Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Pam O’Neal from Kustomer. As the Senior Marketing Director at Kustomer, Pam is experienced in social commerce and she spills the secrets on how to take advantage of this tool in your business. Learn more by listening to the podcast below.

E-Commerce for the Social World

The new world of commerce is being steered by social media, especially with consumer habits having turned more digital during the previous year. The power of social media is tremendous – everything is digitized, from friendships to commerce. When social platforms were blowing up, many businesses took to these platforms to relate to their customers on a deeper level and to advertise in a way that was more integrated and personalized. Social commerce changes the way brands create relationships with their customers. If you spend any time on apps like Instagram or Facebook, more than likely you’ll see ads for products from your recent Google searches. This is no accident, many companies use these platforms for this purpose. So, how can CX get its turn on social media? For Pam, it’s a great opportunity for leaders to take advantage because it offers a seamless experience between customer and brand. Leaders inexperienced in this field often wonder how to get started when there are so many social platforms on the web. “How are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world?” Pam explains that leaders should be understanding their customers on every level in order for this new way of commerce to work for them.

Understanding Your Customers by Persona Building

For brands to fully understand their demographic, they need to know what platforms their customers most commonly use. From there they can create the typical customer profile as a way to characterize their typical consumer. “You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply.” When creating customer profiles, leaders should look for specific traits that are common among their consumers – traits that embody the kind of person they serve. These include things like physical traits, behaviors, and patterns when interacting with the brand, and purchasing preference. Persona building helps brands to target the right audience and bring a fresh perspective to the drawing board. This method of creating personas gives brands the information they need for efficient advertising strategies and more importantly, it includes the customer in every business decision.

Meet Your Customers on Their Channels

Pam reiterates the old adage, “Location, location, location, is the first rule of business.” Meeting your customers on their preferred form of social media is a great way to make their interactions with your brand feel more personal and normal. It’s also a great way to make your brand more global by having a social media presence. Media platforms don’t take a break, they’re constantly being used at all hours of the day, across the globe. For a team of CX agents, social media is the perfect tool to casually check in with consumers since it keeps the buying process simple. They see an advertisement for a product, they click on the link and go directly to the website. “Finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important.” Because social media “never sleeps,” it’s something that should be added to every CX team’s tool box.

To learn more about how social commerce is booming in today’s world, 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:

Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, I’m Gabe Larson, I’m the Vice President of Marketing here at Kustomer, the top rated CRM and customer service platform for businesses who want to connect with more customers across more channels. Now, we want this to be an active and fun conversation. Let’s have Pam O’Neal join us. She’s our Growth Marketing Director. Pam, thanks for joining. How are you?

Pam O’Neal: (00:31)
I’m great, thanks Gabe. So, yeah, as Gabe mentioned, I run Growth and Demand Marketing here at Kustomer, but you know, I also run a household and some community groups and I like to think I run the lives of two busy teenagers. They may argue with that, but our lives have just gotten out of control this year. So busy with all the change, all the chaos, all the confusion of 2020, and really social commerce, social shopping, and everything that goes with it has become a lifeline for me. It allows me to shop safely for my family, essential staples. I get to combine the advice of friends, families, influencers in the purchase process using social commerce. It saves time. It’s more streamlined. It also allows me to shop when I want to shop. I do insomnia shopping as my team knows.

Pam O’Neal: (01:26)
I had a little insomnia shopping episode last week at around 2:00 AM. Decided that I’d like to try to take up aerial yoga. And that would be a great time to purchase aerial yoga silks, but I had a couple of questions as one might expect. So, social commerce was really amazing for me to be able to read the reviews and the commentary of the community and understand what type of silks I should get as a beginner and make that purchase and get healthier in the process. So, a real lifeline, it also allows us to have a variety of life, right? As we’re locked down, we don’t get to travel as much anymore, but an ad popped up for flying in deep dish pizza from Chicago last week and I couldn’t resist.

Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
So you ordered it?

Pam O’Neal: (02:20)
I did! It was fantastic. And in fact, not only was it fantastic, but friends hit me up. They’re like, “Hey, can we come over and have some?” So we used the back patio and a little social distancing, deep dish pizza. And then I had another friend who sells rugs in Marrakesh. And so I had an Instagram chat with him yesterday and I’m like, “Ooh, I need rugs.” And so he hooked me up with some Moroccan rugs. So even though we can’t travel, even though we can’t do the things that we used to do, social media and our connections across the world are allowing us to do some really fun and exciting things to bring that spice of life back, to make more confident purchases because our friends have recommended and to get referrals. And then just the convenience of it all. Point and click, don’t even make me type, so fantastic.

Pam O’Neal: (03:10)
And I’m a big fan of Messenger to help answer those questions and make it easier for me. So while it has made my life and probably others much easier, it does bring with it complexity for businesses, right? The FedEx guy just showed up with my latest purchase by the way. And I’m glad he didn’t ring the doorbell, but it does bring a lot of complexity to businesses who have to manage that fluid environment of all these different channels that can be used to communicate with you and purchase. And it also makes that relationship 24/7 because social media doesn’t sleep. So today, Gabe and I are going to talk about social commerce. It’s really not new, but it’s really hot now. And the risks and realities of tackling it, how to make it work using a terrific omni-channel CX platform and being there throughout the buyer journey to advise and assist. And then some of the brands that are really doing it right, and doing it well, and really forward-thinking on that front. And then what’s coming up next.

Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
Awesome. Well, why don’t I lay a little bit of the foundation here about what social commerce looks like today? So it is, if you haven’t heard, it’s a big trend and it’s even bigger with the pandemic you guys. This is where buyers are seeking this effortless purchasing experience from, as Pam indicated. I didn’t think Chicago style pizza was part of that, but you can buy stuff like medication and fashion and tools and groceries, everything all to Pam’s point, just with the click of a button. Now, social commerce is not necessarily new. It’s been around for a while and it is a social experience. After all, we love to show off our purchases to friends. We like to seek their advice, their opinions, or share finds with some of the things that we find, discounts with others. We’ve been using social networks for years but lately, technology and techniques, truthfully, a little bit as Zack said, it’s just revolutionizing the experience. Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Kustomer’s chat or customer service platforms are becoming more important tools to create this convenient and valuable experience across not just one part of the buyer journey, but the entire journey from awareness to that post-sale support.

Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
So it really is the closest thing you can get to in-person buying to interacting with an expert in the moment to solve problems, or in some cases, you get a machine, but you get that AI guided self-service. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small e-commerce startups, social network giants, everybody is recognizing this opportunity. And they’re really finding a way to get in on the trend. It does seem there’s almost an app for about anything these days, new ways are cropping up. The line between social media, mobile commerce, and e-commerce, it’s increasingly blurred. Pam and I have been debating this last week. E-commerce, social commerce, and commerce in general. Wow, it’s coming together across industries and it’s not just a retail. It’s not just a retail thing. Guys, you can use things like social shops. You can use Instagram shops where influencers can trade products and a lot of them are taking cuts of their profits.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
They’re selling directly. You got social marketplaces. Zack talked about Facebook Marketplaces where everyone can participate in selling and buying. Chat bot shopping like Messenger purchasing or WhatsApp carts. WeChat Facebook, Instagram messenger. I mean the list goes on and on. Pinterest. Pinterest is another one. So many different ways to get involved in this emerging trend. Couple of data points I wanted to mention, I thought were so powerful. We’ve been, Pam and I have been scrolling through the different resources and research reports, but these two jumped out a lot to me. It’s Stackla’s report, 92% of consumers said that their preferred platform for social commerce was Instagram. 77% opted for Facebook, 57% for Twitter, 47% for Pinterest. From a business perspective, you guys, 73% of businesses believe that their brand had already created an emotional bond with consumers on social media and that this would ultimately help them achieve greater success across social media. So again, this isn’t just about retail. This isn’t just about small businesses. These trends, Pam, healthcare, finance, university, big companies, small companies, all getting in on the game and social commerce is the name of that game. What is your business using?

Pam O’Neal: (08:03)
Well, I mean, I just think it underscores our point about just the fluid nature of social commerce. It’s all over the place. There’s so many infinite possibilities, but it also, as I said, creates this management, or as I like to call it orchestration challenge. That’s a lot of different ways that your customers are expecting to connect with you.

Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
Let’s talk about where customers are and why social commerce is so popular.

Pam O’Neal: (08:28)
Well, it was a great segue actually, because I think the first thing we need to think about when we talk about connecting with our customers and being there in the time of need and serving them and solving their problems is where are our customers? Well, of the eight billion people on the planet, more than five of them are on their phones, right? So they’re doing business on their phones. They’re connecting with people on their phones. They’re using those mobile phones. The lines are blurring. There’s four billion social media users. Wow. Talk about where your customers are and where they’re in that mode to purchase, four billion social media users. And then we’ve got messaging that has been a global phenomenon. It’s given people in the far reaches of the world the ability to connect with families and friends and businesses and partners at a low cost wherever they are.

Pam O’Neal: (09:24)
So that’s been really game-changing and the introduction of commerce to that world, another big opportunity that businesses need to be taking advantage of. So it’s, the first rule of business is location, location, location. The same applies online. You have to be there where your customers are. You have to be there serving their needs, answering their questions. I had a stat from a group called Statista that said 59% of American consumers interact with brands on social media, at least one to three times a day. That’s a lot of times a day that you’re interacting and the more time that they spend on social sites, the more purchases they make, the more relationships they build, the more vendors they discover, the more possibilities they discover. As I mentioned on the pizza, I mean, I didn’t know, I could, for the, about the same price as DoorDash delivery, I could have pizzas flown in from Chicago. So the possibilities are endless and we find out about them, they’re on social media. So –

Gabe Larsen: (10:31)
We just got a question that came in from a gentleman by the name of Peter and he asked, I wanted to throw this out if I can real quick, he said, “God, there’s so many of these different channels.” And even today, he mentioned, it sounds like even more than he thought. There was shops, Instagram, Pinterest, any advice on trying to figure out what channel, where your customers really are and then dedicating time to that? Because he’s like, “I don’t think I can be across all those channels.” Any thoughts from your side?

Pam O’Neal: (10:58)
No. Well, I mean, it starts with the persona, right? You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply. And that’s how you work to prioritize things and it can also be associated with, and this is related to your ideal customer profile, where’s your network already. I mean, let’s look at Glossier. They really built a heck of a following on Instagram. So when you’ve got that community, you’ve got that engagement already sort of gathering, bring it to them, bring it into the realm or at least include that. So, it does start with the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (11:35)
I was just going to say, I’d add to that, Peter, so many people, I think Pam can attest to this, you find that right channel and you go deeper on that. Don’t feel like you have to be on every single channel. I think you saw Zack, the depth, you can go on some of these channels. If you find the right one where your customers are, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere.

Pam O’Neal: (11:54)
Yeah. And one thing you’re going to notice, we’ll talk about it a little bit later. That’s just how these things are merging, right? There’s these hybrids and mashups, if you will, of environments. And so it’s all kind of coming together, everything’s coming together. So it’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out. It’s not just also, it’s not just about what your customers need. It’s what, I’m sorry, what your customer, where your customers are, it’s about what your customers want. And in this case, it’s really a need, right? I’m not going to subject you to a tutorial on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But I did want to just use this to point out that customers, people value social connections highly. They also value things like self-actualization and esteem and all three of those needs play very heavily on social media. So that’s not going away. Those social connections aren’t going away.

Pam O’Neal: (12:49)
That platform, that experience is not going away. It’s just going to become a primary place for customers to meet those physiological needs. Those in need of safety need to get those goods and services. Those, build those partnerships, hire the consultants, engage with medical doctors, physicians, and counselors to accomplish what they need to accomplish without having to go into an office. It’s not just about safety these days with the coronavirus and not wanting to step into a brick and mortar facility or a hospital or a doctor’s office, but it’s also become a lot about convenience, right? We have become very, our expectations have skyrocketed this year with the knowledge that you can basically do everything remotely, right Gabe?

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It just feels like the pandemic has only pushed us further down that path, right? It’s like businesses, consumer expectations, they’re growing more and more. And we as businesses have got to keep up and it’s really happening obviously, on the digital side. Some of the stats we wanted to just put out there, the idea of using multiple channels, especially their channel of choice, expecting to solve problems the moment they bring it up through the channel that delivers instant gratification like chat, social media messenger, and more, you can read some of these. Let me just highlight them. 47%, potentially even more, Pam and I were arguing. We might think that the more we’ll be loyal to brands who are available and ready to engage on social media. We saw that when we served customers in one of our recent studies, 74% of people said they were likely to switch if they found the brand purchase was difficult. 88% want to connect with your business on the channel they want, not what you want, what they want. And according to Gardner, 96% said they would abandon a brand following, again, that high effort experience. So this is behind the omnichannel movement. This, I want it now, kind of the current generation, finding a way to meet customers where they are becomes more important than ever before.

Pam O’Neal: (15:06)
But so we just painted a beautiful picture of the possibilities, right? Everyone wants to jump into social commerce. It’s really one of the bigger levers that you can use to drive growth right now. So we’d all like to participate, but as one of the commenters mentioned, we can’t be everywhere. We need to pick our places for our best possible, ideal possible customers. Where are they? Let’s do it right. I would recommend picking that one outlet and doing it extraordinarily well across versus spreading yourself too thin. Because one of the things that we’re finding is a mistake that many companies make is that they’re missing an action where their buyers are thriving, right? So by deeply understanding the customer, focusing on solving customer problems and understanding where they are, you will know where you need to be spending your time and energy.

Pam O’Neal: (16:05)
And you can’t be missing an action. You got to show up to the party. It’s where things get done. It’s where you need to be, need to be seen, or someone else will step into that role for you and they will steal your customers. I know there’s a lot of thriving brands like Glossier that knows this really well. They know they need to be there for their Instagram users in their time of need. So you can’t be missing in action. You’ve got to make sure you’re there in the right places at the right time. Another important lesson is you can’t be flying blind and that’s particularly challenging in this space because it’s very fluid as we mentioned. There’s a lot of different ways that your customers are engaging with you. There’s a lot of different aspects of your customers you need to be aware of.

Pam O’Neal: (16:53)
It’s not just the world of social, it’s your internal systems and your data silos. Where there’s that customer’s order history. What do you know about that customer based on maybe an online assessment that they’ve filled out? Your agents need access to that full whole customer visibility so that they can respond or proactively reach out in an informed fashion. Understanding the whole customer, serving the whole customer’s needs. So it’s important that you’re not flying blind and you have that whole history kind of at your fingertips. You’re not swiveling from screen to screen, chair to chair, trying to piece together this view of the customer while the customer waits impatiently on the other end of the internet. And that basically leads into the concept of fragmented experiences. Having a consistent experience across all of your channels is extraordinarily important to your brand reputation.

Pam O’Neal: (17:51)
You can’t have ill-trained agents that don’t understand the full breadth of your products on a social channel while your experts are maybe on a chat channel. And then of course, as you can imagine with a fluid landscape, like what we’re dealing with right now, with all the change, with all the complexities of the customer history, we can’t overwhelm our agents. So keeping happy, what’s the adage? Happy agents, happy customers. We have to keep those agents well-informed in a very seamless, nice environment where they can tap into the types of details they need to sound smarter. Another thing, as if your support agents are considered advisors, high-level experts, much more valuable experience to them than being thought of as problem fixers. And so it sounds really easy, but there’s been historically a missing element when it comes to creating those experiences, to seeing the whole customer, to having that information at your fingertips.

Pam O’Neal: (18:58)
And that’s really this sort of intersection between selling products, influencing the purchase of products and then supporting those products and services, post-sale. All of that, as we’ve already established, is coming together in this world of commerce, 3.0. This new world where it’s unclear where the purchase process begins and the support experience ends. It’s all kind of coming together. And it’s coming together across a boatload of different channels. So this concept of having a connected customer experience across each of those steps orchestrated by a platform that allows you to manage that gives you the visibility that gives you the ability to interact with those buyers and influencers who are frankly, shaping the purchase experience inside the social networks themselves. And so that’s one of the important components that companies need to start with thinking, as they think about their social commerce strategy, is how are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world.

Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like this is a, and guys, this is where Kustomer with the K can really come into play because we think about CX differently. I’d love to have Pam’s side there. If you’re not trying to connect, do that, as I see that, Pam, that’s been such a disconnect in commerce. The sale experience, the marketing experience that the customer service experience, they’ve all been so separate and being able to support those, and having a single conversation, consistent experience across all channels across that buyer journey, it’s how you start to fill the gap and become these customer advisors across again, the journey and all the channels. So the idea that we push out there is to make customer experience as easy and streamlined as possible. That means consistent engagement, no matter where or how a customer reaches out. And these are some of the keys to really ensuring that your advisors are informed, they’re consistent.

Gabe Larsen: (21:27)
And they’re armed with that simple, effortless experience. So I wanted to touch on a couple of these key pillars that I think supply that advisory concept across the entire customer journey. So here’s a couple of the elements. Let me just go through real quick. Number one is orchestration. It’s a CRM built, we know that term – CRM. That concept’s a little bit built for the old world. We like to call it CRM – Kustomer Relationship Management with a K, but it’s built for D2C modern commerce advisory experiences. What it allows is for you to have that whole view of the customer. That falls then into unified visibility. That view of the customer it’s more important than ever before. You can see the customer across that entire journey. What we talked about during the sales experience, what we talked about when they bought something, they exchanged something, what they bought or of a time before with a problem they had, when we were servicing. All of those things allow you to interact seamlessly in this unified customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (22:33)
That’s number two. Number three is omni-channel. Consistent, rapid response, informed experience across all those modern channels through omni-channels. You guys it’s customer experience that means collecting and harnessing data teams for every interaction across channels to drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships. We increase revenue streams, et cetera. The problem with omni-channel is I think a lot of people still get that wrong. It’s one single conversation, regardless of the channels you have. If you offer ten different channels, but if your agent is still switching between tab and tab and tab, that comes off as a multiple channel experience. What we need is one consistent conversation where each channel drives into that one conversation. And then last but not least is this idea of availability. Pam said it, but social media, it just doesn’t sleep. We have to offer some self-service to be available at all times. A lot of customers are experiencing that self-service, but that allows us after hours to be cohesive, to be seamless. So finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important. And ultimately that brings it all together. It’s this unified, orchestrated, omni-channel, always-on experience that really can drive some of the numbers you’re seeing on there. Increase in sales, decrease in costs, which I think is what we’re all looking for Pam.

Pam O’Neal: (24:09)
Yeah. And there’s also the biggies, but there’s also a slew of others. You’re able to get better insights about your customer and their preferences. And how they’re interacting with you. You can influence the journey. You can expedite it. If you’re chatting with someone, answering a question and you Slack or not Slack, sorry, I guess if you message them a link to the product after you’ve answered their questions, it’s, you don’t even have to tie it. You just click purchase, select your address, and it’s on its way. So you can influence, you can accelerate that purchase cycle, boost the productivity of really everyone in your organization. And more importantly, reduce that wait time, that I think it’s, the wait time for a chat is just a couple minutes.

Pam O’Neal: (25:04)
But email is more like hours or days. And we need to get all of those experiences down to meet this instant gratification expectation of buyers today. And that will in turn, help you reduce churn and overall, it affords you this ability to have no compromises. You can increase customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and reduce costs and increase efficiency. So that usually comes as a trade off, but in this case, not necessarily. And then at the end of the day, of course, happier agents and happier customers, all benefits. But we’re running out of time. And I have to touch on some of the cool stuff that our customers are doing as really cutting edge brands when it comes to using social commerce. And one of those is Amaro. I wish I were in Brazil for many reasons, but one of the reasons is because Amaro is just such a cool fashion brand. They brand themselves as a digitally native fashion brand in Brazil, and they’re really pushing the envelope. In fact, I think they’re one of the beta users for the Instagram shopping experience.

Pam O’Neal: (26:15)
And as such, one of the early users of our Instagram integration. And so they’re able to not only promote their products and mood and brand and aesthetic using Instagram, but allow their followers to purchase and get customer support in the moment right there in the app. And so they’ve been great about that. They’re also one, and by the way, there’s a lot of, they share a lot of their lessons learned online. So if you just want to Google Amaro social media, or what have you, or just DM me after this and I’ll share with you some of the links, but fascinating, the lessons that they’ve learned and how to do it properly. Like for example, the need to educate your consumers and how to actually purchase in a social media environment. That is a little bit fuzzy for some since it’s early.

Pam O’Neal: (27:08)
So they’ve learned that they’ve had to educate them, but interesting thing about Amaro is they actually call their support organization social customer insights. They don’t think of their support organization as post-sale customer support. It’s more about providing insights and gathering insights. And they’ve been very forward thinking about that at Amaro. Another company that, I thought this was really funny with our comp our Kustomer slice, they actually enable other pizza delivery stores to do a better job of getting their pizzas to customers. And they echo the sentiment that it was basically, it wasn’t their decision. It was their customer’s decision to bring them there. So as I said earlier, knowing your customer, what they want and need is one step, but it’s also, the customers will bring you into the realm that they want to interact with you and slices learned that and integrates Twitter into their service and support experience with their customers.

Pam O’Neal: (28:18)
And then one of my favorite brands, Glossier, a beautiful, beautiful brand, and now a $1.5 billion business. So they’re really taking off and they’ve been masters of social media, just really using that effectively. And I think the coolest thing about Glossier is that they were one of the early companies to think of their team as advisors, right? So they call them the G Team and they’re responsible for really the end-to-end, listening to customers, advising them on their products and the combination of products that might be more effective for the customer, as well as post-support. I read an interview with, this is another thing I had mentioned earlier about this sort of hybrid, mashed together experience. And I read an interview with the new COO there. I think she was from Amazon, and she’s really talking about sort of the next generation of social commerce and e-commerce and how it’s all blending together. She’s not giving away any details in the story that I read on Wired anyway, but it talks, it sounds like Glossier is pushing the edge once again, when it comes to delivering this commerce experience for our next generation of consumers.

Gabe Larsen: (29:33)
I want to thank Pam for joining and talking about a little bit of the who, what, and why of social commerce. So Pam, thanks so much for joining.

Exit Voice: (29:47)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

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Now that the world’s returning to a somewhat normal state, many leaders are scrambling to relate to their customers in this new economy. Customers from all across the globe are opting for the digital experience for shopping and communicating with brands, and with this high demand comes a rich diversity of languages – this is where Unbabel shines. Unbabel is a translation platform powered by AI, for the benefit of agents and users. Having an understanding of your customer is key, and what better way to do that than speaking their native language? Tools like Unbabel help propel companies ahead of their competitors, giving them a language optimization edge. Sophie’s goal is to help CX leaders understand that just because your customer doesn’t speak your language, doesn’t mean that you can’t help them. “One thing I think that’s really exciting…is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them on their expertise.” Teaming a seasoned agent with the power of AI creates the ultimate experience.

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Imagine the surprise when a non-English speaking customer contacts your company and is greeted in their native language, full of nuances and terms that are familiar to them in their region. This is all possible through AI, which can be extremely useful across the entire customer journey, not just at the point of first interaction. The way that AI helps in these situations is it detects the customer’s preferred language and connects them with an agent who speaks that language or helps to translate the customer’s words into the language of the agent. AI’s certainly a hot topic in the CX realm that leaders were initially apprehensive to include, but the more it’s integrated into everyday business, the more leaders and consumers become comfortable utilizing this modern technology. The brands that do it right have AI as well as a team of qualified people working together to provide the best experience possible. “Humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect.” As technology advances and more leaders integrate AI, the more efficient agents will be.

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Translation software is an amazing tool because it adds that human element back into CX. It allows your company to expand on a global scale, which is so important for leaders trying to make their brand accessible. If your brand only caters to those who are English speakers for example, then your brand cannot truly be deemed global. It’s so important for leaders to understand their customers across the map and to make an effort to relate to them on every level. AI isn’t always going to be the magic pill that fixes everything, but it can streamline the process and make things much easier for the customer and agent. Best of all, AI’s approachable and manageable, meaning that the leaders who are considering using this tool should absolutely take that next step and do it! Find a way to integrate AI into your CX team where they work together to make your company more accessible for the global customer.

Sophie leaves listeners with one last piece of advice: “It’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak.” By focusing on the customer and recognizing them as a human being, it makes them feel more valued and connected to the brand. Add AI translation software to the mix and you’re absolutely going to see successful results and better scores.

To learn more about how you can benefit from AI-driven software to remove language barriers, 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:

3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re back. You’ve got Gabe Larsen here with Kustomer, my colleague, Vikas Bhambri, who runs Success and Sales over here at Kustomer, and we have a very special guest joining us today, and we’ll be talking about a really fun topic. Sophie Vu is joining us from Unbabel. Sophie, thanks for joining and how the heck are you?

Sophie Vu: (00:35)
I’m great. Thanks for having me Gabe. I’m excited to be joining and using this platform. I’m going to self-limit newbie to this platform, so excited to be here. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
I love it. So maybe tell us just a little bit real quick about yourself and Unbabel, if you can, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (00:54)
Sure. So I’m based in San Francisco, Unbabel and I’m the CMO. So I lead go to market and operations for the company and specifically, what we do is we get to work with some global, very customer-focused brands, like Booking, Logitech, Microsoft, and really enable them to interact with their customers in any language. And Unbabel is an AI powered solution combined with human editors. So we have a global community of professional and casual translators who obviously passed certification to enable us to provide great quality translations in near real time. So enabling companies that promise a customer-centric vision and brand and by creating empathy by speaking your customer’s language. That’s Unbabel in a nutshell.

Gabe Larsen: (01:46)
Love it, love it. Yeah. And we’re going to be talking a little bit more about that. So let’s dive into the topic. I want to click into kind of just what you were talking about. You guys play in a little bit of an interesting space, this idea of kind of language operations. Could you give Vikas and I a little bit of an overview of what that is, why you think it’s important, what’s going on in that space?

Sophie Vu: (02:08)
Sure. So self-admittedly, we are creating a space, a category, what we call Language Operations. And so you can think about it as a holistic approach to enabling organizations, to leverage people, processes, and technology, to enable this multilingual communication. So think of Language Operations as a way to roll out, centralize, and scale multilingual capabilities across every function in an enterprise, right? We’re starting with customer service, but eventually we want to obviously enable marketing, sales, product, HR, legal, or what have you, to be able to function in this global world that we live in. So language operations are technology, people, and processes the entire concept.

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. I want to just flash this, as you kind of talked a little bit about that for the audience. It’s kind of a different concept, but it definitely seems like it’s something that as companies scale, it’s becoming extremely important. I wanted to throw it out to Vikas. I mean, Vikas, as you interact with all these different companies, everybody seems to want to go global or come to the US or go Europe, what role do you feel like language is playing in that? I mean, it seems like it’s been a barrier for a long time.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:21)
It has. And I think this is an exciting time and I think Unbabel is the right place, right time. Allowing brands and companies of various operations, we’re obviously looking at it from a customer experience perspective, but the think globally and act locally. And I think that is something that if you look at what has challenged brands in the past of really scaling, was that, I now need to have people in local region that speak local language and with a platform like Unbabel, that’s no longer the case. So just, let’s look at it from a customer experience perspective, having an English speaking agent sitting in the US who can now engage a Spanish speaking customer in Spain or Columbia or Mexico in the language in the local tone that’s required, is truly unique.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:25)
And that allows somebody that, like I said, can think globally act locally, but also look bigger than they actually are, because you might only have a team of, 50, a hundred, 200 sitting here in the US or actually sitting in Ireland or wherever it might be, but then being able to engage a global audience of customers. And as Sophie said, that’s the first wave, but then you think about other use cases where you can have that. Do I need an HR professional in every single geo that I operate in when I can have an HR team sitting in England? Let me not just be US-centric, but sitting in England or sitting in France, but then communicating with employees that are global. So I think that’s kind of the exciting thing about what Sophie and her team are doing.

Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so funny. I had this experience the other day, I was chatting with somebody and he kind of walked through what you just talked about, Vikas. It sounds almost futuristic. He’s like, “Look, I’m sitting in London, but I’m, I speak Chinese.” And he’s talking with a restaurant chain on chat. And somehow that person actually, he was then speaking with the Chinese person, although he was in London, I was just like, it was just really cool that it could, his location was different, but the chatbot could recognize the language. And then he was routed to a person that could speak it. That sounds amazing. So to see it in action, I think, is pretty cool. So Sophie, kudos to you and the team. I want to, we’re going to come back to this language thing in just a minute, but I do want to back up a little bit more and tie it into some of the things going on in the market. So many interesting things are going on in the state of customer service. Language is one of them. And we’ll talk again a little bit about that in a minute, but Sophie, you guys have recently done a study. Want to talk and hear a little bit about some of those big picture trends you’re finding and hearing, and then let’s dive into a couple of them and talk about what we’re seeing people do to win as those trends appear.

Sophie Vu: (06:32)
Sure. Yeah. So we did a recent study focused on customer service and customer support, and it covered about 600 leaders across US, the UK and Germany. And we just wanted to understand what was keeping them up at night and what were their goals. So some of the findings were, you would think customer service departments usually are all about cost optimization, but they’re actually looking to spend more this year. And I think that’s due to just the demand during COVID. Demand for digital interactions, certain industries had higher demand than others, as you can imagine. And it was really about how they can reorganize and rethink their offering. And make it more digital, more self-service. And so that was one of the big trends. The other one was, everyone talks about AI and AI as a way to help augment and really scale these operations. So you have limited people, but how do you make these people be more, do more with less?

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Right. So, yeah. I can’t argue with AI. Maybe we can start there and then circle back. What is it, do you feel like that is, with this AI thing, obviously it’s a buzzword. Why is it becoming more adopted? Where is it becoming more adopted? How do you see it playing out in customer service organizations?

Sophie Vu: (08:01)
Sure. So I think AI has come in different ways, right? It started out as this grand thing. “Oh my god! Robots are taking the world!” To them, “Oh, we don’t need humans anymore.” And I think everything kind of calmed down a little bit to understand that AI can actually help augment and supplement the things that we’re doing. And humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect. They’re going to miss the context, the nuances, the cultural differences in tone. And so it’s really that combination. But I think, for example, it’s about incorporating AI in processes to help optimize and streamline it. And people are doing that in very strategic ways. It’s not all or nothing. It’s applying AI where it matters most.

Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I like that. I feel like it’s something that is still being talked about, but it does feel like people are getting the hang of it. Like we’re starting to see it actually not just be talk, but there’s a little bit of walking going on. Vikas, what’s your take on how people are playing this game of actually getting it into play and seeing a difference in their business?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:08)
Yeah. I think what we’re seeing in the customer service side is, there are three key areas. One is on that point of interaction with the customer, being able to automate the suggestions that we give them, the help articles, being able to help them troubleshoot their own issue or challenge. Because reality is, I think you’ve got more and more customers who don’t actually want to engage a live human agent if they don’t have to. The second piece is then how do you use AI? If the person basically raises their hand and says, “You know what? I tried, but I can’t do it.” Or, “I need further assistance.” To identify who they are and what their challenges are, and some of the areas where you can do that, right? You can look for obviously anything that they share with the bot or the automation, you can look at the sentiment of any free-form text that they deliver.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:07)
You can look at the language of what they’re, what language they’re speaking in. You can look at all of that detail. And of course, if you have any data about who they are, then make sure that you route them to the right individual or team that can service them most effectively. And then lastly, I think Sophia alluded to this, which is how do we empower that human being with AI? So how do we give the agent who’s sitting there now trying to help this individual who tried to troubleshoot themselves and couldn’t, how do we recommend suggestions or solutions to them so that they can be most effective and efficient? So really using technology and AI across that entire journey of that particular conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:54)
Yeah. I feel like it’s, I love the analogy. My nine-year-old actually made me watch the Robert Downey Jr. Now I’m forgetting –

Sophie Vu: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Is there a movie called Rocket Man? For some reason, I said, oh, was that rocket man, rocket man? I don’t know. Anyways, I thought, I was thinking what a cool analogy of that. And as you were talking, Vikas, it’s like, at some point you will be, you’ll take this regular kind of customer service agent and you encompass them around, it’s not just in chat bot, but it’s this, you encompass them with almost like a JARVIS-type experience where it’s recommending or it’s telling them or feeding them or guiding them. And I was like, wouldn’t that be cool? I think we can actually get there in customer service. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I thought that was a fun analogy. And it’s not Rocket Man. It’s Iron Man. Sophie, what do you, on the language side of things, do AI play a role in that in some form or fashion? How are you guys thinking about that specifically around this language offsite then?

Sophie Vu: (11:53)
Yeah. Absolutely. So, I am guilty as a marketer. I think a lot of companies have said they do AI and actually made it worse for people to understand what AI actually is and how it’s applied. But am I kind of, I guess BS neater is like, if you remove the AI from the product, is that company still around. Does that product exist? And I think if we remove the AI from Unbabel, we don’t have a solution and technology, we are truly AI powered in the sense that the entire process of translating involves AI to automate and create better efficiency across our translation pipeline as we call it. So it starts even with viewing the incoming message, right? Like we can, like sentiment, language, those nuances to even anonymizing the data, because obviously we do care about respecting PII compliance to then obviously machine translation as well.

Sophie Vu: (12:54)
So obviously AI is a big part of that and then just routing to our translators, if needed, based on the quality. So we also have a proprietary quality estimation system and then just thinking about not only writing, but then also thinking about how do we improve those systems? So frequently asked questions, there’s going to be things that are going to recur and reoccur. And then I think, Vikas, you mentioned about optimizing the agent’s experience, right? So predictive things like, okay, anticipating what that answer will be. Rounding them to the right answers, figuring out who has that expertise within the agent pool as well. So one thing I think that’s really exciting is that with language operations, tying it back there, is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them based on their expertise and who doesn’t want to have the right answer and hear it from a knowledgeable person when you have a problem with a product or a service?

Gabe Larsen: (13:55)
I know, I love that. That’s interesting to hear how that can kind of play a role in the language piece. One other thing I want to hit on, when I look through the study, I love this concept of channels. It’s something obviously near and dear to our heart here at Kustomer. When we think of the customer service world, more of an omni-channel experience, just want to throw that out there. Some of the things I was reading in the report around people’s preference of channel, how channels continue to expand. I wanted to get your guys’ take on, obviously people, the omni-channel thing is, it’s there, and I think people are experiencing it. Where do you think we go from here when it comes to channels? What is the next field, green field? Is it more channels? Is it a better combination of synergistic movement of the channel? Vikas, maybe I can start with you on this one. Thoughts on channels and where we’re going there?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:45)
I don’t think there’s any real stopping the number of channels. I think that’s the real challenge for anybody, which is saying, where are my customers and where do they need to be served? And unfortunately you don’t find out until the customer starts knocking on a door in some universe that you then need to answer. And I think a great example of that is TikTok. I remember as much as, you both got a chuckle out of that one, but funny enough, about, probably going back just before I think it was my last trip before the pandemic, and I was sitting down with a CEO of a fashion brand who was really pushing for TikTok as a channel and kind of had the, we had the reaction that you did, which was who you going to talk to on TikTok?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Now, a year later you’re seeing brands engage consumers, not only for marketing purposes, but for customer service on TikTok. That’s just one example. So what’s the next TikTok? What’s the next messaging platform? What’s the next tool that somebody is going to use where you’re going to have to exist for you to effectively communicate with your consumer? And I think that’s a really interesting challenge for any new CX leader is identifying that. And I remember, I’m not going to age myself here, but I remember when we started talking about chat, people had that same reaction. Nobody’s going to want to chat with us. The phone 1-800-NUMBERS where it’s at. And obviously, chat is now the default channel, right? You kind of get out of the gate and chat and email. And by the way, we talked about things like email and even the phone at one point dying as channels, and they’re not, they still exist. And if anything, they’re growing. So the challenge is you have to exist everywhere. You can pick and choose which ultimately your consumer will be there and there’ll be there before you are.

Gabe Larsen: (16:45)
You know, I have this funny, I had a sit down with our, we’ve been talking about how to expand our marketing center. I sat down with our preferred agency and we were talking about different channels, further international, et cetera. They did. They brought up TikTok, they’re like, “Have you thought about going deeper into TikTok?” And I was like, “I haven’t even thought about TikTok.” And then truthfully, they brought up this kind of new platform club, near clubhouse, if you guys, I’m on one. You can tell, I’m not an expert at clubhouse either.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:19)
You’re doing it, Gabe. All you do is talk.

Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
I’m on it, but they’re like, “Hey, are you active there?” And I’m like, yeah, like you said, Vikas. I’m getting old. I’m just like, “Can we just talk about Google?” But it’s like new channels coming on, coming online. And are you where your customers are? Sophie, thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (17:39)
Yeah, I mean, I came from the social customer service space. I was trying to make that happen 6, 7, 8 years ago. And, well, I’m not the reason. So like I wasn’t learning brands like, hey. They weren’t getting anywhere in these email labyrinths and they’re going to go on Twitter and tell the whole world the problems they’re having with your brand. And, you know, they had a voice. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp from a global perspective. So I mean, customer service teams need to be prepared. They, it’s just going to be continuing when it’s an existing platform, that’s going to keep continuing and staying there and then adding additional new ones.

Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
Yeah. I can’t argue that. I got two more questions than we can wrap on this. You guys, one is, we’re obviously coming out of, I want to move just a little bit away from the research for a second and get your opinion and then maybe closing arguments here. How do you think people can adapt to the changes coming out of the pandemic? Do people need to be doubling down on AI? Do they need to be refocusing on omni or is it just kind of business as usual? Anything you guys are thinking about seeing clients do as they maybe need to adjust to the, I mean, they had to adjust to kind of the pandemic world and now, is it the post pandemic world? And if so, what do they need to do? Thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:59)
Yeah. I actually heard this term the other day, so I’ll steal it. Somebody was alluding to this as the vaccine economy, the next phase. So I’ll steal that one. And so here’s what I would say there. I think what customer experience leaders are going to have to identify, they certainly went through and we talked about this, Gabe, you and I, 12 months ago, the biggest kind of stress test that the customer experience industry has faced in forever. Which was this high volume, this surge of inquiries, the staff being in disarray, going to remote work, et cetera. So they really got the crap kicked out of them. And I, fortunately, so many people were able to make smart decisions, partnering with different technology providers and really being able to address it and come out of it.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
The question then is now, what learnings do you take from that experience and continue to invest in and adopt? And like I said, AI slash chat bots might be one area, right? Also the agent infrastructure, right? Oh, wait a minute. Remote from, remote work worked in some cases. In some cases, it didn’t. There were certain policy decisions. I think brands were much more forgiving of consumers. Does that continue to stay? So I think there’s a lot of those things that people are going to take, a lot of experiences. And then the question is going forward, because what is the consumer mindset now, coming out of it? And what are they going to expect of brands, is going to be extremely interesting to watch and observe, and actually be a part of, because I think consumers and particularly depending on where you are in the globe. So as much as I think it’s a very US-centric world to talk about the vaccine economy, because there’s large parts of the global population that are still knee-deep in it. So I think brands are going to also have to be very sensitive to that and also how they go out there and talk about their services and offerings, especially global brands. If you’re an Uber as an example, or somebody like that, you have to be, once again, think globally – act locally. And I think that’s going to be very important as they move forward.

Gabe Larsen: (21:20)
Yeah. There is a lot to learn. I think people, I mean, it was long enough. If it would’ve just been a couple of months, I think maybe we wouldn’t have been forced to kind of change to adopt and learn. But I think a lot of us were forced to learn and there are hopefully some good things coming out. Sophie, thoughts on this? How are you kind of seeing this play out?

Sophie Vu: (21:36)
Yeah. I mean, I had a different perspective. I agree, it’s the vaccine economy, but I like to say there’s also, re-entry anxiety that’s happening. How do you operate in this world? Like, what are the rules? People are still debating whether mask or no mask. And, but I think one thing that’s accelerated is globalization of companies and of people, and you have people moving everywhere in the world that you can live anywhere and be able to interact with brands, people, your company, your employers. And so I think it’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak. Focusing on that expertise, and I think that’s something that is encouraging, I think. Honestly.

