need positive energy to be present in every interaction with your customers.
All of these top customer service characteristics are equally important, and they all can be enhanced with the proper set of technology tools. Having the right information, at the right time, quickens response rates and eases tensions with your customers. Knowing that your customer had a bad experience last time they interacted with your brand gives your team the knowledge to be even more empathetic and understanding when engaging in a conversation with them in the future. The examples are endless, but ensuring that you set up a foundation that allows you to automate miniscule tasks, organize conversations based on complexity or priority, and understand why customers are reaching out to you in the first place, will help your team’s best qualities shine through, because they will face less blockers in their day to day. With fewer barriers in their way, agents can adopt a customer-first mindset, and prioritize the customer in everything they do.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Matt Dixon from Tethr and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss Matt’s most recent research on over one million customer service phone calls. In this episode, they discover what the research indicates and how leaders can utilize the data to their advantage. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
Adapting in the Biggest Stress Test Ever for CX
Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Matt Dixon and his team of professionals quickly got to work analyzing data from 1,000,000+ customer service calls. This last year has been described as CX’s greatest stress test ever because teams are having to constantly adjust and adapt to the ever changing world. A year in the making, the data is showing what teams are and aren’t doing correctly in this new environment. Something that Matt hopes teams will make note of, is pre-pandemic, about 10% of customer service calls were classified as difficult. Seemingly overnight, the amount of difficult calls jumped to a whopping 20%, overwhelming underprepared CX agents. As history shows, greater difficulty in customer experience interactions leads to greater amounts of negative word of mouth marketing and upset customers. This then leads to more people being unwilling to purchase goods or services from a brand because of high difficulty interactions. To help teams adjust to a new normal and return to work, Matt offers some practical and actionable tips in the episode. He explains that making sense of collected data is key for all teams who want to be successful in the future. “Data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology that exists today.”
Using Data Proactively Now and for the Future
Data is constantly being discussed in modern CX conversations on a global scale. It seems that more and more companies are turning to using data to gather helpful information about their customers. No longer are the days of QA teams and reps who had to take detailed, tedious notes on every customer interaction to gather data and search for opportunities for improvement. New technologies allow for that data to be automatically collected, scored, and reviewed. Brands would be wise to implement data collection and implementation on a company-wide basis, as it plays a major role in customer success and higher NPS scores across the spectrum. Matt believes that in order for that collected information to be holistically useful, teams have to be proactive about the way they utilize such data – to not only solve immediate issues, but to use it to predict future issues and customer difficulty. Matt explains that data can be used to prepare for “The thing they’re (customers) probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months. … It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience.” In addition to this, Matt believes that so many companies spend too much valuable time concentrating on gathering survey responses that would be better spent on analyzing data that is stored within the technology they already have access to. As CX leaders learn more about their technology and how they can use it to collect data, customer satisfaction is sure to skyrocket.
Employee Satisfaction Leads to Brand Loyalty
The topic of employee satisfaction has gained traction in the CX realm. Leaders are starting to recognize the importance of having teams of agents that are happy, rewarded for their efforts, and satisfied with their contributions to the company. The year of customer experience calls that Matt and his team analyzed revealed that big brands are being exposed and their weaknesses are being made public. Their lack of training and agent accountability is contributing to public distrust of these big brands. Vikas uses the example of reps working from home without direct supervision that are telling customers to complain on social media because they don’t have the tools, permission, or training to properly help them. Matt and Vikas believe that it is extremely important to hire the right people, train CX agents correctly, and establish a level of trust with them so that they can work independently and efficiently. “If you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.” When these agents feel that they are trusted and have the freedom to make crucial decisions on part of the customer, brands are more likely to win. Evidently, customer interactions prove that when the agents are happy, trusted, and feel like their efforts are important to the company, customers are happy and have a greater chance of staying loyal to the brand.
To learn more about 1,000,000+ customer calls and what the data shows, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tells Us | With Matt Dixon & Vikas Bhambri
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about customer service research. What 1 million, it’s more than a million phone calls, tell us what the heck you’re supposed to be doing to be successful in customer service. And to do that, we brought on a couple of special guests. One you know, Vikas Bhambri, and the other is Matt Dixon. Guys, why don’t you take just a minute and introduce yourself? Matt, let’s start with you.
Matt Dixon: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. Gabe, thanks for having me on. Matt Dixon, I am the Head of Product and Research at Tethr, which is an AI machine learning venture out of Austin, Texas. Prior to that, I hailed from CEB where I ran the customer experience and customer service practice for many years there. And I worked on all the research related to effortless experience, customer effort, score, effort reduction, some of which we’ll talk about today, hopefully.
Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Awesome. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:06)
Sure. Happy Friday, everyone. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Looking forward to the chat with Matt and Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
And you know myself, Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Matt, what does it feel like to be a celebrity? I mean, people must come to you. This question, by the way, those of you that –
Matt Dixon: (01:24)
Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
People must come to you and be like, “You changed my life.” I mean you wrote Effortless Experience, you wrote Challenger. I mean, how does it feel to be a celebrity? I’m partially kidding, but those are big books. A lot of people have been impacted by them. So number one, thank you. But in all seriousness, what does that kind of done differently for you in the way you’ve kind of managed your career so far?
Matt Dixon: (01:49)
Well, thank, first, thank you for the kind words. I think they’re, the first thing I’ll say is this. Those books and all that research was a big team effort. So it, it’s a kind of an awkward thing to have your name on a book that you know there were dozens and dozens of people behind, putting that research together. But at the same time it’s been a pretty fun journey. We’re, I think in both sales and customer service, we’re a little bit different from a lot of the other folks out there. I mean, you and I know a lot of the same folks in the sales world. I know you hailed from that world as well prior to your time at Kustomer in the customer experience and customer service world. And I think there’s so many good expert, kind of subject matter experts and thought leaders out there. What I think makes some of this research different is the thing I still try to stick to today is I’ve never run a call center. I’ve never been a Head of Customer Experience. I’ve never been a call center rep. I think I’d be, probably be an awful call center rep. I’ve also never been a salesperson. I’ve never run a sales organization and I’ve not, I have not carried a bag for 20, 30 years like many of the other folks out there writing about sales. I think what makes me different, and some of the folks I worked with on that research, is that we’re researchers. We brought data to the air against some of the big questions people were asking.
Matt Dixon: (03:07)
So Challenger, it was, how do we sell the information to power buyers? And we’ve been taught for so long that it’s all about needs diagnosis and relationships and this kind of thing. Is that actually true? And we found with the Challenger research, a lot of that stuff was built on flawed assumptions, or at least it didn’t stand the test of time and the data currently shows a better way to do things from a sales perspective. In effortless experience, very similar. We’re all taught to believe that more is better. It’s all that delight and wowing and exceeding the customer’s expectations and we shouldn’t do that as companies. We should have a great brand that delights, a killer product that delights, great pricing that delights, a sales experience delights, but when things go wrong, we’ve found that’s not the time to delight. That’s the time to get things back on track and make it easy for the customer. Play good in customer service.
Matt Dixon: (03:52)
And so I think in some ways I like, I don’t know that I put myself up in the Pantheon of like the MythBuster guys from Discovery Channel, but I, and that’s kind of how I think of, my career has been a lot about that. Trying to bring science to bear, to test some of these assumptions that a lot of people have that feels so right. And then we never stopped to question whether or not they’re actually true and there’s a lot that we go and test and we find out it’s actually true, but there’s a lot that we tested we find out it’s actually wrong. And I think exposing that for sales leaders, customer experience leaders, contact center leaders, customer service leaders is really important and really valuable because it helps them proceed with clarity and allocate the resources better.
Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
Yeah. Well, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve appreciated about the methodology in the CX space. It seems like it’s fluffier at times, right? It’s a day on the phone with Zappos for 50 hours to make somebody feel good. There’s just so much kind of feel good stuff, that I remember reading the Effortless Experience and it was the first time I was like, “Oh my goodness, a data driven view into customer experience that I think maybe isn’t the standard.” So I do think it is nice to have some research. That’ll set up our conversation as we jump in. Vikas, I mean, your experience with the Effortless Experience, or it’s got to be one of those books, that’s just, you’ve talked to maybe a hundred thousand people about?
Vikas Bhambri: (05:09)
No, look it’s, Matt and team did a great job. It’s top of mind for a lot of folks right now, right? In terms of just how do you compete effectively? And I think the effortless experience in terms of that experience that you can deliver, not only externally, but internally with your team, and then how do you use data to iterate that experience, right? I think what Matt and team do is they’re looking at it at a macro level, across many customers and many trends. And then, what any operational leader needs to do is then apply it to their business and say, “Look, let me look at the metrics in my data. These are the bars that I want to aspire to. What do I need to do to get there?” And looking at the data within their own tools and tool sets and saying, “Where am I falling short?” So I think it’s that perfect convergence in terms of how do people effectively compete in what’s becoming a very challenging environment, right? New companies popping up in every space, almost on a daily basis.
Gabe Larsen: (06:05)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s get into kind of then, some of the latest research and it may not be the latest latest, because it seems like every time I talk to Matt, he’s got something new on his, on his cuff, but –
Matt Dixon: (06:16)
[Inaudible] Now I feel lazy because I have –
Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
[Inaudible] four weeks old. What the hell?
Matt Dixon: (06:28)
[Inaudible] me lately.
Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t good enough. So maybe kind of give us the backstory on this. Obviously it was COVID related. A lot of phone calls. Fill in the blanks as to why you started it, what it is.
Matt Dixon: (06:39)
Yeah. So we at, just a little bit of background. So at Tethr, we are in the conversational analytics space. I know a lot of the folks on the, listening on that are familiar with that technology. We’re one of the players in that space. And so we work with a lot of big companies around the world. And what was interesting is we take their phone date, phone call data, we take their chat interactions, their email changes, other other data, and we help them make sense of it. And to understand what’s going on in the customer experience, what the reps are doing to the good and to the bad. What the customer’s experience is with their product and their digital channels and so on and so forth. And one of the things we noticed is, with COVID in that, obviously it took the world like in a blink of an eye, just changed a lot of what we do. Think about a call center leader, multiple kind of dynamics at play. On the one hand, all of my reps who used to be sitting together in a contact center that are now all working from home. No access to peers, no access to supervisors, no shoulder to tap to ask for some help, really working on an island. And then you add onto that the fact that customers are now calling about maybe not entirely new issues, but much more acute issues. So think about, for instance, a utility company, we work with a number of utility companies. They’ve always had a certain percentage of customers that call for financial hardship reasons. I’ve lost my job. My spouse has lost their job. I can’t pay my electric bill this month. I need to go on a payment plan [inaudible] will shut my power off. That, we found in one company in our study, the number of financial hardship-related costs increased by 2.5x almost overnight in the span of like a couple of days. The number of people calling in saying, “I can’t pay my bill. I cannot have you turn the power off. And I don’t know when I’m going to be able to pay to pay you guys. So I need to, you got to come up with a plan and it’s got to be a new, creative plan, right? Because I don’t know when I can get back on track financially.” That produced this perfect storm for customer service leaders. So we started hearing from a lot of our customers, “Hey,” like, “let’s get under the hood of what’s going on in these conversations. What’s changed for our reps? What’s changed in the customers, with the customer’s expectations? What are the good reps doing that we need to do more of? What are the reps doing to the bad that we need to do less of, and let’s get our arms around this because this stuff is happening so fast.”
