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.

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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.

Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

Podcast: Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri TW

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

How Has the Economy Changed

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

The Value of Self-Service

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

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

The New Relationship With the Customer

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

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

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. You’ve got myself, Gabe Larsen. I run growth over here at Kustomer and you got my partner in crime Vikas Bhambri. He runs SVP of both Sales and Customer Support, customer success. Wanted to kick this off with a big announcement. We have no guests today. We didn’t want a guest today actually.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (12:45)
Yeah.

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (14:54)
That’s it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (20:10)
Yeah.

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

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

Exit Voice: (21:06)
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