Brands are now actively expanding their global footprint, knowing that they can no longer rely on traditional marketing methods like advertising to grow. They need to deal with unprecedented challenges head on if they’re going to continue to effectively attract, interact with, and retain loyal customers.
And today, that means focusing on the interactions between brands and customers. We know that CX has become a top differentiator online, and brands that invest in a better customer experience are seeing the greatest returns.
We can see the truth in this when we examine the automation success of Wave Financial. In just a year, Wave saw a 5X return on investment using a brand interactions platform to handle customer inquiry spikes and leverage conversational AI to strategically improve their CX.
How? With a powerful and intelligent AI platform that prioritizes better brand interactions. Now is the time to make the changes you need, in both technology and strategy, to meet and exceed customer expectations. Let’s explore how industry-leading brands are doing this.
1. Embracing the hybrid model: Humans and robots are friends, not foes
That is to say, automation is meant to complement your CX effort — not replace it — by offering consumers a first line of support that allows them to swiftly solve problems, find products, and update their accounts. And when their inquiries require a human touch, conversational AI can provide a direct hand off to an agent, who is equipped with the context they need to deliver a standout customer experience.
The result is more fulfilled, less stressed agents and reps, more valuable conversations with customers, and data-backed improvements and optimization. Essentially, better brand interactions, which result in a much improved CX.
The proof is in the pudding. Shapermint’s automation-first strategy has resulted in a 50% increase of sales facilitated by live agents, making their engagement with customers that much more valuable.
And this is exactly what fast-growing companies need to scale, especially as more customers flock to their websites to make their most important purchases. This was certainly the case for product design platform, InVision.
When InVision’s growth outpaced their support efforts, their agents were inundated with tickets that required immediate attention. They needed a solution that would free up agents’ time by diverting and containing tickets without having to scale the support team.
Adding an automated brand interaction layer to the frontline of their CX was crucial to meeting and exceeding customer expectations. InVision’s conversational AI now empowers web visitors and customers to access their knowledge base in an intuitive chat window, answering common, repetitive queries and allowing agents to support more complex tickets. As a result, they are automating and containing 83% of brand interactions, deflecting anywhere between 600-700 tickets a week.
2. Leveraging automation = accurate and predictable results
To get the most out of your brand interactions, you need AI that goes beyond human-to-system conversations. This is referred to as Natural Language Processing (NLP)—the ability to program computers to process and analyze natural language data.
You want to look for a platform that uses Natural Language Understanding (NLU), a dimension of NLP that focuses on actually understanding human language by matching input text to a knowledge model. Together, NLP and NLU are foundational to creating exceptional conversational user experiences. So when a customer asks the conversational AI a question, it can accurately interpret the question and populate the chat with an answer drawn from the knowledge base.
Platforms that do this best integrate content from existing CMS systems right into the platform, and then, into the chat, giving customers immediate access to answers and recommendations.
The ability for AI to accurately predict and respond to customer intent — and enable inquiry containment and customer self-service — empowers your agents to develop deeper, revenue-driving relationships with customers. So was the case for Balsam Hill.
Balsam Hill’s automated brand interactions strategy allows customers to easily access the information they’re looking for—be it videos, FAQ articles, tutorial guides, and more—which decreased live chat volumes by 30%, and helped their agents provide a more careful and empathetic service.
And what do I mean by “empathetic” service?
3. Applying hyper-personalization by way of empathy
Everyone wants to feel seen and cared about. And that’s never been truer than today. Customers now expect customized, tailored brand interactions, and hyper personalization is what will set you apart. Every interaction has to be consistent, true to your brand’s promise, and customer data-driven.
To create lasting emotional connections, brands need to focus on unifying sales, marketing, product, and support teams by centralizing customer data and brand interactions in one place. If you’ve been wondering how to get a 360° view of each customer, this is the way to do it. Using customers’ unique history interacting with your brand, you can leverage data to personalize the entire customer journey, not just one section of it.
Take Indigo for example. In 2019, Indigo diversified its delivery network from a single nationwide carrier to eight carriers of both national and regional options. The expansion made it understandably difficult for them to get a timely, centralized view of delivery performance, and this required them to focus their efforts on improving the customer experience around order delivery.
Integrating their choice brand interactions platform with Convey, Indigo now provides ongoing notifications to customers as packages reach key points in their delivery journey, and customers can track packages in real-time, giving them to-the-minute visibility and reassurance and reducing the number of costly WISMO (“where is my order?”) inquiries to live customer service representatives.
For those of us who are laser-focused on CX, designing your brand interactions around what your customers are going through in the moment, is the shift customers are demanding. It’s the difference between considering what you want them to do versus what you can do for them — and the key is showing empathy.
If you want your customers to stick with you until the end, use all the data that’s available to you to personalize digital conversations in a way that’s actually meaningful. The goal is to make it all about the customer — not the company. And that requires an intelligent AI solution that makes it easy to show individual empathy on a grand scale.
By making more confident, data-backed decisions, you can improve conversion and exponentially impact the metrics that matter most. Kustomer’s VP of Growth says it best:
4. Anticipating customer needs and providing proactive CX
When thinking about the shift to proactive brand interactions, I’m compelled to share one of my favourite quotes by Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” Shifting your focus to how you can enhance each and every interaction your brand has with your customers is the essence of the opportunity in automation and conversational AI.
With a human-first approach, it’s logistically impossible to expect agents to have contextual data and customer information at their fingertips all at once and wait for the right trigger to manually send out a proactive message — especially at scale. With a digital-first, automation-first approach, you can. And this is an incredibly important point of differentiation.
With proactive CX, customers feel valued and that the brand has their best interests at heart — and that builds trust and loyalty, allowing you to hold on to customers for longer. Loyalty and retention are the keywords here, because that’s what will drive revenue.
And what’s a proactive brand interactions model’s best friend? Using customer data to take insightful action and anticipate your customer’s next move.
5. Aligning ACX with business goals using a data-driven approach
As you think about your own brand’s automated customer experience (ACX®) strategy, it’s important to understand exactly how automation is working to ladder up to bigger business goals, or as I like to call it, your North Star.
Arming your brand with a platform that can easily define success metrics, track them within a dashboard, and optimize according to the insights revealed is what will set your CX apart, and keep your company following it’s shining brand promise.
You not only need to define, track, and measure success, you need the freedom to experiment easily, iterate quickly, and optimize with agility. With this, you can confidently build and create more meaningful brand interactions at scale.
This means measuring custom goals like demos booked, leads captured, forms completed, and sales escalations, just to name a few.
One thing I’ve learned is that you should never assume what people want, be that your closest friends, family members, and in this case, your customers. It is imperative that you take a step back to analyze what works and what doesn’t, your big wins and momentary setbacks, to enhance and optimize your next steps.
To set your brand apart from the competition, choose a platform that allows you to bid farewell to the guesswork. Your best bet is using the results of A/B testing to create multiple versions of an answer, flow or proactive campaign, show the variants to different segments of customers at the same time, and then measure and compare the performance of each variant.
Your brand has a choice, meet your customers where they are or run the risk of falling behind. It’s my hope that you seize the day and transform the way you engage by investing in better brand interactions. Your customers will thank you for it.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Michael Windsor and Vikas Bhambri to learn about managing CX teams across the globe and building a strong foundation for success. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
Why You Should Expand Your CX
Senior Director of Global Customer Experience at Skybox Security, Michael Windsor helps leaders expand their CX teams worldwide. For some, this may seem like a daunting task; however, Michael clarifies the importance of scaling teams across the globe if a company wants to retain its international customers. When customers outside of the United States are connected to agents who understand their perspectives culturally, they feel more connected with the brand as a whole. The first step to creating a global team is to truly understand what you are offering to your customers.“You really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them.” As teams expand across the world with a common understanding of their customers and brand mission, it builds a sense of empathy for how customers interact with their services. Trust and empathy create a bond between brand and customer, resulting in lasting loyalty.
Educating for Cultural Differences
One of the most important aspects to scaling CX teams globally is educating agents on the appropriate cultural norms for the areas they will be servicing. Cross-culturally, there are many differences in human interactions that are acceptable depending on the region of origin. When discussing his CX team in Israel, Michael mentions, “Israelis by chance are very direct to the point… sometimes that can come across as disrespectful.” To help close the gap between cultures, Michael suggests that CX leaders should actively be engaged in educating their agents as well as their clients on market expectations:
I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.
When both agents and customers are educated and have a common understanding, operations can run much smoother. As more leaders make this a priority, surely they will experience some cultural bumps along the way. Michael ensures that success comes in increments, through operational tweaks – leading to company adaptation, growth, and “customer stickiness.”
Effortlessly Globalizing Your Teams
A strong global team starts with a solid and consistent foundation of understanding, which is essential for success, according to Michael. For leaders who are expanding their teams, he encourages them to start small and take wins and losses into account before broadening their reach. He explains, “That’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.” On top of that, Michael adds that customer-minded companies can scale easier because every decision is made for the betterment of the customer experience. “Really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are… Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey.” When teams are consistent throughout the entire organization, leaders can do their jobs more efficiently, without getting lost in the details. Many experience what Michael calls “analysis paralysis” from overworking their efforts to fit each team, rather than building on a basic set of expectations for all global agents. Ultimately, for the greatest CX management globally, a strong foundation is key.
To learn more about managing international CX teams, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
How to Grow & Manage a Global CX Team | Michael Windsor
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about managing global CX teams. The why, the what, the how. We got two special guests. I’ll let them take just a minute and introduce themselves. Michael, let’s start with you.
Michael Windsor: (00:27)
Sure. My name is Michael Windsor. I’m the Senior Director of the Global Customer Experience here at Skybox Security. Work in the cybersecurity space. Excited to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a fun company. Exciting career. But before Skybox, Michael, where are you? You’ve done a couple of things in the space, correct?
Michael Windsor: (00:46)
Yeah, so I worked for a competitor actually called AlgoSec, where I ran enterprise support that included technical account management globally for the company. And then prior to this, I actually worked in the HCM space. So I used to work for a company called SilkRoad Technology. So it’s, I actually was the Vice President of Global Support Services for the company. I could talk about that position for days, but, started there and been in cybersecurity the last seven, eight years.
Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
I love it. Love it, again. Well appreciate you jumping on. It was fun connecting with him on LinkedIn. And cool story. Thought it’d be fun to share with the audience here today, Vikas, over to you, man.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:29)
Vikas Bhambri, Head a Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s a partner in crime. Mike, I’m looking forward to the conversation. We here at Kustomer are embarking on scaling out our support team globally. So this is, selfishly, this is a great learning opportunity for me as we’re in the midst of our strategy here at Kustomer. So we’ll go to the conversation.
Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
Nothing better than free consulting. I didn’t tell that, but that is actually the reason that we’re doing. I got you for the next hour, Michael. You’re on camera now, sucker.
Michael Windsor: (02:03)
Gabe Larsen: (02:03)
So start big picture, thinking about managing this idea of global CX teams, where do you go? It just seems such a, like a, it’s like how to solve the world’s problems. It’s a big topic. Where do you start to even digest a topic like this?
Michael Windsor: (02:23)
Well, I mean, ultimately you have to understand, so to give you some backstory – when I came here to Skybox Security, I came in, it was a brand new function that we had never had. And so they’re like, “Mike, tell me, explain to me actually how we’re going to do this, what it looks like, what are some KPIs?” But the first and foremost thing is that you have to really understand where your customer base is. Here at Skybox, we work with clients and partners, and so we had to figure out exactly where we wanted to have, as I say, boots on the ground. So ultimately, we started in North America, I hired my first person, he’s kind of my right-hand person now. His name is Greg.
Michael Windsor: (03:05)
And so we essentially said, let’s build out this model. Let’s look here in the US. Let’s do lessons learned. And then from this let’s scale it globally. Not only looking at one, where our customer base was, but two, where our offices were. So ultimately there’s this whole premise to say, “Let me keep a team closer to my backend services such as RND and support,” and I think there’s good and bad with that. So, I mean, in terms of how we structured that, those are the two things that we really looked at is offices and where our customer base was located virtual versus how much we wanted boots on the ground. Because I always say, pre-COVID is that there were a lot of countries like Germany, as an example, when you want to build trust and respect with them, you have to have that face-to-face interaction. I’m trying to do things over Zoom and virtual meetings and go to meetings and all the other platforms that are out that exist now is sometimes very tough. So, I mean, that’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.
Gabe Larsen: (04:20)
Hmm. I like that. Do you feel like the offices thing is always interesting to me. So you guys now have offices in a handful of places, correct?
Michael Windsor: (04:29)
We do. That’s correct.
Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
And how did you choose the different offices? Was that just based on the customer base? Is that where you decided to kind of anchor it or were there other reasons that kind of came into play?
Michael Windsor: (04:40)
No, I mean, it’s part of it. One is, being in cybersecurity, we’re in Silicon Valley. We have an office, big office in San Jose, which is where most of our executive team sits. The thing also about cybersecurity, I have a big office in Israel and for people that have done business in Israel that know Israel, they are very, very good in the cybersecurity space because they actually kept, most everyone has been in the military. And so when you were doing that to keep your country safe, as opposed to working for a corporation, you usually get the brightest and smartest people from that. So we do have a big office in Israel for those exact reasons is that there’s a big, strong cybersecurity presence in the IDF, which is the military in Israel. And so we have a lot of people that actually work within that capacity that actually work for our company. And you’ll find that in a lot of cybersecurity companies that you talk to in the, that are over in Israel.
Gabe Larsen: (05:42)
Vikas Bhambri: (05:44)
Michael, one of the questions I have, I see a lot of not just us at Kustomer, but a lot of our clients, in the early days try to have a hobbler initial location, which they create their support team from. I think you said you kind of did in your journey and then kind of pushed the limits of how far they can stretch that team. Maybe starting earlier, ending later. Maybe support the three US time zones, but then maybe Europe. And then you get that tipping point where it’s like, “Okay, this is no longer going to scale because,” and I’m curious as to, is that an effective strategy? Do you need to go global right away? And then when there’s the question of global, I always think there’s that crossroads that most companies face, which is organic versus BPO. What are your, some of your experiences with some of those challenges?
Michael Windsor: (06:37)
Sure. What I would tell you is that even taking a step back, you really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them. So, one is, what did you contractually agree to? Again, we offer like a premium support product that is 24/7. So I had to develop a follow the fund model as part of this, to be able to support them kind of in, again, multiple time zones. I think my team right now is in 16 different time zones. And so we had to make sure that, as based upon what we have contractually agreed to, that we actually had a support offering to actually mimic that.
Michael Windsor: (07:27)
So you want to push that, but again, when you start talking about a global team, it would only make sense depending on what you propose or offer to your client base, right? So again, if that’s something and if you have clients again, whatever you contractually agree to, one, you have to start off with that foundation. But two, as you start talking about expanding it, the whole thing about customer experience and customer successes is client stickiness. I use this term and you’ll hear it in a lot of the CX or CX space, is that you really need to think about, “Okay, what foundation do I need to start off with to make ourselves successful?” And then in terms of your question is that, “What do I need to do to go above and beyond that?” So what foundationally do I need to do to really start off with a good focus base? And then from that, what other additional offerings we need to offer such as a customer experience team, customer success team, technical account management team, which all worked very closely with the support side to make that happen.
Gabe Larsen: (08:33)
Yeah. Got it. Do you feel like Michael, I mean, so many different countries, so many lessons learned, as you’ve kind of went from one country to another. You mentioned Germany as an example, a little more face-to-face in that environment. Has there been other lessons learned whether it’s country-based or just setting up new offices that would be kind of fun to share to the audience?
Michael Windsor: (08:53)
Sure, absolutely. So, it’s like we have an office in Israel and for those people that have done business in Israel, Israelis by chance are very direct to the point. And sometimes, that comes across to, if you’re taking a team like in Israel and supporting other countries, sometimes that can come across as disrespectful. So again, APAC. Again, the whole thing with our teams in India, sometimes there’s preconceived notions about what those teams do, how they operate, how they interact and stuff like that. And then that client base again, just in those regions have different expectations just in terms of how you’re going to work with them on a day in and day out basis.
Michael Windsor: (09:35)
So it’s really understanding, okay, you have these teams based here. Here’s who they are, culturally. Here’s how they interact day to day. You as a leader have to figure out, okay, so if you’re going to support clients outside of that region, what do you have to do from a training standpoint to get them to make sure that they understand or don’t come across a way that might be considered disrespectful? And then, how do you set proper expectations with your clients, just in terms of dealing with those teams? I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or customer, more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.
Vikas Bhambri: (10:33)
How much of it is consistent? Obviously you’re a company, you want to service all your customers. How much of it is consistent across the board? And then what’s the variability from region to region?
Michael Windsor: (10:47)
Foundationally, it is consistent across the board just in terms of what we do and something that my leaders train their team on is just to tweak those expectations, to tweak those opinions. So foundationally, it’s all the same. And you want to have a consistent foundation because as you’re building functions, if you don’t have a consistent foundation, you’ll get, I call it analysis paralysis. That you’ll get lost in the details. So foundationally yes, they’re all the same again, because ultimately the customer experience or customer success starts from when that first sales call all the way in terms of how they’re supported. So not only do you have to make sure that the teams that you manage are aligned with that, you really need to understand that entire customer journey and keep it foundationally the same. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (11:41)
Yeah. Do you feel like there’s certain, we obviously play in the technology space, so probably less vendor names than otherwise, but as you think about really scaling globally with technology, any lessons learned on that front? It seems like you’ve got security things, you’ve got, I assume there were some challenges trying to get everybody on the same page across different areas and regions, et cetera.
