Great CX Starts With Happy Agents

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents TW

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

Fostering Relationships Leads to Better CX

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

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

Utilizing Data as a Tool

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

Building on Each Other’s Strengths

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents | Derek Hixon

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about lessons learned from running 15 years of successful support operations, and to do that, we brought on Derek Hixon, who’s currently the Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream. Derek, how the heck are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Hixon: (21:27)
Exactly.

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (23:40)
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5 Things You Can Start Doing to Go From Reactive to Proactive Support

woman on laptop

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 customer support, and discuss the five different ways you can transition from reactive to proactive customer care:

What is Reactive Support?

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.

What is Proactive Support?

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.

Five Ways to Make the Transition From Reactive to Proactive 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 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 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.
  • Geographical locations.
  • Attributes based on log-in information.

Are you looking to make the transition to proactive support? Learn more about what Kustomer has to offer by requesting a demo today.

Behind the Kustomer Brand Refresh

Have you noticed our brand refresh?

Thank you. We love it too.

Our brand is a reflection of our team, our customers and our mission. It’s one of our most precious assets.

Customer Friendships are created with Kustomer. We are dedicated to making people and relationships matter in a complex, noisy, hyper-connected world.

Customer Friendship? I don’t want to be friends with my customers!

Not that kind of friendship. Customer Friendship doesn’t mean your customers should buy you a beer on the weekend. At Kustomer, Customer Friendship means every customer should feel like they are attended, served, cared for by…a friend. It’s what happens when you act in the best interests of your customers. It’s what people-first companies strive to achieve: a deep, meaningful relationship with their customers.

Keep reading and see why Customer Friendship is so important. Then, reach out to us and let’s see how the Kustomer platform can help your company achieve this goal.

Here we go…

Customer Friendships are created with Kustomer

In the experience economy, Customer Friendship wins

In the experience economy, technology impresses no one. Customers expect to form a deeper relationship – a friendship – with brands. They seek open, trust building communication and personalized attention. White glove is no longer a premium. It’s the standard. People-first brands are winning the competitive game in their industries. What’s their secret? Customer Friendship.

Customers are reaching out in friendship

Customers are already actively committing to a more intimate and closer relationship with brands by following them on social platforms, obsessing about their products, identifying with their brand values and leaders, and supporting their community causes.

What’s in a name? The agent’s role is changing

Notice what people-first companies call their agents: Neighbors, brand ambassadors, advisors, stylists, consultants. Agents are now expected to deliver personalized value at every interaction to make customers feel as if they are being helped by a friend.

Outdated technologies and an endless queue of tickets

However, outdated technologies have been weighing companies down by limiting their view of customers and making it difficult to connect customer data spread across internal and external systems. Using currently available CRM solutions, companies are handcuffed to their vendors ‘best practice’ processes,  preventing them from meeting their customers’ and agents’ expectations, and getting in the way of building Customer Friendships.

Every interaction is labeled a ticket. Every question is considered a snag. Instead of delivering personalized value to their customers, agents are expected to clear tickets and solve problems. Fast. Agents are growing frustrated because they lack the tools to do their job. Customer data is not instantly available, requiring them to switch between screens, logging-in and logging-out of disparate solutions in search of information that will help them help their customers. They often share or are assigned tickets without context, while still expected to deliver an exceptional experience…

…Then came Kustomer

Kustomer is a next-generation customer management platform for the people-first enterprise.

It was built on one simple idea: to make the customer the atomic unit of an open platform that’s intelligent, easy to use and accessible to everyone. Our customers improve their agents’ productivity and performance metrics by promoting operational efficiencies, and they stand out and grow in their competitive markets because they offer a people-first service experience that creates long-lasting and profitable Customer Friendships.

How Kustomer helps companies create Customer Friendships

At Kustomer, we’re putting the customer back at the center of the experience. Agents become friends. Everyone they serve should feel as if they’re being helped by a friend.

A friendship designed around a lifetime of conversations

A true friendship has a history, and a future. We don’t believe in tickets or case numbers. We manage conversations. Kustomer pulls and organizes all customer data into one single Timeline view that presents the shared history from all channels and conversations in a way both agent and customer can immediately access and remember all key moments like:

  • That time when we shipped the red dress to the wrong address.
  • That time when you were billed twice on the sneakers you bought.
  • That time when you wanted to return the extra device that didn’t fit.
  • That time when you didn’t know how to install the device and we sent you the guide by email.

Agents can immediately see conversations the customer had with other agents or through the website chat or mobile app. They can also collaborate and handle a conversation at the same time. There’s no need to look for customer data in another app since Kustomer seamlessly connects to other systems to pull out the relevant data for each interaction. And it’s all presented on one omnichannel thread.

A friendship is created when customers and agents connect across​​ any channel

Whatever device or communication channel we use, humans remember conversations. We may start a conversation on a brand’s website, and seek to continue it through email.

Kustomer enables customers to reach you through their preferred means of communication, and empowers agents to switch from channel to channel without losing the conversation or its context. Brands always know the best way to reach their customers depending on the situation — a text to inform and a call to proactively address a problem.

A friendship is proactive

Friends know what you need before you can ask for it. Friendships are surprising, delightful and low maintenance. When you have all the necessary context about the people buying your products or using your services, it becomes the foundation for a long-lasting, more meaningful relationship. You can respond to their wants — and even anticipate their needs. Just like a friend would.

  • Rain in Atlanta? Communicate delays in service.
  • New line of wedding dresses goes on sale? Send an alert to interested brides.
  • Seeing the battery is about to run out of the camera? Send an alert to replace it.
A friendship with a heart: sentiments are important

Friends know what you like and dislike, sometimes even better than you do. They can tell when you’re upset, and when you’re happy, and will modulate their message to match. Kustomer always checks the pulse of the relationship. Is everyone happy? Satisfied? Disappointed? When you add heart to the conversation it becomes more meaningful and agents can have a conversation that can truly help the customer.

Now, let’s see it in action. Ask for a demo or check out our website to learn more about how Kustomer help create Customer Friendship magic.

Keep AI From Feeling Like Sci-Fi With Our Terminology Guide

When the conversation turns to AI, there’s often a Sci-Fi novel’s worth of terminology and jargon that the uninitiated reader has to decode. If you’re looking at using automation for service, then here’s a quick guide to the difference between AI, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning.

Watch Our Webinar with Solvvy here – The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation

Artificial Intelligence as a concept has been around since at least the ancient Greeks, who designed some mechanical devices that could be loosely-termed as intelligent. However the term itself is around 60 years old, and the first applicable AI technologies have only just started coming to market in the last few years.

Machine Learning is a more specific subset of AI. It describes machines’ ability to learn from their mistakes and improve over time. A good example of Machine Learning in practice example is the recent Google AI that beat a world champion at Go. The more the AI plays, the better it becomes at spotting patterns and predicting its opponents’ moves.

Deep Learning is a further iteration of machine learning. It describes machine learning algorithms that run on multiple layers, mirroring how our own neurons function. A now common example of deep learning is the way that smart assistants like Alexa or Siri process speech.

Also important is Natural Language Processing. NLP is the ability for a computer program to understand human speech, regardless of slang or dialect. By being able to make sense of written or spoken language in the messy and error-filled ways humans normally express it, AI capabilities become much more applicable to everyday life.