Gabe Larsen: (22:28)
That’s a valid point. Yeah. That re-entry, what’d you call it re-entry –

Sophie Vu: (22:34)

Gabe Larsen: (22:36)
I think it’s interesting. This is, I’ll try not to go into any political realm here.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:46)
We’d rather you didn’t, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (22:46)
Politics, but yeah. There are a lot of different perspectives, I think on how this is going to move forward. Some people want the vaccine, some people don’t, some people have the vaccine and don’t want to come in unless this is in and they don’t, some people want to stay home. And I mean, I’ve been hearing a lot. I know some people are very comfortable talking about their medical, like they’re getting vaccine. Some people are like, I don’t want to actually be asked that. So do they, are they going to shop more or are we still going to still see the online stuff? Being able to adjust to that and for your business to adapt to it quickly, I think is probably right. I think here, I think you’re definitely on to something Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (23:23)
Hybrid. Like the same thing, you’re gonna, you got an offer to go, not just in the room and dining anymore. You got to, your customer has evolved. It’s very multifaceted, right? And so you get one channel, even physical and digital now. You got to navigate these new environments that we’re in.

Gabe Larsen: (23:46)
Yeah. And I think that I like that word hybrid. I think people, companies, and this is across the gamut, I think going extreme in one way, like pushing all your people back to work or trying to just be an in-person restaurant, like, how do you do that hybrid? How do you match the world where they are, almost like the conversation we had about channels? I think the people who go extremes are probably going to run into some, they may run into some problems. So, awesome. Well, let’s wrap. Talked about a lot of different concepts, loved language ops. Thanks for introducing that, Sophie. I think you guys are onto something very special there. Sounds like an interesting study. And I want to hear, I want to see if we can end with that maybe as a call to action and get a link out to people. And then we talked a little bit about the current state of the market. What’s that one piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders just trying to make it now? Summarize or one thing you’d leave with them. Sophie, can I start with you? Thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (24:40)
Sure. I think it’s not, I think it’s, understanding that AI is not Rocket Man or Iron Man, sorry Gabe. But it is approachable. It is something that can be applied very concretely. And that is what we’re trying to do with Language Operations and the Unbabel platform. But I think it’s trying new things, being comfortable that you’re not going to solve everything right away and that you can take incremental steps. And then you have a lot of people thinking about these things. And so for me, it’s about exploring these things and thinking about the customer. And when you think about the customer, it’s that you want to be open to new ideas because they’re ever changing. There’s not one monolith of a customer. So –

Gabe Larsen: (25:26)
I like that. That’s definitely coming out more and more of this kind of customer that they’re going to be different. Vikas, what’s your kind of closing take?

Vikas Bhambri: (25:33)
I think one of the things that we’ve experienced over the last 12, 15 months at various stages across the globe as this pandemic has kind of gone all over the place is the shifting in different economies. And I think any CEO or VP of e-commerce is going to really want to put the foot on their gas in terms of globalization sooner rather than later. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a two-year-old cosmetics brand that’s just coming into market or a retailer, or if you’re somebody who’s been around for ten years or older, right? Somebody’s going to really want to expedite that global penetration from a consumer acquisition standpoint. What obviously that creates for a CX leader is you have to be able to move fast and moving fast no longer has to be about bodies.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:26)
It doesn’t mean that you then need to go and scale your operations up exponentially. You don’t need to go and bring in BPO’s all over the globe to support that global alignment. And it doesn’t mean you need to serve people in your language and your local language, right? Whether that be English, French, Spanish, et cetera. So to me, that’s where my kind of take away is, language is no longer a barrier to entry. And I think, with technologies and Unbabel kind of leading the way here, I think that creates exciting opportunities for CX leaders to be able to focus on the business process and the customer experience and not worry about getting resources in different locales. And that’s pretty exciting because, you know this Gabe, we’ve built a scaling company over the last four years. We spend a lot of time just hiring people and as a CX leader, not having to do that and focusing on the process and the experience, it is a dramatic game changer from how we previously operated.

Gabe Larsen: (27:29)
No, I think that’s going to be the globalization of all companies – that the playing field has been so much leveled with the kind of the e-commerce movement, et cetera. I think you’re going to continue to see that. So, Sophie, if we can kind of end, again, you touched on a little bit of this research report, and I wanted to flash this just real quick. Because I liked your answer as you were ending there on this AI and how Unbabel is thinking through some of that. If somebody wanted to learn just a little more about this, your view on AI, a little more about this research, is there a place you could direct them or where would we go to find that?

Sophie Vu: (28:06)
Yeah. So I hope there’s some type of digital linkage and in posting comments, but I always want to show a visual because I think we always speak in platitudes and generalizations around AI. And I just wanted to be really detailed and concrete about how we use AI in the sense that it’s again, not rocket science, but close to it. But applied in a very concrete and applicable way. And so wherever you see those red arrows, it’s kind of where we think about where we’re applying AI, right? So pre-processing anonymization of the data that we’re getting, cleaning it and sorting it. We apply that there, obviously with machine translation, the quality estimation, which is basically this message, a certain quality to then be sent and shared, and then incorporating that into working with our humans. The translator community. And so this loop is basically the core of what Unbabel does to enable near real-time translations. But yeah, we have a lot of documentation and research about it, but I think it’s just helping people get over the fear of what AI is and how they can use it is what, is one of my –

Gabe Larsen: (29:19)
It makes a big difference. Absolutely. So we will. I’d like this, it’s nice sometimes to just break it down a little more simply to your point. So we’ll get the link. And the LinkedIn here, you guys, so you can access that research study. Some real great material as Sophie alluded to at the beginning. So we’ll wrap with that. So Sophie, thanks so much for joining. Vikas, thanks so much for joining as always. And for the audience, we’ll let you have a fantastic day. Have a great one, everybody.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:04)
Thank you all.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Thank you.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:05)
Pleasure meeting you, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Likewise Vikas. Bye Gabe.

Exit Voice: (30:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

Kustomer Podcast Kustomer Podcast

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Drew Chamberlain from JOANN to learn the secrets to keeping up with the modern customer. As times change, so should CX. Tune in to learn how you can adapt in these modern times.

How CX has Changed Over the Years

In the old days of CX, the best an agent could do was to wait for a customer to call in and hope that they could answer their question with their limited tools. These interactions are more of a one and done situation where there wasn’t much a rep could do to delight the customer beyond just solving the problem on a surface level. The goal of CX is to be the customer’s hero and this is accomplished through adapting with your consumers. As time and technology progresses, leaders would be wise to grow as well and to implement new standards of excellence among their CX teams. Agents used to be limited to only using the phone as a way to talk with customers, but now a plethora of tools are available to provide the ultimate experience. “Somebody calls you, you’re there to help and you move on and that evolved to email and then social media and that’s continuing to grow, whether it’s chat or SMS or even self-help options.” Chat bots, email, social media, instant messaging are all available for agents to utilize in the digital era.

Are You Available for Your Customer?

Now that there are plenty of communication channels open for consumers, many leaders struggle to find the right channels that fit their clientele the best. Drew’s advice is to first, look internally and find processes that can be automated. If there’s a common question among customers that’s easily answered with a copy and paste response, that entire interaction can be automated. The next step is to find a system that will integrate all of your channels and customer information into one place. Agents will historically take the path of least resistance so having a common ground where all of the necessary information is readily available saves time, energy, and money.

Drew also explains how important it is to be on your customer’s preferred channel of communication. Once you figure out what processes can be automated, you have to then understand how customers are coming to you – how they’re communicating with you and how their demographic responds to different channels. If a customer is talking to you on social media but then they decide to call in and the agent has no knowledge about their previous interaction, according to Drew, you’ve already lost that customer. “My biggest fear in this segment is if you’re not available in the channel the customer wants, you lose that opportunity to help them, to be available.” Customers want to be on the same page and they want to feel like the brand has a holistic view of their needs.

Adapt with Your Customer Through Smart Technology

If AI was implemented years ago in CX, customers most likely would’ve shied away from using such technology because it wasn’t common in everyday life. Nowadays, AI is in our pockets, on our desks, in our homes, and at our fingertips. The more that people are familiarized with AI, the more comfortable they are when using it in business and CX interactions. “To me, it’s more about how you can provide service to your customers when your agents aren’t available, or when the questions are easy enough that it can be responded to quickly without having to engage one of your team members.” This is why AI is such a great option for the modern CX leader. It allows teams like never before, to be available at all times for their customers. Sometimes customers have questions in the middle of the night or at different time zones – with automated responses made through chat bots, your team can still deliver the ultimate experience and be a hero to the customer at all hours of the day. “The real win there is being able to provide that 24/7/365 support, as well as allowing your agents to really focus on those really challenging and difficult tasks.”

To learn more about adapting to the modern customer and integrating communication channels, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Are You Available for Your Customer? | How Great Companies Master Modern Customer Experiences with Drew Chamberlain” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How Companies Are Mastering CX for the Modern Customer With Drew Chamberlain

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s podcast, I’m excited to get rocking and rolling. We’re going to be talking about, are you available for your customer? How great companies master modern customer experiences. To do that, we brought on the Director of Operations and Customer Experience at JOANN. I’ve been bugging Drew Chamberlain for, what is it now, Drew? Two years? I think I’ve been kind of harassing you about random stuff.

Drew Chamberlain: (00:36)
That’s about right. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (00:38)
Random stuff, but really cool background. Really gets into, I think both, to me he understands, I think the customer experience side and the operations side, that title highlights it. Which I think is just so unique. Oftentimes that is in two different roles and gets the systems, the process, and I think kind of the NPS, the overall experience side. So I think we’ll have a fun conversation today. So Drew, thanks for joining us. How are you, man?

Drew Chamberlain: (01:03)
I’m good, man. Thanks for having me. You’re right. It’s been two years. We’ve been interacting back and forth and trying to get this together. I’m glad we finally connected.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
Yeah. Yeah. So, I’ve definitely found a bit of your past and some of the things you’ve done, other podcasts you’ve been on, I think it’s, you are a man of much wisdom. So I’m looking forward to parting with some of that today. Before we jump in, we’d love to just get a little more personal. Outside of work, anything you’re passionate about? Any hobbies, crazy things you’ve done that you want to maybe mention to the group?

Drew Chamberlain: (01:39)
Yeah. I mean, from a passion standpoint, I have collected and refurbished old school arcade machines for about 15 years now. Yeah, it’s crazy. It started as a passion project, right? Always had an affinity for video games and found something on Craigslist, fixed it up. But now it’s become a whole family ordeal. My daughters love old school video games and they’re always looking for new ones for us to buy and put back together and I have a whole basement full of them so it’s a lot of fun. I’m the coolest kid in the neighborhood at this point.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
So it is, it’s like, I mean, true, is this more like pinball machines or is this more like an Atari game?

Drew Chamberlain: (02:22)
Yeah, so I just got my first pinball machine. Those are a little harder to restore, but historically they’ve been like PacMan and Space Invaders. The standup, full-size, they’re like 400 pounds to carry around. I have no idea why I picked this as a hobby, but once you get them up and running, it’s a lot of fun. And we have friends all the time to play, but my daughters, again, they’re really into it. They haven’t really picked up the rehabbing part of it, but once they’re fixed, they love to sit behind them and play with them.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
Oh man! I wish you hadn’t said that, I would’ve asked like 10 more questions on that but I don’t want to spend too much time because I know our time is short. So if anybody else is interested, again, you might have to find Drew on LinkedIn.

Drew Chamberlain: (03:06)
Yeah. Reach out.

Gabe Larsen: (03:07)
So let’s do it. Let’s talk a little bit about this idea of modern customer experiences and maybe just start with the real big picture and tell me a little bit of some of your philosophies around how you have thought about really optimizing the customer experiences now and in your past.

Drew Chamberlain: (03:26)
Yeah, and I’ve been supporting customers, it feels like all my life, whether it was on the front lines in retail or eventually the last 25 years in call center and care center environments. But the real thing that’s changed over the years is how you show up for your customer. And it used to be, you just had to have a phone number, right? Somebody calls you, you’re there to help and you move on and that evolves to email and then social media and that’s continuing to grow, whether it’s chat or SMS or even self-help options. And that’s really, the thing is, today you have to be available through all these channels. My biggest fear in this segment is if you’re not available in the channel the customer wants, you lose that opportunity to help them, to be available.

Gabe Larsen: (04:19)
Oh, sorry. I wanted to click on that just real quick, because it seems like people debate, there is. There’s so many channels and they’re not sure where to go. And you start, all of a sudden, you find yourself on WhatsApp because you think it’s cool. How have you, or how would you coach companies to really find, what channels should they be on? How do you maximize that potential? You can’t possibly be on 75. So it’s sometimes like, where do you go there?

Drew Chamberlain: (04:44)
Yeah, absolutely. Well, obviously first you have to understand your customers, right? If your customer base lives strongly in the social environment, you need to show up in those channels to be able to support them. If your customers still prefer phone-based support, that has to be available. Obviously as people running care centers, we want to go to the areas that we’re optimized in that we have the best return on investment. But you have to understand that if you alienate the customer by not providing a channel that they’re looking for you at, you’re going to lose that customer completely. The trick here is that channels that you optimize in, you can try and lead people to that direction. But that doesn’t mean eliminating the channels that you’re not the best in are going to cost you more. Maybe you focus on email or chat, but you always have to leave that other channel out there, whether it’s phone or social in case the customer wants to contact you that way.

Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Yeah. I think that’s so wise this channel thing. For a while there, I thought it was stopping, meaning we kind of maybe hit our max, but yeah. The WhatsApp, the Instagram, some of these social things that keep kind of evolving, it just is going –

Drew Chamberlain: (05:54)
I’ll tell you that the best tool is the one that can help you manage all those channels in one centralized location. It’s not, it’s a challenge to try and have five or six different tools to try and support your customers. You need to find that tool and that partner out there that can have all those channels in one. So whether it’s an individual agent that’s sharing information to other agents or one agent that’s multi-channel can answer all those, they have it right in front of them, that full 360 view of the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
Yeah. Okay. Two follow-ups on that. The first one is, I still feel like there’s a little bit of confusion on kind of multi-channel versus omnichannel. Maybe just go a little further than that, because we can certainly respond on any channel we want, but as you kind of picture, if you could bring those into a single view for the agent, it changes things. Maybe click on that for a second.

Drew Chamberlain: (06:45)
Yeah, absolutely. In multiple roles I’ve had, some of the challenges that we’ve been presented with are that an agent may not have visibility into all the channels that a customer tried to reach out to us in. And so if your email is separate from your social and from your voice channels, a customer could channel hop and you could deliver maybe different answers to the same customer for the same question. You could solve the same problem multiple times and appease that customer three different ways and exceed what you’d want to do to resolve that issue. In that customer experience too, when a customer reaches out to you, regardless of the channel, they want to know that you know who they are, what their issue is, and how to resolve it. If they spoke to you over your social channels, and then they pick up the phone to call and you act like it’s an entirely new support situation, you’ve already lost that customer. That credibility is gone.

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Yeah, I think that’s so, I appreciate you bringing that up. I just think that’s still so pertinent to so many of our customer service interactions. And then the second question I wanted to ask is, it’s a buzzword, but you gave me that 360 view of the customer. It’s like, well, yeah. I have that. I go, I have my phone tree over here on screen one. And then I pop over to my name, CRM, Oracle or Salesforce. I’ve got that over here and I just have a different tab or different screen and I look up that person, like I have the 360 view. It’s just, I have 12 systems, right? Is that what you need? Or what do you mean by 360?

Drew Chamberlain: (08:18)
Yeah. You know as well as I do that an agent is going to go the path of least resistance. If it’s one system in front of them that they get the most information that they can use, that’s where they’re going to stay. And that means they miss out on information from another channel or answers that can help provide a solution for the customer, those things are going to be lost. And that’s why having a product that puts it all right in front of the agent without having to go to another tab, another window, without having to click on it. I can remember 15 years ago when I was taking inbound calls, there were two phones that I could click on. A red phone and a yellow phone. One was for closed calls, one was for open calls. I never clicked on them, ever. And I needed to because I could provide better support for my customer. If I knew there was an existing request for them, I could look at it and respond to it. But I didn’t because it took extra effort. If you have a tool in front of you that shows you on the screen you’re working on any outstanding items for that customer, leads you through that process and sets you through how to support them through the issues they’re requesting, man, you’re going to be that customer’s hero.

Gabe Larsen: (09:27)
I really think, it’s feeling like it’s more obvious, but boy, when I go about my daily business and buying and shopping, my wife just had an instance the other day. We’re just not there. What you’re talking about, for some it may seem obvious, but guys, we’ve not reached critical mass. So get on your tail and get going on it. All right. Let’s jump from omnichannel. You talk a lot about AI. This is another buzzword, but how can customer service leaders be thinking about AI? Should they? Are we still in a place where it’s like maybe learn about it but keep it, it’s a couple of years out?

Drew Chamberlain: (10:05)
Yeah. So artificial intelligence, AI, is definitely a buzzword. Definitely things that you’ll hear in promotional material. And to me, it’s more about how you can provide service to your customers when your agents aren’t available, or when the questions are easy enough that it can be responded to quickly without having to engage one of your team members. And whether that’s computer logic figuring out how to respond or whether you’re building a table that says, if this question’s asked, this answer is provided, the real win there is being able to provide that 24/7/365 support, as well as allowing your agents to really focus on those really challenging and difficult tasks. And the thing is, our customers have evolved. 10 years ago, if you said a robot’s going to answer your question, or you’re going to have to find your own answer, customers would have it, right? There’s no way. What do I pay you for? What are you there? You’re there to support me, right?

Drew Chamberlain: (11:04)
But today, because whether it’s technology in your hand in your cell phone, or just the way we’ve grown through how we interact with computers, people now expect it, right? They want to be able to self-serve and that’s again, having every channel available for your customer. I wish I could staff team members 24/7, but that’s just not possible today. It’s just too difficult. But customers want answers at midnight, at one in the morning. They want west coast time and east coast time and having a tool, whether it’s artificial intelligence or self-service that helps those customers with the majority of the requests that you’re going to get, it’s just going to get you that much further ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (11:46)
Where do you recommend that people start? I mean, I kind of liked your overview, but if I was just hearing this for the first time and it resonates with me, it’s like, especially 24/7, I feel like a lot of us are in that place where it’s like, hey, we have to have something after hours. And we’re having a hard time overseeing. How do you recommend people kind of just get going? Is it you focus on the chat area? Like get a chat and get smarter there? Or do you focus on that problem after hours? Or how would you start to think about the baby steps?

Drew Chamberlain: (12:19)
Yeah. So we have looked at it. First, you have to look within. Look at what types of requests you’re receiving and can you provide an answer, an automated response? And what I’ve done in the call centers that I’ve worked in is oftentimes we’ve built talk tracks or automatic scripts that we’re sending to customers, whether it’s over the phone or an email. We’re cutting and pasting, or putting it into our response. If it’s that same response every time, and that answers the customer’s requests, you can automate that. You can have artificial intelligence do that for you when your agents aren’t there to click the button and free them up. So the first thing you need to do is can your customers be supported that way, or a high percentage of your requests coming in, something that you could automate? Once you’ve figured that out, then what channels are they coming through? Obviously artificial intelligence is key for digital channels, whether it’s chat, email responses, even some social responses and direct messaging, private messaging, you can use some of that automated responses. But I would say, be honest about it. Let your customers know that you’re using a service to provide that answer. I wouldn’t try and fool somebody into thinking that it was a human response.

Gabe Larsen: (13:33)
That’s exactly right. I still run into that. I still run into that sometimes. There is, there’s this moment of like, trust loss that you’re like, “Oh. Is this a bot?” And I’m like, just say like this is the bot or you don’t have to like say this is Annie from whatever. I’m glad you threw that at the end because I’m like, look, just be authentic with me. It’s midnight, I’m tired, you’re tired.

Drew Chamberlain: (13:55)
Yeah. Just own it and make it cool. So our state of the art chat bot or our future technology is here to support you through this, but then leave that there that if need be, we’re always here to assist. Let them know that there’s always an escape plan. You don’t have to speak to the channel if you’re not comfortable with it. But what I have found is, once customers start to use tools like that, the key here is they have to get the right answer quickly the first time, then they’re bought in. If you don’t take the time to build the background for it and you’re not giving fully detailed answers or helping the customer through the experience, you’re going to lose them. They’re never going to want to go through that channel again.

Gabe Larsen: (14:39)
Yeah. So true. I really appreciate that. It’s right. I was talking to someone the other day and they were really struggling with the where’s my order question. They’re like, we’re just being bombarded by this kind of potentially simple requests that it’s like, that’s just a great place to maybe start your AI journey. Find that question that’s fairly simple. They can type in their order number. They can give some piece of information and it can just say, “Hey, it’s due Tuesday at six o’clock,” or whatever. And we don’t have to take that on the phone. We don’t have to take that. But identifying some of those potentially easy things that maybe reps don’t always have to answer, it’s a great place to start your AI journey. So, as we look to wrap here, Drew, I’m wanting to go just back, big picture. Certainly the pandemic has not been very fun for all of us. I say that with as much sympathy and empathy for those that are struggling, in and out of work or your businesses are struggling, but many customer service leaders have experienced this crazy surge and they didn’t know what to do. And some of that’s gone now. Others have had to find other ways to kind of keep their reps busy, et cetera. Any advice for kind of the different parties of customer service leaders that are hopefully coming out of this crazy situation, but moving into that next phase and really trying to kind of come out on top as leaders?

Drew Chamberlain: (16:01)
Yeah. And hopefully, these groups have already done this, but you have to leverage technology. If you’re using outdated technology, if you haven’t evaluated the technology you’re using, or even worse, if you’re not taking full advantage of the technology you have, you’re really cheating yourself. And that’s where you need to invest so that you are scalable. We talked about whether it’s artificial intelligence or an omnichannel having all of your channels in one area so that you can scale your team members, if you haven’t done that yet, you’re really selling yourself short and you’re hurting your customers.

Gabe Larsen: (16:40)
He said that nice. Get on your horse and get going everybody, seriously. Well, Drew, so fun to have you. I know our time is always short, but I really appreciate the punchy, action-driven explanations and advice for the group. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, or maybe ask a little more about your pinball machine or anything like that, anywhere you can direct them?

Drew Chamberlain: (17:04)
Yeah. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Drew Chamberlain. I’m at JOANN stores. Just connect with me there and we can always continue the conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (17:13)
Awesome. Alrighty. Well, hey. Again, appreciate your time, Drew, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (17:25)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Darryl Addington from Five9 to learn about integrating cloud support and AI into the CX space. Darryl has been involved with AI for years and is an expert at teaching leaders how to fully integrate these new systems into everyday operations. Tune into the episode to learn more.

Hot Take: How Artificial Intelligence Promotes Human Interaction

What would the world be like if AI were to be completely integrated into business practices? Would the human race be eradicated? Would there be lasting world peace? Or would there simply be streamlined customer journeys? The answer is: most likely the third option. It’s fun to fantasize about an AI-driven world, but that future is probably beyond our reach at this point in time, regardless of the advancements being made in the industry. The AI used in most businesses today is there simply to help the customer and the agent.

You might be wondering how AI drives human connection when artificial intelligence is, well, artificial. The purpose of AI is to support agents in a way that allows them to further personalize customer experiences by supplying them with the right information necessary for success. Even though a person might be dealing with a bot when they first contact the CX team, that bot can collect information from the customer to help the agent learn more about what exactly the customer needs. Interactions like this help the customer to feel listened to. They feel like their needs are being taken care of promptly and accurately when the agent is already aware of their purpose for calling in. Personalization is key to adding in that extra layer of humanity to CX and AI is one sure way to get that.

The Benefits are Endless and Profitable

Some of the most evident benefits of integrating AI to CX are the time and money such software can save a company. For example, customers are habitually upset when they have to constantly repeat their purpose for calling every single time they’re transferred from one department to another. With the help of AI, these situations can be entirely avoided because the software along with cloud systems contains all of the information departments need about their customers to make the journey just that much smoother. Darryl recognizes that as a leader in the contact center world, it can be difficult to fully buy into the idea of AI services when some existing processes are alright as is. Many leaders question why they should even buy into AI when innovation is already happening within their contact centers. As Vikas says, “The cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data privacy, up time, and things of that nature…Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud.” With the combination of AI and the cloud in CX, teams are better equipped to serve the customer.

A Future Where Agents and AI Collide

With the endless possibilities facing the world of CX, one can’t help but imagine a time where agents and AI work together to handle customer situations. Darryl believes that this could be the future of contact centers because AI software has the capability to suggest next steps during interactions based on an analysis of what the customer is saying at the moment. It doesn’t just stop there though. AI can analyze tone and situation through a customer’s phone call to suggest potential products that meet their needs as well as suggest articles that answer any questions the consumer may have during the call – further personalizing the experience. Darryl then explains how AI is an awesome investment for the agent side of CX because it shortens after call work and takes notes for the rep, so they can give their undivided attention to the customer. “It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today.” So while leaders anxiously await the development of CX technology to something as grand as in the movies, they would be wise to look into integrating AI. Innovation awaits.

To learn more about artificial intelligence in the workspace, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Secrets to Practical AI in the Contact Center | with Darryl Addington” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Upgrade Your Contact Center Using AI with Darryl Addington

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’re actually joining Facebook. Kustomer’s joining Facebook. So if you haven’t heard real exciting news for the Kustomer crew, go check it out on our blog, pending regulatory review. Some real fun synergies that I think will continue to push forward client services, client success, and the overall customer experience. I’m so excited about that news. But today we’re going to be talking about five secrets to practical AI in the contact center. And to do that, we’re going to bring on a couple of special guests. You know Vikas, Head of CX and SVP of Sales over here at Kustomer. Who you probably don’t know is Darryl Addington. He’s the Director of Product Marketing at Five9. So Darryl, thanks for joining and how the heck are ya?

Darryl Addington: (01:14)
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. It’s super exciting to be here. I love AI. AI in the contact centers, this new technology. So I’m stoked to talk about it today.

Gabe Larsen: (01:23)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s jump in, but before we do, you got to tell us a little bit about yourself and then how do you know Vikas? You guys seem to have something in your history, nothing inappropriate. I want to keep this above the belt please. Above the belt.

Darryl Addington: (01:37)
Yeah. So I’ve been in the contact center industry for most of my career, which is I lose count because it changes every year, but it’s somewhere around 25 years. I started at a company called Edify, which was a self service company. So they had one of the first 4GL development environments. And it’s actually not too dissimilar from some of the stuff that’s out there today. I spent some, I spent quite a bit of time at Genesys and then Vikas and I met when we were at 8×8.

Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
You were at 8×8? They’re still doing well aren’t they? 8×8’s still doing well.

Darryl Addington: (02:08)
Yeah, they are. They do seem to be doing well there. From what I’ve seen, they’re attaching quite a bit of contact center to their UC sale, which is a big part of their businesses is unified communications. Yeah. They had a little bit of news today about a new CEO. That’s going to join the company and take them on to the next part of their journey.

Gabe Larsen: (02:28)
Oh, I didn’t see that. Interesting. And then it was 8×8 to Five9, or was there a step in between that?

Darryl Addington: (02:34)
That was it for me. Yeah. I came over here, I guess getting close to four years ago and that’s been a super, super interesting ride. Five9 has a great cloud contact center. And the market is certainly looking towards the cloud for their contact center technology. And so it’s been great. I mean, it changes every single quarter, as I like to say. What happened? What did we do last year? Well, it doesn’t really matter what we did last year because things are changing so fast, but it’s great to be in a market where people are using the technology and at a company that’s so great like Five9, the people there are really great, and we have really good processes and things, and our customers love us, which is a spectacular position to be in.

Gabe Larsen: (03:11)
Interesting. You want to add anything to that, Vikas? Did you guys actually work together?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
We did, we did. Obviously I led an enterprise and mid-market sales at 8×8, and Darryl was in product marketing. And we worked very closely together in terms of a lot of our rollout, particularly around our contact center solution there. And I’m glad to get reacquainted with Darryl, obviously Five9 being a key partner for us here at Kustomer. So excited to have the discussion around AI and what’s going on in the market.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
So you guys didn’t have any of the typical sales and marketing fights then, huh? It was all rosy.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:47)
I mean, it was just like you and me, Gabe. There’s never any fights between sales and marketing when it comes to me. I know how heavily dependent I am on both you guys in individual lives for success. So trust me, there’s no fighting here.

Gabe Larsen: (04:02)
That’s fair. It’s been fun to partner with Vikas. And truthfully Darryl, Five9, I got to admit, it sounds like you’ve been there for awhile, it’s just a great story. How many employees are you guys up to? I don’t want to go into anything.

Darryl Addington: (04:13)
Yeah, I believe we’re at around 1300, I think that’s correct. Yeah, when I joined it was seven or eight, something like that. So, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (04:23)
Yeah. Right. I mean it is a growth story. If you haven’t heard about Five9, the innovation they brought to the contact center, the dialing solutions, I remember we actually used you guys in a couple of places in some, in more of a sales area. Maybe five, I don’t know.

Darryl Addington: (04:41)
Yeah, that’s right. That’s actually been around since 2001 and for the first eight to ten years of its existence, we did quite a bit of outbound, which was who was buying cloud0-based solutions at that time. And then, six years ago, the contact center said, “Okay, I’m ready for the cloud from my inbound contact center.” And that’s most of what we do today.

Gabe Larsen: (05:02)
And that was such a, I don’t know if you call it a pivot but I remember when you guys started to kind of go that direction and it’s obviously turned out really well. So a lot of cool stuff in the contact center. Let’s jump into AI. Maybe just start with a super big picture. I mean, obviously a buzzword. What does that mean to you? What is AI? Give us kind of why people should even care about it, what it is.

Darryl Addington: (05:22)
Yeah. You know, AI is interesting because like a lot of industry trends it’s, people have gotten a hold of a term and they’re using it whether it’s appropriate to use or not. The other thing about AI is because there’ve been so many movies and TV shows about AI, people’s first inclination when they hear it is, “Well, this must be something magical.” And there may be a point where we have some voice in the cloud that we talk to and it knows everything about us and it knows everything about the business that we’re communicating with and can magically solve all of our problems for us. And if that happens in the future, that’ll be interesting. It’ll probably change every aspect of lives, but it’s not something that businesses can invest in today. It doesn’t exist today. And so what they can invest in now is technology using this idea of machine learning, which we can talk a little bit about. They can invest in that to solve the types of problems that they’re suffering from today, which there’s lots of them. And especially if you look in the contact center, tons of room for improvement in customer experience, as we all know, and tons of room for improvement in terms of operations and improving efficiency and things like that.

Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Interesting. Yeah. I’ve got a nine-year-old boy and I’ve let him do a couple of things with the Avengers, Ironman, and he did ask not long ago, he’s like, “When can we get this Jarvis?” Like, “When does Jarvis come to our house?” And you can just –

Darryl Addington: (06:38)
He walks around, right?

Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
He changes everything, cleans the house, and makes everything great. I’m like, “Well, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.” So when you think about artificial intelligence, I’m really trying to lay the foundation, is there certain things you need to be or have in place to make sure we’re actually set up to implement this in a structured manner?

Darryl Addington: (07:00)
Yeah. There are a few steps that you can take. There’s actually a lot of low-hanging fruit for a lot of the contact centers out there to help them with customer experience and efficiency, and the first one is moving to the cloud and there’s a few reasons to do that. It sounds a little self-serving, but the reality is that all the innovation that’s going on in the contact center in terms of software is happening in the cloud. You might’ve seen a couple of years ago that Gartner ended their MQ for on premises contact center. And they said that the technology had reached its peak point and it wasn’t evolving anymore. So there was no reason to have an MQ. And that’s because all that innovation is now going towards the cloud. So that’s one good reason.

Darryl Addington: (07:39)
The second big reason is that the cloud is where the data’s at. So if you look at what machine learning is, and if I can just jump into that for a second. So machine learning is basically, it’s not magical. It’s basically an algorithm – it’s just math. And what it does is it allows machines, but the really cheap compute power that we have today to be able to go through a whole bunch of data. So in the example of text-to-speech, right, machines being able to have natural sounding voices, Wavenet, which is Google’s text to speech, they sample voices, millions and millions and millions of hours of voices at up to 24,000 samples per second. So if you think of all the data points that you’ve got along that human voice, and then you multiply that times all the needs of hours that the computer has gone through, it has so much data about the way that we articulate, the way that our voices sound. Just what we’ve been, I’ve been talking about this for a minute, right? Like how many samples do you have in there? And what that’s done is it’s generated these really super realistic, like, you can still tell it’s a machine if you’re listening closely, but it sounds so good that it doesn’t get in the way of the communication between a machine and a human anymore. And so that’s just one example of how machine learning is adding to this technology. And anyway, the data is in the cloud, right? And in an on premises world, all those voice conversations are trapped in servers somewhere in an enterprise, and you can’t get to them. And so you can’t really improve the AI with that data.

Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
It seems like Vikas, you’re out there on the front lines a lot with people and the move to cloud has obviously been accelerated with the pandemic. I mean, why is somebody even, no offense if you’re on premise at the moment, but why is someone, are there actually people who are on premise still? And if so, why?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
There are. Obviously the legacy vendors are still in existence and making a lot of money off of the maintenance revenue from people being on-prem. I think the key thing is, look, change is hard, right? And I think it’s A, the fear of uncertainty. Two, it’s the effort to actually go through that migration process. And then there’s a lot of unknowns and hearsay in the market and look, as Darryl said, the cloud has matured significantly. In the early days, people had fear about data security, data, privacy, up time and things of that nature, right? Those are no longer or less of an issue now with the maturity of the contact center space in the cloud. So I think those are some things where businesses have a lot on their plate obviously, and so this becomes a matter of where does this fall on your priority list? The challenge, I think most people don’t see is all the upside that Darryl alluded to by moving to the cloud because that’s where the innovation is. So at some point, yes, you need to bite the bullet, but it’s not just about doing as is, right? And like, “Oh, I can run my contact center on-prem today and I’m going to,”

Darryl Addington: (10:44)
That’s right.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
“What are all the additional things that I can take advantage of once I move to the cloud?” I think that’s what a business should really be thinking about.

Darryl Addington: (10:52)
I completely agree, Vikas, and actually the integration to Kustomer that you guys have created using our SDK is an example of something that’s completely different in the cloud than it is on premises. And anybody that’s been on premises and is connected their CRM or customer information system to their contact center, knows that you own that integration, regardless of who did that work when it breaks, it’s, you’re the one that’s responsible for that breakage. And Gartner calls it fragile infrastructure. It’s this connection between all the different systems in an on-premises world. And basically what it does is horrible for the contact center, but it causes people to not make changes to what they’re doing. So they can’t iterate. They can’t transform. They do changes every three months or six months, or over years sometimes because in the past, they’ve made a change and it’s broken and what the worst thing you can possibly do is roll out a change to all your agents and have it break. Your phone’s going to light up. You might do it twice. You’re not going to do it three times. And all that’s super, super stable on the cloud, like that has gone away because the cloud vendors, like yourselves and ourselves, we own that. We have thousands of customers using these integrations and using the software. So it behooves us to make sure that it works because now our desk is, our phones are lighting up when it doesn’t work, not the person that was responsible for the context of your integration in the first place.

Gabe Larsen: (12:14)
Yeah, that’s so interesting that Gartner and I didn’t realize they’d gotten rid of that on-prem, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that, Darryl. That’s funny. Well, let’s talk about some of the practical uses. You gave kind of the general idea and the foundational, but how did that translate for the agent and the customer? Maybe you can just start at a high level, where do you feel like people are seeing some of those benefits from moving to the cloud, and then the data, the machine learning, and ultimately the artificial intelligence?

Darryl Addington: (12:37)
Yeah, so the net result of machine learning and AI, and there’s a couple of use cases that I think we could talk about here. So one is automation. How can you take some of the things that people are currently doing with agents and automate them? And then the second is agent’s assistance. How can you make the agent’s job easier? And there’s lots of benefits that you get in terms of what the customer experience is like, but also some benefits around agent training and things like that. So if you take that first example, automation, there’s a lot of things that you might try and do in an IVR, but as we all know, using, pushing buttons on the DTMF is not a lot of fun. Most customers won’t do it. Later, we can touch on a customer case study that had a DTMF auto-attendant replaced with an AI-based auto-attendant and saw some awesome results.

Gabe Larsen: (13:25)
Really? Interesting.

Darryl Addington: (13:27)
And then the other element is you might, speech reco exists today, but it’s so expensive and hard to put in and it takes so much energy to maintain over time that it’s only been available to the high end of the market. So if you call Southwest Airlines and you call your bank, and it’s a big bank, you’ve probably interacted with a speech recognition system to automate some of the things you do, transfer funds from checking to savings, et cetera. But those are expensive and so the average business can’t really adopt them, but with this AI stuff, it is actually a lot easier to implement. We put in that auto attendant that I referenced in about two weeks, two weeks of PS, like one person for two weeks, which is crazy different from what the old speech reco was.

Darryl Addington: (14:10)
It was six months to nine months just to get the thing up and running. In some cases for the larger companies, like two years before you could actually put the thing into production. Really, really amazing. Anyway, so automation is like the first one and in any business, and you can kind of break down automation versus assistant, right? So customers know when they need to, when they need some automation versus when they need some assistance from a human being. So for example, if I’m going to go into a business and I’m going to, I want to know, is your store open? Right. Very, super common for COVID right now, is the store open? When is it open? Like, what hours are it open? These are all like things that you know you can just figure out, you should be able to figure it out from our website or from an IVA.

Darryl Addington: (14:51)
What’s the status of my order? I need to change my address. These are all things that you would expect to be able to do without a human being. But, “Hey, I ordered a piano bench 20 weeks ago and for the last 20 weeks, every two weeks, you’ve said it’s coming, but it’s not here yet.” So like, let’s have a conversation because I know I’m not going to get this resolved on self-service. And so that’s sort of, if you think about it from that perspective as a business, you can kind of think about what do I want to automate versus what I want that has something to do with the human experience that you’ve got. It has something to do with the relationship that you have with the business. You want to get to a human being because they’re going to be able to smooth all that over and make it better.

Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
So in a lot of ways, you’ve been able to take that complex voice recognition and be able to simplify it so that you can automate some of those more mundane tasks via phone if they want to. It’s just a [inaudible].

Darryl Addington: (15:42)
Yeah. Speech reco is a good example. And then I guess, let me just talk about IQVIA which is one of our customers. They did the auto attendant. What they found was that their customers weren’t willing to hit the tones. They weren’t willing to hit the buttons on the phone. And what that resulted in was that they got to agents that weren’t necessarily skilled to solve their problem. And then, like they probably had access to a CRM, like the great one that you guys have, but they maybe didn’t know how to navigate through it in order to find what they needed, et cetera. So when they implemented the flat menu, essentially, right, just tell me what it is that you’re calling about, customers were willing to give that a shot. And what they found was after those two weeks that I talked about, 87% on the first utterance, the first time that they just said, “Hey, I’m calling about this issue,” they were able to identify that and transfer that to the right agent and 93% after the second utterance. So if it didn’t get it the first time they were able to get to 93. They reduced their agent transfer down to less than 1% from agent to agent, meaning it got routed correctly to the agent. And then the other big stat for that one that was amazing to me was their average handle time decreased by 15% because the agents were actually trained on the issue of the customer. Yeah. So like really cool stuff. And the fact that a medium size and not these big organizations could implement something like that to me is, that’s like wow, right? Like that’s okay. It’s not quite magic like Jarvis, but it has such a big impact on the business. It’s super compelling and interesting and it solves the problems that the businesses have today.

Gabe Larsen: (17:18)
Interesting. Thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (17:21)
No, I think the key thing is that it opened up the opportunity for all types of businesses to deliver that optimal experience. You know what Darryl said, if you look at speech recognition, something that was primarily kind of started by, primary adoption was large financial services institutions. So the flagship banks, and as Darryl said, it took the number of years to roll it out. And frankly, the effectiveness of it, I would still debate, right? So now being able to offer that up to a medium size, small businesses I think is fantastic because as consumers we don’t only want to have a great experience, we used to joke that everybody talks about Apple delivering this amazing experience and everybody said, “Yeah, sure. It’s Apple,” right? Trillion dollar company. Of course they can afford to. So now I think of an opportunity for every business owner or every leader in every business, to think that they have the capabilities within their budget to go deliver an Apple-like experience, which I think is great because as a consumer, I think that’s the ideal that we’re all looking for.

Gabe Larsen: (18:30)
Yeah. It’s interesting. And I assume Darryl, that found that often the touch tone versus the speaking, it’s that big of a difference. We’re that lazy.

Darryl Addington: (18:43)
Yeah. Well, most people don’t understand why they’re doing it. You know there’s actually a website and it’s been around for forever, it’s called Get Human. And it tells you how to bypass the IVR so you can talk to a person, but what the consumer doesn’t realize, generally speaking, is that they’re then going to get to an agent that isn’t skilled to help them and so they’re going to get transferred around after that in order to solve their problem. But whatever. Speech reco is much, much better now with this AI. And even saying they don’t even call it speech reco anymore but it does recognize what you’re saying. Potentially yeah, to just be easy and usable which is great.

Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
I didn’t realize that was such a difference. And then you mentioned a little bit about agent assist-type capabilities. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Or what does that look like?

Darryl Addington: (19:27)
Yeah, so agent assist is now, so now we know the consumer knows and the business knows that an agent needs to be involved. You’ve got something that is relational. So you’re onboarding a customer, for example, you don’t want to do that really in self-service. Some businesses can do it just because of the nature of their business, but a lot of businesses want you human beings involved. Or it’s something that is going to break the relationship. Hey, it’s been, like I said with the piano bench or travel-wise, I called Southwest Airlines recently. I was going to go to Kauai over the break and they closed the island and Southwest canceled my flights. So I wanted to talk to somebody about that. So you know you need a human, okay. So now you get to the agent now, how can you help the agent? And there’s a number of ways that AI can do that really easily today. So one is around call summarization and dispositions. So dispositions is this funny word, right? A disposition is essentially like, what was the call about? It’s a pretty simple thing. And the agent typically in a contact center has got, it’s easy to do. They just click on one, except that the list is usually a hundred items or longe. They have to scroll through the list at the end, right, and figure out what was the call about? And with a hundred items and the fact that most calls, not all calls, but most calls have multiple things that they were about, the agent does something called satisfaction. They just pick the first one that looks pretty good and their management doesn’t want them on after call work. They don’t want them sitting there for 10 minutes optimizing that disposition, right?

Darryl Addington: (20:50)
They want him to get onto the next phone call. So they just pick whatever. So that just totally ruins the reporting. Like you don’t actually know what that call is about. You know what the agent saw, the first thing the agent saw that looked close is what you know about that call. So AI can help with that because it listens to the whole call, listens to the conversation between the customer and the agent, and then they can pick multiple dispositions based on what that call was actually about. Now, you got this awesome reporting that’s more accurate and can actually tell you and let you fix problems around what your customers are calling about. So that’s number one.

Darryl Addington: (21:20)
Number two is call summaries. A lot of time gets spent by agents trying to capture what’s happening in the call and write down notes. With AI I can just capture all of that. And one of the things that Five9 is doing that’s interesting is that we actually summarize the call based on the dictation. The AI is not perfect, but it gives us enough details that we can then use NLP to summarize what that call was about. And at the end of the call, the agent just goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, let me crack that one real quick. I’ll be cool.” And they hit the button and it automatically gets written into Kustomer, into the CRMso that they don’t have to do all that. So shorten, it does two things. Shortens the after-call work, but then it also allows them to focus more on the customer because they’re not busy trying to capture all the notes during that.

Darryl Addington: (22:05)
Darryl, are you seeing an ability in the voice world to whisper to the agent and obviously prompt them based on the conversation that is taking place on potential solutions? So as you said, the AI is listening to the conversation going back and forth between the consumer and the agent and actually recommending, “Hey, maybe you want to say this. This is the solution to that problem. Like they should reset their cable box,” whatever it is. Do you see, is that something that exists or is that something that is still in flight?

Darryl Addington: (22:42)
Yeah, no, that’s something that you can do today and a great example. So there’s a whole bunch of different things that you can do around, like, so you might have legal statements that you need the agent to say, so you can watch for those. You can actually watch to see if they didn’t say them and then you can prompt them to say it, and then you can see if they actually said it like, so it’s like so awesome using the technology. And then there might be the next best action type of things. Like what should they be doing? So for example, it might be an example of if you’re in a business where the usage is important to the customer using the product, there might be examples, “Oh, have you tried using it like this?” Or it could be cross sell up sell-type opportunities where it’s saying, “Hey, customers that purchase that product that you’re talking about now, 85% of them purchased this product next.”

Darryl Addington: (23:25)
So talk to them about that product. So yeah, lots of examples there. The other thing that is happening is knowledge base. So being able to go on a knowledge base and pull up articles and present those to the agent, and man, talk about it being easier for the agent to your point, Vikas. You’ve got, and now you’ve got an AI that’s right there saying, “Hey, here’s what to do next.” Or, “Here’s an article that you can use to solve this problem.” It helps the agent because they’re not distracted with, and as you know, as you guys both know, one of the big problems with agents is they’ve got stuff everywhere, right? So they spend a lot of time putting the customer on hold and looking for things and with the AI just suggesting –

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Not if they’re using Kustomer, but that’s a different discussion.

Darryl Addington: (24:07)
No, you’re right. But the you’re replacing environments that are like that with –

Gabe Larsen: (24:12)
Yeah, i’s funny. As I look at that, Darryl, I’m like, how did the agent ever function without these things? Like, what were they doing? They must’ve been, I guess they were –

Vikas Bhambri: (24:22)
Going back to what Gabe’s son was saying about Jarvis, right? We often, when we think about AI, it’s always still today, it’s very much a handoff conversation. It’s like, “Okay. The bot tries to solve the issue if it can. It hands off to human agent.” And yeah. I mean, we suggest things too. Do you envision a world where, especially in the voice world, it’s slightly different in the digital world where we’re talking about chat or social or whatever, where bot and agent are actually solving the problem for the customer together? And what I mean, I’m just thinking out loud, right? So from the perspective of I’ve got a generalist agent or, and maybe we have, but the bot is the expert in mortgages and we’re trying to solve the problem, but for the consumer, it’s seamless. Like a consumer feels like they’re talking to two people, but reality it’s one human agent and a bot who maybe is a specialist bot around mortgages if I was to look at financial services.

Darryl Addington: (25:24)
Yeah. So absolutely. I think the way that that’s manifesting today in the market is that you are able to get agents out on the floor faster. So they’re not a mortgage expert and maybe they don’t have to take the month long training in order to get them out on the floor because the AI is going to support them. They’re going to support them visually, not necessarily communicating directly to the customer while the agent’s communicating with the customer. But one of the things that we’ve focused on since the very beginning and the integration of the customer helps with this, is that context level between the automation, because it always exists, that’s what consumers know like we talked about, right? They know if it’s self service or automation, they’re probably going to start with self service if they can, even if they know they need an agent, they’re going to have to pass through the self service to get to an agent.

Darryl Addington: (26:13)
And during that time we can gather this word’s intentions, right? Like what is the customer trying to do? And the identity of the customer and the intent of the customer and any context about what the customer was doing recently can be passed to the agent and that agent then can make that a seamless bridge. And that’s a super, super, super critical part because in survey, after survey, after survey shows that customers do not like starting over when they switch channels and whether that’s from self service to an agent or from text to voice, whatever the case might be, they don’t like that.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:44)
Yeah. And I think when you live in our world and we’re so used to the technology side of it, we take it for granted. And then I think it’s quite often when I put my consumer hat on and I’m engaging all these different brands that I’m almost in disbelief as to the percentage of brands, that very basic nuance that you talked about there, the handoff, is still fundamentally broken I would say for 90% plus of most businesses.

Darryl Addington: (27:08)
Yeah. Well, and that’s solvable today without AI. I mean, that’s a problem that if you get a good pre-built integration between, to cloud vendors like us, you can solve that today and it’s actually relatively easy. You just implement the solutions, which is great. So I recommend businesses go do that.

Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
You’ve got to find that way. Well, let’s wrap up. But Darryl, I’d like to let you kind of finish and maybe pose this question to you. A lot of people out there trying to start this journey, figure out the best way to kind of optimize each part of the customer journey, where would you kind of leave the audience with, how do you start? Like where do I go to kind of get my feet wet and crawl, walk, run, if you will?

Darryl Addington: (27:48)
Yeah. I mean, so move to the cloud for one, because of all the reasons we’ve talked about, stability, better reporting, better UI, as you can control, and you can iterate on your contact center. That helps a ton. Integrate into your CRM, like with a pre built integration. Prebuilt, it’s important. There are great SDKs. We have one, but if you can get a pre built integration into a CRM like Kustomer, awesome. Like, that’s going to help so much in terms of the experience, the agent training, the environment looks seamless across that whole thing, and they can get all that context we just talked about. Three is enabling the agent. Super important for work from home these days, and that’s agent stats. How am I doing during the day? Am I meeting the customer and the company’s objectives for me? Am I not? Gamification and workforce management or another key one so that you can manage your schedule really effectively. That empowers the agent in a way that they haven’t been empowered previously.

Darryl Addington: (28:39)
So those three steps, and then like, that’s just low hanging fruit. Like you can go do that today and really easily, within three months, depending on the complexity of your contact center, could be a week. It could be really fast, might be a bit longer, three months if you were super big, if you got 30,000 agents or something, but you can go do that today. And so those are the first three steps. And then AI, AI is absolutely there. It’s practical. You can find vendors that are using that technology in ways that are allowing you to solve business problems you have today while we all wait for Jarvis to come around and –

Gabe Larsen: (29:14)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Vikas always appreciate you joining. Darryl, thanks so much for having me. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Five9, what’s the best way to do that?

Darryl Addington: (29:22)
Well, the website’s a good spot to start. It’s got a lot of good information. There’s numbers that you can call out there, et cetera. And, uh, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (29:32)
Love it. Alrighty, man. Well hey, appreciate your time, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Darryl Addington: (29:36)
Yeah, you too.

Exit Voice: (29:43)
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The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Tom Rieger from NSI, to learn about customer retention through enhancing wait times. While this is a hot topic in the industry, companies seem to be missing the mark. Tom teaches us everything we need to know in the podcast below. Listen along to learn more. 

The Science of Wait Times and Rewarding Customers

We’ve all been there – waiting for what seems like hours, listening to horrible elevator music, hoping that at some point, someone picks up to solve our problem. It seems that many companies are handling wait time wrong. Either they put the customer on hold for too long because they don’t have enough resources to answer efficiently or they haven’t utilized data to their advantage to better understand the customer’s problems. In the CX world, wait times are inevitable and it’s impossible to deliver a good experience when agents are overwhelmed. Little do people know there’s a science to perfecting the wait time. When we get too stressed, cortisol is released in the brain, causing us to not effectively pay attention or be able to process stressful situations. As humans we tend to create an opinion of an experience based on the end result. Keeping these two factors in mind can help leaders to lessen the pressure on agents and to help agents deliver a better end result. Even with long wait times, customers tend to be happier and more connected to the brand if they have a satisfying experience at the end of the interaction. “If you have to wait a short amount of time to get bad service, because that rep feels so rushed to keep their service levels where they are, you’re not going to be as happy as if you waited longer and then got a good experience.”

Scripted Language vs. Natural Dialogue, How Do They Compare?

So many companies have resorted to using scripted language for each rep interaction, turning agents into robotic employees. Customers can sense this. While it’s okay to automate some aspects of the service experience, leaders should be actively seeking ways for agents to personalize their interactions beyond the script. Providing personalized service is what sets a brand apart from the competition. This tactic can really set the tone for how customers think of the brand in the future; if they have great service and feel their problems are solved, it’s likely that they’ll continue shopping with the company. What really matters in CX is the outcome of each interaction. Did the rep solve the customer’s problem? Did they make the customer feel valued and understood? As Tom points out, “You can’t differentiate your brand based on a recording, but you can differentiate your brand based on the entire experience that you provide.” Forcing agents to stick to the script at all times is ultimately a waste of valuable energy that would be better spent on personalizing the experience for each individual customer through naturally flowing conversation.

Tips for Beginners: How to Enhance the Wait

For those who are just starting their journey as a leader in CX, one of the best things they can do to improve the customer and wait time experience is to take a holistic look at the data and to utilize it in every aspect. Data is helpful for understanding human behavior and altering processes accordingly. “So making sure you have the data, that you have the right metrics and then just rolling up your sleeves, quite frankly, and being willing to keep an open mind with what the data tells you.” Taking a deep dive into how your company is performing according to customer feedback can really open up so many opportunities for improvement.

The experts leave us with one final tip. While a customer’s waiting to speak to an agent, don’t try and sell them things. In order for an agent to successfully upsale, the customer has to be in the right mindset. They have to be open and ready for new information whereas in a call to the CX team, they are most likely not in the right mindset and will end up more frustrated and feeling taken advantage of. Selling to customers during their wait time, in a way, diminishes their needs and shows them that they’re only worth the money they spend. Wait time provides a chance for companies to garner lasting loyalty through making the entire interaction worthwhile.

To learn more about wait time and how it affects CX, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience | With Tom Reiger” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Wait Time in Driving the Customer Experience | Tom Rieger

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 the power of wait time. Wait time, one of the things everyone talks about but I don’t know if everybody is doing it right. And we have a special guest joining us today and that is not Vikas. Vikas is not our special guest today, although I’m glad he’s here as always. Vikas Bhambri. But we do have Tom Rieger. He’s currently the president of NSI. On the NBI side, which is their consumer facing organization over there at NSI, he’ll talk a little bit more about that. Tom and I go way back. We were actually colleagues at Gallup. He wrote a book about barrier busting in 2011 that I thought was so fascinating and just broke down the customer experience, each step, and how you look for barriers and break them. And then recently, actually, he’s got a new book out, just published a couple of months ago, calling culturing organizational blindness, the three deadliest blind spots and how to avoid them. So appreciate you joining and how the heck are you?

Tom Rieger: (01:18)
I’m doing great, Gabe. Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
Yeah! Tell us just a little bit more about your role, your background, what you do over there at NSI. Give us that brief overview if you don’t mind.

Tom Rieger: (01:26)
Sure. So NSI and then NBI are a customer facing entity, really specializes in human behavior analytics. So we’re a group of behavioral scientists of different disciplines – social psychology, political science, decision science, and so on. And we tend to tackle wicked problems. We do a ton of work for the Department of Defense, supporting the joint staff. And then we also work for a variety of different clients. We work in call centers, the video game industry, we’re doing a fair amount now in the medical device field. So really, wherever we can apply that multi-disciplinary, multi-method look to try to get different ways of looking at problems.

Gabe Larsen: (02:09)
Yeah, that’s what we’re going to dive into today. So without further ado, let’s hit it. Let’s start just big picture. Wait time, why the fascination with it? Is it really that important?

Tom Rieger: (02:24)
Wait time is something that I found with our call center clients, it’s always something they’re trying to figure out because if you drive a shorter wait time, that means one of two things. It means either you hire a lot of people and your costs go through the roof or you depersonalize your experience and you automate everything. And one is not necessarily good or bad, but it’s certainly not an absolute. But the problem is when you drive it to be faster and faster, invariably you change the amount of time you have actually with a rep, creating that one-on-one relationship and really providing a differentiated value. And so it’s a trade off that really fascinated me. And it’s got so many different aspects of it. That’s something I love studying and it’s something our clients have asked us to say now a few times to help them figure it out.

Gabe Larsen: (03:17)
I love it. Vikas, I mean, 20 years in a contact center is, wait times, it’s not ever going away, right? I mean, it’s one of those terms that you’ve heard for years and you probably will continue to hear for years.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:29)
Yeah, no. I mean, it’s one of those, Tom hit the nail on the head. It’s one of those age old problems, which is, it’s something that, unless you’re just going to staff so that you’ve got somebody who can grab, pick up the phone call right when somebody comes into the queue, which is virtually impossible to do, it’s going to exist. So the question is, what do you do with it? Because it’s time that’s there. How do you use it so that it’s the most benefit to you as the brand, as well as your consumer customer base?

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
I love that. I love that. So let’s get into that because it seems like the age old conversation would be about how do we increase satisfaction by lowering wait time and driving service level? I mean, it’s always how we lower the wait time, lower the wait time. Is that the way we should be framing it, Tom? Or how have you kind of helped organizations think through this?

Tom Rieger: (04:24)
So not necessarily. So let me put it this way, Gabe. Let’s say that you’re in a bar and you ever have an argument with someone and it’s clear you guys are going to have a fight. And he says to you, “I’m going to throw my beer in your face, but can you just wait here five minutes? I’m gonna make a phone call first.” So that five minutes is going to be really annoying, right? Because of the outcome at the end of it is something bad, something unpleasant.

Tom Rieger: (04:52)
Let’s say, you’re going to Disney world with your family and you want to go to space mountain and you’re expecting a one hour wait and you get there and it says, the wait time right now is 11 minutes. You’re going to think that is the shortest amount of time in the world. Even though the 11 minutes is more than twice as long as the five minutes. So it is just the pure satisfaction with wait time is very context and expectation dependent. But beyond that, what really matters isn’t the wait time, it’s through what, is the wait worth it? It’s what’s happening at the end. There was a study done in 1993. It was published in the Journal of Psychological Science by Danny Conoman, who we all know from great work along with Barbara Fredrickson and some other noted social psychologists and behavioral economics specialists. And it was basically, it was really interesting. What he did is he had people stick their hand in painfully cold water for 60 seconds. Yeah, I think it was 57 degrees. And then in the second trial, they had to stick their hand in the same 60 seconds, but they kept it in the cold, painfully cold water for another 60 seconds while it was increased one degree Celsius. So up to about 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So it was a lot more pain to keep your hand in the water, that extra 30 seconds. And then they were asked and it was randomized, which one was first. And then they asked, which would you repeat for a third trial? 70% percent, just about, just under 70% said the longer one, even though it was, it was more pain sticking around cold water, but in a better end. And this relates, and that actually increased all the way up to over 80% for people who noticed the difference in temperature. So that’s called peak end theory, that you judge the experience by what happens at the very end or by the page. So let’s put that in a call center context. If you have to wait a short amount of time to get bad service, because that rep feels so rushed to keep their service levels where they are, you’re not going to be as happy as if you waited longer and then got a good experience, which is less expensive for the clients who delivered.

Gabe Larsen: (07:17)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Vikas, he just kind of blew my mind. Are you following this? You’ve been in contact-

Vikas Bhambri: (07:23)
I am. I understand what Tom is saying, right? I think the challenge is most contact centers do both. And what I mean by doing both is long wait times and a negative result when you actually do engage with the agent, right? If you look at CSAT results. So, I think what Tom’s saying is, look, you can keep your wait time. I’m sure it’s going to be within reason, but you can keep it lengthy, as long as when the person actually engages the agent, they resolve their issue. And I think just so many of us, and obviously it varies by brand and by industry, have been set up awaiting that negative experience. So as that time clock keeps going, our frustration and anxiety continues to build as you –

Gabe Larsen: (08:13)
As you know it could potentially be probably negative. You’re like these guys are jokers anyways, right? Is that what you’re saying?

Vikas Bhambri: (08:19)
Right. And then Tom, your kind of Space Mountain example and very fresh in mind because one of the few trips I made pre-COVID, are you all kind of advocating to say, “Look, tell them it’s going to be a five minute wait, but have an agent pick up the phone in two minutes?”

Tom Rieger: (08:37)
It’s not that simple. When you do the math, you have to look at this by issue type, because there are some types of tickets that are critical. And if it’s preventing them from using your brand, you’re going to want to get those resolved immediately. There’s others that are less critical. And here’s a really cool thing. When you actually build a regression curve, matching satisfaction or brand usage or dollar spend versus the actual wait time, almost always the shape of the curve is cubic. So in other words, there’s a point where it’s so short, they’re really happy. It’s like, wow, they answered instantly. So it’s really high. And then you reach this flat zone where it kind of doesn’t matter. And then eventually it gets to be so long that you fall off a cliff. Now, if you do a little calculus, once you determine that curve, you can figure out, well, where do you take off where people are really thrilled and you know what? It’s expensive to do that. So you have to be very choosy, what types of tickets you really want to get. Then where’s the inflection point? Where do you start to fall off a cliff? And then where are you really falling off a cliff? And almost always, you can extend your service levels, get them a little bit longer, just so you’re in that flat zone, but not falling off the cliff. And your customers may not notice, but that could free up enough time to provide more of that individual focused experience that the reps are probably feeling they can’t afford to deliver because there’s so much pressure on the service level.

Gabe Larsen: (10:11)
Yeah. Well, I was going to say, I mean, just the conversation of getting people to move away from always wanting to lower wait times, it just feels like it’s almost like religion at times. It’s just almost fanatical. It’s like, no, no, no. I can’t even hear what you’re saying, Tom, because I have to lower my wait time.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:29)
And Tom, what I heard was that flat lines could almost be specific to the type of issue.

Tom Rieger: (10:36)
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that cliff is going to be in a different place for different types of issues.

Gabe Larsen: (10:42)
So quick on that, just for one second. So you’re basically saying what you would recommend or what you often do with clients is one, probably kind of give them the pitch big picture, just so they’re starting to think differently about wait time, but the execution comes into running some sort of analysis around issue type and wait time and finding this kind of optimal spot and then potentially implementing that as, do I hear that right?

Tom Rieger: (11:10)
Right? Yeah. It’s just math. It’s just math finding that, but that’s only half the battle because that doesn’t –

Gabe Larsen: (11:19)
With a lot of battle. Because when you said calculus, again –

Tom Rieger: (11:22)
Oh, come on. It’s easy. It’s not that hard. So that’s only half the battle because then you have to deliver a great experience to make the wait worth it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Oh, I see. I see.

Tom Rieger: (11:32)
So then that gets into making sure that you in-group, that it’s not us versus them. Treating them as a valued customer, but here’s another side of this and this is something I talk about a lot in my new book. If someone is in a threat state, if someone is feeling pressured, if you release cortisol in your brain. That shuts down your prefrontal cortex. And when that happens, it becomes very hard for that rep to really think clearly because they’re under so much pressure and it’s a two way street. If you have someone out there who’s falling into these blind spots and just trying to rush through, then that’s going to put the customer in a threat state and then they’re going to be unhappy and they’re not going to be listening. And you know what’s going to happen? They’re probably going to call back. Your first call resolution is going to tank and your cost just doubled in an effort to save a penny in wait time. So it just cycles the plan itself. So you really have to focus on making sure you support that rep, give them the tools and really focus on in grouping and providing that great experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:41)
So Tom, one of the things you mentioned is obviously the agent side of it and making sure the agent doesn’t feel rushed. And what about on the consumer side? I’m just thinking about, as you said, wait times are inevitable unless we staff to the point where literally, you can just pick up the phone the moment somebody dials on one end. What can brands do to use that time effectively? Because I think about things like even the whole concept of callbacks, right? Where I give you my number and you call me back. Now, I’m still waiting, quote-unquote, but I’m not waiting in an IVR queue, listening to some diabolical music. I can watch my own television. I can surf the internet. I can cook dinner and you’re calling me back. I’m still waiting, but it’s my wait time. You see how the consumer mindset fundamentally changes? What are some things that brands, other than callbacks, are doing to make the consumer, I guess, have a better experience?

Tom Rieger: (13:46)
So I think there’s a few things to think about with this. One is prioritizing your tickets. So what are the things that have to be answered right away? What are the things that have to be answered sort of right away? What things can wait a little bit? Secondly, there are some things where automation is just fine. If it’s, my account is frozen and I just have to flick a switch somewhere, I check a box somewhere and I’m back in business, just fine to do that in an automated way. So it’s being smart about what’s automated and what’s not and then always not making it impossible where someone has to spin around three times, do a magical incantation, brew a potion, sacrifice a goat in their backyard and then they’ll get to a rep, versus just pressing zero.

Tom Rieger: (14:36)
And that creates a lot of frustration. It can put your customers in a threat state again. So don’t try to make it hard for them, just make it easy for them to solve their problem. So you’re right. You don’t want to, the whole idea is you don’t, you shouldn’t have to hire a million people to find this right balance. So it’s being smart about what you automate. It’s being smart about your channel prioritization and it’s being smart about how you train and equip your reps to provide that individualized service. You can’t differentiate your brand based on a recording, but you can differentiate your brand based on the entire experience that you provide.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:19)
So, I think, where we’re seeing customers move to is kind of a differentiated queue experience or wait experience, which is kind of almost like an emergency room, wait room, right? Where we can prioritize certain types of incidents or somebody comes in with a heart attack. Well, guess what? It’s not like, “Sorry, sir, you’re second in line. But this person over here with an ingrown toenail really takes priority,” which actually is the way most contact centers have operated and unfortunately so many still do because they’re flying blind with lack of data, lack of that automation that you’re talking about, where somebody comes in and we treat everybody the same and it’s like, “Well, you’re in the wait queue, even though you’ve got this really critical heart attack.” So I think where we’re seeing more customers move to, Gabe, is this whole concept of almost like an ER wait room where we can shuffle the deck and prioritize certain people based on who they are and their issue, which I think delivers a different experience as well.

Tom Rieger: (16:30)
Yeah. Triage is fine. But again, keep in mind what matters is what happens at the end. Did you solve a problem? Did you keep them in your brand? Did you keep them as a customer? Your call center is your defense. They are the frontline of the defense of your brand. So keeping someone where they are is a win. If you can get them to buy more, that’s even better. Like, but your job as a call center rep is to play defense. And just make sure that the customer’s happy, the problem is solved, and that you carry on being your customer when you’re done.

Gabe Larsen: (17:03)
Do you feel like the, I mean, you mentioned the rep stuff and I’m sure there’s training, but maybe what happens is if you did that analysis, you could coach reps better on how much time they do have, because it does just for like reps are just, “I gotta get this done. I gotta get this done.” And their bloods starting to boil and they’re sweating and it’s, you know. What are, on the rep side, have you seen brands, companies do anything there to continue the coaching, to continue the strategy and structure, to empower them to actually deliver that great experience?

Tom Rieger: (17:31)
Yeah. One of the things that I’ve seen are people completely overhauling their QA process and trying to make it a little less rigid. And we don’t see it as much of it as we used to, thankfully. But the one that drives me crazy is, is there anything else I can help you with? Because if you couldn’t solve their problem for whatever reason, keeping them on the phone to ask that isn’t going to help anything. It’s just going to send them into a towering rage. So it comes down to, these call centers take such care in how they hire and how they train. So then taking away the talent of the route doesn’t make any sense. So it’s establishing clear guidelines, clear outcomes, and then letting them use their judgment and coaching them along the way on how they maybe could handle things better versus you didn’t use this phrase and you didn’t ask this question this way and you didn’t follow the sequence. If it’s not appropriate, don’t do it.

Tom Rieger: (18:26)
So if you want to really establish that connection and not out group corporate policy and take people through a process that may not make sense, those are some of the ways that you can help achieve this. In some cases it may take a little more time. And it does take some skills for the reps to be able to listen to the problem. And they surely asked the right questions. Doesn’t mean you can’t provide guidelines on how to structure the call. That’s great. But trying to script every word is simply not going to work. It just isn’t. I mean, if you have 10 different types of customers and 22 different types of issues and 15 different products, do the math. You would have to script thousands of different types of specific combinations and that’s just not practical and it wouldn’t work if you did.

Gabe Larsen: (19:17)
Yeah, it does seem like we’re moving away from that scripting. Vikas –

Vikas Bhambri: (19:23)
Absolutely. I think the contact center is for brands that really want to deliver that optimal customer experience, it’s really turning into a knowledge worker role. You’re going to give the agent as much data as you can about the customer, about the situation they’re in, maybe some context of previous resolutions or whatever, but you’re really going to leave them to, quote unquote, script how this particular interaction is going to take place. So you’re actually seeing a very different profile of individuals – in types of roles. Tom, do you think the KPI average handle time is antiquated? Is that something that maybe contact centers shouldn’t even be looking at anymore?

Tom Rieger: (20:10)
Well, I think you need it from a budgetary perspective. So I think that’s just something strictly for managing the cost side of a call center, it’s always going to be important, but I think it is absolutely not a measure of customer satisfaction. It’s again, a cubic function, right? Because there’s the total time. There’s the amount of time they wait, then there’s the amount of time of the actual interaction. And then maybe there’s some resolution time. And again, it’s that entire time that’s important. Each will have their own function and this is just math to solve. So I wouldn’t say handle time is unimportant, but saying it always has to be shorter is very short-sighted and quite frankly, flat out wrong.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:53)
Right. And I think where we’re seeing a lot of our clients move to is more of this just understanding effort. Customer effort score. So I guess average handle time or the total time that that conversation took place can factor into that effort score, but at the end of the day if, look, if I need to spend three minutes with you to explain the situation and you resolve my issue as a consumer, I might be okay with that. You’ll probably get a CSAT of five, as opposed to me spending 30 seconds with you or 10 minutes with you and you don’t resolve my problem, then I’m really going to be ticked off.

Tom Rieger: (21:27)
Exactly, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (21:30)
Well, we’ve hit a lot, Tom. And as we look to wrap wanting to get, we have listeners out there who are, I think, debating this within their own organization and trying to figure out kind of how they potentially move from here. For those CX leaders, call center leaders, who are just starting this journey, where would you recommend they kind of start to kind of tackle this? I, again, we hit a lot of topics, but where would you recommend they start?

Tom Rieger: (21:57)
Well, you start by getting the data and doing the work. You have to look at this place, you type, you have to roll up your sleeves and do the quantitative analysis to say, first of all, do we have the metrics we need? What are they telling us? What are our real budgetary constraints? And then what do we need to do with them? What can we do within that? You have to look at your training, you have to look, are there barriers in the way? I mean, it’s a bit of a holistic response and it may seem overwhelming, but honestly it really isn’t. The projects we’ve done, I mean, we just, this summer, I had to do a quick turn for one of our larger clients. They were facing some decisions they had to make. We executed the entire effort in I think three weeks. So it can be done quickly. So it doesn’t have to be a giant project that takes you a year, but there is work that has to be done. So making sure you have the data, that you have the right metrics and then just rolling up your sleeves, quite frankly, and being willing to keep an open mind with what the data tells you.

Gabe Larsen: (22:59)
I love it. Vikas, any takeaways or quick summaries on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (23:04)
No, look. To any of the CX leaders that are listening, the practitioners, if I can just give you one word of advice, do not try to sell anything while people are waiting in your queue. Generally speaking, people are coming there because they’ve got an issue and the last thing they want to hear about how it’s 30% off, or you’ve got this promotion, or this other product or service. They’re not in the right state of mind to even absorb that. So really be mindful about what are you, if you are going to put your customers into this queue or this wait time, what are you, what are you using, to Tom’s point, to put them in the right state of mind, so when they engage that agent, they’re not taking out their frustration and really starting that conversation on a negative track?

Tom Rieger: (23:57)
You have to get them out of the cognitive threat state to be able to upsell them. Period.

Gabe Larsen: (24:04)
Good. Well Tom, really appreciate you taking the time. Fun. For those of you, we’ll make sure we put a link to his newest book that just came out a couple months ago. So Tom, have a great day. For the audience, also have a fantastic time. Thank you everybody.

Tom Rieger: (24:20)
Thanks. Thanks guys. Really a pleasure.

Exit Voice: (24:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

What are the Problems in the CX World? Take These Tips From the Experts

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas unearth the top problems facing CX leaders in the modern environment. Listen to the full episode to learn tips and tricks from these experienced hosts. 

When Your Employees are Engaged, CSAT Increases

If customers have a horrible experience with a brand, they are very likely to share their experience and opinion with others. This helps CX companies and departments understand that CX and the entire customer journey are some of the most vital elements to a brand’s success. To achieve CX excellence, leaders must first make company culture a priority because if your employees aren’t engaged with the brand, CSAT scores go down in the long run. The next key question companies should be asking is, how do you make a company culture positive and engaging enough to boost employee morale? Many leaders think having employees fill out an annual “how are we doing” survey is good enough. Don’t do this. One of the bare minimum tactics that has proven to be effective is to survey employees quarterly. Because the business world is constantly changing, leaders need to stay on top of their game to keep up with evolving employee and customer needs.

This plays into having a pulse on your agents and their feelings about the company. Many brands have the tools in place to sense customer tone and behavior, so why is it that these tools don’t exist for employee sensing, when the employee experience (EX) is just as important as the CX? According to Gabe and Vikas, this could be a game changer in their realm of expertise. Real time feedback has been incredibly important for customer data and they believe this should also be available for companies to get a grasp on how culture affects the employees. “Find a way to do it real time. Find a way to do it more active. I promise you this annual thing is not going to cut it.” 

Bringing Back the Humanity to Service

The customer journey should be seen as more of a loop rather than a straight line because customers aren’t just a one and done transaction. If you want returning customers, your company needs to be aligned on the purpose of CX. To do this, the experts recommend joining forces with leaders from other departments to create a cohesive mission for excellence. Involving the customer in several aspects of the business and staying customer minded gives the company as a whole, a sense of empathy for consumers. This empathy can translate into curated services, education, products, and policies. When the customer feels satisfied with their experience at your company, they’re sure to return time and time again, while also bringing more customers through positive word of mouth advertising. Too often brands forget who they’re talking to on the other end of the line. At the end of the day, we’re all human and deserve to be treated as such. “I think that’s something that B2B companies have to be more aware of is you’re dealing with a human being.” Sure, your company can be qualified as B2B or B2C, but what really matters is if you can be considered B2H: Business to Human. When you bring that human aspect back to the service world and look at your consumers as more than just a number or transaction, loyalty and success are a sure result.  

To learn more from the CX experts about problems facing modern leaders, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Top Problems in Customer Service and How to Solve Them | Tips with Gabe and Vikas” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri on Spreaker

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. You’ve just got uno, dos, no tres here. Not a third person. You’ve just got Vikas and myself. So we’ll jump right in. Vikas, we got to do it. Introduce yourself and then let’s get rocking.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:26)
I’m your partner in crime, man. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer and your sidekick on these weekly LinkedIns.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, man. This is, as we said, Vikas and I have a fun time doing this, even if no one comes. You know what? Like I need to talk,  a couple of things on my mind. Wanting to get your thoughts on it. Been having this online debate on LinkedIn about employee engagement. You’ve been in the customer space for years and from what I understand, most companies are doing not a semi-annual, not an annual NPS survey, they’ve gotten to a place where they are doing customer feedback more often. Daily, weekly, little surveys, people joining, new customers joining, just seems like people are trying to manage it more on a daily basis. Is that true? I mean, would you agree to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:10)
Oh, without a doubt. I mean, I would say from a customer experience perspective, people are almost down to the interaction, right? Every time we have a conversation in the contact center where we’re reaching out with some sort of CSAT survey, we’re analyzing that conversation, et cetera. So it’s real time in almost every interaction.

Gabe Larsen: (03:32)
Yeah. Yeah. So you flip over to the employee side and I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but most companies, if they’re even doing it at all, they’re doing it on an annual basis. Yeah. I mean, no. I mean, there’s just so much data out there that like employee leads to customer, great employee engagement leads to higher customer engagement. And we think that we can measure that and manage it once a year. And like that’s enough. Like talk to me about how that’s even possible. I mean, is that bonkers?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:01)
It is. And we leave it as a company, we, and not just Kustomer, but I think any company, we leave it to frontline managers, right? So the lens into the employee satisfaction or engagement is in the hands outside of these surveys, in the frontline manager. The challenge you have is if there’s a conflict or an issue between the employee and that frontline manager or that frontline manager is not effective, then you’re in a real situation where you may not potentially find out about something unless the employee is proactive and comes to a different manager or a peer or HR. You won’t know about it until that engagement survey.

Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
But that’s usually what we’re, I mean, we’re trying to block. Oftentimes it’s like, “Don’t go above your manager,” right? I mean, that stuff doesn’t come out.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:57)
I would even say skip level meetings, right? That was one solution that the industry introduced. But I found with skip level meetings –

Gabe Larsen: (05:10)
I don’t like skip level meetings.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:10)
When you do them formally, especially, you get frontline managers, they get really weird about it.

Gabe Larsen: (05:18)
It is. It’s and I don’t love, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, skip level maybe is, maybe it’s a good thing to do. Well, let’s get into a couple of other solutions here just a minute, but how do you feel like, I’ve just been debating this, I mean, how often, if you really wanted to manage employees, you want to manage that culture. I just don’t think you can get a score once a week. I’m just wondering what should be the frequency, if you really wanted to treat your culture as something that’s a priority? Once a week, if not even once a week, once a year doesn’t seem like it’s right. How would you do that? I mean, you had a magic wand. What would you do?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:59)
You know what? If I had a magic wand, there’d be two things that I would think about. One, at the very minimum, quarterly would be, because so much changes in any business these days. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a multi-billion dollar company or a five-person startup. There’s just so much change. So I think one, quarterly at the minimum, the second piece of it is after, kind of let’s go use that customer example that we were thinking about earlier. Customer with a C. If we do customer CSAT surveys, after every interaction, maybe right after big events that take place in a company, maybe there’s a big product announcement, or you have a big, all hands or a big team event, right? So maybe even serving people around those specific events. So you’ve got your quarterlies. Then if there’s some big milestone event that takes place mid-quarter or even two weeks into a quarter, you do it again. So the more often you can do it, the better. I think the other thing is, especially if you’re in leadership roles or executive roles, how do you keep a pulse on individuals and what’s going on? And I think particularly here, as we’ve grown as a company, that’s become harder and harder. And especially now in this remote world, like I used to really benefit from being in the office and grabbing a coffee and just interacting with members of my team that maybe weren’t direct reporters to me, but were reporting to frontline managers. [Inaudible] that opportunity.

Gabe Larsen: (07:35)
Well, but it almost seems like, and look, we work for a tech company. So maybe I’m finding a reason to blame somebody, but I am like, I love the customer example. After every interaction they’re surveying, but a lot of companies are not even, I mean, they’re not even using surveys. They’ll actually take the behavior of customers and let that determine what they’re thinking, believing, and behaving. And then they’ll use a survey to like double click on something that maybe does seem like it needs to dive into.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:02)
There’s no like, maybe we’re onto something here, Gabe. There’s no like platform for the, on the employee side. Think about it. What if I could give you the analytics of how many times somebody on your team has been in Slack and I’m not the biggest Slack fan in the world, but in a distributed world, that shows a level of engagement. Really interesting to see how often are certain team members in Slack in a day, because if somebody is getting further and further disengaged from the company, you’re probably going to find behaviors like Slack starting to drop, or even the tone. What did we could, like we can detect the sentiment of a customer’s email. What if we could detect the sentiment of an employee’s Slack or email? Like maybe it actually will show that there’s a negative sentiment. They’re getting more and more disenfranchised or hostile in their emails, right, because they’re frustrated.

Gabe Larsen: (09:06)
Yeah because, I feel like, you brought up skip level meetings, like, and there are great things you can do, and it’s probably worth it to hit some things we’ve found to be helpful, but it does feel like circa, I’m stealing your word here, circa 2000. 1990. Like no, like, and I know we got to be respectful of employee data and everything else. So let’s just, obviously we’re going to do that. But there’s so many interactions. My email, my Slack, my Zoom, my, all these digital signals, my response time on email, that without, I think, kind of compromising employee data that we can feed up to leaders, that would be awesome to be able to be like, “What’s the current polls of my team? Like I got somebody who hasn’t been active on any digital sources for like three days.” Like that and not do it once a year on a survey that if I just had a performance review conversation, they’re just going to fill zeroes or lows in or highs in because we just had a fun party. Like I want real behavioral data. Like, that’s what we have on the customer side. Why aren’t we talking about that on an employee side?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:08)
Think about the amount of data. Like we track, as any company does, about customers. We track what events they come to. Did they hit our website? What if we knew, “Hey, we host a monthly virtual event. Which members of your team-,” like we had something yesterday, right? We did a Halloween –

Gabe Larsen: (10:31)
I didn’t go.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:31)
You didn’t go but how many of your team members went? You don’t have that data. So if somebody is, and maybe look, if somebody starts at a company and they never attend these events because of whatever family situations, they like to go to the gym at five o’clock or whatever it is, then it’s okay. But what if somebody was going to the event every, for the first six, seven months and then dropped off?

