How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre, Jr.

How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Laurent Pierre from Microsoft Azure to learn the secrets to making a CX team valuable. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Laurent and his team at Azure use customer-centric strategies to create the best experience.

Guiding Customers to Solutions Using Empathy

No longer are the days of bank teller-esque transactions where each experience is done as quickly as possible with little consideration for customer satisfaction. Situations like these leave the customer feeling like another ticket number or a tick mark while the teller counts down the minutes until they’re off for the day. Many companies, particularly in the tech sector, recognize that there needs to be a radical shift in how they approach modern CX. Azure is a branch of Microsoft that was created for the benefit of the customer through every step of their journey. Laurent attributes its success to the mindset of being customer obsessed since the very beginning and carrying that concept throughout the entirety of the brand’s decisions. Keeping the customer in mind or being truly customer obsessed means that each team member has empathy and passion for solving problems and guiding people to solutions. Rather than just solving the initial problem, Laurent emphasizes the importance of being proactive for the customer. “We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.’” A proactive approach gives companies a huge advantage over the competition because it shows the customers how much the brand cares about their experience and what they’re willing to do to keep them around for the long haul.

Employee Experience: The Missing Ingredient

A key component to the ultimate customer experience that many companies often forget is the employee experience (EX). This is just as important as CX in many ways. Providing an excellent EX starts with hiring the right talent. This is where leaders can make a difference in the employee experience early on by selecting the kind of people they want on their team. “I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once.” From there, it’s easy for leaders to deliver EX that boost office morale and employee satisfaction with their hand picked team of agents, further leading to higher NPS scores and customer loyalty. The employee experience is an integral part of CX because if your employees aren’t happy, your customers surely won’t be happy either. We’ve all been there, waiting on the phone for forever, hoping an agent picks up soon, only to be met with someone on the other end of the line who sounds like they couldn’t care less about the product issues. A little bit of friendliness goes a long way with customers and when they feel like their problems have been addressed and listened to, they’re more likely to continue shopping with your brand. When employees are passionate about the company, their role, the product, and the customer, lasting success happens as a result.

Partnering with Leaders Across the Board

Customer experience shouldn’t be the role of solely the CX team, rather, leaders from different departments should consider joining forces with leaders from CX and finding ways to incorporate the customer into all aspects of business decisions. Aligning departments is a great tactic to get the company as a whole on the same page of customer expectations. For Laurent, he has members of the Sales team jump on calls with Support and identify gaps where their software doesn’t work for the consumer. “You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from end to end and make sure that everyone is on the same page about it. Make sure that everyone is engaged so you have a customer for life.” By involving people who manage different branches of the company, it builds a sense of empathy for the customer and for the CX team on a much larger scale. At the end of the day, we’re all human and each customer interaction should be treated with a compassionate response.

To learn more about Laurent’s work and how to add value to CX, 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 Drive Business Value With Your CX Team | Laurent Pierre

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’ve got a fun talk track. We’re going to be talking about CX transformation, really this idea of driving business value with your CX team and to do that, we’ve got a special guest: Laurent Pierre. I’ve been calling, I’ve been saying that wrong and he corrected me just a minute ago in a true Americano/American accent or whatever. But do you mind just taking a minute and introducing yourself? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Laurent Pierre: (00:43)
Sure. Hi, my name is Laurent Pierre. I’m the general manager for Azure CXP and that’s the customer experience wing in engineering for Azure. I joined here about 10 months ago after a 14 year stint at IBM.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Awesome. I’m excited. I think you’ve got a fun background. It would be fun to tap into that, talk about CX. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:04)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer. Gabe’s partner in crime.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Awesome. Then I’m Gabe. Run growth here at Kustomer. So let’s dive in. I’m wanting to talk big picture and start with this. It does seem like when it comes, I’m hearing this more and more, that CX, we are just having a hard time figuring out how to talk to the CEO and really drive that kind of business value. They talk about things like CSAT, they talk about things like NPS and they are important often, but when they go and try to get money or they try to get buy in from that executive level, sometimes that CEO is like, “What does NPS mean? I talk dollars and cents, like, how is this affecting our top, the bottom line?” And there is a little bit of a disconnect. Vikas, I wanted to maybe start with you. What would you add to this? I mean, you play a bulk here as a CX leader and you had executive experience. Why is this? Is this a problem? Why is it a problem?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
I think it goes back to the very nature of looking at a contact center customer experience team, a call center. And that, I think, ties to a very antiquated way of thinking about how you do business with your customer. It’s a transaction, right? I do a transaction. I sell you something and in a nirvana world, I never see or hear from you again, right? And, oh my goodness, you have a problem. And now you want to reach out to my team, you know what? I just want them to solve it and I want them to make you go away. So I think that that kind of paradigm is shifted because at the end of the day now, every business is a subscription business. Every customer has to have high lifetime value because we, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. You’re spending so much to acquire that customer on the front end then if you don’t sell them more or you don’t retain them, you’ve lost money on that. It doesn’t matter that they bought something from you. So now, it’s not that I need these people to actually sell anything necessarily, if they don’t deliver that exceptional experience, I won’t be able to ever sell that customer again. That is –

