Kustomer’s Look Back at 2020

Kustomer’s Look Back at 2020 TW

I would say that 2020 has been unprecedented, but let’s face it — we all want to permanently retire that word. From both a personal and professional perspective, it is undeniable that the past year has brought immense challenges, and you wouldn’t be alone to wish it was all just a fever dream.

While we are literally counting down the seconds until the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021, it goes without saying that there are some permanent lessons that can be learned from the hurdles we faced in 2020. It was a year of success for Kustomer, with immense product developments, award wins and acquisitions, but customer service was also more important than ever before.

Without further ado, here is Kustomer’s look back at 2020.

Lessons From a Challenging Year

Many organizations are struggling to understand when they’ll go back to “business as usual”. And the fact of the matter is, they likely never will. The new way of working that 2020 forced upon CX teams will have lingering effects, and consumers are now used to doing business in a whole new way.

Changing Consumer Attitudes Means More Digital Commerce

While it is inevitable that commerce will partially shift back to brick and mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to ask a question, or call a customer service number for assistance, now may find it more convenient to click on a chat widget while they browse your site online, or reach out to you on social after seeing your ads.

In fact, according to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved. Consumers are also more open to self-service options, with 53% of consumers preferring to self-serve versus speaking with a company representative. The same percentage of consumers also think that chatbots improve the customer experience, with that cohort growing to 62% among consumers aged 18-24. It’s therefore important to consider new, digital-first service options for 2021 and beyond.

Speed and Efficiency Beat All

Many CX teams were forced to do more with less during the global pandemic. An unfortunate result of forced closures meant that the economy shot into a depression, and organizations needed to be scrappier than ever. Kustomer research revealed that 63% of CX organizations needed to cut costs during the global pandemic, and 46% reported a need to reduce staff. At the same time, the volume of customer inquiries was rising (by 17% on average), and 57% reported needing to deal with more complex problems than usual. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported an urgency for more efficiency, and 59% reported the need to adopt more automation to achieve efficiency.

While it is true that some organizations have seen digital inquiries somewhat normalize after a spike earlier in the year, the pandemic has revealed significant gaps in CX strategies. What seemed like a nonurgent need—adopting new technology to increase efficiency—is now staring CX organizations directly in the face and preventing them from being successful. Whether it’s a similar unthinkable event that shakes the economy to its core, or simply a busy holiday shopping season overwhelming agents, organizations must be prepared to scale efficiently, at lightning speed.

Customers Are People Too

As AI and automation take on more of the busy work in the CX space, and more consumers shift to online vs. in-store shopping, customer service agents will take on a much more important — and challenging — role. They will become the face of the company, reflecting it’s values and building lifelong relationships. Think of all of the DTC disruptor brands with cult-like followings— yes they have chic branding, but they’ve also built a community of advocates based on how they treat (and value) their customer base. We could all take a page out of their book.

To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and enables them to deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service. There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information. Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.

Kustomer’s 2020 in Review

This wasn’t just an important year for the customer service space, it was also a momentous year for Kustomer as an organization.

January – Kustomer kicked off the year at NRF, where we not only rubbed (pre-COVID) elbows with CX retail experts, but also learned about the importance of delivering an exceptional experience to create customers for life.

February – Kustomer launched our first ever podcast — Customer Service Secrets — to help leaders transform their customer service, with practical information from thought leaders and practitioners who share their secrets to delivering exceptional customer service.

March – COVID-19 transformed business as we know it in March 2020, and as a result Kustomer began offering our Unlimited Package to customers for free, to enable seamless cross-functional communication and dynamic team oversight in a remote environment.

April – In April Kustomer officially launched Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across the Kustomer CRM platform. Kustomer IQ leverages advanced artificial intelligence to help agents more efficiently analyze and take action on customer requests, which was even more impactful during a time when agents were being asked to do more with less.

May – Kustomer kept the momentum going in May by acquiring Reply.ai — a top-rated customer service automation company — and began offering enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities in the Kustomer platform.

June – For the first time, Kustomer was recognized in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center. We believe this recognition underscores Kustomer’s important role in the space, where we are paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences.

