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.”

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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.

 

Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard

Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steve Richard from ExecVision and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to learn about recording customer phone calls and how the data is useful to CX agents. Steve is the Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of ExecVision where he strives to improve performance by analyzing data. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Are Phone Calls Dying Off in the CX World?

For years, phone calls as a means of communication between CX agents and customers has been under great speculation. Debate amongst the customer experience community over whether or not this communication channel would eventually die out takes place frequently. Email, once being in the hot seat, was thought to dwindle as a channel because of advances in modern technology. This, however, simply isn’t true. Email has held strong in its place amongst omni-channel communication, as will phone conversations. Interesting data resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic shows that phone calls between CX reps and customers have boomed within the last year due to heightened pandemic anxiety. This can also be attributed to customers wanting to talk to actual human beings rather than a chatbot when something goes wrong with their order. These phone calls are a goldmine of data information and companies should do everything they can to gather this data, as it is helpful for a multitude of reasons. One reason being that customer experience agents become self aware when they have the ability to revisit past phone calls, study their conversation skills, and understand what went right or wrong. Companies can also learn from the collected data.

The technology’s improved where they can take thousands, millions of calls, do their analysis on it and actually make business decisions. And those business decisions aren’t limited to the enablement of the agent. It’s changing policy. Change in product. Change in marketing offers. That richness of data is something that is now available to the business at large.

Team Development Through Data Analysis

Steve believes that recorded customer calls are crucial to team and brand development in a holistic sense. Information such as common issues with products, competition details and much more can all be unearthed through call data analysis. Plus, data collection is most impactful when teams work in an environment that is comfortable enough where mistakes can be made without fear of strict reprimands. Instead of calling out an agent’s mistakes in a customer call, Steve explains that this is a prime opportunity for leaders and agents to learn together and to make adjustments where necessary. Furthermore, companies can learn from CX representatives by analyzing their call data and noting the common practices amongst the highest performing teams. Common traits amongst these teams should be capitalized, prioritized, and implemented across the board. For leaders who understand the value in data analysis but are struggling to streamline the process to a standard of excellence, Steve suggests pinpointing a few crucial questions reps must ask, then training them to improvise as they go. “Think of it like jazz. It’s like, there are certain notes you just have to hit and then from there improvise.” When agents are matched with the training necessary to spark fluid conversations all while hitting the main points, call data is sure to be accurate and advantageous.

How Companies are Winning with Phone Call Data

Successful corporations are winning in the customer field when they see the true value in data and use it to their advantage. Steve examines the two different types of call data that firms can collect, the first being human generated. Human-generated data includes all of the information a CX agent might collect during a call for their record. The second form of data is derived directly from the original content source — the phone call itself. This entails talk-to-listen ratios, call length, reasons for customer complaints, and transcripts. For companies to be successful, Steve conveys the importance of data translation and understanding what it means to the success of the brand as a whole. For example, traditionally, swearing has had a negative connotation in the CX world until more recent years. Now, swearing is a part of everyday jargon and reflects positive rapport between the customer and the agent, unless of course used within negative contexts. On this Steve mentions, “Rapport means different things to different people. For one person it’s weather. For the other person it’s talking about their problem. So make it so it’s as objective as you can.” Another example of institutions winning with customer data is it allows leaders to determine the perfect talk-to-listen ratio that is appropriate for the brand. Lastly, Steve urges CX teams to take control of their calls and to look inwards for examples of best practices, because learning from each other is remarkably effective.

To learn more about recording customer calls and capitalizing the data, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Secret to Better Customer Support | Steve Richard

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here today. We got a good friend of ours. I’ll let him introduce himself. Steve Richard from ExecVision. Steve, how are you man?

Steve Richard: (00:20)
Doing well? This is great. Haven’t done one of these live ones yet.

Gabe Larsen: (00:23)
Yeah, well we have about a million people joining. So this is, this is pretty important that you prepare. Thanks to you for preparing for that. Which I know you wouldn’t do any of because you told me you didn’t. But nonetheless, you’re a man who knows truth, and we’re going to talk truth today. So can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do over there at ExecVision?

Steve Richard: (00:45)
Yeah. Very, very passionate about working with salespeople, support people, customer-facing people, service people, to improve performance. I mean, that’s what it’s all about is getting people better. Everyone’s always talking about metrics all the time and it makes me nuts because I go, “What’s the point of measuring the sprinter to help folks get better?” So my whole career has been dedicated to that to see entire teams and departments elevate performance on a bunch of different fronts.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
I love it. Well said, man. A fellow LinkedIn spammer. I haven’t seen you as much on LinkedIn, man. Have you been, you’ve been a little, a little less aggressive on that?