Gabe Larsen: (03:17)
I like that framing. Laurent, how would you kind of think about this, Laurent? I mean you, big picture. How should CX teams be thinking about driving that value or what, is this a problem you’ve seen?

Laurent Pierre: (03:27)
Absolutely. It’s a great question because when I look at where I, when I started in the industry 20 some years ago, it was all about the metrics and I always hate using this phrase but it fits here, where often sales teams are referred to as coin operated people, right? And so one of the things I learned over time is that you have to pull the sales team into the process and you have to understand what their targets are. Not only from a number perspective, but from a customer view of one of their projects. And so, as I evolved and grew up in support, I realized that, let’s park the metrics. Let’s get involved with the customer, understand their projects, connect with the services team that’s delivering it because oftentimes, we find customers spend ten, 20, 30 million dollars, but they don’t have the skillset to do it.

Laurent Pierre: (04:14)
And so what we ended up doing is we started taking our support team leaders and plugging them into the monthly calls with the sales teams. Then in addition to that, we started identifying gaps where the customer purchased technology, but couldn’t maintain it, which ended up in a support call, which ended up in a bad experience, which also ended in customers coming to support to solve things that should have been solved via services. And so if you don’t connect those dots along the way, through the CX journey, you’re going to have multiple touch points that are problematic, full of friction, and then ending up with a customer who says, “Give me my money back.”

Vikas Bhambri: (04:50)
Right and you know this, Laurent, in the early days, particularly in software, right, salespeoples’ mentality was, and literally, “I’m shipping you a disk then I’m done.” And I remember in the early days of my career, I was a sucker who was left [inaudible]. It was a nightmare because the customer was like, “Wait, this is what he or she told me it did. Oh, wait, I have these three other requirements that aren’t addressed here and all of those other things.” But at the end of the day it was a, I mean, what were they going to do? Like sending the disc back? No, but now as a service world, it’s like, “Wait a minute. If you don’t have what I need, I either won’t renew or even worse, I’ll call out material breach and I’ll just shut you down completely.”

Laurent Pierre: (05:35)
Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Do you feel, Laurent, I want to go into some of the details that you’re talking about, how do you start to connect that business? How do you get the value to the forefront? And some of the ways and methods you found this to be successful in previous lives or in your current life? You talked about a couple of them, but maybe start at the top. What, how do you, where do you, where would you start to advise people to start as they want to get down to this kind of business value?

Laurent Pierre: (06:01)
I think the biggest thing is identifying and knowing where you are in your CX maturity model and your journey, right? Some people are just getting started. Some people are dabbling. Some are pretty mature. You have your startups, your mid-size companies, and you have large companies like Microsoft. And so you often have a lot of things that are culturally based, but then when you start looking at it, you have to tie the CX program to the business objectives, right? Because in most cases, I’ve been at companies where the CX budget was a million dollars and they said, “Good luck, Laurent.” I’ve been at places where it’s ten, I’ve been at places where it’s been 20 million. And each time when finance comes back and says, “Okay, what did we get for the ten million dollars we just gave Laurent to run CX?” And so what we ended up doing is we started attaching ourselves to those projects where we were influencing what was happening quarter by quarter.