Gabe Larsen: (10:56)
Yeah. Yeah. You’d totally be able to see it and the thing with employee is you found, I hate the conversation when I get blindsided and it happens often, right? Employee comes and they’re like, “I’m done,” or, “I’m so frustrated. I can’t be brought back over.” And it’s like, “Well, why are you frustrated?” “Well, I didn’t have the tools and equipment I needed.” And I’m like, “What? Like, I can get that for you right now!” But it’s like, I need leading indicators on employee data. I, you know, you need it on customer data, right? It’s like, you can’t just measure revenue once a year. It’d be like, my business is okay. You got to have those things that are preventative and man, employee, real time employee data would be phenomenal. Now, obviously, I’m not aware man, if anybody’s listening and knows, maybe Vikas and I found our next startup. If anybody’s aware of something like that, by all means, let us know, but I’m not aware of anything that does that, but there’s a principle here, you guys, that I think we’ve got to find as managers. Which is, we got to find some more real time. What we’re learning on customer data, you got to bring to employee and it’s something about now. Customers want it. Now we’re giving them real time information. They’re getting information via chat. We’ve got to bring some of that into our employee morale and find ways to get more pulse data. Vikas, you were just saying, it’s like, after an event, maybe you do a survey. I know a couple of companies who they actually, when someone logs into their machines, I don’t know how they did it. And they just do one question each day on kind of employee engagement, that bubbles up to an executive of dashboard. And they’re kind of monitoring the culture daily. And I’m like, yes! That’s, it’s that important that if somebody, if something happens, you can kind of see. So we’ve got to find a way as leaders via technology, skip level meetings, Slack. I love some of these quick Slack messages that my leadership has done to me or vice versa. “Hey man, how you doing? What’s going on?” Get a quick pulse because I’m telling you, if you don’t get ahead of some of these things, you’re obviously going to get behind.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:57)
Yeah. One of the things that we did here at Kustomer was the donut slack.

Gabe Larsen: (13:02)
That’s a great one.

Vikas Bhambri: (13:03)
And just catching up with different team members every two weeks that otherwise, no, because it’s amazing. You will find where you may finish a day and say, “Wow. Even in a virtual world, I connected with a bunch of my, a bunch of, what we call the members of the crew here at Kustomer.” Then the interesting thing is, when I really sat down and thought about it, I generally speak to the same people. The same 7, 8, 9 people every day. So yes, I’m busy. My calendar is full, but am I getting a diverse population of who I’m engaging? That’s why once again, going back to the office, the physical world, the random interactions that you would have at the water cooler, at the coffee machine, coming out of the men’s room, going for lunch in the elevator, whatever it is, you don’t have those opportunities.

Gabe Larsen: (13:56)
Yeah. All right, man. Well, let’s, I want to hit one more topic before we close today. There’s obviously so much going on in customer support. We’re all feeling kind of the pressure with the current environment, et cetera. B2B versus B2C customer service has always been an interesting and fascinating thing to me. You’ve kind of been in a world, I think often, where you serviced a little bit of both. You’ve run, obviously your own on the B2B side. It does seem like B2C, for whatever reason they seem to just go deeper. They go, it’s more personalized. They go more data. And maybe because it’s a volume game, right? It’s like when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of consumers versus three companies, you just look at it differently. I’m sure there’s lessons that can be learned from both, but specifically what B2B could learn from B2C, where would you start?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:50)
I think with B2C, there’s a lot of pressure in general, right? Because if you think about most B2C, it’s a point in time purchase, right? So the challenge for most B2C companies is when are you going to make that next purchase? You’re not quote unquote locked in, right? It’s not a high price item, et cetera. So I think for most B2B companies, even if they’re in the subscription business, the mindset is “Okay, well we’ve got an agreement.” So frankly, I think people don’t focus on it as much. And I think that’s where it has to start. You have to realize that the, what is the impact of not investing appropriately, right? One, that particular customer is not going to be happy. You’re going to lose advocacy down the line. You may lose a renewal or an additional sale or whatever it is. So I think number one is just the overall focus. And I do believe that more and more B2B companies are starting to think like B2C companies.

Gabe Larsen: (15:59)
I totally agree.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:00)
And I just look at ourselves, we have to, because look, we’re only as good, it’s software as a service for a reason. We’re only as good as our service because ultimately the service is more than just the technology. It’s how you support that technology. It’s how you consult on it. It’s how you educate on it, et cetera. So I think that’s the first mindset and then look, the same people that we’re dealing with, I think the key thing is you’re not dealing with businesses or consumers. You’re dealing with human beings. And if you, for example, one moment, you’re dealing with a food delivery company and you’re like, “Where’s my lunch?” The next minute, you’re dealing with your marketing automation platform company about something, you’re the same human being. Like, you’re not going to be like, “Hey, food delivery company. I expect really high quality service from you,” but “Oh, marketing automation platform company, you can keep me on hold for 45 minutes and then give me somebody who doesn’t know who I am, doesn’t understand what my problem is. Doesn’t understand what version of your platform I’m on.” So your expectations are the same, regardless because you’re the same person. So I think that’s something that B2B companies have to be more aware of is you’re dealing with a human being.

Gabe Larsen: (17:15)
Why do you feel like, one thing that’s always jumped out to me is, and maybe it’s a structural thing. Maybe that’s the problem, but in B2C companies, when they talk about the customer experience, versus when B2B companies talk about the customer experience, it really is different. And it’s different in the breadth of it. And B2B, it really is often talked about when that purchase was made, post-sales interaction. In B2C, it’s like the whole journey. It is like, “No, no, no, no.” Like when they hit the website, like when you think about it, the whole journey, B2B, it’s like, “No, no, they bought. Let’s start”. Is that a structural thing? Because it’s annoying.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:53)
It is structural. It’s structural, not only in the way that if you look at most B2B companies in the way they even outline their customer journey, right? Very linear, right? When it actually should be kind of like an infinite loop. Because as I said, whether you’re in a subscription business or not, it’s not just about that initial sale. Like, let’s say we were selling airplanes. We’re selling like, I don’t know how much a plane costs because obviously I don’t own one, but let’s just say plane’s a million dollars. It’s a big ticket item, right? You might sell somebody one plane, but don’t you want when they come around for the next plane that they’re going to buy it from you, don’t you want them if they’re a shake or they’re country, they’re talking to their friend, they’re like, “Hey, you want to go get a plane from that guy?”

Vikas Bhambri: (18:43)
So to me, the important still matters. And, but here’s where I think in B2B, it falls down. It really falls because the thinking is so outdated, the way we even structure our teams, the way we even compensate executives, to me is still fundamentally broken, right? We’re not thinking about, we can’t say like, “Hey look. If we all are successful and our customers are happy and they’re buying more and et cetera, the company is going to fundamentally grow. Let’s measure everybody by that.” It’s like, “No, we’re going to measure the sales leader by this, the marketing leader like this, we’re going to measure their customer success leader like this, et cetera, et cetera, down the line…Product leader.” And there’s no cohesion into even how we think and operate.

Gabe Larsen: (19:29)
Yeah, the customer often gets left alone. So I love, man, if you can, I don’t know if I’ve got a beautiful way to do it, but I do think it starts on B2B looking at that whole customer journey together, if you can. And then it probably flows down to your point in process, payment, et cetera. We’ve had some other guests say that if you want to do it right, you start with the way you compensate. And I forget that one, but I liked his comments. He went all the way to the way he was compensating his salespeople to make sure it wasn’t [inaudible] on the customer experience. One other thing that jumps out is the channel concept. And maybe that isn’t as, it just isn’t as a parent, but I mean, B2C, they just seem so more open to like, “No, no, no, we’re monitoring all the channels like social,” but in B2B it’s like, “No, no, you need me? You call me. You need me? It’s email.” That’s it. Like, there’s no way you’re getting a B2B company on social and maybe it is just from the use. Quick thoughts on the channel aspect of it?

Vikas Bhambri: (20:22)
I think, once again, just like in the B2C world, it it’s very dependent on the consumer, the customer, right? Because the most, I would still say most business people want to communicate on look, you’re sitting at your laptop, you’re working on something, you’re gonna email somebody or you’re gonna chat with them, pick up the phone. You are seeing B2B companies now, SMS is a very natural –

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
Yeah and some other things.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:54)
I think on social, they are listening but I think it’s more effective for most B2B companies to try to take that conversation offline, whether that’s direct message or pointing somebody back to chat or email or the phone, but they’re definitely listening on social. They have to be because once again, they’re dealing with human beings and if I’m off with my food delivery company and I’m going to go blast them on Twitter, guess what? If I’m pissed off at my marketing automation platform, I’m going to go blast them on Twitter.

Gabe Larsen: (21:28)
Yeah. You’re dealing with humans, it’s this, I got a force around [inaudible] was telling me that the consumerization of the B2B buyer. So, it’s like, we’re all humans. We’re all kind of doing, buying, with DoorDash and whatever. Now I’m expecting that same experience in my B2B interactions. And the digitization is forcing us to bring that together even more. So, awesome man. Well, those are the two things I wanted to tackle today. Employee engagement on the one, find a way to do it real time. Find a way to do it more active. I promise you this annual thing is not going to cut it. And you’ve got to break through that. On the second side, it’s about B2B, B2C. And I think probably Vikas said it best. It’s not B2B, it’s B2H. You are serving humans. Find a way wherever you are to get closer to that human, because when you do, personalization trumps, man. It makes a big difference. Closing statement from you, Vikas. Anything on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:25)
No, look. I think the big thing is how, on the employee engagement side, just kind of closing the loop is how it applies to our world, which is customer experience. If your employees are not engaged, that’s going to reflect on the experience they deliver. That’s why it’s so hyper relevant and should be a priority. And I think as you said before, if anybody’s got any tips or tricks, reply on the LinkedIn, because it’s still something that you and I are still trying to figure it out.

Gabe Larsen: (22:57)
I love it. I’ll be waiting for those comments. All right, man. Have a good one. For the audience, enjoy the rest of your day.

Exit Voice: (23:07)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

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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Listen to “How to Drive Business Value with Your CX Team | Bringing Everyone Together to Create Lasting Customers” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Drive Business Value With Your CX Team | Laurent Pierre

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)

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)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Going Digital: The Ultra Modern Approach to CX with Vasili Triant

Going Digital: The Ultra Modern Approach to CX with Vasili Triant TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Vasili Triant to talk about all things digital CX. Vasili is the Chief Operating Officer at UJET, a partner of Kustomer, creating a product that delivers the ultimate experience for the modern consumer.

Is Voice Dead?

For nearly 30 years, experts in the CX industry have heard rumors that voice as a communication channel is dead and useless for navigating customer problems. With voice being such a popular mode of communication, one can’t help but wonder if this is true. According to Vasili, not only is voice still relevant to CX in 2021, but in the last year, all communication channels have skyrocketed in popularity. “The reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing….They’re all increasing.” More recently, the industry has experienced a shift towards digitizing CX, making good customer experiences more accessible on a multitudes of platforms. As more platforms such as voice, email, direct messages, chat, text, etc. are more commonly used in the CX space, the amount of interactions needed to solve customer problems also rises. “The number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem.” This increase in interactions is necessary for providing a more holistic experience to consumers.

Adapting to the Modern Customer’s Habits

A holistic approach to CX doesn’t stop simply at omnichannel communication. The modern customer lives in a world of mobile phones, uploading to the cloud and for companies to keep up with the ever changing customer-scape, they have to adapt to new technologies to stay relevant. It’s important that leaders stay informed on the latest CX technologies to keep customers happy. An agent should be equipped with the tools to meet their customer on their preferred communication method. For example, if a customer is having difficulty with an appliance, they should have the option to text a picture of the problem to the CX agent rather than describe it over the phone. When options like photo and video messaging are included in communication channels, it helps customers feel better understood and their problems are solved more efficiently. “A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be.”

Change or Be Changed

Change is inevitable, but why is it so hard to cope with? When Vasili urges leaders to take action and to start looking for places within their organizations to adopt modern CX technology, he isn’t pretending that change is easy to accomplish. In fact, he recognizes how hard it is to choose the right technology and the right time to implement it. Many leaders feel the pressure to fully integrate their systems and go digital but hesitate to do so because they don’t know how. The ultra-modern technology provided by Kustomer and UJET can help alleviate some of this pressure by offering the solutions to ticketing and CX problems. Keeping customers in mind is another helpful tactic for tackling new processes and technology. When it comes down to it, stellar CX is about creating a seamless customer experience and having empathy for the entire customer journey. As Gabe Larsen puts it, “It’s change or be changed.”

To learn more about evolving in the mobile age, 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 Companies Are Evolving in the Mobile Age | Vasili Triant

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty, let’s get rocking and rolling. We’re excited to go today. We’re going to be talking about how companies are evolving in the mobile age. You got myself, Gabe Larsen. I’m the Vice President of Growth. Vikas, why don’t you take a second, introduce yourself? And then we’ll have Vasili introduce himself.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:28)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s sidekick and 20 years CRM contact center life.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Awesome. Vasili, over to you.

Vasili Triant: (00:38)
Vasili Triant, Chief Business Officer here at UJET. Formerly was the Vice President and GM of the contact center business at Cisco and prior to that, I was actually CEO of a cloud contact center company called Serenova. So happy to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, exciting to have you. Excited to get going today. Wanted to start maybe, Vikas, with you kicking it off and then I’m going to jump in.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:02)
Yeah look, I mean the cloud industry is transforming at a rapid pace. I think, what we’ve seen particularly in the last six, 12 months is that we are now seeing our customers and prospects in the market just adopt new technologies and the big drive and the makeshift to digital. And what we often hear from people in the industry, analysts, et cetera, is that voice as a channel is dead right? And no. Vasili, you mentioned you were at Cisco and now UJET. What’s your take on that? Does voice have a play in a world where people want to WhatsApp and they want to chat and they want to SMS? Where does voice sit in this market?

Vasili Triant: (01:42)
You know, we’ve, the voice is dead thing I’ve heard since the late nineties. And I think the idea originally started that with digital transition, people start using internet more, commerce started becoming over the web. The idea was, if you move to chat, you could reduce voice interactions. People wouldn’t want to go over voice and you would reduce costs of transaction. And that was a big move of the late nineties and pretty much the first decade of the two thousands around like, “Hey, how do we reduce costs?” The reality is consumers want to communicate with brands via channel, I’ll just call it X, and voice continues to be a big part. But the reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing, right? So they’re all increasing. Actually the number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem. Like you may do chat and voice and maybe like a tweet at the same time, right?

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. It’s interesting to see these different channels, people from thinking every channel that’s added is going to cut down the conversations and it seems to add more conversations to the overall mix, but I love the phone is dead. It’s I mean, you probably, it sounds like you’ve been hearing it for now 30 years and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. So what do you think about the space? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a long time Vasili, and certainly the trends and the challenges have shifted. Consumer expectations have shifted over the last little while. Obviously COVID now playing a big role in consumer expectations. Where are we now? What are some of those big rock challenges that the contact center market’s facing?

Vasili Triant: (03:37)
It’s an amazing time right now, just overall, right? So I kind of see things in really kind of two dimensions at this point. And we’re in, by the most evolving, rapidly evolving transition in the contact center space, because unfortunately COVID has become this defining moment where, what used to be like, “Hey, I’ll get to a cloud transition at some point,” now it’s, “I have to because one, my business, it can’t be in brick and mortar or has some limitations on brick and mortar, but also the consumers are changing how they’re interacting my brand.” Like I’m not going anymore to a Macy’s or Nordstrom or a Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy things. I’m just doing everything online. So you have this change of how consumers are dealing with brands, and frankly, there’s a rise in just overall activity from brands and consumers in whether it’s retail or sports and buying things delivered to their home.

Vasili Triant: (04:33)
There’s a second dimension, which is we now have to evolve and where are we going? And those kind of break down into there are these legacy cloud solutions, we call them kind of cloud 1.0 solutions, that were originally migrated from on-premise into data centers. And we added multitenancy as an industry. And that’s a majority of the vendors out there. There’s cloud 2.0 which builds solutions that leverage infrastructure as a service, which really increased reach and the idea was to increase scale. But the problems really blanketed all of these vendors around reliability, scalability, reach, ease of integration with all these other applications. And now you have this rise of what we call cloud 3.0, which is purpose built for this era of consumer transition, of brand transition. It obviously, there was no prediction that COVID was going to happen, but there was a prediction or an idea that consumers and the world will be more mobile, be more smartphone centric and connect in different ways than we did before.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Hmm. I mean, do you feel like when it comes to most of the market, this, COVID hit a lot of companies, fairly hard, meaning they worked, they weren’t remote ready. They were playing in kind of this on prem. You don’t necessarily have to put a number to it, but a fairly large number of people were kind of playing in that 1.0, 2.0 realm when it came to their contact center technology expertise, et cetera. Is that fair?

Vasili Triant: (06:06)
I would say that a majority of the people, there’s still 80 to 85% of contact centers are still in on-premise technology. You have another 15% that we’re playing with what I call the 1.0 or the 2.0 transition. So in that dichotomy, you have the prem folks that are like, “I have to do something. I have to get there and I’ve seen issues with cloud 1.0. Who can solve my problems in this modern era?” And then the folks that were in cloud 1.0 are now some of them are having booms in their business. And they’re saying we need platforms and solutions that can scale both, like scale number of transactions and users, but also scaling, “Hey, by the way, we actually have to get to CX transformation. Like we actually have to make customers happier,” because if I don’t like you, Gabe, I can just drop an ad or drop a website, just go to another website. Like it’s no longer what store you’re driving by or what restaurant you just saw. You’re looking at everything electronically most of the day.

Gabe Larsen: (07:07)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve played in this space for a long time, why haven’t some of these companies not be able to make that transition? As Vasili talks about it I’m like, “What a bunch of fools! Why are they waiting so long?” Why is it so hard?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
The change is hard, right, in the best of times. And I think when you look at these organizations, the three big prongs to any transformation, right? We’ve got the people first and foremost. And I think for a lot of these organizations, when they think about retraining their agent, when they think about [inaudible], when they even think about their training guides, they take pause, right? Like, “Oh my goodness. We’re going to have to do this all over again. We’re going to have to build it if doesn’t exist,” right? So I think that becomes one area. The second is their processes. I think a lot of them, to Vasili’s point, it’s less about the technology. It’s, have your processes actually adapted to the modern consumer? And look, I mean, you look at the, telcos are a prime example. They just haven’t. They’ve got a monopoly, there’s a reluctance to change or willingness to change.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:15)
But I think until those verticals or industries get disrupted, they really say, “Look, we’ll just going to handle things status quo.” And then ultimately it’s the platform challenge, right? The thoughts or concerns about going from 1.0 or 2.0 to 3.0 and the generalization. And you know, that consultants in the past that created this concept of, well, this is going to cost you millions of dollars. And a lot of times, if people are like, wait, I really, so I think those are the three things where it’s not we aren’t smart people, et cetera. Most of them that Vasili and I speak to will tell you, “We know we have to do it. It’s just a matter of the when and the why.”

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I’m surprised that it’s 80%, I’m seeing multiple comments of people. I just popped the, Sheila, she agreed with me, Vasili, that 80% is the number of people. So we’re not talking about a small, there’s a lot of people who have now been forced into a very uncomfortable position, but you know what? There’s nothing like –

Vikas Bhambri: (09:09)
Well here’s the thing. Like, and I’ve said this to you before, and Vasili, I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this. The pandemic, in a way, has created the biggest stress test that at least I, in my career, in the contact center, CRM industry, I’ve ever see., Whether it’s broken people’s technology where they’re like, “I want to send my agents to work from home, but they literally cannot pick up the phone and get a dial tone,” to, “My processes don’t work.” And now the consumers are barring them where Vasili said, we’ve seen interactions go up naturally in the course of years. Now we’re seeing four or five and we spoke to one CEO who’s said he’s seen 50 X the number, I mean, it was almost an unbelievable number, the number of interactions for the stress test.

Vasili Triant: (09:53)
One of the challenges that is actually happening right now, though, is there is, there’s kind of two pieces to this transition. One, I have to get my agents to cloud. So we’re just going out and buying cloud solutions. And of course you can look at the public markets right now in any SaaS company and in our space is frankly just booming regardless of what we call fit for purpose. The second part is, I need to get to CX transformation. Like, how am I going to be a better company than my competitor? And how am I going to like listen to my consumers? And it’s kind of most things like if your car broke down, is the answer that I need to find a car that works for how many kids I have, how far I’m driving, my budget on insurance or is it, I just need to go get a car, right?

Vasili Triant: (10:37)
And there’s a lot of companies right now that are like, “I just need to go get a car and then I’ll worry about the CX transformation later.” And what you’re going to see is kind of this double bubble of companies moving to cloud, then realize, “Okay, I got that problem solved. Now I actually have to improve customer experience because this didn’t meet my needs.” Or, like the common thing you might hear from some companies is, “Oh, we have outage Wednesdays or outage Thursdays,” because the platform just can’t meet those needs. And this is a lot of the things that you’re seeing out there. There are some companies taking their time saying we have to make the right move to engage our consumers because it’s about cloud, but it’s also about how do we improve customer experience because lifetime value is more important than either cost of transaction or just even general uptime.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:28)
Yeah. I would say to that point, I am speaking now more to the C level about this, than ever before. And I think it’s because this has become, once again, the stress test, that’s flagged this for a lot of CEOs, COOs and this is broken. And I think that the contact center to a degree has done a great job of shielding the executives from this, and everybody’s focused on top line growth, et cetera, right? So now these things are hyper escalated visibility. When you have slow down Wednesdays, or when people consistently are contacting your agents and you’re just like, “I’m swearing my system. I hate this thing. That’s like my, one of my biggest pet peeves. My systems are slow or our systems are slow today. My system just rebooted.” People are taking to the airwaves on Twitter and Facebook and all calling these brands out. So now it’s getting visibility at the exact level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:25)
Yeah, whether you like it or not, it’s coming. I think Kristen from the audience send us a messgae. Change is imperative. I think people are recognizing that, but how do they do it? As you think about some of these successful companies you’ve coached, you worked with clients specifically, how are then companies, they’re being forced to do it, how are they actually being successful in making that transition?

Vasili Triant: (12:48)
I think the biggest success that I don’t know if I’d say we see or I see or the companies that actually start looking at the problem from them being a customer of their own company, right? When I break it, when they kind of break it down one more level and say, “If I’m dealing with my own company, how am I entering? How am I, what are the touch points and what is my frustration?” A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be. And so when we talk about how is customer service evolving in this mobile world, where is your consumer? Are they on their smartphone? Are they on their PC and their website? Like, you need to understand that and you need to meet them there.

Vasili Triant: (13:35)
One of the things that we hear a lot about is, “Hey, what about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?” And the comment there is, if your consumer is already at Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, they’ve already had a failure of customer experience with you. And now you’re trying to solve the problem after the fact, like they’re already ticked off, you got to get to the front end of it. And if you can do that and look at it from the consumer’s perspective, then you can figure out where is their journey and what are the things that we need to offer them? It’s really about digital transition right now, and being able to offer those options. And there’s not a lot of things that do it all. There’s a lot of great marketing messages. There’s a lot of like, we can talk about automation. So one hammer saying, how do we improve customer experience? But then there’s a whole other segment of the industry, it’s like, how do we automate the front end? Because if we automate the front end, we think people want to not deal with a live person. Or we think that we can reduce the number of agents which ends reduces costs and maybe it helps our P and L. The reality is you have to back up and think about it from being a consumer yourself, whether you’re viewing a banking application or insurance, or any type of on-demand tech, whether it’s Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, whatever it may be, right?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:53)
Yeah. That goes back to the early discussion we had around voice. And this whole thing that we’ve been hearing in the industry for 20, 30 years, that voice is dead, and nobody wants to call the 1-800 number. No, nobody wants to call your crappy line. Nobody wants to scream at your IVR. That’s like they speak to me and give me your number or give me yes or no and then don’t understand what I’m saying. And now yelling and screaming. It’s not that, we still see that when push comes to shove and consumers really want to get ahold of you, they want to speak to somebody else on the other end of the line, right? Because that’s a great example –

Vasili Triant: (15:31)
One, but yeah, the biggest thing, one context, right? That’s the other thing too. Like if I speak around my house and then all of a sudden I pick up my phone and I get on a website and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there’s like a website that was just about what I’m speaking.” Like, there’s this expectation from consumers of what technology can do today, and so it’s like be smarter. So when I do call in, you should know that where I was either in your app or on your website, let me skip the first couple of steps. Like, why do I have to press one for English and two for Spanish? Shouldn’t you know that either I’m a Spanish speaker or an English speaker? And not buying like legacy things, just like caller ID, but like where I’ve already got it digitally authenticated at an application or on a website, like if I’m on your website and I already have it translated in Spanish, when I hit contact us and I go to a phone number for like either a web RTC call or something like, why are you asking me that question again?

Vasili Triant: (16:24)
Skip it. I actually called a major hotel chain that I deal with the other day and they put this big, massive automated speech thing in front of it. And they’re trying to solve my problem. Like, oh my God, I just want the person that I usually deal with so I spent a few extra minute, getting through all that, got to the person. And then they said, “How can I help you? Can you give me your information?” I’m like, “I literally just did all my authentication.” And they actually had it before and they lost it with this whole automated thing. It doesn’t pass the information all the way through. And that was, I said, “Forget it. I’ll just go to the website and just deal with it myself.”

Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And that’s the thing and I often talk about this and I think over the last 10, 15 years, no offense Gabe, we’ve seen a lot of investment in the customer acquisition side of the house. Sales and marketing technologies to that point of hyper personalization that Vasili talked about. I talked to my wife about, should we be buying a new bike for my daughter? And next thing we know we’re getting bombarded on every website we go to, every app we go to with advertising for bicycles. And then we acquire the customer, we sell them that bicycle, and then something goes wrong. The pedal breaks or the seat breaks and we’re like, “Oh no. Now we’re going to send you to this antiquated infrastructure back in the 1950s,” right? Kind of like black and white screen. And now you’re going to have to do all this to get your problem solved. So it’s amazing. And I think that the tide is turning where people are like, “I’ve invested in that acquisition, but I really need to have that same focus and mindset on personalizing the customer support service side as well.”

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
Yeah. It does feel like it’s time. And the time obviously is now, so Vasili, recently, we both kind of announced a fun partnership between UJET and Kustomer, but I’m curious to talk some challenges and some of the successful ways people are overcoming those challenges. How is UJET jumping in and solving some of these challenges in addition by themselves, and then with the Kustomer addition to our partnership?

Vasili Triant: (18:25)
Yeah. So we’re just an ultra modern, like new way of looking at things. We built a platform that took into account how everything has evolved in this era of technology. So forgetting just infrastructure pieces for a moment, what are the common things that happen when a brand is trying to gather information and flow in order to then answer the problem and you start with data, right? So you need all the data in one place. What is everybody doing? They build all these systems and then try to integrate all these data stores or systems or records. We’ve purposely built our application for CRM and ticketing. In other words, we said, “Where are brands going to want all their information? They’re going to want it in their CRM or ticketing platform.” So we purposely built an application for that. We don’t store any of that, we actually put it in one place. It’s not about integrating and starting to have these data disparities, but more unifying it. Also, when you’re looking at something it’s all in one place, and then you can answer problems better. The second thing is the biggest thing, frankly, is where are consumers today? They’re on their smartphones. They’re on the web and meet them where they’re at. So we essentially embed the connectivity between a consumer brand in their app, and we don’t make the consumer go outside of it. So you can get things like, know how long they’ve been on either a page or a place within the mobile app. You can know geolocation data, all kinds of different things around the problems already looking at and skip steps. What does that mean? I may know that Vasili shouldn’t go into an automated attendant to start asking me all these questions and he needs to go to a live agent right away, or his problem might be simple. Let me put them into a virtual agent.

Vasili Triant: (20:11)
And I can connect through voice, chat and then do more advanced things like share photos, share videos. I was dealing with an appliance company the other day and I built this new house, put all these new appliances in, and I’m trying to explain the problem. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just want to show you. What can I do?” “Well, we don’t have an email for individuals, but you can send it to this thing.” I mean, there’s like all these delays and we enable real-time communication through a lot of different methods so that essentially consumers can interact with a brand the way they want to. And we make it seamless between that mobile experience and web. And the reality is, this is where consumers are today. They’re on these devices. And so you need to be able to interact with them there. And we just do it differently. Now with Kustomer, it’s interesting because you all have taken an ultra modern approach to the ticketing and service problem. And then we’ve taken this ultra modern approach to customer experience. So the types of brands that are really looking for that CX transformation, what’s better than this ultra modern approach from two companies where it just blends together? The integration becomes seamless. You’re not looking really at two different applications, but essentially one solution to solve my customer service problem.

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
Yeah. I love it. Vikas, what would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (21:32)
No, look, I think the key thing is that data and giving access to the agent, right? So you have that human experience. For me, it’s bringing in that data of who the customer is, where they are in their journey, right? All the data that UJET gives us in terms of where they are in our app, where they are on our website, what are they looking at, what did they do, who do we know? Because you can authenticate as well, right? Bringing that all then to the agent to get right to the heart of the matter, resolve that problem all effectively, for one, the customer’s happiness. But then the brand’s efficient. Now I can actually handle more of these inquiries, the surge that Vasili talked about earlier. So really it is a win-win for the agent, the brand, and then effectively the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (22:17)
I like that, you guys. We fit a lot today. As we wrap, we’d love to just have a quick summary. We got a lot of CX leaders out there, contact center leaders trying to make this transition. What’s that one thing you’d leave them with as they kind of get ready for a fun weekend here? We’ll start with you.

Vasili Triant: (22:35)
I’ll take that one then. I’d say we’ve got to find the solutions together that are ultimately going to make your customers happy. And that’s what we’re passionate about is making your customers happy at the end of each of those experiences and along the entire journey.

Gabe Larsen: (22:51)
Love it. Vikas, closing remarks from your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:53)
Yeah. The last thing, I think when a lot of people see the joint offering between Kustomer and UJET, their minds are blown. Like, “Wow, this is what I dreamt up. This is what I thought.” I’ve heard these comments repeatedly for the last three years. But then people are like, “Well, we’re not there yet”. It goes back to what Vasili was saying about earlier at 85% of these people on the 1.0. I think it’s really about working with UJET and Kustomer to say, “How do I kind of walk through a process or change management?” Crawl, walk, run. This stuff’s getting me there. Right? You don’t have to knock it all out. Especially the, I think a lot of the enterprises see it. And they’re like, “This is modern. This is new.” But it’s better for the new age company. And eventually those new age companies are going to come eat your lunch if you don’t figure it out sooner or later. So what I would say is figure out ways to kind of start the adoption process now.

Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, I love it. It’s like change or be changed. It’s happening whether you like it or not. Guys, thanks so much for joining. Vasili, it’s great to have you bring in that experience. Vikas, partner in crime, thanks as always for jumping on. And for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (24:05)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Enjoy the Ride by Switching to Kustomer with Eric Chon

Enjoy the Ride by Switching to Kustomer with Eric Chon TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Eric Chon and Vikas Bhambri to learn about making the switch to Kustomer to service their users. Eric is the Community Support Manager at Zwift – an MMO cycling and running game for exercise at home. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Enhancing a Zwifter’s Route with the Ultimate CX

Zwift is a physical training program that allows users to exercise from home and tour maps with other Zwifters on stationary bikes. Each player’s avatar is displayed on screen in a virtual world with varying levels of terrain difficulty. What attracts cycling and running enthusiasts to Zwift is the option to stay home and still have a great, sweat-inducing workout. As inclines change in the virtual world, cycling becomes more strenuous, which gives the game a more realistic feel. The game also has incremental awards that entice players to cycle more often, to join teams, and to interact with others throughout the trails. Because of this user collaborative environment, Zwift needs a strong CX backing to support users throughout their gameplay. Eric and his team made the switch from Zendesk to Kustomer and the benefits to their customers have been endless.

The Making of a Seamless Integration

Change is hard, especially for big brands like Zwift that require an entire support team of expert representatives to provide the best experience for users. For Eric’s team; however, changing from Zendesk to Kustomer was a seamless transition and they recommend that all leaders make the switch ASAP. The reason for switching CRMs, according to Eric, is he believes that CX is a human-to-human interaction and a platform that encapsulates those beliefs into one space is vital for customer success. Eric often finds that other leaders overuse buzzwords like omnichannel to gain attention in the CX world, causing such terms to lose their true meaning. Many companies think they’re qualified as omnichannel simply for offering multiple communication routes between customers and agents. For a brand to be truly omnichannel, their CX teams need to have the ability to switch between communication channels seamlessly to continue the conversation, rather than only offer direct messaging, emails and phone calls as chat routes on their own. “So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel.”

Throw Tickets Away – It’s Time for Human Interaction

Customer culture is constantly changing. Long gone are the days of customer delis where each ticket represents a person and the transaction is done quickly without much regard for customer satisfaction. When agents have a ticket counter or “deli” mentality, they don’t truly understand the why behind CX and how it helps brand loyalty in the long run. This is the responsibility of the leaders – to train their teams to have empathy for the why behind their roles, and to help them understand how each role impacts the company. The use of platforms like Kustomer helps teams maintain a sense of self and identity with their brand because it doesn’t force companies to adapt to new processes, rather, it works for the company as is. This way, leaders don’t have to copy and paste from an old system to a new one to make their processes more efficient and pretty. “When you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change.” Changing how agents approach CX by having an understanding of the why and taking advantage of modern CRM platforms like Kustomer will surely enhance the customer experience and result in lasting loyalty.

To learn more about Zwift’s transition to Kustomer and Eric’s work, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Switching CX Gears with Zwift | Why They Decided to Transition” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Switching CX Gears with Zwift | Eric Chon

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Today. We’re going to be talking about switching CX gears with Zwift. We’ve got special guests: Eric Chon, Vikas Bhambri. Eric, let’s start with you. Can you give us kind of just a quick introduction, who you are and a little bit about Zwift?

Eric Chon: (00:26)
Hi. Yeah, sure. I’m Eric. I’m the Community Support Manager at Zwift. Zwift is a online cycling platform and running, multi-sport to kinda get you off your keister and exercising. It’s a sports MMO, so you’ll be running and cycling with basically everyone else in the world that’s currently running or cycling on our many, many courses.

Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
I love it.

Eric Chon: (00:53)
It’s pretty cool.

Gabe Larsen: (00:53)
And then would you tell us just a little more about some of the things you do in that role as the community leader over there at Zwift?

Eric Chon: (01:02)
Oh, sure. So I set a lot of the policy regarding our support initiatives. I lead a team of 15, 16 people located all over the world: in London, in, well now definitely distributed all over the world. In Australia and Japan. And we basically handle all the volume that’s coming in and act as a kind of a liaison between what our members are saying and how our game is developed.

Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Love it. Alrighty. Well, again, it’s exciting for you to join Eric. Excited to get into the conversation. Vikas, real quick, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:38)
Yeah. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales in CX here at Kustomer. Eric, I guess my one question for you, is there any truth to the rumor that the Tour de France is going to be done through Zwift this year because of the pandemic?

Eric Chon: (01:51)
Well, actually the Tour de France happened through Zwift actually. So it was the month of July, we hosted the first ever virtual Tour de France. We did two races every weekend and it was also the first time that there was an officially sponsored Tour de France for women.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
Very cool.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
There’s a big Zwift event coming up, right, in the fall? I was reading something about it, but yeah, I think it was a big global virtual race, right? That you all are hosting and coming up in either the fall or winter?

Eric Chon: (02:27)
I believe so. The big thing that’s really coming, I will say this, is what we call is Zwift Academy. And Zwift academy is our big initiative where we have these training plans all set out and then through this grueling process, anybody can join just to either increase their fitness, one man, one woman have a shot at becoming part of an actual pro team. And we’ve been running this for several years as well.

Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
It sounds like Vikas, you’re an avid. You’re a, how do you know all this stuff?

Gabe Larsen: (03:06)
Look, I’ve known Eric now for a couple of years and I’m a big fan of Zwift. I can’t lie and say, look at me. You can tell I’m not as –

Gabe Larsen: (03:13)
I was going to say, yeah definitely don’t exercise. I can tell you that. We actually only want to see your head.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:20)
Fair enough.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Well, awesome. Well let’s get into it. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about switching CX gears with Zwift. You obviously made a platform change recently, Eric, where you guys jumped onto the Kustomer platform from a different platform. And today I wanted to just hear a little bit about the why, the what, and the how. So if you can, maybe start with the big picture and just tell us, why did you even start looking for a different platform? What were some of those pains you started to feel that maybe brought you to ultimately partnering with us?

Eric Chon: (03:56)
Well we wanted a platform that’s a little bit more human, that allowed us to interact with our members and potential members in a more organic way. The old ticketing kind of system made me feel too much like, I’ve used this analogy a lot, but like a deli counter, right? You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on. And if you write back, the tools to know like where, like what problems you faced in the past, weren’t great. You kind of had to search for it. So we’re definitely looking, everyone always says omnichannel, omnichannel, omnichannel. That was the buzzword for a long time. And nothing really truly delivered what we were looking for.

Eric Chon: (04:39)
When we came upon Kustomer. Actually it was mentioned to us through FCR as a potential to take a look at because they knew that we were kind of dissatisfied with what we were at. So we checked it out and it was kind of weird to see like, this timeline is exactly what we want. This is exactly what we’re looking for. Every conversation, every email, phone call, chat, text message, it’s all in a line. You can kind of see the whole history the customer’s journey, right? From one day saying, “Hey, I want to join your platform,” to like, “Is this the right thing to get to? I can’t connect this thing because Bluetooth is all messed up.” And so any agent or colleague that kind of reads through that gets a complete picture. And that’s fantastic.

Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Yeah interesting. So originally you were, you had this kind of ticket-based program and you were feeling needs to be a little bit more customer centric. And then some of these things started to hit you in the right spot. This omnichannel. I got to just click on that real quick. That is a buzzword, right? And you kind of hit on that, “Omni, omni, omni.” What makes the solution not Omni channel because everybody says, “We’re omnichannel,” and everybody thinks they’re omnichannel. And what does omnichannel mean for you? And how did you kind of find that then in the Kustomer platform?

Eric Chon: (05:54)
It’s kind of interesting also because I haven’t heard it until everyone started talking about it and I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense.” Like what you want, you want all of your contacts to be in one spot and you want it to, if you want to switch, the idea to me, the idea of an omnichannel is where you’re supposed to meet the customer where they want to be contacted. And where we were before the chat program is very robust, but it was a completely separate program. It was an acquisition. So to pull data or to see things, it was, you’d have to have a separate tab, have a separate window. Same thing with the phones, cell phone support. All of this stuff was separate and it was harder for our agents to kind of tie that information together.

Eric Chon: (06:41)
What I really like is how Kustomer handles it again, like I said, it’s all in one timeline. If we’ve discovered that someone really wants to have us text them, we don’t technically offer text support yet, but the capability of like, “You know what, the last time you wrote in, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m just sending you an email, but could you text me a follow-up,'” you can do that. And it’s all part of the, it’s all part of the flow. You can reach out and connect with that person the way they want to be connected. There’s the golden rule, which is to treat people the way you want to be treated. But there’s the platinum rule which is to treat people the way they want to be treated. And I feel Kustomer allows us to follow that platinum rule.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:22)
Yeah, Gabe. I think this is one of the things that whatever Zwift’s moving to is what a lot of the traditional vendors, old vendors, to call more traditional is much more respectful I guess, is they just rebranded multi-channel to omnichannel. And for them, what that meant is we have all these channels and you can use email, you can use chat and you can get them into one ticketing platform. What they were missing were two key things that Eric alluded to. One is that ability for either the customer or the agent to change the channel. So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel. Being able to go to these traditional ticketing platforms that market themselves as omnichannel; you get an email, you’re responding an email; you get a chat, you’re responding and chat. That’s not true omnichannel.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:19)
The other thing that a customer jumps in the middle of that same issue from a chat to an email or vice versa is merging that together. And what we, we look at it as a conversation into a single conversation, and we call it a multichannel omnichannel conversation where you’ve got different touch points that have come in, but the conversation is around the same topics. Really look, you can call something whatever you want, right? But at the end of the day, I think the true principle of what omnichannel is, is what Eric’s alluding to.

Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Interesting. Interesting. I like that, kind of bringing it all together. Eric, it sounds like that struck a chord. Let’s be on the [inaudible] piece for just a minute. So I don’t know if it was the, kind of mentioned multiple screens, right? But also disability too. Now that sounds like a couple of different data sources in one view. Were you bringing in a couple of different pieces of data to kind of optimize that customer experience?

Eric Chon: (09:16)
So prior to that, yeah, it was, I’m going to use, I’ll use chat as an example here for sure. In order to get our chat information from one to, because everything was done in GoodData, which is a heck of a platform to try to understand. It’s very powerful, but we had to create a separate ticket for each chat that came in so that it would be funneled into the system. I don’t know if that’s still the case but that was a huge pain process to try to get that. And then to get the relevant data across, it really was hours and hours and hours of my time to even get it to some kind of semblance of understanding how many chats came in, where they were coming in, what they were asking for, and could we tie them to the same user?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:10)
One of the things, Eric, that we often hear from folks that are using ticketing platforms is that the ticketing platform is kind of the source of the inquiry from the customer. But a lot of the data that resides about the customer sits in other systems, they kind of, we call the swivel chair where I’m living in a ticketing system like Zendesk and the inquiry comes in from the customer, but then I’m going to another system to go and research it, or maybe find out more about them. Like for instance, what were the kind of the different systems that you were using that the support team had to kind of pivot between? And then were you able to bring any of that into one single view in the customer platform?

