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

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

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

Guiding Customers to Solutions Using Empathy

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

Employee Experience: The Missing Ingredient

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

Partnering with Leaders Across the Board

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

To learn more about Laurent’s work and how to add value to CX, Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (18:43)
I agree!

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (20:19)
Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (26:23)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (26:30)
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Going Digital: The Ultra Modern Approach to CX with Vasili Triant

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

TRANSCRIPT
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

TRANSCRIPT
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

TRANSCRIPT
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

TRANSCRIPT
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)
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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

TRANSCRIPT
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)
Excellent.

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)
Yeah.

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.

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Is Video the Future of Customer Service? | Wade Radcliffe

TRANSCRIPT
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)
Absolutely.

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

TRANSCRIPT
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)
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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

TRANSCRIPT
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)
Yep.

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)
Yeah.

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

TRANSCRIPT
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)
[Inaudible]

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)
Wow.

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)
Right.

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)
Crazy.

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)
Sure.

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)
Thanks.

Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)
Thanks.

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

Exit Voice: (27:38)
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How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging

Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.

Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels

Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.

Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX

Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.

To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, 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 Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?

Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?

Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.

Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.

Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?

Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.

Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”

Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?

Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.

Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?

Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”

Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.

Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.

Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.

Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?

Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.

Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
That’s right.

Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?

Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.

Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?

Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.

Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?

Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –

Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –

Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.

Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.

Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –

Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –

Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.

Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –

Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –

Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.

Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.

Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.

All: (33:13)
Thank you.

Exit Voice: (33:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Irene Griffin, to discuss building better customer relationships through an empathy-driven support model. Irene is currently leading the customer care team at FranConnect. To learn how Irene has built an incredible customer support playbook, listen to the podcast below.

A Playbook for Empathetic CX

Over the years, Irene has created a playbook that helps guide her Customer Support Team to give the best service possible by initiating genuine human interaction. The playbook was created to include strategies and processes to help employees listen to the customer and to understand their needs. Not only should the team members address the customer’s reason for calling, but they should also show the customer that they are there to help and to listen by initiating empathetic conversation. “A lot of times,” Irene states, “Folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want.” As her playbook has developed, it has become a repertoire of customer service secrets that she uses to develop her team and her company’s customer experience.

How to Hire CX Reps

Irene continues by explaining how her CX team is run. She focuses on team collaboration and having a cohesive dynamic. When hiring someone to join the team, the vetting process to find “premium support talent” includes other team members. Irene says, “I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role.”

To assist in the hiring process, during an interview, Irene sets up mock phone calls to see the interviewee’s initial reactions with potentially confusing customer service situations. She asks perplexing questions to draw honest responses and by doing so, she sees if the interviewee is more process focussed or end-goal oriented. For Irene, the most important part of customer interaction is the journey to the answer, or the experience, not necessarily the answer itself. This ensures more authentic and effective customer service calls. Additionally, diversity plays a big role when hiring someone to join the team. Irene talks about how you can pull from the same group of people and still have great outcomes, but she finds that a team with diverse backgrounds creates a more involved and creative environment. As companies apply these hiring principles, they will find customer service rankings improve.

Sample Call Language vs Scripted Responses

As one of her final points, Irene starts to explain her philosophy on scripted phone calls. For Irene and all customer service professionals, consistent information and customer care is important. Most companies create this consistency by creating a type of script for their reps to follow on customer calls. While Irene recognizes the importance of consistency, she feels these calls can become too robotic. Authenticity is what the customer is looking for. Her solution has been sample call language. By sharing suggestions, it put the concepts in the minds of CX reps, allowing them to then be more authentic and creative. She states, “I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus, trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it.” As companies hire the right people using some of the tactics mentioned above, the reps will have the capabilities to have quality customer service calls while still being able to provide consistent information. Sample language is a roadmap to authentic and empathetic communication with the customer.

To learn more about building better customer relationships, 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:

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about an empathy driven support model and to do that, we brought on Irene Griffin. She’s currently the Director of Customer Support at a company called FranConnect. Irene, how are you doing? Thanks for joining us.

Irene Griffin: (00:26)
Hi Gabe, thank you for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:27)
Yeah, this will be fun. It’s always good to talk about empathy. I’ve been feeling like I need that in my life –

Irene Griffin: (00:37)
These days especially.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
I need that in life and so it might be good to talk about that in support. But before we do that, tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and your background.

Irene Griffin: (00:47)
Okay. Sure. So I have been a Director of Customer Support at FranConnect like you mentioned. I’m going on three and a half years now, and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I’ve been a hiring manager the entire time. I’ve transformed the team that I inherited and we heard a lot of lessons along the way about how to place great staff into customer support roles. So I can talk a lot about that.

Gabe Larsen: (01:12)
Then we will. We’ll be talking a little bit about that today. So let’s maybe dive in and talk high level, this empathy driven support model. What is it? I mean, give me kind of a 30 second picture overview on it.

Irene Griffin: (01:26)
So, I developed a playbook over the years, and I’ve definitely honed it along the way on how to make sure that we are staffing our customer support team to be empathy driven. And that is to listen to the customer, to understand the customer and not just sort of react to whatever request comes in the door; much like if you visit your doctor and you tell him what prescription you want. You need to give him an opportunity to say, “Well, hold on a second, what’s actually wrong? What are the symptoms?” and then let him decide on the diagnosis. And so it starts with that, making sure that you’re listening to customers. A lot of times folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want. So it starts there and then I just built out on making sure that the folks that I’m hiring are high energy, have great positive personalities and are comfortable in unknown territories. That’s really important. Those are, I think, some of the best indicators of premium support talent. I’ve definitely hired on skillset above personality before, and I learned a few things along the way there. I would say that if you have all the technical skills or you really know a product well or coding language well, but you’re not great at communication skills and you don’t have a high energy, you’re going to be less successful, definitely, than someone who has that high energy personality, is a great listener and communicator, but then still needs to maybe onboard. And I think as technology becomes easier to learn, easier to adopt, especially with a younger generation where it’s much more natural, learning the technology, I think is very much secondary. So when I look at resumes now as a hiring manager, I think, “Okay, that’s great that you have these skill sets and it’s a good place to start. But if on the phone, you don’t express yourself well and you don’t have high energy, I can kind of tell that you don’t have that outgoing personality.” I generally think twice now, for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
Interesting. So, okay. You got these different, I love the idea of empathy. Ultimately there are different ways to, I think, drive customer satisfaction. But finding out what people really want and not just solving what they think they want, but kind of getting to what they really want, being able to do that in an empathetic manner definitely resonates with me. You hit on a couple of points. I want to see if we can double click on a couple of these. So, you were just talking about hiring on skills versus personality. It sounds like one thing you’ve learned is technology, especially with the younger crowd, they can learn that faster. So you do want to see if you can find the right person, the right DNA, to bring on board rather than just kind of the technology ability, et cetera. Are there certain things you’ve found when you’ve tried to do that hiring process that has helped kind of separate the top candidates from the bottom candidates? Questions you’ve asked, assessments you’ve given, any feedback or thoughts there?

Irene Griffin: (04:29)
Sure. Oh, absolutely. So what I like to do is a mock phone call and I’ll present the interviewee with some, blurry, confusing statements and see how they attack it. Put them on the spot a little bit, and I’m not looking for them to solve the puzzle. I’m looking for the interaction and the response. And so if it’s a client, if it’s, “Hey, let me break this down to make sure that I understand what you’re saying,” rather than the sort of silent, “I’m not sure.” So I think doing mock calls is a great idea for that. And then just in general, it’s really about the energy level of the team. In my experience, and I think everyone can relate to this, I’ve never chosen an airline based on customer service out of the gate, right? You choose based on pricing when you need to fly somewhere. So that’s product based selling, right? And so you’re making that sale based on the product. It’s a good price for a flight to where you need to go, but once you have a bad experience, that’s when you’re more likely to swear off the airline. And it’s probably not because the plane that you were on had bad wheels or bad wings or something like that. I mean, the airline’s done the rude thing and they haven’t worked with you. They haven’t listened to you. They’re not meeting your needs. And that’s a very visceral, very emotional response to a transaction. So for us, it’s about relationship building and it’s about that transaction with customers to make sure that they’re feeling their needs are met. So, I like to use that analogy to sort of explain that and I’ll do that along the interview process as well.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah. I really liked the mock call. Sometimes you can’t understand a person or know what they’re going to be like until you see them do it, and that’s part of the hard part of interviewing. You’ve got to feel it and see it and interact with them and once you do, that does make a huge difference. Do you– when you say you keep it a little more vague, is it just kind of, do you throw harder kind of customer support questions at them or are they more like a puzzle, like trying to answer like a complicated problem?

Irene Griffin: (06:33)
Actually I stick with– I don’t wanna put people on the spot so badly with puzzles. I mean, I lock up myself when I have it done to me, so I stick with more of what a sample support question might be. Where it’s just long winded, convoluted, there’s extra stuff in there and again, I’m not looking for the outcome as much as I’m just looking for the reaction and the ability to kind of parse it out and kind of stay cool and be organized.

Gabe Larsen: (06:58)
I love that. Yeah. The journey to the– it’s like you’re not looking for the right answer. The journey is the reward, right?

Irene Griffin: (07:04)
That’s correct. And then additionally, I can add, I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role. For me to know that my team trusts each other and they’re building on relationships, they’ll help each other, they’ll grab each other’s tickets without me needing to intervene, that is a big deal. That is just, I think, a really huge thing. And the right personality is going to fold into the right team really well and they’ll enjoy their workday and that translates to the customer experience immensely. When people are happy to be at their jobs, that’s a big deal for customer support.

Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
What are any other things you do to kind of help drive team dynamics? I love the interview, each other, that you can kind of interview the new people to see how well they’ll work together and kind of buy off on it so they feel like they’re part of building the team. Other activities, games, motivational things you do to kind of drive that team dynamics and make it better?

Irene Griffin: (08:08)
Sure. I think…in the pre-pandemic era, when we were all in the office together… it was certainly a lot easier to just, “Let’s go grab a coffee, let’s go grab a quick lunch.” I try not to do too much forced merriment. I think bonding should happen a little naturally, more organically. So yeah, our HR team definitely has great activities for all the employees that bring us together in different ways and we do volunteer work and we have our own internal team parties. But for me, I think mostly just keeping us on standup meetings twice a day, making sure everyone feels heard, repeating the idea of respecting teammates and stuff like that. It happens naturally. I’m happy to say I found out that they were on a happy hour and I wasn’t even invited and it made me thrilled to know that they are choosing to hang out together and even out of work, offline stuff, gaming together and stuff like that. So I think you have to let that develop in its own way.

Gabe Larsen: (09:04)
Yeah. It’s hard sometimes to force that, but sometimes it doesn’t happen naturally. That’s good to hear you guys have some support also from the top to see if you can get some of those things done. So you got a little bit about hiring, a little bit about team dynamics. You also talked about this kind of personality aspect, high energy. Is there a way you coach people to get that, or is that again, maybe more in the hiring process to make sure you find those people that are just a little more energetic, ready to go, be part of the team, et cetera?

Irene Griffin: (09:36)
So, definitely it’s part of the hiring process and that isn’t to say that I’ve only hired extroverts that are bouncing off the walls. That’s not at all what I mean. I definitely have more low key folks, but when they get on the phone with the customer, they’re coached into how to be great customer support people and how to be empathetic. It’s more about empathy, I think, than energy per se. But I do have a playbook that I’ve developed and we would sample tickets, sample phrases. I let them know that, as cheesy as it may seem, I’ll go with: “It’s my pleasure to work with you. Is there anything else I can do for you,” over “Thanks. Have a great day.” Right? It’s just that extra level of like white glove service that elevates the experience and yeah, we’re B2B. So we need to get that relationship established with our customer base. I think if you’re talking B2C and it’s transactional, I mean, you don’t need Amazon sending you flowers for buying something, right? You just want to get the transaction done and it just has to be accurate and it just has to be timely and that’s great. But with us, we’re working with the same folks over and over again. So we need to have the trust and the relationship with our customer and making sure that empathy is at the heart of every call is a big deal. So like I said, I have a playbook where we go through sample language and I make sure that the language is as positive as it can be. So if somebody wants to criticize the product or somebody wants a feature that we’re certain that we’re just not going to support, it’s not just well dismissive or, “can’t do that for you.” It’s, you know, “this is a great idea and I’ll take this to the product team, we’ll see what we can do and in the meanwhile, let’s look at workarounds or other solutions for you.” Yeah. People feel cared for when you use the right language. That’s a huge part of that playbook that I’ve got.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, I want to hear just a little more about the playbook. One question that I’ve often heard is how much do you kind of, this word scripting. Scripting versus not scripting, or really kind of pushed certain types of responses? How have you managed that with this playbook concept?

Irene Griffin: (11:39)
So I think with scripting, I think that’s more of a call center concept with customer support teams that are working through complex issues like for example, with us and software, I don’t really adhere much to it. I think it’s more a sample language that I support plus I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it. So I definitely think scripting can be great, but I think that’s more of a call center concept.

Gabe Larsen: (12:19)
Yeah. Do you feel like, so it sounds like you’ve been able to give them snippets or you use the word, playbooks, so give them plays or something that they could potentially use or sample language based on commonly asked questions or common concerns, things like that. How have you found the balance to have versus autonomy versus using these sample dialogues, et cetera, any thoughts there?

Irene Griffin: (12:45)
So I guess we do have FAQ’s and for a knowledge base, that’s really important for us to get the answer, right. It’s not just about how we are talking to customers, about whether or not we’re able to solve it on first touch. That’s also a huge part of the customer service experience. So, I think autonomy is really much more important. When you let them problem solve on their own, I think that’s really key.

Gabe Larsen: (13:07)
Yeah. Yep. In order to get them to that level, have you found, with outside of the playbook, other training aspects you’ve had to really facilitate or product training? How do you get to the people where they kind of have that balance or that capability of being able to be off the cuff and get the answers you need?

Irene Griffin: (13:25)
I think for me personally, the most successful path towards that has been shadowing. So when you have someone that’s really great at what they do, just getting your staff to watch and listen and understand that this is how we conduct ourselves. This is how we talk to customers and this is what’s expected. And then I found this to be pretty successful if you hire the right folks that get it to begin with and they understand, and I think it’s a more pleasurable experience, even for the support people to create the relationship. And then we get high marks. We get high MPS scores because our customers love the team that they’re working with. And so when I get feedback from my customer base, it’s by name, they’re naming folks that they love working with. And it doesn’t mean that we solved the problem right away. It doesn’t mean that it was a magic wand experience, but they know that we’re here and we know they know that we’re working for them, we’re working hard for them. And that honestly buys a lot of leverage with critical problems that you just need a team of technical people to resolve and it’s a little out of your hands to deliver. Maintaining that relationship really helps the customer base and keeps them– . What’s more important for me is making sure that our customers are ready and wanting to call us back again and again and so that we leave them with an experience that is a positive one. So they feel comfortable reaching out to us whenever they need us.

Gabe Larsen: (14:47)
Got it. Do you feel like, I mean, you obviously work in the B2B space and you’ve hit some of these things that kind of drive this empathetic model, other kinds of things outside of this that are keys to building customer relationships that you’ve found?

Irene Griffin: (15:00)
Oh, that’s a good question. I think just getting on the phone with them, sooner than later, is a really key component. I know today nobody just calls each other, right? You text somebody and you say, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?” And then you set up a minute to talk and that’s sort of the appropriate etiquette these days. Just ringing someone out of the blues generally considered, –I think the phone has a huge component in hearing people’s voices and you get a lot from tone and clear up a lot of misunderstanding and get to a resolution a lot faster when you just pick up the phone and call the customer. So I think that’s another key component and you can respond to the ticket and type out your responses, but a lot of times it gives them an opportunity to talk and folks love to talk. Most of the time.

Gabe Larsen: (15:48)
A little more proactiveness, right? You know, certainly methodologies lend itself to being a little more proactive, but we can respond and email, but we could sometimes, “I’m going to try to get ahead of this one or I’m going to just get them right now,” and you’d be a little more aggressive, but sometimes that does pay off. I like that.

Irene Griffin: (16:08)
And a lot of times, to add to that, they’ll end up adding on a couple of extra questions once they’re on the phone and then deflects future tickets. So there’s a lot to it.

Gabe Larsen: (16:18)
While you got them, might as well get it all answered. Right? Get it all out of them. Do you, certainly we talked about a lot of different stuff in this model, so personality and hiring dynamics and using playbooks. If you had to kind of sum it up, as a takeaway that is the secret to having a great support team for a lot of leaders out there like yourself who are trying to navigate these challenging times, what would be kind of your closing statement or closing argument here?

Irene Griffin: (16:45)
I would say that on top of everything we discussed today about getting positive energy folks, make sure that you have a diversity of background folks as well. I think that’s just a huge thing. Nothing wrong with pulling from the same group or the same fraternity at one particular university and hiring a bunch of friends but, there’s a lot of value in dragging people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds. I think that it gives people a more cosmopolitan or I guess, more rich background in which to work and it improves them personally. So I think that’s one of the extra takeaways in summary that I would add on top of that.

Gabe Larsen: (17:28)
And that’s very timely as well. Right? I think we’re all trying to reflect a little bit more on that and find ways to do it. It sounds like that’s been beneficial for you. So Irene, I really appreciate your time. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these ideas, what’s the best way to do that?

Irene Griffin: (17:45)
Yeah, absolutely. So, if you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Irene Griffin at FranConnect, and I think that should be enough info. If you look me up, I’d be happy to link in with you and continue this conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (17:56)
Yeah. It’s always fun to continue the conversation guys. So again, Irene, thanks for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Irene Griffin: (18:01)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (18:09)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Douglas Kramon, Senior Director of Fan Support & Customer Care Operations at ESPN, to discuss how customer care drives customer experience. ESPN is a world renowned sports network with an unmatched customer care system. Learn how Douglas has become so successful in customer relations by listening to the podcast below.

Fan Support

The Customer Care Operations team at ESPN has transformed the world of customer experience by creating a more empathetic relationship between the agent and the customer. By doing so, not only have they improved customer experiences, but they have made room for fan-to-fan sports discussion. The concept of the “fan” was created as a nickname for customers at ESPN to make a more relatable and human connection to the agents. Douglas states, “But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.” Douglas talks about how everyone in the Fan Support department is a big sports fan and because of this, they are better able to have constructive conversations when customers reach out to ESPN Fan Support.

Improving Brand Experience During COVID-19

For many fans, sports are memories. With this in mind, Douglas’ team knows that sports bring people together and many are missing that fan-to-fan interaction. They want to keep the sports memories alive, especially during COVID-19 when live sporting events have decreased. To do this, Douglas’ team is actively searching for ways to improve the ESPN sport experience all while balancing business and working from home during a pandemic. As Douglas mentions, “Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate.” While live sporting events are minimal, his team is working to replace the experience with engaging content such as a new docuseries called The Last Dance. Continuing to better the fan experience with more interesting content, contacting through SMS, live messaging, and human interaction, Douglas’ team has seen a large increase in C-SAT.

Three Ways to Keep Agents Happy and Thriving

At ESPN, not only is it important to keep the fans happy, it’s also important to keep the Fan Support agents happy. Douglas has figured out three elements that help his team thrive in a fast paced environment: workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. He hopes to harbor a motivating workspace where daily collaboration welcomes insightful communication. In connection with the nutrition concept, Douglas talks about how his agents have families and lives outside of the work environment and he emphasizes the importance of home life. He says:

So you had a great C-SAT. You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, ‘Thank you for doing what you are doing.’ With the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them.

To Douglas, happy agents are a prerequisite to happy fans and small acts make a big difference in agent and fan morale.

To learn more about how customer care drives customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “Douglas Kramon | Be Brief, Be Bright, and Be Gone” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon

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 jump in. We’re going to be talking about customer care driving customer experience, and to do that, we brought on Douglas Kramon. He’s currently the senior director of fan support and customer care operations at ESPN. Douglas, we appreciate you joining. How are ya?

Douglas Kramon: (00:30)
Good Gabe. Thank you so much for having me.

Gabe Larsen : (00:33)
Yeah, I think this will be fun. I mean, you’ve got a real interesting background. Obviously the company you’re working at, a lot of different changes going on there, and I want to jump into some of the ways you’ve managed around that. Still trying to drive those customers to be excited and passionate about a brand that I think really has kind of that passion innately in it. Before we do though, tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background, and then we can kind of jump in.

Douglas Kramon: (01:02)
Sure. My background is obviously when you go to college for Native American archeology and cultural anthropology, it’s natural to land at the worldwide leader of sports. That’s just what you do. It just happened. And needless to say, it’s been a wonderful time at ESPN. But, through my time post college, it’s really all been about customer experience and identifying the opportunities to improve the brand experience with the customer and what I will refer to with ESPN, we call the “fan.” ESPN is a Disney organization and so we have some serious brand prestige to try to maintain and we’re dealing with sports fans. Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate. So a lot of what I do is to make sure in my teams, the passion of sport or the passion that spans out for sport is brought closer to what they want to see.

Gabe Larsen : (02:21)
I love that.

Douglas Kramon: (02:21)
So we’re excited about that. And times have changed a little bit right now as we’re dealing with COVID-19, but that challenge still exists.

Gabe Larsen : (02:30)
Amen. Amen. So let’s get into that part of it. I mean, obviously, as you think about your current environment, it’s all about live – live sports, live everything. And that’s one of the things that drives the passion I think for the brand specifically, thinking about some of the sports ideas. Although on the Disney side, as you said, right? A lot of live interaction there, theme parks, et cetera. If you can just kind of paint the picture as to how you’re viewing it with all the changes that have gone on. Like what’s kind of going through your mind from a, “Holy smokes, the world has kind of turned and now I find myself in a very precarious place?”