Steve Richard: (01:17)
It’s hard. It is. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of time and effort. I’ve been heads down with a bunch of new SDRs internally.

Gabe Larsen: (01:22)
Yeah. Yeah. I know. We’ve seen like a lot of that going on and I miss it. I love spamming people on LinkedIn. This allows me to at least do it once a week. So I’m glad Vikas and I are able to do that. Vikas as always, you want to introduce yourself briefly?

Vikas Bhambri: (01:37)
Sure. Your partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (01:40)
Yep, and I’m Gabe. I’m over here Kustomer as well. So let’s dive into this topic. Wanted to go a little tactical, little strategic. Maybe we start high level. Call recordings, how it can help customer service agents. Give me the big picture as to why. What, why is this even a topic to be talked about?

Steve Richard: (01:59)
Well, I mean, you got to have a business reason and most people don’t start with the business reason in mind and there should ideally be a metric and there should be a way of seeing it as improving. For many of course, it’s going to be your NPS, CSAT type of thing. But increasingly we’re seeing a lot of service and support organizations, especially post-pandemic, are starting to have more of a revenue focus. Maybe not necessarily a KPI yet, but, but things like, we want to make sure that they try to save a customer or work with a customer on billing payments, whatever it might be, do something that’s more revenue focused and that maybe they’ve done before. If it’s a sales team, of course it’s revenue conversions, those kinds of things. Or even just simply offering your products. A lot of places now, you’re seeing that they’re incenting folks to just try to ask for the customer to buy something else if they’re happy, of course, issue resolution times, all of that. So if you don’t have a business metric in mind when you’re gonna start, it’s like you don’t have a goal to get to. If we’re going to break a four minute mile, we should know that our goal is the four minute mile before we training. And then the other thing is historically, it’s been all QA. The whole thing has been all about people behind the curtain. They get all the call recordings, they get all the data, and if you go talk to the average person who works in a contact center now at home and you say, “What do you think about QA?” They go, “Ugh.” I go, “Why?” They say, “Because they’re like the police. It’s like compliance. They, I can’t, it just, they make me nuts.” So there’s no relationship there. So rather than trying to create a positive, productive growth culture, instead by and large, they’re perceived as being negative. So we’re starting to see people change the way they think about that where they go, “Wait a minute. I can actually have one of my agents listen to 10 minutes of their own call recordings per week.” And that’s a good thing to do because they become self-aware. That’s very different, I think, than what it used to be. It’s changing the whole paradigm.

Gabe Larsen: (03:51)
But isn’t Steve. I like the title business. Vikas, maybe I’ll throw this one to you. Isn’t the phone dead? I mean, do we really need call recordings anymore, you guys? Because is anybody even using the phone? Vikas, why don’t you start on that?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:04)
The prediction that the phone as a channel, as a customer service channel is dead has been like, we’ve been talking about it in the industry for about five years or probably over five years and it’s not happening. The consumer still wants to use the phone and what I would say, email as a channel, you see chat and other social, et cetera. But when it really hits the fan, right, when I need something done, people pick up the phone because they want a human being at the other end. Half the reason might be because they want to explode on somebody because they’ve been so frustrated with the other channels, your self service, your app, whatever it is, and they’re at the point of no return. And at the end of the day, there’s still a demographic, right, that prefers the channel. So the phone is a channel. So no, the phone as a customer service channel is not going anywhere. In fact, what you will see is, especially in this pandemic, people are seeing, they’re actually seeing the phone channel explode because of the heightened anxiety and expectations of the consumer. So no, the phone is not dead.

Gabe Larsen: (05:14)
Thanks Vikas. Well, you were going to agree to –

Steve Richard: (05:18)
Well no, I wouldn’t. I’m going to add something to that because I think everyone who, anybody who’s watching this who’s a customer of customer in that persona, don’t we wish that one of these things would go away? Don’t we wish that when we add all these omni-channel things and all of a sudden we’re monitoring Instagram, that other communication channels would go away? But they don’t. It’s really unfortunate. And then, Gabe, you’re right. In some situations, it depends on who your customer is. In some situations you’re right. They probably don’t have a need or a very, very small need for a phone-based channel. But I’ll tell you, I’ll give you a personal experience. I’ll just throw name right out there. I was a customer of HelloFresh. I did their initial offer. The meals were fantastic. I’m horrible at getting myself downstairs in time to prepare dinner. So my wife generally cooks, she kind of pushed back on them a little bit. They kept sending me offers and everything like that online, in the mail and everything. I had some, a few chat sessions with them, but I really ultimately wanted to call them and find out if there was a way that they could have a package that would meet my wife’s needs really. Not even my needs, but I couldn’t. And that’s the sort of situation where it’s like, why just keep throwing out more and more offers over email for lower and lower, it wasn’t about a race to the bottom. It was about configuring the package so it met her needs. So I think we have to be very considerate about who our customers are, what we’re offering to our customers and then the communication channel is going to follow for both sales, service and support, all the above.

