Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting

Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting TW

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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.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. Today, we’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)
Yeah. Yeah.

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)
That’s awesome.

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)
What?

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)
Thanks everyone.

Greg Segall: (27:11)
Thanks. Appreciate it.

Exit Voice: (27:17)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Kustomer Tops G2’s Leaderboard Throughout 2020

 

Kustomer Tops G2’s Leaderboard Throughout 2020 TW

Built on the premise of excellent customer experience, it’s no surprise that the Kustomer team has been focused on our own customers from the start. Baked into the foundation of our company, our “customer-obsessed” krew is the backbone of our happy clients.

As we reflect on the whirlwind that is 2020, one thing is certain: if customer service wasn’t already a top priority, it’s now indispensable for businesses across the globe. The importance of customer service is at a point of paradigm shift and we’re working alongside our customers to ensure they have the best tools in place to deliver game-changing experiences in today’s customer-first landscape.

Tuning into our customers’ reviews about their experience with our krew and platform, allows us to bake their feedback into our product and services in the future. G2’s consistent reviews and — more notably — quarterly reports, are the best way for us to know how we stack up against our competitors. Which is why we’re excited to share that over the course of 2020, quarter after quarter, we were named a category leader.

Kustomer Tops G2’s Leaderboard Throughout 2020 Inline 3

G2’s quarterly reports are based on aggregated reviews from our customers, and compares Kustomer to other customer service platforms. Over the last seven quarters, Kustomer’s ability to be at the top of the customer service software leaderboard has remained true.

Additionally, throughout the year, Kustomer earned recognition in the following categories:

  • Leader
  • Momentum Leader
  • Best Meets Requirements
  • Best Meets Requirements Mid-Market
  • High Performer
  • Leader Mid-Market
  • Highest User Adoption
  • Users Love Us

We’re leading the pack across Help Desk, Live Chat, and Conversational Customer Engagement, but don’t just take our word for it, check out a few examples of what Kustomer’s customers have to say about their own recent experiences:

Kustomer Tops G2’s Leaderboard Throughout 2020 Inline 2

 

Gaining outstanding recognition from our customers, when we’re in the business of customer service, might seem like a dead giveaway. But it’s these awards that carry the most weight with our leadership team, and the entire Kustomer krew. We can’t thank our customers enough for helping us achieve our mission of being the best modern CRM platform for customer service, and we’re looking forward to working with our clients throughout the new year.

Ready to see Kustomer in action? Schedule a demo here.

The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah

The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah TW

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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.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about 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)
Absolutely.

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)
Absolutely.

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)
Yes.

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)
Yes. Thanks.

Exit Voice: (17:23)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran TW

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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.

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Listen to “Scott Tran with Support Driven | Building a Hearty Community” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Calling All Community Builders | Scott Tran

TRANSCRIPT
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)
Right.

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)
Oh cool.

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.

Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer with Chris Warticki

Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer with Chris Warticki TW

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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.

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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)
Yup. Yup.

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)
Right, right.

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)
Yeah.

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.

Kustomer To Join Facebook, Helping Brands Thrive In The Digital Economy with Modern Customer Service

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. 

With gratitude,

Brad Birnbaum
CEO and Co-Founder
Kustomer


Contact Us: For more information, please contact press@kustomer.com.

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.

 

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the secrets to optimizing 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 below.

Uplifting and Empowering Through Corporate Culture

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 hosts 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 in every element of their business, from packaging, marketing, and phone calls. This can also apply to every aspect of their business because it is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.

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 focus on a company and to build one 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, “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.

Be There For Your Customer 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.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How Bump Boxes is Rapidly Growing by Focusing on the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring” on Spreaker.

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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)
Yeah. Yeah.

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.

Christine Deehring: (14:21)
Absolutely. Absolutely.

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, christine@bumpboxes.com. 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.

Happy Team, Happy Customers with Adam Maino

Happy Team, Happy Customers TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Secrets to Transforming a World Class Customer Support Team | Adam Maino” on Spreaker.

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)
Yep.

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)
That’s great.

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)
Wow.

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)
Okay.

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)
Yep.

Exit Voice: (16:39)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Derek Hixon to talk about his lessons learned after providing over 15 years of exceptional customer support. Listen to Derek’s fun and invigorating life lessons in the podcast below.

Fostering Relationships Leads to Better CX

Derek Hixon, Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream, proudly leads his team of reputable customer service agents. Having over 15 years of customer service experience, he has learned the best methods of garnering customer loyalty and agent happiness, starting with fostering relationships in the workplace. Derek believes that the best customer service experiences start with a happy team of CX agents. To present this idea, he states, “Everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.”

Derek finds that when his team is happy, their positivity trickles down and reflects in their work. They are able to have more productive conversations, find the best solutions to their customer’s needs, and have better overall CX scoring. When those genuine daily interactions take place, the work environment becomes more comfortable and interactive, ultimately resulting in the best customer service experiences.

Utilizing Data as a Tool

Data is a driving force in innovation. It presents the information needed to push internal growth and to modify methods and tools to better suit the needs of the customer. When customers use a product and don’t understand how to use it, Derek finds that is the right opportunity to learn from their data and to innovate that product as well as alter their CX approach. He says, “Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions.” Using data to gauge what your customer expects from a product has proven to be extremely useful with Derek’s CX process. Data can give the information needed to build internal tools that assist customers, or remove the need for internal CX tools all together by creating an effortless experience. Having a high-level view and taking the small but necessary steps to creating the ultimate satisfactory customer experience through using data can be very beneficial to companies.

Building on Each Other’s Strengths

Something all companies would benefit from is employing each team member’s strengths to work together and create a cohesive CX team mindset. Early on in his career, Derek found that each person offers specialized skills for their job and that utilizing that specific knowledge has proven to be advantageous to the company. He explains, “I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience.” He notes that unearthing each team member’s strengths takes patience because oftentimes, they are used to completing tasks in specific ways, and their specialized knowledge gets buried under the day-to-day cycle. Breaking that cycle can be done through engaging with the team, learning from the team and pulling from their skill set. CX teams would be wise to learn from each other and to use their specialized knowledge to build on each other’s strengths.

To learn more insightful life lessons, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Derek Hixon | Lessons Learned in Running 15 Years of Successful Support Operations” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents | Derek Hixon

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about lessons learned from running 15 years of successful support operations, and to do that, we brought on Derek Hixon, who’s currently the Director of Customer Support and Implementation at WordStream. Derek, how the heck are you?

Derek Hixon: (00:30)
I’m doing great. How are you doing Gabe?

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, pretty good. Well, I’m pretty good, man. We had an interesting morning. But I got to ask, man, it sounds like you’ve got a fun hobby on the side, is that true? You’re a DJ by night, by day, by, what is it?

Derek Hixon: (00:45)
I’ve been trying to retire for years, but I can’t get out of the game, I guess. I do DJ around Boston, specifically a place called State Park in Cambridge that I really like and I also make some music on the side and actually I think being creative is very important to me. And I think what I learned outside of the walls of work really helps me inside them as well. So –

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
That’s awesome, man. Been doing it for years? As long as you’ve been doing support or not really?

Derek Hixon: (01:12)
Oh, I’ve been messing with music since I could walk, so yeah, long, long time.

Gabe Larsen: (01:17)
Love it, man. That’s fun. I’m just getting my boy into guitar lessons. I always wanted to be a jammer, but I just never had the guts to stick with it. So we won’t make you say your DJ name, but if you want to know that you’ll have to ping Derek on LinkedIn. So outside of DJ, give us your quick background real quick.

Derek Hixon: (01:40)
So, I’ve been working within technical support organizations for the past 15 plus years now. Before that I was working within a company called Pearson and, sorry, I’m just going to take a beat for a second. I can’t even talk about myself. So I’ve been working in technical support organizations for the past 15 years and I have a pretty diverse background in media as well. I’ve worked within print production. I’ve worked within the education sphere. I’ve worked within big media and video and I have a fairly diverse background in communications and I’m also in media.

Gabe Larsen: (02:32)
Awesome, man. Well, it definitely sounds like you’ve got a robust background. Want to see if we can pull out some of that today, as we talk about just lessons learned. I mean, you’ve been at different companies, you’ve been in different industries. What are some of those things that just stand out as, “Man, as I’ve looked back at my career, these things have been kind of the make or break things that have made me more successful?” Start at the top. What comes to mind?

Derek Hixon: (02:57)
Oh, it’s funny. I think I’ve fallen into a technical support role and leadership role kind of by accident, but that’s kind of life too. I think life’s very non-linear and you kind of got to go with the waves and fight against them or you’ll drown. And I was working in publishing many moons ago and it was a big publishing company and I was rising up the ranks well, and I had a pretty big team and across multiple cities, but I just wasn’t feeling the culture or just the industry, so to speak. So I was looking for my next new big challenge and I heard of a company called Brightcove at the time. And what excited me about them is that they combined two of my loves, technology and also video. And this is back in 2008, 2007, and YouTube was only a year old. Having video on the internet was the wild, wild West. It was exciting, new, and hard. Which all of it really intrigued me. I had a friend who recently joined there and all they had open at the time was a single contributor support role. And I’ve debated in my head because I had this good career path. I had a good bonus. I liked the people I worked with at the time, but I wasn’t really challenged in ways I wanted to be. Way back in the day I went to school for video and I was going to be the next great Steven Spielberg or something like that. So it was a way for me to still kind of plug into that world as well. So I kind of rolled the dice and I interviewed for a position. I got the single contributor position and this is 2008 and it was about two weeks after I accepted that the whole economy fell through the floor. And I thought, I remember one day specifically, I was going up the elevator and I thought it was gonna be going right back down it. We had to do some layoffs. They were a startup at the time and I was able to survive it thankfully. And the thing I realized real quickly at Brightcove that was different than at the previous company I was at was, and some of this may be due to me at the time, me being in my mid to early twenties, but I thought I knew everything. And I always felt like I was the smartest guy in the room and real quickly at Brightcove, I realized I was not the smartest guy in the room. I was far from it. And it was very intimidating at first for me. I had a lot of fakers syndrome. I was like, “Why did they hire me? Like this was a mistake. Like I shouldn’t be in the room.” But what that really did for me is it threw me into survival mode and I’m like, “Okay. Well, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy at the table,” like I was literally, ActionScript was a thing back then. Rest in peace Flash. I like literally, the guy who was sitting across the table from me, wrote the book I learned from and I was just like, “This is ridiculous, I can’t compete with this level of knowledge.” So what it instilled in me was, I’m like, “Okay, if I can’t be, if I’m not going to be the smartest guy in the room or at the table, I’m going to be the most prepared. I’m going to be the hardest working.” Really what I started doing, the seeds I started lying just to survive, ended up being very helpful for me throughout my career as I grew in different leadership positions in technical support organizations. And what I’d really tried to do initially was I had brilliant coworkers, but they had all this brilliant knowledge trapped inside their heads. So I was just always pinging and poking at them to try and learn from them. And then I was trying to transfer all that down to paper or Google Docs or whatever it was or Confluence or whatever it was at the time, and create my, and it was really a selfish way for me to do documentation. And so I had the knowledge, so I could do my job better. But by getting that mindset, it’s really helped pave a path for me to where I am today.

Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
I love that man. That’s powerful. So one of the big keys was, it sounds like you kind of thought a little high, got yourself in the deep water, neck deep, but you were able to figure it out. And one of the keys was just being able to kind of, sit with that team, really spend some time and pull stuff from them and not just do the conversations, but actually translated into a document or something that could be shared with others or shared with yourself so that you could actually say, “Hey, this is what this process looks like. Or this is what this function, or actual detail looks like,” is that correct?

Derek Hixon: (07:49)
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And that’s something I’ve noticed from my early experiences at my first technical support experiences at Brightcove all through the last few roles I’ve had is I’ve been really blessed throughout my career to work with really brilliant people. And sometimes it’s just helping organize the really good knowledge that they have. Like everyone has very specialized knowledge for wherever they work, but sometimes it’s trapped within and like trying to really get hive mentality and spread the love with what they have.

Gabe Larsen: (08:23)
How [Inaudible] I mean, I think most of us know that intuitively, but it’s always hard to kind of pull it out of people and then get it into, again, a format that’s digestible. You just take, is it just about taking the time? Is it about the right questions? What’s kind of the secret to getting that richness out of people and into a place that can be digested?

Derek Hixon: (08:43)
Yeah. It’s a lot. It’s a bunch of things you have to be patient with. I’m like old school at heart. I like to DJ. I DJ with vinyl only. I don’t like DJ out digitally. If I cook I’m grilling with charcoal, I don’t want a gas grill. It’s just kind of my nature. I just think things are better if they’re done right and slowly, and usually you benefit from it in the long-term. You can always get short-term success with things, but if you have the luxury of time, which you don’t always have obviously, you can do really great things. And I also think just keeping it real with people and being transparent can really get you a lot of credit with people to get trust within you. To kind of pull things out, but it takes time. And where it really starts is, it’s process, right? Process is what everyone’s chasing in a leadership role. They want people to do things in a similar manner. I don’t necessarily want everyone on my teams to do things exact. And I compare, I like sports as well. And when I talk to my team, I’m really, really good at bad analogies. And I like to equate how they do their job, like a golfer and a golf swing, or a baseball player in their batting stance. It doesn’t have to be the same exact stance or swing for everyone, but we’re all trying to get the same results. You’re trying to drive the ball straight and far down the middle, or you’re trying to get a base hit or a home run. When I’m sitting with people, you really have to sift the team, you have to take the time. You have to stroke the coals, you have to prepare for a DJ set, like you have to really understand, “Okay, what’s their day-to-day like?” And that goes through shadowing. Okay. And like I always say, cliques kill. You can do things to simplify your team’s job, you’re getting quick wins and you’re making their lives easier, which is going to filter right down to the customer. And so that’s where you start. And also people like talking like, hey, I’m doing it right now. People like talking about themselves. People like showing off the things they know and it also gives people a chance to feel empowered and talk about the hard work they’ve put in and how they do it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:02)
I like that. Then through all of these interviews you’ve done and different stakeholder discussions, et cetera, any quick things you’ve found that ultimately changed the way you look at support, ideas around simplicity, or people making it harder than they maybe need to sometimes, but different things like that?