July – In July, Kustomer kicked off a new and exciting partnership, after being selected as the only enterprise customer service CRM platform in the Shopify Plus Certified App Program. Our enhanced integration with Shopify Plus helps brands and customer service agents optimize and personalize their experience, all within the Kustomer platform.

August – Kustomer was honored to be named the fastest growing SaaS company by SaaS magazine. Driven by the move to digital-only experiences, changing consumer behavior, and demand for omnichannel service, businesses in many industries turned to Kustomer in record numbers in 2020.

September – Kustomer released powerful new consumer research in September, breaking down what modern consumers expect from the customer experience. The research revealed that consumers rank customer service as the second most important attribute they consider when shopping, right below price, speaking to the importance of delivering on consumer expectations.

October – While we couldn’t get together in person, that didn’t stop Kustomer from hosting our premiere event of the year — Kustomer NOW. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, like Drybar founder Alli Webb who spoke about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind.

November – In November we took the next step in the “Kustomer Journey” and announced that we signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook subject to customary regulatory review. Once the acquisition closes, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however customers need it.

December – Close on the heels of the announcement, Kustomer hosted Social Commerce Live, an action-packed, free digital event showcasing the power of social channels to build lifelong relationships with your customers. You can still watch on demand and gather insights from brands like Glossier and Bravo.

Kustomer Top Content

In case you missed it, check out some of Kustomer’s top content from the past year, where we explore break down the current state of affairs in CX:

E-Book: How to Leverage Artificial Intelligence for Competitive Customer Service
Report: What Consumers Expect From the Customer Experience
Guide: The 2021 CX Prep Guide
Webinar: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Organizations
Blog Post: Top Metrics and Strategies for How to Measure Customer Service Performance


Key Takeaways From the Kustomer NOW Conference

Key Takeaways From the Kustomer NOW Conference TW

On Wednesday October 21st, thousands of CX leaders around the globe gathered (virtually and socially distanced!) to learn about the modern customer experience, and have some fun in the process. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, hearing perspectives from those that are not often heard from, and networking with their peers.

Whether hearing from Drybar founder Alli Webb about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind, or learning how artificial intelligence changed the game for Glovo during the pandemic, there was no shortage of actionable and insightful sessions. After Kustomer NOW, attendees were sure to know what’s new, what’s to come, and what’s actually working in the world of customer experience.

But in case you missed it, we wanted to be sure you could still get the highlights. Read on for our recap of Kustomer NOW, the modern customer experience summit.

Delivering a Superior Customer Experience

When we get down to brass tacks, a superior customer experience should be at the center of everything we do. And the pandemic only heightened this need, as customer loyalty was more important than ever. Kustomer CEO, Brad Birnbaum, kicked off the day explaining how central the customer experience was to success in 2020. “Customers are still expecting a high level of responsiveness, the highest level of quality customer service. And that doesn’t change despite the pandemic, unfortunately, right?” said Birnbaum. “So those that were able to adapt, whether it be through tooling, whether it be through processes, whether it be through personnel… will come out of this strong. And those that are having a hard time are probably going to lose a lot of brand loyalty, customer loyalty because customers will find another alternative.”

Alli Webb, CEO of Drybar, realized the shortcomings of other businesses when it came to the customer experience, and vowed she would not do the same. “We were just kind of shocked by how poorly most businesses were operating, you know, and how they were missing so many little things that were so easy to fix and be better and make the overall experience so much better,” said Webb. “We wanted to create this beautiful experience, this beautiful space and concept, but where you would be treated incredibly well, no matter who you are, what you’re wearing or what you look like.”

While we all strive to deliver the best possible experience to our consumers, and use that as a differentiator, sometimes creating an effortless experience, versus “wowing” the customer, can drive just as much brand loyalty. Matt Dixon, in his session The Quest for Customer Delight Failed; What’s Next? explains that only nine percent of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude of behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. “It turns out that when we do cost benchmarking, we look at companies who deliver high effort experiences compared to those that are low effort, easy experiences. There’s almost a 40% difference in cost per contact,” said Dixon.