Gabe Larsen: (06:45)
Yeah. Interesting. All right, fine. The phone is good. I’ll –

Vikas Bhambri: (06:50)
By the way, Gabe, just on that, because some of us are a bit older. People have been predicting email. Email was supposed to die first. Remember that. An email as a support channel is still alive and well. So I think Steve hit on a really relevant point, which is the customers want choice. And as much as we, as CX professionals want to be like, “We’re going to add Twitter so that we can sunset this one,” the customer simply won’t allow that to happen.

Steve Richard: (07:19)
If you’re selling to, I shouldn’t even say tweens, now, if you’re selling to tweens, you’ve got to be on House Party. I mean, no kidding. I mean my eight-year-old kid. Eight-year-old, ten-year-old kids, they never heard of Facebook. They’ve never heard of Twitter. They spend all their time on House Party.

Gabe Larsen: (07:35)
Yeah. Well, good thing those aren’t our customers because I don’t know House Party, but I’ll have to look that one up. I do have an –

Vikas Bhambri: (07:42)
You know, Gabe’s going to be doing TikTok videos.

Gabe Larsen: (07:47)
TikTok. Yeah, okay. We can talk about that after. Let’s talk about the second part because the Q&A thing is, that resonates a lot with me, right? You’ve got a call center, a service group and you’ve got these police running around, mostly, but they’re not enabling, right? It’s like they are more like the police and it’s just compliance to do this. And so call recording has never gotten to the place where it may be and Vikas, got to where it was in sales, where you guys used call recordings as really an enablement thing. Not really like compliance, but like, “Hey, what could I have done better or said better?” See power of companies thinking about taking it from a disabler to an enabler from an actual than coaching perspective. Are they, walk us through kind of that step by step process or guide us on that. Because I think some people are, I don’t think they’re there.

Steve Richard: (08:36)
Yeah. I mean, actually I was just talking to one of our bigger customers or logos on our website. They’re going through this process where first and foremost, there’s the mindset shift and cultural shift in the agent or in the rep because it’s hard for them to go, “Wait a minute, you’re not doing this just to take paycheck away from me? You’re not going to tell me that my variable comp has been docked because I said something wrong? You’re actually trying to help me get better. I don’t believe it.” So let’s start with the whole, like get them to believe and feel comfortable. You’re in the safe place, it’s okay to fail. You have to have a definition of good. You have to have calls, score cards that are aligned with the ideal state for a particular call type or a particular chat session type, SMS, whatever it might be that they’re trying to do. And that’s where a lot of people get hung up is there are many varying definitions of good. So we’ve got to get the leadership team first and foremost has to be aligned and rowing the boat in the same direction because if they don’t do that, we’re in trouble. And then the idea of, and I don’t want to just like paint QA as a film because they’re not. And I talked to a lot of QA people and a lot of them are saying, “I want to get more involved in doing things like surfacing,” great examples for the team to learn from. But I don’t think they felt empowered to do that stuff until now. And just like you said a minute ago, the pandemic accelerates all trends.

Gabe Larsen: (09:57)
Vikas, I mean, how have you seen this play out? I mean, do you feel like some people are actually getting to that enablement standpoint and if so, what does it look like? Anything you’d add on the use of call recording?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:05)
I do. I think what’s really changed the game is frankly, the technology has improved greatly, right? It used to be in the QA environment, which was the priority with call recordings. People had to do a random selection because you can’t go and listen to 10,000 recordings and like, “Okay, I’m going to listen to one out of every X number of calls and then I’m going to do a scorecard, et cetera.” What’s changed the game is the ability to take voice, convert it into text, create these big data environments. Now, the companies that are getting it are seeing the richness of this data, right? Because to me it’s one thing to have a, you know, an agent go in and hit a dropdown and say, “Who was the reason for this call?” Here’s the disposition. Customer was upset because product was broken or product didn’t arrive on time. Now you’ve got a big data environment that can actually be looked at to say, “Wait a minute, we analyzed this call. It wasn’t that the product didn’t arrive on time. It was actually,” to Steve’s point, “the product wasn’t configured to my satisfaction. And yeah, it didn’t arrive on time as well,” right? So I think there’s a lot that now companies are able to do. The technology’s improved where they can take thousands, millions of calls, do their analysis on it and actually make business decisions. And those business decisions aren’t limited to the enablement of the agent. It’s changing policy. Change in product. Change in marketing offers. That richness of data is something that is now available to the business at large.

