CX Imperatives with Wendi Sturgis

Building a 90 Day Roadmap to Success and 3 Simple Tips with Shannon Martin

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by CEO and longtime customer advocate, Wendi Sturgis. Wendi has years of experience in CX and in leadership positions and she shares some of the secrets for how to make your company stand out. Listen to the full podcast episode below to learn more.

Winning Over the C-Suite

How can a company really win if the C-Suite isn’t on board with the CX team? Truth be told, it can’t win in that case. Gaining the favor of members in the C-Suite is key to building a strong, customer-minded culture. When CX has the backing of the C-Suite, it creates a company culture that keeps the customer in mind through every business decision, no matter how big or small. One way leaders can win this backing is through sharing customer success stories with the higher ups, which adds value to your CX team’s efforts. “I cannot emphasize this enough, every opportunity you have as a leader in the internal communications, tell customer stories. Every single time.” Doing so can really transform the C-Suite into a customer-minded suite, further opening the door for internal collaborations and building a customer-centric brand. Aligning other departments like engineering, new products, sales, and finance with CX is also a great way to build customer advocacy when presenting to the C-Suite. When those board members see your passion as a CX leader for the customer and the brand as a whole, you’re more likely to get their approval.

Being Culturally Sensitive for Global Success

In an effort to keep up with the modern customer, many companies are considering going global but struggle to expand on such a broad scale. Wendi has a plethora of stories and great advice for companies making their mark across the globe but most importantly, she emphasizes that leaders need to be sensitive to the work cultures of other countries. For example, “In Germany, it’s illegal to ask workers to work on a Sunday. Saudi Arabia, you have to work on Sunday.” In their early expansion stages, Wendi notes that her American teams weren’t quite grasping cultural differences and it created a rift between brand and customer. To eliminate this problem, Wendi suggests hiring talent in other countries who understand the cultural norms and can help create a seamless transition, a solution that worked for her.

Is the Customer in Your DNA?

Intense as it may seem, Wendi believes that as a leader, the customer should be part of your DNA. They need to be at the forefront of every business decision and policy made within the company. For many CX leaders this can be daunting, especially when trying to manage so many different aspects of the company from winning the C-Suite to contributing to a customer culture. Wendi’s secret to success in this aspect is performing NPS every single month, which comes with many benefits. Not only does it give up to date scores for how customers view their interactions with the brand, but it also gives current and authentic feedback for new product launches. This is just another way you can be a hero for your customers. “You have to understand that you’ve got an incredible mouthpiece and a megaphone because we wake up every day being passionate about our customers.” Creating a customer-centric culture and keeping them in the company DNA is a sure way to have long term success.

To learn more about transforming CX and making your mark, 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:

Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum

TRANSCRIPT
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 CX transformation from a CEO perspective. Not every day, you get the CEO perspective and to do that, we brought on Wendi Sturgis, New York tech scene, for the last 25 years. Most recently, the CEO at Yext. Wendi, thanks so much for joining. How are you?

Wendi Sturgis: (00:32)
I’m awesome. Yeah. I just don’t want to take Howard’s role away from him. So I was in Europe. So I can also bring an amazing global view, which we might even want to take a few minutes and talk about CX, how you think about a transformation globally, because there are differences.

Gabe Larsen: (00:50)
I think we got to do it. Let’s start with the big picture. I wanted to just hear, oftentimes, a big question on a CX leader’s mind, is how do they work best with their CEO or senior leadership? You’ve got CX people talking about NPS and the voice of the customer, CEOs talking about bottom and top line. What recommendations do you have for CX leaders really trying to work effectively with their senior leadership?

Wendi Sturgis: (01:13)
Yeah, and I mean, we have this conversation so much and I also was the Chief Customer Officer of Yext. I ran the support functions, all of the customer facing functions. So it gives me a unique perspective because I had to sell it, sell it to my board. And then also think about as a CEO of Europe, with the team that was reporting to me and these kinds of things they wanted to do. So listen, and this is a piece of advice that I have for everybody, whatever your functional area, the more you can get educated on how business works, I encourage people. I always ask people, what’s your source of getting business news? And they always kind of look at me and I say, I personally think you need to read the New York Times business section or the Wall Street Journal or CNBC.

Wendi Sturgis: (01:55)
And I’m really surprised how many times people are like, “Well, I get up and I watch Good Morning America.” I’m like, “Well, that’s cool. But I don’t think that’s going to help your career.” I mean, that’s what you need. And so why I bring that up, Gabe, is because you’ve got to position your CX into the bigger corporate lens of how a C-suite thinks. And I think if you don’t have the complete understanding, trying to understand business, and so I would say, I’m sure your company has annual process planning or like Salesforce, V2moms or whatever, it’s like anything and as we in sales have to do, we’ve got to attach and understand what are those key priorities for the company and that the CEO is committed to the board? And you’ve got to know those and if you can’t tell a story about how your CX initiatives are going to help that CEO and the C-suite deliver against those goals for the board, you’re already up against a huge battle, right?

Wendi Sturgis: (02:51)
It’s just 101. And I know that everyone probably knows it, but here’s where I think it gets different. By sitting down and asking and saying, “I’m now going to come back to you with not only this year’s roadmap, but let’s also look at the three year strategic plan.” So asking, what at my level, and again, we can all be at different levels in our CX, but what’s appropriate and asking your boss, you’re starting to transform yourself as an executive by asking that question. So that I know I can’t get everything that I want. I know that I can’t impact everything, but I’m going to want to have to do this year to support this year’s. But let me think strategically, and we’ll talk more about the roadmap also with your product work, but how you can put together a three-year plan. So I really think it’s key.

Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
I love that. It seems like yeah, we get into those conversations and we forget the big picture. We think more about ourselves than what the CEO wants. And I think that’s oftentimes where the disconnect. Now, you’re a CEO. You’ve played that role in multiple different instances. It does seem like there’s obviously a lot of distractions. You want to keep the customer first, but things get in your way. You sometimes lose focus. How have you been able to do it? How do you find a way to keep the customer at the center in those companies you’ve worked at? What advice would you give to others trying to do the same?

Wendi Sturgis: (04:09)
I think it starts with having your own kind of philosophy and mantra about it. And really, and what I say by that is knowing how you’re going to talk about the role of the customer in your company. And I’m going to tell a real quick story. But I actually think it’s worth it. And I want to spend the most time on this topic because I am really prepared and I have five very tangible recommendations for people.

Gabe Larsen: (04:34)
All right. Do it. Let’s do it.

Wendi Sturgis: (04:34)
There’s a woman named Andy Cunningham and you and I actually were chatting before this and how you think about branding. And she’s very famous. You know you’re famous when you have an actor play you in a movie and she had an actor play her in the Steve Jobs movie. She was one of the key marketers, Gabe, for the 1984 Mackintosh. You just can’t get more famous in marketing.

Wendi Sturgis: (04:54)
And so there, she and her company had this archetype for companies and the customer archetype is normally a caregiver culture. Okay. Yext is not a caregiver culture. Okay. And that’s fine. We are a product innovator culture, and that’s just who we are. But here’s what, and I say this story because I know it was successful, but she said, this is one of the only companies where the customer came through in all the interviews, even though we’re a product innovator archetype of a company. And everybody around the table, Gabe, pointed at me and said, it’s because of her. So I only say it because you might have to accept that your company has a different archetype. It could be a financially disciplined company. And if you’re interested, she has an amazing book called Getting to Aha! And you can read about all her archetypes.

Wendi Sturgis: (05:44)
She’s really an amazing leader, but in most companies, there’s only one archetype of company. That’s a caregiver, that’s all about the customer, all of the others, there’s like 12 others. So you’ve got to understand the culture of your company and your role and how you’re going to do that because the probability is most of us work in companies that are, again, if you’ve got a one in 13 chance and I don’t even know what the percentages are. So we have to kind of accept that. Like even though I loved that archetype of innovator, it just, the customer wasn’t really a part of our DNA. So here’s the three things that I do.

Wendi Sturgis: (06:19)
One, and I cannot emphasize this enough, every opportunity you have as a leader in internal communications, tell customer stories. Every single time. You have to, every time you get to talk to the newsletter or speak at a company event or at your boss’ staff meeting, tell those stories.

Wendi Sturgis: (06:46)
The second is, and I think many of us learn this from the Salesforce playbook. I was doing it and I understand it, that notion of customer advocacy, but you’ve got to tell, whether you’re dealing with millions of customers and you’re telling the story about how your product or your service changed their lives. The level of the story, it could be a $10 million relationship, or it could be an individual consumer that you touched with a hundred dollar transaction, but telling those stories, every chance you get internally and creating those customer champions. Again, it’s different in a B2B versus the B2C environment, but finding ways to do that both internally and externally. And I think many of us learn this from Salesforce and how they were so incredible in their customer advocacy. The other is, and I give Skipper, our HRO, credit for this, because when I first took over as the Chief Customer Officer, I’m embarrassed to say, Gabe, we weren’t doing NPS. Shame on us.

Wendi Sturgis: (07:43)
And I had responsibility for CX too. And it was something I did. And I went to the C-suite, our weekly executive and I said, here’s how we’re going to do it. And I walked through everything, blah, blah, blah. This is the software we’re going to use. We’ll get to software and a little bit, and how automation is just important. And he said I learned this on Twitter. We were always on NPS. And I don’t meet that many companies who do it. I think you said, Yahoo, you do it once a year. You do it a quarter. We did it every month and it’s very easy to do, and you do it rolling. But what it does is it allows you to put NPS in front of the company and keep it top of mind because you’re doing it every month.

Wendi Sturgis: (08:23)
And again, it wasn’t my idea. I always give credit again, when you get your other executives brought in, and this is my other piece of advice, which was a great segue. You know, my head of people is like, is he going to be involved with customers? You might not think it’s logical, but he did. And he had a great idea and we made a big deal about that. So figuring out across all your stakeholders, sales, and product and engineering, how you go to them and help them understand the voice of the customer and all of those things. So whether it’s a customer support issue, because customer support was a huge part of my work with my engineering team or your supply chain or your store operations in house if you’ve got a head of store ops, or your supply chain. Spending that time and investing, so you’re due to the C-suite, but that you’re also, and again, Skip was a great example. My chief HR officer.

Wendi Sturgis: (09:18)
And then I think the last thing is really understanding that the culture part is so important with customers. We have a profile person, we just need them. We don’t care what they’ve done before. I can tell an amazing story about a bright young man that we hired, who has a lot of ivy league kids. This can happen. Individual young man happened to go to Princeton, where we have a lot of people and he was deeply, eminently unqualified for the job, Gabe. I mean, I’d tell you, I was like, this guy has been working in credit risk, like at some huge bank and he just didn’t have the background. He didn’t and my friend said, “Please meet with him.”

Wendi Sturgis: (09:59)
And I met him and I said, “He fits our culture. Our customers are going to love him.” He became one of the singular greatest rockstars in the company. He was unbelievable. And obviously we knew that he was smart, but it’s that understanding that you may have all the qualifications in the world, you don’t fit our ethos and our culture of how we are going to serve customers, it doesn’t work. Whereas somebody who didn’t have any of the experience. And what’s funny, Gabe, is that our hiring manager, because we take a lot of chances, said, “I’ve got to get somebody who’s qualified in CX.” I said, “You gotta meet him.” And she did. And she’s like, I’m throwing it out the window.” I mean, literally like, no, we have to hire him because we know our customers and we know how they’re going to love it.

Wendi Sturgis: (10:43)
And then, and here’s my last one. I might be up to six and I think you, as a marketer –

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
It may be six. But I love it. Keep it up.

Wendi Sturgis: (10:47)
You as the marketer, it is working in partnership with your marketing partners as well. We talked about those C-suite, but I want to pull one forward, whether it’s your consumer marketing and you’re doing that with your customer advocacy. But if you have that culture, let that be expressed in your personality. And I think we all know that Zappos, they’re a great example, but perspective on how they let that personality come through. Yext does it in the B2B with some of the events that we do. And once we went virtual, we started a whole series called Truth Be Told, and our customers said, “You kept letting your culture come through in these virtual events. You guys have been able to do it.”

