Shifting Omnichannel Support from Concept to Reality

The concept of omnichannel customer service has been watered down. It’s more than simply communicating with customers on every channel. True omnichannel support ensures seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next. Companies providing true omnichannel support are collecting and harnessing the information gained in every interaction across channels to drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships, increase revenue streams, and improve operational performance.

Implementing an omnichannel support strategy is a significant investment for any company. From a people perspective, it requires organizational and cultural shifts in how your company and its employees view the goals of customer service.

Customer service must move from a ticket-centric to a customer-centric model. This enables your customer service team to focus on goals, such as reducing customer effort, driving more first call resolutions, and building long-lasting customer relationships, rather than resolving tickets as fast as possible.

An omnichannel support strategy will create more effortless experiences on both sides that yield better outcomes for both customers and agents. It will ensure customers are provided meaningful support that places them in the driver’s seat, and agents will be given the proper context to progress every interaction forward.

From a technology perspective, an omnichannel strategy requires that you have a support solution that can integrate your communication channels and capture the free flow of conversations across channels, displaying the data in a single screen. A best-in-class solution should create a unified home for all of your customer data, regardless of the source, not just the data generated from customer conversations.

An omnichannel strategy backed by a true omnichannel solution will quickly facilitate the customer service that drives loyalty and keeps your customer base growing. To learn more about why customers expect an omnichannel approach, and how your company can benefit, download our guide.

Why the Kustomer experience matters to Abercrombie & Fitch Co

For more than 125 years, our brands have shared a commitment to offering products of enduring quality and exceptional comfort, allowing our customers worldwide to express their own individuality and style. Since our founding in 1892, we have always been known for creating unique store experiences – but the rise of omnichannel retail requires meeting our customers wherever, whenever, and however they choose to engage with our brands. Increasingly, even when the customer journey finishes in a physical store, their journey often starts online.

The digital age has forever changed the retail industry and ultimately, customers’ expectations of it. Simply put, customer service has never been more important, which is why we put our customers at the center of everything we do across all our brands – Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie kids, Hollister Co. and Gilly Hicks by Hollister. As technology has evolved, and the shopping experience has changed to adapt to and anticipate customers’ changing preferences, we saw an opportunity to update our customer service capabilities to meet our customers’ growing needs. We were in search of a new customer service system that would deliver enhanced value for both our agents and our customers.

3 reasons Abercrombie & Fitch Co. chose Kustomer

Partnering with Kustomer helps ensure our current needs are met and gives us confidence that we are positioned to meet our customer service goals now and in the future, as their needs continue to evolve. Here are three key ways Kustomer delivers on our requirements for a new solution:

Personalized interactions

We wanted to align customer service tactics with our organizational mission of putting the customer at the center of everything we do, as well as implement more personalized experiences that would resonate with our customers.

Kustomer allows us to view each customer holistically across channels and time, giving our agents not only the supporting information they need, but also organizing order history and pertinent customer data in a single location. Additionally, we will soon be able to see the entire customer journey, from what they’ve bought, to the offers they’ve received and other products they’ve viewed. This will allow us to anticipate and adapt to a wide range of customer needs in a highly individualized manner.

Improved agent and reporting service

The comprehensive view Kustomer provides also helps simplify and streamline the agent experience. Agents can review necessary information and take appropriate action to resolve issues from a single screen. Most importantly, the entire agent experience is highly intuitive; the quick training process allows our agents to easily get up to speed, and they are able to comfortably utilize Kustomer to its full potential.

As a result, our agents enjoy using the system, and accessing dashboards and metrics to provide management insight into our performance is easier than ever.

A flexible, adaptable platform that keeps pace with customer needs

We needed a solution to streamline and automate time-consuming workflows and business processes to help our agents do what they do best — deliver great customer service experiences.

Kustomer helps to effortlessly manage our customer needs in real time. Operational and routing changes are now more user-friendly and can be easily made in seconds using Kustomer’s queues and routing features. More importantly, Kustomer’s experience in the digital customer service landscape assures us we can continue to improve the customer experience, and that Kustomer will evolve with our business.

Becoming a customer service fixture amongst fads

The digital age has forever changed customer expectations. By unifying the customer experience, helping us streamline how we operate, and providing a platform for future innovation, our partnership with Kustomer has helped us implement and personalize our company’s commitment to quality into each and every customer interaction.