Matt Dixon: (08:57)
And so that’s what we did. We collected. We took a sample of calls. A million calls total from across 20 different companies. And we specifically picked those companies because we thought they represented a broad cross section of the economy. Some industries really effected like travel and leisure, some less so. And so we combined, we created the sample and we went in and we studied it. One of the first things we did was we scored all of the calls for the level of effort. So we had built an algorithm at Tethr, we call it the Tethr Effort Index, think of it like a predictive survey score. So rather than asking your customer at the end of a call to tell you how much effort that call was and for those of you familiar with the Effortless Experience, you know a customer effort score is one of these things that we talk about a book. That relies on a survey, but what we built a Tethr was a machine generated algorithm that could take a recorded phone call and the machine could tell you basically, here’s the score you would have gotten on the survey if the customer had filled it out, but without the high effort experience and the expense of asking the customer to fill out a survey.
Matt Dixon: (09:57)
So the first thing we did was we started collecting calls on March 11. We picked that date because it was the date the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. We ran the study for two weeks to get a million calls sample from across 20 different companies. So that was a subset of the total call volume those companies do with us. And we scored those calls and we looked at what the scores were before and what they were after. And we saw a real increase overall in just the difficulty of calls, so the effort level of calls. And for those of you again, who know the research, know that effort corresponds with churn. It corresponds with negative word of mouth. It corresponds with customers unwilling to buy more from you, unwilling to accept the save offer, right? When they get transferred to the retention queue.
Matt Dixon: (10:42)
Specifically, we saw before the pandemic for the average company in our study, it was about 10% of their calls that would have been scored as difficult on our scale. It’s a zero to 10 scale. So we’re looking at the scores in the zero to four range. Those are the bad ones. In the study, so after March 11th, for those companies, that percentage doubled to 20%.
Vikas Bhambri: (11:02)
Matt Dixon: (11:03)
So now, one fifth of their total call volume was in that zone of customers who are likely to get on social media and badmouth you, likely to churn out, not likely to buy anything more. They’re going to go in and tell their neighbors and their friends and their colleagues, “Don’t do business with these guys. It’s a terrible company, they’re treating me,-” and again, a lot of the, it was compounded by the way the reps were handling that. The fact that they’re all working from home and we get into a little bit of that, but it was kind of a staggering overnight change in the dynamic.
Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
Well, and I think that’s obviously, I think we’re all experiencing that. So it’s not too surprising from an interpersonal perspective. I can relate. Obviously taking this call from home at the moment. So if I understand the basis of it though, it did start in March 11th, it went for two weeks. Million plus phone calls, cross segment of the industries, just touch on that real quick. It was, you did try, it was pretty variety. So it wasn’t just hospitality and travel. You felt like you got a pretty good cross section on that.
Matt Dixon: (11:57)
Good cross section. So we, we’ve got in there some consumer products companies, some travel and leisure companies, utilities, financial services, card issuers, telco, and cable. It was a broad cross section. We had a couple of more B2B tilted companies as well. So we felt like we had a pretty good sample that we could say, “It wasn’t all skewed towards travel and leisure.”
Gabe Larsen: (12:18)
I love these different industries. Go ahead, Vikas.
Vikas Bhambri: (12:20)
Let me touch on one thing, which I think is really interesting. I think this is about the data, right? And I think if people aren’t using their contact center or CX data in the best of times, shame on them. But especially now, and I think there’s a real opportunity for companies to do what we call proactive service. And I think a great example of this is if you’re an insurer and you’re seeing that 20% of your volume coming in is around, “Hey, I want a reduction in my premium because I’m not driving my car,” why not use that data? Go out to market like my insurer’s done and say, “Hey, we’re giving you a credit to your account because you haven’t even asked for it, but chances are, you’re not driving. So we’re giving all our,” and look at the positive press and you’re seeing some big insurers now are catching on to this. And people are like, “Wow. My insurer’s thinking about me in this time of need.” And I think using that data, because chances are, they were going to give people individually, those credits anyway. One, you’ve reduced your conversation volume into your contact center because now you’re proactive about it and you’re getting positive press. Any thoughts on that and how people might be using that data creatively?
Matt Dixon: (13:29)
Yeah, no, I mean, I think you’re right. So the, a couple comments, one is, being proactive, I think was one of the things we wrote about in The Effortless Experience. Not just solving this issue, but thinking about the next issue proactively for the customer. The thing they’re probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months, but you as a company know this, so you can use your data to predict that, and you can fully resolve it for the customer. It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience. But the other thing in general, I totally agree, Vikas, with what you’re saying. That I see, I’m constantly surprised by how little companies, big companies actually leverage all the found data in their enterprise and how much they obsess about getting more data from like, for instance, post-call surveys.
Matt Dixon: (14:17)
So that to me, I find to be like, it’s just this weird head snapping thing that I don’t understand at all, which is they all obsess about post-call surveys. What do we need to do to get more customers to respond to our survey so that they can tell us how much effort the experience was? And I always think, “Well, you’re recording all your phone calls and your email exchanges, and your chat interactions, your SMS exchange and all this stuff on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and social. Like you have enough data already to know what the experience was. Why are you obsessing about your survey response rate?” And it just, it’s so interesting the way, and even when you get down to it, I hate to be pessimistic here, but our data in this view, but I think part of the reason is they get paid on survey response rates and NPS scores and things like that. And so that’s why they obsess about it. It’s not, ultimately, if they really wanted to fix customer experience, there are way better sources of data in the systems they already use so that they can be more proactive, so they can find those effort causes and drivers and do something about it. It’s, that data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology exists today, you know? Sure. 10 years ago you needed a QA team, kind of with headsets, listening to calls, making notes and surfacing opportunities to get for improvement. But you don’t have to do that today. Machines can do that at tremendous speed and scale and so, but it surprises me why more companies don’t do it.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Yeah. I mean, the thing is if you send somebody a 15 page survey after an interaction, right, if you’re in the travel industry, for example, right, after I’ve spoken to a customer service professional, it’s like you had good interaction. And I don’t think maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a lack of understanding at the executive level that what kind of data occurs in these conversations, right? If you’re a marketeer and you don’t realize that the best feedback you’re going to get about a promotion or an offer or a competitor, what a competitor’s doing, is in those conversations. If you’re a product person and you don’t realize, “Wow, like my contact center gets real-time feedback on a new feature or a new service that I’m providing,” there’s a lack of understanding there about the richness of the data that resides in the contact center environment.
Matt Dixon: (16:27)
Yeah. I agree. It’s, I think there’s this assumption that it’s the data in so far as leverage, it’s really just valuable for making contexts in our interactions better. So, but we find when we go into those conversations, it’s a gold mine, Vikas, as you’re saying, of the insight around your digital experience. What were all the things the customer was trying to do on your website or your app before they picked up the phone and called that they’re actually telling the rep or complaining about in the conversation and you’ve just recorded it? What are all the things they talk about with respect to your product or your feature or your pricing, or your competitive differentiation, or about the sales rep who oversold them on the product or service to begin with, and now they’re calling in disappointed? So there’s just tons of insight there for all parts of the enterprise, not just for the QA team at the call center.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:11)
Gabe Larsen: (17:12)
No, I love that. So this is one way I think companies are trying to kind of do things differently in this, it’s been called the new normal or the new world we live in, using data in a way maybe they haven’t done. There were some other things that you were alluding to, Matt based on findings you have, and we’ve put a link in the chat for the actual HBR article that you wrote. So if you want to see some of the additional findings but I want to get into some of these takeaways. Where did you kind of go based on then the data that was revealed? Can you maybe start at the top? So we got data, one, and then what’s next?
Matt Dixon: (17:43)
Yeah. So we, so the highest level again, we found a doubling of the predicted effort level of interactions from pre-pandemic to in the pandemic or pre-March 11 to post-March 11th. The other thing we found as we started digging into what was really driving this was, and I think you found that generally speaking at the highest level, this is this higher level of effort in these interactions was sort of born of two different things. And they’re kind of, there’s a little bit of overlap. And on the one hand I mentioned before, customers who are feeling a lot more emotion and anxiety, driven by things like financial hardship, coming in really frustrated because maybe it took them two hours to get through to a rep because now the call center doesn’t have access to the outsource that they used to provide overflow support. The call volume has spiked, and now there’s a longer hold time. So they’re frustrated to begin with. They’re doubly frustrated maybe because they went to a website and what in normal times wasn’t such a big deal, now it was a really big deal because the alternate option going in self-serving failed them. They’re talking to a rep who they feel like is dealing with policies that really haven’t been updated in light of the pandemic. So you might be asking for a bill payment, that utility example I used before, a bill payment extension or a payment plan. And they’re still pushing customers to the policies that existed before the pandemic. And they haven’t really updated us because the company moves really slowly and they just feel like they’re dealing with people who are just throwing out policy and hiding behind policies.
Matt Dixon: (19:11)
That’s kind of on the customer side. Then the agent side, think about it. And you’ve got to be empathetic to the agent situation here, too. Many of these agents who are now working from home, the fact of the matter is that before the pandemic, most of them were working in kind of a factory floor model of a contact center where they were, they sat in a group surrounded by colleagues who they could tap on the shoulder and ask for help. Supervisors they could wave their hand and flag down for assistance or a policy exception in the moment. They were given a script, they were given a checklist. They had access to all the resources they needed. There were kind of like cogs in the machine. What happens when you send all those folks out to their home offices and now they’re left to their own devices?
Matt Dixon: (19:52)
What you find is that in some cases, maybe we didn’t hire people, we didn’t hire the right people. And maybe in some cases we never coached them on the behaviors that could lead to them being successful. We just kind of told them to stick to the script and just follow the rules, follow the checklist. That doesn’t really work in a situation where customers are calling in about high-anxiety, high-emotion issues. And they’re asking reps to make exceptions and make up their minds and decide things on the fly. Then what do you do if there’s no tenured colleague or supervisor you can flag down? You’re sitting in your basement or your living room doing your job. It’s really, really tough. So what that means is agents are shirking responsibility. They’re citing policies. They’re saying, “Hey, I can’t really help you. Maybe you should write a letter to the company. Sometimes that gets their attention. And you know what you might want to do is just bad mouth them on Twitter, because if you do that, they usually jump to it and they can help you out.” You know? And I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of that going on and it, that then compounds the frustration from customers. So beyond that, we started to look at, I think the good news is there are things we found in the research that are, we think tools and ways forward and we’ve talked a little bit about those, but let me pause here and just see if you have any thoughts, Gabe or Vikas, on that piece of it.
Gabe Larsen: (21:03)
Yeah. Any response to that? I mean, definitely a customer side and an employee side. It sounds like.
Vikas Bhambri: (21:08)
No, I look, I think I, Matt, I’ve been saying for weeks as we’ve been doing these is, this is the biggest stress test that the contact center industry has ever gotten. And I think a lot of the fundamentals that were broken at a macro level across the industry, but individually are in for specific brands are being exposed. And I think that lack of training and empowerment is one that is absolutely coming to the forefront because for somebody who’s been walking the floors of contact centers for 20 years, this even today, there’s the culture of the supervisor walking the floor, looking over the shoulder, providing guidance, jumping in and saying, “Hey, let me listen to that call. Let me coach you through it,” and forget the technical limitations. How do you do that? Now when you’ve got, maybe you’re a supervisor of 20 people and now they’re disparate and they’re working from home, forget the, like I said, the technology limitations, how do you actually do that? So I think, like I said, we’re exposing a lot of the flaws and I think, what are some of the changes we’ll see going forward is that ability to empower and really create this into a knowledge worker role, right? Because as self-service takes care of the low level simple questions, you’re going to see, I think you’re going to see this in the contact center regardless of the work from home environment, but you’re really going to need people who can handle those difficult questions.
