Customer service agent friction can be a major pain point for many businesses, because there are innumerable variables in the customer journey that can be hard to account for. However, if businesses want to scale, they need to remove as many roadblocks as possible that might be preventing the customer from purchasing, resolving their problems, or having a seamless customer experience.
Customers have reported that they’d completely leave a website and abandon their cart if their questions or concerns weren’t answered quickly enough. More consumers value the ease of communicating with a brand than ever before, and customer service agents are on the forefront of representing a brand, becoming the single source of truth for customers to depend on.
If you have poor systems and processes in place during the customer service handoff, your customers will notice and become easily frustrated. With so much money going into marketing and sales budgets, it’s important to tighten up the backend so that your dollars go further and your customers report high satisfaction rates, finish the buyer cycle with ease, and are excited to come back for more personalized service.
What is Customer Service Agent Friction?
Customer service agent friction is when customer service agents are having a hard time fulfilling customer requests and getting to their conversation backlog quickly. This can be a big contributor as to why a customer might not have a pleasant experience. Many people prefer a frictionless experience, and if agents are struggling to keep up with inbound conversations, customers will get frustrated and potentially leave for the competition.
What is Customer Friction?
Customer friction refers to everything that a customer might face that brings their purchasing decision to a halt or prevents them from completing a transaction. It can also mean common questions or problems a customer might have, but can not find the solutions to. The goal in the end is to remove all obstacles a customer might face when they interact with your brand. There can be many factors as to why customer friction might occur. For one, the quality or usability of a brand’s website may not be up to par. The business might have limited operational hours, or it could be difficult for the customer to get to the payment form. Customer friction can also occur when dealing with uninformed staff or excessive customer service wait times.
Why Reducing Agent Friction Matters
Businesses need to take a hard look at their internal processes. Fifty-seven percent of consumers said they’d completely abandon their cart if their questions weren’t answered quickly enough. Delays can happen when a service agent doesn’t have all the information they need, and this leads to people taking their money elsewhere. Sometimes this information is dependent on other departments, like the fulfillment center or finance department, and agents need to individually reach out to a different team. You can prevent this from happening through the incorporation of CX software that already has an internal knowledge base that houses critical company information to help agents with their information roadblocks.
If customers aren’t satisfied with their customer service experience, they’re more likely to be vocal to their friends and family about it, and make a point to deter others from doing business with the brand. They are also less likely to return to a brand if they’ve had a negative customer service experience. Valuable dollars and additional revenue could be saved just by investing in a streamlined process to help agents be more efficient and effective.
The Most Common Agent Friction Problems
Many businesses operate on an old-school, or traditional CS model. A customer comes to the brand with an issue, a ticket gets created, this ticket gets assigned to an agent, and then they work on it until there’s a resolution. This all sounds great in theory, but we’re living in a more evolved world and customers are actually contacting brands on more than one platform. Here are some of the common problems CS teams face:
Under the traditional CS model, there is a common issue that occurs: duplicate tickets get created for the same customer when they reach out on different social platforms. This often leads to having two customer service agents dedicated to the same problem, causing the customer to repeat themselves more than once. It also causes the customer a lot of frustration because they might get two different solutions to their problem, and this gives them a dissatisfactory and disjointed brand experience. With an omnichannel solution, CX organizations can prevent this duplicate ticket creation right away because the customer is at the center of every interaction.
Customer conversation backlog
Agents might be diligently working through conversations, but because the internal processes on the backend are broken or not intuitive, your agents might actually be spending too much time on repetitive tasks that could be automated. This holds up the conversation with the customer or requires the customer to wait a long time for their problem to be solved. In this fast-paced world, customers do not want to wait 3-5 days to see if they’re eligible for a product exchange, refund, or whether their item will be back in stock.
A backlog of conversations is costly for any organization because it holds up not only the customer’s time, but the agent’s time as well. By reducing this agent friction, customers receive faster service and agents are able to focus 100% of their time on complex problems without having to waste resources on low-level, repetitive tasks. This is one of the easiest roadblocks to remove, and will set your agents up for success.
Long Wait Times
In conjunction with the problem above, customers hate long wait times, even when they know their agent is working in the background to help them. Customer service agents might depend on external factors or other departments in order for them to answer their customer’s question knowledgeably. The good news is that technology and automation can help you determine where you can shorten the process, reduce handoffs within the team, and get those response times down so that your customers leave feeling happy.
Lack of Data: What’s Working? What’s Not?
The biggest problem for companies when it comes to reducing customer service agent friction is due to the fact that they do not have the data to see why a customer might be slipping through the cracks. Many companies are going in blind when they’re interacting with their most important asset: their customers. Why leave it up to chance to see whether your customer leaves happy or not? By tracking key data points, you can use that data to improve your process and better prepare your CS team.
Kustomer – The Solution for You
If you’re tired of not having the data to make smart decisions and service customers quickly, Kustomer is your ally. Our omnichannel solution helps relieve customer service agent friction and gets you the data you need to see where you can optimize your internal processes. Our holistic customer view, knowledge base integration and powerful automations, allow customer service agents to focus on the most important issues without having to toggle between systems and tabs.
When it comes to building a successful customer service organization, you always want to start with defining your business outcomes. So the first question becomes: what do you want to achieve? Is it increased customer loyalty? Increased revenue? Incremental customer growth? Without understanding your ultimate end goal, knowing a customer’s history may seem unnecessary. But as soon as you identify your goal, it’ll become clear that your organization won’t be successful without access to customer history, and you’ll instantly know what about the customer’s history is most valuable to understand.
Let’s think of customer relationships more broadly. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about building a relationship with a new friend or significant other? You’ll most likely want to learn about who that person is on a deeper level. This helps you understand why they make the decisions they make, what their habits are, and more generally, who they are as a person.
You should follow that same mindset when it comes to your relationships with customers. The way you approach a customer varies depending on the type of business you are in. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, both are equally as important. Your customer is purchasing from you for a reason, and it would be a missed opportunity to not understand why. An inadequate view into this information will disrupt your team’s ability to create more meaningful interactions that will leave a lasting impression and keep valued customers.
Customer History for B2B Organizations
If you are in the B2B space, you know how much of an investment, in both time and money, your customers are making by switching over to your business. Clearly, the previous provider didn’t work for them, and if you never bother to understand what their pain points were and why they have moved over to you, you’ll end up making the same mistakes, likely resulting in churn. It is incredibly important to always identify customer challenges, map out how to solve them and ensure that you are delivering value at every opportunity. At the end of the day, if your service still can’t solve some of the pain points they have presented, the relationship might not make sense and it’s better to set proper expectations right at the forefront. People yearn for trust and that goes hand-in-hand with powerful and effective business relationships built on a collaborative plan that sets out to overcome obstacles. This can only happen when you understand and have access to, your customer’s history.
Delivering on B2C Consumer Expectations
In the B2C space, younger generations are continuing to trend towards higher expectations from the brands that they engage with. They are looking for easy access, real-time information, and proactive approaches that make their day-to-day easier. Customer service in today’s digital world is what makes you stand out from your competitors. Knowing your customer’s purchase history, loyalty status, preferences, or even sentiment with your brand, allows you to treat them with higher levels of service, increasing customer loyalty. This, in turn, makes your own team’s lives easier and helps to prevent fatigue. Arming your team with such valuable information allows them to act quickly and spend less time tracking down information, which grants them more time to think creatively and respond more thoroughly.
Whether you are working with a business or you are engaging with individual customers, knowing a customer’s history will allow you to avoid the same mistakes or disruptive experiences they have been faced with in the past, and build long-lasting, lucrative relationships.
Are you someone who likes to get the most out of their CRM? Are you someone who likes to learn new things? Well, we have great news for you! Based on customer feedback, we have created a team dedicated to learning and training to help our customers get the most value out of Kustomer and deliver best-in-class customer experiences. Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of our brand new learning management system, Kustomer University.
Kustomer University will house courses on platform navigation, configuration, and best practices. New admins will love our guided program, Kustomer 101, which will take you through everything you need to know about managing your Kustomer instance. Experienced admins will enjoy our advanced courses and certifications launching later this year. Onboard your newest agents with our Kustomer Agent Training course, which gives them a platform overview and best practices for supporting customers using the platform.
Just as Kustomer is customer-centric, Kustomer University is designed with you in mind. Built with realistic expectations of your day, Kustomer University delivers microbursts of training to help you level-up your platform proficiency in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee. Our training team layers content into need-to-know bite-sized learning guides that deliver new information in a fun, easy-going way that will challenge you just enough to make it stick. Our courses are typically less than 15 minutes, comprised of two to four minute lessons. We mix engaging video, best practices and activities to make the most of your time with us.
We’re committed to investing in training for all users of the Kustomer platform. Later in 2021, keep an eye out for more advanced content on our most powerful features, training for supervisors and team leaders, and in the second half of the year, we’ll be launching our first certifications. We’re also excited to explore in-person workshops and custom training options later this year.
We’d love to know what else you’d like to see in Kustomer University. Admins can submit and upvote training requests directly in Kustomer so we know how to best prioritize our roadmap. Head to Settings > Feature Requests and select Training as your request category.
Log in to Kustomer University today by going to your avatar menu in the platform, or visit us directly at university.kustomer.com. Log in with your Kustomer credentials —there’s no need to create any new passwords or add any bookmarks.
Growth creates growing pains. And often, high-growth brands struggle to scale their contact centers while also managing an influx of shopper queries, such as returns or locating an item. Balancing these forces — scale and volume — often starts with reviewing your help center software and removing manual, time-consuming tasks, including sifting through queues, escalating issues and processing transactions.
What Is Help Center Software?
Simply put, help center software enables conversations between customer service professionals and shoppers, who submit support inquiries. The software fields, stores and organizes these queries and displays them to the agent. Within this interface, staff have access to a variety of customer communications and data, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Perhaps most importantly, help center software powered by AI and machine learning can automate agent work and process inquiries without agent intervention, freeing up agent time to tackle more complex requests.
As DTC markets grow — and with them, consumer expectations and inquiry volume — technology must keep up. Modern help center software eliminates low level tasks and deflects repetitive questions, empowering customer service professionals to be more focused and reducing per-contact costs. What makes great software? Read more below.
Why Focus on Help Center Software?
Few business facets are more important than customer service. Speaking about 2021 customer service trends, Allegra Ubbes, a senior advisory specialist at Gartner, summarized the market this way:
“Customer service and support leaders face increased pressure from leadership on the role of the service function in improving operational excellence and growing the business. Given this environment, it’s unsurprising that customer service and support leaders’ top 2020 priorities are rooted in customer experience (CX), managing talent and data.”
Adding to their analysis, Gartner surveyed service executives about their priorities. Topping their lists: digital channels and functions. “Customer service leaders feel a distinct pressure to meet customers’ expectations for digital service channels and keep pace with competitors’ service offerings,” analysts write. “As a result, service leaders spend a disproportionate amount of time adding or integrating channels.”
However, research finds this creates a “costlier, more complex network of channels to manage without improving the customer experience and insufficient reduction in live volume.” Put another way: not every help center software – and the channels they facilitate – can power the sleek shopping experience that buyers want. On the contrary, that software may damage customer relations and the company’s bottom line.
Make Friends With Customer Experience (CX)
Simply sidestepping help center software all together isn’t going to solve this issue. Indicators suggest brands can anticipate a sustained surge of digital customer queries. And the National Retail Federation (NRF) found there’s a good chance 2020-based forces have permanently altered the CX industry. As such, brands should take notice.
Training their sights on the November-December holiday season, NRF found retail sales rose to $789.4 billion, an 8.3% increase over 2019. Online and other sales outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores grew 23.9% over the previous year as well.
Greater sales activity creates a cascade effect on business operations: starting with increased urgency placed on customer service professionals and their tools, such as help desk software. How great a spike in activity? Just under 70% of respondents said they fielded more customer queries in 2020 when compared to the previous holiday season.
And there’s a price tag attached to excellent CX. Researchers found an overwhelming 86% of buyers said they’d pay more for a product when that shopping experience comes with superior customer service. When there’s demand for — and more money to be made — with great customer service, avoiding help center software isn’t an option.
Help Center Software of Your Dreams
Alright, so those are the stakes. But what factors should a customer service professional weigh when evaluating different help center software? Look no further than software that leverages the latest technology to make agents more efficient and effective.
Holistic Customer View. See the whole picture. Often answers are found by combining information from different sources. Opt for a software that uses a holistic customer view, and displays every item of internal and external data into one actionable interface.
Powerful Automation. Give your agents more bandwidth to focus their energy on pressing tasks with AI and machine learning, which completes small, easy tasks that don’t require a human touch.
True Omnichannel. Endlessly toggling between engagement channels burns valuable time and energy, which could be spent delving into customer queries. Choose a help center software with omnichannel features that empower agents to switch between channels without ever leaving the conversation.
Sentiment Fluency. Customer service can be a huge source of data. Let AI do the hard work. Software with sentiment fluency interprets shoppers’ feelings and turns them into actionable insights.
Customization. It’s a bad idea to add tools that aren’t a good fit for your operation. Cumbersome solutions burn resources, and can ultimately harm a customer’s shopping experience. Choose a software that seamlessly integrates with your existing operation.
Help Center Software Solutions
Want to see these fives pillars in action? Check out Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform for managing high support volume. When there’s a surge of customer queries, not just any help center software will do. Delve deeper into this topic, and discover how artificial intelligence can reduce time spent on minor tasks and create a more enjoyable shopping experience for customers.
Have you and your teams struggled with the transition to remote customer service, and want more control on how you’re delivering a stellar experience to your customers? The Kustomer Platform bridges the gap between addressing accountability problems (are my agents really working?), giving you a seamless way to track important data points about your customer.
What is Remote Customer Service?
With an uptick in people working from home and being online more than ever before, consumers need and expect customer support 24/7. Your remote customer service agents should do everything an in-house CS rep can do: take calls, process high-level customer questions, and be attentive to your customer’s unique needs. The good news is, your brand can offer a completely remote customer service experience and you don’t need to rent costly office space to deliver an exceptional experience.
Here Are 4 Simple Ways To Deliver Stellar Remote Customer Service:
1. Easy Access
All you need is an internet browser and standard wifi, and you’re good to go!
2. Seamless Collaboration
Through easy integrations, you can loop in cross functional teams and use tools like Notes, @mentions, followers, and more.
3. Easy Oversight
Remotely manage your CX tool with confidence.
Quickly get a bird’s eye view of customer service agent availability & capacity.
Jump into active conversations and manage queue assignments easily.
4. Stay Efficient & Effective
Finally! You can leverage a true omnichannel CRM to create a detailed picture of every customer and help them stay engaged on any platform.
Easy automation of repetitive tasks.
Access all the data you need in just one place!
Want To See What Effortless Remote Customer Service Looks Like?
You can request a 15-minute live intro call with one of our representatives here, or you can see the Kustomer platform in action by getting a behind-the-scenes look here.
Data. The buzzword we can’t escape. The subject of many a podcast, workshop, TEDTalk — you get it. By now, most organizations understand the impact of acquiring, analyzing, and modeling data to drive business decisions. And while many like to wax poetic about how data is changing the world of customer service forever, there’s not much talk about actionable ways to architect or use your data. The phrase “data modeling” might feel like PhD material, but it really just refers to a process for using data to help you predict business performance (even if you’re just working from pivot tables in a Google Sheet).
When you want to use data to address a business challenge, it’s important to ensure that you fully understand the problem at hand. This concept might feel like a no-brainer, but I often find that companies don’t spend enough time trying to understand the issue. As a CX Director or team lead, you may feel like you have a solid grasp on the problem, but that problem may be understood differently by your agents — or even your customers! Lean into this step to fully understand all facets of the issue as you begin to sort through existing data and identify gaps in the data that need to be filled.