 

3 Reasons You Need Customer Sentiment Analysis

A common saying states that perception is reality. Regardless of the validity, that perception is widely accepted, and it can have significant consequences on either an individual or an organization’s reputation and credibility.

Organizations face this every day: how to deliver the best possible product while also winning trust through superb service. Even a superior product can fall victim to poor sentiment, as 47% of consumers report they won’t even engage with a brand after being disappointed. Today’s complex, omnichannel environment makes these stakes even higher.

The steps consumers take to ask questions, resolve issues, and share both positive and negative experiences have changed drastically in the last two decades. What was once handled by either a letter or phone call to a company has now evolved into a multi-layered approach that can feel dizzying for an organization seeking to keep pace.

In fact, consumers reach out to brands across an average of seven social media channels alone, which doesn’t take into account the calls and emails to your support team, live chat on your site, and visits to a knowledge base. The ways consumers speak to and about you have the power to change how you interact with, communicate with, and care for them. Their interactions also have the power to influence retention, loyalty, and even new customer acquisition.

To deliver the most personalized customer service experience, an organization must understand customer sentiment across all channels, from online to offline, and owned to earned.

How sentiment analysis helps drive personalized modern customer service

Sentiment analysis, or opinion mining, gives you an increasingly accurate temperature check on how your customers feel about your brand, your products, and the service you provide. This automated process is a crucial piece in achieving the most modern customer service approach possible, as it gives real-time insights customer service agents and managers can act on for both in-the-moment needs and potential future issues. But in order for this to work optimally, agents must have access to this kind of customer data.

Let’s dive into the ways customer sentiment analysis can help you drive customer loyalty.

It turns your agents into advocates

Every time a customer reaches an agent, that agent should, at a minimum, be empowered with all the information needed to provide a seamless experience, including purchase and shipping information, return requests, and all communications that have occurred. When armed with sentiment analysis, however, the agent is properly prepared to connect and empathize with the customer on the aspects of either the service or the product that felt frustrating. This type of communication serves to both personalize the experience while also helping to neutralize potentially difficult conversations.

To provide this more modern experience customers expect, organizations can’t afford for their agents to have any information gaps around the customer. According to Calabrio, 60% of customer service agents state they don’t have the tools or technology needed to handle customer issues, and 34% cite lack of pertinent customer data as their biggest problem. While 54% of customers report using email for customer service, that leaves 46% of other customers using multiple other channels with information and data needing to be tracked.

Because 90% of consumers rate an immediate response as either important or very important when needing an answer to a customer service question, your support team simply doesn’t have the luxury of searching through the myriad of channels and systems while also trying to immediately solve an issue. Automating the analysis of what your customers are saying to identify clearly if it’s positive or negative is critical to providing the customer experience today’s customers need.

When you have the customer experience from top to bottom available in a customizable dashboard or report that is both easily accessible and actionable you can better educate, train, and prepare your agents on how to handle common concerns. This technology can also provide trend level analysis that completely shifts the agent role into a proactive one, advocating on behalf of your brand while also serving the customer where they’re most comfortable, in the quick manner they expect.

For example, a company aiming to promote frequency from their most valuable shoppers can set the system to reach out to these VIPs with offers or invitations to come back and shop — all through the customer’s preferred form of communication. And with Sentiment Analysis, if there’s ever any indication that the customer has actually become an unhappy one, this automated system could provide some form of greater incentive to help mend the relationship and bring the VIP back.

Analyzing sentiment and empowering agents with the data allows them to go above and beyond solving problems after the fact. Instead, agents are able to provide customers with an experience that promotes not only satisfaction, but also encourages loyalty.

It influences the future

When it comes to both acquiring and retaining customers, brands must engage in the new rules of engagement. Today 45% of consumers turn to social media for customer service help. This same survey cites the most common reason (57% of respondents) a consumer reaches out to a brand or organization is to find an answer, and the second reason is seeking resolution for a product or service (45% of respondents). However, 34% of consumers also reach out to sing a brand’s praises or provide positive feedback regarding their experiences.

Each of these touchpoints is data that can be used to get ahead of issues, inform internal product teams of concerns or problems, and influence both new customers and loyal ones. These insights can be analyzed for attitudes, opinions, and feelings to calculate various types of sentiment that numerous internal teams can use, including agents who must be prepared to provide the highest level of service required.