Laurent Pierre: (06:47)
So it wasn’t enough to wait until the end of the year to get funded. Every quarter, we were sitting there with the sales team, identifying the projects, the digital transformation projects with the customers, and then looking at how we can partner with education and services. And then what we started doing was had the sales team actually tag in the system our influence from a CX perspective. And so sometimes a customer didn’t have, for example, the highest level of support and they needed it. So I just partnered with the sales team and said, “You know what, I’m going to give you my best guy and put a SWAT team together. Anything that happens this quarter, our SWAT teams are going to swarm on top of it and make sure that it’s not an impediment to close the deal.” And as we started doing that, we started finding new ways to engage with the customer. And customers actually started inviting us to the technology selection and other vendors were there as well. And so that’s what we started doing to change the dynamic and not see us just as the break-fix reactive support organization.

Gabe Larsen: (07:43)
I like it. I do feel like if you told most CX leaders, one of the keys to driving value is to go hang out with salespeople, I don’t know if they’d like that. Those two are sometimes oil and water. What do you say to that, Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:57)
Well, look, we’ve taken a very unique approach at Kustomer. At Kustomer, the buck stops with me. Sales and CX report into one leader. Now that might not necessarily be operationally feasible that a company like Microsoft or a large-size company like that, but it’s more around the premise, right? For us, the reason we did this and we did this intentionally when we set up the organization, was having one throat to choke or hand to shake. It says, I own the customer journey from beginning to end, right? From the moment we have that first discovery call all the way through their life cycle, that partnership being cemented, but more importantly, as a software service business, that continuing iteration with our customer success team, our support professional services team, and actually our sales team as well because our sales team is also always engaged.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:52)
For me, having that end to end leadership and visibility is extremely important, particularly in a software service business. But as I said earlier, whether you know it or not, and if your CEO doesn’t know it, shame on you, every business is now a software as a service. You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from beginning to end and making sure that every piece of the puzzle, everybody on your side and the customer side, as in forwarded, is engaged in how we want to make sure that we have a truly a customer for life, or look at that lifetime value also.

Gabe Larsen: (09:27)
I do think that will [inaudible]. Bringing the post-sales into that sales role and finding tangible ways to do it, like you’re saying, Laurent, because I think some people may say, “I get it but every week the role gets a little bit harder than tagging actually records or being part of the conversation, or actually getting part of the sales conversation.” Wherever it happens, that’s a differentiator of vendors, to your point, didn’t have that. I love it. Where do you go next? What other ones have you found that drive that value?

Laurent Pierre: (09:56)
So, I think the biggest thing for me is I always tell folks when we’re having these debates and discussions that you can’t deliver customer experience without EX. So, you can’t deliver CX without EX. And so if your employees are not understanding the process, they’re not skilled, they’re telling the customer some wacky things on the phone that really upset them, right? Just the little, the smallest things that you would think wouldn’t upset them would kill a deal. And so one of the things that we’re looking at, as well as making sure that our employees are equipped to deal with these enterprise-level challenges, these mission critical things that they know the customer, know the product, and probably one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from customers is like, “Every time I call the support center, I have to, re-explain my environment. I have to re-explain my architecture.” And so that’s why it becomes important to understand your customer. Segment them but also align industry-related technologists that can speak not only the technical language, but the business language, whether you’re in banking or retail or manufacturing and aligning those together.

Gabe Larsen: (10:57)
Wow. Wow. So you’ve actually got the place. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about routing and trying to get the right person to the right person, right employee for the, the right customer to the right employee. But you’ve gone pretty deep on what it sounds like. You’ve gotten the ability where one, we’re trying to motivate the employees, but you’ve gone pretty deep in getting the right person. Technical knowledge, business knowledge, so that when that customer is actually interfacing with the employee, it’s a very real conversation because there’s a lot of knowledge transfer happening. Is that, did I get that?