Steve Richard: (11:39)
Product market fit. You know? Absolutely. The, so it’s the surfacing of the moments that matter. The metaphor is so obvious. There’s, prior to this, prior to the AI revolution, it’s a big, huge pile of call recordings. It’s like a needle in a haystack and now we’ve got a magnet [inaudible] to get them out.

Gabe Larsen: (11:56)
So Steve, what are you finding the, Vikas gave a couple of examples, but what are you finding when people, the way people are using data, are they looking for key words and then coaching people on keywords? Are they doing more like Vikas said? Like actually recategorizing or classifying calls based on some of this data or how are they using this intelligence to actually change?

Steve Richard: (12:17)
You’re going to get data from two places. You’re going to get human-generated data from things like stages, dispositions, types, all those kinds of things that an agent might enter in on their system of record. And then you’re going to get data from the, what’s the content of the call itself. And that’s going to be things like talk versus listen ratios. That’s going to be things like, of course, inflection or a sentiment that people have messed with. And then certainly the transcript. And there are a lot of other things as well so some of the data is going to come in human generated, some is going to come in system generated. And then it just becomes a question of like, well, what does that mean? And I’ll give you a real example.

Steve Richard: (12:58)
One of our clients that we work with, they initially were, they had a hypothesis that said basically longer average call duration is better for their world for a service. Now that’s typically against the grain of what you think, but from what they’re doing, it makes sense because ultimately they can create a lot more customer value and sell a much bigger machine. So they thought that, but then when they actually went and looked into the data, it turns out that wasn’t the case at all. It actually turns out there was like a Goldilocks zone. There was a sweet spot. So now instead of saying, “Make them as long as possible and get as much as you can, get as much as you can, as fast as you can, and we want to keep you four to six minutes for this particular call type.” That’s a good insight. That’s something that we can actually drive towards. That’s a four minute mile that we can hit.

Gabe Larsen: (13:39)
Interesting. Have you found other, I don’t mean to be on the spot, but now I’m interested in the other neat insight, you gave just a client example, but other things in the data you found maybe across your general audience or across customer basis that are data driven best practices? So for example, you just talked about like call time, that being one. Words that flag that you say, “Man, when people say this, it does decrease satisfaction.” Any other kind of data-driven insights you’ve found as you guys have played with some of your own data?

Steve Richard: (14:10)
One of the things that’s funny is swearing. People always associate swearing as purely being a negative. A lot of people just like to swear, a lot of people actually swear and that’s a sign of rapport. So if someone’s swearing, it actually is a good thing. So that’s one of those ones that generates a lot of false positives that people are surprised by. Another one is of course the talk to listen ratio. Now, if we’re in a sales context, we’ve all been taught that we should listen more than talk, but that’s actually not the case. So that old lady Tony rule is not true. It’s really, it floats right between about 40%, talking to 60% talking because there has to be a dialogue and a back and forth that happens. That’s another thing.

Gabe Larsen: (14:50)
Are you telling me that statement that my old mentor, that you have two ears and one mouth and you need to use it and that that’s not true?

Steve Richard: (14:58)
No, it’s true. However, when you actually look at the percentages, when you look at calls where someone talks 20% of the time and listens 80% of the time, you know what you call that? Larry King, Oprah. That’s, it’s an interview. And even then the people who have studied them, the great interviewers are even talking 25, 30% of the time because they have a preface for their question and they’re reacting and they’re confirming and they’re clarifying. So a lot of these kind of axioms that we’ve held will be like gospel [inaudible] or not. They’re not at all. And the data’s starting to tell us that. That’s fascinating. And then one more quick story in that and in terms of a transcript data. One of our customers is, competes against Amazon. And it seems like everybody competes against Amazon. And one of the things that they offer as kind of a neutralizing them is something called shipping saver. So what they want to be able to do is anytime there there’s a discussion about freight, they know there needs to be a discussion about shipping saver. So they need to A, measure that and then B, when it’s not happening, we need to help the agents change their behavior because when we bring our shipping saver, we have a better probability and odds of success against Amazon.

Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
Got it. So you actually could flag something like that in the conversation. One more question maybe before we wrap here, you talked a little bit about a formula or having a company come up with a structure or a scorecard in order to assess calls. Is there kind of some best practices on that? Like a typical kind of process people are normally running there or how do they come up with that ideal score card?

Steve Richard: (16:34)
When you look at QA, historically they’re scoring on 30 points or more. I mean it’s, and it takes them a long time to score a call and that’s why they do random sampling. And that’s why they really don’t get through that much. It doesn’t seem to be as efficient as it could be. If we’re going to then empower our agents and supervisors to an extent with their own converse, with their own calls, we’ve got to take that from 30 points down to like ten because the human being won’t do it and think of it like jazz. It’s like, there are certain notes you just have to hit and then from there improvise because a lot of people say, “Well, I don’t want him to be scripted.” We get it. It’s not a script. At the same time, we do agree that these are the seven points that they should hit pretty much for every one of these calls.

Steve Richard: (17:18)
And if not, choose NA. And once you get the leadership team and they go, “Yep, those are the seven,” then you’re good. And then one more thing, phrase it, this is a little trick of the trade. Does the agent blank or does the rep blank? And it’s something I’m borrowing from adult learning and sales enablement, people L and D. Does the rep blank? Because it’s a present tense and it’s something that people know how to fill in the answer and we want to make it so it’s objective, not subjective as much as we possibly can. Don’t make it squishy. Does the agent generate rapport? No. Rapport means different things to different people. For one person it’s weather. For the other person it’s talking about their problem. So make it so it’s as objective as you can or no greater than ten, does their agent blank?

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve been in this place. You’ve been in call centers for a hundred years. What, anything you’d add to this around people kind of messing this up?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:12)
Yeah, no, look. I think there’s, a lot of times I go back to what Steve said. The QA behind the curtains, looking at these giant scorecards. Where I’ve seen people flip it is to say, “Let’s look at what’s working.” So let’s, let’s assume the three of us worked in a thousand person contact center and Steve month over month has the highest NPS. Why don’t we look at the last 10,000 calls that Steve has had? Not a random sampling. Let’s once again, you need a big data environment. Let’s say, and we had a telco customer that did this. And one of the things they found was simple things that they then put into their scorecard and behavior and their enablement, which was simple things like saying thank you at the end of a call that made such a difference, right? It was asking the person up front, “What can I help you with today?” Right? So being able to look at 10,000 of Steve’s calls and come up with the three, five things that this top performer does, right, and then replicate it over a thousand people. I think those are the things where people are flipping it from not scorecards built in a vacuum, but actually what works out on the floor.

Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
I love that.

Steve Richard: (19:34)
They use the data, inform the scorecards, and then the trick becomes, even if it’s one thing you’re trying to change, changing one thing across a thousand people, that’s usually the hardest part.

Gabe Larsen: (19:44)
Yeah. Yeah. The change management comes in. But what I really liked that idea of kind of studying the best. It’s good to see some regulars. We got some regulars back here. Abdula. I haven’t heard from Abdula in a long time. Fatuma. Thanks for joining. It’s always good to see you guys jumping on the show. We need to actually get these guys to do more comments. So thanks for jumping on. All right. Well closing comments, as we think about call recording and how it helps customer support. Steve, let’s start with you and Vikas, we’ll end with you. Steve, what do you think?

Steve Richard: (20:12)
I’m going to, I’m going to shout out Christie, you have to assert control of the call. And I love that. And what it comes down to is if you can leverage, here’s the reality, the best practices are already in your four walls. Almost always. Can we just simply surface the best practices with big data and get people to do it? That’s it? Final thoughts.

Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Love it. Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (20:33)
Yeah, I think that’s it. I think you’re sitting on a goldmine. You may not even know it. You’ll know more about your competitors, about your pricing, about your product, right? I mean the front line are your eyes and ears but they may not even be digesting this as you’re on a five, seven minute call. You may not even be digesting all the richness that the customer’s giving you. So look at the data, analyze the data. And I think that will allow you to make a lot of informed business decisions.

Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
All right you guys. Well, there you have it. Two experts. Call recordings. How that can be used to change or transform your customer service center. Love the tactical and yet practical advice, you guys. So thank you, Steve, for joining us as always Vikas, thanks for jumping on. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:21)
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