Next-Level CX for B2B Companies With Steve Walker and Troy Powell

Next-Level CX for B2B Companies With Steve Walker and Troy Powell TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steve Walker and Troy Powell from Walker to uncover the secrets of their newest research report focused on the differences between B2C and B2C customer experience. Learn how Steve and Troy are helping CX leaders make steady progress to achieve the next level of CX excellence for their companies by listening to the podcast below.

Humanizing the Customer Experience

Living in a digital world, almost anything can be found online. With the masses flocking to online business, especially in times of COVID-19, those involved with customer service and business-to-business companies have had to completely rethink the customer experience. All too often, companies find themselves having to solve more complicated issues in B2B communications, sometimes forgetting the human at the other end of the interaction. Steve Walker, CEO of Walker, believes that it is imperative for excellent customer service reps to remember the human on the other end of the line. He says:

We don’t think that we’re still dealing with human beings and human beings have these kind of very humanistic needs, but sometimes in B2B we make it too complicated. Also, you’re just dealing with way more people and more complicated solutions. But it really is. It’s about making it personal. It’s about, how would I like to be treated and what problem are we solving for the people that we’re working with?

Adding that humanizing element to every CX interaction has proven to be very effective in customer engagement and satisfaction. Showing a shred of empathy goes a long way when it comes to CX and brands would be wise to self reflect and find ways in which they can show more empathy in customer correspondence, further allowing the human side to peek through.

How to Unite as a Brand

Customer service is essential to lasting brand success. VP of Strategy and Analytics at Walker, Troy Powell, knows that one of the most effective things a company can do to provide the best CX is to unite every department and to become more customer-centric across the board. When building a team of reps and vying for executive approval for CX changes, it is important to find those who strive to provide the highest quality customer support. This team can be assembled from any department. As long as all departments are on the same page about the brand’s core CX methodologies, the brand can find major success in a customer-centric model. To further explain this, Troy emphasizes, “So trying to build out this ally network and form some kind of a team, even if it’s slightly informal, is pretty critically important. And then as quickly as possible getting some kind of a win.” Having that initial win can help grab the attention of those at the top of the company. Something as simple as a survey making its rounds can shine some light on the progress and initiatives of the CX team.

Tips for Transforming a Customer-Centric Business

Creating a successful customer service team from the ground up can be extremely taxing and difficult to map out, especially for those newer to the process. Steven urges those who are searching to build a thriving team to start with the basics. He mentions some key takeaways, which are to talk to those who deal with customers daily to get a more well-rounded persona. Additionally, take a qualitative approach, speaking in a way in which executives will be more keen to listen to. Vernacular such as “revenue and margin and market share” are sure to catch their attention. Furthermore, find your first win and build upon it. Lastly, talk to people who know how to help and talk to those who fill similar shoes and can offer seasoned advice. As Steve mentions, “The ultimate outcome of being customer focused is to have a sustainable business. So, if you have a sustainable business, then you probably already have some things that you do really, really well.”

Creating a high-level customer experience and aligning with a customer-centric company culture will surely bring a more sustainable and successful business.

To learn more about the secrets to leveling up with extraordinary CX, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Listen to “Troy Powell and Steve Walker | The Maturity Model” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Next-Level CX for B2B Companies | Steve Walker and Troy Powell

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. Today, we’re going to be talking about next-level CX for B2B companies. The why. The what. The when and the how. And to do that we brought on two special guests, Dr. Troy Powell, currently the VP of Strategy and Analytics at Walker. And then you’ve got Steve Walker, currently CEO. Steve, Troy, thanks for joining. How are you?

Steve Walker: (00:33)
Doing good, Gabe. Thanks for having us on the podcast.

Gabe Larsen: (00:38)
Well it’s fun. We’ve got a fun research report that we’re going to dive into that I think will be really insightful for the guests. Appreciate you sharing with us some of these findings, but before we do that, can you tell us a little bit about Walker, some of the things you guys do over there? The podcast you guys do, give us a little more about your story.

Steve Walker: (00:57)
Yeah, I can kick it off and then let Troy jump in here. But, we are an 81 year-old family business. My grandmother did door-to-door surveys starting in 1939 and she was an entrepreneur and saw a business opportunity and actually didn’t go to college or anything. She just was trying to make a buck. And that was kind of the birth of market research. It’s about the same time Gallup was starting to do political polling and Nielsen was tracking the movement of stuff, but my grandmother was an entrepreneur. And so we grew up as a market research agency. Early on, we were into the customer satisfaction movement, Malcolm Baldrige, all of those factors that have moved us more and more towards a customer experience economy. And we bet a couple things early on, on the internet so we were pretty fast in technology. And then we really honed in on our focus on customer experience just in the last three or four years with our partnership with Qualtrics and their whole ecosystem around using insights to drive business success.

Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
Yes, yes. Kudos on that. I’m actually in Salt Lake City at the moment. So just a bones throw from the Qualtrics headquarters. What a great story and I know you guys have a strong partnership there. I actually also worked at Gallup. We have some common things in our lineage there. I spent some years at Gallup in those early companies, trying to kind of figure out how to survey real pioneers in the industry. Troy, anything you want to add to that? That’s a pretty good overview.

Troy Powell: (02:34)
Yeah, no. That’s great. Steve definitely has the background on this company to share.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
You’ve been saying third generation, is that what you said? Third generation, is that right now?

Steve Walker: (02:45)
Yeah, and I’m in the fourth quarter of my career too. So we actually have a fourth generation in the business. So, if we’re lucky we might make it another one.

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah, beautiful. Not many family businesses make it that long. Sometimes they find a way to unravel but kudos. Sounds like you guys would beat the odds. One other thing I’d love to get into, love to just kind of humanize you before we get into some of these best practices on CX by asking you maybe something a little more personal. Troy, maybe we can start with you. Outside of work, I mean, we know you’re a, maybe it’s the Duke thing. It is a doctor of Duke. And did you play bask- I heard you were a good basketball player. Is that what I’ve been hearing?

Troy Powell: (03:27)
I played high school. We were state champions in Alaska. I grew up in Alaska, so –

Gabe Larsen: (03:37)
That doesn’t count. That doesn’t count. You have to come up with something,

Troy Powell: (03:39)
But with the other Duke connection, I actually played on a youth team of Trajan Langdon who played at Duke for four years. And now he’s director of operations, I think Houston, anyway some NBA team. But so, yeah, so there’s some connections basketball wise. I do still enjoy watching basketball, not playing much. And then watching my son play basketball. So spend a good amount of time with him. Youth sports, trying to be a good youth sport dad.

Gabe Larsen: (04:06)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, hey man. Welcome to the club. I’ve got a couple boys that I’m trying to get into that as we speak. What did you, what was the doctorate in?

Troy Powell: (04:15)
It was actually in sociology and then it was a very quantitative program and looking to make a little bit more of a practical impact. I transitioned into this world of doing survey research for businesses, right? Customer research in that manner, that’s kind of what got me in at Walker for 15 years ago now.

Gabe Larsen: (04:39)
Oh my good- yeah. 15. Well, congratulations. All right. Steve, over to you. Outside of work, any hobbies, any fun, embarrassing moments you want to share?

Steve Walker: (04:46)
Yeah. Gabe, you know, I would make a great full-time recreater. I have lots of interests and very few of them I’m really proficient at, but I actually like to play golf, but I’m an 18 handicap. I like to fish, but I really don’t know that much about fishing. I just think it’s fun. I love sports. I love to read. I got family, I got friends, I like wine. I like fine dining. So, work just gets in the way of having a good time sometimes for me.

Gabe Larsen: (05:17)
Well, I can appreciate the 18 handicap. That sounds like you and I should go hang out sometime. Well, all right. Let’s jump into the topic at hand. Big picture, maybe Steve, you can talk about this, just set the stage for this report. You guys obviously have a research-based approach. At Walker, you guys do a lot of this stuff. But, why this report? Give us kind of the why and the what of this?

Steve Walker: (05:42)
Yes. Some of it came kind of from our business focus as we emerged in kind of the customer satisfaction, customer loyalty measurement industries from the research perspective. We just found we had a niche with B2B companies and it was because B2B is different and it was complex. And maybe back ten years ago, you’d go to a conference and they’d say that they had stuff for B2B, but then the case studies would be Ritz-Carlton and Southwest Airlines and you know, all these great companies. But they really didn’t understand B2B. And you’re going to allow us, I think, to promote our report, which is really a nice deal. It’s kind of a playbook for a B2B marketer, but in the report we discuss some of the basic differences between B2B and B2C. And just to highlight a couple for you.

Gabe Larsen: (06:38)
Please. Yeah.

Steve Walker: (06:38)
Most B2C is pretty transactional. It’s one person buying it. It tends to be a product or service you consume and you might consume it, but there really isn’t an ongoing relationship. A B2B tends to be an ongoing relationship with both products and services, right? Typically the sales cycle is much longer and it’s more complex. There’s usually multiple people involved in making the decision. And then in the company that’s providing the value, there tends to be multiple people who deliver to the customer. Think about a global partnership between, say a big automaker and an IT supplier. They’re trying to provide service to an organization across hundreds, if not thousands of customers. And then on the opposite side, maybe tens, if not hundreds of people that are delivering the value to those customers. And then just the whole kind of aspect of how you do the metrics. Things like NPS work really good in the consumer space or JD Power, kind of like ratings work good in the consumer space, but they’re not really diagnostic or prescriptive enough for a B2B. So, we’ve always had an interest in B2B. Our partners at Qualtrics did a huge study sort of on the whole state of customer experience today. And so we went with them with Troy’s expertise and say, “Hey, we’d like to dataset and tease out some of the information and kind of compare and contrast B2B and B2C,” and what resulted is a really, I think a compelling case for the B2B marketers to step up their game.

Gabe Larsen: (08:11)
I love that.

Steve Walker: (08:11)
Just real quickly. Like in 2013, you could call an Uber and you could order from Amazon and those technologies that we sort of as consumers expect from a digital experience, B2B still doesn’t have some of that. I mean, if I ordered something for my business that’s coming via truck, I don’t have an Uber app to tell me where that package is right now. And so that, kind of with COVID and all that, this whole acceleration towards the digital economy, it’s really calling the B2B guys to step up the game on a customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (08:47)
Yeah and it’s true. It’s like the, I had one person say the consumerization of the B2B buyer, all of this stuff we do as a consumer, it’s now translated into the B2B world and we kind of expect, we believe it’s not there, I think to your point, but we’re pushing it because it certainly needs to be there. So Troy, maybe you could walk us through, that’s a great foundation. What were some of the findings, as you think about companies trying to take it to the next level, what were some of those findings that allowed companies to kind of separate themselves from the pack?

Troy Powell: (09:27)
Yeah. One of the things we did find is B2B, there’s a slightly different path in how they develop CX maturity, which a lot of this report is very focused on this customer experience as a function within an organization, or it’s a skill within an organization. How do you develop that? How do you flex that muscle better? And so we defined the path was slightly different for B2B companies in that the companies who really made that transition from just starting out to being kind of at a second level of maturity, they really had to go through this activation process within the organization of getting the organization to think about the customer more, to be more customer-centric. And that’s because in a B2B org, everybody’s owning the customer. There’s different functions, there’s different business units, all of these different people are having a role and you kind of need them all on board in order to understand the customer better and deliver an experience. So whereas in B2C, there’s a little bit more centralization and we’re broad brush strokes here. Not every company is the same, but they definitely have that tendency. So that was an interesting finding that, really there is, and we see that a lot. There’s this push up front of, “Well, all right. I can’t do this alone as an individual or a small team that’s trying to get the company to be more customer-centric.” You’ve got to have leaders on board, you’ve got to have a cross-functional team and all these things to really expand it out of just one little starting point.

Gabe Larsen: (11:07)
Yeah, we hear that all the time, but I’d love your quick take on it. I mean, getting the CX leader, B2B, B2C, they often are trying to run it on their team or sometimes siloed and they’re trying to push it up to the executive team. And sometimes it’s falling on deaf ears. Any quick tips or advice for people who are struggling to kind of get that up to, it seems like it should be obvious, I realize that, but sometimes –

Troy Powell: (11:34)
It’s not. And I think we did point out there’s kind of a couple of different ways that CX often starts. And sometimes it is top-down driven. A new leader comes in, a new CEO or somebody on the team and says, “We’re going to do this.” In that case, it’s a little bit easier. It’s still, there’s a lot that needs to be done to really make it effective, but to your point, it often starts in smaller areas. A customer service call center might be a place where they start to do surveys and really think about the customer. And then, all right. Now how do we expand that out? I think it’s very important to early on be identifying who are those people who are kind of allies? And saying, “Hey, there’s people over here in the sales department that are interested in what we’re doing and they’re kind of willing to partner.” So trying to build out this ally network and form some kind of a team, even if it’s slightly informal, is pretty critically important. And then as quickly as possible getting some kind of a win. So saying, “Hey, we’ve got this little survey going somewhere in one part of the business, let’s show how taking that feedback has helped us to be more efficient or to get more revenue,” or something. And then just blasting that message out and getting the attention of leadership. That way is really important.

Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
Yeah. This is mature, yeah. The maturity. Being able to get those, get the executive people behind these transformational programs seems to be a mix, I think, in multiple organizations. So, the maturity model that you guys kind of discovered, that really was the foundation, a lot of the reports. Sounds like there were some other key findings. Do you want to hit on that, Steve? You mind hitting number two on your list? Surprises from the report or things that kind of popped out?

Steve Walker: (13:24)
Well, yeah. The maturity model is, actually we adopted the Qualtrics maturity model just because they’re a 900 pound gorilla in the world, but we actually were on the same track in our own business. But again, with our partnership, we just kind of got in their wake there. But one of the things we found out is that B2B really, truly is behind when you just look at B2B versus B2C, there’s great room for all organizations to enhance their customer focus. But in particular, the B2B folks tend to be behind, I’m searching for the number right now. Is it like –

Troy Powell: (14:07)
Yeah, I think around 60 or so. Over 60% of B2B companies are just at that lowest level of maturity still.

Gabe Larsen: (14:15)
Wow.

Steve Walker: (14:15)
Yeah. And I think like 80% are at the bottom too. So there’s a lot of work to do in that respect. Again, like I think there’s even a significant number, like more than half the firms in the entire study said they’re just at the first stage. So, we really are talking about there’s a lot of room for growth. One of the things I like to say is it’s a great time to be a CX pro.

Gabe Larsen: (14:44)
[Inaudible]

Troy Powell: (14:50)
Yeah. Well, there’s so much more to focus, I think a lot of the reason why it’s low is because there are so many more companies getting into it. Maybe five years ago, maturity was probably higher for those who were doing it. And now we’re just seeing a lot of companies recognizing the importance of that CX, customer experience, focus. And so a lot of them are starting out trying to figure out, “Okay, how do we do this? How do we scale this?”

Steve Walker: (15:19)
Yeah. And actually something you said, Gabe, kind of sparked a thought I had, but you kind of said that our B2B expectations are informed of our B2C experiences. It’s so true. And I think that’s one of the problems is in B2B, we sometimes don’t think that we’re still dealing with human beings and human beings have these kinds of very humanistic needs, but sometimes in B2B we make it too complicated. Also, you’re just dealing with way more people and more complicated solutions. But it really is. It’s about making it personal. It’s about, how would I like to be treated and what problem are we solving for the people that we’re working with?

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
Yeah, it does. So I’d like some of those people using the, there’s no B2B, B2C. It’s just being a human or is it a person? And, because he arrived somewhere along the lines we in B2B have missed that a little bit. We started to look at them, not as people, but something a little bit different. One of the things that jumped out to me, you guys, on the report was this over-reliance on frontline employees. Maybe, Troy, could you touch on that? What was the finding there and how are people overcoming that?

Troy Powell: (16:37)
Yeah. And it partially goes back to the CEO, who owns the customer and who owns different parts of the interaction. That can be a complex thing with a lack of great coordination for that within B2B. And so what often happens is because you do have, I feel like there’s more human interaction still within a B2B relationship. Things are more complex. You need salespeople, you need implementation people involved to help scope out these bigger things. We sometimes, as B2B companies, sometimes just let the people figure out what our broken processes are. And be like, “All right, well we’ll just get good account people. We’ll get good customer service people and they’ll figure out how to make the customer happy.” And so there’s not as much time spent on building out processes that are more efficient, more consistent, omnichannel. We just say, “The people will figure that out.” And so you get these account reps who are helping solve issues, track down lost deliveries, all these things besides trying to build more business and relationship. So I think that’s a big issue. And we talked about a couple solutions or obstacles there, one being this human-digital balance that I think you have to strike at a much more intricate balance within B2B and saying, “Yeah, we still need humans involved, but how do we get more digital? And then how do we get better enablement of those humans with the right data and information so that they can more effectively do their jobs and therefore deliver a better, more consistent experience?”

Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Yeah. It still feels like it’s so disparate. And I know you highlighted that term, kind of silo, within the report multiple times. It still feels like we’re doing one thing. It’s not being passed around. We’ve got to find a way to enable, but not over-rely. I think that’s a great takeaway. Steve, as we look to wrap, I’d love to, all of our listeners, we do have oftentimes people saying, “I’m trying to just get going. I’m trying to get started on the journey of the CX transformation.” And I don’t know where they’d fall in the maturity model. That may be something they need to come talk to you guys about. But if for those people who are just starting and really wanting to get that transformation going and moving, what would be having gone through this report, maybe some of your other research studies, et cetera, what would be your advice to those CX leaders wanting to start and really nail the CX transformation?

Steve Walker: (19:21)
Well, I think getting the, downloading the report would be a great start because it really is kind of a seminal piece I think on no matter where you are in the journey. I think the other thing I would say is that any business that’s successful probably has already figured out a little bit of this already. The ultimate outcome of being customer focused is to have a sustainable business. So, if you have a sustainable business, then you probably already have some things that you do really, really well. At the risk of sounding really self-serving, I think way too often, we jump into surveys. And I think that probably if you’re just starting out, it’d probably be best to go talk to some of the other key executives in your company. Talk to those people that interact with customers on a day-to-day basis and take more of a qualitative approach to begin because the business people don’t really talk survey data and they don’t really talk about rating scales. The business people talk about revenue and margin and market share. And I think if you, and I give credit to this a lot to Troy, he can do a better job of articulating this, but as opposed to starting with the X data, kind of talk to the business leaders about what they’re trying to drive, and then bring some insights from your customer base that can help them make those decisions better or with a more complete set of information.

Gabe Larsen: (20:57)
Yeah, I like that. I do. I think that’s a, it’s just a disconnect. I’ve heard it in our dealings. It’s like two different languages. I’m talking CX, you’re talking top line, bottom line and where the two don’t, I mean, they connect, but obviously they’re not the exact same thing. We’ve got, I think that’s a great place to start. Troy, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you guys, maybe even download this report, we can put it in the show notes, but what any quick advice or thoughts on learning more about kind of Walker and some of the cool things you guys are doing?

Troy Powell: (21:28)
Yeah. So if you go to our website, so walkerinfo.com, you’ll be able to download this most recent report, next-level CX for B2B companies. We also have a report out there that gets a little bit to what Steve was talking about. Combining experienced data and operational data, which is really critical, kind of talking about that along with a lot of other content we’ve created in the past. And that’s a great way to connect with us. You can also look Steve or I up. So, Steve Walker or Troy Powell on LinkedIn, connect with us that way and start a conversation. Really, there’s a lot of great resources out there now for CX pros, but sometimes there’s too much. So, sometimes just talking a little bit to somebody can help.

Gabe Larsen: (22:15)
I love it. Alrighty. Troy, Steve, really appreciate you joining. Looking forward to learning a little more about Walker and how we can partner potentially at Kustomer in the future. So, thanks for your time. Thanks for the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Steve Walker: (22:29)
Appreciate it, Gabe. Thanks for having us on.

Exit Voice: (22:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

How to Better Understand Your Customer With Ed Porter

How to Better Understand Your Customer With Ed Porter TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Ed Porter, Chief Revenue Officer at Blue Chip CRO, to discuss the changing customer environment. Learn how Ed has adapted to new consumer needs by listening to the podcast below.

Tips for Relating With The Customer

Having years of experience and quite a diverse background in customer engagement, Ed Porter has developed a deep understanding of his customers. Considering each touch point throughout the customer engagement process, Ed claims that companies will better relate to their customers as they analyze and adapt these touchpoints to the different customers they have. He says, “So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels.” Understanding every aspect of each customer interaction can help companies better serve their audience by better adapting to their wants and needs. Knowing aspects such as who the customers are, what they’re looking for, how they interact with the brand, etc, are all helpful when adjusting products or policies to better fit the customer demographics.

Reactive Vs. Proactive Customer Service

Ed explains the difference between proactive and reactive CX and the benefits of both. One of the first steps in creating a successful CX team is making sure that your agents have the necessary tools, information, and skills needed to produce rewarding results. Next is evaluating how the brand should go about in creating and enforcing their customer service ideals. Ed mentions, “You keep your employees happy, you provide good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers.” Proactive customer support happens when employees are well trained and knowledgeable about a brand’s products and services. The reactive side of customer support comes into play when preventing future problems from happening through customer education. Educating the customer, using focus groups, user testing, etc, can all help to lessen the amount of upset customer interactions, further benefiting the brand name.

Start with the Business Model

Ed understands that it can be difficult for CX leaders in companies that aren’t large corporations to improve their teams as a whole and to implement change. Striving to completely understand the business, setting goals, and creating an action plan for how to accomplish those goals are the keys to creating CX success at a base level. To further evaluate this, Ed explains:

You can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience.

You don’t have to be a large corporation to really nail customer support. Simply aligning the company with its beliefs and making sure that each department is on the same page when it comes to the customer service standard, is sure to bring about customer satisfaction. Ed urges each brand to reflect on what they really want out of each customer interaction and to continue to “evolve and innovate” and adapt with the ever changing customer environment.

To learn more about the secrets to understanding the customer environment, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Ed Porter | Using Technology to Better Your Results” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

How to Better Understand Your Customer | Ed Porter

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 all things customer experience and to do that we brought on a good, my best friend.

Ed Porter: (00:21)
There you go.

Gabe Larsen: (00:21)
My best work friend, one of my better work friends. His name’s Ed Porter. Ed and I go way back. First met at a conference, maybe six years ago. Was it Ed, is that we decided? Five, six years?

Ed Porter: (00:33)
Yeah. Five, six years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
And Ed’s got an interesting background. He’ll probably double click on that in just a second, but played in the call center space, knows customer service, dove into the sales space, really helped engineer and transform an inside sales team. Now starting to do a lot on his own from a consulting standpoint as he plays kind of CRO for different companies and really helps them think about the whole lifetime customer value, kind of start to finish from customers, engaging with you all the way from kind of talking to you post-sales. So with that, Ed, thanks for joining. How are you, man?

Ed Porter: (01:09)
Yeah, thanks. Appreciate it. And glad to see you on the other side of the fence. On the customer support side.

Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
That’s right. That’s right, man. Tell us a little more. Tell us a little bit more about your background, some of the fun things you’ve done.

Ed Porter: (01:19)
Yeah, so I grew up in the outsource contact center space. So for me, it was my first job. I was working part time as a call center rep while I was in college, trying to do that and found myself eight years later at the company risen through the ranks and had multiple sites that I was overseeing and a little over a thousand total employees through a lot of different levels of that management. So that’s really where I grew up in my professional career and learned just an immense amount of information and really what drew my passion to understanding the customer side of things both as a consumer myself, and being able to relate in the roles that I was in, that these are the things to strive for and aligning your customer satisfaction process to your internal QA process and how those two really need to be on par. And then even to a point where there were points in time where I would be irritated at the sales team for how they sold or didn’t sell something and then we had to support it. So that’s really what built the foundation for me and drove my passion in the customer experience side of the fence, and then went from there to software sales. So, that’s where I really got my start in sales working for a startup that was a call recording software for enterprise contact centers. So, got to learn the sales side of the fence while in a field that I was still familiar with. And then of course jumped into inside sales, built an inside sales team from scratch then went to a CRO of an organization where I ran the full customer life cycle from marketing sales to customer success. And then we successfully led that organization to an acquisition, and then I’ve been on my own for the past year, doing really different things for different clients, but all centered around this CRO type of role and more so encompassing that full customer life cycle and ensuring that everything is aligned from marketing to sales, to ongoing customers experience.

Gabe Larsen: (03:29)
I love it. Yeah, that’s a real checkered background, but I appreciate you jumping on and sharing some of the goods with us today. So we’ll be focusing more on the customer side of the house, not on the prospect side of the house. We did record a podcast on the prospect side of the house maybe four years ago, but we’re going to pass on that one for the moment. We’ll focus on the customer. So as you’ve kind of integrated yourself into this post-sales world, or re-integrated, I know you started there and you’re coaching companies on this whole life cycle of the customer, what have been some of the findings and things you’ve found that have been those deal makers that change the way companies see their customer and ultimately interact and see that satisfaction score up and down? Where do you, where do you start?

Ed Porter: (04:12)
Yeah, so I think the big thing, and you kind of teed this up maybe about a month ago on LinkedIn, which I was extremely happy that that’s being talked about was this terminology around customer experience and what does it really mean? What do you call the team of people that handles customer inquiries, support, whatever the case is, what do you call that team? And I think that’s been probably something that’s gotten a lot more in the spotlight over recent years. If you rewind 15 years ago, that really wasn’t a thing. Customer experience at times kind of got related into marketing way back when, and I think that was kind of the big thing for me, which now companies are starting to adopt is what does that really mean? And it means more than just a touch. It’s more than just that single inquiry. It’s what happened before, what happened during, what happens after and knowing that that can tie very closely to what omni-channel is. So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels. So this, there’s a complicated mechanism out there within customer experience. When you think about how your customer interacts with your company and your brand, this could be anything from a radio advertisement to a print ad, to a digital marketing ad, to an ongoing product usage or consuming of clothing or product lines, how they’re receiving packages and what’s inside the packages. So there’s a lot of those touch points now that are starting to be examined and the companies that are doing it right, you can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it, right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience. The first step is alignment. The second step then is putting yourself in those, in the customer’s shoes, because if I’m a founder of a company, I’m the farthest one away from the customer. So how do I really know what the customer wants? I don’t. I got to go to perform these focus groups and perform these surveys, figure out through satisfaction surveys. What do customers really want in a buying experience and how do you align your different service offerings to them? And it’s just a constant re-engineering of things. It’s being able to look at the data within your transactions that are happening between your frontline and your customers. It’s being able to look at speech analytics types of solutions and understanding chat engagements and understanding what does that mean between a phone call interaction with Gabe Larsen or chat interaction with Gabe Larsen and an email interaction? What does all that mean? And are they completely different issues? Are they similar issues? So there’s a lot of examining on a single touch point to figure out what is that customer experience really like for that singular unit of Gabe Larson, as opposed to a mass unit of thousands and thousands of customers?

Gabe Larsen: (07:40)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean I love the idea of looking at that more broadly, bringing in kind of the full touchpoint analysis. And I think people with minds are trying to bring all of this together under one umbrella. I want to go one another place with you. As you think about touch points, that’s just a big conversation in the customer service world around omni-channel, multi-channel. Do customers want to come on the phone, not come on the phone? Where do you stand on this unique or differentiated channel approach and why or why is it not important?

Ed Porter: (08:12)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing, again, from what my previous message was is you gotta be where your customer is. You got things like generational differences. There are some generations that the millennials kind of get thrown under the bus here, but they’re the ones who want to text and do everything online and they want instant gratification. And whether or not you subscribe to that theory, there are plenty of people who want to, who prefer that method. So no longer is customer experience a one size fits all. It’s, unless you’re serving one singular demographic, then maybe you can cater to that more. But other than that, there are people who want to use the phone and talk to a human and don’t want to get lost at a voice automated IVR. There are people that want to chat with you and they want to chat with you at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night or five or 6:00 AM when they’re coming home from work on the night shift. So, if those are the types of customers that you’re catering to, that’s the first one being available in the channel that they want to talk to you, not necessarily just the one you want to deliver. So I think that’s a big one. When you look at how do you deliver service and support to a customer and understand who the customer is? Who are they? Is it somewhere where you’re serving the public or you’re in a B2C world where you kind of gotta be 24/7, or are you in more of a B2B world where your customer is a traditional first shift or maybe second shift? So I think that’s availability. And then the second is the channel and we’re just seeing increases left and right on these non-voice channels. Email was the big hype probably ten, 15 years ago, where you had companies that were coming up with these email management systems. And now you got to go integrate that into chat. You got to look at bots that can really help out that. I kind of look at a bot being a digital alternative to like an IVR, very similar technologies operating in similar fashions to ultimately try and deliver some self-service. So these are channels that really got to be done. And I’m going to take a little bit from some of your past life. And we know that there is a lot of research done by buyers. 54, 56%, whatever the case is before they interact with somebody. That’s an important data point to know, understand on the customer experience side of things too, because not everybody wants self-service, but there are plenty of people who do. And if you don’t have a great FAQ or great online support or research, all that’s going to do is clog up labor from your team having to fill these calls. And again, you may not be delivering the support or the experience that the customer wants. So I think when you look at customer experience and omni-channel, they’re really hand-in-hand because you gotta be available wherever they want to consume you and really not the other way around.

Gabe Larsen: (11:07)
Yeah, it does. I love your first line, which is you got to meet the customer where they are. I usually think that’s, we’re all focusing on the customer. If you haven’t asked, what do they prefer, where they’re at? And you’re assuming that they just want to be on this channel or that channel, you might be up a creek, find yourself –

Ed Porter: (11:24)
Yeah. Oh yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (11:24)
– place. One of the other debates or debate isn’t the right word, but certainly the conversation is, is this movement. I think maybe COVID helped push us that direction, but it’s reactive versus proactive customer service. And you’re finding that a lot more often companies are finding ways to reach out and interact in ways that maybe they haven’t done because this world has been so inbound focused. It’s been so, “Why don’t we just kind of sit on our heels and wait for something and then optimize the experience around that?” But COVID, in some instances or the digital transformation that COVID [inaudilbe] change that, what’s your take on this and how are companies maximizing it?

Ed Porter: (12:05)
Yeah, I think COVID certainly accelerated the transformation and really forced some things. And the biggest thing it forced, I would say globally, is just how do you do work from home? So that’s a very high level. And then you take it down to the customer experience. There’s, you have traditional contact center reps that have been doing work from home forever. I remember back in 2002 at the outsource contact center, I was on a steering committee where we were actually looking at turnover in the contact center and why is it so high? And we had, I started researching work from home. And back then there were contact center companies that were only around virtually. So there was technology back then where businesses were being built virtually. So it existed, but the challenge was getting that, getting that push to how do you do it? And it’s one of those things that’s probably on every executive’s whiteboard, it just never gets prioritized really highly because quite frankly, there’s some other fires to put out, but that’s one of the things is how do you manage people and how do you manage people remotely? And you’ve kind of got to figure that out to make sure your employees are successful before you can expect them to deliver a great customer experience. So I think this shift has forced them to focus on that. Prior to that, digital transformation has been happening. And I think that curve, if we started in the early two thousands, was really slow and long and it’s starting to kind of peek up a little bit. And like I said, COVID really just accelerated that. So I think this again goes into, there was a saying back in my day, which was, “ESAT equals CSAT.” So employee satisfaction, you keep your employees happy, you provide a good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers. Now, whether or not you buy into that, I don’t know. But there’s an interesting correlation there to say, “I want to make sure that my employees are trained properly, are coached properly, to make sure that they have all the latest and greatest information and making sure that that information is not only digested, but also implemented.” So this whole digital transformation, those start with an overall, an overarching communication strategy and how that works. How do you, you’ve got a rep that’s been on the phones or on the chat or on email for two years, but like any product, things change. So how, what’s your ongoing coaching and education process? Like how do you manage that and then take care of your employees? And then quite frankly, they can do that from anywhere. So when you start looking at proactive versus reactive support, the proactive support comes into not only training you on how to do something better, or if it’s a new product or a different process, but it’s also, how do you take that to the customer so that you can prevent a phone call or a chat because ultimately, this has never happened. The customer never calls and says, “Hey, I just wanna tell you guys you’re doing a good job.” So everyone’s always calling or chatting or emailing because there’s a problem. So the reactive side is how do we prevent the problems? And that has to do a lot with customer education. Has to do a lot with product and quality control and things like that. But that’s where those types of departments gotta be intertwined into this whole customer experience. So the reactive side is how do you keep a pulse on the customer? Looking at voice of the customer initiatives, developing projects, developing focus groups, developing interviews, and surveys. There’s a lot of channels to connect with your customers. How you build that and take that feedback is an ongoing process. So even to the form of, at a previous company, we had a customer advisory council that we formed with customers, and it was simply, “Here’s some new features we’re thinking about rolling out. Good or bad? Rip it apart or tell us what we need to do differently.” That wasn’t the only source, but it was a source of us getting customer information. We did surveys, we did focus groups. These are some big things. When you look at customers where you have thousands and hundreds of thousands of customers, how do you do it? Surveys tend to be some of the most effective, but it’s a constant process, not a one-time thing. Figure out your plan for the next year or two. It’s got to happen regularly in order to see what’s happening. What do customers really want? That’s the reactive side or the proactive side. The reactive side is what traditional customer experience centers are; just wait for the call or complaint or the problem and do what you can to solve that problem for the first time. So those are very reactive.