Douglas Kramon: (03:14)
Yeah. It’s an excellent question. You know, going into this early to mid-March, I’m ramping up my care team to provide support for millions upon millions of college, NCAA tournaments, challenge players, looking for a college tournament. And then directly following that the beginning of major league baseball and fantasy baseball and suddenly like that, it’s all gone. So you suddenly have an opportunity and you’re ramped up accordingly for one of the most exciting months, if you will, in sports and then it just vanishes. So the live sport experience worldwide has vanished before our eyes.

Gabe Larsen : (03:59)
Man, when that NCA turned, when the big dance got canceled, I felt that one personally, because there’s sports that – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt but I’m so passionate about this. Some of the sports, golf pro stuff, but man to see those kids who this is so important to them. They’re seniors. They’re going to the big dance, a lot of them for the first time and those pictures were just heartbreaking to see.

Douglas Kramon: (04:27)
And that’s the emotion of live sport? Is it not?

Gabe Larsen : (04:29)
It is.

Douglas Kramon: (04:29)
So knowing that, it’s disappeared and our fans feel that. It’s as if something has been ripped out of them in an incredibly difficult and challenging time already with what’s going on in the world. So removing live sport, we are working to replace the experience until it comes back with incredible content as you and I have talked about with exciting things like The Last Dance, which is now the number one viewing experience out there.

Gabe Larsen : (05:03)
For people who don’t know what that is, give them just 30 second on that.

Douglas Kramon: (05:07)
Sure, so the last dance is a docuseries about the 97-98 season of the Bulls and Michael Jordan leading that team. And really the last time that team would be together and it shows the evolution of the Bulls from the early nineties on. And of course their premier players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-

Gabe Larsen : (05:34)
It’s really well done.

Douglas Kramon: (05:34)
It really is an incredible storytelling experience. It’s not a live sport.

Gabe Larsen : (05:39)
I’m on episode four.

Douglas Kramon: (05:40)
Soon enough, you got two more to go before this weekend release – I think Saturday. It’s something where passion for sport is still there and we’re seeing that. So right now we shifted from live viewing triaged, in the moment triaged, for live sport because in customer service, for what I do, we’re like a Formula One pit crew. And while all I care about is be brief, be bright and be gone. That’s true enough.

Gabe Larsen : (06:11)
I love that. Say it one more time. That’s kind of been the typical thing of customer service right?

Douglas Kramon: (06:17)
Sure. Be brief, be bright and be gone so you can get the next fan or the next customer and service them and be smart about it. We’re looking at a situation now where we use to get contacts from fans and triage, get you connected appropriately to your TV provider, allow you to view something on a larger screen, you get a lot of technical issues, or it’s lock time almost for fantasy baseball, help you with your rosters. All of that is live triaged and we have special tools where we can see what’s coming over the horizon and hit us. So we know in the moment what to be prepared for. We have great tools that turn dark data into live data and what’s coming to the sender and what folks are saying on social and everywhere. But when it suddenly shuts off the live sport tab and we have to go to video on demand, it’s a different kind of support model, but it’s one where we have the opportunity to also have fan-to-fan dialogue. We like to say, and we believe this wholeheartedly, for customer service, we are fellow fans in the stands with our fans. We’re not the suits in the suites, meaning we’re there with you. We’re sports fans just like you –

Gabe Larsen : (07:33)
I love that.

Douglas Kramon: (07:33)
– and 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 C-SAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have now, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion, not so much debate, and if it is, it’s off the cuff and it’s jovial. But we, like the fans we know, miss sport. And so we see it in C-SAT, they wanted to come back and we like to say, “We miss it too,” and then we talk a little sport and we move on.

Gabe Larsen : (08:10)
Okay. So I got to click into that for a minute. The typical motion has been kind of be brief, you know, get off, be gone. I liked your saying better. But now, you’re open a little more, you kind of push that based on the changes to have a dialogue because I’m missing sports, the ref’s missing sports. So is there some examples? I mean, you’re having people then kind of be like call in for a problem, but it is, I really miss my Celtics man. You Celtics fan? And next thing you know, five minutes later, we’re talking about the glory days with Garnett and winning a couple championships. Is that kind of what’s going on?

Douglas Kramon: (08:48)
Absolutely. Just yesterday for example, we have a C-SAT, customer satisfaction survey response, and I’ll tell you what the fan said. Fan gave the agent five out of five stars and said, “I called to relay a story about coach Don Shula. As you know, Don Shula passed away recently. I was a highschool coach for 47 years and I spoke about motivation for the 1972 Dolphins. Mark was very attentive, the agent Mark, to the story and he listened and he loved it. And that’s important to me. He’s a great employee for ESPN. Thank you for allowing me to share this conversation.”

Gabe Larsen : (09:29)
No way!

Douglas Kramon: (09:29)
We also have others where Alex, for example, and the fan writes to C-SAT, he was, “prompt, helpful and amazing with troubleshooting. But it sucks that he’s a Jets fan, but as the Bills are my team, I have no room to talk.” So as you can see, there’s a jovial nature and a conversational nature from our fans where you reach a care agent. You’re reaching a brand specialist who is also a brand protector. We have chatbots. We have FAQ deflectors. We have self service. We have AI in the IVR methods. Hang on, let me put my dog out real quick.

Gabe Larsen : (10:17)
You’re good! It’s the reality man, the dog [inaudible] that goes, it’s the way the world is right now.

Douglas Kramon: (10:20)
This is the new reality. I have to be here with my dog in the office. So we are brand protectors or agents. When you actually reach the live agent, it’s human-to-human interaction, fan-to-fan. And we see it in our C-SAT and Gabe, let me point out during this time since the quarantine, which is about March 15th to today. What is it we’re looking at, May 8th?

Gabe Larsen : (10:49)
Coming up on two months, coming up on two, right?

Douglas Kramon: (10:51)
Our C-SAT has never been higher. Never.

Gabe Larsen : (10:55)
That’s awesome.

Douglas Kramon: (10:56)
When you compare it to this time last year, we’re 14% higher and if you compare it to the 40 days prior to 45 days prior to that, we’re 9% higher and it’s because our agents are showing a dialogue, empathy, understanding, compassion, and letting fans know we miss it too. We miss-

Gabe Larsen : (11:18)
I love that. So a couple of follow ups on that one is, how do you find p– How do you find agents like that? I mean, I feel like I’d be a good agent-

Douglas Kramon: (11:26)
You would, I bet you would.

Gabe Larsen : (11:26)
– in one of your operations because I watch ESPN– Well, I did watch it religiously every night just to be kind of up on the latest because I like to have kind of the, what do they call it? The cooler room talk-

Douglas Kramon: (11:40)
Absolutely! The water cooler talk.

Gabe Larsen : (11:40)
– the water cooler talk. How do you find these people, do you actually screen for fools like me who loves sports or what’s kind of the –

Douglas Kramon: (11:51)
Well, the answer is an absolute yes. So you have to pass a sports test to work at ESPN and customer service and ultimately you have to show passion for sport in the interview. We would like you to know fantasy football or baseball or basketball or hockey. You don’t need to know them all. Then we ask for a sports story and Gabe, for example, I’m a Jets fan. It’s challenging to be a Jets fan because the Jets are at the bottom of the barrel most of the time. So it’s one day they won’t be, but we’re suffering Jets fans. Our feeling is this. You love your team because they’re yours, not because they’re great. I want a story from every agent that tells me what they love about their favorite sports star, the game, their team, their love of a specific event. Like they watched the 1980 Olympics hockey team, USA hockey win. And tell us a story. I need to know that you’re connected to sport.

Gabe Larsen : (13:02)
I love that. When you get someone to tell that story, I’m sure it can come out. You can just gauge very quickly kind of the passion and the realness about stories. Do you want to hear my story, Doug?

Douglas Kramon: (13:13)
Of course.

Gabe Larsen : (13:13)
I’m thinking of The Last Dance. I’ll make this one brief. I don’t remember if it was ’97 or ’98, but I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m thinking Jordan game six, Byron Russell, driving to the whole Jordan memory. Jordan does that push and he sinks it and puts Utah out of it again. I mean, Utah is never going to win an NBA championship. They had their chance, but obviously they had to come against the Jordan era.

Douglas Kramon: (13:47)
That was the first Karl Malone game, if I’m correct.

Gabe Larsen : (13:50)
Yeah! Karl Malone, John Stockton. I mean, that was the team. Again we’re a small market company and so [inaudible] every year and –

Douglas Kramon: (13:57)
Was Clyde Drexler on that team possibly? That was a power team.

Gabe Larsen : (14:02)
It was.

Douglas Kramon: (14:02)
It’s the storytelling that you see, it brings it back, the memories. That’s what sports are about. Now, don’t get me wrong. I work in customer care, I’m constantly dealing with things that are issues, broken links, incorrect team logos, pages that are broken that won’t display, let’s say video issues with stutter, jitter, or black screen, et cetera, fantasy confusion. We’re constantly triaging. It never ends. But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.

Gabe Larsen : (14:47)
Yeah. So that would be my followup on that. When you kind of mentioned, and it sounds like you got a decent amount of sophistication in this, you do have some bots, you have some deflection, you’ve got some knowledge base, you’ve got live agents, IVR intelligence on IVR. Without going into extreme detail, how do you kind of find that balance of the individual interaction, but also being efficient and effective and deflecting and making sure that people can self service a little bit? Quick thoughts on that?

Douglas Kramon: (15:19)
So we have tools that determine, based on frequency, recency, frequency, sentiment, and velocity. We know what fans are saying to us via– and I’ll talk on live channels, chat, phone, SMS, right? So those are the ones that we’re doing. Email is not live.

Gabe Larsen : (15:40)
So which one’s most active for you guys?

Douglas Kramon: (15:43)
SMS is growing by leaps and bounds –

Gabe Larsen : (15:45)
Really?

Douglas Kramon: (15:45)
– because the younger demo loves it and we’re finding C-SAT highest on SMS because you move at the pace of the fan. When the fan is texting back and forth with you, they might be doing other things during their day, whether or not in quarantine. They’re moving around and they ask a question. They don’t expect an immediate synchronous response. If they do, our SMS is faster, the agent responds quicker. If not, we see a top C-SAT score with an average response time between three and eight minutes of a response back to a fan, meaning it’s moving at the speed of the fan. So we know the most common questions that are coming into us based on a rapid analysis of keyword extraction rate. And so we immediately put the things up that an FAQ could respond to and put it out there for our bots, our chat bot or SMS bot, our traditional and all of that. But, if you get passed through to an agent and the bot has failed, you immediately move to the top of the queue [inaudible] trying to address. And we then capture, what is that question? And we determine maybe that’s something where we can put that out. [Inaudible] The goal is, if you reach my agent, we have to do what’s called a plus one. Not only do we give you the answer, but we know you didn’t want to reach out to us to begin with. Reaching out to customer service is not fun. We need to make sure that you’re satisfied and that we surprise you with a sports knowledge opportunity, information of an article that might interest you about what we just discussed. So for example, if you’re talking fantasy football and it’s information that now Frank Gore has signed a one year deal with the Jets and you want to understand how you can use Frank Gore, when will he be available in fantasy on the Jets? We will just say details on that and, “by the way, check out this article.” [inaudible] gives details about what Frank Gore’s impact may be on fantasy with the Jets. So always an opportunity just to do a little bit more. Why sports is based on emotion and fans retain that.

Gabe Larsen : (18:13)
Yes. Yeah. I love that. I think, actually, fans do want the self service. For a while, it was a little at a negative connotation, but as a fan, I kind of want to get– if I have those quick answers or quick questions, getting quick answers, I’d prefer to self serve.

Douglas Kramon: (18:29)
Yes. It’s exactly. I think fans prefer self service.

Gabe Larsen : (18:33)
I’m open to chat with somebody and obviously there’s very specific things sometimes where it’s like, look, there’s no bot that can help me with this. I gotta make two transitions from two airlines in two countries. Like I got to talk to someone about this flight, it’s too complicated.

Douglas Kramon: (18:48)
You used to say to our bot, “Agent.” Boom, it goes right to an agent. Our bots don’t take themselves too seriously. They know when to say, “Okay, I’m done.”

Gabe Larsen : (19:00)
Oh, yeah. Well, Doug, we’re coming to the end here. But, you’re my new favorite customer care expert. Loved our conversation. So fun to kind of hear some of the things you guys are doing to react, some of the priorities you’re taking and then just some of the advice you’ve given. And I’d like to end with that. As you think about the audience, other customer care leaders fight the same battles you’re fighting — obviously different brands, different situations, industry, but a lot of the same. We’re all we’re all in quarantine. Let’s see what last piece of advice you’d kind of give to make everybody feel, give them that tip that they can use to win.

Douglas Kramon: (19:35)
That’s a great question. Honestly, you’re not going to have great customer service or fan support as we call it. If this were Disney, we call it like guest support, or viewer support, or whatever it may be. Last year agents were feeling good. Now granted, our agents are now all working at home. They used to work in a center because it’s sports is collaborative and we know that a center is best for that. But when they’re working at home, my recommendation is you have happy agents. You will have happy fans. And it’s a challenge. So we have identified three things. We want to make sure that we have a motivating workspace for our agents. We want to ensure collaboration daily with other agents like you’re in the center. And we have a website where we do constant coffee breaks and we also award agents on a regular basis through what we call nutrition. So it’s workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. Remember these are [inaudible] agents. They’re with their families. So you had a great C-SAT? You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, “Thank you for doing what you are doing.” with the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them. And we’re feeding them where the opportunity presents itself, because these are incredibly challenging times for family and for individuals. Our best is all about making sure we’re keeping our workplace agents happy and it shows in our C-SAT.

Gabe Larsen : (21:18)
I love that, man. Especially the food part. You know, it must be the young person in me. It’s like the food. I mean, it’s something small, but it makes a difference. So I love that idea. I think –

Douglas Kramon: (21:32)
I agree. We have UFC 249 coming up this weekend, which is the first real live sport opportunity — wings for everybody. So we’re excited about this.

Gabe Larsen : (21:42)
Douglas, we are bringing you back, man. I want to hear about that last part. We did not go deep enough into some of the things you’re doing with your employees. So consider yourself tapped again for round two, maybe in the next couple of months, but appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that?

Douglas Kramon: (22:01)
Sure, Linkedin. I’m right on there as Douglas Kramon, K – R – A – M – O – N. I’m happy to chat. I’m always open to learning new things and to sharing.

Gabe Larsen : (22:10)
Love it. Alright well hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Douglas Kramon: (22:15)
You too Gabe! Thank you so very much.

Exit Voice: (22:22)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Paolo Fabrizio, author, speaker, and customer service expert to discuss digital customer service. Paolo has plenty of experience working with the integration of digital channels and with hiring and training digital customer service assistants. Paolo does this by leveraging conversations in social media, live chat and instant messaging apps for various industries with his knowledge of the digital landscape. Given his past experience and insightful courses, businesses would benefit from his advice on this episode. Listen to the full podcast below.

What is a Digital Customer Experience?

Paolo starts his conversation with Gabe by defining digital customer experience. This type of service is the conversation happening with the customer over digital channels. When Paolo refers to digital customer service or digital channels, he focuses on three main types: social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps. By learning to leverage these platforms and channels, businesses will notice an increase in customer satisfaction. To further define digital customer experience, Paolo states, “Digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations, to retain and attract customers.” Simply using the digital channels is not enough, instead these tools should be used with purpose and strategy.

The Digital Customer Service Assistant

Paolo goes on to discuss the importance of the characteristics of successful customer service reps in the digital realm. There are different skills required for reps in digital customer service than in more traditional channels. He says, “One of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message. That makes a difference.” Having this ability to empathetically communicate with the customer builds a sense of trust between the customer and the emotionally intelligent rep. It’s this empathetic communication that initially assures the customer that the agent will take care of their needs. Due to the dynamics of the digital platform, being able to immediately detect the tone of the customer and their needs will help harbor a more efficient and productive customer experience.

Courses to Help Your Customer Service Team Embrace the Digital Landscape

Lastly, Paolo speaks about three of his courses he offers on his website: Road Map, Coaching, and Crisis Response. The “Road Map” course offers help with designing an effortless experience when creating a customer journey map. By creating an effective journey map, especially when it comes to digital platforms, businesses will see customer satisfaction improve. The second course, “Coaching,” widely demanded by an array of customer service managers, helps to integrate customer service management skills into the digital realm. Paolo goes on to introduce his newest course titled, “Crisis Response.” Paolo mentions that this course helps everyone from managers to smaller teams with how to develop, “Your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.” These courses are available through Paolo’s website, customerserviceculture.com. These three principles, journey mapping, management skills, and crisis response are frequently discussed among traditional CX channels. As businesses learn to apply them to their digital platforms, their customer service team will be able to keep improving with the industry and the customer.

To learn more about digital customer service and the work of Paolo Fabrizio, 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 “Using Digital Channels to Reach Your Customer Base | Paolo Fabrizio” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Digital Customer Service Revolution with Paolo Fabrizio

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about digital customer service and to do that, we brought on author, speaker, customer service expert, Paolo Fabrizio. Paolo, thanks for joining and how are you?

Paolo Fabrizio: (00:26)
Fine, thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:28)
Yeah, well, Paolo, we were just talking pre show a little bit about him being in Milan, Italy, and with all that’s going on in the world. I’m glad to hear that he is safe and secure, at least for the moment. So that was all good news to hear. Today, as I mentioned, we’re going to talk a little bit about digital customer service. Paolo, can you take just a minute and tell us maybe just a little bit more about yourself and kind of what you do?

Paolo Fabrizio: (00:54)
Yeah. Well, I have clients and integrate digital channels. When I say digital, I refer to three main pillars, which are social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps that will have clients of many various industries integrate such channels and hire and train digital customer service assistants — maybe we’ll talk about this topic later — and also helping managers manage new digital teams, setting up new KPIs as for digital channels and sometimes software selection. So I think we’ve got something that’s struggling together, talking about [inaudible] products and doing a lot of interesting stuff here in Italy and also in Europe as well.

Gabe Larsen: (01:40)
I love it. Oh, wow. Yeah. Well we better talk a little more. I didn’t realize there was so much connection on the software side as well. We’ll do that post post recording here. Awesome. Well, let’s dive into this topic maybe just for the big picture– you were touching on a little bit, but for those of us who aren’t as familiar with digital customer service, how would you define that? Or kind of label it, big picture?

Paolo Fabrizio: (02:02)
Yeah. Well, my first idea and what I bring with passion and every day is that digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations to retain and attract customers. So, I’ve always– I’ve been working so many years within companies before becoming a consultant five years ago, and I had the chance to cover so many customer facing roles. But I’ve seen then, and I still see sometimes today, that customer service organization is still much underrated. And it’s still much seen as a cost area instead of a profit area. The only way to turn this key and to turn this engine on is to work on interaction and conversations. So we’re living in a world where everything is based on speed and time. So if you make my time wasting, I get disappointed. If you let me save my time, I will be more– I will tend to stay with you for a longer time. So in terms of loyalty, that makes a difference; how quick we are and how effective we are makes a difference.

Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
No, I love that. And I think that’s obviously what we’re all looking for especially as times have changed, we need to be more and more effective. How do you kind of think about this question, I think it comes up often, it’s kind of the agents versus digital customer service assistance or people versus technology? How do you kind of talk through that when we think of this customer service, this digital customer service concept?

Paolo Fabrizio: 03:53)
Yeah. The starting point is that there are a lot of people doing a great job, helping customers using traditional channels, such as phone or email.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Yes.

Paolo Fabrizio: (04:04)
But what I’ve seen as a consultant in many various industry is that if you let them change and switch from a traditional channel and let them handle the same customer, talking about the same topic on apps, on live chat, on social media, sometimes they make a mess because they are not ready, even though they got a big– a long expertise. They’re not ready to handle that situation because there are new factors that emerge on conversations across digital channels. In fact, one of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message, that makes a difference. So it’s partially a brand new job, even though we’re talking about sometimes very experienced people doing a great job. And after a couple of years — talking about this topic on my books and on my other online activities — last year I started working a lot with clients here in Italy and Europe to help them hire and train internally or sometimes externally — if they work with outsources — people who had some specific experience traits and some other areas of their potential that can be a power working on that. And we’ve seen great results after six or 12 months after they started to benchmark the results of these small digital team insight within customer service and the major, the bigger one, working on traditional channels. So they noticed. I got a client, the retail area, supermarket area that after 12 months they experienced that they’re small seven people team of digital customer service got one point better at customer satisfaction, four stars compared to the 3.2 of their same room, big traditional channel customer service. They increased 25% productivity. So in their peak hour, which is between 11:00 and 12:00 AM, they usually serve between six, eight customers over the phone. And they served between 15 and 17 customers over digital, especially on the social. So, you can enjoy, I wouldn’t say immediate, but very, very fast, great results in terms of productivity and also from the customer side, which is crucial customer satisfaction.

Gabe Larsen: (06:55)
And how do you, I mean, you touched on this a little bit, but how do you train them and hire them differently? I mean, we have kind of the standard agents, but then this is kind of a new world. These are sometimes different channels. What does that look like? Is it a lot different in the way you trained, is a lot different the type of people you hire?

Paolo Fabrizio: (07:11)
Yeah. Yeah. Because sometimes I’m working with different industries and also different structures, different people in terms of the level of expertise. But, my approach is more or less the same. Of course I customize, but the first thing for me is to listen and watch and analyze what they’re doing now. So I’ve got a first assessment step, which is also made online, of course, and then I’m able to detect what’s not working in their conversations. So I can find the pain points from the customer side, having worked so many years on the other side, okay, within companies; and after detecting the pain points, I define with managers, new guidelines, do’s and don’ts and tone of voice. And then I start working with them with the HR manager or customer service manager together to select a small group of people based on the current and predictable volumes of digital conversations. And I prepared, and I usually assess people with private personal interviews, temporize tests based on sentiment detections–

Gabe Larsen: (08:26)
Yes.