Derek Hixon: (11:24)
Yeah. I think that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees type of thing, fully applies when it comes to support. And I think support at times traditionally can have a bit of a stigma. It’s literally at the end of the big funnel from sales to marketing, through products; we’re at the very end. But also, we’re at the end of one part of the process where we’re at the tip of the spear for the customer part of the process of how they’re using a product and where they’re running into things. And I think that it’s just really important to, I’m sorry, what was the exact question? I kind of went off there a little bit.

Gabe Larsen: (12:05)
No, no. It’s totally fine. I missed some of the lessons learned as you interview some of these people and, just curious if there’s general findings. What did you find [inaudible] people ‘complexify’ stuff or –

Derek Hixon: (12:20)
Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes, and this is the, I find this especially when I first join an organization is I really lean into it when I hire somebody new as well. New blood is invaluable, new perspectives, just new angles on looking at things. Sometimes people live with a certain way of doing things for so long or someone told them to do it a certain way. So they just will do it a certain way. And that’s just the way they’re going to do it forever. And it goes back like, I have a saying that I always tell my team is like cliques kill. And like, if we can simplify the amount of things like tools needed to accomplish a task or ways to assist someone, that’s where it helps. And also I think the other hard thing, a thing I’ve seen across the, when I’m working with people to try and figure it out and simplify the job is, a lot of times, people are afraid to take a short-term hit to get a long-term gain. And I kind of almost look at it like preventative medicine or it’s like if sometimes teams are really scared to take some steps back and look at, “How do I do my job? Well, what are the steps I need?” instead of actually just taking the cases and doing them because like, “Oh, if I’m doing all this stuff and I’m not taking the cases, are cues going to really grow?” And I’m like, well take that short-term hit because it’s going to like, if you take time on this one case it’s going to help, or if you write an article on this one type of case and we post it, it’s going to help hundreds of people down the line and it’s forever going to be evergreen and all that jazz. So it’s helping the pulp. I think that’s, really it’s the benefit I have in the positions I’m in now. I used to be in the trenches, just like the people on my team, taking the cases and doing the calls. You don’t always have the luxury to pull yourself above the clouds and look down at everything. But to be able to do that with the team and allow them that freedom really helps them to help the customer experience better, how the team works better, and also helps them get a different perspective on things and potentially, like I think when people talk about support and customer success so much, they’re always just talking about the customer, but the customer experience is going to suck if the people on the team supporting them aren’t happy, or don’t what they’re doing, or don’t feel like they’re growing. Not everyone’s going to be a support lifer, and that’s cool. I’m sure yourself, you’ve had many different turns throughout your career. But when people are on my team and they’re working with me, I want to know what their goals and aspirations are. And I want to figure out how, when they’re in the current role they’re in with me and my team, how can I help grow skill sets that will help them accomplish larger goals while also helping the immediate goals with what the team has now? So, I really think it’s hard. I think the biggest secret is pulling people out at times and understanding what their path can be and the results will filter out throughout to the customer, the data will start pointing in the directions you want, and you’ll just create a really good working environment where people enjoy being, and working, and pushing and pulling in the same direction with each other.

Gabe Larsen: (15:46)
I like that. So, one big thing is just understanding your team, what they’re doing, learning from some of those findings. The second thing that we touched a little bit about was this idea of case analysis and what do customers really need help with? Talk about how that’s been a lesson that you’ve learned and how that applies to kind of transforming service organization.

Derek Hixon: (16:10)
Yeah. Data is key. It’s not the only thing, but you need solid data to make informed decisions. And so it goes back. And so in the very beginning, if I’m shadowing, it’s like if I got a new job at CompanyWide tomorrow to run their global customer support organization, the first thing I would do would be sit down with the team and understand what their day-to-day is like. And it’s not just to make sure their to-kill cliques and to make their day-to-day more simple, but I want to understand what the cases are and what the questions are that they’re answering and asking. I’ve done this primarily, this is nothing new, but I do this primarily through using case-reasons and sub-reasons at the case level. That means like, if it’s a billing question, that would be the case reasoning. And then from there, the sub-reason could be, “When’s my next bill due? I want to cancel. Where do I find?” Once you can bucket out what the customers are writing in about into different reasons and sub-reasons, then you can really start building a map of what people are actually asking the team about. Really, I don’t look at support, I always kind of looked at as support as a secret part of product because that’s what the, people are using a product.

Gabe Larsen: (17:38)
Agreed. Agreed.

Derek Hixon: (17:38)
We’re all consumers and we’re all going to have questions on things at some point in time. So I love working as support just because I think it’s good karma. When people are putting their heads against something, and they have a question, it’s because they’re using the product and it’s not working, or they don’t know how to, or they don’t want to figure out how to, because they still have time to sit down and figure out all the things. So really understanding what the people are asking about and then once you understand what they’re asking about, the real proof in the pudding is what action are you taking on the data, and who are you sharing that data with? It’s always easiest initially, to affect things internally, meaning within the support organization, but when you really start developing at my level relationships with peers across the aisle, and in marketing, in products, in engineering and development, that’s when you can really, really, really start doing some great stuff with the data such as creating internal tools. So you can do better work for the customer, or even better, make those tools available for the customer, or make it so the tool is not even needed because the thing just happens. Oftentimes, just from analyzing product usage data, a lot of places where customers might butt their heads against the wall, aren’t going to show up because they’re going to support those sort of things.

Gabe Larsen: (19:07)
I like that. I mean, sometimes the devil’s in the detail, man. It’s finding that, I love the idea of this case-reason and really being able to figure out what’s working, what’s not working, can be, I mean, it just opens up so much insight as to where you potentially need to go. I liked that one. And then number three, you talked a little about this idea of working in a box. Jump into that for a minute. How does that apply to kind of lessons learned?

Derek Hixon: (19:30)
Yeah. My favorite thing about working within a technical support organization is that, when I’m working at a software company, you work with and you talk to everyone within the company. Like then that goes from a tier one associate on my team to me. We’re talking to account managers, we’re talking to marketers, we’re talking to sales guys, we’re talking to product, we’re talking to engineers. And it’s really nice to have like our tentacles throughout the company that way. And like, what really gets me off is cross-collaboration. I think when you’re working with people with different expertise and skill sets, that’s where true innovation really can happen. That’s where you can really have the biggest impact on the business and the customer experience. So, I try and really foster relationships there. It’s not easy. It can be really hard at times because all the different segments have different goals, and different OKRs that they’re pushing towards. Hopefully everything will roll up to the greater good, but it’s hard for all of it to cross over exactly. And just being realistic with where support lies within the totem pole of things at times, if you can learn how to work within other teams, cross-functional OKRs, and whatnot, you’ll have better success with what you’re trying to do instead of trying to jam a square through a circle hole. I’ve tried to jam a lot of squares through circles, so I’ve learned through a lot of failure, and I’ve been far from perfect. But hopefully I’m getting a little bit of wisdom with age, but to be determined.

Gabe Larsen: (21:14)
Wow. Well, I totally understand where you’re coming from. It seems like I get smarter with age, but then I look at myself and I look at my life and I’m like, “No. I’m not.”

Derek Hixon: (21:27)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
BS’ed my way through everything. Well, we covered a lot today, Derek. As you think about other service support leaders out there trying to win, what’s kind of a summary takeaway that you’d leave with the audience based on some of the stuff we’ve chatted about today? Any quick kind of quick summary comment?

Derek Hixon: (21:50)
Yeah. I would just say, know your team and then use the data as a tool. Everything’s a tool. Like, there’s a phrase, “Death by a thousand paper cuts,” and I like to apply life by a thousand paper cuts. We’re always, and like the real big phrase that I say to my teams is, “Green grows and ripe rots.” Meaning like, as soon as you think you’re good and you know everything and you start being stagnant, you’re screwed. And like, I try and have a mindset of always wanting to grow and learn and understand, and we’re always tweaking things, but we’re never making this huge, big, crazy change, but we’re always making series of changes based on the data we’re getting and through just keeping a really open communication within the team. And from there, there’s no whiplash had by the team by all these big changes, but if all of a sudden we look back six months, we’re like, “Oh wow, we did a lot. We used to do things this way? That was crazy.” So I think just really having a high-level view of things and I’m not trying to boil the ocean, but always trying to slowly innovate, push, and move forward. But like, everything starts with the team that you have working for you and if they’re not happy with you or with the role, nothing’s going to work. So that’s where your primary focus has to be initially. You always got to stoke that flame to make sure that they’re happy and cool with you.

Gabe Larsen: (23:15)
I love it, man. Alrighty. Well, a lot to cover. Definitely a lot of experience coming out. I can hear the wisdom in your voice. I’ll have to join you in Boston sometime when things calm down with all that’s going on with the COVID, et cetera. It’d be fun to hear you DJ, man. So anyways, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:40)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited to discuss different tactics to make CX teams successful during challenging times. Learn how each leader has trained their teams to provide exceptional customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Navigating CX

Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, discusses how teams are adapting to the new temporary normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are coming to CX agents in states of heightened anxiety and stress and in turn, the CX agents are overwhelmed in their workload. For teams to cope in the pandemic landscape, Vikas has helped them to understand the importance of human-to-human interaction. He notes, “So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.” He goes on to encourage teams to ask what they can do for the customer beyond just quickly responding to conversations. Strategies such as creative problem solving can effectively guide the customer to the best result. Ultimately, showing the customer genuine empathy through human-to-human interactions is what cultivates lasting customer loyalty and happier customers.

Focusing on What Can Be Controlled

Rob Young, Director of Customer Support at Bamboo HR, highlights the need for attainable and realistic customer service standards for CX teams. He says, “Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company,” in reference to what CX teams can do to stay motivated during these challenging times. To help CX teams accomplish the best possible outcomes, he adds that proactive communication between the team member and the customer is the key to success. Methods such as asking specific questions will garner specific answers, effectively leading to a desired end result. He further discusses how when CX agents focus on what they can control in their day-to-day business responsibilities, it sets the precedent for more positive and impactful customer service interactions.

Three Methods to Drive CX Success

Jamie Whited, expert consultant in Client Service and Experience, emphasizes three crucial things each CX team needs to successfully deliver the best customer service. The first is optimism. We are living in an ever changing world with this pandemic and Jamie believes that CX teams should embrace this new normal with optimism. As optimism is often infectious, it has the possibility to spread and cause an overall positive effect on the outcomes of CX interactions. The second point is innovation. Something that applies to all companies is the possibility to innovate and adapt when opportunities arise. To further expand on this second point, she says, “There’s a client I work with that’s … doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company.” This is an especially useful tactic when companies are seeking to promote internal growth and reinvest in their existing employees. Additionally, the third point is to move quickly. With each new innovation, companies have to move quickly to ensure company growth and continued success. Jamie believes these three tactics are extremely useful and applicable to all companies.

To learn more about how CX leaders are winning during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How Customer Service Teams Are Winning in Challenging Times | Vikas Bhambri, Rob Young, and Jamie Whited” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast we’re on LinkedIn live. I’m excited. These guys know I’m excited. With so much digital going on. This is an audience we wanted to make sure we tapped into. In today’s a very specifically relevant topic. As we talk about how customer service leaders are winning in these challenging times. Now, I always have something to say, but I felt like it would be best to mix that up a little bit and have some other thought leaders, practitioners in the space, bring their knowledge to the forefront as well. And so real quick, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri who’s the SVP of sales and CX here at Kustomer. We’ve got Rob Young who’s a Director of Customer Support at a great company called BambooHR. And then we got Jamie Whited who is currently an expert consultant in client service and client experience. So guys, thanks so much for joining. Why don’t we take just 30 seconds and have you guys introduce yourself. Jamie, can we start with you?

Jamie Whited: (01:22)
Yeah, absolutely. Hi everybody. It’s a pleasure to virtually be together with you today. My name is Jamie Whited and I’m a client service leader and client experience consultant. I have over 15 years of experience building and leading teams in customer service, client success, client experience, and business process improvement. I’m incredibly passionate about people, problem-solving data and creating an unforgettable customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. All right, Rob, over to you.

Rob Young: (01:49)
Yeah. Thanks, a pleasure to be here. I love seeing faces even if it is virtually. Appreciate the invite. Rob Young, I lead our customer support teams at Bamboo HR. I’ve been leading customer support or customer success teams for a little over 15 years. Won’t tell you how much over, but we’ll just go with a little over for now.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I love it. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:14)
Yeah, pleasure to meet everyone. Over 20 years of being in the contact center world, everything from implementing solutions to training agents, and now here at Kustomer over the last three years where I’m responsible for sales and customer experience. And for us customer experience means a combination of professional services, customer success, and of course our support team as well.

Gabe Larsen: (02:39)
Yeah, yeah, multithreaded there. So and last but not least you have myself. I have zero years of experience. No, obviously, I’ve got a little bit of experience, but in a slightly different environment, I run the growth program here over at Kustomer, which mostly consists of our marketing and our business development reps. So excited to get going. Let’s start big picture. You guys, world changed obviously, just in the last two, three, four weeks, depending on where you were and why you were potentially operating in different places. Rob, let’s start with you. Big picture, how did it change from four weeks ago to now with all that’s going on with the virus, the economy, et cetera?

Rob Young: (03:21)
Yeah. So, aside from the large geographic chain, right, our entire workforce is now at home and we’re socially distant from one another. So that is a massive change and that norm, that switched very quickly for us. And so on top of that, we have individual personal lives have also been turned upside down, which is a lot of what we’re dealing with with both our customers and our team members, right? So we’ve gotta be conscious of, we have children or spouses and significant others, or in some cases, roommates that are all trying to get their work and their school done in the same household. So that’s been a big change. It’s been hard to get our heads around just from a work environment, but also from a social, kind of emotional environment as well.