What does this mean for service? Artificial intelligence and intelligent automation can take over existing tasks and create new efficiencies that your organization couldn’t dream of previously. Machine Learning is just one example. By suggesting responses agents can use to common customer queries, a partially-automated system could learn the most effective replies and language for your customer base. Deep learning capabilities should extend to IVR trees, and put an end to the common “Sorry, I didn’t get” response from many systems that currently rely on processing speech. And NLP is crucial for chatbots, and for analytics that look at all of the conversations your agents have across chat, social, and any other text-driven medium.

It’s important to build a solid understanding of these exciting technologies as they become more prevalent and relevant to the service and customer experience sphere. To learn more, listen to our webinar with Solvvy: The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation.

Scale-Up Your Digital Experience for Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday 2017 was the largest online shopping day in history. Consumers spent over $6.59 billion, a growth of 16.9 percent year-over-year, with $1.59 billion coming from mobile. Cyber Monday is the biggest opportunity out there for North American ecommerce companies, and your customer experience organization needs to be ready for it. This is a time when you can turn one-time shoppers into loyal, repeat customers, and that requires great CX. A seamless digital experience that still feels human will help build a bond between you and your customers that will last long after the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone.

Prepare Your Agents to Deliver Incredible Service

Today, customers do most of their holiday shopping online. In 2017, shoppers planned to spend 51% of their holiday shopping budget online versus 42% in stores, Deloitte found in a survey of 4,000 consumers. While many customers line up for sales at brick-and-mortar outlets, it’s just as important that your digital experience is up-to-date during the holidays.

Step back and take a look at your experience: Increasing efficiency can depend on a lot of small fixes, but analyzing the data and finding common agent and customer sticking points are the first steps towards making a difference. Take the time to look at your digital experience as a whole before the busy season starts to ramp up. Small fixes to things like your exchange process or the information customers can access on your site will add up to big efficiencies. This can have a huge impact on the number of customers they serve, and their ability to do so.

Triage your customer requests: Your customer service agents are at the vanguard of your CX during any busy period, so they need to be hired and trained well in advance. If you can equip them more information about your customers, making it easy to access their history with the brand, they can make better recommendations and provide a memorable experience during this hectic time. You should train new or temporary agents to answer the easier questions and perform more common, routine tasks for faster resolution. Save the more complex interactions between experienced staff, or these issues will have to be elevated to them anyway, drawing out the process for agents and customers alike.

Automation with a human touch: To take out some of the pressure, automation can help whittle down the massive volume of inquiries and requests during this busy time. Chatbots are one solution brands are exploring, but you have other options. Simply updating your self-service helpdesk, providing clearer product information, or equipping agents with a tool that suggests relevant responses or knowledgebase articles to share with customers can go a long way towards cutting out the short, simple questions that pile up and distract them from bigger tasks. But you shouldn’t lean on these solutions without considering how they can be used to empower your staff. To deliver a memorable, emotionally resonant experience in the long term, you need a human touch. Use them to help customers connect to agents more quickly, and make sure that agents know everything about your customers. Automation exists to empower employees, not replace them. Any way that automation can speed up service and take busy work off of agents’ desks will pay dividends for your CX.

Have a mobile mindset: Also, keep in mind that many customers will start their journey on mobile, using it to find deals and coupons, inspiration on social, competitive prices, and to read customer reviews. According to Salesforce, mobile made up 64 percent of shopping visits during Cyber Monday. This information needs to be easy to access and find on mobile—if it’s not, your customers may end up getting answers from your competitors instead. Ideally, the same agent should be able to respond to and SMS messages, chat with the same customer on desktop, then call them on the phone on the phone and back. Mobile experience is a deciding factor at this time of year, and shouldn’t be neglected.

Be ready for anything: You should be ready for something to go wrong. The holidays will push your team and your technology to their limits. More than likely, something will give—and even if it doesn’t, your team should be prepared for it. Train for the worst-case scenario, like your site going down, or a major storm disrupting shipments. Proactive outreach can help handle some of these issues before they get out of control, allowing you to make contact with customers before they have a chance to reach out. Leading up to Cyber Monday, make a list of common customer complaints or problems, and make sure every agent knows the solution. If your agents are prepared to diffuse holiday stress and help out no matter the situation, your customers will thank you.

Cyber Monday is overwhelming for even the most prepared ecommerce brands. However, every step you take now to ready your customer experience organization now will pay back tenfold for your agents and customers alike. By the way, this year Cyber Monday is November 26th—but you already knew that, right? Mark those calendars, and start making progress towards an amazing online shopping experience for this year, and the years to come.

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.

Why Companies Are Switching from Ticketing Systems to Kustomer

Ticketing systems have been around for decades. Ticket numbers, formal emails (“don’t reply below this line”), isolated data (“what is your order number?”), have been a part of our lives as customers and customer support professionals. It’s hard to believe a better world is possible. Kustomer, built by industry veterans, was created with a different vision in mind—a customer-centric platform that ties together all the conversations and business information about a customer into a single timeline, together with powerful workflows that enable customer-first companies to execute their customer experience vision. In the past year, a number of customers have successfully migrated from ticket-based solutions to Kustomer. Here are a few items that CX agents and executives who made the switch have highlighted about making the move:

1) From Isolated Tickets to a Single Timeline View of the Customer

How many platforms does your team use to communicate with customers? Is your team in constant need to merge tickets? Because tickets from different channels are often disconnected, it’s easy to run into a customer who is chatting with another agent while you’re in the middle of replying to their email. Or worse, you might reply without knowing that they’re already being helped.

In Kustomer, you can see all the communications with your customer in one place. That means that real omnichannel communication is possible. You can go from emailing with a customer to chatting with them, to calling them on the phone, and see all those records in one conversation. That’s because the customer is the atomic unit of our platform—everything revolves around them.

2) From Disconnected Solutions to Actionable Integrations

How many tabs does your team need to keep open at the same time? When your customer support platform is disconnected from the rest of your platforms, agents need to keep copying and pasting customers’ email addresses into your admin systems to get even basic information about the history of their interactions with your company—past orders, delivery status, etc. Kustomer pulls data from all your platforms and tools and arranges it in a way that makes sense for your business.

With Kustomer’s single timeline view, the customer is the focal point, not individual conversations. Not only does Kustomer merge every interaction into the same conversation automatically, it also integrates with your other systems—like Shopify or JIRA, just to name a few. That means you can see when orders are dispatched and delivered, or previous items that customers have added to their carts or subscribed to on your site. All of this is displayed in that same timeline, so you have a deeper context whenever they reach out. Everything is completely customizable, so it’s easy to create a view that empowers your team to tackle your specific business challenges.

With this level of integration, tasks like returns or reimbursements can be completely automated (as we’ll discuss in the next section). No matter if your business is pizza, shoes, or software, Kustomer can be customized to show your agents everything they need to know in a single window. Orders, shipping info, product or version number, buyer and seller information, and social interactions can all appear beside each customer in bespoke “K Objects”. This makes it easy for agents to get the whole picture and take the next best action, or communicate with the right parties while staying on one platform.