Understanding what customers truly want is key to being able to deliver an effortless, superior customer experience. According to Mary Drumond, CMO at Worthix, if you are able to reset a customer’s expectations when something goes wrong, you no longer have that negative feeling of frustration. Drumond advises that you “make sure you have systems in place that can reset your customer expectations if you can no longer meet them. This is a make or break moment for your customers. Trust. So make sure you have systems in place to step in when something goes wrong.”

What ESPN fans wanted during the pandemic, was to talk sports. Most sports were on pause for months on end, and the role of the customer service rep shifted significantly. “We are fellow fans in the stands. We are not suits in the suites. We understand what you’re going through and if you want to talk a little sport, we do too, and that’s what we do. And our CSAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion,” said Doug Kramon in his session Keeping the Fan Experience Alive at ESPN During the Pandemic.

Modernizing CX With Modern Strategies and Technology

Another key theme during Kustomer NOW, was all around modernizing CX. What that means to every organization can be different. Whether it is adopting new tools, shifting to a DTC model or changing success metrics, the customer experience is constantly shifting and evolving and brands need to keep up. For Expedia, they chose to test and learn new strategies to understand what an ideal experience was for their customers. “We had an interesting test that we ran because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative,” said Shannon Martin, CX Executive at Expedia. “And so we said … you guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test month so that you can do this constantly. The result was that we saw customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners are learning how to do their business better and we saw return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group.”

For an organization that isn’t as digitally native, tools and technology can be a springboard to modernize the experience they provide. Ernest Chrappah, the Director of the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, falls into that bucket. He made a commitment to improve the customer experience by focusing on operational excellence, innovation and data-driven decisions. “As part of the reform, we decided, based on feedback from customers, we’re going to shift all our services from analog paper-based processes, into the digital age, so that we eliminate the need for a customer to physically have to visit our offices just to get a service,” said Chrappah.

AI and automation are powerful tools to not only offer self-service and digital-first options to customers, but also to scale customer service efficiently. Before the global pandemic, delivery company Glovo was already testing out automation and self-service, but the pandemic accelerated that need. “A conversation bot helped us to address some of the inquiries we were receiving from our couriers and from our customers, and we were able to keep our agents available for other … more complex inquiries,” said Ludovic Magnier in his session How a Food Delivery Startup Delivers Modern Customer Service with AI.

Dan Burkland, President of Five9, agrees that AI can seamlessly and effectively assist CX teams. “There’s ways to implement AI that is not disruptive. As an example, assisting an agent with post-call wrap up. I don’t need to change anything about what the agent has been trained to do, in the scripting they follow, and the various answers that they retrieve for their customers. But they may spend two or three minutes after a call, putting in their notes and then dispositioning the call and inserting that into a CRM. And nowadays, what we can do is because we have the ability to listen and transcribe the call and now pull out key summary data. We can actually summarize the call for the agent … and just automatically insert that into the CRM.”

In the end, a “modern” experience always comes back to the customer, and how businesses are able to deliver on their expectations in a prompt and personalized manner. “I think attention and compassion need to be the two leading elements of how we head into 2021,” said Luke Williams, the SVP of XM Institute at Qualtrics. “I think really centering in on what the value is that people are attached to, and then figuring out how to build a business around that. I think … in 2021, we’re going to see a lot of companies pivot a little bit towards something that historically they may not have done.”

A Whole New Way of Working

Practically overnight, the CX world transferred to a remote environment and agents were servicing customers with a whole new set of needs. Gordon Schleffer, VP of Customer Care at Magellan Healthcare, thinks that the companies who succeed in a remote environment have strong cultures, and keep their staff engaged.

HopSkipDrive, a vehicle for hire company that provides service to children, has had a remote workforce since inception, and was well-equipped for this new working world. “I think you really need the buy-in of everyone across the company to make a remote team work long-term,” said Michelle McCombs, VP of Safety & Support at HopSkipDrive. “You need your executive team to support some of the costs which… it’s a really easy ROI because you’re not paying for desk space, you’re not paying for parking … and people are happier.”