Gabe Larsen: (04:14)
Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, Jamie, you’re talking to a lot of companies out here in your role. What are you seeing? What would you add to that?

Jamie Whited: (04:21)
Yeah, I would add to that some of the companies that I work with were not big fans of remote working, so they were not prepared for that. Other companies who love remote working, so they were fully prepared for that. Unfortunately, some of the companies I’m working with, they’ve had to have their call centers shut down. They’re international and they are not prepared. So their frontline service was down for a while. Their disaster recovery plans did not include that. Leading industries have toppled overnight and we’re seeing that impact on some of the companies that I work with. At the end of the day, as Rob mentioned, kids are also forced to stay home and have to learn how to go to school remotely. As a parent of four, in middle school and high school, it’s definitely been an interesting adaptation there in addition to working with my quoty-finger ‘colleagues’.

Gabe Larsen: (05:11)
Oh my goodness. You have four. I thought I had the most out of this group, but Rob don’t you have a couple of kids? You have a couple of kids too.

Rob Young: (05:17)
Yeah. High school, middle school, elementary, just the whole gamut there.

Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Oh man, this is the bad group. I think all of us are feeling that pain as we move into homeschool. Vikas, let’s go. Let’s kind of end with your thoughts. Anything you’d add, even from your own experience or some of the customers that you’re dealing with?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us is we were able to make the move to work from home pretty seamlessly from a tech perspective. But that’s just, that’s a fraction of the overall change management, right? The big thing is how people are adjusting to their new work environment, because there is that there are certain benefits to being co-located and being able to grab a peer and talk about something, a problem that a customer may be having that you’re trying to resolve, and so on. And then the very natural, as Jamie was saying, some of us that are parents are adjusting to that, but even for other folks, they’re dealing with everything from, “I’m now spending more time with a roommate than I ever really expected to spend,” right, “we basically share an apartment.” And maybe people dealing with their significant other more time than they actually ever planned on spending with them and having to deal with that. So there’s a lot of that element, especially from a leadership perspective, that we’re trying to deal with. So the tech was easy. We always have to remember, and I always remind people in the support world, it’s a human, we used to call it bums in seats. It’s the human beings that really are the core of it. And so really dealing with that side of it is what we’re focused on.

Gabe Larsen: (07:00)
Yeah. I love that. So let’s talk through that. I mean, I love kind of the level setting of: you got work from home challenges, you’ve got obviously infrastructure challenges, you’ve got parenting challenges. As we move forward, obviously the world has changed. I want to hear some of the strategies you’ve now tried to implement or coach people on to see if you can’t get a little better, make it a little bit better for your employees and your customers. Jamie, maybe let’s start with you. Where do you go from here with all these challenges?

Jamie Whited: (07:31)
Yeah, so I would probably say my top three that I’m looking at are first and foremost optimism. We have to remember, this is not going to last forever, but we have to accept the current new norm and be able to embrace it with optimism. A lot of people struggle with that. So, if we can lead with that and help influence others to feel that same way, I think it’ll just be a trickle down effect in a really positive way. I would say secondly, is innovation. We got to have innovative solutioning for all the problems that we face as customer service leaders. Yes, tech is probably the easiest, infrastructure a little bit harder sometimes depending on how your site is set up. But it’s everything from, if somebody had a problem, they would turn around and look at their colleague. Now they’ve got to wait for a response on Slack or they have to text them. They have to call them. So their response levels are going down. So how do we approach that? We just have to get innovative with what we do and how we do it. It’s an opportunity for us to adapt quickly trying new fun methods that maybe nobody wanted to try before. And even, how do we complete our day-to-day responsibilities in a new way? And then I’d say lastly, we have to move fast and we have to pivot quick because some of these new methodologies are not going to work. The sooner we recognize them, we pivot very quickly and try something else so that our companies and our employees and ourselves continue to grow and have the company day-to-day business continue.

Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, that’s actually trying this and this LinkedIn live, right? I mean, that’s one of the things we were wanting to try fast and see if it worked and goes out. And how do you interact differently with your customers? Can you get a quick answer and then if it works great, if not, maybe you throw it in the garbage and try something new. Vikas, what would you kind of add to that? From strategies to see if you can operate more successfully in this new normal?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:13)
Yeah, well look, I think at the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s anytime you’re talking about customer service, you’re talking about the two sides of the equation and in the middle of it, as Jamie said, it’s that empathy and the empathy needs to be extended both to your team, the agents or the ninjas, or the gurus, whatever you call them and then your customers, right? Because both sides, don’t forget, there’s that element as well. Your customers also are in a heightened sense of stress and frustration, right? And it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether you’re in the software business, like we’re at at Kustomer or you’re in food delivery or you’re in pharma delivery or whatever it is, right? So I think that’s the key thing is there’s two sides of that equation and once again from a leadership perspective is having empathy with both sides and the education, so the education for me to make sure my team is aware. Look, customers are also dealing with this new temporary norm, and they’re going to be a heightened level of frustration. So you may get somebody who’s normally very easy going and easy to work with might be a bit more challenging. And on the same time, I actually had to coach a customer to tell them, “Look, I know you had a rough interaction with one of my folks, but they’re also in a heightened level of stress.” So I think the more we can make people just generally aware of that human-to-human relationship and remind them of that, I think that goes a long way.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we’re all going to have to be a little bit more patient if some of these things go on, but that’s what I think we’re starting to see that Jamie mentioned that some of these industries that are struggling with more cues, more hits, people are getting more frustrated because they want to change their flights. They want to do stuff and obviously that makes a little bit difficult. Rob, it sounded like from your guys’ standpoint, you guys had some teams that were being bombarded, like getting more requests, and then you had some teams, which I think is an interesting problem, that were actually slowing down. Like they’re not getting the service requests. How have you, is that true? And if so, how have you handled that?

Rob Young: (11:28)
Yeah. It is true, which has been a really interesting thing to try and sort out. So we’ve had to, first of all, the communication is just key, right? We’ve had to step up communication with customers and of course with our reps and then helping them be okay with change, like moving workloads around. We’ve had to shuffle some workloads to try and help teams that are just buried with requests and then teams that those requests are just trickling in. So that’s tactically, we’ve had to do that for sure, but also at a higher level helping our reps be okay with change and we’re pulling together, we’re all on the same team. We provide software and support for HR professionals and I don’t like the abbreviation of HR because you forget the human side, right? It’s Human Resources. So we’ve got to step up the human side as we continue in this new norm, for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (12:31)
And do you feel like, this is actually a question from the audience, this is kind of a cool feature in here, we got a question just about how your customers are reacting. Are you finding that your customers are being more empathetic or are people, I mean, Vikas you were kind of alluding to this a little bit, but are your customers more anxious? They’re more impatient? Rob, maybe let’s start with you and then we’ll go around.

Rob Young: (12:53)
Yeah. So, normally we ask, “How are you doing today?” That doesn’t cut it either with our team or with our customers anymore. So we’re instructing leadership and our frontline reps to ask specific questions. “How are you managing your workforce now? How is your life at home with your spouse or your significant other, your children going?” So asking very specific questions, “How are you doing?” It’s odd. We’re all doing okay. That doesn’t quite cut it anymore. Trying to get very specific answers in areas that we can then focus on and help. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Oh, I love that. Vikas. Your side of it. Anything, first of all, do you feel like customers in general are being more empatheti? And if they’re not, how are you managing that contextual language? Kind of like Rob said, are you trying to open it up and have people be a little more friendly? How do you navigate around that?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:49)
Yeah, I think customers themselves, we’ll look at the end of the day where we’re all human beings, I think they’re even, agents are saying, or my team is saying that, they’re asking, how am I doing? Which normally, if I’ve got an issue with software, I’m not going to necessarily have those niceties, right? And so even the person who’s coming in with the inquiry’s like, “How are you doing?” And I think on the flip side, the team is making sure that they’re understanding what the current environment is that somebody is dealing from. So you’ve got this particular issue, how are you operating? So I think asking a bit more than just jumping right into the thick of the problem that the individual’s having.

Gabe Larsen: (14:40)
Yeah. And Jamie let’s finish with you with this one. I mean, and maybe it’s just a recommendation. It feels like contextual messaging is super important. Whether your customers are being more empathetic or maybe they are being less, any advice you’d give out to people about how you should be approaching that conversation as they come in?

Jamie Whited: (15:00)
Yeah. I mean, it goes back to what Rob and Vikas also said earlier, is that we can only control how we react. I have one company that works a hundred percent with the cruise lines who was heavily impacted. So there are people who’ve lost their jobs or people who are now off the ship. They’re not having any income coming in. So a little problem is turning into a bigger problem and they’re coming unfortunately, very angry and just losing patience. So, we told the teams, you can only control your reactions. If somebody is coming at you like that in a very frustrated manner, then you turn around and you just give them the biggest virtual hug and empathy that you can potentially give them, retell them you understand where they’re coming from, and you are so sorry for their loss, and that we’re going to do everything we can to make this right for you. And that seems to obviously calm people down in pretty much any industry. There are other companies where people are being a lot more empathetic and compassionate. So we’re seeing a little bit of both, depending on the company and the industry.

Gabe Larsen: (16:01)
I love that. So one question that has come up and it’s actually posted here by one of the team members, Rob, you were just touching on it, but for those who are experiencing actually lower volume in service requests, because things are slowed down for them because now the economy has been hitting, creative ideas to keep people busy? I mean, obviously we don’t want to go to the furlough conversation or things like that and so company’s like, “How do I still make these people effective?” Vikas well, let’s start with you Vikas. Quick feedback on how you think you can get other people who are slow moving?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:34)
Yeah, that’s the inverse problem, right? Is you don’t have enough work and the first thing that anybody’s going to think of if they’re sitting in at home is at what point does a company say they no longer need me because there’s no volume, right? If you’re in that situation. So to me, once again, we have to think, go support holistically and part of support is about things like your knowledge base, right? And things like that. So now if there is latency or there’s bandwidth within the team, how can we optimize ourselves? Because at the end of the day, I think Jamie mentioned this and I think it’s very important for everybody to be cognizant of this, this is not the new norm. This is the new temporary norm, right? And so when we go back to quote/unquote business as usual, we will have those inquiries. So how do we optimize for that eventuality? So can we use people from the team to create new knowledge base articles, new FAQ’s, new training guides, new, obviously I’m talking about it from a software business, but it applies to a lot of other industries as well, right? How tos, things like that. So I think there’s plenty to do when we think about the support realm holistically and what the can be doing beyond just responding to conversations coming in from the customers.

Gabe Larsen: (17:55)
Yeah. Rob, anything you found or any quick tips or tactics you’ve applied?

Rob Young: (17:59)
Yeah, probably two things there. One is proactive communication, right? We are using some of our staff as almost CSMs to reach out. The CSMs are being inundated and so we have a switch that kind of proactive outreach to our customers raising our support reps to manage a lot of that workload.

Gabe Larsen: (18:23)
I think that’s important. This proactive, I think whether that needs to be happening, even if people aren’t experiencing downtime. All right. One more thing. I kind of want to leave the audience with, because definitely there’s an employee part of this and you guys have touched on it just a little bit, but maybe you could just give one tip for the, it seems like across the board, right? A lot of these reps are, in some cases nervous, some cases they’re overloaded, some cases they’re slowed down. Generally speaking, they’re at home and they’re feeling sometimes a little more nervous or apprehensive. What have you been able to do to try to drive a little bit more security, belief in the vision of your company, keep them on the boat, because again, they’re important for the overall vision and mission of the company. So let’s go through, maybe we can kind of end with this. Jamie, do you want to start?

Jamie Whited: (19:12)
Yeah, I would probably say, there’s a client I work with that’s retail and it’s not necessary to what’s going on right now. They’re doing cross training. So they’re getting people exposure to other job positions within the company. They’re also doing education, so they’re showing them that they are data lean six Sigma. So they’re just reinvesting in their employees.

Gabe Larsen: (19:36)
Yeah. I love that. Finding a way in this, while it’s slowed down, let’s actually find a way to reinvest. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:43)
Yeah. Boy, if I see one more picture of a Zoom, a happy hour and those are great, don’t –

Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
– one of those, so watch it, dude.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:55)
Yeah. Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. Look, those are all great. But I think what I’m hearing from the team really is helpful. If you normally do weekly one-on-ones, doing daily one-on-ones, daily stand-ups, making sure, especially from a leadership perspective, sometimes we can, especially I’m guilty of it, Slack is not my friend at all times, especially when I’m super busy, but being more aware –

Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
– He is really slow on Slack.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
Right. Just being super aware of Slack, right? And being hyperresponsive. So I think those are some of the things that I think any team member would appreciate.

Gabe Larsen: (20:36)
It’s almost an over-communicate, whatever you were doing, almost double it. Rob, we’ll end with you here.

Rob Young: (20:42)
Yeah. Specifically, I love what’s been said about focusing on what we can control, right? If we focus on what we can control, one of our core values at Bamboo HR is make it count. Make this moment count, make this day count. I can impact what I can impact. That will help my customers and my company and leave the rest outside.

Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
I love this. Great. Alrighty. Well, thanks Rob for joining. Jamie, thanks for joining. Vikas, thanks for joining. Such an important talk track, as we all try to figure this out. So I thought it’d be fun to bring you together. People who are really working in it, doing it, living it, breathing it to give some tips and tactical advice. So I hope the audience enjoyed it and have a fantastic day.

Rob Young: (21:23)
Thank you. Take care.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:31)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman

The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Freedman from Kustomer to evaluate the formula for high performing CX teams. Learn how Matt has successfully built brand loyalty in a new economy by listening to the podcast below.

The Me-Economy

Enterprise Account Executive Manager at Kustomer, Matt Freedman, knows how to build a company from the ground up and understands what it takes to produce successful customer experiences all while building brand loyalty. To explain the new economy, or as Matt puts it, the me-economy, he says:

It really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands.