As a Customer Success Manager at Kustomer, I have the privilege of seeing firsthand how companies big and small are integrating data-centric strategies into their operations. Below are some of the most recent use cases that inspire me.
Using Data To Understand International vs. Domestic Performance
One of my clients wanted to explore how their business performed internationally, and how that performance compared to their work in the United States. They have always gathered contact reasons for each of their conversations. They also possessed the country info for each of their customers (primarily gathered through their shipping addresses). Segmenting customers into international vs domestic audiences — and breaking down the count of unique contact reasons within these segments — yielded interesting conclusions for their CX team. It’s probably not a huge surprise that “where is my order” topped the list of contact reasons for each segment, but there was a clear divergence in the data after that. Their team was able to dive deeper into these reasons to build a more tailored content strategy for their international customers and improve international sentiment.
Using Data To Understand Which Products Are Most Likely To Be Damaged During Shipping
Another client wanted to examine which of their products were most likely to be reported as damaged in transit to the customer. While they collected whether a customer reported a damaged item through the conversation’s contact reason, they did not collect the product SKU that was associated with each of those “damaged” contact reasons. The business began training their agents to fill out SKUs for specific contact reasons, and they reinforced that training by building logic into the Kustomer Platform that required the SKU to be provided when the “damaged” contact reason was selected for a conversation. As they’ve begun collecting this data, they’ve been able to determine which of their specific products are damaged at higher rates, and adjust their shipping and packing strategies to better protect those items. Not only does this work increase sentiment and trust for their customers, but it also helps the business to save money spent on replacements and refunds.
Using Data To Understand How Sales Team Consults Contribute To Revenue
One of my clients has a sales team that helps customers navigate the company’s inventory and acts as consultants through the buying process. However, that sales team is not involved in every experience — they’re simply present if the customer wants or needs their expertise. My client wanted to understand how these consults were contributing to the company’s revenue; what was the ROI for these consults? In order to get this insight, the company began to automatically tag customers as “sales influenced” for 24 hours after a consult was completed with their sales staff. If that customer places an order in that 24-hour window, then the sale is attributed to the sales team’s efforts. This process allows the business to better understand how effective these consults are, and whether to update the process or continue forward.
Interested in learning how the Kustomer Platform can uncover more data-driven insights for your business? Schedule a demo here.
As the direct-to-customer market grows, many brands continue to adopt traditional approaches to customer service and stumble over the same obstacles again and again. How should customer service professionals rethink client care? And where should brands even begin this process? Let’s unpack some common customer service problems and solutions.
Below, we outline common obstacles, such as adapting to new customer preferences and gauging success, and cover modern solutions.
Customer Service Basics: What’s the Problem?
Despite popular wisdom, a majority of buyers do not want to speak to a support agent. That’s according to a survey by market research company Forrester. Analysts found most customers simply want accurate, relevant and complete answers to their queries. Why does this matter?
Returning to the study, more than 50% of U.S. adults said they’re likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.
Speaking to only those one-in-two shoppers for whom speed is a factor, whether or not a brand closes a sale depends on how quickly customers can locate answers related to a product.
Delving deeper into this topic, 70% of adults said valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
Customers are increasingly using self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for customer service, which apply less friction to the shopping experience, Forrester researchers write.
Examples of these channels include:
Web or mobile self-service.
Online forums or communities.
Of course, now’s not the time to unplug and retire the landlines. What this report points to is a more nuanced, tech-forward approach to our customer service problems and solutions — an approach that is more vital now than ever.
How Did COVID-19 Shift Customer Service
COVID-19. Social distancing. Virtual connections. With an eye on the upcoming year, Forrester suggests customer service centers will adapt to a shifting market, one shaped by the pandemic. There’s a “need for a more empathetic service experience,” analysts write. Additionally, customer service will become a lifeline for an estimated 33 million consumers.
“With U.S. unemployment peaking in April ,” they write, “millions of individuals found themselves struggling to pay for food, bills, and other necessities.” They suggest responsible organizations provide high-quality, emotionally sensitive customer support in a form that meets customers’ needs.
Concurring with the above trend, Forrester predicts a sharp, 40% spike in virtual customer support cases, placing greater scrutiny on brands and greater urgency on their support agents to meet shoppers’ preferences: namely a demand for self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels.
Finally, Forrester projects the creation of hybrid store/contact center roles. While brick-and-mortar stores have been hurt by the pandemic and subsequent social distancing guidelines, they haven’t been erased. Assuming a hybrid posture towards customer service problems and solutions creates the greatest opportunity for brands to meet shoppers’ needs.
Tackling Customer Service Problems and Solutions
As we covered in a previous blog post, customer service agents who aim to improve their care face a unique challenge. So often, the starting points for new solutions are major issues that may be intangible and tricky to define, such as:
Immediate need to deflect conversations.
Equally challenging is gauging the benefits of your customer service. Of course, a five-star review on a public forum is a clear sign. Generally speaking, these kinds of signals can be few and far between, creating gaps of time without concrete feedback to indicate how well a service center is performing. Where should you look to get a sense of how your service is affecting consumers?
First, look within. Everyone benefits from excellent customer service, not just shoppers. When buyers are happy, that can radiate to an entire organization, boosting morale and — potentially — translating to sales. And in that way, a company’s bottom line becomes a clear, tangible gauge of customer service efforts.
And second, check your workloads. Customer service takes time to perform, especially when done well. As such, professionals may find themselves overburdened when fielding a large volume of easy to answer conversations, and unable to attend to more serious cases. Often, giving agents the freedom to deflect avoidable queries is a matter of implementing tech solutions, such as self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels.
Customer Service Solutions
Here are just a few options that are available to customer service professionals:
Providing shoppers with resources, such an easily accessible FAQ section.
Installing an AI chatbot.
Implementing a proactive outreach strategy, allowing agents to address customer concerns before they arise.
Learning how to tackle customer service problems and solutions doesn’t have to stop with this blog post. Trust Kustomer as a source of invaluable tactics for honing your custom service center strategy. Learn more.
There’s nothing quite as exciting as growing — and scaling — your business. Along with the excitement comes an all-important need to stay focused on scaling your customer service offerings to meet the needs and expectations of your ever-growing customer base. As your business grows, it’s essential to prioritize providing the best possible service that aligns with your organization’s core competencies, without breaking the bank.
Utilizing a CX CRM platform, such as Kustomer, allows you to focus on three key areas: communication, automation and documentation. By prioritizing these three tenets, you’ll be able to successfully scale your customer service offerings as your business continues to grow.
As with any organization that prioritizes the customer above all else, accurate and instant communication is essential to ensuring that you’re able to provide an exceptional customer experience. A true omnichannel CRM aggregates all channels into one single view, so customers are able to communicate seamlessly on their preferred platform, and agents have all the information they need to provide a personalized experience. With access to a knowledge base, agents have up-to-date information at their fingertips to ensure they’re providing accurate answers to customers’ concerns.
Automation can be leveraged in many ways in intelligent platforms like Kustomer. Businesses are able to tap into the power of queues and routing to automatically route specific conversations to the most appropriate agent. Utilizing business rules ensures proper actions are taken on conversations automatically, and when combined with documentation, CX organizations can ensure that all conversations are properly tagged and ready for a thorough review at a later time.
With AI, businesses now have the opportunity to provide more self-service opportunities. Think about chatbots. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers, and can be used to collect initial information, and solve low level inquiries like business hours, policy questions and “where is my order” (WISMO) inquiries. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right data, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support.
Documentation is performed in a few ways within CRM platforms like Kustomer. First, you are automatically documenting your correspondence with your customers. This allows you to see past engagements and find areas where your team can improve while you scale. A solid QA program of past conversations is imperative for any organization scaling their customer service organization. Second, this documentation allows you to search across your interactions to find trends. Are you answering the same question(s)? If so, you can uncover those insights through reporting functionality, and then you can update your knowledge base to get that answer into your customer’s hands quicker, or adopt chatbots to automate those conversations. Lastly, utilizing pre-built messages for common inquiries allows agents to engage with customers quickly, accurately, consistently and efficiently.
Scaling a customer service organization doesn’t need to be a scary task. Business growth means you are succeeding, but you must remain focused on delivering the customer service experience that your customers expect. Prioritizing communication, automation, and documentation will allow you to succeed in this endeavor.
We’re very excited to announce today the release of our third party app development program and the launch of 20 new apps.
The “app store” concept is not a new one. While its most recently reached global popularity by Apple and Google, companies have been making digital marketplaces for others to develop, package and distribute applications online since the early days of the internet. The same way that Airbnb provides more choices to consumers by providing housing options from a global network of homeowners, an apps platform enables customers to benefit from the work of thousands of developers around the world.
One of the main reasons businesses choose Kustomer is because our product provides a “single pane of glass” into many different systems a business might need to provide world class support. However, there are thousands of systems, both third party and home grown, that businesses could potentially use to provide quality support. And our CRM platform has an endless array of use cases and functionality that could be leveraged to build these integrations. While our product and development teams do build things very quickly, our team alone will never be able to keep up with the demand of the various integrations our customers need.
So we’re extremely excited to invite our partners, customers, and third party developers to now build integrations and experiences inside of Kustomer’s CRM platform at a scale that we could never dream of internally. However, in order for this initiative to be successful, there are three key components that we have been investing in, and will continue to expand:
First, apps need to be able to have a wide range of functionality in order to provide value to businesses. Thanks to the hard work of our apps platform team, apps can now install custom objects, connect to OAUTH-based third parties, create cards, custom views, custom attributes, webhooks, workflows, and more. We’re confident this work will result in features and automations that ultimately make support teams work more efficiently, and deliver delightful experiences to their millions of end-customers around the globe.
Secondly, partners need to have the proper documentation to know how to build an app. Today we’ve announced our third party apps documentation, which has already been leveraged by both our internal apps team and some early partners to develop apps that many of our customers are using today.
Finally, partners need to be incentivized to build the app. Today, we’re working with integration partners to build experiences that benefit all three parties involved — Kustomer, the partners, and the companies that use these integrations. Over the next few months, we’re going to be rolling out more features to make app submission easier, and revenue sharing programs to continue to foster and incentivize a wide array of integrations to be safely and securely built and distributed from any developer in the world.
This is obviously just the dawn of our apps vision, and we need your help to make Kustomer a better tool for thousands of companies and millions of customers worldwide. If you’re interested in building an app, the best place to start is by reading the Kustomer Apps documentation and filling out our developer form to get a test account and start building. And as always, if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team on whatever channel you prefer!
Here at Kustomer we understand the importance our clients place on their data, and that is why we consider keeping it safe one of our biggest priorities. We architected the Kustomer platform from the beginning to deliver secure, reliable, continuously available applications, where the privacy of our customers’ data is always protected. The way we do that is through our continued commitment to security and privacy. Our latest addition to our list of compliances and certifications is the international standard on Information Security Management, ISO/EIC 27001.
What Does This Mean?
Being certified attests that Kustomer has security policies and controls in place for information and data management that are in alignment with the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 standard and specifications for an information security management system (ISMS). But what this really means is that we at Kustomer have invested the time, effort, and resources into growing and improving upon how we protect our clients’ data, as well as committed to continuous improvement of our information security program.
Scope of Coverage Statement
Kustomer ISMS scope is bound by the management, development, operations, maintenance, and delivery of The Kustomer Platform, which is centrally managed out of Kustomer’s NYC-based headquarters. In addition, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Data Center provider is used for protecting the infrastructure that runs all of the services offered in the IaaS. Kustomer’s security controls for managing the IaaS environment are included in the scope, with the exception of the physical and environmental controls.
All clients of Kustomer using in-scope products or services are covered by this certification at no extra cost.
While each of these compliance standards are critical, and convey our effectiveness at protecting the data of our current and future customers, they are steps in a continuous journey to earn and maintain trust. It is a journey that we take seriously, knowing it has no end, and we are excited to celebrate each significant compliance milestone with the entire Kustomer community.
For additional information or questions around compliance, security, or privacy at Kustomer, or if you wish to obtain a copy of our ISO certification, do not hesitate to reach out to email@example.com. We are proud of the emphasis we place on security and privacy at our company and look forward to sharing future announcements and updates that reflect this.
Great customer experiences depend on great agent experiences. Giving agents the right tools and knowledge is critical to empowering agents and facilitating customer-centric, empathetic support. And as studies have shown, good customer experiences have a direct impact on topline revenue, driving retention, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing.
However, according to Forrester, agents on average spend 35% of their time searching for information, and another 15% performing repetitive, manual tasks. They struggle with a complex toolset that gets in the way, rather than supports them in their moment of need.
That’s why I’m excited to introduce Agent Suggestions, predictive intelligence that supercharges agents. Available with Kustomer IQ for Agents, Agent Suggestions leverages the power of AI to streamline the agent experience, surfacing the answers they need right at their fingertips. By reducing friction and minimizing the effort agents put forth to find the right information, Agent Suggestions frees up agents’ time to do their most important work: engaging with the customer and delivering a best-in-class customer experience.
What is Agent Suggestions?
Self-learning AI models that predict agent responses based on historical conversation data
Use historical data mixed with Natural Language Processing techniques and smart filtering to suggest the three most recommended shortcuts to be used.
Learn from your organization’s usage. Based on how shortcuts are being applied, recommendations will change over time, without any manual training needed.
Show only the shortcuts that each agent has access to. Don’t worry, agents will only see suggested shortcuts that they either publicly or privately have access to.
Allow agents to choose how the preview will look. If an agent wants to check all the details in a brand new modal, or just use the existing preview, it’s up to each individual. We made the new modal skippable, just in case it’s not the right fit for everyone.
Are easy to activate. With just one click, the admin will be able to enable this functionality for all agents.
Here’s how it works.
STEP ONE: An admin will enable the Agent Suggestions toggle.
STEP TWO: An agent opens a message. Note: the message must come from the email channel and be the first inbound interaction.
STEP THREE: The agent sees the suggestions. On hover, they’ll see the details of the shortcut.
STEP FOUR: The first time an agent clicks on any of the suggestions, they’ll see a brand new modal with all the details and actions included in the shortcut. This new modal is skippable, so if you don’t need to see a detailed view and choose to skip this step, all you have to do is check a box. The next time you see a suggestion, just hover it to see the shortcut information or click to apply it.
STEP FIVE: The agent clicks to apply the shortcut.
How will Agent Suggestions evolve?
Customer service teams are constantly trying to be as effective and productive as they can, and Agent Suggestions can help organizations achieve that mission. A good first step for this feature is shortcut suggestions, because shortcuts are already a great productivity tool that allows agents to do multiple actions with a simple click.
However, our plans go beyond shortcut suggestions. In the future we plan to expand the functionality with knowledge base article suggestions, similar/related conversations, or even custom actions such as returns, refunds or discounts that could be initiated from the suggestions view.
All these capabilities, tailored to each of the agents and leveraging our self-learning models and smart filtering techniques, will become an essential tool for agents, helping them be more efficient and effective.
In today’s economy, external pressures demand that customer experience departments service more customers and solve more problems than ever before. In fact, during the 2020 holiday season, 68% of CX organizations dealt with far more issues than they did the previous year, speaking to this overwhelming new normal for service professionals around the globe. CX teams often spend immense amounts of time sorting through tickets and routing them to the correct agent, or hunting for information in disparate systems. This can be both time consuming and brain-numbing work, and takes away time that would otherwise be spent building relationships with valuable customers. A CX organization must develop a productive environment, with a proper CRM system, to make agents more effective and efficient.