3) From Repetitive Tasks to Intuitive Automation

Kustomer makes it easy to automate commonly-used workflows so that your agents can focus on connecting with customers rather than rote tasks. Don’t be limited by basic workflow functionality that won’t simplify your agents’ day-to-day work. Now you can define intelligent, branched workflows and reports encompassing all customer-related systems in your business.

Because Kustomer integrates with your other platforms, it’s way more powerful than just showing your customer history—it allows you to act on it. These branched, multi-step workflows make it easy to efficiently scale your team and automate simple tasks. Sending instant follow-up emails or processing a return is now only a click away and no longer has to take your agents’ attention away from the customer.

4) From Reactive Support to a Proactive Experience

Proactive service solves for what your customers need. That means it may be something they haven’t even asked for, like a faster delivery to avoid an incoming storm that might cause delays. It’s one of the best ways to build stronger relationships and deliver meaningful experiences. Ticketing systems are inherently reactive, as agents only respond when customers have a problem or a question. Because Kustomer keeps all of your customer information in one place, you can create granular searches for customers around specific behaviors or qualities, all on the same platform. That means your service isn’t just efficient—it’s smart.

If you want to build customer loyalty, you can search for customers that may have bought a product that could give them an issue, then send them all a message proactively. Let’s say your new mascara is mislabeled as “Vegan”—you can look up all the customers who have preordered it, then send them an email letting them know the mistake and offering a free refund or exchange if they don’t want it—all before their orders have arrived. Or if there’s going to be a storm that affects customers in a certain geographic area, you can notify all the customers with orders going to that region with a list of options before their shipment is delayed. With all your customers’ information in one place, it’s easier to surprise and delight them than ever.

When you combine this robust search capability with automated workflows, intelligent and proactive outreach can become a reality.

By putting all the information about your customers in a single view and making it easier than ever to act on it, Kustomer is winning over companies across industries. To try our powerful platform for yourself, schedule your demo today.

This Is Why 51% of CX Leaders Aren’t Reaching Millennials

As Millennials rise to become the largest buying force globally, it’s increasingly important for businesses to connect with them and win their loyalty with stronger customer experiences. However, according to the latest NGCX Benchmark Report, lack of strategy and execution are keeping businesses from creating a CX strategy aimed at Millennials.

Download the report here.

Specifically, 26% of respondents cited “Execution” and 25% cited “Lack of strategy” as the greatest obstacle preventing them from becoming more customer-friendly towards Millennials. However, 89% of organizations surveyed acknowledged that Millennials have distinct preferences that require a more fine-tuned strategy to meet them. “Executive buy-in” was the lowest-reported obstacle, making it clear that the majority of companies already know that they need to be shifting their approach to reach the next generation of customers—how to do that is another question entirely.

Download the full research report based on responses from practicing CX executives, and you’ll learn:

  • The channel that 30% of CX leaders have made their top budget priority, and how they split their focus between every channel to build stronger relationships.
  • Why CX leaders are lagging behind in creating full omnichannel strategy to reach millennials, and where they’re finding real success.
  • The percentage of your competitors who have made creating a tailored millennial CX strategy a top concern.

Learn more in the full benchmark report.

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.

How CX Can Increase Bookings for Travel and Hospitality

For travel and hospitality brands—airlines, hotels, online travel agencies, and more—their businesses triumph or suffer based on the number of bookings their customers make. The online travel market is expected to reach $1,091 Billion Globally by 2022, and in the US there were up to 65% more daily bookings in the first quarter of 2017 over the previous quarter. There’s a huge amount of business to be won, but also fierce competition. If companies can even get a fraction of their users to complete a booking when they otherwise wouldn’t, that’s a huge incentive to invest in a full CX strategy. How can travel brands deliver an experience over digital that will encourage customers to follow through and book that hotel room, flight, or tour?

Follow customers across platforms and sites.

Travelers don’t like to stay in one place—whether that’s on vacation or their customer journey. They often bounce from site-to-site doing research while switching from mobile to desktop and back before booking. More than a quarter (28%) of bookings via online travel agencies are preceded by a click on another device, while the same is true for almost a third (32%) of direct bookings, according to Criteo. That means you need to have a platform that can follow your customers wherever they go, and make it easy to provide support or answer questions over the phone, SMS, proprietary chat, or email.

Mobile is especially crucial for sudden bookings.

Up to 80% of last-minute bookings and purchases are made on mobile devices. Whether this is because a customer missed their flight or had to book an extra night in a different hotel, your mobile experience has to be streamlined to easily and quickly surface the information customers need when they need it most. It also helps if agents can know the context of a customer’s recent order, because helping to book the next flight out when a customer is on their way to the airport requires more urgency and different insight than if they’re calling about a trip that’s been planned months in advance.

Desktop is still where customers make their final decision.

When given the option, it seems like customers are just more comfortable hitting “buy” when they’re at their work or home laptop or desktop computer, rather than a phone or tablet. While the data shows search and evaluation takes place across multiple devices, a strong two-thirds of travelers (66%) prefer to book accommodations on their desktop, with only 34% favoring a mobile device or tablet. If you know which device customers are using, then you can adjust your service and experience accordingly. You can even use proactive chat to encourage them to book something they’ve been looking over on one device when they get back to their screen of choice.

Make sure your experience is transparent and straightforward.

Hiding important information isn’t going to encourage your customers to finish booking. If anything, it will do the opposite—prolonging the process and increasing the chance that they’ll abandon the interaction entirely. Be upfront with costs and extra fees, doing so will streamline your experience and decrease the number of requests to your support team asking for clarification. Also make sure that when those requests do come through, that your agents are equipped to clearly describe the ins and outs of your pricing and regulations.

Pair customers with the right team members.

With a robust understanding of your customers and their needs, you should be able to route them to agent or subject matter expert who can help them with their specific request, no matter who that might be. If a customer begins a conversation about billing with an agent through your site’s chat function, it should be easy to route them to the accounting department if needed. An advanced customer engagement platform should be able to track every conversation and the associated data across any channel—your site, on mobile, over email, and across your contact center. This is the only way to create a real-time data repository that your CX team can use to deliver even better service and booking experiences.

There is a great deal of opportunity out there for travel brands of all types, and all it takes is a bit of innovation and inventive spirit to gain an edge in the market and get more customers to convert. The travel experience starts long before a customer reserves their flight, and it’s crucial to pay just as much attention to your CX before your customer books their trip as you do after.

To see how Kustomer can improve your experience, request a demo.

Conversations with Kustomer Podcast: How can Marketing and Customer Support Create a Consistent Experience? Featuring Sue Duris

As Customer Experience overtakes product and price as the key differentiator for many brands, it’s increasingly important that all parts of the organization work together to deliver seamless communications and service.

Our Director of Marketing Chen Barnea sat down with Sue Duris, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience for M4 Communications and a leading CX strategist, to discuss the evolution and importance of CX for B2B and B2C companies across verticals. While their chat covered a lot of ground, we’ve highlighted some of the key points below.

Investing in CX pays off. This is especially true if you’re a leader. According to a Temkin report, CX Leaders see a 17% compound average growth rate, versus 3% for laggards. Customers that receive a great experience are likely to purchase again, and 11 times more likely to recommend a product or brand.