Matt Dixon: (22:36)
Yeah. We actually, there’s another one, I don’t know if, Gabe you throw this up on the, with the other article, but there’s an article we wrote in 2018 about T-Mobile’s journey toward a different in kind of knowledge work environment for their contact center, where they basically told their reps, “You guys are now small business owners and we are, our job as leaders is to figure out what’s getting in your way of delivering the right customer experience. Is it a policy? Is it that you don’t have the right tools? You don’t have the right, you’re not on the right platforms that the connection speeds too slow? What is the thing that’s getting in your way? But you tell us what you need. We’ll clear the road for you. Your job is to own the customer experience and come up with creative solutions, but use your own judgment.”
Matt Dixon: (23:15)
A lot of that really increases the importance of hiring great people, coaching them in a really effective way, giving them great manager support and putting them in a climate that really rewards people for using their own judgment; doesn’t just tell them to stick to the script. So that article was called Reinventing Customer Service and I encourage everyone to read that because it picks up on this story that Vikas is talking about. When the easy stuff goes away, by definition, what’s left is the more complicated stuff that the live rep is handling. And you need to have really good people who can exercise their own judgment, and that’s even more important. And what becomes apparent is when, if you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.
Matt Dixon: (24:01)
And so it really, this is, I think there are two trends that’ll be kind of shot through a tunnel of time with COVID. I think one is digital and specifically omni-channel capabilities. The ability for companies to seamlessly switch, obviously work that you guys do at Kustomer, to switch from one channel to the next. I think the ability, the effectiveness of asynchronous messaging in particular, chat effectiveness, SMS effectiveness, customers used to use that stuff for simple binary interactions. Now, when they’re looking at a two hour, wait time in the phone to queue, they’re going to go try that chat channel first, right? And see how far they can get. What that’s doing is it’s forcing chat to grow up really fast and forcing our chat bots to get really smart really quickly. I think the other trend that will be shot through a tunnel of time is agent empowerment and hiring great people, putting them in a climate of judgment where they can leverage the expertise of their peers, but more importantly, where they’re trusted to do what they know is right, because we trust that we hired great people and we showed them, here are the boundaries in the sandbox we can’t go across for regulatory reasons or legal reasons, but within that, use your judgment. Do what you think is right for the customer. We’re not going to script you. We’re not going to checklist you. And it turns out putting customer reps in those environments means they deliver actually better outcomes, more customer-centric outcomes, and they deliver better results for their companies, higher NPS scores, lower churn, higher cross-sell and up-sell. And that’s exactly what T-Mobile saw in their experience.
Vikas Bhambri: (25:27)
Yeah, and if I can just touch on what Matt said about that omni-channel experience. It’s really delivering that same experience, regardless of channel. I talked to a lot of customer service leaders that complain you gave the example of people going to Twitter to complain. And I didn’t know agents were actually coaching them to do that. I can see why. And it was really interesting. I remember a few years ago, I did some work with an airline where I met their social team, the Twitter team, and they were like, they walked into the room, like really like a group of alphas. They were talking about how they had a separate set of policies that they were able to do than the core contact center, because they were like, “When people complain on social, we have the ability to offer them refunds and things that the core team isn’t.” I was sitting there laughing. I’m like, “This is not a good thing. You’re basically training people to go to social media, to amplify their voice so that they get better customer service.” And I’m like, “That is a fail because what you’re doing then is you’re training them to go to these places.” And so for me, omni-channel experience, it’s not just about delivering the channels, but you should have a uniform experience regardless of which channel that customers coming to you with. So I thought that just, when you mentioned Twitter and agents guiding customers to that just triggered that airline story.
Gabe Larsen: (26:44)
Matt Dixon: (26:45)
Because they say, “Well, look. Actually the alpha team is on that group. I know several companies, big name companies that put their best reps, you graduate into the social team. When you reach the highest level of agent status, that’s where you go, like, that’s the destination job. There are no rules or no policies do whatever you want. And what they’re doing is teaching their customers that the way you get the best service from this company is by publicly complaining about it.
Gabe Larsen: (27:08)
Matt Dixon: (27:08)
And it’s just like –
Gabe Larsen: (27:11)
Yeah. It’s funny that that’s what, that’s the world we’re in though, you guys. Our time is unfortunately come to an end, such a fun talk track, always more to discuss. We did leave the link to the HBR so you can dive in a couple more of the findings and the research. Matt, it’s always great to have you. Vikas, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)
Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Take care guys, bye.
Exit Voice: (27:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
When it comes to building a successful customer service organization, you always want to start with defining your business outcomes. So the first question becomes: what do you want to achieve? Is it increased customer loyalty? Increased revenue? Incremental customer growth? Without understanding your ultimate end goal, knowing a customer’s history may seem unnecessary. But as soon as you identify your goal, it’ll become clear that your organization won’t be successful without access to customer history, and you’ll instantly know what about the customer’s history is most valuable to understand.
Let’s think of customer relationships more broadly. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about building a relationship with a new friend or significant other? You’ll most likely want to learn about who that person is on a deeper level. This helps you understand why they make the decisions they make, what their habits are, and more generally, who they are as a person.
You should follow that same mindset when it comes to your relationships with customers. The way you approach a customer varies depending on the type of business you are in. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, both are equally as important. Your customer is purchasing from you for a reason, and it would be a missed opportunity to not understand why. An inadequate view into this information will disrupt your team’s ability to create more meaningful interactions that will leave a lasting impression and keep valued customers.
Customer History for B2B Organizations
If you are in the B2B space, you know how much of an investment, in both time and money, your customers are making by switching over to your business. Clearly, the previous provider didn’t work for them, and if you never bother to understand what their pain points were and why they have moved over to you, you’ll end up making the same mistakes, likely resulting in churn. It is incredibly important to always identify customer challenges, map out how to solve them and ensure that you are delivering value at every opportunity. At the end of the day, if your service still can’t solve some of the pain points they have presented, the relationship might not make sense and it’s better to set proper expectations right at the forefront. People yearn for trust and that goes hand-in-hand with powerful and effective business relationships built on a collaborative plan that sets out to overcome obstacles. This can only happen when you understand and have access to, your customer’s history.
Delivering on B2C Consumer Expectations
In the B2C space, younger generations are continuing to trend towards higher expectations from the brands that they engage with. They are looking for easy access, real-time information, and proactive approaches that make their day-to-day easier. Customer service in today’s digital world is what makes you stand out from your competitors. Knowing your customer’s purchase history, loyalty status, preferences, or even sentiment with your brand, allows you to treat them with higher levels of service, increasing customer loyalty. This, in turn, makes your own team’s lives easier and helps to prevent fatigue. Arming your team with such valuable information allows them to act quickly and spend less time tracking down information, which grants them more time to think creatively and respond more thoroughly.
Whether you are working with a business or you are engaging with individual customers, knowing a customer’s history will allow you to avoid the same mistakes or disruptive experiences they have been faced with in the past, and build long-lasting, lucrative relationships.
Growth creates growing pains. And often, high-growth brands struggle to scale their contact centers while also managing an influx of shopper queries, such as returns or locating an item. Balancing these forces — scale and volume — often starts with reviewing your help center software and removing manual, time-consuming tasks, including sifting through queues, escalating issues and processing transactions.
What Is Help Center Software?
Simply put, help center or support software enables conversations between customer service professionals and shoppers, who submit support inquiries. The software fields, stores and organizes these queries and displays them to the agent. Within this interface, staff have access to a variety of customer communications and data, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Perhaps most importantly, help center software powered by AI and machine learning can automate agent work and process inquiries without agent intervention, freeing up agent time to tackle more complex requests.
As DTC markets grow — and with them, consumer expectations and inquiry volume — technology must keep up. Modern help center software eliminates low level tasks and deflects repetitive questions, empowering customer service professionals to be more focused and reducing per-contact costs. What makes great software? Read more below.
Why Focus on Help Center Software?
Few business facets are more important than customer service. Speaking about 2021 customer service trends, Allegra Ubbes, a senior advisory specialist at Gartner, summarized the market this way:
“Customer service and support leaders face increased pressure from leadership on the role of the service function in improving operational excellence and growing the business. Given this environment, it’s unsurprising that customer service and support leaders’ top 2020 priorities are rooted in customer experience (CX), managing talent and data.”
Adding to their analysis, Gartner surveyed service executives about their priorities. Topping their lists: digital channels and functions. “Customer service leaders feel a distinct pressure to meet customers’ expectations for digital service channels and keep pace with competitors’ service offerings,” analysts write. “As a result, service leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time adding or integrating channels.”
However, research finds this creates a “costlier, more complex network of channels to manage without improving the customer experience and insufficient reduction in live volume.” Put another way: not every help center software – and the channels they facilitate – can power the sleek shopping experience that buyers want. On the contrary, that software may damage customer relations and the company’s bottom line.
Make Friends With Customer Experience (CX)
Simply sidestepping help center software all together isn’t going to solve this issue. Indicators suggest brands can anticipate a sustained surge of digital customer queries. And the National Retail Federation (NRF) found there’s a good chance 2020-based forces have permanently altered the CX industry. As such, brands should take notice.
Training their sights on the November-December holiday season, NRF found retail sales rose to $789.4 billion, an 8.3% increase over 2019. Online and other sales outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores grew 23.9% over the previous year as well.
Greater sales activity creates a cascade effect on business operations: starting with increased urgency placed on customer service professionals and their tools, such as help desk software. How great a spike in activity? Just under 70% of respondents said they fielded more customer queries in 2020 when compared to the previous holiday season.
And there’s a price tag attached to excellent CX. Researchers found an overwhelming 86% of buyers said they’d pay more for a product when that shopping experience comes with superior customer service. When there’s demand for — and more money to be made — with great customer service, avoiding help center software isn’t an option.
Help Center Software of Your Dreams
Alright, so those are the stakes. But what factors should a customer service professional weigh when evaluating different help center software? Look no further than software that leverages the latest technology to make agents more efficient and effective.
Holistic Customer View. See the whole picture. Often answers are found by combining information from different sources. Opt for a software that uses a holistic customer view, and displays every item of internal and external data into one actionable interface.
Powerful Automation. Give your agents more bandwidth to focus their energy on pressing tasks with AI and machine learning, which completes small, easy tasks that don’t require a human touch.
True Omnichannel. Endlessly toggling between engagement channels burns valuable time and energy, which could be spent delving into customer queries. Choose a help center software with omnichannel features that empower agents to switch between channels without ever leaving the conversation.
Sentiment Fluency. Customer service can be a huge source of data. Let AI do the hard work. Software with sentiment fluency interprets shoppers’ feelings and turns them into actionable insights.
Customization. It’s a bad idea to add tools that aren’t a good fit for your operation. Cumbersome solutions burn resources, and can ultimately harm a customer’s shopping experience. Choose a software that seamlessly integrates with your existing operation.
Help Center Software Solutions
Want to see these fives pillars in action? Check out Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform for managing high support volume. When there’s a surge of customer queries, not just any help center software will do. Delve deeper into this topic, and discover how artificial intelligence can reduce time spent on minor tasks and create a more enjoyable shopping experience for customers.
Have you and your teams struggled with the transition to remote customer service, and want more control on how you’re delivering a stellar experience to your customers? The Kustomer Platform bridges the gap between addressing accountability problems (are my agents really working?), giving you a seamless way to track important data points about your customer.
What is Remote Customer Service?
With an uptick in people working from home and being online more than ever before, consumers need and expect customer support 24/7. Your remote customer service agents should do everything an in-house CS rep can do: take calls, process high-level customer questions, and be attentive to your customer’s unique needs. The good news is, your brand can offer a completely remote customer service experience and you don’t need to rent costly office space to deliver an exceptional experience.