He finds that 57% of the me-economy says they are loyal to specific brands solely due to their experience with proactive and efficient customer service. Challenging the older CX values and tactics, this new generation cares more deeply about good experiences over poor experiences, and is more likely to give positive feedback on great CX.

5 Ways to Create a Customer Obsessed Brand

Matt and Gabe discuss the five ways to create a customer obsessed CX team: personalization, an effortless experience, adoption of self-service, being on the channel of choice (COC), and being in real time, 24/7. A customer obsessed brand starts with personalization. Actions such as knowing the customer by name, showing empathy towards their questions, and using customer data to tailor each experience results in better customer care. Customers are happier when their experience requires little to no effort on their part; they expect the care agent to adapt to their needs. Low effort experience can also be accomplished through self-service and filtering customer issues through the proper channels. Additionally, Matt notes that personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. “It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you”. To further expand on this point, Matt discusses how CX representatives should be available in real time to their customers, meaning that they are readily available and empathetic to their needs.

Difference Between High and Low Performing CX

Matt explains that there are two strategies to keep CX teams competing in the me-economy at a high performance level. The first being tech and the second being strategy. Not only is it important for brands to have the technology aspects of CX up and running, it is imperative that brands develop strategies on how to implement such technology into building customer relationships. He notes,”Stick with what has worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about.”

Matt expresses that a self-service supportive CX team will help the customers quickly find a solution to their question by funneling issues through self-service, bots, and agents. If a customer has a question, they can turn to the brand website and look for information on the help page. If their question is not answered there, they can live chat with a bot who can solve low effort issues, further funneling more complex customer questions to agents. Matt explains that the main goal of CX is to treat the customer as a human, as family, as someone known personally by the company. He says, “People want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.”

Matt urges brands to take advantage of the current me-economy and to adapt their CX teams to better suit the new customer.

To learn more about the formula for high performing CX Teams, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “The Formula for Higher Performing CX Teams | Matt Freedman” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:09)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about the formula for high performing CX teams. I think this is going to be a fun one. To do that, we brought on Matt Freedman. Matt’s an expert in customer experience and really a focus on building brands so Matt, you and I have been going back and forth. I’m excited to jump in, but thanks for joining. How are you?

Matt Freedman: (00:31)
Doing great, Gabe. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:33)
Tell us just real quick, maybe just a little bit about yourself and kind of the passion that you have around content, brand building, and customer experience.

Matt Freedman: (00:42)
Yeah, I appreciate it. So back in about 2012, I founded a direct to consumer brand that was selling golf shoes online over Shopify and built an e-commerce company. So, just fell in love with that process; then just being super customer obsessed and trying to build human relationships with everyone that was buying shoes from us. We were a small scrappy startup and really caught the bug at that point. So I’ve been sort of at the intersection of technology, e-commerce, and customer data ever since throughout my career and landed here at Kustomer for all of those reasons. So really excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (01:21)
I love it. Alright, man. Well let’s dive in. You got some slides. I’m going to ask some questions as we go through, but let’s start talking big picture of the formula for high performing CX teams.

Matt Freedman: (01:34)
Yeah, for sure. So in a lot of ways this is just really some learnings and some things that I’ve found correlations between really high performing CX teams, companies, and just this general customer obsession. And it seems like there’s some tethered synergies or strategies around these brands that seem to outperform or outpace the rest of their industries. So I’ve spent a number of years really compiling all of this data, putting it together and something that I was trying to just get a modern take on. Obviously in this current Corona economy, everything’s a little bit different, but some of these general themes resonate and have stayed the same regardless. So I just wanted to put something out there that might be helpful for others trying to become customer obsessed or build that really high performance CX team. So a couple of things that we found, there are distinct and clear strategies or almost philosophies that brands are adopting that outpace or outperform their industry. It’s not necessarily always right in front of you, or what they serve, or the channel that they’re on, or the type of service. We’ve obviously all read The Effortless Experience and learned that going above and beyond, surprise and delight is not always a great future indicator of loyalty. So I started to really take that to heart and try to understand, okay, well if people really just want what’s expected of your brand, why are some companies so far ahead and have such higher C-SAT, NPS, loyalty scores than others? And I dove a ton into the data across a bunch of different industries and really kind of surfaced something really interesting that I never thought about before. And it really had nothing to do with the function or the tactic. There’s a lot of tools out there. Obviously Kustomer is the world’s leader right now in conversational CRM and the things we’re doing. But the brands that seem to be really outpacing the rest of their industries have understood and built their support organizations around this thought of what I’m calling the me-economy and what the me-economy is, is 22 –

Gabe Larsen: (03:53)
You better be defining this here. You better define what the me-economy is, but I like the term. I like it.

Matt Freedman: (03:59)
Thanks. It’s something I’ve been jamming on here for a little while, but it really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands. And what we’re seeing is the brands that are optimizing their entire CX organization from tech stack to philosophy, to agent training and coaching are really the ones that are outpacing and really outperforming the rest of their industry. So I’ll just take a pause there and any thoughts or what you think on just kind of the general gist of this me-economy and what we’re seeing?

Gabe Larsen: (04:59)
I mean it resonates, I think, right? I mean, right now you feel like there is, if you look at the makeup. Yes, I love that 50%, right? That’s the problem that we’re running into now is that with the change of guard, which basically means a change of genetic makeup, Millennials, that group is taking over. They’re taking over leadership positions, they’re taking over companies, they’re taking over a lot of the population. They are a lot of the buying power now and as that group starts to take over, this has been talked about a little bit, but when it comes to our world of customer success, I feel like it’s been talking about more than the buying side. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it enough in the customer experience side. And so I think it’s super relevant knowing that the numbers are encroaching. It’s like, whether you like it or not, it’s now coming. The question is, how do you deal with it? But I love the framing of the me-economy because the numbers are proving that this is a different population than it was obviously just a few years ago.

Matt Freedman: (05:56)
You’re a hundred percent right. These are no longer fringe cases. We now make up the biggest consumer group of, with buying power with the actual populace. And just when you’re thinking of this and trying to internalize it, it’s really the on demand generation really comes to mind. So as you’re setting expectations, now, obviously going through this new world virus economy that we’re living in, it’s a great time to kind of pause and reset and just rethink, “Man, am I really set up and optimized for not only these fringe cases anymore, but this gigantic new wave of demand, expectation that this on demand economy has?” So I think it’s a perfect setup, just a little bit of the performance playbook that we found across all of these brands that are outpacing everybody. There’s really five basic things that we saw that were key themes in terms of the demand. And it comes back to a number of these stats, but personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you. You know, the second being low effort experiences. 96% of customers across the board throughout this generation who have high effort experiences will be disloyal to your brand. So if loyalty is important to you, low effort experiences have to be one of the key tenets of what you’re trying to drive. The other incredibly interesting thing that was really eye popping to me was the amount of adoption among the me-economy around self service. Obviously there’s a number of different tools, starting with chat and such, but self service is a requisite of being a high performance CX team when dealing with the me-economy and I think we’ll talk a little bit more about that and being on the channel of choice, we have a fun little acronym for this, but this is one of the biggest shifts and trends that we saw throughout the data. Currently, it sits about 32% of me-economy consumers require you to be on their desired channel. Now overseas, we’re seeing way more adoption in China, in Brazil of WhatsApp and social messaging apps as the preferred channel for CX to be handled on. From the data, the U.S. is almost a laggard in this group, and it’s interesting to see more adoption here, but that is a massive opportunity here in the States for you to outpace your industry and CX is to adopt social messaging channels now, and the 24/7, “be in real time,” always on, always listening for everybody everywhere. It’s incredibly difficult to just say that and to adopt it immediately. But you need to start thinking about these things, no longer fringe cases, now, requisites of what’s happening with industry leaders in CX today.

Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
Yeah. I like this summary, Matt. I think it’s great to see these on one sheet. Certainly we’ve heard personalization, right? That word has been in use over the last couple of years. “Be in real time,” 24/7, that’s a little different flavor there, probably a little newer with your point me-economy, the channels. We’ve started to see that expansion of channels, but the way you framed it there being on the channel of my choice, basically, is different than just being omnichannel. It’s like, “Be where I am, you punks.” Certainly we’ve seen a rise, I think in this self service. That is a real push for the trend, but I like how you’ve kind of framed. These are the five real playbook pieces that you’re going to need to be able to do to win in this kind of me-economy dominated society. Got it. I like it.

Matt Freedman: (09:58)
Yeah. The funny thing, Gabe, is you mentioned omnichannel and everybody, it’s such a buzzy term and everybody’s trying to solve for omnichannel. And to me, it’s a big puzzle that if you kick it up a level and think more strategically about what your customer wants, your customer isn’t asking you for omnichannel, your customer is asking for you to be on my channel. So if you’re able to take a look at these trends of where the me-economy is going, omnichannel may not include phones for some brands as this generation trends away from wanting to sit and get passed around with live agents. It’s almost a really good time to rethink what omnichannel actually means because some of those channels that may be dated, may not make the cut. So it’s interesting.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I like it.

Matt Freedman: (10:52)
Awesome. So one of the things that really stood out to me in this me-economy and some of the stats that we got through are, 57% of the me-economy says that customer service is one of the main reasons they feel loyal to a brand. And what’s really interesting about this is that there is a tremendous amount of loyalty with the me-economy. They tend to really, they’re 78% loyal to brands that they feel that they’ve chosen as sort of their brand of choice for a particular category. There’s a ton to be gained by winning this market over. But the biggest driver, other than price that we found is that customer service is the biggest sticking point with this generation of folks.

Gabe Larsen: (11:39)
Ah, wow. I see that. I wonder if the audience would be surprised at that. That feels, if you are surprised, I love it. I have a handful of people watching that comment. That sometimes I think with this new age mentality that maybe customer service isn’t as important, right? That it maybe should play a lesser role, but that certainly is the majority of that group is more or less kind of saying, “Hey, that is still true. We still care a lot about this.” Which is maybe interesting in this light, Matt, that for a long time, we have relied a lot on loyalty around brand building. Then you have all people know this. So, you know I shop at Nike because I’m a Nike guy. I just always have been and there’s this loyalty to brands, but in this me-economy, these five pillars become more important. Like honestly, I don’t care where I can get it, direct to consumer style, right? I don’t care where I can get it as long as it’s effortless, right? As long as they can do this piece, right? So maybe that’s the big takeaway on this slide is that although brand is important and it always will be, this me-economy is starting to put some things over brand building like the five plays you talked about, right. Effortless experience, et cetera.

Matt Freedman: (12:56)
Sure. You just think about the way that we shop. Everyone goes to Amazon for everything just as a first touch point to see if you can get it there. You can’t compete with next day, same day or two day in most cases. So that experience and what you’re promising me, the brand promise of when you’re going to deliver it, can I guarantee that it’s going to be here on time? You look at the rise of the subscription economy now, especially more than ever, people not really wanting or being able to leave their homes. That on demand mentality is more important in some cases that the data shows than the brand or the product itself. It’s more, “When am I going to get it? Can I rely on you and is your price competitive?” That almost outweighs the brand or product itself.

Gabe Larsen: (13:43)
I like that. I like that takeaway. I think that’s a big, it’s something we got to just continue to just, that is real. We need to adapt. Not probably fight.

Matt Freedman: (13:54)
Sure, and what’s interesting too, I don’t across again, just this first pass at looking through some data, less than 30% of brands really feel that they’re equipped and ready from a technology perspective with things like those on demand chat channels, social messaging, having a really highly intelligent knowledge base, the self service factor. People don’t feel that they’re necessarily ready for this or haven’t fully adopted. And I know it’s a newer concept, but there’s just so much room right now while we’re all sitting in our homes, working from home, to just maybe rethink, “What does the next two to five years from my company look like? Are we really set up to solve and really engage with this new market?”

Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
I love it. All right. Keep going.

Matt Freedman: (14:48)
Here’s the one big takeaway of some of the value drivers. If you’re a CX manager or a leader, and you’re trying to sell up the chain to your e-team, or to try to get some funding for some of these tools and this new philosophy to inject some new life into your CX organization, here’s some of the things that you stand to gain. And a lot of these stats are just public domain that we know about high performing CX teams. This is tailored towards Millennials and Gen Z, but we touched on one, the loyalty factor is massive. 78% of me-economy consumers feel more loyal to brands. The one thing that really struck me that I thought was crazy that I almost didn’t believe when I saw it was up to a 98% C-SAT score appears just by plugging in some of these social messaging channels as a primary channel, which was absolutely stunning to me.

Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Why do you think that is? Is that just because of, I mean those are the channels that we’re familiar with. We know them. So once I’m able to use them in a platform, it makes more sense. It’s easier for me.

Matt Freedman: (15:53)
Yeah, absolutely. To me, it’s the channel of choice.

Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Say no more.

Matt Freedman: (15:57)
We as peers, that’s where we’re talking.

Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Got it.

Matt Freedman: (16:01)
This generation tells more people when they get great care than they tell people when they don’t get great care. And that’s the first generation to do that. Typically you’ve seen in older generations up to 20 people will hear about a bad experience. The me-economy is kind of bucking that trend. So another interesting little nugget there. In the last to really come down to the balance sheet, here’s really, if you’re talking to your CFO and you’re trying to gain more momentum around your organization, these people spend up to 21% additionally for great customer service. And it’s proven around 70% of this me-economy says they already have spent more money to do business with brands that offer great customer support. So I’ll pause there really quick, Gabe. Any thoughts there? We’re going to start to dive into more of the model of how to sort of adopt or build a framework of how your CX organization can start to build the tenets of what this looks like to solve for this me-economy. But anyway –

Gabe Larsen: (17:05)
No, I think you’ve set it up well. I think you’ve set it up well. I think the big next question is, got it. That maybe is a problem I wasn’t seeing as much before. Some of these types of elements, the question is, “How do I start to move in this direction and maybe adopt some of these principles in a real way to tactically or tangibly change the way I deliver service?”