Laurent Pierre: (11:27)
That’s exactly right. And so, for example, in retail, we have Black Friday coming up. For during the summer, we have these flash sales on their websites or throughout the year and aligning people who understand what that looks like and the October, November, December months are make or break for a lot of retail customers. You can’t afford to have a subscription down or a service down. So you have to align people with plan A, B and C to make sure if a region goes down or there’s a place impacted, that we are quickly there. And so monitoring and being proactive. Gone are the days of let’s wait for the case to come in to solve it. We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.” And that’s what I’m finding. Even here at Microsoft. Again, I’ve been here 10 months, but those are the kind of things that we’re putting in place and are in place in many areas.

Gabe Larsen: (12:23)
Yeah, interesting. I wonder, sometime you mentioned the Microsoft thing and I think one, excuse, you probably hear, Vikas, you’re doing a little better at saying this than I am, but it’s well, yeah, we’re at Microsoft, so everything is possible, you know? I mean, you can throw resources at it. I don’t have that ability to be flexible, be proactive. How would you respond to that statement? I don’t know if it’s, I don’t believe it’s true, but it’s not always just about the brand and the resources. It’s gotta be something else.

Laurent Pierre: (12:53)
So, I mean, for me, I go back to when I worked for a a hundred million dollar company 20 years ago, and there’s smaller, maybe 300 people worldwide, right? And basically at that time, we didn’t have the resources. And as a matter of fact, we had to be creative with the small resources that we had. And so for example, to ask a customer who just spent a million dollars, a small business, on software to spend another $200,000 for premium support to get a technical account manager, was often not feasible. There was always this little gray area of, I’d like to have it, but I can’t afford it. So it was, we said, “You know what, let’s give them 60 days as they’re coming up or whatever time frame it needs to fill that gap, get them on the tracks and get them into a steady state. And then if they can afford it later, great.” If not, we disengaged and let them go to the regular process, but we don’t want to drain them as well.

Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
I notice all the time, people making excuses. I don’t want to use that word, excuses, for not delivering a great customer experience because we don’t have the resources. We don’t have, how do you react to something like that? How do you coach people through it?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:57)
You know this, we’re not Microsoft, but I didn’t get to finish yet. Here’s the key thing. At a company at our stage, versus even at Microsoft, it’s all about the mentality and how you’re thinking about it. And I’m sure Laurent’s only been at Microsoft for ten months, but I think anybody who’s read what’s in the public domain understands that there has been a fundamental shift at Microsoft. The thing we think about the customer experience, particularly under Nadella, right, the transformation that Microsoft is going through. We at Kustomer, by the very nature of our business and our mission from day one, if our mission is to help brands deliver amazing customer experience, then we as a company, we’re customer obsessed from day one. So, as I said before, we very proactively thought about even the leadership structure and the organizational structure, but then mapping out that customer journey, and that customer journey is constantly iterating on it as our customers change. They grow, we go global, we have to do different things. And then maturing each of the functions. The sales function and how they think about selling, the professional services team, the customer success and support, boosts that mentality of how will you really think what is the currency in the business? And for us, and it sounds like Microsoft as well, currency is that customer. As long as you’re thinking around that, it doesn’t matter whether you have the funding resources of Microsoft or that of Kustomer, or even that of [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (15:41)
I like that. Laurent, I want to come back to you on that. I mean, it does seem like Microsoft in general has kind of shifted from more of a product company to really just a customer obsessed company. I’m putting words in your mouth here a little bit, but let’s go like more of a whole company initiative. Any insights you would add of how companies can turn because, to Vikas’s point, if you don’t have the focus is the customer from the top down, bottom up, sideways in, whatever you want to call it, you just can’t really get there. Any insights in how Microsoft or your division has been able to really bring that to the forefront and execute on it?

Laurent Pierre: (16:17)
Absolutely. So interestingly enough, the division that I joined is specifically too, it was formed specifically to address that question, where we wanted to bring empathy into engineering and support. So understand what the customer’s journey is and not treat the interaction like a bank teller transaction, and no offense to the banking industry, but a transactional way, right? It’s basically, we wanted to get into the journey of the customer, lifting and shifting, understanding what it costs from a skill development standpoint to run their organization. And so our team, basically we start with the customer and Jason Zander, our EVP, has a phrase. “We want our customers to love Azure.” How do we do that, is we make sure that our people, when you talk to them, when you’re emailing them, when you’re engaging, they feel it coming off of our team members and how we’ve done that is we’ve assigned people, specifically to customers to get deep into that journey, not at the surface level, but all the way down to their projects, their delivery, and how that project ties into the business objectives for that particular year or forward.