The first step to lowering your CX costs is to make your agents more effective. Effectiveness means your agents do a better job of servicing your customers, delivering on ever-growing consumer expectations. Providing your agents with a CRM system that intelligently routes issues to the right person ensures that problems are resolved based on the skillset of the agent. As the agent learns news skills, routing rules can be updated based on their capabilities. Productivity improves because those issues are resolved accurately.
It’s also essential to arm your team with the information they need to instantaneously service customers. This means aggregating all information about a customer’s history into one single view, so agents can treat customers like people and not tickets. Additionally, make sure your CRM can intelligently surface relevant information from a knowledge base, so all agents are delivering consistent and high-value service.
AI support technology can also suggest messages to send to customers based off of historical conversations and customer attributes, which can become more accurate and personalized over time in conjunction with a machine learning model. Sentiment analysis is another benefit of AI technology. By looking at the words and tone in a customers’ messages, the technology can identify how satisfied, or dissatisfied, a customer is, and escalate the issue accordingly.
The second step to lowering your CX costs is to make your agents more efficient. Efficiency means ensuring your agents have the tools in place to service more customers, in the same amount of time. Providing your agents with a CRM system that has all information in one place eliminates the need for multiple browsers and hunting for information in disparate systems. It can also provide an instantaneous view of all past conversations and the complete customer history. This means the agents have all of the information they need in one screen to resolve issues, leading to an increase in productivity.
Average Handle Time (AHT) is the average duration of the customer conversation, from the time the conversation is initiated to the time it concludes, including all hold times and transfers, as well as after-conversation work. Wall Street, investors and even corporate executives look at AHT as a productivity measurement, and organizations are often measured on handle time, against industry standards and competitors. The directive from above — more often than not — is to improve productivity, lower costs and improve the average handle time.
Imagine a CX organization with 50 agents paid at a fully burdened rate of $50,000 annually for a total payroll cost of $2,500,000. A simple twenty percent productivity improvement from more effective and efficient agents would add $500,000 in business impact OR ten additional agents! As agent handle times improve, so does the business’ bottom line.
Want to learn how Kustomer can help your business lower CX costs? Request a demo here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Greg Segall, Sean MacPherson, and Vikas Bharmbri to exchange views on the personal experience movement. Learn how these leaders relate to their customers on a deeper level by listening to the podcast below.
Take Advantage of Investing in Relationships
CEO of Alyce, Greg Segall, has created a company that drives customer retention and renewal through personal gifting. Personal gifting invests into clients and customers and helps create a sense of empathy between them and the brand. To better understand this, Greg says:
When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward.
To avoid perceived bribery in gift giving, Greg understands that it is important to choose a personal gift and present it at the right time as a token of appreciation, rather than a gift of anticipation for completion. This same concept can be used in CX. Making customers feel appreciated and cared for can help bring about a sense of surprise and delight to most CX situations. Rather than rushing in anticipation of the solution, taking the time to understand the needs of the customer and to genuinely connect with them can host tones of appreciation and gratitude, making it less likely for a disgruntled customer to leave a poor review. By investing in a relationship and going deeper than surface level, companies enable better support, greater solutions, and loyal customers.
Providing a Tailored Approach to CX
Alyce was created as an option for companies to provide more personal gifts to potential prospects. The concept of five to nine was brought about at Alyce as a way to tailor gifts for potential prospects based on their interests outside of their typical nine to five work schedule. Both Greg and Sean have seen a huge shift in the ways of gift giving as a result of curating to the prospect’s hobbies and interests. Sean notes, “Think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal.” Instead of providing a generalized gift or something as commonplace as company swag, prospects are more likely to enjoy something personalized to their interests. CX agents would be wise to apply this method to different aspects of customer interactions, not specifically just to providing gifts, but also to tailoring interactions to the customer’s needs. This further drives and advances customer relationships by providing a more personalized approach to customer service.
Improve Your Brand by Learning From Support Cases
Head of Customer Success at Alyce, Sean MacPherson, elevates CX by learning from experience and listening to his customers. He feels that it is extremely important to build a lasting connection beyond simply just fulfilling support cases. He says, “If you have someone of a user that is submitting ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more.” Sean utilizes his experiences working with customers to improve upon Alyce’s abilities as a company to better provide exceptional service. A prime method to ensure company improvement is proactively adapting to the needs of the user base. To do this, Sean urges brands to take advantage of customer feedback and support cases to improve upon UX and UI, creating a more seamless customer experience and overall brand interaction.
To learn more about the secrets of connecting with customers on a deeper and more personable level, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. Today, we’re going to be talking about this personal experience movement. How personal gifting, delighting customers, supporting retention and renewals, and to do that and brought on a couple special guests, our friends from Alyce. They’ll just take maybe just a second. Greg, Sean, if you can, tell us a little about yourself and also what you guys do over there at Alyce. Greg, let’s start with you.
Greg Segall: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. I’m CEO of Alyce. I’ve been running the company now for a little over four years. We are what we call a “personal experience platform.” So we use personal gifting as a way to build relationships with individuals throughout the entire prospecting world and also the customer world as well. Sean, how about you?
Sean MacPherson: (00:58)
So I’m the head of Customer Success over at Alyce. A little bit about kind of where my functional areas lie is customer success. I also oversee our Service Department, so our support team and also our account management team. A little bit about my five to nine too, because I love to throw that in there and being personal. You will see, I am a skier. I’m also an avid cyclist and you may see my doggo pop-up. She likes to kind of photo bomb all of my Zoom meetings. So she might pop her head up over my shoulder at some point.
Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
We’re seeing with the skis there, man. I’m a Salt Lake City native. So I’m gonna get you one of these times and we’ll race down the hill.
Greg Segall: (01:38)
I forgot my five to nine too. So, guitar for sure. Been playing guitar since I was 12. Major shredder for those that matter. I also have my four year old daughter and I would say that these are not actually my books, even though those are the most fun ones to read so.
Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
I love the books in the background, they’re always, you get to know people. Vikas, I guess you’re up, man. You’ve got to give us the who you are and what you like now.
Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
Yeah, everybody who listens to this show knows me by now. But yes, I guess nine to five, the well, nine to five, the Head of Sales in CX at Kustomer. Five to nine, I’ve got two girls that are just going to be seven and eleven. That wasn’t planned, next month. And for me, it’s a lot of things, but where I’ll boil it down to as of late it’s swimming and Kenpo Karate. Kind of started that back into last year and well, swimming has been obviously on hold, but thank God for Zoom and been able to catch up on my karate via Zoom.
Gabe Larsen: (02:45)
Well, I think everybody knows me. I’m Gabe. Unfortunately, I have no hobbies right now. All I do is work. Vikas is on me all the time. He knows this, it’s his fault. I got a lot of things that, he’s waiting on me for. So, well, let’s –
Greg Segall: (03:02)
Is that you surfing the background though? Who’s surfing in the background?
Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
Oh yeah. That is. That’s me in Hawaii. I’m a surfer. I’m right here. No, that’s not true, but I do love Hawaii. Kauai is my island of choice –
Vikas Bhambri: (03:15)
Gabe’s got his hands full. From five to nine he’s a dad.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
That’s true. I’ve got four. I took two and I took two more. I don’t know why. All right, let’s dive in. Greg, I want to start with this. I don’t believe in gifting. I think it’s not right. I’m being facetious here, but give us the foundation of why it’s so important. We’ve got a lot of people are like, “It’s too expensive. I can’t do it. What? Like, I know about phone. I know about email. I know about text message. Like, what? Gifting? That sounds stupid.”
Greg Segall: (03:51)
Yeah. I think you have to start, take a little bit of a step back, right? Because I think gifting in general, people have a misconception as to what gifting or direct mail or swag and all these different places are. If you think about it, it’s an investment in a relationship, right? You’re basically taking money and you’re saying, “I want to get to know this person better, or I want to actually offer them something for building that relationship and establishing that.” But the problem in business up to this point has been that everything has been done for me, meaning my crappy water bottles or my chocolate feet to get my foot in the door, cheesy campaigns or whatever it is and they’re not thinking about the other person. So when you’re thinking about it, it has to be something where you’re reframing it and thinking about this is something for somebody else in a consumer world, or if you know any of your family members, you’re always thinking about what’s best for them, not what’s best for me and what’s going to promote my brand that’s there. So when we think about gifting, yeah. When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward. So, when you’re thinking about all the digital noise that’s out there now, everyone’s emailing, everybody’s LinkedIn spamming, everybody’s leaving voicemails, or even a lot of people are –
Gabe Larsen: (05:08)
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Hold on, spamming? What are you talking about?
Greg Segall: (05:15)
I don’t know.
Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
We had a few people be like, “Hey,” because when you go live, you go broadcast to the group. But I’ve had a few people be like, “How do I not have you like broadcast to me when you go live?”
Greg Segall: (05:25)
I teed that up for you, Gabe. No worry. That was set up well.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
You were saying, you were saying. Go ahead.
Greg Segall: (05:32)
Yeah, so the key thing is that if you’re investing into that relationship, and you’re doing that at the right moments, then you have an ability to actually advance the relationship instead of just using your own agenda, right? And so again, us at Alyce, the way we believe it is that you should not be thinking about it as yourself. It should be something for the other person. That’s why we believe in the power of choice, person gets to choose what they want, right? And it’s not about what you want to send them, it’s about what they, what they’re actually going to take. And then the Alyce model is also when they pick something, like if they pick tinker crate, then I’ll be like, “Oh, well, pick from, Vikas has a seven-year-old or must have some-year-olds. So I’m learning something about, I have an ability to start asking you about what we call, “the five to nine.” Everything that’s in your interests, your hobbies, your family, your pets, all the things that really matter to you. So is it expensive? It’s more expensive, but is it a heck of a lot more impactful? Does it build an emotional resonance which actually drives you deeper into rapport and trust and then loyalty? That’s the big thing that you have to understand. And when you look at that spread out across all the time you’d be spending, in a numbers game, spending them sending a million messages versus really getting honed in on a one-to-one thing, that’s where you can totally change the game on how you’re actually building those relationships.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:39)
Greg. I’m good. Go ahead. Sorry, Gabe.
Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
No, no. Go ahead.
Vikas Bhambri: (06:43)
So, Greg. Look, I think gifting is an interesting strategy, right? And I think that’s one that we’ve employed in B2B through the ages, right? But kind of on, I hate to say on the sly, but it was one of those things where whether it’s presale or post-sale, if you got to know somebody and you have that comfort level, maybe you drop off a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates or something to that effect. Now I will say, I feel like of late in particular, over the last three years, I’ve even had customers that we have very good relationships with push back because of the concern about the impropriety, right? Like, people are going to think I am endorsing you as a vendor because I have this relationship with you. So if you leave me a big bottle of wine on my desk and everybody sees it, it’s like, okay, you awarded the contract for this reason. What are your thoughts there? And just corporate policies and how does that weigh into the entire gifting experience?
Greg Segall: (07:49)
Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the root questions that always comes up. And the key thing there is when you get into that moment where it’s tit for tat, right? Or there’s pre quid pro quo, right? Which I usually screw that up so I actually said it pretty well at the time. But when you’re thinking about in terms of, Sean always knows that because I always say that to the company and I screw it up 99% of the time. So you guys have just witnessed a miracle. But, if you think about it in terms of that quid pro quo, of course, if you’re dropping off a bottle of wine or you doing something for that person and it’s connected to the action that you’re actually trying to get them to take, then of course it’s bribery, right? But when you’re starting to think about the relationship you’re building with that, and you’re giving them the power to choose, and you’re not tying it to the action, then it’s about investing in the relationship. And again, if you think about it in terms of an investment to learn about the person, it’s a different mindset than if you’re saying, “Oh, this is me because I’m trying to actually buy you off and I’m trying to actually do that.” And there’s a thin line there, but it’s a matter of how you message it. It’s a matter of the moments that you’re actually using gifting to be able to drive that through and again, we were talking about this topic being specifically around customers. When it’s a customer, it’s a much different perception than when you’re like a cold prospect in the beginning where you’re like, basically like, “I’m basically paying you off for a specific event that’s there.” So again, in the way that we think about it at Alyce is it’s not about, “Take this meeting and you get this thing,” like the whole thing where I’m trying to send you like a drone and keep the controller type of thing where it’s like, I’m literally like attaching the event to that. So from my perspective, it’s very much about how you position it and it’s also about how you invest in that relationship and it’s also about how you use that as a way to actually advance the relationship at the right time too.
Gabe Larsen: (09:33)
Yeah. Do you feel like Sean, in COVID-related times, can you even do physical gifts? I mean, is that basically– wow, a lot of people aren’t in offices, I wanted to send them something they’re not there. They might be nervous that that gift is dirty. You know, I there’s just a lot going on. Is that a problem? And if so, how do you guys get around that?
Sean MacPherson: (09:59)
Yeah, it’s a really good question. And it’s actually very similar to what we see in the event space too. Basically you had to take direct mail and make it a little bit more digital. So how you do the digital transformation of gifting and direct mail. I’ll selfishly say with Alyce it’s much easier, but I’m going to be very generic here. What we have seen with, we work with a lot of our customers, is how do you still put those customer experience moments and embed them still into a flow, make them feel a little bit more natural, whether this is just via email or via LinkedIn message? You’re still going to use those similar tactics in those surprise and delight moments with the gift, but you’re just making it digital instead. Now, to answer your question a little bit more like, has there been struggle? Oh yeah. There’s definitely struggle when you’re with smaller businesses, for example. If you’re trying to do something very more specific, so you do have to get a little bit more creative with that. And how do you partner better with some of the merchants to actually deliver it? And how do you help some of these small businesses and work together with those, if you are the software provider, for example?
Gabe Larsen: (11:05)
Got it. So you do, you’ve kind of digitized it basically. So you’re not necessarily, and the key to that is, and you refer to this, Greg, is basically allowing somebody to opt in so that they can basically say, “Send it to this address, that address,” wherever they may be comfortable rather than sending it cold to an office that they’re probably not at. Did I get that correct?
Greg Segall: (11:26)
A hundred percent. The flow, there’s two flows, right? One is you need to actually get their home address first or second is you send them something digitally and let them go through the flow after they opt into the process. To me, when you’re talking about personal experience, you’re trying to be as respectful as possible. So we have this three R’s right. The relatable is your nine to five, make sure that you’re actually connecting it to the, sorry. The relevancy. The relevancy of who this is. The relatability is the five to nine, right? Who are they as a person outside of work and then being respectful across every channel that you reach out to them. That’s how you get to a moment with them. And to me, when you’re asking for an address upfront and being like, “Hey, I’ve got something I want to send to you,” that’s there unless you have a really tight relationship with the person like, that just seems super creepy. And that’s the antithesis of being personal, right? It’s actually going towards the opposite side of it, versus where we’re saying is, send them something, show them what, let them go through the experience if they want to opt in, great. And then put in the address and then send that thing off to that person as you go through the process. It’s just much more of a personal, they’re investing into the process and the experience itself.
Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
Yeah. So Vikas, I wanted to throw this one to you and maybe you guys can jump on it. I mean, Sean, you’re in customer success. Vikas, you’ve got customer success and customer support. Is there relevancy, gifting in both of those worlds, one of those worlds? Have you, what’s your quick thoughts on this, Vikas?
Vikas Bhambri: (12:52)
My thought process is, there are many moments in that relationship, as Greg was pointing it out, where I think it’s appropriate, not in advance of, but in appreciation of where you’re thanking your customer, you’re celebrating something with them. So, whether it be thanking them for perhaps a reference or a case study or a video, I’m obviously talking about B2B software world, but those types of things where people, people take time out, right, to do some of these things, right? To speak to an analyst on your behalf, et cetera. And then it’s those celebrations, right? Maybe it’s a Go Live. Maybe they had a big launch. Maybe it’s a promotion of a team member. All of those types of things. As I think about the customer journey and where would it be appropriate to celebrate those moments as Greg referred to them? I think those are some of the ones that come immediately to mind.