Michael Windsor: (12:07)
Yeah. It really wasn’t a challenge because I think the tools nowadays that most people use and the tools that we use, and I won’t mention any names just to show favoritism for that, I mean we use one of the largest CRMs, again, from the front end of a back end. The web conferencing tools that we use are very internationally-focused tools. So there wasn’t a lot that we had to do. We had to understand data privacy and there was some specifics from a security standpoint that we would have to understand, but most of the tools that you use as you’re building it out, I mean, again, if you don’t have access to these tools, you just have to make sure that there’s no country restraints. Now, thankfully for us, we used some very big global tools to begin with.
Michael Windsor: (12:53)
So we didn’t really have those constraints or concerns as we got into it. But one of the things that as you talk about now with the diverse workforce as part of COVID is that you really have to understand when you start, you just take a centralized team and you disperse them to their homes, what exactly does that mean? And that’s what security challenges are, but we have a very good security team in place that went in and addressed that as we went along, but working with our vendors, it wasn’t hard because not only did we have these challenges, other large companies did as well.
Vikas Bhambri: (13:32)
Michael, one of the things I’ve seen as people have gone and scaled their operation globally, is they’ve taken the pod that they’ve built in the HQ, the country of HQ, which might be the US it might be, UK, Israel, et cetera, and basically replicated that pod in the next location and then the next one. I’ve seen others that have said, “We’re going to have a pod here in HQ location that HQ country, that’s going to remain the same and then we’re going to have a tier one in other countries, but tier two will remain here in HQ,” and then people are sliced and diced in various ways. What was your approach to scaling globally in terms of how you thought about each additional region that you added on? Was it a different skill set or was it just a replicant of the initial premise? How did you go about that?
Michael Windsor: (14:23)
It was actually a replica because again, one of the things that I said that I wanted to make sure is that we were consistent in the process, but really this goes back to your customer base, is that again, what did we contractually agree to as we were doing this and then foundationally, what did we need to put in place? So like, I’ll give you an example. I have a tier one team in the Ukraine. I have a tier two, tier three team, not only in Israel, but also the US. Foundationally, what they do is exactly the same, because the thing is, you’re building a team and as you start taking a pod and then kind of replicating it, you really need to think about what you’re going to do from a leadership standpoint. Because again, if you have a leader in the US, a leader in Israel, a leader in somewhere else, and you start trying to change that foundational function of what they do, you get into leadership challenges, not only from a senior leadership standpoint, from my standpoint, but also leadership challenges as those as those teams work together. So foundation, we started with what we said would work. We looked at the nuances just in terms of what happens within these other countries and other regions, and then ultimately built from that foundational model.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:39)
Any difference in hiring? obviously you’ve got different skill sets in different regions, but anything that you’ve looked at or you want to share with the audience about hiring personas or hiring profiles in the different regions that you operate in?
Michael Windsor: (15:52)
Yeah, and I think the big thing when it comes to customer success, customer support, client stickiness, one of the things that you have to make sure, always make sure that’s consistent, that when you start talking about different languages. So one is the languages, language and region. Also that whole verbal and written communication skills. So say you have a tier two team and let’s just take Italy as an example. They only speak Italian and you say, “Well, can I really need them to help my US team?” That’s probably not gonna work. So you have the nuances of, again, what is your customer base? Again, most of our clients around the world speak English, I think some choose, it’s easier for them to speak in their native tongue.
Michael Windsor: (16:38)
But with that, you have to think about, “Okay, what is my customer base? How do we communicate with them?” But two, how are we going to make sure those individuals that we hire communicate with our internal teams that might only be English speaking? And then the third part of this is that all the tools that you use day in and day out, if they only speak or understand something, as an example in Italy, how are they going to work with tools that are only in English? So again, it’s tools, it’s what your client’s expectations are. And then two, as you’re hiring, back to your original question, it’s just making sure that when you set up this model and you’re saying, “Hey, here’s who they’re going to support that they actually understand that there’s probably some good verbal and written communication skills, and there’s also maybe some customer satisfaction or customer success skills that you’ll have to tweak based upon the different cultures.
Gabe Larsen: (17:40)
What do you say to CFOs or executives that look at first thing when you tell them, “Hey, we’re thinking about,” especially for US-based companies, “thinking about setting up a support operation globally.” They’re like, “Oh, cost arbitrage, right? We’re going to be able to save some bucks.” What do you say to those people who are looking at it maybe just from a cost saving perspective?
Michael Windsor: (18:02)
Sure, I would tell you that, again, there’s a premise that it’s not about you. It’s not about your CFO. It’s really about your customer base. And if you start with the customer success or customer-focused approach, again, when you start talking about hiring teams in other regions or other countries, as an example, you have time zone constraints that you have to deal with. And I will tell you, it’s easy to set up as I call it a first shift support function, support organization. But if you start looking at second and third shifts, second and third shifts, you worry about burnout. You worry about quality. You have to have leadership to support those functions as well. So I would say yes, ideally, again, a CFO’s premise is to save money, do more with as little as possible. You got to take yourself out and say, “What is best for our customer base?”
Michael Windsor: (19:01)
Once you understand that you have to say, “Okay, what team do I need to be to put in place based upon what my client expectations are?” And three, “How am I going to manage that from a leadership standpoint as we do this?” And I think once you answer those questions, you can figure out the best model because the misnomer is yes. If we take it overseas, it will be very, very easy for us to do. It will be more cost effective, and that’s not necessarily true, just so you know, based upon some countries that if you decide to do this, but with that being said, you really, it’s not really about you, it’s really about your customers. And then you just have to make it about you once you understand that focus.
Gabe Larsen: (19:46)
I like it. I like it. Great words, Michael. It is really interesting to hear about how to kind of shape this global sales team. As we wrap, I’d love to hear kind of a summary. We hit on a couple of different things. People, technology, process, some of the lessons learned. For those people who are trying to build this out on a global scale, any summary statements, or kind of leave behinds you’d give to the audience?
Michael Windsor: (20:06)
I would just tell you, I would say really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are. I have this thing that a client’s perception is always my reality, and that will forever be burned in your head and your audience’s head because it rings true. So it doesn’t really matter what you think or what you want. It’s really what your customers think and what you want. Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey. Again, start with a small pod and then build this out. Don’t try to do it all at once and then scale your operation as you get in once you feel that you have foundationally figured out what you need to do to make your clients successful. And I think from that, there’s no doubt that you’ll have success.
Gabe Larsen: (20:57)
Love that. Vikas, anything you want to add as we kind of wrap?
Vikas Bhambri: (21:00)
No, I think this has been extremely insightful for me. And I thank you, Michael. I think the one thing I’d leave the audience with is I just, my big takeaway from what Michael is sharing with us is there’s no playbook, right? And I think a lot of times we, as operational leaders are looking for the playbook. We’re looking for the sales playbook, we’re looking for the support playbook, the marketing playbook, et cetera. And I think with this, if you really start with your customer in mind and what is your obligation and what is the expectation of the customer that then will drive your playbook and strategy. So I think it’s going to be very different from company to company, depending on who they are, where they are and where they are in their maturity level, but more importantly, where their customers are. So that was my big takeaway. And I thank you, Michael, for sharing that with the audience.
Michael Windsor: (21:49)
Absolutely. And I will tell you, and again, that if anybody wants to reach out to me after this, again, I’m sure that you have, I mean, I would be glad to help them. I have an amazing team. I can even bring on some people on my team, of course, outside of work hours for all my executives that are listening to this, I would be glad to just to help you and understand because it’s a, I’m proud of what we built and I know there’s things that we could share that could help your listener audience.
Gabe Larsen: (22:18)
Thank you. Love it. Love it. All right. Well again, appreciate the time Michael. Vikas, as always. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Michael Windsor: (22:25)
All right, thanks everyone.
Exit Voice: (22:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
A whole new demographic of buyers were forced to do their shopping online in the past year, and leaned more heavily on customer service teams to feel comfortable and confident about their purchases. While post-transaction support, like order status and return initiation, likely will never subside, CX teams can now take on more of a revenue-generating advisory role, answering product questions or directing customers to better alternatives.
Kustomer talked to thought leaders in the customer experience space to understand what they think the future of retail CX looks like, how to re-create the in-store experience in an online world, and what tools and strategies brands should tap into in order to achieve this. Read on for a preview, and access the full e-book here.
The Shift to Digital-First
With most businesses closing their storefronts (at least temporarily) or minimizing capacity during the global pandemic, consumers were forced to shift their shopping online. While it is inevitable that commerce will partially shift back to brick-and-mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. In fact, according to Shopify, a whopping 84% of consumers shopped online during the global pandemic, and 48.8% of consumers will continue to shop online more frequently after the pandemic is over.
It is imperative to consider how new online shoppers will be interacting with your brand in a digital-first world. How do you make it easier for them to get their questions answered? How do you make sure you’re able to surface the correct information and resources to a customer in their times of need? How do you ensure you are able to deliver a seamless experience when consumers switch channels or move from in-store to online?
Creating a Unified and Effortless Experience
According to Alexander Richards, Director of Partnerships & Business Development at Medallia, the future of retail involves seamless and connected shopping experiences. “For a long time now, online and in-store shopping have been treated as separate entities that fall under the same brand, and sell the same goods, usually leaving advocates frustrated. Just because a brick-and-mortar store uses one POS platform, an online store uses another, and they don’t talk to each other, this shouldn’t impede the sales and support teams. Most of all, it shouldn’t impede the customer,” says Richards. “Brands are becoming smarter, more customer-centric, and know they need to meet their customers where they are in this omnichannel world. Our jobs as technology companies are to provide solutions to enable and support these effortless experiences.”
Incorporating digital-first support strategies into the overall online customer experience will make a huge difference when it comes to brand equity and loyalty. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to check out a product or ask a question to an in-store representative, now require that service in an online environment. Instead of tracking down a phone number or e-mail address, a chat widget or in-app messaging may be the most convenient option to get a question answered. In fact, according to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved.
Keeping Things Personal
However, digital CX should not mean impersonal CX. Customers still want to be treated like real human beings, with unique thoughts and preferences — not like anonymous transaction numbers. According to Kustomer research conducted during the pandemic, the top three most valued customer service attributes are:
In order to truly deliver the in-store experience in a digital world, retailers must not lose the human touch. Consumers expect to be treated with empathy and personalization, even when they aren’t interacting with a company representative face-to-face.
Says Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist, Bestselling Author, and Keynote Speaker, “The future of retail is personalized. Retailers will use technology to create bespoke experiences that are completely tailored, at scale.”
Want to learn more from CX experts on how to recreate the in-store retail experience online? Check out the full e-book here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Stacy Sherman from Schindler Elevator Corporation and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss why the employee experience matters just as much, if not more than the customer experience. Stacy has a rich background in CX and provides incredibly insightful information in this episode. Listen to the full episode below to learn more.
Establishing a Customer Obsessed C-Suite
Many CX leaders are finding it difficult to help their teams completely deliver the best overall experience for their modern customers. Director of Customer Experience at Schindler Elevator Corporation, Stacy Sherman, attributes this to people at the top of a company not being completely customer centric. When people at the top of a company, such as executives or others within the c-suite, are customer minded, the brand as a whole is more likely to find success. A great way to get executive involvement is to have them participate in CX activities to get to know the processes and the employees. This method creates a sense of empathy on a multi-departmental level that ultimately implements a customer mindset from the bottom up. On this, Stacy remarks, “Those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.” Engaging with the frontline agents who handle all things customer related is one of the best ways for a brand to become more holistically customer centric. This engagement not only centers the brand, it also encourages those frontline agents to go above and beyond in their roles, especially as they feel that they are valued and an integral part of the brand.
Mental Safety and Cultivating Friendships in the Workplace
A large contributor to customer satisfaction is that of employee happiness. The experts discuss Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey questions that help to determine overall employee satisfaction within their company. Of these 12 questions, one of the most notable asks if the employee has a best friend in the workplace, as this is helpful for improved satisfaction scores. On this note, Stacy mentions that her company has a book club and she feels that it has become so successful because of the friendliness between her coworkers, which opens a space for nonjudgemental conversation. Noting that customer service and customer experience are very different in a “holistic view,” Stacy reminds listeners that a workplace culture trickles down to customer engagement. When the employees are happy, the customers are happy because the agents perform better, are more attentive, and are more willing to go the extra mile. Creating a space where employees feel they have friends and can be somewhat vulnerable with one another is accomplished through a safety menatility. “Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.”
Consistency Gives Companies an Edge
Companies with an edge on the competition are more than likely to be united with a common goal across all functions and branches. According to Vikas, “Customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board.” All departments should be inspired to keep the customer in mind and to do so, Stacy suggests having a weekly meeting with leaders from all departments to contribute and create a cross-functional customer journey map so that all are on the same page. When leaders work together in a customer obsessed manner, they are enhancing the overall experience by curating each business element to their experience. Leaders would do well to place themselves in the shoes of their customers and their employees to get a look at how their business affects their lives. Doing so strengthens the bond between employee, customer and leader and ultimately drives retention across CX.
On a last note, Stacy urges CX leaders to empathize, listen to and adapt with their employees, especially as they embrace a new normal and return to work.
To learn more about driving CX with the employee experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri
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 why you must drive the customer experience with the employee experience. I think this is one of those often missed conversations. To do that we have two special people joining me today. Both Stacy and Vikas, why don’t you guys take just a minute and introduce yourselves? Stacy, let’s start with you.
Stacy Sherman: (00:34)
Yes. Hi. I’m happy to be here. Stacy Sherman. I am the Director of Customer Experience and Driving Employee Engagement at a global company, Schindler Elevator Corporation. And also live and breathe CX when I’m not at work through my blog and speaking about doing CX right.
Gabe Larsen: (00:56)
Yes. And I’ve been following. We got to make sure people see that we’ll get a link to it. Doing CX Right. Lot of great thought leadership coming from Stacy. And she will be sharing some of that with us today. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (01:09)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Yup. My right hand man, as we cohost our Experience Fridays show. And I’m Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Stacy let’s get into this. I want to go big picture for just a minute. What do you think is broken in customer experience today? So many things going on. What’s not working?
Stacy Sherman: (01:32)
I believe that it starts with culture, right? It’s about the people. So the best in class companies have that customer centric, no matter what perspective, at the top. And then those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.
Gabe Larsen: (01:57)
I like the bottoms up approach. Vikas, what would you say? What do you think is most broken?
Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
No, I think Stacy hit the nail on the head, right? I mean, customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board. And I think we’ve always talked in the CX space about the three pieces to an effective program. People, process, and technology. And a lot of money and time is spent on process and technology, but very little is spent on people. And I think if you look at the companies that separate themselves, they put as much, if not more emphasis on the people end of it, than they do process and technology.
Gabe Larsen: (02:37)
Well, why do you guys think that is? I mean, process, is it because processes and technology are a little bit easier to do and the people side of it’s hard? Stacy, what do you think? Why do people not grasp the people side as much maybe as the technology side when it comes to optimizing the customer experience?
Stacy Sherman: (02:55)
I believe that companies, especially old school companies are still understanding that customer experience is a competitive weapon. It gives a competitive edge and we have not fully, fully shown the ROI behind culture and experience and why it matters. We know over the longterm and there’s so much research behind it, but it’s really proving out. It’s somewhat of a new field. I mean, customer service has been around forever, but that’s different than customer experience in that holistic view.
Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
Well, I like that because I do feel like you guys, that when you map a journey of a customer and you change a process, you can often find the efficiencies almost in dollars and cents, right? You can literally see something change, whether it’s in efficiencies and cost savings, or maybe it actually revenue in growth. When it comes to the people side of it, maybe that’s the problem, Vikas, isn’t it? You focus on kind of engaging your employees and making them happier, it’s harder. It’s kinda harder to see the ROI. Is that, is that kinda where you’d go or what would be your thoughts as why it’s difficult to kind of focus on the employee side?
Vikas Bhambri: (04:12)
Well, I think a lot of people look at it as unfortunately, a necessary evil. Like, we hear terms in the industry about the, it’s a cost center, right? And the moment you have that mindset, then everything you’re doing in that part of your business, you’re not necessarily looking at things like top line growth. And so, I always joke that. My peers in marketing, I’ve always had this advantage. Big budgets, et cetera, because everybody’s like, “Wow.” And it’s amazing. Right, right. We spend so much to acquire the customer and then we like throw them back into the dark ages, right? We have all this amazing technology, all these cool tools to acquire the customer. And then we send them into the dark ages. And with these people that sometimes literally look like they’re sitting in antiquated workspaces as well. So I think there’s a lot of that thoughtfulness that has to go into how do you want to treat customers after you acquire them, right? And then engaging the customers to deliver that amazing experience.
Gabe Larsen: (05:18)
This is a question that just came in on LinkedIn from Carrie. I wanted to throw it out to you guys. This bottoms up. I thought this might be interesting because it’s one that we do say you gotta get the leadership behind it, but how do you actually influence that bottoms up culture when it comes to the people? You want to start with this one, Stacy?
Stacy Sherman: (05:36)
Yeah, sure. So we are asking customers for feedback, thousands and thousands of different sources that we collect. And the key is that it’s using that feedback once closing the loop, right? Letting the customer know we heard you and we’re making changes, but also engaging your front line and having them look at the feedback, use it in their meetings, having leaders celebrate those good scores, satisfaction, NPS, et cetera, and using the other detractor ratings as coaching opportunities. And it’s that drum beat that we do that really drives that culture, that caring and empathy and best practices.
Gabe Larsen: (06:25)
Yeah, it is about, I mean, when we say bottoms up, guys, I think that is one of the key elements is you got to go to the front. So that’s the frontline employee, or that’s the frontline customer. We just did Vikas, at our own company, one of these employee engagement surveys and these action planning sessions where we sat down with some of the frontline people and asked them, “What do you think about how we can improve,” not only their own culture, but some of the customer experiences. And I was surprised, I was pleasantly surprised like, “Wow, these guys really know it. Like some of their ideas were a lot better than I think just asking the customer how we can improve their experience. And so I’m becoming more and more of an advocate of the employee side, the survey and using them in action planning sessions to see if we can’t get that bottoms up feedback to actually change some of the top end processes. Vikas, what would you add on bottoms up?