Consistency is key, especially for retail. But it’s also very important for B2B organizations too, especially those with a long sales cycle. Both kinds of organizations need to have a C-suite that is championing that vision of the customer experience and explaining why it’s so important to rally behind it, and how everyone fits in. Without that commitment, alignment, ownership, Customer Experience initiatives just won’t work.

CX is not a shiny new toy. You need to have a strategy and purpose for tackling CX. It can’t be done piecemeal, either, with the Contact Center pioneering an initiative, but then the experience dropping off once a customer contacts Sales or Marketing. Inconsistency is one of your greatest enemies to a great experience.

Don’t neglect the employee experience. Engaging your employees and communicating what your experience should look and feel like is crucial. They’re the ones who are making that experience a reality. It takes more than just surveys. You need to speak to your employees in person and get qualitative insight, backed up by hard metrics. Once you can take those insights, build them back into your experience, optimize your CX, then look for insights again, you can create a closed loop of constantly improving experience.

There are three kinds of metrics. Metrics based on perception, description, and outcome. Perception-based metrics are about your experience and how your customer understands it. They include metrics such as NPS, CES, and satisfaction. Description metrics are based on observable events, like FCR and AHT, and ensure you’re being efficient and effective. And outcome metrics are things like how many customers renewed their contracts or upgraded their package. Bottom line: you need all kinds of metrics to cover the entire scope of experience.

Experience is a mindset. It’s more than just a strategy or process. It’s who you are as a company, and as individuals. Customer centricity needs to start before a prospect even knows about you—it’s in your bones, your culture, and it’s how you truly create consistency. Maximizing Customer Lifetime Value is the goal of any CX effort, and the only way to do that is to have a mindset where you’re putting your customers first.

Start small. If you haven’t invested in CX at all, you can always begin by sending out an NPS survey and segmenting customers based on that score. From there, you can work in more complex layers of metrics and build up your understanding.

This is just a taste of the wide-ranging discussion on the podcast, so if this sounds relevant to your needs, be sure to have a listen.

To learn more about how Kustomer can help you deliver a more consistent and effective experience, request a demo with the form below!

How CES Can Help Your CX and Product Teams Work Better Together

Brandon McFadden is Kustomer’s Customer Success & Support Manager, you can follow him on Twitter at @brandontonio.

This post was adapted from a workshop delivered at Support Driven Expo in Portland. We had a blast sharing and learning with the Support Driven audience, check out their recap here, as well one from Jeremy Watkin at FCR that discusses our presentation as well!

While they may not always understand each other, your Customer Experience (CX) and Product teams actually do want the same things. However, they speak two different languages. With the right metrics, specifically using Customer Effort Scores, you can make informed, data-backed decisions from customer feelings that will ensure you’re making the right choice.

Product goals typically focus on adding new features, achieving parity with competitors, or fixing issues that are affecting adoption, ease of use, or the ability to wow your customers. Their job is to anticipate what the customer will want next.

On the other hand, CX is usually focused on what customers say they want now—because they hear from them every day, all day. CX wants faster handle times, lower email volumes, reduced complexity, and the power to wow your customers.

When these two teams work in sync, amazing things can happen. CX has especially deep insight into customers wants and needs based on thousands of firsthand interactions, while product has the full scope of your company’s technological capabilities, business goals, and product roadmap, and are great at coming up with new innovations before customers even know what they want. However, there’s often a recurring problem in the Product / CX dynamic. When Product has the window of time to ask CX for their input on what “problems to tackle next”, the two sides can disagree. When looking at where customers spend the most time using the platform, and where they’re having the most difficulties, CX will advocate for smoothing out a more complex problem that affects fewer users. Product will often lean towards reducing the highest quantity (because that represents a larger base of users and a more frequent touchpoint), so that a greater number of users will have an even faster experience.

While seemingly different, there is one key ingredient: Both teams want to wow customers! Finally, common ground!

Another common language we all speak are shared company goals. The aim of all these features and fixes are the same: more renewals, more referrals, more repeat customers, and faster resolutions. Making decisions about how to get there can be tricky. This is because it is hard to measure the feelings of your customers, yet feelings are how humans make decisions.

At this point most teams will most likely look to NPS or CSAT to help give direction towards the issues to focus on fixing, but those traditional metrics can often be very misleading. Scenarios wherein a customer gives you an NPS score of “10” may only actually recommend you when they find someone who they feel is just like them (as smart and with the patience to put up with the complex support issues they faced). Most of the time, when the moment comes for them to make the recommendation their NPS score said they would, they don’t do it. Likewise, CSAT may provide a very high 9/10 rating of your amazing agents, but what the customer is left feeling is “why did I even have to call in the first place?”. Feelings are the gateway to actions. So while they like spending time with your agents, it doesn’t mean they will feel comfortable continuing to deal with these issues (churn) or suggesting you to a friend. This is all because of the expectation or effort gap.

So, how do you get to the root of this disagreement in expectations AND quantify feelings? It seems like the correct course should be obvious. Product is in the right on this one surely, the fix that affects the most users (in this example it’s improving refund requests) should be completed first. Why would the CX team think otherwise?

This is where CES shines. As CX pros, we see a different side to the story in this chart. The problem that is only affecting a minority of users (plan correction, in this case), is where you’re letting customers down the most. Sure, it’s lower quantity/volume than the other issues, but those customers are having a far worse experience based on their expectations, and taking up just as much of CX’s attention/time as the other issues. CX hears their complaints, and their frustration is visceral. From your customers’ perspective, it seems like making their experience way better would only require you to “just change a bit of code” (cut to thousands of engineers slamming their heads against their desks). AHT is important, but only tells part of this story, but CES makes it much clearer.

Measuring CES puts the severity of the problem in stark relief, and puts a hard number next to what your CX team has been feeling all along. Now it’s easy to see that these customers are doing more than spending more time on the phone—they’re actively struggling to deal with your company, and you’re probably losing them as a result. This issue is even greater if you’re a startup designed to “save you time” or “simplify” our lives, you’re literally training your customers to expect everything (including service) to be smarter, faster, and effortless. This problem is even worse if you are in an industry where external factors can slow up resolutions (medical, financial, insurance, etc). Improving the other issues on this list shouldn’t be neglected, but prioritize the customers who are unhappy first. Most won’t notice if their attempt to get a refund was 15 seconds faster (a 25% efficiency gain!), but they will definitely appreciate when a more complex issue becomes a breeze when the “industry norm” is so much more—and will likely save your CX team more time in the long run.

There’s even a school of thought that says you shouldn’t fix those simple problems that your team is great at handling and consistently giving that wow experience because it is another chance to exceed expectations. This is because every interaction is a chance to build a deeper relationship with your customers, and if you’re delighting thousands of them with a simple call or email, you’re deepening each one of those connected feelings in the process. This is despite having a problem in the first place. Remember, you are often judged more on your resolution than you are on the problem itself. Of course, you want every experience to be as smooth as possible and for customers to never have a problem, but by not trying to eliminate these homerun issues entirely you get easy opportunities to impress and excite your customers. Certainly, something to consider when making the case to not always simply fix the highest volume issues. And, with CES, you’ll always know if those issues are beginning to wear your audience’s patience thin.

In my experience, Product and CX are on the same page 95% of the time, but they may not always be speaking the same language. So when there is a disconnect, it’s always down to looking at the data to clear up those disagreements. Ultimately, CX deals with feelings directly more than any other team, and are therefore tasked with quantifying the qualitative. For that reason, having a platform that measures CES can drive CX and Product teams to make your customers’ experience exceed their expectations.