When measured holistically, it eliminates customer experience gaps

In order to deliver on the service today’s savviest customers expect, it isn’t enough to simply analyze sentiment. Unfortunately many organizations look at sentiment based on channel: email, phone, chatbot/live chat, social, etc. And that means all the data collected is siloed. The result of siloed data needing to be measured and analyzed together is an analyst somewhere banging their heads against a wall trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.

Simply put: siloed data can be analyzed together, but it will always be inconsistent and incomplete, with gaps that don’t cover the holistic customer experience. When attempting to make sense of the entire customer journey from initial awareness, through repeat purchases, organizations must consider a holistic way of collecting the data to be analyzed more accurately.

How Kustomer leads the way in Sentiment Analysis

Just as anyone running for office knows, understanding how your audience feels about you can speak at a volume often more predictive than sales themselves. The organization who achieves this most comprehensive, holistic view of their customer and automates the customer experience using this logic empowers a customer experience that boosts loyalty, retention, and repeat sales.

Kustomer’s Sentiment Engine specifically achieves this. It’s driven by AWS Amazon Comprehend, and through natural language processing APIs, the Kustomer platform can analyze all incoming text from the customer via Chat, Email, SMS, and Social. It understands negation and modifiers, and calculates numerous types of sentiment ratings from social media monitoring to trend analysis.

While most traditional support platforms have out-of-date architectures with rigid models that limit configurations and silo data, Kustomer’s Sentiment Engine provides a truly holistic view of customer sentiment data that can be acted on in real-time.

If you’re ready to transform your organization’s customer service into one that drives loyalty in the modern age, click here for three ways to get started.

 

To Deliver Personalized Customer Service, You Must First Become Truly Omnichannel

Though many companies bill themselves as purveyors of exceptional customer service, the reality is markedly different. In fact, for most, a typical customer service experience can devolve to tropes often reserved for speed dating. Too frequently, customers find themselves having to reshare their name, history, and aim ad nauseum when communicating with a brand’s customer service team. And so, what should be a straightforward and personalized experience often becomes a fragmented, impersonal one.

The numbers paint a bleak landscape. According to the CCW Digital 2019 Market Study, 49% of organizations felt their biggest concern was a lack of 360-degree view of their customers—as a result, they couldn’t provide a unified experience across all channels. What’s more, insufficient data and disconnected systems make it a challenge for businesses to know enough about their customers to personalize the customer service experience.

To make matters trickier for companies, personalization cannot be siloed by channel. For example, what good is it to email Jeremy an account update with his name branded in the subject line, when he has to remind three live chat agents that he’s been a loyal customer for six years when trying to modify said account?

Think about it: Can you truly deliver on the promise of personalized customer service when that personalization happens inconsistently—or incompletely even? It stands to reason then that customer service cannot be truly personalized without also being truly omnichannel as well.

Servicing silos is costing everyone—yes, it’s costing you, too

Impersonal customer service isn’t cheap. It costs customers time, and it costs companies customers.

Every year, bad customer service shoos away $75 billion in the U.S alone (yes, right into the willing hands of your competitors). And the bleeding shows no signs of slowing. In fact, it’s a growing trend, with more and more lost revenue tied to shoddy service per annum, and with millennials—the most populous American generation—more likely to hopscotch brands than their predecessors.

It’s an uptick that certainly brings Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, to mind, who has said before “that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.”

While perhaps a bit hyperbolic, his words rightly suggest the growing importance of exceptional customer service in today’s business world. While customer centricity shouldn’t necessarily be a state of being for companies, it should certainly become a chief operative for brands both emerging and established, and it should incentivize them to move away from siloed customer service streams. Especially when considering that customers dwell on bad customer service experiences for far longer than they do on bad products or services. And with 78% of consumers announcing frustrations with inconsistent experiences or needing to repeat themselves across customer service channels, a positively-received customer service experience can depend directly on proper omnichannel management and continuity.

Taking a channel-agnostic approach

In today’s hyper-connected world, you must not just think like the customer, you must communicate like them too, and be channel agnostic.