Gabe Larsen: (16:47)
I think the digital, the digital stuff is pushing us one way or another and pushing us into boundaries, obviously that we maybe weren’t prepared for, but we’re getting prepared pretty quickly. So a couple of different topics, but you’re on, you’re in the face of different companies and customer service organizations trying to optimize in these changing times. As we part today, any kind of leave behind or takeaways you’d leave for customer experience leaders trying to navigate and be successful in these challenging times?

Ed Porter: (17:15)
Yeah. I think even outside of where we’re at right now, I think the big thing to, to look at in the customer experience world is, technology is a piece of it and there is so much amazing technology out there, but technology doesn’t solve the problem and technology has to kind of be that enabler. So what I would leave behind to any customer experience executive is to focus on the business first, go figure out what you want to do, how you want to do it and then look at technology to enable that process. Don’t look at technology to create the process. So I think that’s the big one, technology is not going away. And if anything, it’s just, there’s going to be a lot more noise. There’s going to be more startups coming around. There’s going to be better solutions out there that continue to innovate and evolve. And there’s always going to be some really cool things that they do. And I think that’s great, but use that to build a better process first, before you try and look to technology to solve a problem.

Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
I love it. I love it. Well Ed, appreciate you jumping on today. It’s always fun catching up sales, customer service, whatever. Someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little more about what you do, what’s the best way to do it?

Ed Porter: (18:32)
Yes, definitely on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn for a lot of different reasons. So I’m there. Look me up, Ed Porter. There’s not a whole lot of Ed Porters. I think there’s actually maybe a Senator or a Councilman out in California and then there’s a photographer that I know of. So there’s only a few. I’m in Columbus, Ohio, so I’d love to connect with people. And I’d love to just chat more about this. It’s a great topic and something that I’m really passionate about.

Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
Awesome, awesome. Again, appreciate the talk track. Appreciate you jumping on and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Ed Porter: (19:04)
Yeah, definitely. Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (19:11)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Using Data to Personalize the Customer Experience with Steven Maskell

Using Data to Personalize the Customer Experience with Steven Maskell TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Steven Maskell, Vice President of Customer Experience at Zones, to discuss how to create a personalized, data-driven customer experience. Learn how Steven does so by listening to the podcast below.

Creating a Data-Driven Customer Experience

Steven Maskell has successfully led service teams for nearly 30 years. Throughout his time in the CX industry, he has figured out how to integrate data into providing the most excellent customer service possible. He says, “I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.” In discussing tips in which data can be attained, Steven mentions knowing your customer, who they are, what they’re doing, and how they interact with the brand have all proven to be greatly effective when building brand loyalty and curating to the customer persona.

Data can also be used as a helpful tool when advertising to the customer. Customer data shows shopping interests and purchases. Based on this, the company can decide how to advertise to the customer in the most effective way. Rather than advertising the product a customer has already purchased, a brand could advertise a warranty on that product, ideas for how to use that product, etc. Proactively using data to shape the customer experience can ultimately lead to brand loyalty.

Starting Small Makes a Big Impact

The next step to personalizing the customer experience after finding the data is figuring out an infrastructure to store that data and to organize it to be more useful. Steven knows that it can be overwhelming and difficult for companies to change their current methodologies to becoming more data driven. He mentions, “I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there.” The easiest way to implement this change is to start small and to invest into the basic essentials of data storage and framework. Starting small to get the basics structured into a system is highly recommended by Steven to allow for more structural growth as new data is added. Once the company figures out what they really want to gain from each customer interaction, they will be better able to configure their databases to become more data driven for a more personalized experience.

Integration of AI into CX Operations

Artificial intelligence has become somewhat of a controversial topic in the CX realm. Becoming more normalized, AI can be found in a lot of customer service organizations as an implemented aspect of daily customer interaction. On this topic, Steven notes:

You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So… have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it.

AI, while certainly helpful, is not without flaws. At its current state of development, AI is not a perfect system, nor is it a valid replacement for human intelligence. AI can be helpful in guiding customers to finding answers to their simple questions, similarly to questions answered on FAQ pages. However, nothing can replace the genuine human connection between a customer and a CX agent. It’s this connection that ultimately builds a sense of trust between the customer and the brand.

Steven urges CX leaders to take an honest look at themselves and to reevaluate how they amplify their brand and its products. He believes that in doing so, leaders will produce better CX outcomes.

To learn more about the secrets to personalizing the customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “How to Personalize the Customer Experience | Using the Data with Steven Maskell” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Using Data to Personalize the Customer Experience | Steven Maskell

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’re going to be talking about how you can take the customer experience, personalize it, all using data to do that. And got a special guest, Steven Maskell. He’s joining us as the Vice President Customer Experience from Zone. Steven, thanks for joining. How the heck are ya?

Steven Maskell: (00:32)
Absolutely wonderful to be here. Happy days to everyone so it’s a joy to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
We just got Steven before he’s going on vacation so I appreciate him jumping on and doing it quick before he jumps on the week long vacation. Before we jump in Steven, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe your background? Give us that quick overview.

Steven Maskell: (00:53)
Background is that I’ve been in the customer experience space for about 25 to 30 years and have spent a lot of time both on the research side, on the consulting side, and now on the implementation side. So I’ve spent my career both learning what customers want and then helping other organizations better understand how to deliver on that. Then actually being a consultant and helping organizations implement that. And now as the Vice President of Customer Experience, I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Designing, building, implementing and measuring against KPIs.

Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
Yeah, such a fun background. I think it’ll be a fun talk track today. So let’s dive in, big picture as you think about this. Personalization is obviously an important word that people are using a lot more. Data is something that I think people want to use more. AI is a buzz word that people haven’t figured out. How do you start this journey? How do you start to think about using data to personalize? Because I think we all want it, but we don’t know how to do it.

Steven Maskell: (01:54)
Yeah. It’s a great place to actually start this conversation. Here’s the thing about personalization and about customer experiences as a data-driven methodology or practice, you have to, first of all, have the data. You have to know who that person is. You have to be capturing the data. You need to be in a place that they want to give you their data because there’s value in giving it to them, by giving it to you. So, where do you all start with it is what do you know about your customer? Are you able to actually see how they are interacting with you or is it anonymized? Are they sharing with you information that’s important that you can use? We can talk a lot about that in a little bit, but all of us are doing our level best to understand how to really drive a customer experience and make their lives a whole lot easier. And customers are doing their level best to say, “I don’t want you to know too much about me.” So it’s balancing that and making sure that they understand what they’re giving up and what they’re getting, but then you also have to have a robust set of data so that you don’t recommend the completely wrong product service, a path to someone just because you’re trying to put them in a persona that doesn’t make any sense.

Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
But this collision, right? Where do you typically stand? Do you feel like people are more open to give you more data nowadays, or you feel like you’re seeing kind of this tightening up where people are saying, “I don’t even care if you give me value, I don’t want to get the data to you?” What’s the trend you’re kind of seeing there?

Steven Maskell: (03:25)
I see the people have a very high expectation and a short fuse. And so what that means is that they will give you the data or they accept that you’re going to take the data, but by golly, you had better make it worthwhile.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
I love that.

Steven Maskell: (03:42)
If you go on a website, you do something and then you start seeing an advertisement for the item that you were looking for. Yeah, I kind of expect that. But then you show that to me six months later, no. I’ve moved on. You look really, really ridiculous. Or the next step on that will be, let’s say there’s a product that you purchased and really, stop advertising it. Start telling me what a warranty is or how to use it, or really taking it to the next step. You’re using my data, make it worthwhile. Inspire me. I bought something, now give me a recipe to make with this unusual ingredient that I might’ve purchased off of an obscure website. So people have a short fuse and then if you don’t do it right once, they can be bothered with you. You’ve lost credibility pretty quickly.

Gabe Larsen: (04:33)
Isn’t that true? I can’t argue that point. And maybe I’m acting the same way. I just, short view’s a good way to say it. It’s like people don’t, we just don’t tolerate. It’s that effort word? I just don’t deal with high effort anymore. You’ve got one chance and if it was hard, I’ll go to somewhere else. I don’t care if you’re a big brand name like Nike, I’ll go somewhere else to get my shoes. When you look at the different data sources and trying to create a customer experience that does matter, are there certain things you feel like they’re either the basics or they’re the must haves? It’s kind of like, look, if you’re going to start to take advantage of that one opportunity, that short fuse, it’s this or that type of data to really start to build that personalized experience.

Steven Maskell: (05:21)
Yeah. There’s a lot that goes into it and they fall into, I would start with two large buckets. Bucket number one is who is the person? And bucket number two is what are they doing? What’s the intersectionality of those two things? So is this person a procurement person? Are they a legal professional? Where do they sit within their profession? Where do they, who are they overall? We’re not talking about highly granular, but if you have a procurement person they’re looking for X. Generally, they’re looking to get the best deal and the best whatever. If they might be a lawyer, they might have something specific, a highly unique need that they want. So now you have an understanding of who they are a little bit about what their drivers are. The second would be then, what are they actually doing? How are they actually purchasing things? How are they actually interacting with your brand? Are they looking at your advertising? Are they responding to your blog posts? Are they actually making purchases? Are they open to conversations? What are their actual behaviors so that you can start building a good understanding of who they are? So you also want to keep testing your hypothesis. This person is A, and so this is what’s important. Their data suggests that that’s what they’re going down. That then would drive you as a deliverer of consumer or customer experience to follow that path. But the second you start seeing them doing something different, now’s the time that you have to pivot. You have to understand what’s going on. And so the two areas where I would say the best understanding is, is frame it around, who are they? And then what are they doing? And then how are they influencing each other?

Gabe Larsen: (07:01)
Yeah, I think those are great big buckets that you can kind of build around. I think as soon as you start talking about data though, the word technology kind of comes into play and you start to think about, “Okay, that makes sense.” Behavior, who they are. I don’t know how to store that stuff. I don’t know where to store it, or it’s stored in so many disparate systems that I don’t think I can bring it together to make a difference. I don’t necessarily want you to be, sell some technology with this question but, quick thoughts on building that infrastructure to actually do something with it or capture it from a technology standpoint? Because it seems like once you know what data to get then you’re going to say, “Well, how do I get it? Where do I store it?”

Steven Maskell: (07:48)
Let’s just take a deep breath on that one, because there’s so much that happens. There’s some great off the shelf products. There are bespoke products. There’s custom work that people do. The thing that is most intimidating is there’s just so much data. And it comes down to a point of taking a deep breath, in my opinion, and saying, “What do I really want to drive with this? There’s so much that I can and so many interactions.” Well, there’s these silly things like, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You boil it, you can’t boil there. So we all have these things. The exact same thing applies. You know, I wouldn’t say start an Excel spreadsheet, but start somewhere small where you can just get the literal basics structured. There’s great relational databases out there. There are some really good tools out there. As I mentioned, there’s off the shelf sort of relationship management products that are out there. But once you start actually figuring out what it is that you want to learn about, someone build that and feed it and keep it going. Then something will come along where you want to add a new entity or a new attribute, or something that’s a little bit different that’s associated about that person. Grow with them and only them, don’t try and build this behemoth of, “I want to know everything about everyone and everything.” You’re never going to succeed. Rather, just get the basics. Who are my top customers? Why are they my top customers? What do my top customers look like? What do my top customers buy? What do my top customers not buy? That’s enough. That really is enough because now you can start saying, “Okay, these seem to be my large product central services. Now I can look at my other customers that look like my top customers, maybe from two years ago, are these the same things that I should be sending to them? Should I be nurturing them in the exact same way?” Let me tell you something, that’s more than enough.

Gabe Larsen: (09:38)
Yeah. Yeah. I really appreciate the crawl, walk, run strategy. I’ve often referred to it as it does get overwhelming fast and narrow it down to some of those key points and to start to manually capture. I’ve always found if I can build it and get it in an Excel spreadsheet first, or you’d mentioned that, that’s just, I got it. I’ve kind of felt it. I’ve tasted it. I’ve touched it and may only be three data points then it’s like, “Okay, how do we automate this?” And then pretty soon I’m moving on to kind of phase two. I think that’s really important. So you kind of frame that, but I’m curious as people go down this journey, what are some of the other gotchas? We know it intuitively the data, we need it. Personalization, do it. We’re not, a lot of us aren’t doing it very successfully. Is there a couple of gotchas that, and maybe one of them is, it’s that crawl, walk, run, you don’t try to boil the ocean to start with the day. Anything else you’re seeing where people are kind of stumbling on this journey?

Steven Maskell: (10:36)
That’s like a two year podcast to have conversations around that. And I’ll just hold –

Gabe Larsen: (10:43)
Of course you’re going on a vacation tomorrow, so we don’t have to –

Steven Maskell: (10:47)
Yeah. Look, there’s so much that the people botch. I think some of the things are expectations and it’s having very realistic expectations. We hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo around machine learning and AI and all these sorts of things. And it took IBM a really long time to build Watson and Watson still screws up. And what I would say is this, don’t expect that it’s going to solve everything. Really what it’s going to do is it’s going to help you understand a little bit better, a little bit better. That’s what you’re trying to do each and every time. There’s also going to be some gotchas especially in a B2B sort of environment where the user or the person you’re trying to interact with is anonymized. And so you then have to switch your mindset around, “Okay. I was trying to do a one-on-one between me and you, Mary the buyer, or Jane the seller, but now it’s just a buyer. And how do I understand that?” That’s a bit of like, “Oh wow, I can’t succeed.” Actually, you really can. You’ve got to understand that someone’s making a purchase, and you have to switch your mindset. You’ve got to be very flexible in my opinion about how you react to the data and what you have and really what you’re trying to achieve. So the gotchas would be, have very realistic expectations. Please don’t think you’re going to double the company’s revenue because you’ve done AI implementations or some nonsense like that. But please know that you can have a significant impact on it. Two is also making sure that you have a lot of people on board with you on this data amalgamation and centralization and then pushing out of insights and, or next steps is fantastic. Yay. But really what it comes down to is you’ve got to have everybody understanding how to use that. How are you actual sellers? What is your salesforce using this information for? The wisdom for them, you’re going to make more money by knowing more about your customer, which means you have to get more so that I can help you and all that sort of thing, would be some of the other things to really consider in the entire equation. And it is an equation where one plus one plus one, there’s a lot that goes into the chain versus, “Okay, pull a lever and then suddenly something will happen,” but that’s human interaction. And my data also may suggest something, but then I’m having a bad day and I completely throw a fly net on them. So I would just keep the realistic expectations. Know that you’re not always going to get the data and that you also need to make sure that everyone’s, there are a lot of people are on board with the entire process of getting it. And please don’t think that AI is going to be the solution. Please don’t think that machine learning is going to be the solution. We’re a ways off on that. There’s some great stuff that’s being done, but it’s not perfect. And it’s never going to get rid of, never’s a strong word. It’s never going to get rid of people actually understanding someone else.

Gabe Larsen: (13:45)
Yeah. I mean, I’m guilty. I actually was one of those people who was like, “Oh, I’ll just deploy a chat bot and it’ll run itself.” And it didn’t require a full-time person to program and integrate. So I’m smiling you bring up kind of like the AI thing. So I’m guilty on that one. You’ve talked about it a lot. We hit a bunch of different topics on the data front. If you had to kind of simple it down and just mentioned starting on this journey, where or how would you recommend a CX or CX leader start?

Steven Maskell: (14:25)
When would I start? When would I recommend the CX leaders start? I would recommend that a steep CX leader needs to have a good, honest assessment of where they’re at. The function that I had the delight of being in is the result of that assessment. Where there was a goal, there was a big, hairy, audacious goal. And the bottom line is the infrastructure, the platform, the knowledge, it just wasn’t there. And that’s okay. And you know, so the first thing is the CX leader is what’s there, is there a CRM solution in place? Is there a, is there some way that it’s being fed? Is there a mechanism to better understand, are we engaging with customers? Do we have a way of solutioning and being standardized and how we try and solve for things? It’s looking at your landscape and wondering like, “Okay, what do I know about my customers?” And if it’s sitting on the backs of napkins at the end of the long night of drinking, then it’s not going to do a whole lot of good. But if it’s codified and solidified, and if I use the right nomenclature and no matter how many times I say a certain word, everyone understands exactly what that word means, now that we’re heading in the right direction. And so those would be the things that that would happen. I would also argue that you have to understand that a business, the CX leader is in a place to amplify what a business is doing well. So businesses are the results of delivering of services, goods, and products and they do that really well. So please don’t think that customer experience is going to change your product. You have to remember what your product is and you’re there to amplify it. So, I’m not going to change how airlines fly. I am going to make the whole process of engaging with, in this case an airline, as delightful as possible. I’m going to leave the wings and all that to them. And so that would be the other thing as a CX leader is I am responsible for amplifying what my business does and understanding you also have to be able to really, this is one of the hard things, you got to be able to suck it up when someone says you suck. And understand that they’re right.

Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow. Sometimes those are hard words to swallow, but well said. Well Steven, appreciate you taking the time. I know you got fun stuff coming up ahead over the next couple of days. If someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Steven Maskell: (16:56)
Find me on LinkedIn. Steven Maskell. Happy to have a conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, Steven, really appreciate the time. Fun talk track on thinking through how to use data to personalize that customer experience. So thank you again and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (17:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Building a Customer Centric Culture with Annette Pedroza

Building a Customer Centric Culture with Annette Pedroza TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Annette Pedroza to learn about building a customer centric culture. Learn how Annette accomplishes this by listening to the podcast below.

Success Starts with Leadership

Having over 20 years of customer service experience, Annette Pedroza helps companies uncover their CX potential by showing ways in which they can improve their overall customer service techniques as a brand. In doing so, Annette has figured out three of the most impactful methods that make the biggest difference in customer satisfaction. Those three being leadership, assessment, and involvement all help to guide companies to higher NPS scores, better survey results, and long-term customer delight. The first step to having effective, company-wide change is implementing new tactics with those in leadership positions, allowing their example to initiate trickle-down change to other employees. To explain this further, Annette suggests:

I think when employees hear leadership talking about the customer, that’s really important. It’s also when they see leaders modeling customer centric behaviors, when they’ve done something that’s maybe not the most cost effective thing but it’s right by the customer, when they see that, they’re much more likely to follow and be in that same mind frame.

When leaders implement change within their organization and set an example, employees tend to follow suit and positive results are sure to come.

Improving CX Through Company Assessment

Customer engagement should be of the utmost importance when it comes to daily company operations. When Annette is asked to help improve a brand’s CX efforts, she assesses it to create strategies personalized to that brand – tools and tactics that will help enable exemplary customer service. She says:

You’re not going to have one strategy that’s going to fit everyone, but some of the things that I look at specifically are how large is the company that I’m working with? Are their employees open to change? Who are the power players? I think that’s really important, is having a relationship with people within the company who are going to help evangelize the work that you’re doing because other people are following them as well.

One of the biggest keys to profitability is keeping the customers happy. Not only is it important for companies to make money, it is necessary for companies to keep the customer in mind with every part of the company. Aspects such as decision making, marketing, and policies should always keep the customer at the forefront. Using customer data and feedback facilitates necessary change to improve products and services, resulting in happier customers. By assessing internally and adapting as a brand, customers tend to have their needs met resulting in long lasting customer loyalty.

Driving Customer Engagement With Brand Involvement

Annette finds that one of the greatest ways to build a customer centric culture is to become involved with the employees who drive customer success. Setting realistic customer centered goals and holding each other accountable for completion of those goals can also help to build a more customer centric culture. To demonstrate this, Annette tells a story about working with a team of engineers and connecting them with their customers who were using their engineered products. In doing so, they were able to improve product design based on direct customer feedback. Annette says, “Really at the end of the day, the goal was to get everyone thinking in a customer way rather than just doing things the way they always had before.” Aligning a company with its customer centric values and becoming more involved with the internal workings of the brand are crucial to monetary success.

To learn more about the secrets to building a customer centric culture, 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:

Building a Customer Centric Culture | Annette Pedroza

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody to today’s episode. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about building a customer centric culture and to do that, we brought on Annette Pedroza. She’s currently a Customer Experience Expert. Annette, thanks so much for joining. How are you?

Annette Pedroza: (00:29)
Hi, Gabe. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s fun. It’s always fun to talk to people like yourself who have a plethora of experiences. Do you mind taking just a minute and tell us just a little about yourself?

Annette Pedroza: (00:41)
Absolutely. So I’ve been a customer experience professional for 20 years. I’ve been primarily in the tech industry. I’ve been at Fortune 100 companies, medium-sized startups. So I’ve kind of done it all and I’ve led from all aspects of strategy and execution. I think what we’re going to talk about today, which is really what’s near and dear to my heart, is instilling and growing a customer centric culture.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
Yeah, I loved the talk track and as I mentioned, bringing in years of experience will be great for me and for the audience. So let’s dive in there. Let’s start big picture. You mentioned this customer centric culture. What does that, what does that mean to you?

Annette Pedroza: (01:25)
To me, it means that your customer is at the center of what you do and not just in your words, but in your actions. Does every employee understand what their contribution is to the customer experience? You’ve heard many companies say, “We’re customer centric, we’re all about the customer. Customer’s at the center of everything we do.” And I think, so there’s really a difference between listing that in your values and I think believing it with all your heart, right? And then knowing how to mobilize your company toward customer centricity.

Gabe Larsen: (01:58)
I got to say, Annette. Yeah, that has been for me like the, I love the way you just said that. I just feel like we all know it should be on paper, right? And we all know we can all say the right words. So it’s not like it’s something new. When you talk to somebody, it’s not like somebody who’s like, “Hey, it’s not that we don’t want to be customer centric.” It’s just, how do you do that?

Annette Pedroza: (02:23)
That’s exactly the point, I think, because you can’t just dictate and say, “Hey, everyone starting today we’re customer centric,” and then expect people to know what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do that. So that’s where I come in.

Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that definitely will resonate with the audience as, yeah. The devil’s always in the details, right? It’s like, as I’ve listened to some of the feedback of the audience as I mentioned just a minute ago, they recognize the importance of customer service and delighting and pushing customers to be happier, et cetera. But devil’s in the details. So, how do you set that up? I mean, you’ve obviously had some fun experiences in doing this. How do you start to think about building this kind of a customer centered culture?

Annette Pedroza: (03:08)
Well, I have some strategies that I’ll share with you today and give you a couple of case studies. I think that first of all, when I look at this and I think everywhere I’ve been, I’ve used a different strategy just depending on the company. And I think the one thing that’s consistent is you really just need a strong foundation to start. And I have, I actually have three little tips here for you on how you can build that foundation –

Gabe Larsen: (03:37)
Love it.

Annette Pedroza: (03:37)
So the first thing is you need leadership, assessing and involvement. So you’ve heard before, right? The tagline, it has to come from the top. And it’s true, it really does. I think when employees hear leadership talking about the customer, that’s really important. It’s also when they see leaders modeling customer centric behaviors, when they’ve done something that’s maybe not the most cost effective thing, but it’s right by the customer, when they see that, they’re much more likely to follow and be in that same mind frame.

Gabe Larsen: (04:09)
Yeah. I mean, that is definitely, I don’t want to say cliche, but the, it needs to come from the top down. What do you feel like is the reason it often does it? Is there something that’s the standard hurdle that companies are facing by getting kind of that executive mind?

Annette Pedroza: (04:26)
Well, I think part of it is companies are in business to make money and a lot of times that’s their focus and teaching someone that by focusing on the customer experience, you can really affect your bottom line so much more. It can be really uncomfortable to say, “Okay, we’re actually going to make this shift where the customer is going to be first.” I think I’ve had some experience in having to turn a leader around a little bit, not that they weren’t customer focused, but how do you bring them along to understand that customer experience is the most important thing that you can do for your company? And I think as with any working relationship, you have different strategies that you use to work with different people, but it always comes back to data. Like, “Here’s where we are. Here’s where we want to be. Here are the things that we need to do to get there. And here’s what I think the results will be.” So, let me give you an example of that and it’s something more tangible, I think. For example, our net promoter score is 22 and we’ve done some competitive analysis that says our competitor is at 34, right? And we want to be there, right? And we want to be higher than that competitor. So here are the top issues that we’re tracking that our top customers are having, the complaints that they’re having with our processes or product or whatever it is. And what we do is we can do some analysis to say, “If these things go away, if we make these things better, here is the impact to our NPS score.” And what’s really powerful is if you can say, “We’ve assigned a dollar value to this. So we know that a promoter is worth this much money, and if we can get this many more people from the tractors to pass and the tractors to promoters, then this is the impact to the bottom line.” And what leader is not going to listen to that?

Gabe Larsen: (06:21)
Yeah. I think that last piece is the key, right? It’s just, this space has been notoriously non-revenue focused or non-dollar focused than that last piece. If you can tie your NPS to something that is closer to that dollar, I’m just going to use the word dollars and cents, right? I think that’s where you start to really talk in executives language. And we’ve struggled with that in the past, right? I think a lot of people, they end with, “Well, our NPS went up,” and it’s like, “That’s nice. Did the employee survey go up as well?” Because like, surveys are surveys are surveys, and I don’t mean to mock it but I just, oh I think you nailed something there. We’ve got to get a little better on ROI focus. Okay. So you’ve got one is leadership. What was kind of your next one?

Annette Pedroza: (07:16)
Assessing your specific environment. So you’re not going to have one strategy that’s going to fit everyone, but some of the things that I look at specifically are how large is the company that I’m working with? Are their employees open to change? Who are the power players? I think that’s really important is having a relationship with people within the company who are going to help evangelize the work that you’re doing because other people are following them as well. So making sure that you have that power team. And then I think the third one really is just setting realistic goals, right? To be able to execute on your plan, because you don’t want to put this big plan out there and then it flops because you didn’t necessarily have the bandwidth or the resources or you didn’t get leadership buy-in or you didn’t assess well. But I don’t want you to get discouraged when you think about, “Oh, well leaders, I mean, bandwidth or resources, I don’t have that.” And I say, “Yes, you can,” because even if you’re a team of one, you can start small. I’m going to go through some case studies today, and I can tell you about what I’ve done by myself at a big company, and you can start small and go from there.

Gabe Larsen: (08:26)
Yeah. Yeah, so it’s leadership is a big one. Two is getting that kind of current state assessment and three is more around goal planning and how you measure, manage that, et cetera. Did I get those three, right?

Annette Pedroza: (08:41)
Yeah. That’s, those are the three I’d use as my foundation.

Gabe Larsen: (08:43)
Yeah, perfect. So let’s go into, I’d love to see how these are applied. I know you’ve got some stories, well in your 20 plus years I’m sure you have many stories. But I’d love to hear how you’ve kind of been able to take some of these principles and embed them into an organization or again, got to get this customer centered culture. Any thoughts come to mind on that front?

Annette Pedroza: (09:05)
Yeah. Well, let me tell you about a company that I was with. It’s a medium sized company, about 700 employees, highly valued the customer and their experience. It was even their brand statement about how much they value their customer. But if you asked any one employee how they contributed to the customer experience, they would say, “Oh, customer experience, that’s an operation. Support does that. It’s their job.” And clearly the brand and the culture were not aligned. So my task really was, how do I help them see how they connect to the customer, even if they’re not customer facing? So here’s the task or the specifics that caused this. We had a survey coming in, right? And the survey feedback was such that we were getting feedback that says we’re not so easy to work with. And we hadn’t measured effort before this. And so I said, “Okay, we need to start looking at measuring effort and improving the things that are high effort for the customer.” But at the same time, I’m looking around internally and I’m seeing that we’re not exactly making it easy for each other either, right? For our coworkers. And when I grew up professionally, I’ve always treated my coworkers as my internal customers. I would never hand something over partially done and say, “Oh yeah, spreadsheet’s not, it’s not sorted but you can figure it out,” or, “You’ve got this.” I just wouldn’t do that and I was just seeing a lot of that going on. And I thought, “How can we possibly embark on this journey of making it easy for customers when we’re not making it easy for each other?”

Gabe Larsen: (11:00)
Sorry.

Annette Pedroza: (11:03)
So here we are, this is, again, this is a smaller company. I’m able to launch a company-wide program. I’ve got, leadership buy-in on this. I’ve assessed well, I believe. And the idea was, “Hey, everyone has a customer, whether it’s internal or external. What are you going to do to make it easy for your customer?” And we launched this customer-wide or the company-wide program and we had a kickoff, we had parties at our global sites, we built excitement around it. It was fun. We celebrated success, but also there was accountability involved and we tied it back to their goals. So it really allowed employees who weren’t customer facing to understand the idea of having a customer and making that experience better because if you’re making that experience better for your coworkers and they’re in turn making it better for their coworker. And then pretty soon it’s flowing down the line where the customer is seeing that experience as well. So really the learning here was just creating that, those goals and tying them back to the vision or the brand.

Gabe Larsen: (12:08)
Yeah. And why do organizations on this thing, why do you think they, was there something that kind of enabled you to do this easier? It sounds like you kind of walked through your process in a pretty structured manner, as far as leadership and assessing and getting your goals. Is it, was there, if you had to go back, was there one thing that you felt like made the biggest difference?

Annette Pedroza: (12:33)
I think it was my direct leadership who very much trusted me to roll something like this out and I mean, I think probably I was very fortunate that I didn’t have any pushback on this site. And they said, “Okay, here’s the budget you have to work with, go.” And we really, well because the company was so customer centric in terms of their core value, even though not everyone knew how to do it, I think people really were eager to do that. They really were eager to live that value. And I just had to show them how.

Gabe Larsen: (13:13)
Do you feel like, I mean, I think on each of these steps, and I think that the visual or the story definitely helps kind of put those into the right place. I think on each of them there’s challenges that people often run into, but I’m thinking of the goals one for just a minute. Any tips on kind of double clicking on that step in particular in your story? How do you really come up with the right set of goals and then measure them appropriately? Any tips or tricks there?

Annette Pedroza: (13:44)
Yeah, I think in this, that actually is probably the most difficult part is asking leadership to include something customer related for non-customer facing people to make some goal for them. And so what we did in this case, these weren’t really tight goals, but it was just something for them to achieve. And what it was was I asked every person in the company to make a commitment as to what they were going to do differently. And then those were actually documented visible to everyone and that way we could go back and say, “Okay, here was the goal that you set up earlier this year to say you were going to make this one change in finance, or the way that you provided this feedback to another employee. Did you do it? How did it go?” That kind of thing.

Gabe Larsen: (14:37)
Yeah. I think that’s probably as good as you can take it. That is, that step is not just gets a little foggy sometimes. I think of providing a little bit of that clarity definitely helps.

Annette Pedroza: (14:48)
And really at the end of the day, the goal was to get everyone thinking in a customer way rather than just doing things the way they always had before and saying, “Oh, it lives in Operations.”

Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Yeah. Yeah. On that last piece, was there a couple of tactical things? Was it team huddles or little marketing materials? Because I do feel like when you create this customer focus initiative and getting some of the organization excited about it and behind it and talking to them about the leadership point, but were there a couple little things you found helpful? Was it just the email communications, but it was at the rally with the managers rallying the troops that kind of got the employees excited? Anything that kind of helped to get the employees around this new way of thinking?

Annette Pedroza: (15:30)
Yeah. Both of those, I would say. So a couple of different things. One, I have a lot of energy around it, so I was excited and then I had hired a new employee who just one of those magnetic people who everyone wanted to be her friend and loved her. And so she was excited about it and telling people about it. And then we certainly had some communications going out coming up to the event, like, “Here’s what we’re going to be doing,” and getting people excited about it. And then not only that, but we had, so this company had a lot of people who worked out of their homes and we actually created mousepads and pens and we had a logo and all these fun things around making it easy. And even people who were at home, everyone got a box with all their goodies in it. So it just was something to get people engaged and excited and it’s something they would see everyday on their desk.

Gabe Larsen: (16:23)
Yeah. I love that. I think sometimes it’s the cell internal is as big as the work externally sometimes. So I like some of those ideas. Okay. So that was one example where you were able to kind of bring these three principles of leadership and assessing and goals together. Have you seen this at other points of your career or in other instances?