Vikas Bhambri: (07:17)
Well, look, we’ve talked about voice of the customer for years, right? It’s, what we look at in our program is voice of the employee of the customer, right? So our frontline, my customer success managers, my technical support specialists, they understand what customers are looking for. Obviously with Kustomer, in a contact center CRM platform, what are some of the things that they feel challenged with with their current tool set? What are they looking for? Whether it be reporting or other things. So I think really giving them a voice back with our product team, et cetera, to do that. The other is the frontline often really wants to do right by the customer. And they get hampered by process, right? We kind of put the handcuffs on them and where I’ve seen people really, companies be really effective here, some of our customers that we work with, is empowering that frontline. Allowing them to go above and beyond. We all hear about that amazing Zappos story that is now a mythical legend about somebody who sat on a phone for eight hours, talking somebody through a journey with their, with their product selection. Now that’s an extreme, but can you empower your people to go above and beyond? And then the third thing that I am really excited about is I’m seeing more and more companies put the executives or new employees in the chair of their frontline as part of their onboarding. So as part of your onboarding, go sit with your support team, hear your customers, feel their pain, understand their challenges, and then rotate your executives into that on a regular basis. I think those are all pretty exciting ways to approach this.
Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
[Inaudible] Because I think as executives, you do, you just lose that vision. You lose, and you start to get into your meetings. You start to get the, you lose the bottoms up approach. I liked some of those ideas. Stacy, sorry. You were going to say something.
Stacy Sherman: (09:07)
Yeah, no. It’s exactly what we’re doing. At my work places, we’ll go out and spend time visiting the technicians, right? Those really important people who are fixing the problems and servicing customers, those technicians and mechanics every day. And so those not in that job will go and spend time. And I’ll tell you, I recently visited, before COVID, a hospital. Spent the time with a technician and I was amazed at how much he does in a day. Putting myself in his shoes and how he services the customers and it’s a big job. And I, so I agree with you. You’ve got to walk in employee’s shoes as well as the customer’s shoes.
Gabe Larsen: (09:55)
Yeah. Interesting. Dan, I think Dan, I love this word, Dan, this is kind of a inverted pyramid. CEO goes at the bottom customers at the top, and you start to kind of actually action a culture that brings the employee feedback all the way to where it shouldn’t be probably front and center. Are there some other things you guys, when it comes to using the employee to drive customer experience that you’ve found either beneficial in some of your interactions, your coaching, or just in your own effort? What are some of those tactics you’ve found to really drive the employee experience that ultimately drives the customer experience? Stacy, anything that comes to your mind?
Stacy Sherman: (10:35)
Yeah, well it’s what was said before about the voice of employees. So when they feel that they’re valued and they’re part of business decisions, they own it more. So part of our customer experience team is literally going out and talking to the employees before we launch something, before there’s some, as we frame up a new feature or a new anything, right? Involving the frontline into that feedback mechanism. And then they feel, they feel like they matter. And that’s huge.
Gabe Larsen: (11:12)
Yeah. I felt like the thing that you really can, you gotta be careful of it, if you’re going to go with this bottoms up approach, you’ve got to actually do something with the feedback, much like customer experience. You ask a question to an employee or you take the time to do what Stacy’s recommending and do an interview or do an engagement survey, and then you don’t actually action on that, I think you’re going to find that your engagement among your employees will probably drop more than where it was currently. So be conscientious of asking without actioning. Vikas, other things you’ve seen? I loved kind of getting the executives and listening to some of the phone calls. Other ways you’ve found to kind of empower agents to therefore empower customers to be, to have that great experience?
Vikas Bhambri: (11:59)
No, I think, as I said, I’ve seen where certain brands that we work with have given their frontline a budget. A budget to go send a thank you card or a birthday card or a birthday gift, or a token of their appreciation, right? Some have done where if they’re on a call that they can offer a coupon or something to that effect, right? So some really things, once again, empowering them to really, truly build that relationship with their customers. And then how do you recognize employees that go above and beyond, right? We’ve got the concept here at Kustomer. We call it the DJ Ty By award. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. And on a regular basis, we recognize those team members. And it’s not just the frontline, right? It’s the engineer who goes above and beyond to work on a bug over the weekend, right? It’s somebody in facilities who make sure that our, when we had our big Kustomer day event in our office, right, that the place looks amazing and it’s set up to entertain our guests. So I think it’s all of those things, right? If you create that culture that really becomes around rewarding and recognizing your employees for when they go above and beyond, I think those are some things that have really been successful.
Gabe Larsen: (13:20)
And one of the things I love as a resource, you guys, that you might want to check out is the Gallup Q12 Questions. It’s for those of you who don’t know Gallup, it’s a research-based consulting firm, focusing on the behavior like economic science of employee and customer engagement. And I don’t want to read through them, but there are some comments coming in about this on LinkedIn As you think about that bottoms up culture. Let me just tell you a couple of these, because I think it’s a great way to start formulating the culture of employee engagement that then translates to the customer and I want to get a couple of your guys’ opinion on some of these. So question one, they say, do you know, what’s expected of you at work? If an employee can answer this positively, they’re more likely to provide an engaging customer experience. Two, do you have the materials and equipment you need? Three, at work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? In the last seven days, have you received recognition? Does your supervisor, someone seem to care about you as a person? Is there someone at work who encourages your development? At work do your opinions count? And on and on. And this is a great framework I’ve found to start to think about how you actually drive I think that engagement culture, and maybe for some of you who are asking the question, a good place to start. One of these questions, you guys, it often is debated and I just want to throw it out here, is this idea of, do you have a best friend at work? And Gallup states that if you do have, if employees can answer this in a positive manner, they’re more likely to deliver a customer experience? Quick thoughts on one. Do you feel like that’s odd or how would you kind of explain that to the audience? Stacy, I’m putting you on the spot, but thoughts on facilitating more friendships among employees to ultimately drive the customer experience?
Stacy Sherman: (15:05)
I love that because –
Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
Number one though, isn’t it, it’s a little weird.
Stacy Sherman: (15:10)
I love it because again, it’s all about relationships and connection, so it makes total sense. And actually as a leader, right, of a team, I’m very focused on that. Like we just recently did a book club. It was a work book club around Simon Sinek, Start With the Why.
Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Stacy Sherman: (15:33)
Yeah. And we got to talk about each chapter, understand the why, and now we are all able to help each other, make sure we hold each other accountable to our why’s and we wouldn’t have done that without being vulnerable and a friendship to do that.
Gabe Larsen: (15:50)
So you’ve kind of used a book club as a way to facilitate some of those relationships which ultimately kind of drives some of that engagement. Vikas, we’re obviously more of a remote culture at the moment and we’re having a different experience. Any things you’ve done or you’ve seen customers do to facilitate this friendship at work, this more kind of conducive collaborative environment across companies?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:16)
Look, I think the key thing there, what I think the gist of that is if you create a camaraderie where folks feel that they’re in it together. So one is how do you break down those barriers where people can go and feel comfortable asking for help? Going to one another for help, without feeling like, “You know what? People are gonna look at me like I don’t have the answer,” right? And the whole thing about, kind of that friendship environment, to me, it becomes a very key thing where if you feel that camaraderie and kinship with your peers and then of course, eventually the company, you think about it in the mindset, “Do I want to let these people down?” And I think that also creates an environment where people want to go above and beyond. When you perhaps don’t have those relationships, don’t have connections, then you’re more likely to say, “You know what? I’m just going to mail it in.” So I think that’s kind of what creates that environment, where you don’t want to let your teammate down, right? “So I see how hard Gabe is working well, you know what? Vikas, has to step it up,” right? So I think those are some of the kind of collegial environments where people promote success.
Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
That’s actually question number nine on that survey, Vikas, is, are your associates committed to doing quality work? I think you’re right. If people start to feel a little bit of that prep, prep is maybe not the right word, but they start to fill it, they jump on it. Stacy, what were you going to add?
Stacy Sherman: (17:38)
One word comes to my mind as you were just speaking. The word safety. We always think about safety from physical, but in a company it’s actually about mental safety too. Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.
Gabe Larsen: (18:01)
I think we’re getting that more and more, because we’re all feeling a little vulnerable right now. I know I am. If anybody wants to talk to me about that, we can. Vikas knows I’m feeling vulnerable. Let’s end with this question, Carrie, appreciate the questions during the session. So since all CXE says includes cross-functional teams, how do you ensure teams like Ops and Marketing that may not always be in direct contact with the customer provide that consistent customer experience? So he’s talking about the whole customer journey. How was it not just my support team? How is it not just my sales? How do we kind of come together? Ooh, I don’t like that. That’s a harder question than the other softballs. Stacy, what do you think?
Stacy Sherman: (18:48)
No, it’s not hard.
Gabe Larsen: (18:48)
Stacy Sherman: (18:52)
No, it’s not hard.
Gabe Larsen: (18:54)
Give me time to think, Stacy. I was just kind of –
Stacy Sherman: (18:59)
No, thinking, it’s the answer is you bring everybody to the table. All the different organizations come together to build the customer journey map. And everybody has a piece, right? How customers learn and buy and get and use and get helped. You have all the right teams who own those different parts of the journey and they’re at the table, and then you design it together. You co-create it together. And then you go validate it with the customers and find out where are the gaps.
Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. Bring everybody to the table. Vikas, what would you add?
Vikas Bhambri: (19:33)
No, I think, I think what Stacy said is spot on. I think if I look at, first of all, it starts with the values of the brand, right? What are your, what’s the, what are the values that you adhere to as a company? And that should be consistent across all departments, regardless of function. The second piece of it is your brand voice, right? If your marketing team is out there and they’re promoting partnership and things like that, and then you’re not following through on the backend, well, shame on you. So I think it has to be that alignment because the messaging you’re telling your customer at the frontend has to be delivered on the backend, right? Goes back to what I was saying earlier. The Ops is really interesting because Ops is indirect in contact with customers, right? The way you even bill a customer, you invoice them. The way that you reach out to them if they haven’t made a payment in time. If you’re a customer first brand, is your first notice to them that, “Oh man, you haven’t paid me,” or is it, “Hey, is everything okay? We didn’t get a payment from you. That’s not normal. What can we do to help?” So I think even the tone that these other functions take, we’re seeing it now, right? Obviously with the pandemic is how we, as a cross-functional team are meeting on a regular basis to talk about our customers and understand what is impacting specific customers and what can we, as a company and partner do to help them through this crisis. It’s a cross-functional team that meets on a weekly basis through this pandemic to have these conversations. And it’s regardless of the function in the company.
Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Oh, I love it. I don’t know if I’ve got much to add on that one. Carrie, I do like the communication, the feedback loop. Nothing better than when you start to celebrate successes and other people can start to feel it because Marketing, Ops, they have sometimes a harder time wanting to join. But if they feel some of that, those customer quotes that come in, as you know, or having these conversations that the support person hears, if you can have other people experience that, it makes other functions want to participate because they want to join the party. So that might be one tactical thing to think about. All right, well, as we leave you guys, maybe just quick summary comments. We hit a lot of different items, appreciate the audience questions. As you think about driving the customer experience with employees, what do you leave the audience with today? Stacy, let’s start with you.
Stacy Sherman: (21:55)
As leaders, we have to empathize and really listen. There’s no cookie cutter approach here. So really listen to what each person’s individual needs are, including their return back to the office and helping them. Because there’s a lot of mental and physical ramifications of COVID. So that included, really listening, empathize and then adapt to what meets their needs.
Gabe Larsen: (22:26)
Love it. Vikas, what did you want to –
Vikas Bhambri: (22:27)
So, I’ll kind of tie my summary back to what Carrie said, the inverted pyramid, right? I liked the way he phrased that. And I know a lot of people that I talk to love watching television programs like the Shark Tank and so on. I’ll tell you one of my favorite shows, and as a 20 year CRM contact center lifer, is a television program called the Undercover Boss. And that’s where CEOs dress up in disguise and go out there and work side by side with their team members in the frontlines, right? Whether it’s making pizzas or making pretzels all the way out to being a surface technician and the key message of that program, which I think Stacy alluded to, is speak to your frontline. Experience what your frontline is seeing and going through. And I think those are great lessons. Every time I watch that show, I’m amazed by like the revelations that a CEO of even a company that’s been a multi-generation family company. It’s like, “Wow, I never knew. I didn’t realize this was going on. I didn’t realize we were making these decisions that were impacting our customers and our frontline employees.” And so those, if anybody hasn’t seen their program and you’re a CX professional, I would strongly recommend it and try to get your CEO to watch it if you can.
Gabe Larsen: (23:51)
I love it. What’s it called? What was it called one more time?
Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Stacy Sherman: (23:56)
It’s walking in the employee shoes. That’s literally what it is, but also walk in the customer’s shoes.
Gabe Larsen: (24:02)
Yeah. So, I mean, it’s one of the things we forget. Like we talk so much about walking in the customer’s shoes. Maybe we should try walking in the employee’s shoes. Well Vikas, Stacy, as always, appreciate you joining and for the audience, thanks for taking the time and to have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (24:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Kris Featheringham to uncover the secrets to human-centered design. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Kris combines both UX and CX to provide the ultimate tailored experience.
How Empathy Connects Agents and Customers
Director of Multifamily CX, UX, and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac, Kris Featheringham drives the human experience by incorporating empathy into everyday design. “There’s five steps to the design process,” Kris states, “empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things.” One of the most important steps to delivering the ultimate customer experience is that of empathizing with the user by trying to understand how your products can be used in their day to day lives. Kris finds that rather than sitting down and interviewing the user about their experience with a product or prototype, the best method to truly understand their experience is to watch them use or interact with that product. Relating this back to customer experience, Kris notes that the core of UX and CX is rooted in empathy. When teams of experience experts keep the user at the center of all aspects of design, they are better able to fully understand the customer and to grasp how their product has the potential to affect their lives.
Getting the Executive Seal of Approval
Human-centered design has become a hot topic in recent CX conversations. IDEO was one of the first companies to take design-thinking into consideration and to incorporate it into every aspect of their services. Since this is such a new concept, people tend to struggle to get executives or members of the C-Suite onboard with integrating human-centered design approaches into their brand. Gaining executive buy-in is essential for company-wide change. “Executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable.” Regardless of this being a new concept to the world of CX leaders and agents, adopting a design mindset can greatly increase a team’s ability to relate with their customers, by offering insights to their daily lives.
Interact With and Learn From Users
Testing a new product or prototype with users is a fantastic way to evaluate the potential success of that offering once it is released on the market. Sitting down with users and getting a grasp for how they use created components offers some valuable insights to a new product. Asking “why” questions to the test users helps leaders to narrow down places where improvements can be made. If a customer dislikes a product, ask them why. If a customer loves a product, do the same and ask them why. As Kris says,
“This is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say.” He also mentions that focusing on the customer’s desired outcomes leads to a better design because oftentimes, customers know what they need to be fixed when using a brand’s product, website, or software. For CX and UX design teams, customer happiness and product success is a matter of finding the right outcomes to fit their customer’s needs.
Kris leaves the audience with one final note: “The day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by.” By incorporating design thinking into daily practices, adaptation and innovation will soon follow.
To learn more about design thinking, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
A Design Thinking Approach to CX | Kris Featheringham
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. We’re going to be talking about an interesting topic today. The ideas, assumptions to understanding. We’ll talk more about it, don’t worry. You’re not going to have all the answers to start. To do that, we brought on Kris Featheringham. He’s the Director of Customer Experience and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac. Kris, thanks for joining. How are you?
Kris Featheringham: (00:32)
My pleasure. I’m great. How are you?
Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Good, man. I appreciate you jumping on. I’m excited to dive into the talk track. Before we do, let’s learn a little bit more about yourself. Tell us just kind of how you came into the world of CX, Freddie Mac. Give us kind of the who and what is Kris?
Kris Featheringham: (00:47)
It’s a little bit of a crazy road. Yeah. My background is mechanical engineering. I’m a math and numbers guy and then I stumbled, well, I didn’t stumble, I went and got a degree in systems engineering after that. And I worked heavily in the world of enterprise architecture, really breaking things down in terms of business processes, system functions, data elements, and things of that nature. And I worked in a consulting space for about 17 years and five years ago, Freddie Mac approached me and said, “You know what? We need someone to start a business architecture practice for us because we need help making decisions.” So I said, “Yeah, I can do that.” So I came on board to Freddie Mac and honestly it was a terrific environment. I love it. I still love it to this day. And I started doing traditional business architecture.
Kris Featheringham: (01:35)
And one day, one of the Senior Vice Presidents said, “You know what? I understand what you’re doing and the people are representative in your diagrams and in your architecture, but they’re really not there.” And I said, “Do you know what? You’re right.” So I went back to the drawing board and I started talking to a couple of my people and I was like, “Let’s roll the dice with design thinking.” It’s something I knew about and I’ve seen applied, but it’s still relatively a new practice brought into this world. So I said, “Let’s go ahead and do that.” So we started creating some artifacts that are typically a by-product of the design thinking process. And I presented it back to my Senior Vice President. She was like, “Perfect. This is exactly what I’m talking about.” So that’s kind of how I stumbled into that world because I started doing less and less business architecture and more and more of that design thinking, that human empathy and things of that nature. And it just kind of spiraled from there. So that assumptions to understanding really, that’s a phrase I’ve coined within our organization because a lot of times companies don’t want to bother their customers. They feel like, “Hey, let’s let them enjoy our products, let them enjoy our services. We know them well enough, we can assume what they like and what they dislike, and we can figure out how we can innovate and progress in our business to address their needs.” But that doesn’t work. It doesn’t really work. So through design thinking, we truly understand.