Matt Freedman: (17:24)
Yeah, sure. There’s a lot of different information out there. There’s a ton of opportunity of different ways outside of just this. Just kind of taking a baby step, crawl, walk, run approach. But if you’re speaking specifically and candidly to this me-economy market and the demands that they have to be competing with these high performing, outpacing industry leaders, these are kind of the two basic things you can do today to start thinking about. And the first is the technology stack. Obviously at Kustomer, we’re a bit biased here of the things that we offer, but irregardless, we built a model that we’re going to talk about in a moment called SLS. And that’s a funny little acronym for self-service, live support, and the last S being social messaging channels. So we’ll dive into that in a moment. But from a strategy perspective, if you were to weigh these two, technology and strategy, it’s almost 50-50. I mean the technology can get you so far, but if you’re not going to adopt it as the source of truth and the source of just having this new generation lead the way for your company, we’ve built this model called the Now Philosophy that you and I, Gabe, have talked about. But it really is, it’s adopting the always, everywhere, for everybody model that the demand is being driven by this me-economy. So split this right down the middle. Half goes to tech, half goes to strategy. That’s the two basic fundamental tenets of how we can split this up.

Gabe Larsen: (19:00)
Yeah. I liked that. The funny, the way when you project that, right? I think for a long time, we’ve talked about people, process and technology as being like the fork, some of the fundamental principles of driving an effortless experience, great customer experience. The way you kind of framed that was technology, it needs to be brought to the forefront that it almost is at the core and then you build your strategy, in a lot of cases, around that because it’s playing such an active role. Again, it often felt like people, process, and then add some technology on. Now it’s almost more like, no, no, no. Get the technology. Build around that technology [inaudible], which I think that’s a slightly different frame of mind than we have in the past.

Matt Freedman: (19:45)
Yeah, you’re probably right. The people, process model dates back to what, Henry Ford and even beyond. So maybe this is a little bit disruptive, but at least from what the data tells us, if you want to serve this new market, which is now the majority, not the minority here, these are the two basic things you can enact now. So let’s dive into what that means really quickly. From the technology side, again, you’re looking at self-service, live, and social are the three basic tenets of how you can win here. We are certainly not suggesting that you abandon things like phone and certainly email. Stick with what’s worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about. So there’s a lot to this to unpack because within each of these categories, there’s several different types of widgets or platform products that you can stand up that can build your own version of this stack. But what we’ve heard is that an intelligent knowledge base is where the me-economy starts. Almost 80% of those inquiries are now starting on a self-service basis. So the first place they will go is a knowledge base that’s public on your website. So if they can’t find the answer of what they’re looking for there, the second piece of that is enacting some kind of live chat that could be with a bot to deflect or suggest an answer first with a conversational CRM that Kustomer offers, obviously the data component of that being hyper-personalized and understanding, and even anticipating why that order may have been missed or why that person is reaching out to us. These are those little tiny micro nuggets that are the difference between high performers and low performers. So having all of that experience connected on the back end. So when the agent walks in, in the morning, they know they’re set up to succeed because when someone comes in, they can almost anticipate and say, “Hey, Gabe. Saw you reached out. You don’t have to give me your order, number, your account number. I see that you’re waiting for a package. I get it. It’s a grill. It looks great. Is that what you’re reaching out about?” That’s the difference of being reactive versus proactive and that’s what this economy is demanding of you. And the final bit being the social messaging piece. This is the channel of choice. Be where I am. And this is where peer to peer, we’re talking. We’re talking over Facebook app and WhatsApp and other apps, and that’s how people want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.

Gabe Larsen: (22:37)
Yeah. I feel like on this one; some of this, you’ve heard, but it is some of the adoption of it. As I look at some of the expectations I have as a consumer, when I email a ticket or email in, and if someone creates a ticket, I’d probably have in my frame of mind, it’s, I don’t know, maybe a 24 hour response time. When I Facebook message someone, I’m probably thinking a handful of hours. When I’m live chatting with someone that’s a tough, that’s that real time. You’ve got to be real as soon as they feel like you’re playing with multiple tabs and jumping around you’re out of it. But it’s like, what this has really forced us to do is I think you’ve got to then take these concepts and be able to almost dive into some of them individually and teach your agents some of the best practices and strategies, because it isn’t just email anymore.

Matt Freedman: (23:27)
Correct.

Gabe Larsen: (23:27)
It’s not. And so, yes, you’ve maybe heard some social messaging. Like I got to do that. Maybe some of you flipped it on, but I’m telling you, if you flipped it on and then haven’t kind of gotten with the, this is not email, this is something. So there’s a recognition that these are key components. And I think you’ve laid that out well, but I think the second point is, as you think about implementing this, know that it’s just like when you first implemented the email channel or the phone chat, this takes a full different mindset because expectations of consumers are different.

Matt Freedman: (23:57)
100%, and it’s the perfect setup for the following. It’s the other half, it’s that other 50% of why this is important, how it can be implemented? How many of us in our history, and it dates me back to having our own brand, how much technology do you buy and only adopt 10% of it? So you have this shelf collecting dust of all these technologies that you should be using more of that you’re wasting money on. So it’s almost the philosophy adoption and the strategy around using the technology almost has to be aligned to the same north star as the tech itself. So, I’ll end with this, but on the other flip side of the coin is adopting this philosophy. And the demand again, of the me-economy is just this. This is a derivative of what the demands are. It’s always, everywhere, and for every one; we have to be 24/7. We know that being everywhere on the channel of choice or on the COC, this will strip away the omnichannel thing for a moment and just realize the me-economy, wants you’re exactly where they are and they want an answer fast and they’re not willing to wait. Otherwise, that equals an effortful experience. 96% of those people will not shop with you again or become disloyal. So again, the tech is great to have it, but if you don’t have the strategy and the personnel to man those chat lines properly, it’s going to be all for not. And the final thing obviously is the biggest component of this, is treating your family, your brand’s family, like that, like they’re customers. They’re not ticket numbers and cases. When they reach out to you, it’s one thing to say that you can be empathetic, but how can you do that without data about that person right in front of you? When agents have to go fishing around in ten different systems, it totally negates your ability or your promise of being customer obsessed. So the data being right in front of you with that CRM is absolutely paramount to adopt this type of a philosophy as well.

Gabe Larsen: (26:05)
Yeah. I think these are the, I really like the always, everywhere, everyone. It’s great, because that’s one that isn’t as much on my mind, but you’re right. It’s the 24/7 one just keeps coming back. Like how do we always be around there? So that’s kind of one that I feel like I’ve got to wrap my head around probably more. It’s resonating most with me. Really liked that you brought in that build a community. This interaction, I feel like it’s happening more and more. People are talking Slack channels, people are talking Facebook groups, people are talking. And maybe that is also like be on a channel because for a long time it was, let’s build a community on our website. It’ll be hidden somewhere and they’ll never log in and know what happened with it. Now that we’re going with that channel of choice and we’re starting to integrate Slack communities or Facebook communities. Well, they’re being more adopted, but I don’t know if we’ve got ahead of that enough. I feel like you got some modern people doing that, but I think you’ve got a lot of people still lagging there, big time. People want to talk to each other and they’re scared. We’re scared to do it in some instances because that’s a live real time community that they –

Matt Freedman: (27:17)
Sure.

Gabe Larsen: (27:17)
So how do you monitor it and how do you make sure that people don’t post bad stuff? And that’s kind of like, I can see that hesitancy to go there, but the importance on the flip side of kind of that real time, collaborative, interactive between people, not just you and them, but them and them, meaning them and the other customers, I think is pretty important. So, Matt if you were to kind of summarize, a lot of great points, companies, people who are trying to figure out how we navigate this kind of me-economy, what would be kind of the summary statement there?

Matt Freedman: (27:51)
Yeah, for sure. I threw it into a quick slide. I was hoping you would ask that.

Gabe Larsen: (27:58)
I promise I did not know that.

Matt Freedman: (28:03)
All good. We’re totally in lockstep here. So just some of the key takeaways, again, the big thing for me is to realize that this is a seismic shift that’s happening underneath our feet in real time, especially right now, while people are sitting at home, re-evaluating ways to take their businesses to the next level. So it was only a matter of time where this data surfaced. Where the economy of the Millennials and the Gen Z and the demand that they have, the on demand lifestyle that they’ve lived is driving a brand new generation or economy worth of requirements of your CX team. So we can take baby steps towards that over time. But I would almost recommend taking the weekend or taking a week and just really doing a hard eval on how you’re positioning and how you’re setting up your CX team for success. The first thing is just ditch the ticket. If we’re still referring to customers as tickets or cases, it’s just unacceptable in the me-economy. We’ve seen it proven. Adopting the SLS tech stack, the self service, the live and the social, continuing to focus on low effort experiences. Thank you again, Matt Dixon for putting that out.

Gabe Larsen: (29:24)
Trademark. Trademark Challenger.

Matt Freedman: (29:24)
God, I owe him so many times for having used that phrase. Know every customer by your name. One of the coolest exercises that you can do to prove to yourself or your company that you are customer obsessed. If somebody, if that term is even floating around your CX team, go to your leadership team and say, how customer obsessed are we or are we committed to being? And if they think they are now ask them point blank, who’s our best customer. If you’re a direct to consumer brand, prove it to me. Name our best customer and why they are our best customer? And what are we putting in place to know every single person that’s in our base like they’re our family? They’re the people paying our bills. It should come to that level of obsession. The now philosophy we talked about that encompasses a number of these, but the big takeaway for me, and I’ll tie it off with this, is really there are brands performing at this level of standard, and we’re going to continue to see them grow and put content out and to continue to see examples of them winning. But the resources are out there for any brand that wants to commit to being customer obsessed to do this now. It doesn’t take a radical change where you have to go completely turn everything upside down. There is a formula and approach based on what we just laid out that any brand can achieve this. And selfishly, to my understanding, Kustomer is really the ones leading the charge on how to get people to that level of customer obsession.

Gabe Larsen: (31:07)
I agree. I love it, man.

Matt Freedman: (31:09)
Again, I’m biased.

Gabe Larsen: (31:12)
You’re fine. You’re fine. Well, Matt really appreciate you taking the time. I like the idea. I think you’ve really laid it out well, the formula for how CX teams can win, especially in this kind of me-economy that you put forward. So thanks for joining and for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.

Matt Freedman: (31:32)
Thanks Gabe. Appreciate it.

Exit Voice: (31:34)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by two CX leaders, Michael Miller and Vikas Bhambri, to discuss managing customer expectations during a global pandemic. Both Michael and Vikas have had to adapt their teams to the new CX issues spawning from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how these leaders have successfully managed customer delivery expectations during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Simple Tricks to Earn Customer Loyalty

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has greatly impacted businesses across the globe. As a result of these uncertain times, a new customer has risen, the highly anxious user. In response to this, companies have had to diversify their CX tactics to keep up in the new, highly anxious user arena. To help businesses keep up, Chief Product and Strategy Manager at Convey, Michael Miller dives into three simple ways to earn lasting customer loyalty that will continue after the pandemic. The first is setting expectations for product arrival. Second, frequently providing status updates to the customer so they have an up-to-date understanding of product handling and delivery time. Lastly, the typical customer wants flexible delivery options. Various businesses have opted for curbside pick up and home delivery instead of in-store shopping. Michael concludes, “So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.” Businesses would do well to implement these three simple tricks to retain customers long after the pandemic is over.

Proactive Communication

SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, Vikas Bhambri sets the standard high for other CX teams. Vikas understands that customers are happier when they feel their needs are being handled in an effective manner. He says this is accomplished through setting delivery expectations with honesty and by being available to solve customer’s issues promptly. He adds that the concept of too much communication between the agent and the user simply doesn’t exist in the realm of CX. Proactive communication happens when product and order updates are sent at each relevant step. If this is too much communication, Vikas explains, “Give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.” By showing up and being openly available, agents are better able to get to the root of the customer’s issues in a timely fashion. The more openly a business communicates right now, the better.

The Role of AI in CX

Recently a controversial concept, AI, has come to the forefront of the CX discussion. While not completely replacing the importance of human-to-human interaction, AI has infiltrated the service industry through easing the roles of CX agents by better filtering user issues. With the new COVID-19 business-scape, highly anxious customers have been on the rise and the burden of customer care agents has been significantly increased to the point where they are overwhelmed. Companies are integrating AI into their CX to get a better handle on customer care. Michael has deployed an AI program at his company to help catch carrier delivery problems before they happen. This AI is helping meet the new customer expectations previously mentioned and helps their business have proactive communication. To further explain his AI integration, Michael emphasizes:

When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.

Companies can reach out to their users with AI and filter their needs so their CX agents have a better handle on incoming customer situations, resulting in happier and more loyal customers.

To learn more about how to manage customer delivery expectations and how to create lasting customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Managing Customer Expectations Like a Pro with Mike Miller and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast. Today we’re going to be talking about a couple interesting topics, but specifically, how to manage customer delivery expectations during all of these challenging times. And to do that, we brought on Michael Miller, who’s currently the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey, and then Vikas Bhambri the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer. Guys, thanks for joining. How are you?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:37)
Thanks for having us.

Michael Miller: (00:39)
Doing well. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
Yeah, why don’t we just take a minute and have you guys tell us a little bit about what you do and the companies that you work for. Mike, let’s start with you.

Michael Miller: (00:49)
Sure. Hi, I’m the Chief Product and Strategy Officer at Convey. We are a delivery experience management platform, and what that means is we help some of the largest retailers in the world with a set of tools all across the buyer’s journey, all geared towards creating a better customer experience and better delivery outcomes.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
Love it. Vikas, just take a second.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:10)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer and we are a customer service CRM platform that enables brands to engage their customers regardless of channel, with an optimal agent experience. So really excited to have this conversation today.