Gabe Larsen: (13:56)
Yeah. What would you guys add to that, Greg or Sean?
Sean MacPherson: (13:59)
Yeah, I was going to say it’s all about being proactive here and thinking about what I like to call again, that surprise and delight experience. So there are a lot of companies that you can implement this very fast and wrong and one of the key mistakes that we always see here at Alyce is tying it a bit too close to these commercial events. So, like we were bringing up earlier is the quid pro quo. And I said it right, right there, it’s Greg will nod his head. So that’s one of the big things. So making it too generic. Think swag for swag’s sake or the same gift for everyone or the same handwritten note that’s triggered for everyone. This is definitely personalized, but it’s not personal. And that’s what we always challenge our customers and our prospects to think about here at Alyce. And just to add a couple of more examples that we do too is like, brand new customer brand new stakeholder. And whether it’s prior to the kickoff meeting or after, at Alyce we’re always breaking the ice with the five to nine. You saw us do that in the beginning of this meeting. And it’s learning a little bit about your customer. One of those examples in practice is one of our CSMs actually learned a bit about one of our customers that was an avid Duke basketball fan. Right after that meeting, we’re starting to nurture that relationship a little bit more on that interest. So that’s an easy way to start learning a little bit more and being proactive with your relationships there. Same thing with the business outcome, milestones, engagement with end users can be light there and also building more champions and exec sponsors.
Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
Vikas Bhambri: (15:32)
Is there a dollar value threshold? I mean, can I go and do something for $5,000? Is there a dollar value that you cap at or what are some of the interesting gifts that maybe outside of the normal swag that people think about that people have purchased through the platform or selected through the platform?
Greg Segall: (15:56)
There’s a million. We have 36,000 that we’ve curated in our catalog and go to like the Duke basketball example, that Sean was just talking about. We ended up getting Duke basketball tickets for the new stakeholder and surprising her and it was an awesome relationship building thing. And what you’re trying to do when you are getting, you’re building a new relationship, and this is what personal experiences and just to like take a step back like, customer experience, what everybody always talks about is a very many to many concept. Same thing with ABM, right? It’s very much like all the folks on the vendor side, all the folks on the customer side and then how do you actually connect those people together? And everyone always thinks about it as like a unit to a unit. Personal experience is taking those individual people and saying each one of them, whether it be a CS, a rep and the specific administrator of the product or the end users or the influencers or whoever it might be, like, those are three separate relationships and you’re starting from a, “I need to build rapport. I need to build trust. And then I build into the loyalty stage there.” And that’s done by actually being relevant, making sure you’re actually delivering value to the person, but also like learning who they are as a person. The intangibles of the emotional resonance with that person is just totally different. So when you’re actually investing in that from a monetary perspective and doing it in terms of like what their, knowing that person to be able to relate to them, then that’s a huge thing. And again, we have a kind of unfair advantage at Alyce because it’s the exchange process that helps us learn more about the person. I saw a LinkedIn question come in just a couple seconds ago. And it’s like, how do you make it personal if you don’t know that relationship, or don’t have a deep relationship there? Well, you can send something that’s more generic, that still is unique to like work from home and it can relate to the work from homeness of this, but they can exchange for something else. If they exchange for BarkBox, then you know they have a dog, right? So like you can actually take the investment and then learn who that person is. That’s the entire background of the five to nine and what we try and drive with here at Alyce. You can start more generic and then they tell you how to get more detailed with that. Even if they exchange for like a Nike gift card, now you just know that I like Nike and I’m like, “Oh, I was in Beaverton, Oregon. And I went to their headquarters or whatever it might be.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:59)
Makes sense. I’ve seen a big move of late where a lot of people are asking when we even do have the discussion around gift is, “Can you do something for a charity that I support,” right? I think especially a lot of executives, right? I mean, at the end of the day for them, a $50 item is not going to fundamentally change their world. So that’s been a big thing that I’ve seen where even from a marketing strategy standpoint, when people are trying to entice to get that meeting or whatever it is, is people saying, “Look, here’s one of three charities, if you guys can make a donation and that would be great rather than give me a gift.” Is that something that’s available through the platform?
Greg Segall: (18:44)
Yeah. Alyce is, that was actually one of the reasons and the foundational elements of Alyce platform. When I started it four years ago, it was like, I wanted to be able to figure out a way that we can take this trillion dollars or pretty close to that, of all this money that’s being spent building relationships with folks in business and how like 90% of that goes to waste, how we give that back to folks. So we ended up seeing about 11%. We have, every charity’s on the platform right now. We’ve highly curated, about 360 of those charities, the highest rated ones that are out there, but you can also choose to actually donate to any other charity if you want as one of the options that are there too. So we’ll sometimes, especially with like higher level folks, we’ll lead in with donations and Sean can go through more details on like the specifics on this. But we always like to see how many people are donating and right now the percentage has skyrocketed in terms of how many people are actually donating to civil causes right now, LGBTQ causes or Black Lives Matter, or NAACP. Like, there’s a million different things that are happening or things like, “Hey, my mom,” we just had a note I saw come in the other day where it’s like, “My mom had cancer. Thank you so much for allowing me to actually donate back to a cancer society.” So, those are the things that are really, really magical because then you also show that you’re being selfless. And that also shows that it’s not about me. It’s about you. It’s the shirt, right? That’s a little subtle plug there.
Vikas Bhambri: (20:07)
Gabe Larsen: (20:08)
That is, that’s super powerful. Guys, before we end, a couple more, we got a couple of things coming in on Facebook, just about other examples or practical ways to use gifting in this kind of post sales world. I’m definitely feeling like you got the relationship, you want to solidify or build the relationship. Are there other kind of use cases or situations that you’d recommend? Is it, again, maybe it’s you’ve done something wrong, customer is angry or something, and it’s an apology thing or celebration, or are there other situations you’d recommend that could spark people’s minds as they think about using gifting in this post-sales world?
Sean MacPherson: (20:45)
Yeah, definitely. I’ll talk a little bit on more of the support side because we haven’t really talked too much about that yet. You’re hitting a couple of those core examples and kind of the two themes that I like to say is reactive to delight. So think about a customer that is going through a bug issue. Maybe it’s taking longer to resolve that bug. Maybe you just don’t want to surprise and delight them, whether it’s after a bug or thank you so much for your patience, service hiccups, outages, you name it, anything where it’s just not a great experience for your customers, it’s perfect to kind of make that a little bit more personal with them. Same thing with being proactive on the support side. So some of the ways that we like to be proactive is think about the number of support cases. If you have someone or a user that is submitting like ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more before they leave a negative review or something like that. Build that brand with them and build that connection beyond just the support cases. Same thing with introducing to other functions like, that same person submitting all those support cases, maybe a perfect UX tester for your UI tester for you. So getting that introduction that way too, and kind of progressing that stuff and thanking them for that time.
Gabe Larsen: (21:59)
I like those. And then your recommendation is on top of that to try to make it personalized rather than use something that’s quote unquote generic, right? Like the XYZ gift, right? You’d recommend taking the time, learn a little bit about them and see if you can personalize accordingly.
Sean MacPherson: (22:13)
Yeah. And even to help our friends a little bit more at scale that can’t always deliver on the one-to-one is, think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal about them and if you’re working with like IT admins, for example, they’re much different than a marketing admin, their interests are going to be different. So always keep that in mind. That’s how you can do a little bit of more one to many scale, whether it’s with a solution like ours or just on your own.
Gabe Larsen: (22:45)
Yeah, no. I’m loving the charity idea. Well, guys really appreciate the time today. I wanted to just go through and maybe get a quick kind of summary or recommendations for people who are trying to jump on this journey and kind of get gifting into their post-sales process. Thoughts, recommendations, closing statements? Sean, let’s go to you then Greg and Vikas we’ll have you close. Sean?
Sean MacPherson: (23:03)
Yeah, I was going to say one thing that always comes up with all of our customers is talk to me a little bit about the gifting and the ROI of gifts. And the biggest thing I always like to say is software as a service is a reoccurring revenue business. You by nature building all of those experiences and delighting your customers, that’s not only going to pay out on adoption advocacy, but you’re going to get referrals. You’re going to get all of that. So when you’re thinking about cultivating your business plan for the gifting strategy, keep all those things in mind because at the end of the day this is going to reduce your customer acquisition cost. And that is a big reason to put into your business plan and reasons why to think about gifting long term.
Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
I like that. Great add. Greg, over to you.
Greg Segall: (23:46)
I would say that to sort of piggyback off of that is when you’re thinking about the personal experience, the deeper you have the relationship with somebody, the deeper you get to that loyalty aspect, the more you can screw up and they’re still going to stick with you. So the more you can actually understand and be able to provide value with them and every single company does, we screw up, everyone does, customer screws up, like you’ll know that –
Gabe Larsen: (24:06)
Greg Segall: (24:06)
The deeper that you have that, sorry, I forget it. Yeah. Just like use –
Vikas Bhambri: (24:11)
Cat’s out of the bag.
Greg Segall: (24:13)
Cat’s out, forget it. We’re done. We’re not called Kustomer anymore. But the key thing you have to understand is that you can always deliver value to the person, but there’s going to be moments where you’re not delivering value or you’re delivering negative value. And where it’s going to pick up for that is going to be the relatability and your ability to just be human and be able to be personal. Human is not an emotive term. Being personal is. When you create that emotional resonance and you learn who that person is and you’ve done that with a deep amount of people inside of the organization, your customer organization, you’re gonna get so much further with them. And you’re going to be able to allow them to be more open and transparent with you, and you’ll be able to drive the value with them exponentially further.
Gabe Larsen: (24:49)
I really liked the personalization concept. I think I’ve been guilty at times of kind of being a little bit more generic because it’s easier, but I can see how that just flipping that switch would probably change the game a lot. Vikas, kind of closing thoughts or recommendations?
Vikas Bhambri: (25:02)
Yeah. I think what Greg and Sean have touched upon is it’s not B2B, right? It’s human-to-human. At the end of the day, I think that’s the critical thing to remember that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and this concept of personalization. We often look at it from our lens. Gabe, like you alluded to, what’s easy for us. It’s easy to send something generic. It’s easy to send swag because we’ve got piles of it in a store room and we can direct an intern to just ship it out. But really think about thinking about it from the customer’s perspective and that individual’s perspective and what matters to them and everything from a Duke basketball game ticket, even though I hate the Blue Devils myself, but all the way to charity that they want to go through. And I think that’s a unique thing that will, I think you’ll see probably a higher take-up, from customers when they have that opportunity to self-select. So I think it’s really something exciting, which I think we’ll see more of in the industry.
Greg Segall: (26:05)
One last thing just to take off on that, Vikas’ last thought is there’s a difference between personalization and being personal. I want to make sure that like I hit upon that is personalization is about data that you’re using to drive value to a user or drive somebody through a buyer’s journey. Being personal is about how emotionally you’re connecting to somebody. Big difference in turning to that and how you get to the one-to-oneness is about how you get personal. Personalization is how you use data to get some one-to-many. So there’s a difference in how you start to think about that and we’re trying to drive that concept while we’re not calling it personalization experience, it’s a personal experience, like a big piece there, as you’re thinking about that.
Gabe Larsen: (26:38)
No, I like that and I appreciate you guys. I think the thing for me is it’s just different and when it comes to post-sales yeah, I’m used to talking to people on the phone, I’m used to talking to people via email and some of these other channels, but this idea of gifting, it’s just, it would be different and because it’s different sometimes I think that’s good. So that’s my quick closing thought. So hey, everybody, really appreciate you joining. For the audience, appreciate you taking the time and hope you have a fantastic day.
Greg Segall: (27:10)
Thanks so much.
Sean MacPherson: (27:10)
Greg Segall: (27:11)
Thanks. Appreciate it.
Exit Voice: (27:17)
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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sioban Massiah from Twitter to discuss the Power of Connection and how to retain customer loyalty. Learn how Sioban connects with customers by listening to the podcast below.
Growing Your Connection to Retain Business
Partner Experience Manager at Twitter, Sioban Massiah, has quite the diverse background in customer advocacy and support. Having a deep understanding of customer needs, Sioban has been at the forefront of building lasting connections that retain customer loyalty. Sioban remarks, “You need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationships and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up.” Building connection is more than business alone, it is listening to your customers and providing the best products and services available tailored to their needs. Ultimately, the power of connection simply comes down to how a company resonates with their customers. If the connection is strong from the get-go, a company is more likely to retain those customers and their long-term support.
Small Changes Make a Big Difference
Having worked at world renowned conference company, TED, Sioban knows that it’s the small but important changes that make a world of a difference to the customer. While recounting her time at TED, she discusses how after each conference, a post-event survey was conducted to the attendees. The purpose of these surveys was to gauge what TED’s listeners wanted to hear in future conferences so they could provide conversations tailored to their listener’s interests. Carrying these customer experiences with her, Sioban understands that creating big changes to modify products and services to the customer’s interests may be difficult for small businesses. To help, she says:
You don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.
Building a connection with customers is vastly important when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and what may seem like small changes can actually make the biggest difference in the long run.
Align Your Company With Your Purpose
Sioban has noticed a pattern in the business market, that is if a business was created simply to profit from their customers, it is clear in their business practice. However, if a company was created to thoughtfully engage with their customers, it is apparent and those with similar alignments will be drawn to that company. She has found that when a company is aligned with their main purpose in all aspects of business, employees tend to stay on longer and customers continue to come back for more. She notes:
No matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it.
Aligning a company with its beliefs has proven to be successful for Sioban during her time at Twitter. In fact, she accredits Twitter’s success within the last three years to its alignment with company beliefs. Sioban hopes companies will understand that opportunity is presented to everyone. It’s what you choose to do with that opportunity that truly makes the difference between failure and success.
To learn more about the secrets to connecting with customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about the power of connection. I think this is going to be a fun one. We’re going to be talking with Sioban Massiah. She’s currently the Partner Experience Manager at Twitter. Sioban, thanks for joining. How are you?
Sioban Massiah: (00:24)
I’m great. Trying to get used to this new normal that is our lives, but can’t complain about it.
Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
Yeah, we were just talking about that. It’s like it’s happening. So get used to it. Whether you like or not, things are still –
Sioban Massiah: (00:36)
Yeah, I was going to say we definitely didn’t have a choice in this one but –
Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
That’s right. That is just the way things have kind of worked out. Well, I’m excited to have you on. You’re obviously at Twitter now, but can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background? I think just kind of a fun little background.
Sioban Massiah: (00:50)
Sure. My background is very, very diverse. When people look at my resume, they were like, “What? How did you even get to where you are?” I was one of the, sarcastically, fortunate people to graduate with a marketing degree in the recession in 2008. And we all know marketing was the first thing to go in 2008 when the recession happened. So I kind of just landed in sales because that’s what marketing people did in 2008 with a degree and student loans. I think working in sales was actually one of the best things that could’ve ever happened to me. I learned how much I hated working in sales because I didn’t like pushing things that weren’t something I authentically believed in, but it also brought me into a space that I actually never even thought about, which was conference companies. And that was super helpful because it showed how people thought it gave me a diverse perspective. I learned about so many different industries and was able to take all of that mashup of my skillsets and really be able to think about customers and what they want, what their stuff are, high level. So went from conference companies to one of the best conference companies in the world, Ted Conferences, Ted Talks. I love it.
Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
You know, I’ve met the actual Ted. I’ve met him before. He is just cool.
Sioban Massiah: (02:19)
I was like, “Which Ted?”
Gabe Larsen: (02:23)
I don’t actually know where that name came from but –
Sioban Massiah: (02:24)
I, well, a little tidbit, Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, which –
Gabe Larsen: (02:29)
Oh I did know that. Oh man, I wish we weren’t recording. That is, that’s right.