Gabe Larsen: (02:58)
All right. I like, that was going to be my first one is, what is this assumptions to understanding? But I love that. It’s kind of taking this idea of moving from assumptions, obviously to understanding and how companies probably need to do that. Okay. Well, let’s dive in. Oh, before we do that, I’d love to ask, I apologize, but outside of work, what, any kind of crazy hobbies? Just want to get to know you a little bit. Fun facts about yourself, embarrassing moments you want to share on camera here?
Kris Featheringham: (03:26)
I think you’re going to need more than a half hour for this, but to be honest, there’s a lot of things I’ve been involved with from showing dogs at Westminster to being a little league coach. But honestly the one thing I’ve really become passionate about here over the years is a lot of woodworking and building things. So I build a lot of furniture. I do, I built a deck. I made a wine cellar. So I’ll, when I have those spare moments, I like to build things and kind of, I don’t know, make interesting things and kind of like expand upon our house and make it like ours.
Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
Yeah. Fun. Kind of fix it yourselfer.
Kris Featheringham: (04:01)
Try to be.
Gabe Larsen: (04:01)
I am the, I have always appreciated someone who can use their hands to actually get something done. What’s your favorite project that you’ve done out of everything you’ve built? Where do you go?
Kris Featheringham: (04:14)
I’ll tell you what. So when we moved to this house a number of years ago, my wife’s like, “Hey.” We designed a deck, right? And honestly, this deck turned into 800 square feet and she asked me if I could have it done in the first weekend we’re here. I’m like, “Baby, not happening, not happening”. But three months later though, we did finish that deck and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I worked with her, actually with her father and we plowed through that thing and it’s the highlight of the house. So I love it to death. We sit out there.
Gabe Larsen: (04:42)
800 square feet. That is no joke. That is not a small –
Kris Featheringham: (04:45)
Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
You might have to send pictures. We’ll include them in a link to the show, Kris. All right, well, let’s get into kind of this recipe of design thinking then. Something you hit on and something you’ve kind of come to really understand and appreciate. Love to hear some of the lessons learned. The process you take in order to do this the right way. Where do you start?
Kris Featheringham: (05:08)
You got to have executive support. You really have to have a champion from it, for it, apologies. It is something new to a lot of organizations. Now it’s not a new practice. There’s been companies doing it for over 20 years. IDEO for example, is the famous one. They’re the one. They’re the ones who kind of came up with that process. So I know we’ll talk a little bit more about it as we get in there, but executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable. And without that championship from your, from, everyone’s boss, right? You’re not going to get people to participate in the beginning. So I think if you can sell it to your leadership, you’re there.
Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, yeah that’s funny you brought a IDEO. I haven’t thought about that name for ages, but you’re right. They were one of the pioneers, I’m thinking maybe even 20 years ago they were talking about, I don’t know what they called it, but it was different. Boy, it was different when I first saw one of their projects or videos. It, boy, I haven’t thought about that in –
Kris Featheringham: (06:19)
Yeah, there’s a great video. I think it’s from like 1997, like Ted Koppel did something or another on Newsweek, Newswire or whatever it was called back then. And there’s like a 20 minute video on it that’s amazing to watch and you can really see the thought process and the, what they were trying to achieve.
Gabe Larsen: (06:33)
Oh my heavens, you’re right. That, that was a fun one. So, you typically try to go for executive sponsorship. That’s one that people really struggle with. Is there any secrets you’ve found to get that? Oftentimes, I’ve heard CX leaders on our side of the fence say, “We speak different languages. They’re kind of about revenue. I’m about NPS. We’re kind of speaking French and Spanish here.” So any thoughts on how to make that happen?
Kris Featheringham: (06:59)
Yeah. I’ll tell you what, there’s an easy way to solve this is, you bring in a high powered, expensive consulting firm to tell you you need to do it. And a lot of times the executive sponsors would say, “Okay, sure. Let’s go ahead and do this,” because someone with some prestige has said it’s a great idea. But I’ll be honest, I would say that nowadays, most of the executive leaders out there know it exists. They know the value of it. They might not necessarily know how to get it started or what it really entails and that would be the responsibility of the person who’s looking to really adopt it and bring it into their organization is, “Hey, I’m sure you’ve heard about this, but let me talk to you a little bit more. Let me bring you in some use cases from some other companies.” There’s so much you can find online about how very famous companies, especially in technology, but across all organizations, retail, you name it, has brought in the concept of design thinking into their daily routines.
Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
I love that. Okay. So executive sponsorships, where you go first and then how do you start to build this process of rolling out a design thinking, human-centered process? Any tips?
Kris Featheringham: (08:12)
So, design thinking is often linked to what’s called human-centered design and they’re kind of one in the same. And really, I think human-centered design kind of gives it that definition of really, you’re putting someone in the middle of what you’re trying to do. And human-centered design, design thinking can be used to solve a lot of problems. Originally, it was there from a technology perspective, but it’s grown leaps and bounds. You see it in product development and sporting equipment, services, you name it. But really, the way you get started, and honestly you got to start small, you got to start with a little bit of a, almost like a side gig within an organization, you want to kind of tackle a problem, but really what it means for human centered design is you’re putting the customer at the center of everything that you’re doing.
Kris Featheringham: (08:59)
There’s five steps to the design thinking process and I can go over them a little bit more in detail, but it’s empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things that you might kind of go from one to the other back to the beginning, so forth. But it’s really about truly understanding who you’re trying to solve the problem for, whether it’s an internal employee on a technology application, whether it’s a piece of sporting equipment for some end-user playing little league, who knows? But that building of the empathy is really the root of it all.
Gabe Larsen: (09:45)
Yeah. Well, yeah, let’s double click and you can take us through a hypothetical example. I’d love to hear about how you kind of explain or double click on some of these steps. So you were just talking about empathizing, what does that mean? How do you do it? Give me an example.
Kris Featheringham: (10:00)
So really what empathize means is you really just understand your user’s needs. All right, what is it like to be that person? And that person in the design thinking world is called a persona. And you build that persona through really just getting to know the person, getting to know what it is that they do each and every day. And it may even be outside of the domain you work in. So it’s like when they wake up, what’s the first thing they think about in the day? What is their life like? All right. You really want to kind of understand really the day in and day out of that person. And then you might go in there and honestly you might just interview them and ask them questions. You might walk them through various exercises of building a journey, and we could talk forever on journeys. Maybe we’ll talk another day about that. But you might shadow the person during their workday to understand what it is they do because when you sit there and just talk face to face with the person, they might be able to tell you a few things here and there, but you’re not going to pick up the same true sentiment and the understanding of the day in the life of that person without just watching them do their job.
Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Yeah. That’s way deeper. I mean, I’ve heard some people talk about like the customer journey map, which is really, it feels like it’s more just interview focused, watching, talking to them about what they do. What you’re talking about, it does sound like it’s more holistic. I actually talked to a hotel. He talked about his, the hotel, he ran operations for a hotel chain. He was like, “That’s one of the most powerful things we’ve ever done is we’ll just, we’ll get actually a guest and we’ll just shadow them as they check into our hotel, as they go into the room, where they go in the room.” He’s like, “It’s a little weird, but obviously we have permission to talk,” but then they’re really able to find some of those intricacies that wouldn’t probably come out via questioning. It really only came out via shadowing like their day to day life. I liked that one. That’s cool. That’s decent.
Kris Featheringham: (11:56)
Yeah. You couldn’t have said it more. That’s truly perfect. Because a lot of times when you sit there and interview someone, they’re just going off their most recent recollection or their most recent experiences, but there’s a lot of things that will come out that you will, that they would never even thought to bring up as you watch them. And you’ll come back to them afterwards saying, “Hey, I saw you do this and this can talk to me about that?” And then all of a sudden you opened up a whole new can of worms and it’s powerful.
Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
Got it. Okay. So empathize, that’s one. Where do you go? And then define is, how do you –
Kris Featheringham: (12:26)
Yeah, define’s the next step? And that’s a little bit, that’s kind of like a homework step. Once you spent all that time with your customers, really get to know their day in and out, you go back and you really put it all together and you try to understand, what are the true needs my customer has, right? Not just needs, but also, what is the major problems they are facing? A lot of times they will say, “I need this piece of software to do this.” Okay. That might not be really what they need. They needed an expected outcome. The define stage is more about understanding what are those outcomes that you’re trying to solve for? Not what is the client asking for, but what are those outcomes? Because sometimes the client might ask for something, but then it’s because they don’t truly understand or can’t, I won’t say can’t, but don’t necessarily understand that there might be no limits to what you might be able to provide them. So what is that outcome? And that’s really what’s coming out of the define stage and that’s a homework exercise you do with the team. You might bring in some internal people that really talk about it, bring in some perspectives. But that is an internal activity for us.
Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Yeah. That one seems like it’s hard. Because it does, I like your point on, it’s not just what the customers say, it’s kind of the outcome they’re really looking for. And that goes back to that concept. Like if I, what’s that, I love that quote, The Henry Ford quote. “If I would have asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses,” or something, right? Or –
Kris Featheringham: (13:49)
Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
Wouldn’t have been like, what they really wanted was just to get from faster to A to B. So their answer would have been, “Give me a faster horse,” when they really define the outcomes. Like, “Oh, well maybe we should find a better way to get from A to B,” right? So getting to real customers, not what they need, but what they want. I don’t know. I’m probably not explaining –
Kris Featheringham: (14:13)
Honestly, that’s a perfect example because a lot of times they know what they need to get to solve their problem. They don’t necessarily know how to get there. So they might just throw something off the top of their head, right? And yeah, it might be a great idea, it might not. Let us figure out how to get to that end state. You just tell us what the major problem is and where you’d like to be.
Gabe Larsen: (14:35)
Yeah. I feel like people get stuck there. That’s where it’s always building faster widgets. It’s like, “Let’s just decrease average handle time because people said they’re not satisfied.” We kind of tackle, we don’t really tackle the outcome. We just tackle one of the, one of the potential problems or one of the issues that’s leading to the outcome that’s not desirable. Oh man, any secrets you’ve found? Is it the brainstorm? Is it the, how do you get to the right outcome? Because again, I find that a lot of times people are misdiagnosing the job to be done, the outcome to be done.
Kris Featheringham: (15:15)
Yeah. You set it up perfectly because the next step in the whole process is the ideation stage, right? So now that we’ve done that research and now that we truly understand the problem of where that end state, where the customer or the human at the center of your design is looking to get to, the ideation starts and there’s, yeah. You can Google a ton of different ways to ideate on solving problems and things of that nature. But really, it’s getting people in the room. It might just be internal people. It might be a small project team. It might include some customers as well, but you go in there and you just start throwing out crazy things. And it doesn’t matter if it hits the nail. It’s really a way to, brainstorming is obviously the word that a lot of people have heard, but if you go online, you can search tons of different ways to go through these activities from like, I don’t know. One of the ones I enjoy is like called crazy eights. There’s something called mission impossible and negative brainstorming. There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can do it but really what it does is it throws ideas. What’s that?
Gabe Larsen: (16:22)
What’s like the crazy, like, give me an example of what does a crazy eight mean? It means you, or whatever else you said, is it just –
Kris Featheringham: (16:30)
Yeah. So crazy eights is kind of, that’s kind of my go-to because it works well for a lot of situations. So you just take a sheet of paper, fold it in half once, fold half twice, fold it in half another time, now you’ve got four, sorry, eight squares on your piece of paper. All right. And before we do this though, we make sure that all the people that are part of this ideation session are well-versed in the research that we did during the empathize. And what does that problem statement it needs through the define? So everybody understands part one and two. So we’re all rooted into the problem. So crazy eights, everybody’s got that sheet of paper now with eight little squares and you have eight minutes to put eight picture ideas on a square. And it doesn’t have to be a Picasso or anything like that.
Kris Featheringham: (17:17)
It’s trying to put eight quick ideas onto a piece of paper to come up with random thoughts of what can address those problems. All right. Some might hit the nail. Some might not. Most do not, but the great thing is they spur conversations and then the people in the room start to, people in the room start discussing it a little bit more. And you might take a concept for one person’s, mix it with another and say, “Oh my God, we have a really cool idea right here.” So it’s just a way to get some rapid ideas onto a piece of paper and start building off of that. So that’s the crazy eights.
Gabe Larsen: (17:50)
So it’s finding some way to do some of this ideation process. It sounds like –
Kris Featheringham: (17:54)
Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
So that’s, from the ideation then how do you narrow that down? You move into this prototype phase. Talk about that.
Kris Featheringham: (18:03)
Yeah. Yeah. So after ideation, right, you start, during that discussion and things like that, you narrow things down, you can’t have it. Let’s say there’s a hundred people, hundred’s way too many, 10 people in a room with eight concepts. You’re looking at 80. You really want to focus it down to a little bit more granular level, right? Pick one or two and kind of put it together. And that’s where you start prototyping, right? And if it’s a physical product, whether it’s technology, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. You can do clickable prototypes for like a website. You could get popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners and put together some kind of fake physical object to represent what you’re trying to build of a physical product.
Kris Featheringham: (18:45)
But you put something together and then you want, you put it in front of a customer or a user that wasn’t part of this, right? And I’m jumping already to the last step is the testing phase, because it’s so important. Like you hand it over to a user and you say, “What do you think?” All right. And just let them, this is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say like, “I don’t get it.” “All right, why?” Ask them why. And they’ll explain something or they’ll say, “I love it.” Ask them why, learn from them, right? If they’re saying, “You know what, it’s great, but it’s missing this.” “Okay. Let me record that.” And you’ll get so many pieces of input and feedback from those users that haven’t seen anything yet until you put that product in front of them and you ask those why questions and you gather that feedback and you know what you do? You go back, you ideate your prototype, you test again.
Kris Featheringham: (19:35)
And it might take a number of cycles to go through the process. But really what you’re doing is you’re taking a creative idea, you’re putting it in front of the customer, they’re giving you feedback, you’re going back to the drawing board and coming up a little bit more creative idea and doing it again and again until you really nail it.
Gabe Larsen: (19:52)
I love it. Well thought out, Chris. I want to spend more time but our time is short. So empathize, walk me through the steps again?
Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
Rinse and repeat. That’s the sixth step. Perfect. All righty. Well, in closing, maybe a summary statement from you. We hit on a lot of different ideas. As people are trying to get this design thinking into their own business, what would be a takeaway you’d leave them with?
Kris Featheringham: (20:26)
You know what, I like to tell people that the day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by. And the design thinking process is not meant to solve a problem and then you’re done and then you forget about it. You are constantly needing to push that envelope. Look for ways to constantly expand, enhance, modify, whatever it is to evolve whatever you’re delivering to your customers over and over again, because that needs to continually evolve or else you become stale.
Gabe Larsen: (20:59)
All right. Well, hey Kris, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Kris Featheringham: (21:05)
I appreciate it. I appreciate you having me on board and I’m open to questions from anyone. Just reach out anytime.
Gabe Larsen: (21:12)
Thanks Kris. Take care.
Kris Featheringham: (21:13)
Thanks a lot.
Exit Voice: (21:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Amanda Chavez to discuss human-centered customer service and design. Amanda has over a decade of experience working in this type of design and shares expert advice worth listening to. Tune in to the podcast below to discover how Amanda incorporates human-centered design into all aspects of customer experience.
How a North Star Mindset Can Bring Success
As the Director of Customer Service at NuAxis, Amanda understands how to effectively incorporate the often forgotten humanistic element into customer experience. She explains that a human-centered approach not only focuses on learning from data and gathering numbers, but it more importantly allows CX agents to get to know customers on a personal level. She expounds:
There’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.
Amanda’s approach to CX is not new, but rather different than traditional CX methods; she calls this a north star mindset. This mindset is all about acting in the best interest of customers and keeping them at the forefront of the experience. When institutions get distracted by keeping stakeholders happy and getting work done, oftentimes the customer gets left behind in the decision making processes. By having a north star mindset, Amanda finds that it gives people the courage to make unpopular or dubious decisions on behalf of the customer that ultimately leads to success.
Including the Human Element of CX
The human element of the customer experience is arguably the most important part of creating lasting customer loyalty. When companies become too distracted with pleasing stakeholders or keeping upper management happy, as previously mentioned, the customer is often left out of the equation. For Amanda, the act of physically making an effort to include that human aspect back into decision making, keeping stakeholders happy, etc. ultimately keeps customer retention rates high and leads to better employee/customer relationships. She illustrates, “It doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.” To help CX leaders better understand how to include the human element in experience, she urges leaders to ask meaningful questions and to ask customers to provide specific examples of their experiences. One way to do this is to find the extremes of CX, or customers who have experienced the radical highs and lows of service, and ask targeted questions that help to gain a more in depth understanding of areas to improve. Another helpful tip Amanda offers is to record customer conversations. Her team does this through a free, open-source software called Otter. These recorded interactions pose to gather data and to shape future training for more successful outcomes.
Common Sense Uncommonly Practiced
When incorporating the human element back into CX, it is important to develop a sense of empathy for each customer. This empathetic approach naturally occurs when agents genuinely interact with their customers by asking questions and listening to their needs. Discussing her time developing and working a human-centered design approach, Amanda mentions, “Each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives.” Agents and leaders who understand that customers are all experiencing their own version of service through personal interpretation, are typically better equipped to handle any range of customer experiences. Amanda’s final advice to CX leaders is to use “common sense uncommonly practiced,” meaning to engage with the humanistic side of customers and to incorporate human-centered design and service to all aspects of CX.
To learn more about human-centered customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about human-centered customer experience and to do that, we brought on the Director of Customer Experience from NuAxis, that is Amanda Chavez. Amanda, how the heck are you? And thanks for joining.
Amanda Chavez: (00:24)
I am as good as can be expected with homeschooling kids and working.
Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
We were just comparing notes. You have how many kids again, Amanda, for the audience just so they know?