People today connect asynchronously. They have no allegiance to any one platform or any one service. And their channel proliferation is happening at breakneck speed. One moment they can be @mentioning your brand on Twitter, while another they’ll be shooting over a screenshot of said @mention over text.

They communicate with friends and family in this manner, perhaps even with coworkers and superiors as well, and expect the same sort of nimble, contextualized, and convenient communication in other facets of their lives. And while they may have a channel of choice, companies must understand that said channel can change over time. Or, over the course of a week.

To put things further into perspective, today’s average consumer uses 10 separate channels to connect with companies. Yes, 10.

And yet, it’s more possible than ever for brands to navigate this whirlwind with grace, sophistication, and humanity. Ultimately, while channels might change or increase in number, conversations must remain at the forefront of every interaction.

Conversations connect people—they always have. And customer service agents must be encouraged and enabled to establish genuine connections with their customers. To do so effectively, they must also have adequate background information and context—on any client, on any platform, in any market, and at any moment. Silos will only inhibit them from delivering on customer expectations and forming a loyalty-building bond. They should understand who they’re servicing and how—and they should have that knowledge at a moment’s notice.

Ultimately it comes down to arming them with agent-friendly solutions that improve the customer experience over time, and that will ideally help reduce this sad reality: more than 50% of customers have found themselves having to re-explain an issue to teams of customer service reps.

Moving from multichannel to omnichannel

For too many brands, the need to keep up with the growing number of channels has meant adding solutions without integrating the customer experience. This multichannel approach has created silos of customer service agents and information. Each channel is staffed with its own team and creates its own record of customer information that isn’t broadly shared among the rest of the customer service organization. For example, if a customer had interacted with an agent earlier on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations or the solutions they each offered, leading to potential agent collision.

Truly omnichannel platforms like Kustomer enable agents and customers to have a single threaded discussion about a topic that spans all of the channels their customers may use. Agents and customers can seamlessly switch between different channels as needed during a conversation while progressing the discussion. And customers never have to repeat information because agents always have the context of every conversation through a comprehensive timeline of previous interactions, purchases, and customer data all in a single view, on a single platform. As a result, you can deliver truly personalized, omnichannel customer service even as the constellation of channels continues to grow.

Get the guide to delivering true omnichannel support here.

 

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service—Without Losing the Human Touch

Customers have high expectations for brands—and that includes customer service. According to Forrester Research, 67% of adults feel that the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service is value their time. And when it comes to making a purchase, Gartner found that 64% think customer service is actually more important than price. Furthermore, the number one reason a customer switches products or services is because they feel unappreciated by the brand.

But the cost of human support is high—according to Forrester Research, it can cost a company as much as $12 per contact depending on the channel. So how do companies meet high customer expectations while still making them feel valued? Introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its operations is one way companies can control costs while upping their customer service game, without losing the human touch that makes customers feel appreciated.

Relegate the mundane

Everyone has had the experience of needing a simple question answered by a brand, only to dread having to jump through customer service hoops just to get someone on the phone who may or may not have the answer. Conversational chatbots can make these conversations more seamless. Not only do conversational platforms help cut costs by 30%, they also can help your customer service scale and your agents have more meaningful and productive conversations with your customers when it matters the most.

Amazon, for instance, uses chatbots to leverage the data the company collects on all of its customers about their past orders. By programming chatbots with information about the customer’s past preferences, you can have conversational platforms interact with customers up to the point where an agent is needed. Then, once the conversation is transferred to an agent, the agent can pick up where the chatbot left off. This way, when it comes time for human interaction, the customer and the agent can have a more productive conversation without the customer having to repeat the information they provided to the chatbot.

Eventually you can program your chatbot to not only acquire customer information, but also recommend the actions customers and agents should take next. If a customer simply needs a common question answered about a product they already purchased, the chatbot can direct them to a FAQ without an agent getting involved. All of these interactions can be automatically tagged in the system, so they’re easy to track and reference, while also improving future recommendations. Besides streamlining processes, think of how much happier you’ll make your customer service agents—and happy customer service agents means happier customers.

Automate business processes

Consider this: Every minute you add back to an agent’s day by eliminating tedious tasks translates into more conversations per existing agent, while also giving them the time they need to handle high-value customers or go deeper on complex questions without feeling rushed. So how do you find more minutes in the day? Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to handle the necessary, but routine tasks that keep support agents from interacting with customers in meaningful ways. RPA can track user actions within an application to complete a task and then perform the task, working across multiple digital systems. It can range from automatically replying to emails to routing conversations.