“You know, there’s always been a reluctance to do massive work from home or remote contact centers,” said Burkland of Five9. “And mostly it’s been due to the apprehension that… I’m gonna lose control and visibility and tracking and monitoring of the agent population.” But the pandemic forced many organizations to transform digitally, and many of them found that productivity either stayed the same or increased, and there were tools available today to make remote work successful.

As CX teams adopted these new tools and adapted to working from home, they also took on a new and extremely important role — being the face of the company. “There really is no face of a company when storefronts are closed, it’s all up to the branding and the marketing and then the customer service agents,” said Lauren Panken in her session DTC or Be Disrupted: How UNTUCKit Uses Conversational CRM to Win. “They’re the ones that are responsible essentially for reflecting the company values in the spirit of the company and making sure that, you know, the customers are served and nurtured and feel good after their interactions with the company. So, I feel like, truly, during this time, customer service teams really shined because of that.” Williams of Qualtrics agrees: “For some reason we’ve overlooked, I think until now, the value of what the agent is until companies figured out that right now, they’re the only human that your customer may actually interact with. And that’s a big deal. And I think we’ve been under investing there.”

A Diverse CX Team Is a Successful CX Team

For most businesses today, their client base is made up of a wide variety of individuals, across different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, geographies, and ages. Having a customer service team that can cater to all of these modern consumers is imperative for success. “I can’t think of a reason why it would not be better to have a diverse team,” said Liz Keys, Product Manager at Stella Connect. “Our customers are diverse people, all different types of people from all walks of life, having different experiences, and to be able to build that personalized, incredible support experience that we all talk about and strive for, there is no way you’re going to meet every customer where they are … and communicate with them in a language they understand if your team all looks and speaks the same and comes from the same background.”

David Cane, VP of Customer Success & Trust and Safety at Wag Walking agrees with this, and believes that inclusivity should be embedded within the culture of an organization. “I would just encourage companies… don’t just focus on the numbers, make sure that the culture is inclusive and you also give them equity, and they have parity with others and feel valued. That’s how you get loyalty. And you’re gonna get the best work and it’s going to increase your top and bottom line,” said Cane.

Brooklinen is a company that made sure to break the mold when it came to inclusivity, with over 80% of their manager-level employees being female. Not only does this diversify the perspectives coming from leadership in the company, but the CX team benefits from unique qualities that women typically hold. “It really is kind of an invisible ‘sisterhood’. People start to feel that it really connects us all in CX. There’s a lot of empathy… to be able to sit and listen and understand. Women are just great listeners,” said Caroline Nolan, Customer Experience Manager at Brooklinen.

Drumond of Worthix, sees similar benefits. “When you are in CX roles you are trying to walk in the customer’s shoes and pay attention to what their pains are and provide solutions,” said Drumond. “There is something remarkably female about being able to recognize the pains in others and truly do something about it.” But at the same time, advocates cannot stop after achieving equity in just one area. “If we are branching into this world of legislation, we should talk about every aspect of diversity. I think you can’t really have a conversation about female vs male without also taking into account race, age, and sexual orientation. Thought diversity is very important and very beneficial for business growth,” Drumond explained.

While the CX world of 2020 saw drastic changes and faced steep hurdles, it also became increasingly clear that the role of customer service is essential for business success — especially during challenging times. Whether creating a diverse team to cater to all the needs of your customers, adopting new tools to achieve modernity and efficiency, or really getting to the bottom of what consumers expect, the trends of 2020 are certain to carry over to 2021, and CX should continue to be prioritized.

“I think it’s a good time to look at customer service,” explained Webb of Drybar. “Everyone’s really on the edge. Everyone’s really sensitive. So make sure … the people that you’re bringing in to work for you, represent you, are being very sensitive and empathetic. Taking for granted that clients are always going to be there… this is an opportunity to say… oh shit, it’s not gonna always be the way it was. And now, I’m gonna have to work a little bit harder, to get back to it… And if you’re still a business that’s standing, take advantage of that time and be the best you can be.”

Want to learn how Kustomer can help you deliver a modern customer experience? Request a demo here.

Deliver personalized, effortless customer service.

Request Live DemoWatch Video Demos