Wendi Sturgis: (11:31)
So whether you’re at Zappos, but I think really working with your marketing partner on how you express that and that can come through in how you respond to tickets and customer support. And having that in working and working with, what are we going to say? What’s the message of the month? And bringing all those connection points. So what I say to people in CX is it can be hard, but you have to understand that you’ve got an incredible mouthpiece and a megaphone because we wake up every day being passionate about our customers. And it’s doing that across all of these different ways internally. So I hope that’s where I really wanted to spend the time talking.

Gabe Larsen: (12:11)
I like that one, a couple of those things that jumped out. The rolling NPS, that, keeping it top of mind. I might need to talk to you after about that one, because that’s something I feel like a lot of companies miss. It’s this grand event once a year.

Wendi Sturgis: (12:28)
The other thing I’ll say, Gabe, that I didn’t call out, if you’re making changes on pricing, or you have new products, when you’re in an always on, you can start to get market feedback more quickly as well from your NPS. So I didn’t call that out as another benefit.

Gabe Larsen: (12:43)
Interesting. Well, I want to click on one thing you said earlier, just about the international aspect. Definitely looking at companies growing globally, certainly some with the pressure of the economy, companies have gotten more requests. Some people got less requests, but scaling to a global standard is on a lot of people’s minds. You’ve touched on it earlier. What are some of the lessons learned? You’re a little more of a hands-on CEO. You’ve got, you’re battle tested. How’d you win? How’d you lose?

Wendi Sturgis: (13:13)
Yeah. Well, look, I think I will be honest with you. I think one of the biggest partnerships that you need to, and this is the other one we didn’t talk about before, is with your finance department. Because you are going to have to really understand the models from revenue and scaling. And what we found, which was a huge issue for us as we started to grow in multiple markets, is that our models just, we had kind of the revenue models right, but we didn’t have the right countries. What do I mean? We were doing much better in France than we were in Germany. Now flip flops. And so I needed more French support heads than I needed German and my model and because of the hiring lag times in Europe and the notice periods, and so I said, “This isn’t going to work.”

Wendi Sturgis: (14:00)
And I worked with my CX leader who’s an amazing CX leader in Europe. And so we have not been a big outsourcer partner. We did everything in house and we just realized how to scale, I couldn’t turn it on and off because as my French team blew out the numbers in a quarter, all of a sudden I needed another French support head and I was hiring and noticing periods. It might be a six months best case before they showed up. I’ve got French customers who need support now. It was a huge issue. And so we had never been big believers in outsourcing, but we went and it’s now you’re using them globally. It’s an interesting format in Romania, and we can turn on heads within a month. So once I have that, and so I do a ton of modeling with my finance team, we understand down to country level, the regional level, and then we monitor it because it’s just, it can be in precise, especially if you’re in a higher growth.

Wendi Sturgis: (14:58)
I think if you’re in a pretty steady state, it’s probably easier. But when you’re in a high growth, you just can’t predict. My Scandinavian team didn’t do as well as I wanted, but then, and then, oh my God, I was doing really well in Saudi Arabia, but I didn’t understand, like you have to have people working on Sundays. So you got to really, and so your HR partners and your finance partners, because you also have work restrictions. So like, this is a kind of thing for the people that are international will understand. And we started blowing up in the Middle East, our support teams, our European, where we had a lot of our multilingual people were in Germany, it’s illegal to ask workers to work on a Sunday. Saudi Arabia, you have to work on Sunday. We’re going to hire Arabic speakers out of, so just if you’re in a high growth area where you’re learning about the international markets, you got to go sit down with your local HR team, your finance team, and really get aligned on your planning because there’s a lot of gotchas.

Gabe Larsen: (15:59)
I like it. The consideration of outsourcing. Sometimes I think people get nervous about that, but you’re right. And to be able to pull levers like that and be able to get rid of that ramp time and switching costs, costs and time.

Wendi Sturgis: (16:12)
And then the other one that I would say is then that’s where having, we had made an investment in a technology platform to allow us to drive our processes globally. Well, you’ve got to think through what, I’m actually talking to a company now, advising them a little bit. And they went very hardcore regional, so they got their five and they’re a hugely global company. They’re a $150 million company now, but with a huge footprint in Asia, Europe, the US, having problems because they now are getting big global customers. And the customer experience is very disconnected from each region. So I think you’ve got to do it maybe earlier than you think. And there’s, and again, I love that, I think it’s one of the ways they were able to get to 150 million. They got there really quickly because the market, really quickly, like in four years, holy moly. But, it’s in the FinTech space, but they, now they’re having real problems because they’re working with customers globally and they’re trying to build these huge 10, $20 million relationships. And the customers are saying, “This is a mess. I can’t work with you the way that I want to strategically, because everything is different in every region.” So you gotta find that balance.

Gabe Larsen: (17:24)
Yeah. Finding the right time to do that, though. Investing in the future is never easy. It’s always, you know better than I do.

Wendi Sturgis: (17:32)
No, no, no. Well look, and that’s that battle with the C-suite because sometimes, we’re going to want to do that and people are going to say, “That can wait.” So that’s part of this battle and getting really smart about the KPIs and telling the story, because it’s hard. I had to fight to get them to the technologies that I wanted when I was the Chief Customer Officer and even some of the things that I wanted to do in Europe, and then the last thing that I would say is understand, finding that balance between where you can drive consistency. So for example, many people on the call will relate to this. The customer review platforms are extraordinarily different in Europe than they are in the US. And so you’ve got to understand that and our US teams weren’t paying any attention to that.

Wendi Sturgis: (18:15)
We were getting, we had some people saying some not so good things, and we weren’t trying to solicit at all our great advocates. And we started having customers and prospects say, “What’s going on?” And then we fixed it because we just hadn’t paid it any attention. And our US team was like, “Oh, I didn’t even know that that platform existed.” There’s one called Trustpilot in Europe. It’s just very different. And it’s a very minor player in the US but a very significant player for both consumer and B2B companies. It’s a big one in Europe. And so you’ve got that, if you’ve got a global role, you’ve got to be able to drive consistency, find that balance, but also allow for those and understand and empower your teams to come to you. So we didn’t just say, “We don’t care.” We said, “Okay, we’ll fix it. We’ve got to go address Trustpilot because that’s important for us.”

Gabe Larsen: (19:01)
Wow. That’s so many unique experiences in different geographies, different lands. And so I didn’t realize Saudi Arabia was on that. I spent a couple of years in Saudi Arabia. I could have shared some secrets.

Wendi Sturgis: (19:12)
I have not been to be, and I mean, that’s a whole other thing. My husband was like, and I could go, but I’ll be honest. My whole CX Team, we were all women and I’m a woman and we actually told the Sales team who just happened to be a guy and his boss. We said, “You know what? You guys should go.” I can cover and do it. And that’s, we have to play to each other’s strengths. And I was like, “You know what? I could go and it would be a fascinating experience, but right now I’m not ready to try to change cultural norms in Saudi Arabia.” I’ll let our team go and yeah, but it is also a really good region. You’ve lived there. You’d know. There was a lot of money and a lot of business.

Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
Oh my goodness. So many fun things going on and a lot of positives.

Wendi Sturgis: (19:57)
Fantastic. Yeah. So again, how do you scale your team knowing that they’re different cultures? Just gotta be intellectually honest about it. You can’t take it personally.

Gabe Larsen: (20:05)
I think that makes a huge difference. As we wrap, I wanted to get this last piece of advice from you. We’ve got so many things kind of colliding at once with all the changes in the economy and the health and all this stuff going on, consumer digitization, you know the spiel. All these CX leaders trying to kind of mind through these different challenges, from your perspective, what’s that piece of advice? We’ve hit a lot of different areas, but the thing you’d want to leave with them as they try to navigate and still have those transformational experiences amidst the ever-changing environment that we’re in?

Wendi Sturgis: (20:38)
Yeah. I mean, listen. I think this is the time to be bold. I think that C-suites and boardrooms, their deals, in Germany, for example, are very conservative, supervisory boards. We’ve had programs that we’ve been talking to companies, super conservative German companies, things got green-lit this year that we’ve been talking to companies for years because the board said we have to change. And so I think this is the time to be bold and to really not be afraid. I know these are scary times, but we can control what we can control. And that’s all we can do in these times where there’s so many things around us that we can’t control. We are concerned for our kids and their safety in schools. And so really seize this moment because I can say, I am on a public company board as well, The Container Store, which is a great honor and a gift, and we have amazing CX leaders there. We are having conversations that are probably accelerated years. So know that when we talk about that alignment at the C-suite, but this is a time to be bold and to seize this, and it can allow you to make your mark on your company. But I promise you that these conversations are happening because I see it in my own business or I did, and I see it at The Container Store. So, it can be scary, but let’s be bold because the world is changed in ways that we don’t even understand.

Gabe Larsen: (22:02)
Change or be changed. I love that.

Wendi Sturgis: (22:02)
I really believe this is an opportunity for everyone who’s listening to really think about it and whatever your role is in the organization.

Gabe Larsen: (22:14)
Love it. Well we’ll leave it with that. Be bold. It’s a great mantra for 2021. Wendi, thanks so much for joining.

Wendi Sturgis: (22:19)
I loved it. It was always great to talk to you, Gabe. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
Thank you and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (22:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum

Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, CEO of Kustomer, to learn about how companies can win with their customers in this new space. To learn more about Brad’s vision for future customer success, listen to the full podcast below.

A New Wave of Customer

The modern customer demands that companies are accessible on their preferred platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Don’t be mistaken, even with the rise of social media being a preferred channel for customer to company communication, phone and email won’t be going away any time soon. Being the ol’ reliable of CX, phone and email are the foundation for social media takeover. Even though many modern customers choose to text or instant message companies through DM, many still resort to using the classic methods to reach an agent quickly.

When a customer feels they’ve exhausted all efforts with DM or chatbots, oftentimes they’ll pick up the phone to contact the service line to speak with a real rep. This is why we still need human agents in CX – because humans are simply better at providing service and solving problems than chatbots. Though highly effective for lower effort problems, chatbots aren’t advanced enough to help with complex customer problems. A combination of advanced tech and human interaction gives the customer the best possible experience.

Data – It’s Never Too Late to Start

Data is constantly talked about in the CX world as more and more leaders are starting to recognize the benefits of utilizing consumer data. For example, if an agent’s helping with a lost order, that agent should be able to look up that customer’s transaction history and tracking info to create a seamless and well-informed interaction. “Data is critical to understanding your customers for those rich experiences.”

To better understand modern customers, agents need an in-depth look at customer data. When agents have access to individual customer data, it optimizes the conversation because they’re able to use specific and necessary details to steer the conversation to the appropriate solution. CX isn’t a one size fits all type of experience; rather, it needs to be personal for customers to build brand relationships and lasting loyalty.

Thinking of Going Digital? Here’s How:

The companies that are doing it right for their modern customers all have something in common – automated processes. There are so many benefits to digital automation in the customer sphere, one being that it makes the agent’s job easier, resulting in happier agents and happier customers. For leaders thinking of going digital, the best place to start is by tracking customer interactions with the CX team where similar solutions are given for similar problems. This is the perfect place to implement a chatbot that recognizes these types of problems and offers solutions without the customer ever having to connect with an agent. From there, “Automate those routine and mundane tasks to get customers their answers and their resolutions faster with a higher quality of accuracy, which translates to higher C-SAT to make your agents more efficient because they’re not dealing with those routine and mundane tasks.” When agents are more efficient and their jobs go smoother, they’re more likely to be happier in their positions, resulting in happier customers.

In summary, going digital is easy with the right platform and the right processes, and is full of countless benefits. Following these suggestions from Brad will surely help your company find success with the modern customer.

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here | with Brad Birnbaum” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Kustomer Podcast Kustomer Podcast

Full Episode Transcript:

Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody, I want to introduce a special guest that we have today. Brad Birnbaum, he’s currently the CEO and founder of Kustomer. Brad, thanks for joining. How are you?

Brad Birnbaum: (00:33)
Great today. It’s good to be back. Glad to be doing this. It’s going to be fun.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Great. So Brad, let’s jump into this. Just big picture 2020. I mean, how do you summarize it? How do you put words around it? What are some of those thoughts of the last eight months and what the heck happened?