Eric Chon: (10:54)
Yeah, well between chat phones, our three main lines of contact, they were all separate systems. So getting them all together and one was a challenge. In Kustomer, they’re all in the same platform. And so they all filter into the same data set. It’s a lot easier for us to kind of see, “Okay, well, how many calls did we get? How long were they? Which teams worked on them and did that call turn into a chat? Did that chat turn into an email?” We can see that transition. We can see how many of those there are and have the tools to be able to see like, well, how often are we channel switching, right? From one to the other, that kind of information is just readily available at Kustomer.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:35)
And one of the things is, from your perspective as being this leader, change is hard, right? And particularly in the support world and you guys have gone through explosive growth and you have a lot of projects on your table. So the last thing you want to do is go in and implement a new customer service platform. What were some of the things that you considered in that as you were going through this process, the retraining of agents, the migration of data, and then how did that actually transpire as you were moving from Zendesk to Kustomer and working with the customer implementation team?

Eric Chon: (12:16)
I mean, we were younger, this is two years ago. I wouldn’t say we’re able to do riskier things, but for us, it’s a constant state of experimentation. It’s like, we want to find what’s best for us. And if we know we have the known quantity and we had all these known pain points and you’re like, “As we scale, this is not going to work for us.” We saw in Kustomer a huge potential to address every single one of those. And we knew that it was going to be, to switch from one to the other that we’ve been in for several years, it’s always going to be tough. But we know that the potential there was to not only just, I don’t know how to put this, to create a support platform that works for us as for us, instead of us trying to adapt to the platform itself was high.

Eric Chon: (13:11)
And that was one of the main reasons why we did it. That, and of course all the ability to keep everything on one channel. The implementation team led by Christina was phenomenal. Really, really smooth over a lot of the things that we had issues with. To be fair, I’m going to say with her experience, she even allowed us to improve our own internal processes. Taking advantage of what Kustomer had to offer and allowing us to think about things in a different manner that we didn’t think were possible before.

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Yeah. So it sounds like the implementation went very smooth. As we, as you think about other customer experience leaders, community leaders, service leaders who are thinking about making that switch, I think you said it right, you were kind of embedded, it’s a little hard, no one wants to change, it feels uncomfortable, what advice do you have for them? What kind of things would you leave for that audience as they contemplate the same decisions you went through just a little bit ago?

Eric Chon: (14:16)
Document everything and it’s always going to be, it’s harder and easier than you think it’s going to be, right? Obviously, any kind of big switch, it’s always going to be harder than you think. But when you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change. How we decide to approach customer support evolved and that is huge. We are, it’s not just about the metrics, although of course the metrics are very important, right? But satisfaction with the ability to handle these things, customer satisfaction, customer effort, they all improved. So, you keep your eye on that and you’ll understand that it’s worth it. It’s worth it.

Gabe Larsen: (15:03)
I like that. Short-term, sometimes things can be harder. Long-term it does pay off. Vikas, what would you add? I mean, we’ve kind of experienced this. Coach people through it. What are they going to be thinking about as they switch?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:14)
You know, I think Eric started at the beginning, right? Which is you’re entrenched with whatever ticketing or system you’re using today. So first of all, being cognizant that change is hard, right? And it’s something, that whole change management process around educating your team as to the why. Eric was really articulated well. Why are we doing this, right? And it helps people understand why you’re going to go on that journey. And then it’s to really map out, we’re not just trying to cut and paste what we’re doing in an old system into a new system and make it a prettier screen. It’s using this as an opportunity to actually improve something. So whether it’s working with somebody like Christina on the Kustomer implementation team, or whether it’s even sitting back and revisiting some of the decisions you maybe made two, three years ago when you first implemented that other system, is there a better, or is there a different way that we could do today? But I think there’s really some unique opportunities, not just changing technology, but also not only changing the process, but in some cases seeing people talk about changing with people and helping inform the people, because it’s a very different world when you come in and you’re now interacting with humans. It’s human to human, as opposed to what Eric was saying, you’re this guy at the deli counter just taking these numbers or tickets. Right now, you’re dealing with human beings. You actually get to be more empowered. So we’ve actually heard from customers that their retention has gone up and people actually enjoy their role because they’re actually being able to get all this data and being empowered to deliver an amazing experience. With the ticketing systems, it’s really about that immediate transaction that you have with that particular customer.

Gabe Larsen: (16:59)
Awesome. Awesome. Alrighty well, Eric, really appreciate you jumping on. Vikas, likewise. For the audience, hope you understand. Hope you’ve got a great make the switch week. As we coach companies, as we think about helping leaders make the change, you can see Eric did it and he turned out all right. We’d advise you to do the same. So have a great day and we wish you the best.

Eric Chon: (17:24)
Take care. Thank you for having me guys.

Exit Voice: (17:32)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


The Future is Ticket Free with Brad Birnbaum

The Future is Ticket Free with Brad Birnbaum TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen meets with Brad Birnbaum, the founder of Kustomer, to learn how teams can adapt to accelerated growth and advancing technologies. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

It’s All About Building Relationships

Brad Birnbaum has years of experience working in the world of CX, leading companies to excellence with the proper tools. His reason for founding Kustomer is he regularly notices that many companies lack skills in the relationship department. Meaning, that the relationships brands should forge with customers simply are nonexistent. He took note of how customers are treated, many like tickets or numbers and to Brad, this is a big misfortune and missed opportunity. Thus, Kustomer was born. “The thing that we observed was so many companies were not treating their customers like people, right? They weren’t establishing the relationship with their customer that they should.” Kustomer is a customer service CRM platform created to make experiences seamless. Brad explains the three founding principles upon which Kustomer stands. One, to know everything there is to know about your customer and use that knowledge to your company’s advantage. Two, having the correct omnichannel to make it possible for streamlined conversation across multiple platforms. Three, making the agent’s job easier and simplified by removing unnecessary steps with automation.

Start Early with Omnichannel Conversations

For optimal growth, leaders should take omnichannel communication into account when creating and selling a product. The modern customer has various resources such as: email, cell phones, chat bots, and Facebook Messenger as a means of grabbing an agent’s attention. With the communication explosion, adopting omnichannel early on to the CX toolbox is a great practice for service effectiveness, especially since this is difficult to implement further down the line. Brad believes that omnichannel often gets overused and consequently loses its meaning amongst CX leaders. He prefers the term “megachannel” to describe how proficiently the Kustomer platform closes the gap between customer and agent by using multiple forms of messaging. “Which to us means being able to converse with your customers in all the different channels that you support in a seamless, single threaded conversation. Which by the way, sounds pretty obvious, but nobody actually really does and I challenge any of our competitors on that.”

Why You Need Data Automation

The current CX climate is “adapt or die,” as Brad says, which is due to technology advancing at an accelerated rate. Brands that refuse to adapt new principles and technologies simply won’t survive with the modern customer. Antiquated services don’t allow agents to work efficiently, as they often have to copy and paste data across multiple screens. With a CRM like Kustomer IQ, teams have proven to be up to 25% more efficient at their jobs, meaning that more customers are helped and more time and money is saved for the company – a win, win, win situation. “Let the computer think for you. It can do it…Let your systems do the work for you.” Another plus to data automation is fewer accidents made by human error because these platforms gather helpful data and store it for agents to use at any given time. “Having that data to enhance and enrich those support experiences is invaluable, right? It’s necessary, as a matter of fact. Customers expect it.” When CX agents have access to the proper tools and data, NPS scores are sure to skyrocket.

To learn more about how Kustomer can help your business, 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:

The Future is Ticket Free | Brad Birnbaum

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
And we are live. Welcome, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a ticket for your future and to do that, we brought on CEO and co-founder Brad Birnbaum. Brad, thanks for joining. How are you?

Brad Birnbaum: (00:24)
I’m doing great today, Gabe. How about yourself?

Gabe Larsen: (00:27)
So we’re excited to jump into the topic. For those of them who maybe don’t know you as well, can you give us just a quick background on yourself and a little bit on Kustomer and then we’ll dive into some questions?

Brad Birnbaum: (00:44)
Sure. I’ve spent my entire career building customer service software. Started in the nineties, had a bunch of great companies along the way, a bunch of good exits along the way. Most recently co-founded Assistly, which was a SMB SaaS customer support software. We ultimately sold it to Salesforce a couple of years later and spent a few years in Salesforce and saw the value of their platform. So the aging nature of the technology and the capabilities of the platform and knew the world needed something better, needed something modern. And took all the learnings of these past 20 years, took the learnings of kind of seeing, seeing what archaic products do and realizing there’s just a better way to service and support customers. And that’s what we’re all about here.

Gabe Larsen: (01:29)
I love it. I think you answered kind of my first question. A little bit about why you ended up founding Kustomer in the first place. Let’s jump to the second thing I had on my mind.

Brad Birnbaum: (01:39)
Well, actually, hold on. I think we could go longer. The reason we founded Kustomer is not because of my prior history as much, but it’s the things we observed, right? The thing that we observed was so many companies were not treating their customers like people, right? They weren’t establishing the relationship with their customers that they should, right? As you and I have gotten to know each other over the past year we’ve learned where they’re from and how many people in your family and your likes and dislikes, and that’s just how people form relationships. In businesses and customers, no different, right? And so many of the traditional systems of yesteryear didn’t think that way, right? They treated customers as a single transaction, right?

Brad Birnbaum: (02:25)
They treat them as a ticket and we just don’t believe that’s the right way to do it anymore. So when we created the Kustomer platform, Kustomer with a K of course, we knew we needed to revolutionize that and everything about the product and the platform we created had that in mind, right? How to make the relationship at the heart of the interaction and to know everything about the customer and to be able to understand their likes and dislikes and be able to action that. So for us, Kustomer platform was founded on three principles. One, knowing everything about the customer and be able to use that to have an amazing relationship and support the customer properly. Two, having proper omnichannel. Which to us means being able to converse with your customers in all the different channels that you support in a seamless, single threaded conversation. Which by the way, sounds pretty obvious, but nobody actually really does and I challenge any of our competitors on that. And three, taking advantage of RP, like business process automation and machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the routine and mundane tasks of a customer support agent so that the agents are able to have those relationships and focus on the important thing at hand with supporting their customers and not go into five different screens and copying and pasting data, doing all those monotonous tasks, which are just not necessary anymore. So we knew we needed to solve all of those things. And in doing so, the Kustomer platform has really revolutionized the way companies are supporting their customers. And we’ve heard this time and time again over the past few years about how C-SAT levels have increased, of how agents are more productive and effective, right? Sometimes as often as 25% more productive than on legacy systems. So it just works. And it makes sense actually, if you think about it.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
I like the pillars. I think that’s a nice overview of a ticketless environment. I want to dive into maybe though, just real briefly, let’s do the omnichannel. You touched on that one. What does it mean to be truly omnichannel?

Brad Birnbaum: (04:18)
Sure. So first off, all of our competitors were created before this thing ever existed, right? They’re creating a different generation, a different era. They didn’t really grow up with the need for omnichannel. So it’s not ingrained in their product. And it’s really hard to add after the fact, right? So most of our competitors will say, “If you send me an email, that’ll be a ticket.” And then to have a ticket ID, you get assigned to a particular agent. And if you don’t get a response fast enough, maybe you send them a text or have a chat session and maybe ultimately phone call then. In our competitor’s products, those will all be three separate tickets. They will have three separate ticket IDs. They will possibly, probably be assigned to three separate teams. God forbid you get three different answers when you respond, right?

Brad Birnbaum: (05:04)
Which happens. We call them agent collisions. They happen all the time. And what you got is a frustrated customer because they’re now having multiple different discussions with different people around the same problem across different channels. You’re wasting time, right? Because many of your agents are basically servicing for the same customer and it’s just not a good experience. The way we solved it is all of that will aggregate into a single, what we call conversation. And you can context switch between any of the channels we support. We support an immense amount of channels. And in real time, at the same time, you and I can be on a phone call right now and you can say, “Hey, Brad. Can you just like text me the user, the page that shows me the user on it?” I could just send you a text with that, right? I just want a phone call. How else would I? And I’m texting you in that conversation at the same time. And again, through all of the channels, we’ve got the synchronous channels, the asynchronous channels, the voice channels: WhatsApp, texting, chat message, Facebook Messenger on and on and on, and it works really, really well. And it’s been game changing and it makes you realize, how could you do this any other way, right? It’s like, how did you do it before –

Gabe Larsen: (06:14)
[Inaudible] I think, right?

Brad Birnbaum: (06:19)
Yup. And I will say this, like we probably do ourselves a disservice by using the term omnichannel because everybody’s used the term omnichannel. So it’s like omnichannel, omnichannel. We see it so differently that, as I said, I do think we’re doing ourselves a disservice by calling it omnichannel. I think we should call it megachannel, but whatever we call it, it is different, right? It is different than everybody else’s definition of omnichannel.

Gabe Larsen: (06:41)
Yeah. Yeah.

Brad Birnbaum: (06:42)
It’s important. Most important, it’s the way your customers want to communicate with you, right? They do context switch as we all communicate with one another, we and the business world, we’ll text and we’ll Slack and we’ll email and we’ll phone call and that’s just normal on a day to day. Even you and I, Gabe, like, that’s how we’ll converse, right? Many different ways. I’m sure we’ve emailed, Slacked and phone call at each other at least once today already, right? Like, and that’s normal and often around the same topic. So it just, it just makes sense when you think about it.

Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
To bring those all together under one roof. Okay, that’s omnichannel. CRM is a loaded term. It’s been used in many different instances. It’s obviously in sales, it’s in marketing, it’s in service. Why do you think CRM is such an interesting and important component of a modern ticket lists and service solution?

Brad Birnbaum: (07:34)
Yeah, well CRM is, the term’s been around forever. People often equate it to SFA, sales force automation, right? Just on the sales front. And I think the more generic definition is not that it’s customer relationship management. It’s how the business interacts with the customers and the data around them. So for us, we absolutely are a CRM system because we have a tremendous, we can have a tremendous amount of data about the customers, whatever the business provides. So if you’re a retailer, very often we’ll have your full customer record. We will have orders. We’ll have information about those orders, perhaps billing exceptions or delivery exceptions, or when it got delivered, you name it. Across the board. Having that data to enhance and enrich those support experiences is invaluable, right? It’s necessary, as a matter of fact. Customers expect it.

Brad Birnbaum: (08:22)
They, when I call whomever it is that I call for support, whether they’re using my product or not, I expect them to know everything about me, or if I call them by cell phone, they already have my number. I expect you to know my profile. I expect you to know I’m calling because I ordered something four days ago and it hasn’t yet been delivered. I can’t find it, right? I don’t want to have to say, “Hey, I’m Brad. Here’s my date of birth and my address. And I’m calling you because you see that order I placed four days ago? I never got it.” I expect you to know that about me. You should. In today’s day and age with computers and data, there’s no reason not to. And that needs to be applied to customer support and customer service. It has to be applied to it.

Brad Birnbaum: (09:02)
It’s expected at this point in time. It’s table stakes. And you’d be surprised how many companies support their customers without that data, right? Where they’re like, “Oh, all right. Let me, I see that you’ve reached out to me and system A. Let me try and look you up in system B. Let me try and find why you might’ve called.” Let the computer think for you. It can do it. Of course it can do it right. Let it do the work, let your systems do the work for you. And for us, CRM is fully understanding the relationship the business has with the customer as I said earlier, and leveraging data to do that. And we’ve got a very, very robust CRM platform. It’s enterprise class in terms of permissioning, object level permissioning, record level permissioning, field level permissioning, who can see and do what to any objects, right?

Brad Birnbaum: (09:46)
And data validations, and really incredible whizzy wave view builders that we call k views. Everything’s with a K. So k views around these objects and being able to action these objects. You can run business process automations on an object. As an example, let’s say it was a shirt and you needed to return it for a larger size. You would see that object in your timeline, you could just hit return on or exchange for a larger size. And one of these automations that’ll talk to all the back office systems take care of that seamlessly. Instead of taking the human, many screens, and many minutes, it takes a computer milliseconds and boom, you’re done. Everybody wins. The customer gets the resolution faster. They’re happier. And by the way, automated so less accident prone. So it’s more likely to be correct. Agents service you faster, as they’re more productive and effective, and they’re not wasting their time on things. Businesses, money, C-SAT levels go up. The agent productivity goes up. It’s just a win, win, win across the board.

Gabe Larsen: (10:40)
Yeah, well it definitely feels like it’s different than CRM. Maybe you’ll get that KRM. Maybe you’ll be able to rename –

Brad Birnbaum: (10:45)
One day, one day, we’re going to coin KRM.

Gabe Larsen: (10:48)
Well, let’s go to AI. One of the things people are talking about a lot as we move into this next generation of customer expectations is the automation side of the house. It’s the data side of the house. How does that create that modern service experience and how does it eliminate the ticket?

Brad Birnbaum: (11:05)
Well, in the spirit of knowing everything about the customer and understanding all the ways you like to communicate and having that omnichannel communication, you want to take advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence in several ways. One way might be for deflection, right? Customer reaches out through email or text, or any of the asynchronous messaging channels. We have an amazing chat bot and we want to be able to take advantage of that, right? So try to service the customer through a chat bot, right? It could be a simple search in our knowledge base and deflection could be more advanced, full chat bot experience where you’re actually conversing with the chat bot. And then that ultimately gets to leverage the CRM data that we know about you, to say, “Hey Brad. We noticed that you ordered a shirt a couple days ago and had it delivered this afternoon. Is this what you’re reaching out about?”

Brad Birnbaum: (11:55)
You say, “Yes, it is.” And then it’s like, “Cool. We noticed it’s set to be delivered tomorrow. Anything else we can help you with?” “No, thank you.” Boom. That’s a pretty incredible experience and one that we all expect nowadays. But then you can do other forms of AI right? We have customers that use machine learning for routing, right? To make sure the right customer, the customer gets to the right agent, right? Sometimes their businesses are so segmented that different agent teams can’t really service all customers, right? They’re only training with certain capabilities and we’ve got some customers using the machine learning capability of our platform to make sure that the customer conversations get to the right group of agents regardless of how they might’ve self-selected. The machine learning is way better than that. And we’re seeing it with incredibly high success rates in the mid to upper nineties of high levels of accuracy. So really great stuff.

Brad Birnbaum: (12:44)
Suggesting responses. Once a day, if an agent is engaged with the customers, suggesting response, which for us is also the next action, right? So you can suggest how to respond to the customer and are using what we call shortcuts. And our shortcuts do a lot of different things, right? Not only do they send texts, but they can even do actions in our system. And you do that and it does categorization, classification. So there’s so many things that you could use with intelligence, with machine learning and AI. And we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg with what we’re doing in the customer platform. As a matter of fact, we’ve rolled out an entire offering, which we call Kustomer IQ and it’s going to be pervasive through our entire product offering. We’ll see it in predicting reporting trends. You’ll see it potentially one day in helping analyze fraud. There’s so many potential use cases, but right now, we’re working on various forms of self service, various forms of incredible chat bots, various forms of making agents more productive.

Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
Yeah. Well, we hit a lot of topics today. I want to see if we can get kind of a summary from you. Obviously consumer expectations have changed. People are frustrated with ticket-based systems. Today was all about a ticket-free future. If you think about leaders who are really trying to up their game when it comes to customer service, what do you leave them with today?

Brad Birnbaum: (14:04)
Well look, the world is changing faster than anybody, any of us ever expected, right? The pandemic has increased the rate of digital transformation by many, many, many orders of magnitude. We’ve all seen the charts. Some say it’s digital accelerate. Digital transformation accelerated five years like that. We’re seeing e-commerce, the drive to e-commerce move at rates completely up. Just nobody thought it could ever happen at the rate of increase that’s going on. So you’ve got to adopt your business, right? Business is moving online faster than ever. We’re seeing so many traditional companies converting to almost becoming modern, direct to consumer companies. You have to adapt, right? It’s kind of adapt or die, right? You have to adapt. And that is how you do business in every facet of how you do business. Customer service is of course a critical part of it, right?

Brad Birnbaum: (14:51)
You can have a great product, but poor customer service, and you probably will not have repeat customers. You won’t have customer advocacy and in the end you probably won’t win. So you can’t have a great product without great customer service and why not take advantage of the most modern ways to do so and the best tools to do it. And you need to really rethink that, right? And the world has evolved in so many ways, why shouldn’t the way you support and service your customers evolve?

Gabe Larsen: (15:15)
I love it. Well, Brad really appreciate you taking the time. Everybody, this week is make the switch week. We are empowering leaders who have been frustrated with these ticket-based systems, upgrade to a modern customer service CRM. So Brad, thanks again for joining. For everybody else, have a fantastic day.

Brad Birnbaum: (15:32)
Thank you all. Have a great day.

Exit Voice: (15:40)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington

Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer are joined by Edmund Ovington to learn the secrets to breaking down language barriers. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Why Your Team Needs Language Translation Software

VP of Global Alliances at Unbabel, Edmund Ovington shares why language translation software is a hot topic in the world of CX and how leaders could greatly benefit from these services. As a CX leader, it should be a priority to relate to your customers on a personal level, as this generally leads to higher NPS scores and overall customer satisfaction. For the many companies that are struggling to expand globally, Edmund suggests investing in the superpower of resilience: language translation software.

And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay if no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine.”

The way these services work is through asynchronous communication, meaning there are multiple platforms that this translation method works through. The easiest is email; however, Edmund mentions that instant messaging or live chat works just as well. When a customer sends a message in another language, Unbabel instantly translates their words into the preferred language of the agent, and vice versa for instant digital communication.

Thinking Globally

Platforms such as Unbabel make it easy for companies to broaden their reach on a global scale without building in other countries and having to hire droves of native speaking employees. It offers internal benefits by allowing companies to stay centralized at an already well-developed location all while providing customer service benefits across the map. As Vikas points out, “It goes back to acting globally and thinking locally.” When a company removes that language barrier by adopting a mode of active translation, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for relationships with consumers on a much larger playing field.

You can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak.

Tools that enable brands to expand their reach are especially useful for leaders because they help to remove the extra steps for effective communication. Companies that use such tools have been able to enter certain markets and grow within those markets without friction.

Building a Deeper Connection with Customers

Lasting customer loyalty is earned through the creation of meaningful connections. Customers feel more confident in brand interactions when they can use their native language because it’s the language they’re most comfortable using. It can be exhaustive and frustrating for customers who don’t speak English fluently to communicate with customer experience agents who don’t speak their native language. When these customers can relate to an agent that speaks their native language, it wins the company major points and a deeper connection with that customer. They’ll stay loyal to the brand and continue coming back because they know they’re heard and understood. “You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections.” Breaking language barriers and taking advantage of tools like Unbabel will make your brand known for going above and beyond customer expectations; for doing more than just the bare minimum.

To learn more about international communication and building customer relationships regardless of language, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Evolve with the Changing Needs of your Customer Service Team | Edmund Ovington” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Removing Language Barriers to Enhance the Customer Experience | Edmund Ovington

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 language resilience and this expansion of key superpowers. To do that, we have two special guests and I’ll just let them take a second and introduce themselves. Let’s start with Edmund. You’re up.

Edmund Ovington: (00:25)
Hey Gabe. Hey Vikas. Lovely to be here. Thanks for having me. My name is Edmund. I am the VP of Global Alliances here at Unbabel. Based in Atlanta and excited to chat today.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
And Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:43)
Awesome. Awesome. And you know me. I run Marketing over here at Kustomer. So, I mean, let’s start big picture. We talked about this idea of resilience and it’s definitely very relevant in this post-COVID CX world. Why is it so important in customer service and how is it actually a superpower?

Edmund Ovington: (01:00)
Yeah. You know, this year has been interesting and I guess the truth is the, whereas a lot of people have probably stood on stage and talked about resilience and agility and flexibility for a long, long time. Actually doing it has probably come back to roost this year and it’s been a fun test of whether people are just talking or already walking. So yeah, with language, I really think about this idea of two aspects. One being, if you’re a growing company, how easy is it for you to launch new markets, testings, but then also what happens if things go wrong? If regulatory means you get shut out of the market and you can’t deploy as you thought, or as the macro economic climate changes or whatever, and how you set up from day one to deal with that. Deal with the tumultuous journey that every scale-up consumer company faces, especially in a interesting world where you can kind of sell anywhere.

Edmund Ovington: (02:04)
You don’t really know where your demand is going to come from. And the world is not as controlled as maybe it was if you’d launched a business 20 years ago. And then the other side is if you’re a very large company selling to consumers again, this year is a great example of how do you maintain and how do you have the DNA to keep an amazing experience for everyone globally when the world is changing so much, right? Whether it’s country shutting down or whether it’s suddenly, you’re not able to ship things to people because borders are sharp, whatever it might be. How do you keep the integrity of your expectations, your own bar of excellence around customer experience without just constantly firefighting, right? How do you keep some sort of strategy, some sort of thread rod through the middle? And we’re finding, we’re all seeing obviously that the best companies in the world have set themselves up for this, that they’d really built this in from the day one and they’re not now scrambling to put it together.

Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, Vikas, you’ve seen this globally. In many cases, languages plays a role, it kind of can make or break the customer service experience. Why do you feel important as companies think about expanding globally that they consider language as part of that expansion?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
Well, I think first and foremost, I think what Edmund alluded to is that the barriers to entering new markets has reduced greatly, right? Yes, there are regulatory; however, distribution, technology from a commerce perspective, there’s amazing platforms out there that allows you to do the currency of the tax. And you can get up and running pretty quickly. And then distribution into these new markets, it has become a less friction, more frictionless, right? So I think that’s a great opportunity for any DTC brand, any retailer, any fintech company, et cetera.

Gabe Larsen: (03:55)
Yeah. Go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
The flip side then is if you’re going to do business in these markets, how do you kind of act globally, think locally? And I think that’s where language plays such a strong role, especially in building that customer relationship. It’s not enough to have your website or your app available in that local language, but now when people actually engage you, are you showing empathy and a desire to transact with them? We think about this at Kustomer, this concept of the me. The me and the consumer, right? And the consumer wants to be, they don’t want you to think of you as an American brand or a British brand, right? Yes, you might be but I don’t want to do business with you in your language, do business with me in my language. And I think that’s where we’re seeing the customer experience evolve to.

Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Has this been around a while, you guys? It seems like to your point, Vikas, people are so focused on the first part of the experience. The website needed to be in the language or the, but now it’s shifted. Like you have to have this post-sales experience in something that is not about you, but about them. Was there, is that, did I miss that? Or is that a newer trend?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:05)
No, it’s been around forever. However, it was something that was only available to the multinationals, right? Because at the end of the day, the way you went about it, in the olden days, quote unquote, for some of us who’ve been in the industry for 20 years, is you went and hired local language speakers, right? And so we’re going to do business in the Czech Republic. So we’re going to go and hire people that either speak or can write and track if that’s how we want to do business. And don’t want to force them to speak to us in English only. Well that doesn’t work if you’re a high growth DTC brand with a team of 20 and the team might be a mix of English and Spanish speakers. So I think technology was a limiting factor and it was something that was only available to these multi-nationals and Edmund, I’m sure this is something you can speak to because obviously this is your bread and butter.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, Edmund, what do you say? Why has language becomes so important in this kind of post, well, let’s call it post-COVID, but in the general customer service arena?

Edmund Ovington: (06:10)
So we actually validated our company with this use case, if you like. Like where we’re coming on seven years old now, and the first few years, we were almost exclusively selling to B2C companies that were blowing up that were hitting the right moment in that hockey stick. And didn’t quite know whether it be they’re a social media platform or a DTC company as Vikas was talking about, just couldn’t predict. And so we realized that they could keep this lean team, this excellent, this almost SWAT team approach and deal with all the languages using our solution without having to hire those native speakers. And so we realized this was superpower, right? And we got that, but wow, hasn’t 2020 shown that that was not just a superpower, but like something you have to have. You have to have the ability to cope with the whole continent, going offline to some degree in terms of your on the ground resources and being able to shift things. For a lot of companies, this is shifting to work from home. For a lot of our customers, it was a moment switching off maybe Filipino agents and turning on Mexican agents as one of our customers were talking to yesterday, but within hours, right? Because you’ve got millions of customers to keep happy. And some of these organizations as well, although COVID was disrupting the world, the gaining customers, the peripheral customers, the DTC customers, their volumes were going sky high, right? So suddenly they’re dealing with more demand than they expected in a world where they can’t get any of their supply chain actually activated. And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay. If no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine,” right?

Edmund Ovington: (07:58)
This is if someone’s locked at home and they’re suddenly spending a lot more money online than they used to, if you can give them an amazing customer service and importantly in their preferred language, not their, not just because they happen to speak English and we’re all arrogant and think everyone does, like actually deal with them and make them happy in the language they prefer, you’ve won their heart, right? You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections. So I think that’s what we’ve really seen this year for the best companies who have done this and we’re ready for this and now winning customers for life every day. Every second.

Gabe Larsen: (08:34)
Yeah. Well it definitely seems like it is. It’s a nice cherry on top, right? I think it makes you feel that added specialness, right? Maybe you could walk me through the process because I’m having a hard time visualizing it a little bit. But if I wanted to experience this kind of additional benefit, I’m a customer, I pop on somebody’s website, normally where I’m calling in or I’m on a chat, walk through. I chat in Chinese and they write me back in English, but how does this now work the way you guys see it in an optimal flow?

Edmund Ovington: (09:08)
Yeah. Let’s use that example. So you were based in Beijing and you write in simplified Chinese, right? The most [inaudible] in mainland China, form of Chinese.

Gabe Larsen: (09:19)
Give an example that I can understand because I don’t know if I can do –

Edmund Ovington: (09:24)
Yeah. Pretend you could and you’re right. So you’re writing on a website, you’re asking when your package is going to arrive or some sort of simple thing. So before, I’m the brand. I have to hire someone who’s both capable, but also happens to be able to write in that language. But maybe I’m based in California, right? And so finding people with that skillset, you want to work in that role, it’s pretty tough. For the first time now, I can have Vikas now answering that question, right? And he gets it immediately translated in real time to him into English, with all of the product names, everything perfectly translated exactly so he understands it and then he replies in English. But the most important thing is the end user gets a seamless, simplified Chinese experience that makes them think they’re talking to a native user and they don’t even know.

Edmund Ovington: (10:16)
And it’s, it’s exactly what the same response times, whether it’s an email or a chat that they would expect before. And so this kind of uninterruption of both the agent, so the agent does the same job they’re always doing. They do know it’s a Chinese customer, but they don’t have any change to their workflow. The system they’re using at Kustomer looks exactly the same. It’s beautiful. And then on the end, most importantly, the end user feels like they’re having a warm cuddle from someone who speaks their language and that’s exactly what you want.

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
Oh yeah. I can see how that works. What channels is that best for then? It’s really email and chat, is that where that’s typically going?

Edmund Ovington: (10:56)
So we predominantly launched in what I call asynchronous channels. Email’s the easiest one to comprehend, but there’s also web forms and many others. And then three years ago we started to deploy what we traditionally think of as live chat, right? Website chat. Like you just used an example that the one where you’re sat there expecting a response immediately, and that’s kind of the, it’s a real time exchange. But now actually, depending on what the brand we’re working with is setting in terms of expectations with our end user around messaging, it could also be a very asynchronous chat, right? It could be an in-app message where people are very happy to have a half hour response because they’ve written something longer. We can adapt to all of that. So basically our mission is to say that no matter what digital channel you or your clients choose, that could be WeChat, that could be WhatsApp, that could be Apple business messaging, it could be anything, right? The consistency of the experience is always that you always can pick the best agent to deal with that customer. Give them the best outcome in the channel that the client prefers in the language that the client prefers. And it kind of feels, if you think about that circle of the right agent, the right system with customer, kind of is the final part, right? It’s saying also the client gets to decide the nature, the language of that experience that they prefer.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:14)
And then think about that, right? I mean, Gabe, it just creates the more intimate relationship. I mean, you’ll often find for people that are multi-lingual will generally speak different languages in different environments, right? I might speak English in a business environment, but I might speak Hindi or Punjabi or Spanish or French at home. So now the brand actually gets to, if I choose to not speak my, quote unquote, professional language and speak my personal language with the brand, create that intimate relationship, because now I’m thinking of them as I would a family member or friend. So it just strengthens that relationship that the brand can have with the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
And Edmund, is that, I mean, I assume it’s true. I mean, it feels like it’s true, but are you seeing some change in NPS or customer satisfaction? Are you seeing that this is moving the needle when it comes to that relationship? Indefinitely from an intuitive standpoint, it seems like it would add that nice cherry on top, but any success stories or movements you’ve seen, as companies have experienced this kind of change in language equals a change in relationship?

Edmund Ovington: (13:24)
Yeah. So for me, there’s two layers of that. The operational layer is the, just full stock, you get to pick the best agent, right? And so what we see, if you look across all of our deployments, you do see an increase in C-SAT. And we’d like to take a little bit of credit for that. But in reality, a lot of it is just because for the first time you can pick the place in the world, maybe the BPO vendor, that has the best agents, and you can bias towards the agent’s tenure scale suitability to the job, not just the fact they speak Dutch, right? And it’s suddenly, the pool widens, the talent gets more specific and everything goes nicely in place. So yes, we see a significant increase. And then secondly, yeah, I remember it was three and a bit years ago now, but I remember having a wonderful conversation with one of the big Telcos in Canada because a lot of my family lives in Toronto and we were talking about how Toronto is like one of the most beautifully diverse cities in the world.

Edmund Ovington: (14:22)
And how, if you are a utilities provider to assist you like that, wouldn’t it be an amazing USP to be able to say, “We don’t think that just because you moved here, you should be forced to talk to us in English. You should be able to have, if you prefer, the language experience in Portuguese, in Hindi, whatever you want, that makes you feel like you’re valued as a customer.” And that suddenly becomes something that actually companies can put forward. And I think especially in 2020, maybe that’s a very powerful message, is that you can be a company that doesn’t just do the bare minimum. You don’t just serve customers and say, “Yeah, we responded to their email,” and you actually go out of your way like you’ve been standing on stage and saying, and really deliver a personal service because that’s the term that’s been used for 15 years now. Personalization. Personalization is a very human thing, right? It doesn’t mean you send me the answer I want. It means you speak to me in the language metaphorically or in real life that I would want it to be spoken.

Gabe Larsen: (15:21)
Is personalization 15 years old? Is that right?

Edmund Ovington: (15:24)
So it was like exactly the length of my career. So yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Dang, [inaudible]. I need to get with the flow.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:31)
Well, the thing is it’s been used in the marketing world, right, for ages. I think reality is, I think we’re just now seeing it in the customer service world, right? And I think this is why you and I often joke about the term customer experience and you’re like, “Customer experience has been around.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you marketeers have stolen this, kind of stolen this term. And now, customer service professionals are starting to think about the customer experience, right? So that’s kind of the pivot that those of us that have been in the contact center world are definitely observing.

Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
All right. I can take that. Well, and then I like this concept. I can see how the customers could be more satisfied, but you highlighted some internal benefits that I don’t know if I had seen as much. One is the hiring concept and you just passed over it a little bit, but you’re right. I mean, I’m opening an office in Abu Dhabi and now I’m like, “I got to make sure I get these right languages because this is where I’m going to do it.” And all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, hey. Language, maybe it doesn’t matter.” You move to scale. Is that what I heard you say?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:37)
Well, think. If Edmund, if I can interrupt, just think about this, Gabe. Let’s say I’m a US-based company and I’ve got my support operation and I’ve got it three layers deep, right? I’ve got a tier one, tier two, tier three. Now I’m going to go and operate in France. To go and create that same tier one, tier two, tier three structure in France is going to get extremely expensive. And also there’s a time to ramp, right? So now, just as an example, you could actually run everything from the US but maybe because of time zones, you’re like, “You know what, we’re going to have tier one in Paris, but we’re going to actually run tier two and tier three out of the US but in French using something like Unbabel,” right, where now to the French consumer, it’s seamless. But if they go beyond what the tier one can handle, because I think that’s the challenge, particularly for a lot of high-growth companies is I would basically have to replicate this odd in each language. And that’s why before it was only something big companies could do and not something that was available to the masses.

Gabe Larsen: (17:43)
Yeah. You were at that point of just having to not open an office and maybe you don’t even want to open an office in France. Open it up and you can run that out of what already is a well established facility in California. That’s pretty powerful. How does this work with in house and versus outsourcing? Does this, I mean, is there any kind of overlap here, Edmund, or is everybody just doing this in house when they’re kind of hiring employees in this category? Does that fit into this at all?

Edmund Ovington: (18:13)
Yeah. Great question. So I think the things I’ve been learning since we pivoted from just really helping fast-growing companies to now being predominantly, actually focused on large enterprise companies. And the reason that we realized this is powerful is that they’ve lived in a status quo of painful operational decisions, a huge scale based on language, right? Whether it be the vendors they choose from an outsourcing perspective, whether it be the location strategically. And as you say, the in house versus out out house and national versus offshore is painful, right? And what we found is that when you remove languages, the inhibitor of a decision, you suddenly open up a new world. And what we’re finding is that each company has, I think of it as like three circles. Then each company has various, different deployments within these areas. So number one is the idea of like the SWAT team, which could be tier four, tier three excellence in terms of the technical stuff. But quite often, they’ll want this at HQ, right? So quite often they’ll want this either at regional HQ or global HQ, the best of the best, often in-house. And allowing them to deal with every language is powerful.

Edmund Ovington: (19:24)
Then the second layer is saying, “Okay, then we want like the volume end of this. Then we want to be able to deal with whatever happens, whatever. We launch a new Xbox at Christmas. Like that’s going to blow things up, but we don’t quite know how much,” and that’s out of flux and deal with that. So maybe they pick India or the Philippines with an outsourcer who can hire 2000 people in a week without blinking, right? Very different. And they can do, they can have that in all languages.

Edmund Ovington: (19:48)
And then the final one, which is maybe the most exciting this year is also saying on top of that, maybe you want a gig economy model around that, right? So maybe you want to use one of these new gig providers. This is more, literally anyone anywhere in the world on a per transaction basis that provides that final layer of scale. And the beauty for me is I don’t care what a company decides to do. I can layer on top of all of that and make sure that all of that’s in every language. And that’s kind of the exciting part is whatever journey a company wants to go on, either now to fix their mess, or because they’re small and growing to plan and build resilience for the future, they can do it all without just without language becoming a blocker or a confusion or a pain.

Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Yeah. I like it. Removing language to enhance global expansion. Alrighty. Well, Edmund, really appreciate it. Let’s see if we can wrap. Talked about a couple of different ideas. As you think about organizations trying to expand, dealing with post COVID. I mean, you know better than anybody, I think about some of the challenges they’re facing, sum it up for us. And then, Vikas, we’ll give you the last word. How can organizations expand and scale, thinking about language maybe not as an inhibitor anymore, but as maybe an advantage?

Edmund Ovington: (21:00)
Yeah. Well, I always think the answer is as simple as the question, right? But the beauty is that in 2020 and beyond, whereas the last decade was obviously largely dictated with deploying your resources based on where you can find people who speak the language, you no longer have to do that. And you can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak. And that’s a whole new paradigm, right? Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it is really well. Which means if I was building a company today, that’s a B2C brand, I have a whole load of new opportunities to think about the way I test markets, I grow markets, I aim my way into markets, whatever I want to do, without friction. And that’s pretty cool. I’m really excited that that’s now on the table for the partners we’re working with and your customers are very much in the same place

Gabe Larsen: (22:02)
I love it. Don’t ever worry about saying cliche things. Vikas gives me all the time for using all the marketing buzz words. I’m like, “Kustomer is a conversational, AI powered….” He’s like, “What does that mean?” I’m like, “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty.” So you’ll never get me to say cliche. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
You know, I think it goes back to acting globally and thinking locally. And I think for me, the biggest thing is whether you look at a combination of Kustomer and Unbabel, but just unlocking opportunities that once were only available to the big companies, right? You mentioned the Xbox, or like Microsoft. Yeah, of course, we’ve got billions of dollars. We’ve got tons of resources, but now I could be releasing an app, right? That’s now going to be available globally and I could deliver the same experience and I think that’s a very unique opportunity for people that are thinking about it. It’s obviously something that can be used by enterprises, but if I was starting a brand new DTC brand today, it would allow me to go and penetrate these markets and deliver an amazing experience. So I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for anybody who’s thinking about how they set up an operation today that wasn’t available to them five, seven, eight years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (23:25)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, hey guys, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


How to Scale Your Team Globally with Michael Windsor

How to Scale Your Team Globally with Michael Windsor TW

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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.