Annette Pedroza: (16:44)
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve done this. I mentioned that I did a whole company-wide rollout of one big program, but you can’t always do that. And good example of doing something a little smaller, starting small would be at a large company. I was working for a Fortune 100 company. Over 10,000 employees, very customer centric CEO, who was really excited about the customer experience, measuring the net promoter score. And we had thousands of customers providing feedback every day, thousands a day. And we had this closed loop call back program where I was routing survey verbatims to process owners to call the customer back, whether it’s to repair the relationship, fix something, but it was something within their organization. So if it was about billing, then that went to the billing group. If the customer complained about the website, we made sure that the website team got ahold of that feedback and then they would call the customer. But I had a lot of feedback that was coming in that was general and there wasn’t really anyone to own those. And so what I did was I contacted some VPs of different organizations and just let them know what I was working on. And I really helped them see the connection between our very customer-centric CEO and how their non-customer facing teams could now have a very direct experience with their customer. And so I was welcomed to present at all hands meetings. And I would go in with all of my excitement and passion around this about what’s happening when we talk to customers and here’s what they have to say and here’s how excited they are that we called them. And here’s what we can learn from them. And before you knew it, I had people raising their hands and wanting to participate. And here now you had employees who were, had no direction. I’m sorry, no direct connection to the customer prior to that. And now they had a chance to actually talk directly to a customer and really live that customer centricity value. And I just did this one team at a time. And before you know it, one VP is talking to another VP and then people are knocking at my door saying, “Hey, we want to participate. How do we get to be part of this?” So really just starting small and just growing your sphere of influence and leveraging that leadership to spread your message. The size doesn’t matter. You can influence the company of any size.

Gabe Larsen: (19:08)
Yeah. I think that small, that’s interesting. Because we, on the last one we were talking and it felt like a pretty big rollout, the previous story. And maybe your second story did end up reaching kind of the same number of people or customers. But I like that idea. Sometimes you don’t realize if you can get, and that’s what principal change management. If you can get one team or one group doing something different and other people see it –

Annette Pedroza: (19:35)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (19:35)
Sometimes that, someone was using the word, sometimes you nail it and you scale it. You get one group to do it and then scale it to the rest of the organization. And sometimes that’s a better way to do it than try to go big or go home. Was there any, again, thinking about kind of tactics or tips on that as you got that small group, it sounds like the other VP, the other people just started to more and more or less naturally hear about it. Did you do anything to help them in that cause or was it pretty just kind of quote unquote viral?

Annette Pedroza: (20:08)
Viral is a good word. Yeah, it did. I mean, definitely it grew organically, but I was on it all the time. There was easily times where I would contact the group and I would maybe get, “We’re not sure. We don’t have time right now.” Because of course that’s really a lot of times with a program like this, that’s what you get, right? We’ve got our day jobs to do. We’ve got so much work and I’m saying, “Hey, I’m asking for one call a month for each of the employees to call one customer a month and so-and-so group is doing it and they’re doing a great job.” And being able to highlight some of the wins that we had and what other groups are doing there becomes a little bit of a competition or we want to be recognized too. So that was, I think a very important tactic at this particular company.

Gabe Larsen: (20:56)
Oh yeah. Those are some good principles, right? You make people start to feel it a little bit and all of a sudden they want to be part of the cool crowd. Makes me remember my high school days of not being part of the cool crowd, but wanting to be part of the cool crowd.

Annette Pedroza: (21:14)
Very cool, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (21:14)
No, I appreciate it. I appreciate it. I like the real kind of visual examples that you shared. We’d love to hear one more. I know our time is a little short –

Annette Pedroza: (21:26)
Okay.

Gabe Larsen: (21:26)
If that’s okay, I’d love to hear one more. They’re just so interesting to hear kind of the real life examples of how you’ve applied this in different situations. Does one more come to your mind?

Annette Pedroza: (21:37)
Yeah. I can have another one. Here’s another one where we really saw a direct impact of the work that we did on our product satisfaction scores. So I was at a large software company and we were running a product survey and we were getting feedback from customers on these specific products. And then we were handing that feedback over to the product teams. And I’d say that the feedback wasn’t exactly received excitedly. I think a lot of companies see this where you have engineers who just put their heart and soul into this product, right? It’s their baby. They created it. And then you give them feedback and maybe it’s not perfectly positive. And then they’re a little bit defensive. It’s like, “Well, of course I’m developing this with the customer in mind. Look at this beautiful thing I created for them, or they’re using it wrong.” One of the ones that I heard. So what we did really, the idea was let’s implement closed loop, right? Let’s do a callback program and route those verbatims, the customer answered the survey. We’ll route those verbatims. And I want to say here that I think a lot of companies will outsource this work, or maybe they’ll say, “Yeah, we have to talk to these customers who are getting us negative feedback,” and they’ll assign it to say, a customer service team who makes all the calls. And instead, we routed these directly to the product teams. By something right to the engineers about their product and that feedback that they had originally been defensive about completely changed, right? Now, they heard directly from the customer’s mouth to their ears. And it was just something so powerful in that interaction that they could have a discussion with someone about, “Wait, what are you trying to do? Oh, how interesting,” right? And so I was hearing from people who were participating, employees, how eye-opening this was for them because they had no idea that they were trying to use the product in this way or that we’ve made something so confusing but seems so natural for the engineer to do it this way. But for the customer, it was so confusing and this was really just eye-opening for them. And suddenly they were on this new mission of product improvement with the customer at the center and our product satisfaction scores within a few months were really, I mean, we saw significant improvement. And I think it really helps to just give them an awareness of the customer as a real person, versus just here’s some, a pile of feedback that I can give you. So I think that information is really powerful and then getting that feedback directly from the customer was even more so.

Gabe Larsen: (24:10)
And so did you, you actually had them jump on the phone at times or make some of the calls or you just gave them the verbatims you were saying?

Annette Pedroza: (24:17)
No, I gave them the verbatims with the idea that they would call the customer or email the customer and make an appointment and talk to them about it.

Gabe Larsen: (24:25)
Wow. Interesting. Yeah, that’s a kicker, right? It’s the product team. I mean, everybody, we all, as the organizations get bigger, the CEO, the product team, the marketing team, they all start to get a little further away from the customer. And just getting the verbatims, I think to that group is actually a good milestone, but how would they actually interface is awesome. Well, did you run into some roadblocks trying to get them to do that? Were they hesitant at first or were they pretty jazzed about it?

Annette Pedroza: (24:57)
Some were, some were hesitant about it. I think first of all, if you’ve never talked to a customer before and now you’re going to talk to someone live, they’re a little bit nervous about that. So the way that I headed some of that off, first of all, I had a very detailed training program for everyone who was going to talk to a customer all about, I mean, down to here’s how the information is going to come to you. Here’s how you’re going to contact the customer to make an appointment. Here’s a template you can use for that. Here are some things we never say. Here’s some ways that we should respond. If the customer says this, you should try this route. We don’t want to get defensive because this is their feedback and they’re entitled to their feedback, it’s their perception. And the other thing that we did too, is we had some really, people who were just great at this and they were willing to, and I was willing to do the same thing is, “Hey, listen to me do a call before you do your first one. You can listen to me, talk to a customer or I can sit with you while you do your first call and coach you along if you need any help.” And so I think that really helped ease people into it. We made sure that the calls happened in the time zone of the person, if we could make that happen where the customer and the developer were in the same time zone. And we also, the other thing we did was we created teams to do the callback. So when possible, it wasn’t just an engineer. Sometimes there was a product manager on there, sometimes someone from support. And I really liked that because what that gave us is that every person brought their own ear, their own perspective, right? And so they all might’ve heard something different and that just made for a better discussion afterward about is there an initiative here that we need to be working on or updating or canceling in that, because of that feedback?

Gabe Larsen: (26:48)
Yeah, wow. I love how you eliminated a lot of the barriers, right? That’s I think the, to get some other people involved, sometimes you gotta make it simple. That process of kind of, time zones and getting them a script or getting them kind of the structure of the conversation. All of that stuff goes a long way because I think about a lot of the product teams I know. You dumped that in their hands and they’re going to be like, “Oh, we can’t do it. It’s scary.” But I think that’s fantastic. You kind of went that far to actually really make it easy for them. And I think you’ve hit on that a couple of times, how do we make it easy for us, not just the customer? Well, Annette, really appreciate the talk track day. We did cover a lot of information. I’d love to hear kind of your summary. As you think about other success service leaders like yourself, trying to build this customer centric organization, trying to get this nailed down, knowing it’s important, but the devil’s in the detail, what advice would you leave for them or summary, a statement as you’ve talked about some different concepts today?

Annette Pedroza: (27:48)
You know, I think the first and foremost you can do it, even if you start small, you know, just start somewhere, you’d be surprised how quickly a positive change like this to an organization can spread. I think that being able to tie some goal, some employee goal to that customer centric vision, I think that’s just becoming more and more important and really just having your data available. If you’re going to talk to a leader about this, make sure that you’ve got defendable information, this really works everywhere. In all different environments. I’ve used it in multiple business models, B2B, B2C. I’ve been in B2B2C. So it works. And you know, I’ve been in product service companies, consumer goods, and like I said, you assess what you have to work with and start with something.

Gabe Larsen: (28:38)
Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a great summary. So, Annette thanks so much for joining. It’s so fun to have someone who has so much experience and can share real, tangible stories about things that have worked and lessons learned from it. So if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these fun stories, what’s the best way to do that?

Annette Pedroza: (28:57)
Oh, sure. You can reach me on LinkedIn. I looked today. I am the only Annette Pedroza that I could find on LinkedIn. So I should be pretty easy to find, be happy to answer any questions or talk to people.

Gabe Larsen: (29:08)
Awesome. Alrighty. Well, hey. Really appreciate you joining Annette, one more time and for the audience have a fantastic day.

Annette Pedroza: (29:15)
Thanks. You as well, Gabe.

Exit Voice: (29:22)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting

Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Greg Segall, Sean MacPherson, and Vikas Bharmbri to exchange views on the personal experience movement. Learn how these leaders relate to their customers on a deeper level by listening to the podcast below.

Take Advantage of Investing in Relationships

CEO of Alyce, Greg Segall, has created a company that drives customer retention and renewal through personal gifting. Personal gifting invests into clients and customers and helps create a sense of empathy between them and the brand. To better understand this, Greg says:

When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward.

To avoid perceived bribery in gift giving, Greg understands that it is important to choose a personal gift and present it at the right time as a token of appreciation, rather than a gift of anticipation for completion. This same concept can be used in CX. Making customers feel appreciated and cared for can help bring about a sense of surprise and delight to most CX situations. Rather than rushing in anticipation of the solution, taking the time to understand the needs of the customer and to genuinely connect with them can host tones of appreciation and gratitude, making it less likely for a disgruntled customer to leave a poor review. By investing in a relationship and going deeper than surface level, companies enable better support, greater solutions, and loyal customers.

Providing a Tailored Approach to CX

Alyce was created as an option for companies to provide more personal gifts to potential prospects. The concept of five to nine was brought about at Alyce as a way to tailor gifts for potential prospects based on their interests outside of their typical nine to five work schedule. Both Greg and Sean have seen a huge shift in the ways of gift giving as a result of curating to the prospect’s hobbies and interests. Sean notes, “Think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal.” Instead of providing a generalized gift or something as commonplace as company swag, prospects are more likely to enjoy something personalized to their interests. CX agents would be wise to apply this method to different aspects of customer interactions, not specifically just to providing gifts, but also to tailoring interactions to the customer’s needs. This further drives and advances customer relationships by providing a more personalized approach to customer service.

Improve Your Brand by Learning From Support Cases

Head of Customer Success at Alyce, Sean MacPherson, elevates CX by learning from experience and listening to his customers. He feels that it is extremely important to build a lasting connection beyond simply just fulfilling support cases. He says, “If you have someone of a user that is submitting ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more.” Sean utilizes his experiences working with customers to improve upon Alyce’s abilities as a company to better provide exceptional service. A prime method to ensure company improvement is proactively adapting to the needs of the user base. To do this, Sean urges brands to take advantage of customer feedback and support cases to improve upon UX and UI, creating a more seamless customer experience and overall brand interaction.

To learn more about the secrets of connecting with customers on a deeper and more personable level, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. Today, we’re going to be talking about this personal experience movement. How personal gifting, delighting customers, supporting retention and renewals, and to do that and brought on a couple special guests, our friends from Alyce. They’ll just take maybe just a second. Greg, Sean, if you can, tell us a little about yourself and also what you guys do over there at Alyce. Greg, let’s start with you.

Greg Segall: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. I’m CEO of Alyce. I’ve been running the company now for a little over four years. We are what we call a “personal experience platform.” So we use personal gifting as a way to build relationships with individuals throughout the entire prospecting world and also the customer world as well. Sean, how about you?

Sean MacPherson: (00:58)
So I’m the head of Customer Success over at Alyce. A little bit about kind of where my functional areas lie is customer success. I also oversee our Service Department, so our support team and also our account management team. A little bit about my five to nine too, because I love to throw that in there and being personal. You will see, I am a skier. I’m also an avid cyclist and you may see my doggo pop-up. She likes to kind of photo bomb all of my Zoom meetings. So she might pop her head up over my shoulder at some point.

Gabe Larsen: (01:27)
We’re seeing with the skis there, man. I’m a Salt Lake City native. So I’m gonna get you one of these times and we’ll race down the hill.

Greg Segall: (01:38)
I forgot my five to nine too. So, guitar for sure. Been playing guitar since I was 12. Major shredder for those that matter. I also have my four year old daughter and I would say that these are not actually my books, even though those are the most fun ones to read so.

Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
I love the books in the background, they’re always, you get to know people. Vikas, I guess you’re up, man. You’ve got to give us the who you are and what you like now.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
Yeah, everybody who listens to this show knows me by now. But yes, I guess nine to five, the well, nine to five, the Head of Sales in CX at Kustomer. Five to nine, I’ve got two girls that are just going to be seven and eleven. That wasn’t planned, next month. And for me, it’s a lot of things, but where I’ll boil it down to as of late it’s swimming and Kenpo Karate. Kind of started that back into last year and well, swimming has been obviously on hold, but thank God for Zoom and been able to catch up on my karate via Zoom.

Gabe Larsen: (02:45)
Well, I think everybody knows me. I’m Gabe. Unfortunately, I have no hobbies right now. All I do is work. Vikas is on me all the time. He knows this, it’s his fault. I got a lot of things that, he’s waiting on me for. So, well, let’s –

Greg Segall: (03:02)
Is that you surfing the background though? Who’s surfing in the background?

Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
Oh yeah. That is. That’s me in Hawaii. I’m a surfer. I’m right here. No, that’s not true, but I do love Hawaii. Kauai is my island of choice –

Vikas Bhambri: (03:15)
Gabe’s got his hands full. From five to nine he’s a dad.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
That’s true. I’ve got four. I took two and I took two more. I don’t know why. All right, let’s dive in. Greg, I want to start with this. I don’t believe in gifting. I think it’s not right. I’m being facetious here, but give us the foundation of why it’s so important. We’ve got a lot of people are like, “It’s too expensive. I can’t do it. What? Like, I know about phone. I know about email. I know about text message. Like, what? Gifting? That sounds stupid.”

Greg Segall: (03:51)
Yeah. I think you have to start, take a little bit of a step back, right? Because I think gifting in general, people have a misconception as to what gifting or direct mail or swag and all these different places are. If you think about it, it’s an investment in a relationship, right? You’re basically taking money and you’re saying, “I want to get to know this person better, or I want to actually offer them something for building that relationship and establishing that.” But the problem in business up to this point has been that everything has been done for me, meaning my crappy water bottles or my chocolate feet to get my foot in the door, cheesy campaigns or whatever it is and they’re not thinking about the other person. So when you’re thinking about it, it has to be something where you’re reframing it and thinking about this is something for somebody else in a consumer world, or if you know any of your family members, you’re always thinking about what’s best for them, not what’s best for me and what’s going to promote my brand that’s there. So when we think about gifting, yeah. When you think about gifting and you shift your mindset and what we call, “personal experience,” you’re thinking about it in terms of, “How can I actually use this as a way to be able to relate to somebody else,” right? To be able to actually invest in that relationship and then learn something about them and to be able to actually drive that relationship as you move forward. So, when you’re thinking about all the digital noise that’s out there now, everyone’s emailing, everybody’s LinkedIn spamming, everybody’s leaving voicemails, or even a lot of people are –

Gabe Larsen: (05:08)
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Hold on, spamming? What are you talking about?

Greg Segall: (05:15)
I don’t know.

Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
We had a few people be like, “Hey,” because when you go live, you go broadcast to the group. But I’ve had a few people be like, “How do I not have you like broadcast to me when you go live?”

Greg Segall: (05:25)
I teed that up for you, Gabe. No worry. That was set up well.

Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
You were saying, you were saying. Go ahead.

Greg Segall: (05:32)
Yeah, so the key thing is that if you’re investing into that relationship, and you’re doing that at the right moments, then you have an ability to actually advance the relationship instead of just using your own agenda, right? And so again, us at Alyce, the way we believe it is that you should not be thinking about it as yourself. It should be something for the other person. That’s why we believe in the power of choice, person gets to choose what they want, right? And it’s not about what you want to send them, it’s about what they, what they’re actually going to take. And then the Alyce model is also when they pick something, like if they pick tinker crate, then I’ll be like, “Oh, well, pick from, Vikas has a seven-year-old or must have some-year-olds. So I’m learning something about, I have an ability to start asking you about what we call, “the five to nine.” Everything that’s in your interests, your hobbies, your family, your pets, all the things that really matter to you. So is it expensive? It’s more expensive, but is it a heck of a lot more impactful? Does it build an emotional resonance which actually drives you deeper into rapport and trust and then loyalty? That’s the big thing that you have to understand. And when you look at that spread out across all the time you’d be spending, in a numbers game, spending them sending a million messages versus really getting honed in on a one-to-one thing, that’s where you can totally change the game on how you’re actually building those relationships.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:39)
Greg. I’m good. Go ahead. Sorry, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (06:40)
No, no. Go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:43)
So, Greg. Look, I think gifting is an interesting strategy, right? And I think that’s one that we’ve employed in B2B through the ages, right? But kind of on, I hate to say on the sly, but it was one of those things where whether it’s presale or post-sale, if you got to know somebody and you have that comfort level, maybe you drop off a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates or something to that effect. Now I will say, I feel like of late in particular, over the last three years, I’ve even had customers that we have very good relationships with push back because of the concern about the impropriety, right? Like, people are going to think I am endorsing you as a vendor because I have this relationship with you. So if you leave me a big bottle of wine on my desk and everybody sees it, it’s like, okay, you awarded the contract for this reason. What are your thoughts there? And just corporate policies and how does that weigh into the entire gifting experience?

Greg Segall: (07:49)
Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the root questions that always comes up. And the key thing there is when you get into that moment where it’s tit for tat, right? Or there’s pre quid pro quo, right? Which I usually screw that up so I actually said it pretty well at the time. But when you’re thinking about in terms of, Sean always knows that because I always say that to the company and I screw it up 99% of the time. So you guys have just witnessed a miracle. But, if you think about it in terms of that quid pro quo, of course, if you’re dropping off a bottle of wine or you doing something for that person and it’s connected to the action that you’re actually trying to get them to take, then of course it’s bribery, right? But when you’re starting to think about the relationship you’re building with that, and you’re giving them the power to choose, and you’re not tying it to the action, then it’s about investing in the relationship. And again, if you think about it in terms of an investment to learn about the person, it’s a different mindset than if you’re saying, “Oh, this is me because I’m trying to actually buy you off and I’m trying to actually do that.” And there’s a thin line there, but it’s a matter of how you message it. It’s a matter of the moments that you’re actually using gifting to be able to drive that through and again, we were talking about this topic being specifically around customers. When it’s a customer, it’s a much different perception than when you’re like a cold prospect in the beginning where you’re like, basically like, “I’m basically paying you off for a specific event that’s there.” So again, in the way that we think about it at Alyce is it’s not about, “Take this meeting and you get this thing,” like the whole thing where I’m trying to send you like a drone and keep the controller type of thing where it’s like, I’m literally like attaching the event to that. So from my perspective, it’s very much about how you position it and it’s also about how you invest in that relationship and it’s also about how you use that as a way to actually advance the relationship at the right time too.

Gabe Larsen: (09:33)
Yeah. Do you feel like Sean, in COVID-related times, can you even do physical gifts? I mean, is that basically– wow, a lot of people aren’t in offices, I wanted to send them something they’re not there. They might be nervous that that gift is dirty. You know, I there’s just a lot going on. Is that a problem? And if so, how do you guys get around that?

Sean MacPherson: (09:59)
Yeah, it’s a really good question. And it’s actually very similar to what we see in the event space too. Basically you had to take direct mail and make it a little bit more digital. So how you do the digital transformation of gifting and direct mail. I’ll selfishly say with Alyce it’s much easier, but I’m going to be very generic here. What we have seen with, we work with a lot of our customers, is how do you still put those customer experience moments and embed them still into a flow, make them feel a little bit more natural, whether this is just via email or via LinkedIn message? You’re still going to use those similar tactics in those surprise and delight moments with the gift, but you’re just making it digital instead. Now, to answer your question a little bit more like, has there been struggle? Oh yeah. There’s definitely struggle when you’re with smaller businesses, for example. If you’re trying to do something very more specific, so you do have to get a little bit more creative with that. And how do you partner better with some of the merchants to actually deliver it? And how do you help some of these small businesses and work together with those, if you are the software provider, for example?

Gabe Larsen: (11:05)
Got it. So you do, you’ve kind of digitized it basically. So you’re not necessarily, and the key to that is, and you refer to this, Greg, is basically allowing somebody to opt in so that they can basically say, “Send it to this address, that address,” wherever they may be comfortable rather than sending it cold to an office that they’re probably not at. Did I get that correct?

Greg Segall: (11:26)
A hundred percent. The flow, there’s two flows, right? One is you need to actually get their home address first or second is you send them something digitally and let them go through the flow after they opt into the process. To me, when you’re talking about personal experience, you’re trying to be as respectful as possible. So we have this three R’s right. The relatable is your nine to five, make sure that you’re actually connecting it to the, sorry. The relevancy. The relevancy of who this is. The relatability is the five to nine, right? Who are they as a person outside of work and then being respectful across every channel that you reach out to them. That’s how you get to a moment with them. And to me, when you’re asking for an address upfront and being like, “Hey, I’ve got something I want to send to you,” that’s there unless you have a really tight relationship with the person like, that just seems super creepy. And that’s the antithesis of being personal, right? It’s actually going towards the opposite side of it, versus where we’re saying is, send them something, show them what, let them go through the experience if they want to opt in, great. And then put in the address and then send that thing off to that person as you go through the process. It’s just much more of a personal, they’re investing into the process and the experience itself.

Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
Yeah. So Vikas, I wanted to throw this one to you and maybe you guys can jump on it. I mean, Sean, you’re in customer success. Vikas, you’ve got customer success and customer support. Is there relevancy, gifting in both of those worlds, one of those worlds? Have you, what’s your quick thoughts on this, Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:52)
My thought process is, there are many moments in that relationship, as Greg was pointing it out, where I think it’s appropriate, not in advance of, but in appreciation of where you’re thanking your customer, you’re celebrating something with them. So, whether it be thanking them for perhaps a reference or a case study or a video, I’m obviously talking about B2B software world, but those types of things where people, people take time out, right, to do some of these things, right? To speak to an analyst on your behalf, et cetera. And then it’s those celebrations, right? Maybe it’s a Go Live. Maybe they had a big launch. Maybe it’s a promotion of a team member. All of those types of things. As I think about the customer journey and where would it be appropriate to celebrate those moments as Greg referred to them? I think those are some of the ones that come immediately to mind.

Gabe Larsen: (13:56)
Yeah. What would you guys add to that, Greg or Sean?

Sean MacPherson: (13:59)
Yeah, I was going to say it’s all about being proactive here and thinking about what I like to call again, that surprise and delight experience. So there are a lot of companies that you can implement this very fast and wrong and one of the key mistakes that we always see here at Alyce is tying it a bit too close to these commercial events. So, like we were bringing up earlier is the quid pro quo. And I said it right, right there, it’s Greg will nod his head. So that’s one of the big things. So making it too generic. Think swag for swag’s sake or the same gift for everyone or the same handwritten note that’s triggered for everyone. This is definitely personalized, but it’s not personal. And that’s what we always challenge our customers and our prospects to think about here at Alyce. And just to add a couple of more examples that we do too is like, brand new customer brand new stakeholder. And whether it’s prior to the kickoff meeting or after, at Alyce we’re always breaking the ice with the five to nine. You saw us do that in the beginning of this meeting. And it’s learning a little bit about your customer. One of those examples in practice is one of our CSMs actually learned a bit about one of our customers that was an avid Duke basketball fan. Right after that meeting, we’re starting to nurture that relationship a little bit more on that interest. So that’s an easy way to start learning a little bit more and being proactive with your relationships there. Same thing with the business outcome, milestones, engagement with end users can be light there and also building more champions and exec sponsors.

Gabe Larsen: (15:30)
Yeah. Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:32)
Is there a dollar value threshold? I mean, can I go and do something for $5,000? Is there a dollar value that you cap at or what are some of the interesting gifts that maybe outside of the normal swag that people think about that people have purchased through the platform or selected through the platform?

Greg Segall: (15:56)
There’s a million. We have 36,000 that we’ve curated in our catalog and go to like the Duke basketball example, that Sean was just talking about. We ended up getting Duke basketball tickets for the new stakeholder and surprising her and it was an awesome relationship building thing. And what you’re trying to do when you are getting, you’re building a new relationship, and this is what personal experiences and just to like take a step back like, customer experience, what everybody always talks about is a very many to many concept. Same thing with ABM, right? It’s very much like all the folks on the vendor side, all the folks on the customer side and then how do you actually connect those people together? And everyone always thinks about it as like a unit to a unit. Personal experience is taking those individual people and saying each one of them, whether it be a CS, a rep and the specific administrator of the product or the end users or the influencers or whoever it might be, like, those are three separate relationships and you’re starting from a, “I need to build rapport. I need to build trust. And then I build into the loyalty stage there.” And that’s done by actually being relevant, making sure you’re actually delivering value to the person, but also like learning who they are as a person. The intangibles of the emotional resonance with that person is just totally different. So when you’re actually investing in that from a monetary perspective and doing it in terms of like what their, knowing that person to be able to relate to them, then that’s a huge thing. And again, we have a kind of unfair advantage at Alyce because it’s the exchange process that helps us learn more about the person. I saw a LinkedIn question come in just a couple seconds ago. And it’s like, how do you make it personal if you don’t know that relationship, or don’t have a deep relationship there? Well, you can send something that’s more generic, that still is unique to like work from home and it can relate to the work from homeness of this, but they can exchange for something else. If they exchange for BarkBox, then you know they have a dog, right? So like you can actually take the investment and then learn who that person is. That’s the entire background of the five to nine and what we try and drive with here at Alyce. You can start more generic and then they tell you how to get more detailed with that. Even if they exchange for like a Nike gift card, now you just know that I like Nike and I’m like, “Oh, I was in Beaverton, Oregon. And I went to their headquarters or whatever it might be.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:59)
Makes sense. I’ve seen a big move of late where a lot of people are asking when we even do have the discussion around gift is, “Can you do something for a charity that I support,” right? I think especially a lot of executives, right? I mean, at the end of the day for them, a $50 item is not going to fundamentally change their world. So that’s been a big thing that I’ve seen where even from a marketing strategy standpoint, when people are trying to entice to get that meeting or whatever it is, is people saying, “Look, here’s one of three charities, if you guys can make a donation and that would be great rather than give me a gift.” Is that something that’s available through the platform?

Greg Segall: (18:44)
Yeah. Alyce is, that was actually one of the reasons and the foundational elements of Alyce platform. When I started it four years ago, it was like, I wanted to be able to figure out a way that we can take this trillion dollars or pretty close to that, of all this money that’s being spent building relationships with folks in business and how like 90% of that goes to waste, how we give that back to folks. So we ended up seeing about 11%. We have, every charity’s on the platform right now. We’ve highly curated, about 360 of those charities, the highest rated ones that are out there, but you can also choose to actually donate to any other charity if you want as one of the options that are there too. So we’ll sometimes, especially with like higher level folks, we’ll lead in with donations and Sean can go through more details on like the specifics on this. But we always like to see how many people are donating and right now the percentage has skyrocketed in terms of how many people are actually donating to civil causes right now, LGBTQ causes or Black Lives Matter, or NAACP. Like, there’s a million different things that are happening or things like, “Hey, my mom,” we just had a note I saw come in the other day where it’s like, “My mom had cancer. Thank you so much for allowing me to actually donate back to a cancer society.” So, those are the things that are really, really magical because then you also show that you’re being selfless. And that also shows that it’s not about me. It’s about you. It’s the shirt, right? That’s a little subtle plug there.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:07)
That’s awesome.

Gabe Larsen: (20:08)
That is, that’s super powerful. Guys, before we end, a couple more, we got a couple of things coming in on Facebook, just about other examples or practical ways to use gifting in this kind of post sales world. I’m definitely feeling like you got the relationship, you want to solidify or build the relationship. Are there other kind of use cases or situations that you’d recommend? Is it, again, maybe it’s you’ve done something wrong, customer is angry or something, and it’s an apology thing or celebration, or are there other situations you’d recommend that could spark people’s minds as they think about using gifting in this post-sales world?

Sean MacPherson: (20:45)
Yeah, definitely. I’ll talk a little bit on more of the support side because we haven’t really talked too much about that yet. You’re hitting a couple of those core examples and kind of the two themes that I like to say is reactive to delight. So think about a customer that is going through a bug issue. Maybe it’s taking longer to resolve that bug. Maybe you just don’t want to surprise and delight them, whether it’s after a bug or thank you so much for your patience, service hiccups, outages, you name it, anything where it’s just not a great experience for your customers, it’s perfect to kind of make that a little bit more personal with them. Same thing with being proactive on the support side. So some of the ways that we like to be proactive is think about the number of support cases. If you have someone or a user that is submitting like ten support cases on a week over week basis, that’s probably not because they want to talk to your support team. They may be running into a bunch of hiccups and maybe you just need to kind of surprise and delight them a little bit more before they leave a negative review or something like that. Build that brand with them and build that connection beyond just the support cases. Same thing with introducing to other functions like, that same person submitting all those support cases, maybe a perfect UX tester for your UI tester for you. So getting that introduction that way too, and kind of progressing that stuff and thanking them for that time.

Gabe Larsen: (21:59)
I like those. And then your recommendation is on top of that to try to make it personalized rather than use something that’s quote unquote generic, right? Like the XYZ gift, right? You’d recommend taking the time, learn a little bit about them and see if you can personalize accordingly.

Sean MacPherson: (22:13)
Yeah. And even to help our friends a little bit more at scale that can’t always deliver on the one-to-one is, think about the people you are targeting in the rough persona, make it more than just like a DoorDash gift card, for example. Give them the opportunity to go and select something a little bit more personal about them and if you’re working with like IT admins, for example, they’re much different than a marketing admin, their interests are going to be different. So always keep that in mind. That’s how you can do a little bit of more one to many scale, whether it’s with a solution like ours or just on your own.

Gabe Larsen: (22:45)
Yeah, no. I’m loving the charity idea. Well, guys really appreciate the time today. I wanted to just go through and maybe get a quick kind of summary or recommendations for people who are trying to jump on this journey and kind of get gifting into their post-sales process. Thoughts, recommendations, closing statements? Sean, let’s go to you then Greg and Vikas we’ll have you close. Sean?

Sean MacPherson: (23:03)
Yeah, I was going to say one thing that always comes up with all of our customers is talk to me a little bit about the gifting and the ROI of gifts. And the biggest thing I always like to say is software as a service is a reoccurring revenue business. You by nature building all of those experiences and delighting your customers, that’s not only going to pay out on adoption advocacy, but you’re going to get referrals. You’re going to get all of that. So when you’re thinking about cultivating your business plan for the gifting strategy, keep all those things in mind because at the end of the day this is going to reduce your customer acquisition cost. And that is a big reason to put into your business plan and reasons why to think about gifting long term.

Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
I like that. Great add. Greg, over to you.

Greg Segall: (23:46)
I would say that to sort of piggyback off of that is when you’re thinking about the personal experience, the deeper you have the relationship with somebody, the deeper you get to that loyalty aspect, the more you can screw up and they’re still going to stick with you. So the more you can actually understand and be able to provide value with them and every single company does, we screw up, everyone does, customer screws up, like you’ll know that –

Gabe Larsen: (24:06)
What?

Greg Segall: (24:06)
The deeper that you have that, sorry, I forget it. Yeah. Just like use –

Vikas Bhambri: (24:11)
Cat’s out of the bag.