Gabe Larsen: (01:31)
Yeah guys, this is such a fitting conversation. Let’s start big picture, and then let’s dive into detail. Vikas maybe let’s start with you. As we see the current environment changing, what are some of the trends, challenges that customer service organizations are facing?

Vikas Bhambri: (01:47)
Well, look. We just went to something that’s never been seen before. In fact, Mike and I were talking earlier in the week and I think one thing that really resonated was Mike telling me that we are at e-commerce projections of 2022 level here in 2020 because of the accelerant called COVID-19. Right? Because all parts of the country and really across the globe, we have moved to a pure delivery model, right? If I just think about my own experience, I haven’t been to a grocery store now in five weeks here in New York, we are getting literally everything delivered. Flowers for my wife for our anniversary, cakes, grocery items, prescriptions. So we’ve fundamentally transformed the way we shop and interact with brands, in the last 30 to 45 days. What that does for the brand is it’s created an unprecedented opportunity and some simply can’t handle it, right? Because they were not built. I was talking to a CEO of a food delivery company the other day who said that his business has grown 10,000%. 10,000% through COVID-19, which if you told any CEO of a company, “Your business is going to grow 10,000%,” he would probably, he or she would probably jump for joy. Not if you’re not set up –

Gabe Larsen: (03:24)
Yeah, that’s right.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:27)
– overnight. So what’s happening for a lot of these people, if you go to their websites, they are taking, either some of them have gone to full transparency. “We can’t take any more orders.” Which I think is commendable, believe it or not. Right? Be honest with your customers. Some, unfortunately, are taking orders and then on the back end, they’re saying we can’t fulfill them after the fact, or after you submitted your order. Now you realize orders are out seven, ten days. And then the other thing that’s happening is, there’s a heightened level of tension in the consumer base. So when I order something, I used to order something from Amazon and just sit back. It was up the next day, two days later, whatever it is. Now I’m hitting refresh because I’m worried about feeding my family. Like, “Where’s my order, where’s my order?” and so that’s the new norm, right? Both on the brand side with their experience, as well as consumer expectations, is people have a heightened level of anxiety and are really expecting brands to live up to that brand promise, which it’s hard to do when your business can grow ten thousand percent.

Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
Yeah. I love that. I mean, the refresh on the Amazon order, I didn’t mean to laugh, but I know the feeling. Mike, what would you add to that?

Michael Miller: (04:49)
I think that’s all 100% accurate and we’re seeing it really all the way through the supply chain, which is under enormous strain. So with this spike and shift to e-com, just some data that we’ve seen across our network, on-time delivery percentage at an aggregate level has slipped from about 90% to 70% over the last two months. We’ve also seen a spike in exceptions, meaning delivery problems of almost 200% over the last month. So the issues that are happening all the way through the network that is under strain and how that manifests and sort of miss customer expectations, it’s pretty dramatic.

Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
Wow. Wow. So basically, from a data perspective, if you had to pin it, are companies actually meeting expectations when it comes to delivery during COVID? It sounds like there’s struggles; that the supply chain is having problems.

Michael Miller: (05:46)
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:50)
Mike, you’ve probably seen this because I noticed something I’d seen for the first time, the other day. As I was mentioning, I bought a cake online, first time ever, cakes being delivered. And when I went to see the tracking, basically it was a tracking link to UPS and they had said that due to things beyond their control, orders were being delayed and I actually got my cake a day later than what was intended. What are you seeing from that side? Because it’s interesting. I think the delivery functions are also having their own issues, which impacts the brand doesn’t necessarily control that.

Michael Miller: (06:32)
Yeah, absolutely. So the carriers in general, and we have relationships with pretty much every carrier in North America, and they are absolutely straining to keep up with the overall surge of demand. And you see that again and slippage and on-time delivery percentage. The bigger carriers like FedEx, UPS have actually started tracking COVID related exceptions specifically, and reporting on those and those are through the roof. Week over week as you might imagine. And all of that manifests in if a retailer made their delivery promise, that the carriers are having a hard time adhering to that, that is a missed expectation and that’s where it starts to hit your world with the, “Where is my order?” calls and those kinds of experiences.

Gabe Larsen: (07:20)
Wow. Do you feel like there are certain, as you’ve looked at the data and you see different companies, are there places or industries that are excelling at this? Actually doing it right? And if so, what are some of the things, do you feel like they’re doing well to combat this?

Michael Miller: (07:40)
Yeah. I’ll jump in. We actually do a lot of customer surveying and we’ve actually ratcheted it up during this period. And, we hear pretty consistently that customers at least, are looking for three things and the first is setting an expectation around when something is going to arrive. That is harder to do today than it has been historically, but that is absolutely expectation. They want frequent updates as early as possible as to when that’s going to change, if it is going to change. And then lastly, they’re looking for flexibility about delivery options. So, this surge in people who may not want to go into a retail environment grocery or otherwise, and so the rise in curbside delivery we actually saw early on during the quarantine periods a spike in return to senders because people were trying to deliver things to offices in locations that were no longer open. So being early, setting expectations, communicating frequently, those are the things that we are seeing not only customers expect, but the companies that do well are going to earn loyalty that’s going to carry on well beyond this period.

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I love it. So frequency, communication, flexibility is some of the key themes you’re finding different companies are doing in order to be successful.

Michael Miller: (09:00)
For sure.

Gabe Larsen: (09:00)
Vikas, on your side, and then I want to come back to Mike on something. But that’s on the delivery side, but if I’m a CX Lead, I’m a customer service leader. How do I keep up with these changing expectations, especially as it relates to delivery?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:17)
Sure. I can’t even imagine the stress they’re under. I think number one is the more information you can give to customers. It goes back to the transparency I said, right? Which is, ideally you’d like, your brand to kind of take the step, the extreme step of maybe saying, “Look, I can’t take on any more orders,” but I know that’s difficult, right? At the end of the day, this is also an opportunity for a lot of brands to acquire customers and acquire customers away from Amazon because people are looking for new options. So I can’t expect anybody to take the stance of, “I’m not going to take on any new customers,” but if you are going to do that, right, who am I to ask? Unless it’s me. But if you are going to take on those new customers, right, and then they are going to submit orders, then I think really kind of owning up to the transparency. So when they come to your website or they engage in your portal or whatever it is, being able to see real time status updates on where their order is in the process. Is it still being packed, right? If it’s out, is it out for delivery? And if it’s out for delivery, where is it? So I think that piece of it, then look, you’re still going to have this heightened level of tension in your consumer base. They are going to reach out to you. Be available across channel. Right? Don’t make it so like, “I gotta go email you,” because nobody really trusts that you’re going to get back to them in a timely fashion. Be available in real time channels, like chat, the voice channel. Right? And if they’re going to go to social media and rip on you because you’re not giving them information, be there to answer their call there. Now when your agents then are engaged with them, let’s make sure they have the data because that’s the worst thing that can happen for a poor agent is, “Now I’m dealing with this very frustrated customer who’s asking about the flowers, the food, the cake,” whatever it is that they’ve ordered from you, and you don’t have the answers. And so you’re sitting there going, “I wish I could help you, but I don’t know where your order is.” Right? But here’s where the brands that are going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack are the ones who are proactive. The ones that reach out to you to keep you abreast of where your order is. So you don’t have to come to me. I’m sending you text alerts, I’m sending you emails, right? I’m letting you know where your order is. And then if there is any change in that, I’m also letting you know, to let you know that you can make a change. Let me give you a really quick story. Went out and ordered a ton of groceries from a delivery provider and at noon that day, I got an alert that your shopping cart is being packed. I’m like, awesome. Right? Food’s coming. I’m super excited. Five hours later, still no delivery. I go into a panic. We were running pretty low on some supplies. I went to another provider and bought groceries. At 10 o’clock at night, that original grocer delivered. Now I’m sitting there with two X because the other person also fulfilled their order. So I went from being really worried about food supply to now I’m sitting on so much food that I’m kind of worried that I’m taking away from the overall supply chain and I’ve got stuff that’s going to spoil. And so if you had just kept me posted as to where my stuff was, day one with that original order, I never would have gone out and doubled my spend unnecessarily so –

Gabe Larsen: (13:09)
You went to a competitor, right? Or went to another person, right? When it comes to your experience and your value. Do you feel like, you guys, that there is best practice when it comes to communication? What is too little right now and what’s too much? I mean, it sounds like Vikas, you experienced too little. Is it more [inaudible] does it pick up during and then once it’s delivering? Any tactical recommendations there?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:35)
Sure. I’ll start and I’ll let Mike chime in. But from my standpoint, especially in a situation like this, you can not take the position that you are over-communicating. In fact, let the consumer tell you, “You know, what, I’m going to unsubscribe or stop sending me alerts.” I’d be shocked in this event, during this event, if that would be the case, but give them the option to opt out. But otherwise at every juncture that’s relevant, I would make sure that I was proactive with my communication.

Gabe Larsen: (14:10)
I like that. Mike, anything you’d add?

Michael Miller: (14:12)
I mentioned our consumer surveys. We’ve got a data point that says 68% of consumers explicitly want more frequent updates than they did pre quarantine. So, I think absolutely the point is right. Early and often should be the bias and I think that’s what customers are looking for right now.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
Yeah. I’m just amazed at some of the changes companies have had to make in order to facilitate some of this. I’ve got a friend who, I think you highlighted it Mike, he closed down obviously his retail shop, and now they do tons of business curbside, but I love that flexibility. I like that frequent communication. Times have changed. We got to change it. One other thing I wanted to kind of dive into is obviously artificial intelligence is a topic of conversation and has been for a while, but boy does it feel like it kind of moved into fourth gear, fifth gear here as companies are looking for more ways to do things with less. As you think about the supply chain, as you think about the customer experience, how can AI start to infiltrate and make things better for us? Vikas, let’s start with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:20)
We just rolled out the biggest stress test to any customer service operation that I’ve witnessed in 20 plus years, right? Like I said, the level of anxiety, the level of expectation of volume of inquiries, right? So for every one order now people are seeing four to five inquiries coming in or tickets, or however you want to designate it. But basically customers reaching out, right? Four to five X, what is the traditional inquiry rate per order. So that’s significant and your customer’s care operation is not set up to handle that volume. And guess what? It’s really hard right now to go out and hire more agents because it’s hard to hire them. It’s hard to recruit them. It’s hard to train them. So you’re kind of making it, exacerbating the challenge. So this is where artificial intelligence can be a really powerful solution in this time. So what we’ve done at Kustomer, we kind of rolled out our Customer IQ Suite, and this allows a number of key things. One, that initial self service that I was talking about before for customers to be able to self serve and answer some of their own questions. For you to update them with your policies and procedures. And you need to be nimble. It’s not going to be static, right? So you can’t go to IT and ask them, you need a three day turnaround on updating something. You need to put it in the hands of the business users, right? Every time, if you’re, for example, an airline and you’re going to constantly be tweaking your refund policy, right? Put it in the hands of the business users to update those knowledge based items, which then get passed on. But then when the customer comes to you, how do we prioritize those requests? So using intelligence to then route those inquiries. If I’ve got an order that was delivered two days ago, and Mike’s got an order that is out for delivery right now, let’s make sure we prioritize Mike because Mike is probably really concerned about where his order is, right? Over Vikas, who got it two days ago and maybe was like, “Hey, you forgot to check.” Right? So being able to do some really cool things like that, using artificial intelligence, then when the agent gets engaged to help them suggest next best action. So yeah, if you didn’t have an AI strategy before, now’s the time because I know people are like, “No. It’s going to take me time. It’s going to take years. I don’t have the expertise.” There’s some really quick things that you can do to fundamentally change how you operate in this environment.

Gabe Larsen: (18:13)
I like that idea that [inaudible] AI basically from that customer journey [inaudible] makes it better. A little more easy. A little more [Inaudible] for the customer and for the brand. Mike, what would you add to that?

Michael Miller: (18:29)
For us, it’s all about what you guys mentioned earlier, which is getting more proactive. So we’ve got nearly four billion shipping events on our platform right now, and we’ve built machine learning models to crawl all over those specifically so that we can predict when an estimated delivery date or a promise date is going to be missed. So for example, just last week, we identified over 300,000 shipments that were going to miss their promise date and we did it up to 36 hours before the carrier even reported the problem. So you’re talking about up to a day and a half before you would otherwise know there’s a problem. When you can reach out to the customer, you can reassure them, you can appease them, you can reset expectations, you can talk to the carrier about the issues. So it’s really for us all about identifying stuff that the carriers aren’t telling you and that you can’t otherwise as explicitly see in the network so that you can get out in front of these issues and create better customer experiences. That’s the biggest place where we’re deploying it.

Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
Yeah, that’s incredible. The 36 hours. That’s a long time before obviously the carriers knew about it. Well, let’s wrap, guys, a lot of fun conversations, obviously challenging times need to figure out the best way to do that. Specifically, thinking about this idea of, “Where is my order.” Before we leave, advice for customer service leaders. Give me kind of your summary or your takeaway. Vikas, let’s start with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:58)
Yeah. I mean, my advice to customer service leaders is you have a once in a lifetime opportunity, right? For the last few years, every leader I speak to, not just in the customer service, but the C level in the boardroom has said, “My threat is Amazon and Walmart. When do they come into my market?” You have an opportunity here to take customers away from them because they’re having their challenges just like you are. So it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity because you have this opportunity to acquire customers. I mean, I’m seeing CACs have literally zero, right? Customer Acquisition Costs of zero. But if you drop the ball, and now the pressure’s on you Mr. or Mrs. Customer service leader, if you drop the ball, when this pandemic ends, those customers won’t be there. What do you do? Think about quick wins. What can you do? Whether it’s on the agent experience, the automation piece, the bringing in of this order data into your contact center environment, into your customer care world, to be proactive with, there are ways that you can fundamentally change your business, not just for the short term, but we’re all going to come out of this. How does this actually put you in a better stead for when we come out of this pandemic? So that would be my feedback to customer service and C level folks all across the globe.