Brad Birnbaum: (01:33)
I mean, who could have predicted, right? I mean, 2020 is something that our children’s children will remember and hear about. It impacted us in so many ways, right? It impacted us in personal and it impacted people with health and impacted us in business. Well let’s focus on the business side because I think that’s probably the most relevant. So there’s some really interesting things that we all observed business-wise. We saw a retail boom, frankly, right? We were concerned that it was going to maybe be impacted and potentially slow down. But if anything, we saw digital transformation accelerate at rates that nobody saw coming. And we saw it across both traditional retailers and then modern direct to consumer retailers because the shift to purchase online, people still kept buying. So we saw that shift.

Brad Birnbaum: (02:24)
So, we saw that just so many other businesses were shifting the way that they thought about how they were going to engage with their customers, how people were going to want to be receiving support, how they were going to buy products. And it was impacted in a variety of ways. We saw that some companies, from a support perspective, we saw that some companies had staffing challenges to be able to handle the influx of inquiries that came around. They were COVID related. Maybe that business was just really booming. We saw a whole bunch of those. We saw businesses where they have call centers or contact centers abroad where they couldn’t operate at the moment during COVID because of a variety of reasons. So we saw companies quickly bringing those roles back to the states or frankly looking to operationalize them in different ways.

Brad Birnbaum: (03:11)
We saw people taking advantage of deflection. We saw people taking advantage of chat bots for automated responses. We saw people looking to software to help make their agents more efficient. And the combination thereof is what’s allowed so many businesses to scale despite the fact they couldn’t grow their resources as much. So we saw a really, such a rapid transformation, even just from a customer support perspective of how people were leaning more and more on technology and in ways that they could leverage that technology to enable them to grow and sustain during this challenging time.

Gabe Larsen: (03:53)
Yeah. Maybe touch just briefly on the remote work and how you feel like that has impacted a lot of companies and where you see that kind of going forward.

Brad Birnbaum: (04:04)
Sure. Look, I think remote work has impacted the vast majority of us. I think you and I are both doing this from our homes right now, right? So remote working has impacted almost everyone. And I think it was because the world was trending towards remote work, but wow. Did we just put that in hyperdrive?

Brad Birnbaum: (04:25)
So many of the world’s largest companies have announced that they’re embracing remote working in a very permanent way and I think that’s here to stay. I think we’re going to see that change. So as a result, everybody is rapidly adjusting to what that means. So from a call center, contact center perspective, if you’ve got a tool and methodologies to be able to enable remote work, you’re going to be in a great position. And we’ve seen that plenty of companies were set up for success with that. They were using a bunch of tools, including the Kustomer platform that works in a great way remotely. And others that are stuck on some traditional systems are really having a hard time. And we’re doing our best to help them from a customer perspective again, but it’s going to change and it’s going to that level of agility, it’s going to be critical for any business moving forward. And the tooling required is going to impact it. So it’s the processes, it’s the people you hire, and it’s the flexibility in allowing not only people to work where they need to, but allowing you to spin up resources more dynamically.

Gabe Larsen: (05:29)
Yeah, I mean, boy, that’s going to be interesting to see how that continues in 2021. What other questions about 2020? It did seem like consumer expectations, they were different. How would you kind of describe the change and just what happened from the customer’s point of view?

Brad Birnbaum: (05:46)
Well, look. I think people always expect more. They still needed to interface with the businesses in the same way as they used to and they still expect a high level of responsiveness, a high level of quality customer service. And that doesn’t change despite the pandemic, unfortunately. So they still need to see that from the businesses they work with and conduct business with. So those that were able to adapt, whether it be through tooling, whether it be through processes, whether it be through personnel, I think came out of this, will come out of this strong. And those that are having a hard time to adapt are going to probably lose a lot of brand loyalty and customer loyalty because customers will find another alternative. They will seek the opportunities to do business with those that give them great experiences and great service.

Gabe Larsen: (06:37)
Yeah. It just seems like now more than ever before the switching, we’re seeing so many consumers switch back and forth. So let’s talk briefly about how companies can win in 2021. I think you’ve set a nice stage for some of the problems and even touched on some of the solutions, but let’s hit some of those ways you feel like people, brands, companies can really start to win in 2021. Now you touched on this idea of automation and artificial intelligence, click on that. How do you see that shaping company success as we go into 2021?

Brad Birnbaum: (07:11)
Sure. It’s critical, right? The tools and products that exist today can very much rapidly enable you to take advantage of that. So there’s several things to think about. One, as you’re interfacing with your customers, the more you understand them, the more you have a deeper relationship between the business and the customer and you’re able to understand that perhaps I’m reaching out because this hoodie that I just ordered didn’t arrive, or because it’s the wrong size, customers will appreciate that. They expect you to start to know that about them. They expect that you’re reaching out because of potentially a delivery exception or that when you say, “Hey, the hoodie I just ordered doesn’t fit.” They know, well, here’s a previous order. Here’s the size, blah, blah, blah, let’s get it adjusted. So data is critical to understanding your customers for those rich experiences. Then when you couple automation with that, you could automate those routine and mundane tasks to get customers their answers and their resolutions faster with a higher quality of accuracy, which translates to higher C-SAT to make your agents more efficient because they’re not dealing with those routine and mundane tasks.

Brad Birnbaum: (08:14)
So as an example, with that example, if we needed to exchange this for a different size, if you had a product set up with proper automation in a support tool such as Kustomer, you could actually just click on that hoodie, say order larger size. It will take care of all of the back office administration. That if there’s an RMA that needs to be issued, if there’s an inventory search to see if that exists, it can take care of that. Suggestion engines could be queried, and then ultimately the reorder placed, instead of that taking the human being quite a while with slight potential for accidents or mistakes, a computer will do that in milliseconds and you’re saving a lot of efficiency or gaining efficiency or allowing efficiency in your agents. So that also is helpful, not only to service customers better, but agents become happier and we want happy agents in the contact center. They’re going to deliver a better experience. They’re going to be more productive. And frankly, they have a high propensity to probably even stay with the business longer.

Gabe Larsen: (09:07)
I do think that efficiency it’s, we’re all going to be wanting more and more of that as, I think times are improving, but we’re certainly not out of the deep spot. Yeah.

Brad Birnbaum: (09:17)
Let’s talk a little bit though, about some other things we could do around AI and ML because that’s where the fun begins. We didn’t even get to that. So when you have an understanding of your customer and some information around them that might be relevant from a support perspective, if you could apply artificial intelligence, machine learning, there’s many, many things you could do. The simplest thing you could do is deflection. An inbound inquiry might be able to simply deflect. Whether it be an email or a chat and provide the customer that immediate answer right away. So the customer again becomes satisfied that the contact center never has to touch it. That’s a win-win. Second to that though, is you can do a more of an advanced solution or a chatbot and a chatbot will couple machine learning and AI with understanding the customer and being able to provide that very rich experience, that human-like experience in a 24/7 real-time automated fashion, again, without touching a person, but certainly can be escalated to one.

Brad Birnbaum: (10:16)
And the advantage of that is A, it allows you to scale much more infinitely, allows customers to get answers incredibly rapidly, and allows your agents to do what’s most important, solve the hard things, the really hard things. The things that the machines can’t yet do. Solve the really hard things. And that’s where you’ll start to see that happen. And then you apply AI and ML to agent capabilities too, suggesting the response, suggesting the next best action, predicting, scheduling for your contact center. There’s so many great things you can now do with intelligence that are going to make for experiences that are better for the company, the customers and the agents. And that of course, translates to a win-win across the board.

Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
I think that’s going to be, I think that’s going to be absolutely huge. One more follow up on this is just about the channel chain. I think in 2020, we certainly saw the phone and email weren’t going anywhere. People were using that and companies saw an uptick and some saw a downtick, but we did start to see even more focus on digital channels. Thoughts on kind of the omni-channel experience, thoughts on multiple channels as we go into 2021? What role does that play in the company’s success?

Brad Birnbaum: (11:24)
In today’s day and age, we all communicate through a vast variety of channels. Social, text and chat and email and phone, et cetera, and customers want to interface with companies in the same way, that preferred mechanism. And people have a variety that they enjoy and they do have a preference for. So for us, we think it’s critically important that businesses communicate with customers in the fashion they want. So for us, we think about omni-channel as a way to talk to your customers in the way that they want across all of the different channels. So, as an example, you could very easily begin a lightweight discussion about a problem through texting or chatting or an email, but then it may ultimately escalate and they may ultimately call you later. And you want to be able to continue that same thread of discussion across all of those channels and be able to context switch between them, even if you’re on a phone call, but to him, “I’m going to email you the answer to your problem or I’m going to text it to you right now.” And you could do all that in the same thread of conversation to keep it aggregated together. It’s critically important and highly valuable in the way we all work today and communicate today. And I think that businesses for a while have really been behind the times in that and haven’t adjusted. And we’re starting to see that come along as people are really, really embracing omni-channel, the way that we see it here at Kustomer. And I’m excited to see that metamorphosis happening because it will be transformative to enabling better relationships between companies and customers.

Gabe Larsen: (12:58)
I love it. I think from an AI perspective, data, omni-channel are three big things that I think will affect 2021. As we kind of look to close this section, is any advice you’d have for customer service leaders who are, some people are having more success than they’ve ever had, some are fighting to stay alive, what would be that kind of takeaway you’d give to customer service leaders who are going into 2021 and really looking to still compete, still differentiate still, still win?

Brad Birnbaum: (13:29)
So always put your customers first. That’s our mantra here at our company and it should be everybody’s mantra. Always be willing to go above and beyond for our customers. The loyalty will pay back massive dividends. Two, take advantage of technology and tooling to help you. If you’re not, you’re only hurting yourselves. Like you don’t, I won’t say go to work because most of us work from home nowadays, but you don’t take a horse and buggy anymore, you take a car because technology has evolved. Well, contact center technologies have evolved as well, and you should be taking advantage of that and making sure you’re using the latest and greatest tooling capabilities that are out there right now to take advantage of deflection and chatbots and AI and ML and suggesting responses. And it’s critically important to the ability to provide the higher quality experience that your customers expect in the 24/7 nature. They expect it. And then third, I do think you need to go above and beyond to enable your contact center agents to deliver those great experiences and really do your best to arm them with tools such as knowledge. Arm them with tools such as the ability to context switch between their channels and simply just make sure they’re properly well-trained and I think that combination should line you up for success in 2021.

Gabe Larsen: (14:48)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Brad, thanks for joining.

Brad Birnbaum: (14:51)
Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (14:52)
Thanks everybody. Bye-bye.

Brad Birnbaum: (14:52)
Bye-bye.

Exit Voice: (14:58)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

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

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

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

Guiding Customers to Solutions Using Empathy

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

Employee Experience: The Missing Ingredient

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

Partnering with Leaders Across the Board

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

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

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Listen to “How to Drive Business Value with Your CX Team | Bringing Everyone Together to Create Lasting Customers” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (18:43)
I agree!

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (20:19)
Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurent Pierre: (26:23)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (26:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

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

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

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Vasili Triant to talk about all things digital CX. Vasili is the Chief Operating Officer at UJET, a partner of Kustomer, creating a product that delivers the ultimate experience for the modern consumer.

Is Voice Dead?

For nearly 30 years, experts in the CX industry have heard rumors that voice as a communication channel is dead and useless for navigating customer problems. With voice being such a popular mode of communication, one can’t help but wonder if this is true. According to Vasili, not only is voice still relevant to CX in 2021, but in the last year, all communication channels have skyrocketed in popularity. “The reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing….They’re all increasing.” More recently, the industry has experienced a shift towards digitizing CX, making good customer experiences more accessible on a multitudes of platforms. As more platforms such as voice, email, direct messages, chat, text, etc. are more commonly used in the CX space, the amount of interactions needed to solve customer problems also rises. “The number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem.” This increase in interactions is necessary for providing a more holistic experience to consumers.

Adapting to the Modern Customer’s Habits

A holistic approach to CX doesn’t stop simply at omnichannel communication. The modern customer lives in a world of mobile phones, uploading to the cloud and for companies to keep up with the ever changing customer-scape, they have to adapt to new technologies to stay relevant. It’s important that leaders stay informed on the latest CX technologies to keep customers happy. An agent should be equipped with the tools to meet their customer on their preferred communication method. For example, if a customer is having difficulty with an appliance, they should have the option to text a picture of the problem to the CX agent rather than describe it over the phone. When options like photo and video messaging are included in communication channels, it helps customers feel better understood and their problems are solved more efficiently. “A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be.”