Gabe Larsen: (17:22)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:24)
I love that you touched on empathy because to me, and you mentioned the employee experience, if your employees aren’t excited and passionate about product, mission, etc., it’s very hard for themselves to deliver empathy well. I think what gets lost in all of this, Gabe, at the day, is push come to shove. We talked about $30 million deals. And this project that, at the end of the day, when this conversation happens, it’s between two human beings.

Laurent Pierre: (17:55)
Yeah, exactly.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:55)
That’s all it is, right? And if somebody in our world, in the customer experience world, more than likely is coming to you because they have a problem. And so how you on the other side are equipped, intelligent and capable also to show them empathy, I understand you’ve got a problem. And I think that whole thing, the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction. I think that a fundamental flaw in this whole thing is that the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction, but at the end of the day, it’s just somebody who wants help. And I think that empathy is extremely critical and kudos to you, Laurent, and your team, for kind of bringing that into the discussion in a tech world, which can sometimes be very unsympathetic.

Laurent Pierre: (18:43)
I agree!

Gabe Larsen: (18:43)
Very no empathy, right? So Laurent, we’ve got a couple of good secrets from you. Before we end, I want to see if we do one more. You talked a little bit about this idea of bringing sales into the conversation. We talked a lot about kind of empathy and employee, bringing the EX to the CX. What other things have you found getting this value to the top and making the CX team just really who they can be?

Laurent Pierre: (19:03)
I think the biggest thing is that when we’re on the phone solving problems or engaging with them online, one of the things that we find is that it’s not enough, again, to fix the problem. You also have to listen to other things that are going on in the background. And so when you fix that one break fixed issue, you say, “Hey, by the way, I also noticed that’s happening. Let me send you some best practices around this so at 2:00 AM when your system goes down, here’s what you can do.“ Second place is education and skilling. Oftentimes that’s also a coin operated part of the business where the education team is trying to sell education services. Throughout the weeks and months we have that material in house. We actually go out and do, we can do some workshops. At one of the companies before Microsoft, we actually went and created a webinar for one of our customers because they were asking for it. They just hired about a hundred people that weren’t skilled in our product. And we said, “You know what, let’s go in there and help them.” And guess what? Our tickets went this way. Our MTF went that way, because we are able to enable them, not that, it was at our cost, but that’s what we identified to say, “You know what, let’s just go get it done to make them better at using our product.”

Gabe Larsen: (20:14)
Yeah. I mean, so it’s a little going above and beyond, right? It’s not –

Laurent Pierre: (20:19)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (20:19)
Not just watching your handle time or whatever, it’s providing, I think, using some, stealing your words, you’d mentioned before, these kind of memorable moments. I just don’t know how you teach that. How the, have you figured out any, I loved your example of the webinar, but it just seems like it’s hard to get CSRs to see those moments or see those things. Because they’re very focused on just solving the problem often and to then go above and beyond, any thoughts on getting people to see more than just the problem at hand?