Gabe Larsen: (21:26)
You’re right and when we come out of this, there’s going to be winners, right? And if you do it right now, you’re going to be standing on that pedestal. I can’t agree more. Mike, what would you add?

Michael Miller: (21:36)
Very similar. I think there’s a strategic lens and a more tactical lens. Strategically, it’s exactly right. I mean, evaluate your partner ecosystem and the extent to which you can identify tools that allow you to get proactive, that allow you to get more efficient, automate tasks, I think is an incredible opportunity. More tactically, if you’re in the care center, our advice is, we’re seeing specific spikes in things like general delays, address issues, COVID related delays. So if you can build targeted workflows around getting proactive and issuing customer communications and reassurances around those, that’s going to serve you really well these days.

Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
Yeah. This proactive nature, now more than ever, I think we’ve gotta be proactive. Guys really appreciate you taking the time today to talk about COVID and all the different challenging times we’re participating in. And for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.

Michael Miller: (22:37)
Thank you so much.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:37)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (22:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Benchmarks: What We’re Seeing For Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time in Q2 & Q3 2020

Benchmarks: What We’re Seeing For Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time in Q2 & Q3 2020 TW

“Unprecedented times” feels like such an overplayed phrase at this point, but it’s true. As a Customer Success Manager at Kustomer, I’ve had a front-row seat to how the pandemic has impacted (and still impacts) the businesses that are under my care. Some are struggling, some are booming. As I collaborate with my clients in building out business strategies, examining year-over-year performance trends is a tricky endeavor. It’s a bit like trying to judge the size of a hurricane when you’re sitting in the eye of the storm. 2019 feels like aeons ago at this point, and what does it really tell us if a business’ first response time increased by 30 seconds from 2019 to 2020?

As a personal project, I began studying the performance of our clients from March 2020 to August 2020. Many companies have been focused on this window of time as it relates to their performance in a post-COVID world. While there are several metrics that I could have focused on for this project, I chose to spotlight two: First Resolution Time and Average Handle Time. In my opinion, these metrics are some of the most impactful when it comes to judging your team’s performance.

First, I gathered the Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Resolution Time (FRT) metrics for each of our clients. Then, I defined the industry category of each organization. I used the following overarching categories:

  • Delivery
  • Marketplace
  • Retail
  • Services

Once I had the data, I first explored it by sorting clients by their industry categories. I built a pivot table and gathered the minimum value, maximum value, mean, and median of those respective categories. Then, I explored the data without pre-emptively sorting them into industries – this is important because I didn’t want my industry sorting from the first exercise to lead me to any false conclusions. For the second exercise, I re-sorted the data into ranges of values for both Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time metrics without grouping by industry. I then took note of how industries aligned or did not align to my first analysis. Finally, I documented the correlations I observed.

As I began analyzing the data, I approached my research with a central hypothesis: Average Handle Times will be higher for clients in our Marketplace and Service industries and lower for clients in our Delivery and Retail industries. Additionally, First Resolution Times will be higher for Marketplace and Service clients and lower for Delivery and Retail clients. At a high-level, I found that my hypotheses were supported.

There is a wide spread of data for Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time across all of our clients. There are organizations that operate at opposite extremes within the same industry, ultimately skewing the data. A quick example: the retail category of clients has a minimum value of 0.82 minutes for Average Handle Time but a maximum value of 46.6 minutes for the same metric. To circumvent this skewing, I used the median values of these metrics as they are better indicators for general benchmarks.

I developed the following recommendations for client benchmarks as they relate to Average Handle Time and First Resolution Time:

  • Delivery: 4.45 minutes AHT | 10.2 hours FRT
  • Marketplace: 7.5 minutes AHT | 106.8 hours FRT
  • Retail: 6.25 minutes AHT | 9.15 hours FRT
  • Services: 8.7 minutes AHT | 22.2 hours FRT

To supplement my research, I also read about academic studies on benchmarking (and how to successfully apply them to improve team performance). A fascinating read that I uncovered was a study completed by Peter Dickson that examines the competitive advantage businesses gain by implementing customer improvement practices. Benchmarking is considered to be a customer improvement practice, and it was enlightening to learn more about how this particular project could lead to more successful outcomes for our clients. Dickson writes the following: “Both management and evolutionary economics describe a behavioral theory of the firm where an organization’s routines determine its competitiveness. Higher-order search and learning processes improve organization routines that are defined as ‘ways of doing things that show strong elements of continuity.’ According to these theories, the long-term survival, evolution, and growth of organizations in competitive markets depends, in large part, on the superiority of an organization’s routine process improvement practices”.

While I don’t believe that using these benchmarks will make or break the future success of an organization, it is important to consider the implications of encouraging customer service teams to think about improvements. These improvements promote successful businesses, and giving your agents pursuable goals builds accountability and ownership.

Something important to consider: There may be times when an organization willfully ignores benchmarking – particularly if they are implementing a cost-saving strategy. Always consider what’s best for your brand and your team.

 

Your Curated Guide to Virtual CX Events

Your Curated Guide to Virtual CX Events TW

Where’s the party at?…. In front of your computer.

With the coronavirus not ceasing anytime soon, what options do conference attendees have? Go virtual! You are now able to attend brilliant learning and networking opportunities, from the comfort of your couch.

Now more than ever, companies are searching for technology to deliver on customers’ growing demands. Circle these CX events on your calendar to gain insights about the latest CX innovations, how COVID-19 is changing customers’ expectations, and dive into the smartest strategies to deliver standout customer experiences.

Here is our curated list of must-attend events.

Customer Contact Now Virtual Roundtable

Date: July 28, 2020
Description: Free half-day online event for 25 senior-level customer service professionals with a keynote by Shep Hyken.
Request to attend here.

Flower Arranging with Kustomer and Alice’s Table

Date: August 20, 2020
Description: Stuck at home? Miss traveling? Miss the camaraderie with industry peers? Trust us, we get that it has been tough being at home all day, but in the spirit of #alonetogether join Kustomer & Alice’s Table for a fun flower arranging workshop!
Request to receive farm-fresh flowers here.

Consero’s Knowledgebridge: The Contact Center Consero

Date: August 20, 2020
Description: Consero brings the world’s most senior executives together to build relationships and share knowledge through uniquely valuable events.
More info here.

CCW at Home

Date: August 24-28, 2020
Description: Learn from the most innovative brands in the world. Discover the latest CX technology. Join sessions on today’s challenges, priorities, and focuses on impacting customer contact executives and business leaders most.
Bring CCW experience home here.

Consero’s Knowledgebridge: The CX Program

Date: September 1, 2020
Description: Consero brings the world’s most senior executives together to build relationships and share knowledge through uniquely valuable events.
Register here.

ElevateCX Denver

Date: Septemper 4-5, 2020
Description: Learn from your industry peers about trends in CX, hear thoughtful advice on growing and scaling teams, and get insight into how legacy brands are evolving their customer support solutions.
This is still an in-person event. Register here.

CCW Online Summit: Customer Experience Trends, Challenges & Innovations

Date: September 22-24, 2020
Description: At CCW Online: Customer Experience Trends, Challenges & Innovations, we’ll reveal the latest on what customers are expecting from the experience — and what it takes to deliver. From journey mapping, to analytics, to technology, to digital engagement, to agent empowerment, you’ll know how to create the unbreakable connections that drive customer loyalty, advocacy and revenue.
Free online event registration here.

Kustomer Conference

Date: October 2020
Description: We’re back for our most exciting event of the year, The Kustomer Conference! Join us for a jam-packed all-online experience as we reveal new product updates, Kustomer’s roadmap for the future and more. We will bring you insights from the brightest minds in the CX space and give you interactive opportunities to network with your peers. You don’t want to miss this event!
Stay tuned for more details as we reveal the date, agenda and speakers.

Shoptalk’s Retail Meetup

Date: October 20-22, 2020
Description: Shoptalk Meetup is retail’s first digitally native event! It’s a fun, productive way to connect online with the people you know and meet the people you don’t–in a friendly and open environment. It’s like being at Shoptalk, but without going through TSA.
Register here.
 

Stay up-to-date on new and upcoming events throughout the year here.
 

The Kustomer Internship Experience in a Remote World

The Kustomer Internship Experience in a Remote World TW

A lot has changed in the past six months, including the way that we all work. As a rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College, majoring in business, I’m finishing my second summer as an intern in the sales operations department. As I reflect on the internship experience here at Kustomer, I’ve expanded my knowledge and stretched my skill set, while also learning to work in this new, remote normal. Here are some insights I picked up along the way.

Diving Into the Sales Operations World

My first summer at Kustomer was a great learning experience. I was finishing up my sophomore year of college, had just switched my major from biochemistry, and was looking for a way to learn more about working in a business environment. Working in sales operations, my job centered around Salesforce administration at first, but has since evolved to include more interdepartmental and substantive work. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on projects alongside marketing operations, customer experience, sales enablement, and sales leadership. The projects have covered a wide range of areas, including tracking pipeline, researching CPQ software, and reassigning sales territory, among others. My time at Kustomer has given me the chance to gain insights and experience in several areas of the business.

Interning in a Remote Environment

When I was asked to return for a second summer, I was thrilled to rejoin the Kustomer team. This time, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, my second summer at Kustomer looks very different from the first. On the plus side, not having to commute from New Jersey means I get to sleep much later, and I certainly don’t miss the crowds at both Newark and New York Penn Station. I do, however, really miss the one-on-one interaction I had with my team at Kustomer last summer. While working from home and not seeing my coworkers at the office has been different, Kustomer has made it a smooth transition with the help of Slack and Zoom meetings, and I’ve been able to continue to get my work done and to keep in touch with my team and the company as a whole. Other than not being able to go to the office and meet in-person, my internship experience has been similar to last summer. I’m able to work on the same kinds of projects, build upon the same skills, and continue to make similar contributions, while learning new skills and about how the business works holistically.

Being a Part of the Kustomer Community

I very much value the opportunity I have been provided to get so involved in the day-to-day operations of the company as an intern. I don’t think that I would have gotten so involved if I had been interning somewhere else. I have been given the opportunity to truly see what working in sales operations full-time is like, and am much more involved in major projects and tasks than I expected to be going into an internship. This involvement is a huge source of motivation for me.

Most importantly, however, has been the interactions I have had with my colleagues at Kustomer. I’ve been made to feel like part of the team, which was another major reason I wanted to return for this summer. I have learned so much from the colleagues I worked alongside, and admire the vision of the company and its leadership. I felt welcomed from the start. On my first day, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer’s CEO, invited me and the other three new hires who were starting that day to breakfast. I see this as one of the best examples of the Kustomer environment and the values of the leadership team. Before I had officially started my first day at 9:00 AM, I had not only met the CEO of the company, but had been given the opportunity to talk to him and hear about Kustomer from his perspective. The company as a whole shares this sense of community and welcoming that far exceeded my expectations, even in a remote environment. I’m excited to finish out my second summer at Kustomer in a few weeks, and I am so glad I was able to gather valuable experience and meet so many interesting and special people. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me personally, as well as for Kustomer!

 

How to Use Kustomer Data to Help Forecast Headcount

How to Use Kustomer Data to Help Forecast Headcount TW

As COVID-19 cases began to spike in February and March of 2020, the economy slowed. Many companies were faced with the difficult decision to layoff or furlough a percentage of their workforce to stay afloat. As we move into the summer months, there have been modest gains in economic activity and employment growth. Reuters reports that approximately 25% of private-sector jobs have since been recovered out of those lost in March and April. Still, recovery has been slow as many contemplate future waves of the virus.

Considering the uneven terrain of our current economy, workforce management has become even more critical to maintaining profitability. It also promotes the health of your customer service team. If you’re running a skeleton crew and looking for ways to justify an increase in headcount for your team, read on.

How Kustomer Data Can Help

There are a handful of important metrics within the Kustomer platform that can help you understand whether your team is over- or under-staffed: inbound messages, average handle time, and agent capacity. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll focus primarily on a single channel: chat.

Here is the major question to consider: what does the data tell us about staffing needs and restrictions? Additionally, how many agents do we need to staff so that all chat customers are served immediately?

Let’s say that you’re an up-and-coming retailer in the Atlanta area. You currently have a 10-person team that handles all of the incoming chat conversations on your website. Each of these agents is trained to handle five chat conversations at a time. Collectively, their average handle time is five minutes.

Every agent works an eight-hour shift. They take multiple breaks throughout the day that add up to approximately one hour; they work for approximately seven hours per day. Thus, every agent is capable of performing approximately 420 minutes per shift (seven hours is equal to 420 minutes). Sixty minutes divided by an average handle time of five minutes means that each agent could theoretically complete 12 conversations per hour (if not multitasking). If we multiply that number by agent capacity (five, in this case), we can speculate that an agent can handle 60 conversations per hour.

If an agent can resolve 60 conversations per hour, and each of those conversations has a collective average handle time of five minutes, then an agent is capable of performing 300 minutes of work in an hour (in the eyes of our reporting). Finally, when thinking through the amount of work an agent can handle in a shift, that number is 2,100 minutes of chat work (300 minutes multiplied by seven hours).

As the lead of this team, you begin by pulling the average inbound messages per hour within the Conversations tab of your Standard Reports. Break up the data by day of the week. You notice that Mondays, on average, see a typical volume of 6,000 inbound chat messages. Again, if we multiply the total number of messages by our average handle time (five), this represents 30,000 minutes of chat work that needs to be completed on each Monday. If we divide those 30,000 minutes of chat work by the 2,100 minutes that an agent is capable of completing each shift, we can guess that we need approximately 14 agents working on Mondays to serve all of the chat customers as they arrive.

You can replicate this process across all days of the week, or certain seasonal spikes, and even apply this method to other channels. With further calculation, you could provide an hourly view of necessary coverage for inbound chats as well.