Amanda Chavez: (00:35)
Half as many as you, I’ve got two.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yep. So she’s got two and unfortunately, I did have a chance to meet a couple of them before and that was really fun on our Zoom meeting, but they are unfortunately not in school. Mine are in school, so I was bragging and Amanda was jealous, but that is the world in which we live. Amanda, tell us real quick, besides the two kids, give us kind of your quick background, who is Amanda?
Amanda Chavez: (00:58)
Oh my gosh. So I have been in human-centered design for a little over a decade and in human-centered design, we designed for end-to-end experiences whether it’s for an end user or a customer. And so I’ve parlayed that into more specifically work with customers, working on that experience. So yeah, that’s me.
Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’re excited to pull some of that information out of you today. So let’s start at the top. A lot of people don’t even know what, when you say human-centered customer experience, maybe just define it or what does that even mean? Why is it important?
Amanda Chavez: (01:41)
Sure. So I mean, well, human-centered design really focuses on designing experiences for humans and customers, I’ve heard that customers are also humans. So, we should start there. So in designing for a customer, using a human-centered approach to design for customers. So there’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat of customer experience, which you delve into through your podcast. And there’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.
Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Got it. And is there, I mean, if you had to compare that against a non-human centered, like, is it, this is kind of the new way. What was the old way? What would you say is kind of the old way of doing things or what’s the difference with this?
Amanda Chavez: (02:55)
So it’s not necessarily an old way, just a different way. I think that people in this field, it’s just really easy to go to numbers and to point to a tried and true solution to address the numbers. Which is fine. Anybody who’s focused on improving things for a customer, I’m not going to throw salt on how they do it. This is just a different way to do it.
Gabe Larsen: (03:23)
Love it. Okay, good. So let’s get into some of the ways you think about this human-centered design. If you were going through with a specific project or client or maybe a project of some sort, how do you start to think about attacking or approaching this human-centered customer experience?
Amanda Chavez: (03:44)
Sure. I think first and foremost, you have to go in with a mindset. And maybe this is because I’m in my forties now and right in the middle of life that I’m thinking about it this way, but why is any of us really doing what we do, right, if not for the benefit of other people, if not for our customers? So I think really keeping your north star and your “why” front and center helps you to act with courage to make even at some points controversial or leap of faith decisions on behalf of your customers. So I think having that north star mindset that you are acting in the best interest of your customers has to be sort of front and center, agnostic of what approach you take.
Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
So the “why.” Why do you feel like, I mean why, why, why?
Amanda Chavez: (04:43)
That’s a, I love “why” questions. Go for it.
Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
Well, yeah. Why do people miss this? Or why did they not start here? Is it just something they dive into the details? It seems like a natural thing to do, but maybe an easy thing to forget.
Amanda Chavez: (04:57)
Yes. So what you’re saying is like one of my favorite expressions: it’s common sense, uncommonly practiced. And I think the “why” for it is like, you’ve got a boss who’s giving you a mandate. You’ve got shareholders who have earnings expectations above you. There’s a lot of drivers that influence, very real drivers too, that influence how people communicate to you about what you’re supposed to be doing. And a lot of times it’s not, the customer doesn’t really come into the conversation. I have noticed that after working for 20 years, that it almost never enters the conversation. So I think, this is why I think it also takes courage because you have to be the one to put it in the conversation. And it doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.
Gabe Larsen: (05:58)
Yeah, somebody’s got to do it, right? And if it’s not you, it’s probably not going to be anybody.
Amanda Chavez: (06:04)
Gabe Larsen: (06:04)
So we can start with the “why” and really just try to figure out why you’re a business, why you’re serving your customers, get that kind of big picture. From there then, where do you go to kind of start to dive into the detail?
Amanda Chavez: (06:18)
Sure. So I don’t, I really don’t want to knock quantitative data. That’s certainly a part of the human-centered practice also, but instead of stopping there which is, I feel like, you were asking about a new way versus the old way, I think just a common way is to stop at looking at the quantitative data. And there is truly a place for survey data, looking at your AI analytics about how people are interacting with a given touch point, but you need to look deeper than that. So it, and this is something that costs like almost no money. It takes a little bit of time, but again, part of the common sense uncommonly practiced is take that data and that will tell you where the solar flares are, right? It will tell you where, it’s a symptom that there’s a problem. Take a look at that and then talk, just talk to the humans, right? Like things that we do all the time. Ask, you’re talking about “why” questions, literally all you need to talk to the humans is like the stuff that you learned in fifth grade English, right? Who, what, where, when, why, how. Ask them about their experience and really listen and even better, record it.
Gabe Larsen: (07:34)
Yeah. Sometimes it is about, I think I read once that, maybe this was for emails, it was like, “It’s best to speak at like a third grade level.”
Amanda Chavez: (07:48)
Nailed it then. A little ahead of you, Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (07:53)
I was just like, “Wow.” Because I am, I’m a buzz. I’m like, “AI chat bot,” any other buzzword I can throw in there. CX experience management. It’s like, “What is experience management?” And I’m like, “Wow.” If I really started to just be real with people, I think that would probably help in sales and marketing and customer service. But I can imagine as you go and talk to these people and you have a real conversation, the news, I’ve always called them the newspaper questions. I don’t know why, but –
Amanda Chavez: (08:29)
No, that’s it. The newspaper questions. You learned it in fifth grade.
Gabe Larsen: (08:32)
Yeah. I actually need to Google that one like is that a thing or did I just make that up, the newspaper questions?
Amanda Chavez: (08:39)
You didn’t. I was actually going to say the journalism questions.
Gabe Larsen: (08:42)
Yeah! There is some. No, I knew it!
Amanda Chavez: (08:43)
See? You were right all along.
Gabe Larsen: (08:43)
No because, like yeah. The basic newspaper guy, woman, man would be like, “What, who are you? What are you doing? What happened here?” Like that’s the base.
Amanda Chavez: (08:56)
Oh, and can I also say too when you’re asking these questions, so set aside, listen, I have a whole method for doing this. And I get really like, if you’re like an expert in this, I will like punish people for not asking questions the right way. But if you’re somebody just getting into this, it doesn’t matter how you ask the questions. But one thing you do need is to shut up. Like, you need to ask the questions and do not add your color commentary, let that person speak and dig in deeper. Like what you’re doing on this podcast, Gabe too, you’re asking follow-up questions, you’re digging. When somebody gets really excited about something and they start to gesticulate, not that any of us is ever going to talk to anybody in person again, but you hear them talking and you can tell that they’re getting excited or you hear them kind of take a step back, pause and get reflective, those moments where something changes and how somebody is talking, that indicates that there’s a high level of emotion going on, either positive or negative. Dig into those places. Follow up. Ask your newspaper questions.
Gabe Larsen: (10:07)
I like the follow up. Yeah. It’s about going, I’ve found that in multiple aspects. Actually, I was just interviewing a candidate and was really feeling the benefit of that. Like, “Tell me about this and then well, what happened here?” And then we went down like five levels. It was just really, it was like, “Oh, that’s, I think this person really knows what they’re doing,” or you really got to the root of it because you did, you went five levels down. Maybe five –
Amanda Chavez: (10:33)
That is, no, that’s the magic number for root cause. Yep.
Gabe Larsen: (10:36)
Yep. Well see, I know so many things, Amanda. You just didn’t, weren’t aware of it. I know newspaper questions. I know third grade reading level.
Amanda Chavez: (10:45)
Gabe, seriously. I mean, we’re very lucky to have you here.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. That’s what I was wanting you to say that. Thank you for saying that.
Amanda Chavez: (10:55)
You’re so welcome. You’re so welcome.
Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Okay, so you got point one. We’ll come back to that topic in a minute, but we’ve got point one, it’s all about the “why.” Point two is how did this, finding the right data. I love the questions. Diving deeper. I love your idea of it’s not, you don’t have to say the perfect thing, but dive into it. What’s number three? Where do you go for kind of your third big point on figuring out this human-centered design?
Amanda Chavez: (11:14)
Sure. So, and the reason I recommended to you recording it, so you have to ask permission just so that, I mean, I feel like a lot of people know that, but I don’t want to make assumptions. So if you’re ever, there’s a free open-source software out there, I want them to give me a cut because I advertise them without sponsorship all the time, but Otter. It’s Otter like the animal. Otter.ai. If you enter that into a web search, they have an open source free platform for you to record conversations and they transcribe them for you. And then they even do like sentiment analysis. Like, I mean, it’s, it’s bananas. Like there, it’s, if you want to do like CX on the cheap, you could do a lot worse than Otter and I’ll be collecting my check from them later, but the reason –
Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
I’m looking at them now. Keep going. I’m looking at it though.
Amanda Chavez: (12:12)
Oh sure, no problem. But once you collect that data, because that is what you’re doing, you’re, I mean, it’s a softer touch, going in and talking to the humans, but it’s nonetheless it’s data. So collect that data and then start to look for what the themes are. So talk to a couple of people, right? Talk to people who represent the extremes of the experience. People who have, either people who’ve had the ultimate high or the ultimate low with the experience, find out what they’ve got in common or demographically, right? Sort of customer segments. Looking at people across different customer segments or people who are, who represent the extremes of an experience, and then from there aggregate what they’ve got in common. What are the themes that they’ve got in common? Because by looking at those different segments and seeing what they have in common in their experience, that tells you, and again, compare it with your quantitative data too, but that tells you sort of in a really graphic way, what’s going on with your customers and what their experience really looks like. And then from there, you can map out their journey, right? From literally from their own words, you can begin to map out their journey. And I know that probably most of your audience knows how to do a journey map, but –
Gabe Larsen: (13:39)
What have been some of the just, I wanted that last part because people do ask about that a lot. I mean, what are any experiences or stories, and I guess it could be on any of these points. But as you’ve gone through these exercises, fun things you’ve kind of discovered, interesting pain points. Like, “I’ve never thought we’d find that to be a problem and we found it,” or something that can kind of bring some of these points just in a little more of an example.
Amanda Chavez: (14:05)
Sure. No, thank you. You would, by the way, you’d make an amazing human-centered researcher. Like you kind of do it naturally. So, but yeah, because we ask for examples. We ask when we’re talking to customers. We ask them to give examples. So some of the interesting, oh man. I don’t want to get into like dark night of the soul stuff, especially since we’re having such a lovely conversation –
Gabe Larsen: (14:31)
Oh no, let’s do it. Those words are intriguing. Dark night of the soul.
Amanda Chavez: (14:35)
I know. Yeah, but I mean it. So I’ve been, so NuAxis, we work with federal customers and that’s where the majority of my, the second half of my career has been working with government, federal government customers. And the cool thing about the federal government is that they touch every problem and every person and every like customer segment. I mean, it’s amazing the reach of the federal government and so I say that to say that it, one of the first human-centered design projects that I did was for sexual assault prevention. And that’s why I’m like, “Oh, the dark night of soul stuff.” What we realized through that research and talking with people who were, who had been on, like who had been victims of sexual assault, as well as perpetrators, people who had perpetrated it, was that there’s so, I mean, one of the biggest things for me was that there were so much gray for them in their perspective. I mean, really going in and talking with people and it’s a big challenge to stay objective, especially when you’re talking with like people who have perpetrated sexual assault, but there was so much gray for them. And so much like misunderstanding sort of leading up to the event and then after the event. And I think in our minds, we kind of like see it as a black and white thing. And that was sort of, that insight alone really kind of shaped my thinking about a lot of different things that sort of, that insight sort of has permeated my understanding all these years later that each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives. And I mean, I know that that sounds really like mixed up to say that you can have empathy for people who have even been on, but it does once you talk to people and you understand them, you can’t help but have empathy.
Gabe Larsen: (16:53)
Hmm. Interesting. Well, that’s a fascinating experience. I didn’t realize those, that you worked on projects like that. That’s wow.
Amanda Chavez: (17:03)
Yeah, well it’s been all over the map.
Gabe Larsen: (17:04)
No, it’s a great example though. I think of kind of double-clicking into that idea of this kind of human-centered design as you, wow. Geez. That’s crazy.
Amanda Chavez: (17:16)
Sorry, I didn’t mean to, I told you it was going to be dark night of the soul.
Gabe Larsen: (17:19)
Yeah, in my mind and the gray area comment. That’s right. That really resonates, fascinating. Well, we might just, man, we might just have to have you come back. I want to hear three or four more experiences. Maybe not as interesting as that, but I –
Amanda Chavez: (17:37)
Like a little less interesting for the next time. Totally, totally. We’ll keep it lame.
Gabe Larsen: (17:42)
But it might be fun to have you come back and talk through some of those examples, but I appreciate kind of the framework. We did it on a couple of different ideas. In summary, as you think about CX leaders who are trying to get to more of this human-centered design, or maybe just get better in CX, what would be kind of thing you’d want to leave with them?
Amanda Chavez: (17:58)
So, I mean, I, again, I think I would just want to go back to start somewhere. You may not have a perfect process mapped out. You may not have sophisticated AI running in the background or the means to interpret the analytics that you’re collecting, but you can always talk to the humans and you don’t have to have a fancy formal process. You will walk away with just deeper understanding of who your customers are. And if you have that north star, that intention that you want to improve their experience, I mean, we can all be talking about all the tools, tips, and tricks in the world, but really the basics, again, you could do a lot worse than to just go with the basics.
Gabe Larsen: (18:47)
And you got to add your, what’s your common and uncommonly phrase? I think we just, we got –
Amanda Chavez: (18:52)
Common sense uncommonly practiced.
Gabe Larsen: (18:55)
Yeah. We got to end with that one. That’s such a great, I got to steal that one. I just don’t, it’s such a tongue twister. I don’t know if I can do it. Alrighty. Well, if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about human-centered design, what’s the best way to do that, Amanda?
Amanda Chavez: (19:09)
Oh my gosh. Email me. I would love to have a conversation about it. Do I give my email here?
Gabe Larsen: (19:14)
You can absolutely. Or you can do LinkedIn. What, any preferred –
Amanda Chavez: (19:19)
Like normal adults. Yes. You can look me up on LinkedIn. Yes. You could do that too. Rather than posting my email like a billboard.
Gabe Larsen: (19:29)
No, no. Well, yeah, we do transcribe this, so we would probably get your email out there, but either –
Amanda Chavez: (19:35)
LinkedIn, that’s it. LinkedIn. I’m there. Yes.
Gabe Larsen: (19:37)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, it’s been fun to have you and appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Amanda Chavez: (19:47)
Thank you, Gabe. Thanks everybody.
Exit Voice: (19:54)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Greg Segall, Sean MacPherson, and Vikas Bharmbri to exchange views on the personal experience movement. Learn how these leaders relate to their customers on a deeper level by listening to the podcast below.
Take Advantage of Investing in Relationships
CEO of Alyce, Greg Segall, has created a company that drives customer retention and renewal through personal gifting. Personal gifting invests into clients and customers and helps create a sense of empathy between them and the brand. To better understand this, Greg says:
When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward.
To avoid perceived bribery in gift giving, Greg understands that it is important to choose a personal gift and present it at the right time as a token of appreciation, rather than a gift of anticipation for completion. This same concept can be used in CX. Making customers feel appreciated and cared for can help bring about a sense of surprise and delight to most CX situations. Rather than rushing in anticipation of the solution, taking the time to understand the needs of the customer and to genuinely connect with them can host tones of appreciation and gratitude, making it less likely for a disgruntled customer to leave a poor review. By investing in a relationship and going deeper than surface level, companies enable better support, greater solutions, and loyal customers.
Providing a Tailored Approach to CX
Alyce was created as an option for companies to provide more personal gifts to potential prospects. The concept of five to nine was brought about at Alyce as a way to tailor gifts for potential prospects based on their interests outside of their typical nine to five work schedule. Both Greg and Sean have seen a huge shift in the ways of gift giving as a result of curating to the prospect’s hobbies and interests. Sean notes, “Think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal.” Instead of providing a generalized gift or something as commonplace as company swag, prospects are more likely to enjoy something personalized to their interests. CX agents would be wise to apply this method to different aspects of customer interactions, not specifically just to providing gifts, but also to tailoring interactions to the customer’s needs. This further drives and advances customer relationships by providing a more personalized approach to customer service.
Improve Your Brand by Learning From Support Cases
Head of Customer Success at Alyce, Sean MacPherson, elevates CX by learning from experience and listening to his customers. He feels that it is extremely important to build a lasting connection beyond simply just fulfilling support cases. He says, “If you have someone of a user that is submitting ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more.” Sean utilizes his experiences working with customers to improve upon Alyce’s abilities as a company to better provide exceptional service. A prime method to ensure company improvement is proactively adapting to the needs of the user base. To do this, Sean urges brands to take advantage of customer feedback and support cases to improve upon UX and UI, creating a more seamless customer experience and overall brand interaction.
To learn more about the secrets of connecting with customers on a deeper and more personable level, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. Today, we’re going to be talking about this personal experience movement. How personal gifting, delighting customers, supporting retention and renewals, and to do that and brought on a couple special guests, our friends from Alyce. They’ll just take maybe just a second. Greg, Sean, if you can, tell us a little about yourself and also what you guys do over there at Alyce. Greg, let’s start with you.
Greg Segall: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. I’m CEO of Alyce. I’ve been running the company now for a little over four years. We are what we call a “personal experience platform.” So we use personal gifting as a way to build relationships with individuals throughout the entire prospecting world and also the customer world as well. Sean, how about you?
Sean MacPherson: (00:58)
So I’m the head of Customer Success over at Alyce. A little bit about kind of where my functional areas lie is customer success. I also oversee our Service Department, so our support team and also our account management team. A little bit about my five to nine too, because I love to throw that in there and being personal. You will see, I am a skier. I’m also an avid cyclist and you may see my doggo pop-up. She likes to kind of photo bomb all of my Zoom meetings. So she might pop her head up over my shoulder at some point.
Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
We’re seeing with the skis there, man. I’m a Salt Lake City native. So I’m gonna get you one of these times and we’ll race down the hill.