Paolo Fabrizio: (08:26)
— and then other tests. So I am able to learn how much they are motivated to leave the contact center. So do you want to lift the phone, or are you willing to roll your sleeves and try to learn something new? And second, do you have just a customer service approach or do you also have a commercial sales approach, which is very important when you deal on public channels, such as social media or online review sites? So I’m looking for those traits and when we define, when we hire together a small group starting from small, and then scalable group of people. I prepare and deploy a training program, which is usually divided into three steps, a workshop based on the guidelines we already set and define with management line.

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Yeah.

Paolo Fabrizio: 09:18)
Half of the time, try exercise. Exercise on your platform, on client’s platform, dealing with real live conversations with customers.

Gabe Larsen: (09:28)
Yep.

Paolo Fabrizio: (09:29)
So in the morning, there is theory; new guidelines, new laws, so to say. In the afternoon, you need it to apply so you can fix and realize what are the issues that you may find. After a couple of weeks, a follow up with a laboratory training in the morning and checking out what’s going on or what needs to be fixed in the afternoon. And the third part is that one to one coaching in order to get a consistent tone of voice by each of the digital customer service assistants. So it’s pretty articulate, but very interesting.

Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah, no, I love it. Interesting. I didn’t want to go into this too much, but it is very interesting. We talked a little bit about this idea. You’re really focusing on the digital side of it. And when you have– I just feel like those channels are more underused, right? As you said, they’re not the typical channels, phone and email are the typical channels. When companies are handling support through social media or live chat messaging apps, what are some of the peculiarities that you see, some of the differences you see when you work with some of these companies through those channels? Anything you could share there?

Paolo Fabrizio: (10:41)
Well, I still see many mistakes. So the first mistake is not considering how important an incoming message through social is, but it’s important if the same message is delivered through email. So in terms of “Shall I respond?, When do I need to respond?” So in terms of considering what the customer’s expectations are. So today, if you ask a question to a customer service through email, you may expect a response within 20, 24 hours maybe, or less. But if you send the same question, which is a neutral question, no urgency through Facebook, you expect an answer. You’re telling me that you expect an answer within six or eight hours. And if you use Twitter, you expect it within three hours. In motorway lanes, so email is the slow lane. Social is lower. Facebook is low. Twitter is very, very, very slow. So I’m using all the– pushing on the throttle to overcome the rest of the cars. So, first of all, you need to realize what’s behind the use of different channels. Then you need to customize the content because I usually work on what’s been said. I always say that if you write an excellent answer on this, on this paper, right? It’s an excellent answer for the customer. But if you use the most wonderful platform and you write bullshit, that’s bullshit. And that does not really depend on the platform or the access of it. So you need to customize, and beware that you need to change tone of voice moving from, switching from a digital channel to another. So social media– sorry, Facebook has got an informal party voice; Twitter, more journalistic, pragmatic tone of voice, live chat: professional informal, instant messaging between social and live chat? And then there are also other things when you have a live chat conversation, which to me is the most difficult channel to be served by agents because it’s a live direct conversation like the one we’re having right now. It’s like having a phone conversation. You cannot distract. You cannot check things for two minutes without advising what you’re doing, otherwise, the customer think, “Are you still alive, are you having another conversation? You’re not interested in me?” So you need to, taking care of each detail in terms of tone of voice, in terms of rules of engagement– engagement rules, and other things. This is much underrated. Still now, even though here in Italy and Europe something’s changing very, very rapidly in the last 12 months.

Gabe Larsen: (13:40)
But a lot of them moving more towards this type of stuff, I assume, correct?

Paolo Fabrizio: (13:47)
Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (13:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Interesting Paolo, I love this topic. I just feel like there’s so many people who are starting to see the benefits and really the customers are pushing them towards this digital, these digital channels that they weren’t as used to before. No more is phone and email. I mean, certainly those are still the primary ones, but so many businesses are experiencing some of these and I think you’re right on the cusp of, we did some training. We need to know how to use them, why to use them, how to integrate them, how to train around them, et cetera. So if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you or some of the stuff you do, what’s the best way to do that?

Paolo Fabrizio: (14:23)
Well, the best way to do it is to have a look at my website, which is called customerserviceculture.com. Then from mid-April on, it will be totally translated into English. That’s good news, including new blog posts. And also my online training courses will be available also for English speaking.

Gabe Larsen: (14:43)
And what are those courses?

Paolo Fabrizio: (14:46)
You know, the main focus are three. So the first is called the roadmap. It helps you develop a digital customer service strategic plan. So where should I start from with video lessons and other interactions? The second one Is called coaching digital customer service managers. And it’s been demanded by customer service managers, who are experienced, that need to integrate their digital skills. One-to-one live coaching. The third one, the newest one, is called crisis response and it’s also extending not just to managers, but also to small teams of five people. And where we work on your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.

Gabe Larsen: (15:40)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, Paolo, I really appreciate that. We’ll make sure we include some of that information so everyone can check that out. Thank you again for joining and hope you have a fantastic day.

Paolo Fabrizio: (15:51)
Thank you so much, indeed. Best of luck for Kustomer.

Exit Voice: (16:00)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vipula Gandhi, the current Managing Director at Gallup, to discuss customer service data and the connection between customers and employees. Vipula has a wealth of experience, working in several industries from banking, to hospitality, to consulting. She has also worked all over the world in India and Singapore; and cities such as Dubai, London and now Washington D.C. As a true expert in the field, her insights on customer and employee engagement are sure to help businesses improve their customer service experience. Listen to the full podcast below.

Customers Feelings Are Facts

Vipula discusses with Gabe that companies need to understand their customers to succeed. She notes that while most CX tactics and strategies are focused on rationale, logic, and the process that the customer goes through, the most important and effective strategies involve the emotions of the customer. Data, effective strategies, and measurable company growth can come from a study of the effects of emotion. Vipula wisely states, “…to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors.” This science of the impacts of emotion is relatively new, but dramatically improves the customer experience. Gabe responds and summarizes this point by stating, “…it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience.”

How Complaints Can Actually Increase Brand Loyalty

Another interesting discussion point between Gabe and Vipula is the idea that if complaints and problems are handled correctly, it increases the emotional connection customers have with the brand. It ultimately leads to organic growth as they share their experience with friends or post about it on the company page. Vipula describes this with the following example: “You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities.” Seeing complaints and problems as opportunities to not only improve your customer experience process, but to show the customer that you are there for them and are capable of helping them is the necessary mindset that all businesses need to have.

The Importance of Treating Your Employees With Care

Lastly, Vipula highlights the importance of treating employees with as much care and respect as the customers. She states, “Employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of.” Employees that are taken care of and know they are valued and appreciated will work harder and build relationships with customers. This will increase productivity and profitability. Vipula notes that people cannot share what they do not possess and so employees that feel valued will be able to share that and help customers feel valued. In turn, that will increase brand loyalty. To continue to highlight the power of the relationship between employees and customers, Vipula ends by sharing this point of data from their research. “When companies harness the power of these two insights … they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth.” This strategy works and businesses are already seeing the benefits of it.

To learn more about customers, employees and how to drive customer engagement, 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 “Vipula Gandhi | Employee and Customer Engagement” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi welcome everybody. I’m excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement, the power of managing both of them to drive customer loyalty. To do that, we brought on Vipula Gandhi. She’s currently a Managing Director at Gallup and Vipula and I actually go pretty far back now that we’re getting older. We were chatting the other day and it’s been multiple years, five plus years since we’ve spoken, but Vipula has an international array of experience. Originally started in India, London, Dubai, Singapore. She’s currently residing in Washington, D.C. and has worked in hospitality and consulting and banking. And so when it comes to the customer experience and the employee experience, not only is she kind of eat, drink and sleep some of that in practitioner land, but also from a consultant, and now obviously at Gallup helping companies figure out this interesting dynamic between the employee and the customer engagement. So Vipula, thanks for joining. How are you?

Vipula Gandhi: (01:13)
There you go. Thank you Gabe, I’m excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
Yeah, I think this is going to be a fun talk track. Again, we have some fun history together as we both worked for Gallup in Dubai, five, six years ago, but I gave a brief overview of Vipula, but can you tell us just a little bit more about yourself and then specifically kind of what you guys do over at Gallup?

Vipula Gandhi: (01:31)
Absolutely. So Gabe, as you’re very, very aware, I’m passionate about leveraging human potential. Whether they are employees, they are leaders or they are customers, I guess just directing all the potential towards organic growth with health societies and countries. So that’s why I am really excited to turn up to work every day, whether or not in quarantine times, just to my office here in the house. At Gallup today, I am the managing partner and I look after the business strategy, the business performance and talent for the consulting side of Gallup, and really excited to be here today.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Gallup’s been legendary, not only in its research, but I think in the private domain, in the business domain, but obviously in the public domain. Do you do much with any kind of polling or the stuff around that stuff? No, right? You focus more on the business…

Vipula Gandhi: (02:29)
I focus on the consulting side, where I help organizations drive organic growth through employee and customer work. Although a lot of our polling work is also of interest to our corporate clients, so when those two merge, I work on that. For example, we have a corporate client whose vision and mission is to focus on women’s health globally. Now, we can dip into a lot of our expertise and polling across the world to figure out the current state, the challenges and the opportunities, and track measurement of future progress made. So sometimes the worlds collide.

Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
I just love that side of it, right? I mean, the thing that I’ve always valued about Gallup is just the research based approach, right? Sometimes when you get into this employee and customer world, it can get a little more touchy feely, but some of the research and the data that you guys have brought to it, I think is interesting, and hopefully we’ll get into a little bit of that there. So with that in mind, let’s just set up the big picture. We think about employee experience, we think about customer experience, what is wrong with the way we are currently thinking about customer experience today?

Vipula Gandhi: (03:37)
Thank you so much, Gabe. And I think that’s an awesome question. And as I think about how do we really compete in the market? In any organization that you work for, we compete on either price or we compete on the product and service features, or we compete on something called this customer experience, that’s a bit more gray and hazy and an area that allows you to innovate and do new things. So customer experience is what helps us differentiate in what we are trying to do. Now, even before the COVID-19 hit us five weeks ago, at least here in Washington, D.C., what we were seeing was two big challenges organizations were facing with customer experience. The first was really, we are information rich today, but insights poor. Now, we all know that we need insights that we can impact, or immediately action, as well as think about how we can strategically focus our work in the future. So once you have the right data, you need those insights that you can action on and then you have people who are enabled and empowered to deliver on those experiences. So the first question is, do you have the right data? A lot of organizations focus a lot on rational aspects of relationships and Gallup talks a lot about our research and experience on the emotional aspects of customer relationships. So, do you have the data and is it at the right level at which you can create action? And what we have seen when we work with organizations Gabe, is that the focus really gets on administering a client experience platform or a program and managing data rather than focusing on actually implementing the changes that we need to do from the insights we gathered from the data.

Gabe Larsen: (05:32)
That’s so true, right? It’s like —

Vipula Gandhi: (05:33)
Yeah. Absolutely. You just, all the focus goes there, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Yeah. We love the net promoter score, right? We love to administer that survey to our customers and then we don’t do anything with it. It’s like, “Okay, our MPS is blank. Alright, moving on,” and then we kind of go somewhere else.

Vipula Gandhi: (05:52)
I would just talk a little bit more about that Gabe, really, because it is easy to say it’s actually hard work. You and I have done that, changing stuff. But the other challenge I’ve seen organizations facing, Gabe, is around difficulty in managing the cumulative experiences across multiple touch points and multiple channels over time. Now, we all know that our research has very clearly demonstrated that customers do not identify their relationship with an organization to one channel or — but a sum of every touch point. So, it is not easy in the world of omnichannel when people are looking you up on the internet and actually doing the transaction somewhere else, and the connectedness between the two is something that organizations face challenges with. And then COVID-19 struck. We haven’t even spoken about COVID-19. I mean, managing change and managing change and managing customers was difficult to say in stable times and over the last five weeks, if you’re not a healthcare and not a grocery organization, you’re actually risking irrelevance in the market. And all your customer satisfaction matrix and customer journeys have been thrown out of the window in the times of crisis, and all they’re talking about is addressing our customers; what they need today, here and now. How do we, Gabe, provide our services to them to empower teams and foster decision making in a safe way today? But right now, even government organizations and our clients are realizing that we have now come into a phase of next and beyond COVID-19. So, we know that a lot has been written about how customer preferences and business models will outlast the crisis. So how are you going to endure in this new normal, in and out on blackout periods, in a more digitized world, with lower cost structures and new value propositions? So I guess all of us have a challenge in front of us.

Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. It really is. And I want to hone in on one thing you said just a minute ago, because I think it is really pertinent to the conversation; but it’s this idea of rational versus emotional, in the way in which we kind of think about and measure that. Can you just double click on that for a second? Because I think it’s again very important to the world we’re now in, because we certainly — and I don’t know the, I’m not the expert on — but there’s certainly a rational element to it like, “I want my stuff, like I need fast recovery or fast stuff.” But also, there is an emotional element like, “My life is — I’m feeling things I haven’t felt” and to be able to tap into that. Can you talk about how you guys think through that a little more?

Vipula Gandhi: (08:37)
Absolutely. So, Gallup’s customer experience science is truly built on the foundation that to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors. I want you to think about the time you got married or you bought your new house, were you rational, or were you emotional? So if you design your customer experiences on rationality alone you will lose out. Now, rationality is important. Think about transactions, scheduling, inventory, communication models, these are very important. They build foundations, but the emotional aspects, that are trust, hope, friendship, pride, that’s what makes our decision. I’ll give you an example. Think about wait times. Right? A lot of times organizations are chasing wait times, reducing wait times for customers. And wait time is a rational phenomenon.

Gabe Larsen: (09:43)
Absolutely.

Vipula Gandhi: (09:43)
But, [inaudible] what we have found is that it’s not even the wait time that matters, it’s the perceived wait time that is more important. So, not exactly how many minutes I waited, but how many minutes I felt that I waited standing in a queue to get to a person at the branch trying to serve you. And the more that they put a television there, they give you a form to fill, they come and talk to you. They have ensured that no table looks empty because then you will feel that wait time is longer because the number of agents are less than they should be. So how do you manage the perceived wait time is actually solving the emotional need. But I’d also ask, think about the best of the brands that you use and how you feel about them. And everybody knows what a great job Apple has done with it. It’s about how you feel having bought an Apple product, that sense of pride, that sense of having higher — trusting that you have the best screen size, the best processing power and things like that. But it’s really about how it makes you feel to be a customer of that brand that matters.

Gabe Larsen: (10:58)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s so interesting because it does feel like we’re not doing that. What I mean by that is if it’s not the instrument, right, the surveys that we often do, it is we’re often focusing on the rational side of it, right? The wait time thing, so interesting, right? Because we — Oh, that’s such a powerful example. It’s not about the wait time, it’s about the satisfaction with the wait time or the perceived wait time as you kind of phrased it. You may not have an opinion on this, but why do we not go into that emotional element? Is it because of the survey instruments that we’ve often created that just focus on the rationale and therefore we manage and kind of action around those? Is it, we just haven’t understood that when it comes to human decision making, the emotional side is more valuable than just the rational side? What’s the, I feel like when I’m talking to you, like, it’s so true, but I don’t think most companies get that. Am I wrong?

Vipula Gandhi: (11:59)
You’re absolutely right. And if you just think about, the rational is easy to put your arms around it, right? Emotions are tougher. I can give you the fact that when you say emotionality, what you’re measuring in your surveys are things like, how long did you wait? Did we meet your needs of what you’ve called us for? But rather thinking, how this individual felt that entire exchange went? Does he feel that the promises that were made to him were kept? Does he feel that they are proud to be a partner to you? Do you feel that the promise is kept, and this is a [inaudible] company that solves my needs. Now this is a, you know, a little bit of an ambiguous concept. And the other fact is that neuroscience and behavioral economics that have brought this emotionality aspect of economic decision making of humans being emotional is just, maybe 50, 70 years old; not like other sciences, which are, economics, which is based on rationality, which has been there for hundreds of years. A little bit of a new field of science, relatively difficult to put arms around it. However, now Gallup has written a lot about it. We have figured out how you drive these emotional outcomes to some rational drivers and behaviors and obviously values [inaudible]. A little bit tougher, but can be done.

Gabe Larsen: (13:30)
That makes more sense because I’m thinking, some of the questions you asked and I’m thinking of instruments, just because of the world of customer service, customer experience, we all love our net promoter scores and our C-SAT and things like that. But the questions you were kind of phrasing and you’ve said them, but I’m forgetting them, but they weren’t the typical, “Do you recommend” question? How satisfied were you? They seem to go a little above and beyond, but I love the tie in that you mentioned, it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience. That’s a cool, tie-in, that’s fun.

Vipula Gandhi: (14:15)
Maybe also give you another example Gabe, now that we’re talking about that subject, right? We all want to ensure that no customers are dissatisfied with us or not complaining to us. What we have found through science and through our experience and working with clients in this area is that we don’t want people to complain, obviously, but when people complain, there’s an opportunity for you to actually increase the emotional engagement with the brand after the complaint, more than what it was possible before the complaint. Let me explain that to you. You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities. And I just want to mention this thing about this company called Chewy. Now, because you have pets Gabe and we love our pets–

Gabe Larsen: (15:17)
I just got done walking my dog. I just got done walking my dogs. Yeah.

Vipula Gandhi: (15:20)
So I love the example of chewy.com on customer experience because a lot has been written about Apple so we don’t want to go there. But, Chewy is the online provider of pet foods and supplies and tries to provide differentiated customer experience, and it competes with Amazon. They have raised, doubled down on the customer centric culture and basically it’s very refreshing when you hear chewy.com say how they trust agents to treat their customers right. And they provide empowerment to the agent level. So there’s a couple of stories going on on Facebook. I don’t know whether it came to your wall or not. It’s about a lady who basically wrote to chewy.com that she has these bags of pet food; a dog, and a cat pet food, and she lost the dog 15 days ago and then lost the cat two days ago. It was really bad timing for her. So she said, “Can you take my two pet food bags back?” Chewy.com actually responded to her. They basically told her that they refunded her money, they asked her to donate those bags of food to the local shelter. A week later they sent her a set of flowers and it was a non-scripted e-mail, non-scripted handwritten letter saying, “We really think,” they named the pets by name, and they said, “Losing two, this is so sad,” a beautiful message with big flowers. And this lady actually went up online and organically gave feedback about her customer experience. And that’s not the only one online on Chewy’s customer service and lots of people have been about pet portraits and how they get mail saying that it’s getting hot right now, “How to prevent your dog,” and they always name the dog by name, and how — in this weather. So you see how they go above and beyond. And that’s the connection you mentioned about employees, right? You can deliver this kind of service that our employees and the customers of chewy.com are really their brand ambassador. I don’t know how many of my friends are actually coming to me about using them, keep in mind that they don’t have a reference program for customers. Customers are doing this because they are just so happy with what they have, whether it’s their videos on YouTube, whether it is 24 seven phone service, it’s just amazing how they are dealing with it. And it’s out there for everyone to see on wall street.

Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
No, I love it. I’d love it because that’s a great example of just doing it differently. And again, I think tapping into some of both the rational and the emotional side of the equation. As a followup to that, one of the unique things about Gallup is this employee side and how you guys try to kind of bring both the employee and customer experience together. Can you touch a little bit on the employee side and how you guys kind of see that fitting in?

Vipula Gandhi: (18:22)
Absolutely. So, employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of. And talent is always important and I know we went from historically lowest unemployment rates a couple of months ago to 26 million unfortunate job losses in the last few months, but talent will always be important and treating customer right starts with treating employees right. Gabe, you can’t give away what we don’t have. You can’t bring happiness if you don’t have it yourself and you feel unfairly treated. And a lot of founders, whether it’s the founder of Virgin or Southwest, they all have spoken largely about the importance of treating employees right, and especially in the service industry Gabe, it is extremely important that we understand the role employees play to deliver that experience. At Chewy.com, ensuring that they feel they can bring their talent to the role, and then they have the empowerment to do that. And everybody knows Ritz-Carlton’s empowering their people to deliver great service. Some of the iconic brands have always, always trusted their frontlines, ensuring they hired the right people with the right talent and give them the empowerment they need to bring delight to the customers. So, it’s a crucially important role in any customer experience that you will design.

Gabe Larsen: (19:55)
Yeah. I love that because I do feel like it’s, oftentimes we manage them separately. We think about them separately. We’ll get an NPS score and then we’ll get maybe an employee engagement score or some sort of employee satisfaction score. One is run by product or by customer experience or by marketing, and the other is run by HR and they don’t make a correlation. They don’t see that, “Hey, maybe our customer service reps are the most dissatisfied and they’re the ones who engage with our customers the most.” Should we talk about that because they’re always so separate? But that philosophy of kind of bringing that together makes, I think, a lot of sense and I’m surprised that more organizations don’t do that. Why do you think a lot of organizations don’t do that? Is it just because the one’s kind of typically been run over here and one’s been run over there?