One final disclaimer: the important thing to remember here is that we are using past performance to forecast the future. Thus, it will not always be a perfect predictor of future staffing needs. It’s important to regularly monitor the ebb and flow of inbound messages to ensure that your team is adequately staffed.
 

6 Mental Health Tips for Working Remote

6 Mental Health Tips for Working Remote TW

Remote work can be challenging and hard on us as individuals. Many of us are learning how to manage our home lives and work lives in a time of uncertainty. And while we’re adjusting to the ‘new normal’ of working from home, many of us are also adjusting to working in environments where we are isolated from each other. Together, all of this can take a hit on our mental health. And while often ignored, as you are managing other aspects of your life, it’s important that you prioritize your wellbeing and practice self-care in order to stay happy and productive.

Here are some ideas to help boost your mental health during this time:

Create a Routine

While there are many factors beyond your control right now, it’s important that you keep and establish structure where you can. This includes building a new schedule; including setting your wake up time, core work hours, scheduling breaks and carving out ‘you’ time. Building out your day in a thoughtful way may take time, but test out what feels right for you and your needs. And while it’s important to outline your goals and tasks for the day, it’s also important to schedule breaks and fun activities. Time away from your screen will give your body and mind a well-deserved break. These routine’s are essential in maintaining boundaries between work life and home life, as well as keeping us productive, on track and feeling good.

Stay Active and Incorporate Wellness Into Your Day

Maintaining an active lifestyle may seem tough during these times, but now is the time to incorporate wellness and activity into your routine. If you used to go to the gym before commuting to work, try building out time for an online fitness class prior to turning your computer on in the morning. If you feel comfortable going outside, going for a walk is another great way to incorporate exercise, break up your day and get some fresh air. This is also a good time to try something new as many apps and websites offer free trials and subscriptions to get you started. Yoga and meditation are two practices that promote balance and can allow you to mentally clear your head. No matter what you choose to do to stay active, regular exercise and wellness activities are a great way to boost your mood and keep you grounded when in isolation.

Stay Connected

Many of us can no longer rely on regular run-ins by the coffee machine or lunch dates to stay connected to each other. It’s important that while in isolation and working remotely that we maintain healthy relationships with our coworkers, family members and friends. Take time to think about how you can stay in touch with each other and find ways to virtually check-in. Whether that be a phone call, zoom date, virtual coffee or happy hour, staying in touch is vital to combat loneliness. Being able to lean on others and support one another goes a long way during this time.

Recognize Your Needs

We are all different, with different situations, needs and responsibilities. What works for one person may be much different than what works for another. Now is the time where you may need to sit down and assess, what is working and what is not working for me? Do you need to define ‘heads down’ work time? Are you finding you need to make adjustments to your work space in order to be more productive? Do you need to adjust your schedule due to family needs? Making these adjustments to create an environment that supports your needs will positively impact your mental health, stability and productivity.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

During this time, many of us may feel the added pressure to prove we’re being the best employee, family member and friend that we can be. Add in a global pandemic and this can result in added stress and times when we feel overwhelmed. And while some days will be harder than others, it’s important that we recognize these emotions and remember that it is okay to not be okay sometimes. Listen to your body and mind and take physical and mental breaks when you need to in order to make tomorrow a better day.

Try a New Hobby

It’s no surprise that week after week our lives can feel like we’re continuously spinning on a hamster wheel. If you feel like you’re in a rut but find yourself with free time that you did not have before, think about picking up a new hobby. Have you been wanting to learn how to cook a new dish? Are there home improvement projects that you’ve always wanted to complete? Have you always wanted to try brewing your own kombucha? Use the time you normally spent commuting to and from the office to pick up a new hobby or skill. There’s no time like the present!

We are all trying to get used to a “new normal”, and it’s sometimes easier said than done. Try to practice patience and compassion with both yourself and those around you, and prioritize your wellbeing when possible. For more remote work best practices, check out our infographic here.
 

Kustomer Acquires Automation Technology Company Reply.ai, Accelerating Kustomer IQ’s Intelligence Platform To Help Companies Effectively Scale Customer Service

Kustomer Acquires Reply.ai TW

Reply is the first acquisition for Kustomer, reinforcing Kustomer’s commitment to AI and machine learning capabilities throughout the customer journey. With Reply, Kustomer will now offer enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities through its customer service platform.

New York, NY – May 14, 2020 — Kustomer, the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences, announced today it has signed an agreement to acquire Reply.ai, a customer service automation company founded in 2016 that helps companies scale intelligent customer service without compromising experience. Reply leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning models to improve agent efficiency through self-service chatbot and deflection capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of the expanded roll-out of Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across Kustomer’s CRM platform. With Reply, Kustomer can provide even deeper intelligent self-service and assistance via Natural Language Processing (NLP) based chatbots, enhanced omnichannel customer deflection and machine learning based response suggestions. Madrid based Reply will also accelerate Kustomer’s European growth by significantly increasing its presence in the region.

“We believe artificial intelligence is essential to helping today’s enterprises scale customer service and efficiently deliver exceptional results. We recently rolled out Kustomer IQ to meet the growing need for companies to have access to the power of AI, and with today’s acquisition, we continue our investment in bringing self-service tools and intelligence capabilities to our clients,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Reply has built deflection and self-service chatbots that help companies effectively deflect initial customer communications at an astounding rate of 40 percent. This means that almost half of all initial customer communications can be successfully resolved without requiring live interaction with a service agent, bringing greater efficiency to the entire customer service function. We are excited to welcome co-founders Omar and Pablo Pera and the entire Reply team of world class data scientists and engineers to the Kustomer Krew.”

The Reply suite of tools include deflection capabilities that look at historical and contextual data, continuously improving over time, as well as deflection widgets that can be embedded in forms and email, and features a powerful information retrieval system that extracts relevant answers to customer questions from a company knowledge base. Reply also features a platform to build chatbots that can be deployed across multiple channels and languages, and agent-assist tools that suggest relevant answers to messages and subsequent actions, such as routing or auto-tagging conversations.

“We are excited for Reply to join Kustomer and share its mission to make customer service more efficient, effective and personalized. As a long-time partner of Kustomer, we are able to seamlessly integrate our deflection and chatbots technologies into Kustomer’s platform and help brands more cost-effectively increase efficiency. We look forward to working with Brad and the entire team,” said Omar Pera, Co-Founder of Reply.

“By leveraging advanced AI capabilities and Kustomer’s robust CRM platform, combined with self-service deflection tools, Kustomer is uniquely built for the needs of today’s enterprise companies,” adds Birnbaum. “Since 2015, we have been committed to revolutionizing customer service and today’s acquisition of Reply marks one more step in our journey.”

For more information about Kustomer, visit www.kustomer.com

About Kustomer
Kustomer is the omnichannel SaaS CRM platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences. Built with intelligent automation, Kustomer scales to meet the needs of any contact center and business by unifying data from multiple sources and enabling companies to deliver effortless, consistent and personalized service and support through a single timeline view. Today, Kustomer is the core platform of some of the leading customer service brands like Ring, Glovo, Glossier and Sweetgreen. Headquartered in NYC, Kustomer was founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, has raised over $174M in venture funding, and is backed by leading VCs including: Coatue, Tiger Global Management, Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Cisco Investments, Canaan Partners, Boldstart Ventures and Social Leverage.

About Reply.ai
Reply.ai helps brands scale customer service by providing AI-powered solutions that instantly resolve common customer questions on chat and ticketing channels. The two core products, Deflect for Ticketing and Deflect for Chat, reduce consumer frustration and deliver 24/7 personalized service, ultimately increasing self-service effectiveness and support team capacity. Reply’s customers, like The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas, Vail Resorts, Honeywell, Glovo and Paula’s Choice, rely on Reply for innovative and industry-focused solutions to customer service problems. Reply was founded in 2016 by former Google and CERN engineers and is headquartered in New York City and Madrid, Spain.

Media Contact:
Cari Sommer
Raise Communications
cari@raisecg.com
 

How to Stay Sane While Working Remote

How to Stay Sane While Working Remote TW

Remote work has long been controversial. While tools that support remote work have been widely available for some time, prevailing attitudes have not been disrupted as quickly. Companies have tried to create balanced policies everyone can agree on, but the issue is complex because each employee is different. Opinions can also differ greatly by department or even by job function. Your sales manager’s personal policy will not be the same as your engineering lead — trust me. All of this is to say that there’s no silver bullet that will put this debate to rest. But let’s be honest, many of us won’t be working in an office for quite some time, so here are a few simple ways to make the most of a week while working remote.

Create a Space to Work

Swapping your commute for the distance between your bed and home desk might seem like a win, but it’s important to not undervalue what a commute provides. A commute signals that it’s time to clock in or clock out. It forces you to plan ahead and keep a schedule. It gets you out of bed at an exact time so you’re not late for that 9am meeting. And once you show up to work, you show up. There’s very little tolerance for napping or strutting around without pants on in an office––not so much while working remotely! This is why it’s so important to create a dedicated home office and routine.

First, dedicating part of your home into an office should not be more involved than it has to be. It doesn’t make sense to buy an Aeron chair and a wall of monitors if you live in a small apartment or are on a tight budget. Refrain from renovating your living room into a corner office. Instead, appreciate that your work-life balance is now a work-life harmony. The two are sharing the same space and must coexist. So if this simply means having a chosen area for your work computer, then great! (But maybe put a potted plant or two down while you’re at it). Your dedicated work space will let you know when it’s time to work and will help keep you organized.

Speaking of being organized, it’s incredibly important to keep your office space clean. We’re living in extraordinary times and if you read the news on a daily basis it will quickly feel like everything is out of control. Your work space shouldn’t feel equally out of control. Maintaining a clean space will help you keep a sense of order and, frankly, it will give you something to do. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the list of available activities has shrunk dramatically in 2020. If there’s one takeaway from reading this, learn to love to clean and thank me later.

Shut Off in the Evening

Most people understand what time they’re going to start working in the morning, but less plan for when they’re going to wind down. Since you now work where you live, it can be harder to know when your work day ends. And it can often feel like companies today are “always on.” Whether it’s a new email, slack message, or even a Kustomer notification, there’s no shortage of applications vying for your attention. And while being virtually available and super connected always gives us ways to be productive, individually we need to recharge. It’s just as important to schedule this time as it is to schedule your next meeting. So before you open up your laptop to start a new work day, have an approximate goal of when you plan to close it.

Share What Works

Lastly, understand that while you’re creating a routine around this new normal, your colleagues are experiencing their own version of the same thing. It’s important to stay connected with them and talk about what is working and what isn’t. Nobody is expected to have all of the answers right now, and for many of us this working environment is very new. But remember that teams are built to solve problems together.

Check out our infographic for more tips on how to successfully work in a remote environment.
 

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19 TW

Life has become a series of trade-offs and workarounds in light of the pandemic. Curbside pick-ups are my new norm. My inbox is a litany of order confirmations and estimated delivery times. Last weekend, I drove to a local hardware store and found the following handwritten message on a sign at their front door: “Know what you want. Get in and get out.” At times, my interactions with people feel purely transactional.

The world has changed, and customer service is changing right along with it. Businesses are being challenged with a paradoxical conundrum: how do we retain our humanness? How do we maintain trust in a time of uncertainty? Below are three ways customer service teams must adjust in light of the global pandemic.

Empathy Is #1.

Companies who approach customer service with a deeper level of empathy are more likely to maintain loyalty and win new business. This concept is not a newfound revelation. In fact, The Empathy Business has studied the efficacy of empathy in business for years. And what have they found? Organizations that focus on the “emotional impact” they have on employees, customers, and society are valued higher and earn more than their counterparts.

In the world of COVID-19, empathy is even more desperately needed. Quarantine measures and social isolation mean a rise in loneliness and other mental health issues. Think about it this way: what if your organization delivers the only social interaction an individual will experience for a full day? Armed with that information, how should you change your customer journey?

Start small. Use your data. Study the way your customers use your tools and services. Where are they running into roadblocks? Where are you making your customers’ lives easier? Take note and adjust. Document your FAQs in an accessible location, like a Knowledge Base. Have the patience to clearly explain the nuances of your business and policies. Above all else, practice kindness in all of your communication.

“One-Size-Fits-All” Won’t Succeed.

As the pandemic spreads, we’ve seen a spike in conversations for many of our clients. And according to a recent survey by Kustomer, there has been a 17% increase in inquiries across industries. With this influx in communication, it no longer makes sense to force every customer to call the same number to contact your company. Instead, it’s time to get smart about the channels you employ to manage customer interactions, and it’s time to invest in a fully-fledged omnichannel experience.

But beware: you should avoid blindly adding new service channels without a strategy in place. Dig deep into your customer personas and understand their respective beliefs and behaviors. McKinsey notes that “not all customers are the same, and it’s how they differ in their behavior and preferences—particularly on digital—that should have an outsize influence on how service journeys are designed.” Keep this in mind, too: a small percentage of customers — classified as the “offline society” -— may suddenly be forced into adopting digital communication in light of shelter-in-place orders. Take these different customers into account when adapting your customer service strategies.

Automation Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury.

As we’ve seen an increase in the number of inquiries, we’ve also seen an increase in the need for artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Agents can become easily overwhelmed by an onslaught of new messages. AI can automate some of the more tedious tasks that those agents might encounter, thereby freeing their time for more important work.

Consider how you can deflect commonly asked questions and save your agents valuable time. Let’s say you’re an airline in today’s world. With the rise of the pandemic, you’re being flooded with requests for information about your refund policy. Instead of directing your team to answer each inquiry individually, you could use automation to serve up pre-written articles that align with the inquiry’s keywords. Not only do you protect your team’s time, but you also deliver a better customer experience as customers receive near-instant answers to their questions. Beyond that, unsuccessful deflections can provide a treasure trove of data to guide your future content.

Those who adapt and adjust their strategies now can influence their fate in the post-pandemic world. The opportunity is there. We have to be good stewards of our time and resources to capitalize on it.

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