Greg Segall: (01:38)
I forgot my five to nine too. So, guitar for sure. Been playing guitar since I was 12. Major shredder for those that matter. I also have my four year old daughter and I would say that these are not actually my books, even though those are the most fun ones to read so.
Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
I love the books in the background, they’re always, you get to know people. Vikas, I guess you’re up, man. You’ve got to give us the who you are and what you like now.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
Yeah, everybody who listens to this show knows me by now. But yes, I guess nine to five, the well, nine to five, the Head of Sales in CX at Kustomer. Five to nine, I’ve got two girls that are just going to be seven and eleven. That wasn’t planned, next month. And for me, it’s a lot of things, but where I’ll boil it down to as of late it’s swimming and Kenpo Karate. Kind of started that back into last year and well, swimming has been obviously on hold, but thank God for Zoom and been able to catch up on my karate via Zoom.
Gabe Larsen: (02:45)
Well, I think everybody knows me. I’m Gabe. Unfortunately, I have no hobbies right now. All I do is work. Vikas is on me all the time. He knows this, it’s his fault. I got a lot of things that, he’s waiting on me for. So, well, let’s –
Greg Segall: (03:02)
Is that you surfing the background though? Who’s surfing in the background?
Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
Oh yeah. That is. That’s me in Hawaii. I’m a surfer. I’m right here. No, that’s not true, but I do love Hawaii. Kauai is my island of choice –
Vikas Bhambri: (03:15)
Gabe’s got his hands full. From five to nine he’s a dad.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
That’s true. I’ve got four. I took two and I took two more. I don’t know why. All right, let’s dive in. Greg, I want to start with this. I don’t believe in gifting. I think it’s not right. I’m being facetious here, but give us the foundation of why it’s so important. We’ve got a lot of people are like, “It’s too expensive. I can’t do it. What? Like, I know about phone. I know about email. I know about text message. Like, what? Gifting? That sounds stupid.”
Greg Segall: (03:51)
Yeah. I think you have to start, take a little bit of a step back, right? Because I think gifting in general, people have a misconception as to what gifting or direct mail or swag and all these different places are. If you think about it, it’s an investment in a relationship, right? You’re basically taking money and you’re saying, “I want to get to know this person better, or I want to actually offer them something for building that relationship and establishing that.” But the problem in business up to this point has been that everything has been done for me, meaning my crappy water bottles or my chocolate feet to get my foot in the door, cheesy campaigns or whatever it is and they’re not thinking about the other person. So when you’re thinking about it, it has to be something where you’re reframing it and thinking about this is something for somebody else in a consumer world, or if you know any of your family members, you’re always thinking about what’s best for them, not what’s best for me and what’s going to promote my brand that’s there. So when we think about gifting, yeah. When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward. So, when you’re thinking about all the digital noise that’s out there now, everyone’s emailing, everybody’s LinkedIn spamming, everybody’s leaving voicemails, or even a lot of people are –
Gabe Larsen: (05:08)
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Hold on, spamming? What are you talking about?
Greg Segall: (05:15)
I don’t know.
Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
We had a few people be like, “Hey,” because when you go live, you go broadcast to the group. But I’ve had a few people be like, “How do I not have you like broadcast to me when you go live?”
Greg Segall: (05:25)
I teed that up for you, Gabe. No worry. That was set up well.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
You were saying, you were saying. Go ahead.
Greg Segall: (05:32)
Yeah, so the key thing is that if you’re investing into that relationship, and you’re doing that at the right moments, then you have an ability to actually advance the relationship instead of just using your own agenda, right? And so again, us at Alyce, the way we believe it is that you should not be thinking about it as yourself. It should be something for the other person. That’s why we believe in the power of choice, person gets to choose what they want, right? And it’s not about what you want to send them, it’s about what they, what they’re actually going to take. And then the Alyce model is also when they pick something, like if they pick tinker crate, then I’ll be like, “Oh, well, pick from, Vikas has a seven-year-old or must have some-year-olds. So I’m learning something about, I have an ability to start asking you about what we call, “the five to nine.” Everything that’s in your interests, your hobbies, your family, your pets, all the things that really matter to you. So is it expensive? It’s more expensive, but is it a heck of a lot more impactful? Does it build an emotional resonance which actually drives you deeper into rapport and trust and then loyalty? That’s the big thing that you have to understand. And when you look at that spread out across all the time you’d be spending, in a numbers game, spending them sending a million messages versus really getting honed in on a one-to-one thing, that’s where you can totally change the game on how you’re actually building those relationships.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:39)
Greg. I’m good. Go ahead. Sorry, Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
No, no. Go ahead.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:43)
So, Greg. Look, I think gifting is an interesting strategy, right? And I think that’s one that we’ve employed in B2B through the ages, right? But kind of on, I hate to say on the sly, but it was one of those things where whether it’s presale or post-sale, if you got to know somebody and you have that comfort level, maybe you drop off a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates or something to that effect. Now I will say, I feel like of late in particular, over the last three years, I’ve even had customers that we have very good relationships with push back because of the concern about the impropriety, right? Like, people are going to think I am endorsing you as a vendor because I have this relationship with you. So if you leave me a big bottle of wine on my desk and everybody sees it, it’s like, okay, you awarded the contract for this reason. What are your thoughts there? And just corporate policies and how does that weigh into the entire gifting experience?
Greg Segall: (07:49)
Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the root questions that always comes up. And the key thing there is when you get into that moment where it’s tit for tat, right? Or there’s pre quid pro quo, right? Which I usually screw that up so I actually said it pretty well at the time. But when you’re thinking about in terms of, Sean always knows that because I always say that to the company and I screw it up 99% of the time. So you guys have just witnessed a miracle. But, if you think about it in terms of that quid pro quo, of course, if you’re dropping off a bottle of wine or you doing something for that person and it’s connected to the action that you’re actually trying to get them to take, then of course it’s bribery, right? But when you’re starting to think about the relationship you’re building with that, and you’re giving them the power to choose, and you’re not tying it to the action, then it’s about investing in the relationship. And again, if you think about it in terms of an investment to learn about the person, it’s a different mindset than if you’re saying, “Oh, this is me because I’m trying to actually buy you off and I’m trying to actually do that.” And there’s a thin line there, but it’s a matter of how you message it. It’s a matter of the moments that you’re actually using gifting to be able to drive that through and again, we were talking about this topic being specifically around customers. When it’s a customer, it’s a much different perception than when you’re like a cold prospect in the beginning where you’re like, basically like, “I’m basically paying you off for a specific event that’s there.” So again, in the way that we think about it at Alyce is it’s not about, “Take this meeting and you get this thing,” like the whole thing where I’m trying to send you like a drone and keep the controller type of thing where it’s like, I’m literally like attaching the event to that. So from my perspective, it’s very much about how you position it and it’s also about how you invest in that relationship and it’s also about how you use that as a way to actually advance the relationship at the right time too.
Gabe Larsen: (09:33)
Yeah. Do you feel like Sean, in COVID-related times, can you even do physical gifts? I mean, is that basically– wow, a lot of people aren’t in offices, I wanted to send them something they’re not there. They might be nervous that that gift is dirty. You know, I there’s just a lot going on. Is that a problem? And if so, how do you guys get around that?
Sean MacPherson: (09:59)
Yeah, it’s a really good question. And it’s actually very similar to what we see in the event space too. Basically you had to take direct mail and make it a little bit more digital. So how you do the digital transformation of gifting and direct mail. I’ll selfishly say with Alyce it’s much easier, but I’m going to be very generic here. What we have seen with, we work with a lot of our customers, is how do you still put those customer experience moments and embed them still into a flow, make them feel a little bit more natural, whether this is just via email or via LinkedIn message? You’re still going to use those similar tactics in those surprise and delight moments with the gift, but you’re just making it digital instead. Now, to answer your question a little bit more like, has there been struggle? Oh yeah. There’s definitely struggle when you’re with smaller businesses, for example. If you’re trying to do something very more specific, so you do have to get a little bit more creative with that. And how do you partner better with some of the merchants to actually deliver it? And how do you help some of these small businesses and work together with those, if you are the software provider, for example?
Gabe Larsen: (11:05)
Got it. So you do, you’ve kind of digitized it basically. So you’re not necessarily, and the key to that is, and you refer to this, Greg, is basically allowing somebody to opt in so that they can basically say, “Send it to this address, that address,” wherever they may be comfortable rather than sending it cold to an office that they’re probably not at. Did I get that correct?
Greg Segall: (11:26)
A hundred percent. The flow, there’s two flows, right? One is you need to actually get their home address first or second is you send them something digitally and let them go through the flow after they opt into the process. To me, when you’re talking about personal experience, you’re trying to be as respectful as possible. So we have this three R’s right. The relatable is your nine to five, make sure that you’re actually connecting it to the, sorry. The relevancy. The relevancy of who this is. The relatability is the five to nine, right? Who are they as a person outside of work and then being respectful across every channel that you reach out to them. That’s how you get to a moment with them. And to me, when you’re asking for an address upfront and being like, “Hey, I’ve got something I want to send to you,” that’s there unless you have a really tight relationship with the person like, that just seems super creepy. And that’s the antithesis of being personal, right? It’s actually going towards the opposite side of it, versus where we’re saying is, send them something, show them what, let them go through the experience if they want to opt in, great. And then put in the address and then send that thing off to that person as you go through the process. It’s just much more of a personal, they’re investing into the process and the experience itself.
Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
Yeah. So Vikas, I wanted to throw this one to you and maybe you guys can jump on it. I mean, Sean, you’re in customer success. Vikas, you’ve got customer success and customer support. Is there relevancy, gifting in both of those worlds, one of those worlds? Have you, what’s your quick thoughts on this, Vikas?
Vikas Bhambri: (12:52)
My thought process is, there are many moments in that relationship, as Greg was pointing it out, where I think it’s appropriate, not in advance of, but in appreciation of where you’re thanking your customer, you’re celebrating something with them. So, whether it be thanking them for perhaps a reference or a case study or a video, I’m obviously talking about B2B software world, but those types of things where people, people take time out, right, to do some of these things, right? To speak to an analyst on your behalf, et cetera. And then it’s those celebrations, right? Maybe it’s a Go Live. Maybe they had a big launch. Maybe it’s a promotion of a team member. All of those types of things. As I think about the customer journey and where would it be appropriate to celebrate those moments as Greg referred to them? I think those are some of the ones that come immediately to mind.
Gabe Larsen: (13:56)
Yeah. What would you guys add to that, Greg or Sean?
Sean MacPherson: (13:59)
Yeah, I was going to say it’s all about being proactive here and thinking about what I like to call again, that surprise and delight experience. So there are a lot of companies that you can implement this very fast and wrong and one of the key mistakes that we always see here at Alyce is tying it a bit too close to these commercial events. So, like we were bringing up earlier is the quid pro quo. And I said it right, right there, it’s Greg will nod his head. So that’s one of the big things. So making it too generic. Think swag for swag’s sake or the same gift for everyone or the same handwritten note that’s triggered for everyone. This is definitely personalized, but it’s not personal. And that’s what we always challenge our customers and our prospects to think about here at Alyce. And just to add a couple of more examples that we do too is like, brand new customer brand new stakeholder. And whether it’s prior to the kickoff meeting or after, at Alyce we’re always breaking the ice with the five to nine. You saw us do that in the beginning of this meeting. And it’s learning a little bit about your customer. One of those examples in practice is one of our CSMs actually learned a bit about one of our customers that was an avid Duke basketball fan. Right after that meeting, we’re starting to nurture that relationship a little bit more on that interest. So that’s an easy way to start learning a little bit more and being proactive with your relationships there. Same thing with the business outcome, milestones, engagement with end users can be light there and also building more champions and exec sponsors.
Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
Vikas Bhambri: (15:32)
Is there a dollar value threshold? I mean, can I go and do something for $5,000? Is there a dollar value that you cap at or what are some of the interesting gifts that maybe outside of the normal swag that people think about that people have purchased through the platform or selected through the platform?
Greg Segall: (15:56)
There’s a million. We have 36,000 that we’ve curated in our catalog and go to like the Duke basketball example, that Sean was just talking about. We ended up getting Duke basketball tickets for the new stakeholder and surprising her and it was an awesome relationship building thing. And what you’re trying to do when you are getting, you’re building a new relationship, and this is what personal experiences and just to like take a step back like, customer experience, what everybody always talks about is a very many to many concept. Same thing with ABM, right? It’s very much like all the folks on the vendor side, all the folks on the customer side and then how do you actually connect those people together? And everyone always thinks about it as like a unit to a unit. Personal experience is taking those individual people and saying each one of them, whether it be a CS, a rep and the specific administrator of the product or the end users or the influencers or whoever it might be, like, those are three separate relationships and you’re starting from a, “I need to build rapport. I need to build trust. And then I build into the loyalty stage there.” And that’s done by actually being relevant, making sure you’re actually delivering value to the person, but also like learning who they are as a person. The intangibles of the emotional resonance with that person is just totally different. So when you’re actually investing in that from a monetary perspective and doing it in terms of like what their, knowing that person to be able to relate to them, then that’s a huge thing. And again, we have a kind of unfair advantage at Alyce because it’s the exchange process that helps us learn more about the person. I saw a LinkedIn question come in just a couple seconds ago. And it’s like, how do you make it personal if you don’t know that relationship, or don’t have a deep relationship there? Well, you can send something that’s more generic, that still is unique to like work from home and it can relate to the work from homeness of this, but they can exchange for something else. If they exchange for BarkBox, then you know they have a dog, right? So like you can actually take the investment and then learn who that person is. That’s the entire background of the five to nine and what we try and drive with here at Alyce. You can start more generic and then they tell you how to get more detailed with that. Even if they exchange for like a Nike gift card, now you just know that I like Nike and I’m like, “Oh, I was in Beaverton, Oregon. And I went to their headquarters or whatever it might be.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:59)
Makes sense. I’ve seen a big move of late where a lot of people are asking when we even do have the discussion around gift is, “Can you do something for a charity that I support,” right? I think especially a lot of executives, right? I mean, at the end of the day for them, a $50 item is not going to fundamentally change their world. So that’s been a big thing that I’ve seen where even from a marketing strategy standpoint, when people are trying to entice to get that meeting or whatever it is, is people saying, “Look, here’s one of three charities, if you guys can make a donation and that would be great rather than give me a gift.” Is that something that’s available through the platform?
Greg Segall: (18:44)
Yeah. Alyce is, that was actually one of the reasons and the foundational elements of Alyce platform. When I started it four years ago, it was like, I wanted to be able to figure out a way that we can take this trillion dollars or pretty close to that, of all this money that’s being spent building relationships with folks in business and how like 90% of that goes to waste, how we give that back to folks. So we ended up seeing about 11%. We have, every charity’s on the platform right now. We’ve highly curated, about 360 of those charities, the highest rated ones that are out there, but you can also choose to actually donate to any other charity if you want as one of the options that are there too. So we’ll sometimes, especially with like higher level folks, we’ll lead in with donations and Sean can go through more details on like the specifics on this. But we always like to see how many people are donating and right now the percentage has skyrocketed in terms of how many people are actually donating to civil causes right now, LGBTQ causes or Black Lives Matter, or NAACP. Like, there’s a million different things that are happening or things like, “Hey, my mom,” we just had a note I saw come in the other day where it’s like, “My mom had cancer. Thank you so much for allowing me to actually donate back to a cancer society.” So, those are the things that are really, really magical because then you also show that you’re being selfless. And that also shows that it’s not about me. It’s about you. It’s the shirt, right? That’s a little subtle plug there.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:07)
Gabe Larsen: (20:08)
That is, that’s super powerful. Guys, before we end, a couple more, we got a couple of things coming in on Facebook, just about other examples or practical ways to use gifting in this kind of post sales world. I’m definitely feeling like you got the relationship, you want to solidify or build the relationship. Are there other kind of use cases or situations that you’d recommend? Is it, again, maybe it’s you’ve done something wrong, customer is angry or something, and it’s an apology thing or celebration, or are there other situations you’d recommend that could spark people’s minds as they think about using gifting in this post-sales world?
Sean MacPherson: (20:45)
Yeah, definitely. I’ll talk a little bit on more of the support side because we haven’t really talked too much about that yet. You’re hitting a couple of those core examples and kind of the two themes that I like to say is reactive to delight. So think about a customer that is going through a bug issue. Maybe it’s taking longer to resolve that bug. Maybe you just don’t want to surprise and delight them, whether it’s after a bug or thank you so much for your patience, service hiccups, outages, you name it, anything where it’s just not a great experience for your customers, it’s perfect to kind of make that a little bit more personal with them. Same thing with being proactive on the support side. So some of the ways that we like to be proactive is think about the number of support cases. If you have someone or a user that is submitting like ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more before they leave a negative review or something like that. Build that brand with them and build that connection beyond just the support cases. Same thing with introducing to other functions like, that same person submitting all those support cases, maybe a perfect UX tester for your UI tester for you. So getting that introduction that way too, and kind of progressing that stuff and thanking them for that time.
Gabe Larsen: (21:59)
I like those. And then your recommendation is on top of that to try to make it personalized rather than use something that’s quote unquote generic, right? Like the XYZ gift, right? You’d recommend taking the time, learn a little bit about them and see if you can personalize accordingly.
Sean MacPherson: (22:13)
Yeah. And even to help our friends a little bit more at scale that can’t always deliver on the one-to-one is, think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal about them and if you’re working with like IT admins, for example, they’re much different than a marketing admin, their interests are going to be different. So always keep that in mind. That’s how you can do a little bit of more one to many scale, whether it’s with a solution like ours or just on your own.
Gabe Larsen: (22:45)
Yeah, no. I’m loving the charity idea. Well, guys really appreciate the time today. I wanted to just go through and maybe get a quick kind of summary or recommendations for people who are trying to jump on this journey and kind of get gifting into their post-sales process. Thoughts, recommendations, closing statements? Sean, let’s go to you then Greg and Vikas we’ll have you close. Sean?