Vipula Gandhi: (20:48)
So it’s really the organizational structures. You and me are very aware Gabe that activating great customer experience takes commitment from leadership. It does take measurement. That’s important. It takes advanced analytics, and more importantly, it actually takes accountability and follow through in the front lines to actually deliver it. Now, we know that when employees create an emotional connection with the customer, it does have a profound implication for productivity and profitability. When was the last time you went to a store and you entered the store in a retail environment and the person was there not even helping you choose dresses? And sometimes they really help you and you really kind of end up buying four things when you went up to buy one. It does matter. And when employees know how to make most of those moments that engage customers, we know that customers will spend more, they visit you more often, they will resist competitive overtures and they promote the company brand to others, and also forgive the occasional service blunder that we all commit. So it’s important to build that connection. In the organization, generally, these two things are looked at in different places. However, by serendipity, one of our clients, sometime like 15 years ago, we actually discovered that we were working with them on both employee side and customer side, driving those experiences, and we looked at the stores, the top 10 stores on employee experience driving, and we looked at the list of top 10 stores that customer experience was being done well. And we hypothesized that there’d be a lot of commonality between the two. Low and behold, we found that those two lists only had one store in common. That was something that surprised us in the data. And then as we started looking and doing some business analysis on the impact on business value, they looked at the fact that if companies just focused on driving employee experience, they got a 70% boost. If you look at companies that only focus on customer experiences, they also realize about that much. However, when companies harness the power of these two insights and parallels and they were doing both well, they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth. If you found the data, it came as a surprise to us as well, and we then repeated this hypothesis with multiple other clients, and we found that data tells you, it is just better to look at both these matrix together. So we can have employees who are engaged, who are talented, who want great experiences and who are empowered to then deliver on those engaging customer experiences, which will be great for organic growth.

Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, wow. Interesting. And that was, what kind of industry was that?

Vipula Gandhi: (23:51)
That was the retail industry because they had hundreds of stores across the U.S. and you need good data to at least do the first few experiments. So that really worked well. And it was so serendipitous that we came to this finding.

Gabe Larsen: (24:04)
Wow. So like a 2X, 2.4, 2.5X, when you were able to kind of start looking at those together. Interesting Vipula. Well, I love the talk track. We might have to do this again. You seem to be just full of interesting facts and tidbits. Obviously you’ve been doing it a long time, so I’m not surprised. We’ve hit a lot of different items, the rationale, emotional, the customer, the employee, and kind of managing them together. As you think about customer experience leaders out there, customer service leaders, is there a word kind of advice you’d give them as we leave today about how they can do their job better, especially in the current environment?

Vipula Gandhi: (24:44)
Absolutely. And I would start by saying, you have to, in this next and beyond phase of COVID-19, you have to restart with customers. What you have done so far to engage your customers, don’t take that for granted. I was a big loyal person of Marriott, and I loved their CEO’s talk about, very emotional talk about LinkedIn, actually about how he had to let go of people and how they’re hoping for things to start again. But in spite of all that, I love them. I love their leaders. I was concerned that they lost so many people, they lost money, is this still a safe place? Would they really, clean displays [inaudible] that’s important. And then I’m reading about how they are getting the hospital grade disinfectants in hospitality now. So all I’m saying is you need to regain engagement of customers in a limited budget and time. So we have to restart with customers and you have to redesign your customer experience because how to target new channels, how to target different customer segments, and how to cater to post COVID safety and quality and other concerns that your customers will have. New channels, if your expertise was meant to say branch experience, things that moved on to digital more, now how we want to deliver a human experience through technology? How to cut off new channels that you didn’t use before, like WhatsApp. How are these channels going to be safe? How are they going to be error free? How are they going to be — what would the new channel experience look like? So we have to restart with the customer. We have to redesign our customer experiences and we have to keep close to our customers, listen to our customers and listen to our front lines because that’s where we get fast ideas in a limited budget to think about what the future holds for us. So, you know, I’m deep into — I love thinking through this, this is a new challenge, and I truly believe in the era of the great human spirit. We will come over this challenge and forge ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (26:57)
I love it. Those are inspiring words. We need to overcome it because it certainly, for many people has been a very, very challenging time. Well Vipula, I really appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Gallup and some of the things you guys do over there, what’s the best way to do that?

Vipula Gandhi: (27:18)
Digital, LinkedIn. My name is Vipula Gandhi. Do connect with me on LinkedIn and I would love to continue the conversations. This is a subject close to my heart so –.

Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
We can tell, we can tell. Again, thank you so much for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Vipula Gandhi: (27:30)
Thank you so much.

Exit Voice: (27:37)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Jason Henne, Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar, to discuss customer service for high-end brands and how to maintain brand reputation in new and existing industries. Jason Henne started his career in CX 26 years ago working for a telecommunications company as a service rep. After moving his way up the company and switching to luxury packaged goods, he has spent the last 15 years at the VP/Director level on customer service for luxury or big ticket products. He and Gabe discuss valuable insights into ideas of tired customer service. Listen to the full podcast below.

Examples, Definitions and Results of White Glove Customer Experience

Gabe and Jason start their conversation off by discussing the definition of white glove customer experience and if it only applies to big ticket customers. Jason notes that while there is a need to make sure that high paying customers get their money’s worth, every customer is valuable. When you work with luxury brands, that expectation is already there. White glove customer service is going above and beyond what the customer expects, even when they are expecting a lot because it is a luxury brand. Jason shares an example of luxury dealership vs any other dealership. He states, “You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, … you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.”

How to Uphold Brand Reputation and Recognition

Another important aspect of customer service that Gabe and Jason discuss is the need for positive brand recognition and reputation. Jason is currently working at Momentum Solar, a new industry that typically has a negative connotation. However, his company has done a few things to separate themselves from the negative connotation of their competitors. The first thing they do to build recognition and reputation is educating the customer on the industry, then the company. Jason states, “And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service.”

The next thing Jason does with his team to ensure a positive brand reputation is taking every review seriously and getting other departments involved. Solving problems and having the budget to go above and beyond for customers requires department coordination. Positive discussions have to take place with the finance department and the sales team so that they can approve budgets and be aware of any changes made. To summarize, Jason notes, “we’re all working … and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. … Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.”

The Goal of Golden or White Glove CX Experience

As a final piece of advice for companies trying to adjust and improve their customer experience, Jason reminds companies what the goal is for the CX department. He states, “By the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.” No customer actually wants to call the customer service department to try and get their issue resolved, but it is necessary. Because of this necessity, Jason points out that it is the job of the CX department to make sure that the phone call or interaction with the customer is as effortless as possible and that the customer leaves happy and satisfied. For a final piece of motivation for companies to remember this goal and strive for it, Jason states, “By keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.”

To learn more about how to adapt your business to the new market, 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:

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne

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. We’re going to be talking about two things here. Number one is, how to really drive customer experience with high-end brands. When you’re talking about big ticket items, that real red carpet experience. In addition, we want to navigate through how to manage reputation a little bit in challenging times or in challenging industries. We’ve got such an interesting guest with such a diverse background. We wanted to hit a couple of different topics today. So to do that, we brought on Jason Henne. He’s currently the Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar. Jason, thanks for joining. How are you?

Jason Henne: (00:51)
I am doing great. Thanks very much for having me today. I really appreciate it.

Gabe Larsen: (00:55)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s always fun to talk to someone who’s got such a — a lot of experience in CX, lot of different roles, et cetera. I think it will be a fun talk track. Can you just double click a little bit on your experience and background and talk a little bit about that?

Jason Henne: (01:10)
Yeah, sure. Sure. First and foremost, I just want to make sure everybody is safe and sound and healthy and doing good and all that, especially in these crazy times, but yeah. So I’ve been in customer service now, this is my 26th year. I started in 1994 in telecommunications as literally a customer service rep on the phones for a telecom company working the 4-40 shift. So I worked 10 hours a day, four days a week, the overnight shift, and then got three days off in a row. And through the years I worked my way up from a call center rep to team lead, to manager, to national account manager, to senior manager. And then I shifted out of telecom into consumer packaged goods on the luxury end where I became a director. And I’ve stayed at the director and VP level now for the past 15 years and anything from, like I said, I started in telecom, but, at least over the past decade or so, I’ve been in what we would consider luxury or big ticket items where you really need to give that white glove and red carpet customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (02:19)
I love that. Yeah, that’s quite the diversified experience. I think it’ll be fun to hear about some of those different experiences. So let’s dive in and maybe we can start with this high end customer service experience; big ticket items, “white glove” as you kind of phrase it as. How do you, if you just kind of for the audience, is it really that much different of motion when you kind of are working for a Porsche versus a Toyota for example. I mean —

Jason Henne: (02:49)
Sure.

Gabe Larsen: (02:49)
Isn’t it customer experience or is it really that much different?

Jason Henne: (02:53)
So you’d like the customer to think that customer experience is customers experience; however, in reality, that really isn’t the case. When you’re working telecom or a cable company or anything like that, they get you on the phone, they get you off the phone. They take care of your problem. That’s it. However, when, just like you said, when you’re talking about Porsche, Cadillac, any luxury brand where they’re spending the money in one big lump sum, whether it’s a finance or a lease or a large purchase, or just sometimes the brand name itself, there’s a reputation that you have to uphold to keep that brand reputation and that brand recognition. So the customers expect that and the customers demand that. So whether it be, I’ll give you an example. When I worked in telecom, we got graded as reps on our average call time. They wanted to keep the calls at, I believe it was, four minutes or less.

Gabe Larsen: (03:57)
Got it.

Jason Henne: (03:58)
I moved on into luxury and I became a leader in the luxury realm. I took call time and threw it out the window. I don’t care if you’re on the phone with a customer for an hour, if you are giving them service that they need at the service that they deserve. And most importantly, resolving their problem, if possible on that one call, that one call resolution. That’s what matters because they’re going to then get off the phone and say, wow, I was really treated great. And then, say they’re at a dinner party or talking to their friends or something and they’re comparing what brands they use or what company they use, that one person could tell the 10 or 15 people that they’re at a dinner party with; “Yeah, well, I’m using X brand and I had an issue with them a few weeks ago and I called them up and wow, they handled everything I needed in an hour and they didn’t rush me. I didn’t feel rushed. And they handled my situation perfectly.”

Gabe Larsen: (04:54)
What I love. And I love that. So it’s a different, there’s certain things you can do in kind of that luxury environment that you probably just can’t really do in kind of that velocity environment, where you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of transactions and customers.

Jason Henne: (05:11)
Right. And you nailed it when you did the comparison versus Porsche and another type of car. You go in to get your car service and say, you have, I don’t know, a Ugo from like the eighties, if you could find a place that services, and you go and, “All right. Yeah. We’ll take care of it, have a seat.” Well, whatever. You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, or a Porsche dealership, you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.

Gabe Larsen: (05:49)
Right.

Jason Henne: (05:50)
So again, it’s brand reputation, it’s word of mouth. And that’s what I take in, in where I am now at Momentum Solar. We are a big ticket item. We really are. It’s not an inexpensive purchase and there are so many benefits to it. And because we know that the customers are spending a good amount of money on their product, if they have an issue with their product or with their contractor, a billing issue, which we have to explain to them, I don’t care how long we’re on the phone with them for. I don’t care if it takes 60, 90 minutes to go over step by step of the agreement or go over their billing with them piece by piece. I want to make sure that when the conversation is done, their situation is resolved, they have peace of mind, and they were wowed by our customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (06:43)
Yeah, I do. I think that’s the right mentality. I love the examples. So one is the phone call, for example, right? Where you kind of ditch the call time and said, “Let’s just focus on whatever we need to focus on to get this right.” And ditch that kind of call time. As you’ve worked with some of your luxury brands in your past, are there other of those types of examples where you did, you kind of got into the specifics of doing it differently, kind of —

Jason Henne: (07:14)
Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (07:15)
Asked differently, et cetera?

Jason Henne: (07:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I was at, I spent a year as a head of customer service for a very high end interior wall covering company. And my boss who was the chief operations officer, his name is Mike. He was, and what he taught me, and he was so big on integrity. And listen, I’ve always been big on integrity, but they took it to another level and say something wrong happened and you know it was our fault or it was just something that couldn’t be out of everybody’s wheelhouse, right. We knew it was no one’s fault of our own. Maybe it was a shipper or something, but it fell on us and we needed to make it right. Not only do you give the apology, do you make it right, you then, we then went above and beyond. Right. And what I mean by that is, okay, let’s make this more personal. We’re going to send them maybe a bouquet of flowers with an apology note, or we work with a vendor that supplied fudge and brownies for us. So we would send them a box of chocolates with an apology note, or a simple thing such as a balloon or something like that, just to apologize. And I think the integrity and taking accountability of maybe it wasn’t our fault 100%, but we know the onus does fall on us and we’re going to make it right. And we’re going to show you that we’re sorry, and we’re going to show you that we are continually there for you.

Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Got it. Yeah. So you really did, I mean, you’ve found a way again to just go. It’s almost like in a regular brand, they have these, I say regular brand, but they have these kinds of premier, platinum, the gold, silver, bronze, but it’s like you’re only delivering that gold service, right? Whether it’s a phone call issue resolution. Do you find that, I mean, more companies want to deliver, more companies want to do some of the things you’re talking about. It’s just that it’s too timely and too costly. Right? There’s just gotta be a balance. You just can’t, you can’t do that, you can’t give the bagels to everybody. Right?

Jason Henne: (09:29)
Right, right. You’re right. So, what you have to do is a lot, I don’t want to say begging, but make sure you’re vocal in your finance meetings when you’re talking about your operational expenses, when you’re talking about your capital expenses for the next year. “Hey, Cap X for next year. Okay. On the operational side, we know we might need a few more reps because our call volume, our average call time is still higher. Let’s make sure that we have the Cap X in there for some extra computers for next year. So balance out any additional headcount. Let’s make sure, put your ideas to them, to the finance department when you’re going over your budget for the next year. Make your case, state your case, create a PowerPoint presentation, give reasons why, get surveys from your customers and show them what the customers want. That really does help.

Gabe Larsen: (10:27)
Yeah. Yeah. Do you recommend, I like the planning because I think some people want to deliver that exceptional customer experience, but you mentioned Cap X for example, it’s like, they’re not thinking about the things that need to be in place to do that. Well, you might need some additional headcounts, some different machines, technology, computers, et cetera. Anything else you’ve done double click on that. Like, “Hey, if you’re going to really plan to deliver a great customer experience or go above and beyond a budget people,” anything else you’d highlight in that aspect?

Jason Henne: (10:59)
Yeah, training. You make sure your reps are fully trained on every type of material, product, or service that you’re delivering. So when they’re on the phone with the customer, they don’t have to say, “Ah, I don’t know. Let me find out and call you back.” You want to make sure —

Gabe Larsen: (11:16)
That empowerment, right?

Jason Henne: (11:18)
Yeah. Yeah. And you want to make sure that rep has that knowledge right off the bat. And if it’s a lot to take in, make sure you have a very well rounded and full and easy to navigate knowledge base.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
So they can actually get the answers that they potentially want. Right?

Jason Henne: (11:36)
Exactly. And make sure that the knowledge base stays updated because things change constantly and you don’t want to miss anything and tell the customer something from four years ago that might not be applicable now.

Gabe Larsen: (11:48)
Yeah, welcome to everybody’s world. Right? That, that, that darn going, gonna curse. What would you kind of advise? Or, how would you advise clients who are thinking about, I’m forgetting the name I’ve often heard about it, but it’s kind of the tiered customer service program, right? It is that if you’re a gold platinum member, if you’re a high end member, you kind of do go to this and you do get treated differently. Is that, maybe you’ve done that or not done that, but do you think that’s a wise thing to go for? Is it just like, just treat everybody valuable?

Jason Henne: (12:20)
I agree with treating everybody valuable. However, I do understand that companies do tier A, tier B, tier C, depending on the amount of money that a customer —

Gabe Larsen: (12:30)
Yeah.

Jason Henne: (12:31)
Depending on the amount of money that a customer spends either lifetime or through a five-year, four-year or three-year span. However, I think with that, there can become number one, confusion; number two, you then have to make sure your CRM is updated on what level they are; and number three, you then have to

Gabe Larsen: (12:51)
You have three different policies. Don’t you? It’s like–

Jason Henne: (12:54)
Then you have, yes, then you have three different policies and then you have to worry about how do we automatically make sure we know that customer is an, A, B and C when they call. Do you have to put their phone number in your, your call center phone system to make sure they go into this segmented queue? Or does it go into the general queue where they could get everybody and are they first in, first out? There’s a lot of planning in that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
Yeah, yeah. That, that last part, I mean, personalization was before COVID, I think a bigger buzzword. It’s kind of dropped, I think people are talking about a few different things, but yeah, that ability just to do phone lookups and keep the history of all the transactions that somebody has done to really be like, “Hey, I noticed you had a flight in the last couple of months, or you did these purchases.” That’s not a ticketing system. That’s consistent with the CRM system and not all CRMs. So you are sometimes talking about multiple layers of complexity there. Not that, I’m certainly, you’re probably more expert than I am, but I did just want to highlight that because I’ve heard multiple people, we don’t have a CRM, we have a ticketing system. Case management is not CRM.

Jason Henne: (14:09)
Right. That’s such a great point. So I guess to answer your question, I’m not a fan of first class, second class, third class customers. I think everybody should be treated the exact same because that customer that maybe was once a one time purchaser might end up being a multiple time purchaser, giving a ton of referrals if we treat them the same way that we’re going to treat someone who’s spending a hundred thousand dollars on a claim.

Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
Interesting. Interesting. Okay. I want to turn for a minute and attack this, kind of your guys’ space. One of the things that I felt was interesting in your background and actually more in your current prerogative is solar. Solar has, it just has an interesting history, right? It’s had some government stuff, you’ve had some door knocker people. In some cases, in some areas it’s really taken off. In other places, it has a little bit of a bad rap. How have you been able to manage through what let’s maybe call an emerging industry? Something that’s not Telecom. I mean, that’s been around a hundred year. Solar, it’s just got a lot of different players. It’s got a lot of different attitudes, reputations. How does it kind of work managing through some of those intricacies?

Jason Henne: (15:30)
Well, number one, you’re right. Solar has not been around for a long time. It’s still emerging and we’re still getting into more States, as governments are approving it for more tax incentives and that sort of thing. And with that, there have been some negative stigmas because… like you said, people canvassing houses, however, it’s all about proper education and the proper way to go about it. We want to make sure here at Momentum Solar, we want to make sure that every customer is educated correctly and not just on Momentum, but solar in general.

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
That’s fantastic.

Jason Henne: (16:07)
And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service, where multiple climbs on inc 500, our CEO, one in 500 speaks word, um, for CEO of the year for New Jersey. There’s a lot to be said about brand reputation when the industry itself might have a negative stigma about it. We’re not the same solar company as XYZ solar company that might have a million bad reviews. We’re A+ rated on the BBB and we use that. To have it and maintain an A+ rating in the BBB is pretty darn good. And it’s pretty darn important.

Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
And what do you tribute that to? I mean, just double click on that, because that is a big deal. Is that, I mean, you’ve obviously not just, that didn’t come — that took a little work. Right? So [inaudible] I love the education part. So it sounds like you guys focus a lot on education to kind of say, “You know what, let’s sell you on solar first. Let’s talk about Momentum second.” What are some of the other things you’ve done to make sure that you keep that reputation up in the air? That’s impressive. That rating.

Jason Henne: (17:30)
Yeah. So our Better Business Bureau complaints do come directly to my department and we handle them internally. And, because we take such pride in our customer service and we take Better Business Bureau, like I said, is very important. Some companies might not think so, some companies might not care about their grade, but we do. The Better Business Bureau replies, once we go call the customer and try to rectify their issue with them, myself and my management team, it’s either myself or I assign in seminar management. We’re the one that personally writes the replies.

Gabe Larsen: (18:07)
Wow. Wow, cool.

Jason Henne: (18:09)
I don’t want to find that out to anybody.

Gabe Larsen: (18:12)
Yeah.

Jason Henne: (18:13)
I want my department to handle it. We might work with other departments to get the situation resolved because we’re one big team, which is another thing when talking about industry reputation and how to still, how to change that stigma by providing white glove customer service. Constantly, constantly interacting with different departments on a daily basis. When we’re all not working at home, we’re all working in the office and we’re constantly getting up and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. So every issue is not just, “Hey, look at this, let’s get this done,” it’s, “Hey, we need some time to talk this issue out.” Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can then be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.

Gabe Larsen: (19:12)
Nice closed loop process on that. You’re kind of bringing —

Jason Henne: (19:17)
Absolutely. And solar, like I said, solar is not an inexpensive ticket. However, in the long run, it does save you money because of the solar energy that you’re producing and then consuming. So that’s one big piece of education that we have to give the customer. Yes, it might be right.

Gabe Larsen: (19:39)
Maybe that makes tons of sense. So, so number one is you guys have done a lot of education too. It sounds like you’re pretty maniacal about, you’ve identified something like a reputation management tool, like the Better Business Bureau and take it very serious. To the extent of action planning, results, you get feedback, you close that feedback loop fairly quickly, put the change and get it back to the sales team and see if you can do it. Anything else on the mind as you think about your customer service and really trying to drive a different approach in kind of this emerging solar industry that you guys do?

Jason Henne: (20:16)
Yeah. So it goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning with white glove customer service. If you call our customer service number, we don’t have an IVR where you’re saying something and then we’re giving you an answer via AI or anything like that. I want —

Gabe Larsen: (20:34)
You don’t like AI? You’re a human guy, not an AI guy. Huh?

Jason Henne: (20:39)
I absolutely like AI. However, I think for certain price ticket items and certain issues, you need the human touch.

Gabe Larsen: (20:47)
Interesting.

Jason Henne: (20:48)
You need that. You need that human touch. So when a customer or a prospective customer calls, they only have two options in our phone tree, sales and customer service. That’s it. And they’re going to talk to a live person every time. Maybe in the future we’ll implement some AI. If they won’t get there.

Gabe Larsen: (21:10)
You’ve made it available. So yeah, they can basically, there’s no crazy phone tree to go through. You’ve made it simple. It’s quite an effortless experience.