How Visual Integration Helps Agent Efforts with Wade Radcliffe

How Visual Integration Helps Agent Efforts with Wade Radcliffe TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Wade Radcliffe and Vikas Bhambri to learn about visual integration to enhance the customer experience and how it boosts agent efforts. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

A New Communication Channel

Wade Radcliffe was the Director of Business Development at Streem, a company that offers a visual layer to the world of CX, and understands the need to integrate multiple channel communication. Many leaders are adopting channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, chat and direct messaging. To this list, leaders should consider adding a visual element to further the communication channels and open the possibilities for cost and time savings. Visual communication saves time because it allows agents to directly help customers by displaying the resolution, rather than having to explain in great detail how to accomplish a task or fix an issue. According to Wade, customer calls that take around 15-20 minutes can be shortened to five minute conversations with an added visual element. Wade portrays, “So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.” This element to channel communication is especially helpful when customers and agents start talking in depth with copious amounts of detail, painting a picture for the other to understand them. When one starts to paint with their words, that’s when visual communication should come into play.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t be Hesitant to Adopt Video

Some agents and leaders are hesitant to adopt video as a means of communication for a multitude of reasons. Some stemming from security and how to navigate access to customer’s smartphones with ease of mind. To this, Wade reassures that much of video communication apps and software have customizable security features in place to protect both the user and the company. Another reason some might be skeptical of the benefits to visual CX is agents would rather not be face-to-face with customers when in difficult situations. Wade explains the importance of personal connection and how human-to-human interaction can actually be valuable to customer conversations. “Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video.” To make two-way video work properly, Wade suggests using an app or sending a text message with a link directly to the customer’s smartphone, which when opened, will allow the agent to see through the smartphone’s camera. Many businesses could benefit from this form of CX and advance their team’s efforts.

Opportunities Attached to Visual Platform Adoption

The opportunities for visual CX are endless. This method can be applied to a slew of businesses and field expertise, which in turn will save companies time and money downstream. For example, Vikas evaluates a situation in which a blinds company could benefit from agent visual services and avoid droves of returns by helping customers measure their window spaces correctly over video. Another example used in the episode is discussed where a customer has the ability to film the outside of their house so a field technician knows what tools and equipment to bring (such as a ladder with the appropriate height) that will fit the demands and resolve the issues most effectively. In closing, Wade urges leadership to give video tools a try and to slowly integrate visualization into CX. “Like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.” Opportunities for customer success are boundless as leaders integrate video channels, making the future of CX more accessible to all who have mobile devices with the camera feature.

To learn more about Wade’s work at Streem and how to integrate video channels, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Why You Must Allow Your Customer to Have a Visual Customer Experience | With Wade Radcliffe” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Is Video the Future of Customer Service? | Wade Radcliffe

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, you guys ready for the fight? Here we go. We’re going to be talking on the importance of a visual context in the customer service, customer experience, customer support. And to do that, we brought on two special people. We got Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer and Wade Radcliffe over at Streem. Wade, why don’t you take just a second and introduce yourself?

Wade Radcliffe: (00:31)
Hey, thanks for having me on today. So about 20, 25 years in the contact center world, and I’m excited about now that we’ve got everybody with smartphones in their pockets, adding a visual layer to contact center integration interactions when it makes sense. So we’re here to help people accomplish that.

Gabe Larsen: (00:48)
Love it. Glad you’re here. Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime here at Kustomer. Responsible for Sales and CX and Wade and I have been around the contact center for similar amount of time. I’m not at 25 years yet, but just crossed the 20 year mark. So a lot has changed and I’m super excited to talk about the visualization in the contact center. I think it’s been a long time coming.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
And I’m Gabe Larsen. I am one year in the contact center space, so very excited to have you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:17)
This is Gabe’s unique way of kind of short-cutting his learning process, getting people like Wade on and just like an abridged MBA.

Gabe Larsen: (01:29)
It is, man. That’s, that is the cheat code. And it’s fun because I can tell that I have a reason to be kind of a punk. So Wade, we want to start off high level and say, I don’t know if we agree. I don’t know if I agree with you. I mean, why go visual? It’s, we have so many good channels right now. Phone. We have email. I mean, that’s been working for a long time. Why do we need to kind of open up the kimono and introduce a visual tools ideas into the customer service process? Start big picture for us, give us the watch.

Wade Radcliffe: (01:58)
Sure thing. So, I mean, I guess the first thing to know is that you don’t apply a visual to every business workflow, right? So there are times where, let’s take resetting a password, for example. It’d be crazy to have a visual layer for that, but if you have what is typically a 20 minute call to have somebody work through fixing their ice maker, for example, or walking them through their house to quote some services, visual can take that 15 to 20 minute call and bring it down to just five minutes. So we’re not out here saying it’s the perfect tool for every job. We’re just saying that wherever you have to paint a picture with your words or using voice only, it’s a challenge.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Vikas, I mean, you’re out and about. Give us your kind of big picture thought on just digitalization in the customer service world.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:48)
Sure. I’ve seen customers explore it, dabble in it, over the last, I would say five to seven years in particular, but I haven’t seen them, you go back to them six months later. “So how did that project go?” “Oh, we wound it down,” right? A lot of it is, and I think to Wade’s point, and maybe Wade, you can touch on this, is kind of the success rate. The other challenge, Wade, historically was also that the customer was on so many different platforms that it was hard for a company to say, “Okay, I’m going to adopt a technology and it’s going to work for my,” just as a quick example, “iPhone user and an Android user, and if somebody is on their iPad,” right? And so that became a challenge. So how have things progressed, obviously in the last few years?

Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
I love that.

Wade Radcliffe: (03:40)
A lot to unpack there. So we’ll start with the fact that we’re not out there pitching that you should do visual chat for this. So what we found is that one-way video and two-way audio works best typically, because you’re both looking at the same thing. You’re co-browsing the environment, if you will. You have a shared experience. And because if something’s not working with the system that I just bought, I don’t want you to see me with my cranky face on. And the agent doesn’t necessarily want to have people see them, plus on a typical video conference call, if I’m seeing myself, I’m looking at me and not other people, right? So we’re not focusing on the issue at hand. So one-way video is a great way to accomplish resolving an issue. Second thing is on the fact that before we had some ubiquity and standards, we had to be on a certain platform and that was a challenge. Now that more and more people have a smartphone, typically an iOS or Android, 90 to 95% of the time, it’s a lot easier. Plus we can go through the mobile browser, as opposed to having to download an app. So these, with HTML5 and the extra bandwidth that people have these days, you can pull off a visual layer when it makes sense, a lot more easily.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:59)
So Wade, I think this is interesting because I think clients, when I was talking to them about this, because there’s nobody, there’s no playbook, right? It’s not like, to your point, voice or chat that’s been around for years. And everybody, I think they were kind of dabbling in different things. I even had one customer that was like, “Well, I’m going to integrate Zoom into my experience.” And automatically, I was thinking about, as you said, the customer showing their face and does a customer want to show their face in this kind of interaction? And then the agent. There’s actually pushback from the agents going, “I don’t want to show my face to that, look, I mean, I –

Gabe Larsen: (05:34)
“We didn’t get ready in the morning.”

Wade Radcliffe: (05:36)
Or, “I may want to roll my eyes.”

Vikas Bhambri: (05:39)
Right. Right. Or yeah, exactly. “I want to show my expressions of frustration, like pull my hair out or something like that.” So it’s interesting. You guys have actually changed the conversation. I’m almost thinking about it like, maybe I, am I thinking about this the right way where I’m on my phone and I’m just showing what I’m seeing, not myself and I’m not necessarily seeing the other person?

Wade Radcliffe: (06:00)
Exactly. So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.

Gabe Larsen: (06:11)
Got it. So do you not recommend that, I gotta, do you not recommend the kind of the face-to-face or is there a time and place where someone who would actually show their face from a customer view and the agent would show their face or is that, to Vikas’s point, nobody wants to do that actually?

Wade Radcliffe: (06:25)
There’s a time and a place for it. Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video for awhile. So, “I’ve seen your space, now let’s have a face-to-face conversation about how we go about ordering furniture,” for example. So it’s nice, like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:01)
Wade, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this, but I tell you one use case that I think was so brilliant was I had a customer who was in the blinds business. And if you don’t know how many people botch the measurement of their blinds, you would be shocked Gabe. Especially a guy like me who was like the anti-DIY guy. So to measure out end to end, how much blind with you need, and length I can handle, but width is where most people mess up. And so what they were finding was the number of orders that they were having to go through. So to your point Wade, like video would have been great for them to actually say, “Show me how you’re measuring this.” Like, you know what I mean? “Let me walk you through, are you measuring from end to end? Are you going from window to window or what it is?” So that’s the one that I personally –

Wade Radcliffe: (08:00)
Yeah, it’s a perfect match and yeah. Whether or not you’re inside the window casing or outside the window casing, those are very important things to know. And what we like to see is that with that visual layer, not only are you saving some time in that particular session, but you’re saving some downstream time as well. You’re not having to send somebody out, which costs you a few hundred bucks every time you do it, or you’re not dealing with a return because they bought it a little bit too long and a little bit too short. So if you can save some of those downstream actions, such as truck rolls or returns, the visual layer has really paid for itself.

Gabe Larsen: (08:36)
You know, it’s funny, Oh go ahead, Vikas.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:40)
So am I oversimplifying this to think that in anywhere that I think of a world where there’s a field service technician, it sounds to me like, I’m not trying to say you’re going to switch out the field service technician, but you guys could be a, at least a level one, right? Like, “Let me try to walk you through doing it yourself before I send out a technician.” And then you mentioned, I think another use case you mentioned was kind of the home styling or interior design element, which kind of ties into the blinds example I gave. Are there other industries that are using this kind of technology? Maybe it doesn’t come to mind immediately and you’re like, share that with the audience.

Wade Radcliffe: (09:20)
Sure. So anybody that does consumer goods that might have a little bit of complexity to them are very good. Utilities are very strong because we can take some pictures of the outside of someone’s home or building and then when we send that field technician, they know exactly what they’re getting into. They know what tools they have to bring. They know they have to bring a 12 foot ladder, those kinds of things, and they have an approach into that home. So there’s, utilities are big. Insurance companies. Sometimes refinances and home appraisals. It’s nice to walk a property and we can grab GPS, make sure we’re talking about the property we’re appraising, as opposed to, their rich aunt’s or uncle’s house. And if you’ve got a loan to value of maybe 20, 30, 40%, you don’t necessarily need to do an in-depth appraisal because there’s so much equity in that home. So there’s lots of ways that you can leverage –

Vikas Bhambri: (10:13)
It’s interesting. I just, oh, go ahead, Gabe. Sorry.

Gabe Larsen: (10:15)
Yeah. Check this one out, Wade. I don’t know if you can see that on the screen, but –

Wade Radcliffe: (10:18)
I can.

Gabe Larsen: (10:20)
Customers, by Fatema, you’ve got some car features, so service centers, that’s kind of different. Sounds like they’re exploring that. Fatema joins us from Dubai. I think we’re going –

Vikas Bhambri: (10:32)
One of the things we were thinking about was, my wife didn’t want to go to the dealership, is man, if you had a person in the dealership who could walk you through the features, functions, obviously you could do everything, but test drive the car, using a technology like this, or as you were saying, realtors. We just, I think our last show, Gabe, we had a guest who was moving from San Francisco to Denver and he said he bought the house sight unseen, but imagine a realtor walking you through a home in Denver. So maybe other use cases for this type of technology.

Wade Radcliffe: (11:06)
Yeah. I want to stick with your dealership example for a moment. So let’s say that they’ve actually bought the car and they’re at home and they’re trying to get their Apple CarPlay to work and they’re getting frustrated. They don’t want to spend two hours of their day going to the dealership or interacting with people face-to-face. This would allow them to walk them through it. They’ve learned something. They’re empowered. And you get the issue resolved right then and there without tying up that bit of time on their dealership too.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:36)
I’m getting more and more excited.

Gabe Larsen: (11:36)
Yeah, I’m seeing Vikas’s eyes get big. I’m interested in –

Vikas Bhambri: (11:41)
When we started the show, it’s been a long time coming. And I think the challenges, as Wade alluded to, were the technology limitations, we didn’t have ubiquitous device where you could just say, “Here’s the standard,” right? We only have to support, and now we only have to really support two main devices, no offense to Microsoft, but it’s Apple and Android, right? You don’t have to worry about all these 15 different environments. And then I think what Wade’s doing at Streem is writing the playbook by how you do this. Because like I said before, so many people were confused as like, “Well, do I do this? Do I show the agent? Don’t I show the agent? Do I see the customer? Is a customer going to want to download software?” That was another big issue in the past. We asked them to download something, so that seems to be no longer an issue. So the hurdles are moving and now we can really have some fun with the use cases.

Wade Radcliffe: (12:34)
Absolutely, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (12:36)
That, Wade, I want to get to the playbook, but do you have a quick comment on this one from Bruce? I’ve seen Zoom tends to perform better via app versus smartphone. Are you seeing the same?

Wade Radcliffe: (12:45)
Yeah. So when you’re actually using the mobile app, you’re actually, can get inside some of the goodies of the device. So for example, you got a gyroscope, an accelerometer inside that device. So if I’m moving it around, I can get an idea of depth and I can take measurements and it’s a little bit stickier, and those kinds of things. Yeah. It’s getting pretty exciting. And going through the browser via HTML5, you can’t necessarily pull all that off. So yeah, definitely the app’s a little cleaner, if you want to do some rural, funky stuff. If you’re just wanting to see what the person can see and co-browse their environment and draw on the screen, then typically you don’t need an app to do that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
So do you, Wade, this playbook idea, I mean, we’ve hit some of the common hurdles, I think Vikas, and you’ve seen over the years in the industry, but if you were coaching somebody now to start this journey, how do I start to think about visual? Is that, I mean, I’ve got to identify the use cases. I need to know, I mean, you’ve talked about it a little bit, any five step process and best practices as people start to take this journey, you’d recommend?

Wade Radcliffe: (13:43)
If I were to go into a contact center, I’d say, “What calls are long and frustrating on average, if you type them?” And then once you’ve typed those, you can start to listen in on them and say, “Where are people getting hung up?” I said, it’s very much like it was prior to video. And you just, you prioritize, you run your priority charts, you pull out where your stickies and points are. And then to my surprise, video is so much easier to implement than I thought. I thought it was to be a big, complex thing and tough to do, but we’re actually able to do integrations, including integrations with customer, within an hour and you can trial it and see how it works and kind of get your folks the right feel for it. Because there, I’m trying to think of how best to put it, but there are ways that you can communicate, “Hey, are you on a smartphone? Hey, can I see through your camera?” that the agents get comfortable with to allow for a smoother engagement.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:42)
So to that point, what does the customer engagement look like? So I’m on the phone. Obviously I have to be on my smartphone with the contact center. I’m speaking to the agent and the agent says, “Hey, know what? It’d be super cool if you could just show me what you’re looking at,” and do they send, SMS me a link that I hit the link and then it invokes it? Talk to me a little bit about the customer side of that experience.

Wade Radcliffe: (15:08)
So a call comes in, they’re having a discussion. Sometimes you have a power user that knows exactly what they want, and they got a part, they need a replacement. You’re not going to deal with that, but you have someone saying, “My barbecue is not lighting.” I can say, “Well, what kind of model do you have?” “I don’t know. It’s a black one and it’s a little roundish.” So they’d say, “Hey, are you on a smartphone?” Yeah, most likely, yes. “Hey, would you mind if I looked through your camera so we can see the same thing?” And then once they do that, they push a button from their agent desktop, and then that sends a text message and they tap on that link on the text message, and then they have to say, “Accept the privacy terms saying yeah, I can look through your camera for the next five minutes.” And then you’re off and running and you have that voice call still in place. So you’re never really abandoning the voice call. You just add that visual layer and they go, “Oh, you’ve got a XY 2000. This is a common problem. Let’s go down here and point to where do you want to” –

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Wow, I love it.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:04)
Very cool. How do you see working with folks that maybe are having a digital or text-based conversation, so chat or SMS with an agent, or is it primarily, is the use case voice?

Wade Radcliffe: (16:16)
And that does a couple, add something nice to it. So yes, absolutely. Chat’s a perfect example. You’re doing a chat and say, “Hey, are you on a smart phone? Let’s tap this link.” Or you can send them a code if they’re on something else and they can go to a webpage. But yeah, and what’s neat about that is that now we can get the voice through Streem as well. So if you wanted to do some analytics and do some crunching on what’s being said, and how it’s being said, some transcription, you can actually run the voice and the video through, initiated from a chat.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:43)
Wow. Super cool.

Wade Radcliffe: (16:46)
Or email or anything that’s text-based.

Gabe Larsen: (16:49)
Well, I love the examples, Wade. Is there another example? I mean, you’ve talked more about the kind of the consumer products, any other interesting stories or examples to kind of bring to light where you’ve seen this be very effective, again, maybe in a different industry that you could share?

Wade Radcliffe: (17:03)
Sure thing. Well we, one of our use cases is pretty strong as pro-to-pro conversation. So you’ll send a novice out in the field, or you’ve got a contracting, a contractor working for you. We have an airline that uses this to support their technicians. So technicians can know everything about every plane in a fleet. So they can actually call a lifeline if you will, and go back to the pro and their pro can walk them through a complex resolution.

Gabe Larsen: (17:31)
Got it. Got it. And do you find, I mean, as people implement your solution or visualization tools, where do they then get hung up? I mean, you’ve made it sound too easy, no offence, but there’s gotta be a couple holes somewhere. Where do people often be like, “Oh, shoot. I wish I would’ve thought,” or is it really as easy as you’re saying it is? I don’t mean to contradict you there, but it sounds pretty darn easy. Is there some place, is there some gotchas that bigger companies run into? Security? Something like that, that you need to be thinking about?

Wade Radcliffe: (18:01)
Well, most of the providers out there offer some pretty customizable security features. So you can, don’t have to store it here with us. You can store it on your own systems that got APIs, where you can really operate at atomic level to get rid of some of some things where you don’t have the feature that you need. The biggest issues that we see sometimes are like, someone’s screen lock is on and they want to turn it to the left. And then you’re looking sideways, just small things that people have, like when you’re walking your father-in-law or mother-in-law through an issue with their smartphone. So sometimes those are somewhat challenging to work through, but 80% of the time to 90% of the time based on your customer demographic, it’s quite smooth.

Gabe Larsen: (18:46)
Got it. All right. Well, Vikas –

Wade Radcliffe: (18:46)
Which helps, you can’t run this on dial-up.

Vikas Bhambri: (18:50)
Wade, are you seeing some of the traditional retailers, like the brick and mortar, adopt this? And I’m just thinking about now I’m in a store. I’m in, maybe a DIY store, like a Lowe’s or something like that, or I’m in a sporting goods store, and I’ve got a question about a golf club, or a grip or whatever it is, rather than having somebody, a lot of times, no offense, people on the floor no longer really know what they’re talking about. I can have like a centralized group that actually knows what they’re talking about.

Wade Radcliffe: (19:24)

Vikas Bhambri: (19:24)
Are you seeing people adapt this to where customers in store can actually use this technology?

Wade Radcliffe: (19:31)
Absolutely. And I’m glad you brought up Lowe’s because we have a press release out with them. They’re incorporating what we do.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:37)
That was not teed up. I just want the audience to know I am not a shill. I did not get a check in the mail, though I gladly accept them, but I did not know that. That’s fantastic.

Wade Radcliffe: (19:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So retailers do, first, they’re going to need to differentiate what they do, right? And Lowe’s is a great example where someone’s walking the floor. They’ve got an issue and this is not being done right now, but it’s a great idea, just to have a QR code, like if a supplier wants to put a QR code up in their, where their products are displayed, I could click on that and we can kick off a video session. It can kind of walk through some how to use a particular tool or in those kinds of things. So that’s a good idea. Plus, a lot of retailers, we see are doing actually some warranty work or first level warranty work for the OEMs. And this allows them to pull off some of that, without having to roll a truck, I think Lowe’s would have to go out and fix a dishwasher, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if they could do it over the phone with video?

Gabe Larsen: (20:39)
Yeah. Well, I’m sold. I’m sold. I think we could be using the video, more visualizations in CX. I didn’t think you’d be able to budge me over the edge, Wade, but congratulations. Closing comments, as we kind of wrap here. Wade, why don’t we start with you and then, Vikas, we’ll end with you. Thinking about, we talked about a lot, Wade, any things you’d leave for the audience as kind of recommendations or leave behinds?

Wade Radcliffe: (21:04)
Give it a whirl, give it a shot. Start small and see what you can pull off using visual. And thank you so much, Gabe and Vikas. I really appreciate the time to hang out with you guys and talk about what we’re up to in the world.

Gabe Larsen: (21:19)
Absolutely. Vikas, you convinced or you still doubter? I know you were a doubter to start but –

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Wade, I’m excited. You can see the smile on my face. I was a doubter just because I’ve seen the challenges in the past, right? And like I said, sometimes being a dinosaur, but I would say to the practitioners out there who are listening, they’re probably like, “Oh no. They just introduced another channel,” right? “I just got my arms around Twitter or WhatsApp or Facebook messenger and now these guys and my boss is probably listening.” And he’s like, “We got to do video.” But to Wade’s point, dip in with the appropriate use case. Start out with those items that are most challenging your contact center agents today. Those long conversations, the ones that are taking four X your normal conversation, dig into those. See if video can be a solution to what your, the customer is actually trying to solve for. And I love how Wade said, if they’re starting to paint with words, let’s use the visual. And I think that’s a great way to tackle some very specific use cases to get your foot in the door.

Gabe Larsen: (22:30)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Wade, thanks for joining again, fun talk track. I think you’re hitting on something that, yeah, to Vikas’s point, has been maybe around a little while, but it’s taken some leaps and strides and it’s starting to make some noise, I think, in the right places. So kudos to you and the Streem team. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Wade Radcliffe: (22:48)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (22:54)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard

Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steve Richard from ExecVision and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to learn about recording customer phone calls and how the data is useful to CX agents. Steve is the Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of ExecVision where he strives to improve performance by analyzing data. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Are Phone Calls Dying Off in the CX World?

For years, phone calls as a means of communication between CX agents and customers has been under great speculation. Debate amongst the customer experience community over whether or not this communication channel would eventually die out takes place frequently. Email, once being in the hot seat, was thought to dwindle as a channel because of advances in modern technology. This, however, simply isn’t true. Email has held strong in its place amongst omni-channel communication, as will phone conversations. Interesting data resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic shows that phone calls between CX reps and customers have boomed within the last year due to heightened pandemic anxiety. This can also be attributed to customers wanting to talk to actual human beings rather than a chatbot when something goes wrong with their order. These phone calls are a goldmine of data information and companies should do everything they can to gather this data, as it is helpful for a multitude of reasons. One reason being that customer experience agents become self aware when they have the ability to revisit past phone calls, study their conversation skills, and understand what went right or wrong. Companies can also learn from the collected data.

The technology’s improved where they can take thousands, millions of calls, do their analysis on it and actually make business decisions. And those business decisions aren’t limited to the enablement of the agent. It’s changing policy. Change in product. Change in marketing offers. That richness of data is something that is now available to the business at large.

Team Development Through Data Analysis

Steve believes that recorded customer calls are crucial to team and brand development in a holistic sense. Information such as common issues with products, competition details and much more can all be unearthed through call data analysis. Plus, data collection is most impactful when teams work in an environment that is comfortable enough where mistakes can be made without fear of strict reprimands. Instead of calling out an agent’s mistakes in a customer call, Steve explains that this is a prime opportunity for leaders and agents to learn together and to make adjustments where necessary. Furthermore, companies can learn from CX representatives by analyzing their call data and noting the common practices amongst the highest performing teams. Common traits amongst these teams should be capitalized, prioritized, and implemented across the board. For leaders who understand the value in data analysis but are struggling to streamline the process to a standard of excellence, Steve suggests pinpointing a few crucial questions reps must ask, then training them to improvise as they go. “Think of it like jazz. It’s like, there are certain notes you just have to hit and then from there improvise.” When agents are matched with the training necessary to spark fluid conversations all while hitting the main points, call data is sure to be accurate and advantageous.

How Companies are Winning with Phone Call Data

Successful corporations are winning in the customer field when they see the true value in data and use it to their advantage. Steve examines the two different types of call data that firms can collect, the first being human generated. Human-generated data includes all of the information a CX agent might collect during a call for their record. The second form of data is derived directly from the original content source — the phone call itself. This entails talk-to-listen ratios, call length, reasons for customer complaints, and transcripts. For companies to be successful, Steve conveys the importance of data translation and understanding what it means to the success of the brand as a whole. For example, traditionally, swearing has had a negative connotation in the CX world until more recent years. Now, swearing is a part of everyday jargon and reflects positive rapport between the customer and the agent, unless of course used within negative contexts. On this Steve mentions, “Rapport means different things to different people. For one person it’s weather. For the other person it’s talking about their problem. So make it so it’s as objective as you can.” Another example of institutions winning with customer data is it allows leaders to determine the perfect talk-to-listen ratio that is appropriate for the brand. Lastly, Steve urges CX teams to take control of their calls and to look inwards for examples of best practices, because learning from each other is remarkably effective.

To learn more about recording customer calls and capitalizing the data, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Call Recordings Are the Secret to Better Customer Support | With Steve Richard” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Secret to Better Customer Support | Steve Richard

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 got a good friend of ours. I’ll let him introduce himself. Steve Richard from ExecVision. Steve, how are you man?

Steve Richard: (00:20)
Doing well? This is great. Haven’t done one of these live ones yet.

Gabe Larsen: (00:23)
Yeah, well we have about a million people joining. So this is, this is pretty important that you prepare. Thanks to you for preparing for that. Which I know you wouldn’t do any of because you told me you didn’t. But nonetheless, you’re a man who knows truth, and we’re going to talk truth today. So can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do over there at ExecVision?

Steve Richard: (00:45)
Yeah. Very, very passionate about working with salespeople, support people, customer-facing people, service people, to improve performance. I mean, that’s what it’s all about is getting people better. Everyone’s always talking about metrics all the time and it makes me nuts because I go, “What’s the point of measuring the sprinter to help folks get better?” So my whole career has been dedicated to that to see entire teams and departments elevate performance on a bunch of different fronts.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
I love it. Well said, man. A fellow LinkedIn spammer. I haven’t seen you as much on LinkedIn, man. Have you been, you’ve been a little, a little less aggressive on that?

Steve Richard: (01:17)
It’s hard. It is. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of time and effort. I’ve been heads down with a bunch of new SDRs internally.

Gabe Larsen: (01:22)
Yeah. Yeah. I know. We’ve seen like a lot of that going on and I miss it. I love spamming people on LinkedIn. This allows me to at least do it once a week. So I’m glad Vikas and I are able to do that. Vikas as always, you want to introduce yourself briefly?

Vikas Bhambri: (01:37)
Sure. Your partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (01:40)
Yep, and I’m Gabe. I’m over here Kustomer as well. So let’s dive into this topic. Wanted to go a little tactical, little strategic. Maybe we start high level. Call recordings, how it can help customer service agents. Give me the big picture as to why. What, why is this even a topic to be talked about?

Steve Richard: (01:59)
Well, I mean, you got to have a business reason and most people don’t start with the business reason in mind and there should ideally be a metric and there should be a way of seeing it as improving. For many of course, it’s going to be your NPS, CSAT type of thing. But increasingly we’re seeing a lot of service and support organizations, especially post-pandemic, are starting to have more of a revenue focus. Maybe not necessarily a KPI yet, but, but things like, we want to make sure that they try to save a customer or work with a customer on billing payments, whatever it might be, do something that’s more revenue focused and that maybe they’ve done before. If it’s a sales team, of course it’s revenue conversions, those kinds of things. Or even just simply offering your products. A lot of places now, you’re seeing that they’re incenting folks to just try to ask for the customer to buy something else if they’re happy, of course, issue resolution times, all of that. So if you don’t have a business metric in mind when you’re gonna start, it’s like you don’t have a goal to get to. If we’re going to break a four minute mile, we should know that our goal is the four minute mile before we training. And then the other thing is historically, it’s been all QA. The whole thing has been all about people behind the curtain. They get all the call recordings, they get all the data, and if you go talk to the average person who works in a contact center now at home and you say, “What do you think about QA?” They go, “Ugh.” I go, “Why?” They say, “Because they’re like the police. It’s like compliance. They, I can’t, it just, they make me nuts.” So there’s no relationship there. So rather than trying to create a positive, productive growth culture, instead by and large, they’re perceived as being negative. So we’re starting to see people change the way they think about that where they go, “Wait a minute. I can actually have one of my agents listen to 10 minutes of their own call recordings per week.” And that’s a good thing to do because they become self-aware. That’s very different, I think, than what it used to be. It’s changing the whole paradigm.

Gabe Larsen: (03:51)
But isn’t Steve. I like the title business. Vikas, maybe I’ll throw this one to you. Isn’t the phone dead? I mean, do we really need call recordings anymore, you guys? Because is anybody even using the phone? Vikas, why don’t you start on that?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:04)
The prediction that the phone as a channel, as a customer service channel is dead has been like, we’ve been talking about it in the industry for about five years or probably over five years and it’s not happening. The consumer still wants to use the phone and what I would say, email as a channel, you see chat and other social, et cetera. But when it really hits the fan, right, when I need something done, people pick up the phone because they want a human being at the other end. Half the reason might be because they want to explode on somebody because they’ve been so frustrated with the other channels, your self service, your app, whatever it is, and they’re at the point of no return. And at the end of the day, there’s still a demographic, right, that prefers the channel. So the phone is a channel. So no, the phone as a customer service channel is not going anywhere. In fact, what you will see is, especially in this pandemic, people are seeing, they’re actually seeing the phone channel explode because of the heightened anxiety and expectations of the consumer. So no, the phone is not dead.

Gabe Larsen: (05:14)
Thanks Vikas. Well, you were going to agree to –

Steve Richard: (05:18)
Well no, I wouldn’t. I’m going to add something to that because I think everyone who, anybody who’s watching this who’s a customer of customer in that persona, don’t we wish that one of these things would go away? Don’t we wish that when we add all these omni-channel things and all of a sudden we’re monitoring Instagram, that other communication channels would go away? But they don’t. It’s really unfortunate. And then, Gabe, you’re right. In some situations, it depends on who your customer is. In some situations you’re right. They probably don’t have a need or a very, very small need for a phone-based channel. But I’ll tell you, I’ll give you a personal experience. I’ll just throw name right out there. I was a customer of HelloFresh. I did their initial offer. The meals were fantastic. I’m horrible at getting myself downstairs in time to prepare dinner. So my wife generally cooks, she kind of pushed back on them a little bit. They kept sending me offers and everything like that online, in the mail and everything. I had some, a few chat sessions with them, but I really ultimately wanted to call them and find out if there was a way that they could have a package that would meet my wife’s needs really. Not even my needs, but I couldn’t. And that’s the sort of situation where it’s like, why just keep throwing out more and more offers over email for lower and lower, it wasn’t about a race to the bottom. It was about configuring the package so it met her needs. So I think we have to be very considerate about who our customers are, what we’re offering to our customers and then the communication channel is going to follow for both sales, service and support, all the above.

Gabe Larsen: (06:45)
Yeah. Interesting. All right, fine. The phone is good. I’ll –

Vikas Bhambri: (06:50)
By the way, Gabe, just on that, because some of us are a bit older. People have been predicting email. Email was supposed to die first. Remember that. An email as a support channel is still alive and well. So I think Steve hit on a really relevant point, which is the customers want choice. And as much as we, as CX professionals want to be like, “We’re going to add Twitter so that we can sunset this one,” the customer simply won’t allow that to happen.

Steve Richard: (07:19)
If you’re selling to, I shouldn’t even say tweens, now, if you’re selling to tweens, you’ve got to be on House Party. I mean, no kidding. I mean my eight-year-old kid. Eight-year-old, ten-year-old kids, they never heard of Facebook. They’ve never heard of Twitter. They spend all their time on House Party.

Gabe Larsen: (07:35)
Yeah. Well, good thing those aren’t our customers because I don’t know House Party, but I’ll have to look that one up. I do have an –

Vikas Bhambri: (07:42)
You know, Gabe’s going to be doing TikTok videos.

Gabe Larsen: (07:47)
TikTok. Yeah, okay. We can talk about that after. Let’s talk about the second part because the Q&A thing is, that resonates a lot with me, right? You’ve got a call center, a service group and you’ve got these police running around, mostly, but they’re not enabling, right? It’s like they are more like the police and it’s just compliance to do this. And so call recording has never gotten to the place where it may be and Vikas, got to where it was in sales, where you guys used call recordings as really an enablement thing. Not really like compliance, but like, “Hey, what could I have done better or said better?” See power of companies thinking about taking it from a disabler to an enabler from an actual than coaching perspective. Are they, walk us through kind of that step by step process or guide us on that. Because I think some people are, I don’t think they’re there.

Steve Richard: (08:36)
Yeah. I mean, actually I was just talking to one of our bigger customers or logos on our website. They’re going through this process where first and foremost, there’s the mindset shift and cultural shift in the agent or in the rep because it’s hard for them to go, “Wait a minute, you’re not doing this just to take paycheck away from me? You’re not going to tell me that my variable comp has been docked because I said something wrong? You’re actually trying to help me get better. I don’t believe it.” So let’s start with the whole, like get them to believe and feel comfortable. You’re in the safe place, it’s okay to fail. You have to have a definition of good. You have to have calls, score cards that are aligned with the ideal state for a particular call type or a particular chat session type, SMS, whatever it might be that they’re trying to do. And that’s where a lot of people get hung up is there are many varying definitions of good. So we’ve got to get the leadership team first and foremost has to be aligned and rowing the boat in the same direction because if they don’t do that, we’re in trouble. And then the idea of, and I don’t want to just like paint QA as a film because they’re not. And I talked to a lot of QA people and a lot of them are saying, “I want to get more involved in doing things like surfacing,” great examples for the team to learn from. But I don’t think they felt empowered to do that stuff until now. And just like you said a minute ago, the pandemic accelerates all trends.

Gabe Larsen: (09:57)
Vikas, I mean, how have you seen this play out? I mean, do you feel like some people are actually getting to that enablement standpoint and if so, what does it look like? Anything you’d add on the use of call recording?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:05)
I do. I think what’s really changed the game is frankly, the technology has improved greatly, right? It used to be in the QA environment, which was the priority with call recordings. People had to do a random selection because you can’t go and listen to 10,000 recordings and like, “Okay, I’m going to listen to one out of every X number of calls and then I’m going to do a scorecard, et cetera.” What’s changed the game is the ability to take voice, convert it into text, create these big data environments. Now, the companies that are getting it are seeing the richness of this data, right? Because to me it’s one thing to have a, you know, an agent go in and hit a dropdown and say, “Who was the reason for this call?” Here’s the disposition. Customer was upset because product was broken or product didn’t arrive on time. Now you’ve got a big data environment that can actually be looked at to say, “Wait a minute, we analyzed this call. It wasn’t that the product didn’t arrive on time. It was actually,” to Steve’s point, “the product wasn’t configured to my satisfaction. And yeah, it didn’t arrive on time as well,” right? So I think there’s a lot that now companies are able to do. The technology’s improved where they can take thousands, millions of calls, do their analysis on it and actually make business decisions. And those business decisions aren’t limited to the enablement of the agent. It’s changing policy. Change in product. Change in marketing offers. That richness of data is something that is now available to the business at large.

Steve Richard: (11:39)
Product market fit. You know? Absolutely. The, so it’s the surfacing of the moments that matter. The metaphor is so obvious. There’s, prior to this, prior to the AI revolution, it’s a big, huge pile of call recordings. It’s like a needle in a haystack and now we’ve got a magnet [inaudible] to get them out.

Gabe Larsen: (11:56)
So Steve, what are you finding the, Vikas gave a couple of examples, but what are you finding when people, the way people are using data, are they looking for key words and then coaching people on keywords? Are they doing more like Vikas said? Like actually recategorizing or classifying calls based on some of this data or how are they using this intelligence to actually change?

Steve Richard: (12:17)
You’re going to get data from two places. You’re going to get human-generated data from things like stages, dispositions, types, all those kinds of things that an agent might enter in on their system of record. And then you’re going to get data from the, what’s the content of the call itself. And that’s going to be things like talk versus listen ratios. That’s going to be things like, of course, inflection or a sentiment that people have messed with. And then certainly the transcript. And there are a lot of other things as well so some of the data is going to come in human generated, some is going to come in system generated. And then it just becomes a question of like, well, what does that mean? And I’ll give you a real example.

Steve Richard: (12:58)
One of our clients that we work with, they initially were, they had a hypothesis that said basically longer average call duration is better for their world for a service. Now that’s typically against the grain of what you think, but from what they’re doing, it makes sense because ultimately they can create a lot more customer value and sell a much bigger machine. So they thought that, but then when they actually went and looked into the data, it turns out that wasn’t the case at all. It actually turns out there was like a Goldilocks zone. There was a sweet spot. So now instead of saying, “Make them as long as possible and get as much as you can, get as much as you can, as fast as you can, and we want to keep you four to six minutes for this particular call type.” That’s a good insight. That’s something that we can actually drive towards. That’s a four minute mile that we can hit.

Gabe Larsen: (13:39)
Interesting. Have you found other, I don’t mean to be on the spot, but now I’m interested in the other neat insight, you gave just a client example, but other things in the data you found maybe across your general audience or across customer basis that are data driven best practices? So for example, you just talked about like call time, that being one. Words that flag that you say, “Man, when people say this, it does decrease satisfaction.” Any other kind of data-driven insights you’ve found as you guys have played with some of your own data?

Steve Richard: (14:10)
One of the things that’s funny is swearing. People always associate swearing as purely being a negative. A lot of people just like to swear, a lot of people actually swear and that’s a sign of rapport. So if someone’s swearing, it actually is a good thing. So that’s one of those ones that generates a lot of false positives that people are surprised by. Another one is of course the talk to listen ratio. Now, if we’re in a sales context, we’ve all been taught that we should listen more than talk, but that’s actually not the case. So that old lady Tony rule is not true. It’s really, it floats right between about 40%, talking to 60% talking because there has to be a dialogue and a back and forth that happens. That’s another thing.

Gabe Larsen: (14:50)
Are you telling me that statement that my old mentor, that you have two ears and one mouth and you need to use it and that that’s not true?

Steve Richard: (14:58)
No, it’s true. However, when you actually look at the percentages, when you look at calls where someone talks 20% of the time and listens 80% of the time, you know what you call that? Larry King, Oprah. That’s, it’s an interview. And even then the people who have studied them, the great interviewers are even talking 25, 30% of the time because they have a preface for their question and they’re reacting and they’re confirming and they’re clarifying. So a lot of these kind of axioms that we’ve held will be like gospel [inaudible] or not. They’re not at all. And the data’s starting to tell us that. That’s fascinating. And then one more quick story in that and in terms of a transcript data. One of our customers is, competes against Amazon. And it seems like everybody competes against Amazon. And one of the things that they offer as kind of a neutralizing them is something called shipping saver. So what they want to be able to do is anytime there there’s a discussion about freight, they know there needs to be a discussion about shipping saver. So they need to A, measure that and then B, when it’s not happening, we need to help the agents change their behavior because when we bring our shipping saver, we have a better probability and odds of success against Amazon.

Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
Got it. So you actually could flag something like that in the conversation. One more question maybe before we wrap here, you talked a little bit about a formula or having a company come up with a structure or a scorecard in order to assess calls. Is there kind of some best practices on that? Like a typical kind of process people are normally running there or how do they come up with that ideal score card?

Steve Richard: (16:34)
When you look at QA, historically they’re scoring on 30 points or more. I mean it’s, and it takes them a long time to score a call and that’s why they do random sampling. And that’s why they really don’t get through that much. It doesn’t seem to be as efficient as it could be. If we’re going to then empower our agents and supervisors to an extent with their own converse, with their own calls, we’ve got to take that from 30 points down to like ten because the human being won’t do it and think of it like jazz. It’s like, there are certain notes you just have to hit and then from there improvise because a lot of people say, “Well, I don’t want him to be scripted.” We get it. It’s not a script. At the same time, we do agree that these are the seven points that they should hit pretty much for every one of these calls.