Sioban Massiah: (02:35)
It’s okay. Somebody who’s listening may not have known. So we’ll just add this to the information that they’re learning on the podcast. So, went there for a little bit, loved it. But wanted to expand a little bit more on my career, move to something where I’m focusing on engaging a different type of community and I landed at Twitter, which I absolutely adore. I think no company is ever going to top Twitter for me. I just, I think Twitter moves with a purpose, so super happy to be here, even though I shifted a little bit more to the partner side, which are still our customers. I love it.
Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Wow. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you definitely have a background in kind of keeping people happy. So it’ll be fun to dive into the topic and Twitter you’re right, it’s just a cool company and they’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. So I don’t blame you for taking the chance and jumping ship. That sounds fun. Well, let’s turn the topic for a second. Let’s talk about this power of connection. What — start big, what is that? What is the power of connection?
Sioban Massiah: (03:45)
So to me, the power of connection is just how people resonate with their customers. I think connection is obviously more than just business, but I realized that there was a strength in it from the way I went from my different jobs. Other than Ted, every position that I’ve had has been a referral. And I thought that was very, one, I just thought that was very normal until I started actually engaging with people and realizing that referrals and people actually advocating for you strongly wasn’t a common practice. And when I asked people, why would they, why would they champion for me so much? They said that the connection that I have, the authentic connection that I have with people is a skillset that other people didn’t have. Everybody is presented with an opportunity, but it’s how you take that opportunity and keep going with it and how you run with it that really stands you apart from other people. As I started moving within my career, I realized that that was something that also sets you apart as a company, within organizations, not being empathetic and not being culturally concurrent and not actually knowing your customer, was something that was a big hindrance. No matter what you did, no matter how you did it, if you didn’t actually listen to your customer and figure out what they wanted, you weren’t succeeding as a company. My favorite example is when you call into customer service and you can almost anticipate what they’re going to say, “Hello, Sioban. I, yes. I completely empathize with what you’re saying. I can imagine that…” you can repeat it verbatim if you actually speak to somebody. And it’s like, I literally asked customer service people, “Did you listen to anything that I just said? Can you repeat to me anything that I’ve just said, bullet point wise?” And they can’t and it’s like, “Wow. So I just went through this spiel of what happened to me, for you to read off a script.” So I think that no matter how helpful you are, no matter how good at what you do, if you are not actually in tune with your customer and connecting with them on a level that is not service of an exchange of service or product, you’re not going to move forward and you’re not really going to keep these customers.
Gabe Larsen: (06:06)
Why do you think people mess that up? I mean, because what you’re saying, I mean, I’m like, yeah. Yes, we should be doing that. Is it because, we go to scripting because we want to control it? You have a couple bad examples and so you kind of have to tighten down the controls and make sure people are, they’re all saying the same thing. So you don’t go off in a tangent or offend somebody in this kind of world of offending people that we sometimes we find ourselves in. Why do companies not do that? How have they gotten away from that?
Sioban Massiah: (06:37)
So, I have two answers to that, but the short answer are, people are lazy. It’s very clear when things, especially things like what’s going on right now are happening. You see who are businesses and are customer focused and you see people who are in it just to make money. It’s very, very clear. So some people are about profit and some people are about purpose and companies that are about profit in this space are, it’s very clear. And people who are about purpose are the ones that are engaging. So I think that’s the first answer, but of course you, the scripts are needed because you want to make sure communication is consistent across organizations. But I think that the script is the foundation and the training to be connecting and actually empathetic with your customer is what you build off of. You need to hire people who these practices are actually part of who they are in general or just who they want to be and who they see themselves being. So that way, this script is something that they can work with, but they can still connect and empathize with their customers and how they and their company are company-wise.
Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. I love that. I love that. I think they’re, sometimes they’re necessary evil scripts, right? It helps you control, but you got to kind of find that balance. You mentioned the word purpose, and I just wanted to follow up on that. If you can, people are about profits or purpose, how do you do that? How do you get your employees or your brand or your customer service reps, or how do you get aligned around a purpose? I mean, ultimately a company can’t function without profits. And so that has to factor in, I guess –
Sioban Massiah: (08:25)
Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
You’re right. You can kind of tell when people are just looking to like, make a buck versus, they’re all aligned around kind of a common vision or purpose or mission. I don’t mean to go on a tangent. Any thoughts on that one? How do you kind of get it?
Sioban Massiah: (08:38)
Tangents are my favorite place, so we can definitely go there. I think once you’ve actually established a company and you don’t have a purpose, it’s super hard to align it. Because now you’re switching things up. Yeah. You’re playing catch-up, you’re switching things up. So when I actually speak to people who have small businesses, I’m like, what are you doing this for? Make it clear. If you are starting this company, why? And if you do not know why you’re starting this company and you can’t communicate that to your customers, why should they keep working with you? So I think for small companies, that’s the first thing you need to do is the purpose of why this company is important to you. Some people are out here to just make money and that’s fine, but it’s going to be clear. I think for companies who don’t have that purpose, I think that’s something that they need to actually take some time out and really establish. And once you establish what the purpose is, the people will come to you. So things will fall in line. And it sounds very hippy dippy of me, I apologize. This is like a business podcast, but –
Gabe Larsen: (09:50)
We’re people too, we’re humans first.
Sioban Massiah: (09:53)
Yeah, I think one of my favorite books is the Alchemist, is when you want something, the whole universe conspires to make sure that you get it. And I think that biases to even businesses. So, I just think that creating the purpose will make it clear as a company and company employees leave and go. They come, they go. So when you have a purpose, the companies, the employees who are not aligned, they’re not going to stay. And I think honestly, no matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it. So that’s why I think it’s so important to actually have that alignment and make sure that purpose is very clear. Twitter as a company wasn’t purpose driven before. They put a purpose in place in 2017 and talking to another co-founder, one of the co-founders, they say, they think that that’s what’s making Twitter the company it is right now. We obviously, we’ve gotten, Twitter’s in the news pretty much every week and I won’t go into that because I haven’t cleared that with comms yet. I think, I honestly don’t think I would have been at Twitter if it wasn’t, it didn’t drop a purpose, which is very, very clear. It’s to serve the public conversation. So no matter what you think about Twitter, you can’t say that we’re not doing that purpose. And I think conversation again, is one of the keys to connection and that’s why I’m at Twitter right now.
Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Well, I love that. I mean, I think it’s, I mean, whether you were at Twitter or not, it’s interesting because it certainly felt like it was doing something and now there is, there feels like there’s something different going on. That’s fascinating to hear. Let’s continue down the path on connection just for a minute. So, we talked about kind of getting people aligned to a mission and that being part of connection. And then we talked a little bit about this empathy and having connection with your customers. Wanting to go down that path just a little further. How do you, or how have you found in some of your customer experience interactions that people can continue to build that connection piece? Is it just about empathy? Is there other things that help you kind of get further down that connection bond and strengthen it?
Sioban Massiah: (12:19)
Absolutely. Obviously business first live, we can collect these things. People are sometimes willing to share. So thinking about like, when I was at Ted, when we would make people sign up for conferences, we wouldn’t just allow them to sign up, they actually had to apply for conferences. They had to say why they wanted to attend a Ted Conference. We have that data. So now we are creating, if the conference that we had, was it aligned with something that’s a trend we saw, we took that data and we were like, “Okay, well now let’s start looking into this as content. Let’s start looking into this for our audience. These are people who are willing to pay, and this is not even what we’re presenting yet.” What, imagine how much they’re going to be engaged if we actually present these things. I think when it comes to Twitter, it’s just in general, we literally have what people want on our product. Like, wow. They’re telling us what they want. They’re telling us how, what they’re interested in. Like we literally are and they don’t even know it. I think that there’s always ways in which you are paying attention. So obviously customers, you do post-event surveys. Every conference has a post-event survey. So like being able to do those post-event surveys and quit making the questions that you ask a little bit more thoughtful, those are little things that you can do that are going to change the trajectory of how you work, period. It’s the catalyst to go a little bit further and you don’t have to make extreme changes tomorrow. Like you don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.
Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
No, I totally agree. It’s always the baby steps, right?
Sioban Massiah: (14:37)
Progress is a slow process as one of my friends said that to me probably the first week I met him and I’ve always taken that.
Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah. Yeah. And you’re right in the world we live today, it’s kind of like the “now generation,” right? We all want it now and immediately, but ultimately sometimes you got to just take that slow and focus on the small things and it’s customer service and success leaders. I think that’s where you got to go. You’ve got to focus –
Sioban Massiah: (15:00)
Gabe Larsen: (15:00)
On the small things. So as we kind of wrap here and as you summarize, we’ve hit a couple of different things, but –
Sioban Massiah: (15:07)
Gabe Larsen: (15:08)
Thinking about the power of connection, what advice would you kind of leave with the audience here?
Sioban Massiah: (15:13)
I think that my main point is to not just look at your business as a way of making money, and obviously that is the goal. That’s probably the sole goal for the most part, but is to really take a look at your customers and realize that the business that you have, if you are even listening to this podcast, is probably because you aren’t somebody that is thriving off of your customers. You’re thriving off of your partners. And you need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationship and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up for that.
Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Yeah. Yeah. Exciting, I think that’s right. And I think you gotta stick to that kind of higher purpose. It makes a big difference. Thanks so much for joining. It’s a fun talk track. I like this idea of the power of connection. I might have to steal those words for something.
Sioban Massiah: (16:09)
Listen. Whenever you want me to come talk about it, I will be happy to.
Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
If somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you do, any recommendations? Are you open to that advice?
Sioban Massiah: (16:17)
Sure, absolutely. They can email me via my Twitter email since I actually use that the most, which is S as in Sam, I O@twitter.com or they can connect with me via Twitter at J, I push the brand no matter where. I am an advocate. Well, they do sign us up. They hope that we use it, but not everybody is an avid user. I have always been an avid user. So, it just worked out. But, you can reach out to me via Twitter at J as in John, U S T C A L L M E Sio. So justcallmesio, which is my nickname at work, and you can DM me there or reach out to me there. And email and Twitter are my fastest ways to contact.
Gabe Larsen: (17:08)
Awesome, well I love it. Well, really appreciate you jumping on. Fun talk track. Quality, the power of connection and openness. And the audience, have a fantastic day.
Sioban Massiah: (17:17)
Exit Voice: (17:23)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Scott Tran from Support Driven to understand creating a sense of community during challenging times. Learn how Scott brings a bit of normalcy to employers and employees alike by listening to the podcast below.
Laying the Foundation for Support Driven
Founder of Support Driven, Scott Tran, has the special ability to connect people through online customer support and community. Having a background in customer service, Scott set out to improve his CX skills and to have better interpersonal relationships. Throughout his career, he has found that his favorite part of CX is helping people through effective problem solving and genuine human interaction. He says, “Probably the best part was just the connecting with real people who were using your product, right? And helping them to actually use it or helping them through the problems that they were having using it.” His background in customer support has helped him lay the foundation for the community of Support Driven.
Using Slack as a Means for Effective Communication
Communication is key when it comes to proactive conversation and this can be seen in all aspects of customer support as well as daily living. Recognizing that aspect, Scott’s company offers Slack as a means of correspondence between those who join Support Driven. Slack allows for people to connect and chat online through instant messaging. Using Slack has provided the opportunity for people to connect to those who work CX in similar industries through sharing tips for success, working from home set ups, et cetera. Scott adds, “The Slack is the heart of the community. It’s where we connect.” Working from home has become part of the new normal and integrating Slack as a channel for communication opens up possibilities for connection and togetherness.
Building a Sense of Community and Connection
Scott’s career has aided in his understanding that authentic communication and interaction are an integral part of daily life that many have been lacking company synergy amongst the pandemic. In an effort to reduce the emotional strain of an upheaved life schedule, Scott founded Support Driven as a mode of connecting people and creating lasting relationships through online community support. Support Driven was created as a way to hire employees, search for jobs, and find people who share similar career paths and interests. Scott has noticed that those who come to Support Driven in search of community often create lasting online friendships. He mentions, “They stay because that’s where they start making friendships and that’s the place where you connect with your friends or maybe somebody who you used to work with.” On top of creating friendships, Support Driven has generated multiple channels of hobbies that people can connect through. Channels such as parenting, working from home, or even sourdough baking have all brought people closer together during these challenging times.
To learn more about bringing an online community together, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Calling All Community Builders | Scott Tran
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. I’m excited to get going today. Today, we’re going to be talking about a community that’s popping up. How it’s used, what is it? It’s become a great resource for a lot of people out in the market. We want to take a chance to talk about that and some of the things that are actually being talked about in that community. To do that, we brought on the founder of Support Driven, Scott Tran. Scott, how are you doing?
Scott Tran: (00:32)
Doing great. Thank you for having me on your podcast.
Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Yeah, man. We’re excited to talk through this. This actually goes well with the talk track. So maybe we’ll just jump right in. Tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you kind of created the support group and community.
Scott Tran: (00:52)
Yeah. So my background is as a software engineer, I was in a big startup and was also responsible for doing customer support and that’s how the community got started from just learning how to do that better. And it started as a podcast and then about a year after, we started the community in 2014 and it’s been growing ever since.
Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
I love it. I love it. So you kind of just got it. So you were, I’d forgotten that you were actually a technical support guy, is that right? You did the job.
Scott Tran: (01:23)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, in the big startup there’s a lot of hats, including support and yeah, it was just, I knew that I wasn’t very good at it. So I went to find people who could be there professionally and that’s how I got connected to people who do customer support every day. And went to a conference and I met a lot of great people there and that was the start of the podcast. Yeah, and it’s just been a lot of fun and it was that interview from the podcast that kind of gave me the idea to start the community.
Gabe Larsen: (02:00)
Got it. I’d forgotten that [inaudible]. I got to ask, while you were doing support, what was the thing you liked most about it and the thing you liked least about it? I know I’m pushing you back into the past, but what are the things you like and dislike?
Scott Tran: (02:15)
Probably the best part was just the connecting with real people who were using your product, right? And helping them to actually use it or helping them through the problems that they were having using it. I think the worst part was probably, for me the worst part was just knowing that I wasn’t very good at it, right? There’s this moment where you can tell, I guess actually a second sense of taste, right? You can tell if you’re good at something or not and I wasn’t because I would go back and I would read, reread responses I had given to people and was very engineering speak at the time. Was just very technical and not a lot of, just very much about like solving the problem, not about what the bigger picture –
Gabe Larsen: (03:13)
I like that.
Scott Tran: (03:13)
Yeah. And so I knew I had a lot to learn and I did. I mean, I think there’s so many great people in the customer support space that are so helpful and kind of open with sharing their knowledge –
Gabe Larsen: (03:32)
I love that.
Scott Tran: (03:32)
And that was –
Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
That was kind of the beginning of it? That’s fun to hear. So tell us just a little more about the community. I mean, obviously you’ve been doing that for a couple months. If I wanted to know a little bit more about its purpose, where do I find it? What’s kind of going on? Give us kind of that overview.
Scott Tran: (03:51)
Yeah. We have a home online at supportdriven.com. Right at the heart of the team right now is our Slack because we started out in Slack and have continued to grow it. Then you can kind of come and meet people who do support across a bunch of different industries. Because I think, so basically every business requires some level of customer support and, you got SaaS companies, e-commerce, delivery companies, just companies selling physical products across the whole range. And I’ll say probably the thing that draws people to the community tends to be either, finding the other people that they can talk to, who do what they do. And so it’s kinda like, “Well, how do you solve this problem?” The other thing that draws people is looking for either hiring or looking for jobs. We get a lot of people joining who are looking for their first job in customer support.