Jason Henne: (21:21)
Right? And the other company I was referring to earlier with our luxury wall covering company that I was the head of customer service for, they don’t even use a phone tree. They, every single call was answered in nine seconds or less live. No prerecording first, press one for this, press two for that, every call was answered live. And if customer service had to transfer that call to a specific person, maybe it was a client asking for somebody in a sales department, we then transferred the call, but there was no recording at all. Every call was answered live in nine seconds or less.

Gabe Larsen: (21:57)
Cool. That’s awesome. I mean, it’s those types of, I just that word of making it easy, right? I mean, the AI is, I think it’s a big thing and in the right time, this word deflection and finding a way of good balance is important, but I like your approach. It’s like where we are right now. Want to make it easy for the customer. Let’s do it. Let’s get it quick and see if we can’t start that process to make sure they’re happening quickly. Jason, I appreciate the talk track. It’s fun. Just to kind of hear about some of your different experiences, again, quite a wealth of experience, both luxury and telecom and now solar. Sounds like there’s some overlap, but definitely sometimes you’ve gone more high end, spent more time, more dollars. Other times you’ve tried to find a bit more of a balance there. As you think about customer service, certainly it’s a challenging time with all that’s going on. What advice would you kind of summarize with, for customer leaders who are trying to figure out how to, and I’ll use a generic term here, but just win, survive, manage all the leads that are coming in, keep the customer service levels high while the satisfaction still is maintained as good. But what would you kind of move in with?

Jason Henne: (23:03)
You know, this is you’re right. This is a really trying time right now. Every customer service department for the most part is working from home and oddly enough, it’s working. Its working. Our service levels are so high right now and our productivity because people aren’t being, I guess, their attention is being kept. What they have to do. They’re not in an office with 300 people. If we need to have meetings, we’re going to zoom it or message or anything like that. Keep remembering that when the customer calls you, they don’t want to call you. It’s a nuisance to them. They’re calling to have a problem taken care of and to give them the peace of mind that they want. So what I can say is what, one thing I tell all my employees is the customer is not wanting to call you. However, by the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.

Jason Henne: (24:07)
And that’s yeah, that’s the advice I can give.

Gabe Larsen: (24:11)
Yeah. It was like the guys, they’re calling for a problem and that problem needs to be resolved. Let’s not forget the fundamental purpose of customer service. Forget all the times and the numbers. And it’s like, here’s the problem, how do we solve it? Let’s make it easy.

Jason Henne: (24:27)
Yeah. And you know what, let’s make them happy. Let’s make them happy that they did call so they don’t think it was a waste of time. And by doing that and by keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (24:47)
Right. I love it. Well, Jason, again, really appreciated the talk track. Fun to kind of talk through a little bit of these different items. If someone wants to get ahold of you or just continue the conversation, what’s the best way to do that?

Jason Henne: (24:58)
Okay. They could send me a direct email at J H E N N E@momentumsolar.com. M O M E N T U M, solar, S O L A R.com. Or just look me up on LinkedIn, Jason Henne, J A S O N H E N N E. I’ll be more than happy to connect with you and message with you back and forth if you so choose. And yeah, this was a lot of fun.

Gabe Larsen: (25:22)
Yeah. I really appreciate it. We might have to bring you back for round two next quarter, just to continue to kind of chat about what’s what’s the–

Jason Henne: (25:28)
I would love it.

Gabe Larsen: (25:29)
So anyways, man, have a great day. For the audience–

Jason Henne: (25:32)
I would love it.

Gabe Larsen: (25:33)
Take care.

Jason Henne: (25:35)
No problem. Thank you so much for having me on.

Exit Voice: (23:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown

Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Nate Brown to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and how companies need to adapt to them. Nate is the Founder of CX Accelerator, a virtual community that encourages and supports CX professionals in the tough work that they do. Nate is also the Chief Experience Officer at Officium Labs, a company dedicated to decentralizing wealth by investing in high quality CX products and concepts. Gabe and Nate provide valuable insights on change management and how companies can evolve and thrive in the new market.

The Need for a CX Change Coalition

Customer service is still a relatively new department and career path. Customer service professionals are becoming more crucial employees as business leaders find they need someone to take care and understand the skyrocketing expectations of their customers. The organizations that have been able to deliver on customer expectations during this pandemic are the ones surviving and thriving, while others that have failed to build digital transformation may be struggling. Nate mentions that CX professionals are absolutely essential for businesses; to benefit their customers and to help their company financially.

As CX is evolving and growing, Nate mentions that part of that evolution will be in the execution of CX ideas. He mentions the question is, “How do we drive meaningful change inside of complex organizations?” In response to this question he states, “So I feel like the work of CX is becoming more and more the work of a change management and cheerleader.” To go about doing this, one thing Nate suggests is a CX Change Coalition. This idea revolves around the CEO giving CX the time and attention it deserves and, ideally, the CEO will be including other departments in CX conversations to improve “end to end customer experience.” In short, a CX Change Coalition is the process of getting the CEO and the rest of the company engaged in, and conscious of, the customer’s experience.

The Importance of Listening in Every Stage of a Customer’s Journey

Another useful tactic to adapting in a new market is understanding how the customer communicates in various stages of their experience. Depending on the problem or the customer, they could communicate their issues through a variety of channels in a variety of different points of the journey. The customer is always going to give feedback and voice their opinions of their customer experience, whether through company channels or on their own. Nate calls these structured and unstructured channels. To elaborate, Nate states:

You’ve got your structured and unstructured listening paths. Unstructured is where you don’t get to control it. The customers are out there saying what they’re going to say. You want to try and position yourself to learn from that as much as you possibly can. … Wherever you can, you want to create those opportunities for structured feedback. And you want to supplement that with the unstructured feedback that’s already going on in the world. So the ultimate question Gabe, is how can we best listen to our customers where they are?

Companies that learn to listen to their customers whether from feedback through structured or unstructured channels, will be better equipped to adapt to the ever changing market.

Employees and How to Take On the New CX World

As the market and customer changes, companies change. However, if companies are trying to evolve but they leave their employees out of the loop, they are missing the mark. It takes a lot of effort and time to change a company mindset because it is dependent on the employees. Nate suggests that to change employee mindset and to start adapting to this new market, companies must first understand the psychology of their customers and employees. He shares a few guiding questions to help with this process:

How can I motivate my employees to serve customers better and understand what those right motivators are? And then how can I understand the psychology of my customer more? And then from there you can create the strategy and the fundamental best practices and the change management techniques…Why does our customer do business with us, and how can we increase their loyalty and work backwards from there?

With these questions Nate shares that companies will have a good foundational start to improve and adapt their businesses and employees to the new business market.

To learn more about how to adapt your business to the new market, 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:

Learning to Adapt in an Ever Changing Market With Nate Brown

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about all things CX and to do that, we brought in Nate Brown. The guy is multitalented. I ran into him at CX Accelerator, which he’ll talk about in just a minute. He’s also the Chief Experience Officer. He’s got content up the wazoo. He’s a man of many talents. So Nate, thanks for joining man. How are you?

Nate Brown: (00:36)
Oh, good Gabe. Well, thank you and happy St. Patrick’s Day to you my friend.

Gabe Larsen: (00:40)
Yeah, I noticed. You’re all green, I love it. Don’t think I’m not ready. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’m ready.

Nate Brown: (00:46)
Man, if I could pinch you, I would because I’m not seeing no green there.

Gabe Larsen: (00:48)
Are you kidding me? This is a deep green.

Nate Brown: (00:52)
Alright, fair enough.

Gabe Larsen: (00:54)
I noticed that. I meant to say that. Well I’m glad to jump in here, but before we do, can you tell us a little bit about some of the — there’s so many things going on, tell us about some of the things you’re doing and why we should care about it.

Nate Brown: (01:07)
Yeah, sure. So CX Accelerator, virtual community, just an incredible space with incredible people, especially right now with everything going on in the world. We’re just there to encourage one another, just build it up, edify those CX professionals that are out here doing tough work.

Gabe Larsen: (01:23)
Yep.

Nate Brown: (01:23)
The work of the CX professional already was hard. It is getting harder. So we need a space to encourage one another and just to be real with the things that are going on. So that is CX Accelerator. And then recently began working for Officium Labs as their Chief Experience Officer. And that has been just absolutely awesome.

Gabe Larsen: (01:42)
Yep.

Nate Brown: (01:42)
So getting to do a lot of ambassador work for NCX speaking, writing, blogging different things, and also working as a practitioner inside of some of the best video game studios in the world, which has been so much fun as well.

Gabe Larsen: (01:55)
Wow. Wow. And that’s Officium Labs. Got it.

Nate Brown: (01:59)
You’re right. Yeah. It is “service” in Latin, it’s the word “officium.”

Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
I love it. Yeah, officium, service in Latin. And we’ll hear more about that in just a minute. So, I wanted to talk about the big picture, obviously we’ve got an evolving landscape going on in customer service, wanting to just start there for a minute. How are you seeing things changing through all that’s going on now and really just the general evolution of the CX space?

Nate Brown: (02:29)
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to put a pin on that. I mean, if we look at even like the CXPA, I mean that’s only, shoot, nine years old.

Gabe Larsen: (02:36)
Yep.

Nate Brown: (02:37)
2011. It’s still very much an emerging art. Anybody that tells you that they know everything about CX is a liar because it’s still being birthed. This function is still being created and we get to be the pioneers that are helping to do that, which is really fun and exciting. It’s amazing how cool this work is and the fact that it’s the unification of doing the right thing for people. We’re serving people really well and taking the friction out of their experiences and making their lives better in that way. But it’s also absolutely the right thing to do for the business financially because we know that those brands that are being authentic and creating compelling customer experiences, those are the brands that people want to do business with that have the customer loyalty factor and are gobbling up that market share. So it’s the combination of these two things of doing the right thing for people doing the right thing for the business. And that’s not going to change, but the way that we do this and in the mentalities around it, the best practices around it, I mean, those things are still being formed. And at least for me Gabe, I mean, recently I’ve just been going back to the fundamentals around change management because the technology has come so far in our ability to get great customer insights and great customer data.

Gabe Larsen: (03:52)
Yep.

Nate Brown: (03:53)
And that’s where the technology has met us right now. We know our customers, the hearts and minds of our customers, better than we ever have before. And we’re able to centralize and analyze that data in remarkable ways. So now we know what we need to do. The past eight years in this work, I mean, that’s kind of been the challenge and the finish line. How, how do we even know what our customers want from us?

Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
Yeah.

Nate Brown: (04:16)
Now we’re, we’re kinda there. So, wow. Now that work has changed to now, how do we actually execute on this? How do we drive meaningful change inside of complex organizations? So I feel like the work of CX is becoming more and more the work of a change management and cheerleader.

Gabe Larsen: (04:34)
Hmm. How do you relate that to some of the changing tides that we’re currently seeing? I mean, certainly change management is one of those core principles that just won’t go away. Do you see that core principle changing in the way people deliver that kind of exceptional customer experience knowing that certain industries are moving more digital, for example.

Nate Brown: (04:55)
Right. Yeah. It’s almost embarrassing to look and see the statistics around how many digital transformation efforts are failing. It’s somewhere between 80 and 95% of digital transformation efforts are failing. And I really feel like that’s because they’re not unified, they’re not partnering actively with the customer experience initiative inside of the organization.

Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Right.

Nate Brown: (05:21)
These two things should be lockstep. I mean, when we think about DTC, digital transformation, it’s enhancing the experience of the employees and the customers over digital channels. That’s what it’s doing. So why would we not be taking the intelligence from a CX function, the abilities and the empathy and just the mentality of a CX function and be applying it to those digital transformation capabilities, because both are going to fail without the other. We need each other. So I think that’s a major change and something that will continue to evolve as the scope of customer experience work evolves into UX, user design, brand experience, digital experience as the CX professional absorbs more and more of this responsibility, I hope and I think that we’ll have more, more power to actually control our destiny and the destiny of our customers.

Gabe Larsen: (06:16)
Yeah. Why do you feel like we’ve struggled to get there so far? We’ve just been waiting for some sort of event to force us to come together, or is it just your typical kind of siloed organization? You do this, you do that. What stopped us from bringing some of those things together and under the umbrella of just kind of an overall experience?

Nate Brown: (06:35)
I think about how long it took for marketing to be viewed as a legitimate function and the role of a CMO to really be valued and respected. And that took a long time and I feel like the CXO, chief experience officers kind of there, or it’s kind of a wait and see of why are you here? Why did we need you again?

Gabe Larsen: (06:55)
You don’t own –You don’t have a specific org right? It’s like you’re this cross functional nobody.

Nate Brown: (07:03)
I mean, so either people really want you there and they are actively recruiting you for assistance and enhancing the experience within their purview, or they’re just kind of looking at you confused. And I have been in organizations and been viewed in both of those ways. And it’s really hard. Both are really hard. I mean the best case scenario, everybody’s looking to you to guide the strategy and to be the primary drum beater on how to improve CX and get everybody excited on the topic of CX. That’s your best case scenario. And what happens more often is that the chief– the experience leader is coming in and everybody gets territorial, or a lot of people get territorial, and they end up not getting to have control or meaningful responsibility across the end to end customer journey. And the work is stymied.

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
That’s so true. That’s so true. What is optimal in that? I mean, you touched on it a little bit, but as you think about, well, even CX and experience that these two leaderships, and then you bring in some other roles, how do you see those working together to ultimately benefit the customer?

Nate Brown: (08:17)
I mean, in my mind it’s a strong CX change coalition that is cross-functional and that you have people that really want it. I mean, they’ve seen the light in terms of when we help our customers to win, we win and you’re not having to sit there and prove the value of the work. You actually get to do the work and that’s the best case scenario. And it’s the CEO, that gets to really set the context for that. “Hey, this is our number one priority. Here’s all the reasons why, if we don’t make our customer experience a legendary, then we won’t be here in 10 years. This is the way that the experience economy is moving. I have isolated this individual in this function, that’s going to help guide us intelligently in our strategy here. And we’re all gonna work with this individual as part of the CX change coalition to improve our end to end customer experience.” That right there is the best case scenario in my opinion.

Gabe Larsen: (09:15)
And I love the CEO buy in, right? I mean that’s always a — you get someone on top who really pushes it all the way down and makes everybody come sit at the same table. That can make a huge difference just in and of itself. So I love that you’ve mentioned let’s make that end to end experience great. Sometimes I feel like people struggle in the tactics of bringing some of these ideas to fruition. You’ll hear words like journey maps, you’ll hear words like, certain drivers of net promoter. You know, are we making it easier? Or our wait time, or maybe it’s different metrics that people have. As you’ve worked with different organizations or you’ve kind of thought through this process, what are some of the things — is there certain principles or best practices you’ve found that if you really want to start to get that end to end experience optimized, change — like you mentioned change management, are there different things that you’re like, “Man, you gotta get this right. Gotta focus here.” And that really puts you on that path to success.

Nate Brown: (10:17)
And there’s — it’s going to have to look different inside of each organization, of course. Highly customized approach based on the needs of the organization and your customer demographic. But, there is a bit of a formula that I feel like is somewhat transcendent. And I’ve captured that in the CX Primer, which I think you’ve looked at.

Gabe Larsen: (10:36)
Hey man, I use it to onboard myself. That’s got some goods in it.

Nate Brown: (10:40)
Yeah. That’s kinda my heart and soul in terms of my approach to CX. It starts with that leadership and strategy, establishing that strong CX Change Coalition, getting people as allies into the work. As Jeanne Bliss would say, “Identifying the power core in the organization, making them a CX ally.” That is required in the beginning, then it’s working with that CX Change Coalition. What is the right customer KPI in each of these different touch points doing your initial journey map as a hypothesis map. And then you build up your voice of customer engine. Stage two, voice of customer engine. Are we positioned to listen to our customers? Yes or no, creating your listening paths, identifying your customer segments, your personas, working through how can we listen to these individuals the best, getting those insights collected and centralized and getting a great CX dashboard created so that before you start making a bunch of changes, you can actually see how those changes are impacting your customer’s lives.

Gabe Larsen: (11:42)
Like the current– really understand that current state as different things are tweaked. You can almost see how well it’s impacting that future for your organization. Talk about this “voices” concept and being able to make sure you can hear at different touch points, the voice or voices of the customer. How are organizations thinking about that portion? I’ve certainly read the journey maps, but the voice thing is interesting. Can you double click on that for a second?

Nate Brown: (12:10)
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I like to start with looking at the different touch points. Here’s this part of the customer experience, what’s going on here, and how would a customer generally articulate their thoughts and perceptions about us in this area? Is it going to be on some website, in a social review? Is it going to be more word of mouth based? Is it something where we can create a structured channel here? Because you’ve got your structured and unstructured listening paths. Unstructured is where you don’t get to control it. The customers are out there saying what they’re going to say. You want to try and position yourself to learn from that as much as you possibly can. Then where you can be smart about it and say, “Wow, we could pop up something here just really quickly in a great UI, something really flashing and clean and compelling where the customer would be very likely to give us some structured feedback that would be very helpful in this area.” Wherever you can, you want to create those opportunities for structured feedback. And you want to supplement that with the unstructured feedback that’s already going on in the world. So the ultimate question Gabe is how can we best listen to our customers where they are?

Gabe Larsen: (13:23)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. I love that. And it is. It’s almost by touchpoint, it sounds like, right? I mean, you’re looking at each individual interaction or on this journey and really trying to dissect what is the voice or how do we listen to that individual touch or what’s maybe a KPI that we can show how well that touchpoint is or is not driving the customer forward. Do you — so many — and I think this comes from the call center, our call center days, but so many age old KPIs, right? When you throw out a word like that, it’s like, Oh yeah, you’ve got a lot of us old school, I’m going to say us, but, I’m not probably in that as much, but she had some old school people, you know, they love some of these old school KPIs and metrics. It feels like when you talk about this modern journey map, and then really looking at these different touch points, are there some creative measurements that you’re seeing people do along that journey to be able to understand the voice and how customers are reacting at different touch points? Or, are most people still kind of using the, again, the age old debate, a hold time and an NPS and things like that as they go through their journey.

Nate Brown: (14:37)
Yeah. It’s a great question. I think that we have seen a good evolution in this area and in some of the things that I’ve been seeing. I’d be happy Gabe to share if you could somehow get this out, a sample of a good journey map that includes each of those touchpoints, some examples of different KPIs that I think are good for those areas. As you get into that marketing area, a great marketing metric is NPS. It’s a referral based metric. How do people generally feel about our product or service period? So, I mean, that’s a good marketing based question, but as you get into the sales cycle and get into the implementation of a product or service, what you’re looking for at that point is the wisdom captured in the effortless experience. You’re looking for, how easy is it to do business with us? That ease of business score becomes more essential there because of that is what is a better depicter of customer loyalty. It’s about customer loyalty. So when you get to support, a traditional customer service environment, you can look at some of those KPIs around customer effort score. You definitely need some operational data in there that’s specific to a contact center or support environment. Generally, average handle time is not going to correlate at all to customer loyalty or to a meaningful metric in most environments. There are cases where that is important and that could be applicable, but more, what we’re looking for in the support area is something like customer satisfaction and customer effort score and what we want to do, kind of the metric that really shows that end to end customer journey, customer lifetime value. We want to correlate all this stuff to be able to see how loyal is our customer, what is the share of wallet that we’re able to obtain from them and how referenceable can we make them to where they’re introducing us to their network and becoming brand ambassadors.

Gabe Larsen: (16:34)
Yeah.

Nate Brown: (16:36)
Those are the things that matter. And there is no metric that captures that as well as something like a customer lifetime value or another Jeanne Bliss-ism, the customer growth engine, where you’re just looking at your organic customer base by volume and value and asking yourself, have we earned the right to grow this? As we look at this quarter over quarter, are we growing our customer base and why? Or is our customer base in a state of decline? And then my goodness, why? Instead of getting caught up in some hypothetical around NPS, or even something as powerful as customer effort score, it’s just a hypothetical.

Gabe Larsen: (17:16)
I love those. Those are some interesting — It’s a lot of, I think, meat there, right? Some different ways to look at your business and different KPIs. I’ll have to go look at the old Jeanne Bliss, see if I can dive into some of those things you’ve mentioned, she’s such a rock star.

Nate Brown: (17:29)
Chief Customer Officer 2.0 is probably the most influential book that I’ve read in this space. It’s just the best.

Gabe Larsen: (17:35)
Is that right?

Nate Brown: (17:35)
Yeah. It’s fantastic.

Gabe Larsen: (17:36)
I have not read that, I’ll put it on my to do. Customer effort score for those of us who don’t know what that is. I mean, certainly we know a lot about the effortless experience and I love the idea of making it easy. How do you — one more click on that? What, what is, what do you mean by an effort score?

Nate Brown: (17:53)
Yeah, the question is how quickly were we able to resolve your issue? How quick and easy was it to resolve your issue? What you’re looking for, there is a resolution based transaction. There was a problem. The problem was hopefully solved. And it’s just asking how quick and easy was it for us to do that for you?

Gabe Larsen: (18:11)
How easy is it to do business with us here?

Nate Brown: (18:13)
No. So that is a different question. So that question is broader. And that’s a question that you can ask in the sales cycle and you can ask in the implementation cycle. The true effort score question, you can only ask in the support environment because there was a problem and there was a problem resolved. That’s where that question comes in.

Gabe Larsen: (18:32)
[inaudible] tied a hundred percent to that.

Nate Brown: (18:34)
Right.

Gabe Larsen: (18:35)
Got it. Okay. And then one last one, before I let you go. This is, we’ve talked a lot about on the customer side, obviously, employees feel that, especially as we move more into the service side of the house, maybe we lose a little bit on the digital interaction there. How do employees play a role in this larger CX initiative?