Here Are 4 Simple Ways To Deliver Stellar Remote Customer Service:
1. Easy Access
All you need is an internet browser and standard wifi, and you’re good to go!
2. Seamless Collaboration
Through easy integrations, you can loop in cross functional teams and use tools like Notes, @mentions, followers, and more.
3. Easy Oversight
Remotely manage your CX tool with confidence.
Quickly get a bird’s eye view of customer service agent availability & capacity.
Jump into active conversations and manage queue assignments easily.
4. Stay Efficient & Effective
Finally! You can leverage a true omnichannel CRM to create a detailed picture of every customer and help them stay engaged on any platform.
Easy automation of repetitive tasks.
Access all the data you need in just one place!
Want To See What Effortless Remote Customer Service Looks Like?
You can request a 15-minute live intro call with one of our representatives here, or you can see the Kustomer platform in action by getting a behind-the-scenes look here.
As the direct-to-customer market grows, many brands continue to adopt traditional approaches to customer service and stumble over the same obstacles again and again. How should customer service professionals rethink client care? And where should brands even begin this process? Let’s unpack some common customer service problems and solutions.
Below, we outline common obstacles, such as adapting to new customer preferences and gauging success, and cover modern solutions.
Customer Service Basics: What’s the Problem?
Despite popular wisdom, a majority of buyers do not want to speak to a support agent. That’s according to a survey by market research company Forrester. Analysts found most customers simply want accurate, relevant and complete answers to their queries. Why does this matter?
Returning to the study, more than 50% of U.S. adults said they’re likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.
Speaking to only those one-in-two shoppers for whom speed is a factor, whether or not a brand closes a sale depends on how quickly customers can locate answers related to a product.
Delving deeper into this topic, 70% of adults said valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
Customers are increasingly using self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for customer service, which apply less friction to the shopping experience, Forrester researchers write.
Examples of these channels include:
Web or mobile self-service.
Online forums or communities.
Of course, now’s not the time to unplug and retire the landlines. What this report points to is a more nuanced, tech-forward approach to our customer service problems and solutions — an approach that is more vital now than ever.
How Did COVID-19 Shift Customer Service
COVID-19. Social distancing. Virtual connections. With an eye on the upcoming year, Forrester suggests customer service centers will adapt to a shifting market, one shaped by the pandemic. There’s a “need for a more empathetic service experience,” analysts write. Additionally, customer service will become a lifeline for an estimated 33 million consumers.
“With U.S. unemployment peaking in April ,” they write, “millions of individuals found themselves struggling to pay for food, bills, and other necessities.” They suggest responsible organizations provide high-quality, emotionally sensitive customer support in a form that meets customers’ needs.
Concurring with the above trend, Forrester predicts a sharp, 40% spike in virtual customer support cases, placing greater scrutiny on brands and greater urgency on their support agents to meet shoppers’ preferences: namely a demand for self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels.
Finally, Forrester projects the creation of hybrid store/contact center roles. While brick-and-mortar stores have been hurt by the pandemic and subsequent social distancing guidelines, they haven’t been erased. Assuming a hybrid posture towards customer service problems and solutions creates the greatest opportunity for brands to meet shoppers’ needs.
Tackling Customer Service Problems and Solutions
As we covered in a previous blog post, customer service agents who aim to improve their care face a unique challenge. So often, the starting points for new solutions are major issues that may be intangible and tricky to define, such as:
Immediate need to deflect conversations.
Equally challenging is gauging the benefits of your customer service. Of course, a five-star review on a public forum is a clear sign. Generally speaking, these kinds of signals can be few and far between, creating gaps of time without concrete feedback to indicate how well a service center is performing. Where should you look to get a sense of how your service is affecting consumers?
First, look within. Everyone benefits from excellent customer service, not just shoppers. When buyers are happy, that can radiate to an entire organization, boosting morale and — potentially — translating to sales. And in that way, a company’s bottom line becomes a clear, tangible gauge of customer service efforts.
And second, check your workloads. Customer service takes time to perform, especially when done well. As such, professionals may find themselves overburdened when fielding a large volume of easy to answer conversations, and unable to attend to more serious cases. Often, giving agents the freedom to deflect avoidable queries is a matter of implementing tech solutions, such as self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels.
Customer Service Solutions
Here are just a few options that are available to customer service professionals:
Providing shoppers with resources, such an easily accessible FAQ section.
Installing an AI chatbot.
Implementing a proactive outreach strategy, allowing agents to address customer concerns before they arise.
Learning how to tackle customer service problems and solutions doesn’t have to stop with this blog post. Trust Kustomer as a source of invaluable tactics for honing your custom service center strategy. Learn more.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen uncovers the secrets to establishing employee and customer engagement with expert Suzzanna Rowold. Suzzanna has over 12 years of leadership experience and is currently working on a PhD with a focus of entrepreneurship and innovation. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Suzzanna transforms CX teams to excellence.
Tips for Hiring Talent and Lowering Turnover Rates
Hiring is one of the earliest engagement touchpoints in which an organization can set clear and specific expectations for interviewees and incoming customer experience agents. The hiring process for a high-performing CX team in organizations can be quite difficult, especially with high turnover rates. Recognizing how brands with high turnover rates struggle to efficiently produce the best CX, Suzzanna says:
So really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive.
Keeping this in mind, she offers some helpful tips for hiring managers to help keep employees motivated to stay. By detailing expectations on the job listing, setting clear standards in the interview and coaching new employees as soon as they are hired, this helps retention rates skyrocket and turnover rates lower. Additionally, Suzzanna discusses how certain modifiers can get organizations in legal trouble in some areas around the country as those modifiers on job postings tend to discriminate against qualified applicants (i.e. “You must have 4 years of experience”). To steer clear of this, it’s best to offer each applicant an opportunity to present their strengths and qualifications.
Helping Employees Identify Their Purpose
When shaping a company culture, two of the most important things customer experience leaders can do is to align their CX reps with the company values and to help reps find a purpose in their roles. When employees feel that they have a purpose in their role and when they are wholly aligned with the company’s values, time after time successful customer engagement interactions and high NPS scores shine through. Suzzanna notes when walking into a new office space, “You can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior.” Not only is it important for employees to feel they have a purpose to pursue with determination, it is also important for CX leaders to find the value within their employees and to hold themselves to a high standard of excellence. Suzzanna remarks, “So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital.” Ultimately, the success of a CX team reflects on the example set by the leadership.
Creating a Culture of Learning by Habit
As a highly regarded leader in the realm of CX, Suzzanna helps other leaders to establish habits of success within their daily operations. One of these habits is urging leaders to invest in their employee’s success and to provide opportunities for growth. To do so, Suzzanna advocates that leaders should regularly be having these conversations with their employees. Another habit is to create a safe work environment in which CX agents feel safe to voice their concerns or problems they may be experiencing which is crucial to smooth operations. “Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake.” Creating a learning environment for CX employees and hosting a culture that encourages discussion will help employees stay in the long run. Suzzanna leaves the audience with one last helpful tip before signing off, “Don’t leave room for mediocrity.”
To learn more about establishing employee and customer engagement or how to lead a CX team to excellence, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement and the best way to do that and our special guest to help us on this journey is Suzzanna Rowold. She is currently an Employee and Customer Engagement Expert. She’s actually setting up her own consulting business, working on her PhD in organizational development. 12 plus years in leadership. Fortune 100 companies, brings a lot to the table. Suzzanna, thanks so much for joining. How the heck are ya?
Suzzanna Rowold: (00:44)
I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Well it’s good. It’s always fun to have a guest, especially with somebody with your background. You have a lot of things going on right now. Tell us a little bit about some of the fun things you’re working on both current and maybe even in the past.
Suzzanna Rowold: (00:58)
Sure. Sounds great. So I’m currently in the process of completing my PhD. I’m wrapping up my last four classes before the fun dissertation starts. That’s always exciting. People think I’m insane because I cannot wait to get to the dissertation part, which is always funny. So that is actually in organizational development and leadership and I am specializing in entrepreneurship and innovation. So it’ll be exciting because my background is as a licensed clinical therapist for behavioral health. So once my PhD is done, I will have the full gamut of in individual behavior all the way through organizational behavior and can stand across that whole segment. And then in addition to that, like you mentioned, I’m in the process of setting up my own consulting business, looking into some other options of potentially teaching at college levels and things like that. Definitely something I want to get into is moving forward. And my history and experience has been working for large national companies, different markets, multiple states, tens to a hundred of employees that have reported through me. And really in behavioral health when it comes down to it, even being a leader in behavioral health, most of that scope really does have a customer experience component to it because you’re either dealing with providers or hospitals, your internal different departments, as well as those members that are receiving those services. And so customer experience and customer excellence is very much at the top of what needs to happen and really be focused on for all of those staff.
Gabe Larsen: (02:50)
I love that. Yeah. What a well-rounded, the clinical background. You’ve got the PhD. You’ve got experience in customer and in employee. Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can suck out of you some of this knowledge, your experience and knowledge because I know you know a lot of it. So, appreciate the overview, let’s dive into the topic. So throughout your career, you find different ways to be successful. You and I were talking pre-show a little bit about some of the secrets. Things maybe people don’t often think about as much in the way you’ve been able to be successful in your career. Would love for you to start at the top. What’s kind of that thing that comes to mind first? Your first secret and why you’ve been able to be successful in different elements of your career.
Suzzanna Rowold: (03:39)
Well, I think that the primary area that you have to start is understanding really the why behind what those secret tips are. And so really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive. So that just keeps continuing to rise as well. And then you look at the other component of what are those drivers of why staff leave their company. That primary area falls to being more times than not, the lack of professional growth and development. And who’s your leader? Are they supportive? Are they providing the things as a quality leader that they really need? That is the two major areas that are going to drive that staff satisfaction, their engagement and their dedication to the customers.
Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
I love that. Yeah, it’s funny because we often think of employee engagement around just compensation and certainly there is a base of that. I’ve always found if you pay 50% below market, yeah, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping people, but assuming you’re in the ballpark, it does, right? It moves to different elements like the career path. I love the leader, the manager, somebody you trust that inspires you, that cares about you as a person, right? Those types of things, it’s harder because sometimes they’re a little softer. I think I’m with you on that being a big driver of the overall turnover. How do you feel like the engagement of employees then translates to the impact customer service?
Suzzanna Rowold: (05:43)
So really, without having those employees who feel like they are fully part of that company, they have a purpose, they really have that investment because they’re seeing it on the other side. That comes through in their every interaction. And you can tell just walking into an office that maybe you know nobody in, you can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior. And so those are key elements that people think of, “Oh, customer service is one specific area or foresight that you need to focus on.” But at the same time, when you really think about it, you’d need to look to the internal side of the organization and what those behaviors are that are being shaped.
Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Interesting. Yeah. I just feel like that’s often one of those misconnections. They feel like they want to go after the customer experience, but they forget that obviously the employee drives that so much. So let’s dive into a couple of these employee elements. Want to start a little bit with one of your top tips around hiring and onboarding. How have you felt like you’ve mastered this and, or potentially maybe lessons learned or mistakes you’ve made to kind of overcome this barrier of just getting the right people on the bus?
Suzzanna Rowold: (06:59)
So one of the very top parts of ensuring that your onboarding is really focused to your needs is setting those clear expectations. You really need to have your job descriptions and what you’re posting for those positions be exactly what it is that you’re needing them to do. I know for myself, during the times of looking through different postings and positions, it’s very difficult at times to be able to really see, what does that mean? Every company calls it something different. Every company wants something different, there’s different expectations. And there’s always that one little catchall. So the more specific and detailed you can be to what that environment is going to look like and setting those clear expectations once somebody comes in the door is going to be very critical for that success of both that staff and the company and hiring them.