Sean MacPherson: (23:03)
Yeah, I was going to say one thing that always comes up with all of our customers is talk to me a little bit about the gifting and the ROI of gifts. And the biggest thing I always like to say is software as a service is a reoccurring revenue business. You by nature building all of those experiences and delighting your customers, that’s not only going to pay out on adoption advocacy, but you’re going to get referrals. You’re going to get all of that. So when you’re thinking about cultivating your business plan for the gifting strategy, keep all those things in mind because at the end of the day this is going to reduce your customer acquisition cost. And that is a big reason to put into your business plan and reasons why to think about gifting long term.
Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
I like that. Great add. Greg, over to you.
Greg Segall: (23:46)
I would say that to sort of piggyback off of that is when you’re thinking about the personal experience, the deeper you have the relationship with somebody, the deeper you get to that loyalty aspect, the more you can screw up and they’re still going to stick with you. So the more you can actually understand and be able to provide value with them and every single company does, we screw up, everyone does, customer screws up, like you’ll know that –
Gabe Larsen: (24:06)
Greg Segall: (24:06)
The deeper that you have that, sorry, I forget it. Yeah. Just like use –
Vikas Bhambri: (24:11)
Cat’s out of the bag.
Greg Segall: (24:13)
Cat’s out, forget it. We’re done. We’re not called Kustomer anymore. But the key thing you have to understand is that you can always deliver value to the person, but there’s going to be moments where you’re not delivering value or you’re delivering negative value. And where it’s going to pick up for that is going to be the relatability and your ability to just be human and be able to be personal. Human is not an emotive term. Being personal is. When you create that emotional resonance and you learn who that person is and you’ve done that with a deep amount of people inside of the organization, your customer organization, you’re gonna get so much further with them. And you’re going to be able to allow them to be more open and transparent with you, and you’ll be able to drive the value with them exponentially further.
Gabe Larsen: (24:49)
I really liked the personalization concept. I think I’ve been guilty at times of kind of being a little bit more generic because it’s easier, but I can see how that just flipping that switch would probably change the game a lot. Vikas, kind of closing thoughts or recommendations?
Vikas Bhambri: (25:02)
Yeah. I think what Greg and Sean have touched upon is it’s not B2B, right? It’s human-to-human. At the end of the day, I think that’s the critical thing to remember that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and this concept of personalization. We often look at it from our lens. Gabe, like you alluded to, what’s easy for us. It’s easy to send something generic. It’s easy to send swag because we’ve got piles of it in a store room and we can direct an intern to just ship it out. But really think about thinking about it from the customer’s perspective and that individual’s perspective and what matters to them and everything from a Duke basketball game ticket, even though I hate the Blue Devils myself, but all the way to charity that they want to go through. And I think that’s a unique thing that will, I think you’ll see probably a higher take-up, from customers when they have that opportunity to self-select. So I think it’s really something exciting, which I think we’ll see more of in the industry.
Greg Segall: (26:05)
One last thing just to take off on that, Vikas’ last thought is there’s a difference between personalization and being personal. I want to make sure that like I hit upon that is personalization is about data that you’re using to drive value to a user or drive somebody through a buyer’s journey. Being personal is about how emotionally you’re connecting to somebody. Big difference in turning to that and how you get to the one-to-oneness is about how you get personal. Personalization is how you use data to get some one-to-many. So there’s a difference in how you start to think about that and we’re trying to drive that concept while we’re not calling it personalization experience, it’s a personal experience, like a big piece there, as you’re thinking about that.
Gabe Larsen: (26:38)
No, I like that and I appreciate you guys. I think the thing for me is it’s just different and when it comes to post-sales yeah, I’m used to talking to people on the phone, I’m used to talking to people via email and some of these other channels, but this idea of gifting, it’s just, it would be different and because it’s different sometimes I think that’s good. So that’s my quick closing thought. So hey, everybody, really appreciate you joining. For the audience, appreciate you taking the time and hope you have a fantastic day.
Greg Segall: (27:10)
Thanks so much.
Sean MacPherson: (27:10)
Greg Segall: (27:11)
Thanks. Appreciate it.
Exit Voice: (27:17)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the strategies to improve the customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers.
Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast.
Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience
Christine first starts by elaborating on their company’s focus on the mother. Keeping the expecting mother in mind, Christine notes how her team has had great success with customer happiness by listening to customer feedback and adapting their products to the mother’s needs. She states, “Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants.”
Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company supports a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.”
To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom-First.
As mentioned above, the mom is at the center of every element of their business, from packaging and marketing to phone calls. Simply put, Bump Boxes is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.
Listen and subscribe to our podcast:
Customer Loyalty: Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero
Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to build a company from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration.
Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs by saying, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.
Optimize Customer Interactions Every Step of the Way
At Bump Boxes, customer support doesn’t just start with the customer’s problem and end with the CX agent’s solution. Customer support starts from the moment the mom-to-be signs up for the monthly subscription and continues on throughout the life of their subscription. After delivery, Bump Boxes change to Busy Boxes, which come with items to help create a fun and engaging environment for mom and her newborn baby. When discussing the methods in which her CX team continually shows up for their customers, Christine explains:
When you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do with the subscription. It’s more like, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” We know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. If you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.”
Creatively engaging with the mother and being there for every step of the pregnancy process has proven to keep their customers coming back for more. Christine notes how Bump Box has a room full of sonograms and baby pictures sent in by the mothers they service. They become familiar with each mom and enjoy speaking with them as if they are old friends. For Christine, the most rewarding part of running her company is seeing the pictures and sonograms of these babies and knowing her company did something to help each mom through their pregnancy journey.
CX teams would be wise to adopt an understanding of their customers and to thoroughly engage and have genuine conversations with them. At the end of the day, everyone is going through their own journey in life and recognizing that aspect will help add more of a human element to each CX interaction.
To learn more about the secrets to optimizing customer experiences, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience and how to optimize it and to do that we brought on Christine Deehring. She’s currently the Founder and CEO of a cool company called Bump Boxes. So Christine, thanks for joining. How are you?
Christine Deehring: (00:27)
Yes. Great. I’m just so excited to be here, Gabe. So excited about the customer experience and just everything that we do here at Bump Boxes.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah, this is so fun because we’re always looking for, sometimes we talk about just general best practices, but it’s always fun to hear from somebody who’s kind of just daily living it, working the grind, et cetera. So we appreciate you jumping on. Before we do, can you tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and Bump Boxes, just so everybody kind of knows the context?
Christine Deehring: (00:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So Bump Boxes is a monthly subscription service for pregnancy and baby products. So mom can sign up at any point during her pregnancy and she actually gets a box of products that are specifically tailored to that month of her pregnancy. So we include five to eight full-size products and we know what moms are going through during pregnancy and what she’s experiencing every single month. So it’s themed around something she’s going through during that specific month. And then when she gives birth, it transitions over to Busy Boxes, which is a newborn to three-year-old subscription. So, and on that side of the subscription, it’s all tailored around baby’s milestones and really creating that fun, playful environment for mom and baby to experience together. Yeah, so that’s, yeah, absolutely.
Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I was telling Christine before, my wife has somehow convinced me to have four, so we have four children and so she’s definitely a fan of the idea and Bump Boxes. So love what you do. So [inaudible] that we had connected was Christine had come across a couple of things and one was something that was awesome that happened on Instagram. I mean, remind me. You guys went just, you flew up. You added a couple thousand followers just in a day or two. What was that scenario? Remind me.
Christine Deehring: (02:06)
Yes. Yes. So I think we had reached a milestone on our Instagram following and just to kind of give you guys some context and the whole post was all about how like, “Hey, we started from zero four years ago,” and that’s just it. So, that was the whole premise of posting about that big milestone for us on Instagram, because a lot of people don’t know. I mean, we started about four and a half years ago and we started from an idea, right? And now we reach over 14 million moms a month across all of our channels, right? So, I mean, it’s just kind of, “Hey,” like, I mean, it’s just, and what we try to say is like, “Hey guys, if you have an idea, take it and go, like the first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero,” that’s that.
Gabe Larsen: (02:53)
I love that. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim, right? You just have –
Christine Deehring: (02:57)
Yes! You just have to aim.
Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
– and then you figure out where the target is later. But one of the keys it sounded like, and I’m sure the product is fantastic, but you guys do have kind of this maniacal focus on customer service and customer experience and interaction with the customer. And so it sounded like in the post, obviously you found a great niche that a lot of people are excited about, but you’ve kind of taken those extra steps to really bring the customer down the journey with you has been the separator. Is that fair to say?
Christine Deehring: (03:27)
Absolutely, absolutely. A hundred percent. So, I mean, I think, we do a lot of things regarding customer experience here at Bump Boxes. Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s like growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants, right? I mean, that’s just the foundational way to run a business. But I mean, there are some things that we’ve learned along the way, especially growing and scaling, as to why it is just that important to really focus and have that non stop focus on your customer. So I think, one of the main things that we focused on is corporate culture, company culture. Because if you have the right culture, then you can actually empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions to make mom happy.
Gabe Larsen: (04:21)
Right. Because a lot of times we– I feel like we should probably, when we talk about customer experience, we should probably talk more about the employee or the company culture. Sometimes we do all the things that the customer does, but we get that employee side. So, what are some of the fun things you guys have done to try to make that employer culture really enable or empower that customer journey?
Christine Deehring: (04:40)
Yeah, so our company culture is just amazing. So, we have four main core values and that’s what we make all of our decisions based around. So, positivity would be the first one. So, seeing the opportunity, seeing the brighter side of things. Always just trying to be positive in every situation possible and really seeing opportunity where it is. Hustle would be another one. So, constantly, just if there is a barrier, figure out a way to break through it or go around it, but figure out a solution. Constantly, yeah. Constantly move forward. Accountability is another one. So, being accountable for yourself, for your role. We know mistakes happen, everyone makes mistakes, right? I mean, we know mistakes happen, but when a mistake happens, we take, yeah. You take responsibility of it and then you fix it, so it doesn’t have to happen again in the future, you know? And as long as you fix the process, then everything’s great. And then most importantly, mom first, so that’s very customer experience-centric, right? So, everything we do, whether it’s our marketing messaging, whether it’s our site, our customer experience team when they talk to mom on the phone, how we pack the boxes, the product that we select, everything is putting mom first. And as long as we make our decisions around that, then we know we’re doing right by mom. So, that’s one of the main things and actually spells PHAM, so that wasn’t actually intended by design. It just worked out. PHAM with the P-H.
Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
Sometimes they have fun acronyms and you nailed it. You beat me to it. PHAM. That’s cool.
Christine Deehring: (06:10)
That’s right. That’s right. So that’s one of the main things I think, if you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.
Gabe Larsen: (06:26)
I like that. Now, I think some of the things that people struggle with. Because some people come up with big, they get to that step where they come up with some of these core values. It’s actually the ability to implement more, to empower the people to do them. Is there certain, you don’t necessarily need to go through each one, but have you been able to find ways to actually make those values and bring them to life? Is it communication with the team? Is it just highlighting them in a weekly meeting? Is it giving it an award around or what’s been the way to bring those to life and make them so they’re not just the things on the wall?
Christine Deehring: (06:58)
Yeah. Because yeah. I mean, like you can post them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that like that’s the actual culture, right? I mean that’s yeah, a hundred percent. So, for us, I mean I think, we have weekly one-on-ones where we talk about core values. That’s how your performance is reviewed. It’s all around core values. It’s all driven around that. And then we also do gift cards. So, if someone exceeds in core values and they exceed their metrics and they’re nominated for a gift card award that we do every week. So, there’s ways to reinforce it, but I mean, I think that when you start off with your core values and you make your hiring decisions based on those core values you make all the decisions within the company, as long as that’s the cornerstone of why you make those decisions, then it’s easy and everyone gets it and everybody’s on par with it. Yep.
Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
Yeah, I like that one. The one that I find the most intriguing at the moment is the mom first, what was it called? How did you phrase that again?
Christine Deehring: (07:55)
Mom first. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Okay, because it sounded like, and again I’m thinking about some of the posts you guys have. You’ve done some fun things to kind of, it’s not just, “Here’s a box, good luck,” right? There’s these little cherry on tops, these little extra things you guys have done to make it personalized, make it kind of extra, make it feel like you care more. Do you mind sharing a couple of those that may come to mind?
Christine Deehring: (08:21)
Yeah, absolutely. So, we call all of our subscribers personally. So, when you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do necessarily with the subscription. It’s more of like a, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” Like we know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s like, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. Like, if you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.” Yeah. Like, whatever you need –
Gabe Larsen: (08:58)
Have there been some weird experiences where you’ve done something like that, where someone’s been like, “I’m really not doing well, I’m craving something,” and you ordered fries or something like that?
Christine Deehring: (09:07)
Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! A hundred percent. I mean, yes. And that’s why our moms love us and what’s really cool, especially when we make those connections with mom. I think what’s so exciting to see is even in our customer experience room, I mean like, we have so many sonogram photos, so many pictures that moms have sent in. If a mom signs up with us and she’s with us her whole pregnancy and finally, she has her baby, it’s an exciting time that we all celebrate. We all get excited about and then she sends us pictures and we put them up on this wall and that’s really exciting when you know that you’ve made that connection. [Inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (09:47)
Cool, cool. So they actually send you, just by a chance, they’ll send you a picture and you’ve kind of thrown it on the wall in the customer experience room, you said?
Christine Deehring: (09:56)
Gabe Larsen: (09:56)
Awesome. I want to highlight though, the phone call. Because I do feel like, it is a small, well maybe it’s not a small thing, but this proactive customer support or proactive customer experience feels like it’s just a hot trend or a real differentiator. We’re so used to taking inbound query or the chat query or the email inquiry or the ticket, but actually taking the time to go outbound, whether it’s a challenge, a new cut, I feel like that’s pretty different. And it sounds like people appreciated that a lot.
Christine Deehring: (10:31)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that we’ve done too, is we have a very direct feedback loop with our customer experience team. And so I think it’s super, super important, especially as you roll out new initiatives, as you’re trying and testing things, as you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s resonating with mom and what she wants, having that contact with your customer directly and asking those questions and being in that feedback loop is super important. So, I know, recently we rolled out a VIP program. So, any mom that subscribes with us, she gets, depending on how long she’s committed to, she gets a specific discount to our store just for joining our subscription. And that was something that came up from just customer feedback, right? And so it’s definitely nice to have that instant feedback loop so that way you can make changes, you can test things, you can roll new things out just to make sure that you’re really sticking through to that mission.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
No, that is powerful because I think a lot of times as sales and marketing, we don’t listen to our customers enough. You want to, but you don’t get that feedback loop tightened. How have you done that? Is it the channel? I mean, are you guys pretty channel agnostic? Meaning it’s like, hey, when you have this customer experience person, you can communicate them very easily, whether it’s on tech or phone or email, or is it that you have these kind of weekly check-ins or how have you made that feedback loop more fluid?
Christine Deehring: (12:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m actually in touch with customer experience every single day. So, they actually report directly to me, you know what I mean? And we’ve done that by design. Yeah. We’ve done it by design because I think I want to be as close to our moms as possible. And I think that has been super important to our growth, right? Being able to kind of hear what’s going on on the ground. Being able to talk to moms a couple of times a week, like just to make sure that we’re still staying true to that mission, that they feel good, they’re having a great experience and then, you know, asking for ideas, like, “What else would you like to see from Bump Boxes? What other things have you thought about that would be helpful that we could provide?” and I think being that close to customer experience has really been helpful as we’ve grown and scaled and learned along the way.
Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah, sure. Because sometimes that is the hard part, right? Once you kind of lose track of the customer, you lose track of so much of that goodness. How many people, obviously there are challenging times going on and some businesses are up, some businesses are down. As you kind of think about your own business and lessons learned over kind of the last month or two, and we can kind of bring this to a close, what would be feedback or advice you’d give to people who are looking to scale and obviously be successful while times are maybe a little more difficult?
Christine Deehring: (13:30)
Yeah, absolutely. I think, when you’re kind of going through uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that you really need to focus on is over-communicating, right? Because everybody has just a heightened level of stress. I mean, there’s just a lot going on. You don’t know what everyone is going through. And so, I think just keeping that in mind and over-communicating and especially being there for your customer, having those phone conversations, and understanding that it’s quality phone conversations, right? No matter what mom’s going through, if she’s stressed out, talk to her. I think that, definitely as you’re scaling and growing, just over-communicating is always best, especially during uncertain times like these for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
And that’s obviously true for employees as well as customers.
Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
Christine, it’s fun to have you on. It’s a cool, it sounds like you found obviously a fun kind of niche that you guys are really doing well in and so congrats on that. Solving problems, making customers happy. It’s always fun to kind of see that happen. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about Bump Boxes or your story, what’s the best way to do that? What would you recommend?
Christine Deehring: (14:42)
Yeah! Absolutely. So you can check out bumpboxes.com. You can always shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Seriously.
Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
I love that and that’s such a cool name by the way. Kudos on like a very catchy name. That was it.
Christine Deehring: (14:59)
Thank you. Thanks. Appreciate it.
Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Well, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Christine Deehring: (15:05)
Yeah. Thanks, Gabe. Have a good one.
Exit Voice: (15:12)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited to discuss different tactics to make CX teams successful during challenging times. Learn how each leader has trained their teams to provide exceptional customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, discusses how teams are adapting to the new temporary normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are coming to CX agents in states of heightened anxiety and stress and in turn, the CX agents are overwhelmed in their workload. For teams to cope in the pandemic landscape, Vikas has helped them to understand the importance of human-to-human interaction. He notes, “So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.” He goes on to encourage teams to ask what they can do for the customer beyond just quickly responding to conversations. Strategies such as creative problem solving can effectively guide the customer to the best result. Ultimately, showing the customer genuine empathy through human-to-human interactions is what cultivates lasting customer loyalty and happier customers.