Greg Segall: (24:13)
Cat’s out, forget it. We’re done. We’re not called Kustomer anymore. But the key thing you have to understand is that you can always deliver value to the person, but there’s going to be moments where you’re not delivering value or you’re delivering negative value. And where it’s going to pick up for that is going to be the relatability and your ability to just be human and be able to be personal. Human is not an emotive term. Being personal is. When you create that emotional resonance and you learn who that person is and you’ve done that with a deep amount of people inside of the organization, your customer organization, you’re gonna get so much further with them. And you’re going to be able to allow them to be more open and transparent with you, and you’ll be able to drive the value with them exponentially further.

Gabe Larsen: (24:49)
I really liked the personalization concept. I think I’ve been guilty at times of kind of being a little bit more generic because it’s easier, but I can see how that just flipping that switch would probably change the game a lot. Vikas, kind of closing thoughts or recommendations?

Vikas Bhambri: (25:02)
Yeah. I think what Greg and Sean have touched upon is it’s not B2B, right? It’s human-to-human. At the end of the day, I think that’s the critical thing to remember that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and this concept of personalization. We often look at it from our lens. Gabe, like you alluded to, what’s easy for us. It’s easy to send something generic. It’s easy to send swag because we’ve got piles of it in a store room and we can direct an intern to just ship it out. But really think about thinking about it from the customer’s perspective and that individual’s perspective and what matters to them and everything from a Duke basketball game ticket, even though I hate the Blue Devils myself, but all the way to charity that they want to go through. And I think that’s a unique thing that will, I think you’ll see probably a higher take-up, from customers when they have that opportunity to self-select. So I think it’s really something exciting, which I think we’ll see more of in the industry.

Greg Segall: (26:05)
One last thing just to take off on that, Vikas’ last thought is there’s a difference between personalization and being personal. I want to make sure that like I hit upon that is personalization is about data that you’re using to drive value to a user or drive somebody through a buyer’s journey. Being personal is about how emotionally you’re connecting to somebody. Big difference in turning to that and how you get to the one-to-oneness is about how you get personal. Personalization is how you use data to get some one-to-many. So there’s a difference in how you start to think about that and we’re trying to drive that concept while we’re not calling it personalization experience, it’s a personal experience, like a big piece there, as you’re thinking about that.

Gabe Larsen: (26:38)
No, I like that and I appreciate you guys. I think the thing for me is it’s just different and when it comes to post-sales yeah, I’m used to talking to people on the phone, I’m used to talking to people via email and some of these other channels, but this idea of gifting, it’s just, it would be different and because it’s different sometimes I think that’s good. So that’s my quick closing thought. So hey, everybody, really appreciate you joining. For the audience, appreciate you taking the time and hope you have a fantastic day.

Greg Segall: (27:10)
Thanks so much.

Sean MacPherson: (27:10)
Thanks everyone.

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

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

The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah

The Power of Connection with Sioban Massiah TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sioban Massiah from Twitter to discuss the Power of Connection and how to retain customer loyalty. Learn how Sioban connects with customers by listening to the podcast below.

Growing Your Connection to Retain Business

Partner Experience Manager at Twitter, Sioban Massiah, has quite the diverse background in customer advocacy and support. Having a deep understanding of customer needs, Sioban has been at the forefront of building lasting connections that retain customer loyalty. Sioban remarks, “You need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationships and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up.” Building connection is more than business alone, it is listening to your customers and providing the best products and services available tailored to their needs. Ultimately, the power of connection simply comes down to how a company resonates with their customers. If the connection is strong from the get-go, a company is more likely to retain those customers and their long-term support.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Having worked at world renowned conference company, TED, Sioban knows that it’s the small but important changes that make a world of a difference to the customer. While recounting her time at TED, she discusses how after each conference, a post-event survey was conducted to the attendees. The purpose of these surveys was to gauge what TED’s listeners wanted to hear in future conferences so they could provide conversations tailored to their listener’s interests. Carrying these customer experiences with her, Sioban understands that creating big changes to modify products and services to the customer’s interests may be difficult for small businesses. To help, she says:

You don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.

Building a connection with customers is vastly important when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and what may seem like small changes can actually make the biggest difference in the long run.

Align Your Company With Your Purpose

Sioban has noticed a pattern in the business market, that is if a business was created simply to profit from their customers, it is clear in their business practice. However, if a company was created to thoughtfully engage with their customers, it is apparent and those with similar alignments will be drawn to that company. She has found that when a company is aligned with their main purpose in all aspects of business, employees tend to stay on longer and customers continue to come back for more. She notes:

No matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it.

Aligning a company with its beliefs has proven to be successful for Sioban during her time at Twitter. In fact, she accredits Twitter’s success within the last three years to its alignment with company beliefs. Sioban hopes companies will understand that opportunity is presented to everyone. It’s what you choose to do with that opportunity that truly makes the difference between failure and success.

To learn more about the secrets to connecting with customers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about the power of connection. I think this is going to be a fun one. We’re going to be talking with Sioban Massiah. She’s currently the Partner Experience Manager at Twitter. Sioban, thanks for joining. How are you?

Sioban Massiah: (00:24)
I’m great. Trying to get used to this new normal that is our lives, but can’t complain about it.

Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
Yeah, we were just talking about that. It’s like it’s happening. So get used to it. Whether you like or not, things are still –

Sioban Massiah: (00:36)
Yeah, I was going to say we definitely didn’t have a choice in this one but –

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
That’s right. That is just the way things have kind of worked out. Well, I’m excited to have you on. You’re obviously at Twitter now, but can you tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background? I think just kind of a fun little background.

Sioban Massiah: (00:50)
Sure. My background is very, very diverse. When people look at my resume, they were like, “What? How did you even get to where you are?” I was one of the, sarcastically, fortunate people to graduate with a marketing degree in the recession in 2008. And we all know marketing was the first thing to go in 2008 when the recession happened. So I kind of just landed in sales because that’s what marketing people did in 2008 with a degree and student loans. I think working in sales was actually one of the best things that could’ve ever happened to me. I learned how much I hated working in sales because I didn’t like pushing things that weren’t something I authentically believed in, but it also brought me into a space that I actually never even thought about, which was conference companies. And that was super helpful because it showed how people thought it gave me a diverse perspective. I learned about so many different industries and was able to take all of that mashup of my skillsets and really be able to think about customers and what they want, what their stuff are, high level. So went from conference companies to one of the best conference companies in the world, Ted Conferences, Ted Talks. I love it.

Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
You know, I’ve met the actual Ted. I’ve met him before. He is just cool.

Sioban Massiah: (02:19)
I was like, “Which Ted?”

Gabe Larsen: (02:23)
I don’t actually know where that name came from but –

Sioban Massiah: (02:24)
I, well, a little tidbit, Ted stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, which –

Gabe Larsen: (02:29)
Oh I did know that. Oh man, I wish we weren’t recording. That is, that’s right.

Sioban Massiah: (02:35)
It’s okay. Somebody who’s listening may not have known. So we’ll just add this to the information that they’re learning on the podcast. So, went there for a little bit, loved it. But wanted to expand a little bit more on my career, move to something where I’m focusing on engaging a different type of community and I landed at Twitter, which I absolutely adore. I think no company is ever going to top Twitter for me. I just, I think Twitter moves with a purpose, so super happy to be here, even though I shifted a little bit more to the partner side, which are still our customers. I love it.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Wow. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you definitely have a background in kind of keeping people happy. So it’ll be fun to dive into the topic and Twitter you’re right, it’s just a cool company and they’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. So I don’t blame you for taking the chance and jumping ship. That sounds fun. Well, let’s turn the topic for a second. Let’s talk about this power of connection. What — start big, what is that? What is the power of connection?

Sioban Massiah: (03:45)
So to me, the power of connection is just how people resonate with their customers. I think connection is obviously more than just business, but I realized that there was a strength in it from the way I went from my different jobs. Other than Ted, every position that I’ve had has been a referral. And I thought that was very, one, I just thought that was very normal until I started actually engaging with people and realizing that referrals and people actually advocating for you strongly wasn’t a common practice. And when I asked people, why would they, why would they champion for me so much? They said that the connection that I have, the authentic connection that I have with people is a skillset that other people didn’t have. Everybody is presented with an opportunity, but it’s how you take that opportunity and keep going with it and how you run with it that really stands you apart from other people. As I started moving within my career, I realized that that was something that also sets you apart as a company, within organizations, not being empathetic and not being culturally concurrent and not actually knowing your customer, was something that was a big hindrance. No matter what you did, no matter how you did it, if you didn’t actually listen to your customer and figure out what they wanted, you weren’t succeeding as a company. My favorite example is when you call into customer service and you can almost anticipate what they’re going to say, “Hello, Sioban. I, yes. I completely empathize with what you’re saying. I can imagine that…” you can repeat it verbatim if you actually speak to somebody. And it’s like, I literally asked customer service people, “Did you listen to anything that I just said? Can you repeat to me anything that I’ve just said, bullet point wise?” And they can’t and it’s like, “Wow. So I just went through this spiel of what happened to me, for you to read off a script.” So I think that no matter how helpful you are, no matter how good at what you do, if you are not actually in tune with your customer and connecting with them on a level that is not service of an exchange of service or product, you’re not going to move forward and you’re not really going to keep these customers.

Gabe Larsen: (06:06)
Why do you think people mess that up? I mean, because what you’re saying, I mean, I’m like, yeah. Yes, we should be doing that. Is it because, we go to scripting because we want to control it? You have a couple bad examples and so you kind of have to tighten down the controls and make sure people are, they’re all saying the same thing. So you don’t go off in a tangent or offend somebody in this kind of world of offending people that we sometimes we find ourselves in. Why do companies not do that? How have they gotten away from that?

Sioban Massiah: (06:37)
So, I have two answers to that, but the short answer are, people are lazy. It’s very clear when things, especially things like what’s going on right now are happening. You see who are businesses and are customer focused and you see people who are in it just to make money. It’s very, very clear. So some people are about profit and some people are about purpose and companies that are about profit in this space are, it’s very clear. And people who are about purpose are the ones that are engaging. So I think that’s the first answer, but of course you, the scripts are needed because you want to make sure communication is consistent across organizations. But I think that the script is the foundation and the training to be connecting and actually empathetic with your customer is what you build off of. You need to hire people who these practices are actually part of who they are in general or just who they want to be and who they see themselves being. So that way, this script is something that they can work with, but they can still connect and empathize with their customers and how they and their company are company-wise.

Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. I love that. I love that. I think they’re, sometimes they’re necessary evil scripts, right? It helps you control, but you got to kind of find that balance. You mentioned the word purpose, and I just wanted to follow up on that. If you can, people are about profits or purpose, how do you do that? How do you get your employees or your brand or your customer service reps, or how do you get aligned around a purpose? I mean, ultimately a company can’t function without profits. And so that has to factor in, I guess –

Sioban Massiah: (08:25)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
You’re right. You can kind of tell when people are just looking to like, make a buck versus, they’re all aligned around kind of a common vision or purpose or mission. I don’t mean to go on a tangent. Any thoughts on that one? How do you kind of get it?

Sioban Massiah: (08:38)
Tangents are my favorite place, so we can definitely go there. I think once you’ve actually established a company and you don’t have a purpose, it’s super hard to align it. Because now you’re switching things up. Yeah. You’re playing catch-up, you’re switching things up. So when I actually speak to people who have small businesses, I’m like, what are you doing this for? Make it clear. If you are starting this company, why? And if you do not know why you’re starting this company and you can’t communicate that to your customers, why should they keep working with you? So I think for small companies, that’s the first thing you need to do is the purpose of why this company is important to you. Some people are out here to just make money and that’s fine, but it’s going to be clear. I think for companies who don’t have that purpose, I think that’s something that they need to actually take some time out and really establish. And once you establish what the purpose is, the people will come to you. So things will fall in line. And it sounds very hippy dippy of me, I apologize. This is like a business podcast, but –

Gabe Larsen: (09:50)
We’re people too, we’re humans first.

Sioban Massiah: (09:53)
Yeah, I think one of my favorite books is the Alchemist, is when you want something, the whole universe conspires to make sure that you get it. And I think that biases to even businesses. So, I just think that creating the purpose will make it clear as a company and company employees leave and go. They come, they go. So when you have a purpose, the companies, the employees who are not aligned, they’re not going to stay. And I think honestly, no matter how good an employee is, if the person is not aligned with who you are as a company and serving that purpose, they’re not going to be a good fit anyway, and there’s going to be somebody who is aligned and is a good fit, and those people are going to be drawn to you. Because once you start putting your purpose out there, you start attracting the people who are aligned with it. So that’s why I think it’s so important to actually have that alignment and make sure that purpose is very clear. Twitter as a company wasn’t purpose driven before. They put a purpose in place in 2017 and talking to another co-founder, one of the co-founders, they say, they think that that’s what’s making Twitter the company it is right now. We obviously, we’ve gotten, Twitter’s in the news pretty much every week and I won’t go into that because I haven’t cleared that with comms yet. I think, I honestly don’t think I would have been at Twitter if it wasn’t, it didn’t drop a purpose, which is very, very clear. It’s to serve the public conversation. So no matter what you think about Twitter, you can’t say that we’re not doing that purpose. And I think conversation again, is one of the keys to connection and that’s why I’m at Twitter right now.

Gabe Larsen: (11:32)
Well, I love that. I mean, I think it’s, I mean, whether you were at Twitter or not, it’s interesting because it certainly felt like it was doing something and now there is, there feels like there’s something different going on. That’s fascinating to hear. Let’s continue down the path on connection just for a minute. So, we talked about kind of getting people aligned to a mission and that being part of connection. And then we talked a little bit about this empathy and having connection with your customers. Wanting to go down that path just a little further. How do you, or how have you found in some of your customer experience interactions that people can continue to build that connection piece? Is it just about empathy? Is there other things that help you kind of get further down that connection bond and strengthen it?

Sioban Massiah: (12:19)
Absolutely. Obviously business first live, we can collect these things. People are sometimes willing to share. So thinking about like, when I was at Ted, when we would make people sign up for conferences, we wouldn’t just allow them to sign up, they actually had to apply for conferences. They had to say why they wanted to attend a Ted Conference. We have that data. So now we are creating, if the conference that we had, was it aligned with something that’s a trend we saw, we took that data and we were like, “Okay, well now let’s start looking into this as content. Let’s start looking into this for our audience. These are people who are willing to pay, and this is not even what we’re presenting yet.” What, imagine how much they’re going to be engaged if we actually present these things. I think when it comes to Twitter, it’s just in general, we literally have what people want on our product. Like, wow. They’re telling us what they want. They’re telling us how, what they’re interested in. Like we literally are and they don’t even know it. I think that there’s always ways in which you are paying attention. So obviously customers, you do post-event surveys. Every conference has a post-event survey. So like being able to do those post-event surveys and quit making the questions that you ask a little bit more thoughtful, those are little things that you can do that are going to change the trajectory of how you work, period. It’s the catalyst to go a little bit further and you don’t have to make extreme changes tomorrow. Like you don’t have to become the alchemist’s book of businesses tomorrow. You can do small things that are just, “Okay, well this works. We have this first step. What’s next? How do we move forward a little bit?” And I think that we’re people of instant gratification right now, and we’ve lost the art of slowly building the connection. And I think that that is where we can start and it’s going to take small changes to make a big difference.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
No, I totally agree. It’s always the baby steps, right?

Sioban Massiah: (14:37)
Progress is a slow process as one of my friends said that to me probably the first week I met him and I’ve always taken that.

Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah. Yeah. And you’re right in the world we live today, it’s kind of like the “now generation,” right? We all want it now and immediately, but ultimately sometimes you got to just take that slow and focus on the small things and it’s customer service and success leaders. I think that’s where you got to go. You’ve got to focus –

Sioban Massiah: (15:00)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (15:00)
On the small things. So as we kind of wrap here and as you summarize, we’ve hit a couple of different things, but –

Sioban Massiah: (15:07)
Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (15:08)
Thinking about the power of connection, what advice would you kind of leave with the audience here?

Sioban Massiah: (15:13)
I think that my main point is to not just look at your business as a way of making money, and obviously that is the goal. That’s probably the sole goal for the most part, but is to really take a look at your customers and realize that the business that you have, if you are even listening to this podcast, is probably because you aren’t somebody that is thriving off of your customers. You’re thriving off of your partners. And you need to make sure that you are keeping them happy and working with them to continue to grow your business. So once you grow your relationship and your connection, your business can’t go anywhere but up for that.

Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Yeah. Yeah. Exciting, I think that’s right. And I think you gotta stick to that kind of higher purpose. It makes a big difference. Thanks so much for joining. It’s a fun talk track. I like this idea of the power of connection. I might have to steal those words for something.

Sioban Massiah: (16:09)
Listen. Whenever you want me to come talk about it, I will be happy to.

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
If somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you do, any recommendations? Are you open to that advice?

Sioban Massiah: (16:17)
Sure, absolutely. They can email me via my Twitter email since I actually use that the most, which is S as in Sam, I O@twitter.com or they can connect with me via Twitter at J, I push the brand no matter where. I am an advocate. Well, they do sign us up. They hope that we use it, but not everybody is an avid user. I have always been an avid user. So, it just worked out. But, you can reach out to me via Twitter at J as in John, U S T C A L L M E Sio. So justcallmesio, which is my nickname at work, and you can DM me there or reach out to me there. And email and Twitter are my fastest ways to contact.

Gabe Larsen: (17:08)
Awesome, well I love it. Well, really appreciate you jumping on. Fun talk track. Quality, the power of connection and openness. And the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sioban Massiah: (17:17)
Yes. Thanks.

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

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Scott Tran from Support Driven to understand creating a sense of community during challenging times. Learn how Scott brings a bit of normalcy to employers and employees alike by listening to the podcast below.

Laying the Foundation for Support Driven

Founder of Support Driven, Scott Tran, has the special ability to connect people through online customer support and community. Having a background in customer service, Scott set out to improve his CX skills and to have better interpersonal relationships. Throughout his career, he has found that his favorite part of CX is helping people through effective problem solving and genuine human interaction. He says, “Probably the best part was just the connecting with real people who were using your product, right? And helping them to actually use it or helping them through the problems that they were having using it.” His background in customer support has helped him lay the foundation for the community of Support Driven.

Using Slack as a Means for Effective Communication

Communication is key when it comes to proactive conversation and this can be seen in all aspects of customer support as well as daily living. Recognizing that aspect, Scott’s company offers Slack as a means of correspondence between those who join Support Driven. Slack allows for people to connect and chat online through instant messaging. Using Slack has provided the opportunity for people to connect to those who work CX in similar industries through sharing tips for success, working from home set ups, et cetera. Scott adds, “The Slack is the heart of the community. It’s where we connect.” Working from home has become part of the new normal and integrating Slack as a channel for communication opens up possibilities for connection and togetherness.

Building a Sense of Community and Connection

Scott’s career has aided in his understanding that authentic communication and interaction are an integral part of daily life that many have been lacking company synergy amongst the pandemic. In an effort to reduce the emotional strain of an upheaved life schedule, Scott founded Support Driven as a mode of connecting people and creating lasting relationships through online community support. Support Driven was created as a way to hire employees, search for jobs, and find people who share similar career paths and interests. Scott has noticed that those who come to Support Driven in search of community often create lasting online friendships. He mentions, “They stay because that’s where they start making friendships and that’s the place where you connect with your friends or maybe somebody who you used to work with.” On top of creating friendships, Support Driven has generated multiple channels of hobbies that people can connect through. Channels such as parenting, working from home, or even sourdough baking have all brought people closer together during these challenging times.

To learn more about bringing an online community together, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

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Full Episode Transcript:

Calling All Community Builders | Scott Tran

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. I’m excited to get going today. Today, we’re going to be talking about a community that’s popping up. How it’s used, what is it? It’s become a great resource for a lot of people out in the market. We want to take a chance to talk about that and some of the things that are actually being talked about in that community. To do that, we brought on the founder of Support Driven, Scott Tran. Scott, how are you doing?

Scott Tran: (00:32)
Doing great. Thank you for having me on your podcast.

Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Yeah, man. We’re excited to talk through this. This actually goes well with the talk track. So maybe we’ll just jump right in. Tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you kind of created the support group and community.

Scott Tran: (00:52)
Yeah. So my background is as a software engineer, I was in a big startup and was also responsible for doing customer support and that’s how the community got started from just learning how to do that better. And it started as a podcast and then about a year after, we started the community in 2014 and it’s been growing ever since.

Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
I love it. I love it. So you kind of just got it. So you were, I’d forgotten that you were actually a technical support guy, is that right? You did the job.

Scott Tran: (01:23)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, in the big startup there’s a lot of hats, including support and yeah, it was just, I knew that I wasn’t very good at it. So I went to find people who could be there professionally and that’s how I got connected to people who do customer support every day. And went to a conference and I met a lot of great people there and that was the start of the podcast. Yeah, and it’s just been a lot of fun and it was that interview from the podcast that kind of gave me the idea to start the community.

Gabe Larsen: (02:00)
Got it. I’d forgotten that [inaudible]. I got to ask, while you were doing support, what was the thing you liked most about it and the thing you liked least about it? I know I’m pushing you back into the past, but what are the things you like and dislike?

Scott Tran: (02:15)
Probably the best part was just the connecting with real people who were using your product, right? And helping them to actually use it or helping them through the problems that they were having using it. I think the worst part was probably, for me the worst part was just knowing that I wasn’t very good at it, right? There’s this moment where you can tell, I guess actually a second sense of taste, right? You can tell if you’re good at something or not and I wasn’t because I would go back and I would read, reread responses I had given to people and was very engineering speak at the time. Was just very technical and not a lot of, just very much about like solving the problem, not about what the bigger picture –

Gabe Larsen: (03:13)
I like that.

Scott Tran: (03:13)
Yeah. And so I knew I had a lot to learn and I did. I mean, I think there’s so many great people in the customer support space that are so helpful and kind of open with sharing their knowledge –

Gabe Larsen: (03:32)
I love that.

Scott Tran: (03:32)
And that was –

Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
That was kind of the beginning of it? That’s fun to hear. So tell us just a little more about the community. I mean, obviously you’ve been doing that for a couple months. If I wanted to know a little bit more about its purpose, where do I find it? What’s kind of going on? Give us kind of that overview.

Scott Tran: (03:51)
Yeah. We have a home online at supportdriven.com. Right at the heart of the team right now is our Slack because we started out in Slack and have continued to grow it. Then you can kind of come and meet people who do support across a bunch of different industries. Because I think, so basically every business requires some level of customer support and, you got SaaS companies, e-commerce, delivery companies, just companies selling physical products across the whole range. And I’ll say probably the thing that draws people to the community tends to be either, finding the other people that they can talk to, who do what they do. And so it’s kinda like, “Well, how do you solve this problem?” The other thing that draws people is looking for either hiring or looking for jobs. We get a lot of people joining who are looking for their first job in customer support.

Gabe Larsen: (04:58)
Got it. And is it more, from an audience perspective for those people who are listening, I mean, anybody kind of customer supporters [inaudible].

Scott Tran: (05:12)
Yeah. The world’s pretty, in terms of like everybody’s wanting to join, right? Because you don’t even have to work in customer support to join. The people in our community tend to be from technology and online companies, because I think those are the people who are seeking out online communities.

Gabe Larsen: (05:39)
Yeah. They’re kind of already there. So they’re kind of looking for that, right?

Scott Tran: (05:44)
Right.

Gabe Larsen: (05:44)
And it’s mainly the Slack. So the Slack is kind of the place where most people are interacting the most often, et cetera.

Scott Tran: (05:51)
Yeah. The Slack is the heart of the community. It’s where we connect, right? It’s where people come in and engage with each other. People can come and ask questions or look for jobs and post jobs. We do have a couple of other places where we get together but the Slack is the center of it.

Gabe Larsen: (06:13)
It’s prominent or center place. And then as you watch that community, and you and I were talking about this a little bit before, but certainly things changed in the last weeks, months, whatever, wherever you were, wherever you are. A little bit of a pulse on that. Just quick thoughts. How has the community reacted or what are some of the things that they kind of been thinking about or doing?

Scott Tran: (06:39)
Yeah. So we’re in the midst of, most of us I think are in the midst of either sheltering in place or locking down, right, because of Coronavirus and that’s affected almost all of us. A lot of us are working from home for the first time, right? I am learning that. I’m navigating that. And there’s also a lot of people who, a lot of businesses affected, especially like in travel and companies that support travel and events, right? And so we’ve seen some companies have more demand, like because we also have like delivery companies in our community, so they’re kind of overwhelmed, right with support requests. Other companies, other people are kind of going through layoffs right now. So we’re kind of seeing processes of the wider picture of what’s happening across the world and some companies are seeing more trends, right? We’re seeing questions in the community about all those things. We’ve had people who’ve unfortunately had to go through and lay off 30, 40, 50% of their staff and then reaching out to the community to capture, like “I’ve set up this great team where we’re in a business model that isn’t really doing well at any time.” I’d love to help them find, get help.

Gabe Larsen: (08:19)
And that is something, the job sites is something that they potentially can find an opportunity in that community. So as you kind of look at the pulse of the community, are you finding people are finding solutions to some of those problems, whether it’s work from home, like people are getting kind of used to it and the lay of things? Are people figuring out how to kind of handle that sort of volume or being able to be effective with less people?

Scott Tran: (08:51)
Yeah. I mean, the heart of our community is coming in and asking questions to other people who would probably say some similar things. So for example, like [inaudible] we’ve totally had people asking questions about like, “What kind of setups do you have at home? What kind of tuners do you use, headphones? We had, and just sharing tips in terms of managing working from home for the first time. You have people coming in and asking that, and people who’ve been doing it for awhile, respondents, but also people who are also in the exact same boat, right? Like they just started this week or two weeks ago, three weeks ago. So yeah, I mean, it’s, we’ve got probably like a dozen different channels that kind of highlight things like working remotely to customer experience, right? And so there are places where you’ll find people that you can ask these questions, right? And a lot of them will respond. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (10:07)
I love it. I love it. Yeah, those are definitely, I think the issues of the time, right? It’s efficiency, it’s cost savings, it’s working remotely. All I think seem to be kind of the things that we’re all talking about as we try to adjust to this new world and it sounds like Support Driven is a good place to find. So –

Scott Tran: (10:27)
Yeah. I just also wanted to share that there’s also a social aspect to it, right? So we have channels dedicated to like different hobbies and that’s often been a way for people to connect in these times.

Gabe Larsen: (10:42)
Oh cool.

Scott Tran: (10:42)
We’ve had quite a few people start making sourdough bread because they’re at home now. You’ve also got a parenting channel, so people are sharing kind of some tips in terms of, “Great, my kids are home now,” right? “What are you doing?” right? “Because I still need work.” And I think that’s really the glue of it, right? So, because I think people come for questions related to work, right? But they stay because that’s where they start making friendships and that’s the place where you connect with your friends or maybe somebody who you used to work with now works somewhere else, right? And the community is the common ground, as a place where you can get together and stay in touch.

Gabe Larsen: (11:28)
I love it. So if someone wanted to learn a little bit more about Support Driven or even join the community, where would you direct them? How do you start?

Scott Tran: (11:37)
Yeah, you can just go to supportdriven.com. There’s a pretty big button right, the join the community. There’s a join the community button and just click on that, fill out the form and you’ll get in.

Gabe Larsen: (11:49)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Scott really appreciate you joining. Best of luck. Be safe during these challenging times and excited to check out the community and get a little bit more involved. So thanks for joining and have a great day.

Scott Tran: (12:01)
Awesome. Yeah, thank you.

Exit Voice: (12:10)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer with Chris Warticki

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

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Chris Warticki from Epicor to discuss meeting customer service expectations with balance. Learn how Chris balances customer satisfaction by listening to the podcast below.

Finding Balance through Customer Advocacy

Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki, has figured out how to lead a well-balanced customer support team through understanding customer advocacy. Balanced customer advocacy is accomplished through not overly delighting the customer, creating a company standard of customer service, and being consistent with that service. He says, “If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship.” Focusing on what matters most in CX situations rather than providing overboard and generalized service, Chris finds that his team has more successful customer interactions. Creating a personalized standard of service as a brand is extremely important to Chris. He highly recommends figuring out what works best for the company and the customer to provide the best CX interactions possible. The most important aspect to creating a standard of service is maintaining that standard so the customers know what to expect with the brand.

Utilizing Company Investments

Another subject that Chris thoughtfully embraces is utilizing the tools that the company has already invested in. While curating his team of CX reps, he has noticed how other companies frequently gather “the three T’s,” as he puts it, to help maximize their CX efforts. Recognizing that talent, tools, and technology, the three T’s, can aid in creating a successful customer support team, he urges companies to invest in what they already have and to use it to their advantage. He states, “Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.” Utilizing the preexisting talent, tools, and technology, rather than searching for new alternatives, can vastly leverage a company’s investments by proactively searching for potential within. Doing so will promote internal growth and continuous successful customer service interactions.

Employee Empowerment Through Team Collaboration

Exemplary customer service starts with empowered CX agents. These agents typically have a comprehensive knowledge of the inner workings of customer support structure in their company. Chris finds that when questions about CX arise, brainstorming with his employees brings about the best answers. He notes, “If you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.” Brainstorming with a collaborative approach allows for teams to narrow down the most effective solutions and to implement them with ease. This same methodology can be applied to all aspects of business, not just customer support. By asking the employees who on a daily basis handle company affairs, they will tend to produce the most resourceful and practical solutions because of their vast knowledge of internal operations.

To learn more about balancing CX expectations by not rushing to delight the customer, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Don’t Rush to Delight your Customer | Chris Warticki” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Don’t Rush to Delight Your Customer | Chris Warticki

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’ve got a fun talk track. We’re going to be talking about this idea of “Don’t rush to delight your customer.” It’s a little bit counterintuitive, but we’ll get to the bottom of it, I promise you that. To do that, we got Senior Director of Customer Experience at Epicor, Chris Warticki. Chris, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?

Chris Warticki: (00:30)
I’m doing great, Gabe. Thanks for allowing me to be on as your guest speaker today on your podcast.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this’ll be a fun one. Epicor. Got a fun career, both at Epicor, before that. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Chris Warticki: (00:43)
Certainly, Gabe. I’ve been 25 years in the customer service industry, along — in parallel with information technology. 20 year career at Oracle Corporation, where I was involved in technical support management, global customer programs, the like of customer satisfaction, customer success, and more. And then just in the last two years, moved over to Epicor Software, running their customer success management team along with similar programs.

Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
Fun, fun. 25 years and then went to Epicor. Good resume, solid resume. I’ll give you that. So let’s dive in. I want to hear about it. Why not rush to delight your customers? Give us the secret here.

Chris Warticki: (01:31)
So Gabe, this is an interesting kind of thought provoking challenge to the audience. It really is kind of counterintuitive. How can I be the Senior Director of Customer Experience and then be anti-delight, right? And so I’ve created this kind of reputation where I am so for our customers, but at the same time, it’s not about super delight or over delight. And here’s the reason why. What we need to do as organizations that are focused in customer satisfaction, is take a step back and understand, have we really created a standard level of service to begin with, or at all? And if we haven’t, it’s better to create the standard and maintain the standard. And here’s why. If we go ahead and super delight and over delight our customers, but we can’t consistently deliver that, we give our customers super high highs and super low lows. And certainly nobody wants to be in that type of roller coaster relationship; certainly not within the customer base.

Gabe Larsen: (02:38)
Yeah, it does seem like this over delight can get, it can be a little bit much, and it actually can lead to sometimes an unhealthy or poor place. One of the things I’d like to hit with you, in addition to this, is let’s keep it at a high level for just a minute. So many people are having a hard time understanding different terms in this space, whether you talk about customer advocacy, or customer satisfaction, customer experience, want to see if we can kind of level set there. And then let’s talk a little about how you find that balance of not over delighting. Let’s start with customer experience. What is it, give me kind of your definition. What does it mean? How does it play out for you?

Chris Warticki: (03:22)
Great question, Gabe. So from the highest level, customer experience is defined by me and many other industry experts as the sum total of all interactions that the organization has with our customers. And often, it’s always related to just one point of presence or one relationship interaction of engagement with customers, instead of looking at how every line of business from presale, to the sales cycle, to the entire customer life cycle, and every relationship touchpoint from every line of business within your organization.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Got it. That’s one. Satisfaction, where do you go on that?

Chris Warticki: (04:07)
So to kind of take a step back from a foundational level, I look at experience as that foundation. It doesn’t have to be the roof. It really is the base layer. It’s everything that’s going on in the organization. And when I came to Epicor, Epicor brought me in to help start a customer success management team. And my first question was, “Well, why do you want this?” And the answer quite frankly, was “Well, because everybody else has one, so should we,” right? So what I needed to do is break down some of the historical definitions and nomenclature that often get marbled together, interwoven, and confused. And so to start out with customer satisfaction, I look at that as the past. And so as we navigate this conversation, we’d take the past, C-SAT is a transaction that has occurred, and we look at it from an example of using a survey, right? Tell us about your experience in order to gauge what your customer satisfaction has become. And that is very tactical and it’s very transactional in nature.

Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
Yup. Yup.

Chris Warticki: (05:22)
So C-SAT customer satisfaction, I look at it as a look backwards into the past.

Gabe Larsen: (05:28)
Okay. So more of a backwards look. Customer experience, a little bit of all of the sum total of all the interactions. Hit a couple of these other — you just talk about customer success, that one throws people off often. How does customer success fit into this kind of big picture here then?

Chris Warticki: (05:46)
So one of the biggest challenges I had when I first began talking about customer success, not only within the industry, but also here at Epicor, was the perception of what people thought customer success was about. And yeah, do we want all of our customers and all these interactions to be successful? Yeah. But let’s just say this, without a customer success team or program of any type, it doesn’t mean that we’re not making our customers successful. Why shoulder the burden of one team or one line of business to just be responsible for success, right? So the way that I look at looking at the past analogy for customer satisfaction, I look at customer success as a strategic, proactive, future-forward look at our customers.

Gabe Larsen: (06:35)
Mm. Okay. So I’m –

Chris Warticki: (06:37)
Understanding their business objectives, looking at the future, the 18 month, one year, 18 months, two years and beyond, how can we help partner to be –

Gabe Larsen: (06:48)
[Inaudible] the future. Okay. I like that. And then is there some for the present? So you’ve got kind of the satisfaction is past, you’ve got success for the future. Where do you go for the present?

Chris Warticki: (06:57)
Here is where most people get confused, and that is in the present. And that’s where I’ve termed the engagement model here at Epicor to be customer advocacy. Customer advocacy represents the present state. These are situations that arise that we would commonly refer to as escalation management, crisis management, again, very tactical in nature. They could be some sort of project management, enabled hand holding with your customers, but they got somewhere sideways in a ditch and they need advocacy. They need an advocate on their behalf. And that’s the biggest challenge. Most individuals confuse customer success with customer advocacy, and no matter what we’ve called these individuals in the past, present, or even now today, and what we might even call them in the future, we all want them to be successful. But at the term, but really what is the use case? Is it based on a past survey? Is it based on the present situation or do we want a future-forward look, partner and really strategically collaborate together going forward?

Gabe Larsen: (08:13)
Yeah, I like that. Okay. So we got experience, we got satisfaction, advocacy, and success. Boy, those all probably could be episodes. Probably all be episodes in themselves, but I’d love to get maybe a quick tidbit on a couple of them about how you’ve then taken that definition and started to just put it into action. How do you actually apply it, or how do you get into the brass tacks of it, so to say. So and I’m thinking about the audience here as well. So let’s start with the experience that sum total of the interactions. Is there a way you’ve thought about working with that definition in your different organizations to ultimately deliver a better experience throughout more interactions than just one or one and done type of thing?

Chris Warticki: (09:03)
We have a lot of tools that the industry uses from a service perspective and one of the most useful ones, not to throw buzzwords out there, is definitely the journey map process. That go along to follow with, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with our customers and go through the journey map process, or navigating the process map internally of what our customers go through. And that’s been the most effective way of looking at the experience. I honestly don’t think you need to survey your customers or your people internally too much. You don’t want to create survey fatigue. And I definitely have come from some experiences where we’ve done that. And giving customers a break is definitely one of the best things that you can do. But here’s the thing we all know where the problems are. We all know where the bodies are buried. We all know where the issues arise. It doesn’t take a whole lot of digging to identify where some low-hanging fruit or where some really remarkable gains can be attained. And one of the biggest gains that I can share with you and this audience was just in a business process of provisioning a cloud environment for us to, here at Epicor, we journey mapped it, we process mapped it. It took three times as long as what we thought it was taking. I won’t go into the gory details, but we made some very significant power plays within a short period of time that took what the end result was and reduced it by three quarters time and in a very short period of time. Now I will also say to fully complete that process map, it’s taken a lot longer to fully systematically integrate it and automate it, but that’s where we’re going to get the greatest achievement.

Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Yeah, yeah. Do you find it, and I appreciate the example, but I’m curious. There’ve been others, Epicor, other companies, where there have been those moments that were kind of like just big surprises where it was like, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize we were doing this.” or, “That was an obvious one. Should have probably caught that, but we didn’t.” Is it typically, you don’t find the elephant in the room?

Chris Warticki: (11:20)
I’ll tell you where the biggest aha moment, or maybe it was a moment like, “Oh my goodness.” Maybe it was the surprise, like you’re talking about. And that is, I guess we assume that everything is documented or that everything is going to be seamless or that you can just throw a tool or a widget or some sort of technology at something and it’s going to automatically fix it. The biggest piece here is the collaboration that’s required. When it comes down to it, everybody, like I said, wants our customers and your customers to be successful, getting the right minds to be able to sit together and quickly evaluate, “What’s the business problem we’re trying to solve? And let’s get it documented for future reference so we can lean it over time.” Go from good to great. Go from better to best.

Gabe Larsen: (12:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Yup. Yeah, and getting together with those stakeholders is often a big key in that process. Bouncing around just a little bit, wanting to see if we can tackle this idea because I felt like you set it up and I moved past it for a second, but I did want to come back to, and that’s just, this idea of not rushing to delight. We’ve hit some of these different areas, customer experience, customer success, et cetera. But, I think people really struggle to find that balance there of getting to what matters most, rather than just going overboard maybe on stuff that doesn’t. How do you actually coach your teams to do that? How do you find the balance?

Chris Warticki: (12:57)
I think one of the best recommendations is to ask the individuals in their interactions, what do they consider to be the standard of service in what they do, right? And so you might find, for example, in tech support or in personal face-to-face interaction across the register counter, that some individuals are like, “Well, I think thanking our customers everyday for their business is a standard.” And yet other people might not have even thought of that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Right, right.

Chris Warticki: (13:29)
Right? Just a simple thank you. But once again, if you ask the employee base, if you ask the line of business what they believe is the right thing to do, they’re going to come up with the solution.

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Yeah.

Chris Warticki: (13:43)
So really equip them and empower them to really put the brainstorming, the ideas together, and then collectively say, “Okay, now out of these 12 things, we can’t do all 12 of them, but what is the standard? What’s the consistent top five, top three things that we need to do to be good and that we know we can do every interaction?”

Gabe Larsen: (14:04)
Yeah, yeah. Getting down to those real important ones. I do feel like we try to boil the ocean, right? It gets too much, it’s too many [inaudible] but what are those things that we really need to do? What, do you feel like it is about three, five, seven, ten? What was about the right number typically you found that the team can handle and do on a consistent basis?

Chris Warticki: (14:25)
Yeah. I’m a keep it simple type of person. So following that kiss analogy, I think anywhere from three to five is, three for me personally, is the sweet spot,

Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
I love it. So we hit on a bunch of different topics today. We might have to bring you back to go deeper into some of these areas like customer success. A lot of people have asked about that and how that relates to the customer service world. No, it’s more of a B to B thing than it is B to C so to say, but as you think about the changing environment, some of the different challenges that are attacking different customer service leaders, we’re all trying to find a way to delight or a way to make it easier and keep that customer experience as high as possible. What would be that leave behind advice you’d give to those leaders?

Chris Warticki: (15:11)
My biggest advice is don’t worry about all the buzzwords. It’s not all about gamification or artificial intelligence or machine learning and don’t get absorbed or overwhelmed by all of the stuff that’s out there. Currently in everybody’s organization, you have the three T’s, I call them. You have the tools, you have the technology and you have the talent. Leverage the investments that you’ve made in those three things. In the tools, the technology and the talent. And don’t try, like you said, to boil the ocean. Put the human capital to work for you, put the technology that you’ve already invested in to work for you. And then additionally, look at what are the resources, those tools that you can pull out of your tool chest in order to make those adjustments as necessary.

Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
I love it. Alrighty. Well, really appreciate the time, Chris. Fun talk track on be a little conscientious about delighting your customers, find the balance. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these trends, what’s the best way to do that?

Chris Warticki: (16:26)
You can do a few things Gabe, and first of all, to the entire audience, thanks for listening. More importantly, Gabe, thanks for inviting me to this. You have a wonderful dais of professional speakers on your podcast. You can find me, Chris Worticki on LinkedIn. You can also find me on Twitter @cwarticki and I look forward to associating and connecting and linking in and speaking with all of you in the future. So many interactions to come, I’d be more than happy to come back.

Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
Hey, well yeah. We might have to take you up on that. Appreciate the time and the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (17:08)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Christine Deehring from Bump Boxes to explore the secrets to optimizing customer experience. Founder and CEO of the world’s #1 pregnancy subscription service, Bump Boxes, Christine Deehring, is driving a company with exemplary customer service agents to help ease the pregnancy process of expecting mothers. Delivering helpful products tailored to each mom’s individual needs and how far along they are in their pregnancy, Christine’s team is there every step of the way. From the moment a mom signs up, to post-birth, her agents are there to help, improve, and ease the strain of pregnancy in the months leading up to delivery. Learn how Christine successfully elevates her customer service team’s efforts by listening to the podcast below.

Uplifting and Empowering Through Corporate Culture

Christine first starts by elaborating on their company’s focus on the mother. Keeping the expecting mother in mind, Christine notes how her team has had great success with customer happiness by listening to customer feedback and adapting their products to the mother’s needs. She states, “Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants.”

Along with focusing on the mother or customer, she believes that when a company hosts a corporate culture of empowerment, it results in the best possible customer service experiences. She explains, “If you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.” To keep an uplifting environment, her company has adopted four core values that they practice in every element of business (PHAM). The first being Positivity. For her team, positivity means constantly looking for an opportunity to brighten every interaction. Second is Hustle. Her team is always hustling and looking for ways to break CX barriers. The third value is Accountability and taking responsibility for your actions. Christine understands that everyone makes mistakes and she urges her team to use their mistakes as a learning opportunity. The fourth and most important value is Mom First. As mentioned above, the mom is in every element of their business, from packaging, marketing, and phone calls. This can also apply to every aspect of their business because it is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start From Zero

Building a company from the ground up is no easy task, especially now that the world has experienced quite the paradigm shift. In this new pandemic climate, it’s more difficult than ever to focus on a company and to build one from scratch. Every business starts with an idea and it’s the action of getting that idea off the ground that can introduce entrepreneurs to multiple roadblocks. Elements such as location, funding, and product development are just a few examples of the many things new businesses have to take into consideration. Being an entrepreneur herself, Christine encourages new entrepreneurs, “If you have an idea, take it and go. The first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero.” There’s no shame in starting from zero, everyone has to start from scratch and climb their way up. It’s the choice of taking what is available and making something great out of it that differentiates the successful ideas from the other ones.

Be There For Your Customer Every Step of the Way

At Bump Boxes, customer support doesn’t just start with the customer’s problem and end with the CX agent’s solution. Customer support starts from the moment the mom-to-be signs up for the monthly subscription and continues on throughout the life of their subscription. After delivery, Bump Boxes change to Busy Boxes, which come with items to help create a fun and engaging environment for mom and her newborn baby. When discussing the methods in which her CX team continually shows up for their customers, Christine explains:

When you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do with the subscription. It’s more like, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” We know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. If you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.

Creatively engaging with the mother and being there for every step of the pregnancy process has proven to keep their customers coming back for more. Christine notes how Bump Box has a room full of sonograms and baby pictures sent in by the mothers they service. They become familiar with each mom and enjoy speaking with them as if they are old friends. For Christine, the most rewarding part of running her company is seeing the pictures and sonograms of these babies and knowing her company did something to help each mom through their pregnancy journey.

CX teams would be wise to adopt an understanding of their customers and to thoroughly engage and have genuine conversations with them. At the end of the day, everyone is going through their own journey in life and recognizing that aspect will help add more of a human element to each CX interaction.

To learn more about the secrets to optimizing customer experiences, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

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Full Episode Transcript:

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience and how to optimize it and to do that we brought on Christine Deehring. She’s currently the Founder and CEO of a cool company called Bump Boxes. So Christine, thanks for joining. How are you?

Christine Deehring: (00:27)
Yes. Great. I’m just so excited to be here, Gabe. So excited about the customer experience and just everything that we do here at Bump Boxes.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah, this is so fun because we’re always looking for, sometimes we talk about just general best practices, but it’s always fun to hear from somebody who’s kind of just daily living it, working the grind, et cetera. So we appreciate you jumping on. Before we do, can you tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and Bump Boxes, just so everybody kind of knows the context?

Christine Deehring: (00:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So Bump Boxes is a monthly subscription service for pregnancy and baby products. So mom can sign up at any point during her pregnancy and she actually gets a box of products that are specifically tailored to that month of her pregnancy. So we include five to eight full-size products and we know what moms are going through during pregnancy and what she’s experiencing every single month. So it’s themed around something she’s going through during that specific month. And then when she gives birth, it transitions over to Busy Boxes, which is a newborn to three-year-old subscription. So, and on that side of the subscription, it’s all tailored around baby’s milestones and really creating that fun, playful environment for mom and baby to experience together. Yeah, so that’s, yeah, absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (01:38)
I was telling Christine before, my wife has somehow convinced me to have four, so we have four children and so she’s definitely a fan of the idea and Bump Boxes. So love what you do. So [inaudible] that we had connected was Christine had come across a couple of things and one was something that was awesome that happened on Instagram. I mean, remind me. You guys went just, you flew up. You added a couple thousand followers just in a day or two. What was that scenario? Remind me.

Christine Deehring: (02:06)
Yes. Yes. So I think we had reached a milestone on our Instagram following and just to kind of give you guys some context and the whole post was all about how like, “Hey, we started from zero four years ago,” and that’s just it. So, that was the whole premise of posting about that big milestone for us on Instagram, because a lot of people don’t know. I mean, we started about four and a half years ago and we started from an idea, right? And now we reach over 14 million moms a month across all of our channels, right? So, I mean, it’s just kind of, “Hey,” like, I mean, it’s just, and what we try to say is like, “Hey guys, if you have an idea, take it and go, like the first step is just going. And don’t be afraid if you start with zero. Everybody starts with zero,” that’s that.

Gabe Larsen: (02:53)
I love that. Sometimes it’s ready, fire, aim, right? You just have –

Christine Deehring: (02:57)
Yes! You just have to aim.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
– and then you figure out where the target is later. But one of the keys it sounded like, and I’m sure the product is fantastic, but you guys do have kind of this maniacal focus on customer service and customer experience and interaction with the customer. And so it sounded like in the post, obviously you found a great niche that a lot of people are excited about, but you’ve kind of taken those extra steps to really bring the customer down the journey with you has been the separator. Is that fair to say?

Christine Deehring: (03:27)
Absolutely, absolutely. A hundred percent. So, I mean, I think, we do a lot of things regarding customer experience here at Bump Boxes. Our mission has always been to make mom’s life easier. So I think anyone that’s like growing and scaling a business really has to kind of focus on their customer within whatever niche that they’re in and make all of the decisions based around what the customer wants, right? I mean, that’s just the foundational way to run a business. But I mean, there are some things that we’ve learned along the way, especially growing and scaling, as to why it is just that important to really focus and have that non stop focus on your customer. So I think, one of the main things that we focused on is corporate culture, company culture. Because if you have the right culture, then you can actually empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions to make mom happy.

Gabe Larsen: (04:21)
Right. Because a lot of times we– I feel like we should probably, when we talk about customer experience, we should probably talk more about the employee or the company culture. Sometimes we do all the things that the customer does, but we get that employee side. So, what are some of the fun things you guys have done to try to make that employer culture really enable or empower that customer journey?

Christine Deehring: (04:40)
Yeah, so our company culture is just amazing. So, we have four main core values and that’s what we make all of our decisions based around. So, positivity would be the first one. So, seeing the opportunity, seeing the brighter side of things. Always just trying to be positive in every situation possible and really seeing opportunity where it is. Hustle would be another one. So, constantly, just if there is a barrier, figure out a way to break through it or go around it, but figure out a solution. Constantly, yeah. Constantly move forward. Accountability is another one. So, being accountable for yourself, for your role. We know mistakes happen, everyone makes mistakes, right? I mean, we know mistakes happen, but when a mistake happens, we take, yeah. You take responsibility of it and then you fix it, so it doesn’t have to happen again in the future, you know? And as long as you fix the process, then everything’s great. And then most importantly, mom first, so that’s very customer experience-centric, right? So, everything we do, whether it’s our marketing messaging, whether it’s our site, our customer experience team when they talk to mom on the phone, how we pack the boxes, the product that we select, everything is putting mom first. And as long as we make our decisions around that, then we know we’re doing right by mom. So, that’s one of the main things and actually spells PHAM, so that wasn’t actually intended by design. It just worked out. PHAM with the P-H.

Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
Sometimes they have fun acronyms and you nailed it. You beat me to it. PHAM. That’s cool.

Christine Deehring: (06:10)
That’s right. That’s right. So that’s one of the main things I think, if you do the culture right, then you can empower your customer experience team to make those quick decisions, make your customer happy, and really empower them to make it happen and make it happen quickly.

Gabe Larsen: (06:26)
I like that. Now, I think some of the things that people struggle with. Because some people come up with big, they get to that step where they come up with some of these core values. It’s actually the ability to implement more, to empower the people to do them. Is there certain, you don’t necessarily need to go through each one, but have you been able to find ways to actually make those values and bring them to life? Is it communication with the team? Is it just highlighting them in a weekly meeting? Is it giving it an award around or what’s been the way to bring those to life and make them so they’re not just the things on the wall?

Christine Deehring: (06:58)
Yeah. Because yeah. I mean, like you can post them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that like that’s the actual culture, right? I mean that’s yeah, a hundred percent. So, for us, I mean I think, we have weekly one-on-ones where we talk about core values. That’s how your performance is reviewed. It’s all around core values. It’s all driven around that. And then we also do gift cards. So, if someone exceeds in core values and they exceed their metrics and they’re nominated for a gift card award that we do every week. So, there’s ways to reinforce it, but I mean, I think that when you start off with your core values and you make your hiring decisions based on those core values you make all the decisions within the company, as long as that’s the cornerstone of why you make those decisions, then it’s easy and everyone gets it and everybody’s on par with it. Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
Yeah, I like that one. The one that I find the most intriguing at the moment is the mom first, what was it called? How did you phrase that again?

Christine Deehring: (07:55)
Mom first. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (08:00)
Okay, because it sounded like, and again I’m thinking about some of the posts you guys have. You’ve done some fun things to kind of, it’s not just, “Here’s a box, good luck,” right? There’s these little cherry on tops, these little extra things you guys have done to make it personalized, make it kind of extra, make it feel like you care more. Do you mind sharing a couple of those that may come to mind?

Christine Deehring: (08:21)
Yeah, absolutely. So, we call all of our subscribers personally. So, when you sign up with us, you’ll get a call from one of our moms in our customer experience team. And it’s a call, it has really nothing to do necessarily with the subscription. It’s more of like a, “Hey mom, how are you? How are you doing?” Like we know pregnancy, it can be stressful. There’s so many things going on in a woman’s life when she’s pregnant and so it’s like, “Hey, we just want to be there for you. Like, if you’re craving something, we’ll find a place to get it.” Yeah. Like, whatever you need –

Gabe Larsen: (08:58)
Have there been some weird experiences where you’ve done something like that, where someone’s been like, “I’m really not doing well, I’m craving something,” and you ordered fries or something like that?

Christine Deehring: (09:07)
Yes! Yes! Oh my gosh! A hundred percent. I mean, yes. And that’s why our moms love us and what’s really cool, especially when we make those connections with mom. I think what’s so exciting to see is even in our customer experience room, I mean like, we have so many sonogram photos, so many pictures that moms have sent in. If a mom signs up with us and she’s with us her whole pregnancy and finally, she has her baby, it’s an exciting time that we all celebrate. We all get excited about and then she sends us pictures and we put them up on this wall and that’s really exciting when you know that you’ve made that connection. [Inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (09:47)
Cool, cool. So they actually send you, just by a chance, they’ll send you a picture and you’ve kind of thrown it on the wall in the customer experience room, you said?

Christine Deehring: (09:56)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (09:56)
Awesome. I want to highlight though, the phone call. Because I do feel like, it is a small, well maybe it’s not a small thing, but this proactive customer support or proactive customer experience feels like it’s just a hot trend or a real differentiator. We’re so used to taking inbound query or the chat query or the email inquiry or the ticket, but actually taking the time to go outbound, whether it’s a challenge, a new cut, I feel like that’s pretty different. And it sounds like people appreciated that a lot.

Christine Deehring: (10:31)
Yeah, absolutely. And I think something that we’ve done too, is we have a very direct feedback loop with our customer experience team. And so I think it’s super, super important, especially as you roll out new initiatives, as you’re trying and testing things, as you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s resonating with mom and what she wants, having that contact with your customer directly and asking those questions and being in that feedback loop is super important. So, I know, recently we rolled out a VIP program. So, any mom that subscribes with us, she gets, depending on how long she’s committed to, she gets a specific discount to our store just for joining our subscription. And that was something that came up from just customer feedback, right? And so it’s definitely nice to have that instant feedback loop so that way you can make changes, you can test things, you can roll new things out just to make sure that you’re really sticking through to that mission.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
No, that is powerful because I think a lot of times as sales and marketing, we don’t listen to our customers enough. You want to, but you don’t get that feedback loop tightened. How have you done that? Is it the channel? I mean, are you guys pretty channel agnostic? Meaning it’s like, hey, when you have this customer experience person, you can communicate them very easily, whether it’s on tech or phone or email, or is it that you have these kind of weekly check-ins or how have you made that feedback loop more fluid?

Christine Deehring: (12:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m actually in touch with customer experience every single day. So, they actually report directly to me, you know what I mean? And we’ve done that by design. Yeah. We’ve done it by design because I think I want to be as close to our moms as possible. And I think that has been super important to our growth, right? Being able to kind of hear what’s going on on the ground. Being able to talk to moms a couple of times a week, like just to make sure that we’re still staying true to that mission, that they feel good, they’re having a great experience and then, you know, asking for ideas, like, “What else would you like to see from Bump Boxes? What other things have you thought about that would be helpful that we could provide?” and I think being that close to customer experience has really been helpful as we’ve grown and scaled and learned along the way.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah, sure. Because sometimes that is the hard part, right? Once you kind of lose track of the customer, you lose track of so much of that goodness. How many people, obviously there are challenging times going on and some businesses are up, some businesses are down. As you kind of think about your own business and lessons learned over kind of the last month or two, and we can kind of bring this to a close, what would be feedback or advice you’d give to people who are looking to scale and obviously be successful while times are maybe a little more difficult?

Christine Deehring: (13:30)
Yeah, absolutely. I think, when you’re kind of going through uncertain times, I think the biggest thing that you really need to focus on is over-communicating, right? Because everybody has just a heightened level of stress. I mean, there’s just a lot going on. You don’t know what everyone is going through. And so, I think just keeping that in mind and over-communicating and especially being there for your customer, having those phone conversations, and understanding that it’s quality phone conversations, right? No matter what mom’s going through, if she’s stressed out, talk to her. I think that, definitely as you’re scaling and growing, just over-communicating is always best, especially during uncertain times like these for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (14:18)
And that’s obviously true for employees as well as customers.

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

Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
Christine, it’s fun to have you on. It’s a cool, it sounds like you found obviously a fun kind of niche that you guys are really doing well in and so congrats on that. Solving problems, making customers happy. It’s always fun to kind of see that happen. So, if someone wants to learn a little bit more about Bump Boxes or your story, what’s the best way to do that? What would you recommend?

Christine Deehring: (14:42)
Yeah! Absolutely. So you can check out bumpboxes.com. You can always shoot me an email, christine@bumpboxes.com. Let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Seriously.

Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
I love that and that’s such a cool name by the way. Kudos on like a very catchy name. That was it.

Christine Deehring: (14:59)
Thank you. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Gabe Larsen: (15:01)
Well, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Christine Deehring: (15:05)
Yeah. Thanks, Gabe. Have a good one.

Exit Voice: (15:12)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

Happy Team, Happy Customers with Adam Maino

Happy Team, Happy Customers TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Adam Maino from FinancialForce to uncover the secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Learn how Adam builds a strong company culture that allows his team to fail fast and learn from those challenges by listening to the podcast below.

Proactive Team Culture Through Intelligence Swarming

Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce, Adam Maino has some astute insights about the world of customer service and creating a proactive company culture. He believes that a proactive team culture is brought about by hiring the best and brightest customer support talent. Adam finds that when completing the hiring process, candidates who are customer-centric tend to be more genuine and authentic with customers. To further explain, he states, “it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.” According to Adam, viewing the customer as a person and treating their needs with empathy is crucial to the success of daily CX team operations.

Typically, CX teams have a tier system of agents who handle incoming cases. Adam’s team has completely removed the need for a tier system by adopting the method of intelligence swarming. This method breaks down any pre-existing tiers by shepherding cases to the team members best suited to handle them. Adam elaborates by stating, “What that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better.” Eliminating the need for multi-step solutions is a great way to conserve customer loyalty and help customers quickly and efficiently.

Utilizing Knowledge-Centered Services

Adam also emphasizes the importance of integrating Knowledge-Centered Services (KCS) into CX standard practices. He uses the KCS model from the Consortium For Service Innovation to improve his customer service team interactions. While discussing how incorporating KCS into standard practice greatly assists and accelerates scaling CX teams, Adam says:

KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18-layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.

The main purpose of KCS is to motivate CX teams to frequently improve their knowledge base by contributing individually written articles based on agent-customer cases. This is to solve future difficulties, leading to quicker resolutions and delighted customers.

The Secret to A Happy CX Team is A Coaching Mentality

Adam has identified multiple methods to leading and managing a happy and successful CX team. He notices time and time again that when his team of agents are happy, his customers are happy. Adam mentions one method in particular that has helped him continually motivate and empower his team is allowing his agents to work at their own inclination; more independently and with more autonomy. He says, “I think what we should be really focusing on … coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.” He figures that a team works more efficiently when their environment is collaborative and the leader exemplifies a coaching mentality rather than a managing mentality. Additionally, he notes that positive feedback and recognition are what help him keep his high performing CX agents. By focusing on quality experiences and services, agents and customers are more likely to have positive interactions.

Adam urges companies to approach new ideas head on and to not be afraid of failure, as failure helps CX teams adapt and produce the best possible customer experience.

To learn more about the secrets to transforming a world-class CX team, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Happy Team, Happy Customers | Adam Maino

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. Today, we’re going to be talking about secrets to transforming a world-class customer support team. Want to get into the scaling aspect and to do that, we brought on a guy I’ve been bugging a lot lately, trying to get him and I got him. His name’s Adam Maino. He’s currently the Director of Customer Support at FinancialForce. Adam, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?

Adam Maino: (00:37)
Good! Doing great. Thanks for that.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Really appreciate you jumping on. Appreciate you responding. Cool background. Can you tell us real quick, just a little bit about yourself? Some of the things you guys do over at FinancialForce?

Adam Maino: (00:47)
Yeah, so we have multiple applications based on the Salesforce platform with accounting and PSA being our top applications. We also have SEN each as well.

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Yep.

Adam Maino: (01:04)
Very nicely in the same environment. Yeah, having a good time serving our customers with those.

Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Love it. Love it, man. And I always like to ask, outside of work, what’s your go-to, man? Any crazy hobbies, high school band, a dog lover, anything like that?

Adam Maino: (01:24)
Yeah, I love making music, so I’ve got a bunch of guitars and fly fishing and hanging out with my family.

Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Nice, man. Yeah. I’ve been trying to get my nine-year-old into guitar. I’m a total hack, but something about acting like you can sing and strumming that guitar just makes you feel better about life. Just makes you feel better. All right, well, let’s jump into the topic at hand. So you’ve obviously done this for awhile in some incredible areas, driving customer support, scaling it. As you think about some of the lessons learned and secrets, where do you start?

Adam Maino: (02:01)
I think culture really is one of the most important things you can have; to start with and so I think that’s something that you just have to have by default in order to really just scale teams and have fun doing it along the way. So, part of that for me is looking for the best talent. Really focusing on talent that’s customer-centric and always putting the customer first and online and that’s from your application layer, support, all the way up to support engineering. So it doesn’t matter who’s on point, everybody can speak to a customer and they can do it well.

Gabe Larsen: (02:43)
Yeah. How do you, two follow ups on that. I mean, people want to have a good culture, they want to hire well and get good talent and any things you’ve found to kind of tilt the statistics in your favor to actually bring on more talented reps, agents?

Adam Maino: (03:02)
I think we’re pretty lucky. We have a solid employee success team and they are really good about giving into our other candidates that come online and so, when we do get candidates, we usually have a pretty good run of really good candidates. But I think really, when you dive into those questions and put them on the spot, it’s about looking for people who really look at the customer and not just a case and not just a number and it’s not just a problem I’m trying to solve, but it’s something for the customer.

Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
Yeah. I love that. Do you, when you think about organizing your team, I mean, you mentioned this idea of like support engineers and customer service reps, that’s often something people have asked about, how do you think about the structure? You’ve got a gold, maybe like a top-tier team. You’ve got the support engineers, like a tier-two, maybe a tier-three support. Any quick thoughts on, it’s a little bit out, but the support engineers flagged that for me, how you’ve kind of thought about, either in your own org or coaching other orgs on just kind of the overall structure of what support should or shouldn’t look like?

Adam Maino: (04:15)
Yeah, so we took an approach called, intelligence swarming, which is an agile support methodology, which actually crushes the tiers. And so, what that allows us to do essentially is have cases be routed to the best person able to take the case and have some faster resolve times because you’re not being hung between teams. And the customer’s experience is obviously much better. And it really builds on this idea of having a collaborative environment, so you can reach out to them. And I think our team has actually changed because of this process. And before we literally had two separate channels where we had an application support report, and then product support engineering report into action in the product. So now our teams are actually made up of different layers. So my team, I have product support engineers, I have application support, I’ve got technical account managers, and programmers.

Gabe Larsen: (05:24)
Wow, interesting. You nixed the tiers. Is there a book or something on that? I mean, agile customer support.

Adam Maino: (05:35)
[inaudilbe] great. I cannot tell this organization enough, but it’s called the Consortium for Service Innovation. They’re amazing. So they’ve come out with KCS. So that’s the gold standard for learning and creating knowledge programs and our state program and then intelligence swarming and they’re also looking at things like predictive customer engagement models, was just a big event actually. But yeah, they’re absolutely incredible. I highly recommend checking out their site and then ownership to me is worth its weight in gold.

Gabe Larsen: (06:27)
How do I not know about these? What? What? Oh my heavens. Yeah. I’m just looking at them as you talk. I felt like I’ve at least come across a lot of these. I don’t even know how to say it. Consortium, Consortium for serviceinnovation.org is where I’m at for the audience.

Adam Maino: (06:54)
That’s great.

Gabe Larsen: (06:54)
And the intelligence swarming, you mentioned KCS. What’s KCS? I think I got the intelligence swarming from your last, what was the KCS thing?

Adam Maino: (07:04)
Knowledge Centered Services. And so what that allows you to do, and this is great for, I think really important for scaling teams. It doesn’t really matter if you’re spread out. In fact, when I joined the company that I’m at now, we only only interned people, and so it was the first program I brought in. I feel like if you’re going to scale a team, that’s sort of the layer, the concrete layer that you want to put in first and then start building up your team from there. It plays nicely in tandem with intelligence swarming. But basically, KCS is your knowledge is on demand. So you’re not going through some 18 layer approval process to get a knowledge article out. Every analyst is writing those articles, updating those articles, and publishing those articles. And then coming out as soon as the case is closed. That article is going out; there’s no wait time.

Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Yeah, that sounds right up my avenue. I’ve been, we’re going off topic a little bit, but I’ve been having a harder time finding some more. That sounds like some real, just practical, tactical, how to get stuff done. And I keep finding orgs that it’s, I don’t want to say same old, same old, but it’s kind of the higher-level, fluffy, “Let’s talk customer service.” That sounds like a little more getting into the science and the process. And some, I like it. That sounds cool.

Adam Maino: (08:30)
There’s great measures in there for when you, like our measurements for our team are, 50% of their performance metrics are knowledge-based.

Gabe Larsen: (08:38)
Wow.

Adam Maino: (08:38)
That’s like a big chunk of how well they’re doing is how much they’re contributing to the knowledge base, how much they’re writing good articles. You have coaches that look and evaluate the articles and how well they’re linking those articles to those cases and that’s [inaudible] linking the article to the case when you solve it.

Gabe Larsen: (09:03)
Yes. Yes. Do you just want one more click on that with compensation? You mentioned part of comp, like maybe their variable for example, is based on the knowledge base or knowledge based interaction or engagement. Going back one step on compensation. How do you think about coming to drive motivation? It sounds like you believe in a variable, for example, for the reps.