A global insurance provider has deployed RPA for a wide-variety of purposes from streamlining policy renewals to speeding customer claims. In one instance, RPA is taking information from customer communications with the company and matching it with the appropriate claims forms. Taking a process that once took 4 minutes down to 42 seconds. KPMG estimates that companies using RPA to automate business processes can reduce costs by up to 75%.

Turn agents into specialists

According to IBM, 80% of tier 1 support inquiries can be handled by a chatbot and elevated to a human agent if necessary. In the past, automated phone systems performed data dips, moving customers through a phone tree (“press 1 for a current reservation”) without handing the agent any information that the phone system captured. AI eliminates this unnecessary process. If a customer is calling about a product that’s discontinued, for example, there might not be a need for a human agent to talk to the customer only to relay that same information.

By using AI to capture information about the customers, and then passing customers and the information collected to agents only when absolutely necessary, agents can have more meaningful conversations and become more knowledgeable about the areas of the business that matters. If a customer still wants to talk to a human even after discovering their product is discontinued, the agent can immediately begin the conversation by offering recommendations for other products the customer may like. AI doesn’t eliminate the need for humans (as many people incorrectly assume when they hear talk of using AI in customer service). Instead it augments the human team and allows them to be better at their jobs.

Better management, better business

Gone are the days of randomly auditing customer service calls. By using AI to monitor your support operations, you can predict when conversations will start to go south allowing managers to intercede accordingly. AI can also help monitor which responses result in reopened tickets. If response A, for instance, tends to resolve inquiries quickly, but response B results in the ticket repeatedly being opened, the system can recommend you eliminate response B in order to set your agents up for success. Managers and executives can use the data generated by AI to oversee customer service operations in both clearer and more efficient ways—and this is a win for everyone.

Integrating AI into your customer service isn’t about replacing humans. Rather, it is about arming your customer service agents with the information they need to have more meaningful conversations with your customers, and using data to personalize your customers’ experience with your brand. Build an incremental strategy to roll out AI in your organization and use analytics to leverage the data collected. By using AI to build a more complete view of a customer’s relationship with the brand, companies can meet the high customer expectations for exemplary customer service and come across as anything but artificial.

Ready to learn how Kustomer can help you drive personalized, efficient, and effortless customer service? Discover AI trends in this customer service webinar.

 

Customer Service for the Digital Age

Customer Service for the Digital Age Blog Header

From transactions to experiences, see how today’s customers are changing customer service

The digital age has forever changed the way companies do business. Direct-to-Consumer brands now make up 40 percent of the manufacturers, cutting out middlemen and offering personalized, nimble services and products to their customers. Amazon has redefined our notions of speed, convenience and selection, and companies like Airbnb, WeWork and Car2Go have revolutionized the economy allowing users to exchange the downsides of ownership for the upsides of sharing.

Meanwhile, companies like Birchbox and StitchFix have built up sizeable customer bases—and built-in loyalty—through subscription box services, and companies from Glossier to Parachute are joining the $50 billion pop-up industry, creating customer experiences that unite brick-and-mortar shopping experiences with the nimbleness of online shopping. The result? A business landscape where convenience, personalized service and customer experience are king.

New Generation, New Customer Expectations

But the digital revolution has affected more than just the way that businesses interact with customers. It has also changed what customers expect from businesses. More than three quarters of Americans now own smartphones and communicate regularly through social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. Modern-day consumers live in a world of interconnected platforms, instant communication, and personalized experiences—and they’ve come to expect the same from brands. And, as millennials become key customers and Generation Y gives way to Generation Z, expectations for quick, easy and customer-centric customer service will only grow.

Already, nine out of ten customers say they prefer to contact a company through messaging, 70 percent of customers say speed a top priority in their shopping experience, and 64 percent say that reducing the effort it takes to engage with a business is a key concern. Ultimately, however, the millennial customer is looking for more than just a product—however good it is, or how speedily it’s delivered. They’re looking for a customer experience, a lifelong interaction with a brand that is more about relationships than transactions.