Kustomer Localization is made for Global Teams

Many customer service teams today have to support a global customer base. Kustomer has launched Localization, a suite of features that allow you to easily detect, respond, and provide help to a multilingual customer base. Customers and support teams deserve an seamless experience in their respective language, across any channel.

Whether you service customers around the world, or have a team that communicates in multiple languages, our localization features will help you provide personalized customer support. We focused on developing features that make teams more efficient as well as automating tedious tasks associated with providing multilingual support.

Automating Language Detection

 

When your customers contact you, Kustomer is now able to automatically detect the language of the message using Amazon Comprehend dominant language detection. Oftentimes a new message will require your team to have to identify the language, and then assign it to another team or agent. This manual triaging by language is time consuming and ineffective. Automating the language detection for inbound messages allows you to route conversations to the correct team or agent, providing quick reply times. When language detection is enabled, you’ll also be able to get sentiment analysis in multiple languages, helping you to better understand your customer. Language detection will allow agents to work more efficiently by automatically sending messages and displaying Knowledge Base articles in the customer’s’ own language.

Making Translation Easy

We focused on making processes as time-efficient as possible. One of the Localization features that enables this is Snippets. Teams can easily insert translated content into messages, email templates, and Knowledge Base articles. Let’s say you want to provide your agents with an automatic response to questions about returns. You can quickly create a snippet for “return policy” with corresponding translations for languages you want to support. Then, when your agent uses a shortcut with the “return policy” Snippet, it’s automatically translated based on the customer’s language. Adding in personalization is easy too, just combine Snippets, Shortcuts, and Dynamic text and your agent is fully empowered to provide quick personalized support in the correct language.

Enabling Agent Adoption

It’s not just your customers that are global. Many support teams are based all over the world, and it’s important that users can access and use Kustomer in their native language. Unlike other tools where translations are limited to certain features and interfaces, in Kustomer you’ll have full access to language translations across all our features and the user interface. The user interface can be used in over 51 languages (both Right to Left and Left to Right). See a list of all available languages in Kustomer.

For more information about Localization and its included features, check out this article.

These Are the Top 5 Takeaways from Our Direct-to-Consumer Summit

The Direct-to-Consumer approach has changed the way we discover, shop and buy. To take stock of this monumental shift, Kustomer hosted some of the most influential and innovative DTC brands to discuss their approach to loyalty, relationship-building, and experience.

A common thread is that this shift in the consumer ecosystem has put a greater emphasis on the relationship brands have with their customers. Every brand, not just DTC companies and startups, have to value customer experience, loyalty, and lifetime value above all in order to reach modern consumers.

1) Personalization with Purpose

Your customers expect more than a one-size-fits-all experience. They’re all different, and they know that their data should be put to use to make their experience better.

If there’s one brand that knows one size doesn’t fit all, it’s custom shirt manufacturer Proper Cloth. “We have smart sizes—we ask the customer ten questions around height, weight, fit, tuck-in preference, and from that we predict what set of custom size dimensions would be most optimal,” said Founder Seph Skerritt. “This was a big data problem, but as we grew we had a rich data set to build a bigger advantage upon. We used that to improve the customer experience and streamline the onboarding experience.”

Jewelry and watch marketplace TrueFacet makes sure that they’re using a granular segmentation process to send the right messages to the right customers, as CEO Tirath Kamdar describes: “Our customer segmentation is behavior-driven—and then we use demographic information on top of that. We’ve created curated programs to help with our customer segmentation. We target each of our consumers in different ways to build loyalty.”

Personalization isn’t limited to product features, it’s also valuable to personalize content, marketing messages, and other touchpoints. As Alison Lichtenstein, Director of Customer Experience Design at Dow Jones summarized: “Personalization is important—knowing the exact content each person is reading, focusing on serving up the next best article, section, newsletter—we want to anticipate what the customer needs and putting that in front of the person, to make sure they continue to be engaged.”

The push to personalize is even built into Dow Jones’ strategy at the highest level. “We’re evangelists of customer service, we’re constantly thinking about how we can resolve customer issues. But we also focus on the agent experience, helping them help the customers. It’s a huge piece in helping us differentiate. We want to be able to help personalize.”

2) Communication is Crucial

New DTC brands are doing more to connect with customers. Digital channels create more opportunities for conversations, as chat and social multiply the amount of places customers can ask questions and engage.

“When things go wrong, you need to be constantly talking to your customer service team to find patterns, identify the issue, and then make the fix.” Said Britta Fleck, President and Managing Director of Glossybox North America, “Constant communication with your customers provides a better end experience.”

For DTC sofa startup Burrow, they’ve also found that more communication is better. “In the past we’ve tried two approaches. The approach of constantly updating the customer and keeping them in the loop was more successful than giving them a code—communicating with your customers is very important.” Says Co-Founder Kabeer Chopra.

To keep the conversations going, loyalty programs are a natural fit. They ensure that customers stay engaged and reward them for their enthusiasm. Glossybox is pursuing this strategy in earnest, “We’re doing a lot around loyalty, we like to reward our customers. We’re looking into pausing subscriptions over vacations etc, but we don’t want to make it difficult for users to unsubscribe. Either.” More communication can lead to a better experience, but that experience still has to take precedence. “We can only personalize our offering to a certain extent, but what really increases lifetime value for us is listening. And it’s easier sometimes than answering.”

3) Brands, Not Channels

While communicating over every channel that your customers use is important, this communication has to be held together by a strong strategy for the brand. As Mike Vroom, Customer Service Manager at UNTUCKit put it: “Customers interact with brands, not channels.”

Glossier has a similar view, as their Director of CX Erin Miller described, treating every interaction with customers as it’s own channel—they’re not thinking about where they’re interacting with you, but about how they’re going to solve their issue or get the information they want.

This also means that your brand has to communicate with customers in a way that feels warm, natural, and human. Mark Chou, VP of Growth Marketing and E-Commerce at Away, is changing up the way his brand communicates by switching from a reactive to a proactive service model. “When you make mistakes, you don’t hide them from your friends. The same should true for your customers. You can turn a screw-up to a shining moment for your team—being proactive as a customer service team can turn a mistake into a moment for your company that you are proud of.

4) Create Connections with Culture

Above all else, your customer experience should strive to create stronger connections. Interacting with customers one-on-one is highly personal, and doing so in a genuine, meaningful way can have a lasting impact. To do this more effectively, you need to know what your company stands. Daryl Unger, VP of Customer Experience at meal delivery brand Plated, has a strong perspective on the importance of building relationships for his brand. “Food is extremely personal, we aren’t in the business of fixing issues and solving problems, we are in the business of building strong emotional relationships with our customers.” Building relationships based on emotion has some key benefits as a strategy as well. “We remember emotions much longer than transactions. We spend a lot of time studying customer behavior and patterns, which helps us learn when we should proactively reach out—which is very important in a subscription ecommerce business.”