Adam Maino: (09:28)
It’s interesting. We have a global team obviously, and not all regions do you comp. Europe’s just not that at all. That’s just not part of, it’s like, “You did your job good,” right? So like, if you’re going to score a C-SAT score and you get an eight out of ten from somebody in England, that’s like a ten out of ten in the U.S. right? You’re jumping up and down and screaming and going and grabbing a pint afterwards.

Gabe Larsen: (09:54)
I love that.

Adam Maino: (09:54)
That’s a totally different world. My mom’s a Brit, so I can make this and my dad’s Italian. I can draw that. That’s fine. I can say this aloud. So yeah, I think that’s sort of the big push is, depending on the culture, it does have some push, some drivers. But in all honesty, I think things like recognition and being recognized and valued as an employee go a lot further. I think the other stuff is really sort of icing on the cake, but as long as you’re feeling valued as an employee, as long as they’re feeling like they can contribute to any processes that you push out and they’re part of that integral part of those processes that you roll out, and that they’re not feeling micromanaged, they’re feeling coached and not sort of this overhanging, like with my employees, I never ask them or I never tell them what to do. I’m always just, I ask them what to do, right? It’s a request. There’s no demands there. I think what we should be really focusing on and that’s coaching our employees and not managing them so much, right? Let them kick open the doors and let them do their job.

Gabe Larsen: (11:19)
Got it. Do you find there’s this kind of cliche statement, that’s “happy employees equal happy customers?” Is that a philosophy you guys adhere to? And if so, why? Do you have data to back it or you just believe it?

Adam Maino: (11:35)
Yeah. I definitely think that, so it’s interesting. So one of our management metrics that we run is team happiness.

Gabe Larsen: (11:45)
Okay.

Adam Maino: (11:46)
And you have a tiny pulse and a regular, tiny pulse and we watched the trending. And so if our team is happy, our customers are happy. You’ve got to have both, and you can’t push to the extreme and have them fall over and then get crushed in the process and then you have great people leave. So, you’ve got to keep your team happy. You’ve got to keep them healthy. You’ve got to keep them invested in what you’re doing and I think all of that really comes to you’ve got to have good leadership, period. They’re going to want to work. No one has to show up, they could leave for another job, right? I think that’s sort of the great myth is people are like, “Ah, you know I have to be here,” but you don’t so they could leave just as easily as –

Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
They came, right? Yeah. They come, they go. You mentioned a little bit on metrics. The happiness score is a cool one. Other metrics you’ve found that are kind of those game changers for other leaders to be considering, or maybe unique to you guys that you find maybe other leaders don’t look at as much?

Adam Maino: (12:51)
I think there’s, I started putting them in two buckets, right? As like the management metrics and then the individual metrics and individual metrics should be driving the right kinds of behaviors. So I would definitely stay away with how many tickets you’re closing and almost like the speed of closing those cases out, because now you’re focusing on throughput and quantity, and that is not a metric to go for. You’re not going to have great customer interactions at that point. You’re going to get analysts going, “Can I close this case now? I’m gonna close this case now, okay?” and then, you’re like, “No, no, no, no, no, I still have a problem.” You’re going to get those really bad behaviors. So I think, yeah, focusing on the quality, focusing on collaboration, try to look at things where you’re measuring collaboration. And so on the individual level, and obviously C-SAT, I think C-SAT is great. But you’ve got to write the C-SAT. So it’s, or the analyst, it’s not some general metric that they’re looking at like, “Oh, well, they’re unhappy with the company. So I got a three,” I mean, you kind of have to write it so it’s very tailored to them, that you’re asking the right question. And then on the management side, I never put the numbers of how much throughput somebody is having in terms of like, that’s not a metric that we’re looking at. But I do use what I call, gray metrics. So I use throughput to look at how well they’re doing against the team average. So not against whatever value is just placed in the sky, but how well are they doing against the team? And it’s not the full story and that’s why I don’t put it out there. You might have a really high performer that is dealing with some incredibly challenging cases and maybe they’ve only had six cases that they’re being able to tunnel through that week, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing a bad job, it’s just that’s what they’re working on, right? And you know that, and if you’re a good leader and you’re a good coach, you know what they’ve been working on so you’re not making those value judgments, right?

Gabe Larsen: (14:55)
I like that. That’s right, man. I like the rep and kind of the management focus. And boy, I do find a lot of people go in too far on those rep, the quantity stuff, right? Then it definitely seems like it impacts the overall quality, but I know there’s always a balance on that. Well, I appreciate the talk track, a lot of fun ideas. I’m real interested in this organization. I’m going to have to double click on that a little bit, but it sounds like it really comes down to culture, a lot of collaboration, and then this philosophy. These agile ideas and processes and numbers have really been some of your keys to success. We hit on multiple topics. What’s that last piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders trying to scale, trying to transform amongst all the things that are going on?

Adam Maino: (15:40)
I would say don’t be afraid to try new ideas and don’t be afraid to fail at them and build a culture that allows your team to fail and learn from those challenges.

Gabe Larsen: (15:55)
Yeah, fail fast, right? Easier said than done. If someone wants to get a hold of you or learn a little bit more about some of these topics, what’s the best way to do that?

Adam Maino: (16:05)
You can definitely find me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn profile, that’s probably the easiest and fastest way to do it.

Gabe Larsen: (16:12)
That’s how I found him.

Adam Maino: (16:16)
So yeah, definitely. I’m sure you’ll put the link in there, but yeah, hit me up on LinkedIn. I usually respond pretty quickly. I’m on there quite a bit. So, yeah. Let me know. Happy to talk through any more challenges.

Gabe Larsen: (16:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Adam Maino: (16:37)
Great. Thank you so much for having me on.

Gabe Larsen: (16:38)
Yep.

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

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents TW

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

Fostering Relationships Leads to Better CX

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

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

Utilizing Data as a Tool

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

Building on Each Other’s Strengths

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

Great CX Starts With Happy Agents | Derek Hixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Hixon: (21:27)
Exactly.

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (23:40)
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How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times TW

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

Navigating CX

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

Focusing on What Can Be Controlled

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

Three Methods to Drive CX Success

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:31)
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The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman

The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman TW

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

The Me-Economy

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

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

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

5 Ways to Create a Customer Obsessed Brand

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

Difference Between High and Low Performing CX

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

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Got it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Freedman: (23:27)
Correct.

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

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

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

Matt Freedman: (27:17)
Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Tricks to Earn Customer Loyalty

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

Proactive Communication

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

The Role of AI in CX

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

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

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

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

Listen Now:

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Miller: (09:00)
For sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (22:37)
Thanks Gabe.

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

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.

Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging

Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.

Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels

Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.

Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX

Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.

To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “Keynote Customer Experience Summit | with Matt Dixon, Brad Birnbaum, and Lauren Pragoff” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?

Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?

Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.

Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.

Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?

Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.

Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”

Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?

Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.

Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?

Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”

Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.

Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.

Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.

Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?

Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.

Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
That’s right.

Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?

Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.

Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?

Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.

Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?

Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –

Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –

Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.

Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?

Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.

Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –

Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –

Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.

Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –

Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –

Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.

Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.

Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.

All: (33:13)
Thank you.

Exit Voice: (33:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Irene Griffin, to discuss building better customer relationships through an empathy-driven support model. Irene is currently leading the customer care team at FranConnect. To learn how Irene has built an incredible customer support playbook, listen to the podcast below.

A Playbook for Empathetic CX

Over the years, Irene has created a playbook that helps guide her Customer Support Team to give the best service possible by initiating genuine human interaction. The playbook was created to include strategies and processes to help employees listen to the customer and to understand their needs. Not only should the team members address the customer’s reason for calling, but they should also show the customer that they are there to help and to listen by initiating empathetic conversation. “A lot of times,” Irene states, “Folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want.” As her playbook has developed, it has become a repertoire of customer service secrets that she uses to develop her team and her company’s customer experience.

How to Hire CX Reps

Irene continues by explaining how her CX team is run. She focuses on team collaboration and having a cohesive dynamic. When hiring someone to join the team, the vetting process to find “premium support talent” includes other team members. Irene says, “I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role.”

To assist in the hiring process, during an interview, Irene sets up mock phone calls to see the interviewee’s initial reactions with potentially confusing customer service situations. She asks perplexing questions to draw honest responses and by doing so, she sees if the interviewee is more process focussed or end-goal oriented. For Irene, the most important part of customer interaction is the journey to the answer, or the experience, not necessarily the answer itself. This ensures more authentic and effective customer service calls. Additionally, diversity plays a big role when hiring someone to join the team. Irene talks about how you can pull from the same group of people and still have great outcomes, but she finds that a team with diverse backgrounds creates a more involved and creative environment. As companies apply these hiring principles, they will find customer service rankings improve.

Sample Call Language vs Scripted Responses

As one of her final points, Irene starts to explain her philosophy on scripted phone calls. For Irene and all customer service professionals, consistent information and customer care is important. Most companies create this consistency by creating a type of script for their reps to follow on customer calls. While Irene recognizes the importance of consistency, she feels these calls can become too robotic. Authenticity is what the customer is looking for. Her solution has been sample call language. By sharing suggestions, it put the concepts in the minds of CX reps, allowing them to then be more authentic and creative. She states, “I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus, trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it.” As companies hire the right people using some of the tactics mentioned above, the reps will have the capabilities to have quality customer service calls while still being able to provide consistent information. Sample language is a roadmap to authentic and empathetic communication with the customer.

To learn more about building better customer relationships, 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:

Empathy-Driven Customer Support with Irene Griffin

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about an empathy driven support model and to do that, we brought on Irene Griffin. She’s currently the Director of Customer Support at a company called FranConnect. Irene, how are you doing? Thanks for joining us.

Irene Griffin: (00:26)
Hi Gabe, thank you for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:27)
Yeah, this will be fun. It’s always good to talk about empathy. I’ve been feeling like I need that in my life –

Irene Griffin: (00:37)
These days especially.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
I need that in life and so it might be good to talk about that in support. But before we do that, tell us just real quick a little bit about yourself and your background.

Irene Griffin: (00:47)
Okay. Sure. So I have been a Director of Customer Support at FranConnect like you mentioned. I’m going on three and a half years now, and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I’ve been a hiring manager the entire time. I’ve transformed the team that I inherited and we heard a lot of lessons along the way about how to place great staff into customer support roles. So I can talk a lot about that.

Gabe Larsen: (01:12)
Then we will. We’ll be talking a little bit about that today. So let’s maybe dive in and talk high level, this empathy driven support model. What is it? I mean, give me kind of a 30 second picture overview on it.

Irene Griffin: (01:26)
So, I developed a playbook over the years, and I’ve definitely honed it along the way on how to make sure that we are staffing our customer support team to be empathy driven. And that is to listen to the customer, to understand the customer and not just sort of react to whatever request comes in the door; much like if you visit your doctor and you tell him what prescription you want. You need to give him an opportunity to say, “Well, hold on a second, what’s actually wrong? What are the symptoms?” and then let him decide on the diagnosis. And so it starts with that, making sure that you’re listening to customers. A lot of times folks will come in and they think they know what they want and they ask for it directly. What they really need is someone to be more helpful and more insightful and to deliver what the customer actually needs rather than what they think they want. So it starts there and then I just built out on making sure that the folks that I’m hiring are high energy, have great positive personalities and are comfortable in unknown territories. That’s really important. Those are, I think, some of the best indicators of premium support talent. I’ve definitely hired on skillset above personality before, and I learned a few things along the way there. I would say that if you have all the technical skills or you really know a product well or coding language well, but you’re not great at communication skills and you don’t have a high energy, you’re going to be less successful, definitely, than someone who has that high energy personality, is a great listener and communicator, but then still needs to maybe onboard. And I think as technology becomes easier to learn, easier to adopt, especially with a younger generation where it’s much more natural, learning the technology, I think is very much secondary. So when I look at resumes now as a hiring manager, I think, “Okay, that’s great that you have these skill sets and it’s a good place to start. But if on the phone, you don’t express yourself well and you don’t have high energy, I can kind of tell that you don’t have that outgoing personality.” I generally think twice now, for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
Interesting. So, okay. You got these different, I love the idea of empathy. Ultimately there are different ways to, I think, drive customer satisfaction. But finding out what people really want and not just solving what they think they want, but kind of getting to what they really want, being able to do that in an empathetic manner definitely resonates with me. You hit on a couple of points. I want to see if we can double click on a couple of these. So, you were just talking about hiring on skills versus personality. It sounds like one thing you’ve learned is technology, especially with the younger crowd, they can learn that faster. So you do want to see if you can find the right person, the right DNA, to bring on board rather than just kind of the technology ability, et cetera. Are there certain things you’ve found when you’ve tried to do that hiring process that has helped kind of separate the top candidates from the bottom candidates? Questions you’ve asked, assessments you’ve given, any feedback or thoughts there?

Irene Griffin: (04:29)
Sure. Oh, absolutely. So what I like to do is a mock phone call and I’ll present the interviewee with some, blurry, confusing statements and see how they attack it. Put them on the spot a little bit, and I’m not looking for them to solve the puzzle. I’m looking for the interaction and the response. And so if it’s a client, if it’s, “Hey, let me break this down to make sure that I understand what you’re saying,” rather than the sort of silent, “I’m not sure.” So I think doing mock calls is a great idea for that. And then just in general, it’s really about the energy level of the team. In my experience, and I think everyone can relate to this, I’ve never chosen an airline based on customer service out of the gate, right? You choose based on pricing when you need to fly somewhere. So that’s product based selling, right? And so you’re making that sale based on the product. It’s a good price for a flight to where you need to go, but once you have a bad experience, that’s when you’re more likely to swear off the airline. And it’s probably not because the plane that you were on had bad wheels or bad wings or something like that. I mean, the airline’s done the rude thing and they haven’t worked with you. They haven’t listened to you. They’re not meeting your needs. And that’s a very visceral, very emotional response to a transaction. So for us, it’s about relationship building and it’s about that transaction with customers to make sure that they’re feeling their needs are met. So, I like to use that analogy to sort of explain that and I’ll do that along the interview process as well.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah. I really liked the mock call. Sometimes you can’t understand a person or know what they’re going to be like until you see them do it, and that’s part of the hard part of interviewing. You’ve got to feel it and see it and interact with them and once you do, that does make a huge difference. Do you– when you say you keep it a little more vague, is it just kind of, do you throw harder kind of customer support questions at them or are they more like a puzzle, like trying to answer like a complicated problem?

Irene Griffin: (06:33)
Actually I stick with– I don’t wanna put people on the spot so badly with puzzles. I mean, I lock up myself when I have it done to me, so I stick with more of what a sample support question might be. Where it’s just long winded, convoluted, there’s extra stuff in there and again, I’m not looking for the outcome as much as I’m just looking for the reaction and the ability to kind of parse it out and kind of stay cool and be organized.

Gabe Larsen: (06:58)
I love that. Yeah. The journey to the– it’s like you’re not looking for the right answer. The journey is the reward, right?

Irene Griffin: (07:04)
That’s correct. And then additionally, I can add, I always have most of the team, if available, interview them as well. For me, it’s really important that my team is able to have a hand in choosing their coworker because team dynamics play just a huge role. For me to know that my team trusts each other and they’re building on relationships, they’ll help each other, they’ll grab each other’s tickets without me needing to intervene, that is a big deal. That is just, I think, a really huge thing. And the right personality is going to fold into the right team really well and they’ll enjoy their workday and that translates to the customer experience immensely. When people are happy to be at their jobs, that’s a big deal for customer support.

Gabe Larsen: (07:48)
What are any other things you do to kind of help drive team dynamics? I love the interview, each other, that you can kind of interview the new people to see how well they’ll work together and kind of buy off on it so they feel like they’re part of building the team. Other activities, games, motivational things you do to kind of drive that team dynamics and make it better?

Irene Griffin: (08:08)
Sure. I think…in the pre-pandemic era, when we were all in the office together… it was certainly a lot easier to just, “Let’s go grab a coffee, let’s go grab a quick lunch.” I try not to do too much forced merriment. I think bonding should happen a little naturally, more organically. So yeah, our HR team definitely has great activities for all the employees that bring us together in different ways and we do volunteer work and we have our own internal team parties. But for me, I think mostly just keeping us on standup meetings twice a day, making sure everyone feels heard, repeating the idea of respecting teammates and stuff like that. It happens naturally. I’m happy to say I found out that they were on a happy hour and I wasn’t even invited and it made me thrilled to know that they are choosing to hang out together and even out of work, offline stuff, gaming together and stuff like that. So I think you have to let that develop in its own way.

Gabe Larsen: (09:04)
Yeah. It’s hard sometimes to force that, but sometimes it doesn’t happen naturally. That’s good to hear you guys have some support also from the top to see if you can get some of those things done. So you got a little bit about hiring, a little bit about team dynamics. You also talked about this kind of personality aspect, high energy. Is there a way you coach people to get that, or is that again, maybe more in the hiring process to make sure you find those people that are just a little more energetic, ready to go, be part of the team, et cetera?

Irene Griffin: (09:36)
So, definitely it’s part of the hiring process and that isn’t to say that I’ve only hired extroverts that are bouncing off the walls. That’s not at all what I mean. I definitely have more low key folks, but when they get on the phone with the customer, they’re coached into how to be great customer support people and how to be empathetic. It’s more about empathy, I think, than energy per se. But I do have a playbook that I’ve developed and we would sample tickets, sample phrases. I let them know that, as cheesy as it may seem, I’ll go with: “It’s my pleasure to work with you. Is there anything else I can do for you,” over “Thanks. Have a great day.” Right? It’s just that extra level of like white glove service that elevates the experience and yeah, we’re B2B. So we need to get that relationship established with our customer base. I think if you’re talking B2C and it’s transactional, I mean, you don’t need Amazon sending you flowers for buying something, right? You just want to get the transaction done and it just has to be accurate and it just has to be timely and that’s great. But with us, we’re working with the same folks over and over again. So we need to have the trust and the relationship with our customer and making sure that empathy is at the heart of every call is a big deal. So like I said, I have a playbook where we go through sample language and I make sure that the language is as positive as it can be. So if somebody wants to criticize the product or somebody wants a feature that we’re certain that we’re just not going to support, it’s not just well dismissive or, “can’t do that for you.” It’s, you know, “this is a great idea and I’ll take this to the product team, we’ll see what we can do and in the meanwhile, let’s look at workarounds or other solutions for you.” Yeah. People feel cared for when you use the right language. That’s a huge part of that playbook that I’ve got.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, I want to hear just a little more about the playbook. One question that I’ve often heard is how much do you kind of, this word scripting. Scripting versus not scripting, or really kind of pushed certain types of responses? How have you managed that with this playbook concept?

Irene Griffin: (11:39)
So I think with scripting, I think that’s more of a call center concept with customer support teams that are working through complex issues like for example, with us and software, I don’t really adhere much to it. I think it’s more a sample language that I support plus I want my team to be natural and I want them to be themselves and that’s authentic. And I’d rather them make a mistake than sound robotic because they’re just repeating what they were told. Plus trust your employees, because they have autonomy and they have the freedom to put their own style on it. So I definitely think scripting can be great, but I think that’s more of a call center concept.

Gabe Larsen: (12:19)
Yeah. Do you feel like, so it sounds like you’ve been able to give them snippets or you use the word, playbooks, so give them plays or something that they could potentially use or sample language based on commonly asked questions or common concerns, things like that. How have you found the balance to have versus autonomy versus using these sample dialogues, et cetera, any thoughts there?

Irene Griffin: (12:45)
So I guess we do have FAQ’s and for a knowledge base, that’s really important for us to get the answer, right. It’s not just about how we are talking to customers, about whether or not we’re able to solve it on first touch. That’s also a huge part of the customer service experience. So, I think autonomy is really much more important. When you let them problem solve on their own, I think that’s really key.

Gabe Larsen: (13:07)
Yeah. Yep. In order to get them to that level, have you found, with outside of the playbook, other training aspects you’ve had to really facilitate or product training? How do you get to the people where they kind of have that balance or that capability of being able to be off the cuff and get the answers you need?

Irene Griffin: (13:25)
I think for me personally, the most successful path towards that has been shadowing. So when you have someone that’s really great at what they do, just getting your staff to watch and listen and understand that this is how we conduct ourselves. This is how we talk to customers and this is what’s expected. And then I found this to be pretty successful if you hire the right folks that get it to begin with and they understand, and I think it’s a more pleasurable experience, even for the support people to create the relationship. And then we get high marks. We get high MPS scores because our customers love the team that they’re working with. And so when I get feedback from my customer base, it’s by name, they’re naming folks that they love working with. And it doesn’t mean that we solved the problem right away. It doesn’t mean that it was a magic wand experience, but they know that we’re here and we know they know that we’re working for them, we’re working hard for them. And that honestly buys a lot of leverage with critical problems that you just need a team of technical people to resolve and it’s a little out of your hands to deliver. Maintaining that relationship really helps the customer base and keeps them– . What’s more important for me is making sure that our customers are ready and wanting to call us back again and again and so that we leave them with an experience that is a positive one. So they feel comfortable reaching out to us whenever they need us.

Gabe Larsen: (14:47)
Got it. Do you feel like, I mean, you obviously work in the B2B space and you’ve hit some of these things that kind of drive this empathetic model, other kinds of things outside of this that are keys to building customer relationships that you’ve found?

Irene Griffin: (15:00)
Oh, that’s a good question. I think just getting on the phone with them, sooner than later, is a really key component. I know today nobody just calls each other, right? You text somebody and you say, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?” And then you set up a minute to talk and that’s sort of the appropriate etiquette these days. Just ringing someone out of the blues generally considered, –I think the phone has a huge component in hearing people’s voices and you get a lot from tone and clear up a lot of misunderstanding and get to a resolution a lot faster when you just pick up the phone and call the customer. So I think that’s another key component and you can respond to the ticket and type out your responses, but a lot of times it gives them an opportunity to talk and folks love to talk. Most of the time.

Gabe Larsen: (15:48)
A little more proactiveness, right? You know, certainly methodologies lend itself to being a little more proactive, but we can respond and email, but we could sometimes, “I’m going to try to get ahead of this one or I’m going to just get them right now,” and you’d be a little more aggressive, but sometimes that does pay off. I like that.

Irene Griffin: (16:08)
And a lot of times, to add to that, they’ll end up adding on a couple of extra questions once they’re on the phone and then deflects future tickets. So there’s a lot to it.

Gabe Larsen: (16:18)
While you got them, might as well get it all answered. Right? Get it all out of them. Do you, certainly we talked about a lot of different stuff in this model, so personality and hiring dynamics and using playbooks. If you had to kind of sum it up, as a takeaway that is the secret to having a great support team for a lot of leaders out there like yourself who are trying to navigate these challenging times, what would be kind of your closing statement or closing argument here?

Irene Griffin: (16:45)
I would say that on top of everything we discussed today about getting positive energy folks, make sure that you have a diversity of background folks as well. I think that’s just a huge thing. Nothing wrong with pulling from the same group or the same fraternity at one particular university and hiring a bunch of friends but, there’s a lot of value in dragging people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds. I think that it gives people a more cosmopolitan or I guess, more rich background in which to work and it improves them personally. So I think that’s one of the extra takeaways in summary that I would add on top of that.

Gabe Larsen: (17:28)
And that’s very timely as well. Right? I think we’re all trying to reflect a little bit more on that and find ways to do it. It sounds like that’s been beneficial for you. So Irene, I really appreciate your time. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these ideas, what’s the best way to do that?

Irene Griffin: (17:45)
Yeah, absolutely. So, if you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Irene Griffin at FranConnect, and I think that should be enough info. If you look me up, I’d be happy to link in with you and continue this conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (17:56)
Yeah. It’s always fun to continue the conversation guys. So again, Irene, thanks for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Irene Griffin: (18:01)
Thanks Gabe.

Exit Voice: (18:09)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Douglas Kramon, Senior Director of Fan Support & Customer Care Operations at ESPN, to discuss how customer care drives customer experience. ESPN is a world renowned sports network with an unmatched customer care system. Learn how Douglas has become so successful in customer relations by listening to the podcast below.

Fan Support

The Customer Care Operations team at ESPN has transformed the world of customer experience by creating a more empathetic relationship between the agent and the customer. By doing so, not only have they improved customer experiences, but they have made room for fan-to-fan sports discussion. The concept of the “fan” was created as a nickname for customers at ESPN to make a more relatable and human connection to the agents. Douglas states, “But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.” Douglas talks about how everyone in the Fan Support department is a big sports fan and because of this, they are better able to have constructive conversations when customers reach out to ESPN Fan Support.

Improving Brand Experience During COVID-19

For many fans, sports are memories. With this in mind, Douglas’ team knows that sports bring people together and many are missing that fan-to-fan interaction. They want to keep the sports memories alive, especially during COVID-19 when live sporting events have decreased. To do this, Douglas’ team is actively searching for ways to improve the ESPN sport experience all while balancing business and working from home during a pandemic. As Douglas mentions, “Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate.” While live sporting events are minimal, his team is working to replace the experience with engaging content such as a new docuseries called The Last Dance. Continuing to better the fan experience with more interesting content, contacting through SMS, live messaging, and human interaction, Douglas’ team has seen a large increase in C-SAT.

Three Ways to Keep Agents Happy and Thriving

At ESPN, not only is it important to keep the fans happy, it’s also important to keep the Fan Support agents happy. Douglas has figured out three elements that help his team thrive in a fast paced environment: workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. He hopes to harbor a motivating workspace where daily collaboration welcomes insightful communication. In connection with the nutrition concept, Douglas talks about how his agents have families and lives outside of the work environment and he emphasizes the importance of home life. He says:

So you had a great C-SAT. You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, ‘Thank you for doing what you are doing.’ With the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them.

To Douglas, happy agents are a prerequisite to happy fans and small acts make a big difference in agent and fan morale.

To learn more about how customer care drives customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “Douglas Kramon | Be Brief, Be Bright, and Be Gone” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Fan-to-Fan Customer Support with Douglas Kramon

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 jump in. We’re going to be talking about customer care driving customer experience, and to do that, we brought on Douglas Kramon. He’s currently the senior director of fan support and customer care operations at ESPN. Douglas, we appreciate you joining. How are ya?

Douglas Kramon: (00:30)
Good Gabe. Thank you so much for having me.

Gabe Larsen : (00:33)
Yeah, I think this will be fun. I mean, you’ve got a real interesting background. Obviously the company you’re working at, a lot of different changes going on there, and I want to jump into some of the ways you’ve managed around that. Still trying to drive those customers to be excited and passionate about a brand that I think really has kind of that passion innately in it. Before we do though, tell us just a little bit about yourself, your background, and then we can kind of jump in.

Douglas Kramon: (01:02)
Sure. My background is obviously when you go to college for Native American archeology and cultural anthropology, it’s natural to land at the worldwide leader of sports. That’s just what you do. It just happened. And needless to say, it’s been a wonderful time at ESPN. But, through my time post college, it’s really all been about customer experience and identifying the opportunities to improve the brand experience with the customer and what I will refer to with ESPN, we call the “fan.” ESPN is a Disney organization and so we have some serious brand prestige to try to maintain and we’re dealing with sports fans. Sports are all about emotion and passion and when we talk sports or fans talk sports, it’s dialogue, it’s discussion, it’s debate. So a lot of what I do is to make sure in my teams, the passion of sport or the passion that spans out for sport is brought closer to what they want to see.

Gabe Larsen : (02:21)
I love that.

Douglas Kramon: (02:21)
So we’re excited about that. And times have changed a little bit right now as we’re dealing with COVID-19, but that challenge still exists.

Gabe Larsen : (02:30)
Amen. Amen. So let’s get into that part of it. I mean, obviously, as you think about your current environment, it’s all about live – live sports, live everything. And that’s one of the things that drives the passion I think for the brand specifically, thinking about some of the sports ideas. Although on the Disney side, as you said, right? A lot of live interaction there, theme parks, et cetera. If you can just kind of paint the picture as to how you’re viewing it with all the changes that have gone on. Like what’s kind of going through your mind from a, “Holy smokes, the world has kind of turned and now I find myself in a very precarious place?”

Douglas Kramon: (03:14)
Yeah. It’s an excellent question. You know, going into this early to mid-March, I’m ramping up my care team to provide support for millions upon millions of college, NCAA tournaments, challenge players, looking for a college tournament. And then directly following that the beginning of major league baseball and fantasy baseball and suddenly like that, it’s all gone. So you suddenly have an opportunity and you’re ramped up accordingly for one of the most exciting months, if you will, in sports and then it just vanishes. So the live sport experience worldwide has vanished before our eyes.

Gabe Larsen : (03:59)
Man, when that NCA turned, when the big dance got canceled, I felt that one personally, because there’s sports that – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt but I’m so passionate about this. Some of the sports, golf pro stuff, but man to see those kids who this is so important to them. They’re seniors. They’re going to the big dance, a lot of them for the first time and those pictures were just heartbreaking to see.

Douglas Kramon: (04:27)
And that’s the emotion of live sport? Is it not?

Gabe Larsen : (04:29)
It is.

Douglas Kramon: (04:29)
So knowing that, it’s disappeared and our fans feel that. It’s as if something has been ripped out of them in an incredibly difficult and challenging time already with what’s going on in the world. So removing live sport, we are working to replace the experience until it comes back with incredible content as you and I have talked about with exciting things like The Last Dance, which is now the number one viewing experience out there.

Gabe Larsen : (05:03)
For people who don’t know what that is, give them just 30 second on that.

Douglas Kramon: (05:07)
Sure, so the last dance is a docuseries about the 97-98 season of the Bulls and Michael Jordan leading that team. And really the last time that team would be together and it shows the evolution of the Bulls from the early nineties on. And of course their premier players: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen-

Gabe Larsen : (05:34)
It’s really well done.

Douglas Kramon: (05:34)
It really is an incredible storytelling experience. It’s not a live sport.

Gabe Larsen : (05:39)
I’m on episode four.

Douglas Kramon: (05:40)
Soon enough, you got two more to go before this weekend release – I think Saturday. It’s something where passion for sport is still there and we’re seeing that. So right now we shifted from live viewing triaged, in the moment triaged, for live sport because in customer service, for what I do, we’re like a Formula One pit crew. And while all I care about is be brief, be bright and be gone. That’s true enough.

Gabe Larsen : (06:11)
I love that. Say it one more time. That’s kind of been the typical thing of customer service right?

Douglas Kramon: (06:17)
Sure. Be brief, be bright and be gone so you can get the next fan or the next customer and service them and be smart about it. We’re looking at a situation now where we use to get contacts from fans and triage, get you connected appropriately to your TV provider, allow you to view something on a larger screen, you get a lot of technical issues, or it’s lock time almost for fantasy baseball, help you with your rosters. All of that is live triaged and we have special tools where we can see what’s coming over the horizon and hit us. So we know in the moment what to be prepared for. We have great tools that turn dark data into live data and what’s coming to the sender and what folks are saying on social and everywhere. But when it suddenly shuts off the live sport tab and we have to go to video on demand, it’s a different kind of support model, but it’s one where we have the opportunity to also have fan-to-fan dialogue. We like to say, and we believe this wholeheartedly, for customer service, we are fellow fans in the stands with our fans. We’re not the suits in the suites, meaning we’re there with you. We’re sports fans just like you –

Gabe Larsen : (07:33)
I love that.

Douglas Kramon: (07:33)
– and we understand what you’re going through and if you want to talk a little sport, we do too. And that’s what we do and our C-SAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have now, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion, not so much debate, and if it is, it’s off the cuff and it’s jovial. But we, like the fans we know, miss sport. And so we see it in C-SAT, they wanted to come back and we like to say, “We miss it too,” and then we talk a little sport and we move on.

Gabe Larsen : (08:10)
Okay. So I got to click into that for a minute. The typical motion has been kind of be brief, you know, get off, be gone. I liked your saying better. But now, you’re open a little more, you kind of push that based on the changes to have a dialogue because I’m missing sports, the ref’s missing sports. So is there some examples? I mean, you’re having people then kind of be like call in for a problem, but it is, I really miss my Celtics man. You Celtics fan? And next thing you know, five minutes later, we’re talking about the glory days with Garnett and winning a couple championships. Is that kind of what’s going on?

Douglas Kramon: (08:48)
Absolutely. Just yesterday for example, we have a C-SAT, customer satisfaction survey response, and I’ll tell you what the fan said. Fan gave the agent five out of five stars and said, “I called to relay a story about coach Don Shula. As you know, Don Shula passed away recently. I was a highschool coach for 47 years and I spoke about motivation for the 1972 Dolphins. Mark was very attentive, the agent Mark, to the story and he listened and he loved it. And that’s important to me. He’s a great employee for ESPN. Thank you for allowing me to share this conversation.”

Gabe Larsen : (09:29)
No way!