Change or Be Changed

Change is inevitable, but why is it so hard to cope with? When Vasili urges leaders to take action and to start looking for places within their organizations to adopt modern CX technology, he isn’t pretending that change is easy to accomplish. In fact, he recognizes how hard it is to choose the right technology and the right time to implement it. Many leaders feel the pressure to fully integrate their systems and go digital but hesitate to do so because they don’t know how. The ultra-modern technology provided by Kustomer and UJET can help alleviate some of this pressure by offering the solutions to ticketing and CX problems. Keeping customers in mind is another helpful tactic for tackling new processes and technology. When it comes down to it, stellar CX is about creating a seamless customer experience and having empathy for the entire customer journey. As Gabe Larsen puts it, “It’s change or be changed.”

To learn more about evolving in the mobile age, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How Companies Are Evolving in the Mobile Age | Vasili Triant

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty, let’s get rocking and rolling. We’re excited to go today. We’re going to be talking about how companies are evolving in the mobile age. You got myself, Gabe Larsen. I’m the Vice President of Growth. Vikas, why don’t you take a second, introduce yourself? And then we’ll have Vasili introduce himself.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:28)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s sidekick and 20 years CRM contact center life.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Awesome. Vasili, over to you.

Vasili Triant: (00:38)
Vasili Triant, Chief Business Officer here at UJET. Formerly was the Vice President and GM of the contact center business at Cisco and prior to that, I was actually CEO of a cloud contact center company called Serenova. So happy to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, exciting to have you. Excited to get going today. Wanted to start maybe, Vikas, with you kicking it off and then I’m going to jump in.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:02)
Yeah look, I mean the cloud industry is transforming at a rapid pace. I think, what we’ve seen particularly in the last six, 12 months is that we are now seeing our customers and prospects in the market just adopt new technologies and the big drive and the makeshift to digital. And what we often hear from people in the industry, analysts, et cetera, is that voice as a channel is dead right? And no. Vasili, you mentioned you were at Cisco and now UJET. What’s your take on that? Does voice have a play in a world where people want to WhatsApp and they want to chat and they want to SMS? Where does voice sit in this market?

Vasili Triant: (01:42)
You know, we’ve, the voice is dead thing I’ve heard since the late nineties. And I think the idea originally started that with digital transition, people start using internet more, commerce started becoming over the web. The idea was, if you move to chat, you could reduce voice interactions. People wouldn’t want to go over voice and you would reduce costs of transaction. And that was a big move of the late nineties and pretty much the first decade of the two thousands around like, “Hey, how do we reduce costs?” The reality is consumers want to communicate with brands via channel, I’ll just call it X, and voice continues to be a big part. But the reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing, right? So they’re all increasing. Actually the number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem. Like you may do chat and voice and maybe like a tweet at the same time, right?

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. It’s interesting to see these different channels, people from thinking every channel that’s added is going to cut down the conversations and it seems to add more conversations to the overall mix, but I love the phone is dead. It’s I mean, you probably, it sounds like you’ve been hearing it for now 30 years and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. So what do you think about the space? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a long time Vasili, and certainly the trends and the challenges have shifted. Consumer expectations have shifted over the last little while. Obviously COVID now playing a big role in consumer expectations. Where are we now? What are some of those big rock challenges that the contact center market’s facing?

Vasili Triant: (03:37)
It’s an amazing time right now, just overall, right? So I kind of see things in really kind of two dimensions at this point. And we’re in, by the most evolving, rapidly evolving transition in the contact center space, because unfortunately COVID has become this defining moment where, what used to be like, “Hey, I’ll get to a cloud transition at some point,” now it’s, “I have to because one, my business, it can’t be in brick and mortar or has some limitations on brick and mortar, but also the consumers are changing how they’re interacting my brand.” Like I’m not going anymore to a Macy’s or Nordstrom or a Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy things. I’m just doing everything online. So you have this change of how consumers are dealing with brands, and frankly, there’s a rise in just overall activity from brands and consumers in whether it’s retail or sports and buying things delivered to their home.

Vasili Triant: (04:33)
There’s a second dimension, which is we now have to evolve and where are we going? And those kind of break down into there are these legacy cloud solutions, we call them kind of cloud 1.0 solutions, that were originally migrated from on-premise into data centers. And we added multitenancy as an industry. And that’s a majority of the vendors out there. There’s cloud 2.0 which builds solutions that leverage infrastructure as a service, which really increased reach and the idea was to increase scale. But the problems really blanketed all of these vendors around reliability, scalability, reach, ease of integration with all these other applications. And now you have this rise of what we call cloud 3.0, which is purpose built for this era of consumer transition, of brand transition. It obviously, there was no prediction that COVID was going to happen, but there was a prediction or an idea that consumers and the world will be more mobile, be more smartphone centric and connect in different ways than we did before.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Hmm. I mean, do you feel like when it comes to most of the market, this, COVID hit a lot of companies, fairly hard, meaning they worked, they weren’t remote ready. They were playing in kind of this on prem. You don’t necessarily have to put a number to it, but a fairly large number of people were kind of playing in that 1.0, 2.0 realm when it came to their contact center technology expertise, et cetera. Is that fair?

Vasili Triant: (06:06)
I would say that a majority of the people, there’s still 80 to 85% of contact centers are still in on-premise technology. You have another 15% that we’re playing with what I call the 1.0 or the 2.0 transition. So in that dichotomy, you have the prem folks that are like, “I have to do something. I have to get there and I’ve seen issues with cloud 1.0. Who can solve my problems in this modern era?” And then the folks that were in cloud 1.0 are now some of them are having booms in their business. And they’re saying we need platforms and solutions that can scale both, like scale number of transactions and users, but also scaling, “Hey, by the way, we actually have to get to CX transformation. Like we actually have to make customers happier,” because if I don’t like you, Gabe, I can just drop an ad or drop a website, just go to another website. Like it’s no longer what store you’re driving by or what restaurant you just saw. You’re looking at everything electronically most of the day.

Gabe Larsen: (07:07)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve played in this space for a long time, why haven’t some of these companies not be able to make that transition? As Vasili talks about it I’m like, “What a bunch of fools! Why are they waiting so long?” Why is it so hard?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
The change is hard, right, in the best of times. And I think when you look at these organizations, the three big prongs to any transformation, right? We’ve got the people first and foremost. And I think for a lot of these organizations, when they think about retraining their agent, when they think about [inaudible], when they even think about their training guides, they take pause, right? Like, “Oh my goodness. We’re going to have to do this all over again. We’re going to have to build it if doesn’t exist,” right? So I think that becomes one area. The second is their processes. I think a lot of them, to Vasili’s point, it’s less about the technology. It’s, have your processes actually adapted to the modern consumer? And look, I mean, you look at the, telcos are a prime example. They just haven’t. They’ve got a monopoly, there’s a reluctance to change or willingness to change.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:15)
But I think until those verticals or industries get disrupted, they really say, “Look, we’ll just going to handle things status quo.” And then ultimately it’s the platform challenge, right? The thoughts or concerns about going from 1.0 or 2.0 to 3.0 and the generalization. And you know, that consultants in the past that created this concept of, well, this is going to cost you millions of dollars. And a lot of times, if people are like, wait, I really, so I think those are the three things where it’s not we aren’t smart people, et cetera. Most of them that Vasili and I speak to will tell you, “We know we have to do it. It’s just a matter of the when and the why.”

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I’m surprised that it’s 80%, I’m seeing multiple comments of people. I just popped the, Sheila, she agreed with me, Vasili, that 80% is the number of people. So we’re not talking about a small, there’s a lot of people who have now been forced into a very uncomfortable position, but you know what? There’s nothing like –

Vikas Bhambri: (09:09)
Well here’s the thing. Like, and I’ve said this to you before, and Vasili, I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this. The pandemic, in a way, has created the biggest stress test that at least I, in my career, in the contact center, CRM industry, I’ve ever see., Whether it’s broken people’s technology where they’re like, “I want to send my agents to work from home, but they literally cannot pick up the phone and get a dial tone,” to, “My processes don’t work.” And now the consumers are barring them where Vasili said, we’ve seen interactions go up naturally in the course of years. Now we’re seeing four or five and we spoke to one CEO who’s said he’s seen 50 X the number, I mean, it was almost an unbelievable number, the number of interactions for the stress test.

Vasili Triant: (09:53)
One of the challenges that is actually happening right now, though, is there is, there’s kind of two pieces to this transition. One, I have to get my agents to cloud. So we’re just going out and buying cloud solutions. And of course you can look at the public markets right now in any SaaS company and in our space is frankly just booming regardless of what we call fit for purpose. The second part is, I need to get to CX transformation. Like, how am I going to be a better company than my competitor? And how am I going to like listen to my consumers? And it’s kind of most things like if your car broke down, is the answer that I need to find a car that works for how many kids I have, how far I’m driving, my budget on insurance or is it, I just need to go get a car, right?

Vasili Triant: (10:37)
And there’s a lot of companies right now that are like, “I just need to go get a car and then I’ll worry about the CX transformation later.” And what you’re going to see is kind of this double bubble of companies moving to cloud, then realize, “Okay, I got that problem solved. Now I actually have to improve customer experience because this didn’t meet my needs.” Or, like the common thing you might hear from some companies is, “Oh, we have outage Wednesdays or outage Thursdays,” because the platform just can’t meet those needs. And this is a lot of the things that you’re seeing out there. There are some companies taking their time saying we have to make the right move to engage our consumers because it’s about cloud, but it’s also about how do we improve customer experience because lifetime value is more important than either cost of transaction or just even general uptime.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:28)
Yeah. I would say to that point, I am speaking now more to the C level about this, than ever before. And I think it’s because this has become, once again, the stress test, that’s flagged this for a lot of CEOs, COOs and this is broken. And I think that the contact center to a degree has done a great job of shielding the executives from this, and everybody’s focused on top line growth, et cetera, right? So now these things are hyper escalated visibility. When you have slow down Wednesdays, or when people consistently are contacting your agents and you’re just like, “I’m swearing my system. I hate this thing. That’s like my, one of my biggest pet peeves. My systems are slow or our systems are slow today. My system just rebooted.” People are taking to the airwaves on Twitter and Facebook and all calling these brands out. So now it’s getting visibility at the exact level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:25)
Yeah, whether you like it or not, it’s coming. I think Kristen from the audience send us a messgae. Change is imperative. I think people are recognizing that, but how do they do it? As you think about some of these successful companies you’ve coached, you worked with clients specifically, how are then companies, they’re being forced to do it, how are they actually being successful in making that transition?

Vasili Triant: (12:48)
I think the biggest success that I don’t know if I’d say we see or I see or the companies that actually start looking at the problem from them being a customer of their own company, right? When I break it, when they kind of break it down one more level and say, “If I’m dealing with my own company, how am I entering? How am I, what are the touch points and what is my frustration?” A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be. And so when we talk about how is customer service evolving in this mobile world, where is your consumer? Are they on their smartphone? Are they on their PC and their website? Like, you need to understand that and you need to meet them there.

Vasili Triant: (13:35)
One of the things that we hear a lot about is, “Hey, what about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?” And the comment there is, if your consumer is already at Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, they’ve already had a failure of customer experience with you. And now you’re trying to solve the problem after the fact, like they’re already ticked off, you got to get to the front end of it. And if you can do that and look at it from the consumer’s perspective, then you can figure out where is their journey and what are the things that we need to offer them? It’s really about digital transition right now, and being able to offer those options. And there’s not a lot of things that do it all. There’s a lot of great marketing messages. There’s a lot of like, we can talk about automation. So one hammer saying, how do we improve customer experience? But then there’s a whole other segment of the industry, it’s like, how do we automate the front end? Because if we automate the front end, we think people want to not deal with a live person. Or we think that we can reduce the number of agents which ends reduces costs and maybe it helps our P and L. The reality is you have to back up and think about it from being a consumer yourself, whether you’re viewing a banking application or insurance, or any type of on-demand tech, whether it’s Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, whatever it may be, right?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:53)
Yeah. That goes back to the early discussion we had around voice. And this whole thing that we’ve been hearing in the industry for 20, 30 years, that voice is dead, and nobody wants to call the 1-800 number. No, nobody wants to call your crappy line. Nobody wants to scream at your IVR. That’s like they speak to me and give me your number or give me yes or no and then don’t understand what I’m saying. And now yelling and screaming. It’s not that, we still see that when push comes to shove and consumers really want to get ahold of you, they want to speak to somebody else on the other end of the line, right? Because that’s a great example –

Vasili Triant: (15:31)
One, but yeah, the biggest thing, one context, right? That’s the other thing too. Like if I speak around my house and then all of a sudden I pick up my phone and I get on a website and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there’s like a website that was just about what I’m speaking.” Like, there’s this expectation from consumers of what technology can do today, and so it’s like be smarter. So when I do call in, you should know that where I was either in your app or on your website, let me skip the first couple of steps. Like, why do I have to press one for English and two for Spanish? Shouldn’t you know that either I’m a Spanish speaker or an English speaker? And not buying like legacy things, just like caller ID, but like where I’ve already got it digitally authenticated at an application or on a website, like if I’m on your website and I already have it translated in Spanish, when I hit contact us and I go to a phone number for like either a web RTC call or something like, why are you asking me that question again?