Similarly, Rent the Runway has built their company culture into their customer experience, which helps them build strong relationships with millennial shoppers. “Culture is in the fabric of our brand,” said Tyler Nicoll, Product Manager at RTR, “We have to be woman-first, and we’re changing the landscape by doing something that’s not common in tech companies.” RTR has a full female finance team as well, and are an inclusive company that invests heavily in sustainability initiatives. “Millennials choose brands based on social consciousness,” concluded Nicoll, which is why creating a strong brand built on solid principles makes it easier to form relationships with them. To make it easier for their agents to connect with renters, Rent the Runway’s Integration with Kustomer allows them to automate certain workflows that used to be manual, so they can spend more time working with customers and less time inputting data.

BarkShop and BarkBox understand dogs and dog owners. By getting a rich picture of their customers and their pets by using data analysis—and by using their insight as pet owners themselves—they’re able to deliver exactly what their customers need. “We’re understanding what the needs of our customers are, and figuring out what they need to meet them.” Said Melissa Seligmann, BarkShop’s General Manager.

As the conversations at our event have shown, the Direct-to-Consumer revolution is shaking the foundation of how we do business. As digital advancements make it even easier to cut out middlemen and deliver totally new kinds of experiences, customers will come to demand the same kind of convenient experiences they get from DTC brands from traditional ones. Those that can innovate, adapt, and bring a higher caliber of experience and smarter ways to buy will be the ones that succeed.

For more insights on the DTC approach, download our whitepaper: 4 Secrets to the DTC Experience Every Brand Can Master.

Press Release: Kustomer Secures $26 Million in Series B Funding to Modernize Customer Experience

Check out our most recent round of series D funding.

Read the announcement from Kustomer’s CEO Brad Birnbaum here.

Kustomer, the modern CRM platform for customer experience, service, and support, announced today it has raised $26 million in a Series B financing round, bringing its total funding to $38.5 million. Redpoint Ventures led the round with participation from Series A investors Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures, and Social Leverage. Cisco Investments also joined as a new strategic investor. Additionally, Tomasz Tunguz, Partner at Redpoint Ventures, will join Kustomer’s Board of Directors to further propel the company’s goal of transforming the customer service industry.

“We have all experienced bad customer service. We saw there was a real need for a modern CRM platform that focuses on the customer, rather than a support ticket, in order to eliminate these negative experiences.” – Brad Birnbaum, Co-Founder and CEO, Kustomer

As the digital age continues to bring customer behavior changes, the business processes that handle customer data need to adapt accordingly in order to exceed customer expectations. The only way companies and brands can differentiate in the direct-to-consumer age is with a full view of the customer, enabled by a platform approach to CX and service rather than siloed applications and traditional, outdated support ticketing systems.

“We have all experienced bad customer service. We saw there was a real need for a modern CRM platform that focuses on the customer, rather than a support ticket, in order to eliminate these negative experiences,” says Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Kustomer’s single customer timeline and intelligent workflow engine enable companies to personalize and automate complex use cases that take time and resources, allowing service teams to be more effective and productive. For example, if you order a dress for a friend’s wedding that is supposed to be delivered during a snowstorm, you may be a little worried it might not show up in time. To add to the stress, you have to call support, wait on the line, and provide all the personal information the company should already have in order to find out. With Kustomer, support agents already have your information and are able to proactively reach out to you on email or SMS to let you know about the delay, will provide an option to choose an alternate dress at no extra cost, and can update the shipping address as needed. Kustomer is providing modern service for the modern consumer.”

“Kustomer aligns with our approach of providing exceptional customer experiences by leveraging their platform to better empower our teams, and in turn, our customers.” – Jamie Siminoff, Founder and CEO, Ring

Kustomer’s CRM platform for customer experience enables service organizations to know everything about every customer. Kustomer empowers agents with real-time omnichannel capabilities and delivers personalized, memorable experiences at scale by integrating all business data and automating intelligent workflows, resulting in higher lifetime value.

“It is time for disruption in the customer support industry, and Kustomer is leading the way.” – Tomasz Tunguz, Partner, Redpoint Ventures

Kustomer has experienced rapid growth since it was founded in 2015, including clients with thousands of service agents, some of which are industry disruptors themselves. Jamie Siminoff, Founder and CEO of Ring explains, “By switching to Kustomer, we were able to lower our overall service and customer experience costs, while also increasing our team members productivity. Kustomer aligns with our approach of providing exceptional customer experiences by leveraging their platform to better empower our teams, and in turn, our customers.”

“It is time for disruption in the customer support industry, and Kustomer is leading the way,” said Tomasz Tunguz, partner at Redpoint Ventures. “Kustomer has had impressive traction to date, and we are confident the world’s best B2C and B2B companies will be able to utilize the platform in order to develop meaningful relationships, experiences, and lifetime value for their customers. This is an exciting and forward-thinking platform for companies as well as their customers.”

Kustomer will use this round of funding to expand its platform and focus on intelligence, integrations and enterprise capabilities as it continues to take on larger opportunities. Leveraging its rich customer data in the platform, Kustomer will broaden its capabilities starting with engagement. The company anticipates doubling its team within the next twelve months by expanding both domestically and internationally. Kustomer aims to enable all companies to provide memorable experiences by becoming customer-centric.

About Kustomer:
Kustomer is the modern platform for customer experience, service, and support that focuses on customers, not tickets, enabling companies to know everything about every customer to drive informed actions. Used by industry leaders such as Ring, Glossier, and Rent the Runway, Kustomer provides businesses with a full view of every customer by unifying all relevant data, interaction history, apps, and systems. Kustomer was founded in 2015 with headquarters in New York City.

How DTC Strategies Are Shaking Up Fashion

As direct-to-consumer business models become more popular, different industries are finding their own ways to make these kinds of experiences work for them. This has been especially true for the fashion industry. By cutting out markups, leveraging digital technologies, and promoting radical transparency, dozens of new fashion brands are succeeding with DTC. We’ve taken a look at the unique ways specific fashion verticals are taking their products straight to customers, and how they’re differentiating themselves from the legacy brands that came before them.

Whitepaper: The DTC Approach – 4 Aspects to Master

Denim: Simplified Selection and a Digital Storefront

Some products are timeless, but are the brands that sell them timeless enough to survive in the modern retailing world?

The traditional retail model means denim companies like 7 For All Mankind source their designs and fabrics from numerous designers and mills. They stock products their designers and buyers believe customers will like, but aren’t close enough to customers to bet on a handful of choice designs. Instead, like most retailers, they take a shotgun approach. Dozens of slightly different fabrics, cuts, and details make shopping for new jeans harrowing and downright consumer unfriendly. National retail outlets require huge warehouses and supply chains to keep locations stocked with all the varied styles, driving up costs for the end-buyer.

Younger luxury brand DSTLD sells premium denim and elevated basics direct to the consumer and is primarily online (with limited pop-up stores that let customers experience the brand in person). By selling direct, DSTLD is able to focus on quality rather than quantity. Their collection is easy to browse with a color palette of just black, white, grey, and blue. A reasonable price tag is a fair trade for a lesser-known brand name and limited retail stores—plus they use the same factories as many designer labels. DSTLD even allows true fans to invest in the company, ensuring that the brand will remain true to their customers as they grow—because they have direct financial control.

Focusing on a few good items done right at a fair price point is key to tapping into modern shopping trends, and encourages brand loyalty and repeat business by making clothes that become an essential part of customers’ wardrobes. Huge selections and hundreds of retail outlets are no longer likely to breed success.