Douglas Kramon: (09:29)
We also have others where Alex, for example, and the fan writes to C-SAT, he was, “prompt, helpful and amazing with troubleshooting. But it sucks that he’s a Jets fan, but as the Bills are my team, I have no room to talk.” So as you can see, there’s a jovial nature and a conversational nature from our fans where you reach a care agent. You’re reaching a brand specialist who is also a brand protector. We have chatbots. We have FAQ deflectors. We have self service. We have AI in the IVR methods. Hang on, let me put my dog out real quick.

Gabe Larsen : (10:17)
You’re good! It’s the reality man, the dog [inaudible] that goes, it’s the way the world is right now.

Douglas Kramon: (10:20)
This is the new reality. I have to be here with my dog in the office. So we are brand protectors or agents. When you actually reach the live agent, it’s human-to-human interaction, fan-to-fan. And we see it in our C-SAT and Gabe, let me point out during this time since the quarantine, which is about March 15th to today. What is it we’re looking at, May 8th?

Gabe Larsen : (10:49)
Coming up on two months, coming up on two, right?

Douglas Kramon: (10:51)
Our C-SAT has never been higher. Never.

Gabe Larsen : (10:55)
That’s awesome.

Douglas Kramon: (10:56)
When you compare it to this time last year, we’re 14% higher and if you compare it to the 40 days prior to 45 days prior to that, we’re 9% higher and it’s because our agents are showing a dialogue, empathy, understanding, compassion, and letting fans know we miss it too. We miss-

Gabe Larsen : (11:18)
I love that. So a couple of follow ups on that one is, how do you find p– How do you find agents like that? I mean, I feel like I’d be a good agent-

Douglas Kramon: (11:26)
You would, I bet you would.

Gabe Larsen : (11:26)
– in one of your operations because I watch ESPN– Well, I did watch it religiously every night just to be kind of up on the latest because I like to have kind of the, what do they call it? The cooler room talk-

Douglas Kramon: (11:40)
Absolutely! The water cooler talk.

Gabe Larsen : (11:40)
– the water cooler talk. How do you find these people, do you actually screen for fools like me who loves sports or what’s kind of the –

Douglas Kramon: (11:51)
Well, the answer is an absolute yes. So you have to pass a sports test to work at ESPN and customer service and ultimately you have to show passion for sport in the interview. We would like you to know fantasy football or baseball or basketball or hockey. You don’t need to know them all. Then we ask for a sports story and Gabe, for example, I’m a Jets fan. It’s challenging to be a Jets fan because the Jets are at the bottom of the barrel most of the time. So it’s one day they won’t be, but we’re suffering Jets fans. Our feeling is this. You love your team because they’re yours, not because they’re great. I want a story from every agent that tells me what they love about their favorite sports star, the game, their team, their love of a specific event. Like they watched the 1980 Olympics hockey team, USA hockey win. And tell us a story. I need to know that you’re connected to sport.

Gabe Larsen : (13:02)
I love that. When you get someone to tell that story, I’m sure it can come out. You can just gauge very quickly kind of the passion and the realness about stories. Do you want to hear my story, Doug?

Douglas Kramon: (13:13)
Of course.

Gabe Larsen : (13:13)
I’m thinking of The Last Dance. I’ll make this one brief. I don’t remember if it was ’97 or ’98, but I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m thinking Jordan game six, Byron Russell, driving to the whole Jordan memory. Jordan does that push and he sinks it and puts Utah out of it again. I mean, Utah is never going to win an NBA championship. They had their chance, but obviously they had to come against the Jordan era.

Douglas Kramon: (13:47)
That was the first Karl Malone game, if I’m correct.

Gabe Larsen : (13:50)
Yeah! Karl Malone, John Stockton. I mean, that was the team. Again we’re a small market company and so [inaudible] every year and –

Douglas Kramon: (13:57)
Was Clyde Drexler on that team possibly? That was a power team.

Gabe Larsen : (14:02)
It was.

Douglas Kramon: (14:02)
It’s the storytelling that you see, it brings it back, the memories. That’s what sports are about. Now, don’t get me wrong. I work in customer care, I’m constantly dealing with things that are issues, broken links, incorrect team logos, pages that are broken that won’t display, let’s say video issues with stutter, jitter, or black screen, et cetera, fantasy confusion. We’re constantly triaging. It never ends. But deep down, when you peel that layer of the onion back, you’re speaking to a fan just like you and they’re more likely to appreciate the conversation and remain an ESPN fan if there is a human element to that.

Gabe Larsen : (14:47)
Yeah. So that would be my followup on that. When you kind of mentioned, and it sounds like you got a decent amount of sophistication in this, you do have some bots, you have some deflection, you’ve got some knowledge base, you’ve got live agents, IVR intelligence on IVR. Without going into extreme detail, how do you kind of find that balance of the individual interaction, but also being efficient and effective and deflecting and making sure that people can self service a little bit? Quick thoughts on that?

Douglas Kramon: (15:19)
So we have tools that determine, based on frequency, recency, frequency, sentiment, and velocity. We know what fans are saying to us via– and I’ll talk on live channels, chat, phone, SMS, right? So those are the ones that we’re doing. Email is not live.

Gabe Larsen : (15:40)
So which one’s most active for you guys?

Douglas Kramon: (15:43)
SMS is growing by leaps and bounds –

Gabe Larsen : (15:45)
Really?

Douglas Kramon: (15:45)
– because the younger demo loves it and we’re finding C-SAT highest on SMS because you move at the pace of the fan. When the fan is texting back and forth with you, they might be doing other things during their day, whether or not in quarantine. They’re moving around and they ask a question. They don’t expect an immediate synchronous response. If they do, our SMS is faster, the agent responds quicker. If not, we see a top C-SAT score with an average response time between three and eight minutes of a response back to a fan, meaning it’s moving at the speed of the fan. So we know the most common questions that are coming into us based on a rapid analysis of keyword extraction rate. And so we immediately put the things up that an FAQ could respond to and put it out there for our bots, our chat bot or SMS bot, our traditional and all of that. But, if you get passed through to an agent and the bot has failed, you immediately move to the top of the queue [inaudible] trying to address. And we then capture, what is that question? And we determine maybe that’s something where we can put that out. [Inaudible] The goal is, if you reach my agent, we have to do what’s called a plus one. Not only do we give you the answer, but we know you didn’t want to reach out to us to begin with. Reaching out to customer service is not fun. We need to make sure that you’re satisfied and that we surprise you with a sports knowledge opportunity, information of an article that might interest you about what we just discussed. So for example, if you’re talking fantasy football and it’s information that now Frank Gore has signed a one year deal with the Jets and you want to understand how you can use Frank Gore, when will he be available in fantasy on the Jets? We will just say details on that and, “by the way, check out this article.” [inaudible] gives details about what Frank Gore’s impact may be on fantasy with the Jets. So always an opportunity just to do a little bit more. Why sports is based on emotion and fans retain that.

Gabe Larsen : (18:13)
Yes. Yeah. I love that. I think, actually, fans do want the self service. For a while, it was a little at a negative connotation, but as a fan, I kind of want to get– if I have those quick answers or quick questions, getting quick answers, I’d prefer to self serve.

Douglas Kramon: (18:29)
Yes. It’s exactly. I think fans prefer self service.

Gabe Larsen : (18:33)
I’m open to chat with somebody and obviously there’s very specific things sometimes where it’s like, look, there’s no bot that can help me with this. I gotta make two transitions from two airlines in two countries. Like I got to talk to someone about this flight, it’s too complicated.

Douglas Kramon: (18:48)
You used to say to our bot, “Agent.” Boom, it goes right to an agent. Our bots don’t take themselves too seriously. They know when to say, “Okay, I’m done.”

Gabe Larsen : (19:00)
Oh, yeah. Well, Doug, we’re coming to the end here. But, you’re my new favorite customer care expert. Loved our conversation. So fun to kind of hear some of the things you guys are doing to react, some of the priorities you’re taking and then just some of the advice you’ve given. And I’d like to end with that. As you think about the audience, other customer care leaders fight the same battles you’re fighting — obviously different brands, different situations, industry, but a lot of the same. We’re all we’re all in quarantine. Let’s see what last piece of advice you’d kind of give to make everybody feel, give them that tip that they can use to win.

Douglas Kramon: (19:35)
That’s a great question. Honestly, you’re not going to have great customer service or fan support as we call it. If this were Disney, we call it like guest support, or viewer support, or whatever it may be. Last year agents were feeling good. Now granted, our agents are now all working at home. They used to work in a center because it’s sports is collaborative and we know that a center is best for that. But when they’re working at home, my recommendation is you have happy agents. You will have happy fans. And it’s a challenge. So we have identified three things. We want to make sure that we have a motivating workspace for our agents. We want to ensure collaboration daily with other agents like you’re in the center. And we have a website where we do constant coffee breaks and we also award agents on a regular basis through what we call nutrition. So it’s workspace, collaboration, and nutrition. Remember these are [inaudible] agents. They’re with their families. So you had a great C-SAT? You’re going to get a family size pizza arriving at your door with a little note from ESPN saying, “Thank you for doing what you are doing.” with the C-SAT review directly below it and letting them know we appreciate them. That means they’re more likely to go to a comfortable workspace that they’ve set up for themselves, that they’re collaborating with others as if they’re in the center and they’re feeling good that we appreciate them. And we’re feeding them where the opportunity presents itself, because these are incredibly challenging times for family and for individuals. Our best is all about making sure we’re keeping our workplace agents happy and it shows in our C-SAT.

Gabe Larsen : (21:18)
I love that, man. Especially the food part. You know, it must be the young person in me. It’s like the food. I mean, it’s something small, but it makes a difference. So I love that idea. I think –

Douglas Kramon: (21:32)
I agree. We have UFC 249 coming up this weekend, which is the first real live sport opportunity — wings for everybody. So we’re excited about this.

Gabe Larsen : (21:42)
Douglas, we are bringing you back, man. I want to hear about that last part. We did not go deep enough into some of the things you’re doing with your employees. So consider yourself tapped again for round two, maybe in the next couple of months, but appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that?

Douglas Kramon: (22:01)
Sure, Linkedin. I’m right on there as Douglas Kramon, K – R – A – M – O – N. I’m happy to chat. I’m always open to learning new things and to sharing.

Gabe Larsen : (22:10)
Love it. Alright well hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Douglas Kramon: (22:15)
You too Gabe! Thank you so very much.

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

 

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Paolo Fabrizio, author, speaker, and customer service expert to discuss digital customer service. Paolo has plenty of experience working with the integration of digital channels and with hiring and training digital customer service assistants. Paolo does this by leveraging conversations in social media, live chat and instant messaging apps for various industries with his knowledge of the digital landscape. Given his past experience and insightful courses, businesses would benefit from his advice on this episode. Listen to the full podcast below.

What is a Digital Customer Experience?

Paolo starts his conversation with Gabe by defining digital customer experience. This type of service is the conversation happening with the customer over digital channels. When Paolo refers to digital customer service or digital channels, he focuses on three main types: social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps. By learning to leverage these platforms and channels, businesses will notice an increase in customer satisfaction. To further define digital customer experience, Paolo states, “Digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations, to retain and attract customers.” Simply using the digital channels is not enough, instead these tools should be used with purpose and strategy.

The Digital Customer Service Assistant

Paolo goes on to discuss the importance of the characteristics of successful customer service reps in the digital realm. There are different skills required for reps in digital customer service than in more traditional channels. He says, “One of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message. That makes a difference.” Having this ability to empathetically communicate with the customer builds a sense of trust between the customer and the emotionally intelligent rep. It’s this empathetic communication that initially assures the customer that the agent will take care of their needs. Due to the dynamics of the digital platform, being able to immediately detect the tone of the customer and their needs will help harbor a more efficient and productive customer experience.

Courses to Help Your Customer Service Team Embrace the Digital Landscape

Lastly, Paolo speaks about three of his courses he offers on his website: Road Map, Coaching, and Crisis Response. The “Road Map” course offers help with designing an effortless experience when creating a customer journey map. By creating an effective journey map, especially when it comes to digital platforms, businesses will see customer satisfaction improve. The second course, “Coaching,” widely demanded by an array of customer service managers, helps to integrate customer service management skills into the digital realm. Paolo goes on to introduce his newest course titled, “Crisis Response.” Paolo mentions that this course helps everyone from managers to smaller teams with how to develop, “Your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.” These courses are available through Paolo’s website, customerserviceculture.com. These three principles, journey mapping, management skills, and crisis response are frequently discussed among traditional CX channels. As businesses learn to apply them to their digital platforms, their customer service team will be able to keep improving with the industry and the customer.

To learn more about digital customer service and the work of Paolo Fabrizio, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Listen to “Using Digital Channels to Reach Your Customer Base | Paolo Fabrizio” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Digital Customer Service Revolution with Paolo Fabrizio

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about digital customer service and to do that, we brought on author, speaker, customer service expert, Paolo Fabrizio. Paolo, thanks for joining and how are you?

Paolo Fabrizio: (00:26)
Fine, thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:28)
Yeah, well, Paolo, we were just talking pre show a little bit about him being in Milan, Italy, and with all that’s going on in the world. I’m glad to hear that he is safe and secure, at least for the moment. So that was all good news to hear. Today, as I mentioned, we’re going to talk a little bit about digital customer service. Paolo, can you take just a minute and tell us maybe just a little bit more about yourself and kind of what you do?

Paolo Fabrizio: (00:54)
Yeah. Well, I have clients and integrate digital channels. When I say digital, I refer to three main pillars, which are social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps that will have clients of many various industries integrate such channels and hire and train digital customer service assistants — maybe we’ll talk about this topic later — and also helping managers manage new digital teams, setting up new KPIs as for digital channels and sometimes software selection. So I think we’ve got something that’s struggling together, talking about [inaudible] products and doing a lot of interesting stuff here in Italy and also in Europe as well.

Gabe Larsen: (01:40)
I love it. Oh, wow. Yeah. Well we better talk a little more. I didn’t realize there was so much connection on the software side as well. We’ll do that post post recording here. Awesome. Well, let’s dive into this topic maybe just for the big picture– you were touching on a little bit, but for those of us who aren’t as familiar with digital customer service, how would you define that? Or kind of label it, big picture?

Paolo Fabrizio: (02:02)
Yeah. Well, my first idea and what I bring with passion and every day is that digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations to retain and attract customers. So, I’ve always– I’ve been working so many years within companies before becoming a consultant five years ago, and I had the chance to cover so many customer facing roles. But I’ve seen then, and I still see sometimes today, that customer service organization is still much underrated. And it’s still much seen as a cost area instead of a profit area. The only way to turn this key and to turn this engine on is to work on interaction and conversations. So we’re living in a world where everything is based on speed and time. So if you make my time wasting, I get disappointed. If you let me save my time, I will be more– I will tend to stay with you for a longer time. So in terms of loyalty, that makes a difference; how quick we are and how effective we are makes a difference.

Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
No, I love that. And I think that’s obviously what we’re all looking for especially as times have changed, we need to be more and more effective. How do you kind of think about this question, I think it comes up often, it’s kind of the agents versus digital customer service assistance or people versus technology? How do you kind of talk through that when we think of this customer service, this digital customer service concept?

Paolo Fabrizio: 03:53)
Yeah. The starting point is that there are a lot of people doing a great job, helping customers using traditional channels, such as phone or email.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Yes.

Paolo Fabrizio: (04:04)
But what I’ve seen as a consultant in many various industry is that if you let them change and switch from a traditional channel and let them handle the same customer, talking about the same topic on apps, on live chat, on social media, sometimes they make a mess because they are not ready, even though they got a big– a long expertise. They’re not ready to handle that situation because there are new factors that emerge on conversations across digital channels. In fact, one of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message, that makes a difference. So it’s partially a brand new job, even though we’re talking about sometimes very experienced people doing a great job. And after a couple of years — talking about this topic on my books and on my other online activities — last year I started working a lot with clients here in Italy and Europe to help them hire and train internally or sometimes externally — if they work with outsources — people who had some specific experience traits and some other areas of their potential that can be a power working on that. And we’ve seen great results after six or 12 months after they started to benchmark the results of these small digital team insight within customer service and the major, the bigger one, working on traditional channels. So they noticed. I got a client, the retail area, supermarket area that after 12 months they experienced that they’re small seven people team of digital customer service got one point better at customer satisfaction, four stars compared to the 3.2 of their same room, big traditional channel customer service. They increased 25% productivity. So in their peak hour, which is between 11:00 and 12:00 AM, they usually serve between six, eight customers over the phone. And they served between 15 and 17 customers over digital, especially on the social. So, you can enjoy, I wouldn’t say immediate, but very, very fast, great results in terms of productivity and also from the customer side, which is crucial customer satisfaction.

Gabe Larsen: (06:55)
And how do you, I mean, you touched on this a little bit, but how do you train them and hire them differently? I mean, we have kind of the standard agents, but then this is kind of a new world. These are sometimes different channels. What does that look like? Is it a lot different in the way you trained, is a lot different the type of people you hire?

Paolo Fabrizio: (07:11)
Yeah. Yeah. Because sometimes I’m working with different industries and also different structures, different people in terms of the level of expertise. But, my approach is more or less the same. Of course I customize, but the first thing for me is to listen and watch and analyze what they’re doing now. So I’ve got a first assessment step, which is also made online, of course, and then I’m able to detect what’s not working in their conversations. So I can find the pain points from the customer side, having worked so many years on the other side, okay, within companies; and after detecting the pain points, I define with managers, new guidelines, do’s and don’ts and tone of voice. And then I start working with them with the HR manager or customer service manager together to select a small group of people based on the current and predictable volumes of digital conversations. And I prepared, and I usually assess people with private personal interviews, temporize tests based on sentiment detections–

Gabe Larsen: (08:26)
Yes.

Paolo Fabrizio: (08:26)
— and then other tests. So I am able to learn how much they are motivated to leave the contact center. So do you want to lift the phone, or are you willing to roll your sleeves and try to learn something new? And second, do you have just a customer service approach or do you also have a commercial sales approach, which is very important when you deal on public channels, such as social media or online review sites? So I’m looking for those traits and when we define, when we hire together a small group starting from small, and then scalable group of people. I prepare and deploy a training program, which is usually divided into three steps, a workshop based on the guidelines we already set and define with management line.

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Yeah.

Paolo Fabrizio: 09:18)
Half of the time, try exercise. Exercise on your platform, on client’s platform, dealing with real live conversations with customers.

Gabe Larsen: (09:28)
Yep.

Paolo Fabrizio: (09:29)
So in the morning, there is theory; new guidelines, new laws, so to say. In the afternoon, you need it to apply so you can fix and realize what are the issues that you may find. After a couple of weeks, a follow up with a laboratory training in the morning and checking out what’s going on or what needs to be fixed in the afternoon. And the third part is that one to one coaching in order to get a consistent tone of voice by each of the digital customer service assistants. So it’s pretty articulate, but very interesting.

Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah, no, I love it. Interesting. I didn’t want to go into this too much, but it is very interesting. We talked a little bit about this idea. You’re really focusing on the digital side of it. And when you have– I just feel like those channels are more underused, right? As you said, they’re not the typical channels, phone and email are the typical channels. When companies are handling support through social media or live chat messaging apps, what are some of the peculiarities that you see, some of the differences you see when you work with some of these companies through those channels? Anything you could share there?

Paolo Fabrizio: (10:41)
Well, I still see many mistakes. So the first mistake is not considering how important an incoming message through social is, but it’s important if the same message is delivered through email. So in terms of “Shall I respond?, When do I need to respond?” So in terms of considering what the customer’s expectations are. So today, if you ask a question to a customer service through email, you may expect a response within 20, 24 hours maybe, or less. But if you send the same question, which is a neutral question, no urgency through Facebook, you expect an answer. You’re telling me that you expect an answer within six or eight hours. And if you use Twitter, you expect it within three hours. In motorway lanes, so email is the slow lane. Social is lower. Facebook is low. Twitter is very, very, very slow. So I’m using all the– pushing on the throttle to overcome the rest of the cars. So, first of all, you need to realize what’s behind the use of different channels. Then you need to customize the content because I usually work on what’s been said. I always say that if you write an excellent answer on this, on this paper, right? It’s an excellent answer for the customer. But if you use the most wonderful platform and you write bullshit, that’s bullshit. And that does not really depend on the platform or the access of it. So you need to customize, and beware that you need to change tone of voice moving from, switching from a digital channel to another. So social media– sorry, Facebook has got an informal party voice; Twitter, more journalistic, pragmatic tone of voice, live chat: professional informal, instant messaging between social and live chat? And then there are also other things when you have a live chat conversation, which to me is the most difficult channel to be served by agents because it’s a live direct conversation like the one we’re having right now. It’s like having a phone conversation. You cannot distract. You cannot check things for two minutes without advising what you’re doing, otherwise, the customer think, “Are you still alive, are you having another conversation? You’re not interested in me?” So you need to, taking care of each detail in terms of tone of voice, in terms of rules of engagement– engagement rules, and other things. This is much underrated. Still now, even though here in Italy and Europe something’s changing very, very rapidly in the last 12 months.

Gabe Larsen: (13:40)
But a lot of them moving more towards this type of stuff, I assume, correct?

Paolo Fabrizio: (13:47)
Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (13:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Interesting Paolo, I love this topic. I just feel like there’s so many people who are starting to see the benefits and really the customers are pushing them towards this digital, these digital channels that they weren’t as used to before. No more is phone and email. I mean, certainly those are still the primary ones, but so many businesses are experiencing some of these and I think you’re right on the cusp of, we did some training. We need to know how to use them, why to use them, how to integrate them, how to train around them, et cetera. So if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you or some of the stuff you do, what’s the best way to do that?

Paolo Fabrizio: (14:23)
Well, the best way to do it is to have a look at my website, which is called customerserviceculture.com. Then from mid-April on, it will be totally translated into English. That’s good news, including new blog posts. And also my online training courses will be available also for English speaking.

Gabe Larsen: (14:43)
And what are those courses?

Paolo Fabrizio: (14:46)
You know, the main focus are three. So the first is called the roadmap. It helps you develop a digital customer service strategic plan. So where should I start from with video lessons and other interactions? The second one Is called coaching digital customer service managers. And it’s been demanded by customer service managers, who are experienced, that need to integrate their digital skills. One-to-one live coaching. The third one, the newest one, is called crisis response and it’s also extending not just to managers, but also to small teams of five people. And where we work on your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.

Gabe Larsen: (15:40)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, Paolo, I really appreciate that. We’ll make sure we include some of that information so everyone can check that out. Thank you again for joining and hope you have a fantastic day.

Paolo Fabrizio: (15:51)
Thank you so much, indeed. Best of luck for Kustomer.

Exit Voice: (16:00)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vipula Gandhi, the current Managing Director at Gallup, to discuss customer service data and the connection between customers and employees. Vipula has a wealth of experience, working in several industries from banking, to hospitality, to consulting. She has also worked all over the world in India and Singapore; and cities such as Dubai, London and now Washington D.C. As a true expert in the field, her insights on customer and employee engagement are sure to help businesses improve their customer service experience. Listen to the full podcast below.

Customers Feelings Are Facts

Vipula discusses with Gabe that companies need to understand their customers to succeed. She notes that while most CX tactics and strategies are focused on rationale, logic, and the process that the customer goes through, the most important and effective strategies involve the emotions of the customer. Data, effective strategies, and measurable company growth can come from a study of the effects of emotion. Vipula wisely states, “…to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors.” This science of the impacts of emotion is relatively new, but dramatically improves the customer experience. Gabe responds and summarizes this point by stating, “…it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience.”

How Complaints Can Actually Increase Brand Loyalty

Another interesting discussion point between Gabe and Vipula is the idea that if complaints and problems are handled correctly, it increases the emotional connection customers have with the brand. It ultimately leads to organic growth as they share their experience with friends or post about it on the company page. Vipula describes this with the following example: “You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities.” Seeing complaints and problems as opportunities to not only improve your customer experience process, but to show the customer that you are there for them and are capable of helping them is the necessary mindset that all businesses need to have.

The Importance of Treating Your Employees With Care

Lastly, Vipula highlights the importance of treating employees with as much care and respect as the customers. She states, “Employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of.” Employees that are taken care of and know they are valued and appreciated will work harder and build relationships with customers. This will increase productivity and profitability. Vipula notes that people cannot share what they do not possess and so employees that feel valued will be able to share that and help customers feel valued. In turn, that will increase brand loyalty. To continue to highlight the power of the relationship between employees and customers, Vipula ends by sharing this point of data from their research. “When companies harness the power of these two insights … they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth.” This strategy works and businesses are already seeing the benefits of it.

To learn more about customers, employees and how to drive customer engagement, 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:

Employees: Your Most Loyal Customers With Vipula Gandhi

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi welcome everybody. I’m excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about employee and customer engagement, the power of managing both of them to drive customer loyalty. To do that, we brought on Vipula Gandhi. She’s currently a Managing Director at Gallup and Vipula and I actually go pretty far back now that we’re getting older. We were chatting the other day and it’s been multiple years, five plus years since we’ve spoken, but Vipula has an international array of experience. Originally started in India, London, Dubai, Singapore. She’s currently residing in Washington, D.C. and has worked in hospitality and consulting and banking. And so when it comes to the customer experience and the employee experience, not only is she kind of eat, drink and sleep some of that in practitioner land, but also from a consultant, and now obviously at Gallup helping companies figure out this interesting dynamic between the employee and the customer engagement. So Vipula, thanks for joining. How are you?

Vipula Gandhi: (01:13)
There you go. Thank you Gabe, I’m excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
Yeah, I think this is going to be a fun talk track. Again, we have some fun history together as we both worked for Gallup in Dubai, five, six years ago, but I gave a brief overview of Vipula, but can you tell us just a little bit more about yourself and then specifically kind of what you guys do over at Gallup?

Vipula Gandhi: (01:31)
Absolutely. So Gabe, as you’re very, very aware, I’m passionate about leveraging human potential. Whether they are employees, they are leaders or they are customers, I guess just directing all the potential towards organic growth with health societies and countries. So that’s why I am really excited to turn up to work every day, whether or not in quarantine times, just to my office here in the house. At Gallup today, I am the managing partner and I look after the business strategy, the business performance and talent for the consulting side of Gallup, and really excited to be here today.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Gallup’s been legendary, not only in its research, but I think in the private domain, in the business domain, but obviously in the public domain. Do you do much with any kind of polling or the stuff around that stuff? No, right? You focus more on the business…

Vipula Gandhi: (02:29)
I focus on the consulting side, where I help organizations drive organic growth through employee and customer work. Although a lot of our polling work is also of interest to our corporate clients, so when those two merge, I work on that. For example, we have a corporate client whose vision and mission is to focus on women’s health globally. Now, we can dip into a lot of our expertise and polling across the world to figure out the current state, the challenges and the opportunities, and track measurement of future progress made. So sometimes the worlds collide.

Gabe Larsen: (03:05)
I just love that side of it, right? I mean, the thing that I’ve always valued about Gallup is just the research based approach, right? Sometimes when you get into this employee and customer world, it can get a little more touchy feely, but some of the research and the data that you guys have brought to it, I think is interesting, and hopefully we’ll get into a little bit of that there. So with that in mind, let’s just set up the big picture. We think about employee experience, we think about customer experience, what is wrong with the way we are currently thinking about customer experience today?

Vipula Gandhi: (03:37)
Thank you so much, Gabe. And I think that’s an awesome question. And as I think about how do we really compete in the market? In any organization that you work for, we compete on either price or we compete on the product and service features, or we compete on something called this customer experience, that’s a bit more gray and hazy and an area that allows you to innovate and do new things. So customer experience is what helps us differentiate in what we are trying to do. Now, even before the COVID-19 hit us five weeks ago, at least here in Washington, D.C., what we were seeing was two big challenges organizations were facing with customer experience. The first was really, we are information rich today, but insights poor. Now, we all know that we need insights that we can impact, or immediately action, as well as think about how we can strategically focus our work in the future. So once you have the right data, you need those insights that you can action on and then you have people who are enabled and empowered to deliver on those experiences. So the first question is, do you have the right data? A lot of organizations focus a lot on rational aspects of relationships and Gallup talks a lot about our research and experience on the emotional aspects of customer relationships. So, do you have the data and is it at the right level at which you can create action? And what we have seen when we work with organizations Gabe, is that the focus really gets on administering a client experience platform or a program and managing data rather than focusing on actually implementing the changes that we need to do from the insights we gathered from the data.

Gabe Larsen: (05:32)
That’s so true, right? It’s like —

Vipula Gandhi: (05:33)
Yeah. Absolutely. You just, all the focus goes there, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Yeah. We love the net promoter score, right? We love to administer that survey to our customers and then we don’t do anything with it. It’s like, “Okay, our MPS is blank. Alright, moving on,” and then we kind of go somewhere else.

Vipula Gandhi: (05:52)
I would just talk a little bit more about that Gabe, really, because it is easy to say it’s actually hard work. You and I have done that, changing stuff. But the other challenge I’ve seen organizations facing, Gabe, is around difficulty in managing the cumulative experiences across multiple touch points and multiple channels over time. Now, we all know that our research has very clearly demonstrated that customers do not identify their relationship with an organization to one channel or — but a sum of every touch point. So, it is not easy in the world of omnichannel when people are looking you up on the internet and actually doing the transaction somewhere else, and the connectedness between the two is something that organizations face challenges with. And then COVID-19 struck. We haven’t even spoken about COVID-19. I mean, managing change and managing change and managing customers was difficult to say in stable times and over the last five weeks, if you’re not a healthcare and not a grocery organization, you’re actually risking irrelevance in the market. And all your customer satisfaction matrix and customer journeys have been thrown out of the window in the times of crisis, and all they’re talking about is addressing our customers; what they need today, here and now. How do we, Gabe, provide our services to them to empower teams and foster decision making in a safe way today? But right now, even government organizations and our clients are realizing that we have now come into a phase of next and beyond COVID-19. So, we know that a lot has been written about how customer preferences and business models will outlast the crisis. So how are you going to endure in this new normal, in and out on blackout periods, in a more digitized world, with lower cost structures and new value propositions? So I guess all of us have a challenge in front of us.

Gabe Larsen: (07:52)
Yeah. It really is. And I want to hone in on one thing you said just a minute ago, because I think it is really pertinent to the conversation; but it’s this idea of rational versus emotional, in the way in which we kind of think about and measure that. Can you just double click on that for a second? Because I think it’s again very important to the world we’re now in, because we certainly — and I don’t know the, I’m not the expert on — but there’s certainly a rational element to it like, “I want my stuff, like I need fast recovery or fast stuff.” But also, there is an emotional element like, “My life is — I’m feeling things I haven’t felt” and to be able to tap into that. Can you talk about how you guys think through that a little more?

Vipula Gandhi: (08:37)
Absolutely. So, Gallup’s customer experience science is truly built on the foundation that to customers, the feelings are facts. So what our research and science has shown is that customers make their decisions largely based on emotional factors. I want you to think about the time you got married or you bought your new house, were you rational, or were you emotional? So if you design your customer experiences on rationality alone you will lose out. Now, rationality is important. Think about transactions, scheduling, inventory, communication models, these are very important. They build foundations, but the emotional aspects, that are trust, hope, friendship, pride, that’s what makes our decision. I’ll give you an example. Think about wait times. Right? A lot of times organizations are chasing wait times, reducing wait times for customers. And wait time is a rational phenomenon.

Gabe Larsen: (09:43)
Absolutely.

Vipula Gandhi: (09:43)
But, [inaudible] what we have found is that it’s not even the wait time that matters, it’s the perceived wait time that is more important. So, not exactly how many minutes I waited, but how many minutes I felt that I waited standing in a queue to get to a person at the branch trying to serve you. And the more that they put a television there, they give you a form to fill, they come and talk to you. They have ensured that no table looks empty because then you will feel that wait time is longer because the number of agents are less than they should be. So how do you manage the perceived wait time is actually solving the emotional need. But I’d also ask, think about the best of the brands that you use and how you feel about them. And everybody knows what a great job Apple has done with it. It’s about how you feel having bought an Apple product, that sense of pride, that sense of having higher — trusting that you have the best screen size, the best processing power and things like that. But it’s really about how it makes you feel to be a customer of that brand that matters.

Gabe Larsen: (10:58)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s so interesting because it does feel like we’re not doing that. What I mean by that is if it’s not the instrument, right, the surveys that we often do, it is we’re often focusing on the rational side of it, right? The wait time thing, so interesting, right? Because we — Oh, that’s such a powerful example. It’s not about the wait time, it’s about the satisfaction with the wait time or the perceived wait time as you kind of phrased it. You may not have an opinion on this, but why do we not go into that emotional element? Is it because of the survey instruments that we’ve often created that just focus on the rationale and therefore we manage and kind of action around those? Is it, we just haven’t understood that when it comes to human decision making, the emotional side is more valuable than just the rational side? What’s the, I feel like when I’m talking to you, like, it’s so true, but I don’t think most companies get that. Am I wrong?