Out With Old Customer Models, in With the New

In this new business landscape, businesses cannot rely on old models of customer interaction and support. To survive in the world of Amazon and eBay, where inventory is endless and speed is the rule, they must distinguish themselves by finding proactive and creative ways to build long-term relationships with customers over time. And to do this, they have to find new ways to identify and track the changing needs, experiences and expectations of their customers, providing fully-integrated, personalized, 360-degree support over the customer’s lifetime.

Moving from Transactions to Relationships

To provide this kind of support, companies must stop seeing customer interaction as a transaction and start seeing it as an ongoing conversation. Customers are not reducible to tickets, or to emails in a queue. They are complex human beings with a variety of motivations, and they bring a unique history to every customer service interaction.

Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. In this model, there’s no way to store, share and track the customer’s history and past conversations, so customers are forced to repeat their issue to each new service agent. And this is no way to build a relationship!

Imagine if every time you met a new person, you had to tell them your name and life history all over again. It would be exhausting and insulting—and yet, it’s what companies expect customers to do each time they call with a question or problem. No wonder customers rank having to repeat information as their number one customer service complaint!

Know Your (Whole) Customer

To attract, satisfy and keep new customers, companies need to know who their customers are, where they’ve been and what they need. Understanding the context of a customer’s call—from the number of times they’ve ordered a certain product to the issues and conversations they’ve had with agents in the past—allows companies to deliver a more efficient, more personalized, and more proactive service.

Creating an omnichannel system that collects all of the customer’s history in one place transforms the customer service interaction, allowing agents to quickly identify problems, suggest solutions, and preempt future issues. Seeing that a customer has a long history of buying a certain product, for example, can allow an agent to suggest other products they might enjoy, while knowing what prompts a customer to engage with customer service can help the company direct them toward the best platform for resolving their issues. This approach doesn’t just save time by eliminating the need for unnecessary repetition. It also allows companies to build customer histories that ensure proactive, personalized and conversational service—and long-term customer loyalty.

In the modern business climate, the companies that will succeed are the ones that meet people where they are: anytime, any place, and on any channel. But the most successful companies will go beyond offering efficiency and access to a whole new philosophy of customer engagement, building systems that allow them to understand and serve the whole customer. See how Kustomer is setting the standard for customer service in the digital age in this on demand webinar.

 

Kustomer + Jeannie Walters: How to Create an Omnichannel Journey

On the latest Conversations with Kustomer Podcast, we discuss creating an emotionally impactful omnichannel customer journey in an increasingly fragmented service and support landscape.

We sat down with Jeannie Walters to learn the ins and outs of building a memorable customer journey. Jeannie is the CEO and Chief Customer Experience Investigator of 360Connext. 360Connext specializes in qualitative, human evaluations of the real customer experience through a process called Customer Experience Investigation (CXI). Jeannie is also a Co-Host on the Crack the Customer Code Podcast.

Emotion colors every experience we have—whether we realize it or not. Is there a place you shop just because the people who work there are really nice? Or because you’ve had a positive experience in the past with the brand? Maybe there’s a coffee shop or a bookstore where you end up spending way more than you set out to just because of their warm, friendly experience.

How can customer service and support teams spread that positive feeling when customers are contacting them over the phone, over email, over chat, and across all of these channels and more? It definitely isn’t easy, but it is very possible.

Listen to hear our answers to these questions:

  • What is the process of mapping the customer journey?
  • How do you retain your customers’ trust?
  • How can customer experience professionals use empathy while designing the customer experience?
  • When should you rely on data to design your journey, and when should the process be more intuitive?
  • How can you deliver a personalized experience for each customer?
  • How can customer support organizations improve the experience more proactively?
  • How is this process of mapping the customer journey different for B2B versus B2C brands?

For the latest from Kustomer, follow us at @Kustomer on Twitter.

What Is It Like to Work on the Product Team at Kustomer?

If you’re interested in joining the Kustomer team, check out our Careers Page.

What is it actually like to work here at Kustomer? We’re going to help answer this question in a series of interviews with folks from every department to tell you about their unique experience, and how it applies to anyone looking to join our team.

Here’s Peter Johnson, VP of Product at Kustomer, to share what it’s like to build our powerful platform for customer experience:

Q: What is unique about working on and building the Kustomer platform?