Gabe Larsen: (07:54)
Yeah, do you feel –
Suzzanna Rowold: (07:54)
And then you want –
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
So I’m just curious.
Suzzanna Rowold: (07:58)
Oh, go ahead.
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
Do you feel like people, where do people miss on this? Is it mostly on the expectation side of the house? Where’s the big gap when people try to tackle this hiring element? And I might be jumping just a little bit ahead. I apologize.
Suzzanna Rowold: (08:15)
No, that’s okay. So when it comes to the preceptor of the hiring, many times employees aren’t filtering their recruitment accurately, or they are creating too strict of a bucket for those candidates that they’re letting through the door. Many companies now, especially large organizations, are utilizing different identifiers that automatically disqualify people just through a computer system or through a talent acquisition staff that immediately eliminates some really great qualified people that you don’t understand their backgrounds with, or you don’t get where they really could excel because you’re only looking at a sheet of paper, or you’re only looking at a submission online. And so you really have to be cautious of those things, not to mention using modifiers, such as you must have this number of years of experience. Really, there are many, there’s many counties, there’s many states, there’s many nations that can get into a lot of legal trouble by using those specific things that discriminate against a quality candidate getting through the door.
Gabe Larsen: (09:35)
Wow. Yeah, that’s really interesting because that’s been, I feel like a big conversation lately around using science in hiring, right? It’s like, how do you do that? But what I’m hearing you say is that sometimes you got to be careful. That science can point you in the wrong direction.
Suzzanna Rowold: (09:51)
It really could. And I mean, even myself for example, my background is very unique. And so when people look at that, they immediately make an assumption about what those qualifications are, what those strengths are. And many times they couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just what people associate to certain aspects and certain competencies that may or not be accurate.
Gabe Larsen: (10:17)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think that’s a really different way to look at it. A lot of people, I do think that, and it’s this whole AI conversation with data. It’s like, if you ever let the machine completely run your business, there’s probably a good chance you’re, it needs AI data analytics. How does it enable us, not eliminate us? And so I think you make a good point on that. Okay. So you talk a little bit about clerics, but continue down the hiring. How do you continue to optimize that one?
Suzzanna Rowold: (10:49)
Sure. So once you have somebody in the door, you need to shape that environment of feedback, openness, transparent communications and coaching that needs to happen right from the start. Without those things, you are shaping a culture that does not embrace them and however you set the stage for an employee coming in the door is going to be what you are going to get out of it. And same thing with effectiveness and applicable training. Really making sure that they’re getting all of those resources and tools and training necessary to be successful in that role, the minute that they’re coming in the door. And those are really, those three primary areas for that onboarding once somebody does get hired.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
I like that. So you got kind of the expectation idea. You’ve got the feedback, environments, coaching, and then you just have a dedicated training. Any examples you found that can kind of help us visualize a little bit more on this training example or different ways you’ve actually set clear expectations, something like that?
Suzzanna Rowold: (11:53)
So what I’ve done in previous roles is developing a whole employee life cycle of surveys. And so utilizing new hire surveys, inquiring about their experience with the onboarding, with the candidate process, looking at different, even seasoned staff surveys, are important as people are there for awhile. Also looking at the missed candidate surveys and being able to capture information from people that you wanted to hire in, but they declined the offer. And so that gives you a lot of insights. Now, the biggest catch with all of this though is you actually have to do something about the data that you’re getting. And so, as you’re doing the onboarding and as employees are going through your training programs, when you’re getting feedback about the efficiency of it, you need to make those tweaks and adjustments if it’s not hitting the bar.
Gabe Larsen: (12:47)
Hmm. Yeah. That iterative process seems like that’s always something cognizant of it’s just iterate, iterate, iterate. Okay. So we hit a little bit about hiring, onboarding. Where do you go next as far as some of your secrets?
Suzzanna Rowold: (13:01)
So next is really looking at the focus of aligning the individual to the purpose of their roles, as well as their purpose and contribution to the team metrics and as a whole for the organizational strategic goals. So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital. In the past, I’ve created a career mapping to where as part of the regular quarterly reviews, staff looked at what their role was and worked with their leaders to really identify concrete on a document that they kept at their desk to be able to see how those things linked. And so maybe one person deals with providers and that level of satisfaction builds into some of the team metrics for maybe an NPS score that somebody needs to have as a measurement for their overall goals, which then ties into the success factor of expanding network when it comes to an organizational standpoint. And so really showing staff how, especially your frontline staff, how those pieces link and how they really contribute to that overall goal and effectiveness because they need to know their values.
Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. So it’s about really getting, it’s kind of what you were saying almost [inaudible]. We just have to align people with that overall vision, the strategy, where the company wants to go. It is funny. It’s, I sit in sometimes these Kustomer town halls and things like that, and I’m always amazed to see leaders present the numbers as if people care about them. And I say that a little bit with an offensive joke, but I know and don’t get me wrong. The number the company has to grow with, it’s capitalism at its finest, but to kind of have that be the front and center like, “We hit our number. We didn’t hit our number,” rather than have kind of like this mission goal. Like, “Are we actually helping 10,000 new businesses turn themselves around?” Or something that people want to aspire to? I am always, and I’m guilty of it, but I’m just, I was in one the other day. And I was thinking, “Does this person actually think that anybody cares about the LRR?” Some data metric. What does that even mean?
Suzzanna Rowold: (15:45)
Well and [inaudible]. Nobody knows what that means. Nobody even knows if you say, “Oh, we have an NPS score of 40.” Okay well, where does that relate to the rest of the nation? Is that good? Is that not?
Gabe Larsen: (15:58)
That’s right. That’s right.
Suzzanna Rowold: (15:58)
Nobody knows what that means.
Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Yeah. But bringing the two together. If you can connect, because I love the big picture vision and I love when I go into organizations and they have that just transformational mission that they keep moving towards and kind of aspiring to. But then to your point, tying it together with what the frontline is doing is awesome. Examples of how you figured out how to do this? This one’s a little harder. It’s a, how do you kind of bring this one to bear?
Suzzanna Rowold: (16:30)
Well, and as I mentioned, I mean that really is something that needs to be discussed with your employees in both a team concept, as well as an individual concept when you’re having those lunch and learns, your supervision, your department meetings, those need to be the things that are openly talked about because not only do your staff need to know how those relate, but the leader needs to believe that that relates and they need to be able to demonstrate and show that and show that the leader actually values the fact of what purpose each of those staff bring. The reality is no company is going to be successful without those frontline workers. They are your largest volume of staff. They’re your largest workhorses. Like you need that support and efficiency at those levels and they need to know how their behaviors and their expectations trigger over to the bigger picture. And so many just don’t.
Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
Yeah. There’s so many that just don’t. Very true. Okay well, I want to continue. I want to make sure, our time’s close, I want to get to secret three, where do you go for secret three?
Suzzanna Rowold: (17:41)
Sure. So in secret three, this really comes into where you have to invest in your employee’s success. You need to provide opportunity for growth and development. You need to regularly have those conversations. Developing a culture of learning is extremely important for not only internal satisfaction, but external satisfaction with the company. Creating a safe atmosphere for a fail fast mentality. Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake. We improve and we continue to drive forward for what our purpose is.
Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Suzzanna Rowold: (18:30)
I mean, really for myself and for any of the teams that I’ve ever been over, my thought is you don’t leave any room for mediocrity. So if that’s what you’re expecting, that’s what you’re going to get. Just like they say, what you measure is what you get. So set the bar high and strive for it and work together as a team to get there.
Gabe Larsen: (18:53)
Oh, fun. Yeah. I really liked the fail fast mentality. It just, it’s a hard one to get into a culture, but when it’s working, it really creates a different, really creates a different atmosphere. How have you kind of, any examples of how you brought this to life or brought this to bear in different organizations?
Suzzanna Rowold: (19:09)
Yeah. So with this, what I have done in the past is set up an annual customer service training theory and that focused on building quarter after quarter with advanced skill sets, leading up into pulling that into culture. As well as running different decision-making and solution-focused, problem-solving rounds so that when some staff were dealing with certain challenges, it was an open forum and discussion to be able to piggyback off of each other and being able to demonstrate how that can be generalized into more common scenarios that staff are facing. And really helping them understand how to have effective and meaningful resolutions without jeopardizing that integrity of the relationship with whichever stakeholder that was. And really looking at one of the things that are my absolute favorites for this area is a quote by Aristotle. So, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The leaders need to role model that because after all, all of their staff’s success is a direct reflection of them. And if you look at it that way, that creates a bit of a different mindset for how you’re interacting and developing your staff to really be that extension of you and success.
Gabe Larsen: (20:37)
Okay. Well said. Really fun secrets, Suzzanna, appreciate you jumping on and talking to us about these different things you’ve found to be successful in your career. If somebody, if we, as we wrap here, if somebody wants to reach out to you and get to know you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Suzzanna Rowold: (20:56)
LinkedIn works great. That’s probably the easiest way to find me.
Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
Awesome. Awesome. And we can, and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So Suzzanna, again, want to thank you for the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Suzzanna Rowold: (21:10)
Thanks so much, Gabe for having me. Have a wonderful day.
Exit Voice: (21:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
There’s nothing quite as exciting as growing — and scaling — your business. Along with the excitement comes an all-important need to stay focused on scaling your customer service offerings to meet the needs and expectations of your ever-growing customer base. As your business grows, it’s essential to prioritize providing the best possible service that aligns with your organization’s core competencies, without breaking the bank.
Utilizing a CX CRM platform, such as Kustomer, allows you to focus on three key areas: communication, automation and documentation. By prioritizing these three tenets, you’ll be able to successfully scale your customer service offerings as your business continues to grow.
As with any organization that prioritizes the customer above all else, accurate and instant communication is essential to ensuring that you’re able to provide an exceptional customer experience. A true omnichannel CRM aggregates all channels into one single view, so customers are able to communicate seamlessly on their preferred platform, and agents have all the information they need to provide a personalized experience. With access to a knowledge base, agents have up-to-date information at their fingertips to ensure they’re providing accurate answers to customers’ concerns.
Automation can be leveraged in many ways in intelligent platforms like Kustomer. Businesses are able to tap into the power of queues and routing to automatically route specific conversations to the most appropriate agent. Utilizing business rules ensures proper actions are taken on conversations automatically, and when combined with documentation, CX organizations can ensure that all conversations are properly tagged and ready for a thorough review at a later time.
With AI, businesses now have the opportunity to provide more self-service opportunities. Think about chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, and solve low level inquiries like business hours, policy questions and “where is my order” (WISMO) inquiries. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right data, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could 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.
Documentation is performed in a few ways within CRM platforms like Kustomer. First, you are automatically documenting your correspondence with your customers. This allows you to see past engagements and find areas where your team can improve while you scale. A solid QA program of past conversations is imperative for any organization scaling their customer service organization. Second, this documentation allows you to search across your interactions to find trends. Are you answering the same question(s)? If so, you can uncover those insights through reporting functionality, and then you can update your knowledge base to get that answer into your customer’s hands quicker, or adopt chatbots to automate those conversations. Lastly, utilizing pre-built messages for common inquiries allows agents to engage with customers quickly, accurately, consistently and efficiently.
Scaling a customer service organization doesn’t need to be a scary task. Business growth means you are succeeding, but you must remain focused on delivering the customer service experience that your customers expect. Prioritizing communication, automation, and documentation will allow you to succeed in this endeavor.