Vasili Triant: (16:24)
Skip it. I actually called a major hotel chain that I deal with the other day and they put this big, massive automated speech thing in front of it. And they’re trying to solve my problem. Like, oh my God, I just want the person that I usually deal with so I spent a few extra minute, getting through all that, got to the person. And then they said, “How can I help you? Can you give me your information?” I’m like, “I literally just did all my authentication.” And they actually had it before and they lost it with this whole automated thing. It doesn’t pass the information all the way through. And that was, I said, “Forget it. I’ll just go to the website and just deal with it myself.”

Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And that’s the thing and I often talk about this and I think over the last 10, 15 years, no offense Gabe, we’ve seen a lot of investment in the customer acquisition side of the house. Sales and marketing technologies to that point of hyper personalization that Vasili talked about. I talked to my wife about, should we be buying a new bike for my daughter? And next thing we know we’re getting bombarded on every website we go to, every app we go to with advertising for bicycles. And then we acquire the customer, we sell them that bicycle, and then something goes wrong. The pedal breaks or the seat breaks and we’re like, “Oh no. Now we’re going to send you to this antiquated infrastructure back in the 1950s,” right? Kind of like black and white screen. And now you’re going to have to do all this to get your problem solved. So it’s amazing. And I think that the tide is turning where people are like, “I’ve invested in that acquisition, but I really need to have that same focus and mindset on personalizing the customer support service side as well.”

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
Yeah. It does feel like it’s time. And the time obviously is now, so Vasili, recently, we both kind of announced a fun partnership between UJET and Kustomer, but I’m curious to talk some challenges and some of the successful ways people are overcoming those challenges. How is UJET jumping in and solving some of these challenges in addition by themselves, and then with the Kustomer addition to our partnership?

Vasili Triant: (18:25)
Yeah. So we’re just an ultra modern, like new way of looking at things. We built a platform that took into account how everything has evolved in this era of technology. So forgetting just infrastructure pieces for a moment, what are the common things that happen when a brand is trying to gather information and flow in order to then answer the problem and you start with data, right? So you need all the data in one place. What is everybody doing? They build all these systems and then try to integrate all these data stores or systems or records. We’ve purposely built our application for CRM and ticketing. In other words, we said, “Where are brands going to want all their information? They’re going to want it in their CRM or ticketing platform.” So we purposely built an application for that. We don’t store any of that, we actually put it in one place. It’s not about integrating and starting to have these data disparities, but more unifying it. Also, when you’re looking at something it’s all in one place, and then you can answer problems better. The second thing is the biggest thing, frankly, is where are consumers today? They’re on their smartphones. They’re on the web and meet them where they’re at. So we essentially embed the connectivity between a consumer brand in their app, and we don’t make the consumer go outside of it. So you can get things like, know how long they’ve been on either a page or a place within the mobile app. You can know geolocation data, all kinds of different things around the problems already looking at and skip steps. What does that mean? I may know that Vasili shouldn’t go into an automated attendant to start asking me all these questions and he needs to go to a live agent right away, or his problem might be simple. Let me put them into a virtual agent.

Vasili Triant: (20:11)
And I can connect through voice, chat and then do more advanced things like share photos, share videos. I was dealing with an appliance company the other day and I built this new house, put all these new appliances in, and I’m trying to explain the problem. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just want to show you. What can I do?” “Well, we don’t have an email for individuals, but you can send it to this thing.” I mean, there’s like all these delays and we enable real-time communication through a lot of different methods so that essentially consumers can interact with a brand the way they want to. And we make it seamless between that mobile experience and web. And the reality is, this is where consumers are today. They’re on these devices. And so you need to be able to interact with them there. And we just do it differently. Now with Kustomer, it’s interesting because you all have taken an ultra modern approach to the ticketing and service problem. And then we’ve taken this ultra modern approach to customer experience. So the types of brands that are really looking for that CX transformation, what’s better than this ultra modern approach from two companies where it just blends together? The integration becomes seamless. You’re not looking really at two different applications, but essentially one solution to solve my customer service problem.

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
Yeah. I love it. Vikas, what would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (21:32)
No, look, I think the key thing is that data and giving access to the agent, right? So you have that human experience. For me, it’s bringing in that data of who the customer is, where they are in their journey, right? All the data that UJET gives us in terms of where they are in our app, where they are on our website, what are they looking at, what did they do, who do we know? Because you can authenticate as well, right? Bringing that all then to the agent to get right to the heart of the matter, resolve that problem all effectively, for one, the customer’s happiness. But then the brand’s efficient. Now I can actually handle more of these inquiries, the surge that Vasili talked about earlier. So really it is a win-win for the agent, the brand, and then effectively the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (22:17)
I like that, you guys. We fit a lot today. As we wrap, we’d love to just have a quick summary. We got a lot of CX leaders out there, contact center leaders trying to make this transition. What’s that one thing you’d leave them with as they kind of get ready for a fun weekend here? We’ll start with you.

Vasili Triant: (22:35)
I’ll take that one then. I’d say we’ve got to find the solutions together that are ultimately going to make your customers happy. And that’s what we’re passionate about is making your customers happy at the end of each of those experiences and along the entire journey.

Gabe Larsen: (22:51)
Love it. Vikas, closing remarks from your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:53)
Yeah. The last thing, I think when a lot of people see the joint offering between Kustomer and UJET, their minds are blown. Like, “Wow, this is what I dreamt up. This is what I thought.” I’ve heard these comments repeatedly for the last three years. But then people are like, “Well, we’re not there yet”. It goes back to what Vasili was saying about earlier at 85% of these people on the 1.0. I think it’s really about working with UJET and Kustomer to say, “How do I kind of walk through a process or change management?” Crawl, walk, run. This stuff’s getting me there. Right? You don’t have to knock it all out. Especially the, I think a lot of the enterprises see it. And they’re like, “This is modern. This is new.” But it’s better for the new age company. And eventually those new age companies are going to come eat your lunch if you don’t figure it out sooner or later. So what I would say is figure out ways to kind of start the adoption process now.

Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, I love it. It’s like change or be changed. It’s happening whether you like it or not. Guys, thanks so much for joining. Vasili, it’s great to have you bring in that experience. Vikas, partner in crime, thanks as always for jumping on. And for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (24:05)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

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.

How Smart Technology Can Power Efficient, Digital-First Experiences

How Smart Technology Can Power Efficient, Digital-First Experiences TW

In 2020, the whole world went digital at a rapid pace. While it is inevitable that commerce and customer service will partially shift back to brick and mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. Many organizations are tapping into the power of technology to deliver on this digital shift, and scale without sacrificing their quality of support.

Artificial intelligence still sparks some suspicion or nervousness that robots will take all of our jobs. But instead, AI in customer service can truly enable businesses to be more efficient and productive by eliminating menial work. International delivery company Glovo knows this first hand. After implementing Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence tools embedded throughout the Kustomer platform, Glovo was able to instantly solve 84% of their inquiries through pure self-service and chatbots, versus contacting an agent.

 

Beyond AI-driven efficiency tools, leveraging a true customer service CRM, where all information is unified and actionable, is the only way to deliver a modern experience. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. Many digital disruptors, who put the customer at the center of their business models, realized this early on and put a CX CRM in place to deliver a seamless, customer-first experience. Says Lauren Panken, Senior Systems Manager at UNTUCKit, “For us, the CRM is the place that we get a full view of our customer in regards to customer service. It’s honestly just been such a great addition to the way that our team functions… and has improved the way that we’ve been serving our customers.”

 

More “old school” organizations are also quickly realizing that in order to service their customers effectively, they need to move into the twenty-first century, with modern technology. Ernest Chrappah, Director of the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, chose to work with Kustomer to ensure they were putting their best foot forward. “It was simply about finding a way to respond to our customers by elevating the services that we provide to meet the needs of customers in the digital age,” said Chrappah.

 

Before switching to Kustomer, Ritual was using a system that didn’t allow them to scale. Instead of logging into half a dozen different systems in order to solve a single ticket, Ritual found a modern CRM that would allow them to be both efficient and effective. “Having everything under one roof was really the driving factor,” said Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual.

 

A modern CRM like Kustomer can not only allow businesses to scale by unifying all data and making it actionable in a single screen, but it can also surface data points that can make your business better. By understanding data-driven trends, shortcomings, issues and wins, and putting technology solutions in place to better your operations, a true customer service CRM can transform a business from a cost center into a profit center, says Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com:

 

Want to learn more about how switching to Kustomer can power both efficient and exceptional experiences? Explore how we stack up to Zendesk here.

 

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.

 

How Kustomer Helps Build Meaningful Customer Relationships for Today’s Leading Brands

How Kustomer Helps Build Meaningful Customer Relationships for Today’s Leading Brands TW

If the past year has taught the CX world anything, it’s that building and maintaining customer relationships is the key to survival during tough times. In fact, according to recent Kustomer research, empathetic customer service was the most valued customer service attribute during the global pandemic. Unfortunately, many companies are still relying on ticketing systems like Zendesk, where each new interaction is treated as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. This old model of customer service makes it nearly impossible to personalize a customer’s experience and treat them as a valued individual, with thoughts, feelings and feedback.

A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and enables them to deliver more empathetic, proactive and relevant service, leading to lifelong customer relationships. Before switching from Zendesk to Kustomer, Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, felt the humanity of customer service was being lost.

To create these meaningful relationships, companies need to adopt technology that allows them to see customer history, issues and behavior in context, no matter the platform. By leveraging automation for tedious and analytical tasks, customer service agents can provide customers with prompt and personal customer service at scale.

Eric Chon, Community Support Manager at Zwift, made the switch to Kustomer because his team was looking for a platform that was more human, and allowed them to interact with their members in a more organic way.

How Kustomer Helps Build Meaningful Customer Relationships for Today’s Leading Brands Inline

An effective CRM should allow you to fully understand the relationship that your business has with each and every customer, and leverage data in order to do that. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. And you shouldn’t have to pay more for operational solutions AND modern communication tools in order to provide effective, personal support. Before making the switch to Kustomer, Lulus didn’t have any data because their platforms weren’t talking to each other, and that was a big issue.

One thing is clear across the board: consumers expect retailers to know how they’ve interacted in the past, what issues they’ve encountered, and they want organizations to actively make amends. And with the right technology in place, delivering on consumer expectations and building lifelong relationships is within reach. A modern customer service CRM should be designed to connect seamlessly with your other data sources and business intelligence tools, while taking the place of your support platform, contact center routing software, and process management solution.

It’s time to say goodbye to ticket management, complex searches, and legacy CRMs that frustrate customers and agents. Wow your customers with effortless, personal conversations across all channels. Learn more about how making the switch to Kustomer can be a game changer for your business here.

What the “New Normal” Will Look Like in the World of CX

What the “New Normal” Will Look Like in the World of CX TW

While at times 2020 can feel like a real-life “Black Mirror” episode, it did force many CX teams to transform at lightspeed, re-evaluating how they got their work done and what a successful customer service interaction looked like. According to research conducted by Kustomer in April 2020, 79% of customer service organizations reported that COVID-19 had impacted them significantly.

But 90% of those organizations also believe that customer service is more important than ever in these times of crisis. Many organizations are struggling to understand when they’ll go back to “business as usual”. And the fact of the matter is, they likely never will. The new way of working that 2020 forced upon CX teams will have lingering effects, and consumers are now used to doing business in a whole new way. We’ve outlined the changes and challenges we predict will stick around into 2021 and beyond, and how organizations should prepare to cope with them long-term.