Steve Richard: (17:18)
And if not, choose NA. And once you get the leadership team and they go, “Yep, those are the seven,” then you’re good. And then one more thing, phrase it, this is a little trick of the trade. Does the agent blank or does the rep blank? And it’s something I’m borrowing from adult learning and sales enablement, people L and D. Does the rep blank? Because it’s a present tense and it’s something that people know how to fill in the answer and we want to make it so it’s objective, not subjective as much as we possibly can. Don’t make it squishy. Does the agent generate rapport? No. Rapport means different things to different people. For one person it’s weather. For the other person it’s talking about their problem. So make it so it’s as objective as you can or no greater than ten, does their agent blank?

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve been in this place. You’ve been in call centers for a hundred years. What, anything you’d add to this around people kind of messing this up?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:12)
Yeah, no, look. I think there’s, a lot of times I go back to what Steve said. The QA behind the curtains, looking at these giant scorecards. Where I’ve seen people flip it is to say, “Let’s look at what’s working.” So let’s, let’s assume the three of us worked in a thousand person contact center and Steve month over month has the highest NPS. Why don’t we look at the last 10,000 calls that Steve has had? Not a random sampling. Let’s once again, you need a big data environment. Let’s say, and we had a telco customer that did this. And one of the things they found was simple things that they then put into their scorecard and behavior and their enablement, which was simple things like saying thank you at the end of a call that made such a difference, right? It was asking the person up front, “What can I help you with today?” Right? So being able to look at 10,000 of Steve’s calls and come up with the three, five things that this top performer does, right, and then replicate it over a thousand people. I think those are the things where people are flipping it from not scorecards built in a vacuum, but actually what works out on the floor.

Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
I love that.

Steve Richard: (19:34)
They use the data, inform the scorecards, and then the trick becomes, even if it’s one thing you’re trying to change, changing one thing across a thousand people, that’s usually the hardest part.

Gabe Larsen: (19:44)
Yeah. Yeah. The change management comes in. But what I really liked that idea of kind of studying the best. It’s good to see some regulars. We got some regulars back here. Abdula. I haven’t heard from Abdula in a long time. Fatuma. Thanks for joining. It’s always good to see you guys jumping on the show. We need to actually get these guys to do more comments. So thanks for jumping on. All right. Well closing comments, as we think about call recording and how it helps customer support. Steve, let’s start with you and Vikas, we’ll end with you. Steve, what do you think?

Steve Richard: (20:12)
I’m going to, I’m going to shout out Christie, you have to assert control of the call. And I love that. And what it comes down to is if you can leverage, here’s the reality, the best practices are already in your four walls. Almost always. Can we just simply surface the best practices with big data and get people to do it? That’s it? Final thoughts.

Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Love it. Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (20:33)
Yeah, I think that’s it. I think you’re sitting on a goldmine. You may not even know it. You’ll know more about your competitors, about your pricing, about your product, right? I mean the front line are your eyes and ears but they may not even be digesting this as you’re on a five, seven minute call. You may not even be digesting all the richness that the customer’s giving you. So look at the data, analyze the data. And I think that will allow you to make a lot of informed business decisions.

Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
All right you guys. Well, there you have it. Two experts. Call recordings. How that can be used to change or transform your customer service center. Love the tactical and yet practical advice, you guys. So thank you, Steve, for joining us as always Vikas, thanks for jumping on. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:21)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Selling to Prospects Using an Effortless Experience with Kyle Coleman

Selling to Prospects Using an Effortless Experience with Kyle Coleman TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Kyle Coleman from Clari and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to understand how to make purchasing software seamless for potential buyers. They discuss the importance of empathy and understanding the different types of customers for a SAAS company. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Breaking Down the Demo Process

VP of Growth and Enablement at Clari, Kyle Coleman has a tremendous desire to help people and is well versed in how a software company should handle sales. In his experience evaluating a SAAS company’s software, Kyle finds that many organizations lack the presentation and demonstration skills necessary to hook buyers into finalizing their purchases. Noting that physical goods are easier to sell than that of intangible goods such as software, it’s vital that companies spend time evaluating their sales processes when dealing with potential clients. He emphasizes, “If you can really break down your process that granularly and think about it from the prospect side to optimize it that way, you’re going to see the results.” Breaking down the selling process into bite-sized pieces and optimizing each one is a great way to further enhance the demonstration phase. This in turn allows customers to fully experience the demonstration and get an in-depth feeling for the product; which any brand that is proud of their product should be drawing as much attention to it as possible.

Creating a Frictionless Experience

When purchasing a product online, it’s typically easier to find customer reviews, videos and images, as well as third party reviews for a tangible good. The same, however, cannot be so easily said about SAAS company products. It seems that most prospects of B2B companies are forced to search multiple pages to find information about the software they are shopping for. Most customers might not want to immediately contact a sales representative to learn more about their software, so it is crucial that leaders work to make the discovery process frictionless for potential buyers. Creating a frictionless process is no easy task and it takes great effort to polish an organization’s methods until prospect buyer success stories flow through. Helping leaders in their polishing, Kyle offers, “Make it as easy as possible for people to find out as much as possible about your product so that when you have those conversations, they’re as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible.” Companies that make their product information readily available and make it easy for customers to educate themselves on that product are more likely to win in competitive fields.

Adapting the Traditional SDR Role

Those in SDR roles are traditionally thought to be solely volume based and trained to bring in as many customers as possible. On that note, Kyle examines, “The role is way more strategic now. The capabilities of SDRs are far, far higher now, and therefore the expectations should be higher about what they are doing.” As the customer-scape changes, it’s important for companies to adapt to modern challenges and methods by updating role responsibilities internally. SDRs should now be focused on qualifying customers to partake in the software by asking the right questions and formulating a whole-picture take on what type of customer they are dealing with. If a customer is uneducated about the software, it’s part of the SDR’s job to unearth this information in their initial contact with that customer. Ultimately, customers experience everything during the sales process from pre-sale to post-sale and it is the company’s responsibility to make it effortless.

To learn more about selling to prospects using an effortless experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “If Your Prospects Want to Buy from You, Let Them! | With Kyle Coleman and Vikas B.” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

If Your Prospects Want to Buy from You, Let Them! | With Kyle Coleman

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody today. We’re going to be talking about if your prospects want to buy, you should probably let them and to do that we brought on two guests. We got Vikas Bhambri and Kyle Coleman. I’ll have them just take a minute and introduce themselves. Kyle, let’s start with you.

Kyle Coleman: (00:26)
Hey. Hello everybody. Thank you again, Gabe, for having me on. Super excited to be here. My name is Kyle Coleman. I am the VP of Growth and Enablement at Clari. So I lead a group of teams that are kind of, sort of sales and kind of, sort of marketing, but responsible for creating and accelerating revenue. So that’s demand gen, field marketing, sales development, and sales enablement all on our growth department.

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Geez. I thought I had a lot going on. [Inaudible] Vikas, take a second and introduce yourself.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:54)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri. Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer and actually now a two time Clari customer. So used Clari both here at Kustomer and brought it into my previous company as well. So excited to have the conversation with Kyle.

Kyle Coleman: (01:09)
Love to hear that.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Yeah. Yep. And then I’m Gabe, I’d run the marketing over here at Kustomer. So Kyle, first and foremost, I got to ask, what’s the secret to being a LinkedIn influencer? You’re basically a LinkedIn influencer. Like this guy’s getting a lot of views and posts and Vikas and I want to be, so what’s the, what’s your secret? That’s what I really want to ask you.

Kyle Coleman: (01:32)
You know, it’s funny. I started to create a New Year’s resolution for myself, where I wanted to just sit down and think and write with no distractions, no devices, nothing. And so I started doing that in January and it turns out the only thing I think and write about is work. And so I, this LinkedIn just became kind of the perfect outlet for me. And I realized that I have a real desire for helping people. And if I can give people some tips that help them do their job, one, help one person do their job slightly better, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for me. And so that’s what’s motivating. It’s all about consistency, making it actionable, making it digestible, making it easy to read. So, nothing specific but it just takes effort,

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
But you did actually get some award or something, right? I mean, it was like a LinkedIn influencer award or something, right?

Kyle Coleman: (02:22)
Yeah. Yeah. I got, I had the most engagement over some certain window of time in some kind of strange algorithmic way. I was the number one sales star. So I got that little award and then the next time they ran it, I was nowhere near the top. So it was just luck of the draw.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
Get you a little plastic trophy or something like that.

Kyle Coleman: (02:42)
Yeah, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (02:44)
So that’s kind of what crossed Vikas’ and I purview was one of your LinkedIn posts and it certainly was a hot button for us. But really under this umbrella of customers who want to buy, how do we make it easy? I think there’s just, I thought this such a strong example because oftentimes we look at things from our perspective and what ultimately happens is we make it difficult for the customer. We don’t realize that it’s difficult for the customer. And you kind of pointed out a pre-sales interaction often found in technology companies that I feel like really alluded or highlighted this point. Any chance you can kind of take us through it then let’s break it down.

Kyle Coleman: (03:21)
Yeah, sure thing. So it is the demo request process which is just so broken and so many companies that when I’m trying to evaluate software, the number one place that I’m going to go is to see the product in action. I want a demo because I want to see it. Like a lot of times the aha moment, you can’t really get that in a white paper, just looking through a website or whatever it is so requested demo. Every single tech company in the universe is doing this to some extent. And what I have found as I’ve evaluated dozens and dozens of different software vendors is this pattern is unfortunately pretty common where I request a demo, I get followed up by an SDR a couple of minutes, or sometimes a couple hours later, they talked to me for about 10 minutes on the phone and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m like, “Okay, this company has a pretty good process. They now know what I need.” We get time on the calendar. And then I get set up with the AE and the AE asks me the same exact questions that the SDR already asked me. And I just feel like I’m now wasting my time. It feels repetitive and more important, I’m not getting the demos still. So now I’ve had a conversation with an SDR. I’ve had a conversation with an AE and I still haven’t actually seen the product. I haven’t learned anything new. So now we’re at the tail end of the call with the AE and he or she finally shows the demo, I get a two minute or five minute overview, and then we’d run that at a time. And they expect us, they say, “We’ll do a deeper dive on the next call with an SE.”

Kyle Coleman: (04:45)
And I’m like, “That’s not what I want to do. I want to learn about the product.” And so by that point, I pretty much will have lost faith unless I have some really strong testimonial from somebody I know and trust that the product is really killer. I’ll have lost faith and I’ll move on to the next competitor because there’s always a next competitor. And just hope that I have a better experience because what I’m thinking, Gabe, is that if they’re going to treat me like this now when I want to buy, what happens when I’ve bought and they already have my money? What’s the experience going to be like for me then? And I can’t imagine it’s going to get any better. And so that’s kind of what’s going on in my brain and part of the reason this is so important.

Gabe Larsen: (05:24)
Yeah. Well that definitely, I know it struck a chord with me because I’ve lived and breathed and kind of eaten some of that type of medicine. Vikas, what’s your response to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah. I’m curious, Kyle, I mean, you know this because obviously you guys are in the same space, right? As a B2B SAAS company, what’s your perspective on the fact that, there are people out there who are quote unquote tire-kickers and the reason that you’re being asked, whether it’s the SDR with their 10 minutes or the AE, is to make that you’re seriously interested. And then the other thing I would say is, so that’s my first question. The second is I would say if the data that you’re sharing doesn’t end up in a better experience, then yes, it’s a wasted exercise, but are they using this data so that when you actually do see the product, there is a, something that’s tailored to you? Now, if the product is completely a horizontal product and it doesn’t matter who you are, then I would question, why do we even need people involved? So a couple of questions there before we continue.

Kyle Coleman: (06:30)
Yeah, sure thing. So my response to that, Vikas, is that this is the role of the SDR and I think a major miss in the way that the expectations that a lot of, especially senior leaders have about SDRs, is that they’re just playing a volume game. They’re just playing a quantity-based game and they can send emails and they can make a lot of phone calls and they can hand things off to AEs and that’s all that SDRs can do. And that’s not the case anymore. And maybe it was the case in the predictable revenue type model popularized by Salesforce in the two thousands and 20, early 2010s. But the role is way more strategic now. The capabilities of SDRs are far, far higher now, and therefore the expectations should be higher about what they are doing. What is their role? The role isn’t just to move things along from one stage in the journey to the next. It is to qualify, to ask questions, to do discovery, to understand, to gather the important data from me when I’m the buyer, so that when they hand it off to the AE, the AE can skip the discovery and go right into a demo that’s tailored to what the SDR learned about me. And the companies that do that well and are focusing on enabling and empowering SDRs to ask those types of questions, they accelerate the customer journey. They accelerate your prospect experience. And that’s how they can really frankly, skip a couple steps and ultimately save some time is just by enabling a group of people to do their job slightly differently, with more intent and more strategy.

Gabe Larsen: (07:55)
Yeah. I wanted to follow up on one piece on that and even go one step further back on the marketing side. Do you show your product? Do you not show it? Do you force to get a demonstration, the credit card information, the firstborn child, social security number? What questions do you ask to see products? Because in SAAS and sometimes I think in other businesses, do you show pricing? Do you not show pricing, right? Do you show the product? Do you hide the product behind the gate? Do you, how much do you give and take? I’m wondering your feedback on enabling buyers on that part of the process to maybe find out, learn more maybe without having to give up so much information. Where do you go on that?

Kyle Coleman: (08:40)
I’m pretty radical on this front. I think, as compared to many others, the way that many other demand gen leaders will think about things, I don’t care at all about MQLs. I think that MQLs are the sales equivalent of busy work. Like grade school busy work where we’re just creating MQLs and we’re handing it off because it makes us feel good as a marketing team, as a demand gen team. And so I don’t subscribe to that whatsoever. I think we have way more tools and technology at our disposal now than we’ve had before, where we can think more holistically about marketing qualified accounts and what suite of behaviors from a set of prospects are equivalent or make up an account that we want to go after. Therefore, my answer to your question, Gabe, is make it as easy as possible for people to find out as much as possible about your product so that when you have those conversations, they’re as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible.

Kyle Coleman: (09:37)
Buyers want to do research themselves. They are frustrated when they can’t find answers and there’s some crazy stat like they’ve done 60% of the research before they even reach out to an AE or to an SDR these days. And so you want to make your content as easy to consume as possible. Don’t put up that gate with 20 different form fields with all the things you mentioned, your mother’s maiden name. And I’m like, “Why? Why are you doing that?” If you have a con, if you’re confident in your content, if you’re confident in your product, let as many people see it as possible and let that content speak for itself. And then again, if you have the more sophisticated means of assessing the set of behaviors that’s leading to a qualified account, hopefully there are enough people within that account that are doing that type of research. That’s your cue to then go reach out to them and to try and spark a larger conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:26)
Yeah, I think Vikas, I mean, there’s a principle here. That’s the tactics I think can be debated all day. Some people are winning with this. Some people are not winning this, but there’s a principle here that is, what’s like the title of today’s session, which is if someone wants to buy from you kind of let them do that. As you kind of look at other brands in the market, other companies in market, maybe not just in B2B, you feel like this is also a challenge of people wanting to potentially buy from a retail brand or a financial services brand, but ultimately having a difficulty being able to find it, experience it, touch it, feel it, taste it? Your thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:01)
I think what Kyle is pointing out is the consumerization, right, of data. And I think we’re just so used to, for example, I want to go buy an above ground pool. When I go to Amazon, I can look at not only everything about the product, I can see videos of people in the pool to figure out is it appropriate for my kids’ ages, right? I can research the dimensions of the pool. How easy is it to set up? I can actually go through the instructions of setting up the pool because somebody like me, I absolutely need to know what it’s going to take before I buy something. I can look at reviews, right? I can look at third party reviews. I can, all of that data is available to me.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:45)
Why is it when I go to buy software, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Here is our high level kind of brand pitch. And that’s all you’re going to know about us.” It’s just counter to how we purchase today. And it’s really interesting, Kyle, that one of the things we talk about on the customer support side is think about yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about, but we don’t do that on the sales side. Like we, to your point and I think you addressed it appropriately. It was like, look, there was a process that was defined. If you look at Salesforce, right, 20 something years ago, even greater. And we’re, a lot of software companies are still replicating that process today and it hasn’t moved on. So now what’s happened is customers are like, “I want to know about you. You’re not going to share anything with me. I’m going to go to G2 Crowd.”

Kyle Coleman: (12:42)

Vikas Bhambri: (12:42)
“I’m going to go ring my friend. I’m going to go. I looked up one of your references. I’ve got a friend of a friend who works there and I’m going to reach out to them,” right? So you’re actually, you creating those barriers to entry is going to drive people away even further. And into your point, Kyle, they’re going to give up. If you make it too difficult, at some point they’re going to give up and the winner will be the brand or the person that makes it easiest. We talk about easy to do business with in the negotiation sales, end of the sales cycle, but who makes it easy to do business with at that front?

Gabe Larsen: (13:18)
I don’t know if we thought through that enough and I loved your statement. It’s like the consumerization of the B2B and the B2C buyer, right? Because everything we’ve done in B2C with Amazon has set our expectations, that it’s going to be easy on the front end. It’s going to, we’re going to be able to go see all those Q and A’s and almost like G2 Crowd, right? You get to see the dimensions of the pool and what it works with and what not works. And then oftentimes, and I don’t think this is just me, I think B2B is worse than B2C, but we do go to a company’s website wanting to buy something and we can’t find that. We can’t, we go to B2B and you’re damn right when it comes to B2B it’s like, you can’t find anything without giving stuff away.

Gabe Larsen: (14:02)
And we’ve kind of set the standard that that is impossible yet the expectation of the buyer is something that they’ve gotten from Amazon. And so Vikas, it’s interesting. You and I work in this space of customer service. We’re all so focused on that once the customer has purchased, how do we make sure that customer journey is optimized? But man, are we putting enough effort on that front end to make sure that we can allow them to do what they want to do? Self-serve, be educated before they buy, and ultimately maybe make the decision themselves without having to interact with us 50 times or even interact with a salesperson, right? Well, Kyle, do you feel like this is just a B2B thing, or have you experienced this in other industries, other areas? What’s kind of your take on that?

Kyle Coleman: (14:46)
Yeah, I think it’s probably both. I know that it’s both. I think that to your point though, Gabe, B2C companies obsess over it way, way more, and they, it’s their lifeblood. Like they don’t have an excuse to not pay attention to not just the funnel, but the conversion steps within the funnel for everything to be both efficient and effective. And they can run more experiments and like, I think B2C does a better job of this and B2B excuses ourselves, because it’s more, there are more humans involved and we say, “Oh, these are processes where we can’t control everything because there are different handoff points. And like, it’s just too complicated. And we can’t look at all that data and you know what? We could tell them to do something, but it’s still a human and they’re just not going to follow.” So we make excuses for ourselves in the B2B realm, I think way or more so and it’s a shame because I think Vikas hit on it.

Kyle Coleman: (15:39)
It’s a, to me it’s, this is what empathy is in sales. I know empathy is a hot topic right now in the COVID era, but that’s what it is. Putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes, in your buyer’s shoes and thinking about what their experience is. I think that a huge mistake that companies make right now is they think about what do SDRs need to do in a silo to make that SDR team as efficient as possible to get as many leads from MQL to first meeting as possible? And that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to train them on the phone skills to sell the meeting, and they just optimize for the wrong metric, instead of thinking about how to make that SDR team as effective as possible, which is run the right discovery, get the right qualification, pass that information on to AEs, nurture that prospect between the call and the first meeting and set that up for success. And so there’s a big discrepancy between efficiency, which is such an obsession of go to market teams and efficacy, which falls by the wayside because it’s so much more effort.

Gabe Larsen: (16:43)
Yeah, no. I think there’s a lot of, Vikas –

Vikas Bhambri: (16:47)
Yeah. I think it makes, I think it makes it really interesting. And when you think about the role, Kyle mentions the SDR role, I would even say the sales role, what is the role of an account executive?

Gabe Larsen: (16:58)

Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And I think that also creates a nuance. Now I will say one thing though, because we’ve been talking about this educated buyer in the industry, corporate visions really was one of the key proponents of this, I would go even back as far as eight to 10 years ago. I would question how educated the buyer always is. And the concern I have is if we optimize for this buyer, like Kyle, who goes and does his due diligence and goes and looks at the website and tries to figure things out. Now we’ve got the challenge where that’s not always the case. And I would act, where all I’m disappointed is this thing about, what we’ve been talking in the industry about, 80% of buyers do their research before they engage a salesperson. That’s actually not true. And so a lot of buyers are like, “I just want to talk to a salesperson because I don’t want to go look at your website. I don’t want to go read your white paper. I don’t want to go look at this.” And so if you optimize for a Kyle, what happens when you get that quote unquote lazy buyer who’s like, “Just tell me what your product does,” because I showed up to meetings and it’s like, the person literally wants you to regurgitate the feature function. And you’re like, “Well, you can go see that on my website. We literally, on our pricing page, have every feature laid out, that’s in the packet,” right? And you don’t want to talk, you want to talk about business value. You want to talk about how do we help your business go from A to B? And they’re like, “But did your product do this?” And you’re like, “Yeah, it’s on our website.” Like, we don’t have to have an hour meeting to talk about that. Kyle, what’s your point, what’s your perspective on people who aren’t like you and don’t have that diligence?

Kyle Coleman: (18:40)
Yeah it’s a good question.

Gabe Larsen: (18:40)
See Kyle, you’re not actually, we’re only halfway through. Why are you alive Kyle? I’m sorry [inaudible]. It’s important, give it to them.

Kyle Coleman: (18:52)
I think it goes back to what, how you train the SDRs. How you think about that first interaction. And maybe it’s not SDRs. If you don’t have SDRs, then how do you train AEs to handle that kind of inbound demand? But let’s go even further up the funnel and say, optimize your site to give that person a channel to your sales team. When was the last time you saw a contact sales button on a B2B website? Like they seem to have disappeared. So try that. Maybe put that button up and run some experiments and see if that’s something that works for you. And think about your content from a content marketing and demand generation standpoint, as far as where, what it’s place is in the funnel. What’s your top of funnel thought leadership content? What’s your bottom of funnel, conversion content and gate that bottom of funnel conversion content, because you know that this is the type of content that people will look at when they’re ready to make a purchase decision. And so you can sort of prioritize who you follow up with that way, but again, it takes intent. It takes experimentation and there’s no easy answer. But I would say just train your sales team and SDR team to ask those questions, Vikas, so you can understand what type of buyer is this? Are they a value-based buyer that’s focused on the strategic vision of their company and they want to assess your products fit with that strategic vision? Or are they kind of a use case champion? Individual user who is a feature function oriented type person? And an SDR or an AE should be able to suss that out on an initial five to ten minute discovery call.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
I love it. Love it.

Gabe Larsen: (20:24)
The other thing I like and, Vikas, you tipped me off to this not long ago, but, and I’m hearing it obviously on this side of the fence, which is the customer service journey, right? Like how do you map the journey of the customer? Because I think one thing you’ll find is you might be dealing with two different buyers, to kind of Kyle’s point, right? You might have an inbound buyer who’s requesting a demo who is very educated and maybe needs to be handled slightly different. In other cases in software companies, you go outbound to somebody who maybe is less educated and treating them similar to the person who just came through your website is very educated. Excuse me? They’re totally in two different worlds. They’re different parts of the process. And so expecting everybody to be on the exact same journey or to be the exact same buyer, and I’m not saying you need to have 50 paths, but maybe there are two. Maybe there are three and that way you actually optimize to that path. You might actually experience some differences and I know, Vikas, you kind of were chatting about –

Vikas Bhambri: (21:23)
No, I love, Kyle was definitely, made me think about, I go back to the post-sale experience and one of the things that in B2B we talk about now when I sit down with my professional services team is they not, they categorize customers, not just by the segment or the number of licenses they purchased. They actually look like technical affinity, right? They look at that because if somebody is really a tech savvy organization, then we can do a lighter touch. We can let them go and kind of do 80% of the tasks themselves versus somebody who’s not tech savvy, we got to do 80% of the activities. I think that’s another lens because I think on the sales side or sales and marketing side, we’ve often thought about buyer persona and very high level, right? You’ve got maybe a business buyer, you’ve got an IT buyer and I think what the lens that Kyle’s putting on it is, you’ve got that business buyer, but is it an educated business buyer versus an uneducated? And you almost, so, yeah, you don’t want to end up with 50 paths because it can get quite cumbersome. But I do think having that lens of how the buyer wants to buy is extremely important as you orchestrate your kind of go to market flow.

Kyle Coleman: (22:41)
I agree, Vikas, and I think a useful way of thinking about this is you need to attract people off, more often than not with persona-based messaging, but you need to speak with them and run the sales cycle with person-based messaging. How are I? I want to deal with this person as an individual, not as a persona with a set of characteristics that my product marketing team told me about, but as a person that is having an experience right now that has expectations, individual expectations. And so that’s a major difference that one, A, at the end of the word makes a big difference. But if you can find the right balance between the two on your sales and marketing and go to market strategy, you’re going to see the results pretty much immediately.

Gabe Larsen: (23:22)
Alrighty. Well I’m feeling like we’ve solved the world’s problems. I’m feeling comfortable.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:26)
Well, I tell you if that’s the one takeaway everybody has from this conversation. Just send us the royalty check because we’re going to make millions off of it.

Gabe Larsen: (23:38)
No check. We’re not even using checks. Like you could use –

Vikas Bhambri: (23:42)
I’ll post my Venmo on LinkedIn.

Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
All right, well we did hit a lot of different topics here. Just kind of summary thoughts from both of you. As we think about, I know we had some tactical things, but about this idea of enabling the buyer. Buyer enablement, customer journey optimization, pre-sales, not just post-sales. Let’s start with you, Vikas, and Kyle, maybe we can end with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Sure. I mean, look, I think for, you have to think about your buyer journey. And I think what Kyle is saying is really through the lens of the buyer and maybe different types of buyers, right? And understanding how do you make this process as frictionless as possible? Because if you don’t and somebody else does, then whether they have the best product out there or not, they’re going to win the game. And I know this from my own experience, right? When SAAS came to be back in the old days, because I’m a dinosaur, at Oracle, we were like, “Look, this is a fad. There’s nothing to it.” What SAAS did in the early days was it just made it easy for a buyer. Like I can go buy five licenses and now I’m a big enterprise I can get started and grow from there. And we were like, “Nobody’s ever going to buy software that way.” Well, it changed. That was fundamentally flawed, right? And then kind of gave the market to a small company called Salesforce. So I think from that perspective, it’s that time for reinvention again, to say, “How does the modern buyer now used to SAAS actually want to buy going forward?” And I think that’s going to be super interesting in the days ahead.

Kyle Coleman: (25:20)
Yeah, totally. Totally agree. Yeah. I would say for com, I totally agree with what Vikas said and maybe to get a bit more tactical to give people something to kind of think about and maybe take home is, think about the experience as the buyer, as the prospect. What happens when I request a demo on your site? And think about it, I’m the buyer now. I go and I request a demo and then I’m just sitting there waiting and what am I doing while I wait? And how can you improve that experience? Okay. Or I just get off the phone with an SDR and I have a meeting set five, seven days from now. What happens in the meantime? What happens in that five to seven days? What would matter to the prospect? If you were the prospect, what would you want? You should have some sort of pre-meeting drip that’s giving them content that they care about that’s aligned with the discovery and the qualification that was uncovered by the SDR. Now, after that first demo, I have a next step where we’re going to bring more people into the meeting. What, from the prospects I do, I want to happen in that next meeting and in the time in between? And if you can think about all the little stages in between, just optimize them one at a time, one at a time, because it’s going to take a while. But if you can really break down your process that granularly and think about it from the prospect side to optimize it that way, you’re going to see the results.

Gabe Larsen: (26:37)
Well, you given me a lot of work, Kyle. So I don’t really like this.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:42)
I was about to say, “Gabe, we got to go fix it.”

Gabe Larsen: (26:47)
[Inaudible] on the phone because now he’s going to hold me accountable to hearing a lot of things.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:51)
I heard MQLs. Don’t worry about MQLs.

Gabe Larsen: (26:55)
No, but I mean, truthfully, you guys, you know? No, I don’t know if anybody has the answer. It’s always great to have people like Kyle, come on and talk about a different purview. Especially when it comes to this customer journey. Don’t forget the pre-sales. Don’t forget the post-sales. Customers experience both of them, so we should optimize both of them. So that’s great. Guys, thanks for joining. Kyle, for taking the time. Vikas, as always, great to have you on board and for the audience to have a fantastic day.

Kyle Coleman: (27:20)
Thanks so much, guys.

Exit Voice: (27:26)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri

Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Matt Dixon from Tethr and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss Matt’s most recent research on over one million customer service phone calls. In this episode, they discover what the research indicates and how leaders can utilize the data to their advantage. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Adapting in the Biggest Stress Test Ever for CX

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Matt Dixon and his team of professionals quickly got to work analyzing data from 1,000,000+ customer service calls. This last year has been described as CX’s greatest stress test ever because teams are having to constantly adjust and adapt to the ever changing world. A year in the making, the data is showing what teams are and aren’t doing correctly in this new environment. Something that Matt hopes teams will make note of, is pre-pandemic, about 10% of customer service calls were classified as difficult. Seemingly overnight, the amount of difficult calls jumped to a whopping 20%, overwhelming underprepared CX agents. As history shows, greater difficulty in customer experience interactions leads to greater amounts of negative word of mouth marketing and upset customers. This then leads to more people being unwilling to purchase goods or services from a brand because of high difficulty interactions. To help teams adjust to a new normal and return to work, Matt offers some practical and actionable tips in the episode. He explains that making sense of collected data is key for all teams who want to be successful in the future. “Data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology that exists today.”

Using Data Proactively Now and for the Future

Data is constantly being discussed in modern CX conversations on a global scale. It seems that more and more companies are turning to using data to gather helpful information about their customers. No longer are the days of QA teams and reps who had to take detailed, tedious notes on every customer interaction to gather data and search for opportunities for improvement. New technologies allow for that data to be automatically collected, scored, and reviewed. Brands would be wise to implement data collection and implementation on a company-wide basis, as it plays a major role in customer success and higher NPS scores across the spectrum. Matt believes that in order for that collected information to be holistically useful, teams have to be proactive about the way they utilize such data – to not only solve immediate issues, but to use it to predict future issues and customer difficulty. Matt explains that data can be used to prepare for “The thing they’re (customers) probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months. … It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience.” In addition to this, Matt believes that so many companies spend too much valuable time concentrating on gathering survey responses that would be better spent on analyzing data that is stored within the technology they already have access to. As CX leaders learn more about their technology and how they can use it to collect data, customer satisfaction is sure to skyrocket.

Employee Satisfaction Leads to Brand Loyalty

The topic of employee satisfaction has gained traction in the CX realm. Leaders are starting to recognize the importance of having teams of agents that are happy, rewarded for their efforts, and satisfied with their contributions to the company. The year of customer experience calls that Matt and his team analyzed revealed that big brands are being exposed and their weaknesses are being made public. Their lack of training and agent accountability is contributing to public distrust of these big brands. Vikas uses the example of reps working from home without direct supervision that are telling customers to complain on social media because they don’t have the tools, permission, or training to properly help them. Matt and Vikas believe that it is extremely important to hire the right people, train CX agents correctly, and establish a level of trust with them so that they can work independently and efficiently. “If you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.” When these agents feel that they are trusted and have the freedom to make crucial decisions on part of the customer, brands are more likely to win. Evidently, customer interactions prove that when the agents are happy, trusted, and feel like their efforts are important to the company, customers are happy and have a greater chance of staying loyal to the brand.

To learn more about 1,000,000+ customer calls and what the data shows, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tell Us About Why Your Team is Losing and How They Can Start | With Vikas Bhambri & Matt Dixon” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tells Us | With Matt Dixon & Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about customer service research. What 1 million, it’s more than a million phone calls, tell us what the heck you’re supposed to be doing to be successful in customer service. And to do that, we brought on a couple of special guests. One you know, Vikas Bhambri, and the other is Matt Dixon. Guys, why don’t you take just a minute and introduce yourself? Matt, let’s start with you.

Matt Dixon: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. Gabe, thanks for having me on. Matt Dixon, I am the Head of Product and Research at Tethr, which is an AI machine learning venture out of Austin, Texas. Prior to that, I hailed from CEB where I ran the customer experience and customer service practice for many years there. And I worked on all the research related to effortless experience, customer effort, score, effort reduction, some of which we’ll talk about today, hopefully.

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Awesome. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:06)
Sure. Happy Friday, everyone. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Looking forward to the chat with Matt and Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
And you know myself, Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Matt, what does it feel like to be a celebrity? I mean, people must come to you. This question, by the way, those of you that –

Matt Dixon: (01:24)

Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
People must come to you and be like, “You changed my life.” I mean you wrote Effortless Experience, you wrote Challenger. I mean, how does it feel to be a celebrity? I’m partially kidding, but those are big books. A lot of people have been impacted by them. So number one, thank you. But in all seriousness, what does that kind of done differently for you in the way you’ve kind of managed your career so far?

Matt Dixon: (01:49)
Well, thank, first, thank you for the kind words. I think they’re, the first thing I’ll say is this. Those books and all that research was a big team effort. So it, it’s a kind of an awkward thing to have your name on a book that you know there were dozens and dozens of people behind, putting that research together. But at the same time it’s been a pretty fun journey. We’re, I think in both sales and customer service, we’re a little bit different from a lot of the other folks out there. I mean, you and I know a lot of the same folks in the sales world. I know you hailed from that world as well prior to your time at Kustomer in the customer experience and customer service world. And I think there’s so many good expert, kind of subject matter experts and thought leaders out there. What I think makes some of this research different is the thing I still try to stick to today is I’ve never run a call center. I’ve never been a Head of Customer Experience. I’ve never been a call center rep. I think I’d be, probably be an awful call center rep. I’ve also never been a salesperson. I’ve never run a sales organization and I’ve not, I have not carried a bag for 20, 30 years like many of the other folks out there writing about sales. I think what makes me different, and some of the folks I worked with on that research, is that we’re researchers. We brought data to the air against some of the big questions people were asking.

Matt Dixon: (03:07)
So Challenger, it was, how do we sell the information to power buyers? And we’ve been taught for so long that it’s all about needs diagnosis and relationships and this kind of thing. Is that actually true? And we found with the Challenger research, a lot of that stuff was built on flawed assumptions, or at least it didn’t stand the test of time and the data currently shows a better way to do things from a sales perspective. In effortless experience, very similar. We’re all taught to believe that more is better. It’s all that delight and wowing and exceeding the customer’s expectations and we shouldn’t do that as companies. We should have a great brand that delights, a killer product that delights, great pricing that delights, a sales experience delights, but when things go wrong, we’ve found that’s not the time to delight. That’s the time to get things back on track and make it easy for the customer. Play good in customer service.

Matt Dixon: (03:52)
And so I think in some ways I like, I don’t know that I put myself up in the Pantheon of like the MythBuster guys from Discovery Channel, but I, and that’s kind of how I think of, my career has been a lot about that. Trying to bring science to bear, to test some of these assumptions that a lot of people have that feels so right. And then we never stopped to question whether or not they’re actually true and there’s a lot that we go and test and we find out it’s actually true, but there’s a lot that we tested we find out it’s actually wrong. And I think exposing that for sales leaders, customer experience leaders, contact center leaders, customer service leaders is really important and really valuable because it helps them proceed with clarity and allocate the resources better.

Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
Yeah. Well, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve appreciated about the methodology in the CX space. It seems like it’s fluffier at times, right? It’s a day on the phone with Zappos for 50 hours to make somebody feel good. There’s just so much kind of feel good stuff, that I remember reading the Effortless Experience and it was the first time I was like, “Oh my goodness, a data driven view into customer experience that I think maybe isn’t the standard.” So I do think it is nice to have some research. That’ll set up our conversation as we jump in. Vikas, I mean, your experience with the Effortless Experience, or it’s got to be one of those books, that’s just, you’ve talked to maybe a hundred thousand people about?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:09)
No, look it’s, Matt and team did a great job. It’s top of mind for a lot of folks right now, right? In terms of just how do you compete effectively? And I think the effortless experience in terms of that experience that you can deliver, not only externally, but internally with your team, and then how do you use data to iterate that experience, right? I think what Matt and team do is they’re looking at it at a macro level, across many customers and many trends. And then, what any operational leader needs to do is then apply it to their business and say, “Look, let me look at the metrics in my data. These are the bars that I want to aspire to. What do I need to do to get there?” And looking at the data within their own tools and tool sets and saying, “Where am I falling short?” So I think it’s that perfect convergence in terms of how do people effectively compete in what’s becoming a very challenging environment, right? New companies popping up in every space, almost on a daily basis.

Gabe Larsen: (06:05)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s get into kind of then, some of the latest research and it may not be the latest latest, because it seems like every time I talk to Matt, he’s got something new on his, on his cuff, but –

Matt Dixon: (06:16)
[Inaudible] Now I feel lazy because I have –

Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
[Inaudible] four weeks old. What the hell?

Matt Dixon: (06:28)
[Inaudible] me lately.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t good enough. So maybe kind of give us the backstory on this. Obviously it was COVID related. A lot of phone calls. Fill in the blanks as to why you started it, what it is.

Matt Dixon: (06:39)
Yeah. So we at, just a little bit of background. So at Tethr, we are in the conversational analytics space. I know a lot of the folks on the, listening on that are familiar with that technology. We’re one of the players in that space. And so we work with a lot of big companies around the world. And what was interesting is we take their phone date, phone call data, we take their chat interactions, their email changes, other other data, and we help them make sense of it. And to understand what’s going on in the customer experience, what the reps are doing to the good and to the bad. What the customer’s experience is with their product and their digital channels and so on and so forth. And one of the things we noticed is, with COVID in that, obviously it took the world like in a blink of an eye, just changed a lot of what we do. Think about a call center leader, multiple kind of dynamics at play. On the one hand, all of my reps who used to be sitting together in a contact center that are now all working from home. No access to peers, no access to supervisors, no shoulder to tap to ask for some help, really working on an island. And then you add onto that the fact that customers are now calling about maybe not entirely new issues, but much more acute issues. So think about, for instance, a utility company, we work with a number of utility companies. They’ve always had a certain percentage of customers that call for financial hardship reasons. I’ve lost my job. My spouse has lost their job. I can’t pay my electric bill this month. I need to go on a payment plan [inaudible] will shut my power off. That, we found in one company in our study, the number of financial hardship-related costs increased by 2.5x almost overnight in the span of like a couple of days. The number of people calling in saying, “I can’t pay my bill. I cannot have you turn the power off. And I don’t know when I’m going to be able to pay to pay you guys. So I need to, you got to come up with a plan and it’s got to be a new, creative plan, right? Because I don’t know when I can get back on track financially.” That produced this perfect storm for customer service leaders. So we started hearing from a lot of our customers, “Hey,” like, “let’s get under the hood of what’s going on in these conversations. What’s changed for our reps? What’s changed in the customers, with the customer’s expectations? What are the good reps doing that we need to do more of? What are the reps doing to the bad that we need to do less of, and let’s get our arms around this because this stuff is happening so fast.”

Matt Dixon: (08:57)
And so that’s what we did. We collected. We took a sample of calls. A million calls total from across 20 different companies. And we specifically picked those companies because we thought they represented a broad cross section of the economy. Some industries really effected like travel and leisure, some less so. And so we combined, we created the sample and we went in and we studied it. One of the first things we did was we scored all of the calls for the level of effort. So we had built an algorithm at Tethr, we call it the Tethr Effort Index, think of it like a predictive survey score. So rather than asking your customer at the end of a call to tell you how much effort that call was and for those of you familiar with the Effortless Experience, you know a customer effort score is one of these things that we talk about a book. That relies on a survey, but what we built a Tethr was a machine generated algorithm that could take a recorded phone call and the machine could tell you basically, here’s the score you would have gotten on the survey if the customer had filled it out, but without the high effort experience and the expense of asking the customer to fill out a survey.

Matt Dixon: (09:57)
So the first thing we did was we started collecting calls on March 11. We picked that date because it was the date the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. We ran the study for two weeks to get a million calls sample from across 20 different companies. So that was a subset of the total call volume those companies do with us. And we scored those calls and we looked at what the scores were before and what they were after. And we saw a real increase overall in just the difficulty of calls, so the effort level of calls. And for those of you again, who know the research, know that effort corresponds with churn. It corresponds with negative word of mouth. It corresponds with customers unwilling to buy more from you, unwilling to accept the save offer, right? When they get transferred to the retention queue.