We’re very excited to announce today the release of our third party app development program and the launch of 20 new apps.
The “app store” concept is not a new one. While its most recently reached global popularity by Apple and Google, companies have been making digital marketplaces for others to develop, package and distribute applications online since the early days of the internet. The same way that Airbnb provides more choices to consumers by providing housing options from a global network of homeowners, an apps platform enables customers to benefit from the work of thousands of developers around the world.
One of the main reasons businesses choose Kustomer is because our product provides a “single pane of glass” into many different systems a business might need to provide world class support. However, there are thousands of systems, both third party and home grown, that businesses could potentially use to provide quality support. And our CRM platform has an endless array of use cases and functionality that could be leveraged to build these integrations. While our product and development teams do build things very quickly, our team alone will never be able to keep up with the demand of the various integrations our customers need.
So we’re extremely excited to invite our partners, customers, and third party developers to now build integrations and experiences inside of Kustomer’s CRM platform at a scale that we could never dream of internally. However, in order for this initiative to be successful, there are three key components that we have been investing in, and will continue to expand:
First, apps need to be able to have a wide range of functionality in order to provide value to businesses. Thanks to the hard work of our apps platform team, apps can now install custom objects, connect to OAUTH-based third parties, create cards, custom views, custom attributes, webhooks, workflows, and more. We’re confident this work will result in features and automations that ultimately make support teams work more efficiently, and deliver delightful experiences to their millions of end-customers around the globe.
Secondly, partners need to have the proper documentation to know how to build an app. Today we’ve announced our third party apps documentation, which has already been leveraged by both our internal apps team and some early partners to develop apps that many of our customers are using today.
Finally, partners need to be incentivized to build the app. Today, we’re working with integration partners to build experiences that benefit all three parties involved — Kustomer, the partners, and the companies that use these integrations. Over the next few months, we’re going to be rolling out more features to make app submission easier, and revenue sharing programs to continue to foster and incentivize a wide array of integrations to be safely and securely built and distributed from any developer in the world.
This is obviously just the dawn of our apps vision, and we need your help to make Kustomer a better tool for thousands of companies and millions of customers worldwide. If you’re interested in building an app, the best place to start is by reading the Kustomer Apps documentation and filling out our developer form to get a test account and start building. And as always, if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team on whatever channel you prefer!
Great customer experiences depend on great agent experiences. Giving agents the right tools and knowledge is critical to empowering agents and facilitating customer-centric, empathetic support. And as studies have shown, good customer experiences have a direct impact on topline revenue, driving retention, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
However, according to Forrester, agents on average spend 35% of their time searching for information, and another 15% performing repetitive, manual tasks. They struggle with a complex toolset that gets in the way, rather than supports them in their moment of need.
That’s why I’m excited to introduce Agent Suggestions, predictive intelligence that supercharges agents. Available with Kustomer IQ for Agents, Agent Suggestions leverages the power of AI to streamline the agent experience, surfacing the answers they need right at their fingertips. By reducing friction and minimizing the effort agents put forth to find the right information, Agent Suggestions frees up agents’ time to do their most important work: engaging with the customer and delivering a best-in-class customer experience.
What is Agent Suggestions?
Self-learning AI models that predict agent responses based on historical conversation data
Use historical data mixed with Natural Language Processing techniques and smart filtering to suggest the three most recommended shortcuts to be used.
Learn from your organization’s usage. Based on how shortcuts are being applied, recommendations will change over time, without any manual training needed.
Show only the shortcuts that each agent has access to. Don’t worry, agents will only see suggested shortcuts that they either publicly or privately have access to.
Allow agents to choose how the preview will look. If an agent wants to check all the details in a brand new modal, or just use the existing preview, it’s up to each individual. We made the new modal skippable, just in case it’s not the right fit for everyone.
Are easy to activate. With just one click, the admin will be able to enable this functionality for all agents.
Here’s how it works.
STEP ONE: An admin will enable the Agent Suggestions toggle.
STEP TWO: An agent opens a message. Note: the message must come from the email channel and be the first inbound interaction.
STEP THREE: The agent sees the suggestions. On hover, they’ll see the details of the shortcut.
STEP FOUR: The first time an agent clicks on any of the suggestions, they’ll see a brand new modal with all the details and actions included in the shortcut. This new modal is skippable, so if you don’t need to see a detailed view and choose to skip this step, all you have to do is check a box. The next time you see a suggestion, just hover it to see the shortcut information or click to apply it.
STEP FIVE: The agent clicks to apply the shortcut.
How will Agent Suggestions evolve?
Customer service teams are constantly trying to be as effective and productive as they can, and Agent Suggestions can help organizations achieve that mission. A good first step for this feature is shortcut suggestions, because shortcuts are already a great productivity tool that allows agents to do multiple actions with a simple click.
However, our plans go beyond shortcut suggestions. In the future we plan to expand the functionality with knowledge base article suggestions, similar/related conversations, or even custom actions such as returns, refunds or discounts that could be initiated from the suggestions view.
All these capabilities, tailored to each of the agents and leveraging our self-learning models and smart filtering techniques, will become an essential tool for agents, helping them be more efficient and effective.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Shannon Martin to learn about building a 90 day roadmap to successful customer service. Learn how Shannon has built an excellent team to provide world class customer service by listening to the podcast below.
Problem Solving Through Connection
Senior Director of Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group, Shannon, reveals the secrets to structuring a successful CX team with a 90 day roadmap. The first step to 90 day success is to build a connection through asking questions. Doing so is sure to uncover problems that need to be solved within the brand that customers are experiencing. This is an especially effective way to cater the ultimate consumer experience because this method is created by design-led thinking. When asked to evaluate a design-led thinking company culture, Shannon says, “Even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact of the customer? What is their experience finding the problems?” By asking questions to the customer and further quantifying problems that need to be solved as a result, a company becomes more vigilant and better customer service outcomes are sure to ensue.
Testing Promising Opportunities
The next step of the 90 day roadmap is to test and learn based on the data gathered. Once these problems have been identified, it is important for CX leaders to look at all of the options to find the most promising opportunities. As Shannon says, “You really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start.”
A prime example of testing and learning was when Shannon’s team identified how to better provide a customer experience. She understands how difficult it can be for brands that have CX teams across the globe to implement change. Shannon believes that one of the best ways to effectively implement tests and change is to start with a focus group and if said group shows positive results, change can then be implemented globally. To do this, Shannon’s test group displayed a more consultative approach to CX, rather than that of a strictly problem solving approach. Additionally, her team cut all handle times and allowed the agents to provide service at their will without constraint. This ultimately led to higher customer satisfaction scores, employee satisfaction scores and a profound increase in revenue.
Slow Down for Success
The final step to creating and actualizing an effective 90 day roadmap is to take things piece by piece and day by day. Something a lot of newer brands evidently struggle with is they tend to overleap oneself and become overwhelmed with amounting problems that need solving. Shannon’s solution is to find the right opportunities and to create change in small and effective steps. She mentions:
Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?
Starting from scratch and working in small steps can bring long-term benefits and success. Working each day towards a goal and doing what is necessary in increments to achieve that goal can help launch CX teams to their biggest wins.
CX and CS leaders alike could greatly benefit by using Shannon’s 90 day roadmap to customer service excellence. Identifying problems by creating a connection and asking targeted questions, testing and learning from data, and solving problems day by day have all proven to transcend teams to CX greatness.
To learn more about the secrets to creating a 90 day roadmap, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | Shannon Martin
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. Fun topic, very fun topic. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a 90 day roadmap to customer excellence and to do that, we brought on Shannon Martin. She’s currently the Senior Director, Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group. Shannon, thanks for joining. How are ya?
Shannon Martin: (00:30)
I am great. It’s a lovely rainy day here in Texas, which for most people may not be exciting, but for Texas, it’s a great day.
Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
I love it. I love it. Well we appreciate you joining and want to jump into some of the lessons learned from your cool career. But before we do that, maybe tell us just a little bit more about your background.
Shannon Martin: (00:51)
Sure. Even though I am part of the Travel Partners Group at Expedia now, prior to that, I was the Head of Global Customer Experience Operations for HomeAway, which became Vrbo, which was acquired by Expedia.
Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
Shannon Martin: (01:06)
So I’ve got at least 20 years, I don’t want to say exactly how many, in the customer service world, starting with frontline management and then going all the way through to everything that supports customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (01:19)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, yeah. You look at, check out her LinkedIn and you’ll find that she is, she’s seen the movie once or twice, so it’d be fun to kind of dive into this idea of starting up and optimizing your customer excellence transformation. So let’s start at the top. As people think, I think this is one of the big challenges, I’m new to a job. I’m thinking about trying to kind of optimize the structure, the strategy, but there’s so much coming at me. How do you start? How do you start thinking about this 90 day plan of being able to just do it and do it right?
Shannon Martin: (01:52)
Well, if you’re coming new into a company, you obviously don’t know what you don’t know. The big thing these days is design-led thinking, take your approach to those first 90 days in that design-led thinking framework, then you realize the first thing you need to do is figure out what problems you need to solve. And then from there you can start thinking about, “All right, I’ve figured out a problem. What are some of the things that I might be able to address?” And then start designing some tests to see if you can actually make a difference in those areas? Because even those incremental tests could start to show you some goodness that you can expand on in a broader base later.
Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
I, yeah, this design-led thinking. It seems to be a little bit of a buzz, not a buzzword, but something that I think not everybody knows about. Could you just double click on that a little bit because it does, it is for some, a newer phenomenon. How would you explain that? What is it?
Shannon Martin: (02:49)
What’s funny about it is in the customer service world, I think customer service people are naturally designed to do this, but you always want to start with the customer’s problem. What problem are you trying to solve? And so once you understand what problem you’re trying to solve, then you can think about, “Okay, what are the processes that impact that problem? How does a customer get to the point where they have that problem?” And then you start looking at breaking that problem apart and what can you then fix? And then it all becomes a question of testing; test and learn. How do you tweak this one thing? Does it make a difference? How do you, and then expand that to different parts of the process? So even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact on the customer? What’s their experience finding the problems?
Gabe Larsen: (03:44)
I like that. I like that you’re right. In some ways it’s been around for a while, but it does take a couple of new avenues, a little bit more structure in the way that you kind of talked about it, right? Problem and process and product and bringing those all together. Let’s maybe double click into some of those thoughts. I like the design-led thinking of how you then approach those 90 days. Where do you typically start?
Shannon Martin: (04:03)
Gosh, the first thing is you need to go out and you gather your data right on the problem. And the best way to gather the data is talking to people. This is actually a twofold benefit. Not only can you start to understand the customer’s problems and concerns, but you start to build relationships with the people on the front lines. At VRBO, our customer service agents talk to 10,000 people a year.
Gabe Larsen: (04:29)
Shannon Martin: (04:29)
And my joke was they had the Vulcan mind meld with their customers. If you wanted to know how something was going to go over with a customer, talk to customer service agents. So that’s where I start, like just getting their information, getting in their ideas, round tables and surveys, and just going down to someone’s desk and saying, “Hey, what are you seeing? What are you hearing today about X, Y, and Z?” So again, not only are you starting to gather your data on what the customer problems are, you’re also hearing directly from the folks that probably have ideas on how to solve those problems and building the relationships with those teams. It’s all gonna give you a lot more trust in grace when you start to suggest some changes later.
Gabe Larsen: (05:14)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, people feel, I feel like people, they do try to get to their customers, but sometimes they don’t get the information they want out of it. It’s like, I love that you kind of talk about this idea of building connections by asking questions. Is there certain ways you’ve found to get the right information out? Is it about structuring the right questions? Is it about just getting to the right people or make sure you get to the right customers or any thoughts on kind of that double click on actually extracting some of the goodness out?