Nate Brown: (18:53)
The frontline employees, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (18:56)
Yeah, yeah.

Nate Brown: (18:57)
Yeah. That’s absolutely the question we should be asking because we can have the best strategy in the world and unless it actually pulls the heartstrings of our employees to the brand —

Gabe Larsen: (19:08)
Unless someone actually lives that brand promise. Right?

Nate Brown: (19:11)
Right. Yeah. I mean, goodness, if we don’t change the mentality or behaviors of our employees, then what have we done? Nothing. We have not accomplished anything. So it really is a psychology based work that we’re doing, and the key here is to make it real and relevant and exciting for our employees. I mean, 90% of the employees that I’ve worked with out of the thousands that I’ve done this work with, want to serve customers well. It’s not about convincing them why they should, they want that. The trick is it’s showing them how. What are the specific behaviors that you could do, that you could change just a little bit in your day that would have a significant impact on this customer journey and be able to show them in some form or another what that customer journey looks like.

Gabe Larsen: (20:08)
Yeah. Yeah. It seems like — I’m glad you threw that out and I think that’s a good way to end. It seems like the whole strategy is there, but if you don’t have these people kind of supporting it, it does get, it just gets lost. So don’t forget that part. Do not forget about the employee. That is important.

Nate Brown: (20:25)
That’s a great CX dashboard you got there and wow. It is not changed anybody’s life.

Gabe Larsen: (20:31)
That’s right. You spent all that time on the dashboard. You didn’t train your employees, you fool. No, I love it. Well, Nate, that’s fun to talk through it, man. As I was saying before, Nate was pretty instrumental as I was looking to jump into this kind of CX/CS space. He’s got some fun tools, some fun content, and you can hear that logical flow as he was taking you through, as you think about a CX transformation, that leadership portion, mapping out the journey, getting those kinds of different touch points. I certainly appreciated it cause my mind works a little more like that. So Nate if someone wants to, well, before I do that, we talked about a lot of things. In summary, how would you kind of summarize this? We talked about the maps, and the employees, and the journey, and the evolution of it. Thinking about the changing landscape of where we are today, what’s kind of that summary statement you’d leave with CX/CS leaders about how to deliver this great experience as we move into potentially a new normal here?

Nate Brown: (21:30)
Yeah. I would say dive into the psychology of the work, get down to the why, take a look at something like a prime to perform and make yourself a bit of a psychologist. How can I motivate my employees to serve customers better and understand what those right motivators are? And then how can I understand the psychology of my customer more? And then from there you can create the strategy and the fundamental best practices and the change management techniques, but get down to the true why, what makes your company unique and different; that start with why, that Simon Sinek. Then your next why is why should we serve customers better? What are the motivators there for our employees? The why’s of our customer. Why does our customer do business with us, and how can we increase their loyalty and work backwards from there?

Gabe Larsen: (22:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I love it. Alright man, if someone wants to get a hold of you or learn a little bit more about some of the fun things you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that?

Nate Brown: (22:27)
Yeah. Hop on over to CXaccelerator.com. Join our virtual community. We want to encourage you. We want to help you. It’s a very safe place, a very encouraging place. So do that. And then if you want to work with me some more, hop on over to Officium Labs, and we’ve got all kinds of opportunities there, some additional content and some ways that we could work together. So, do one or both.

Gabe Larsen: (22:49)
It’s so funny. It’s like you eat, drink, sleep about everything CX. It’s so fun to see. This guy, we were talking pre show, I was like, “This guy can probably talk about this for four hours, but we’ll cut him off in about 30 minutes.” So Nate, appreciate you joining and everybody else, have a fantastic rest of your day.

Exit Voice: (23:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

Podcast: Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, 20 year CRM Contact Center Lifer, and Gabe’s partner in crime to make a big announcement. Kustomer has been selected as the only enterprise customer service CRM platform in the Shopify Plus Certified App Program. With this seamless integration, businesses can create contextualized, actionable customer profiles to drive more personalized and data driven customer journeys, while resolving conversations quickly and building long-term customer loyalty. Now more than ever, the world’s leading brands need a customer service CRM that can scale and evolve as they do. Listen to the full podcast episode below to hear their discussion on the role self-service plays in this new MEconomy.

How Has the Economy Changed

It is no secret that day-to-day life has changed drastically since March of 2020. As businesses closed their doors, curbside pickup, delivery services, and online shopping have become the new normal. What used to be a luxury for a few extra dollars is now a necessity. This is just one evidence that the economy has changed and customers’ expectations are evolving with it. Technology has facilitated agents and other employees to work from home and we wonder if companies will return to their storefronts or if they’ll stay remote. Vikas points out that this probably won’t be the case. While smaller companies are staying remote and the customer is demanding more remote services, it is a lot harder for large companies to pivot that quickly. There has been a surge in customer requests and these large contact centers even increased their headcount during the pandemic. But, is this an opportunity for businesses to start leveraging AI and automate?

The Value of Self-Service

As mentioned above, the consumer mindset has changed, drastically. They are getting used to having things delivered to their homes and they want their issues resolved, instantly. Customers want frictionless interactions and expect companies to deliver on those expectations. Twenty years ago, customer service centers believed that in order to make the customer happy, you had to interact with them constantly. But, with an ever-evolving customer mindset, consumers want to talk less with companies. Vikas states, “Part of being consumer centric doesn’t always mean that you have to talk to them or chat, whatever it is. There are times where the consumer actually wants to self serve. … customer delight doesn’t mean spending time with [them], it means getting the heck out of [their] way.”

To give customers this type of self-service experience, Vikas points out that this is an opportunity to start leveraging automation. Automation is not a bad thing and it isn’t going to drive customers away. Done correctly, it will actually help customers have a positive experience. While there is not an unique way to do it, the most important thing is staying true to your brand and treating people like people.

The New Relationship With the Customer

Customers want a different relationship with companies. “It’s not, ‘I don’t want a relationship with you.’ [It’s] ‘I want a different type of relationship with you,’” Vikas states. This MEconomy involves more focus on efficiency and giving the customer helpful tools. Vikas continues, “I don’t want to have this elongated, kind of massaged relationship, just when I come to you, whether I want to buy something, … whether I want to service something or even when you market to me, be to the point, be specific, be personalized to me and then let’s move on.” When the agent is focused on being concise and letting the customer solve their own problems, the customer will be happier with their experience.

To learn more about the evolving economy, evolving customer and how to adjust your business to those changes, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

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 here. You’ve got myself, Gabe Larsen. I run growth over here at Kustomer and you got my partner in crime Vikas Bhambri. He runs SVP of both Sales and Customer Support, customer success. Wanted to kick this off with a big announcement. We have no guests today. We didn’t want a guest today actually.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:29)
You announced me as the guest.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yes. Actually I was telling Vikas we did actually have a guest, but they ditched on us.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
It’s a tropical storm here in the Northeast, they couldn’t make it to the studio.

Gabe Larsen: (00:44)
Oh man. Can you believe the weather out here? My heavens. It truly is — it rains here in the East all the time. I’ve forgotten how much it rains out here. But that wasn’t the announcement. The actual announcement is Shopify. Vikas, do you want to give maybe just the high level and I’ll fill in a couple of details?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:59)
Absolutely. So Kustomer is now in the Shopify Plus Program and we’re the only enterprise customer service platform in the program. And I think this is super exciting, not only for us here at Kustomer, but more importantly, all those Shopify customers that have been looking for a partner that not only has a robust integration from a platform perspective with Shopify, but more importantly, that strategic relationship as we think about further co-development and further iterations of what we’ve already come to market with.

Gabe Larsen: (01:36)
Yeah. I mean, this is exciting you guys. We’re super proud of it. There are kind of the Shopify plus and then Shopify and then Shopify Plus and Plus really is more for the larger companies who are doing more transactions with Shopify, looking for something a little more, a little deeper, etcetera. So jumping in on both the Shopify and Shopify Plus; and then bringing some of these feature sets that have been unique to Kustomer into that integration where you have this real full timeline view where you can do so many more interactions: refund, cancel, view shipping information by skews, see order item activity, easily refund people. Kind of all in that single interface as you get in Kustomer, but now you’ve got that with the Shopify integration, I think will be an awesome addition to some of our customers who are using it and looking forward to talking to more people. So big fronts — big announcements on the Kustomer front. Definitely check it out. We’ll put a link in the comments to some of those types of things. Now, I wanted to shift gears. What’s been on your mind, before we do — anything on your mind Vikas that you were kind of front and center as we think customer service as things go about on your day to day?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:47)
You and I have talked about this quite a bit over the last few weeks with a number of different guests is just a change of pace in the customer experience arena over these last few months, driven by the pandemic. And as I called it, I think pretty early on is the biggest stress test that this industry has ever faced. I mean, everything from how agents work, where agents work, how they’re managed by their supervisors and then this tremendous surge in ticket volume that folks have been seeing. I talked to somebody pretty recently and even today, people are like, look — really interesting. I think this person that I had a conversation with they’re major retailer. Their first impulse that a lot of these retailers had when the pandemic hit was our business is going to get hit. And so they actually let people go. And then what happened is they actually saw that their business, the sales side went up, right? Because obviously people were not going to the stores.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
And so their volume went up and then they had this whole issue that they have to figure out their fulfillment, because imagine you’re doing a hundred orders a week and now you’re doing a thousand orders a week. They just weren’t set up for that scale. Well, as those orders went out is what they saw were the heightened anxiety levels of the consumer. Now getting four to five X, the number of inquiries, tickets, conversations, around those orders. And they let people go so now the existing team had — so just this amazing kind of thing over the last four months and what’s been extremely exciting to witness and experience and be a part of is how brands have reacted to what’s happened. Because I think the brands that are reacting now, not everybody’s doing it the right way, they’re the ones that when the pandemic obviously comes to an end, are going to continue to thrive in this new normal that we’re all talking about.

Gabe Larsen: (04:53)
And it is such a transition. I think my favorite thing has been watching that force digital transformation as well. We were chatting the other day about that. It’s a small retailer, a physical retailer out West and got hit with the pandemic and had to close their 20 retail locations and then the conversation and the change in mindset. And I thought this was just such a powerful example of, well, how do we double down on everything digital? And started to partner with us on this idea of in-store or curbside pickup. I guess not in-store because the store was closed — Curbside pick up and do it all online and they weren’t really set up for that. And his words directly were, “This pandemic has probably pushed us to at least two years ahead of where we would have been on our e-tail, on our website, on our digital aspect.” And you’re seeing that, I think not just in the large, but a lot of these smaller vendors, these smaller players who hadn’t maybe thought about how they can progress so quickly, forced to the forefront and seeing cool things. And it actually, it’s been very powerful, curbside pickup. He’s like, “Who would’ve thought? This is going to change our business for the better as we go forward. I wish we’d had done this earlier.” But the pandemic kind of changed that.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:11)
Here’s the thing it’s, making us wonder why we were doing things the way we were. My friends and I joke, here in Long Island, obviously we’ve been, we were extremely hard hit, so I can pull up to my local ice cream place and they can run it out to my car. Like we’re laughing. We’re like, well, look, “Hey, we get called lazy Americans all the time. This is now the true Nirvana, right? I don’t even need to go in the store anymore.” To your point about curbside pickup with your friend is — and then of course our entire supply chain in the Bhambri household is now online delivery. And to the point where my wife, who is the biggest anti online grocery shopper, Christina, “I want to feel the produce.” She’s the person who literally — people watch her in the grocery aisle where she’s sniffing the cantaloupe. It must be an English thing.

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Well, I always felt like I had the watermelon touch, so [inaudible] I’m like this, “Yes, No.” Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
But now she’s a believer. And she’s like, “Wow, these Amazon shoppers, they’ve got the touch.” And I was like, “Well, worst case, you can go teach them or train them.” So it’s going to be really interesting as I say is, even for certain segments of the consumer population, what is their appetite going to be to go back? We’re talking about opening up malls and different types of retailers. If even somebody like my parents have now adapted to Amazon shopping or retailers that are delivering to them, whatever it is, why are they going to go back? If Home Depot can now deliver my dad his hose or whatever new project he has at home, why does he need to go back into the store?

Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Yeah. One thing that’s front and center. I think even for us here at Kustomer is the work from home, work remote, work partially in the office. Anything lately you’ve heard about, in general, you feel like most companies and their service centers will find their way back? Are they finding their way back? Do you think, again, when you’ve tasted a little bit of the forbidden fruit and for some people and experience, maybe, “You know what, I’m all set now as a service agent working from home, I’m going to continue this.” Do you see that trend? How does that shape –?

Vikas Bhambri: (08:39)
No, unfortunately I think the smaller scale, the brands that have their direct workforce that have gone remote. I think if you have 20 agents, I think the BPOs, the larger contact centers are — look so much of their operation and their value to the people they do this optimization, et cetera, is cost savings. I don’t think they want to, or can pivot that quickly. And what I am hearing is that more and more the large contact centers, the ones that are BPO driven, are going back to a centralized environment. I’m assuming they’re doing the right protocols, the right testing, et cetera. But I do think that group is definitely moving back in, but here’s the other thing I heard this morning is they’re also hiring in a big way because of the surge, because brands are feeling that surge I heard one this morning where one pretty large BPO is probably going to be hiring 30,000 new agents.

Gabe Larsen: (09:49)
Well, they’ve got — I was surprised truthfully. You started with this, that you saw so many people react and I get why, but yeah, we were furloughing and people were letting people go. And for, obviously, I think for justified reasons, but, and for a lot of these people, that was a little more, head-scratching like gal aren’t they going to see a surge because of the industry they’re in and people are going to have more requests. They’re wondering where their orders are, more calls, more chats, more email. So I’m not surprised that you’re starting to see some goodness. And I think the economy in some ways needs some of that.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:22)
But what a missed opportunity, right? You’re going to go out and hire 30,000 people, but this is, not was, continues to be an opportunity to automate, right? And use tools like chat bots, article deflection, I mean —

Gabe Larsen: (10:41)
This is the time to do it right? You have the opportunity.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (10:45)
I had, and that spurred a little bit of the topic for today’s conversation, I had somebody who in passing basically said to me, “I joined the trend, but didn’t realize that it was going to take a little more time.” And they said, “Wanted to get a chat bot on my site, thought I could start deflecting, automate some of those requests, heard some big numbers.” I think he threw out in joking, “Cut your agents by 99%, it will increase productivity by 497%.” I’m making up the stats. I think he was as well. But then he kind of said, “Hey, it was a little bit of a reality. I contacted some company, threw the thing on my website and I didn’t see the results.” So I do, I mean I think this is still a good opportunity to jump on the bandwagon around automation, but it’s not that easy. Right? I mean, it takes a little more work, whether it’s a bot or automation, it’s going to take some time. Correct?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:40)
You and I have talked about this. You’ve gotta be thoughtful. It’s an entire program management, just like you would do a marketing campaign. Right? If you think of it in that mindset, you have to think about the cohort of customers you’re trying to address. What’s the problem? Is it Wismo, right? What’s the actual problem– and then tackle that one area. Solve it, go do the next one and the next one. But I think, yeah, to your point, just slapping a bot on the website and then going, “Oh, I still need — I can’t let go of 99 out of a hundred people.” I think that’s where you’re misinformed.

Gabe Larsen: (12:14)
Do you feel like companies, I mean, being forced into this, have started to find the balance better between bot and human. I know that’s been kind of the fun debate, more pre-COVID. You feel like we’re starting to get that or where is that? Is there still kind of a fine line of what goes bot, what goes human, and when they interact?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:34)
No, I don’t think it’s that well-defined, here’s what I am finding is there’s no best practice guide. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (12:45)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:45)
And so even brands are struggling with, what’s the tone we want to set. Right? We’ve always been a people first brand, consumer first brand, and now we’re going to say automation and, and it almost has a negative connotation. You use the term deflection. Even that’s a term that people are like, “Oh my goodness, we don’t want to deflect.” Okay, call it what you want. I mean, whether you call containment, whether you call it self-service, if something the customer actually wants, you almost have to educate the executive team. “Look, our customers don’t always want to talk to us.” And I think that’s a mindset where people say part of being consumer centric, doesn’t always mean that you have to talk to them or talk, chat, whatever it is. There are times where the consumer actually wants to self serve. And I think the simplest way to do this, I think by the way your podcast with the rockstar, James Dodkins was one of my favorites. Just talk to people like people. I loved his, kind of the walking through the bar with the beer. [inaudible] You got these executives that get into like this, “Well we’re a consumer first brand.” Well, what does that really mean?

Gabe Larsen: (14:03)
Well don’t you feel like it changed? I almost, I want to create one of those timelines — I love timelines, but my love as things kind of have progressed over the years, people were very product centric in their differentiation. And then there was this, you and I have hit on it a little bit, but the Zappos type thing, the light where it was like you had to actually spend a lot of time with your customers or create that presidential experience for them. And so we all went to the Marriott gold membership or the Bonvoy or whatever, they’re calling it now in Delta Gold. And we wanted to actually spend more time with them because we wanted to delight them. It does feel like there has been a shift maybe with COVID pushing it further. And don’t get me wrong, it was kind of coming anyways. But yeah, customer delight doesn’t mean spending time with me, it means getting the heck out of my way.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:54)
That’s it.

Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
But that’s still hard work because we’re coming out of, I think, what was a 20 year Zappos thing. And I’m not saying that isn’t important, but boy, even when I hear you say that it’s just like, how do I deliver a great experience if I literally never talked to somebody when Nordstrom was giving away free tires when they brought a dress back?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:17)
Well, the consumers moved on at a rate that most companies haven’t. Right? I mean, they’re reading about Brooks Brothers the other day and how casual Fridays killed Brooks Brothers. I’m like, well casual Fridays — and it happened like last week. I mean, casual Fridays has been happening, and I’m going to start aging myself, for over 20 years. So, sorry Brooks Brothers that you didn’t keep up with the times. Right? I mean, I’m sorry. I don’t know. I used to love Brooks Brothers, but the workplace attire changed and you didn’t keep up with it so that’s on you. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (15:57)
Do you feel like there’s a word for this? I’ve wondered myself. I mean, again, we’re always saying that’s kind of cliche to say consumer expectations are changing, but people talked about building relationships or friendships or customer — building that, but now you still want a relationship, but that dynamic has changed. Is there a word that you feel like kind of stamps what the new consumer mindset is? Is it just a different type of relationship? It’s a make it easy, kind of world that we’re in? Anything that encapsulates, you feel like this changing consumer expectations from a naming standpoint?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:39)
Yeah. One word that just came to my mind, maybe because we’re all kind of in this crazy world is therapist. And I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to be friends with brands. I don’t. And I think most consumers to your point like that whole, we’ve all heard the mythical Zappos story. Some woman spending 10 hours on a phone call with a customer. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a call with Zappos. No offense to the folks at Zappos. Sorry. I’m sure they’re super nice. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a phone with anybody. Think about that. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a phone with my real friend. Gabe, you and I are friends. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a call with you. And most of the time, this is probably the most we talk, right? Otherwise I’m slacking you, I’m texting you, right? That’s the communication that we all the majority of our conversations are these days, right? People even joke how the best way to get a hold of their spouse is a quick Facebook message or a WhatsApp message or whatever it is. So to me I want to go to a brand when I have a problem. So that’s why I kind of think about like a therapist, “Solve my problem and then send me on my way.” Right? And I don’t know if therapist is the right word, but when you get where I’m going, where I don’t want to have this elongated, kind of massaged relationship, just when I come to you, whether I want to buy something, whether I want — whether I want to service something or even when you market to me, be to the point, be specific, be personalized to me and then let’s move on.

Gabe Larsen: (18:09)
Yeah, yeah. Somebody mentioned it, the word MEconomy I’m remembering, and that’s an interesting way to kind of frame it. It sounds a little selfish, but it is it’s, it’s kind of like, “Look, I don’t want to spend time with you. I want it now. I want it quick. I want it real time. I want it. I want, I want to be able to answer it myself.” A lot of “I’s” in that statement versus, “I want you to solve it. I want you to take the time to talk to me, be my therapist,” et cetera. Maybe there’s something there because it does feel like we are seeing that age old debate of, I want a relationship with my customer. Customers don’t want a relationship with you anymore.

Vikas Bhambri: (18:55)
Yeah, no, they want a different type of relationship. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (18:58)
It is different. Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:00)
I loved that term the MEconomy because, market to me. If Gabe and I are both customers of a particular brand, Gabe’s an outdoorsman, right? I’m a city guy. I like — so market to us, even as that brand. Right? But even when you’re — and I think another thing that James hit on in the podcast that you had with him was this concept of proactive service. That I’m a huge believer in, well, right. If you’re going to proactively service something that went wrong do it to the products I’ve bought from you. Right? The relationship we have. I think those are different types of concepts. So it’s not, “I don’t want a relationship with you. I want a different type of relationship with you.”

Gabe Larsen: (19:43)
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. But it’s on my terms and it looks a lot different than it did before. So, interesting. It’s always fun catching up. Summarizing, give us kind of your take on how we — where we’ve been and where we’re going forward. Give us a quick kind of summary. We hit on a few different topics.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:02)
Yeah, so where we’ve been is just we have pressed the fast forward button on the future by two years.

Gabe Larsen: (20:10)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:11)
I mean, that’s just the reality and we can’t go back. We’re not going to go back. The consumer’s not going to go back. The brands can’t go back. So now it’s a period of how do you — unfortunately, most companies don’t think that far in advance; there’s very few. There’s Elon Musk, the Space X’s right? There’s Bezos at Amazon. But the majority of companies, they’re thinking about it in monthly, quarterly cycles, right? Depending on the next time they have to go to the street or go to the board or whatever, you really have to think about, what would your business have looked like two years from now? And operate it at that cadence today, which, good luck with that.