Digital Transformation Is Here to Stay

Practically overnight CX organizations were forced to work entirely remotely. Some agents didn’t even have laptop computers to work from home with, others had slow internet making it nearly impossible to handle inquiries in laggy legacy systems. According to Kustomer research during COVID-19, 39% of CX professionals reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.

More than five months later, many organizations have put processes in place and applied technology bandaids to make remote work function. And the good news is, it’s entirely possible to deliver efficient and effective support in a remote environment. According to PWC, 82% of office workers would prefer to continue working remotely, at least part of the time, even after COVID-19 has subsided. And a whopping 73% of executives say working remotely has been a success.

These shifting attitudes are here to stay, and provide many added benefits to organizations. Workers have more flexibility in their schedule and save time commuting, and businesses can potentially garner cost-savings by downsizing office space and cutting back on in-office perks. So while some organizations have implemented temporary fixes to get through this quick shift to digital-first, a long-term technology solution to enable smart remote work is now imperative.

Customers Want You to Show Them They’re Valued

During times of crisis, customer needs change. 2020 has never made that more apparent. Some organizations chose to shift their success metrics away from average handle time, as customers demanded (and valued) longer interactions. Zappos even opened a customer service line that people could call to chat about literally anything … even if it was completely unrelated to shoes. According to our COVID-19 research, CX teams reported that customers valued empathetic service above all other customer service attributes during the pandemic.

This shift in consumer expectations may have boiled over in these strange, isolating times, but customer expectations have long been shifting in that direction. Customers aren’t satisfied with being treated as ticket #12558369, that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible without any real human emotion or interaction. They want to be treated like a valued customer, with real thoughts, emotions, feedback and values.

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

CX Will Be More Important Than Ever

It’s clear that the “Superhero of 2020” award should go to remote customer service teams. The influx in customer service inquiries, the immensely challenging questions, the need to provide empathy and humanity during an incredibly stressful time … all were imperative in a strange and stressful year. But good customer service can do more than just solve a customer’s problem. It can also proactively drive revenue.

Kustomer’s recent consumer research looked at data across generations, and one thing is clear: younger generations demand, and value, excellent service. Consumers aged 18-24 ranked customer service as the number one attribute when choosing where to do business (whereas the general population ranked it below price). Additionally, younger generations are more willing than older generations to pay a premium for good service (61% of consumers 34 and younger vs. 48% of consumers 55+), and they are willing to pay more of a premium at that (20% of consumers 18-24 are willing to spend up to 15% more for exceptional service, vs. only 7% of consumers 55+).

This demographic data allows us to take a peek into the future. In the next five or ten years, these individuals will become heads of households, and customer service will determine where they spend their money, and how much they spend. It is imperative to prepare now for what is to come — and exceptional service is no longer optional.

Want our full list of predictions, along with tips on how to deliver exceptional service in 2021? Download the full guide here.

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences TW

If the events of this year taught those of us in the customer experience world anything, it’s that we can never stop innovating to be more customer-centric. We can’t hope that we will “get by” just a little longer with legacy CRMs and support tickets. We must embrace change and adapt quickly to meet today’s consumer expectations for a smart, omnichannel experience powered by a modern CRM—the key to scaling CX, meeting explosive growth, and adapting to change.

Some argue that 2020 has signaled the decline of ticket-based support systems. Why has the pandemic emerged as the straw that finally broke the legacy CRM camel’s back? The data tells the tale. Recent analysis of e-commerce trends shows a staggering 10 years of growth in just 3 months at the beginning of 2020. And that was just the early stages of lockdown. As chaos and uncertainty took hold, CX teams were inundated with customer calls and support tickets as they struggled to keep up with questions, changing plans, requests for assistance, and the demands of going direct-to-consumer.

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences Inline

But that’s only where the challenges begin. 2020 also forced organizations to accelerate digital transformation by 6 years to adapt to the “new normal” of stay at home orders, remote workforces, supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, and the economic slowdown. Along with this digital transformation, many CX leaders are realizing they need to follow the lead of the direct-to-consumer disruptor brands that are differentiating themselves, and thriving, by delivering a modern consumer experience.

The DTC Disruptor’s Secret Weapon: Intelligent CX Focused on the Whole Customer

As the pandemic took hold, most direct-to-consumer innovators were many steps ahead and better prepared to deal with the curveballs 2020 delivered. These businesses started with the right culture, philosophy, and customer-centric CRM platform. They built their business to connect with customers at scale. A great example of this is The Farmer’s Dog, a company dedicated to delivering safe and healthy pet food, who totally nailed the customer-first approach. Their customer service agents connect on an emotional level with their buyers using whatever channel the buyer selects to educate and foster authentic relationships. This takes a level of insight tickets can’t provide.

UNTUCKit is another great example of a customer-centric brand. They ensure their stellar shopping experience is supported across every customer touchpoint, especially support. Team members have a virtually seamless process for seeing customer history, gathering the right data points, and resolving customer inquiries.

What Makes a Modern CRM?

If tickets aren’t the ticket, what is the secret to direct-to-consumer success today?

Visibility to Care for the Whole Customer

Now more than ever, customers feel they’ve lost control and trust. Zappos and Amazon have set the bar high with proactive, rapid, data-driven customer experiences. Modern CRMs can help brands rebuild that trust through data-driven conversations informed by a view of the whole customer. Agents must have complete visibility across systems to understand the consumer and their entire situation. But with a plethora of data, and a growing number of channels to monitor, we need AI to unlock these insights. Efficiency is the name of the game in customer service, and AI is a true force multiplier, enabling customer service teams to work more efficiently and focus on the customers who need the most help. Contact centers using ticket-based systems, while relying on siloed customer data, simply cannot deliver the type of experience customers demand today.

Omnichannel Customer Experience

Omnichannel support means a customer can connect with your business anywhere, anytime, and with any method—or even with multiple methods or channels.  If a customer wants to reach out via email and then switch to chat, so be it! It’s the experience a new generation of consumers expect. This requires companies to break down silos and integrate their data for a picture of the whole customer across channels. Consumers must be able to switch channels mid-conversation and leverage the best channel for each conversation’s purpose. Our research shows that nearly 90% of customers are frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. That shouldn’t be a surprise—we all know customers want what they want.

Omnipresent, Guided Self-Service

Just as customers expect more tailored and personal communications, they also demand self-service options for immediate resolution. As our new AI e-book explains, AI is being rapidly adopted in contact centers to act as the first line of defense, amplify performance, and create strong efficiencies. The volume, velocity, and variety of customer data today overwhelm organizations without the technology, processes, and operational capabilities to integrate siloed data and personalize communications. AI is transforming customer experiences, and for good reasons.

Happy Agents, Happy Customers

Research shows companies with excellent CX have employees that are 1.5X more engaged than employees at companies with less satisfactory CX; additionally, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. AI is also vastly improving agent productivity and reducing churn for contact center leaders. AI can have a dramatic impact on the customer experience and satisfaction, which in turn makes the employee experience far more interesting and exciting.

AI makes jobs more meaningful and less frustrating by deflecting much of the grunt work and alleviating manual and repetitive tasks agents hate. Agents don’t need to waste time transferring and redirecting customers. Rather, conversations can be automatically classified and routed to the appropriate agent for a speedy and personalized resolution. Not only will this reduce wait and handle times, but it will also maximize team capacity by directing real-time conversation traffic to the right person at the right time.

Realizing the Intelligent Customer Experience

You need a modern CRM to help you execute your digitally advanced, customer-first approach. Leading contact centers have indicated that integrated platforms and data analytics are important in gathering insights into the customer journey. Enter the Intelligent Customer Experience, a culmination of all of the improvements we just discussed.

Intelligent CX means leveraging a modern customer-centric approach and advanced AI to create a smarter, faster, and more enjoyable customer experience. It’s about delivering results fast using the power of AI and data from all channels, whether that be via a call, chat, email, tweet, or all of the above. Your customer service agents will feel more informed since you’ll be empowering them to provide real value, not just closing a ticket or processing a transaction. AI uses context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help, while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

We’ve seen dramatic changes since March of this year that have accelerated every aspect of digital transformation. We recently launched Kustomer IQ for omnichannel deflection, sentiment analysis, and intelligent routing. Check out more details here.

Customer Care Delivered in a Remote Environment

The pandemic has certainly upended the notion of the traditional 9-5 office. Companies are racing to adapt to a distributed work model, and technology is the biggest driver in adjusting to operating remotely. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. It enables the delivery of the customer experience from anywhere, through remote work orchestration and oversight. Taming the CX frankenstack is another step toward easing the remote transition. Modern CRMs must allow organizations to streamline integration of platforms, data sources, and channels to make remote work.

Collaboration is key to delivering an exceptional experience, so the modern CRM should provide a platform for customer service representatives to work together, to deliver service and support more efficiently and effectively. Collaboration between agents enhances the quality of answers provided to the customer by leveraging subject matter experts. At Kustomer, we believe the collective knowledge of experts makes your customer service organization stronger overall. In fact, we’ve embraced the use of Collaborators, users from other teams outside of support that can view conversations, customer history, and searches. By setting up Collaborators, other team members or departments can help you solve customer questions with internal notes and @mentions, see customer feedback, and more.

The Demise of the Dreaded Ticket

2020 will be the beginning of the end for legacy CRMs and transactional ticketing systems that were built to manage cases, not customers. Personalized support has been a key tenet of the business-and-buyer relationship from day  one. Every customer wants to feel like they are known, respected, appreciated, and well-served. They certainly don’t want to be insulted by an interrogation. Traditional ticketing systems will be left behind, as customers expect more and the world continues to converge quickly.

Intelligent, modern CRMs enable true connections to be made with customers in their greatest times of need, by making it easy for agents to come from a place of understanding and context, consistently. This requires unlocking the value of data shared between different teams (such as marketing and customer service), creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new and modern technology.

Download the AI for CX e-book to learn more, and take a look at how Kustomer can provide the tools you need for exceptional DTC customer service.

 

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency

Why 92% of CS Organizations Report a Need for Greater Efficiency TW

We all know that businesses strive to be efficient — not only within the customer service department, but throughout the entire organization. However, as customer experience continues to become more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty, the goal for CX departments to be highly effective can at times feel at odds with the efficiency mandate.

Kustomer wanted to hear from CX workers on the front lines, and surveyed over 120 professionals to understand how they’re feeling. Read on for the findings from our research, and for strategies to achieve efficient customer service without compromising the customer experience.

The Efficiency Mandate

It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of respondents reported a need to be more efficient. A total of 92% of organizations say more efficiency is needed, but 51% also reported that there is a greater need for efficiency than a year ago. Only 6% of respondents said that the need for efficiency has decreased in the past year.

Whether it’s a recession, a pandemic, or changing customer expectations, the success of a business can swing downward swifty and without notice. Organizations have felt this impact strongly in 2020, and the gaps in their strategies that they may not have felt a year ago are now staring them directly in the face. Perhaps efficiency isn’t the number one priority for a customer service organization when business is booming and resources are available. But the power of an efficient AND effective customer service organization can make a massive impact during both challenging and successful times.

A few factors are impacting how organizations are achieving efficiency: 63% of respondents reported having limited staff, while 44% reported being on a strict budget. A total of 42% of customer service professionals reported not being able to currently manage 24/7 support, while long wait times and access to the right tools seemed to be less of a concern for CX organizations.

However, when staff and budget are unexpectedly slashed, having technology tools in place that can minimize that impact and make agents’ jobs easier, is of the utmost importance.


Challenges Associated With Delivering Efficient Customer Service

It’s clear that customer service professionals know they must be more efficient, and aren’t sure how to do so in a way that provides a positive experience to their customers. The fact of the matter is, all customers must be served, and oftentimes there are roadblocks to doing so in an efficient manner.


Challenging inquiries are the number one reason CX teams report that they can’t deliver efficient support. While automation and self-service tools wouldn’t be effective in resolving challenging customer issues, the implementation of these technologies can actually free up agent time to tackle these inherently more time-consuming tasks. Instead of answering simple inquiries like product and policy questions, customer service teams can spend more time on higher level support and relationship-building.

Another top roadblock to delivering efficient support is unclear or unknown policies. When agents have to go searching for accurate information, across a variety of systems, customers are sure to suffer. Ensure that you have a solution in place that can surface relevant policy information, with the ability to update it in real time as policies shift and change. Intelligent chatbots can even tap into this knowledge base and surface highly relevant and always-accurate information to consumers instantaneously.