Shannon Martin: (05:43)
There’s so many frameworks and how you can do it. I have usually taken a little bit more of an unstructured approach and I might start out with, “Hey, what are you hearing about our billing issues right now?” And it’s something, I mean, that seems like a fairly broad topic and there can be lots of questions or lots of answers that could come about. But oftentimes agents have something that’s very top of mind and they’ll say, “Well, what we’re seeing right now is that refunds are taking more than the normal amount of time.” “Okay. Tell me more,” and it really becomes like the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” once you have that breadcrumb to go after, then you can actually start looking at more structured data to figure out how big the problem is. So if you’re seeing a payment issue in New Zealand, like, “Okay, what payment provider are we using in New Zealand?” Well we’re using this particular one, I’m not gonna name names. And so then you actually start, you go to the case management system. It’s like, “Okay, how many contacts did we have? How many bookings do we have? Okay, we’ve got a fairly good percentage of things that are not happening.” And then you go to engineering and it’s like, “Okay, are we seeing anything happening here?” So you start gathering all your data now that you have that breadcrumb or that starting point that identifies a problem. Because once you, you have some anecdotal problems, but then you need to quantify them. How big of a problem is it?
Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking as you said the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” concept of somebody saying something like that. They said the five whys. It’s like you’re having a problem, why? Well this. Well, why? Well, why? And pretty soon after the fifth one they said, usually you’ve got down to the root cause of what’s really driving this person or what they care most about, or what’s really kind of putting them in that position. That, “Tell me more,” that’s fun. I’d forgotten that. Okay. So getting the connections and asking the right questions is number one. Where do you kind of go to next, as you think about this road map and this design-led thinking transformation?
Shannon Martin: (07:52)
Right? The normal, the thing that we normally look at, so before you come up with a specific solution, right, you have to, there’s some maybe policy process kind of the softer things that you need to figure out. And in that case, you also want to look at all your options. So let’s say you identified 20 different problems like, “Okay, I’m going to narrow it down. What are just a couple of promising opportunities that we have here?” And they could make a small change that can make a big difference, or it could be a big change that happened that fixes every customer. That’s like, not as likely, but you really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start. It will help you feel like you’re not boiling the ocean, right? Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?
Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Yeah. You, and this might go into your back on a little bit but I’m always interested. As you’ve gone through some of these exercises, and you found some of these few promising opportunities, have there ever been some surprises where you’re like, “Oh man, here’s a fun one. A fun part of the process that we could change or part of the customer experience, or even something in the employee experience, that we could change that would ultimately kind of produce bigger results.” Anything come to mind that again, some of these maybe few promising opportunities, that you’ve found in different situations?
Shannon Martin: (09:54)
I’m trying to think. We, there have been so many along the way. I’m just thinking of something particularly goofy that springs to mind but, there’s a whole idea just in how you finish your call, right? You never want to leave the customer with a negative, right? So the standard question has always been, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Well, the answer then is no, which is a negative and that’s not necessarily how you want to end a call.
Gabe Larsen: (10:25)
Oh, interesting. Interesting.
Shannon Martin: (10:25)
And so we actually tweaked how our agents completed their calls and said, “Have I answered everything for you today?” And, and at that point, then the customer has the opportunity to say, “Yeah, actually you have,” or “No, wait a minute. I have one more thing.” Just that one small thing, again, very small thing in the process. And we saw a shift in our customer satisfaction scores.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I love that.
Shannon Martin: (10:51)
Customers were left feeling more positive, especially in a case where the agent had no ability to change the outcome, right? So it’s perhaps a policy thing, or perhaps in our case, a traveler was unable to get a refund from the property owner because of the property owner’s policies, whatever the case may be. But it definitely helped the customer recognize that now this agent has done everything they can, and it was reflected on the customer satisfaction scores.
Gabe Larsen: (11:21)
I like that. No, that’s fine. I appreciate that because sometimes it is those small and simple things that lead to big changes, big results. And sometimes those are the things you need to be able to find, especially if you’re new or you’re trying to map out that. It’s always, I feel like quick wins. If you can find some of those things while you work on the bigger pieces that allow everybody to be satisfied. You, your boss, your customers, your employees, everyone wins.
Shannon Martin: (11:47)
Yeah. [Inaudible] Hear about it. They’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s kind of nice to be able to say that.”
Gabe Larsen: (11:52)
I like that. Okay. So we have building connections–kind of getting the questions right, simplify it down, focus on some of those quick wins or find those promising opportunities. I like the way you talked about it. Then where do you go last here?
Shannon Martin: (12:07)
And the last one is where it can really be fun and sometimes requires a little bit more creativity. And that’s where you test and learn. So you’ve identified your promising, some places to start and you need to be able to test your theory. And again, if you’re going to make a small change and you have 3,000 agents globally, you’re not going to be able to test it across 3,000 agents. Like that’s just too much to ask, but you identify a set of agents, maybe in a single region, or even a single team, depending on how much time you have so that you can have them try something just to get a signal. So we had an interesting test that we ran, because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative. And when we first started it, they were struggling with that. They’re like, “Well, I’m not a salesperson.” Like, “We know that, but you’re helping the partner or customer run their business better with our tools. So you have the technology, you can teach them and consult with them on how to do that better.” Well, guess what happens when you go into consultation mode and you’re having these great conversations? Your handle times go up. So then our agents were struggling with trying to, we didn’t cap handle times, but everyone kind of watches handle times. And so we ran a test and said, “Okay, no holds barred. You guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test, all so that you can do this consultation.”
Gabe Larsen: (13:51)
Wow. Wow. Awesome. Awesome.
Shannon Martin: (13:55)
In the results that we saw, customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners were learning how to do their business better. And we saw a return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group. So it was one of those things that we got enough signal on that test. And I think we ran it for three months, that particular one. I was like, “All right, this is how we’re going to run it going forward,” because we know giving up control over that handle time, allowing the agents the freedom to have those great conversations with our partners, led to an overall better experience for everyone.
Gabe Larsen: (14:38)
Yeah. Wow. I love that, the idea of kind of nail it and scale it. You got to find a small group of people that you can inject that change on and then see if you can actually do it. I love the idea. So funny, we find ourselves, as you were talking, I’m just, we think we’re being customer obsessed sometimes because we’re looking at things like handle time. But really that’s actually disabling the customer to have a better experience because we’re so interested in this metric, but yet we think we’re being customer obsessed, but really we’re being customer not obsessed. But –
Shannon Martin: (15:16)
Metric obsessed. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
It’s interesting that sometimes the metrics can not lead you astray, but sometimes they can give you mixed messages. I’m feeling, I’m hearing that a lot. Like people are like, “Well, my numbers are good, but my overall customer experience is not good.” It’s like –
Shannon Martin: (15:36)
I always say you get the behavior that you encourage. And if you’re encouraging shorter handle times, the agents, they’re smart. They’re going to figure out how to whip through those things and move customers through faster even though they may not want to.
Gabe Larsen: (15:53)
Yeah. Oh, fascinating. I need to send this recording to a few people. So, okay. Well Shannon, we really appreciate your time. As we kind of think about wrapping, we’d love to just get a quick summary from you. You hit a bunch of different things, but you’ve got different CX leaders, CS leaders out there trying to kind of get this transformation or get into this excellence mindset. What’s that last piece of advice you kind of leave with them?
Shannon Martin: (16:18)
If you get just a tiny bit better every day, then at the end of the year, you’re going to look back and you’re going to see, “Wow, we’ve made some incredible improvements.” So, it really is those tiny steps. As long as you’re doing everything you can to get a little bit better every day, you’re going to get big wins down the road.
Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
So yeah, that’s the small crawl, walk, run, I’ve often said. Crawl, walk, run. So if someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?
Shannon Martin: (16:48)
Definitely on LinkedIn. So Shannon Martin, and I guess the LinkedIn handle is S-L-E-A-R Martin.
Gabe Larsen: (16:55)
And I can attest, she does respond. That’s how I found her, on LinkedIn. So she does respond.
Shannon Martin: (17:03)
Definitely. Definitely. Always willing to share.
Gabe Larsen: (17:03)
Awesome. Okay. Well, I really appreciate the time today, Shannon, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (17:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
Built on the premise of excellent customer experience, it’s no surprise that the Kustomer team has been focused on our own customers from the start. Baked into the foundation of our company, our “customer-obsessed” krew is the backbone of our happy clients.
As we reflect on the whirlwind that is 2020, one thing is certain: if customer service wasn’t already a top priority, it’s now indispensable for businesses across the globe. The importance of customer service is at a point of paradigm shift and we’re working alongside our customers to ensure they have the best tools in place to deliver game-changing experiences in today’s customer-first landscape.
Tuning into our customers’ reviews about their experience with our krew and platform, allows us to bake their feedback into our product and services in the future. G2’s consistent reviews and — more notably — quarterly reports, are the best way for us to know how we stack up against our competitors. Which is why we’re excited to share that over the course of 2020, quarter after quarter, we were named a category leader.
G2’s quarterly reports are based on aggregated reviews from our customers, and compares Kustomer to other customer service platforms. Over the last seven quarters, Kustomer’s ability to be at the top of the customer service software leaderboard has remained true.
Additionally, throughout the year, Kustomer earned recognition in the following categories:
Best Meets Requirements
Best Meets Requirements Mid-Market
Highest User Adoption
Users Love Us
We’re leading the pack across Help Desk, Live Chat, and Conversational Customer Engagement, but don’t just take our word for it, check out a few examples of what Kustomer’s customers have to say about their own recent experiences:
Gaining outstanding recognition from our customers, when we’re in the business of customer service, might seem like a dead giveaway. But it’s these awards that carry the most weight with our leadership team, and the entire Kustomer krew. We can’t thank our customers enough for helping us achieve our mission of being the best modern CRM platform for customer service, and we’re looking forward to working with our clients throughout the new year.
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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging
Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.
Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels
Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.
Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX
Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.
To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic
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 virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?
Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.
Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.
Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?
Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.
Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”
Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.
Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?
Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.
Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?
Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”
Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.
Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.
Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?
Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.
Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?
Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.
Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?
Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.
Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?
Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –
Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –
Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.
Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.
Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –
Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –
Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.
Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –
Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –
Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.
Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.
Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.
Exit Voice: (33:13)
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In a world that’s so heavily focused on utilizing digital technology and social media to create convenient experiences for consumers, making your customer service communication lines as simple, seamless and tailored as possible to specific members of your audience is a must. A personalized customer service strategy is just one way to make a measurable impression on consumers. In fact, according to an ROI of Customer Experience report by Qualtrics, 77% of customers agree that they’re more likely to recommend a brand to someone after having just one positive experience with the company.
But how can you make each digital customer service encounter a customized one? What is personalized customer service, and how can you deliver personalized customer care that’s beneficial both to your customers and your business? Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of this customized solution and how Kustomer can make it happen for your business.
Diving Deeper: What Exactly Is Personalized Customer Service?
In a recent article, we highlighted personalized customer service and how it works well with an omnichannel approach. Artificial Intelligence magazine defined personalized customer service as the assistance provided by a customer service agent that is tailored to each individual customer, based on their specific wants and needs.
But this approach doesn’t simply bring in more business by chance. There’s a psychology behind personalized customer service. Research shows that customers are keen on personalization, as it helps them remain in control in customer service conversations, reduces feelings of stress and defeat, and helps them feel more empowered as a customer. With more than 50% of customers admitting that they’ve had to re-explain issues to customer service agents in the past, this can have a major impact on business, enabling customers to feel an instant disconnect that leads to distrust and uncertainty with the brand.