Gabe Larsen: (04:58)
Got it. And is it more, from an audience perspective for those people who are listening, I mean, anybody kind of customer supporters [inaudible].
Scott Tran: (05:12)
Yeah. The world’s pretty, in terms of like everybody’s wanting to join, right? Because you don’t even have to work in customer support to join. The people in our community tend to be from technology and online companies, because I think those are the people who are seeking out online communities.
Gabe Larsen: (05:39)
Yeah. They’re kind of already there. So they’re kind of looking for that, right?
Scott Tran: (05:44)
Gabe Larsen: (05:44)
And it’s mainly the Slack. So the Slack is kind of the place where most people are interacting the most often, et cetera.
Scott Tran: (05:51)
Yeah. The Slack is the heart of the community. It’s where we connect, right? It’s where people come in and engage with each other. People can come and ask questions or look for jobs and post jobs. We do have a couple of other places where we get together but the Slack is the center of it.
Gabe Larsen: (06:13)
It’s prominent or center place. And then as you watch that community, and you and I were talking about this a little bit before, but certainly things changed in the last weeks, months, whatever, wherever you were, wherever you are. A little bit of a pulse on that. Just quick thoughts. How has the community reacted or what are some of the things that they kind of been thinking about or doing?
Scott Tran: (06:39)
Yeah. So we’re in the midst of, most of us I think are in the midst of either sheltering in place or locking down, right, because of Coronavirus and that’s affected almost all of us. A lot of us are working from home for the first time, right? I am learning that. I’m navigating that. And there’s also a lot of people who, a lot of businesses affected, especially like in travel and companies that support travel and events, right? And so we’ve seen some companies have more demand, like because we also have like delivery companies in our community, so they’re kind of overwhelmed, right with support requests. Other companies, other people are kind of going through layoffs right now. So we’re kind of seeing processes of the wider picture of what’s happening across the world and some companies are seeing more trends, right? We’re seeing questions in the community about all those things. We’ve had people who’ve unfortunately had to go through and lay off 30, 40, 50% of their staff and then reaching out to the community to capture, like “I’ve set up this great team where we’re in a business model that isn’t really doing well at any time.” I’d love to help them find, get help.
Gabe Larsen: (08:19)
And that is something, the job sites is something that they potentially can find an opportunity in that community. So as you kind of look at the pulse of the community, are you finding people are finding solutions to some of those problems, whether it’s work from home, like people are getting kind of used to it and the lay of things? Are people figuring out how to kind of handle that sort of volume or being able to be effective with less people?
Scott Tran: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, the heart of our community is coming in and asking questions to other people who would probably say some similar things. So for example, like [inaudible] we’ve totally had people asking questions about like, “What kind of setups do you have at home? What kind of tuners do you use, headphones? We had, and just sharing tips in terms of managing working from home for the first time. You have people coming in and asking that, and people who’ve been doing it for awhile, respondents, but also people who are also in the exact same boat, right? Like they just started this week or two weeks ago, three weeks ago. So yeah, I mean, it’s, we’ve got probably like a dozen different channels that kind of highlight things like working remotely to customer experience, right? And so there are places where you’ll find people that you can ask these questions, right? And a lot of them will respond. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (10:07)
I love it. I love it. Yeah, those are definitely, I think the issues of the time, right? It’s efficiency, it’s cost savings, it’s working remotely. All I think seem to be kind of the things that we’re all talking about as we try to adjust to this new world and it sounds like Support Driven is a good place to find. So –
Scott Tran: (10:27)
Yeah. I just also wanted to share that there’s also a social aspect to it, right? So we have channels dedicated to like different hobbies and that’s often been a way for people to connect in these times.
Gabe Larsen: (10:42)
Scott Tran: (10:42)
We’ve had quite a few people start making sourdough bread because they’re at home now. You’ve also got a parenting channel, so people are sharing kind of some tips in terms of, “Great, my kids are home now,” right? “What are you doing?” right? “Because I still need work.” And I think that’s really the glue of it, right? So, because I think people come for questions related to work, right? But they stay because that’s where they start making friendships and that’s the place where you connect with your friends or maybe somebody who you used to work with now works somewhere else, right? And the community is the common ground, as a place where you can get together and stay in touch.
Gabe Larsen: (11:28)
I love it. So if someone wanted to learn a little bit more about Support Driven or even join the community, where would you direct them? How do you start?
Scott Tran: (11:37)
Yeah, you can just go to supportdriven.com. There’s a pretty big button right, the join the community. There’s a join the community button and just click on that, fill out the form and you’ll get in.
Gabe Larsen: (11:49)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Scott really appreciate you joining. Best of luck. Be safe during these challenging times and excited to check out the community and get a little bit more involved. So thanks for joining and have a great day.
Scott Tran: (12:01)
Awesome. Yeah, thank you.
Exit Voice: (12:10)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Chris Warticki from Epicor to discuss meeting customer service expectations with balance. Learn how Chris balances customer satisfaction by listening to the podcast below.
Finding Balance through Customer Advocacy
Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki, has figured out how to lead a well-balanced customer support team through understanding customer advocacy. Balanced customer advocacy is accomplished through not overly delighting the customer, creating a company standard of customer service, and being consistent with that service. He says, “If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship.” Focusing on what matters most in CX situations rather than providing overboard and generalized service, Chris finds that his team has more successful customer interactions. Creating a personalized standard of service as a brand is extremely important to Chris. He highly recommends figuring out what works best for the company and the customer to provide the best CX interactions possible. The most important aspect to creating a standard of service is maintaining that standard so the customers know what to expect with the brand.
Utilizing Company Investments
Another subject that Chris thoughtfully embraces is utilizing the tools that the company has already invested in. While curating his team of CX reps, he has noticed how other companies frequently gather “the three T’s,” as he puts it, to help maximize their CX efforts. Recognizing that talent, tools, and technology, the three T’s, can aid in creating a successful customer support team, he urges companies to invest in what they already have and to use it to their advantage. He states, “Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.” Utilizing the preexisting talent, tools, and technology, rather than searching for new alternatives, can vastly leverage a company’s investments by proactively searching for potential within. Doing so will promote internal growth and continuous successful customer service interactions.
Employee Empowerment Through Team Collaboration
Exemplary customer service starts with empowered CX agents. These agents typically have a comprehensive knowledge of the inner workings of customer support structure in their company. Chris finds that when questions about CX arise, brainstorming with his employees brings about the best answers. He notes, “If you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.” Brainstorming with a collaborative approach allows for teams to narrow down the most effective solutions and to implement them with ease. This same methodology can be applied to all aspects of business, not just customer support. By asking the employees who on a daily basis handle company affairs, they will tend to produce the most resourceful and practical solutions because of their vast knowledge of internal operations.
To learn more about balancing CX expectations by not rushing to delight the customer, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer | Chris Warticki
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 this idea of “Don’t rush to delight your customer.” It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but we’ll get to the bottom of it, I promise you that. To do that, we got Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki. Chris, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?
Chris Warticki: (00:30)
I’m doing great, Gabe. Thanks for allowing me to be on as your guest speaker today on your podcast.
Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this’ll be a fun one. Epicor. Got a fun career, both at Epicor, before that. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Chris Warticki: (00:43)
Certainly, Gabe. I’ve been 25 years in the customer service industry, along — in parallel with information technology. 20 year career at Oracle Corporation, where I was involved in technical support management, global customer programs, the like of customer satisfaction, customer success, and more. And then just in the last two years, moved over to Epicor Software, running their customer success management team along with similar programs.
Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
Fun, fun. 25 years and then went to Epicor. Good resume, solid resume. I’ll give you that. So let’s dive in. I want to hear about it. Why not rush to delight your customers? Give us the secret here.
Chris Warticki: (01:31)
So Gabe, this is an interesting kind of thought provoking challenge to the audience. It really is kind of counterintuitive. How can I be the Senior Director of Customer Experience and then be anti-delight, right? And so I’ve created this kind of reputation where I am so for our customers, but at the same time, it’s not about super delight or over delight. And here’s the reason why. What we need to do as organizations that are focused in customer satisfaction, is take a step back and understand, have we really created a standard level of service to begin with, or at all? And if we haven’t, it’s better to create the standard and maintain the standard. And here’s why. If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship; certainly not within the customer base.
Gabe Larsen: (02:38)
Yeah, it does seem like this over delight can get, it can be a little bit much, and it actually can lead to sometimes an unhealthy or poor place. One of the things I’d like to hit with you, in addition to this, is let’s keep it at a high level for just a minute. So many people are having a hard time understanding different terms in this space, whether you talk about customer advocacy, or customer satisfaction, customer experience, want to see if we can kind of level set there. And then let’s talk a little about how you find that balance of not over delighting. Let’s start with customer experience. What is it, give me kind of your definition. What does it mean? How does it play out for you?
Chris Warticki: (03:22)
Great question, Gabe. So from the highest level, customer experience is defined by me and many other industry experts as the sum total of all interactions that the organization has with our customers. And often, it’s always related to just one point of presence or one relationship interaction of engagement with customers, instead of looking at how every line of business from presale, to the sales cycle, to the entire customer life cycle, and every relationship touchpoint from every line of business within your organization.
Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Got it. That’s one. Satisfaction, where do you go on that?
Chris Warticki: (04:07)
So to kind of take a step back from a foundational level, I look at experience as that foundation. It doesn’t have to be the roof. It really is the base layer. It’s everything that’s going on in the organization. And when I came to Epicor, Epicor brought me in to help start a customer success management team. And my first question was, “Well, why do you want this?” And the answer quite frankly, was “Well, because everybody else has one, so should we,” right? So what I needed to do is break down some of the historical definitions and nomenclature that often get marbled together, interwoven, and confused. And so to start out with customer satisfaction, I look at that as the past. And so as we navigate this conversation, we’d take the past, C-SAT is a transaction that has occurred, and we look at it from an example of using a survey, right? Tell us about your experience in order to gauge what your customer satisfaction has become. And that is very tactical and it’s very transactional in nature.
Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Chris Warticki: (05:22)
So C-SAT customer satisfaction, I look at it as a look backwards into the past.
Gabe Larsen: (05:28)
Okay. So more of a backwards look. Customer experience, a little bit of all of the sum total of all the interactions. Hit a couple of these other — you just talk about customer success, that one throws people off often. How does customer success fit into this kind of big picture here then?
Chris Warticki: (05:46)
So one of the biggest challenges I had when I first began talking about customer success, not only within the industry, but also here at Epicor, was the perception of what people thought customer success was about. And yeah, do we want all of our customers and all these interactions to be successful? Yeah. But let’s just say this, without a customer success team or program of any type, it doesn’t mean that we’re not making our customers successful. Why shoulder the burden of one team or one line of business to just be responsible for success, right? So the way that I look at looking at the past analogy for customer satisfaction, I look at customer success as a strategic, proactive, future-forward look at our customers.
Gabe Larsen: (06:35)
Mm. Okay. So I’m –
Chris Warticki: (06:37)
Understanding their business objectives, looking at the future, the 18 month, one year, 18 months, two years and beyond, how can we help partner to be –
Gabe Larsen: (06:48)
[Inaudible] the future. Okay. I like that. And then is there some for the present? So you’ve got kind of the satisfaction is past, you’ve got success for the future. Where do you go for the present?
Chris Warticki: (06:57)
Here is where most people get confused, and that is in the present. And that’s where I’ve termed the engagement model here at Epicor to be customer advocacy. Customer advocacy represents the present state. These are situations that arise that we would commonly refer to as escalation management, crisis management, again, very tactical in nature. They could be some sort of project management, enabled hand holding with your customers, but they got somewhere sideways in a ditch and they need advocacy. They need an advocate on their behalf. And that’s the biggest challenge. Most individuals confuse customer success with customer advocacy, and no matter what we’ve called these individuals in the past, present, or even now today, and what we might even call them in the future, we all want them to be successful. But at the term, but really what is the use case? Is it based on a past survey? Is it based on the present situation or do we want a future-forward look, partner and really strategically collaborate together going forward?
Gabe Larsen: (08:13)
Yeah, I like that. Okay. So we got experience, we got satisfaction, advocacy, and success. Boy, those all probably could be episodes. Probably all be episodes in themselves, but I’d love to get maybe a quick tidbit on a couple of them about how you’ve then taken that definition and started to just put it into action. How do you actually apply it, or how do you get into the brass tacks of it, so to say. So and I’m thinking about the audience here as well. So let’s start with the experience that sum total of the interactions. Is there a way you’ve thought about working with that definition in your different organizations to ultimately deliver a better experience throughout more interactions than just one or one and done type of thing?
Chris Warticki: (09:03)
We have a lot of tools that the industry uses from a service perspective and one of the most useful ones, not to throw buzzwords out there, is definitely the journey map process. That go along to follow with, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with our customers and go through the journey map process, or navigating the process map internally of what our customers go through. And that’s been the most effective way of looking at the experience. I honestly don’t think you need to survey your customers or your people internally too much. You don’t want to create survey fatigue. And I definitely have come from some experiences where we’ve done that. And giving customers a break is definitely one of the best things that you can do. But here’s the thing we all know where the problems are. We all know where the bodies are buried. We all know where the issues arise. It doesn’t take a whole lot of digging to identify where some low-hanging fruit or where some really remarkable gains can be attained. And one of the biggest gains that I can share with you and this audience was just in a business process of provisioning a cloud environment for us to, here at Epicor, we journey mapped it, we process mapped it. It took three times as long as what we thought it was taking. I won’t go into the gory details, but we made some very significant power plays within a short period of time that took what the end result was and reduced it by three quarters time and in a very short period of time. Now I will also say to fully complete that process map, it’s taken a lot longer to fully systematically integrate it and automate it, but that’s where we’re going to get the greatest achievement.
Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Yeah, yeah. Do you find it, and I appreciate the example, but I’m curious. There’ve been others, Epicor, other companies, where there have been those moments that were kind of like just big surprises where it was like, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize we were doing this.” or, “That was an obvious one. Should have probably caught that, but we didn’t.” Is it typically, you don’t find the elephant in the room?
Chris Warticki: (11:20)
I’ll tell you where the biggest aha moment, or maybe it was a moment like, “Oh my goodness.” Maybe it was the surprise, like you’re talking about. And that is, I guess we assume that everything is documented or that everything is going to be seamless or that you can just throw a tool or a widget or some sort of technology at something and it’s going to automatically fix it. The biggest piece here is the collaboration that’s required. When it comes down to it, everybody, like I said, wants our customers and your customers to be successful, getting the right minds to be able to sit together and quickly evaluate, “What’s the business problem we’re trying to solve? And let’s get it documented for future reference so we can lean it over time.” Go from good to great. Go from better to best.
Gabe Larsen: (12:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Yup. Yeah, and getting together with those stakeholders is often a big key in that process. Bouncing around just a little bit, wanting to see if we can tackle this idea because I felt like you set it up and I moved past it for a second, but I did want to come back to, and that’s just, this idea of not rushing to delight. We’ve hit some of these different areas, customer experience, customer success, et cetera. But, I think people really struggle to find that balance there of getting to what matters most, rather than just going overboard maybe on stuff that doesn’t. How do you actually coach your teams to do that? How do you find the balance?
Chris Warticki: (12:57)
I think one of the best recommendations is to ask the individuals in their interactions, what do they consider to be the standard of service in what they do, right? And so you might find, for example, in tech support or in personal face-to-face interaction across the register counter, that some individuals are like, “Well, I think thanking our customers everyday for their business is a standard.” And yet other people might not have even thought of that.
Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Chris Warticki: (13:29)
Right? Just a simple thank you. But once again, if you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.
Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Chris Warticki: (13:43)
So really equip them and empower them to really put the brainstorming, the ideas together, and then collectively say, “Okay, now out of these 12 things, we can’t do all 12 of them, but what is the standard? What’s the consistent top five, top three things that we need to do to be good and that we know we can do every interaction?”
Gabe Larsen: (14:04)
Yeah, yeah. Getting down to those real important ones. I do feel like we try to boil the ocean, right? It gets too much, it’s too many [inaudible] but what are those things that we really need to do? What, do you feel like it is about three, five, seven, ten? What was about the right number typically you found that the team can handle and do on a consistent basis?
Chris Warticki: (14:25)
Yeah. I’m a keep it simple type of person. So following that kiss analogy, I think anywhere from three to five is, three for me personally, is the sweet spot,
Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
I love it. So we hit on a bunch of different topics today. We might have to bring you back to go deeper into some of these areas like customer success. A lot of people have asked about that and how that relates to the customer service world. No, it’s more of a B to B thing than it is B to C so to say, but as you think about the changing environment, some of the different challenges that are attacking different customer service leaders, we’re all trying to find a way to delight or a way to make it easier and keep that customer experience as high as possible. What would be that leave behind advice you’d give to those leaders?
Chris Warticki: (15:11)
My biggest advice is don’t worry about all the buzzwords. It’s not all about gamification or artificial intelligence or machine learning and don’t get absorbed or overwhelmed by all of the stuff that’s out there. Currently in everybody’s organization, you have the three T’s, I call them. You have the tools, you have the technology and you have the talent. Leverage the investments that you’ve made in those three things. In the tools, the technology and the talent. And don’t try, like you said, to boil the ocean. Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at what are the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.
Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
I love it. Alrighty. Well, really appreciate the time, Chris. Fun talk track on be a little conscientious about delighting your customers, find the balance. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these trends, what’s the best way to do that?
Chris Warticki: (16:26)
You can do a few things Gabe, and first of all, to the entire audience, thanks for listening. More importantly, Gabe, thanks for inviting me to this. You have a wonderful dais of professional speakers on your podcast. You can find me, Chris Worticki on LinkedIn. You can also find me on Twitter @cwarticki and I look forward to associating and connecting and linking in and speaking with all of you in the future. So many interactions to come, I’d be more than happy to come back.
Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
Hey, well yeah. We might have to take you up on that. Appreciate the time and the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (17:08)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
When we started Kustomer in 2015, we did so with the vision of reimagining customer service for a new generation of businesses and consumers. We understand consumers want more from the companies they do business with. They want effortless and seamless customer service across all communications and social channels. They want businesses to understand them and keep pace with how quickly their needs change – especially when there’s a question or issue. These practices are not just good business. They are the factors that build brand loyalty and repeat business, which translates directly into positive impact on the bottom line.
With this as a starting point, we set out to build the very best custom service platform for today’s modern businesses. The result is the Kustomer omnichannel CRM platform that provides a unified picture of the customer in a single view. It helps businesses automate repetitive tasks so agents can maximize their time and the quality of interactions with customers. Our priority is to deliver efficient and effortless experiences that delight businesses, agents and consumers.
Throughout the last five years, we have had the opportunity to power the customer experiences of many of today’s most innovative global companies. And we’re just getting started. We are delighted to share with you the next step in our journey and the news that we have signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook subject to customary regulatory review.
Once the acquisition closes, we look forward to working closely with Facebook, where we will continue to serve our customers and work with our partners as part of the Facebook family. With our complementary capabilities, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however they need it–via phone, email, text, web chat or messaging. In particular, we look forward to enhancing the messaging experience which is one of the fastest growing ways for people and businesses to engage.
Jeremy and I are immensely grateful to our clients and partners who have joined us in our mission to redefine what it means to deliver excellent customer experience. It is because of you that we keep innovating on the question of what does it mean to exceed the expectations of today’s modern consumer.
We also want to recognize the dedication and drive of the incredibly talented Kustomer team. They are the best at what they do and work tirelessly to give customers the platform for delivering exceptional customer experiences.
We hope you’ll connect with us to be a part of the next chapter of Kustomer.
Closing Conditions: This transaction will be subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approval. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Data Privacy: Kustomer businesses will continue to own the data that comes from interactions with their customers. Facebook eventually expects to host Kustomer data on secure Facebook infrastructure. In doing so, Facebook will act as a service provider at the instruction of business customers. This is an industry standard practice among many companies that offer service solutions. While Facebook will not automatically use Kustomer data to inform the ads that a user sees, businesses will have the option to use their data at Kustomer for their own marketing purposes, which may include separate advertising services on Facebook.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the strategies to improve the customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers.
Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast.
Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience
Christine first starts by elaborating on their company’s focus on the mother. Keeping the expecting mother in mind, Christine notes how her team has had great success with customer happiness by listening to customer feedback and adapting their products to the mother’s needs. She states, “Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants.”
Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company supports a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.”
To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom-First.
As mentioned above, the mom is at the center of every element of their business, from packaging and marketing to phone calls. Simply put, Bump Boxes is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.
Listen and subscribe to our podcast:
Customer Loyalty: Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero
Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to build a company from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration.
Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs by saying, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.
Optimize Customer Interactions Every Step of the Way
At Bump Boxes, customer support doesn’t just start with the customer’s problem and end with the CX agent’s solution. Customer support starts from the moment the mom-to-be signs up for the monthly subscription and continues on throughout the life of their subscription. After delivery, Bump Boxes change to Busy Boxes, which come with items to help create a fun and engaging environment for mom and her newborn baby. When discussing the methods in which her CX team continually shows up for their customers, Christine explains:
When you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do with the subscription. It’s more like, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” We know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. If you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.”
Creatively engaging with the mother and being there for every step of the pregnancy process has proven to keep their customers coming back for more. Christine notes how Bump Box has a room full of sonograms and baby pictures sent in by the mothers they service. They become familiar with each mom and enjoy speaking with them as if they are old friends. For Christine, the most rewarding part of running her company is seeing the pictures and sonograms of these babies and knowing her company did something to help each mom through their pregnancy journey.
CX teams would be wise to adopt an understanding of their customers and to thoroughly engage and have genuine conversations with them. At the end of the day, everyone is going through their own journey in life and recognizing that aspect will help add more of a human element to each CX interaction.
To learn more about the secrets to optimizing customer experiences, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience and how to optimize it and to do that we brought on Christine Deehring. She’s currently the Founder and CEO of a cool company called Bump Boxes. So Christine, thanks for joining. How are you?
Christine Deehring: (00:27)
Yes. Great. I’m just so excited to be here, Gabe. So excited about the customer experience and just everything that we do here at Bump Boxes.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah, this is so fun because we’re always looking for, sometimes we talk about just general best practices, but it’s always fun to hear from somebody who’s kind of just daily living it, working the grind, et cetera. So we appreciate you jumping on. Before we do, can you tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and Bump Boxes, just so everybody kind of knows the context?
Christine Deehring: (00:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So Bump Boxes is a monthly subscription service for pregnancy and baby products. So mom can sign up at any point during her pregnancy and she actually gets a box of products that are specifically tailored to that month of her pregnancy. So we include five to eight full-size products and we know what moms are going through during pregnancy and what she’s experiencing every single month. So it’s themed around something she’s going through during that specific month. And then when she gives birth, it transitions over to Busy Boxes, which is a newborn to three-year-old subscription. So, and on that side of the subscription, it’s all tailored around baby’s milestones and really creating that fun, playful environment for mom and baby to experience together. Yeah, so that’s, yeah, absolutely.
Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I was telling Christine before, my wife has somehow convinced me to have four, so we have four children and so she’s definitely a fan of the idea and Bump Boxes. So love what you do. So [inaudible] that we had connected was Christine had come across a couple of things and one was something that was awesome that happened on Instagram. I mean, remind me. You guys went just, you flew up. You added a couple thousand followers just in a day or two. What was that scenario? Remind me.
Christine Deehring: (02:06)
Yes. Yes. So I think we had reached a milestone on our Instagram following and just to kind of give you guys some context and the whole post was all about how like, “Hey, we started from zero four years ago,” and that’s just it. So, that was the whole premise of posting about that big milestone for us on Instagram, because a lot of people don’t know. I mean, we started about four and a half years ago and we started from an idea, right? And now we reach over 14 million moms a month across all of our channels, right? So, I mean, it’s just kind of, “Hey,” like, I mean, it’s just, and what we try to say is like, “Hey guys, if you have an idea, take it and go, like the first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero,” that’s that.
Gabe Larsen: (02:53)
I love that. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim, right? You just have –
Christine Deehring: (02:57)
Yes! You just have to aim.
Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
– and then you figure out where the target is later. But one of the keys it sounded like, and I’m sure the product is fantastic, but you guys do have kind of this maniacal focus on customer service and customer experience and interaction with the customer. And so it sounded like in the post, obviously you found a great niche that a lot of people are excited about, but you’ve kind of taken those extra steps to really bring the customer down the journey with you has been the separator. Is that fair to say?
Christine Deehring: (03:27)
Absolutely, absolutely. A hundred percent. So, I mean, I think, we do a lot of things regarding customer experience here at Bump Boxes. Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s like growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants, right? I mean, that’s just the foundational way to run a business. But I mean, there are some things that we’ve learned along the way, especially growing and scaling, as to why it is just that important to really focus and have that non stop focus on your customer. So I think, one of the main things that we focused on is corporate culture, company culture. Because if you have the right culture, then you can actually empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions to make mom happy.
Gabe Larsen: (04:21)
Right. Because a lot of times we– I feel like we should probably, when we talk about customer experience, we should probably talk more about the employee or the company culture. Sometimes we do all the things that the customer does, but we get that employee side. So, what are some of the fun things you guys have done to try to make that employer culture really enable or empower that customer journey?
Christine Deehring: (04:40)
Yeah, so our company culture is just amazing. So, we have four main core values and that’s what we make all of our decisions based around. So, positivity would be the first one. So, seeing the opportunity, seeing the brighter side of things. Always just trying to be positive in every situation possible and really seeing opportunity where it is. Hustle would be another one. So, constantly, just if there is a barrier, figure out a way to break through it or go around it, but figure out a solution. Constantly, yeah. Constantly move forward. Accountability is another one. So, being accountable for yourself, for your role. We know mistakes happen, everyone makes mistakes, right? I mean, we know mistakes happen, but when a mistake happens, we take, yeah. You take responsibility of it and then you fix it, so it doesn’t have to happen again in the future, you know? And as long as you fix the process, then everything’s great. And then most importantly, mom first, so that’s very customer experience-centric, right? So, everything we do, whether it’s our marketing messaging, whether it’s our site, our customer experience team when they talk to mom on the phone, how we pack the boxes, the product that we select, everything is putting mom first. And as long as we make our decisions around that, then we know we’re doing right by mom. So, that’s one of the main things and actually spells PHAM, so that wasn’t actually intended by design. It just worked out. PHAM with the P-H.
Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
Sometimes they have fun acronyms and you nailed it. You beat me to it. PHAM. That’s cool.
Christine Deehring: (06:10)
That’s right. That’s right. So that’s one of the main things I think, if you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.
Gabe Larsen: (06:26)
I like that. Now, I think some of the things that people struggle with. Because some people come up with big, they get to that step where they come up with some of these core values. It’s actually the ability to implement more, to empower the people to do them. Is there certain, you don’t necessarily need to go through each one, but have you been able to find ways to actually make those values and bring them to life? Is it communication with the team? Is it just highlighting them in a weekly meeting? Is it giving it an award around or what’s been the way to bring those to life and make them so they’re not just the things on the wall?
Christine Deehring: (06:58)
Yeah. Because yeah. I mean, like you can post them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that like that’s the actual culture, right? I mean that’s yeah, a hundred percent. So, for us, I mean I think, we have weekly one-on-ones where we talk about core values. That’s how your performance is reviewed. It’s all around core values. It’s all driven around that. And then we also do gift cards. So, if someone exceeds in core values and they exceed their metrics and they’re nominated for a gift card award that we do every week. So, there’s ways to reinforce it, but I mean, I think that when you start off with your core values and you make your hiring decisions based on those core values you make all the decisions within the company, as long as that’s the cornerstone of why you make those decisions, then it’s easy and everyone gets it and everybody’s on par with it. Yep.
Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
Yeah, I like that one. The one that I find the most intriguing at the moment is the mom first, what was it called? How did you phrase that again?
Christine Deehring: (07:55)
Mom first. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Okay, because it sounded like, and again I’m thinking about some of the posts you guys have. You’ve done some fun things to kind of, it’s not just, “Here’s a box, good luck,” right? There’s these little cherry on tops, these little extra things you guys have done to make it personalized, make it kind of extra, make it feel like you care more. Do you mind sharing a couple of those that may come to mind?
Christine Deehring: (08:21)
Yeah, absolutely. So, we call all of our subscribers personally. So, when you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do necessarily with the subscription. It’s more of like a, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” Like we know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s like, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. Like, if you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.” Yeah. Like, whatever you need –
Gabe Larsen: (08:58)
Have there been some weird experiences where you’ve done something like that, where someone’s been like, “I’m really not doing well, I’m craving something,” and you ordered fries or something like that?
Christine Deehring: (09:07)
Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! A hundred percent. I mean, yes. And that’s why our moms love us and what’s really cool, especially when we make those connections with mom. I think what’s so exciting to see is even in our customer experience room, I mean like, we have so many sonogram photos, so many pictures that moms have sent in. If a mom signs up with us and she’s with us her whole pregnancy and finally, she has her baby, it’s an exciting time that we all celebrate. We all get excited about and then she sends us pictures and we put them up on this wall and that’s really exciting when you know that you’ve made that connection. [Inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (09:47)
Cool, cool. So they actually send you, just by a chance, they’ll send you a picture and you’ve kind of thrown it on the wall in the customer experience room, you said?
Christine Deehring: (09:56)
Gabe Larsen: (09:56)
Awesome. I want to highlight though, the phone call. Because I do feel like, it is a small, well maybe it’s not a small thing, but this proactive customer support or proactive customer experience feels like it’s just a hot trend or a real differentiator. We’re so used to taking inbound query or the chat query or the email inquiry or the ticket, but actually taking the time to go outbound, whether it’s a challenge, a new cut, I feel like that’s pretty different. And it sounds like people appreciated that a lot.
Christine Deehring: (10:31)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that we’ve done too, is we have a very direct feedback loop with our customer experience team. And so I think it’s super, super important, especially as you roll out new initiatives, as you’re trying and testing things, as you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s resonating with mom and what she wants, having that contact with your customer directly and asking those questions and being in that feedback loop is super important. So, I know, recently we rolled out a VIP program. So, any mom that subscribes with us, she gets, depending on how long she’s committed to, she gets a specific discount to our store just for joining our subscription. And that was something that came up from just customer feedback, right? And so it’s definitely nice to have that instant feedback loop so that way you can make changes, you can test things, you can roll new things out just to make sure that you’re really sticking through to that mission.
Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
No, that is powerful because I think a lot of times as sales and marketing, we don’t listen to our customers enough. You want to, but you don’t get that feedback loop tightened. How have you done that? Is it the channel? I mean, are you guys pretty channel agnostic? Meaning it’s like, hey, when you have this customer experience person, you can communicate them very easily, whether it’s on tech or phone or email, or is it that you have these kind of weekly check-ins or how have you made that feedback loop more fluid?
Christine Deehring: (12:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m actually in touch with customer experience every single day. So, they actually report directly to me, you know what I mean? And we’ve done that by design. Yeah. We’ve done it by design because I think I want to be as close to our moms as possible. And I think that has been super important to our growth, right? Being able to kind of hear what’s going on on the ground. Being able to talk to moms a couple of times a week, like just to make sure that we’re still staying true to that mission, that they feel good, they’re having a great experience and then, you know, asking for ideas, like, “What else would you like to see from Bump Boxes? What other things have you thought about that would be helpful that we could provide?” and I think being that close to customer experience has really been helpful as we’ve grown and scaled and learned along the way.
Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah, sure. Because sometimes that is the hard part, right? Once you kind of lose track of the customer, you lose track of so much of that goodness. How many people, obviously there are challenging times going on and some businesses are up, some businesses are down. As you kind of think about your own business and lessons learned over kind of the last month or two, and we can kind of bring this to a close, what would be feedback or advice you’d give to people who are looking to scale and obviously be successful while times are maybe a little more difficult?
Christine Deehring: (13:30)
Yeah, absolutely. I think, when you’re kind of going through uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that you really need to focus on is over-communicating, right? Because everybody has just a heightened level of stress. I mean, there’s just a lot going on. You don’t know what everyone is going through. And so, I think just keeping that in mind and over-communicating and especially being there for your customer, having those phone conversations, and understanding that it’s quality phone conversations, right? No matter what mom’s going through, if she’s stressed out, talk to her. I think that, definitely as you’re scaling and growing, just over-communicating is always best, especially during uncertain times like these for sure.
Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
And that’s obviously true for employees as well as customers.
Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
Christine, it’s fun to have you on. It’s a cool, it sounds like you found obviously a fun kind of niche that you guys are really doing well in and so congrats on that. Solving problems, making customers happy. It’s always fun to kind of see that happen. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about Bump Boxes or your story, what’s the best way to do that? What would you recommend?
Christine Deehring: (14:42)
Yeah! Absolutely. So you can check out bumpboxes.com. You can always shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Seriously.
Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
I love that and that’s such a cool name by the way. Kudos on like a very catchy name. That was it.
Christine Deehring: (14:59)
Thank you. Thanks. Appreciate it.
Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Well, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Christine Deehring: (15:05)
Yeah. Thanks, Gabe. Have a good one.
Exit Voice: (15:12)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Adam Maino from FinancialForce to uncover the secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Learn how Adam builds a strong company culture that allows his team to fail fast and learn from those challenges by listening to the podcast below.
Proactive Team Culture Through Intelligence Swarming
Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce, Adam Maino has some astute insights about the world of customer service and creating a proactive company culture. He believes that a proactive team culture is brought about by hiring the best and brightest customer support talent. Adam finds that when completing the hiring process, candidates who are customer-centric tend to be more genuine and authentic with customers. To further explain, he states, “it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.” According to Adam, viewing the customer as a person and treating their needs with empathy is crucial to the success of daily CX team operations.
Typically, CX teams have a tier system of agents who handle incoming cases. Adam’s team has completely removed the need for a tier system by adopting the method of intelligence swarming. This method breaks down any pre-existing tiers by shepherding cases to the team members best suited to handle them. Adam elaborates by stating, “What that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better.” Eliminating the need for multi-step solutions is a great way to conserve customer loyalty and help customers quickly and efficiently.
Utilizing Knowledge-Centered Services
Adam also emphasizes the importance of integrating Knowledge-Centered Services (KCS) into CX standard practices. He uses the KCS model from the Consortium For Service Innovation to improve his customer service team interactions. While discussing how incorporating KCS into standard practice greatly assists and accelerates scaling CX teams, Adam says:
KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18-layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.
The main purpose of KCS is to motivate CX teams to frequently improve their knowledge base by contributing individually written articles based on agent-customer cases. This is to solve future difficulties, leading to quicker resolutions and delighted customers.
The Secret to A Happy CX Team is A Coaching Mentality
Adam has identified multiple methods to leading and managing a happy and successful CX team. He notices time and time again that when his team of agents are happy, his customers are happy. Adam mentions one method in particular that has helped him continually motivate and empower his team is allowing his agents to work at their own inclination; more independently and with more autonomy. He says, “I think what we should be really focusing on … coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.” He figures that a team works more efficiently when their environment is collaborative and the leader exemplifies a coaching mentality rather than a managing mentality. Additionally, he notes that positive feedback and recognition are what help him keep his high performing CX agents. By focusing on quality experiences and services, agents and customers are more likely to have positive interactions.
Adam urges companies to approach new ideas head on and to not be afraid of failure, as failure helps CX teams adapt and produce the best possible customer experience.
To learn more about the secrets to transforming a world-class CX team, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
Happy Team, Happy Customers | Adam Maino
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. Today, we’re going to be talking about secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Want to get into the scaling aspect and to do that, we brought on a guy I’ve been bugging a lot lately, trying to get him and I got him. His name’s Adam Maino. He’s currently the Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce. Adam, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?
Adam Maino: (00:37)
Good! Doing great. Thanks for that.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Really appreciate you jumping on. Appreciate you responding. Cool background. Can you tell us real quick, just a little bit about yourself? Some of the things you guys do over at FinancialForce?
Adam Maino: (00:47)
Yeah, so we have multiple applications based on the Salesforce platform with accounting and PSA being our top applications. We also have SEN each as well.
Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Adam Maino: (01:04)
Very nicely in the same environment. Yeah, having a good time serving our customers with those.
Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Love it. Love it, man. And I always like to ask, outside of work, what’s your go-to, man? Any crazy hobbies, high school band, a dog lover, anything like that?
Adam Maino: (01:24)
Yeah, I love making music, so I’ve got a bunch of guitars and fly fishing and hanging out with my family.
Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Nice, man. Yeah. I’ve been trying to get my nine-year-old into guitar. I’m a total hack, but something about acting like you can sing and strumming that guitar just makes you feel better about life. Just makes you feel better. All right, well, let’s jump into the topic at hand. So you’ve obviously done this for awhile in some incredible areas, driving customer support, scaling it. As you think about some of the lessons learned and secrets, where do you start?
Adam Maino: (02:01)
I think culture really is one of the most important things you can have; to start with and so I think that’s something that you just have to have by default in order to really just scale teams and have fun doing it along the way. So, part of that for me is looking for the best talent. Really focusing on talent that’s customer-centric and always putting the customer first and online and that’s from your application layer, support, all the way up to support engineering. So it doesn’t matter who’s on point, everybody can speak to a customer and they can do it well.
Gabe Larsen: (02:43)
Yeah. How do you, two follow ups on that. I mean, people want to have a good culture, they want to hire well and get good talent and any things you’ve found to kind of tilt the statistics in your favor to actually bring on more talented reps, agents?
Adam Maino: (03:02)
I think we’re pretty lucky. We have a solid employee success team and they are really good about giving into our other candidates that come online and so, when we do get candidates, we usually have a pretty good run of really good candidates. But I think really, when you dive into those questions and put them on the spot, it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.
Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
Yeah. I love that. Do you, when you think about organizing your team, I mean, you mentioned this idea of like support engineers and customer service reps, that’s often something people have asked about, how do you think about the structure? You’ve got a gold, maybe like a top-tier team. You’ve got the support engineers, like a tier-two, maybe a tier-three support. Any quick thoughts on, it’s a little bit out, but the support engineers flagged that for me, how you’ve kind of thought about, either in your own org or coaching other orgs on just kind of the overall structure of what support should or shouldn’t look like?
Adam Maino: (04:15)
Yeah, so we took an approach called, intelligence swarming, which is an agile support methodology, which actually crushes the tiers. And so, what that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better. And it really builds on this idea of having a collaborative environment, so you can reach out to them. And I think our team has actually changed because of this process. And before we literally had two separate channels where we had an application support report, and then product support engineering report into action in the product. So now our teams are actually made up of different layers. So my team, I have product support engineers, I have application support, I’ve got technical account managers, and programmers.
Gabe Larsen: (05:24)
Wow, interesting. You nixed the tiers. Is there a book or something on that? I mean, agile customer support.
Adam Maino: (05:35)
[inaudilbe] great. I cannot tell this organization enough, but it’s called the Consortium for Service Innovation. They’re amazing. So they’ve come out with KCS. So that’s the gold standard for learning and creating knowledge programs and our state program and then intelligence swarming and they’re also looking at things like predictive customer engagement models, was just a big event actually. But yeah, they’re absolutely incredible. I highly recommend checking out their site and then ownership to me is worth its weight in gold.
Gabe Larsen: (06:27)
How do I not know about these? What? What? Oh my heavens. Yeah. I’m just looking at them as you talk. I felt like I’ve at least come across a lot of these. I don’t even know how to say it. Consortium, Consortium for serviceinnovation.org is where I’m at for the audience.
Adam Maino: (06:54)
Gabe Larsen: (06:54)
And the intelligence swarming, you mentioned KCS. What’s KCS? I think I got the intelligence swarming from your last, what was the KCS thing?
Adam Maino: (07:04)
Knowledge Centered Services. And so what that allows you to do, and this is great for, I think really important for scaling teams. It doesn’t really matter if you’re spread out. In fact, when I joined the company that I’m at now, we only only interned people, and so it was the first program I brought in. I feel like if you’re going to scale a team, that’s sort of the layer, the concrete layer that you want to put in first and then start building up your team from there. It plays nicely in tandem with intelligence swarming. But basically, KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18 layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.
Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Yeah, that sounds right up my avenue. I’ve been, we’re going off topic a little bit, but I’ve been having a harder time finding some more. That sounds like some real, just practical, tactical, how to get stuff done. And I keep finding orgs that it’s, I don’t want to say same old, same old, but it’s kind of the higher-level, fluffy, “Let’s talk customer service.” That sounds like a little more getting into the science and the process. And some, I like it. That sounds cool.
Adam Maino: (08:30)
There’s great measures in there for when you, like our measurements for our team are, 50% of their performance metrics are knowledge-based.
Gabe Larsen: (08:38)
Adam Maino: (08:38)
That’s like a big chunk of how well they’re doing is how much they’re contributing to the knowledge base, how much they’re writing good articles. You have coaches that look and evaluate the articles and how well they’re linking those articles to those cases and that’s [inaudible] linking the article to the case when you solve it.
Gabe Larsen: (09:03)
Yes. Yes. Do you just want one more click on that with compensation? You mentioned part of comp, like maybe their variable for example, is based on the knowledge base or knowledge based interaction or engagement. Going back one step on compensation. How do you think about coming to drive motivation? It sounds like you believe in a variable, for example, for the reps.
Adam Maino: (09:28)
It’s interesting. We have a global team obviously, and not all regions do you comp. Europe’s just not that at all. That’s just not part of, it’s like, “You did your job good,” right? So like, if you’re going to score a C-SAT score and you get an eight out of ten from somebody in England, that’s like a ten out of ten in the U.S. right? You’re jumping up and down and screaming and going and grabbing a pint afterwards.
Gabe Larsen: (09:54)
I love that.
Adam Maino: (09:54)
That’s a totally different world. My mom’s a Brit, so I can make this and my dad’s Italian. I can draw that. That’s fine. I can say this aloud. So yeah, I think that’s sort of the big push is, depending on the culture, it does have some push, some drivers. But in all honesty, I think things like recognition and being recognized and valued as an employee go a lot further. I think the other stuff is really sort of icing on the cake, but as long as you’re feeling valued as an employee, as long as they’re feeling like they can contribute to any processes that you push out and they’re part of that integral part of those processes that you roll out, and that they’re not feeling micromanaged, they’re feeling coached and not sort of this overhanging, like with my employees, I never ask them or I never tell them what to do. I’m always just, I ask them what to do, right? It’s a request. There’s no demands there. I think what we should be really focusing on and that’s coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.
Gabe Larsen: (11:19)
Got it. Do you find there’s this kind of cliche statement, that’s “happy employees equal happy customers?” Is that a philosophy you guys adhere to? And if so, why? Do you have data to back it or you just believe it?
Adam Maino: (11:35)
Yeah. I definitely think that, so it’s interesting. So one of our management metrics that we run is team happiness.
Gabe Larsen: (11:45)
Adam Maino: (11:46)
And you have a tiny pulse and a regular, tiny pulse and we watched the trending. And so if our team is happy, our customers are happy. You’ve got to have both, and you can’t push to the extreme and have them fall over and then get crushed in the process and then you have great people leave. So, you’ve got to keep your team happy. You’ve got to keep them healthy. You’ve got to keep them invested in what you’re doing and I think all of that really comes to you’ve got to have good leadership, period. They’re going to want to work. No one has to show up, they could leave for another job, right? I think that’s sort of the great myth is people are like, “Ah, you know I have to be here,” but you don’t so they could leave just as easily as –
Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
They came, right? Yeah. They come, they go. You mentioned a little bit on metrics. The happiness score is a cool one. Other metrics you’ve found that are kind of those game changers for other leaders to be considering, or maybe unique to you guys that you find maybe other leaders don’t look at as much?
Adam Maino: (12:51)
I think there’s, I started putting them in two buckets, right? As like the management metrics and then the individual metrics and individual metrics should be driving the right kinds of behaviors. So I would definitely stay away with how many tickets you’re closing and almost like the speed of closing those cases out, because now you’re focusing on throughput and quantity, and that is not a metric to go for. You’re not going to have great customer interactions at that point. You’re going to get analysts going, “Can I close this case now? I’m gonna close this case now, okay?” and then, you’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, I still have a problem.” You’re going to get those really bad behaviors. So I think, yeah, focusing on the quality, focusing on collaboration, try to look at things where you’re measuring collaboration. And so on the individual level, and obviously C-SAT, I think C-SAT is great. But you’ve got to write the C-SAT. So it’s, or the analyst, it’s not some general metric that they’re looking at like, “Oh, well, they’re unhappy with the company. So I got a three,” I mean, you kind of have to write it so it’s very tailored to them, that you’re asking the right question. And then on the management side, I never put the numbers of how much throughput somebody is having in terms of like, that’s not a metric that we’re looking at. But I do use what I call, gray metrics. So I use throughput to look at how well they’re doing against the team average. So not against whatever value is just placed in the sky, but how well are they doing against the team? And it’s not the full story and that’s why I don’t put it out there. You might have a really high performer that is dealing with some incredibly challenging cases and maybe they’ve only had six cases that they’re being able to tunnel through that week, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad job, it’s just that’s what they’re working on, right? And you know that, and if you’re a good leader and you’re a good coach, you know what they’ve been working on so you’re not making those value judgments, right?
Gabe Larsen: (14:55)
I like that. That’s right, man. I like the rep and kind of the management focus. And boy, I do find a lot of people go in too far on those rep, the quantity stuff, right? Then it definitely seems like it impacts the overall quality, but I know there’s always a balance on that. Well, I appreciate the talk track, a lot of fun ideas. I’m real interested in this organization. I’m going to have to double click on that a little bit, but it sounds like it really comes down to culture, a lot of collaboration, and then this philosophy. These agile ideas and processes and numbers have really been some of your keys to success. We hit on multiple topics. What’s that last piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders trying to scale, trying to transform amongst all the things that are going on?
Adam Maino: (15:40)
I would say don’t be afraid to try new ideas and don’t be afraid to fail at them and build a culture that allows your team to fail and learn from those challenges.
Gabe Larsen: (15:55)
Yeah, fail fast, right? Easier said than done. If someone wants to get a hold of you or learn a little bit more about some of these topics, what’s the best way to do that?
Adam Maino: (16:05)
You can definitely find me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn profile, that’s probably the easiest and fastest way to do it.
Gabe Larsen: (16:12)
That’s how I found him.
Adam Maino: (16:16)
So yeah, definitely. I’m sure you’ll put the link in there, but yeah, hit me up on LinkedIn. I usually respond pretty quickly. I’m on there quite a bit. So, yeah. Let me know. Happy to talk through any more challenges.
Gabe Larsen: (16:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Adam Maino: (16:37)
Great. Thank you so much for having me on.
Gabe Larsen: (16:38)
Exit Voice: (16:39)
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