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
Yeah. I know, easier said than done. So always a fun conversation Vikas. For the audience, thanks for joining and have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:06)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri

Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri TW 2

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri to discuss how to use AI in contact centers. Aarde is the Senior Director of Technology and Product for Global Member Services at TechStyle. He’s spent the last decade working in e-commerce and is the author of the book Enable Better Service. Vikas, a familiar guest on the show, is the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer and a 20-year CRM / contact center veteran. Both Aarde and Vikas have extensive knowledge on the use of AI in customer service and they have come together to discuss how other businesses can optimize with the help of AI.

“Omnibot”, The Omnichannel Bot

Customer expectations have changed significantly over the last few months, and companies are starting to feel the strain— especially in regards to their AI. While autobots have a reputation for dehumanizing companies, we are starting to rely on them heavily as customer needs increase. To ensure chatbots have a positive impact, Vikas and Aarde focus on making sure they are used as an omnichannel tool. Aarde states, “You can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members.” As customers switch channels, the bot needs to be available to support your customer on their preferred channel. Gabe, Vikas, and Aarde called this adaptable bot an “omnibot.”

Knowing the need for effective AI, and bots that function on multiple channels, Vikas and Aarde discuss who should build the bots and how they should be built. Because coding and creating AI can be taxing, they recommend finding a good partner to help, as it will be a better use of resources. As for how an omnibot should be built, Vikas notes the need for authenticity to the brand. He states, “If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your … general reputation and what your customers expect of you.” In other words, make sure that the bot matches your brand. And, as an additional note, let customers know they’re talking to a bot. Customers don’t like to question whether they’re talking to a person or not.

How to Humanize a Customer’s AI Experience

One of the main concerns with using chatbots, even ones that are authentically built to the brand, is that consumers lose the human touch of customer service. This is a valid point, but Vikas and Aarde explain ways to overcome that while still increasing efficiency. To humanize a bot experience, have a good team behind it. In regards to AI Vikas states, “You still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it.” It is a team effort to optimize a chatbot, and constant evaluative measures will ensure that it grows and changes with the needs of the customer. Good AI is not meant to replace people in customer service, but to aid those committed to helping customers. In fact, Aarde mentions optimization tactics that fix AI and help the customer at the same time. He says, “When we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs.”

Best Practices and Final Advice on How to Optimize AI

Transcribing bot conversations and having the bots follow the customer across multiple channels helps with the overall customer experience. Additionally, not being hesitant to transfer someone to a live agent is a good tactic. If people are saying “Operator”, pressing zero, or yelling, don’t use the bot to fix the problem, have a person step in and do their job. Aarde’s final piece of advice, or best practice, is to not tackle the hardest type of AI first. Don’t try for voice AI from the beginning. “I recommend trying,” he states, “but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population.” Add AI to your company’s customer service department one step at a time. Agreeing with Aarde, Vikas adds, “Look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue?” He also suggests, “[Talk] to your agents or even [look] at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at, ‘What are the macros they most often use?’” While investing in AI can be an intimidating venture, bots can provide increased efficiency to your company, and successful self-service to your customers.

To learn more about how to leverage AI in your customer service department, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “Leveraging AI Automation and Self-service to Power Your Contact Center | Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and 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 broadcast. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about one of these really relevant and interesting conversations, leveraging AI and self-service to really power your contact center. To do that we brought on two special guests. We’ll let them introduce themselves. Aarde, why don’t we start with you?

Aarde Cosseboom: (00:31)
Sure. Thanks again Gabe and Vikas for having me and Kustomer, of course, for hosting. I’m Aarde Cosseboom. I’m the Senior Director of Technology and Product for GMS, which is Global Member Services for a company called TechStyle. And we’re an e-commerce retail company.

Gabe Larsen: (00:47)
Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM Contact Center Lifer, looking forward to the conversation with Aarde and Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Yeah, this is exciting. And you know, myself, I run growth over here at Kustomer. So let’s get in and let’s talk about this. Aarde, let’s start with the big picture. What do AI and self-service bots even solve?

Aarde Cosseboom: (01:11)
Yeah, this is a great question and really hard to answer specifics because every business is slightly different, but I’ll try to stay as high level as possible. Really it helps with self service, it’s in the title, but deflection, reducing contact. There’s a lot of automation that happens as well, too. So not only automating for your customer, but also automating a lot of the agent processes like creation of tickets and then auto dispositions as well too. And then one of the things that’s kind of hidden that most people don’t think about, and it’s actually one of the things that we don’t really measure that well in the industry in this area, is customer experience as well, too. So as millennials and gen X are expecting these types of tools, it creates a better experience for those people who are expecting it.

Gabe Larsen: (02:01)
Vikas, maybe you can add onto that. I mean, why do you think this is such an important conversation more so now than it was even just a couple months ago? Give us kind of that thought process.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
Sure. I think what we’re running into right now is folks like Aarde are really seeing a tremendous surge of inquiries into their contact center. And the reason they’re seeing that is there’s the heightened level of anxiety and expectation for consumers. Most of what they’re shopping for, they want now and it doesn’t matter what it is. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s in the middle of buying a bike. Now, normally you buy a bike and you’re good. Whenever it shows up, it shows up. But because of the quarantine, he is literally like, “I need a bike so that I can have something to do with my kids.” So when he placed an order for the bike and wasn’t immediately notified when his bike was going to be available, he got extremely concerned and started pinging the bike shop. So I think it’s really interesting to see that behavior, particularly in these times, the ticket surge and putting pressure on people like Aarde and his peers to be able to respond.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
It feels like, again, there’s just more need for it than ever before. How do you think about chatbots versus social versus some of these other channels? Do you feel like they’re just different times to use them, is it different companies, is it different industries? Aarde, what’s your thought on kind of the mix of channels that are out there, why people would use one versus the other, et cetera?

Aarde Cosseboom: (03:42)
Yeah. And it goes back to expectations. So your customers expect a lot from you. And as we grow in channels in the customer service realm, growing the social and then direct social, which is things like WhatsApp and Apple business chat, direct SMS, and MMS. Those are all areas that we need to grow into and when we do grow into, we need to create an omnichannel experience. So you can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members. And as a member switches, as they do the channel switch, maybe they start in chat online and then they say, “You know what, I’m going to pause the conversation. And now I’m going to go to Facebook messenger.” You need to follow that with your AI so they don’t have to start all over from scratch with that automation tool.

Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
I like that. Vikas, how would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:38)
I think Aarde nailed it. The term chatbot is so yesterday, right? Your bot needs to be omnichannel, your bot needs to be available, not just via chat as a channel, but you know Aarde mentioned Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, SMS email, right? So when we think about automation and bots here at Kustomer, we think about it regardless of channel, I mean, even email, right? Why is it that somebody sends an email and somebody actually has to enter a response? Why wouldn’t you send some responses that will allow that customer to self service, even by email, which is obviously one of the older, more mature channels. So that’s how we think about bots here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Well, look, I’m as guilty as anybody; the chatbot I’m so used to thinking chatbot and it’s something on the website. Is there a different term? Is there, I mean, obviously as you guys kind of pointed out, it’s better to think about it, maybe in an omnichannel approach, but Aarde, I’m looking for you on this one, man. How come you haven’t invented a term that is an omnichannel chatbot? What is that term, what is it?

Aarde Cosseboom: (05:49)
I haven’t invented it, but it is out there. It’s IVA which stands for Intelligent Virtual Assistant and really it’s the omnichannel bot experience, doesn’t matter how you use it, but that’s how you deliver it. So Virtual Assistant or Intelligent Virtual Assistant,

Vikas Bhambri: (06:07)
Gabe, I’m not the marketer on this call, but I’m going to give you a lay up here and you can give me credit. And if our friends at Zendesk are listening, they’ll probably copy it as they always do, but Omnibot.

Gabe Larsen: (06:19)
Omnibot! Oh my goodness! Oh, stolen.

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:22)
I like it.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:22)
I’m a transformers kid. I grew up, I’m a transformers generation. So that just sounds super cool to me.

Gabe Larsen: (06:29)
Honestly that sounds like —

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:31)
[laughing]

Gabe Larsen: (06:31)
Omnibot does sound like one of those transformers. What’s the main transformer? What’s the old guy?

Vikas Bhambri: (06:36)
Optimus Prime.

Gabe Larsen: (06:38)
Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime, meet Omnibot.

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:43)
That’s a great name for a bot too. We could brand it.

Gabe Larsen: (06:47)
It totally works. That probably is good for this question you guys. I consider myself a programmer. I wanted to build my own bot. My kids are doing little things with programming. It seems like a lot of people are building bots these days. Should someone just build a bot? Should you buy a bot? And excuse me, an Interactive Virtual Assistant. Aarde, let’s start with you man. You’re out there in the market, talking to people, can companies just build these things? Is that easy or should you buy it? I’m confused.

Aarde Cosseboom: (07:19)
Yep. Great question. There’s a lot of controversy here and lots of different companies are doing their own little flavor. As technology grows and changes, it’s enabling companies to be able to build their own. Things like Amazon Lex or Google dialogue flow, it’s getting a lot easier than it was a year ago or even five years ago. But in the current market and we assess this here at TechStyle every six months, we recommend to buy or partner, is what we like to call it, partner with an actual partner that has the technology in place. You get a couple benefits from it, ease of use, and you’ll get to market faster. You won’t have to do that long implementation, have to have those developers and experts build something from scratch. You’ll be able to lean on the expertise of your partner to help you with that. And then the other thing that’s really beneficial that most people don’t think about is, when you’re partnering with a technology partner, they’re going to be leveraging all of the AI and machine learning that they have across all of their other customers and bring all of that to you and your bot. So if there’s a best practice in your space, we’re in retail, for example, and we use a partner and they have a best practice for another retail customer, they’re going to knock on our door and give us that easy flow without us having to do all the legwork. So I recommend buy for now and partner with a dedicated partner that has it in that ecosystem.

Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
Yeah. Look, it’s becoming, I mean, there’s just, there’s enough out there. You guys, I think you can get it for a good enough price that I don’t know if you need to dedicate a whole engineering team to kind of build your own automation, roles and bots, and things like that. So I don’t think I’d disagree with Aarde. Vikas, this one just came through on LinkedIn, this is from Keith, this question, and I meant to throw this in here and so I want to throw it in now. He said, “Hey, look, we’re trying to humanize our bots. So we designed them to help people not be viewed as an application. But it still comes — begs the question of how do you think about these bots? I’m thinking more on the website at the moment. Do you name it the bot, do you put a human there? Do you — how do you balance that? Have you seen best practices on that?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
Yeah, the first thing that I recommend to customers is you got to keep it authentic to your brand.

Gabe Larsen: (09:32)
Okay.

Vikas Bhambri: (09:33)
That’s number one. If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your just general reputation and what your customers expect of you. The other thing is, I think in the early days, and most companies have gone away from this, I remember there was a brand in the UK that had announced a bot, but they branded it Lucy. Ask Lucy. And customers cannot really tell whether they were speaking to a human being or a bot. And they actually got very negative feedback because people were just asking questions and the bot at that time, you can imagine almost seven, eight years ago, wasn’t trained. It couldn’t answer half their questions. So I think the more that you let your customer know, “Look, you’re dealing with a bot” and that allows them to give some flexibility and some leeway to you to understand that look at some point, this bot may not be able to answer my question; to know that you can always escalate to a live human agent, right? So you can still give it a name, right? But making sure it’s authentic to what it is. And if the point comes where it can not resolve the customer’s inquiry, that they know there’s a handoff, a seamless transition. That’s another thing a lot of people get wrong. Right? So now I connect to the human agent, don’t make me ask the five, six, seven questions that I just went through with the bot. The agent should pick up the conversation fluidly from where I left off. Aarde what do you think?

Gabe Larsen: (11:09)
Yeah Aarde, I want to talk — do you agree because I think you might disagree?

Aarde Cosseboom: (11:15)
No, I do agree. There’s a little bit of uncanny Valley; gotta be careful about not tricking your customer into thinking they’re talking to a human. So I totally agree that you have to upfront tell them that it’s a bot. I like to brand it as giving it kind of a bot accent. So if it’s a voice bot giving it a little bit of a mechanical accent, so they know that it’s a bot or, not having a hundred percent of a fluid conversation fragmented a little bit more so they know that they’re talking. Also, you could declare it at the beginning of a chat or social conversation saying that “You’re engaging with an AI tool at this time.” And then, another key point here is you’re right, try to do it on brand. So we have 95% of our customers are females. So we have a female voice. If you’re selling golf clubs online, you may want a male voice because there may be a higher percentage of males that are listening to or engaging with your bot. So think about voice, tone, accent, especially accents, U.S. accents. So if you’re on the East Coast, don’t put words in there like “cool” or “hip” or things like that. Make sure that it’s localized to your customers and brands.

Gabe Larsen: (12:29)
Yeah, don’t use one of those weird Utah accents like you hear coming in all, all “Here y’all.”

Vikas Bhambri: (12:36)
One other thing to Keith’s question, right? And this whole concept of an application; look, it goes back to back in the day and chat, we started out with what we called a pre chat survey, which was literally, “Here are the five questions you need to answer so that we know who to route you to, who you are,” et cetera. Then it became a bit more where people were doing authentication. And so they had some data. Then we moved to this concept of conversational form, which was still a bot, but it asked the question in a humanized way. So it wasn’t just “Fill out these five questions.” It would ask you the question one at a time and maybe there was a variability where if you said you were a buyer versus a seller, the next question would change. Now Keith, where we want to take it is the bot can gather so much data about the customer before they even type in one word. So a lot of that is now picking up with the information that is now unknown to you so that you can then either answer the inquiry or then route it to the agent. So it should necessarily have that kind of predetermined, almost process flow. You can be much more mature about how you even go about using natural language processing for people to just key in things and it doesn’t have to be hard coded, right? So I think there’s a lot that you can do there now.

Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I like that. This is, I think, one of the questions that comes up often, this is such a cool feature look at this. I can just throw this in here, right here. Look at that. Are you guys seeing that?

Aarde Cosseboom: (14:11)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:11)
Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (14:12)
Geez louise, man, look at this technology. Scott Mark, little shout out to Scott Mark. What are best practices around the handoff from a bot so we stop dropping the ball? I think that’s — we wanted to get actually into some best practices. Maybe we start it now. That’s just a big debate. It’s when you handoff, how do you hand off, how many questions do you ask? It’s just, it never feels right. Thoughts? Aarde let’s start with you on that one.

Aarde Cosseboom: (14:38)
Yeah, absolutely. And you have to think of one thing first, which we call the IVR prison or the chatbot prison. You’ve got to allow people to get out of that prison. So if you get the same question twice and it’s not — you can’t recognize the right answer like, “What is your email address?” and can’t recognize, ask again, can’t recognize, fail it out to a live agent. That’s a good best practice. Also if they say the word operator or press the zero key on their phone, or if they start cursing, definitely fail them out of the IVR. Don’t keep them in prison. Always allow them a way out of that IVR. But then when you go over into the agent experience and that handoff, even for the experiences where someone engaged with the bot for a very long time, and there’s a long transcript, maybe there is actions that were done like they updated their credit card information with the bot, they updated their billing information, their name, profile; all of that you want to transfer to an agent, screen pop not only the member profile, start to fill out the case or tickets so the agent doesn’t have to do it. And then also, feed them the transcripts so that if the customer or member says, “Hey, I talked to the bot, it updated my billing address, but I think it didn’t do it right. It didn’t do the right street address, the right number. Can you go back and check and see if it did that?” The agent should be able to scroll up through that transcript and see exactly where it failed and then fix that, that failure.

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
Yeah. Vikas, what would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:13)
I think the biggest, so Aarde nailed it, right? So, your initial implementation, those are all the best practices. I think the challenge for most brands is you’ve got to treat this like a program management, just like a marketer would if they were doing a promotion on their website or doing a campaign. Constantly revisiting and optimizing, right? So one, your bot is going to get smarter if you’re investing in the right technology. But two, if you’re finding that customers are constantly getting challenged, that process in your step, go and see what do you need to do to modify it, to smooth that out, right? So where are people cursing, where are people hitting zero? Where are people saying, “Get me to a live human agent?” How do we further optimize that piece before we do it? So I think that’s the biggest thing I see is where people will roll these things out and then forget about them and then six months later, they’ll say, “You know what, this isn’t working and we just have to pull it off the site.” And that to me —

Gabe Larsen: (17:16)
Why do you have to call me out like that? Why do you have to call me out like that? I mean, geez louise. In all truthfulness, that was my first experience with a bot. I mean, it’s been a few years back, but I don’t know. I thought you could throw it on the website and it would maybe like, I don’t know, do its things, some sort of magic or something. And three months later, I’m like, “This thing’s a piece of garbage.” I totally, I mean, I came to the heart of the conclusion that like anything else, it has to be iterative and optimized. I love that one.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:45)
No, I think Gabe, this is an interesting thing, right? Because people keep talking about AI just on a broad macro level. And you know, people will say, look, “AI is going to put everybody out of a job. We won’t need salespeople. We won’t need marketers. We won’t need customer service people.” No, because the role will change because the technology is great, but you still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it. Right? So I think, I think that’s an interesting nuance just as we think about AI generally.

Aarde Cosseboom: (18:11)
Yeah. And talking a little bit about supervised learning; so when we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs. So your team members, your agents are now a part of a QA or quality assurance process on your technology, which is huge. And it kinda levels up the agent as well, too. They’re no longer just answering chats and emails and phone calls. They’re now, they now feel a part of the organization because they have a higher role in reporting this information back.

Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
I’ve been hearing more about this kind of bot, almost like a role, like a bot architect. I love the idea of getting the frontline people in front of it. Guys, give me a couple other nuggets. I think that’s where people want to go with this because I think people are getting onto the idea that they need to have these assistants or bots on their sites, et cetera. I don’t know if people know some of the best practices, lessons learned from deployment, where they get started. Our time’s a little bit short, but give us a quick rundown. Aarde let’s start with you then Vikas, we will go back.

Aarde Cosseboom: (19:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll make it super short, but, it’s a huge chasm to cross from having nothing to having something. That’s why I recommend trying, but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population. So try to do the easier channels first. So online web chat is probably the easiest or a social chat or an SMS bot. Don’t tackle voice first. That’s going to be your hardest heaviest lift and you’re going to be sidetracked.

Gabe Larsen: (19:54)
Vikas what do you think man?

Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
Yeah, I agree with Aarde. Look, you have to look at this as a crawl, walk, run, right? If you try to bite off more than you can chew, you’re going to end up pretty miserable. So for me, number one is, look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue? Maybe that’s something you want to be more proactive serving up. The second is talking to your agents or even looking at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at what are the macros they most often use, right? Because if somebody is just cutting and pasting, we’re hitting hashtag time after time, again, that means those are probably some, that’s some low hanging fruit that you could front end via a bot, the omnibot, for them to resolve themselves. So those are some things that you could look at. Query the data you have, and then just think about, “How do you want to be proactive and thoughtful about putting some of these things in front of your customers?”

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
I think that’s spot on you guys. I mean, my biggest takeaway from today, I’m going to trademark Omnibot. That’s what I’m doing. That’s — I could barely listen to you guys. I was thinking so much about money I’m going to be making on Omnibot here. No, I’m teasing. Aarde, really appreciate you joining. Vikas, as always, great to have you on. For the audience, hope you guys have a fantastic day.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:19)
Have a great weekend.

Aarde Cosseboom: (21:20)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri

How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by two members of the Kustomer team, Andrea Paul, Director of Research, and Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and Customer Experience, to discuss how the pandemic is fast-tracking the digital transformations and how it has changed the way customers interact with businesses, forever. Andrea and her team went out and surveyed CX professionals across a variety of industries to understand how COVID-19 is affecting customer service organizations and how they are adapting to these challenging times. Join the full conversation for hard data and an in-depth discussion on how businesses can succeed and the role technology plays to achieve efficient customer service.

Increases in Inquiries and Changes in Media Channels

One of the first data points discussed is the 17% increase of customer service inquiries for all channels. Meaning, more and more people are reaching out to customer service departments for details about their orders. It has brought out a need for a more proactive approach to customer service. The passive approach of the past has been exposed and companies are learning that they have to change or customers will not continue to use their services.

Another interesting statistic they found is that inquiries increased 34% on the phone. To comment on this trend, Vikas states, “When you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? … So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand.” Companies that will take the time to look at their processes, be more proactive, and respond quickly to their customers will come out on top after all of the COVID-19 effects calm down.

The Challenges of a Remote Workforce

Another big change that all companies are experiencing right now is the transition from an office based workforce to a remote workforce. Vikas and Andrea note several problems that have arisen because of this change. The first issue being the fact that reps, agents, and all employees are lacking the tools and technologies they need to succeed at home. Whether it’s the quality of the computers, the software, wifi, distractions, or phone call quality, employees are struggling to give customers the highest quality experience because they don’t have access to their normal tools and technologies. In addition, management and general team accessibility has been a challenge. Vikas comments on how management has changed by stating, “I think that’s the biggest challenge is what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.” Other professionals from the research project agreed with this statement. Andrea shared that 34% of respondents mentioned it is difficult to work remotely and an additional 23% said they lacked the tools to do their jobs remotely. If a remote workforce is the new normal, data shows that changes must be made to combat these challenges.

Why CX is More Important than Ever Before

90% of the research respondents agreed that customer service is more important than ever before. Andrea shares her thoughts on this data point and suggests an important mindset change: “I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company… So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.” It is clear that companies that focus on customer service will retain their current customers and outlast other companies. In a time where businesses and customers are constantly shifting, companies that are consistent in customer service are going to come out on top.