What Are the Major Benefits of Providing Personalized Customer Service?
When it comes to customer relationship management, weaving personalized customer service into your strategy is a must for many reasons. In fact, it’s not only beneficial to the well-being of your customers, who could potentially become returning customers, but also to the bottom line of your business. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of personalized customer service on both ends of the spectrum:
For the Consumer
From adding more depth to initial conversations to increasing trust and satisfaction with a brand, the benefits of customer service personalized to the consumer can change the way they look at your business.
More meaningful conversations. When customers enter a conversation with an agent, they want to get as much out of the conversation as they can. Agents who are willing to take a dive deep into the issue and curate a resolution that’s specific to the problem at hand provide an unparalleled experience for customers that can have a major impact on their impression of your brand.
Enhanced trust in a company. It’s very natural to want to spend more time with someone you trust and can confide in. The same idea can be used in a customer service encounter between an agent and a customer. As perfectly stated by HubSpot, “loyalty is rooted in trust, and customers can trust real-life humans more than the ideas and values of a brand.” When customer service agents take the time to analyze a personal customer issue, it shows an element of caring and understanding that fuels trust and compassion from the other end.
Improved overall satisfaction with service. Customers expect quick, reliable service when they reach out to your agents. HubSpot found that 90% of customers say an immediate response from customer service agents is important or very important when they bring a question to the table. What qualifies as an “immediate” response? Research shows that customers want to be answered in 10 minutes or less.
For Your Company
Brands can see a major return on investment when they incorporate personalized customer service into their strategy.
Consistent business. When it comes to making a customer feel valued and appreciated, personalized customer service goes a long way. Pleasing a customer does more than put a smile on his or her face — it often leads to return business for you. Research by HubSpot found that 93% of customers are more likely to become repeat customers at a business that provides optimal customer service, and 90% agreed that they would at least be more likely to purchase more items from said company.
Increased customer loyalty. In our research, we’ve found that curating a personalized customer service experience over one that’s less customized could be the resolution to a disconnect; if a customer doesn’t feel heard in their conversation with one of your agents, they could be less likely to show brand loyalty and more likely to purchase products and services from a company that will, in fact, listen to what they have to say.
Better leverage to improve your current strategy. Because you’re creating more personalized experiences for your customers, you’re getting a better idea of not only what they expect out of that initial conversation, but what they anticipate to get out of your business as a whole. While you may be the expert of your business, the people who purchase your products or services are the same people who are fueling your company with revenue to keep the engine pumping and their opinions are invaluable.
How Kustomer Can Help You Deliver a Personalized Customer Service Strategy
Creating and delivering a top-notch customer service experience for consumers should be top of mind for your company. If your current strategy doesn’t seem to have the impact on your customers that you’d like, Kustomer can help.
Optimal customer service is more important than ever, and learning how to customize each and every interaction with customers is imperative to your success. Our on-demand webinar, Importance of Personalizing Your Customer Service, can teach you everything you need to know about achieving a personalized customer service strategy. We take a deep dive into why customers value personalization, challenges that may occur that can keep you from delivering this type of customer service, and real-life case studies that showcase how Kustomer has transformed strategies for clients in the past.
Today, businesses thrive when they can provide a convenient, personalized customer experience. That entails answering questions specific to a customer’s concerns and addressing wants and needs of a particular patron, all within a short amount of time.
Certainly, businesses can help customers and provide top-notch customer service when taking on such tasks, but customer service agents can also be a valuable resource when they go above and beyond and reach out to the customer first. We refer to this as proactive support, and it can be a secret weapon to improve the reputation — and bottom line — of your company.
In the world of customer service, timing is everything. According to the Customer Service Barometer study fielded by American Express, 40% of customers agree that they would be pleased by customer service agents taking care of their needs faster. This means companies have to be forward-thinking about their customers’ wants and needs, to get ahead of the curve. With proactive customer service, this goal is highly attainable.
In this article, we’ll take a look at proactive vs. reactive customer service, dive into the importance of proactive support, and discuss the five different ways you can transition from reactive to proactive customer service:
What is Proactive Customer Service?
Software Advice Inc., a partner of Gartner, defines proactive customer support as the strategy used by a company to anticipate potential concerns of the customer. Essentially, it’s enabling customer service agents to reach out to consumers before they are pinged, in an effort to offer a solution or suggestion without being prompted.
Proactive live chat, for example, can be used by agents to address anticipated concerns based on various factors, such as the amount of time a customer spends on a page or a continuous return to a certain page. Online behavior, as well as browsing reoccurrences, are critical bits of information that can allow your customer service team to dive into the immediate needs of customers and address underlying issues they may be experiencing, but are unsure if they should bring to your attention.
What is Reactive Customer Service?
Reactive customer service may be known as the more common type of response. This is the type of support that’s offered once the customer brings the problem to the surface. As HubSpot explained, it’s like using medication — just as one would take medicine to combat symptoms and treat the body to get rid of the impact that has already occurred, customer service agents can use reactive support to address customer concerns after learning about them.
Five Ways to Make the Transition From Reactive to Proactive Customer Support
How can you prepare your service organization to anticipate your customers’ desires and to deliver an experience that defies their expectations? In our CEO and Co-Founder Brad Birnbaum’s Forbes piece, he took a deep dive into the theory and practice of proactive service. Below, we’ve outlined the five most important steps you can take now to upgrade your experience and delight your customers with forward-thinking support:
1. Train Your Customer Support Team
Proactive customer support isn’t just about analytics, it requires an equal amount of human insight. Before investing in tech, make sure you have a team of engaged agents that are already thinking about your customers’ needs. For example, Outdoor Voices’ agents are able to collaborate more easily because of comprehensive training, amplified by Kustomer’s intuitive interface. Great service starts with great people.
2. Equip Your Team with the Right Knowledge: Prioritize and Invest in Analytics
By combining human insight with powerful analytics, reporting, and a record of every customer’s history, you can equip your team with everything they need to know about your stakeholders. Just ask Glossier, who works with Kustomer and Looker to get rich insights into customer behavior. If you don’t have all the data in a single customer view, it’s almost impossible to be proactive.
3. Protect and Secure Your Data
Beyond having all the necessary data at your fingertips, that data needs to be in one safe, central location or network of locations. This can be a system you’ve created in-house, or a third-party CRM—the important thing is security and usability. Read more about our commitment to security here.
4. Help Customers Search and Find What They’re Looking For
When you have all of your customer information in one system, across all of your platforms and integrations, you can create the kind of granular searches for customers that account for their specific behaviors or needs. Once you’re able to identify customers by their last order, their location, their sentiment, and more, surprising and delighting them is a snap.
5. Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds: Track the Right Metrics
You need a way to capture how your customers are feeling. That requires a combination of several things. You should be measuring sentiment within customer communications and on social media, using surveys that capture metrics like CSAT, NPS, and CES, and tracking behavior across every channel of interaction. For a brand like LOLA, having all the relevant information at agents’ fingertips when customers have a question about their subscriptions is crucial to great service.
To be smart, personal, proactive, and timely requires a lot of moving parts to come together, but doing so is the hallmark of a standout customer experience. Once you can gather and store all relevant customer information, you can act on it with a combination of well-trained employees and specific features within your software platform. When you can connect with individual customers over their preferred channel with the right personalized message, your experience can become a true revenue driver and differentiator for your organization.
Getting there isn’t as simple as completing a checklist — it’s a complex process, unique to every business. However, when all of these threads come together, your customers will see and feel the difference in every interaction. Check out Brad’s Forbes article to learn more.
How Kustomer Can Help You Prioritize Proactive Support
Kustomer’s robust customer service CRM is designed to help your customer service team meet the wants and needs of consumers, all while getting ahead of their common queries and concerns.
Instead of waiting for a customer to ping you, agents can send instant messages to target audiences based on various factors, such as:
Time spent on the page.
Last page visited.
Attributes based on log-in information.
Are you looking to make the transition to proactive customer service? Learn more about what Kustomer has to offer by requesting a demo today.
We all know that businesses strive to be efficient — not only within the customer service department, but throughout the entire organization. However, as customer experience continues to become more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty, the goal for CX departments to be highly effective can at times feel at odds with the efficiency mandate.
Kustomer wanted to hear from CX workers on the front lines, and surveyed over 120 professionals to understand how they’re feeling. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to achieve efficient customer service without compromising the customer experience.
The Efficiency Mandate
It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of respondents reported a need to be more efficient. A total of 92% of organizations say more efficiency is needed, but 51% also reported that there is a greater need for efficiency than a year ago. Only 6% of respondents said that the need for efficiency has decreased in the past year.
Whether it’s a recession, a pandemic, or changing customer expectations, the success of a business can swing downward swifty and without notice. Organizations have felt this impact strongly in 2020, and the gaps in their strategies that they may not have felt a year ago are now staring them directly in the face. Perhaps efficiency isn’t the number one priority for a customer service organization when business is booming and resources are available. But the power of an efficient AND effective customer service organization can make a massive impact during both challenging and successful times.
A few factors are impacting how organizations are achieving efficiency: 63% of respondents reported having limited staff, while 44% reported being on a strict budget. A total of 42% of customer service professionals reported not being able to currently manage 24/7 support, while long wait times and access to the right tools seemed to be less of a concern for CX organizations.
However, when staff and budget are unexpectedly slashed, having technology tools in place that can minimize that impact and make agents’ jobs easier, is of the utmost importance.
Challenges Associated With Delivering Efficient Customer Service
It’s clear that customer service professionals know they must be more efficient, and aren’t sure how to do so in a way that provides a positive experience to their customers. The fact of the matter is, all customers must be served, and oftentimes there are roadblocks to doing so in an efficient manner.
Challenging inquiries are the number one reason CX teams report that they can’t deliver efficient support. While automation and self-service tools wouldn’t be effective in resolving challenging customer issues, the implementation of these technologies can actually free up agent time to tackle these inherently more time-consuming tasks. Instead of answering simple inquiries like product and policy questions, customer service teams can spend more time on higher level support and relationship-building.
Another top roadblock to delivering efficient support is unclear or unknown policies. When agents have to go searching for accurate information, across a variety of systems, customers are sure to suffer. Ensure that you have a solution in place that can surface relevant policy information, with the ability to update it in real time as policies shift and change. Intelligent chatbots can even tap into this knowledge base and surface highly relevant and always-accurate information to consumers instantaneously.
Beyond the nature of customer inquiries, there are additional external factors that customers report are preventing them from adopting efficiency tools.
The top reasons that organizations aren’t adopting efficiency tools, are a lack of executive buy-in and a lack of budget, which unsurprisingly go hand in hand. If leadership doesn’t understand the value behind adopting efficiency tools, they likely won’t allocate budget for them.
Ironically, adopting efficiency tools could completely transform a CX organization from a cost center into a profit center, ultimately benefiting not only the executives but also the business as a whole. Think about it: time is money, and when valuable human time is spent on low level tasks that technology can handle, no one benefits. Tagging conversations, routing conversations, answering very simple questions … all of these tasks can be menial and brain-numbing to customer service agents. With the advent of technology, customer service agents no longer need to be relegated to low level work, and can take a more prominent and important role within an organization.
Not only will agents spend their time answering more challenging and important inquiries from customers, they will also have the time to build long-lasting relationships, proactively reach out to customers, make customers feel heard and valued, and even close more business. This time spent by agents will truly contribute to the bottom line of a business, increasing loyalty, advocacy and brand sentiment.
For the full findings from Kustomer’s latest research, including breakdown by industry and business size, download the full Efficiency Research Report here.