Beyond the nature of customer inquiries, there are additional external factors that customers report are preventing them from adopting efficiency tools.



The top reasons that organizations aren’t adopting efficiency tools, are a lack of executive buy-in and a lack of budget, which unsurprisingly go hand in hand. If leadership doesn’t understand the value behind adopting efficiency tools, they likely won’t allocate budget for them.

Ironically, adopting efficiency tools could completely transform a CX organization from a cost center into a profit center, ultimately benefiting not only the executives but also the business as a whole. Think about it: time is money, and when valuable human time is spent on low level tasks that technology can handle, no one benefits. Tagging conversations, routing conversations, answering very simple questions … all of these tasks can be menial and brain-numbing to customer service agents. With the advent of technology, customer service agents no longer need to be relegated to low level work, and can take a more prominent and important role within an organization.

Not only will agents spend their time answering more challenging and important inquiries from customers, they will also have the time to build long-lasting relationships, proactively reach out to customers, make customers feel heard and valued, and even close more business. This time spent by agents will truly contribute to the bottom line of a business, increasing loyalty, advocacy and brand sentiment.

For the full findings from Kustomer’s latest research, including breakdown by industry and business size, download the full Efficiency Research Report here.

 

The Importance of Empathy, Compassion and a Truly Human Customer Experience

The Importance of Empathy, Compassion and a Truly Human Customer Experience TW

Here we are in 2020, a decade full of opportunities and challenges no one could have conceived only a few short months ago. Our families need us, our friends need us, our countries need us, and hidden amongst these needs is an implicit truth more important now than ever: our customers need us. Imagine the cashier wearing a contagious smile, or the support e-mail which asks how you and your family are doing? These moments of kindness, compassion and empathy are in this day and age a brand’s greatest asset.

We can implicitly understand the importance of caring for your customers, but for several years now, the data has been showing much the same:

Treating your customers with compassion and good old fashioned kindness are now must-haves, not should-haves. And the uncharted waters of 2020 have emphasized this fact even more. The global pandemic has forced nearly all communications between customers and businesses into a digital interface. That means you can’t go into a store with a problem anymore — the only means of getting your problem solved is through phone, email, chat or social media. Therefore, the main cues a customer service representative uses to understand a person’s emotions (body language, tone, etc.) have been stripped down significantly.

Organizations must take this opportunity to invest in the heartbeat of their brand’s resilience, and taking care of your customers is where you must start:

1. Technology

You are running a pet grooming business, and supply your staff with hedge trimmers and power hoses, how happy do you think the pets and their owners will be? The exact same logic is fundamental in how you support your front line support agents. Ensure they have a full-spectrum, omnichannel view of customer history, enabling them to treat people like valued humans, not tickets. When an agent can see historical conversations, provide support over multiple channels, and see the customer profile and not a ticket, they are equipped to provide compassionate, human-centered support.

2. Training

Lead by example. Before expecting your employees to provide world class, compassionate customer service and support, you must prepare them and care for them at “home”. Think about things like compassion training, support coaching, platform training, and any other form of investing in your customers’ caretakers.

3. Tone & Language

With human interactions, one can utilize body language, notice visual queues and react in ways simply not possible in the digital realm. For all online or voice support, tone and language is crucial to achieve positive, efficient and
compassionate customer service. When it comes to supporting your agents, who take on challenging and pressure-filled conversations regularly, brands can leverage an internal knowledge base (IKB) , multi-language tools and short or “canned” responses. The IKB offers answers, support, and advice on dealing with any number of customer service scenarios, offering an agent their own repository of self-help in a predetermined language and tone. Multi-language tools such as snippets, in conjunction with shortcuts in Kustomer, offer agents contextual, error-free, multilingual canned responses which are simple to use and provide perfect tone and language, enabling agents to support customers worry-free.

4. Customer (Human) First

Remember that each customer is not a ticket, but a person with needs. How is their day? How are they feeling? Start and end each interaction with a compassionate human touch, and your customers are sure to notice the difference. Just like a smiling cashier, or happy delivery man, these small details can make a world of a difference.

5. Understand Emotions

What is the general sentiment of your customers? The way in which you interact with a customer drastically shifts if, before starting on the conversation, you already know how they are feeling (natural, positive, very angry, etc). With Kustomer’s sentiment analysis, understanding sentiment takes zero human effort and allows for segmentation or prioritization of negative sentiment. “I understand that you’re not so happy right now, I’m here to make things better.” Proactive and compassionate messages like this can make a world of difference.

6. Reporting & Analytics

Once you’ve built up a repository of customer interactions, analyzing and understanding themes and patterns becomes essential for resiliency and customer success. What are your top five contact reasons and how can you create proactive solutions to these key customer challenges? Through these insights, could you begin to develop deflection strategies?

7. Artificial Intelligence

You understand why your customers are writing in, you’ve built better operational/product efficiencies to resolve some inbounds, but will always get questions such as “where is my order?” (WISMO), cancelation/refund requests, etc. With the advent of Kustomer IQ, you can now deflect such repetitive questions and enable your customer to walk through quick and easy self-service. This allows them to receive the fastest resolution and decreases overall inbound demand on your customer service teams.

8. Routing & Assignment

With the remaining inbound conversations, it is important that the customer’s query gets to the right agent as efficiently as possible. It is incredibly inefficient to have humans manually delegate support requests when a queues and routing system can do this quickly and efficiently. This allows managers to focus on other priorities, and strengthen the team’s overall experience. Intent Identification allows you to proactively tag or assign contact reasons to conversations and use this prediction to route the conversation directly to the required team. When done well, this will allow your team to resolve all issues within their scope and mandate, not wasting time rerouting or escalating conversations meant for other teams or departments.

We hope it is quite evident that empathy, compassion and a truly human customer experience will add priceless qualitative and quantitative value to brands and customer experience across any vertical. In this day and age, humans want to be treated like humans, not support tickets. When these practices are combined with a technologically sound support system, organizations will see decreased inbound requests, increased brand advocacy, and provide an enjoyable experience for both customers and customer experience specialists.

 

Kustomer Is Excited to Make Its Debut on the CRM Customer Engagement Gartner Magic Quadrant

Kustomer Is Excited to Make Its Debut on the CRM Customer Engagement Gartner Magic Quadrant TW

Last week, the research and advisory firm Gartner published the CRM Customer Engagement Magic Quadrant and Kustomer was announced as a new entrant. The leadership team here at Kustomer couldn’t be more excited. Gaining entrance into this Magic Quadrant is a huge accomplishment and recognizes all of the hard work that the Kustomer team has put into making a stellar product since our inception in 2017. This debut underscores Kustomer’s important role in the space, as we continue paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences.

This is Gartner’s third installment of the CRM Customer Engagement Magic Quadrant, which is defined as: “The market for software applications used to provide customer service and support by engaging intelligently — both proactively and reactively — with customers by answering questions, solving problems and giving advice.”

Each year, Gartner analyzes the market and reviews the most relevant providers and their products and services, placing no more than the top 20 leading vendors in the Magic Quadrant. The process is fairly grueling as Gartner goes in-depth on criteria such as:

Market Presence and Momentum

This category covers vendor market recognition and company growth, and includes areas such as:

  • References: Minimum of 15 references have to be provided that cover an array of clients from different geographical locations.
  • Functional Breadth: Gartner reviews each vendor across seven categories of functionality such as real-time intelligence, automation of engagement, and case management.
  • Market Awareness: Each vendor has to be a recognized player in the industry as demonstrated by potential clients shortlisting them or having a meaningful presence at industry leading events.

Ability to Execute

This category covers vendor product depth as well as financial health and ability to execute a go-to-market strategy across areas such as:

  • Product/Service: Eleven critical capabilities are analyzed here such as case management, digital engagement and usability.
  • Overall Viability: Vendors are examined on their overall financial health and their ability to demonstrate continued investment in the product.
  • Sales Execution/Pricing: Vendors are reviewed on their ability in a variety of go-to-market activities.

Completeness of Vision

This category covers vendors market understanding, ability to innovate, and their geographic strength across areas such as:

  • Market Understanding: Vendors are assessed on how well they understand customer needs and are able to translate those into product functionality.
  • Offering (Product) Strategy: This examines how a vendor approaches product development with an emphasis toward differentiation, functionality and methodology.
  • Innovation: This reviews the vendor’s innovation practices and their ability to be preemptive in pushing away new market entrants.

After evaluating Kustomer across these categories, analysts at Gartner noted, “Kustomer provides a modern customer service platform, connecting interactions and platform-based events. B2C organizations looking to move away from traditional customer service tickets and case management in favor of more first contact resolutions should consider Kustomer. Reference customers indicated that Kustomer delivers on the fundamental essentials with a high degree of reliability and usability.”

Kustomer’s strongest assets highlighted in the Magic Quadrant were:

  • Conversations: Companies looking to move from a case management-only system to a 360-degree view of the customer with conversations at the center.
  • Modernization: Modern platform connecting to many external systems.
  • Reliable and usable: A system with a high degree of reliability.

Kustomer is thrilled to be included in the latest CRM Customer Engagement Magic Quadrant. Says Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum, “Kustomer is a modern CRM for customer service, focused on the customer to follow their entire service journey and optimize every experience. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. Kustomer is a company’s single record of customer truth, managing and contextualizing data to drive smarter processes that scale your business, not your headcount. We are honored to make our debut in the Magic Quadrant and be recognized by Gartner for our innovative approach to customer service CRM.”

The full report with in-depth findings can be found here.

 

Kustomer Recognized in the June 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center

Kustomer Recognized in the June 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center TW

Evaluation based on ability to execute and for completeness of vision

New York, NY – June 11, 2020 — Kustomer, the omnichannel SaaS platform reimagining enterprise customer service to deliver standout experiences, announces today that it has been named in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center (CEC) report, published on June 4, 2020 by the research and advisory firm. This is the first time that Kustomer has been recognized in the report and we believe this recognition underscores the company’s important role in the space, where they are paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences. Vendors in the report were evaluated on seven ability to execute criteria and eight completeness of vision criteria.

According to the report, “consolidation of customer service functionality is redefining the CRM CEC. Artificial intelligence and increased investment in digital engagement are top priorities on vendors’ roadmaps. We researched 16 vendors to help application leaders navigate this increasingly complex landscape.”

Further, “the current reshaping of the customer engagement center (CEC) market is characteristic of the consolidation of the customer service technology market. Customer service and support organizations must deliver consistent, effortless, intelligent and personalized customer service to their customers. The ability to orchestrate customer requests with assisted service, as well as with self-service, is one of the four pillars of great customer service within a leading customer service and support operation. The four pillars of great customer service are: getting connected, process orchestration, resource management, analytics and insights.”

“Kustomer is a modern CRM for customer service, focused on the customer to follow their entire service journey and optimize every experience. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. Kustomer is a company’s single record of customer truth, managing and contextualizing data to drive smarter processes that scale your business, not your headcount,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “We are honored to be named in the Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center and to be recognized by Gartner.”

Gartner “Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center,” Brian Manusama, Nadine LeBlanc, 4 June 2020

Gartner Disclaimer
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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.

 

Why Data Will Power the Future of the Contact Center

Why Data Will Power the Future of the Contact Center TW

Until now, the omnichannel, cloud-based, 360-degree customer view-enabled contact center was mostly a pipe dream, touted by technology vendors and thought leaders, with a majority of businesses falling short of this gold standard. Most customers still expect to fight their way through a dead-end IVR, endure multiple transfers, and repeat their information to agents who have zero context on who they are or why they’re calling.

As technology grows more robust, however, more and more businesses are starting to overcome these bottlenecks, more of which are related to a lack of data transparency. Businesses are using AI and machine learning-enabled platforms to unify their data across the organization, route customers based not only on queues but context, and design self-service platforms that facilitate end-to-end support.

Treat Every Customer Touchpoint as a Potential Data Source

For many businesses, their website is the seat of personalization. By collecting data on customer’s viewing history and purchasing habits, they can provide personalized recommendations and proactive support based on context, such as offering help through web chat to a customer who’s having trouble completing an online purchase. But a truly omnichannel experience is one where personalization follows the customer, whether they’re on the phone with an agent, shopping online or visiting in-store.