Focusing on What Can Be Controlled
Rob Young, Director of Customer Support at Bamboo HR, highlights the need for attainable and realistic customer service standards for CX teams. He says, “Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company,” in reference to what CX teams can do to stay motivated during these challenging times. To help CX teams accomplish the best possible outcomes, he adds that proactive communication between the team member and the customer is the key to success. Methods such as asking specific questions will garner specific answers, effectively leading to a desired end result. He further discusses how when CX agents focus on what they can control in their day-to-day business responsibilities, it sets the precedent for more positive and impactful customer service interactions.
Three Methods to Drive CX Success
Jamie Whited, expert consultant in Client Service and Experience, emphasizes three crucial things each CX team needs to successfully deliver the best customer service. The first is optimism. We are living in an ever changing world with this pandemic and Jamie believes that CX teams should embrace this new normal with optimism. As optimism is often infectious, it has the possibility to spread and cause an overall positive effect on the outcomes of CX interactions. The second point is innovation. Something that applies to all companies is the possibility to innovate and adapt when opportunities arise. To further expand on this second point, she says, “There’s a client I work with that’s … doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company.” This is an especially useful tactic when companies are seeking to promote internal growth and reinvest in their existing employees. Additionally, the third point is to move quickly. With each new innovation, companies have to move quickly to ensure company growth and continued success. Jamie believes these three tactics are extremely useful and applicable to all companies.
To learn more about how CX leaders are winning during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast we’re on LinkedIn live. I’m excited. These guys know I’m excited. With so much digital going on. This is an audience we wanted to make sure we tapped into. In today’s a very specifically relevant topic. As we talk about how customer service leaders are winning in these challenging times. Now, I always have something to say, but I felt like it would be best to mix that up a little bit and have some other thought leaders, practitioners in the space, bring their knowledge to the forefront as well. And so real quick, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri who’s the SVP of sales and CX here at Kustomer. We’ve got Rob Young who’s a Director of Customer Support at a great company called BambooHR. And then we got Jamie Whited who is currently an expert consultant in client service and client experience. So guys, thanks so much for joining. Why don’t we take just 30 seconds and have you guys introduce yourself. Jamie, can we start with you?
Jamie Whited: (01:22)
Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. It’s a pleasure to virtually be together with you today. My name is Jamie Whited and I’m a client service leader and client experience consultant. I have over 15 years of experience building and leading teams in customer service, client success, client experience, and business process improvement. I’m incredibly passionate about people, problem-solving data and creating an unforgettable customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. All right, Rob, over to you.
Rob Young: (01:49)
Yeah. Thanks, a pleasure to be here. I love seeing faces even if it is virtually. Appreciate the invite. Rob Young, I lead our customer support teams at Bamboo HR. I’ve been leading customer support or customer success teams for a little over 15 years. Won’t tell you how much over, but we’ll just go with a little over for now.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I love it. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:14)
Yeah, pleasure to meet everyone. Over 20 years of being in the contact center world, everything from implementing solutions to training agents, and now here at Kustomer over the last three years where I’m responsible for sales and customer experience. And for us customer experience means a combination of professional services, customer success, and of course our support team as well.
Gabe Larsen: (02:39)
Yeah, yeah, multithreaded there. So and last but not least you have myself. I have zero years of experience. No, obviously, I’ve got a little bit of experience, but in a slightly different environment, I run the growth program here over at Kustomer, which mostly consists of our marketing and our business development reps. So excited to get going. Let’s start big picture. You guys, world changed obviously, just in the last two, three, four weeks, depending on where you were and why you were potentially operating in different places. Rob, let’s start with you. Big picture, how did it change from four weeks ago to now with all that’s going on with the virus, the economy, et cetera?
Rob Young: (03:21)
Yeah. So, aside from the large geographic chain, right, our entire workforce is now at home and we’re socially distant from one another. So that is a massive change and that norm, that switched very quickly for us. And so on top of that, we have individual personal lives have also been turned upside down, which is a lot of what we’re dealing with with both our customers and our team members, right? So we’ve gotta be conscious of, we have children or spouses and significant others, or in some cases, roommates that are all trying to get their work and their school done in the same household. So that’s been a big change. It’s been hard to get our heads around just from a work environment, but also from a social, kind of emotional environment as well.
Gabe Larsen: (04:14)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, Jamie, you’re talking to a lot of companies out here in your role. What are you seeing? What would you add to that?
Jamie Whited: (04:21)
Yeah, I would add to that some of the companies that I work with were not big fans of remote working, so they were not prepared for that. Other companies who love remote working, so they were fully prepared for that. Unfortunately, some of the companies I’m working with, they’ve had to have their call centers shut down. They’re international and they are not prepared. So their frontline service was down for a while. Their disaster recovery plans did not include that. Leading industries have toppled overnight and we’re seeing that impact on some of the companies that I work with. At the end of the day, as Rob mentioned, kids are also forced to stay home and have to learn how to go to school remotely. As a parent of four, in middle school and high school, it’s definitely been an interesting adaptation there in addition to working with my quoty-finger ‘colleagues’.
Gabe Larsen: (05:11)
Oh my goodness. You have four. I thought I had the most out of this group, but Rob don’t you have a couple of kids? You have a couple of kids too.
Rob Young: (05:17)
Yeah. High school, middle school, elementary, just the whole gamut there.
Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Oh man, this is the bad group. I think all of us are feeling that pain as we move into homeschool. Vikas, let’s go. Let’s kind of end with your thoughts. Anything you’d add, even from your own experience or some of the customers that you’re dealing with?
Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us is we were able to make the move to work from home pretty seamlessly from a tech perspective. But that’s just, that’s a fraction of the overall change management, right? The big thing is how people are adjusting to their new work environment, because there is that there are certain benefits to being co-located and being able to grab a peer and talk about something, a problem that a customer may be having that you’re trying to resolve, and so on. And then the very natural, as Jamie was saying, some of us that are parents are adjusting to that, but even for other folks, they’re dealing with everything from, “I’m now spending more time with a roommate than I ever really expected to spend,” right, “we basically share an apartment.” And maybe people dealing with their significant other more time than they actually ever planned on spending with them and having to deal with that. So there’s a lot of that element, especially from a leadership perspective, that we’re trying to deal with. So the tech was easy. We always have to remember, and I always remind people in the support world, it’s a human, we used to call it bums in seats. It’s the human beings that really are the core of it. And so really dealing with that side of it is what we’re focused on.
Gabe Larsen: (07:00)
Yeah. I love that. So let’s talk through that. I mean, I love kind of the level setting of: you got work from home challenges, you’ve got obviously infrastructure challenges, you’ve got parenting challenges. As we move forward, obviously the world has changed. I want to hear some of the strategies you’ve now tried to implement or coach people on to see if you can’t get a little better, make it a little bit better for your employees and your customers. Jamie, maybe let’s start with you. Where do you go from here with all these challenges?
Jamie Whited: (07:31)
Yeah, so I would probably say my top three that I’m looking at are first and foremost optimism. We have to remember, this is not going to last forever, but we have to accept the current new norm and be able to embrace it with optimism. A lot of people struggle with that. So, if we can lead with that and help influence others to feel that same way, I think it’ll just be a trickle down effect in a really positive way. I would say secondly, is innovation. We got to have innovative solutioning for all the problems that we face as customer service leaders. Yes, tech is probably the easiest, infrastructure a little bit harder sometimes depending on how your site is set up. But it’s everything from, if somebody had a problem, they would turn around and look at their colleague. Now they’ve got to wait for a response on Slack or they have to text them. They have to call them. So their response levels are going down. So how do we approach that? We just have to get innovative with what we do and how we do it. It’s an opportunity for us to adapt quickly trying new fun methods that maybe nobody wanted to try before. And even, how do we complete our day-to-day responsibilities in a new way? And then I’d say lastly, we have to move fast and we have to pivot quick because some of these new methodologies are not going to work. The sooner we recognize them, we pivot very quickly and try something else so that our companies and our employees and ourselves continue to grow and have the company day-to-day business continue.
Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, that’s actually trying this and this LinkedIn live, right? I mean, that’s one of the things we were wanting to try fast and see if it worked and goes out. And how do you interact differently with your customers? Can you get a quick answer and then if it works great, if not, maybe you throw it in the garbage and try something new. Vikas, what would you kind of add to that? From strategies to see if you can operate more successfully in this new normal?
Vikas Bhambri: (09:13)
Yeah, well look, I think at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s anytime you’re talking about customer service, you’re talking about the two sides of the equation and in the middle of it, as Jamie said, it’s that empathy and the empathy needs to be extended both to your team, the agents or the ninjas, or the gurus, whatever you call them and then your customers, right? Because both sides, don’t forget, there’s that element as well. Your customers also are in a heightened sense of stress and frustration, right? And it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether you’re in the software business, like we’re at at Kustomer or you’re in food delivery or you’re in pharma delivery or whatever it is, right? So I think that’s the key thing is there’s two sides of that equation and once again from a leadership perspective is having empathy with both sides and the education, so the education for me to make sure my team is aware. Look, customers are also dealing with this new temporary norm, and they’re going to be a heightened level of frustration. So you may get somebody who’s normally very easy going and easy to work with might be a bit more challenging. And on the same time, I actually had to coach a customer to tell them, “Look, I know you had a rough interaction with one of my folks, but they’re also in a heightened level of stress.” So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all going to have to be a little bit more patient if some of these things go on, but that’s what I think we’re starting to see that Jamie mentioned that some of these industries that are struggling with more cues, more hits, people are getting more frustrated because they want to change their flights. They want to do stuff and obviously that makes a little bit difficult. Rob, it sounded like from your guys’ standpoint, you guys had some teams that were being bombarded, like getting more requests, and then you had some teams, which I think is an interesting problem, that were actually slowing down. Like they’re not getting the service requests. How have you, is that true? And if so, how have you handled that?
Rob Young: (11:28)
Yeah. It is true, which has been a really interesting thing to try and sort out. So we’ve had to, first of all, the communication is just key, right? We’ve had to step up communication with customers and of course with our reps and then helping them be okay with change, like moving workloads around. We’ve had to shuffle some workloads to try and help teams that are just buried with requests and then teams that those requests are just trickling in. So that’s tactically, we’ve had to do that for sure, but also at a higher level helping our reps be okay with change and we’re pulling together, we’re all on the same team. We provide software and support for HR professionals and I don’t like the abbreviation of HR because you forget the human side, right? It’s Human Resources. So we’ve got to step up the human side as we continue in this new norm, for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (12:31)
And do you feel like, this is actually a question from the audience, this is kind of a cool feature in here, we got a question just about how your customers are reacting. Are you finding that your customers are being more empathetic or are people, I mean, Vikas you were kind of alluding to this a little bit, but are your customers more anxious? They’re more impatient? Rob, maybe let’s start with you and then we’ll go around.
Rob Young: (12:53)
Yeah. So, normally we ask, “How are you doing today?” That doesn’t cut it either with our team or with our customers anymore. So we’re instructing leadership and our frontline reps to ask specific questions. “How are you managing your workforce now? How is your life at home with your spouse or your significant other, your children going?” So asking very specific questions, “How are you doing?” It’s odd. We’re all doing okay. That doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Trying to get very specific answers in areas that we can then focus on and help. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Oh, I love that. Vikas. Your side of it. Anything, first of all, do you feel like customers in general are being more empatheti? And if they’re not, how are you managing that contextual language? Kind of like Rob said, are you trying to open it up and have people be a little more friendly? How do you navigate around that?
Vikas Bhambri: (13:49)
Yeah, I think customers themselves, we’ll look at the end of the day where we’re all human beings, I think they’re even, agents are saying, or my team is saying that, they’re asking, how am I doing? Which normally, if I’ve got an issue with software, I’m not going to necessarily have those niceties, right? And so even the person who’s coming in with the inquiry’s like, “How are you doing?” And I think on the flip side, the team is making sure that they’re understanding what the current environment is that somebody is dealing from. So you’ve got this particular issue, how are you operating? So I think asking a bit more than just jumping right into the thick of the problem that the individual’s having.
Gabe Larsen: (14:40)
Yeah. And Jamie let’s finish with you with this one. I mean, and maybe it’s just a recommendation. It feels like contextual messaging is super important. Whether your customers are being more empathetic or maybe they are being less, any advice you’d give out to people about how you should be approaching that conversation as they come in?
Jamie Whited: (15:00)
Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what Rob and Vikas also said earlier, is that we can only control how we react. I have one company that works a hundred percent with the cruise lines who was heavily impacted. So there are people who’ve lost their jobs or people who are now off the ship. They’re not having any income coming in. So a little problem is turning into a bigger problem and they’re coming unfortunately, very angry and just losing patience. So, we told the teams, you can only control your reactions. If somebody is coming at you like that in a very frustrated manner, then you turn around and you just give them the biggest virtual hug and empathy that you can potentially give them, retell them you understand where they’re coming from, and you are so sorry for their loss, and that we’re going to do everything we can to make this right for you. And that seems to obviously calm people down in pretty much any industry. There are other companies where people are being a lot more empathetic and compassionate. So we’re seeing a little bit of both, depending on the company and the industry.
Gabe Larsen: (16:01)
I love that. So one question that has come up and it’s actually posted here by one of the team members, Rob, you were just touching on it, but for those who are experiencing actually lower volume in service requests, because things are slowed down for them because now the economy has been hitting, creative ideas to keep people busy? I mean, obviously we don’t want to go to the furlough conversation or things like that and so company’s like, “How do I still make these people effective?” Vikas well, let’s start with you Vikas. Quick feedback on how you think you can get other people who are slow moving?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:34)
Yeah, that’s the inverse problem, right? Is you don’t have enough work and the first thing that anybody’s going to think of if they’re sitting in at home is at what point does a company say they no longer need me because there’s no volume, right? If you’re in that situation. So to me, once again, we have to think, go support holistically and part of support is about things like your knowledge base, right? And things like that. So now if there is latency or there’s bandwidth within the team, how can we optimize ourselves? Because at the end of the day, I think Jamie mentioned this and I think it’s very important for everybody to be cognizant of this, this is not the new norm. This is the new temporary norm, right? And so when we go back to quote/unquote business as usual, we will have those inquiries. So how do we optimize for that eventuality? So can we use people from the team to create new knowledge base articles, new FAQ’s, new training guides, new, obviously I’m talking about it from a software business, but it applies to a lot of other industries as well, right? How tos, things like that. So I think there’s plenty to do when we think about the support realm holistically and what the can be doing beyond just responding to conversations coming in from the customers.
Gabe Larsen: (17:55)
Yeah. Rob, anything you found or any quick tips or tactics you’ve applied?
Rob Young: (17:59)
Yeah, probably two things there. One is proactive communication, right? We are using some of our staff as almost CSMs to reach out. The CSMs are being inundated and so we have a switch that kind of proactive outreach to our customers raising our support reps to manage a lot of that workload.
Gabe Larsen: (18:23)
I think that’s important. This proactive, I think whether that needs to be happening, even if people aren’t experiencing downtime. All right. One more thing. I kind of want to leave the audience with, because definitely there’s an employee part of this and you guys have touched on it just a little bit, but maybe you could just give one tip for the, it seems like across the board, right? A lot of these reps are, in some cases nervous, some cases they’re overloaded, some cases they’re slowed down. Generally speaking, they’re at home and they’re feeling sometimes a little more nervous or apprehensive. What have you been able to do to try to drive a little bit more security, belief in the vision of your company, keep them on the boat, because again, they’re important for the overall vision and mission of the company. So let’s go through, maybe we can kind of end with this. Jamie, do you want to start?
Jamie Whited: (19:12)
Yeah, I would probably say, there’s a client I work with that’s retail and it’s not necessary to what’s going on right now. They’re doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company. They’re also doing education, so they’re showing them that they are data lean six Sigma. So they’re just reinvesting in their employees.
Gabe Larsen: (19:36)
Yeah. I love that. Finding a way in this, while it’s slowed down, let’s actually find a way to reinvest. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:43)
Yeah. Boy, if I see one more picture of a Zoom, a happy hour and those are great, don’t –
Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
– one of those, so watch it, dude.
Vikas Bhambri: (19:55)
Yeah. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Look, those are all great. But I think what I’m hearing from the team really is helpful. If you normally do weekly one-on-ones, doing daily one-on-ones, daily stand-ups, making sure, especially from a leadership perspective, sometimes we can, especially I’m guilty of it, Slack is not my friend at all times, especially when I’m super busy, but being more aware –
Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
– He is really slow on Slack.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
Right. Just being super aware of Slack, right? And being hyperresponsive. So I think those are some of the things that I think any team member would appreciate.
Gabe Larsen: (20:36)
It’s almost an over-communicate, whatever you were doing, almost double it. Rob, we’ll end with you here.
Rob Young: (20:42)
Yeah. Specifically, I love what’s been said about focusing on what we can control, right? If we focus on what we can control, one of our core values at Bamboo HR is make it count. Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company and leave the rest outside.
Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
I love this. Great. Alrighty. Well, thanks Rob for joining. Jamie, thanks for joining. Vikas, thanks for joining. Such an important talk track, as we all try to figure this out. So I thought it’d be fun to bring you together. People who are really working in it, doing it, living it, breathing it to give some tips and tactical advice. So I hope the audience enjoyed it and have a fantastic day.
Rob Young: (21:23)
Thank you. Take care.
Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Exit Voice: (21:31)
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If the past year has taught the CX world anything, it’s that building and maintaining customer relationships is the key to survival during tough times. In fact, according to recent Kustomer research, empathetic customer service was the most valued customer service attribute during the global pandemic. Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on ticketing systems like Zendesk, where each new interaction is treated as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. This old model of customer service makes it nearly impossible to personalize a customer’s experience and treat them as a valued individual, with thoughts, feelings and feedback.
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