To learn more about the COVID-19 research conducted by Kustomer, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty. Alrighty then. We’re going to kick this off. We got another session to go live today. We’re going to be talking about how the global pandemic is affecting customer service organizations, more research for you today. That’s one of the things we really want to bring into these conversations. Love practical advice, love best practices, but boy, do I love research. And so to do that, we brought on two special guests. One you’re getting more familiar with, but let us just take a second and have each person introduce themselves. Andrea, let’s start with you.

Andrea Paul: (00:49)
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you guys for having me today. My name is Andrea Paul. I am the Director of Research here at Kustomer. I was a journalist in my past life and I’ve sort of been working on content production and research for SaaS companies for about the last 10 years.

Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
I love it. And she’s got some nuggets, some golden nuggets you’re going to bring out here in just a minute for — Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:12)
Vikas Bhambri SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM contact center lifer. I’m looking forward to the chat today, learning something new from Andrea after all these years.

Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
That’s just the way it works out. And then you know myself, I usually make up a new title for myself every week, but we’ll just leave it at VP of Growth here at Kustomer today. And let’s dive in. So Andrea, let’s start high level. You, the team kind of decided, “Hey, we want to get some data about what’s going on.” Why did that kind of happen? What was the project about? Give us kind of the big picture here before we dive into some of the findings.

Andrea Paul: (01:54)
Yeah. For sure. So I feel like so many companies have been creating tons of content over the last few months ever since the global pandemic happened. Whether that’s general tips for brands or sort of their gut instinct of where businesses are struggling. Right? So, you hear those buzz words of “In these challenging times” or “We’re all in this together.”

Gabe Larsen: (02:17)
That’s my favorite, the “In challenging times.” I love that.

Andrea Paul: (02:20)
Exactly. And I think Kustomer, we were a bit more well positioned with our finger on the pulse because we’re having these ongoing conversations and dialogues with our customers and customer service professionals in this space. But in the end, every company is an isolated incident, right? They’re sort of broad generalizations that we’re making. So we really decided that we needed to come to the table with some like cold, hard facts and data to inform how the global pandemic was really impacting customer service organizations and what they really needed to succeed right now. So, we went out and we ran a survey between April 1st and April 10th. I believe we had around 168 respondents. They were all customer service professionals based in the U.S., employed full-time across a variety of industries. So that was sort of how we approached this.

Gabe Larsen: (03:12)
Love it. Love it. Okay. So, well, let’s dive in and then we’ll get some commentary from myself and Vikas. So big surprises as you got the data back, analyzed it with the team; anything jumped out to start that was a little more, “Hmm, that’s odd?”

Andrea Paul: (03:27)
Yeah. I mean, I think the one thing that was interesting, obviously we had responses across a variety of industries, but we’ve seen differing responses in terms of volume of inquiries and it does shift from industry to industry. So I know that we last week talked about a different research study that actually saw a decrease in inquiries. We saw a 17% increase overall across industries. There was, I think about a 34% increase on phones specifically. So there are these, like a lot of companies are seeing these bursts in activity right now, and there’s just a need for being more efficient and being able to handle this increase.

Gabe Larsen: (04:12)
Okay. So let’s unpack that a little bit. So generally speaking though, companies in this piece were saying, it is a 34% overall increase in–

Andrea Paul: (04:25)
34% on phones. Yeah. So 17, overall 34, on phone, I think it was like 28 via email. We saw that financial services and healthcare, I believe, when we looked at it by industry, were seeing the highest increases. Which makes sense obviously. We all know that, but —

Gabe Larsen: (04:41)
I think because this is where you were going, right? It’s like, you’ve got to be careful with that stat because it’s so industry specific, right?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:49)
It is. But I think what Andrea’s research is showing, I think a couple of things that I took away from that was, one; when you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? Because I mean phone is the most real time, no offense to chat and some of the other channels, SMS, et cetera, but they’re asynchronous. When customers reach for the phone what that tells me is “I don’t want to wait anymore. I don’t want the back and forth. I want to speak to somebody and I want to speak to somebody now.” So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand. And then if you look at just the overall 17%, that applies to what we’re seeing in our one-on-one conversations, which is a big discussion point around this surge. That’s actually what people are calling it, the surge. And it’s the number of conversations that people are having per order. I’ve heard as many as four to five times x the normal volume, because people are like, “You know what, I just don’t want to hit something on your website and say order, I now want to know constantly, where is it? When’s it getting here? Why is it late, right? Why is one item missing?” And so I think that anxiety is also kind of compounding the expectation.

Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Yeah. I went on the phone because I do think that adds, you’re right. There’s just something more about, we’re all feeling the urgency and so it’s one thing to say, requests are going up, but that the phone requests are kind of seeing one of the bigger spikes, just shows you that we’re nervous. We’re feeling the need to kind of do something more and so it’s coming out of the phone cause it’s like, “I need an answer and I want it now.” What were you going to say Andrea? Sorry I didn’t mean to —

Andrea Paul: (06:46)
Yeah. I was just going to say, excuse me, 80% of the customer service professionals that we surveyed also said that they had a greater need for proactive outreach. And I think it goes to just that. Right? So all of these customers for each order, they’re reaching out because they want to know are there delays in shipping? What are you doing to keep me safe? Are there fulfillment issues happening right now? There’s so many more questions that consumers are asking so customer service organizations are having to sort of scramble and figure out, “How do I get ahead of this so I’m not seeing this huge surge in inquiries, and try to get all the questions answered before they come in.”

Gabe Larsen: (07:29)
Surprising? Vikas, when you see something like that? I mean, we’ve talked about proactive activity being important for some time but it sounds like, again, COVID, it’s doing this in a lot of ways, but kind of putting the pedal to the metal on that one as well.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:42)
Well, I think what people are discovering, kind of during the stress test, is their current investments are severely lacking and they didn’t realize it because look, when your volumes are low, when expectations are low, you can muddy through it, right? I can go to your website, look for my order, hit that FedEx tracking link that takes me to a page that doesn’t give me any further update. And I send you an email and you respond and we go — but now you’ve got 10 X, I heard one CEO mentioned that they actually are seeing a 10000% increase. So 10 X took — then 10,000, obviously. But the volumes increased, but also the heightened anxiety. So now I go to your website and I get that tracking. It takes me to a FedEx page and FedEx doesn’t give me data. Guess what, email is not going to cut it. I’m picking up the phone and I’m calling you to say, “Where’s my order because I’m waiting for diapers for my baby,” right? And you know, “Food for my kids, medicine,” whatever it might be. And I think that’s what — people are figuring out like, “Wow, are our investments simply–” And unfortunately this is getting — Andrea, I don’t know if there’s anything came up on your research here, but what I’m hearing is this is now hitting the executive level where CEOs are now becoming aware that their investment, that their team told them they were perfectly fine are no longer, ready, willing, and able for the current state.

Andrea Paul: (09:15)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there was a data point in the research survey that did talk about the need to invest in new technology. So there was one data point around adopting more efficient, more automation to become efficient. I think that it was 59% of respondents that said they needed to adopt more automation for efficiency. And then an additional 59% of respondents said that they just realized now that they needed to invest in new technology, because whether that was challenges with efficiency or working remote or whatever it was, they realized there are so many problems that we didn’t have to address previously that now are staring us straight in the face and we can’t ignore anymore.

Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah. Is that because — Andrea, do you think that’s — I mean, I assume that’s obviously you got a lot of reason coming from COVID on that, but people not knowing that they need more automation just sounds like an odd statement to make. But, do you feel that that’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon? Or do we just expect that to go more and more and more?

Andrea Paul: (10:29)
Yeah. I mean, I think efficiency is always sort of the name of the game in any business that’s trying to make money. It’s just that right now, the circumstances are so different. I think that there were 63% of our respondents that they needed to cut costs due to COVID and an additional, I think it was 46% or so said that they had to reduce staff. So that efficiency is just so much more transparent. But I think —

Gabe Larsen: (11:01)
I like that pairing, hold on because that’s interesting. Right? It’s like, that’s where the pedal meets the metal. We’re in a situation now where a lot of us have had to cut some unfortunate individuals due to circumstances. And so we are required to do more with less. Say those numbers one more time. What percent had said they —

Andrea Paul: (11:22)
It was 63% reporting they needed to cut costs and then 46% reported that they needed to reduce staff. So yeah, that’s huge numbers and obviously we’re seeing that across the board, no matter the industry. There are certain industries like financial services that are more busy than ever. But the fact is, we’re seeing this increase of inquiries across industries while also a lack of resources, while also costs and staff being away for them. So right now it’s like, “Wow, we didn’t realize we were being inefficient, but we have to do everything in our power in order to figure out how to solve this for now and into the future.” We don’t know —

Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
In that case I think the inquiries are going up as we heard. Right? So now I do have this interesting situation where the staff is down, the technology costs or investment is going down and obviously I’m getting more inquiries. I have to potentially do more, again, do more with less because how do you think companies then manage around this? That is the environment. “I have less employees, I’m asked to do more.” Is automation the answer?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:28)
You know, automation is definitely one answer, right? I mean I think it’s the key one, but I think before you even get to the automation, I think you have to figure out the process, like where are the gaps? Where are you getting hit the hardest? It goes back to my example before around if people are coming to you for Wismo, “Where’s my order?” Now go tackle that, head on right? And then go after the next thing. And then the next one, I think, where people just kind of — where they struggle is where it becomes too daunting. Right? Oh my goodness. I’m just getting bombarded. I don’t know where to start. So you almost need to take it piece by piece and prioritize your volumes and say, “Look right now, we’re seeing an uptick in Wismo” as it’s referred to, right? “And let’s go tackle that. And then the next one.” But here’s the interesting thing is this is a unique opportunity for a lot of companies in two ways that I’m seeing is one; look, Amazon and some of the other big retailers really struggled early on. Right? And so created a window of opportunity for some of the other entrance in the market to take market share. Now you knew Amazon was going to figure it out sooner or later and get back online and they have.

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It feels like it’s figuring it out. Right? [inaudible]

Vikas Bhambri: (13:45)
So the question is in that six week period, were you able to win the hearts and minds of those customers? Right. And a lot of brands struggled with everything from supply chain to delivery to customer service. So they may have missed out on that opportunity. The other thing in other industries where people are finding is look, we just saw the unemployment rate here in the U.S., people will have more time and they will start looking at their balance sheet and they will start looking at, “Wait a minute, why am I paying this fee to my financial services firm? Why am I paying this to my mobile bill?” Things that they just take for granted because when you’re employed and you’re working and you’re super busy, you don’t look at these line items. Now you’ll see a big chunk of the populace will start looking at this and start reaching out to their financial services company or their telco or whoever and saying, “Hey, you got to do something for me.” So you’re going to see a surge in those industries as people start looking at their bottom line.

Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m doing it. I don’t know about everybody else, but my bill the other day, I was like, where can I cut? Right? I mean, we’ve got to get smart here. Andrea, this channel thing keeps coming back into my mind. I’m just very interested. The phone thing. I love that point. Any other tidbits on things you’re seeing with different channels that are happening? Channels going up, channels going down, anything else you could share there?

Andrea Paul: (15:10)
Yeah, I mean, across the board, I think the only industry that we saw any decreases in on specific channels was retail. And it was also different for individual retailers, which makes a lot of sense. I mean, across the board, people are, as you said, cutting down on expenses. So if it isn’t an essential item that they need they might not be buying and thus might not be sending inquiries to customer service teams. Um, but overall across all industries, there was an increase for all channels. Phone happened to be the most followed by email and then reaching out on the web, which makes it seem, people are in front of their computer all day. So that will —

Gabe Larsen: (15:54)
[inaudible] On that last piece that just that other, some of those other channels, because phone and email have been the dominant channels for so long in this part of the world. Do you think with some of the changes, and maybe you saw that in the data with some spikes, but do you think social now, if it saw a little bit of a spike, is it going to remain higher because you know, people are there and they want to use some of these different channels and all of a sudden phones becomes a little less dominant as we move into the future?

Andrea Paul: (16:21)
I mean, I think it really speaks to the urgency factor that Vikas was talking about. Social, in terms of all of the channels, was the lowest in terms of a spike. I think it was single digits. And when people are on the go, when they’re running from place to place and from office to home, they’re on their cell phones, they’re going on Twitter and inquiring with companies. I think that’s not necessarily how people are functioning right now. They have more time and they also need an urgent answer to their inquiries. So they’re choosing other channels to get that done. I think the social thing is more about convenience when people are moving from place to place.

Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
I wonder and Vikas, you might have a thought on this. It’s just with us all kind of moving remote and obviously the urgency we’re seeing in some of the channels, but we’ve wondered if some of these other things like SMS, social, Facebook would start to gain more market share in communication channels and customer support. Is this the moment that we’ll continue to see that? They’ve now taken more market share from phone or email? Do you think they’ll kind of continue to drop back down and phone and email will continue to dominate as we move into the next three, six, twelve months?

Vikas Bhambri: (17:33)
Yeah I think the industry has been on like a slow transition to these other channels. And right now the consumer doesn’t have the appetite to be trained. You actually do have to train the consumer to move to these other channels. It doesn’t happen overnight right? When about five, six years ago, working on projects, moving people from voice to chat as an example, that’s a big change in management, right? How you even present options on your website, right? Hiding the 1-800 number, doing things like that. So, you know, I think that the adoption in those areas has been relatively slow and I don’t think now’s the time, right? When the consumer doesn’t have any patience to say, Oh, by the way, SMS us if you need help, if that wasn’t part of your core engagement before, now’s not the time to try and try those things.

Gabe Larsen: (18:26)
Interesting. Andrea, and I’m sorry, my mind is full of questions that I’m hoping she has the answer for all these, but [inaudible] remote work. I mean, that’s obviously been a challenge for a lot of us. We’ve talked about it in previous sessions, Vikas and I. We’ve lacked some data. I mean, we believe a lot of people are doing it, but, and we believe it’s frustrating. Any light you could kind of shed on just that, what’s going on with the remote workforce type stuff?

Andrea Paul: (18:49)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I touched on it before that companies now are having to sort of face these challenges that they didn’t realize were challenges before. Almost every company that we surveyed did say that the vast majority of their employees were fully remote now, which makes sense where a lot of states are still in this lockdown, but 34% of the respondents did say that they were reporting difficulty working remotely. And 23% of them said that they didn’t have the tools in place to actually do it, which is huge. It’s like I’m being forced to work remotely, but I physically cannot do it given my current tech stack. So that was kind of shocking to me.

Gabe Larsen: (19:32)
Was there in the stat, or maybe Vikas you’ve heard about this, it seems like, the percentage of people who are now working remotely, I mean, it’s got to be extremely high from look, we’re almost all a hundred percent and then to combat that, it sounds like people are struggling to try to work within that environment. Tools and technology you highlighted. What else do you guys think is holding people back from being effective in this work from a home environment that we’re all facing? Vikas maybe let’s start with you and then Andrea will pop back.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:04)
I think one of the biggest challenges is management. The contact center in particular, hasn’t really evolved in how people manage, right? Because we’re just — it’s still an industry or segment that’s still very much co-located. Right? A lot of times when you talk to even companies that are distributed, they’ll tell you, “Oh, but our support team is based in X.” Right? So that I think creates a challenge because so much of it was just walking the floor, right? Going and sitting with an agent, observing them, that kind of even the one-on-one’s and how you engage the team, how you look at what they’re doing, how you mentor them is very different than I think other industries or other departments within companies. So I think that’s the biggest challenge … what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.

Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
Yeah. I personally have felt that problem. So I’m glad others have too. Andrea, what would you add?

Andrea Paul: (21:08)
Yeah, I mean, I think in addition to that, a lot of support teams have to bring in additional individuals on other teams, right? So whether that’s processing a return or they have a question for a different department, they can’t, walk over and tap someone on the shoulder. So being able to, in an efficient way, incorporate a lot of different individuals across an organization and make sure that customer’s problems can be resolved very quickly; that’s been a huge, huge issue.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:38)
I mean, we’ve all been on the call and in fact, I was on one yesterday with a brand and it was like, can I put you on hold while I speak to my manager? Guess what? That manager’s not physically there and I’m sure they would have a week ago or actually a month ago they would have turned around and said, “Hey, I’ve got a quick question for you.” Now they’re trying to track that person down. This agent put me on and off hold four times before I finally said “I’m done.” And then it was like, yeah, let me take your details and I’ll see if I can get a hold of my manager and call you back. And of course I never heard back. So guess what, lost opportunity for them because I won’t be doing business once this thing ends, but I think that’s a great example of yeah; how do you even get a hold of your manager?

Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
That’s so frustrating. I mean, the tools and technology, I think it comes down to that. Andrea, I’ve kind of dictated some of the questions I was interested in some of the things I’ve been wondering about; any other interesting bits or things that kind of popped out before we wrap?

Andrea Paul: (22:38)
Yeah. I mean, I think that one headline stat, which I think we’re all aware of as you know, in the customer service world, but, 90% of professionals reported that they think that customer service is more important than ever right now. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company. A lot of people are very isolated right now their talking to a CS professional, could literally be the only social interaction they have for an entire day. So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.

Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Yeah. Yeah. So you kind of, because I was going to follow up with that. I mean, everyone believes it, but what is it about customer experience that is the most important? Is it that point of feeling valued? I literally just got off a call with a gentleman, he’s my new favorite customer care leader, Douglas from ESPN. If you’re watching Douglas, a little bit of a shout out. Amazing some of the things they’ve done over at ESPN. Obviously all live sports, right? Turn that off. He’s really allowed his agents, you’ve got agents doing 15, 20 minute calls of people just wanting to talk about sports and he’s like, “You wouldn’t believe the CSAT man. They’re going through the roof because people are calling in and they’re like, do you remember that time when Michael Jordan shoved Bryon Russell in game six of the 97 finals?” I was just watching the last dance and [inaudible], but they’re missing. So anyways, he’s like, “Man, we’ve been really pushing that. That’s usually not something we love to do.” So that’s one aspect. Are there other things as part of the customer experience, Vikas, that you say “That’s why it’s so important right now. It’s X or it’s Y?”

Vikas Bhambri: (24:46)
Yeah. I mean, I think you saw, I think Zappos actually did something like that where if you just need somebody to talk to you can call the Zappos contact center and you know Zappos is known to deliver happiness to the world, but you know, literally saying our agents are just here to talk to you, even if you’re not buying anything from us. I think that just, that’s what my thing is. Those of us that are in this space have always known that CX is at the forefront. They are the voice of your brand. I mean, no offense to marketers, right? But they’re the front line. They have the physical engagement with the customer, right? Whether it be a conversation over the phone or chat or any other medium. The thing for most brands now is look, we’re seeing it unfortunately every day. There are brands, there are historic brands, the J Crews of the world and Neiman Marcus’ that are filing for bankruptcy, etcetera. How do you not only survive, but flourish? And the customer is extremely loyal, believe it or not. As much as we talk about the — when we look at it generationally, we look at it by income, we look at — what’s been proven out in the last 20 years is customers are loyal. But, they’re loyal to the brands that deliver that amazing experience. So how do you separate from the pack, leverage this opportunity to go further and then win customers for life. I think that’s the big thing if you’re a CEO of a brand that you should be sitting around and talking to your team about, which is; yes, this is a traumatic time for a lot of folks, but this is a — we can position ourselves in a way to be unique, deliver amazing service experience, and then of course, when this thing comes to an end, and it will, how do we continue to work with these people?

Gabe Larsen: (26:41)
How do we come out on top, right? Andrea, what’s kind of your — you’ve read the data, you did the research. What do you do next? If I’m a customer service leader I’ve gone through this piece, I understand some of the problems and challenges, what’s the takeaway, or how would you coach customer service leaders to act or behave differently, knowing some of the data points you’ve shared with us?

Andrea Paul: (27:02)
Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is, as I have said many times, this is just exposing a lot of gaps in what customer service teams, what tools they have, what strategies they have. And I think it’s different from industry to industry, from business to business. So the big takeaway for me is like, understanding where are you falling short? Where are those gaps? What are the challenges you’re facing and then how to solve those, whether that’s your approach to interacting with customers, whether that’s having new tools in your tech stack in order to work remotely more efficiently or successfully. But really taking a look at your organization, understanding where those challenges are and how you can better prepare yourself for the future and for right now.

Gabe Larsen: (27:49)
Yeah. It certainly is an opportunity to get your operations in order. There’s no doubt about that. Vikas let’s end with you. Hearing some of those data points, what would be your recommendation as companies and customer success service leaders move forward?

Vikas Bhambri: (28:03)
Sure. And Andrea, just really enlightening research even for us that are in the thick of it. Definitely learning some new things. Look, for support leaders, I would say, key thing, this is still — you’re in the thick of it and it is a human-to-human game, as much as we talk about automation and technology. And as you’re working with not only the customer side, but then the agent side to make sure that everybody is happy, healthy, and engaged to do what they need to do, whether it’s buy more goods or actually service the customer. So, my thing for all support leaders out there is use the community effectively. Tools like support driven, right? We had a huge summit that’s fully recorded and available with just a lot of trick tools from amazing thought leaders around the globe that we’re making available to folks on our website. And then lastly, look, Gabe, Andrea and I are here, right? And we have our experiences and our network of both customers and industry veterans. So feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn, if there’s anything we can do to help you as you’re brainstorming and thinking about how do you not only navigate the here and now, but what’s the plan going forward? We’re more than happy to help with that conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (29:26)
Love it, love it. Alrighty. Well, Andrea, thanks for joining. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining. Fun talk track. The research is available. We’ll make links to it here in the comments. Make sure you download that and certainly best of luck and stay safe.

Andrea Paul: (29:42)
Thanks guys.

Exit Voice: (29:47)
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