Laurent Pierre: (20:51)
For sure. So for us, the proof in the pudding was when our NPS shot 30 points after a year of doing this, right? So that got everybody’s attention because that’s unheard of to have something like that happen, but we got it done. And it’s through those things. So in support, what, some of the times, especially when I was at smaller companies, we basically would mark some people and say, “Okay, you’re off the queue, you’re off support. You’re going to go and do these ten minute how to videos.” And we’re going to upload them to their website. We’re going to go through and collect. When I started working with AI at IBM, we said, “Let’s go find out what our customers are reporting issues about every week, the repeatable cases that show up time and time again.” We took our top 30, converted them to videos, and guess what? Those areas of the business, those calls went down. Our video hits on YouTube went to a hundred thousand a month in those same areas, right? And this is something that everyone’s like, “Oh, Laurent. Stop wasting your time. Don’t do this. No one’s going to watch them.” And we start, we saw it steadily ticking. And again, we didn’t ask for extra funding. I just carved out this small team at the time. I think it was maybe 60, 70 people, at the time. I said, “You two, you three, we’re going to go do this little [inaudible] project.” And that’s what, you have to be brave enough to do that. Take the pain in the front and know that the returns are going to be in the end. And if it fails, hey, you fail fast and you start all over again to something new.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:10)
I agree, Laurent. And the one thing I would add to that is for leaders like Laurent that are over these operations is it also starts at the hiring. And the one thing that I look for, in fact, I was on an interview with a potential member of my CX team for a while. I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once, right? It’s like that person who sees like the hose pipe is leaking and just keeps running it out there every day. And it’s like, “Oh, it’s leaking. It just keeps, I’ll just water the lawn longer.” The guy who’s like, “Wait a minute. If I wrap this once I only have to do it for five minutes next time.” That’s the ideal. And that’s, I think something is somewhat unique in the customer experience world. We’re actually looking, I just said it, we’re looking for lazy people who want to solve problems.

Laurent Pierre: (23:10)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:14)
That’s my big giveaway. My little secret.

Gabe Larsen: (23:16)
I was going to say, I don’t know if we should tell people to look for lazy CX. [Inaudible] Like you always do. I love it.

Laurent Pierre: (23:27)
Listen. Hey, I probably would say it definitely the folks at Microsoft might start looking at me a little funny, but I understand completely the sentiment of what you’re trying to say for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Awesome guys. Awesome. Well, as we route today, talking about providing more business value and recognizing that business value from the top down for CX teams, let’s get kind of a closing remark from each of you. Vikas, maybe we’ll start with you then Laurent, we’ll go to you. What would you leave with the audience today, trying to get their CX team to provide more value ultimately to a leadership team that wants that value?

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Look, here’s the thing. You, as a CX leader, you are delivering value to them. That argument is over. The question is how do you then reflect it back to your c-level, your CEO, CFO, COO, whoever it is? I think the key thing to look at, and we’re on a little bit to some of these, NPS is a key metric. Why? Because the more your customers are out there advocating for you when you’re not in the room, guess what? That delivers more prospects in business to the bottom line, right? The other is lifetime value, right? So whether you’re in the tech business like Laurent and myself, and you’re looking at increase in subscription, increase in ARR, et cetera, that’s one piece of it. But regardless is understanding how much more, I don’t care if you’re selling retail goods, garments, whatever it is, how much more is that particular customer applying from us over time that has interacted? It’s almost looking at like an AB task. Customers who never deal with our CX team, what is their level of future acquisition versus those that do engage in it? The data’s all there. It’s in your systems, et cetera. Make sure you can flush it out and articulate it back to your CX team as you look for this investment on a quarterly annual basis.

Gabe Larsen: (25:19)
I love it. Laurent, what would be [inaudible]?

Laurent Pierre: (25:22)
Well, I would add this, as I said before, you can’t deliver CX without a great EX, right? And in addition to that, I would say that when you’re looking at how we’re engaging your customers, you look at personalization, look at creating those memorable moments, and how we tie that back to the business is the CX program has to be linked to how we’re supporting and influencing the revenue generation. If you try to have a CX program and try to sell it only to the customers will feel good, right, it’s not going to be enough. You need to translate that into, “Oh, by the way, we’re doing this to reduce costs here, increase efficiencies there, and also make sure that that end to end customer journey is something that they will tell everyone else about. Have our stock software be sticky in their environment and make sure that they have a low customer effort score across the board.”

Gabe Larsen: (26:12)
I love that. I love tying it into some revenue streams. That’s a fantastic idea and something I think we can all do a little bit better at. So, Laurent, thanks for joining in. Really appreciate the talk track. Vikas, as always, really appreciates you. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Laurent Pierre: (26:23)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (26:30)
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Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri TW

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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.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri

TRANSCRIPT
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)
Love it.

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)
Okay, sorry.

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)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

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)
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