This means that data you collect from your website must be reconciled with the customer’s activity in all other channels to build a complete 360-degree view of each individual customer. When an agent interacts with a customer, regardless of channel, they should be able to see the customer’s buying history, sentiment and previous interactions (across every channel), status of their orders and customer’s preferred channel.

Says Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum, “Imagine having a conversation with a friend but not being able to remember anything about that friend, or any interactions you’ve had with them previously. It would be difficult to have a truly personal or meaningful conversation. That’s how traditional retailers have historically interacted with their customers, with a large blind spot around customer preferences and history.”

Optimize Human to AI Interactions

“Agents for complex issues, AI for simple ones” is an oft-repeated principle for successful human-AI interactions in the contact center. However, customers still find themselves calling when a chatbot does not function as anticipated. For this reason and others, the contact center is often still considered a cost center rather than a revenue driver. Once businesses learn how to optimize their self-service channels, while giving customers recourse to contact a live agent if needed, agents will automatically become the go-to touchpoint for complex issues and expert recommendations, and thereby come to be perceived as subject matter experts.

Without the burden of responding to repetitive inquiries, agents can focus on building a relationship with the customer. As Birnbaum says, “It will become the customer service agent’s job to reflect the company’s mission and values, and act as a trusted partner. The changing expectations of consumers means that customers want to do business with companies they believe in, feeling as though they are a part of the brand. Customer service agents can help do just that, through both proactive and reactive support.

To learn more about common blockers contact centers must overcome to power the future of customer service, download the CCW Special Report on the Customer Contact Vision for 2025.

Download CCW Report


Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19

Designing Great User Experiences During COVID-19 TW

At Kustomer, we design features based on customer needs, so it’s always been a normal part of my work to be on Zoom calls with users from all across the globe. Now, however, I typically talk to people who are calling from their kitchen tables or tucked into corners of bedrooms. Even though I’m personally working from a glorified closet, it’s been a silver lining to continue to connect with users and learn about their needs (and sometimes meet their dogs and babies). So how do we continue to design great experiences for our users, remotely?

Understanding Remote Needs

Understanding users for any SaaS product has a lot to do with understanding their environments. A lot of Kustomer users are in our product all-day, every-day. What does it feel like to use our product at work every day? What does it feel like to use our product on a large monitor? As part of a small team? As part of an enormous team?

When our users’ environments change, we need to reframe our understanding of needs. There is much less likely to be a large, bustling room with a team that’s sitting together. Certain integrations become more important. Communication is more asynchronous. Users in different countries, and across different industries, may be experiencing the impact of COVID-19 in vastly different ways. Consider the new environment and reframe your understanding of your users as quickly as possible.

Understanding Needs, Remotely

To help with understanding “as quickly as possible”, the design team at Kustomer uses a suite of tools to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. We use UsabilityHub, Canny, InVision, and Zoom, among others, to communicate with our users and gather feedback as we design new features. As much as we miss on-site visits to our customers, these remote-friendly tools allow us insight into our customer needs, even as they change and grow. I have found that more than ever, our users are happy to provide feedback and help us shape our features to align with their goals.

It’s an interesting new reality for all of us, but the more we can learn and adjust to shifting circumstances, the more successful we will be. At Kustomer, we are looking to perfect the customer experience, and constantly searching for others to join us in making that mission a reality. Interested in joining us and helping create excellent user experiences? See our open roles here.

 

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective

5 Ways to Make Your CX Organization More Efficient and Effective TW

Doing more with less seems to be the struggle for most business leaders these days. It’s interesting, and unfortunate, that it takes a pandemic for companies to start focusing on efficiency. But issues that you used to be able to ignore, are now staring you directly in the face.

The problem with a focus on efficiency is that it is often implemented at the expense of the overall customer experience. The easy response to cutting costs would be to reduce staff, making it harder to reach out to support, and delaying responses. But the outcome of this strategy would ultimately lead to unhappy customers. And take it from me, customers won’t forget this bad experience when things get back to “normal”. The businesses that are able to do more with less in a way that meets or exceeds expectations are the ones that will exit this pandemic with an even more loyal customer base.

So how can you achieve this? How can you significantly cut costs while not degrading the level of support? Read on for our five tips to efficient and effective customer service:

1. Optimize Your Operations

Fix things in your product that cause customers to reach out to you in the first place. This might be offering the ability to track your order status, or completing a return without contacting customer service.

2. Increase Your Self-Service Offerings

Gone are the days of putting up an FAQ page and hoping your customers find the right answers. You need to leverage intelligent automation to put the right information in front of your customers at the exact point they need it. With tools like AI-powered chatbots, you have the ability to not only extract exact information from knowledge base articles, but allow customers to complete actions on their own.

3. Empower Your Agents With Better Technology

Your agents shouldn’t be wasting time looking up key information in multiple systems. I’ve seen examples of companies looking up information in 8+ systems to handle one customer issue. How are agents supposed to be efficient if their computer screens are covered in post-it notes and they have multiple tabs open? Find a solution like Kustomer that connects to all of your core admin systems and allows agents to search and take action on data in the platform they are already operating out of. The below example shows how a delivery service can consolidate all key order information directly into Kustomer.

4. Route Intelligently

You should be able to route issues to the right team based on issue type, customer value, skillset or capacity. There is no experience worse than chatting with support and hearing: “Sorry I don’t have the answer to that question, but let me forward you to the team that does.” Don’t force the customer to guess which of 10 phone numbers is the right one to call, or make them e-mail multiple departments to solve their issue. Instead, use technology that routes based on keywords or even better custom objects about that customer (status, order value, country, etc).

5. Get Ahead of Issues

Proactively reach out to customers before they reach out to you. Get ahead of any problems, like fulfillment issues and weather delays, or educate customers about how you’re keeping them safe and healthy in uncertain times. Use a platform like Convey to give full transparency into the delivery lifecycle. Then utilize a platform like Kustomer to engage with customers based on delivery updates.

Hopefully, you found these five tips helpful. The most important piece is balancing doing more with less, while making sure customer expectations are met…or even exceeded!

 

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic TW

Even during the best of times, businesses strive to be more efficient. There are always things to improve upon, always more customers to service, always proactive outreach to do. But when circumstances shift rapidly, and businesses are asked to do more with less, finding ways to be more efficient suddenly becomes priority number one.

Kustomer recently surveyed over 150 customer service professionals to better understand how they are being impacted by the pandemic, how their business is adjusting as a result, and what customers are expecting during their greatest times of needs. One thing became abundantly clear: being efficient and effective is not optional.

More Inquiries, Less Time

Across industries, customer service teams are seeing a 17% increase in customer service inquiries during the global pandemic. Phone inquiries are seeing the largest uptick, with a 34% increase, followed by e-mail (28% increase) and web (24% increase). Social channels are being impacted the least, with only a 7.2% uptick.

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat

Not only are companies having to handle more conversations, they are having to do it in a largely remote environment. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.

It’s essential to have a customer service strategy, and the correct technology in place, to handle bursts in activity and enable productive remote work. Look for tools that leverage AI and intelligent automation to power self-service and low-level information gathering. This will free up agent time for more high level and urgent support, while allowing customers to get their questions answered immediately.

Ensure that the technology you have in place allows for collaboration between remote team members, so you can pull in the necessary individuals to solve customer issues quickly. You should also be able to manage your team with confidence, even if you can’t be beside them. Having a view into what your agents are working on, and being able to intervene if necessary, is key to a successful remote CS team. And most importantly, your customer service platform should be easily connected to by all of your agents with a basic internet connection and standard browser.

How Organizations Are Adapting

The circumstantial changes associated with the global pandemic are causing some real changes for organizations. Unfortunately, 63% of CS organizations reported a need to cut costs during the global pandemic, with 46% reporting a need to reduce staff. All of this means efficiency is incredibly important. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said there is a need to adopt more automation for efficiency, and 56% said there is a need to invest in new technologies. And unfortunately, customers aren’t giving businesses a break when it comes to speed. Quick service is one of the top three most valued customer service attributes during this time. Doing more with less is the name of the game in 2020, so put the tools in place to adjust sooner rather than later.

What CS Teams Need

63% of CS organizations report the need to cut costs
46% of CS organizations report the need to reduce staff
90% of CS organizations report the need to adjust policies
56% of CS organizations report the need to invest in new tech
59% of CS organizations report the need to adopt automation for efficiency
80% of CS organizations report the need to reach out to customers proactively

Why Efficiency Is More Important Than Ever During the Global Pandemic Stat 2

While the current environment won’t last forever, it’s important to properly prepare for extreme circumstances if and when they do occur again. Our full report has a plethora of additional industry-specific and general data, as well as actionable takeaways you can put into practice today. Download it here.

 

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success?

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success? TW

Customers are anxious. They’re stressed. They want answers quickly. And customer service organizations are being asked to do more with less than ever before. Unfortunately there’s no escaping the current environment we are living in, and customer service teams are seeing changes as a result. But how exactly are these organizations being affected?

Kustomer surveyed over 150 customer service professionals to find out.

Circumstances Affecting Customer Service Success

Businesses are having to change how they do business and interact with customers during this time. One of the biggest shifts? Adjusting policies. Seventy-seven percent of individuals reported that they have had to learn new policies due to COVID-19. It’s essential to arm your team with the information they need to instantaneously service customers. Make sure your technology can intelligently surface relevant information from a knowledge base, so all agents are delivering consistent and high-value service.

Additionally, 64% of respondents reported a need for greater efficiencies during COVID-19, while 57% reported having to deal with more complex issues than usual. It’s more important than ever to automate low level support with the help of AI, to free up agent time for issues that are more complicated and emotionally-wrought.

Just How Is the Global Pandemic Impacting Customer Service Success? Stats

How Success Metrics Are Changing

Luckily, it doesn’t seem like customer service success metrics are being significantly impacted by the global pandemic, and in some cases, organizations are seeing improvements. There are large differences from organization to organization, even in the same industry, implying that the way a customer service team handles the current circumstances has a huge impact on how customers react. Improvements in success metrics may be happening for a couple different reasons:

  1. Customer service organizations are taking extra measures to proactively help their customers and deliver empathetic service
  2. Customers are more understanding and know that organizations are struggling, so don’t have as stringent standards

It’s imperative to keep a customer-centric mindset, as loyalty becomes more essential to secure, and continue to measure the success of your team, adjusting accordingly. Make sure you have access to reporting and analytics, and understand where you’re falling short and where there are greater needs.

While the current environment won’t last forever, it’s important to properly prepare for extreme circumstances if and when they occur again. Our full report has a plethora of additional industry-specific and general data, as well as actionable takeaways you can put into practice today. Download it here.

 

Special Report Coming Soon: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service

Special Report Coming Soon: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Stat

We’ve all heard the classic lines at this point:

“In these challenging times…”
“Now more than ever…”
“We’re in this together….”

And they’re all true. These are absolutely crazy times to live in, let alone work in, and the global pandemic is affecting every aspect of our day to day lives. But what does this all really mean for customer service organizations?

Kustomer surveyed over 150 customer service professionals across a variety of industries to truly understand how their businesses and teams are being affected by COVID-19, and the results are powerful. Fifty-two percent of customer service professionals say the global pandemic is affecting their customer service organization a great deal, meaning massive changes in ticket volume, customer attitudes, or policies. An additional 27% report being impacted slightly less, experiencing significant changes due to COVID-19. Only 1% of organizations reported no change at all.

While some industries, like retail, are seeing a troubling decrease in business and inquiries, other industries, like healthcare and financial services, are having more problems to solve than ever before. While this isn’t a permanent condition, and hopefully things will go back to a “new normal” soon, there is no doubt that there could be long-term impacts. Teams may need to think about driving efficiencies with less resources, or how to work productively in a remote environment. The only constant is change, and preparing for the future now is the true key to success.

Luckily, customer service organizations play a vital role in times of crisis. Ninety percent of customer service professionals believe customer service is more important than ever amidst the global pandemic. With many businesses shutting their storefronts, customer service professionals become the face of the company, and are essential to empathizing with customers and preventing issues before they arise.

Our full report will be released in the coming weeks, with insights on how conversation volume has changed, what circumstances are affecting customer service, how organizations are adapting, what customers need from you, and how different industries are being affected. Plus, we’ll provide you with tips and insights on how your business can react to these extraordinary circumstances, and what tools you should have in place to minimize the impact on your customer service team. Stay tuned.

 

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