Designer Fashion: A Closet in the Cloud

While the previous example focused on delivering a product, the new normal for retail also means fundamental changes in behavior. One of the biggest shifts: changing attitudes about ownership. Airbnb, Lyft, and WeWork all meet a desire to pay less in exchange for giving up sole possession. Why own a car when it’s so convenient to ride in someone else’s? Why stay in a hotel when you can stay in someone’s house for less? Rent the Runway provides a similar solution for your wardrobe. Why buy a new dress for every one of your friends’ weddings when you can rent one for a tenth of the cost?

With Rent the Runway, customers can get the same high-quality designer clothing, but without having to own it forever. If you don’t want to show up to every wedding of the season in the same thing, renting just makes more sense, and allows customers more choice and flexibility—they can get a much more expensive piece without worrying about the price tag.

RTR’s direct-to-consumer model adds value that a department store like Macy’s just can’t without majorly restructuring some of their current practices. Without the costly overhead of hundreds of national storefronts, RTR can deliver and scale a new kind of in-store experience without orienting their entire business around it.

Pre-Loved Fashion: Sustainable Style

Millennial consumers don’t feel the stigma of pre-owned items like previous generations. They’re more likely to embraced pre-owned fashion due to its sustainability (and lower cost), leading to a robust market for secondhand goods. New sites like Grailed, theRealReal, and TrueFacet are filling the gaps left between the small, independent, highly-curated boutiques offering clothes and furniture in most major cities. However, Material World offers a service that goes a step further than any of these.

Material World will pay customers for their pre-owned designer clothing up front—making it easy to trade in your lightly-worn items for hard cash. Yet this is just one piece of a bigger system. The Material Box is a subscription service that ships an outfit handpicked by a stylist every month straight to your door. You’re not just getting a sustainable, designer outfit for a fraction of the price, you’re getting unique and totally personalized styling services. The stylist who works with them knows the entire history of their purchases and interactions, meaning they can provide deep and contextual service. That’s a benefit you won’t find at even the most upscale boutique. The box can then be used to send back their own clothing, replenishing their old pre-owned clothes with new ones. Material World supports an ethical system that diminishes waste and elevates the benefits of pre-owned clothing, creating an experience that’s even more appealing and streamlined than buying a designer outfit for yourself.

As the DTC model becomes more popular, the variety and creativity of new DTC brands will only increase. The principles for CX success are clear, no matter which industry you’re in:

  • Adapt to changing customer expectations
  • Always push to innovate with new technology
  • Look beyond the old ways of doing things to find cheaper, faster alternatives

If you can do that, you’re sure to delight your customers and improve their experience. Learn some more aspects of the DTC approach that can help you deliver better service in our whitepaper.

5 Customer Experience Tips for Subscription Businesses (and Everyone Else)

Subscription businesses are posed with a unique challenge. Because their customers don’t actively interact with the brand on a regular basis unless there’s an issue, they need to work extra hard to stay connected and grow their loyalty and Lifetime Value. Customers should become more invested and engaged as the length of their subscription grows. This requires agents to be well-versed on the product and offerings so they can take on a more active, consultative approach to build deeper connections. They need to be proactive, instead of reactive, anticipating need and reaching out before a problem arises—as customers are more likely to cancel than put up with a bad subscription experience. While the same is true for any business, it’s the most pressing for subscription companies. Let’s look at some ways agents can go the extra mile to improve the subscription, or any, experience:

1) Collect Information

The more you know about your customers, the better you can make your experience. If a customer’s profile isn’t completely filled out, agents should be prompted to get those answers during a routine interaction. Or, they could reach out with an example of how they could better customize the customer’s experience if their profile was completed. All of this data is the first step to helping agents become more active and engaged consultants.

2) Use Foresight

If the weather in the forecast is set to cause a delay for customers in a particular area, you should be able to proactively reach out to those affected and give them the option for an earlier delivery. Customers will appreciate your foresight, and giving them say over when their items arrive is far preferable to waiting for an angry call asking when their order is going to be delivered.

3) Ask Questions

If a customer’s behavior changes, such as pausing their delivery, then that’s a great chance for agents to engage with them and learn more about their habits. Maybe they’re going on vacation? If that’s the case, you can offer to ship it to this different location for no extra cost. This both teaches the customer about a feature they might not have known about while showing that you care about their individual experience and keeping their subscription top-of-mind.

4) Respond Faster

In the event of your customer downgrading their subscription tier or asking to cancel, it’s important that your agents are able to get all the information they need ASAP. If you can automate your chat to send a conversational form asking what’s the reason and how can you help, then customers who might still be on the fence can provide more information and help your agents convince them to stay subscribed.

5) Reward Loyalty

Brands like Bespoke Post and Boxycharm reward loyal customers by occasionally giving them more valuable items in their boxes. The longer they stay subscribed, the more frequent these surprises are. This incentives customers to keep subscribing, and adds real value to their experience.

But even if you’re not a subscription brand, increasing customer Lifetime Value is a crucial part of the experience strategy. This is why more and more brands are adding a subscription model every day. For example, the clothing marketplace Material World has streamlined their business model, going from a place where customers can find second-hand luxury items, to adding a subscription box stream to connect with customers who want a continual, unique, and low effort experience. Customers can exchange their old clothing and other items for a new outfit made up of pre-owned items from luxury brands each month using this new service. It’s not just new brands experimenting with adding subscription—even strongly established brands like Sephora and Glossier are cutting into Birchbox’s market share by offering recurring subscriptions of their products. Now, even Starbucks has a subscription vertical.

Understanding your customers and increasing their loyalty with a great customer experience is a worthwhile endeavor for every kind of brand, whether that’s with a subscription model or with next-level CX. As old and new brands catch on to the benefits of a subscription model, the ranks of delivery boxes will only grow, but the ones that will truly last will be those that understand their customers and use great service and customer experience to ensure their loyalty.

Conversations with Kustomer Podcast: How Do You Go From Support to Experience? Featuring Jeremy Watkin and Nate Brown

What’s the difference between support, service, and experience—how do they inform one another, and what can you do to improve each? Our Director of Marketing Chen Barnea sat down with two CX luminaries to get their perspective on how to define customer experience, the best ways to understand and deliver it, and why companies should move towards an experience-first mindset.

Nate Brown is the Director of Customer Experience at UL EHSS, as well as the Founder of CX Accelerator. Jeremy Watkin is the Director of CX at FCR, and has more than 17 years of experience in the space. Together, they had an insightful discussion about the relationship between support and experience that you can listen to yourself above. While their chat with Chen covered a lot of ground, but we’ve picked some of the highlights for you below:

What is the difference between customer support and customer experience?

Nate shared a great quote to help explain the fundamental difference between these two concepts:

“Customer service starts where customer experience fails.”

So you can view customer service a the reactive response to a point in the journey reaches out to resolve an issue.

Therefore customer experience is more of a designed element that’s meant to prevent that service interaction in the first place.

Jeremy noted that some of the confusion around the distinction comes from a recent trend. “A lot of companies have started calling their service teams CX teams, which is a little clichéd—there are so many other pieces at work in the customer experience. I appreciate the sentiment that support teams need to have a role in the customer experience, but they aren’t the entire experience itself.”