Vipula Gandhi: (11:59)
You’re absolutely right. And if you just think about, the rational is easy to put your arms around it, right? Emotions are tougher. I can give you the fact that when you say emotionality, what you’re measuring in your surveys are things like, how long did you wait? Did we meet your needs of what you’ve called us for? But rather thinking, how this individual felt that entire exchange went? Does he feel that the promises that were made to him were kept? Does he feel that they are proud to be a partner to you? Do you feel that the promise is kept, and this is a [inaudible] company that solves my needs. Now this is a, you know, a little bit of an ambiguous concept. And the other fact is that neuroscience and behavioral economics that have brought this emotionality aspect of economic decision making of humans being emotional is just, maybe 50, 70 years old; not like other sciences, which are, economics, which is based on rationality, which has been there for hundreds of years. A little bit of a new field of science, relatively difficult to put arms around it. However, now Gallup has written a lot about it. We have figured out how you drive these emotional outcomes to some rational drivers and behaviors and obviously values [inaudible]. A little bit tougher, but can be done.

Gabe Larsen: (13:30)
That makes more sense because I’m thinking, some of the questions you asked and I’m thinking of instruments, just because of the world of customer service, customer experience, we all love our net promoter scores and our C-SAT and things like that. But the questions you were kind of phrasing and you’ve said them, but I’m forgetting them, but they weren’t the typical, “Do you recommend” question? How satisfied were you? They seem to go a little above and beyond, but I love the tie in that you mentioned, it’s about trying to tap into some of those maybe emotional aspects of the customer experience, but then bring that back to actionable or rational drivers that you can do to drive that emotional experience. That’s a cool, tie-in, that’s fun.

Vipula Gandhi: (14:15)
Maybe also give you another example Gabe, now that we’re talking about that subject, right? We all want to ensure that no customers are dissatisfied with us or not complaining to us. What we have found through science and through our experience and working with clients in this area is that we don’t want people to complain, obviously, but when people complain, there’s an opportunity for you to actually increase the emotional engagement with the brand after the complaint, more than what it was possible before the complaint. Let me explain that to you. You use the product or service, you had a problem, you call a customer service agent, or you did that over email, and you explained your problems and the way they recovered that problem for you made that emotional connection stronger. So data tells us that within complaints are your opportunities. And I just want to mention this thing about this company called Chewy. Now, because you have pets Gabe and we love our pets–

Gabe Larsen: (15:17)
I just got done walking my dog. I just got done walking my dogs. Yeah.

Vipula Gandhi: (15:20)
So I love the example of chewy.com on customer experience because a lot has been written about Apple so we don’t want to go there. But, Chewy is the online provider of pet foods and supplies and tries to provide differentiated customer experience, and it competes with Amazon. They have raised, doubled down on the customer centric culture and basically it’s very refreshing when you hear chewy.com say how they trust agents to treat their customers right. And they provide empowerment to the agent level. So there’s a couple of stories going on on Facebook. I don’t know whether it came to your wall or not. It’s about a lady who basically wrote to chewy.com that she has these bags of pet food; a dog, and a cat pet food, and she lost the dog 15 days ago and then lost the cat two days ago. It was really bad timing for her. So she said, “Can you take my two pet food bags back?” Chewy.com actually responded to her. They basically told her that they refunded her money, they asked her to donate those bags of food to the local shelter. A week later they sent her a set of flowers and it was a non-scripted e-mail, non-scripted handwritten letter saying, “We really think,” they named the pets by name, and they said, “Losing two, this is so sad,” a beautiful message with big flowers. And this lady actually went up online and organically gave feedback about her customer experience. And that’s not the only one online on Chewy’s customer service and lots of people have been about pet portraits and how they get mail saying that it’s getting hot right now, “How to prevent your dog,” and they always name the dog by name, and how — in this weather. So you see how they go above and beyond. And that’s the connection you mentioned about employees, right? You can deliver this kind of service that our employees and the customers of chewy.com are really their brand ambassador. I don’t know how many of my friends are actually coming to me about using them, keep in mind that they don’t have a reference program for customers. Customers are doing this because they are just so happy with what they have, whether it’s their videos on YouTube, whether it is 24 seven phone service, it’s just amazing how they are dealing with it. And it’s out there for everyone to see on wall street.

Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
No, I love it. I’d love it because that’s a great example of just doing it differently. And again, I think tapping into some of both the rational and the emotional side of the equation. As a followup to that, one of the unique things about Gallup is this employee side and how you guys try to kind of bring both the employee and customer experience together. Can you touch a little bit on the employee side and how you guys kind of see that fitting in?

Vipula Gandhi: (18:22)
Absolutely. So, employees are consumers of the workplace and just like we treat customers, if you want to keep them, if you want to build an enduring talent brand that transcends time, employees have to be taken care of. And talent is always important and I know we went from historically lowest unemployment rates a couple of months ago to 26 million unfortunate job losses in the last few months, but talent will always be important and treating customer right starts with treating employees right. Gabe, you can’t give away what we don’t have. You can’t bring happiness if you don’t have it yourself and you feel unfairly treated. And a lot of founders, whether it’s the founder of Virgin or Southwest, they all have spoken largely about the importance of treating employees right, and especially in the service industry Gabe, it is extremely important that we understand the role employees play to deliver that experience. At Chewy.com, ensuring that they feel they can bring their talent to the role, and then they have the empowerment to do that. And everybody knows Ritz-Carlton’s empowering their people to deliver great service. Some of the iconic brands have always, always trusted their frontlines, ensuring they hired the right people with the right talent and give them the empowerment they need to bring delight to the customers. So, it’s a crucially important role in any customer experience that you will design.

Gabe Larsen: (19:55)
Yeah. I love that because I do feel like it’s, oftentimes we manage them separately. We think about them separately. We’ll get an NPS score and then we’ll get maybe an employee engagement score or some sort of employee satisfaction score. One is run by product or by customer experience or by marketing, and the other is run by HR and they don’t make a correlation. They don’t see that, “Hey, maybe our customer service reps are the most dissatisfied and they’re the ones who engage with our customers the most.” Should we talk about that because they’re always so separate? But that philosophy of kind of bringing that together makes, I think, a lot of sense and I’m surprised that more organizations don’t do that. Why do you think a lot of organizations don’t do that? Is it just because the one’s kind of typically been run over here and one’s been run over there?

Vipula Gandhi: (20:48)
So it’s really the organizational structures. You and me are very aware Gabe that activating great customer experience takes commitment from leadership. It does take measurement. That’s important. It takes advanced analytics, and more importantly, it actually takes accountability and follow through in the front lines to actually deliver it. Now, we know that when employees create an emotional connection with the customer, it does have a profound implication for productivity and profitability. When was the last time you went to a store and you entered the store in a retail environment and the person was there not even helping you choose dresses? And sometimes they really help you and you really kind of end up buying four things when you went up to buy one. It does matter. And when employees know how to make most of those moments that engage customers, we know that customers will spend more, they visit you more often, they will resist competitive overtures and they promote the company brand to others, and also forgive the occasional service blunder that we all commit. So it’s important to build that connection. In the organization, generally, these two things are looked at in different places. However, by serendipity, one of our clients, sometime like 15 years ago, we actually discovered that we were working with them on both employee side and customer side, driving those experiences, and we looked at the stores, the top 10 stores on employee experience driving, and we looked at the list of top 10 stores that customer experience was being done well. And we hypothesized that there’d be a lot of commonality between the two. Low and behold, we found that those two lists only had one store in common. That was something that surprised us in the data. And then as we started looking and doing some business analysis on the impact on business value, they looked at the fact that if companies just focused on driving employee experience, they got a 70% boost. If you look at companies that only focus on customer experiences, they also realize about that much. However, when companies harness the power of these two insights and parallels and they were doing both well, they had about a 240% boost to their key metrics like sales, referrals, retention, growth. If you found the data, it came as a surprise to us as well, and we then repeated this hypothesis with multiple other clients, and we found that data tells you, it is just better to look at both these matrix together. So we can have employees who are engaged, who are talented, who want great experiences and who are empowered to then deliver on those engaging customer experiences, which will be great for organic growth.

Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, wow. Interesting. And that was, what kind of industry was that?

Vipula Gandhi: (23:51)
That was the retail industry because they had hundreds of stores across the U.S. and you need good data to at least do the first few experiments. So that really worked well. And it was so serendipitous that we came to this finding.

Gabe Larsen: (24:04)
Wow. So like a 2X, 2.4, 2.5X, when you were able to kind of start looking at those together. Interesting Vipula. Well, I love the talk track. We might have to do this again. You seem to be just full of interesting facts and tidbits. Obviously you’ve been doing it a long time, so I’m not surprised. We’ve hit a lot of different items, the rationale, emotional, the customer, the employee, and kind of managing them together. As you think about customer experience leaders out there, customer service leaders, is there a word kind of advice you’d give them as we leave today about how they can do their job better, especially in the current environment?

Vipula Gandhi: (24:44)
Absolutely. And I would start by saying, you have to, in this next and beyond phase of COVID-19, you have to restart with customers. What you have done so far to engage your customers, don’t take that for granted. I was a big loyal person of Marriott, and I loved their CEO’s talk about, very emotional talk about LinkedIn, actually about how he had to let go of people and how they’re hoping for things to start again. But in spite of all that, I love them. I love their leaders. I was concerned that they lost so many people, they lost money, is this still a safe place? Would they really, clean displays [inaudible] that’s important. And then I’m reading about how they are getting the hospital grade disinfectants in hospitality now. So all I’m saying is you need to regain engagement of customers in a limited budget and time. So we have to restart with customers and you have to redesign your customer experience because how to target new channels, how to target different customer segments, and how to cater to post COVID safety and quality and other concerns that your customers will have. New channels, if your expertise was meant to say branch experience, things that moved on to digital more, now how we want to deliver a human experience through technology? How to cut off new channels that you didn’t use before, like WhatsApp. How are these channels going to be safe? How are they going to be error free? How are they going to be — what would the new channel experience look like? So we have to restart with the customer. We have to redesign our customer experiences and we have to keep close to our customers, listen to our customers and listen to our front lines because that’s where we get fast ideas in a limited budget to think about what the future holds for us. So, you know, I’m deep into — I love thinking through this, this is a new challenge, and I truly believe in the era of the great human spirit. We will come over this challenge and forge ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (26:57)
I love it. Those are inspiring words. We need to overcome it because it certainly, for many people has been a very, very challenging time. Well Vipula, I really appreciate you joining. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about Gallup and some of the things you guys do over there, what’s the best way to do that?

Vipula Gandhi: (27:18)
Digital, LinkedIn. My name is Vipula Gandhi. Do connect with me on LinkedIn and I would love to continue the conversations. This is a subject close to my heart so –.

Gabe Larsen: (27:24)
We can tell, we can tell. Again, thank you so much for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Vipula Gandhi: (27:30)
Thank you so much.

Exit Voice: (27:37)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne

Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Jason Henne, Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar, to discuss customer service for high-end brands and how to maintain brand reputation in new and existing industries. Jason Henne started his career in CX 26 years ago working for a telecommunications company as a service rep. After moving his way up the company and switching to luxury packaged goods, he has spent the last 15 years at the VP/Director level on customer service for luxury or big ticket products. He and Gabe discuss valuable insights into ideas of tired customer service. Listen to the full podcast below.

Examples, Definitions and Results of White Glove Customer Experience

Gabe and Jason start their conversation off by discussing the definition of white glove customer experience and if it only applies to big ticket customers. Jason notes that while there is a need to make sure that high paying customers get their money’s worth, every customer is valuable. When you work with luxury brands, that expectation is already there. White glove customer service is going above and beyond what the customer expects, even when they are expecting a lot because it is a luxury brand. Jason shares an example of luxury dealership vs any other dealership. He states, “You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, … you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.”

How to Uphold Brand Reputation and Recognition

Another important aspect of customer service that Gabe and Jason discuss is the need for positive brand recognition and reputation. Jason is currently working at Momentum Solar, a new industry that typically has a negative connotation. However, his company has done a few things to separate themselves from the negative connotation of their competitors. The first thing they do to build recognition and reputation is educating the customer on the industry, then the company. Jason states, “And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service.”

The next thing Jason does with his team to ensure a positive brand reputation is taking every review seriously and getting other departments involved. Solving problems and having the budget to go above and beyond for customers requires department coordination. Positive discussions have to take place with the finance department and the sales team so that they can approve budgets and be aware of any changes made. To summarize, Jason notes, “we’re all working … and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. … Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.”

The Goal of Golden or White Glove CX Experience

As a final piece of advice for companies trying to adjust and improve their customer experience, Jason reminds companies what the goal is for the CX department. He states, “By the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.” No customer actually wants to call the customer service department to try and get their issue resolved, but it is necessary. Because of this necessity, Jason points out that it is the job of the CX department to make sure that the phone call or interaction with the customer is as effortless as possible and that the customer leaves happy and satisfied. For a final piece of motivation for companies to remember this goal and strive for it, Jason states, “By keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.”

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Providing a Golden Experience With Jason Henne

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about two things here. Number one is, how to really drive customer experience with high-end brands. When you’re talking about big ticket items, that real red carpet experience. In addition, we want to navigate through how to manage reputation a little bit in challenging times or in challenging industries. We’ve got such an interesting guest with such a diverse background. We wanted to hit a couple of different topics today. So to do that, we brought on Jason Henne. He’s currently the Director of Customer Service at Momentum Solar. Jason, thanks for joining. How are you?

Jason Henne: (00:51)
I am doing great. Thanks very much for having me today. I really appreciate it.

Gabe Larsen: (00:55)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s always fun to talk to someone who’s got such a — a lot of experience in CX, lot of different roles, et cetera. I think it will be a fun talk track. Can you just double click a little bit on your experience and background and talk a little bit about that?

Jason Henne: (01:10)
Yeah, sure. Sure. First and foremost, I just want to make sure everybody is safe and sound and healthy and doing good and all that, especially in these crazy times, but yeah. So I’ve been in customer service now, this is my 26th year. I started in 1994 in telecommunications as literally a customer service rep on the phones for a telecom company working the 4-40 shift. So I worked 10 hours a day, four days a week, the overnight shift, and then got three days off in a row. And through the years I worked my way up from a call center rep to team lead, to manager, to national account manager, to senior manager. And then I shifted out of telecom into consumer packaged goods on the luxury end where I became a director. And I’ve stayed at the director and VP level now for the past 15 years and anything from, like I said, I started in telecom, but, at least over the past decade or so, I’ve been in what we would consider luxury or big ticket items where you really need to give that white glove and red carpet customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (02:19)
I love that. Yeah, that’s quite the diversified experience. I think it’ll be fun to hear about some of those different experiences. So let’s dive in and maybe we can start with this high end customer service experience; big ticket items, “white glove” as you kind of phrase it as. How do you, if you just kind of for the audience, is it really that much different of motion when you kind of are working for a Porsche versus a Toyota for example. I mean —

Jason Henne: (02:49)
Sure.

Gabe Larsen: (02:49)
Isn’t it customer experience or is it really that much different?

Jason Henne: (02:53)
So you’d like the customer to think that customer experience is customers experience; however, in reality, that really isn’t the case. When you’re working telecom or a cable company or anything like that, they get you on the phone, they get you off the phone. They take care of your problem. That’s it. However, when, just like you said, when you’re talking about Porsche, Cadillac, any luxury brand where they’re spending the money in one big lump sum, whether it’s a finance or a lease or a large purchase, or just sometimes the brand name itself, there’s a reputation that you have to uphold to keep that brand reputation and that brand recognition. So the customers expect that and the customers demand that. So whether it be, I’ll give you an example. When I worked in telecom, we got graded as reps on our average call time. They wanted to keep the calls at, I believe it was, four minutes or less.

Gabe Larsen: (03:57)
Got it.

Jason Henne: (03:58)
I moved on into luxury and I became a leader in the luxury realm. I took call time and threw it out the window. I don’t care if you’re on the phone with a customer for an hour, if you are giving them service that they need at the service that they deserve. And most importantly, resolving their problem, if possible on that one call, that one call resolution. That’s what matters because they’re going to then get off the phone and say, wow, I was really treated great. And then, say they’re at a dinner party or talking to their friends or something and they’re comparing what brands they use or what company they use, that one person could tell the 10 or 15 people that they’re at a dinner party with; “Yeah, well, I’m using X brand and I had an issue with them a few weeks ago and I called them up and wow, they handled everything I needed in an hour and they didn’t rush me. I didn’t feel rushed. And they handled my situation perfectly.”

Gabe Larsen: (04:54)
What I love. And I love that. So it’s a different, there’s certain things you can do in kind of that luxury environment that you probably just can’t really do in kind of that velocity environment, where you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of transactions and customers.

Jason Henne: (05:11)
Right. And you nailed it when you did the comparison versus Porsche and another type of car. You go in to get your car service and say, you have, I don’t know, a Ugo from like the eighties, if you could find a place that services, and you go and, “All right. Yeah. We’ll take care of it, have a seat.” Well, whatever. You go into a Lexus dealership, for instance, or a Porsche dealership, you are getting red carpet treatment. “Okay, sir, would you like a bagel? Would you like me to make a cup of coffee for you?” And they keep you updated regularly on your situation and you’ll get a loaner car if you need, you’re not going to get that with the lower end brands.

Gabe Larsen: (05:49)
Right.

Jason Henne: (05:50)
So again, it’s brand reputation, it’s word of mouth. And that’s what I take in, in where I am now at Momentum Solar. We are a big ticket item. We really are. It’s not an inexpensive purchase and there are so many benefits to it. And because we know that the customers are spending a good amount of money on their product, if they have an issue with their product or with their contractor, a billing issue, which we have to explain to them, I don’t care how long we’re on the phone with them for. I don’t care if it takes 60, 90 minutes to go over step by step of the agreement or go over their billing with them piece by piece. I want to make sure that when the conversation is done, their situation is resolved, they have peace of mind, and they were wowed by our customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (06:43)
Yeah, I do. I think that’s the right mentality. I love the examples. So one is the phone call, for example, right? Where you kind of ditch the call time and said, “Let’s just focus on whatever we need to focus on to get this right.” And ditch that kind of call time. As you’ve worked with some of your luxury brands in your past, are there other of those types of examples where you did, you kind of got into the specifics of doing it differently, kind of —

Jason Henne: (07:14)
Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (07:15)
Asked differently, et cetera?

Jason Henne: (07:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I was at, I spent a year as a head of customer service for a very high end interior wall covering company. And my boss who was the chief operations officer, his name is Mike. He was, and what he taught me, and he was so big on integrity. And listen, I’ve always been big on integrity, but they took it to another level and say something wrong happened and you know it was our fault or it was just something that couldn’t be out of everybody’s wheelhouse, right. We knew it was no one’s fault of our own. Maybe it was a shipper or something, but it fell on us and we needed to make it right. Not only do you give the apology, do you make it right, you then, we then went above and beyond. Right. And what I mean by that is, okay, let’s make this more personal. We’re going to send them maybe a bouquet of flowers with an apology note, or we work with a vendor that supplied fudge and brownies for us. So we would send them a box of chocolates with an apology note, or a simple thing such as a balloon or something like that, just to apologize. And I think the integrity and taking accountability of maybe it wasn’t our fault 100%, but we know the onus does fall on us and we’re going to make it right. And we’re going to show you that we’re sorry, and we’re going to show you that we are continually there for you.

Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Got it. Yeah. So you really did, I mean, you’ve found a way again to just go. It’s almost like in a regular brand, they have these, I say regular brand, but they have these kinds of premier, platinum, the gold, silver, bronze, but it’s like you’re only delivering that gold service, right? Whether it’s a phone call issue resolution. Do you find that, I mean, more companies want to deliver, more companies want to do some of the things you’re talking about. It’s just that it’s too timely and too costly. Right? There’s just gotta be a balance. You just can’t, you can’t do that, you can’t give the bagels to everybody. Right?

Jason Henne: (09:29)
Right, right. You’re right. So, what you have to do is a lot, I don’t want to say begging, but make sure you’re vocal in your finance meetings when you’re talking about your operational expenses, when you’re talking about your capital expenses for the next year. “Hey, Cap X for next year. Okay. On the operational side, we know we might need a few more reps because our call volume, our average call time is still higher. Let’s make sure that we have the Cap X in there for some extra computers for next year. So balance out any additional headcount. Let’s make sure, put your ideas to them, to the finance department when you’re going over your budget for the next year. Make your case, state your case, create a PowerPoint presentation, give reasons why, get surveys from your customers and show them what the customers want. That really does help.

Gabe Larsen: (10:27)
Yeah. Yeah. Do you recommend, I like the planning because I think some people want to deliver that exceptional customer experience, but you mentioned Cap X for example, it’s like, they’re not thinking about the things that need to be in place to do that. Well, you might need some additional headcounts, some different machines, technology, computers, et cetera. Anything else you’ve done double click on that. Like, “Hey, if you’re going to really plan to deliver a great customer experience or go above and beyond a budget people,” anything else you’d highlight in that aspect?

Jason Henne: (10:59)
Yeah, training. You make sure your reps are fully trained on every type of material, product, or service that you’re delivering. So when they’re on the phone with the customer, they don’t have to say, “Ah, I don’t know. Let me find out and call you back.” You want to make sure —

Gabe Larsen: (11:16)
That empowerment, right?

Jason Henne: (11:18)
Yeah. Yeah. And you want to make sure that rep has that knowledge right off the bat. And if it’s a lot to take in, make sure you have a very well rounded and full and easy to navigate knowledge base.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
So they can actually get the answers that they potentially want. Right?

Jason Henne: (11:36)
Exactly. And make sure that the knowledge base stays updated because things change constantly and you don’t want to miss anything and tell the customer something from four years ago that might not be applicable now.

Gabe Larsen: (11:48)
Yeah, welcome to everybody’s world. Right? That, that, that darn going, gonna curse. What would you kind of advise? Or, how would you advise clients who are thinking about, I’m forgetting the name I’ve often heard about it, but it’s kind of the tiered customer service program, right? It is that if you’re a gold platinum member, if you’re a high end member, you kind of do go to this and you do get treated differently. Is that, maybe you’ve done that or not done that, but do you think that’s a wise thing to go for? Is it just like, just treat everybody valuable?

Jason Henne: (12:20)
I agree with treating everybody valuable. However, I do understand that companies do tier A, tier B, tier C, depending on the amount of money that a customer —

Gabe Larsen: (12:30)
Yeah.

Jason Henne: (12:31)
Depending on the amount of money that a customer spends either lifetime or through a five-year, four-year or three-year span. However, I think with that, there can become number one, confusion; number two, you then have to make sure your CRM is updated on what level they are; and number three, you then have to

Gabe Larsen: (12:51)
You have three different policies. Don’t you? It’s like–

Jason Henne: (12:54)
Then you have, yes, then you have three different policies and then you have to worry about how do we automatically make sure we know that customer is an, A, B and C when they call. Do you have to put their phone number in your, your call center phone system to make sure they go into this segmented queue? Or does it go into the general queue where they could get everybody and are they first in, first out? There’s a lot of planning in that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
Yeah, yeah. That, that last part, I mean, personalization was before COVID, I think a bigger buzzword. It’s kind of dropped, I think people are talking about a few different things, but yeah, that ability just to do phone lookups and keep the history of all the transactions that somebody has done to really be like, “Hey, I noticed you had a flight in the last couple of months, or you did these purchases.” That’s not a ticketing system. That’s consistent with the CRM system and not all CRMs. So you are sometimes talking about multiple layers of complexity there. Not that, I’m certainly, you’re probably more expert than I am, but I did just want to highlight that because I’ve heard multiple people, we don’t have a CRM, we have a ticketing system. Case management is not CRM.

Jason Henne: (14:09)
Right. That’s such a great point. So I guess to answer your question, I’m not a fan of first class, second class, third class customers. I think everybody should be treated the exact same because that customer that maybe was once a one time purchaser might end up being a multiple time purchaser, giving a ton of referrals if we treat them the same way that we’re going to treat someone who’s spending a hundred thousand dollars on a claim.

Gabe Larsen: (14:36)
Interesting. Interesting. Okay. I want to turn for a minute and attack this, kind of your guys’ space. One of the things that I felt was interesting in your background and actually more in your current prerogative is solar. Solar has, it just has an interesting history, right? It’s had some government stuff, you’ve had some door knocker people. In some cases, in some areas it’s really taken off. In other places, it has a little bit of a bad rap. How have you been able to manage through what let’s maybe call an emerging industry? Something that’s not Telecom. I mean, that’s been around a hundred year. Solar, it’s just got a lot of different players. It’s got a lot of different attitudes, reputations. How does it kind of work managing through some of those intricacies?

Jason Henne: (15:30)
Well, number one, you’re right. Solar has not been around for a long time. It’s still emerging and we’re still getting into more States, as governments are approving it for more tax incentives and that sort of thing. And with that, there have been some negative stigmas because… like you said, people canvassing houses, however, it’s all about proper education and the proper way to go about it. We want to make sure here at Momentum Solar, we want to make sure that every customer is educated correctly and not just on Momentum, but solar in general.

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
That’s fantastic.

Jason Henne: (16:07)
And then after they’re educated on solar in general, we also want to make sure, obviously as our selling point to let them know the benefits of going with us again, brand reputation, white glove customer service, where multiple climbs on inc 500, our CEO, one in 500 speaks word, um, for CEO of the year for New Jersey. There’s a lot to be said about brand reputation when the industry itself might have a negative stigma about it. We’re not the same solar company as XYZ solar company that might have a million bad reviews. We’re A+ rated on the BBB and we use that. To have it and maintain an A+ rating in the BBB is pretty darn good. And it’s pretty darn important.

Gabe Larsen: (16:57)
And what do you tribute that to? I mean, just double click on that, because that is a big deal. Is that, I mean, you’ve obviously not just, that didn’t come — that took a little work. Right? So [inaudible] I love the education part. So it sounds like you guys focus a lot on education to kind of say, “You know what, let’s sell you on solar first. Let’s talk about Momentum second.” What are some of the other things you’ve done to make sure that you keep that reputation up in the air? That’s impressive. That rating.

Jason Henne: (17:30)
Yeah. So our Better Business Bureau complaints do come directly to my department and we handle them internally. And, because we take such pride in our customer service and we take Better Business Bureau, like I said, is very important. Some companies might not think so, some companies might not care about their grade, but we do. The Better Business Bureau replies, once we go call the customer and try to rectify their issue with them, myself and my management team, it’s either myself or I assign in seminar management. We’re the one that personally writes the replies.

Gabe Larsen: (18:07)
Wow. Wow, cool.

Jason Henne: (18:09)
I don’t want to find that out to anybody.

Gabe Larsen: (18:12)
Yeah.

Jason Henne: (18:13)
I want my department to handle it. We might work with other departments to get the situation resolved because we’re one big team, which is another thing when talking about industry reputation and how to still, how to change that stigma by providing white glove customer service. Constantly, constantly interacting with different departments on a daily basis. When we’re all not working at home, we’re all working in the office and we’re constantly getting up and coordinating and going into conference rooms and huddle areas and coming up with ideas and talking about issues. So every issue is not just, “Hey, look at this, let’s get this done,” it’s, “Hey, we need some time to talk this issue out.” Number one, because we need to make it right for the customer. Number two, if we need to implement a company wide change so this specific issue doesn’t happen again, we need to make that change. So then our sales team can then be informed of that change. So they’re educating the customer correctly.

Gabe Larsen: (19:12)
Nice closed loop process on that. You’re kind of bringing —

Jason Henne: (19:17)
Absolutely. And solar, like I said, solar is not an inexpensive ticket. However, in the long run, it does save you money because of the solar energy that you’re producing and then consuming. So that’s one big piece of education that we have to give the customer. Yes, it might be right.

Gabe Larsen: (19:39)
Maybe that makes tons of sense. So, so number one is you guys have done a lot of education too. It sounds like you’re pretty maniacal about, you’ve identified something like a reputation management tool, like the Better Business Bureau and take it very serious. To the extent of action planning, results, you get feedback, you close that feedback loop fairly quickly, put the change and get it back to the sales team and see if you can do it. Anything else on the mind as you think about your customer service and really trying to drive a different approach in kind of this emerging solar industry that you guys do?

Jason Henne: (20:16)
Yeah. So it goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning with white glove customer service. If you call our customer service number, we don’t have an IVR where you’re saying something and then we’re giving you an answer via AI or anything like that. I want —

Gabe Larsen: (20:34)
You don’t like AI? You’re a human guy, not an AI guy. Huh?

Jason Henne: (20:39)
I absolutely like AI. However, I think for certain price ticket items and certain issues, you need the human touch.

Gabe Larsen: (20:47)
Interesting.

Jason Henne: (20:48)
You need that. You need that human touch. So when a customer or a prospective customer calls, they only have two options in our phone tree, sales and customer service. That’s it. And they’re going to talk to a live person every time. Maybe in the future we’ll implement some AI. If they won’t get there.

Gabe Larsen: (21:10)
You’ve made it available. So yeah, they can basically, there’s no crazy phone tree to go through. You’ve made it simple. It’s quite an effortless experience.

Jason Henne: (21:21)
Right? And the other company I was referring to earlier with our luxury wall covering company that I was the head of customer service for, they don’t even use a phone tree. They, every single call was answered in nine seconds or less live. No prerecording first, press one for this, press two for that, every call was answered live. And if customer service had to transfer that call to a specific person, maybe it was a client asking for somebody in a sales department, we then transferred the call, but there was no recording at all. Every call was answered live in nine seconds or less.

Gabe Larsen: (21:57)
Cool. That’s awesome. I mean, it’s those types of, I just that word of making it easy, right? I mean, the AI is, I think it’s a big thing and in the right time, this word deflection and finding a way of good balance is important, but I like your approach. It’s like where we are right now. Want to make it easy for the customer. Let’s do it. Let’s get it quick and see if we can’t start that process to make sure they’re happening quickly. Jason, I appreciate the talk track. It’s fun. Just to kind of hear about some of your different experiences, again, quite a wealth of experience, both luxury and telecom and now solar. Sounds like there’s some overlap, but definitely sometimes you’ve gone more high end, spent more time, more dollars. Other times you’ve tried to find a bit more of a balance there. As you think about customer service, certainly it’s a challenging time with all that’s going on. What advice would you kind of summarize with, for customer leaders who are trying to figure out how to, and I’ll use a generic term here, but just win, survive, manage all the leads that are coming in, keep the customer service levels high while the satisfaction still is maintained as good. But what would you kind of move in with?

Jason Henne: (23:03)
You know, this is you’re right. This is a really trying time right now. Every customer service department for the most part is working from home and oddly enough, it’s working. Its working. Our service levels are so high right now and our productivity because people aren’t being, I guess, their attention is being kept. What they have to do. They’re not in an office with 300 people. If we need to have meetings, we’re going to zoom it or message or anything like that. Keep remembering that when the customer calls you, they don’t want to call you. It’s a nuisance to them. They’re calling to have a problem taken care of and to give them the peace of mind that they want. So what I can say is what, one thing I tell all my employees is the customer is not wanting to call you. However, by the time we get them off the phone, let’s have them realize that they are glad that they did call us.

Jason Henne: (24:07)
And that’s yeah, that’s the advice I can give.

Gabe Larsen: (24:11)
Yeah. It was like the guys, they’re calling for a problem and that problem needs to be resolved. Let’s not forget the fundamental purpose of customer service. Forget all the times and the numbers. And it’s like, here’s the problem, how do we solve it? Let’s make it easy.

Jason Henne: (24:27)
Yeah. And you know what, let’s make them happy. Let’s make them happy that they did call so they don’t think it was a waste of time. And by doing that and by keeping and making these customers happy, you’re going to keep that positive reputation and you’re going to keep giving them that white glove customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (24:47)
Right. I love it. Well, Jason, again, really appreciated the talk track. Fun to kind of talk through a little bit of these different items. If someone wants to get ahold of you or just continue the conversation, what’s the best way to do that?

Jason Henne: (24:58)
Okay. They could send me a direct email at J H E N N E@momentumsolar.com. M O M E N T U M, solar, S O L A R.com. Or just look me up on LinkedIn, Jason Henne, J A S O N H E N N E. I’ll be more than happy to connect with you and message with you back and forth if you so choose. And yeah, this was a lot of fun.

Gabe Larsen: (25:22)
Yeah. I really appreciate it. We might have to bring you back for round two next quarter, just to continue to kind of chat about what’s what’s the–

Jason Henne: (25:28)
I would love it.

Gabe Larsen: (25:29)
So anyways, man, have a great day. For the audience–

Jason Henne: (25:32)
I would love it.

Gabe Larsen: (25:33)
Take care.

Jason Henne: (25:35)
No problem. Thank you so much for having me on.

Exit Voice: (23:16)
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