Matt Dixon: (10:42)
Specifically, we saw before the pandemic for the average company in our study, it was about 10% of their calls that would have been scored as difficult on our scale. It’s a zero to 10 scale. So we’re looking at the scores in the zero to four range. Those are the bad ones. In the study, so after March 11th, for those companies, that percentage doubled to 20%.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:02)

Matt Dixon: (11:03)
So now, one fifth of their total call volume was in that zone of customers who are likely to get on social media and badmouth you, likely to churn out, not likely to buy anything more. They’re going to go in and tell their neighbors and their friends and their colleagues, “Don’t do business with these guys. It’s a terrible company, they’re treating me,-” and again, a lot of the, it was compounded by the way the reps were handling that. The fact that they’re all working from home and we get into a little bit of that, but it was kind of a staggering overnight change in the dynamic.

Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
Well, and I think that’s obviously, I think we’re all experiencing that. So it’s not too surprising from an interpersonal perspective. I can relate. Obviously taking this call from home at the moment. So if I understand the basis of it though, it did start in March 11th, it went for two weeks. Million plus phone calls, cross segment of the industries, just touch on that real quick. It was, you did try, it was pretty variety. So it wasn’t just hospitality and travel. You felt like you got a pretty good cross section on that.

Matt Dixon: (11:57)
Good cross section. So we, we’ve got in there some consumer products companies, some travel and leisure companies, utilities, financial services, card issuers, telco, and cable. It was a broad cross section. We had a couple of more B2B tilted companies as well. So we felt like we had a pretty good sample that we could say, “It wasn’t all skewed towards travel and leisure.”

Gabe Larsen: (12:18)
I love these different industries. Go ahead, Vikas.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:20)
Let me touch on one thing, which I think is really interesting. I think this is about the data, right? And I think if people aren’t using their contact center or CX data in the best of times, shame on them. But especially now, and I think there’s a real opportunity for companies to do what we call proactive service. And I think a great example of this is if you’re an insurer and you’re seeing that 20% of your volume coming in is around, “Hey, I want a reduction in my premium because I’m not driving my car,” why not use that data? Go out to market like my insurer’s done and say, “Hey, we’re giving you a credit to your account because you haven’t even asked for it, but chances are, you’re not driving. So we’re giving all our,” and look at the positive press and you’re seeing some big insurers now are catching on to this. And people are like, “Wow. My insurer’s thinking about me in this time of need.” And I think using that data, because chances are, they were going to give people individually, those credits anyway. One, you’ve reduced your conversation volume into your contact center because now you’re proactive about it and you’re getting positive press. Any thoughts on that and how people might be using that data creatively?

Matt Dixon: (13:29)
Yeah, no, I mean, I think you’re right. So the, a couple comments, one is, being proactive, I think was one of the things we wrote about in The Effortless Experience. Not just solving this issue, but thinking about the next issue proactively for the customer. The thing they’re probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months, but you as a company know this, so you can use your data to predict that, and you can fully resolve it for the customer. It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience. But the other thing in general, I totally agree, Vikas, with what you’re saying. That I see, I’m constantly surprised by how little companies, big companies actually leverage all the found data in their enterprise and how much they obsess about getting more data from like, for instance, post-call surveys.

Matt Dixon: (14:17)
So that to me, I find to be like, it’s just this weird head snapping thing that I don’t understand at all, which is they all obsess about post-call surveys. What do we need to do to get more customers to respond to our survey so that they can tell us how much effort the experience was? And I always think, “Well, you’re recording all your phone calls and your email exchanges, and your chat interactions, your SMS exchange and all this stuff on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and social. Like you have enough data already to know what the experience was. Why are you obsessing about your survey response rate?” And it just, it’s so interesting the way, and even when you get down to it, I hate to be pessimistic here, but our data in this view, but I think part of the reason is they get paid on survey response rates and NPS scores and things like that. And so that’s why they obsess about it. It’s not, ultimately, if they really wanted to fix customer experience, there are way better sources of data in the systems they already use so that they can be more proactive, so they can find those effort causes and drivers and do something about it. It’s, that data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology exists today, you know? Sure. 10 years ago you needed a QA team, kind of with headsets, listening to calls, making notes and surfacing opportunities to get for improvement. But you don’t have to do that today. Machines can do that at tremendous speed and scale and so, but it surprises me why more companies don’t do it.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Yeah. I mean, the thing is if you send somebody a 15 page survey after an interaction, right, if you’re in the travel industry, for example, right, after I’ve spoken to a customer service professional, it’s like you had good interaction. And I don’t think maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a lack of understanding at the executive level that what kind of data occurs in these conversations, right? If you’re a marketeer and you don’t realize that the best feedback you’re going to get about a promotion or an offer or a competitor, what a competitor’s doing, is in those conversations. If you’re a product person and you don’t realize, “Wow, like my contact center gets real-time feedback on a new feature or a new service that I’m providing,” there’s a lack of understanding there about the richness of the data that resides in the contact center environment.

Matt Dixon: (16:27)
Yeah. I agree. It’s, I think there’s this assumption that it’s the data in so far as leverage, it’s really just valuable for making contexts in our interactions better. So, but we find when we go into those conversations, it’s a gold mine, Vikas, as you’re saying, of the insight around your digital experience. What were all the things the customer was trying to do on your website or your app before they picked up the phone and called that they’re actually telling the rep or complaining about in the conversation and you’ve just recorded it? What are all the things they talk about with respect to your product or your feature or your pricing, or your competitive differentiation, or about the sales rep who oversold them on the product or service to begin with, and now they’re calling in disappointed? So there’s just tons of insight there for all parts of the enterprise, not just for the QA team at the call center.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:11)

Gabe Larsen: (17:12)
No, I love that. So this is one way I think companies are trying to kind of do things differently in this, it’s been called the new normal or the new world we live in, using data in a way maybe they haven’t done. There were some other things that you were alluding to, Matt based on findings you have, and we’ve put a link in the chat for the actual HBR article that you wrote. So if you want to see some of the additional findings but I want to get into some of these takeaways. Where did you kind of go based on then the data that was revealed? Can you maybe start at the top? So we got data, one, and then what’s next?

Matt Dixon: (17:43)
Yeah. So we, so the highest level again, we found a doubling of the predicted effort level of interactions from pre-pandemic to in the pandemic or pre-March 11 to post-March 11th. The other thing we found as we started digging into what was really driving this was, and I think you found that generally speaking at the highest level, this is this higher level of effort in these interactions was sort of born of two different things. And they’re kind of, there’s a little bit of overlap. And on the one hand I mentioned before, customers who are feeling a lot more emotion and anxiety, driven by things like financial hardship, coming in really frustrated because maybe it took them two hours to get through to a rep because now the call center doesn’t have access to the outsource that they used to provide overflow support. The call volume has spiked, and now there’s a longer hold time. So they’re frustrated to begin with. They’re doubly frustrated maybe because they went to a website and what in normal times wasn’t such a big deal, now it was a really big deal because the alternate option going in self-serving failed them. They’re talking to a rep who they feel like is dealing with policies that really haven’t been updated in light of the pandemic. So you might be asking for a bill payment, that utility example I used before, a bill payment extension or a payment plan. And they’re still pushing customers to the policies that existed before the pandemic. And they haven’t really updated us because the company moves really slowly and they just feel like they’re dealing with people who are just throwing out policy and hiding behind policies.

Matt Dixon: (19:11)
That’s kind of on the customer side. Then the agent side, think about it. And you’ve got to be empathetic to the agent situation here, too. Many of these agents who are now working from home, the fact of the matter is that before the pandemic, most of them were working in kind of a factory floor model of a contact center where they were, they sat in a group surrounded by colleagues who they could tap on the shoulder and ask for help. Supervisors they could wave their hand and flag down for assistance or a policy exception in the moment. They were given a script, they were given a checklist. They had access to all the resources they needed. There were kind of like cogs in the machine. What happens when you send all those folks out to their home offices and now they’re left to their own devices?

Matt Dixon: (19:52)
What you find is that in some cases, maybe we didn’t hire people, we didn’t hire the right people. And maybe in some cases we never coached them on the behaviors that could lead to them being successful. We just kind of told them to stick to the script and just follow the rules, follow the checklist. That doesn’t really work in a situation where customers are calling in about high-anxiety, high-emotion issues. And they’re asking reps to make exceptions and make up their minds and decide things on the fly. Then what do you do if there’s no tenured colleague or supervisor you can flag down? You’re sitting in your basement or your living room doing your job. It’s really, really tough. So what that means is agents are shirking responsibility. They’re citing policies. They’re saying, “Hey, I can’t really help you. Maybe you should write a letter to the company. Sometimes that gets their attention. And you know what you might want to do is just bad mouth them on Twitter, because if you do that, they usually jump to it and they can help you out.” You know? And I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of that going on and it, that then compounds the frustration from customers. So beyond that, we started to look at, I think the good news is there are things we found in the research that are, we think tools and ways forward and we’ve talked a little bit about those, but let me pause here and just see if you have any thoughts, Gabe or Vikas, on that piece of it.

Gabe Larsen: (21:03)
Yeah. Any response to that? I mean, definitely a customer side and an employee side. It sounds like.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:08)
No, I look, I think I, Matt, I’ve been saying for weeks as we’ve been doing these is, this is the biggest stress test that the contact center industry has ever gotten. And I think a lot of the fundamentals that were broken at a macro level across the industry, but individually are in for specific brands are being exposed. And I think that lack of training and empowerment is one that is absolutely coming to the forefront because for somebody who’s been walking the floors of contact centers for 20 years, this even today, there’s the culture of the supervisor walking the floor, looking over the shoulder, providing guidance, jumping in and saying, “Hey, let me listen to that call. Let me coach you through it,” and forget the technical limitations. How do you do that? Now when you’ve got, maybe you’re a supervisor of 20 people and now they’re disparate and they’re working from home, forget the, like I said, the technology limitations, how do you actually do that? So I think, like I said, we’re exposing a lot of the flaws and I think, what are some of the changes we’ll see going forward is that ability to empower and really create this into a knowledge worker role, right? Because as self-service takes care of the low level simple questions, you’re going to see, I think you’re going to see this in the contact center regardless of the work from home environment, but you’re really going to need people who can handle those difficult questions.

Matt Dixon: (22:36)
Yeah. We actually, there’s another one, I don’t know if, Gabe you throw this up on the, with the other article, but there’s an article we wrote in 2018 about T-Mobile’s journey toward a different in kind of knowledge work environment for their contact center, where they basically told their reps, “You guys are now small business owners and we are, our job as leaders is to figure out what’s getting in your way of delivering the right customer experience. Is it a policy? Is it that you don’t have the right tools? You don’t have the right, you’re not on the right platforms that the connection speeds too slow? What is the thing that’s getting in your way? But you tell us what you need. We’ll clear the road for you. Your job is to own the customer experience and come up with creative solutions, but use your own judgment.”

Matt Dixon: (23:15)
A lot of that really increases the importance of hiring great people, coaching them in a really effective way, giving them great manager support and putting them in a climate that really rewards people for using their own judgment; doesn’t just tell them to stick to the script. So that article was called Reinventing Customer Service and I encourage everyone to read that because it picks up on this story that Vikas is talking about. When the easy stuff goes away, by definition, what’s left is the more complicated stuff that the live rep is handling. And you need to have really good people who can exercise their own judgment, and that’s even more important. And what becomes apparent is when, if you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.

Matt Dixon: (24:01)
And so it really, this is, I think there are two trends that’ll be kind of shot through a tunnel of time with COVID. I think one is digital and specifically omni-channel capabilities. The ability for companies to seamlessly switch, obviously work that you guys do at Kustomer, to switch from one channel to the next. I think the ability, the effectiveness of asynchronous messaging in particular, chat effectiveness, SMS effectiveness, customers used to use that stuff for simple binary interactions. Now, when they’re looking at a two hour, wait time in the phone to queue, they’re going to go try that chat channel first, right? And see how far they can get. What that’s doing is it’s forcing chat to grow up really fast and forcing our chat bots to get really smart really quickly. I think the other trend that will be shot through a tunnel of time is agent empowerment and hiring great people, putting them in a climate of judgment where they can leverage the expertise of their peers, but more importantly, where they’re trusted to do what they know is right, because we trust that we hired great people and we showed them, here are the boundaries in the sandbox we can’t go across for regulatory reasons or legal reasons, but within that, use your judgment. Do what you think is right for the customer. We’re not going to script you. We’re not going to checklist you. And it turns out putting customer reps in those environments means they deliver actually better outcomes, more customer-centric outcomes, and they deliver better results for their companies, higher NPS scores, lower churn, higher cross-sell and up-sell. And that’s exactly what T-Mobile saw in their experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (25:27)
Yeah, and if I can just touch on what Matt said about that omni-channel experience. It’s really delivering that same experience, regardless of channel. I talked to a lot of customer service leaders that complain you gave the example of people going to Twitter to complain. And I didn’t know agents were actually coaching them to do that. I can see why. And it was really interesting. I remember a few years ago, I did some work with an airline where I met their social team, the Twitter team, and they were like, they walked into the room, like really like a group of alphas. They were talking about how they had a separate set of policies that they were able to do than the core contact center, because they were like, “When people complain on social, we have the ability to offer them refunds and things that the core team isn’t.” I was sitting there laughing. I’m like, “This is not a good thing. You’re basically training people to go to social media, to amplify their voice so that they get better customer service.” And I’m like, “That is a fail because what you’re doing then is you’re training them to go to these places.” And so for me, omni-channel experience, it’s not just about delivering the channels, but you should have a uniform experience regardless of which channel that customers coming to you with. So I thought that just, when you mentioned Twitter and agents guiding customers to that just triggered that airline story.

Gabe Larsen: (26:44)

Matt Dixon: (26:45)
Because they say, “Well, look. Actually the alpha team is on that group. I know several companies, big name companies that put their best reps, you graduate into the social team. When you reach the highest level of agent status, that’s where you go, like, that’s the destination job. There are no rules or no policies do whatever you want. And what they’re doing is teaching their customers that the way you get the best service from this company is by publicly complaining about it.

Gabe Larsen: (27:08)

Matt Dixon: (27:08)
And it’s just like –

Gabe Larsen: (27:11)
Yeah. It’s funny that that’s what, that’s the world we’re in though, you guys. Our time is unfortunately come to an end, such a fun talk track, always more to discuss. We did leave the link to the HBR so you can dive in a couple more of the findings and the research. Matt, it’s always great to have you. Vikas, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Matt Dixon: (27:29)

Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)

Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Take care guys, bye.

Exit Voice: (27:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri

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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Listen to “Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | With Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri” on Spreaker.

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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)
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)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham

A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham TW

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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.

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Listen to “Assumptions to Understand | Kris Featheringham” on Spreaker.

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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)
It’s big.

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?

Kris Featheringham: (20:02)
Sure. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, rinse and repeat.

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.


Understanding the Global Customer with Balaji Gadicharla

Understanding the Global Customer with Balaji Gadicharla TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Balaji Gadicharla to discuss the secrets of understanding the global customer. Learn how Balaji connects with customers on a global scale by listening to the podcast below.

Serving Customer Needs Efficiently

Global Head of Service Support and Success at CipherCloud, Balaji Gadicharla has over 20 years of experience working with customers and providing service. When asked about his time working on the worldwide spectrum and how he has been able to provide excellent CX throughout the globe, Balaji notes, “We should be able to provide a unified experience to our customer, to all our customers across all incidents.” To elaborate on this idea, Balaji explains that when a company doesn’t have unified teams, the customer is easily confused. In these instances, a customer is handed from team to team until they finally reach a resolution. Shortening this process leads to garnered customer loyalty and to do so, he suggests creating a triage approach where people from different teams work together to reach a solution for the customer. “We formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted.” Rather than having multiple people speak to the customer at different times and further prolonging the process, Balaji and his triage approach continues to delight customers by serving their needs more efficiently.

Working With, Not Against Cultural Differences

Effective service differs by definition across varying cultures and time zones. It’s extremely important for CX leaders to understand how their service should be delivered across different customer landscapes by evaluating how embedded cultures affect work time, language, and customs. On this topic, Balaji believes, “We need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask.” Holidays, acceptable work times, cultural norms, and preferred schedules should all be taken into consideration when coaching CX teams. Beyond the customer scope, operational teams need to be able to transition work seamlessly between shifts and time zones, providing a consistent customer experience across the board. Balaji enforces the idea, “When people rotate the shifts, their transition work should happen seamlessly.” Understanding the customer from a cultural perspective allows for compassionate and empathetic responses from CX teams, further assisting the company in its journey to become trusted partners.

Becoming a Trusted Partner within Customer Ecosystems

Becoming a trusted partner is a crucial element to lasting customer loyalty, starting with going beyond responding to customer desire. This step really sets CX teams apart from others when customers feel that not only their needs are met but that they are catered to in many different areas regarding their experience with a brand. Part of this step is to understand the customer as a whole and to take into account their entire ecosystem of operations. How a customer operates, when they operate versus when they don’t are all part of their ecosystem. Getting to the trusted partner stage in a relationship with a customer can be a daunting task for leaders. To help alleviate their worries, Balarji offers some practical advice, “You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them.” Being honest with the customer (even if it’s not good news), going beyond basic expectations, and understanding their ecosystem is sure to boost and engage loyalty.

To learn more about successfully operating CX on a global scale, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Customer Success on a Global Scale | Balaji Gadicharla” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Customer Success on a Global Scale | Balaji Gadicharla

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. We’re going to be talking customer success, how to do that on a global scale. And to do that, we brought on Balaji Gadicharla who is currently the global Head of Service, Support and Success at Cipher Support. So Balaji, thanks for joining. How are you?

Balaji Gadicharla: (00:29)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me here. I’m doing great.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, it’s quite a different world we’ve been living in and I know that’s impacted your world as well as everybody else. So appreciate you jumping on. We’ve been kind of tossing notes back and forth. But maybe you could start just by telling us, you have a fun background. Tell us a little about yourself and some of the things you’ve done around service, success, support and in your career.

Balaji Gadicharla: (00:54)
Sure. Yeah. So first of all, thanks for this opportunity, Gabe. I know we have been going a little back and forth, but finally we made it. So a little bit of background about myself. So at around 20 years of experience in the technology sector. I’ve been working for various companies in the Bay Area for around 15 years. Then currently, I’m now in India. So when I was there in the Bay Area, I worked for E-Trade, Adobe, TiVo Corporation at various roles, primarily in IT, but I also was looking after professional services support. And my last role in India was for CipherCloud. So CipherCloud is a cloud access security broker, CASB company, headquartered in San Jose. And we have offices in India, which is a big center here and we have customers spread across the world. So a majority of my things that they want to discuss today with respect to customer experience is going to be based on my, the way we handled it at CipherCloud, because it was an evolving company. There was a lot of stuff that were happening, a lot of moving parts. So in short, that is my background, so –

Gabe Larsen: (02:08)
Yeah, no, I love it. That’s a helpful overview. Tell us just outside of work. Sometimes I like to ask, any hobbies or fun things just to get to know you? You a hiker, climber, soccer player, or anything like that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:20)
Yeah. I’m not a climber, but I’m definitely interested in hiking. So I’ve done a couple of decent hikes in the past. I’ve done Grand Canyon. I went to Phantom Ranch and came up, did Half Dome in Yosemite. And then in India I did a –

Gabe Larsen: (02:35)

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:35)
Yeah, that was long time ago though.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
Wow, that’s exciting.

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:40)
Yeah. And then in India, I make it like, kind of a ritual once a year to go somewhere with the family. But occasionally I do venture out on my own and a couple of years back, I went to Himalayas for around a week of trek and that was fun. It was a place called [inaudible]. So I do, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:57)
I try to do a couple of hikes and [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (03:01)
Grand Canyon is not too, I’m actually at the moment, for the holidays I’m over in Utah.

Balaji Gadicharla: (03:08)
Oh, really? Wow.

Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
Not too far from Grand Canyon. We’ve got some great national monuments out here. If you’re ever out here, let me know. Well, let’s jump in. I want to start big picture. You’ve had an amazing career in dealing with customers, visiting them, strategizing with them. As you think about customer service and customer experience and driving customer success, what are some of the big things on your mind or trends or problems that you’ve seen as you’ve kind of traveled the globe?

Balaji Gadicharla: (03:40)
Yeah. See, one thing that strikes me is when we are talking to our customers, they say like, “Sometimes we get service. Sometimes we don’t get that same level of service.” Same thing happens with support while we are dealing with the different cases or different points in time. So what it means is, we should be able to provide a unified experience to our customers, to all our customers across all incidents. So it should not be transactional. I guess somebody picks up a phone and then calls your boss and then everything starts falling in place. That’s not how it should be run, right? So I thought after visiting with a lot of customers, this is one thing that was kind of a challenge for me as a person in the role that I was in, not just in this company that I worked for until recently, but even in the past, right? So even when I looked online or when I talked to other people in this profession, I see that giving this a unified experience, and then the customer realizes you as one monolithic entity and not different departments within this vendor company. That is a big challenge.

Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Wow. Yeah. And that’s something, what do you say? I mean, if you’ve experienced it, do you feel like, what, if I had to, you had to put your thumb on it, what percentage of companies do you think are doing it right? Really have that kind of unified approach? Is it just almost nobody? Or do you feel like you’re seeing more and more people get there?

Balaji Gadicharla: (05:06)
There are companies. I mean, I would say like 20 to 30% can do that. With the passage of time, their processes will mature and then they will get there. But the smaller firms are the firms who are at a very rapid pace of growth. They try to, miss a couple of things and then they learn the lessons the hard way, right? That’s not how it should be. So you can follow a couple of things and then come to that point much faster and in a much more predictable way.

Gabe Larsen: (05:35)
Yeah. How do you then move to, if you see this problem, how are companies, do you feel like tackling it? Any advice or best practices you’ve seen that they’ve kind of been doing?

Balaji Gadicharla: (05:47)
Yeah, sure. Yeah. So, let me give some examples of what we did at CipherCloud to achieve this, right? So we had customers globally. We had in New Zealand, Russia, Israel, North America of course, and then all over Europe. So what we did was I would support, our mission primarily was focused in India. I mean, we were serving our customers from India, but at the same time, we also had escalation teams. Escalation managers have some advantage points. Some people were there in North America close to a set of customers. Some people were there in Europe. So they were following this, follow the same model, whenever there was a necessity, the escalation team was there to pick up the phone and call the customer or make a visit physically, right? So that’s one thing that we want, we did. And the other thing was, we established certain dedicated teams. So most of the cases, what happens is in technology companies, you have to wait for the engineer to come on board and they’re on the call and then explain why this problem is happening. And then product management gets onto the call and then tries to tell when the next feature is going to, and all these things will confuse the customer, right? So we formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted. “Oh, wow. You brought all the team members in one shot.” [Inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Wow. Yeah, so that was kind of a, more of a triage approach where you jumped in to actually say, “Hey, rather than talking to multiple people, let’s just see if we can get on together and provide more of a structured, cohesive answer where everyone’s more aligned.”

Balaji Gadicharla: (07:28)
That’s right. That’s right.

Gabe Larsen: (07:30)
So it sounds like one of the big things you’ve found is this unified, kind of customer experience, everything in one place and you’ve given some tips on how you’ve seen best practice companies deal with that. Where do you go next? What’s that other big challenge or things you failed where people are either stumbling or trends are moving towards that direction?

Balaji Gadicharla: (07:51)
Right. Yeah. So the other thing is that the cultural aspect of it also, right? I mean, nowadays all these companies are global and we are always engaged with some customer color or another and unfortunately during these COVID days, you don’t even see them face to face many times. So we need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask. And then at the operation level, you need to make sure that the transition work happens from one team to other team or from one, a team that is taking care of the time zone, right? Shifts. So when people rotate the shifts, their transitional work should happen seamlessly. That’s one thing, right? And the other thing is, from the cultural perspective, you cannot expect that some of the countries, some of the team members to work at a particular time or make a change to their systems during particular time frames. For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas, US will get busy. August is typically– UK will get busy. You don’t find too many people to do certain tasks. So if you are already aware of it, and in some cases, if you are even aware of the maintenance windows of your customers, that would help a lot.

Gabe Larsen: (09:01)
And do you feel like that there is, that this is one of the problems that a lot of people are running into? They just don’t understand that the kind of the nature of their customers?

Balaji Gadicharla: (09:12)
That’s right, right? I mean they don’t understand because sometimes they’re so busy just working on the issues and all, they don’t understand that certain things cannot be done in a finance company during month-end closure, quadrant closure, year end closure, right? Some things can be done, cannot be done. So what we did was we actually asked for the maintenance schedule windows of our customers, our four key customers, not all customers, it’s not going to happen. But some of our key strategic customers, we had their maintenance window calendar with us. So instead of just going and asking them, “When can you make this change in your production system?” We already knew, when is the next possible date. So that also helped us to basically be part of the environment and then give them some extra service.

Gabe Larsen: (09:59)
Got it. And do you feel like companies, what are they doing to overcome some of this stuff? Do you feel like there’s a best practice you’ve seen to approach and tackle that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (10:10)
Right. So the best practice I would say is like, understanding the business of your customer. So just don’t like that, we should not just like assume that it is some person or some customer sitting there, but try to understand the ecosystem of the customer. How, where they’re operating, how they’re operating, and that helps you to go one level further to see how you as a vendor is going to fit into that ecosystem, right? So that helps.

Gabe Larsen: (10:39)
Yeah, I think that’s probably the best place to go. If you can just bring it all into that one ecosystem, that one vendor.

Balaji Gadicharla: (10:46)

Gabe Larsen: (10:46)
That makes a big, big difference. But it’s hard. I talked to one gentleman, he said he had a “Frankenstack,” right? You’re working with so many systems and so many vendors, sometimes it’s hard to find a way to bring that together in a system that can actually provide, maybe not everything, but more of a, something that actually works for you.

Balaji Gadicharla: (11:09)
I mean, there are ways, right? For example, if you see this connected strategy approach. So there are like, it talks about four levels, right? On the first level, you’re talking of response to design. So customer wants something and the vendor provides something and that’s really basic. That’s elementary. Where you need to get is being a trusted partner of the customer. And then once you have that, you can automatically look into their system and then do changes into the system, of course, with their permission. But that is where you need to be. The fourth stage, the trusted partner, right? For that to happen, if you understand the business, if you understand the ecosystem, how they are running their business and how you fit in into the customer ecosystem, you can jump from level one of responding to desire to make a curated offering, be a coach, behavior, and finally become a trusted partner. It’s possible. You have to basically identify what are the things that you will do with respect to your customers at each of these levels and be a trusted partner.

Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
Yeah. That trusted partner, I think, is where we’re all trying to get. In closing, I think a lot of service and success people are looking for edges on how to win and how to compete. What would be that advice you’d leave to them as they try to, in these tumultuous times really differentiate with the customer experience?

Balaji Gadicharla: (12:27)
Right. Yeah. So I think in a, even if it is not good news for the customer, be honest, right? Instead of just over promising and under delivering go the other way around. You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them. Particularly during these times when everyone is virtual and they’re struggling between work and life and a lot of things have happened, it’s not the usual way of doing business. So if you have some connectivity issues and if you cannot make it to a particular meeting for whatever reason, just be honest about it and don’t try to basically be hero of the situation, right? People do understand. A lot of them have seen this and it works.

Gabe Larsen: (13:12)
I love that. I love that. So, hey, really appreciate the talk track. I think we’ve covered a lot of bases. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of the things you’ve talked about today, what’s the best way to do that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (13:24)
Oh, they can connect me on the, on the LinkedIn. They can search for my name. Balaji Gadicharla. They should be able to find it. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Well, hey, really appreciate it. Hope you have a fantastic day and same for the audience. Guys, thanks so much for joining and have a great day.

Balaji Gadicharla: (13:39)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks. I appreciate it very much.

Exit Voice: (13:47)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.


Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar

Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sami Nuwar to discuss how to successfully attain operational excellence in the CX realm. Sami has a diverse background as a customer experience and operational excellence practitioner. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Sami has become an expert at helping CX leaders reach excellence.

Utilizing Data for Operational Excellence

Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia, Sami Nuwar, helps his team understand and interpret customer data through new technology. In his experience, Sami defines operational excellence as, “The thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.” In instances where CX teams lack in this excellence category, Sami suggests that this is due to a lack of data gathering, interpretation, and action. Oftentimes when data is collected at firms, it is ignored and those within the company forget to ask questions regarding that data. It is impossible for effective changes to take place when no questions are being asked about interpreting the data. “Every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things.” Once that data is collected, it needs to be placed into the hands of those who can utilize that data beneficially. To do so, Sami suggests translating data in a way with monetary value, as dollar signs attract key eyes.

Becoming Operationally Sound

Sami understands that converting a CX team to becoming completely operationally sound can be difficult and overwhelming at first. To help clear any confusion, Sami suggests that the main goal is turning data into information that can be used to the benefit of the company. Becoming operationally sound is initially rooted in understanding the company’s vision and the steps necessary to see that vision to fruition. When a vision is set and understood by the team, it allows space for empathetic conversations to take place. Additionally, listening to and empathizing with those in the company can help employers to gain a better understanding of the daily operations. “Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them,” Sami elaborates. The last part of becoming operationally sound is to find balance within the organization and to translate data in a way that is relevant.

Advertising Successful Changes

One of the most important elements to operational excellence is often overlooked in Sami’s eyes, which is advertising the successful changes implemented by a department. When successful changes are implemented within the organization, Sami says that it is of the utmost importance to “sell your changes” to others within the firm. He goes on to explain that at first a lot of people won’t be onboard with new changes however, when successes are advertised within the company, people tend to hop onboard and support such changes. “It’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.”

To learn more about achieving operational excellence, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Operational Excellence | With Sami Nuwar” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Operational Excellence | Sami Nuwar

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about operational excellence. This is an important one. We’ve asked about this. You’ve asked about this. So we wanted to bring on an expert in this topic. It’s Sami Nuwar. He’s currently the Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia. Sami, thanks for joining and how are you?

Sami Nuwar: (00:29)
Yeah, I’m fantastic. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah, I think this will be a fun one, man. Tell us, before we dive in just a little bit about yourself and your background.

Sami Nuwar: (00:37)
Yeah. I’ve spent 16 years at Verizon Business as a Practitioner of Customer Experience Management. I’m traditionally a researcher. That’s where I kind of got my start and then I evolved into an Operational Excellence Practitioner and then evolved again into a Customer Experience Practitioner. Spent 16 years at Verizon and then a few years at a small manufacturing company. After that, and then joined Medallia around this time last year actually.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
I love it. I love it. And for those of us who don’t know a lot about Medallia, give us kind of the 30 second on Medallia.

Sami Nuwar: (01:13)
Yeah. It’s a customer experience management platform. It’s primarily technology that helps you manage the experience, understand that experience, and enables you to do much bigger things. So it’s a technology and a platform, but we like to talk about CX beyond the platform. The technology just makes it easier to do it and democratizes it and now it makes our jobs as people, much easier to spread the love and let other people jump in and help out.

Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. I love it. I do think Medallia, I mean, you guys have certainly made a name for yourself, so kudos. A lot of people use that technology, I think to deliver some good customer, great customer experiences. Well, let’s dive into this idea of operational excellence and maybe you can just say a big picture. Why is operational excellence so important?

Sami Nuwar: (02:08)
Yeah, I believe that operational excellence and other variants of the term, continuous improvement, to me, it’s the rubber meets the road. It’s where the action should take place for the business or the environment to get better. And it’s the thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.

Gabe Larsen: (02:41)
Yeah. Why do you feel like people get lackadaisical on operational excellence? And then I want to get into a little bit, kind of the how here in a second, but is it just because it’s difficult to do? Is it devil’s in the details? But why do you think people don’t get as operationally minded or sound as they should?

Sami Nuwar: (02:59)
Yeah, I think in some cases there’s an assumption that someone is acting on the data that has been collected. That was certainly the case of Verizon for a long time. There was an assumption that people are doing something with it and no one is asking the questions. So how do you know that the, like what improvements have been made and how do you know those improvements are working? So those questions don’t tend to be asked. Those are the details that people tend to overlook. We’re so execution focused, every company is, every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things and ask those questions. Is it working? How do we know it’s working? What else do we need to do and who else do we need to get the help from?

Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
I love that. I love that. Well, let’s dive in a little bit. I mean, you’ve obviously had some experience trying to get operationally sound and tight, et cetera. How do you start to think about doing that? Where do you begin this journey to become more, just operationally tight?

Sami Nuwar: (04:12)
Yeah, I think to build that habit, you have to have a clear understanding of what your current state is and at least get an idea, have a vision of where you want to be. And if you don’t have that vision, then at least at a minimum, understand where your current state is and that’ll help you form your vision. So that’s step number one. You’ve got to knock that out. You’ve got to collect the data to gain that understanding and you have to have the conversations with the people inside your business. Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them. So, and at the same time balance that understanding with talking with customers and partners and external parties to understand what it’s like to be them too. And so collect all that data so that it becomes relevant for you and then it turns data into information that can be used.

Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
Do you feel like on that kind of understanding your current state, is there different methodologies, tools, best practices you’ve found to actually capture that? Is it mostly interviews? I mean, you kind of mentioned that, is that the way to best do that? Or how do you go about getting that?

Sami Nuwar: (05:33)
Yeah. The mode of collecting, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and your timeframe. You know, there’s a need to balance. You have to balance the need for relevant information and the timeframe that you’re working within. And in a lot of cases, especially in a business environment, you don’t have all day, you definitely don’t have all year. And so you’ve got the budget, the data collection need and the need for significance and relevancy with the need for time, and time costs money. So, find that balance that works for you and then choose the mode that works for you as well. So for me, what’s worked is a combination of quantitative techniques and qualitative techniques. Surveys are a great way to manage that balance of data relevancy and time because you can get a massive amount of information quantitatively by doing simple surveys. But that typically isn’t enough because surveys just gives you an indication of what the problem is. And maybe some indication of how big the problem is, which you also need to get is the why. And that really comes from qualitative information. So interviews, video is the new up and coming technology that people tend to use a lot of these days. We have a technology called LivingLens, which is really cool. It lets people submit video feedback or audio feedback and then it gets analyzed behind the scenes by the system. So those are all qualitative techniques –

Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
All different ways you can kind of capture it. Got it. Interesting. Once you get this data, you and I chatted a little bit about this before, but I thought it was such a great point. It’s, not all data is good, not all data is the same value. Some data is, I mean, the world is now capturing so much data, we’re having a hard time making sense of the data, getting the validity. How do you kind of walk through or make sure that you’re not being misled when it comes to some of this data you’re capturing?

Sami Nuwar: (07:41)
Yeah, that’s a key point. I mean, one of the other signals that, I mean, I mentioned techniques to collect data from people quantitatively and qualitatively, but the other, and I think overlooked channel for data, is the internal knowledge base within the business, the operational data. We all have systems and machines that capture data from our interactions with customers and our daily business. And that is typically a treasure trove of information and what, it’s difficult to gather because it’s typically incomplete or hasn’t been cleansed enough to be relevant. And so it’s in a state that’s pretty rough. But if we can take that data and test it to make sure that it’s relevant and then marry it with the feedback that you could get from talking with customers and whatever message you choose, then it becomes, it turns that data into information because you’ve added context. The experience feedback that you’re getting on top of the operational data that you’re already collecting and probably under-utilizing, marry the two pieces together and they become relevant pieces of information. But at the end of the day, the first thing you got to do is, whether you’re collecting data from customers or collecting data from internal systems, you’ve got to test its validity. If you fail to test the validity of that data and you make decisions based on the data without verifying that it’s true, you’re risking making bad decisions in setting the wrong course for your business.

Gabe Larsen: (09:22)
I love that. What are some of the data points you’ve found to be most important operationally speaking that you know you’d say, look to the audience, “Guys, these are probably some data points that if you really want to get operationally sound, a couple pieces of feedback would maybe be this metric, that metric.” Anything come to mind on that?

Sami Nuwar: (09:39)
Yeah. I mean, just going back to my telecom roots and this is actually, the example I’ll give you is pretty agnostic. It’s a telecom, it’s a problem, it’s always going to be there, it’s always been there, but it’s pretty much a universal problem regardless of industry and it’s one of time, right? We can never be fast enough. And anybody who’s ever subscribed to a cable, TV, or internet service or a phone service, any kind of service that requires some provisioning or some monkeying, some wrench turning behind the scenes to be done, there’s always an expectation of time of when it’s going to be done, right? When can I expect the technician to arrive? When could I expect some work to be done by you that you’ve promised me?

Sami Nuwar: (10:32)
And a metric that is typical in the telecom space is customer desire due date. That’s an internal, very nuts and bolts metric that is based, it’s based on a time expectation, right? The clock starts ticking and then the clock stops ticking at a certain point and an image of the difference between that, and that’s a metric that’s kept internal, and that’s how they measure their performance among their teams. And the analogous time metric from a customer’s point of view and in a question that you would typically ask them in a survey, for example is, “Did this thing occur within your expected amount of time? Yes or no?” And if not then here’s the follow up question, right? And then they tell you what it is. And so when the customer responds to a survey, they’re giving you their perception of how long it took something to get done.

Sami Nuwar: (11:28)
And so what’s incumbent upon us is to take the two pieces of information, their perceived experience coupled with what the business believes happened, and now we look for matches or mismatches in the data. And what I found at Verizon were huge mismatches. And typically that’s because of the measurement time post, right? So the moment in which we would start the clock and then stop the clock and measure that time was not the same moment in the customer’s mind, right? So they’re a customer, the clock starts ticking at the moment of the handshake and then in the telecom company’s perspective, the clock doesn’t start ticking until you sign that contract and that could be a difference of a few days or a couple of weeks.

Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
That’s so powerful. I love that. I just think those are the types of insights I think leaders need to figure out. It’s the tactical advice that really kind of moves them from one place to the other. Last question then is, once you found this and you got the currency, you found the data, then you got to kind of move into the next phase, the change, right? Where do you go from here and kind of, how do you wrap up?

Sami Nuwar: (12:42)
Yeah, you have got to get that data or that information into the hands of the people that you know are going to drive that change and that’s really where the continuous improvement people, the people that are the lean practitioners, the six sigma practitioners, or the people that are purposed, are driving some sort of operational process improvement in the business. We’ve got to get that into the hands of those people and it’s got to be specific enough that tells them what the nature of the problem is, how big that problem is and who’s impacted by it. Ideally dollar signs, if you can attach some sort of financial component to the problem that really gets people’s attention and makes them act on it. And then hopefully they take some sort of action, but it’s incumbent upon us to make sure either to help them take that action or to ensure that they take that action and hold them accountable to it. And lastly, once the action has been taken, right, and you can see the notice in the change and you’re measuring that change, or you’re tracking it over time because that’s part of what we do, it’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.

Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I love that. I love that. Sami, that’s such great advice. And I love kind of the tactical-ness of it. As you, as we kind of wrap here, any quick advice that you’d leave behind for the audience as they try to get operationally excellent in their different support experience teams?

Sami Nuwar: (14:15)
Yeah. I would say that last part that I just mentioned is probably the most important part. We talked about collecting signals and collating it in a way that people can comprehend and then holding them accountable to some sort of action, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to tell people about the change. And I consider that the most important component that’s often overlooked. But if it’s done right, what will happen is it’ll create a reinforcing loop. But people that did not jump into your bandwagon initially, because there’s always somebody who’s not going to jump on board, they eventually do jump onboard later down the line because they see their peers performing because you’ve advertised. You’ve shown that this discipline works and here’s the changes that’s come from it. And those dissenters initially, they didn’t jump on board will eventually jump on board and everybody will sing to the same sheet of music.

Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
I love it. I love it. You got to find those insights. The insights and then the sale. You don’t get it out there, nobody knows about it, it obviously doesn’t, you can’t end up changing anything. Well Sami, we really appreciate you jumping on. It’s fun to have a little more of a true practitioner. Sami is an operational kind of ninja, so it’s fun to hear how you’ve experienced some of that both in your current life and then in your previous life. If someone wants to get ahold of you or learn a little bit more about Medallia, what’s the best way to do that, Sami?

Sami Nuwar: (15:33)
Oh, you can send me a LinkedIn request. I’m on LinkedIn, pretty active on there. So I’ll be happy to connect with you guys and help out wherever I can.

Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sami Nuwar: (15:48)
Great. Thanks for having me.

Exit Voice: (15:54)
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