Why is the customer experience mindset becoming more prominent?

According to Jeremy, the reason is simple: good CX is good business. “Customers love having their issues solved, but they’d love it even more if the issue they had never happened in the first place. I think that’s ultimately what’s driving the transition.”

Customers are fed up, and are finally asking for the experiences they’ve always deserved, as Nate describes: “This transition is fueled by customer frustration. People are waking up and realizing that they don’t need to spend three hours on the phone with customer service to get the experience they should have had from the beginning.”

Combined with new companies that are changing the game and raising the bar by reimagining the customer experience, every business has to look to deliver a more holistic, impactful experience instead of baseline support.

How can CX leaders help bring about these changes in their organizations?

As with so many other initiatives, change has to start from within: “The only way is by starting with the employee experience.” Said Nate, “Employees mirror that experience they have internally with the customer. Improve the internal culture, and the external experience will improve as well, as agents will naturally bring that experience and excitement and project it outwards.”

Jeremy agreed, highlighting Voice of the Customer initiatives as an example. “I think it has a snowball effect too. When it comes to VoC, frontline agents have a channel to share frustrations. As companies start to listen to that and put it into practice, you naturally see employees become more engaged and excited about improving CX.”

What technologies are the most important for improving your experience?

There is no shortage of technologies meant to help improve CX, but the right one will accomplish the right goals. As Nate described, “If your agents have bad tools and no visibility into the journey because it’s all divided between different toolsets, it leads to frustration, and that will come through to the customer. Conversely, If you have good tools that enable the employee to do their job well, then that positive experience will be passed on to them instead.”

How do you measure agents as you make this shift?

Every CX metric can help give you an idea of the effectiveness of your experience, but simply measuring is not enough. “What about Average Handle Time?” Asked Jeremy, “Sometimes you actually want your AHT to go up because you’re trying to deliver a more personal experience. For metrics, the important thing is WHY it’s going up or down.”

This is just a taste of the wide-ranging discussion on the podcast, so if this sounds relevant to your needs, be sure to have a listen. If you’re looking to expand your horizon beyond your organization and broaden your perspective on CX, definitely consider signing up for CX Accelerator as well.

Want to learn more about Kustomer? Try our platform for yourself

How Beauty Brands Can Use Customer Experience as a Differentiator

How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

The growing number of beauty brands fighting for market share are all looking for an edge. Whether it’s standout branding, a breakthrough product, or a unique story—to succeed, you have to get your customers’ attention. However, there is one surefire way of separating yourself from the pack: Service.

Download whitepaper: How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

Glossier’s gTeam is a CX Dream Team

New beauty brands have found that service can solidify relationships with their customers. Glossier’s gTeam is a best-in-class example. The dedicated staff of editors (Glossier’s special designation for service employees, rather than “agent” or “associate”) work to deliver personal, one-to-one service to their devoted fanbase.

The team works directly with the marketing and product development departments, providing advice on how to improve R&D and drive brand loyalty and repeat business thanks to their insight from working in direct contact with customers.

“Instead of limiting interactions with customer service, which is the norm in the industry, we strive to create conversations with our customers,” says Jessica White, Executive Director of Customer Experience, in a recent exclusive with Digiday.

Learn more about how Kustomer helps Glossier’s gTeam win a devoted following in this whitepaper.

Sephora’s Experience Transcends Digital and Physical

Beauty retailer Sephora has made real investments in uniting their physical and digital store operations into a single unit to deliver a 360-degree experience in-store and online. “If a customer browsed online then bought in store, we can see that. We just weren’t looking at it before, but it’s a win for both channels,” says Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s SVP of Digital, “We’re more aligned, and we can move faster across in-store, online and mobile strategies. Mobile is the glue that holds it all together.”

Now Sephora’s popular in-store makeovers have an added digital element. Makeup artists log each product they use in the Sephora app, so that customers can use it as a shopping list later online or at the counter. Similarly, customers can now use Sephora’s Virtual Artist augmented reality tool for to purchase the products they’ve “tried on” virtually in the app online, or find out where they’re located in-store.

Combining these teams helps drive customer loyalty, combining the perks of both channels and pooling data to deliver more-personalized recommendations and offers. “My new team brings loyalty to the forefront since we’re better positioned to understand customers across channels,” said Laughton, “Loyalty is a data-driven ecosystem, so that’s hugely powerful.”

A Truly Beautiful Experience

A smarter experience across digital and brick-and-mortar touchpoints goes a long way towards cementing your relationships with customers. In a space with as much competition and personal attachment as beauty, standing out with a next-level experience is crucial for retaining an edge over the competition. And no matter the channel, agents need to be equipped and empowered to take the experience further and truly delight your customers.

Download whitepaper: How New Beauty Brands Disrupt the Industry

How Do You Take Friction Out of the Customer Experience?

Does this sound familiar?: You reach out to a company that you know has tons of information about you, but when you connect to an agent, you have to tell them all the same information you’ve told them a dozen times before. Or worse, one agent asks for your account number, and on the same call, you’re transferred to a different agent who asks for the same number again. This kind of experience is universally hated and creates frustration and friction for your customers. How does your business overcome it?

That was the opening topic of discussion between Kustomer’s Co-Founder and CEO Brad Birnbaum and Shep Hyken on the latest episode of Amazing Business Radio. The answer? Support agents need to have all the relevant information about customers at their fingertips. Knowing all the relevant details about your products and services is now just the bare minimum. By helping provide agents with all the information they need, Kustomer has seen 20% faster resolution for customers.

“Want to have 100% less frustrated customers? Don’t ask them to give you the same information again and again.” Said Brad. Understandably, repeating themselves is customers’ top complaint, according to our whitepaper benchmarking the state of service for retailers

Eliminating friction is an enormous area of concern for modern customer experience organizations—and for good reason, as it’s a major impediment to doing business. It also happens to be the topic of Shep’s next book. “When you create friction, the problem becomes a complaint,” says Hyken. Instead of solving your customers’ issues, you’re putting up new barriers that are impacting their experience.

When you’re able to have an immense amount of data about your customers in one place, it acts as a multiplier for the kind of amazing interactions you’re able to have.The faster agents can provide a “wow” solution, the less friction there will be.

“Wow the customer by telling them at the beginning of the conversation, ‘I know why you are calling, and here’s what we are going to do about the problem,” said Brad.

Other information, like sentiment, can be key to delivering that next tier of experience. For example, Slice is able to see every unhappy customer who hasn’t ordered in the last 90 days, then use that information to reach out and engage with a coupon or other offer.

Chatbots are also becoming increasingly important to the CX expert’s arsenal. They have their limitations, “Chatbots only as good as the person who programs it or creates it,” added Brad, but when used correctly, they can provide a real edge to your experience.

Shep and Brad agreed that chatbots are good for routine use, but for context-sensitive answers like “what’s the warranty on my most recent purchase?”, they’re not so effective. That’s why Kustomer uses Conversational Forms. These act like a bot, instantly responding to your customers’ queries with questions, while getting info on the customer’s account themselves and their problem. They then connect directly to an agent, with all the relevant info they need to deliver great service.

Knowing everything you can about the customer, then acting on it at the right time, is key to creating the kind of customer experience that wins customers for life.

Deliver effortless, personalized customer service.

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