PJ: We get the chance to totally challenge the status-quo in the support space and re-imagine what a modern CRM should look like. We get to ask questions like, “Could ticketing be done better?” or “How can we improve on legacy routing models?” These are old problems being reimagined in modern tech, and we’re at the forefront of them.

Q: What skills and programming languages do we recommend applicants know and use on our team?

PJ: Project Managers and Designers don’t need to be able to code at Kustomer! Though it doesn’t hurt to know HTML/CSS or Javascript. I think the most important skill is being able to learn quickly. Yes, having previous experience leading a dev team, designing in Sketch, working in Agile, etc. are all helpful traits. However, the best PMs/Designers are open-minded, data-driven, curious, and genuinely give a shit about the products they design.

Q: What features are the product team most proud of?

PJ: Many come to mind: Obviously the Customer timeline, Synchronous and Asynchronous Chat Product, and Chat Conversation Assistant are highlights. Though I’d say that I’m even more amazed at what we were able to ship considering how quickly we shipped it, with such a small team, and in such a short timeframe.

Q: How does Kustomer set up its Product team for growth and success?

PJ: We try to inject data into the decision-making process as much as possible—both qualitatively and quantitatively. Existing customer feature usage metrics, as well as feedback, are extremely important in our future feature decision-making. There’s a quote I love that says “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

Q: If you had to describe the Product team in one word, what would it be?

PJ: Kustomer. We commonly use the phrase “Don’t just talk about it, be about it.” At the end of the day, no phrase or one word sums up our team better. The results our team’s hard work and output can be seen in the Kustomer product.

Q: What kinds of things does the Product team do as a team outside of work?

PJ: A few recent events we’ve done: a ping-pong outing at Fat Cat, lunches in Bryant Park, drinks at the Pennsy—we definitely have a lot of fun as a team.

Q: Where have other members of the Product team worked in the past?

PJ: Social networks, CRM software companies, real estate management software, health startups, video chat software, and more.

Q: What are some of the benefits of working at Kustomer?

PJ: Beyond things like great health insurance and snacks, I’d have to say ownership. You have the chance to design and be a part of launching a totally original product that has your fingerprints on it, and is used by thousands of people every day. It’s a really satisfying feeling to own a product end-to-end.

If all of this sounds makes you think, “Wow, Kustomer sounds like the kind of place I want to work,” then we have some good news. We’re growing fast, and are hiring for our Product team in our NY office RIGHT NOW! If you’re interested in joining our team, apply directly here.

5 Things You Can Start Doing to Go From Reactive to Proactive Support

In our CEO and Co-Founder Brad Birnbaum’s latest piece for Forbes, he dives deep into the theory and practice of proactive service.

How can you prepare your service organization to anticipate your customers’ desires in order to deliver an experience that defies their expectation? We’ve outlined some steps you can start taking to upgrade your experience and delight your customers with forward-thinking support.

  1. Train Your Team: Proactive service 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. 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. Have a Secure Data Warehouse: 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. Make Searching Easy: 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. For example, Slice uses Kustomer to segment their users, then automates workflows to deliver more efficient service.
  5. 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, 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’re gathering and storing all of the relevant customer information, you can act on it with a combination of well-trained employees and specific features within your software platform. Once 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.

Get more advice on delivering proactive service from Brad’s piece in Forbes.

Live Chat: What Does a Modern Solution Look Like?

When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messenger app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective. By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow—and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach.

Read about Kustomer Chat’s new features here.

But before we define the benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” messaging.

Synchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with “Live Chat”, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an Agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.

Asynchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with email, social media, or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions”.

What’s wrong with Live Chat?

Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.

The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
  • CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
  • CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message or worse, the website hides chat completely.
  • CON: Missed/Dropped Chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.

Why Have Messaging Apps Replaced Live Chat?

With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device lead to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.

Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
  • PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
  • PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
  • PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
  • CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
  • CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
  • CON: Customer can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.

While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie Live Chat functionality, like using Agent Availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up—setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.

Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing a customer the ability to chat live with an agent, but maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.

Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale—like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site—but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous Live Chat and an asynchronous Messaging App. Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform for a fully omnichannel chat experience. The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary conversation when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business—and with Kustomer Chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.

Kustomer’s Chat makes it easy to deliver the experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest additions to our chat offering, read our product update here.

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